Sometimes I forget to spit out the seeds…

Posts tagged ‘blessing’

Saturday Musings on my Porch

I woke up this morning, after eight hours of sleep, feeling like I’d just finished a full day of hard physical labor.  My energy level picked up, but not much.  I managed to get a load of dishes washed, help my little girls straighten their rooms, sort and file six months worth of paperwork, and turn dozens of frozen bread ends into bread crumbs.  The last was an effort to make room in my freezer while we were trying to determine if our full-sized freezer had died.  Turns out it had just been left open, and we didn’t lose any of the contents.  Praise God for mundane victories, right?

I paused between projects to get a bit of fresh air.  I moved to our huge screened-in porch, which is one of the focal points of our new home.  New, still, in my mind, sixteen months after moving in.  I’m sitting in a wicker chair I inherited when my grandma moved from her large home in the woods of western Massachusetts, to a tiny apartment here in upstate New York. Outside, I can see the bright blue sky, visible through the greenery of a tall, sprawling tree next to the driveway.  The wind whips through the branches, and also makes the loose sheets of plastic that covered the porch screens for the winter flap around wildly, with a sound that is actually quite lovely and peaceful.

Gazing across our driveway to the side yard, I glimpse a sea of green grass with an abundance of yellow dandelions. I never can understand why people spray chemicals to kill those lovely flowers.  Our “neighbors,” row after row of headstones, decorated with flags and flowers, receive many visitors today.

Looking down the expanse of the porch, I see towels and bathing suits, hanging on hooks and draped over benches; evidence of a pre-lunch swim in the creek.  A path of small mismatched rugs extends from where I am to the door, covering the tile that isn’t really meant for outdoor conditions, and gets dangerously slippery when wet.  The stacked up bins of shoes and boots sit near the door.  A crate we found in the barn attic, filled with century-old encyclopedias, acts as a table for the spigot-ed jar of bubbles and basket of sidewalk chalk.

The house paint is chipped, the ceiling fans are ugly, and the metal nameplate by the door bears the previous owners’ names.  (Why in the world haven’t we taken that down yet?)  The pieces of wicker furniture would look so much cuter if they were painted to match and had new cushions.  But despite these flaws – and perhaps even because of them, because I know there will never be an end to maintaining and improving this home – I am filled with thankfulness for what God has blessed us with.  The exhaustion that threatened to overtake me a few minutes ago has receded a bit, and I feel refreshed.  The refreshment is mostly mental and spiritual, and my body is still weary.  But it’s enough to get me through the day.

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Weddings and Funerals

As a child, I never would have imagined that in adulthood, there would be family members I would only see at weddings and funerals.  I don’t mean distant branches of the family tree, but close relatives…. grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins.  Even as my cousins and I seemed to have less in common as we got older, I still envisioned adulthood peppered with family reunions and occasional holiday gatherings.  I have written before about the gradual absence of all but my immediate family. But inevitably, that wedding or funeral comes around.

My grandfather died last week.  He was a very handsome Italian-American named Joe; the first generation of his family to be born in America.  Family rumor has him as one of 13 children, but everyone I’ve talked to can only name six of them; the rest are assumed to have died in infancy.  I have memories of he and my Armenian grandma taking us to the donut shop for donuts-on-a-stick and stickers from the vending machine by the door.  It seemed that every time we visited, he was eating basturma (I remember it pronounced BAS-too-mah), which is air-dried, cured beef.  He was always thrilled to see us; so proud, and so protective. Coast bar soap reminds me of him, and I’m not sure why.

At 87 years old, and in failing health after a couple of strokes, Grandpa’s death was not a surprise.  A midst the predictable feelings of sadness, there mingled a few other emotions as I began planning the logistics of our trip to bid him farewell.

Stress as I made arrangements for leaving our children behind while we spent two days in New Jersey for the viewing, funeral, and burial services.  My in-laws were more than willing to watch them for us, but I needed to type up instructions so the kiddos wouldn’t try to con their way into endless screen time and no chores.  Also on the docket were a light school plan and medical authorization forms, just in case.

Indecision as I hemmed and hawed about whether or not to bring our 3-yr-old with us.  She is needy at bedtime, and also my “baby”.  She would be a great buffer for those awkward moments with estranged family members.  (She ultimately came with us and was spoiled rotten.)

Embarrassment when I thought of showing up overweight after not seeing many of these people for several years.  Adding to that embarrassment was the struggle to find appropriate clothing to wear when I haven’t been shopping for my larger body.

Anger when I thought of those family members who’d shunned myself, my parents, and siblings with no explanation.  For years, I’d known the time would come when we’d be forced to spend time together.  That time had come, and it felt like I was about to enter a hostile middle school cafeteria.  No logic.  No rules.  Just “I don’t like you.”

Excitement when I thought of the ones whose love is evident.  The ones it is a joy to spend time with, no matter how long it’s been.  The ones I can talk to and laugh with and be myself with.

Anxiety at the thought of actually leaving my children, although I had no doubt that they were in capable hands.

I spent the week praying for grace, strength, safety, and peace.  I prayed that Jesus’ love would shine through me, regardless of what was going on around me.

In the end, the good moments far outweighed the bad.

The bad…. In addition to the terrifying drive around Philly, there was the anticipated family angst.  The “shunners” were very inconsistent with their shunning.  One moment avoiding eye contact and bee-lining it away from me, and the next carrying on what seemed like normal conversations, but felt like a big game of “let’s pretend.”  It was unnerving, confusing, and a little sickening.  But those moments were few.

The good…. I got to see many family members and friends, who all came together to honor my grandpa.  I enjoyed great conversations, good food, and laughter.  My grandma did not make her usual inquiry about whether or not I was pregnant again, to which she generally responds “thank God” when the answer is no.  In fact, she proudly announced to several people that I have eight children, and told one of my sisters what a blessing my kids are.  Wow.

I came home feeling inspired to make more of an effort to remain connected.  I thought about hosting a family reunion when our house is more hospitable.  I kicked myself for bringing my camera and not taking any pictures, especially of all the cousins together.  I don’t know if anything will change in our family dynamics.  My bet would be on “probably not.”  I feel sad but resigned to that fact, and just grateful for the good times that we had this week.

My grandpa and I weren’t really very close, but every time I saw him, his face lit up with a smile.  He liked to tell the story of when I was little and just learning to walk.  I’d fall forward and end up rump-in-the-air to reveal a heart on the bottom of my diaper cover.  I’m 36 years old, and until he lost the ability to talk a few years ago, that was still a memory he shared often, and with joy.  And he called me “my Michelle.”

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Children are the Best Medicine

There’s a lot of darkness in this world.  Depression.  Illness.  Lack.  Anxiety.  Crime.  Loss.  Sorrow.  Sometimes it all comes at once, closing in on us.  We reach out in desperation for something to hold on to, to keep us from swirling away in that darkness.  I reach out to Jesus.

I reach out for comfort and clarity.  The comfort usually comes immediately, as soon as I say His name, because I know He is there.  But clarity.  That one can evade my grasp indefinitely.  And the harder I strive for it, the more elusive it becomes.  I think Jesus wants us to have clarity, for sure.  He wants us to step forward in life with confidence in His plan.  But He also wants us to trust Him.  If we had the whole picture, we’d have to push really hard against the temptation to let that trust shift to ourselves.  So He only gives us a glimpse.

Instead of trusting “the plan,” I’m forced to simply trust in Him.  Trust in what I know for sure.  That He created me in His image.  That He loves me more than I can grasp.  That He wants only good for me.  That I am righteous through His sacrifice.  As I circle around, clinging to those truths and waiting for what comes next, I’m still in the midst of my hectic life, keeping it together for the sake of my family.

It occurred to me, the other day, that the Lord has orchestrated my life for such a time as this.  He has given me the medicine I need to bring back my joy, and then bring it back again and again when I lose it.  He has given me children.

I am in a somewhat unique position.  While I do not have a baby right now, nor do I have any adult children, I’ve got pretty much everything in between.  The joy in parenting is different for each stage of childhood, and right now, I feel like I’ve got it all!  God has blessed me with eight amazing little (and not-so-little) people.  Not just for a lifetime; not just for eternity; but for this day.   I want to bring you an ode to my children….the tools through which God is the “lifter of my head.”

Fourteen-year-old boy.  It is surreal and almost giddy to see him, so tall, strong, and handsome.  I see that when he gently roughhouses with his tiniest sister, he’s not just avoiding his school work….he actually enjoys it.  He rolls his eyes and runs away when his sisters try to tackle him, but I can see that it pleases him, and he lets them catch him.  We are still working on respect, but he is getting it.  He’s working hard.  He’s still a kid, and would rather be playing, but when we call on him to help out, he does it diligently and with 100% effort.  Joy number one.

Thirteen-year-old boy.  He recently offered a greeting and a goodbye to family members, unsolicited, and unprompted.  That is huge for this boy.  My heart swells to see him engaging in conversations, looking others in the face, and smiling when he does it.  With a memory like a steel trap and a voracious appetite for reading anything and everything, I can see that God has equipped him to overcome those blind spots in his mind.  While his stories and his LEGO creations are intricate, he finds pleasure in simple things, and the whole world knows when he is amused.  Joy number two.

Eleven-year-old boy.  I see him seeking out the little boys at church, letting them hang on and pummel him.  He begs for a baby brother;  but while he is waiting for God to give him that, he embraces his role as big brother to five sisters.  In school, he struggles only against his desire for perfection.  Learning comes easily to him, and I am glad.  He loves to hear, “I love you,” and always says it back.  He might even let me hug him.  Joy number three.

Nine-year-old girl.  This beauty is a fascinating blend of her father’s athleticism and her mother’s introverted mind.  His singing voice, my book addiction.  Her insanely thick hair gives me vain pride, and her nurturing attitude makes me smile.  She still climbs into my short lap, with her long legs, for a snuggle.  On the brink of adolescence, tears come more easily to her now; and while I know that the coming years may be filled with emotional upheaval, I’m excited for what we’ll get to share.  Joy number four.

Seven-year-old girl.  I see her big smile – teeth overcrowding her little mouth – and freckled nose, and can’t help but smile back.  Her laugh is at times a guffaw, and so contagious.  She’s usually included in the “big kid” activities, but she’ll also take the lead with the younger kids, engaging them in a tea party or block-building marathon.  When doing chores, she does more than is required of her, without complaining.  Her servant heart is emerging.  Joy number five.

Six-year-old girl.  We call her “Brutus.”  Since she was a baby, she has come at life with a great force and boundless energy, sometimes trampling those in her way.   She stubbornly refuses help when she’s reading, often books that are beyond her ability, and just makes up words when she is stumped.  The results are pretty hilarious.  She is fearless, and thinks she can do it all.  Even her rascally escapades exude creativity and ingenuity.  Joy number six.

Four-year-old girl.  Her fake-looking eyelashes are ridiculously beautiful on a child, and her eyes captivate me.  Four is a fun age, filled with curiosity, drama, and rapid learning.  She speaks with a bit of a lisp.  She admires the older boys in her life….brothers, cousins, and friends of theirs.  They can usually tolerate her hanging on their arm or putting their name in a song, because she is so adorable.  I think she forgot how to walk, because she seems to leap or skip wherever she goes.  Joy number seven.

Three-year-old girl.  She will be three in one week, but it seems like she’s already been three for months.  I’m not one to rush through life’s stages, but she has been a very articulate two-year-old.  We crack up daily at her observations and explanations of  life.  Her snuggles lift my spirit immediately.  If you’ve never had a toddler bury their face in your neck while patting your back as you embrace, I highly recommend it.  Even her fake tantrums (“fake” because she’s not really upset), with her arms folded and an exaggerated pout on her face, fill my heart to the brim.  Joy number eight.

I could write for days about both the trials and the joys of motherhood.  But the Lord has brought these joyful moments to the forefront for me….like one of those trippy hidden pictures that were all the rage in the ’90’s.  You’re looking at a crazy, swirling, confusing, and frustrating mess.  Then all of a sudden, you see it.  The picture seems to magically rise to the surface.  And I realize……children are the best medicine.