My favorite book when I was a kid was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Cynthia Voigt. I’m living that book today. If you don’t have it, run to the nearest book shop and get your hands on a copy. Don’t do it so you can empathize with the kind of day I’m having. I mean, I’d welcome your empathy, but get it because it’s prolly one of the best children’s books ever written. And because then you’ll know for real what I’m talking about when I say today is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Tess broke my golden tea cup set from my sister and apologized. Peter broke my glass bowl from Venice and didn’t. I’ve forgiven them both.
I’ve lost one of Lucy’s new Uggs, something that pains me on several levels, firstly because they cost the moon and I only got them three days ago and secondly because I hate losing things. Hate losing things. Seeing red-can’t focus on anything else-tear the house apart-muttering four letter epithets under my breath and crap out loud-HATE losing things. This is a state of mind my very mild mannered, sweet friend Tally (you know who you are) calls ‘wicked pissed’. Nearly a swear, but absolutely accurate.
Went to fold clothes and found the dryer had melted the kid’s new warm nummies, which also cost the moon and are less than a week old. What ensued was a forty minute conversation with Fridgedaire that saw me alternately weeping to Joy in Customer Service and trying not to have a panic attack at the thought of how much money has been lost in this house this morning already and we haven’t even left the building. Now I’ll spend Tuesday afternoon waiting for a repairman who will give me a nineteen (or four) hour window in which he’ll come, say he needs to order a part and I’ll never hear from him again. That’s what happened last time.
Lucy just woke up after exactly one hour and seven minutes, during which I returned two phone calls and got lunch cleaned up and forgot to sit down. Will I never learn?
Mealtimes make me feel completely hopeless. It’s the same five choices every day and no two kids ever want the same thing. Today was left over mac n cheese for Lucy, left over spaghetti for Peter, pb&j for Tess and a salad for Grant and I that was so dissatisfying that I pitched mine to the chickens and wished I’d just gone with the dry cereal and chocolate that I really wanted to begin with.
I’m pretty sure I’m not going to survive Lucy’s toddlerhood with my sanity in tact. A belief that was redoubled when Tess approached me just now with this nugget, “Mom, when we have another boy and it’s a girl can we name her Jewel?” Good Governor. I’m hoping to find internet instructions on homemade tubal ligations involving only an aspirin and some Red Hart yarn. Until then I’ll be researching if boarding school for one year olds is really harmful in the long term or if that’s some liberal spin story aimed at increasing funding for public schools.
Here’s hoping your Thursday is better than mine. And that you haven’t lost any boots or melted any clothes or muttered several times under your breath, “See? This is why some animals eat their young.” If you have, well then, here’s to a better Friday. And to this wonderful reminder, thanks to Peter, that we are all being held. Even storm troopers find rest in the arms of Jesus. This is me. Being real. Done.
Like I said, Christmas came in loaded for bear. Mainly because of my mother in law being in the hospital for week number three and finding out Friday evening that she had been given the green light to head to Florida to the Mayo Clinic where she had her liver transplant thirteen years ago. And mainly because that left us exactly 28 hours to pull Christmas together. So we did. Spent a good portion of them getting gifts for all the kids and wrapping them while my sister in law, Cathie, continued to put out fires at the hospital and line up meds and oxygen and hospital beds and making the selfless decision to accompany them to Florida at the cost of Christmas with her husband and three kids.
And so Sunday last found us descending on the hospital with gifts and a decorated Christmas tree and the ipod ready to churn out carols. We sang together and read the Christmas story and just were a family. And at some point during our time together, we stopped noticing Grandma’s oxygen and the fact that we were in a hospital and we just were. Together. Not far from our minds was the fact that this could be the last time we celebrate Christmas together. Just might. Even though we’re praying for a miracle, Jesus doesn’t calm the storm. He only promises to see us through it with grace and peace. You can read about it in John if you don’t believe me. And it is a storm we are in. But we see Jesus. He was there in that hospital while we handed out presents and laughed and wondered silently what Christmas will be like next year and who will be there and who won’t. Because the only consistent guest at every Christmas party is Jesus, standing there amidst the wrapping and fanfare and waiting to be asked to join in. So we did. Ask. And we learned that it doesn’t matter where you have Christmas. Jesus will show up and make it good. Will remind you, if you ask, that it’s not about presents or food or decorations. It’s about a birthday. It’s about a God who could only see one way to get through to his people and that was by becoming one of them.
Although watching a pair of cousins get their very first brand new, never been used by their big brothers, fancier than they can even believe with gears and hand brakes and, it must be said, not a small amount of testosterone painted on the rear spokes…that’s pretty sweet too.
Christmas came in loaded for bear and left quietly out the back door this morning. And I wasn’t sad to see it go. Never am. Pitched the tree out the door and spent the next half hour sucking up needles with a snarky grin on my face. The boys sat at the table assembling their various Lego sets, only taking breaks to run outside and squeeze off a coupla shots with their Red Ryder BB guns at the tin cans set up in the back yard, while Lucy enjoyed an unsupervised 20 minutes at the art table with her new washable markers and a bowl of fishie crackers and Tess dressed and undressed Kit enough to convince me that she isn’t too young for an American Girl doll after all.
Christmas began and ended with Jesus, as it always does. As it should. We staged the birth of Christ on the rug in the family room, each person controlling one of the characters in the story and Dan, in a nod to current technology, using the flashlight app on his phone to mimic the star. I was Mary and Joseph, mainly because I can’t trust anyone else to do it properly, and I caught my breath, as I always do, when we get to the part where the baby is born and they name him Jesus. Then on the way home from my parents, car filled to the gills with bb guns and wooden bead sets and the smell of satisfied anticipation and wet snow gear, we were implored by Tess to stop by Amway so she could see the baby Jesus in their nativity set. And since we’d put her off the last several times she’d asked that while driving by, and since we absolutely could not find a good reason not to pull over on private property late at night when everyone is in their pjs and nearly drunk with sleepiness, we did. And she and Peter and I kneeled in the snow and marveled at his curly plastic hair and Tess swore she could feel his heart beating when she put her hand on his plastic chest. And they asked to pray for Grandma. So we did. Prayed for a Christmas miracle of some kind or another. For healing. Or peace. Or something. Just move, Jesus. Please.
Then back into the car and home to be tucked into warm beds with ice water awaiting middle of the night thirst and closet lights sending a shaft of yellow through black rooms. And we collapsed on the couch and marveled over another Christmas season come and gone so quickly and did they get it? And did we, really? And what shall we do differently next year to make sure we keep it simple and about Jesus? And thank God Lulu will be another year older next year and less likely to spend the day sneaking Nana’s antique pottery off the shelves and giving us all a heart attack, but only just as I’m sitting down from the last time she did it.
And now we find ourselves with another week of vacation stretching out before us. The kids and I will welcome my three nieces and nephews for a couple days, since their sainted mother is in Florida with my in-laws and we’ll drink hot cocoa and I’ll watch the kids glide across the pond on their new skates and I’ll wonder what in the world I can cook for seven hungry children. It’ll be great. I have a seven hundred and eighty three things to write about now that there have been so many happenings, but there is enough text on this post, so I’ll pace myself. So please excuse me if it takes the next few weeks to tell the story of our Christmas. There is a lot to tell.
There is this woman that I love and she’s dying. Would you pray that God preserves her life? Or that she at least lives long enough to see a complete transformation of her husband and her marriage? Then could you pray that God just does whatever he needs to bring that man home? That he allows for the rough up, knock down stuff that sometimes is needed to wake us up out of our selfish slumber and makes us realize we need a God who can put it all back together? It’s not a cruel thing to pray. I’ve been in the rough up, knock down place before and it’s ugly and hard, but it hurts so good because then God just moves in and does his thing. The vessel has to be broken before the Potter can go to work and do his thing. His patching up the cracks, making beauty from ashes thing that he does. That only he does. And when we stand on our own feet and look down at this heap of brokenness and see a million pieces and no hope then that’s when he swoops in and says,
Look, this piece fits here, that’s how I made it, and this goes here and this goes here and… you look tired…sit next to me and let’s talk while I put this back together.
I’ll have this right in a jiffy and in the meantime, we’ll chat and you’ll see for yourself how much I adore you. How this heap of shards isn’t what you were created for. That’s what happens when you forget that your ways are not my ways and they are not better. So, I’ll just patch this up and it won’t be perfect, that can’t happen until you come Home, but I’m leaving some cracks so my light (which I’m putting inside) can shine through. Then people will ask and you’ll tell them, won’t you? Tell them you were fixed by the Potter.
I’ve been fixed by the Potter, more times than I can count. I’m a transformed follower of Jesus Christ and I want everyone else to be also, but especially him. And soon enough that she can see it. That’s all I’m asking for for Christmas. That this Jesus who came so we could walk with God in the flesh and believe and tell others and the God who decided that sparing him for 33 years was more important than anything else would just swoop in and go to work on this man’s heart and this woman’s body and that she would live long enough to testify to it. Would you join me?
These weeks of studying Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love, have wreaked havoc on my heart and have left me hurting and wistful and thankful and a million other things that I can’t even put my finger on. But it’s completely ruined me for Christmas shopping now. There is this hard balance I’m trying to find between joy in putting things under the Christmas tree and imagining the kids faces as they rip into the packages on Christmas morning and the fact that each package represents our family bringing more stuff we don’t need into this home when most of the world lives with far less. How do you justify buying one more Lego set, one more Pretty Pony when, for millions of children, Christmas day will be just one more day without food or shelter or a family or Jesus? Makes my heart hurt. And yet, this is here and now and we have plenty and I’m certainly not going to begrudge them their packages or me the joy of sitting on the floor in my robe and my hot tea, passing them out and hoping I’ve hit it right on the nose. But we are scaling back. And talking more about needs and wants and the difference between the two. Because as much as we sometimes complain about bills and wishing we could go on a trip to someplace warm or put in a hot tub or a million other superfluous things, our “making do with less” is so far over the top for most of the world. I need to be reminded of that. Our scaling back would look like paradise to billions of people who live on far far less. Hate that things are so uneven. Hate that Jesus must weep when he sees how tipped the scales are. Hate that I can sit here writing this and still covet everything (but especially the sweater on page 67) in the Garnet Hill catalog (and don’t even get me started on Anthropologie). But that’s work that Jesus is doing, and I’m getting it slowly. Learning to hold less tightly to the things of this world. That’s not where my citizenship is after all. So I’m trying to store up treasures in heaven, where my real citizenship is, and not count the stuff of this world as precious. Not the sweater on page 67 or a new couch or even these babies I’ve been loaned or this man who wears big red and makes me laugh. Not my time or my books or my Living Etc back issues. The only thing that counts is Jesus, so that’s what I’m wrapping up for Christmas and I’m praying that after my carpet has disappeared beneath a layer of discarded wrapping (which, let’s be honest, will be a big improvement), we’ll see that little baby Jesus dolly laying in his manger bed and remember that we don’t live here. We’re living for heaven. So this is me. Trying to be real and wondering how you do it? How do you help yourself and your kids realize that it’s all about Jesus? It has to be about Jesus.
This is Matilda Pea.
We just invented her, Tessie and me, and we’ve invited her to stay for awhile.
Cause that’s the mood we’re in now that I’ve figured out how to ensure that my children never have to worry about money.
This came to me as I was mailing Christmas cards this week, so I’m cashing in Dan’s retirement fund and putting it all in Forever stamps, jillions of them. Because at some point they’ll raise the price of stamps considerably and then blam, we’ll lay down our stash and sell to the highest bidder. Isn’t this sort of how the stock market works? I even checked the fine print to see if there’s a statute of limitations and there isn’t, so what’s to stop people from doing this? Buy low, sell high. I’m in stamps. Now, granted it may take several generations for the price of stamps to rise enough to make it worth it, but at some point the Forever stamp will be super cheap postage and then we’ll be in the green. It’s all part of the entrepreneurial spirit I get from my dad (you know who you are).
Just thinking a lot about money these days as I finish up my Christmas shopping and feel really crappy about it, thank you very much Francis Chan. But that’s another blog entry and one I don’t have time for right now, but it’s coming, I promise. Because we wrapped up our study of Crazy Love this week and I have so much to share. And because I’m resolving to post more often, I’ll probably even do it. May even go back to older posts and find every one that says “more on that later” and follow through. Cause that’s the kind of girl I am. Or trying to be.
Until then, Forever stamps…play the postal stock market.
This boy turned seven last week even though I expressly forbade him to do so.
And he did it in typical Peter style, wearing a camo baseball hat Dan got from a subcontractor years ago and that Peter has commandeered as his own, and requesting ribs, mashed potatoes and beans for his birthday dinner but then deciding he actually doesn’t like ribs after all, but thanks anyway, mom. He did it with a Lego birthday party in which thirteen first graders descended upon us, significantly ramping up the chaos factor and causing us all to comment throughout the night that every time we walked we stepped on spaghetti noodles (that menu at least was successful) and leaving me so tired I almost wept as I scrubbed the kitchen floor, but happy when I looked at my boy, my seven year old boy, sitting on the floor working on the new Lego sets. He turned seven even though I can still remember praying over him in a quiet nursery while the rest of the house slept and even though I long for those days back sometimes. He turned seven even though I fear that this year might be the one in which his freckles disappear or his teeth all fall out and give birth to those big chicklet grown up teeth that Grant has, or that he decides it’s not cool to hug his mama in school anymore or to still run off the bus to see us in the afternoon. He turned seven quietly, obsessed with Legos and the new X Wing Starfighter set he got from Nana and Papa, and working on it doggedly at the kitchen table even though it ended up being far too hard and needing a contractor’s help to complete. And this kid, who we used to call Pigpen on account of his penchant for finding dirt anywhere, and who we’ve sometime likened to parenting Eyore on account of his mood swings, he blesses us. Deep. With his smile and his curiosity and his love for his family, especially his Lucy. He blesses us with the quotes he’s given which I have written on post-it notes and stuck all over the place for that day when I might actually get time to put them in an album. Quotes like this one, “If I was ever in a laundry putter awayer contest I would lose by last place. I’m serious.” (intended to bend my sympathy his way in the hopes of not having to put his clothes away-didn’t work). Peter’s name means The Rock and we are eagerly awaiting front row seats for what God is going to do in this boy’s life. And we are thankful, so thankful, for the very small part we get to play in shaping this kid. And like all my kids, I wish I could lay him on the bed and curl myself around him, like we were when he was in my belly, and just lay there forever, feeling his heart beat against my chest and thinking I was keeping him safe. But God has different plans for this boy and I’m honored to get to watch. So honored. So this is me. Being real. In love with Peter.
This is our Grandma.
She is very sick.
Will you please pray for her?