Saturday, December 22, 2012

light in the dark

I know their smell and the sound of their voices. I know every look. Every crease of their brow. I know that "uppa! uppa!" means "pick me up!" and that no one says "ok!" cuter than she does. I know just how his face will crumple before his tender heart gets the best of him.

Long after baths have been taken and prayers said, I will remember how they ran 'round and 'round the kitchen counters laughing and playing chase. I will recall how he told his sister "I don't want to hold your hand because there's a booger in the middle of your head" and every detail of her face as she squinted her eyes and scrunched up her nose at me. I will dwell on these things until they are etched in my mind forever.

I am their mom.

So much of who I am and what I do is wrapped up in these tiny miracles that are living proof that the very best of two people can exist in one person.

They are among some of my first thoughts of the day and on my lips as I pray for them before bed each night. I am their cheerleader, chef, and chauffeur. I am their rescuer that gathers them close when life...or the ground...smacks them in the face.

Being their mommy means I persevere even when I want to quit. I don't take sick days or vacation. And Lord knows, no one is more aware of the food pyramid than me. I spend my days doing everything in my power to protect them, defend them, and mold them. Being their mom means I love them fiercely and deeply. Unconditionally.

Simply put there is nothing I wouldn't do for these little treasures that are so much a part of me that it's hard to know where I end and they begin. There are no lengths I wouldn't go to in order to ensure that they are safe, healthy, and happy.

All these reasons and more are why I can't quit thinking about the moms of those 20 precious children that have escaped this world for a much better place.

I have no doubt they knew every tiny detail of their child's quirks and personality. Every like and dislike right down to the order in which they would eat, or refuse to eat, each food group at every meal. Their homes echo with the silence of that missing voice that will never be heard again this side of Heaven.

These thoughts haunt me as I hold my children a little tighter and much longer. I have never been more aware than I am now of the fact that in the blink of an eye I could find myself exactly where those women are now. The reality of that steals my breath until fear and panic threaten to overwhelm me. Some days it's easy to live my life as if evil doesn't exist around every corner. To pretend that the most innocent lives cannot be touched by it. I want so badly to believe that if I work hard enough and am smart enough I can shield my children from it.

But deep down I know that I can't. Because I am not the One in control. He holds the lives of those I love in the palm of His hand and there is no safer place for them.

The cold hard truth is that there is an evil one that has come to steal, kill, and destroy. He roams about looking for innocence to devour. He is terrible and full of our worst nightmares.

But he is not the winner. In fact, he is already the loser.

It's hard to remember that when we're faced with the very darkest of times. But let's not forget that light, even just a flicker, is never more apparent than when we can see it against the backdrop of night. We may not be able to say His name in our schools. His presence may not be acknowledged outright in the media.

But make no mistake, He is still here.

Every one of us was created in His image. There is no escaping the evidence of our Heavenly Father here on Earth. He is in every kind or heroic act, every piece of good news, and the unexplained miracles are the strongest argument for His hand among us. Take a moment and add all those things up and I think you will see, like I did, that He was, is, and always will be victorious over evil.

He is our hope in times such as these.

Isn't that the very essence of the reason we celebrate Christmas? He came to be our rescuer. To save us from the things of this world that can smack us in the face when we least expect it. He came so that our souls could be shielded from evil forever.  

He knows the sound of our voices. Every crease of our brow. He knows the number of hairs on our head and each of our days before one of them came to be. He knows just how our hearts will grieve when the worst comes to pass.

He delights in every piece of us. We are etched on the very palms of His hands.
He loves us deeply, fiercely, and unconditionally.

So let's live like the victors He's already said we are and be that flicker of light against this backdrop of night. That is how we can be a people worthy of the memory of heros and innocent lives.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

white as snow

Dusty surfaces. Laundry piled high. Unmade beds and dirty dishes.

This is my life. A constant game of catch-up in which I am almost always the loser. It's hard not to look around and see all the ways I'm not measuring up. Some days this "in your face failure" spills over into my attitude resulting in impatience and clipped tones. I think to myself,

Oh, hi, Proverbs 31 woman. I was just trying to live up to the standard that you have so graciously set. Obviously, it's going well.

On a day that feels like a lifetime ago, I awoke to the sounds of "Going to the Chapel" thanks to my wonderful parents. I eagerly anticipated walking down the aisle to marry my best friend as I put on a beautiful, white dress complete with princess shoes and sparkling jewelry. My thoughts were not filled with the challenges and sorrows we would face, but rather that we would be doing life together...come what may.

May 22, 2004 was a day of celebration. We danced. We laughed. We may or may not have cried a little.

Finally the time came to make our grand departure. Rose petals floated down all around us as we made a mad dash for the elevator that would take us to our honeymoon suite. Once safely inside, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I looked more than a little exhausted. My head was beginning to throb a little from all the hair piled high on top of my head. My dress suddenly felt very heavy. And was it my imagination or did I look about 12?

As the doors slid shut and several of our friends and family waved goodbye, it suddenly occurred to me that a chapter of my life was closing and a new one was beginning. It felt a little overwhelming, and now I had the feeling of being 12 to go with looking that age.

This is the part of the story where I tell you that even though I was deliriously happy to be married to the love of my life, I was exactly that. Delirious. Exhausted. Hanging on by a fiber of a thread that could break at any moment.

And it did.

 As soon as we got to our hotel room.

I laid myself right smack dab across that queen size bed and mourned the fact that a wonderful part of my story was over. And that somehow my suitcase of clothes did not make it to the hotel. Suspicious? Yes. Did Luke have anything to do with that? He says otherwise. I have my doubts.

Later, when my meltdown was over and my clothes had been delivered, Luke carefully took all of the bobby pins out of my hair and helped me wash the hairspray out. Always the one with the servant's heart. I will never forget that he did that for me. He had every reason to be frustrated with the emotional rollercoaster he had just committed himself to "until death separates us."

As I hung up my dress, I noticed some wax from the unity candle had dripped onto it. And the hem was no longer a pristine white but more of a dingy gray after the events of the day.

I never had it cleaned.

 It still bears the evidence of the day when I became Mrs. Keiffer and promised to love Luke well for the rest of my life. I look at the dirty hem of that dress and memories of family and friends surrounding us as we made that holy covenant flood my mind. I remember dancing with my dad. And then dancing with my new husband. The toasts and practical jokes that will never be forgotten.

 The most important dress I ever wore is dirty because I lived some of the most precious moments of my life in it. It symbolizes the beginning of a chapter more wonderful and definitely more messy than I could have ever imagined.

Eight years later, I don't feel 12 anymore. In fact, some days I feel much older than my 30 years. I love my husband infinitely more than I did the moment he took out those headache-inducing bobby pins. He is still married to an emotional rollercoaster, but the ups and downs are not quite as extreme. At least that's what I tell myself.

This is my life:

Only most days it looks a little less picture perfect and a little more like we're drinking some of that crazy koolaid.

Case in point:

I've traded clean clothes for ones smeared with crumbs and the occasional nose wipe. I still wear princess shoes, but only on those rare occasions that my Prince Charming and I get to escape for a few hours. And the sparkling jewelry? Well that would be my children that are constantly hanging on me.

Unmade beds mean that little treasures are here to sleep in them every night. Dirty dishes remind me that nothing is better than family time together. Even if most of that time is spent telling a certain one year old to quit throwing food on the floor. Savannah has never loved Brooke more. And dusty surfaces mean that we are making memories that will last long after I finally get around to that chore.

In the moments that I allow the voice of God to penetrate the chaos, He gently reminds me that the dirt and the mess represent a life well lived and much loved. His mercies are new every morning, and as His bride, He washes the ugliness with His grace.

So that everything is white as snow again.