Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bring On The Reading Glasses!

Today I got confirmation I am not as young as I used to be—I picked up my new reading glasses. For years I’ve teased my husband about my perfect vision--20/10 or 20/15 or some other such great number. I figured one day I may have to succumb and recently I realized I was moving my phone further away from me to read what was on the screen. Gasp! Could it be? I’m not THAT old!

A friend, safely ensconced in her mid-30s reminded me after 40 our eyes start to lose some of that focus we love. Gulp. I’m in my 40s—just barely, but I have passed that milestone. So off to the eye doctor I went and he confirmed that “people in their forties” start to see some decline in how good the muscles in their eyes work. Dude, you don’t have to keep reminding me!

But as I put them on today and sat down to read, two things happened. One, I realized things really are clearer with them. This is nice. While the prescription is slight, I will have an easier time reading and threading a needle when I sew. Two, I realized I am not ashamed of my age.

Growing up I had a grandmother who was terrified of getting old. Seriously I am not exaggerating. The day I was born she declared, “This child will never call me grandma. She can call me Nana.” When I turned 13 and was taller than her, she wanted me to use her first name in public so people wouldn’t know. She colored her hair for years, often colors not flattering to her, in an attempt to hide her age. She wore clothes more suited to a teenager and far too much make up. The sad thing was that because she had been a teenage mom and my own mom had had me at 21, this meant she really was a young grandma. She could have rocked it.

Today, before getting my new glasses, I dropped off my five year old at school and realized she was suddenly looking sad. I had made a terrible mistake by listening to the new Fray song, “Love Don’t Die.” I like the song. But in her little mind, it made her remember that one of her loves, her daddy, had indeed died. Her day now was covered with the cold reminder of grief and all I could do was offer a kiss and prayer as I sent her off to school.

I used to joke I was not afraid of growing older ‘cause it was better than the alternative. Not so funny now.
Now I’m going to embrace my age because it means I am still here. I am still here for my kids, for my friends and family, and to serve my God with all the life He’s blessed me with. I have been blessed with 41 years on this earth, 42 in June. In that time I’ve done so much and been blessed with amazing children. I will celebrate each year I get to be here with them and for them.

So bring on the pretty purple reading glasses. They will make me smile thinking of how hard Kraig would have laughed that finally I needed them. They are a reminder I’m still alive and every day I get to say that is an amazing gift.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

This week a friend posted a blog link on her Facebook page from a man questioning how Christians in the U.S. use the term “blessed.” He was disturbed that we often use it to give thanks to God for material things—i.e. “I’m so blessed to have this new van.” or “I hadn’t anticipated this raise--what a blessing.” In this blog he states this is a sign of American Christian materialism that is an insult to our Third World church family and we need to knock it off.

I see the point he was trying to make however I disagree with him. The American Christian church often has on blinders to what actual “want” is, yes. However the Bible also tells us “every good and perfect gift comes from above.” James 1:17. Yes, I’m sure he’d make the argument that this means spiritual gifts but I think there is benefit too in giving God praise for all we are thankful for.

The part of his article that has me thinking today, however, is when he points to what Jesus calls blessings in the famous sermon we call The Beatitudes. One in particular has meaning for me right now—“blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Blessed? That’s what I am? Really God? I’ll be honest, when I read that I got a little angry. But a friend assured me long ago, it’s OK to be angry with God—He can take it. He’s the one who created me and He knows how I’m wired. His love is not dented when I kick it in frustration. Going through this daily struggle to function while dealing with grief has left me exhausted, confused, weepy, humbled, feeling often abandoned and small and desperate, but blessed?

So today I’ve been wrestling a bit with this particular verse.

The blessings I’ve been pointing out to people when I talk about God’s presence in the midst of my tragedy would certainly irk the writer of that blog. I have watched as God has provided in amazing ways for my children and me financially. When Kraig died we had $30 in our checking account, but we’ve not gone hungry or been homeless thanks to financial provision that can only be described as miraculous. I’ve watched as God’s people have reached out to me with a new roof, new appliances, and other gifts both small and large. I am not ashamed to call these material items blessings from God.

While I will not change my gratitude for the material blessings I’ve received, I am looking closely today at the second part of that verse--Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

I have been comforted. I’ve been comforted from the terrible moment when my nightmare began that night and God sent a friend to be there with me and later pastors who came as well. I’ve been comforted by prayers of more people than I can count from that terrible night up to today. I’ve been comforted by friends and family who refuse to leave me alone here. They may not have walked what I’m walking but they are here to listen, to give me permission to feel whatever comes, and to help in any way possible.

On that tragic night when the doctor came in for the last time to tell me my husband was gone, I felt the presence of Jesus almost physically, as though he stood behind me. He was there comforting me. I know that without a shadow of doubt.

Watching supernaturally-inspired comfort come from a variety of places in a variety of ways is amazing. Watching my children survive this and continue to live and laugh and even cry, has been comforting. I’m walking a journey that is bringing my kids closer to me than ever before as we live this out together.

Perhaps Jesus meant all this in that simple sentence: 
Blessed are those who mourn because my Father will not leave them in grief but will help them rise from ashes to stand again; they will be able to tell the stories of how He never left them alone. Blessed are those who mourn because it will cause others to put feet to their faith in ways they may never have had the opportunity before; they will grow closer to God because of it. Blessed are those who mourn because they are going to get a front row seat through their tears to watch my Father’s love in action here on earth. Blessed are those who mourn because I, Myself, will help them recover when they trust Me. Blessed are those who mourn for they will get to see God work in such amazing ways it doesn’t fit into a sentence.

Maybe that’s what it means to be blessed as I mourn.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

How to Love Your Kids

A few weeks ago a friend posted a link on Facebook to a mommy blog from a woman trying to calm our stress-filled hearts with reassurances. It was an article encouraging moms to stop getting lost in their stresses and realize that truly, the only things we MUST do is love God and love our kids. That’s it.

Pardon my French, but bull crap.

While that delightful platitude does contain a morsel of truth, it is an oversimplification for a world craving easy answers. The truth it contains is that these are the two most important things we must do. As a Christian mom, my world will be calmer, more peaceful, enhanced by wisdom, and all around better if I love God with all my heart. The Bible is full of that promise and I have seen it played out in my life.

But really? To tell us ALL we need to do is love our kids?

Tell that to my exhausted head tonight while I sit and wait for gluten-free bread to finish in the bread machine because I forgot to bake it earlier in the day and my son will need lunch tomorrow. I’m sure a hug won’t fill his tummy tomorrow at the lunch table in middle school.

Tell that to piles of unwashed laundry downstairs and the emptying drawers my kids are going to be scraping the bottom of to have something to wear in the morning. I’m caught up enough that they do have something to wear. But seriously, a kiss on the forehead is not going to clean those clothes.

Tell that to the hectic schedule of activities that needs to be managed or the rapidly-emptying cupboard and fridge that is going to need to be refilled with the dreaded trip to Walmart. These growing kids of mine like to eat…and OFTEN! (And I don’t wanna go back to Walmart this week. And you can’t make me! Ok. I know. I’ll go back.)

Tell that to the budget I need to sit down and craft this week so I make sure I can provide for their needs in a wise way. Those clothes my daughter needed today weren’t free. I have to make sure I have space for them and a few other things in that budget.

Exhausted moms don’t need oversimplifications of our hectic lives.
I will concede that we often need to be reminded to keep the main thing, the main thing. And perhaps a bit of cynicism is tainting my view this evening as I wait for that blessed bread machine to beep already. But a realistic view shows us moms and dads must demonstrate our love for our kids in real, tangible, sometimes exhaustingly stress-filled ways.

We must cook and clean and talk with them every day. We must help them learn things like responsibility and love and the essentials of our faith. We must feed them healthy food and spend time researching exactly WHAT that is (‘cause seriously I really don’t know anymore). We must make sure they are safe and they don’t spend too much time in front of screens. We must help them with homework and, occasionally, go to bat for them with a teacher or coach. And we must drive them 828 miles this week. Seriously I’m getting way too comfortable in my minivan. I do so very much driving.

THAT is a lot more than just remembering to love them.

So as I hear that bread machine finally beep, I'll offer my thanks, dear mommy blogger, for the kindly poetic words (and the good chuckle they gave me). Maybe they will help me remember to stop in the craziness and hug these little blessings more often. Maybe they will help me remember to carve out time to pray and read my Bible. But if it’s all the same to you, I’ve got a really big to-do list waiting for me in the morning and I think I need to come at it with eyes wide open and a big cup of tea.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Falling Teeth & Turning Pages

It was something so simple. My youngest daughter stood there in front of me with blood on her lips but a smile proudly plastered on her face. “I lost my tooth!” she exclaimed. She’d been wiggling that thing for a while now and she was so excited. It was her first.

Today we’d even been to the dentist. I had asked about a different tooth, dark grey from a fall a few months ago. It was fine, not badly damaged. It would fall out on its own unless something changed. We smiled and chatted about her tiny bottom tooth, normal and moving towards falling out. I hadn’t expected it to be tonight.

As she went off to brush her teeth for bed, it happened. No huge effort—it was just time. Her sister warned her it would bleed but Lucy wasn’t a bit scared. She was too excited for this new milestone.

She proudly held it out for me to see as I tried to press a cool washcloth on her bleeding gum. And it hit me—Kraig was missing this. I had to turn away so Lucy wouldn’t see me struggling for composure in her shining, big-girl moment.

He always got a little sappy about their baby teeth. I remember one night telling him that no, the “tooth fairy” should not hold on to them. That was creepy. He just said it was a tiny part of when they were little and he had a hard time letting it go.

Tonight was another milestone gone by without him. Earlier this week it was Jarod’s debut on the high school stage in Ghostbusters. Only two of my friends knew that before we were seated, I was so overwhelmed that Kraig was missing this that I fled to the bathroom to quietly sob in the stall—not wanting anyone to see me or hear me. Jarod did amazing and had no idea the moment was bittersweet for his mom.

There will be many milestones where his absence will be noticeable. That makes me sad.

But tonight I also found myself watching the end of a favorite movie of ours with my girls—Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. They picked it out. It’s a movie about a man with a magic toy store who declares today is the day when it is his time to die and he wants to pass the magic on to his assistant. It is anything but a sad movie. It’s a movie about celebrating the magic in our lives. Mr. Magorium has one of my favorite lines from a movie: “Your life is an occasion—rise to it.”

As I sat snuggling Lucy and sitting across from Kati we talked about Daddy and heaven. We talked about the lines Dustin Hoffman utters about dying. He talks about the end of Shakespeare’s King Lear, a five act play that simply ends with “He dies.” Mr. Magorium tells his grief-stricken assistant and friend that while this is the end of his character’s story, it is an opportunity for her to turn the page and keep writing the story of her life.

I told my girls that we are turning the page. We remember Daddy’s contribution to our story and we cherish it. “He was the best daddy in the world,” Lucy added. Kati smiled. But now, I explained (as did the movie), we turn the page and keep writing our stories. Daddy would have wanted that.

So tonight the tooth fairy drifted down to Lucy’s room and placed a fresh one dollar bill where the tooth had been tucked away. No, she didn’t hold on to it. And though his absence in yet another milestone is tangible tonight, I choose to turn the page. The story goes on.