Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Today: by the minute

7:00 Alarm goes off *SNOOZE*
7:09 Alarm goes off again *SNOOZE*
7:18 Alarm goes off again.  Hear Lila narrating something to Faith over the monitor.  Sometimes they wake each other up and the result is yelling and crying, this morning it's happy chatter.  A good start, but don't be fooled.  Oh yeah, *SNOOZE*
7:27 Alarm goes off again.  Okay, okay I'll get up.  It's picture day after all and I have to be to school by 8:30 sharp.
7:45 Out of the shower.  Yelling to the Husband, "Are the girls dressed?" Applying make-up to try to hide the "I was puking my brains out 48 hours ago from a nasty stomach bug and still feel a little woozy" look.
8:05 Begin battle with Lila over which shoes she will wear in her pictures.  Me: you get to pick which shoes you wear every other day.  I get to pick today.  End of story.  Her: No.
8:15 Battle continues.  I consider a compromise, but stick to my guns as I throw lunches in the car and grab my lesson supplies
8:17 Compromise out of desperation.  Me: wear your cute pink cowgirl boots in the picture and you can bring your other shoes to change into.  Her: No.
8:18 Losing my patience and any sense of on-time-ness.  Me: Lila, NOW.  Her: No.
8:19 Loading up the car.  By some miracle, Lila has chosen to comply with my wishes.  I smooch her cheeks and thank her for obeying Mommy even when she didn't want to and silently forgive all the "no's" from earlier.
8:22 Pull out of the garage
8:24 Realize I forgot a vital part of my science experiment materials
8:32 Drop Lila off at my friend's house for her carpool to preschool
8:41 Arrive 11 minutes late for staff picture, relieved to see another staff member walking up, too.  Guilty Irresponsibility loves company, too right, Misery?
8:45 Drop Faith off unceremoniously in child care
8:46 Faith flips out
8:50 Parents arrive, cute kids all picture-ready walk in and hand me their picture packets.  Faith screams from down the hall and I go rescue her.
9:00 I hold Faith as I welcome kids, gather picture packets and help forgetful parents fill out said packets.
9:05 Faith throws up on me.  Inexplicably, it's on my face.  Puke on my face.  Puke on my face. Puke on MY FACE!
9:10 Desperate phone call to Husband.  Me: Faith threw up.  Can you come get her? Him: (in so many words) I haven't been to work since Friday because you've been sick and my boss will growl at me if I try to leave now. Me: I'll try my mom.
9:12 Desperate phone call to my mom.  She's at work.
9:15 It's our turn for pictures.  Drop Faith off again with saintly childcare workers who accept her puke and all while I run down the hall to help my students with their photos.
9:30 Done with pictures.  Pick up Faith again because she's yelling again and I don't know if she's sick or just mad.
9:45 time for PE.  Drop kids off at PE and decide Faith is not sick and text the Husband to stand by.  She started the flu stuff over the weekend, so I think her tummy is still not quite normal and she got all worked up crying so hard.
9:45-11:30 Snack, quick social studies lesson, bathroom break, etc.
11:30 Recess.  One kid has a splinter.  One kid gets stung by a bee.  One kid keeps falling over for no apparent reason.  One kid's nice picture day clothes are covered in mud.  At least no one throws up on me.
12:00 Lunch.  Kid who got stung by a bee loses her tooth at lunch.  And then she literally loses her tooth.  As in, we can't find it.  She thought she wrapped it up in a napkin, but when she unfolded the napkin to show her many admirers (said one 7 year old, "She's so LUCKY!"), each fold failed to reveal the tooth.  Oh, man.
12:05 Tooth located.  By the coat hooks.  Gross.  Suggested addition line to First Grade Teacher Job Description: Be prepared to deal with loose and lost teeth, teeth dangling by one slimy, fleshy thread as child pushes it in and out with tongue, bloody mouths from lost teeth, and retrieval and recovery operations should lost tooth become, er, lost.
12:30 Jimmy Johns is delivered.  Thank you God, for Jimmy Johns.  And I really, really, really mean that.
1:00 Drop kids off at afternoon special and drive home on my break to get missing piece of the science experiment.
1:45 water cycle experiment a success.  Children's reactions: worth it.  They think I'm a genius.  Bloody teeth by the coat hooks are a small price to pay for the awe and respect from 6 and 7 year olds.
2:00 Kids redeem the day by accurately and adorably illustrating what they learned from the experiment.  Teacher warm fuzzies commence.  Mmmmmm.
2:30-3:00 More antics as the day wraps up.  One kid's key chain keeps moo-ing.  One kid can't find her water bottle which turns up in her backpack which is on her back.  One kid wanders aimlessly despite repeated directions for clean-up.  One kid tries to help and spills a supply bin's contents across the floor.  Many kids are frantically wiggling their own loose teeth, inspired by the earlier events of the day.  Me: You guys! Stop wiggling your teeth!
3:00 Dismissal.  Goodbye you gross and adorable children.  You are my favorite part of my job, despite your bodily fluids and lack of self control.  Because you are also awesome and creative and loving and sweet to each other and helpful and I love you.
4:00 After a quick conversation with a parent, we clean up and load up and make it home to catch the last few innings of the Royals game.
6:00 Both the Husband and I are inexplicably crying as we watch our home team break the 29 year drought and make it to the World Series.  I've never cared so much about baseball!
7:00 The Husband and I are having dinner and I am recounting my day from boot battle to puke to tooth to Pennant victory.  We lose it giggling when I tell him about the lost (in more ways than one) tooth.
7:30 The girls are asleep and I am ready for bed, too.  A good day if you consider the bookends and erase some of the middle.  I woke up to my girls "chatting" happily together in their shared room and will fall asleep next to my awesome guy who took his own sick days to take care of me the last three days, who asks me about my day and who cries (mostly) unashamedly when his team, the underdogs if ever there were some, makes it into the World Series.  A good day indeed.

Goodnight.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

10 Mini-stories: Lila Edition

I have a few Lila stories that don't warrant an entire post, but that are too good not to tell:

1. Faith was in the cart at Target and Lila touched her toes and said to me, "Is this baby named Faith?"

"Yes," I said, shaking my head at her constant dramatic play.

"Oh!  She'll be perfect for my collection of babies named Faith!"

For her collection.  Her collection of babies.  Her collection of babies name Faith.  What a weirdo.

2. Lila started a ballet class on Fridays.  The class starts at 11:00am.  The first week of class I found her dressed and ready to go at 8:30am.  When I told her she had about three more hours to wait until class she said, in an exasperated voice, "Really?"
at 8:30am
2.5 hours later right before class
3. The Husband told Lila that she is now four and three quarters.  So now she corrects me when I say she's four or four and a half.  Four and three quarters, Mommy.  To which I say: Stop. Growing. Up.

4. Lila read me a whole book this weekend.  The Foot Book.  I mean, I helped her, but Sister sounded out words with enough fluency that she could follow the story and she stuck with it and she was proud.  I was proud.  I think the biggest challenge for her in school will be her impatience.  She picks things up so quickly, but if it's even remotely challenging she gets bored and/or frustrated.  Good luck, Lila's Future Teachers!

5. Lila gets all squealy and high-pitched when she's excited about something Faith is doing.  She's Faith's biggest and best cheerleader.  Today I caught her "helping" Faith walk across the family room.  "She's WALKING!" she squealed.

5. I watched my friend's little girl today.  I was taking pictures of cutie-pie Iris to send to her mommy when Faith climbed on my lap and stuck her crazy-haired head in front of the camera:

Then, in my periphery I saw Lila scoot over a few feet and when I looked up she was posing for the camera:

She's a ham.

6. Going through old photos I found this one from when we were still living with my parents:

The Husband had been writing inappropriate things with the magnet letters on my parents' fridge and when Lila saw this one morning she said, with disgust, "Hey! Who put an extra 'o' in Pop's name!"  Now that she can read, she'll get the joke.

7. There's not really a story for this one, but I love this picture I took of Lila and my sister.  Aunt Jess to the rescue with pink nail polish.  I have a disappointing lack of nail polish for my four year old (four and three quarters, mom).  By which I mean I have one bottle of nearly invisible light pink that has separated permanently and is unusable.  Aunt Jess will have to be the one to teach my girls how to apply make-up and do their hair because this mama never learned how to be a girl.

Um ^^^ those undies ^^^ sicking out of her leotard SLAY me 
8. Lila has a few really good friends.  God has been gracious to give her buddies who have a similar energy, personality, spunk and love for princesses.  Jazzy is one of those gal-pals.  I love this picture because when we picked Jazz up to play one day after her brother had heart surgery, the girls insisted that I move both carseats in the back so they could sit next to each other and hold hands.  They giggled the entire way home.  There is no better sound than little girls' giggles.


9. Lila's preschool class has a stuffed bunny named Todd who gets to go home with a student every weekend.  Lila's turn was a few weeks ago.  I was going to take pictures of all the things we did with Todd, but when she insisted that Todd be a participant in every. single. thing. she did that weekend, I gave up after only two activities.
She taught him how to play Candy Land and somehow he won.
She took him outside to play on the swing set.  Todd told me he didn't mind that we only had a pink swing.  He's a very agreeable bunny.
10. Some recent art of Lila's:
At preschool

At preschool

My mother-in-law gave Faith a darling book that has a different emotion on each page with an illustration of a fish expressing that emotion.  Lila has taken to doing her own versions of the illustrations and it is THE CUTEST.

Art activity from first day of school - they decorated their person with the outfit they were wearing.   Also, WHY does my child look 8 years old in that picture?!

This currently holds the top spot on my list of favorite drawings she's done.  The sleeves are my very, very favorite.

Drawing with Pop
Stay tuned for Faith's mini-stories!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ghost Baby

Lila was having a rest time today while Faith napped.  She was playing quietly with her Legos in the play room across the hall from our bedroom where I was stuffing Faith's diapers.  I heard the door to the playroom open and Lila peeked her head around the door looking...worried.

"Mommy?"

"Yes?"

"I pretended there was a ghost baby pushing the grocery cart of my Legos and then I started to imagine there really was a ghost baby in the play room and now I'm scared."

Trying to hide my smile I pulled her up onto the bed with me and held her.  "Let's pretend there's someone else pushing the cart - like a princess or something."

"But I already imagined the ghost baby and now I can't imagine anything else."

"Then imagine that the ghost baby is a silly ghost baby.  Imagine he says goo-boo-goo-boo and that he has a poopy diaper.  Nothing with a poopy diaper can be scary."

She grinned and laughed.  "Okay.  First can I tell you a joke?"

"Sure."

"Knock-Knock."

"Who's there?"

"Ghost Baby."

"Ghost Baby who?"

"Ghost Baby poopy diaper!"

"Good one.  Now go back and play."

And she did.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Letter to My Littler Daughter: Year TWO (18 months home)

Dear Faith,

Today you are two and that means you have been a part of our family for 18 months.  Truly, you have been a part of our family since we first learned you existed - we loved you from that very moment.  From that moment, you were ours in our hearts even though we had to wait three long months to bring you home.

Your birthday this year feels completely different than it did last year.  Last year, you had been home just 6 months and I was still trying to figure out how to be your mom while sorting out the role your First Mama should play in your life.  I think I will forever be sorting that out, which is not a bad thing.
At the dumpling party this summer - it is saying something that this is the least blurry picture I took of them that day.
But this year, I am confident in my mothering of you.  I know you and you know me.  I trust my instincts about your needs and you are a uniquely happy and contented baby.

Except you are no longer a baby.  It was just a few months ago that I remarked to Daddy that you finally felt like a toddler and less like a baby.  You can do so much now - feed yourself, maneuver your body in pretty much any way you desire (you figured out how to climb on top of the coffee table - a new skill that you are thrilled with and I am wishing you hadn't acquired!), and communicate your basic desires (mostly through signs and yelling) - all of which have brought you a freedom and independence that you relish.
Toddler!
Just like with your sister each year, I am in awe of how much you have grown and changed in the last 12 months.  However, my awe is different somehow.  With Lila, my awe is rooted in how quickly time passes, how much she develops in such a short amount of time.  I am amazed at the ease with which she acquires new skills - she seems to wake up each day with a new ability logged into her brain.  But with you, I find I'm amazed at your perseverance, your tenacity, your spunk and pluck.  Your development is slow and delayed, but I am no less in awe of it for completely opposite reasons. Where Lila seems to just pick up new skills left and right, your skills come slowly, deliberately and we get to see the process evolve.  It is fascinating and inspiring.

At two years old, most people would only see your lack of development and take note of all the milestones you have not yet reached.  You aren't walking yet - although you stand up for several seconds and have taken three steps, you have limited words and most of them are signed, and you are eons away from being potty trained.  But I have watched you fight for those skills with moxie and courage.  I have been struck by your resolve (a character trait you surely inherited from First Mama and one that I greatly admire) and determination to achieve your goals and get where you are going. You WILL climb those stairs, even in the face of great obstacles like your low muscle tone or your frustrating mommy who, despite dramatic arms waving "all done!" does not seem to understand that you do NOT want her to interrupt your summit.  (Sorry about that, it's just that I have visions of your head becoming friendly with the marble floor at the bottom of the stairs!)

Your therapists often comment on how determined you are and how helpful a character trait that is when you will have a lot of things to overcome in your life.  It makes me grateful to your First Mama for passing that down to you, and grateful to God for already giving you what you need in the face of the challenges you will encounter.

You still prefer to scoot around on your bottom.  I call you Baby Roomba because you seem to like to scoot along the baseboards and walls of a room for some reason.  You have several signs (hi and bye, all done/no, more/yes, eat, drink, baby, ball, bubbles, go, a celebratory clap, me, dog, please, down, up, blow kisses) and know several more visually that you can't yet mimic.  I'm pretty sure you're intentionally holding out on me because you can say "ma-ma-ma" when you want more of something, but you refuse to say it for mommy.  When that word does finally come out of your mouth I will melt into a gooey puddle, I guarantee.

taken by Nanny - love that grin!
You adore your sister and she is wild about you.  You light up when she comes in the room, dive in to hug her and cry when we drop her off at preschool.  I am so grateful for the relationship that the two of you have!

You love to bounce, eat and play with other kids.  You adore babies and are surprisingly gentle with them.  Your favorite toys are balls and anything you can take out of something and put back in.  You have a magnetism to things that are not safe or age appropriate (electrical outlets, Sissy's markers, etc).

You were trying to put the stethoscope around Weston's neck - so helpful!
You give the absolute best hugs in the universe and you give them freely and frequently.  Your laugh makes me giddy, your humor charms me, and your love of life is an inspiration.  You are passionate about doing things by yourself and if we interfere, you will squirm and thrash and grunt and holler until we relent and allow you to go about your business.  The only time you really cry is when you get hurt, when we leave you with a sitter, and when we put you in bed before you're ready.  But you are always quick to recover.  Your adaptability amazes me.
adaptability: napping in Home Depot
I am delighted by you, little girl.  I simply cannot imagine our family without you.  You are a gift, your life is a story worth telling.  Every day, I am grateful that I get to be your mommy.
Love this girl!
I love you so very much.  Happy Birthday, Faith-baby.

Love,
Mommy

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fish and Loaves

Remember how I was back?

Me, too.

I've been trying to find the time/motivation/inspiration/energy to write a follow-up to my re-entry post.  But I've been too busy/lazy/uninspired/exhausted to do that.   Which actually isn't true.

Those are excuses.  And hackneyed ones at that.

So here's the truth: I have way too much to tell you - oh enigmatic crew of internet readers.  (The few of you who are left after such an unexpected hiatus this summer.)

Confession, most of the time when I use big words like enigmatic I have to look up their definition to be completely sure I know what they mean.  Because I have a habit of thinking I know what big words mean and being wrong.  Super wrong.  Like when I thought infamous meant "famous in small circles" or precocious meant "endearingly naughty."  But then sometimes I know words and get to teach them to the Husband.  Really important words like vestibule.  How did he get through life not knowing what a vestibule was?  Hey, look at this strange thought progression I've wandered down...where was I?

Oh yeah... so much to tell you.  But the gist of it is: we bought a house, we worked on the house, we moved in a month later, lots of things broke in the house (did I mention it was raining in our garage?), we spent all our money, school started again, we still haven't unpacked.
The pipe from our master bath.  That's an 8-inch long corroded hole.
Because of all the aforementioned chaos and stress, I kind of lost myself.  Things got a little out of control and I panicked.  We were very short on money, scraping the bottom of our barrel of sanity, and completely out of patience for each other.  So two weeks ago, in an effort to gather my wits, I wrote about how God turns our not-enough into more-than-enough and I made the public decision to trust that he would do that for us and promised to come back here and tell you about how he did it.

Before I do, I want you to know what I think about this sort of thing. This is not some weird Prayer of Jabez thing (remember that self-indulgent nonsense?) or some completely whacked prosperity gospel a-la the Osteens (don't even get me started on this ridiculousness) where I'm saying "God will do what you want, you just have to ask."  It's not true.  In the words of my dear and wise friend who has been through more hardship than a girl should have to bear, "God is not the God of my personal good fortune."  He is good no matter my circumstances, she says.  And I agree.

So this is me trying to lean in to the things I believe.  To take Jesus at his word.  To believe with my actions and life that God is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do.

I believe God delights in giving us good things.  I know his habits.  I know his ways.  I have seen them myself for my own benefit and for others.  I have read about them from the stories of old - when faith meant waiting for daily manna, holding up your aching arms to keep the floods at bay, pregnancy in old age after a lifetime of waiting for a promise to be fulfilled, and walking on water.  I believe faith still means those things.

And I believe that sometimes God gives us enough day by day.  Bit by bit.  Manna from the skies and water from the rocks.  And he says, "Trust me.  Do not store up for tomorrow.  Trust me that I'll do what I say."

And I believe that sometimes God gives abundantly to overflowing.  Quail when they complained, a king when they demanded, forgiveness when they turned away, the cross when they left him to die. To the undeserving, the weak, the least of these, the most of these, and everyone in between.  And he says, "These sacrifices - these covenants - are not for my sake, but for yours!  Everything I have is yours.  You are mine."

And I believe that sometimes God appears to disappear.  It seems he is silent and gone.  It seems he has left us to our own devices.  He doesn't answer our most holy prayers the way we expect.  He doesn't seem to honor our faithfulness, our risks, our vulnerability, our righteousness.  He allows us to suffer consequences that we deserve.  Or those that no one deserves.

And here's what I believe about that.  He is not gone.  He has not given up.  He does hear.  He does not allow passively with no plan of response.  I believe that when the Enemy wins a battle, God has already prepared a Redemption plan.  He has a way of redeeming what the Devil intended for harm.  He takes a tragedy and brings restoration and healing.  He grieves a loss with us and then weaves a new chapter to our story.  He redeems and restores and mends and heals.  He binds up the brokenhearted.  He releases the captives.  He makes a way where there was no way.  And if you are shaking your head saying No, He doesn't.  He hasn't.  He won't.  I'm here to tell you that if it's not good yet, He's not done.  He does.  He is.  He will.

Our little family has seen each of those scenarios play out in our life.

We have prayed for a little girl to get to stay with her family and yet she was taken away. (I'm still waiting for that lamb.)
We have prayed for healing of a baby boy and his recovery from surgery had doctors coming by his room to see his miraculous healing.
We have prayed for a pregnancy and instead been brought the sweetest treasure of a thing we never imagined to dream for.
Oh remember this cuteness?!
We have made mistakes, messed things up, been irresponsible and prideful and still been given the kingdom.
We have prayed Impossible Prayers and had them impossibly answered.
We have prayed for no seizures, seen them stop, then seen them return.
We have risked our hearts and vulnerability and been rejected.
We have risked our hearts and vulnerability and been given the same in return.
We have squandered what was given and been given more.
We have squandered what was given and had to confess and work to repay the loss.
We have seen the last few dollars drip into our bank account mere hours before an adoption fee was due.  
We have been awed as thousands of dollars poured in at once and felt the squeeze of confirmation that Faith was ours because of it.
We have had our own dreams come true at the expense of others' pain and been kept awake at night because of it.

God has been faithful in countless ways.

So when I asked for our fish and loaves to be multiplied, it shouldn't have surprised me that he would be faithful again in surprising ways.  When I stacked our not-enoughs (time, emotional healing, finances, relationships), God met them each in small and big ways - through grace and consequence and healing and miracles.

Our tight finances were alleviated in small ways:
- I found a reimbursement check to Costco (that was mailed to us in April and somehow managed to migrate from our old house to my parents' house and to our new house without getting lost/thrown away/torn up/written on or otherwise rendered unusable)
- Faith's therapy school increased our scholarship by $15 a month
- the water bill was a few dollars less than I had budgeted
- we sold an old iPod on Craigslist
- my mom "bought" an unused gift card from me so we could have cash to go out on a date

Our emotional depletion was restored:
- with an unexpected date night
- by lots of hugs from Faith (that girl knows how to give a good squeeze!)
- with affectionate words from Lila ("Mommy, can we go on a Mommy-Lila date to the park? I like doing things just me and you.")
- by sweet friends checking in on me, making me dinner, watching my kids, bringing me Dr. Pepper

Our time was managed:
- by a new calendar system I'm trying
- in the grace of a new season, new school year, new house, new systems and a chance to start from scratch
- with a lot of effort from the unstructured Husband who followed my not-so-subtle advice in the thick of a fight (I said a bad word) and started using his calendar and alerts on his phone

Our relationships were deepened and healed and maintained:
- with gracious friends who drove 9 hours and suffered through our still-in-boxes life to spend a few days with us over Labor Day (we felt so loved!)
- by the presence of people in our new big-enough-to-host-people house
- when friends forgave my flakiness, my snarkyness, my random crying, my snippy attitude, my negative outlooks, my unkept promises and stuck around and told me they loved me and pretended not to notice all the other stuff
- by the camaraderie of people fighting the same battles, enduring the same obstacles, living in similar seasons
- by the gift of neighbors who take care of us after only a few days

When you consider the ways God cares for his people, we could tick off an example for every category.  We suffered consequences (bye-bye iPod and Half-Priced Books gift card), received undeserved grace (hello friends who bring me meals even when I'm a stress-induced recluse and don't respond to your texts for several days), we received small mercies (neck squeezes from the Faith-baby) and big ones (a clean slate and the ability to pay off our credit card bill - barely).  We saw long-prayed prayers come to be (a gathering of friends and their kids in our house) and we saw the fruits of new disciplines (meal-planning for me and iCal for the Husband).

I was kind of hoping for a big sweeping miracle - like a $1000 check in the mail.

Or a lifetime supply of Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

But instead I got $75 to Costco and store-bought cookies from new neighbors.

Here's the true miracle: those things are enough - they are more than enough.

And the thing is, if I hadn't stopped to confess my fears and anxieties to my Good Shepherd; if I hadn't quieted enough to hear his voice after the confession; if I hadn't acted on what I believed to be his words to me in response, then I would not have recognized the cookies and Costco check for what they were: fish and loaves, multiplied to abundance.

The Bible says that Jesus fed the multitudes by breaking the loaves of bread into pieces and giving the pieces to the disciples to pass out to the 5000 hungry bellies.  Piece by piece each person ate until they were full.  So it is only fitting that we saw our prayers answered and our needs met in many small ways.  Bit by bit.  Small mercies multiplied to meet a great need.

It's just the sort of thing Jesus would do, isn't it?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Re-entry

I'm trying to come up with a good way to re-enter here after being absent for the last two months.  My absence was not due to a lack of inspiration for blog material.  We had our fair share of hilarious conversations with Lila, new victories and accomplishments for Faith, dramatic stories of plumping leaks causing it to rain in the garage of our new house.

It's just that I've felt so utterly spent - emptied out, scraped clean and bone dry - that I haven't even been able to find the energy to sit down once to type up an update or vent on screen about the minutia of our life.

On one hand, I miss it.  This blog has always served as a sort of journal of sorts - a place for the verbal processor in me to figure out how I feel about something.

On the other hand, I hardly thought about it in the last 60 days.

But here I am.  Trying to figure out how to re-enter, or even if I want to re-enter.

Maybe now isn't the best time.  Now, when I'm feeling a little bit desperate and a little bit exhausted and a little bit at my wit's end.

Maybe now is the best time.  Now, when I need to take some steps toward faith and hope and work out for myself what God might be saying in the midst of the stress and the storm.

I'm closing my eyes.  Taking a deep breath, and asking the question: What do you want to tell me, Shepherd?  In my current condition, what are you saying?  What is true?  Where is my hope?

The first thing that comes to mind is the story of the fish and the loaves of bread.  A large crowd comes to hear Jesus teach, and they are hungry with no catering service available.  After some investigative work, the disciples report to Jesus that the only food available is a few fish and a few loaves of bread.  That's all.  It's nothing really.  Not compared to the thousands of people who are squirming with hunger.

That's me.  I'm squirming with my fears that I don't have what I need.  I'm wondering how what I have to offer is going to be enough.  Financially.  Emotionally.  Hourly.  And the reality, is that a few fish and loaves are not going to feed the thousands.  They aren't enough.  I don't have enough.

But Jesus has a habit of taking the not-enough and turning it into more-than-we-need.  Not only was everyone filled to satisfaction, but the disciples gathered up twelve basketfuls of leftovers.  

So I will offer what I have - my measly fish and loaves - and trust Jesus to multiply it so that it will be enough.  I will try to not let my heart be troubled, and believe him to care for me.  I will stack stones and remember how he has been faithful in the past.  I will put my hope in him.

And then I will come back here and tell you how he took our not-enough and turned it into more-than-we-need.  How's that for a re-entry plan?

5For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
6From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
7I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge.
8My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

fear

The darkness holds fears that the light would never tolerate.  The dark obscures helpful realities that, in the light, would serve to assuage the irrational fears of the night.  For example, it is obvious in the light that a wolf does not live under Lila's bed.  But when the sun sets and her eyes get wide with the threat of our departure from her room, it's hard to believe that the shadows don't conceal a lurking beast with claws that will scratch at her legs and nip at her toes while she sleeps.  "I need a taller bed," she asserts somberly, "that way the wolves can't reach me."

Every night we pray with Lila that Jesus would protect her mind and her heart and her body while she sleeps.  We pray that he would protect her imagination from scary thoughts and dreams.  We pray that he would put a guard at the door of her mind - a mental bouncer of sorts whose job is to keep the trouble makers off the premises.  "Give her happy dreams or no dreams at all," we pray.

"Leave the door open," she implores, "so that if the scary things do come in, they can get back out again."

"They won't come in," I assure her, "Jesus won't let them.  He's bigger and braver and stronger than all of the scary things and he LOVES you."  I leave the door open just the same.

I imagine the Dream Bouncer with his muscled arms crossed, allowing rainbows and flowers and ice creams and fairies to flit past into Lila's dream world, but standing foreboding and stern in the face of wolves and bears and the other spooks that haunt her imagination in the night.

When I was small, I had a white-painted rod iron bed with an arched headboard.  I would fall asleep gripping the metal posts of the headboard, convinced that if someone tried to kidnap me through my bedroom window I would be ready and able to hold on for dear life.

I would also station our little white terrier at the foot of my bed, trusting that his bark would alert me to any dangers that may trespass.  This, it turns out, is not a reliable method of keeping fears at bay because small dogs are susceptible to misreading threats.  They have been known to bark unnecessarily or worse, to utter a low growl while staring fixed on the slightly ajar door to the closet, which of course stirs up a whole new pot of imaginary fears, now originating behind that open closet door.

My grown-up spooks come to life in the darkness, but they are much more terrifying than my childhood anxieties because, by the generosity of God, I now have several things in my life that hold great value to me: namely the Husband and my daughters.  The other frightening factor is that a simple dose of light-laced reality cannot cure my fears anymore.  My wolves DO live under my bed.  Figuratively speaking.  Experience has shown me that some of my fears cannot be chased away with rational thinking and hope in the realities that the morning brings.  I have friends who have lost husbands and children.  I have come too close to both myself.

Lila learned how to ride her bike.  Without training wheels.  I watched it happen before my very eyes.  One moment she was putting her feet down to steady herself after each uncertain pedal push, and the next she was soaring around my parents' patio.  We went from counting the number of pedals she could do before putting her feet down to catch her balance (9, then 12, then 20, then more!) to counting the number of laps she could do.  It was a magical transition.  It just clicked.  And I cried.



The catalyst of her bike-riding feat was seeing a little girl down the street who could ride her bike without training wheels.  The true impetus, however, was the reality that the little girl is younger than Lila.  Her sense of competition kicked in and she was inspired.  If Violet could ride a bike sans training wheels, then she could, too!  And, by golly, she did it.  Her will is a mighty force.  Believe me, I know.

So the next day, we went for a walk and Lila rode her bike.  I pushed Faith in the stroller and the Husband took the dog.  We started out cautious, making her stop a great distance before an upcoming intersection and having her walk her bike across.  But as she proved her control and her ability to stop and slow, we all became more comfortable and confident.  But then…the hill.

I knew it was coming up.  I coached her, "You don't need to pedal down a hill.  Just coast and keep your foot on the brake.  Try it a little and then stop."  She performed this act with ease.  "Keep your foot on the brake and don't get too far ahead."  And she was off.

At first she seemed okay.  Then it was clear that she was going a bit faster than she wanted to. "Brake, Lila," we cautioned calmly.  But she didn't slow.

She's going to crash, I thought.  But she didn't.  She just kept going and as the incline became steeper, her speed increased.

We started walking faster. "Go in the grass, Lila!" we called with a little more urgency in our voices.  Within seconds, the urgency turned to panic as with each turn of her wheel she got further and further away from us.

She screamed a panicked scream and took her foot off the brake to begin dragging her toes in a desperate attempt to slow herself.   "Go in the grass, Lila!  Go in the grass!" we yelled.

And then I realized that the worst case scenario was not that she would crash with some serious scrapes on her knees and elbows, but that she would not be able to stop before the next intersection at the bottom of the hill.  My heart leapt to my throat as I remembered that the cars crossing that intersection did not have a stop sign.  "Oh God!" I prayed - the most desperate of prayers - and then to the Husband, "Honey, RUN!"

He ran and I ran as fast as I could while trying to keep control of the stroller with Faith inside.  "HELP!" I yelled to anyone who might hear, "HELP!  HELP!" I was in a complete and utter panic as my little girl hurtled down the hill ahead of me at increasing speeds and there was nothing I could do to stop her.  I was too far away.  "HELP!" I choked, begging any bystanders to read my mind and do what I couldn't - rescue my daughter.

It all couldn't have lasted more than a few seconds.  And then, just a foot, maybe two, from the street, her front tire - almost gently - aligned perfectly with the vertical pole of the street sign and bounced off of it, bringing her to a stop and sending her tumbling, unharmed, to the ground.  Not a scratch.  Not a scrape.  But petrified and screaming.  The toes of her shoes were ragged from being used as emergency brakes.

The Husband got to her seconds later and scooped her up.  I careened down the hill, giving Faith a wild ride, and stole her from his arms as I got to them.  The tears came then; I shook with them.  Neighbors were running to us to be sure she was okay.  A man (angel?) who had been crossing the street with his dogs had planted himself in Lila's path to keep her from going into the street.  I saw the fear in their eyes and my own fear was compounded.  This confirmed how dire our situation had been just seconds before.  If she hadn't stopped, if that man hadn't been there, if a car had been crossing, if she had hit her head just wrong, if….

I tried to push the "If" thoughts away, but they were stubborn.  They insisted on being considered.  They forced themselves into my consciousness, forced me to examine the reality that I could have lost her.  In a split second, the narrative of our family's story could have changed irreparably.  We could have lost her.  We could have lost her.  We could have lost her.

We could have lost her.

I still can't get past it.  I have watched her the last few days - being her charming and wild self - and have thought with each little word and song and story and argument that these could have been wiped from existence if just one factor had changed in that moment.  Small things like watching her run up the stairs to get her glasses feel holy now.  It's melodramatic, I know.  Or maybe it's not.

Never have I felt such fear, such helplessness as in that moment.  My worst fears that for so long I managed to shoo away with reminders of good health and good parenting and good hopes from a Good Shepherd came crashing into reality and I remembered that I don't believe in a God who promises to keep me from grief and harm.  He just promises to redeem those things when they do happen.  I know he is able to command his angels concerning me and mine to guard us in all of our ways.  But I also know that sometimes he doesn't.  Which is confusing and heartbreaking, but still, somehow, does not make me trust him less.

So I'm sitting with these things, allowing them to weigh heavy on my heart because I think that's wise.  When something strikes to your deepest part and refuses to leave, it's silly to not acknowledge it.  There is something to be learned, something that may change you in helpful and holy ways.  Even if it is as small as treasuring peanut butter smudged cheeks and filthy summer feet.  Even if it is as big as once again, choosing to hand all that I hold dear over to the One who is trustworthy to keep them in his care.

The trick is to not let the fears take up residence.  I could easily become the worst version of myself and keep my kids from happy experiences just because they are experiences that might also bring them harm.  In other words, I have to leave the door open.  I have to let the fears come in and teach me what they must, but be ready to shoo them out the door when they have overstayed their welcome.  I have to set up my own mental bouncer and trust that Jesus will only let in the things that will bring about my holiness.

In the Old Testament, God's people would stack stones to mark and remember things that God had done for them.  I have my own little collection of stones - small moments from moments in our life where we have seen God's care or providence in our life.  The clothes Faith wore when she came home to us.  The candle from the Christmas Eve service when the Husband proposed.  The bead that had temporary residence in Lila's nose.  Some extra hardwood floor boards from our first house.

These blessed shoes are the newest stone: