The Ninety-Eighth Letter: Seasons Change

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Dear Daughters,

I probably overuse the word “season.” Seasons of the calendar year. Seasons of the church year. Seasons of life. Seasons of parenting. TV shows. Growing seasons. Canning seasons.

Repetition. Change. Growth. Death. Winter. Advent. New Life. Planting. Premieres. Easter. Sowing. Learning to read. Summer. Harvesting. Finales. Canning. Frost. Fall. Repetition.

Yes, I do love that seasons change. I’m especially partial to autumn and all of its cliched crispness in the air and stunning leaves. Even the satiny red leaves of our sweet gum tree out front almost make up for the annoying sweet gum nuts that litter our driveway the whole year long.

Seasons change, and some seasons come back around, but we’re never quite the same as we were the last time through.

That encourages me.

I mentioned in my last letter that I was recently asked to share about my faith journey and vocation by a professor friend who teaches theology at our local college. When I asked her what she was expecting from me during the hour I was to share, she mentioned that I might want to read some of my writing and display some art.

The art part was relatively easy to decide, especially because I knew I wanted to share the logos and graphics I’ve designed for local organizations. (That fits into vocation, right?)

But the writing part wasn’t as obvious to me as I started sifting through the myriad places my writing about vocation exists: on my computer, in notebooks of all sorts, in these letters, of course, in the collection of poetry your dad and I published last year.

I started reading and reading and reading.

And, I’ll be honest, what I should read to the class didn’t become much more clear.

What did become clear was just how quickly seasons can change.

When I started writing letters to you online, I was working through a lot of issues related to mothering and vocation and survival. I was just beginning my creative journey and hadn’t started making art yet. I was in my early thirties but trying to figure a lot of things out. I was dissatisfied but probing. And I certainly would have never imagined the life I have now, especially the homeschooling part of it. I even wrote an early letter about how excited I was for you to be going to school some day. That I would rejoice to see you go.

This was only four years ago, girls.

In the poems I skimmed, I uncovered so much wonder and hope, conviction and transformation, grief and anxiety. I have poems from before you were born, often saved in Word documents in a monthly file I used to email to my writing group. I have poems of pregnancy, poems of labor and delivery. I see glimpses of both of you as babies in those words, a life deep with metaphor even in those exhausting, mind-numbing months of postpartum haze. Your own growing vocabulary and ability is sprinkled throughout many of the poems, too, as well as references to the toys strewn across the floor, so many cups of tea, my Pyrex bowls, and our fixer-upper house. There are lots of poems about your dad, and also poems about relatives we’ve lost over the last decade.

Through it all, girls, I can trace my growing appreciation for what life is now, in this current season.

This current season.

And I am grateful that seasons change.

That you didn’t stay babies, for example. (I mean, I’m seriously grateful on that one.)

That I’ve released a lot of the weight I initially felt about mothering and the cynicism I felt about others who seemed to find holiness here.

That I now call myself an artist and a writer and not feel awkward about it.

That my life is full to the brim with vocation and meaning.

In rereading my own words, I can recognize how I myself have changed in both ordinary and extraordinary ways.

There was a time when I couldn’t manage to take you both to the grocery store at the same time, but I now know I can single-parent on airplane flights and 10-hour road trips.

Girls, I wonder sometimes how you will remember this season of life, what glimpses you’ll remember from childhood that will carry you through later seasons. I can’t know, of course.

But I do know that at least you’ll have these letters.

Love,

Your Momma

 

 

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The Eighty-Sixth Letter: Changing Seasons

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Dear Daughters,

Today is Fat Tuesday.

Where I grew up, we called it Fastnacht Day, and even the secular world ate donuts in those parts. Seriously, radio DJs across central Pennsylvania broadcast from outside fire houses and various hometown businesses selling “fastnachts” as fundraisers on this particular Tuesday morning every year. (The senior women in my mom’s rural Methodist church took pre-orders in the weeks leading up to Fastnacht Day, and you could request the cinnamon sugar variety or just regular old boring ones.) Fastnachts are a particular kind of donut, and truth be told I didn’t really like them that much.

But I do feel a bit nostalgic about donuts on Fat Tuesday, and I’m a fan of enjoying a little splurge on the day before we head into Lent, as it was in the earliest custom of celebrating Mardi Gras.

Oh, hey, I guess I should mention that I’m not eating grain, dairy, sugar, or legumes right now. Yeah, it’s a sad day for me. Probably been my least-fattening Fat Tuesday on record.

But I have been thinking a lot about seasons and how they change.

I’ve been thinking about how your dad and I try so hard to live the liturgical calendar in meaningful ways, but every time it circles around, life keeps circling around, too, keeps making the experience richer but also, some years, more exhausting.

This year mostly feels full, rather than chaotic, but full to the brim, and my shoulders, I’ll admit, are a little tired with helping my loved ones bear burdens. In all the good ways, I mean.

It’s what life is like when you’re living the Kingdom, living the seasons alongside others, witnessing the mountains and the valleys of the journey.

So many journeys.

Seasons change.

Life changes.

But we keep putting one foot in front of the other, whether or not we ate donuts on Fastnacht Day.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.

Tomorrow is also Valentines Day.

Friday is Chinese New Year.

Your cousins are coming to stay with us this weekend.

A week ago, a friend had a tiny, tiny premature baby who weighed less than two pounds.

Yesterday my amazing friend came home from the hospital.

Today, one of you woke up with pink eye.

Next week is our homeschool co-op’s Spring Break.

The week after that, a friend is scheduled to have her fourth C-section.

Another dear, sweet friend is embarking on an adoption journey that will take many months and much hard work.

One of your dad’s cousins is getting married in a few weekends, and we’ll get to spend good time with the extended Wise clan.

Your grandparents will be here the following weekend.

One of my childhood BFFs is changing jobs and moving to a new state at the end of Lent.

Right now, as I type this, multiple friends are praying for parents with late-stage cancers, waiting, seeking peace.

Friends I’m journeying alongside have chronic illness, mental health struggles, children making difficult decisions.

A friend is beginning her dissertation.

A friend is working on her marriage.

A friend is starting a business.

So many friends with so many seasons and so much change.

Life changes.

And we keep on going, together.

Sometimes eating fastnachts. Sometimes gathering for prayer.

Sometimes just showing up, or sending a text, or opening your door to your neighbor, looking that stranger right in the eye and asking how she is doing.

Sometimes just breathing, putting a stamp on a postcard, closing your eyes and enjoying the sunshine on your face.

Welcoming in a child with pinkeye, celebrating Chinese New Years with a dancing dragon while eating Thai food on Fat Tuesday.

This is how you live community.

This is how you love your people.

You live in the season you’re in.

Love,

Your Momma

 

 

 

The Twentieth Letter: New Seasons

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Dear Daughters,

I love changing seasons.

I love the fall’s cool breezes and crunchy leaves. I’ll take sweatshirts and jeans over shorts and tank tops any day. I don’t like to sweat.

I also really love school supplies. I mean, seriously. Notebooks. Folders. Binders with tabbies. Post-It notes. Pens. Sharpie marker pens especially. Boxes of crayons before the wrappers are all peeled off.

When I think of back-to-school season, I picture those days of crunchy leaves and waiting for the bus. Brand-new decorations in classrooms–not stained, the edges not curling. Wondering which of your friends will be in what class. Seeing the book for the first time. Meeting new people. Figuring out when I could go to my locker.

I still periodically have that can’t-remember-the-locker-combination nightmare, and it’s been over a decade since I’ve opened a locker.

I love the juxtaposition of new school years–fresh starts, new beginnings–with the season of autumn–leaves turning colors, falling off trees, the earth going to sleep for winter.

Death and new life.

There’s probably a poem in that somewhere.

In Kentucky, there is no such juxtaposition and beauty of seasons. Ya’ll go to school in the middle of summer, girls. There’s no getting around it.

Thursday, August 6, was the Bean’s first day of preschool.

I’m told this is a big deal. And I feel like I should feel like this is a big deal. PRESCHOOL! FIRST DAY! WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE? MY BABY IS GOING TO SCHOOL!

Okay, granted, it’s only 2 mornings a week, and it’s a class for 3 year olds.

But I feel pretty much nothing but gratitude that you will be away from me in an organized learning environment.

One of my friends sent her son to kindergarten this week. (And this is the first year of full-day kindergarten for our district.) It’s a tough thing for her.

It’s a tough thing for most moms.

I have this hunch I’ll be the mom secretly rejoicing on the inside.

Or not so secretly.

Part of it is my overall love of new years and new beginnings.

Part of it is that I’m just not very sentimental about these baby and toddler years when you are home with me, chattering constantly, climbing up my legs when I’m standing in the kitchen, sitting on my lap while I am looking for peace and quiet in the bathroom, for goodness’ sake.

I’ve sung this song before. It will be no surprise to you, I’m sure.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve loved watching you learn and absorb information. As one of our best friends says, kids are sponges. I am astounded every day at your capacity to learn and question and figure things out. I’ve loved painting with you and reading to you and teaching you songs and building impressive towers out of blocks.

But.

My dad once told me when I was older–at least a teenager, maybe out of the house already, I can’t remember–that he loved every stage of our growing up, and he loved “this stage” the best. Whatever stage we were in, the whole time we were growing up, that’s the one that seemed the best. I’m pretty sure he likes being Grandpa best of all, of course. But his point was that he wasn’t sentimental about the stages that had passed. He didn’t long for us to be babies again. He didn’t long for us to be dependent creatures. He raised us to be thinkers and doers.

There is hope in this thing called parenting.

Hope.

I’m a nerd, but there is something so hopeful about the beginning of the school year. It’s a new season.

Maybe I get a little bit of that hope every time I open a new notebook, buy a new rainbow pack of Sharpies, a sleeve of Post-Its.

And maybe I get a little bit of that hope every time I look at you.

Love,

Your Momma

The Ninth Letter: Seasons of Grump & Maundy Thursday Do-Overs

photo 1Dear Daughters,

It’s Maundy Thursday, and the truth is, I haven’t felt very Lenten.

It hasn’t felt like Holy Week this week since, on Sunday, I stayed home with a double-ear-infected child and missed the palm-branch waving. I’m kind of grumpy about that. I’ve been kind of grumpy that it’s spring break for the public schools this week and so nobody else seems to care it’s Holy Week either. I’ve been kind of grumpy about the fact that all of us are sick for the seventeenth time this year, and I’m a little tired of following children around the house with tissues while hardly being able to breathe myself without coughing up a lung.

So there’s that. Lots of grump.

And then this morning it was warm, so I said we could go outside and play for a little bit. The toddler ran out onto the deck in socks because the neighbors were already outside getting into their van (and she’s an unashamedly nosy creature, which she gets from her mother), and then before I even had time to pour myself a cup of tea, she hollered that it had started raining and scurried her little feet back inside.

Sigh.

Some seasons are just grumpy seasons. Days, weeks, months, years. Call it Lent if you want. Or call it life. I call it motherhood. That’s how it feels to me.

And then it rains and you feel even grumpier until you hear those drops on the back deck and the windows on the north side of the house and you remember something. Something you’d forgotten. You like rain. You do.

I do, at least.

I’d almost forgotten because it has been awhile since I’ve been able to enjoy it.

In that hazy, previous life before children, I would open the windows when it rained and squat down by the floor and breathe in that strange beginning-of-downpour scent and open up the laptop or the journal or get out the scrap paper and write. I used to run in the rain or walk in the rain or just reach my hand out the door and feel the rain on my bare skin.

With little ones circumnavigating me during all waking hours, however, this just doesn’t happen anymore. Rain means I stay inside and incubate germs. And get grumpy about it. Windows stay closed because the draftiness generates whininess and goose bumps. With little ones, the only rain I hear is the white noise machine imitation of rain.

Three years into this business of motherhood, and I’m pretty tired of the white noise, girls. Pretty darn tired of it.

But: rain.

Rain has always Inspired me. Capital-I Inspiration. There’s something alive and refreshing and starting-the-day-or-week-or-month-or-season-over that happens when it rains.

And I need those do-overs.

I need to be reminded, as I remind you when you grump about the weather, that God created the world to work this way. Rain nourishes the ground so the lettuce seeds in the garden can germinate. Rain nourishes. Seeds germinate.

We get a do-over.

Lent’s nearly over and, I’ll be honest, it’s unlikely that the upcoming weekend is going to be very meditative for me. Good Friday. Holy Saturday. Easter morning. They’ll come, I’ll go through the motions, tissues and cough drops in hand, maybe get around to filling that antibiotic prescription, and then they’ll be over. I’ll probably be a little grumpy. Or a lot grumpy. But, girls, that’s okay. That’s the way it is sometimes.

Because today, today, I did open the windows downstairs for a little while. I did listen.

And when your feet got cold, I put socks on you.

Love,

Your Momma