Friday, September 23, 2016

When My Spying Ears Encouraged My Exhausted Heart

Today I am tired.  Like tired to my bones, need to prop my feet up, lay on the heating pad, bought my kids McDonald's and let them watch tv all evening kind of tired.  Today I packed lunches and dropped 4 kids off at school, dropped 9 boxes and 2 grocery sacks full of items at our church garage sale, taught 1st grade, fed 4 kids lunch, tried to put 3 toddlers down for a nap that apparently none of them wanted to take.  Priced items at the yard sale, changed 5 diapers, searched for more diapers because all 3 of them ran out, folded up and put away 3 pack-n-plays, cleaned poopy underwear, dealt with my daughter's dramatic meltdown about how sweaty she was while she waited for me to finish all my work so we could go home... (I love how a sweaty 4-year-old can't see the sweat dripping down her mom's face while she is looking right at her)... and I'm just tired. worn out.  exhausted.

One busy day is bearable.  Two, three... but busyness seems my constant state lately.  And it is mostly because 99% of the time I am surrounded by small children.  Usually 3 or 4 children, but always at least my own 2.  And I am usually on my own with them.  On Sundays you may see me with 16 toddlers.  Monday-Friday, again, I am with 1st graders or at recess duty with Kindergartners through 3rd graders.  And when I leave them, my own are once again with me until I make them lay down at night.  Always noise.  And mess.  And fighting.  And being selfish.  And hopefully hearing the Gospel I am trying to give them in my teaching them... Please?

I see adults in passing.  I have meaningful conversations with them even less.  Sometimes I fear I have forgotten how to have an adult conversation... like what do you say to someone who brushes their own teeth and doesn't need you to wipe their bottom?!  Sometimes I feel very much at a loss.  Like I am struggling to find a time to go get even a haircut... and I'm not sure what topics I am even qualified to discuss with the adult stylist once I actually get an appointment and go!

I am a busy woman.  I am so busy that I don't really ever have time to think about it.  I am also married to a busy man.  And we live in a busy world.  Between the two of us, we have 5 jobs, 4 of them being part-time of course (because we only have the same 24 hours everyone else does), and all the while we are parenting small children... very stubborn, spirited small children.  Fortunately, they get it from us, and most of the time we are stubborn and spirited enough to manage.  But right now is my husband's busiest time of year with his full-time job, and while we truly do bear one another's burdens emotionally... many times he just isn't available to help me physically carry the load I am to carry.  He says he married because I am strong.  And a lot of the time, I guess this strength he says I have allows me to get a lot done and mostly enjoy it all - all the moving, teaching, redirecting, reminding, disciplining, forgiving, explaining... most of the time I love being surrounded by these little people who are ignorant of how ugly the world can be... these little persons whose biggest problems are that their pb&j isn't cut the right way!  But by the end of the work day today, my strength was gone... burned up... blown in the wind.

And I was thinking about this today as I reflected on what the past weeks of my hubby's busy season has been like for me.  I don't blame him; this job that keeps him so busy and gone from home often is what feeds, clothes, and shelters me and my children.  I am thankful for his work, and for mine.  But today I was really thinking as I priced books at the yard sale... All I really want is to sit for hours and read.  I want quiet.  I want solitude.  I want to be left alone.  I don't want to be touched.  I don't want to buckle car seats.  I don't want to wipe butts, tie shoes, wipe snotty noses, explain once again why we don't hit our sibling, or tell a sobbing 4-year-old to take deep breaths and calm down while I cut the itchy tag out of her shirt.  And it isn't like wanting a billion dollars that no one you know personally has either, so you don't get so upset knowing it won't happen... instead there are people all around me who get to pee by themselves or go for a walk to clear their head... I mean, I could go for a walk, but answering 4,000 questions about why that dog only has 3 legs and why we can't hate mean people will only make more of a muddle!

I am so tired lately, that even the idea of spending time with my friends sounds like too much work.  And I am a very social person!  I am just so tired!

And when we are tired, our guards are down.  I know mine goes down quickly when I am running on fumes!  I start to get jealous of people who breezily mention they read a book, grew a garden (which I wouldn't want to do anyway), took an interesting class, shopped in a store for something other than groceries... many of the people I hear say these things are my friends who are just older enough than me to have grown kids... like they aren't old enough to be my parents, but definitely like an older sister-type... and sometimes I find myself wishing our lives away to get there to their status.  To have time to be a woman with interests and friends and brunches/lunches/coffees/day trips... I honestly don't have any hobbies anymore, unless you count having Netflix on in the background or occasionally reading the assigned book for my book club (which I haven't even started the one we are supposed to be reading now... I haven't even ordered it... I really haven't thought about it much either).

But tonight as I walked out of the yard sale that we were prepping, across the parking lot I barely overheard a conversation between 2 older moms.  Both have older-to-grown kids.  Both of them are dealing with having to watch their older kids make major life-decisions... and they are both worried as they watch their kids make the wrong choices.  At first I only thought of them, for them... I prayed a prayer of thanks to God that they can run into someone else who is going through something similar.  Then I thought about them in comparison with my struggle.  I started to think about how difficult it would be to watch your older kids - people you have literally poured most of your life's hours into leading, guiding, teaching - go against what you taught them, watch them believe lies, choose negative influences in their lives, permanently tie themselves to these negative influences, and sometimes even cut you completely off from their lives.  I'm sure it happens more than I know.

And I realized that this parenting job doesn't end.  Sure, it changes... morphs... appears different.  These ladies I saw conversing in the parking lot have more time on their hands now to pursue their interests and just to live life at a more enjoyable pace... plenty of time to stop in the middle of a parking lot and have a deep discussion without worrying about a short person getting hit by a car... but they are still mamas.  You could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices.  I didn't listen to much of the conversation, but just the few small pieces I overheard, put together with what I know their families are struggling through right now... they still worry.  They still wish they could fix it all, and they can't.  They still wish they could smack some wisdom into their child's heart and mind so they may spare them of having to learn it all the hard way.

And then I looked down at my littles.  These 2 cuties that God has entrusted to me for this time... and I realized that it will always be a trade off.  Now, my time and energy is strapped.  Later it will also be my money.  After that, I'll get my time back, but I'll be older... and my interests may change by then.  And these little people will live elsewhere... maybe across town, maybe across the ocean.  And I will have to watch from the sidelines, whatever glimpses they allow me to have, every life-decision they make for themselves.  I won't be tying their shoes or packing their lunches or yelling at them to stop yelling in the car (yep, I have done that... several times)... but I'll still have to be trusting God with them every step of the way.

So today I am just too tired.  I won't always feel like this.  I'll probably wake up tomorrow ready to go 90 mph again, probably chasing them! But it is now that I have to learn contentment.  It is now I must rely upon the Lord for the strength I need.  Because in the blink of an eye, I'll wake up one day... and I'll have way more time to worry and mull over what only He has control over, anyway.  I won't always be so busy.  I won't always have to make so many in-the-moment decisions that affect other people.  But I will always have something that is bigger than me, and I will always be a flawed human whose reach doesn't go half as far as I would like.

So I go to sleep tonight.  And I rest.  For I serve a big God, the only true God.  I am inadequate.  He already knew that.  I won't get it right.  He is prepared for that.  But if He allows me to wake in the morning, He promises new mercies await me there... that He has a purpose for each day He wakes me... and that He will be my adequacy for me... He will overflow my cup.

"How deep the Father's love for us.  How vast beyond all measure..."

And knowing that... gives me the sweetest rest, not just for my body, but for my soul.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11 - "We Will Never Forget"... I'm Pretty Sure We Already Have

I remember where I was, what I was doing, and how the entire day went... September 11th, 2001.  I was 18 and a freshman in college.  I was getting ready for class and was heading out the door when the news came on about the first tower being hit, and being my first-born, authority-pleasing self, I went ahead and drove the few minutes to campus, even though I was still trying to sift through all the details of this freak accident in my mind - searching for more information on the radio as I drove.  I ran into my class, which was to be held in the auditorium that day with a guest speaker.  Instead of the speaker, they had the news projected onto the giant stage screen, and at first I was very confused, because as I entered and watched the replay video of the plane hitting the tower, I realized there was already smoke and flames...  And then it dawned on me what I had just seen on that large screen was a live shot of the second plane hitting the other tower, not a replay of the first.  We all just sat there watching, crying, many on their phones calling loved ones.  It was soon announced that our speaker's plane had not landed on time, and that class was cancelled.  Soon, the entire campus canceled classes and closed, later my shift at the local American Eagle was canceled because the whole mall closed, the line at the gas pump was forever long, and once I finally got back home, I sat in the living room and watched the news all day long.  I thought back to 6th grade when we learned about the Oklahoma City Bombing and watched the news all day in all our classes - how jumbled all the information had been at first - and how much what I might be hearing then on 9/11 would later be corrected.  I thought about how much I missed my parents.  I watched people covered in ashes limp out of the cloud that was New York City.  I heard speeches, watched Congress sing "God Bless America" together on the Capitol steps, and the President ended the day by promising we would bring the terrorists to justice.

It seemed for such a long time, I'm not sure how long, American flags were EVERYWHERE! On government buildings, stores, cars... People held each other and prayed.  Opposing sides wept and worked together.  Persons of different religions, races, cultures, etc. stood together to honor those that had fallen because they worked in the targeted places, and those who also lost their lives because they entered those areas to do their greatest work.  We said we would never forget... we literally wrote it on the sides of buildings and hung great banners with our promise.

And then we forgot anyway.

After a long while, people took the flags down, and they remembered their arguments and picked their hatred, prejudices, lies, and manipulation back up.  We went back to looking out for ourselves instead of others.  We forgot that we once rose from the ashes as a nation to be leaders in victory against evil...

I mean, sure, we remember the date and the facts and what took place... but look at the current events in our nation, and you easily see that we have forgotten.  It is staggering to me how different things are since 15 years ago!  Less community, more division.  And especially in this election year, I fear we now make so many decisions, and make stances built upon fear and selfishness.  And it has all been magnified and exponentially bred over the years by the abuse of social media to argue and attack one another.  We now value our own opinions more than we do someone else's life... which, if we think about it, is how 9/11 happened in the first place.

Why was it so easy to come together on this day 15 years ago?  Perhaps because at that time, we saw that everyone is going through a struggle.  That every life is precious.  That it is a grave mistake to value your beliefs over others' lives.  Sure, most of us wouldn't kill other people we disagree with today, but how often do we spew hate with our words, spoken or typed?

I have seen "We will never forget" all over my newsfeed today... but it is a lie, America.  You have forgotten.  With racism, riots, lies, manipulating facts, feeding upon people's fears, not standing up for the right, not calling out wrongs, and pretending to be the same country that once had a strong backbone and a loving heart.

You might remember being sad.  You may remember that people were killed.  That others sacrificed.  You might remember that security became tighter.  But "We will never forget" wasn't about remembering facts and past feelings!  It was a message, a lesson, that apparently we missed.

"We will never forget" should have meant that we finally learned our lesson about putting our differences aside.  We should have learned that decisions should be made based on love AND logic, not only one side, and definitely not out of fear and victimization.

I can't help but feel angry at the stark contrast between the country I lived in as an 18-year-old and the one I live in now.  People are so easily offended, take sides so quickly.  We surround ourselves with only opinions that sound like our own.  And we throw grace out the window once we are approached by someone with a differing view.  Perhaps it seems worse even more this year because it is an election year, one that scares me tremendously.  I am a strong conservative, but people on all sides scare me with their tactics, and their supporters' angry arguing tempts me to despair.

I guess I am also tempted to become overwhelmed with defeat because it is now 15 years away from the tragedy.  And if we didn't really learn these lessons then, how could we learn them now?  And so many major tragedies have happened since, but our responses aren't the same.  These mass shootings and bombings around the world have only divided us more.  Do we have to experience greater mass disaster to truly care about one another?  Can we only be great when circumstances are at their worst?

I am only one person, and I am only raising a few children.  I cannot control what others say and do, and let's face it, I can't control what the people living in my home say or do.  I probably will not change the world, and maybe not even the minds of the people who read this.  But I am determined that in our home and lives that "We will never forget" will not be an empty promise spoken by selfish hearts just to feel better about themselves.  I am determined that in our realm of influence it will mean these important things:

1)  All life is precious.  I do not care if you and I agree.  I don't care if you annoy the crap out of me.  I don't care if you are of a different race, religion, lifestyle, age, gender, or political affiliation - you are made in the image of God, and I see your life as precious.

2)  We live in a community of souls.  And each soul has struggles.  I will not see my struggle as more important than yours.  I will try to make yours mine as well.  I will try to help you get through it.  Not because I am stronger than anyone else, because I'm not... quite the opposite!  I should want to help you bear your burden because I am another soul with another struggle.  That should develop compassion in my heart for yours, and hopefully yours for mine.  What good comes from being in the trenches together, trying to prove to others that our part of the trench is deeper?!  What do we win if we prove we have the hardest struggle?  I feel like so many are trying to make everyone else aware that their struggle is more difficult than others'.  I know I must do better at living intentionally for community and remembering others' struggles.  I need to remember that life is more fulfilling when poured out for others.

3)  I will be thankful.  For life.  For freedom.  For those who paved the way for me to have both of those.  If any one of those who died could see how we take life and freedom for granted, I can't imagine how it would feel like a stab to their heart.  How dare we live life in America like we don't owe our thanks to someone else for it!

4)  I will fight temptation to lose hope.  I have hope for many things and people.  I hope our country repents and turns to God.  I hope the oppressed are met with compassion and help.  I hope we would all want to contribute to society with the abilities and resources we have been blessed with, not if the government requires us to, but out of gratitude to be alive in this great country.  I hope those with more would give to those with less, out of gratitude for having so much.  I hope those with less would find comfort in the Lord and His people... which means I wish the Church would WAKE UP and DO THE JOB Christ set before us!  I hope that wrongs would be made right.  I hope that we would forgive and graciously let go of all hatred and bigotry.  I hope that people would truly want power to change things for good, instead of just being able to call the shots.

5)  I will remember the Greatest Sacrifice, and that didn't happen only 15 years ago.  While I will remember and honor those fallen on 9/11 and allow the lessons to wash over me and change me... there is a Greater Death and Life found in Christ, Himself!  Those of us who trust in this great God should never be dismayed.  For He humbled Himself to experience our struggles and limited His own power to understand our hardships, and He did it all without selfishness or sin... and when the right time came, He gave Himself up to give you and I the greatest hope there is.  If and when none of my hopes come to fruition, I still hope, because of Christ's sacrifice and example and the Word of God, I can continue to hope for eternal things and not despair at the corruption of governments made by man.

picture credit:

So while I weep at the memories of 9/11, I should not allow the sadness to overcome me.  And while I remember the tragedy, I should also remember the strength and compassion displayed in the midst of it.  How truly tragic it is, if 9/11 becomes merely a sad day with a cool video in memory of a lot of people who died.  "We will not forget" should mean "this has changed us and drives us forward, together".