Tuesday, June 24, 2014
On this day last year, we lived in Tennessee. We had just arrived and were settling in to our little house on Cherry Street. I was barely pregnant with Jude, and we still had the freedom to go and do things without a thought of nap time and feeding times. We were thoroughly enjoying the cool summer days that allowed front porch sitting and new town exploring. We drove over to Tusculum College and walked across their lovely green campus. We stopped across the street at the Creamy Cup for some Blue Bell ice cream, thankful that Blue Bell made it to Tennessee before we moved there. We were happy and hopeful. We were loving our new town, our new church, and the people in it.
It feels like a thousand years ago. I am now a mom. I live in Delaware. I work at a daycare teaching three year olds. We are working to help plant a church near Philadelphia. Some days it feels like our ten months in Tennessee wasn't real.
Someone asked me recently, "Why all the moving around?". And I didn't answer. Because I don't really know. Ministry is a funny thing. You move somewhere to partner with a pastor, with a church body, and you plan on staying a while. On putting down roots. On buying a house maybe. But things happen. Things change. Or maybe they don't change and no one wants to do anything differently from the way it has been done before. And the difficulty in ministry is that you can't communicate everything you know. It's the way you maintain your integrity. It's the way you protect the reputation of others. So you move on. And you don't always get to explain.
You can say that God is moving. And I haven't decided yet how accurate that is. Because I think God gets blamed for a lot of stuff He didn't do. Yet He is sovereign, so surely He knew it was coming. But still. People have choices to make, and churches are made up of people. So God is not altogether responsible.
In both of our moves, to our church in McKinney, Texas and to East Tennessee, we have had dreams for those churches. We have envisioned God doing big things. It's an exciting thing to begin a ministry in a new church. We dream of growth and revival and change, in us and in others. It's unsettling to move on from something without seeing the change you hoped for. Without seeing fruit. It's sad to feel like it's over too soon. And there is always a need for mourning the loss of that dream.
And so I guess that's where I am tonight. I am just sad.
I miss all of the things that could have been but never were.
I miss the sweet friends I met along the way.
I miss our church in a storefront in Texas and our haunted church building in Tennessee.
I miss being a children's pastor.
I miss fresh eggs and jars of homegrown green beans (Jim and Cindy Walter, I'm talking to you here).
So Texas and Tennessee, I miss you. You are not forgotten.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Long before you were born, I was a mama to your cousins Canaan, Cameron, Connor, and Cody. When Canaan was barely five, we had been going between two churches. Our real church was an hour away, and so we often went to a closer church just because it was easier. One Sunday close to Christmas, we dropped Canaan off at Sunday School dressed in khaki pants and a long sleeved blue and white striped t-shirt. I only remember what he was wearing because of what came next. I walked into the church sanctuary, found my place, and took my seat. Just then, a stream of children dressed in red and black holiday attire walked into the front of the church and took their places on stage for what seemed to be a Christmas program. Frilly, glittery dresses and handsome little ties on the boys. Shiny shoes and big hair bows. And in the midst of them, there was Canaan, sticking out like a blue and white striped sore thumb. I instantly felt sick to my stomach.
Does he know the songs?
Is he afraid?
Why on earth didn't I know about this?
And so I did what any mama would do. I rescued him. Or maybe I rescued me. I had someone go up onto the stage and get him for me. When he met me out in the hallway, he began to cry. He did know the songs. He had practiced them with the class over the last weeks that he had been in attendance. Somehow, I had missed the memo on the whole thing, and he wasn't dressed appropriately. But the program had started, and he was missing it. So he cried. And I cried. Because I had failed him. It wasn't the first time, but it was probably the most memorable.
Three days after you were born, your mama had a meltdown. I was scared that I wouldn't be able to take care of you. I loved you and wanted you to have a perfect, pain-free life. I knew that I wasn't going to be able to give it to you. And so I cried. A lot. And I wondered what was wrong with me. (It was mostly hormones, and you will fully learn about those when you grow up and have a wife). I was so upset, I asked the nurses to take you to the nursery. I was convinced that you would hear my crying and be upset by it. So I wanted to shield you from the madness. Later that evening, I was feeling better, working my way toward being calm, and I decided to go for a little walk down the halls of labor and delivery, making a little stop by the nursery to see you. When I did, I realized that you were the only baby in the nursery. You were all alone in the middle of an empty room, resting quietly in your tiny plastic bed, my little baby burrito. The nurse was on the side of the room doing paperwork, clearly not realizing that you were the sweetest newborn on the floor and deserved full attention. I just knew you felt unloved and wondered where I was. And so I cried some more. I felt like I had failed you, leaving you in that nursery with no one to give you the kind of attention that a brand new baby deserves. And so it began with you. My life of parenting imperfectly.
You are now almost five months old. This is your four month letter. Your three month letter got lost in my head amidst packing and moving and never made it to paper. Or screen, however you look at it. And I have made so many mistakes already. I have accidentally dropped my cell phone on your head. I have not heard you cry at times, and you may have wondered where on earth I was. There are more mistakes on the way. I am sure of it. I am human. I hope will forgive me for them and love me anyway. I love you, buddy. And every day I will pray that God will work in me and live through me so that you grow up knowing that He is good even when I am not. Here's to lots of mistakes and lots of grace.
P.S. One of my favorite books is by Judith Viorst, and when you are old enough to not be freaked out by it, I will read it to you. It's about a little boy whose mama tells him that there aren't monsters all around, but he isn't sure if he should believe her because sometimes mamas make mistakes. And they do.
P.P.S. There are no such things as monsters.
Here is your three month picture, since I missed the letter. You are pretty cute.
Monday, March 17, 2014
You are stuck with it for the rest of your life. I hope you are never angry at me for it. It doesn't rhyme with too many horrible things, although I admit that if anyone changes it to "Judy" (which I sometimes do in the privacy of our own home), it can rhyme with "doody" and I'm sorry about that. But I wanted to tell you how we chose your name.
The name Jude is a book of the Bible. It means "thanks" or "praise". And really, after the weirdness of the last few years, thankfulness is something I have learned to practice. I am not always great at it, and so I practice. You have an older brother or sister that is in heaven. He (or she) was not healthy enough to be born, and I was so, so sad. Your dad and I worked at a church at the time, and our church jobs got kind of hard, too. When I found out that you were coming, I was anxious, but I determined to be thankful. Thankful for each day, for each moment. I tried to remember to say a prayer of gratefulness for each day that I had with you because I was never quite certain how many I would have. I didn't know if I would get to hold you. And so I chose to appreciate the moments as they came. Every time I heard your heartbeat or felt you kick, those were moments to stop and be thankful. We had the name picked out long before you were born, but in the end, it fit. You were Jude. You have always been Jude.
Your middle name is Chapman. You will most likely only hear this name when you are in trouble, so I hope you don't hear it often. But the name reminds me of one of the most special guys I have known, your great grandpa Chapman. He was my grandpa, and he went to heaven before you were born. He was a roundish guy with lovely silvery hair and a big laugh. He cooked breakfast wearing starched blue jeans and a white ribbed t-shirt. I loved waking up at his house to the smell of fried eggs and bacon and coffee. He was an usher at church, and I remember his pre-offering prayers in his big manly voice. It was a friendly voice, but it could mean business when we grandkids were misbehaving. But most of all, I remember my grandpa reading his Bible. Once, when I was a kid, my grandma and grandpa came to stay with us while your Nana and Papa were away. I remember grandpa reading one particular Psalm that contained the word "Selah" about a thousand times, and I giggled all the way through because I thought the repetition was ridiculous. But when we would stay the night at grandma and grandpa's house, they could always be found in the morning sitting in their recliners reading their Bibles. My grandpa loved Jesus, and he loved your grandma. And he would have loved you. He was all kinds of things that I would love for you to be, and I wanted to give you his name because it means something to me. And it's a cute name. And you are cute. So it fits.
Before my grandpa Chapman passed, I sat down with him to ask him some questions and to record his answers. One day when you are older, I will sit you down and let you hear it for yourself, sweet stories from an old man who has reached the end of his life. I asked him if he got into a lot of trouble when he was a kid and he laughed and answered, "I was an angel". And I believe he was, mostly. And then he proceeded to tell me about a time that he tore up his sister's paper dolls. But really, if torn up paper dolls was all he ever got into, he was a pretty good kid. And so far, so are you. You are sweet and smiley and you do not scream when we give you a bath. You love stories at bedtime and you have slept through the night three whole nights in a row. We hope this is our new normal. We love who you are and we can't wait to see who you become, Jude Chapman Turner. You are loved so very much.
Monday, February 3, 2014
This morning your dad got up with you (he is a good man, your dad), and he decided to dress you for the day. He pulled out a short sleeved onesie that fits just right and a pair of newborn sized bottoms that fit you like vintage football pants. He pulled them out of a pile of newborn clothes that you have already outgrown. It is hard for me to believe that I am already having to pack away things because they are too small for you, and yet I am.
We had lunch at Cracker Barrel last week, and an older lady at the next table stopped by on her way out to give you the once over. She commented on your cuteness, your smallness, reminisced about her 52-year-old "baby", and then she said the thing that I have heard more in the last six weeks than anything else.
It goes by so fast.
And it must. Because sometimes I wonder how I am 36 instead of 26. If it goes fast for me, who is not constantly hitting new milestones and learning new skills, it certainly will go fast with you.
I would slow it down if I could. I really would. I would rewind and make you 7 pounds again, tiny and sleepy and as active as a sack of potatoes. And I would spend my days sitting and staring at your sweetness just a little longer. And it would be years before you were crawling and walking. We would get there, but it would take a while. Because there isn't enough time to take it all in. There aren't enough pictures to capture how awesome you are in this moment. And sadly, there are other things that need to be done. Like laundry and dinner and on occasion, I would like to have the chance to take a shower. And those things get in the way of just admiring you.
But I can't slow down time. No amount of wishing will change the ticking clock. As your mom, I have to think about what's important as the inevitable days pass and your legs become too long to fit into my favorite sleepers. I have to decide where to invest my time and energy when it comes to you. These days are fleeting, and you will be a big kid before I know it.
So here it is. Here is the thing that will count your whole life long. And it's not adorable newborn pictures of you curled up in a tiny basket, although those would have been fun. It's not custom made baby outfits that cost more than any outfit in my closet.
The only thing I can give you that lasts is Jesus. And it may sound cliche or trite, but kiddo, this is the thing that will count when I am gone. This is the relationship that lasts when you are a grown-up with your own family. This is the thing that will change your life.
You are just a baby. You cannot understand the words I say just yet. You don't know the difference between Psalm 139 and The Gettysburg Address. But one day you will. And those things that I say to you now will eventually become recognizable and familiar to you later. The songs that I sing to you now will become a comfort to you when you are bigger. They will be woven into your memories of me as your mom, of family, of things that you love and hold close. And so I will invest in you the things that will last. I will sing to you sweet Sunday school songs that I sang as a child, even though they have mostly been abandoned in actual Sunday schools. I will softly quote to you my favorite verses, praying that they will change your life someday the way that they have changed mine. I will read to you stories about God and about people that loved Him. I will pray over you and tell you that Jesus loves you. He does... so, so much more than even I can. And for now, you will not understand. But I will be busy planting seeds of understanding in your little heart and mind. I pray that they will grow into faith that exceeds my own.
You are sleeping right now. You have managed to soothe yourself into a little nap, and I am thankful because I needed this moment to sit and reflect and write down the things I have been pondering. But your nap won't last long. You will soon be up and you will need to be fed and changed. I need to clean up the house a little and wash some tiny little clothes that won't fit you for long. There is a long list of things that will fill this day and then you will be one day older. Bigger. Smarter. I will try to be okay with it, this passing of time. I will celebrate, and maybe even mourn a little at the same time, each milestone. It will go by fast, little guy, but I will do my best to leave you with what really counts. That's my promise to you.