Wednesday, July 28, 2010

celestial sticker rack

I was totally unprepared. 

I mean, I had the swim diaper, the change of clothes, the towel and the after-your-first-swim-lesson-treat all ready to go.

But, emotionally, I was ignorant to the experience that was about to strike me.

You see, mine is the son who's never cried for me when I've dropped him off at childcare for church. Mine is the son who politely (because his butt's whooped if he's not) asks me to "Leave me alone. Daddy and I are playing right now."

That same independent son cried


of his first swim lesson last week.

When Carter's name was called, along with Sid, Ella and Cameron, he wasn't sure what to think. Once his teacher dunked his head under the water, though, he knew exactly how he felt.


"Mommy!!" he screamed in panic when he could catch his breath, "Come swim with me!!" 

I could barely hear him. We mommies were seated behind a thick plexi-glass wall, with a red stop sign posted on the door that stood between Comfort and Fear. At one point, I asked the other moms if the kids could even see us--is this some kind of CIA interrogation glass? They assured me the kids could.

Which is why, 5 minutes into the hysterics (both mine and his), these other mommies told me I should hide myself. From his sight. The reasoning was that if he stopped looking back for me, he might forget his fears and focus on his lesson.

So there I stood, hiding behind a tall sticker rack, crying as my son frantically searched the scene of Watching Mommies for his, wondering why I would

leave him with a stranger,

leave him to his fears,

leave him to choke on chlorinated water because he's still not able to hold his breath.

The reason I chose to subject him to such fear, loneliness and seemingly abandonment is that I believed his temporary pain paled in comparison to the unalterable pain that could come from a drowning accident.

The promise of my son's independence and freedom in the water was worth far more than the tears we both cried that day.

I wondered if this was a fraction of what God has felt with his children;

if there was some Celestial Sticker Rack that God hid behind while he watched me walk through my darkest days, the moments comprised of tragedy and brokenness, the moments about which I would later swear,

You broke my heart when you let that happen.

I'm led to believe he cried then. I'm led to believe he was surprised by the pain he experienced. I'm led to believe he was whispering, the entire time I searched the sky for his face,

I'm right here. I haven't left you. I'm so sorry. It's going to be okay.

I have learned, in my short journey so far, that there is a Promise that far outweighs the pain, the brokenness and the tragedy of this life. Intimacy with God, fellowship with the sufferings of Christ, genuine ministry to broken women and a dependency on God are all parts of the Promise I've already known.

For the unanswerable questions, for the sufferings that seem to have no possible value in this life, the ultimate Promise of life and healing await his children. I imagine God standing there, at the door of eternity, with a warm towel in his hands, ready to embrace the shivering sojourner.

For now, though, we just have to believe He was there. He is there. And that his purposes are wiser and better than a mom trying to teach her son how to swim.

Where do you have to trust God still has a purpose for you?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

why I'm reading through Age of Speed and other boring business books

I have scribbled, in a blue sharpie pen, a note to myself. It's posted on my once-organized cork board and goes like this: 

I wrote it down around midnight last week, after a fit of "I-can't-do-it-all-and-I'm-freaking-out." Neal and I talked late that night--about my dissatisfaction with what I felt I could do (and mostly, not do) as a mom, a wife, a house-manager, a creative person, and as a leader in ministry.
I felt like my output was all just...okay. And, as all mothers know, okay does not keep the Guilt Boogie Monsters away at night.

Usually, with this onslaught of feeling overwhelmed, I determine that I'm doing too much and pare down my tasks to a more manageable docket. This time, that strategy would not do because I honestly believe that everything I'm doing is necessary and valuable and has its rightful niche in my life.

This time, it's not that I'm doing too much, it's that I have to grow up to the much that I'm doing.

So I'm stealing Neal's business books--the boring, read-it-in-two-sittings-because-business-men-wrote-them-and-know-better-than-to-waste-your-time-with-description-and-adjectives-and-interesting-writing kinds of books. And I'm trying to implement some of their strategies. 


Getting crap done quick (the unimportant, every-day, repetitive stuff). 


And I'm asking God to grow me up. To mature me to the level at which I need to exist. 

To love well. To serve well. To be well.

Monday, July 19, 2010

this post really is just about a bookstore

I always have to pass it before I know I'm close; navigational doubt fills me every time I attempt the trek.

It's one of those obscure, hard to find, unless-you-know-the-correct-U-turn-to-make kind of bookstores.

Musty and dank, with aging carpet and fluorescent lights, the store quietly welcomes you with the solitary ding of a bell upon entering. No looks up to see who's come in. The only distinguishable staff sits behind the counter, immersed in her novel. A black pen tucked behind her ear, barely emerging from her wiry, peppered hair is the one mark of employee-ship.

There's no Starbucks or Seattle's Best cafe, no plush arm chairs for trendy Mac-Users to own. I come armed with a Tervis Tumbler, sloshing around with this morning's stale coffee, french vanilla creamer and half-melted ice cubes. My own version of a summer's drink.

I start at the beginning, the Florida section, where high-gloss and stunning photography make the front-facing displays. I already bought my bird book, so I'm good for now. Working my way past the horizontally stacked novels that line the entire east wall, I weave through shelves spilling over with mostly yellowing paged books.
I'm not sure what I'm looking for, but it's not

Self-Healing and New Age,


or even Cooking.

I stop at Classic Literature, due to a sort of obligatory deference I feel towards the names of the Great. It's a Shaw-thing, this respect for the Classics. One reads them, because that's what they're owed.

With the coming of motherhood and its demands I've increasingly excused myself from that guilt. I know I should get a kick out of Oscar Wilde, but in all honesty, I don't. And, like sushi, I don't have the time or money to spend becoming accustomed to the taste.

I settle in Christian, curious to see what my peppered hair friend and her coworkers decided fares as Christian work. That in and of itself is pretty entertaining, but it quickly passes and I move on, still asking myself what it was I wanted.

This journey through the bookstore is much like a treasure hunt, except that I'm not sure what the treasure looks like. I always believe there's a diamond or two in the rough and it's up to my discerning eye to discover them. There's an art to the search--I can't stay in one section too long for fear of getting too narrowly focused. Then again, I can't move too quickly per chance I might skip that One Book my quest is promised for. I move along, with an intentional pace, head tilted just so in case my treasure’s title isn’t placed at eye level.

I ended up carrying a Julia Alvarez collection of essays, along with a promised-to-be-witty book on grammar (I am that nerd) both to the counter. A 25 cent pelican bookmark begs to join and gets thrown into the mix. I ask Peppered Hair what she's reading and she quotes me an author I've never heard of (but might have if I cared more about the Classics). I smile, thank her, and take my generic plastic bag of books out the door.

Uneventful to an outsider, yes.

But for a soul so deeply moved by words, their mere presence in the inconspicuous labyrinth of ideas, persuasions, and stories that I affectionately refer to as my

Used (Beach) Bookstore,

leaves me with a comforted sensation, much like what comes from having met with old friends. The satisfaction of having discovered two good books, with pencil scribbling on the inside flap of a price of (at least) 50% off, having both been read and loved before me, is worth the trip even before I open the books.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

death in all its forms

This morning there was a panicky scream from the kitchen.

(Oh crap. Another poop that didn't make the toilet.)

To my surprise, though, Carter hadn't pooped on the tile, and urgently led me to the site of the crime.

We stooped under his kiddy table and he pointed it out:

a withered and dried up mosquito corpse.

It's okay, Carter, I assured him, It's dead. He won't bite you.

Long pause...I could see the wheels in his head turning.

He's he'll be nice to me?? If "dead" means the bug won't bite, then "dead" must mean he will be kind. Pretty decent logic to me. 

How does one explain death to a two year old? 

I logged onto to my email thirty minutes later and found a more-sobering-than-the-death-of-the-kitchen-mosquito message. 

Grandma's in hospice.  

I texted Mom, thanked Aunt Cath for the update, and excused myself from Daddy and Carter's sacred morning ritual of jumping on the bed and watching Mickey together.

It comes, this thing called Death, for us all. For the 8 day old insect and the 89 year old matriarch. And while we can expect and come to terms with and read literature in college and watch the headlines every night, 

it's no less sad. 

it's no less broken.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I laid down with you today
(Bear was in the wash)
you slung your arm around my neck
warm yogurt breath down my cheeks
you whispered,
Mommy, you maeel pitty
Mommy, you smell pretty
I wondered how much longer
you would be holding on
how many years do I have left
            of being Your Only Girl?
of compliments and kisses
and jealous hugs when Daddy loves
My promise is to love you
to build you up and make you strong
to let you risk and kiss the wounds
to help you find who you’ll become.
One day, you’ll see Another Girl
more beautiful than me
you’ll pour your soul into her
and be her everything
you’ll take the strength we’ve lent you
and the strength you’ve found on your own
you’ll build her up and make her safe
and together you’ll create your home.
For now, I’m holding onto you
and Bear and naps and yogurt breath
from here to there and what lies between
you’re my precious son; I call myself blessed.