Geometry Lesson

imageOh my gosh it was hard.

It was all I could do to stay calm.

Truly – I thought I might rip my hair out.

Or break my own fingers in frustration.

The situation? Helping my oldest son study for a geometry test.

It wasn’t the material that was difficult. It was my boy.

He was angry about having to study. Seeing nothing but red because he didn’t like the questions. Literally throwing his hands up in the air and raising his voice in contempt – at the book – and me.

The triangles on the page were congruent, but he and I were emphatically not.

His temper when he’s threatened surges – just like mine.

But there was hope and I so desperately wanted him to see it.

“What you already know – in part – can help you move forward.”

I whispered words over him.

“Take the information you are given and work it step-by-step to arrive at the answer.”

“Breathe. Believe you can follow the path to the end – and you will.”

“The given clues and the ones you uncover are guides, pointing you toward where you need to go.”

I wanted him to see that I could meet him in all the angles he was trying.

Because I’ve been there. Walked this same path. And he is like me.

I GET him and I GET the struggle.

And as I sit here today and pray for patience and for my son to do his best, it occurs to me that there is a corollary. Another similarity.

The Lord looks down on me and says, “Why do you think I came?”

 

Knowing Hope

I was flabbergasted by the conversation and didn’t want to forget a word. So I grabbed the closest piece of paper, my gym’s class schedule, and intermittently scribbled down what he’d said as we stopped at red lights, making our way to vacation Bible camp.

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We’d been talking about how we’d be giving some money to a family with a sick child. To help them afford medical care. If a large sum was raised by tomorrow, the child’s father would shave his head at the closing ceremony.

Even though my son is only five, he understands illness. I just didn’t know what else he knew.

As we’re driving along at 9 a.m., suddenly he says:

“The medicine is not what works. God is actually the one.”

My heart starts pounding.

“Why is that?” I manage to ask.

“Because God heals.”

“How do you know that? Did you learn it somewhere? Or do you just know it?”

In a small but confident and reverent voice that takes my breath away, he says,

“I just know it.”

And there is nothing more to say.

Because Amen. It is certain.

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:

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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! 

What He Sees

 

The room was dark, and I snuck in as quietly as I could with a pile of warm, folded clothes. I avoided the squeaky floorboard in front of the dresser, carefully opened drawers, and put away little socks, t-shirts, and shorts. I was just about done when a sleepy young voice called out from under the bed covers.

“Thanks…cleanin’ my clothes, Mom.” 

He was three. My oldest son. I had tucked him in a half hour before, and thought he had fallen asleep. Guess not. 

That was nine years ago. But I will never forget how his simple ‘thank-you’ touched the very deepest part of my heart. 

On days like today, as the laundry piles up, I’m scrubbing bathrooms, and washing dishes, I am so thankful when I remember his words. When once again, I hear his little voice.  

We can be tempted to think that no one sees what we do. That our everyday ‘behind-the-scenes’ work doesn’t amount to much. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

God sees us. He appreciates our efforts. 

And He knows our hearts. He’s talking to them….through other people, in quiet stillness. If we listen, we can hear Him. 

He can even encourage us through memories that He knows bear messages we need to hear again and again. And our hearts, tethered to God, recognize those messages as divine Truth.

As Jesus told us, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26)



Not Prepared, But Not Alone

imageThe words on the brand-new patch seem ironic this morning.

“Be Prepared.”

As if my son could have been ready for the emotional roller coaster he rode yesterday. It was his alone – not really a journey for the rest of us.

He’s been a Boy Scout for just one year, and last night he completed his Board of Review for the fourth rank, and was awarded it – First Class. He was thrilled. It was a goal he’d been working toward for months; he’d wanted to be First Class by the time he leaves for Scout camp this summer, and we were so proud of him for following through.

But sometimes highs are just a little tainted, and so this one was.  Before he left for the meeting, he realized that his beloved fish, “jerk fish,” – the same one I wrote about here a few months back – had died. This little fish had lived for 6 years and was my son’s personal, first pet. It was bad news.

When we got home from the meeting, we buried him in the garden. My poor son was so upset. It broke my heart. I know how he hurt – how he’d cared for this animal, put effort into its life. But I reminded him of all the things he had done well for this fish, and of the fact that God designs his creatures with finite life spans, for reasons only He understands.

My son’s eyes never left my face as I told him these things. Then he hugged me for a long, long time.

In victories and loss, we have one another, and the knowledge that others can empathize. This too, is a gift from the One who promises to never leave us alone.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,

yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken

nor my covenant of peace be removed,”

says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

– Isaiah 54:10

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.

Anything to Get to My Son’s Heart

I went into my son’s room just now to get this picture. My focus was really going to be on those two albums to the right – by TobyMac and Skillet. But one of our dogs followed me in and the picture turned out this way, which I think is kind of cute.

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See how her right ear is flipped out?  She’s a dog in motion, about to leave the frame to go sniff the pile of dirty clothes behind her and then settle in on that pillowy blue chair on the left side of the photo – all because these things are comfortable smells that remind her of my son. She likes to be around him. So do I.

And that’s a great thing. I’m savoring it because he’s 12 and I’m not sure what the teen years will bring. But I can tell you what he and I share right now. Music.

I was taking him to Tae Kwon Do practice last week, when “We Won’t Be Shaken” by Building 429 came on the radio. My son absentmindedly began singing. Strangely, the car was quiet. His siblings were both lost in their own thoughts. My son didn’t realize I was listening to him. Singing. Every. Word. Right. To. The. End.

When you finish reading here, click on the YouTube link below and listen. Perhaps you’ll understand why I was hiding my eyes, filled with tears of joy, when he hopped out of the car a minute or so later.

When my kids are in the car, I listen to either Christian or classical music, with few exceptions. Yes, I enjoy other genres of music and need my daily dose of news (when young ears aren’t listening), but I like the atmosphere that this music creates as we go about our activities together. And I also believe that the media we consume has an effect on what we feel, think, and become.

Scripture confirms this.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.” (Matthew 6:22)

The things we look at, read, and examine closely make their way into the fabric of our being and either work for good, or not. The books we read, shows we watch, music we hear, people we spend time with, matter. We need to choose wisely.

When I was about my son’s age, my dad gave me some Christian music that I listened to frequently. He had taken some time to figure out what was popular with young people in the 80s, and made selections that he thought I might like. He did a good job. The words of those songs made their way into my heart. I didn’t stay with the faith through my tumultuous teen and college years, but the lyrics I had learned and the Truth they spoke of, never left me. And when I was finally ready to turn toward the loving whisper that was gently beckoning me, I knew those songs had played an important role in my faith formation. To this day, “El Shaddai” by Amy Grant is still one of my favorites.

So, I’m listening to the radio, and to my kids, paying attention to which artists, both secular and Christian, they are responding to. And I’ve gone out on a limb and bought my son, and my daughter, CDs I think they’d enjoy with messages I’d like them to hear. I’ve been blessed for my efforts, because they are playing those CDs, singing along, engraving Truth on their hearts without even realizing it. Some of this music isn’t exactly my taste, but it’s definitely grace in action.