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

Enough

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.