Life Hero

I cannot be the only person hooked on one of those color matching game apps. There’s tons: gems, candies, etc. I’m a smiling vegetable sort of girl. It’s not like I spend a ton of time on this game – at least that’s what I tell myself – but I check in pretty regularly to do some sliding and swiping. It’s satisfying, in the craziness of my life, to see things match up and disappear with ease.

There’s something I notice about myself through these games: I tend play ahead. Even as the vegetables fall, my fingers are already trying swipe my next move. And sometimes, just as I swipe that move, I see something that was even better (it’s even more annoying when the boy points out my mistake). I’ve missed the big move that opened up from the one before, something I couldn’t foresee. My rush, my loss.

I’m learning a lot about life from my Farm Heroes.

It has drawn me to another food-based saga from the Old Testament. The Israelites, wandering in the desert, were given manna every day.

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.'” (Exodus 16:4)

They were to gather and eat only the day’s worth, storing nothing, with the exception of the Sabbath, for which they could gather one extra day. It was a test of their ability to follow God’s instructions, to make sure their lives were dependent on Him and His plan. 

The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.” (Exodus 16:17-18)

Crazy enough, when they did as instructed and measured by God’s standard, they always had enough, even if they fudged a little in their gathering process. God made allowances for their human tendencies and corrected them with grace.

Deliberate disobedience did not meet such understanding.

“Some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.” (Exodus 16:20)

Looking ahead is one thing, fudging and faltering and being generally human similar. God knows we may mess up in our follow-through, and thankfully He’s full of grace. But when we choose to ignore His instructions, we risk ruining tomorrow. I’m struck by how a beautiful gift is spoiled by moving even a moment ahead without God’s blessing, and I wonder why I’m so blasé about seeking Him even in the littlest things. Do I believe He will say no? Most of the time, when I seek Him, I already know His answers. They are often aligned with my heart, thankfully. It’s the act of seeking His blessing that seems critical, that moment of just bowing my head and remember who knows more.

In Farm Heroes, most of the times my moves stay the same, though sometimes there is one I would have missed. Still, would it kill me to be more patient, and to practice that patience with the One whom it matters the most? Because a missed move is nothing; a miss-step from God is everything.

So my question is, how careful am I to practice live by daily bread, checking my schedule’s rations with the One most capable of managing them? How could I make it more of a practice to live by daily bread, and what difference could that make for a life lived light?

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The Journey Begins

When I was sixteen years old, my sister and I went skydiving. I’m not sure what would possibly possess my parents to let their only chldren jump out of an airplane at the only facility in California willing to break the law (I was underage), but I’m tremndousy grateful for their awesomness. It was a dream for both my sister and I.

And yet, as we reached our jump altitude, a sudden and understandable certainty arose: I will not be jumping out of this plane. I analyzed my options with surprising calmness. I will tell them I cannot jump. I will unstrap myself. They will fly me back down. That’s all there is to it. Despite my dream, my desparation to dive, when faced with an open door and the ground SO FAR BELOW, I was satisfied right where I was.

There was, however, that dream still stirring inside. Before I could say anything, my instructor, strapped to my back, began issuing simple and clear directions in my ear. They seemed so straightforward that even in my deer-in-the-headlights fear, I could follow them. That dream wanted to follow them. Move this way. Now that way. One foot on the ledge. Lean forward. And then:

WHOOSH.

I burst out into the open space below the plane with stomach dropping gravitational pull. We were in freefall for a solid minute before he pulled the cord, after which time we drifted in absolute silence to a rough but solid landing. There are no words to express what those five minutes were like, but the fact that twenty years later I can still see the vast landscape spread before me, hear the wind roaring in my ears, feel the force of my descent whipping around me should say something about how profound the experience was.

I’ve restarted this post so many times that I’ve lost count. I’m not really sure what to say. For a year and a half I have set all personal writing aside. Truth be told, most of my personal projects have moved to the back burner. Instead, I’ve poured myself into my famiily and my job, with really positive results. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be, and even if that’s a really challenging place, it feels good to be there. 

But there’s also been a stirring in my heart to return to writing. It was truly one of the great loves of my life, and while there were some really valid reasons I set it aside, but I am realizing that the two biggest may have been weakness and fear.

Weakness and fear are not of God. They are keeping me from what God has for me.

The thing is, I’m satisfied with what God has given me. I love my family, my job, my life. I love my friends and my chuch and my community. So when God has whispered,”There is more,” I have honestly not been tempted, and He, to His infinite credit, is not going to make me. But I’m coming to see this not as a polite no-thank-you but a trade. I am trading a God-sized gift/dream for satisfaction.

That’s not actually satisfying.

I think about what I would have missed if I had been satisfied inside that plane, if I had let my weakness and fear convince me to trade that satisfaction for those five amazing minutes. 

What am I missing out on now? And for what? Is it really worth it?

I don’t know what to do, but I know I don’t want to waste any more time being satisfied. I have an instructor more powerful than anyone else ever, a conviction that He has something waiting for me, and the willingness to take one step at a time.

The journey begins.

Filling the pool

My parents just sold my childhood home. Since I was eighteen months old when they bought it, I don’t remember any other house. As I drove away for the last time, I realized that I would never walk in that front door anymore, never swim in that pool, never have breakfast at that table or watch tv in that family room–the places where I spent my entire life until I left for college, the places I still called home long after I’d made another. I felt like I needed to grab all those memories as though they were bubbles, bent on bursting into nothingness. and ironically, these bubbles had already burst ages ago. How to catch them now?

And then I realized: I already had.

As I dug into my past, I was surprised what I came up with. Holding my cat in the living room, crying over a boy. Kissing a different boy in the pool. Kissing the right boy in that family room, the boy who would become my husband. Playing video games on the floor with my mom. Playing on the stairs with my sister. Playing by myself with a little Lego animal family. Moment after moment, all based in that house, the backdrop of my childhood.

I thought they were gone, those moments, because they burst. All moments burst. But they collect as well. The pool of our memories is deep, and surprisingly tight. No, I don’t remember it all. But there was considerable comfort in how much I could remember, even twenty-five or thirty years later.

I took my sweet ones to Disneyland a few weeks ago, just me and them. In all the craziness of summer crowds, with only one adult for two children, we flitted through our day with surprising ease. It was amazing, just spending time creating memories with them. I meant to come home and record all those memories–squeezing into a single car on Buzz Lightyear or getting soaked by a stuck parade float while holding a less-than-thrilled K. The feeling of their warm little hands still seeking mine out,  an inseparable row of three.

Meant to record them, but didn’t.

I’ve accepted the fact that this season of my life is messy, busy, hectic. God has packed it full right now, and it therefore lacks the simplicity that I admire in some other people’s lives. But this is our road, and I praise Jesus for the blessing that it is. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Still, between end of school activities and M’s birthday party and our summer vacation, the craziness reached a new level, and with that came the return of anxiety over the weight of the carpe diem battle cry of motherhood–that we should be recognizing all those little moments and appreciating them as they float past us. We leap for one and it floats, pops, slips right past. Even if we grab one, we’ve missed three in the process.

But they’re still there. Just because we didn’t necessarily appreciate it at the time doesn’t mean we lived it any less. Sometimes the whirlwind is just part of the experience, instead of a hindrance to it.

I’m all for slowing down and enjoying life. I’m the one who waits patiently while my kids read every last sign in the Tarzan treehouse, or who builds Lego creations for (what feels like) hours on end. But there’s also joy in the frenzy, and I just because I can’t appreciate now doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it later.

Take a deep breath. Yes, they are growing up before your eyes. Yes, life is whipping past you every second. But that’s okay. You’re growing and whipping along with it. Praise God for constructing us so capably, for giving us not just life abundant, but the ability to enjoy it both now and in the future. God promises that “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). That brimming-full pool of memories will be all the more refreshing when we get a chance to really swim.

Hello Kitty is harder to let go

I donated K’s first bike today. It was a Hello Kitty bike–I had to drive to Temecula to get it, it was so popular. No wonder, since it had streamers on the handlebars and a baby seat on the back. She learned to ride without training wheels on that bike. I took it from the car, picturing that beautiful little thing riding furiously, a wide-as-a-rainbow grin stretched upon her face. My eyes caught the little purple label still attached–one of her baby labels, repurposed for protection on preschool bike day. She was a baby, then a preschooler with a baby-seat-sporting training bike, and now she has outgrown it all, and it’s going into a bin with our George Foreman grill, the biker-girls bike seat, and a bag of old clothes.

I wept.

As much as I try to understand and appreciate seasonality, my heart still aches as the seasons shift. I love that she’s growing, reading, riding her brother’s old bike. I love that she calls me her buddy now, that she has become my cooking companion. But even Jesus wept (John 11:35) at this world, at the impossible gap between the temporal nature of earth and the eternity for which we were meant. Oh yes, every one of those aches makes me remember that we are not meant for this world, with its rapid passing of time. I could just as easily pine for any of those discarded items, they are tied with memories of time past.

Instead, I think about that verse, the shortest verse in the bible, and the power within it. We can be sad, too, even as Jesus was sad. We can mourn those losses. And then we can remember what they point us to, and praise Jesus that someday, there will be no more letting go.

Leaving the hood

I recently repainted the kids’ bathroom, and in doing so I took down the hooded towels. The hoods are too small for their heads, the towels too short for their bodies. They haven’t used them in ages, except to wipe the floor during excessive water play.

All washed up, I folded them carefully: lion and duck, which came with their own puppet washcloths. How those puppets washcloths were played with! Then frog, the least popular. Kids who couldn’t pick a towel-pal often ended up with frog. And Ellie, the pink cat. She was named Ellie after our friends’ real cat, who is not pink but was so popular with Baby K. Ellie once had a bow, which I sewed on several times before finally giving up.

There’s something about the tangibility of the things kids grow out of that makes me so sad. The way those hoods are too small for them makes me remember little baby heads that did fit, the way the towel wrapped around chubby baby bodies, the laughter of children pretending to be lions and ducks. When calling the pink cat Ellie provoked fits of giggles. When playing with a puppet was the highlight of the night.

Childhood seems littered with these things: strollers, diapers, training wheels, hoody towels. Things the kids outgrown, things they abandon, things I walk behind and pick up, clean up, and put away for someone else. It could be my least favorite part of my job, since it marks the passage of time and the loss that goes with it. Sometimes it is.

But it also marks growth, the development of these tiny mustard seeds into people of God:

“They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:8)

I am raising strong, beautiful children as best as I allow the Lord to guide me. They will never fail to bear fruit, their leaves will always be green. But this also means that the old fruit will nourish us and fall away, the old leaves must fall to make room for the new ones. Every toy, every towel, every little thing that falls from that tree just marks the coming of a new fruit. I rejoice that they continue to grow strong for their Lord, and that I have the privilege to touch with my hands the tangible marks of that growth, to pass them on to other tiny trees who might use them on the way to their full potential.

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.

What you get when you mix Legos and Monopoly in complete silence

My baby girl–my baby girl–started kindergarten this week. She was prepared in every sense of the word, having seen her brother start two years earlier, having made friends with siblings and teachers and classmates who followed from preschool, having learned to add and read and draw on her own. M, who was not thrilled when he started kindergarten two years ago, bounced off to his class with barely a glance back. He’s in that sweet spot where the joy of being with friends outweighs the work spread around it.

I was fine. What I mean to say is that I held together my little breaking lonely heart with positive encouragement for the kids. All of which worked remarkably well, until I came home to this:

And it hit me: the silence. Toys left in mid-play, the evidence of a summer well-spent. It was such a lovely summer, and a lovely seven years. It may have passed too quickly, with never enough time to enjoy it fully. But I know that I tried. I didn’t rush ahead, I didn’t wish for it to be over, or next, or different. If I wished, it was for time to slow or still. Instead, I enjoyed it as much as possible. Now it’s time to walk with the confidence my kids showed this week toward whatever new purposes God has planned for me. And of course, the old purposes of Lego building and Monopoly playing. Praise Jesus, for now I can have them both.