Advent Is About Waiting

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Life is wrong on so many levels. I spent a good bit of the last few days lamenting and grieving that even my small acts to insert beauty and goodness into this world are not powerful enough to overcome what is broken around me. Sometimes, we suck it up. These last few days, I decided to feel the pain of it.

I always double-take when people ask me, “What is wrong?” What, you don’t see it? Do you not spend time really processing what is going on in life? Are you not suffering? I don’t do well with other people’s pity of me or attempt to “rescue,” because I cannot feel that we are peers in weakness when that happens.

What about Christmas? It has something to do with my own longing and my own humility, that in and of myself, I cannot produce something completely and utterly beautiful, although I find myself constantly chasing the shadows of what I believe to be good. Christmas actually has something to do with my tremendous dissatisfaction mingled with stubborn hope. I have SUCH longing. Advent is about waiting. I often feel how small my body is to contain such determination. That feeling is called “helplessness.”

It was said by Isaiah:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.

I want that.

I don’t need science to prove a hope that never goes away and a longing to be utterly possessed by what is entirely good. No marriage nor friendship, no parent nor neighbor has been able to let me see, fully, what it means to have “great joy.”

For this reason, I love Christmas. It is a bizarre story of the coming of a child that ends up on a wooden cross. It turns me upside down and rejects my apathy. I will let that story stir up my imagination some more. But when it comes down to it, I do not need what is imagination. I do not need just a fantastic story. I can only abide by what is true.

Faith is believing in what is invisible. It is tricky business but the very source of my power. I don’t know what I am doing with this rambling. But I want to work out my faith, and I am not afraid to be known by everyone this way.

 

 

Don’t Feel Bad

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This morning, my son hit me with a Nerf Gun.  My anger flared up right away, because that sucker hurt!! He felt really bad and apologized immediately. About ten minutes later, he came back and said, “Mom, I feel bad about just now. I am so sorry.”  I told him not to feel bad, I was not mad at all, and that I wanted him to know the bullet hurt me and to not aim within range of people.

Immediately, I realized I had a moment of “shitty parenting.” Why the heck would I tell him not to feel bad? I corrected myself, “Actually, you need to feel what you feel. I am sorry I tried to shut down your feelings.”

The healthiest thing for him to do, when he hurt me, was to feel bad.  To tell him otherwise was to raise an apathetic human being, but my first (and erroneous) response was to “protect” him from feeling.

Lately, there has been a lot of lashing-out against my son’s middle school, Basis DC. Some parents appear very agitated by the high standards and expectations of the school, especially parents of children with special needs. They desire a school that provides equal outcome for kids with special needs and kids with no such needs. Many believe that with adequate funding and channeling of resources, all things will be made equal.

Standing from the POV of a parent, I understand. If I do not want my child to feel bad and be left out of opportunities and a great future, I would fight to provide the best possible care for him or her. That must be the desire of any healthy parent.

However, when I stand inside my own mind and see my own limits, I think the healthiest thing for myself is to understand my limits and to not have false expectations of what I can accomplish. Sometimes, feeling the failures of my attempts is great information. It allows me to see that there are some things I cannot keep doing and remain healthy, like spending beyond my means, working more than my body lets me, spending too much time with people when I need to quietly process…etc. Doing things in excess of my ability causes me to FEEL. I feel burnout, I feel the shame of my mistakes, I feel pain, I alienate people. Good to feel, see limits, see consequences, and become healthier.

Do parents who hate Basis DC hate it because they do not want their children, who have limits, to feel their limits? Is it right to demand a school to fix limits that cannot be fixed? I make some assumptions here. I assume these parents are not planning to send their kids to a rigorous school so that they can guide their children to see limits as they fail at meeting certain academic standards. That can be a lesson on its own, but what is driving the anger towards this particular school other than a deep desire to protect a child from feeling bad about themselves?

I personally do not know that setting up a child to operate in a setting that is not appropriate really erases shame. I think it aggravates it. I think many parents will not accept, nor process, the shame they feel to have a child with limits. I liberally assume here that these same parents have not learned to accept their own limits. Rather than modeling self love, they are channeling their energy towards changing the environment to disguise or eliminate any appearance of limits.

I, for one, will not send one of my kids, who cannot sing, to audition for a national choir. I will not demand the choir to make arrangements so that my child can belong to it. But I will encourage my child to sing his heart out in a setting where it is healthy and happy.

Back to the Nerf Gun thing. I really wasn’t telling my son not to feel bad. I was really wanting him not to feel toxic shame… which I define as swimming in self hatred directed at one’s imperfection and limits. My child’s “feeling bad” was healthy, but my projection onto him was about an upbringing and a fantasy that all is well when we do not feel.

Lately, I have been working on accepting and enjoying my feelings. I love feeling pain, anger, modesty, happiness, the whole nine yards. With feelings, I am informed as to where I begin and where I end. I had operated on “don’t feel bad” for as I could remember, and it had stunted my growth. So, seriously, these days, I feel bad all the time. Not to say I am not a feel-good chaser, but at least I am now smart enough to know that feeling the bad helps me to figure out how to feel the good.

I Am Who You Are Not Makes Me Gag

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Recently, I attended a homeschool conference. Attendance was required for those wishing to teach a writing class this upcoming academic year. Honestly, I did not want to teach the class because of the three-day, 18-hour-requirement. However, nobody had stepped up for the position in our particular community, and the director personally called and offered her chauffeuring services if I were to attend. Okay, then. I signed up. Actually, she signed me up and sent me the email confirmation.

The conference was as unpleasant as I had expected.  The worst part of it was suffering through some serious sermonizing on how public education was the devil’s realm. The participating crowd got assigned the pronoun, “we,” and the parents who send kids to public school got the designation, “they.” The speaker pointed out, not without charisma, the faith and victory of those who had made a decision not to send their children to be educated by “the world.” The audience, in turn, applauded. Everyone was having a very feel-good session in there.

All, except me. I felt like gagging (purging, of course, is our body’s natural way of getting rid of stuff that is no good).  I left the pews and went out to the parking lot for a breath of fresh air, cried my eyeballs out (yes, I am the sensitive type), made a decision to be polite to these strangers, and went back in to fulfill my teaching requirement. It was not so painful after my good cry, as I also decided to tune the whole thing out and think on pleasant things instead.

I would have been so supportive if the speaker had spoken only of the loveliness of homeschooling. Why was her good thing “good” only if the alternative was “bad”? Why couldn’t she just have celebrated her decision to homeschool without putting others down?

I was taught at an early age to not focus on the speck on someone’s eye while having a plank in my own eye, so I have been wondering the past few days whether I do that thing of deciding that I am superior by deciding someone else is inferior.  I must shamefully admit that I compare often, and it makes me feel awfully good to compare. I get a lot of worth out of mentally one-upping others.

I am who you are not.

Is that how I define myself? Do I give others way too much power by allowing the meaning of my selfhood be based on the meaninglessness of others? Do I feel like a nobody if someone happens to be better at something than me?  Am I actually powerless when I cannot feel joy all by myself? It is SELF-destructive to need to be better (by comparing?)?

The things we notice… Some people are in a hurry. Some people eat organic food. Some people eat casseroles made with canned cream of mushroom soup.  Some people homeschool. Some people talk loudly. Some people have nine fingers. Some people have a lot of money. Some people do drugs. All of these things can be facts. But I really do not need to sit around being so fearful and threatened that I start forming comparisons in my head to affirm my “me.”

Wrap up: I marvel at God when Moses asked Him for a name, and God answered, “I am who I am.” That, to me, is someone who knows and loves Himself. I think I am going to copy God. I am going to work on going from I am who you are not, to I am who I am. I think in the process, I will also gain a lot of intimate relationships that are completely void of comparing and judging, and I am going to restore a strong sense of myself. As for the people who want to diss others… well. Too bad for them. I can’t change them. But I sure can change me into more me by becoming me, not becoming less them!

Loveless Lazy

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An old adage:

“Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.” Ecclesiates 10:18

When I came across these words as I stared at a huge hole in my ceiling from a not-recent leak, my mind did get wondering.

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Honestly, I was trying to have the kids memorize this good proverb when the weight of the words hit me like a brick.

What next but a fearless and complete personal inventory of my sagging rafters and leaking house? Some examples:

1) Why am I buying all the stuff and collecting them for future use but have no place to put them?

2) Why do I watch Netflix till 1:00am when I am already tired at 10:30pm?

3) Why is my car looking more like a trash can?

4) Why am I on the internet for 2 hours “researching” when the breakfast dishes are not done?

5) Why am I purposelessly hanging out with people I do not like?

I had always known these things, but I could not find the energy to tackle them. I truly despised myself for my failure list.

Why, why, why was I so tired? LAZY, said old king Solomon. Sounds harsh. Well, what is lazy? Lazy is the refusal to work.  Work, in my case, is to confront more than my symptomatic list; work is to examine a heart that tolerates chaos at all.

The work of knowing myself and examining my choices is terrifying — shaming, even. It takes a lot of courage to become unlazy, as it implies taking up deep, personal work.

Well, I did take the time to look inside. Very deeply, actually.  I had thought that a good mix of accusation and determination was enough to get me to turn my life around.  But the deeper I searched, the more I realized that it was neither guilt nor grit that provided to motor oil to change directions, but self love. A person who loves herself TAKES CARE of herself. She spends all of her life not only desiring beauty but achieving it, because she is charged with personal approval and delight instead of shame.

Oh, but shame, shame, shame. How to put away the shame?  Well, I have a great source of ultra-approval. I used to try getting people to apply me a stamp of approval. But, I really haven’t met anyone worthy enough to make that call (no offense). I have a tendency to declare people “really messed up.” So, if I do not approve me, and you can’t, who does?

I am just saying: JESUS. His story clearly says something about taking my judgment and crediting me approval. So, I lean in, and I lean in some more, and at some point, I have found that I am pretty darned much precious.

The WORK that I do, the anti-lazy WORK, is miraculous. It is the work of believing. Through faith,  I am recovering my energy, I take care of more problems more immediately.  Even my spending habits have improved.

So, let me end here by supplying myself with a good word. This is really amazing food for thought:

“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Proverbs 13:4

Lemon Curd

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When one of my kids was going through the put-all-in-mouth stage, I recalled the day clearly when his path crossed with a slice of lemon.  We were at a restaurant, and I was having one of those sinking feelings that everyone was staring at my child’s ill-behaved mother for not “doing something about it,” whatever “it” was that was bothering fellow patrons about children in general.

Well, little man dipped his fingers (that had now been all over the place) into my glass of water. EWWW. He made a lightening fast decision to grab the lemon and shove it in his mouth. The rest of us saw it coming; my neuropaths were all lit up with anticipation. I imagined his was, too. You should have seen his what-the-hell-was-that face. What surprised me was that he went back for more…definitely his mother’s child. Who wouldn’t go back for more lemon?

So, we made some lemon curd this week. It took three of us to make things go really fast.  I was surfing on the internet, while the kids were zesting lemons and juicing.

Here is the recipe (crediting lemon-lover’s kindergarten teacher):

1.  Bring the zest of 4 lemons, 1 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 1/4 cup of sugar to a rolling boil over medium/ high heat.

2.  Meanwhile, cut 6 oz of butter into small cubes and set aside.

3. Crack 6 eggs into a large bowl and whisk till lightened in color. (Do NOT ignore the large bowl requirement.)

4. When the lemon juice mixture is at a rolling boil, add small ladles of liquid into the eggs while whisking continuously till the outside of the bowl becomes very warm to touch. The goal is to not cook the eggs. (It helps to have an assistant for this step: One to whisk the boiling lemon mixture, one to whisk the egg mixture.)

5. Carefully pour the warm egg mixture back into the boiling lemon mixture and continue whisking.  Lower the heat to medium and cook till the mixture returns to a boil, stirring constantly.

6. Once at a boil, remove from the stove and strain into a large bowl.  Whisk while slowing adding cubes of butter till melted. Cover with plastic wrap to avoid skin forming.  Keep refrigerated!

The kids were happy to just lick the bowl, but we preferred lemon curd on ice cream, or whipping up greek yogurt and lemon curd for tartlets (pate sucre crust is a fabulous tart crust: https://deliberatelysusan.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/rhubarb-pop-tarts/).

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Delicious, and no scurvy for our family this week!