Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Innocent Woe

Often injury is where no harm was meant
Unlike Saul’s pursuit or God’s fiery judgements.
Without rulers to order earth’s wild filaments,
The world is amiss—apart from evil intent.

And had we kept faith with that power long ago,
Abided with Wisdom to learn how to grow,
We could tell the waters to stop their flow
And bid raging winds to cease their blow.

No fatal events would sweep life away.
No disease would waste nor animals prey,
And our babies alive in the womb would stay
As three within mine have not to this day.

Think not of what was or what could’ve been.
Nor cast it aside as common among women.
And to guess at the cause will wear a soul thin. 
The world is not right, and we are akin.

Liquid glass slipping through my fingers exhausts.
I have seen the unseen, the spiritual, the lost,
And trembled on footsteps of shadows and frost
For the world is amiss at heaven’s own cost.

So weep for the buds that dropped before bloom.
And weep for the ones without a marked tomb. 
And weep when another announces full womb,
When smarting words may ignorantly assume.

Then into Thy hands steadfast will I cast 
The heart that won’t rage as it beats downcast.
And again do I say farewell unembarrassed,
To the innocent woe in the fabric of my past.

“The time has come to say farewell;
And though my heart be heavy,
I promise still to remember ye
E’en though we say, ‘Farewell.’”

“The flow’rs that bloom’d in Summer’s sun
Have lost their fleeting glory,
And all but died in Winter’s chill;
And we must say, ‘Farewell.’”

“So brief a time has come and gone
Since first we sang together;
But bittersweet is that music now
That we must say, ‘Farewell.’”

by Charles Anthony Silvestri

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Snagging Details

A 24-hour-day is filled with details. Wondrously vivid details that liven this otherwise dull canvas.

The luster of chocolate glaze on Lee's mini donut at pre-school. The brown sleeves of mud that could be mistaken for boots and gloves on my children's hands and feet. The downy fluff of rabbit fur pressed into my face. The sticky dampness in the bathroom that drips down the walls and mirror after I run a hot water shower for breathing treatments. The tartness of my ginger-lemon tea sprinkled with Vitamin C powder. The blistering bubbles in the paint on the door of the children's closet because we've run the humidifier for five nights in a row. The fall of a misting rain on the rooftop that sounds so much like little feet creeping out of their rooms during quiet time. The stiff resistance of the Cotija cheese against my fingers as I crumble it over pasta shells for dinner. The shrill scream of three-year-old frustration that throws off my equilibrium. The ruffled over-licked edges on the envelopes of Lee's valentines for pre-school. The curl in the receipt that I sign for Lee's dentist check-up and x-rays.

Some of those details fade away into nothingness while others snag me as they pass by.

I am ensnared like trip-wire with the sight of those beautiful chocolate donuts in front of each pre-school child. I didn't send anything half so special when it was my day to bring snacks. Am I the boring mom? Or am I the kill-joy mom because my son has half a dozen cavities, and you're giving him chocolate donuts for snack!? And just like that I am stuck with the vision of chocolate donuts dancing in my head for several hours.

Or immaterial dollar signs. Going up in flames over my worrying mind. Up goes the money for the termite repair. Up goes the money for new windshield wipers for all the family cars. Up goes the money for ordering new documents because my organizing system for hiding important papers was too successful. It all goes up in a cloud of black ash that then hangs above my head until I can no longer remember what that cloud is made of. Wait, yes I can. It's made up of worry.

Then there's the neatly-printed writing in marker at the top of my son's preschool worksheets that come home every week. "With help." "Needs practice." "Practice letter sounds." And then I am snagged again. How can this be? We're in preschool and already behind?! Does Lee notice? Does he feel stupid?

How I wish those detail would fade away while the memory of the sweet things remains. Sometimes I jot down a lovely thing or something the children says so I can remember to tell Phil in the evenings. But so many more good and beautiful details are wasted on me because I am snagged by those worrisome things, which are not really worrisome at all, except that I'm in the thick of it. It's like a gauntlet of hooks and I'm wearing a baggy knitted sweater that's just waiting to be snagged by these worries. They catch me so easily.

And why? Have I not considered all the worlds Thy hands have made? Have I not seen the stars and heard the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed? Is this not the same God who is with me? Isn't the God who was with me yesterday, the same one that will take care of me today?

How quickly I look away and fall into a brier of thorns. How quickly my faith is questioned and tossed aside to dread the future. How will I make it now? How will I not ruin these little children? How will the house not fall to pieces? How will we pay for this? How will God take care of me, is what I'm really wondering as I bury my face in these details while the power that moves mountains stands beside me and in me and around me.

And says, "O you of little faith."
My life flows on in endless song; above earth's lamentation.
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I'm clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing.
Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing.
What though my joys and comforts die? The Lord my Savior liveth.
What though the darkness gather round? Songs in the night he giveth.
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing.
All things are mine since I am his! How can I keep from singing!
No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I'm clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing. 
The roof-grit in the puddles of rainwater on our breakfast porch. The PIH envelope sitting in my desk's organizer. The waterfall of slime beneath my daughter's nose. The Saucer Magnolia leaf pressed into my hands. Yes, even the rare hug and kiss from my son. All of it must be taken. Not with an encompassing fear or an adoring worship but with assurance.

We are passersby here. And the details unfolding before our eyes should never snatch us up out of the Master's arms. Rather, we may take them in our hands to him and say, "And what of this, Lord? And what of this one? What will you do with this one?" Then we will rest and see what comes next.

Then I think we shall be clothed with strength and dignity and laugh at the time to come (Pr. 31:25).

Lowry, Robert Wadsworth,  "How Can I Keep from Singing".

Boberg, Carl Gustav, "How Great Thou Art" as translated by Stuart K. Hine.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Simpler Life

Over the last six months, routines have altered. And what once was an ordeal comes with ease. The children buckle their own seat belts and know that after errands, they're responsible to carry their own belongings inside. They take themselves to the restroom and sometimes wash their hands. They dress themselves in the morning, and Rose even puts on her own diaper at night. They bus their places after meals and put on their shoes for departure. And on laundry days they take their pile of clothes to their room, "fold" them, and put them in their drawers.

The physical strain of this job is decreasing as Rose can climb in and out of her own pack-and-play at nap time, and they both can crawl into their car seats unaided. Lee shuts the alley gate, and Rose empties the silverware drawer. In the evenings they pick up their toys to have dessert and they always seem happy to put on their pajamas at bedtime.

They play in relative peace while I take a shower, and eagerly set the table for breakfast on cereal days. When it's time to vacuum, Lee clears the floor for the roaring monster. And when it's time to scour, Rose finds her own sponges under the kitchen sink. They help bring in the groceries and hang up their jackets on the hooks. Sometimes they thank me for the meal. And they say "please" for about half of their requests.

Their play has become more sophisticated too. Together they build roads and houses in the backyard out of boards and rocks and dirt. They dig in the sandbox and laugh at the sight of each other spinning on the swings. They've learned how to tattle-tell and play hide-and-seek properly, though Rose always hide behind the curtains and laughs loudly while Daddy is seeking.

They surprise me. I hadn't taught complex games to Lee because I thought it would be too advanced for him, and I use smaller words for Rose because I don't think she'll understand the bigger ones. But they surprise me. Lee was fully capable of playing checkers. Losing half-a-dozen men in the process was difficult, but he understood the rules. And Rose spouts out the most complex sentences with multiple syllabic words and even corrects Lee on difficult words.

Lee: "Mommy, do you like Karacha?"
Rose: "Lee, SIRacha."

Lee has enjoyed listening to the first 13 chapters of the The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Rose carries on long conversations with Daddy on the phone during his lunch break. She's the reporter. She tells him all about our day rather accurately. Lee, on the rare moments that he does want to talk to Daddy on the phone, usually asks something like, "Daddy, what would happen in a waterfall fell on our house?" or "Daddy, when you coming home?"

Their physical feats have become more advanced too. I mean, climbing onto the counter to get us a drink of water from the reverse osmosis spigot! I was impressed in a scared sort of way. They both can climb over our backyard chainlink fence, and Lee can climb onto the roof of my car, just in case we ever need him to do that.

Lee has been at La Habra Hills Presbyterian Preschool for a month now, and while I don't think he'd admit it, I think he likes it. He's learned the Carden names of all the letters and points them out around the house.

"Mommy, there's I-love-to-dance-around-and-sing," which is the letter "s" or "There's the fish hook," the letter "f".

The other day he came home with a bandaid on his finger because he and another boy were sword fighting each other using their sand shovels. When I pick him up, he's eager to show me his crafts and worksheets. And Rose likes to talk about when she's four and can go to pre-school too. "Mommy, Rose can go to preschool now. There are little children in the classroom next to mine." Dang! He knows.

Yes, raising these two has become slightly easier and slightly more tricky.