A daily...meh, weekly dose of babies, reality, and love.
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bill and Monica grow up.

Sam and I were both sort of a mess when we started dating. We were making bad decisions and living very selfish lives, very "I am in my twenties and have very few responsibilities and it is the world's job to make me happy and fulfilled" kind of lives. It's a wonder our relationship worked at all...oh wait it didn't, he broke up with me six months after we got together (the fool!). So much has changed in these 8 years since we met, but one moment from our early relationship represents what I still love so much about Sam.

Also, we used to wear a lot of costumes.

Yes. Bill and Monica. We won best costume that night!

It was early on a Sunday morning, about a month into dating each other, and we were going to church together. See, when you party on a Saturday night, all is made well by attending some sort of church service the next day...bear with me here, we were idiots. It was early Sunday morning and the house where we'd been drinking the night before was a disaster. I was hustling to finish doing my hair, but I could hear Sam out in the kitchen. I grabbed my bottle of hairspray and snuck through the living room to see what he was doing, and there he was. Broom in hand. Cleaning the kitchen. I asked what he was doing, and he glanced up through the haze of hairspray surrounding me.

"I'm cleaning."
"Yeah, but why? We gotta go in a minute- just leave it for someone else." All the someone else's were still asleep. I decided I would say a prayer for them at church, in payment for them cleaning up. But Sam would have none of it.
"You always leave a place cleaner than how you found it. I'll just do this really quick."

He went back to sweeping, and I decided I would marry him. Right then and there, in the midst of our messy lives, our selfish confusion, and our shaky walks back to the Lord, I knew that I needed to marry Sam Horney. This man who would never dream of leaving a mess for someone else to clean was my gift from God, the anecdote to my chaos. I loved him so much that I needed to spend the rest of my life with him. So I am. And last night he showed me, once again, that incredible part of his heart that still draws me in and startles me.

The last two nights with Clara were hard. During our long trip to the east coast, on midnight plane rides, entire days in her stroller in New York City and Boston, four hour car trips, sleeping in a different place every couple of nights: I gave in to a little bit of guilt parenting. You know what I'm talking about? When you don't want your baby to cry in your brother's one bedroom apartment at night, and you don't want your baby to cry in a taxi, and you don't want your baby to be upset at a memorial service, and your baby threw up earlier in the day because it is hot as hell in this damn city, and your baby is so tired of meeting new people, and so you nurse and nurse and nurse no matter what time it is?

Right. Exactly.

Except then we got home and our sweet girl was still waking up several times a night to eat, despite being night weaned before we left. So we had to start over. Forehead smacks and groans all around, people. We decided to cut her off cold turkey and let her remember how to sleep through the night again, hoping it would just take a little bit of crying. (We're not big into letting her cry. Clearly.)

The first night she cried for two hours straight. Then last night it was about 30 minutes off and on. I did not respond to her cries either time, however. You know why?

Because by the time I blinked open my heavy eyes and stumbled to the nursery to check on her, Sam Horney was already in there. Every time. Rocking her. Applying teething gel. Changing her diaper. Singing a quiet lullabye. He never woke me, he never hesitated in what to do, he just got out of bed and tended to our daughter. And he did it with pleasure.

I love him. He is the calm in my chaos, the broom in my kitchen, the lullaby in my dark. And I am just so thankful to be raising my baby with a man who loves to be a father. GOOD GOLLY that is sexy. Maybe we'll put our spandex bike outfits back on tonight?

Too much, you guys. Take it down a notch.

JUST TO BE CLEAR, if Clara ever asks, her parents met at a Bible study and didn't kiss until they got married. Second base was saved until they decided to have a baby. And we only drink wine for communion.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Dear Jimmy.

Dear Jimmy, 

Earlier this spring, in my non-fiction writing class, I wrote and recorded a radio piece about aging. In the piece I spoke of you, told your story, shared about the privilege of getting older; a privilege you did not get. On the day my radio story was played in class, another student left abruptly in the middle of my recording. After class she approached my desk with tears in her eyes.

"Jessie, I'm so sorry for leaving in the middle of your presentation. But I have to tell you something- I was sitting there, listening to the story about Jimmy, and something sounded so familiar about him. So I googled his name and there he was. I couldn't believe it- I knew him and his wife."

"Are you serious?" I grabbed her hand. This is when she started sobbing.

"Yes, yes, I just can't believe it. I can't believe he's... I rode home next to him and his wife- Cassidy, right?- this Christmas, on a plane back from Denver. And I have thought about them almost every day since. There was something about them that was so special, you know, and the way they talked with me, and the way Jimmy loved Cassidy...it gave me hope. It changed things for me."

Do you remember who I'm talking about, Jimmy? She's recently been through a nasty divorce that left her defeated, lost, unsure of herself and her value. She wrote about this loss all semester, and I wondered about the pain in her heart. But you know what she told me? She told me that the way you loved Cass changed HER life. She told me how you and Cassidy were so excited about the vacation SHE had just taken, how you both asked questions about her trip to Mexico with her sister, how you kept your hand on Cassidy's leg the entire flight, even while you read, because she is a nervous flyer and you wanted to reassure her. This woman cried and cried in the middle of our classroom, pinned under the weight of your death, bewildered at the depth of Cassidy's heartache.

She knew you for one plane ride.
A few hours in a tin box high in the sky.
And she has never stopped thinking about how you loved your wife.

Sam and I went to New York last week for your memorial service at Columbia, where your Bassett program friends hosted a beautiful time of remembrance. The Dean of Columbia medical school spoke of your qualities as a student and a person. Your advisor laughingly told us about his unorthodox note taking during your interview to be accepted into the program (basically he scrawled across his pages, "We must convince this student to join our program. He's amazing!" And guess what- the other interviewers did the same thing. This happens for exactly no one who applies there, Jimmy.) There was an entire video of students who went to school with you for only 6 months, sharing how you changed their lives as doctors and people. A new tree stands in your honor on the Columbia campus, a constant reminder of the lessons you unwittingly imparted on everyone you met. Your friend Wilson designed a fabulous tribute to your other-wordly powers of love and care, with a pin for people to wear on their white coats, or in my case, their diaper bags.

This was your third memorial service, Jimmy. Third. You died when you were 24 years old and it has taken thousands of people three services to truly begin mourning what they lost when you died.

But in all of this celebration of your life, and in all of the unending grief of your absence, this is the truth that sticks with me:

You changed my classmate's life on that airplane.
You changed her life because you LISTENED. You and Cassidy talked with her about a vacation, you showed an interest in her, you held Cassidy's leg because she gets scared on airplanes, and you changed her life. You gave her hope for a love that is bigger than the pain of her divorce, and you gave her hope for her future. She said it over and over again- "They were so full of love and light. Not just for each other, but for me, too. I have thought about them constantly since that day."

A serviceberry tree grows tall in a grassy square in New York City, a living notice to all who pass that a man came through this world who ascended the muck of life. Beneath that tree lies this plaque with this inscription; a direct quote from your journal; and I just wanted you to know that it has already been proven true.

You, Jimmy Watts, cared not for yourself, not for your own interests; you did not think of how you felt or who hurt your feelings or what people thought of you; you just listened. And you loved. And that changed us, Jimmy. It changed an entire school of doctors. It changed families. It changed churches. It changed me. And it changed my hurting classmate, who needed hope more than anything else on that turbulent flight over the Rocky Mountains. Your work has indeed been made permanent by your Creator. It has been made permanent in the trajectory of our lives without you. It is permanent here, in my own soul: because I want to be that person on an airplane. I want God's love to shine through me effortlessly, simply because I know who I am in Him, simply because I have the freedom to love with abandon. 

When I know who I am, I have the freedom to love with abandon. 
Thank you for (unknowingly) showing me what that looks like. Thank you for ministering like Jesus did: with humility. in the quiet moments. to everyone you met.

Thank you, friend. I love you.


Here we are with your beautiful wife and your beautiful tree.
We will show this picture to Clara one day and explain who you are and why you matter so much.