Saturday, September 26, 2009

Just in Time

This evening I pulled out the flour bin to whip up some banana bread in honor of the brown fruit waiting patiently on my kitchen counter. I smiled as I pulled back the lid. There was my missing measuring cup. I smiled not so much because it had been found, but over the reason it had been lost.

Five days ago I was scooping flour when my sister called. "It's time," she announced with mingled joy, apprehension and a wealth of relief in her voice. And there the measuring cup stayed. The chocolate zucchini cake would wait.

Two hours later, after praying my sister through the agony and the ecstasy, I cradled my beautiful niece, Clara Julianna. Our eyes met, and I was not thinking about the chocolate zucchini cake left undone. No, I was thinking about how drastically -- and wonderfully -- life can change at a moment's notice. A life bound by a divine sense of timing that God, in His unsearchable wisdom, has set into place. One minute I'm measuring flour, the next I'm coaching my sister through one of the most important days of her life.

The reality of this further struck me as I was going through the neglected laundry pile the next day. It was like sorting through a time capsule. There was the blouse that I wore to my birthday dinner . . . . Ah yes, my birthday. The day that Clara was supposed to be born. It was, after all, her due date. How perfect it was to be! But the day slipped by.

And here was the top I wore to my sister's baby shower. (The shower that was planned, I'll have you know, with a newborn in mind, not an overdue mommy and her sympathetic fan club!) The shower that was planned on the only day we could find, the day when both grandmothers would be in town. Nana just in, Noni on her way out . . . . And two more days passed.

Oh, and this one? This was the shirt I was wearing the day I said a tearful goodbye to my parents. The day that was supposed to have taken place well after little Clara's arrival but sadly preceded it. Two more relentless days had passed.

And finally, the top that I threw on before heading to the hospital. Nine whole days had passed, each one painfully ticking by. My parents were in California, bravely embarking on a journey that they did not choose for themselves. A journey that involved a single diagnosis with a million questions*.

Nine days is an eternity for the burdened and overdue (I lay claim to a mere fraction of the stress. My dear sister endured the overwhelming bulk of it.) But when I look at a stressful week in my laundry hamper, it adds up to the same amount of clothing that I wash every week, stressful or not.

Here it all was, piled heavily before me in the domestic form of lights and darks -- the divine passage of time and the questions that arose as a result. We thought we had God's timing figured out. Surely this little one should have come sooner. It was arranged so perfectly. Noni would take part in the delivery and then go to California, not participate via Skype and then fly back for a "visit."

I wonder how God views His piles of laundry. We who are filthy without His cleansing. We who would die without the ultimate blood-washing. We who are sorted and tossed by the world, crammed indifferently into piles, waiting to be made clean. We who arrogantly say, "On such and such a day, my sister shall have a baby," and arrange things according to our own timetable.

But no. This is how I view God's laundry. He doesn't dwell on the filth and depravity, the piles and stains, the slow passage of time. He sees the work that's already been done. Laundry day has come and gone. His timing was perfect. The terrible washing was taken care of long ago. The blood was spilled, and we are . . . beautiful. We are dressed before Him in radiant, spotless white. Eternity is here.

And yet still we wait. Each day we add another garment to the laundry pile, wondering when the big day will arrive. But each day He reminds us that it's already clean. And each day He shows us the splendor of His Son and we have the opportunity to say, "Ah, yes. It's been done. And it's beautiful." And we know that His timing is perfect.

I'm not sure that I'll ever fully understand the strange, stressful circumstances surrounding the last couple of weeks. But I do know that God's timing was not derailed by the passage of nine days. Neither was my chocolate zucchini cake. I finally finished it. And it was delicious -- especially as I sat last night with my mom, my sister, and my precious niece. We ate that cake, and we quietly cherished God's perfect timing.

*To follow my father's prostate cancer journey, please click on his blog link to the right.
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Thursday, September 10, 2009


For the entire first year of her life, we were attached like a pair of koalas. She snuggled contentedly against my heart, her entire body wrapped in cloth against mine. Her tiny spirit was calmed by the rhythm of my life -- my breathing, the murmur of my heart.

As she grew, she slowly began to emerge from the chrysalis. First, her dimpled face and the impressive crown of thick black hair. Widened blue eyes blinked at the faces that smiled into her world. "Look at those eyes!" they said.

And then she was ready for kangaroo style. The little joey, still wrapped against mama, yet now facing away, facing toward the world. Arms were now free. Other hands touched hers. She reached beyond the chrysalis. "Look at those darling rubber band wrists!" they said.

I'd never thought of it in those terms. But yes, the irresistible rings around the chubby wrists did look something like the impression of a rubber band. I wondered when baby wrists lose their rings. I glanced at Aidan's. His were already gone. I determined to pay attention to my baby, to witness the transition into girlhood.

And then one day, she spread her iridescent wings and emerged completely. She toddled back to the chrysalis every once in a while for a snuggle, but she no longer depended on it. "Look at her walk!" they said. But I checked the chubby wrists, just to make sure.

The wrists were still chubby, but it was time to pack away the chrysalis. I gently folded the cloth that had bound us together and tucked it into a box.

Year three whirled by, my butterfly flitting hither and yon. The chubby wrists were decorated with flowing ribbons and streamers as the little ballerina danced before my eyes. "Look at her twirl!" they said. Yes, she could twirl.

One day, the butterfly said,"When will I be four, Mama?" And the mama said, "Very soon. It's almost time for you to be a big girl so you can help Auntie Krissie with her baby." The pink face beamed at the special responsibility.

And then she turned four. We sang, she blew out the candles. She demurred then glowed, and she hopped on her new bike. "Look at her go!" they said. She zipped around the neighborhood on her bright pink bike with her bright pink helmet and bright pink light-up shoes. Her long braids danced in the wake of childhood bliss.

She was tired. I wrapped my baby in a towel after the bath. She wore her new nightgown. We rested together in bed, and she snuggled contentedly against my heart. Her arm wrapped gently around my neck. My spirit was calmed by the rhythm of her life -- her breathing, the murmur of her heart. And then I saw it. Her wrists. My baby had become a girl.
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Friday, September 4, 2009

September Peace

It's been a long, mind-wrenching week mingled with the anxiety of preparation and the inevitable eagerness that ushers in September. September -- my favorite month. Freshly sharpened yellow no. 2 pencils, crisp morning air, cable-knit sweaters with plaid skirts and brown Mary Janes, stacks of books, apples hanging heavy on limbs.

Soon, my kitchen table will be surrounded by four children who are ready to learn. Their binders are filled with paper and dividers. The living room basket is bulging with library books about penguins and Ancient Rome. Closets have opened their doors to welcome back-to-school clothes.

Yes, they are ready to learn. But am I ready to teach? Endless "notes to self" are stacked on my nightstand. The kitchen counter has been invaded by mountains of curriculum. The plans look okay on paper, but how will it all pan out?

My mind whirls. Each year is different. I've never done it with four. It's hard to anticipate how the day will flow as I attempt to juggle sixth grade math, third grade spelling, first grade science and preschool reading. Realistically, I know the only way to figure it out is to jump in and go.

I also know that I will begin to second guess myself as the year progresses. It's my nature. Doubts will creep in. Are we covering the right material? Are the children engaged in the topics and still eager to learn? Am I adequately preparing them for life beyond the kitchen table?

Soon, I'll allow the life-sapping doubt to ooze its way into other areas of my life. What do I know about raising four children? Why can't I be more patient? Am I doing enough? How can I possibly mold a successful child?

Wait a minute. Stop right there. It's not my job to mold a successful child. I climb from the ooze and begin to refocus on the truth. My goal as a parent is not for my children to be well-mannered, eloquent, always-ironed geniuses. No. My goal is to see my children live for Jesus. To love Him with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. My goal is to be able to daily hand my children over to the Lord so that He can mold them into His very image. Oh, that is so much better than the frayed, homespun pattern I've tried to cut out for them.

I can see that He is at work in my children, and I praise Him. I see it when Drew asks to read Psalm 111 at the dinner table because it's his favorite chapter. I hear it as Avery hums Come Thou Fount while playing with her dollies. I see it when I pray with Aidan at bedtime and he doesn't want it to end: "Aren't you gonna pray for more stuff?" I see it when stumbling across Bethie's notebook, inscribed with an original praise song entitled My God, Wonderful God. Yes, the Lord is faithfully at work. It brings me joy. It fills me with peace. It gives me the freedom to step back, let go and crack open those school books with confidence and delight.
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