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Raw

It sums up my heart and life right now.  That one word.  Raw.  And yet there are a thousand words that want to come spilling out, words I’ve buried over and over again, words I wish I could hear, words I wish I could say, words I’m proud of not saying, words I wish I hadn’t heard and hope to forget.

peony1

I planned for the school year to end like a race.  You reach the finish line, pause, look around, enjoy the moment a little, then pack up and go home for a few days of quiet while the dust settles and you get back to normal.  I planned it that way, but it certainly hasn’t happened that way.  The past week has been more like a high speed collision of two worlds.  Spinning, merging, clashing.

I’m feeling so many extremes lately, and recognize the Lord’s hand in both the adversity and the little drops of sunlight that keep me going even if they also threaten to break the dam of emotional vulnerability that has built up.  There are so many ways in which we get feedback about our lives, and I suppose having 8 children naturally invites more of it.  There are more people to be commented on, more mistakes to be made, more relationships to maintain.  Little wonder, I suppose, and yet… I am just one person, one mother with one heart.

peony2

I have felt lonely and suffocated, forgotten and remembered, isolated and crowded, happy and sad, useless and serviceable, helpless and influential, bitter and grateful, empty and full, embraced and forsaken, calm and chaos.  So many opposites bumping up against each other, sometimes within minutes as I run from one social circle to the next with different children.  The sum of it all?  I feel rubbed raw.  Emotionally, mentally.

I don’t feel strong but must act it anyway because I have no choice but to be it; neither dare I show my weakness to those who feel obligated to remind me of my flaws and those of my children as if we ourselves are clueless about our imperfection.   So you absorb more feedback and move on, tears stinging in your eyes as you blink hard and walk quickly away.  They have no idea how hard I’m trying.

Tonight I was alone in my backyard for a few minutes.  I wandered among my peonies, marvelling at the size of the flowers and beauty of the blooms.  Their beauty brought the tears that life’s slaps couldn’t summon as I wondered honestly if I  could carry on right now in a world without flowers.  I realized that life’s much like gardens, usefulness and beauty growing up right next to the weeds and thorns.  We don’t forsee the thistle that pokes out among the flowers any more than we forsee the challenges that often spring from the midst of our best efforts.  If it is true that we need opposition to appreciate the good and the beautiful, then I’m thankful for such a colorful world right now.  Much as I’ve disliked the stomach ache I’m living with, I would not want a world of gray.

peonies

A few lessons I’ve learned:

-How much people do or don’t advertise their problems has NOTHING to do with the number, size or severity of their problems.  Just because they don’t talk about them with us doesn’t mean it’s our job to make sure they know they have them.
-The world has sped up and often feels out of control for many of us.  Because of it, we’re carrying lingering feelings/struggles from one place to another because our lives are without margin.  We’re all experiencing these extremes in our emotions and experiences.  We have no idea when someone is about to snap, so it’s best to just assume that everyone is fragile and treat them gently.
-We will never be sorry for the times we withheld judgement, or on the other side, withheld a scathing reply.  A compassionate or generous word isn’t something we regret.
-Focus on what’s going right.  There’s an awful lot of it if we look around intent on finding it.
-Happiness really does come from within.  And happy people have hard days.

I am so grateful for the generosity of the Lord in my life.  Flowers, children, food to eat, a roof over our heads, a husband who lets me spill the pain of it all in his lap and still loves me, and best of all, a God whose hand firmly holds me at the edge of the cliff, letting me hurt and learn and discover but never sends me hurtling over the edge.

I lay in the grass and looked up at a deep blue sky as I thought about whose opinion really matters.  Not strangers, not friends, not family, not community members who hardly know us.  I care about these opinions, but in the end the one that matters is the Lord’s.   It’s hard to hear his voice when we have so many others speaking loudly next to our ears, but I know it’s in there somewhere.  Tomorrow my #1 job will be to tune the others out and tune in to what he’s saying.  Maybe I’ll hear the whisper I’ve been craving:  “I know you’re doing your best.  You’re doing a good job.  I will help you make your best better.  I love you.  You are good enough for me.”  I know He can do it.  He is, after all, the God who carpets our world with flowers.

carpetofflowers

Because of that realignment of voices and volumes, I remember that in the not-so-distant future this will all be a memory.  Things will have settled in their proper places and life will have moved on.  Hopefully we’ll be better people for it, and hopefully I’ll be a kinder person because of it.  Everything will turn out and we can be certain that God will always give us opportunities to grow.

For that I am grateful.

P.S.  My lavender is budding… happy sigh!

lavendercoming

I Believe in Santa Claus

Sometimes we feel like there are two opposing messages of Christmas; the religious celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth and the commercialized worship of Santa Claus.  I love the book,  I Believe in Santa Claus (by Diane G. Adamson and illustrated by M. Chad Randall) because it focuses on ways in which Santa teaches us about Christ.

With very simple sentences, this book compares six basic qualities of Santa with six basic qualities of Jesus.  In each comparison we are invited to consider how Santa reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas.

For instance, on one page we read of Santa:  “He loves little children.”  When, in turn, we are invited to think about what Jesus is like, we also read, “He loves little children.”

The closing of the book says, “Santa Claus is a symbol of Christmas.  The symbols of Christmas can remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.  The symbols of Christmas remind me of Christ.  So, I believe in Santa Claus.”

A few of the things I like about this book:
Very few words, and straightforward statements.  I also like the illustrations, the list of Christmas symbols and scriptures at the end of the book, as well as the statement by the author at the end.  I love having another tool in our home to merge the idea of Santa Claus with the message and meaning of Christmas.   My children enjoy reading it and it provides opportunities to discuss attributes of both Santa and the Savior that we can strive to emulate, such as being the kind of people who give good gifts and who love others.

And, for the record, I, too, believe in Santa Claus!

How the day turned out

I wish the family room looked like this.  It looked like this last week, but tonight there is stuff everywhere.

I ought to finish decorating for Christmas.  I started last week when I had an hour to work on it but haven’t made time for it since.  Part of me wants to keep it minimal, just so we can live with less “stuff” this month.  We’ll see how it turns out!

We said good-bye to my parents this morning, then got the children off to school.   I took four of my girls to the dentist to have some work done and while we were there, ran into an old friend.  I found myself reflecting later in the day on how kind our children’s dentist has always been to us, how his office is a safe place to be.  I felt prompted to ask a question while we were there today that ended up saving us $200.  I am so thankful.

While driving this afternoon I saw two girls, arms clasped, skipping down the sidewalk together.  The sight brought a smile to my face.

Our afternoon and evening took some twists and turns as various children, especially those with numb mouths, fell asleep on the couch.  Some would wake up after others fell asleep and it turned out that I had one or two people sleeping on the couch for six hours today.   At one point my three year old woke up and was very distraught so I sat down to hold her and she went back to sleep in my arms.  I looked at her lovely face and remembered how common it once was for me to hold sleeping babies.  It rarely happens now, and so I sat and enjoyed it.  There were a thousand things I could have run around and done, but it was good to sit and hold her.  Dinner was simpler than usual but there was a peaceful feeling in our home as everyone quietly accommodated others.

I finished reading a book today while holding my sleepy girl.  I don’t know about you, but I always feel like I’m dragging myself out of another world when I finish a book.    This book was interesting and I’m eager to discuss it with the ladies in our family book club.  One thing it did for me:  I want to write.

I’m feeling grateful for our city library lately.  Without the pressure of a due date I have finished more books than I would have if I owned them.  For years I have avoided that library because it never has what I’m looking for, but this year  I’ve had great luck.

I was so proud of my husband today.  He received a hurtful email that someone meant to send to someone else, and it was about him!  He really could have gone after them for it,  but chose to be kind and forgiving.  Because of his choice, the individual had an opportunity to fix the situation and we’ve had lots to chuckle about since.

Tonight I read two of my all-time favorite Christmas stories to the children.  I always love the way they center our hearts in what really matters.

Some of my late afternoon nappers are now wide awake, keeping me company on the couch while their brothers and sisters sleep soundly upstairs.   It’s nice to have company.

Life is good.

HH

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