Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cleaning House

All the craziness I've been dealing with over the past couple of months has a purpose   -- Christian, our second son, the baby of our 4 children, is graduating from high school in a scant few weeks, and we will have family and friends coming to witness this momentous milestone in his life. Hence our flurry of activity. For goodness' sake, we can't let people see how we really live on a daily basis!!

Housekeeping is not my strong point. Never has been; never will be.  There are mysterious, hygienic-related rituals that other people seem to know innately, about which I have absolutely NO clue. 

Like cleaning above your interior doors. Do other people do this? REALLY?? Apparently so.


Now, to me, my house looks clean. I mean, I worked on it QUITE a while recently and it looked the best it has looked in a long, long time. That was before I had a housekeeper come out to give me a quote for cleaning. She was trying to be nonjudgmental, I could tell. She went through the house and pointed out things that I swear I would never have noticed in several decades, saying that when she took on the job, she would be deep cleaning these areas. Huh?? I thought it was clean. Apparently not.

The quote was staggering, but when she was finished inspecting, I felt we were living in a home that had been a main target of germ warfare, had someone die in it from bubonic plague, and was a petri dish for e. coli. And it was all my fault!! She said she would bring in a team of "her girls" and they would be in my home -- here she looked me directly in the eyes, and seriously and firmly, to underscore her point, pronounced -- all day. All day.

She wasn't kidding. They have been here for 4 hours as I write this and they have only cleaned my bedroom and bathroom so far. 

I truly have no idea what they have been doing. I have been moving from room to room, trying to keep out of their way, too ashamed to look them in the eye. I mean, for the love of all that is holy, I can't even think of anything that could possibly take me 4 hours to do in there!!

This is, without question, an embarrassing and humbling experience for me. I am good at so many other things. I want to follow them around and say, "I make a mean tuna casserole!!"  "You should hear me crack people up with my one-liners!"  "I taught Bible Study for 15 years!" "I am really great at accessorizing!"  "I won the class spelling bee in the 4th grade!" But no, I think, I must acknowledge that this is not my shining moment and swallow my pride. Apparently... I suck.

Well, as in other things in my life, I will defer to the experts. I am paying them, despite my extreme discomfort, to clean up our crud and make our lives better. It sort of reminds me of a conversation we had in Bible Study once, about how Jehovah's Witnesses go door to door to evangelize. "Well," I said, " we are doing our part. Somebody has to be home to answer the door." See, I can feel good because I'm helping somebody have a job; I'm helping to boost the economy.

I'm also having to come to grips with the fact that, no matter how hard I try, there actually is one area of my life that I will never be successful at. I just do not have the cleaning gene. I respect people who do. I'm amazed at their knowledge and aptitude.  I'm not good at organization either. I remember once my oldest daughter came back home after she'd moved away, and she was helping me clean our computer room. Scattered around  the desk were a lot of pens and pencils; she picked them up and put them in an empty cup that was sitting there. "That's genius!!" I exclaimed. Yes. That's just how seriously deficient I am in these things. I do not lie -- I would never have thought of something that simple, that basic. My brain just does not work that way.


BUT....I remember once telling my mother-in-law, who has always been an immaculate housekeeper (God knows how she has endured visits to our home all these years but she does it with grace), that at the end of my life, I know I will never say, "I wish I'd cleaned more."  I have played with my children, I have read books that have opened my mind, I have explored forests, I have painted pictures as gifts, I have visited dear friends, I have written poems, I have cooked meals for my husband (that's sort of waning also, but that might be another blog post), and I have run like the wind. Ok, a slow breeze. But I have been busy living, putting my time and talents into what I have been created for. And I have tried, in my own pathetically inept way, to keep up with our home.

The point is, we all have something that we're not good at. That's not a crime; it's a simple fact of life. And we can let it make us feel bad, and inadequate, and a lesser human being, or we can laugh at ourselves, count our blessings and turn to others for help. Our faults do not  define us.
Cleaning house has made me think about the life that I have left to me, too. It's time to take a look at the things I carry within me, and toss out what doesn't work, what I no longer need, what no longer fits. Time, too, to dust off what I cherish, shine what's gotten dull, and pull out what's gotten pushed to the back of the closet.  My gut feeling is, I am in the midst of upheaval or renewal.

Christian's high school graduation will end a chapter of my life which has lasted 29 years. For more than a quarter of a century, I have had children at home with me. 29 YEARS, people!!! We have been through many journeys, my children and I, together and separately. We've shared both laughter and tears, we've seen joy, and we've gone through some tough times, too. When I started out as a mom, I was young and incredibly unaware of what was about to shape my life. I end this part of motherhood much older, I hope a little wiser, but as always,  deeply, fiercely in love with my children. As this chapter closes with my own bittersweet graduation of sorts, I am excited at the possibilities ahead  -- what shall I do, what shall I do? I have, oh, about a million ideas.



Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rivers Of Joy

I have four children whom I love so much that sometimes I can't breathe. If I let my mind go there, I would live in a constant, paralyzing fear that something horrible will befall them. We live in that kind of world, you know, where unspeakably horrific things happen every day. But I don't think we're meant to live life in terror of the storms to come.


I'm not naive, though --I know firsthand that tragedy can strike out of the blue. Everyone has their crosses to bear, their personal sorrows. During the years we were optimistically trying to expand our family, I suffered six heartbreaking miscarriages. All took place around 9-12 weeks -- just long enough for me to be firmly entrenched in morning sickness, just far enough along to be deeply in love with that child.

It is so hard to to say good-bye to a child that you will never see or hold, to relinquish the yearning of your heart. If you are a mother, you understand what I am saying -- from the first second you learn you're pregnant, you dream that child into reality. Their hair color, eyes, voices, a little girl, a little conjure the hopes of the life you will have together. And then, so unexpectedly, so irretrievably,  one day can arrive when you realize something is very, very wrong, and there is pain, and then...oh, the depths of anguish... death.

During my 6th miscarriage, in that lull of learning that yet another child had passed away and the long, dread-filled waiting for a natural miscarriage to happen, I heard a song that literally transformed my grief and my life. It was The Valley Song by Jars of Clay:

My pain was an ocean. I was tossed around on waves of sorrow, drowning in despair, only to be thrown onto the shore of complete desolation.

But through God's mercy, He gradually calmed that vast sea of grief and brought down my mountain of pain. It took years; it took complete resignation; it took my trust in Him to lead me through the terror of the storm. It wasn't easy. I had to let go of the pain -- no simple task -- and look for happiness wherever I could grasp it. But when I did -- slowly, tentatively, like a child  learning to swim -- I discovered those moments more and more. The fear-filled darkness of murky water gave way to crystalline peace as I -- faltering at first, then gaining strength -- put my toes into the water and finally, with a deep breath of faith, plunged in.  I'm not going to sugar-coat it -- pain can and will change a person forever. I remember reading during those dark days that "it can make me bitter, or it can make me better."  I fought hard, and continue to wrestle with it to this day, to choose "better."

But I have an unquenchable joy in my life now. Running has given me a clarity and peace of mind -- an unfettered happiness and enthusiasm for life that I never thought possible. When I put on my shoes, and it's just me and that road stretching endlessly before me, I have come to realize that each day IS a gift, a blank slate, an opportunity to share happiness, kindness and laughter with others. I am more compassionate now, because I know they all have their owns sorrows they shoulder. I feel an urgent need to help, to lighten their load,  to walk side by side with the wounded on their road to discovering life again after adversity. There is so much to live for, so much joy yet to come. All the tragedy and pain I've experienced has burned through my soul and taught me lessons I would never have learned otherwise. They've made me into who I am:  a woman grateful for the children I was blessed to bring to this world, thankful for the graces bestowed on me, and looking forward to meeting my other six babies. Although I no longer carry them in my womb, I forever carry them in my heart.

God is good.  I am His; I am sheltered in His loving arms, and my name is engraved on the palm of His hand. I trust Him to see me safely through my journey in life.


Above all else, I still look to the Heavens.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Dreams That You Dare To Dream

I dare to dream that 

Human beings who are


will all recognize  


We are all lovable.
We are all valuable.
We are all important.


Each and every one of us is 


by the same God who created us.

He makes no distinctions.
He loves you just as much as He loves me;
He loves "them" as much as He loves "us."

And we all have the same 

We all live on this one tiny planet, 
hurtling along in the immeasurable darkness of the universe,
sharing our journey together.
We all want love and peace and happiness and respect,
 a little spare change to jingle in our pockets.
We all hurt, cry, bleed, suffer.
We all want our lives to have meaning.
We all cry out to our God to save us.

But...we all could  bear one  another's burdens 
and make each other's lives easier.

I'm not better than you; 
You're not better than me.
We are each unique, dancing flames of light
Together we could set this world on fire.

Why, oh why, can't I?
Why can't we?
That's my dream.

I know that
somewhere over the rainbow, 
far above the prejudice, hate, and discrimination,
skies are blue,
and the dreams that we dare to dream 
really can come true.

Let's start today
to make that a reality.

Let's do something small     --

Can we just smile at each other?

If everyone in the world 
at the same time,
who could dare to

Simplistic, I know. But it could just work.
A smile could  melt a hardened heart.
It's a start.
One small thing...
Like a frail paper boat, 
setting sail onto the vast and endless ocean,
almost invisible to spy, 
yet the ripples it causes are 

Then think 
of what we could do

A tsunami of change.


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