The Gift Of Returning

 

Life has an interesting way of bending in on itself.  Instead of days stretched out in a long straight line one after another, they seem to have patterns of retracing.  Of looping back around.  Where I discover I am back in the same place I thought I’d left a long time ago… spiritually, emotionally, even physically.

Like being lost in the woods, my eyes search for the path to take and I discover I have passed this land mark before.  Felt these feelings, had these thoughts… and frustration, discouragement, disappointment settles in.  I hover on the brink of familiar pits and hidden traps.  Wondering, how on earth can I be here again?

I stop and talk with God.  What have I left undone? Where have I failed?  What did I not complete? Thinking through where I could have possibly taken a wrong turn, trying to think through reasons for returning… Where did I fail to trust? To follow?

And when I pause long enough to listen, to really look around, I gain a grain of understanding.

Though I am back in familiar terrain, there are subtle differences, in me.

God has brought me to a new place, familiar, but healed over.  He has developed in me the right amount of health to bring me here: back to places where wounds were first inflicted and sins were first committed.  It is here that I feel the old ache and take notice of those scars, those healing places.  Here is where I discover the multitude of grace, and the miracle of God’s work in me.  It is here that I look long enough to notice… to see the changes He has wrought in me.

My life, bending back in on itself, as if bringing part of me under the light of a lamp. Reminding me of what was, revealing to me all that is, refreshing in me the miracle of hope for what He will continue to do.  A gift of returning.  Remembering a place I once came from, and measuring the inches my heart has expanded.  Shining the light of repeating on cracks I couldn’t see then that need attention now.  Basking in the grace revealed, glimpsing the gentleness of His methods, resting in the hope restored.

The gift of viewing first hand that none of my pain is forgotten and none of my toiling to grow through it is waisted.  That every tear I’ve shed watered new life, a covering over, a healing within.

Before I leave the light of this Lamp-of-Uncovering, this place of past, I take in the joy. Hovering on the edge of old entrapments I can rejoice in the strength He has provided. Knowing that when I once again revisit here I will only be that much more grown and able.

“All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Traces Of Me

My son lost perspective today.

In the heat of the afternoon and the excitement of childhood playground adventures my son claimed and pronounced a caterpillar more important than a friendship.  His friend he left heart broken.  And in the waning hours of evening, six-year-old energy running low, he cherished his legos above the brother who idols him, leaving the toddler in tears.

My irritation swelled and my disappointment grew as this behavior displayed on repeat.  My level of patience dimmed and anger clouded above all else.

I lost perspective too.  But I lost mine first… My son?  Following in my footsteps.

The morning swirled in circles, and I could not accomplish one task without interruption.  Focus was fuzzy, everyone with their own needs, agendas, desires and demands.  “Just one minute?” I begged.

Can’t they see?  Can’t they understand?

So much to accomplish, so much to do!  So much to check off lists, so much to respond to. I am but one person, they are a few.  “Patience!” I yelled.

But tables turn when they are tucked in bed and I am at my end.  When they do not lay still and close their eyes, when they talk and giggle and keep the baby awake… and I loose my temper.  When I am standing in their room demanding, “why can’t you just obey?”  And the tears are streaming and the sobs are crashing.

Can’t you see?  Can’t you understand?  The gentle whisper filters through my head.

How do they choose what is important?  How do they learn?  They watch me.  They imitate my steps, the path my emotions take across my face, the words that treck through my lips. Little honey bees learning my dance, steps to the fruit I have brought into our hive.

I am on my knees.  Crushed with the weight of my choices, memories of my words.  And it is my tears and my sobs as I beg their forgiveness and repent before them.   Their arms close around me, reach close and tight.  Our heads bent together, tears all dripping on knees. We sob out our apologies.  We extend forgiveness, assure each other of our love. We accept each other again, things made right.

I do understand, at least a little better.  So I begin a new.

I tuck them back in bed and let the words flow.  Speaking all things true, the qualities I see revealing themselves bit by bit.   My pride in my son, my admiration for his strength, his fearlessness, his compassion.  My knowledge that God knew he has what it takes to be a good example for a little brother and a good protector of a big sister, that He placed him in this family with that purpose in mind, and that he is fulfilling his purpose more deeply each day.  My gratefulness for my daughter, her tender heart and faithful countenance.  Her willingness to be my help, my nurturing partner in this family.  My wonder that God would gift me with her presence and her friendship, my awe at how she so perfectly fits His design for her life each day.

And tears are dry away, and sighs replace sobs and eye lids slip down over hope-filled eyes.  They breath in deeply and evenly, lips parted, fingers resting limp.

If nothing else in their lives, in all my failings and in every flaw, in all my sinning and hurting and learning, I hope that one thing they take, if there is one thing they mimic me in, let it be the grace God has showered over me.  The repenting and forgiving.  The starting anew. That after forgetting what is important, the remembering is where it can begin again.  A thankful heart for the undeserved gifts of second chances.  This, I pray, is the part of me they take away.

“I have nothing unless I receive it from Jesus.  

Absolute dependence on God is the secret for power in my work.”

~Andrew Murray. 

Becoming Less Convenient: trying new stores/venders

It has been a long process of lots of baby steps, where we make what changes we can tollerate in the season we are in.  This started about six years ago for us.  We started by hanging our clothes to dry whenever we could – which in Michigan is possible several months of the year (here in Oregon, not so much!) – instead of using the dryer.  Then we started reading ingredients and using items with fewer, more natural ingredients.

And there have been a lot of other little things we have done along the way.  But recently we were both re-motivated when reading a story of a missionary who visited a local village with her friend.  The story was highlighting the effects of poverty, and ended by stating that because the family could not afford to feed all of the children they had to choose one that would not be fed.  A little girl.

For us this was punctuated by the thought provoking concept that what is our convenience is only someone else’s cost.  Usually someone we don’t see, hear about or ever know personally.  And to what degree my convenience costs them is a question I would rather not have to figure out.  I would rather have a much less convenient life.

So… we are in a new season once again, and able to start a new change.

Today was my day to explore bulk items and ingredients that will allow me to make bread instead of buy it, and snack bars (something we seem to live off of when we are on the go), and other house hold items.

I have to admit, though we have done a fair amount of research, today was overwhelming! We visited a new store, where we found fantastic bulk items, but discovered that it is a very poor resource for other items we need – which is discouraging to me as I am not a person who loves to run from place to place.  And my online shopping proved to be just as overwhelming as I tried very hard to decipher differences and qualities and determine whether or not it I have equipment on hand to make it worth while.  And, we are trying to stay local.

And then, there is the budget.  We are not flexible in this regard.

Right now all I can say is that becoming less convenient is proving to be very inconvenient indeed.

However.  When we first started shopping label consciously the first trip we took in the same grocery store we’d already been using was 3 hours of feeling overwhelmed and in over our heads.  But we succeeded and we shop that way still, and in less than an hour (without kids).

So here is to our continued pursuit to become less convenient, little bit by little bit.

 

Prayers For A Friend

“As I pray, I learn to pray, to believe, and to expect with increasing boldness.” ~ Andrew Murray

My prayer for you today, as life unfolds in each passing hour, that you know the closeness of God’s comprehension.  His breath on your cheek, as you breath in deep and plod steadily through the routines, the trials, puzzels, and joys.  His peace washing over you when anger stirs within, His filter covering over displays of cracking messy mistakes so that you glimpse the beauty He creates.  As you speak, pause, hug, laugh, He would reveal His mercy, tender grace.  In mending moments of patience, in slow and sluggish hours of growth, you would hear His ever present whisper. “I love you, more than you’ll know today.”

 “He tends his flock like a shepherd: 
   He gathers the lambs in his arms 
and carries them close to his heart; 
   he gently leads those that have young.” ~ Isaiah 40:11

 

Patience: the tolerance

Poop.  It is what I deal with and clean up daily right now.  It described my attitude pretty well today too.  And it started in the morning… and it started on the floor.

My littest child is potty training at 23 months, after refusing to keep a diaper on.  He loves using the potty, and until today I would have said we are trained except with the pooping, which is still a struggle for him.

He stands in the middle of a room and tells me, “potty, Mommia, no treat.”  And grunts.

This is followed by, “ewe! Icky mess, Mommia.”  Which he is more than willing to let me clean up.

This morning’s ritual went very differently.  He happened to be between pairs of undies when I got a phone call from my good friend.  He didn’t want to get undies on, and I had a long list of things to get done, and a good conversation to have – it seemed harmless in the moment.

“Mommia?” says a timid little voice just inches from me.  Grunt.  “Mommia?”  His face is full of concern, and a startled looked fills his eyes as he looks behind him…

Poop.  On the floor.  He turns to look at it, letting another poop fall behind him.  He looks fearfully at the one in front, takes a step back…  Startled, he bends to look at his foot.  “Mommia!” He screams and keeps stepping back.  Smearing it with each step.

Patience: “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset”

The day quickly unraveled from there.  “I can’t find a rag, mom!” “Mom, Josh pooped all over the floor!”  “Please, get me a rag and the carpet cleaner -” “But I CAN’T FIND A RAG” “Josh, please sit on your potty, honey.”  “Mommia, Treat?”  “Mom, I just stepped in it.”  “Mom, Josh didn’t get it in the toilet and there is a huge puddle of pee in the bathroom, and i really need to go – please clean it up!” “Mom, I have poop on my foot.  Can I have a snack?”

This life swirling around me at a dizzying speed.  I am overwhelmed and not overflowing with grace.  Acceptance is a concept my mind struggles to form, as if trying to speak in a foreign language.  Tears form, and my my tone comes out hard and angry.  This is more than I can tollerate!

Tolerance…
allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of something that one does not necessarily like or agree with without interference
accept or endure someone or something unpleasant or disliked with forbearance
be capable of continued subjection to without adverse reaction
to endure 
 

Each child tucked into their bed, carpet cleaner foaming it’s magic, bathroom wiped up… I sigh a sob and collaps on my bed. A glance at the clock reveals it is not even 10am yet.  I am shaken as a symphony of words, “Joshie has to go pottia!” “Pottia, Potty! Mommia?”  filter through two closed doors.  I wait, I breath.  I breath again and hold it this time.

When we decided to potty train we took on a methodology that encourages the art of mentoring the child in his control over his own bodily functions, recognizing that no one but the child has this control, and therefore, we cannot control his/her behavior.  We really liked the tone and the respect of this approach.  In theory.

But now, as I spend the day putting it into practice, I am realizing just how much control I want to take.  And I am struck by the word tolerate used in describing patience. It is the closest word to the rest of the words in the definition of patience – words like: delay, trouble, suffering… the final words being “without getting angry or upset.”

To tolerate.  To not just let go of control, but to allow delay, trouble and suffering. Not simple recognizing where control truly lies, but to accept and endure my lack of control with forbearance. To not only not be in control, but to remain continually subjected to someone else’s control without adverse reaction… Patience.

Today I felt the full weight of my littlest child’s complete control over his body, and my total lack of control.  I felt the cost of not being in control.  It brought me to my knees.  It brought me to tears.

I responded in anger.  Frustration. Defeat.

“I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.” ~ Revelation3:8

And, here I am.  With so much to confess.  With my attitude today being one of unforgiveness, selfish and intolerant. Fighting hard against my lack of control, irritated by the toll it took.  Looking over the day… remembering Words of life.

You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.”

What if patience is the capacity to accept that I have no control?  The capacity to fully understand that allowing someone else to interrupt my life, my thoughts, my ideas, to change the course of my plans is the only control I actually do have?  Maybe patience is realizing that to become angry, frustrated and to beat my head against the lack, is only foolish?

Patience, to understand that I am powerless, but offered the option to choose surrender.

Patience, in surrendering to choose serving, rather than defeat.

Patience, not denying others the control that is god-given to them.

Patience, placing my importance in its rightful place.

Patience, using what little strength I do have to surrender to not just to others, but to God’s work in me through my lack of control over others.

“But consider the joy of those corrected by God! Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin.” ~Job 5:17

Food Today, Inspired by Extending the Table and More-With-Less, World Community Cookbooks

Bread: More-With-Less, page 58: Easy No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread

Today was an all out, no convenience day.  We are at the end of the month and very low on groceries, so I am using whatever I have on hand… it started this morning when we discovered we are very low on cereal and have no bread to toast… This bread turned out so well!  And it was made while a lot of life was going on… Easy is exactly what this was.

(Yes, one loaf is a lot bigger than the other – I only have one bread pan… so one loaf was baked in my casserole pan.)

 

Then, we had two little guests with us so I had to come up with something substantial for lunch.  Enter Quinoa…  (again!)

Beefy Egg & Corn Quinoa (my recipe)

1 cup rinsed quinoa
2 cups water
1 packet Lipton Beefy Onion Soup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2-1cup frozen corn

Place water and rinsed grain into medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over med. heat. When boiling add Lipton soup mix, stir in thoroughly.  Add slightly beaten eggs and stir. When nearly all the liquid is absorbed add frozen corn. Cook until all liquid is absorbed, remove from heat and cover.  Let rest for 5 min, and serve.

I don’t have any leftovers… the kids really enjoyed this (which, yes, totally surprised me!)

When dinner time rolled around, I discovered we had only 1lb of ground beef left.  No cheese or fresh veggies or noodles… my sister suggested beef and salsa burritos, so I pulled out a tortilla recipe, as I don’t have tortillas on hand… (but salsa a plenty!)

Tortillas: Extending The Table, page 53: Flour Tortillas (Mexico)

These were good.  Maybe not the absolute best, but all I have on hand is whole wheat flour… and that means rather crumbly tortillas.  But they did roll out easily and nice and thin and everyone asked for seconds, so I think that was a hit!  However, they did take a lot of work… and time.  (and they are not very pretty!)

Thank You

I tried counting the times I say, “thank you” to my kids.  Sadly, it was not very often!

I read, “if we are not speaking words of praise, than we are in great danger of speaking words of poison.”  And I am struck by how often I bark orders, insist on “hurrying up” and dish out negative consequences to negative behaviors.  Rather than dishing out praise and thank you’s in greater quantity.

So, I tried.

It is hard work!  Especially when my children are so much more used to my negative approach… like a drug, and detox is sluggish and even painful (for me!).  And I am quick to fall back into the addiction, overwhelmed by the grumbling reflection of my imperfect self.

But, then, this is what a mama does.  Make changes, first in myself, that leads us to grow as deeper, more grateful and giving people.  My legacy.  My role in this life presently.  Detox us, first myself, from grumbling and feed us all a diet of offering praise.

A thank you I want to offer now; to my husband.  Thank you, my love, for your continuous appreciation of all that I do, for setting this example in our family.  I notice, and it has impacted us.  Thank you.

“I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” ~ Psalm 94:18-19

Patience: to accept

“Remember to tell me when you have to go potty.” I hear my voice repeating for the millionth time.  He doesn’t look at me.  He doesn’t blink.

He shows me his toy plane, “broken,” he says, also for the millionth time.

He raises his arms up and instinctively I lift him to me, kissing his head. He arches back “NO Mommia!” and I nearly drop him, stumbling sideways stepping on his, also broken, toy car and cracking my knee into the corner of the wall.  Tears sting the backs of my eyes with the dull throb arching up my leg.

I let him down.  I rub my heal and knee and I breath.

“Mom, where’s my towel?” “Mom, I can’t find my swimsuit!” “Mom, where’s my hairbrush?” “Mom, haven’t you made breakfast yet?”  “Where is my swimsuit?!” “Potty! Potty!” I swing around to cheer my toddler on as he heads to the bathroom. “Mom? Mom?!” “Potty!” “MOM!”

Patience, the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset… 

I am potty training my youngest child and patience training myself.  I am learning the inherent meaning of motherhood in these long hours.

As I bite my tongue and turn to get breakfast started.  As I let the yells for towels, swim suites and hairbrushes fly over me I think on the word, patience.  I think about what it means to be filled with grace, the grace that God generously extends to me in my most undeserving moments…  Grace.

My nose picks up a scent.  The littlest one made it to the potty without incident.  Or, so I thought…  I bend over to check… and… there it is!  The large wet spot on my shirt.  I check his underpants and sure enough, they are damp… not soaked, but damp… my shirt took the soaking.

I feel this life testing my walls, pushing at my seams, threatening to break out…  I take a deep breath.  The second word describing patience is accept, and this hits me now.

Accept 
consent to receive
agree to undertake
give an affirmative answer to
receive as adequate, valid, or suitable
regard favorably or with approval; welcome
believe or come to recognize as valid or correct
to subscribe to (a belief or philosophy)
take upon oneself (a responsibility or liability)
tolerate or submit to (something unpleasant or undesired)
 

I remember words:

“From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.”~ John 1:16

Clean shirt, swim suites on, towels packed, breakfast fed, we head to swim lessons and I try to remember if I ever consented to this life?  If I agreed to take on the dirt, grim, groaning and tongue biting?  Did I affirm that I wanted the bickering in the seats behind me?  Are these blessings graciously given?

More words hit me;

“Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” ~Romans 15:7

Around and around these thoughts wrestle in my mind as the littlest child and I snuggle on the bleacher bench, watching the middle and oldest children learn breathing techniques in the water below.

Patience, the capacity of Grace, generously pouring over, accepting the blessings graciously given, accepting each other…

To be Patient is to accept. Out of my capacity of the grace God has generously poured over me, I consent to receive…

Patience: consent to receive these people in my life.
Patience: agree to undertake this life I am offered, the people that are in it.
Patience: nodding yes, I will receive them as adequate, valid and suitable. 
Patience: favorably approving, welcoming them in the state they are in.
Patience: recognizing this life, these people, are the gift God chose for me to receive. 
Patience: taking in, tolerating, submitting to whatever comes of life with those I am surrounded by. 
 

I accept as I have been accepted, receive as blessings from His abundance, one graciously after another – The capacity to accept, to view each moment favorably, submitting to whatever gift is offered, out of the overflowing of grace He has so generously poured into me.

“And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.” ~ Ecclesiastes 5:19

My youngest snuggles in closer, hugging his snack cup, waving to his siblings every time one of their heads pops up out of the water.  I lean in and kiss the top of his head, take in his sweet baby scent.  He looks up at me, smiles with his eyes slanted nearly closed and whispers, “ta Mommia.”  Ta.  Our word for “thank you” so sweetly and  undeservingly  spoken.   So full of meaning.

As soggy children pile in behind the still dry one, and buckles are clicked, as happy chatter fills the air and the bickering soon follows, and as the youngest adds his best ear-piercing screams to the mix, I silently mouth the words, “thank you.”

“He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.” ~ Malachi 3:3

Lunch/Snack, Inspired by: More With Less, A World Community Cookbook

Peppery Chichen Quinoa (my own recipe)

2 cups chicken broth or stock
1 cup rinsed quinoa
1 tsp salt (or to taste – and depending on the brand or type of stock/broth you use)
2 tsp ground pepper (I use freshly ground)
1 tsp onion poweder
1/2 tsp garlic powder or minced garlic
1 tsp Herbs de Province (or a mix of rosemary, thyme and savory)
8 oz cooked chicken cut up

Combine broth and rinsed grain in med. size sauce pan, bring to a boil on med. heat.  When boiling add seasoning and chicken.  Let simmer until all liquid is completely absorbed, and turn off the heat.  Cover and let rest for about 5 min.  Fluff and serve.

Kale Chips (my own recipe)

large quantity kale leaves torn into slightly larger than bite-sized pieces.  Toss in about 3 tbs olive oil, or enough to lightly cover leaves.  sprinkle enough salt to season, about 1/2 tsp or less.

Bake in single layer (I usually do between 2 & 5 batches depending on who is eating) at 350 for about 6 or 7 minuets or until slightly starting to brown and sizzle.  Let rest on oven top for a couple of minutes.  Serve.

“You know how to make me eat green vegetables, Mom.” ~Jadon

Patience: the capacity

For what seems like the millionth time, I wipe up a trail of pee.  My little son sits proudly on his potty seat sweetly asking, “Treat?”  Eyes wide with anticipation, lips parted in glee, chubby hands on knees.

My son is not the only one in training.

While he learns to use the toilet I am learning to use my patience. And my recognition that this is the essence of motherhood is dawning, beautifully.

Patience: “the capacity to accept or tollerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset”…

This word has been a reoccurring theme this past week.  When I am still and quiet and let go of the long list of things needing to get done, I can think about the word, patience. I looked it up in the dictionary, and the first word to describe patience is capacity. 

“Can I have a snack?” one child asks again.  “Can I help you cook in the kitchen?” another child repeats. “Potty! Potty!” the third yells, and indeed, once again I watch it dribble down his leg as he runs for the bathroom.  “Mom, can I use my Easy Bake Oven?”  “Mom, do you know where my wheel to this car went?”  “Mom, when is dinner going to be ready?” “Treat?”

Capacity…
the maximum amount that something can contain
fully occupying the available area or space
the amount that something can produce
the ability or power to do, experience, or understand something
a specified role or position
that can contain or take hold
 

I bend down, towel and spray bottle in hand, baby on the toilet all grins, so eager to please. Other voices swirl around above me, still asking me questions that I don’t register clearly enough to answer yet.  I am at the maximum amount of noise and questions I can contain and this life is still pushing in, insistant on occupying all available space in my thoughts and in my feelings, in my ears.  Pushing my edges, my limits, until I feel myself steam…

I spray and I wipe.  I sigh and press on.  These three human beings blink at me, smile at me, talk at me, having no concept of what my limitations mean, that I can only produce so much effort. In their eyes it is my role, my specific position, to meet their needs.  They have no awareness of what I can contain, or how I will take hold of it all; to them this is simply who I am.  The Mom.

When I think about these things, when I am at my fullest capacity that floats just above impending explosion with toxic vapors escaping, I remember sweet, wonderful words…

And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.” ~ 2 Corinthians 9:14

“… because of the overflowing grace God has given you…”

And I wonder: Is part of the capacity of being patient meant to be the overflowing of God’s grace?  Not only that which we can contain, but also that which we can hold while it flows over onto the ones with whom we are practicing patience?

These thoughts tumble around in my head as I find dry underpants, and a smile.  They sink into the back of my mind, pushing in for deeper penetration, while I find my child’s car wheel, grab a “treat” for the one on the toilet and offer a plastic tub of apple sauce for snack.

Patience: the capacity to overflow with the grace God has given me.

Patience: the specific roll of spilling God’s grace into each moment.

Patience: being occupied fully by His grace, overflowing it into all available space.

Patience: the ability and power to experience… to understand this gift of grace.

Patience: to contain and take hold of the grace God has given.

Patience reflects the amount of grace we have received through the amount of grace we are able to produce…  The cup that overflows runs deep with abundance.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7