(E)manual

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The Boy

The whole thing nearly resulted in divorce. The oldest pooped his pants for first time since starting to potty train and he happened to do so in his pajamas with no underwear on. That made quite and interesting mess to work with. I kept my cool, settled my stomach, stripped him down and put him in the bathtub. Nothing a little water can’t fix right? Ha!

My hubby HATES it when my hair clogs the drain but instead of just dumping some Drano down every couple months he bought a little insert that sits in the drain and acts as a sieve. Well, I HATE that stupid thing because you constantly have to scrape it out which is a revoltingly dirty thing to do when you’re trying to get all clean. So for months now we‘ve played a little game of remove the drain/replace the drain. Well, he got smart put it in upside down last time so it would be harder for me to remove.

The point of all of this being I started to rinse off my soiled child before realizing it was in there. Now the little tidbits that had been stuck to his leg were causing a pool of poop water to form in the bottom of the tub. It was all I could do not to swear as I manically spooned unmentionables out of the bathtub drain and tried every trick in the book to pop that filter out. I can now happily report that with a little help from a bobby pin that drain cover is securely in the local dump.

It was hard not to abort the whole process right then and there. Especially because he’d been pooping in the big potty for months and I didn’t know why he would do that. A few days later he wet himself 3 times in an hour and then I was really confused. The rules say don’t put a diaper on him but I wasn’t sure. The “rules” don’t know my child.

As I stood there scratching my head I felt another voice. This one spoke to my heart instead of my head and I recognized the voice of  Wisdom as He gently reminded me “you have a lot going on right now. Why don’t you put a diaper on him and start again tomorrow.” So I did, and do you know what happened? Ten minutes later Cainen came up to me and asked to go potty for the first time since starting to train him.

I think a lot of life is not panicking when we don’t know what we’re doing. Even though  most things in life don’t come with manuals there is Emmanuel- God WITH us. When the methods and understanding we possess don’t stretch far enough He, with perfect understanding, is able to lean in and give us a nudge in the right direction. That takes the pressure off us to know it all and also reminds us that God is big and He is good. That’s even better than a manual!

(Originally written 2009)

 

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The Feathers Fall

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I blame it on my father who, at times, has seemed to me the last of the old testament prophets. In truth I’ve never seen him do anything remotely close to what I do. That is to say he’s not one to look for signs in the sky. But I see signs everywhere. God seems always to be speaking to me; in the scriptures, in the moon, in license plates. It is as if He is somehow always whispering… and often chuckling. So I tend to do most things with some measure of significance tied to them; for instance, decorating a Christmas tree.

This past holiday season the tree was decorated with great difficulty. Firstly, a kitten had been living with us (I think I have a slightly funny cat video here). No more explaination is needed there. Secondly my children had no interest in helping me. Turns out my decorating O.C.D. has turned me into a fun sponge and despite several requests no one was interested in stringing lights, hanging gold icicles, or the like. Lastly, the type of evergreen I purchased looked lovely in its natural habitat but it was seriously not conducive to decking a tree in ribbon and baubles (because bringing a tree inside for a month isn’t a strange enough tradition for celebrating the birth of Jesus. We need to “deck” it).

After a couple attempts to decorate it all by my lonesome I had resigned the tree to being a socially accepted eyesore and went on with life. However, upon putting my children to bed on Christmas Eve I was swept up in a fleeting glimpse of holiday spirit and with unforeseen fortitude went to decking the tree one more time. At nearly midnight, after wrapping Christmas gifts by himself, my husband joined me in the sitting room to bask in the white-yellow glow of little lights reflecting off shiny ornaments. I smiled at my handiwork as he complimented me and then proceeded to explain the significance of each element on the tree to him.

A ribbon of musical notes: A reminder that worship is warfare.

Homemade Paper Stars: Our family (we made them together). Common material, temporary and easily damaged and yet, beautiful, unique and important. Handle with care.

Gold and Silver Baubles: Promises I am still believing for

Black Feathers: The sorrows of the year

My husband knows me well enough not to be overly surprised by the weird things I do (putting black feathers on a Christmas tree) and this time he went so far as to enjoy my little memorial. It was a moment we savored together and a few days later, as we continued in our Christmas celebration, he brought something to my attention.  “Hey look! Most of the feathers have fallen off. Its like God is telling us that the sorrows won’t last.”

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And they don’t.

Most trials come inconveniently, and stay too long. Unwanted house guests demanding of us more than we care to give. But in the hands of a loving Father, even the most obscene trial, can turn out otherwise unattainable blessings. Whether in this life or the next, every feather will fall. Every sorrow will succumb to silence and nothingness. And what will remain is what is Good. This is a great hope.

 

“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”

-Jesus Christ

 

 

 

 

The New Me

So there I am. Pulling out of the grocery store parking lot with no children. This means my constant internal dialog could go on uninterrupted. Sweet!

In this particular instance I had been having a daydream where I was talking with someone. This is quite a common scenario for yours truly.

Now my frontal lobe kicks in and I start arguing with the daydream: “Yeah, but I don’t talk like that.”

Enter Holy Spirit commentary:  “But you could.”

Retort: “Well yes but that’s not who I am.”

Revelatory question: “It’s not who you are or it’s not who you’ve learned to be?”

Reflective silence.

Spirit Persists:  “What has formed who you ‘are’ up until now.”

Rolodex bad softball coach, family birth order, favorite teachers, x number of bad boyfriends, social rules, religion and an eclectic mix of instantaneous memories and impressions.

“Oh.”

Punch line: “Couldn’t you learn to “be” someone new?”

Suddenly, God is standing there… in my mind… looking at me. The only One who has ever and will ever know who I really “am”.

“I could learn from you. You can make me new.”

He smiles.

Left turn signal. I pull in behind a silver crossover and stare in unbelieving laughter.

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Precious Commodities

pexels-photo-280264Time.

I recently was pondering time as a fourth dimmension; the dimension in which the other three take place (this could be why I’m such an awful driver). That quickly escalated to involve the concept of the spiritual. I always find it interesting how an infinite God chooses to insert Himself into the finite constructs of time. Many think of eternity as a very long time. For me however, eternity is the absence of time. The gift of being fully present always. But that is left to be determined.

The reality is (along with me being an awful driver) I have to live in the constructs of time which proves challenging for me. When I was first married we had two small sons and we were broke. My husband worked seventy hours a week and we still qualified for government aid. I cooked with beans most nights because it was the only protien we could afford. At that time, money was our scarcest commodity.

Now I have five children- five highly intelligent, energetic, motivated humans who I am responsible for the general care of for at least another ten years. As I walked out the front door this morning I thought about how children change life. It’s not that I have less time than any other human (obviously) but I sure do have less disposable time. My husband could lose his job leaving us with no money and time would still be my scarest commodity.

I think this is because unlike money, or energy, or support I can do nothing to produce more of it. I can’t save it. I can’t create it. I can’t slow it down or speed it up. It answers to me in no regard whatsoever. In fact, the only thing I can do with time is use it. And what that means is that each minute, in my world, has become much more valuable. Supply and demand baby!

And so I asked myself “Are my values reflected in how I use my time.” or to put it another way “What would an inventory of my activities say about my values?” So, ironically, it’s going to take me some time to answer that question. Which may  be more profitable than determining whether or not mankind has erred in our definition of eternity. Sadly, the answer to either is not likely to improve my driving.

 

Care and Carrying

This post is dedicated to the two women I met walking home from the school this morning. Thank you so much for your kindness, for stopping to chat about life. You gave me courage that there are still neighbors in this world if we’ll slow down a little. We may not all be strangers after all.

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(The following was written in 2008. Back when there were only two children and all was new in life.)

My husband got his first stitches this week. He crashed his bike on the way to work and decided that his face should break his fall. Thank you Father that he was wearing his helmet and that there were no broken bones. I got him home and cleaned him up but it didn’t take long to see that the large gash on his chin was beyond my skill. So off we went to the doctor. I watched as she numbed the pain and somehow, through a very not-so-pretty process, pulled the jagged edges of skin back together. Seven stitches later my hubby walked out a little less worse for the wear.

 

It’s funny, you never have to tell a mom to care. We care about everything all the time. My husband didn‘t even have to ask me to help him. I got the man some pain pills, sent him to bed and threw myself into a three hour cycle of treating his wounds. Heck, I even made homemade chicken noodle soup when I didn’t even know how to make chicken noodle soup. As a mom I just intrinsically care for the hurts around me.

 

I wish all wounds were as easy to treat as a scrape (even a bad one). As I was lying in bed tonight my mind was racing with all the wounds  I can’t heal; broken relationships, strongholds of fear and pain, stresses, lies, shame, addiction. Every hard situation flashed through my brain (regrettably the Mommy Care trigger doesn‘t flip as easily to the off position as it does the on. In fact, I don‘t know that it has an off position at all). I started to feel overwhelmed and knew I wasn‘t getting back to sleep any time soon.  Finally I resigned that again the gashes were beyond my skill and a trip to the Doctor was in order.   

 

As I prayed my mind raced with thoughts about what role I was to play in all of these things. Have I said too little? Have I said too much? How do I “bear with one another” and also set good boundaries? How am I supposed to help anyone else when I’m already so insufficient to meet the basic needs of my own family? And what am I honestly to do with this burden I feel for my friends and family, who through choice or circumstance have come into a very hard place? As I wrestled with these things I felt Him say “I’m giving it to someone who will give it to me.”

 

Often in our lives, we don’t simply bring our needs to the Father. Too much confusion, too much shame, too much pride and that old cross is just a little too rugged to fall on again. So the Lord puts people in our lives who will take the need for us. When others are bound up and crippled we pick up the need and carry it to Jesus for them. This is what it is to “bear with one another.”

 

Still, for people, and moms in particular, there is the temptation to hang on to those things. Perhaps we feel good helping someone and want to keep it as sort of trophy. Maybe we like to hang on to it because it makes us feel better about our… less-troubled station in life. Even more common, we just get distracted and forget where we were supposed to be heading with it. We sit and we roll it over in our hand or try to pick it apart, see how it works and even try and fix the mess (which is a little like a monkey tying to make sense of a mile long slinky). It doesn’t take too long before the burdens pile up and we fall under the weight.

 

And perhaps this is what I’ve learned most as a mother. That I am a very limited creature. For all my fussing, and all my well-intentioned aid there is very little I can actual do. But my God is limitless and if I truly care, I won’t hang on to all these needs. I will carry them swiftly and continually to my Father and lay them down. Who knows? Maybe while I’m there I might even lay down a few of my own and find some much needed rest for my own soul.

 

-Going back to bed (don’t you people know it’s 5:00 in the morning!)

 

These Days

 

road-sun-rays-pathI don’t have much to say tonight. Or maybe I have everything to say. The fact is I’m not completely exhausted. In fact I haven’t been completely exhausted for most of the week. This is new. Sometimes it’s hard to say if the exhaustion caused the overwhelmed or visa versa. I tend to think the latter. I’ve carried stones in my chest for so long.

I find myself thanking God this week. There are so many moments- not big moments, little moments! Infinitesimally small moments.; in fact some have been little more than a thought. And that’s the point.

My husband has to wear glasses. He hates it and when he puts them on he often jests “You people! You see like this all the time?!” I’ve lived with depression since I was a child. I mean, I think my time spent out from under that dark cloud over the last decade could likely be measured in months not years. The anxiety, the chronic over-analyzing, the feeling of constantly failing, trying harder, failing worse, and being so stinking tired all the time! I had just gotten used to it. Despair became my normal. I had given up on having a rational train of thought.

But God just wouldn’t let me accept it. Not in the way I was… which in a weird way was actually to deny it. He just kept at me until I was stuck in a dark corner and had to turn around and face it. And then!… then He started healing me! I want to say “You people! You’ve been able to think like this the whole time?!”

This week I can hear the poetry going through my mind as I watch the children make their way down the crushed limestone trail. I am present. I can hear my self-talk going somewhere it should not, or perhaps more accurately, starting from somewhere it should not. Some place other than His great love for me. I can hear myself talking through the scenarios. Slowing down enough to not react when a chaos bomb blows.

These things are gifts! Heavenly gifts and it’s as real for me as if I was being cured of cancer. Its so small. Each event a pebble in the tray until my new patterns outweigh the old one’s. Until normal is redefined for me. “Rome wasn’t conquered in a day…” (I think that’s the quote) and neither are our demons. There have certainly been supernatural moments in these last few months but God did not come and wave some magic wand. I wanted Him to but He knew that’s not how we are made. The healing has to go on layer by layer. It’s got to build and sit. Like varnishing old wood. The coat has to completely dry.

But eventually that thing will shine. And I am starting to feel the glow of a different life. The internal slowly radiating its way into the external. It’s not over. I still get into some sticky moments and there is a lot of untangling that has to happen. But each day is a reason to trust Him more. Each day I find that He is more faithful then I could have imagined. More sufficient then I could have dreamed. He’s got me.

We’re going to keep walking this path together and I am so grateful for that.

My Imperfect Heart

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So… this is an important picture. It’s not going to win any awards. No doubt the photo could use some improvement as well. But still, it’s an important picture and I’d like to share why.

First of all:

I made it. This is the work of my own hands. This is my time and my energy and my worship of rest on a page. I undertook it as a representation of my Father restoring my own heart.

Secondly:

My parents gave me this book and the markers. Some weeks ago I made my third visit to the psychiatric unit of the local hospital. Days are long and sterile there (even if you need the solitude and encounter Jesus while there). I had asked them to bring me a book and some markers to help break up the days. I was only a little surprised when they showed up with the nicest set they could find. A beautiful, hard-cased collection of super-fine tipped markers and a lovely book. I couldn’t help but note the price-tag on the back and gulp a little bit. Not only were they coming everyday, faithfully to visit, but the love was lavish. And it reminded me… God’s love is so lavish. When we are broken. When we cry out to Him, He is not waiting with stingy fist clenched tight. He has our best in mind. He gives us Himself. He gives fully. He gives freely. He gives joyfully. That’s how they gave and every time I use the markers I’m reminded of His tender love for me. Especially when I’m at my weakest.

Thirdly:

That ugly dark leaf. So, I’m learning a lot of new skills right now. Thirty-five years is a long time to “return to (your) vomit”. You know… those old thought patterns that keep you exactly where you’ve been. Well one of mine has to do with perfectionism. With everything looking as it should – being as it should. Well, I started this particular picture in pointillism because I found that the markers weren’t well suited for coloring. However, I couldn’t pull myself away from the idea of a bold leaf to contrast the pink flower. So, I tried it…. and it looked terrible (Sub-note: Another life lesson; use things for what they’re best for. Don’t try to make it something its not).

Crap! Now I just ruined my whole stupid picture. This was supposed to be a representation of my heart and I just messed it up! 

Then I could feel His Spirit speaking to my heart. “Yes, it is your heart… and you can change. You can do it differently. It doesn’t have to look perfect to be perfect. It can be a perfect reminder of what am doing in you. A new thing!” The nagging O.C.D. I usually experience dissipated with His words. I could see the beauty in it. The value of watching myself change, and keeping it as a reminder to not go back to the old way of doing things.

Father, for anyone today… anyone who needs your touch. Anyone who needs courage to change. I pray they would let you in. They would feel your love and your acceptance of them where they are. And they would see your fantastic ability to work in their heart, mind, life – to make something beautiful of all our scribbles. You are so good. Thank you for the access you have given us through Jesus. You have been so faithful to me. Please let each person here, experience your gentle restoring kindness today. To know You always. To see you as You are. Thank you. Thank you for the small slow way, dot on dot, you’re filling in my heart. And for the way that you fill in theirs. Little by little. Faithfully, tenderly, working to make us new in You! Help me, help anyone else who wants to, surrender to your Loving Hands. To experience that newness. In the precious name of the Lamb. Amen.