Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Luckiest

The Man told me if I went our entire vacation without writing, I would not be any fun to be with, so here I am. And I just want to say that, as I listen to happy music on a Tuesday night in a Navy lodge while the Brown Eyed Boys sleep in the next room and the Man is out running: I am the luckiest.

This may come as a shock for those of you who have been praying for our family this week--both the boys and I evidently have some kind of bacterial infection and our whole trip (so far) has been full of coughing and fevers and snot--but I wouldn't trade it for a different trip and definitely not for a different family.

Because all of the coughing and fevers and snot has led to a whole lot of this:

And those of you who know Tiny, know he doesn't like to sit still for even a second, much less a snuggle.
And now that the boys have seen a doctor and are officially on antibiotics, I anticipate a whole lot more of this:

Also, there will be much more of this:

How can you not feel like the luckiest when you get to spend all day looking at that?

My in-law's yard is one of my favourite things. And the Man's mother has very purposefully reminded me that this is supposed to be a vacation for us, so I've been spending many hours on their porch swing looking out at real trees and real grass and real live flowers and listening to the silence that is Not Wind. It's feeding my soul. The fact that the boys can run around the yard supervised by a winning combination of two uncles, one aunt, a Paw and a Nana is also feeding my soul.

And when I say, with a smile, that I am the luckiest, I realize that it's because we are given good gifts, and I just wanted to share with you a few of mine. It may also be because I had the good fortune to marry the Man, but I don't want you to feel jealous that there's only one of him. That would be mean of me.

Also, there has been Indian food.

And zoo giddiness. Little Man lost his mind over riding a "for real" train and getting to watch the elephants take a bath.

So yeah, there's no way a little bit of mucus is going to get us down.

The End.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sovereignty and Sweating the Small Stuff

You know that saying about the straw that breaks the camel's back? I'm learning what that means. 

Sunday morning I woke up with a sore throat and cat barf on the bedroom carpet and not enough sleep and the wrong Sunday School material prepared, and the list could go on indefinitely. And I asked the Man as we drove to church, "If I really believe in God's sovereignty, I mean, really believe that God is not just strong enough but also loving enough and at the same time thoroughly in control of my life, then how does that affect how I react? How does that dictate my response to the small stuff?"

And then my week continued on in that vein: unexpected doctor's appointments, cancelled plans, rearranged schedules, interpersonal friction, sleepless nights, family-wide sinus problems, broken fingernails (kidding!). And I kept thinking about that question: how does God's sovereignty change my reaction to the straw that's piling up on this camel's back?

Do I really believe, as Ann Voskamp says, that with God there are no emergencies?

At some point yesterday, there was that straw that finally broke the camel's back. That small stone on the mountain of tiny pebbles that caused the avalanche. And I put my head down on the kitchen table and cried. 

Can I tell you something? 

That was okay.

Because after I cried, I remembered: the God who loves me is in control; this is just small stuff; and there are no emergencies.

Today I systematically brushed the straw off the camel's back, piece by piece. It will pile up again soon, and I will brush it off again. But the straw is no less in God's control while it's on the camel's back then when it's off.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Los Perritos y Yo

We have been dog sitting this week. 

I have taken this as a viable reason to excuse myself from pretty much anything and everything. Completely legitimate, I know.

This is not a long-term solution to life and currently has me on the couch eating marshmallows and keeping a beady eye the Weather Channel, but in the short term, we have a very nice carpet of multi-coloured dog hair and I'm getting my exercise walking both dogs as well as wrestling them to the ground for every infraction in an effort to keep my neighbors from thinking I've started a dog-fighting ring in the back yard. In the interim, however:

Mop the floors? Nah...
Do the dishes? Over rated.
Clean the bathrooms? Why bother.
Find a babysitter? Ugh.
Blog? I think not.

Swim in a sea of dogginess? Looks like a yes.

Let a pack of rabid hounds do post-meal clean up? Why not.

The canines and the boys have taken over the house. I need to go hide in a cocoon of girliness. Do cocoons of girliness exist? I've been in the man-cave for so long that I really just don't know any more. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Memories for my Mom

Dear Mom,

This morning I made your oatmeal muffins for breakfast. And then I decided that since I was on an oatmeal kick, I should make your oatmeal cookies too.

I've been trying to make your oatmeal cookies for five years now, and this is the first time they've turned out right. They didn't flatten out into weird shaped pancakes. They didn't disintegrate into exploding cookie shards. They didn't end up looking like fried eggs.

I never realized how much they depended on that perfect combination of talent, hard work, and blind luck.

Tonight, as I washed the dishes and watched the weather, I was thinking of you.

Mostly I was thinking about that time I came home on school break and we made oatmeal cookies and only actually baked a dozen cookies because we ate so much of the dough. We were pretty sick afterwards, but that dough was good. That's one of my favourite memories with you. Not because I don't have hundreds of other wonderful memories with you, but just because it was so much fun to laugh with you and do something that was just...being together.

Also, in case I haven't told you this, you have a fantastic laugh.

As I rinsed out the last dish and the steam from the sink fogged up the wind battered window, I realized why I'd been thinking about you all day.

You emailed me this morning about your dad.

I know it's hard to not be here right now. It's hard to not be here when your parents are aging, when the days your daddy remembers you are growing fewer and fewer. I know it's hard for you to not be able to help, even in the small ways, that you would be able to help with if you were here, instead of there. I know it's hard to be half a world away when the parents you love are aching, fading, dying.

I know because I know you.

You taught me how to be a daughter, just like you taught me how to be a mother.

Perhaps both too are a combination of talent, hard work, and, maybe not blind luck, but grace.

I know that you have memories with your own daddy, like I have memories with you. Memories that play themselves out subconsciously, perhaps, when we are missing each other, when we are longing for nearness. So I just wanted to remind you that, on the other side of the globe, I am baking oatmeal cookies and thinking of your laughter.

And soon, Buster Daddy is going to remember again his own moments with you too.

I love you.

PS The pictures of the boys are just because I know you'd rather have them than a letter any day. msf

Monday, April 8, 2013

Lenten Reading! (That did not deserve an exclamation point.)

The Man is watching baseball, and I think the kids are finally asleep. Let's be honest: I know Tiny is asleep. He is passed out cold on his back with his stuffed sheep draped casually across his face. Well, I moved it, but it was there originally. Whether or not the Little Man has made it to dreamland is yet to be determined, but we are hopeful. Somewhat.

At any rate, I wanted to just jot a little note about what I read during Lent, in between all the gastrointestinal fun that was going around our house. My brother-in-law is the king of free Kindle books, and he sent me a note letting me know that Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett's Did the Resurrection Happen...Really?: a Dialogue on Life, Death, and Hope was cheap as free. So I got it. And I read it. And I'm really glad I did.

I will be blunt: witty conversations, thrilling story lines, multi-dimensional characters--these things are not to be had. But making the theology of the resurrection accessible by putting it in a novella format? It worked for me. There was a lot of information presented, both historical and theological, but it wasn't overwhelming as it was broken up into easily digestible sections. It also helped that valid questions were raised by several of the characters, and the bulk of the dialogue was given in different settings and between different speakers. I will caveat that if you are not at all interested in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (whether that means for or against) you will find this book extremely dull. I, however, really enjoyed it. To each their own!

And now my husband is saying that he'll quit watching baseball if I will be done blogging and he'll hang out with me instead. I'm so much more interesting than men in tight pants throwing things at each other and pretending to run, right?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ripples and Remembering

He was taking off his socks as he perched precariously on the green frog stool. He grinned cheekily up at me, his shoulder bones poking out behind him like undersized wings. The bath water ran steadily. His brother pounded on the toilet lid.  I picked up grass-stained clothes, poured in bubble bath, saved a roll of toilet paper from imminent death.

He was taking off his socks when he looked up at me and said, "When he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them..."

He was taking off his socks, and he opened his mouth and out came some of the first few words of the Sermon on the Mount, clear as day.


One of the ways I have been trying to choose the Good Portion this year is that I am slowly (very slowly) memorizing the Sermon on the Mount. Memorizing is not my gift. Remembering anything is not my gift. To put it bluntly: I'm lucky if I remember to flush the toilet. Remembering three entire chapters of the Bible? The chances are slim.

But I've been plugging away diligently. I'll frequently review the verses I've learned as I walk the dog and push the double stroller (or rather, get pulled by the dog and drag the double stroller behind me). I try to say the words conversationally, occasionally stopping to discuss them with the Little Man, but I didn't really think he was listening. Sometimes, with our crazy Oklahoma wind, I doubt he can even hear, much less listen, but something was sinking in.

But that's the thing about choosing the Good Portion. It doesn't just affect me. It didn't just affect Mary when she chose the Good Portion. When she sat down at Jesus's feet, just to listen, just to learn, it set off an entire chain of events that, in the big picture, pointed others towards Christ. If Mary hadn't chosen Jesus, she would have been in the kitchen with Martha. Martha would never have been frustrated by her lack of help. Martha would never have accused Jesus of not caring and demanded Mary's help. Most likely, Martha would have seamlessly served the perfect dinner and patted herself on the back for her hospitality, her heart no closer to Jesus than it was before he came.

Don't hear me bashing Martha or her incredible spirit of service, but I find myself asking the question: if I draw near to Christ, will that leave a hole in someone else's life that will force them forward, out of the comfort zone of their kitchen and into Christ's presence? If I draw near to Christ, how do the ripple effects disturb the rest of the pond? If I draw near to Christ, without thought for an audience, who might yet be watching?

I didn't want to mention on here that I am trying to memorize the Sermon on the Mount. Mostly because I don't like publicly setting goals there's a good chance I won't achieve, but also because I'm terrified of seeming Super-Christiany. In all honestly: I'm really, really bad at this. But I really, really want to understand more of who Jesus Christ is, and I know the best way to do that is to listen to what He said.
I'm sharing all of this with you just to encourage you, not to challenge you--I haven't earned the right to challenge anyone in this area--but to encourage you. Because every choice counts. Every step matters. Every ripple leads to another.
And even if it's two steps forward, one step back (or two steps forward, two steps back), and even if you don't see the purpose or the prize, and even if you're tired and want to quit, you matter. What you do matters. Who you are matters. And Christ loves that you are stumbling into His presence, however slowly and clumsily.
And sometimes he'll use a grubby kneed three year old to tell you just that.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Morning Ritual

This morning, my house looks like this:

{insert photo of four crazy kids giggling and squealing as they bounce exuberantly in the pillow fort they have constructed by raiding the entire house for pillows, large and small--I took said photo, but it refused to upload}

This morning, I look like this:

And I'll tell you a secret: this is what I look like every morning around this time. Plus or minus a certain level of vivacity (two of the four kids terrorizing my home today were dropped off at 530 this morning).

The truth is that I have a new morning ritual. After feeding the kids breakfast and kicking off the day, I sit at the kitchen table and drink my coffee and finish the half of my breakfast I didn't get to eat because I was pouring juice and wiping up yogurt and breaking up fights. I drink said coffee and eat said breakfast and allow myself to just sit and read blogs that encourage my heart and my creativity while the kids rampage with a little less supervision than usual.

This makes me sound like that stay at home mom. I also watch soap operas all day while lounging in my boudoir and eating bonbons. LIES!

I only let myself do this until the coffee is gone, and since I never make a full pot, this doesn't last as long as you'd think it would. But I cannot tell you the blessing of sanity that this has poured into my life. I can browse Ann Voskamp and the Nester and Emily Freeman and actually drink coffee that's hot, and then when I'm finished, the dishes get put in the dishwasher, the first load of laundry gets shifted to the dryer, and I am a better mommy to my kids.

Besides, I'm convinced that this falls under the umbrella of God giving good gifts to those He loves.

Anyway, today I told myself that since I was going to have two extra kids under my umbrella of parenting that I would be a better mom and forego my new ritual, but then I realized that taking twenty minutes to put caffeine in my system was probably the best thing I could do in that moment. Besides, two more kids means twice the fun for my kids and half the reading distractions.

And now my coffee is gone.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I Get High...

...with the help of acrylic sealer and Mod Podge!

And if the Man has a random drug test at work tomorrow, we may be in trouble because the fumes, man, the fumes...they're bad.

Anyway, I did this tonight:

And the ink smeared, which was both disappointing and unexpected, because I did those pen and ink thingies almost eight years ago, and I really didn't know that ink could still smear after almost a full decade. I am blonde. Live and learn. So I'm disappointed that they are not pristine, but I may still put them up just to prove to myself that I did something (anything!). And to remind myself of the really fun hallucinations I'm having after breathing in all this spectacularly scented air. Kidding! Mostly.

At this point, I just keep reminding myself that it is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all, and potentially better to have loved and lost, oh, never mind. But this is true: I may not be one of those people who get everything right the first time (unless there are explicit instructions that include telling me when to breathe), but I do have a great time laughing at myself while I fantastically and artistically nose dive into failure.

In the end, I now have very fun and very well-smeared pen and ink items for my bathroom wall. Or some place else in my home where only those tied to me by the everlasting bond of marriage go. But then again, maybe I will throw these things in the trash, delete this post, and pretend like this never happened.

Decisions, decisions...