Then, he smiled at me

It was an emotional afternoon in our house, in the living room specifically. The dog had shredded a toy on the floor, and I had asked my son to vacuum the floor. Pine needles, bits of wrapping paper and ribbon, dog toy fluff…they all needed to disappear.

So, he tried, bless him,…and the vacuumed died. I needed to compile a Sunday school craft, finish preparing dinner for my husband, unpack the bags I had just dragged in from the ‘final shopping trip’, and find out why my daughter was sulking in her room. I didn’t have time to deal with a sucky (or not-so-sucky) vacuum.

Nevertheless, I sat down and began dismembering the machine. Mounds of dog hair, pine needles, and other floor funk began piling up in front of me as I checked this tube and that tube, this connection and that connection. And my emotions began piling up as well. “I have too much to do to deal with this stupid vacuum. We should just buy a new one. There are good sales at this time of year. But we’ve just spend Christmas money. Maybe we should wait. But how long can we go without a vacuum?? I don’t even have time for this now! I have to get stuff put together for church, dinner, gifts…ugh!!!!”

I reached around the Christmas tree to unplug the vacuum in hopelessness. And he smiled at me. IMG_6324

Little baby Jesus. In his manger. The whole reason for this season.

His tiny, precious face caught my attention and gave me pause. It’s all about this beautiful baby, not all the other chaos.

This season of celebration is about his arrival to earth. His presence and promise make our lives more full of love and hope and relationship.  He valued the women he encountered. The busy, frustrated, tired, weary women. The mothers, wives, entrepreneurs, leaders…the oppressed, sick, unfaithful, confused…they all found acceptance when they encountered Jesus. Despite their past struggles, their current predicaments, or what they thought were their future plans, they found compassion with him.

He smiled at them. He lightened their loads. He gave them renewed purpose. He restored their souls.

Look to him, weary mothers. He loves you more than your efforts. He values you more than your attempts. Let him smile at  you. Let him know you. Let him restore you.

“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5: 34)

I know enough…

At this point in life, I know enough to know

That I don’t know enough.

I’ve seen enough to know that

I wish I hadn’t seen what I’ve seen…

And I wish that I had seen what I haven’t seen.

I’ve heard enough of what I didn’t want to hear…

And not heard enough of what I did want to hear.

I’ve gotten what I wished for…

and realized I wished for the wrong thing.

Too many people, not enough help.

Too many needs, not enough hands

Too much sorrow, not enough love.

I’ve ached enough for two lifetimes,

and I’m only halfway through with this one.

I want to know more…and feel less…

But feel more…and know less.

I think I understand how God views the world…

that this is so very much not what he intended.

I long for the Garden of Eden…

for restoration and healing.

This world is not my home…

And yet it is.

I want so much more than this.

And I want so much less of this.

Intervene, Heavenly Father.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Speak comfort, Holy Spirit.

I can’t do this without you.

ugly cry

 

 

 

Hello, old passion; meet new passion…

Shortly after I graduated from college with my degree in education, I landed a long-term substitute job at a rural middle school. My first thought was, ‘$70 a day! Sweet!’ My second thought was, ‘Eighth graders…at the end of the year…dear God, please don’t let them eat me!’

And that was when I found my passion. I loved middle schoolers. They are aloof, awkward, misguided, over-sensitive beings. They are temporarily trapped between childhood and adulthood, and they swing between the two stages like a drunken trapeze artist. Moody, irrational, argumentative, intriguing humans craving direction but rebelling against any suggestion. they want to make wise choices but the dumb ones are so much more entertaining. ‘What is life all about?’ meets ‘Hey, y’all watch this…’ I love ’em.

I taught middle school English for a total of nine years in two separate school divisions. My students have grown up to be teenage moms, environmentalists, lawyers, nurses, Masters students, pot heads, teachers, beauticians, nuclear scientists, and even an NFL player. I loved (almost) all of them. (There were a couple that I’m certain were only placed on this earth to teach me character traits that I didn’t possess at that time…)

After my second child was born, I have only worked part-time as a reading specialist…until now. On Friday, I accepted a position to return to one of my former middle schools as an English teacher. Mommy is returning to full-time teacher status.

And I’m scared. How will both of my passions fit into my one heart?

I wanted to have four or six children until I realized how much of my heart one child took. Then I knew I couldn’t have more than two. So how is my heart going to hold 72? I don’t know.

Do I still have it in me to care so deeply for all my charges? Will I still care whose parents are divorcing, who forgets their meds, who needs extra non-verbal reminders, who needs more time on tasks, who needs extra reassurance, who needs lunch money, who needs a winter coat…AND who needs me to send in a check for yearbook or lunch, who needs poster board for a project, who needs more pencils or glue sticks, who has a field trip and wants me to attend, who has a test and needs that napkin of encouraging words in his lunch box…

I love both so much. I want to do it right for them all. But right now, I’m afraid that I’ll hurt the ones who matter most.

Oh my heart, oh my soul, oh my mind…God be with me.

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Embracing the bittersweet

Fridays are ‘mommy days’. The other days are Omie and Ena days, the grandmas’ days. Fridays are the days that mommy picks D up from preschool because I don’t work on Fridays…this year.

IMG_1443Most Friday afternoons involve play dough creations, art sessions, baby doll mothering, bubble blowing, or marathon book readings. But this afternoon, we were both tired. Between allergies and some unexpected emotional upheavals this week, Friday was going to be a ‘napternoon’.

We cuddled in bed and I read two hilarious books (reviews forthcoming) and we almost decided not to nap. But I yawned, and she rubbed her eyes and we knew. She cuddled into her pink cat quilt, and I rolled into the other bed in her room, and we closed our eyes.IMG_4421

I opened my eyes a few minutes later to see if she was truly asleep, and she was. Two middle fingers in her mouth, little line of drool starting to form, breathing softly and rhythmically. The pristine blue spring sky and the soft green leaves celebrated new life outside her window. But inside, something was ending. ‘Mommy days’ on Fridays were almost over.

In four weeks, she’ll graduate from preschool, and  (hopefully) I’ll be employed with a full time job for next year. I try not to get weepy about things like this with my kids. I spent most of my youth weeping about my own transitions. But this one gets to me. The bittersweetness of it. And i let myself wallow.

Times are a-changing. She is no longer a baby. She loves school. She’s a little knowledge sponge. She’s so ready for the next thing. I’m so ready for my next thing. I’m restless and ready and admittedly, I’ve just been biding my time this year. IMG_3016

But can’t we come back to this? The endingness of it hurts. The finality. Friday afternoons will be spent in school. For her, eagerly gluing her last pieces of colorful craft in place to bring home to show me. For me, grasping at the reigns of control over my impatient adolescent students. No more play dough and dolls before a refreshing nap. No more laughter until hiccuping at amusing nap time stories. (*sigh*) Maybe she could just come to work with me…

I have no regrets. I spent as much time with her as I could during these years. I would not change any of it.

Now we move into a new phase, with new excitement, new ideas, new exploration…for both of us.

IMG_4187And when we come home from our long days of learning and instructing, we will still have each other. We’ll still have our afternoon routines, just later in the afternoon…and maybe alternating days of play dough and dolls and tea parties and games. We’ll still read books before bed. And we’ll always snuggle. Because truthfully, everyday is a mommy day…and everyday she is mine.      IMG_4299

Book Talk: When Mama Comes Home Tonight

I have chosen to work during my children’s young years. I realize there are mixed opinions of that, and I’ve battled my own decision some days. Having endured two rounds of post-partum depression, I know how beneficial it is for me to get out of my house and into the grind of my classroom. As a teacher, I am blessed to share time off with my children.

When my son, my oldest, was an infant, I was struggling with my choice to return to work. Many gals at my church had chosen to stay home, and I felt guilty for making the choice that was really best for me. When I found this book, I was encouraged.

The rhythmic poetry of the story tells all the tender ways the mother celebrates her child when she comes home from work. They dance and pick up toys and have tea and snuggle…all the things a working mom cherishes about home time. Mama also mends clothes and bathes her child, showing her love for her little one through her after-work-home-work. The author shows the beautiful balance that moms have to establish once they come home in the evening.

I didn’t read this book to my son very often as he was more of a rescue/construction fan. When I first read it to my daughter, she snuggled in closer to me and said, ‘Read it again!’ The gentle tempo of the text is like a mother’s rocking…and the words hang around after the story is finished.

‘When Mama comes home from work, dear child/ When Mama comes home tonight…’

Oh for a Silent Night

My oldest friend, well, friend for the longest amount of time, gave me a frozen lasagna, a bag of frozen peas, and a package of ear plugs when my son was born. It was a blessed, but bizarre gift, but she promised, ‘You’ll need them.’ The food was eaten one evening when sleep and patience were both in short supply. The ear plugs, well… of course, she didn’t want me to ignore the cries of my newborn son. She wanted me to have some peace while he slept, so that I could sleep, too. She already had a son, and she knew what it was like to need rest but hear the sounds of duty calling…the laundry piles moaning for attention, the dirty dishes slipping in their filth in the sink, the vacuum sighing out of loneliness. The new woes of a new mom could be deafening. She knew that I would need, at times, to block it all out and rest.

Dear friends, we are in the midst of Advent…a time of preparation for Christ’s birth. And the noise is already deafening. The email dings reminders of Christmas plays and party invitations. The Christmas play parts are practiced loudly, ‘so my voice will project’.  Christmas songs and carols drone in the background of the swiping and clicking of commerce. Bags rattle, trunks slam, bills drop on the table, sighs whisper forth. Kids giggle at silly Christmas cartoons until their siblings want to change the channel and giggles turn to feuds. Phones ring, doorbells chime. ‘All the noise, noise, noise, noise!!’ to quote the Grinch.

But we don’t want to be Grinchy. We want to enjoy it all. Despite the rush and commitments, we want to love every minute. We want to deny that Christmas is stressful and overdone. We want to relish every moment…like I wanted to do with my new baby. But we can’t. The reality is that there is too much…and we need to pop in the earplugs and close our eyes and be quiet.

Did you know that ‘Silent Night’ is the most loved hymn? Maybe it’s the gentle, slow pace…maybe it’s the simple, straightforward lyrics. Or maybe it’s just the title. Silent Night.

After the kids go to bed, before the kids wake up, in the middle of the night when nature calls, in the car before leaving the driveway, at a stoplight, in a parking lot…put in the earplugs. Block out all the noise. Close your eyes and imagine that stable long ago. Just the quiet animal sounds.

Maybe the soft flickering of tails or ears.

Mary’s peaceful humming.

Joseph’s smile.

The Baby’s gentle murmurs.

God’s presence.

Be still and know that He is God. And that’s all that truly matters.

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