Parable

Today every little thing feels like a parable.  Calling out to me what I need to learn.  Precious baby boy shakes his head “No” when he means yes, he’d like a banana.  Much like me when his father asks and I say, “Fine,” when I mean “Not very fine at all.”  I give and he takes and he shoves in banana until he cannot breathe so I hold out my hand to receive back what can only hurt him but he looks at me, shaking his head, refusing the offer of help.  He takes in too much and I take on too much till I’m almost choking with burdens I decided were mine while he patiently holds out a scarred hand to receive back what I was never meant to shoulder.

These little wooden pieces of fruit littering my floor call out to me that my heart is scattered.  I left pieces of myself in places oceans away and now when I search for the missing piece of carrot I only have cucumber.  She holds part of me and her black and white passport picture on my fridge reminds me that I too have pieces of her.  That I left changed.

His tired whine brings me back to an almost-toddler who’s striving in a sticky green booster seat, asking only with volume that I unbuckle the safety strap so he can do it himself.

He fights the sleep I know he needs and I fight many things I know I need but I finally strap him on my chest for a walk to calm us both.  As he bangs his head on my chest ending each thrust with a slobbery kiss, I know just how he feels—fighting and loving with the same breath.  I begin to sing over him and he matches me, overpowers me.  His little voice is not so little and he cannot hear my words over his monotonous call, so I sing a little louder the only song that brings him peace:

“Mama, mama, mama.”

I sing my name over and over to him.  He notices his favorite lyric; he turns his head and rests.  I feel his legs tense and his voice begin again but he lets the mumble melt away into silence.  He rests his voice and his head and his eyes as I keep singing this name.  This name that reminds him of who he is because it tells him who I am.  This name that assures him of his belonging, of his place here, with me, with us.  This name that made me labor and love and breathe over him.

At first I think I formulated the question but really, the divine invitation trembles into my mind and I hear myself gasp a little at the very thought.  This moment becomes the intersection of openness and quiet and I don’t speed by and I hear: What name is God singing over you today?

Father?

Spirit of grace?

The first and the last?

If I could quiet myself and the things I let distract me, what name would I hear?

Again: Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday

He cries out, awakened from sleep, and I know somehow.  My stomach drops down and I go to him quickly, pushing corn-silk soft hair from feverish brow.  Not again.  These chronic ear infections are like a plague to us.  Could it be he has another one?  Before I’ve even called the doctor, I am in the hospital, by his bedside, waiting for him to wake up from his surgery.  They’ve promised that if he gets his seventh double ear infection in six months it will be time for tubes and I’m already there.  Daydreaming all it will mean for him and for us and for our bank account and….  The thought trails off.  Not again, please.

It’s a prayer and a whisper and a hope and an oft-denied tide of anger that washes over me before I can even mean it.  Not again.  I do everything right and I take him to the chiropractor and he doesn’t drink dairy and I try lymphatic massage.  Please not againOnly say the word and he would be okay.

The whispered invitation is not what I want to hear.  AgainWhether it’s teeth or ears or virus or nothing, come again to me.  Not because you’ve done it right or I haven’t heard but because right now is the invitation to be with me again.  To trust again.  To pray again.  To lie down in a heap and cry at my feet again.

Yes I’ve found the safest place again.  And only if I finally learn to leave my hair down here, to cry these tears on pierced feet here, to pour out the richest gifts from my utter poverty here and stay.  Stay.  Only in staying will I truly answer this invitation offered again.

Oh Five Minute Friday, you’ve given me back a piece of myself I didn’t know was missing. Can I do two-a-day posts on Friday? http://lisajobaker.com/2013/01/five-minute-friday-again/

 

This Is My Today

I’m living in the diaper days.  Days that begin with frantic four-year-old whispers breaking through my dream-deep sleep, “Mom, Mom, Mama, Mom?  Can I play with your iPod?”  How did I even get an iPod and who is this creature interrupting the little sleep I get before dawn to ask a question he already knows the answer to?  Before I roll over, a littler boy’s fists pump—as frantically as his brother whispered—signing, “Milk, milk, milk, milk.”  Breathe.

Later I breathe deep the hem of my shirt, deciding whether the remains of a leaky diaper are potent enough to warrant a change of clothes, wondering if the other moms at gymnastics will non-metaphorically wrinkle their noses at this mom.

There are days when I’d rather take my chances with a braying donkey than the four year old whose face mirrors my own, days when a donkey might actually obey better.  Days when I look down at the joyful round face of a one year old reaching up for my face, no, my glasses, no, he’s scratching soft skin leaving my eyes full to the brim with pain.  These tears and his—as I startle him with an involuntary yell—baptize me again in the name of motherhood.

I read her blog and I am a teenager again.  Inadequate in my TJ Maxx jeans, almost throbbing with desire to live in her J. Crew chinos.  I want to be her, to have that house, to light those candles, to fill my home with truth and beauty and song.  Instead I grumble over strewn-about Legos and wonder over that semi-nomadic urine smell—is it the carpet that is older than I am?—and find that these 800 square feet can become claustrophobically small in an instant of comparison.  My soundtrack is the whooping and hollering and laughing and crying of two young boys, with the occasional track of blessed silence, of whispered prayers,–Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner—of angry voices and repentant apologies.  I forget for a moment that there is a rock of truth and a boy who says God thinks he is beautiful and a different song here.  I long to live her life.

Then I remember.  This is my today.  Ponytails and victory at the grocery store.  I forgot the butter and exceeded my budget by $25 but we will eat for another ten days.  I live here.  These are my children.  My joys, my tears, my best friend making me laugh as she texts through the foggy stupor of post­­-op drugs, my other best friend making me cry as we wade this ebb and flow of grief that is burying a child.

That comparison is the thief of all joy, I know—according to blog posts and Pinterest boards and Facebook updates and supposedly Theodore Roosevelt—but today I live it.  I invite the thief in to ransack my little home.  He is rifling through my precious belongings when a pinprick of light seeps into that moment of adolescent darkness—this is my today.  A good Father who spared no expense in rescuing this run-away child gave this day to me: it’s a gift.  This day of diapers and grocery shopping and chocolate chips that we call “power pellets” and candles on a messy kitchen table that doubles as a desk and triples as a chemistry lab bench—this day is my today and for this gift, I am thankful.

This is my today.

Cherished: Five Minute Friday

His ring finger is naked.  Were I willing to buy it, he is in need of his fourth wedding band.

He forgets anniversaries occasionally and birthdays.

His desire to write poetry and love letters exceeds the time available so I live with the promise that when his disposable income of time increases, so will his productivity in writing to me.

(If we were to tell my side of the story, it would sound much the same.  I was on my original wedding band until this Christmas.  But this isn’t my side of the story.)

I notice it at the oddest times, usually under pressure, as we search through his wallet; my youthful handwriting in blue ink graces a small piece of paper.  The folds seem ancient, soft paper fibers striving to hold on to one another, feeling the way my abdomen felt after the birth of my first son.  It’s only been eight years but that paper has traveled thousands of miles, dozens of time zones, made its home in his wallet in four countries.  I’ve seen it rushed past, shoved aside as we attempt to find the suddenly required papers in rural border crossings.  I’ve seen it littering the floor along with social security card and license when our children discover his wallet unguarded and dismantle it.  But what I’ve really seen?

I’ve seen that paper that trembled in his hand eight years ago as he vowed his life to mine guide him in his love.  I have not kept every promise I made that day.  Neither has he.  We have neither loved as tenderly nor prayed as fervently as our idealistic, unmarried selves promised to.  I promised to make time for him to sit at the feet of Jesus daily; with two small boys I feel successful when I get us all to bedtime alive.

Yet while we have at times failed the letter of the vow, he has lived by the spirit.  He has lost wedding bands but he hasn’t lost me, or his love for me.  I’m learning what it means to be cherished.

Dive: Five Minute Friday

The years-old conversation bounces through my mind as my feet hit the asphalt.  Running under Kentucky blue sky, over gentle hills of grazing cattle, I find myself in the smallness of other people’s expectations and opinions as I relive the conversation that never finishes the way I want.  My heart thuds as I test my strength up hills and down but it is not physical exertion that causes my jaw to clench or fists to tighten.

The smallness of this man and his opinions is spacious compared to the infinitesimal walls unforgiveness builds around a heart.  Something in me wants to break free from the lies and hurt, the gall of bitterness.

00710023

The sky is calling me to dive in to life lived now.  The cows are bellowing for me to join them in the Bluegrass and celebrate the newness offered today.  To dive in to an ocean of life and surface with rivulets of water streaming grace down me, warm like the water of the Red Sea trickling off my face.  To dive in only to find whale sharks as large as buses beneath me.  To dive in and live a life shaped in Africa, now lived in America, bound for the unknown.  To live right here today.

 

Opportunity: Five Minute Friday

For some reason, when I hear the word “opportunity,” the echo bouncing through my mind is a phrase uttered often by the mother of my first boyfriend: “It’s an opportunity to trust.”  OTT for short in her vernacular.  Exactly the opportunity I don’t want to have.

For years I felt like it was trite or even smug for someone living a comfortable American upper middle-class life to talk to me about opportunities to trust.  When my son got croup in rural Tanzania in the middle of the night—in a place where you don’t drive at night, where the hot water heater is heated in the morning by a wood fire, where you can only (only!) pray in the face of illness, not pray while rushing to the ER or talking to the pediatrician’s nurses line at 2 AM—I didn’t like to hear about opportunities to trust.  When we lived in a conservative neighborhood in a Muslim country with inconsistent power and water and temperatures hotter than Arizona, I didn’t want to hear about opportunities to trust.  I didn’t want to acknowledge that the anxiety in my life was just as out of line with the truth of God’s loving providence as the anxiety of those in more comfortable situations.  I didn’t want to nod that yes, my fears and worries were just as much the fruit of an untrusting heart.  I longed to have the right—the right!—to fear, to dabble in anxieties, to worry myself to sleep.  Because I lived a life on the edge, surely the words of Jesus to fear not didn’t apply.  Not to me.  Not to an American living where the government required armed guards to accompany foreigners everywhere.  Not to a Jesus-follower living out her faith in front of Muslims.  No, not to me.

As I sit in my living room of a small duplex in rural Kentucky where my husband is a graduate student in Biblical Studies, the opportunity to trust still haunts me.  Not me, Lord.  I just want a life that requires no trust because it’s all good.  No death, no sorrow, no poverty.  I don’t want this opportunity because I want to be in control.  And so the good Lord lobs another one at me, asking if I might choose to trust and not rationalize this time.  Chronic ear infections?  Meager funds?  Health insurance running out in a few months?  Filling out the FAFSA for next year?  Will the scholarships be enough?  Do we need to move?  Is there mold in this old duplex making my boys sick here?  The clothes hang on her differently but opportunity reaches out the same hand, beckoning me to trust.  Will I?