Saturday, January 21, 2017

the giving

In this old house I can hear everything. I hear her coughing sometime after 3am. It's persistent and I can hear her trying to get settled after each bout. I finally decide to make some warm milk and go in sometime around 4. I don't know if warm milk will help but it seems like the kind of thing a mom who knows what she's doing would do. I come in silently. In the room, illuminated only by the street lights outside, I can see her smile at me. She reaches for me without a sound and I pull her from her crib and we sit on the rocker and she drinks her milk. We rock and sip silently for a long time. 

It's quiet except for her sound machine. In the whir of white noise, she leans into me and I feel the weight of her body and marvel at how long it's been since I was up with her like this. She was a baby the last time I soothed her back to sleep in the middle of the night and now she's a toddler, a wriggly, busy toddler. As we rock quietly, her taking sips of her milk, then feeling around for her lovey and settling back into me, I think about the nights I used to do this several times before the sun came up. 

I've become a mother in the hours after midnight. Days and weeks after the pain of labor was gone, a new labor was beginning and I was being born a mother. Needs arise all day long for every parent but it seems to me that after midnight is when the need of this other person seems to pierce me and demand more of me. Maybe it's because no one is around to see it or probably it's because I'd rather be meeting my own need for sleep, but the simple act of getting out of bed and padding across a house in the middle of the night is a kind of sacrifice that aches. I wish I could say I'm the kind of mother who gives selflessly to my daughter no matter what the hour, but I'd be lying through my teeth. Sometimes I give selflessly, but lots of times, especially in the dead of night, the giving feels more like taking. 

Tonight I'm giving though. I stand and rock her, my arms holding her growing weight and my hips swaying in a slow dance that parents the world over know by heart. Her fingers are at my collarbone, she's gently toying with the neck of my shirt. I feel her breath getting slower and deeper and her cough has calmed for now. Her hair, fine and wispy and smelling of baby shampoo, brushes my lips and I press her into me closer still, taking in this moment with each of my five senses, not rushing despite my own heavy eyelids. It feels like time is standing still around us and tears are welling up in my tired eyes. My arms are tired as she drifts into sleep while I hold her, but I keep swaying. It feels like I can't give enough tonight. The giving feels holy tonight. 

Oh, how I love you, my girl. 

I am selfish beyond reason most of the time, but you, my little love, have tapped into a well of self-sacrifice that runs deeper in me than I could have imagined. I will wake in the night for you. I have fed you from my breasts and let my belly swell and my hips soften for you. My bones cracked open and I bled for you. And I will do it a thousand times over. I will wake in the night for you even when I am tired and you've taken from me all day long and I feel empty. I'll wake in the night despite the ache of selfishness that nags me, because in these moments, when I give once more, even when it aches, I see the face of God. He's in the giving. 

He fills me up while I pour myself out and when I press you close, I press into Him, and hear him whisper so true that I can feel it in the marrow of my bones, "Oh, how I love you, my girl.

Nicole Piper Photography

Sunday, January 8, 2017

lonely winters.

Happy New Year! My love for new years is well known. I love fresh starts and blank canvases and resolutions. And I love champagne and late night parties and all things glittery and gold. New Years is one of my all time faves.

Can I be real about what I do not love? The winter.

Three years in sunny Florida spoiled me rotten and I forgot what winter was like up North. And I'm only talking about a Virginia winter, not a Wisconsin winter, which frankly is a place not meant for human habitation in the winter months. Here in VA, the days are short and the sun is only just peeking out from some clouds today after being hidden for days. It's too cold for the park or for walks and even getting in the car to go somewhere is a giant hassle because of the whole getting a wiggly toddler into hat and coat and mittens ordeal. (Seriously, America...Do you know right now people in Florida are wearing tank tops and flip flops?! Get it together...)

This winter feels even more dreary because we just moved here a few weeks ago and I still don't know a soul. That's a real issue for me because I am the quintessential extrovert. I don't feel like I'm alive if I spend too much time alone. I thrive on connection and interaction and start to shrivel up like a raisin if I don't get enough of it. And I'm not getting enough of it, yet. It's lonely being the new kid.

Do you know what's different this time though? I think God is telling me to sit alone a little longer this winter because this won't be the last time I feel lonely.

Lonely winters tend to crop up in other places in my life. We just pulled up roots in Jacksonville and we're getting ready to put down roots here, knowing full well we'll just have to say a bunch of hard goodbyes and move in a few short years. All while living hundreds of miles from family and our oldest friends. Military life can be very lonely sometimes. But there are other lonely winters. Motherhood has seasons of loneliness. Long nights spent nursing, the isolation of staying at home, the nagging feeling that everyone else read their copy of "How to Parent with Ease" and mine got lost in the mail. My marriage can be lonely when we're not connecting or when we're standing on opposite ends of a conflict. Even my closest relationships can feel lonely when I desperately want to share my heart but I'm too scared that I'll get a side eye, or worse, a pat on the head and an overused adage like, "Prayers go up and blessing come down!" (To be fair, if you've made it into my inner circle, you've probably never said something like this to me cause you know what's good for you. If this is a saying you use and you are not a wooden sign at Hobby Lobby, then personally I think it's time to retire it.)

Life is full of lonely winters. Sometimes they're long and brutal and other times they vanish as quickly as they came, usually with the feeling of authentic connection that I crave so much. But I can feel God urging me to embrace the solitude this time so that, when the lonely winters do crop up, I can greet these seasons gently instead of my usual frantic anxiety.

The beauty of seasons is that they are always changing. I'm hoping spring will be even more beautiful and more full of life if I can wait for it's arrival patiently.

Also I'm taking the time to step back into writing, which is at times the loneliest of hobbies, spent in my own head at a computer by myself. My hope is that if you're reading this and you too are in a lonely season, you know you aren't alone. Let's be alone, together? I think it's the best way to be.

Cheers to the new year and embracing the loneliness and the changing seasons! Meet you back here soon.