Better Late than Never

This past 9-11 was interesting for me.  I suddenly got interested in the events of that day 18 years before.  Yes, every year our country has a day of remembering, and every year I have felt melancholy as people shared different memories from that day. But I did not feel like I was entering into the mourning like my friends were. 

 

When 9-11 happened, I was living in bush Alaska. I had an almost one yr old baby. I was pregnant with my second. I didn’t have a tv. The events of that day seemed very far away. I did not sit in front of the news and watch the events unfold. I just heard about it after the fact, in a tidy little written news article I found on the internet. I also had a very complicated history with the US, having lived in Haiti while the US put that country under a strict embargo. Seeing firsthand the suffering that the Haitians endured because of US politics made me feel very ambiguous about being an American. 

 

When 9-11 happened, I saw it as an outsider. How sad. Those poor people. It was some kind of crazy disaster that was happening far away to people that had no connection to me. 

 

So, this past 9-11, I suddenly felt very curious. I started watching little video clips that people had posted about various aspects of that day. Then I got on Youtube and found where someone had posted an unedited clip of the news, playing straight from 8:30am to 11am on that day. Over a couple days, I sat and watched the whole thing unfold. I cried a lot. Suddenly feeling very connected to the confusion and pain and bewilderment as people watched their country being attacked. I went and found another video that was made a year after, that showed what was happening at the government level during that time. I watched an amazing clip of a fireman who had been in the building when it collapsed and somehow he got out. He gives God all the credit. I watched some footage of different news camera men who had been on the scene, watched their live footage as they lived through the chaos. I watched an amazing little documentary about all the boats that spontaneously gathered to help evacuate Manhattan. And I cried some more, this time at the wonder of people coming together to help each other, uniting.  And then finally, I felt like I had watched enough. 

 

And I wondered. What was that interest all about? I’m still not sure. I do know that I hate mourning. I hate entering into emotional pain. I distance myself from it. It’s not good that I do that. Instead of feeling the emotions, I just shove them down. I used to be pretty purposeful about it too. If something was getting too overwhelming for me to handle, I would literally envision a big walk-in closet. Then I would envision myself going in, taking an empty box, setting the problem into the box, shutting the box, and putting the box on the shelf, and then I’d walk away. 

 

Perhaps God is letting me do some catch up. Let’s open that closet door and start unpacking all those boxes. One at a time. 

 

A Boy and His Kitten

kitten

We got a new kitten this weekend. Or rather, my ten year old son got a new kitten this weekend. Because of course, that’s what this crazy house needed, another pet.  

 

But, my son has been asking for approximately two years now for a pet. And I’ve been putting him off because his brothers had pet ferrets and a pet dog, I had a pet cat, his dad had pet fish and I didn’t feel up to taking on more than that. In fact, I have been pretty emphatic that we were done with getting pets. In fact, my husband said, no more pets unless some of the current pets find a new home. In fact, we were united in our stance against new pets.

 

But he kept asking. Pleading. Coming up with all kinds of creative ways he could manage a pet so we wouldn’t even notice it was around. We tossed around the idea of him getting a fish. No. He wanted something he could cuddle. Then I suggested that he take part ownership of the ferrets and dog since his oldest brother was very busy and was on his way to being gone for a year. No. He wanted his Own pet. 

 

And then a week or so ago he told me that his friend who lives down the street had kittens at his house…could he have one of the kittens? And I thought about it and really couldn’t think of any reason to keep saying No to this poor child, and so, I ended up saying Yes. (And his father grudgingly agreed.)

 

Why? Because he’s quirky and I think he needs his own special animal friend. Why? Because  he is not wired to enjoy school work and yet his teachers tell me that he works hard and is a model student in their classes. Why? Because I let my older children have pets and I want to be fair. Why? Because I secretly like kittens and while he’s at school, I’ll get to hold it… 

 

This parenting thing is complicated. Finding the balance between not losing your own sanity, making sure your kids are happy, and making sure they’re also learning how to be responsible. Not killing their dreams, but not spoiling them. 

 

I love my son. He’s very different from me and I have found it a challenge to meet him where he’s at, instead of trying to force him into a mold that is easier to handle. And that is the essence of parenting. Learning how to let go of your own expectations and instead work with what you’ve got. 

 

What I’ve got is a highly intelligent, creative, business-savvy boy who tends to create waves amongst his siblings, who loves to learn new things, (just don’t ask him to read it out of a book), who knows how to wrap his teachers around his little finger, but struggles with the daily playground politics. He’s a kid who is willing to work hard if he’s going to be compensated. He can take a cardboard box and tape and turn it into anything you want. He is a Master Lego Builder, and the arch-nemesis of his younger sister. He frustrates me and delights me. He’s a boy. 

 

And now he’s a boy with a kitten. 

 

And my pet tally has now gone up to: 

 

1 dog

2 ferrets

2 cats

5 fish

3 crawdads

 

I have a feeling those numbers will change again. 

 

Fat Fridays: You’ve Got to do Something

Hey everyone. I’m back. Kind of. This past Sunday at our church, our pastor gave a short video message from his home. He is currently recovering from a very serious medical ailment. In the video he was explaining what had happened to him, and lessons that God was teaching him through the experience. He related how he took a serious downturn, an ambulance was called, but he was still wavering on whether he should go to the hospital or not. He asked his grown daughter what he should do, and she said, “Well, you’ve got to do something!” 

 

That statement, along with a couple other things he said, really resonated with me. 

I’ve got to do something. 

 

I’m at a place where I no longer believe in my ability to overcome this weight once and for all. I no longer think that I can just find the right plan, get myself revved up enough, and then, Voila! I will lose all my weight. That fantasy has died. I have a horrible feeling that this is going to be a life-long struggle. 

 

But at the same time, I can’t give up. I’ve got some serious health problems. I’ve got to do something. 

 

And so, I try once again. One small step at a time. This week I have been working on cutting out sugar. I’m hoping to tackle eliminating wheat next week. One small step at a time. Heading towards a low-carb diet. I got on my elliptical a couple times too. It’s something. 

 

Approaching a diet without hope and energy is a different experience. I’m just feeling realistic. I need to make these changes for the sake of my health. I don’t know if it will produce dramatic weight loss. I’ll probably cheat on occasion. But, it’s something. Right now that’s all I can do. 

 

 

A Poem by My Daughter

Something a little different today. We just found out that my thirteen year old daughter won a prize in a writing competition held by the Knoxville Writer’s Guild this past May. I’m so proud of her. She finally let me read her poem and I thought it was beautiful. I asked her if the poem proceeded from an in-the-moment emotion or if it was a place that she stayed in. She said it started off as an in-the-moment emotion and then it just morphed into describing other girls she knew and Middle School.

 

She’s a Girl

by Ruth Heneise

 

   This day 

That the lord made,

 She needs first aid

Cause she’s dying 

Of fright

She lives in the dark of night

 she lost the spark of light

And of potentiality 

She no longer wants to be

A doctor, dancer, astronaut

she stopped tryin to dream, stopped tryin to flaunt

Her body and her vocals

      You wonder why the locals

Don’t know she exist

Its cause she didn’t persist

They think she’s thirteen and lean

But she’s lanky and she’s cranky

Her feelins

Are wheelin

Out

And about

She’s beat on the street

Beat down she’s gonna drown

Cause she’s sinking

Cause she’s always thinking

Trapped

But overlapped

By the hope

That she could cope

With humanity

But that future is grim

As dim as

The light (that ain’t bright)

Behind the eyes

Of the girl in disguise as

A person

But the truth is worse than

The fear.

It’s clear

To see

Cause,

She doesn’t

Just 

Have fear of isolation

She isolates herself

Removed from the shelf

Of comfort

 which is dirt

Dirt cheap

She got her clothes from her bros

And her charm from karm

karma(if she believed in stuff like karma)

Would be on the down side

Of good to

AT LEAST I TRIED

But she’ll pause this ramble

Cause you stopped trying to unscramble

The message behind

This waste of your time

So she’ll give the explanation 

To satisfy your expectation

And she is

A poem

A world

    the essence

The presence 

Of words so beautiful

Words so tactful

Words so thesaurical 

The world is a poem

The poem is a world

She’s the world

She’s a poem

She’s a girl

 

The Committee Meeting

As I was mopping my floors for the first time in a long time today, I had a funny thought. What if God had done interviews of my family and friends when I was somewhere around 19 years old. And he said, Hey, I’m looking for someone to have 10 children and run a household and keep everything in order. What do you think about Esther? I’m pretty sure that none of my family members or friends or roommates would have nominated me for the job. Esther? She’s rather messy. Housework and Esther? Nah. She’s kind of absent-minded too, not real detail oriented. Honestly, I don’t think Esther is much of  kid person, I don’t think she’s even babysat much, and she never tries to hold other people’s babies at church or anything like that. She’s not exactly the crafty, fun, play with kids type. She’s rather sarcastic, that surely can’t be good for raising children. All Esther wants to do is play her piano and read books. I can’t see her taking the time away from that to raise a family. 

 

Ok. So probably my friends and family would be too diplomatic to voice their true feelings, but I’m sure they would have thought at least some of that. 

 

I am visiting, once again, the amazing discovery that God doesn’t always match our callings up with our gifts. Or, to put it another way, we don’t need to work on the areas we are strong in, we need to work on the areas we are weak in. 

 

I can just see it: A committee meeting. God proposes to a couple angels, I’ve got a position open for Stay at Home Mom of Ten, I’m thinking that I’m going to put Esther in this position. The angels raise their eyebrows (I’m going to presume they have eyebrows) and look cautiously at each other. Umm. God, we know that you know everything, so you must be right, but we really don’t see how this is a good fit. Can you explain? 

 

Then God would say, Look, you see how she has been lazy and selfish about helping her mother out with washing dishes for her entire life? Every time she has to wash dishes she has a temper tantrum. See, I’m going to put her in a position where she has to wash up the dishes after 12 people, 3 times a day. She’s going to learn how to change her attitude, stop treating it like a death sentence, and in fact, one day I will teach how to make that time of serving her family, a time when she can put on worship music and worship me. 

 

The angels nod in amazement. Wow, Esther washing dishes and worshiping? Is that possible? 

 

Then God would continue. You see how she’s really messy and doesn’t take care of her belongings? I’m going to surround her with a houseful of people who are equally messy and who also don’t take care of their belongings. She’s going to learn how annoying that is and start taking steps to change it. She’ll also have the ironic position of trying to teach her children how to take care of their belongings. Esther’s mother will find the whole situation very amusing. 

 

The angels grin, yes, I’m sure that will be good payback for her poor mother who’s had to deal with her mess for years. 

 

God will smile, and continue. Yes, and you see how absent-minded she is? I’m going to make her have so many details to keep track of that the only way she’ll be able to do it is by clinging to me and my strength and power every day. She’s going to become a lot more reliant on me. 

 

And you see how she doesn’t even notice the existence of children? I’m going to change her heart and make it so child-focused that she won’t be able to enter a public place without seeing all the kids. And she’ll have a heart for them. And she’ll start praying for them and being kind to them. Only I can change a person’s heart like that. And I’m going to use her own children to make this change. 

 

You see how proud she is? She thinks she’s really smart. I’m going to let her be a mom to ten children and she’s going to learn very quickly that she really doesn’t know much at all. And instead of trying to do everything out of her own ability, she’s going to learn, slowly, how to rely on me for wisdom and direction instead of her own intelligence. 

 

I’m going to take this girl and make her a woman with a heart for me. 

 

The angels get all excited…How long is this going to take God? 

 

God smiles, Her whole life. But what a journey it’s going to be!

 

 

 

Masterpieces in Progress

I take my daughter to Nashville tomorrow morning to send her off to Alaska for a year. I have been thinking about what to write today, but have drawn a blank. As I was driving in the car, I realized why I can’t think of anything to write. All weekend and this week I have been systematically shutting myself down emotionally. My oldest kids are leaving the nest and this is a good thing for them. It’s the natural next step in our parenting journey. And it’s painful and I hate pain and I hate goodbyes, so I seal myself off. I’m a missionary kid. I’ve been saying goodbye to people on a regular basis since I was two years old. After a while, you just naturally learn how to distance yourself so that it won’t be as painful. 

 

We’ve been living in the same city for almost 16 years now. I haven’t had to say nearly as many goodbyes. Mostly it’s just saying goodbye to friends of mine who have moved on to other places. You would think that I would have softened my approach over the years. Allowed myself to feel some of the emotions. Let myself cry. You would think. 

 

But, even though I have not reached the place of emotional honesty, where I allow myself to feel the emotion, experience it, and then move on, healthier because of the experience…even though I haven’t reached that place yet, I am at least at a place where I can recognize what I’m doing. Oh look, I am shutting down because I’m about to say goodbye to my daughter. It’s progress. 

 

In the meantime, I will drive my daughter to the airport three hours away while it’s still dark outside. I’ll walk her to the security gate. I’ll hug her as long as I can, pray over her, bless her, and send her on her way. And I’ll shed a couple tears which I’ll quickly sniff away, go get back in my car and make the long drive back home. 

 

Then a couple months from now, I’ll suddenly think about her and burst into uncontrollable sobbing and then have a day-long depression while I finally start processing all the emotions. And then I’ll feel better. 

 

This is the way I deal with emotions. I’m going to make a guess that I’m really not the only one who does this. So, for all you other emotionally awkward people, it’s ok. Fortunately there is no set mold on how to to do life. We all have our stories that have shaped who we are and how we interact with the world around us. It’s been my experience that as I have explored these stories and spent some concentrated time analyzing my behavior, it’s helped me to change some of my negative patterns, some right away, others very slowly. 

 

We are all masterpieces in progress. 

 

 

Don’t Worry

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to not worry? About anything? I know the Bible tells us not to worry, and we pay lip service to that. But deep down, if you are anything like me, you have a running list of things that you can drag up at a moments notice to worry about. I’ve been reading more about the sovereignty of God. And it strikes me really hard, how foolish worry is. Either God is in control or he isn’t. If he is, then why are we worrying? If he isn’t then yes, we should definitely live our lives in fear and trembling. My reading of the Bible seems to say that actually, Yes, he is in control. So, why the heck am I worrying about everything? 

 

Does he love me or not? We sing the song “Yes Jesus love me…” and smile at our children when they sing it so sweetly. But do we believe it? If Jesus loves me, and he is God, then what on earth do I have to worry about? 

 

I think what scares me, is that we don’t have any promises in the Bible that say we are going to live a life without pain, without hardship, without trials. God doesn’t promise that. He does promise that he will be with us always, that he works all things to good, that he will never leave us or forsake us. But I worry…I don’t want trials and hardships. And I have a hard time seeing how God can be in control and love me when I am suffering. 

 

What if God is using those hardships and trials to change me? What if it’s more important to him that I grow to be more like him than that I stay in a state of constant ease and comfort? That seems very un-American. The American dream is to pursue wealth and happiness. Going through suffering that changes our character and strengthens us and makes us more like Jesus, just doesn’t seem right. Not very loving. God’s must have lost control somewhere along the way.

 

My dream is to live a life without worry. To be able to confidently say, God’s got this. He’s in control. I can trust him. He loves me. 

 

No matter what the circumstances, I want to walk in his perfect peace. 

 

Lord may it be so. 

 

Though I am secretly worried about what trials and hardships I will have to overcome before I finally get it! I guess it comes down to faith. And the Bible says that we can ask God to strengthen our faith…:”Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” 

 

I guess that’s my prayer tonight as I write this. Lord I believe. Help my unbelief!