Friday, July 29, 2011

Missing the obvious

It happens almost every Sunday morning.
The kids get up and we hit the ground running.  I guzzle my coffee as we work through the list: food, clothes, teeth, hair, socks, left shoe, right shoe –all of this times six—church bags, diaper bag, bottle, sippy, blanket, stroller, offering.  Forget the beds this morning kids, and we will take care of the dog later.  Out the door! It is time for church!
I walk with my fed and dressed kids, pushing the double stroller, smiling to myself as I imagine us as a waddling family of ducks walking down the road. 
Then suddenly: the moment.  I smile at the first friendly churchgoer I see, I suddenly realize we are out in public, and I panic.  Oh no, please tell me I remembered to change out of my pajamas!   I find to my surprise I actually did remember; I simply forgot that I remembered.
It was one of those Sundays, when we made it to the pew and I was mentally congratulating myself for another successful Sunday morning marathon completed, and all children in their places, and not a one missing their pants.
My crew and I lined up in front of the church for communion.  I placed the wiggliest child directly in front of me, folded his hands, and folded mine on top of his.  That is when I saw it:  blue fingers.  Mine, not his.  Bright blue fingers stained with yesterday’s Kool-Aid.  Oh great.  There’s another piece of evidence for the world to see that I do not really have it all together; another obvious thing on my list that I have completely overlooked.
I reached my blue hand out to receive, and I couldn’t help but notice the hands that gave me Jesus:  they were also stained.  Not Kool-Aid, but earth stained the elder’s fingers.  And there was my God: held by cracked and callused fingers, and placed gently in my hands.  Body and Blood, given for me, humbled to die on a cross, humbled to be held by fingers stained with work and sin.
Here in this work with lists unfinished, my Lord comes.  Here in my hands; these hands that find a hundred other things to do rather than fold in prayer; hands that feed children and over-feed myself; here in these hands He comes.  Here on this heart stained with vanity and distracted with the world’s temptations, right here, He pours out His blood and takes away my sins. 
I remember my Lord.  I do merely remember, but I taste and see Him once more.  He is gracious, and He is good.   My blue fingers fold in prayer and I receive the blessing.  
“May this true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in the true faith to life everlasting.  Depart in peace.”
Yes, thank you, I think I will.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gilead: Book: Recommended and Project: Inspired

Book, recommended.
Gilead: A Novel

I read this during vacation.  It is a great book for savoring, a beautifully written story told from the perspective of an old pastor preparing to die, writing a letter to his very young son.  If you are looking for a thoughtful piece of fiction to read, try this one.

A small piece: 

“I wish I could leave you certain images in my mind, because they are so beautiful that I hate to think they will be extinguished when I am. …It is a strange thing, after all, to be able to return to a moment, when it can hardly be said to have any reality at all, even in its passing.  A moment is such a slight thing, I mean, that its abiding is a most gracious reprieve.” p.162

Project, inspired
I am captivated by the premise of this book: An old father, gathering moments for his son so that when he is gone, he can see the world through his father's eyes and know that he was loved.

Moments come and go so quickly, so few are caught and treasured.
Which are most precious? Most important?
Sometimes I see every-day moments that are breath-taking and spectacular.  I want to store them up and show them to my children, later, when they are old enough to understand.

I have started a journal for this purpose.
I call it "My Gilead," and it is addressed to all of my children (in contrast to the birthday letters which are individualized.)  There are no rules. No schedules. I write in it whenever the mood strikes me.

The click of a camera and the chatter of the keyboard: these are the sounds of me gathering treasures for my children.

May the pictures and words I save up for them help them to see the grace I see, and re-rejoice.

Monday, July 25, 2011

sitting on beaches

Old people sit quietly on beaches, and children play. Children have fun, while adults sit and watch and wish they were children again.  So I imagined, at least.

For many years, I have judged the “age” of a person, rather, their capacity for childish merriment, by the level of activity and excitement around water. 

When my husband and I were dating, we happened to be near the ocean during a rainstorm.  I was energized, delighted; I forced him to swim with me in the rain in the ocean.  It was a test of sorts. He passed.  (He later failed the dancing test, but I was so hooked at that point I did not care.)

The hours spent playing in the cool waves of Lake Michigan are some of my favorite experiences.   Years later, I returned with my children to that place, and played with them as they experienced this delight for the first time.  Oh the squealing, giggling!  The cool clear water over heads, in ears, in noses!  Sand in all parts!  Children clinging in fear and splashing in delight!  Adrenaline and roar of waves crashing!

 I jumped, dove, frolicked with them, new memories mixing with the old, sparkling and engulfing me.

I played hard, but then I had to sit down.  Rather, I wanted to sit down.  I wanted to still my body so I could better watch their happy little bodies. 

Gifts received by my own children are in a way more wonderful than any gift given directly to me.  I sat in the sun, let sand run through my fingers, and watched the gifts of God being given to my babies.   WOW, He actually did it AGAIN!  And He blessed THEM, my own sweet babies!

I sat, and I saw grace in the water, sun, air, waves.  Soft sand on my feet, squeals in my ears, joy overpowering, radiant grace pouring into all senses and all corners of my heart; Oh God, you are good to your children!

Children experience with their hands, their bodies, right in the midst of it.  Adults observe, we remember our times of bodily experience, and see it all over again, and more clearly, as it is poured on others.  This God who loves us, He knows how to give good gifts.

And then, grace upon grace, HIM, my dear husband right there in the water with our babies.  The one God brought back from Iraq, here with our children, experiencing and delighting.  He caught my eye, wondering with a smile, did I see that epic battle of boy vs. wave?  Did I see our superhero eating sand and laughing?  He smiled the smile he used in college to win my heart, and that smile is full of more memories and more love now.

Overpowering joy, grace received by all the senses, flooding heart and mind, making me stagger… making me need to sit down for a minute.

I do not sit because I am old and weary, not today.
Today, I am forced to sit because the crashing rush of grace has engulfed my being and knocked me over.

I need a second to catch my breath.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book recommendation

My flesh and my
heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my
portion forever
Psalm 73:26 

For those of you who struggle with depression or love someone who does,I highly recommend this book:
I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression
by Pastor Todd Pepperkorn
Click HERE to download the free PDF.

My family and I are leaving soon for vacation,
and so I will be taking a vacation from blogging as well.  
See you on the flip side!


Saturday, July 9, 2011

The middle child considers his plight

I remember the days of old and my heart aches within me
I think of the stroller rides, the rocking chair,
the high chair in the kitchen, when mother would feed me early,
while she cooked for the others.

I remember when I was first place in the heart of the big sister,
the object of her coos, and the rider on her hip!
People in public stopped to smile at me,
but now they see only that baby.

The stroller rolls along but it is not me in the chariot
I run on my tiny legs behind,
Legs that refuse to grow long enough so that I can beat the big kids in a race
I receive no help with shoes nor am I asked to help another.
The bigger ones carry stuff; nobody carries me
They call me, "cute" yet pretend I am a "big helper," as if that will make me eager to do these awful jobs they have thrust upon me.

I have been displaced, smushed between siblings, and wronged on all sides, but I shall not despair.

Though I am small in stature and strength,

I overflow with charm and creativity.
The jobs I am given I will wisely delegate to another.
The hearts of the sisters can be moved to pity by a show of helplessness
And the brothers are blind to my maneuvers

I may have lost the fat cheeks and thighs,
but I have gained an eye-sparkle and magical smile;
a smile that has been known to disarm the angriest of mothers.

I will harness my powerful wit
build it up with much practice and patience
and one day, use it to reclaim absolute power over this household.

Friday, July 8, 2011

not too quiet

It is strange, living next to a cemetery.

I tuck in my boys with the last bit of energy I have, tired, frustrated, ready for the quiet of children sleeping.
Outside their window I see my friend, visiting her son's grave.  

My hug lingers longer than it would have otherwise.

God, thank you for THIS day with these kids.
Let this night be quiet,
but not too quiet.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I've got them trained...

My boys, they are trained.  
I refer to the crawler and the two-year-old.

They hear the "swish" of the broom, and they immediately come to the dining room and begin to scavenge. 

I didn't know they could move so quickly.  Apparently, to get these two going, I just need to threaten their food source.

Maybe my kids are weird....
Does the sound of sweeping make anyone else's kids salivate?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

life-giving drops

A thought from CS Lewis
"...when pain it to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all."
(Lewis, the Problem of Pain)

In times of great trial, comfort and mercy do not often come like a flood, relief does not come suddenly like a sunrise.  Yet, here and there, we receive the least little tincture of God's love, that drop of grace, of faith and hope,  that we need more than anything, that sustains us through the valley.  May God give us eyes to see and a heart to receive the life-giving droplets around us.

Let the one who is thirsty, come.

O God, you are my God;
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Read the entire Psalm here

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Marvelous zoo creatures

We took a trip to the zoo this week.

They marveled at the many and wonderful works of our creative God
While I marveled at them.

There are no creatures on this planet that fascinate me endlessly like these:

my children.

Flesh of my flesh of my flesh, 
life given through my life,
and through his life, 
and from His life.

I sat with this baby
surrounded by zoo smells
and obnoxious dance music
and parents trying to reason with a screaming burned-out two year old
I nursed him behind the bushes
and he slept

and I thought how nice, 
that wherever we are, 
for this little one
if my body is there,
he is at home.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

not free

My heart jumped, every single time, as I drove home from somewhere. 
Eyes to the driveway-
Is it empty?  Or is there a uniformed messenger of death waiting for me there?

Phew, it is empty.  He must still be alive somewhere.

Hand on my womb, I would say yet another prayer for protection of that one soldier: 

God bless the soldier that is a father to this growing unborn baby and that curly-haired little girl.  Bless the soldier that is husband to this weak, scared woman who cannot fathom raising her children alone.  Bless him, keep him, and bring him home to us in one piece, and quickly.

And ditto, for all the other soldiers too.

Iraq 2004
Freedom is not free.

For the blessings of freedom and prosperity that we enjoy in this great country, and for the men and women throughout history who have sacrificed to build and protect this country, we thank You God.

For those who came home, and for those who didn’t, and for those who haven't yet, we give thanks to You God.  

Though we sinners do not deserve their sacrifice nor Your protection and blessing, we pray that You would look on this country with mercy, and please God, bless the USA.  Amen.

Happy fourth of July.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Jesus only

Henric Schartau: "Jesus Only"
For the full sermon click here

Do not therefore seek for more regret nor for an immediate improvement in your course of life, but seek for Jesus only. Where, indeed, can you look for salvation except to your Saviour? Where can you find salvation except in Him? It is nowhere else to be found. When you have found Him and in Him righteousness and strength, when His righteousness is your support in temptations, when His might is your succor, lo, then you have enough in Him, for you have all in Him. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pits and Bits: social interaction and depression

The pit of depression steals my voice and makes asking for help nearly impossible.  There, I cannot even imagine what kind of help I might need.  I only know that I need, and it is a tremendous need.

Once as I was just coming out of the pit, I read this from a wife of a depressed husband:

“All I can do is... Pray, share bits of myself with him and wait for God to heal him.”

YES!  I thought.  Yes to prayer, because I cannot do much of that when I am there.  Yes to someone who will wait with me, and remind me what we are waiting for.  Yes to someone willing to share bits of life with me even in my dark place.  Social interaction from the darkness of depression is exhausting and torturous…  but so, so necessary. 

With the memory of the pit fresh in my mind, I wrote the following to my dear husband.  Perhaps it will help those of you who are loving someone in a pit.

When I am depressed...

Please share bits of yourself with me even if I cannot respond appropriately. I do want to talk about something other than how I am doing but for the life of me I just cannot fathom what else that could be!  Please don't let the stench of my ugliness and sadness keep you away.

Tell me what you did today, what you struggle with and what made you laugh. I may envy your laughter, I may be too caught up in me to engage with your problems. This is so unfair... But share yourself with me anyway.

When you do it gives me hope that I will be able to engage in a relationship again... That depression will not destroy myself and everyone around me. It makes me think maybe I won't be able to push you completely away even if I seem like I am trying to. It gives me hope that if I am ever healed there will be someone there who has waited for me and will welcome me back.

Share bits of yourself with me to remind me you are there with an open heart towards me. Your kind treatment of me is nothing like the way I am treating myself.  It nice to have something other than boiling hatred pointed at me. I may be too numb to feel it but I see it. It helps me hope that as you are, perhaps God is also kind and gracious, even though I cannot now feel it.

Share bits of yourself with me to show me your love is stubborn and constant; that it can withstand the attack of depression. Depression attacks and tries to consume me, but through me attacks everyone around me. May God help you withstand. I cannot even help myself.

I am asking too much of you when I ask you to love me through this. I am asking you to pour yourself into a black hole and not know if you will ever see even a drop of life come back to you. I am asking you to forget that our relationship was once reciprocal and easy, and instead carry me on your back while I cry.

It is not fair what I ask of you. It is superhuman grace and mercy that I need. Lean on him who gives that.  Get help for yourself too, and if possible, find others who will share the burden of my sickness with you.

And while you are there, talking with Him and feeling His presence, receiving His gifts and His love, please tell him not to forget me down here.  Remind Him that I am waiting.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
   and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
   my salvation and my God.
Psalm 42:5 
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