Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lil' Fitz Fingerprints
These very little fingerprints on my door brought me to my knees, literally, spiritually, and emotionally. To completely understand, I must first give you some background.

I know you might not be able to tell by looking at me, but I am a really clean and tidy person. I have been all of my life and I climaxed shortly after college when I married Patrick. I liked cleaning our home all at once, in one big whirlwind on Friday and would sit back when it was all done and enjoy that clean. Not only did I need everything picked up and put away, but I needed it CLEAN, clean. I became something of a germ-a-phobe. I can admit it now and I have come a long way since that vicious climax. Ask the very man who lives with me; if he could he would concur. The turn came after the birth of my second son when I was outnumbered and I did not have the luxury of alone time at nap intervals throughout the day. I was picking up more than I was "enjoying" and was cleaning the very things I had just cleaned because of two very busy little boys. I wish I could say I was one of those moms who could just let it go, but at times it consumed every inch of my brain. My crumbling point came shortly after the birth of my fourth at a VBS drop off. I was seriously overwhelmed with four under the age of 7, not in being their Mom but in being the homemaker part of being the Mom. I can remember seeing the face of a fellow four-child mom a little further in her season of four, and the tears came tumbling down. She hugged me, let me sob, heard my every last whank, and then gently pushed away and gave me some of the greatest encouragement, support, and validation that I needed. In my hands later that day she placed the book, Sink Reflections, and my meltdown-homemaker-eyes saw hope. It gave me a starting place for getting my home back in order in a way that would not overwhelm me and in the process, helped me to put that part of my life in perspective. I won't say that I still don't struggle with wanting the blue water in my clean toilets to stay a little longer than the usual 3 mins my children allow, but it rarely brings me to my knees. There, it's out, that's my confession of an obsessed recovering homemaker. That's the background, here's the story.

It was a Monday and Mondays inevitably are long and involved. Mondays we are getting back into our groove, we are learning new concepts in subjects, and coming off the freedom of our weekends. Monday is an early morning running day for me and we have violin and piano on Mondays and dance to boot. I also use that as my mopping my floors day and general pick up day. Just typing that causes me to ponder my Mondays and wonder what can be moved, but for whatever reason, this particular Monday, I was going about my day. I had not had my quiet time for whatever reason and as the day moved forward, I felt the old Amy enter. She's usually not bad to have around at times for she makes me more organized and productive, but on Mondays, she can provoke me to discontent and downright agitation. Today was that day. We had struggled all morning with getting our day started, with school, and a trip to our first violin lesson. Later, when I came home and needed to start lunch, I found air soft bbs under the couch, Wii games not put away, crayons on the stairwell, dirty dishes left at breakfast spots, crumbs on the floor, books on the chair, hairbows on the counter, and kitty litter on the laundry room floor. As I am slowly burning from that old overwhelmed feeling, I feel the tears coming. The pity party was going to happen with or without my consent. As the tears flowed, my discontented mind rested on the wrong things. Why did I have to have children who left things about? Why four of them? Why am I the only one who picks up? Where is my husband in all of this? I am so lonely. I can't do this anymore. I don't want to do this. I don't want to do school. I don't want to teach decimals or diagraphs or make my bed. I don't want to be the mom today. The tears of pity flowed even steadier and I stopped. I saw them. The fingerprints on the door caught my eye and I was done. I walked out that very door with the prints, left my burdens and lot in life inside, and sat in a heap on the top step on our porch and sobbed. I sobbed for my loneliness, for my workload ahead of me that day, for the stuff I wanted to do but would not be able to. I sat and cried. I had not cried that hard in months and truth be told, it felt good. I cried until I really felt like I had not a tear left in me. And then it was still. The noises from inside were faded and muffled. As I looked out on the park, it was good. The birds were singing, the sun was bright and promising of the day to come, a breeze was blowing, and it was still. My thoughts had calmed and it was still. It was the first time in a long time I was still and nothing was going through my head. It was still. No one knew where I was, no one was calling my name, no one was looking for me. Slowly, God's Word showed up. My first thought was Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. My second thought was Jesus going to be alone and crowds following him. I thought of His compassion for those same people at a time in His day He too wanted to be alone, needed to be alone. I thought of Him calming the sea with just His words. That's how my heart felt. He had calmed me. The thoughts came flooding in and it felt good. My mind was resting on good things, right things. God then brought a verse to my head that I held so dear in that stillness of my moment, "Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox." Proverbs 14:4. I could be in a place where there were no children, no pets, no one making a mess, demanding my time, needing me. It would be clean, still, and Southern Living-ish. Everything would be where I last put it, everything would be picked up. But that is not the manger God has placed me in. My manger has children, four of them, pets, friends of those four children, dirt from shoes, Lego pieces underfoot, Polly Pocket shoes in couch cushions, and yes, fingerprints on my front door. This is my ministry right now, my manger. "...much revenue comes by the strength of the ox." Revenue: Yield from investment. I get so much from my "oxen," much yield, much revenue. I get to be in their moments, share in their thoughts, teach them to read and divide fractions, I get to snuggle up at night and share bedtime. I get syrup-y kisses, and flowers picked for my vase. I get handmade colored pictures and giggles from upstairs. I am learning to let go of self and serve my family. I am learning to put others first and treat them as more important then myself. I am investing in their lives and they are sharing their thoughts and struggles with me. As a peace flowed through me and I stood up to face my manger and my oxen, I see those faces from that second picture. And I smiled. I may not always love the fingerprints, but I love the children who make them.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The First Last

October 2, 2010

Today was a perfect day outside. The weather couldn't have been more inviting and my children were so content to be outside. We spent the better part of the day riding bikes, having a picnic, chit chatting with neighbors, walking, riding scooters, and playing with friends. In the course of today, Caley practiced riding her two-wheeled bike. (Now what made me decide to do this now, take off her training wheels I mean, I am not quite sure but that is quite possibly a whole 'nother blog post!) She rode up North Eastover and down South Eastover, she swerved back and forth, took short "breathing breaks," waved cheerfully to every passerby, and chattered nonstop up and down those roads. All the while I am bent over running, tripping on my own feet, telling her to keep pedaling, catching her near misses, sweating, shushing her chatter, reminding her to keep her eyes forward, and watching out for oncoming obstacles. My thighs were burning, my fingers were cramping and yet all the while she is as confident as a queen and excited to be "riding a two wheeled bike!" As all this was going on, my mind was in a complete reverse remembering this little girl who once was my sweet K-Bear Baby. I remember so much of her babyhood, I think because we were in flight school and Patrick was home much more. I had time to savor her. I remember her first steps, I remember her waving for the first time, I remember her coming home from the hospital, and I remember watching her crawl. She had a whole cheering section being the baby of four. I think each sibling can remember a first for Caley about something. As those firsts were flashing through my mind, I had a sad thought too. Since she is my last "baby," how many "lasts" had I missed of hers and of her older brothers and sister? A thought occurred to me, I have celebrated every first, but when you don't know it's a last, the moment passes without so much as a glance. When was the last time Logan reached out to grab my hand or ask me to read a picture book at bed, when was the last time Cole sat on my lap or needed me to buckle him getting in the car, when was the last time I had to lift Lillie on a swing or catch her coming down a slide , when was the last time Caley took a bottle or fell asleep in my arms, when was the last time the boys played with their Hot Wheels, or the girls with that soft pink doll? When was the last time I folded a little sleeper sack or burp cloths, pushed each one in a baby jogger, or fixed a sippy cup? When did I buy my last jar of baby food and when did I stop needing a diaper bag? All of those lasts went by unnoticed, not celebrated, or even documented, not because they weren't important, but I didn't take the time to step back and take notice. How much more would we savor a moment if we knew it was a last? Oh, the firsts, those are so much easier to recognize, but those of us with bigger children, how many lasts have we missed? And if we knew it was a last, how much more would we slow down, ponder, treasure that moment? Mary did the same as Jesus entered her life. God made her aware of her Son, who He was, and in a sense, gave her a glimpse of the first lasts to take notice of. She treasured and pondered (Luke 2:19). As I am running hunched over around the park, suddenly my back didn't seem to hurt as much and I was less concerned about her keeping her eyes on the road and waving to all of our neighbors instead of pedaling. God gave me a first last to savor, to document, to anticipate, and to remember. I know it is coming, there will be a last here soon. My last child to teach to ride a two wheeled bike, to run hunched over shouting encouragement, and to cheer on as she pedals away from me for the first time. Just like I saw her first steps coming, so I anticipated them, I watched for them, I carried around my camera to be certain to catch the moment, I will do in the upcoming days with my first last to take notice of. I will continue running around the park but I will be watching, I will be anticipating, and I will be remembering. I will take little snapshots in my mind and I will try to remember small details like her cute ballerina bike helmet and her sparkle shoes she is wearing. I will treasure this moment when it comes, I will carefully let go and watch her ride away, I will ponder the "bigness" of the moment and I won't miss it this time. Hopefully, this is the first of many lasts for me to treasure. I am so thankful that I get to have a first last with my Caley.

*October 5, 2010...She learned to ride. In one big moment, I let go and off she went. As you can see from the picture above, I didn't miss it.