3.19.2011

Two Lauras


I should count myself blessed
to live eighty-nine and one-half years
and find myself sitting
in a far-away house
holding tight to my namesake
who shares my blood, the life of my life,
the passing on of my heart,
the handing down of the things that matter to me.
That matter to God.

I should count myself blessed
to arrive here and see
my own eyes in a young girl’s face.
Touching my cheek to hers,
as close as can be,
making invisible the lines
of nine decades of simple living,
of questions and tears, 
of wondering how it all ends
and praying on bare knees
and handling the here and now while always,
always looking to the future.

But here is the future:
time gathered together,
bound tight into the only moment that matters-
The very special space of
now.

To sit with that future
held to my chest,
where two hearts beat together,
hammering the rhythm of life,
of dancing days.
Even now,
as her locks flow down
and small hands reach up
asking for love, giving love,
struggling to say:

Here,
here in the only real space
we can love each other,
are the answers to the questions,
to tears
and to prayers
and the wondering how it all ends.

For it ends with a beginning.






3.13.2011

taming the beast

My home skills have been very slow to evolve, despite the fact that I’ve had domestic independence for twenty years.  The tasks that make my list of “High Dislike” include cooking (very unfortunate for my family), emptying the dishwasher, weeding, and cleaning grimy glass shower doors.  But there is one constant task that reaches the defcom level of "Simply Despise": the laundry.  


Now you may think this is because I have six people churning through several outfits a day, but you are wrong.  My laundry woes date back to the newlywed era when I finally had to take some responsibility to keep the two of us out of dirty wrinkly clothes so that we could both keep our professional lives intact.   I asked around a lot about this particular topic (some might call it complained constantly), and I vividly recall begging an unsuspecting older woman in my bible study to help me solve my laundry conundrum, as if I could tap into some special magical powers to get the piles processed without dominating my life.



Things devolved as kids were added to the point that I was pretty grumpy about any mention of laundry, and the kids were pretty grateful when their favorite nightgown happened to show up in their drawer.   This summer we started what I optimistically dubbed the “Laundry Sing-Along”, which involved a weekly gathering of clean laundry into one big pile – more like a mountain really, inevitably becoming a mosh pit for the kids – and singing together as we all sorted and folded each person’s clothes into enormous bins.  Success rate: moderate but grueling.



I am happy to report a complete revolution has overthrown the laundry dictatorship, and I want to tell you how (because I know you are simply dying to see more pictures of my unkempt laundry).  I devote this solution in its entirety to a woman I would aspire to clean shower doors for indefinitely out of sheer gratitude for her suggestions:  Debbie Pittman.  She is a hilarious blogger/mom of many/organizational consultant/laundry mastermind who not only wrote about her approach for her 11 kids (yup, eleven!), but spent valuable personal time emailing me back and forth on how I, too, could tame the laundry beast.

I will let you read the eloquent details here, but her main points are:

• Do a load every single day
• Put away your load every single day

• Every. Single. Day.

I know, I know, it seems so simple.  But somehow it’s taken me 20 years to get to this solution. So, just for kicks, here are my cute little baskets from the dollar store, tagged with the strategic title “Team Roberts,” along with nicknames and pictures for my non-readers.  The kids are responsible for taking the baskets and putting everything away in their proper drawers.  Even at 2, 4, 7, and 9, they are perfectly capable of taking this one for the team.  Dad was alarmed at their small size, but it’s helped me know that I’ve gotten behind if my mini-baskets are brimming.  Call it portion size for the laundry, if you will.  So take that, you beast you.



3.08.2011

the sum of today

Walking on the beach, it is chilly and gusty but the sun is pleasant and warms us as we stroll along.  The children are animated, invigorated by the cold and brave enough to splash along the ocean’s edge.  They look for shells and chase birds as I hold the little one’s hand.  The waves frighten him just enough to stay close.  The beach is vast and desolate, we have it almost to ourselves.



 


My feet sink in the damp white sand as I reflect on the happenings of this single day, reviewing them one by one.
 
Today I ran my first half-marathon.
Today my grandmother, estranged to me, was buried.
Today my children found four starfish.
Today I found out that a relative is terminally ill.


I marvel that these sentences can be strung together in a single script, the easy statements next to the heartbreaking ones. What is the sum of each day, the sum of a life?  How can wonder and accomplishment and death and illness all hover side by side until they crash into one, a heavy white wave that hits hard and knocks the wind from me, leaving me staggering and stunned and in need of saving? 



It’s the radical extremes that hurt, the warm sun and the jolting ocean chill, the satisfaction of raising up this young family and the witnessing of another part of it dying. Just as much as I savor the joys, I want to accept the hard sentences, the facts both difficult and unavoidable. 

I walk under an unending blue sky and feel so small and humbled by how meager my ability is to understand life. 

I can only think that all of these things, the blessings and the sufferings, I must take to the cross, deliberately, carefully, unquestionably. For at the cross, the Lord faithfully performs the miracle of transformation, taking every single heartbreak and weakness that I bring and returning it to me as a gift.  At that place, where the blood and pain of God’s very son was transformed into the ultimate gift - neverending grace for the world - I find hope.


“In His death Jesus Christ gave us life.  The willingness of the Son of God to commit Himself into the hands of criminals became the greatest gift ever given - the Bread of the world, in mercy broken. Thus the worst thing that ever happened became the best thing that ever happened.  It can happen with us.  At the Cross of Jesus our crosses are changed into gifts.”  (Elisabeth Elliot, The Path of Loneliness)




I look down at the little one, still grasping my hand.  He sees his father very far off down the sandy beach, so far ahead that we seem forgotten.  I walk with confidence because I know where I am going but he feels lost and scared and cries out in a panic:  “Daddy, Daddy, wait for me, wait for me, it’s Reidy!”  


He calls the name of the father.


“It’s okay,” I lean over to say.  “You don’t need to worry.  I’m right here holding your hand.  I’ll walk with you all the way home and never let go.”


My reply hovers in the sun-soaked air, is caught up by the wind and swept towards the heavens.

2.24.2011

on Plato and pink

My daughter is sitting with me munching Fruit Loops and watching every moment of Balanchine’s Nutcracker, which we happen to own on VHS.  This is her second go-round; last night she watched it with her two brothers, who also didn’t miss a step.

And I wonder: what is it about beauty that calls to our hearts?

My mind has returned to this question many times since we began re-doing the girls rooms last week.  Their beige boxes are turning into pink palaces.  I am the master of this change, swiping on paint strokes.  The change satisfies me. 

I understand how they desire their rooms to look, well, perfectly perfect.  There is something deeply pleasing about looking on beauty and living in beauty, even for the two rough-hewn boys with the stubby buzz cuts who sit with eyes unwavering as ballet dancing lights up the screen. 

Plato described the scenario of sitting in a cave with a fire and watching the shadows as unseen shapes pass before the flames.  The flimsy, flickering images are all we are granted to see: poor reflections of the true form, of true beauty.  We crave a glimpse of the source, the origin of shapes, but alas, we are left on this earth with reflections alone, dark shadows on the wall that make the desire to know all the more powerful.


The Master’s hand is ever-present.   His beauty is in the details, both obvious and hidden: the buttery pink paint rolling on the wall, the warmth of a golden frame in late-afternoon sunlight, the stately elegance of an old bedpost, the rich purple of succulents touching cool green glass. 

I feel the blessing in these small details of life; the shadows of true beauty designed by the Creator himself. 

A flicker and the heavenly aesthetic is cast.   



These thoughts are not new, nor do I claim any great revelation in having them.  From Plato holding court in Athens to a remote farmhouse in Canada, as writer Ann Voskamp photographs cheese in sunlight (if you haven’t read it, you should), the search to understand and absorb beauty lives in revelations large and small.  Beauty is there, waiting to be noticed, nestled even in the trend towards material chaos that is ever-present in my home.  
 


One day we will see the original Forms, the inaugural Beauty, the heavenly Splendor, the Source.  Until then, I lean in a little when the ballerina swirls with grace; I savor the small yellow butterfly in his own wavering wind dance.  I quietly peek into a delicate pink cocoon bathed in pale nightlight where a treasured little one breathes softly and sleeps, and know that this moment of beauty was skillfully wrought for me in the very flame of His eternal love.

2.18.2011

having a Martha moment

Once my name was Martha. 

Let me try to explain.  It all goes back to 2001 when I was first given a new name: Mother.  I candidly admit that I had a hard time adjusting to this name-change.  It carried with it unspeakable exhaustion—physical, yes, I had expected that, but mental, too.  Every moment was filled with regret—that time was slipping away and I could not pin it down.  Did I take enough baby photos?  Was I gathering memories, capturing moments, living to the fullest despite the bone weary ache?  Did I rattle enough brightly colored toys, show enough flashcards, read aloud The Wall Street Journal, and spoon up organic, made-from-scratch baby food?  (Answer: Yes.)



Yet, the feeling that time was fleeting and short-lived was interlaced with a sense of neverendingness.  Days and nights and days and nights blurred as one.  The baby grew and grew but those swift moments of a sweet pink-cheeked grin, a juicy gurgle, an unsteady toddle, all occurred in an overarching timewarp that I couldn’t escape, that prevented me from a vital arms-length view of life.  All I knew is that I was laying down my life for my child, and wasn't sacrifice good?

So the milestones occurred and were documented and I was the official notary and witness, carefully signing my name: Mother.  But somehow I did not feel the fullness of appreciation; the fullness of joy.   


I think back to this era as my Martha moment. 

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.

Well, I once thought, we can’t all lounge around at Jesus’s feet all the time---hey, some of us have to do the heavy lifting around here.  The laundry, the cooking, the shopping, the picking up of incredibly random items off the floor at the end of each day.  I mean, these things add up if Martha isn’t doing her part.  We start eating frozen dinners; we misplace our favorite sweater; our Polly Pocket’s shoes are nowhere to be found without Martha.  A bit of resentment starts to seep in.  A lot of weariness.  And then one day, the tasks and chores and to-do lists overshadow the very people standing right in front of you.  Sitting on your hip.  Clamoring for your attention.  Calling your name but you no longer hear: "Mother."

I lost sight of the people and became absorbed in the sacrifice.

Becoming a first-time mother, I became a Martha. I left the feet of Jesus and went into the kitchen, never to put down the clean shiny pots and towels nicely folded and shimmering countertops and freshly pressed, hand-sewn, personally monogrammed jumpers long enough to circle back and sit down and spend time with the loved ones and the Loved One. 

Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.”  Luke 10:40-41

I thought I was doing the right thing by serving, by being a willing worker on behalf of the kids.  This was a dangerous misperception, for I lost my vision for nurturing and loving my children into their God-given calling the minute I stood up and walked away to do what I thought was more important. Worry and upset certainly followed.  But in God’s grace I had the chance to leave Martha behind, to have the time redeemed, to come back to the holy seat and cross my legs in a golden patch of warmth, feel a cool breeze and the soft grass beneath and look upon the Master once more. 

Some things will not get checked off the list as a result. You may stop for a visit and see a bouncy ball, half-finished lego car, single wooden Scrabble piece, a green pony tail holder, and a random scooby-doo action figure piled on the entry-hall table.  There might be a teeming stack of books and papers next to a kitchen telephone that blinks with unheard messages.  I may, just may, have one more Christmas box to put up even though it’s almost March.  But my children have been well-loved today, in spite of tonight's frozen pizza, and we have enjoyed moments of laughter over silly dancing, a new joke, my son’s ability to use his freshly-minted cast as a handy baseball bat.  We have talked about heaven, shared a favorite verse, prayed with each other. 

There has been a connection; they have called me Mother, and I have responded with joy to my name.


I see messy chairs and cushions; she sees a castle


yes, that is a lone potato on the floor


in the fun, Fred got separated from the rest of the Mystery Gang

2.16.2011

when mom's not happy

Today stress rose up to greet me.  Some days I wake up wanting to shake free from my own self—so out-of-sorts that I don’t even want to be in my own presence.  Tension headache, sniffly nose, general grumpiness.  Did Jesus feel stress when he turned 30, knowing he only had 3 years to save the world?  What right do I have to feel this way?

Me on edge, scowling,
70 degrees and blue skies but mom’s not happy,
trip to the park but mom’s not happy,
icees for everyone but mom’s not happy,
yummy dinner gets made but mom’s not happy,
kids play lovingly but mom’s not happy,
a perfect day but mom's not happy. 


In the background of my annoyance I hear the littlest one chanting in a sweet sing-song voice, spinning and spinning in the brown grass:

this is the day
this is the day
this is the day 

singing softly on and on, for his own exclusive pleasure, an audience of one in a happy world, stuck on single line as two year olds are wont to do… 

I will rejoice
I will rejoice
I will rejoice

He murmurs on then flings his arms wide for the finale, little fists in the air with a convincing ‘hally-loo-ya!’  Oblivious of how he is shattering my heart into a million repentant pieces. 


It's time to stop treating love as a theory and gratitude as a nice idea. 

Here, in the midst of the dark cloud of my own making, am I going to choose to live out God's love?   The plain fact is that I am comfortable here; I know my friends Frustration and Stress well.   By abiding in a familiar but damaging place, I am destroying this gift of a day while single-handedly tearing down the one house I am trying mightly to build: a safe house of God's love where I pray daily His spirit will abide.  I falter on days like this as I unwittingly teach my kids that my own faith is insufficient for joy. 

I will
I will
I will
rejoice and be glad. 

Lord, I am praying to you for consistency in all things, across all days, and asking that You will stand in the gap for me when I falter.  Let me choose to rejoice when I want to wallow in my frustrations.  Let me build my house firmly on the rock, not the shifting sand of my own feeble sentiment. 

2.14.2011

with love on valentine's day




~my always valentine~

The Divine Image
by William Blake

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk, or jew;
Where Mercy, Love, & Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.






2.12.2011

trading A’s for gold stars

In the crowded lecture hall, we sit in the dark and watch images.  Larger-than-life versions of famous paintings flash on the screen.  The professor’s voice drones.  Finally, the lights go up and everyone starts to pay attention.  Exam grades are about to be handed out.  Flimsy square blue books with red markings across our mistakes, a fat single letter circled large on the front cover.  We move forward a little in our seats, and I clutch the edge of my desk in anticipation.


A favorite essay - the model answer - will now be read to the class.  Our breath stills and we listen hard. 


I feel the familiar shiver of glory as I recognize my words.  An internal roar fills my ears from the adrenaline and the joy.  Me.  Me!!  I did it.  His words become audible as I look around the room at some very stiff competition, giving myself a silent smile and a mental high-five.  Coming out on top feels good, and I revel in the moment.  It is an ego ride down a cascading wave that will not last long, so, as he reads on, I rush to gather the short-lived mental endorphins that will feed my self-image and fuel me.

Yes, I was always good at school.  This is no real credit to me; I liked it and anything you like doing comes easier.  But I lived for the A.  I needed the A.  College is a sequence of listening, studying, and being tested.  The cycle is short; the feedback is scheduled.   Mid-terms, finals, start again.  I could hit the high and collect the self-satisfaction scattered across a smattering of courses, collectively bundle it together, and put a letter to my worth: A

~ ~ ~

So motherhood hit me hard.  There’s not a whole lot of feedback about the quality of job you are doing, so no matter how hard you try, you’d better not be looking for a good grade in the mommy department.  They don’t issue those. 

Or do they?

When my third child was born, I struggled with a bit of postpartum depression that was hard on my two and four year olds.  It was summer (she was born on 6-6-06, a blog for another day!).  We live in Florida and it was particularly hot.  I was exhausted: take-these-people-away-and-let-me-sleep kind of exhausted.  One day in mid-July, the kids were particularly animated.  They had been cooped up, trapped in the cycle of endless baby naps and feedings, and proceeded to tear apart the house.  Toys flung afar, TV blaring, there was nothing I could do to regain control.  I struggled hard and wept hard.  I’m afraid I verbalized my desperation to the older two, for they found me rocking myself on the couch, crying and chanting “I just can’t do this.  I just can’t do this. I just can’t do this.”  (I didn’t say this was a pretty post, but it gets better, I promise.)

The kids slowly backed away and disappeared.  It was very quiet in the house: too quiet.  The baby slept and I didn’t care what the older kids were doing.  I laid on the couch unable to move and hoped it didn’t involve electricity or breakables.  My golden-headed daughter, the eldest, came to me a short time later.  “Mama, get up.  Come with me.” I resisted, wanting to be still for a moment longer, as long as I could before Baby woke up. “You have to come.  PLEASE!”  

Sensing a problem, I rallied myself and allowed her to take my hand and guide me to my bedroom door.  “Close your eyes!” Okay, I thought, I can do that for certain.  I walked in and she shouted “Surprise, Mommy!” 

My room—I hardly recognized it.  She had taken an ottoman, covered it with a tablecloth, and laid out a tea party with her finest china.  Her stuffed animals had all been given seats on stacks of pillows.  They looked out over little plates of goldfish and Oreos.  But the most startling part:  there were gold stars everywhere.  Thick yellow crayon-colored stars.  Lopsided, happy stars, hand-drawn with colorful smiley faces.  Each placed carefully on white paper, cut out and taped up.  They adorned our four-poster bed and canopy, they hung from the walls and windows all around the room, lined up as far as her little hand could reach but no higher.  It was a yellow galaxy of child-like delight.

“It’s your Star Party!  Because I think you’re a star!”  She looked at me with hopeful eagerness and I dissolved.



"You are a great person"

How had a four-year-old sensed my low point and conjured up a way to make me smile?  Was I really worthy of the gold star?  Her tenderness and efforts were touching and timely.  I needed a star party and a chance to know I was doing an okay job.


 
School is a distant memory for me, but the school of life drones on and, every now and then, it’s nice to know you’re making the grade. And just for the record, I’d rather have a homemade gold star than an A any day. 

Thank you, Lord for your blessings and how you send others to care for us at just the right moment.  I pray my self-worth will come from You.  I am thankful that You speak through others, even a child, in such startling and original ways to impart Your encouragement.  I pray above all l that I will hear Your gracious words of approval in the final day:  “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

2.10.2011

going old school

I guess I am going old school.  You see, I have books on the brain.  Just this week I stood in the mall with a very rare moment to myself, nowhere to be for two hours, and I found myself pausing, asking “Where would I be if I could be anywhere?”  Surprised by the answer: the library.

When I realized the desire, I couldn’t drive there fast enough. Up the steps and into my two bags flew the unforgettable Rebecca, The Door in the Wall, Black Beauty, poetry of Robert Frost.  It was a gathering of jewels; I departed with a collection of words that transformed those mere totes into brimming treasure chests of golden expression.  I was downright giddy as I fingered the spines of each title, driving away towards home.  (In the interest of full disclosure, this plunder caused me to officially exceeded the 50-book limit imposed by the powers that be.)

If you put a literary feast out for your children, they will begin to eat.  I witness the gluttony every day. We treasure evenings around the fire in our bedroom, with Dad reading his own book and the others laid out on snatched blankets and pillows, quietly inhaling every word.  The Odyssey by Homer, Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life, Treasure Island, even the classic Nancy Drew -- we taste and eat and find it is good.



I overheard a discussion yesterday about technology, about how schools simply must offer it starting at an early age (eek-- my preschooler tossed the iPhone out the open car window just last week) and how a lack of current Apple gadgets could somehow make our kids uncompetitive in this century. (The prevalance of apathy might lead to that outcome anyway.)

I think we may be missing something here.

Susan Bauer is a bit more eloquent: she emphasizes that education should be “language-focused: learning is accomplished through words, written and spoken, rather than through images (pictures, videos, and television).  Why is this important?  Language requires the mind to work harder; in reading, the brain is forced to translate a symbol (words) into a concept. Images, such as those on videos and TV, allow the mind to be passive.”  And my favorite part:  when faced with the written page, the mind is required to roll its sleeves and get to work.” (The Well-Trained Mind, p.14)

I am not anti-technology; I am blogging after all.  Technology can strengthen education, but used poorly it seems a diversion from actual learning.  What good an iPad when children don’t have the attention span or vocabulary to read a good book?  What app will help them write well when they’ve never actually read great writing? 

Fill the storehouse of the mind with good things and there will be a harvest of wisdom.


I sit with the four and two year old, all cozy in their soft pajamas, and we revel in Charlotte’s Web.  There are giggles as Fern pushes baby Willbur in the stroller, as he breaks free from his pen for a moment of freedom.  The older two read in the flickering light of the fire: Boxcar Children for the first grader, his nineteenth book since Christmas, and the delightful All-of-a-Kind Family for the oldest.  The Wii is unplugged, the iPhone sits idle on the charger, the TV off, the computer sleeps.  These rich moments are worthy of pursuit; we lay the rails of expectation and they willingly fly down the track.

Why does it matter?  Because our days should not be filled with diversions.  God calls us to excellence.  Am I passing that calling along to my children, intentionally guiding them on this rigorous yet lively path?  For my children to strive towards godly excellence, they must be equipped to be well-versed, independent thinkers, and that will never happen if I serve them junk food (crummy books, loads of television, lots of gaming) or forget that training the mind for wisdom starts with the written word, not with early exposure to technology.   Reading the classics buys them a ticket to join in the Great Conversation of the history of western thought and helps them come to understand the subtle complexity of God’s world. 


Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Phil 4:8

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:8-9

2.07.2011

Monday sprints

Hit the ground running today after a lively night filled with needs of the restless little people.  A relief, almost, when the alarm clock sings.  6:20, up and going, seeing a 9:30 appointment deadline already rushing up to meet me.  Time accelerates.

Wet khakis thrown into the dryer, skimpy lunches packed from half-bare cupboards; my trousers, they barely button and the coffee tastes bitter.  My morning verse pools in my mind but doesn’t sink in.  I clench my teeth and run on.

Funny thing, that squeezing at the waist.  Yesterday I ran seven miles so shouldn’t my pants have room?  I ran seven, but do not consider it an accomplishment.  The miles burn and the resistance is everpresent and I feel each step in my bones.  Tap, tap, tap, tap, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale as I seek an even pace, some semblance of momentum, a steady gait, a rhythmic progression down the road.  David and four winsome kids drive by shouting words of encouragement, offering blue Gatorade and rosy smiles, just when I want to stop.  I will myself forward, parting atoms and air and creating the breeze in my ears by sheer force of effort. 


Today, here I find myself doing the same thing: running long but accomplishing little.  Yes, Monday dawns gray and I rush two older kids into uniforms, crank a cold car, drive through heavy traffic with lights on in the dreariness only to drive back across town and wake another set of kids.  A struggle to brush tangled curls and navigate irrational wardrobe choices only a four-year old could make.  A quick glance at the clock and I know we are going to be late.

I throw breakfast into two tupperwares and heave reluctant children into carseats.  They eat while I drive and apply enough makeup to thinly cover the night’s restless effects.  My muffin top bulges and fitigued muscles ache and I grip the wheel hard as it starts to rain.  I seethe and muse how three hours were not enough to make a morning appointment on time.  Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, I must continue down this path and push through time and space and finish at my destination but some days it is hard.

Children snuggly in preschool, I sit in the parking lot and raise my eyes.  Lord, I do not live in a war-torn country, I didn’t walk a mile to get my water this morning, I have my health and love and all one could ask for so why do I run with such resistance?  I want to feel gratitude but all I feel is tired.

Lord, give me feet for this race. Let me not run long and accomplish little.

So I pray for perspective.  I ask for Him to trade minor frustrations for meaningful moments when I have run so far that my oxygen-starved brain no longer allows my eyes to see clearly the path.  

As I am gripping the wheel and calling on God, my phone jumps with a new email.  A mass update from a friend’s sister, a note looking back on the death of her infant twin son one year ago, and her heartbreak penetrates every word.  Perspective delivered right to my inbox. 

Father, I need You to set the pace, help tolerate the slow burn, muster my endurance, give me perspective on what matters to You, and let me be inspired when exhaustion sets in. 

For aren’t we all in a race, running long into Your arms?

2.05.2011

rainy day parade

Rain, rain, rain.  We enjoy the closeness, snuggled up at home, until suddenly we don’t.

Someone is wise to this:  Dad suggests an evening walk in the cold wet.  The kids rally to this idea because it means using forgotten raincoats crammed in the very back of closets: the slick yellow fireman, the shiny purple with a single flower, the sassy green trench, the all-purpose red hoodie.  Then they look out the window and realize it will be cold.  Wet.  Most definitely wet.  Dark, too, very soon.  These thoughts settle uncomfortably in our minds. And Dad takes walks in the woods, not the roads. 

There is nothing quite like the resistance of a herd.

Somehow he slices through complains with unfettered brow.  We pile in, drive down, park along the woods, a trail I have never seen.  There is a sense of adventure but it is heavily outweighed by reluctance to get out of the car.  Maybe it’s the survivalist in me, or the wimp, or the comfort lover, but these occasions aren’t my gig. 

The sun is gone and the cold rain pitter pats on the windshield.

Dad silently gets out and starts walking.  We better hustle up because he has the keys and won’t be coming back soon.  Our troop begins a colorful march, an unseen twilight parade of purples, yellows, greens, reds.   At first there are complaints.  The rain!  The mud!  The cold!  Dad walks on.   We are silent and small beneath the tall trees, the dark silhouettes of pine branches far above.  Then I start to hum and the little one slips his warm hand into mine.  The older two find walking sticks and begin to explore.  Dad whistles a tune.  The sweet girl spins her ballerina umbrella with the ruffled edge.  Someone starts reciting scripture due for tomorrow’s exam, and the rhythm of the walking noises and the togetherness lifts our spirits and I don’t know how it happens every time but our reluctance is transformed into undeserved fun.  Fun!  We’re in a moment of joy, in spite of ourselves.   

I almost missed this.  We all did. 


Sitting at home, each doing something relatively meaningless, we would never know the beauty of the twilight, the delicacy of light rain in the middle of the woods, the pleasure of being outside and together, cold cheeked but warm within.

I walk and think about this, and am thankful yet profoundly sad.  What else have I missed, what blessings have passed me by?  I am confident my life is strewn with blessings never claimed, now impossible to recover.

One blessing I almost missed I well know.  Number Four.  If God would have asked before sending, I might have said no, God, do you see I already have a baby, a one year old?  A three year old?  A five year old?  I would’ve resisted.  The diapers!  The mess!  The exhaustion!   No, dear Lord, my plate is full.  I’ll pass.



But the Lord knows the blessing beyond, and He gave and we accepted and it took some adjustment but now His blessing has a face.  That very face looks up from the muddy ground and asks me to hold him.  I lift him up, up, up into my arms, and put his cold cheek to mine and blow a soft puff of warm air in his ear.  He giggles while he inhales, a sucking in of life and love: his signature laugh.   He looks at me with green eyes flecked gold and a happy grin and puts his two hands to my cheeks and nose to my nose. 

We are standing in the woods in the dark and the rain. 

I look at him and know I almost missed this.  This tiny lovable guy with a long road of his own blessings stretching before him.  Generations of his offspring:  his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren.  I almost missed them, too. 


For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:10-12