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!

 

 

 

The Tooth Fairy (Revisited)

I’ve had a total of four teeth lost by children in this house the past week. It seems like a good time to pull out my tooth fairy post that I shared on Facebook a while back, but I still want to get it on my blog site. Enjoy.

Our family doesn’t do Santa Claus. We don’t do the Easter Bunny either. But, for some inexplicable reason, we have kept hold of the Tooth Fairy. I would like to go on record right now and say that being the tooth fairy has to have been one of the most difficult parts of parenting. I am the loser parent who is always forgetting that her child eagerly put his tooth under his pillow, and then in the morning they come down crying, disappointed because the tooth fairy never came. I can tell you that there is no feeling lower than seeing your child cry because you forgot to sneak into their room in the middle of the night, swipe a tooth, and replace it with a dollar. (I will blame this on sleep-deprivation, short-term memory loss, and the fact that I’m usually asleep before all my kids have finally settled down) And so, I have gotten very creative with my excuses. “Oh honey, sometimes the tooth fairy comes later in the morning! Just go put that tooth back under your pillow and check again this afternoon. I’m sure she’ll show up soon!” And this is from ME. The mom who believes in total honesty with her children, who never sugar-coats anything with euphemisms, who has up-front explained where babies come from when her 6 year old inquired about her pregnancy. 

 

When it comes to the tooth fairy, I am suddenly a pathological liar. I have even written letters of apology to one of my kids, “from the tooth fairy”, because she was late…again. 

 

Of course, my older kids have done everything in their power to catch the tooth fairy. Levi once strung his entire room with yarn, creating a web around his bed with lots of various objects balancing on the web so that when the yarn was moved, everything would fall off. I left that challenge up to Andy. Then there was the time Anna tied a bundle of books over her pillow with the string attached in such a way that if someone touched her pillow, the books would fall on her head and wake her up. I thought I could outsmart that one but, alas, the books fell right on her head as I was leaning over her. I panicked, dropped to the floor and rolled under her bed. Frozen, my heart thumping, just waiting to be discovered. And the silly kid didn’t even wake up. As I lay under the bed, it occurred to me that perhaps, this tooth fairy business was getting a bit out of hand. 

 

I have gotten lazier as the years have passed. Sometimes I’ll get Anna to be the tooth fairy for me. She rolls her eyes but does the deed. Today though, I had a real moment of inspiration. My 11 year old told me he had just lost a tooth. He expressed his doubt in the existence of the tooth fairy and I told him that since he is now heading into the teen years, the tooth fairy handles things differently. Since he doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy, the tooth fairy won’t come. BUT, since I still believe in the tooth fairy, he can go and put his tooth on MY dresser, and in the morning it will be replaced with a dollar. I am a genius. 

 

Emptying the Nest

It is the end of an era. My oldest son is leaving home tomorrow. He’s off to Montana for a year-long bible school. He worked really hard to get to this point. He managed to graduate a year early from high school so that he could have a year in between college to do something different, take some time to figure out his direction. I am overwhelmingly proud of him. He worked two jobs this summer, stayed connected to the church, started dating a very sweet girl. What more can you ask of your child? And now he’s leaving. And I am now swamped with a whole bucket-load of differing emotions. 

If you think about it, this whole motherhood thing kind of sucks. You take these newborn babies and pour your life into them. Every decision you make for the next 18 years takes them into consideration. Will this be good for my kids? And then they start growing up and developing independence and you run the tightrope walk of trying to make sure they are safe and also giving them the space they need to learn how to take care of themselves. And then they grow up, they learn everything you expected them to learn in their time at home…and then they leave. And it kind of feels like your heart is walking out the door…Except, this was the whole point. From day one you have been working to get them to Here. Where they can now step out, fully equipped, and start living their own lives. 

And there are tears because you can’t believe you made it to this point. There were definitely some moments along the way where I was positive my child would never make it to adulthood. And you are kind of in awe at God’s mercy and grace that got you and your child to this point. And so there are tears. 

And then there is relief. After all, part of leaving the nest is outgrowing the nest. There’s not enough room here for my mostly-adult child to become a full adult. He needs some space. It’s hard to stretch your wings and learn to fly when you keep bumping into your parents. And it’s hard to get on with parenting your other kids when there’s an overgrown chick bumping into you all the time. And so I am relieved that he has found a good place to spend this next year. And I’m excited for him, excited for all the adventures he’s going to have and all the things he’s going to learn. 

And he’ll be back. Christmas, summers, transition times when he just needs a safe place to land while he shifts gears.

My oldest daughter is also taking off in a couple weeks for a year in Alaska. 

Needless to say, my heart is doing that crazy thing where it is swelling up with pride and joy and at the same time, breaking in half. 

Man. Being a parent is painful. 

 

 

A Love Poem of Sorts

It is our 20th Wedding Anniversary this week. I thought that perhaps I would search the internet high and wide and find a poem that would immortalize our love. A poem that I could point at and say, Yes, that is what we have. I am not a poet. I read through these poems. These amazing works of art. My soul jumped at the beauty that was portrayed. Love displayed as passion, as longing, as yearning. As a lifelong quest. I am not a poet. I can’t create these airy pieces of lace, strung together with words. And I searched and searched. But I couldn’t find a poem for us. I am not a poet. But I long to gift you with an arrangement of words that would express our love for each other. 

 

Our love is not the kind that is celebrated by poets.

 

Our love was Slow. Solid. Practical. 

 

In a world of French Cuisine, we are meat and potatoes. 

 

Our marriage was never about You and Me. It was always about You, Me, and the children we made. Always children present. 

 

And yet, somehow we have managed to lift our gazes high enough, to look over the tops of our children’s heads, and still see each other. 

 

Our love was never about extravagance and ease. It has been a constant pushing, striving, scraping, saving. Somehow miraculously taking the small amount we have and turning it into enough. And more than enough. 

 

Our love has never contained long romantic getaways, stealing away to be alone. No, our love has been about installing a lock on our bedroom door. Whispering to each other in the middle of the night when all the children are asleep. Exchanging flirtatious glances across the dining room table. Snuggling on the couch together as small toddlers crawl all over us. Kissing and hearing a chorus of “EWW YUCK!” from the nearby children. 

 

The most dramatic moments of our marriage have come in the form of conversations. Where I reveal to you a secret part of who I am and you reveal to me hidden parts of who you are. And the conversation slowly dies out and we stare at each other. Amazed that it is possible to know another human so deeply. 

 

And always, the most romantic part of our week is to go to church on Sunday morning. Sit close together. Hands clasped. Stand together, lift our hands in worship. Heads bowed together in prayer. Our shoulders brushing together. Exchanging knowing looks when something significant is said that touches the problems we happen to be facing that very moment. 

 

Ours is not a love of fireworks and showy bonfires. Ours is the slow, steady burning of coals that light the kitchen fires and cook the meals and provide a constant, steady source of warmth. 

 

Ours is not the story of two puzzle pieces that perfectly fit together. Rather we are two rough-edged, world-scarred people who chose each other. We chose to wrap our two mismatched pieces of iron, jagged and sharp, and twist them together into one piece. Two separate, infinitely different pieces of metal, twined together by divine hands into one strong piece that cannot be broken…Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate…

 

I don’t have the money or the creativity to show my love in large flashy banners. Instead I show you my love in small ways. I try to leave enough hot water for your shower. I serve you a plate of food at supper instead of making you serve yourself. I speak highly of you to our children, even on days when I am irritated with you. I don’t give you any grief for staying up late to watch Fast and Furious #37. I keep your Louis L’amour books in one, easy-to-find spot on our bookshelves. I not only wash your clothes and fold them, but I also put them away. I have developed the habit of not talking about money or bills or other stressful topics right before you go to bed. 

 

Nothing big. Just daily little considerations to let you know you are important to me. I’m thinking about you. I want you to be happy. 

 

You do the same for me. 

 

Our love is not the love of flowery poems. Our love is Plain. Simple. Steady. 

 

And yet, something tells me. Something says, generations from now, our children’s children’s children, will still speak of us. They will say, That is the kind of marriage I want to have. That is the family legacy we want to pass down. 

 

Maybe one day, my love, we will be legends. 

 

But, the far distant future doesn’t concern me. Right now, I will simply enjoy the pleasure of sharing your bed every night. Cooking your meals. Parenting our children together

Here’s to simple, unadorned love. 

Here’s to us.

 

We All Need Some Grace

This evening I feel very mixed up. On one hand we have a very stressful situation we are working through that always seems to be hovering in the background. Then I have a spot of pure joy bursting through me as my oldest child chose to get baptized yesterday. Then I have issues with my health I’m low-grade worrying about. My children cause a big mixture of love, amusement, annoyance, humour, anger, and really, any other emotion you can think of, sometimes all at the same time. I am feeling very thankful for the good things I have, and then I start complaining cause some things aren’t the way I like them. At a drop of the hat I could get angry about social issues. And at the same moment I could start crying because I just heard a story about someone being amazingly kind. It’s no wonder that when people say, “How are you?”, you just automatically say, “I’m fine thank you!” What else can you say? It gets a bit complicated if you say, “I am currently feeling every emotion on the spectrum.” 

 

Being human is so complicated. I imagine a big churning pot of stew with a million ingredients and as you stir a big spoon in it, different ingredients float to the surface. How are you doing? Well, right now I’ve got some happiness, joy, and enthusiasm going on. But if you stir things up a bit, I’m sure that annoyance, anger and selfishness can make an appearance.

 

Usually, when I’m writing, I have one set of emotions that is taking preference. They stir up thoughts and memories and I end up having a cohesive idea to talk about. Then there are days like today were my thoughts are going in a million directions, my emotions are having a wrestling match, trying their hardest to be the one on top that gets noticed. My memories are popping up from all kinds of directions, and I just kind of feel like banging my head against a wall to make it all go away. 

 

I’ve been reading a book about God’s grace. I guess that my current mental state is a good indicator of how much grace I need. I’m a mess. And I’m pretty sure I am not alone in the need for grace. I can go on all day about how amazing God’s grace for me and you is. As Christians we spend a lot of time focusing on how God extends grace to us. And that is a very good thing to spend time on. I think though,  I don’t spend as much time thinking about how to extend grace to others. 

 

I am very good at thinking about how downtrodden I am, how deserving of favor I am, how in need of a break I am. I don’t think I spend as much time thinking those things about others. But, when I do, life is so much better. When my husband comes in at night, and I think, I have been here all day with the kids! It’s time for him to step up and help me! I find that this attitude does not make for a nice evening with my husband. But, if I step back and think, hmm.. My husband has been working all day in the hot sun. He must be really tired. I’m tired too, but maybe if I give him a chance to take a shower and eat and give him a big cold drink, he’ll be in a better mood for our evening of parenting we have ahead of us. 

 

I find that this is the same with people who get on my nerves. If I put my entire focus on how they irritate me, kind of keeping a score card of all the things they do wrong, then, yep, I’m going to stay in a constant state of irritation towards this person. But, if I make the effort to walk in their shoes, see what struggles they are facing, ty to get some insight into why they act the way they do…It’s a lot easier to extend grace towards them.

 

It’s interesting that the more we get to know someone, the easier it is to extend grace towards them. It’s like knowledge and insight naturally produce love and grace. Maybe that’s why God can love us completely and extend such amazing grace to us, because he knows us completely. 

 

In the end, we are all complex creatures who only show the world a tiny fraction of what we are thinking and feeling. May I remember daily to practice extending grace to those around me.

 

 

Boredom is a Wonderful Thing

I read somewhere that boredom is essential to fostering children’s imaginations. It’s only when they are bored that they are then forced to come up with their own entertainment. They are forced to start using their imaginations. This past Friday I turned off the wifi at our house. I had several reasons, but one of them was to help my children foster their imagination. No more instant entertainment from a screen. Use your imagination.

So, obviously, I have set myself up for some trouble. Have you ever had a houseful of children all using their imaginations? It’s a dangerous thing. Using your imagination means taking your helium balloon (leftover from the graduation party) and letting it loose into the ceiling fan. (I just wanted to see what would happen!). It means taking a crayon and writing out a Yes/No quiz on the wall by the toilet. (I suppose so that people who are using the bathroom will have something to do?) Today one child took a bunch of our socks and gloves and made sock animals for all his siblings. (Who needs socks, after all, it’s summer.) It also means taking the hose and spraying it all over a pile of dirt so you can have a good mud hole to play in.  And while we’re at it, lets take these old bricks and stack them on the porch in a rectangle-box shape, and then try and fill it up with water, our very own swimming pool!

Of course, my kids have been doing these things all along, with or without wifi, it just seems that they now have even more time to devote their energies to these great ideas, instead of it being a once-in-a-while activity. And it makes me happy. Yeah, we’re going through a bit of an adjustment phase while we work out a new schedule. There’s been some whining because we’re not turning on some shows…but, I’m already seeing good fruit. Like the whole herd of children all running outside in the evening to catch fireflies. My teens gathering around a laptop to watch an old dvd together. (Still a screen, but at least they are doing it in community!) Little children are coming up to me with books they want me to read them. My older kids are delving into new book series. Boredom is a wonderful thing.

I myself have been experiencing boredom a bit more. It’s led me to start reading my Bible in the morning again, play the piano more, start thinking about some cleaning projects I need to tackle, pray more, listen to my kids a bit better. Boredom seems to have a roundabout way of making life feel sharper, more in focus. And yes, we do have plenty of fun things planned for this summer, there’s just going to also be lots of downtime.

So, my summer blessing…May we plenty of time to be bored and may that boredom lead us to great feats of creativity!

 

Happy Mother’s Day

I want to wish all the Moms out there a Happy Mother’s Day.

To the Moms of older children, thank you for sticking it out, putting in your time in the trenches. You are a hero.

To the Moms with little children…This is the hardest time. Be encouraged. You can do it. It is going to get easier!

To the Moms who are raising children they didn’t give birth to, you are amazing. Your heart for your children is an inspiration to all of us.

To the Women who think they aren’t Moms, but who go around mothering all the children that enter their lives. You are so important. Raising up the next generation is a community project, and your role is vital.

And to my Mom…Thank you. Thank you for all the sleepless nights you put in. Thank you for sitting with me at bedtime when I was afraid of the dark. Thank you for letting me pour soy sauce all over your amazing cooking because I was too picky to enjoy it the way it was. Thank you for buying me chocolate whistles at the grocery store. Thank you for always having a tissue in your purse when I needed one. Thank you for letting me stay up late reading books. Thank you for turning a blind eye when I came home covered in mud. Thank you for french braiding my hair. Thank you for sharing your Cadbury’s chocolate bar with me. Thank you for making me a pizza with nothing on it because that was the way I liked it. Thank you for all the times you didn’t give me advice, just gave me a long hug instead. Thank you for paying for piano lessons, and not saying a word when I played the same piece over and over and over and over and over again. Thank you for giggling with me over the silliest things. Thank you for continuing to make my birthday special every year. Thank you for teaching me about prayer. Thank you for your hugs. Thank you for being my Mom. I love you.