October 27, 2010

Don't you know?

My daughter humbles me. She has an understanding of who God is that is unadulterated by any personal agenda, any past experiences and any un-repented transgression. She takes Him at his word, with child-like trust, and believes He is exactly what she has been taught He is. No doubts, no questions, no suspicions.
Yesterday she and her little friend M. were sitting down to watch a movie while M.’s mom and I chatted in the kitchen. In an unusual move she didn’t pick a princess movie when I gave her the choice but took instead The Lion King.
I was surprised because she had not seen this movie in a while. When she was younger she had a love-hate relationship with Simba, Mufasa, and Scar. She loved, loved, loved the movie but would only watch the scary parts holding on to one of us. She would bury her face in her daddy’s chest but refuse vehemently when we asked if we should turn it off. As she got older and traded her animals-dressed-as-people stage for baby dolls, so did her taste in movies shift to princesses and fairies, and she had not asked to see Lion King in a while.
When M. found out what movie they would be watching she voiced similar concerns to those Isabel had had in the past about the story:
-“But the Lion King has Scar and Scar is scary!”
And here I was humbled. My little girl replied with a smile on her face:
-“But we don’t have to be scared. God will take care of us. Don’t you know?”
Don’t you know?
I know, don’t I? It is what I tell her when she is worried and we sing God is bigger than the boogie man. I know. It is what I say to her when she is afraid to walk from her bed to the potty in the middle of the night. I know.
Don’t I?
I know until…the doctor tells us a biological child is not likely to happen for us.
I know until… God calls me to quit my job and stay home with my children and the budget doesn’t add up.
I know until…my friend is diagnosed with terminal cancer at 15.
I know until…something happens to stir my world around and to take away from me all the illusion of control.
I know until…
…and then I don’t know. Then I panic. Then my faith slips through my fingers like water. Then it’s hard to look at someone and ask “don’t you know?”

and then...
…Isabel and Noah happen.
… a job from home happens.
…my friends’ parents reconnect with Christ in the sorrow of her loss.
…God shows up.
Over and over again. God shows up. I know. I’ve seen. I’ve experienced.
And yet, this four-year-old with seemingly no life-experience to speak of or tangible answers to prayer to show for, trusts God’s care wholeheartedly. She, who does not have volumes and volumes of journals recording all the times God has shown up; she, who doesn’t have story after story of God-ordained moments that saved the day; she, who in her short existence cannot look back and marvel at God’s constant hand over her life. She can ask confidently: “don’t you know?”
And humbling.
One day I will be like her.
One day maybe I will have faith like a child.

October 18, 2010

The Picture

On my nightstand there is a picture of us on our first date.
 We look so young! Sometimes I forget what we looked like then.
Ten years ago your hair was still brown and your face was smooth and fresh. Life was not yet written on it; it was full of possibility. Over time and almost imperceptibly your face has begun to show the results of living and loving, of suffering and rejoicing.
I watched you the other day wondering when these changes happened. They have been gradual, to be sure, and I, who memorize you again and again each morning, sometimes have to step back a moment to notice how times marches on.
There are lines around your mouth. Those began to appear almost five years ago when we brought Isabel home and have become deeper since the arrival of Noah. They are laugh lines. Lines of happy moments and the joys of being a dad and all the laughter shared with your children. Those are a work in progress and day after day I enjoy watching them deepen.
There is a small groove between your eyes. That one is the legacy of a hellish year I put your through when we almost didn’t make it. How you grieved and prayed through that time. Your prayers and your unshakeable love for me saved me; saved us. I’ll never really know how much pain sketched that little groove but I do know that I will do anything I can to keep it from growing, till death do us part.
There are little wrinkles next to your eyes. They are the result of your growing passion for photography and all those hours spent squinting into a camera lens. There are very few pictures of you, dear moment-capturer, but when I look through your snapshots I see us through your eyes. Your pictures are glimpses of your love for us, as you patiently wait for the perfect smile, the sweetest shot, the right light.
There are ridges crossing your forehead that speak of your wonderment at the world. I love the face that wrinkles your brow. It’s the wide-eyed face you make when life sends you a pleasant surprise, a moment to cherish. You help me see the world with child-like amazement at the ordinary. You laugh, teaching me how not to take myself so seriously.
You have changed over the last decade. The kid smiling at me from that picture so long ago is not the same man who kisses me so tenderly every night. The one I can reach out and touch is infinitely better, stronger, wiser, weathered.
Life has left its mark on your face but in it I read different parts of the story of us. I thank God every day for you and for each line on your face that reminds me how blessed we are.

October 14, 2010

The Wide-Eyed, Clenched-Jawed Monster

I lose my temper.

I’m not proud of this. I wish I were one of those people who, like my father-in-law says, are sweeter by nature than others are by grace. But I’m not. I have a short fuse, a quick temper, and a wide-eyed, clenched-jaw, scary look when I get angry. It’s not pretty.

Nowhere does my temper cause me more pain than in my parenting attempts. My children’s antics can make me go from zero to sixty in no time and anger me more than anyone else. I don’t like this side of myself and I’m trying to be a gentler momma. Sometimes I succeed, many times I fail.

One of those times happened this week. It was one of those days. You know, THOSE days. From the moment my feet hit the floor everything was a struggle. The kids woke up in their own difficult moods, the morning was hard, lunch was hard, life was hard. By the afternoon, I was tired, grumpy, and dejected. I asked Isabel to pick up some toys lying around the living room while I piddled in the kitchen. She came to the kitchen with all the toys, dumped them on the island and started to leave the room. When I turned around and saw the toys on the table I lost it.

Silly, right? It was just some toys on the table. Right. Right. RIGHT. I see that now. But at that moment those toys were the whole day’s worth of repeated requests, whining, and siblings’squabbles.


With a clean motion of my arm I swept all the toys from the island.

- I TOLD YOU TO PUT THE TOYS AWAAAAAAY! growled the wide-eyed, clenched-jawed monster as she threw the toys to the floor.

As soon as the last item hit the ground I realized what I had done: Jonas, Isabel’s precious newborn baby she had lovingly “carried in her belly” for two days, and then birthed to great rejoicing of the whole family, was among the victims of my ire.

Too late.

Her little face crumpled into a look of such pain and betrayal that I wanted to crawl into the trashcan and be carried to the curb the way I deserved at that moment. All the anger evaporated in an instant giving way to nothing but shame and regret.

I once heard someone say that apologizing to your children only makes you look weak in their eyes. I pity the children who grew up in that household. Thankfully, I follow the One who is as gentle and humble as a lamb, so as quickly as I could I hit my knees to come eye-to-eye with my little girl and try to explain to her, between her tears and mine, how sorry, so, so sorry I was.

- Mami made a mistake, baby. I should not have reacted the way I did. Mami got angry, but she did not have the right to yell and throw Jonas to the floor. Please forgive me, do you forgive me?

Thankfully, she is learning to follow the One how is as gentle and humble as a lamb, so she nodded and nuzzled her head on my shoulder. Thank you, Jesus, for a child’s innocent forgiveness.

I teach Isabel many things every day. With me she is learning to read, to count, to cook. But I worry about the other lessons she is learning also; the ones I don’t want her to learn. My lack of self-control could damage her little soul and teach her ways to respond to anger for which I will have to give account. “In your anger do not sin” Paul reminds us in Ephesians. I want my children to watch me get angry and know that it is normal. I also want them to see in my response a reflection of the God I serve who is “compassionate, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (from Exodus 34).

I need your help. Will you please pray for me and ask me how it’s coming?