Brownie Points

Have you ever stood in the corner of your kitchen, hiding from your youngest child, and eating the very last brownie – just before you dash out the door to pick up the other two kids, while thinking two things?

1. Now the three of them won’t fight over it….

And,

2. Man, I deserve this.

Here’s the (partial) proof of my stolen moment.
I only thought to take a picture for you after my first bite. Sorry!

IMG_0656

Truth be told, I started writing this piece in June just before school let out for the summer, dropped in the photo, and never finished it. But some things don’t change. Here I am, mid-July, still feeling that I ‘deserve’ something along the lines of a brownie every day.

What is that ugliness inside me that argues for more despite all that I already have? And more significantly – why can’t I shake that rascal voice on my own?

I was thinking last night about the futility of my own thinking. About the fact that none of my lingering issues over the years – the ones that have plagued me and developed into worry, fear, anxiety and obsession – none of them have been solved by my intellect. So, mulling things over for any length of time – wondering why I might have been in a funk, wanting to withdraw from friends and the like  – won’t help me.

At the same time, talking these things through with well-meaning people won’t help either unless those people are the kind that point me in the direction I already know I need to go. Back to do the work that needs to be done.

Because over the years, I’ve learned that the most effective way to deal with ME is not to huddle in the corner of my kitchen eating the last brownie and justifying it with “good reasoning.” No. I need to turn myself over to the One who knows Me best.

But He is a gentleman. He doesn’t chase after the woman He loves. He waits patiently for me, and then loves with tender abandon so that I remember that my heart, in fact – my life, was made to glorify Him.

So this morning, I grab my tea and head to my desk with my Bible, book of verses, and journal. I tell the kids I’ll answer their questions – about re-wrapping an injured hand, and whether we can melt some crayons and coconut oil to make homemade lip-balm today – after I spend some time with God.

And this is Our time – me and The Lord. And hiding here with Him is the best place to find refreshment. So much better than a brownie.

The Lord is my strength and my shield,

in whom my heart trusted and found help,

So my heart rejoices;

with my song I praise my God.

Psalm 28:7

 

Jeep daBeep!

“Jeep daBeep, the color’s….Red!”

“Jeep daBeep, the color’s….Silver!”  (Or Blue! Or Black! Etc.!)

In the case of this one (see photo), a small argument ensued:

image

Child 3 (with utmost enthusiasm): “Jeep daBeep, the color’s Light Tan!”

Child 1: “No, it’s not. It’s Brown.”

Child 2: “No, Cream.”

Mom: “Whomever calls it first, calls the color. It’s light tan.”

And I smile. Because this simple game has me smiling all the time. Silly, but true! The kids have been playing it for several weeks now. Every time a child sees a Jeep Wrangler (Cherokees don’t count) he or she shouts this, in an “inside voice.” (Yes, we’ve had that discussion too. I am driving after all.) There is no point to it all, no score keeping whatsoever. And in time, more car games have been folded into this one. They yell out these as well:

“Zingo!” – a lime green car, but taxis don’t count

“Bingo!” – a yellow car, but again taxis and cars with corporate logos don’t count

“Buggy!” – a Volkswagen bug

“Red Booster!” – my littlest guy’s own creation – any red car, but trucks don’t count

And the best of all – “Bingo Buggy!!” – a yellow VW bug.

I’ve noticed that the pace of this game has picked up dramatically in the last two weeks, and a rationalist might say that it was going along at this same rate for awhile and I just never noticed, but I don’t think that’s what’s happened. I actually think my kids’ enthusiasm for spotting particular cars is part of the answer to a little prayer.

A couple weeks ago, in my study time with God’s Word, I just offered up a small request – for a little more joy in my everyday living. I have many ‘serious’ prayer requests every day: for an end to violence against women and girls around the world, but especially those suffering at the hands of ISIS; for persecuted Christians; that families would be healed and brought back together; for friends and family in need….The list goes on. But I also asked for more joy. It was right at the very end, almost like an afterthought. But you know, God sees and hears everything. I sometimes forget that, even when I’m giving him my list of supplications.

Just recently, I was reading in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus cures a paralytic and later a man who is blind and mute. The crowds are astounded. But in both cases, Jesus is questioned by the Jewish authorities – in the first case, the scribes, and in the second, the Pharisees. Both times, as Jesus speaks with these critics, a verse in Scripture is repeated: “Jesus knew what they were thinking,” (Matthew 9:4) and “But he knew what they were thinking” (Matthew 12:25). Standing there among men, having assumed the human form, the Lord knew what was in their minds and hearts.

This is the marvelous mystery of prayer. In turning to Him, we begin to express what he already knows about us, and we enter deeper into that intimate relationship which He so desperately wants to have with each one of us. And He misses nothing. Not even the half-uttered last sentence before the ‘Amen.’

The past two weeks have been chock-full of fun for me, and I am really looking forward to this summer. In several social events and even small visits with friends, I’ve caught myself laughing – deep, rolling belly laughs – the kind doctors say are good for your health. My life is happy, yes. But it was happy before. This is different. I’m a fairly reserved person – now one who is smiling a little bit more. Because I asked for JOY. And He presented me with many opportunities to feel it and live it. He is the Great Giver. Oh how He loves to give!

And in the past couple days, as I’ve understood that a prayer was answered, I’ve added on to the kids’ game too. Now, when one of them yells, “Jeep daBeep!” I grin and think to myself, “Praise God!”

“Jeep daBeep!”  Praise God! 

I Can’t Hear Him

“I can’t hear Him.”

My young son is whispering, and I’m annoyed. It’s Mother’s Day, we’re in church (one of my favorite places), and I’m kneeling down for this sacred moment – the highest point of the Mass. The priest is consecrating the Host and my little boy is insistently chattering in hushed tones in my left ear.  Grrr. I just want quiet. I am not feeling holy.

“I CAN’T hear Him. I’ll NEVER hear His voice. Never!”

‘Uh-oh,’ I think. This is my fault. Try to do a good thing and…oh, well…

See, I was in Target on Saturday and in the $1 bins they had these cute little notebooks. I immediately remembered a suggestion I’d heard recently from Matthew Kelly, founder of Dynamic Catholic and acclaimed speaker and author.  He explains:

Our lives change when our habits change. Get yourself a Mass Journal and bring it to church with you each Sunday. Write down the one thing that God whispers into your soul.  This one habit will change your whole experience of the Mass, your relationship with God, and your appreciation of the Church. This one habit will help you become a-better-version-of-yourself, will make you a more engaged and contributing member of your parish community, and will invigorate your relationships.*

His straightforward idea was brilliant – a perfect way to focus my attention during the service, and on God’s will for me in the week Mass  Journalsahead. One thing. I can do that. And so can my sidekicks.

So, on the way to church I gave each of my kids a notebook and explained the idea.

“Write down the 1 thing God says to you,” I advised. “Not 2, or 5, or 8. Just one.”

My older kids (12 and 9) understood right away and didn’t object because the idea was very simple.  I could tell they were listening in church, and they were writing in their notebooks after the Gospel was read. But my little guy…Hmm.

I knew at the outset I was asking a lot. The kid starts Kindergarten in the fall. He writes his letters, but he can’t read. So, I told him I would write God’s message in his notebook for him. I mean, I couldn’t very well give the other kids a booklet and not him, right? That wouldn’t be fair. And now he says he can’t hear God. I didn’t quite foresee that difficulty, because this is the child who thinks of other people to pray for all the time. Every night during prayers, he asks God to surround everyone in the world with angels and help them have sweet dreams. He likes to read Bible stories and lights up when we talk about Jesus – who is, in his words, “the most, most powerful.” How do you tell a young child that the goodness in his heart is exactly the thing I want him to pay attention to right now?

His angst returned when we did our bedtime routine. I sensed there was more to this, so I pushed a little harder.

“What’s really wrong, buddy? We can put aside the journal until you’re bigger. That’s fine. You’re good boy. Why does this bother you so much?”

“I wanted to hear His voice FIRST!!!” he blurted out.

OH! There’s the rub. He wanted to know what God was saying before his siblings.

I knew we had to move away from the topic; he was just too worked up. So we read a book about spiders and called it a night. But his feelings struck me as universal.

When we’re listening for God, don’t we all want the satisfaction of hearing from him RIGHT NOW? Before anyone else? We love to be ‘in-the-know.’ And yet, sitting in faith can be like sitting in fog. What’s required of us is obedience and submission – the suspension of ourselves and our expectations as we wait for Him. He always fulfills His promises. He loves hearts that are turned to Him. But He’s sovereign. And good things come to those who wait.

“Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”

– Psalm 27:14

*(Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living With Passion and Purpose, p. 205) – request your copy of this book and a Mass Journal at Dynamic Catholic.

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.

IMG_1409

 

 

 

 

 

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.

FullSizeRender

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!

IMG_1426

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….

IMG_1427

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting Imaginary Foes

IMG_1267

We had a great Christmas.  And then, just as regular routines were to return (and I hoped to begin writing again), things went topsy turvy. I’ll spare you the details, but over the last 8 days – one very long week – our household experienced the flu, strep throat, a broken dryer requiring immediate replacement, a small but inconvenient snowstorm, and a birthday – celebrated over 3 days. My thoughts on the birthday, and how it initiated my plan for the new year, is the topic of this blog post – long overdue.

So – my oldest child turned 12 last week. My kids’ birthdays always give me pause.  Each one is a moment to reflect on the fact that with every passing year, this particular child is showing us more of who he or she is meant be.  But this birthday – 12 – somehow felt like a milestone (and not because my son jokingly told me to say he’s “twelve-teen”).

I remember being 12.  6th grade. Switching classes for the first time. Dealing with a changing body. My school’s motto for the year was, “If It’s Going to Be, It’s Up to Me” and my English teacher, Mrs. Walker, had plastered these words in huge red letters to the classroom ceiling. She wanted us to remember this, to have confidence in ourselves.

But with maturity comes the realization that we can’t really solve every problem we encounter, make everything “be” just the way we’d like it to be.  Some things are always beyond our reach.

To illustrate, I must first acknowledge what every parent learns eventually – that it’s strange, humbling, and frustrating when you see that your kids have inherited some of your traits. I’ve known for years that my oldest cannot see a disturbing image, even for a second, without internalizing it. Just like mine, his mind will revisit the image and animate it through nightmares for days on end until it has finished with it.  The process is upsetting and tiring, and after 42 years, I’ve never found a way to bypass or stop it, except by avoiding media that contains content I suspect will incite the problem.

So, just a few days before his 12th birthday, he had nightmares 2 days in a row after seeing 1 still image for an upcoming horror movie. My husband and I talked to him about what his brain was doing, made him laugh, took his mind off things, and I prayed with him.  On the third night, he asked me to pray with him preemptively, before he went to sleep, and that night (and the nights after) the nightmares did not return.

If the genetic patterns hold true for him, then the vivid dreams that have plagued me will not be just a childhood occurrence for this kid.  They will persist and grow more mature as he matures, encompassing all the sights and sounds of an evil world and fears of an adult mind.

So what can I do for my son? I help him understand our faith and teach him to pray for strength and courage to fight foes – imaginary and real, but beyond that, where do I go?

In prayer, the answer came.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 

– 2 Timothy 1:7 

My son is venturing into the adolescent years, and this world would have me be fearful of events to come and what could happen to him.  Currently, these are my imaginary foes, and if I let it, my mind can go to some very dark places.  But I am not going to sit by and worry about my son and the challenges that lie ahead for him.  I choose to trust in the One who loves my son more than me, and so I will ask my Lord to guide and protect my precious child.

Further, praying the Word of God is praying the Will of God.  I pray for my kids, yes, but I want to be quite clear. So, remembering an article I read recently, I took some time to carve out a daily prayer plan for this year, encompassing specific verses of scripture for my sons and daughter, and entrusting them once again to the One for whom nothing is out of reach.

 

Articles about praying for your children:

“10 Prayers For Your Son” by Brooke McGlothlin and Lisa TerKeurst

10 Prayers For Your Son

“10 Prayers For Your Daughter” by Lisa TerKeurst

10 Prayers For Your Daughter

Day 21 – The Cost of Humor

It’s been 6 days since my last post…..more than I wanted, but I will eventually get to my first goal of 31 days!

In my mind, I keep returning to a little scuffle between my two older kids from last week that I think illustrates something that happens all too often, and leaves us with a question.

Things had gotten silly on the car ride home from school Thursday.  For one part of the ride, we were talking about pug dogs bred with beagles – “puggles.” And then later, after we stopped for my daughter’s half-hour piano lesson, the conversation was still animated but had taken an edgier turn.  I had placated everyone with snacks but all three kids were ready to be home, and there was nothing to do but to wait out the 8 long minutes until we got there.

The atmosphere was different, and it’s hard to tell how or why exactly.  These things just happen when kids are itching to release pent-up energy, and there was a lot of noise in the car. One kid was singing and the other two were taunting each another with verbal barbs.  Things sounded fun but I sensed it might be going too far and wasn’t sure so…I called out, “Quiet Game!”.

No one was to say a word or make a sound until we got home (real coughs and sneezes are allowed).  I looked in the rearview mirror when we pulled into the driveway and saw my daughter’s face turned toward the window, tears rolling down her cheeks. We all got out except her. When the other two kids went inside she told me, “He hurt my feelings.”  I knew he hadn’t meant to, but words have power. We have to remember that.

My oldest son, as usual, had gone up to his room to study.  I came in to talk.

“But, I was kidding!  She takes everything so personally!”

“Yes, and when you know that, you need to be sensitive.  You love your sister, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well.  Is it more important to be right here, or to have a good relationship with her?”

“Have a good relationship.”

Then, of course, because he’s 11 he went on to cite all the ways he wants me to stand up for him more when she bothers him, but that’s for another day….

What this situation made me remember is this question:

Is it more important to be right, or to be rightly related?

 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

– Matthew 5:9

image