Monthly Archives: April 2017

Fat Angels

Approximately sixty years ago, a man planted a Christmas tree in the front yard of the house he had built for his family. And rain fell and the sun shone down and it grew older. And the man grew older. Eventually a new family moved into the house behind the tree. Still the pine grew. It towered over the house, a quiet sentinel, marking time by pushing roots down deep and thickening girth, ring upon ring under gnarled bark.

 

Trees are quiet things. I had been largely oblivious to it. My mind certainly wasn’t on trees as I unceremoniously dumped water on little people’s heads that evening. The little people screeched their disapproval as mom’s waterboarding interrupted their bath time play. I continued unsympathetically with our nightly routine, warm water threading white rivulets through the spaghetti sauce on their round cheeks. Bath time is not a quiet ritual around here. So I missed the tree’s heroic moment. Heroic moments are sneaky like that.

I heard the thud. But one of the children was in the room overhead, rummaging through the Lego box like young thunder. Another was practicing long jumps across the living room rug and vaulting onto the loveseat. So thuds hardly registered on my internal Richter scale. It was only when my oldest called from the living room window, “Mom – there’s a truck on our front lawn…” That I felt a need to investigate.

Indeed – there was a truck on our front lawn. It was an odd place to find a pickup truck. I glanced over at my older children in mutual confusion as we stared out the window, watching the truck. The driver seemed as confused as we were. For a moment, he sat there, facing the tree that he had just crashed headlong into. Then he backed up, nearly hitting the telephone pole, swerving wildly, forward and back several times. He must have had trouble seeing over the smashed up hood, but I suspect his vision was compromised already since tire tracks proved he’d careened nearly 30 feet off the road. I strained to see the license plate, but the driver managed to find the road and speed away before I got a look. The oldest boys and I ran out the front door and surveyed the carnage. A headlight and bits of metal and glass littered the snow. The old pine had a gash across it, bark severed from the trunk, several branches hanging limp. I glanced back to the house. Two wet chubby bodies glistened in the front window, shameless in their curiosity. I hurried back and found towels to sop up the puddles left from their tub escape (and to cover their bright white thighs). My mind whirled. Should I call an emergency number if a guy just drove across our front lawn? I texted my husband with one hand as I toweled dripping children. He was nearly home from work, and drove in as I was strapping on diapers. “Call the police!” he remonstrated me from the doorway, and tromped over to survey the scene. I googled the number for the local police department and called. No answer. Nonplussed, I dialed 911. The dispatcher listened as I stumbled over my words. “A guy just drove over our lawn, hit our tree, and drove away…”

“Ok…” He responded. It was awkward. I explained no one was hurt, but the man (I was pretty sure it was a man we’d seen in the driver’s seat, but you never can tell these days) had seemed very confused and unsafe.

“I think they’re already on this,” the dispatcher mentioned. “Thanks.” And he hung up.

I continued with the evening ablutions of pajamas and books until the dispatcher called back a few minutes later. “Just wanted you to know,” he explained, “the driver crashed not far down the road from you. He won’t be going anywhere for a long time.”

“Thank you for letting us know.” I responded, and started to ask for more information, but the man said an officer would be in contact and bid me good evening.

About half an hour later, we saw a tow truck trundle by with a familiar smashed up pick-up truck on its hook. We had a good discussion that evening about how alcohol or drugs can impair your ability to think. (The cause of the driver’s recklessness was never revealed to us, but it opened the door for some conversation anyway).

 

As I lay in bed that night, it occurred to me how close the driver had come to my children and me. The tree was within ten feet of the corner of our house. He must have been going far above the speed limit to fly over thirty feet off the road, up the knoll, and still smash the vehicle into a tree with such force. I shivered. It had been dusk, and thankfully, wet and chilly, so none of my children had still been out playing in the yard when he came. But they could have been… I shut my eyes and breathed a prayer.

 

“Thank you, Lord, for that tree. Thank you for guarding us…”

 

I’ve often joked that I must have had a fat guardian angel, since there has often been a space of about 10 feet between my indiscretions and a true emergency. I remember the winter after I learned to drive my dad’s 4 cylinder pickup, sliding off slick white roads a couple times into soft snowbanks. I’d had to grab a shovel and work my way out, but it was harmless compared to what could have been if I’d made sudden contact with a telephone pole not far away.   I’ve never (knowingly) met an angel, but I suspect their wingspan is far greater than the little Valentine cherubs of the cartoons. Perhaps the ten foot span that often came between me and peril was actually a supernatural warrior sitting in the snow – calmly flexing. A single angel has been known to wipe out entire armies (check Isaiah 37) and make grown men fall on their faces in fear (Daniel 10). A guy like that would have no trouble stopping a measly pick-up truck with his pinkie – or a sappy pine bough.

The driver himself wouldn’t have stood much chance at his speeds had he chosen to interact with the telephone pole down near the pavement rather than heading upwards over the turf for several dozen feet. I wonder if he appreciated this fact when he woke (wherever he woke) the next morning and realized how exciting his previous evening had been. I’m guessing he missed it. But we prayed for him to find purpose in his lease on life anyway.

 

Sixty years ago, a man had no idea how pivotal one little sapling would prove to be. But I know. My house and my kids were protected. Cupid strikes again. Ha. Like a rock.

Go Cupid.

 

God is so good to me.

 

Trust Fall of Faith

Someone made an offer to buy our old house last week. The timing was interesting.

This week – exactly one year ago – we moved out of it.

We’ve tried to sell before. For over eight years, we’ve tried to sell. But the market isn’t what it was when we bought, and our mortgage (created for first time home buyers) has a clause that prevented us from renting it out. It seemed fine a decade ago, expecting our first, with the housing market booming. It became less fine as the years passed, the housing market crashed, and we expected our 4th, and 5th, and 6th.  Every time a potential buyer began the process, a different road block would pop up.  It got a little ridiculous.  We inquired about getting a new mortgage without such a clause, but as housing markets struggled, the bank said there wasn’t enough equity in it and refused.

 

Finally, last April, we were granted a reprieve from the confines of the mortgage, allowing us to rent it out while promising to simultaneously try to sell (again).

But if we don’t sell, and don’t re-inhabit at some point, we could technically be in breach of our mortgage contract and the bank could foreclose on us, even though we have paid the mortgage every month and it is inhabited by a contented renter.

Will they do it? I don’t know. I’m not a bank. (Though I haven’t convinced my kids of that yet.)

Was it risky to have taken this chance for a year?  Was it a good idea to leave the small house (with a smaller monthly cost of living) for a larger, costlier one?  Was it smart to have taken on a second mortgage on a new house when the last hadn’t sold?   The bank could destroy our credit by taking back that old one.

It’s humbling.

I might have thumbed my nose at someone else faced with foreclosure, assuming them reckless with their money and resources. Or at least, I might have over a year ago.

But now…

Sometimes following God isn’t the most financially sound choice. Or most comfortable. Or most logical.

Yes, we are called to be wise with our money and bodies and time and resources.

 

But sometimes wisdom isn’t smart.

 

The day we moved, April 2016, we tried to squeeze everyone into one last picture on the longest wall

 

The Bible says that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).

But people who feared God often did stupid-looking things.

 

Noah spent years building a boat on dry land and moved into it amidst the jeers of his neighbors.

Abraham moved – before knowing where he was headed.

Moses challenged Pharaoh with a stick.

Joshua attacked Jericho by walking around it.

Gideon challenged the Midianites with a horn and a torch.

David stood up to Goliath with a leather sling.

Ezekiel gave the people God’s message by being silent.

Jonah brought a nation to its knees with 8 words that didn’t even include the word repent.

 

And Jesus said He could save the world by dying a criminal’s death.

 

None of that seemed logical. None of them looked smart.

But it’s always wise to follow God.  Even if it looks stupid to everyone else.

 

A friend left a couple days ago, moving from our cold muddy New England Spring to Brazil.  There are snakes and spiders there that can kill you. The humidity and sun are merciless. None of her family live there. She doesn’t know the language.  She is young, single, blonde, and beautiful. She will spend the next 20 years or so on this quest.

But there are indigenous groups of people who have never heard the gospel. They don’t have a written language, so they don’t have access to the Bible. Her job is to be accepted into one of their communities, learn their language, write them an alphabet, dictionary, and grammar rules, and then translate the Bible into their language. It isn’t lucrative. It is dangerous. It is very hard, and lonely, and frustrating.

It seems reckless.

Last song before we moved out

I know that being a Christ-follower doesn’t mean we’ve been given a license to be stupid. Most of the time, it means being logical. I don’t smoke (because it’s bad for my lungs), or drink (I need every brain cell I’ve got), or party (unless staying up past 10 p.m. counts). I try to budget and shop at thrift stores. I don’t play with matches or run with scissors (much). I eat my veggies and read a lot and buckle my seatbelt and vote. I try to be wise with my daily life. Of course, I’m capable of doing plenty of dumb stuff without permission or thought (Not everything makes it onto a blog!). But generally, I try to live without stepping on any snakes that could turn and bite me.

And still, the uncomfortable moment came to step out in reckless hope.

God was there when each of our six kids were born.  God was there when one was born who would need a wheelchair.  God was there when we bought the little house.  God was there when we had to make the decision to move out of it.

leap of faith?

 

We’d made some crazy-looking decisions.  So we prayed like crazy.  And prayed some more.  And held our breath.  And jumped.

Maybe it will end in foreclosure.  But maybe a bad credit rating isn’t of prime importance in God’s kingdom.

But a humble, willing heart is.

 

The buyers backed out on Friday. So we wait, again, wondering if we were wise to take on a second mortgage, to leave the house we weren’t allowed to leave, to trust God to provide for the children He gave us.

If I’m reckless, I hope it is because God told me to be.

I guess it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks.

I can’t stop trusting just because I already took the first step of faith.  After all, it isn’t the first step that hurts – it’s the possibility of a sudden stop at the end!

Who knows what God has planned between now and then?

 

the view from our old back deck

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

 

 

Lightbulb Moment

How many kids does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: Depends. The oldest unscrews the old bulb in the lava lamp. The next runs to the basement and determines there are no more little bulbs to fit. Meanwhile, mommy realizes it’s too quiet and goes to find youngest. He is discovered stuffing legos into the empty socket. Everyone survives the night (somehow.)

Next day, three kids accompany mommy to the store. The youngest kicks off his boots while he sits in the front of the shopping cart. As mommy bends to retrieve them, the next youngest screams (yes screams) with passion “LIGHTBOUBS!” because he lives life exuberantly and expects the rest of Walmart wants to join him.

Mommy jerks her head up so quickly in surprise that she smashes it into the cart handle. Rubbing her head, she looks up to see the second youngest in the process of loading the cart with lightbulb boxes. So the second oldest and second youngest are sent to the end of the aisle to look at (unbreakable) plastic trash cans while Mommy replaces lightbulbs back on shelf and boots back on the youngest. Mommy hurriedly selects what she hopes is correct bulb (plus an extra for good measure) and survives checkout.

Once home, mommy realizes she left two bags back at the store (she won’t work up the gumption to return to collect them till the next day, but at least she noticed, so points for that). Youngest finds package of bulbs in bag that did make it home and opens it (they make toy packaging impossible for a child to open or assemble, but lightbulbs are disturbingly easy). One lightbulb breaks. Mommy cleans it up.

Second oldest takes remaining light bulb upstairs to install it, realizes someone has disturbed his Lego town, and goes on a rampage for revenge. Blood and carnage ensue. Mommy demands peace and serenity – or else. Eventually the dust settles, and the child returns to his room to finish screwing in the new lightbulb. It works.  Eureka.

 

So in this case, it took six children to change a lightbulb. But results may vary.

How many does it take at your house?

Bearing

Once upon a time, it was the worst day of my life.

On the eve of my son’s third birthday, his brain got infected. The outside world got in. It was only the tiniest little bit that found an entrance, just an itsy bitsy staphylococcus – an everyday kind of germ that we all keep around for company. But we can’t survive with it in our brain. So I found myself, somewhere around midnight after the unfortunate discovery, singing happy birthday to my son in a breaking voice as I laid his little trusting body on the operating table so doctors could get the infection out. It would be a long week before we could go home.

The next morning, when my brother came to visit, I asked if I could leave my infant son (who was along for the wild ride because he was nursing), and my newly-minted-three year old hidden under a maze of tubes and medicine, to run to the store to buy the birthday boy a toy tow truck. It was all he wanted. And I wanted clean underwear. I ran in and out. It was snowing lightly as I pulled away from the store. Another car came around the corner in the parking lot and slid into the driver’s side door of the car I had borrowed from my brother. The driver quickly parked and came over to be sure I wasn’t hurt. I blubbered my story of how it was my son’s birthday and he was in the hospital for emergency brain surgery and all he wanted was to blow out candles and he couldn’t because that’s illegal in the hospital. The man nodded sympathetically, then got in his car – and drove away before we could file a report and get insurance worked out.

 

That moment of betrayal, heaped on top of my exhaustion, stress, worry, and loneliness, ranks as one of the lowest points of my life.

 

It was bad.

 

But you know what happened in that moment? My son needed me. So I drove back to the hospital, crumpled on his sterile bed, and held him – and begged God for strength. And God gave it.

Not a lot. Too much would probably have made me capable of doing dangerous things, especially to the guy who drove away from the teary-eyed woman in the disheveled Subaru in the parking lot that cold January day three years ago.

But it was enough.

 

I felt so helpless. I couldn’t fix my son. I couldn’t even celebrate his birthday. I couldn’t even run to the store without someone’s property getting destroyed! I was insufficient.  I just couldn’t even.

But God.

In that moment, God came near. And I knew that the prayers of hundreds of friends were – at that very moment – storming the throne of heaven with our names. And He heard. And God came near.

 

I remember that moment, because today, a friend is going through the same valley of the shadow. She is watching her baby daughter struggle with insidious evil germs threatening her little brain. It is a horrible place to be for a mom. But thousands of other moms are live-streaming petitions to the throne of heaven on her behalf. And God is listening.

 

The first woman – the first mom on earth – was named Eve. Her name in Hebrew is Chavvah, or “life-giver.” It’s Zoe in Greek, meaning “preserver of life, life-spring”.

This woman, Eve, was the first woman to talk with God, the first to know Him.

She was first to revel in His creation, to enjoy His goodness.

And she was the first person on earth to sin.

She was the first to realize she no longer had the right to dwell with God.

She was first to miss Him.

Eve, created to be “life-giver” to all future generations, was the first to lose intimate fellowship with the Creator of life.

 

It was a horrible realization. She was not enough. She could not make it right.

 

But God.

In His love for Eve, in His desire for her to fulfill her purpose as life giver to all future generations – God made a way for her to be restored.

 

She was saved by His grace. (“By grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9). All moms since have the same chance.

 

We can be restored to a deep relationship with God by the Word of God dwelling with us. (“The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…” John 1:14).

 

And God has (often) used a big-eyed, naked toddler covered in my lipstick, sitting on my once-white bedspread (just hypothetically speaking) to reveal to me the very depths of my insufficiency. It ain’t pretty. (I mean my dark and frustrated heart. But also the bedsheets.)

 

My children have showed me, like nothing else, that I cannot survive without a direct line of communication with the life-Maker.

This past Wednesday, I spent the morning busy.

I woke, stretched, and found clothes for myself and three others. I started the laundry. I took a shower (and was only interrupted once). I wiped down the bathroom. I drank cold coffee and ate three strips of cold bacon. I fed kids. I (tried to) clean hard boiled egg yolk off the chair. I dressed children. I wiped noses (and other things.) I read and explained a Bible story. I broke up fights. I did fractions and adding and multiplication with four separate children while keeping the two youngest from (totally) dismantling the living room. I paid some bills. I took a child to the doctor. I made up a story to keep him occupied in the sterile office. I gave up my granola bar to feed the backseat driver. I gave up my water bottle. I bought several gallons of milk. I bought the still hungry caterpillar (aka the growing three-year-old child) a sandwich. I kept time shamelessly as he danced to the restaurant muzak. I got home to relieve grandma of duty. I changed more diapers. I cleaned the kitchen. I paid for piano lessons. I put the little two down for nap. I put the little two down for nap – again. I confiscated a video game. I pulled bread rolls out of the freezer for supper. I glanced at Facebook and saw a post that a friend’s baby had been admitted to the hospital for bacterial meningitis. And I stopped everything. And I prayed.

 

Because in all the business – the busy-ness – of motherhood, that direct line of communication has been more precious than any ability I possess.

As my friend’s baby girl lies in a sterile medical world surrounded by wires and lights and foreign smells, hurting and fragile and in desperate need of a miracle, it makes me pause. I have looked into my own child’s eyes, wide from pain and fear, as he sat small in a big white hospital bed, fighting sinister germs that attacked his own brain. I have turned away so he would not see tears fall.  I would love to wrap my children in bubble wrap so they would never know hurt or evil. But that’s not the answer (nor very practical.)

 

I have often wondered at the verse that states “She will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” (I Timothy 2:15)

 

What meaneth this? Maybe that childbearing – from the first kicks of new life inside me, to the sting of distrust when a child lies to my face to cover a sin, to the leaning-down hug as they leave the house to strike out on their own – constantly reminds me of my need for a Savior. It certainly has for me.

Or maybe it means that “they” who continue in faith, love, and holiness – “they” are the community who holds up her arms when they are weak from mothering. They petition heaven on her behalf when she is too exhausted to lift up her head. They care for her children’s needs when she cannot. They continue – so that she will be preserved in this most important work of life giving.

So we pray.

As mom, I am first to realize I am unable to fix all my children’s problems.  I  am first to know I am not enough.

But I know Who is.

There is One Who can say “I AM.”

We mother on.

We mother – on our knees.