Tears in a Bottle and the Counting of Tossings

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Psalm 56:8 ESV
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?

I take comfort in the fact that my Lord puts my tears his bottle. He saves them; he gives my pain value. Like rainwater held for a later time, when the drought comes, the time when I do not shed tears and I’ve forgotten the salty touch of them on my tongue and the sadness in my very marrow, he shows me my tears that I might see that yes, He cared. Yes, He remembered. He took notice. He made it a priority to rectify my pain.
At a later time, I will look at the rainwater tears and know that my God held me up, steadfast when I thought my legs would fail. But they did not.

I take comfort in the fact that He takes count of my tossings–when I can’t sleep at night for worrying about things that I have little power over. He notices when the pillow bunches hot from my crying. He cares when my blanket is wound around my legs like a rope. He believes in me when my eyes cannot close to the stirrings of worry in my heart. He is Abba, Daddy. He touches my forehead and tells me to rest now. That He is in control.

The Gate

ducks

I’ll walk you to the gate, I said

And took his hand in mine

You’ll have to go on without me

I can’t come along this time

I’ll go as far as I can go

And kiss you on the cheek

It’s so much nicer in that place

The peace is what you seek

He turned and smiled before he went

I knew he was okay

I whispered that I’d be there soon

as he quietly shut the gate

Remember Us: For Inge

Each year, fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors remain. Even fewer are those like Inge Auerbacher who still travel all over the world to speak and inform of her experience as a young girl in the camps.

INGE

Remember us, they whisper

We boarded the trains obediently

To a place that your worst nightmares

Cannot comprehend

Remember us, they whisper

In the freezing dawn of morning

When the blackened smoke of ashes

Settled in yesterday’s wind

 Remember us, they whisper

Our children torn from our arms

The sick ones they shot in front of us

The chilling sound of a mother’s scream

Remember us, they whisper

Our bodies kicked in shallow graves

Strangers on strangers like lovers

Lovers with no choice

Remember us, they whisper

A number tattooed on our arms

The cold a presence in our bones

The starvation in the eyes of our children

Remember us, they whisper

The crying ever present

What sin had we committed

By our love for Yahweh

Remember us, they whisper

Let not our deaths be in vain

When the siren call of power

Seems impossible to ignore

Remember us, they whisper

When the story seems too fantastic

And the pictures seem too distant

In your grandfather’s war

dinner with Inge

Inge and a group of us having dinner together when she visited us in Texas. She’s loving the blooming onion.

Interested in having Inge come speak to your group? You will not be disappointed.

Contact Inge here: http://www.ingeauerbacher.com

Books by Inge: Photo courtesy of Inge’s website

Inges books

On Boundaries and Knowing My Place

I’ve never been good with boundaries

As a kid, if there was a fence, I’d climb it

If there was a wall, I’d scale it

If there was a space, I’d encroach upon it

If there was a line, I’d cross it

I guess you could say I don’t know my place.

I get so upset when we talk about slavery

As if it is nonexistent—a thing of the past

An embarrassing thing we should hide

Like the Confederate flag (Insert Dixieland here)

Or whispers of ancestors in the KKK (But that’s how he was raised)

Or pictures of segregated water fountains bleached in sepia (See kids, we learned our lesson!)

Slavery dwells among us

As real as terrorism or

Obamacare or

PROBLEMS WITH THE ILLEGALS

Slavery seeps into our very way of life … and we have allowed it

If you listen, you can hear the cries of the enslaved:

The little girl, only 12

She hasn’t had her first period but she knows men

She ran away from home to escape one kind of bondage

Which she has exchanged for another

Or

The man who risked everything to get his family into this country

And feels desperation and betrayal

As he’s forced to labor sixteen hour days or

His family will be revealed by the very ones he trusted

It’s as American as…

Well…you know

Apple pie, the Super Bowl, Sam’s Club on free sample day

We must listen to the cries of the oppressed

If we do not wish for frogs in our homes

Or blood in our water

When will we stop pretending it doesn’t affect us?
When will we quit ignoring the disturbing stories on the news, as if it wasn’t as relevant as

Jay Leno’s monologue

The War on Terror

Or

The girl on the missing poster

I guess I still don’t know my place.

On Settling and Other Myths

settling 3Concert

I used to worry I was settling

Somehow sacrificing what I could be for who I was

Solving the problem of yearning with inertia

Putting my dreams in the backseat

While I wiped runny noses and composed grocery lists

When time is forever and money is a dream

 

Sometimes I would feel the regret of choices made

Haphazardly, without really thinking about the consequences

Not really thinking much of anything except

How I was going to get that next can of formula

To feed your hungry bottomless stomach

 

The guilt of that feeling consumed me

What kind of mother questions motherhood

And its effect on a young woman’s life

As she holds a warm infant close to her breast

In the wee hours of the breaking day

 

But now I see more clearly the choices made

Not sacrifices at all, not wasted days

My vision is clear now

It’s amazing the clarity that comes  when you have had rest

Rest from the endless cycle of feeding, burping, bathing

 

I see the young woman you’ve become

As your life unfolds before you and you make choices of your own

Wait, I want to say

Wait.

 

I see the young man you’re trying on—

Still deciding which way to go

Left or right, the decision is yours

And oh, it seems as if there’s plenty of time—hours folding upon hours like so many snowflakes

I see the hourglass, quietly reminding me this is not so

 

I see the husband sleeping next to me

His back raising and falling with dreams

Like the tide rushing in and flowing back

Foamy water that refreshes the weary

 

I see the home we’ve made, the five of us

The three souls that made us whole

Our little universe in an expansive but terminable piece of eternity

 

I have no regrets

 

It was not a sacrifice as I had first thought

But more like a perfect gift of God’s timing

In the small hours of this morning

When all I love is under one roof

On Not So Perfect Holidays in Less Than Perfect Families–and Thankfulness

ice

I love being a professor. I’m still in awe that I actually get time off at the end of each semester. For the longest time, I worked in the medical field where getting Christmas off was never guaranteed.

At the beginning of Christmas break, I am fairly frothing at the mouth to be free of the office. Nothing but tail lights, baby! I have visions of country Christmases with homemade gingerbread house mansions, the family sitting around in the holiday glow of the fireplace, laughing together quietly while listening to Bing Crosby’s silken baritone as exquisite snowflakes brush the squeaky clean window pane in the background.

Here’s what REALLY happens.

The fam is lying around, slug-like, watching sappy Hallmark movies on marathon. It’s less about holiday spirit and more about laziness because nobody knows where the remote(s) is(are) and nobody is ambitious enough to look for it. My husband, The Engineer, bought a TV so complicated I have to use 5 remotes and a NASA launch code to just watch Pioneer Woman cooking shows, and frankly it makes me cranky. If he doesn’t want to simplify it (for Pete’s sake, I have a Master’s Degree in English–why can’t I find my way to My Five Wives without two hours of research?), then I’ll show him by NOT learning another mouth-watering recipe to try out on the family. OH YEAH. It’s ON. (I know this is petty and dumb. Work with me here.)

I realize we’ve been home several days and there is NO decorations of any kind. I mean, we don’t have tiny cherubs anymore so it’s not essential or anything, but come on, we’re not Grinches or anything.

Me: “So, we gonna put up the tree today? It is December 15.”

Family: “Eh.” (No movement from the couches that look like they are memory foam but aren’t). It’s more of a sound than an actual work–it translates to something like “Nah. You can if you want but I’m really busy right now and…”

Me: “Nate, run out to the garage and bring the tree in.”

Nate: “What?” (His hearing is slightly compromised, partially from his noise-cancelling (or mom canceling) earphones and his classical horn music he blares over the speakers.

Me: (louder) “I said, will you run out to the garage and bring the tree in?”

Nate: (siiiiiiigggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh). Dear Reader: If you don’t know what this sounds like, imagine how you would sigh if you received a speeding ticket or a certified letter from the IRS. Then crank it up about five notches.

“Okay…”he says,with the unbridled enthusiasm of a middle-aged, clinically depressed DMV employee who only works there because his mom said he needed to contribute.

Moving at the speed of glaciers melting, the men of the household reluctantly bring in the Tree That Time Forgot, which is decorated by a family that has experienced the suffocating closeness of forced holiday cheer, using ornaments that may have once been pretty but now look like Goodwill rejects. Bing Crosby? Hardly. More likely, it’s the wisdom of Family Guy–of course set on the most awkward episodes possible to watch in a family environment. But I can’t change it, can I? I mean, I’m no rocket scientist! Do you think I’m gonna ask Hubby to do it? No way. I’m speaking softly as possible so he doesn’t abandon the whole project and leave me there to sort out the paint-coordinated branches that are not guaranteed to actually fit in their appointed slots but are definitely guaranteed to give me a migraine headache. I know it isn’t real pine. I’m allergic to the puffs of dust falling off the branches.

Ever try to decorate a tree and wrap presents with a neurotic, paranoid German Shepard that is equally terrified and seduced by Santa gift wrap? Add in a grouchy, narcissistic chihuahua who finds laps where none exist and a stupid but adorable min-pin mix that loves looking out the window to bark at menacing kids on bikes.

Oh yeah. We’re festive now.

At the end of it I’m like, “Ok you guys! We’re gonna decorate this tree and we’re gonna like it, got it!” I sound like a coach chewing out the losing team in the locker room at half time.

As far as holiday baking goes, I might have pinned a bunch of elaborate gingerbread houses on Pinterest, but the only thing that has remotely translated to actual holiday food is some leftover candy canes I found crushed under a couch cushion and a HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! card from my dentist, reminding me it’s been too long since my last cleaning. Note to self: pick up floss. Half out of guilt and half from The Ghost of Christmas Pressure, I half-heartedly bake some chocolate chip cookies from a tub that are just the perfect texture–burned on the outside and raw on the inside. Then I dare anyone to say anything. At this point, my inner Sybil has terrorized the family and everyone knows just to take a cookie and avoid eye contact.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. WE LOVE CHRISTMAS. I just sometimes fall into the trap of trying to create the Perfect Family Holiday Moment without the actual Perfect Family. None of us are perfect. We are all flawed, sometimes irritable, beautiful humans. And they are my humans. Don’t you say anything about them or I’ll be on you like rednecks at a Dollar General clearance sale. Don’t make me go there.

In the end, we had an awesome Christmas. Not perfect, by any means. Taking down the tree was almost as fun as putting it up but it’s done. I’ll spare you the details but leave you with this cliffhanger: extension cords and missing stockings. We know what it’s about: a tiny baby hosting Immanuel Himself, sent here by choice. An unmistakable sign of perfect love and sacrifice. God in man clothes–coming to take away the sins of the world. The rest? It’s just frosting.

And I have to remember at all times that none of this is promised to happen again. New Year’s Day, with tons of appetizers and messy kitchens and Back to the Future marathons  and loud games of UNO is never guaranteed. Next year, it’s very possible that both my girls will be moving away to begin their careers as they will have graduated. A year after that,  Mancub follows. The more talented your kids are, the more opportunities are presented, and the greater the likelihood that they will have to move far away to make these dreams happen. So for now, I’ll appreciate them in all their grouchy glory, and hope they do the same for me.

Happy New Year you all. Want a chocolate chip cookie?

Great Expectations

jody recital

For you, I have great expectations

I hold hope in my hands, gently, like a bird

I want to let go, yet I’m afraid

For you, I have great expectations

Of dreams unseen and loves unmet

A road untraveled and untrod

For you, I have great expectations

Joy, love, life, peace

This is what I want for you

For you, I have great expectations

You are not unprepared for this wilderness

It’s a wild frontier, but you are ready

For you, I have great expectations

Your beauty, intelligence and heart go before you

Even when I cannot

For you, I have great expectations

This hope I hold onto I finally release

It mounts the sky unhindered

Unafraid

And, I am never far behind

Brewing Tea — And Words

tea

It’s something to do, a way to keep my hands busy
To avoid the conversation I don’t want to have
But tea does not take long to steep
The dark liquid swirls about blending with the clear

I hold my breath for a moment searching for words
The way her eyes search mine
Looking for a hint of my awkwardness
Searching for clues in my mannerisms
This is how well she knows me

I do better with pen and ink;
I can tame my words that way
Before they spill out of me on their own accord
And cannot be replaced.

Sometimes that happens, you know.

My words remain behind the wall with a crack
And some poor kid has his finger there trying to hold it back

The pen does not betray me the way my lips do

It doesn’t quiver and misquote
It doesn’t make my heart beat so quickly in my chest
That I cannot catch my breath

I can choose each word individually, carefully
Like a florist choosing flowers for a bouquet
Each petal has meaning
Each color is on purpose

But sometimes I have to speak without my pen
Sometimes I have to take a chance
Sometimes I have to lose some control
Sometimes it just works that way.

I brew the tea instead of holding my pen
I hand her a cup full of promise
Put a smile on my lips hold my breath and say
“Let’s talk.”

Losing a baby – things I’ve learned about miscarriage

Originally posted on The Happy Baby Project:

1. You may not realise anything is wrong. You may not bleed, nor feel cramps. In fact, you may be blissfully unaware that there is a problem at all until a scan, when instead of a kicking happy baby, you see a lifeless thing floating asleep, or you see nothing at all.

2. A scan will forever be a hateful thing – rather than excitement at looking at the screen, you will always wish the screen to be turned away from you, expecting a “sorry, there’s no heartbeat”.

3. And while I’m at it, sonographers have the best poker faces in the world. Fact.

4. After the scan, there is a lot of waiting. Waiting for further scans, waiting for tests. Waiting to miscarry naturally or waiting for pills to make you miscarry. Then there is waiting for appointments, waiting for operations to remove tissue. Finally there is waiting for your period to…

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Just for the Moment

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This pain is excruciating

How am I supposed to breathe through this?

My brow is sweaty, my teeth, gritted

Just one more, they tell me

It will be over soon

It’s just for the moment

A morning hug with my coffee

Her golden brown hair is all messy

As she sits at the table in her Lion King pajamas

She smiles at me, her front teeth are missing

Eating her cereal and humming

It’s just for the moment

She wakes me up early

For a Disney video and hot cocoa

On a frosty winter morning

Nothing to do, nowhere to go

Those days never seem to end

It’s just for the moment

Homework and schedules

Music and mayhem

Endless car pools

And tacos for dinner

Bassoon lessons and boyfriends

It’s just for the moment

A red prom dress and fancy hairdos

A silver locket around her neck

A young man at the door looking nervous

I hold back the tears, she’s just so beautiful

It’s just for the moment

Graduation caps and gowns

Scarlet on white

It must have happened when I closed my eyes

So many emotions all at once

I hug her fiercely, then a teary goodbye

It’s just for the moment