“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men.” (C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, p. 229)
Holiday winds don’t automatically bring cheer. In fact, sometimes they just aggravate the rheumatic spots in our lives — old aches, heartbreaks, disappointments, sorrow. Sometimes I admit I’m more prone to upset or melancholy as the holidays draw near. The brightness of the holidays illuminates all that is wrong or missing instead of revealing what is right and whole. And the more I try to pretend I have no pain and that my life or loved ones aren’t sorely broken in parts, the more painful and broken they all feel. I look to what I think Wholeness should look like. I look to what I think Joy ought to look like. And I look in all the wrong places and faces. Because anywhere and anyone except Christ is the wrong Where and Who. Let me — let us — remember that tomorrow, Thanksgiving, and as Christmas draws near. Because we need Him every day — on holidays no less. And He is near –
On holidays no less.
Balcony door ajar. A soft and steady rainfall. The swish slosh of cars wading by. Ian napping. Enough work to keep me busy but not enough to drown me like it did last week. C.S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy beckoning to me. Ignoring it ’til the clock says 5. Still in my glasses and pajamas — but teeth brushed! face washed! hair brushed and tied back! Yes, written like an accomplishment, because it is. Eating a persimmon like an apple. Heavier rainfall. Closing the balcony door to just a crack — enough to keep our natural radio playing.
Ian loves being tossed up in the air. It thrills him and scares him at the same time, so he shrieks with laughter but his thumb will find its way into his mouth, too. And then he clings to our necks in an “excited but don’t-let-me-go!” fashion afterward.
Stay this small forever?
Autumn gives a beautiful monologue of her Maker. We took a little stroll around the neighborhood and lent her our ears today. And our eyes.
How grateful JE and I are for a pastor who has this written on the front flap of his Bible — or someplace like that (Sunday afternoon brain):
Lord, help me to be a faithful expositor of Your Word and to love Your people so much that I smell like sheep.
We’ve been going through Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book, Choosing Gratitude, in our new mom’s group at church. The last chapter we read, “But Not without Sacrifice,” was especially bittersweet for me:
Scottish preacher George Matheson (1842-1906) began losing his eyesight in late adolescence for no apparent reason. By age twenty he was totally blind, as a result of which his fiancee broke off their engagement. He struggled for many long months with a broken heart, wrestling with unanswered questions. The whole experience drove him nearly to despair and he was tempted to quit the ministry altogether. Yet ultimately he came to the place where he could say, “My God, I have never thanked You for my thorn! I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorn. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns.” (p. 128)
Thank Him for my thorns? Painful, bitter things!
But valuable — immeasurably so — when touched by His redeeming hands.
This is an account that will probably be boring to anyone who is not JE, Ian, or myself. Or our parents. No, I take that back. My dad will get bored. Dad, don’t read this. It will bore you. But I’m writing this out so I don’t forget the lesson in it. :]
Ian has been waking up consistently around 5 am every morning because of an alarm, because of noise, because of some disturbance or another. And I’ve been worried about it training him to wake at that hour. So we’ve gone to extremes (read: I’ve truly been a bossyhead) to keep noise levels minimal in the morning. White noise machine on. Phones and alarms under our pillows. Clothes set out the night before. Walking slowly on the balls of our feet so the floor doesn’t creak and so we can sneak by Ian’s crib without stirring him.
Baby sleep idolatry at its (un)finest.
4:45 am this morning, I hear a high pitch chirp! I’m immediately awake. I listen, don’t hear it again, hear Ian’s easy breathing, and start to drift off to sleep agai … chirp! This time, I tap JE and whisper, “Do you hear that? I think it’s the smoke detector’s battery.” JE stumbles out of bed. “Shh!” I whisper. He goes outside to investigate. Chirp! Ian’s doing leg lifts by now. Meanwhile, chirp! Long pause. Chirp!
Noises outside the room. I go outside to ask JE to investigate more quietly. Chirp! “It’s the carbon monoxide detector! Low battery!”
JE has his headlamp on and goes back in the room, looking for the detector. Chirp! “Turn off the light!” JE turns it off and looks for the carbon monoxide detector in the dark. Thud. Tink. “Shh!” Chirp! Ian is looking at all our crazy activity by now. I’m burying my head in my hands.
Finally JE finds it and takes the battery out. I look for the bathroom in the dark. When I come back in the room, JE is wrestling a blanket from Ian’s hands and — from my perspective — “overstimulating” the baby. I pull JE away from the crib.
We get back into bed. Ian is playing in his crib. 5:00 am.
I’m rubbing my face with frustration. JE is falling asleep already. I hear more leg lifts from Ian’s side of the room. And occasional “anyone there? come feed me and play with me!” sounds.
And as I lie in bed, tired but so frustrated and disgusting-hearted that I can’t sleep, it occurs to me: there’s no one to blame about that battery just happening to get low enough to set off the chirping at 4:45 in the morning today … except perhaps God’s sovereign sense of humor and timing.
5:25 am. I ask JE for forgiveness for being so mean to him. As if he set it off. He’s loving and quick to forgive. I quickly feed Ian and go back to sleep. Kind of.
Later that morning, JE and I laugh about it. Seriously? The night we decide to go to extreme measures to create the perfect sleep-past-5-am environment for Ian, the carbon monoxide detector decides to chirp and wake him anyway.
Someone must have been praying for my sanctification. Stop it.
Just kidding. :]
Ian has been rolling all around his crib during naps and getting himself stuck in corners, crying out for help, and then once I flip him, he rolls and goes at it again. I left him to figure it out for about an hour today and finally went in to put him back so he could sleep. I tried to say in a stern voice to him, “Ian. No rolling over. Nigh nigh,” to see if he’d understand. He looked at me a little concerned for a second and then broke into a huuuge gummy smile.
And I couldn’t help it. I really tried … but I just had to laugh. And then cuddle him.
You win, baby.
*edit: JE just notified me that today is Tuesday, not Monday. Hahaha. Woops!
This morning, as JE came into the room so say goodbye to me, I woke and began asking him frenzied questions right away: Is the baby sleeping? Did you kiss him goodbye, too? Was he awake when you first woke up? Did you check? Are you sure? So, he isn’t sleeping right now? And my mind immediately began calculating what time he might have woken up, how much wake time is left, what that makes his rough schedule look like today, if I had any meetings to coordinate his feed times around, what my day would look like working from home. And as these thoughts were all running into each other in my head and questions were coming from my mouth, JE was calming me and saying, “I love you.” And then I kind of snapped out of it and remembered, “I love you, too.” The day and calculations and juggling could wait. Our relationship was important. It was good to fall back on that. He loves me. I love him.
Then he left. And it was time to feed baby, change him, play with him, put him back down, eat breakfast, get somewhat ready for the day (i.e., at least brush my teeth!). I looked at the clock. One hour ’til I need to check emails and start working for the day. I picked up my Bible and picked up where I left off. Proverbs 2. And as I read, my thoughts started swimming again: How can I impart this to baby? How can I use this in ministry? Oh, [this person] would be so encouraged by this today. (Pause to text the verse to [that person]). How does this apply to my life today? What can I learn from this passage? Why doesn’t my heart feel quiet yet?
I know, I’m crazy in my head. But God is kind. And this article, “Dad, I Think I know All the Bible Stories Now,” came to mind right then. About a father who realized that for much of his son’s life he, without realizing it, had been teaching him that Sunday worship, the spiritual disciplines, etc. were about learning something new every time rather than worship. I can relate with that. Thinking it’s just about learning. But I think the danger more for me is thinking it’s about productivity. What can I do with this? How can I multiply this? What problems can I tackle and solve with this? How can I apply this to myself to cure my ailments and weaknesses? How can I apply this to others? Learning and productivity aren’t horrible things. They’re good things. But not at the expense of worship. Not in lieu of worship. My relationship with God is important. Sitting at His feet in quietness and adoration is important. It’s good to fall back on that. Again and again. He loves me — wondrous thought! And I love Him.
Monday mornings are for worship, too.