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The Sins of Our Fathers

Let's suppose this picture represents several generations of humanity. Let's also suppose the colors represent the bad habits present in those generations. When looked at from above, we see mostly the brown introduced by Adam and Eve's sin at the beginning of time, but when we zoom in, we can see the color. That slash of magenta represents generations of finger pointing. Then there's that blue stripe representing hoarding. The blue goes away because of a family revival, but the blue pops up again further down the line in plenty of kings, dictators, czars and presidents. I could illustrate my own sins here too. Some of my colors were in the lines before me, and some have lain dormant for generations and my personality has now brought them out. Some, I am not even aware of because I disguise them behind the belief that I'm just trying to help or do a good job or something seemingly innocent like that. However, none of my colors reveal anything new about humanity. I h…

Answering the Lies

Do you hear them? They cut through the air. Do you see them? They fly so fast. They land with a dull thud on your wooden form. The part that has yet to be turned human. The pain draws your attention again and again away from the warmth of the living fire inside you and onto that stiff, cold puppet, that manipulated toy that used to be you. And those darts find their mark day after day. The lies. They have struck and you shudder. 

But you are not without an answer.

➤ So to the one drawn again and again to nasty habits: to that oh-so-delicious occupation of minimizing other's difficulties and magnifying your own, to weighing your acquaintances on your scale of holiness, to believing your wisdom is beyond others . . . to those who do this, and then realize it and look around and see where you are, the mud again, the muck, the pig sty. "You pathetic failure!" the lies say. "You'll never break these old habits."

     Answer with truth.
Look up from this mud and past…

Psalm 69: A Complaint of a Sick Mom

For the director of music. To the tune of “Somebody Get Me A Doctor.” Of Abigail.

Save me, O God,
    for the sickness has come up to my head. 2 I sink into fuzzy headaches,
    where there is no breathing out of my nose.
    I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf my nasal passages. 3 I am worn out calling for help;
    my throat is parched.
    My eyes throb, looking for my God. Viruses assault me without reason
    outnumber the hairs of my head;
   many symptoms are my enemies without relief,
    them that seek to debilitate me.
   I am forced to rest
    when I have mouths to feed.
You, God, know my trials;
    my and my baby’s illnesses are not hidden from you.
Lord, the Lord Almighty,
    may those who hope in the flu shot
    not be disgraced because of me;
    God of Israel,
    may those who seek good health
    not fall within my sneezes’ range. For I endure sleepless nights for my baby’s sake,
    and big dark circles cover my eyes. I am short with my own fa…

Collecting Coins in my Bank

Naming blessings out loud to people who ask me how I am, or writing them down in my journal, or thinking them in my head as is often the case because my hands are busy and the children can't seem to listen for more than a moment to the sweet things I want to share and by the time Philip comes home, I haven't the stamina or words to express them, is a form of depositing coins into my bank account of contentment. Or perhaps it is a bank account of discerning reality or accurately totaling the day's balance.

Each moment or beauty or funny thing the children say acts as a clinking coin, and as I collect, my bank grows heavy. I am saving up for those days when I must break the bank open because the children have rolled on the couch with dusty clothes or because our rabbit dies or because the church service was a bore or because I contracted pink eye from the kids or because Benny's oversized head concerns the doctors or because our grandparents will one day pass away or be…

Psalm 66: Thanksgiving for the Past Season

For the internet readers. A blog. A celebration.

1 Shout for joy to God, all the Stevens! 2 Sing the proofs of his faithfulness for the last few months;
    make his praise as loud as our neighbor's garage band. 3 Say to God, “How awesome are your plans!
    So great is your arranging of a nanny for us,
    and now the marriage of Katie and Alec.
4 All the earth bows down to God;
    they sing praise to you for the friendships made,
    they sing praises for the new marriage beginning.”
5 Come and see what God has done,     his awesome deeds for our family! 6 He turned my postpartum weeks into rest,
    I passed through the turmoil with help—
    come, let us rejoice for the months that Katie dwelt here!
7 She loved our children through your great love,     her eyes watched over the household affairs—
    let not this desperate mother forget your faithfulness.


8 Praise our God, all peoples,
    let the words of his praise be read in other countries; 9 he has expanded our family to five
    a…

Psalm 4: A Mother's Lament of Her Home

For the internet world. To the Kitty Piano accompaniment. A Psalm of Abigail

1   Answer me when I call to you,
       my righteous God.
     Give me relief from my distress;
        have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

2    How long will my children turn my home into a pigsty?
        How long will they abuse the furniture and leave honey drips on the floor?
3    Know that the Lord has set me apart as his faithful servant not theirs
        the Lord knows about every fingerprint on the walls.

4    Tidy up and do not sin;
         if you have a moment in bed,
         search your hearts and be content.
5    Offer thanks for the unbroken dishes
         and trust in the Lord.

6    Many, Lord, are asking, "Who will bring us a new sofa?"
         Let me acknowledge the places to sit with you among us.
7    Fill my heart with joy
         when their laughter and new games cause wear and tear.

8    In peace I will lie down and sleep a few hours,
         for you alone, Lord,
         make me dwell in…

Why People Drain Me

I've heard that introverts are people who prefer solitude, that they're energized by being alone and that they tend to focus on internal feelings as opposed to external stimulation. I've always thought myself an introvert, but I'm not so sure any more. Here's why.

I've noticed that certain people rapidly drain me of energy, such as small children, strangers, complainers, sulky teens, big groups, long-winded talkers, and reserved types. After an extended period of time with these people, I'm ready to be alone for a few hours.

However, other kinds of people energize me. Some of my energizing people are introverts. Some are extroverts. Some are shy. Others are more talkative. After having coffee with these people, I'm full of new ideas about life and parenting and the world.

Do you see my dilemma? I don't necessarily prefer solitude over being with people. I prefer solitude to being with draining people. And I prefer being with energizing people over b…

Comstock Chronicles: Farewell to the Rabbit

In the mornings when I throw open our bedroom curtains, I see our rabbit hunched down on the cement pad beneath our avocado tree. She stares at me out of one glassy eye and sometimes rises up on her hind legs at movement from inside. We’ve given up trying to chase her into her hutch at night; she's become too evasive. In fact, if she hears the screen door clatter open while she's nibbling grass pellets in her hutch, she’ll spring out so we can't trap her inside. Phil, pitying her joints, has put a ramp up to her door so that she doesn't have to leap the three feet to the ground.
Now we stand over the Amazon box with the labels still affixed to the sides. I’ve set the box in a hole I dug in our garden, and the children and I squat around it. 

“Now you’ll have to tell us the last Bigwig story,” Rose says as she and Lee stroke the rabbit's soft fur. 
I respond with some sort of agreement. I’ve made our rabbit more clever than an ordinary scrub-and-sage-brush-rabbit and m…

More Grace, Please!

Watching the atrocious manners of my children at dinner prompted me to make a mental list of all the things I thought I ought to teach them in the next twelve years. But that list became so lengthy that I gave it up to ask myself what was the most important thing. What, above all else, did I wish to teach them?
The answer had nothing to do with refraining from potty-talk at the dinner table, though I do hope that on their first dates they don’t lean across the table and say, “Did you smell my farty?” and giggle uncontrollably.
No. The most important thing isn’t table manners or responsibly handling money or even having healthy relationships with the opposite sex. The most important thing must be grace. Naturally. But to teach them this, I must model it. And I’m not so sure I know what that looks like.
I know what grace isn’t.
Grace isn’t letting my children off the hook for being disrespectful or destructive. After all, God didn’t let us off the hook for our sins. Someone had to pay for t…