There have been a lot of times in the past fifteen years in which i felt like God had left me dangling.  I mean, I birthed a really sick baby… twice. But I also had three healthy ones.  I gave (am giving) them my all in parenting, whether that means being a 24/7 nurse or a chauffeur or a physical therapy assistant or a teacher or a chef or just available for a snuggle and a story. We’ve done some great, fun things, and some big, ugly things. And there have been days that were sparkly rainbows and days that were black as a cavern with only a speck of light in the distance.  On those days, the nasty, inky ones, it seems like God is so very far away. But as the light returns, the fact that He was there in the darkness, protecting me from myself is obvious.

There is a story in Exodus in which Moses does not believe that God is going to go with him and the Israelites as they move forth from their camp at the base of Mt. Sinai.  The Lord tells Moses that He will do what He promised. Moses demands, “Then show me your glory.”

“And the LORD said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face may not be seen'” (Exodus 33:21-23 NIV).

I wonder what Moses was thinking in the cleft of the rock? Moses knew that God was with him, that the Creator of the Universe had a hand over him, that the possibility of death was near. In order to see the LORD, Moses had to endure darkness for a short time. And then, after Moses had waited in the dark, the light returned just in time to see God walking ahead of him.

I have not had a time when couldn’t see God in the dark when I came back into the light.

Somewhere on this blog there are several Grief Monster posts.  However, I can’t find them.   There is one that talks about crying in Target when I stopped in the baby section for a gift for a friend a couple of years ago. There is one that talks about being slapped by the Grief Monster at Mini-Laps one year several years ago. I wanted to report: after ten years without Danny and five years without Isaac, I very rarely get surprised by grief anymore. I can hold friends’ babies with ease and be happy to hand them back. I can shop for baby stuff (which is great because I have a new and very precious nephew). I tutored a class that would have been Danny’s class last year (the students were all born within a few months of him, so if he had NOT had COX deficiency, and we had still homeschooled with this program, he would have been in there). The Grief Monster rarely taps my shoulder and says “Boo” anymore.

But it happened last week, as I was pondering these weird milestones. I was sitting with some of my favorite friends (all of whom happen to have extraordinary children, and one of whom has lost one) in our local CC Practicum. We were worshipping.  I don’t remember what the song was, but we were praising Jesus. Another mom walked in pushing two wheelchairs. Each one had a little boy in it (one older than the other by about five years) who resembled her greatly and who grinned ear to ear. I wanted to run and help her, but someone stepped into the room behind her and helped her get to seats gracefully. I smiled at the boys and was surprised to find tears on my cheeks. The stupid Grief Monster got me.

I am thrilled that Isaac and Danny are healed in heaven instead of confined on earth, BUT I miss them. It doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it used to, but it is still there. It’s just weakened by familiarity. I wiped away the tears that surprised me and got back to worship. I am grateful for all of my boys and the lessons they have taught and are teaching me.

When I started this blog as Backyard Bookworms, it was just a family blog. There were some other writings on it, but it was mostly just about raising and home educating boys. Danny had lived and was gone. Jon and I had been lost and were trying to find ourselves and parent Drew. I started this record the month that I delivered Nate, through whom God brought us out of the Great Darkness that consumed us after . I started out using monikers, so that their names wouldn’t be on the Internet, and then I gave up.  I am glad that I have this record of family life, and I’d like to make it pretty, but I am not sure how to accomplish that.

I wish it went back a little further because I don’t remember much of 2005 at all. The Danny Years (1999-2005) are a hazy blur of life as a family with a medically fragile member. Some of it is blocked from my memory (PTSD? Dark Grief Hole?), and the rest was busy. Jon and I had turns being depressed and overwhelmed. We struggled for contentment and gratitude, but there wasn’t happiness. We battled exhaustion. We battled in our own minds, and we were determined that we would be a family no matter what. The statistics say that a child dying either kills a marriage (90%) or makes it stronger (10%). We are determined to remain part of that 10%.

Jon and I have some big plans on a new blog, and I am not sure what to do with any more grieving parent posts I write. We believe we have a powerful family story, but we aren’t sure where or how to put it. These posts need to be edited to exclude family names and/or to change monikers.

I do have at least one more Grief Monster post to write.  It is in the works.  Danny has been out of this world for a full ten years, and Isaac joined him in heaven five years ago.  Both are weird little milestones, and I had a experience this week that brought me some thoughts I want to share.

But right now, I can smell bacon, and I’m going to go pull it out of the oven before it burns up.

You know those days? The ones in which nothing goes right, everything goes wrong, and no one reacts well to the mess left behind?

This was a dirty, muddy day.

It included pain, boy nasty attitudes and disrespect, a sloppy water on the kitchen floor, a broken egg, stained carpet, muddy cleats, and Taekwondo pants that missed the white basket and fell behind the dryer to hide until it was time to walk out the door with them. There were squawking hens, chicken shit, a trampled garden bed, hot dogs falling from plate to porch, artist-quality art supplies broken in anger, and dirty words exchanged.

But the messiest part was the people in the middle of it. Chicken poop stinks, but ultimately it will help grow something. Crappy comments burn long and only destroy. Sharp words slice deep. Tears flow, and we turn away from each other. This road… the parenting road… it’s a long journey. Sometimes it is all sunshine and light, but other days we wake up darker selves and stab each other with words.

We are in the winding path between boy and man. He shoves me somewhere between necessary and wanted and stomps off angry just to come back and apologize and hug. The path twists and turns, looping over itself so that he can be four, fourteen, and forty at the same time. He talks like a child this moment, a young adult the next, and makes some random philosophical statement or engineering marvel next before he is reduced to tears by some minor hurt.

Long… today was long. “Today is gone. Today is done. Tomorrow is another one.” Perhaps we can do it better.

 

Last year (about the time I stopped blogging), I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. At that point, I had been in pain for about eighteen months with no good answers. Since then, I have taken a bunch of medications and tried a lot of natural treatments, but not found a great improvement. We have struggled to find our rhythm in the days because I never know how my day is going to go. Will I wake up in pain? Will it develop over the course of the day? Is it not coming today? If I work too hard today, will tomorrow be bad? If I stay too stationary, will I stiffen up? If I move too much, will I swell? Can we go to the zoo tomorrow? I’ll have to figure that out tomorrow. Saturday was a pretty good. Sunday was not great. Today was just plain miserable. Perhaps tomorrow will be much improved.

I haven’t blogged in almost a year because I need to talk about the RA, but I don’t want my real-life friends to read it and start treating me like an invalid. (Also, the last thing the Internet needs is more whining.) I am having to learn to farm out tasks that other people in my home can do (loading the dishwasher, switching the laundry, vacuuming the carpet) so that I can do the things that I do best (cook, parent, mentor, and tutor) and the things that the boys can’t do yet (drive, plan, schedule, and lead). When Jon is home, he does his best to further unload me and sends me to read or work on the planning and scheduling that he prefers me to do while I am seated or horizontal. We are going and doing and enjoying, but not too much. Rest is required.

I really don’t want to hear that God would heal me if I had more faith. I have been around that bush. I prayed believing for healing for two precious little boys that I birthed and cared for. God’s choice of healing for both of them was to take them quickly to heaven. I don’t think that is going to be His choice for me. I don’t think He gave me RA, and I don’t think that my sin caused it. We are here, Easter People in a dark and dirty world in which life is messy, diapers must be changed and stalls must be mucked out. That beautiful land where there is no pain and there are no tears… it isn’t here yet, and I’m not there yet. I will be joyful, look for beauty and expect healing with the knowledge that it might be delayed. There must be things to learn from pain.

I don’t remember where I first heard Christ-followers referred to as “Easter people,” but this weekend I have pondered the phrase. (I could Google “Easter People” and find the answer, but I am tired, and I’d like to resurrect this blog before midnight. I am running out of time. “Easter people” is sure to lead me right down an interesting bunny trail.)

Easter floors me repeatedly. We are going to a church that is great for our family right now, but that little church wasn’t gathering for Good Friday. We’d been to an interactive Stations of the Cross service several times at another church, but some wonderful friends invited us into the Stations of the Cross at their Catholic church. It was beautiful. We all got into the rhythm of sit-stand-genuflect-stand-kneel-stand-sit and the poetry of the scriptures we read, and the mournful song we sung. I was struck by thought that all around the world, there were millions of other people worshiping with the same words in other tongues at the same time, all thinking about the amazing fact that God became man and suffered for us. That started me thinking about Easter people.

Saturday evening, we went to our own tiny church, where there are more kids than adults and babies cry and boys say silliness too loudly and books drop onto the floor. Things are messy because life is messy but there is always Jesus, and we try again. In our sanctuary, we looked at Joseph of Arimathea, and we saw courage.  John tells us that “Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews” (19:38). Joseph was too scared of public opinion to openly follow Jesus, until he watched Jesus die. When the curtain of the Holy of Holies was split in two and night came early, Joseph found his courage and went to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body. Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus’ body in linen with about 75 pounds of spices (worth about US$200,000 in today’s money) and laid His enshrouded shell in a tomb that Joseph had most likely bought for himself. I don’t know if that was literally Joseph of Arimathea’s everything but it had to be pretty darn close.

We thought on Saturday night that it was strange that Joseph did that after Jesus was dead. Was it because he was sorry that he hadn’t openly followed Jesus sooner? That would be understandable. Or was it because Joseph of Arimathea was a student of the Scriptures. Could he have seen something in Isaiah that told him that it really wasn’t over yet? We can’t know. But watching Jesus die on the cross changed Joseph, and he found courage to not worry about what other Jews would think of him if he followed Jesus. Joseph’s old self died, and Joseph was resurrected because he believed that Jesus was the Son of God even while he tucked spices around Jesus’ cold body and rolled a stone over the opening of the tomb.

Maybe Joseph was the first Easter Person. Was he the first to look at Jesus’ sacrifice and his own selfishness and understand that life is about Jesus and not about Joseph? First, to realize that his own personal life had a time Before Christ and a “But then Jesus” moment in which he realized that Jesus is God that changed the color of the lens through which he looks at life? I spent a lot of life looking at life through my own fear of what other people would think. But if I look at life through God’s grace, it changes my perspective. It isn’t about me at all.

I wish I could have seen Joseph of Arimathea’s face on Sunday morning, when the cry “He’s ALIVE!” spread among the disciples. We know on Good Friday that Sunday’s coming… that Jesus rose and won. Joseph must have been floored.

Geez.  I haven’t blogged in so long that WordPress has changed the format of their website completely since I last saw it. 

Perhaps that is a bad sign… or maybe it isn’t.  The real world has had me so busy that I haven’t had time to write about it. We finished up our semester at Classical Conversations. The Challenge program I tutor for took finals on Friday. So I have been reviewing blue books and essays and other work all weekend. I have been to multiple doctor and other appointments. We have been to the homeschool conference, nature study, play dates, park days, and other stuff, and some days we stay home just to be.

Last week and this weekend were crazy.  I see a lot of just being this week. Did you know that my calendar is actually COMPLETELY blank on Wednesday?  (I doubt it will stay that way for long.)

I have pictures and notes of gratitude and such… but first, I must finish the blue books.

I haven’t written.

I like to write.  I’d like nothing better than to work on an article as if it were art instead of dashing off something that is good enough, but not more.

This evening, I was reading Edith Nesbit’s The Railway Children to Drew before he went to sleep. We found this jewel in chapter 13:

“Don’t you think it’s rather nice to think that we’re in a book that God’s writing? If I were writing a book, I might make mistakes. But God knows how to make the story end just right – in the way that’s best for us.”

The whole book is quite lovely. I am so glad we read it.

926. Ambleside Online, and its fantastic book suggestions (I could read for years from this site’s booklists, and I probably will)

927. Charlotte Mason’s classical education ideas

928. books… I love books

929. composted manure to grow good tomatoes (too much information?)

930. provision… Jehovah Jireh

931. days when we just flow through our day from work to chore to enjoyable task and back again – the days in which life is seamless and attitudes are bright

932. those other days (the ones that are more likely) which build character (because parenting is character-education for the adult)

933. how Davy’s boo-boos are all better and his tears dry quick after a kiss and a snuggle… and sometimes a band-aid

934. caterpillers’ promise of new life

935. Jesus … Just Jesus

 

 

 

Really?  Seven years since I saw this smile?

Unbelievable. I am so grateful for the short time I had with this boy.

Yet, life is a runaway train.  I think that is me flying along behind, holding frantically to the back rail of the caboose. In the past month, I have not taken time to download the camera. My computer’s screen is messed up. I have had time to laugh with boys and talk with Jon and cook for them all, but no time for processing thoughts, much less writing them down. We have played basketball, studied, played outside, worked, cleaned, read, drawn, dreamed and lived frantically and gratefully.

Short version: Things are a bit busy around here.

But the thankful list runs on…

901. little boys’ obsession with birthdays

902. cupcakes – easy to make gluten-free

903. Star Wars cupcake kits

904. baseball cupcakes

905. the rate at which almost-six-year-olds change their minds

906. grace

907. bacon

908. little boys’ night at Gramma’s house

909. creative scheduling

910. stars and no stars

911. milkshakes

912. chocolate cherries

913. healing

914. Jon caring for me while I had a nasty virus

915. rest

916. Drew working diligently

917. growing up

918 staying little

919. being little

920. cooperation

921. Transcontinental Railroad

922. Ellis Island and the immigrants

923. homecoming

924. baseball

925. boys loving Popsy and the hockey game he took them to.

I’ve been in a substantial amount of pain for about six months, and so far we haven’t found the source. Some mornings I wake to find that my leg won’t work properly, or that my arm won’t bend. I spent three months waiting to see a neurologist, and I am in the middle of three months of testing before we have any real idea of what is up with my body.

In the meantime, my children are getting used to staying home more (which is good for home-education, but annoying for all of us since we are used to spending more time with our friends) and to helping more (which is probably good for them in the long run since serving the family is something they will do all their lives). If this is going to be long-term, we will find ways to be out more, but for right now this works. Some days are better than others. If I can manage to not over-do on the good days, I can function decently.

I am struggling with not just muddling through and going back to lie down, but with having joy in the midst of pain and still being the mother I want to be in spite of it. How can I delight myself in the Lord, who is unceasingly good, when moving hurts and being still hurts and everything hurts? I spent several weeks very deep in “Seriously, God? Why me? Haven’t I been through enough?” before I realized how deadly that line of thinking is. So I came back to gratitude – the same habit that rescued me from the whirling vortex after Isaac died will bring me through this. God is good, all the time. He gives good gifts to his children. I just have to look for them.

All that said, we started a new habit at our house this week.  I called it Coffee with Jesus, but it is just a simple gathering at the table for a morning break, a bit of scripture, and a few minutes to write down things we are thankful for… the graces given us.

891. three boys gathered

892. coffee with Jesus

893. thankful overflow

894. new habits (I hope)

895. new little notebooks and pens

896. citrus-fruits piled (shades of sunshine on cold morning)

897. elephant noises from little boys

898. thankful for Africa, drawn in a notebook

899. boys drawing gifts

900. God’s grace lavished on me.

Christa

a thirty-ish mom of five boys who dares to embrace life with her family and seeks the hand of God in the ugly as well as the beautiful.

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