A Miserable Vomitous Mass

No…I’m not cleaning up after a sick child, though that was one of my first thoughts too. Nope. The wonderfully evocative line from The Princess Bride is simply an apt description of how I feel. I’m not sick. I just had a really, REALLY bad day yesterday. Adam’s was even worse. Because the only thing worse than prepping for a colonoscopy, having a colonoscopy, and having a surprise CT scan afterwards is finding out that the doctors are pretty sure you have a cancerous mass. Yep. He hasn’t gotten final confirmation from the pathology report yet, but the appointment with the surgeon is already scheduled. He is now recovering from the tests themselves – all the pain of 1000 ab crunches, but with none of the results – his words, not mine. Pray for us. The kids only know that he has a stomach problem – so we’re trying to keep the talking about it to a minimum when they’re around. Ha! Talking to a minimum? Have you MET us? We don’t know much yet…just enough to decide that looking on the internet would stress us more, so we’re not doing that! (On webmd: Symptom checker: runny nose Possible causes: allergic rhinitis, cancer) One bit of drama we definitely don’t need right now. By the grace of God, one of my best friends is going to be here this weekend – it was planned weeks ago – and I can cry and rage with her. We do some of that anyway – about everything from fat pants to misbehaving children to wanting things we can’t have to…well, now, to cancer. I really hate cancer. I already hated it. We’ve seen it ravage health, take lives, destroy peace…and build faith, reunite families, spark hope…. God is bigger than anything this world can throw at us. I guess He’s going to show us what that means for us. Did I mention? Please pray for us.



On living generously…

I often make comments about my own general lack of niceness. Most people, though notably not my mother or my husband, feel obliged to refute my assertions. I am thankful for this mark of concern for my feelings – even I am not allowed to be mean to me – but I don’t really mean to insult myself. I really don’t think of myself as nice, strictly speaking – I am too blunt, too quick to find fault, too honest, too forward, too loud – I am too much for nice. But that doesn’t bother me so much. I love people collectively and individually. I don’t want to hurt anyone, I apologize quickly when I do hurt people, and I try to learn from my mistakes so I don’t hurt anyone in the same way twice. So I may not be nice, but I strive to be kind. I have recently noticed, however, that what I indubitably am not is generous. There is an element of virtue to my stinginess – I hate wastefulness, and I identify and solve problems quickly. But I overreact to messy mistakes and I identify those problems out loud and in public. And these are just the areas that I see in which a generous spirit would be more loving than mine, which begs the question: how many areas are there that I don’t see? [In the interest of kindness, I beg you all to treat this as a strictly rhetorical question and to refrain from submitting your answers here…feel free to speak to me privately, however!]

So I can “work on” being slower to point out faults or errors and on keeping my cool when stuff gets broken or lost or treated more cavalierly than I like…but I don’t actually think that addresses the root of the problem. Behavioral modification is socially helpful, but is empty apart from internal personal development. And I can seek to “feel” generous all I want, but if the feeling doesn’t change the way I relate to people, what use is it? [Incidentally, do you ever have those moments where you realize that the thing that felt so new and wise is actually something you’ve been hearing all your life? And did anyone else notice that this sounds a lot like the relationship between faith and works discussed in James 2? There really is nothing new under the sun.] So. Now what?

My mother wants me to come to an answer in my blog posts, not just leave everyone chewing on the questions and the various implications that I come up with. What does this have to do with living generously? Just this: I don’t have any answers most of the time. Of course, Jesus is never not the answer (see my birthday post to my mom). But that is who, not what. I will try to feel more generous and I will try to act more generous, but I will mostly pray that I will be more generous. But there is no answer as to how that can or will happen…and when it will happen is the greatest mystery of all.

O children, children….

For anyone who has not had the privilege of watching the old animated version of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the title of this post needs to be said in a tired, sad, disappointed, and even scared sort of tone. For those who have seen that particular masterpiece of literary adaptation, I’m quoting Aslan, tone and all, when he realizes that Lucy and Susan have followed him to the Stone Table. Why you ask? Because my children are Doing It Again. They are fussing and fighting over sink time to brush their teeth. They are descending into a madness of bruised egos and name calling over updating the chore chart. They are forgetting their lunch boxes because they are too busy defending their dignity. DIGNITY?!?! O children, children….

Do you ever wonder, in your heart of hearts where no one else can hear the wondering, if you look as ridiculous as “those people?” Maybe for you “those people” aren’t children, but some other group that you have written off as foolish, inept, or otherwise contemptible. Because for me, while I hesitate to use those particular adjectives to describe two of the most beloved people in my life, my children are still the height of utter ridiculousness. I laugh, I cry, I yell, I encourage, I chastise, and I say “o children, children” in the voice of an animated lion. And I am aware that others do the very same thing when they look at me. Maybe without the movie quotation….

Have you ever been to a dance recital and seen the two- and three-year-old ballerinas? They may be adorable, but graceful is generally in short supply. They are playing at learning to do something that they simply aren’t developmentally ready to do well. Which is fine…wonderful, in fact. It gives us all hope. We may be no more skilled or masterful than the average two-year-old ballerina, but we are learning something new in life and our loved ones think we’re great. But lets not get arrogant here…we’re still turning in circles, often in the wrong direction and at the wrong time, with our metaphorically diaper-clad butts sticking out for the world to see. But God loves us anyway. And hopefully we can love ourselves and those around us too. And dignity? I guess it’s relative. And maybe not as important as some of us would like to think!

PS Speaking of credit where credit is due, I must tell you that the two-year-old ballerina image is from my mom…who is great…see the last post if you haven’t!

To my Mother, on her birthday…

The original document that became this post was a gift to my mom. Some of the jokes may not make sense to non-family, but I think most of it is universal! If you know her, wish her a happy birthday today!

To my Mother, to commemorate the anniversary of her birth (which occurred in Eugene, Oregon some sixty-odd years ago…during a blizzard…uphill both ways).

A short list of lessons my mother is proud to have taught me:

  • Jesus is never not the answer.
  1. The grammatical corollary: Sometimes double negatives are the best way to construct affirmatives.
  •  There are no neat compartments in our brains or in our lives: everything is connected. Like God and geometry. Ewww, geometry.
  • Problems never go away when we ignore them; they simply loom larger on the edges of our lives until they swoop in and take over.
  • Our strengths are our weaknesses. She told me this today, in fact. Again. Apparently I haven’t learned it well enough yet!
  • It is possible to be logical, rational, and correct in our arguments even when we are crying.
  1. The relational corollary: Men will rarely take us, or our patently superior arguments, seriously when we are in this condition.
  • Things are just things and we never need as much as we have, to say nothing of as much as we want.
  1. The hospitality corollary: We should share the best of what we have, not the least.
  • To damage a person’s sense of dignity is an unspeakable abuse.
  1. The sports corollary: Learning to lose well is at least as important as learning to win well. This also applies to checkers, rummy, Scrabble, gin, Trivial Pursuit, and Bananagrams. Among others.
  2. The charity corollary: It is better to provide a way for someone to earn something than to provide the thing itself.
  • People are endlessly fascinating.
  1. The nerd corollary: It is good to be a nerd, to be weird, or to be generally too much.
  2. The down time corollary: Down time from friends is not a bad thing, especially because I will otherwise never stop talking.

A rather longer list of lessons she may be chagrinned that I learned:

  • In a dressing room we never cry when we can laugh instead.
  1. The fashion corollary: If a dress looks good on neither of us, there is very little hope for it; but if it looks good on both of us, it is a marvel of sartorial splendor. I’ve always wanted to use that phrase!)
  • I should be able to install and/or assemble anything sold at Wal-Mart by myself – without breaking something further or harming myself.
  1. The electrical corollary: It is wise to have a voltmeter in the house to make sure no wires exposed during installation of, say, a ceiling fan, are hot. Don’t worry. Adam is fine. He twitches a little now and then, but he’s fine. I promise.
  • Getting lost is no big deal; in fact it can be quite amusing!
  1. The Atlanta corollary: Getting lost every time we go more than two miles from our house is truly funny…right up to the point that it’s tragic…which may or may not be the moment we back into a telephone pole.
  • It is a wonderful thing to laugh at all kinds of things.
  1. The family corollary: No one else will ever understand that the things we laugh at are funny. Even Adam. That is just sad.
  • Putting together puzzles is an excellent way to pass time while waiting for recalcitrant children and/or grandchildren to be born.
  • We can be optimistic about anything except Braves baseball, because if the other team scores, “it’s over.”
  • No cussing is ever okay…unless it’s in another language.
  • Traffic signals are often broken, so we may have to run that red light. This is also known as “traffic laws are more like guidelines anyway.” (Thank you Pirates of the Caribbean!)
  1. The authority corollary: We only have to follow rules that make sense.
  • Necessary life skills include: how to hit or pitch a softball, how to serve a volleyball, how to run a sprint, and how to high jump (scissoring technique, not Fosbury Flop).
  1. The anti-sedentary corollary: It is always better to be doing something than to be sitting around the house watching TV. (I got around this one by reading. A lot. )
  • There are no bored people, only boring ones who cannot entertain themselves. These poor wretches will be given jobs to do if they should happen to complain to their mothers.
  • It is a good and normal thing to hide from our children in order to accomplish simple things like reading or escaping constant chatter.  The bathroom or the space between the bed and the wall are excellent for this purpose.
  1. The phone corollary: Children will be their loudest when their mothers are on the phone.
  2. The bathroom corollary: No mother is allowed privacy when using the bathroom without first locking the children in their rooms.
  • Conformity is terrible. Independent thought is a mark of intelligence and there is even a time for outright rebellion.
  1. The parental corollary: Parents are always correct and therefore the above should only be practiced away from home.
  2. The respect corollary: Any authority figure deserves to be treated with respect, even when they are wrong. Don’t conform, but don’t be a smartass either.  Shoot. That’s not in another language!

Happy Birthday Mommy! I love you!

What to say when words won’t help?

One of the most difficult aspects of life and ministry is when my strengths fail me. Days like today when the unthinkable happens to a facebook friend. When right there on my news feed among the fear-mongering about politics and artificial sweeteners, there is a post that reads that a baby has died. Not some random fund-raising, tear-jerking post; but one about a real baby whose aunt and mom went to school with me. And words simply failed me. I stared at the post, it’s existence proof that my friends desires input, and have no words. Forget wisdom, comfort, kindness, or counsel – I have nothing at all. Because some things are beyond the power of words. I want to curl up in a ball in sympathy. I cannot begin to imagine how they feel or how they will weather this. I know they won’t do it because of anyone’s words alone, though. We aren’t their pastors, we don’t even see them anywhere but online. We are bystanders who hurt with them, in a comparatively tiny way, and are made aware of the inadequacy of our strengths to soothe the pain. So I wrote the truth: that I am so, so sorry. And I ask God to bring comfort and peace, because I can’t even imagine how that is possible. But I do believe that God is able to immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. God bless you who are hurting. God save my words from making it worse.