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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

together.

There were fifty six of them.  Blobby, fuzzy photos she'd snapped with my phone, at Chipotle, at Target, in the car, in our kitchen.  Fifty six images, barely there, that capture the fleeting interests of a three year old dynamo as she bobbles from ballet to lunch to errands and then back home.  And as her mama, needing some milk and broccoli after a lovely, thank-filled long weekend dragged her to these places before back home to bake cookies and pop popcorn and wait for the rest of the Smalls to jump off the bus.  These lovely glimpses into eyes of the smallest Small.  They have given me pause as I sit here, after wrestling her to sleep with the promise of a friend to play with when she wakes up.  How often I forget to stop and see things from her perspective, from their perspective.  How quick I am to just run around, checking things off lists, stockpiling food and other earthly goods under the guise of organization, and forgetting to look at the world through their lens and see that all doesn't need to be fast or busy or put together.  That sometimes slowing down is the surest way to take it all in.  Not fast.  Slow.  And sometimes that doesn't work either, like the first day of our long weekend.  Disastrous.  Me cooking, them whining, me playing a game, them declaring boredom.  Here.  On three acres surrounded by woods and creek and neighbors and cousins.  Boredom here where Kidville beckons creative souls to pull on boots and make a fort and gain citizenship (unless you're an adult-then you have to pay dues).  Where now big ducks waddle up whenever they hear play sounds and follow kids until they're thrown some corn and admired.  Here with a cupboard full of boardgames and bins of Legos and dolls.  Boredom here?  I think not.  Tried to take that day slow and just spent the better part of it wishing it would hurry up already and give birth to the next day.  Spent small parts of it on my knees praying I wouldn't kill them if they whined one more time, Smalls peeking in through the open door, knowing that when mama is on her knees pleading silently, only lips moving, things are serious and accusing each other of bringing this thing on.  But that bad day gave birth to a wonderfully slow one next, which gave birth to another slow and another and another.  Which by my count was four lovely days of bowling and eating yummy things and breakfasting out and going slow.  Four days of snuggling by the fire, watching the flames dance as a Christmas movie played while Smalls were cozied up in various nests dotting the room.  Four days of refusing to move too fast, to run too many errands.  Four days that have reset my speed dial onto a more civilized pace so that I can sit and enjoy this life I've been handed.  And there is a place for days that spawn a stack of receipts in my wallet and sixteen cans of black beans lined up neatly on my pantry shelves.  But that place isn't always, can't be always.  Because there are these people who need me to slow down and just be and one of them took fifty six photos of her fingers and then fell apart completely at dinner last night, fuming over her asparagus and pointing a found remote control at me while muttering, "I'ma turn vis movie off." And so we sat at table, laughing behind our fingers, while she served a time out on her bed and then we snuggled in to read from a lovely new book I'll tell you about soon.  There were extra chapters of Betsy-Tacy so that we could get to the part where Tib comes in and rechristens the duet a trio.  And long moments of laying beside the boys, listening to their breathing deepen as we dreamed big dreams of a football birthday party for Peter on Friday.  This is the good stuff.   The slow-down-and-take-a-deep-breath-and-suck-the-marrow-out-of-this-fleeting-time stuff.  The take-the-phone-away-and-ask-her-what-she-sees stuff.

This is me being real.  And wondering what you're doing to slow down?

Monday, November 19, 2012

together.

Some mornings it looks like ten of us clustered around the tv, watching her preach about discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit, tea steaming from monogram mugs in cold hands.  Some mornings it looks like six or seven of us, trying to put voice to what we felt that week, what we've heard and how we've responded, if we responded, kids taking GoGo for a walk through our midst and reminding us all how not to take ourselves or what we're doing here so seriously.  Some mornings it looks like four of us on the couch, the chair, perched on the arm to be close and catching up and catching our breaths.  And this morning it looked like five of us, sharing eggs and oats and yummy baked goods and berries and talking about what it looks like to fall apart for a little while and then watch Him swoop in and pat things back into a better place, sometimes in a new order better than before.  It looked like kids fighting over marbles as if they were currency while mamas break bread and talk about the eternal and the everyday, needing a bit of both to feel full, while I stand and look at this thing that gets to happen here every Monday and whisper thanks to Father for it.  Ladies, if you don't have a place to gather with other Daughters and pray and study and break bread and laugh and eat dark chocolate covered sea salt almonds from Trader Joes, then get one.  Because this, I've found, is some of the stuff that fills me full and leaves no guilt.  Spiritual sugar.  And, while I often wish, afterward, that I'd said something different or more or less, that I'd been less of myself and more of Him, I still always wave them down the road feeling heart-ful and thank-filled for the joy and privilege of being Sisters together.  And, while we've talked about studying some parenting books and have tried studying marriage books, we've settled, I think, in the place of committing to becoming better Daughters and knowing that that trickles down into marriages and children and transforms both.  But I realized just now, laying beside a previously wretched Lucy as she sleeps with emmy-emm dye on her face and dreams, I'm sure, of how she'll defy me this afternoon, that in all our time together this morning we forgot to pray, that I forgot to lead us in that.  So here it is;
Father, find us willing vessels to pour yourself into and find us cracked enough for your Shekinah Glory, once poured in, to leak out fluidly and to seep into our husbands and children and neighbors and school boards.  Saturate us so fully with your Holy Spirit that we wake up from spiritual slumber and find you on our fingers, in our hearts, on our minds and coating our feet.  Lead us to paths of righteousness and give us courage to walk them.  Let us proudly wear our brokenness like a new sweater so that those around us can see Jehovah Jirah heal and work and move through that.  Bless our children with mothers who put them above the World.  Bless our husbands with wives that put them above our children.  Bless you with Daughters who put Your Son above all.  Clothe us with compassion and empathy and wisdom to know how to respond to the many many needs around us.  Let us live with open doors and open hands, knowing that the only precious thing, the only precious thing, we have is to be held firmly in the hand of The One who was and is and who is to come.  Amen.
This is me being real.  Loving Mondays and the women who make it so and the God who holds it all together with His purpose.  Bless you this Monday, friends.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

reality.


I'm wearing my camo shirt and counting down the hours until 10 because it's Wednesday, people, and the Robertsons are on in T minus 6 and 1/2 hours.  If you haven't heard of the Robertsons, well then you need to tune into A&E to see what the fuss is all about.  These rednecks sauntered into my life months ago, holding my sons and husband spellbound with their moronic woodsy activities while I stood in the kitchen making lunches and asking if they couldn't please find something educational.  And then something shifted in me a bit ago and I sat and really watched and now I'm hooked like a catfish in Alabama.  Here's the premise: the Robertsons are a backwoods family from Lousiana who started the famous duck call company Duck Commander.  The are the worst sort of redneck: the kind that has money.  They are the best kind of family: the kind that puts Jesus at the center and family a close second.  I know this because I gave Dan their new book last week for his birthday then spent the next two days devouring it.  They never cuss, never parade half naked women on their arms, don't smoke, don't drink.  They spend their days making money and killing stuff.  They are the real deal y'all.
They have infected us to the point of distraction.  I've started calling Dan and Lucy "Son".  Happy happy happy is spoken several times a day around here.  My notes to Grant in his lunch box are written from Si to Willie.  They talk of cookin' him up a mess a squirrels for dinner.  That'll be some good.
I have passed on the reality tv gene to my kids, but have discovered that there are approximately nineteen thousand of them on tv and only two are worth my time: The Duggers and the Robertsons.  We watch them snorting and grinning stupidly at the box.  We've on demanded all the back episodes we can, have considered renaming Lucy Jace and quote Uncle Si at least four times before breakfast.
The TV powers that be have discovered a gold mine.  There are about four states worth of uneducated, desperate people down south willing to do a whole lot of stupid for $2500 an episode.  This is part of the moral decay of our country.  The only thing I can imagine worse than Honey Booboo's family is Honey Booboo's family with money.  This is scaring the pants off me.  Which is why we rarely watch tv.  Which is why TLC is on my hit list (except for you Jim Bob and Michelle-we're big fans).  Which is why any show that features men in camouflage usually sets my teeth on edge.  But then the Robertson's stroll into my family room and break all the rules.  TV I have no problem with.  TV I can let my boys watch with a clean conscience, knowing they will lap it up like a dog and it's all just clean good fun.
So, if you want to spend a half hour laughing yourself silly, tune into Duck Dynasty tonight on A&E.  You'll thank me.  If nothing else, you'll have acquired some new lines...
First it's pretty tires, then it's pretty guns...next thing you know, you're shavin' your beard and wearin' capri pants. - Si
"When you don't know what you're doing it's best to do it quickly" - Jase #DuckDynasty
The more make up a woman wears the more she's tryin to hide. Make up can hide a lot of evil. - Phil

This is me being real.  Thinking I might even be inspired to take up duck hunting.  Maybe not Jack.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

windy.

This blog post brought to you by daylight savings time, thanks to which I was able to shower, shave, make a breakfast with at least three food groups, clean my bathroom and still make it to the nine o'clock service this morning.  On time.
We took Chicago by storm last weekend.  Me, driving down early Thursday morning to meet my love, kids safely wrapped up in Nana and Papa's arms.  Dan texting me every few miles to see if I was there yet.  Me texting back this picture looking cross-eyed without my glasses and offering proof that I had arrived and was happily perusing the shelves of Container Store, where I always find four hundred and seven things I didn't know I couldn't live without until that very second.  Things like bandaid holders and chip clips.  Things without which, my home would surely fall apart.  There are no pictures of the next 24 hours as they were spent hoofing it from one place to the next, trying to cram it all in before nanny's white chariot delivered the Smalls on Friday afternoon.
And deliver them it did, amidst fast food packages and their goodies bags with a crisp bill to spend and new goggles for the pool.  And we immediately set off for the glass overlook at the John Hancock building.  Only the glass overlook is in the Willis Tower.  But we didn't find that out until we'd paid eighty bucks, so we made the best of looking out of plain glass windows in a really tall building, our ears still popping from the ride up.  And it kicked off a sweet weekend together. 
 There were several trips to American Girl and to the Lego Store and to NikeTown.  There was a dinner at Ed Debevic's, where the waiters dance on the tables and say things like, "Here's your toilet water.  Enjoy." and "Hey, didja find the booger I put in your burger yet?" and "Anything you order is gonna give you diarrhea, so hurry it up, wouldja?".  If you go to Chicago, you gotta eat at Ed's.
There was The TinMan (available for weddings and Bar Mitzvahs) who, for a couple bucks in his hat, will spring to life.  And then he'll point to the feverish pink Small in your stroller and motion for her to come strike a pose, which she'll do because even with a fever and scratchy throat, she's always game for stuff like that.
 There was a rickshaw ride for me and Grant when we ventured out late one night for one last spin around the city.  The cost to go four blocks in a bike-powered rickshaw? Thirteen dollars.  Seven quiet minutes alone with your son in a big city? Priceless.
 There was a wind tunnel machine I sprang for at Lincoln Park Zoo.  You put two bucks in and it blows your coat nearly off.  I tried to explain to them that hundreds of thousands of people on the east coast were getting it for free and could tell them that being in a windstorm isn't all it's cracked up to be.
 But like most lessons and kids, they had to figure that out on their own.  Lucy is laughing, but Tess is teetering precariously between sort of afraid and totally petrified.
And at the end of the weekend, there was us, leaving daddy behind for more business and heading home, five very tired Vos' and a new movie to keep the action going through three states.  There was the first Mac Donald's stop in months, which made everyone's tummies sick, but netted us two pair of redneck teeth from the truck stop lobby vending machine, which was totally worth the sick tummies.  And there was me, driving the Smalls and having lots of time to think while the movie played.  Chicago messed with me.  It was great and it was awful.  There is deep ache in walking down Michigan Avenue, your arms laden with bags and passing homeless people on either side.  Mothers huddled in the cold with their children.  Old men mumbling and shaking a styrofoam cup at passersby.  How to justify all the bags when they only serve to widen the gap between me and them?  Even if they were things I bought for Christmas presents.  Even if it was with money I'd earned myself and saved up for months.  Even if.  And how to teach our children not to just walk past, but to stop and engage and meet needs.
The next time we go to Chicago (and we hope there will be a next time), we will come better prepared. We will remember the faces and we will talk about Jesus and what a walk down the Magnificent Mile with him would look like.  There will be extra warmish things packed into our suitcases.  Things like hats and mittens and thick socks and blankets and jars of peanut butter.  And, hopefully, there will be the perspective that must-see lists have to give way to must-serve lists.  Have to.  That in the kingdom scheme of things, visits to American Girl stores are not precious, but filling empty seats in heaven is.  Doing the eternal work of blessing a brother or sister with a pair of soft mittens and, in doing so, letting them know that they aren't invisible, that we see them, that is the stuff of the good life.  And I don't want to suck all the fun out of a special weekend (it is so good to get away sometimes), but there can be a better balance than the one we just struck with our family in Chicago.  And next time we'll be better prepared for it.  So, this is me asking Chicago to put up your dukes.  Because the next time the Vos family invades your city, we will be armed better with compassion and time and stuff.  And we'll still take the girls to see the dolls and the boys to ooh and ahh over the life sized Lego creations, but we'll do kingdom work too.  And if that means that we buy less, then so be it.  Either way, we'll be bringing home some wicked cool souvenirs.
This is me being real.  And wondering if you ever get to the big city with you family.  And if so, how do you do it?  This is me signing off because even though the clock reads 10:38, my body is telling me it's 11:38, which is way past my time.  Goodnight friends.