Mobile Inspiration

So Bryan bought me this little pdf thingy last week to help me be more efficient. I was just excited to have a remote drive on which I could write. However, when I use the handwriting recognition feature it translates the first sentence of this post in this way: [ So Brian brojnt me’ his etou pdf 1hinogy last week to help.we be more efficient.]

I’m not seeing the efficiency in that.

What it does allow me to do is discreetly surf the internet without Ruthie noticing as she watches Finding Nemo for the 42nd time.

We watch A LOT of Nemo. It’s my crutch to get through the early morning wake up calls without sending Ruthie out to the curb for the weekly trash pick up.

Screw all those studies that say your children shouldn’t watch more than two hours of T.V. a year or whatever it is “they” say. Those people have never spent 24 hours with my lively, curious, and energetic two year old who also happens to like partying in the middle of the night. Sometimes mamma needs to help the little angel zone out for awhile so she can take a shower, drink a cup of coffee, or perhaps lie down and die.

Which brings me to my next point: 8:30am is a very dark time in the world of PBS. I spend all morning chasing the GOOD shows around our three different PBS stations – shows like Barney, Clifford, and Sesame Street. But 8:30 is the Black Hole of children’s television, leaving this mamma searching desperately through the channels for something — ANYTHING — so she doesn’t have to hear the droning whines of the bratty Caillou.

It’ll be a miracle if my child manages to grow up with all her brain cells intact.

Coldplay Is My Pink Floyd

For some reason I can only write while listening to Coldplay, and it needs to be played REALLY LOUD. And I mean, REALLY LOUD, like, the kind of loud where you can’t even hear the phone ring or your husband sneak up on you from behind. I think because all their songs sound the same they blend into the back room of my consciousness and drown out all the distractions in my head.

Currently I’m slightly buzzed on vodka and orange juice – just enough to make my lips numb and to make Coldplay sound REALLY GOOD. Sometimes I think I would make a great alcoholic because I’m a nicer person when I’m buzzed. I was just reading about the Comfort Zone of toddlers in The Girlfriend’s Guide to Toddlers – things like blankies, binkies, and thumb sucking – and I thought to myself, What if my Comfort Zone was a strong margarita? Would that be socially acceptable?

What if, when playground politics stressed me out or I thought there were monsters under my bed, what if I chucked the blankie aside and poured myself a stiff one. It sure does comfort me, and isn’t that the point?

The things that toddlers get away with….

Dreamland

Last night I had a disturbing dream that my house was overrun by hordes of people as if everybody in the entire world either lived or worked in my home. The house was so packed it was like a night club dance floor without the benefits of sweating away the calories. For some reason, in the midst of all this chaos I was trying to fill out some kind of form.

So I did what any mother knows to do when she can’t think to remember her own name… I shut myself in the bathroom.

But just as I thought I had a moment’s peace, people started barging in on me one by one to ask me questions. I wish I could remember now what those questions were, but all I remember is feeling like I wanted to launch an escape pod into outer space because at least out there I’d get some peace and quiet.

Ironically, the thing that woke me up out of this dream was my two-year-old crawling into bed with me. Again.

Pipe Dream

WARNING: The following post contains copious amounts of complaining. If such things annoy you please avert your eyes.

Ruthie has discovered the endless joys of bedtime torture that come with sleeping in a Big Girl Bed. I swear her butt is made of rubber because she bounces straight out of bed before you can say “Pour me a drink, the kids are in bed!”

As an introvert I find it quite disturbing to be around my children from 5am until after 9pm, day in and day out. It does things to me.

Tonight we happened to be at a friend’s for dinner, and as we talked into the evening Ruthie grew quieter, then resorted to sucking her right thumb while playing with her left ear, until she actually began clawing at the front door and whined, “Home! Home! Home!”

“See Ruthie?” I exclaimed with great indignation. “Not so much fun when the shoe’s on the other foot, huh???”

Sometimes I wonder who the adult is in this relationship.

I just want things to go MY WAY. I want my kids to wake up smiling and perky at a healthy 8am, and I want their bathed and neatly pajama-ed bodies back in bed by 7pm, and I want them to ask for carrot sticks and apples for snacks, and I want them to say, “Okay mom!” when I yell at them to not run into the street.

Is that so much to ask?

Drunkard’s Prayer

Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist of the band Over the Rhine canceled their national tour for the OHIO album a couple years ago because the stress of their work was taking a toll on their marriage. They stated in the liner notes of their most recent album, Drunkard’s Prayer, that they needed time to figure out if being together was something they were still committed to.

“When we came home from the tour,” they wrote, “we bought two cases of wine and decided we were going to put a bottle on the kitchen table every evening and start talking until nothing was left. The idea was not to get plowed, but to talk face to face deep into the night.”

Out of that experience came the song, Born, plus a whole host of other beautiful melodies on Drunkard’s Prayer.

Two kids, depression, his career, and pastoring a church on the side has taken a toll on us. We are broken, and I feel as if nothing can fix us.

Religion says God will fix us, but the Bible says I am arrogant and stubborn and must let go of my anger.

Religion says God will make me feel better, but the Bible says I need to humble myself and ask Bryan to forgive me.

Religion says I deserve to be happy, but the Bible says we are children of grace who have been given a new voice to praise the Most High God.

I am nobody. I am a lump of clay who shakes her fist at the potter.

I’m tired. I give up. I will let go of my resolve and listen for the Still Voice to whisper again to me – I hope I can remember what He sounds like.

Sleep Deprived

I used to wake up every morning at 6am, enjoy a quiet cup of coffee with my husband, then spend a couple hours working on the computer before my daughter woke up.

Now she wakes me up around 4:30 or 5:00 each morning with her obnoxiously cheery “Hi, Mamma!”

I can’t even begin to describe how grouchy I am when I have to engage before my morning cup of coffee.

I used to be excited to see my daughter come bursting through the door to the kitchen in the morning. She would always strike a certain pose as she slammed the door shut behind her, and it reminded me of Christopher Reeve’s Superman. Now when I see her eyes peering at me just over the mattress of my bed I get a seething clench of dread in my chest. Not the kind of warm fuzzies we mothers want to have about our children.

I am a mean person when I am sleep deprived – a point which my two-year-old has not yet clued into, but would benefit greatly from knowing.

These days when I consume my morning cup of coffee, I am standing in the middle of my kitchen with squinty eyes watching cable news — or Barney, depending on which one of us has the stronger will that morning – while Ruthie eats her bowl of cereal and I periodically shush her for trying to talk to me.

Disoriented, I have vague memories of silence, of birds chirping, of that still in the air as the sun begins to rise. I wonder what the heck I was thinking, spending those precious mornings doing something so stupid as paying bills or returning emails when I could have been writing, or reading, or sleeping for crying out loud.

I now believe that an organized life is overrated. I do what I can, but if you come to my house and find balls of dog hair floating across the hardwood floors and dirty dishes in my sink you won’t see a look of apology on my face, because that means I had a nap today, which means I won’t bite your nose off when you try to talk to me.

“Fix You”by Coldplayfrom the XY albumWhen you …

“Fix You”
by Coldplay
from the X&Y album

When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse
When the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

High up above or down below
When you too in love to let it go
If you never try you’ll never know
Just watch and learn

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

How to Survive the I-Don’t-Give-a-Fuck Blues

My life has become so overwhelming that I just don’t give a fuck anymore. I’m not talking about the suicidal version of not giving a fuck, I’m more of the version where you don’t shower for days, the laundry is piled up on the spare bed, and household budgeting is reduced to crossing your fingers and hoping there’s money in the account whenever you swipe the debit card.

I watch my two year old daughter as she plays, and if it doesn’t involve tormenting the dog by hiding her chew toys in out of reach places, it usually involves some sort of domestic work. Ruthie loves to sweep, and if she was about five pounds heavier she would love to push the vacuum around, too. She’ll spend oodles of time caring for her doll, laying her down on a clean blanket, lifting her legs in the air, wiping the doll’s ass, and she’ll even attempt to put a real diaper on it. Don’t even get me started on her obsession with cleaning surfaces with a wash cloth – she will intentionally spill water just so she can clean it up.

It’s funny how, at two years old, we loved to do these things. Tea parties were fun and we got dressed up in our white gloves and garden hats.

At what point does this all become a horribly dreaded chore? When does the joy become divorced from the task? Does Bree find any more pleasure in her daily grind than Lynette, or does she simply suppress the dread more cleverly?

I never meant for life to be so complicated. Was I just being naive? Is complication inevitable? Have I allowed too much to enter my life or is this the way it’s supposed to be?

I really felt that as a single person I was pretty non-romantic about the way life would be with a husband and kids. The extent of my fantasy was that my kids would sit quietly in the family room as we watched some brainy show on t.v. like Nova or Frontline, and we would have long and interesting conversations about the Milky Way Galaxy or the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories. One season of King of the Hill and Celebrity Poker Showdown nipped that dream in the bud.

So instead of the tea party and white glove dream, I over-multi-task my day in order to get it all done to the point where I scream at my kids, they cry, and my daughter learns to say, “Mommy, sit! Mommy, sit!” And even THAT annoys me.

I just want it to stop. If it’s not possible to lay in bed all day with the covers over my head, then how do I get motivated to get up in the morning? How do I face the piles of paperwork and laundry and dishes and blah blah blah? If I choose to lower my standards and just let some things slide, will I be a Christian who sucks?

The Christian Culture says to “let go and let God,” that we find joy in our work because we are doing so unto the Lord, that serving my husband and children is a role I need to cherish. I know there are verses for all that.

But what the fuck does that mean when I can’t get out of bed?

Am I a Christian who sucks if my husband can’t find any clean underwear? Am I a Christian who sucks if the unopened mail is stacking up on the dining room table? Am I a Christian who sucks if I don’t get the dishwasher emptied until four in the afternoon?

Do I need to repent? Does anyone have a users manual that will tell me HOW to “let go and let God” and make it all happen?

I’m not asking for bon bons and soap opras, but there has got to be a way to do the things that need to be done while still enjoying my life and my daughter. Currently I feel as if I have to make a choice between nurturing my daughter and getting things done. Any parent who’s been there knows how demanding a two-year-old can be, and as I read more on the subject of raising toddlers, the more I feel comforted that I’m not alone.

As of late, if given the choice between resting or getting something done when I have both the kids napping at the same time, I choose REST. I put my feet up, grab a book, and if the gods are smiling on me I get to snooze for 20 minutes.

Does that make me a lazy Christian who sucks? To which I say, I don’t give a fuck.

Helper

My two year old daughter loves to help me. For instance, yesterday morning I was pulling weeds in the garden when she came up behind me with a pair of my gardening gloves on, and began pulling up the alyssum in the garden’s border.

“Help!” She kept saying over and over again, as she struggled to grab something through the huge gloves with her tiny fingers.

Normally I would’ve thought that to be so adorable, but I was nine months pregnant at the time and was simply trying to feel like I was accomplishing something in order to satisfy a ferocious nesting urge that my large and off-balance body was not cooperating with. In short, my patience was thin.

I tried to distract her with a broom, asking her to “help” mamma by sweeping the walkway, but she was only interested in the broom when I was the one sweeping with it.

I have to admit I do feel a twinge of guilt for being so irritated with her for wanting to “help” me with everything. After all, when we first saw the ultrasound and learned Ruthie was a girl, all I could think of were the many ways I would be able to teach and disciple my daughter to be a godly woman, a hard-working woman, a woman capable of making her home warm and hospitable.

From the very beginning Ruthie has been an observer and a clean freak. She has her own set of wash cloths now so she can clean off her own booster seat tray. When she spills water from her cup she runs to the kitchen to find a towel and wipes up her mess. When she finds discarded mail or scraps of paper on the floor she picks them up and carries them to the trash can in the kitchen, and just the other day she placed a stray section of the newspaper in the recycling basket.

Bryan calls her obsessive compulsive. I think she’s brilliant.

I know this is cliché mom-speak, but I am terrified at how much of my behavior she mimics. She pays attention to what I do and learns from me. When I lose my patience and am harsh with her, the sad look on her face breaks my heart. Her sad little face is God’s conviction for me, my conscience.

“Mamma was wrong to react that way, Ruthie,” I said at one point yesterday. “I’m sorry.”

Ruthie looked me in the eye, then leaned forward and gave me a hug, and I knew she understood.

And that was profound to me.

Writer’s Block

I’ll be honest: resolution gives me writer’s block.

As an introvert, I write to process through the fog in my mind. Once the wave has swelled and spilled over onto the beach I can think of nothing else to say. To recap how high the wave became, what kind of splash it produced, and how far it creeped onto the beach is to report – and I am not a reporter.

Gordy has died.

Despite his having cancer, his death still came as a surprise to me. Not in the sense that I was denying the seriousness of his illness, but in the sense that just one week prior to his death he had been visiting relatives and eating lutefisk.

There was a funeral; there was family drama; and there were unspoken territories marked. But to recap that today seems like reporting.

And I am not a reporter.

Perhaps someday I will process through what all this has meant. Maybe I will even explore why it seems my grieving has died with Gordy.

But for now it is all behind me, and as much as I try to poetically script my thoughts into poignant essays, it all comes out as mere recorded events.

And I am not a reporter.

So I will quit trying, and let the grief catch up to me again.

All My Tears

Just today I received word that the cancer in Gordy’s lung has continued to grow. It has taken over half the lung, his lymph nodes, and possibly spread into his liver. He is very weak, and according to my mom, Gordy says he feels like he’s dying.

The doctors have narrowed his time with us down to weeks… maybe a couple months.

Ironically… or perhaps not… I was listening to Emmylou Harris this morning in the quiet before my daughter awoke, and the lyrics to one of her songs caught my ear. I’ve listened to her music over and over, and this song is not new to me. However, it usually remains in the meditative backround as I write or work.

This morning, before I knew of the saddening news of my beloved, God called my attention to the loving grace of knowing him and trusting him to receive our loved ones in death.

All My Tears
by Julie Miller

When I go don’t cry for me
In my father’s arms I’ll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
Will all be healed and I’ll be whole

Sun and moon will be replaced
With the light of Jesus’ face
And I will not be ashamed
For my savior knows my name

It don’t matter where you bury me
I’ll be home and I’ll be free
It don’t matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

Gold and silver blind the eye
Temporary riches lie
Come and eat from heaven’s store
Come and drink and thirst no more

So weep not for me my friend
When my time below does end
For my life belongs to him
Who will raise the dead again

It don’t matter where you bury me
I’ll be home and I’ll be free
It don’t matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

Peace

Have you ever felt like a sermon preached by a pastor was aimed right at you?

That he spent all week thinking about you, your life, your issues, then said to himself, “I’m going to preach a sermon for her?”

This morning’s sermon – preached by Pastor Mike — seemed particularly powerful to me. Again, there’s a lot of hormones running through my pregnant body these days which tends to cause crying over just about anything, but he really seemed to hit on some things I’ve been pondering.

From the time Gordy’s cancer went really downhill – when the tumors were found in his brain and the reality check in my head said this was the beginning of the end – I began to feel numb.

At least what I thought I felt was numbness, but the more I began to think about the Christian’s role in death the more I realized that what I felt was peace.

In Philippians 1:20-21 Paul says, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Pastor Mike punctuated that passage by saying that in life we live FOR Christ, and in death we live WITH Christ.

Do we as believers value that Biblical Truth? Do I value that Truth?

Of course I don’t want Gordy to die. I want him to live so my children can grow up and know what a kind, gentle, and giving man he is. I want my children to know the man God used to restore me from a bitter and confused childhood. I want more time with him, to be teased by him, to be irritated by him at times for still seeing me as the teenager I was when I left home, to show him what kind of mom I’ve become because he loved me so unconditionally.

I grieve everything I will lose in his death.

But in death, he will gain so much.

And that is what I believe has given me peace.

When Simeon saw the baby Jesus at the temple on the day of his dedication, just eight days old, he said, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

Simeon was an old man who had waited his entire life for God’s promise of a savior to come, and when he saw the Christ child he knew the fulfillment of this Promise had been delivered, and he could die in peace.

How much more should we be at peace with death, since we know the end of the story? We know that Christ conquered death so we would not be mastered by it.

God is not like the plumber who was scheduled to work on my house, who postponed twice, then on the third appointment he never came and never called. He overbooked, or lost his calendar, or forgot to pencil me in, or misplaced my phone number, or whatever his excuse. I don’t know, because he never said. To this day he remains unseen and unheard. Needless to say, he will never work on my plumbing because I will now find a new plumber.

God shows up. God is with us. God is comforting me in my grief, and he is comforting Gordy as he travels on.

Waiting

Before we decided to not hire a contractor to remodel our basement, we actually did hire the tall and loud contractor team that was in our home the night I found out Gordy had cancer. He was supposed to draw up the plans, submit them to the city for permitting, and get started on the project within a few weeks.

What I learned, and what I’m sure everyone who has undertaken a remodeling project has learned, is that these things never go as planned.

I bought a plane ticket on a Friday to leave for Minnesota that Sunday afternoon in May – Mother’s Day 2004. I took Ruthie with me but didn’t get her a seat, hoping she would sleep in my arms, which she did – for about half an hour.

I think that was the longest flight in my life for more than one reason.

Gordy was in round two of his six rounds of chemotherapy. My visit coincided with the “good” week of the three-week cycle. Since his cancer treatment began, the concept of a “good” week or a “good” day has taken on a new meaning for me.

Gordy’s hair began to fall out while I was there. Not that any of us are insensitive enough to care that he is bald, but the hair loss is a visual reminder of the illness. Once you see his bare head you know, you are reminded — even if he is having a “good” strong day where he seems to be his old self – the illness can’t be ignored.

I was very grateful for that visit, for that window into the early days of his fight against the imperfection and unfairness of our corrupt life on Earth. It made me think a lot about Adam and Eve and the blissful life they led, naked in the garden. How nice that would be today.

Back then, in May 2004, my mom was very optimistic about the future. I wanted to be optimistic, but something inside me left me heavy and foreboding. I hated the waiting, the wondering, the questions left unanswered. It drove me crazy that The Doctors didn’t give percentages or prognoses, that they didn’t say, “If you do X, the outcome will be Y.

I felt like that’s all we did that summer – waited. Six times, over the course of four and a half months, for three days in a row each time, nurses would inject powerful chemicals into Gordy’s veins.

And we would wait.

And we waited all summer, wondering what would happen.

I called home several times during that visit. The contractors were supposed to start their work while I was away, but we had heard nothing from them in over a week. I began to worry that he was flaking on us, and was grateful we hadn’t given him any money yet. Bryan sent a terse email requesting that he update us on the project, and he finally responded. He was waiting on word from the city regarding the permits, and would get started as soon as those came in.

So we waited for that as well.

The words of Psalm 40 came to mind: “I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry.” I wondered what it looked like to wait patiently, and what it looked like for God to hear my cry. Would the bad things go away? Or would I just feel comforted in the midst of the bad things? And was I wrong to feel that being comforted was worse than being delivered?

I was not afraid to ask these questions of God. But like The Doctors, God does not always give percentages or if/then statements.

I felt comforted then, and continue to feel comforted. And now it seems that deliverance by my definition is not to come. But I do not feel wronged by God, only that I am to continue to wait, and that he continues to hear my cry.

Although I’m still not sure what that looks like.