Beauty Piercing Through the Filter

And it’s Five Minute Friday!  The topic?  Relevant.  It’s freeing to just plain WRITE for five minutes without stressing about every last word.  (This one might have taken more like six minutes, but I figure the point of FMF is Freedom, so I don’t stress too much over it.  ;)).

 

I’m used to crisis mode.  Sometimes I wonder if I know how to operate outside of crisis mode.  People always say you shouldn’t live your life waiting for the other shoe to drop, but sometimes it feels like there must be giants with myriad legs running around losing shoes right and left.  The news of the deployment feels like just the next shoe.

When I’m in crisis mode amazing filters crowd in on my brain.  Everything that I deal with fits into two categories:  Those that are relevant for surviving in crisis mode and Those that are NOT relevant for surviving in crisis mode.  Sometimes I get obnoxiously impatient with those things that don’t fit into the first category and I have to remember that my crisis is not everyone’s crisis and that it’s very likely that many of the people in my life are in their own version of crisis mode and I’m not privy to the details.

Sometimes I over filter.  I have to be careful about that.  I’m glad though that today I let in a few extra ‘irrelevant’ thoughts into my brain.  As I was on my way to a friend’s house, the wind was blustery and I was driving on a particularly lovely street lined with trees still sporting their most glorious autumn colors.  The wind was swirling and whirling the leaves around and up into the air…  Agitating them into a dance.  At first the filter was out and I didn’t see, but something drew me to them and into the rhythms of their dance.  I was so grateful that they made it through the filter and that I SAW the leaves.  It’s those simple, small piercing moments of beauty that are MOST relevant.  That draw my heart into the holy and out of my own circumstances.  They are gifts from the God who loves my heart and those are the things that are the most relevant to every circumstance.

Another Sharp Right Turn

Even though we had three years of shore duty I never really did stop expecting my husband to walk through the door and tell me, “Honey…  We’re leaving and soon.”  I figured there were IAs (Individual Augmentee) assignments that he could get voluntold for and I never have really trusted any sort of ‘down time’ that we’ve been given.

Our three years though, proved to be that and thank God.  We had time to regain the footing of our marriage after the high tempo of the first few years with deployments and dets and a few other crazy humdingers.  We fell apart a little bit there at the beginning and then came together with a stronger seam.

Thank God he was here for all the ups and downs that have happened in the last three years, the litany of which I’m sure people are tired of reading about.

He checked into his new sea command about a week ago and we tried not to think about it.  We tried to leave “Deployment” as just a shodowy spectre haunting us but still months away.  We had a tentative schedule of ‘away’ times and we tried to wrap our heads around it grateful for the time that we were still going to have.  He started the process of adjusting to his new job and finding his legs in a new squadron and I tried to remember what it looked like to hold loosely to all plans and ideas of how things could go, and at the same time hold tight for the ride.  .

Still when he came striding in yesterday with a quirky but steely grin and an air of determination I wasn’t ready to hear, “They’re transferring me to another squadron and we leave for deployment a year sooner than we were expecting–we leave soon.”  In a blink I’d calculated the holidays and birthdays he’d miss and the milestones of all three of the girls.  In a flash I saw the lonely, empty nights when the girls would be in a bed and the missing of him would seep out of the storage space in my bones and into the conscious light of my soul and heart.

And yet–and this is the thing that makes me think that I may still have the steely mettle of a Navy wife still lurking in my constitution even after three years of shore duty–and yet, I didn’t cry.  I didn’t get mad.  I wasn’t even terribly surprised.  I just looked at this man with whom I’ve been on this crazy roller coaster ride for the last 8 years and laughed.  I threw my head back and laughed.

He was a little bewildered to say the least.

Of course he’s going to a squadron that we didn’t even have on our radar just a week and a half after checking into the one we’d anticipated.  Of course he’s leaving in a few weeks.

Of course.

I mean we’re the family who just got over the crazy rare tumor, so really…  This was supposed to surprise me?!

I’m not going to tell you I’m happy or fine with it.  The truth is the wind has been knocked out of my sails a little bit and I’m trying to re-calibrate.  I’m dreading the pre-deployment spats and the tears of our kiddos who are now old enough to understand that Daddy is gone  a long way away and for what will feel to them to be a long, long time.  Part of me is deeply sad and cloaked in dread.  But just the same… something in me is settled.

God has guided us through so much and so much of it has been unexpected.  I have no reason to doubt that he will guide us through this too.  There will be hard days and sad days and angry, red mad days.  There will be gremlins and tears in the middle of the night and the bleary-eyed exhaustion of solo parenting three feisty little girls.

But all shall be well.

We can do this too.

We will do this.

We are a Navy family.  We serve a mighty God.  And by golly we’ve ’embraced the suck’ of enough other over-my-head experiences that this broken world has thrown at us…  we are a Navy family, watch us cope!

It might not be pretty and we might not emerge completely unscathed, but we’ll come through it just the same.  And somewhere on the other side this will be just that much more cement holding us together.

Look Beyond the Fingers, Patch!

Five Minute Friday again!  I wake up looking forward to them.  Today the prompt is “Beyond.”  Check thing out at The Gypsy Mama’s Place and play along!

Beyond

Remember the guy in Patch Adams holding up the four fingers?  “How many fingers do you see?”

“Four.  There are four fingers.”

“NO!  NO!!!  Another idiot!”

And finally he explained it to Patch:  “Look BEYOND the fingers!  Look BEYOND the problem!”

Why can’t I get that idea through my thick head.  Why can’t I see beyond my own problems.  Why can’t I see outside of myself when I’m feeling squirmy and uncomfortable and unlovable in my own skin? Why do I keep answering “Four!” instead of looking beyond the problems into Jesus’s face to find another solution….  another answer?

I feel prickly and tired and unable to show up in ways I want to for my family.  And I let it stymie me.  I feel prickly about someone or something and I let that get in the way of my seeing them or the situation for what it really is.  I don’t look beyond the problem.  And most often the problem is me.

Thanks be to God that Jesus has wider vision than me.  He sees past my sins and my fallings.  He sees beyond my fumbles and failings.  He sees through all my posturing and pouting.  He sees  beyond it all and right down to the quick of my heart.  He sees me redeemed and washed clean because of what He did.  He saw past the problem of the gluck and gunk of my heart and laid His life down as the solution to my problem.

Help me, God, to see past my own fingers.  To see past the problem.  To come up with a new answer.  A new solution.  Help me to do that by looking past myself and the little and big problems I face day to day and into your face.

These Days that Sneak Up…

It’s been over six years, but sometimes it still sneaks up on me…

Missing her I mean.

There are so many things I do miss.  The way she swore until the air turned blue when the Steelers or Bears were playing.  The twinkle in her eye when she held a baby.  Going shopping with her and how she could drive me crazy ruminating over which pair of white socks she wanted and then walk away and buy neither (a trait which was apparently genetic).  I miss talking to her about life.  Talking to her about politics.  Talking to her about nothing.  Just talking to her.

What I miss most though is the way I could simply be with her in a way that I can’t be with anyone else.  She knew me inside and out.  She watched all of my quirks and eccentricities develop from the moment I started breathing–and knew my movement intimately even before.  She ‘got’ me because she helped to make me.  She got me because some of the same stuff that made me made her.  She got me because she loved me in that through and through way that only a mother can.

I miss being with her when my face hadn’t been washed and my hair was greasy and I was wearing slouchy pajama bottoms and feeling just as comfortable with her as I did when I had on jeans and sweatshirt.  I miss the advice she gave and the way she could make me laugh about things I didn’t want to laugh about.

There’s something about being with your Mom that  feels like a worn out flannel shirt that you just can’t stop wearing.  It’s soft and comfortable and threadbare in places, but it’s the only shirt you want to wear when you need to give your soul a little space to breathe and be comforted.

It’s the only shirt you want to wear when the sweetness or sadness of life leaves you with an ache that you can’t quite put words to.

She drove me crazy sometimes and gave unsolicited and unappreciated advice sometimes and lord knows that even as an adult she could make me angry in a way other people never could.

She also knew better than anyone else how to give me space.  Sometimes it was the space to learn, the space to fail.  Other times it was space to be quiet and not talk.

But there was this comfortability with her.  I knew who I was when I was with her and I was with someone who knew me better than most everyone else in the world (save my husband).

I miss that desperately sometimes.  I miss her desperately right now.

As I think about those things that I miss, I hope and I pray that I’m making the same sort of relationship with my girls.  Sometimes they drive me C-R-A-Z-Y.  And sometimes I push them too hard.  Sometimes I worry that I don’t engage with them enough or that I nag too often.  But I hope, past all those flaws that keep me up at night, that somehow or another that I’ve given them the space to just be.  I hope that I am a safe place for them to be who they are as they are.  I hope that when they’re thirty that’s something that they will appreciate about me.  I hope we’ll kick back at a sunlit table in late mornings and just chat about the world.  I hope there will be conversations that will stretch our minds and our hearts.  And I hope that being with me will always feel like coming home.  I hope that I will live long enough to be a kind of home for them long into their adulthood.

As for me though today…  I’m homesick, and missing my Mama something fierce.

 

The Jar of Peanut Butter Doesn’t Crash to the Floor Anymore

Another Five Minute Friday.  Today’s prompt:  Catch

He threw the peanut butter to me the other day.  It was time to put it away and even though my reflexes were hazy and my senses were dull, I reached out and grabbed it.  “Nice catch,” he said.  “There was a time not too long ago that you just would have watched it hit the floor.”

It’s true.  A decade or so of being the slow, uncoordinated, timid girl in P.E. class made me a little reticent to reach out and catch the things that were thrown at me.  I only catch things that are thrown at me when I trust the one who is throwing them.

I do trust him.  And the God that we trust has thrown a lot at us in the eight years that we’ve been married.  We adjusted to Navy life together.  We’ve weathered deployments and detachments, my mother’s illness and death, depression, the health craziness of the last year, and the ups and downs of three kids.  He’s been by my side every step of the way (even when he was on a boat and not physically by my side).  So when he throws things to me, even when I’m not looking up, I don’t hesitate to reach out and grab what he’s tossed.  He knows me, and he knows my rhythms clumsy though they may be.  He’s held my hand through the pain of contractions and the fog of depression and the pain of surgery and pain of a post operative infection that left me temporarily  with a lump on the side of my neck that could be described as nothing less than grotesque.  He’s walked through all of it with me.

I trust him enough to catch what he tosses my way.  And I know we can face whatever else gets thrown at us together.

Grace and Godly Moms

Last week I listened to a speaker talk about what it means to be a Godly mother.  She began her talk by asking those of us in the audience to list qualities of a Godly Mom.  Before long we had a decent list:  A Godly Mom is patient.  A Godly Mom doesn’t yell at her kids.  A Godly Mom prays.  A Godly mom reads the Bible and maybe even does devotions with her kids.  A Godly Mom is selfless.

Then she asked us to list the qualities of an UN-Godly Mom.  It didn’t take us too long on that list either:  An Un-Godly Mom is impatient, an Un-Godly mom yells at her kids.  An Un-Godly Mom is angry.  An Un-Godly Mom is selfish with her time.

Immediately after the making of that list I had the stinging thought, “Yuck.  I am apparently an Un-Godly Mom.”  As I listened to the list which consisted mainly of qualities that none of us want to possess as moms I couldn’t help but think that the qualities of an Un-Godly Mom were qualities that all Moms possess from time to time–that all people possess from time to time.  At the very least they were qualities that *I* possess from time to time.

I was hopeful.  I kept waiting for the grace part of the message, but it didn’t come.  And that made me sad.

The speaker that morning made some points, and there were even parts of her message that challenged me (the reminder to be selfless like Jesus hit home especially), but I just couldn’t get onboard with her overall message of dos and don’ts.  I couldn’t help but think that she’d forgotten a crucial piece of the message to share with these Mamas who were trying their best and wearing themselves out with their own “Do” and “Don’t” lists.

It’s a message we hear every day even though it’s not always said in such straightforward terms.  To be a “Good” or “Godly” Mom you have to do X, Y, and Z well all the time and you have to commit to not doing A, B, and C ever.  You yelled at your kid today?  You talked to your friend on the phone and forgot to run through spelling words with your first grader?  Sorry, you’re off the first list and onto the second.  In what I have come to believe is the judgiest Mama culture in history, when you add the element of the Christian faith to the equation of “good” motherhood  sadly all too often the expectations and comparisons only get harsher and more and more beyond reach.

But this is what I know:  It’s not what I do or don’t do that will ultimately make me a Godly mama.

What makes me a Godly mama is the fact that I know that on my own I could NEVER DO enough to be attached to the first list.

What makes me a Godly mom is simply this:  Grace.

It’s being loved by the one who created me and created my kiddos and gave us to one another.  It’s knowing that I am *not* enough on my own.   It’s knowing that where I fail, His grace forgives me and leads me forward.

It’s a thing of being and not just doing.  I *am* His child.  I *am His beloved.  I *am* forgiven.  I *am* justified and because HE is enough, I am enough.  I could Do, Do, Do every one of the things on the list and still NOT be a Godly Mom if I did it without a heart that knows Him.

I yell at my kids too much.  I forget to pray as much as I should.  I’m often not patient.  And sometimes I am selfish about my time, my space, and my stuff.

But I am His.  And He gives me the grace to know that even in my failings I can point my children to Him.

What makes me a Godly Mom is that I know that outside of Him, all of my list making is just dust on the verge of blowing away.

What makes me a Godly Mom is that I know I am weak….  That I am a mess…  That I CAN’T DO myself to Him.  I have to rely on what is already DONE and lean on Him for the strength and the faith and the empowerment of His spirit to help me to DO the good I want to do and NOT do those things that draw me and my kids away from Him.

I live all too often like life DOES depend on these lists.  I live all too often forgetting about His grace and trying to beat myself over the head with an unattainable version of perfect.  I write my list and wear myself out striving for whatever straw-Mom version of ‘perfect’ I’ve concocted that day.

I don’t have to.

I just have to lean in close and let Him meet me and my kids right where we are.  I need to believe that when I am weak, He is strong.  I have to remember the work that He has already done and simply BE in the immeasurable grace He lavishes upon me.

When I do that I relax.  I remember who I am and whose I am.  I am His beloved and I am the Mama he chose for these girls.  I can relax and BE and the DOing will work itself out of that.

 

The Exquisiteness of Ordinary

It’s Five Minute Friday again!  The Gypsy Mama says:

Want to join me in the fun of just writing and not worrying if it’s just right (or on time) or not?

        1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
        2. Link back and invite others to join in.
        3.

Go all out encouraging the writer who linked up before you.

    Today’s prompt:  Ordinary

Growing up, I never wanted to be ‘ordinary.’  I just knew I was going to shoot for ‘extraordinary.’  My folks worked in a factory manufacturing refrigerators.  They were proud of what they did and honored hard-working people who did the thankless everyday jobs and taught me to do the same.  Just the same…  Extraordinary was what I was aiming for.

I grew up and didn’t follow the life path I had so neatly set out for myself.  I married a man in the Navy.  I had kids pretty quickly after that.  Having kids and a husband in the Navy makes the career thing complicated.  Not impossible, but complicated.  And the things I valued made me make choices that surprised me.  I wanted my kids to have a parent at home–someone steady while Husband went out and back to sea and the four corners of the globe.  So I stayed home.  I didn’t change the world with my career path.

The extraordinary life I envisioned ended up being chock-full of ordinary things…  Onesies and diapers…  Sippie cups.  As we enter the school-aged years it’s permission slips and construction paper.  Homework packets and family projects.

Then last year I got a tumor.  A RARE tumor.  An extraordinary tumor.

My mother used to tell me I was ‘terminally weird.’  I wondered if her joke was proving to be frighteningly true.  Suddenly the word ‘normal’ took on a golden hue.

I craved the word ‘normal’ on imaging scans and doctors reports.

More than that…  amidst the doctors appointments, the surgery, the fear, and the anxiety the ordinary was my bread and butter.  Hugs from my kids.  Lazy days in pajamas.  Trips to the park.  Giggles and snuggles.

Ordinary it turns out can be exquisite.

 

(P.S.  And this was added after the five minutes…  This sounds very ‘Tastier Tasting Food and Smellier Smelling Flowers,’ huh?  Maybe it’s been there all along and quietly sustaining me even though I didn’t keep everything framed in that perspective all the time….  )