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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

just your classic Christmas stand-off.

Our house was basically a tear-jerking scene out of the short story "The Gift of the Magi" last night. In our 6 years of marriage, we have never bought a Christmas tree. 

I want a real tree. 
Sam wants a fake tree. 

And since we simply will not give in, we just never get a tree. Also, we are available to facilitate marriage counseling if you are in need. Gather round, glean from our wisdom and advice.

Well, the thing is, now we have this adorable toddler who loves all things Christmas. She races over to pet our neighbor’s light-up lawn reindeer. She lives for the endlessly available cookies. She dances and claps to all the carols. And she especially adores Christmas trees. I've felt so sad for stealing joy away from her by not putting up a tree and lights in our house, so in humble tones I told Sam tonight that I couldn't handle the guilt anymore. He could buy a fake tree for Clara's sake.

And then SAM told ME that he'd been thinking the same thing all week and feeling guilty for not giving our daughter the gift of a sparkly, lit up Christmas season. So we could buy a real tree for Clara's sake. 

Upon which I burst into song and leapt about our living room in a chorus of “It’s the MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!” Because it IS, you know?

Or, actually, I just gave Sam a hug and started moving furniture around in my head to plan where the tree will stand. I’m pretty excited. For this year, at least, we are getting a real tree. We might still buy a fake one next year: discussions have yet to commence. Ugh, fake trees, you might as well spray the room with a gingerbread scent and e-mail out your family's holiday card. 

But in a swirl of Christmas miracles, our house will soon smell of pine and cheer. And can you imagine the look on Clara’s face when she wakes up to a tree full of twinkling lights? That girl makes our life magic. If kids are good for anything (and they are good for a lot of things) it is this: They are not afraid to glow with wonder. And if you let it, that glow will soften everything in you. 

And now in the spirit of getting the holidays going, here are some pictures of Clara and her cousins, Ella and Ezra, at Thanksgiving. How about the ones of her and Ezra slow dancing? Priceless! Happy season of hope and cheer to you. May your cold winter months be filled with compromise and singing loud for all to hear. 


Monday, December 9, 2013

The Golden Sparrow

Don't you think we were all meant to give birth? 

I mean, not just to squeaking, rooting newborns. And not just by women of a certain child-bearing age and ability. I mean, we are ALL meant to give birth. 

This Sunday my pastor talked about the fact that Jesus was a carpenter- a creator by trade. Jesus lived a sawdust-covered life for 30 years before he started preaching and teaching, and those three decades of honing a skill and a business cannot be ignored. Whether or not you believe in one True God, you cannot deny that there is a pull in each of us to work and live for a passion.  Surgeons and landscapers alike need the chance to explore what burns a light inside. If you're missing that, you will feel the slow dulling of your colors as you allow time, or fear, or apathy, to fade what is good in you. That pull to create is an echo of your Creator, a song that vibrates all the way through your bones.   

My pastor is an artist, and our church is full of people who are committed to the sanctity of creativity. Obviously that strikes a cord with my heart, but I believe it is a truth that holds itself steady in any heart: we are meant to create. To birth. To bring forth what has not been, and to contribute to an ever shifting landscape of problems and needs in a complex world. We are all meant to give birth, whether to inventions or paintings or music or friendships or presentations or films or new businesses or comprehensive spread sheets or fresh bread. If we are created in God's image, the Ultimate Creative Thinker, then aren't we creators as well? 
I create with words. 
My friends Val and Audrey and Breanna create with cameras. 
My brother Robert creates with ideas.
My friend Josh creates by building bridges. 

And this is my friend Hollie. She creates with a needle and thread. 

The Golden family, Tommy and Hollie and their twin boys, Parker and Connor.

(Let's start with the obvious, which is that I could dedicate an entire blog post to simply talking about this family's hair. Perhaps because a few of us over here at the Horney casa are hair challenged ... but I basically drool over every picture that Hollie posts, because of her beautiful hair and the twins' luscious locks. Even Tommy has great hair! I mean, what the hell, man!) 

The Golden twins were born a month before Clara, and I connected with Hollie over social media because I was so fascinated at the thought of bringing home two babies. We knew each other slightly in former lives, but our friendship didn’t take shape until this last year. I love seeing Hollie be a mom. She mothers with intention, with passion, and with an abiding desire to raise her boys well. Whenever I would have a hard day with Clara, especially in those first six months, I would stop my pity party and say a prayer for Hollie, because I knew she was fighting the same battles—but with two babies instead of one. It kept my day in perspective, let’s just put it that way.

Hollie also keeps a blog, and she recently shared this post concerning what’s been happening in her life lately. I loved it. I loved the vulnerability and the tender ache behind her words, and I loved the message she has taken to heart about knowing who she is; not just as wife, or mother, but as woman. 

This world, this awful, beautiful, gut-wrenching world we live in, can take its toll. 

Maybe you are fighting some of these same exhausting battles. 
Maybe you are lost in the daily struggle, and the dim reflection of your true self is a hazy reminder of who you once wanted to be. 

I think that the cry for these familiar battles lies here: 

We are all meant to birth. Your DNA is a complicated pattern of possiblities that deserve exploration. Your hands and feet and mind were made to create. 
Believe me. We need you. 

 Hollie, my amazing friend with the beautiful hair and the handsome twins, is finding her way back to that burning light inside, the one that illuminates her deepest self, the saturated colors of what makes her so lovely.
As she puts it, As I slowly take back pieces of myself, I am resting in the comfort of God's love.” 

What pieces of you need taken back? How is your heart? 

I'm writing this post about Hollie for a few reasons. 
  • Because I wonder how many of us need encouraged to push through the pain of creation and give birth to something new in our lives.
  • Because Hollie makes wonderful things from her wonderful imagination. 
  • Because I know you’re buying crappy kid stuff made in Bangladesh and China instead of perfect items hand-sewn with care and talent at a kitchen table in Oregon.

 Hollie runs a shop called The Golden Sparrow, and I am an addicted customer. As you're rounding out your holiday gifts, take a look at her clothes and accessories. Buy some. Support a small business, support the business of finding yourself again, and support the notion that we all have something important to contribute. 
If anything, support their assuredly astronomical shampoo bills, something we know nothing about over here :)


A few of my favorite items from The Golden Sparrow!
-baby leggings
-infinity scarves for babies and toddlers
-infinity scarves for women
-bowties for little boys
-sparkly bows

Sunday, December 1, 2013

For Cassidy.

I am thinking of Cassidy. It's been almost 9 months since Jimmy died, and time continues to wash over all of us in the steady waves of minutes and hours. Cassidy and I directed a play together this fall for an elementary school, with a cast of 40 kids. We practiced 6-8 hours a week with a 60 page script, sometimes yelling at the kids for messing around, and sometimes admiring them for their talent and hard work. It was a lot of work (it is every year I do this) and there were so many days that I wished I had never agreed to run this project. But always, in the back of my mind, I was thankful for the stolen moments I had with Cass. 

She hasn't lived here in a long time, you know. She went to college at Biola in L.A., then moved to Seattle for a job in a domestic violence shelter, then married Jimmy and headed off to New York City. She attended Columbia's graduate program of Social Work while Jimmy attended Columbia's medical school (a couple of geniuses, really). Until Jimmy died. Then she packed up every bit of their lives together and came home to be safe here for awhile. And I have to admit, I've been so glad to have her back in our state, in our city, and in our homes. It's as though by keeping her close, we could all monitor her grief, keep tabs on her heart and soul in this season of desperate change and sadness. There's no good way to do any of this, of course. It's all a mess. Her very best friend, her new husband, the man she's loved since she was a kid in high school, is gone now. I remember this summer she told me, "It's been six months since I spoke to Jimmy, and it hit me today that I will never talk to him again." That thought struck a deeper chord with me any other part of this whole damn mess- the idea that she couldn't even TALK to him. Tell him a story. Laugh together. Cry. From here on out it's just...nothing. 

And that's a lot to try and take in.  

Last weekend the kids finally performed our show, "Charlotte's Web," on stage. Our months of hard work came to fruition in the form of song, dance, barn animals, spider webs, laughter, and a very moving death scene from the talented 7 year old girl who played Charlotte. I write the script for these shows every year, and this year I debated between "Alice in Wonderland" and "Charlotte's Web." Alice would have been fun, and crazy- but it was missing something. And the further we got into this process, the more I understood why I'd been so drawn to E.B. White's story instead. This has been a year of loss. Like a filter over a picture or a screen over a window, Jimmy's death has altered every reality we once knew to be true. We are young, and we are smart, and the world is a miracle: but we will die. We will all die. And at the end of our play, Charlotte has to die. Wilbur loses his very best friend, and he weeps with the tragedy of never speaking to her again. But he manages to save her sac of eggs, her 514 baby spiders, and that sac becomes his woven ball of hope. I loved the way our actress who played Wilbur portrayed this scene. She is an incredible 8 year old girl named Sami who managed to make me cry every time she was pulled away from Charlotte, crying out for the dear friend she would never see again. 

We dedicated this year's play to Jimmy. Here's what the program looked like: 

This production of Charlotte’s Web is lovingly dedicated to
Jimmy Watts, Cassidy’s late husband.
You were a true friend to every person you met,
and we will always, always, miss you.
In the words of Charlotte, “What a beautiful life.”

But right now, I'd like to dedicate this entire season of life to Cassidy. I have watched in awe as she gets out of bed every single day and decides to keep living. There is no right way to get through the disaster of loss. We all must find our own way out, digging out of the mud one spoonful at a time; somedays up to our elbows in the dirt, some days resting in the dark of the underground pain. Being so close to Cassidy all fall, in the dark months following her husband's death, has taught me how to bear through pain with grace. She is not afraid to cry when the day calls for tears. She is willing to share in the grief of others, though it seems to me there can't be any room for that in her hurting heart. She is a light. She always has been. There is something different about her now, of course. Something irrepairable has torn in her, and she will always feel the tight pull of that scar inside of her. But every day; every hour; she keeps going. She sees her friends. She loves other people's kids and babies. She laughs when things are funny and listens closely when they are not. She digs and digs and digs, but the dirt under her fingernails has not marred the light in her spirit. She is doing the work, and she is simply the most wonderful person I know. 

You know how Clara would never let us rock her to sleep? That green glider in her nursery has gone virtually unused these last 15 months; until this week. Our little girl is suddenly in a 'Mama' phase, never wanting me out of her sight and –best of all– willing to rest her head on my shoulder and let me rock her to sleep. I have been in that rocking chair every night this week at bedtime, whispering Christmas carols through the dark and treasuring the stolen moments with my daughter. And every night, as Clara’s little hands clutch my hair and her sweet breath warms my neck, I think how grateful I am for this stolen time with Cassidy. In the worst of circumstances, in the hardest and ugliest season any of us have ever experienced, I got to direct a play with her. We spent many hours together in a freezing cold gym, teaching kids how to act, making plans and singing songs, appreciating the excruciating process from auditions to opening night. Together. 

And Cass, I just wanted to tell you that I sobbed the whole way home after our last performance. Not with joy that the play was finally over, or with pride at how well it turned out; I cried and cried because you are leaving for New York. You are going back to school, without Jimmy, to figure out where the rest of your life is headed. And as much as I know you need to be there, I wish I could steal a few more minutes together. I wish I could hold you in that stupid green glider and sing across the dark to you, and make sure you are ok every night before bed. But I know it's time for you to go. I know that. 

Cassidy Jo.
You are a light.

And you are willing to dig.

And God has used you to change me. He used this stolen time with you to help me understand that through the depths of agony, He is faithful. You have shown me what a heart full of wisdom and grace looks like, and I have tucked away this treasured time together with all the rubies and diamonds of my very best days. 

You are a light. I know you will continue to shine through the darkness.

And I am so, so proud of you. 
I love you.