52: Quiet

52 Week 16 It's been quiet here lately. August's been a delightfully slow month for us--long, lazy days full of playgrounds and Popsicles and lots and lots of coloring.

This blog's been quiet too. This is in part because I've been devoting most of my writing time to book revisions, but it's also because I've found myself in an uncertain place, asking God lots of questions and not hearing many answers. I'm an introvert, and when things feel shaky, I pull inward, waiting until I find solid internal ground before I fully reemerge.

In the shower the other day, I found myself thinking about how great it will be when I'm done wrestling, when I've learned whatever it is I'm supposed to learn from this time. "I'll be a more effective wife and parent," I thought. "I'll be better able to minister to others."

And then, He interrupted: "Abby, I'm not changing you so you can better care for others. I'm changing you because I love you."

The words encouraged me, and they stung. I believe them to be true and also I do not. I'm good at efficiency, productivity, and achievement. I love thinking of creative ways to do and to do well. I'm not so comfortable with just being loved. It is hard for me to believe that God would care enough about my heart to work in it, not for some greater purpose, but simply for me.

And so I wait here in the quiet, trusting God will find a way to help me understand this sort of love.

52: Full

52 Week 15 They are competitive for my attention these days. If one of them is sitting in my lap, the other one wants to be there too. When I pick up one of them at church on Sundays, the other stretches out her arms. Last Sunday, I stood during worship, one girl in each arm, thinking more about the challenge of holding them both securely than whatever song we were singing at the time. It's tempting in moments like these to miss the days when I could worship free of responsibility and distraction. But my recent book revisions have taken me back to the days we struggled with infertility, when I often looked with longing at the families in adjacent rows at church, busy, squirming little bodies everywhere. Then, I felt barren, empty. Now I am grateful to have my arms so very full.

52: Sisters

52 Week 14 They love each other, these two. When Ellie's at preschool, Celia inquires, "El-wie? El-wie?"

"She's at school," I tell her.

"School," she repeats, nodding emphatically.

Five minutes later, it begins again. "El-wie? El-wie?"

When we go to the mom's group at church, Ellie insists on staying in the baby class with Celia. "She won't cry if I am here," she says.

They also squabble and push and vie for attention, but in the good moments, when their joy in one another is evident, I can't help but wish I had a sister too.

52: Silence

In the complete draft of my book manuscript, there are 69,226 words. For the past two weeks, since I sent the draft off to my editor, I haven't been able to find any more. I think of writing sometimes, when the girls are playing peacefully for a moment, when I collapse on my bed during their afternoon rest time, and I start crafting sentences in my brain. Mostly though, my creativity is drained. I read - Tim Keller's book on suffering, Andrew Solomon's exploration of children different from their parents. I think a lot about pain and loss and God and the unanswerable questions. I sleep. I watch TV. I sort through the mail that's been piling up since December. And I wait for the editor's feedback and for my words to come back. This is part of the process I know, this percolation, this steeping, this silence.

52: Sunshine

52 Week 13 On days like today, days of sunshine and still, warm air, we go outside as much as I can manage.  Bubbles and chalk and bikes are all new again after their winter's hibernation, and the mosquitoes and Virginia humidity have not yet arrived.  We eat picnics and lick popsicles and come in for dinner tired and sweaty and grimy.

52: Spring

52 Week 12 We've replaced the winter magnet with the spring magnet on our little preschool calendar, but weather is not regulated by neat human divisions.  In our front flower bed, tulip blossom push their tips through the thawing earth.  Our long-silent neighborhood is again full of little voices, of scooters and sidewalk chalk and pick-up soccer games.  But still, snow flurries sneak up on us, and even in the sunshine, we shiver in our fleece jackets, the ones we are all determined to wear.  "Where do we find summer?" Ellie asks one morning, longingly.

52: Winter Ends

52 Week 10 The earth is heavy with snow and ice.  My heart is heavy too with cancer battles and divorce and babies sick and dying. So many questions I can't find answers to, no matter how many times I turn them around in my brain.  I feel the physical weight of them sometimes, a tightness in my chest.  I write my book, and I read the blogs, and sometimes the cumulative impact of so many hard stories seems too much to bear.  One afternoon, the girls and I drive to pick CJ up at the airport after he's been gone for five days. The grass is still covered with snow, but the sky is bright and the air is warm.  Strangely, a Christmas carol comes to mind.  A thrill of hope, I think, the weary world rejoices.  

52: RSV

52 Week 8 She screams when they take her temperature, when they force her body into a harness for a chest x-ray, when I hold the nebulizer mask over her face.  Eventually, eyes closed against the medicated steam, she falls asleep in my arms, her breathing still labored.  I am sitting on the urgent care examining table, and she is warm and heavy against me.  I wait to hear whether or not she will need to be admitted to the hospital overnight, and I remember losing one child and the long months I feared I might never hold this one either.

52: The Simple Things

52 Week 7  

It is a Pinterest-worthy photo of a Pinterest-inspired activity:  a holiday-themed sensory bin, baby and toddler playing harmoniously while sun streams onto clean hardwood floors.  What the photo doesn't show is the half-hour it took me to set up the bin while the girls were sleeping, the fact that it only entertained them for about ten minutes, the soaking wet outfits that had to be changed afterwards along with dozens of little foam hearts to lay out to dry.  The next afternoon, while Celia finished her nap, Ellie played with the dirty dishes in my kitchen sink for half an hour:  no planning or extra clean-up required, no Pinterest-worthy pictures taken.  Sometimes, I am realizing, simple and spontaneous is just as good, perhaps even best.

52: On Baking Alone

52 Week 6 She is excited about Valentine's Day, almost as much as Christmas my husband thinks.  Together, she and I planned a little Valentine's Day play date with a few of her friends from preschool:  heart coloring pages, red snacks, cookie decorating.  The plan was to bake the cookies together the night before the play date, after her baby sister had gone to bed.  The dough was ready in the kitchen, waiting, but she sat at the dining room table squirming, whining, playing with her milk, doing anything but eating her dinner.  We told her she had to finish by the time her sister was in bed, or there would not be time to make cookies.  When I came downstairs from putting Celia to bed, she burst into tears, knowing she'd lost her chance.  "I was just about to eat it," she wailed, as we sat on the couch, both CJ and I holding her close.  She was so upset she couldn't speak, and I cried too.  Everything in me wanted to cave, to let her bake at least a few of the cookies the next day.  But CJ said no, and I knew he was right.  I baked alone, after she was finally asleep, and I cried more.  Love is a hard, hard thing.

52: Reminded

52 Week 5  

CJ took the girls to his parents this morning so I could write, and I've spent most of my day alone, in the quiet, with my computer.  I've been talking for weeks now about how I was looking forward to the silence and the solitude, to all the things I'd be able to get done.  And all of that has been beautiful:  the ten fresh pages of writing, the afternoon nap break, the time and space to think.  But it's reminded me of the many Saturdays of my single years, Saturdays spent alone grading papers and doing grad school homework, Saturdays I longed for the busy chaos of family life. It's funny how easy it is to forget the challenges of the past, how easy it is forget gratitude for the present.



52: Stillness

52 Week 4  

She wanted me to color.  It was a quiet Sunday afternoon, the house unusually still.  The toddler was sleeping, and CJ was working at his desk in the basement.  I wanted to crawl into bed and take a nap myself, but I sat and watched her stencil shapes and draw pictures of Fancy Nancy and her family.  She didn't really want me to color with her, I realized as time passed; she simply wanted me to be with her, to watch her, to pay attention.  It was hard.  I kept thinking about the shirts I could've been ironing in the basement, kept turning on my phone to send a quick text to a friend.  I'm very aware that being constantly busy with small children is hard for me; I crave silence, stillness, peace.  But on Sunday, I realized that being still is hard for me too, that slowing down to simply be with my little girl required real effort of a different sort.  To pay full attention to her, to focus solely on her interests and desires, requires both a stillness and a degree of selflessness that are difficult for me to muster, but so very important for us both.

52: Grace to See

52 Week 3 52 Week 3 (2)


Most parenting moments are mundane:  dishes washed, diapers changed, tantrums managed, books read for the hundredth time.  In the midst of the busyness, the noise and the chaos, it is easy to lose sight of your child's personhood, the beauty of her unique mind and heart.  But every now and then, something makes you stop, slow down, and see, really see. You tell your three year-old to set the table and come back to find she's created "house napkins" for everyone.  You turn around and realize that while your one year old may be pulling all the toys out of the dollhouse, she understands that babies should sit in shopping carts.  They really are amazing, these little people.  It is easy for me to forget; it is grace when I can see.

52: Embracing Chaos

52 Week 2 He told me, while my tear-filled eyes surveyed the toy-strewn floors and piles of still-unpacked Christmas gifts, to embrace the mess, to enter in to the moment.  I don't do mess, I wanted to say.  I can't cook unless my countertops are clean, can't write unless my desk is clear.  But he is right, I know.  Life with two small kids is mess.  I can either fight against my kids and their clutter all day long or I can fight to enjoy them in the midst of the chaos.  I often make the wrong choice.  But on this day, I choose mess, extra mess.  I choose my toddler's flour and water soup, dry rice and oatmeal running through my baby's fingers.

52: New Magic

52 Week 1 There is magic in Christmas, in piles of packages, in an abundance of sparkle and shimmer and sugar.  But there is magic too in a fresh new year and in the pleasures of a simple hour:  a girl and her mommy, one slide, two swings, winter sun on our cheeks.

A New Series: 52


For 2015, I'm attempting a little series here on the blog called 52.  The idea boils down to this:  52 weeks in a year, 52 short paragraphs capturing my reflections on life in this crazy busy season with small children under my feet, on my hip, calling my name constantly.

Most days, I barely have time to wash my dishes and fold my laundry, let alone pause for reflection.  But the weeks keep flying by, and I know this will all be over soon.  They will grow up, move on, need me less.

Then, I will have time for more writing, longer writing, but for now, I will write the little snatches of life I can manage.  Once a week, one paragraph.