My part, His story

The boy and I have taken to reading together at night. It started out as a bribe–I’ve been bound and determined since before they were born that they will read C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, and they will love them as I have loved them. Of all the books I’ve read in my life, these have been the most loved for their combination simplicity and complexity, for the beauty of both story and prose.

M tried them and passed.

“How can you not love them?” I implored. And yet, he did not love them.

What he does love is time with me, so I made him a bargain: I would read with him for the last fifteen minutes of the day, if we could read The Chronicles…. And so we have.

(Insert parenting guilt: Perhaps I should never have stopped reading with him. Perhaps I have missed out on banking countless moments of togetherness by trading reading together for reading apart. Perhaps that time was critical and without merit lost forever. Perhaps, perhaps–the story of a parent’s life. I love that Christ is so in the moment when our flesh so desperately sticks in the past. What’s done is done, what is will be)

We are nearly at the end of the third book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and coming up to my most heart-wrenching moment in the series (spoiler alert–if you haven’t read the books, be aware!). Reepicheep, the leader of the mice, is about to set sail for the end of the world, never to return.

No matter how many times I’ve read this series–and it’s a lot–I come to this moment with my heart in my throat. Reepicheep is a strong and noble character, full of life and humor and enthusiasm. Promise. This mouse, two feet tall, is bursting with more promise than almost any other character. And here we will leave him at the end of the world, sailing away into a sea of flowers for adventures untold. This has always been his dream, his destiny, the one thing he wants more than anything else in the world.

Still, I cannot bear to part with him.

I want to hold onto him forever, find out what he might say or do at any moment, be part of his every adventure. I do not think it’s fair to be given a character that’s so incredibly lovable only to have to let him go, even if it’s his heart’s greatest desire and the logical next step in his journey.

The worst part is, he’s right next to me, and she’s sleeping in the other room.

As we’ve approached this final chapter of the book, I’m seeing for the first time how difficult the parenting road really is. We are gifted these children to guide, protect, and grow, only to have to let them continue their own journey alone. Granted, I pray that my children will always include me in their lives, but that’s not a given, nor will it be the same as the closeness we have now. We love them to the point of letting them go.

I do not want to let them go.

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.” (Deuteronomy 10:12-14)

As with the characters in a story, we become so attached to the things and people in our lives that we begin to think of the story as our own and thus subject to our own desires. The story is God’s; everything in it belongs to Him. We have our own part, and that it is to fear God, love Him, serve Him, obey Him. It is to make subject to Him all that we have, including ourselves and our children. Even if they are written to sail away to the very end of the world without us.

Holding onto anything as if it’s mine places me in direct conflict with the will of the Lord, and it prevents me from being able to completely focus on my part in the story. I can enjoy the times this part overlaps with the most amazing people, places, and ministries, but I cannot let that enjoyment become confused with ownership, because it never belonged to me in the first place. I belong to Him.

So the question is, what are you holding on to as your own, and how does that weigh you down on the road you are called to walk? How could you shift your perspective to consider it His and not yours? There’s a freedom in that, knowing that you are not responsible for the rest of the story. Leave that to the author of Creation–He’s clearly up to snuff.

The parenting guilt, it lifts as little as I consider this: walking in open-handed obedience to God allows Him to rewrite those missing moments in a way I never can. I rest in His grace; I trust in His competence; I live in His story. In His hands, what is will be good, in Narnia and now.

Ageless

M: Is J.K. Rowling still alive?
Me: Oh yeah. She just wrote a book for grown-ups.
K: But she must be really old.
Me: Actually she was pretty young when she started the Harry Potter series. I bet she’s in her forties*.
M: When did she first write them?
Me: Well, I think I was in college, like just starting. So maybe 97*?
M: Oh. 97 years ago?
Me: [silence alternating being amused and mortified] 1997. How old do you think I am?
M&K: [silence, uninterpretable–or at least I refuse to do so]

* Old as I may be, I was right on both counts: J.K. Rowling is currently 47 years old, and the first book was published in 1997. She’s somewhat of a hero in our house, given our love for Harry Potter, and obviously proves that those of us who are young (despite what our kids think) mothers are capable of some serious substance.

Unsqueezed

Back in December, I happened to come home with a book called Unsqueezed:Springing Free from Skinny Jeans, Nose Jobs, Highlights and Stilettos by Margot Starbuck. It came home via my wise and wonderful sister, after we had a couple of discussions about the difficulty of having a healthy body image in sunny Southern California. See, my sister lives in Aberdeen, Scotland, and while there are certainly body issues among all cultures, I definitely recognize a difference there versus here.

I’ve been working on my body image for quite a long time. While I credit myself with making some progress, I often feel like it’s swimming against a very strong current. Maybe I’m just more aware of the barrage of image-related messages women receive each day from friends and media alike, but it feels like I can’t go a day without hearing about someone’s workout or how many peanut butter eggs they need to work off or what a new pair of jeans would do for you. Multiple times, usually.

The book helped a bit, though it had its own share of problems. But if you’re looking for something that might give you a different point of view, you might give it a try. I took away a new understanding of what I need versus what I want, and why I might think I need what I want. Which is a great thing, truly, in a culture that always seems to be trying to fill or correct or change oneself.

One of the things Margot Starbuck writes about in the book is spending an entire year without buying herself anything, something my own sister did as well. I have great admiration for them both, but I put a different spin on it. Starting at the beginning of the year, I decided I would not rewear things from my wardrobe until I’d worn everything. Now, this doesn’t actually work in practice, because I only have so many cold weather clothes, and when I’m cold, it’s not pleasant for anyone, but I did make it until early March before I rewore anything (okay, pants excluded, because I have only a dozen bottoms in all, but they’re all pretty interchangeable anyway). And still, even a month later, I’m still wearing unworn shirts whenever possible.

It’s a crazy thing, how much this has changed my perspective. For one, I realized just how much I have. When my husband offered for me to go out a buy a few new spring things, I laughed out loud: “Are you kidding? Have you seen how many shirts I still have in there that I haven’t worn?”  For another, I think less about what I wear: “This will work for today, and then I won’t wear it again for a few months.” Spots, holes, and misfittings don’t matter quite so much when I have that perspective. Not that I want to look shabby, but it’s a long way from a little snag to shabby, when I really put my mind past the popular mantra of perfection. And then, most significantly, it spread. Suddenly, I’m realizing how much there is of everything: makeup, shoes, food, paper, books. That I have so much more than I practically use. So I’ve started using it, and internalizing how long it’s taking me, and I feel filled up in a way that’s unfamiliar but not unpleasant. Or maybe my life just feels more roomy, as if I truly was unsqueezed.

Ménage à trois

This post, like the other ones on courage, happiness, and memory, was inspired by Momalom’s Five for Ten. If you want to be inspired, too, check out the latest post here. And that latest topic? Lust.
 
I’m no relationship guru, but I couldn’t help but go where most of us go when lust gets mentioned. And since I hear it’s a common struggle–or maybe I’d just like to believe that–here goes…
 
1) lust: intense sexual desire or appetite;  uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; etc.
2) After 15 years, I sometimes have a bigger appetite for sleep, chocolate, and silence than my husband. It’s the appeal of the unfamiliar. In my world, sleep and silence are pretty unfamiliar, and you can never have too much chocolate.
3) We don’t think, given the long-term nature of our relationship, this is a good thing. But we have trouble finding the energy to make the familiar unfamiliar.
4) Therefore, we *heart* Laura Corn. I may not have the energy to be inventive at the end of the day, but I can follow instructions.
 
So there you go. Now if I could just find instructions on how to make a blushing emoticon.

Today’s Parenting Strategy: Non-parenting

Forty-five minutes into K’s nap–a very quiet, uneventful forty-five minutes–she calls me into her room. Surprised, I go in to become even more surprised. She’s still in her bed, but she’s now surrounded by about twenty different books. Naptime clearly does not mean the same thing to her as it does to me. “This book scary,” she says as she hands me Where the Wild Things Are. I’m sure there are a lot of things I probably could or should have said in this situation, but instead I took the book from her, laid it aside, and said, “Well, you don’t need to read it.” And then I walked out. I can blame this on busyness or hump day or pre-vacation distraction, but the truth is, sometimes I’d just rather avoid parenting.

Vampire detox, anyone?

And I emerge from the Twilight saga at last. It’s hard to believe how many pages of frivolous text I’ve managed to consume in the last week. And it’s painful to accept that I can never seem to read quality literature that voraciously. But it was a nice break from reality.

My only recommendation? Stop at Book 3. Because it really wasn’t worth Book 4, at least not to me. And I just hate to finish feeling like I would have been happier stopping, oh, say, 750 pages earlier.

Now bigger and better things! Er, next week. Shouldn’t everyone have the weekend off?

The Missing Message

The current bedtime (or, really, any time when we’re the least bit still) favorite is Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece. I have a love-hate relationship with Shel Silverstein (and, as an aside, have you ever seen the picture on the back of The Giving Tree? Because it’s beyond love-hate into frightening. I should know; he’s forever frozen in the photo from my 19th birthday. And yes, I was still into Silverstein at 19, so you at least know I’ve been thinking about this for awhile). Anyway, I think his books are insightful, interesting, and finely illustrated in their sparse sort of way. But they make me sad, and the message is so deep I struggle to find it sometimes.

In The Missing Piece, there’s a circle with a chink missing. Hence, the missing piece. He goes in search of the missing piece. He’s rejected. He finds pieces that are the wrong size. He finds pieces that are the right size, which are either lost or broken. Most of the book focuses on his unsuccessful quest to find his long-lost missing piece.

When he finally finds it, he discovers he can’t do any of the things he loves now that he’s “complete”. So he sets the piece down, slowly and gently, and rolls away. The message ends up being one about our own completeness, chinks and all.

But I never get to this message. I’m always stuck on the shattered broken piece, the sting of rejection in the circle’s soft apology, the forlorn missing piece left behind. I yearn to see these stories told so that I can see them as beautiful, just as I see the self-acceptance that the circle finally finds. Maybe, shy and often lonely as I am, I identify more with those stories that then one Silverstein tells.

So instead, I enjoy the fact that on the page of most rejection, only on this page, some child has taken their green crayon and scrawled across the entire page. The library “Officially noted” this defacement. But I like to believe that somewhere, some child has done what we must all do. They’ve taken the saddest moment and made it theirs in vivid color so opposite to the black and white Silverstein uses. We should all take official note of that.