Thursday, February 24, 2011

Looking for the Invisible

The calendar may not yet read "March," but its stiff winds have been with us throughout the week, beckoning the little ones outdoors to see what miracles await. Although signs of Spring are everywhere, ready to burst forth at any moment, it's the power of the invisible wind I notice most.

Blossoms cling to stalks that choose to bend heads low and touch the earth rather than break.Even the heavy weight of fully-opened Camellia blossoms amongst stiff, waxy leaves isn't enough to stay still in its swift path.A bee struggles to cling to pollen-laden yellow rocket. After each strong gust knocks him from his flower perch, he hovers as best as he can in the gale, then clasp legs around another blossom for a few more seconds before the next gust hits, a process he continually repeats as I kneel and watch the performance.Even the tiny violets crouched low down within tender blades of grass twitch now and then as a breeze swirls low enough to catch their petals.
Everywhere I look, all creation moves with each invisible thrust of the Creator's hand--there is not a choice to do otherwise.

With each opening and closing of the camera's shutter, I capture only the visible...but it's really this invisible power that I was searching for,

One as un-capturable and as real as the wind that moves everything in turn.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Celebrating Life

One person recovering from a one-week cold just doesn't sound like a big deal to me anymore. But multiply that number times five. Multiply that week by three.

I'm no mathematician, but when five times three have recovered from fever, sleepless nights, uncontrollable coughing spasms, trash cans overflowing with crumpled tissues--I'd say the total adds up to a noteworthy event....

so noteworthy, in fact, that it seems like we should celebrate.

But how can you celebrate the end of an illness dismissed by even doctors as "just a virus" or "the good kind of pneumonia?

It's actually not that hard. Watch the children. They intrinsically know the symptoms of a heart that needs to give thanks for good health restored.

When smiling, singing, laughing seems to be the only thing worth doing.

When being among people--any people--seems like Christmas.

When just the feel of warm sun on your face or the coming March winds tussle your hair makes you pause for more than just a minute

When the simplicity and beauty of the Father's creation slows your heartbeat with a calming sigh.

Watching my children these past few days, I've seen a celebration in progress.

Contented giggles resound in the sand pile where sibling spats usually abide. Even this mama doesn't fuss about the grit on the floor but, instead, just leaves the vacuum propped up in the hall and smiles as she repeatedly brushes everyone off. A row of band aids cover boo boos from romps through a thorn-laden path...injuries not enough to dim the celebration outdoors for even a few minutes.I hate being sick. I hate my family being sick. But there's one thing about it--after the illness has passed, life seems so much purer, so much better than before.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Belated Valentines Day Gift

Forty minutes early to the airport...and still, we almost missed his big entrance.

This past Tuesday, I accompanied my parents and children to go pick up Uncle Johnathan, home for a chaplain's conference.

With eyes glassy and sparkling as they only do with fever, I watched my children run up and down the main aisle of the baggage claim area, one of the few open spaces those of us without a ticket are allowed to be in this era of the unfriendly skies.

Somewhere between walking the tightrope ridge that ran between brown carpet and glossy tile and trying to break into the silver Honda that I'm still not sure how fit through the doors, we were about two minutes from missing out on the whole reason for going to the airport.

That first glimpse.

Maybe the mind has conflated those feel-good airport movie scenes with my actual history, but truth or fiction, I can easily pull from the memory files several images of various family members coming down the chute from the plane and me running to greet them with a huge bear hug, then grinning till my face hurts as we all try to talk at once and catch up on a week, a month, a year...all the way to baggage claim.

As the children ran and I tried to keep them from destroying said silver Honda, the ceiling monitor overhead flashed blue, changing screens, and catching my attention. For the first time, I glanced up instead of down at my watch.

The Atlanta flight was no longer listed. Uh oh.

One twin in each hand, I made a bee line for the escalator, grandparents and Wyatt close behind. At the top, we walked swiftly past the security guards and black screens towards the "Do Not Enter" sign.

And there we stood where the new arrivals were already streaming past. With all six of us in an area the size of my living room (and with only half of the six being cognizant that life existed outside themselves), we were obviously in the way.

With little eyes glued to the door, no amount of prodding, grabbing, or holding could remedy that problem. People just had to go around the pint sized statues in their way.

Grand daddy saw him first--must be a parent thing to be able to recognize your child's profile through sun-glare-shadowed glass.

Then, he was there. "Go get him!" I said.

Wyatt did just that, running and leaping into his favorite uncle's arms. Amelia ran, too, but stopped short and just stared up at the Uncle she loves every Sunday through the computer screen. And Emerson--my ever-cautious one since his latest bout with pneumonia--he stood and took it all in before walking over for a hug.Seconds later, Amelia took off running with that tongue hanging out of her mouth, her own way of leaping for joy.
Just like in my memories, everyone started talking at once. All three children had to "help" Uncle Johnathan find his bags...and everyone else's. The boys skipped and chattered non stop all the way back to the van.
For a few days, at least, a well-loved son, brother, uncle is home. It may not have been on Valentines' Day. But having our meals together, watching the kids love and play with him--it sure feels like it should be a holiday.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Breathing in a Smoking Section

Breathe. Just breathe.

He squirms in my lap, itching to tear off the mask. I could tell him he looks like one of those Air Force jet pilots...but that means nothing to him. Instead, he is like Thomas, his favorite train.

"Ten more minutes, Emerson. You have to stay still."

Amelia sits inches away on the couch--she is envious, wanting it to be her turn. "Emerson have smoke? It hot? I touch it?"

After four days of breathing treatments, his exhales are stronger, circling cool tendrils of white vapor upwards through my hair and above my face.

During the first treatment, I fearfully sat in the doctor's office, listening to each halting breath and then waiting through the long pause. It's not that my son was refusing to take another breath of healing medicine but merely that his lungs were filled with fluid, making the simple act of breathing difficult.

This Valentines Day, the treasure of celebrating the gift of a single breath has brought my focus on the One who has given my child that gift... not just him, but me also.

When God first breathed life into that newly formed body of dust, that breath was not composed of mere oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules or even medicine, for that breath held life, itself. And in that instant, dust became a thinking, reasoning, passionate, loving being.

In that breath, God breathed Himself into man.

Although the trappings of Valentines Day may not be God-created, love definitely is.

Our household has anticipated this holiday literally since the day after Christmas when our seasonal decorations celebrating Christ's birth came down and our decorations giving thanks for God's unfailing love took their place.

This Valentines season is a time for remembering our loving commitments to our spouses.
A time for showing love to those small breaths that have been entrusted to us.A time for remembering the past and those loved ones who are no longer with us.I give thanks to Him who has granted me the ability to love, to the One who is love, Himself.

Photos: our living room mantle; my wedding bouquet; Amelia seeing her Valentine from mommy; our Valentines' tree decorated with images of vintage valentines.

Friday, February 11, 2011

God Gave Us the World

Over a week ago, our household received the newest book in Lisa Bergren's "God Gave Us" series entitled God Gave Us The World...and I've sat on this post, waiting to see how my children would react to the book over time.

The book's premise is that Little Cub's parents take him to the museum to see an exhibit about the different kinds of bears God made. As a polar bear, Little Cub is astonished to learn that other types of bears don't live in the land of ice and snow and that (gasp) they don't all eat fish!

The lessons the book teaches are of accepting others' differences; of praising God for his varied, magnificent creation; and of taking care of God's world.

As with all of Bergren's books, this one, too, is precious for the nursery to preschool-aged child. My children have continued to request it, if for no other reason than to go "EWW!!!!" and erupt in giggles upon reading--again--that some bears eat trees and bugs.

It's not really a criticism, but I must note that the book attempts (several times) to explain the concept of "why" God made all parts of the world different, but even in simple terms, it's still a concept that has eluded my four-year-old.

**I receive no compensation for my review other than a complementary copy of the book from WaterBrook Multnomah publishers.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Practicing the Art of Crying

We have a lot to cry about right now....well, at least our bodies constantly tell us we do.

The oldest is on his second day spiking 104 fever in the evenings...but nothing wrong enough to warrant antibiotics. One is being treated for pneumonia as he coughs on everything and everyone around him. And one is not terribly sick but still pathetic enough to dissolve into tears at the slightest perceived injustice. And then there's me. M-A-M-A. I hear them cough throughout the night. I hear them wake up in tears because their bodies hurt. I feel their excessive heat instantly warm me as I draw them close. And I go to them, sometimes staying to stroke a never-still forehead until I hear the breathing of sleep as he rests beneath the coolness of my fingers.

I have more paying school work to do this week than ever before in my life. If anyone should cry, it should be me. But that just seems silly. And besides, there's not enough Kleenex for me to join in the boo hoo fray.

No, the real crying is done over one of "my people" put in some forgotten hiding place, a stolen cup from a make-believe tea party, or who owns the purple bear.

This evening was a true mourning event as I took said purple bear and shoved him atop the television, hoping to end the bickering.

Instead, they all ran crying to my husband for anti-mommy support. Covered in crying children, he suddenly said, "That's not crying. Naah. That's a whimper. I was some real angst! Like this..."

At that point, he belted out the loudest, most obnoxiously fake boo hoo I've ever seen.

While Emerson didn't join in, pretty soon, both Amelia and Wyatt were practicing their crying, too."Ahhhhhhhhhhh" they yelled.

Down I fell down on my knees in uncontrollable laughter.And miraculously, no more tears. Just lots and lots of happy laughter....and lots of fake crying.

I'll take it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Return of Music

Last week when I sunk a simple four by six a couple feet into the earth, who knew it would become the hottest new meeting place for miles around. To my surprise and joy, it has become a literal overnight sensation!

For the past seven months, our place has pretty much been a bird-free zone. Sure, there was the occasional visit from my inlaws' latest bluebird crop or a random afternoon blue jay looking for a meal in the close-cropped fields. But other than these few sightings, our treeless yard assured that all other creatures would stay hidden in the woods or only visit after dusk.

To me, no birds means no song, no music to accompany the other sounds of God's creation. From my front porch, I could hear the music of the wind blowing through the trees, so simple and beautiful in itself, but there was no blending in harmony with the other creations--unless you count my three very loud darlings (and I do not). It was just the wind.

This was bad.

I can name them. Even blindfolded, I know their songs. And each one is beautiful.

At our former homes, I've had a few conversations with the bobwhite quail , beckoning him into my yard. I've come home to find a scarlet tanager chose my yard as his stopping point on his migration north.

Something had to be done.

And so began project bird feeder. Not many fathers have opened their front doors to find a daughter holding several wooden boards, a box of deck screws, and saying the words, "we need to build a bird feeder like the one you have."

I've learned that news travels fast in bird communities. The pole wasn't even in the ground yet, and somehow, they knew what was coming.

I audibly roared each time I slammed the post hole digger into red Louisiana clay--tough work-- and that's when I heard them, watching from the fringes where open yard meets safety of the forest.

One voice, two, three...a hundred maybe? Who knew how many yellow finches were hidden amongst the leaves, watching my progress. Ne'er a flutter did I see, but oh the chatter as I stamped the dirt hard around the pole, as I filled the feeder with black oil sunflower seeds, as I scattered a few hand fulls over the leaves beneath it.

That afternoon, though, no one came to visit--I kept checking all throughout the evening. Dusk fell, and nothing. Disappointment.

The next morning, though, I looked out the window to see the ground alive with dozens of finches having breakfast in the leaves. Dozens more hopped around the feeder box as more flew in and out, depending on whether the bright red Cardinal was coming or leaving. And the air--oh, the air--was filled with the sound of music, different tongues coming together in song.

Almost invisible to those focused on the "look at me" zipping around of the little birds, off to the side, you'll find the morning dove. They've been coming since the weekend, always in multiples of two, always trying not to be seen. I think we're up to six of them now, but you wouldn't know by listening. They are the quiet ones, not saying much to contribute to the boisterous conversation of the little ones.

With a day of inclement weather and a thermometer that didn't go above the freezing mark, today's feeder was busier than ever. By afternoon, though, the finches had gone to batten down the hatches for the night. Even then, the dove stayed, quietly patrolling the flower bed, searching for delectable leftovers.

These two always come together and always leave together (usually when I startle them). Funny how even animals know what it takes to have a successful relationship with someone--spending time together.

From behind the glass door, I stood and watched.

For several minutes, one of the dove just sat there, not moving, feathers fluffed out for warmth. What was he doing? Surely there was a better place to keep warm than a middle of a tree-less field on a blustery day? His partner was a few feet away, active--pecking, eating, pecking, walking, pecking. Yet, he just sat.

And then I realized--he's waiting for her. Freezing his fuzzy tail off, just waiting for her to have her fill of seed before they fly home together.

Such a beautiful image of devotion, of commitment.

God's creation is just so beautiful.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Public Displays of Affection

A mother is not supposed to love one child more than another. To say or think such a thing just sounds, well, unmotherly. A different love might be expected, yet not a greater or lesser portion.

But what about a child loving a mother less?

This winter has forced the children and me inside for longer stretches than any of us finds thrilling. In fact, the three of them interacting with each other and with me has been an exercise in testing my sanity and patience, for sure. But, it's also shown me how different the twins interact with me than did their older brother at the same age.

I never understood before how different twins are from a single-born child. They play well with each other, look out for each other, understand each other, share way too much with each other. It's amazing how the older they grow, the closer knit they become.

And I wonder if since they have each other to love and love them in return so completely, do they really love me less than my firstborn or any other single-born child would? Or maybe it has to do with me having to split my attention three ways instead of one.

I don't know the answer. Yet, any way you add it up, they don't demonstrate their love to me as much as my first...and we're a pretty demonstrative family.

Wyatt still clings to my arms, legs, waist, covering my cheeks with dozens of kisses in a row while "I love you, mommy" rolls easily off his tongue. He reaches up, unprompted to place his hand in mine as we walk through the mall. He comes and sits in my lap, wrapping arms around my neck and just pausing there for a long moment.

I can almost feel my heart warming and beating slower as we read books together and I enjoy the comfort of my cheek against the top of his head.

The twins are a different story. Sure, they're half his age and are understandably less able to verbalize their emotions, but I wonder if they'll ever be this demonstrative with their love.

Right now, my hugs from them are pretty much confined to times when someone is physically or emotionally injured, and "I love you's" are always prompted or parroted back. Snuggles are short-lived and (usually) are the result of jealousy because someone else wanted mommy's lap.

As a mother, I spend much of my days pouring myself into those three little vessels, striving to show them what real love is by being a Christlike servant for my family, all the while growing to love them more, myself, with each passing season.

If they only knew how much any little demonstration of that love uplifts their mama after a day in the trenches.

Tomorrow, I'll start again, striving once more to show all three of them how to love and be loved...and hope the twins catch on before the day when public displays of affection aren't cool anymore.