Thursday, June 29, 2006

Parenting ins't for cowards

I have five beautiful daughters. We have boxes of Barbies, Ponies, and Polly Pockets, pony tail holders and hair brushes galore. Having dealt with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers every day for the last several years, I have a pretty good idea how to handle the tantrums and traumas that occur on a daily basis when you have a house full of girls. Unfortunately, my older girls are no longer in the "infant, toddler, or preschooler" age group. They are entering the hallowed halls of adolescence.

Even though I grew up in a house full of girls, and I am a girl (well, ok; a little older than a girl), the finer points of leading girls through the traumatic transition to young woman is foreign to me! That became very clear today when my husband traumatized our oldest daughter by killing a bee.

The bee came in through the screen during lunch, and was looking for a way out of the house, without success. Each time the bee passed over the table, all five girls would scream and cower. Finally, deciding that the bee wasn't going to make it out on his own, my husband took action to care for and protect his daughters. He grabbed a notebook, took a stance like he was ready for a tennis serve, and waited. His first pass totally missed, and almost landed him on the floor. The second pass connected with the bee, sending the bee across the room before it landed on the floor. As soon as reality set in, our oldest daughter burst into tears.

Through her sobs, this girl who is becoming a young woman expressed her great distress at the senseless murder of a bee who never did anything to our family. As she ran sobbing to her room, her dad made a comment in his defense; though the bee didn't sting him, the bee's brother probably got him on the bu*t. A short time later, our oldest daughter returned to the dining room, only to reprimand her father for his insensitive comment about the bee's brother. To his statement that he was only joking, our daughter replied with the appropriate drama, "I'm not in a mood for jokes right now!" followed by more sobs.

Though our oldest daughter wasn't in the mood for jokes at that particular moment, she adjusted quickly. As I typed this, she was reading over my shoulder. At one point, we both were doubled over with laughter. This is definitely a new stage of parenting, and one I'm not sure I'm ready for. If I've learned anything in over 10 years of being a mom, though, it is most definitely that parenting isn't for cowards!

The End

Friday, June 23, 2006

Growing Pains

I wish growing was a one-time deal. Like when you turn 10, or 21; you just are. The process is over. Or like how kids grow to a certain point and then stop. I'm 5'11" and I have been since I was 12. My sister is 6' and she has been that tall for years. We grew to a certain point and that was it. No more growing was necessary.

Unfortunately and fortunately, life isn't like that. Even though we may get physically mature, where no more growth or development is needed, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, no one ever arrives. We never stop needing to learn and grow.

While I have known this mentally, and never considered myself as having ''arrived" in any sense of the word, I have expected certain aspects of my person to get "grown." Just over three years ago, I began a journey of brokeness. Through it, I learned that the god I'd created in my mind was safe and behaved a certain way, but the God who created me ISN'T. I wrestled with the concept of a God who wasn't safe, who didn't do what I wanted, expected, or even what I felt was loving.

The wrestling was a painful process, brought about by bad theology. I thought God promised to fix up my mix-ups and make life feel good. I WANTED it to be that way. Then reality slapped me in the face; life didn't feel good, and God was the One behind all the pain. As God slowly rebuilt the foundation of my faith, I began to see Him in a different way. He wasn't safe, but He was good, and I could trust Him. One day at a time, my broken and battered heart began to beat again. Life began to hold beauty and blessing again. At some point I began to feel like everything was ok, that I'd passed through the valley of the shadow of death and grown past needing the rod and staff of my precious Savior. Boy was I wrong!

Life is a journey, and the journey alternately takes us through mountain tops, green alpine meadows, and dark valleys. Just because God carried me through one valley doesn't mean that I'm ready to trust Him to take me through the next one. Nor does it mean that the heartache is all gone. I still cry, easily, when I think about the journey I've been on and how painful it has been. I'm only beginning to realize that the journey I've been on is the journey I'm still taking. I'm not done learning, and I'm not done growing. I guess you might say I'm still having growing pains.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Righteous rags

I have a not-even-three-year-old-but-very-independent-daughter. In the throws of yet another attempt at toilet training (this motivated by my neice who is four months older and using a big girl potty), my youngest daughter had an accident. Unable to coordinate all required, she went "poopy" in her panties. Undaunted, she stripped her panties off and very carefully rinsed them in the toilet, just like she'd seen Mom do.
Of course, not even being three, her technique was a little off. She successfully smeared the contents of her soiled undergarments all over herself, the toilet, and the bathroom! Then, she proudly announced her achievement.
Immediately I was struck with how often I do exactly the same thing. I make a mess in some part of my life and then try to clean it up on my own, with the same disasterous results. So often, I desire to be justified in my own efforts. I don't really want to accept that I have absolutely nothing to offer God - I am not righteous, I do not seek after God. I don't want it to be true, even though God says just that in Romans 3.
By doing all the right things, I think maybe I can some how earn God's favor. If I keep my house clean, educate my children well, fix dinner on time, eat healthy, take care of the enviroment, and read my Bible every day, somehow I will attain a certain level of rightness, if not righteousness. Then I'll have something to offer God in exchange for the forgiveness I've received through Jesus' death on the cross. Actually, the passage from Romans is quoting the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, who describes our attempts at righteousness as something much more disgusting than what my daughter tried to wash out in the toilet!
None of us can offer God anything. His righteous standard must be met, but it can't be met by me. Jesus met God's perfect standard, and paid the price for all sin when He died on the cross. For those who accept God's free gift of salvation, the mess is cleaned up; the price of sin has been paid.
Some day my youngest daughter will know how to take care of her own messes. She may even get to the point where she doesn't make messes anymore. I will never be able to take care of my own sin; nor do I have to. Because Jesus has made my heart clean, my messes are cleaned up. When God looks at me He sees the perfect beauty of Jesus' righteousness, so I don't have to worry about cleaning up any messes ever again - at least not the kind I make when I choose to sin against God. The other kind, the kind kids make, well I'll probably be cleaning those up for a long time.

Mozzy memories

Alaska: the land of the Iditarod; Mt. McKinley; eskimoes; igloos; and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes from this beautiful land have taken on mythical proportions, with jokes being made about the "Alaska state bird" actually being the mosquito instead of the willow ptarmigan. Though Alaskan mosquitoes are not really able to carry away small children, sometimes it seems like they might! Mosquito repellant, also known as "bug dope," sells in abundant quantities and varieties, as ineffective as it may prove to be.

Hearing about Alaskan mosquitoes and actually "experiencing" them are completely different. We found that out the hard way. On our day off, we were all set for a leisurely stroll along the trail at "Earthquake Park" in Anchorage. It wasn't a beautiful day, but it wasn't too bad; a little cool with cloud cover, but no rain in the immediate forecast. So, we set off.

The first clue we might experience a problem was when my husband got out of the "rig" (our vehicles in Alaska are unique, to be sure) and was immediately attacked by mosquitoes. Being the determined people that we are, we still unloaded everyone and headed towards the trailhead. Within minutes, my husband's back was literally COVERED with mosquitoes! Before we returned to the car, he was bit multiple times, even under his pantleg above his sock!

Though the constant buzzing and swarming was very annoying, it was not so distracting that I missed the hilarity of the moment. The site of my 6'5" husband and five daughters of various sizes hightailing it to the car with arms flailing was just too much!! I had to stop my own urgent escape of the pesky predators because I was laughing so hard! The novelty the situation was, however, lost on my husband. He did NOT share my perspective or my humor. He was worrying about how much blood he'd lost and whether he'd need an emergency transfusion!

In the end, everyone survived their close encounter with mosquitoes, and I have some hilarious memories of the adventure! Not everyone shares my perspective, but I'm sure that will change in time, once all the itching stops and the bumps have gone away.