Monthly Archives: September 2013

Touched by a Toilet Seat

The delivery truck parked in front of our house this morning.  Predictably, every little set of bare male feet pattered toward the porch.  The two year old, sitting on the sofa next to me, hauled himself up the couch cushions to wave graciously through the window at the delivery man.  He graciously waved back.

I wasn’t expecting any packages.  The guessing began as we ripped through the tape.

“Probably books.”  My four year old said, preparing to be disappointed.

“Is it mine?”  The two year old crawled over to the mysterious box hopefully.

“I want to open it with Daddy’s knife!”  The six year old was climbing the bookshelf to find the forbidden box cutters above his head.

The brown packaging was pulled away to reveal another box with blue and pink lettering beneath.

“It can’t be for us; it’s pink.”  The seven year old said practically.

But it was.  I was a bit taken back when I pulled out the contents.  It was a toilet seat.  (Which wasn’t pink.  Phew.)

I hadn’t ordered a toilet seat.  It took me a moment to connect the dots.  I had rather laughingly posted a link on Facebook to a seat with a built-in child size seat on top.  It seemed like an ingenious product, and very handy for the little masses now popping bubble wrap at my feet.  But actually buying one was pretty far down the list of necessities I needed to spend money on in the near future.  How did the toilet seat find its way to my doorstep?  And why?

Light at the end
Light at the end

It’s the nebulous time between a newborn’s month one and two.  These are the dark days of babyhood for a mother.  At least they have been with my last four children.  My fifth infant son has crossed the six week mark, which is historically height of the crankiest period.  For the baby too.

Oh, I know it will start to even out in the next month.  The first newborn month was a break from homeschool and most housework, and a time when there were simply more people to help with the mommy business.  But then mommy had to go solo again.  His hormones are most out of whack right now, but they’re starting to simmer down.  I’m at the apex of adjusting to a new normal while running the marathon of long days on little sleep, but I’m seeing less of the wee hours than I was even two weeks ago.  I’m getting faster at typing one handed while nursing, so maybe I can catch up on blogging soon.  There are glimpses of light at the end of the newborn tunnel.  I know I won’t walk through the valley of the shadow of ultra zombie mommy for much longer.  (Soon it will just be regular zombie mommy).  But we’re not quite there.

In these predawn moments, waiting for that daylight to come again, I have just been reminded I am not forgotten.

From the other side of America, God sent a gift.

A dear old friend saw my link and blessed me with a surprise.

I’ll think of her every time we use it.  (Well, maybe not… )

In the midst of homeschool and homemaking and home always breaking, it was so nice to be given a practical reminder.  God sees.  God knows.  God gave me lots of little boys who must all be potty trained, and God sends little tangible promises that it will happen.  Really.  Diaper season will (and already has) lasted a long time in this home.  But these little boys will be trained into men.  Really.

“Patience, Momma,”  I hear God laugh over the popping bubble wrap.  “See?  There is hope.  There is a future.  Really.  I’ve got this.”

And He sent me a toilet seat to prove it.

I love Him.

 

The Gift of Madge and Guy

She never bought jewelry for herself.  Oh, it was nice to be able to wear it sometimes.  Every piece that she owned had value because it had been given to her.  That included, of course, her engagement ring.

He’d handed her a flower that day, joy forever etched in memory.  In the flower was the ring.  She’d been expecting it, but it was still a surprise to see the glint within the petals.  And there he was on one knee grinning at her, the young blonde musician, full of hope.  She said yes.

Years passed.  He wrote songs for her on his guitar.  They grew.  The ring went on all their travels together, through love and arguments, through mud and soap, scraping against the keys to their first house and first car, stuck on swollen fingers of pregnancy, worn through sickness and health, richer and poorer…

In the midst of hospital work, diapers at home and nursing school, she decided that it would be safer to tuck the ring away.  She kept a simple gold wedding band on her finger, but the poky diamond solitaire was too much of a liability.  Some of the prongs holding the rock were bent.  So it went to live in a little box, nestled next to her late grandmother’s ring on the shelf.  Her life bustled on.

Several years  passed.  The family grew.  They had a few children now.  It was the time annually when they normally drew in their belts, paid some yearly bills, planned for school shopping, and prayed nothing big would break.  But the minivan broke anyway.  Actually both of their minivans did, on the highway, one hundred miles from home, within minutes of each other.  It was a Sunday afternoon; not many mechanics were available.  Her husband tenaciously tinkered inside the hood of one before crawling under the other.  It took several tense hours lying on the hot cracked asphalt of a deserted parking lot, with tired kids and a worried wife andhungry baby milling around him, but he managed to stick the muffler and tail pipe back on one van with a little ingenuity and a lot of sweat.  The other van had be left to wait for more expensive repairs and another day.

They made it home eventually.  But repairs took the last breathing space out of their budget.  Every bit of his income was already spoken for.  Sorting through bills felt a bit like drowning; they were getting behind.  What could they do; choose between groceries or the mortgage?  Husband and wife scoured the house looking for anything of value that could be helpful.  There were few things that would bring more than a handful of change at a yard sale.  What little they had was second hand and quite necessary.  They only found two things of any worth.

His guitar.

Her ring.

They were simply objects, but both reminded them of priceless memories.  The guitar was used for worship music at church, and putting melody to thoughts at home.  The ring was the first symbol of their marriage.  God had done financial miracles in their life before.  They prayed for another.  But money didn’t fall from the sky this time.  The bills didn’t miraculously disappear.  Were their prayers for help not reaching heaven?  Was something amiss in their life?  Was it true that God only helps those who help themselves?  Was this their help?

The ring went to a pawn shop.  The guitar, to Ebay.

Once committed, they breathed freely.  There was nothing else.  Nothing to come between them and God.  Their need was all up to Him to meet now.

Of course, God did.

The guitar sold.  In the quiet, he taught himself to play piano.  Months later, he found a new guitar at a good price.

Her ring wasn’t worth a great deal to anyone else.  After trying several shops, it was returned to its place on the shelf.

But the mortgage got paid.  Groceries were bought.  They thanked God anew.

Sometimes little things can block our view of great big God.  Sometimes He is more honored to hear silence than the music of worship.  Sometimes we need to give up everything we consider valuable so that we can gain some real treasure.

Sometimes it is a real sacrifice to thank Him in the midst of distress.

These times are the most important times to do it.

Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors Me.  – Psalm 50:23

God didn’t help them because they helped themselves.  He didn’t want to “help”.  What value would they assign Him if He was merely helping them to do it?  God wanted to do it all.  Once the obstacles were removed from their view, He did.  God gives the best gifts.

Always.

A Little Bit of Leaven

Once upon a time, a Jewish momma baked some bread.

She ground the barley.  She added some leavening starter, a little salt, a handful of lentils, and some water in the evening.  Early the next morning, it had risen in the bowl.  She took out the dough, shaped it into a handful of loaves, and asked her daughter to set them near the hot coals to bake.  An hour later, her husband and oldest son came in with their haul from an overnight fishing trip.  Most of their modest catch would go to market, but a few of the smaller ones were gutted, salted, and hung to dry for the family’s own use later.  The men wiped their fishy hands and tore hungrily into a hunk of fresh bread.  “A bit dry this time,” the husband commented mildly, receiving a swat from momma’s dishrag in response.  His son grinned at his father as they finished chewing, and then washed it down with a batch of thin yogurt courtesy of the goats momma and the girls milked twice a day.  Sustained, they rose from their meal to work on mending some nets before catching a nap in preparation for the next night of fishing.  Momma handed the one year old a crust to practice his toothless gums on, then she bustled about, cleaning crumbs, throwing blankets out over the clothesline to air, and prepping her market list for tomorrow’s shopping trip.  The remaining bread was pushed into a basket unceremoniously.

Momma didn’t know that bread would be famous by the next day.

cupcakes
blessings in frosting

In the aftermath of childbirth, I came home tired and a bit sore.  My other children greeted me joyfully before dumping a pile of books on my lap to be read, tipping a jug of milk all over the floor, and showing me a dried footprint from where they’d been climbing on the walls while I was gone.  And asking for food.  Ah, home sweet home.  Grandma and Daddy tag-teamed the first week or two to keep everyone alive and in mostly clean clothes.  We went through more cereal than we had for months previous.  Transitions can be good, but they’re still rough.  Especially around dinner time, I was most tired, the kids were most wired, the baby most awake, and the house messiest.

So it blessed my momma heart when a handful of other mommas (and their husbands) around me offered to make dinners for over a week after Finlay joined the family.  They knew; every single one of them had been through childbirth at least twice (most had 3, 4, or even 5 kids!)  They were busy too with their own marriages and children (though I’m sure they’re all less cranky than mine), they had their own food budgets, their own daily worlds to keep spinning.  But they went out of their way to do a very practical thing to help keep my little world from tipping too far off its axis.

In some ways, it’s just a little thing.  A meal.  A meatloaf.  Some noodles.  Warm stew.  A plate of cookies.  Salad.  They make food for their own families, a daily labor of love and butter that generally goes unnoticed and unthanked.  It’s one of the most basic and assumed facets of the motherhood career, the daily physical sustenance of their household.

Well, that day long ago when that momma was going about her daily ablutions and baking that bread, Jesus was not far way.  He was busy too, spending the day teaching hungry people about the Bread of Life.  He was offering living water to dehydrated souls.  He renewed broken bodies, refreshed tired minds, fed hope to the weary.  But He wasn’t baking bread for them.

He left that to the professional.

Those calloused, veined, unsuspecting momma hands dumped five loaves and a couple dried fish in a pouch as her son ran out the door to go see Jesus.  She watched at the door as the pouch bumped against his legs, flattening the loaves and breaking fragments of the crispy fish.  Then she returned to her daily work, unaware what great things God had used her humble hands for that day.  Her hands changed diapers, hugged a friend when she stopped by, swatted the toddler’s backside when he didn’t mind her, scrubbed the sweaty, fish-scaled cloak her husband wore in the boat on rainy nights, smoothed a young daughter’s flyaway hair.  But several hours later, as Jesus stood on the hillside with the contents of her son’s food pouch held in His own, it was that momma’s hands that He asked His Father to bless for preparing their feast.

It was her bread that Jesus handed to His disciples.  It was her bread that fed over five thousand men.  It was her bread that many other hungry mommas and children ate as they sat on that hillside with Jesus.  It was the excess of her bread that overflowed a dozen baskets after everyone was full – of her bread.

She sat down in surprise when her son told her about his day with Jesus.  She breathed in sharply, thinking of the thousands who ate the humble meal she’d thrown together for her family.  Now she really wondered if the batch had been too dry!  This simple fare, the recipe she’d perfected over years of daily practice and necessity, had just been used to sustain so many of both her neighbors and complete strangers.

She had simply been about her daily business, her act of love for her family that they all took for granted.

And in so doing, she’d fed the Son of God.

She’d given a feast to satisfy both beggars and rich men.

She’d relaxed other mommas worried about their own families’ hunger.

Her simple chore had an impact of Biblical proportions.  All four gospel writers mentioned it; thousands of preachers have since expounded on it, billions of folks down through history have heard the story of that simple meal.

Maybe, Momma, you didn’t consider your weeknight chicken and potatoes could be epic.  You didn’t know your humble pie was at the level of gospel truth.  You wouldn’t have believed your basic quiche could impact generations.  You couldn’t see how that pinch of yeast would rise bread high enough to touch heaven.  You didn’t know that the glass of water you poured for the least of these was accepted by Jesus Himself.  You simply did what you do every day, loving your family tangibly through cheese and broccoli, making enough extra to share.  But God can make your meatloaf into someone’s miracle.

A plate of tacos can go a long way in God’s kingdom.

Thanks mommas.  Jesus said you could be the salt of the earth.  Literally.  Keep cooking.  May your noodles be blessed.