Thursday, September 6, 2012

I'm Bringing Home My Baby Bumble Bee

We have a huge basil plant in front of our house.  What started as an easy means for bruschetta on a whim has turned into an unruly bush.  A bush that I have asked to be uprooted many times.  A bush that I have replaced (though Matt has yet to remove it from the yard) with a smaller, prettier variety.   If you like herbs, and I do, it smells wonderful.  If you hate bees, and I do, it can cause going out to water the plants or checking on the kids to turn to a nightmare.  The bees love the basil.  My kids love the bees.


"The kids don't have a healthy fear of bees," I said to Matt the other day.

"And by healthy, do you mean they ought to run away screaming with their hands in the air every time they see a bee?" (insert sarcasm)  This from the man who once pinched multiple bees between his fingers rather than leave his bee infested deer blind, lest he frighten away the deer that never appeared that morning.  My Texan husband.

Um ... yeah.  Obviously.

I had put this conversation out of my mind until yesterday, when Lucas came into my kitchen holding a bee by the wing.  We chose the color called "sanctuary" for our kitchen walls, but in that moment I found little refuge in that room.  I shooed him out and simply requested that the bees stay outside (and by simply, I mean I frantically listed all the reasons why bees should not be inside, as he calmly listened while holding the bee).  

For the next hour, the kids played with the bees, making little habitats for them and observing them.  I was making dinner when Nicholas, my sweet two year old, came in with his hands cupped around something I assumed to be a flower, as he loves to make Mama smile.  When I asked if I could see what he was holding he proudly showed me his little friend, who had been squished between his loving hands.

I remembered that song that I sang as a little girl, laughingly, because who would ever be brave enough to actually bring home a baby bumble bee, and yet he did.  

I should mention that all three of the older children have been stung by bees in the past, but it obviously wasn't significant enough for them to give up playing with them.

I have always been a fearful person, and I do not want this to be my kids' reality.  I love their innocence.  I love their trust.  I love that other than being scared of The Cat in the Hat, they are rather fearless.  

I am learning to temper my responses to their exploration of the world around them.  It sometimes does end in an injury, but I would rather have them taste and see that the world was wondrously created; to know what their little bodies can do, even if falls happen; to feel like they can do great things, rather than be crippled by fear.

I'm learning from them.  I am learning that respect is necessary, but fear is not.  It is no wonder that as a fearful person, it is difficult for me to trust.  My trust in the Lord continually increases, because He has proven ever faithful, but I envy my children because they've never been burned ... never really even been let down.  And so they trust.

But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Luke 18:16-17)

And as I watch my children trust, this makes sense to me.  As they trust that the bees are worthy playmates, so they trust that Jesus is who He said He was.  

In the same way, I never had to earn my kids' trust.  From the moment they were born, I was comforter, nourisher, safe place.  When I think of how much I love my children and how much they trust me, I wonder at how great the Father's love is for me ... how He is for me, and no matter what circumstances I find myself in, I can trust Him.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

School of Grace

So we're in a new season over at the Price place, and instead of embracing the change as I would love to, I've been bemoaning what sometimes seems a huge loss. See, we decided last Spring that we would take over management of the education of our children. I began researching different schooling methods and approaches to home learning lessons, so that I could un-school the kids in order to capture their hearts and begin filling their minds with wholesome literature, promises, virtues and knowing them better than a class room teacher ever could, approach their learning of the classic subjects in ways that would be tailored to their own styles of grasping and retention.

 No small feat, but being the romantic I am and having taught for eight years, I just knew that this would be a panacea for all things that had spiraled out of control in our family. 

Perfect, I thought.

 Crazy, I discovered.

And in this discovery of craziness, I have come to know and expect that we will have a good day, followed by a bad day, a great day, followed by a horrible day and then a pretty good day. Even though, in the four weeks we've been schooling I've noticed this trend, those bad days shock me every time and really get me down.

Today started as a bad day. I slept in, and for a former teacher and a bit of a time warden (ok, a HUGE time warden) this can throw me for a loop. Lucas had a bad attitude. Bethany was talking with a baby voice. Nicholas only wanted toast with nutella instead of the eggs that the toast was merely a compliment to. Mary Elena woke up early. My hands were full, my own attitude which should set the tone for the day was plummeting. But when I looked out the window I noticed it was overcast.

I love the Fall. I love the rain. The former is redefined by living in Southern California. The latter rarely happens where we live. So to have a taste of both on this September morning was like a breath of fresh air.

God knows me so well. And God, in His sovereignty can redeem anything.  ANYTHING.

He redeemed my attitude, which enabled me to let the toast thing roll off my shoulders. Allowed me to speak with soft words to the boy with the 'tude and draw his sweetness out. Helped me remember that the older girl is only five, and sometimes it's okay to let her be my baby girl again. Made it possible for me to cuddle my Mary-girl while helping with Math.

Because He is the Redeemer, I can look on the fact that I'm still in my pajamas as a blessing of comfort on this dreary day, instead of a side effect of being an overworked stay-at-home mom. And just like that, without me even asking or expecting it, He redeems my perspective.

The romantic notions are only somewhat mangled. They are just different.

This home stuff isn't easy. I will not always get it right. The "it" may not always meet my lofty expectations, but it was no accident I felt prompted to call this experiment School of Grace. Instead of learning from their mistakes by being reprimanded, they are learning that there are no wrong answers, just moments to learn by.  Instead of punishing them for wrong behavior, I am creating space for them to learn right behavior.

When I, one of them, or all of us have a bad attitude and say hurtful things, they are learning about regret, repentance, humility and grace as I lead by example. I cannot hold my high expectations over them when so often I get it so wrong. First time obedience is not what the Lord has expected of me. His grace is much greater than that, and through the leading, teaching and molding of these little lives, He is leading, teaching and molding this bigger life that still has so much to learn.

I am so grateful for the promise that I wear around my neck along with the names of my precious children. The promise that encapsulates his redeeming grace in my own life and in this experiment. The promise that reminds me of His gentle way with me, so that I can be gentle with them.

"He gently leads those that have their young." Isaiah 40:11

Friday, April 13, 2012

Eggless Banana Bread, Curdled Cheese Sauce and Shattered Windows

In preparation for becoming a mother of four, I went to a mom's conference just three weeks before our little one arrived. It was a great time of relaxation for me, as through different circumstances I ended up having my own room. When I left I felt renewed in my calling as mother, refreshed by the time I spent debriefing with other moms, and I was grappling with a call to reconciliation with my family and my preconceived ideas of what it means to parent, especially what it means to be mom.

In the weeks leading up to Mary Elena's birth, I cleaned constantly as if my striving would ensure the perfectly organized and sanitized environment to bring my baby girl home to. I cooked as often as I cleaned, and we ate and I froze meals ... sure that once my help left at the end of March, I would have a couple week's worth of meals to make my transition to doing "it all" easier. I wanted my baby girl to meet the best version of myself, not the messy one I oftentimes am.

As her due date approached and I became more uncomfortable I continued in all my preparations and added walking miles uphill to my list of things to do, just hoping she would position herself, and I would have the natural labor I'd become accustomed to. A week before her anticipated arrival, we discovered that the baby was measuring big ... according to the new ultrasound machine, right around ten pounds. Because of a difficult and traumatic delivery with Nicholas who was just under nine pounds, in which my rose colored picture of natural delivery was colored with him getting stuck, nurses jumping on me, pushing down on my pelvis, trying to widen that ring of fire to ensure my boy would have full mobility in his arms, and him emerging, flailing, blue, with burst blood vessels in his eyes, my doctor highly recommended we opt for a c-section for this birth.

The idea had never crossed my mind. If there's one thing I thought I was good at, made for even, it is naturally delivering my babies with as little intervention as possible. But there is another part of me. The one that becomes crippled with fear. The part that would protect my children, without regard for myself. The one that was exhausted and worried about the outcome of this my fifth and final pregnancy.

We set a date for three days later, and I continued preparing for sweet Mary Elena Leigh to join our family.

That Friday morning, I dropped my older kids at school, dropped the baby off at a friend's house, and made last minute lists and phone calls to those who would be caring for my kids during my four and a half day stay in the hospital. Wiping down the counters one last time, putting the last load of laundry in dressers and closets, and removing three meals from the freezer for my family, I left for the hospital.

Other than wondering about the unknown, I was calm, and I knew our little girl would enter the world without a hitch, and she did at 1:03 on the afternoon of February 24th. She was and is, absolutely perfect. Her name, Mary Elena Leigh means "cherished light, sheltered from the storm."

Well, my help has returned to Texas and after four wonderful weeks of help from my mother-in-law where we began to discover the reality of being a family of six, I am mostly on my own. Because of the unforeseen cesarean, and the longer recovery and the busy-ness of having four kids six and under, we used all the meals I had prepared and frozen before mom left. And she left and I felt and continue to feel inept, inadequate, overwhelmed. And instead of responding to those feelings with the grace I prayed I'd have, with patience for the other four people in my home who are also adjusting to their new roles, I've found myself demanding perfection from myself, from them.

"Do you ever feel you've become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora's box of all the secret, hateful parts -- your arrogance, your spite, your condescension -- has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and moving on, you zing them. Hello, it's Mr. Nasty." Unfortunately, as lofty as my expectations and goals are as a mother, I am human. Often as a wife, parent and friend I feel what Tom Hanks says in "You've Got Mail" to be true of me. And no matter how much I try, I will always be inept, inadequate and overwhelmed unless I ground myself in something more than my own ability.

As I struggle to find enough hours in the day to clean, do laundry, cuddle, do homework, cook, do dishes, reassure, and gently redirect, I am rediscovering that in order for restoration to occur in me, in order to be the best version of myself, I need to be constantly in prayer, to spend time in the Word each day, and to give and receive the grace provided to us through His sacrifice.

It is no mistake that in my limited time, I just "happened" to begin reading through the Proverbs again.

Day after day I read, and it seems repetitive, but then I realize that all of my good intentions to do what is right and to be what I need to be, are futile and in my humanity, God knows that like my children, I will need to be redirected continually. And so I am reminded daily:

"Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it" (22:6). It is a constant thing to mold the hearts of my children, but oh the eternal reward if I make it my priority.

"Better to live in a wilderness than with a nagging and hot-tempered wife" (21:19). Whether or not he does the things I think he ought, regardless of him making life for me easier or having needs that I must respond to, I am called by One greater than myself to be that "good thing" of which Solomon speaks for my husband (18:22).

"Life and death are in the power of the tongue ..." and "The intelligent person restrains his words, and one who keeps a cool head is a man of understanding" (18:21,17:27). In this regard, I require much maturation.

The interesting thing about Mary's name is that while it means "cherished" it has an underlying meaning of "bitterness." This week, in moments when I've lost it, when I haven't allowed myself to be admonished by the above truths, when I've been the messy version of me, I have begun to realize that whether Mary understands herself as a cherished light or allows bitterness to take root in her heart is very much on my shoulders. The way I react, when the lid blows off that Pandora's box, when my children and my husband receive my spite instead of grace, I plant the seed.

So when I forget to put the eggs in the banana bread and realize it the minute before the timer goes off -- or when I am required by my occupation to redirect hearts and I forget about what I'm cooking and my cheese sauce overheats and curdles -- when juice spills on my newly mopped floor -- or my son knocks so hard on the window that it busts on a night when it is bound to rain, I must lock the box and "... be transformed by the renewing of [my] mind, so that [I] may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2).

The work of a mother is tiring, non-stop, challenging, but rewarding.

You are changing the world
one little heartbeat at a time
Making history with every touch and every smile
Oh you, you may not see it now,
but I believe that time will tell
How you, you were changing the world
One little heartbeat at a time.
-- Steven Curtis Chapman