Green Cake

The nurses asked me to hold his thin little arms down at his sides while he sat facing me on the examination table. “Hold tightly,” they said, “because there will be a pause.” Each nurse had two syringes, and I could see my son eyeing them with trepidation. My head flooded with thoughts.

Four vaccinations for my five-year old. How have I blocked the memories of doing this with my older two??

This child causes me angst…I know what’s to come, or… not, rather. At one-year old, the doctor stabbed him in the leg with a shot, and he didn’t flinch. When he was three, he cut his forehead open on a tree branch, and he stayed still as stone while the ER doc glued the 3/4 inch tear in his paper-thin skin back together. This is the child who doesn’t cry. At least not when I wish he would.

So I braced myself. And they jabbed him with needles. It felt like it was my heart being stabbed. He didn’t make a sound. I saw his body tense, and then his left arm start to bleed after the first jab on that side. The nurse wiped the blood down his arm in a long red streak and kept at her task. Another needle in, and my young man just flared his nostrils. He watched it all – the crimson cotton balls, the band-aids, the nurses’ murmured consolations, the collection of trash, and their hasty departure when it was all over.

I hadn’t moved from in front of his knees. His eyes were just spilling over when he looked at me squarely and said simply,

“It hurt-ed, Mommy.”

And all I could say before hugging him to stop my own tears was, “I know. I know.”

I am so, so blessed. My son is healthy. And in the local newspaper this week, there was an article about a fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s. Wonderful, generous people shave their heads after collecting donations for children fighting cancer. Families engaged in this awful fight have seen their kids stuck with more needles than they could ever count.

I was thinking about that when I went to bed last night after watching my son be so brave about four little shots, and I woke up this morning, determined to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day thankfully – as the Feast Day that it is. Saint Patrick said:

 “Hence I cannot be silent, and indeed I ought not to be, 

about the many blessings and the great grace

which the Lord has deigned to bestow upon me.”

So, I put off my to-do list and made it a day about enjoying my son. He will start Kindergarten in the fall. This is my last St. Patrick’s Day with a preschooler in the house. How did we spend it?

He took a very loooooong and leisurely bath, with bubbles of course, and used almost an entire tube of red bathtub paint turning the water an atrocious shade of pink. This also enabled the plastic Spiderman band-aids to fall off – and neither of us was sad to see them go.

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We attempted a St. Patrick’s Day photo shoot with our “Irish” mutt, Seamus, and got one Facebook-worthy picture out of the experience, along with lots of giggles.  Our Seamus is so darn sweet.

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We baked a cake, made frosting, licked beaters, and even managed to get some green stuff on the cake. We also jazzed it up with dark green sprinkles, because they make everything better!

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And we played Cars 2 on the Wii. I lost every single race. You’re shocked, right? In his knowing way, with all the wisdom of his 5 blessed years, my son reassured me that I will get better. I couldn’t care less. Just to see his smile….

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Whether you are Irish or not, may you and yours be especially blessed this Saint Patrick’s Day. Slainte!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pocket Cross

A friend of mine told me that her parish priest once asked this question in a homily:

“If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Great question.  Ever since I heard it, I keep revisiting it, because really, if I’m a Christian, does my life demonstrate my love for Christ?

I thought about this question today when I opened up my wallet – not to give away money, though maybe I should be doing more of that.  No, I thought about it because the light bounced off my little stainless steel cross, and the minute I saw it I thought about my dad.

My dad is an intelligent man. An engineer and former military officer.  A man of principle.  A man of faith.  He can certainly explain his belief in Scripture, but for me, his quiet, reverent heart has always spoken most clearly to me about The Lord.  And if he were accused of being a Christian, his life would turn up lots of convicting material, but hidden on his person would also be one thing in particular…

When I picture my dad stepping up to pay for something at a cash register, I see his gentle hands cupping three things: coins, a silver pocket knife, and a stainless steel cross.

That cross.  It has always been there.  It serves as an outward sign of the personal relationship he’s been ready to share – freely, as it was given to him.  Over the years, he’s witnessed silently to countless clerks who saw that cross, one at a time, as he opened his hand to pay for groceries, meals, hardware, craft supplies, gifts, newspapers, sodas, and more.  It’s evidence of a Christian that just keeps turning up, and for my dad – a reminder to himself that his God is Emmanuel – always with him.

 

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Burst of Color

The household woke up disappointed, our hopes dashed when the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl last night in what seemed the worst possible way. The Hawks were within one yard of scoring a TD on the Patriots in the last minute of the game, only to have the ball intercepted by a nimble and perfectly-positioned Patriot defensive back. Because of family allegiances, we were really excited for the Hawks, and the stunned silence we fell into those last few seconds of the game persisted into today.

Sometimes when you wake up in a ‘blah’ mood, it can be hard to shake it. Especially when the morning is a gray and rainy one, like today was.  And when your daughter is fitted with orthodontia at 9 a.m., and decides this is going to be one of the worst things that’s ever happened to her, the day starts to roll downhill a bit faster.

These are caviar problems, for sure.  But still.  Don’t we all do this?  Be in a ‘yuck’ mood just because?

So, my funk is exacerbated by having felt a little far away from God the last few days.  That, and the headache I’ve started.  I rub my forehead while I sit in the car line, which has backed up onto the tiny street behind my kids’ school.

‘I should have left the house 5 minutes earlier and I wouldn’t be so far back on the street. Punctuality. I’m still failing there.’

It would be easy to continue berating myself, but instead, I offer up this thought.

‘I want to hear You. To see You.’

A moment or two later, I look to my left. Directly to my left. And I see this:

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Four purple flowering cabbages.  Brassica oleracea.  Someone took the time to plant this burst of color in a narrow strip of dirt between an old brick driveway and an even older adjacent Colonial-era home.  Who but the person who gets into that car ever sees them?  And yet, there they are on this cold, February day.

I sit and stare, because I have been driving this street every school day for 7 years, and I have never noticed this small piece of earth, that has always held the potential to grace my day.

 

“You will seek Me and find Me

when you search for Me with all your heart.” 

– Jeremiah 29:13 

What’s My Message?

I was making a left turn into the library, waiting for the long line of cars to pass, contentedly listening to the song on the radio, when my reverie was interrupted by something that caused my stomach to plummet into my abdomen. It was a vanity plate on a passing car.

“H8TNWRK”

Hating work. In a millisecond, my eyes shot up to the sulking man driving past. I pulled into the parking lot, just in time to watch a young mother joyfully kissing and smiling at her toddler as she snapped the child into her car seat. What opposites.

You might think I’m being overly sensitive here – that the man makes light of his life by putting it on a vanity plate, and hey – why shouldn’t he?  But I believe the mouth reveals what’s in our hearts, and I’m guessing this man’s discontent runs deep – that he’s very dissatisfied and probably doesn’t know why.  So I stopped right there in my car and thanked God for this man and the talents he’s been given, and asked that he be reminded that his gifts are meant to be avenues to joy. That somehow, he would see God in his life and through his work.

I went about my day but this man’s vanity plate has stayed with me. And I keep asking myself why it has. I think the answer is that like it or not, we all advertise something, and I’m concerned about my message.  I want it to be that I love God above all and am thankful to Him for all that I have. But I am flawed and I know it. I fail to remember my first love sometimes.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. 

– Psalm 19:15

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A Prayer and Song for Claudia’s Family

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Thank you to everyone who prayed for my stepsister, Claudia, earlier this year.  As you know, she went home to the Father, and will be rejoicing in Heaven this Christmas. But her family remains.  And oh, how they ache. If you would, please pray with me again – for them – this season.

And if YOU are mourning someone this Christmas, it would be my privilege to pray for you.  Please don’t hesitate to ask me.

Dear Lord, King of Kings,
You are Immanuel – God With Us.
Thank you for creating this Christmas season by sending your son, Jesus Christ – the Very Word of God, wrapped in human flesh.
In His life, he knew every possible kind of suffering – so that we would know,
We are never alone.
We thank you for His triumphant resurrection over death, and for His eternal grace.
Lord, you have promised to be with us always and everywhere, and your Word is Truth – for there is no impurity within you.
Please come and be with Claudia’s family.
Make your peace known to them.
Enfold them in your loving arms and touch their hearts with the expectation of joy to come.
Assure them of your never-ending faithfulness, and remind them of the ways you have already blessed them, so they can be renewed with hope for your goodness in the time ahead.
Strengthen their spirits and increase their faith.
Please hold them up and bind them together, so that they may find solace, and You, in the eyes of one another.
And Lord, bless Claudia’s children – Cata, Nick, and baby Matias – in a special way.
May their mother’s love be forever imprinted upon their hearts and souls.

In the name of our Saviour, Jesus, we pray,
Amen.

 

Worth the Extra Effort

Today I set out to mail two packages containing Christmas presents to family members across the U.S.  At the post office, I was quoted an absurdly large fee for each one – a base cost plus a surcharge, which was determined by the dimensions of each box. I was flabbergasted.  The base costs were expected – but the surcharges?  Highway robbery.

I felt the heat rise to my face – a combination of shock and embarrassment, knowing that I just couldn’t in good conscience pay that sum – at least, not without a fight. The clerk was obviously miffed when I politely told her I would take my packages back. But I did. And I turned on my heel and walked right past the long line of waiting customers, threw the boxes in the car, and drove 1/4 mile to the UPS store, where I mailed them for a whopping $33 less.

Later, I told my 11-year old son about this incident. I also happened to mention that I hadn’t written a blog post in several days. He told me to write about how I made an extra effort today – and that it was a good thing.  I told him my blog is mostly about faith, so I didn’t see a connection.  He said:

“Going to UPS was worth the effort, just like spending time with Christ is.”

I was so surprised, that I giggled and started to object – then realized he was absolutely right.

He smiled and said, “And you can give me credit for the idea.”

I told him I would.

Then, just to make sure I had heard him correctly, and to confirm that he really understood the meaning of what he’d said, I asked:

“When YOU make the effort to spend time with God, do you think it’s worth it?”

Without missing a beat or looking up from the Minecraft world he was building on his iPad, he said:

“Absolutely.”

Finding a few minutes to pray, read Scripture, and reflect on my blessings takes work and commitment, but even a kid knows that time spent focusing on God is always worth the effort.

 

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Day 27 – Beagle in My Lap

So, I’m approaching the end of my first 31 days of blogging, and I wasn’t sure what I’d write about today, but I really wanted to post something. I had a few ideas, but every time I started to write, I was sidetracked…by someone.

It was my youngest child, mostly.  He was hungry.  Then he needed a different show on TV.  Then he’d seen too much TV so we cleaned bathrooms together. Then we ate lunch and went to the store.  We came home and unpacked the groceries.  We picked his siblings up from school.  It was crazy warm for November today (71 degrees!) and the kids wanted to play outside.  I sat out there with them and tried to write.  The neighbor dropped by to say hello.

After the sun went down, I sent all the kids into the basement and plopped on the couch to try one more time. Our beagle climbed up next to me and laid her head on my chest. I kissed her and then she looked up at me with those big brown eyes of hers, and she crawled right on top of my iPad, into my lap. I let out a deep, deep sigh.

Yesterday, I wrote about the need to leave white space – margin – in the calendar. The main reason is because days like this happen to me all the time. I am blessed with a family who needs me, and while it is appropriate that I have time to myself to pursue my interests, the reality is that my life is not my own. It is a gift that has been entrusted to me, and I am just the steward, trying to do my best to take good care of the people, responsibilities, and things I’ve been blessed with.  I ask for His wisdom and guidance to prioritize my days, and to see what I need to see. From that point on, it’s better if I’m not trying to steer.

Today, each cry of “Mom!!!” was a divine appointment. And that’s what I needed to remember.

 

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Day 26 – When I Heard

It was at least 6 years ago, in the springtime, but I didn’t write the date down in a journal, so I don’t know exactly what year it was. We hadn’t redone our kitchen yet, so I remember the dark cabinets and sand-colored tumbled tile countertops that my husband and I had installed ourselves. I was standing in the corner, between our dishwasher and microwave, looking out the window at our neighbor’s trees.

That’s when I heard, or should I say felt, His voice tell me, “Be still. Know ‘I Am.'” It was the first time I’d heard Him speak directly to me, and I obeyed. Stock-still, mesmerized. My oldest son and daughter (my only children then) were playing just behind me in the family room, but they seemed much farther away, and I was unconcerned.  Everything was safe – there was no fear in me – my need to be in control had vanished. When I think of it now, I consider it among the most holy moments of my life.

At the time that this happened, I was unaccustomed to moments of silence and stillness. But I took this experience as another step in His unfolding invitation to go on a journey – one He knew I was ready for.

As I prepare for Thanksgiving this week and the start of Advent next Sunday, I’m trying to build margin – by that I mean, white space – into my holiday schedule. Without it, there will be no room for silence. The shopping, parties, gift-wrapping, and kids’ holiday events will dominate my days if I don’t prioritize right now.  Advent is a time of anticipation and waiting. For a child. For a King. Advent says, “‘I Am’ coming into the world.  Will you hear me?” 

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Day 23 – Song in My Head

Hello Friends,

First, to my Followers, please accept my apologies for the notification you received yesterday concerning a post called “Lucy and Aslan.” I had just started working on a draft of that post and inadvertently published it. I could delete the draft, but not the notification.  Thus, when you try to view the post, you get a message saying it is not available. Please bear with me, a very new blogger!  I will resend that post when I complete it.

Today, I’m hearing a song in my head, one that plays there more often than any other.  It doesn’t repeat ad nauseum; it never drives me crazy.  You know what I mean….You hear a song on the radio, a portion of it gets stuck in your mind, and it plays endlessly, torturously, until you want to rip your hair out?   No – it’s not like that at all.

This is a song I learned as a child, and now, it is sung from the heart as a praise offering. It’s “Doxology.”

Most Christians of Protestant traditions are familiar with it, and many Catholics are not.  But there’s nothing theologically controversial about it.  It was composed and first published by Anglican Bishop Thomas Ken in 1709, and the lines were actually taken from the closing stanzas of three of his other hymns. If you’d like to read more, here is a succinct article on the subject:

http://www.ctlibrary.com/ch/1991/issue31/3118.html

The song itself is a short, simple tune with simple words.  May you be blessed by hearing it today.

 

 

Day 19 – Turn-down Service

Last night I was talking with my grandparents (now both 92) about a trip we all took together 30 years ago, when I was 11 and my sister was 8. We stayed in a hotel where I experienced for the very first time a little luxury I haven’t seen recently – turn-down service. Here’s how I remember it:

It was late in the evening and my eyes were heavy. My grandparents, my sister and I were all dressed up, having just attended a banquet dinner – the final event of a boating race weekend that my grandfather had been participating in. We had gotten ready in the room before dinner and left in a hurry. (Now that I have children, I know how the adults present must have felt at the time.  Trying to rush along two young girls who are busy styling their hair and admiring themselves in the mirror is no small feat….but I digress.). The dinner had been lovely – multiple courses, an ice sculpture of a prop in the middle of the ballroom, dancing afterwards. My sister and I felt like celebrities as the only kids there, and though we all had a great time, we were ready to get back and into bed.

To my young eyes, the room was like a dream. Lights dimmed just so. Toiletries neatly organized by the sink. Clothes hung or laid carefully across the suitcases. Bedspreads folded and set aside. Blankets tucked in perfectly at the ends of the beds. Crisp white sheets folded down from the center of each bed into neat triangles. And perched atop each perfectly fluffed and sleep-ready pillow was a foil-wrapped chocolate mint. Trying not to muss anything, I sat on the edge of the bed and let that decadent little piece of chocolate melt on my tongue. It was glorious!

The best part of the ‘turn-down’ experience for me was the chocolate mint. I recognized in that one little thing, a singular moment of unexpected joy.  For someone else, the experience might have been different, or lacked sparkle altogether. But for me, it was a gift – a sweet lightness.

Is it possible, as an adult, to find the same kind of joy?  I think so, but I also think it requires a kind of practice….Practice at keeping my clouded eyes open to see where the gifts are, so I can recognize them as such and then savor them like I savored that mint.

Sunlight was streaming into our room today as my alarm went off.  For weeks it’s been dark, but with daylight savings time, morning feels like morning again. I hit the snooze and lay silently studying the yellow rays peeking around the sides of the curtains, wanting to burst into our room. In the quiet, I could savor the miracle of that sweet light and feel joy rising again, as I gave thanks for the gift that it is.