Sunday, October 30, 2011

United Pirates

6:45 a.m.
The monitor lights sparkled and I heard a rousing rendition of Veggie Tales' The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything coming through it from the boys' bedroom.  Three boys, united, for a cheery dawn moment in high-pitched melody.
I was drinking coffee with my Bible on my lap, sitting on the living room couch.
I smiled.

This was yesterday.  Ahead of me was much to do.  My husband and 2 year old were sick the day before, and little got done.  There were sheets to wash, floors that desperately needed stickiness mopped off, an ominous pile of laundry already hulking in the corner.  I needed to plan the menu for the week ahead, look over school plans, find a good used wood stove for winter.  I had pain to deal with.  I had tried to pick the iron up on the wrong side the previous evening.  (Reason number 83 that I don't like ironing.)  My four year old had stuck his foot through the glass aquarium tank that was going to be a terrarium.  He was gingerly sporting a "crack" in the side of his foot.  There would be stubbed toes, squabbling to avert, and tattling incidents to control.  There would be noses to wipe and handfuls of clean tissues to stuff back into the emptied tissue box. It would be so easy to feel pulled in a thousand different, needful, directions.

Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in your truth: unite my heart to fear Your name.  Psalm 86:11

Unite my heart.
Let everything else fade into the background that I might simply adore You.  But I am learning, oh so slowly, that doesn't mean I must go find a beautiful mountaintop and sit on a rock in the quiet early dawn light till I am fully in awe of my God.  Where I live at the moment, there are no mountaintops within range of my baby monitors.  A sagging sofa cushion must be my pinnacle.  The dawn noise that day wasn't birds chirping in the trees, it was the carefree chatter of toddlers.  This is where I must learn to abide in the Lord.
I have often prayed that God would give me His heart to minister to others.  I have prayed for His vision in my eyes, to see as He sees.  I want to hear with His ears, to touch with His hands, to walk with His feet.  Sometimes, when there's a mess on the floor, I can see the creativity He has endowed my scissor-happy preschooler with.  Sometimes, when I am cleaning the backside of the toilet - a truly humbling place to visit - I giggle out loud knowing that God Himself is right there with me, delighting to be with me.  That's amazing.  Sometimes, when I walk through the grocery store, I slow down, knowing humbly there are six little feet trying to follow (often literally) in my footsteps.  Sometimes, when I hear singing coming from bunk beds and cribs too early in the morning, I know that their Creator is blessed by their hearty, joyful noise - and I am blessed by it too.

 Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of Your countenance.  Psalm 89:15

My little pirates and all their messes and mayhem could easily distract my heart.  I could endure the noise, or enjoy it.  The multitasking required of my motherhood could divert the purpose of my heart, or fulfill it to the glory of God.  What a joy to have united heart!     


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ten things I said for the first time today

1. Don't feed my watch to the baby.

2. Don't draw on the toilet with that orange crayon.

3. Get the alligator out of my houseplants.

4. Use a tissue not the sofa.  (Ok, I admit, I've said that one before.)

5. Don't drive Lightning McQueen through your muffin.

6. I don't know if Cookie Monster wears underpants with a picture of himself on them.

7. Go with Daddy and chase those deer that just ran by.

8. No, you can't have a machete for Christmas.

9. Get out of the dryer.

10. Shiloh, you wrote your name by yourself for the first time today!

I have said, "Get out of the dishwasher" before.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chicken picking

The other day it rained.  So, I baked a chicken.
Its an easy meal that makes me feel domestic and the house smell homey on dreary stuck-inside kind of days.  Throw in a few root vegetables and you've got the major makings of a good supper.  It is so versatile and wholesome.  The older boys like to study the heart and other organs that come inside. (Love these prepackaged meals!)  The bones will get stuck in the freezer until I have enough to make a big batch of stock (in theory, at least.)  The leftover meat will feed us in at least one more main dish.  

That is, after I pick it clean.  Which I despise.

Now, I don't really have qualms about chicken blood and guts.  The idea of starting from scratch, taking the chicken from the barnyard to the table, doesn't particularly phase me (though I quickly admit I haven't had the opportunity to look a chicken in its beady eye while I hold it over a chopping block... That will be another blog post - someday.)  It's the after part I don't like.
I don't like the smell or feel of cold, slimy, greasy chicken.  I don't like throwing all the solidifying fat into the trash where it will stink by morning.  Mostly, I don't like the tedium of scraping off every last bit of meat.  I love to cook for my family, but by late evening, I don't want to be in the kitchen any more.  I want to be done.  I don't want to spend quality time with the carcass of a very dead bird.

This is where it gets ugly for a minute.  (If it wasn't already.)  During supper, I had been mumbling and grumbling a bit - just a bit - about this unpleasant task.  Someone who loves me very much offered to do it for me.  That isn't the ugly part, of course.  That is selfless love, and its beautiful.  He worked all day, came home and wrestled the little minions and played with the baby, then offered to de-meat the chicken after helping wrangle the kids through bath and bedtime.  Only thing was, after the boys were tucked in, I think he forgot.
I know; isn't that just despicable of him?

Ok, this really isn't about sins of omission.  Its not about him at all.  Its about me.  At least, I thought it was.  I was so mad.  How could he do this to me!   He knew how much I dislike this task.  He'd promised me.  But there he was in the living room, reading, leaving me to face the clean up in the kitchen.  Feminist sirens were blaring in my ears.  Did he think he'd get any of this for lunch tomorrow?  Why did I have to do all the work for everyone around here?  Those fellas want to act like pigs, I'll leave them with a pigsty.

There's a story in Luke 15 about a prodigal son.  He demanded his inheritance, wasted it, and ended up penniless, feeding swine to stay alive.  Verse 17 says he was sitting there in the muck with the animals when finally he came to himself.

Well, that's what I did.  Smacked right into my own rotten self, there at the kitchen counter with the slimy skeleton.  My dear Conscience whispered gently, "Would you pick this chicken for Me?"
I melted.
Of course I would.  I'd pick a hundred chickens for Jesus.

"Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." Matthew 25:40

My husband is my favorite person in the world.  But I wouldn't pick a chicken for him?  I laughed, and sighed, dissolving in repentance.  That chicken meat went in the fridge, his lunch got packed, the bones went in the freezer, and he never knew what a shmuck I had been.  (Till now - I did ask him to proofread this for approval.)
But God knew my nasty little attitude.  He loved me too much to let a bunch of old bones get between us.  I love that He will find me in my messy little kitchen and suddenly bring me to the foot of His throne.  He is so good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Just as I am

Can you imagine getting sick at the age of thirty, and being bedridden for the next fifty years?
Charlotte Elliott was a bright, vivacious young woman who lived in England at the turn of the 19th century.  Just after her 30th birthday, she became ill.  Fatigued and in constant pain, Charlotte was confined to her bed.  She would remain an invalid until her death at age 82. 
One day, as the story goes, several years after the onset of her condition, Charlotte visited with a minister.  She expressed her frustration with her state of helplessness and feelings of wretchedness.  He urged her to commend herself to the Great Physician.  She responded, "I would like to come to Christ, but I do not know how to find Him."  The pastor said simply, "Come just as you are."  She did.
Charlotte still struggled to feel useful within her physical confines. One night she wrote a poem. It was published anonymously several years before she became aware of it. You may have heard it.  The words were later put to music.  
Years later, a young man named Billy Graham heard it and committed his life to Christ.  He also had it played after presenting the gospel at hundreds of meetings himself.    

Just as I am - without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,

-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - though toss'd about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Shiny things

When she found it, she called her friends and neighbors together, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost."
Luke 15:9

Just changed someone's diaper.  Found my earring.  Life can go on now.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The one that got away

Beniah ate my earring last night.
It was a dangly, mother-of-pearly tear drop.  The end looked enticingly like a fishhook.  He fiddled with it in my ear while I undressed him for a bath.  Suddenly he gagged, I flipped him on his back, and whatever was in his throat slid down instead of out.  Daddy noticed a moment later that my ear was empty.  Ben burbled and cooed and waved his naked legs at me.  I hooked a big one.

He slept innocently.  But I wasn't letting him off the hook yet.  First thing this morning, I whisked him off to get an x-ray.  In the first place, I wanted to know if he had indeed ingested my illustrious jewelry.  You can see the proof if you look closely in his rib cage.  In the second place, I wanted to know if it was planning to rip any holes in him along its journey.  But earrings don't tell you their plans.

Now there is nothing left to do but wait.  And feel a bit like a terrible mother.  Why couldn't he just eat pocket change like other kids?  Or get peas stuck in his nose?  And how often does the fish actually swallow the hook anyway?  (I am not the authority on fishing, so that may be a stupid question.  I've really never thought about it until today.)

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fuzzy Pickles

Woke up late.  
Four-year-old was yodeling from the bedroom, "Momm-mee, Henry's sii-ick."  Upon quick inspection, discovered Henry simply coughing - rather cheerfully from all the ensuing attention - and ordered all three to go back to sleep.  It was time for them to be up, but I wasn't ready to hurtle head long into the day just yet.  They didn't "sleep" much longer, but I got the coffee started and scanned a quick chapter from the Bible.  Read something about aspiring to "lead a quiet life, mind your own business, and work with your own hands..."  Then I started hurtling.  
Baby was snotty and cranky.  It could be just a cold - or could be a warning sign of shunt or kidney infection.  I don't know.  He wiped his nose on my black shirt. 
Wanted to make bread today.  Dumped flour into the Kitchenaid; realized I didn't have quite enough sourdough starter.  While adding to starter, two-year-old "helped" by jabbing the flour from the mixing bowl into any possible crevice in the mixer that might lead to electrical or motorized parts.  Cleaned up Henry, counter, and floor.  Bread might get made tomorrow.  
Called doctor to schedule baby's next check up.  They can only see him during his nap times and not for over a month.  Should have set this up a long time ago.  
Fumbled through homeschool lessons since I fell asleep last night before prepping for the day.  (Did wake up quite refreshed, though.  That was nice.)  Five-year-old does not like handwriting.  Four-year-old colored entire work page black.  Ambitious.  Two-year-old played outside in the dirt.  Wondered what all the other local homeschoolers were learning today.  Probably a lot.  
Lunch came out of a can. (No bread.  Remember?)  Fed baby leftover chicken and frozen blueberries.  Baby was still blue around edges an hour later.  Yelled when I should have disciplined.  Disciplined when I should have gotten the facts first.  Let the boys watch a movie so I could attend to the morning carnage.  Reheated leftover lasagna.  Ate it cold an hour later.  
Blessed naptime.  
Four-year-old decided not to partake.    
Five-year-old not interested in starting a book about dresses.  I didn't fight.  We started Winnie the Pooh instead.  Considered attacking laundry pile hulking in the corner.  Added load from dryer and ignored it instead. Practiced number flash cards with four-year-old.  When he got them wrong, Shiloh mumbled in disgust, "Fuzzy pickles."  Must be a terrible occurrence, in his mind.  
He ended up playing mail man with the cards.  
Made supper while kids played outside and baby fussed.  Cleaned two-year-old when he came in smelling suspicious.  We don't have pets that would leave anything around.  Ugh.  Five-year-old cleaned all the little crab apples off the young tree in the back yard.  He proudly brought them in and asked to make jelly with them.  I said no.  Called kids in for supper and cleaned hands thoroughly while baby fussed. 
Made kids eat vegetables.  I think my two-year-old has forgotten how to swallow.  I bet food tastes good still warm.  I don't remember.  
Shuttled four boys through bath.  Need new drain plug.  Baby probably gets a new cast on his foot tomorrow, so that means no baths while it's on.  Hope I remember not to feed him blueberries during this period.  (The cast simply stretches the ankle/foot muscles that he can't stretch on his own.  He doesn't notice it except when he drags it up to his mouth to chew on.)          
Nursed baby while reading The Little Engine That Could for the bazillionth time.  Boys fought over who gets to be which train.  They have to fight over something.  
Prayed in their dark room.  Henry added, "Thank You for trains.  Thank You for Daddy's house.  Thank You for Mommy.  And thank You for trains."   Awh.  I love my boys.  
Cleaned dinner off the table.  Did dishes.  House smelled like fish and diapers.  Got trash out for garbage day tomorrow.  Vacuumed.  Looked at laundry pile.  Decided to do paperwork and then blog instead.  Looking forward to sleeping.

That's a day in my life.  Left out some trivial things so it wouldn't seem too busy.  I am so blessed and I wouldn't trade.  Really.   
Well, maybe the laundry.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


I love New England this time of year.
The hills are breathtaking in riotous color, clear air and dazzling blue sky reflecting in picturesque little lakes.  Puffy clouds dapple the landscape with movement.  Postcard perfect, but so vibrant, so alive.
Soon it will be winter.  Icy lakes will reflect the gray sky.  The hills will be covered with stark trees, monotone and still.  Lifeless.

Beauty before death.  At the risk of giving trees too much personality, I was awed by the thought.  In preparing for the inevitable end to their lively summer season, every tree proudly displays its most beautiful stance.  Each leaf, at its end, is unique and vibrant.  They have lived for the summer, they have done their job for the tree, soaking in sunlight so the whole plant can grow bigger and stronger.  Their final days are inevitable.  Instead of shriveling and dropping into oblivion, they first blaze in bold, joyful color.  They praise their Maker.  They display a hint of His beauty.  They have fulfilled their purpose, and glory in it.

I won't draw the comparison further.  But I saw more than a postcard today.  When I fulfill my purpose, I hope my end will reflect the beauty of my Creator to those around me.  I hope to boldly reflect His glory when I have completed my usefulness.  Winter inevitably comes.
But then, after that, so does Spring.        

Monday, October 3, 2011

Would you accept his proposal?

Written in 1810 to a prospective father-in-law.

I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure for a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of  India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death.  Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of the perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God?  Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness, brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from the heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?  

Sent by Adoniram Judson to the John Hasseltine, father of 21 year old Ann Hasseltine, one month after meeting her.  Adoniram went on to Burma as a missionary, wrote the first translation of the Bible for the people there, endured extreme harsh persecution, and waited seven years for his first convert. His wife Ann was with him.

-from My Heart In His Hands, Ann Judson of Burma written by Sharon James.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Purpose - or, Here's mud in your eye.

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 
And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him."

It was one year ago that we found out the twenty week old baby growing in my womb was a boy.  We also found out that he had Spina Bifida.  We could see a bubble on his lower back.  His spine hadn't formed completely on the end, and the spinal cord was growing into that bubble.  One foot was twisted almost backwards.  He had too much fluid (or too little brain) in his head.  It was a shock.  The prognosis was uncertain.  He could be born and live almost completely "normal." Or, he could have massive problems and maybe not even be able to see or breathe or eat after birth.  
We searched for answers.  Had I done something during pregnancy to cause this?  Was there anything I could do now to fix it?  And why?  Why?

Honestly, I don't know why.  Not exactly.  

I recently read John chapter 9.  The entire chapter is devoted to Jesus' miraculous healing of a blind man.  This man gets a lot of "air time" in a Book where quotes are at a premium.  Why?  He isn't the first blind man Jesus ever healed.  In fact, its a fairly "routine" miracle (as much as that is possible - which is part of the point).  It is actually kind of a yucky miracle (as much as THAT is possible) - spit, mud, finger pointing, libel, and ostracism.  Jesus walked by a blind beggar, spit on the ground and made mud, rubbed it on the man's eyes, told him to go wash it off, and left.
I am amazed by his willingness to obey the Stranger who basically just spit in his face.  Jesus didn't tell him when he washed his eyes he would be able to see.  Yet he willingly found his way to the pool of Siloam and rinsed off the mud (certainly breaking several Sabbath rules in the process).  Suddenly, for the first time in his life, he could see.

Now, I'm not expecting someone to come up to little Beniah, rub mud on his back and head and erase all his physical difficulties.  And if you read this and feel so led, be forewarned I will probably, at the very least, spit on you.  Sure, it would be swell if my baby would be able to play soccer and drive a car and have his own children (well, not yet, but eventually).  Maybe in 20 or 30 years, God will heal him.  Maybe He won't.
In the meantime, I am encouraged by this man.  He had the wisdom to somehow know that this Man with the mud, whom he couldn't even see, should be obeyed.  He wasn't distracted by the politics and drama surrounding his healing; in fact, Jesus apparently gave him very good vision.  He seemed to see things clearly in black and white.

"One thing I know; that though I was blind, now I see...
"Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him...
"If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing."

I love this man's boldness!  Perhaps it is easier to stare your enemies in the face when you've never seen a single face before in your life.  He had doubtless prayed every day of his life that God would take away any sin that had caused this handicap.  Finally, finally, God answered by sending the only sinless Man on earth to touch this man's eyes.
The very men who should have been rejoicing that God was there among them didn't even want to believe the man had been healed.  They questioned his very blindness.  They questioned his willingness to be healed by a man who would break the rules of the sabbath to do it.  Ultimately, they ostracized him from their whole culture for simply believing his healing came from God.  The man defended the mud-Maker against the mud-slingers.  It cost him.  But he got to know Jesus face to face.  

Beniah is 8 months old.  Many of the nerves below his belly button don't work.  He had back surgery the day after he was born.  He had brain surgery two weeks later to put in a shunt (which diverts excess fluid from putting too much pressure on his brain.)  He is followed by a bevy of specialists.  He can't wiggle his toes.
I love him and find him adorable.  I don't like that he has so much suffering and difficulty in his life.  I don't understand it.  Maybe this is how he will know Jesus Himself.  Maybe this is how God will use him to teach others about Himself.  Maybe my job is to raise him to fulfill whatever purpose God clearly has in store.  One day, I hope, we will see it as clearly as that man with the mud on his eyes.  Even if it seems like God is just spitting on us, it could be a miracle in the making...