Yes 

(This is really a post written in February, but not edited and posted until March.)

Somewhere in between putting a chicken into the oven to roast and hanging a white ruffly canopy from a bedroom ceiling, I was called up to active duty in the imagination draft. My role was wicked witch, evil stepmother, angered pirate, and the list goes on. I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the unofficial challenge on which I had recently embarked, and jumped into the character as best as I could manage. It can be hard to remember all of the herbs you plan to rub on a chicken when you are also supposed to be poisoning an apple or throwing a pixie prisoner into a cage. And also remember what sort of nail you need to find to hang a canopy from a slanted ceiling.

I feel like I spent most of November and December saying “no” and “wait” and “stop” to the small residents of my house. There were holiday errands to run, gifts to buy and wrap, projects to work on, last minute supplies to pick up, and food lists to think about. And then there were normal life obligations. Too many days felt like they were in constant motion, jumbled and unsettled.

I have a child who likes to live large. I want her to live large. I need to teach her limits too. We all have to learn that we don’t get everything we want immediately and other people factor into our choices as well. I think part of my “no” volley was an experiment in trying to teach self control and self containment. Every autumn as the year closes, I find myself evaluating life and the impact our daily living has on our collective life. I often have inner freak out festivals from October until January when I can delude myself into a fresh start at life. Part of this past year’s festival events was my “no” workshop.

The year started roughly with sad losses on my husband’s side of the family that had to be explained to the girls. So with a slightly conscious effort to make happy happen again, and a slightly unconscious determination to say yes, we headed into February.

I read an Instagram post from a woman who talked about her “say yes” journal she has started with her kids. Intrigued, I went to her site and fell in love with her idea. I immediately knew the thoughts and emotions she expressed. And so I made an engaged effort to play tag. I consciously played imagination duty. I gave a few choices (in perimeters). I did some suggesting of things I secretly knew I usually didn’t want to do. One day I texted my friend and said “I really don’t feel like dressing them in snowsuits and taking them sledding. They need naps and a reading lesson before we head to ballet.”

She texted back. “Just do it”

I unloaded my dishwasher and played out the schedule for the day in my mind for the fifth time. They can sleep tomorrow when my schedule was too blocked to go sledding. She will definitely learn to read next year in school. She will remember sledding. She will not remember my reading lesson, unless it is the memory of tears I’ve inflicted on her. She will not remember yet another winter afternoon nap.

We went sledding.

Joy and happiness.

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?
10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?
11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:7-12

I cannot give my children everything and that’s ok. I cannot say yes to people all the time. There are rather good reasons to say no, quite often. But in the middle of my hurry and living, I remember that my Father in Heaven has given me many good things. I see two of those good things standing in front of me, asking for things, daily. Intertwined into learning that God is good even when He says, “no” or “wait” or “trust me, I have good for you”, I want them to know we have a God who wants us to ask for things and delights to give us good.

I’m often reminded how fast these little years go by. There are already phases my oldest child has outgrown that I feel like we barely enjoyed. Sometimes reality, common sense, life, and scheduled responsibility will not let me say yes. But if I can say yes to one (not 42) extra bedtime story, to a puddle splash, to hide and seek, to an unhurried description of a story for the 16th time that week, to one extra little treat, to things that will bring the goodness of God a little clearer in focus, I want to. Because I fail to show His goodness often enough. If a few minutes from my time goes to granting reasonable requests or creating delight, I may be able to teach these little people that God wants to give them good things, even so much more than I do. Because He is the giver of the ultimate good. And that is what everything we do should show.
On saying yes:
http://www.sarahkatebranine.com/2016/01/on-beginning-say-yes-journal.html?m=1
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-power-of-saying-yes

Snow on Snow

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The snowflakes keep falling from the sky. Snow has fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow*. The sky seems to have settled into a permanent shade of chalky gray. Not a shade I would want to paint my walls, exactly, but it is a still, calm color.  The snowdrifts are feet high, not inches high.  I look up at the sky and down at the ground and straight out my windows and I see the same whitish shade.  It is punctuated only by brown tree branches and the faint color of neighborhood houses.  It is not the winter wonderland often seen in photographs, a snowy world where the trees turn white with icy sparkles. Instead, its a bit like living in a large milk carton.

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I am trying to be fine with the repetition of each white day.  There are days that feel leisurely and slow and a bit like living in a candle lit Hallmark commercial, with warm stews simmering on the stove and family gathered together.  There are other days that feel like I’ve awoken in a white walled asylum and should just don an orange jumpsuit. And find mini-jumpsuits for the small inmates.  The sameness can make me restless.

And yet, every snow fall is different.  Every snow flake has a different size and form.  Every snow storm has a different atmospheric influence and temperature.  The vast whiteness has a form.  The canvas stretching across in front of me is composed of millions of particles, all unique.

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There is something comforting about sameness. About repetition.  About eternality.

And there is something refreshing about new.  About different.  About individuality and love.

The snowflakes fall, looking the same, but they are all individual, unique, and fresh with each appearance.

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And then there is God who makes it snow, who creates these innumerable snowflakes.  Eternal, forever, the same yesterday, today, forever.  And new, merciful, loving, and creative every day. God, the one who brings the seasons, is the same at the beginning and end of each season.  Eternal God before horrific acts are done to His martyred children, and eternal God after.  The God who gives new mercy every morning, welcoming home His children waking in Heaven and giving grace to His church still on Earth.  

If Abraham had been in a snowy climate, I think God might have asked him to number the snowflakes instead of the stars in the sky in Genesis 15.  Snowflakes and stars and grass and leaves and waves and flowers and people have this repetitive nature.  It is fairly difficult (in most cases) to number them and yet every single one is different.

There is comfort in the thought that God never changes and that when mercy is extended it is never revoked.  That sameness will keep one’s mind steady in a dizzying world.  But that mercy is not just old mercy that never changes. It remains the same, but it is new every single morning.  It is fresh, renewing over and over.  It is the same and it is new.  It is the mercy that holds the souls of men and women who belong to God from the beginning of time and the mercy that lands upon men and women today.  It is the fullness of God, giving us grace upon grace, like snow upon snow.  Repeating and replenishing at the same time.

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“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” (Lamentations 3:21-25 ESV)

*paraphrased from Rossetti

The Father Younger than We

It started in the Autumn. There was a birthday in our house. A four year old’s birthday. We left babyhood behind forever, heading officially into the realm of little girl hood. She converses with me in sentences and paragraphs, flits through an imaginary world complete with “pretend friends” who interact with her, states her opinions quite decidedly, and makes observations about the world that make us laugh, make us shake our heads, and make us fully aware that she is a rapidly maturing human being.

Then I began a new hobby of pulling out gray hairs fighting their way from the depths of my hair to the surface, shouting for the world to see. Less than vanity, it bothered me because it was a sign that life was passing by, that youth is farther past me than ever before. While age is just a relative number, it is after all, a non-negotiable figure.

My birthday came at the end of the year. It is always the non-landmark birthdays that bother me. They launch me closer to the milestones and the silent, encroaching progression is worse for me than the actual reality of age. I began to feel restless, unsettled, anxious, worrying about worrying. Worrying about what the rest of life holds.

Without realizing it, worry becomes a part of our life, even when we do not recognize it as worry. It begins by hearing someone’s bad news and feeling sympathy. Sympathy turns to empathy, where we envision similar circumstances upon ourselves. We hear too many news reports in a day and our processing attempts lead to worry. In my world, the distracted nature of my current life leaves me little time to process my thoughts from beginning to end. Instead of trusting a good God, I build a collection of random facts, speculations, headlines, observations, probable health hazards, and simplified answers to childish questions about complex realities. I teach my daughter Isaiah 41:10 to help her diffuse worry about monsters in closets. I repeat it to myself to deflect fears that clamor to be heard.

I was scrolling around the other day, landing on Sally Lloyd-Jones’ blog. She had highlighted a favorite GK Chesterton quote of mine from Orthodoxy.

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. 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. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
    G K Chesterton

God is our eternal Father, who never ends. He does not begin or end. He is both older and younger than we are. He is timeless. The Creator of beauty, the author of redemption, sustainer of life, and the essence of love does not plot the harm of His Children has an eternal presence, allows us a childlike confidence in Him. He is constant, the Father of light with no shadow of turning, and yet as Chesterton says, He makes each daisy separately, the designer of creative repetition.

Stop worrying, I remind myself. Age is not a reason to worry, because our Father is in fact, younger than us, unhampered by sin’s decaying process. While day in and day out propels me closer to older age, my God is timeless, unbounded by age or the sin wearied monotony of our world. He carries the loving joy of a child and the loving mastery over every piece of life on earth.

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The Already and Not Yet of New Years

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“Do you have any resolutions for the new year?”
The text from my friend came onto my screen.
I responded with ever so slight sarcasm, giving an incredibly ridiculous list of near-impossible items (like making my kids eat vegetables and keeping my house clean)
She responded, “I said resolutions, not hopes and dreams.”
I laughed.

The reality is that it was January 1. A new year, a fresh start, a brand new beginning. A breath of fresh air, everyone resolutely typing away, sharing their own dreams with the world, giving advice for making goals, giving fool-proof tips for keeping resolutions, and even offering the elasticity of grace as a solution for the resolutions that we do not manage to keep.

My morning started with two little wiggly bodies in bed next to (and on top of) me, until they could stay still-ish and quiet no longer. The three of us left the poor father to sleep longer and slogged our way toward the kitchen, otherwise known as the Paradise of the French Press. One fell by the wayside and headed for the toys and television. One lay on the hallway floor screaming because she wasn’t Koala-baby-attached to her Koala mother. (When I say screaming, think human sacrifice equivalency.)

We managed to land on the sofa, with Curious George, a bottle, and coffee to leisurely lull us into the new resolution of being awake in this new year. Breakfast was requested. The request was deferred until coffee had been further consumed. Within a short time, graham crackers had been smuggled into the living room. The capable four year old even thoughtfully brought some for her sister, in a plastic bowl. Lovely. It was not until I went to refill my coffee that I found a few feet of graham cracker crumbs strewn across the granite counters, with the disheveled box and wrapper mangled nearby.

The next few hours went on to hold the simulation of a lake in the kitchen, mysterious trails and craters of water in the living room, messes of various forms, each one suspiciously appearing at the end of clean up from the previous, as if they had were coordinated attacks. The crowning bit of fun happened when one child needed a bath from a diaper situation. I may have inadvertently subjected her to a polar bear challenge in the bathtub with some cool water. She seized her chance for revenge by wetting my bed in the pre-diaper-attachment-phase.

My friend’s text came after this flurry of activity had occurred. There was a part of the day that felt incredibly ordinary, just full of normal messes, cleaning, frustration, and laughter, rather than a brand new start to life with no mistakes in it. Even though the calendar page flipped and the numbers shift, life continues on through toddlerhood and preschool-hood, and work and marriage, and living, day after day after day.

There is something enchanting about the idea of New Years. It is a chance to start fresh. We can determine to begin again, putting away failures and chasing perfection. But all of our determining and smart planning can end in frustration, unless we really understand why the idea of a new year is so intriguing.

A new year is a tantalizing reminder that someday all will be made new. We are a weary world, in sin and error, pining for redemption’s reality. We know that a new and glorious light has broken, but we live, waiting for the complete and whole realization of that shining light. We live in darkness and we who know God have seen a great light, already, but we have yet to see the full glory of that light.

Resolutions fascinate us because we long for the chance of redemption. But in our resolution making, we are often (not always) trying to save ourselves, to perfect ourselves. I have no problem with resolution making and determining to work toward a goal is extremely healthy, mentally and physically. But, our resolutions need the reality that redemption and perfection are God’s work, not ours. Our work is to make His redemption our anchor and to trust His perfecting to be good.

I love the turn of the year, the change of the seasons, the chance to regroup and jump into goals and press toward dreams with powerful determination. I love knowing that one day, all will actually and truly be made new. Our God will wipe every tear away, just like we wipe away tears from our children’s faces. Perfection will not be an illusion any longer. Redemption will be realized completely. That brilliant promise is what we cling to, as each day passes and each season pushes forward into our lives.