freedom and security

Happy Memorial Day.  Probably because I come from a military family (myself, my husband, my brother, my sister, my dad, my mom, several uncles, both grandfathers...), this holiday has always meant much more to me than just cookouts and concerts and a day off work.  It's a time to remember those who have fought and sacrificed to win and protect our nation's freedom - especially those who paid the ultimate price.  So I try to take some time every Memorial Day to say a prayer for those who are serving in uniform, and for the families of those who won't make it home.  Freedom is so valuable, and so costly.

Cashel's been getting a little taste of freedom this last week, as he's started to crawl (!).  Maybe I should say he's started to scoot... it's more grabbing the floor and pulling with his fingers while he pushes with his toes, powered by a heavy dose of pure stubbornness.  But he does get where he wants to go, and he's getting pretty darn fast.  As I've watched him and encouraged him, I've noticed a couple things: first, that my floors need to be swept much more often/thoroughly than I've apparently been doing, and second, that my baby needs to balance this little taste of freedom with a healthy serving of security.  He loves to be on his tummy, scooting around and chasing after his toys, but every few minutes he looks around to find me in the room and orient himself, and every ten minutes or so he makes his way over to wherever I am to grab my foot and ask to be picked up.  He usually doesn't want to stay long; he just wants a hug and to know that I'm right there if he needs me.  He's just touching base.  Making sure I'm still within reach.  And when he gets tired or scared or hurt, he wants to know that I'll come rescue him.  As long as he can see me, he's a pretty happy kiddo; chattering away and exploring everything he can get his hands on. 

Being a parent has taught me more about God and His relationship with us than I ever understood before.  Concepts I might have gotten in my head before are now firmly rooted in my heart.  The idea that He loves us more than we can comprehend, no matter what we do?  I just have to think about that sweet little boy to understand that.  Knowing that when I cry out, when I'm hurting or scared or tired, He's there to comfort me?  I have a much better picture of that now.  The idea that even though we have the freedom to go off on our own, do our own thing, it's always better to keep a connection to Him and "touch base" throughout the day?  Okay.  Got that one too.

Freedom is always linked to security - for our nation, we only have the one because we maintain the other.  For Cashel, he only feels comfortable enough to explore this new freedom when he also feels safe and connected to me or Karl.  And in our relationship with God, it's only in the security of His love and the sureness of His rescue that we have the freedom to be able to really live.

Today I'm thankful for the men and women who sacrificed their lives to protect my freedom.  And for this scooting, squirming little baby who preaches me a sermon every day.  May God make me worthy of both.


defining normal

A few weeks ago, we took Cashel to the Eastern Market area in DC.  It's such a great place with an indoors, more permanent farmers' market feel to it, and one of our favorite spots is a lunch counter in one corner called, appropriately, "Market Lunch."  You wait in line (usually pretty long) until you get to the counter, give the guy your order and he shouts it to the cooks diner-style.  Then you have to wait until you actually get the food in-hand to claim a seat at the long counter.  We happened to be there at lunchtime, and had been walking around a bit with C in his front carrier.  He loves shopping that way - I think it makes him feel safe and secure, like I'm holding him, but at the same time lets him look out at everything and take it all in.  He did great the whole time standing in line, but when we gave our order and the guy turned and yelled it back loudly, Cashel jumped, looked up at Karl, and burst into tears.  I realized that I don't think he's ever heard yelling like that before - neither Karl nor I are yellers, and he's just not been around that.  It scared him!  In his world, grown-ups might talk, or sing, or make funny animal noises, or laugh - but no one yells.  (At least, no one over the age of one.) 

It hit me that I have the enormous responsibility of defining what "normal" is for Cashel and any other children we may have.  As he grows, it will be the rhythms and routines and traditions and actions and words he encounters regularly in our home that shape his world, and that impact who he is and what kind of man he becomes.  Will "dinner" mean sitting down together as a family, eating something I've cooked and talking about our day?  Or will it more often mean grabbing something quickly, with the TV on?  Will the words he hears around him and to him every day be kind, hopeful and loving, or critical, negative and hurtful?  Will he have more memories of us reading together, or running around outside, or of playing video games?  Some friends of ours recently adopted a little girl from eastern Europe.  She has had no boundaries at all in her young life, and had periods of time where no one really cared about her at all.  Our friends are faced with the challenge now of redefining all those previous memories and habits and behaviors, and giving her a new "normal."  God is good, and is already working great things in her life, but how much better would it have been if she had started with such loving structure from the beginning?      

I'm trying to be very deliberate now about what the "normal" I define for Cashel looks like on a daily basis.  I know he's only seven months old, and he won't remember any of this later, but I watch him taking it all in every day, and I know he's starting to build those ideas and thoughts about this world of ours.  Someday he'll come smack up against the harshness, the dirtiness and sinfulness and meanness that's out there, but for now, I want to make sure that his "normal" is full of lots of hugs and kisses and cuddles and giggles, safety and warmth, prayer time and Bible stories every night, singing silly songs in the car, coming with me to take a meal to friends with a new child or helping him learn how to be gentle and kind to other kids.  I want his "normal" to look nothing like the "normal" that the world accepts.  I want him to live a life that's extraordinary in its compassion, kindness, and integrity - and I want him to see it as being absolutely, unremarkably normal.  


I've been meaning to start posting again for... oh, about a year now, but it seemed every time I'd think about it the list of things to update and write about had grown longer. But since most readers would probably be the same people who keep updated on Facebook, there's probably not a need to do a huge explanation. Here's the whirlwind rundown of what's happened in my life since Nov 2008 (has it really been THAT long?? Wow - I'm embarrassed.):

*Jan 2009 - Karl and I started the process to become foster parents, looking at eventual adoption as a possible way to expand our family. We joined a new church with a heart for adoption and immediately felt at home, and started making some great friends. Then... I'd been feeling especially tired and a little, well, strange. Just to rule it out, took a pregnancy test - surprise!! We were thrilled beyond words to have those years of prayers answered. We decided adoption would wait, but that it was definitely in our plans for the future.

*Summer 2009 - I LOVED being pregnant. I felt great, better than I had in years. It all felt so right, somehow, like everything physically was exactly as it should be. Sharing my days with this little person, feeling kicks and movement and reading every week about how big the baby was and what was happening developmentally... it was a magical time.

 *Late summer - My mom's cancer gets worse. She doesn't ever give up hope or lose heart, and continues to try all the treatment options out there. I decided to head to Colorado to visit before it's too late in the pregnancy to fly. It's such a sweet time with her, and she loves feeling the baby kicking. Two days after I got home from the visit, I got a call - they're putting my mom on hospice at home, and she's not expected to last too long. My sweet husband suggested that we have the baby in Colorado so that I can be with my mom, so with three weeks to go to our due date I pack up, kiss Karl goodbye and fly across the country. My dear friend Gayleen helped me find and get an appointment with a great midwife, we got everything worked out with insurance and the new hospital, and I was able to spend my time with my mother, praying, singing songs, telling stories, laughing, crying, making her comfortable, telling her we love her.

*2 Sept 2009 - My sweet, wonderful mother is finally freed from the pain of her cancer and got to go home to be with Jesus. She was at home, surrounded by family and those who love her.

*22 Sept 2009 - I go into labor, a week past my due date.

*24 Sept 2009 - After 30 hours of labor, Cashel Joseph is born - he has a head full of dark brown hair and blue eyes, and weighs 8 lbs 14 oz. We fall immediately head over heels in love with him. He gives us a little scare when he isn't breathing well at first, so after a few seconds on my chest they rushed him off to the NICU with Karl close behind. Twelve hours, several chest x-rays, an IV and many prayers later, he's released back to us, a perfectly healthy baby.  (You can see the little splint on his right hand for the IV tubes in the first picture - it makes me so sad!  He was such a trooper about everything.)

The past few months have been a mixture of grief and joy, tears and laughter, happiness and pain. The wonder of a new life, following so soon on the heels of a dear life ending. Cashel keeps me firmly planted in the present, and makes sure that I give thanks for each new day. He is a joy and a gift. I feel like I've been changed in some elemental, indefinable ways this past year, and I'm still learning who this new Kristin is. I'm learning to be a mother without my mom, best friend and confidante, but with this precious, sweet little boy who loves to grab my neck for a hug and giggle when I tickle him or make a funny face. I have so many memories of exactly the kind of mother I want to be.

I'm hoping to post more often, both as a way of keeping family and friends updated on what's going on with Cashel and as a way for me to process things - I always think better on paper. So. Here we are... it's a wild ride.