Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sidewalks, Poop, and Flashlights

Patrick and I are having an awesome getaway. We spent the day prowling around Toronto: buying presents for the kids and enjoying the sunshine. Today I'm wearing a beautiful blue sweater from my mom, and I feel gorgeous in it. It makes my belly pop, and I'm pretty happy about this baby, so I kind of like that I'm obviously showing these days.

Just as we were walking back to the hotel so I could enjoy putting my feet up a bit, we passed some people sitting on their front step. I smiled politely at them like a good Canadian, and suddenly one of the women shouted at me, "Oooh biiiig woman!"

Yup. She was calling me fat.

We kept walking. I wanted to tell her off, to call her on her rudeness, to dismiss her as trash. I wanted to say lots of mean things, because I was hurt.

I've always been sensitive about my size, but on this day when I was feeling especially lovely and evidently pregnant, it seemed to hurt extra.

My sister's yoga instructor recently encouraged her class to practice walking outside with their hands turned - palms up, 'to receive what the universe has to give.' So the next time she walked her dog, my skeptical sister decided to give it a shot. She uncurled her fists and flattened her palms toward the sky. And when she looked down to see what she'd been given, she had to laugh. In her hands were two unsurprising items: a flashlight and a bag of dog poop. Her life tools, perhaps?

And it keeps sticking in my head because it's funny - and kind of true in a big simple sense. The things people give us can either make it easier to walk our path - like flashlights - or they can make it harder - yep, like piles of dog poop.

And when I'm walking along minding my own business and someone hands me a big stinky glob, I just want to hurl it right back. Which, I know, is precisely the opposite of what Jesus wants me to do.  Because He gave me His lamp - His word - and it says to do good to those who are unkind to me. 

So I get to choose. Every time. Do I return evil for evil, or do I turn on my flashlight and step around it instead?

Today, turning on my flashlight looked like walking by without retorting.  Even though I'm pretty fiery of temper.  Even though she was mean.  Even though I felt my face burn with a pretty harsh combination of anger and embarrassment. 

I get to choose.  And sometimes I do let my temper reign, and find myself regretfully cleaning it up later.  But for every stinky mess I encounter, God quietly reminds me I am not without light. 

God bless you, friends. May your sidewalks always be clear - and if they aren't, may your flashlight be bright.

Xo.

Friday, April 8, 2016

I've Got You

It has been a rough month. The ten-day flu made its way through our house, and after that, a week-long cold - and I'm pregnant, so sick and unmedicated and extra tired anyway. Kachi is bringing in four molars all at once, so that's fun too.

What it boils down to?  Wakeful kids, exhausted parents, and extra laundry. 

In the middle of the night last night I was up for the fourth - fifth? - time. Kachi was crying again, 'owie owie owie mamaaaaaa,' and Patrick (who is the Kachi whisperer) was already cuddling a stuffed - up Sam,  helping him blow his nose and holding him as he went back to sleep.  I climbed wearily out of bed but couldn't quite face Kachi just yet.

I stood in the hallway waiting for the dizziness to clear, willing Kachi to miraculously fall back asleep, gathering my energy to open his door and comfort him, when the best thing happened.

I felt God's presence suddenly, warm and vivid in the dark, right there with me. And He spoke so clearly to my heart.

It's okay. I've got you. This is good for you. I've got you.

It washed over me like a wave.

It's okay. I've got you.  This is good for youI've got you. 

Not I'll make it stop.
Not buck up.
Not well, you prayed for this.
No.

Just the deep assurance that this - even this - was planned for me, for my good. That in every moment, He's got me.

And wouldn't you know it, like a bow on top of this gift, Kachi did fall back asleep and I crawled gratefully back into bed. 

Next week, my super pro mama is coming to man the kids and Patrick and I get to take a little trip together without them, and I am so excited to sleep - sleep - sleep like I used to before I ever had kids.  Sleep whenever I want, lie in bed late, get out of bed and lie around again if I like ... and I am so grateful for the chance to get away. But if I had to pick between a decade or two of rotten sleep with my kids, and a lifetime of good sleep without them, you know what I'd pick.  :)

When Kachi woke up again an hour later, I cuddled him close and brought him a drink. 

"It's okay," I whispered, "I've got you."

Know what, friend?
He's got us.

Whatever your night is - He's got you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pray for Mine

Tonight Kachi barfed in the tub.
Probably from slurping soap, maybe from getting right into the water after eating supper.
And nope, Patrick and I aren't sure which, because we don't have our eyes glued on him every waking moment. 
This afternoon I helped a neighbour carry her groceries into her house. Sam followed me outside, and played in the snow in our front yard while I popped inside with the bags. When I came out of the house, he was on the street corner throwing a snowball at a passing car.
My heart breaks when I read about people judging Chase Marten's parents for not watching him in the few moments it took for him to wander out of sight. That could be me.
That could be my child.
Parenting is a constant guessing game of what is the best choice for an entire family at any given moment. Does the off chance that someone could get hurt stop us from living life? No - it can't.  It can't.
Pray for the Martens.
Pray for your family.
And pray for mine.
xo.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why Are You Following Me?

For the first time in their young lives, Sam is starting to want some occasional space from Vava.

March Break stretched long after a week off school from illness, and Sam was missing his friends and big kid activities.  Vava, on the other hand, was over the moon to have Sam around all day again.

After asking permission to go to the basement to play with his small Lego  (we try to keep it out of Kachi's reach, so it's not with the rest of the toys), Sam opened the basement door and found Vava hot on his heels.

"Why are you following me?" he asked.

"Because I just love you so much," she explained nonchalantly, pulling the door closed behind her.

I didn't hear the rest of the conversation but I couldn't help grinning.

The word of God, right there in her mouth.

That's why those of us who love Jesus will find ourselves singing about the cross, come Sunday.  Why we will open and retell the bloody story of the crucifixion. Why we will contemplate the holy transaction - Jesus suffering in our place for our sin, granting us His own place as free children of God. Why we will weep for gladness as the truth of the resurrection sweeps over us yet again, that glorious triumph of Life over death. 

Yes. In the face of His love, His sacrifice, His shattering power, we have only one answer when He asks -

Why are you following Me?

We just love You so much.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Leaning

Vava is a fearless jumper. That kid will climb and leap right along with her big brother, scamper up a ladder and stand on top of slides and jump to the ground instead of sliding down.  At home, she is allowed to jump from the fourth step - and she regularly asks if she's big enough to jump from the fifth, promising me cheerfully that she'll be careful not to die.  I love it.  I love that she's brave and bold and determined. I value the skills of risk management that she displays - she's aware of her physical limits but instead of being fearful, she's challenged by them. 

Not in every way, though. She is not an upside-down fan. She has always hated being held upside down, leaning too far backwards, or feeling at all like she's about to learn practical gravity head first. (She comes by it honestly - I can't stand the disorientation of being upside down.)

Every time she needs help in the bathroom, I hear a little gasp of fear when I ask her to lean forward and rest against my legs so I can wipe her little backside. Tonight she sighed with relief as she hopped off the toilet. "That's the scariest feeling in the world," she explained, "leaning."

And I felt like God was holding up a mirror in front of my soul.

Leaping? Climbing? Doing sudden and big things when He makes it clear to my heart that He wants me to? No problem. I  can make that jump. Like Vava with high places, I know Him. I've tested some of the big ladders and I know what happens. Trusting Him in big circumstances is a whole lot of thrill. I can jump from that fifth step and remain confident that He will be faithful. I can hurl myself off a ladder, because I've landed gleefully on that pile of cushions at the bottom before.

When I felt that God wanted me to volunteer in Zambia for a year, it wasn't hard to say yes. He had been preparing my heart for an adventure, for the cost, for being away from my family. That kind of jumping is dizzying ... but delicious.  It's got direction and speed and the difference it makes is huge.  And it's fun.

But leaning? Trusting on someone else to hold me up? Choosing to let go of control for an uncertain length of time and depending on them to make sure I'm okay? I'm not so good at that kind of disorientation. I'd prefer to be the boss of which end is up, to see where I'm going and decide just when my feet leave the ground.

Leaning is that everyday kind of faith, the kind that obeys the ordinary command in scripture to discuss offences with the person who offended you instead of gossiping about them with everyone else (won't that be awkward?). It's the faith that prays for a gentle heart in the face of irritation and misunderstanding (it would be such a relief to roll my eyes or snap some sarcasm right now!). It's the faith that trusts that God is there even when you haven't had any thrilling little hints of His presence (oh sure ... like He really cares to hang around while I'm making a casserole *zzz*).

Leaning is boring and difficult and scary.  And the temptation to give up and just stand on my own strength is a lot bigger than when He invites me to jump.

But there are some things that require leaning.  Logically, if I can trust God when He asks me to leap, I shouldn't find it hard to trust Him when He asks me to lean. 

But I do.

I start to worry the leaning won't end. I start to fear what might happen if He decides not to hold me up. I - not intentionally, but unconsciously - think I'll be better at holding myself up than He is. 
And instead of remembering those everlasting arms, I just think about falling. And that ... that's the scariest feeling in the world.

My little mirror is right. Jumping is exciting and fun. The scariest feeling in the world?

Leaning.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

And Unicorns

There are things you have taught me, sweet daughter -
Like how to juggle two kids at once,
That tiny babies can love stuffies from the beginning,
And how to forgive freely -
Things that only you could have taught me.

You have shown me how to talk to God -
With arms stretched up to heaven,
With twirling and clapping in celebration
For a blue sky or for that rainbow that splashes on the carpet every afternoon -
You talk to Him openly, freely, with a full heart.

You point me toward Him, you curious arrow,
When you seem to be aiming in much the wrong direction.
Your angry eyebrows and fury when you stub your toe,
Your need to vent rage before you seek comfort,
Shoot my heart straight up to Him
Because He allows me room to be angry too
Before He folds me quiet in His peace.

You want to see His great white horse
And pet it, if He says you may,
And you have a steady expectation
That in His house you will be able to hug Him,
And unicorns.

You vivid spark, you teach me so much
About loving and hoping and being.
You sit at my feet and
I sit at your feet and
Together we sit at His feet
And love Him.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Fit What?!

One of my friends got a fitbit today.  He shared his first day's results and it was kind of cool to see his day broken down into fitnessy categories. Among other things, it noted how many steps he took and how many calories he burned. 

Sometimes it feels like I don't accomplish much in a day, but when I look back I realize I've done a lot.

Yep.

I think toddler parents should have trackers too.  (Normal people have brains for this, but ours are too sleep-deprived.)

They could track all the weird sentences we didn't think we'd ever say. 
(Samples from today:
Don't lick the puddle!
What's the rule about eating brains? (You may only eat mama & papa's brains.))

They could identify just what disorder each cartoon character is suffering from, so we'll be able to recognize it when our little tv addicts manifest symptoms later in life. (Is Mayor Goodway suffering from delusions? Is she really running Adventure Bay or is her first name just Mayor? Why doesn't she spend any municipal funds on an actual emergency service? Is Adventure Bay even a municipality? What's a municipality again?)

They could track how much time we waste pondering the complexity of kids shows. (Ibid.)

They could calculate how much food the kids ate. (Subtract food thrown on floor and scavenged by Hangry Mama from total food prepared minus crusts and spills.)  Or maybe the sheer volume of bodily fluids expertly wiped from multiple bottoms?  Or the number of times mama kept her cool when she really felt like snapping.

Or, since I'm dreaming, maybe they could measure and save the things we really want to know.

What moment from this ordinary, messy day will etch into that little brain forever? The simple goodness of provision - food to eat, clothes to wear, hugs and kisses and comfort, or the rushing and tearing to meet the bus on time? The unfairness of that time out or the kiss and make up afterward? The long walk in icy puddles or the fat cookie at the end?

Maybe they could tell us just what that misbehaving little one actually needs. Sunshine? Solitude? Stricter boundaries? Lenience?  Less sugar? More water? A visit from Grampie?  A vacation in Hawaii?

I don't know. 

Maybe parents do a lot more than we can calculate, even when we stop and think about it.  (Or whatever we do in the five seconds between last-last-last-last kisses and snoring into oblivion.)

I folded and put away laundry this morning.  But i didn't just fold and put away clothes ... I paid attention to the kids at the same time. I answered Vava's questions about unicorns and realized a whiny Kachi needed to be carried on one hip while I worked.  I caught Sam before he pushed Kachi and instead of getting in his face, realized he needed some one-on-one connecting time before we dealt with the roughness. And while it's not much - it's nothing extraordinary or even anything to note in the busyness of the day - it's what they needed, and I knew it even without a device.

So no, maybe parents of toddlers can't say they accomplished much on their to-do list today ... but papas and mamas , I bet you accomplished exactly what your kids needed today.

You've done things a fitbit couldn't dream of tracking.  You've done them for the thousandth time.

And tomorrow you're going to get up and do it all over again.

Press on, parents!
I'll be over here, corralling zombies, over-analyzing cartoons, and hopefully preventing the little one from drinking too many puddles.

;)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Look Full in His Wonderful Face

While Vava and Kachi were eating lunch yesterday, I was preparing Kachi's nap time bottle. My back was toward the kids, and Vava hopped down off her chair and stood behind me.

"Turn around, Mama," she said, "I want to look at you!"

So I turned around and she looked at me and then she clapped and danced and waggled and shouted, "hooray! I love you, Mama!"

I stood there and let her bright love wash over me like a rainbow.  And I felt God smile, nodding, as He gave me a taste of His own joy.

A long time ago, my heart was hurting and tired. A friend comforted me with these lyrics: turn your eyes upon Jesus / look full in His wonderful face / and the things of earth will grow strangely dim / in the light of His glory and grace.

(I'm a big fan of this version, although the 90s hair in the video makes me giggle.)

And nothing has ever been as comforting as that advice. Thinking about Him - his life, His character, His might - settles me and puts my storms to rest. I come to Him, heart heavy, or cranky, or fighting, and just look at Him ... and find peace.

It's been a while since I've really looked at Him, just thought about Him.  I love that He doesn't leave me until I am drained dry. He reminded me pretty adorably, pretty vividly, yesterday.

It's so simple, isn't it? Loving God, I mean. It's just like that - we look at Him, and then respond. 

And maybe you clap and dance and waggle and shout.  Maybe you ask Him for something to do. Maybe you look at Him and burst into song. Maybe you write (lame and embarrassing) poetry in your journal. Maybe you stop and just thank Him for His holy beauty, His goodness, His presence.  Maybe you fast.  Maybe you give.  Maybe you comfort the hurting or fight on behalf of the oppressed.  Maybe you carry friends to Him in prayer.  Whatever it is, looking at Him - really looking at Him - will fill you to overflowing with it.

And as it does, your heart radiates this sweet glory, "Hooray! I love you, Father!"

I don't know what you've got going on, but maybe you're like me and you need to pause and turn your eyes on Jesus.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Soft

In 2014, I chose the word brave as my watchword - I wanted that to be my heart's focus. 

Last year, I made three new-year goals and ended up striving hard after just one: not being late :).  (I'm not there, but am surely improving.)

And, in God's own never-late way, He waited until halfway through February this year to tilt my heart in another direction.

This year, I'm praying for softness.
I want to be soft of heart and soft with the broken and hurting.
I want to be softer of voice, and softer in spirit.
I want to let God soften me, instead of resisting the inconveniences and struggles He sends.
Soft.

Check out this beautiful post.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

By Vava, Age 3

When I grow up I will be a white horse. A mama white horse.  And she will have a baby in her belly. And when the baby is born her heart will break into many many sharp and shivery pieces. And they will be all over the ground, so slippery, and they will be lava.

Friday, January 29, 2016

If I Could Do Anything?

Guys, I had the weirdest moment the other day.

I was scrolling through my news feed and  came across a motivational pic - you know the kind, big scenery, papyrus font - asking this question: if you could do or be anything in the world (and money is no object) what would that be?  Make it happen.

And normally I don't even read motivational bits but I laid back on the couch and stared up at bare branches against a white sky to think about this one.

And my mind went blank.

I couldn't think of a single thing I'd rather do. 

I shook my head and thought harder, because surely there's got to be something?  (Contentment isn't usually my preset.)

I love to write. I love to read. I love the beach. I love warm weather.  But would I prefer to be sitting on a beach, reading, writing, with no Patrick? No hilarious, frustrating goons pulling me out of my innate laziness?  No morning sickness and no meals to cook and nobody singing adorably to themselves, lost in play?

I really wouldn't.

I found myself grinning up at the naked tree in the cold sky.

This life is my favourite.

I mean, would I love to be slim and have better skin and be living this crazy life on a gorgeous island with a beautiful self-cleaning house and all my extended family and friends nearby? Yes! But would I give this up to pursue something else? Not in a million years.

This is my answer, motivational pic: I love my circus. And I'm deep-in-my-bones grateful that I get to live it every day.

Monday, January 25, 2016

I Want to Read About Going Home

It's probably the pregnancy hormones. In fact, I'm sure it is. But the other night I read a headline that just killed me. Patrick came to bed a good 20 minutes after I'd thrown down my phone in disgust, and I'd been sobbing the whole time. I couldn't seem to get a handle on my response.

This world is so warped and there is so much nauseating evil that sometimes you just find yourself crying in the dark begging God to make it all end. 

The other night Sam picked up my Bible,  climbed into a cozy chair, and announced, "I want to read about going home."

Oh my sweet boy. Me too. Me too.

Here - this is not our home. This is soaked in sin and reeks of cruelty .. wounds and bruises and putrifying sores.

I don't want to read the headlines. I want to read about going home.

But I am so glad that Jesus chose the opposite way.

He left home and plunged into this place, this gasping shame, and placed his hands right on the filthy body of humanity. He spread out his arms and took our sin and provided the cleansing stream of salvation in His own body on the cross.  He came to us. And knew far more than a headline worth of our depths. And knew our hurt. And knew our rage. And loved us. And loved us. And loved us.

And so I don't get to just hide in my house and read about heaven (although that's good). I don't get a speedy pass out of the wounds and bruises and sores that surround me (although someday I will, yes, find myself in my long home). 

Instead I get the charge to bear the same grace, the same comfort, the same mercy that has healed my same wounds.  To live the gospel and speak peace and hope and serve the hurting in Jesus' name. His hands don't hide from the agony - they reach toward it. His heart doesn't close up to avoid the pain - it opens wide in welcome.  He didn't keep himself out of this fray - he came. He came. He healed and nourished and comforted and taught and died for all of our sin. 

And he tells us all, all of us who have been so comforted and forgiven and made well in His care: go and do likewise.

And then someday ... we'll all go home.