Monthly Archives: March 2011

On the mend

There is nothing more difficult to experience as a parent than caring for a terribly sick child.  I’ve gotten a mere glimpse of this feeling throughout this week, and my heart is breaking for parents who have to suffer through the experience of caring for chronically or terminally ill kids.  This week, our lives were put on hold as a 7-10 “version” of the stomach flu made it’s way into Jackson’s little body.  He threw up last Thursday, and continued throwing up constantly for the next 4 days.  I’ve never seen my child be more vulnerable, in more pain, or with more fear in my life.  And it completely broke my heart.

What didn’t help matters was an event that took place Friday night, after Jack’s first full day of illness.  I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and I heard a sound that scared me: running bath water.  Josh had already gotten up and because the water was running, I figured Jackson had probably soiled his bed so badly that a 3 a.m. bath was critical.  I stood at the top of the stairs for a moment, trying to wake up enough to be of some help once I reached the bottom step.  I remember taking a deep breath before I put my grey sock down on the wooden step, heading toward the chaos downstairs.  In a flash, I was on my back, hitting every single hard step, bumping the entire right side of my body on the way down. Somehow, I turned or flipped to land directly on my back in our hallway.  I’ve never fallen down an entire flight of wooden stairs, especially to land on my back.  The pain was excruciating, and what pained me most was that I wouldn’t be able to help Josh or assist with Jackson.

All I could do was lie there.

I’ve known people who have had horrible tragedies from accidents, and because I am only crooked and bruised and not terribly broken, I am so grateful.  Lying in the hallway, the pain was so great those first twenty minutes, I didn’t know if I would need to be rushed to the ER.  I couldn’t move my right arm or leg, I could barely breathe from the thud on my back, and I knew I had broken at least one toe.  It was terrifying, especially as I was listening to the screams and wails of my child in the tub.

We spent the next several days in survival mode.  We had a bucket or bowl around Jackson at all times because he threw up constantly.  And I had to put my injuries aside, hobbling from doctor’s visits, ER blood testing, and grocery stores to tend to my sickling.  The weather has actually been beautiful, but I had to hide my bruises with sweatshirts I could barely get over my head.  It was a rough, long stretch of five days.  Jackson spent most of that time sleeping, crying, or vomiting, and he also spent that time growing! Not only is he taller, but the lack of food caused his round baby-belly to sink in.  Josh and I are actually hoping it comes back, if only for another few months.

In the midst of all of this, Sunday morning was my first church service playing the piano with the worship team.  After having put music on hold in my life for many years, I began playing piano again when Jack was a baby.  Josh bought me a beautiful piano that someone was off-loading for $100.  Being able to play at Engedi (I hesitate to use the word ‘perform’) is such a gift to me, and I was really looking forward to my first week on the team.  Of course, walking on/off stage in front of our whole church when I have bruised ribs was painful for many more than just me, I’m sure.  I was hugely disappointed at the timing of my accident. But, as I stopped to think about it: When IS a good time to fall down the stairs?

As silly as it sounds, this accident was a huge wake-up call for me.  First, and most obviously, I need to hold on to the wall when I’m walking down my stairs at night.  And maybe not wear socks. (duh!) Secondly, I need to swallow a lot of pride that is still built up inside me.  There were many times this past week where my foot turned purple because I refused to lie down, elevating my feet.  Dishes were waiting, food needed to be cooked, laundry needed to be done.  It will never make sense to Josh why I push myself beyond my physical limitations and actually expect healthy results.  And it will never make sense to me why I don’t listen to him more.*  I also didn’t realize that playing piano in public again had given me even the slightest air of pride.  It certainly helped bring it down as I hobbled to the keys, painfully pushing the pedal to fade in the E minor chord.

Maybe what I needed was a good fall down into reality.  Maybe I just need to Stop. Listen. Remember. Heal. Think. Pray. Forgive.  I have so many more personal, spiritual, and emotional bruises than I do current physical ones, and I’m usually hiding behind a sewing machine, oven, or piano to avoid doing the hard work of putting the pieces back together.  I’m so thankful that God protected me from severe injury. And I’m even more thankful that He uses our pain to teach us really hard lessons.  And I’m always grateful for the beautiful reminder that this is my greatest gift, my first priority, and the best reason to be humbled before the Lord:

 

 

 

*I was, however, willing to take advantage of the amazing blessings of friendship: our small group friends and leaders brought us an amazing meal, allowing me to take it easy, foot-propped and all.  And I’ve left more furballs and dirty dishes around the house than ever before.

The Post I Didn’t Want to Write

I’ve gotten very talented at the art of denial and avoidance.  Especially when it comes to spiritual matters.  I never asked to be in a religious spotlight or in the middle of huge church tensions.  When I was a child, I was already weary of religious debate and endless conversations about doctrine, orthodoxy, who does/doesn’t have it right.  I didn’t interest me when I witnessed the most horrific, embarrassing church split I’ve ever experienced or even heard about.  It didn’t interest me when I was asking huge questions about my faith in college.  And it doesn’t interest me now. These discussions about correct doctrine, to me, seem to burden and distract Christians FAR more than the advance the Kingdom that Christ taught about and returned to. But, as my husband says confidently and convincingly, “We must defend the walls of orthodoxy just like millions have done before us”.

When a book comes out and Christians don’t stop discussing it and brewing over it, it’s extremely difficult not to enter the discussion, even if, like me, you can’t stand the discussion itself.  I’ve heard so many criticisms of Christian leaders and watched the Christian community attack each other in warfare, each side holding the Bible as a sword against heresy.  It’s exhausting for everyone. And I think it’s noble for only a few.

For a very long time, Josh and I attended Mars Hill in Grand Rapids.  This was a time when I was so hurt, so deeply wounded spiritually, it felt like I was bleeding everywhere, all around me. For a while, even, I felt the desire to be dead spiritually so as to avoid this pain. I found comfort in Mars Hill, in their openness and belief system.  Mars Hill restored my faith in Christian leadership and even though I was using tactics of avoidance (“I’ll go to church, cry out to God, but I can’t fully surrender my life…the vulnerability is too painful”).  The church felt like a refuge I was desperate for, otherwise I might just lose faith, even belief in God, altogether.  Josh and I used to joke as a reminder, “We go to church for Jesus, not for Rob.”

It’s amazing the things God uses to comfort.  If God didn’t use misguided people or flawed leaders, he’d be out of luck.  He used Mars Hill and Rob Bell to teach and guide me and, I’m sure, many others.  I’ve read quite a bit of “Love Wins” and I wish I could jump on it’s back and pass out copies to everyone I know.  Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for the book I suppose, I’ve matured.

One of the greatest tools I believe God has given humanity is the use of metaphor.  I learn so much from His creation through metaphor, and these lessons are always guiding and refining me.  The natural world contains elements of God’s character, and as human beings, it’s hard to believe that we have more qualities of God than any other creature.  If Rob’s book had come out during my tormenting college years, I would probably sleep with a copy under my pillow.  But now, I’m a mother.  And a wife. And an adult.  My perspective is clearer now than it was and hopefully not as clear as it will be in ten years.  There are difficult realities deeply woven into my life, encompassing each role I live out, and challenging my faith, and they teach me about the complex character of this amazing God that we long to understand.

I honestly cannot imagine the parental responsibility that God must feel, and I’m constantly humbled by the fact that I am a daughter of God.  I probably understand as much about Him as my own son understands about me and all of my purposes, reasonings, and duties as his mom.  It’s amazing how much the time-outs, spankings, and “no”s teach me about the importance of structure and discipline, two things that are critically important to God and that seem torturous to my 2-year-0ld.  All parents, I believe, would love to give children everything they ask for, showering them with blessings each and every day without end. We LOVE them that much! Obviously, in order to raise a child with integrity, we must put our children through discipline practices and teach them about the consequences and boundaries that are necessary for a healthy, mature life.  Love is often challenging and it even can feel like the wrong thing because of its difficulty; but it’s always rewarding. And it’s what Christ always chose.

From what I’ve read in the book, in the blogosphere, and in my husband’s chats/texts/emails, it seems to me that there is tendency of Rob to bend Scripture, manipulate the challenging teachings, the make it more palatable for humanity, especially the ones of us who carry scars from the abuses of religiosity.  And, in many places, to do so with immature tactics used seemingly as a desperate and last resort.  I have those tendencies myself.  But I can’t help but picture Jackson trying to do the same things to the skills and rules I’ve taught him. It almost makes me laugh.  I can’t imagine him talking to his friends about the injustice of a time-out or questioning my character as his mother because I spank him.  I have a greater perspective of the dangers of a life lived without boundaries or respect for authority.  I LOVE him enough to prepare him! I love him enough to refine him, help him mature, and allow him to experience huge consequences. These are also the hardest things I have to do.

There are things I don’t understand about God, and choices can seem so unfair.  I don’t understand why Abraham needed–for any period of time–to think that he had to follow through with the task required of him: killing his own son.  I hate that story because I never want to be in his shoes.  I would make the news and I’d be arrested and people would think I’ve gone totally crazy.  Not to mention, I’d probably disobey, call God ‘evil’ and make up my own god to worship. But, because God has the grand perspective, he knew about Isaac’s sacrifice the entire time.  He knew about the Resurrection before the nails even touched Jesus’ hands.  He knew that my delivery and postpartum experience would turn me into a stronger, more reliant woman.  The questions about hell that Rob is asking are difficult and make us look at complex dimensions of God that hurt.  But that doesn’t mean it’s our responsibility to rewrite what He has already written, or question his Perfect and Loving decisions.

It reminds me of this excerpt from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”:

{C.S. Lewis’ celebrated children’s book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, tells of the adventures of four children in the magical kingdom of Narnia. Jesus is represented by the lion Aslan. When in Narnia, the children meet Mr and Mrs Beaver, who describe the mighty lion to them.}

“Is he a man?” asked Lucy.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr Beaver sternly. Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great emperor-beyond- the-sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great lion.”

“ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake” said Mrs Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

There is no way to imagine the grand perspective God has for our existence.  The Bible has given us the tools we need for now.  And man has and continues to manipulate the Word of God the character of God for many reasons–power, dominance, fame, security, comfort, ease.  But I hope to enter His Kingdom like a child. “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15  I believe God also expects this childlike-ness to be obedient, reverent, compliant, faithful.  We can throw some pretty sophisticated fits against the difficult parts of God, and we can even package them as sermons, books, doctrines, worldviews…when, really, we think we can tell the story better than the One who is writing it.

As for me, I will continue reading the book prayerfully, and I’ll also be lifting up my brothers and sisters, churches and communities, who feel spiritually shipwrecked after a book like this.  Let us all remember to trust God’s judgment, because it is the only judgment worth trusting.  And as we partake in these discussions, let us keep the Kingdom and the King Himself as our focus.

 

 

 

A Wordy “Wordless” Wednesday

In the blogosphere, “Wordless Wednesdays” are quite the popular thing to do.  In case you aren’t a blogger or don’t really engage with many blogs, “Wordless Wednesdays” are a viable excuse to post pictures.  I love looking at other people’s pictures, particularly on a Wednesday when they’re in the thickness of life.  Wednesdays are typically days where bills are paid, bedtimes are enforced, chores are done, and parents are usually counting down to the nighttime silence.  “Wordless Wednesdays” are an excuse to get real, be honest, show-it-like-it-is.

After taking some pictures of Jackson today, I realized it was Wednesday.  However, there is no way I can post them without a the back story that will probably only seem dramatic to me, the mother who was up with the no-napping child since 6 a.m.  Jackson woke up just before six this morning, having gone to bed around ten p.m.  Not being able to find a babysitter so we could attend our Tuesday night small group from church, we threw Jack in the tub, stuffed him quickly in dinosaur pjs, and packed his Oscar the Grouch backpack with Schleik animals (a few dinosaurs, a polar bear, a white tiger, and an elephant).  I packaged his dinner.  Grabbed another snack, just in case.  Folded up his blanket.  Rounded up some books.  Piled 4 dvds into a diaper bag that was already erupting. By the time we left to attend our Cable group for a few hours, it looked like we were moving in.  Taking a toddler to an evening function is as risky as betting all of your money in a game of poker.  Jack, blessedly, played by himself most of the evening and didn’t cause too much interruption.  Still, I feel like an irresponsible inconvenience to our group because while we’re diving into spiritual truths and raking through our own issues, my toddler is calling from the basement “MOM! MORE CHOCOLATE MILK!!”

Sigh.

I knew getting him to bed past nine (let alone TEN!) was risky, but I clung to the small chance that Jack would…I don’t know…actually sleep in past 7 a.m.  But the baby monitor, the little machine that delivers such huge, critical messages to overtired parents, was letting us know that our little man was up and at ‘em at 5:55.

Josh was preparing himself for a 6:30 a.m. Ash Wednesday service at Mars Hill, so the moment I put my feet on the cold floor and stood up out of my bed, I was counting down to nap time.  It’s difficult to start your day when you know it’s just a matter of survival.  I didn’t expect there to be any type of quality time in my day, with Jack, myself, or anyone else.  The day was doomed, and nap time was the ONLY redemption.

However, my son decided to reenact Toy Story during his nap.  The only redeemable thing that came out of listening to the monitor for 1.5 hours was hearing my 2 1/2 year old pronounce “Buzz Lightyear”.  It’s an adorable mouthful for him.  I had several moments, lying on the couch listening to the wails and shrieks and sing-song notes of my child, where I couldn’t do anything more than stare at the ceiling, praying for silence and slumber to fall upon my house.  (If you’re not a parent yet, you probably don’t know what your ceiling looks like.  Just wait.)

Then, I toughed it out.  After two hours of singing and kicking the wall, Jackson had proven that he was not going to give me the gift of a nap.  The afternoon that followed included the darkening of both of our eyes from over-exhaustion, several grueling time-outs, and an energy between us that sulked more with each heavy tick of the clock.  Until…

I decided food was really the only cure here.  I needed to bake.

I started with these: Jessica Seinfeld’s Chocolate Chip cupcakes.  They contain pumpkin and a healthy amount of pureed yellow squash.  Even though I’ve given up bread for a few weeks, this seemed the appropriate cure to our struggle.  But they didn’t hit the spot for Jackson, and I actually needed to keep busy, otherwise I might’ve taken a nap myself on my kitchen floor. So I started measuring ingredients for Seinfeld’s “Blueberry Oatmeal Bars” next.  (I didn’t have blueberry preserves, so instead I used Strawberry, Wild Berry, and I threw in pureed peaches).  As soon as the measuring cups hit the counter, Jackson began scooting a chair across the kitchen up to the counter saying, “Mama! I help you???!!!”

There is nothing more precious than a toddler standing on a chair in the kitchen, especially when they want to help, not just lick the icing or batter.  But in that moment, I had no choice other than to completely change my attitude.  If Jack hadn’t been so close to me, I would’ve slapped my own face to wake myself up with an energy jolt.  I decided that not only could Jackson help me with the bars, he was going to make them himself.  And I was going to enjoy the process, never mentioning the fact that his sleeplessness often produces hints of insanity in his mother.

So, with all that said, I was given the gift of preciousness for a mere 30 minutes today while Jackson proudly made his bars. Enjoy the pictures of my talented and tired little chef. And here’s to surviving another day.