Friday, September 30, 2011

little hands growing big

The other night Aggie had a bad dream and asked me to lay in bed with her.  I snuggled up next to her, and in no time she was sound asleep again.  I was in a reflective mood that night, so instead of jumping up to go about my business, I stayed in bed for a long time with her, just thinking. 
I looked at her little hand in my hand.  I thought back to the days when it was tiny- not little.  When she only weighed 7 pounds and snuggled me every day—before she knew how to climb the walls and scare me to death.  She uses her little hands to play puzzles and color and get into trouble today. I remember when all she could do with her tiny hands was knock her pacifier out of her mouth without meaning to, then ball them up in fists of anger as she screamed for mommy to come to her rescue.

Why am I overcome with such profound sadness when I think of the children growing up?

Oh how I want them to remain innocent.  No I do not think they are sinless (ha!) but they are innocent of so much of the evil in the world.  They do not know what abuse is, or war, or even death.  Oh how I wish I could shield them from every one of those things.  Yet I am completely powerless.
How I wish their problems could remain so little!  “Seth stole my granola bar,” and “I can’t find my teddy bear blanket!”  These are such easy problems for a mom to fix!  Yet someday soon they will find much bigger problems, some with no answer this side of heaven.  Again, I am powerless, and they will find out that they are too.
This is indeed the most difficult thing about parenting.  As you carry your child, they rely on you for everything they need.  Yet as they grow, you learn to meet bigger needs, and then acknowledge some that you cannot meet.  You must learn to let go, to lean on others, to trust the Lord.  For the good of your child, you must learn to give bigger hands bigger jobs to do, even when you would rather just do the jobs for them.

Here I am with my own group of tiny hands to hold, for now, and some day to let go.  Their hands grow bigger each day, and all the more I realize that my hands are not big enough, not strong enough to hold and protect them.

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my children.  

I commend.  Help my un-commending.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

baby bruises

 If you are going to spend your day wrestling sinners, you are going to get bruises.
This is true even if they are sinners of tiny stature.

You will need bandages and crutches.
You will need to ask for forgiveness and strength.
You will need food for body and soul.
And you will probably limp across the finish line at the end of the day.

The fourth commandment: You shall honor your father and mother.
And when they do not, it is sin.

Yes, sin. Not childish ignorance, selfish ugly sin.
And sin leaves a mark.
To be fair, I mark them too, and daily.  I am not without sin, and sin always hurts the sinner and those around the sinner. But today, I am looking at this from another angle.

Today I am reminding myself that I am often dealing with sin in my little ones.  And though I would rather be immune to sin’s effects, I bear the marks of that sin, of their sin, alongside my own.  My heart is not made of iron, and I do not get to wear armor to work.  Sin stresses me out.  Sin adds darkness and ugly to our days. Sin poisons the air.
And sin does not simply need behavior modification techniques. 
Sin requires repentance and forgiveness.  Sinners need a Savior.
(If I remembered this, I think I would pray more and strategize less.)

And so it is to Jesus I must go, both for the forgiveness of my own sin, and for the healing of the wounds I receive from the sins of others.  For all of us, I pray, Lord have mercy.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Grace Blanket

My dear baby, you are growing so quickly.  The other night I was in the mood for snuggling, so I got you out of bed and you slept on me while I watched TV with daddy.  I wore my soft blue robe that all of the children love, and you lay under your soft blue blanket.  How nice it was to lay there with you in covered in the  calming warmth of child-life.

Three hours after we'd gone to bed, you cried from your crib with an awful noise.  Croup.  Terrible wheezing.  Wrapped in robe and blanket, you and I hurried outside and snuggled on the porch, waiting for the cool night air to help open your airways.  The midnight air was crisp and smelled of fall.  The cloudless sky sparkled as you became calm again in my arms. 

It was a moment a million times better than sleep.

How nice, I thought.  Your need for extra snuggles corresponds so perfectly with my need to give them tonight.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Contradiction in suffering

"Contradiction.  It makes our cross even heavier.  Or is it that the apparent contradiction makes us weaker under the heavy load?  We know God's ability, and we know his promise.  In the here and how we raise our eyes in horror from the bed where our child is pierced with IV lines and wounded from surgery after surgery.  We read our Bible, and we watch our children.  We cry out (or want to cry out), "Lord I believe, but... how can you keep doing this?"

iv drip Pictures, Images and Photos"We are back to the believer's question: Why?  But I must tell you, it is not a question asked quietly or thoughtfully or reverently.  It is a question wrung out of a bleeding soul who is being pressed ever tighter in God's vice.  In the day of trouble, we do not "call upon God" stoically and with good grace; we scream and beg and plead and despair."

from "The Problem of Suffering"
by Gregory Schulz
Northwestern Publishing House

For those that suffer under heavy contradiction, 
under trial and sin and weakness, 
Let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

remembering Delia

One month ago today baby Delia came and went.
It all happened so fast.

from her mama's blog:

1 john 4:18 says "there is no fear in love."

we were definitely scared when we got the news, but once we made the decision to carry on, it was mostly filled with love. sure we had our fears about the future, but we (and everyone else) showed her as much love as we could. there was no other way.

If you haven't been by lately, stop by the blog.  And don't miss this video.

There was no other way.

No other way but to love, to hurt, to grieve, and to miss her.
And by the grace of God, to hope.  To look forward to that day when sorrow like this is gone forever.

May our God uphold all of us until that day.

Heavenly Father,
Take our sad and wandering hearts, and hold them steady.  Help us to bring our sorrows to the One who bears them, whose death on the cross has freed us from eternal death.  His resurrection from the dead assures  us that the awful shadow of death has lost its power.  Fasten our hearts to Him, and keep us in Your grace, that we may share in His victory over sin and death.  Amen.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

prayer by Anselm

I love this prayer.  Today as I think of my husband-pastor, I also see commonalities in our daily needs.  (I especially love that last part.)

Prayer by a bishop for the members of his church (by Anselm)

Flock of Sheep Pictures, Images and PhotosJesus, good Shepherd, they are not mine but yours,  for I am not mine but yours.
I am yours, Lord, and they are yours, because by your wisdom you have created both them and me, and by your death you have redeemed us.
So we are yours, good Lord, we are yours, whom you have made with such wisdom and bought so dearly. 

Then if you commend them to me, Lord, you do not therefore desert me or them.
You commend them to me: I commend myself and them to you.
Yours is the flock, Lord, and yours is the shepherd.
Be Shepherd of both your flock and your shepherd.
You have made an ignorant pastor, a blind leader, an erring ruler:

teach the pastor you have established, 
guide the leader you have appointed, 
govern the ruler you have approved.

I beg you,
teach me what I am to teach, 
lead me in the way that I am to lead,
rule me so that I may rule others. 

Or rather, teach them, and me through them, 
lead them, and me with them, 
rule them, and me among them.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lessons from little boys

Sometimes all of nature conspires to make a fool out of you.

And Nature, as if she were a Big Sister,
refuses to accept blame,
but in her silence simply mocks the fact of accusation.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cliff-living: more on depression

"The war creates absolutely no new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it."  (CS Lewis, Learning in War-time)

War highlights what we already know to be true but we try to ignore:  that we are mortal, that we are fragile, and that the best of our works can so easily crumble to dust.  A succession of pleasant days can lull us to sleep, and make us comfortable in denial of these things.  But there is no pleasant sleep if our own backyard has become a battleground.  The bomb explodes and makes an enormous crater right in front of us.  We see what we were, what we always are: tiny blades of grass, on the edge of a cliff, at the mercy of the wind and the rain.

From the edge of the cliff Pictures, Images and Photos

Yet when I read that quote, I thought, the same can be said for depression.

 Depression creates absolutely no new situation: it simply aggravates my permanent human situation so that I can no longer ignore many things I would rather ignore (and I may even become emotionally overwhelmed by those things.)

Depression (in some forms) is simply an overwhelming sense of fragility, sadness, and the crumbling of all things.  "Change and decay in ALL around I see," and the person in the pit wonders, how can everyone else not SEE this?  Why do some people seem to be shielded from the grim realities that I see everywhere I look?

The depressed person is like a soul at war, a soul with a heightened sense of the dangers and death and threats all around.  And yet, everyone around seems to be oblivious, resting in some happy ignorant peace bubble, and looking at the person in the pit like GEEZE, what's wrong with HER?  Why can't you just look on the bright side already?  (I suppose it is only natural for the person at war to struggle to relate to the civilian, and vise versa. )

The soldier learns to cope, as a soldier must, and he learns to live and work and fight and pray all the while on the edge of the cliff that spills over into eternity.

 Likewise, I learn.  I learn to live and work and fight too, with the cliff always right there in the periphery.   Nothing, nothing, moves me to prayer like the taunting of that cliff.

Jesus, Savior:

Heal me and I will be healed.
Save me and I will be saved.
Protect me and I will be protected.
Give me life, and I will live.

Apart from You I can do nothing.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why so hard to "let them" grow up?

Where are you going so quickly?

The first steps.
The first "big boy" haircut.
The first independent ride on a two-wheeler.
The first tear-free sleepover.

This mommy watches proud children pass milestone after milestone.  I cheer for them and share their joy, but in my heart the joy is mixed with unspeakable sadness.

Why is it so hard to "let them" grow up?

For me, it seems, there are two reasons for this.
1.  I love them, and I want to protect them from scary big-kid things, and horrible adult things.  Every milestone takes them a step closer to the "real" world.
2.  I am selfish, and I want to keep them for my own enjoyment forever.  Every milestone reminds me that I cannot, was never meant to.

It is not possible to plumb the depths of either of these things in my heart.  Love and sin, joy and sadness are tangled together, and I am not capable of sorting it all out. 

When another milestone is passed, and the joy-ache flares up, a tangled prayer flows out:

Ouch, God, this blessing hurts.  Thank you/Help me.  Purify my mommy love/sin.

Friday, September 16, 2011

flimsy love

Kindness that is completely destroyed by a mere headache 
must have been a flimsy thing indeed.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

the present moment, "all lit up with eternal rays"

He [God] would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity 
(which means being concerned with Him) 
or with the Present—either meditation on their eternal union with, 
or separation from, Himself, 
or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, 
receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.

His ideal is a man who, 
having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), 
washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, 
and returns at once to the patience or gratitude 
demanded by the moment that is passing over him. 

(Lewis, Screwtape Letters, Letter XV)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


"That is how life goes---we send our children into the wilderness.  
Some of them on the day they are born, it seems, 
for all the help we can give them.  
Some of them seem to be a kind of wilderness unto themselves.  
But there must are angels there, too, and springs of water.  
Even that wilderness, the very habitation of jackals, is the Lord’s.” 
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, p 119

Dark Woods Pictures, Images and Photos
Surely the Lord is in this place and yet I knew it not.  Genesis 28:16

Heavenly Father,
These children grow, and they are restless to spread their wings.  You know my heart, Lord, and how I would rather they didn't, how I would like to keep them "safe" and little.  Yet they must live in this world, in this wilderness.  My selfish attempts to keep them in the sunshine do not work and do not help them.

"It's ok, mommy's here," I soothe them in the night, though that is a comfort that will not help them there. 

But You have promised to be with them always.  Fasten their hearts (and mine) to Your strong Word, that we may not fear.

In Jesus' name,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Exercise time

Just keep smiling brothers, 
but make it a charming smile.

Try not to smirk as you think about the irony of this situation:
coming to the park with mother,
who packs our stroller,
and lunches,
and bikes,
who buckles us in,
and drives while we relax,
and unpacks the stroller,
and lunches,
and bikes,
and carries the baby
while she carries a wild hope
that this outing will tire US out!

Just keep smiling brothers.
Anticipate big pushes from the mother
who anticipates a quite nap time.

Let her push, and let her hope.
And when we get home,
let her sleep.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

pray what's in front of you

"We who have access to God's grace use our faith 
to approach Him for help 
and to bring His help to others." 

Mother and Child Pictures, Images and Photos

"In prayer we receive what we need for our daily work. 
 In our daily work we discover what we need to pray for."
 Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, P. 44, 45

Heavenly Father,
(who got us through this weekend's concussion,)
I brace myself for another long day of "doing what's in front of me."  I dread this day because of the stomach flu in this house,  and the trials that go along with sickness.

Fill me with compassion for the sick one(s), and as I nurse them, give me strength and tenderness.  May this trial strengthen in them (and me) the habit of looking to You for strength when the day is difficult.  May it be Your love that fills me and is poured out to them, that they may be truly helped.

Make me kind and compassionate also to the healthy ones, as You know this is sometimes even more difficult for me.  Give me patience with their childishness, and wisdom as I try to direct it in ways that will also allow for rest for the sick ones.  Help them to learn compassion for their siblings. 

Protect those of us who are healthy from this sickness, according to Your will. 

Though this trial is hard on our bodies, may it be good for our souls, as we experience again Your care and compassion, Your faithfulness to us, your children, who are poor and needy.   Fill us with hope and strength as we look forward to that day when You bring us home to Yourself and free us from these trials for eternity.

In the name of Jesus, and by His grace alone, Amen.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Easier said than lived

I always feel awkward around well-dressed people.  If I know I am going to be interacting with this type of person, and I have time to prepare, I will try to actually put on makeup and change out of my cracker-covered clothes into something a little more presentable.
I had a doctor’s appointment this week (no kids allowed: an outing; a break!)  I actually took out the SAHM ponytail and wore my hair down, a feat typically reserved for (some) Sundays.  Frumpy clothes are great for scrubbing floors, but today I get to leave the house!  I need to look like I belong on the outside world!

As I drove to my appointment, my phone stopped working.  Sigh, I had hoped to not have to tell my husband that I dropped it in the bathtub a couple weeks ago.  But now, he’s going to inspect it, and he’s going to notice the grain of rice that got stuck inside it that night. (A drenched cell phone can indeed be restored by sitting in a bag of rice. At least it was restored for 2 weeks.)

I made it to my appointment on time, and I spoke pleasantly to those professional people who look at me like I am an alien.  (To be fair, in that world I probably am an alien- many people with PCOS have infertility problems- I doubt many have six children.)  My....... ahem.... alternative lifestyle is baffling and even offensive to some people.  And their bewilderment is sometimes baffling and offensive to me.

Blog Pictures, Images and Photos
Judge me and I'll judge you back!
As I got home from the appointment, with my non-working rice-rattling cell phone, I noticed a coffee stain on my shirt.  Had that been there for the appointment too?  Sigh, who am I kidding?  I don’t belong out there! I am not one of you, you professional people of the world!  You go back to reading thick books and saving lives.  I’ll go back to sorting through the fall clothes.

Wouldn't it be nice, indeed, if I could comfort myself by mentally congratulating myself on my own superiority to “all that?”  Wouldn't it be nice, if I could believe that what I do on a daily basis is surely in God’s eyes more important, more beneficial to the church and the world, than what those nice-looking people do?

Wouldn’t it be nice (for the frumpy stay-at-home-mom) if coffee-stained shirts and ponytails really were objectively more God-pleasing than high heels and PHDs?

(Qualifier: In MY case, it is better to forgo the PHD.  But I do not think that qualifies me to judge all cases.)

I know what I do is important, and I know it matters especially to the six dear lives that matter most to me.  But today I notice another weakness in myself:  I notice how easy it is to forget all that, to become discontent with doing what is in front of me, and how easy it is to think I'd rather be doing what is in front of someone else.  And I notice how natural it is to try to soothe that discontentment by imagining my vocation is mysteriously way more important than everyone else's... so important, in fact, that I simply do not have time to fix my hair.

"Love one another," we are told, "and do what is in front of you."  My imperfect attempt at this looks nothing like anyone else's imperfect attempt.  Why does this surprise me?  God never told His children they should all be doing the same thing.  My daily bread tastes different, my daily grace is a different color. 

Father, who am I to judge someone else's servant?  Forgive me for looking to the left and right of me: I have not the wisdom to judge nor the right to covet.  As I return from the complicated outside world into my chaotic home, equip me again to do what is in front of me.  Thank you for daily bread that tastes like coffee, and the sweet breeze of fall, and the laughter of children.  Pour out exactly the grace and help we need in this house do love each other and do what is in front of us.
In the name of Jesus,

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

popcorn brain

An interesting article:  Does life online give you popcorn brain?

On of the absolute most difficult things I do (or try to do) on a daily basis is BE STILL.  Ignore the list.  Engage with life.  Focus all attention on one direction. Do nothing that can be counted as "productive."

Why is this SO incredibly hard for me?

I am goal-oriented to a fault.  I like to be productive, especially when the job can be crossed off a list or started AND completed in one shot.
I am a compulsive multi-tasker.  I tend to do 2,3,or 4 things at once.  When I try to do just one, I get restless!  As if a part of me is being under-utilized, and needs to find something ELSE to do!

Why do I act this way?
I want to feel good about the use of my time (and to do that I think I have to SEE the fruits of my labors)
AND I don't want to be bored.  Ever.

And sometimes, just hanging out with preschoolers can be boring.  And most often, I don't get to see any fruits.  (I don't think the literal fruit that I found smashed underneath the highchair actually counts.)

So I'm glad to be able to pop online and find some mental stimulation and social interaction.  But that article is a good reminder, for me, that I need to pop off sometimes too.  And just be still.  Be still, in the land of jobs unfinished and restless unused parts of me.

Be still, be with, and be for these dear children.

mother and child Pictures, Images and Photos

Restless parts, be silent.
God is growing new parts of my heart right now.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

sour treats

It's one thing to make a nice meal for the family, or a special treat for the kids.

It can make you feel like an extra good mommy, especially when it is served up with a smile, when the "thank you's "gush forth, and the mommy smiles and replies, "Oh you are welcome!  I did it because I love you so very much!"

It is another thing to prepare that treat in the kitchen with those people you love in the vicinity.

A child on the floor switches from cupboard-exploring to belt-hanging.  A child on the counter asks "Why are you doing that?" and "What's that called?" and "Can I do that for you?" and "What does this do?"   Two brothers, already thrice banished to rooms, appear again, and wrestle on the carpet in the kitchen, knocking the cupboard-explorer from his feet, and complaining that the food smells so good they simply can't stand it.  As I calm the explorer and banish the brothers once more, I hear an "oops!" from the counter-sitter, and step backwards into a pile of spilled sugar.
May they remember the deliciousness of the treat,
and forget the attitude served on the side.

Alright, everybody! STAY out of the kitchen, OR ELSE! I am just TRYING to make this WONDERFUL TREAT for you because I just LOVE YOU so VERY MUCH!  RRGGGHHH!

Lord of compassion for both moms and kids,
Once pestered by sinners, yet throwing no fits
Be there at our cooking and give us, we pray
Your strength and your patience, in the kitchen today!

(for the real hymn, Lord of all Hopefulness LBW469 click here)

Monday, September 5, 2011

swept up

I like to sit on the swing with a glass of wine in the quiet of the evening.
And although it is a COMPLETELY different experience, I also like to sit on the swing with my two daughters in the quiet of the evening.

We are about to snuggle in bed to read our chapter book, when I notice a light show going on in our back yard.  Two pajama'd girls and I take our book outside to the swing, and we sit together under to watch the distant lightning.  The sky is conflicted: in part, bright pink with the glories of sunset, and in part, heavy, pregnant with rain.

No reading occurs.  
The air is hot, heavy, and still.  I sit between the two of them as they marvel, loudly:
 "LOOK! I saw a streak of lightning!" 
"Look mama over there right above those trees!" 
"Look mama, is it getting closer?"  
"Mama LOOK there's some more! Is the rain going to come?"  

Slowly the thunder grows louder, and finally, the wind picks up.  The wind is like a refreshing breath of fall, and as it blows it snatches leaves from their climbing tree, causing them to rain down on us in a beautiful shower.

The rushing beauty of the evening sweeps the girls right up into it, and I watch with a smile as they run towards the leaves and try to catch them as they fell everywhere. 

Two sweet girls, running in the leaves and wind; meeting the changing of seasons with dancing and shouts of joy; oh my dear daughter-teachers, I learn so much from you.  The joy that spills out of you fills my heart too.

"Mommy! Mommy! Come catch leaves with us!" they beg.
and so I do, and it is glorious.

falling leaves Pictures, Images and Photos
Praise God who blesses His children in all seasons.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Moody blog

This blog is an odd mixture of things.  When you stop by to visit, do you brace yourself?  Do you wonder if I am going to jerk a tear out of you, cause your head to shake at my weirdness, move you to prayer, or give you a laugh?

This blog is moody, but my whole life is that way.  I am the mom who is standing on the hill laughing at her little boys fetching acorns, only to turn around and catch a glimpse of the cemetery and remember to pray for my sad friends.  I paint toenails and giggle through a disgusting homemade facial, and then when the girls are asleep I head back to the kitchen to make food for the latest funeral.

Life is, at the same, delightfully frivolous and horribly serious.

A surprise shower, and rain-walk.
My favorite thing this week.
I don't think it is ever going to level out.  I don't expect a season without rain, ever, in this life.  Yet even in the rainy seasons, I expect glimpses of the suns brilliant rays streaking through the sky.  I expect to be stopped in my tracks by another sucker-punch of heart-suffering, and also by surprising showers of God's refreshing grace.

And I like to write about these things from all angles.
Now, before I devolve into a cliche of some kind (It's a bittersweet symphony!) I think I will share this great poem instead:

By George Herbert

Ah, my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve;
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament and love.

Friday, September 2, 2011

quote for today

These children are dear to Me.
  Be a mother to them, and more than a mother.
  Watch over them tenderly, be just and kind.
  If thy heart is not large enough to embrace them, 
I will enlarge it after a pattern of My own.
If these young children are docile and obedient, 
bless Me for it; 
if they are forward, 
call upon Me for help; 
if they weary thee, 
I will be thy consolation; 

if thou sink under thy burden, 
I will be thy reward.

(Elliot, Amy Charmichael, p204)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thing 2 and Thing 1

“It’s snack time!” mom yelled, so to mommy I ran
Mouth watering, eager for snacks from her hand
I stood with my siblings and was happy to see
Not one treat, but TWO kinds of treats before me!

Two plates, two offerings, two sugary sweets
Mom said, “Take your pick! Which would you like to eat?”
“Only one?” I worried, “So I have to choose?
Pick one, and leave one for others to use?”

Thing 1 looked delicious, thing 2 looked so yummy
How could I choose only one for my tummy?
My sisters and brothers chose quickly and ran
Outside in a hurry, sweet treats in their hands

I stared at the plates, wondering, fretting,
How will I know if the best I am getting?
I reached with two hands, hoping mom I would fool,
But she stopped me and said, "Just one, that's the rule!"

I made up my mind, put thing 2 on my plate,
said "thank you" to mommy, then took a bite- WAIT!
Now I see those chocolate-y chips in thing 1!
My eyes filled with tears, OH, what have I done!

I pleaded with mother, can I put this one back?
Can I switch now and choose thing 1 for my snack?
Surely no one will notice that one little bite
mother please, for the love of all things good and right!

But mom just shook her head, closed her ears to my cry
So I gritted my teeth, and I let my snack fly
It sailed from my hand through the air just like that-
Hit mom on the head, then fell with a SPLAT

Now I sit in the corner-
No snacks, and no fun
Because mom would not give me
Both thing 2 and thing 1

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