Monday, April 29, 2013

Days that Don't

That week was simply hard.

Deadly bombing in Boston.
Lethal explosion in Texas.
My husband didn't get the expected promotion.
The kids were cranky and unruly.
The toilet clogged.
Vacuumed up my engagement ring.
And mud season started.

Life was dirty, messy, incomprehensible.  Plain old muddy, inward and out.  

At bed time, the five year old burrowed down into his blankets on the bottom bunk.  "Mommy," he confided, "Dark is scary.  Why does God have to be so invisible?"

I've asked that myself.
Where was He when my father was diagnosed with cancer in his forties?
Where was He when my son's spinal cord was being irremediably formed in a bubble outside his fetal spine, rendering his lower legs feelingless for life?
Where was He when I lost my temper after praying all morning for patience?
Where was He as my son's clear eyes gazed up searchingly into my face that evening?

I breathed out slowly, trying to shush the harried voice in my head urging me to close the bedroom door and move on to the dirty dishes, the muddy floor, a moment of quiet with my husband before our own bedtime.  This was bigger.

"Well... God is so big.  He is so real.  I think He must be even more "real" than our bodies could handle.  Maybe if we saw Him all the time, it would just be too much... I don't really understand it myself."  I finished lamely, brushing his fuzzy head.  "We'll have to talk more in the morning."

The next day, I dished out scrambled eggs and waited as the fight over favorite forks subdued to quiet munching.

"You know how you were so excited the day of your birthday, you felt like it was too much joy to keep inside?  And when you scraped your hands and legs all up and told me the pain was too much... You guys are tough, but you can still hurt..."

He nodded.  Even little superheroes know they're not invincible.

"And eventually, this body will get old.  You'll need a new one.  I think that new one will be made to handle all the joy of heaven, and it will be able to handle seeing God."

"Like this body is just for practice?" He seemed to follow me.

"I think so." I agreed.  "What we do matters now, but I think it will all be just a shadow of a dream compared to the real life we get to live next."

"In that next life, I want to live in a red jello house."  He happily told me a favorite thought.  "And my real body will be able to eat it, and bounce in it, and not get sick from eating too much sugar all the time."

And there went the conversation.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
2 Corinthians 4:17

The phantom pain of missing feet doesn't distract from the raw emotion of losing limbs to a bomb.
The hypothetical promise from insurance companies hardly lessens the ache over lifetimes of built memories suddenly leveled in Texas.
The crushing pain of loved ones irrevocably gone barely loosens its grip long enough for those families to take another breath.
It is hard, unimaginably heavy.  The pain seems interminable.

I breathe in the warm scent of sweat and sunshine on my two year old's hair as I scoop him out of the sandbox.  He gazes longingly at his brothers racing their scooters on the pavement.  It aches to watch him begin to realize he can't move like them.  We strap him into heavy metal braces and he stands, defying gravity, for a moment.  But the weight of his own body is too heavy for him to bear alone for now.  It is hard.  It will be, his whole life long.
Yet it is all "but for a moment."

Someday, I know, that unbearable weight will be but a memory compared to the gloriously free body he will be running around in.  Life will be so clear and beautiful.  So real.
And it won't be like looking through rose colored glasses.
Even from a red jello house.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Oreos and granola

There I was.  Barefoot and pregnant.  Grinding my own grain.  Dirty children everywhere, playing with sticks.  This was yesterday.
It's happened.  I've turned into a hippy.

I didn't mean to.  I didn't want to.  But it struck me the other morning as I washed my hair with baking soda and cider vinegar and thought through the homeschool morning plans - I'm really starting to go granola.

Maybe it's not too serious yet.  I mean, at least I do still wash my hair.  And I do buy boxes of macaroni and cheese.  And drive a relative gas-guzzler.  And daily interact with my Keurig.

I think it was reading about fluoride-in-water debates that put me over the edge.  From much of what I can find, it's toxic to ingest, Hitler used it to keep prisoners docile, it's illegal to dump into rivers, and causes a lot of dental discoloration, particularly for children.  But many towns put it in drinking water and toothpaste, at least they have since the end of the world war when we had a surplus of the stuff.  I've always been told it was good for you; but if all - or any - of this discrepancy is true, then I'm disturbed by the conflict.
And that's just one.

Yes, I know there's a lot of misinformation out there.  There's a lot of doom and gloom reports and conspiracy theories.  And it would be easier to just pass the blame for personal health and wealth difficulties onto large, faceless organizations.

This blog isn't meant to be political.  It's not a foodie blog.  There are plenty of those out there, and I've been known to read them.  But it's not always theological or philosophical.  This is tidbits of my life and lessons I've learned along the way, particularly through mommyhood.  Recently, more and more, I am disturbed rather than placated when I read about mass production and political control of the basic necessities of life.  Assembly lines have their place, after all.  But when it comes down to genetically modifying grain and corn that I want to feed my kids, making it less digestible and nutritious, all in the name of greater output and income for mega companies like Monsanto, eh, it's disheartening.
I want to trust the FDA to tell me food is safe and wholesome.  I want to rely on the CDC to supply safe and effective vaccines and medicines.  I want to believe my government has the interests of its people at heart.  I want to...
According to the Bible, which I hold as my highest authority, my body is the temple of God.  Ultimately, I answer to Him for what I do with/to it.  My children are my responsibility to raise physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Not the government's.  And I am supposed to be wise with my time and a good steward of my resources because I'm quite sure He has made them and then given them to me.  I don't hug trees, I teach kids to climb them, because I'm not particularly worried about a sustainable earth.  He ultimately plans to make a new one anyway.  I'm not out to blame politicians or corporations if they don't look after my health and wellness as well as I would like.  It's my job, not theirs, when it comes down to pointing fingers.

Homemade something or other.

So I'm making my own yogurt today and planning my garden.
After I showered this morning, I sprayed the bathroom fixtures with white vinegar to clean them and make them shine.  When Ben scooched himself in to see what was keeping me, I let him attempt the spray bottle, because I wasn't worried about him getting it on his skin (though he did smell a bit funny till it dried off.)
Making up a fresh batch of deodorant and grating soap to make into laundry powder are still on my list, perhaps after the kids are in bed.
The microwave is used more for a time keeper than a food-heater.
I grind my own grain and am looking for a good place to buy old grain versions that haven't been genetically altered. (If anyone knows where to buy einkorn grain in bulk for less than a fortune, send me a message!)
I compost.
I use the clothesline all summer.  (Clothes just smell fresher.)
Coconut oil is my baby's diaper rash treatment, I fry my eggs in it, and slather it all over my face every day.  (And I do keep it in separate containers for each of the above uses.)
Supper will involve hamburger from local, pasture-raised cows (probably as meatloaf.)
My oldest son is spending the afternoon helping Grampy build a chicken house so we can all have fresh eggs in a few months.
I'm researching ways to deal with a low functioning thyroid to figure out what causes it and what's the best way to fix it.
Edible cultured things grow on my countertops.
The hand soap in the pump by the sink - I know what's in it, because I made it.
In the past month, I've learned to render lard and make dishwasher soap.
I'm wading through mounds of vaccine debates.
Essential oils have a special place in my cupboard.
The two year old actually likes getting his cod liver oil.
I think about making magnesium oil in my spare time.
I'm willing to fight a bit to have a natural birth rather than schedule a c-section for my baby as long as we're both healthy, even though the last child had to arrive surgically.

I'm not militant about it all, at least not yet.  We bought Doritos for my four year old son's birthday this past weekend, and dyed his scrambled eggs so we could have green eggs and ham.  (FYI, bacon doesn't dye well.)  I still shop at big box stores for toilet paper.  I still buy disposable diapers.  (Gasp.  I know.  That's real life.)  There are Cheerios in the cupboard.  I occasionally pull out the bleach if there's been a particularly nasty event in the bathtub.  I like nice shoes.  I only let my legs grow fuzzy in deepest, darkest winter.  And I will never convert to carob over chocolate.  You can quote me on that one.

So among the au naturale folks, I'm far too commercialized to fit in.
Among those of the current culture, I'm far too out of the loop to commiserate with their daily life.      

I will fight you if you try to give my baby soy-based formula after he's born.  I think that stuff's horrendously terrible, especially for newborns.  But if you are over for lunch, you may see a horde of children eating store-bought frozen chicken nuggets.  It happens.
In fact, I'm going to go dig out the Oreos and milk so my 4 year old and I can have a treat before his brothers come home from Grampy's.  Double stuffed.  Times like that are every bit as important to me as eating spinach from the backyard garden.  At least the milk is from grass-fed, local cows...

And then I'm going to make granola.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

At last, God comes first.

No one would have blamed her for staying home.
No one would have said she was wrong.
No one would have disagreed with her logic.

The plan now laid before her was to spend a year traveling unreached northern portions of China at the beginning of the 20th century.  It meant transient life, poor sanitation and living conditions, far from anywhere, threat of rampant smallpox, diphtheria, and scarlet fever epidemics constantly.  She had buried four children already.  The family had almost died many times during the Boxer Rebellion.  Rosalind Goforth agonized as her husband Jonathan asked her and their three youngest children to join him now on this new venture.

In my innermost soul I knew the call had come from God, but I would not pay the price. My one plea in refusing to enter that life was the risk to the children.

Again and again my husband urged that "the safest place" for myself and the children "was the path of duty"; that I could not keep them in our comfortable home at Changte, but "God could keep them anywhere." Still I refused. 
Just before reaching our station he begged me to reconsider my decision. When I gave a final refusal, his only answer was, "I fear for the children."

I have honestly never been in this woman's shoes.  There have been dark times, hard times, painful times of learning to trust God's leading when I could not see the path before me.  But I have only felt the faintest inkling of difficulty compared to many that have gone before me.  Is it possible to learn a lesson just from someone else's example?

The very day after reaching home our dear Wallace was taken ill. For weeks we fought for his life; at last the crisis passed and he began to recover. Then my husband started off alone on his first trip! He had been gone only a day or two when our precious Constance, a year old, was taken down with the same disease that Wallace had. From the first there seemed little or no hope. The doctors, a nurse, and all the little mission circle joined in the fight for her life. Her father was sent for, but arrived just as she was losing consciousness. 
A few hours later, when we were kneeling round her bedside waiting for the end, my eyes seemed suddenly opened to what I had been doing -- I had dared to fight against Almighty God.

In the moments that followed God revealed Himself to me in such love and majesty and glory that I gave myself to Him with unspeakable joy. Then I knew that I had been making an awful mistake, and that I could indeed safely trust my children to Him wherever He might lead. 

I saw at last that God must come first.

As I write this, eighteen years have passed since we started on that first trip, and none of our children has died. Never had we as little sickness as during that life. 

Oh me of little faith!  To know God as dearly as this woman did would mean I must trust Him as fully. I get upset when we have to disrupt nap time!  How much I have to learn!  A long, typical Monday is enough to ruffle my feathers.  But to have such a relationship with my Creator as she did, I have barely dared to indulge for fear of the difficulty.  Yet I know it is worth it all.  Incomparably.

Trust the hands that guide you...

As I recall those years of touring life with our children, words fail me to tell of all the Lord's goodness to them and me. Though there were many hard, hard places, these were but opportunities for special grace and help. 
Many times, when discouraged almost to the point of never going out again with the children, there would come evidence that the Lord was using our family life, lived among the people, to win them to Christ. Then I would take new courage, and go again. It is so true that:

We may trust Him fully
All for us to do;
Those who trust Him wholly
Find Him wholly true.     

(All italicized words quoted from How I Know God Answers Prayer by Rosalind Goforth.  Chapter 6.)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Stained Loud

"I told you not to stand on the fish tank!"
Yes, I have said these words.  It didn't help though.  The then-four year old came inside one afternoon with a deep gash in the side of his foot.  Apparently, he had tried to stand on the square glass tank that had been draining on the lawn outside.  (For the record, no fish were harmed in the making of this story.  I had just cleaned the old yard sale-discovered tank to prepare it for a new life as a terrarium.)
His weight had, naturally, been too great.  The tank shattered.  So he got off the remainder and came nonchalantly into the house.  
He isn't the one who complains.  And I am not one to notice things very quickly.  But after seeing several red splotches on the floor, I connected the dots.  Literally.  I tracked him down.  Blood was flowing rather steadily from the side of his heel.  He started to cry only when I sat him down to check for glass shards and to clean and bandage the hole.  He survived.  Now there is a scar he refers to as the "crack in his foot."  We never did make a terrarium that summer.

I've been pondering this since Easter.  Blood is so quiet.  Oh, whatever causes the skin break often causes a loud crack or thud.  But the blood that flows - I don't hear it; I don't always even notice little cuts or bruises until later.
But God does.
To Him who numbers every hair on my head, to Him who keeps every single one of my tears in a bottle - to Him, blood is loud.
Blood is the essence of life.  He who made our heart beat is in tune with the pulse of every little blood cell in our bodies.  We don't hear it, but He does.

Leviticus 17:11 says "The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for your soul."  

One of the first measurable identities God created in the baby growing in my tummy was blood of its own.  The little guy had a heartbeat by the time I knew he even existed.  Before he even had a face, he had his own functioning circulatory system.

It's been that way since the first people on earth.  "Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is Abel your brother?'  And Cain answered, 'I don't know.  Am I my brother's keeper?'" 
"And He said, 'What have you done?  The voice of your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground.'"  Genesis 4:9-10

There weren't even that many people around on earth yet to see Cain's heinous act of jealousy.  Perhaps he'd thought of perfect alibis, hidden Able's body, covered all his tracks, and thought he might not have to ever own up to killing his brother.
But God knew.  God heard the life blood fall.  Every drop cried out to Him.  It was costly.  Precious.  Already, because of the first sin of Cain's parents, a price had been put on their lives.  And on every life to follow.  The price of blood.
Life - real life, forever life, good life with God as He desired to give them - could only be had at the cost of blood.  Sin stood between their lives and the life God intended for them.  The barrier between man and God could only be broken by the sound of one substance beating it down.  Loud, red blood.

One man volunteered every quart in his body to break that barrier once and for all.
As the last drops of his blood fell from the cross, they crashed so loudly to the ground that even on earth people heard its reverberating echo.
"Then behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised"  Matthew 45:51

When drops of blood hit the ground and cause an earthquake - that's loud.
When it calls the dead back to the land of the living - that's loud.
When it splits boulders - that's loud.
When God can look at your needy life and still hear the blood of His Son from 2000 years ago calling out to Him "This one's covered" - that is loud.

Joseph and Nicodemus were smeared with it as they took the body of Jesus down from the cross.  They may have been silent, considering it would likely cost them their jobs.
They kept the Passover memorial the next day, pouring out the blood of their own lambs with stained red hands and a feeling of failure in the One they had loved and put their trust.  They mourned silently for the friend they had laid in a grave.
But God heard that blood.  All over them.

The innocent blood could not stay silent.  It refilled Jesus' broken heart and made it beat again.  He walked out of the grave.  He walked, talked, laughed, and ate with His friends for many days. He had been very much dead.  He has the scars to prove it.  (I bet he never made a terrarium that summer either.)  But he has the blood to prove his life, even right now.  That life - that blood - has been unable to remain silent for more than 2,000 years.
You've heard of it.  Perhaps it's covering you.  Perhaps someday, you will hear the verdict yourself - "innocent - by virtue of the righteous blood."  Or perhaps it's not.  Perhaps, it's time to listen.