Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet, Give Me Something Good to Eat"

Halloween. What do we do with it? Many of my Christian friends have differing opinions, which are equally sound. Our family has waffled this way and that over the years, but has pretty much ended up with this. The kids dress up, we visit our beloved neighbors and beg candy, the kids get intensive practice in "please" and "thank you", and we eat way too many sweets for the next month or two. What's not to love?

When we are out trick-or-treating, I leave a pumpkin full of candy for trick-or-treaters to grab from if they come to our door.  When we are home, I love greeting the little munchkins and dropping sweets into their bags. And I give candy to teens too. I figure if they take the trouble to come to my door and greet me (even greedily), I'll reward them with some yummies as well.

One year a neighbor boy came dressed in drag, along with his "interestingly" dressed friends. I did not react as he probably hoped, but made some nice comment about his hair color, introduced myself to his friends, and handed out more candy. He continued to visit our family over the years even though he was very troubled (to say the least), but somehow thought we were safe. Was it awkward? Ummm . . . yeah! But when God brings him to our door, we pray like crazy and try to be the best ambassador for our King that we can.

The way I figure it, my neighborhood is my ministry. I don't do much, but I can invest in relationships when I have the chance. We have older neighbors who truly look forward to seeing our kids on Halloween. They buy special treats just for my kids and enjoy seeing their newest costumes. We've met neighbors for the first time buy trick-or-treating their house. Other neighbors sit out in their lawns and we visit as we walk by. It is a great opportunity to connect.

This year we live in a different house in our same neighborhood. At a community meeting last week, a new neighborhood couple specifically asked Kevin if our kids would please come trick-or-treating to their house on Halloween. They said they'd never had any kids come by before. You bet we'll be there! I can't wait to meet them. We love our new home and next-door neighbors.

We have a few basic rules. Hold Mom and Dad's hands when we cross the street. Wait for everyone when we reach a doorway. If a kid forgets to say "thank you", Mom gets to keep the candy. We avoid the really creepy houses, stay with our kids at all times, and do not glory in evil or darkness. Instead, we focus on people and family and fun and candy. Don't forget about the candy! Because when it all comes down to it, we probably wouldn't be doing this without the candy. Shallow, I know. But true.

Whatever your family decides to do today, I hope you have a fun and relaxing day. This day is ours as much as any other. Have a wonderful day and night!
New International Version (©1984)
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.New Living Translation (©2007)
This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
English Standard Version (©2001)
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
New American Standard Bible (©1995)
This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
This is the day the LORD has made. Let's rejoice and be glad today!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Saddest Thing a Friend Ever Told Me

19 Years on October 19th!
Not Perfect, Not Even Great, But Real
and Redeemed and Still Growing.
We were living in a town home attached to two other young families. I had three little munchkins, and each of my neighbors had daughters about the same age as my oldest. We were delightfully in each others lives: watching the kids ride bikes out front, watching the kids play in the back, going to parenting classes together, cooking together, cutting kids' hair, going to the park, babysitting for each other, eating and drinking and laughing and just being young moms and wives.

One winter, my next door neighbor was noticeably withdrawn. I hardly saw her, she never spoke to me, and I had no idea what was going on. I mean, we shared a common wall in our homes for crying out loud. How could she be so far away? Finally a mutual friend shared that my neighbor was experiencing horrible marriage trouble, which basically ripped her marriage and family apart. She also told me that my neighbor did not want me to know, because she thought my marriage and family were so perfect. That is the saddest thing a friend ever told me. 

If only she knew the heartache I had endured in my own marriage. Maybe the common wall of our town home was so thick that she never heard my angry shouts or tears of fear and pain. Had I truly managed to pull off a "perfect pose" in the midst of some of the hardest years of my life? Was I the kind of friend who couldn't be told horrible, shameful news? I was devastated, both with her situation and with our friendship. 

I tried to engage her, to share my own story, but she was locked away in her pain and our friendship was never the same. She moved away and eventually did not write back, and that was it. Her daughter must be in college now. I wonder where they are and what they are doing? 

I still remember her, especially because she taught me a life long lesson on being real: barefaced, shamelessly undisguised. It has taken years to learn it, many trials and humiliations, and desperation I could scarcely have imagined. I hope the result is a "me" who is transparent and willing to let friends know my dirt. Sometimes I fear they'd just as soon not know so much "me", but it's the only way I know to be a true friend. So, sorry to my uncomplicated friends who think I am the epitome of TMI. And thank you to those that not only care about my crazy life, but share their stuff with me. 

What I longed to hear from my dear next door neighbor was, "I want you to know, because your marriage and family is far from perfect, but I've seen the miracles God's done in your life. I know you'll understand and love me no matter what."

And I hope I never hear those horrible words again.

The Risk of Rest

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength" Isaiah 30:15.

I have given birth eight times, but never really rested. My first was born on a Tuesday, and in church with me on Sunday. My second was stillborn at 22 weeks, but I immediately went out to buy a bike carrier to lug my oldest around. We took our third to an amusement park when she was only three weeks old (yeah, that was brilliant). When our fourth was 10 days old, we had her dedicated at church, followed by a big cookout in our backyard. When the fifth came, we went out for lunch and visited my husband's office when she was only days old. I had my sixth on a Thursday and came home on Saturday to grill dinner for my husband's birthday. I finally wised up by my seventh and eight babies, taking care of kids and home, but not going out and doing stupid things right away.

Three weeks ago I had a total hysterectomy, with a TVT and A&P repair. I had to rest; it was required, not suggested. And guess what? The world did not spin out of orbit because I sat down. My house did not collapse, but is actually better than before my surgery. My mom and husband were around with all of my babies, and big kids were rarely in short supply either, so why did I feel the need to do it myself?

A week before my surgery, I felt God reminding me of a verse which was going to be my life for this school year. "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength" Isaiah 30:15. It felt so risky to have six weeks of rest ahead of me, but I knew God's peace was going to make a way. I'd been praying for peace in our home for at least a year, but was never still long enough to experience it. During these last three weeks, I have had time to think, to plan, and to slow down. I've reevaluated my priorities, prayed for my family, and enjoyed meaningful conversations with my children. I think my kids like it when I sit. I remember back in M.O.P.S when somebody told me I have to sit for my little ones to have a lap, well I think I need to sit for my teens to have a listening ear too.

During my recovery, we have surged forward in our sun room and laundry room renovations, unpacked stuff I though we wouldn't get to until summer, and even finished potty-training my youngest child. I have accepted every helping hand offered to me and asked when I needed something. Everyone pitched in. I am amazed at the stuff my three and four year-olds can lift that are over my weight limit. My eight year old can scrub a bathroom, and all my big kids can cook and clean. The kids have been especially protective of me, rather than demanding. My husband has been tender, kind, and very productive with the house projects. My mom came in with energy, consistency and creativity. Our whole home feels more peaceful, or at least I do, which is partly the point. I refuse to feel guilty about all my wonderful help, only extremely thankful. I have had times when it was my turn to serve, and someday it will be that time again, but now is my time to rest.

Don't get me wrong, I am getting pretty eager to lose my limitations. But I am determined to hold firm to God's plan for me this year. Do I desperately need Him? Then I must turn my back on my faulty ways of thinking and doing. I need to rest. Do I need His strength like never before? When I am quiet and confident in Him, I am strong. Like any act of faith it seems risky, but I know what He is asking me to do and I trust Him.

I've needed rest so badly. Who doesn't? It feels impossible, but He promises it is not. Can we stop long enough to let Him do His thing?

It is worth the risk.

Bekah and Hannah hanging out with me after my surgery

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Very Un-Profound First Post

I have often written beautiful blog posts, always in my mind, and usually in the middle of the night when I cannot sleep. Now that I actually have a blog, nothing profound comes to mind. Maybe this is not as easy at it looks? Maybe I'll drop this faster than the violin lessons I took when I was twenty-one years old, eight months pregnant with my first child, and forced to perform in a recital with elementary school kids who were MUCH better than me and NOT wearing a pink polka-dotted maternity dress? But that is a story for another day . . .  when I am feeling profound. Tonight I am just posting to see something on my cool new blog. There, I did it. Yippee.