faith

A child’s prayer

My little four year old LE, I think, has been teaching me something about prayer. A little about patience. A little about the faith of a child. A little about thankfulness. But mostly about prayer.

At bedtime, you see, we read a little story, talk about it and then pray. And Bug, though she is a little older, goes first, because LE’s prayers go on and on and on and on and Bug invariably falls asleep.

“Dear God,” she begins.

“I love you so much I just want to kiss and hug you. When I get to heaven, I’m going to give you a big kiss right on the cheek and I’m never going to stop kissing and hugging you . . .”

[“um, Mommy? Do you think God would like it if I kissed him?” — “Yes, dear. I think God would like that.”]

“. . . Thank you for Mookie and for Tiggy and Bug and Bear and Mouse. And thank you for giving us such a good mommy and daddy. Thank you for Bunny and my bed and my sheets. Thank you for my bear and my ponies and my bus that says the ABC’s. Do you like my drawings on my wall? I made those for you. And thank you for my wall . . . “

And my mind started wandering in there somewhere after thanking God for her wall. And I prayed my own prayer of thankfulness for this little girl overflowing with love for her God. And I prayed for a small measure of her thankfulness that sees everything around her as a beautiful gift.

“. . . and thank you for Jesus and octopuses and glasses. Amen.”

The promises I wish I had

The baby naps, Bear and Mouse watch a movie, Bug and LE are having a picnic, the house is quiet. The stillness of the house makes the churning in my stomach grow louder. I wander a bit from sweeping the front room to making the bed to filling the sink with water to staring out the window. Our property and the adjacent field is bathed in golden light and I decide to take the dogs for a walk.

And I think back on last year. On the hours spent playing board games with the kids. On the hours spent pacing through the house. On the hours spent staring out my window. On the moment life became a prison sentence. And this churning in the pit of my stomach knows no end.

I think of the conversations I have had with other mothers who tell me the second year was harder than the first. To the counselor who told me it can take years to really recover from the shock of losing a child unexpectedly. But I don’t have years. I have children. Children who need more than a mother who is coping.

But I know it has gotten better. It doesn’t always feel like it has, I think because so much of last year was lost to a haze I can scarcely see through. I don’t really remember what it was like. Not clearly. But I do know that a year ago I would not have stepped outside. To feed the chickens, yes. If the children called me out, maybe. But because the property was bathed in a golden light and I thought I might find some peace standing in its midst? Never.

A year ago, I was dead inside and I didn’t really care if I ever felt anything else. Now, there is just this churning, this continual anxiety that rests in the pit of my stomach and never quite takes over and never quite goes away.

“Lord, please . . . “

I ask. But I don’t quite know what I’m praying for. My soul pleads, but there are no words so I turn toward the cemetary where I can see the cedar trees lining the northern edge. The dogs stop at the edge of our windbreak, waiting to see if I’m going to walk to the pasture or just stand there and then I see it.

A beautiful rainbow stretching across the sky. One of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

And the tears begin to flow and my chest heaves with its sobs. I know what the rainbow means, but I want those promises for me. I want to know my children will come through this. I want to know that Micah won’t struggle because so much of his early life was dominated by his mother’s grief. I want to know that this won’t happen again.

“Mommy! Mommy!”

I hear Bug calling from the windbreak. I struggle to regain my composure as she runs up to me.

“Mommy! Mommy! Do you see the rainbow? Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Yes, it is sweetheart. It’s very beautiful.”

I say it without looking. My back to the rainbow, I look at her shining face.

“Look, Mommy! You have to look!”

I turn, and I look, and I see. A double rainbow.

And the knot in my stomach eases just a little bit.

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Julie is looking to possibly head up our first book discussion if there is any interest. If you would be interested in joining in a discussion of the book “When Life is Hard” by James MacDonald, pop in and let her know!

Can you cheat at good parenting?

I’m wondering because someone at church thought I must train my children well because of something they did but I sort of set the whole thing up. But I guess I should back up a bit.

See, there’s this lady at church. I’ve always lliked her, though I never really knew her. She’s older. Well, OK, she’s elderly. But I used to sit in church and think things like, “I hope I have so much beauty and grace as she when I’m that age.” I don’t even know why. We hardly exchanged more than two words before the funeral. After the funeral, however, she told me she had lost a son many years ago.

So now the connection is rather strong. It’s like this sisterhood of grief I’d do almost anything to not know anything about, but the people in it are so breathtakingly amazing to get to know. And now I talk to her whenever she makes it to church.

But on Sunday she seemed rather lonely.

She complained of feeling like a stranger because it had been so long since she had been to church.

I thought about being dependent on others to get to church. Of living with Parkinson’s. Of needing help to walk. Of losing a child so many years ago. And of loneliness setting it.

I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to say something. I wanted to make her feel better. But everything that came to mind seemed so dismissive of her hurting. So I gave her a hug, told her I always missed her when she wasn’t there and was glad the other lady with us seemed to have more of an idea of what to say.

And then I went to collect my children. As we entered the sanctuary, I leaned over and whispered in their ear.

“Hey, you guys, Mrs. H. is feeling kind of lonely. I think it would mean a lot to her if you stopped and said hi.”

And they all did.

And she beamed.

She even told me twice how wonderful my children were and how I must train them well because most children don’t pay any attention to an old woman in church.

And I totally wanted to confess that I told them to do it. Except that seemed like it would take away from her joy and that didn’t seem quite right, either. So I just kept it to myself.

But I still feel like the praise was undeserved. So can you cheat at good parenting?

 

The inspiring tale of a dog who wouldn’t give up

This is the story of our dog Hunter, the most annoying dog in the world. This is him now.

paralyzed dog

His hind legs are paralyzed, but not his spirit. That’s why I want to tell you his story.

It started when he was just a puppy.

lab mix puppy

His mother was the most annoying dog in the neighborhood.  She spent most of her time chained in her backyard barking. The rest of the time she spent roaming the neighborhood barking. At least until her owners got her a present. Or maybe it was one of the neighbors. One can never be too sure about these things.

shock collar

That ended her barking. But not her wandering. Every six months or so there was another sign about free puppies as you drove into town and every six months or so the remainder were taken to the pound. How we ended up with one is a whole ‘nuther story. Maybe I’ll tell it to you in the comments if anyone wants to know.

Anyway, he apparently took careful notes from his mother because when he came to live at our house, he displayed one great talent.

barking dog

If I put him in the backyard, he barked.

If I had him in the front room, he barked.

When I had enough and put him in the kennel in my room, he screamed.

When the kids went out the back door, he would knock them over to get out.

Then I had to go out and chase him. Not that I could catch him. He would run in little circles around me, always just out of reach, always barking like his life depended on it.

And I thought all sorts of horrible things.

I knew he wasn’t getting enough walks. He was a big dog and a high energy dog. I resolved multiple times to take him for more walks and longer walks to just try to wear him out.

But it was either still not enough or that wasn’t really the problem.

So I resolved to take him to the pound. Over and over and over. Sometimes, I fantasized about it. While chasing him across the field behind our house, I’d imagine myself driving around with the minivan and opening the door, the one trick that almost always worked. Then I’d drive to the pound and leave him, the barking and the three leashes he’d eat on the way behind me. Sometimes I even told him all about it.

I might have even carried through if it weren’t for one thing.

He wasn’t my dog. I mean, he lived in my house and ate my dog food and got on my nerves, but he had chosen my son as His Boy. And my quirkly little boy had a lot of trouble fitting in and needed all the unconditional love he could get. Even if it came in the form of the most annoying dog in the world.

To be continued . . .with Part II.

Is it worth the drive?

Five children, my mom and I packed into a car with all we need for almost two weeks on the road. A cooler separates two children in the back. Bags, chairs, odds and ends take up the leg room for everyone not fortunate enough to still need a car seat. There’s no room because my one rule for traveling is that nothing can be packed higher than the seats. I don’t want a deer or a minor fender bender or even slamming on the brakes to turn our stuff into deadly projectiles. Tired, uncomfortable and irritable, our vacation begins.

road trip

As did the bickering. The arguing. The poking. The kicking of seats. For 350 miles to our first stop at a little campsite in Oklahoma, the children argued.

“Do you want to go to camp?” I asked. “Is it worth the drive? Or do you want to turn back?”

Yes, they wanted to go. They all agreed. But as nine became ten and ten became eleven and no one showed any signs of sleeping, I began to wonder.

A little after midnight, I finally pulled into the campsite. As I tried to make myself comfortable somewhere between a toddler seat and a steering wheel, I wondered some more.

Is it worth the drive?

This journey through life is not easy. I am often cramped in a position I see no way out of, sitting next to someone I don’t always get along with thinking all the while that somehow everyone else has it a little better. And if only I could change this little bit, everything would be better.

And now that I have had a taste of real suffering, the veil has been lifted. The veil that allowed me to say, “Smile and be happy!” while all of creation groans under the weight of sin has been lifted and I groan alongside it.

I used to look forward to the future, to the adventure each day brought, to the fulfillment of dreams painted on a canvas of late night conversations and musings about all that life could be. But the color has gone out of my dreams as I realize just how unimportant most of my pursuits have become. How unimportant they always have been, though I never recognized it before.

But now I look forward to a different future.

The children are better at it than I am. LE sometimes prays that God would let Tiggy sleep in His big bed. Bug wants to know if Jesus plays chase with him the way we did. They talk about Heaven the way I used to talk about this property: full of work and play and loved ones and life.

Sometimes I listen to them talk and I get glimpses of Heaven. Of eternity. Of life with God and the saints and Tiggy. Forever. I imagine the brilliance of Heaven and all I ever hoped for in this world pales in comparison. Standing at the gates of eternity, it is hard to imagine that the temporal struggles of this world will have quite the same importance as they seem to now.

Isn’t it worth the drive? Through the inconveniences, the struggles and the heartache, isn’t Heaven worth it?