Life lately

The damage from our epic and unexpected storm in February is still seen around homes and in the forests here. On my walks in the woods, the brush is rubbled-up like leftovers from a huge party, blocking the creek in places and changing the landscape. Fir trees, strong and established, came completely unmoored by the surprise weight of the snow that fell. The trees grow roots to hold on to the earth and so many of them completely let go, gave up, and their bodies all lay neatly pointing downhill. 
There wasn’t a lot people could do about the mess until the season had passed, but now the sun is out and it’s time. 

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There is really no good way to describe a season while you are in it. You don’t understand the full extent of it till it has passed.  So we describe what we were and what we did and how we thought. We tell it as though it was either the worst of times or the best, because nostalgia creeps in and makes us victims—either the past was great and now, here we are; or the past was terrible and there I was. Distorted. Hyperbolized. Inflated.

Knowing all that, let me try to describe our present season in one sentence: On Thursday we took the trash to the dump and we didn’t have another bag-full of garbage until Sunday. 

Or this sentence: Friday there were only three of us so we had dinner out. 

You’ll need to get used to this mom, my daughter said when I noted the trash situation, and that’s another sentence that could describe our season—my daughter, explaining things to me gently, letting me down slowly.  She has two months in Mongolia this summer, a full-time job, and plans to move out soon. Is eighteen years really enough time to prepare?

I had already changed our chore chart from a daily trash affair to every other day, and then I removed the chore from the chart altogether because it was so random and chore charts need regularity. Someone just takes the trash out when it’s full and no one gets to check it off a list anymore.

We still run a load in the dishwasher daily, but I wonder when that changes. When do we switch from six gallons of milk a week to four, to two, to a tiny, cute half-gallon? When does the milk spoil? I can’t remember the last time the milk spoiled in my fridge and I think it's maybe never happened; maybe milk spoilage is a myth to perpetuate repopulation: have more kids or your milk will spoil.

Time is the same. God is the same. We think it’s logical that our bank account should begin to increase now as children work and learn and leave, but even that is essentially the same. 

The sameness of God is what counteracts our (mock) despair in a season like this. He is same and steady and sure, the way a tree rooted to the earth and reaching to the sky should be. But He’s not boring in His sameness. He’s not fully discoverable, still, after so many seasons.

God is the center of a concentric circle we rotate around, rowing our boats, forgetting our bread, still not getting it. He increases the surface tension and we don’t even realize we could walk right to Him and touch Him and see Him steady, unchanging in Himself but new to us in every season. We think we’ve discovered something new when we unwrap a mystery, but He has only just pulled back the cover on what has always been. The only new thing is our understanding.

I need to think about these things when all my things are changing things, because I am a woman whose definitions and titles are changing. But I am who I always am.

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When the disciples forgot their bread, somewhere on the shore behind them were twelve baskets full of fragments leftover from a miracle—twelve baskets from a feast prepared for the hungry who would be hungry again. On the one hand, no one thought to bring bread for the trip and I think they were men focused on a task. On the other hand, wasn’t Jesus exasperated that they still didn’t get it? “Don't you understand yet?” He asked them. They didn’t and I don’t and we attempt to cover our lack of understanding by trying harder, but it never works that way. We laugh at a joke we don’t get and wonder how our bellies will be filled in this next season.

I don’t understand yet how God meets all our needs but sometimes we still feel a lack; how the spiritual dangers we can’t see outweigh the physical ones we can; how preparing for a season is even possible when we don’t know the start date, the itinerary, the return flight schedule. I don’t know how to prepare for something I’ve never been or done or seen.

All I can do is what I keep doing: gathering the fragments for the trip between feasts. There are miraculous provisions in my past, baskets full to carry me through the present.

The fragments for this season must be the memories: a toddler and an infant on the carpet, one reaching for a toy, the other starting to take it away but holding back, looking at me, knowing to be gentle; scrunching up a baby sock, rolling it over tiny toes; a baby in a room full of un-held babies, one of those orange plastic jewels stuck to his finger, eyes large and black and drowning; all of us on the floor Christmas morning.

I have a sketchy memory full of very specific snapshots I’ve intentionally frozen—remember this. I am mad about so much I don’t remember but the fragments are enough to fill the boat, and if I forget, ultimately, it’s ok. It’s never about the lack, the forgotten things. It’s always about the present provision.

The trees grow roots to hold on to the earth but so many of them let go this winter. I am changing, but I am not like those trees.  

When You Take a Stand

Everyone tells you to be a "yes" mom. Say yes more and no less. Let them make messes and try new things, let your children have some fun and don't be such a worrier.

It all sounds great until they're teenagers, and then the things they ask you take on more weight and require more discernment and your hair just. turns. grey. and your brain might explode from all the decision making.

Maybe that's just me. 

I've never been big on making decisions and that part of motherhood has always been exhausting.

When they are little the questions seem easier, lighter, and less this-could-affect-you-for-the-rest-of-your-life like. But when voices change and baby faces become chiseled and acne-prone, it seems that all the easy questions are gone.

They truly are too big to swaddle in safety and comfort, and there is a pushing and pulling that always happens before a birth.

It is like giving birth again. But this time your labor is to bring an adult into the world, and obviously that hurts.

Raising kids tests your resolve.

And your endurance.

And everything you're sure about.

This post isn't just about young adults, though. Life in general will test you.

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The world pushes on your barriers and it feels like everything is squeezing your resolve, and just when you determine to hold your ground on something, anything, opposition comes.

It comes because you've put your foot down, and it threatens to be shifting sand beneath you.

When you take a stand the world will offer you a seat. 

It will come up with all kinds of alternatives to your hard line, all kinds of reasons why the line should be broader or gentler or easier.

Determine to be unswayed by emotions and feelings when they are mutinous, anarchist, or just too pleading to allow you to think clearly.

Whether it's the doughnuts on the counter the day after you determine to quit sugar, or the great opportunity that comes when you've committed to pruning your schedule, or the bed that grows suction cups and holds you hostage through 10 snooze alarms; taking a stand comes with opposition.

Take courage.

Choose your battles.

 

Linking up with The WellspringImperfect Prose, and  #TellHisStory

 

How I Feel About Hypocrisy

dark sky, light sky On Tuesday I loved spring but then on Wednesday it actually came, and we almost broke up.

My morning run was pushed back in hopes of a break in the rain or even a tiny turning-down of the faucet.  By 8:45 I realized it was not happening, that this rain was the Oregon kind and I just needed to put on my flippers and new "water repellent" jacket and go.

I plugged my nose and jumped off the front porch, just for dramatic effect.

On Wednesday all the things I'd said Tuesday came back with teeth, as if to bite:

Do you really love this time of year?

You talk a lot of flowery nonsense but how do you feel about all this now?

And how's that fancy new jacket working for you?

This is my normal modus operandi, to always question myself and accuse and check for hypocrisy, the ugliest of all character traits.

On Tuesday I waxed poetic about all I love about spring and how even the rain is a blessing. Tuesday it was beautiful and sunny and everything was right with the world and Wednesday, it was Oregon.

Big Time.

And I am realizing that not everything that looks and sounds like hypocrisy really is.

Sometimes, don't we just say the things we want to be true, the things that we know are good and right but hard to work into real life?

Is it hypocrisy to say whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger?

Because in the middle of those things that feel like they're killing me, what do I say?

In the middle of the torrential rain (which didn't kill me, by the way) am I thankful for spring?

And who really cares about rain but in the middle of the argument when I quote scripture and encourage love and talk all motherly and authoritative...am I being a hypocrite?

Are all those platitudes bearing plastic fruit in my life?

When I lecture and pontificate about godly communication and then run to my bedroom for solitude, am I taking the chicken's way out?

I think fruit comes through digging and toil and sun and rain, and the constant checking of myself can be just that. Cultivating.

It can also be condemnation, and to that I say enough. Enough introspection, enough preoccupation with self, enough heavy-burdened law keeping.

I conclude that saying what I know is true and then doing what I know is wrong is not always hypocrisy. 

And that's kind of scary to say but those are the only words I have for it right now.

Sometimes I just do what I know I shouldn't. I still know what is right to do, and I still can tell you and mostly my children what the right thing to do is, but I just don't always do the right thing.

That's not very profound.

It's called struggle. Paul had it. I have it. You probably have it, too.

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. 

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. {Rom 7:24 -8:1 NKJV} 

So yes, I still love spring. My fancy new jacket is not-so-water-repellent but rather more sponge-like and that's ok, because it's blue and it was on sale and I like it. And I like the irony of a jacket labeled "water-repellent" when it really isn't, right after I said that I'm good with rain when I'm really not.

And yes, I will probably tell my kids to do things or not do things that I myself have not yet mastered, and I might spout some great advice here that is hard for me to take sometimes. That makes me human, not hypocritical. 

It also lends itself to grace, and that's something I try to excel at.

 

Linking up with Imperfect Prose and #TellHisStory