Tag Archives: family

Opaque

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My super-extra-mega-ultra-amazing-and-fabulous mother and father-in-law took Jack and Lucy to Disneyland this weekend. They spent three days at the Happiest Place on Earth while Scott and I spent the weekend alone. In our house. Just the two of us. Together. Without our kids.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh……………

(We had the best.weekend.ever.)

Jack and Lucy came home last night. As I held them a bit too tightly in my arms, they laid their little heads on my shoulders for one suspended moment before they began to chatter simultaneously, clamoring for Mommy to acknowledge their big adventures.

My eyes blurred. Just let me hold you for a few more moments. I missed you so much.  I am so glad you are safe.

They prattled endlessly, eyes wide and clear, bounding in their seats as they gave me their memories, treasures slipping from their hands into mine.  Now they are our treasures.

I tucked them into bed with extra cuddles and one more story.  They slept with their Disney toys.  I told them I had missed them a hundred times.

They were gone for three days.  It was precious for all of us, but I ached for them to come home.  As I stood outside of their rooms last night in the stillness of bedtime, I wanted to blast back in and wake them up – to look into their eyes and breathe them in.

On this question of fear.

When I began writing these pages I believed their subject to be children, the ones we have and the ones we wish we had, the ways on which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we encourage them to remain children, the ways in which they remain more unknown to us than they do to their most casual acquaintances; the ways in which we remain equally opaque to them.

The ways in which our investments in each other remain too freighted ever to see the other clear.

Joan Didion, Blue Nights 

I wonder what I do not see in those little faces.  Lord, give me grace eyes to see who they are, to see through the veil of my blind spots.

When Hagar wandered in the wilderness, God came to her.  He led her to water, He promised that she would survive and bear a son, a leader.  She worshipped God there; she called Him Jehovah, El Roi, which means The Strong One Who Sees Me.  

God sees my little ones.

He has engraved their story on the palms of His hands.  Right now I am a central character in their stories, but it is my choice whether I will remain in the heart of those pages or write myself out.  It seems to me that the fastest way to disappear from the story of a child is to miss who they are.  To believe that their story is mine to write, that the plot lines and characters and conflict are mine.  To see me instead of Jack, or Lucy, or the God Who Sees Them.

So I stood outside of their rooms last night, I thought for a long time about who they are.

  • Jack sleeps face down on his pillow, his mouth slipping off in order to breathe.
  • He hates to be alone. His relational need is endless.  I want to be with you, he says.  Who is going to play with me?  Who is coming over today?
  • He is terrified of water in his face.  He used to cry in the bath, but now he sings.  You brave, Jack? says his little sister in wonder.  He trembles a bit, but says, Yes, I’m brave.  And he sings.
  • When he feels disconnected, he clings.  He climbs up my body and wraps around me like a vine. I want to be with you, Mommy.
  • He adores his sister with a fierce and protective force.  He went to a birthday party last week.  The guests all painted hats with puff paint.  He brought home his hat swirled in pink, Lucy’s favorite color.  I made this for you, Lucy, so you wouldn’t forget me while I am at school.
  • He is a theologian and a student of character.  Mommy, when Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden, they believed a terrible lie that God didn’t love them.  When the Devil tells me that God doesn’t love me, I tell him, YES, HE DOES and that protects me from sin.
  • When he is angry or threatened, he lashes out to protect himself. We wear thin helping him manage his mercurial emotions, which range from ecstasy to despair.  Sometimes I let anger be my leader, Mommy.
  • Like most firstborns (his Mommy included), he feels compelled to please authority.  When my voice is brittle, his chin sinks into his chest. Mommy, your voice is grumpy.  You don’t like me.  He tries to hide his disobedience, like the time he hid a book of matches into his room and lit every single one.  (What will he try to hide from us through his years? Lord, I pray we will always see him hiding and honor him – as we teach him that everything is safer in the light.)
  • Lucy sleeps on her stomach, her pacifiers in a clump under her belly.
  • She is happiest when our family is together at home.  She radiates light and movement when we gather for a simple night at home.
  • When I put her to bed at night, she fervently and repeatedly yells “I LOVE YOU, MOMMY!” as loud as she can manage as I close the door to her room.
  • She wants to read the same story every single night before bed.  The Little Mermaid.
  • When my Mommy-patience crumbles, she gazes straight into my face with steady eyes, then pads silently into the living room to play alone.
  • She races downstairs in the morning in a desperate daily commitment to arrive in the kitchen first so she can bring Jack his chocolate milk and Juice Plus gummies.  Here you go, Jack!
  • When Jack cries, her brow knits and she puts one tiny hand on him. You crying, Jack?  You sad, Jack? Awww, Jack.
  • At Christmas time, she sat on Santa’s lap.  She trembled, so I waited for her to cry.  Instead, she hunched her shoulders, settled her body into immobility, and stared at the floor.  I lifted her away into my arms; her body was stiff and still.  She did not look at me.  (How can we protect her heart from withdrawing from us?  Lord, I pray we will always be safe for her.)
She was already a person. I could never afford to see that. 
Joan Didion, Blue Nights

I want to be a student, not a master, of my children.  I want to see them, to learn them, to know them.  Lord, give me grace eyes, wise eyes, brave eyes to see who they are.  We saw a movie called Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close about a family whose story was marked with the claws of ripping loss.  To me, it was a love story about the beauty and the ashes of sacrificial mothering.  This woman chose to see her son, to meet him in his heart instead of her own, which left her to mourn alone two separate and heavy griefs.  That kind of strength is its own redemption; I want to be just like her.
(You should go see this movie, but be aware that I didn’t have tissue so I was forced to improvise with my silk scarf.  So bring tissue.  Thanks, scarf, you took one for the team. You might never be the same again.)
I type in the silence of bedtime as my children sleep off the heady elixer of a magical weekend.  Sometimes, when I snap at them or when we are apart, fear punches me.  I am afraid that I will lose them, one way or another.  Life is fragile; it unravels so quickly that it takes my breath away.
 All that I know to do is to lean into them while in the grip of grace.

Resolved

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And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.  Rainer Maria Rilke.

Resolved by Lucy White, age 2, for the year 2012 –

1.  “Pink”

2.  “Princess of everything”

Resolved by Jack White, age 5, for the year 2012 –

1.  To play football

2.  To hold my breath underwater

3.  To save $10 in the bank

4.  To buy a costume or a toy with my own money

5.  To read through the Jesus Storybook Bible with Mommy

Resolved by Heidi White, age 32, for the year 2012 –

1.  Read through the Bible, chronologically, with Dreamy Scott

2.  To stay under (a specific number) pounds through healthy eating and exercising 3x/week

3.  To complete 2 one-week fasts for the purpose of spiritual and physical cleansing

4.  To read Getting Things Done by David Allen and implement its productivity system

5.  To update family/friend photos throughout our home

6.  To read one non-fiction book per month for the purpose of personal and professional growth

7.  To blog 2x/week (3 is better)

8.  To complete one professional development project (book proposal/manuscript/curriculum)

9.  To clean the house (bathrooms, vacuum/dust, kitchen) once a week

10.  To call (three specific out of state relationships) once per month

Scott has an extensive list of goals that I will not share.  As always, they reflect his high standards of excellence in personal and professional life.

Our story takes my breath away….

Space

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A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. Ecc.2:24.

Yesterday my hilariously lovely friend Rebecca posted this on my Facebook wall – Girrrrl, you are QUIET!  Now, since I am NOT quiet as a character trait, I remain confident that Rebecca refers to my recent social networking silence.  I have thrown up a few well-deserved Facebook LIKES in the last week, but mostly we have dwelled in a special nook of home-space for the following reasons:

1.  Dreamy Scott was home for TWO WHOLE WEEKS.  Boom.  Family time.

2.  Christmas is an epic extravaganza in the White family – and I love every complicated, busy, overwhelming, expensive minute of it.  Immanuel-God-With-Us envelopes us with an opportunity to worship through togetherness and tradition, both light-hearted and deep.  I get lost in the work and the joy of it.

Making a candy cane shaped pizza on Christmas Eve

Pinata at Scott's company Christmas party

Presents? For ME?!?!

SOMEBODY was a sheep in the church musical. Baaaaaa.

Five Advent candles. Immanuel.

Wrapping baby Jesus in swaddling clothes (get it??)

Riding a pony on our Family Christmas Date

Christmas breakfast

Jesus' birthday cake

3.  After Christmas, Dreamy Scott and I hunkered down, cleaned up the mess, channeled our excess holiday adrenaline and went into what I can only describe as a pathological productivity vortex.  I mean, I think we both expected to relax for a minute, but GEEZ.  We painted our home office, cleaned out the basement and garage, redecorated the kids’ rooms, sorted through every possession we own, reorganized our storage and deep cleaned the house.  GTD.

4.  Steig Larsson.  I read all 1,431 pages of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.  Yep, I can firmly confirm that the books are addicting, if (emphatically) not edifying.  Also, I read a biography of Catherine the Great.  Reading is, like, my favorite.  I do not often have time to read, so I drank in some hours on my Nook like a thirsty sponge – while the boys played Skylanders, which is a super sweet new Wii game that was part of our Christmas magic.

So, now that the last gasps of 2011 have died away, our little family emerges from a precious internal space to welcome the newborn year and its yet-untamed challenges refreshed, thankful, zestful – and a bit tired.

Game on, 2012.

Joy

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Many generations ago, simple shepherds watched over their sheep on a hillside on just another night.  Suddenly, the light of impending Joy dazzled their humble lives – and lit up all of history.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11.

Yesterday we returned from a snow trip to Vail. We are tired, but we hold a new collection of white-dusted memories.  Tonight we light the candle of Joy.  It is a pink candle.  In advent tradition, purple is a somber color, pregnant with heavy meaning.  But pink is exuberant, overflowing with life.

Joy to the world.  The Lord is come…

…Let earth receive her King…

…Let every heart prepare Him room…

…And heaven and nature sing…

…And heaven and nature sing…

…And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

As tiny snowflakes dance over Vail, we abide under the jagged nearness of the Colorado Rockies.  We eat, sleep, play, rest, connect under its untamed shelter.  Nothing sings God’s glory like a wild mountain range coated with falling snow.  Nothing invites childish glee like an expanse of fresh powder.  Heaven and nature sing.  In the midst of Advent season, we roll away together for the simple purpose of enjoying the sweet wonder glowing in a snowy day.  Let every heart prepare Him room.  Snowball fight, flying intertubes, snow angels, hot cocoa, gondola, hot tub.  Joy to the world.

Immanuel-God-With-Us sought us in our heaviness and lifted us into freedom. The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Mt.4:16.  He burst through His own grave to save us from ours.  It is a gift too great, too infinite, to bear on fragile shoulders.  Why, O why do we not crumble back to dust under the weight of it?  Always and only because the Gift is wrapped in Grace.  The proper response to Incarnation is infinite, overflowing, staggering, explosive, rollicking JOY JOY JOY JOY.

…Joy, unspeakable Joy, an overflowing well, no tongue can tell…

We are human, and therefore composed of dust and breath.  We cannot live on the high plane of Joy to which the gift of Incarnation forever beckons.  But we can, and ought, to revel in earthly Joys.  We should pursue them wholeheartedly in God’s name and to His glory.  (Snowball fight, flying intertubes, snow angels, hot cocoa, gondola, hot tub.)  Simple family laughter is a profound form of worship.

…Joy, unspeakable joy, rises in my soul, never lets me go…

What do you do to light the candle of advent Joy?

Eucharisteo

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Giving thanks, this is an awakening — the breath of God upon the face, close and warm. Ann Voskamp.

Eucharisteo is Greek for Thanksgiving.

It evokes eucharist, bread-and-wine-communion, the absorbing and taking in of Christ.  We take communion to remember how He bled His new covenant of grace over our fatal wounds, our slow dying.  Do this in remembrance of Me. Luke 22:19.  Eucharisteo is a life of communion, a face turned upward to glory in forever-remembering.  Remembering has one pure result: eucharisteo, thanksgiving.  Read this, an invitation to be changed by a thanksgiving life.

Sometimes eucharisteo is a flame that burns purifying pain into a broken story.   It can be a sacrifice that feels too great to bear, a deep and holy offering from shaking hands.  I have walked that desperate journey (perhaps will walk it again).  I know, Lord, that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May your unfailing love be my comfort. Psalm 119:75. 

Then, other times, eucharisteo is as easy as breath.  Sometimes God dazzles us with grace upon grace, a heaping of YES and AMEN.  Sometimes His bottomless mercies shower like rain.  Then eucharisteo is an anthem of joy that rises from a dancing heart.  The Lord your God is with You, a victorious warrior. He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. Zeph.3:17-18.

Then again, sometimes eucharisteo is sweet and still.  Sometimes thanksgiving is entwined within the sturdy fabric of daily rhythms, yearly traditions, simple fragments of a righteous life.  Often, eucharisteo is woven through roasted turkey, spiced cider, pumpkin pie.  The precious rituals of the fourth Thursday in November are not the true Thanksgiving, but they can be the tethers that anchor us to a deeper truth, a richer worship.

I wake early on Thanksgiving morning, linger over coffee and Matthew 1, the whisper of advent.  I grind wheat to make the first of the year’s batches of Christmas bread dough, a rich recipe that tastes like warm tradition.  I shape the dough into cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls and loaves – the recipe is bountiful, like the season.  Lucy and I don matching aprons.  She licks the honey spoon, eyes alight.  It is over 60 degrees in Colorado on Thanksgiving Day.  Dreamy Scott and Jack play football and soccer in the unexpected sun.  A quiet heart day, spent readying ourselves for a feast of thanks.

We eat late, as the sun sets, after a day of shining and play.  We pray over the five kernels of corn hidden under the napkins (hidden like so many jewel of grace that we do not see) in our salad bowls.  We remember the pilgrims who died by the scores in the terrible first winter with only five kernels of daily corn.  They still praised God, and He heard their cries, providing a way to future abundance.  True Thanksgiving is always a remembering worship of His Story.  We linger over conversation, pecan pie, mulled wine and football.  The Lord has blessed our family with a mighty blessing, and we remember the God who loves us with an everlasting Love.

Thanksgiving

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Remember God’s bounty in the year.  String the pearls of His favor.  Hide the dark parts, except so far as they are breaking out in light!  Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude!  ~Henry Ward Beecher

May your countenance beam Love’s Light in Eucharisteo, Thanksgiving.  May you praise Him with songs of Thanksgiving, for no drop of praise is ever wasted in the heavenly country.  May you consecrate your precious traditions with holy worship.

With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; His love toward His people endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord. Ezra 3:11.

May our Thanksgiving days be mighty shouts of praise.

Happy Eucharisteo Day.

Psalm

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Psalm 100

A Psalm for giving thankful praise 

Another family night.  Pumpkin pancakes and cheesey eggs.  Jack reads Psalm 100 to the family – slowly, confidently.  It is the first time I hear Jack read Scripture. His little boy-voice speaking the Words of God fills my soul to brimming.  Eucharisteo.

 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 
 Worship the Lord with gladness; 
   come before him with joyful songs. 


Know that the Lord is God. 
   It is he who made us, and we are his


   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 Enter His gates with thanksgiving 
   and His courts with praise; 


   give thanks to Him and praise His name. 
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; 


   His faithfulness continues through all generations.

After Jack reads Psalm 100, we each choose a bag.  We all fill our bag with fragments of joy, tokens of thankfulness from our home.  We must offer a prayer of thanksgiving before dropping an item in the bag.  Little voices whisper, thank you, Jesus, for my blankie.  Jesus, thank you for Lulu’s book.  Bags of blessings, consecrated with the kisses of family prayers.

We unpack our bags together, sharing the fullness of iridescent grace.  We laugh together, re-discover that we have an avalanche of good gifts that envelope us, like pa-pas (pacifiers), toothpaste, Tim Tebow, spiderman, Juice Plus, Prisoner red blend, Mommy’s tacky Cubbies shirt, iPhones, Mac n Cheese and Pumpkin Spice K-cups.  We pray together. We thank God for our bursting bags, our overflowing hearts. It is there in the posture of united thanksgiving that the Holy Spirit forges sacred steel in this generation.

We are beneficiaries of an infinite luminous mercy – a family bathed in endless grace.

Know that the Lord is God. 
   It is he who made us, and we are his. 

Psalm 100:3.

My heart is full.  My life, my family is a Psalm of thanksgiving.  All is grace.

Passages

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These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deut.6:6-9.

We gather around the table for the first holiday family night of my favorite season of the year’s rhythm, November 1st through January 1st.  We pass into the season of tradition. We set out our Thankful Jar, empty for now, poised to be filled to the brim with Eucharisteo, offerings of thankfulness.

Thankful Jar

We eat breakfast burritos and banana bread.  Lucy consumes the white fleshy sweetness of her apple slices, abandoning the gnawed-out red skin.  But when I give her a whole apple, she only eats the skin.  Why is that? I wonder as I contemplate that hollow apple skin.  I run a strand of her hair through my fingers as she curls up next to me.

We tell each other the Pilgrim story.  Jack speculates that the Mean King who denied his people the right to worship might be Nebuchednezzar.  Or Herod.  There are so many mean kings, Mommy.

Lucy scribbles on a scrap of paper and drops it in the Thankful Jar.  She lifts her eyes to my face, meets my eyes, smiles shyly.  I gather her, hold her to my heart.

Thanksgiving is not a day; it is a life.  It is not a tradition; it is an offering.

We assign roles for the activity.  Jack and Lucy want to be Pilgrims so they can sail on the Mayflower.  Pilgrims get seasick on the Mayflower, you see, so they throw up over the side of the ship.  Their eyes dance as they volunteer to be Pilgrims.

The Mean King tells the Pilgrims they cannot worship God in their own country. BOOOOOOOO....

On the Mayflower, the Pilgrims worship, then barf. From seasickness.

The Pilgrims can finally worship God in peace! They joyfully thank God!

We act out the simplified story in silliness, the language of childhood memories.  We take grainy pictures on our iPhones, because finding the good camera would mean leaving that happy room for a few minutes.  We hug and act silly and laugh and eat and play.

As they kneel after safe Mayflower passage to the new world, Jack offers a prayer.  Jesus, thank you that I can worship you now.  I gaze at my children in posture of worship and my heart brims over.  Eucharisteo. Greek for Thanksgiving.  Our hearts expand and contract with the very Thanksgiving that we hope to instill.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Cor.4:15.

What a gift that the passage of truth between generations is also a passage to deep and abiding relationship.  Lord, may we walk in Thanksgiving through this season and beyond, amen.

Gathering

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I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass.  

Counting Crows.  A Long December.

This past week Scott took some much needed time off.

We gather our little family together and move upward, into the steep beauty of the Rocky Mountains.  We breathe in the clean simplicity of wild air.  We leave so much behind as we gather each other in.  So much falls away in that lofty space.  It is lighter up here.  I breathe deeper.  I see farther.

May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. Ps. 72:3.

We shuffle our feet through a thick carpet of fallen aspen leaves.  Lucy catches her hair in low hanging branches.  I untangle her, then teach her to bend under the awareness of obstacles.  We climb rocks, set a goal to find the perfect walking stick.  Scott holds each child firmly as they slide their little feet across the slick mirror crusting a frozen pond. We tramp gleefully up and down gentle slopes, peer closely at reeds sheltering salamander swarms, attempt to leap as far as a cottontail rabbit.  Scott and I pause, hands entwined, absorbing the jagged glory of the soaring Rocky Mountains.  We snap photos to hang in stasis these golden moments of wild grace, the building blocks of a childhood, our light-hearted solace under the weight of the world.

Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!  Albert Einstein.

We clear a space to find each other, to gather in, to revel in the beauty of creation reflected in the joy we find in seeking it.

What have you done lately to gather in your family?

Sands

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My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. 
   When can I go and meet with God? Ps.40:2.

On Tuesday, I spoke with a lovely lady who spends hours a day in Bible study and prayer. The pages of her Bible are scrolled with tiny writing; the thoughts, prayers and study notes of a woman who lives her life it the precious Words.  Her Bible is covered in plastic wrap to shelter its ragged binding and tattered pages.  Every other week I sit next to this woman in Women’s Bible Study and I stare, mesmerized, at that Bible.  I barely know this beautiful saint; I just met her a few weeks ago.  But I am knit to her heart because she is head over heels for the Word of God, just like me.  I asked her about her time with the Lord and she told me that she immerses herself in Him for hours a day.  She journals, prays, reads, worships, studies.  Hours.a.day.

As I drove home from Bible study, my children bombarded me with NOISE.  Ok, friends, my kids are just LOUD.  They ARE.  I clenched the steering wheel and disciplined my mind to listen to their little voices, to engage their little hearts.

When I got home, I fed them lunch, switched over a load of laundry, picked up toys, unloaded the dishwasher, cleaned up lunch, put Lucy down for a nap with stories and prayers, wiped down counters, let the dog out.  I thought about my Bible study friend as Jack clamored for my attention.  I thought about spending hours a day with the Lord.  I looked down at my little man, five years old, face upturned with expectancy in his shining star eyes.

So I spent my afternoon in worship.

God has ordained time to slip away like sand streaming through our fingers.  We have so little of it, so few moments to redeem for glory.  O how I long for more time to spend at Your feet, Lord, to be Your Mary, to soak You in.   Those days will come, both on earth and in heaven.  Someday my little ones will be big ones, and these long, loud, endless days will seem like vapors in the wind.  But today is not that day.  Today is the day to make cupcakes with Spiderman, to read Lulu’s Shoes yet again, to sort through the laundry basket to find a clean dishcloth, to take them upstairs for another round of discipline, to spend my quiet times begging for infinite grace to sustain my motherhood.  These are the years of double portions of manna.

In Psalm 27:4, King David whispered a dream to the Lord:

One thing I ask from the Lord, 
   this only do I seek: 
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord 
   all the days of my life, 
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord 
   and to seek him in his temple. 

David ached to dwell intimately with God, to spend every moment in awed worship in the shelter of the dwelling place of God.  But God did not ask David to be a priest. David was a King.  David carried a banner of leadership unparalleled in redemptive history. David’s heart was in the temple, but his life was in the palace.  

Lord, give me wisdom to know where to spill my sands of time.  Lavishly on You, lavishly on the Three who share my home, sparingly and with wisdom everywhere else. Thank You for the plastic-wrapped Bible and for the smears of icing on smiling faces.   Make a way for those of us whose hearts are in Your presence but whose lives are in the sands.