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

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Life's a beach

We've got roots along the coastline.  This time of year, we go back to visit them.
When you touch shore roots, you're bound to get a bit salty and sandy in the process.
We sure did.

Its a wonderful place for making memories - rejuvenating salty air, lulling waves, the great bigness of the ocean and your own little moments next to it.

Over a decade ago, he asked me to marry him on the rocks of this coast.
Generations of his family have this sea in their lifeblood; living, working, dying in and around this ocean.  I've seen it in his father's eyes, when he stares out to the horizon where blue meets blue - the listening look, yearning to answer that call from the wind and waves.  He doesn't have a boat anymore, yet he's still home when he's by the sea.

Times aren't what they used to be; the profession handed down many times over isn't continuing with my husband's line.  When I said "yes," it wasn't to be the wife of a fisherman, though I didn't much care at that moment.  It is my husband's history, but not his present.  So we go to the shore these days looking more like summer tourists than kin.

For this visit, we had to jumpstart the van to get moving.  That's always a good sign.  The doors were open too long while packing everything but the kitchen sink (didn't need it; I had baby wipes, prepackaged water bottles, and hand sanitizer to cover our lack.  Amazingly, we survived.)

The boys love a road trip - so many great trucks to see on a highway - but after a few pit stops along the road to christen the bushes, they got antsy and bored.  So they naturally started a classic hit-your-brother, back and forth, game.  Did the air conditioning suddenly quit or was my blood pressure rising?  The baby woke from his junky car-nap kind of sleep quite perturbed to find he was still locked in a car seat.  He added his lungs to the clamor.  I passed around graham crackers, the remnants of which are even today still embedded in the carpets of the van interior.  It quieted the back seat choir for a few minutes.  Quiet often costs me vacuuming time later.
Digging for treasure.

We made it, eventually.  The van released its contents like a pent up circus clown car.  We did our round of familiar greetings and ran back to pull sunscreen, buckets and shovels out of the trunk.  The boys happily begin treasure hunting along the shore while I rummaged around the kitchen to dig up lunch, baby at my heels.

The young menfolk ate hurriedly, as a matter of obligation to the stomach, hearing the ocean calling their own little hearts out again.  I put the baby down for a nap and followed them out to watch their virgin attempt at fishing.

I had fished for the first time with my own daddy off that dock.  Sometimes we caught something; often we watched others catch something.  It is a chance to see your own father quiet, watchful, waiting.  I learned many lessons from my father over the years, but that occasional practice of quiet waiting was so valuable in the midst of learning from him how to do so much.  Stop moving.  It is your job, right now, to wait.  Often our little fishing trips involved one of my dad's friends or brothers.  They chatted and joked amicably, sometimes falling into unstrained silence, having agreed to leave the endless chores and projects and daily work at home for a time.

First time.

My boys have a ways to go before they grasp the greatness of quiet waiting.  Practicing waiting will take time - by definition.  They didn't catch anything, naturally.  It is hard to catch a fish when you are three years old, harder still when you want to use the brightest (most inappropriate) lure, and yet harder when your line spends most of its time getting tangled in itself, or the dock, or your brother, and when you simply put down the pole and sneak over to finish the remnants of your father's highly caffeinated and thus off limits soda.  But nobody fell in this time.  So they all came back considering it a success.
Ben's view.

We had seafood for supper, the daily catch of a far more experienced fisherman.  Even Ben got an authentic taste on his plate.  Sand was all over the floor from everybody's carefree traipsing between outdoors and in.  He rolled pieces of his supper all over the gritty layer before tasting it several times.  I guess its in his blood too, after all.  Or at least in his stomach.

The boys fell asleep to the sounds of endlessly breaking waves, breathing deeply the salty air.  I inhaled the first moment of quiet I'd had that day, savoring it.  Dishes awaited, and a general clean up of the joyful mayhem my little seafarers trail.  But I sat for a moment in the twilight of the open window, the open sea ready to swallow the sun on its seeming orbit.  A few fireflies danced in and out of the pine trees and ageless beach roses.  If I had learned anything from those fishing trips, perhaps patiently waiting for moments like this is the reward.
Gulls cawed to each other, scuttling across the beach to see if my children had left them any treasures they would value.  Most of the sea glass Gavin had collected was safely on the table, but I wondered if they found the crab he had kept in his pocket.  Since it was still alive, I didn't think we could keep it as treasure.  I made him put it back.  The seagulls probably appreciated that.

We had to go back home the next day, back to busy and daily and life sustaining work and play.  The beach is for memories; it isn't for our practical needs.  In fact, if I do say so myself, a beach vacation is rather exhausting.  My kids ate too much ice cream and chips, got too much sun and not enough diaper changes or sleep.  We looked forward to being home in our own beds the next night, back to humdrum and chores and chicken and potatoes.

I love the beach.  I love the memories we make there, the history we share with it.  The treasures are beautiful, the air is delightful, the relatives are great fun to catch up with.  The lessons about waiting and patience and looking for treasure between waves and watching a child enraptured with a tidal pool are priceless.
I wouldn't want to spend endless days scouring the beach for pretty rocks.  There's more to life than that.  Still I 'm glad God made the timeless shore, so old and new at the same time, to visit and to make me remember what is precious.
Its a family place where we can all be together and - eventually - savor those waiting moments as well as the boisterous ones.
Its a place to make me stop and be quiet for a moment.
A place to be still and know.
A place to eat sand.
A place to remember.

Now its time to vacuum the van.