Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Home

Unswept floor

Dishes in the sink

Rumpled beds

Mountains of laundry

Crooked rugs

Crayon on the walls

Toothpaste on the bedspread

One shoe lost

Trash can overflowing

Crumbs on the table

Reminders of…

Forty little toes

Laughter during lunch

Snuggles under covers

Teachable moments

Long conversations

Relaxing in his arms

Memories being made

Sloppy wet kisses

Winks across the room

Holding grubby hands

Home, the spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.
-Robert Montgomery

Change

It wasn’t long after we got married that I learned that Ray likes to rearrange furniture. I’d come home and the living room would look completely different than it had a few hours before, and it did not make me happy.

I hate change. Change bothers me. Change makes me uncomfortable.

I wish I could say that I graciously allowed my husband to move the furniture around the house. After all, who was it hurting? I’m sure, however, that I whined and cried about it because eventually the furniture stopped moving.

We got a new Christmas tree this year. This is a good change. Our old one was beautiful, but half the lights were broken, and it was WAY too big for our home. We had to take a piece out of our sectional each year just to fit it in the living room which was annoying and a pain. So this year I found a tall, skinny tree that I figured we could put in the same spot, but we wouldn’t have to take the couch apart.

Ray decided, however, that it would work even better if we rearranged the living room. I’m sure he was afraid to give me this piece of news, given my poor reactions in the past. I’m sure it was with fear and trembling that he started to push the couch to a different corner of the room.

I’ll admit to being a bit…nervous…about the whole thing. We haven’t rearranged the living room since we moved here, which was 3 ½ years ago. And I was fine with that. But I did my best to hold my tongue, and just let him do it.

It’s been several days now, and I can honestly say that I really like our new living room setup. I think it makes the rooms look bigger, and the kids can’t climb on the back of the couch. I’m wondering if I’ll want to keep it this way even after Christmas, and I’m also wondering why we didn’t try it out sooner.

I think often, my heart is like my living room. I get so comfortable with the way things are, and I don’t want to give change a try. God nudges me and says, “Laura, I think it would be better if we moved this here, and that there.” And I stamp my feet, pitch a fit, and leave my heart furniture right where it has always been, thankyouverymuch. Certainly HE doesn’t know better than I do. Certainly HIS plan couldn’t be better than mine. Certainly I would hate whatever He chose to do, and I’d just have to put it back as soon as I thought He wasn’t looking.

I’m thinking, though, that I’ve missed out on many blessings because of my stubbornness and unwillingness to change (and BE changed). I’m thinking that maybe my life would actually be better if I allowed some rearranging in my heart.
Lord, give me a new heart, and put a new spirit within me. Remove the heart of stone from my body and give me a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A story.

She is exhausted, yet lays awake in the dark all alone. Her hand reaches to the empty space next to her, and she rolls over with a sigh. The red numbers of the clock confirm her already consuming fears. She slowly stands up, heart pounding, and tip-toes to the hallway. She gazes at the blue glow coming from under the office door, and tears stream quietly down her face. She feels so alone in this never-ending nightmare. She hates him. She hates what he is doing to their family. Her mind churns with thoughts of leaving, running into the arms of a man who might actually love her and care about her. And then she remembers that nobody would want her… Her with the broken body, frail mind, and fragile soul. She feels as if she’s trapped, pacing back and forth, sniffing around for a way of escape. Eventually she retreats back to the solitude of the bedroom. Covering her head with the soft blanket, she dreams restlessly of happily ever after.
~~~
She awakens with a jolt. Her body sits upright, and she glances at the clock. Her hand reaches over and her fear is realized as she finds a pile of blankets but no body. Her heart starts to race, and her mind starts to panic. She’s been in this place before, and she dreads the coming moments. As she climbs out of bed, and pads quietly into the hallway, she can barely control her breathing and the tears that are already brimming in her tired eyes. She quietly follows the light into the living room, and there he sits. His back is to her, and he doesn’t suspect that he is being watched. And at that moment, her breath is taken away. Tears begin to stream down her face, as she sees her man intent on the Bible in his lap. She begins to shake as she realizes that she is watching the very scene she had dreamed about all of those years ago. She loves what God has made him. She loves what he is doing to their family. And she tip-toes back to bed to rest in her happily ever after.

Thanksgiving

All morning I was feeling sorry for myself. Ray sat me down before he left for work this morning and told me that we had made a banking error, and our checking account is pretty much empty until payday. Now I must interrupt myself and say that this really isn’t as big of a deal as I am probably making it sound. Payday is in less than a week, and we have enough money to survive until then. What it basically means is that I can’t do any Black Friday shopping, and we’re going to be eating out of the pantry for a week. Not the end of the world, I know, but I pretty much chose to have a pity party about it all morning. I had planned on going grocery shopping this morning and picking up some extra food to take over to the rescue mission. Now, there wasn’t any extra money to do that. I had planned to get some great deals on Christmas gifts this weekend, and now that won’t be possible.

Before lunch, I loaded the kids up in the van and we drove over to Wal-mart to get the last few ingredients for our Thanksgiving dinner. I knew that we didn’t need much. Cherries for the pie, marshmallows for the “watergate salad”, koolaid for the punch… Just a few small things and most of them were on sale because of the impending holiday. I handed over the $26 that I owed for my groceries, and tried to force myself to have a grateful spirit even though we had walked past many things I had hoped to purchase. As we made our way toward the door, the children heard the familiar bell. Immediately, their eyes lit up, and they turned to me pleading for money to put in the red Salvation Army bucket. I thought about the empty wallet and checking account, but quickly dismissed the thought as I handed change to each of the children. I watched proudly as they joyfully dropped their two little dimes into the bucket. We continued the trek to the van and I listened quietly to the cheerful chatter of my little ones about how fun it was to hear the clunk of the coins, and how probably now someone would be able to have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner because of the money we had given. All sixty cents of it.

As the kids climbed into the van and I began to unload our few groceries, I was approached by a young pregnant lady holding a little girl of about 3. She spoke in broken English, and held out a sign for me to read that said she was out of work and just wanted to feed her children. I felt my heart wrench. I asked her to wait a minute, and got my wallet out of the van. As I handed her some money, I looked her in the eyes. The gratitude was evident. She was not taking these few dollars for granted. My eyes filled with tears as I thought of the overflowing refrigerator and cabinets that awaited me at home. I wanted to do so much more. I wanted to bring them home, and give that little girl a piece of the cake that was sitting on my table. I wanted to hug the mom and tell her that everything would be okay. Instead, I told her that I hoped the money would help, and I walked away.

As I made my way back to my van, I watched as a complete stranger walked up to the mother, and offered her a turkey. She held out the frozen bird, and said, “Here. Feed your children with this.” I thought that certainly the mother would take the turkey, but I couldn’t help but stare as she refused it. “We don’t have a working oven,” she said with regret in her eyes, “Thank you so much though.”

I climbed into the van with tears rolling down my face. I started the engine, and put my head down on the steering wheel. The children were confused, and asked why I was crying. “What happened, Mommy?” “Why are you crying, Mom?” And then the wisdom of one so small and innocent, “I think Mommy is sad because she didn’t help that lady enough.”

Tomorrow our family will have turkey dinner with all of the trimmings. We will sit around the table in our warm home and give thanks for all God has blessed us with. We will eat until we are full, and then we will stuff our refrigerator full of leftovers to enjoy for several days to come. We will laugh and play and enjoy the company of each other, and we will do our best not to take for granted the abundance that has been entrusted to us.

As we celebrate this Thanksgiving holiday, let us not forget how much God has blessed us with. Let us not forget that while our tables are overflowing, many others are unable to provide even a simple meal for their children. Let us remember to give to those in need, and to not be selfish with what God has given to us. I am challenging myself to find an opportunity this weekend to really give. Not just give what I have leftover, but give sacrificially. Give in such a way that it actually hurts. “If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving—large or small—it will be used to measure what is given back to you.” (Luke 6:38)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blue Carebear Blanket

She wanders around the house with weary eyes. The sound coming from her mouth isn't pleasant, and is difficult to deal with. We love this little one so much, but she can be so difficult sometimes. Ray tried everything tonight. He tried cuddling her, and she pushed him away. He tried playing with her, and it wasn't enough. He tried giving in to her desires, and she still complained.

There is one thing that settles this little one down almost every time she gets in this sort of a mood. I knew what she needed.

So I got out the blue carebear quilt, and laid it out on the floor. I gently placed the discontent little one in the middle of the quilt, and she immediately started to calm down. I wrapped her up tightly in a way reminiscent of the way she was swaddled the first time the nurses handed her to me 19 months ago. I picked her up, held her close to my growing belly, and rocked her carefully. She gazed into my eyes as I sang. "Hush little baby don't say a word. Mama's gonna buy you a mocking bird." All fight was gone from her body as she relaxed into mine. We rocked and sang and rocked and sang until she was ready to face reality again.

This little one is so much like her Mama. So much like me...walking around discontent, grumbling and fussing and complaining and making everyone around me miserable. Refusing to accept the love of others and being too stubborn to receive the help that is offered. The major difference is that Kay has learned to recognize and welcome the blue carebear blanket. She knows it means the comfort and acceptance of mama. She knows that she is safe wrapped up tightly in the warmth of my arms.

I continue to fight it, yet I long for that security. The security that is offered in the shadow of His wings.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust!" For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield bulwark. Psalm 91:1-4

Lord, I long to rest in you. I yearn for the refuge and security that you offer, yet I continue to pull away and resist the protection that You have already granted me. Break my stubborn spirit, and hold me close. Don't give up on me.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I get it.

Every day there is another story on the news about a cruel mother. You know the one. The mother who snapped one day and did something unthinkable. Maybe she locked her kids in a closet and walked away for a few hours. Maybe she ran away from her family and never looked back. Maybe she put everyone into the car and drove into a lake.

I used to be the kind of person who seriously hated mothers who did those things. I couldn't conceive of how any mother could hurt her children or run away from them. I didn't understand how someone could get to that point. Why didn't she just call her husband or a friend? Why didn't she get some help? Could it really be all that bad?

I get it now.

Don't get me wrong. I have no intention of hurting my children or running away. But I get it. I get the hopeless feeling. I get not knowing if you are going to make it through the day. I get feeling all alone, and like there isn't a person in the world to call that would make it any better. I get not knowing if I will make it through another moment as a mother, let alone another day. Or month. Or year. I get just wanting some quiet, some space, even just a moment where there isn't someone who needs something.

I think most moms have been there. I think most moms have had days when they didn't know how they would make it through another moment. Days that felt hopeless and isolated. A few moms actually snap. They lose it completely and do something horrible. Others make it through somehow and hopefully come out better on the other side.

I know I should have some fabulous resolution to this post, but I don't. I'm still in the throws of one of "those days". I'm still wondering if I'm going to make it. I'm still desperately needing some space or some love or something. But I know that usually when I have days like this, tomorrow is better. We make it through, and we survive. And maybe I come out with a little more compassion for other moms than I had the day before.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

He knows.

This morning Ray made me take a nap. I fought him tooth and nail, but he eventually just closed the blinds, turned on the fan, and pulled the blankets over my weary body. I'll admit I was a little annoyed. He rarely gets days off during the week, and I really wanted to enjoy the day as a family. Maybe go to the park or play a game or watch a movie or even just have a conversation. My body, however, wasn't going to allow any of those things. My body, weary from pregnancy and being sick for 3 weeks needed rest, and my husband saw that.

It's funny to me how so often, this man I love knows what is best for me when I can't see it (or when I refuse to see it). So often he tells me to take my vitamin or drink more water or eat healthier or read my Bible, and so often I fight him and refuse to believe that what he is offering will actually help. 99.9% of the time though, he is right.

Isn't it the same with our heavenly Father? He sees our needs, He knows exactly what will make us feel better, and yet we kick and scream and fight him because we think we know what is best. I need to remember that God has my best interests at heart. He doesn't want to fight with me. He wants me to accept that He loves me and that He knows best. Why does it have to be so hard to trust Him?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's not about me.

The holidays are upon us again. Seems like they are rushing in so fast this year, and yet they can't get here fast enough either. Baby #5 will be arriving in just about two months, and I have so much to do before she gets here.

This is always kind of a rough time of year for our family. Ray hasn't ever been a big holiday person, and often gets depressed right about this time of year. And I always get really homesick and lonely. This year Ray is fighting the depression tooth and nail (and I really think he's going to win), but I'm struggling so much.

Mom and Dad aren't able to come for Christmas this year. It's okay. I really do understand, and I'm happy that Ray's mom and brother are able to come instead. But I'm lonely. And homesick. And I don't like change. So the fact that everything is going to be different this year is really causing me to have a hard time. Add pregnancy hormones in the mix, and it's not a pretty picture.

I'm working hard to remember that it will be wonderful no matter what. Maybe we'll have a new baby for Christmas! That would be fun. Or maybe I'll be enjoying my last few days of only four kids (only, ha!). Either way, we'll enjoy having family in town and we'll enjoy celebrating with them.

I need to keep perspective on what Thanksgiving and Christmas are really about. I need to choose gratitude. I need to remember the baby that was born so many years ago, who grew up to be my Savior. Those are the important things. Those are the things that matter. It doesn't matter if Jones #5 comes before or after Christmas. It doesn't matter if the decorations are perfect. It doesn't matter if we go to every single Christmas party, or if my truffles turn out perfectly. It doesn't matter whose mom is coming to visit. What matters is HIM. And doing it all for HIS glory. It's not about me. It's about HIM.

Monday, November 8, 2010

He prays.

I've been watching him. He isn't the same man he was yesterday, 2 months ago, a year ago, 10 years ago. Sometimes when he doesn't know I'm looking, I'll follow him with my eyes. Noticing the extra dose of patience he doles out to the cranky toddler, or the prayer he says with the 7 year old who is acting like a bully, or the tender touch he gives the blondie who fell down and got hurt, or the twinkle in his eye as he inspects the newest drawing by our 6 year old budding artist.

I'm jealous of the changes he has made. I'm jealous of the Christ that is oozing out of his pores. I long to join him, but something holds me back.

Pride? Selfishness?

Probably both.

He has started to pray. I lay in his crook before the sun comes up, and he whispers sweet prayers for our day and for our family. He asks if I want to pray, but I can't. I don't know how. I think about it often. I wonder what it would be like to have a truly dependent relationship with the One who is healing my husband. I lay awake wondering what to say, how to talk to my Maker.

I feel so small and insignificant. I feel as though I've walked too far away. I feel like change is impossible and maybe even too good to be true. I fight a war with myself every day as I gaze upon my Bible and as I help the children learn their AWANA verses. I often push the feelings down, knowing that if I allow them in I will have to change. Things will have to be different.

Change has always scared me. I don't embrace it, but instead I dig in my heels and squeeze my eyes shut and hope that it just leaves me alone.

I'm to the point, though, where I can't ignore it anymore. Something is going to need to change. What's it going to be?

Thief

The computer has stolen my life. It has stolen my time. It has stolen who I was made to be. And the sad thing is that I let it. In fact, I willingly chose to give those things away.

Ironic that I'd by typing this on the very machine I am accusing of robbing me.

I'm just going to check my e-mail real quick. I just need to see what so-and-so is doing, so I need to check facebook. I should check cnn to see what is going on in the world. Oh, look! So-and-so wrote a new blog! I had better read it or I might hurt her feelings.

And before I know it, moments, hours, even days are gone. Missing. The computer has become more important than real life. Checking in on other people has become more important than checking in on the ones God has entrusted to me.

The thought of turning it off makes me sweat. The thought of walking away for a while makes my heart beat fast. I've become so consumed with the unimportant, and I don't know how to let it go.

So instead, I let my housework go. I let the needs of my children and husband go. I let my Bible reading go. I let my prayer life go.

I let myself go.

And for what? For what have I sacrificed my family and my home and my GOD? For facebook? For gmail? For cnn?

How far am I willing to go to get back the things that matter? How uncomfortable am I willing to be?