Here and Now

My Boys 

I once had a career in the exciting field of public safety as a 911 operator/dispatcher. It was a chaotic, stressful, unbelievably demanding career that absolutely thrilled me! Every time I went to work, put that headset on, and answered the call, I knew that I was born for it. The job was designed just for me, and I wanted to continue in the position for many years to come.

It wasn’t meant to be.

I miss the days of employment with “my” officers, working hard to get them information as quickly and efficiently as possible. I still have dreams (nightmares?) of answering phones, toning paramedics, and closing radio channels for emergency traffic. I still get irritated when a phone goes unanswered after two rings. I feel disappointment when I hear stories of pursuits that I couldn’t be a part of, although this might not be a sane reaction to such a thing. There are many days when I long to put on my headset again, listen to that slight white noise in between calls, try to manage bathroom breaks, and talk to people in their worst moments to see if I might be able to make their difficult times any better. To see if I might be a part of saving their day. To bear witness with them in their darkest moments, and let them know they aren’t alone.

But God has given me a new task.

I must admit, I haven’t been all that graceful about taking on the role of Homemaker. Coming from adrenaline-filled days full of mayhem to ones filled with dirty diapers, 1st grade homework, and snotty noses has been a huge transition for me. I’m no longer fighting off panic and disaster – I’m scaring away boredom and hunger pains. I haven’t done especially well with my own company. And although talking to oneself seems to be a natural side effect of dispatching, it has grown worse with “Mommy Brain.”

Now, with the routine of dishes to be done and laundry to be washed, with dinners to plan and soccer practices beginning, with an eight month old who wipes baby food or drools all over every item of clothing I put on him…I feel a familiar feeling.

These are MY boys. I will do anything to protect them. I will give up whatever is necessary to get them what they need. I will go without meals, hurry through bathroom breaks, work through all the emotions of the day – just to be sure they are cared for while they are with me. One day, I won’t have my baby boy to cuddle with or stare at while he sleeps. One day, my seven year old will stop blowing me kisses as he shuffles backwards from the car to the school door. One day, I will miss all of this boring routine.

One day, it will hit me just as hard as my last day of dispatching did. My boys will watch out for each other. They will keep each other as safe as possible. Even when I can’t be there to help. Especially when I can’t be.

But in the here and now, I will strive to do my best work. I will be present.

I will cherish every moment. 

Realness

It’s been a life-long struggle. A tug-of-war between what is seen as “acceptable” and that which is my authentic self. A blurring of the lines at the point where the person I am expected to be fights to hold down the person I am truly becoming. What is my identity?

I’ve always wanted to be an open and honest person, free from the weight of hiding things that happened to me and recognized as beautiful without the mask of perfection that was expected. I’ve never wanted to keep others’ secret darkness within myself, but I always felt the need to protect them from the judgement and wrath of the mostly-casual observer, whether or not they deserved it. I’ve often wondered if anyone would accept the realness of my struggles with things that no one should have to experience and know who I was behind all those scars.

Scars – another reality people find hard to face.

But to face yourself, to open those wounds so that they might heal into the scars no one wants to acknowledge, THAT is truly terrifying. There are moments of self-reflection that I don’t think I can make it through, times when memories are overwhelming and so suddenly present themselves as a current reality. The smallest thing can trigger a reaction that doesn’t seem appropriate. That little pat on the head, the sound I’ve heard or scent I’ve smelled before, a tone of voice and words spoken exactly so…

…or doing something I haven’t done in seven years.

A phrase I’ve often thought about these past few months is, “Just as the greatest wounds come through relationship with others, so does the greatest healing.” I have no idea where the words came from, if I read them in a book or heard someone say them, or put them together in my own mind somehow. But I know that when we are at our worst and someone loves and accepts us at that moment, just as when they celebrate with you in your most beautiful times, there is healing.

I have actual scars on my body, marring the smoothness of my skin and adding a depth of character to it that wouldn’t otherwise be there. The color is somewhat different, and a few are raised up where others cave in. But with each of them, there is a clear healing that took place. And under the healing, there’s a story of struggle and becoming. A tale of great battles fought and won!

They share about a young girl, wide-eyed and taking on the world in seemingly small ways, who learned that if she just kept getting back up she could live beyond the bad things that happen in life. They tell of a new mother, learning to cherish her young child and take in the sweetness of each moment as she looked into his eyes and found strength to heal. They bear witness to the greatness of God, and show how He is always in control when we don’t even realize something is wrong.

But there is an even deeper story to be told. A greater struggle as the emotional and mental wounds scab over. They won’t be visible, unless you look very carefully.
As the angry, red lines come together under stitches and staples, there is a growing peace under the rarely-missing smile. While they become softer shades of pink and the bandages are no longer needed, the anger slowly fades as well. When the itching begins to become less frequent, you may find that the busy schedule that hid the pain from others (and yourself) becomes more manageable.

Scars are forever present. Sometimes, with weather changes or fatigue, there is an ache that doesn’t make much sense. Occasionally, the annoying itch comes back or too much sun reddens the lines for a while. But with those in my life who are loving me no matter what state of mind I’m in, the moments can be seen for what they really are – Temporary. I recognize them as being only a tiny portion of who I am. I am not my pain. I am not my struggle. I am worth it, and I am wanted in every moment.

My authentic self? Way more than I can even begin to explain in a blog post!
Want to go for tea?

 

Boy: A noise with dirt on it.

Recently, Lil Man disappeared with two of his neighborhood friends after they were told to stay in the front yard where I could see them. I followed the sounds of little boys laughter and rough housing until I located them in the alleyway behind our home, down a ways near the empty lot they like to play soccer on.

Much to my horror and amusement, two of the boys were inside of a large dumpster and the third was doing his very best to hoist them up and out of their predicament – to no avail. Their expressions were determined as they tried to find a way to get free, and soon became a mix of terror and relief when they saw me approaching them with the baby on my hip.

“We just needed that box and a wood board for our ramp!”

“It was my idea, they just said okay and wanted to help!”

“Look! I got it, Mama!! I wasn’t scared at all, and I knew I could climb in.

…I didn’t think I’d get stuck though…”

They all talked at once, covering each other’s words – his friends desperately trying to keep him out of trouble while Lil Man proudly declared his part in it all, incriminating himself beyond where I had found him. In a dirty, old dumpster. Far away from the front yard. In the busy alley that I have several times before told them all to stay out of without an adult…

I had a terrible time being stern with them, giggling to myself at the whole ordeal and trying to get past the amazement I felt. They were all informed of the unpleasantness found in dumpsters, and told of the painful ways you can deglove a finger (as well as other injuries.) In the end, however, I allowed Lil Man to help with the ramp-building, and testing said ramp out after it was completed.

He promised to never dumpster dive again, and had a steaming hot shower.

…And was promptly grounded an hour later when I had to hunt him down again, since he didn’t ask to leave the yard as we discussed him doing only a short time before. (Don’t blink, people! That’s all the time it takes!)

*sigh* It’s a difficult thing to encourage exploration and discovery while still maintaining as safe an environment as possible. These boys are gunna give me a heart attack…

Human Beings

Recently, a woman thanked me for allowing Lil Man to play with all the children in the play area of a fast food restaurant in town. I responded with surprise, and she informed me that the conversation was prompted by a man pulling his kids out of the room in an angry manner, simply because they were interacting with children who were of a different skin tone.

The elderly woman grew up in this city, and shared briefly about being mistreated often as a child because she was born the “wrong” color. She wanted me to know that she was proud, and hopeful, when she saw my young son unassumingly invite all the kids to join his game afterward, without noticing their differences.

But, he does. He sees the differences in people.
He says things like, “The girl with brown skin and red shirt? She helped me!” He drew an autistic child to himself, saying, “That kid isn’t so good with people, so I just sat and waited for him to be ready to play.”
He recognizes when their first language isn’t English, and works around it… “He doesn’t speak what we do, so we talked with our hands!”
He tells me he played with girl toys because that random stranger-child at the mall play area really liked them, so that way the other boy wouldn’t worry about it too much when everyone else thought it was weird. “Because toys are just toys, right? And people are important.”

He knows not everyone is like him. He isn’t immune to the fact that some people aren’t kind about what is different. But Lil Man very rarely lets these differences influence his choices nor does he allow them to define another’s value. He accepts them as fellow human beings. He meets people where they are and invites them into his world with very little hesitation.

As Christians, this is how we are called to be – this is how we are to love.

This has been on my mind for a little while now. All too often, I hesitate to move forward because of reasons involving safety. All too often, I worry about how others will react to me loving in the manner which Christ leads me to. All too often…I lose sight of Him and fail at the mission to connect in true relationship with Him and others because I get caught up within myself.

But we do not follow a God who is full of fear and cowardice. We do not bow down to One who is small or weak. He says, “Follow Me.” And He wants us to trust Him with the unknown. If I go forward when He tells me to, He will guard me. If I seek only His approval, He will grant my soul peace. If I keep my eyes on Him, my struggles will fade.

He is trustworthy. He is our fortress in battle. He alone is able.

Be still.
Know that He is God.
And find the freedom to love as He calls you to.

Smarts

This past Friday was parent/teacher conference day for us, and Lil Man is excelling in everything except knowing when to keep his mouth closed and listen. (Our social little guy often distracts his classmates!) His teacher will be giving him more challenging work to do, and she praised his ability to think outside of the box. While we need to help him focus on doing his best work as opposed to hurrying through everything, he comprehends the work needed and the results are correct…albeit sloppy.

But how does one teach focus when it comes to mundane tasks or distant goals? We’ve talked about it many times, about schoolwork and soccer and numerous daily tasks. He has the mental idea of “focus”, but struggles to put it into practice as he flits from one activity to the other.

“The world,” he says, “is just too interesting!”

The battle has been to show him that focusing on one task right now will help him learn and grow, so that he can reach any goal in the future and explore all the world over! It’s a foreign concept for him to think about – that if he learns focus with this little step, he will have focus on the ultimate goal even when distractions come.

But, I think it’s starting to make sense to him.

This last soccer game didn’t go too well. The boys worked hard in the first half, and then almost gave up in the second. The opposing team played tough! But we lost our will to keep fighting, and you could see it in their poor, tired faces. After some discussion, I asked Lil Man, “How could you become a better teammate?”

He thought for a minute before answering, “By trusting my team, and having more focus on the ball.”

And there it was! One of the moments today that made my heart swell with pride for my six-almost-seven-year-old boy, who wants so badly to be the best at everything, all on his own! In that small sentence, he acknowledged the need to rely on others, and showed me that he figured out how to put into practice those lessons about focus.

Now, I need to work on my own trust and focus issues so that I can be a good example for him to follow…

 

“Trust in The Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

Cereal and Sweet Potatoes

Eager to try his hand at what he sees everyone else doing, my (almost) five-month-old has decided it’s time for solid foods. A few weeks ago, we introduced him to a new world of food-variety with the basic: milky oatmeal cereal. He anticipated every spoonful – he just wanted more and more! He couldn’t wait to get his hands on the utensil for himself!

…Even after the traumatic event of choking himself on that little green spoon.

 

We regained control of the offending object, scooped up a little more of the oatmeal concoction, and dutifully flew the next bites right into that adorable mouth-cave.  Meal time is always an adventure in this house! But we just added a whole new dynamic to our dinner table…

Tonight, we had mashed sweet potatoes with our assorted other food items, so I made Bubby his own special bowl to see what he thought of the seasonally-colored root. He sat with his usual anticipation, bib in place and eyes following my every move, until he tasted that first bite. His poor, little face squished up in confusion as his taste buds realized, “Whoa. This is different!” He gave himself a moment to think about it, and came to the conclusion that this was an acceptable flavor. He ate a few more bites before he made that face again, which made the rest of us chuckle, but he finished it in the end!

Pretty soon, he’s going to want to steal everything on my plate…

 

And, occasionally, he likes to eat people’s faces.

(I think it may be a kiss. But Big Brother isn’t so sure! …Dad might not be either…😉)

 

Just Hold Me

“I’m not strong. I’m tired of being told I’m strong. Just for once, I would like to be as weak as I feel.”  – Unknown

“Maybe home is just two arms, holding you tight when you’re at your worst.”  – Unknown

“The Lord is my strength and my shield.” – Psalm 28:7

I was leaving town. I had, in most parts of my life, given up. I no longer wanted to struggle through each day in this small city with nowhere to go but deeper into my despair and loneliness. I didn’t have any desire to work those twelve hour shifts to keep a roof over my young son’s head or food in his mouth, providing for his most basic needs but unable to give him my time. I was becoming more cynical and angry as each day passed. I was tired. And I didn’t like the “me” I was turning into.

So, I was running away from here to there. To the place where my mama lived, where the trees were green and water was abundant. I had a flight scheduled, house hunting planned, and a career opportunity all lined up.

And then, there he was.

A conversation, a smile, a quiet strength. An acknowledgement and acceptance of who I was as a whole, not just one aspect. A sense of humor that lifted my spirits and a persistence that told me, “You are worth it.”  An example of the Father who loves me more deeply than I will ever be able to realize.

 My husband is the perfect human for me. He’s the man I am meant to walk beside, through the good, bad and ugly in life. We have arguments, we have laughter, we have pain…and then healing. Life has thrown us a few curve balls in the journey we began together, not so very long ago in the grand scheme of our story, but he’s been my constant and we are learning to move as one. He’s my partner, he has my back.

With him, I am able to let my guard down and “give up” for a bit because I can trust him to keep our family on track while I breathe. I can have my moments of weakness without fear of losing it all, because he shows me the One who has control when the world is overwhelming. He is my example of the One who shields me in His love.

I can relax in his embrace, lay my head on his chest, listen to his heartbeat, and know that I am home.

Needless to say, I stayed where I was so I could get to know this amazing man. And I’m so glad I did.