Godversations

It’s strange to me that often, the truth we need to hear, is a truth we’ve once spoken. As a writer a struggle to revisit old works. But a series of unfortunate events (not really unfortunate) led me to this piece this morning. I will leave out why I needed to hear it, suffice it to say that I did. Hopefully it will be the beginning of a “godversation” for you today.

Mommy’s Log: 3-12-2010

I have long suspected that God gave me children to draw me closer to Himself. The object lessons of pregnancy and early motherhood were apparent to me. Pregnancy taught me the essence of faith: hoping for what we don’t see. Having a newborn taught me selflessness: giving in whole-hearted joy with no promise of return. Of course this was in addition to the far more practical lessons about the liability of pets, production of breast milk and thriving in chaos.  Lately my learning has come in the form of blatant conversations with my three-year old that I’ve dubbed them “godversations”.

One such conversation came when Cainen decided to mimic his friend by calling me by my first name. I began to address it as a subtle form of disrespect. “Why?” was inevitably his response to my rebuke and in answering I saw a deeper truth.  “Cainen, they call me Miss Aroea because they are not my children. But you are my child and that is special so you have a special name for me.”

A pregnant silence.

How often do I address my heavenly father in a manner that is unfamiliar? Salvation is nothing less than the holy gift of son-ship “by which we cry Abba, Father!”? Cainen had forsaken my blessed title out of mere play but for me… it goes deeper. I often address God in an unfamiliar fashion because on some level I have rejected Him as a father; preferring the safety of distant deity to the vulnerability of relationship. How deeply that must sting His heart.

Two days later I found myself in another Q&A session. It was my “bible time” and Cainen was on the floor playing while Jonas napped. I had no more than sat down when he inquired as to why I was “always” reading my Bible (making me sound much more diligent than I am). There’s nothing like an honest question that you can’t answer philosophically to make you examine why you do something. I thought for a second… “You know how sometimes you get your hands dirty and you need to wash them? Well, sometimes my heart gets dirty and I can’t wash it with water so I have to read my Bible. It helps me keep my heart clean because it tells me that God loves me. Then I don’t get frustrated and naughty and then it’s a nice place for Jesus to live.”

“Yeah,” He replied “But why is Jesus always at our home?”

Uhh… “Because He loves you Cainen. He wants to be around us all the time because He loves us.”

“Yeah. God loves me so much. But… but why can’t I see him with my eyes?”

Oh good Lord child! Fortunately God wanted me to know the answer as much as I wanted Cainen to. “Cainen God is so special that we cannot see him with our eyes. We have to use our heart. That why sometimes I close my eyes when I pray because then it’s easier to see Him with my heart.” Oh, yeah. That is why I read my Bible, and He really does love me and… that is why I can’t see him.

Looking back, these two instances were nearly a fullfillment of one of an earlier “godversation”. From the backseat of the car Cainen had started spouting truth about Jesus that neither Kevin and I had really discussed with him. My husband began to inquire as to “how” Cainen knew these things. The child was indignant. “Dad! You know God speaks to our hearts.” I cannot say that moment was anything other than a divine encounter. It was so innocent and true. God does speak to our hearts. He will teach us and tell us the truth if we will listen. And sometimes He’ll even use little “godversations” to do it.

Remembering (again)

This essay was originally written in July of 2009. I’m not entirely sure why I woke with it on my heart but regardless I thought perhaps it was time to share it with a broader audience.

 

I plopped down on my knees and resigned myself to the untidy trenches of beach sand. Really it’s the only proper way to build a castle; especially one complete with a river winding up to the moat. It took only moments for every child within twenty feet to notice me. Soon I started to hear them murmur to their parents “What is she doing?” and then they’d stray closer to get a look. All of the sudden I remembered…

“Children don’t want entertainment. They want interaction.”

I must have learned this lesson a hundred times over the last three years but somehow I always forget. Most of the parents had taken up a supervisory roll on the beach; monitoring their children as they tried to soak up a few rays and relax. This is usually my posture as well, on any given day, but my children were too young to play in the water alone so I had no choice but to be engaged.

As I piled and packed and patted I started to remember other things too. Like how good it felt to get dirty. I remembered how smooth the sand makes your feet as it rubs away at the weathered outer layer of skin. I also remembered the sensation of creating a whole little world from a pile of glorified dirt. I couldn’t help but wonder if creativity is one of the ways we’re made in His image. I got so involved I even smoothed down the ground around my castle so that it made nice rolling hills. Being engaged felt good! Just as I was drawing the lines for my fields my youngest stormed the castle and left nothing but a heap.  Another truth remembered…

 Nothing lasts.

I looked up from my short-lived empire I found myself staring into the faces of my loved ones. As so often it does, awareness rolled through me in one grand melting motion- I have a family. I remember getting married and I remember cleaning up a perpetual stream of spit up, then I think I was pregnant again and suddenly… I have a family! Like one you see in pictures on billboards! The boys are walking, talking, building, ENJOYING THE BEACH! I was just a newlywed! They were just babies! Still, this new stage had become so familiar that it seemed permanent. Just as all those previous stages had.

Change happens so inevitably and so gradually that we scarcely realize it. We’re up to our necks in one season and don’t feel ourselves move into the next and it’s easy to miss the beauty of each. This isn’t just true when we become parents either. Think of how quickly we are forced from our own childhood. We spend ten or twelve meager years as a child and then the next sixty trying to be an adult. I remember that first moment I wanted to play with a doll but knew I was too old. It was the tug to grow up. To leave the simple fun of life for more evolved pleasures. I don’t remember much after that moment but it didn’t take long for me to run full on into adulthood.

Still, God has a way of bringing us full circle. Just when I felt I had conquered the realms of religion, work and marriage He brought me children. My two relentless sons quickly shattered my highly evolved theories on life. They casted a steep shadow on so many of those “evolved pleasures” I had come to know and forced me to redefine happiness and faith all together. They brought me to my knees; on my knees, in the sand and back to the simple pleasures in life. Back to being engaged and getting dirty- back to joy, back to love, back to life.

And now I remember.

Eleven Thoughts on Marriage

Jack Johnson sings “Banana Pancakes” in the background and he fries the eggs and sausage in a pan. At the table, I work the small pieces of a red dress into the puzzle’s framework and the hound wags his tail to be let out. The dog is our only company this morning which is quite the change from the five children who usually lay siege to our fortress. The good aunt whisked them away for the weekend providing opportunity to relish our eleventh year of matrimony. Gratitude and contentment spread across my face and I take note… in fact, to commemorate our journey together I take eleven.

1. A strong marriage takes more than two people. It takes good support and a measure of divine intervention. When times get hard, marriage can get toxic. We all have to wash off the residue from living life together. Usually that means talking with someone and processing through our hurts and fears. When you only do that with your spouse it’s like trying to bathe in your drinking water. Routine prayer and people who will defend you and your marriage are essential to maintaining a healthy union.

2. Don’t define things by their weakness- not yourself, not your spouse, not your marriage. Every thing on this planet is limited and that doesn’t mean it’s broken. Keep inventory of the strengths and build onto those. We’re all in process.

3. Time is of the essence. Problems usually don’t form in a moment and they’re not likely to be resolved in one either. Give it time- much like a river wearing a jagged stone smooth. Continuous, positive effort will eventually trump our sharp edges.

4. Time is of the essence. Don’t let days, weeks, and months go by without reconciliation. Don’t let hurt, bitterness or apathy fester. Take time and take stock. Go to the place of pain before it gets covered up by life and hardens into much deeper hurt.

5. Be nice. Speak gently to each other. Don’t spend all your patience and professionalism on strangers only to turn around and be careless at home. Do little things for one another. Save your best for each other instead of the leftovers. Love is in the small things as much as the big and you can choose to pile up a bunch of little hurts or a bunch of little blessings. After a while either will carry a lot of weight.

6. Men and women are different. Begrudging your spouse’s differences is limiting yourself to your own perspectives and abilities. Differences make us better if we chose to be humble and patient in applying them. Common ground may be the context for building a life together but differences fill it out. Look for the value in what your spouse can bring through contrast instead of emphasizing the difficulty such things present.

7. Don’t make big decisions when you are tired, angry, hungry or isolated. Get a good meal, get some sleep, let it sit and come back to it. Most situations are not as dire as they seem.

8. Don’t expect your spouse to be everything. It is a suffocating expectation. Men need other men. Women need other women. The idea that a spouse is our all robs us of the freedom to each be what we need to be. A wife/husband is an amazing gift but they’re not made to be our everything. There is only One who can fill that order.

9. Keep dreaming. If life has become only about managing the present needs then it’s time to make a change. Marriage is a place for dreaming together, for setting goals and imagining. It is the union of adventure and promise. Let it breath. Let it dream.

10. Marriage takes maintenance. You can’t date once, forgive once, listen once, serve once, stand once. You have to purpose to love each day. Life is hard on commitments. It will run them into a ground, rust them out, tarnish them. If you want your marriage to thrive vigilance and tender care are the only way the get there. Find ways to make maintenance enjoyable (have budget conversations over dinner) and keep the end goal in perspective. It makes it the effort easier.

11. Laugh. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at the dumb things we do and the stories we sometimes tell ourselves. It disarms the disagreement. It makes small the mistake. We take ourselves to seriously and yes, marriage is hard. But it’s also fun. In the grand scheme of things we’re all still children and we’re just not going to get it right most of the time. Laugh and have grace for that. It will clean the soul and relieve the pressure.