Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Forgive You

I don’t know what it is. Getting older. Having children. Or something else just outside the reaches of my comprehension. But more and more these days I’m quickly reaching the end of my shiny fa├žade and facing the desert of what I am not.

I have a sin-nature.

I know that you’re probably thinking, “get in line, Patsy McPityParty”, but let me expound. If I pause, I can almost see my sin nature. Like a grumpy old lady. Like Debbie Downer meets the Cat Lady from the Simpsons. She’s snarky with a raspy voice. Probably from decades of smoking…metaphorically speaking.

And since today’s episode is about forgiveness, I’ve given you that background so that when I use a phrase like “forgive yourself” you can see her exaggeratedly mimed violin-playing, and her voice saying, “Go sell your snake oil somewhere else, Dr Phil!”

I was minding my own business in church, right? I was in and out with the baby. I was only catching the highlights of the message and none of the more interesting nuances – half listening. There is an altar call regarding unforgiveness.

Me: “I’m cool on this.”

There is lingering and its not moving on very quickly. So I have a quick chat with HS (Holy Spirit) making myself available to whatever He may want to show me about unforgiveness. Because, in general, I’m a good girl and I try.

So here’s what happens: it starts quietly and gently with…why can’t I get over what that person did? I can’t even seem to hang out with them anymore. I can’t even be in a conversation about them without the conscious choice to hold back mean words.

But I’ve prayed about forgiving them. I’ve tried. And its not working. In other words, I’m so angry with them I can hardly be around them. Why?

In the lingering altar call people get up and share promptings from the Holy Spirit. I hear someone mention “taskmaster”. And I think about the taskmaster in my head that criticizes me at every turn. So I run down a list of authority figures in my life. Is it their voice? Nope. It’s a tormentor. Like a spirit. Like a religious/control spirit or something.

Then I realize that its not a religious/control spirit. At least not one outside of me. Its me. I’m my taskmaster. When I do something careless, I can’t let it go. I don’t like me. I’ve said about myself, “I can’t stand me sometimes.” It was in the form of a joke, but it doesn’t make it less true.

And maybe the first time I was stung by criticism it was from an authority figure or someone I respected. Maybe I heard it first from someone else. But no one is saying it to me now. No one is verbally abusive to me. Except me. Even if it had begun somewhere else, I had taken the reins now.

I was my cruel taskmaster.

So I got prayer. I joined a line of other people who were asking for prayer in this area and just dialogued with the Holy Spirit. In this case I didn’t have to do anything weird or tell all my stories. I just received prayer and forgave myself and gave me grace to be me. I felt warmth all over me and then I felt full of love.

I felt ok with my weaknesses. But mostly I was glad to realize that I now loved dearly those ones that I had struggled to even be positive toward.

Now I haven’t put a lot of scripture in here to support my experience. And while I’m still not into Christian Self-Help, I gotta tell you: freedom from bondage feels good.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Living Like An On Call Firefighter

As Disney's Johnny Appleseed can attest to "Oh, the Lord is good to me..."

This week my 8 and 5 year old homeschool shut-ins have followed Daddy to his summer art class job. He has the precious (and monetary) opportunity to teach elementary age children at a local performing arts school/non-for profit. Just two hours a day having fun with Modern Art techniques (I think, I get the eras mixed up sometimes. He's saying things like "Pop Art" and "Lichtenstein" and no one should ever have to spell that.)

When they get home, I hear about their new friends and how much fun they're having. John comes home busting with pride at our children. This is the equivalent of them taking interest in the "family business". They are having so much fun and I'm so happy for them.

....Oh, what am I doing with all that time? Nice of you to ask.

I'm bored. I'm home alone with the baby. I mean, we ARE laughing, napping and cudding a lot together which, honestly, I really don't mind because this guy is so friendlly that sometimes I feel I need to remind him, "listen fella, I'm your favorite person, remember?" But its very remniscient of having a first baby. We're glued together until he naps and then I scramble around doing everything I have to do at a furious pace at which I drop it all becasue he's crying. When did I get so bad at this again?

I had to try to take a shower twice yesterday. And by that I mean, I got in, got soaked, did 2 of the 50 things I do (don't judge, its only a rough estimate), whereupon the baby began to cry (yes, I take every opportunity to use the word "whereupon") and I had to get out, dry off and tend to him. I had already acively procrastinated this shower a day (or more, don't judge) and it took that much more will power to get back in later.

This week: food is not getting cooked. Laundry is not being washed. The house is not getting clean. Now, these don't automatically happen in my house anyway (don't judge, Jesus is watching you), but they are especially non existent this week. It could also be due to the fact that as soon my family walks in the door we are shoving food in our mouths WHILE shouting orders to get an activity bag together because we're late for the babysitter and all the full events this week WHILE we walk right back out the door. I agree, that doesn't help the disorder of my house.

But it sure does remind me a lot of when I was home alone with my first baby with the schedule and lifestyle of a Firefighter.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mom, This Is For You.

There’s a long-standing joke between my mom and my 4 sisters. She claims that we have never written anything about her. In all our years of composition classes and papers, she claims, we have never written a glorious ode to her virtues. (I have proof that in preschool I wrote some very heartfelt things about her popcorn on a block of wood with my handprint on the back. But I don’t think this is what she’s talking about.)

This year, unlike the past years, I spent Mother’s Day away from my mom. On its own, it shouldn’t have been a big deal. My mom doesn’t make a big deal out of the day; she’s not really into “Hallmark”. But for a variety of reasons, I spent Mother’s Day weekend away from my mom yet reminded of her at every turn. And so, the following is a brag sheet on my mom and how I walked into (and subsequently knocked myself out Three Stooges-style on) the bar she set as a mother. Ok, the list is as follows:

  • I made a 4-hour car ride with my little family. John drove our van. I sat with the 7-month-old baby. Eight-year-old sister and 5-year-old brother played in the back seat.

- My mom (and dad) moved to Florida when the youngest were 7 and 8. That’s a car ride. But then there were car trips back and forth to visit family in St. Louis. If that weren't enough, we moved to Guatemala when the new baby sister was just under 3. We drove 3 cars through Mexico and it took 5 days! I know! I was there! Subsequent trips got more efficient and we made the trip 4 more times through the years and got it down to 3 days through Mexico. THROUGH MEXICO! Ohmygosh.

  • I made dinners for 5 adults and 6 children during the trip. It took planning and forethought. Mostly, I asked my mom for her advice. (She said ‘crock pot’ and she was dead-on!) I impressed the others by trimming the fat off a roast.

- We moved a lot; to Florida, to Guatemala, to Moscow, to Latvia. Every time she would have to find the grocery stores. In the lesser-developed countries she would have to find several markets (markets!) to get everything we needed. I know that Moscow was especially tricky. There was a meat store, a different bread store, a different home supply store, etc. And shopping was needlessly complicated (thanks, Communism). She could only shop for one day at a time and we didn’t have a car. So everyday she would get seriously bundled up and pull a rickety rolling cart over ice and snow to buy us food for our meals. What a nightmare. I can’t believe she did that. On top of it, they didn’t butcher meat the way we do, so she would buy a big hunk of meat, get educated on cuts and do her best dividing it up into different parts. Yeah, she ground our own beef. Because there was no ground beef. Just fill-your-table sized chunks of beef.

  • There were two families and the grown-ups were almost outnumbered. Order hung by a thread.

- My mom has incredible kid intuition! She has a gift from God for young children. She has background early childhood development and it shows. She’s the child whisperer. She instinctively knows how to respond to the varieties of children behaviors and she has decades of experience managing little persons. If things are starting to get hairy, she not only brings peace and order, but she’ll have them playing a game. For the past 18 years we’ve always had a grandbaby around and there’s only a 6-year gap between the youngest daughter and the oldest grandchild. She “gets” children. They’re never a nuisance, rather they’re tired, or hungry or just need some attention. She’ll have your kids eating out of her hand in no time. It’s a gift.

Overall, I don’t consider myself an exaggerator. I don’t feel that I flatter unduly. I tend to choose my words carefully so as to not say something I don’t mean. I won’t say the pants make you look fat, but I might compliment the design on the pockets instead.

All that to say, my mom’s the best.