Thursday, December 27, 2012

Endings and Beginnings

Ever wake up feeling fragile?
No explanation, really. Just questioning everything. Examining your life. Coming up short.
Maybe it's the exciting lead-up to Christmas. All the preparation, all the excitement and the music. Just like that, the day comes....and goes.

It was a wonderful Christmas season.

There were lights and hayrides and "snow"

 and cookies and lots and lots of books.

There was quiet time together, and plenty of adventures.

There was warm fires and trips to the beach.

Moments spent under the stockings reading the Bible together. Asking questions and answering them. Learning together and listening to each other. Growing. And resting.

Culminating in a Christmas Eve and a carpeted garage packed with Christmas lights and a tree and tables and tables full of family and laughter.

JT had to work Christmas Eve and Christmas this year. It wasn't what we had planned, but in the end it worked out fine.

"But this I say: 'He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every work."
-2 Corinthians 9:6-8

I've always read these verses in regards to money, and have had limited trouble believing it in a material sense. But this Christmas Eve morning as I gave up my husband, my plans, my wants- as he went to work- I realized that this verse means so much more.

On Christmas Eve, as many many other days in the past (he's always had these unconventional jobs), I sowed my husband into the ground. And I did it cheerfully. Only by God's grace, and only by remembering these wonderful promises. That if we give, of ourselves, of our own desires- we WILL someday reap bountifully.

It's not even just tomorrow that we reap. Sometimes we wipe away a few tears as we go out, but who wins the most when we sing as we sow those seeds into the ground? He gives us abundance in our hearts. In our lives.

On Sunday night, thanks to my wonderful visiting sister and her kids, JT and I were able to go on a date to see the Hobbitt. I suppose it is more of a guy's movie than a girls'. But don't we all have that sense of battle inside of us? Girls may not fight externally as much as men do, but we all have that deep sense of honor within us. The desire to see good win, evil fall.

As I watched Bilbo grudgingly leave his comfortable "Shire" to help the Dwarves reclaim their home, I clung to the analagy of greater purpose. We are not meant to stay where we are comfortable. We are meant to go out, reach in, help others find their place.

"Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth. Shall you know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert."
Isaiah 43: 18-19

What a wonderful verse to read as the year draws to a close, and a fresh but dreary January approaches, filled with lonely weekends while my husband is at work.

8 years ago, God gave me this verse as I considered leaving this area. I was starting to think maybe God's plans for me had dried up here. That he wanted me to move on. 6 months later, I fell in love with JT, and suddenly in the wilderness sprang up the brightest of roads.

This morning he once more pressed those verses upon my heart. And as I look toward the new year- 2013- The year of our 6th anniversary. Aquaman's 5th birthday, The Dude's 2nd....
I can't help but hear the water as it trickles from the streams. There'll be waves to pass through. Fires to walk through. But through it all- hands to hold.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Somehow or Other...It Came Just The Same

I'm not one to blog about "current events". This is a family blog, a personal blog, not a political platform. I'm not a reporter, an expert, or even an author.
I feel inadequate to write about this matter, being so far removed from it. Being not a teacher who can feel a closer attachment to it, or even the parent of a school-aged child.

But I am a mother. A human. And a writer. One who internalizes deeply. Who often gets lost in the chaos of everyday life by retreating into my own thoughts and observations. By stepping into the shoes and the pain of others and trying to make sense of it.

Aquaman was not going to go to preschool on Friday. He had been pretty wiped out from HFMD and though he was completely better, with so many other illnesses circulating around I had already called his school and told them that I was going to keep him out until next week. Besides, JT's car was being repaired and he had taken mine to work. But Aquaman was bored. Tired of helping me with laundry and the endless care of a toddler and baby. He had been home from school for 8 days and wanted stimulation and entertainment that I really couldn't provide him in the chaos of caring for the littler ones. So we called Grandma who graciously came and took him to school.

He went skipping off to school that day, thrilled at the anticipation of practicing his Christmas Carols  and cutting with scissors- a chance to play with his friends and interact with his teachers.
That morning 20 children in Connecticut skipped off to school as well...and never came home.

I haven't seen much coverage. I don't really want to, and when I try to, Aquaman- who, though so so much like his father is also painfully like his mother- is instantly at my side wanting to know more. This is a child who had to brush the tears from his eyes the first time we read "Why the Grinch Stole Christmas" together this weekend, because, as he shouted in high emotion"It's not NICE to try to steal Christmas!"

We worked through it together. I pushed him to listen through to the ending, though he wanted to close the book right then and there.

I think, if we're honest, we're all a little like that.

By the end, he was ok. Stronger than before, more ready. "NO one can steal Christmas." he reassured me defiantly as the Whos joined hands and sang their Christmas song anyway. .
"Fear not: for I bring to you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David- a SAVIOR who is Christ the Lord." -Luke 2:10

I've done my share of crying and praying since learning about the tragedies last week. I've done far more crying and all my praying for those who live than those who died. Those children, in heaven, will never be afraid again. Will never hurt again or wonder why again.

I cry for the parents who outlive their children. For the little brother who doesn't understand why his older sibling isn't there to kiss goodnight. Or why his Mom and Dad are suddenly so different. Cry for the teachers who are afraid to teach. Children, once cheerful and carefree who are suddenly afraid of everything.

Cry for the uncertainty of the future. How there are no guarantees of anything in this life. No matter how much money you have or how big your house is, or how hard you work.

Cry for the boy with so much anger and contempt.

But mostly: I cry for the depravity of the human race. Myself included. For the blackness and ugliness of sin in this world, which without being covered by the blood of the Perfect Sacrifice knows nothing but destruction.

For the fact that this, all this, is sin restrained.

Cry because it's easier to walk by than to reach out a hand and offer His Love. The only answer.

I've heard some say this tragedy is made worse by its close proximity to Christmas. And when I think about the loneliness of a gathering around the tree without the most excited member of our family there to chatter and leap around and infect us with his zest for life- I can understand that.

But I also say that there is no better time for this Season than now.

"And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!"

-It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

I don't know about you, but my form has been bending a little lower since Friday. My steps have become more painful, slower.
If this is not the time to look for that Star, then there never was a time. Look up. Don't let this steal your Christmas. Rest beside that road and hear the angels sing and know the good news, the best news of all: He came to save us, from all of this. From the fear and the anger and the darkness. THAT is why the angels sang that day, why the shepherds knelt, and the wise men searched in hunger.

Why we join together and celebrate each year: eating together, giving gifts, enjoying each other.
Because He came and because He lives, we can face tomorrow.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Anticipation of Good News

This Christmas Season is going too quickly! Less than 2 weeks away.....I'm clutching at the days. Plugging in the Christmas tree as soon as we come down the stairs in the morning.

 Opening up our Christmas book, reading what fun to anticipate later in the day.

And probably my favorite: sitting with Aquaman in our Christmas book nook, reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible while he eats his jellied Christmas wreath and counting the little bags that are left until the birthday of our Savior.

It's obvious that he relishes that time as much as I do. Surveying the pictures, asking questions. Furrowing his brow in the middle parts, and smiling ear to ear at the end parts.
Last night it was the story of God parting the Red Sea. He examined the picture carefully of the Egyptians covered by the Sea as they tried to pursue the Israelites. Then he looked at the previous picture with the chariots, and said "Mom, what about the horses? They didn't make bad choices. Did God let them get out of the water?" I paused for a while, working on my answer, and he decided to help me out: "I know. I bet God sent a crane down there, and just LIFTED them right out of the water. I bet that's what He did. Because God is so good."
I love the simplicity and innocence of his faith. I love his sense of justice. And I shudder at the way it is going to be tested over the years as he comes to see, as I went on to explain to him: that sometimes people, and even animals, suffer just because someone ELSE has made a bad choice.

But God can, and will, make it up to them. 10x, 100x, 1000x if they have submitted to Him.

He seemed quite satisfied with that. Dancing wildly around the room, shouting: "I KNOW that already, I KNOW that Jesus loves me." and leaping haphazardly into a hug before I carried him up the stairs to bed.

I can see now why Jesus said you have to become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven.
And I see how he meets their needs in special ways.

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." -Psalm 103:13-14

There has been nothing in life that has shown me more about the love and mercy and grace of God toward His children than having my own.

Last week, our Christmas plans (and pretty much all others) screeched to a halt when Aquaman contracted Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. I had heard of it briefly before, but imagined it to be a brief illness with some fever and a rash. Not something that would leave my son convulsing in pain for hours on end in the middle of the night. The 1st night it was the high fever that kept him up in the early hours of the evening. As he thrashed around in my arms, I prayed, but the supplications were too much for my sensitive child. I could feel his anxiety building in his tense body as I asked God to heal him and make him feel better. So I changed tack. I told God what I already knew. That He WOULD make Aquaman feel better. And thanked him for it. And literally in the instant that I said it, a sweat broke out on the forehead of my little boy. His body relaxed and cooled, and he drifted off to sleep.

I was so amazed, but not surprised. Because I have been hearing Him call and speak to my son these past several weeks with an intensity of one who loves deeply, and wants to show Himself. And there is something in the way He speaks to the young. Proving that He can be trusted. Babes are indeed fed with the ease of milk before they progress to more solid faith-shaking foods.

And what love!

For what is faith but looking back and trusting past Goodness for the future. And what Goodness!

God taking on flesh. The weakest, most humble form. Lying in a manger.

"No crying He makes" goes the song, but I'll bet He cried. When His flesh hit the cool night air. When He felt hungry for the very first time. And lonely.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- but yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
-Hebrews 4:14-16

Other than a few little spots on his hands now, there is little evidence that Aquaman was writhing in misery just a few days ago. And other than a few spots around his mouth, The Dude has fared amazingly well too (thank You, God, for breast milk).

Tonight we'll have a Holiday Hayride around the lights of Wickham Park. Tomorrow a train ride at the library and "snow" at Gleason Park. The Joy of this wonderful Holiday season continues. Only heightened by the bumps in the road of illness and long nights.

The other night, I had this dream. It only lasted a few seconds. I was standing outside, and the clouds parted. I could feel something happening. Something wonderful. And I screamed "Yes. YES!!" and threw my hands into the air. I would have thrown my whole body if I could.

And when I woke up, I thanked Jesus that He's coming back. If not today, or tomorrow, or in my lifetime: soon. Not as a baby this time. But as He deserves. I thanked him for the little joys and the little pains here on earth. And the reminder that this isn't all there is. Not by a longshot.

And THAT is the best news of all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Whatever fleeting resentment of the neverending demands of motherhood has (at least temporarily) passed.

I can't tell you how, or even when exactly. Or why.

I just remember sometime in the middle of the night looking down at the face of my oldest son and feeling all but gratitude washing out of my soul. The way the babyness is going, leaving angled lines in once chubby cheeks. Remembering the wisdom in his eyes as we read our advent Bible story, where once only wild impulsivity lived. The way the arguments, which have been a part of our lives since 9/1/08- have become more clever. More convincing.

And holding a 20 month old Dude for the last time in the middle of the night. Knowing that when we woke, he would be gone. Replaced by a 21 month old who promptly removed a picture of his brother from the refrigerator and declared his name with all clarity for the first time. Who turned on the coffee, the same way 20 month old Dude did every morning, but this time said like a little man: "push the button!" as he did it.

Watching Aquaman, crying on the time out step for pushing his brother off of "horsey" Daddy's back. And the way The Dude joined him there, crying too, and saying "sorry! sorry, brother!"

Maybe it was the 3 hour nap I took on Sunday afternoon while JT bravely bundled both boys off to the mall where they rode the train and ate at a restaraunt and JT received a lecture by a large tatooed woman because apparently The Dude is a playground bully. Or the way they all came home glowing from their guys' day out. JT the most of all because he DID it. And he survived it.

Which is a pretty big accomplishment this time of year at the mall.

Maybe it was, once more, sitting down and considering that my quiver is already full, at least qualitatively speaking.

"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; the fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." Proverbs 127:3-5

Because with the way that I've been called to parent, and with the children I have been called to parent: sometimes I wonder if my quiver is quantitatively full too. I love the relationship that I have with my boys, despite the moments of frustration and doubt. The one on one time I've been able to spend getting to know them. And the closer bond that they have with each other daily.

Love the way my relationship with Aquaman has changed lately as he becomes this...PERSON who I can relate to as well as parent. Although I have adored this time raising my babies, I am really excited about this new season of raising children. Aquaman's excitement over the Christmas season this year. Signing him up for his first ever sport: IHB tot t-ball to start in the spring.

The way he reached over and took my hand with a pained expression when we were reading about Adam and Eve believing the "terrible lie" in the Jesus Storybook Bible (that story gets him every time), and said "that's really sad, isn't it mom?"

I don't know if my family is complete yet. But I do know that my quiver, and my heart, are full.

"You have made my days a mere hand-breadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath." Psalm 39:5

Our lives are just a BREATH. That's why JT's body has been feeling a little weary from his workouts lately. Why my hormones and emotions almost overcame me last week

Why suddenly, holding my toddler son all night long doesn't seem like such an inconvenience anymore. And the thought of nursing a little beyond age two doesn't seem so crazy. And why "me" time again means cheering maniacally while my sons brave the grass ramp at the park.

Maybe it's just because I've decided to be ok with who I am today and stop worrying about whether I'm like anyone else or whether I can possibly do it all. I'm not. And I can't. End of story.

I'm me, made for a purpose. Not to do EVERYTHING but to do the things I've been called to well. Like loving and supporting my husband, and cheering him on. Whether he climbs the "corporate ladder" and makes a bunch of money, or whether he stays just who he is now: a quiet and simple man whom every surfer who enters the water stops to greet. Whose humility and gentleness is a magnet to the lost and hurting. Who, though he may be slightly afraid of small children, wraps our family in a constant cloak of love and support and continually makes me feel like who I am is enough.

Like raising my children to love the Lord, and each other, and the people in the world around them with a love that sacrifices: especially for the little man. The poor man. The dirty and helpless man. Especially for the child without a father. By loving them in their messiest, neediest, and most trying moments. When they seem the most unlovable. Reaching down into their hearts, letting them cling sometimes. Prying them off sometimes.

By filling our house with Christmas carols and lights and advent candy, and laughter. Making our home a haven from the cruel and tiring world, so that we will all be renewed by the love within these walls as we make our way back out to spread light in it.

By doing everything without complaining, or arguing, even when the workload in the office seems impossible to bear. By, as often as I can, fully opening my eyes and giving a cup of cold water to least of these.

Some other things may fall a bit to the wayside, and I'll have to be ok with that. Things that for others might be their most important calling, but would only distract me from the tasks that have been ordained for my life.

Everyone talks all the time about balance, but the truth is, there are seasons of life that are unbalanced. Someday I bet I'll be a better friend than I have been lately. I bet I'll get back in the best of physical shape. I bet I'll have more time to reconnect with different parts of myself.

It's hard to admit that I can't be it all. But so freeing to admit that through Christ who strengthens me, loves me, sustains me... Through Christ who shelters me with his wings, and supports me with his rock-hard foundation... I can be ENOUGH today.

That sounds pretty good to me.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Last Day of November

It's the last day of November, and I'm grateful. The Christmas season is coming just in time for me. I know a lot of people get crazy busy at Christmas season, but for me it is an opportunity to slow life down a little bit, to stop and reflect and to enjoy. To go back to child-like wonder.

I need that right now.

 For about 3 weeks the Dude was fully night weaned, culminating in a night in which he slept 6 hours in a row IN the crib. And then everything disintegrated. He began to wake hourly and took hours to console. His separation anxiety suddenly tripled, and he began crying hysterically whenever he couldn't see me even during the day. The night weaning wasn't working for anyone. No one was sleeping and everyone was miserable.

So now we're back to all night snuggles. He wakes immediately if I try to transfer him to the crib at any point during the night.

I don't resent it. Not really. Everyone does things in their own time. And it's not his fault that he needs more of me than I want him to need. And I am certainly grateful to feel so connected to my child. Especially because he is turning out to be every bit as intense as his big brother.

Actually, probably even more like his high energy father than my firstborn. If he is not clinging to me like a baby monkey and crying he is looking for whatever near-death experience he can find in the 30 seconds that I turn my back.

Without those all night snuggles and those frequent moments of reconnection during the day he would probably make me absolutely crazy.

I read once that the definition of a "high-need" child was that they need more of everything except sleep. This definitely defines my kids. I wouldn't trade them. At this moment. But some moments during the day...

Anyway, my hormones are all out of whack from attempted weaning gone wrong. I haven't had PMS in 30 months. Not sure if that is what I'm experiencing right now, but I am exhausted. I'm a little sad, and feeling slow.

I've been on a great big *doing* kick for a while now, never feeling like enough. Everyone seems to have so many needs, and there is not enough of me to go around. I've been reminded lately that I have needs too.

I'm a little lonely. But other than my family and co-workers, not much time for friends. I tried a women's bible study, but came home to basically everyone crying. Night time is not a good time for a mommy to be gone, at least in my house. Don't think JT will be brave enough to try that again for a while.

So this Christmas season is going to be about getting back to relationship with the One who can meet all of those needs. Emotionally, physically, mentally, relationally. I'm going to slow down, recharge, and let myself be taken care of by that baby-turned-Savior.

And we've got some fun activities planned too.

Yesterday we visited two different libraries (disturbing everyone's peace since Judah screamed, threw toys, and climbed on things through most of the visit) and collected a total of 22 Christmas books and then wrapped them up. We're going to open one each morning in December leading up to Christmas, and inside each one is a strip of paper naming a fun Christmas-related activity we will do that day.

Aquaman and The Dude helped wrap the books so they're nothing Pinterest worthy. This is why I have children though, because my own wrapping would never be Pinterest worthy either!

And then we put one piece of candy in a bag, along with a slip of paper with passages from the Jesus Storybook Bible to read at night before bed.

This all turned out to take a lot more time than I thought it would in preparation, but I'm excited now that it is done.

Looking forward to these next few weeks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


This thanksgiving finds my heart swimming with gratitude.

Life is good. It's simple. We're healthy, we're happy, our marriage is strong, our children are developing normally.

Life is hard. It can be confusing. We search, we hurt, we hurt each other. We apologize. Our children grow and change and we change along with them.

I'm thankful for the good things, and I am ever thankful for the hard things that shape us and soften us, draw us closer, and make us stronger for the road ahead.

I am most thankful for prayer. For a relationship with a Living God.

"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving".
Colossians 4:2

I'm thankful that He is ever present. That though sometimes I can go all day stewing over things in my head, trying to solve my own problems, or just soaking in my own emotions, the moment I turn to Him- turn it over to Him, He takes it. Thankful for the reminder of who I am in His presence. The shrinking, the humility, the raw filth and the resulting brokenness. The filling and enabling. The strength.

I'm thankful for middle-of-the-night prayers, warm under the blanket. 20 month old footy pajama feet tucked against my body, curly hair brushing a mother's kiss. For not having to be anxious about the future, be it tomorrow or 20 years from now.

Thankful for the thanksgiving season prayers that have brought about new seed sowing in the heart of my 4 year old son. Thankful for his calling to me to lay with him right before he falls asleep, and for a husband who does not resent it. For his trusting me with his questions about Jesus, and his hesitations, and his innocence. I'm thankful for glimpses of the future in his sparkly blue eyes. For the newfound respect that has been growing in my heart for him as I watch him turn into his own person with his own purpose and talents and passions.

So so thankful for the opportunity to share with him what it means to follow Christ. Having had not nearly as much experience evangelizing as I should, being this many years a Christian; the dizziness of sharing in that moment when you know a heart is being deeply spoken to, that a life is close to changing is nonetheless as exciting each subsequent time as the first. And multiplied many times over when the young disciple is your own child.

I'm thankful for Florida Novembers. For playing in the pool (!) and eating dinner by the fire pit in our courtyard.

For thanksgiving memories of large family gatherings and impromptu kickball games and football tossing, and the hope of more of the same in the future.

Thankful to be entering the Christmas season, when life becomes more intentional. When the calandar, and our hearts, are full.

Believe it or not, I'm thankful that life's not exactly what I thought it would be. That people aren't exactly who I think they should be. And that there's a place I'm going someday where it will all make sense, and it doesn't have to down here.

Thank You God, for thanksgiving. For prayers of thanksgiving and with thanksgiving, and for another year to celebrate You.

Friday, November 16, 2012

No Such Thing as SuperWoman

To be honest, I never really liked the Proverbs 31 woman.
I mean, have you read about her lately? What an overacheiver. What a goody-goody. And even worse...what a GIRL.
The kind of girl I've never been, and I think that's why I never liked her.
I spent much of my childhood wishing I had been born a boy. Life just seemed better for boys. Their handwriting wasn't expected to be pretty and bubbly, and no one laughed if they cut crooked with scissors or if their hair looked a little messy.

I think that's why I've been so happy to produce boys. Have you seen the kind of boys that we produce? Aquaman regularly runs into walls, and trips over his own feet. His head is so large that he frequently loses his balance when he bends over too far. He has no idea what the term "indoor voice" means, and I once caught him absent-mindedly opening the refrigerator when what he really needed was to go to the bathroom.
The Dude isn't a whole lot better. In the cleanest room he can manage to cover himself in dirt. He never ever walks. He runs. And when life is not cooperating with him, he quite often slams his head into the closest wall or floor available.

These are all well and fine, if you're a boy. And if you are said-boy's mother, you can shake your head with a wistful smile and say in that sweet way: "boys will be boys!" and everyone will smile too (even while they're taking cover) and agree.

Not so, for girls.
Granted, I've always been pretty quiet. And I can generally control my impulses for longer than three minutes. But I've never been terribly coordinated or graceful. I've never really looked at myself for longer than thirty seconds in the mirror before running off to the next thing (which means I can leave the house with my shirt inside out or some unknown crusty substance on my face and not discover it for hours), and I've definitely never ever been good at the things that girls are supposed to be good at. Which gave me a pretty good complex for a long time.

Exit college: life can finally begin. The emotional rollercoaster of social dramas and figuring out what I'm supposed to do with my life seems to be over, and I can start new. Figure out what a woman who wants to be like Jesus is supposed to look like. And what do you know, I meet up with that Proverbs 31 woman again.

"Beautiful in God's Eyes", that's the book I discovered. A book that breaks down the virtues of a woman whom God will find beautiful. And what girl doesn't want that? Especially a girl who seems hopelessly destined to be overlooked. I chided myself for having ignored this perfect role model for so long. "If you just TRY", I told myself, you can be like her too.
It is a great book, and in the end I think it helped open up my eyes to the real Truth in the Bible about this woman, and God's ideal for women. But for a while all it did was feed those old insecurities. Case in point:

She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with
sashes." Proverbs 31:24

My friend S told me a long time ago that when she imagined me as an old lady someday in a knitting circle, she saw me spending the whole time rooting around my purse looking for my knitting needles. I think this is a pretty accurate statement. And a sign of how far I've come, because now I can look at that picture of myself fondly, with acceptance and peace and even a little amusement.

But not straight out of college. Straight out of college I was trying to impress my friends and find me a husband, and then BAM I found out that not even God likes a woman who can't make pretty things.
I'll have you know I tried to cross-stitch some bibs for neices and nephews when I was a tween. And my twin sister's...well hers were gorgeous. Mine were just a wad of thread. I can't even CROSS-STITCH for goodness sake, and God wants me to try to sell home-made sashes?

After a while, I put that book away. But I kept Proverbs out.
I started working as an RN, and I realized I was "opening my arms to the poor, and extending my hands to the needy" (vs 20), and that I was pretty good at it. That I "set about my work vigorously, and my arms were strong for my tasks" (v 17). I slowly began to learn that God loved me just as He made me, and that maybe my "distaff" and my "spindle" were a syringe or a computer. That I could work with eager hands on a special needs child instead of with wool. That even though I'm clumsy and occasionally awkward, my strength and dignity can clothe me from the inside out. With laughter at the days to come. Not fear, or uncertainty, or insecurity. With......laughter.

The one thing I always did like about that crazy Proverbs 31 woman were the last verses. "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." v 30

I always liked it because I never felt charming, and I never felt really [conventionally] beautiful. I don't even know if I ever cared if I was thought of as beautiful, on the outside anyway. But a woman who fears the Lord...well I could be that. ANY woman could be that.

And that was the final word of Truth to my heart.
There is no such thing as superwoman. These days our culture seems even more intent on producing superWOMEN than supermen.

As a working mother, one very blessed to work only part-time at least during these days, I've had my days of never feeling like enough. I'm not enough at home, because I'm gone. I have to leave my children with someone else (though I am beyond fortunate to have two sets of grandparents in town), even though they are ultimately MY responsibility to raise properly. This also means the house gets crazy out of order during my work-week. And that there is definitely no time (even if there was money) to fill it up with artistic decorations or cutesy home-made furniture.

But believe it or not, as an ambitious woman who likes to do my best wherever I am, I am never enough at work either. I'm sleep deprived. I'm distracted. My schedule has to be pretty particular. And no, I can't take that full-time job making lots of money and doing something I would probably be very good at, because I would miss my kids too much, and because they need me too much right now. (Not to mention their grandparents would probably fall out from exhaustion, or else we'd have to send them to daycare).

I'm not superwoman. Because there's no such thing.

It's not just working moms. It doesn't take much imagination to see how staying home full-time with your kids, changing endless poopy diapers and giving endless time-outs and trying to make the perfect meal for your husband every night while also managing some volunteer work and being hospitable might leave someone feeling less than adequate. Without the concrete rward of a paycheck, or at least the glow of a positive yearly evaluation.

And the danger of reading Proverbs 31 too much when you have the kind of overzealous, enabling personality that I do is that you can start assigning yourself value only in as much as you accomplish in each day.

Some days there's not much measurable accomplishment.

And even if there is, the danger of pride in "seeing that your trading is profitable" and "your lamp not going out at night" (v 18) is very present reality.

My firstborn son has the typical characteristic perfectionism of his birth order, combined with a very strong desire to work and accomplish, and to be praised for it. I'm sure this comes, at least in part, from being the so frequently praised for his help around the house and with his baby brother. I'm happy for him in watching him stand up and take responsibility, and not be afraid to work up a sweat or get a little uncomfortable. But I am also thoughtful for him as I watch him grow and put his value on these fleeting accomplishments.

All the work of that Proverbs 31 woman: all the efforts and open arms and sucesses are nothing without being tempered by the Fear of the Lord.

Recognizing the gifts and abilities that The Great Provider has blessed us with in order that we might bless our families and the world around us with them. Not for our own benefit, but for His.

I have also been very fortunate this past year or so to do some contracting RN work on the side doing monthly assessments on elderly patients in assisted living facilities.
Each month I look forward, even if cautiously, to entering these surreal surroundings and seeing to what point each of us is headed (and that's if we're lucky enough to live that long). There's the lady who pushes herself along rapidly with her feet in her wheelchair, staring at some infinite point in the distance and mumbling "mm mm mm mm" as she goes by.
The man who shakes my hand, and holds it just a little too long as I walk by.
The one who refuses to get out of bed.

In the end, I highly doubt it's going to be our accomplishments that guide us through those last days. It's going to be the knowledge that we feared the Lord, and followed Him. That we got up while it was still dark, that we did not eat the bread of idleness- not because we wanted to BE much. But because we loved much.

Because we are Loved much.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why I Rocked You for Three Hours Last Night Instead of Sleeping

Dear Little Dude,

I love you kid. Even though I know sometimes you doubt it, like when you take off running across the parking lot and halfway down the sidewalk behind your Winne The Pooh push toy when my hands are full. Or when you throw whatever you're holding violently whenever I pick you up. Or when you keep me up all night long.

I loved you from the first positive pregnancy test, even though the next day your Daddy found out he might be losing his job, and we spent the next 2 months scared out of our minds about what we were going to do. Loved you enough to cut out every food protein known to man when you still had colic at 4 months old.

 I love the way you surprise me every day with your generous and willing nature. I'm really proud of who you're becoming, Dude.

That's why I spent three hours rocking you last night. With your head snuggled on my shoulder, your body as limp as a rag doll except the water cup clutched desperately in your hands; and your eyes eerily wide open every time I peeked.
After a week, you are officially night weaned this time, and this time it was not hard at all. I cut the feedings down by a minute each night, and by the time we were only at one minute, you  only asked for water when you woke up. You love your water.

Your sleep is improving (we had a record 4 hour stretch the other day), so I am hopeful, but once every 5 days or so, you have a night like last night. Where you just can't seem to go back to sleep in the middle of the night. So we rock.

And do you know why we rock?

Because tonight we can.

I hold you in my arms, and these days you fill out my whole lap. You are getting so big and strong. We look at the Christmas lights that are already lighting up your window, twinkling with the Hope of One who came to the earth as a baby. And we look out the window at the great big world that is full of uncertainty and pain and opportunity.

Mostly I pray for you, and for the days ahead. I pray that I'll know how to point you to the One who has the answers. Pray that I won't get distracted by the house that needs cleaning or the food that needs cooking or the letters of the alphabet, and that your Daddy and I will have the wisdom to focus on the things that really matter. Often I pray for your big brother, because already at 4, his life is more complicated than yours, and that makes me very thoughtful about the future.

Last night you surprised me in the middle of the night, when you turned to me with a smile mid-rock and counted: "one, two, fwee, fooah, fibe." I've never even heard you count to two before.
But we spent half the morning yesterday walking on the water meters outside our house and counting them.

I can't believe the things that you are learning.

I hope that you are learning that God loves you. And that you need Him. That life would have very little meaning without him.

Even though I like to peg you as my less sensitive one, I am finding each day that you have a very tender heart. Every day, you ask me to read "Are you my mother". And you smile through the beginning part, and recite pieces of it with me. But when it gets to the climax...when the baby bird is really starting to get worried about where his mother went...your eyes start puddling up, and your lip comes out, and you start sniffling...and you cry right through to the end when he finds his mother.

And then you ask me to read it again.

There are nights up ahead that are going to be darker than last night was. The lights of Christmas may seem to have gone out, and not even your mother's arms will be enough to soothe the unrest that's in your heart.

And that's why I rocked you last night. Instead of putting you back in the crib by yourself, putting in the ear plugs and climbing into bed. Because last night, I could. Because right now your problems are simple and easily solved. Because for now the nights are warm and snuggly, even if they're tiring. And I know there are days ahead when I will be up all night again, knowing that you are hurting or afraid or just alone, and you'll be too big to rock, and your problems will be too complicated to hug away.

So thanks for sitting with me last night. For a little while longer. I love you buddy, I always will.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why I went to Work Yesterday, Instead of To Your Pumpkin Parade

Dear Aquaman,

I love you, kid. I know sometimes you doubt it, like when you spill your milk on the floor for the thousandth time or when you accidentally kick me in the face during your wild tumbly moments, or when you scream at the top of your lungs because something isn't going your way. But I really do.

I loved you before I even saw your alien like form on the 9 week ultrasound. Loved you enough to do a lot of crying with you those first few weeks after you were born when you were learning to fit into your skin outside of mine.

Love the way you've grown into a boy who never ceases to amaze me with his wit and charm and fierce loyalty and determination. I'm so proud of who you're becoming, Aquaman.

That's why it was really hard for me to watch you climb into Grandma's truck yesterday, with the wagon that we decorated together (well ok, mostly I decorated it while you pushed your little brother wildly around the garage in the Little Tykes car, and occasionally yelled "suggestions" to me about where to put one of the plastic spiders) and drive away. It's why, getting in my car to head to work, I brushed a tear away, even as I smiled at the mental picture of you marching through the sanctuary pulling your freshly painted pumpkin in that decorated wagon and waving at your Dad, and Grandma, and Noni, and Papa, and Aunt K (who all really really love you too, by the way).

It wasn't the first big day I've missed because I was at work. (I missed your first day of school this year too), and it won't be my last, Aquaman.

I wrestled with this decision a lot these past few weeks. Thought about going in to work late (but it would have been really really late), or switching my days, or just taking the whole day off. When I first told you I wouldn't be able to go, you got very sad, and I started making plans to be there no matter what.
But when we found out that Daddy had that day off already, and that he really really wanted to see your pumpkin parade, suddenly it didn't matter to you if Mommy was there at all.

And that was when I knew what I had to do.

 Because the reason I go to work, Aquaman, the MAIN reason, is because if I didn't your Daddy could never be at your pumpkin parades or your future athletic events or debate team contests or even your quiet weekends at home, because he would always be working. And I know that even more than a boy needs a Mommy who holds him and reads to him and washes his face; he needs a Daddy who is not overworked and overtired and who can wrestle with him and mess up his hair and show him how to be a man.

Your Daddy, and you, and your baby brother (who is rapidly losing his babyness, isn't he?) are always more important than some job, and as often as possible, I choose you over it. It's why I've only worked 3 days a week since you were 7 months old.

I've been what many would call a "Helicopter parent" thus far, and I'm not ashamed of it. I unabashedly take every picture I can and post it all over Facebook. I follow you all over the playground just to take delight in your newfound physical prowess. When you were a baby, I never let you cry more than 5 minutes in the church nursery. I still climb into bed with you in the middle of the night when you feel cold or lonely.

"The maternal instinct is a Gift-love, but one that needs to give; therefore needs to be needed. But the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching. Thus a heavy task is laid upon this Gift-love. It must work towards its own abdication. We must aim at making ourselves superfluous. The hour when we say "They need me no longer" should be our reward. But the instinct, simply in its own nature, has no power to fulfill this law. The instinct desires the good of its object, but not simply; only the good it can itself give. A much higher love - a love which desires the good of the object as such, from whatever source that good comes - must step in and help or tame the instinct before it can make the abdication.."
- C.S Lewis

This is why I wasn't at your pumpkin parade yesterday. And why, despite the twinge of sadness I felt, answering phone calls in my office while you were pulling that little red wagon, I also felt a sense of accomplishment.

Because yesterday, for one of the first of many many times: I was superfluous.

And you know what's really crazy? I'm ok with that.