Monthly Archives: March 2013
I am reading Write His Answer – A Bible Study for Christian Writers, by Marlene Bagnull. Each short chapter focuses on some of the unique struggles that writers face, many of which apply to me. I find myself making notes in the margins and I spend time answering the questions at the end of each chapter.
The chapter I read this morning, though, fit better than most. Last month I decided to start waking up early, trying to get a hold on the day by starting it off right by reading and praying … maybe writing if I have a few extra moments. I knew I needed to get my priorities and directions straight before everything else started to struggle for my focus and attention.
This past week, I hadn’t been doing so well. I had only managed to get up early the first few days of the week, and when my son started waking up early with me, I gave up. After all, the idea was having time alone, not extra time with a son whose first words (within a nanosecond of waking up) are either, “Can you make me breakfast?” or “Can I watch something?” – not my idea of a quiet morning.
Yesterday evening, after my husband left for work, I was finding myself irked at the mess indoors, and overwhelmed at a few things going on in my life. I sat outside to just think and pray (outside being at the top of the stairs right outside the front door). The challenge of living in an apartment, for me, is having no place to let them “run amuck,” as my sister so aptly puts it. No backyard to be assured that they’re safe. So they’re either inside where noise is automatically ten times louder, or outside with you, meaning you’re not doing what you need to do.
Within minutes my youngest son noticed me. “I’ll just come outside and play down there.” He pointed to the area of dirt and mud at the foot of the stairs. I don’t mind dirt, but a neighbor recently managed to somehow spill oil from who-knows-where in that same spot, creating a mixture only too full of germs, which I tried to explain to my son. “I don’t see any germs,” he said. Within moments his brother and sister were outside as well, ready to get in on whatever action was coming.
“Let’s go into the pool area,” I suggested. They could play in the dry leaves at the edge of the pool and I could sit and pray at the far end, still keeping an eye on them. I forgot, though, that the lock to the pool gate had been changed and my husband had the key, on his keychain, in his pocket, on the way to work.
I took a deep breath. Why did everything I tried to do have to be so difficult? I just wanted a bit of peace and it was turning into a circus. The two older kids lost interest and went back inside. My youngest, ever-present shadow, followed me as I went back upstairs and sat down once more. He ran up and down the length of the apartment buildings, and then down the stairs at the far end. He didn’t come back up. Two minutes passed. I finally followed him. He had found dirt – his idea of heaven. This dirt wasn’t so dirty (if you’re a mom, you know what I mean) and pretty soon all three of the kids were making dirt piles, driving their cars through the dirt, or sliding their cars down the railing of the stairs where I sat, still trying to think and pray a bit.
Then a neighbor came outside, her son running to join my trio. The mom and I began to talk, and did so for the next hour until the sun had sat and it was time to de-dirt the kids in the tub.
That was the story of one evening, more like half an evening – a microcosm of a typical day, which is why this morning, when I forced myself to get up early because I need that time alone, the chapter I read spoke to me so clearly. It was titled, “First Things First.”
The prose-prayer at the end, I felt, was something I could have written yesterday. It goes like this:
Father, I have so much to do
and not enough hours in the day to do it.
I know that’s only partly true.
I do have enough time
to do the things you want me to do.
But, Lord, how do I sort out what they are,
when everything screams for my attentions?
I’m exhausted from rushing—
uptight and irritable.
Please forgive me and help me.
Help me to learn from your Son.
People were constantly pressing in on him.
He could have been consumed—burned out.
But Jesus took time to be alone with you.
He made you his top priority.
I must learn to do the same,
especially when I’m feeling pressured.
Help me to be still and know
that you are God.
Even as you created and hold together the universe,
you can bring order to my life if I will let you.
Thank you, Lord.
What a fitting prayer. What a fitting chapter. I have begun to understand why, when as a child I woke up early in the morning, I would see my mom sitting in her chair, coffee in hand, reading or praying. When I asked her what she was doing (as only a child would), she would answer, “I’m spending time with Jesus. I need this time to get me through the day.” I didn’t understand then. I’m starting to understand now.
Only with me, it’s chai instead of coffee.
Chai with Jesus. It has a nice ring.
Tuesday was Superhero or Disney.
Wednesday was Hillbilly
Thursday was Favorite Book Character
Friday, today, is Senior Citizen
We got the information slip last week and I took the kids shopping on Sunday afternoon. Why I even though that I would be able to find full, ready-made costumes nowhere near Halloween, I had no idea, but we were hopeful as we went from store to store. I found accessories – a hat, some hair ties – and a couple of backpacks on sale for their next school year, but no outfits.
“We’ll find something at home,” I assured them, promising myself that I would make it a priority and not wait until last-minute to help them find costumes.
Then there I was, Tuesday morning, tearing through the kids’ closet to find that last princessy dress that still fit my daughter. I mixed and matched a few ideas for Allen (he wanted to dress up as Wyatt from Super Why); he declined. “I’ll just go in my normal school uniform,” he told me.
I felt like a failure, especially when I saw the picture that the school principal posted of the kids, all in amazing costumes, and my son was absent from the photo.
He’s probably going to feel bad about it, I thought to myself. I better tell my husband to give him some extra attention this afternoon and evening. I was attending classes until after their bedtime. I only remember to ask how Allen was at about 11:30 that night.
“He seemed fine,” my husband said.
The next morning, we found some hillbilly outfits. Well, more like cowboy outfits. These had been the only costumes we had worked out from the previous week, and somehow this morning they weren’t good enough.
“My teacher said we’re supposed to wear things that are full of patches,” my daughter said.
“I’m sure she just was trying to give you ideas if you didn’t have anything to wear already,” I answered.
She pulled her face, that face that means she totally doesn’t agree and wants to make that fact very apparent without saying a word.
My husband walked into the kitchen. I fumed to him, “Suddenly everything everyone else says is the Gospel truth and anything I say has to pass some litmus test.”
He laughed. “I’ll help them get dressed.”
By the time I had finished making their lunches, they were in costume – the ones we had picked out last week – and they were both happy.
The next day, Jessica was Violet from the Boxcar series (how easy is that? Pull out everything violet that you own and wear it.) Allen decided to dress up as Christopher Robin, complete with the Winnie the Pooh stuffed bear that he had gotten from a friend last year.
This morning, I took a deep breath before going into the kids’ room to wake them up. I knew what I had in mind that they could wear, but I realized that didn’t mean they would want to wear it.
“I don’t want to dress up today,” Allen told me as soon as he rolled over and opened his eyes.
Oh no, I thought, someone teased him about his costume yesterday. I gently inquired why not. Everything seemed okay. He just didn’t want to dress up.
Jessica readily agreed with the outfit I suggested to her. It took a while to get her hair done up in bun complete with baby-powder grey, but it looked good. I was happy with myself, and with her. I was happy with Allen too, even if he didn’t want to dress up.
I said goodbye to an old woman and a little boy, on their way to school. So my son won’t be in the picture with the rest of his class in costume. That’s okay. Every kid is different; and every one of them is precious. I couldn’t imagine loving them more.
And I’m thankful Spirit Week only happens once a year. I think I just found a grey hair … and it’s not baby powder.