Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Collapsible Child

The next "best" thing to a child going "boneless" is having one who is collapsible.  My older four year old is one of those.  Yep, that's him right there...the little brown one.  That is what he often looks like. When he is in a good mood he is the sweetest little person. He speaks with a raspy quiet voice and is very thoughtful.  People are impressed by his large vocabulary and he asks very abstract questions most four year olds don't think to ask ("what is under the road?"). 

And then it happens.  He asks to do something.  Perhaps he would like a snack 10 seconds after breakfast or to play outside in his underwear during a snow storm or to eat his younger brother's unfinished breakfast BEFORE said brother has had a chance to finish it.  When the answer is not in his favor he collapses.  He may do any number of variations of the collapsible child.  He may hit himself in the head or leg on the way down or lift his rear end into the air, not unlike the Lorax, to assure his tailbone receives the "benefit" of full impact upon completion of the collapse.  He may drop the toy or fork or snack he is currently holding...just open his hand while staring at me and drop it...then collapse. 

Yesterday at the store he decided to display his amazing abilities for an audience.  In that performance he decided to add his incredible vocal abilities in the hope of breaking every glass container in the store.  Have you ever played with GAK?  It's that mixture of water and corn starch that hardens when you pick it up but pours back into the bowl as a liquid when you relax your hand.  That was my son!  I couldn't quite pick him up.  He's already a "lift with your legs not with your
back" kind of kid...always a hunk of cuteness, but when he collapses he turns into one of those collapsible toys you press with your thumb and when you release it stands back up...except there is no release button for him. 
Who would want to put up with all this?  A mama would.  Mamas are superheroes!  My little guy has a raspy voice because he has screamed most of his life. Between myself and the foster mom he lived with first...70 children between us...he is the loudest child either of us has ever had.  He loves intense feelings so when he is happy he is over the top happy and when he is mad...the volcano is available to him with less than a moments notice.  He is funny and charming and crazy and OCD.  But he is mine :)  He is part of the blessing the Lord has chosen for our family.  Yes, I said blessing!  He is necessary for my salvation and I am necessary for his.  His behavior is teaching me so much about myself and helping me to cling that much tighter to my heavenly Father. 
You must make every effort to restrain yourself, so as not to acquire the unfortunate habit of losing your temper. This unbearable vice is not as noticeable in oneself as it is in others, and those who become angry over nothing are deserving of the fire of Gehenna. (St. Anthony)
O Holy Trinity, my child seems to be irritated with everyone and everything. Help me to know if, when, and how to correct my child during this time. Provide me with any insight that will help me to help him/her calm down and seek Your peace. Guide my words and actions, and help me not to try to control the situation but to submit it completely to You. For You are blessed, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Another Kind of Fasting

Matthew 6:16-18
Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,  so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

A few years ago I went to ask a blessing from a dear priest and he said, "You smile much, you must struggle much."  When we fast we are told to do it in secret and not as the Pharisees, who made sure everyone knew by their drawn faces.  Instead we are to wash our faces and put oil on our heads.  I always thought of this for physical fasting from food, but I think it pertains to the fasting we do from sorrow, despair, anger and annoyance.  

I would bet there are very few mothers out there who are never frustrated or overwhelmed.  Watching your child write with orange marker on a freshly painted wall or cut off all her hair the day before Easter so she looked like a cancer patient or going to wake up your children only to find they had been awake for some time and were happily painting the entire downstairs, including the carpet, the day after the carpets were cleaned, can certainly tempt us toward anger and frustration.  Looking at a dwindling bank account knowing that bills may not get paid or watching our children make poor choices can tempt us toward despair.  But God calls us to give of ourselves through prayer and fasting. 

One of my FAVORITE parts from Little Women is when Marmee shares an encouraging secret with Jo.  “I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo; but I have learned not to show it; and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do so.” Although she is a fictional mama, her disclosure resonates with most of us.  Life is hard but God is good.  Each time we choose not to indulge in the deadly fruits of anger, sorrow, despair we are participating in a spiritual fast that will bear good fruit from which we are permitted to freely enjoy.
Galatians 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Take note that mingled within the satisfying spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is the fruit of longsuffering.  There is a joyfulness in choosing to partake of the sufferings of Christ. Let us deliberately fast from anger and despair, for our smiles and kindness are a sacrificial offering to Christ when we feel discouraged and overwhelmed. 

Fasting appears gloomy until one steps into its arena. But begin and you will see what light it brings after darkness, what freedom from bonds, what release after a burdensome life… -Saint Theophan the Recluse

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Storing Up

This is the season of the New Year’s Resolutions.  We are encouraged to purge, set aside, shed, de-clutter and free ourselves.  What I’m going to suggest is the opposite.  I’m not saying, “no worries, hoard and eat to your heart’s content.”  But in some instances it is imperative that we “store up”

Relationships can be hard. 

Have you ever been in a challenging relationship?  It could be business, social, immediate or extended family.  What about intimate relationships?  I’m not only talking marriage, but that’s certainly included.  In marriage and with the relationships we have with our children we can experience intense love and closeness as well as some of the most difficult, painful seasons. 

Have you ever experienced a wonderful season in a relationship but found that instead of enjoying that time of peace and joy you were waiting for the storm clouds to come?  You acknowledged the positive, but it wasn’t fully experienced or embraced because you just knew it would soon be coming to an end?  I know I have.  And I have come to realize what negative effects that type of thinking has on my heart and mind as I maneuver through the relationships in my life.

I am reminded of the Prophet Joseph from the Old Testament.  Joseph was brought to Pharaoh to interpret a dream.  The Lord showed him that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven long years of famine.  Joseph, in his God given wisdom, came up with a plan to be prepared for the lean times by “storing up” during the times of plenty.  

What would it look like in my relationships if I were to store up instead of waiting for the famine?  If I know the famine is coming, because we all go through these cycles, why wouldn’t I preparing for it.  If Joseph had not planned for those seven LONG years of drought he, and his people, surely would not have survived.  We want to do more than survive our relationships we want to thrive in them.  We want to have a reserve to ration out when there seems to be nothing more to give.

Storing Up:

1. During the “positives” enjoy the moment you’re in.  Take a mental 4D picture noting your feelings, the smells, sights etc. around you and thank God for the moment.

2. Write it down.  Having a journal to look back at when life is challenging can be a great reminder of God’s goodness in the past and help of focus on his goodness during the trials.

3. Practice THANKFULNESS!  Gratitude goes a long way.  If, during the times of plenty, we practice thanking God for His goodness and mercy then we’ll have some experience under our belts for those lean times acknowledging God is good ALL the time!

4. Practice prayer.  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.  Our Father Who art in heaven…  O Lord grant us to greet this new day in peace…  Practicing prayer throughout the day, whether memorized or spontaneous, helps us to strengthen our “prayer muscles” so they are ready and available when the path starts heading uphill.  While we can learn to swim once we’re in the water, it’s much better to practice swimming before the swim meet J 

5. Ask.  Seek.  Knock.  Even when we have stored up we may feel like we’re running on fumes.  Thankfully God’s reserves never run dry.  He will always answer.  He always provides hope. 
I just finished watching a documentary about Corrie Ten Boom and just this moment I realized she “stored up” the precious time she had with her sister. She had years of plenty before the Nazis came to her country.  And there aren’t many places “drier” than a concentration camp! Through the grace and strength of Christ, her sister’s words about sharing their story motivated her to travel the world spreading the truth of Christ.  The truth that “There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still.” – Corrie Ten Boom

Matthew 6:20 (NIV)
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.