Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And Then He Turned Two . . .

Micah turned 2 on Saturday.

Twenty years ago, two years felt like two lifetimes. This is going to sound so cliche, but the last two years felt more like two blinks of the eyes. If I allow my eyes to remain closed for a moment, I can still feel the terror closing around my throat as he emerged into the world all purple and quiet, and the relief washing over me, allowing me to breathe again as I see him change color, from purple to pink, within seconds of being freed from the umbilical cord. I can smell his new baby skin. I can hear his indignant screams. The euphoria of having brought him into the world still makes my brain go a little hazy in the most pleasant sense, and all I can think is, "God, please don't let me lose that."

Last year on his birthday, he wasn't walking yet. His vocabulary was under 10 words. His attention span lasted about 15 minutes even with favorite activities. Today, he knows several alphabet letters. I think it's funny that the letters "B" and "S," were learned sequentially and continue to be favorites. He has favorite books, favorite television shows, and he's speaking in full sentences. He's graduated from the high chair to a big boy seat at the table, and has bidden his crib farewell in exchange for a toddler bed, which he loves, because now he can creep into our bedroom at 3:00 am, gleefully cry out, "Boo!," startling us out of sleep. Brandon can tell you, there's nothing quite like a nose to nose greeting at 3am.

On Saturday, our families gathered to celebrate all of that. Well, maybe not the 3am greetings.

Our boy loves balls, so we went with a ball theme.

It may be ugly, but you can see what I was trying to accomplish here.

Gluten-free goodies.

Emory enjoyed her gluten free cupcake.

As did Paisly.
After cake and presents, we ventured outside because Micah wanted to release balloons into the sky. He let them go, one by one, and we all watched until they disappeared into the clouds.

It may sound uneventful, but it was peaceful and happy and perfect. Micah loved his party, and we loved watching him love his party.

Our big boy is two. It happened too fast. I've been unhelpfully warned several times in the past few days that in a few more blinks, he'll be sporting a cap and gown, trying to choose a career, waiting at the end of an aisle for a girl who will be hard pressed to love him as much as I do . . . I can't think about all of that right now. For now, we will revel in his third year of life, eking out all of its goodness. I'm in no hurry to release him into the vast unknown, but when that day comes, you can bet your best chocolate chip cookie recipe that I will be watching all the while, and relying heavily upon technology if he ever finds the right cloud to disappear into.

28 days

I was sick for 28 days. Illnesses came in succession, with hours or, at best, a day in between. It was a the longest 28 days I've experienced in awhile. I fully realize that I'm not the only one who has been hit hard by illness in the past couple of months. Every time I check Facebook, someone is complaining about being ill, their children being ill or the entire family being ill. (By the way, I was totally guilty of this.) I think it's just been a bad season.

Twenty-eight days is a relatively short amount of time, but a long time to be sick. In the latter half of those 28 days, I began to feel as if I lived in a bubble--looking out at people who were living life normally, while I was stuck at home unable to do much of anything. I desperately wanted to do things. I was depressed, and a little jealous of all of the healthy people playing with their children, going to work, cooking yummy meals and wanting to eat them.

I don't have any deep insights about why I think God allowed me to be sick for so long or why literally everything I had been doing came to an abrupt halt. I haven't figured out an overall plan in this which somehow allows me to think about it all with a knowing grin. I'm not even glad it happened. Honestly, I wish it hadn't. I hated the days I couldn't take care of Micah. I felt guilty for asking for so much help, even though I was super appreciative for it. (Thank you Brandon, Nona, Mom and Debbie for all of the chicken soup, for taking such good care of Micah and for your faithful prayers. I love you.) Even though I can now manage to cook dinner, clean the kitchen and bathe Micah at night before I collapse with exhaustion, I'm still not at my normal energy level. I don't know if a person can understand why bad things happen regardless of how bad the bad thing scores on the "How Bad Bad Things Rank" list. (Yes, I realize my bad thing doesn't rank very high, but I give it at least a 3.)

And yet, I trust.

I trust that God does have a plan in it all. I trust that the plan is for my good. I trust that God can work out His plans and purposes without my help. And I do smile, just not with any level of knowing. I'll admit it--I'm clueless here.

I smile because I haven't run fever in almost two weeks. I smile because I was given gifts from the Psalms, such as, "For You will light my lamp; The Lord will enlighten my darkness," [Psalm 18:28) "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life," (Psalm 23:6) and "For You have considered me in my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities" (Psalm 31:7b). The blessings at the end of the 28 days sit in a heaping pile at which I stand back and marvel with a clueless, dopey grin--a restful family vacation, the ability to celebrate Micah's 2nd birthday on Saturday, the Marriage Oneness study Brandon and I have begun together, utterly unexpected answers to longtime prayers. And these things given, when I can't and couldn't give God a single thing in return other than my unfailing belief that He would eventually heal me and that He is always good . . . especially in times of trial. And yet we know that faith is not something we can conjure or muster. Faith is a gift; more evidence of God's goodness. (Ephesians 2:8)

For my family, friends and friends' families that have struggled too long with being sick:

"I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord."

-Psalm 27:13-14

I leave you with a preview of the next post:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Discipline of Rest

It has been a difficult three weeks. As I recovered from my allergic reactions in January, I became ill with the stomach flu. As I recovered from the stomach flu, I came down with a certain strand of the real flu which was neither Type A or B. As I recovered from the flu, I came down with a cold, which is progressively getting worse. That brings me to today. After three weeks of this, I can say with conviction that I'm sick of being sick. However, even when this latest, and hopefully last, illness of the season departs, I have only a period of isolation to look forward to, a difficult reality for someone who enjoys routine, plans and people and who often falls prey to the temptation to base her value and worth upon the number of checks on her to-do list. When I became ill with the flu, I did the unthinkable for me. I called off all music lessons for the rest of the month, decided to take a break from going to church and teaching Sunday school and made plans to stay home until our family vacation to Branson in two weeks, which I may or may not be well enough to actually take. Needless to say, I'm totally bummed.

A lot of people have been praying for me, which I have greatly needed and appreciated. One of those people is Mrs. Dixie, a special person I have mentioned before. Mrs. Dixie has been my mother's spiritual mentor for years, and recently became my own. God has used her in my life to challenge, convict, and console me. And she has the most uncanny knack for somehow synchronizing her telephone calls with my lowest spiritual moments. Including last night, she has done this three times in a row, and many more times than that overall. That's not coincidence. That's God connecting two people to the same wire.

Yesterday was my first day to keep Micah all by myself after all of my illness. I did some necessary laundry, and cooked dinner, and by the time I sat down to eat, I was past the point of exhaustion. There were still dishes to do and a boy to bathe and to put to bed, and I simply could not do it all. The realization was maddening, especially in light of the fact that I felt that the only ministry God had left in my hands was to serve my family. I had to ask Brandon, who has also recently been ill and had worked a long day at the pharmacy, to either help with the dishes or with Micah. He chose to take care of Micah (and who wouldn't?). He left to bathe our son, which left me alone in the kitchen with my demon-driven thoughts and self-accusations. The pattern, which circled in my mind over and over again, went something like this:

"You have been entrusted with one last ministry--just one!--and you can't even do that right. Your family needs you, and you can't even do the simplest of tasks. If you can't minister to your family, God will never trust you with your other ministries ever again."

I knew that voice well enough, and I knew it wasn't the voice of the Holy Spirit, but I couldn't find the strength to rebuke it. I was in tears when the phone rang. "Dixie," my cell phone read. I answered it without hesitation. A part of me may have been halfway expecting it. We talked for awhile, but to sum up the most important part of the conversation, I will paraphrase what she said to me about my ministry.

"Sometimes God relieves us of our ministries for a season. Accept His decision, and choose only to rest in Him."

A simple, perfect concept.

Today, I relinquished all of my ministries--teaching music, teaching Sunday school, spending time with my Christian sisters, my family, even my ministry of intercession--and my ridiculous to-do list into His ultra-capable hands. I asked only that He would fill me with His Spirit, help me to rest in His person, and help me to walk in the Spirit, thereby working in me to will and to do only the good works which He has prepared beforehand for me to do according to His good pleasure for this specific season.

The following passages are from today's meditation. They have been paraphrased and adapted from multiple translations. I hope they bless you as much as they have blessed me.

"The Lord is my Shepherd.
In Him, I will be satisfied.
He makes me lie down and rest.
He leads me to a peaceful place.
He restores my weary soul.
He leads me in the way of righteousness
for the sake of His glorious name."
~Psalm 23:1-3

"Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.
I say to the Lord, 'You are my Lord!'
Apart from you, I have no good thing.
The godly people in the land
are my true heroes!
I take pleasure in them.

(Here, I'd like to shout out to Mrs. Dixie, Nona and my mom,
for they are truly "godly people.")

Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
or even speak the names of other gods.
Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine
(including my life, my health).
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
yes, I have a good inheritance.
I will bless the Lord who guides me;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.
Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
MY FLESH ALSO WILL REST IN HOPE.For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
Psalm 16