Monthly Archives: January 2012

a third

I’ve just returned from another doctor’s appointment. Been able to spy on Baby Sister inside my belly through the magic of that ultrasound machine.

Everything this time around feels unknown.

With the twins, I knew I was having a c-section because Lane was breech, and my doctor was not comfortable delivering any other way with that presentation (not that there are that many other options). I didn’t know when the delivery was going to happen, but I showed up to the hospital for a routine non-stress test that they had me doing a couple times a week. The nurse, as usual, checked the amniotic fluid levels, and announced that she wanted a doctor to take a look because they were a little on the low side from last visit.

The doctor came in a few minutes later, took one look at me and said, “How far along are you?”

“38 weeks and 5 days,” I said. Because when you’re carrying multiples, you know exactly how far along you are. You are constantly aware of how important it is to keep those babies in as long as possible.

“I think you’ve made it far enough,” she says.

And that’s how I knew the babies were going to be born that day, December 23, 2008. I delivered them at Mary Birch Hospital in San Diego, the same hospital where Linsey had delivered Hunter and Tina had delivered Trevor. Familiar.

Now, it’s all different. Different hospital. Different doctor. Different country. According to the ultrasounds, she is measuring XL, so the doctor is still on the fence as to how Baby Sister is going to exit my body exactly. So I’m not sure what kind of delivery I’m preparing for. Not sure how I’ll tolerate labor. Not sure what we’re in for at this different hospital in this different country. Just generally not sure.

And, the greatest of all unknowns, not sure how I’ll do as a mother of 3. Yowza. I still can’t believe it. I can’t believe that we’re going to have 3 kids.

My initial crossover into motherhood was not perfectly blissful for me—which I have carried no small amount of shame over—and I have felt this impending anxiety about returning back to the haze that hovered over me for many of the early months of L&L’s life. I’m so scared of going back to that place—where life felt like I couldn’t lift it.

I’m scared of feeling all that all over again. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’ve been trying to bring these concerns to Jesus, to share my thoughts on the matter and to confess my uneasiness/panic. And here’s what I felt like he’s given me . . . out of the blue . . . a little something to hold on to:

Trey is my younger brother and the 3rd child in my family. He is charming and funny and a joy. He’s my brother but he’s also my friend. I admire his ability to take it easy, relax, chill, let go, calm down. He brings this cool breeze in the door with him that wins everyone over. I just love him.

Every time I start to get scared about how we’re going to integrate Baby Sister into this already-mess, I think about Trey and I think about what our family would have been like without him.

I’m not saying Baby Sister is going to be a replica of Trey. I have no idea what she’s going to be like. But I think God has just been trying to offer me a little teaser. What if we hadn’t had Trey? Life in the Miller household would have been much more serious, much more spun up. Even today, what would we do without his ease, his carefree charm, his wit.

So I’ve been trying to trade in my anxiety lately for anticipation. What will BS bring to our family of four that we would have never experienced without her? What kind of quirky zest will she add to the mix? What might we experience that only she could have given us eyes for?

I can’t wait to find out.

While these thoughts don’t erase every last bit of unease, they do help me to focus on abundance instead of scarcity right out of the gates. Instead of dwelling on what will be diminished by adding another child; this is my invitation to dwell on what might be gained.

Thank you, God, for Trey. He is a prince. And thank you for BS, whoever she may be.

Looking forward to meeting you, little girl.

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today

As it is still January, and I am still reading New Years posts from others and thinking through how I myself might want 2012 to look and feel, I am brought back to the wisdom/warning that it doesn’t so much matter how I want this year to look if I’m not willing to look at today.

This is something I’ve had to tackle as a writer—sitting down on a very consistent basis and getting a bit of work done. Sometimes the work that is done is barely perceptible, with little sense of accomplishment. Sometimes the work that is done is terrible. And in the face of that knowledge I have to choose to sit down again and begin again and keep beginning again. Hideous. Yet, at the end of a week, a month, and a year, there it is . . . all documented in words: some strange kind of sprawling progress. Raw material. Something I could have never just spit out in a weekend binge writing session. Movement. Healing.

This is the truth I am taking with me into 2012: the great importance of today.

One of the things I really love about the 12-step program is its emphasis on today. Breaking life down into a series of todays keeps us from getting overwhelmed by the prospect of having to sustain anything (i.e. sobriety) for an entire week, month, or year. Just for today. And it keeps us from living in the delusion that I will – sometime this year/at some point in my life – do such and so and really change things for good: i.e. lose weight, begin writing, read more, watch less TV, drink less, walk more, get my emotional health under control, etc. This is the thinking that allows us just enough wiggle room to sabotage our best intentions.

Goals/resolutions are a necessary and important part of life, but they are impotent without a firm root in today. It doesn’t matter what I set out to accomplish this year if I don’t have a sense of how I will reorder my today.

Am I willing to start today—even if that means fumbling and stumbling a bit?

How might my decisions today begin a trajectory and a momentum that I could build on?

What choices do I have today?

I’m hopeful that this will be a writing year for me. Not so much in terms of just producing something but because I know that when I am writing consistently, I am more of a whole person. I also know that I will be birthing a baby in the next few weeks. Balancing mothering and writing never works perfectly. And yet, if I try to take all that in right now, I’m overwhelmed and stuck before I even open my computer. But if I can think about today . . . the little bit of work that I can do today . . . even without a perfect sense of how it’s all going to come together, at the very least, I’ve put some words down. And I will always be better for wringing out my soul a bit.

Tolkein has the dazzling line that says, “Not all who wander are lost.” I love this because it reminds me that wandering is a part of the gig. I can’t map out a perfect strategy from beginning to end for most things in my life. Especially the things that really matter. And that doesn’t mean I’m lost as a result. What it means is that the mess is often the magic. And I also take that to mean that I might need to get my hands in the mess – today – instead of waiting for the perfectly clear path to present itself.

What we do in the messy, wandering, trenches of today matters. So I guess I’m encouraging myself, and hopefully you too, to consider how your dreams might intersect with today. And in doing so, we might roll up our sleeves and get to work even if the path is not perfectly lit.

Sometimes all we’ve been given is fog lights when what we were hoping for/waiting for was high beams. But if we’ll commit to what’s right in front of us, we can make a long journey with just a little lit at a time.

Here’s to today.

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A Thousand Words

A virtual scrapbook for you . . . full of love from Bahrain.

IMG_0191Sunset over the Persian Gulf at Amwaj Island.

IMG_0208One of the many stacks of packing paper from our move.

Tankersley Family_0314bwzipBaby belly at the Bahrain Fort on a very windy day. This was when I was still somewhat reasonably pregnant. I am now — at 36 weeks — UNreasonably pregnant. With four weeks still remaining, we may have a 13 pounder on our hands.

IMG_0279 A runner that I am currently obsessed with from our favorite rug shop. We brought it home and then took it back. Terrible idea. Now I feel like something’s missing. Beautiful, right? I’m not usually a “red” person, but I adore this runner for some reason. Has amazing shades of green and turquoise here and there that just work. Perhaps if I birth the  13 pounder, I might get this as a gift for all my efforts! :)

IMG_0242I might be sick, but I’m still darling.

Tankersley Family_0089colorpopFlying high with Daddy at the Bahrain Fort.

IMG_0315The orange and pink celebration for my two favorite 3 year olds!

IMG_0318Did I mention that 12 latex balloons filled with helium cost $18.62? Yowza.

IMG_0323Besties Junior.

Tankersley Family_0227bwclassicBesties Senior.

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What art will be found in 2012?

IMG_3854

About a year ago, to commemorate the closing of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, I offered a Found Art workshop entitled “A Year in Review” for about 40 women in San Diego. I’ve offered a dozen or so of these workshops, all with similar format.

We come together around round tables and I provide a few writing prompts to help us all process a specified topic. We share findings from our writing—what came out of us that surprised us, what confirmed some underlying angst, what we needed to say that had been bottled up for too long. We share around our table and then we share with the larger group, in moments of what I consider extreme bravery.

Often I would choose an excerpt from Found Art to read. Often most of us were crying at some point in the evening. Love that.

Then we’d take a break, drink a lot of coffee, eat whatever snacks I had mustered, and laugh so loudly you could no longer hear the background music I had playing. Love that too.

After the writing and sharing and crying and laughing, I would then step back a bit and the women would be invited to create a piece of found art inspired by the work they had done that night. They would take out their writing and “mine” it for key words and phrases. These would be the guidance for their art.

All along one wall of the room I would have tables of supplies, the kinds of things you would intuitively need to create something—paint, markers, glue, staple guns, glue guns, etc. And then there would be an entire area of odds and ends—things I had pulled from the back forty at Pat’s, things that had been abandoned and cast off. These are the raw materials of greatness, in my mind.

And in the last 90 minutes of the workshop, the most alchemic thing would happen. Creative expression would arise out of literally nothing. These amazing women, who had just opened themselves up so beautifully, would capture their realizations in paint and paper and wood and nails and all sorts of other bits and bobbles.

And then we’d all stand back and survey the prayers each of us had prayed through our hands and through our art, and you would feel changed.

I share about these workshops with you for 2 reasons:

1. I miss doing them. I brought all of my supplies with me to Bahrain and I still hope that sometime while we’re here I’ll be able to offer a Found Art workshop to the women here. I felt so completely close to my own soul when doing these workshops. So it’s meaningful to me to go back and think about them and share that with you. Thank you for indulging me.

2. I thought you might need a little inspiration and clarity as you head into a New Year, and if you feel so prompted, I’d love for you to use the specifics from the workshop I led last New Year’s as a guide for your own time of personal reflection and expression. What have you learned? How have you grown? What have you lost? What have you gained? What has this past year meant to your soul? Who are you becoming?

At the workshop a year ago, I encouraged women to bring their calendars from the past year (so you would use your 2011 calendar) and to take about 15 minutes to review its contents. Here are some instructions:

Make a list of any events that stand out to you over the last year:

  • look for trends and themes that you might not have realized—perhaps you notice how many times you went to the doctor this year
  • perhaps you notice how busy your schedule is
  • perhaps you notice how much free time you had
  • perhaps you realize you worked a lot more than you thought
  • maybe you realize you spent all your time doing things for other people; maybe you realize you spent all your time on yourself
  • maybe you acknowledge the amount of transition you’ve been through

Now, take some time to write: What was something you realized about your year?

Trends? Themes? Patterns? Do any key words come to mind? Things to celebrate? Things to commemorate? Things to grieve? Not just activities and events, but what has this year meant to your soul? Listen to the stirrings in the deeper waters of who you are.

Next, read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11 (the heart and soul of Found Art)

there is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to break down and a time to build up,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to turn away,

a time to search and a time to quit searching,

a time to hold on and a time to let go,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace . . .

he has made everything beautiful in its time.

he has also set eternity in the human heart;

yet no one can fathom what God has done

from beginning to end.

ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11

What word or phrase stands out to you from the passage? What “time” resonates with you? What did you zero in on intuitively? If you’d like, spend some additional time writing down your reflections on your key word or phrase from this passage. Why do you think you were drawn to that particular word or phrase?

Lastly, if you’re feeling up to some creative expression, find some magazines, glue, scissors, and a small poster board or journal or anything else that could house your creative musings.

Flip through your magazines and find pictures, words, colors—anything—that captures the processing you’ve done so far. What has the last year meant to you? How is where you’ve been shaping where you’re going? What are your hopes for 2012?

Glue down your clippings. Add some of your own words to the collage. Keep it messy. Don’t Martha Stewart it to death. Try to treat it as a prayer, not a product.

Maybe get a few girls together and do this as a group. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Chronicling where you’ve been and where you’re going . . . together.

The phrase that stands out to me from Ecclesiastes and that seems to sum up my 2011 is “a time to scatter stones.” That’s the phrase that stung my eyes a bit as I was reading. A time when all the bits and parts of me got scattered in this chaotic whirlwind of a move across the world. And the realization that it takes so much energy to begin gathering again, unifying the parts, rebuilding.

It occurs to me in this moment that perhaps after the stones have been scattered, and they are gathered again and the rebuilding commences, something new is formed out of those same old stones. And I wonder if that is what 2012 will be for me. A time of reformation and renovation after a season of disruption. What will become of those same old stones? And what new ones will be introduced? What will be constructed one year from now?

And, I can’t help but say the thing that we all hate to admit but is true nonetheless: sometimes the scattering (while entirely inconvenient) was the necessary catalyst to getting the new thing constructed. It couldn’t have happened any other way. Things had to be disrupted. Hmmmm.

As we open a New Year, may we all have eyes to see the beauty-in-the-making—the found art—that is waiting for us, even in the most foreign places of life. And may we have the courage to name the beauty that we behold (even that smallest sparkle in the midst of the coal) . . . as an act of worship.

All my love.

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