Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lilia, Year Two (Oklahoma to Charlotte)

Two years ago Thursday, I was in a hotel in Norman, Oklahoma with a couple of hours to go before I had to hit I-35 to Ada.

I went out for a run, got back and saw my cell phone blinking.

Message, Miranda.

"Baby, call me please, they can't find a heartbeat. Just please call me."

From 17 minutes before.

We had a little girl, 17 weeks in utero - not an eternity in, but something in.

She died.

Not a new story, not a unique story, but our story.

We do boys really well. As I write this, five of them, ranging in age from college sophomore to eleven months old.

Relentless boys.

But Lilia died.

I knew it from the first second I heard Miranda's call.

But I was helped.

My friends at TAG covered for me and got me home, early the next day, before the procedure the following day. They were kind, and awesome.

I had to stay in Norman that night and Terry and Shane - colleagues- went to dinner with me.

I remember. Steak, rare - no starch please - just an extra helping of the broccoli and carrots and cauliflower.

I was drinking substantially then, so I may have gotten a little drunk.

God, I was sad.

Terry drove to the restaurant, Shane came in after and squeezed my shoulder when he got in. I am not a squeezer or a hugger yet Shane's shoulder squeeze I remember today.

We ate, Shane drove me back to the Embassy Suites, I got out, haltingly,  and Terry hugged me.

I am not sure he is much more of a hugger than I am.

Maybe what he did was reciprocate my hug.

At any rate, I got hugged. And I felt loved.

TAG  bent over backwards to get me home, substituting someone for my engagement; the Chickasaw Nation (my goodness, what great people) were kind. It may have been Shane, maybe Rich, who filled in for me.

I got home and we went to the clinic, the clinicians were awesome and Miranda spoke at the end of the procedure, the end of the day, these words when she woke up:

"Is my baby gone?"

So, you and I know we got off easy.

There are awful stories - even in my family - of stillbirths and unexpected dying. Just here in Charlotte, these last two days, a story of a seeming random car crash that is too awful to contemplate with a mama and babies dying.

But this was Lilia.

I kind of suck at remembering things, even watering trees. I have this sort of cauterizing ability hard-wired in my soul. I come across as distant to others, removed and unfeeling, and hard. I honest to God care, but I am not good at demonstrating so.

I know this.

A colleague at the time gave us - beautifully - a dogwood tree to remember Lilia by.

We have a pretty awesome backyard, where Lilia's tree is planted and occasionally I take #4 boy - Beckett - out there to water it.

But not always.

I sort of suck at the things that matter most.

I can express myself well with a MacBook Pro keyboard or a smooth legal pad surface and a Lamy pen. Aside from that, I fumble and fuss and almost always say the wrong thing unless I am in professional mode.

I am redeemed by the fact that I know this is true and that Jesus makes up for my lack and he has been doing that forever. Jesus fills in my every gap.

He has always been doing this for you and me, on I-35 and on our back roads and on the screaming highways and strangled nightmares and silent mornings of our lives.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday Mugs - Your Real Name

A few weeks ago, I declared that I was ready to start a new blog series, inspired by our mug shelf at home:

Which, by the way, has welcomed some new friends since then.

The idea is that if you are a mug hoarder (ahem, collector) like we are than mugs represent something to you. They tell some sort of story.

In telling those stories I'll lead off with this one:

It's a mug with my initial on it that Miranda got me once for a gift.

It often sits near her "M" mug in our counter, because I have an occasional blessed rage for order.

My name could have been more than one name.

I was adopted, very soon after birth. My guess is that, unborn, I had some name in my birth mother's mind's eye.

My adoptive parents tried on several names before they settled on Todd (because they liked it) Armon (because it ran in the family, and was in turn given to my oldest son as well).

I had nicknames as a kid I won't tell you about, and a college nickname that I sure won't tell you about.

My wife calls me a pet name (odd phrase, 'pet name') that is not extraordinary, but is personal and intimate.

I get called "Mr", "Pastor", "Son", "Daddy".

I suspect there are a few who call me names unprintable in a family blog.

It's extraordinary, the amount of names we acquire through the years, most of us.

But there is one name that matters most.

It's a name that is a secret to everyone but you.

It's the name that in your heart of hearts you most hope God calls you when he is thinking about you.

As you read that, you know the name for you, right?




"One of us"?




"You're OK now"?


The Bible starts with naming - the first man and woman, and their sacred call to name the animals.

It continues with naming, where whole nations are summed up in the names of men who were pretty sure they didn't have what it took and in re-named men who had failed beyond comprehension yet were given names upon which the whole Story of the world would hinge.

And the Bible ends with naming, in this terribly mysterious and achingly beautiful passage where we all of us are handed a white stone upon which is inscribed a new name that only we, and He, know.

That Name is what you have been longing for your whole life, whether you know it or not, whether you have ever heard of it or not.

And it is the Name that is hinted at in that name that you most hope God is thinking about when he thinks about you.

That's what a simple "T" on a mug evokes for me - my name...and my Name.