Monthly Archives: March 2015

Quarter For Your Thoughts

“The first impression of [Israel] was of the strangely small scale of everything. But before nightfall one came to realize that this is an intrinsic part- that God wants to show us nothing is great or small to Him who inhabited eternity in its dimensions of space as well as time. It is a pivot land – and pivots are apt to be small things in the eyes of those who do not understand their meaning.” – Lilias Trotter (From A Blossom in the Desert, page 203.)

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You’ve heard the phrase, “turn on a dime”? Well this time, I turned on a quarter.  Blame inflation.
It was a while in coming. The quarter, I mean. Actually, it was twelve days ago that my son lost it. No, I take that back; he knew where it was. He just couldn’t get it.
It was inside his body.
It stopped briefly in his throat, which took years off my life. (Don’t you hold your allowance in your mouth when you wrestle with your brothers?) But then it passed more calmly into his stomach. It took a leisurely stroll though his intestines. At some point in the last week, it exited the premises. I missed it.
Never has twenty five cents been so anticipated. (Except perhaps when one of my kids is expecting the tooth fairy’s inaugural visit.)
Since it made it successfully though the esophagus, I had decided it didn’t necessitate an Emergency Room visit (I try to save those for brain infections.) But, like any parent with wi-fi would have, I googled possible scenarios. Apparently my five year old isn’t the first to swallow a quarter and forget to chew it first.  Some people said it would pass harmlessly along its way. Unless it didn’t.
So we waited.

the Henry
the Henry

It’s not the first time a child has swallowed something undigestible (other than bubblegum, red dye #40, and good old fashioned dirt).  Ben swallowed my earring when he was ten months old.  But he was wearing a diaper, so checking for a diamond in the rough was a bit easier than with five year old Henry.  That was interesting.

I finally called the doctor.  He recommended an x-ray.  So I trooped all six kids over to the health center, pushing wheelchairs and double strollers across the parking lot against a biting winter wind.  Half a dozen hands smashed the automatic door opener buttons repeatedly until the security guard gently pushed his from inside.  We know how to make an entrance.  I had visions of Child Protection Services storming the double doors behind us and commandeering my children from the unfit mother who feeds her kids pocket change.  Thankfully, it was fairly quick.  We escaped before they arrived.

But driving home, I reflected on the scene.  Who could have thought this would be my life?  I remember being 18 and halfway around the world in college, slightly chubby from having just discovered Nutella, wondering what the future would hold.  The wife of one of the teachers prayed with me one evening.  Afterwards, she described a little rowboat tied up to a dock.  It pulled against the ropes that held it, but couldn’t leave with the outgoing tide.  Not yet.  I was nonplussed.  Was that my life?  I wondered what I had to do to get free from the ropes.  I was ready!  Why couldn’t I go?

For years, I realized, I had been waiting.  Waiting to attain, to grow up.  Waiting for the future.  But I didn’t need to wait anymore.  (Except for bedtime. Always.)  Like many women, I’d been raised with the expectation I would “do something” with my life.  Wife and mom might be some my hats, but not the only.  Why settle?  I could be woman of consequence. I could have a full, meaningful life.  I could effect many lives as a teacher, a journalist, a nurse, or a missionary.

But here I was looking for pocket change in the nether regions of my son’s gut.

Here I was driving a rusting Yukon brim full of car seats and a wheelchair with light-up wheels.

Here I was explaining fractions and proper nouns around the dining room table and trying not to cry over spilled cheerios and milk.

Here I was, wife and motherhood overflowing the twenty four hours of every single day.

And I realized as I left the x-ray building with my ducklings trailing behind, that here, right where I was, I was doing my life’s work.  My magnum opus in puddle boots.  This work, no matter how menial, tedious, and sticky, was my greatest accomplishment. Sure, I could do other things, but nothing of greater consequence or longer lasting effect.  I wasn’t waiting for the big purpose of my life.

I was living it.

In waiting for a quarter, I realized I didn’t need to wait anymore.  I was no longer tied to the dock.  My little ship had sailed.  (Actually, it was rowing across choppy waters breathlessly, but definitely going somewhere.)

I shouldn’t despise the days of small things.  Turns out they’re the pivotal days of my life.

Hope no one has to swallow anything bigger for me to learn the next lesson.  This could get expensive.

The Dull Moment

Call me Ishmael.
I chase an elusive, white-legged, chubby toddler in an endless loop around the cluttered house. He’ll be the death of me if I can’t get him first. And even then…
I was in the shower. A grubby fist poked through the shower curtain. It handed me a cough drop. I took it before the grubby fist could reconsider its offering. The little body connected to the fist ran out of the bathroom, leaving the door open wide. I sighed. I was shivered. I turned off the water and followed the grubby fist into my bedroom. Apparently it had already been through my neatly folded laundry pile on the bed. I pulled the body of the grubby fist out from under my pile of wrinkled t-shirts and plunked it unceremoniously into the pack and play crib that was currently a ball pit.  It squealed joyfully and started flinging the balls out into the laundry pile.

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So went the day.  I’ll spare you the details, but the rest of it involved a hijacked toilet seat, peanut butter, literal lost marbles, a very stiff neck, icicle sword fights, cold spaghetti, an overdose of Curious George, a serious lack of sleep.  Finally, though, it was nearly 10 p.m.  I was oddly tired.

But I absolutely couldn’t go to bed because my husband was trying to do something to ease the ache in my neck.  He had gone across town to buy me ice cream.  Just the right kind.  Now, you might argue that ice cream doesn’t fix stiff necks – or laundry piles mixed with plastic balls – or lack of sleep – or too much Curious George.  And you might be right.  Or maybe you just haven’t tried the right kind.

Either way, though, it was getting late and even good ice cream was sounding less appealing than a thorough night’s sleep (even though I had no aspirations of getting such a thing with a hungry month old baby.)  I rubbed my sore shoulders as I nursed the baby and dejectedly surveyed the cluttered living room.  There was so much I still needed to do before bed if I wanted to maintain my own sanity and/or a path across the floor.  Then the phone rang.

I couldn’t turn my head to see my cellphone perched on the back of the sofa.  But I reached for it blindly.  Was he on his way?  “Well…” My husband hesitated on the other end of the phone.  “Keys work best at unlocking the outside of the car door when they’re not still in the ignition…”  I groaned.  It was now after 10 p.m.  The store was closed.  He was outside waiting for the emergency folks to come.  They hoped to be less than 45 minutes.  It was bitterly cold.  “At least the ice cream’s not melting.” He tried to be upbeat.

I bowed in frustration; feeling the strain of uselessness in my inflamed neck joints.  I wished I could help.  I wished to could run down to the store with an extra key.  But it would have taken me nearly 45 minutes to get all the sleeping kids awake, bundled up, into the car and over to the store.  Besides, I realized, I didn’t have an extra key at home.  I was helpless.

My husband was officially going to freeze to death buying me ice cream that I hardly wanted.  Oh the irony.  And here I was, turning into a pumpkin at the stroke of 10 p.m in a sea of chaos.  Tired, overwhelmed and useless.

“If only it wasn’t winter,” I thought bitterly.  “Than it wouldn’t be so bad.”

“If only my toddler wasn’t such a kleptomaniac…”

“If only the baby slept at normal hours…”

“If only the five year old hadn’t swallowed a quarter and I didn’t have to check for it every time he goes…”  (true story.  We’re still waiting.)

“If only the kids wouldn’t fight over Every. Single. Lego…”

“If only my house was bigger…”

“If only my neck wasn’t so sore and stiff…”

In the quiet of that moment, a phrase crossed my tired mind.

“The Lord is giving you this good land not because of your righteousness – for you are a stiff-necked people.”  (Deuteronomy 9:6)

Ooh.  Was this getting personal?

was a stiff-necked people.  That much rang true.

I had been given a land full of white-knuckled little giants.

The land was flowing with milk and honey – both flowed around here, all right.  Usually off the table.  Mixed with Cheerios.

And I was stubbornly looking at this rugged, beautiful promised land as if it could be conquered by my own strength.

Foolish, proud, stiff-necked woman!  How many sore shoulders and swallowed quarters would it take to convince me of my insufficiency?  “Don’t answer that,” I grimaced in prayer.  “I don’t want to know. Just help me, Lord, to be brave as I live in the land full of lego-crazed natives.  I don’t know how to survive here.  I don’t even know how to keep houseplants alive, yet You’ve brought me to this strange new land.  My body feels its limitations.  My mind can’t seem to adjust to a new normal.  My soul feels hungry.  I’m coming up short.  I love my family, this wild wild wilderness of motherhood, the adventure.  But God, I just don’t know how…

The land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end.”  (Deuteronomy 11:11-12)

It’s a whale of a job, this motherhood thing.  It’s not (just) because I’ve recently had a 6th child in 8 years.  Motherhood is challenging even with one.  No, motherhood is impossible – even with one.  Ideal, perfect motherhood is impossible.  I could chase it my whole life and never quite grasp it.  But I’m not expected to.  I’m just supposed to take the step onto the green grass of the new land.  And another.  And another.  And trust God to take of the rain.

And the whales.

And the ice cream.  (Which I ate when my husband got home.  Because it would have been ungrateful not to.)

In that silent moment, stuck on the couch amidst a sea of chaos, I gave up the chase. And went to bed.  For a few minutes anyway.

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