A Thimbleful of Steadfastness

I've been in a trial of late. The kind where my old nemesis anxiety sets up camp and tries to take over, and the inside of my own head becomes the battleground.

And then, in addition to the trial itself, there arrives the guilt over the stickiness of the worried thoughts. When, I wonder, will I be a giant of the faith, the woman who roars with the confidence of a victory already won? I've walked with God for so long. So very long. Shouldn't that faith just show up by now?

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

WELL, then, there is no chance of perfect peace for me, because "steadfast"? My mind is the opposite of steadfast. It is withering and weak. How in a million years might I summon up a helping of "steadfast"? I can't even hear the Still, Small Voice through the chatter. But then, in a brief moment, there it is:

Steadfastness isn't necessarily a gleaming battle sword. Sometimes it's a tiny little pathway of baby steps.

Baby steps of steadfastness.

Microscopic decisions that in this moment, this millisecond, I choose to trust that the Author of the Universe is who He says He is, and He holds me and walks beside and before me.

And if (when) the doubt rushes back in, I take another baby step of steadfastness.

In this second I choose to trust.

Pause. Doubt.

And then in this second, I choose to trust.

Again.

In this second, I choose to trust.

Trusting–really trusting–is not a spiritual medal that magically gets pinned on me after a lifetime of having it figured out. I do not have to grab my own bootstraps and hoist myself onto a spiritual pedestal.

I do not need the courage of a lion. I only need a thimbleful of steadfastness, just enough to take a deep breath and grab the Hand being offered me.

In this second, I choose to trust.

 

Mommy

I was first called "Mommy" on my 28th birthday. I had already been a mother for over three years, but my oldest child had a moderate speech delay that kept him on the toddlerish "ma-ma" longer than is probably typical. But on that day, my birthday, my preschooler suddently piped up with a heartfelt "Mommy!" What an amazing birthday gift, I thought to myself. I was relieved at his improving speech patterns, of course, but more than that, I felt I had joined a revered club. I was somebody's mommy.

Boy, was I ever.

That was August of 2000. In addition to my "mommy"-saying preschooler, I had a lightning-fast 18-month old toddler who never met a surface he didn't try to jump off of. When I wasn't wrangling him off the furniture, I was dashing to the bathroom, sick as could be from the third little person growing in my belly.

I built spectacular Thomas the Tank Engine tracks. I could change a diaper in the dark in under 30 seconds. I could nurse a baby in a moving car without ever unbuckling him (don't ask). I went to playgroups, library story times, and I was never more than three feet from a box of wet wipes.

I was Mommy.

I wonder how many times I heard that word? Mommy, I'm scared. Mommy, I'm hurt. Mommy, he hit me. Mommy, it's my turn. Mommy, what's that? Mommy, how does it work? Mommy, I'm hungry. Mommy, I want that. Mommy, I don't want that. Can I, Mommy, please, please, please, pleeeeease? Mommy, watch this. Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy.

Mommy.

It was beautiful to me, most of the time, except on the exhausting days when I wished everybody could develop laryngitis all at once. I could hear it and know instantly who was saying it, what he needed, and precisely where in the house he could be found.

Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy. Hubs and I would hear it from the backseat on long car trips. He would look at me in amazement. "Do they always say your name that much?" he asked. I nodded.

And then, shockingly, just around the time the firstborn suddenly shifted to "Mom", the surprise fourth child arrived to add her voice.

Mommy, mommy, mommy. It was my music. My theme song. The soundtrack of a season that has followed me until this, the approaching summer of my 41st birthday.

"I need to ask you something," my youngest child said to me last week. She was very serious. I sat down.

"I think I'm one of the last of the second graders to say 'mommy'," she explained. She paused pensively. "Would you mind if I just called you 'mom' now?"

It is touching to me that she would ask. I guess she needed to make it official, with a pronouncement. She's her mother's daughter, after all.

I smiled and shrugged. "Call me whatever you want," I told her. "I'll come running."

She kissed me and hopped up, off to the next thing. But I sat for a second more, mentally placing a bookend. I guess that's that.

It's funny how the little things are sometimes so big. It's just a name, a word I've heard so many thousands of times it's a wonder I could hear it at all. But that's the job, isn't it? We are what they need us to be, and their name for us reflects that.

Call me whatever you want. I'll come running.

Thank you for my sweet mommy years, kids. Thank you for letting me love you and comfort you like only a mommy can. Thank you for growing up into people who can cut their own meat and wipe their own nose.

I love these days.

(Is This Thing Still On?)

Well, hello there, Internetland.

I'm thinking about blogging again. (There. I said it.) After a long and much-needed absence from this place, I feel a nudge back. Mostly from my kids, who say they enjoy my writing (which may just be a really nice way to say that if I am inundating the Internet with my words, perhaps I won't have enough left over to tell them to remind them to feed the dog/take out the trash/write a thank-you note/finish your algebra.) But their words have touched me. Maybe it's time.

When friends have asked why I gave up blogging, I told them that the book-writing experience used up all my words. And truly, that was the most daunting thing I've ever done. But there was more to it than that, though I'm not sure I can explain it very well. I just felt personally overwhelmed by the "noise" of the Internet. There was just SO MUCH STUFF out there–much of it really good and worth reading/watching/trying. The truth is that I think women (and I'm preaching to myself here) probably need to get themselves off the Internet and sit face-to-face with the real people in their lives–their families and friends, as well as the friends that aren't friends yet but might be if we could just get ourselves out from behind the computer. If I kept plugging along at my own little corner of Internetland, was I just making more noise? Was I part of the problem? Maybe. I'm still not sure.

I'm willing to try it–to see if blogging can be done with a little (lot) more balance than I did it the last time. Maybe I can even chronicle the journey. The only things I've written for the last two years have been checks, so please bear with me while I shake off the dust.

But where to start? I gave some thought to tossing out "Rocks In My Dryer" altogether and start with something new, to reflect this new season of writing and life. I mean, technically, (and it kind of rips my heart out to say this), there aren't rocks in my dryer anymore. There are ink pens in my dryer, as well as car keys (mercy!), notes from teenage girls (oh great, DEEP mercy!), dollar bills, and (on one particularly bad day) an iPod, but rarely any rocks. I'm more or less out of the kids-with-rocks-stuffed-in-their-pockets season of parenting. I have mixed feelings about this (mostly good, but let's go into that another day). But after some thought, I decided I couldn't quite let go of "Rocks In My Dryer"–it feels like part of the family. And I feel like there's some big, metaphorical significance to the phrase, but I haven't had enough caffeine this morning to find it.

Anyway, here's a little snapshot of where life has landed me since the last time I wrote.

I'm still plugging along in suburban Oklahoma. We moved to a new house nearly three years ago, to an elbow-room spot pretty far out of town. We love our new(-ish) place, though adapting to life in the "country" has been a little challenging for me at times. (I have to use those quotation
marks. When I say we "live in the country" Hubs looks at me like I'm crazy. We're still nine minutes to a Wal Mart, but we're 20 minutes to a TJ Maxx, so I'm practically a frontiersman.)

My kids are so grown up I just don't even know what to make of it. When I started this blog, my little Corrie was a baby; now she's a second grader. Adam, my firstborn, is going to be 16 this summer. He's six feet tall and 115 pounds, which means my part-time job has been trying to find pants that fit him. Stephen is my 14-year-old brilliant soccer star (I am not biased AT ALL), and my little Joseph is the opposite of little. He's nearly 12, and he is built like a linebacker (with a heart so tender it could melt stone).
 
OH, those kids. I love 'em. I love them so much I can't see straight, and let me tell you that parenting teenagers is my favorite thing I've ever done (more on that later; in the meantime, you sweet young mommas, don't believe all the horror stories.)

And, of course, there's Hubs. More of a keeper now than ever. This summer I will have officially been with that man for over half my life, and it just gets better and better. Toby the Dog is still around, too. He grows increasingly irrational with age, which means he and I are on the SAME PAGE.

And that's that. More importantly (in the unlikely even that anyone sees this blog post) how are YOU? I really want to know.

  

Sharing Sick

I really don't have time to get sick. And while I don't consider myself a germophobe, I'm extra careful this time of year–hand sanitizer, extra handwashing, etc. There are things to be done around here, and five days in bed with the flu just won't cut it.

Unless.

Unless my baby daughter (who is now eight and most definitely not a baby, but when her face is flushed with fever she is my baby) gets sick. Really sick–high fever with a deep and rattly cough. Hubs and the brothers left town with my blessing to go to a already-scheduled family celebration in Arkansas. So my girl and I set up camp in the living room with an air mattress, Gatorade, Motrin, and a towering stack of Barbie DVDs.

We turned off all the lights but the Christmas tree, and we lay in our little sick camp. Her damp head was on my chest, our arms wrapped around each other. I could hear and feel the little rasp in her chest with each breath, and the thought occurred to me–only briefly–that whatever nasty germs were making my girl miserable were almost certainly working their way right into me with each breath of hers. (And do they really look like the horrid creatures in the Mucinex ads? I am certain they must.)

And not only do I not mind the intrusion, I welcome it. Sure, it would be convenient to stay healthy so I can care for her better, but I'd manage. And I know, rationally, that if I take her sickness into me it won't lessen her own symptoms.

But she's miserable. And there is something in me, something that loves her so completely and profoundly and wants to take her misery onto myself. To let her hear my own rattly coughs so she'll know that I understand hers. To put on what ails her and share in her suffering.

In this season when we tiptoe a little closer to the Baby in the manger, when we celebrate His humanity, and ask ourselves why, how, could the God of the universe send salvation into a smelly stable and the arms of a frightened girl, I'm struck, suddenly, that He simply heard the rattle of sin in me. He knew the hurt I'd face. And because He's a Father who loves so completely and profoundly, He stepped in to take my misery on Himself. He let me see His own suffering so I'd know He understands mine.

My analogy starts unraveling there, though. If I get the flu, then there's just two of us with the flu. When He took on what ails me, what ails all of us, He started walking us toward a cure. Sometimes it feels like a long walk, and it doesn't happen overnight. There are still setbacks and valleys, some of them horrible. But we don't walk alone anymore. We walk with a Healer, a Victor, a Teacher, and a Guide–and a Father, who heard His child suffering and stepped in to fix it, because, unlike me, He really could.

Cold, Cold, Cold

I thought it might be a really creative idea to write a blog post about The Blizzard Of 2011, since I’m sure this notion hadn’t occurred to any of the other 100 million Americans affected by the storm.

First, I interject the disclaimer that yes, all you people up north, I know that you aren’t intimidated by snow and you think it’s silly that we Southerners shut down our world for a little dusting. Lest you doubt our hardiness, let me remind you that we’re the same people who stand on our front porches and videotape tornadoes. So there. Anyway, this wasn’t exactly a dusting. Our region had the highest recorded daily snowfall ever–the local newspaper actually decided to close down for the first time in over a century. The mail isn’t running, the doctors’ offices are locked up, many highways are shut down entirely.

Basically, it’s a lot of snow, dumped on a bunch of people who don’t understand snow. To give you an idea of the depth of it, here are my two youngest playing in our backyard snow drifts (that’s the nine-year-old on the left):

IMG_1027
Thankfully, we had warning of the storm that the media dubbed Snowmaggedon, SnOMG, Snowpocalypse, etc. etc. All day Monday, our radios and telelvisions pinged and blinked and scrolled with warnings that this was The Big One. We love our Oklahoma weathercasters–I guess you tend to bond with people whose voices you hear over the radio while huddled in tornado shelters–they may bring a little drama along for the ride, but they keep us safe!

Thus armed with knowledge, I stocked us up on all the necessary items: peanut butter, cereal, canned goods, toilet paper, cookie dough, and Funyuns. We have made five (so far) batches of snow ice cream (using this recipe–SO delicious). I have made banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, and Pioneer Woman’s apple dumplings. My parents ventured out in their four-wheel-drive SUV to bring us deep dish pizza.

To summarize, we’ve gained 897 pounds.

In the three percent of our day when we’re not eating, we’ve done the following:

  • Worked on my son’s insect collection, due in a few weeks. There is a gigantic dead cricket on my dining room table at this very moment. Want to come over for dinner?
  • Caught up on American Idol on the DVR. I will confess that I mourned the loss of Simon Cowell for the first couple of episodes, but the new judges are slowly growing on me. Is it just me, or does it seem like Randy is being a little meaner this season, perhaps trying to fill Simon’s shoes? C’mon, Dawg, play nice.
  • Laughed at our little dog, who is so puzzled by the snow. Three-foot snow drifts are confusing when you’re only 18 inches tall.
  • Managed to help my son get over some trouble he was having with fractions. 
  • Finally understood fractions, myself. It only took three decades.
  • Brought down the Thomas the Tank Engine toys from the attic. My six-year-old daughter plays with them, though not at all like her big brothers once did. There is no racing or colliding–instead, she lines them up and has them communicate at length about the significance of their relationships, and why are you sitting next to him? and I wanted to marry you! and your paint is a really pretty color! Oh, how I enjoy being a girl.
  • Stayed glued to the TV coverage of the crisis in Egypt–even the big kids are fascinated at what’s going on. Praying for the people there.
  • Become a little grumbly and cross with each other. At one point today, after some general shouting and shoving, the exasperated nine-year-old hollered, “THIS FAMILY IS JUST LIKE EGYPT!” *Sigh*.

Since I know that probably at least half of you are similarly snowbound, how are you hanging in there? We are bored and lonely and a little pathetic, so tell us all your funny snow stories. Or tell us that you, too, are thinking of renting a dog sled so you can go to the store for milk.

Aaaaand…DONE.

In February, Hubs and I started remodeling our master bathroom.

More accurately, I should say that in February, Hubs and I casually wondered what was under the wallpaper, so we peeled a corner. Which revealed damaged drywall. Which revealed a roof leak. Which revealed the need to scrape popcorn from the ceiling. Which meant we might as well DO THE WHOLE BLASTED THING. (Ah, sweet togetherness.)

Four months, a few tears, some sore muscles and maybe a teeny-tiny argument or two (*cough*) later, and we are finished. And we got just exactly the look we wanted.

But first, a "before" shot (these were the photos I took after my paper-bagging-walls experiment, which ultimately worked out okay, but not great. It was pretty much intended to be a short-term solution to buy us some time):

 
Oldbath

Oooo, it's dark in there, isn't? I feel like I need to put on a headlamp to do anything. Here's the new version:

 
Masterbath1

Ah, sunshine!

Another "before" shot, of the tub area:

 
Oldbath2

Love this new version MUCH better (and we saved skads of money by using beadboard instead of tile as the tub surround):

 
Masterbath3

(And by the way, yes, it's waterproof. We followed the advice of an issue of This Old House magazine and silicon-caulked the fire of that baby, inside and outside the beadboard.)

I don't have a "before" shot of the old closet located right behind that tub. Suffice it to say that it was great storage space, but the closet door was always opening up into traffic flow and driving us nuts. So we took the door off entirely and made it open shelving:

 
Masterbath2

Look at those tidy shelves! DISCLAIMER: I have never lived a day in my life with my closets looking like that–this is just the staged version (more on that in a minute). Normally, you'd see mis-matched towels folded by a five-year-old, multiple expired bottles of Maalox, and three or four knee braces. But this looks much nicer, no?

(Originally I planned to put up a white shower curtain with black grommets over that closet space. But I love the openness so much I've left it like that.)

Last shots…here's a "before" of the toilet area:

 
Oldbath3

….and AFTER:

 
Masterbath4

One last thing, because I seriously need some kudos for this one: For the first (and, I might add, last) time in my life, I painted the insides of the cabinets to make them spiffy:

 
Masterbath5

Isn't that pretty? It's kind of a shame to fill it up with toilet paper and band-aids after all that work.

So ANYWAY, the reason for all the staging is that we finished this bathroom on a Thursday and (oh, Irony, you pesky old friend) on the next Friday, we moved out. Vacated. Gone. We'd known a move was likely imminent for us, and we redid the bathroom with resale value in mind. But we didn't realize it would be quite THAT quick. So now we're gone, hoping that all the people walking through our on-the-market house are enjoying it, since we, um, never quite did.

(Speaking of which, does anybody want to buy my house?)

(P.S.  The paint color of the walls is Sherwin Williams "Sleepy Blue", and the cabinets are painted Valspar "Dark Kettle Black".)