Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Rejoicing

This was mostly written the day before Thanksgiving, but someone threw up before I could finish.  I haven't had a long minute in front of the computer since.  I'm going to post it anyway.

This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

It was Wednesday.  I was making stuffing for our Thanksgiving feast.  It was snowing.  My two year old was rearranging our velcro calendar so the fourth Thursday of the month would never come this year.  He stuck a velcro sunshine on the current day, and a rain cloud where the date should be.   He had buttery fingers from his bagel.  Now all of November was buttery too.

I am thankful for butter and two year olds.  How can I not be?  On the first Thanksgiving, they probably didn't have butter, and half of the 101 who arrived the previous year on the Mayflower had died over the first harsh winter.  So they wouldn't have had many two year olds either.  Maybe none.  Cold, hunger, sickness, lack of basic necessities had wracked the small community.  Still they had a feast of thankfulness.  In one book I read, I think they called it a Rejoicing.

Over ninety Wampanoag locals came, their chief Massasoit leading them.  They came to the Pilgrim's settlement where their relatives once had a village of their own.  Plague had wiped out so many of them, they had vacated the area before the Europeans arrived.  Still they came to feast with the newcomers.  Harvest time feasts had been celebrated for hundreds of years in their culture.  They thanked their Creator for their provisions - long before they even knew His name.

I couldn't find my counters underneath the food preparations being prepared for Nana's house the next day.  One of the four children whined that he didn't like what we were having for lunch.  Another spat and threw his off the highchair.  I squashed a piece of pear under my foot and sighed.  Nap time couldn't come soon enough; I had so much to do and it was difficult with so many little hands to help.  My little blessings.  Baby's nose was gooey.  He smushed a pear slice in his hair and whimpered to be held.  Little sticky hands reached for me.  I don't care about your apple pie, Mommy.  I just want you.

Did you know the first book printed in America was a Bible?  It was also the first book in the Wampanoag language.  John Eliot translated it thirty years after the Pilgrims came to new Plymouth.
Within a generation, there were so many European transplants that the local way of life was no longer sustainable.  The native Americans were at war with the new Americans.  A decisive victory led to another thanksgiving feast in Plymouth when the new leader, Massasoit's son, was killed and his followers subdued.  Momentous events that defined their future.  My history.

The two older boys were playing roll the hubbard squash across the floor.  A friend called.  Her little son needs surgery on Monday because his bladder doesn't work.  He's already had heart surgery as an infant and lives with Down Syndrome.  She called to encourage me about the surgeon her son and mine share.  We didn't talk about the pain we have to watch them go through, or how our momma hearts hurt for them.  We say, "I'm so glad they're finding answers.  So good to know he can eat pie with you tomorrow.  Thank you for catching up with me."  And mean it.  It is good.  I watched boys' clothes shed sprinkles from the cookies we had just frosted in the kitchen.  I needed to vacuum.  We hang up.  Our lives are not how we planned them.  This is not how they could be.  But God is in control.   I will rejoice with you.

For a while, I left my kitchen to stew in its own mess.  It was bedtime.  They boys splashed happily in the bathtub which desperately needed a scrubbing.  I vacuumed their room while they were indisposed.  The carpet looked blue-er after several passes. Ben kept rolling across their floor, getting stuck in the corner and needing to be rescued.  Everyone wore fuzzy pajamas that night, the snow made us feel cozy inside.  We read books while I nursed Ben on the couch.  The boys snuggled extra close because the couch is broken and sagging in the middle.  They got to bed and fell asleep immediately.  So sweet.  I kept ignoring the kitchen and went out to shovel a path to our doorway before my cousin dropped by en route to her relatives.  It was so nice to see her, if only for a few minutes.  Don't look at my kitchen, I tell her.  "We can't buy that new place." She sighed sadly.  "We can't move yet."  She gave me a hug was was gone.

I don't know what the future holds.  I know there will be pain and hardship, loss and tears.  But I had a buttery calendar because of my two year old.  Worth it.  I had sprinkles in my hair and a dented squash because of my four year old and five year old.  Worth it.  I had snot all over my shirt from my baby son.  Worth it.  My kitchen was a mess because I hung out on the phone.  Worth it.  My arms were tired because I shoveled so my cousin could come inside for a moment.  Worth it.  I have a homeland, long forgotten relatives, memorable traditions, and Bibles printed in my own country through the great sacrifices of those before me.  Worth it?  May I never take it lightly.  Rejoice with me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You know you have a two year old when...

1.  The underside of the table is as sticky as the top.

2.  You find tissues in the dvd player.

3.  He asks for a spoon and your first thought is to protect the houseplants.

4.  You're not surprised to find plastic insects on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator.

5.  You own plastic insects.

6.  You never go to the bathroom alone.

7.  You give treats and praise when he goes to the bathroom - alone or otherwise.

8.  The most logical places to look for something missing are (a) the trash (b) the toilet and (c) his mouth.

9.  An empty juice box goes whizzing by your head as you drive the minivan, and you can tell by the high pitched evil laugh behind you whose car seat it came from.

10. The two best times of the day are (a) nap time and (b) when the happy, rested little person that looks suspiciously like you reaches up to be picked out of the crib and cuddled.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Knights verses doctors

There is a strong sense of justice within my foam-sword toting preschoolers.  They are boys; perhaps its in their very male blood.  I certainly didn't teach them how to have a shootout with sticks.  A stick to me is firewood, at best.  To them, a good one could be a valuable rifle or revolver.  Shiloh got upset when I enforced the no-sticks-in-the-house rule last week.  He said it wasn't a stick, it was a machete.  Fine, no machetes in the house, either.  They are bad news for little brothers and furniture.
The boys wake up and put on armor before they even get dressed.  After a quick swig from their morning cup of milk, they hurry into the living room to discuss strategy over the impending battle with the bad guys.  They seem to be good at strategy.  The bad guys never win.

I'm glad they want to stand for justice.  There is right and wrong.  There are rules.  There are consequences.  Coupled with that, we strive to be fair and equal.  I try to pour the same amount of milk in each cup.  Everyone gets the basic idea of taking turns.  We don't leave anyone out during colds or flu.  That's fairness.  Of course, they take it further.  If your brother hits you, you hit him back - to be just and fair.  They really grasp the concept of "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth."

My five year old shed some light on the subject recently, after matter-of-factly smacking his four year old antagonist with righteous indignation.  When it was made clear that this was not acceptable to his mommy, the five year old pled the "Do to others" mantra - with great emphasis on the first part.  They know the golden rule, sort of - I've even heard Henry preach to his siblings, "Do to odders what you want!"  Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.  Matthew 7:12  

And it dawned on me how they were interchanging the two verses to make them both fall under the law.  "An eye for an eye - do also to them."  Hmm.  We've been spending a great deal of time and my energy disciplining recently, enforcing rules.  The two year old is acting his age, learning his limits by testing them.  The older two are hearing about judgement at the end of the world in Sunday school, and at home we've been reading through the time of the judges in Israel's early history.  My little soldiers in plastic helmets have gotten the message that there are rules that must be obeyed.
Gavin wants to be a fighter jet pilot when he grows up.
Henry wants to be a policeman.
I think Shiloh just wants to be a hockey player and hit things really hard with sticks.

Its time to learn mercy.

What does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?  Micah 6:8

For I desire mercy...  Hosea 6:6 

The Lord laid out the law before He could offer mercy from it.  But then He did extend mercy, again and again, countless times.  Often, as I find myself stuck in these foundational stages of development with toddlers, my focus is establishing the rules.  Constantly.  It must be so, initially.  Everyone must learn parameters, and toddlers learn by bumping into them.  Four year olds delight in seeing them justly enforced (on someone else.)  But for my five year old - at least - it is time to build on the foundation of justice with an other-worldly concept.  Mercy.  I am allowed to not always serve justice when it is deserved.  Why?  I've experienced mercy.  I've broken rules when I knew better.  I'm supposed to be a grown up, (ha!) but I still break rules sometimes.  I've surpassed the speed limit and not gotten a ticket.  I've eaten chocolate when I should have eaten vegetables.  I've even lied and said I didn't know where the book was that they wanted to read for the bazillionth time.  I am despicable.  But I do like not getting what I deserve.

Now, here's the secret.  Shiloh, yesterday, was playing with some matchbox cars.  A younger brother came up behind him, stole a truck, and ran away.  Normally, a screech, a chase and a beating ensue until big brother gets his stolen property back.  This time, Shiloh said, "Hey!" But instead of chasing, he went over to the car box and simply got another toy.  Little brother, halfway to the kitchen already, was confused by not being chased.  He even came back in and held the pilfered loot tantalizingly near his brother.  Nothing.  He can easily take out brother.  I was amazed.  I almost wanted to say, "Shiloh, you can chase him if you want."  But I didn't.  I just smiled and thanked my four year old teacher for being an example.  To me.  Rather than exacerbating the condition, he halted the pilfering disease in its tracks.  It was beautiful and humbling.
I want to be like him when I grow up.
Especially if I can learn some of his sword fighting skills by then.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Land of the Living

The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD's; but the earth He has given to the children of men.  The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence.  But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 115:16-18

This was my Friday.

I planned to make french toast this morning, homeschool, be domestic in the kitchen and clean stuff.  So, by 9 a.m, we were eating Cheerios and toast.  Shiloh tried to suck up the milk in his cereal bowl with a straw.  Henry copied him.  He's an expert in blowing milk bubbles.  Ben seemed hot and bothered by something, and took it out on the contents of his high chair tray.  I made mental note to add sweeping and checking baby skin folds for crumbs to my to do list.
The boys, being boys, asked to go outside.  After wrestling over the idea of wearing socks and coats, and physically wrestling such clothing onto their reluctant appendages, they bolted for the door.  I savored the moment of silence.  There was a heavy footstep outside.  I heard Henry's welcome, "Hi Wail-man!"  The postman knew better than to hand a two year old the handful of bills, but returned his greeting with a tolerant "Hello" as he reached over his head to the mailbox.  "This is the Henry." Said the Henry, wanting to redeem his importance.
He trundled over to the other boys who were apparently building a rocket out of sticks.  Didn't know you could do that.  They have hundreds of toys.  Their matchbox car collection alone numbers well over one hundred.  But their favorite playthings are sticks, rocks, and a good pile of dirt.
God made the earth for the children of men, He said.  They embrace that wholeheartedly.

I do wish for a clean house, a neat little life, a bit of organization.  I am not organized.  That's probably why God has already given me four little boys in less than five years.  They are certainly impetus to get my priorities straight, daily.  My life is not silent or clean.  But it is full of life - noise, emotion, learning, craziness, goodness, and dirt.

I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.  Psalm 116:9

I looked over their math lesson, thoughts on the grocery list I needed to write.  All I had nearby were crayons.  Added bagels to the mental post it note that I piled onto the previous notes.  That's not a good system; by the end of the day, I can't remember what was on the bottom mental note.  
Grandma pulled up in front of their rocket ship outside.  It was time to wake the baby from his nap and head off to his appointment.  The boys piled back inside with their older victim in tow.  "Shoes off; close the door!" I commanded, automatically.  They tumbled into the kitchen, hungry, as always, while I bumbled around changing the baby and dumping his extra clothes into a bag to take along.  I always stuff too much in diaper bags.  
I heard a clink and saw Gavin and Henry by the counter.  "Wash your hands before you stick them in that sugar bowl." I hollered.  It took me a second.  "No - wait!" I rushed in, mopped up the sticky counter, and stuck granola bars in their hands.  The sink still had the breakfast dishes in it.  Maybe Grandma would have mercy on me while Ben and I were out and they would magically be clean when we returned.             
"I'm taking the boys to the library." She announced.  No dishes.  At least the house wouldn't get dirtier if they weren't in it.  Could be worse.  

I returned an hour later.  She was already being called into work.  Henry dumped the canned soup from his bowl onto his lap while she was on the phone.  I fed the baby, changed diapers, reheated some leftover lentils for my lunch.  Went though the motions of nap time for each child, then added the lunch dishes to the breakfast ones in the sink.  Decided it would be a good afternoon to introduce the older boys to Winnie the Pooh since we'd read the book.  We pulled out the computer and I tracked down the old version over the internet.    The lentils were cold, but I ate some before tackling the colder noodle soup still spread all over the floor under Henry's lunch chair.  Maybe I should mop this afternoon.

We survived the afternoon and suppertime.  Daddy was working late.  Good thing, really; the house was such a mess it wouldn't be pleasant to come home just yet.  I'd get to it - after bath and bed time for the young generation.  My house looks pretty good by 10 p.m.  That's life.  

My days are dirty, messy, disorganized, but so full of life.  The dead do not praise the Lord, their bodies are silent.  Guess we're not dead.

I will bless the Lord from this time forth.  Today.  Well, at 10 p.m. anyway.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Church in thy house.

Learning to pray.

This is taken directly from Morning and Evening Daily Readings by C.H. Spurgeon.  I meant to pass it along in part, but I think you are getting the whole.  It challenged me.

Philemon 2.
'The Church in thy house.'

Is there a Church in this house?  Are parents, children, friends, servants, all members of it?  Or are some still unconverted?  Let us pause here and let the question go round - Am I a member of the Church in this house?  How would a father's heart leap for joy, and a mother's eyes fill up with holy tears if from the eldest to the youngest all were saved!  Let us pray for this great mercy until the Lord shall grant it to us.  Probably it has been the dearest object of Philemon's desires to have all his household saved; but it was not at first granted to him in its fulness.  He had a wicked servant, Onesimus, who, having wronged him, ran away from his service.  His master's prayers followed him, and at last, as God would have it, Onesimus was led to hear Paul preach; his heart was touched, and he returned to Philemon, not only to be a faithful servant, but a brother beloved, adding another member to the Church in Philemon's house. Is thre an unconverted servant or child absent this morning?  Make special supplication that such may, on their return to their home, gladden all hearts with good news of what grace has done!  Is there one present?  Let him partake in the same earnest entreaty.

If there be such a Church in our house, let us order it well, and let all act as in the sight of God.  Let us move in the common affairs of life with studied holiness, diligence, kindness, and integrity.  More is expected of a Church than of an ordinary household; family worship must, in such a case, be more devout and hearty; internal love must be more warm and unbroken, and external conduct must be more sanctified and Christlike.  We need not fear that the smallness of our number will put us out of the list of Churches, for the Holy Spirit has here enrolled a family-church in the inspired book of remembrance.

As a Church let us now draw nigh to the great head of the one Church universal, and let us beseech Him to give us grace to shine before men to the glory of His name.