Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Unexpected, Unconventional Invitation

At first I was skeptical. Self checkout? You mean, I just zip my stuff across the scanner, pay and leave? Just like that? It took me a while to get used to the idea. I was always afraid of holding people up by accidentally pushing the wrong button or sliding the wrong card or not having the sticker on my bananas that told me which numbers to push. But I have bravely overcome my anxiety. I still get things wrong on occasion, but I try not to feel too self-conscious about it.

This afternoon, Avery and I popped into Safeway to grab a couple of things for Sunday brunch. Self-checkout seemed the way to go. But after scanning my sausages, I got an unfamiliar message. I was poised to zip my card when the computer stopped me with the robotic alert, "Unexpected item in the bagging area. Please remove." I looked and didn't see anything strange. Milk and sausage. Each item had been scanned. I nervously glanced at the guy across from me who was amused that my computer lady kept up the broken record chant: "Unexpected item . . . unexpected item . . . "

I hoped that the overseeing clerk would receive some sort of subtle computer signal that I needed help and stealthily come to offer assistance. I double-checked my bagging area, but the message continued. Over and over. And then I realized what the "unexpected item" was. It was Little Miss Avery Kate. She was simply standing and swaying at my side, but her little hand was holding onto the bagging handles, adding weight to the scale. A clerk finally came by to help, laughing, "It happens all the time."

As we left, I thought about how ironic the computer announcement was. Our little "unexpected item." Yes, in fact, she was unexpected. Baby number four caught us off guard. But we very quickly got used to the idea, as one tends to do with an expanding belly. Just before she was born, I had a fortune cookie that predicted, "An unconventional person is coming to stay with you." I tucked the fortune in her baby book and we prepared ourselves to receive this amazing person.

She has continued to amaze and delight from day one. Mind you, she is still very unexpected. There is something eerily Jekyll and Hyde-ish about her. Some mornings she comes down smiling, dressed in her tutu and tiara and ready to be mama's helper. And then there are the wailing, wild-hair banshee days when absolutely nothing goes as expected.

It struck me on our way home from Safeway how easy it is to be irritated by the unexpected, especially in my children. I shuddered when I asked myself, How often do I treat my children like they are "unexpected items?" When I have my day mapped out and my hours ordered, how do I react when they throw a kink in the works? They get tired too soon (while mama's shopping) or not soon enough (at bedtime). They get hungry too soon (right after breakfast) or not soon enough (as we're sitting around the dinner table).

When I was in college I heard Dr. Howard Hendricks speak about the "unexpected" events in Jesus' life. I'll never forget what he said: Human interruptions are often divine invitations. These little people in my life -- God has placed them there so specifically, so intentionally. Every interaction I have with them (expected or not) has the potential to draw them (and me) closer to the Lord, if I am wise enough to see it and bold enough to welcome it. I have divine invitations all day long. Do I acknowledge them as such?

For nearly five years I've shared Avery's funny little fortune with family and friends. A little while ago, I pulled out her baby book to show the bit of paper to Jamie. I was stunned. There was more to the message than I had remembered. It read, "An unconventional person is coming to stay with you. And magic will be created."

I'm not superstitious. But I do know that something beautiful is created when I look into my child's eyes and really hear what is being said and when I really understand what is being needed. It's an opportunity to share in the divine. And I'm a fool if I let it pass me by.
Pin It

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Mama's Journal

Three weeks ago we discovered a bird's nest on our front porch. A mama junco was delighted with the dried flower arrangement that welcomes guests and felt herself welcomed, too. She laid four beautiful eggs. Pale green eggs with chocolate specks. Every day we pulled out the step ladder and peeked quietly, breathlessly into the swirl of twigs and grasses.

Just over a week later, the nestlings emerged. I lifted my little ones high to welcome the family. Baby juncos are not cute. They resemble pink worms with black fuzz. But there was something endearing about them, nonetheless. I took many pictures.

About this time it occurred to me that it might be fun to put together a little journal to record the growth of the nestlings. So I thought about it and jotted pertinent details on my calendar as we saw changes in the birds, hopeful that the journal would actually take shape when time permitted.

A few days ago I noticed that those juncos were about ready to burst from that nest. Their gray feathers had filled out daily, and there wasn't much room for the growing family. So last night I determined to pull together the journal. I printed a junco picture, designed a page for recording information and envisioned all sorts of darling flaps and pictures going into this magnificent folder that the children would complete.

This morning, with the pristine folder all ready to go, I appointed Drew to be the first birdwatcher. His task was to time how long it took for the mama bird to return to the nest with food for the nestlings. After a few minutes he came back. "She just kind of flew around and then left," was his helpful observation. We pulled out the step ladder, hoping to record some nestling activity instead. Up climbed Drew. He quickly came back down, his cheeks flushed. "They're gone."

I shoved Drew aside and charged up the ladder in disbelief. The spun straw encircled emptiness. I wanted to cry. My juncos were gone. I ran to the computer to research. Sure enough, it was time for them to leave. And I was only just ready for them. Their folder was finally ready, and I had found just the right picture, too. I even stayed up late to pull it together. Now the folder seemed ridiculous. Deflated, I had the kids fill in the details we could remember. But it seemed pathetic to start and end a whole journal in just one hour.

The kids saw the irony in our experience and actually thought it was kind of funny. But I felt a bit of an ache. I had really grown attached to that family. I had hefted many a child -- my own and others' -- to observe this beautiful display. I had watched the nest daily and updated friends and family with annoying regularity.

But I think the greatest ache came in realizing that I don't want to let this happen again. I don't want to plan for what's to come and jot down notes on what may be and think about what might be best. I don't want to wait until I find the best pictures or design the best flaps. I don't want to wait until time permits, until everything is all ready. Because when everything is in perfect order, it will be too late. The nest will be empty.

I'm a mama. I have four little nestlings. I happen to think that they're the most beautiful creatures in the world. I take many pictures and jot many notes. I have many hopes and dreams and goals. And I'm slowly learning to set perfectionism aside that I may take true delight in my precious nest. Right here, right now.
Pin It

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Expect Delays

We finally did it. My mom, sister and I met for dinner and a little bit of shopping after talking about it for a mere eight months. On my way to meet these precious women of mine, I savored even the drive. Sure I was still driving a cluttered mini-van, kicking the Kleenex box from under my feet whenever I made a sharp turn while trying to decipher exactly what odor it was that wafted from the back seat. But it was quiet and I was all by myself.

Pulling onto the main road, I noticed a traffic sign. EXPECT DELAYS, cautioned the large orange diamond. My first thought was one of frustration. But then I realized how appropriate it was to be ushered to this rendezvous along a route fraught with delays. For that is exactly why it took us eight months to meet.

Eight months ago we celebrated fall family birthdays -- my sister's and mine. Dad and Mom's gift to us was the promise of dinner and shopping as soon as they returned from California. California was the first delay, and an expected one. They were preparing to leave for Dad's prostate cancer treatment which would last until early December.

In the mean time, life brought other delays for those on the home front. My sister gave birth to sweet little Clara, and our family moved temporarily into my parents' home.

My parents returned after a positive and successful trip. Still, our dinner and shopping date was delayed. It wasn't intentional, it was just life. First Christmas, then winter birthdays. Basketball and gymnastics, school and appointments. We'd talk about getting together, but something always came up.

We inched our way toward spring, the delays almost humorous by now: a house, Easter, another baby, a volcano, and Europe. Perhaps a little explanation is in order. Johnny and Brooke (my brother and sister-in-law) welcomed Kinsley Jane to their home in Slovenia. Mom scheduled a flight to meet grandbaby number nine. Meanwhile, our family finally found a home and made another move. Mom hopped on that plane. Of course it would coincide with the volcano in Iceland, causing a week-long delay in her travel plans . . . .

Fast-forward to May. By now our shopping dreams had morphed drastically from the original winter plan of boots and sweaters to more seasonally appropriate thoughts of capris and flip-flops. My sister Krista, the decisive one, finally emailed us. "Okay. What'll it be? Saturday, Monday or Tuesday?" We all voted for Monday.

So as I passed that ominous orange sign on Monday evening, I listed the delays in my mind: Cancer. Baby. Move. Baby. Move. Volcano. Europe. But then the delays took shape. The delays became what they truly were: amazing opportunities. For in looking over this list, I saw a very distinct pattern of the Lord's faithfulness to his people. These words translated to far richer meanings: Healing. Life. Opportunity. Life. Patience. Trust. Thanksgiving.

And isn't that exactly what the Lord desires for His people? Didn't He come that we might have life and that we might have it to the full? But life doesn't happen without the passage of time and the pain of sacrifice. Life doesn't land in our laps. We should expect delays and bumps and inconveniences.

But it is in those times that the deep formation of who we are takes place. We learn to seek the Lord's face, all the while trusting in Him, even if it feels like the pavement will never be smooth again. And from time to time we'll be pleasantly surprised by those occasional, refreshing interludes where the journey actually is smooth. We will come out of the construction zone for a spell and praise Him for the work that He has done.

My interlude came while sitting with my mom, sister and little Clara over dinner. The Zuppa Toscana was heavenly, as always, and the breadsticks hardly had a chance to cool off. I squeezed the chubby baby feet at my corner of the table and we talked about life. Shopping was icing on the cake. At least I'm sure it will be. You see, the shoes I hoped to buy were not available in my size. But that's okay. They're on order. And I think I can handle one more delay.

Pin It

Monday, May 10, 2010

Don't Go Crazy

She pounded away at the ivories, flipping through an old piano book. Because the songs were familiar to me, I assumed she was revisiting some practice pieces. So as I folded laundry in the family room, my voice carried into the living room the characteristic, "Watch your key signature!" when appropriate. She paused then attacked again. "Count it out, honey!" I hollered while slipping Avery's dress onto a hanger. "Go back! Shouldn't that be a flat?!" I continued.

Finally I came into the living room to see if she needed help. There she sat, happily perched on the bench, flipping through an old piano book . . . attempting songs she'd never played before. And here I assumed that she was just playing with a few old pieces. (Drew must have played them a few years ago, hence my familiarity with the tunes.) I suavely changed my approach. "Wow! I thought those were your old songs. You've never played these before? Nice job, honey." She smiled and went back to work.

A few minutes later, as I continued to tackle the pile of mountain-spring-fresh kid clothes, it was Bethie's turn to holler in my direction. She warned, "I'm gonna play this wrong Mom, okay? Just so you don't go crazy." I laughed as she proceeded to hit every accidental in the wrong place. On purpose.

And guess what? I didn't go crazy. At least not this time.
Pin It

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Bit of Quiet

Yesterday at 3:30 I scribbled my heart out to Jesus. I asked Him for patience and wisdom. I asked Him to forgive me for having a spirit of discontent and for noticing only the flaws in my family. And then I asked Him for quiet. It's been a relentless week. Nothing specific, just everything driving, drilling and demanding that combine to make a mama's week make a mama weak.

But He is strong, and He is faithful, and He is ever-so kind. And this afternoon He gave me that quiet. I found myself at the park with just Aidan and Avery, and He said, Here you go. A bit of quiet. I spread the blue and white checked blanket out on the freshly mowed grass. Barefoot, I soaked in the warm spring sunshine. While the kids pedaled their bikes round and round the loop, I sat and gave thanks.

There was no need to rush. The demands paused and I could be still and know that He is God. A great blue heron leaped into the sky from the swaying grasses. The kids circled back, took a swig of water. I delighted in Aidan's patience with his sister as she adjusted her helmet. Every good and perfect gift is from above. He simply waited and smiled and observed, "You have rosy cheeks." She smiled. Consider it all joy. And off they raced once more.

I slowly turned a page in my book. Austen's witty prose danced in my mind as a bee droned overhead. The red-tailed hawk stared stoically from his tree-top perch, defying anyone to interrupt this mama's solitude.

When the pedallers circled a last time, I knew it was time to relinquish that solitude. But that was okay. I was refreshed, I was ready. He knew what I needed, and as always, He provided. I closed my book and slipped on my shoes. Rounding up the troops, we moved on with our day. And I considered it all joy.
Pin It

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Pleasant Predicament

Last summer I started reading Mr. Popper's Penguins to the kids. We also happened to be reading Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, so it was fun to toss out the question, "What'll it be today kiddos? Poppers or Peppers?" They'd laugh and vote and we'd read our way through another adventure.

Following the Poppers and Peppers, I somewhat absently picked up Mary Poppins. It was on my book list anyway, but when it dawned on me how perfectly it followed the trend, we immediately settled our imaginations at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane.

We've now finished Mary Poppins, and the question begs to be asked. What do we read next? I hate to break tradition. The Poppers, Peppers, Poppins rhythm is so . . . perfectly pleasing. Drew jokingly suggested The Prince and the Pauper. But I'm totally taking him seriously. Avery voted for Pinocchio, while Aidan gave a shout-out for Pooh. Pollyanna sits on Bethie's shelf, and I'm sure she'd be thrilled with that choice. They're not quite ready for Pride and Prejudice . . . .

Sigh. So little time. Do you have a perfectly pleasing book to add to our list?
Pin It


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...