Monday, October 21, 2013

Worth Fighting For

It was shortly after the letdown of my introductory gun class.  

After firing a gun left me with shaking hands, I realized that to sharpen my fight I needed to dig a little deeper. Life isn't just curling up on my couch and reading Pilgrim's Progress with a cup of weak tea, you know?  I needed to be ready to protect my home from critters and the like.  I did a little researching and made some calls to local schools of martial arts.  Taekwondo...raccoon deterrent...anyone with me?

The woman returning my call had an accent that foretold of new and exciting adventures.  Unfortunately, maybe it was my accent or perhaps my faltering telephone pragmatics, but I found myself on the other end of the phone trying to explain that it was me interested in Taekwondo lessons, not the 4-year old who had answered the phone when she called.

"Yes, yes!"  she responded to my explanation.  "Come tomorrow.  5 o'clock."

"Me?" I tried to clarify.  "Or my son?"

"Yes. Both of you.  5 o'clock."

"Well, it's actually three of us.  But, it's just me that wants to try the class.  And if it goes good, you know, down the road, I'm looking for something for all of us."

"Yes, yes. 5 o'clock."

This was going nowhere.  "Umm, okay.  See you then."

Naturally, I was a little uneasy come 5 o'clock the next day.  And as we walked in the door, my uneasiness swelled to full fledged sweaty anxiety as I gazed around the class, taking in the floor to floor mats, punching bags, and a room full of miniature students already hard at work.  I tried to inconspicuously herd my children to the chairs reserved for parents and onlookers along the side of the gym, however the head instructor swooped in with a smile and invited A and E to join the class.  My kids looked at me suspiciously, suspecting sabotage, having been under the assumption that if anything, they'd be watching me in class.  I nodded and gestured that they should go, feigning a bright Go ahead, you'll have a great time smile when, in fact, I was becoming a little uneasy watching these little tykes pummel boxing bags and kick the air higher than they stood.  We were lovers, not fighters, my family and I--when would I just accept that?   But, as I watched the class the next 45 minutes I grew more and more intrigued with the discipline of it all.  The synchrony and grace of the forms.  The uninhibited dramatic flair.  It was like watching dancers, but without all the glitz and sparkles, and E especially fell into it immediately.

At the end of the class, we were summoned into a small room by the grand master.  She sat across from us at a large desk in an office that was filled with photographs of champion competitors including herself and tall trophies which my children eyed eagerly from my lap.  The grand master's eyes were friendly and she wore a warm smile, but I couldn't quite get comfortable around her knowing that she could kill me with her bare hands if she were so inclined.   It was exactly how I wanted people to feel around me.  She pushed some paperwork across the desk towards me.  Contracts, plans, and numbers, all of which make my brain go kind of fuzzy.  Already intimidated, I looked down to make sense of some of the numbers in front of me.  The air left my body.  Well, this would be an easy decision.

"Thank you for letting us come to watch", I looked up smiling nervously.  "But, I'm sorry, I think this is out of our price range.  I'll give it some thought and get back to you."  I added the last part halfheartedly, knowing there would be no getting back to anyone.

If only it were that easy.

"I give you discount." she stated matter of factly.   She made some fast marks on the paper.  I tried to take notes and add figures in my head.

"You sign the three-year contract, and you get even more discount."

"No, no.  I can't do a three-year contract,"  I whined.  "I haven't even tried a class yet.  Can I get out of the contract if I don't like the class once I try it?"

"Oh, you'll like it.  And of course, if you move away or break a leg I can cancel the contract."  

E wiggled down from my lap and started rifling through a box of t-shirts on the floor.  A took it as his cue to hop up and start poking at a four-foot trophy precariously perched on the desk in front of us.  I was too stressed to restrain them.  

"Taekwondo very good for discipline."

My Achilles heal.  I signed.

I drove home feeling like a sucker.  How ironic that I was taking classes to mentally and physically strengthen myself from instructors who saw my weaknesses and immediately pounced.

Naturally, I blamed my mother.  

I spent that evening distracted, sleeping fitfully with the knowledge that I'd be spending much more than I pay each month for my car to take lessons in humiliation, learning to hammer kick little nine-year old black belts.  But, I'd signed a contract.  In ink.  I recognized this as having given my word.  My stomach turned and tightened... my internal signal to stop the worry; stop it all; pray; listen; read.

 So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?”  (Hebrews 13:6)
Just the reminder I needed.  The notes of my study Bible indicate that this verse applies the idea of trusting in God for more than just financial needs.  I woke with stomach pains gone.  I made the call in the morning and ventured back to meet with the instructor the next afternoon. I did not feel confident, but felt no fear.  I knew what I had to do.

"I'm sorry."  I started kindly once she'd led me back to her office.  I explained my situation.  She offered more discounts.

"I really am not trying to get you to lower your price."  I tried again.  "Your price is fair.  It just isn't in my budget right now."

She nodded. "How much can you afford?"  I told her honestly.  It was the number I'd come up with two nights ago, trying to figure out how to work it all out, realizing it wouldn't be worth mentioning to her as it was so far below their tuition it might come across as insulting.

"Okay."  she said to my utmost surprise.  I must have looked dumbfounded.

 "Listen," she continued.  "You need this.  This is good for you.  Good for your kids."

So all this happened.  We're off on a new adventure.  And a certain Taekwondo grand master is getting herself a whole lotta eggs for Christmas.  But the goodness out of it; the wondrous goodness was that great big awesome reminder that any strength that comes out of me does not come from me.  And that is good.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Lace 'em up

It's hard not to be prideful watching my children's early learning achievements.  I fight back the first thoughts that bubble to my consciousness, Oh I see he's got that knack for early reading from my side of the family, and She's so musical; obviously a trait from me, I'm quite the whistler you know.  When really, I should be just be praying that I didn't pass on this overwhelming tendency for self-righteousness.  Genetics aside, I'm finding true enjoyment in the whole process of teaching my kiddies the things that they need to know in this big world.  Now, I'll be the first to admit, potty training was not my finest hour.  Not hardly.  But, a year of country life has slowed me and I'm grateful that I can approach these new learning milestones with a bit more patience.  And is there anything that requires more patience than learning to tie shoes? there?  If so, tell me now because I'm going to start stockpiling small amounts of patience in a patience savings account for the necessary time.  Oh wait, I just thought of one: driving.  Ugh.  Teaching driving will likely take a lot of patience.  And maybe some Valium.  Just being realistic here.

Back to shoe tying.  Yes, prayer and quiet life in the country have been slowly building in me the abilities needed to patiently teach my children.  That is to say prayer, country living, and a big slice of humble pie.  You see, I pulled up a youtube video just to use as a teaching aide before we entered into this learning adventure.  Turns out, there's a new way to tie shoes.  So far's I know, that makes three ways you can tie a shoe.  There's the right way (the way I learned).  There's the two bunny ears crossed under each other way.  Then, there's this new way.  Magic fingers it's called.  Here it is, if you're so inclined:

Looks super easy, right?  Always trying to be hip and in the know with the latest shoe lace tying teaching styles, I decided to give it a whirl before I took my instruction to the streets.  I worked diligently, but I might as well have been trying to tie my shoes with ten frozen thumbs using only my upside-down reflection to guide me because it just. didn't. work.  I tried and tried.  Well, for about 45 seconds anyways, before stopping out of embarrassment and on account of I was hungry.  I learned an important lesson this day:

Learning is so hard when you're old!!!  

Which led me to realize this:

Learning is so hard when you're young!!! 

Which makes it just so great to see how much my kids love learning!  They get this from me, of course.   And, which makes me just that much more empathetic as I teach them, waiting patiently as they flip out in frustration (having just done this as a 35-year old myself), willing my tremoring hand to stay by my side and let them struggle through and fail, when it wants to just jump in and just finish off the knot for them.  And then, this morning, much faster than this old brain would have mastered such a novel task... success.  E came running in from the mudroom, one daintily tied shoe on her foot.

 "Mom!  Mom!  Look!" she called, breathless. "I tied it myself!"

"What?! That's awesome!  Let me see!  Can you do the other shoe??"

"Yes! Watch!"  I followed her out into the mudroom and sat to watch.  I was nearing critical lateness for work, but this was a moment.  A real moment.  The first shoe tie.  E struggled to recreate what she'd just done moments ago.  She tried once.  Then twice.  Maybe it was something about her jumpy handed mother hovering over her and breathing coffee breath down her neck that threw her off her game but soon she was kicking her shoe off in a fit of rage.  Now, back in potty training days, I might have responded with the like, but this was the wiser and more restrained Christi.  I kept my calm, retrieved her shoe and helped her through, holding the bunny ear in place and gently instructing her through a proper loop around and pull through once she had regained herself.  

By the time we got to the sitter, E was over her frustration, and now reveling in her initial success which she excitedly shared with the sitter as soon as she entered her home.

"Wow, shoe tying!  That's great!"  the sitter eyed me respectfully.  "Where did you learn to do that?"  I smiled, doing my best to appear humble and not at all prideful as I knelt down and helped E out of her shoes.

"Oh, a video from the computer," she responded simply, standing up and walking past us on her way to a pile of princess dolls.

Ahem.  Right then.  Super lovely.  I'll just sweep up that big mess of pride that's spilled all over the floor here and be on my way.  Parental pride has been appropriately put in check.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Tryin' On Clothes

user img
I tried on the farmer's hat,
Didn't fit…
A little too small — just a bit
Too floppy.
Couldn't get used to it,
Took it off.
I tried on the dancer's shoes,
A little too loose.
Not the kind you could use
for walkin'.
Didn't feel right in 'em,
Kicked 'em off.

I tried on the summer sun,
Felt good.
Nice and warm — knew it would.
Tried the grass beneath bare feet,
Felt neat.
Finally, finally felt well dressed,
Nature's clothes fit me best.
© Shel Silverstein. All rights reserved

By any other measure, it is bedtime.  The day is done.  It is 7:30 and time to tuck these sleepy kids in for the night.  But, that closing in feeling of the end of summer is gripping me and instead I'm hurriedly loading up the trunk of the car.  Racing the setting sun in hopes of having the remains of its light to aid me as I put together the pop-up camper.  It was 7:00 when the urge to sleep under the summer sky hit.  And amazingly, the same little boy and girl who drag themselves to the car in the morning missing a shoe and wailing that they can't brush their own teeth without assistance have packed up two heaping suitcases and are carrying them on their backs like miniature Sherpas to the car within minutes of my mentioning the words 'camp out'.

A few hours later, I lay surrounded by the cool night air and listening to the music of crickets harmonizing with the deep respirations of my sleeping children.  I think of friends sending their littles off to college and sink into my covers holding onto the quiet chaos of this brief season.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Lend Me Your Eyes, I'll Change What You See

This post has nothing to do with farming or my kids.  Well, it shouldn't.  But, watch how quickly I can switch any topic into one about my children.  It's a gift, really.  Makes you want to sit down and have a conversation with me, I bet.  About my kids, that is.  Anywho, I am just so giddy that I have to share my news as I am seeing the world with brand new eyes today!  I'm two days post Lasik.  So, I guess they aren't new eyes.  Rather they are my same old eyes, but with some part of the cornea burned out.  Not really sure about the exact surgical details and all that medical-y stuff.  I mean, I did some research, but eventually everything just started fuzzing together in my brain as I was very tired, and I realized the details couldn't be all that important, right?  They're just eyes after all.  And I'm certain Groupon must do some sort of doctor screening before allowing a promotion on their website.  I'm sure of that.

Two days post surgery, my eyes are still a little scratchy and foggy at times, so truth be told, it doesn't feel all that different from the dirty four month-old contacts I'd been wearing prior to this. Which is not to say I'm not totally thrilled that I did this, because I am.  The whole procedure, the whole day actually, could not have gone better.  My dear sister and little H, my one-year old nephew took the better part of their day to chauffeur me around, which would have made for a wonderful day in itself.  Adding to that, the joyous news that 27 years of glasses and contacts are potentially behind me.  Plus, a special bonus, I made the fortunate discovery that if I am ever to become a drug addict (which of course I'm not.  I'm just saying, you know, just in case...), I've already picked out my drug of choice: Valium.

I was sitting in the pre-op room and the nurse bustled in with some water and a pill.  I took it from her and put the pill to my mouth, then paused.

"What is this?"  I thought to ask.

"Valium,"  she responded briskly.  "To help you relax."  It was her turn to pause.  "Do you not want to take it?"

No, I don't want to take it!  I can't take Valium!  I have kids to take care of after you all are done lasering my corneas.  I have dinner to cook!  And the door slid off of the chicken coop that I've got to get back on before it rains!  And the lawn isn't just going to mow itself! 

"Ummm. Yes, I'll take it.  Thanks.", I managed just before gulping down the pill.

[I should interject here, in the event that my Grandma and  Grandpa are reading this and alarmed that I may be heading down an unfortunate path into prescription drug use.  This story has a point.  Well, maybe not a point, but it does end.  Stay with me.]

To be honest, the Valium did nothing for me during the procedure as I was still a basket of nerves.  Who wouldn't be with their eyes taped wide open and a laser pointed at them guided by a heavily tattooed ophthalmologist with only the smell of burning skin  as a distraction?  But a few minutes post-op waiting to be released, I did notice that I felt a little less edgy.  Totally normal otherwise, just without usual underlying anxiety that typically lies just below my surface.  I was released to go home after a few minutes. Eyes covered in bubbly, plastic shields, I made my way to the car, relaxing quietly as Carrie drove.  A few minutes into the drive, she began to gently attempt to stop H as he entertained himself by flicking his root-beer float around my car with his straw.

"Don't worry about it.  He's fine."  I shrugged.  "I'll just clean it up tomorrow."  Carrie looked at me like I was on drugs as a little splatter of ice cream breezed by my head and landed on the passenger side window.  "Seriously.  It's not a big deal."   

Crazy, right?  But, I was so serious about this, you guys!  I was...I was easy-breezy Christi!  I like her!  She's the mom that my heart wants to be, but that just never comes out.  Driving home from the eye doctor, okay maybe it was the Valium, but not freaking out felt so much better than freaking out!  It was at that very moment that I saw my role as a mom through brand new eyes.  I'd slowly been sliding the other direction, increasingly rolling my eyes, snapping, How many times have I told you-ing, and even yelling about spills and messes.  It's an embarrassing admission.  I know that spills and messes are part of learning. Part of exploring and growing. I teach this, for crying out loud.  But, just as my idea to run a 10k sounds refreshing and energizing and once in the race I am crying out for it to be over, the idea of exemplary parenting is warm and comforting and easy to type while curled in a chair and my children soundly snuggled in their beds for the night.  In actuality it can be trying and exhausting and can feel like I'm running in place on a treadmill and not getting anywhere at all.  But on this day, through my new eyes I was able to clearly see the simple steps to become more of the mom I wanted to be.

That night I made a resolution.  No more yelling at my children for spilling.  Baby steps.  Every day I pray.  And every morning, I pray for patience.  But that evening after my surgery, I prayed thanksgiving for these new eyes.  New eyes.  New ways.    

From Julie Silander:
Yes, time flies.
But I don’t want to stop it. I want to climb on its back and soak up every inch of the scenery. I want to drink in the laughter, the tears, the soccer games, the visits to the ER, the blues skies and the torrential rains that this world has to offer. For when the cosmic clock is finally grounded, I will climb off its back, grateful for the wild and wonderful (full-of-wonder) ride.
So enjoy your toddlers, your teenagers, your grandchildren. Don’t miss one bit of the ride due to fear or regret. For the day is coming when the tarnish of time will be removed  from us all. And underneath will be revealed the beauty, the creativity, the wonder, the whimsy, and the perfected love that was imprinted on our souls from the very foundations of the universe.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Straight Paths

That's it.  I've reached my breaking point.  The fences are going up.

Yes, I know they have wings, smarty pants.

To be clear, my intent isn't to prevent the hens from flying over the fences. Rather, it is a futile effort on my part, all I could think up really, in hopes that maybe by putting up a decorative fence, my chick-a-dees would recognize that a boundary actually exists between the dirt driveway and the dirt garden and stick to the other gazillion acres of dirt surrounding them. They'd just, you know, take a hint. I mean, really. How in the world am I supposed to convince my landlords that I am responsible enough to own a donkey when the landscaping looks like a mulch volcano exploded all over the sidewalk?

I set to work hammering in these dainty, so not chicken proof fences, chickens hopping over their new 'boundaries' as I worked, all the while feeling rather dejected realizing how much of my thoughts these days were spent trying think as a chicken would. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised that in fact, the fences were enough to keep most of the mulch from scattering around the premise as the chickens scratched. If you happen to be keeping a tally, the current score is Christi: 2, Chickens: 1. And once I find where these chickens are secretly hiding all of their eggs, I'll be taking that point right back from them thank you very much.

I looked out of the window this rainy morning and watched the chickens explore their yard, scratching and pecking at invisible delicacies hidden within the overgrown lawn.  (A donkey would certainly take care of that lawn problem, no?)  One chicken is by the barn, another stirring up mulch within the confines of the decorative fencing.  The flock is scattered around the yard rather aimlessly.

But for one brief moment in time, this morning I actually feel a little more mindful than this scattered flock of chickens. You see, I've been praying for some clear direction. I've found myself these past few weeks asking God if He could pretty please just light up the path he wants me to follow so that I can have no doubt it is His will for me. Make my boundaries a little more clear, make His path a little more visible in this foggy world with so many different roads.

As I prayed the prayer I'd been praying for weeks now, a thought slowly slipped into my consciousness,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him
And He will make your paths straight.

Ohhhhhhhhh.  Don't you love that skin tingling feeling inside you get when God answers your prayers?  Better yet, when He answers them by gently turning them back to you in His loving way as if to say, My child, I answered that prayer long ago, before you even thought to ask it.  Sure enough, there was the answer to my prayer, written in His word, long before the prayer had even formed in my thoughts.

Thanking God for answered and unanswered prayers and humbled by His awesomeness this Memorial weekend.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Time to dust off the vases and prepare them for the bottomless bouquet of dandelions!  One of my most favorite holidays is here upon us...Mother’s Day.  This year my children are at such a fun age that they have great anticipation for each and every holiday, even when said holiday does not celebrate them.  That's okay, because I celebrate them.  For me, Mother's Day is a chance to sit back and giggle to myself still in awe and wonder that I am a mom. A Mom!  Sometimes I still can't believe it.  Although to be honest, I approach Mother’s Day with more of a quiet reverence rather than as a day to justify kicking back with my feet up.  (Oh, don’t get me wrong though, I am getting a pedicure.)  But, each year around Mother’s Day I am reminded of a time when a day that has become so celebrated, was once my least favorite day of the year, a day I wanted to stay in bed and hide under my covers until it was over.   Longing so badly for children, my heart grew resentful of this elitist club that I couldn’t join.  Resentful of the basket of flowers and the lady at church who handed one to each and every mother.  I wanted one of those darn flowers so desperately, and yet couldn't have one.  Well, I could have had one.  They weren't heavily guarded or anything.  I once or twice thought about grabbing the lot of them.  Grabbing the whole basket and bolting out of the church, sprinkling them down the road as a flower girl walking down a wedding aisle would.  But, I digress.  What I mean to say is, Mother's Day was a really tough day for me not so long ago. Yet God blessed me with two precious gifts despite my ignorance to all things He knew, and I am forever humbled.  Motherhood has been the pleasure of my life.

So this Mother's Day, I celebrate.  As I celebrate moments of each day.  Waiting for these children placed in me a joy for parenting I may not have otherwise known.  It also left me with an empathy that I might not have otherwise known.   I remember noticing the heartbreak in a co-workers eyes when the news of my pregnancy was shared at my office five years ago, an invisible flicker in her eye that maybe she wasn't even aware of, but I felt it.  And I cancelled my plans to buy out every funny maternity t-shirt with clever jokes spread across the bump.  I don’t hide my joy about motherhood, but I am sensitive that for many, including three special moms I know, this Sunday is a heartbreaking reminder of a gaping hole in their lives.  Posted on my refrigerator is a phrase written by Ann Voskamp.  I read it to remind myself when the days are long or when I’ve had a particularly trying workday:

Motherhood is a hallowed place because children aren’t commonplace.  Co-laboring over the sculpting of souls is a sacred vocation, a humbling privilege.  Never forget.

Happy Mothers Day, Mommas.

Friday, April 5, 2013

In Pursuit

At what age, I wonder, do we begin to remember events from our childhood as adults?  Age four?  Earlier?  Well, that's quite unfortunate for my children.  Unfortunate that this morning I forever left them with a vision of their crazy mom in a foot chase with a large raccoon across a barren, muddy field.  First of many such memories, I suppose.  But, it would seem that the first memory of your mom in all her crazy glory is the hardest pill to swallow, don't you think?

It started out innocently enough.  Kids buckled in the car, we ventured out ten minutes later than intended, as is typical, en route first to the babysitter and then on to a conference for work.  Pulling out of the driveway and onto the road, my eyes caught a glimpse of something lumbering out of the ditch and into the field that borders our home.

"Guys, look!  Is that the biggest raccoon you've ever seen, or what?"  Was it even a raccoon?   It loped through the field.  I ran through my mental list of critters and couldn't think of any other rodent that would match its description.

"Maybe it's a coyote?"  A offered.

"I think it's a 'possum!"  E's squint matched mine as we watched the critter running towards our yard.

Wait.  Towards our yard?!?  Suddenly, it registered.  Giant raccoon.   Unassuming chickens.  This was not good.

You know that flight or fight response we all have?  Mine is flight.  You name the emergency, I'm running from it.  I scream and cower when so much as startled so often, I'm hardly even embarrassed about it anymore.  I'm not exactly high on the recruitment list for volleyball leagues, which is fine; the adrenaline rush of leaping frantically away from each ball volleyed my way is just way too overwhelming for me.  So tickle me powerful when without warning, I found myself veering the steering wheel sharply, pulling over to the side of the road and leaping from the parked car, in hot pursuit of this granddaddy of all raccoon whom I assumed was after my precious flock.  I raced furiously through the field after it, flinging up clumps of mud behind me with each bound.  I called for reinforcement from Spencer-dog who had no idea what all of the commotion was about, but was certainly excited to wait for me at the edge of the yard, wagging his tail excitedly as I galloped his way.

What a sight this must have seemed to any passerby.  And oh, how I hope there were no passerby. Gratefully, I did not catch the raccoon. (No one is surprised by this, right?)  Spencer-dog gladly took on his role of watch dog as I ran back to my car to find my children squealing delightfully: Yee-haw-ing and Go Momma-ing at this unexpected rodeo.  I buckled in sheepishly, my adrenaline rush slowing and my analytic brain washing back in control and questioning my sanity.  Worse than being potentially insane, did this escapade push me into new terrain?  Had my life down the unconventional road less traveled suddenly swerved me into hillbilly territory?  

(Have I already linked you to this story?  If so, it's because it's one of my faves.)

If I were totally, totally honest though-and I try so hard to be-deep down I found myself so very grateful that I actually have a fight instinct after all.  Not that I want to use it.  I prefer to be spending my efforts working towards a more spiritually driven life than chasing critters about the Midwest.  I mean, really, how many spiritually sensitive souls do you find so trigger happy that they run out, yippee-ki-yaying after a poor raccoon out for a morning stroll.   John Edmiston writes about mastering our emotions by combining faith, courage, decisiveness, and balance...The alternative to the fight or flight response is to achieve mastery of the situation. Jesus always demonstrated mastery of any and every situation He was presented with. He neither fought the soldiers who arrested him or fled them but rather throughout His entire trial demonstrated an amazing degree of personal mastery. At no point in His life did Jesus give in to the adrenalin-filled panic of a fight or flight response. He could have gathered an army but He did not. Perhaps He could have fled hostile Israel and gone to Greece and been welcomed as a philosopher, but He did not. There were times when He avoided Jerusalem because of the hostility and because His time was not yet come yet at no point did He react from instinct alone.

Still a long way to go.  Still in pursuit.  I'm trying though.  Aren't we all?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Apple. Tree.

I'm writing this post for my sisters, Melissa and Andrea to let you both know some wonderful news! I finally have an answer to a question that I've hounded Mom with over the years.  I've heard you ask it too and thought it worth sharing my moment of clarity given that we are all moms now.  Remember when we'd flip through those mega-thick photo albums of our youth, hoping to catch a glimpse of our adorableness in a snapshot, but instead pitying the mismatched, gawky group of four, nary a head of brushed hair among them?  "Moo-om, how could you let us leave the house wearing that???", I've asked over the years, never receiving a satisfactory response.  I should have known that given the accusation in my voice, this would eventually catch up to me.

And it did catch up to me.  At exactly 7:45 this morning when the babysitter text messaged me asking if I would be going to the Easter program at preschool to watch my children sing today. Today!? I stared angrily at the phone, willing the message to disappear.  I checked the calendar before I texted her back my correction, that the Easter program was in fact, next week.  But, the calendar corrected me and my texted reply was a dejected, "Wouldn't miss it!".   I just couldn't bring myself to confess my oversight after just two weeks ago getting the date mixed up for Pajama day, which was scheduled for the next week.  Whatever.  Everyday should be pajama day in my opinion.  And for the most part, my children share my opinion on these matters.

What followed was a frenzied rush of phone calls and text messages and rescheduling of my day's appointments.  Then, a chaotic flurry of getting the children dressed for the second time in one morning. As I ran up the stairs to help E pick out an Easter-y dress,  I called over my shoulder to A, "Could you pick out a nice outfit for your Easter program today?"  Several minutes later, as I settled E in my lap to pull together a french braid, a proud looking little boy waltzed down the stairs in his very un-Eastery outfit.   Oh my.  A delicate barter ensued.  My gentle suggestion to change out of high-watered cargo pants was taken, but when I added a collared shirt to my request, it was met with howls, and I immediately lost my chance at working any hair gel into his mop.  I played my brush your teeth card in exchange for Fine, you can wear your sneakers instead of dress shoes.

And while before I had children, I'd vowed that they would always look presentable for family photos, I was surprised to find that I didn't sweat the costume all that much because as it turns out,

Nobody rocks a Big Lebowski sweater, Spider-Man gloves, and hat hair like this guy....

And also because I had to rush out of the preschool after their last song to an appointment. I'd squeezed it into the hour I had before returning to pick up the kids from preschool.  I was excited to see the little boy, who's been talking more and more over the past few months.  His mom immediately shared with me the great news that the results from his lumbar puncture last week showed no increase in abnormal blood cells for the first time ever.  Ever!  I shared her joy as we worked together, and he had a great session.  As we wrapped up therapy, I mentioned the unexpected Easter program that presented on my schedule this morning as I thanked her for rescheduling their therapy time.  

"Well, you went, didn't you?" she cut me off before I went too far into my story.  Her normally soft and calm voice was a little sharp, the voice of a Mom whose son was just cleared to leave his home and be around other children in a group for the first time because until now the risk of infection was too great.  I nodded, our eyes sharing her unspoken reminder that life is so fragile and each moment is a memory not to be missed. 

My dear sisters, I'm not sure if any of this was in Mom's reasoning when she let me wear an off-the-shoulder Rainbow-Brite pajama top with too large boy's corduroy pants on the first day of school.  Maybe she just wanted to let us express our creativity through our clothes. Maybe everything else was in the laundry.  Maybe she saw me as I saw A today, the most handsome boy in his class no matter what he's wearing (that would make sense given my pixie haircut and boy's pants, I suppose).   Just wanted to share my moment of enlightenment this morning to the two who would know.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013


"Want to know what my mom did?"  E's high pitched little voice sang out across the beauty parlor.

With a screeching halt, the bustling chatter stopped.  Martha set down her scissors.  Loretta paused and turned expectantly. The little old lady peeped out from where she was hidden underneath the hair dryer.

"Why yes we do!"  One of the hairdressers cooed, her voice dripping with the anticipation of juicy gossip.

I stiffened slightly, willing myself to relax.  Transparency, I reminded myself.  But, I also made a mental note to start closing the door when I used the bathroom at home.

Among the gazillion blessings I can count of being a mom, I can add the push to accept that anyone in earshot knows the innermost workings of our home thanks to my two little chatterboxes.  And what a grace it is that I can consider it a blessing that everyone in the checkout line at Target knows that we are once again buying new shoes because Mommy forgot to see that her children were fully clothed before starting on a road trip.

Yesterday, I took A and E to storytime at the the library.  It was a special reading, complete with guests from the symphony orchestra to accompany the story as it was read.

"Has anyone ever seen a turkey?" the librarian opened as an introduction to her book.  In the crowd, a little hand shot up.  She didn't wait to be called on.

"Well, my mom..."  my face reddened, "Well, we used to have three chickens.  But one night, my mom forgot to close the chicken coop door because she was so busy and then a predator took one of the chickens and killed it."

"Well...ummm...a predator?  Oh my." The librarian seemed thrown off by the sudden morbid turn in this story reading.  "This little girl certainly has a big vocabulary." The librarian offered no further questions as she proceeded with the storybook.

I'm by nature a most private person.  But, sometimes being private can walk a thin line with being secretive or compartmentalized.  I think it's driven by that desire to always be liked.  Hey, we've all got our things, right?  Ironically, this trait increased when I first came to faith.  Yearning to be accepted by this new 'club', I found myself more concerned with the rules than with my spirit, worried I would say the wrong thing or act the wrong way.  All the while trying to hold on to an old life and take care not to offend old friends, which as we all know just doesn't work.

Funny how life is woven together though.  As I began to recognize God's gentle hand pulling me towards a more authentic life-one that involved living to please Him, not living to please people- my children were not so gently pushing me from behind in the same direction, resulting in me tripping over myself as I loafed clumsily into this brand new way of thinking and living.

Living transparently.  Not living perfectly.  Transparently. So that I can reveal Jesus who lives within. So that I can just smile graciously, rolling up my window as I leave church and A calls out from his car seat to all who can hear before the window closes , "Drive careful!  Don't get a speeding ticket like my Mom!"

Thursday, January 31, 2013

She's So Martha

As a relative newcomer to the readings in the Bible, I was helpfully advised a few years ago to start with the book of Luke.  Which I did, and was so surprised to find myself in one of the stories one day.

[38] As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. [39] She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. [40] But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

[41] "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, [42] but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-42
It's like when you unexpectedly catch a glimpse of yourself on the news or in someone else's photo album.  There I am!  No, no, not Mary.  Not the one at Jesus's feet, peacefully soaking up His words.  The one there in the kitchen, resentfully banging around pots and pans, hoping to catch Jesus's attention with all of my hard work, growing irate with everyone else's laziness, and eventually fuming that no one is noticing all of my efforts.  Yeah, that one.

Oh, but Lord, you know me so well.  I am worried and bothered about so many things.  So much so that the motivation for my frenzied pace is so often not for Your glory.  Until reading that passage, while I realized my tendency toward martyrdom was a little on the annoying side, I didn't realize what an obstacle to living a spiritually rich life it was.  But it is. Like this summer, when my friend and fellow Sunday School teacher, Mary invited the kids and I to the beach and I responded with,

"But, I've got so much laundry to do."   To which she responded,

"Christi, Christi.  Laundry is what October through March are for in Illinois.  We have two short months in which to soak up the sunshine here."  She was right, by the way.  I'm getting a lot of laundry done this winter.  Or maybe it's just been too cold to change out of my long johns and fleece sweatshirt and into something clean.  Regardless, I chose laundry that day.  I forgo fellowship for folding clothes, but it wasn't the choice I made that was so wrong, it was the attitude I carried with it as I resentfully whittled away at the dirty clothes pile.  Had I chosen the beach, I likely would have been resentful with my dear friend for all of the work that awaited me at home.

After reading Luke for the first time, I spoke with Elaine, a mentor from a mom's prayer group that I belonged to.  I shared my observation of my kinship with Martha as we made small talk.  Elaine listened, nodding and empathizing as I spoke.  Then she responded,  "It's so true, and you'll find yourself relating to characters all through the Bible.  Keep reading Luke, though.  You'll find Martha to become one of Jesus's most faithful disciples as you continue."  Could this be true?  I listened as Elaine explained the story in a way I hadn't received it. I took her words to heart, only a little envious of her British accent, wishing I could sound so intelligent and likable at the same time.  I digress.

I'm reminded of my conversation with Elaine and of my first encounter with Martha today because for the first time that I can remember, my house is relatively clean and all of the dirty laundry fits in the dirty laundry hampers (which is as good as having all of the laundry done, in my opinion).  I've got almost all of my reports for work caught up.  My checkbook is balanced (call it the upside to being stuck inside with sick children during an ice storm). My children are tucked in bed.  And, the only important part of this list, I spent the day in and out of prayer.    I feel content (albeit cold) and I realize it's not the work, it's the motivation behind my work and the gentle reminder God's Word provided to help me adjust and re-adjust my mindset.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

We're back in business!

The business of eating eggs, that is.
Brinner Time!

Funny how sometimes it takes a drought to appreciate the rain.  Or a season of molting to appreciate farm fresh eggs.  Not for me, of course.  I appreciated eggs every morning that they were provided.  I've lived through enough droughts to never complain about a rainy season.  I'm speaking of my children.  The children who, at the end of this past summer were needing eggs tucked secretly into other foods to entice them into eating them and who are now asking for eggs each morning when they wake and are gleeful about the idea of breakfast for dinner.  Although really, who isn't gleeful about brinner?

As the egg shortage 'round our parts dragged on, I'd started asking around, as I had no idea where one would get a new flock of hen.  Especially a flock of three. Turns out, here in the country, that's all you have to do-ask around.

Some friends from church hatch and raise chicks every Spring with their grandchildren and every winter give the grown chickens away, usually to the 4-H, but this year they so very kindly agreed to donate them to our family.  When we all but cornered them after worship one Sunday this past Fall.  All we had to do was wait.  And if there is one thing I'm an expert at, it's waiting.  Okay. Not an expert.  But, I am a little bit better at it than I used to be.  Finally, we received notice that they were ready to be picked up, and my sister and I journeyed to their hen house at night, my children in tow.  As the hens would be roosting, we hoped they'd be easier to crate.  It's hard to say if that was the case or not.  They certainly didn't sleep through the process.  Like unpracticed thieves, quickly as we could we'd grab a hen, and gently place it in the crate as A opened and closed the lid for us.  As we moved, we reassured them that they would be going to a nice home, although quite honestly not as nice as the swanky chicken digs that they were living in currently.  One has to be honest with their flock from the start.  They still seemed pretty frantic, huddling together in a corner as we moved all nineteen of them, one by one. It was dark in the coop, save for the red glow of the heat lamp, but I could see that these chickens were the most beautiful chickens if ever there were.  A mixture of Rhode Island Whites, Black Australorps, Buff Orpingtons, and Dominiques.   And best of all, they were laying eggs.  Eggs!  Three of the new flock came to our home, plus out of guilt...Buster and Stacy from the old gang.  Well, possibly Buster and Stacy.  Although not very likely Buster and Stacy. No matter.  We have eggs!

With our newer and larger flock, I set out on a fresh foot in my farming venture.  A generous offer from my landlords to house the hens in the shed for the winter was accepted.  With an actual winter-proofed chicken home, my children could begin helping with chores again.  I'd drifted away from one of my main purposes in chicken raising and country living: teaching responsibility in raising animals and helping my children learn where their food comes from.  As it's grown colder, it's been easier just to do the chores myself.
But, as the year turned new chicken raising has resumed as a family affair.


So on we go.  Sunny D, Azul, and Mrs. H. have adjusted well to their new home.  As have Buster and Stacy the second.  It's worth mentioning that Mrs. H is also the name of A and E's preschool teacher.  And I think it will be worth mentioning to Mrs. H that this should be recognized as the ultimate preschooler sign of affection and not any indication that their teacher acts, looks, or smells like a black and white speckled chicken.  For what it's worth.