Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Merry Christmas from us!

And to the One who created life, who Is life, and who makes new life - Thank You.

(P. S. - Did you happen to count the socks? :)

Thursday, December 20, 2012


(Any similarities between this and an older Christmas poem are purely intentional.)

'Twas the week before Christmas; chaos reigned in the house,
Every creature was whining and mom was a grouch.

The stockings were flung 'cross the floor without care
In hopes that the laundry would just disappear.

The children were nestled in a heap of legos
And I winced when a piece crunched under my toes.

And I in my yoga pants and he in his socks
Had briefly sat down on the sofa to talk.

Then away to the kitchen I flew like a flash
When I heard the crying right after the crash.

The child, on the breast of the overturned chair,
Had reached for the cookies and had crumbs in his hair.

When what to my reproving eyes should appear
But the whole plate of cookies destroyed, as I feared.

And my little old temper so lively and quick
Revealed in a moment at my wrath button's click.

More rapid than than anger, nothing courses the same,
I erupted, and shouted, and called him by name:

"Henry!" My tone made his little eyes glisten
For punishment that he knew he'd been fixin'.

"To the top of the stairs!  To the top of the hall!
Now get your self up there, Mister; I mean haul!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with their mother's wrath, wish they could hide,

So up to the bedroom he trudged, loathe to go,
With a heart full of dread, and mad mommy in tow.

And then in a tinkling, I heard behind me
Glass lights shattering under the tree.

I whipped round my head and went running back down
To capture another small crook with a bound.

He was covered in pine sprills, from head to his feet,
And little glass splinters surrounded his seat.

A fistful of decor he'd grabbed off the tree;
Small bells and and plastic snowmen were a treat.

His eyes, how they twinkled! His giggles, how merry!
He reached up in a branch for a plastic toy fairy.

His droll little mouth was stuffed full with a bow
And the drool on his chin was as wet as the snow.

The stump of the light he held tight in one fist
And the string of them wound his arm up in a twist.

He had a sticky face and a little round tummy
And as I shook the glass off, he thought it was funny.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly young elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.

As I shook off his pants and swept up the mess
I soon had the feeling I was passing a test.

I spoke not a word, but continued the work
Knowing that this week I'd been acting a jerk.

I laid down the broom and took up my young sons
Remorseful to miss the sweet moments and fun.

I fell to my knees, to my boys gave a tickle,
And away my prayer flew that He'd make me less fickle,

Then I hugged them amidst broken cookies and lights,
Christmas is next week; I'll prepare for it right.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nursery for heaven

I hugged my squirming babies and breathed in the scent of innocence and dirt.  I sniffled over the chopped carrots and garlic.  Onion was nowhere to be seen.  I hollered at a child to clean up his mess for the 7th time and sighed with pleasure at the simple fact that he was there to holler at.  My heart ached to think of the mommies and daddies who were in the midst of planning Christmas presents and activities over the weekend for their little six year olds.  Activities they'll never do.  Presents they'll never open.
"Why, God, why?!?"
The world seems dark and hopeless.  The value of life decreases daily with the legal murder of babies in the womb.  They have little hearts pulsing real blood by six weeks old.  Life blood.
Children wither away from neglect or abandonment in some countries.  For some there isn't enough food to sustain their growing bodies.  For some, terrible war signifies the cold end.
And dark red stains cold linoleum in the quiet halls of a school in Connecticut this morning.  Life blood.  Irremediably spilled.  Life done.

I have such plans for my children.  I hope that they will grow taller than me (not tomorrow, but soon.)  I want them to master riding a bike without training wheels.  Camping under the stars with Daddy.  Knowing their multiplication tables.  Reading chapter books for fun.  Staying up too late with their friends.  Driving a car - well.  Learning tact.  Cutting a straight line.  Cooking.  Doing their own laundry.  Treating girls like princesses.  Holding their first paycheck.  Graduating.  Bringing home the woman of their dreams to meet the parents.  Giving me my first grandchild.

But perhaps they won't.  Perhaps these are just my plans for my sons.  Perhaps God's plans for them will be complete sooner than I expect.  Jesus welcomes little children into His arms everyday, saying, "Welcome.  I'm expecting you."  Even then He holds the pieces of the mother's broken heart tenderly in His hands and abhors along with her the evil that caused the end.
To Him, it isn't a life cut short.  It is simply the end.  Complete.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  
Jeremiah 29:11

Rather than "hope," some versions render it "an expected end."

We cannot surprise God.  We cannot get away from His ultimate plans.  I think I can sometimes.  Jonah tried.  Even in the bottom of the ocean, surrounded in the darkness by gastric juices and partially digested fish, God was there.  David wrote about it.

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.  And in Your book they were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.
Psalm 139:16

God has planned out every second of our lives.  It is written and set in stone.  Six day's worth for some.  Six years for others.  Sixty for others.  Each life, prepared in advance.   Each life, purposeful.  Each life, precious.

There's an old Puritan prayer the Pilgrims likely knew at the inception of our nation.  It was the cry of my own heart early this morning.  But they said it better.

O God, I cannot endure to see the destruction of my kindred.
Let those that are united to me in tender ties be precious in thy sight and devoted to thy glory.
Sanctify and prosper my domestic devotion, instruction, discipline, example,
that my house may be a nursery for heaven.

(From page 209 of The Valley of Vision, A collection of Puritan prayers and devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett.)

O that I would treat every day of my and my children's life with the same purpose and preciousness that You intend, Lord!

Thursday, December 6, 2012


First smile.
First word.
First tooth.
First wheelchair.

Never thought that would be in the baby book.

Last night, I watched my five year old at his first basketball practice ever.  I don't think we own a basketball.  Yet.  He stood, alone in the midst of the general mayhem of kindergarteners on the court, trying to dribble a ball.  Bounce. Smack. Bounce. Repeat.  If sheer will could have forced the ball to submit to his untrained fingers, it would have been easy.  But will isn't enough, no matter what the movies say.
It's not glorious.  In the sport, dribbling is merely the littlest accomplishment.  It doesn't earn you any game points.  But you must start there.
Baby steps.

Tonight, my almost two year old concentrated as he took his halting first turns of little tires.  Older brothers squabbled for a turn to push him, but we had to hold them back.  Let him do it.  Let him feel movement of his own labor.  Alone in the midst of adoring older ladies at a store, he glowed with the accomplishment of moving forward.  A whole tire rotation.  Baby steps.  Baby wheels.

At home, he crashed delightedly into the refrigerator.  What a lovely feeling of power.
It feels like there is a little toddler in my house, for the fourth time.
He will get himself stuck like every toddler (only this time, mostly in the laundry room, because the house slopes that way.)
He'll realize he's tall enough to knock things off shelves, crack his head against the dining room table, empty the contents of mysterious drawers that had always before been just over his head.
He'll get fast enough to steal toys from his brothers and take off.  He'll get stuck on the thresholds, but the brief chase will be glorious.

So today, my baby's learning to wheel.
I am so proud.
Time to toddler proof after all.  And, as a friend said, invest in steel toed boots for the whole family.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Eggnog, evergreens, and Psalm 98

What do all these things have in common - mulled cider, pine trees, an overstocked Wal Mart, the smell of cinnamon, stockings, spoiled children, reindeer, and a song written three hundred years ago on Psalm 98?  None of these things were originally intended for Christmas.  Yet, oddly, they all epitomize the modern holiday.

To our almighty Maker God,
New honours be addressed;
His great salvation shines abroad,
And makes the nations blessed.

Recognize that?  It's the first verse of that classic Christmas carol, Joy to the World.  As it was originally written, anyway.

He spake the word to Abraham first;
His truth fulfills his grace,
The Gentiles make his name their trust,
And learn his righteousness.

The song mirrors Psalm 98 closely, though it's not direct quoting.  Isaac Watts, the writer, was considered scandalous in his day (it was published first in 1719) for daring to interpret Scripture through music.  Even the dissenters, who were already considered rebellious for splitting from the Church of England, only sang word for word Psalms in their services.  This song must have made more than a few of them shift in their pews.

Let the whole earth his love proclaim,
With all her different tongues;
And spread the honours of his name,
In melody and songs.

Watts viewed this Psalm in light of Jesus' eventual return to earth to reign as King, not only as proclamation of His first coming (to Bethlehem, away in a manger, no crib for a bed...)  Funny how a song so liberal and at the cutting edge of theology in its day turned into a fundamental classic of Christmas. (Of course, now it's practically archaic and too boring for Pandora to play much on seasonal radio.)

Joy to the world - the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King:
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.

It's freeing, really.  Here's a classic Christmas carol we have every right to sing the rest of the year.  I can't say that about all the traditions.  After all, friends would look at you funny if you stuck a pine tree with lights in the middle of your living room in July.  There's hardly any point to doing it in December in the first place, other than that it's tradition, and everyone else is doing it, and its ambiance makes sitting near it with a mug of spiced cider while you shop online rather jolly...

Joy to the earth - the Saviour reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow,
Far as the curse is found.

Seems like it would be just as appropriate to sing while gardening, or during a thunderstorm, or when out for a walk in the Spring.

He rules the world with truth and grace;
And makes the nations prove,
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love.

He was God in the year 1 (or whenever that first Christmas exactly was).  He was God in the year 1719.  In 2012 - He is God still.  And all next year He will be too.  Maybe some rainy afternoon in July I'll whip up a batch of eggnog, dig an ugly Christmas sweater out of storage, and sing Joy to the world at the top of my lungs (the kids are learning to ignore me.)
Why?  Because the Lord IS come.
And that is worth singing about.  With or without twinkly lights.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tank full

I do not believe we are evolved creatures.  I can't.  I've spent three separate years with three separate 2 year olds so far.  And an assortment of 3 through 6 year olds.  They are proof of entropy - lacking order, descending into randomness, ending in utter chaos and destruction if left to their own devices.  They are born sinners.  Big eyed cuteness masks the sugar-driven evil within.

But they have their moments.  Not usually at bedtime, or when they have lots of math problems to do, or when I ask for help with laundry, but occasionally some smidge of a lesson on the golden rule will tickle the right part of their brain at the moment it is needed.  Yesterday, I was the one that needed that moment.

I ran upstairs to take the shower I should have managed before they all awoke and descended on the morning.  They'd had breakfast.  They were dressed.  Two were outside in the chilly November pre-winter dirt.  An assortment of plastic dinosaurs were apparently to be excavated that morning.  The snotty nosed archaeologists were already hard at work.  My oldest was in the living room.  He was puppeteering a quiet conversation between two transformer toys, completely engrossed in their riveting discourse.  Ben was doing loops through the house.  He scooched from the kitchen to the dining room to the living room and repeated, stopping every few feet to pull something off a shelf before continuing.
His ensuing clutter would take an hour to clean, not counting the mud the kid scientists would trek in later, or their pajamas still in a pile on the living room floor.  Ben had already grabbed his brother's long underwear and was trailing it solemnly behind him on his journey.  Everybody appeared both busy and not in immediate danger for their lives.
It was a perfect time for mom to shower.

I hurried through my daily ablutions - they're a lot more simple than they used to be before children were my life - and was just opening the steamy bathroom when I heard the front door open.  I peered down the stairs.  No, it wasn't one of the archaeologists.  Gavin stood in the doorway with his 22 month old brother clasped in a bear hug.  Both were dressed warmly with hats coats and mittens.  Ben even had on a puffy vest.  The six year old looked up at me.
"I'm taking Ben out to play, Mom.  He wants to and it's good for him to get outside you know."
"Uh... Yeah... You're right, Son... Did you get all those winter clothes on him?"  I asked the stupid question.  Obviously the toddler hadn't zipped himself into a coat.  I was pretty sure I hadn't been involved either.
"Yup.  We'll be out front."  He backed out the door with his 20-odd pound load dangling at his knees.
I stood there dripping for a moment.
Then I hurriedly threw on some clothes and ran to the front door to check the scene.
The archaeologists were still busy with bulldozers in the driveway.
And the six year old was crouching by the almost 2 year old in front of the porch.  Ben was happily ramming a toy tow truck over the crunchy old leaves on the walkway as Gavin piled more of them within his reach.  I smiled and shook my head in wonder.
I know the boys generally like having each other for playmates.  It is handy to have a younger brother  when you need someone to be a bad guy, or hold the toy nail that you want to hammer, or have an accomplice that you can point to when Mom frowns at you.  But brothers are also in the genre that you can ignore if they serve no purpose in your immediate game plan.  I found it odd.  My naturally egotistical six year old was going so out of his way to make a special play date with this little fellow human.

They played for nearly an hour.  They visited at the excavation site at the end of the driveway.  When I next peeked out, Ben was throwing the soccer ball and Gavin was dutifully chasing and returning it.  Ben chortled delightedly.

I forget often that Ben has Spina Bifida.  He has limitations, but so do all my children based on their age and natural proclivities.  Still, when I do consider his differences, it is often with a sigh.  I do wish he could toddle with the other toddlers.  I wish he could feel his feet.  I ache to think of the future when he will realize he is different, when kids will tease him, when potty training is uncertain, when he isn't chosen to play tag and his peers run off and leave him behind.  Certainly, God has made him this way for a reason, and it is good.  I know that.  But I don't see the future, and I don't know why He did it.  So, in my limited view of the big picture, his handicaps make my mommy heart hurt.

But was it the fact that his little brother was handicapped that made the six year old's heart soft?  I saw them giggling together through the window.  Through tears.  And my mommy heart broke again.  In thankfulness.  The helplessness of the little one encouraged a strength in the bigger one.  And I hadn't had to force it out of him.
I didn't plan to be thankful for the handicaps of my baby today.
But for the love it brought out of my older son, I was suddenly overwhelmed with appreciation.

They came in, cheeks flushed rosy.  Eyes bright.  I picked a crackly leaf off Gavin's hat.  And hugged him.
"Thank you."  I said, sincerely.
"He likes it." He answered nonchalantly, shrugging out of his coat.  And leaving it in a heap on the floor.  Ah, there's the boy I know.
"Pick it up."  I commanded.

I wasn't planning to be particularly grateful yesterday.  It just sneaked up and smacked me by surprise.  Apparently, God uses disabled little brothers to make men of big brothers, and the big brothers make Mommy thankful for the little brother's disability.  For the first time, really.  
And I got to shower in peace.
I am blessed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Seven year switch

November 7, 2005.  A day that will live in - well, not infamy, but it was a big deal in my little world.
It was the day my husband and I promised the bank we'd pay them for the next 30 years.
We signed lots of papers to prove it.
And they let us put our name above an address.
And we turned the key in the lock and began to claim it with paint, and bleach, and a new toilet to replace the old baby blue one.

I was five months pregnant, in nursing school, and juggling two part time jobs.  He was working full time already, and had never really run a skill saw before and didn't know anything about plumbing or tiling.  That all changed in the next several months.
It was in those days when we really started to realize our parents knew more than we had assumed in high school.  They came, scraped wallpaper, hauled over their own power tools for him to practice with, let us borrow the pickup truck for loads of gravel for the driveway, stopped by to reprimand me for lifting heavy things I shouldn't, and donated houseplants which I have summarily kept at the point of death by dehydration for years now.  We spent  that first Thanksgiving in our bare living room.  On the first piece of furniture we'd ever bought.  A futon.
I wasn't satisfied; but hey, it was a starting point.  We'd fix it up, let its character show through, chase the bats out of the attic, refinish the floors.  I would be happy in our first house.  Eventually.

It is seven years later.  This little two bedroom house is the only home all four of my children have ever known.  Every other year there's been a new baby, and the house seemed older and smaller and I was discontent.  I wished the wallpaper wasn't torn and I could afford better curtains.  I wished for bigger closets.  (Heck, any closets!)  Turns out, you need money to fix up a house, at least a little.  Once a policeman turned up at our door, a warrant in hand for someone once connected with the address.  We bought a new deadbolt.  Twice we (ok, he) chased bats out of the bedroom at midnight.  I've still never refinished the floors.

 Well, we determined to try to sell it, and sometimes people could see past the six person clutter against the walls and would try to buy it.  Each time, it didn't happen.  We stayed on.
I sighed and started to take the hint.
We talked about the possibility of having to build an addition.  And of making the place more handicapped accessible.  Of having 4 teenage boys fit around the table.
He got more gravel to make the driveway fit two vans.
I planted a garden on the side lawn postage stamp.
He cut down some trees so we could see from the deck to the old steeples across the river.
I stopped worrying about showing the house to perspective buyers.  The boys took advantage by ferrying Grandma's collections of train tracks, building blocks, books, and dress up from her house to fill every available inch of wall space I hadn't ruled out.

So now it's been seven years.
We've settled in.
The house is cluttered with my pack rattiness and memories.
With crayons.  Papers.  Books.  Life lived 24 hours a day not in offices or school halls, but within these crooked, chalk-streaked walls.
There are Crayola pictures proudly scotch taped to wallpaper.
There are my own sticky notes slapped haphazardly around the kitchen sink.
There's the woodstove filling the kitchen with warmth as the dishes drip dry on the sideboard.
My grandmother's old piano is wedged into our dining room after it was delicately removed from the house my grandfather built around it forty years ago.
Hanging askew, family photos are gazing benevolently over primary color maps and hand made calendars push pinned into walls below them.

Almost, almost - when the toys are picked up into their baskets and the tick of the clock is audible again in the evening calm - almost I am content in this little house.

We are warm and safe and have running water.  I must humbly acknowledge I am rich compared to 95% of the world.  So what if my curtains don't match my eyes?  (Or, ahem, even each other?)
My children are with me 24/7 - and (most of the time) I really like that.
My husband can wield a drill with a fair amount of skill, and build good fires and good bookshelves, till a garden, dig out the basement, tile, roof, and shows a flair with duct tape when all else fails.
I have a place to hang laundry; I am queen of my kitchen.
The boys have local playmates.  They've learned which way all balls will roll in the un-level kitchen.  They find forgotten little trucks behind the baseboards.  They dig for treasure in the slope behind the hill, bringing me old blue glass Milk of Magnesia bottles and Moxie from 100 years ago.  Laughing recklessly, they wrestle with Daddy on the mattress we graduated to upstairs in the bedroom.  At night they snuggle, bunk beds, crib and toddler bed, together in the cozy little room with the blue carpet.  The curtains Grandma made sway gently in the window.

Maybe we will sell this little slice of real estate at some point.  Or maybe our kids will inherit it in 60 years, and have to figure out how to get Great-Grandma's piano back out the door to their own house.
Maybe it doesn't matter so much.

This home sometimes seems to encompass my whole world.
I have to remind myself this world is not my ultimate home.

No matter how content I am, this world will never satisfy me.  In fact, if I let them, these passive inanimate objects can own me.  And do, sometimes.  Why else would I dissolve in tears when the washing machine breaks down?  Why be so depressed when the Google Maps car gets a snapshot of my house with all the kids' toys piled on the front lawn? And the throw rugs drying on the porch railings?  And there were doubtless some scantily clad brothers chasing each other will realistic looking water guns in the background.  The moment is rather etched in my memory.  Why?  As if I believed for a moment it really was such a big deal.

We were not made for this world.
I can not be content, not truly, until I am in the place my Savior is preparing for me to be, with Him, forever.

My kids tell me the house God is making for them for someday is made out of jello.
It'll be good.
And it won't take me seven years to accept that.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Upside down days

Some mornings, you wake up and open the refrigerator door and find Optimus Prime guarding your pickles.
And you know what kind of day you're going to have.
You sit down to change a diaper near the computer table and decide to check the weather on the internet and when it pops up all you notice is the finger smudges on the screen and you close the browser without noticing the weather and the baby has scooted away and the only diaper left was upstairs anyway and you know - it's going to be that kind of day.
You juggle the toddler on one hip while trying to teach the six year old how to tell the minutes on the clock - again - and the five year old can't figure out that 15 plus 0 doesn't equal 18.  And it is quite officially that kind of day.

You run to the store for diapers and remember that you need toilet paper too and the five year old needs underwear and you're out of plastic bags and suddenly you've spent too much but it's too late and you didn't get a thing that was even fun to shop for and, well, you know.  That kind of day.
The three year old falls on the rocky driveway and skins his knee but only wants a bandaid on the outside of his pants and you put it there because it makes him stop crying but innately you know you will forget to take it off before those pants get to the washing pile and won't think about it again until you fold laundry and find the indelible mark and feel like a fool all over again.
And nap time is late because you're children can't grasp the concept of a time change simply because everyone else set their clocks back and you don't really understand it either because it's now dark before  five p.m. and it seems depressing.

Your brother stops by to chat just as meal time is approaching.  The houseplants mysteriously disappear off the shelves.  You notice as you're burning the pork chops that there seem to be several someones clustered in the little half bathroom and being rather quiet.  You peek in the door and find the houseplants and all four of your offspring playing jungle by mixing sprigs of the succulent with the spider plant and throwing in a plastic penguin for effect and the sink is clogged and the water is purple and the toddler is wearing dirt and he stinks and you don't say anything.  You are not surprised since, after all, you are well aware that such things are inevitable when it is that kind of day.
Your husband comes in the door hungry after lugging firewood around all day and tells you he's been craving the chocolate chip cookies that you used to make in the early days of marriage.  And he takes a bite of one of the batch that you just made and you see it in his face that these cookies are apparently not anything like those ones that you used to make and you haven't a clue what you did differently.
You make rice for supper, which mostly ends up under the table and under the baseboards and in every cranny of the toddler's pants and and booster and he mixes some with his milk just for good measure and why does he think his full plate would make a good hat?

The boys take turns sharing the bath while the others strip to their underwear and take flying leaps onto mommy's and daddy's bed until the three year old gets bored while you are dressing the baby and decides to sneak downstairs instead of sitting in the bath.  You realize he's missing and he hollers up cheerfully that he's just putting papers in the wood stove and will be right up.  You panic on several levels and yell for him to stop and never touch the stove and get his little backside in the bath before it gets a stiff rebuke from your benevolent hand.  You run down and find the wood stove open and who knows what those papers were but they have been efficiently reduced to ashes.
And finally everyone is getting tucked in and you find the stash of little blankets that the toddler has been storing on the far side of his crib where you really can't reach without major intervention.  And after you say goodnight and go downstairs, the three year old peeks around the corner and surprises the heck out of you because you assumed he was already asleep.  And you march him back up to bed but your appearance makes the toddler excited so he sits up and starts telling babbly stories to his buddy who has been returned and they blow raspberry sounds into the dark for much too long.

You go downstairs and clean up rice and do the dishes and empty out some old leftovers so that you can use the tupperware to put tonight's cold supper in.  Your very gracious husband helps unclog the bathroom sink and you replant some of the succulent leaves and put away all the jungle penguins and lizards and very realistic rubbery spiders.  You start the laundry without remembering the bandaid and sweep and put away the new diapers and admit to your husband how much you spent at the store.
And you run outside to dump some old kale into the compost bin and it is so cold but the stars are bright and there's the crunch of the first snow under your feet.

And you shiver.
But it is beautiful.
And you catch your breath.
And you thank God for the moment.
And you run inside to hug the wood stove and smile to see your husband relax at the end of his own long day.
And you know you should have started the day with more thanks and less busyness.
And you decide to blog about it.
Because everybody has days like this.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The depths congealed

Wrote this the day after Hurricane Sandy inundated the East Coast of America.

The rain is hard.  So hard, the window looks covered in a sky-grey oil slick.
There's probably a river flowing through the basement.  I hope it doesn't stop.  As long as the water keeps flowing through and the drain stays unclogged, all his tools, all the baby scrapbooks, all the Christmas boxes stacked on pallets won't be destroyed.
Two children are napping, oblivious to the thunder shaking the sky and the lightning splitting it.  Safe.  Warm.  Imperviously hugging a stuffed cookie monster.  The other two are at grandma's, probably schlepping tools for Grampy in the garage or building precarious block towers on the living room rug in front of the wood stove.
But I know nearly 8 million people lost power last night.  Many were neither safe nor warm.  They were scared and helpless compared to that 900 mile superstorm.  The anxiety grew as the water rose; they know it will cost them far more than some new Christmas decorations this winter.
It was an inconvenience to some.  It was deadly destruction to others.  It renewed an impetus for us to pray for many whom we know were impacted.
But why would God send this storm?  How could he?

He could, because He is in absolute control of every little molecule in time and space.
He can stick His finger into a cloud and swirl it the way a three year old can make eddies in a mud puddle.
With a breath, He can direct the wind along the exact swath of land it was intended.
He sets the time of the tide and the heave of each wave to the exact millisecond.
He made the rules of science, and chemistry and meteorology and astrophysics, and can, in complete knowledge of how they function, write the equation that sets each atom spinning and each hydrogen bond forming.  He forgets no detail.  No atom left behind.

For He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees under the whole heavens,
To establish a weight for the wind, and apportion the waters by measure.
When he made a law for the rain, and a path for the thunderbolt.
Job 28:24-26

I personally don't know the science.  (That's just one reason why I write a blog rather than work a job as a rocket scientist.)  It is fascinating, but beyond me.  So I won't try to explain it beyond that.

But still, why the storm?

I can not explain love.  Or migration.  Or why only some babies sleep through the night.
I do not know why.
But I wonder...

I was reading Exodus this week.  The Israelites were at the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army closing in behind them.  You know the story.  God parted the waters.  They walked through on dry land.  The soldiers behind them were crushed and drowned when the water closed back up.
Again, I haven't studied the science.  I'm not sure how the wind God sent made the water pile up, or how He dried the muddy sea floor.  That was some wind.  In the song of Moses in Exodus chapter 15, he says "the depths congealed."  I imagine Red Sea jello.
What were the fish thinking at that moment?
In this story, it tells us why this happened.

Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.
Exodus 14:18

In that moment when the jello turned back into deadly liquid, those Egyptian soldiers knew the Lord in His terrible power.  When the army didn't return from their conquest, the mothers and wives - who had already lost at least their oldest sons, all their winter grain, the animal food supply, their wealth - knew the Lord had made them widows and childless mothers.  They wept, and they knew.  Pharaoh, finally, knew the Lord was truly and completely in control.  He'd been raised to believe that he, as ruler of the great nation of Egypt, was a god.  Humbled, he knew.

I hope it doesn't take such lengths for us to know.  As a nation, we have enjoyed the Lord's mercy and blessing.  Four hundred years prior to the Red Sea crossing, God had blessed Egypt when Joseph taught the young pharaoh that God could and would provide.  But the morals of the nation had degraded until they allowed the murder of babies and warped justice so that men who did not work ate well while those who worked the hardest provided for them.  They forgot God.

From the chamber of the south comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds of the north...
With moisture He saturates the thick clouds;  He scatters His bright clouds.
And they swirl about, being turned by His guidance,
that they may do whatever He commands them
on the face of the whole earth.
He causes it to come,
whether for correction,
or for His land,
or for mercy.
Job 37:9,11-13

I have known God in His mercy this time.  Perhaps you have known Him in a different capacity.
He will go to great lengths to get your attention.
He knows you.
He wants you to know Him.
No atom is out of His hand.  No speck of matter will move unless He commands it.  No person, created  for the very purpose of knowing God, will He ever forget or ignore.
He who moves mountains, who makes the Red Sea into jello, who sent His beloved Son from heaven to earth to die a horrific death, He would send a 900 mile hurricane just to reach your heart.
I hope you know Him.
Because He'll do it again.
He loves you too much to leave you alone.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sick Day

I did the inexcusable last week.
I am mom.  And I got sick.

It felt like a cold coming on during the beginning part of the week.  First I got somebody's pinkeye, then somebody else's cold, then it seemed like flu.  Thursday morning, I knew it was inescapable.  But the baby had an appointment first thing.  Then all four helpers came with me for the weekly grocery store run.
We got home.  Put away the perishables.  I sent the six year old on reconnaissance for all available tissue boxes in the house.  The five year old dug out some juice boxes and hauled a bag of chicken nuggets out of the freezer.  The three year old pawed through the shopping bags, found crackers, and dumped a generous portion out to share with the one year old.
I sat down on the living room rug with my heavy head plastered to the sofa.
And I did the only thing I could think of.
I called my own mother.

She couldn't come for long, but she stopped by on her way to work and made sure the children ate something and the little one had a clean diaper before nap.  And she did the dishes.  I collapsed on the sofa under the weight of full sinuses and a revolting stomach.  I haven't gotten this ill since the early weeks of each pregnancy.  (The housekeeping staff at the hospital where I worked never forgot me after I lost my lunch in a patient's room during my first baby's early trimester...)  But I'm not pregnant (this week anyway!  Honest!)

It would have been better if it was raining.  A warm fire, cup of ginger and honey tea, and a good book to keep misery company would have made being sick almost pleasant.  But it was a balmy mid-60's, the sun painted dappled shadows through the resplendent autumn foliage.  The soccer moms in the field down the road sent muted chatter up the hill to add every sense to the picturesque fall scene.  I should have been in the midst of it, walking on the old train tracks with the children and a camera - or at least cleaning out the stinky minivan while they tumbled around in crunchy leaf piles.
Instead, I closed the curtains and took a nap.
The older boys, too big to nap but too small to be outside while mommy was completely indisposed, got to watch a movie.  The sun shone.  The birds sang.  I blew my nose and allowed myself to officially call off the school day.
The boys got a box of macaroni and cheese for their evening meal.  (Ok, and some broccoli and leftover chicken and an apple.)  They were ecstatic.
We made it through bedtime.  It was quiet when our fearless leader finally drove his purple minivan into the driveway.  I was sitting on the sofa, staring oozily at the wall while I cuddled with the box of the good tissues.  "You're sick?  This can't really happen, can it?" he asked, incredulously, when he walked in and surveyed the scene.
"Sorry," I snuffled.  "I momentarily forgot the rules."
I heard him putter around the kitchen for a few minutes, appearing a few minutes later with a heaping bowl of cereal.  He sat down heavily beside me and patted the flakes down into the milk.
"Does it stress you out to see me sick?" I was curious through the haze around my brain.
"It just makes me grumpy," He answered, half-smiling. "But you'll be better tomorrow, right?  We won't be able to hold out much longer than that!"

The next day was difficult.  They ate more cereal.  Grandma provided sandwiches at lunch and changed several diapers.  And life didn't revolve around me for a day.
It was humbling, a little.
It was encouraging, a bit, to know my brood would survive if I wasn't on my A game 24/7.
It was kind of a bummer to sort of be granted a break, only to waste it in sweat pants and misery.  We had to drive a dirty van, walk around on sticky floors, and use a bathroom where the germs bred unchecked for over a week.
I didn't blog, keep up with politics, or even plan meals over the past week.  There are still carrots in the garden and a husband who needs some attention.  We're behind on math and reading homework.  There's evidence of mice behind the cereal and I still can't find the library book cover.

Tissue box thief.

But life went on.  I'm starting now to play catch up with the laundry mountain, school, cleaning, and the general mayhem that went unchecked for several days.  I feel sometimes like every little body's life around here swings around the mommy fulcrum.  Won't they spin out of control if I am out of commission?  Aagh!
And yet - this mothering position was given me by God.  I love being so integral to my family (most of the time.) But my life - is still His.  And this family - it is still His.  He is completely capable of taking care of all of us even if one sprocket gets loose for a moment.  How humbling to realize He's got it all in control.  I thought I did.  Ha.
Now I find it a pleasure to rise again from the sagging couch and return to my position as chief cook and bottle washer.  It is good to be reinstated in the God-given groove He's made for me.

And, of course, thank God for grandmas.
Angels in disguise.

Monday, October 15, 2012

From Thorns

 In 1879, the artist John Ruskin said "she would be the greatest living painter and do things that would be Immortal."  But to do so, he said she would have to give up her pursuit of spiritually-focused social work and devote her life to developing her art.  After a great deal of prayer, Lillias Trotter decided. She gave up a promising career as an artist.  Instead, she spent the next four decades living in North Africa among the Arab people as a missionary.  Her paintings are hidden away in the archives of the Asmolean Museum in England, viewable only upon request.  Her canvas became the hearts of the culture-cloistered Arab women of Algiers.  Her paints - the vibrant love of a God they wouldn't have otherwise known.  But Ruskin was right.  Lillias indeed did things that were immortal.  We'll see the masterpiece in heaven.
This is taken from a little devotional book she penned about 100 years ago.
I am captivated.

See this bit of gorse-bush. The whole year round the thorn has been hardening and sharpening. Spring comes: the thorn does not drop off, and it does not soften; there it is, as uncompromising as ever; but half-way up appear two brown furry balls, mere specks at first, that break at last--straight out of last year's thorn--into a blaze of fragrant golden glory.
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby." Never mind if the trouble shews no sign of giving way: it is just when it seems most hopelessly unyielding, holding on through the spring days, alive and strong, it is then that the tiny buds appear that soon will clothe it with glory. Take the very hardest thing in your life--the place of difficulty, outward or inward, and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot. Just there He can bring your soul into blossom!

Excerpt and painting from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Parables of the Cross, by I. Lilias Trotter
[EBook #22189]
Biographical details taken from A Blossom in the Desert, compiled and edited by Miriam Huffman Rockness.
Discovery House. 2007.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Dirty Laundry

I love my other half.  He eats what I cook, he lets me spend the money he earns, he plays with his children, and values my opinion on most things other than if the food is salty enough.  But, ahem, he isn't perfect.
Yes he takes the trash out when he's home, but no, he doesn't put his dirty socks in the laundry pile.  And other stuff.

You know the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  Those men who were there at the beginning?  They were the first men God promised to make a special people out of.  And He did.  I mean, they are in the Bible.
But it wasn't because they were particularly good at hitting the hamper with their own dirty socks.  Actually, Genesis has a fair laundry list against them.

The socks I will pick up later.

I'm gonna take some license here and tell an old story.

Can you imagine being married to Jacob?  You wouldn't be alone.  He was also married to your prettier little sister, and had two girlfriends and their kids in the tent too.  When you first met him, he had nothing but a stick to his middle aged name.  In fact, he was kind of a momma's boy.  Your dad saw that, and took advantage of him for 20 years.  You wept on your wedding night, dreading the morning when he realized who lay beside him in bed, and he would get up, disappointed and angry.  In your anguish, you cried out to God.  He granted you children - babies to cuddle to your broken heart.  You carried many of his children - and the ensuing baby weight that your sister never gained.  You were the unloved wife of a stinking, dirty shepherd.  Divorce was not an option because you would starve or be stoned to death.  Life seemed pretty bleak.
Finally, one night, your husband hit his midlife crisis.  Being a late bloomer, he was already an aging man.  Now he had led you into the desert with everything you owned, claiming some unproven old promise from God.  But you knew his older brother was coming to find him out here.  Last you'd heard, his older brother, who was quite a weapons expert, wanted to kill him.  Would you be killed too - or ravaged and made a slave?  What about all your children?  Your husband wasn't the fighting type - he was instead attempting to buy off his brother with your children's inheritance.  You didn't sleep well that night.  Perhaps you prayed, desperately, for the God of your husband's grandfather to now be real to you.  You begged  Him to see you, stranded between the brazen sky and the baked earth, and save you.  Save your children.  Save your crazy old pansy husband!

Your husband couldn't sleep either.  Would it be his last night alive?  You saw him out by the makeshift sheepfold across the brook, graying head bent low to the dry ground.  Your husband was more of a conniver, not a pray-er.  You watched for a long time.  A man approached him as he knelt.  Was it a man from his brother's camp?  It was too dark to see his face.  You shivered.  Jacob stood up and faced him.  The man was taller and was built more like a strong carpenter than your shepherd husband.  Jacob looked like he was whining to the man, gesturing and sighing.  The man said little, but after a few minutes held up his hand to halt him.  Something seemed to snap in Jacob.  He lunged at the stranger, and they started to brawl.  The man looked like he could easily throw your old husband off, but continued to wrestle.  For hours, you watched them.  It almost looked like a father play-fighting with his little son.  Jacob threw frenzied punches, the man easily deflecting them.  He occasionally jabbed Jacob with firm blows, sending Jacob reeling, though he returned again for more.  The stranger obviously could have killed him, yet it was clear he wasn't going to.  As the night wore on, you felt a slight satisfaction when the man punched him.  Years of your own frustrated hope in your husband lessened, a little, in those hours.  There was no weaseling out of this fight.  And Jacob didn't try to.  You almost enjoyed watching him get beat, yet you started to feel an odd sensation of pride as again and again your husband stood his ground.
Finally, the gray of early dawn started to streak the east sky.
There were dark splotches on Jacob's face.  You assumed they were blood.  The man's face was still veiled in shadows.  He looked toward the sky, and back at Jacob who clung to his legs in exhausted determination.  He spoke to Jacob, who shook his head vehemently and gripped more tightly.  The man reached down, gently, almost tenderly, and tapped Jacob on the hip.  Immediately, Jacob lurched back, tumbling harshly against the sheepfold door.  You gasped, and ran out of the tent toward him, splashing across the river to his side.  He wasn't dead; he was breathing heavily.  You looked up wildly for the stranger.  He was gone.

Jacob was a mess.  His eyes were swelling; there was a cut on his jaw.  He smelled of hours of stress and sweat.  But miraculously, you could find nothing broken beneath the bruises.  The only major injury seemed to be his hip.  He seemed unable to lift his leg.
You managed to get under his shoulder and help him stand.  He draped an arm over you and straightened.  You glanced over at his face in surprise.  Was it possible he was standing straighter than he had before this fight?  On an injured hip?  He felt your gaze, and turned his gray beard toward you.  He looked at you.  He looked right into your eyes and held your gaze for a long minute.  In twenty years, he had never been able to look you in the eyes.  Suddenly, you felt a little weak.  He smiled, just slightly under the swelling, and sighed.  A deep, exhausted, satisfied sigh.
"I am a blessed man."  He said.
You were never prouder to be called his wife.

It wasn't even an hour later that you held your breath as you watched from across the river.  Jacob winced as his muscular brother slapped him on the back.  But leaning on his cane, he stood firmly. And you didn't die.  In fact, they met and parted peacefully.  And life went on.  Jacob took your family to his beautiful homeland.  You settled in.
But life and marriage weren't perfect even after that.  You sister died giving birth to her second son.  Her oldest tragically disappeared.  You saw your husband stagger under these devastating blows.  Then your own beautiful daughter was raped, and you watched your hotheaded sons carve a wake of destruction as liars, cheaters, murderers, and adulterers.  And, of course, the baby weight never came off.
But in those twilight years, sometimes in the evening you would sit with Jacob outside the tent and watch little Ben play in the sand.  After your sister died, you raised her son on your own knees.  But oddly, he brought out a tenderness rather than animosity in you.  You laughed with Jacob over his funny antics.  And your husband told you about the God of his father and grandfather.  This God had promised to make your children into a great nation.  You were incredulous.  How could any deity take your ragtag bunch of misfits and turn them into anything worth noting?  And why would a God capable of that even bother start with such losers?  Yet Jacob said that on the night of that fateful wrestling match, God had once again affirmed the promise.  You never said it to him, of course, but your husband before that fight wasn't much of a man.  Something miraculous had happened to change him.  You would have given up on him long before that night.  You practically had.  But apparently this God hadn't.
The next feast day, grandchild after young giggling grandchild filled your tent.  Noise and the smells of fresh bread and roasting meat all mingled in a joyous, messy cacophony around you.  You caught sight of your old husband, leaning heavily on his stick, surrounded by burly, boisterous men - your sons.  And you - the matriarch of this family - bustled around, shouting orders, shooing children away from the oven, sharing gossip with all your daughters and daughters-in-law, and kissing the youngest grandbabies.
In the midst of the hubbub and chatter, you were startled by a sudden thought.  All those years of heartbreak and frustration, all the tears and pain when your prayers seemed to go unanswered, perhaps they were not in vain.
Perhaps Jacob's God just liked proving points through wimpy shepherds.
Perhaps He liked to use the most unlikely people to show just how capable He really was.
Perhaps He really had heard your anguished prayers for your husband and children in those miserable early days.
Perhaps, just perhaps, this God loved you enough that He would pursue you throughout your whole life until you learned the lesson.
Perhaps all the pain was simply to prove the miracle to your own unbelieving heart.

Perhaps, just perhaps, you had to be broken by God to realize you were one for whom God would fight.

Perhaps, what men meant for evil, God had plans all along to use for your good.

Wrestling with Daddy.
Even, perhaps, the dirty socks.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Riches and raisins

I've almost found the table,
I've nearly found the floor.
There's just a mound of toys and shoes
Between me and the door.

The baby isn't napping,
The brothers bicker and whine.
The witching hour is on us now,
But supper won't be on time.

I hope that was a raisin
Baby just found on the rug.
Perhaps it stands to reason
That he has a stomach bug.

Desitin beneath my nails -
Call it my french manicure.
A bean leaf from the garden
Also adds to my allure.

I'd order in a pizza
But the budget's come and left.
We sigh and say we'll live on love
But sometimes feel bereft.

The house isn't always happy,
It isn't always fun.
I'm tired, I grump, I pass the buck -
And my family bears the brunt.

I'm elbow deep in dishes now;
My young blessings are in bed.
"May this cup pass from me" I pray -
But he puts it in the sink instead.

Still I'm fairly certain
It's worth the struggle and heck.
Small souls - more real than currency -
Love doesn't pay by check.

Rich indeed by measurement
Forgot by the common earth,
My little jewels in camouflage
Are great and timeless worth.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rise and Fall of the Third Bread Loaf

I put the bread in the oven to rise.
It was supposed to save me time.
Often it works well - slightly warm with the oven light on, safe from poorly aimed nerf gun bullets, in position to start baking without any jostling.
The ONLY thing that can go wrong is that I forget to turn the oven on to bake about 40 minutes later.
You get one guess what went wrong.

Well, about an hour and twenty minutes - and a meal, basic cleanup, and a gentle shake of the baby to get all the rice out of his shirt folds - later, I remembered the rising bread.  A harried look in the oven told me the yeast had indeed done its job.  The wonderful combination of home-ground flour, real maple syrup, butter and salt within those four bread pans had melded into a huge dome of yeasty goodness in the oven.  And then it had fallen, oozing over the sides.  Dejected and abandoned.  Ignored in its prime.  I started muttering unpleasantly under my breath.
Well, I wrenched the oven temperature up, growling about the my horrid lack of multitasking ability.  Dutifully, the carbon dioxide was released and the gluten structure was changed into a solid.  But I couldn't reverse the yeast's immutable time schedule.  That ship had already sailed.
It was supposed to be our bread for the week.  Our french toast bread.  Our grilled cheese sandwich bread.  Our fresh from the oven with a healthy clump of butter bread.  Our cheaper than store bought bread.  Our homemade good bread.
It least it smelled good.  No, it smelled great.  I think heaven will have whiffs of fresh baked bread wafting through its bright streets.  And there, you will be able to eat it and not worry if it goes straight to your thighs.  Here, it was little more than tantalizing aromatherapy, but it looked miserably inappropriate to release such a delightful scent.  Heaven was not the place that came to my mind when I looked at it.

The pain - au bon pain.

I pulled the kids out of the bath.  I ran downstairs and pulled the deflated bread balloons from the oven. I ran back upstairs and got everyone in pajamas.  (Hint - this is how mommas can stay slim.)  They cheerfully tromped downstairs, not responsible for a anything bigger than a matchbox car.  Mom, who felt at the moment like she was responsible for the great calamity of household maintenance gone awry, glowered as she gathered up wet towels to mop the bathroom floor.  This staple of supreme homemaking - fresh wheat bread - was proof of mom's supreme inabilities.  Mom grumbled to herself in the third person and stepped on grains of rice on the dining room floor, arms full of wet towels and sandbox-humbled clothes.

"I waaant some!"  The three year old begged.  He grabbed a warm loaf and ran into the living room with the six year old at his heels.  "Ouch! Hot!"  He dropped it on the rug and ran back in.  "Can I have butter on it?"
"Can I have my own whole bread?"  The five year old protectively patted a loaf he'd singled out.
"My! My! Maamamamammamamamaa!" The littlest brother demanded, stretching around the bigger boys to touch the precious treasure.

This waste of yeast and time, this glut of extra dishes to wash, this afternoon project that highlighted my ineptitude, was to them - still bread.
"Ok, ok," I pulled out a bread knife.  It was depressing to cut my absurdly failed monument to health and happiness.  They crowded around for a bedtime snack as I squashed it down with my hand and hacked in.  Feeble crumbs tumbled from the loose slices as I sawed away.  It wasn't pretty and I wasn't about to let it to pretend to be.


I saw butter smear across the little one's clean cheek, posting crumbs by his earlobe.  The five year old stuffed in a slice and reached for another.  "Mmm." came the muffled satisfaction behind the mouthful.  The three year old's slice disappeared as a chubby hand swiped it off his plate.  A scuffle ensued, more butter imprinting the linoleum.  "Mo-om!  He stole mine!" The indignant older child protested as his young antagonist squealed, spewing greasy crumbs. The six year old draped his lanky little self over the the rocking chair to observe the rioting below him, chewing languidly.  I buttered another and handed it off.  They quieted, and munched contentedly.  After a few more buttery minutes, I wiped them down and shooed them off to bed.
They say one man's trash is another man's treasure.  I saw a mess of failed motherhood.  My children, however, went happily to bed with warm full tummies, sucking butter-smooth thumbs, breathing deeply the lingering aroma of warm wheat.

It is humbling to admit my inadequacy as a homemaker.  It is further humbling to be taught by kids with a vocabulary of a few dozen words that I'm looking at life from the wrong angle.  Several feet closer to the ground, the bread looked a lot more appealing, apparently.  And my reputation as good mommy was still preserved.  As if they even measure me by what I do.
Sometimes, my world is far more pleasant without the bifocals of age and reason.  Sometimes I'm so glad they see beyond my mistakes to the wholesome presliced goodness that my heart longed to give them.
Sometimes, love is in the mess of crumbs and butter.
I'll contemplate it while I mop the floor.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Other Brother

"Who's your friend?" I ask as they rush past, cheeks flushed with wind and the exhilaration of fighting bad guys.
"He's visiting his grandma down the street." Blurts the oldest, the self-appointed spokesman, as he rummages through the gun box for un-chewed-by-the-baby ammunition.
"He has a transformer!" the next child chimes in with the most pertinent news.  "It can't transform very much, but it's nice.  I bet it costed forty dollars!"  He adds in awe.
"Wow.  Nice"  I can't help smile at their enthusiasm.  "What's his name?"
"Don't know."  They throw the words behind them as they select their plastic weapons and hurry out the door.  "We keep forgetting to ask."

Later that night, we pray before bed.  "Thanks for all the boys on the street." I say, truly grateful for local playmates that I didn't personally have to birth.
"Yeah, thanks for boys!" Shiloh interrupts to agree.  He lists several names.  "And thank You for the Other Brother with the transformer.  He is nice, God."
I smile in the dark.
The new friend, undefined by where he comes from, how he dresses, or what he plans to be when he grows up, is simply welcomed in, handed a gun, and made an official part of the troops for an hour before bath time.
How like God, who welcomes us to be part of the family, no matter who we are.  Because it doesn't matter.  Just come.

Thank You, Lord, for the other brother.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

House of Treasures

We got the call this afternoon.
He, guitar in hand, quietly walked outside and strummed to his thoughts on the deck as the afternoon sun faded.
I, surrounded by life and peanut butter, tried to comprehend death.
I wonder what life is for her now, on the other side of this fallible one.

We saw her, the boys and I did, less than a week ago.  We do not see her often, but she murmured the boys' names.  Her great grandchildren.  Her legacy.
They shyly handed her construction paper cards, folded askew and stained with vivid Crayola colors.
"That flower is you."  My oldest explained, stabbing at a roundish circle on a spindly stem.  Drawing is not his strongest subject in school.
"The little flower is me."
She smiled wanly.
Another son fidgeted, uncomfortable on several levels.  "I gotta pee."  He implored me.
We retreated to the relative haven of the public bathroom.  He sat down, feet dangling, and sighed in relief.
"I don't like it when the old ladies touch me."  The wheelchairs had swarmed my bright little troop the moment they entered the doors.  Many wrinkled faces broke into grins at the sight of the pudgy baby face and fresh young skin.  Apparently they were irresistible to several of the residents.
I stared at the old chipped sink, imagining the hordes of germs on it, and pondered.
"Those ladies are old and tired and some of them are sick.  You are full of life.  Maybe when they see you and touch you, they feel a little more life.  You are being good to share that with them."
His young mind struggled with being so close to this foreign concept, the pervading oldness.
"But when they get too old, then what?  What happens to their alive part inside?"
"Well..."  I could see his little feet swinging, no hurry to leave, needing time to process the heaviness put before him.
"Well, Jesus said He was going to heaven to make a new place for our alive parts.  He said He would trade all our bad and dying parts for His good and living parts.  So your alive part can get a good new body when it's time."
I've explained all this before, but finally the question niggled in his own mind, and finally desired an answer.
A cover slammed, I heard the flush.
"Is the alive part of me the talking part?"  He straightened his pants as I guided him to the sink.  He reached on tiptoe for the soap.  He needed a boost to get the last few inches. This made-for-adults world where he's trying to fit wasn't comfortable for either of us.
"Yes, the part of you that thinks and talks from inside you is the real part of you."
"I don't want a new body!"  He fumbled with the faucet with soap-slick hands.  I tried to help without getting the slickness all over me.
"You don't need a new body yet.  But the new one will never get booboos or get tired or sick.  The new one will never have to get potty trained.  I think it will be a good trade."
He jumped to snag a paper towel.  Missed.  I grew impatient and grabbed a handful.  "Here," I shoved them into his drippy hands.  "Finish up.  The ladies out there miss you."
He sighed, but followed me out.

We visited more with their great grandmother.  She seemed tired, worn out, but never complained to us.  The children danced around the piano carelessly.  But life was exhausting her.  The boys made sure she had her cards.  We said goodbye.

Today I told them she was gone.  I don't know much about death, not yet.  It certainly isn't easy to explain to preschoolers.
"Oh." Said the oldest.  "So her body's not hurting her anymore."
The other boy said, "She stopped needing to talk?"
"Yes." I answered simply, grabbing another by the shoulder before he bolted out the door.  "She doesn't need that body anymore."
"Ok." They seem satisfied.  "Can we have a cookie?"  They are so busy with living, pain and death are incomprehensible.

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
Proverbs 24:3-4

I look at them around the supper table an hour later, squabbling over who has the longest caterpillar of corn kernels cut from the fresh cob.  Her legacy, I think again.  The treasures of my house.  They wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for her.  I am eternally grateful.

God knows how to build a good house.

Friday, August 24, 2012


I am poised to send my local government a letter stating my intention to homeschool my children this year.  The thought may have run through my head a few times recently about sending them off to a collective education system instead of carrying this work alone.

Last year, we watched the school bus stop at the end of our street once every morning, once at lunch, and once again mid-afternoon.  My kids would wave to the neighborhood children as they got on.  I might have stared, occasionally, at the mothers as they turned away from the bus to go back into their quiet houses, or into their cars to go shopping, solo, or went off to be paid for worrying about someone else's problems.  Maybe, sometimes, I might have sighed as I turned, drooling baby on hip, to attend to the dishes in the sink, the toddler pulling baby wipes out of the box in long tendrils, the preschooler who lived in the sandbox, and the kindergartener who would rather  drillzaq1kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkklkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkikkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk,kkkkkkkkkkkkk,kkkkk,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkvkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk,,,,...

 (I've decided not to edit that out.  I didn't fall asleep on the "k" button.  Someone really did take over the keyboard while I was called away for a moment.  You get the point.)

Why do I bother to homeschool?  Good question.  There are several reasons I can think of that you wouldn't want to.

1. You are not on speaking terms with the local librarian.

2. You can't tolerate science experiments sitting around the kitchen.

3. You highly value a clean quiet house.

4. You don't think maps of the ancient world are appropriate dining room art.

5. You aren't willing to repeat mnemonic types of childish songs ad nauseam.

6. You are actually more efficient without maintaining a schedule.

7. You'd rather have someone else teach your son about the birds and the bees.

8. You won't horde toilet paper tubes and random buttons for potential art projects.

9. You can't shamelessly discuss curriculum and potty training in the same post on Facebook.

10. You aren't willing to face your glaring ineptitude and lack of knowledge on an hourly basis, further humbled by the fact that your five year old often has a clearer understanding than you.

11. You'd be abhorred to pencil a little brother's visit to the doctor in as a field trip.

12. You aren't willing to be interrupted. Constantly.

13. You wouldn't discuss ancient Greek history while simultaneously doing dishes and wearing a baby.

14. You don't see physics at work at the playground, arithmetic problems everywhere at the grocery store, or diaper changing time as health class.

15. At recess, you couldn't fathom going out to weed the garden.

16. You wouldn't treat your kid's birthday as a school holiday.

17. You would never do math class in pajamas.

18. If your day is going horribly wrong, you wouldn't call an impromptu field trip to the frog pond.

19. You can think of another excuse to leave a raw egg in a jar of vinegar for a week.

20. You wouldn't discuss classroom discipline with your school's principal over chocolate ice cream. Really late at night.

21. You can't stand reading those old Caldecott winning children's books.

22. You expect to have free time or need personal space.

23. You believe that God has different plans for you and your family.

Because, if He does, you should do them.
There are plenty of (better) reasons not to homeschool besides these few I could come up with.
Sometimes I thank God He allows me the privilege of molding my children educationally.  Sometimes I plead with God to allow me to entrust this part of their growth to someone else.  For us, for now, we pray and pray and go on homeschooling.  God calls us to train up our children, and reading, writing, and good old math fall into that category until further notice.
And you know what?
I see a lot of tears, but I get a lot of hugs.
It challenges me to be intentional about the little things all over again.
Because they won't be little forever.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Mary" Me

"Mom, are you ever not busy?"
My six year old queried with a sigh one day.

Is that a hypothetical question?  I am a homeschooling mom with four young boys.  I am wife.  I am homemaker, daughter, friend, occasional blogger.  I am busy.

There is so much I must do.  There is plenty more I could do.  "Free" time isn't really applicable in this present chapter of my life.

It isn't that I really want to be this way.  Not that I want to be bored, but that won't be an issue for many years, at this rate.  I really would rather be like Mary, dropping everything to sit at Jesus' feet in adoration and wonder.
But somewhere along the line, probably when I was trying to juggle homemaker/wife/mommyx4/etc, life got ridiculously busy, and I turned into Martha.

Ben is a year and a half old now.  He is most content in the midst of the happy chaos his little world is full of.  He's barely aware that most of his peers are walking now, climbing stairs and chairs and falling off them and rubbing their heads, trying to clamber out of their cribs too late at night or early in the morning, and generally giving their parents headaches with all the childproofing toddler worlds require.
I wish, sometimes, that was my headache.

Still, I imagine him upright, chubby legs steadied in orange plastic braces, hanging on trustingly to tall toys, tables or a parent's knees.  Perhaps he will, in time.  But what if he's unable to walk, what if never?  What if I need to carry him for years ahead?  How can I bear this burden?  Will I be holding him at his brother's soccer games?  Will I carry him around the playground?  Will he watch from my lap at his brother's swim meets?  No matter how small his stature, or how big my muscles grow, this sometimes seems too heavy to bear.

It is.  
Martha said so.

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word.
But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me."
And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.
But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.
Luke 10:38-42

The Son of God had just walked into her house, probably with a substantial posse of hungry, dirty, tired disciples.  They needed food.  They needed water to wash.  They needed places to sit and cool down.  It was her house.  It was on her shoulders to kill and cook the fatted calf, to not burn the challah or fig pie (I'm guessing at the menu).  She had to be sure there were enough fresh sheets if they were going to stay overnight in the guestrooms, and I'm guessing she didn't have a speed wash or dry cycle.  The outhouse had to be spotless.  She'd been meaning to whitewash the front of the house all summer; Passover was coming and how had she not done it yet?  Milk spoiled so quickly; maybe she could just run over to the neighbors and borrow a jug.  Ack!  So much to do for Jesus!  At least maybe Mary had hopefully thrown the sheets on the line, and if she'd started the roast they might just be able to accomplish it all by dinner time...
Mary?  Why wasn't she in the kitchen?  She loved seeing Jesus; there was no way she would have just gone wandering off like she did in those introspective moments.  If they could just get all the serving done, then they could spend some time with Jesus.  Martha peeked around the corner to see if Jesus needed a refill; He was talking so much, He must be parched.  There was Mary's upturned face, right in the middle of the floor in front of Jesus!  Shirking her duties completely; Martha would have to do it all.  It was just too much!      

But when Martha finally brought her frustration to Jesus, after much fretting, she wasn't initially soothed.  "Mary chose the right thing" wasn't what Martha wanted to hear.  She wanted to be affirmed and patted on the back for wanting to help Jesus.
But Jesus wasn't there because He needed help.
Jesus didn't need food; He'd just fed 5,000 people with a handful of fish and loaves of bread.
Jesus didn't need to wash the dirt from His feet; He'd made dirt; it didn't faze him.
Jesus didn't need clean sheets; He was used to not having a place to lay His head.
Jesus didn't need Martha to carry His load.
He was there to carry hers.

"Come sit with Me." He told Martha.
"I am the bread of life.  I will wash you white as snow.  I will give you rest.
You were meant to have a Mary kind of life with Martha moments here and there.  You've got it turned around.  I'm not here to make a Martha out of Mary.  I'm here to make a Mary out of Martha.

"Come to Me, all [you] who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
"For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30
 Perhaps she got the hint and sat down next to Mary instead of worrying about the perfect dinner.  Perhaps He helped her with the dishes later that night, in characteristic humble servant fashion.  Or perhaps they ate leftovers on paper plates and spent the evening around the campfire singing and laughing instead of sweeping up the kitchen.  

Does this mean I can ignore the dishes?
Perhaps some of these things are so insignificant in His grand scheme that if I could see His big picture, I would indeed feel silly worrying so much about the congealed oatmeal in the bottom of the sink.
Does it mean He will make my son walk?
Perhaps He sees my little son as a grown man at a podium or even in a slum, championing the cause of the widow and the orphan.  Whether he got himself there on his feet or his wheelchair will be inconsequential to both of us at that moment.  He made Ben because He wanted to love his soul; the difficulties with his spinal cord are just part of helping Ben (and me) to realize that.
Carrying him now doesn't seem like such a big deal with the light of eternity in the corner of my eye.

Make me Mary, God.  "Busy" is not my priority.  "Being" is my priority.

Now, I hope you'll excuse me.  I have to go play legos with the kids.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pray away

Why do we pray?  Does it really do anything?
Doesn't God do what He will regardless of what I say to Him?

I know sometimes He does answer prayer, very clearly.  We can argue, I suppose, that God was going to do it anyway, but the Bible says that we are to pray, God hears us, mountains can be moved, so we ought to.

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 
James 5:17
What fun and trouble a little mouth can get us into!

Sometimes, though, He doesn't answer my prayers.

Often, I have prayed for wisdom to say the right thing.  Conversation is not my strong point; I am regularly at a loss for what to say that would be helpful, right, or meaningful.  So many times over the years, I have asked Him for a less tongue-tied connection between my brain, heart, and vocal cords.  It just isn't my gift.  I can make more sense on paper than jabbering idiotically in person.  How nice it would be to have the words when I need them!

But He's never really affirmed that desire.

I know only that when I pray, instead, I have a little check on my speech.  Instead of more words, He seems to give me fewer.

In a discussion with my husband over something he was struggling to fix, I was was ready to spout off an innocent suggestion on my idea of how to try it.  That odd little thought nudged my brain as the words were forming in my throat, "Don't say it."
"Really? What harm could sharing my idea do?"  I argued with my quiet conscience.
There was no answer in the milliseconds this took.
But I didn't say anything.  I just stood there dumbly.
He looked at me curiously.  Returning to his work, he decided to try the very thing I had never said.  You know what?  It failed miserably.
I patted myself on the back for letting my conscience keep me out of trouble.

An hour later, it happened again.  I had another brilliant idea, but, somewhat cowed by the previous lesson, when I again felt the funny little nudge to remain silent, I obeyed.
Again, he went out and came up with the very suggestion I hadn't gotten to offer.
This time, it worked.
He was beyond exhilarated at having conquered the difficult task.  I wondered why I had been told to keep quiet, when obviously it was a good idea.  But that evening, having completed that work on his own, he laughingly wrestled a long time with the boys before bed, all stress gone.  Later, he scooped me a bowl of ice cream and we snuggled on the sofa, comfortably chatting.
As I lay in bed that night replaying the scene, I smiled.  My marriage was better off that day because I kept my mouth shut.  Yes, sometimes that's obvious.  That day, it was because I hadn't said two seemly innocuous comments.  I wouldn't have known to be still if I hadn't been asking God for wisdom in my speech that week.
Its still true.  After spending time with the Lord, I suffer less from a sore jaw - the kind that comes from sticking my foot in my mouth too much, and from my tongue getting stuck in my cheek.  I still don't often have the right words to say, or know what would be smart or helpful conversation to build someone up or to challenge them.  It simply isn't my gift.  Perhaps that's yours.

Didn't Benjamin Franklin say it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt?

Or maybe God did first.

Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; [When] he shuts his lips, [he is considered] perceptive. 
Proverbs 17:28