We're frantically getting ready to join our youth group for a week of raft camp. So naturally, my time this week has been spent wrestling with piles and loads and bins of clothing. For some strange reason I also felt that it would be a good time to completely purge the kids' clothing supply. The living room was heaped with garments for two days. On Wednesday I drove until I found an ARC bin and triumphantly dumped in my three bags full.
In my frugality, I also determined that it would be most cost effective to make a nightgown for Little Miss Avery Kate before the trip. Frugal? Yes. A good use of time? Not so much. I'm an attack seamstress; It's not a hobby I love, it's an impulse I suddenly get. I'm great at cutting out the fabric, and I'm thrilled when I piece the front and back together. Then I'm ready to be done. But having a blue-eyed baby skip up and say, "Is my nightgown ready yet?" has a way of keeping me on track. So each night when the little heads had hit their pillows, I sewed.
Last night I knew I had to finish. I groaned, then thought of the bright blue eyes and forced myself to work. Pretty soon, Aidan was at my side. He is intrigued by the way things work, so I let him watch for a bit. I had to replenish the bobbin, and he was mesmerized. Then he brought up the question I knew was coming. "Mom, can I try?" I really wanted to just finish and be done with it. He should have been sound asleep. But something prompted me to say, "Sure, honey," instead. His face glowed when I told him he could push the pedal.
So side by side we worked on the seam. He pushed the pedal and got to experience the power of running a machine, while I guided the fabric so that the seam stayed fairly straight. As he pushed and I guided, I thought of the analogy playing out before my eyes. We parents have a serious job. Before us is the opportunity of guiding a child. We have the pattern laid out and the instructions are clear. We have an idea of how we want the finished garment to look, but we can't complete it on our own. A wise parent refers often to the Instructions.
A wise parent also knows how much guidance is needed. It's a delicate balance, this guiding business. If we take over -- pattern, fabric, pedal and all -- the product just might turn out alright. The seams will be neat and tidy and on-lookers will surely applaud. But such a crisp, exact garment won't display our child's charming originality and unique spirit. On the other hand, if we give our child the materials and machine without any guidance, there is little chance that the garment will stay in tact. He may have fun for a while, and he'll definitely love the idea of experimenting, but in the end he won't have anything useful to show for it, and he'll be completely exposed to the frightening realities of this world.
After Aidan finally drifted off to sleep, I finished the nightgown. I tiptoed into the girls' room and found a hanger. Like my own mama used to do, I displayed the finished garment near my sleeping beauty so that upon waking she'd see the love. Because that's what this is all about -- the sewing and guidance and growing -- it's about love. When we love, we guide.
This morning Little Miss Avery Kate hollered down the stairs, "Mommy, can I take my new nightgown to camp?" I gave the affirmative and she squealed, "Yippee!" So this afternoon we'll cram that nightgown into her bag. With it comes a mama's love and a mama's prayer -- A prayer that this mama will always strive to guide her little ones in wisdom and in grace.
Monday, July 26, 2010
I grew up playing croquet. It was a serious family affair -- rules were not bent, even for the smallest child. The course increased in difficulty over the years, sometimes taking athletes through the oscillating sprinkler and other times forcing contestants to perfectly judge the slope of the driveway in order to remain in play. A summer dinner with friends simply was not complete until we had wielded those mallets and crowned a champion.
When Jamie and I got married, we acquired a croquet set of our own. We weren't quite as hardcore about the game, but it sure came in handy when my sister and I hosted tea parties on the lawn. We looked -- and felt -- very Victorian. I'm sure we made a charming spectacle.
Now our kids play around with the set. I get a kick out of watching Little Miss Avery Kate handle a mallet that's as tall as she is. (Do you remember that Brady Bunch episode where Carol is learning to golf? That's Avery. Hands twisted in the most awkward position around that stick.) The other day, she and Aidan set up a course and wound their way through the yard. I was hard pressed to hold my tongue every time they approached the wicket from the wrong side (an obvious penalty), but I did, and they had fun.
It reminded me of a poem I wrote a couple of years ago for Drew. He was holding a family writing competition (one of many over the years), in which contestants were to highlight any sport of their choice. I chose croquet.
Mother at the Wicket
The outlook wasn't brilliant
For your mom (age nine) that day.
She faced her parents, siblings and friends
For a match of lawn croquet.
Papa smacked his ball ahead
With agility and ease,
Then Noni aimed and fired with grace
Through the wicket near the trees.
Uncle Ron approached his ball
With confidence, and yet,
Through the sprinkler his ball did roll,
Leaving his legs quite wet.
Siblings John and Krissie approached
The driveway wicket next --
The fatal hole with pavement and slope
That left all athletes perplexed.
In spite of the odds, their balls soared through,
Propelled by Aunt Marlene's cheering,
While those who had yet to attempt the shot
Felt sure that their doom was nearing.
Your mother was not flustered by
The shot she had to make,
She simply sauntered to her mark
And called out, "Watch the stake!"
With careless ease her mallet struck
The golden yellow sphere,
She propped her hand upon her hip
And grinned from ear to ear.
Oh, somewhere in those childhood days
Were moments of victory sweet.
But this day was not one of them --
That ball rolled down the street.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
It's been an interesting week. We're all rather tired after joining Jamie at a high school camp in Tygh Valley, Oregon, last week. It was a great camp, and the kids all had a blast. But when it came to an end, we finally collapsed and did . . . nothing.
The fatigue has manifested itself in various ways. I can tell that Jamie is tired because he frequently falls asleep while reading his book. I can tell that I'm tired because it's taken me all week to do the laundry. I can tell that Drew is tired because he doesn't voluntarily practice his piano. I can tell that Bethie is tired because she wants to read all day. I can tell that Aidan is tired . . . . well, no, scratch that. I can't really tell that Aidan is tired. He just keeps on with the Legos and the knot tying and the matchbox car racing and the fort building.
And, oh, can I tell that Little Miss Avery Kate is tired. I first noticed it when she woke up the other morning and greeted me with the words, "I hate oatmeal!" This from a girl who loves her oatmeal.
The next morning she glared at me with the challenge, "I hate pancakes." I simply informed her that she would still join us at the table, even if it was only to sit and watch us eat our pancakes. She sat and watched. I finally slipped a pancake onto her plate. The glare became even more fierce. "I want two." It's enough to discourage a woman.
That afternoon was the banana incident. We were playing at a friend's house. Avery was getting that unmistakable Pooh-like rumbly in her tumbly. Our hostess offered Avery a banana. She brightened, and I prompted, "Oh, how nice. Can you say thank you?" To which my little pixie firmly replied, "No." Thus began a very lengthy attempt to persuade a stubborn child to express her gratitude. I held onto that banana and she held onto her pride. She never did get that banana.
So what does a mama do with a tired girl? She holds her tongue and she prays without ceasing. I've learned that reasoning with an exhausted four-year-old is pretty much impossible. So I give her some space. But I also come close when she needs me. I kneel down when she wants to play doctor, even though I don't really want to play doctor. I let her listen to my heart with the plastic stethoscope, and I breathe a dramatic sigh of relief when she gives the hopeful diagnosis, "Your heart's not beating, but you're alive."
And I pray that my true heart is beating wildly for my daughter, especially during the contrary days.
I follow when she grabs my hand and says, "Mama, you have to come see the baby tadpoles outside!" And I try to express my enthusiasm when I behold the mosquito larvae to which she has led me. I marvel at her creativity, even if it means listening to her pound out the same tune over and over again on the piano. I am charmed by her imagination as I help tie the bandana to complete her pirate costume. I put myself in her position when she proudly informs me at dinner, "Mommy, I put the baby mosquitoes on the nature table!" I paste a smile on my face and say through my teeth, "Oh really! Let me see!" I quickly run to the school room. Sure enough. A bowl of murky water and seven wee larvae.
Because I know she's not thinking about how to nurture pesky insects that will one day attempt to suck our blood. She's showing me that she's a big girl.
Isn't that what it's all about anyway? I see it happening. She is getting to be a big girl. Her form is becoming more slender. Her profile more defined. Her thoughts are unique. Her desires are real. And she wants me to know that. She wants to be as close to me as possible . . . and grow up at the same time.
I'm not sure what we're having for breakfast in the morning. Little Miss Avery Kate might hate it. Little Miss Avery Kate might love it. But either way, we'll grow up together -- as close as possible -- and we won't let fatigue get the better of us.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Remember that Sesame Street muppet who played the piano? He'd start composing a song with all of the notes falling into place. And then he'd reach the last line and that perfect rhyme would elude him. He couldn't take it, and always proceeded to bang his floppy-haired head on the keyboard moaning, "Oh, I'll never get it!"
This morning, my Little Miss Avery Kate brought me back to those Sesame Street days. Floppy hair and all. Bethie had been working on a piano piece -- a familiar Bach minuet with a very simple yet delightful melody. Avery sidled up to the bench as soon as it was vacant, determined to take a shot at it. She picked out the first few measures by ear and was pleased with the results.
But by the time she hit that fourth measure, her tiny fingers simply would not jump from one "c" to the next. She was frustrated. Now, when Avery is frustrated, we inhabitants of the Lawson home instinctively brace ourselves. One never knows what might happen. My musical pixie arched her back, emitted a cow-like moan and proceeded to hit the music book in front of her with both hands spread wide.
And then she tried again.
One measure, two measures, three . . . . Cue the unearthly cow moans and violent book smacking. She continued to do this over and over and over. Poor Bach. Poor Avery. Poor me. Every time she approached that fated measure I held my breath hoping that maybe this time she'd get it. A few times she begrudgingly accepted my help, but for the most part she wanted to be by herself. (This was made abundantly clear by the simple command, "Don't look at me!")
I've had those days. I've had too many of those days. The pattern is predictable. Things start out so well. The notes flow beautifully and the tempo is just right. My words are pleasant and my patience is saintly. And then suddenly I'm caught off guard. Arrows fly. I lose my focus and before I know it I'm a tangled, discordant mess, and I desperately want to smack my hands on the nearest something and shout, "Oh, I'll never get it!"
My dear friend, Annie, recently wrote a poem that challenged me to keep my focus where it needs to be. There is only One who can guard me when I feel overwhelmed on the battlefield of discord and there is only One who can create a peaceful reign in my home. When the notes are blurred and the harmony strays, when I'm tempted to despair and feel convinced that I'll never get it, I am reminded of how important it is to take up my Sword and Shield -- daily, hourly, yes even every minute.
If I'm honest with myself, because of my sin nature it's true that I'll never get it. The liberating reality, however, is that my Savior doesn't expect me to get it. At least, not on my own. He's written the music and wants to show me how the song goes, leading me through each crescendo and fermata along the way. Because He's got it. It's fully orchestrated and stunning. It's only when I smack my head on the piano and selfishly fume, "Don't look at me," that the music turns sour and becomes something other than what He created. My humanity causes discord.
But my obedience to Christ and my determined focus on His cross invites a harmony into my home that is pleasing to the ear and life-giving to all who enter and dwell within. No one can resist the melodic strains of His symphony, and I pray that before long each little heart in my care will yearn for the unique song that has been created by the Master for his or her life. The notes will fall into place, and one day we'll stand together in awe of His great masterpiece. The music will swell, our hearts will overflow, the scales will fall from our eyes . . . and we'll get it.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Girls at the Piano"
Monday, July 12, 2010
We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo
How about you, you, you?
You can come too, too, too!
We're going to the zoo, zoo zoo!
This afternoon I took the kids to the Oregon Zoo. As always, it was a hit. And as always, we hit a few bumps along the way. But what are a few bumps, if not to make us that much more grateful for the blessings in our lives?
A zooful of praises today . . .
*busy hands helping make to-go lunches
*finding a parking spot . . . right away!
*turning off the ignition, but only after finishing the song on the radio
*lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! (even though the lions were in hiding)
*bathrooms (even if we didn't quite make it in time . . .)
*taking their picture in the same little cave every time we go to the zoo (even if it proves that they're growing too quickly)
*walking through the Pacific Northwest exhibit and feeling right at home (oh, the way that merry stream trips and gurgles over the smooth rocks!)
*two beautiful bald eagles right in front of us (even though the lady standing next to me was convinced they'd snatch up my children)
*assuring her that the eagles were perfectly harmless
*watching her enjoy the eagles, after all
*four happy kids climbing over rocks (even though another lady was convinced they would fall and break their necks and proceeded to haughtily whisk her own children away while emphasizing the word dangerous several times)
*four happy kids surviving the rocks just fine
*finally reaching the van
*driving home (even if it took over an hour instead of 20 minutes)
*knowing that we had plenty of gas, chocolate chip cookies and water for the trip home
*not being a part of the fender-bender that caused the delay
*watching the kids get a kick out of being stuck on the bridge
*turning off the engine, opening the sunroof and letting the kids take a peek while we waited
*then laughing over the little sailboat that caused the bridge to go up in the first place
*ringing the dinner bell (even if it was almost 8:00)
*all four kids liking their dinner (even if this meant threading mostaccioli on the tines of their forks)
*and four drowsy heads finally hitting soft pillows (even if they didn't fall asleep right away)
Here's to the "even if's" in our lives . . . and to the One who makes everything glorious.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Our little bodies pressed close together, facing backward on the couch with the big blue flowers. It was the perfect perch for glimpsing the coming and going of family and friends through the living room window. If Daddy was leaving for work, we piled onto the couch -- my brother, my sister and I -- and waved. If our dinner guests were heading home, we piled onto the couch -- my brother, my sister and I -- and waved. If our out-of-town family was almost here, we piled onto the couch -- my brother, my sister and I -- and breathlessly waited until we caught a glimpse of that car. And then we wildly waved.
Because that's what family is for. Family is for wild welcomes and fond farewells. Family waves hello, "It wasn't the same without you!" And family waves goodbye, "It won't be the same without you!" And you know that you are loved.
When we moved, we found the new waving window -- my brother, my sister and I. It was still perfectly situated in the living room, facing the street. We welcomed and bid adieu with abandon.
When we moved again, we found that the waving window was as reliable as ever -- in the living room, facing the street. But this time, we found that we were the ones coming and going. We stood as teens and young adults alongside our parents, no longer wee ones kneeling on the couch, and sent each other off. The waving window was now the portal through which we watched each other grow.
Eventually that window framed the coming and going of new family members. Dad and Mom welcomed and said goodbye to their children and grandchildren, waving until each one was out of sight. The little ones learned that the waving window is a glorious thing and bounced on the chairs next to Papa and Noni, eager to welcome cousins and aunts and uncles.
This morning I gathered the children and we stood in our own waving window. It's in the living room, facing the street. We waved goodbye to Daddy, excited that we would be seeing him again very soon.
But the window wasn't enough for Little Miss Avery Kate. She burst out the front door and ran down to the sidewalk. The window wasn't enough for Daddy, either. He stuck out his hand as he drove away, waving to Miss Kate until he was out of sight.
Do you remember the story of the Prodigal Son? I think of the Father. The window wasn't enough. He raced beyond, eager to welcome his child. He joyously wept, "It wasn't the same without you!" Because that's what family is for, and that is what the Father has done. It doesn't matter where a child goes or for how long he is gone. There will always be Someone at the window, the Someone who reached beyond. And because of this, we can be sure that one day we will experience only the wild welcomes. Goodbyes will be a thing of the past.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Her eyes widened as the drama unfolded. "Keep singing it, Mommy!" She begged. So I continued, watching with delight as her face grew more and more surprised with each ludicrous line. "There was an old lady who swallowed a cow . . . I don't know how she swallowed a cow . . . ." The giggles increased. "A cow? Mommy, do it again!" I dramatically approached the finale, with that poor old lady meeting a sad end after consuming a few too many animals.
Avery was beside herself. "Sing it again, Mommy!" she squealed. Miss Avery Kate squirmed in my lap with all the enthusiasm a four-year-old can muster (which is substantial, I'll have you know), and I began once again with the old lady and that unfortunate fly. My audience of one was eventually satisfied, and she flitted off to find another form of amusement.
As I look over my gratitude journal this week, I am reminded that it takes very little to please a child. And the child who learns to delight in simplicity will daily find herself surrounded by priceless riches.
Highlights from gifts #538-553
*Bare feet in thick, green grass
*Laughter floating into the house
*Drew volunteering to help in Vacation Bible Camp
* . . . and choosing to be in his little sister's class
*Little hands as they measure brown sugar
*Growing bright red geraniums, just like my Noni
*Discovering the bike route to a nearby park
*Family circling a campfire
*"Mommy, I finished my book!"
*Sheer delight over the old lady who swallowed a fly