Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mama's on the verge!

Strange things into my head at those moments--- you know, those moments, when the limits have been reached and surpassed and I am simply trying to hold my tongue and keep us all alive until bedtime--- things I am starting to see as red flags, or warning signs.  They fall into different categories:

If I were wearing tennis shoes, could I make it to the woods before they noticed I was gone?
Hey look!  It's after 8!

The Wild imaginary Problem Solving
Maybe I should just reset all the clocks so they think it is bedtime.
I wonder if I pretend I am deaf for awhile… then will they learn to work out their problems?
Is it really wrong to use duct tape?

Socially acceptable fit-throwing
It is better to get on the treadmill than to run for the woods.
It is better to Turbo Jam than to throw a real fit in front of the children.

Self-soothing in the Kitchen
Is there any of that cheesy gooey salty stuff left in the fridge?
If I eat ice cream in the garage will they catch me?

Giving up
What will they do if I act like a two year old too?  It might be fun to roll around on the floor and cry for a few minutes… 

Those are just a few of my red flags.  What are yours?  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sleep, child

 (written in 2004)
            Lorraine has finally fallen asleep in her playpen.  She has her little hands with her cute pink fingernails resting on a girly doll that has recently become her favorite.  She is perfectly content, resting in sweet peace, with no knowledge of the trials to come, no fear of the future, no worries.  She is not worrying about her daddy, wondering what she will do if he doesn’t come home, or bemoaning the evils of war.  All she knows is that she has her dolly, her bed, and a mommy to take care of her.  That is enough: she is content.  Oh how I wish I had such peace!  Lord give me the faith of this sweet little child!

          With loved ones overseas, we all have fears about the future.  We know enough about war to know that our fears are not unfounded.  We know that like so many others, our loved ones could come home injured, or traumatized… or they might not come home at all.  Some of our hearts may be wounded, and we may be forced to live the rest of our lives as mothers without our children, wives without our husbands, or children without our mothers or fathers.  How can we possibly find peace while stand on the brink of possible disaster?
            Sometimes I think of all the terrible things that could happen, and I try to muster up the peace to face each possible future scenario, and the strength to deal with any problem gracefully.  I even pray for this peace, and hope that the Lord will give me such faith that I can face the rest of this deployment like Superwoman; with confidence, and not a single worry or tear.  The days when I try to do this are usually the days when I end up an emotional wreck.  I am beginning to suspect that I am going about things wrong.
            I have heard the verse: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps 37:4)  I know that God is the answer to every desire of my heart, but my heart does not seem to understand that.  I finally confessed to Him that I am not content to face the rest of my life without my husband; I am not content to raise two children alone.   I kneeled by my bed and poured out my heart.  When I had no more to say I just stayed still for a few minutes.  It is good to know that God hears my prayers and loves me even when I am a mess.  I remembered that His is near to me even now, as He has always been.  It was almost like I heard His voice ask me gently, "What about tonight?  Can you be content without Josh for this one night? " I thought about how He loves me, my children, and my husband so much more than we love each other; how He is watching over and providing for me, and Lorraine, and this new baby even while we sleep, and how He is doing the same thing for my soldier a thousand miles away…  Yes, I suppose I can be content tonight. 
He said gently, “That is all I ask of you right now." 
Oh.  Well that sounds much easier than what I have been trying to do.

Dear Father,
Forgive me for trying to bear this trial with my own strength.  Teach me to have faith like a child, to trust in Your love for each day as it comes.  Today I face another day of life without my soldier.  Please help me to remember Your love for us, that I may have peace today.  You promise to be with us always, and I know you will give me the strength to bear anything that comes.  As for right now, give me the strength to get through this day.  I will be back for more tomorrow.  Into your hands I commend the future and all things.  In Jesus name, Amen

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Yesterday I went with my little flower girls to a wedding rehearsal.

Pastor-daddy quickly went through the motions with everyone.
"You sit here, he stands there, the mothers light the family candle, we do this, we say that, you hold these flowers, we do this, bride and groom light the unity candle, then extinguish the family candles, walk back over here, we pray..."

Extinguish the family candle.  Poof.

Candle lit, candle extinguished.  Childhood.  Poof.

My babies grow, they sprint towards this day, and so soon it will be the family candle that I light that gets blown out.

Lord, may they be ready!  May they bloom and shine like this couple on that day!  Guide and protect each one, along with their future spouses according to Your will, that they may grow in You while their family candles shine, and rejoice together with Your church when they begin the next season of their lives.  Prepare our hearts also for that day of giving-away and change.  

And thank You, Lord, that that day is not today.  Amen.

Me and my first baby, now 8 years old

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thoughts from the bench

I don’t like getting benched. 
As wearisome as it is to “do what is in front of me,” day after day, in this house of six kids, it wearies me much more not to do it; to watch others do it for me.

This week, due to a nasty cold and etc, I had to sit for two days “on the bench” while the game went on without me.  How good it is to have the energy to change diapers and make jokes with the children again today. 

A few thoughts from the bench:

God does provide.   Not even my children have wanted for anything.  That’s quite a thing to say considering their many needs, but God provided abundant help.

It is hard to take charity.  It is still hard to receive kindness that I could never repay.  May God uphold and bless those who are so kind as to share my burden.

I don’t consider it all charity.
I noticed something in my heart this time that surprised me.
I don’t count my husband as charity.  In fact, I think he owes it to me.  Isn’t this what a help-mate is for?  They are his kids too, right?  I am quite eager to put part of my burden on his shoulders, whereas I tend to try to be tougher when it comes to offers of help from others.

That is a hard one to sort out, indeed.  Of course it is good to rely most heavily on the flesh of my flesh, and helpmates are for helping.  But where is this sense of entitlement coming from?  Have I been unconsciously “keeping score” of the things we do around the house, and now seems to be a good time to cash in?    AH, sin!  Sin in my love towards my husband, making it plain that his help is gracious indeed!

It is good to slow down and listen
My recent malady involved much fatigue, so that I could not sit at my computer and type, and I could not even hold my ipod while I lay in bed to surf the web.  Oh the headlines that went unread!  Sad and pathetic was I!

So I listened.  I closed my eyes and listened.  I did not check my email, I did not look something up, I did not even clean something while I listened.  I just listened.  Wow, how listening feeds my soul.

My kids know how to care for me.
No, they did not turn into perfect angels.  Many a fight went unresolved among the boys when I was sick.  Yet, I had opportunity to receive compassion from my children.  I overheard whispered conspiracies of “trying to be really super good today.”  I received not only get well cards, but routine chores done without reminders, and even older children looking for extra ways to help.  “Mommy I cleaned this for you!”  Wow, that sentence really does make me feel better!  Another child with a great love for ice water filled my water for me, waited until it was nice and cold, then reminded me to drink it throughout the day.  I really, truly needed this reminder.  How amazing to see God’s care for me from my very own little children.

Thank You God; for carrying me through sickness; for providing for my children even while I sat on the bench; and for giving me strength to get back in the game today.  Amen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Body image

As I climb on and off the "wagon" again and again, I find these thoughts on "Christianity and the body" to be very interesting and encouraging.  You can fall off the horse on either side, it seems.

Issues Etc: Christianity Body and Soul

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Depression: feeling law

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Isaiah 64:5-6

As Christians, we know this.  At least on an intellectual level.
In the pit of depression, I feel this.  Filthy rags, sin, everywhere.  And I can’t get it OFF.   
I can’t run from it, I can’t think myself out of it
Sin is inflamed. I am nearly consumed.   Help seems not to come.

In the pit, I feel the law.
I feel the sin in my own heart.  I am presented with needs, with opportunities to love, and I fail.  And fail.  And fail.

It is here in this horrid place that I learn a new kind of faith: a faith that stops trying to do, and  learns to simply receive.  To receive with my ears, to hear objective truth, and to remember that it is true even when I do not feel it.

For by grace you have been saved, through faith. 
 And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God.  Ephesians 2:8

For more thoughts on the distinctions between faith, words, virtue, and grace, see this post.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be rescue heroes…

Masculinity is a wonderful, terrifying thing.
My tough little boy asked me, “Mama, are rescue heroes real?”
“Sure, honey, they are real.  Every day people work as soldiers, police officers, fire fighters, and paramedics- those are real live rescue heroes.”
He smiled, and stuck out his chest a little bit. “I want to be a rescue hero.”

I smiled, but felt a twinge of something in my heart.  Words meant to discourage him just a tiny bit almost made it to my lips, but I swallowed them down.

I respect the brave “rescue heroes” of the world, of course.  Where would we be without soldiers and paramedics and police officers and fire fighters?  Their commitment to protect and defend, to rescue and help, even when it jeopardizes their own lives, blesses us all in ways we could never even number.  I lecture myself in my head, but before I have convinced myself he yells,

“I could be a soldier mommy!  Like daddy!”
I stayed silent.
Oh my dear baby, please not that. 

I thank God for the soldiers, I am glad there are so many willing to go fight and protect our country in distant lands.  But please, God, don’t take mine.  “Not my husband,” said my heart back in 2004.  “Not my babies either,” says my heart today.
The world needs manly men.  We need those willing to protect, defend, risk, and even fight “naughty guys” when it is necessary. I nurture these strange little boys and attempt to direct their budding masculinity in the ways that it should go.  The future savers-of-the-world make their big plans, and the selfishness of my heart is revealed once again as I attempt to possess that which is not mine.

Heavenly Father,
Bless these little boys that you have given to this selfish mother.  Forgive me for my desire to possess them when they are truly Yours.  Lead me as I lead them Lord.  Give me wisdom to withhold my anxious thoughts when those thoughts will do them harm.  Help me to know when to encourage, when to discipline, and when to simply send them to daddy with the questions.  Thank you Father for your protection, help, love, and rescue of me and those I love, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lamentation of the growing baby

"No!" that wonderful word,
the word that has offered me protection, 
made the sisters remove the tiaras, 
removed big brothers from my back!

"No" restored my snacks to my hand,
and preserved my place on the mother's lap.
"No" to brothers, no to sisters that beg the hands of the mother,
No, no siblings,  none of your needs can be so urgent, so desperate, and so cute as the needs of the baby!

The mother carries such power, such majesty when she wields that one word.
She brandishes the "no" with justice, and integrity,
She takes thought for the poor, she has mercy on the lowly, 
She protects the sweet baby of the family.

Are you talking to ME?
Why, O mother, have you turned against me?
Why, do you forget our covenant and hurl the powerful "no" at your dear baby?
I plead with you, recall my sweet baby smell and fat baby thighs,
be not deaf to my coos and my groaning!

"No" rebukes my grabbing hands,  
I grieve the cords and the plants that are left unchewed.
"No" cuts off the flight of the Cheerio;
I mix tears with my food all day long.

How long, O Mother?  
Have mercy on your sweet baby!  
Remember the fruit of your womb,
and restore his freedom!

For more like this see Grunt Interpretation

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Depression the awful blessing part 1

We have all heard a story like this: I was going along as usual, and then I was diagnosed with _______.  And even though _______ is awful, it really helped me see some things more clearly!

It’s true, terminal illness (or even the threat of it) can help us gain a better perspective.  Sometimes when something shakes our nice little house of “normal,” it opens our eyes to things that were right there all along.  Maybe we were just too comfortable to see it.

Depression is one of those things.  It is an awful trial, and something that ought to be fought against with every available weapon; yet, it can help a person see some things more clearly. 

Truth, even when it is harsh and painful, is good for the soul.

In the weeks to come I will be talking about several of these things; things I think I see more clearly, truth I feel more acutely thanks to the awful blessing of depression. 

Fellow sufferers, please share your own!

Just listen to your heart!

 “Is the glass half-full or half empty?” Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

If you had asked me that question a few years ago, I would have probably said something like this:

“What glass? Oh, you mean that pretty glass over there?  Well, it is actually 3/4full if you look at it right, and there is probably some really awesome reason for the ¼ empty part that we just don’t know yet.”

I think, rather than an optimist, I might have been called Care Bear.  Cheer Bear, in fact, always keeping things on the sunny side, never understanding people who didn’t see life from my happy perspective.   I was quite at home in this world, and pretty sure there was nothing that a good attitude and a little hard work couldn’t fix. 

Today, I will admit, that kind of unfounded optimism could rightly be called crazy.  I have tasted suffering, I have felt the weight of mortality.  I see, I feel, that the world is fallen.  I am no longer comfortable in this sad place, in these filthy rags, in this fragile body.

Of course there’s the problem.  What is true, what is just a feeling, what is a chemical quirk?  Where, Oh where is the solid ground?  Apparently it is not, as I had assumed, in my own head.

Thanks to the awful blessing of depression, I no longer trust my mere perspective.  Cheer Bear’s silly optimism is missing something.  The view from the pit is also missing something.  They’re both wrong; they’re both right.

Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Psalm 61:1-2

One of the hardest and best awful lessons that have come from my trips to the pit is a mistrust of my own self.  I feel intensely the need to cling to something, to Someone.  Thanks be to God for the gift of His Word; for Jesus Himself who shines through my cloudy perspective and holds me close to Him as he burns the fog away.

You are the Rock that is higher than I.  Let me take refuge in you.  Help me to see things rightly; let Your Word clarify that which is still cloudy and confusing.  Sort out the evil and the good; kill the evil and grow the good.  It is too much for me to sort out, too much for me to fix.  Yet Your love, Your blood covers me even before it is all sorted out.  Keep me safe inside Your grace.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

theological lesson squandered

“Here’s your cough medicine, son.”
“Mommy, does the cough medicine go into my heart?”
“Well, yes, it gets in your bloodstream and the blood goes to your heart.”
“But mom, Jesus is in my heart.  Does that mean He gets the cough medicine too?”

What would you say if your five-year-old said this?  I might have thought of something better to say had it not been very late already.  (After 8 pm!)
I said (sigh,) “Honey, that’s a good question, but it’s late, go to bed.”
And I walked down the hall laughing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"It's amazing I am not crazier than I am."

I have said this many times.

It was nice to hear this said, and said better, by a good ol' Lutheran Theologian.

Read "Completely into the Streudel"

'Truly it is of the goodness of the Lord that we are still together on the way.'

Monday, June 13, 2011

sorry, little girl, I'm not your daddy.

Mommy can’t be daddy.

That is one of the lessons I learned while he was in Iraq.  I had plenty of help; friends and family, and only one kid to chase (while I grew another one.)   But the soldier-shaped hole was obvious, and hardest for me to bear when I saw it near my little girl.

She said her first words, but not to daddy.
She had her first birthday, but daddy did not get a piece of her cake.
Every “first” from about 10months to 20 months, was shared with mommy.  Mommy took pictures and videos and sent frequent reports to daddy, but none of that filled the empty spot in our home. 

Who else cares about all the little details of this particular precious little girl?  Who else could possibly be so invested in her upbringing?  Who else would be willing to soundboard and problem-solve and work alongside me to bring up OUR child in the way she should go?

(For their part, both grandmothers put heroic effort into filling this empty spot, and their love helped tremendously.  Grandmas DO enjoy sharing the funny stories and hearing the details and problem-solving.  But even Grandmas cannot be daddies.)

Snapshots and snippets of our emails during this time:

Walking to the airport
Me: We just got back from our church group…. It is not easy to be around couples.  I miss you terribly.  It is easier when it is just me and Lorraine, but seeing my other friends as wives, not only as mothers, and other couples parenting together makes me ache so badly for you to be home and be part of our day to day life…And seeing Lorraine play with other men, even giving kisses when those kisses should be for you…. Only a few more months, right?  Please Jesus let it be so.

Him: It will be weird to have Lorraine talking when I come home – I hope she’s not too afraid of me.  I know she’s able to recognize me now and all, but it might be frightening for her to have me there in real life.  I hope not.

Read me a book daddy!
Me: She’s been yelling “DADA!” for the last hour and walking around with your picture!
Every night when you read her the “daddy book,” we read the words, “A daddy goes to work… and hugs you when he comes home.”  I’ve been telling her that you give your hugs through mommy right now, but when you get home you’ll give her the biggest and best hug EVER.

And this-- my dear husband’s constant pointing to the love of God for our family and his consistent eternal perspective—this amazed me.:

Him: It is very difficult for me to think of Lorraine growing up while I am away…  God does console my aching soul however with the knowledge that we will be together for eternity in His presence.  Baptism is such a wonderful gift from God… a sign and seal of His love… and a particular gift to parents.

God will keep you safe even if I cannot, dear child.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God,who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 58Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Whoops, I dropped my list!

I am the mom sitting on the beach towel with the goofy smile on her face.

We really should be going.  There’s so much stuff to pack up and there are things to do at home and we really need to get moving along with our day.  

But I have forgotten all of this.  The girls are underwater, up again, giggling, flipping, laughing… and I am remembering my days in the sun with my sister, with my cousins.  I remember “c’mon mom! Just five more minutes!” and I remember the hot sun and cool water.  I remember the sandy snacks and the tangled hair and balancing on the raft.  I remember talking to each other underwater and filling our buckets with minnows.

Just sit, mama.
I sit, with a goofy grin, forgetting my list, remembering. 

This almost never happens!  Whoops! I accidentally remember I have forgotten, but I will myself to keep forgetting. (Like trying to reenter the sweetness of a good dream interrupted.)

Simply to sit, to observe and enjoy, the passing of fun from one generation to the next, the rich inheritance of sweet summer days granted to my dear daughters, this is a blessing.  It is an adult blessing, richer and sweeter and aged.

I observe the works of my hands, the works of His hands. 
I sit with a goofy grin.
Thank you, God.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Depressed ears

Not in the pit yourself, but you think you know someone who might be? 
Alright then, pray for that person.  Pray and be kind. 
But be very, VERY cautious about bringing it up. 

The scientific community has not confirmed my hypothesis, but I will share it with you anyway.
Depression distorts a person’s hearing.

Here are a few examples:

Concerned husband says: Were the kids bad for you today?  
Do you want me to watch them for a little while?
Person in the pit hears: You’re doing it ALL wrong!  You’d better let me take over.  Just go away.

Concerned friend says: Hey, you seem kind of depressed lately… is anything wrong?
Person in the pit hears: Hey, you have a huge ugly wart on your nose, have you noticed?

Concerned friend offers advice: When I am overwhelmed, I usually feel better if I exercise/take a bath/read the Bible/ go for a walk/ watch a funny movie/ etc.
Person in the pit hears: Idiont, don't you know how to take care of yourself?

Concerned friend says: You seem a little down lately. Would you like to talk?
Person in the pit hears: You have a terrible BO problem.  Can I buy you some deodorant?

Hey.  You stink.
You may have correctly discerned the trouble with your friend.  It may indeed be depression.   Be warned: Words that are spoken down into the pit seem to be run through an evil, cynical, hyper-sensitive translator before they reach the person’s heart. 

An inquiry that is anything at all like a prod or a criticism, or that does not first communicate loads of compassion and grace is going to be poorly received.  In fact, the most perfect, loving, sensitive inquiry might be poorly received too.

So pray, and be kind.  And yes, inquire if you must, but first fill your words with the comfort of butter and the safety of mashed potatoes. 

And please don’t be offended if your friend is simply not hungry right now.

a hole in my cup

What does depression feel like? 
I suppose it can be anything from a mild “ho, hum” feeling to a deep black pit of forsakenness. Much ink has been spilled on personal subjective accounts of this experience, so I guess you can add this one to the pile, for what it is worth.

(*a personal note to those who know me - these feelings are as far away as Africa right now.  If it were not so, I would not be capable of speaking publicly about them.)

My “pit,” the short version:
Emptiness.  A cup empty, void of all goodness, with a hole in the bottom.  Empty and unfillable.

An example:
(Written during the days of seizures and sadness.)

  ….some of those days were successfully completed, albeit on survival mode, and I went to bed feeling that I had done the best I could under the circumstances.  But there were also very bad days, days when the grief would almost consume me.  I would walk around feeling utterly empty, like a cup with an enormous hole in the bottom.  All energy, patience, joy, enthusiasm for life, love, strength, and everything good about me just drained out of the hole.  Anything in the world that ever brought me joy only brought irritation and annoyance.  Any kind of experience at all, even a playful kiss from one of my children, felt like something that sucked energy, life, patience out of me.  All I could see in the world was need after need after need that I simply could not meet.
            My body screamed with exhaustion, so that even one mere dish in the sink seemed like an overwhelming task and personal insult. I became exceedingly selfish in every single one of my thoughts: my mental ranting was constant and loud, and consisted only of complaints and guilt.  I saw my family and saw nothing but my guilt and failures.  My heart simply could not give them the love they deserved.  If there was a conflict between the children or a discipline issue to be addressed, my emotional state was such that I only had two options: seethe in silence or overreact. 

            My thoughts were filled with self-pity mixed with a thousand “shoulds,” and prayers for help and forgiveness that felt unanswered.   You should not feel this way, you should be thankful for your children, for your home, for your husband and your health.  You should be kind and patient, you should be thinking of others, you should be able to make it through a meal without slamming your hand on the table and yelling!  You should not think your life is so hard, you should not have this terrible attitude toward those you say you love.  You should be able to pull yourself together and function!

 Lord forgive me, help me, change my heart.  Lord forgive me forgive me forgive me help me O God please help me I am a mess Jesus help.....
            I remember many mornings, hiding in the office with my coffee while the children watched cartoons, in tears even before breakfast.  I have heard many people say that “God never gives you any more than you can handle.”  I am sure there are good intentions behind those words, but that thought did not seem to match the reality I was facing.  I was far beyond what I could handle on my own at this point.  I was curled up in a ball, crying on the deck of the ship while the war raged on.
            When I came before the Lord, I had trouble assembling any thoughts to form a prayer.  I was simply an enormous pit of need.  I was weak, selfish, and completely empty-handed.  My cup was empty, and everything I tried to put in it to fill myself back up again just fell out of the hole at the bottom. 

And if there is no God, no love, no forgiveness, no Helper, then nothing more can be said. 
Simply, utterly, weak.

But there is hope in the promises of God.

 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
 the poor and him who has no helper.

He has pity on the weak and the needy,
   and saves the lives of the needy.

Psalm 72:12-13

God, come quickly, and rescue those who struggle in the pit today.  Repair the broken cups and heal the broken hearts!    And even as we wait for our complete repairs, comfort us with your grace.  Let us hide under the blood of Christ, and take refuge in Your great love for us.  You see and know our hearts; yet in Christ even the ugliness and weakness is covered. We are fully known and fully loved, fully safe in Him.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

it will not always be crumbling

Feeling tired this week? A little world-weary?

Take a minute to look up, to look ahead, to remember where we are headed! God is faithful, and He will keep us safe in Christ Jesus until that glorious day when we see every one of His promises fulfilled!  Praise God, it will NOT always be this way!

Here are some things I have found encouraging this week:
and listen to this:

Issues, Etc: The Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15
Click here to listen!

Pray with me, dear Christian friends:

Heavenly Father, 
Open my eyes, and help me see my life from the perspective of eternity.  Here I am surrounded by a mixture of blessings and trials, in a world that is both thriving and crumbling.  Help me to remember that this entire life of mine is but the first chapter in the glorious story You are writing.  These things I see in front of me are perishable, even my own body is perishable; yet Your promises are not.  You have promised to keep me safe in Christ even through the crumbling and dying, finally to raise me as You raised Him, in a body that is imperishable.  You have promised, and You will do it.  Sustain me until that day.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer pains

Oh, the adjustments of a new season, the aches and pains that come with yet a little more growth and change.  Another summer. 

Oh, the tragic discoveries when summer items are unearthed:
Swimsuits too small, inflatable whatnots that did not survive the winter; a slip n slide with a hole; a missing flip-flop.

And oh, the joys of summer items long since forgotten:
The watering cans and garden shovels, the spray bottles and crusty old trucks; the sandbox toys; the goggles and beach towels; the demands of the children to recreate the summer memories again, right now, this minute.

Oh, the regrets of the mommy.  She kicks herself, again, for not going through the box before she let them see it!  So many little things for the dog to steal away and the mower to crush.
Hey kids, come here for a second...

Each rosy-cheeked child has grown taller, stronger limbs and stronger opinions.  The opinions clash and collide as school children try to remember how to coexist with preschoolers again.

Mama adjusts to new conflicts and new chores: the gritty sandy floors, the grass clippings in the bathtub; the muddy tracks from little feet (“Hey look! Markie prints!”); the extra laundry, the increased demand for cold drinks and popsicles.

A freshly painted picnic table; small plants in a new garden;  a new tree house; the world calls us to new adventures.  We welcome hot days and summer change. 

Besides, I do so enjoy spraying children with the hose.

Monday, June 6, 2011

the soldier-shaped hole

He left in January 2004.  Me and my buddy Lorraine, just the two of us... we adjusted.  We did everything together.   We had play dates and attended church functions and started new projects.  For awhile at the beginning, everyone we knew asked about my husband and whether we had heard from him.  But eventually, it became pretty normal for me to be by myself in places where others had husbands.  The gaping hole where he had been slowly became less obvious. other people, at least.  His family, his little girl, and especially his wife, always felt the hole.

Spring 2004, on loneliness:
My predicament must seem like a little problem to many people.  Many times, it seems that way to me as well.  I have a beautiful daughter to take care of, friends and family not too far away, a comfortable house, and every material thing I could want.  But my husband is at war.  I am not quite a widow, but I do not feel like a normal married woman, either.  I am parenting alone all of a sudden, but still a wife.  I am denied most of the comforts of marriage, while the burdens are amplified....God has united us so that we are “bone of bone, flesh of flesh,” but we are not together. 
            Of course it hurts to be separated.  We are torn in two.  Even as I desire the comfort of others in this time of need, I know that such comfort cannot fill the hole in me.  No amount of new friends, sweet little children, new projects, or fanatical busy-ness will replace my husband.  What I need is my husband.  What I want is my husband.  An entire half of me is missing, and I grieve.  I cannot go to him, and he cannot come to me.  I cannot even call him.  How I would love just to hear his voice tonight. 

Even now, after seven years of my soldier safely stateside, I often think of this man as the husband-God-brought-back-to-me. 

 May God strengthen all people whose hearts have a hole where a soldier should be.  

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Billboard idea

I would smile if I saw a billboard like this on the side of the road.

Repentance: Pass it on

Friday, June 3, 2011

buffer zone

Though I am (obviously) a person of many words, my capacity to say them and to hear them is not infinite. My recent trip to the lake reminded me of this. The sun and the well-behaved, happy children made for a pleasant morning, but by noon I found that my capacity to listen and speak to children was utterly worn out.

“Hey mommy watch!” “Mommy look at that boat! How do they pull skiers like that?” “Hey mommy can you tell him that I want to have that toy next?” “Mommy look at that fish!” “Hey mommy watch again!” “Can you take a picture of me?” “Mommy I have sand on my feet!” “Look at my dump truck!” “Can you come swimming?” “Can I jump to you?” “Can I take my life jacket off?” “Can I put my life jacket back on?” “Hey mommy watch THIS! Are you watching?”

It is important to listen and to talk with children, it is, and mothers must do it often and long. But sometimes moms need to recharge their processors. They need silence, time for defragmenting, time to recharge that ability for so much listening and talking.

Until someone invents a real and portable “cone of silence,” I think we are going to have to do the best with what we have. When an actual break is not possible, I have found some sanity restored by taking a mini-break. Mini-breaks are possible for mothers, once we learn the art of creating a buffer zone.

(Definition of a buffer zone: A neutral area between hostile or belligerent forces that serves to prevent conflict and talking. Italics mine.)

My teacher friend made this.
I think she should mass produce these.
Caution: The ages of the children I have in mind are kids who have hit the I-kind-of-trust-them-a-little age--- Somewhere above age 2, when at least I know they won’t eat a rock or something---but have not quite reached the I-don’t-care-what-you-do-as-long-as-it-is-not-right-here age.

Remember mothers, the ideal buffer zone allows you to be just far enough away to be removed from normal conversation, but close enough to be accessible case of emergency.

Physical Hurdles
Inside: Make them go somewhere else and close the door, where they can be heard but not seen. If children are especially trustworthy, mother may be the person in the room with the closed door. The presence of the closed door may discourage some unnecessary direct conversation. If necessary, use a lock, and perhaps a big sign with a frowny face to discourage frivolous knocking.

Outside: Assess your surroundings, in particular the speed and direction of the wind, the presence of other background noise, and any existing structures that might slow them down. Be especially mindful of natural hurdles: anything that will interrupt or slow or otherwise discourage a child’s journey to the mother. Natural hurdles include: a body of water, a long climb uphill, or something that might simply distract a would-be tattler, like a cute little puppy dog.
Position yourself behind natural hurdles.

If no natural hurdles are present, ideal distance seems to be at least 25-30 feet.
Children understand, at this distance, that shouting to mother “it was my turn with the such and such but he did such and such and then I said such and such and then …” would require an exorbitant amount of energy.

Audio Hurdles
When physical hurdles are not forthcoming, try adjusting the auditory factors in your situation.

Play some very loud music. Music you enjoy, not old VBS songs (those will just make you crazier.) It is not silence per se that will restore your soul, but if the music is loud enough, their silence will still give you that mini-break. Music, though it is noise, does not require mother to explain herself or repeat herself or respond in any way if she chooses not to. The louder, the better, and the more discerning the children will become.  (Is this really worth interrupting mother when she is car-dancing?)

Makeshift Hurdles
When you cannot make use of physical hurdles and loud music is not a possibility, you may have to resort to the use of props.

Hold a small baby
Snuggle and rock a precious little baby, and when children come to you with words, politely turn them away with a whisper, “I’m sorry honey I can’t help you right now. I’m trying to put the baby to sleep. You can play right here, but you have to be very, very quiet.”
(If no baby is handy, find a kitten or something.)

Talk on the phone
Grown up conversation is less exhausting and uses different parts of the brain. Again, redirect them with polite quiet words and hope they give up before you do.

By which I mean, read a book or plug in the earphones and listen to something. “Sorry honey, mommy’s working right now, I’ll be done in 20 minutes and we can talk about it then."

I have also considered feigning a hearing problem or simply covering myself with a blanket, but so far, I have been rescued just before attempting this. Still, I would not put it past me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"weak and loved" makes no sense

"Weak and loved" is a hard place to be.

Here’s one reason: it makes no sense. 
I compare His crazy love to my normal love, and His makes no sense.

Love comes out of me easily, for some people.  It is easy to love cheerful children and cute little babies.  It is easy to love people who love me, or even just like me.  It is easy to love good people and pleasant people. 

But sometimes, love faces challenge.
It is much tougher to love selfish people; unpleasant people; needy and grumpy people.  It is difficult to love sinful, disobedient, selfish people.

My love stutters in the face of these things. My good intentions get tangled up with my own selfishness.  I keep score, I judge, I pat myself on the back. I fill with indignation; resentment; anger; comparisons; complaints.  

I want to avoid people that might hurt me.

But Jesus does the exact opposite of that:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

His love makes no sense, and is nothing like mine.

And that is a very, very good thing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Worry : Anxiety

We’ve all had that kind of dream, haven’t we?  The kind that makes you wake in a panic, full of images difficult to shake.; the kind that will pull you right back into its horror if you go back to sleep too soon.  The dream is gone, but the emotions linger for awhile while you talk yourself back to reality.

Not surprisingly I had one of those dreams when we slept in our basement due to tornado warnings the other night.  I will spare you the details, but let’s just say when I woke up I had just been running down a huge flight of stairs yelling and praying “Not my babies!  Please no, not my babies, not my babies, notmybabies…”

It was a dream, just a dream.  It didn’t really happen.  It could happen, maybe, but it didn’t.  So feelings, go away.  There is no reason for you. GO AWAY.  Everything’s fine.
Funnel Cloud in our backyard
(last week)

I think most people are familiar with this experience.  It can’t be called worry, exactly, because the dream just came, attacked even. It’s exhausting.  It’s emotional. 

Having a dream like that, though it may be inspired by worries, is not the same as worrying.
Worry is like allowing your mind to dwell on things it doesn’t need to dwell on.  Worry is picturing the what-ifs, letting them consume you, trying to somehow muster up the strength to deal with the hypothetical situations ahead of time.  Worry can be productive- if you are actually problem-solving in some way- or it can simply be idle worry, and sin. 

Bad dreams just come.  Asleep we lie, and images assault, bringing with them a sense of reality and the corresponding emotions.

THIS is how I would describe anxiety; except, of course, it happens when you are awake. (I think the technical term for this is intrusive thoughts, which can be part of depression and/or anxiety.)

Anxiety attacks.  It assaults a person with those images and feelings right out of the blue: they can come through the news, or seeing your child ride a bike, or for no reason whatsoever.  It can make things you once enjoyed nearly impossible: like riding a motorcycle, or taking a child to the lake.

Sometimes I think it is ok to simply accommodate it, and turn off the evening news.  Sometimes you have to push through it and do what you need to do in spite of it. 

Either way, anxiety is a good reminder to pray.  When anxiety shakes the ground under my feet, I find help only by clinging to something Solid. 

Lord, have mercy.  Again.

"Jesus, Lover of My Soul"/b>
by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788
1. Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide.
Oh, receive my soul at last!

2. Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee.
Leave, ah, leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me!
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.

3. Wilt Thou not regard my call,
Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo, I sink, I faint, I fall;
Lo, on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand!
While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope, I stand,
Dying , and behold, I live!

4. Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find.
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name;
I am all unrighteousness,
False and full of sin I am;
Thou art full of truth and grace.

5. Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin.
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the Fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.
Notes from The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn #345
Text: Is. 32:2
Author: Charles Wesley, 1740
Composer: Simeon B. Marsh, 1834
Tune: "Martyn"

Bad attitude: depression
Worry: anxiety
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