Uncharted Monotony

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Four years ago last week, we brought a little five pound, five week old baby home to live with us.  I remember being terrified the entire first 24 hours she was home. My husband and I took turns sitting up with her overnight that first night.  I think we stayed up partially because she was restless and fussy, but partially because we were afraid to fall asleep. It seems funny now, it wasn’t like she was going to raid the refrigerator or draw on the wall or use scissors unsupervised (all activities she has since indulged in).  But there was this incredibly fragile human in our house now and all the territory was uncharted and a bit scary.

Last week, I handed this same little girl a five dollar bill, a handwritten note requesting a loaf of bread, gave her instructions to wait in line and be polite, and sent her into a bakery by herself.  At first, she wondered out loud who would open the door for her.  I reminded her she usually opens the door for me.  Then, she placated herself with the idea that some Good Samaritan would smile upon her and kindly open the door.  And with that happy thought, off she ran.  She returned a few minutes later with a loaf of bread tucked under her arm, change in her pocket, and a humungous smile on her face. The note returned with her, carrying  a message back that she had been very polite.

Everyone tells me that time goes so fast. I don’t need their reminders, but I don’t mind them either.  Days and weeks and years repeat over and over. These are probably some of the happiest days of my life, I tell myself.  It is sad to me that these happy days are so short, but I am grateful for their presence at all.  Some days the overwhelming feeling that I carried that first night, an undercurrent of excitement and anxiety about the future, making me catch my breath, comes back.  I watch as the days back away off of the calendar. I watch as the children grow taller, older, and more independent. I wonder what they will be like when they are grown. But then I stop myself before that thought is fully formed.  I want each day to be here, now, not the future.  Never before have I wanted to future to stall more than now.  Nor do I wish to dream about the future I am not promised.  It is easy to dream as a child.  It is with greater caution that an adult dreams.

Each month and year repeats. Each one sends us deeper  into uncharted territory as parents, as our children grow, as children of God. We live the same months over and over again each year, marking off the same holidays, rituals, and every days.  But each day is unique and different. As a Creator and Father, God has made each story and path and day new.  We exist in His image, but individually created for unique purposes.  I love how Chesterton puts it in Orthodoxy. “But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. ”   Days repeat themselves. The Cross remains the same. The Heavenly Father never changes. But, His creativity and that of His world is boundless, His grace is unending, every day.

My children grow, as children have since time began.  It is how a life lives.  Each life is different.  Each stage is unknown.  Each path is uncertain.  But what is certain is the promise that God’s mercies are new each morning.  That He renews His mercies daily.  While our salvation is fixed and firm, it is worked out continually.  I love this tension that occurs, most visibly paralleled, when one loves a child.  They are born at a fixed point in time.  The love we have for them continues on and renews over and over.

Time goes fast and we “do it again” every day.  The uncharted roads and paths are the chances for God to prove His faithful care to us.  He gives us new stages that burrow into the repeated months.  And just like the days when we send our children into unfamiliar territory and watch over them carefully and with pride, so He does the same for us.

The days bring new challenges and twists.  But there is a constant Father who delights in watching His children grow and thrive, who sits up at night to make sure their needs are met.  That is a fixed joy that does not change. 

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If I Have to Repeat Myself

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“Stop it, get down, take that out of your mouth, don’t blow bubbles with your milk, stop climbing on that, take the string off of your neck, stand still, sit still, talk quietly, don’t stare, please don’t eat dirt, don’t pick up the baby…”

“Yes, of course you can have a snack, yes, I am getting your snack, honey I am making your lunch right now, I promised we would have lunch, get out of the refrigerator, yes, here is your lunch now….”

“Sweetie, there are no monsters in our house. No, none. The shadows don’t have to scare you, its just light reflecting in a funny way. There are not spiders in the bed, I promise. No, no monsters outside either. Yes, of course you are safe. You never have to be afraid with Mommy and Daddy with you.”

Do you ever feel like you repeat the same conversations about 6,237 times a day, at least seven days a week? I do. Some days, I am so tired if repeating myself that I am at a loss for words. Nothing comes out, and I’m sure I have glazed over eyes as I stare blankly at the hazy figure that is my child.

I read a piece of child development advice that noted how preschoolers need instructions repeated often. This is because they are constantly learning. Once they have learned a new piece of information, they have to figure out if the old rules apply to this newly acquired knowledge. My daughter has this need for repetition. We tell her no, yes, not now, later over and over. Night after night, we discuss monsters and shadows. I try to remember how the context of her world is so new and unknown. And as soon as I have that thought, I remember how often I forget or disregard God’s instructions and promises.

When I was young, I observed to my mom that the Israelites in the Old Testament must not have been that smart or spiritually astute because they had to learn the same lessons frequently. Naturally I later realized they were living without myriads of examples and a completed Bible. And the longer I live, the more I can identify with the doubts and disobedience of the Israelites, while having myriad examples and the Bible.

Repeatedly, God gives us good promises and instructions that help us recognize those promises. Be anxious for nothing, but make your requests to God with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). Do not be anxious about your life, God will provide what you need (Matthew 6:25). Those who trust in the Lord cannot be moved (Psalm 125:1). Fear not, I have redeemed you, you are mine (Isaiah 43:1). There is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1). The same promises and instructions are given from the beginning of time to the end of the Bible.

Why did God give us the command to take part in Communion?   I Corinthians 11:24     “ And when He had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’”   Because He knows we are forgetful children. And like Israel had celebrations multiple times a year to remember God’s care, we have multiple times to remember His salvation and goodness. Because every time something new and scary enters our periphery, we tend to forget His promises. We take a new job, we move to a new country, we have a new baby, we suffer loss, we undergo change, and stress and we have to learn again that God’s unchanging Word always applies. A new day dawns and my child figures out how to peel a banana and suddenly she doesn’t think I need to fix her meals for her any longer. But I am still there to buy bananas and make sure she doesn’t fall off the chair reaching them. Our lives may change, but God’s salvation, promises, and sustaining care does not.

We take Communion to remember the Cross. We attend church remember God’s grace in saving us. We read His word to refresh our wonder in His redemption plan. We grow and learn, stumble and fall, question and weep, but God will always be there to repeat His love, to remind us of His promises, to uphold His saving care for us.   The blessing of repeating ourselves to little ones is that in doing so, we have a tangible reminder that God does the same thing for us patiently and lovingly.

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(This post was originally found at Domestic Kingdom. Since it was posted, Gloria Furman has moved her writing home to
gloriafurman.com)

Good From Above

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Day light savings time, ensuing sleep deprivation, and the full fury of age four hit all at one time. There were lots of tears. There were multitudinous moments of whining, full blown freaking out, and complete and utter meltdowns from mother and child. These fun hours were embellished by a climbing, curious, and slightly mischievous, elfish toddler. Suddenly, the child who knew how to do everything for herself, by herself, an hour ago, had reverted into whole hearted helplessness and needed her mother to assist her with the very acts of inhalation and exhalation. The toddler, on the other hand, who last hour was a sweet cuddly baby, ready to be held and powdered and waited upon, was transformed into a thrashing and screaming monster of independence, full of insolent capabilities, who would turn and breath fire toward the hand that dared reach out with the slightest hint of helpfulness.

 

It was not a good week.

 

By the end of the week, I was convinced that my child would never learn to read, that she will never eat a vegetable, she may wear Depends to college (if by some miracle she learns her alphabet in order and manages to be accepted into an academic institution), and that my lack of patience was stacking up quite a large future therapy bill.

 

Then, thanks to the wonders of social media, news flashed across my phone screen that I really did not want to see. It did not affect me directly and there was no tragedy to my family. Social media undergoes much criticism, but regardless of our taste for it, we are immediately under the directives to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. So that day, I grieved for those who were grieving.

 

There are days when I think it is pure nonsense for me to prattle on about God being good as I watch my two beautiful children. It seems trite some days to write words about how He creates life and beauty in a perfect, ordained way, demonstrated by how He calls us to Himself, in His own family unit. Not because I doubt His goodness or because I am having a hard week, but exactly the opposite. Because my hard week paled in comparison to the anguish that some undergo. My children and I had a safe and reasonably happy day. My husband came home for dinner that night. We all spent an uneventful evening together. We kissed our babies good night and greeted them cheerily when they woke with the sunshine the next morning. Loss, and pain, and the unknown future live on far different floors from whining, and growing pains, and frantic motherhood. What do I know of suffering and hardship? (I know that I do not want to know more than I already do.)

 

When we hear bad news, our hearts break for those in pain. The oldest lie in history comes sauntering into the door. God doesn’t really want us to be happy, does He, or He wouldn’t allow bad things to happen to good people? Life shouldn’t be this hard. Circumstances should be much easier. What if suffering happens to you – what would you say about God then?  Of course these ideas are fanciful webs of torturous deceit entangling us in our own heads and impeding us from reciting the truth – that God is good – to ourselves.

 

There are times to rejoice. There are times to grieve. In the times of rejoicing, we store away the recognized blessings of God. In the times of grieving, we cling to the truth of our faith that God is good, because He has redeemed us, broken the curse of death, and given us life eternal. And in the times that are ordinary and uneventful, we rehearse to ourselves, and to those around us what we have learned in the days of clinging to the cross. We remember the works of God that are more than the sand in the sea – innumerable, unmeasureable.

 

On the days of plenty and the days of emptiness, God remains unchanged. On good days and bad, our desperate need remains, healed only by His forgiveness and adoption of us into His family.   Whether it is a time to rejoice or a time to grieve, every good and perfect gift is from our Father above. Every gift, and there are many, begins and ends with Jesus Christ. Because His work on the cross shadows over our every day, each gift has the outline of His perfection. While we struggle and ache now, the hope of realized redemption and future perfection through Christ is our hope. Because we are recipients of this promised grace, it can never be trite to say that God is good.