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And four teen[s] don't keep

A few weeks ago I read this poem on Lovelyn's instagram feed.  I'd heard it before and it fits her season with twin babies so perfectly.  It's not my season, but it's beautiful. (I would've linked to her image, which was also beautiful, but I couldn't figure out how to do that since it didn't post to facebook.)

I decided I needed to write a version of "Babies don't keep" for my season.

Because it has beauty all it's own.

My daughter Hannah turned 14 yesterday.  So I decided to title it

Four Teen[s] Don't Keep

Get it?!  four teens? fourteen? : ) (Technically Danielle's a preteen but I decided I was allowed some wiggle room.  I'm raising teenagers after all.) : )

So without further ado...

Four Teen[s] Don't Keep

Mother---uh, Moooooooom!
come tidy your house.
Do some of the dishes,
get the laundry off the couch.
Put away all your papers, for once make up your bed.
Do you remember how to iron, or make homemade bread?

Where is this mom whose house is so shocking?
Who used to return phone calls and enjoy friends and talking?
Who's pace was slower, and routine simpler back when
the kids were all home doing school in the den?

The crockpot was always simmering with stew
and 'round a large table she fed all of her crew.
Back when days were spent at the library and park
and mommy and daddy had quiet evenings after dark.

I found her!  She's in the suburban again
driving the road to the school that she's been
back and forth to ten times already this day
picking up and dropping off different kids on the way.

Then to youth, then to games, then to the store for some socks
Oh and don't forget to pick up the friend down the block!

They need money for this, they need money for that.
And she's looking for someone to pull it out of a hat.

'Are you late, mom, I had to wait TEN minutes today?!'
'Sorry your sister's dismissal was delayed.
As hard as I try, I can't be two places at once.'
A sigh, a latte, and a prayer for patience.

Get some pizza for dinner, I've got nothing at home.
We'll have to eat in shifts and then get homework done.

And as I collapse on the couch for a chat
my man is pulled into ensuing combat
And what could've been shared quality time
Becomes an evening spent mediating and disciplining crime.

For as you let out on the strings inch by inch
they grab and they tug wanting more, and you wince
Because sometimes more slack is just what they need,
but maybe they need practice in how to concede?
And there's no one to tell you how far and how much
There's no book or expert to act as your crutch.

Each decision is different, and each kid more still
You pray and you trust that you're doing His will.
Because they're yours for a season, a season is all
And you're sensing it's fading to colors of fall.

That soon they will leave, and while this always a home
It will be visits and short terms... more often they'll roam.
And the evenings will echo with absence of life
void of selves colliding in laughter and strife
no guitar riffs or pleas of injustice amassed
no noise of the chaos of bedtimes long past.
And my favorite chair will always be mine
No one to fight for my spot all the time.

Where will we go and what will we do?
Riding around in a suburban, just us two?

It's crazy and hard, and some days nothing's left.
But it's where I am called, no one promised me rest.
And ease, ha! I laugh to think how that could be
With four teens to raise, their decisions unseen.

The driving, the noise, the hard of these days
They are my gifts, my invitations to praise.
Soon all this will pass and become memories
I don't want to miss the glimpses of Glory.

So brew me some coffee, and make it real strong.
Put it in my to-go cup so I can take it along.
No more time for writing, there's no time for sleep.
I'm chauffeuring my teens, and teenagers don't keep.


To Make a Life (Happy birthday Emma)

I have been excited for weeks to write this post. 

And yet, as I sit here to do so, tears are welling up in my eyes and I am filled with sadness.

This is a happy day.

But it is also a sad one.

How it is possible that it could be both all at once?

I don't know.  I just know that it is.

Two years ago my niece Emma Jo was born.  But she never took a breath.  

I miss her.  I miss all that I could have fussed over and fawned over and bragged about, because she would've been the cutest kid ever.  I miss seeing her with all of her family--aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins-- because everyone else would have fussed and bragged too, and she would have been so adored.  I miss seeing Dan & Julia raise and mold and nourish her little soul, because they would have been the best parents ever.  And at times, when I'm reminded that this is forever their story--it knocks the wind out of me, and I just hurt for them.

But I think it was Ann Voskamp who reminded me, who are we to label circumstances and events in our lives as "good" or "bad", some as "blessings" and others as "curses"?  All is gift.  All is grace.

Emma, as brief as her life was, was a gift.

Part of what has been so beautiful to me, in these last 2 years, has been watching how honestly and openly Dan & Julia have grieved, celebrated, hurt, cried, laughed, and struggled.  It has strengthened my faith and shown me what trust and hope really look like when the world is turned upside down.  And I'm so excited that now even more people can share in that encouragement.

Dan wrote a book.  It is being released today, on Emma's 2nd birthday.  I know, I know--I'm the aunt and of course I think it's awesome. But I'm not kidding when I tell you--it's one of the best books I've ever read. 

This is where words fail. Words are tools for me, but I do not know how to use them like Dan does.  I structure and build thoughts with them.  He makes art with them.  I make them useful.  He makes them beautiful.

So instead of me telling you about his book, I will let him do so.  Here is an excerpt from his prologue in the book:  To Make a Life:
Our journey is garnished with unique experiences, singular twists and turns that we've navigated, particular scenes we've played a role in, but in truth, our narrative is no different that yours, than any human being's on this earth.  You too were given breath out of your mother's womb.  Your eyes were opened on a world teeming with possibilities unnumbered.  You grew.  You witnessed.  And what did you see?  What did you feel?  Whether you were thirteen or thirty-three, and whether you articulated it or not, you felt at some marked moment the piercing pain of being cut by a shattered cosmos.  A tear in the fabric of your soul.  A cannon shot that propels you to a place where for the first time, you feel the mileage between yourself and God.  And it's always paired with a paralyzing fear that you are all alone....we all know the rumble of that distant human cry rising from our depths, the core lament of a created being wailing out in the middle of the storm begging He that commands the winds and the waves to make it stop.
I want to invite you into my storms and my confrontations with the God who claims, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."  My prayer is that we might stumble together, heal together, and find hope together.  We who often grapple around in the dark trying to make a life on this ever mysterious planet, may we see that God is, even now as you read these words, the light that will never fade, never falter, and will always lead you to the greatest treasure on earth: Himself.
I can't think of a single person I know who wouldn't be blessed to read this story.  Go here and get yours:

 You will thank me.  That I promise.   : )

And Dan: To try and tell you how I feel about your book, I feel like a kindergartner with hands covered in finger paint telling Michelangelo--hey, I like what you drew on the ceiling.  We have the same medium to work with, and yet my words feel inadequate and clumsily pasted together when I try to express how I have been impacted by your words.  So I'll keep it simple.  TMAL is beautiful.  I mean it.  It's breathtaking.  You created an amazing gift.  I am so, so thankful.   And as I read it for the third time [this time with a fancy cover! : )], I would do well to just be silent, and let Glory seep through the cracks of your words and reveal Himself yet again to me as the loving, faithful, perfect Friend that He is.  Love you ALL so very much, Aunt Rachel