November 16, 2012

Macerated Heart

We waited until Nathan was on the bus and headed for school before we bundled up in fleece and warmth to walk to Grandma's house. We talked about 'smoke' in the air (frozen clouds of breath), safety crossing streets, and encouraged each other to keep going.

Just a few blocks from Grandma's, Zoe fell. I didn't see it, but somehow she fell with her chin being the one to greet the rough sidewalk first. I picked her up, soothing tones already in action, then realized the gushing wound was beyond any get-better kiss. Shirt, coat, gloves getting stained; my panicked thought that I had absolutely nothing with me to help handle this--

Jehovah Jireh.

The man who opened the door just behind me was a man I've known almost all my life. At my request, he called my mom, who drove to come get us. While waiting, Zoe used the family's bathroom (as I held a quickly sodden crimson paper towel to her chin). A few blocks back to Grandpa & Grandma's, and Zoe watched a favored video while we waited for Grandpa to come home and give his medical assessment on whether stitches were needed.

I love physiology and planned for decades to enter medical school. One of my first dates with Trent involved treating a wounded hand he wasn't up to doctoring himself. I do not usually get light-headed around blood, but it requires great detachment to view your child's serious injury calmly.

Grandpa agreed the cut was too deep and the edges too far apart to join on their own, so to the clinic we went. My brain kept holding tight to the strand of purpose that was mine: Help Zoe. Comfort Zoe. Reassure her. Speak calmly. Use warm, non-grave pitches and tones. Keep her distracted from worry by asking other questions or talking of other things.

We waited a while in the procedure room while the P.A. finished up with another patient. We read books. Judith Viorst's book about Alexander's terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day was a good fit for the tears that were still there. We spoke about stickers. I covered the upcoming syringe w/ one of the sterile instrument packets. Moms know there's no need to stare at an upcoming fear for all the moments until you absolutely must face it.

The time came for the shot, and my girl, who could hold off two adults on her own while still an infant, did a credible job of keeping three adults from easily putting a needle to her chin.

It's never easy for a mother's heart to hold down her child for the purpose of allowing pain, no matter how good the result will be. This shouldn't be, your heart cries. I'm to fight for her, not against her!

Needle done, but distraction was still needed for the space of three stitches, meticulously tied. Band-aid applied over all, sticker chosen from a counter basket, and we were back home shortly thereafter. Zoe asked me how come we weren't going to walk home from Grandma's house, truly puzzled. I laughed a bit, but was too drained at that point to risk anything else happening that might necessitate a sprint for multiple blocks, bloody trail following us home...

Lunch at home brought tears again, as muscles tugging at stitches made life painful. She pushed her plate away, and my heart hurt again. We snuggled in the living room recliner under warm blankets, her favorite stuffed friends, water cup, and dark chocolate m&ms at hand. After a bit of TV watching, I shut it off and we fell asleep, Zoe-girl snuggled up next to me, a trusting puppy-pile of exhaustion from the morning's events. It was a pocket of grace, rarely experienced with a sprite of perpetual chatter and movement.

Today, Abba, I am thankful your strength never fails. My heart was macerated as much as her chin this morning, and it took a good part of the afternoon to recover my strength from what was spent in care and comfort. She may very well carry memories of this morning for the rest of her life, but without reading my words, she won't know what this morning cost me -- may never know until she is a parent herself what her hurts do to your heart.

Thank you that you are never impatient with my fears. Thank you that even when you know the full purpose of them, you never scoff at my hurts. Thank you that your care and comfort always meet me where I am, whether waiting in 4-yr-old fear for the needle that's coming or trying to remember as an almost 37-yr-old that I shouldn't lock my knees to prevent falling over myself in a faint.

Thank you for letting me be a mom. Thank you for helping me be a mom. Thank you for showing me your heart, any and every time.

November 15, 2012

More than an Adjective

I have very little time before my kids wake up, but a thought lit a writing fuse this morning. I'll have to see how fast I can type.

Language is one of my very favorite things and something that drives me crazy very often. It still amazes me that making certain sounds in your presence tells you that I'm thinking of something -- and perhaps something that doesn't exist anywhere outside my brain -- but you can understand what I mean. It's using an ephemeral brush to paint a lasting picture in someone else's thoughts, and I love finding new paint colors, techniques, insights and other things that might make more beauty possible!

Years ago, I mused in a notebook that so many words in English are both noun and adjective: lemon, lavender, cinnamon, apple, orange, wood, plastic, water... those are the only words coming to mind just now, but I know there are so many, many more.

I 'get through' more days than I live, I'm sorry to say. Keeping five steps ahead of small children isn't as easy as it looks; I'm usually coaching myself through prep work to handle the next hoop we jump. This morning, it meant talking myself out of bed to get a "make-do" load of laundry started. I have 7+ loads ahead of me today, but doing a small one first will make choosing the kids' clothes more of a no-brainer decision for me (assuming, of course, that neither child takes exception to the outfits I put in this first load). My point is that right now I have to spend a lot of energy just getting through. I've finally started to realize how miniscule an amount I can control and how quickly my entire day gets reorganized in a matter of moments. Child throwing up? It doesn't matter how carefully I've planned my day full of errands, the original plans are pretty much out the window. (Can I get an 'amen', fellow parents?)

I'm trying to find ways to escape the "do the next thing" mindset, if only because "look up and notice the sunrise" will never be the next thing on a to-do list. Being in this mindset gives me an adjective-view, not a noun-view.

Suppose you ask someone about something, and they reply that it's lemon. Interpretation options mean it's yellow, it's sour or astringent, or it's a dud (if the person says, 'a lemon'). 'Lemon' as a noun as a lot more characteristics to consider than it does as an adjective. Smell, taste, touch, and many other aspects come into play where the noun is concerned...

I'm trying to listen this morning, trying to wrap my head around the idea that defaulting to an adjective life is simplified, more straightforward; lots of gut response and almost no nuance or depth or anything worth savoring. I want to recognize more nouns today. I want to remember that things have dimension, personality, unpredictability, qualities that require me to do more than glance at them to truly know them.

Maybe this is what doesn't work for me where reading through the Bible in a year is concerned. Seeing a list of 3-4 chapters to read in a morning (which I haven't done yet; I was starting laundry instead and may regret that later) puts God on my to-do list. I read through Genesis 29 or 30, check off the box (yes, there is an actual box to check) and try to feel that I've spent time relating to God. It usually doesn't work for me. I never thought about it in this way before.

-At any rate, I'm now 10 minutes late and the kids still aren't up (which means a risk of being late for school)! I'm off and running, but I will try to see depth in my day instead of quick, easily-categorized and crossed off adjectives. I promise.

November 13, 2012


I just finished a conversation with my eldest, home sick from school, that illustrates a problem of parenting. I wanted to change his behavior toward his sister. He was so lost in what he thought and how he felt about what I might do to him that I feel sure he won't remember anything I said.

This -- trying to teach another human being how to be mature, balanced, educated, effective, etc. -- is hard. Especially so when I'm still learning it for myself. Doubly-especially when the student isn't a willing participant in the learning process!

Being a parent is being perpetual -- perpetual meals, perpetual laundry, perpetual cleaning, perpetual training, perpetual vigilance, perpetual persistence, perpetual reinforcement. It's exhausting. I don't know whether the tenth time I tell my child not to interrupt or the one thousandth time will actually impact future behavior. I don't know, but I still have to bring the same level of commitment and consistency to the table time after time after time after time.

Jokes, venting, breaks from battle scenes, and tag team parenting with a partner can all help.

Just now, though, all I can think about is my thread of resentment that my 4-yr-old threw a book my direction, wanting me to read it to her, but she just gently patted our dog and crooned to him that he was such a good dog and had such good hearing. The dog literally gets better treatment than I do some days.

I won't be a total Eeyore. There are wonderful moments that I savor long after. Right now... right now I think I owe my mom another phone call to thank her for letting me live.

November 12, 2012

Immanuel - Even Today

To those who believe Jesus is the son of God, the alternate name of 'Immanuel' barely registers. At Christmas, we sing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and never linger on the staggering implications.

In ancient times, a name was everything. This crossed cultures, continents, and centuries. Native American tribes often gave naming privileges only to elders of the tribe who had lived long and dreamed specific dreams. Nebuchadnezzar took the younger members of Israelite nobility, then changed their names to reflect Babylonian religious beliefs. Daniel ("GOD is my judge") became Belteshazzar ("prince of Bel" or "Bel, protect the king!"). Hadassah was crowned as Esther in ancient Persia. Song of Solomon speaks of a lover's name being as a sachet of perfume against his beloved's chest. Murders were carried out (then and still today) to maintain the honor of a family's name. Do not confuse 'name' with 'nickname'. It is more appropriate to read 'name' as 'character,' 'heritage,' and 'legacy.'

Immanuel means "God with us." It first occurs in the book of Isaiah, when God foretold through the prophet a young girl then a virgin would give birth to a son, and she would name him, Immanuel.

In the history of the world, empires have risen, thrived, died, and been buried. I know of no culture with gods that lived among the people. Greek and Roman pantheons interacted with humans, but mostly out of sudden whim or desire for mischief, revenge, or other ulterior motive. I believe we are more comfortable with gods that live away from us; we cannot conceive of a deity who can live with us day after day, yet still be noticeably different from us. When Nebuchadnezzar asked his soothsayers to tell him his dream before telling him the interpretation (nice little check and balance, there, wasn't it?), the astrologers told him, "No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men." [emphasis mine]

Keep all this in mind as we think of Immanuel. I believe Jesus died on a Roman cross, rose from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven more than a month after that. I don't think he has set physical foot on earth since then, but the name hasn't changed: God with us. Not "God was with us, but not anymore" or "God will only be with us if we're good enough" or "God can't possibly be with 7 billion people at one time." No. "God with us."

He lived among us, breathed oxygen (and carbon dioxide and airborne impurities and germs, just as we do), got blisters, knew long-term exhaustion, was hungry, thirsty, devastated, and probably even had digestive problems a time or two. Yet somehow, in the muddiness and messiness of life, looking no different at a casual glance from any other Nazarene (remember they didn't have that convenient glowing circlet over his head to identify him to strangers), he was still completely 'other.' He wasn't a pious, uncomfortable-to-be-around person who always has the Sunday-school answer, who only has prayer requests about needing to pray more on behalf of those who "don't yet know the love of Jesus." He was real. He irritated others, questioned, frustrated people, baffled them, got angry, begged to do something other than what God was asking him to do, broke rules, got dusty, was told by the spiritual heavies in his day that he was a heretic, and was eventually tried on an invented charge so that Rome would execute him. (Those who really wanted him gone didn't have the legal right to do it.)

I'd love to believe that I would recognize Jesus in person, but my life choices more often reflect a heart that seeks to be away from tense times and situations. I like to think I know best, and I don't particularly like my viewpoint being challenged. How would I feel if Bible knowledge I had from my great-grandfather (passed down through my grandfather, uncles, and father) was suddenly dismissed as incorrect? Nichole Nordeman's song, "Wide-Eyed" has a powerful lyric in the bridge of the song: "Not so long ago/ A man from Galilee/ Fed thousands with his bread/ And his theology/ And the truth he spoke/ Quickly became a joke to educated, self-inflated Pharisees like me?"

In all this, Jesus is still -- through the offices of the Holy Spirit -- God with us. Paul writes that from him (meaning Christ) and by him and through him were all things created. There is nothing that exists that came into existence without him. Consider the created world to be the largest one-artist show we will ever see. Study his works; learn to identify his brushstrokes. I believe with all my heart that Immanuel always gives me what is needed to find him -- hear him, see him, recognize him -- in every moment of my life. There is always enough of what I need, no matter where I am or what circumstances I am in, to get home. I just need to be still long enough to find Immanuel.