21 March 2013

...loves even me.

I’d like to say that I carefully read all the mail we get from missions and institutions and organizations that we support (or that would like us to support them), and that no such missives are ever tossed unopened, but in truth they’re subject to triage like any other aspect of my life at this point.

Recently, I was hovering over the trash can during a desperate counter-clearing effort, doing a pre-pitch skimming of the newsletter from one such mission, when this story changed my trajectory:   

[These two toddlers/preschoolers] are children of a single mother and unknown father. She is a drug addict who works cleaning windshields on the highway. They had lived, or survived, under a bridge fed only on street food, soda, and cookies. Their clothing was ill-fitted, dirty rags. They were victims of indifference.

[When the country’s social services brought the children to the mission], they hadn’t eaten all day. [The boy] was wearing only a t-shirt and a diaper that hadn’t been changed all day. But the smiles on both of their faces, their affection, and their innocence was unforgettable. After eating, bathing, and being dressed in our best, the looks on their faces were indescribable. Yet, they both cried a lot in the days that followed because they missed their mother. Since then, they have adapted well and stolen our hearts.

It wasn’t merely the brokenness of a world in which such stories are all too common, nor the accompanying photos of the children that brought the tragedy to a personal point, that stopped me cold. It was that last bit--did it catch you too? The part that stopped me in my tracks, that accused and humbled and consoled me all at once? Those babies were rescued from filth, neglect, and abuse—Yet, they both cried a lot in the days that followed because they missed their mother.

I feed my kids veggies and whole wheat (at least some of the time). I bathe and clothe them. I’m married to their father and I might even look to some (distant and casual) observers as though I’ve got my life somewhat together. But the really true truth here is that I’m no less in need of forgiveness than the mother who left those kids under the bridge. Nor is this desperately-needed forgiveness available to me in any other special place than it is for her, homemade yogurt and hygiene notwithstanding.

And—astoundingly, humblingly—when my desperate sinfulness spills over, as it too often does, onto them, my kids are just as grudgelessly ready with their love and their seemingly effortless forgiveness, as were those precious little ones whose mother failed more publicly than I.   

Rebekah wrote this one a long time ago, and I still think about it. I think about it because at the end of every day I can count so many times that I’ve screwed up this motherhood thing, again, and yet I can’t count a single time that a child of mine has gone to bed with anger in his heart against me. All this love and trust in their hearts, their eyes, their arms, always at the ready, all undeserved—an overflowing of grace, pure grace, the grace their Heavenly Father so richly and recklessly bestows—thanks be to our prodigal God!

Cost/benefit analysis

The preschooler and the toddler have been upstairs together for 15 minutes now, and it’s been very quiet. Do I go and check on them, possibly ruining the longest stretch of peaceful independent-together play that they’ve had in quite awhile? (The other possibility, of course, is that checking on them will save me a lot of, er, aftermath, if they’re up to no good.)

Ah, the perennial questions of motherhood.

20 March 2013

Husband talk

I find women differ much, both in the degree and manner in which their feelings will permit them to talk about their husbands. I have known women set a whole community against their husbands by the way in which they trumpeted their praises; and I have known one woman set everybody against herself by the way in which she published her husband's faults. I find it difficult to believe either sort. To praise one's husband is so like praising one's self, that to me it seems immodest, and subject to the same suspicion as self-laudation; while to blame one's husband, even justly and openly, seems to me to border upon treachery itself.

The Vicar's Daughter, George MacDonald

14 March 2013

Family makeout photography

I don't think a straight man thought of it.

12 March 2013

A is A

Thinking is not praying.
Caring is not praying.
Rejoicing is not praying. 
Marveling is not praying. 
Loving is not praying. 
Worrying is not praying.
Crying is not praying.

Only praying is praying.

11 March 2013

Ad menopausum

Katie is incorrect in referring to me as wise; it is precisely that lack of wisdom that keeps me talking. :P

It is an honor to have been offered a soapbox at He Remembers the Barren today. (You've bought this, right? And this?)

07 March 2013

Learn from the animals

From a friend whose cat just had her first litter of kittens:

Buttercup had another baby at about 10:30pm, so 3 orange and 1 grey. She is a horrible mother, all night I would wake up to kittens crying and she would be sleeping soundly with me and not her kids. I am afraid I may end up bottle feeding them. Mercy, what a little dummy.

Buttercup, I am right there with you. What you just been through sista! You need some SLEEPSES!

05 March 2013

Trumpet needed

A friend was telling me about the disapproving glances she gets from certain older women at her church whenever her kids get a bit rambunctious in the pew. She exclaimed, I don’t want to be one of those old ladies—the fussy frowny type! I want to be the wise kind, the kind that just rolls with everything, the kind that has deep joy. She paused, and then she added, But I’m afraid—do I really want to go through what it takes to get there?
That, in my humble opinion, is an entirely reasonable fear.

Once upon a time, I thought (or perhaps merely hoped) that simply having a statistically above-average number of children would be a sort of automatic piety-booster for me, a jump-start to personal sanctification. I mean, how could I spend most of my waking (and some of my would-be-sleeping) hours tending to the pressing needs of others, and not end up less selfish for it? Well…quite easily, actually. Rebekah touched on the topic in this ye olde (but goode) poste.

The terrible truth that I understand more fully than I care to admit is that I can all too easily feel this crowd of children pushing me, not toward a more pious dependence on the giver and sustainer of life, not toward a life of selfless good deeds, but toward the Other Edge instead.

I should have known better, even all those years ago. Doing what has to be done, simply because it has to be done, is not a magic formula for personal piety. If I’m not careful, in fact, the hodgepodge of daily duties combined with periodic crises (of childrearing and of life in general) becomes the perfect recipe for resentment and even despair. And too often, I’m not careful.  

Yet I’m afraid—do I really want to go through what it takes to get there? goes even deeper than  the constant war that must be waged against crankiness. It goes down deep, to the basement closet of a mother-heart—the door that we daily hurry past, shuddering, never opening because we’re ashamed of the horrid things that lurk there. I’m afraid—what would happen to our family if we got another kid like the complicated one (to say nothing of the potential for more complicated complications)? I’m afraid—because after a miscarriage, there’s no such thing, ever again, as a blithely-contemplated possibility of pregnancy. I’m afraid—because as my children grow, I realize anew just how little control I have over Outcomes. I’m afraid—because I go through long dark stretches where it seems like every day, my head sinks just a bit lower under the waves, and how many times can I reasonably expect to add more ballast and go under and yet come up again? 

I’m afraid—because I forget that what it takes to get there is, after all, never anything more or less than the cross. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Perfected for all time—safe in the Shepherd’s hand; while yet being sanctified—treading this via dolorosa. To wish for an easier way is only human; even our Lord himself did mention it wistfully once.The answer, however, remains the same.

What it takes to get there may prove to be every miserable thing in that basement closet of mine. And more. But through it all, I will yet remember to sing, even shout, that greatest of triumphant rallying cries: Killed all the day long--More than conquerors!

Find me a trumpet, someone; I’m going to learn to blast out that anthem til the quivering closet slitheries cower and realize the pitiful limits of their wretched reach.

01 March 2013

Sick comfort

I hate the sins I hate, but thank God I at least hate some of them.