There is this person.

I don’t know much about them, other than they exist. And I love them.

That seems ripe for a metaphor. Like I should start talking about how it shouldn’t take much more than knowledge of existence for us to illicit compassion.  How we shouldn’t make a refugee on wartorn shores prove their worth, or ask a child to demonstrate the economic profitability of providing them with clean air.

But I’m too tired for all that right now.

Besides, love at this point is only theoretical. Don’t get me wrong, it’s real. I know it’s real, or at least will be real. But think back to how you look at your wedding day. Doesn’t part of you wonder how you even got married to someone you knew so little? Somebody whom you hadn’t yet walked through the trials and blessings you’ve been through since?

Or your baby’s first smile. It was wonderful, sure. But it has since been eclipsed by grins, guffaws, and kisses. How little you knew then.

Love is difficult, is it not? It is raw, involuntary, and demanding. It is an action we must choose, time and again, often before ourselves. It breaks us and leaves us more whole than we have ever been before.

So, sure. I know I’m in love. And I know the first days, weeks of love pale into comparison to the gritty work of what comes later. Life often gets harder and better on equal measure.

So here’s to the next love of our life, whom you are welcome to join us in loving sometime this October.


To believe in life



They’re still sleeping. Those little ones who are waiting for the Easter Bunny to wriggle his whiskers and hop to their front steps, bringing sweet candy. They won’t sleep much longer, but will wake and soon indulge, donning pastel colored smiles as we drive to church.

They believe so easily, these little ones. I suppose it’s easy to believe in stories about triumph and new life when you spend your days conquering an outsized world. Everything is new to them – the crocuses popping through the ground, the green buds as tiny as they once were, the broken eggshell laying underneath a tree. They saw these treasures last year, but again they are new. You see the world with fresh eyes each day when you are three.

And so it must seem easy to believe a story your mom tells you as she tucks you into bed. About a man who preached love, about a time when hope conquered fear and new life was given. This is their rose and robin egg blue colored world – one where each day finishes with the promise of tomorrow, each night ends with a fresh sunrise. The world is safe, the world is good. The world is new always.

It must get harder to believe as we grow older. We grow used to the rhythms of the earth, and worse – accustomed to the its pain. We are no longer surprised when death and grief color the headlines of the day. At a certain point, we attend more funerals than birthday parties and the promise of new life, or life at all, must begin to seem like a wistful dream of childhood.

This weekend, as flowers push through frozen ground, I remember a cold and windy day ten Aprils ago. A rumor from my friend, a phone call from my mom, a headline on the news. My sleepy Virginia home became the focus of the nation. Dozens of lives taken by gunfire, and a school that would never be the same.

I could have gone to school there, I thought. It could have been my French class a crazed gun man walked in to that morning.

But it wasn’t. And my life goes on, to watch little hands snack on jelly beans, and little feet chase after eggs.

I wish I could believe as easily as a child. I get mired in logic and logistics, until my head aches from questions. One day, the stories I read ring deep and true, the next I find more doubt than peace.

But I will never ceased to be in awe of a world that can hold so much pain and so much hope concurrently. My faith might be, at times, illogical and contradictory. But so are our very lives. It is one mystery of the world we understand less as we grow older.

The little ones might live in awe, for a time, as they unravel the innerworkings of the world. Gravity, clouds, butterflies await discovery. The newness will eventually wear off for them, and a story of new life might seem more like a child’s memory.

But, each spring, I never fail to still be surprised at the first bud I see. Hope is inherent in the birth of the world. Pain, we will always have with us, as well as an infinite capacity for bringing good into the world.

This, I believe.

Stuffed Monkey

Semmens Family (16 of 27)

My son fell asleep without his stuffed monkey a few weeks ago.

This is not a particularly important milestone of childhood – I’m certainly not going to write it down in his baby book. To be honest, a part of me felt slightly relieved. If we were ever to have another “left-the-monkey-at-the-grandparents-house” incident, we would not have to have it overnighted immediately.

This wasn’t the first time, either. Last week, he slept without her for a few nights.

I only noticed because she was under our kitchen table, where he drags her most every morning to sit beside him while he eats his breakfast, in the exact same spot for a couple of days in a row. I hadn’t realized that it had been a few nights without a frantic 8 p.m. search across the house for her, or a 3 a.m. wake up call to retrieve her from under his bed. She laid there on the floor, looking forlorn and forgotten even with her smile sewn permanently on.

Last night, I tucked my son’s blankets around him before I went to sleep. I pulled her out from under the covers and laid her in the crook of his arm. For years, I have done this every night to avoid that 3 a.m. wake up call, but last night I think I did it not to make sure she stays in the arms of a little boy, but to make sure it was a little boy still holding her.

I slept with my own stuffed bear for 18 years, before deciding it would be embarrassing to bring to college. The bear had little to do with comfort, and more to do with the fact it was the perfect shape to wrap my arm around as I slept at night. In college I laid on my side, trying to fall asleep while my arm slumped down awkwardly.

I still have that bear. It’s in a box of my son’s stuffed animals, and my boys toss it around and twirl the frayed cords that hang where its smile once was. It makes me happy to see it, but not as much as my own children’s favorite stuffed animals make them.

My mom used to make me promise to stay little always. She ultimately failed in that endeavor. In the moments when my kids are being irresistibly adorable, I too find the same request on the tip of my tongue.

But I don’t want them to stay little forever. I look forward to the day when we can ride our bikes together, when I can read them Pippi Longstocking, and when they can turn on the Saturday morning cartoons by themselves and I can sleep in for just a little longer.

In the middle of the night, though, when a stuffed monkey snuggles next to a face that looks more like a baby’s than a child’s, I find myself wishing for just one more night like this.