May We All Believe Again

by Melissa Greene

eyes

I am lying here next to my daughter who is blissfully sleeping.  I am watching her chest slowly rise and fall, hearing her heavy breath escape her beautiful lips.  She is hardly. ever. still.  I’m smiling because I rarely have time to behold her in all her little glory.  In fact, she’s been going 100 miles an hour since moment one of her birth. She’s so full of verve.  She beholds life, wide eyed, in all it’s glory.  She soaks it all in and then runs to the next moment with even greater expectations.  Her middle name could be “go” instead  of  ”Faith.”  Her faith is instinctive.  She is an inherent believer. Right now this little one believes in magic and in wonder; in love and in restoration; in trust and in hope.  She is in Eden.  She is our little glimpse of the “kingdom”.  I think all of our children are in fact.  Our little archetypes of grace.

I read a magnificent book a couple of years ago by Samir Selmanovic called “It’s all about God”.  In the book Samir says,

“Our children are gazing at us, hoping in us.  Theirs is the gaze of God.”

That quote resonates so purely with my spirit.  It makes so much sense to me because I have learned so much about God, and thus love, by watching my children. I realize that my Hutch and Haven wake up every day looking at me.  They are looking at me with trust.  They are looking at me with love.  They are not watching me and expecting me to fail them.  They are not looking down at me waiting on me to make my next mistake.  No–they are gazing at me with hope, and I believe their gaze is a beautiful representation of what God’s gaze is towards all of us. It is not one of disappointment. It is not one of shame.  It is not one of disgust.  It is one of remarkable love.  One of grace, that sees wholeness.  One of hope.  Because we are God’s created beings, born in God’s image. God sees the beauty, truth and goodness present inside of us all even in the midst of our brokenness.

Today as I watched her sleep, and read consecutive posts online–from a recent celebrity’s “hurtful words”, to “what sin is” and “what scripture really means”, I realized that I need to become a believer again. For as another year passes, it’s time to be reminded.  It’s time to stop, let go and look ahead.  I need to believe again in love, magic, wonder, restoration, trust and hope. And I need to actively live those things out.  I need to capture the beauty of the season of Advent, which we have just engaged in as a Christian Church, and I need to let the spirit of advent unveil in my life…daily.  I need to stop being caught up in the argument and start trying to be a solution.  I need to speak life, words of healing and be present to any that I can.

I need to constantly attempt to be what I was placed on this earth to be–what we all were placed on this earth to be–a representation of love.  An illustration of hope.  A life full of light.

You see, in the month of December I have come face to face with both heaven and hell.
In the prisons of Florida I saw hell in the eyes of those who believed they are without hope, undeserving of a future and unworthy of love.  I have seen the personal hells of friends who at the height of their success, long to be both accepted for who they are, unconditionally loved and are still left feeling unfulfilled for all they need and want to be.  I have heard hell in the words that Christians have used to speak “truth” to someone they don’t agree with.

But I have also seen glimpses of heaven–celebrations of Advent, Christmas and the Holiday season seen in churches, malls, movie theaters and homes. I have seen heaven in those that ring the bell outside of busy Walmarts in hopes of loose change. I have felt heaven at a memorial service of a dear loved one from our church as those that experienced her life then celebrated the gift and light that she was.  I have felt heaven while lying in my bed considering the gaze of my child, and thus my God.

So the one thing I need in this new year is to believe again in goodness, truth and beauty and to exemplify them in my life. I need to seek to be goodness, righteousness and justice with every word and action I convey.  I need to be a seeker of truth, knowing I will never capture it wholly and thus always being willing to comply when truth rings at my heartstrings in an unexpected way and from an unsuspecting person.  I need to display beauty in my words, my art, and the whole of my life.  I also need to be quick to claim the beauty of God showcased in all of creation.

Despite what I read, hear or see I will choose to have confidence in love, in hope, in God and in humanity.  I will pray for patience for both this world and for myself…and for my girl as she eventually wakes up not from her nap, but to life.  As she slowly realizes that Eden is not our present reality and that we are far from thy Kingdom fully come.

May we all awake to our present opportunity to BE all we were crafted to be.
May we all willingly accept this responsibility of letting love guide us.
And may we all, believe again.

 

 

image credit

I Throw Excellent Pity Parties

by Andrea Levendusky

cherries Last summer, a funny little cascade of events happened. And by funny, I mean I ate my way through a bag of Oreos and cried under my blankets for a good day and a half. That kind of funny.

So let’s start with the first.

One: I decided to leave the urban dwelling I came to love and adore because my niece and my nephew asked to live with me while they lived their glory days of college. I (being the totally awesome aunt that I am) said “ABSOLUTELY,” and decided we were well on our way to outgrowing our 4th floor flat anyway. My daughter was sharing her bedroom with my 19-year-old niece, which really only worked for about a day, if I’m being totally honest. A college girl’s belongings + a four year olds curiosity = you do the math.

We began apartment and house hunting. But it was all dependent on which school my daughter got into.

And then the next fun event happened.

She didn’t get into either of the schools we were banking on. The ones I was already budgeting for, planning on, researching like a mad woman.

The first option was quickly removed from the list because I’m not rich and the school had to decrease their financial aid packages. (The real question: who can afford a $20,000 Kindergarten tuition?) As for the second school — her name wasn’t drawn in the “lottery of names”.

Can I just say that the process of the lottery for schools feels like a mix of that short story by Shirley Jackson that we had to read in high school and The Hunger Games. The day I entered her name into the school’s lottery, the attendant stood still with the black box in her hands, looked straight-faced at me and said “Good luck in the lottery.” To which I replied, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” And then we had a lovely little staring game until I grew uncomfortable with how legitimately serious she was.

Three: A month later, I lost my biggest client (because they hired in-house and apparently New York is too far of a commute to San Antonio. Whatever.) I handled it as any professional freelancer would — I said “Thank you for the opportunity to work with you.” and then hung the phone up and had a full-on panic attack.

Four:  My parents decided to relocate to my city, find a place to live, and move in with me.

Cue Billie Holliday’s “Solitude” blaring out of a small iPhone dock while I laid on the floor of my apartment and stared at the ceiling, tears rolling into my ears. I throw excellent pity parties.

I don’t like it when good things unravel. I’m not a fan of feeling out of control.

—-

I’m not sure about you, but I can trace 98% of my issues back to one thing — pride. In whatever form it comes (arrogance or insecurity), I am prone to being self-centered. I would try to come up with a reason as to why I am this way but I’m just gonna go ahead and tack it on the board of “I’m human” and assume that most of us are really good at thinking about ourselves most of the time.

When I realized we had lost a large chunk of our income, a place to live, the schools I wanted and that I was going to be living with my parents again, I felt like a failure. A complete and total failure. (And I’m not going to tie a bow on this one — somedays, I still do.) Not being able to make things happen how I want things to happen by this point in my life might be one of the most heartbreaking things for me to admit.

So last summer, my parents moved here, and we moved into a house together. All of us. Grandparents. Me. Kid. College kids. We found a home with a yard, trees, a fireplace, lots of rooms, and space for each of us to find quiet and solitude.

But I felt ashamed. The voice in my head nagged — Look at you, it said. 30 years old. A single mom barely making ends meet. You are a Lifetime movie. But one of the cheesy, depressing ones. One of the movies that everyone makes jokes about and pretends they hate, but you’d probably watch with a bottle of wine because GOOD LORD THE DRAMA and it’s SO PITIFUL.

Yes that voice. Perhaps you know it. It probably says awful things to you too, and yet we all listen as if it’s going to change its mind.

It was the day we moved that was the hardest for me. After eight years of being independent and calling the shots for my own home and surroundings, I was back in the kitchen arguing with my mom about dishes, schedules and the color of the carpet. At one point it seemed I had taken leaps and bounds forward in life, but now, I felt 15 again. Friends and family had unloaded all of our things and I hopped in the cab of one of the trucks with a brother to vent.

“Ugh,” I groaned (just like a 15 year old, mind you). “I can’t believe I’m living with mom and dad again. I’m so embarrassed.”

He shook his head. “God provides,” he said. “Not always how we want him to. But he meets needs. Would it really make a difference if He provided anonymously? Isn’t it even better that it’s through your parents? The ones who love you and care about you?”

I nodded, choked back the tears, and fiddled with my hands as my pride knotted in my throat.

—-

It’s been six months since we gathered under this roof to call it home, and it hasn’t been perfect. It’s been messy, humbling, hard. It’s been loud and busy, fun and happy, cluttered with things and arguments, and then cleaned with grace and patience.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve had company in the mornings,” my mother says. Her tea is hot and the teabag rests on the spoon next to it, just like it did for the first 18 years of my life. “It’s nice to have someone to visit with again. I’ve gotten so used to being quiet while your father sleeps.”

It’s in these moments that I realize in accepting a helping hand, I’m actually just holding another hand. Perhaps in my accepting, I’m giving as well. I’m picking up the tiny pieces of tiny strings of things I thought I wanted, and realizing that what we have is very, very good. I spend afternoons working at my desk while I watch her out the window, kicking the sky wildly as my father pushes her on the swing and I’m laughing, shaking my head at how I ever worried that we would be the worse for this.

Sometimes life never works out quite as we think it will. Sometimes God provides in ways we don’t want him to. Sometimes it feels like a death blow to my pride. And sometimes, that’s the best thing ever.

What I Am Finding At The End Of Myself

by Allison

IMG_0093

I am in a season where I have to daily depend on Jesus to make it through. When our third baby joined the pack in October, it was clear: there is no manning up, no putting on my big girl panties, no “being enough” that will suffice. This is where I meet the end of myself. And that scares me. But it’s also all I’ve ever wanted.

What a gift. What a gift I have been given, to be thrown, flailing, into this season of desperation. O, and I am flailing. Scattered and spread thin and forgetful, I don’t even feel at home in my own mind or body. Truly, I am incapable of being enough.

I have had opportunity after opportunity to choose this – to surrender my own sufficiency for His strength and light yoke – but I have not. I have managed. I have, for the most part, carried it on my own. That’s not to say I haven’t royally screwed up over the past four years of parenting. I’ve had some days where I phoned it in, and many days I’ve regretted, but in the end I’ve been able to turn it around, to mom up, if you will.

O, but three children. Three children four and under, I have met my match. It has been the perfect storm that has created a flood I cannot resist. Lord willing, the waves will move me down shore or up shore or wherever it is that I really should have been all this time while I’ve been standing here firm of my own resolve.

Babies have quite a way needing, don’t they? And always with the urgency and importance; my needs pale in comparison.

Babies have quite a way of revealing how selfish we are, don’t they?

While I can see that place down shore where this flood will take me, while I see the Promised Land in my mind’s eye and I can know that is where I am heading, it’s still a flood. I am entering the desert in order to get there. I am leaving in order to cleave to my Jesus. I am being burned to ashes to be made beautiful. I am dying to be resurrected. And I don’t want to.

I like my selfishness unrefined, thankyouverymuch.

I don’t want that desert or these sleepless nights. I don’t want to leave or be distanced from my husband in the busyness of the infant stage. I don’t want to burn to ashes or have another human being dependent on my body for years. I don’t want to die to my own self-sufficiency. All of these things are very real and loom very dark. They look like suffering. From here the Promised Land looks very, very faint in the distance.

So I have to believe. Lord, help my unbelief. I have to believe that He is faithful. I have to believe that His ways are better. I have to believe that He is enough because Lord knows I am not. I have to believe that His power is available to me. Lord, help my unbelief. I have to believe that He is making all things new and that I will look back on this very difficult time, this flood when I had three babies four and under, and I will say, “Behold, He has done a good thing,” and “Jehovah Jireh, my provider!”

Lord, help my unbelief. Lord, be my daily bread. Lord, carry me to where you want me to be. I’ll but float.

Amen.

On Parenting Honey Badgers

by Suzannah Paul

I’m a natural with babies. One of those earth mama types with babes slung close to my heart, I rarely met an early parenting problem that couldn’t be fixed or at least ameliorated by proximity to my breasts. Put a boob on it! It was like having a superpower.

But even as a kid, I was good with babies. I had a booming babysitting business watching the neighbors’ infants and toddlers for three bucks an hour. The 90s were different, man. Back then, no one thought twice about leaving tiny children in the charge of an eleven year old Girl Scout with a child care badge.

Connecting with teens comes pretty easily to me, too. I’ve got over a decade of youth ministry under my belt and know more ice breakers and group facilitation tricks than a lifetime of team-building retreats could exhaust. Nerdy, popular, troubled, loud–I enjoy all sorts of teenagers, even the stinkiest, silliest middle schoolers.

Babies are my jam. Awkward adolescents are my cup of tea. But little kids are tough. Little kids are honey badgers. I have two whom I love fiercely, and parenting them is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.

Remember My So-Called Life? ”I cannot bring myself to eat a well-balanced meal in front of my mother. It just means too much to her.”

Grungy, melancholic Angela Chase captured my fifteen year old heart, and she’s still among my most beloved fictional characters. But these days, I feel a peculiar affinity for her mom Patty, because Kyrie eleison, being on the other end of that fork might just be the death of me. My fiercely independent children never met a hill they weren’t willing to die on, and our dinner table is their perennially favorite last stand. At just four and six, their sighing, eye-rolling, and angst-y tears could give Emmy-winning Claire Danes a run for her money.

If they aren’t battling each other, it seems like they’re double-teaming me. Some days feel acutely like a losing battle I never signed on for. Aren’t we supposed to be on the same side?

They came by their stubbornness honestly. Truth be told, their mama can be something of a honey badger herself. Parenting is nothing if not a mirror into our own flaws and inadequacies.

But slowly, we’re learning–the whole Team Paul. To control our emotions and manage our tempers. To listen with our ears and move our feet. Speaking kind words or holding our tongues, we’re helping with our hands (or keeping them to ourselves). We’re turning and walking another way into repentance, forgiveness, new mercies, and resurrection.

Learning to love with our whole selves, we honor God with all that we are. Honey badger ferocity included.

 

Fear of the Unknown

by Kristin

china pics 150

We had spent three intense days in Hong Kong, preparing and training for this moment. But, with four kids, under the age of nine, we were fearful of what would come out of their mouths.

I remember before we left Kona, a family YWAM (Youth with a Mission) team had just arrived back from their three month outreach. There was a family with four little kids, similar in age to ours. My fear was mounting at the thought of taking my babies into communist China and onto the Philippines. I approached the mom and said, “Can you give me any advice? Is there anything you’ve learned?”

She paused and thought for a moment, “I no longer have fear of the unknown.”

I clung to her words as we approached the check point taking us from free Hong Kong into the interior of China. Mentally I went over the list of things I shouldn’t say, “Don’t mention God. Don’t say we’re missionaries, remember, we are just visitors on an art tour.” In my spirit, I was praying without ceasing. “Lord, please don’t let them see our bibles. Please help the kids to be quiet, to not draw attention to our family or our group.” No matter what I did to try and suppress the fear, it continued to slowly creep up my spine and wrap itself around my mind just slightly pressing it’s fingers into the peace I so desperately looked for.

There were over 60 of us in the group. We were dispersed throughout the check point, quietly taking our individual families through so as not to draw attention to the fact we were all together. We were in the back of the line. We tended to always bring up the rear seeing as we had the youngest members on the team, in our tribe. Our daughter was only two. My husband carried her slight frame in a convertible backpack stroller. My four and six year old, always had my hand, while our oldest son knew to stay close.

“Keep them tight, close by,” I thought.

Our team all made it through and we could almost tangibly feel their relief while our growing concern mounted and perched heavily on our shoulders. My husband approached the desk, then when directed signaled us to join him.

I had seen the movies with the stone faced guards, dressed in tightly pressed, green uniforms that evoked all images and ideas I had of a foreign and scary land. But, to be up close with these guards, who stood with the rigidity of a steel framed sky-rise and the coldness of an impersonal mannequin, was something I was unprepared for. They firmly held their guns and never once averted their eyes from their required position.

The agent at the desk did not speak English. Under my breath I spoke with a constant heavenly tongue. We knew we had a red flag on our four year old’s visa. His name is unique, Zebadiah and the visa had misspelled his name so that it did not match his passport. I prayed the agent’s eyes would be blinded and my son would keep his cool.

china pics 051

This picture was taken after we arrived at our destination in China after 22+ hours of traveling. His face said it all.

We stood there without saying a word, for what seemed like an eternity. One by one, he went through the passports and visas pointing to each person, than eyeing them up and down with laser beam scrutiny. I glanced past his shoulder looking for any signs of our team, but no one was allowed to linger and had to move quickly into the closed country, beyond outsider’s eyesight.

As he moved onto Zeb’s passport, I noticed a sudden dance emerging from my four year old. Most parents know this dance; it involves shifting from one foot to the next…the pee pee dance. “Oh, Jesus! No, not now,” I prayed. But, sure enough, this little guy had to go. The agent began to get agitated. I had visions of being brought into a back room and questioned relentlessly all while trying to keep four young kids calm.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I see our Malaysian friend, coming around the corner of no-man’s land. He took a quick assessment of what was happening, and in fluent Mandarin, proceeded to ask the agent’s permission to bring my son through the line and escort him to the bathroom. Without a moment to think or protest, Zeb’s passport and visa were stamped and my young son was whisked away out of my sight.

Time stood still and an epic flood of emotions and thoughts filled my mind, drowning any piece of hope that had hovered just over the surface.

“My baby. Where is he? What if we are detained? Where will he be? When will we see him?” My mama instincts were working on overdrive and the what-ifs were slamming down on me hard.

As the final passports were stamped and I clung to the hands of my other sons, no-man’s land felt like a tunnel of dark twists and turns. I’m not even sure I was breathing. With every corner, I furiously looked for his little body and his mustard colored hoodie.

We were approached by countless vendors trying to sell us their wares. I didn’t hear them, didn’t want to pause to even take stock of this new foreign land, I wanted my baby back in my hand.

There, at the top of a flight of steps, I saw a few familiar faces from our team. I glanced frantically around until my eyes landed on my kid. He was in the middle of the huddle, gently protected from our new family. He was safe.

A couple of years later, when God moved us into the hood in Baltimore city and that same little guy came running up to me with a small pink bag full of white powder and said, “Mom, look I found candy!” I gently and calmly took it out of his hand and said, “That’s not candy buddy, that’s a drug. Don’t ever pick up something that looks like that. Come get mommy and she will pick it up.” I patted him on the head and said, “Thank you, now go back and play with your friends.”

There is a deep seeded truth that has planted a firm root within my life that now says, “My kids have a Father that loves them more than I, that sees with eyes I do not have, that knows the plans laid out for each of my kids.” I no longer need to fear that which I don’t know.

 

The Magic Years

by JessicaB

parenting

 

You are the worst.

You are wasting everything.

You’re going to regret these years.

 

These are the half-truths that follow me around, that sit on my shoulder and whisper failure and flagellation into my weary ears.

 

I should have held him longer. I shouldn’t have complained and shooed when all he wanted was affection. I shouldn’t have answered in annoyance. I always answer in annoyance.

What is a mother to do? It’s an inhuman task, this raising of little people, sacrificing our needs for theirs, finding enough hours in the day.

Cereal, peanut butter, pizza. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

I fail them at every turn. Emotionally. Spiritually. Nutritionally.

 

I miss them. They’re loud, and aggravating, and underfoot and yet I already miss them. Even as I push them away, I miss them.

 

I know what will happen, I feel it in my bones, it aches in the center of my chest. One day they will be grown and gone. And who knows what they will think of me then.

And even before they are gone they will leave me. Adolescence is around the corner. These years are precious and few and waning. And I don’t know how to conquer them.

Life is winning and I am losing. That is what the devils whisper.

My weaknesses, they weight me down, push on my shoulders until I’m forced to my knees in prayer and repentance. And in those moments of silence, of reflection, a fuller picture emerges:

I am not the worst.

But I do have work to do. And I will miss these years. These stressful, busy years of wrinkle defining and headache making.

These are impossible, magical, undoing, esteem-crushing, soul-refining years.

And I love them.

 

Orcas, Theology, Gynecology, and a Baptism

by Mihee Kim-Kort

DS Kids by Water 1

It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent.

My mind is spinning. Is Christmas really this week? As in, 4 days from now. As in, somehow a whole month has flown by. As in, this year is almost over.

Howhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhow is this possible…?

Ok. Breathe. I need to come to terms with this reality. And, it’s fine. It’s really fine. Seriously.

We paused for a moment that night, Andy and I. We watched Blackfish - story of killer whales and how they are exploited. Maybe an odd choice for this season. First movie in a while so we’re a little rusty at choosing movies. Kids were all down. I was folding laundry – willingly – because there was an unusual but welcome peace in the house.  The movie was really compelling and informative, but still…Good God. I mean, please, Jesus help us. I posted on Facebook:

Just finished watching Blackfish. I’m so incredibly depressed. I hate everyone and everything. #humanssuck #allgodscreatures

What felt really the most horrible was watching orca calves be stripped from their mothers. These are creatures that are highly social and have complex family systems – their “languages” are even different for each clan. When the main killer whale in the documentary, Tilikum, was taken from his mother in the Northwestern wild oceans the female orcas stayed nearby wailing their protestation and helplessness. Likewise when calves (remember Shamu?) were taken from their mothers in captivity (like for Seaworld) they recorded the sounds of the mother orca in the pool for 24 hours. The caretakers had never heard that particular sound before and brought in analysts who explained they were doing long range vocals that were truly unique. One of the trainers explained pretty pointedly: “It makes sense. They were grieving.” These orcas were trying to make their voices heard so that the calves would know how to get back to the mothers. But, even in their persistent song, I wonder if they despaired knowing it was futile.

A song of mourning.

…O come, O come, Emmanuel,

and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear…

I can’t get those orca sounds out of my head.

II

Today’s text in church was from Isaiah again but this time with the explicit words about a young woman bearing a child called Immanuel. God-With-Us. Even if it might be exegetically off to totally tie these words to Jesus (a hard lesson in OT101) one can’t help but think of Mary the virgin, and God’s radical proximity to us in that little bundle – the precious bun in the oven. Andy’s sermon was really lovely, and all about what I needed to hear in terms of paying attention – how children and babies demand our attention constantly, whether there’s a pressing need (food, water/milk, dirty diaper, sleep) or simply for cuddles and skin-to-skin contact. The attention God gives us is likewise relentless, and undeniably much like a mother that positions herself – literally orients herself – towards her newborn.

Of course, there’s mention of the virgin birth, and I can’t help but stumble over it again. But, Andy read this great Frederick Buechner quote:

The earliest of the four Gospels makes no reference to it, and neither does Paul, who wrote earlier still. On later evidence, however, many Christians have made it an article of faith that it was the Holy Spirit rather than Joseph who got Mary pregnant. If you believe God was somehow in Christ, it shouldn’t make much difference to you how he got there. If you don’t believe, it should make less difference still. In either case, life is complicated enough without confusing theology and gynecology.

In one sense anyway the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is demonstrably true. Whereas the villains of history can always be seen as the products of heredity and environment, the saints always seem to arrive under their own steam. Evil evolves. Holiness happens.

Man. Buechner both kills me (in terms of humor…for some reason I laughed out loud – it felt loud since I was the only one in the pews around me – after hearing the words “theology and gynecology”) and wrecks me (in terms of feeling something that’s buried so deep come rushing to the surface like a whale that breaches the ocean waves and with a splash disappears beneath leaving a little frothiness behind).

Holiness happens. Whether we like it or agree with it or are confused by it.

And I thought I’d want to write something about how much we’ve confused theology and gynecology in terms of limiting women, silencing women, oppressing women throughout the ages, and how this meant the emphasis on the virginity of Mary was more important than her courage or obedience, and how if we really think about it and parse it out it would mean the Holy Spirit – who is God – had sex with Mary – and she somehow gave birth to Jesus, who is also God and one with the Holy Spirit, so God gave birth to God…? It doesn’t make much sense to go there, and it really doesn’t help either way. Whatever.  The emphasis on something that is pretty moot in my book takes away from the point of it all – that God came into this world and joined us. And for what reason…? It blows my mind. Because seriously, the human race pretty much sucks, and documentaries like Blackfish remind me just how much.

III

And then, my son, Desmond. He strikes again! is what I’m thinking as I watch him trip slow motion backwards into the stand holding the blue pitcher of water for the baptismal font. I gasp and mouth the word Nooooooooooooooooo dramatically as it topples off into the lap of an unsuspecting girl. I flinch like I got hit with a water balloon even though it doesn’t come near me. Somehow this girl manages to keep it from hitting the chancel stairs too hard, so it doesn’t break - Thank. God. - but the water spills everywhere.

Lord Jesus, why??? Pastor Rachel says something to lighten the tension but I just want to crawl under the pews until the service is over and everyone has gone home. What am I doing wrong??? As I hold him squirming in my lap and then pass him off to his dad so that I can grab Ozzie who is power crawling towards that same font I watch Maddie, another little girl older than the twins but whose mother and I share knowing glances all throughout the service. We often commiserate after service about whose children were worse. Maddie goes up to the baptismal font and…sticks her whole hand in there. And drinks the water in her hand. While Pastor Rachel is still doing her children’s sermon. She’s unfazed by it. Maddie even licks her fingers. I’m thinking, “Oh God!” kind of gross – surely that ain’t no holy water – but kind of wondrous and I’m laughing to myself.

I forget sometimes that the baptismal font is not just symbolic of cleansing but also for quenching that eternal thirst. I loved seeing Maddie do it so blatantly and … joyously. 

Right on, Maddie! You drink from the font, girl. Drink it to the dregs. Drink it up, drink up the love of God, the promise of God’s seal upon our lives, the water that never ceases to flow, drink it all up. 

It all seems so bleak and futile – our small lives – and all the destruction and ugliness feels like it is constantly winning. But it’s not. People gather to protest and resist the darkness and to call for freedom, and huddle together around the small spring of water that gives life to the multitudes, and it is a baby once again that reminds me of God, baby Eli being baptized today, reminded me of God on high drawing near to us, and always in the most unexpected places, holiness happens.

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

 

The Reflecting God

by Micha

reflection

I’ve been learning about “reflecting.” It’s a counseling term. And my life seems to be filled with counseling terms lately. I sit in the therapist’s office every other week. And I take a lay-counseling course at my church every Sunday afternoon, while filling in the gaps with books and conversations. I’m learning.

The more I consider my own anxiety and how it affects every facet of my life, the more I understand my little boy’s anxiety as well. The more I learn to be kind to myself, the more I learn to be kind to my son, whose reactions to life so mirror my own that they infuriate me. Isn’t that how it goes? When he reacts to his fears by losing control, I react to him by losing control. When he screams, I want to scream. When he stomps and flails on the ground, I want to stomp and flail on the ground. When he’s ridiculous, I want to tell him so.

I heard that anxiety is the most “porous” of the emotions. Anxiety absorbs more anxiety. So if an anxious person is living daily life beside another anxious person, those two are receiving and giving fear and urgency to one another all day long, absorbing and reflecting, making the feelings bigger and bigger until both feel used up, incapable of taking or offering back anything else.

There is, of course, another way. A quieter way. A way of living life together–two anxious types–learning to give and receive love more than fear.

I’m practicing the most practical of parenting tools these days. I’m trying not to react to what my kid says, but to reflect. I’m saying his words, his exact words, over and over back to him.

“I’m sad,’ he says.

“You feel sad,” I say.

He screams.

“You’re screaming because you feel sad,” I say.

Over and over, I’m learning to turn the volume down between us, learning to let him know he is heard.

It’s working. If I can stop my frustrations. If I can calm my intense reactions to his intensity, I see him. I hear him. And I realize that all along, that’s all any of us want. Even in the moments when we fail, when we cower in our shame, we long for a God who comes to us and says, “You feel ashamed.”

Not a question, just an understanding. A God who sits beside us in our fury and says, “You look hurt. You feel like you can’t live this way.” We long for a God who knows us well enough to show us that we are known. A God who doesn’t say, “You are ashamed, but you have to change,” and instead a God who says, “You are ashamed. And you get to change. You get to have a new day, a new chance, a new heart.”

I want to reflect the reflecting God. I’m learning. I am.

 

Photo Credit: Swami Stream on Flickr

Page 5 of 43« First...«34567»102030...Last »