Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Grace of Completion

The other day I went shopping with a friend and I seemed to see cranky children everywhere we went.  Little ones yanking on mom's legs, big ones mouthing back....endlessly irritating.  And I realized that God was showing me something important, because with every one I was silently saying, "Thank you, Lord, that's not ME". 

I loved, passionately loved, being a mom, through all the stages - and still am loving this amazing job of mine.  And for the longest time there was a little voice that would hope, every month, that another small person would be added to our household.  I would wish on stars, wishing wells, candles...and when nothing happened, the desire quietened to just an occasional, "Gosh, I wish...".  Finally, I got to the point where I was hardly ever thinking of a new little one.  Then, that "time of life" caught up with me, and I expected to feel at least somewhat mournful that now there was no chance of  a new child.  Instead, this moment of grace occured.

I realized that I have had my time, and, oh, what a time it was.  I got every drop out of it, and savored it, but I don't want any more.  I'm content. I'm happy with young adults, and excited by the adventure of life that is awaiting them.  I'm also tired, so tired that I'm grateful that I'm not chasing small ones around.

We are told to expect seasons of our lives.  In Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, v. 1 - 9, we are told that "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:  a time to be born, a time to die..."  God has shown me that my season of motherhood is coming to a close; that although I will always be a mother, that my active mothering is no longer as needed.  Instead of being sad, and trying to hold on to this, I should be joyful and expectant - what will He bring into my life now?  What season will this be for me?  I don't know yet, but I do know one thing.  It will be blessed, because He will bring it to me.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


 Pain.  It's no wonder torture is such an effective tool, because you get to the point that you'll do almost anything to get the pain to stop.  But it doesn't have to be big pain.  Constant dull pain is its own kind of torture.  It's not bad enough that you can go to the hospital or justify making a big fuss.  It's just THERE, never ending.  It makes you irritable with the people you love and even worse with annoying people.  It's on your mind constantly and you can't get away from it.  It's hard to find anything to be grateful about in constant pain.

It's there, though.  It's in the doctor who gives you medicine despite all the hassles he has to go through to do it.  It's in the family who holds you close and tries to make life easier for you.  It's in your own understanding that other people are going through much, much worse in Haiti and other troubled regions.

God gives us challenges so that we can find grace.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I've had cats my whole life.  I really can't imagine life without them...though I don't have to imagine it because I lived through it for four years.  Spouse is allergic to the long haired type beast and we thought that meant he couldn't tolerate any type beast in the house.  I loved him so I was willing (or so I thought) to do without something that had been a major part of my life since I was five.  Bad idea.

Those four years were difficult - two very VERY different people trying to come to grips with marriage and home ownership and careers and all the little landmines those things entail.  Then, as if all that wasn't hard enough, we started trying to get pregnant and within three years of "I do" we were on that wonderful roller coaster called infertility treatments.  Maybe you've heard of it?  Get something done, chug up that long, long rise waiting, waiting, scared but excited, reach the top, have a test, and ... BAM you're whizzing down into tears and misery.  Then you get another treatment, start chugging back up the rise...well, you get the idea.

Somewhere in the middle of that, a friend and I were at a garden center.  A little black cat trotted out from behind some bushes and my friend said, "There you are!  This is the one I've been telling you about.  He's SUCH a sweetie!"  The little cat came right up on the tip of my shoe, meowing as if I was his long lost cousin from Nebraska, and when I scooped him up in my arms - because he WAS so darned sweet - he rubbed his face against my breast and started to purr...and I was lost.  Then, I literally could not put him down, because each time I tried he would start climbing up my leg. I stood there, my heart breaking because I knew, KNEW I could not bring this little stray home.  That's when fate intervened in the person of a nasty young worker walking by who said, "You guys want that cat, you better take him.  I'm dumping him in the desert tonight.  Can't have him hanging around here, we'll get in trouble."

Well, long story short...Pooky came home with me that night, and I held on fiercely.  If I couldn't have a child, I was at least going to have a cat, by God, and no stick-in-his-rear-end husband was going to stop me.  Spouse didn't talk to me for three days, and it was touch and go for a while after that.  Then one day I came home and found Pooky curled up on the bed next to him as he watched t.v. and I knew the battle was over.  Not by any stretch of the imagination could you say he enjoys the cats, but he does tolerate them.

Pooky was my child all those years I couldn't have any human ones.  God found a way to give me something to hold on to until He could give me the children He had waiting in heaven.  .

My most recent beast - one of three - is fidgeting behind the laptop, trying to get a pen to play with her since her human is falling down on the job.  This one is also a rescue beast - a friend found her, three siblings, and her mom starving in her woodpile last summer.  Mine is the runt of the litter and what she doesn't have in brains (we think the summer sun cooked them out) she makes up for in sheer curiosity.  I pray daily that she has her full complement of lives because she is going to need them! And she is a daily reminder to me that God is always taking care of me, in one way or another.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Note to Self

Do not be sad because it is over.  Be glad that it happened in the first place.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Enduring Grace

I'm already cranky as I head out to the grocery store at 9:00 at night to get milk and bread.  Younger Progeny - who works at the grocery store - forgot to take her wallet and the car wasn't available until she got home at dinnertime.  So I'm not in the best mood and my barometer slips even lower as I realize that we are the only people in the neighborhood who still have our Christmas lights on.  It's just now the 12th day of Christmas and - for most people - it's over, done, finis, packed up, swept away, don't bother me until next year.  I suppose I can kind of understand - with the red and green decorations coming out before we've put away the orange and black ones, I guess there are those who are heartily sick of it by now.  Not me, obviously.  For me, it seems like the season whizzed past like those flapping calendar pages in an old time movie. And not just this season.  The last ten years or so it's seemed like some celestial film operator has been running the movie of my life in double or quadruple time.  Those calendar pages are zipping by so fast that if they had cartoons on the corner of each page I'd have my own personal moving picture show.

I want them to SLOW DOWN.  Our girls have turned overnight from snarky 13 year olds to graceful, wonderful almost-adults.  Graduation is breathing heavily right around the corner, and I am NOT READY.  Being a mom, a home maker in the truest sense of the word, has been my whole life for almost 20 years.  I enjoyed teaching, and I was darn good at it, but my real life started the day the nurse came around the corner and said, "It's positive!" and Spouse and I started to cry.  The six years of Infertility Wars seemed to take forever, but this - this went by too fast.

I was brooding on this as I drove through the darkened streets, the cheerful lights of Christmas just a memory now, and the cheerful light of small children felt almost as far away.  Then I glimpsed it.  The blazing white cross on the hill.   When the neighborhoods were full of color, it still stood out but now, in the darkness, I could see it from a long way away.  The light blazed into the dark corners of my mind, as well, lighting them up and reminding me that this - THIS is constant.  This doesn't whiz past or go away.

I can't see the cross for very long when I 'm driving down the road, but the memory of it stays with me.  "Count on Me," it seems to say.  "I will bring you through it."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Roses and Godiva Chocolates

The twelve days of Christmas aren't even over and Valentine's stuff is on the shelves!!! AARGH.  The only good thing about this is that it reminds me of roses and candy and...

When I was in college, I was dating a boy who I knew deep down was not the right one for me.  But, I was insecure, I was a mess, and I wanted desperately to get married and create a safe haven for myself.  I thought I had found it with him.  The problem was, though, that the buried knowledge of the unrightness of it all kept popping up and causing rifts in the relationship.  One of those was that I felt he wasn't romantic enough.  Someone who REALLY loved me would do grand romantic gestures.  At the time, I referred to this as "roses and Godiva chocolates".  The right kind of guy would be the one who left roses and Godiva chocolates on your pillow just because he loved you.  Once I told him, he dutifully brought me these, but, of course, they weren't enough because HE wasn't enough.  I just wasn't ready to admit it.

Fast forward a number of years.  It's what a friend calls "damn-it o'clock in the morning" and Spouse and I have just done the last of numerous loads of vomit covered items.  The girls have the flu in tandem and we have spent hours comforting, wiping, washing, and remaking cribs.  We have finally gotten the bug under control and the girls have fallen into an exhausted sleep in one crib while the bedding for the other is whirling its way dry.  Spouse and I have fallen onto our own bed, waiting for the dryer to stop and we drift into sleep.  Then the timer beeps and I am so tired that it makes me want to cry to think of getting up and pulling the stuff out and making the bed.

In a romance novel, this is where the wonderful husband says, "You go to sleep.  I'll finish up," and we all sigh and say, "Awwww, that is SO SWEET."  My reality, though, is that Spouse has a physical disability.  Most of what we humans do on a daily basis is extremely hard for him.  On this particular night, he could have stayed put and let me do all the work because it was really difficult for him to do it.

He didn't, though.  He scraped his share of smelly sheets, and when he couldn't physically do something, he stayed there and kept me company.  When we were finally done, and both girls were in sweet smelling jammies and comfortably in their own beds, and when I had changed into my own clean jammies and we were comfortably in our own bed, he rubbed my aching back until we fell asleep.

When our girls walk down the aisle, I will have him next to me in the church and we will remember all of these times.  We'll remember the Night of Living Vomit, and all those Christmas Eves where we stayed up until all hours making memories for our kids, and first loves, and graduations, and...well, you get the idea.  What I won't remember is whether he ever brought me roses and Godiva chocolates.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Burnt Toast

Okay.  You get up in the morning and you decide to have toast, or a bagel, or something you shove in a toaster. ( If you're like me, you've had, oh, six or so toasters in the 25 years you've been married, none of which lasted more than a couple of years, which is food for another post thought... ) So, you pop your bread in, push the handle down, get out your butter and a knife and a plate...and before you know it, you're smelling that coffee smell...and you grab your toast out...and it's burnt in several places.  Now, it's not completely charcoal, so you can't feel good about throwing the whole thing out.  You take your knife and the kitchen towel, because, of course, burnt toast is HOT...and you start to scrape.

Little bits of the burnt stuff drift down into the sink as you stand there scraping.  You scrape and scrape, trying not to rip the bread, trying to get it down to a warm brown rather than a bitter black...and as you scrape you realize that this can be a metaphor for life.

Life frequently hands me burnt toast.  Pain, tired days, cranky children, more month than money - I know I'm not alone in any of this.  So I do a lot of scraping.  I suppose it's another form of that "attitude of gratitude" I spoke about before.  I scrape away the burnt stuff to find the good stuff underneath.  Behind the pain and tiredness is the knowing that I don't have to go work somewhere despite it - I can stay home and do my stuff, sitting on a pillow and taking ibuprofen.  Behind the cranky children are those nice kids - the ones I do actually see once in awhile! - the ones who bring me a Tab when I don't want to get up and who go to the store when I hurt too much to drive.  Behind the money issues is the fact that we in America have a more prosperous life than nearly anyone else on the planet - even living on one income!

I guess the moral is that I should be grateful that I have toast.  And I am.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Daily Grace

When I was young we lived in Florida.  Every so often we would visit my grandmother who lived in St. Pete, and sometimes, while we were there, we would go to a wonderful used book store called Haslam's.  This is where I got my first introduction to Ideals magazine.  If you're not familiar with this magazine, it was an inspirational assortment of poetry, stories, pictures, and so on.  It began in the '40s and its heyday was the 50's and 60's, and it has all the wonderful, wide eyed optomisim and idealism of that era.  In those days, patriotism and pride were as normal as breathing; we lived in America!  The best place on earth! 

At that visit, I got a Christmas Ideals.  It appealed to me because it was published in the year of my birth, 1960.  Ever since then, this magazine is what I read when I want to invoke Christmas spirit.  I sit by the light of the tree, and reread old, familiar, and beloved poems, and my world is good.  It is "daily grace".  To me, daily grace is finding joy in the simple, the spiritual, the special things that are provided for us each day by a loving Father.  It is, as they say in 12 step groups, "an attitude of gratitude".  Join me, won't you, in a journey towards Daily Grace?

May I, With Each Passing Day
by Dorothy Lousie Thomas
from Ideals Christmas, 1960

I thank Thee first for all the gifts
The old year brought to me -
The dancing spring, a yellow rose
A few days by the sea:

Glad gypsy hours in autumn woods,
And restful nights of snow,
And many, many stirring bouts
With clean, blue winds that blow!

I would keep my New Year free
From carelessness and folly,
From little words that prick and sting,
From sinful melancholy;

Free from idle discontent
Which turns the brightest day
Into a stretch of sullen hours
Beneaath a sky of gray.

Let me keep it clean as grass
Twinkling after rain;
Happy as the bird that cleaves
A morning sky in twain.

I would learn the tolerance
Of the kindly sun
That shines alike on rich and poor,
And heartens everyone.

Give to me the trustfulness
Of the roadside flower,
That neither fears the darkening sky
Nor yet the sudden shower.

Strengthen me to do my work
With joy and hardihood,
And may I, with each passing day,
Know that life is good!

Life IS good.  Never lose sight of that.