Here you go:

Gift Tag: From Here

August 13th, 2012

“Look over there!
I can see the beach from here.”

She said it about 30 miles from home. And a good 5 hours from the beach. That’s my Baby Girl. She hasn’t quite grasped the concepts of time and distance. She’s still young and innocent enough to live her days unhindered by the sequence of things like days and hours. Anytime before right now could have been yesterday. And probably was. Anywhere but here might as well be where we just were. And probably is. A special and exciting place could very easily be right over there. And probably is. I think what Baby Girl actually saw might have been a factory, and what made it bear a resemblance to the beach, I don’t know. Still, she got my attention from the back seat.

We were driving home from a week in Gulf Shores, Alabama filled with no schedules, lots of sun, and new experiences. That week, Baby Girl saw the beach for the first time. Up until this trip it had been something we should do one day or something we were planning for or waiting for. The beach was this place of anticipated fun, filled with all the things only her imagination could conjur. The beach was something she knew she should be excited about. And she was.

I don’t know if the actual experience of the beach measured up to her imagination. In actuality, Baby Girl’s beach was filled with getting knocked over by waves and standing up again. Meticulously constructing sand castles. Gathering shells and shell parts. Testing her courage (and mine) in the swimming pool nearby. Riding up an elevator to our “beach house.” Staying up until wee hours. Driving past goofy golf for pancakes or chicken nuggets or a walking through the souvenir shop. The one with the big shark mouth at the doorway that made it the “shark store.”

Baby Girl has been to the beach now. She’s seen it and played in it and experienced her own version of it. Yet somehow it must still exist so vibrantly in her imagination. She brought it home with her in some combination of experiences and anticipations.

We were coming home still bathed in the beach’s spell. Yet, my mind, at least, was shifting into transition mode. “Reality” mode. Some of the trip had been twinged with melancholy, the call of struggles from home reaching us even there. At least reaching me and my staunch desire to keep it from reaching anyone else. And I knew we were coming home to some changes — changes it would be my job to process and interpret for my little beach babies.

I don’t know what she saw that night on the way home when she shouted, “I can see the beach.” I wish I did. I wanted to ask her what looked like the sand or the surf or the waves, but I knew she couldn’t tell me. I knew it was just something — something in her thoughts and her special view of life. Something she knew she saw. And everything in me wanted to cry, “it IS right there.” “I can see it too!”

I’ve been thinking about that drive and Baby Girl’s little declaration for the three weeks since we returned. I’ve been thinking about her perspective. And searching for it. A perspective outside of time and space, released from the boundaries they often place on our hope and joy. I wonder if it is in these Baby Girl moments that we are most like God, in whose image we are made. Most able to think like him. To grasp His perspective. The unbounded view. To see with certainty that precious place of peace and joy and anticipation and hope. Regardless of time or distance or circumstance. And the miles they take us.

I wonder.

Look.
I can see it from here.

 

Gift Tags are the tiny messages God continues to include with my gifts — 2 little joys of boys and 1 little jewel of a girl, each with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and much to teach. “Behold children are a gift of the Lord…” (psalm 127:1)

© Haley Montgomery

Gift Tag: Being Heard

December 6th, 2010

My 2yo, Baby Girl, likes books. And, she’s finally begun to like them for their value beyond paper needing to be torn and/or eaten. I can’t tell you how many pages and covers I’ve taped back together during the continuing saga of our love affair with books. I (and the boys) are thankful Baby Girl has moved into wanting to read the books now.

For a while, reading constituted simply turning the pages to follow her whims. Forward, backward, starting at the beginning or the end or the middle–it didn’t really matter. We were “reading.” By herself or with a captive audience, she mastered the mechanics of flipping through books. From there, she moved into the point-and-question phase with a perpetual “that?” attached to each touch of her sweet finger. Of late, her version of “read book” has finally reached some semblance of actual reading. She wants to listen to the words on the page, usually (though not always) in chronological order. Don’t get me wrong, listening to the words still evokes commentary. Her ever-present curiosity combined with pride at learning to speak new words prompts many questions and declarations relevant to the illustrations on the page.

Boots. Boots. BOOTS.

You may not recognize that phrase from any of the children’s books you have read recently. In keeping with her brothers and about a million other youngsters over the last fifty years, Baby Girl loves Good Night Moon, the classic by Margaret Wise Brown. No, there aren’t any boots mentioned among the “bears sitting in chairs” and the “old lady whispering hush.” Still, the other night her emphatic “Boots. Boots. BOOTS.” became more than parenthetical during bedtime. I tried to move on through the “good nights.” I tried to turn pages and continue with the “mittens” and “kittens.” To no avail. Baby Girl was insistent on “boots,” and as each utterance grew louder, I realized that we weren’t moving on until we addressed footwear.

The “boots” were actually bedroom slippers beside the bed of the sleeping bunny. Only now they ARE boots because Baby Girl won’t be swayed from her assessment. And by her insistence, she gave me a reminder about being heard and brought to light some things I hope for her future.

You see, Baby Girl has a way of repeating her tiny phrases until they’re acknowledged. And, she’s not afraid to get loud about it. Her brothers did too at her age, but somehow hers seems more definitive, more insistent. And, although interrupting is a no-no and a gentle, quiet spirit is admirable, I don’t want to break that in her. I don’t want to shush it out of her. I don’t want to squelch her own understanding that what she has to say is important. No, I want her to learn some things about her voice, things born from my own pitfalls. I want to tell her this…

Keep. On. Speaking.
Keep on repeating.
It’s ok to want to be heard.
Believe in yourself enough to make sure you ARE heard.
Don’t give up.
Don’t give in to the idea that your thoughts don’t matter.
That your opinions can be overlooked.
Say it again.
And again.
Even if it’s never heard.
Keep saying it.
Don’t acquiesce.
Don’t say it’s ok.
Don’t gloss over your feelings or opinions.
Say it.
SAY IT.
Because you are worth it.
You are worth being heard.

When you’re hurt, don’t suck it up. Say it.
When you’re successful, don’t celebrate in silence. Say it.
When you need something, don’t put yourself last. Say it.

By wielding a deaf ear, don’t ever let anyone back you into invisibility.
Don’t ever let anyone silence you into less than the beautiful creature you really are.

Gift Tags are the tiny messages God continues to include with my gifts — 2 little joys of boys and 1 little jewel of a girl, each with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and much to teach. “Behold children are a gift of the Lord…” (psalm 127:1)

© Haley Montgomery

Gift Tag: Celebrating Fall

October 4th, 2010

Little Drummer Boy has been pestering me about the “Welcome Spring” ladybug flag we’ve had hanging off our back stoop since sometime in June. I mentioned recently that it was almost Fall, and we needed to hang our scarecrow version instead. Since then, he’s asked me almost every day if I’ve hung it. I had to answer “no” each time with the promise that we would get it out of the cabinet like we do around the beginning of each October, and he could help me. Of course, his mind moved on to Transformers and other Super Heroes, and mine moved on to ten thousand other things.

October has really sneaked up on me this year. I’m usually counting down the days until this month begins with the Fall-like weather and changes in nature it usually brings in Mississippi. This year, however, I have had a hard time noticing. I suppose I’ve had other things on my mind.

I was sitting at the dining table with Little Drummer Boy this weekend. It was after a meal at some point, and I was lamenting aloud that I had forgotten something or not done something he’d asked or something I had planned. I really don’t remember. Whatever it was, LDB’s response was, “That’s ok.” Even at his age, he’s an encourager, wanting me to know that all is right with the world even if I hadn’t remembered something I was supposed to. He leaned in close with a look of intent in his smiling eyes and added, “‘Cause we’re celebrating Fall.”

Hmmm. So, we’re celebrating? To be honest, I had actually been dreading the “celebration” of the Autumn season, and I hadn’t been willing to really explore why. But, I looked in his vibrant face with the innocent confirmation of a joy some silly tradition I had randomly established created, and at that moment I realized we were already celebrating. I had been saying that we needed to celebrate Fall, that we were going to do it with some of the usual pumpkins and Indian corn and scarecrows we usually bring out for the season. But, I hadn’t actually gotten around to the celebrating part. Until I heard Little Drummer Boy’s declaration of it, I wasn’t really in the celebration frame of mind.

October is usually a month of evaluation for me. I think most of us have those times in the year when our thoughts naturally gravitate toward self-inspection and life-inspection. For me, one of those times is October. Perhaps the tendency began because my birthday falls at the end of the month. Plus, there is something about the first touches of coolness in the air that seem to inspire an airing out of my spirit after the long summer.

Airing out. I find myself writing (and thinking) about transition a lot recently. My essays tagged with “change” are growing in numbers. Of course, there have been a few logistical changes in my life recently–namely beginning my own business, a change that has affected my approach to work, my finances and in practical terms, how I spend my days. More than the physical changes, though, I’ve sensed my heart in transition. Over the last year, I’ve been seeing dormant areas of my life that need awakening. I’ve had a renewed recognition of the passage of time and of how quickly it seems to move. I’ve noticed areas of life that I’m just not satisfied with–areas I’ve determined must change in order for this journey to more closely match my hopes and dreams.

I’ll confess that these realizations have darkened the skies in my anticipation of Fall this year. I was beginning to see this season of typical introspection for me as foe rather than friend. For, the “taking stock” that so often accompanies October for me usually goes hand in hand with a strong sense of celebration in an inherently fruitful time, and a joy in the acceptance of change and newness that I’ve had a hard time mustering lately. Oddly, I’ve been holding myself back from my usual excitement about the arrival of Autumn. Perhaps in my mind, the change of seasons represents so much more of my own changes than ever before, the need for turning over leaves. Perhaps it reminds me more of the discontent that’s been taking root, and of the decisions and will to act that is usually required to produce sustainable change.

“That’s ok. ‘Cause we’re celebrating Fall.”

Somewhere in the five years LDB has been in this world, he’s caught on to the fact that life is worth celebrating. That Fall is worth celebrating. That it’s fun to do a silly thing like taking down the ladybug back yard flag and replacing it with the scarecrow version. It’s fun to notice the big pumpkins and sunflowers and the silly crow sitting on the scarecrow’s shoulder. And, somehow in his declaration of our “celebration,” I realized that indeed it is “ok.”

Whatever frustrations I’m laboring through with the changes I’m experiencing or anticipating in my grown-up life, there is still room for joy. Even if I’m not fully where I want to be, where I feel like I need to be, there is still the opportunity to exercise the discipline of celebration. Even if it only begins as a discipline, “that’s ok.” Even if my process of change has me falling short of turning over new leaves at the pace I was hoping, “that’s ok.” Perfection isn’t required for celebration. And given the choice, I’m not willing to hold off on celebration until perfection arrives.

I read something this week that encouraged me to open my eyes. To look around me and see with true awareness the realities of my life. It’s so easy to focus on areas where we want changes and to overlook those that offer continual blessings and laughter and enrichment. It’s so easy to say “yes, but.” I was reminded to look with eyes of potential and possibility at the circumstances that have been challenging and to recognize how far I’ve come. To CHOOSE to focus on the incredible blessings I’ve been given, the treasures entrusted to me. To choose to embrace the reality I’ve written of: that life is change, and change is growth. Each step–even the rocky or slippery one– is one taking me further on the journey of a life worth making.

On Sunday, Little Drummer Boy, Squiggle Bug, Baby Girl and I determined that the scarecrow in the cabinet had gotten lonely. We even thought we could hear him calling out to us. LDB was certain he was sad he hadn’t been able to “watch us play” this year. We pulled him from the pile and put him on the flag pole. A first step this season.

“‘Cause we’re celebrating Fall.”

© Haley Montgomery

Gift Tag: A Time to Cease

April 17th, 2010

I spent most of this week with Baby Girl. She was feverish and fighting an ear infection, the pain of teething and a viral infection that settled in her sweet little mouth in the form of fever blisters. She was discontented regardless of the situation, but intent on communicating her wishes. Only, she didn’t know the words to do that just yet. The one phrase she actually mastered was “No, Mommy!”–something I heard quite frequently during my attempts to comfort her. She was completely unlike herself. My normally smiling and happy-go-lucky daughter was restless and sleepless and often distraught from the pain and discomfort. And, that’s quite a disturbing situation for the Mommy in the equation as well.

During the week, I found that the front porch swing became a great comfort. Something about swinging with a gentle breeze blowing and the somewhat silent scent of nature seemed to settle her down. This child who was pushing against me, crying for some unknown comfort that she couldn’t communicate, resistant to my arms and the rest they might provide finally slowed down with the help of that pendulum motion. She slowly allowed herself to lean against my chest and give way to the need to stop. She finally settled into a relaxed position, her breathing beating a regular rhythm, her hands involuntarily clutching my tee shirt. The posture of rest.

Even when she’s well, Baby Girl often goes through a similar process to reach a similar conclusion. She plays and plays and plays, a constant picture of experimentation and inquisitiveness and busy-body activity. She resists the insistence of nap-time or bedtime until it finally takes over in a sudden pause. When she finally embraces the need to rest, it’s immediate. With pig-tailed doll in hand, knees pulled under and her bottom in the air, she gives in and lets the time to cease take over.

What a blessed relief it is to be given the opportunity to cease! To take the opportunity. To enjoy the opportunity unencumbered by ought tos and should bes. The willingness to finally give up the command of activity, the command of the moment, the command of the day is an undervalued discipline in these times of constant motion.

The concept of shabbat, celebrated as the seventh day of the Jewish calendar, beginning at sundown on Friday, has been commonly construed as a “day of rest.” However, I’ve read where the word is actually translated “to cease.” It’s an interesting and somewhat expanded explanation–imbuing it with much more meaning that a simple nap might provide. In fact, the notion of shabbat is one sort of lost on most of our culture today. Realistically, it’s lost on me almost every week. No kidding. The “act” of ceasing is not usually in my repertoire.

The Jewish faith seems to have revered the command given in Exodus–the blessing–far more than those in modern Christianity. The concepts of sacred and holy are largely lost in the 21st century traditions of Christianity, and perhaps the Sabbath rest can rightly withstand a modernization according to the culture of the day. But, the need for ceasing is still quite relevant. Through the millenia of persecution (given and received) and displacement and replacement, Judaism has managed to retain an appreciation of the sacred and its incorporation into the daily occurence of life. There IS something sacred and awe-inspiring in the normal mundane existence of life. To be given that existence is quite profound in and of itself. I’m convinced that this sacred existence must gain some sort of elaboration through the act of ceasing. After all, God Himself chose to cease.  Regardless of whether that “ceasing” is celebrated on Saturday or Sunday and whether the concept of “work” is an activity rigidly defined, shabbat is clearly worth consideration.

The act of ceasing the normal can remind us of the sacred of life. It pushes us to celebrate that which is plain and common. That which we otherwise might not even notice. A shabbat cease from whatever activity that may be clouding our vision or watering down our perspective often refreshes and redeems our view. Somehow the act of standing still brings healing.

As surely as I can look at a feverish and fretful Baby Girl and know that her greatest and most healing action is a nap, I can recognize that often in times of feverish activity and mental engagement, a time to cease is the most healing step for me as well.


Gift Tags are the tiny messages God continues to include with our gifts — 2 little joys of boys and 1 little jewel of a girl, each with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and much to teach. “Behold children are a gift of the Lord…” (psalm 127:1)

© Haley Montgomery

Gift Tag: Sing!

September 25th, 2009
It’s hard to muster up a song sometimes. The tiredness of the day, the busyness of the schedule and the frustration of the combination sometimes just sucks the song right out of me. Then, I hear the simple, sweetly spoken request. “Sing!”
Our nightly bedtime ritual includes a beloved lullaby CD that I made for Little Drummer Boy and Bug from iTunes downloads several years ago. The CD is worn and the sound is crackly from use. The songs are so familiar that any time we hear them on the radio, a chorus of “our bedtime song!” follows in unison. As each boy takes his turn reading with Mommy, then climbing in bed, I cover them with blankets, rub their backs and start the music. Invariably on the weariest nights, the nights when supper was late on the table and baths took longer than expected, the ones when I’ve been the most impatient or the most haggard, I hear it. “Sing!”
It’s hard for an impatient heart to sing a song of peace. It’s hard for a hurried heart to sing a song of rest. It’s hard for a heart screaming with a million and one distractions to sing a quiet song. Still, in this heart of indulgence toward my precious gifts, I try. I sing. “Come to Jesus. Come to Jesus. And live.”
Something happens when I ignore the resistance amid yawns. When I lay aside the fatigue and the irritability and offer the frequently off-key and misregistered melody of “yes” to my little ones, I find that my heart actually opens to believing the lyrics anew, to embracing the words I impart. And in my spirit, I say “yes.” I sing.
Sometimes God allows me a special blessing akin to the one He enjoys from His children. Every now and then my gifts sing along–their minds following and anticipating, but only able to release the last words of each line. Often the only word they sing clearly is “Jesus.” Their tender hearts, unstained by cynicism and self-consciousness, sing out to Him. Ever open, all that they are calls out to all that they know of Him. In that moment, unhidden, it’s His name. In song.
And in that moment, opened by their openness, I find that I sing. Broken down and revealed, in desperate restlessness, pronouncing peace, I sing. To these gifts. To this God of all seasons, of all days. And, all that I can know of my heart calls out to all that I recognize of Him–summarized. In His name.
I sing.

gift_tag_head

It’s hard to muster up a song sometimes. The tiredness of the day, the busyness of the schedule and the frustration of the combination sometimes just sucks the song right out of me. Then, I hear the simple, sweetly spoken request. “Sing!”

Our nightly bedtime ritual includes a beloved lullaby CD that I made for Little Drummer Boy and Bug from iTunes downloads several years ago. The CD is worn and the sound is crackly from use. The songs are so familiar that any time we hear them on the radio, a chorus of “our bedtime song!” follows in unison. Each night as each boy takes his turn reading with Mommy, then climbing in bed, I cover them with blankets, rub their backs and start the music. Invariably on the weariest nights, the nights when supper was late on the table and baths took longer than expected, the ones when I’ve been the most impatient or the most haggard, I hear it. “Sing!”

It’s hard for an impatient heart to sing a song of peace. It’s hard for a hurried heart to sing a song of rest. It’s hard for a heart screaming with a million and one distractions to sing a quiet song. Still, in this heart of indulgence toward my precious gifts, I try. I sing. “Come to Jesus. Come to Jesus. And live.”

Something happens when I ignore the resistance amid yawns. When I lay aside the fatigue and the irritability and offer the frequently off-key and misregistered melody of “yes” to my little ones, I find that my heart actually opens to believing the lyrics anew, to embracing the words I impart. And in my spirit, I say “yes.” I sing.

Sometimes God allows me a special blessing akin to the one He enjoys from His children. Every now and then my gifts sing along–their minds following and anticipating, but only able to release the last words of each line. Often the only word they sing clearly is “Jesus.” Their tender hearts, unstained by cynicism and self-consciousness, sing out to Him. Ever open, all that they are calls out to all that they know of Him. In that moment, unhidden, it’s His name. In song.

And in that moment, opened by their openness, I find that I sing. Broken down and revealed, in desperate restlessness, pronouncing peace, I sing. To these gifts. To this God of all seasons, of all days. And, all that I can know of my heart calls out to all that I recognize of Him–summarized. In His name.

I sing.

Untitled Hymn by Chris Rice (our personal favorite)

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we fall…so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

Gift Tags are the tiny messages God continues to include with our gifts — 2 little joys of boys and 1 little jewel of a girl, each with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and much to teach. “Behold children are a gift of the Lord…” (psalm 127:1)

© Haley Montgomery

    Wander Here

    Thank you for seven years of encouragement and sharing this story. You can find Haley's current essays and design work at smallpondgraphics.com

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