Sunday, May 30, 2010

Saving the Marriage Nest

Empty chip bags left on the counter, days old socks abandoned on the bedroom floor, are met with heavy sighs, eyes that wander upwards, and a heart trying to recover from the trauma.

The details of the trauma our family endured a few months ago cannot be displayed on this black and white.  All that can be said is something was lost on March 16th.  The hope of rebuilding a broken link, the future that for brief moments at a time seemed approachable, and trust that was weak but making appearances- lost on May 16th 2010 at 3:30 AM.

The tears that fell on my quilted pillow shams, my son’s panicked cries, my mother’s heavy breathing- a sample of the after shocks.  I felt that I had lost a husband and gained a burden.   I held my very pregnant stomach as a reminder of the business I was in.  I had to hold it together.  Falling of any kind was not an option for us.  This event pushed our family into crisis mode.  There was no hiding how far my husband was from us.  I looked at his face later that morning and his eyes refused to reach mine.  I searched his scarred brow, bruised arms, and worn appearance.  He felt like a foreigner to me.  My heart often collapses when I survey the damage that has been done to our lives.  Often the future is neglected in hopes of regaining what was held in the past.   Finding a place to turn to was confusing and frightening during those first few hours. My fears of being judged tried to keep me away from God’s people- my new “chosen extended family”.

Yet, God’s people made an appearance that kept me from falling. They surfaced with reckless love and sacrificial support.  Their visits, prayers, and offers to take the children saved us.   Marriages are a union between two people that need the nest of the God’s family to rest in.   Hope was found in the arms and faces that I have grown to treasure.  Can a church save a marriage?  Can a group of women so giving, so inspiring, so encouraging save a marriage?  Alone they cannot save a marriage but together they provide momentum to persevere.  They know the place we are in and they still love us.  There is no expectation to hurry up and fix your failures. They know that rolling eyes, frustration and a traumatized heart will make appearances. It does not deter them from helping us create our nest of rest.  As I told my husband in the car one day, “I am okay with us being in this rough spot…it doesn’t scare me away.  I’m here for the long haul.”
You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.
Matthew 5:3-7 (The Message)
Who helps you restore your marriage nest?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Young Olive Shoots

I watch my 20 day old daughter- God's newest gift to me.  How awestruck I am at his craftsmanship.  She is beautiful and the love that I feel towards her spills out of me and all around her.  How blessed I am.  It has been said by millions- but I am sleep deprived, unkept, exhausted, and generally out of my mind- because of her.  Yet, that doesn't stop me from kissing her face every time I look at it.  I can't help but want to pick her up even at 3:40 in the morning when she gives me the slightest cry.  What a blessing. What joy.  

My two year old's cries ring out in our tiny car on the way back from the store.  He mumbles in almost-words about popsicles (his newest obsession), music, and other words I have yet to translate.  We make promises about treats and good things when we get home in exchange for a few quiet moments in the car.  He stops and gives us what we have asked for.  It wasn't too long ago that I could feel the recovery pains that brought this child into the world.  Every time I touched his heart he would grab my fingers and urge me to stay close.  He loves touch.  Even in his misery you want to reach out and touch his mountain of curls, loving face and passionate embrace.  What a blessing.  What joy.

With every chubby, uncoordinated step our 20 month old makes I am amazed that time has passed so quickly.  We battle most days now about potties, taking off our diapers during the night, and screaming for no apparent reason.  Normally the two of us are like two cowgirls staring each other down, each one refusing to make the first move towards surrender.  People who know us usually laugh and shake their heads, explaining that we are the perfect match for each other.  Lately her attempts to scare me away from potty training with screeching cries brought out a different side to me.  I met her screams with reassuring words, patient looks and a peaceful exit.  As a result I now watch her chubby smooth face form the sweetest smiles that bring me back to gentleness and tenderness.  God knows why every now and then He brings me back to her chubby cheeks, dimpled smile, and  big bright eyes.  What a blessing.  What joy.

Four and half seems so young.  So young to have calls from the teacher, notes in his folder, and arguments with his parents about - well everything.  We haven't yet figured out how to tame his impulsive nature and at the same time nurture his independent and intelligent side. He challenges us to think before we speak- because he will call us on every unclear thought and implausible tale.  Most days he can be found trying to drop the shadow of his little brother.  Rare days he is seen comforting and soothing the melt down of the 2 year old and instructing the 20 month old on how to tidy up her playhouse.  His love for his newest sibling is tender.  He hugs her with an almost touchless embrace. What a blessing.  What joy.

Lord help me to grow to appreciate the blessings and joys that dwell around me.  Encircle my heart with the memories of their sweet faces and their rare attempts to win me over.  Clean out the cobwebs of doubt that curl up in the corners of my mothering mind.  Protect me from "bad days" that turn into bad thoughts and lead to bad habits.  Fill all of us with joy "unspeakable" and fill our life with your blessings.

Psalm 128 (The Message)

A Pilgrim Song
 1-2 All you who fear God, how blessed you are! how happily you walk on his smooth straight road! 
   You worked hard and deserve all you've got coming. 
      Enjoy the blessing! Revel in the goodness! 

 3-4 Your wife will bear children as a vine bears grapes, 
      your household lush as a vineyard, 
   The children around your table 
      as fresh and promising as young olive shoots. 
   Stand in awe of God's Yes. 
      Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God

Psalm 30:11 (The Message)

 11-12 You did it: you changed wild lament
      into whirling dance;
   You ripped off my black mourning band
      and decked me with wildflowers.
   I'm about to burst with song;
      I can't keep quiet about you.
   God, my God,
      I can't thank you enough.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Slow & Steady

It has been raining a lot. The clouds have taken a semi-permanent residence over our town. I am supposed to be happy for this time I have to sit and heal. Yet I just want a patch of sunshine and an opportunity to take all four of my children to the park and blow bubbles for hours. Realistically I know I won't get passed the second house before I crumble into pain on the sidewalk. I know I have had major surgery in my mind but my heart just wants to make leaps and jumps into my old active life with my children.

This desire I have to skip the healing process makes me think of a lot of things I desire for my life. I am constantly evaluating myself. I want God to change me and make me the woman, wife, mother, daughter and friend  that he (and I) can be proud of.  I recently read an article about mothering. Different adults shared their stories of being raised by their moms. Many of the stories had levels of grief and sadness woven into each word. The one that struck me the most was a story that a man wrote about his mother. She had 12 children and only 2 of the 12 attended her funeral. I remember reading that story and wondering if am I heading in that direction with my children.

Whenever I share this fear with my friends they always tell me not to be silly and of course I am a great mom. In my mind great moms are so far from who I am. I so desperately want to be a better mother that I have prayed for God to conduct a miracle and "transform" me overnight. If not overnight I would accept that he could do this in a month, season or a year.   But that's it.  I need results and I need them fast!

Recently I felt prompted to look up the meaning of the word "transform". To my surprise the definition of the word "transform" did not have any references to time.

1 a : to change in composition or structure b : to change the outward form or appearance of c : to change in character or condition : convert

Yet all the Bible stories that made an impact on me as a child speak of transforming as an instantaneous act. I have grown up thinking that this is the only way God brings about serious change.

On the first Sunday after my c-section I went to church. I had an overwhelming desire to be around God's people. I couldn't wait to worship together. As the service progressed I became sore and uncomfortable. The thought of my moss green sectional waiting for my aching body to rest on was very comforting. I couldn't wait to get home. I was finally ready to accept that my recovery will take time and instead of looking at this time as a death sentence, I could use it as an opportunity to restore my body. 

Restoration requires space and time. Sitting on my moss green sectional gave me the opportunity to cuddle with my children, reply to e-mails in a timely manner, return phone calls to well wishers, read my on-line devotionals, pray, and sleep. I also gained a new sense of gratitude for pain. The first few days home from the hospital I became frustrated and depressed because of the amount of pain I was in. Later it occurred to me that the pain I felt was a stop sign that helped me avoid even more pain. Without that pain I would have injured myself because of my eagerness to get out.

I know that even though I can't see it my body is being restored. This can only happen through the slow passage of time spent in rest and stillness.  It occurred to me that God can transform me in the slow passage of time or the quick flashes of time.  It is his decision and for his purpose.  My impatience at the slow changes that are occurring in my body and my heart is a reminder to live in complete obedience to God.  Timing is God's work, and obedience is mine.  After all every turtle knows that slow and steady wins the race. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dimple Surprise

Don't you love it when you think you have gotten all the crunchy toffee bits out of your favourite ice-cream and as you take your last bite you discover another unexpected bit of sweet crunchy joy? Those moments don't happen often but when they do- it is joy multiplied.

My youngest daughter is 10 days old. Today is her actual due date. Every time I look at her I am brought to the gratitude table. There are so many surprising things to be thankful for. I was not amazed to find that as she breastfed her cheeks puckered in and out making little hollow spaces in them. What amazed me was that when I removed her from the breast those hollow spaces in her cheeks were actually dimples. I screamed to my mother with sheer joy, "She has dimples!" What a sweet nugget of joy that moment brought. Something so small and so common brought me such unexpected happiness. I thank God for creating us in such a way that others can find joy in us as they discover more of us. I am also thankful that he knows us so well- he even knows about simple little dimples.

My Gratitude List #11 - #20

My newborn daughter
Sticking it Out
My "Chosen Extended Family"
Cold milk with warm baked goods
Tulips in my front yard
Flowers from Greg that filled the hospital room
Freedom Fridays
Praying friends
Nap time

What are the "dimple surprises" you are thankful for?

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Psalm 139 (The Message)

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