Sunday, December 19, 2010


Last night, after a whirlwind trip to attend Nana L.'s funeral service, we rushed to church to watch this year's Christmas program.  We had been waiting to see the play for months now.  Each Monday night for the last several weeks, Dave would quickly finish his dinner and leave for play practice, returning with bright eyes and words of praise for the other cast members.  With high hopes, we entered the church and took our seats.  And we weren't disappointed.  The play itself was funny enough, and the scenery, lighting, and sound were top-notch, but the cast really brought the show to life.  As a side note, our assistant pastor directed the play, and she has the gift of expectation.  She invites people into something greater than they can most times picture for themselves.  I'm convinced this quality called and required people to perform in ways they never thought possible.  It was a joy-filled time for me, a picture of church acquaintances and friends in their element and having so much fun as they told the Christmas story with carefully-crafted facial expressions, vocal inflections, and timing.

All good things take time and patience.  A line that Nana included in a letter she wrote to me while I was a college student, it was likely in response to some fears that I had at that point in my life...fears about my future...and mostly the fear that I wouldn't date or get married.  While my Nana was super-talented in multiple areas, I don't remember her being quick to dispense life advice, which was why this written wisdom was especially meaningful to me.  And boy, was she right.  I was waiting and waiting for the right man to enter my life.  Sometimes I waited with hope.  Most times, I feared that the very thing I longed for would never happen.  All along, the man waited for, the one I would marry, was there, and I had absolutely no idea.  First, he was just another member of our campus church group.  Then he became a (very funny and thoughtful) good friend of my sister's.  Next he decided to lead a Bible study on campus, and I was assigned to coach the Bible study leaders.  He was the troublesome one who wanted to break all of the Bible study rules.  I was the uptight one putting him in his place.  We will never be friends, I thought.  But then, the unthinkable happened: I observed him and grew to respect him and enjoy him, and apparently, he began to respect and enjoy me too.  I invited him to my work holiday party.  He threw snowballs at my window and left me thoughtful notes on my car.  He went running with me.  I sat with him as he attempted to complete school projects.  Our relationship was rising up.  It was growing, even blossoming.  I was hopeful.  Could this be the one I was waiting for?  Was our relationship one of the good things that my Nana wrote about?

As I type this, I'm waiting for some bread dough to rise.  Making bread doesn't seem to require any special skill or talent.  Really, you just need the ability to wait.  You mix the dough together and let it sit for hours.  Then you form the dough into a loaf and you let it sit some more.  Next you bake it for a while and let it sit until it's cool enough to slice.  Act, wait, act, wait.  It's hard though...the waiting, that is.  I'm hungry, and I know that the bread is good.  But the waiting makes the bread that much better.  I watched you rise up.  I smelled you as you were baking.  I longed for you.  I desired you.  And the longing and desire make you taste even better, even more satisfying, than what I could have imagined.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Someone To Watch Over Me

My husband's had a rough few weeks at school.  For whatever reason, this time of year seems to be especially burdensome for him as a teacher.  Last year, I think it may have played a part in Dave's running injury.  The one that kept him from running his marathon earlier this year.  But that's another story.  Anyway, I hate to see him this way, walking in the door late at night, the weariness written all over his face.  Frequent questions about his competence as a teacher, and really, as a person in general, beg for the comforting response from me.  But sometimes my encouragement and reassurance are not enough.  Dave is tired, and he continues to feel anxious, powerless, overwhelmed.

A few nights ago, as we were tucking our kids into their beds, Andrew was complaining about having to go to sleep.  This happens quite frequently in our house, as I expect it happens often in most households with young children.  Kids don't want to miss out on anything, even if it means jeopardizing their much-needed rest.  As Dave was tucking Andrew in, ensuring that he was "snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug", he told Andrew that he wished he could be like him:  that he could go to bed at 9PM, that he wouldn't need to worry about finishing projects long overdue or about what people think of him.  In that moment, Dave was reflecting on what it was like for him during his childhood.  He wanted for nothing; all of his needs were provided for.  His job was simply to enjoy his life, and love the people around him, and be creative, and be loved.

But isn't that how life SHOULD be for us too, even after our wrinkles and gray hair expose the truth that we are way too old to be kids anymore?  Do we really need to worry as much as we do?  How can we be responsible adults, but still live more like children?

These are some my questions as I anticipate Christmas's arrival.  The Bible describes God as a loving Father and us as children.  In this relationship, we don't need to have all of the answers for life's problems and struggles.  We don't need to scramble to provide for all of our own needs.  Our Father is taking care of it for us.  And He provides for all of our true needs in Jesus.  As I struggle to believe this today, I try to picture my Father, tucking me in, speaking quiet and calming words of love, encouraging me to rest.  And I surrender to sleep.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Is Anybody Out There?: Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

I've had a rough day so far.  On the surface, it seems that the roughness is due to my kids' potty issues.  Last night, it was the middle-of-the-night call, beckoning me to the bathroom, where my daughter then decided that she didn't really need to go on the potty after all.  Then it was an early morning wake-up call as a very sorry child told me that he wet his bed.  There have been a couple of additional potty problems since we've all been awake...get out the wipes...sanitize the potties...clean up soiled children...start another load of laundry.  It's seems that it's those potty issues and the constant fighting.  Why do my children feel the need to question nearly every directive that comes out of my mouth?  Is it worth the energy to stick to my word?

I'm exhausted.  And I feel like there must be something terribly wrong with me.

Honestly, I think the main reason that I've been struggling with this stay-at-home mom gig is that it makes me feel truly incompetent, maybe more-so than anything else I've ever attempted.  Most times I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.  I'm fearful that I'm messing up the very thing where I invest most of my strength, emotion, and wisdom (that is, if I have any wisdom left!).

Sometimes, I feel alone in this problem that I have.  I read the books and blogs and facebook posts of moms who can work, go to the gym, put a fabulous dinner on the table, throw festive birthday parties, involve and lead church activities, volunteer at school, call friends with encouraging words, and provide a clean and loving home for the husband and multiple children.  I just can't keep up; I try, but I'm always coming up short.

Now I'm the one calling out, "Attention all Have-It-All-Together-Moms out there (if you really do exist). Please share your secrets with me!  Help me to know where I've gone wrong."

Why do we do this to each other...the pretending to have it all together?  When you look SO good, it makes me feel SO bad about myself.  And it makes me feel all alone in that badness.  Does anyone else feel the way that I do, or am I really the only one who can't seem to get things right?

Maybe one of the secrets is to revel in the small daily victories instead of wallowing in the defeats.  Maybe then I would be OK with my many mistakes and inadequacies.  Maybe then I would become the kind of mom that I aspire to be: gentle, patient, gracious, present.  Learning to celebrate the accomplishments of other moms, instead of using them as a measuring stick, would help too.

Until I am fully transformed in my thinking, I'll rely on my other coping mechanisms, some of which work quite well.  Lately, when the fearful and frustrated thoughts creep in, I remind myself to fight back with beauty:
gaze out the window, where the snow is falling all clean and quiet;
dance to that song that reminds me of a favorite time past;
breathe in the scent of the candle, smelling of fall and spice;
take in the words of an encouraging note or of Jesus;
savor the drawing or painting, bright with color;
drink in that full pot of flavorful (i.e. strong!) coffee;
create a new recipe or journal entry;
dream of a situation made right or a relationship reconciled;
thank a friend who's shared life with me;
study those children, who are small and needy today, but will be grown and gone all too soon.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Speaking to the Future Generations

Last night we received the phone call that we waited for all day yesterday, the one that would confirm that yesterday was Dave's Nana's last day and would allow us to officially grieve over our loss of her.  Nana had been sick for several months, so the grieving had already been happening for a while.  Drawing upon some memories, hoping to derive some comfort or consolation, I stumbled upon the realization that Nana's message is alive and is all around us.

Nana was a neighbor, friend, community activist, loving wife, mother, grandmother, and even a great-grandmother.  She was also an artist.  She did calligraphy and scrimshaw, but her specialty was watercolor miniatures.  Her artwork is proudly displayed all over our house; we love soliciting surprised responses when we tell others that these pieces are not photos, but paintings.  Amazing was her knowledge of color and light, her attention to detail, her technique with a paintbrush, her ability to use a medium to create and to make alive.  And through her artwork, Nana speaks to me this morning.

I remember reading somewhere that a key to finding purpose in life is finding your medium...that glorious material or subject that allows you to express your true self (I regret that I can't remember the source of this idea...please let me know if you can help me).  For Nana, it was paint and paper, and for my Nana, needles and thread, sugar and flour.  For my Pop-Pop, it was wood and nails, seeds and soil.  Maybe for you it's math or words or people.  The artwork, clothing, recipes, and furniture, live on, along with all of the memories, even after the creator is gone.  They speak to us of the creator's joys, hopes, and talents.  They remind us of the love the creator shared with us.

Today, the desire to be like Nana, to have something that is left behind that speaks to others, compels me to find my medium.  I'm summoning the courage to look deep inside myself, find the message that God has created me, and only me, to share, and proclaim it.  I want to create and invest so that others may hear from me, even when my life on earth ceases.  Today, I'm thankful that we have opportunities to leave pieces of us behind, that we can express ourselves to those precious future generations that we won't have the pleasure of meeting.

We miss you already, Nana L.  Rest in peace.