Thursday, October 30, 2014

Big Feeling Day

We had a Big Feeling Day at our house this week.
By "Big Feelings" I don't mean:

Nor do I mean Big Feelings like:

I'm talking about the Other Big Feelings. Feelings about losing the game. Feelings about my sticker ripped. Feelings about where my sister sits when we're reading books together. Feelings about my balloon popped. Feelings about whose fault it is that my balloon popped. Feelings about I want a snack and mama said 'no more cookies.'
The Big Feelings were loud.  They were sometimes accompanied by thrashing, falling, or kicking.  They were also Long Feelings accompanied by lengthy whining.
Ironically, I had set aside to give more focused attention to my kids.  I wasn't trying to cook.  I wasn't studying.  I wasn't cleaning.  I was reading books and saying "yes" to playing games and looking for the lego pieces and all the other things that should prevent Big Feelings.
And yet...

 We felt like this:

And something like this:
By the end of the day, I was having some Big Feelings of my own.  Fortunately, I have not completely taught my boys to read the clock, so bedtime came mysteriously quickly.  Everyone slept long and hard and woke up with much smaller feelings.  Feelings like "I'm hungry for breakfast" and "how many days til Friday?" and " when can we play at my friend's house?" Everyday kind of feelings are my favorite kind.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Parenting Dilemna: Part 1

Hello blog friends! I'm hoping to return to "mommy blogging" in this season when I have been gifted with more time with the kiddos.  To warm myself up as I get back into blogging, I thought I'd start a series on "Parenting Dilemmas."  Nothing serious this time, no disciple or character formation questions, but something much more straightforward. 

Hands and feet.  My son Titus, for whatever reason, has fingernails that for some reason attract dirt.  They attract dirt and hold onto it.  For some reason, normal handwashing does not even come close to eradicating this layer of blackness under his nails.  On a normal day, it may look like he has not washed his hands in a week, judging from his fingernails.  He does not dig in the dirt anymore than my other children, and I keep his nails just as well trimmed, but for some reason he carries black sludge along with him. 

Solution: frequent baths.  I have never been one to give daily baths; I just don't have it in me by the end of the day.  But a semi-weekly soak in the tub usually eradicates the fingernail grime. 

Enter Indian baths.  These days our "baths" are standing near the faucet of water and letting mama scrub down with soap and rinse.  There is no playing and no soaking.  While this has been much more efficient and not unpleasant, it has eliminated my nail-cleaning solution.  Now that even swimming season has ended, all three of my children are sporting a nice black layer on toes and feet. 

I'm asking for your advice: how do you battle your kids' nail-sludge? Do you get them to wash dishes as a sneaky way at this?  Do you have a water play station for them?  Do you have a nail brush and hold them down while they kick and scream?  Do you paint their fingernails to cover it up (just kidding, I wasn't planning to do this...).

Thanks in advance, and may your day be full of sludge-free kiddos.

Monday, September 2, 2013

small world.

The other day I was looking at a piece of cross stitch I completed almost 13 years ago now.  It is about 2 feet by 3 feet, a very small pattern, and every millimeter of it is covered with stitches.  The picture is the close up of two wolves that I had completed for Matt on the occasion of our wedding.

I wondered, who was the person who made that? Who took the time to sew each of those teeny stitches?  Who had two free hands, adequate hours, good lighting and un-bumped elbows, focus to read and follow the pattern for each of those thousand of stitches?  Who had the where-with-all to make sure each stitch went in the same direction for uniformity? Who had the patience for that?

Who was she?  Have I met her?

She is so different from the person I know myself to be today.

Today the person I know has gone from a meticulously focused detail-oriented organizational fiend to a multi-tasker moving at the speed of light, and dropping alot of balls in the process (to mix a whole bunch of metaphors!). 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

On unanswered prayer and grumbling

Here's another post I wrote awhile ago and never felt quite ready to post.  A couple of conversations about this recently brought it to mind.  I'm taking a step of faith and posting this during a season where the grumbling seems to be winning over the contentment and I need to remember. Remember.

Last spring, God came through for us in a big way.  He answered a big prayer of the previous six months, even longer.  A prayer that was starting to feel overlooked, unheard... But that’s a story for another post, one where I get to testify of God’s goodness to us.  However, today I want to talk about “unanswered” prayers.  

Here’s the context: The prayer God answered last spring was in the form of a job for me.  We so clearly saw God’s hand in it, His loving, caring, perfect provision, that I was humbled out of grumbling. How dare I grumble at how good God has been to me?...  In awe of his daddy care for us.

And then someone told me that they were praying that I wouldn’t have to work.  The person who told me that is a prayer warrior and someone who loves us immensely (my mom!).  Another dear friend and sister in prayer happened to mention that she was praying for the same thing: that I would be able to stay home with my children and care for my home.  I did not ask anyone to pray for these things.  I didn’t dare pray them for myself after seeing how God had provided.  Did I dare pray that He would take away what He had so generously provided?  It seemed so ungrateful.  What to do?  

This fall Matt and I re-evaluated our situation.  How was is going for him to be home most of the time and for me to be working full-time?  How was it impacting each of us? Our children? Our home? Our progress on other goals?  It seemed to be working, but sometimes felt a bit less than ideal.  We tentatively began to pray that God would provide the right job for Matt.  Someone (hi Rachel!) asked us how they could pray for us, and we included this on the list, stated ever so gingerly, “if it’s God’s will,” of course.

This whispered prayer, as of today, remains unanswered.  We haven’t gone looking for ways for God to answer it, instead trusting that if He desires to change our current situation, He will.

On the other hand, I see God answering this prayer daily.  He answers it most days by providing daily contentment in our current situation.  He answers it by giving me a husband who has risen to the challenge of his current role (potty training! time outs! teaching a baby how to sleep in her bed! mastering the grocery shopping with three kids in tow! making me feel welcome, loved, and cared for when I return home from work! making sure I have time to spend with our children!).  He answers it by giving us a baby who doesn’t fight a bottle from daddy most days and sons who look forward joyfully to “daddy days.” He answers it by providing me with meaningful, stimulating work and joy in doing it well.  He even blesses above and beyond with a flexible schedule that allows for me to be home one weekday each week.

And yet... there are days when I still grumble, when I think that things could be better if God answered it “my way.” The days when I wonder if the prayer is unanswered.  Surely the Sovereign God could provide a job that would use my husband’s gifts for His Kingdom, that would allow Matt to work outside the home.  Certainly He could arrange a situation where we could pay the bills and I could stay home and bake bread and clean the bathroom and read books with my children to my heart’s content.  

Maybe the answer is “not yet.”  Maybe this is part of the way he is growing my desire to build a home in India, where my role will be more at home.  Maybe he has more  for each of us to learn in these roles. Maybe he has more ways to use us in this season.

And so I continue to speculate about what God is doing behind the scenes; I celebrate the days when I see the good work he is doing; and I and pray for grace on the days when I want to grumble.  

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Suffer well?

The bag I carry feels a little heavier every day, as if someone is adding a few papers every day to my trusty messenger bag that I cart to and from work. Almost imperceptible, but over time, I wonder why my steps seem to come a millisecond slower and slower. It’s the shorter days of sunlight, the longer days of work, the apparent ineffectiveness of my efforts, the worry if I am doing The Right Thing with my sons. It’s the compulsion to feed my family better, to keep the house cleaner, to find more resources where they don’t exist for the women I help, to make more phone calls, to pray more, to spend less money, to spend money on things we need (new socks for 4 year old boys!), to finish that overdue library book, to be more thankful, to worry less and trust more, to go to the gym, to……. It’s the grief at a friend’s new grief on top of multiple recent grief’s, the weight of decisions made and decisions that need to be made, the anticipated goodbyes and hellos. 

This morning in my Facebook feed, I caught a brief glance at a book titled “Don’t Waste Your Pain.” I know nothing about the book, for good or ill, but it reminded me of an essay written by a Westminster Professor a few years ago entitled “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.” The essay was moving, inspiring, and memorable; the writer has since lost the battle to cancer and won the spiritual battle. However, as those words, that idea, flickered onto the screen and my memory this morning, I felt myself recoil. “What,” my brain screamed, “on top of everything else, I have to suffer The Right Way too?” For a “doer” like me, this sounds like another task, another assignment. 

I must now add “Suffer The Right Way” to my to-do list.

Here’s what I know: when items like Pray more, Call a friend, Suffer correctly, Parent “better” show up on my to-do list as chores, I have lost my way…my focus is misplaced. In these things I need to DO less and rest more. 

Rest on my Jesus who has done everything that needs to be “done.” “It is finished,” He said.

Believe in his promise that He will complete whatever remains. “He who started the good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”

Turn away from the to-do list and look into his face. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”
Start less sentences with “I need to…”

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Call me 
Call me.
With the noise
The baby crying
The argument over putting on his socks
The Bat Cave falling over
The fries are burning
“It’s too cold!”
You’re late getting out the door and you’re frazzled
Someone fell asleep on the couch just as it’s time to go
“Did you have an accident?”
Someone yelling
Where’s the milk?

I want to hear all of it 
I cannot do anything from here
I cannot put on socks or clean up the puddle or soothe the crying baby
I cannot even talk to you. I know you can't talk now.
But let me bear silent witness to the mess, to the glorious mess of this family, our family, our lives.
Allow me to bear witness to your struggle and your triumph. 
Call me.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Free Fall!

Some days as a parent I feel like I'm in free fall.
Propelled forward at a great rate of speed,
the weight I'm carrying speeding the momentum of the fall,
and nothing with which to catch myself.
Where and how will we all land?

The other day I glimpsed another parents' ordinary, extra-ordinary moment of free fall.  Walking down a busy sidewalk in Center City on New Years Eve, a couple each carrying a child.  Dad was carrying an older toddler or preschooler, maybe 4 or 5 years old.  As I have some experience with this, I know that your range of vision is limited when you are carrying a heavy child in front of you with both arms... specifically, you can't see where you're stepping.  Dad was in such a predicament, and he missed the curb of the sidewalk.

Free fall.

From where I was standing, I saw dad and child coming straight down, like a tree cut in the forest, no bending, no wavering.  The trajectory showed that the back of the child's head was going to be the first thing in direct contact with the sidewalk. I gasped, and things seemed to go into slow-motion.

Here's what I saw:
Dad never let go.   
Human instinct causes us to put out our hands to catch ourselves when we're falling.  Dad did not put out his hands.  His instinct to hold onto his son was stronger than the instinct for self-preservation.

Dad threw himself in the path of danger.  
Even though I saw it as if in slow-motion, I can't tell you how he did it.  But dad somehow twisted and nearly somersaulted his body in such a way that his son never even touched the sidewalk.  It was as if dad curled around, threw his own body -- his head and shoulder -- at the sidewalk to take the direct impact.  He threw his own head toward the sidewalk.

I have a few free fall situations of my own.  Not sure where the impact will be or where we'll land.  Feeling like I have nothing to grab on to.

Maybe the reason I have nothing to grab onto is because I am holding so tight to something that's important to me.  Am I holding onto my child, not willing to let go in order to brace myself?  Am I holding onto my God, not willing to grasp at some passing theory or assurance?
It's time for me to throw myself at the hard parts.  When my son is frustrated because learning a new skill is hard: feel that with him instead of feeling frustrated at him.  The uncertainty of a new approach with feeding: trust my instincts instead following the books out of fear.  The days when I feel like I.Can.Not.Do.Every.Thing: throw myself at what I know is most important (my walk with God, my family relationships), and let the rest "fall" into place.

This is not a resolve to "try harder" and "do better;" I know from experience that this is doomed to fail.  It is throwing myself on the mercy of God, who will always provide a softer landing than a Center City sidewalk:

For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Ps 91:11-12