Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Dissonance

As I am writing this, the kids are jamming to Christmas carols in the bedroom. Lorraine has vowed to wear the Santa hat I bought her all day long. She is still excited from our Christmas shopping extravaganza last week. We skipped in and out of 5 stores buying gifts and baking supplies, just the two of us. Her wide-eyed excitement is absolutely contagious!

As we pulled into the parking lot of Hobby Lobby (our most favorite store,) I got a call from Josh who was at home with the other kids. Apparently Aggie had a seizure while climbing on the bunk bed and fell straight back from the top. She was still having the seizure after she fell, so for several minutes she just laid there unaware of any pain at all. Both of the little boys knew this was NOT normal and were making a huge fuss about it. It took her about a half hour to really notice her aches and pains, and she spent the rest of the night snuggling daddy on the couch. As Josh and I talked about this, the familiar ache in my heart for Aggie returned, and the laundry list of worries I have for her future began to replay in my head. (She was a little bruised but otherwise just fine the next day.)

I slowly closed the phone and looked at the giddy toddler sitting next to me. “OH mommy I see more Christmas lights in Hobby Lobby! Are you ready? Let's go let's go let's go!”

How does one jump from that phone call back into the joy of Christmas shopping? I was startled by the dissonance I felt, the conflict between the joy of Christmas preparation and the pain that cast dark shadows over it all.

I suspect most adults feel this tension during the holidays. We sense the dissonance between the apparent holiday joy and bliss in every store and every Christmas song, and the feelings of fear, grief, or sadness that we wrestle with in our secret hearts. The festivities of this time of year can make the sorrows seem even deeper, the loneliness even more lonely.

Glitter and bells are out of place, and sometimes downright annoying when paraded in front of our pain. How can we be expected to sparkle with JOY when we all we can see is the huge hole where a loved one used to be? How do we hold on to HOPE when we see sickness in the sunken eyes of our own child?

Christians have always been people acquainted with grief, people whose hearts are sometimes torn with this conflict, yet the church has stubbornly and enthusiastically celebrated Christmas in the darkness year after year. God gave us His very own Son, and we see the nearness of God even in this place of pain. Our God does not stand far away, merely cheering us on through the darkness, He comes to dwell with us right in the middle of it.

This time of year, we are surrounded with tangible reminders of the hope we have because God is with us. Candles flicker and we sing praises to the Light that has come into the world. Bells ring with joy as we remember promises made and fulfilled in Jesus. Glitter sparkles on angel wings and we look forward to the blessings to come when our Lord returns.

We dwell in darkness, but the love of Him who sent His Son shines brightly. And so this year, like every other year, God's children gather together in the night, lift up their heads, light candles, and sing songs at the top of their voices, testifying to the world that God is indeed with us, and the darkness is passing away.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Toddler theology

Toddler theology

            One ordinary day, as we waited for our fast-food, my four-year-old daughter started licking her shoes. “Honey! Don’t lick your shoes!” I said. “Do you have any idea how many germs live on the bottom of your shoes?”
            To my surprise, she suddenly became very serious. “Germs?”
            “Yes!” I said, sensing that this time she might actually listen to this lecture. “Your shoes pick up germs when you walk, and if you put them in your mouth they could make you very sick!”
            “Oh."  She stared at me with wide eyes.  "Do my hands have germs now?”
            “Yes, in fact, let’s wash them before we eat.” I got out the hand sanitizer, wondering why the idea of germs seemed to be such a surprise when I know I had given this lecture at least a dozen other times. 
            Meanwhile, she continued to worry aloud about germs in other places. "Are germs in my hair? The car? My shorts? The food? My carseat? My books? The dog?"  With each affirmative answer from me, the panic in her voice grew a tiny bit more. Finally, she sighed and asked, “Mommy, why did God make germs?”
            That’s a tough one, I thought. “Well, it’s just part of living in a fallen world honey. There won’t be any germs in heaven.”
            Her eyes grew wide and she smiled, “So we can lick our shoes in heaven?”
            “Well… I guess so.”  I said, finding no better way to use the teachable moment.  Her eyes were sparkling, and as she looked out the window with a smile on her face, I could tell she was thinking of all the great things she will be able to lick in heaven when there are no germs to worry about.  Even if I had more to say on that subject, she wouldn’t have heard a word. 
            Later that night, I overheard a disagreement between my daughters.  After several minutes of bickering, I heard my four-year-old said loudly “Yes you can lick your shoes in heaven, Mommy said so!”
            "No, you can not!” yelled my oldest daughter, obviously taken aback by the impropriety of the idea.  My husband looked at me sideways, probably wondering what in the world I am teaching his children all day.   All I could do was laugh uncontrollably.  
            It is no easy job, as a mother of small children, to bring Biblical truth into a child's world.  God gives us beautiful Scriptural Truth, but as we paint it into the lives of our children, sometimes the pictures look a little strange.  May our eyes be open to those moments when we can bring heavenly truth into our earthly days.  And may we have the wisdom to laugh when the combination looks a bit ridiculous.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The shortest potty training attempt ever

Today I woke up feeling unusually ambitious. I have unpacked all the boxes and found homes for almost everything, so I felt the need for a new challenge. The girls are up in Michigan spending time with family until Monday, so my life is relatively calm this week. As I snuggled my boys on my soft couch and drank my morning's coffee, I thought to myself, "Today might be a good day to potty train the boy! With the girls gone and no plans, I bet we could tackle this skill easily!" I excitedly got out the potty chair, the colored marshmallows, the chocolate milk, and told my son of my plans during breakfast. I mentioned the food first, so of course he was agreeable.

Breakfast is over, time to start the fun! Instant success! Praise for the boy, a victory dance, and one colored marshmallow- this is a piece of cake! (the chocolate milk was reserved for the BIG success, #2) Next I got him dressed, WITHOUT a diaper (I told you I was feeling ambitious) which absolutely freaked him out at first. Once I explained to him that Daddies and big boys don't wear diapers, and neither does he now that he can use the potty, he was agreeable and did a little dance about it.

Then I introduced him to his little blue potty- a portable one which I intended to bring downstairs with us. As I picked it up, he was flailing around the bathroom doing who knows what, and somehow the potty chair whacked him in the lip. HARD. Screams and blood and the whole works.

He did not stop bleeding right away, so rather than risk blood drops all over the house, I figured we should stay in the bathroom for a few minutes while I hung some pictures. The two little boys play together with bath toys while I get one picture on the wall, when all of a sudden I sniff- "Baby, are you stinky?" The big son laughs and says "Yeah he's stinky," when I notice the brown blob by the BIG son's foot. And on his leg, and his other leg, and the cupboard.... A stinky blob, that my big boy does not even NOTICE in the least- He really thought it was the baby. It had been approximately 4 minutes since he has been on the potty.

So I stood there in my freshly-painted bathroom with the blood spots on the floor and the little big boy covered in poop he can't smell, and I decided we are just not ready for this.

The idea, the preparation, the excitement, and the attempt- the retreat- over just like that! After his bath we were both relieved to go back to diapers and forget any of this ever happened.

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