Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful

Last night I was reminding my kids that today is Thanksgiving Day, and they needed to start thinking about things to be tell us that they are thankful for.

Nate, who is 7, spoke up immediately. "I'm thankful for my mom and dad. And for the world."

"Really, buddy? The whole world?" I responded. "Can't you be a little more specific and personal than that?"

"Mom, I AM thankful for the world. Otherwise we would have to live on Mars or something."

His look of incredulity as he explained makes me smile again this morning.

Thanksgiving is a big deal in my family. It always has been.

Possibly because of the massive amount of food involved. Bausums looooove to eat good food.

Certainly the fact that it is traditionally a time for extended family to gather together makes it a particularly sweet holiday for us. We Bausums like family reunions almost as much as we like good food and good music.

We are an extended family that isn't extended at all. The saying goes that "cousins are siblings too." And to us, that's not far off the mark. We've spent our whole lives eating good food and singing good music and playing good card games together. Anyone who can't bond over a game of spades, a piece of pie, and a verse of a well-loved hymn...well, there's something wrong with them, I think.

I've been pondering this morning, thinking on how it is that the entirety of my extended-but-not-extended family remains so close, and so very committed to family gatherings and relationships.

It's because of our parents, obviously.

My dad and his siblings. The 5 of them, and their spouses. Their love for each other and desire to hang out and do life together for all of these years.

Without that, I wouldn't have grown up playing cards or singing or eating pie with my 30 first cousins.

Today, as I prepare for a small Thanksgiving meal (Just me and my own little clan) I am also preparing for tomorrow, for heading to reunite with all my extended-but-not-extended family. There are so many more of us now than just 5 siblings, their spouses, and 35 first cousins. Now more than half of us have spouses and children of our own. In fact, the number of extended-but-not-extended family members at this weekend's gathering will be somewhere around 100.

We can't fit in anyone's house anymore. We have to rent, or borrow, church fellowship halls for our family reunions. We are busting at the seams of every place we go.

And...we love every minute of it.

Now, truth be told, there are a few cousins-in-law (my husband being one of them) who get a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the whole event. They haven't spent their entire lives in the middle of the chaos-that-isn't-chaos like we have. And they don't know everyone's names and middle names, and they can't chime in when we sing some of our family songs. (Although many of them have been in the family long enough to know some of the songs and some of the names.) They can't really understand. They just have to endure it, because it's their family now too, albeit loud and enormous.

The nostalgia attached to my family-gathering memories cannot adequately be expressed.

And as the years have passed and the family has grown and spread out and become too large to all fit in one house anymore, the gatherings have become less frequent, and some cousins can't make it, and that always makes us a bit sad.

We understand, of course. It's a long, expensive trip from another country.

It's an even longer trip from heaven.

But, we cling together, despite our missing links, and we remember them in conversations, and we carry on our cousins-are-siblings-too motto, and we play cards and eat food and sing songs, and our spouses sit in the corner staring at the chaos with glassy eyes, and our kids run around playing with their second cousins whose names they may or may not remember, and when a young one gets hurt, an older one brushes them off and kisses the wound and then sends them to play, and when a joke is told, we all laugh, and when a song is played, we all sing, and when someone asks if its time for dessert, we all say yes, no matter what time it is, and when we have to leave to head home, we all linger, not wanting it to end.

Yes, that is what a Thanksgiving holiday looks like to me.

We don't sit around saying what we are thankful for, necessarily, but we are overwhelmingly thankful.

For laughter. And music. And food. And chaos.

For our parents. Our spouses. Our children.

We are thankful for the safety and quiet in our hearts when we are together. These are our PEOPLE. Any one of my cousins would fight to the death for me. And I would for them. There is something very calming in that knowledge. It's worth more than I can express.

We smile wistfully at each other occasionally, thinking of our extended-but-not-extended family members who aren't with us, and though we may not say it, we are all thinking the same thing.

We are thankful for heaven.

We are overwhelmed with longing for that reunion.

We are ever-aware of the missing pieces of our family, and ever-grateful that they have been repositioned from our past and our present, into our future.

So, this morning as I prepare to start cooking for today and tomorrow and the next day, I find that I am thankful for the same thing as Nate was last night.

The world. MY world. The people and memories and promises for the future, and hope for tomorrow, and even the pain and the sadness and the broken hearts and the hurt...all of it.

I'm choosing this:

"I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord." Psalm 116:17

Sometimes it is a sacrifice to offer thanksgiving. How well I know it.

But we can call on the name of the Lord. And THAT, my friends, is reason enough to be thankful.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Quiet

If you know me at all, it probably will surprise you to learn that I LOVE quiet. But I really do. It's one of my favorite things. I almost never, ever, get to experience it. But I do really like it.

Thirteen years ago my husband and I visited the New York Stock Exchange during a trip to NYC (Obviously, I didn't really care at all about seeing it, but, if you've met my husband (CPA, VP of Finance, money-man extraordinaire) you can understand why we made that stop) and I will never, as long as I live, forget the chaos and sheer overwhelming craziness of that trading floor.

And I thought, at the time, "Seriously? People do that all day long? How do they not lose their minds? They really need some quiet."

A woman shouting across the tops of 50 other people. A man shouting back at her. Both of them waving papers above their heads. All the people in between them doing the exact same thing with other people across the room from them. (Seriously, how hard would it be to WALK to where the other person is standing and discuss whatever they need to discuss? Why the shouting and waving? Aren't these supposed to be smart people? Where is the logic in this particular course of action?)

The images remain with me still, and I mention them now because, in an effort to compose a blog this morning, I find that my thoughts, and emotions, and focus, are having a NYSE level episode.

There is so much going on inside this head and heart that I cannot, for the life of me, narrow the focus down to any one thing. I can't quiet myself enough to hear anything...

My favorite season of the year is upon us. The boots, and sweaters, and scarves, and cider, and leaf piles, and apple pies, and pumpkins, and family get-together plans, and decorations...sigh. It's just the best. I think I feel that way because, in my mind, it's an entire season that is a teaser for the holidays coming up. All of fall is spent preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and those are just the most wonderful times of the year. (There is a song that says so, so it must be true.) The Hallmark Channel started their countdown to Christmas movie marathon ON HALLOWEEN! How fantastic is that? My kids and I have been watching the cheesy, bad acting, terrible plot movies every day, and will continue to do so, and we love every second of it, despite the bad-acting and cheesy content and terrible plots. (Although, this weekend my 10 year old did wail (while burying his head in a pillow) "Why do all these really good movies have to have KISSING in them?!?!?!")(But he still sits down and watches the movies with me, so he clearly doesn't mind TOO much.) My daughter commented, as we were eating a batch of ginger snap cookies I had just taken from the oven, "If Christmas had a taste...this would be it." The fireplace was warming the room, and we were sitting together as a family, enjoying a rare evening at home together, eating freshly baked, Christmas flavored cookies, and I could almost see that scene in one of our beloved, cheesy Hallmark movies.

Of course, ten seconds later one of the boys burped as loud as he could. And the whole moment was ruined. Which leads me to yet another topic: how in the world can any humans on this planet be so LOUD? No matter what they are doing, my children manage to accomplish it with a sonic-boom level of volume. Playing, fighting, singing, even just talking, is loud enough and continuous enough to cause permanent eardrum damage. I may or may not have been known to say the sentences "My ears need a break, kids, so can you please stop talking altogether for at least 10 minutes?" and "We are playing the quiet game. It's mandatory, and its starting now. Ready? Go."

My closet is busting at the seams. I don't have space to hang another single clothing item. Things are piled in the floor and on shelves and shoved into corners. And also, I have hardly anything to wear, ever. Which either means that I'm way too picky about my outfit choices, or I need to get rid of 75% of the things overflowing my closet. I think its the latter. Which would then give me space for NEW items...

Shopping. I love shopping so very much. It's probably part of the reason I love the Christmas season so much. I get to shop, and my husband doesn't make his 'yelling' face at me. (Actually, that's not true. The money-man almost always makes his yelling face at me when I shop, even for Christmas gifts. But at least I don't feel guilty and remorseful about receiving the FACE during the holiday shopping season)(that's not really true either...it's a terribly intimidating face, y'all. He makes it well, and I shift my eyes and squirm internally every single time he aims it in my direction.)(but at least I have a justifiable reason for the shopping, and that makes the face easier to handle.)

My 12-almost-13-year-old daughter is a BALL of hormones these days. Holy cow. It boggles the mind.  She came down the stairs sobbing because we watched the first 5 minutes of a CARTOON without calling her...except that I did, in fact, call her, and she just took too long coming downstairs...and she was crying uncontrollably. I was so flabbergasted that I laughed. For future reference, this is NOT the appropriate way to deal with a hormonal-sobbing for no reason-preteen. 

I have friends who are awaiting scary test results from their doctor.
I have friends who are praying for miracles for their loved ones.
I have friends who are making plans to attend funerals.
The desire to wrap my arms around these people, and try to shelter them from the pain and the fear and the uncertainty, is strong. I would carry their burden for them if I could, because I know how it feels to carry the pain, and I wish I didn't know, and I wish for their sake that they didn't know either. My heart won't stop hurting for them, and my spirit is filled with the urge to pray...and so I pray, and I cry, and I ask the God of all comfort, who has comforted me so completely, to wrap His arms around these friends, and to shield them as I wish I could but as only He can, and to remind them that He is not absent, even in their darkest places...especially in their darkest places.

It's a cacophony inside me. The good, the hard, the over-the-top dramatic, the quiet perfection, the gut-wrenching pain...it all swirls around inside, and bubbles to the surface unexpectedly, waving arms and shouting to be heard and trying to drown out all the other things...

And this morning, as I sit and type, I hear the Lord's voice above the chaos, over top of all the other noises and distractions and emotions.

"We are playing the quiet game. It's mandatory, and it starts now."

And I laugh, because it is quite a relief to me as a parent, knowing that the Lord is putting me in a noise-time-out the same way I do my kids. And then I sit, eyes closed, breathing in the quiet in my heart, grateful that He knows I need it and reminds me of it.

And then the moment ends, interrupted by a little boy running down the hall. He climbs up beside me as I type, and snuggles next to me...and then he passes gas.

And I laugh again.

And I imagine the Lord does too.

Because He knows how loud my life is.

And He isn't asking me to spend all day sitting quietly.

He is just asking me to hear Him above the rest of the NYSE level shouting, and when I hear Him, to listen, and respond, and take a second to let His peace seep in. 

Today my prayer is that we can feel His embrace, shielding us from the cacophony of life for a moment, reminding us that there is peace to be found inside the storms, if only we will tune our ear into His voice above all the others.

"Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you His peace at all times and in every situation." 
2 Thessalonians 3:16

In other words...the mandatory quiet game starts now.