Saturday, December 16, 2017

'Tis A Week Before Christmas

'Tis a week before Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature is stirring
Except Mrs. Mouse

The stockings aren't hung
By the chimney with care
Santa Dude's in a box
But I don't know where

I don't own a kerchief
The Hubs sports a cap
What we wouldn't give
For a long winter's nap!

The bare tree is nestled
All snug in it's stand
Well, bare, but for lights
Deftly hung by the hand

Of a kind, handsome elf
Who just drove off to shop
So I've hauled up a bin..
Now a star sits on top

Soon I'll hang shiny orbs
Of green, red, and blue
And in no time at all
Be enjoying the view

Of my festive fake tree
With it's twinkling lights
And the window of snowflakes
They are quite a sight

Sometimes Christmas comes slow
To the outsides of things
But my heart holds it tightly
The Truth, and it's ring

For Jesus came quietly
In a Mid-Eastern cave
Left heaven to free me
Sin no longer enslaves

This is the garland
That hangs round my heart
All the rest are traditions
Not the whole, just a part

We deck halls with bright lights
For the Light who has come
He alone’s the adornment
I need in my home

B. DesChamps 2017

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Most Of All

We grandparents tend to develop a mooshy new heart chamber when it comes to our grands. Love pours in. Love pours out. In most cases, unobstructed by any primary responsibility; a mid-life gift of unconditional love. We have been blessed with six.

The three who now live in Maine, and their mama, just spent three weeks with us. Three weeks of in-the-flesh time -- real hugs, squeals, spats, pool splashing, piano banging, Play Doh pinching, puzzles, toys, bubbles, field trips, and read-all-the-books snuggles.

All this followed by the heart-trudge to the airport, the last goodbyes, and the day after of wonderful, miserable quiet. A silence ushering in tears and much reflection, not to mention eight loads of laundry. 

Do I miss those kiddos and all their crazy energy? Yes! But as I sat with my coffee and leaky eyes on that first solitary morning, I realized this: when we're apart, it's my daughter I miss most.

Truth is, I loved her first. 

We've shared twenty-seven years. That's a lot of life glue and heart stitching.

All through this visit when the kids were napping or in - and out - of bed at night, we'd slip right into our shoulder-to-shoulder on the couch thing while planning her next remodel or my first, raiding Pinterest for favorite haircuts, laughing, bantering, or getting real about life. One night, she asked if I'd play the piano "like I used to" when she was little, so we could worship a while. Two hours of singing left us spent, but refreshed; hearts aligned.

You see, my love for the littles is tightly woven into the miracle of watching my daughter become a mother and be a mother. Watching this girl of mine love, teach, train, pull her hair out, fall to her knees, find strength again, and become more beautiful and wise in the struggle. I see a little of her in each of them.

To me, she is friend, cheerleader, prayer warrior. She speaks truth and encouragement over my life and calls me out when my thoughts and actions go south and sideways.

So even as my heart weighs heavy over my wide-eyed, busy, brilliant grands, when a continent lies between us, it's my daughter I miss most of all.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Faces of Motherhood

I stumbled upon these half-written reflections that began on Mother's Day. My life is littered with unfinished projects, so in a rare burst of determination I decided to circle back and finish this one. Some of you may find kinship here.

Sometimes the doing takes hold so hard that quiet moments drag me off to some mindless distraction. Today, the distraction dragged me back to mindfulness. Even social media can be the all things that are worked together for good. Wonder of wonders.

As I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, I was struck by the many faces of motherhood. Women cradling newborns, tales of sleepless nights and toddler antics, bedside hospital vigils, celebrating plays and proms. So many snapshots and shared thoughts that reminded me of my journey as Mom. So many seasons - all of them simultaneously happy, hard, wondrous, tedious, heart-wrenching, mind-stretching, and somehow good for my soul by the mystery of the unseen Hand that held me.

Soon I was nudged back to real-time by tears painting picture upon picture across my older, life-worn face. Tears that longed for the simpler, exhausting days gone by. Streaks that celebrated the joys, mourned the griefs - some yet raw. Tears that declared I've not yet found a place of peace in the so-called empty nest season...

...mostly due to the unexpected season: watching our own moms, and others, age in ways that we celebrate, but also in ways that keep me up at night once again - anxious, wringing hands grasping for elusive wisdom. Who knew the same uncertainty that gripped those long ago firsts would resurface in caring for the generation who raised us?

What I once pictured as carefree, possibility-full days of walking alongside my kids and grandkids has been fraught with cares and dreams deferred. I wrestle to lay down my vision of this season. There's no grace in how it's looked - this struggle - but much grace surrounding me in it. I am trying to find stillness in this storm, to soak up mercy, comfort, wisdom, love.

Who am I in all this? What can I hope for and work toward? Questions that took flight even as our first child married have had no space or length of time to land as I've bounced from one major life event - or crisis - to another these past several years.

Who am I? How do I fit, how does the rest of life fit, in to the new normal of caregiver in perpetuity, for that is how it often feels: never-ending. In part, this is who I am, what I do well, what I'm called to in this season. But the responsibility overwhelms at times, and I am clumsily learning to navigate, delegate, and find healthy boundaries, instead of mentally curling up and giving up.

This is my face today. Acknowledging the joys and sorrows, the struggles, fears, confusion, clarity. So often trying to hide the weariness, anxiety, depression. Confessing the resentment and sad state of a malnourished soul, but lifting a chin to look up, and leaning an over-weighted shoulder into my Savior once more.

This has always been the face of motherhood for me.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Portlandia: There and Back Again

I have a recurring nightmare where I'm driving on a freeway ramp that is literally the height and length of a crazy roller coaster slope, and it's launching me out over a vast, turbulent body of water. When it becomes clear that this ramp to nowhere good is going to plunge me into the cold, dark depths, a clawing, heart-climbing-out-of-my-face feeling pretty much panics me awake to an adrenaline charged sense of dread. (Analyze this!)

For the record, I hate roller coasters. Both heights and deep water still hold serious freak out power. I am Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo, and I'd rather be caught dead than 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I'd die of fright anyway.  

Last week I took my dad to Portland and gutted through terrifying deja vu as we climbed a ridiculous, curving, two-lane ramp held up by stilts. (Just calling it as I saw it.) Higher and higher we crept only to be sent plummeting toward a mammoth, arching, four-lane bridge over the Willamette. Holy white knuckles, Batman! 

Who dangles a Matchbox track in mid-air and calls it a freeway ramp?! Who sets the speed limit at 50 - or whatever ungodly high speed mocked me from the starting gate? Can I just close my eyes till we get to the other side? Can I wake up now and make this all go away?!

As I'm squeezing the life out of the steering wheel - 15 mph under the speed limit - my dad, the perpetual commentator, was completely silent. God bless him! He knew I was terrified, and he let me know later that he was none too enamored with our precarious state of suspension. So, as I'm clinging to the wall of the left lane willing normal people to "pass me on the right, already!" I am muffling an anxiety attack while simultaneously picturing myself as a white-haired, 90 year old granny creeping along with a death grip, eyes riveted on the center line. Somewhere in the recesses of my rational mind, I find this funny, but rational was not winning at the moment. 

Surviving this gauntlet and, thankfully, merging into a middle lane on the bridge, we navigated through the remaining tangle of Portlandia hillside streets without incident. 

Arriving at our destination, Dad checked in and we settled ourselves in a quiet corner of the sky lit waiting area. Adrenaline still washing over me, I begin texting my husband about this heart-arresting experience. His humorous response was met with, "No. You don't understand. I'm seriously traumatized and am trying not to cry!" 

You see, this day's episode had been preceded by yesterday's nail-biting drive on a pitch black, rain-slicked I-84 West, where I had also hugged the left lane divider to avoid the right lane's vertigo-inducing drop off to the river, while driving at or below the posted trucker speed to avoid hydroplaning, and realized much too late that, with all the rain, headlights, and lane divider reflectors, my night vision is pretty whacked. So we'd pulled in to the hotel around midnight with me thinking I'd already faced the worst.

Now, sitting in the waiting area I'm hit with another sinking thought. We'll have to return to the hotel... No way am I going back the way we came! So, I began searching for an alternate route. Did you know there are eight bridges spanning the Willamette in Portland? Fancy that! An eight-fold crapshoot to either pass over with ease or certain terror. Therefore, and literally at the end of a day that saw us through a harrowing drive, a successful appointment, and a lovely dinner with my niece, I chose none of the above. 

Needing to travel from the southwest side of the city, over the river somehow, and up to the northeast outskirts of town, we headed even further south until we met up with another freeway that let us circumvent the entire city and all it's suspect ramps and bridges.  

Sometimes you just gotta do what it takes! 
Go for it! 
Get 'er done!

So, mastering the map instead of my fear, I drove us thirteen, blissful miles out of our way, and motored into the hotel parking lot, safe and decidedly more sound.

The next day's long drive home held two more historically troublesome bridges for me. I tucked all thought of them away as we took in the beauty of the Columbia gorge on the now wonderfully sunlit I-84 East. 

A few hours later after lunch and a fill up, the bridges loomed. 

But, you know what? Even with my dad teasing and trying to rile me, I cruised on over them with nary a wince or white knuckle. Maybe I did manage to toss a few fears into the Willamette. 

And later, as we crested the hill for that first glorious glimpse of downtown Spokane, I was never so happy to be safely wedged in with a bunch of frantic, lane-changing yahoos trying to race each other through rush hour. 

Home sweet home! This is my town! Bring it on! 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Colors of Quiet

When the Hubs walks in from the yard and takes my hand with a gentle, "Come on. I've got to show you something." And I see our blue beach chairs nestled in the grass facing a stunning pink-cloud sky. Then he waxes a bit about life and sunsets and holds my hand as we watch the slow parade.

It's all perfect, but for my buzzing mind that won't be still.

So even as the show and his hand beckon me to quiet places, I'm taking in the hedge that needs hedging and the neighbors old maple branches hanging in precarious need of pruning...

And inside I feel the tug of anxiousness, weights far beyond my yard of hedges and trees, and find myself misty-eyed at the irony that he who once was prone to worry sits peacefully beside me taking in God's majesty while my eyes are clouded by cares.

Yet, even as I write, the waves of coral pink upon true blue linger like a Polaroid. Memory fading in to clarity. The soft call of a heart, "Come sit beside me while our God paints the sky."


Though my mind wrestled quiet this night, my hand found safety in his. Tenderness displayed. A touch of heaven.

The One who whispers the waning colors will prevail.

Peace awaits and I am thankful.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Long Mourning

It had already been an emotional morning -- revisiting another grief, decades old. But isn't that the way of grief? Sneaking into ordinary days that begin the same as every other: cooling coffee to the right, discarded cereal bowl to the left, morning paper refolded, and me scrolling for news of friends, enjoying insights, perusing photos...

My husband and I were not expecting the old loss to surface, both left wondering at a hidden significance in the timing. For as we wade through this season of midlife, taking lingering second looks at those roads less traveled, we know an increasing desire to invest in things that last. Even the prodding of an old wound can be an awakening. Such was the vein of my thoughts in the aftermath: patiently unresolved, sent up in prayer, waiting raw... a familiar place.

Now, coffee fresh, I resumed scrolling posts and pics, when I found myself stilled by a new photo...
My beautiful daughter. Tucked in close to husband and friends, her sparkling soul of a smile grabbed my heart and squeezed more tears.

Seven years since she first left home, then hometown, to the south, then southwest -- my grown up girl was on her way to yet another coast, a new home, a new adventure. This snapshot a piece of that journey. Her deeply loved family will settle far from here, once again. And even as I trust the Lord's directing her path, I felt every mile as a slow gouge across my heart... I'm so wrung out with goodbyes.

Standing in the kitchen sometime later, I felt it keenly -- life is the long mourning.

I've known it most profoundly as my children moved away. Each visit too brief. Each time to go chaffing the wound of the first goodbye. At least their childhood milestones kept them within arms reach, though they whispered a misty-eyed prelude to all that is now.

I've known it in hopes deferred. Relationships broken. Friends moved on, passed away, or caught in all manner of devastation. So much upheaval added to a lifetime of transitions. Season upon season, loss and change coming steadily, often leaving no time to process. Lives and issues demanding attention. No time to feel. Just move. Do. Now.

And always... the goodbyes.

Everyone's journey with loss etches differently, but is no less real. And I'm realizing that I often diminish my own pain, sweeping it away as pale in comparison to your pain... or their pain...
or suffering of global proportions. In doing so, my grief is shamed into some dark corner with no arms to comfort, no outlet for tears, no truth to lead it back to life and hope. The weight of it, unresolved, a silent shackle diminishing today's joy. And by deciding it does not matter, I am in effect saying
I don't matter.

This revelation brings a grief all it's own.

There is much stirring in these midlife days that I both welcome and want to run from. Healing requires revisiting storms past and a closer look at new issues swirling. All that wind... messing my hair... and messing with my emotions. I don't like either messed, but the hurts have been in disarray for a while. Hair is an easy fix. Maybe that's why I like doing hair.

I'm rambling now...

...and trying to make light of things that need light. That need honesty. That need a level of brave that has me on my tippy toes, longing for solid footing. Stretching for faith. Sorting through distractions that include voices, within and without, "Hurry up already!" Voices that throw out white-washing platitudes... "Let's just plaster you over with a few positive-thinking posters. Here's one with a Bible verse! There, now! Stand up straight so we can read your posters. We feel so much better now.
Don't you?"

We're all so uncomfortable with pain. Covering over is what we do, to ourselves and others.


Somewhere in this jumble of frustration and fear is a woman who longs to be set free of griefs deferred. To take hold of everything for which Christ has taken hold of her. To press on.

I know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He has redeemed me and calls me His own -- deeply loved, forgiven, accepted -- I do matter. And He's gently calling me to this heart-tending, lighting up dark corners, infinitely patient in my struggle. Amidst the storm, He will bring quiet, turning gusts to refreshing breezes as the Spirit bears truth and healing.

So, despite the desire to run away, I'll lean into Jesus, then lean into the wind, and keep on walking. Sometimes pressing on feels more like being pressed, but I know I'm safe, in Him, in the mess of
this long mourning.

Because of the LORD'S great love we are not consumed,
For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
~Lamentations 3:22, 23

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven...
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, 
And a time to dance. 
~Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4

 For all that gives rise to mourning, I am so thankful there remains a time to laugh.


*       *       *       *       *       *       *

How about you? Is your pain cast aside or covered over?
Are you running or leaning in?

I pray you'll let Jesus tend your heart.
His compassions never fail.