Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why I'm Afraid to Talk...or Should Be

A gaffe of epic proportions:

"Thank you for watching my son," I said, hanging the diaper bag on the hook and signing in my baby boy for the hour-and-a-half church service.

"You're welcome," the volunteer said, another little baby boy on her hip.

"Who is this little one?" I asked innocently, squeezing his chubby baby toes.

"Oh, he belongs to me," she answered with a smile.

Perhaps it was the way she beam-smiled at me - not exactly like a tired mama, more like a doting grandmother. Or perhaps it was the fleeting thought that her grown daughters work in town, I had seen them at a store.

"Is this your first grandbaby?"

"No, this is my son," she said neutrally, not overly mad and not overly nice.

Well, it's time to patch things up, said my brain.

"I am so sorry," I said.

Deep down, I'm still shouting to the narrator, "Don't say it! Don't say it!" But it always ends with me, tactless and unafraid:

"For some reason, I thought your daughter, the one who works in town, was pregnant."

Crickets chirp. And you can hear me slap myself on the forehead.

Her look wasn't overly mad or overly nice, just overly disgusted.

The End.

Resting Near the Delete Button,

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Life Abundant

My little sister has a big bump.

A scary looking bump. It can't help but draw the eye down towards her belly.

It gets me excited for her every time we talk on the phone, this new life in her named Baby Lillian. It also stirs up those nostalgic "remember when's."

As is always the case with me, even my nostalgia is plagued by misplaced mother-guilt. Just ask my little sister, she'll tell you all the ways I regret my mothering of babies - the hurrying of time, the rigor of schedules, the stiff rigidity that could not consider a bottle of formula or a snuggle in bed with Baby. Then, the extreme swing in the other direction, where I rocked at the cost of any other priority, as if to make up for lost time.

But when I look back, I realize that lack of time was never the real problem. Being present in those moments was the problem. My biggest regret in all of life - not just in early motherhood, but in every stage, every day - is in not being thankful for this. Right now, the this is a quiet moment at a dark desk, my face glowing in the reflection of a screen...sounds of kids settling into bed interrupting my already distracted thoughts...this sticky laptop that must have been witness to a lollipop annihilation...scrub that tomorrow...the smell of fresh paint lingering (and I secretly like it)... If I could say it loud without disturbing drowsy Littles, I'd shout it: I'm thankful now.

Isn't this grace, that I have been given this moment, and the hard ones too, not to be hurried or accomplished or checked off the to-do list, but to be lived? Even this, I cannot do apart from Another, who wants me to have "life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

"I watch the hands move grace on the clock face. I'm growing older. These children growing up. But time is not running out. This day is not a sieve, losing time. With each passing minute, each passing year, there's this deepening awareness that I am filling, gaining time." -Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, page 77

This life is not to be endured, but to be lived. Abundantly. Remind me of this during my next root canal and you just might see an example of ungrace. For sure, this abundant life is not done without Him. He makes purpose out of my irrelevant moments, sense out of my nonsense, gratitude out of tantrums, and even joy out of my regrets. Gaining time today, and praying you are too.

Resting in this Eternity,

If you haven't visited here in a while, let me explain: each Monday, I meet with hundreds of other women who are pouring gratitude out in journals, keyboards, and the backs of receipts. It's lifted my eyes upward, where I rejoice for crazy things like spilled paint and floss. If you would like to start your own list, you can start your own at A Holy Experience.

69. this goofy sticky keyboard (my finger keeps getting stuck on the ssssss)
70. puppy antics
71. good books piled high
72. fresh paint and wallpaper, and my mother who inspires, motivates, and mops up my spilled paint
73. this man I love, who comforted Punkin the best way after those puppy antics chewed up her artwork - with time, affection, and scotch tape
74. Dr. Gray, the dentist Sugs loves
75. nightly "rocket ship" rides to the top bunk and little kid vows to come home from the moon in the morning
76. a smilebox from Japan that made me, well, smile
77. Pizza with grandparents
78. Three squirt bottles and all the giggles they produced tonight
79. Willing listeners who allowed me to share so securely
80. A real tea party
81. Early morning coffee with Real Gil
82. the Bread of Life - a perfectly satisfying and strengthening meal
83. gusts of wind and these strong walls that shelter me tonight
84. the whimsy of Grandpa eating a lollipop
85. teachers like Miss Diedre, Mr. Nelson-with-the-guitar, & Miss Melody
86. staged fights (with swords and nunchucks) at noon that had us all laughing
87. snowballs thrown at our departing car and kids laughing at Grandpa
88. the long, lulling rock in a rocking chair (How long has it been since I did that?)
89. cheers at church
90. My mother-in-law cooking and serving while I...set the table?
91. Little Sister's baby bump

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When Tucked In Really Means Tucked In

Uncle Kenny died on Sunday afternoon.

Grandpa found him sitting in his easy chair, the television still tuned to his favorite channel, and my kids' most recent homemade works of art posted on his refrigerator. Putting down the plate of still-warm food my mother had sent Grandpa to deliver, he called 9-1-1 and checked his best friend's body for a pulse. There was none.

Let me clarify: Uncle Kenny wasn't really our uncle, he was my father's uncle. That got a little too confusing for us and even more complicated for the kids, so we all just called him what my dad called him: Uncle Kenny. More than an uncle, though, he was my grandfather's first cousin by blood (not hard in a family of seventeen kids!) and best friend for life. A single father of four adult daughters, he wasn't afraid of our family chaos or the occasional childish interruption.

Grandpa and Kenny always reminded me of Grumpy Old Men, only they weren't grumpy. They were energetic, funny, and child-like in their awe of the world. They spent endless hours hunting the high desert for ghost towns, blue rocks (requested by my daughter), and treasures untold. When we went along for the fun, they strapped kids on the backs of their quads and ventured off into the dust. A kid's heaven, for sure, as was the bowl of Jell-O Great-Grandma had made them afterward.

Uncle Kenny celebrated every birthday and holiday with our family, including the religious ones that he did not necessarily ascribe to. Last Easter, he asked my mom why Jesus was so important to the Christians. I was secretly glad he hadn't asked me after I heard how good her answer was.

Then, just a few weeks ago, Grandpa and Uncle Kenny stopped by our house. I brewed coffee and cut brownies, the kind that's thick with frosting. Both the kids and Uncle Kenny ate the frosting first.

Between stories of political woes and travesties, I shook my head and said, "The answer is Jesus, we just need Jesus." Such a cliche answer, in retrospect.

"You think so?" Uncle Kenny asked.

"Yeah," I answered shyly, but gaining momentum. "Real life doesn't start the minute we get to heaven; it starts the minute we know Jesus."

He smiled encouragingly, even nodded around his coffee cup. But I wonder what he really thought. Was I the religious nutcase that kept serving him Jesus-talk with his brownie? Was I a misguided zealot? A weak-minded intolerant conservative?

We ended the conversation with hugs, and off those two went, nagging and teasing each other all the way to the truck. It was only two weeks until my dad's birthday, when the family would all gather around my mother's buffet spread, but Uncle Kenny decided the morning of our get-together to stay home and rest. And he died that afternoon.

If I could have done it again, I would have said it a hundred more ways (to make sure he was fully convinced I was a religious nutcase!). Not because I needed to change his mind, but because God loved him, plain and simple. Why not tell a person this?

So, to all the Uncle Kenny's out there who I have yet to bravely risk embarrassing myself and them, here's what I should have said:

Jesus is the reason I get up in the morning.

Life without Him is hopeless for me.

A walk with Jesus is a walk of faith - there are no perfect proofs or scientific experiments that make it all sensible. In fact, if anything, this Christian life seems the exact opposite of logic. A.W. Tozer says it this way:

"A real Christian is an odd number, anyway. He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen; talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see; expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another; empties himself in order to be full; admits he is wrong so he can be declared right; goes down in order to get up; is strongest when he is weakest; richest when he is poorest and happiest when he feels the worst. He dies so he can live; forsakes in order to have; gives away so he can keep; sees the invisible; hears the inaudible; and knows that which passeth knowledge."
(excerpt taken from Kenneth Boa's Conformed to His Image, p. 260)

No matter how skeptical you are, what do you lose by finding out more? A little time, perhaps? A little ridicule, maybe? If it's nothing, you've wasted little. If it's something - or everything - you've gained purpose, identity, love, hope, security, and life itself.

This "hidden in Christ" kind of "tucked in" I spout about cannot allow me to wallow in regret, only step forward knowing that if God could find me, He could certainly find Uncle Kenny. What a way to go - into Arms wide open, cozier than the easy chair. I hope he found that safe place, tucked in to Him.

Resting in Faith,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Locked Out

I was somewhere in the midst of cereal bowls and soapy water when the doorbell rang. Before I could even dry my hands, three pajama-clad kids scampered to the front door and opened it. (So much for that "stranger danger" talk.)

The couple at the door made me smile - a young buzz-cut boy with his hand firmly enveloped in his grandma's. She shrugged her shoulders and explained, "We're locked out." Then, she laughed. In a flurry of shed jackets and excited greetings, the children went off to play, and I ground coffee beans.

I wonder, who was more excited about the unexpected guests - the children or me?! After all, when the door swung wide and I recognized her, it was I who gleefully pushed schoolbooks out of the way, not the children. It was adult conversation and it was spontaneous. I've never been so happy for those inconvenient self-locks!

Is there a sweeter place than the kitchen table? Steaming mugs before us, we drank the fellowship deeply, two sisters in Christ. She gave me the gift of words - something I never run out of - and wisdom laced - like creamer in my coffee - with humility and laughter. We talked about kids, dogs, and mothering, all of which she is decades ahead of me on. Somewhere in there, she mentioned her own mother.

Kids were squealing, catching up in their own way, when she poured out the parts I had never heard.

"In a small town, folks knew. And talked about us, my mom and her live-in boyfriends...I remember being asked to the prom by a boy whose mother said 'it wouldn't do' to take someone like me. He did anyways." She brightened at this for a moment, but quickly sobered.

"The worst part was that she always chose the boyfriend over us kids, her own children." It's been sixty years and she still seemed baffled by this woman called Mother, who did it so differently than she did.

Later, after kids put on jackets and tromped outside to conquer some unseen foe in the sandbox, she told me how she has wronged another, sought to make it right. Here is when the tears really fell, and I made note: grace makes the wrong done against her much less painful than the wrong done by her.

All too soon, keys and hugs were delivered. It was suddenly quiet again (well, quieter) and the school books moved back to their high priority position. I loosened coffee grounds from the french press into the trash can, and wondered how this woman let loose of that history, those small-town whispers. Didn't she deserve to carry just a little bit of resentment, wear it like a badge of honor? Not only did she toss the badge, but she seemed to willingly pin it on others around her, pleading for them to let loose of their rightful resentment towards her.

Does her own forgiveness of her mother preclude her willingness to ask for forgiveness? Does grace produce more grace? Of course! This math of the Father always boggles me...It's as if He would like to see how unbalanced the scales can get!

I'm so thankful that this woman of faith has chosen to act in faith - because "to forgive as we have been forgiven by God is an act of faith, since it means that we are releasing the right to resentment and that we entrust justice to God rather than seek it ourselves." (Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image, p. 50)

"Forgive, and you will be forgiven," said Jesus (Luke 6:37).

Resting in His Forgiveness,

51. the assurance that I am prayed for
52. the chance to pray for others
53. little families we get to grow with
54. play dates on snowy days
55. our macho grandpa dancing a goofy dance to my kids' "Happy birthday" tune
56. family meals and the gift of food
57. Grandma and Punkin singing hymns together, generations rising to call HIM blessed
58. pre-pasted wallpaper, a sturdy ladder, & one willing mother
59. flossing, lots of flossing around here
60. scrubbed puppy dog
61. forgiveness - to be given and received
62. the life of Amos
63. perfect acceptance, just like I am, by the One who should require so much more from me
64. a picky nephew who tried a new food, and brightened when it tasted good
65. the grandma who cooked it!
66. the humility of a fellow mother, who called and asked for help
67. And the opportunity to help, as unto Him. The gift is for us, not her...
68. Uncle Kenny, and the pictures on his refrigerator

In all of these, and so many more, I am thankful today...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When Sowing Doesn't Produce The Crop You Were Going For

The Little Man went to the dentist for the first time today, at three-years old. Daddy did the honors, while I stayed home to 'do' school with the other two.

We pride ourselves on a fairly disciplined brushing regiment, limited sugar (sorta), and a soda-free environment around here.

So, while the returning Little Man's beaming smile warmed my heart as he came through the swinging door, the pile of paperwork in Real Gil's hand came as a bit of a surprise. As far as I know, a clean bill of tooth-health does not come with piles of x-rays and follow-up appointments.

Defeated. Yet again, at the dentist.

It's the one area in life where I really feel like "You reap what you sow" does not apply. For instance, this husband of mine flosses at least twice a day, brushes often enough to earn the chore of household toilet-scrubber (with a different brush of course), and schedules regular dentist visits every six months. I, on the other hand, go to the dentist once a year and do a shoddy flossing job. He reaps crowns and root canals, and I always get praised for "great flossing technique" by the hygienist (I feel so guilty!).

It seems our son takes after his father. Poor little guy...

It's taken a few hours, but I'm seeing gratitude even here - in the fact that we have a great pediatric dentist, we have the money to pay the bill, and Little Man made it through his first of many dentist visits. Before I can finish that sentence in this post, I find other things to be thankful for - novocaine and flavored fluoride and modern dentistry. See, this gratitude thing is contagious!

Then, I am reminded that the results are not up to me. The crop's harvest is not my job, only the sowing. Oh, and I'm grateful for this too - thank God the fruitfulness of a crop is not up to me; I can't imagine my mother-guilt if it was. So, I'm thankful, even when sowing didn't produce the crop I was going for...

Resting in the Surprise of Gratitude,

36. Words like these that bring comfort when the world shakes
37. Friends who love my kids, even after they took them for the weekend
38. A rock hunt with child-eyes to see the sparkles in the gravel
39. Warm beds
40. Surprise visitors at the front door
41. Pink smears of sunrise this morning
42. Great news!
43. The best phone call, in which I couldn't stop laughing and couldn't resist being encouraged
44. Squeals from the spa full of splashing kids
45. Facebook updates from Japan
46. Cold medicine, Kleenex, and healing bodies
47. Money to pay the dental bills
48. Grieving saints, who let me bring them before the Father (which can only be done as they share their burden, so glad they trusted us with these!)
49. My sister's growing baby tummy
50. Sugs squinty, finger-folded prayers

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Entering In

This picture comes straight from Japan, about 40 miles from Sendai, where
two of my friends are missionaries. Here is their newly "renovated" church.

Sometimes I pray because it's the right thing to do. Sometimes I pray because Jesus did it so I know I should too. Sometimes I pray because I have no other options in dire situations.

But lately, I've prayed because I can't help it. It's the natural overflow of my heart, this conversation with my Father, and it is a gift, not a task. It's conversation at its best, with me being mostly silent and just scrubbing down sinks or chopping onions with lips that move. Not the most organized or intercessory of prayers, but I think He is not offended by my disjointed thoughts.

I'm thankful for this gift - prayer. The gift I thought I was giving to Him all these years is actually the gift I receive from Him, this ever-present Rock I rest upon. And I boast in Him alone, who has moved me gradually from robotic method to genuine overflow.

Like entering a vast art museum after years of sitting in the lobby, I'm both in awe of this place and looking over my shoulder to see if it's real. As if some Night at the Museum guard is going to find me and identify me as a fraud - What! She's no prayer warrior! She's just a mother! - and yank me back to the drinking fountain and restrooms.

But then, I remember Who runs things around here, how I am invited to enter, to draw near, no matter how distracted I may be. So, I wander this gallery with names, faces, and places fluttering through my mind. And the more I study on it, the more beautiful the pieces become.

If you would like to join me in prayer, here is a link to my friends in Japan, who ask us to consider a tsunami of a different kind...

I know that life doesn't always feel like an art gallery, but I am savoring these opportunities to enter in.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Resting in Him,

Monday, March 7, 2011

Links I Actually Read

We're sneaking away from this sweet, wild dog and bunk beds and textbooks. I've packed games, nail polish, and swimsuits. It will be good. (Just to clarify: the nail polish is for the female family members.)

Here are some links I've enjoyed lately. They are a bit dated as I haven't been reading much online these days, but I think you will still find some treasures in here somewhere.

  • The coolest homemade clock! I gotta make one of these.
  • I'm sure you've seen Layla's website; she posted some of her favorite videos from the year and I loved watching these.
  • I was supposed to show you all this BEFORE Valentine's Day, but maybe we can all get a head start on it for next year. Isn't this the cutest?!
  • And then, there's this flower tutorial - one of these days I'm going to do more than just read the tutorials...
  • And how about this cherry blossom display? Susie Harris made this with fake flowers and real sticks, which is a pretty good compromise in my book.
  • The only thing that says spring in my house is the cleaning supplies. It might be time to add something like this - the cutest table centerpiece. If Cathe Holden was my neighbor, I'd be baking whatever it took to get my hands on one of these.
  • Not everything I read is as materialistic as the above links. Every once in a while, I get enough brain power to read (instead of scroll) an article. One that I had to pass on was "The 'Yes' Face" over at It's okay - no, even good - to say "No" to our children, but when it's harmless (but perhaps taxing), I want to give an emphatic "Yes!"
  • New to me, Miss Shauna, but her words were good. Let us mothers celebrate our children - and say "Yes!" to them - but do so in ways that are sensitive to those around us who are seeking to find that the Now is enough.
  • I found this article tracking college student learning to be somewhat true of my own college education. And it's made me reconsider the approach to education as a whole. Is it just another hoop we jump through? Or is it authentic learning? And is my education at home any different?
  • I have a cousin who married this girl...doesn't that sound like I'm about to tell a lie?... Anyways, her name is Jessica and she clips she can give it all away! One of my goals for the year is to learn how to do the coupon thing so I can join her on this mission.
Happy reading to you.

Resting in Him,

Multitudes Indeed!

22. Health today (and Purell yesterday at the Children's Museum!)
23. This gift of prayer - to receive it and to give it.
24. Loving hard and sometimes tough
25. Stick swords and a homemade flag flying in the backyard
26. Whistling of my husband - is there a better sound?
27. Being spontaneous!
28. Cousin antics
29. A long-anticipated movie date, replete with candy and slushies
30. The dog with a slipper over her face - thank you for this laugh, Father!
31. Midnight rain
32. One o'clock scary dreams that dissolved and invited a warm snuggle
33. Your Spirit, always.
34. This early morning, where husband kisses with travel mug in hand and goes to work. A job, thank you!
35. This fight of faith - such a good fight to fight! And victorious already...(1 Timothy 6:12)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I'm cleaning house and blog around here. I've linked to Elizabeth Esther's monthly blog link-up, you can check it out for other author favorites of the month.

Hope your weekend is one of small or big graces.

All is Rest in Him,