Some of the things I’ve said to my children make me chuckle (much later, after they’re in bed and I’ve eaten something chocolate). Sometimes, I even remember to write a few down.
“Do NOT call him Petunia!”
You cannot lap up your supper without hands like a cat.”
“Han Solo is not a spoon for rice.”
“Ears were not made to hit people with.”
“Do not throw flour!”
“Real superheros do their own laundry.”
“You can’t wear the bee costume because your brother threw up on it.”
“If you’d really rather eat dirt than the supper I made for you, then prove it!” (He did.)
“Nail clipping is not punishment.”
“You are not allowed to lick the lamp.”
“No caterpillars on the baby.”
Of course, they’re pretty quotable themselves. Sometimes I manage have a pencil handy when they open their mouths too…
“All you need to be a happy man is beef jerky and a gun.” -Henry, 4.
“This is a waste of good graphite.” -Gavin, 8, grumbling over his subtraction homework.
“Do pirates have to like pie?” – Henry.
“I love you the most when you make us noodles [from a box].” -Shiloh, 6.
“It’s broken!” – Ben, 2, very frustrated that he couldn’t re-close the banana.
“To be a piranha, you have to just feel it.” -Gavin.
“I forgot to remember.” -Henry, stuck on a sound in his reading book.
“I’m making an emergency!” -Ben, gleefully dumping yogurt in the pencil box during school time.
“Since they had a South Dakota, couldn’t they have come up with a better name than just ‘North Dakota’? Maybe ‘Land of Desolation’ or something…” -Gavin (no, he’s never been there.)
“I wish your job was to make us happy instead of smarter.” -Shiloh, frustrated over schoolwork.
“Daddy is going to work in his cage again.” -Ben, apparently referring to the little cubicle office in Daddy’s store.
“My mind keeps taking pictures of popsicles and sends them to my tongue – so I can’t swallow my eggs.” – Henry, wishing breakfast was something different.
“Does how much time you spend on Facebook show how smart you are to your friends?” – Gavin.
“I am the President. So I can punch you if you are bad.” -Ben, the politician.
“Sometimes our house is more interesting than Grandma’s. Kind of like a fight is more interesting to watch than a garden.” -Shiloh
“I’m NOT gonna be an astronaut when I grow up because they still have to wear diapers in space.” -Henry
“My tummy is stuffed to the max. Usually it’s my brain that feels this way.” -Gavin
“Pirates don’t like it when their ships fall on their heads. We don’t like to be hurt. We just like to be happy.” -Ben, after being rudely awakened from nap when his toy pirate ship that had been parked haphazardly on the headboard fell on him.
“I dreamed I was a Lego and the bad guys kept turning my head backwards.” -Shiloh, describing a nightmare.
“In heaven, I will be cute like a baby but strong like a daddy, have a pet dinosaur, ice cream will be good for you, and I will be purple.” -Henry, who plans these things out.
“I love Spring because of mud. Mud makes everybody happy. Well, not you, Mom, but everybody who knows how to play.” -Shiloh.
“Can I take my hooker to church?” -Ben, holding up his tow truck with a hook on the back.
“I don’t need to know how to cook. I just need a smoke alarm with good batteries. Right, mom?” -Henry.
“I want a new nurse!” -Ben, fighting his mother as she attempted to brush his teeth.
“You’re a pretty fly for a white guy.” -Shiloh, seriously attempting a compliment to his four year old brother, who happened to be wearing blue wings while helping make muffins, when a dusting of flour somehow got streaked across his arms and face.
That’s not what you want to hear when you turn to back up the Yukon. Six pairs of curious eyes under the age of 7 looked back at me from the back seats. (Well, five; the baby faces backward.) “What was that?” my six year old asked innocently.
I ran through the possibilities. Human? No. They were all accounted for, thank God, and the parking lot was mostly empty. Ice? The tar was covered in it; a chunk could have dislodged from under the fender… But it sounded bigger. The options narrowed. Heart beating faster, I hopped out of the huge vehicle and slipped around the back. Shoot, I guessed right.
It was Ben’s empty wheelchair.
It was turned sideways, stuck under the back fender. I pulled on it hopefully. It didn’t budge. Apparently in the bustle of getting everyone buckled and sedated with bubble gum and keeping their fingers out of each others’ ears and hollering over the hungry baby and another mom helping empathetically to calm the masses while I strapped in the grumpy three year old who knew his suppertime was already late, my system of checks and balances got thrown off. The wheelchair had been pushed around to the back, probably by a helpful child, after I’d pulled Ben out of it to get into his carseat. In the hubbub, I didn’t notice I hadn’t packed it into the trunk, and unfortunately ran around the front of the vehicle rather than the back.
Hopping back up behind the big steering wheel again, I inched forward. It slid along with me on the ice underneath. A couple other dads leaving wrestling practice with their sons stopped and sympathetically tried to help. We rocked the vehicle back and forth. It only wedged under farther. Finally, one dad wrenched the chair free while the other drove my huge truck onto the patio area in front of the parking space. The wheelchair was a mangled, muddy mess. Wheels bent, brake broken off, parts of the frame dented, it didn’t look promising. We scooped up the pieces and put it somberly into the trunk.
“I broke your chair,” I climbed back into the driver’s seat and looked back at my son solemnly. “I’m sorry.”
He took it well. “Can I get a new one? Can it be red?” (The glass is always half full when you’re three.)
“I…don’t know, Ben.” I drove in silence, eyes on the road. I didn’t know what lay ahead.
That was over three weeks ago. What’s left of the chair is sitting in a box in the back warehouse of the medical retailer where we got it. The good news is the cushion is still good.
The bad news? Let’s just say, looking from this side, I wish I could tell that chicken not to cross the road.
Because insurance doesn’t like to cover stupid.
In the last few weeks, I’ve whined and fought and flailed against the insurance companies (not literally, though I would if it wouldn’t put me in worse trouble) in my head, for creating this agonizing process. It seems that every necessary authority between us and a new chair revels in denial and rejection. And paperwork. Meanwhile, my son pulls himself across dirty cold floors on his hands, dragging his feet like so much baggage.
And I know it was my fault for squashing his wheels, which makes me feel rotten enough. But as the process of trying to get a new one approved drags out endless, my frustration mounts. I’d buy him one, but sleek little ergo toddler wheelchairs don’t come cheap. And they don’t sell them at the local Walmart (though they probably would let me buy one of those one-size-fits all vinyl numbers with the hip-dislocating sling seats and the crooked footrests that park so conveniently inside the doorways of every big box store as an apology for making you walk a mile across their parking lots). So I wait. But not well. Mostly I complain and shake my fist and cry, “No fair!”
“No?” the quiet response filters though my consciousness. “You’ve decided this is too much?” The gentle but firm hand of God rests on my shoulder as I grumble in the kitchen. “You have decided I am unfair?”
I’d answer, but my mouth has suddenly gone dry. I want to argue – no, I mean “they” out there – the elusive faceless voices of the institutions that seem to dictate what my son needs. “They” are not fair. But I can’t seem to point my fingers while His warm hand weighs on my arm.
“On the 573rd consecutive day of too little sleep, when the oatmeal boiled over, and the four year old decorated the toilet with smurf stickers, and you had to choose whether to pay the mortgage or buy groceries, you came to the end of your rope, and you handed it to Me. And I carried you through it. Remember?”
I don’t answer.
“And the day the boys had a wrestling match on the clean laundry piled on your bed and a feather pillow got ripped and it looked like it snowed and you had to show your house to prospective buyers within a few hours, and you cleaned like mad and then they didn’t show up and you got that killer headache, you turned to Me. And I brought you through it. Remember?”
The Hand stays on my arm as I sink down to the floor.
“And then the three year old covered himself in chocolate and you couldn’t bathe him because he had a cast on his foot which you should have taken off anyway because it left a pressure sore on his heel. Remember?”
“And the six year old wrote his spelling words backwards and the seven year old forgot how to carry the one when he added even though he’d known how for months and the four year old pulled out all the red and blue markers and switched their caps and the toddler had a overwhelming fascination with scotch tape and the baby forgot how to nap and you wondered what possessed you to consider homeschooling a viable option. Remember?”
I nod. These memories seem so trivial now.
“And then remember when your friend came to you because her husband left her? Remember when sat with your other friend in the hospital while she watched her child die? Remember when another friend found out she was pregnant again and learned her husband would be in jail when her child was born? And remember, not so long ago, when your own son had brain surgery and you laid his lifeless form on the operating table? Do you remember trusting him to the hands of strangers and walking away?”
I feel His eyes on me. These memories burn brighter. Starker. Still I study the floor as He speaks, gently. Firmly.
“Child, was I unfair? Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? I own the cattle on a thousand hills and the mouse who’s living in your attic right now. I make nations rise and fall. I make your heart beat, and I hold the earth on its axis. I don’t ask you to do hard things because I need them. I ask you to do hard things because you need them. This world is not your home. This is simply the preparation ground for the real thing. Don’t point your finger at paper-happy corporations, or the government, or bad people, as if you are entitled to something they’ve got. I have called you on this journey. Walk it.”
I look up sheepishly, but no one else notices mommy sitting on the linoleum in a sticky mess of humble pie. Or maybe that’s just maple syrup left from someone’s breakfast. Then, a moment later, Ben peeks around the corner. Brightening at discovering me, he pulls himself into the kitchen in a commando crawl. He notices his walker parked against the wall. “Walk me, Mom!” He commands. I blink. And obey.
I can’t think why it happened. They were playing dodge ball in the kitchen while I cooked supper. (In hindsight, perhaps this was one of those moments for which God invented video games…) I’m not entirely sure Daddy wasn’t involved. Somewhere in the midst of the over-steaming broccoli and baby screeching for his fallen carrot stick, one of the boys crashed into the glass panel on the door. I didn’t notice, somehow. But later, in the after-bedtime calm, I surveyed the evening’s carnage. There was the mirror. Split in half.
Other than seven years of bad luck, it’s not a great loss. In the previous seven years, I’ve certainly seen worse. (The day before, we had fished a metal washer out of the computer’s cd player. In an effort to cover their tracks, the little sinners were trying to pull it out with a magnet. No dessert that night.) So the mirror was replaced with an equally-cheap one yesterday. It bulges in all the places where I can see my hips and thighs. Just like the old one. So life goes on.
But in those few days when our kitchen was mirror less, I actually missed it. I’d walk around the corner with a funny smile, unconsciously checking my teeth for chia seeds as I breezed by. But I’d find myself staring at the stained wood of the basement door. Oh, right. The three year old and I would cruise by as he practiced walking with his walker, and there was no reflection standing there to reward him. A dozen times, I walked out of the laundry room to check my outfit before running out the door. I had to just assume there was baby drool on my right shoulder and a coffee stain on my lap; there was no reflection to confirm it. I realized I depend on that mirror for many more quick glimpses of my physical appearance than I knew. More than I liked, in fact. I’m so vain.
Give me Your eyes to see.
Nearly every day, for many years, I have prayed those words.
His eyes, they scan a room and see the Pharisees resplendent in one corner. His eyes, they gaze over the rest of the rabble crowding in at the door of the biggest hut in town. His eyes glance up as the tiles are pulled away. He shades His eyes with a work-callused hand as bits of straw and mortar break free and sunlight beams down on His head. An immobile man is lowered down on a tattered mat; His eyes see the men at the top of the ropes. He notices the sweat and hope mingled on their determined brows.
And He looks over, again, at the local leaders, perched pedantically on the best stools in the house. He looks past their robes, past their smirks, and He sees the emptiness in their hearts. And (Luke 5:17) His power is present to heal them.
But they don’t see that. They watch as He forgives the crippled man of his wrongs. They blink as the atrophied limbs straighten and stand. They see the reaction of the crowd to the miracle-Maker. And Jesus, He pivots the mirror straight at their stoic faces. “That you may know…” He says. But they don’t see – this was for them. Instead, they scrunch their eyes tight against the light as it filters down through simple faith above them, and miss out on their own miracle. He sees them as they turn away. And they go home blind.
When God commissioned the tabernacle to be built, back in the desert, the people willingly brought what was needed to make it. Gold, cloth, metal, jewels, dyes, spices, and – mirrors. Bronze, smelted pure and polished smooth, was the best mirror money could buy then. It was priceless (particularly on a forty year trek though the desert). And it was the “serving women” who offered this – this irreplaceable, doubtlessly expensive, possession – to be made into a wash basin for the home of God among men. (Exodus 38:8). The serving women gave their mirrors – to be made into a sink. For God’s house.
Sudsy water swirls around my dishpan hands. It is warm, it is speckled with butter floating amidst the bubbles. It is turning brownish, cloudy, and little bits of scrambled egg from breakfast make any clear reflection a pretense. Only a vague shadow of my head as it bends low shows any contrast over the rippling surface. But it is enough.
The undulating outline of my head surrounded by dirty water – there I am. Now I see in a mirror, dimly. That image, I can’t make out the features, but there is the picture I’m supposed to see. There’s the mom, stained in love and used parmesan cheese. There’s the wife, for better or worse in tousled hair and sweatpants to greet her husband as he rolls out of bed every morning. There’s the daughter, a deja vu picture of her own mother thirty years ago. There’s the friend, the sister, the neighbor, welcoming despite socks with missing heels and unwashed hair to make yourself at home. There’s the serving woman, busy at her high calling to do the low tasks, who’s precious mirror became a useful sink in God’s house.
So many superficial mirrors surround me. There are the magazines, the movies, the friends who clearly have it all. There’s the super mom image I’ve conjured in my mind’s eye. That glass-thin reflection seems so real – until it cracks. No longer can I depend on that vulnerable shallow picture to show me what I really look like. There are dimensions it cannot show. But when I look into the eyes of He who sees the deep – there is the reflection that matters.
He shows me the hurts that left holes where bitterness tries to live.
He shows me the wrongs I accept that leave no room for truth.
He shows me the tender spots that I’ve cordoned off to protect but instead kept Him from holding them safe.
He shows me the picture of His bride and I realize with a blush of humility that it is how He sees me.
And suddenly, that mirror on the wall doesn’t have much allure.