• Ebenezer,  facing grief

    New worlds…

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    flowerbed

    I remember staring off in middle space on warm afternoons, chin in hands on a high school bleacher. My friends scrambled for the football below, thick with sweat, working towards unseen goals, games to win or lose. I tried on different futures those hazy afternoons- What if I became an artist? What if I travelled the world? What if I never got married? What if I did? I would glance down at my friends’ muddied faces, marveling at their perseverance, and then escape back into my thoughts. I never considered that I could do what they were doing- that I could fix my eyes and fight for every inch and make a mark. I know my school girl self. I thought I had faced hard things. Maybe I had. But I was untested in the arena of life, and I couldn’t fathom that I’d have to face storms so wide and deep that I’d swear I was drowning. In some distant way, though, my school girl self wondered what it would like, facing storms. Would it all change overnight? Would it be a slow burn? The heartbeat of the question underlying all those school girl wonderings- will I be able to handle it? Will I be enough? Will the world fall down?

    Dear younger self,

      I know you have a lot of questions, but all I’ve got for you is Doctor Who quotes. You haven’t heard of the show yet, but it’s worth it. Don’t skip Nine. (Trust me, it’ll make sense when you get there.) But anyways. Here ya go.

    “When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… Grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.”

    “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

    Life is going to be so much more than you ever expected. Keep your head up. And when a handsome country boy asks you on a date, say yes the first time.

    Love, ME

    The truth is, you can only write about it using conjunctive phrases. Youth makes you think that every answer will be exact. Life teaches you that everything is a both/and, and rarely an either/or. The storms will take your breath away and put wind in your sails in the same sentence. Push and pull. Ironies and contradictions. Very, very few absolutes. I can’t help thinking about the Doctor’s wise words lately.

    Simply put, we returned to UVA. We had to leave in the middle of night to get to the appointment on time. Waiting for us was the elusive diagnosis that has been lurking in the background for two years, frustrating her doctors, making treatments harder:

    Hyperimmunoglobulin D syndrome (HIDS), [Mevalonate Kinase Associated Periodic Fever Syndrome]

    Your life changes all at once and not at all. That’s what storms do. You finally know what haunts your girl. She doesn’t act any different. She has the longest stretch of good days she’s had in months, while the Vacutainers line the counter in the lab, her life force distilled into numbers and titers. Life gets insane for days on end with the back and forth, and she stands there giggling, looking for all the world like a healthy kiddo. She plays in the water like her whole life hasn’t changed.

    I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    It’s our new world.

    A new world in which she has not one, but two, chronic life-long autoimmune diseases. A reality that means that she will never have a normal functioning immune system, that she will always be more susceptible to illness, and that her anemia will most likely also be a life-long fight, a specter always in the background. Two auto-immune diseases that have no cure. You can add all the math and the answer will always be less than you want it to be.

    But it’s our life. Her life. Our new world.

    The last two weeks have been ridiculously intense in ways I can’t even describe. There is no such thing as a good mail day anymore. James and I have faced levels of exhaustion we didn’t think were even possible anymore. It’s our life.

    The same two weeks, friends slipped in and took care of things we couldn’t. They dragged me away to quiet harbor, they made sure that my children’s curriculum will be taken care of for next year, they made me laugh, they made me think, they made me remember that there is a much larger world outside of this intense storm and that land is close.  Our new world.

    I see green on the horizon.

  • celebrations,  collecting stories,  Ebenezer

    It runs in the family…

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    “It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the organizer, who gave us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

    –Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC

    “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.”

    –G.K. Chesterton

    Honoring all the veterans in my family from every branch of the military stretching back generations. I am so grateful for those who returned home, and I remember and honor those who were lost. We will never forget. Thank you for your service. 

    Please, today, consider how you can get involved with caring for our veterans and wounded warriors coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. For so many of them, the war is just beginning. The rates of catastrophic trauma to the brain (TBI) have exponentially increased for our military brothers and sisters returning from these engagements more than any other war before. The co-incidents of PTSD have also rocketed. Every day, a veteran commits suicide. Never forget that these are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons- family- so very loved. Reach out and consider what you can do to help. They have lost so much. Let us give back as if they were our own family.

    This grand-daughter, niece, daughter, sister and cousin of the military thanks you in advance.

  • Ebenezer,  facing grief

    In the small places…

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    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

    ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

    This weekend always feels a little holy and a bit hollowed out at the same time. It’s the knowing and the not knowing. My sweet baby would be four years old now, on the cusp of leaving toddlerhood altogether. It’s the realization that life was never the same. It is the remembrance of how life nearly slipped from my fingers.

    And yet, with each of turn of the sun, the day becomes more sweet and less bitter. The raw gaping wound is now soft and white about the edges, time’s stamp. I can breathe now. The waves crash over my feet and not over my head. A peaceful place. Its become my touchstone in the year…my way of turning my eyes to the horizon and heavens…fresh clarity. Sometimes it amazes me how much I’ve forgotten how I nearly died; and yet other days it hits me fresh, gratitude coursing through my veins that I have this moment of laughter with a freshly bathed kiddo on my lap or that beautiful sunset or those flowers on the table. When it first happened everything seemed bathed with technicolor, almost so beautiful and so clear that it hurt to look at it. That feeling fades over time, and yet it doesn’t. The veil slips for a moment and suddenly you are caught breathless by the miracle of life all around you.

    It always happens on this weekend. Always I see the mosaic jewel-toned light of day and the twinkle stars of night and I remember. How the Father of all lights bent close and held me. How love lifted me from the water. The skillful hands of my surgeon and friend. The prayers that echo still.

    Although the grief never leaves entirely, it is a gentle friend now. Another year given to me, another year to pray, to praise, to love. It is enough. It is more than enough.

  • Ebenezer,  Orthodoxy

    Forging a new path…

    tangles I’ve been feeling a bit introspective the last few days. The honeymoon feeling has worn off and the still left-unpacked boxes are starting to make me feel a bit squirrel-y and a teensy frazzled. It was enough to move in. The kitchen, especially, needs more organization. While it was one of the first things to be unpacked, the cabinet space is strange and tall and narrow, and every time you open a cabinet there is a very real fear that something will come crashing down on your head.

    If I was totally honest, my life feels a bit like that kitchen.

    The move was an answer to a desperate prayer, a laying out of fleece, a begging for direction. Our life had begun to feel like suspension bridge spinning in a hurricane. The tension was so fraught that the tiniest thing could have sent our little cars of life flying hard into the ether. Spun up, strung tight. Trapped. Beleaguered. Stuck. These are the words that ring true to me as I consider how things felt before the new job and move became a reality.

    We had struggled for ten years to form a community around us. James loved the people he worked with and what he did in his job, but the pay and benefits were locking us into continual poverty, with no chance of pay increases or advancement. It was dead end. Our housing situation felt similarly dead-ended. We were barely making ends meet in a house that, while large, couldn’t provide for our needs properly and was falling apart around our ears with a landlord that wasn’t listening. But where else were we to go? We had looked and looked for a place that would work for us within the area and would return back to our current rental with dejected mein, realizing that this was it. Our locked-in finances barely covered the basics like groceries and gas; there was no way we were ever going to be able to save enough to buy a house again.  The reality of it all was very difficult to deal with.  Dejection courted us in the shadows. The marriage began to show the cracks and strain of all we were trying to hold together.

    It snapped.

    Someone caught us.

    We were caught up into safe refuge and harbor by steadied arms who pulled us in. Even thinking of it now, I try not to sob outright. Someone cared about us so much that he fought for us when we could not fight for ourselves, prayed over us and for us, and helped us back to our feet in ways both spiritual and practical.

    It was during this time of renewal and repair that we realized that, as much as we loved the area, we needed to cast our nets farther afield. Three cities were chosen, each for different reasons, and applications were filed. The prayerful waiting began. I don’t think we were particularly hoping for one outcome over the other- more than anything, I think we both had a very real fear that nothing would return. Nearly a month and a half passed, and we both began to struggle with doubt. A week to the day after we had a particularly rough day and given it all up for lost, things began to happen rapidly. First one interview, and then another, a phone call, inquiries made. Just like that, a job. Less than twenty four hours later, and at the head of a list that included three other families, a house.

    You will believe me when I say that everything fit together in ways we could not have even begun to conceive of. It practically seems made to order. The thing is? I think it was. We had to let go of everything before it could happen, surrender everything we are and wanted, to come to the end of ourselves and let it all go, release it. Here is the truth, paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in the Message: “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing.” (Luke 6:38) The delight will overwhelm you at times like drinking from a fire-hose, and yet you couldn’t realize how very thirsty you were till someone turned the thing on.

    All that said, there’s still a lot of things to unpack. There were patterns and choices that let to the virtual prison we had made for ourselves. There was a reason things felt so spun-tight. We must, must, must forge a new path here, with the Lord’s help. What that is and what the looks like, what new choices and rhythms must be made- these are the things filling my thoughts these days. I snapped this picture yesterday, of the boys untangling math problems and my knitting ball that had become hopelessly entwined…it took me most of the day that day to straighten it all out, but this is the thing that I love- it was able to be untangled. The light bulb comes on in the math lesson and we stretch forward to the next idea. I treasure the photograph because it reminds me that life moves forward, even when it all looks messy.

  • celebrations,  Ebenezer

    A big transition…

    We’re here! Today was Daddy’s first day of work at his new job. What a whirlwind move it has been! In-town moves are eventful enough. Cross-state moves are a whole ‘nother breed, especially if you only have three weeks to make it happen. Fhew. vanpackedOne of the ladies from church gave them Easter buckets full of snacks and activities to do in the car. We were packed to the gills! It definitely helped. movingonupThis move would not have happened without our friends and family in both states. I’m not sure which side I feel sorrier for- the group that had to play Tetris with the furniture to get it all in the truck, or the guys who had to carry box after heavy box of books to the third story in the new house. So grateful for everyone who was involved. newhouse Our new house is located in a historic neighborhood. We didn’t really know what this meant at first- the house itself almost seemed too good to be true. The other options in our price range seemed absolutely unbearable- not located in good area or too small or too far from where James worked. When we found this one and had close friends check it out, they were unanimous in their recommendation that we rent it. It’s a beautiful old duplex house built in 1918. It has plaster walls and nooks and crannies- all which have been named already by the children and friends (the Harry Potter closet, the Cinderella room).  And it’s huge. The whole neighborhood brings to mind the Sound of Music set, and has the friendliness to match. It’s full of young families and older couples and so very walkable. We see all sorts of people walking by with their dogs or children. Kids ride their bikes unsupervised around the block. It’s that kind of neighborhood. afterdinnerwalk We’ve already begun a new family tradition- an after dinner walk. We’ll probably add in a morning walk soon. It’s like a veritable treasure hunt. We’ve found a tiny park and a fishing pier behind the elementary school, and half a dozen houses to have fairytale imaginings about. One day we walked the opposite direction and discovered to our delight the village shops- because this neighborhood is one of those historic neighborhoods. It has a bakery and coffee shop, a few restaurants, and perhaps most importantly- a scrap booking shop. I can’t decide if that is a good thing or a very dangerous thing or a bit of both…librarydayFar and away our favoritest favorite favorite part of the neighborhood? The library that we can walk to. Yes, you read that right. For a family that up until this point had to drive thirty to forty five minutes to find a library (a family of voracious readers at that), this is almost unbelievable, pinch-yourself amazingness. It also has a lovely children’s section. Did I mention that this is only one of eighteen libraries in the area and it’s the same size as the one library in our old town? Bookworm heaven. I really try not to gush about the library but I can’t help it. What a gift! thevillageshopsWe’re still adjusting. The house is mostly unpacked save the master bedroom and office. The children and I are back in the books after a month off for moving. (And somehow third and first grader have forgotten everything they ever knew about math. Sigh.) We’ve gotten lost a few times, as is proper for any new adventure. (Apple Maps are not your friend in metro areas, just saying.)  Its a huge, beautiful, wonderful transition.