Monthly Archives: June 2016

A Great Escape (Based on Actual Events)

Flashlight

I could feel it in my skin. Cool air began filtering toward my shelter. Time to venture out for food. A couple of my brothers and sisters were already stretching their legs and creeping toward the foliage. I followed them. The ground felt dry, but an instant after I exited the shelter, water began falling from above. A little at first, then a deluge. I raced away from the downpour and found shelter beneath a spreading green. I could feel in my chest that my brothers and sisters were also heading for cover. Still, I loved the feeling of rain. Moisture growing all around me. Perfect for finding a meal.

Before I could begin to imagine what kind of nourishment I might find this evening, a light shone brightly. Straight at me. I could barely detect beyond the light a form. A giant! Not one, but two. Giant hands rustled the shelter above me and I darted away. I needed to find somewhere they couldn’t get at me.

I hopped upon a vast stretch of stone. Cold, but dry. I couldn’t stay for long without water and food. But I tried to be patient as I waited for the sounds to die down. For it to be safe.

As quietness reigned once more, I wriggled out from beneath a shelter in the corner of the giant stretch of stone. A dim light shone in the distance. To my right was the foliage. The safety of my home. I knew I could find food there. But something about that odd light beckoned me, and I hopped toward it instead.

The stone beneath my feet was suddenly cold and smooth. Not stone. And the ground trembled. Giants. One. Two. No, three. They were everywhere. Had I somehow found their abode? They drew closer. The light burst as bright as midday. I raced forward, blindly, finding myself beneath a large tomb of sorts. Beneath me now the flooring was soft and fluffy, but not green. It was dead, not alive. I would not survive here for long. I had to find my way back.

But the giants’ loud footfalls thudded all around me. I would be at their mercy if I crawled out now. I recalled brothers and sisters sharing stories beneath the cool of night. Scary tales about the giants finding the biggest of us, and roasting us. The monsters. They wouldn’t catch me. I would wait until they slept and escape home again.

The wait was long, but finally stillness echoed through the odd flooring. I crawled out slowly. Then headed in the direction I knew would lead home. But the way was closed. Sealed tightly. I was trapped. But there had to be another way. Cool air traveled slowly from the distance. A way out! I hastened toward it. Without warning, a thud stopped me in my journey. Another vibrating echo.

Giants. Two of them. They approached me. One carried a large object, clear and a hundred times my size. I bolted like I never had in my life and slid between the wall and a giant thing that felt like a tree. More stomping echoed around me, vibrating inside me. Light shone into the tight place I had entered. I squeezed further, ducking under the base of the tree-ish object. I would be safe here until they left.

But the vibrations grew stronger. There were more of them. Maybe even four or five. I sat as still as the night. But then the base of the shelter above me began to move. Shifting back and forth. Nearly crushing me. I had to get out, giants or no. I hopped out, maneuvering between them. I even brushed against the foot of one of them and heard a giant scream.

I would make my escape. I had to.

And then I was trapped. Caught by some invisible force. I could see nothing, but it blocked me. I had heard of such things in the scary tales. Invisible prisons. It was how the giants kept you until they were ready to eat you. I scurried up and down the smooth sides of my prison, but only felt more trapped. I lifted up and began moving. I was being carried in this object. It was over. My escape had failed. How would it feel to die?

The force of gravity shook me downward and I tumbled once and twice, landing on my back. I quickly turned right side up, waiting for the inevitable. But something felt different. The ground beneath me. It was soft … and … green! It was home. I could feel the cooling night air. I could sense the tasty treats all around. A brother bounded in the distance.

I hopped toward him.

“You’d never believe what just happened to me.”

 ***

And inside the giant’s abode, a mother spoke to her children. “Next time, let’s keep the screen door closed. Next time a frog comes in, we might not be able to get it back out again.”

frog

Fill-in-the-Blank Love

Mother HeartFather’s Day was coming, so I had printed out some Father’s Day activity sheets for my kids. One of the sheets was a set of “coupon cards” that gave promises like, “Good for One Hug,” “Good for helping around the yard with dad,” and “Good for helping dad take the trash out.” One coupon, however, consisted of blank lines. Choose your own gift.

One of my kids wrote, “Take out the laundry.”

One filled in, “Cook dinner when you are feeling tired or not.”

But one of my kids asked, “Mommy, is it okay if I leave the lines blank, without filling anything in?” I didn’t understand what he meant and asked him to say it again. “I mean, Daddy can put what he wants in the blanks.”

“Yes, that’s a great idea,” I told him. So that’s what he did.

And I wondered, Is that ever what my love looks like? For my children? For my husband? For my friends? For God?

Fill-in-the-blank love. Not, “On my terms, when I have time … and it’s got to be my idea.” But love that allows the other to fill in the blanks. Reading a story to my son when I’d rather read something I’m more interested in (not involving vehicles). Biking with my daughter when it’s a little too hot outside for my comfort. Visiting a friend when I feel like a hermit and would prefer to stay home. Watching a Saturday-night movie with my husband when I’ve reached the second-to-the-last chapter of a thrilling page-turner.

Fill-in-the-blank love. That trusts the unspoken power of giving and loving to create and build and maintain a relationship. Any relationship. I read somewhere recently that love is an outcropping or fruit borne of faith. Trust. It takes trust that allows a loved one to have fill-in-the-blank power over you.

But maybe that’s what love really is. Hazarding the unknown, plodding through the mundane, serving, sacrifice … Love.

When Your Son is Caught Sleeping

boy sleeping at homework desk

My son, sleeping by his homework. 

On the way home after an evening outing with some friends, I asked my youngest if he had a good time.

“Sort of,” he answered. “But the kids on the playground were teasing me.”

“About what?” I asked. He sometimes reacts strongly to comments, so I assumed it wasn’t a big deal.

“Eric said he saw a picture of me sleeping while doing homework, and then Leslie said she saw it too, and all the kids started laughing.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I had posted a photo on Facebook of my son sleeping at his desk, his homework beside him. I had thought it was cute. My son puts his all into his activities, but when he’s tired, he’s tired. And he sleeps.

It runs in my family. One of my siblings has narcolepsy, and others of us know once we reach a certain point of fatigue, we can’t push past it. Sleep is the only solution. My son has somehow learned that early. When he’s tired, even if it’s when we’re about to sing happy birthday at a party or when he’s supposed to be finishing up his homework, he will sleep.

My husband and I understand that and work around it. Our son’s teachers, for the most part, have also been understanding that at times he might fall asleep at his desk. I try to get him to bed on time when he’ll have an early morning or a long day.

Parents and teachers generally understand these things. Other kids often don’t.

When I posted the photo, I didn’t think about the possibility of parents showing their kids the “cute” post, which in the mind of a child might not be “cute” but “silly” or “funny” or “embarrassing.” Material to tease with.

Something I had done, unthinkingly, caused my son hurt. It cast him in a negative light in the minds of his friends. They probably forgot about it a minute later, and they were all playing again. But that moment, I had to admit to my boy that it wasn’t their fault; it was mine.

I pulled up the Facebook photo and showed it to my son, saying, “I posted this photo of you the other day. I didn’t think anyone would tease you about it.” Then I promised, “I won’t post anything of you unless I ask you first.” I already have that agreement with other members of my immediate family, but I didn’t think it would matter to my youngest. I was wrong.

It’s strange how I would make a mistake like that. Thinking back to my own childhood, my strongest emotions were borne of teasing. I can remember half a dozen separate occasions, before the age of five, where I was brought to tears from teasing. Painful moments tend to remain in the mind and the heart long after the echo of the actual words fade.

I promised my son I wouldn’t post any photos in the future without his knowledge. But how often do my own words or side comments have the same effect as those children on the playground? When I’m trying to focus on work and, after one too many interruptions, holler at the kids to leave me alone so I can get something done. Or when they’re arguing and I can’t stand the contention so I tell them I don’t care who said what and whose fault it is; I just want peace.

Failure to listen. Failure to love. Failure to see the moment through the eyes of my child.

That’s not a promise I can make. Not one I can keep. To see every moment of life through their eyes.

But it is something I can try. Not a once-and-for-all decision, but a moment by moment choice. To slow down. To think. To pray. To love.

To remember the words of a loving Christ who took time for the children. “Let the children come to me. Forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

 

[Note: names of children on playground have been changed, and (this time) I am posting the above photo with my son’s knowledge and agreement.]

From Grumpy to Grateful

kid in pool

It isn’t a large pool by any means. Five feet wide. Nine feet long. Three feet high. It is big enough for an adult to do water aerobics or for a few kids to splash around in the Central Valley summer. My husband bought it last year and put it up again last week, as the highs crept into the hundreds. He fitted it with a filter and put a removable shade above it so the kids won’t get too much sun when they’re out there.

On Monday, the kids spent all afternoon splashing around. Tuesday, the same. They carried Trio-block boats and Lego men out there. They wore goggles and made currents.

This afternoon, first it was “dirt in the pool.” I assured them that any large swimming pool has far more dirt, as does the lake they swam in last month.

Then it was the weather.

“It’s too hot.”

“The water’s too cold.”

It’s summer. It’s going to be hot. The water is supposed to be colder than the air. Otherwise it wouldn’t be refreshing to play in it.

Then it was issues with each other.

“He’s splashing me.”

“She keeps bothering me with the net.”

I threatened with no videos for the rest of the week if they didn’t stop complaining.

Finally, I went inside, upset. My husband had spent hours putting up the pool, fixing the filter, building a sunshade. No gratefulness. Just complaints. If I heard one more issue, I told myself, they’d have definite consequences. My husband had just gotten home and I told him what was going on. He went into the bathroom and I heard the shower running. Two minutes later, he dashed out of the bathroom wearing his swimming trunks. He ran outside and jumped into the pool with the kids, splashing them and singing a silly song.

They’re still out there. I hear the splashing and occasional shout.

My kids aren’t perfect, but why is it that when they take after me in the good things I’m happy, and when they take after me in the not-so-good, I’m indignant? I might not think I’m voicing my complaints, but I don’t think I’ve said much positive about the Fresno heat or the influx of flies this season. I observe when their rooms are messy, but fail to praise them when they remember to make their beds or clear their plates from the table.

And then there are my kids themselves to be, oh, so grateful for. The purpose they give to my days. The companionship and friendship they offer to me and to each other. The ways they are growing and the questions they are asking that show what amazing things God is slowly working in their minds and hearts.

There is also their dad. My husband. Who works all day only to come home to a grumpy household … and dons swimming trunks to jump in a kid-size pool and make his children laugh.

It’s a life and a family I wouldn’t trade for three hundred swimming pools filled with chocolate, chai, and cheesecake (not mixed together, of course). God help me to count my blessings, especially if I expect my kids to count theirs. Help me to realize that what I do and say speaks far louder than what I tell them to do and say.

Is Sleep Overrated?

little boy reaching upward

A friend of mine recently claimed, “Sleep is overrated.” He might have been joking, but he’s a morning person, so he might actually think that. I am of the opinion that sleep is underrated. Sleeping in is one of the sheer joys of life. Naps are a little bit of heaven.

And it is summer. A stay-at-home summer with my kids, rare and wondrous after seasons of classes and teaching, mornings trying to pry my eyes open far earlier than they agreed to, preparing breakfasts and packing lunches, out of the door with kids in tow by eight. Okay, 8:05, maybe a few minutes later on some days.

But summer. I rewarded myself with a week of no alarms. That ended today. I know the morning is the best time to get anything of substance done, when the mind is fresh and the temperature outside hasn’t yet scaled 100. So I started with something manageable. 7:20. Not nearly as early as work / school mornings. But enough to get some quiet time: chai and a good devotional book, before I woke the kids.

Two of my children will sleep as long as they are allowed to. The third, however. Well, he was up and sitting at the table before I emerged from the bathroom this morning. Ready for breakfast. Ready for the day.

It’s not a big thing, really. But I am one of those strange creatures that craves solitude. Just a little is often all I need. When my kids were babies and preschool age, I resolved to such times being few and far between. I dreamed of the time they would be in school and I could have just a little while in the morning. But as soon as the youngest was school age, I began either taking early classes or teaching at their school. No quiet mornings. No alone mornings.

It’s a little thing. I know. Selfish too. I reason that during seasons of my life when I had stretches of time to think and read and pray, the things I wrote were so much better. If I had that time now, I sometimes tell myself, I could do that again. Come up with amazing ideas. Write. Just write. And read. And drink chai.

This morning, my quiet time was disturbed every 3.7 minutes or so with questions like, “Mommy, does hydrogen mixed with carbon dioxide create an explosion?” and “Do some Christians believe that God made the world millions instead of thousands of years ago?” And yes, these are questions my child asked this morning. Neither have easy, quick answers.

I couldn’t request that he go back to bed, ask me again in an hour, or at least once my cup of tea is empty. He’s awake, and life is waiting to be experienced. Questions are waiting to be asked and answered.

Maybe I should try to look at life through his eyes. Through the perspective of a child who knows there are things to do and see and discover. Maybe that means getting up a little earlier if I really want that time for peace and prayer before the day begins in earnest. And maybe it also means that on days my kids are up as early as I and firing away with those questions about what makes the world go around, I choose to let go of “me” time because no moment is ever the same. No question is ever the same. No heart or mind. And as a mother, watching these hearts and souls and minds of my children learn and grow is a gift. A greater gift than an hour of quiet or an extra few winks of sleep.

Maybe my friend was right. Sleep is overrated when life is outside the door waiting to be lived.