Homework and Rage

September 23, 2009

My god, the homework.  And my god, the rage.

As I’ve mentioned previously, my daughter is taking algebra this year.  Algebra as in x=whateverthehellitis.  Algebra as in the only math I have ever truly embraced and fully understood.  (Incidentally, thank you Mr. Fay, my eighth grade algebra teacher.  THANK you.  Because of you I survived college math.)  My daughter is good at math, intuitively adept at maneuvering numbers in her mind, much moreso than I am.  I fully anticipate that in the coming years, she will outstrip both my math knowledge and my innate math abilities.

But.  Holy hell, the kid is eleven.  And stubborn.  Oh wait, didn’t I already say that she was eleven?  Stubborn comes with the territory.

She has struggled to get her Algebra homework done since the start of the school year.  First, I think it was that it was ALGEBRA (jebus, eleven year olds think and talk in a lot of capital letters), and she was freaked out that she couldn’t do it.  But then we got her settled down and she realized that she could.  Then, she simply didn’t want to do the homework, which is completely understandable.  Not so understandable is throwing a massive hissy because the homework exists in the first place.  Did I mention that she’s eleven?

But we were working with the massive hissiness of the eleven year old brain.

Tonight?  She really doesn’t understand something in the homework.  Something pretty basic, yet fairly complex.  So…I tried to explain it to her.  Her friend who was over tried to explain it to her.  Tim tried to explain it to her.  The cat…well, the cat just left the room.  And she would not listen.  She WOULD NOT (the mothers of eleven year olds also begin to talk and think in all caps) listen.  And oh my god, the anger I started to feel.  The fist-clenching, heart-pounding rage.  RAGE, I tell you.

Really, she was being completely unreasonable and I think, purposely obtuse.  She was screeching at me that I was wrong and the book was wrong.  Implicit in the screeching is that I (and her friend and Tim and the book) are all complete idiots and that she, SHE ALONE, has discovered the mathematical principle of adding/subtracting negative numbers.  She was, plainly, making an ass of herself.  And not getting the homework done either, I might add.

I said to Tim, who had waded into the steaming shit pile that was this parental moment, “I’m really trying to teach her this.”

She said, “Well you’re doing a bad job at it.”  She sneered.  Sneered.

Tim caught my eye as I walked out of the room, because holy crap did I need to walk out of the room, and said, “I poured you a glass of wine.”

And he’s in there with her now.  And she just came out and apologized to me.  And I’m drinking a glass of wine.

Look, I know that she was hideous.  HIDEOUS.  But it still amazes me how angry she can make me.  My jaw is still clenched, and I’m sure that my blood pressure has not returned to normal.  Maybe it’s that you love your kid so much, and you so desperately want them to grow and learn, both in math and more, in terms of her character.  Maybe it’s that the good moments are so sweet right now, that the good moments give me these tiny sips of the woman she will become:  sweet, hilarious, brilliant, sensitive, kind…I want to drink in these moments…so the bad moments, the homework-bad, adolescent-bad moments, that defy any of her potential…they make me nuts.  NUTS, I say.

I’m sure that I could use all sorts of parenting advice (yes, I know, I know, don’t engage, etc.), but I’m not sure that this rage is all that easily solved.  Loving someone and wanting the best for them — especially when that someone is an adolescent girl — has a flipside.  It’s so heartbreaking and frustrating when that someone refuses your help.  We’ve all heard that adage about how having a child means that you wear your heart on the outside of your body.  I don’t think I understood, hell, I don’t think I yet understand how it also means that your heart can feel smashed when that child makes mistakes.  How that child can hurt you.  And how damnably mad I can get at her.

By the way, 3(7x – 5) -10?

It’s NOT NOT NOT NOT 21x-5.

…is where I’m trying to keep our daughter right now.  Our MIDDLE school daughter.  Oh, just oh.  I so acutely remember those middle years — the ever-changing body, the ever-growing mind, the bangs that wouldn’t curl right.  It was the eighties, after all.

Middle.  It implies center of course, and is there a less centered time in any of our lives than middle school?  Unless you count self-centered, of course.  And I don’t mean that as a criticism.  It takes a good bit of naval (or is it navel — which one is boats and which one is belly buttons?) gazing to haul oneself through to adulthood.

We’ve had a traumatic day here at che K.  If you are absent a middle-schooler in your life, it may be hard to grasp the very hugeness of feelings that can collide with what might seem like fairly innocuous circumstances.  This morning we found out that Abby’s best school friend won’t be in any of her classes after all, as we had thought on Wednesday, due to a scheduling glitch for her friend that required a change.  The guidance counselor and the principal were apologetic, as they had really, really tried to keep the girls together a bit.  And the girls will be walking to and from school together, and will share lunch together as well, so all is not lost.  But it’s been enough to send my girl teetering a bit, and by this age, I can’t do anything for her but spot her on the most difficult tricks.  Talk her through.  Assuage the gnawing fear she’s fighting.  Encourage her to focus on the positives.

She’s, well, we all think our own kids are super-special snowflakes of course, but she’s pretty damned amazing, I think.  She’s taking eighth grade language arts and algebra this year.  She has what the guidance counselor refers to as an “unuuuuuusual” schedule.  (Tim suggested that we just call it weird, as that’s more value-neutral than unusual.)   She’s an unusual kid in any number of ways (her most recent fascination has been, I kid you not, horse genetics — I’ve learned more about that than I ever needed to know), and the greatest thing, the God-sent thing, is that she’s getting pretty comfortable in her own skin.  I think, I hope, that we’re getting her to embrace unusual, quirky, herself.

But as much as she knows, as much mental horsepower she has at the ready, she’s still only eleven.  Today, at the nadir of this whole my-friend-isn’t-in-my-classes-breakdown, we were lying together on my bed together, and she wailed, “I just don’t know if I can DO this, Mom.”

The tenderness I felt for her!  I had such a sweet knowledge wash over me, and it was one of  those rare parenting moments in which I could, even for a split second, see the big picture.  I know she fears not being able to keep up academically, and I know that she fears all the newness of people and place.  “Honey,” I said.  “It’s not your job to know you can do this.  Think about the adults in your life that you trust, the people that know you and love you.”

She paused, and listed those adults for me, her voice still thick with the tears of the last few minutes.  I stroked her hair and made sure she was looking me in the eyes.  “It’s our job to know you can do this.  Every single one of us knows you can do this.  We’re your security, your safety net.  And you have to trust that right now.”

I’m not saying that everything turned into roses and rainbows at that moment, but I think she started to turn the corner at about that point.  When I asked her later today how she was feeling about the situation, she sighed and said, “Well, I guess I can deal with it.”  That’s growing up, knowing that you can’t always change the circumstances, but having at least some confidence that you can cope.  She can cope.  And, to me, at this age and at this stage, that’s really big for her.

So she’s back on the beam, and while there are no grades for deciding to deal with life as it is, not what you want it to be, there should be.  She’s going to be more than fine.  She’s going to be fantastic.

Let the circle be unbroken

August 21, 2009

Am I the only person who occasionally (oh, crap, sometimes, but not quite frequently, okay?) finds myself awash on the shores of self-pity?

Am I the only person who sometimes simply craves others to read my mind and take care of me exactly in the manner that I wish (but don’t often even know how to say aloud)?

I hate feeling sorry for myself, simply hate it.  So I really try to avoid it, or at least avoid the appearance of it, because self-pity has to be one of the least attractive qualities, I am nothing if I person who wants to appear to have it all together.  I’m an admirer of the pull-oneself-up-by-the-bootstraps kinds of qualities.  I like resilience.  But tonight I feel like my boys’ old basketball — deflated and soft in all the wrong ways.  I feel like I’m trying to bounce, but goddamn the effort of it all makes me think that I can hear just a little bit of air whispering out of my spirit.

Self-pity is a character flaw, I’ve always thought.  I still think that, at least if one immerses oneself in this particular witch’s broth for very long.  For me right now, self-pity is cyclical — life is a series of repeated circles where I crest the top — doing good, doing good, hanging in there, emotions in check, a teensy sprig of optimism for the future, oooooooh crap, going down, sliding, emotions spurting out as if from an open artery, hate my life, hate, hate, hate, craggy nasty soulless bottom of myself…right now, I’m somewhere at the base of the circle, probably on my way back up again, because if nothing else, I can take comfort in the mathematics of circles.

But I want to honor my little patch of self pity.  Acknowledge it with a little more gentleness than I usually offer myself.  I’m weary of my damned bootstraps, and wary of not giving myself a little give.  Because truth?  I’ve been going through the most challenging, oh crap, I mean shitty period of my adult life.  My parents’ health situations are more stable, true (this I say with my dad in the hospital this week, but overall, their health situations have been at least not as horrible as sometimes), but Tim’s job situation and the resulting financial fallout, coupled with the challenges of being and staying married well, alongside changing and sad dynamics in many friendships…look, I know it’s not living in Darfur.  God, I really know that so many people suffer so much more all over the world, and within the circle of those I love.  So I fear putting this out there; I fear sounding  self-pitying.  I fear exacting judgment  from the imaginary Greek chorus of my life, who has incidentally changed over time, and is at least no longer filled with people from high school.  I take progress where I can find it.

But baldly, plainly, life is so hard right now.  It hurts.  No boon to be enjoyed from the hero’s journey, is it?  But it’s real, and I believe that being real counts.  I stake a lot on that belief.  Just as I stake a lot on circles.

Someday soon, I will begin blogging about the absolute inanity of my life.  All the little diddly stuff about which I write so eloquently (*cough*).  But I’ve still been thinking of the bigger things.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how my world view has changed and continues to change.  I’ve been thinking about God in all his awesomeness and majesty and about us humans in all of our brokenness.

Realization Number One:

Intentions don’t matter for a damn.  I can intend all I want to call people or call them back.  I can not intend to hurt someone’s feelings with a sarcastic comment.  But if the net result of my behavior hurts someone, then that’s the net result.  The end.  Humans, in all of our screwed-uppedness, hurt each other all the time, and much of the time, I believe, we really, really don’t intend to.  But I’ve come to the conclusion that “So what?”  It’s how we behave, how we treat others, the condition in which we leave others — those are the things that matter, not our intentions. We’re so fragile, each one of us, and so awfully prone to being wounded.  I think  that each of us walks around with all sorts of metaphorical injuries from previous human encounters — deep facial cuts, a weak foot, a crooked spine — and just like a toddler falling down and hitting the exact same spot on her head as she did yesterday, we get hurt at our same points of weakness again and again.  It’s so terribly bloody being human, you know?

Which brings me to realization number two, that thankfully, ends up making realization number one a lot more livable:

People are who they are, and they live where they’re at.  By that I mean that I can’t expect anyone, even if that person hurts me, to be anyone but who he/she is at that precise moment.  Sure,  it would be great if every person I encounter was perfectly healthy, perfectly able to communicate love, but I have to go back to the first realization.  We all have our wounds and our scars, and we are all (hopefully) on various journeys of growing and healing, so I have to temper my expectations of others with the realization that most of the time, people do the best that they can.  Sure, my best or your best might completely suck at times, but there it is.  This second realization actually brings so much grace, for myself and the ways that I make grievous mistakes in regard to others, and also for others and the ways they have wounded me.  It’s like the second realization lets people, yes, including myself, off the hook.  I don’t have to hold every person accountable for every bad action (despite good intentions!) because I can only expect someone to be…the person that he/she is right now, for good and for ill.  It’s all I can expect of myself, too.  I think that the second realization actually drives me right up the driveway and home to forgiveness.  Anne Lamott, in her essay, “Why I Make Sam Go to Church,” talks about how her son’s friend was being suddenly mean and angry, really hurting her son’s feelings in the process.  All mothers knows this situation, and we have all struggled with how to help our kid through it.  I love what she says:

I kept asking God for help, and after a while I realized something — that Josh [her son's friend] was not enjoying this either.  He was just trying to take care of himself, and I made the radical decision to let him off the hook.  I imagined gently lifting him off the hook of my judgment and setting him back on the ground.

God, there’s such relief in that, isn’t there?  We’re all just trying to take care of ourselves and our multiple injuries.  In the great triage of human relationships, how often do I just let someone off the the freaking hook? How often do I need others to let me off the hook for treating them horribly, even if my oh-so-mighty-intentions might have been okay?  How often does God let each of us off the hook?

My two realizations simultaneously make me want to treat others with much greater gentleness, and make me want to spread like a salve a little more understanding for those times when our actions don’t quite match our intentions.

I’m not sure how to restart.

Life has been, um, well, yeah.

This time I mean it.

No, this time I do.

I abandoned this old thing quite a while back, a fact which in my teensy spot (microscopic really) of the internets, really doesn’t matter too terribly much to too terribly many.  Even now, sitting at this keyboard, I feel woefully inadequate to do this.  But these past months have contained such a theme of loss, not just for myself, but for so many others I love, that I am wary of completely losing this place too.  Even IF this place is so small and the ocean is so wide.

So, when life is not exactly a bloggable experience, sometimes I just shut up.  It’s more than just a “If you can’t say something nice…” theme; it’s more than not being able to choke out the right words.  It’s more about becoming selectively mute, ever conserving the mental energy to simply live life.

I will say that I’ve become something of a crappy friend to many.  Too many times, I don’t pick up the phone when it rings or I don’t return the message that has been left.  I suppose that I have inadvertently taught many friends a lesson in forgiveness for the idiot who struggles to return calls or make calls in the first place.  I haven’t meant to be that way.  Really.

Since Tim has this information on his FB account, I would say that it’s not exactly a secret that he’s been out of work for nine months.  This.  Has.  Sucked.  Financially, psychologically, relationally.  Sometimes, not in that order.

And Tim and I, partly because of the  job crisis and partly because of other schtuff, have been coming through the most difficult part of our marriage.  I say coming through because that’s really what I believe — that we are indeed, coming through to a place where we choose to love each other more completely, where we choose to communicate about the most painful issues, and where we look at each other as more than roommates and co-parents.  So, of course, there’s the good that God brings out of the tough times, etc., yadda, whatevs, you know.

I don’t mean to sound cynical because I’m really not.  Do you know that a year ago this week our family was on a cruise???  A year ago today we spent snorkeling in Cozumel.  Today, I went to work — oh yeah, I have a job now.  Teaching English at a small local nursing/allied med. school.  Imagine this:  the MFA in Creative Writing gets a job in 4 days.  Sent the resume on a Monday, got an e-mail back Monday night, spoke with them on Tuesday, interviewed Wednesday, got the job offer Thursday.  Holy crap, if that’s not evidence of a divine and benevolent God, I don’t know what is.  I like my job.  I really, really like it.  I like my students, and I so enjoy tremendously cool co-workers.  I feel like I’m actually doing a good job and that I’ve helped some students to become better and more confident writers — after my initial period of feeling in an absolute panic.  By no means do I make a tremendous lot of money teaching part time, but it helps.  And it helps my sanity to have something to focus on other than, well, almost everything else in my life.

But back to last year at this time: yeah, a cruise.  Wow, that was fun.  And to me, the memory of the cruise illustrates how all of our lives are so damned fragile.  I don’t think anyone is too far away from his/her life circumstances going completely into the shitter.  I’m struck that we’re all pretty much one circumstance away from the spiral — a sick child who won’t get well, the death of someone we adore, the pink slip, the broken relationship.  But oddly, I’m finding that rather than making me feel weak, this realization is making me feel a kinship with others, whether they’re suffering or not.  If someone is suffering, I feel so much…more than I ever have before.  Maybe I’m learning to weep with those who weep.  And if someone appears insulated from real suffering, I almost feel like I should pre-grieve for them, because we’re, none of us, getting out of this life unscathed.  While suffering is, by no means, spread evenly, I doubt that anyone escapes it.

So on the good days, wow, I am so thankful for all the wonder in my life — my healing marriage, my beautiful and healthy and increasingly funny and independent children, the overall health of my parents.  So much of what I thought I needed to live, I’ve found that I really don’t.  Well, except for money.  Good god could we use some money. :)  But there have been some truly bad days too.  There have been days where I have struggled to get out of bed, to take a shower, to be a parent.  There have been days, crap weeks, where I’ve felt like we have fallen out of the grace of God and His people.  Mostly, there are just days where I’m desperately trying to put one foot in front of the other.  I don’t go out very much with anyone because, frankly, I can’t afford to go out.  What was once a simple decision is now fraught with difficulty (and this applies to other parts of life too).  Somehow, though, with the blessings from God and His people (so much from our families, so incredible much it makes my head practically spin, so grateful I am), the kids are getting what they need:  food, clothes, school stuff.  Don’t ask me how it works out on paper, because it doesn’t.  It just doesn’t.  In short, I’m blundering around, doing this life so imperfectly it’s laughable, and there’s so much hanging over our heads right now, that if I think too long, I literally start gasping for breath.

So, um yeah.  Maybe I’ll try this blog thing again.

Okay, first 2008: I must acknowledge that you provided me ample opportunities to test my spiritual mettle. Whisking back and forth between hospital visits to my parents at various points this year gave me lots of time to reflect and pray. My having back surgery followed by a prolonged (and ongoing) between-jobs situation for Tim? Brilliant, 2008! We have chosen to grow closer as a result of the extra time spent together, me flat on my back physically, Tim flat on his back emotionally. I’m sure our deepened relationship is what you intended for us all the time.

And I must offer thanks, 2008, for how well Abby’s transition to a new school has gone. And for Rob and Dan having such wonderful friends. And for the fact that both my parents are still with us, no matter how dicey that looked at times.

And of course, 2008, you realized that truly being needy (emotionally and financially) would show Tim and me how very wonderful the people in our lives are. So thank you for that lesson.

But of course, we’ve managed to slip in a couple of less challenging moments, you taskmaster 2008! We did cruise and snorkel. We’ve eaten at some great places. We’ve laughed riotously with friends. We even watched some good TV behind your back, 2008. Sneaky little buggers, aren’t we?

But I must take issue, dear 2008, that you’re being a bit petty during these waning days of your empire. Despite the fact that the kids have a bazillion toys/games/books etc. could you have them do something else (ANYTHING else) other than pick, pick, pick at one another? And *must* two of my offspring have attitudes, or should I say ASSitudes that make me want to sell them on ebay? Is there some kind of hormonal surge in our family? And are you going to pass this information on to 2009? Because, really, I don’t think that’s fair play.

But I quibble, 2008. I can sit here on your last day and enumerate the many blessings that have come from the difficulties you brought me. So I think that’s an overall win for us both. But I won’t be sorry to see you go, dude. I’m sorry if that seems harsh, but I think we’re well past facades at this point, don’t you think? I will toast you tonight, friend, but I think it will be healthy for us to each move on. Put in a good word for me with 2009, won’t you?

Edited to add: Oh, 2008, how could have I doubted your tenacity?  How could I have thought that you wouldn’t give that last kick me in the crotch hurrah?  You remember the tooth?  The one that I had filled yesterday?  You know how my gum got increasingly swollen overnight to the point that people noticed my lower jaw was actually looking, well, huge-ish?  And the pain?  I went to the emergency dentist today (another whole post’s worth of material).   And…I need a root canal, which is just ducky from both a dental and financial perspective…it’s your last gift to me, isn’t it?  And since I can’t get the root canal done until 2009, it’s really the gift that keeps on giving.  I swear, if you and 2009 are in collusion — I know where you live, man, I know where you live!

…so this is just to quickly say…that I’m realizing that yes, God does provide in unexpected and even pretty wonderful ways.  Tim and I are not holding out tons of hope for any employment opportunities before Christmas or New Years at this point…but I am beginning to get to the place where I am hoping less in the job itself and more in God in the midst of this time of our lives.  And in God’s people who love us.  And while I’m weary of circumstances out the wazoo, I’m grateful to God at the same time.

Every difficult situation has the potential to do one of two things to a relationship:  strengthen it or shred it.  And right now I think we’re getting stronger.  That’s a pretty sizable Christmas gift right there.

And while I might not have the most enormous spontaneous Christmas spirit at this point — I’m excited about it for my kids’ sake and I know God to be good.  And I’m grateful that both my parents are here, since there were any number of times over 2008 that I doubted one or both would be.  So.  Onward.  And Merry Christmas.  Because, truly, if Jesus hadn’t chosen to come to this world to fulfill all that God the Father had for Him — well, then we’d be…a whole lot worse off than we are right now.  So thank you, God.  Must go to break up an argument between children!  Ah, the joys of Christmas break!

Hail Mary?

December 17, 2008

So, to catch up or recap: My dad is home from the hospital, his heart finally being “cardioverted” into sinus rhythm on Monday by a shock the heart procedure (sort of sounds like shock the monkey, doesn’t it?). He is expecting to have double valve repair/replacement surgery in January. My mom and I got him sprung yesterday, and then I went to two pharmacies to obtain his various prescriptions, and then helped my mom sort out which drugs needed to be taken when and at what dosages. He is reacting to the Lovenox (basically heparin, a blood thinner) shots he must give himself for a bit, by bruising and swelling, so he is expected to consult his family doctor this morning to make sure that he can keep taking these injections. He needs the Lovenox until the coumadin (another blood thinning medication) level in his blood reaches a certain sweet spot…my parents are exhausted, emotionally and physically, and now must brace themselves for the holidays which will be followed by major surgery. I think that my mom is trying mightily and valiantly to stay well enough to handle all this — and if sheer force of will matters in one’s health (which clearly it does), hopefully she will be strong enough to get through my dad’s recovery. Chance is a good thing, at least.

Tim…well, he has had some interviews, good ones he believes, but so far, nothing has broken. We talked this morning (despite the fact that Abby had a two hour delay for what appeared to me to be nonexistent snow and ice). Painfully talked. With tears and all. And came to the inescapable conclusion that he will probably need to be willing to travel. By not putting his hat in the ring for jobs all over the country, he has severely limited his employment options. We had not wanted to get to the point where he would have to travel, because we did it for two years, and it’s no great way to run a marriage or family. But then, neither is being broke. So it appears — that unless something breaks in the immediate few days — Tim will be looking into travel, at least for a time. I mean, my daughter needs to go to the eye doctor, and my sons need to go to the dentist. And there’s that pesky feeding the family thing…sure, Tim traveling at the same time as my dad has surgery will suck. Big time.

It’s funny — my last post where I was trying to figure out God’s character seems like an eon ago. In the intervening few days I have been reading Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, a sometimes impenetrable but often incredibly wise devotion. He writes, “My questions come whenever I cease to obey. When I have obeyed God, the problems never come between me and God, they come as probes to keep the mind going on with amazement at the revelation of God. Any problem that comes between God and myself springs out of disobedience; any problem, and there are many, that is alongside me while I obey God, increases my ecstatic delight, because I know that my Father knows, and I am going to watch and see how He unravels this thing.”

Well. There might be a reason that my own devotion book could be entitled, My Half-Assedness for His Mediocrity. ‘Cause, dudes? I am so not there right now. I’m trying, really really really trying to obey God. To believe in His goodness. His mercy and love. His complete understanding of circumstances about which I am stuck in my tiny postage stamp sized perspective. But here’s the thing: I feel like I’m dying inside right now. Like I can barely take a whole breath without collapsing in on myself. There’s so much hopelessness in me right now, not just about the job situation, but god, about so much else that has been so terribly painful of late. Still, I am seeking Him, and right now, it feels as though He won’t be found my me. I know that my feelings don’t represent truth, but right now, that doesn’t make my feelings any easier.

I so want to believe, I even choose to believe in the God who loves us and wants to bless us with good gifts. And I know that doesn’t mean that He erases all suffering or all difficult decisions. But frankly, I fail to see (again, think postage stamp perspective) how Tim’s traveling could be the best thing for our family. Oh, it may be the best we can do right now I guess, but the best best thing? Really?

So today, to reference the title of this post (which proves that Dan’s football mania has permeated every aspect of my being!), I feel like it’s the last few seconds of Some Big Game that can only be won by a successful touchdown pass. I’m the quarterback and quite possibly the wide receiver (control freak much, Beth?), and I am lofting the ball in the air while gigantic defensive players swarm me, having broken through my offensive line and trying to get the sack. So the ball is in the air and I’m about to be knocked down hard. But I will attempt to peer through the rubble of players atop me to see if maybe, just maybe, the ball is caught in the endzone. And then I’m there in the endzone with the ball coming toward me, too high and with a bit too much spin. But that won’t stop me from jumping for it, from trying to feel it reach my cold fingertips so that I can bring it close in to my chest. I still want to believe that the win I desperately desire is within reach somehow.

Oh, but I fear going in to the locker room, broken and bruised, having lost. The consolation of that loss would be that if in some way, some way that is stupid clear to me, I could find God in all this. Not just God who will help me survive, to put one foot in front of the other (though mind you, I really need that God), but God who will give me hope for the future, God who will comfort, God who knows and still has a plan for goodness here in my life. I need to see and feel that God right about now. I need a reminder (remember, stupid clear) that faith in Him is never in vain. Please, please, I need Him right now to penetrate my frustration and sadness, to show me Himself.

Shit Meet Fan

December 12, 2008

Oh wait, I’m sorry, you two have already become well acquainted in calendar year 2008. But hey, look upon this as an opportunity to deepen your relationship, to spend some quality time together, to learn each other’s measure a bit more.

I could rewind and post some of last year’s writings to remind you of some of your earlier meetings when you two created quite a well, you know, a shitstorm?

Short version: A 3:30 am Thursday morning phone call from my mom — my dad’s in the hospital in A-fib again, which basically means that his heart is out of regular rhythm, and underscores the immediate need for the double valve replacement surgery about which I wrote last year. But life, being life, and my father being my father — the surgery didn’t happen last year. And so it is upon us again. The doctor wants my dad to stay in the hospital while all the experts work on getting his heart back in sinus rhythm (first by trying to chemically fix the A-fib with medicine and if that doesn’t work, by essentially shocking his heart with the little paddles), stay in the hospital until the surgeon returns from vacation on Monday, and have the surgery as soon as the schedule permits. My dad debates whether to follow this advice or to wait until the New Year, both because of the holidays and his business, which is ridiculously busy during these last weeks of the year.

Tim has had some interviews, some good ones, but nothing yet on the job front.

Somewhere in this time frame, the washing machine croaked and my computer is dying a slow and agonizing death, where every day it loses just a little bit more of what it should do (like scrolling with the touch pad feature or recharging with the power cord or you know, having the space bar workconsistentlyyouseewhatImean).

And I’m tired. I hadn’t been able to fall asleep Wednesday night, so when my mom called, I had only been sleeping for an hour. I’m not trying to whine, really. But ick.

I was praying yesterday, as I’ve been praying of late, for strength, for hope, for more of Jesus. And I started to think about Christmas and money and stress and how maybe we should have told the kids that they couldn’t get much this year due to finances. But Tim and I opted to buy them the items they really want (I-pods for the boys and a portable DVD player for Abby), as well as some other smaller-priced stuff for the sake of having packages to open. And yesterday I thought about how people might judge us for that — I mean we’re in seriously crummy financial straits and spending must be careful, so I can picture people muttering to themselves, “God, why would they buy that stuff for the kids? What’s wrong with them?”

While we can all argue that kids today, mine included or especially, are spoiled — it’s more than that. I find such joy in giving my kids what they really want. I want to see their faces, I want to feel their happiness. As a parent, it’s my heart toward my children to love, love, love blessing them in all sorts of ways, large and small.

After I left the hospital yesterday, I was begging God about a lot of things: health for my dad of course, as well as my mom, for me to feel more strength and less exhaustion post surgery, and especially for Tim’s job situation. Honestly, it wasn’t an eloquent prayer — more like, “Dude, really? My dad in the hospital now? Oh God, I can’t do it right now. I really can’t.” And I felt like he told me to listen, which frankly, I didn’t feel much like doing. I was still back at “Dude, really? Really?” But I shut up for a moment and I felt like God brought to mind this issue of gift giving. “Oh great,” I thought to myself. “God’s going to remind me of how much I really suck by confirming that we never should have spent that money on the kids.” (Luckily, of course, God can’t, you know, read my mind or anything, so He had no idea whatsoever that my attitude might have been a tad lacking.) But instead He brought to mind the truth that every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and that the Bible says that if we, as flawed and sinful humans, can give our kids good gifts, how much better can He do so, what with the Holy Spirit and all.

And okay, I confess that my first thought was, “Well, that’s nice God. Whatevs. But what are you going to do about all of these circumstances that hurt so damn much?” But then He said to me, “Why are you so afraid that I don’t desire to bless you? That I don’t want to see your joy when I give you whatever it is you want?” And wow, it’s a good question. Why do I live my life in such fear? Kids, by and large unless we’ve really screwed up repeatedly, don’t fear their parents. They live in (a sometimes even selfish) expectation that we will bless them. Not just that we’ll get them what they want for Christmas, but that of course, we’ll make their lunches; of course, we’ll listen to their problems; of course, we will love and take care of them. And we’re supposed to approach God like children. I think this is kind of big (at least to me): I am supposed to live in expectation not of perfection and ease and everything I want exactly when I want it — but in expectation of His blessing. I am supposed to live in the knowledge that He does give good gifts solely because He wants to. Suffering is part of this life, but wouldn’t it be mitigated, wouldn’t it be transformed even, if I could stop being so afraid and start being expectant of His goodness?

Man, I don’t have this figured out yet. I don’t really know, despite being a Christian for a number of years, how really to approach Him like a child. I’m still pretty wrapped up in worrying about the aforementioned shit and fan and who’s going to have to clean up all that mess…but God’s onto something here (imagine that) in my life. Something big that could change my whole approach to Him.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2008

I’m, of course, thankful for the usual: family, friends, food, etc.

Specifically:

I am thankful that my mom is here this Thanksgiving, because there have been any number of times this year that I thought that would not be the case.  And she looked good today, really really good.  I’m thankful that my back surgery is OVER and that any pain I’ve had has not been in the low back (where one of the removed discs was quote “so dessicated it was barely there” and I had bone rubbing bone, according to the surgeon), but more around the incision. This validates my reasons for surgery, you surgeons who looked at me like I was making it all up for the last six years! I am thankful that my boys have been learning about friendship, and have been really good, really good friends in their friend’s time of need. I’m thankful that the mom of one of Abby’s classmates called yesterday to arrange a play date for her daughter and Abby. I had literally been praying about that the moment before I listened to the message. I am thankful for Tim in ways that would take too long to enumerate here. It’s odd, to be incomeless this Thanksgiving, and still feel pretty okay (I’m not perfect about this, mind you), but God has been showing Himself in the situation, God has been giving us what we need — words and compassion and humor and such — so He must be here, you know? I am thankful for those friends that stand by and with us right now. We are blessed by you.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.