Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor (not thy moustache)

This Valentine's Day I was awakened by Gus putting some potted tulips on my face, yes on my face, and Max shouting "Happy Valentine's Day!" while thrusting a heart-shaped balloon at me.

I was also greeted by this:

Uh...not exactly the most romantic wake up of my life, to say the least.

The day improved, however, when we decided that on this day of love we would teach our children about loving our neighbors. Mark and Gus headed to Top Pot Doughnuts while Max and I worked on some handmade valentines.

We read Mark 12: 28-31
"One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

We talked about what it means to love your neighbor and also what it means to be the Church, as opposed to thinking of the church as a place that we go. We prayed for all the people on our street and asked God to bless them. Then we knocked on their doors and handed out our doughnuts & cards.

What we didn't anticipate was how this small act of love would open people up to share what is going on in their lives. We learned that one of our neighbors had recently had a seizure so severe he stopped breathing. One family just welcomed a new little baby into their home, while another is splitting up and preparing to sell their house since neither person can afford to keep it on their own. Another house was vacant with a sign saying it was now bank-owned.

We were saddened by much of what we learned but grateful that we were given the opportunity to know how to pray more specifically for our neighbors. People were genuinely surprised and delighted that we would want to do this for them and it certainly made an impression on the boys. Gus spent the rest of the morning playing "love your neighbor" by pretending to knock on doors and hand Mark and I various items from his play kitchen.

I love Valentine's Day and while in this season of life it may not be all romance and feet-sweeping, it was one of the best and most memorable to date.

And in case you're wondering...as an act of love, the moustache was gone by morning.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Lovely Truth

So I realize this little blog has been a bit sparse lately. The truth is, when the day comes to a close and the boys are snoozing in their beds and Jack is finally down for the night, I've got nothing left. The idea of sitting down and putting together a post feels almost impossible. I can hardly gather my thoughts to debrief the day with Mark, let alone write it all out in some semi-coherent form. There are so many things I've been wanting to share but it's just been difficult...and really, that's putting it mildly. Things have been really tough. Jack has severe colic, acid reflux, a milk protein sensitivity and cries all day long. All. Day. Long. I feel like I'm handling it really well, but it doesn't mean that I don't feel exhausted by day's end. I go through a pretty huge range of emotions on a daily basis...joy, frustration, confusion, concern, guilt...you name it, I probably feel it at some point during the day. I want to take away Jack's pains and I can't. I want to engage better with the older boys but my arms are always filled with a fussy baby. I want to feed my family better, but I can't even get to the grocery store or find time to cook dinner or figure out how to cook without dairy, green vegetables, onions, garlic, tomatoes or any real spice whatsoever. With all these challenges, not to mention a significant lack of sleep, it's easy to let my mind go into the "what ifs" and the "if onlys". You know what I mean..."If only I had more time I could..." or "What if it never gets better" This is a dangerous place for my mind. I'm a storyteller and I can create some pretty elaborate scenarios when left to my own thoughts. This really hit home last week when the unthinkable actually happened. Gus and I were playing "I Spy" on the couch when Jack (who was in my arms) started getting fussy. I stood up to bounce him a bit and Gus climbed onto the back of the couch to look out the window. He began listing all the different birds he could see and in my "distracted mom voice" I responded with a number of "uh-huhs" in varying tones to feign interest and attention. I noticed the message light blinking on my phone and walked over to the dining table to check the message. Those of you who are familiar with my house know that the distance from the couch to the table is but a few short steps. In that time Gus lost his footing and somehow ended up with the blind cord around his neck, bearing all his weight. He let out a frantic scream which caused me to turn around and I found him turning blue, looking terrified. I ran to him and got the cord off his neck and then collapsed on the ground, hugging him as tight as I could, sobbing. Immediately the "what ifs" began invading my mind. "What if I hadn't been in the room?" After all, how many times do I leave him alone to change or nurse Jack. "What if I hadn't turned around when he screamed?" I mean really, he's a noisy kid...what made me turn for that particular scream. For every "what if", I had an example of why it could have easily been a reality, as if I subconsciously keep a record of all my failings as a mother just so that when something bad doesn't happen, I can remind myself of all the reasons it could have, and possibly should have ended differently. That night, things got worse. I kept replaying the events of the day, but allowing for other, more devastating outcomes to fully play out in my head. It was making me crazy and all I could think to do was pray for God to take the images and the "what ifs" away from me. Almost immediately, God answered my prayer by giving me His scripture. Without even realizing it at first, I began reciting Phillipians 4:8 in my mind.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true,
whatever is honorable, whatever is just,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things."

And that's when it hit me...the "what ifs" aren't true, they aren't honorable, they aren't just or pure or lovely. They are none of those things. They are not from God and do not deserve my time. My thought life needs to be devoted to real things, true things, the things of God, not the things of my sinful mind.

So now when I'm feeling spent, when I feel like things will never get better, when my thoughts are about to sink me, I run them through this verse, asking myself "Is this true? Is this lovely?" and when I find that the answer is 'no', I reboot, start over, clean the slate and start thinking anew. Praise God that He writes scripture on our hearts. With my current life situation I'm not able to sit down and study the Bible on a daily, concentrated basis, but His words are still there, etched in my heart, waiting for me to seek them. I may not always have the words to put on this blog, but by God's grace I always have the words I need to keep going and that is certainly true and lovely.