Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Higher virtue: Truth or Peace?

If you've ever worked in customer service, you know the expression: "The customer is always right."  Let me put it this way: "The two-year-old is always right."  Here's the catch: I have two of them, and they can't both be right. 

It started as newly verbal one-year-olds, the arguments.  Frequently, in their car seats in the car.  Barely able to form coherent words, much less sentences, they would argue the finer points of the name of a truck, what "M" is for, or on whose side of the car they are sitting (mama's or daddy's).  One son (we'll call him Ham), would argue for the pure joy of provocation.  The other son (let's call him Shem), argued for Truth, Capital T Truth.  It would always end in tears, almost always in screaming.  It was amusing for awhile.  We would eavesdrop from the front seat, amazed at our sons' precocious ability for debate, and occasionally interject somewhat helplessly when the crying became too ferocious. 

However, as reasoning skills advanced, so have the arguments.  Yesterday it was over letters and numbers. 

Shem (gleeful in his knowledge): 1, 2, 3, Yay, 3 is a letter! 

Ham: 3 is a number.

S (agitated): No, 3 is a letter. 

H: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8....

S: No, no, stop saying that!! (crying now) 3 is a letter!

Me (to Matt): Uh, truth or peace?

Matt: Shem, there are letters and there are numbers.  1, 2, 3 are numbers.  A, B, C, D are letters.  Yay, aren't number and letters neat! (OK, probably not quite that cheesy, but you get the idea.)

S: hysterical crying, NO, NO, NO, NO!!

H (singing): A, b, c, d, e, f, g...."

S: total breakdown.

Parents: distraction attempts from the front seat: So, Christmas, who's excited about Christmas?

This scenario is a daily occurrence.  Often now, the argument is not even with his brother, but with me.  Colors, I give room for interpretation.  Truck names, you got it, you probably know them better than me.  But some things?  Some things are just wrong.  Am I doing my job as a parent to say, "Yes, okay, good job" when my son is clearly wrong?  Is this justified in an attempt to keep the peace?  I confess.  I pacify.  I agree, not wanting a full-scale fall-out over the fact that this small red fruit is called a strawberry and not a cherry.  Peace prevails. 

Matt summed it up yesterday, oh so philosophically: You cannot have true peace without truth.

Yes, yes, and okay Shem, that's a letter. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Sabbath rest for mamas

My day starts with an alarm clock ringing.  Gotta get that shower before the little people wake up or I'll be behind the curve all day.  Then mix up the pancakes and hurry to their room to change diapers, give morning hugs and kisses, and bring them downstairs to start the day.  Yes, this is my Sabbath rest.  Bathtime can get interesting, and the floor will inevitably need to be swept after the breakfast crumbs settle.  Today we are expecting friends for lunch (yay!), which means a little kitchen prep work while I wash the dishes.  And so on and so forth.

Is this Sabbath rest?  I've tried to practice Sabbath as a rest from the work of the week.  As a student, from studying and reading.  As an employee and wife, from work, cleaning, and grocery shopping.  But as a mama?  Do I take a break from changing diapers, washing sticky hands, reading books?

Clearly the answer is No!

So, where is my rest?

I've had Sundays when I struggled to wash and dress two small ones, braved the cold as I pushed the stroller to church, and hauled car seats up the steps, only to sit in the nursery and do what I would've done at home ... I wondered, isn't Sunday supposed to be restful?

I've had Sundays when I've felt resentful of my children's demands, believing that this was my time to be doing something "spiritual" and self-enriching, and that they were preventing me from knowing this kind of Sabbath rest.

I've had Sundays when I've thought - forget trying - and threw in an unnecessary load of laundry and started dinner for Monday... because what is the point anyway of pretending that Sunday is any different for a mother?

I've had Sundays when my burdens have been surprisingly and undeservedly lifted by a caring husband, by a surprisingly long nap, but a mental shift that can only be credited to the work of the Spirit.  I've had Sundays when I've treasured the long hours to spend with my children without the nagging obligation that I should be finishing (or starting) a chore.  I've had Sundays when friends sitting and talking and playing with my children has brought lightness to my spirit that I would have missed without the privilege of taking a Sabbath rest. 

People, I don't have the answers.  Every Sunday I wonder and I try to work it out.  But if I have learned one thing, it is that our Sabbath rest is not to be a spiritual cover-up for selfishness.  And I need to fight that selfishness every day, Sunday included.

May you experience rest and joy in our Savior on your Sabbath this week.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Night-time visitations

They visit me in the night: the things I failed to do today.
           Put the blueberry plants in pots. (How do I manage to repeatedly overlook this all day only to remember it in the middle of the night?)
           Send a reply to that email from a friend.
           Speak to my son gently instead of snapping when he whined for "mama" yet again.
           Bring the laundry in from the line. (I listen to the rain pouring outside; instead of being lulled to sleep, I fret about clothes that are already wet.

As I doze off briefly, I dream of a beautiful day near the water with my family.  Given a moment alone, I wander off to watch the birds, only to be attacked by some large prehistoric animal that looks like a wild boar, only much bigger.  It rams me in middle of my chest, right where I have pain from a pulled muscle. In the gloom of the night, I feel like maybe it is my heart breaking. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Baby C

                 I listen.

Expecting it, waiting for it: bum-bum. bum-bum. bum-bum.

Giddy, remembering the first time I heard it from your brothers. It had blown me away.  A moment sealed in my memory.  Today I am more prepared. And I wait for it:
                 bum-bum. bum-bum.

As the wait lengthens, I remember words quickly spoken, last night before going to sleep. 
                 Said too lightly,  never believed.

The silence continues.

I wait.

Finally the pain comes.  I wish for more.  Enough to fill the gaping wound.  Enough to alert the world. 
Silence remains.

They tell me I will see you some day. 
I hear the cliche.  Does it comfort or confuse? 
                  I silence my questions.

Dear one, I'm sorry.
For my fear.
For my ambivalence.
For my silence:
                  Do not think it was shame. 
                  Do not think I did not love you enough to say your name. 

The sun rises. 
Your brothers ask for their morning milk and snuggles.  

And I will speak your name: Baby C

Monday, October 10, 2011

Like a little child

Several weeks ago my son Titus had a nightmare.  Imprinted in my memory is the image of a mostly-asleep, stumbling toddler SCREAMING and RUNNING full-tilt in the dark through the open doorway to his parent's room and into my arms.

Yesterday, the whole family went for a hike on what may possibly have been the most beautiful day of Fall 2011.  While the rules about hand-holding are strictly enforced on our city sidewalks, there is no expectation of hand-holding while in the woods.  However, I found as we walked along that both boys instinctively reached up warm chubby hands to be gripped in mine as we walked and talked and looked.

This is trust.  Instinctive.  Freely given, unforced. 

As much as I fail as a mother, my sons trust me.  They run into my arms when terrified and reach for me when happy.  They give it not a thought.

Jesus said:
"Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them, 
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
I tell you the truth,
anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God
like a little child
will never enter it."
Mark 10:14-15 

Father, please teach me to trust you like a child.  To understand your love so completely that I instinctively run to You, reach for You.  Amen.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I don't trust God for that

I don't trust God for some things.  Some big things.

I don't trust God for happiness. 
I don't trust God for a life free from tragedy.
I don't trust God for good health or enough money to pay the mortgage.
I don't trust God to preserve the lives of my children.
I don't trust God for a healthy, growing church.
I don't trust Him to protect me from debilitating depression, from loss of home or death of spouse, from doubt and confusion.  I don't trust Him to make the sun shine everyday and to give me neighbors who always smile and wave. 

So, you may ask, why do you trust Him?  What is He good for?

I do trust God with some things.  Some big things.

I trust God for joy.  
I trust God for peace beyond my understanding.
I trust God to love me with love greater than any other love I'll know. 
I trust God, whatever else this life may hold, that He holds me in His eternal loving grasp.
I trust God to forgive my sins, which are many, and to release me from death and condemnation.
I trust God to be as faithful in my future as He has shown Himself to be in my past.
I trust God for my future home and life, eternally celebrating His love. 

I look at these lists and I feel anxiety creeping.  I also feel amazing comfort and excitement to see how God is going to keep His promises to me. 

Do you trust Him?  Do you not?  What would be on your lists today?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Things I was planning not to say:

Things I was planning not to say:

1.  No No No No No No! 
(alternately: Micah Micah Micah Micah; Stop Stop Stop Stop Stop)
 Really, shouldn't one time be enough?

2. Why did you do that?
Why questions are awful.  And to a two-year old?
3. You're making me crazy!
No excuses... this one is awful!

4. That wasn't so bad, was it?
Close relative to "I told you so"

5. Guys
Ugh, what an ugly word.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Ps 90:12

Today, on a perfectly lovely family Monday (our day "off"), I found myself watching the clock.  If the boys get up from their nap now, I calculated, I have to get through five more hours until bedtime.

And then what?  What exactly was I looking forward to?  Peace and quiet?  Time to go on Facebook and find out how everyone else spent their day?  Sleep? Prayer time?  Starting all over tomorrow?

I know that these are the moments I will treasure for the rest of my life.  Not to discount all the previous moments and the ones to come, but really, two-year-old twin boys?  It doesn't get much sweeter than this.

Time, numbers, money, fractions, counting... my mind plays games with these things.  I credit (blame?) my dad for this... he loved to teach us to count, counting our toes, the steps, you name it, over and over.  I've seen him do it with his grandchildren.  And along the way I've picked up some strange habits... you may choose to label them otherwise.  On the treadmill, I calculate fancy percentages: "I'm 80% done."  Walking, I count "one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four..."  Coming home from the grocery store, I mentally tally up my purchases and try to match my total to what I paid (coupons make an extra fun challenge!)  And when the boys were small, time was our life.  When will they be hungry again?  How long did they sleep?

We're now at a glorious stage where my sons won't go into a meltdown if dinner is ten minutes or even an hour late.  They might nap for two hours or not at all.  I have no need to watch the clock obsessively. 

I should be obsessively watching my Jesus.

 "Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, 
fix your thoughts on Jesus, 
the apostle and high priest whom we confess."
Heb 3:1

I don't want to reach the end of my days and long for more time.  This is the time.  It is good.  I choose to spend it well.  I often fail.  And I ask God to teach me the right way to number my days.  If you are with me in clock-watching, spend some time with me meditating on Psalm 90.