Somebody’s Hazel Jane

2BW

Dear daughter,

You are my Hazel Jane.

As I begin writing this, you are safely nuzzled on my chest, your miniature nose and lips burrowed in my neck—a feeling for which I’m sure I’ll never find words. Sometimes you smile at me when you see me coming, filling me with both joy and unworthiness. Other times you bury your head in my arms, like the comfort of a hug before you learn to actually hug. How special you make me feel, knowing the one I love most in this world feels the same about me, at least for right now. Every time your little lungs fill with air, this fragile heart inside me fills with a little more love. The thought of someone treating you with anything but kindness is more than I can bear to ponder. I will rejoice with you in the easy times, fight for you in the hard times and love you in all times. Your life has led me to vulnerability outwardly inexplicable. Words cannot suffice, for it is only inside myself, locked in my own emotions and feelings that I can understand the depth to which your small yet immeasurable spirit has changed me. As my mom keeps telling me, you won’t understand how much I love you until you have a you of your own.

You are my Hazel Jane.

While your delicate spirit was gently swaddled inside my swollen yet secure belly, your dad and I occasionally asked ourselves, “What kind of world are we bringing her into?” The past few years have piloted us out of naiveté, for we are personally, nationally and globally aware that, baby girl, we delivered you into one broken place.

We live in a world where we ignore poverty and idolize violence. Encourage greed and endorse entitlement. It’s a world in which we recognize success in the form of money and power and fame instead of kindness, compassion and selflessness. People are shooting each other. Hate is acceptable rhetoric. Racism is rampant. People need a homeland and we won’t share ours. Girls are sold as property. Privilege is winning. Intolerance is growing. Fear is overpowering.

How could I bring you, my delightful innocent, my Hazel Jane, into such a place?

Oh, but daughter, there’s another world we live in, too. A world your dad and I believe in. A world that already exists though often seemingly shadowed by the other. A world where reconciliation becomes reality. Where dialogue changes fear into friendships. Where outstretched arms bring peace and unconditional love is above all else. Above ourselves. In this world, redemption sits just around the corner. We just have to push fear aside, peek our head around that corner and hope others will follow.

Hazel Jane, it’s our promise to you that from those first moments when we giddily brought you into your first breaths until the day we take our last, we will give every effort to usher you in to both of these worlds. Where sorrow and hope intermingle. Where reality and optimism coexist. Where despair is inescapably bordered by faith. Where we live for the good of all people and not just for our own people.

I believe in this world. I believe in you. I believe in you to be a part of both worlds. To understand the depths of pain in one but live in the realized hope of the other. To fight for this hope. I believe in you to help create restoration. To give thanks for and celebrate our differences. To use your life in a way that enhances other lives. I pray you’re unafraid to take on the responsibility of bearing others’ burdens, because you live within the confidence that your burdens have already been bared.

I believe in a world where everybody is somebody’s Hazel Jane.

When you see a picture of a hungry child, that’s not a picture. That’s somebody’s Hazel Jane.

When you drive by the sign on the corner that asks for food, that’s not a homeless man. That’s somebody’s Hazel Jane.

When a fellow student wears dirty jackets, gets teased by others and frustrates the teacher, that little girl is somebody’s Hazel Jane.

When the couple next to you at a restaurant dons a beard and a headscarf, they aren’t ‘weird,’ they are somebody’s Hazel Jane.

So peek your head around that corner, and rejoice with them in the easy times, fight for them in the hard times and love them in all times. Yes, this is a broken place, little one. But it’s still a beautiful place. Just look around, find it, and be one, sent by the One, who sustains, creates and multiplies the beauty.

Tonight as we relished in your favorite activity—staring at your reflection in the mirror—with each new bounce and look you giggled with thrill and clasped your pudgy little hands together in pure joy. It is my promise to you, that if you will open those hands to embrace and serve all types of people, you’ll find more joy than you could ever dream.

You are my Hazel Jane.

Love,
Mom

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Bumpin’

And just like that we’ve made it to the 3rd trimester. There were days, especially in those early weeks of nausea and secrecy, I was pretty sure this time would never come. But here we are with a healthy (and chubby says the doc) baby we get to meet in twelve weeks time. What a true adventure these 28 weeks have been. Full of ups and downs, exciting discoveries and major learning curves. But whatever has come our way was always met with gratitude for a growing, healthy little lady.

It’s kind of comical to look back at all the surprises pregnancy had in store, and I’m sure there are still many to come. Who knew Walker would be responsible for keeping me alive during those first 12 weeks. Never did I think I’d be reliant on him to do things like force me to eat, pack my lunches when food was repulsive, fill up my water to take my vitamins, carry me from the couch (where I’d been since probably 4:30 p.m.) to bed around 7 p.m. I was somewhat pathetic I tell ya, and I’m forever grateful and impressed at how naturally he stepped into the father role, even as she was the size of a sesame seed. He took care of me and her in the most selfless of ways, ways in which he probably never dreamed. Love you, husband of mine.

Who would have thought I would grow to somewhat enjoy peanut butter? This is Walker’s favorite thing about my pregnancy. Or that I would find myself in crying hysterics in a bathroom stall after finding out Pappadeaux took my favorite meal off the menu. I never knew I would consider a bowel movement to be the greatest victory of my day week, sometimes even declaring a verbal shout of triumph. Or that I could develop so much saliva I would become a human fountain … to the point of having a spit cup in my car. It’s possible to feel that hungry? Or that full?

Who would have ever guessed people would be so supportive? Me! I could have told you that from day one. We’ve always been surrounded by such a caring community, both near and far, and their expression of encouragement during this time has been truly overwhelming. Our family and friends have done everything from calming my ‘um, is this supposed to be happening to my body’ paranoia, to sending care packages and letters, showering us with gifts, and being so thrilled with us. We are eternally indebted to our people, and humbly reminded of how important it is to forever pay it forward.

Now for our weekly (mostly) after church photos!

             

  See you in 12 weeks, Lady McWilliams!

Lady McWilliams

Well, being 27 weeks now, I guess it’s time we finally post about a little lady coming into our lives very soon! I’m not sure why we didn’t document this on here much sooner, but it’s not for lack of excitement, that’s for sure. It’s been a new adventure figuring this whole pregnancy thing out together and we’re ready to dive into parenthood come July! We’ve been overwhelmed at the encouragement and support being poured out to us during this time, so thank you from the bottom of our four little hearts! No, we aren’t having twins…Opal is always included in this family : ) We are so ready to meet you Lady McWilliams!

Sing

how great is our God, SING with me how great is our God
and all will SEE, how great is our God

One Saturday morning last fall I accompanied 26 students from the high school where I teach to a local animal shelter to help supervise their volunteer efforts. In the midst of snapping pictures of cages being hosed down and rambunctious dogs being walked, I stopped in my tracks as I listened to a voice circulating from the next room. It was an employee singing, soulfully and genuinely, while he mopped the concrete floor of the kitten room.

As I stood still and silent, afraid any movement might deter him, I soon realized that my presence, and probably nothing else for that matter, can deter a man who sings while he works.

Such joy, such fulfillment radiating from him to others even during the mundane task of mopping cat urine. Sometimes we meet people who teach us that life is even better than we think it is. That there’s reason to rejoice in the routine. Sometimes these people lend us new vision.

I want to sing while I work.

I want to sing while I clean.

I want to sing while I grocery shop.

I want to sing while I do laundry.

I want to sing, even a subtle melody, while I cry.

I want to sing while I live.

So that others may see. IMG_1199
Their favorite way of taking out the trash together! A little dramatic but a lot entertaining.

Surrender

Sometimes I write…and then get the courage to publish later…

A few Saturdays back, a small group of friends and I met for brunch. Our group gets together yes, for girl time, but also to intentionally discuss certain questions and topics. One question brought up holiday schedules and another led to a discussion about Santa, but then came the last question.

“What does your prayer of surrender look like?”

I was jokingly asked to answer this one. In normal Katelyn fashion, I was unable to give an answer on the spot. Wait, let’s go back to Santa?

It’s funny, I think I first started composing this blog in October, long before our brunch discussion came to be. The thoughts were there and the words were forming, but I couldn’t finish. But maybe now, 12 months into this hell of a year, I’m brave enough to say that even while writing these thoughts, I really wasn’t so sure I believed them. Maybe now, I’m brave enough to reveal our many imperfections and to quietly whisper that, by faith and choice, I finally believe this to be true.

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I originally began writing these words to the gentle noise of Walker strumming his guitar upstairs. I was writing. He was strumming. Because we were both grieving in our own personal ways.

On that Friday night in October, we unexpectedly found ourselves sitting on the edge of our bathtub, my arm around his, throwing wadded and wet tissues into the toilet. Well that, and consequently scolding Opal for attempting to eat the missed shots.

For some reason, we thought ourselves strong enough to watch The Fault in Our Stars, the movie version of the novel about childhood cancer. The one that so accurately and emotionally let us into a world that though we tried, we could never fully understand. We miss you, friend, and that night our irrepressible sobs reminded us just how much.

There is a line in The Fault in our Stars that’s become too familiar to us this year.

Pain must be felt.

2014 has proved this so. For us. And for so many others.

We’ve seen death and disease sweep down in the cruelest of ways, at times to us personally and in other times to those we care about. We’ve watched families and friendships be forcefully ripped apart, leaving jagged seams and irreparable holes. We’ve experienced our church scandalized by tragedy, and watched the media proudly make life hell for all involved. We were bystanders as adults and youth alike fled from our pews without even a quick goodbye. We stood shocked as strangers and friends showed up in the midst of crisis, while those we just knew would show up, well, they never did. And then there were the weeks the entire world went haywire. Iraq. Ukraine. Ebola. The border children crisis. Missing planes. Ferguson.

The bitterness crept in just as plainly as it did in my words above. We smiled in front of the curtain while behind the scenes soon became strangers to ourselves. Complaining too much, criticizing too often, loving too little. Looking back, I see two people unwilling to even look for glimpses of good, because with all the pain in us and around us, survivor’s guilt told us not to. Even with all the good things happening, too, our weary hearts wondered ‘When will the next bad thing happen?’

But, we’re learning.Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Yes, pain must be felt. Circumstances arise and they leave you helpless, but I think today, on the last day of the year, we can confidently declare that while they can leave us helpless, they do not have the power to leave us hopeless. This year has changed us, but we have the power to choose how it changed us. Pain can demand to be felt. But pain cannot demand to be lived. Grief is long lasting. It can and does last a lifetime. But joy.

Joy is eternal.

I write these words not because our skies are now abundantly blue.

We began this year with death. And now, again, we are leaving this year with death.

I write these words because through all the unexpected back roads we’ve taken on our journey these past 12 months, I can shakily say that joy, in fact, does not come in the morning. Joy is present even through our darkest of nights.

Joy, much like love, is not something we are meant to feel. Joy is something we are called to do, to recognize and accept, to seek out, to give to others. We must boldly notice it in the midst of a new baby or in the gathering of family at a graveside. In the monotony of a job or in the old couple laughing in the car next to us.

It doesn’t always look the way we want or expect. Sometimes it’s almost unrecognizable. But it’s there. Prompting us to remember that

Great loss means there was once an even greater presence.

Grief reminds us we had the opportunity to love someone with every fiber of our being.

Pain reveals we had the privilege to believe in someone or something so deeply that now we must relearn to live without.

Loss. Grief. Pain. We feel them deeply. Our tears are real and our anguish is tangible.

But.

Joy says look for me. I am here through it all.

So maybe, just maybe this nutso year called 2014, has gradually and unsteadily revealed not only the agony of this world and our own imperfections, but perhaps it has also taught us about the relief that comes with embracing a surrender prayer.

A prayer that says I will stop resisting and surrender to the reality that joy is always there. That these are my circumstances, good or bad. I promise to feel the pain profoundly, but I will obediently seek out the beauty in it all. That there is community even in the loneliness, contentment in the longing, laughter in the tears, hope in the despair, and life even in death. That this is life, and amidst the suffering, heartache and disappointment, I will stay open, stay vulnerable, and be present through it all. I will continue to love and believe and risk. I surrender. I surrender to life. Because come what may, life is abundantly good.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

A collection

of a few happy moments around our new house lately.

Opening Gobble’s teapot to be surprised by a familiar handwriting. 20140614-110648-40008605.jpgBreakfast by a bearded man. 20140614-110649-40009167.jpgThanks to a generous couple, we now live in a log cabin in the woods. The kind where we watch the deer sashay through our yard. 20140614-110649-40009697.jpgThese two explorers. Particularly his ridiculous getup and her little sassy booty. I miss them. One’s away at camp and the other at her grandparents. 20140614-110650-40010333.jpgWe are headed to Europe on Monday! Although I’m not sure we yet believe it, the trip we’ve waited months for is finally in reach. I’m more than ready to roam the streets of Paris hand in hand with my husband. And finally introduce him to my friends in Madrid. Europe or Lufkin, we cherish every memory in our little collection and are grateful for each chance to gain another.

 

January

Lufkin snow dayI’d like to think the reason behind my month long hiatus from this space was due to my confession of having toe fungus in my last post, but the truth revealed probably lies more in the month of January itself. The first month of 2014 has been an inexplicable blend of emotions. The kind where laughter or tears strike in any moment. In the same moment.

But as I sit here and write very late thank-you cards to some freaking awesome people, I’ve realized it’s February 1. We made it. And so now I’ll blog about that month I didn’t want to blog about, if not only because it’s a part of our story.

Before Walker and I left Tucson the four of us felt our hearts break as we put our 13-year old dog, Yoda, to sleep. Minutes later I took one last look at the the house I grew up in before my parents move across town. We found ourselves back in Lufkin only being forced to buy a new washer and dryer but how trivial the stress of appliance shopping would soon seem.

On January 14, Walker kissed Lizzie on her forehead and I stroked her cheek as we left her hospice room that night. In the early morning hours of January 15, Lizzie passed away. And as thankful as we are that her suffering is no more, we miss her. Through the many times as I’ve written and erased my thoughts about her, I’ve come to accept that although I know they will return, right now my words have been stolen by grief.

But this is where it feels confusing. Because we look back on January and remember such wonderful times, too. The Fiesta Bowl followed by a day with friends in Ft. Worth was a pretty decent way to start the year. Opal turned 2 and my dad made it to SIXTY! I was able to attend Danielle’s shower for soon to be baby Evie all while getting to see a bunch of friends. Baby Landon made his 6 lb. appearance in this world and we spent most of our days with Jared. I caught bronchitis and not the flu, so that’s a Super Bowl win in my opinion.

So many emotions unexpectedly given life in 31 days left us feeling exhausted and constantly trying to catch up. But as we move into February, our heartbeats grow steadier and our breaths more relaxed. We can look back at January knowing that if we have lost, it means we have loved. And for us, that’s enough.

Plus we had snow. Twice!Play in snow 2Lufkin snowOpal in snowLufkin snow ball

A happy place

20131130-180905.jpgConfession. Pretty much everything I said in my last post never happened, except well, Opal is away. We didn’t make it to Arizona, and the eye twitch has worsened. Like, maybe-I- shouldn’t-drive worsened. It definitely wasn’t the Thanksgiving break we anticipated or planned. It’s been an emotional seven days. An uncertain seven days.

But still, there is much to be thankful for.

And one of those many things is how we spent our Saturday. My two bearded men and I headed over to a local tree farm to pick out our first Christmas tree. It’s my first time to have a real tree, whereas Walker looked in the mirror and proclaimed, “The blood of a 1,000 lumberjacks is running through my veins.” Obviously, he let us newbies know he’s a professional.

I loved wandering through the trees like a kid and spotting Walker’s head pop in and out of the rows. And hearing Jared choose his favorite trees, which all happened to be abnormally uniquely shaped. We walked away with one of the many perfect pines, and on the way home I asked if we could go back and pick another. I got denied. Lots of fist pumps for this family owned farm that provided us not only with a cherished tree but also some tangible cheer and merriment!

Yes, there is still much to be thankful for. 20131130-180954.jpg20131130-182400.jpgProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 preset20131130-180856.jpg20131130-180932.jpg20131130-180940.jpg20131130-182354.jpgProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetBesties at Kendricks20131130-180848.jpgKendricks20131130-180913.jpg20131130-180921.jpg

Thanksween

Well, Mo and I are no longer on speaking terms after she said Opal isn’t very cute, but…20131027-223542.jpgThree cheers jumps for Mo and Kari’s annual trip to Lufkin!! I’ve said before that friends taking the time to come east means the world to us. We are constantly driving near and far to see people, so when people come to us, we feel so special. Unfortunately Walker wasn’t here on Saturday, but Jared filled his manly presence, and I’m also noticing he got the most camera time.

Kari and Mo sewed these awesome Thanksween t-shirts. Notice they match! And there I am wearing a plain black v-neck they brought me because they got tired : ) I’m still laughing about that. downtownbookstoreLast year the weather forced us to stay inside and knit all day, but this year Kari only knit in our down time. We spent the afternoon walking around downtown and popping in the coffee shop, used bookstore and antique shops.20131027-223655.jpg20131027-223753.jpgThe clear skies had a chill in the air, and since we are pretty much obsessed with our new lights, it was the perfect night for an outdoor dinner and movie. Jared whipped up a Wild Rice and Kale Chowder while Kari and I worked on the caramel apples. Mo took her role as photog. 20131027-223824.jpgThat cat is lucky to be alive after he tried messing with Kari, but I guess he won her over considering he cuddled in her lap for the entire movie. 20131104-174634.jpg20131027-223851.jpgapple laughsjared appleAs we sat around the table warming ourselves with hot chowder, we kept repeating “this is perfect!” The atmosphere took on somewhat of a whimsical feel, but it had much more to do with the companionship than the twinkle lights. Kari and Mo are two of the wisest and most genuine people I know. To be in their presence is to feel comfortable, hopeful and safe. Their conversations are meaningful and uplifting, their words are encouraging and intentional, and their laughter is deep. It was such a refreshing weekend, not because of what we did or where we went, but rest was found in the simplicity of reuniting with good friends. Jared and I were so happy to spend the day with you. We miss y’all already! Come back, and maybe Walker will grace us with his presence. movie copy

Camp Cowtown

gift basketEst. 2013

When we first moved to Lufkin, it was easy to find myself complaining, and to be honest, I still do. Just the other day in Tucson I said to my mom, ‘Man, I just wish Lufkin had a Whole Foods.’ She didn’t even acknowledge my statement, which over the years I’ve come to understand means my grievance is nothing more than an ungrateful grumble. Her silence says count your blessings, not your lack of organic, gluten free mac and cheese.

A few weekends ago we made our way to Camp Cowtown, which to twelve current and former Lufkinites is now a real place that will be talked about on the regular. We’ll talk about how much we miss it. How we can’t wait until next time. And how we should do it multiple times a year.

We pitched our tents at the home of the Henrys, now residents of Ft. Worth (which I learned once arriving is called Cowtown). After we finished gawking at their beautiful home, unwrapping our goodie bags and adorning their new golden retriever with every affection we had in us, we stood in disbelief that the long-awaited weekend had finally come. And then we hugged some more.

As more campers gradually arrived we spent most of our time doing what we do best—eating. If we weren’t shoveling pounds of puppy chow and chocolate sheet cake down our throats, we were playing games while watching You Tube videos. And then we took breaks to make our way back to the table o’ sweets. We ventured out of the house a few times, you know, to play a competitive round of flag football in matching shirts. It’s possible we were winded after the first few downs, but our pride told us we could play to winner scores 5. Or was it 4? Ft. Worth offered us a quick lunch at a food truck venue, an afternoon of golf for the boys and shopping for the girls, and a lively dinner at Joe T. Garcia’s. I was in consumer heaven.

But I’ve been thinking. I’m pretty sure all 12 of us would have been perfectly content if we never left the house. Full, fat and in need of serious exercise from our pizza night and lemon cookies, but perfectly content in our 12 bodies being under one roof. No city life required.

I’ve come to realize that Camp Cowtown isn’t an annual event, Camp Cowtown is a community. It’s a place of laughter, a place of comfort and a place of companionship. It’s a different way of looking at life, a better way. It’s recognizing that relationships are God-given and sacred, and that Anthropologie, Trader Joe’s and fine dining are not. It’s a place where we need nothing besides each other. It’s a place where we love each other well because we don’t take each other for granted.

During and after the weekend a couple of us reflected on our quick 48 hours. There were no complaints, no talks of stress and no bad attitudes. We had our people, and our people were all we needed. We just did everything so well. What if we constantly lived in a state of only needing each other? I think we might do life really, really well.

I think back to my statement in the parking lot of Whole Foods and my countless statements elsewhere. I think of my moans that long for Lufkin to provide just a few more opportunities for healthy eating and recreational activities. But then I think of my mom’s silence that screams throw all your thankfulness into Camp Cowtown, for it gives more joy and life than a local Dillards could even begin to offer.

So, thank you, Lufkin. For gifting me with sacred relationships, even beyond these twelve. For reminding me that life done really, really well is found in human connection rather than music venues and shopping malls. I don’t think I recognized the significance of Camp Cowtown when we all lived in the same city, but one thing I know is that distance can’t destroy the sacred. Camp Cowtown is going strong. Stronger than ever.

dutchespound of meatWalker ate a pound of beef for lunch. I cringed, I cried and I started looking for roommates while he ate himself to an early death. girls footballdino walkerthrowpasskatieI never thought a group of twenty-somethings would dish out such little verbal assault but rather more of, ‘How’s your back?’ ‘Is your knee doing OK?’ ‘Are your hips holding up?’ and ‘Do you need to stretch it out?’group footballfood trucksDespite my hands on arched back stance in this pic, no, I am not pregnant. Although there are quite a few Lufkin teenagers who would jump for joy should it be true. 20130722-190444.jpg20130722-190853.jpgAn afternoon of shopping. If shopping means letting Kelsey try on clothes while the rest of us contently relaxed on leather couches. Try more stuff, Kels, try more stuff. girlsThe Ladies. girls 2boysThe Gentlemen. boys 2

I wish I had taken more pictures, but I was just too busy enjoying my friends.