Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Crisis

I may be having a mid-life crisis.

The fact that I have not yet arrived at what most people consider 'mid-life crisis' age...that doesn't matter  to me one bit. I'm a rebel, after all, and one of my favorite things in the world is bucking what convention says or expects or accepts.

So yes, I am having a full blown crisis, at the age of 33almost34.

I do NOT like this crisis.

There are no sports cars, or plastic surgery, or any of the things most people associate with mid-life crises.

There is only me, in an emotional state of upheaval, unsure of who I am or why, surrounded by people who just think I'm having PMS.

Poor me. (insert my husband's voice saying "you're being ridiculous" here) (followed by my Uncle Paul: "Suck it up and go, kid.") (aaaand, finally, my own self: "You're losing it. No wonder you feel like no one wants to be around you right now. Snap out of it and get it-the-frip-together.")

Ah, the sweet strains of compassion and understanding. :(

Why am I having such an identity crisis, you ask?

How in the 'demon's lair' should I know?

Don't you think I would've snapped out of it by now if I could figure out why?

I think I've decided, as I've pondered my craziness this week, that all moms must have the same crisis on a pretty regular basis. Most of us just don't tell anyone, or maybe we don't even realize what is causing our absolute inability to be normal human beings.

Life is flippin' crazy. There's no other way to say it that is publicly-shared-blog-post appropriate.

You think I'm exaggerating?

I went to brush my teeth yesterday and found that an entire family of sugar ants were dining on my toothbrush. Why? Because my 4-year-old had brushed his teeth with my toothbrush and hadn't rinsed it when he was done.

An entire roll of toilet paper was deposited into the toilet. So, like anyone in their right mind would do, I broke it into flushable sized wads and flushed it down the toilet one section at a time. No, I was not wearing gloves while doing this.

One of my children didn't finish their sandwich and I threw the leftover half away while I was cleaning up...and then the child came back, found the half in the trash can, and finished it. I'm dead serious.

During a particularly sweet goodnight kiss, one of my children deposited a huge, hard, pea sized booger on my cheek. I didn't even know it until the next child came to kiss me and pointed it out with a horrified look on his face.

The milk went bad this week. Twice. Neither time was it actually past its expiration, which means the only way I knew it was bad is that I used it for feeding my children breakfast...I won't tell you the inevitable stomach issues that followed, but let's just say I'm going to be checking the milk from now on, that's for dang sure.

My daughter, the official laundry folder in our house, put a pair of my husband's jeans in my pile. Yes, this may seem like a slightly less traumatic incident than the booger on the cheek...but I cannot express to you the depths of my depression this mistake has caused.

Thirty seconds ago my son, in an act of anger toward his brothers, created a water trail down the hall...with his own saliva. Spit, step, spit, step, spit, step. What the crap? How did this hurt his brothers, you ask? I don't know, and neither did he when I interrogated him. Luckily he had just finished a tootsie roll, so the saliva was filled with stickiness. (insert dripping sarcasm here.)

You see? I am having an identity crisis because most of the time it seems as if I have no identity other than mother, house-keeper, chef, referee, jailer, and booger depository.

That isn't exactly the person I thought I would be when I grew up...

This morning I was brooding over a cup of coffee, cataloging the tragedy that seems to follow me around through my days, taking stock of my current state of crisis...and I wasn't getting any less crazy or having any major epiphanies as I sat there.

And then one little blond kid made their way down the hall, sleepy eyed, scratchy voiced, dashed into the bathroom for a moment, and then shuffled over to where I was deep in thought.

"Good morning, Mommy. I love you." And there was a booger-free kiss deposited on my cheek, and a few moments of snuggling, and all at once my crisis vanished.

Because I saw myself through those heavy-lidded eyes.

Eyes that don't even notice the house-cleaning (or lack thereof) or the food preparing (or lack thereof) or the disciplining (or lack thereof) or any of my many moments of less-than-ideal-or-acceptable mothering.

In my children's eyes, there is only the sum total of the parts, not the parts themselves.

I am their mommy, and they love me.

Somehow, despite all the odds, they feel safe and loved and confident enough to curl up beside me and initiate an "I love you" and a kiss.

Because they know who I am.

Even when I don't.

Thank you, Lord, for sweet, simple, perfect reminders. Thank you for grace unending, mercy unfailing, love unshaken, joy unspeakable, peace unwavering.

And thank you, most of all, that this morning's sweet, simple reminder was not accompanied by a booger.

Amen.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Courage Under Fire

"...Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9


I've been thinking about courage a lot lately, especially the last few weeks as I am preparing for a history class I'll be teaching this year.

Reading about the heroes of our country, the battles and wars, the sacrifice and the firm resolve of so many hundreds of thousands of Americans...something about reading aloud the words spoken or penned by the ancestors of our nation...it stirs my soul, and it gets me thinking.

"I thought, as I saw them come again and again to their death, that they deserved success, if courage and daring could entitle soldiers to victory." (Confederate General Longstreet, after the battle of Marye's Heights in the Civil War.)

So many men and women have sacrificed their comfortable lives, courageously taking up posts on the front lines, defending our freedom, fighting for principles they believe in, fighting for their families and for mine. It overwhelms me sometimes.

And sometimes it fills me with rage, hearing and seeing the negative words about our nation's military. Say what you will about the moral decline of this country. Speak out against things that you don't agree with in our government, politics, and even the way America is represented on the world stage. But when you start talking against the men and women who wear the uniform...we are going to have a real problem, me and you. Those men and women are the REASON we have the freedom to speak against the things we don't agree with. And even in peace times, they REPRESENT those who have given their lives to protect our liberty. As such, they should never, ever receive anything but honor for the courage they show every day. (phew, that was quite a soapbox rant...)

We, as a nation today, have lost something of the courage that America was founded on. We know nothing of 6 month wagon train rides, where we bury a child who fell under the wheels one day, and we move on the next, leaving our heart in a grave we will never see again. When we kiss our children and husbands goodbye each day, we don't even think about the women who hugged their husbands and sons goodbye, who held onto the hope that what their loved ones fought for was just, and so they would do the plowing and the roof repair and the hunting, and they would be both mother and father to their small children, and they would pray that the cause their men stood for would prevail, no matter the cost, because their sacrifice and courage couldn't be for nothing.

I've been studying, and I've found myself rocked by the courage of the ancestors of this great nation.

And I've also been a little sad, thinking about the difference in our country today. Because of the bravery of our heroes and heroines in history, it is likely that most people in our nation today will never experience anything like the tragedy of sacrifice that so many lived through in the past. Some will, and some have, and I am in no way trying to say their sacrifice and courage isn't as great as that of our past heroes and heroines. I am simply saying that it is much more rare today, this call to true courage. It is more common for a family to go through their whole life without ever losing a loved one in battle than it is for them to experience it multiple times, the way that families did in the past.

So I've been thinking about courage. And I've been turning it over and over in my mind, trying to understand the word, and the meaning, and looking for places to show it, and to teach it to my children and my students, today in this relative comfort we live in, this absence of a need for battlefield courage.

Are there places in my life where courage is needed? Will I ever be given a chance to lift my chin and rush headlong into the unknown? My days are ordinary. They do not ring with inspiration. They are filled, certainly, but not filled with anything of note. How will I ever teach my children to be brave?

My sister Joy was brave. She was...is...a hero in this house. She rushed headlong into the world, taking the most important Cause, the Cause most just and worthy, to people who may reject her, to people who may laugh at her, to places that had never before heard of the Cause...she was a heroine of our faith. I strive every day to remind my children of her tenacity for spreading the gospel.

But what about today? What about ever day? How can I be courageous? How?

And then, in the midst of my pondering and wondering and disappointment with the monotony of my days...the Lord is speaking to me.

It isn't in the way I usually hear Him. It isn't a song, or a verse, and it isn't a thought dropped into my heart.

It is in the daily actions of my 10 year old son. A boy who has been exposed to hurt, and disappointment, and pain, the way no little kid should have to be. All my hoping that my children will come to understand courage in their lives pales in the face of my desire to protect him. I want, selfishly, to never need to teach him about being brave in the face of his hurting heart.

But he is living courageously anyway, despite my desire that he never need to.

His heart is open, and loving, and willing to be on the line, even though he knows, from experience, that he may be hurt. Even though he has been exposed to pain, and rejection, and disappointment...still he lifts his chin and faces the inevitability of future heartache.

I am so proud of my little man. He is teaching me something. He is telling me, every time he blinks back his tears and smiles at a new moment, that there is still opportunity to show courage in an everyday life.

I want to be like that. I want to wake up every day and look disappointment in the face, and lift my chin as I stare into the pain that is sure to come, and blink back my fear, and choose to live courageously.

Once more into the fray...



Monday, August 18, 2014

Take it All

August 18th.

A day that will live in infamy. (in my family, anyway.)

It's my parents wedding anniversary, which means that without it, none of us would even BE.

It's also the day my sister went to heaven.

It was 4 years ago.

Sometimes is feels like she's been gone forever.

This week it has felt a bit like reliving the whole horror all over again.

I hope that will get easier to bear as the time passes...it's been 4 long years, after all, and I think basically everyone is ready for me to NOT be this version of myself on this day every year.

My memory is like a steel trap, (which isn't meant to sound boastful, as I am not the One who created the steel trap memory) and I can't shut off the replaying of that infamous week...when I heard and saw and experienced the deepest sobs I've ever known, when words to prepare my children for what was coming failed me, when shock and disbelief and terror paralyzed me...It all spins around inside me, step by step in order of events unable to be forgotten, until all I can do is remember, and cry again.

It isn't all bad memories. I mean, pretty much all the ones from this day and the days preceding it are bad, but last night, in an attempt to focus on a good memory, I was telling my kids this story:

Me: "Clay, you were only 6 years old when Aunt Joy died, so I know you don't remember this, but on this night 4 years ago I was sitting in the bed, and you asked me if Aunt Joy was better yet, and I told you that the doctors said she was probably not going to get better. You looked so confused, and I could see your little brain trying to figure out why she wasn't getting better, since you had prayed. And so I told you that sometimes God's plan is different than ours, and we don't have to understand it, but we can trust Him to do what is the best plan. And then you shut your eyes, and you prayed, "Dear Jesus, I really hope you let Aunt Joy live. But you do what you want to do, Lord. Amen." And then you went to bed, happy in your knowledge that God would take care of the best plan."

As I was telling him this story last night, tears leaked from my eyes and trailed down my face. He was listening, playing with my hair as he does every night, not speaking. So I said, softly, mostly to myself, "I wish He had had a different plan. I am not a big fan of this part of His plan."

And Clay said to me, "It's okay, Mom. Someday we will see how its for the best. I miss her too, but someday we will see how God did what was best."

*Ah, Lord, how many times will you speak to me through the mouths of my little ones? Thank You.*

This morning, with swollen eyes and a tired heart, I am thinking on the memories again. And I'm trying hard to think on the best ones, my favorites, things about my sister that are nearest to my heart, and bring with them a smile along with a pang of longing.

She was a bony little thing, and when I hugged her I was sure she would snap in half. But she always said "I'm tougher than I look." And she was.

She could sneeze louder than anyone else in the world, and she did. A lot.

She loved sour cream. I mean, her taco meat/sour cream ratio was a sight to behold, truly.

She had the most hilarious "You have got to be kidding me" face. When she was shocked by something I said or did, and she dropped that jaw and raised those eye brows...ah, I loved that face so much. I would go out of my way to do and say things, just to see her stare at me like that.


She had a very distinct way of worshiping. And she did it. A lot.


There are so many things that I loved/miss about her. But there is one thing I never really understood until she died. Not in the way I do now.

That girl was willing to do ANYTHING to advance the gospel. And she did it. Even with her death.

And so Clay's words to me last night are ringing inside me today, added to the collection of memories that I can't and don't want to forget.

"Someday we will see that it's the best, Mom."

We are seeing it already, I know that. The quake of her life and her death keeps echoing, and that is the most amazing comfort and blessing to our family.

HIS story is spreading because of her story, and her willingness to let Him write it exactly as he wanted, all for His glory, all for His fame.

There is a song that has been on the radio a lot lately. And every time it comes on I think "If Joy were alive, this would be her current favorite worship song."

Every word could have come out of her mouth.

Every line WAS walked out in her life.

Oh, the challenge that bony, sneezing, shocked-face little girl gives me every day.

I want to live like she did.

I want to lay down my life. And take up my cross. And surrender all to Him.

I'm challenging you. Joy is challenging you. Can you say it? Do you mean it? Will you live it?

Even if it means you live through pain you never think you'll survive?

Even if it means you will die?

"I lay down my life. I take up my cross, Jesus. For You are my God, whatever the cost. My heart it Yours. Take it all. My life in Your hands."

Listen to this song. Sing it. She would have. I want to be as brave as her. I want my kids to see that they can be brave for the gospel too.

http://youtu.be/64vBcNn-1AQ




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Rooms Tell All

I've been looking around my house for the past few minutes, and thinking that anyone who did an innocent walk through of this dwelling would leave with a quite clear picture of who we are. I don't know if that's true of your house...but here...well, let me just show you a few mental snap shots, and you decide.

One look into my closet would inform you that I have a very successful, very busy husband. On his side there are racks and racks of dress clothes, and also one whole section of racks laying on the floor because it collapsed and he hasn't had time to fix it yet.

One look in my loft would be a clear sign that my children love Legos. We cleaned them up yesterday...but they seem to be appearing from thin air and covering the carpeted play area, just waiting with an evil Lego chuckle for me to walk upstairs, barefooted, in the dark.

The deck reveals several things. 1.) I love potted flowers. 2.) I regularly forget to water them. 3.) My sons had a water gun fight this afternoon and were required to strip out of their soggy clothing before entering my house, and they did not hang up said soggy clothing to dry. 4.) I didn't pick them up either. 5.) All three of my sons have a boxer briefs preference

All rooms in my house tell a very similar story on the subject of dusting; I don't like doing it.

My daughter's room shows that she's artsy, and organized, but shares my disinterest in picking up clothes from floors or decks or closet carpets.

My oldest son has a room filled with Star Wars decor, his collection of "special" Legos, and about a million stuffed animals which he claims are all 'special' as well. He's clearly a hoarder in the making, which he inherited from his father.

The younger boys also have a Star Wars themed room, as well as a multitude of blankets that are basically sacred, and their carpet is stained and worn threadbare and their shoe basket is overflowing with shoes they never, ever wear. The shoe hatred they inherited from me.

My kitchen has mostly clear counter tops. I say mostly because, as all husbands do, mine has adopted one whole section of the bar for his evening 'unloading' and it always ends up spilling onto much more of the counter than he was planning to take. The mostly clear counters will tell you that I dislike clutter. But if you open the drawers or cabinets, you will also discover that I don't actually mind HAVING clutter, I just don't want to LOOK at it.

My dresser says that I LOVE comfy, over sized clothes.

My bookshelves say that I thoroughly enjoy crime dramas, love stories, mysteries, and a wide variety of non-fiction.

The pictures in the house say that I have a deep love for my family.

The baskets of unfolded clothes in the laundry room say, obviously, that I have a deep hatred for folding laundry.

I've been musing about this for a few moments now, and right when I was starting to think I could make a deep, insightful blog post out of my musings...well, that was when a completely naked four-year old came running into my room, and said something totally inappropriate and not-repeatable.

Sigh...so, a passerby who walked into my bedroom would witness the most telling thing about me that is to be found in my house: I don't care if my kids run around naked, and I laugh out loud when they say highly inappropriate things.

Take a minute and walk through your house. What does it say about you?


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Desert

I have written and erased 4 beginning sentences of this blog post...because I am struggling to find the right words today, which is enough out of character for me that its causing my metaphorical feathers to feel a little ruffled.

I want to set up this post with a witty anecdote, or a attention grabbing quote, or a funny story...

Except I'm not really feeling like it. At. All.

What I'm feeling is...

Tired.
Sad.
Afraid.
Confused.
Worried.
Lonely.
Off-balance.
Anxious.
Angry.
Resigned.

If I were to close my eyes and form a mental picture of my internal state of being, I would envision a person stumbling through a desert with no water, no companions, no hope in sight, with only the wishful thought that maybe, just maybe, an oasis will appear before the sun and thirst lead to death.

Yes. I am aware of the supreme dramatic nature of my mental image.

That doesn't make it any less how I feel. We all feel like that sometimes. I'm just feeling too DRY to try and sugar coat it with softer metaphors, and too exhausted to try and ease you into what I'm really thinking and feeling.

Don't you ever just get tired of the monotony of it? The spiritual mountain tops and the "valleys of the shadow of death" and the flat roads that breed complacency in between?

Why must that be the way of it? Why can't it all be mountain top moments, where God feels nearer than ever, and we can hear Him and talk to Him and know He is with us?

Why do we have to walk through the desert?

Why do we experience the flat, calm road where we feel strong and capable and accomplished, and we forget to be intentional about time with the Lord...and we walk ourselves right into a searing, life-sucking desert?

Last night, once the kids were in bed and all was quiet in my house, I crawled into my bed, and I closed my eyes tightly, and I shouted. (in a whisper, because the kids were in bed after all, and I am way too smart to disrupt that by raising my voice, regardless of how much I wanted to)

"GOD!!! I am too tired. I can't keep walking. I am going to die in this desert. Do You care!?!?! Are You even there?"

And for a moment, I actually wished for the fall of 2010. Because that was a "valley of the shadow of death" for me. But you know what else it was? It was a time where He was so near that I could feel Him with every breath, and hear Him clearly.

That wish was followed by a torrent of tears. And the mental me sat down in the hot desert sand and sobbed out the very last remnants of hydration, thereby ensuring a quicker desert death.

And there was no sudden miraculous oasis that grew up to give me shade and water.

There was no booming voice from heaven to guide me on.

There was no mysterious horse to carry me though the hot sand and burning, scorching sun.

Sitting alone on my bed, my eyes shut tight and my spiritual desert yawning wide and unending in my mind's eye...there was barely even a whisper of a breath of a thought.

But I heard it. Just barely.

I picked up my Bible, and opened it to where my husband had been reading to me earlier in the week.

And I read and read and read.

And after a while, the me in the bed grew heavy-lidded.

But the spiritual me in the desert...

She stood up.

Not because there was water flowing suddenly, or a breeze soothing the heated air, or an oasis visible on the horizon...

No, the desert remains this morning. But I am not sitting down waiting to be consumed by the dry sand dunes.

I am trudging forward again.

Why?

Because I remember the hope in front of me. The sweet waters of refreshing that are available to me. The soothing Presence that is aloe for my soul.

I BELIEVE His word, His promises, and I will cling to them in the desert, while my skin is burnt and my lips are cracked and my feet are blistered and my eyes are filled with grit.

I don't want to keep walking. I am exhausted. I am spent.

Here is a word for your desert place, and mine. I pray to the Lord, God Almighty, Creator, Friend, Strong in Battle, Mighty to Save, Faithful, Peace, Full of Compassion, the God Who Sees...I pray that you will hear the truth, and that it will be enough hope for you to...

GET UP.

Take another step.

There is hope in front of us.

"Let us, therefore, hold tightly without wavering to the hope we have, for He who promised IS FAITHFUL." Hebrews 10:23