Friday, October 30, 2015

I Hate Skittles


I hate Skittles. 

I do not want to, as the slogan goes, "Taste the rainbow."

If a Skittle accidentally fell into my mouth, I would spit it out.  This is how I feel about most candy.  Except for sour patch kids.

Levi and Isaiah, however, like every other four-year-old alive, LOVE Skittles. 

And M&Ms.  

And Blow Pops. 

And all the other Crack-in-a-wrapper kids get at Halloween. 

After a night of Trick-or-treat, Isaiah started the candy-consumption-negotiations first thing this morning.  I don’t think he was even all the way downstairs before he started in.  In fact, he fell halfway down the stairs because he was lugging his bag of candy along, slung over his shoulder like a little Santa’s sack filled with sugar. 

He very quickly negotiated the potential consumption of one piece of candy after lunch.  I know this because he reminded me of it before breakfast, after breakfast, before preschool, after preschool, before lunch, etc.  

The candy of choice?  A full size bag of Skittles. 

The twins waited all morning for that candy which, for a four-year-old, is basically a lifetime. 

Isaiah’s bag was quickly opened, half-eaten, and spilled and picked-up twice in the five or so minutes we waited after lunch before heading to their older brother’s Halloween parade.  Foreseeing the potential for a disastrous candy spill at the parade, I went to get a zip-lock bag for both boys.  I planned to open Levi’s bag and pour both into separate preschooler-compatible packaging. 

I forgot, however, that a four-year-old tears into a candy-wrapper like a squirrel attacking a plastic feeder full of sunflower seeds.  Place a thin layer of plastic between a toddler and a handful of chocolate M&Ms and stand back – all sorts of destruction is about to ensue.

One second we were ready, almost out the door for the parade, then Levi’s bag of Skittles exploded shooting a rainbow of sugar all over the kitchen floor.  He ripped open the whole side of his bag in one deft, semi-miraculous movement and Skittles rained down, scattering (or would that be “skittling”?) under the island, across the rug, behind the heavy iron radiator. 

This, of course, was a crisis for him – children hunt spilled candy like the shepherd hunting his lost sheep in Luke’s gospel, or the women hunting her lost coin.  Kids hunt lost candy with the kind of determination and passion that God’s hunts lost souls.

Crisis.

This was less than twenty-four hours after confection-ageddon (aka Trick or Treat) and I had already had it up to HERE with sweets. 

Remember the candy-consumption-negotiations that started in the pre-dawn hours of the day? 

And the incessant reminders? 

I wanted to explode like that bag of Skittles. 

One preschooler was crying while the other tried to find and consume as many of his brother’s lost treats as he could and all I wanted to do was hunt down the person who thought it was a good idea to give little people bags of candy bigger than their faces. 

I did not scream, though, like I wanted to, did not stomp on the candy in rage.  I dug deep within, past the part that had it up to HERE and somehow saw for one brief second the rainbow right there in front of me.  I saw how rainbows lead to hidden treasure and rather than breaking the moment further, I reached for the pot of gold.  

I knelt down beside the crying boy and the thieving boy and was thankful the dog at least was outside.

With due diligence, most of the loss was recovered.  

We put the rainbow in a new bag and I zipped it tight. 

Then we ran out the door together, two boys clutching baggies of brightness and one Mama carrying a rainbow in her heart.

//

By the way, we did miss one red Skittle.  This I know, because the dog found it . . . and spat it out. 

Even the dog knows better.          



Monday, October 26, 2015

When the Wood is Wet (#SmallWonder Link-up)


Shift each log.  
Make room for air to move through.

Turn your head away and inhale, deep, through nostrils.
Then turn again toward the dark stove and exhale.
Aim low, for the coals, but not low enough to stir the ashes.
Blow out long and hard until all air is gone.

Repeat.  Again and again.  Listen for the roar,
watch for flames to leap.  

Make each breath a prayer
for all the wet wood in your 
weighted down life.  Breathe out
for you, your spouse, your children.  
Beg the flames to rise 
as you tend them.  

Shifting each log.  
Making room for air to move through.  


*   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  

You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

When Your Huggy-Boy Won't Hug (i.e. Everything is Coming Undone)

(THIS is the lovely view across the street from our house.  Amazing.)

When the day starts with your huggy-boy not willing to give you a hug. 

Then progresses to yelling and hitting. 

When you let them watch way more T.V. than they should and it only whets their appetite for more.  And even the fun of pulling sunflower stalks thick as trees from the garden isn’t enough to help you all find a flow. 

Time is wrinkled.  And you are caught in its folds. 

On those days there is no low hanging fruit.  The easy way cannot be found.

//

The caterpillar, trapped within its cocoon, let’s go completely.  Dissolving all but its essence – a bit of memory and the cells that tell what it will become.  Antennae, wings, legs.  

Sometimes I think this is what we must do on these ill-fitting days that confine. 

Let go, completely, of all but the essential. 

Curl on the loveseat by the woodstove and nap. 

Sit under the weight of a blanket, bookended on either side by the boys who were fighting, the ones who want more T.V., and read book after book.

Then maybe something new, but familiar as your own memory of how the day could have been, will emerge.  Something composed from your own longing for something more. 

//

Unable to fit together as you are, the boys will spend an hour playing in the bathroom closet, their “office.”  And you will doze in and out of sleep in the one room where you can hear them the least. 

You will make a cup of coffee, adding cream and chocolate syrup.  Then it will be time at last to wait for the bus on the front porch.  The boys, happy now, will attack you from their picnic table pirate ships.  They will “fick” you into believing they’re innocent farmers before whacking you with a sword. 

In the afternoon sun, you will realize it’s warmer than you thought and the day, unveiled, will emerge as something new.    


Monday, October 19, 2015

Back When I Was A Crumudgeon (#SmallWonder Link-Up)

The seminary's married housing sprawled in a series of low brick buildings some five miles from campus.  There the newly married, newly empty-nested and a few brave families with young children resided in dilapidated cinder-block two-story apartments. 

My husband and I cohabitated quietly in our first floor apartment with a school of saltwater fish, a frog and a cat.  Although our closest neighbor had two children and a couple upstairs added a baby before graduation, the sight and sound of children in the building was relatively rare.

This wasn’t the case however in the open courtyard and parking lots behind the buildings where children roved about in loud, unruly gangs.  A playground stood somewhere back there, one we never visited and kids seemed, to my uninitiated young ears, to be screaming there all. day. long. 

As a student, I frequently stayed up all hours of the night reading hundreds of pages of theology or writing and studying for exams.  In the afternoon I rode the campus bus home and slipped into our quiet bedroom with its big window and filmy yellow curtains.  

There I lay down for a nap.  The cat tucked in quietly beside me.

Beneath that window, though, was a small alcove in the building’s design.  Children gathered there in the otherwise quiet afternoons like mice in a sewer drain.  Squeaking, shouting, squealing.  I had yet to learn the ability to sleep anytime anywhere.  I didn’t yet know how to make myself sleep on command, how to tune out noise and distraction with the flick of an internal switch.

It made me furious.  The noise.  The indignity.  The gall of all those children, gathering beneath my window, running through my front yard, taking up space, making noise while I devoted my life to the steady, demanding work of thinking. 

//

A great sweeping oak tree grew in the front yard of our building.  Its branches hung down low.  One evening, studying after dinner with my books and papers sprawled on the table around me, I looked out our sliding glass door and saw a boy.  He was about seven or eight, the age of my oldest boy now.  Framed by the glass door, I watched him hang and swing, tugging on the old tree’s branches.  Another boy stood watching the first.

Whatever he was doing, it looked destructive.  In a fit of righteous rage I slid the glass door open and let loose a forceful, 

“Hey!”

The boy froze and looked at me, the branch still in hand. 

“What are you doing?” I demanded.

Still frozen, the boy replied, “I don’t know.”

“Are you trying to break that branch?” I asked, each word an accusation.

“Uh, I guess.” The boy stared at me with eyes like saucers.  His friend stared too at this seminarian standing back lit by her own apartment as evening fell. 

I was Wild and Fierce, Protector of Trees, Interrogator of Little Boys. 

“Then, cut it out!” I shouted, slamming the door shut.

The boys took off running. 

My husband and I exchanged a look.  Yes, he saw and heard it all.  

I’m sure I attempted to justify my outburst.  But later, we laughed.

We laughed at the boy’s look, at his sudden surprise.  Laughed at the way I must have looked, the way I did look and sound.  We repeated the scene over and over again between ourselves, the script of one of the funniest episodes we’d witnessed in a long time. 

Kids will do that to you.  I know that now.  

They get under your skin, pull and yank at your lower branches, until something in you breaks.  They tug you into the rough and tumble world of parking lot clubs that meet beneath open windows and oak tree branches strong enough to swing on.  Then, resting in bed on a sunny afternoon while your four-year-old twins rumble and tumble downstairs, as you try to distinguish between their cries and squeals of delight and the ones coming from the daycare next door, then you will remember the boys and the tree and the things you said.  

And you will smile and laugh all over again.    

*   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  

You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  



  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Napping House (I Don't Have A War Room)


For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.  Isaiah 30:15

I sat in the little house with the oil lamp lit, computer in place.  Every coherent thought was echoed by an equally incoherent refrain of fatigue.

I’m so tired. I’m so tired.  I’m so tired. 

The words took on a rhythm, like breathing, while I struggled to work my way through Sunday’s sermon. 

Meanwhile, the dog, who technically isn’t allowed in my office, snoozed lightly on another chair.  The black cat lay in the sunshine just outside the office door, flirting with sleep, as cats do.

I have three hours of childcare this week.  Three hours to throw together a sermon, build a power point, harvest the word.  And I was only an hour in with nothing near an outline. 

But, come ten o’clock, instead of putting on a third pot of coffee, I pulled the cushion off of yet another chair and threw it on the floor.  A pillow followed, then a blanket and, with gentleness, my own body curled like a dog in its bed. 

The dog, whose eye’s slitted open at my commotion, hopped down, tail wagging.  Curious, she ambled over, sniffing at my back, as if to ask, “You ok?” Satisfied with what her nose replied, she hopped back into her chair with ease. 

I fell asleep in under five and woke a half hour later. 

//

An elderly friend of mine has operated a retreat house for the past twenty years.  People often speak in hushed tones about the holiness of that space, commenting in awe about its prayer-soaked walls.  And that’s what I envisioned for this little house of mine.  

But more than writing, praying or listening, this room has been filled with rest. 

I keep a pillow in the cupboard, not a prayer book.  Soft fleece blankets hang over the backs of my chairs, enough cushion and comfort to make a bed for one. 

If I can be honest, perhaps I thought this house would be a place where I would build my own kingdom out of words and prayers and God would bless it because of my effort. 

But the opposite is true. 

In my little house, I cast my efforts aside.  

I lay down on a mat on the floor, like a child at nap time.  

Here I'm vulnerable and weak, owning my need.  

I rest in the grace of God who doesn’t need my good deeds.  God who says, "Come you who are weary."  Here I enter into the kingdom of God, where the last is first and a little child leads the way.

//

With the hazy fog of sleep slowly dissipating around me, I sat again in my curved black chair.  The passage was there still, waiting.  But the chant of my fatigue, the undertow of exhaustion, had lifted.  The sermon came, slowly like a gift, like treasure at the end of a hunt. 

The dog watched, unfazed by my strange human ways.  When I left the little house to head inside again, the cat followed, meowing, as if to say, “Well, I thought you needed a nap!”

      

Sunday, October 11, 2015

He Danced (#SmallWonder Link-Up)

 

A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets . . . The beauty of humanity is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day. - Jean Vanier in Community and Growth

Twilight fell and the campfire flickered. 

A small, clear voice rose, “The floooo-wer grooooows, and the house, and the stooooop signs, and the caaaars.” He was just getting warmed up.

Later, his body twisted and turned, arms in the air, waving, then down at his sides.  His hips wiggled, feet stomped.  He spun, swooped, shook, with a far off look in his eye, his body responding intuitively, impulsively to the sounds of the singer, the acoustic guitar. 

Four year old Isaiah stole the show last night.

His twin brother, Levi, drifted off to sleep, tucked into the nest formed by my arms and legs, a fleece blanket pulled up tight around his cheeks.  Sleep hits him like a freight train come seven thirty.  Seated on the ground by the fire’s warmth, I swayed like a cradle and watched his eyelids drift.  Lifting his face, he said, “I’m going to sleep now for a little while.  Wake me up when they clap because that means it’s the end.”

Isaiah danced so long and so hard he finally flopped right down on the ground, huffing and puffing.  Then he was up again, moving and shaking and running over to his Daddy and I every minute or two, a desperate look on his tired little boy face.

“Is it almost done?” he asked.

Afterwards, he was proud.  

“Someone told me ‘Thankyou,’” he said, “and someone else patted me on the back.”

It was a big and important thing he did, that dancing.  He danced with serious abandon, every move an extension of his soul. 

Over fifty people came to hear John Francis perform in the lap of our great, wide yard, underneath the dark night and stars. 

Kids tore in every direction on wheels of every shape and size. 

Our dog, Coco, chased kids and chickens like it was her job. 

Donations were collected and we raised $400 to help provide hot, home-cooked, Thanksgiving meals for local families in need. 

We huddled close around the fire in the surprisingly cool night air.  We shivered and laughed, shrugged under blankets.  We sang along and clapped our hands and I felt the goodness of a frequent smile on my face. 

But the best part of it all, by far? 


My son – he danced.  

*   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  

You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.       

Sunday, October 4, 2015

This is My Confession (#SmallWonder Link-Up)


A small group of women sat in a circle.  The question was greeted with silence and I didn’t dare tell the truth.  What would they think?  It’s just not the kind of thing you admit in public.  And besides that, I felt guilty. 

But maybe it’s time now I owned up.

I’m not busy, not in the way most people are.

And, I’m not terribly productive.

I’m happy.

My life is incredibly fun.

I play all of the time.

 //

After listing seven attributes of play, Laura Boggess, author of Playdates With God, asked the women in our small retreat circle to name ways they already play. 

I thought of my kids – the way they invite me to join them on our hammock-turned-pirate-ship, the games of fishy-fishy-cross-my-ocean that form in the yard.  But it’s not just the kids’ fault.  When they’re gone – at school and preschool – I cut flowers from the garden, I paint and color, I design and make Tiny Books of poetry. 

And I write. 

In the silence that followed Laura’s question, I offered, “Writing's a form of play for me, I think. . . . cooking too.”

Women nodded, smiled.  I didn’t dare add about the coloring, painting, yo-yo fun and Ukulele experiments. 

//

It’s a miracle really that I’m having so much fun. 

My personality type's represented by a worker bee and yet, here I am flitting and fluttering about like some kind of butterfly.

Last summer God told me, “I'm going to restore your joy.”

This past weekend, a year and a half after God’s revelation, one of the retreat attendees noted on her evaluation form, “The leaders had a joyful countenance.”

Some secrets can’t be hidden.  The shine, like a light, like a smile on our faces.  If you’re happy and you know it, you won't be able to hide it for long.

That’s why I’m here confessing.

Miracles CAN happen.  Even worker bees can learn to dance.

(And, for your Monday morning happiness boost, click on the video below.  Dancing around is encouraged.)



*   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  

You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.       


Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Player


The Player

My husband wanted 
a record player.
Why? I asked.

We don’t have ROOM for a record player. 
We don’t NEED a record player. 
We don’t even OWN any records.

Still, every time I browsed local thrift stores 
he asked, Did you see any record players for me?
An icy no was my standard reply.

Where would we PUT a record player? I asked.
Why don’t you ask for one for Christmas? I offered.
 
One night we wandered the Salvation Army 
before heading out to dinner.  I turned my back 
not one minute and, of course, you know what he found.

A record player.
A brown record player.
In a portable plastic case.

He crossed the store grinning, 
that contraption hanging at his side 
like a briefcase. 

It’s only $10, he said.
It’s not even attractive, I whined.

Are you kidding?  
It’s portable.  
It’s awesome, he said.


Then, of course, we had to buy 
some records.