Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pouring Out

I come with joy, a child of God, forgiven, loved and free, the life of Jesus to recall in love laid down for me, in love laid down for me.     ~ I Come With Joy (hymn)

I nearly went deaf.

This child of God contained such Joy, and had contained it through two weeks of missed worship and Sunday School, that it leapt forth from her mouth with vigor and volume - free.

This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia ...
Her exuberance, directed toward my right ear, left it ringing for a moment afterwards. I'm fairly sure the customers at the donut shop next door were made aware of this precious child's enthusiasm and exultation. Every Alleluia in every song was not just sung, but exclaimed as she did on Easter. I'm sure the Pastor who was filling in for our Pastor was at least a little taken aback at my daughter's jubilance. 

I found a part of me flinching at her unrestrained joy, her unbridled show of faith. Having grown up in the Catholic church, it's not in my worship programming to be so free to express the depth of what I feel during worship. 

But my spirit, my spirit leaps with love and joy and an urge to join this awe-inspiring adulation and whirls around her as the last hymn finds her dancing in the center aisle. 

I reel her in as the crucifer, acolytes, and pastor approach. Her eyes meet mine, reflecting the brilliance of the moment, the light in her heart. 

"God fills me up so much it all just comes pouring out!" she later tells me. 

"I believe that," I say, my eyes brimming over. You see, God filled me up so much, it just came pouring out.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Madhouse


Over two weeks of sick makes for a very cranky family. It's been a madhouse here lately. A mad house. People have been getting upset with other people for minor infractions and imagined hurts. This is a clear sign that we've been cooped up for too long. These children need to run free. They need space. They honestly need to get as far away from each other as possible.

And this Mama needs rest. 

Thank God for warm-ish weather and open windows and birds chirping. Thank God also for friends who call and ask if Mama would like to escape for a treat on a night Daddy is home to wrangle kids and for friends who call and ask if they can drop by so best friends can play and mamas can chat. And for kids old enough to stay home and take care of each other while Mama runs errands or attends worship. And for well-timed acupuncture and massage appointments for Mama.

There are benefits to a house full of sick kids. Mama got lots of snuggle time, did lots of reading to children, played games with children, and enjoyed forced downtime without feeling like she should be doing something constructive. She was reminded that all those things are incredibly constructive and are in fact not only important, but essential every day. 

But now, children, emerge from this madhouse and run free. And go get a dirty chai for your exhausted Mama, who be in bed trying to catch up on all those hours spent tending to children's nighttime needs instead of peacefully slumbering.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Narblies, Elephants, and Family

"It's not the cough that carries you off, it's the coffin they carry you off in."
This morning I found myself saying this to one of my coughing kids, and as I was saying it, I could hear my father saying it to me. 

There are things I say to my kids that my parents said to me at one point or another  and things we say to our kids or that our kids say that make no sense to people outside of our family, unless they know us very well.
Just the other night at choir rehearsal, sitting next to my mother, after someone asked how many days were in April, I started, 
"Thirty days hath September, April, June, and no wonder all the rest eat peanut butter except Grandma, she drives a Buick." 
My mother joined me partway through, and everyone in attendance looked at us as if we'd lost our minds.
 
In my family, we often remove narblies from things. The word narbly originates with Alexander, who used it to describe the stringy things on bananas, which are actually called phloem (pronounced flom). From there, it went on to describe any string hanging off of something. It's not odd to find a child asking if we can cut a narbly off their shirt.
I bet you didn't know that you need to make sure you have your elephant with you if you go out in the rain. Normal people call such things umbrellas, but not my Mom. Well, not that one time, anyway, and we've never let her live it down.

Then there are q-tip emergencies. I have what my five year old calls "leaky ears" and every once in a while, need a cotton swab and fast. This, my friends, is a q-tip emergency. When a q-tip emergency is announced, my kids stop in their tracks and the one closest to the bathroom dashes to bring me some cotton swabs to deal with my ear issues.

It's also not uncommon for someone in my house to say something, and for one or more of us to burst out in song. 

"I don't know what to do."


What to do? What to say? Shall you carry our treasure away?  
~Les Mis
Or

"Listen!" 


Listen! Listen God is calling, through His Word inviting, offering forgiveness, comfort and joy.
           [Copyright: Lutheran Theological College, Makumira, Tanzania]

(or my kids' version, "Listen Mama's calling ...")

To anyone outside my family and adopted family, we must all look like lunatics. Perhaps we are. But it's this silliness that binds us together, that makes us who we are - family. 






Friday, April 26, 2013

How Do You Feel Remix


When typing the title, I totally heard it in my head as the computer in Star Trek IV when it asked the same question to Spock, who didn't quite understand (at around 30 seconds in the video):



Perhaps it's coincidence, but sometimes my first thought when I hear the question, "How do you feel?" or "How are you?" is that I do not understand the question. Are you asking how I'm feeling in reference to how I normally feel living with psoriatic arthritis, amongst other maladies? Or are you asking in comparison to "normal" people? Do you really want to know how I feel, or do you just want me to say something like, "fine, thank you" and move on?

If you are really interested in how I feel, but are talking about how I feel in relation to healthy people, we need to go with the Wong-Baker pain scale:


My pain on my worst days would be a ... ummm.... wait - where's the want-to-rip-off-my-own-leg-and-beat-myself-into-unconsciousness face?  This pain scale must be defective. Is 10 really what the worst pain you've experienced looks like? I make a worse face than that when I stub my toe. Ten looks more like my hamster died than I'm in excruciating pain. 

Let's move on to the most awesomest pain scale designed by Hyperbole and a Half genius Allie Brosh (I highly recommend you check out her blog, especially: this). She knows that of which she draws. It is my opinion that all rheumatologist's offices should have this pain scale in every exam room:


This part of the pain scale pretty much goes along with the Wong-Baker scale, but definitely leaves room for improvement. I think the hands help a lot in communicating the level of pain. The addition of color is a nice touch as well. 

But wait - there's more!


Now isn't that better? As you can see - this accurately depicts greater levels of pain. Levels of which Wong and Baker never dreamed. Levels of pain to which people with autoimmune diseases and other chronic illnesses can relate. 

Still, I never know how to answer that question. What do you say? What do people really want to hear? My usual response is, "relatively good." Relative to how I usually feel, I'm feeling good. Relative to how you usually feel, you'd think I'd be rushing to the ER so they could show me the Wong-Baker scale and I could give them an inaccurate perception of my pain level. That is, unless you live with a friend such as Sporadic Artie and understand what pain is. Should I make a pocket-sized Brosh Scale of Pain and whip it out whenever someone asks me that question? Perhaps not, as I may scare away the well-meaning if my pain is over a six. 

How do I feel? I do not understand the question. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Killing Me



Today is killing me with it's have-to's. Responsibilities weigh heavily on my soul. I pay my bills, wondering where our tax refund went so quickly. 

Then I remember: health and medical stuff not covered by insurance, clothes and shoes for the ever-growing children, clothes for the shrinking husband (he's lost a lot of weight over the past year!), homeschool stuff, camp, fixing vehicles, obtaining and registering a vehicle, memberships, a few treats here and there, probably too many books, and stocking our shelves with necessities, and I fell thankful for all that we were able to buy, to do, and for being able to pay all our bills without deciding which one this month. We are truly blessed.


Today is killing me with anxiety and the feeling like I want to crawl out of my skin. I'm fidgety - wanting to get up and do one minute and sinking into bed just wanting rest the next. My mind is either racing from one thought to the next as I try to take hold of just one idea or completely shut off and not working. I'm hungry, but not for anything we have and thirsty - so thirsty I feel unable to slake my thirst. All day, I've been drinking water, tea, water, water, water. 

And then I realize that oh-so-far-away yesterday - these days with five sick kids have been endless - I was blessed to have had a massage. With me, with things like massage or chiropractic work, more than muscle stress and tension gets released - as my body releases toxins,and my relaxed musculoskeletal system acclimates itself, my mind releases all sorts of stress and energy as well. 

Today is killing me with its seeming endlessness. All five of my kids are still somewhat under the weather, one very much so, two with lots of energy, but a cough that stops them in their tracks, and two somewhere in the middle. Few have been up to taking care of their household responsibilities, and everything is so far behind. Trying to play catch-up promises to wreak havoc on my health, so I'm trying to take it slow and easy and yet accomplish as much as possible, all the while trying to keep my OCD at bay. 

Then I look around in gratitude, for the blanket and pillow nest built by little hands in the living room serves as a reminder of the happily chirping children who played and red and rested in it for hours this afternoon and the stack of books and games on my bed stand as witnesses to the hard work of play and adventure that were shared. 



Today is killing me with joy - my heart just may burst. My kids may be sick, I may not have money in the bank, my body and mind may not know what to do with themselves, and my house may be a disaster area, but in all these things there is so much joy to be found. 


Sometimes it is only when we're at the end of our rope that we can see the beautiful web of life's joys that surround and support us.

Either Or

Things like this
  



and this

have been floating around the internet for a while now. I used to be a person who heartily, one-hundred-percent agreed with such things. Enter severe, crippling psoriatic arthritis, and I realize it's not an either or proposition, it's not a this-not -that choice, as these may suggest.

I can, and in fact have, changed my diet dramatically to no avail. There isn't a combination of foods or herbs that can force my body to stop attacking my joints, my soft tissues, and my organs, or stop my bones from fusing. If I am to not suffer from psoriatic arthritis but instead Live with it, I need to infuse some scary, heavy-duty, incredibly expensive drugs into my body.

Do I think the pharmaceutical industry is without issues? Absolutely not. Far from it. Do I think that many people depend on drugs rather than also addressing their general health and the foods they consume? Absolutely. 

I think, perhaps, a more realistic point of view is to consider the following:


This. This is the heart of the issue. But it's still not quite there. It casts blame when really the only ones we have to blame are ourselves. If we let the food industry dictate what we put into our bodies instead of educating ourselves as to what we should be consuming, are we not at fault? If we have health issues and don't take our entire health, including what we put into and do with our bodies, into consideration along with our healthcare provider's suggestions, should we condemn an entire industry? What we should do is take responsibility for our bodies and our health, teach our children to respect their bodies by eating nutritious foods, make informed health decisions, and encourage others to do the same. 

Instead of playing the game of Either-Or, can we instead offer And? 


Instead of complaining about the health industry and the food industry, feeding negativity with more negativity, we can make and encourage choices for healthy eating and include nutrition in our discussions with our healthcare providers. Instead of judging people for choosing medication, we can understand that in many circumstances, prescription drugs are not only necessary, but life-saving or life-changing. 

We can talk about how eating healthier can make us feel better and how great that can be. About how healthy eating in addition to taking medications and/or working with our healthcare professional can only do good things. If we have such confidence in food's ability to dispense with or lessen the need for medications, we can let the process happen organically. (Pun probably intended, with apologies.)


Monday, April 22, 2013

Lowest Common Denominator

Simplicity - a wonderful concept, and the topic of discussion amongst a group of amazing women who bless my life. What a lovely thing, simplicity. Simple. That's what it is. Well, what it seems it should be, anyway. But is it? 

It's something I strive for every day and something that was thrust upon me when my psoriatic arthritis spiraled out of control. It's funny how going from full steam ahead to full stop can simplify life.  

The leader of the Women's Circle I attended gave us homework to do before the Circle, which included defining what simplicity meant to us. In thinking about this, I realized that my definition of simplicity has evolved over the years. When I first decided to invite simplicity into my life, I got rid of tons of stuff, had plans to grow our own food, learn to sew in order to make some of our clothes, I baked our bread, cooked almost everything from scratch, and hoped to learn to do any necessary home repairs. Simplicity was a lot of work. Worth it, but a lot of work. 

Now my approach to simplicity is a bit different. I have five kids, a husband, and one bathroom. I have psoriatic arthritis. I have a child with Aspergers, a child with depression, a child with joint problems, and two other children with unique needs. I was diagnosed with celiac. My body has forgotten how to sleep. We homeschool. Besides that, our yard isn't conducive to growing much of our own food, I do not have a gift for sewing, and although some home repairs are within our grasp, others need to be hired out. We do bake our own bread and cook much of what we eat from scratch, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that we enjoy certain pre-packaged foods, especially for homeschool co-op days. 


Today simplicity, to me, means finding the lowest common denominator. 

In a family this large, everyone is going to have different interests and is going to want to get involved in different things. With my illness, it's not possible for me to spend my day driving to and fro, shuttling children to different activities - so we picked two that my children adore and in which all can participate: Epoch Arts Homeschool Co-op and Tuesday Night Sunday School. My kids also have different interests when it comes to what they want to do at camp, so we go to Camp Calumet in New Hampshire during the first week of camp, when two of my kids can attend Drama Camp and two can attend Adventure Camp and one can sulk about not being old enough for Day Camp just until her first Family Camp activity. 

The lowest common denominator - it means pleasing most of the people most of the time, not all of the people all of the time. Occasionally one or two of us get dragged somewhere we'd rather not be, only to find ourselves dragging someone else where they don't want to be a little while later. It's not often that the dragee doesn't have fun anyway.

The lowest common denominator - it means living life with just enough. Just enough stuff to meet our needs, including our needs for entertainment and joy. Just enough room for all of us and the stuff we need. Just enough activity to inspire and enjoy, not so much that it overwhelms and exhausts. Just enough work that we do around the house every day to not feel overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. Just enough to be able to easily find the joy in life, rather than burying it under ideals and expectations.




Friday, April 19, 2013

Glimpsing Heaven

Some days I just can't.


I can't find the energy to accomplish anything.

I can't reach the joy that I know is there.

I can't feel the love I know surrounds me.

I'm paralyzed by fear and longing. Longing for something that will fill me. Make me feel whole, complete, full. Home. I want home. I say over and over, yearning for it - I just want to go home - yet I'm in my house, my home, at the time.

I fill myself up - with food, with things, with so many books, and with blogs and social media and other people's words. And yet I feel empty.

I fill myself up - with my kids' love, my husband's love, the love of family and friends. And yet it's not enough.

I fill myself up - with prayer, church activities, worship, the Word. Yet I feel something lacking.


What I long for is not like the comfort and joy I feel when I'm snuggled in bed under a pile of children watching a good movie. Not like the warmth and fullness I feel during the Evening Prayer at church. The longing is for more. For something I couldn't put my finger on for the longest time. From the abyss of depression and anxiety my heart calls out for home, my soul for wholeness and peace, my spirit for ... for ... for God's embrace. Finally I realize that what I long for is Eternity, Heaven.

Throughout my suicidal years, I didn't want to die. I wanted the safety and peace of God's embrace. I wanted to be in a place where my pain would be no longer. A place of deep peace. And perhaps that made things worse.  What I longed for was not death. It was for forever with God, and there was no way of my own doing to get there.

So I attempted to fill myself with work and stuff and food and excess. When filling myself failed miserably, I instead tried to empty myself of everything, to no longer feel anything.  I took sleeping pills and drank too much alcohol to dull the physical and emotional pain. And then I cut myself to feel a release, to remind myself that I was indeed still alive, even though I felt dead inside. 

It is in this dark, empty place that God is close. Sure, God is there in the beauty of the earth and life's most precious, glorious moments, but He is large in these places of despair. 

But still, He does not fill them. If He did we would not see beyond to the joys of this life - of giving and sharing and learning and growing and praising and loving. 

What to do with the emptiness, then? The longing?

Give it away. 

Give a helping hand, a bit of time, a smile or kind thought. Give thanks.

It is through giving that we fill ourselves. It is through sharing our spiritual gifts - those gifts we have that are a pleasure, not a drain, to give - that our spirit overflows. It is through sharing God's love for us that our souls brim.

When we fill ourselves with giving, we glimpse Heaven. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Joy Comes In the Morning


Weeping spends the night, but joy comes in the morning.                                               Psalm 30



This phrase echoed in my mind long after worship was over. With it, memories of long sleepless nights worrying, praying, and longing for the ability to put my mind at ease and rest. Always, always, dawn arrived, bringing with it perhaps a fresh perspective, maybe less worry, but always joy. 

Joy, perched just so, waiting for me to strip the fear and stress away and open my heart to receive it. Joy, looking very much like a smiling child awaiting a morning snuggle or a husband's kind care when my body resists movement or the beat of my own heart reminding me that life goes on, and where there's life, there's joy to be found. Joy, comforting me with the knowledge that God is holding me close, encouraging me as I travel through the unknown. 

Then it happened. Getting into the car to run a quick errand, I heard sirens and a reporter's voice on the radio. My gut reaction was, "It's happening again." This is exactly what happened the morning of 9/11 when I turned the key in the ignition and heard reports of smoke pouring out of the World Trade Center towers. The first words this time were something to the effect of "two explosions at the Boston Marathon." I braced myself for terror. Listening to the report, my immediate reaction was prayer, and I continued praying as I moved through the remainder of the day.

The morning after a tragedy, we wake up and have a choice to make. We can concentrate on the horror, or we can focus on the helpers. We can promote negativity and despair or search out hope and new beginnings. We can open our hearts to joy and counteract the violence and sadness with all good things or we can give in to the negativity and in the process, promote it. We can choose love over hate, compassion over condemnation, and joy in addition to weeping. 

No matter what life hits us with, God is there, comforting us in our sorrows and turning our wailing into dancing. 

Weeping stays the night, but joy comes in the morning. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Connections

Quiet moments of contemplation have been few and far between as of late. Even my two hour infusion turned into social time as pleasant conversation between myself and the fellow Remicade recipient beside me ensued.   She with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I with Psoriatic Arthritis, we had much in common medically speaking.

After talking diagnosis and treatment, we delved deeper, this new friend and I, into families and pasts, through love and pain. Laughing and crying together, we seemed more old comrades than strangers. It wasn't until I was on my way home that I realized that though we shared so much of ourselves with each other, we never exchanged names.

These encounters happen quite often in my life. Each time, I'm reminded of the thread that connects us to each other - the thing inside you that calls out to that thing inside me, pulling us toward each other. Sometimes the thread's tenuous grasp leads only to a smile or a nod, other times it winds itself around our hearts, joining them for life, or for a  life-altering moment. 

At times it's difficult to remember this connection - when someone cuts us off, says something to upset us, or simply doesn't acknowledge our existence. But it's just at these times when we need to remember the most. We are all connected - in our joy and love as well as our haste and anger. As much as we would like others to be understanding when we make mistakes or act out of negativity, we need to be understanding of others. 

You never know what someone is going through or the motives behind their actions. The idiot who whizzed by you on the highway could be on the way to the birth of his daughter or the death of his mother. The woman purchasing twenty-one things in the twelve items or fewer lane could be functioning on little sleep and huge stress due to caring for a sick child. The friend who ignores your calls and texts could be so depressed she can't bring herself to communicate with anyone and could use love and care, not frustration and unkind words. 

Remember and embrace human connection, no matter what the circumstance or how tenuous the thread. Then, maybe, the world will be a better place. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Dynamics and Day-trips








Chaos has reigned supreme in our house even more than usual lately. The dynamics between family members has caused tension and upheaval and yet another round of needed changes. Having a teenager with Aspergers, an almost-teen with depression, a ten-year-old with still undiagnosed joint pain and swelling issues, a seven year old with sensory issues, and an epic five year old all living under the same roof has proven quite a challenge. Mix in a Mama with psoriatic arthritis, depression, and anxiety, and a Daddy with his own peculiarities, and, well, things can get interesting. 

And then we took our show on the road.

"To Mystic!" the kids exclaimed. 
"Which part?" the Mama asked.
"All of it!" was the answer. "With Gram and Grammy when they visit from Pennsylvania!"

And so all nine of us climbed aboard the Ziggymobile for an adventure at sea. Or at sound, as it were.

The teenager moaned, groaned and sighed. "Do we have to? Why do I have to come? We've been here a million times before."

"Fudge." Mama answered. 

In a funk, the twelve year old seemed not so interested in being in a vehicle with eight other people for over and hour one way. He then proceeded to fall down the concrete stairs on the way to the van. Knees banged up, but not bleeding, we threw Ziggy into the back and were off.

Mystic Seaport provided grand adventure for some, extreme boredom for one, and was quite more chilly than most had thought it might be. The five year old was often asked by the reenactors to ask questions. She had a lot of questions, especially for the blacksmith. She now has a much better understanding of just about every tool the blacksmith uses. The almost-teen discovered that wheelchairs don't move well on sand and broken shells. The parents re-discovered the intensity of the five-year-old's "needs" to do things and the persistence of the seven-year-old when he has his mind set on something.

After partaking of a picnic lunch in the warm van, we asked the kids what was next.

"Olde Mystick Village!" they exclaimed. 

"Fudge." said the sullen teen.

Off we went. First stop: the coffee shop. After all, one appreciates the fudge more when one has built up great anticipation for the eating of the fudge. One dirty chai later, and Mama was ready for more adventures. 

Next, the children stormed Munsons in search of fudge and chocolate dipped dessert goodness. Sweets procured, we settled onto a stone wall to watch the ducks, and so the ten-year-old could rest her hurting legs before we continued our adventure. 

"I need to go potty!" signaled our exodus from the land of window shopping to Mystic Aquarium, conveniently located right across the street. An excited professor seven year old excitedly showed his grandmother and great-grandmother around the aquarium, stopping often to point out his favorites. 
  

As always, the feisty belugas provided wonderful entertainment, as did the kids.



At last, our expedition was coming to an end. Tired, some of us sore, and most of us hungry, we dined on burgers and fries and headed home. 

We all learned a lot. I learned a great deal about how much mental and emotional energy it takes to deal with the many arrangements of dynamics between my family members. I was reminded of many of the special needs of my kids, and how on my toes I need to be having not only Captain Oblivious, but Lieutenant Oblivious on my hands, neither of whom seems capable of perceiving the people around them - or moving vehicles for that matter. And best of all, I was reminded once again why I love my big, crazy, chaotic family. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

That Should Cover It

As parents we hear the same things from our kids day after day.

I'm hungry.

I'm bored.

There's nothing to do.

I want.

I need.

Can I?

As parents we find ourselves saying the same things to our kids day after day. 

Stop whining.

Go find something to do.

Eat fruit.

Fruit.

Fruit.

The answer is still fruit. 

I'm tired. Tired of repeating myself. Tired of saying the same things over and over. Just plain tired. 

And so I made the sign. I want to hang one in every room so that all I need to to is nod to the sign and move on with my day.


That should cover it. I hope. I know, I know, the odds are that they'll come up with something new in a flash, which is why I'm leaving the document open on my desktop, just in case. 



Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lenten Love Letters: 40 Letters Later


I have to admit, I did not write forty letters on forty note cards and give them to forty people. What I did do was write 27 love letters on 27 note cards, 7 love letters via email, three directly onto my blog, and three in my prayers. I didn't write notes to some people I was hoping to write to, simply because each day inspiration came to write to someone, and those people weren't my inspiration any of the days. Some I sat down with the intention of writing to them, but  couldn't find adequate words. Perhaps inspiration will strike soon and words that do justice will find their way to me and I'll get yet more love letters into the hands of those whom I love.

Interesting things happened with the writing of these letters.


A couple letters were not received in the spirit in which I intended, but in one case, understanding and healing was the beautiful result. Others were received with joy. Yet others with a touch of confusion.

Several people called with concern that perhaps my health had taken a turn for the worst and I was writing these letters to say things to them before it was too late. So I ask you - why wait to tell someone why you love them, what you value about them, and how important they have been in your life?

Sending out these cards, stating my love for people who know I love them as well as people whom I needed to tell I love but was unsure if they reciprocated, has been an exercise in extreme vulnerability. It was in many ways easier for my introverted self to hand a love letter to a complete stranger, which I did on one occasion, than it was for me to pour out my heart to people who like or love me. Writing these letters has taught me that vulnerability comes from a place of strength, not a place of weakness. In the end, opening up to  vulnerability strengthened relationships in my life, as well as strengthening my confidence in myself.



The most profound result of these letters was the deeper connection I now feel with not only the people to whom I wrote the letters, but to everyone. Everyone. The lovely woman who bagged my groceries, the person who cut me off as I was driving to church this morning, the man in rags who greets me with a smile and friendly nod as he collects soda bottles from garbage bins at the shopping center I frequent - we are all connected, and all blessings to each other in one way or another. 

Each letter, each connection, illustrated to me the necessity of walking in Jesus' footsteps and being a living love letter to every single person who enters our lives.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Nothing Left to Give

 
It was 10:38PM when we discovered the broken glass from the dvd player display. 10:38PM and I had a situation on my hands and nothing left to give. Yet I had to deal with the situation, with the child responsible, with the "I didn't do its" and the "why are you making me clean this up now?"s. So I said I love you and I know you did it and I know you didn't mean to but don't lie and yes you have to clean it up now because it's broken glass on the floor and we don't want anyone to get hurt. And I said I love you and I know this is hard but you need to tell the truth and building trust takes hard hard work and please just give me a hug and we can both go to bed. There was no hug. Only an angry child and a heartbroken mother.
 
It's 11:27PM and I go to bed but can't sleep. My mind races, trying to figure out how to proceed. I'm finding dealing with my own depression while parenting someone with depression and teenage hormones and a crazy family next to impossible. I can't help but see my teenage self in him. I'm terrified that he'll hurt himself, no matter how many times he assures me that that's one thing about which I'll never have to worry.

It was 8:00AM and I'd just gotten up, yet I had nothing left to give. I didn't sleep much, spending the night sobbing and praying and responding to every noise coming from upstairs. Sunlight streaming through the window, each child denied breaking the dvd player. One blamed the cat. I just wanted to cry. Being lied to tortures my spirit. So much work ahead, and I have nothing left to give. 

It was 9:18AM when he came downstairs with truth and an apology. It must have broken when he threw this thing into his room, he said. He really hadn't realized it. Sorry. I'm sorry, too, I said. Sometimes truth isn't right in front of us. Sometimes we need time to discover truth. And we need to realize the difference between really knowing and thinking we know. We need to leave room for maybe or I don't know. Last night if you or I could have said maybe or I don't know, then we both might not have gotten so upset. I tell him again that I love him. We hug. My heart jumps for joy. 

It is 11:22AM and I have a house full of cranky, bickering kids with bad attitudes. I have an attitude to match and nothing left to give. I have tears and anger and frustration and anxiety and a need to go somewhere and just breathe. I sit down at the computer and start typing. The kids start arguing upstairs again and I yell up to them, "I love you all very much, but would like you a lot more right now if you could just get along!" That gets me about a minute and a half of calm before another storm erupts. 

It's 11:45AM and I'm going to tell the children to make themselves lunch while I retreat to the shower and take some time out and breathe. I have nothing left to give. Nothing but love ... and sometimes that's all that matters. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Al...ia

Our journey through Lent and Resurrection Day has been full of memories.

From Tuesday Night Sunday School's Lent Trek...

To coloring eggs...

 To dancing while Mama tries to take a picture of someone in her Easter Vigil dress...

 To Easter Vigil Worship's journey from darkness into light, including hearing my eldest daughter's beautiful voice as she sang with the choir and reading from Genesis with both my daughters...


To Easter Morning's bounty of quarter-containing eggs and canned goods for the food pantry...


as well as a few treats...


To Resurrection Day greetings...


To seeing the hands of our church family transformed into Easter lillies in the sanctuary...


To yummy dessert...

 And another egg hunt, just for fun...


Our Lenten journey and Resurrection Day produced many precious memories. The best memories, however, were not captured by a camera. They were felt in the serenity of the sanctuary. They were heard in the voices of the church. They were absorbed through the sights and scents and sounds of the season.

Perhaps the memory that will stay with me, in detail, forever was heard in the joyous, raucous exclamations of Alleluia by my five year old daughter who nearly exploded in anticipation of once again being able to exclaim that word - the Al...ia word that wasn't her name. We're fairly sure people outside in the parking lot could hear her joyous yawp, "He is risen, indeed! ALLELUIA!!! As soon as that first Alleluia broke loose, a flood of Alleluias followed. As she prayed the Lord's Prayer ... "Our Father, who art in heaven alleluia, hallowed by thy name alleluia ..." Anywhere she could possibly sneak an Alleluia in, she did. And that was just at Easter Vigil worship. Easter morning, she sang every song she could think of that contained Alleluia. She once again waited in anticipation in church, this time, waiting for Pastor G. to officially release the Alleluias from the box he'd gathered them in the Sunday before Lent began. Again, her excitement propelled Alleluias from deep in her soul as she celebrated the joy of the day. Here spirit and her Alleluias still could not be contained. It is this - this utter joy and enthusiasm - that I will remember for many Resurrection Sundays to come.





Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April Foolery

This April first was a three-prank day. 

Prank Three: It was a beautiful, sunny, warm Spring day, so I sent the kids outside to play. Zack came downstairs exclaiming that he couldn't find one of his shoes, while Alia was explaining to me that she had one croc and one Easter shoe, but couldn't find their matches. Alexander announced that apparently someone had taken one of each of his pair of shoes as well. They all turned to me. I pointed to the box where the matches to every pair of shoes my children own were hidden. There was much sighing and "Maamaaaaaa"ing. 

Prank Two: 
Zack: Daddy, there's a bee in the bathroom!
Daddy: Get me my spatulator (that's a whole other story!) and show me where. Did you close the bathroom door so the bee doesn't escape?
Zack: No...but it's still in there. 
Daddy, upon entering the bathroom and looking around for a bee: "Where is it?"
Zack: On the wall behind the door.
Daddy: *laughter*


Prank One: 
Daddy: Everyone come down for breakfast!
Children gather at the table.
Daddy: Mama made brownies and she said you can have them for breakfast. Go ahead!
*foil is removed from baking dish*


Brown Es for breakfast. Somehow the children weren't amused. 

The most fun was the paranoia of the children as they awaited the next prank and suspected aprilfoolery in everything that wasn't quite right while I relaxed in the living room with a body that was playing its own pranks. 



Monday, April 1, 2013

Lenten Love Letters: Children

Often we overlook the importance of the children in our lives especially when those children aren't ours.



I did write Lenten Love Letters to my children, something I have decided to continue beyond Lent. We tell our children we love them and how special they are often, but somehow the written word touches our hearts more profoundly. Our hearts, because not only is the child receiving this precious gift, but we gift ourselves with quiet moments of reflection to fully feel the love we have for our children - something we often miss out on in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

There are other children in my life whom I hold dear. One lights up the room and warms my heart with her smile. Another entertains me endlessly with her fertile imagination. Yet another radiates love and generosity, while her brother's sly smile and loving snuggles brighten my day. These are my "extra" children, whose parents bless me by entrusting their children to my care.

Then there is that child in the thrift store who, upon hearing my child exclaim about the awesomeness of the toy child had chosen for herself, offered to let my child buy it instead. A kind gesture in itself, it was made dearer because I head heard the jubilant cries of that precious child upon the discovery of such a treasure - something she never thought she'd ever own. After my child graciously declined the offer, I pulled a Love card out of my purse, scrawled a note of gratitude for such a kind and generous heart, and gave it to the cashier with money enough to cover the toy and instructions to include the card in the little girl's bag.

These children, all children, are precious to me. All children should be told daily that they are valued, loved, cared for, that they are amazing and bright and inspiring. When my youngest, looking over my shoulder, just now asked me what I wrote, I read the previous sentence to her. She, in her infinite knowledge, said that grown-ups need to remember to tell themselves these things, too. I agree. The things we can learn from the youngest among us if we just listen.