Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Kids

Oh, there is so much in my heart. Music and poetry and sunshine and shade. Longing and fulfillment, and knowing that I am growing to understand something I did not understand when I was younger. A heart so full can hardly be full of only one thing, but the one that comes to the fore today – I am in love with my children. I work with the youth group at my church, and although I do not yet have any children of my own body, I can hardly say I do not have any of my own. I call them my kids. Even, I imagine, as a parent who aches over a child who does not want a relationship with that parent, my heart goes out over some of these who do not trust me enough to really let it all down. I don’t suppose I could fix much for them, but I could love on their sorrows and comfort their shaken little hearts. I long to do so—and when they let me close I yearn over them even more.

 And that is what I didn’t understand before—what it means to yearn over a child. Yearning for someone is different than yearning over someone. The first is wanting, to fill emptiness, the second is wanting to pour out from a fullness, as well as desiring a response.  Today the kids led the service in church, and my heart almost overflowed, there was so much in it. Much of it was God, Himself, but so much of it was tied up in thanks to Him for who He made them, and how proud I was of them. Sometimes people say to me that they don’t know how I can spend so much time working with teens, that they could never do it. I reply that I love them, and that is why I should be the one to do it. Of course they’re ridiculous and silly and they don’t know a blessed thing, but my seniors in high school are saying that the 6th graders are little kids, and are not the people my parents’ age saying that I, at a babyish 29, also do not know anything about life? It’s OK that they’re teens.

 And I do love them so. All this year God has had me conscious of issues of mothering, of parenting, and though I think I have more questions than answers, some of the answers come in my interactions with my kids. The Bible talks about how there are many, many teachers, but few Fathers—few who parent truly, deeply, personally. Few who pour their lives into the growing of others’ lives, few who bring life for others from the giving of their own lives. Has there ever been a person like that in your life? Someone with whom you feel it is not only safe, but perfectly acceptable, to be you? When I think of the perfect parent, I think of someone who knows me all the way through, is inherently delighted in me because our relationship involves belonging, someone with whom I can be completely honest even if it’s ugly, someone who is bigger and wiser than me, who can handle it when I’m in bad shape. Someone that I don’t have to take care of, but who takes care of me. That’s the kind of parent I want to be.

 And at least as a start, that’s how I feel about my kids—they delight me. They’re all different, there’s so much diversity in their potential, and even when they’re foolish or less than well behaved, I don’t love them less. In fact, it’s when they’re real—bad or good, that I yearn over them most. When I see them determinedly walking down a path I know will cause them pain, I ache for that pain, because I have learned lessons the hard way myself, and I would spare them if I could. When they open their hearts in honesty, let me in, or walk in the path of blessing that I see lies before them, my heart rejoices, and I yearn over them like I did this morning. When the littler ones come to me for hugs and kisses it swells my heart so that I hardly know what to do with it, and when the bigger ones act the same way, but in their shyer, cooler teenager-way, I smile in amusement and ache to see them grow into men and women who are strong and remember gentleness.

 There’s no profound or clear point I'm making today—just musings on love and questions of how very great, how very much more there is in this life than we take the time to learn. I hope that someday I will find that the love I have for my kids was worth even partially as much to them as loving them is to me. 

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Lacy Net of Silver


Tonight, my heart is yearning. I have not been unhappy, I was adequate and useful and cheerful and even productive today. I feel I handled all my situations with sufficient grace, and I hope that I was able to bless, just a little, the ones with whom I spent time. All the things I wanted to cross off my list are not crossed. The time I wanted for myself, I haven't gotten yet. I think I have managed one day without overreacting to my emotions or making myself a fool out of them. I wonder what I would think of me if I looked from the outside.

 Since I cannot, I still yearn. Because I am fond of the perspective I have today, I will not pin all my yearning on one thought or object, as I do some days. That one place may or may not be the fountainhead of my yearning tonight, or maybe...maybe it is only one fountainhead of a network of rivers and springs and trickles which, seen from far above, weave an intricate, lacy net of flashing, delicate silver. 

 Tonight I could call this yearning many things: the ache of watching a loved one or a stranger grope in the dark for an answer they imagine they do not want to find, the desire to move beyond the limits of my fear into all the possibilities of my dreams. The bashful wondering of whether, when the time comes, will I be what I should be? and what, if I had tried much harder or much less, could I have been now? I could call the yearning the unnamed reason a baby's smile can push back the clouds of misery, or I could call it the exhaustion of trying to puzzle out the ways of God. I could call it the feeling of wanting a friend to be there or a mother to soothe, or a father to stand, always protecting, in the very back of the picture, waiting in patient watch. I could call it the pleasure so deep it is pain, and pain so exquisite you wish it never to end, and the reason the smell of an old, old memory brings joy to the heart. 

 I could call it the emptiness when I wish for your voice and do not hear it, and I could call it that most curious and mysterious of human traits, that would not wish away even the ache or the longing.  

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Many Useful Uses of Mattresses

I would like to talk about mattresses. Mattresses are our friends for many reasons, not the least of which involves the comfort they provide us for sleeping.

Sleeping is very important. For one thing, sleeping gives you a break from working, doing laundry, raking leaves, putting away groceries, listening to voicemails, and breathing.

Wait, no, not breathing. That’s very important. If you don’t breathe you will die. So sleeping makes you not die. Well, actually, that was going to be my next point.

I think.

What were we talking about?

Oh yes, mattresses. Well, anyway, like I was saying, mattresses are good for other things besides sleeping. Although if you can get a good night’s rest fairly often, it will in fact keep you from sickening and dying earlier than later. Unless of course you are run over by an 18-wheeler, or a pride of rabid lions, or a herd of raging wildebeests. 

Yes, so, other than providing what we have clearly seen to be lumbar-support that is none other than vitally imperative for the continuation of our species, mattresses are good as vehicles. When my brother and sister and I were still children, my dad would bring home all manner of random things that had been discarded at the resort where he was employed. I specifically remember a shovel, those cotton-weave blankets that we referred to as “hospital blankets” until we were far too old not to have known that “hospital blanket” was not their proper designation, and The Mattresses.

Really, these mattresses were not especially designed for lumbar support as much as they were designed not to ever, ever, let your back feel like it was on the floor. Stuffed with padding. Dense, such that I have actually slept on cement that was more forgiving. And they were clearly meant for rough usage, because they were encased in such thick, child-retardant plastic casings that they could most likely have been used as life rafts in the event that the river adjoining the resort ever flooded. In any case, I see clearly as an adult that the things would likely have lasted until the Last Judgment had it not been for the imagination of childhood. One day it occurred to us, brilliantly, that the unusually narrow proportions of these mattresses, and their slippery plastic casings, made them the perfect vehicles for sliding down the stairs.

I would have tried to make that setup more dramatic, but if you’ve ever known children you will not find the idea of them riding mattresses down staircases surprising. It was wonderful and fast and exhilarating.

My mother, however and despite her acquaintance with us, her children, managed to be surprised. I believe her reaction went something like this: “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!?!” Ah, but we soon had her broken in. By the time summer came around and we dragged that thing out to the pool deck to make a slide, she hardly noticed.

Anyway, mattresses are also good for exercise. In my college years my grandmother, who I credit with six-elevenths of my housecleaning-training (my mother gets the other five-elevenths), bragged that I was the only one with the magic ability to single-handedly turn, lift, and flip her queen-size mattress for its seasonal rotation. I credit my unique abilities to youthful pride and strength, as well as the fact that my job at the time, although technically that of a cleaning lady, frequently involved moving furniture and would more accurately have been labeled a cleaning-lady-personal-assistant-housekeeper-jack-of-all-trades-SUPER-furniture-mover job. Anyway, I was tough.

 I though about this, and about mattresses, today, as I single-handedly turned, lifted, and flipped our king-size mattress (I also took out the air conditioner—you can’t always wait for a man to be around if you’re on a roll). I thought about them some more while I wrestled the queen-size sheets onto the king-size mattress, mentally picturing the day the fabric will finally rend with a sickening tear and send me violently catapulting, backwards into the wall. I thought about how mattresses are good fodder for writing silly blogs.