Peeking

The room is darkened, the screen is off. I lay down and hold my breath, my heart fluttery and anxious. My Beloved sits beside me, making smalltalk with the tech as he readies his equipment. The goo, which is promised to be warm but never is, is slathered on my belly and the screen flickers to life.

 

To life. Life being the key word here. There is life within, floating and bobbing and wiggling and squirming. It is grey and white and black and more beautiful than I can say. I don’t bother to ask too many questions since I know the tech will not be permitted to give me anything but cursory answers, but he politely points out spine and ribs, heart and stomach, arms and legs and face.

 

Measurements are taken and compared. My eyes never leave the screen. The baby’s mouth is opening and shutting, and we can even see the tongue moving in nursing motions, practicing for that day still 20 long weeks away. The tech enjoys his job; he is jovial and interested in our reactions to his limited information, but he cannot know the depth of gratitude that I am feeling for every second that the screen shows this little bit of humanity waving at me.

 

The room is the same from many months previous. The screen is the same, the womb is the same. But this time there is not silence and stillness and sorrow. This time there is joy. I’m sure the tech has delivered sorrowful news before. He may have even been on the receiving end of such news himself, once upon a time. But we do not discuss such things. He has good news today for us; a heart beating strongly, growth appropriate to the dates, and organs all present and accounted for.

 

 

Loss affects everyone differently, and no one can compare their own to another. But in one way it is always the same…it always changes you. It changes everything. Close by in my crowded heart are friends whose own losses outweigh my own. And I am keenly aware that it may even still be in my future. Loss never leaves; once you experience it, it becomes a part of you.

 

The sonogram is over too soon. There are others waiting and I mustn’t be selfish. I wipe the goo and collect my things: pictures, dvd. Tokens of this moment of peeking. I treasure the glimpse and I anticipate April, but for now it is enough. More than enough. More than I ever expected to see again. I gaze at the fuzzy image and thank God for my tiny son.

 

 

ouch

Last night I went into the ring with my inadequacies and failings. I’d like to say it was a pitched battle, but I’ll be honest and confess…they kicked my ass. Thoroughly.

 

Sometimes I feel like I’m on Candid Camera. Okay, come on folks…joke’s over…come out, come out, wherever you are…and out will pop one Funt or another and everyone will laugh uproariously at the thought that I was really, really!, supposed to be raising these children. It’s so hilarious!

 

 

Except it’s not. And I really should have seen the battle coming after all my talk of joy and optimism and such. But I have to say that I’m much better at talking the talk than actually walking the walk.

 

How does one get there, anyway? How does one move the head-knowledge that accumulates uselessly between the ears to that region where it actually makes a difference…about a foot and a half south, behind the ribcage? That traitorous heap of festering emotion called the heart, that reacts when conflict comes by stumbling blindly into the room marked “old habits/childhood hurts,” crashing into shelving, until it is buried underneath the accumulated dredge of 39+ years?

 

That crap is heavy, man. And it’s smothering me.

 

There is only one thing that helps, if I will allow it. It’s the recognition that I am in damn fine company. How many times did David, slayer of giants, “dissolve his bed” with his tears, crying out to God from a heart broken by his own doing? And lest I cut him more slack than I do myself for the simple reason that he lived in a pre-Messianic world, I might do well to listen to Paul, champion of the faith, as he describes some ring-time of his own…

 

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!*

I am singularly wretched this morning. I do not understand what I do. I’m bleeding and pummelled on the mat here as Satan and sin dance above, their gloved hands raised in victory over me. But just as soon as I figure out how to get up again, I’m going another round.

 

Because, sooner or later, in the end, they’re goin’ down.

 

*Romans 7: 14-25

 

 

Sorry, Bing

I’ll…be in the Caribbean….for Christmas….

 

 

you…can count…on me….

 

please….have sand….

 

 

and hammock stands…

 

 

and palms…on every treeeee….

 

 

Christmas Eve…will find me….

 

 

where…the sunshine….beams….

 

 

I’ll…be in the Caribbean…for Christmas….

 

 

If only…in….my dreams…

 

 

Providence

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thornton Wilder

 

Ah! Thornton! It’s enough to make me want to name my unborn child after you. How did you get so wise?

 

Today I was musing upon alternate universes in which I had fewer children, or none at all, or was not married, or was born to different parents, or in a different location, or in a different era… some of the choices are undeniably non-negotiable, but plenty of them were mine to make.

 

 

And if I had made them differently? Perhaps the way human logic dictated?

 

 

how much money would I have?
how much free time would I have?
how much charity work would I have accomplished?
how in-shape would I be?
how many books would I have written?
how much solitude would I enjoy?
how many times would I have read through the bible?
how many books would I have read?
how much prayer would I have done?
how clean would my house be?

 

 

I might have been famous. I might have been rich. I might have been in high demand for my decorating skills, my biblical insight, my humanitarian efforts. My books might have been in the windows of bookstores, the lines of people wanting autographed copies wrapping around the buildings.

 

 

Or hey, here’s a thought…

 

 

I might have been in jail. I might have been in the looney bin. I might have been a drug addict. I might have been dead from suicide. I might have been selfish, thoughtless, bitter, unforgiving, violent, and unloving.

 

Given that I struggle with most of that last bit on my best days, it seems the latter scenarios are far more likely than the former.

 

So as I ponder the words of Mr. Wilder, I see quite plainly the road that has brought me here to this place of beauty and grace, and I stand in awe of it. Providence is a marvelous thing, and as I make my checklist of things-for-which-to-be-thankful, I carefully make note of the trials and the heartaches which have been as instrumental in getting me here (if not more so) as the sunshiney and flowery bits.

I want to count it all joy. I want it to be ever-present before me as the best possible life I could have possibly lived, for it is the one my Father has given me to enjoy. I want to be alive in it, not half-dead with regrets and longings.

 

Mr. George Herbert has penned a little prayer that is mine today, and hopefully will be on my lips often as long as I am given to live:

 

Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, – a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.

Amen!

 

 

That pesky muse

Yesterday was a crafty day. That’s not to be confused with a crappy day, which it was not at all. Anyway, I got it into my head to do some crafts and nothing could stop me. Once the muse settles herself upon my head, I cannot dislodge her. She’s really irritating that way. So I bought my supplies and some for the kids too, so they could share in all my crafty goodness.

 

Honestly, it was to keep their mitts off *my* project.

 

So, they made little craft-foam gingerbread men, and they were very intense about it. I loved it because I didn’t have to roll out one single?scrap of dough. Of course, they don’t taste or smell as good as the real thing, but one doesn’t like to complain. Here is Emma, being intense.

 

And Gabriel, being VERY intense (the glue was a little tricksy)

 

 

Toby, learning at a very inappropriate time how to unscrew caps

 

 

Toby, learning proper glue placement (hint: not all over the table)

 

 

Emma, bearing a striking resemblance to her creation thus far:

 

 

Finished products

 

 

One of my favorites (it’s Gabriel’s…don’t tell anyone)

 

 

So okay, enough with the cutesy kids and the cutesy “gingerbread” men. What did *I* make, you want to know? You’re dying to know, right? First I must confess that the idea was not mine. I got it here. The sight of these adorable letters just stuck in my craw and festered. Okay, so that doesn’t sound pleasant at all. Let’s just say I wanted to make them too. I have something of a sick passion for paper. It’s probably not healthy. But admission is the first step to recovery, right? So I’m admitting. I love paper. Paper like this:

 

 

It makes me swoon. So I fetched myself some letters and got to work. But I couldn’t stop at just one paper per letter. Get real! I had to mix it up. I had to festoon. I had to glitterfy. And with liberal amounts of mod-podge, I accomplished this:

 

 

But wait. What is that I spy in the middle of the “S”? Let’s take a closer look…

 

 

Ohhhh….right. I hate winter.

 

 

In case you were confused as to why someone like me, who turns blue when the temperature drops below 70, would be invoking the snow-gods to send the bitter white flakes, let me hasten to clarify. I ain’t askin’.

 

I gotta say, though…

 

 

these letters turned out cute

 

 

stinkin’ cute!?

 

So have fun making your own Christmassy crafts. And may all your snow be mica.

 

(35 more sleeps )

 

A more organized photo

I don’t know what is bothering my second youngest son in this picture, but rest assured there was no lasting damage. I think some creative photoshopping would be in order here. Oh, and there appears to be some sort of preposterous male interloper seated to the left of my eldest child. But all that aside, it’s not a bad shot.

Here is a buffalo Native American on the verge of a sneeze. I love his cheekbones, and how he’s composed entirely of tiles. They tell me this is called a mosaic, but I just call it cool and I’m done. No need to get all high-falootin’.

HERE is a buffalo.

Actually, that is not a buffalo at all. True buffalo live in Africa and Asia. This is actually an American Bison. Scientific name Bison Bison (no, I’m not making that up; what do you take me for?). This one looks a little depressed. Maybe he’s upset about the whole name thing. Or the fact that he’s only one of half a million left after the slaughter of the 18th and 19th centuries decimated his kind. Or his butt is cold.

Honestly, how could his butt NOT be cold? Where are his pants??It looks like he’s about to pitch forward onto his head. I can just imagine the first bison ever created, scampering off to play while God calls after him:

“Well if your butt gets cold later cause you were in too much of a hurry to let Me finish dressing you, don’t come crying to Me!”

Numbers

Quick! How many people can you count?

 

 

 

Answer: there are eleven people in the picture. And they all sprang from my womb. Amazing.

 

Yesterday my tribe and I went to a local nature preserve/museum. It was a sublime day; blue skies and temps hovering in the mid 70s. For Oklahoma, it was as good as it gets. And that was pretty daggum good. I knew when I snapped this picture that it wouldn’t be an amazing family portrait or an exercise in fine composition…I snapped it for the simple reason that I saw for a brief moment just how big a group we appear to be.

 

The vast majority of the time, it is not so. When we’re at home, seated around the table or the living room, or going about our normal activities, I’m prone to believe we are not anything big deal. It’s just…us. But occasionally I get to see my family through the eyes of a disinterested observer, and that’s when I am startled to think we may be perceived as less of a family and more of a circus freak show.

 

I never meant to be the matron over such a crowd. I certainly didn’t set out to be. When my Beloved and I made the decision to take our fertility and place it squarely in the Lord’s capable hands, we didn’t have a number in mind that we felt would be acceptable, or one that seemed ridiculous. The friends we had were parents of one or two. Our decision was not mainstream, to say the least.

 

The worst comments we received came, strangely enough, when I was pregnant with our fourth. Four was just pushing the societal norm, and obviously our mental abilities were up for public debate. We must be uneducated; therefore, we must be corrected, and quickly! It was a difficult period. But it doesn’t seem that long ago. I blinked, and my table was surrounded by olive plants.

 

Nowadays I hear very little negative (to my face, at least). I don’t know if people are afraid of me, or just extra polite in my area of the world (I don’t think it’s the latter). I’m grateful to be spared the derogitory comments, but I know there is a vast and hostile segment of the population that would not spare my feelings to tell me just how preposterous my family is. I am sorry for them. They do not see my children, or people in general, in terms of individuals with gifts and callings and purposes set out for them from the foundations of the world. They see only a mass of humanity traipsing pointlessly to the grave.

 

I am constantly in awe of how different each of my children are from the other. Here are people, from the same two parents, whose thoughts and feelings and passions and strengths are as diversified as snowflakes. Here is one who is tenderhearted and loves animals. Here is one whose creativity oozes from every pore. Here is one who is rambunctuous and eager to help. Here is one who is quiet and studious. I know it is my duty and honor to instruct and pray for each one, but He has not abandoned me to that task; I have all the help I could ever need in carrying out that commission, if only I remember to ask for it.

 

Soon, by His tender mercy, we will add a twelth to the cast of characters. Occasionally it has been suggested (by those who view children according to the Biblical description–as blessings rather than burdens) that we have been so fruitful as some sort of evidence of our exceptional parenting skills. How I wish to dispell that notion. My children are blessings, yes, and unequivocably so, but the largest evidence of that lies not in their sheer numbers, but in the number of times God has used each one to spotlight some area of my life that needs work.

 

How often it is that we think we will *help the Lord out* by being willing to do a work of service for Him, when in reality He is using the service to help work His will in us. I shudder to think of the person I would be today if I had not had my brood about me to constantly and painfully trample the chaff as it blows about my life. Others have no need of such an abundance of threshers. As for me, I will welcome as many as He sees fit to send, and may I never fail to thank Him for each and every one.

Depth

True confession: sometimes I find myself thinking deep thoughts. Really! I think it’s a mid-life thing. I’m not trying to brag, because although the ability to think deep thoughts is admittedly cool and one which I highly recommend, I also have to warn you…sometimes deep thoughts are painful. Sometimes you’re just going along, thinking your deep, stodgy, pompous thoughts and having a big love-fest with your intellect, and God bursts in and drops a bombshell that sends all your philosophical notions skittering along the floor with their skirts up in a very undignified manner.

 

 

Here’s the crux: it has burst upon me with inexorable force that the road upon which I walk (and skip and stumble and crash and burn and crawl and creep and sometimes curl into a fetal position and suck my thumb but eventually stagger to my feet again) is a thing of singular beauty. It has been given to me as a gift, and I have often despised it.

 

 

This road is not just an inanimate surface that is leading me to an ultimate destination, it is instead a living, breathing organism, the very Spirit of God Himself, leading me from glory to glory. I have resisted Him. I have pounded my fist upon His pavement and shed my tears of frustration and pain into His dust. I have sprawled out upon Him and insisted that I could not take another step. And in the sprawling has come a slow absorption of more of His grace and more of His mercy until I have found that I could indeed get to my feet again and go on.

 

 

But I confess that I have not seen the fullness of the glory around me on my way. I am guilty of pressing on with my eyes firmly fixed forward, teeth clenched against the wind, determined that to be happy on the way was something for less thoughtful souls. Simpler souls. Ignorant souls.

 

 

May God forgive me! I am beginning to grasp that what I told myself was a God-given longing for Heaven has been more than a little mixed with jaded cynicism. Oh yes, I am to long for heaven. I am not to be in love with this world. But here I am, and He has surrounded me with so much for which to praise Him. My walk has been seriously lacking in praise. It has been one of endurance, of just getting through, of I’ll-have-all-eternity-in-heaven-to-make-up-for-it.

 

 

Happiness is not a sin. What a revelation! I want to choose happiness, to be joyful in hope, patient in tribulation, and fervent in prayer, to have the childlike faith I used to have that sat me on the lap of Daddy God and said thank You for my life. And with a hug ran off to play. The faith that took me to Him when I was hurt and broken and believed that He would fix it because He loved me that much. The faith that saw each open flower as a smile and each sunset as a love letter from Him to me.

 

 

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation! I echo the words of psalm 51 with everything in me! And sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.

 

 

Has cynicism ever done anyone any good? We may call it realism, but we are kidding ourselves. Jesus was no cynic. He held conviction in one hand but the other hand was bursting with the fullness of HOPE. My sighing over the weight of the world will only add to its density. It will draw no one to God. It will make no one’s burden lighter, for it makes my own nearly unbearable and my witness useless.

 

 

So here I am, I’m taking off this yoke of false reality and patronizing intellect, of perceived hardship and gasping martyrdom. I’m taking up His instead, and I have faith that I might finally be understanding just what that means.

 

Matthew 11:28-30