Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Little Child Helps Me See?

I've been journaling elsewhere the deep things I can't say, the things I can't share, the specifics of what I only intimate here. And earlier tonight I found myself listing thing after thing that had weighed my shoulders down with resentment bordering on bitterness, sadness teetering on the edge of hopelessness.

Then late this evening as I found myself unable to sleep with sour stomach and sore heart, I got a clue. And this is something I can write here in this place. At least I shall try.

I have a little boy who has no siblings. I am his usual playmate. Sometimes we see other children, and if they are around long enough, Grasshopper ventures out of his shyness to play with them. But most of the time it's just the mama and the boy. And he is constantly saying, "Play, Mama, play!" Only I usually don't want to play. I'm lonely for adult conversation. I want to connect with the world. Talk on the phone. Get on the computer. Or chores beckon me. And the "Just a minute" I learned to dread from my mom's own voice knowing that it really meant "just an eternity, dear" is now coming out of my mouth. Sigh. I should be a better mama. After all, it is my only job.

I tried that tonight. We played cars and trucks and had a Ferrari and an Infinity playing hockey with the occasional Zamboni interruption. He was happy. For once I was fully engaged and not looking for an escape to "better" things, "higher" pursuits.

That is when it dawned on me. And a little child shall lead them.......

My son is echoing the cry of my own heart.

I ask and ask and ask again. Please connect with me. Please spend time processing with me. Please walk with me for even a tiny bit of this journey. And all I get are "no's" and "I'm sorry for your pain" and "have you tried seeing a paid expert to walk with you?" No one has time. They have their own hurts, their own circles, their own whatevers. They wish me warm and well and well fed, but no one actually does anything, takes any action. And the cry of my heart just grows louder and more plaintive and causes sour stomachs and sore hearts when I should be sleeping.

This is what he feels like. This is the ache his little heart feels when all he wants is somebody to be with him. He says, "Sleep with me, Mama. I want somebody to be with me!" Oh son, I know the feeling. You are teaching me.

And so, while I cannot make my ideals come true, I cannot make the people in my community do as I believe they ought, I can make myself be the Mama I ought.

Next time when he asks me to play, I will try my hardest to remember to say, "Yes, son, I'm coming right now." Maybe in the playing, healing will come?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Creative Ways to Avoid Amnesia

I've been reading and soaking up Ann Voskamp's 1,000 Gifts book. The other day I pondered over the chapter about defining blessings and curses. And I thought about how glad I am to find someone else who admits to being like an amnesiac Israelite.

When I was a kid, I used to wonder how they could forget God's instructions and promises so easily. Now I know. I am them.

One moment, I remember God's faithfulness and think that finally I have grasped joy and peace and truth. And the next minute I'm wallowing in despair and stuck in hatred and unforgiveness and shame. Apparently, God knows my propensity to forget and has given me what may be the most creative way to temporarily remember.

I broke or bruised my tailbone the other day when landing at the bottom of a very fun and fast slide in the playground area at a local apple orchard. Five days later, I still have to sit and move in ways that are quite similar to how I had to move when I suffered a traumatic birth injury. It is no picnic, and today especially has been painful. So I emailed the orchard and suggested that maybe they change the landing a bit. They emailed back right away and called me, wanting to bend over backwards to make me happy. I think perhaps they were worried I would sue or be really angry. But I'm not. It was fun to give them grace. Really fun. Perhaps it was because they weren't expecting it. Whatever the case, it was a great feeling to let go of any frustration with the situation and let them completely off the hook, not even taking them up on their offer to give me a gift certificate. The feeling was so great and wonderful that I felt full of sweetness.

My only frustration is that the pain is very similar to what I struggled with when my son was born, and I know a bruised or broken tailbone can take months to heal and needs the help of physiotherapy to fully heal (at least for me with my prior injury). It seemed almost like a "curse". How could it be a blessing? I mean, really.

Awhile later it hit me. God has a funny sense of humor. It actually IS a blessing.

Every single time I move, the pain can be a reminder to snap me out of my amnesia and forgetfulness. The pain can remind me of this instance where I chose to show grace, where I chose to let go. Where I chose not to hate or be angry or vengeful.

Sure, it's just a sore bum. And the areas where I'm most prone to show hate and anger and not let go are a lot more serious than a simple accident at an apple orchard. But the same principle applies.

That person who is making my community life hard? Forgive him. The loss of last year and the struggle to accept that our community looks different? Let go and just love with no expectations. The other heartaches I keep inside that continually remind me that we are on this side of Heaven and not yet Home? Yes, even those get laid down on a daily basis. Sometimes even a moment by moment basis.

And when I give up the right to bitterness, sweetness comes trickling in. If only I can remember to do that.

Apparently, God gifted me with what amounts to a broken bum to help me remember that.

So what delightful gift has He given you lately? You know, the kind that you at first wanted to return as all wrong for you? Could it really be a gift after all?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

While Waiting

Weekends are hard. On one hand, we've looked forward to them all week long because that is when Henry David is home with energy to play and Grasshopper and I miss that part of him all week. On the other hand, it's hard because the days of Friday night to Sunday only highlight the loss of what we once had in terms of close community and serve as reminders of an ugly conflict with someone who has given into evil and refuses to show any grace to a body of believers who just long for peace. So Saturdays are at once a welcome gift of a Sabbath and a hard struggle with melancholy.

But the past two days, there have been brief moments of respite from that hard struggle. Today one of them came during the rare bit of alone time I get on the weekends, a gift from my husband who knows that sanity is maintained when one has a break from the toddler crowd.

I was thinking about some times in my childhood when women who were either single or without children poured into my life and blessed me with some really special memories. For a brief moment, the sadness fled and smiles filled its place. This is what made me smile.....

~ Lenny, a single woman from church, let me stay with her for a weekend in her mobile home. I had never known anyone who lived in one of those before, and it was quite the novelty to see how a long home on wheels parked permanently on a concrete pad was organized into a cozy home. It was also a unique experience because I'd had sleepovers with kids before, but never a grown woman who had no kids and was interested in reaching out to one. We made hard candy, boiling sugar and other ingredients and pouring it out on cookie sheets, waiting until just the perfect time when we broke it with a hammer and sampled the variety of flavors. We cross country skied from her doorway through a field, if I remember correctly. It was gloriously fun to be a kid cross country skiing under the moonlight when I would normally have been in bed.

We've lost touch in the intervening years, but today I thought of Lenny and was grateful for the time she took to invest in a little girl. That weekend was so fun.

~ Miss Jones was my fifth grade teacher. Back in those days I was at the top of my class and routinely got my work done early. She let me paint a whole set for a play the younger kids were doing. I got to do that again later on, but she was the one who did it first. She taught us the most fun crafts too. And for reading, once we achieved a certain number of pages, she would take us out to lunch to our favorite fast food restaurant. (Those were the days before uber strict policies between students and teachers.) She paid for more chicken sandwiches from Wendy's than I can count. I was a motivated reader who probably drained her bank account.

She's also the teacher who knew of two little girls who had been badly burned in separate accidents, and she had us all make special cards to send to brighten their days. She had us memorize the Sermon the Mount. Her teacher's aide wasn't the best (to put it mildly) and some of the kids remain in my memory as bullies, but some of my favorite school memories still took place under her tutelage.

~ My Aunt Anita used to live in a yellow house in the middle of what was basically a forest, at least to my memory. People would park their RV's there to store in the off season. I remember there were train tracks nearby too. She and my uncle didn't have any kids yet, and I loved to go spend the night at their house. She would take me for ice cream near where my uncle worked, and she read the Boxcar Children to me. She had a huge stuffed animal bear that was big enough to sit on. I loved playing with it, though I'm probably largely at fault for its broken back. She let me bake with her and help her with various projects, and when she had her two boys, she was among the first mamas to let me help.

I loved my time at her house. And she's the reason I herded all the neighborhood kids into a group and contrived a way to act out the Boxcar Children. I'm not sure we ever quite achieved acting it out, but setting it up was sure fun.

I'm sure there were other people who invested time and love into me, but these three are the ones I thought of today. It's funny how their investment in a little girl not only made that little girl's day, but it shaped future choices. Many of the things I did as a teacher and the ways I poured my life into other people's children back in my single days can be traced back to these three women and the memories they made with me.

Several amazing women, both young and not so young, come to mind today. Former students, a relative, some friends - all incredible women with lots to offer - are waiting. They are waiting for what they dream to be reality. I hope that as they wait, they can find opportunities like these to make indelible memories with kiddos in their realm of influence. One never knows the fruit that can grow from one little seed of time planted with love and care.

For me, it grew lots of good things that shaped who I became. And today, it grew gratitude that is strong enough to bring in light on what could otherwise be a rather gloomy day. I needed that light today, and I'm grateful that God decided to bring those three women to mind. They sure have brought a smile to my heart.