Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Pebble

I don't know for a fact that this happened this winter, but it is entirely possible.

Ok, this is actually hail, not a pebble; its the most pertinent rock-like picture I can find in my collection at the moment, so pretend with me.  

1. There was a pebble.

2. The pebble was dumped into the sand/plow truck on a wintry day.

3. The pebble was sprinkled onto our road for traction.

4. The pebble was scooped up into a toy dump truck by a snowsuited preschooler desperately missing his summer sandbox.

5. The pebble was pocketed by a snowsuited preschooler.

6. The pebble was carried up to the bathtub by a cold, muddy preschooler.

7. The pebble was mixed into the dirty clothes pile on the bathroom floor.

8. The pebble was dumped into the washing machine.

9. The pebble, clean and wet, also got a ride in the dryer.

10. The pebble fell out on the laundry room floor.

11. The pebble was discovered and turned into pirate ship treasure.

12. The pebble rolled under the piano as the toy pirate ship trundled past.

13. The pebble was found by baby.

14. The pebble was fished out of baby's mouth.

15. The pebble was chucked out the door and landed on the porch.

16. The pebble got embedded in the boot tread of a kindergardener.

17. The pebble fell out of the boot on the minivan floor.

18. The pebble was mistaken for a cheerio by a toddler.

19. The pebble was spit into carseat.

20. The pebble got kicked out onto the grocery store parking lot.

21. The pebble got stuck in the van tire tread as it backed away.

22. The pebble was driven to Main Street and dislodged.

23. The pebble was swept up by the street sweeper truck several months later.

24. The pebble was added to the town's winter sand pile.

25. The pebble was dumped into a sand/plow truck on a wintry day...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Arose a mother

Shiloh, learning to drive.

My four year old woke up before the others yesterday morning.  He padded into the kitchen where his daddy was stoking the wood fire while I sat with Bible and coffee in the pre-kid morning lull.  He is most talkative in those minutes before he has to compete for our full attention.  He started chattering about his agenda for the day; fixing the roof over the kitchen was apparently priority (this is my son; not my husband talking.)
"Shiloh, what do you want to do when you grow up?"  My husband asked, poking at the coals and enjoying the prattling from his usually reserved son.
"Bigger."  Shiloh returned practically.
"What job do you want to do when you are bigger?"  He pressed.
"I want to drive big trucks."  No surprise there.  He lives and breathes in diesel.
"But I am not bigger now." Shiloh continued the thought.  "Well, I am not bigger than Daddy now, but I am bigger than Mommy."
We laughed.  Daddy is much bigger than Mommy, but my four year old definitely hasn't surpassed me.  Not yet.
Mommy's apparently not the imposing figure I used to be in my little man's life, though we both know he will still fit over my knee for some time to come.
"Can I have milk?"  He asked, not skipping a beat.
"Please." I remind him automatically, smiling.  I'm just mom.  I'm not formidable or remote.  I'm simply necessary for basic sustenance, even for the future big rig driver swinging his legs from the stool.

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel...
Judges 4:4

My friends and I joke about being known as just "the wife" to our husbands in some circles and "the mom" of our children to their peers.  Our identity is bound up in them.  Most of the time, I'm OK with such infamous notoriety (except at the library, where I know they look at me as "that mom" when we burst vivaciously through the door to return en masse our stroller load of truck and dinosaur books...)  Its the season of my life when I haven't time to worry about a name for myself because I'm too busy humming baby's name to him while hollering the older brothers' names too loudly, too often, and generally in the wrong order.  We stay within a tight orbit between home and the grocery store, with occasional outings to church and grandmas'.  I'm on call 24 hours a day with this job; it's the only hat most people see me wearing.  And yes, it probably is on backwards, and flecked with glitter, and smeared with oatmeal on the brim.  I wear it proudly.

In the Bible, most females you read about are known as "so-and-so's wife."  Lapidoth's lot was different.  His wife was a renowned prophetess in Israel.  She even had a tree named after her, where she would sit so people could find her when they needed a judge.  She was the person everyone in the country knew they must listen to if they wanted to hear the words of the Lord.  Through her, the Lord called up Barak (not Obama) and a militia to rout a huge army of the bad guys.  She was the leader of God's chosen nation.  Lapidoth must have gotten used to being called "Deborah's husband."
What did she call herself?

"Village life ceased... until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel... My heart is with the rulers of Israel who offered themselves willingly with the people."  
Judges 5:7-8

A mother in Israel.  Not the "leader."  Not even "the" mother.  She was simply another mother in her nation.  Out of that job description, she was a leader, a judge, a prophetess, an advocate and good advice-giver for hundreds, maybe thousands of the sons of Israel.   Ten thousand men followed her into what looked like a losing battle.

I don't ever plan to spend my days sitting under palm trees while people come up to me for tidbits of wisdom.  Nor do I expect 10,000 men to follow me into war.  Heavens, I hope not!  I'm just a mother in America.  My job is to be leader, judge, advice-giver, booboo-kisser, discipliner, mitten-and-boot-puller-on-er, snot wiper, sandwich maker, chauffeur, artists' helper, flashcard holder, dictionary, diaper changer, confidante, bathroom attendant, tickler and spell checker.  Among other things.
I do help plan strategy for battle.  I do hand out swords.   I guess sometimes I even hold the little leaders by the hand while they lead the charge against the bad guys (at least when it involves going upstairs into the dark where they need help turning on the light.)
Perhaps my job isn't so different from Lapidoth's wife's.
Just a mother.
Just mom.
Nothing grand or huge.  I'm not aspiring to be voted into any office; quite the contrary.  Many days I'm not aspiring to anything more than basic survival till bedtime!  But I look over my little nation with a maternal hope for their future; my heart is with them, supporting them as they learn to do what is right and good.  Until you are able to stand on your own two feet, Son, I will hold your hands.  You will have to go to battle, sometimes, you will have to fight.  But until you can stand alone, I will stand next to you.
That's the funny part of motherhood.  If I do it right, I should work myself out of a job.
You, child, won't always need me to tie your shoes, feed you, or tell you what the Bible says.  Someday, you will put on your own footwear, get a job to support your food habit, and choose for yourself whom you shall serve on a daily basis.
And you will be bigger than me.
Maybe then I will go find that palm tree to sit under.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bouncing Baby Birthday Boy

Benaiah was the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man from Kabzeel, who had done many deeds.  He had killed two lion-like heroes of Moab.  He also had gone down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day. 
And he killed an Egyptian, a spectacular man.  The Egyptian had a spear in his hand; so he went down to him with a staff, wrested the spear out of the Egyptian's hand, and killed him with his own spear.
These things Benaiah the son of Jehoiada did, and won a name among three mighty men... And David appointed him over his guard.
II Samuel 23:20-23

Beniah.  "The Lord has built."
Benjamin. "The son of my right hand."

New.  January 18, 2011.

He was born at 7:29 a.m.  One year ago.
What joy to finally meet the child I'd carried for 37 weeks.  Every one of my pregnancies seemed long. The last 17 weeks of this one had seemed like a lifetime.

We had found out at the 20 week ultrasound that something was different.  The tech had confirmed our guesses - boy number four - but then she went silent.  She wouldn't let us leave without seeing the doctor.  
"Spina Bifida."  They said.  And from that moment on, the phrase was added to our vernacular language.     
"He has a 'biffed-up spine.'" My husband would try to explain it in even more basic terms, when people asked.  His spinal column - the part that forms around 28-30 days after conception, before I had confirmed I was even pregnant - never closed all the way.  

We knew he was perfectly formed by the Lord, just like all children.  But it was hard to accept.

On ultrasound, we could see the bubble on his lower back where the spinal cord stuck out.  There was extra fluid - or too little brain - at the top of the spinal column.  His right foot was bent at a funny angle; it looked like a Charlie Brown foot on the grainy black and white silent movies transmitted from my growing abdomen.  

We went home and started doing our homework.  Best case, it might not actually affect him at all.  Worst case, it would affect the parts of his brain that would tell him to breathe and to swallow; he could also be paralyzed, mentally handicapped, there could be a myriad of associated major midline deformities with his heart, cleft palate, seizures, blindness.  The list went on.  We wouldn't know till he was born - and later.

So we waited.  We went to ultrasounds.  We studied.  We met the specialists.  We waited.  
Finally, it was time.  My other three children were natural births, without medicine - waiting at home till I was hanging onto the furniture before taking a quick trip to the hospital.  This one was tediously planned to allow every specialist to be present for the c-section which would protect his delicate exposed spine as he made his debut into the cold world.
They did an amniocentesis the day before our scheduled cesarean birth to check the maturity of his lungs.  (Not the most pleasant moment of my life.)
The next day, amidst the blur of blue scrubs, we finally heard him breathe for the first time.  Loudly.  On his own.  Thank God.  My midwife managed to take one picture of his back before the neonatologist deftly wrapped it.  I saw it one other time before his neurosurgeon closed it up.  Thin, translucent, fragile film covering the bubble of spinal cord and fluid visible within.  I was glad in that moment that I was experiencing the ache of the c-section cut, that I had known before he was due, that we could plan this and protect what looked surely like it would have burst open and killed him had he taken the trek through the birth canal.
Prepped for back surgery.
The next day, they closed the bubble.  Two weeks later, when we noticed fluid dripping from the scar on his back, he had brain surgery to place a shunt.  The fluid in his spinal column was building up and putting pressure on his back.  The neurosurgeon put a tube from his head into his abdomen where the excess fluid could be absorbed.  Then we brought him home and started getting on with living.       
After back surgery in the NICU.
Daddy and all his boys finally home together.

Henry (1 and 1/2) and Ben (2 weeks old.)

That is history.  His story.  Chapter one.  I
We will celebrate his first birthday today.  He doesn't need many presents; with three brothers, he has no lack of hand-me-down toys or clothes.  (He assumes this is normal; don't tell him otherwise!)  He will get a cake to smear all over his face, grandma kisses, pictures, the works.  

We still don't know when - or if - he will walk.  Or if he will ever stop wearing diapers.  Or draw a stick figure.  But he breathes.  He nurses.  He eats in a way that makes me worry about future grocery bills.  He laughs and inhales the frenetic attention of his brothers.  He imitates their chatter.  He rolls until he gets stuck under the furniture, squealing until he is rescued.  He wriggles to music.  There will be many doctor visits in the future; more surgeries, more therapy, more hard stuff.
But today, he is one year old.  He is perfect. 

Happy birthday, Beniah Benjamin!

Me and Ben in early December 2011.
Ben today - with breakfast.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


We stink by nature.
I'm currently in a search for the perfect deodorant that will (a) not leach chemicals into my body daily and (b) actually work.  I shower regularly to remove my own smells as well as all the ones from the baby's lunch regurgitated on my shoulder, the nasty science project gone awry, the spitting bacon grease, the garlic that loves my fingernails.  Of course the kids stink too.  They love dirt, they love to wrestle till they sweat, they have no qualms about crawling on the floor at the grocery store.  Oh, and diapers.  Savor that thought for a moment.  These are aromas not shared with the general population, when possible.

The content of my thoughts and attitude mostly stink too.  All that goes on in my head while baby re-shares his lunch, when the science project is spilling, when the grease hits my (white, of course) shirt, and the day after I cut garlic - its not pleasant.
Milk spilled on the floor tonight from Henry's cup.  (It had a cover; he thought he'd rather drink it without one.  And while lying down.)  I didn't think good-smelling thoughts all over him.

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
II Corinthians 2:14

This thought has fascinated me recently.  Diffuse the fragrance of Christ.  I don't want you to smell me.  I'm gross.  But I would love you to smell the aroma of my Savior.  Chances are, however, you might catch a whiff of my sulfuric attitude sometime when you're nearby.  Sorry, in advance.
How is this supposed to work?

Well, the million-dollar candle companies may have some idea.  They put strong chemicals in wax.  Hard wax.  What do people do to get that smell out?
Heat the wax.
Wait for the smell.

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
II Corinthians 1:22

God sealed Himself into our hearts the moment of our salvation.  We can be confident of Him in us.  How does the aroma of Christ diffuse out?  
Heat the wax.
Melt the hard heart.
The longer and stronger the heat, the more fragrance is released.  It isn't pleasant to be near a flame.  It hurts.  We - well, I - ask why, and complain, and mope about the heat.  But later, after some of the wax has burned down, I go back into the room and notice the aroma.  Sweet.  More pleasant than it was before.  Maybe the good is even so potent that the diapers and onions that were bothering me aren't so noticeable any more.
God will remain in us; He's a guarantee.  He leaks out a bit of His sweet perfume.  
To remind us of His sweetness.  
To let others around us know He is in us.  
To glorify Himself though us.  
He uses us to diffuse Himself. 

Sealed, but leaking.

Not a good byline for a diaper company.
But the mark of a servant of the Lord.

And a reminder to find better deodorant.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Inventions for Little Children Made by Childless Folks

(I can testify personally to the insanity of all of these creations experienced at least once over the last 6 years of my child-rearing journey.  If these are news to you... Consider yourself warned.)

1.  Beautiful, fragile, pop-up books.

2.  Toys with no "off" button.

3.  Toys with no volume control.

4.  Boats that aren't watertight.  (Did they truly not imagine these were going straight into a bathtub?)

5.  Cheap water guns with fill holes too small for water to get in.

6.  Rainboots for babies.

7.  Red food dye.

8.  Happy meal toys.

9.  Automatic bubble blowers that aren't water resistant.

10. The whole candy selection below four feet in the grocery store check out lane.

11. Ipods.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The desert's backside

They wiggle.
Dressing three children in winter-worthy attire takes about 20 minutes and really makes a mom long for spring.  Of course, at least one will be back inside within five minutes, having lost a mitten, or a boot, or having sneezed and needing a serious tissue.  I don't know how preschool workers stand it.
"Stand still!"  I ordered the last time, trying to zip Shiloh's coat.  "Mommy, I can't!" He replied.  What an impossible supposition when the great outdoors are calling!  Stop moving, just for a minute.  Do what must be done first.

Have you ever had one of those beautiful lucid moments when it seems, just for a long moment in eternity, you can see with the clear eyesight of heaven?  The tangible here and now stops clouding your view.  For a moment, you see things as they truly are.

God took Moses out of Egypt and spent eighty years of his life preparing him for such a moment at the backside of the desert.  Moses was busy thinking about good pasture for his flock, maybe the price of fleece among Midian merchants, maybe the last fight he'd had with his wife about washing the goat smell off before he came in for dinner.  Suddenly, God broke into his muddlings with a bright vision of clarity.  "Moses."  God spoke.
"Here I am." Moses responded.
"Take off your sandals, you are standing on holy ground."
Was this a path Moses had walked before?  Did the rocks or bushes look any different that day (Ok, other than the one that looked like it was burning)?  Did he look down at the dirt, look back up and say, "No, this can't be holy.  The sheep and I tromp through here all the time.  It gets muddy, and dusty, the animals leave things... This can't be holy.
No.  Clearly, that moment, it was holy, purified by the One who stood with him there.

I breezed into the kitchen last week on a mission, probably to the laundry room or the sink with a dirty washcloth.  Probably I had an entourage, asking for something.  Probably I had a school lesson on my mind, or I was pondering why the baby seemed so fussy that day.  Probably there was a Cheerio crunching under my feet.  Probably the phone was ringing.
I stopped in front of the woodstove.  Midstride.
The place on which I was standing was holy.
It was.  I knew it.  Clearly.
There, in my kitchen, stocking feet with holes in the heel, I stopped.
The Lord was hallowing my linoleum.
I realized I was in His presence.  Whoa.
No, I didn't see Him in the flames behind the woodstove window.  Sure, vivid; the knowledge hit me.  He was with me.  There in my little drafty kitchen.
He's always with me; He promised never to leave me or forsake me.  But I don't dwell on the thought of His presence often.  For a moment it was so joltingly clear and sweet.  I know my relationship with God is much more than the sum of my emotions and feelings.  But then, I am female; He made me capable of intense emotions, high and low.  He isn't absent when I am dulled by depression or busyness any more than He is dwelling more fully with me when I am excited or singing a hymn.  Wasn't it just nice of Him to remind me, there, then?
"I AM" here, with you, now.

Stop wiggling, He might be saying.  You may go back to your daily ablutions and responsibilities in a minute.  Be still and know Me.  Have a real moment in your day.