Sunday, December 18, 2011

On sickness and carols

I have a sick child.  I suppose it was inevitable.  We have side-stepped our share of illness this fall. But today? This day of pomp and circumstance for the season. A day we anticipate from December to December. It's Carols & Candles night.

Paul's dressed up. He will shine and bring out the best of the musicians.  He has prepared the details and internally he may sweat tonight. But the people - they will see the majesty and the glory of the season.  They will revel in the singing of carols and the magic of candlelight.

Eliana is princess-like.  She will look grown up in her purple plaid taffeta and will stand tall as the handbells chime and she joins with the children to sing.  She has rehearsed toward this night and she might feel a smidgen of anxiety. But the parents - they will listen with pride and gladness.  They will alight with the joy their children are singing of Christmas.

But not me. I won't witness those triumphs.

I am here with a sick child.  One who awoke late last night to a belly upset but no temperature. One who lay on a sheet and carpet in the living room so he could be close to us.

And while I am disappointed that I will not share in the annual splendor of this event, I also am honored to have an important job of my own on this night.  

There will be no pomp or circumstance here. No lovely taffeta gowns or ringing bells. I will sit with my children (one sick and one young) and I will be mother. There will be a soft glow of light, not from candles, but from the lights of our tree. If carols are heard, it will be thanks to a CD player. I will not be angry at what I missed...for here I will find my own melodies. My heart song tonight will be one of peace offered to a sick child.  One of joy offered through contented acceptance. One of love for a family who, while separate in duties tonight, are knit together by the One who is love.

I have a sick child but I have never felt better.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What I Really Want to Give For Christmas...

They want...
barbies and matchbox cars.  disney princesses and animal figurines.

I write down those wishes with paper and pencil.

I want...
to give them those things (because there is nothing like giving your child a gift.)
Yet there is something else I long to give my children. 
Presents that are expensive but don't cost money.  
Gifts purchased in the currency of time and sweat; sacrifice and tears and prayer.

I write down these wishes with my heart.

These are the gifts I would give to my children...

love...a Godly example...forgiveness...hope...
laughter...time...strong family of scripture...
hope...being heard...color-blindness...curiosity...
patience (with self & others)...diligence...hope...
Love (1 John 4:16)

No 40 square feet rolls of wrapping paper are required for these gifts.  Instead, these gifts are wrapped in day-to-day routines, in the mundane and surprising, in the messy, beautiful living of life together.

May I not waste one beautiful gift-filled moment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Need to Know Basis

My good friend has a good friend whose dying.

pain. sickness. disease.

Sometimes I feel I'm suffocating under the weight and reality of it all. Sometimes I have to just stop listening, stop looking.  I retreat.

How do you comfort the dying?  How do you comfort one who needs to comfort the dying? 

My homepage spills the headlines of global crises.

famine. starvation. oppression.

Sometimes I feel so distant I can easily compartmentalize.  A coping mechanism for sure.  I avoid.

How does one person make a difference?  How can one person impact world issues?

Abraham Lincoln said, "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go".

Yeah, suffering plants my heart prostrate before the Sovereign One.  Sometimes asking why.  Sometimes just tears.  Always with aches and groans of soul.

Too many of my questions are answered with a sad shake of the head and an "I don't know".  In the face of suffering of any kind, I find I always return to what I do know to be true.

I know scarier than the words of suffering are these...
     inaction. apathy. injustice.
     blindness. racism. selfishness.

I know stronger than the lies of insignificance are the abilities to contribute one small deed at a time.

I know I have a choice...every day...every hour...every moment.

I know my choices bring healing or add to suffering - even in my little corner of the world.

I know...

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

And sometimes that is all I need to know.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

a tension

Here's a current tension of mine...

Multiple voices shouting and whispering and pleading and encouraging me to 
make the most of every moment
not let a moment be wasted
never underestimate the power of one moment

(Do you know how much anxiety that produces in one recovering from a mind-set of performance-based worth?) 

Multiple voices consoling and saying and reckoning and explaining that
every parent makes mistakes
you won't be perfect all the time
there will always be choices you want to re-do

(Do you know how easy it is to excuse my laziness and lack of intention with statements like these?)

I struggle functionally to make the most of my every moments while allowing space for my own humanness.

It's hard.  And I am not so good at it.

There.  I feel better just saying that.

Monday, December 5, 2011

i think i may be on to something...

Today has been rough for me.

Well, yesterday was too.

These are days where the fight for joy is unrelenting.  Tears are quick.  Emotions are raw.  Hope is fleeting.  I want to yell and scream.  I want to blame and point fingers.  I want to beat myself up. I want to wallow in guilt.  I want to hide - deep and dark away.

I awoke asking for strength.  Asking for help.  I feel desperate.  And school today was rough.  I was impatient and hard at times.  Why do calm and gentleness seem mutually exclusive for me?  I spend so much energy trying not to respond with a raised angry voice that gentleness is punted out the window.  (In my rational moments I understand it's still a lack of self-control just manifested differently.)  I feel crushed under this weight of responsibility - to be wife, mother, housekeeper, teacher, friend, and on.

And I sit to still.  To drink in grace.  To hear what the still small voice might have to say if I am quiet in heart.  I write my thanks.  And I wait.  I look hard for beauty in the difficult days and I write again.  Choosing to see differently.  To think newly.  

And then it sparks...the thought.  The conviction.  The answer.

In all my moments of waking grief due to my own want of soul, I realize I strive to externally control what I have lacked internally to attain.  God gives peace but only through relationship.  When I side-step my time with Him, I am starving my soul.  There is little peace.  Little order.  Inside.  Deep down in the crooks and crevices of heart.  

And so I plow ahead vainly attempting to put order onto the things around me.  My children.  My husband.  My home.  My circumstances.  I try to silence all voices - any extraneous noise is deafening.  I nit-pick - nothing is good enough.  I well up with fire - where there hasn't even been smoke.  

These are warning signs.  Red flags. Gauges for me.  I should heed these indicators next time.  When I try to get control of all around me and settle for nothing less...that's the very time I need to look long into myself.  

I need to ask, "Have I first surrendered to the keeper of my soul?  Have I first allowed God to have control in me?"  

If I have not, then I will struggle needlessly for control of things I should instead choose to shepherd, nurture, and steward.

If I have not, then I will view my abundant blessings as burdens.

If I have not, I will fail to offer back to God the thankful life for all He has given.

So today, still in the midst of the struggle, I choose to give up control that I might find the very thing I have been pursuing on my own today...peace, harmony, order, contentment, hope.

I think I might be on to something...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lessons from Advent

I'm feeling it.
The pressure.  The hurry.  The frenzied pace.

For a while I lived believing I was captive to this season's cadence.  I've learned otherwise.  Yet I feel I must relearn this lesson every year.
The lesson that Advent is about slowing.  All the rest of creation slows naturally as trees become bare, animals hibernate and the ground covers in white.  Why does my slowing come hard?

The lesson that Advent is about generosity of spirit.  I can give inordinate amount of gifts but still be stingy and selfish.  Why does my spirit want to hoard?
The lesson that Advent is about embracing mystery.  The enigma of angel-songs to shepherds and star-led wisemen become common place and predictable.  Why does my heart resist the unknown?

The lesson that Advent is a discipline. My feelings will not always correlate with the slowing, the generosity, the mystery of this season. But if I am to breathe in and breathe out the distinct scent of grace, peace, and love then this discipline of Advent requires me to alter my rhythm and engage every sense.

I feel it.
The pressure.  The hurry.  The frenzied pace.

Yet I choose to practice the slowing, the generosity, the mystery...because Love has come and I don't want to miss it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Worth It?

We have snow.  

 The kids are thrilled.  They want to go out and play.

I slightly cringe.  
I know what it takes to get 3 kids snow-ready. 

But, it's the first significant snow of the season, so we focus and get through schoolwork quickly and then it's time to bundle up...

Here's the routine:
Tell potty-trained children to use bathroom.
Change youngest's diaper.
Oldest puts on her own snowbibs.  
Put on youngest's snowbibs.
Put on youngest's socks.
Put on youngest's coat.
And hat.
And mittens.
And boots.
Oldest puts on her own socks.
Put on middle's snowbibs.
Put on middle's socks.
Put on middle's coat.
And hat.
And mittens.
And boots.
Oldest puts on her own coat.
And hat.
Help oldest with her mittens.
And boots.

10 minutes pass and kids are ready.  

Now Mommy's turn.

Put my socks on.
Kids ask, "Ready yet?"
Put my boots on.
Kids ask, "Ready yet?"
Put my sweatshirt on.
Kids ask, "Ready yet?"
Put my coat on.
Kids say they are hot and ask, "Ready yet?"
Put my hat on.
Put my gloves on.
Kids ask, "Ready yet?"
Grab camera.
5 more minutes and Mommy's ready.  
Kids squeal.

I'm tired. 
Then I think about all aforementioned clothing that will need to come off in reverse order while wet and trying to stay off the carpet.

I'm ready for a nap.
Out we go.  
A question nags the back of my mind...
"Is it worth it?"...



Oh yeah, its most definitely worth it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Unwasted Brokenness

Tears stinging
Trying to breathe while hurt swirls fast
Feeling forgotten
Wounds crying
Wanting to wallow and clench my fists
Feeling numb
Heart wringing
Holding to One who never forgets
Feeling held
He comes near
He binds my grief
And whispers small, “I love you and that’s enough”
Pain subsiding
Paving roads of grief to paths of joy
Feeling Hope

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Lesson From the Bathroom Door

It's been said that every analogy breaks down at some point.  Just keep that in mind as you read, ok?

My toddler likes to play with doors.  
Close.  Open.  Close.  Open.  
Nothing unusual really.  Many children do.  

This play of hers extends even to our bathroom door.  The catch here, however,  is once she completely closes the bathroom door, she can't open it again.  

Close.  Fuss.  Mommy opens.  Close.  Fuss. Mommy opens.

You get the picture.

Today I was taking my shower, the place where all deep philosophical thinking occurs.  I heard the door handle jiggle and then a very quiet shutting of the bathroom door.  

Close. Fuss.  Jiggle.  Fuss.  Jiggle Harder.  Fuss.

And it hit me that my relationship with God is often like my two year old's insistence on closing a door she knows she can't open.  

In regard to this situation, my toddler knows three things:
1) She loves Mommy and likes to be with her (even in the loo).
2) She likes to play with doors.
3) She can't open the bathroom door by herself.

By choosing to play the door game with me in the shower, she made a choice to be separate from me.  She can't get back in on her own.  She has made her proverbial bed and now, she has to lie in it (or stand outside it as the case may be).

No matter how many times she plays this game.  No matter how much frustration I may experience at hearing a fussing child outside a door she chose to close, I will always, always reach to open it again.  Sure, we may talk about how she isn't able to open the door once it's closed and she needs to choose better next time.  But, I will always, always open it for her.

As the water rained from the shower head, and I heard the fussing from the hallway, I realized that's exactly what God does for me.  All the time.  He always opens the door.  again.  and again.

I know three things:
1)  I love God and long to spend time with Him
2)  I like to play with "doors"
3)  There are some doors I just can't open on my own

Even though I love God and I love spending time with Him, I will still choose to things that separate me from Him.  I make choices that will shut that metaphorical bathroom door.  I am separate from Him by my own decisions and I find myself alone in the hallway.  

Sometimes I fuss and cry and pout about it.  Sometimes I jiggle the handle until it might break off.  But God always, always, always chooses to open the door.  He always chooses relationship.  So He turns the handle and opens the door and I run back in to where I really want to be.

For some reason, the image of a loving Abba reaching out to turn the handle and choosing relationship again was stirring to me.  Through Christ, He does what I could not do for myself, and He makes it right again.  and again.

Out of his fullness we have all received grace 
in place of grace already given. 
-John 1:16

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Twinkle

A twinkle in the eye means joy in the heart...Proverbs 15:30

Children don't have to long for joy.  
They just live and joy follows.

I have much to learn from my children.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Things that Inspire Me

in no particular order...

well-written words
well-spoken words
sacrificial love
other people's creativity
my children
my husband
the hard eucharisteo
Rosa Parks
living with intention
christmas lights
bright colors

Sunday, November 13, 2011


"Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree."

 - Emily Bronte

Perfect Timing

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.   - Romans 5:6

Certain phrases catch my attention.  No matter how often I hear them, I stop, I listen and I hear.  This scripture is one of those.  
       "At just the right time"                   "when we were still powerless"

The device of surprise is what captures me.  
So unexpected.  
So counter-intuitive.  
So God.

God's perfect timing of redemption is wrapped up in my weakness.  It's a good thing too, because

Many days, I live 
               in my own strength, 
                         for my own gain, 
                                   with my own resources.  
Many days, I am a 
                                    believer, wife, mommy, friend.

Smack dab in the middle of my self-living, being empty of power and ability, Jesus decides I am just right for the saving (and restoring).  I need not fear my own powerlessness, for that is the fertile ground in which my God will rescue me again and again.

Thanks be to God!

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. - 2 Corinthians 12:9

Friday, November 11, 2011

Shower Interrupted

When you are a mother to small children, it doesn’t take long to realize there is no sacred space...meaning no place where uninterrupted privacy is guaranteed.
When you are a mother to small children, it sometimes takes a little longer to realize there is no space that is not sacred...meaning no place where you can’t see the very face of God.
Thankful for all the sacred, interrupted, public-access spaces in my life today.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On Orcas and Fears

"Mommy, will you draw an orca?"
A sincere and hopeful question from my 4-year old.

Here's the thing:  
I cannot draw.  
No really.  
I can't.  
No false humility here.  
I struggle with creating even a stick person.  

Here's the other thing:                                                          
I am a scaredy-cat.  
You name it.
I've probably been afraid of it.  
Much of the time, the fears come.  I deal.  They go.  
There are, however, a few stubborn ones that plague me.  
One of which happens to be a fear of failure.

I won't go into all the analysis on this fact, but trust me, I don't want to fail.  I want to do all things perfectly and well.  With one question, my preschooler immediately dashed all hopes of me succeeding in this request.

I have stubborn fears.  Ones that decide to be life-long traveling companions.  They pack themselves deep into my heart and create weighted travel.  As a result, I don't get very far, very fast.  Heavy baggage does that.  But I was created for a life free of unnecessary weight, where fear doesn't sit in the driver's seat.

And so, a crossroad moment...  
Will my fear of failure prevail or will I bravely draw my best version of an orca?

(Internal deep breath and a "Here goes nothing" kind of sigh) 

And when my marker rested, there was this big smile on his face. 

And on mine.  

Loving my son enough to draw an orca forced me to leave my fear-companion for the briefest of moments.  I set down my baggage to pick up a black Crayola marker and found a moment of freedom.  

What about you?  Will you dare to draw an orca?

Monday, November 7, 2011