Friday, August 31, 2012

Let's burn a book

A few years ago, my kids’ curiosity about childbirth began to surface, so I thought I’d take the birds and bees by the horns. I went out and bought the first two books in a series that offered developmentally appropriate, values based information for my kids’ age ranges and we read them together.  The older book included a very basic, but direct explanation of intercourse.  I thought it was a great first step to unveiling the mysteries of life to my older girl without freaking her out.  I explained to her at the time that this was private information, which she should not share with her friends or younger sister.  She's been open, since, about bringing me her questions.  The book for my younger daughter was much less specific about the baby making part of the equation.

My big girl did a great job of keeping it to herself. Seeing my middle girl’s shock this week, I knew she hadn’t been told.  I was just building up the courage to tackle that same reading with my middle daughter, now that she’s approaching that stage of late-elementary curiosity, but the elementary school library usurped from me the privilege of being able to break the story gently.  She checked out a nifty book the librarian recommended to her about the human body, and during her free reading time later in the day, she discovered a chapter on reproduction that included a diagram of a penis inserted into a vagina.  Needless to say, when I picked her up from school, the first thing she did was to show me the book and seek an explanation for what was, to her, a pretty confusing and disturbing image.

I am, needless to say, livid.  Although I empathize with the school, in that it is difficult to know what is on every page of every book in the library, a diagram that graphic should have certainly been caught by someone along the way – the writer who was aiming to sell the book to elementary schools, the publisher who supposedly reviewed and approved the material, the librarian who with a simple look at the table of contents could have seen there was a chapter on reproduction that should, perhaps, be reviewed before putting the book on the shelf.

Now, instead of gently introducing these mysteries to my daughter, I have to work backwards from her awkward dismay to reassure her of God’s plans for our bodies.  I can take part of the blame for not having covered the material sooner; she could have heard the news on the playground or in the backyard by now, but no fellow school kid was going to explain it to her with the vivid and shocking specificity and credibility that she encountered in that diagram.

We took the book to the principal and the librarian called me back to let me know the review process the book has to go through before it can be pulled off the shelf at her school and the two other elementary schools in the district that also have it in their collection.  I’m hoping no Kindergarteners decide to check it out before they make up their minds.  In the litigious atmosphere of schools, they did not, of course, offer any apology.

 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Friday, August 24, 2012

Babies are dumb.

We brought our first daughter home from the hospital, pulled her out of the car seat, laid her in the middle of the living room, and told her, “OK, now do something funny.”  We didn’t have to wait long; sure enough the laughs began.  Why?  Why do we find our offspring so entertaining?  Because babies are dumb.

My future Mensa candidate
Babies can’t help that they’re dumb.  They don’t realize that when they hide their face behind the window curtains, laughing with delight at their amazing disappearing ability, the entire rest of their body is still in plain sight.  They don’t realize that the fuzzy new toy they can’t seem to quite pull into view is the hair that is still attached to their own head.  One of my favorites: they honestly believe that they can fit on the miniature dollhouse toilet and will try futilely to sit on it.

My baby girl topped her sisters this week, on proving my mantra that “babies are dumb.”  She got a hold of a bottle of Japanese Cherry Blossom hand sanitizer and dumped it down her face and body.  Because I had no idea how much she’d actually consumed (FYI- hand sanitizer is extremely high in alcohol and only a small amount can give a child alcohol poisoning), and I could smell the fragrance on her breath, we got to make an evening visit to the ER.  She showed no signs of inebriation (although that probably would have been funny in only the sickest sense), but we still had to let them do a blood draw to make sure she was OK.  It was excruciating, holding her down for it, knowing that she had no way of comprehending why she was being put through this torture.  Then we had a long wait in the room, while they ran the labs, twice, because they got an error the first time.  On top of that, I had to endure the inquiries and suspicious glances of all the hospital personnel, who are legally obligated to report me, if they suspect this happened as a result of abuse or neglect.  The labs came back clean; she hadn’t actually swallowed anything at all, for which I am grateful, and certainly not anxious to repeat the exercise.

The very next morning, however, my darling girl discovered a fresh pile of dog poo, ripe for the curious eater.  Imagine my surprise when I turn around after only a moment’s distraction to see her hand up to her mouth and a bright green turd between her lips.  I have no idea what dog poop tastes like, so I can’t be sure if it was my dismayed directive or her sensitive palate, but it took only a moment for her to spit it out and there were no teeth marks or other signs that it had actually made it into her mouth.  I wasted no time in throwing her in the bathtub and thoroughly brushing her teeth.  Not that a bath was going to do any good at removing dog poop from her insides, had it made it there, but it definitely made me feel better.

My word of advice while I was bathing her, “Sweetheart, if you’re going to gargle sanitizer, do it after you eat the dog poop next time.”  See, babies are dumb.

Here are some proverbs of Solomon: Children with good sense make their parents happy, but foolish children make them sad. Proverbs 10:1

Friday, August 17, 2012

I had to surrender.

Sunday before last, I was scheduled to preach while the pastor was on vacation.  I had agreed to do so well ahead of time and had even begun to strategize about it a few weeks in advance, wanting to ensure a well thought out message with engaging, and even humorous, illustrations.  I sometimes get feedback that I’m too serious from the pulpit, so I was going to make a deliberate attempt to stay lighthearted.  Despite my honest effort to be thoroughly prepared, events in my personal life took a turn that week, and I was not in a good place, when I arrived at church about an hour before worship.  My emotions were barely stifled.  I was unable to look anyone in the eye, because any sign of compassion might bring my struggle to the surface.

I sat in a front pew and read back over my sermon, gathering my courage to lead worship.  I realized as the scripture and message kept piercing my heart, how completely helpless I was to fulfill this obligation.  I knew that some 90-100 people were about to file in and expect worship.  I knew from past experience that some of them would be hanging on my every word, looking for an opportunity to send an offended and critical email to our pastor, validating their staunch insistence that women shouldn’t be preaching.  I knew that, for all the times in ministry that my personal issues had made my leadership role a challenge, this was the time.  This was the moment of complete surrender.  I knew that I, me, myself, Emily – I could not get through worship.

So I prayed.  I gave it all to the Lord.  I begged God to take over and use me in whatever way necessary to glorify him.  And, in a way I can’t explain, God did just that.  I didn’t plan my prayers, I just walked up to the pulpit and let it come out.  Every time I said "Amen," I was thinking, “Weird – that’s not really a prayer I normally would say.”  The sermon, thankfully, was all written out, but even in delivering it, I was constantly struck by the message of scripture; as if this message I had written the week before were not my own, but written for me.

That Sunday morning is one I will never forget.  People love the poem “Footprints” for how it expresses the notion of Christ’s partnership and support of us, the idea that we could look back and see the times Jesus was actually bringing us through.  But rarely do we actually feel his arms beneath us and know that right then, in that moment, we are being carried.  But that, my friends, is something I have experienced.  There are many hard times when I’ve fought through on my own, but praise the Lord to know how powerful Christ was when I was utterly helpless.

May that be a blessing I do not have to experience very often.

(This was my sermon illustration - thought you might enjoy...)

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Friday, August 10, 2012

We lived too long with rouge furniture.

It’s been weeks since I took the leap and started moving things around the house, in anticipation of setting the big girls up in the downstairs bedroom, and moving the master bedroom upstairs.  I pulled all the toys out of the bedrooms and stacked them in the hallway.  The kids’ clothes have been in disarray, shifting from one closet and set of drawers to another; trying to stay one step ahead of the move.  The piles of clean, folded laundry on the couch grew to become a fixture, because I saw no point in hauling them upstairs to a closet, only to haul them back downstairs to another closet when we completed the move.

My attempts to move the project along progressed to the point of actually moving furniture a good two weeks ago.  Our small house doesn’t accommodate much rouge furniture, so getting through the transition involved living for a time with a vanity and mirror blocking the kitchen hall, and a very large chest of drawers making its home smack dab in the middle of the living room.

I no sooner got the project to that point that my husband saw an open weekend and suggested we take a break from the moving things around to hold a garage sale – maybe it would ease the whole mess to eliminate some clutter and lighten our load.  I generally argue for Good Will donations, over garage sales, but once every ten years, I concede.  We did the work, held the sale, and remembered more clearly why we prefer to make Good Will donations.  We made a few bucks, probably broke even for our effort, and still have a backlog of stuff we need to unload.  Plus – there was still that chest of drawers in the living room.

Then we had pickups and drop offs for summer camp that occupied much of our free time for a week.  Then we needed to get the taillights on the camper to work, so we could have some hope of actually camping in the thing before winter.  Then the Olympics started.  Then the bills were due.  Then…then…then…

Now that I’ve thought more about it, I’m scared to count back and even know for sure how long we’ve been dancing around a chest of drawers in our living room.  All I know for sure is that yesterday, finally, it found a home.  Not just any home, but an insanely useful home, where it not only has quit blocking my view of the baby when I want to check on her from the kitchen, but where it now stores, with complete visual anonymity, copious amounts of family clutter.  Items that once graced every horizontal surface of our ground floor are making their way into designated drawers, offering me such a massive sense of peace and relief that I might even find it in me to put all those clothes away, and find a better home for the toys.

Yep, it was a real milestone.

Then that time will come when the Lord will give you fresh strength. He will send you Jesus, his chosen Messiah. Acts 3:20

Friday, August 3, 2012

Now I'm a WildCard.

My church does a prayer chain, where people can get word out to the entire church body to ask for immediate prayer, if something urgent happens.  They also publish a weekly prayer list in the bulletin.  It is a great comfort to know that your church family is lifting you up in prayer and I make a concerted effort to honor the prayer list and prayer chain in my own prayer life.  It also serves as a great reminder, as the prayer chain emails come into my inbox throughout the week, to pray ceaselessly.

My husband and I have always viewed “unspoken” prayer requests with at least a small amount of mirth.  I realize that second guessing someone’s prayer request is incredibly insensitive and probably doesn’t honor the things scriptures says about the need for and power of our petitions and praises to the Lord.  Nevertheless, it seems like there ought to be some way for a person to word their request that is at least somewhat more specific than “unspoken.”  Couldn’t they say “encouragement and support for a person in crisis?”  Couldn’t they say, “healing for a person’s pain?”  Something, anything, nonspecific and anonymous, that gives you more to go on than, basically, “just pray?”

Recently my husband received a prayer chain email on his blackberry, which I hadn’t gotten yet, because my email isn’t linked to my phone.  He alerted me that it was a prayer chain notice, and I asked what I should pray for and he said, “There’s two.  [Soandso] needs [suchandsuch], and WildCard.” I gave him a questioning look and he said, “You know, unspoken.”  It gave me a laugh, and I said a prayer, and we have since had an inside joke about “WildCard” prayer requests.  It doesn’t say what they want, so just pick something and pray about it for them.  Maybe they want the new shoes you’re praying they get, maybe they don’t; but at least you prayed.

So this week comes along.  I discovered some really tough truths about my life that I had previously failed to confront in their entirety.  I have some major challenges ahead of me, and it is going to affect my relationships – some in a potentially calamitous way.  I can’t talk about it; I can’t give more detail than that.  But I need, I covet, your prayers. 

So, I apologize to anyone who previously has made an “unspoken” prayer request, for my callous disregard for your need for privacy and the challenges you were facing.  Like that email, I make two requests: please pray for my friends and loved ones to have patience with me and honor the ways that they may notice our relationship changing, and WildCard.

 Always be joyful and never stop praying.  Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18