Tuesday, December 30, 2008

An Out of Sorts Kind of Day

Yesterday was the first day back with the "little ones" in a week! It was so great to see them and they all seemed to have grown so much in just those few days! Of course the boys are of the age that a week is a long time -- they learn and develop so quickly at that age! Kind of makes me think about how we perceive time vs. how God perceives time:-)

Everyone was glad to see me too, and enjoyed showing me all their Christmas gifts. I was really laid back from my long "vacation" and the kids were really calm considering all the hype of Christmas! One of the twins even started to cry when I left, I guess because he was afraid he wouldn't see me again for another week!?

Today . . . well, the honeymoon was over today. They were all glad to see me, but all day it was like, "Oh, Mary's back." All three of them were just out of sorts--with themselves, with each other and with me! Hmph! They were not terrible - not by a long shot, but it was like they each needed to re-establish the boundaries, reiterate the rules and see if "the old girl" had forgotten everything while she was off:-)

I would tell one of the boys not to go in the road -- several times I turned him around and got down on his level and told him not to go out of the driveway. Each time he would get right to the end of the driveway and start inching out, to see how far he could go before I turned him around again. Finally, I picked him up, placed him on the grass and put the bike away. He didn't pitch a fit--he just unzipped his jacket and threw it on the ground. I guess when you're two that's about the most defiant thing you can think of:-)

The other two each had their own moments throughout the day. At one point I remember separating the boys and reminding them, "no hitting, no biting, no pushing, no grabbing, and no mean talk." Big sister likes to argue and try to negotiate and rationalize everything I say.

So, the God connection? I test the limits all the time! I try to rationalize and negotiate with God. I push the envelope, tread on thin ice, hang by a thread . . . whatever you want to call it. I press my luck, as my mom used to say. I may do the right things but I don't always have the right heart. I may say the right things, but I don't always back up my words with actions.

Sometimes, honestly, I don't even do or say the right things - and it's intentional. Yes, I really have trouble getting flustered or taking things my little charges do personally. Because I know where they're coming from. I'm pretty firm, but pretty patient. Thankfully, God is too!

So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?[Romans 2:3-5 NIV]

Monday, December 22, 2008

When Things Don't Go As Planned

Oh my! We had quite a bit of drama this morning!

Last week we decorated Christmas gifts for children's mom and dad. Yes, I actually allowed not-quite-two-year-olds to use paint! :-) They just loved it and were so excited that they were allowed to do 'big kid' stuff that their big sister was doing.

The gifts turned out beautifully - each as unique as are the three children:-) One of the boys finished his work and was ready to get down to play with his cars. I had to finally forcibly remove the paint brush from the other twin - the one who we are all surprised even has the attention span to do crafts! I think he would still be painting right now if he had been allowed to!

Today my plan was for the children to color white paper "lunch" bags in which to put the gifts. I thought it would be a great because the boys love to color and sister would be able to use her new markers which I gave her for her birthday last week.

The boys, however, were quite upset. They saw those ornaments, ready to be wrapped in tissue paper and stuffed into the bags. They wanted to do more ornaments! Now that they had seen the ornaments, coloring with crayons paled in comparison to painting! They each became more and more irate as I continued to impress upon them how much FUN it would be to color the bags!

Ultimately the bags, each with about 4 grudgingly stroked crayon marks, were thrown on the floor in a fit of absolute outrage! The crayons were flung across the table and the boys were bellowing at the top of their lungs. I'm sure they were wondering how in the world I could play such a cruel joke on them -- show them the FUN project and then expect them to do something not nearly as exciting.

The thing is, if they had trusted me, the project for today would have been fun. It wasn't what they had expected or planned, but my plan would have yielded a good result - one they would have liked. But it wasn't what they had planned. They had other ideas about what would be fun.

I couldn't really get upset with them. I just gave up on MY plan and held them until they settled down. Ultimately raisins and wheat thins won them over and all was forgotten. Why wasn't I flustered or upset? Because I saw myself in them all too clearly!

So often I make a plan - with our without God's guidance and direction in advance - and then when God intervenes and changes the plan, I fight it! I don't bellow and throw things but honestly, from time to time I have felt like it. More often than I care to admit, I have questioned God and even gotten upset with Him when He changes things up in my life.

Unlike the twins, I don't "let go and let God" nearly as quickly as they "let go and let Mary" take control. So yes, I have a great deal of work to do in the area of trust AND obedience:-/

Hmmm. . . Guess this will be the last of the chronicles in 2008. I have no doubt God is not finished teaching me about Him and His love, though. I'm really looking forward to where He's going to take us all next year. Of course, the day isn't over yet!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What Happens When One Becomes Two?

It's not what you might think! I have always been fascinated by twins and the boys I care for are especially fascinating little people. Just think about it - they were together at the moment of conception! They have been and will be a pair, a team, a unit, "the twins" their entire lives.

These boys also speak in what has been referred to as "twin talk." From a very early age, and especially since they became exceedingly vocal about a year ago, they communicate profusely with each other. It sounds like babble to us, but it is so clear they know what the other is saying--some primal connection that they alone share.

Being active boys and part of a sibling group that is very dramatic, intelligent, inquisitive, strong-willed, independent and bright, they fight - a lot - with each other and their sister. But let me tell you, if one of those boys is placed in time out, the other follows and sits quietly next to his brother - even if the offending brother is in time out for some infringement upon the rights of the other!

Where is all this leading? Well, today big sister had morning preschool and one of the boys was taken to the hospital to have an x-ray on a foot that seems to have been bothering him. Dad and other twin had to "sneak out" because the left-behind twin was determined he was getting his jacket and going along--after all the boys never go anywhere without the other one!

So for a couple of hours it was just one little now-alone twin and me. We had a wonderful, rare, one-on-one time reading books and watching favorite videos. He even got to practice turning on and off the porch light about 25 or 30 times - learning "on" and "off." On the way to pick up sister at noon though, he kept stressing about the fact that his brother's car seat (and so his brother) was not in the car. "Buckle?" He kept asking, referring to 'buckling in' the boys in their car seats.

I got to thinking about how disorienting and confusing it must have been for him to be suddenly alone. Yes, I was there, but brother was not. And brother is always with him. They share a room, they share a bond that no one else on earth will ever understand or break. They shared their mother's womb.

I thought he must feel the way I do sometimes in my relationship with God. Sometimes I feel as if I'm traveling through a time without God's presence. It's not that God has sneaked out the door, but rather that I have turned aside or turned away altogether. I become hard-headed (stiff-necked?) and prideful and push God out of the picture. God is there with me, but I don't acknowledge Him.

At some point though, I begin to feel the way my little lonely twin must have felt for a while today: as if I am utterly and completely on my own - as if part of me is missing. That's when I run back to God, like the prodigal I have been, begging for forgiveness.

The "twin talk" between God and me is through the Holy Spirit living and working in me - interceding on my behalf when I don't know what to pray. I think about how truly joyful the twins are when the other one is finally awake from a nap--or home from the hospital with Dad--and I get it. I really do. That's how I feel when I know God has already forgiven my sin.

What a relief. What a great joy. What true blessing to be a recipient of God's grace.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. [Romans 8:26-27 NIV]

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cheerios, Bananas -- and Sin?

OK. Bear with me here! It's been a busy morning but my mind keeps going back to this morning's breakfast for the twins. At 23 months, they are desperately trying to be like their 4 year old sister -- I mean they want to do absolutely everything she does!

Well . . . she eats Cheerios in a cereal bowl. Most mornings the boys will snack on dry cereal while their 'real breakfast' is being prepared but this morning, since sister was having Cheerios -- well, I think you can figure it out. They were not happy when I placed a handful of Cheerios on their trays. As soon as they started fussing I knew what was up so I got out two bowls and two spoons and placed one of each on their trays.

The boys immediately began scooping up Cheerios and putting them in their bowls. Then they achieved varying degrees of success in actually scooping the Cheerios up with the spoons and getting Cheerios into their mouths. After about half the Cheerios ended up on their laps, the boys were still pretty hungry so I gave them each 1/2 banana. Out go the Cheerios, into the bowl goes the bananas:-) One twin ultimately gave up and picked up the banana and ate it with his hands then went to work on Cheerios off the tray.

The other twin got more and more frustrated with himself. He finally picked up the bowl and dumped out the banana and replaced the Cheerios. OK by this time, he's pretty upset because he's really hungry and not much food has actually made it into his stomach, let alone into his mouth!

Finally, he picked up the bowl full of Cheerios and held it over his head, intending to make one final angry gesture before he really looses it! Guess what? The Cheerios didn't fall out of the bowl! He was quite surprised - as was I! Fortunately that allowed an opportunity to make a joke and act silly, and remove both mangled banana, Cheerios- adorned cereal bowl and slip some buttered toast on the tray all in one fell swoop.

I don't know why I had this thought in the midst of the breakfast drama, but I imagine God has opened my eyes to see things through a different lens since I decided to start this blog. Think about it. Isn't that how sin is. Once we sin, it sticks to us, hanging on for dear life until we confess it and ask God to swoop it away?!

Like Cheerios sticking to a banana-y cereal bowl, sin just hangs on and no matter how we try to dump it out or throw it off, until we face it, confess it, and ask God to make it right, we're just not going to have peace about it.

God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.[Acts 15:31 NIV]

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Children Are A Blessing

That's often said by those who don't have them, by those who want the world to believe they're 100% thrilled 100% of the time to have their own children, or by grandparents who are speaking of their grandchildren!

But you know what? It IS true!

Jesus made it very clear that children were important to Him. More than that He tells us that we must become like little children to make it into the kingdom of heaven! ". . . Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 18:3 RSV] God values children so much, He made His own son into one!

I don't think Jesus meant we were to be timid. I'm pretty sure He wasn't telling us to run up to someone we love and throw our arms around their knees with such delight that they almost fall over! Although that's really wonderful when it happens! He probably wasn't telling us to taste absolutely everything--everything(!)either.

What he was talking about, I think, is that we are to have that same sense of wonder at and curiosity about God's world. We are to have a child's inquisitive mind when we seek to know God better. I think He was telling us to be humble and quiet, to watch and to listen. And it really wouldn't hurt to throw our arms around each other once in a while, would it?

Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth. [1 John 3:18 RSV]