mama hands, tiny undies, and soul strengthening

When I became anxious (read: very impatient) waiting for my first daughter to be born, I would go into her room and sort through her little clothes.  There was something very soothing about stacking up little onesies, hanging little dresses, smoothing sweet blankets into neat folds.  This became a sort of ritual for me, preparing for each baby by purposefully organizing their clothes.  (It just hit me again, that I really do organize whenever I'm trying to control stress.)

When my son came along, my sister-in-law lent me several bins of her sons' baby clothes, and as I opened the boxes, I felt such a strong connection to her.  I picked up little blue and white stacks and imagined her hands folding the clothes.  I thought about how the pride of a mother in her growing baby competes with wistfulness over an adorable outfit that no longer fits because of that same growing. It's not just the clothes she mourns, of course; it's that sense of time whipping by that is both the prayer and the curse of a mother's heart.

waiting for baby Rachel,  December 2003

I am thinking of this now because of the little undies I folded this weekend.  At Stacey's home, I helped a little with the laundry, and as I folded her children's clothes, I vividly remembered when Stacey was waiting for her first baby's birth, her daughter.  It's moments like these that catch you by surprise and steal your breath with the pain. I literally crumpled at the dryer, thinking of how her hands would never fold these clothes again, but remembering her laying out her own stacks of baby clothes, talking excitedly to me of baby showers and all the strange stuff that new parents get that people say "you really need to have this."  I remember her husband saying, "I've never seen a pregnant woman move so fast," referring to Stacey buzzing around, showing him all the gifts.  I am awash in memories these days.

The Harfteld family has slowing been moving away from us - geographically I mean.  From our college days when we lived a few doors apart, to that one looong summer when four adults and a baby shared the same sizzling apartment (and came out of it still speaking to each other, mostly), to the distant ranches that always called to the cowboy in Jacob.  They have lived far enough away, for long enough, that losing Stacey doesn't leave a day-to-day whole in my life, (I sure hope that makes sense) and I feel like I should bear it better than I am.  But, as another sweet friend pointed out, "some friends run deep."  Our lives have continually bumped against each other, despite the physical distance. This was obvious to Grant and me as we drove back from our friends' home on Sunday and passed place after place where we had visited or met up with this family.

I could probably go on all week about what my friends went through this weekend and all the paths my heart traveled, worrying at the details like a loose tooth.  Yet I want desperately for this blog to continue to be relevant to someone other than myself.  I want to grow a space that encourages authenticity and hope together, so I'm trying to search out the truth that is always there, the under-layer that makes any story worth telling.

Maybe today it's this verse from my morning Bible study:

via etsy
If we take care of each other, if we love and love is a verb in our lives, God abides. in. us.  

Many have said to me recently, "I just don't know what to say (or do)," and I think this uncertainty stretches beyond just the really hard times to the everyday trials as well.  Sometimes we love by simply showing up.  Sometimes you have to ask, "What can I do?  Would it help if I xyz?"  Sometimes you have to leave a little distance and stand by praying, watchful for when you are next needed.

By now you know of my tendency to quote A Holy Experience whenever the opportunity arises (sometimes even when it doesn't!), so I won't disappoint you here:

Let God be God and you be His servicepersonBecause the thing is — the hottest flame is aloneness and you snatch someone from the fire by simply grabbing their hand.. . .Burden is only a weight when borne alone.  When the burden is borne together, by a Body, the burden becomes bond — soul strengthener. 

For some practical tips to help those who are hit the hardest by grief or other life struggles, my new friend Kara has a lovely post called Ways to Weep with Those Who Weep.  She shares some of the way people surrounded her family with love after her daughter Selah went to be with Jesus.


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