Monday, October 30, 2006

Love you again

How can one person frustrate me so much and yet fill me to overflowing with genuine love?

Joshua, my middle child, can bring me to my wit's end. (I'm trying to understand the "middle child" phenomenon - being a "baby" myself, I can't really relate though.) I think he lives on a roller coaster. He can go from the "best day ever" to the "worst day ever" in a matter of seconds. He gets in fits when he thinks the whole world is "stupid" and he hates everything. I try to reason with him, try to speak calmly, try to be rational, and all to no avail. He remains angry, and I get frustrated. At times like this, I have to rely on God to remind me that love is a choice, not a feeling. I know I am called to love my son, even when he seems unlovable. But, honestly, sometimes it's really hard.

Then there are times like this morning. The carpool had arrived and the kids were rushing around to get coats and backpacks and get out the door. I wished the kids a "Good day," and as Joshua ran out, he turned and called, "Love you!" Those departing words from him always warm my heart...enough to make me forget the frustrating moments. Within seconds, Joshua was back inside - forgot something upstairs - and as he ran back outside he called over his shoulder, "Love you again!" I sat there smiling and wondering, "How could I ever get angry with that child? He is so precious!"

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Goodbye, Cinnamon

Why do difficult things happen on Sunday mornings, right before church? I was in the bathroom getting ready, singing along with the praise CD, thinking life was grand, when Joshua came running up the stairs in tears with a nearly lifeless mouse in his hand.

The kids had gotten out of bed and were playing with their pet mice when the accident occurred. Apparently Cinnamon and Squeaker were running around on the floor when Matthew tripped over the cage and ended up sitting on it - and Cinnamon, who happened to be located underneath the cage. Elizabeth and Joshua yelled for Matthew to get up, but it was too late. By the time they rescued her, Cinnamon wasn't doing so well.

Joshua got some tissue, wrapped up his beloved, and held her until she died. He cried and needed comforting. Matthew was crying, feeling remorse for being the one who "caused" the untimely death, and needed comforting, too. I was only half ready myself, and wondering how to manage through the morning ahead. Between Brian and I, we managed to offer condolences and encourage the kids to move on with the morning.

But Joshua's mind was still with his precious Cinnamon. He had no appetite, didn't want to get dressed, didn't want to go to church, and...wondered if we could go to Petco and get a new mouse yet today. Somehow he made it past the tears, ate and got dressed, and we went to church. During WOW (Wonder of Worship - kid's church) we sang one of Joshua's favorite songs, which I thought was a nice touch from God, and he seemed to be doing OK.

So we came home and had lunch, then had a little funeral for Cinnamon. Joshua prepared a macaroni and cheese box for her casket, picked some flowers from outside, and we all stood in a circle and said nice things about her. After our eulogy, Joshua took her out back and buried her with all the other mice we've said "Goodbye" to over the past years.

Then it was time to make a trip to Petco. The choice of a new mouse was an easy one - an adorable cinnamon and white colored one with little black eyes. She's a fast little critter and we laughed as the store employee tried to catch her to put her in the box for us to take home. But, alas, she got hold of the tail and now Joshua has a new mouse.

As we were riding home Joshua declared, "This is going to be the best day ever! Well, it's bad because Cinnamon died...But..." Kids are resiliant, aren't they?

I wish I could say goodbye to hurts that quickly. Too often I stew over things that I really should just let go. It might be something someone said or did to me. It might be my own failings as a mother that get me down and cause me to grumble and mope. I wonder how many times I've failed to see the things that could make this the "best day ever" because I'm focusing on the dead thing that needs to be let go?

Is there a Cinnamon in your life to whom you need to say "Goodbye"?


Friday, October 20, 2006

That was fun!

OK, Mrs. Griffin really played up that a "real" author came in to talk with the kids. It didn't hurt that they were expecting to have a test, and instead they got to sit and ask me questions about writing my book. And the fact they know my daughter seemed to be a bonus. Some combination of these factors made the fifth graders at Windemere Park excited to have me as a guest in their classroom yesterday.

I sat in a chair and the kids gathered around me on the floor. They asked me questions which they'd written the day before: What made me decide to write a book? How did I come up with the beginning and the end? Did I use a computer, or paper and pencil? Do I want to write another one? What was it like working with an editor?... And I read a passage or two from my book. One of the classes even talked me in to singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to them. (You'll have to read Confessions of an Irritable Mother to understand the significance of that song.) At the end of each class, I gave the kids bookmarks I'd brought along. That's when the fun really began...

They took their bookmarks and lined up for my autograph. It was so cute! One little girl told me she was moving to a new school, so I wrote, "I hope you love your new school." The next little girl asked me to write a note to her, too. So I looked at her and wrote, "You have beautiful eyes." That delighted her! Several of them asked me to sign "To" them. A couple of boys just asked if they could shake my hand, and when I shook their hands they got big smiles and skipped away. These interactions were all sweet. But the thing that warmed my heart the most wasn't their response to me; it was their thoughts for their own moms.

Several of the kids were asking me how they could get a copy of the book. They said they wanted to give it to their mom. Sometimes it was in response to moms being irritable. But more often I sensed these kids really loved their mom and wanted to get her the book because they thought it would be helpful to her. So often, we think ten and eleven year old kids are pretty much only thinking about themselves (and sometimes that's true!), but these kids seemed to really love their moms and I loved seeing it. I hope somehow one of my books finds its way into the hands of these mothers, bringing them hope in their irritable moments.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I'm an Author!

When I was in high school and had to write papers, I always wished I would write something "good enough" for my teacher to pick to read to the class. I never did. Once, I was sure what I'd written would catch my teacher's eye, and the next day I waited eagerly as she read several papers to the class. Mine wasn't one of them. For a time, I resigned myself to the fact that I would simply never be "good enough."

I remember English 105, my freshman year at Western Michigan University...I finally wrote a paper good enough to be read to the class. I nearly floated back to my dorm that day, telling anyone who would listen, "My professor read my paper in class today!" And another time I had a paper returned to me with this note, "I kept a copy of your paper to use as a 'How To' example for future classes." It felt so good to be validated in my efforts. But as I've thought about what may have made the difference, I've realized it wasn't until I'd given my heart to God that my writing got noticed. Perhaps once He had a hold on me, I finally had something of worth to say.

I have now taken one more BIG step...I took delivery of my books Tuesday. This is so exciting!

And in about an hour I'm going into my daughter's fifth grade writing class to talk with the kids about the things I went through in writing my book. They are working on their own stories, and their teacher thought it would be inspiring to them to hear from a "real author." When I was in fifth grade, I don't think I was very interested in writing. Now I love it. I'm hoping I can be an encouragement to these kids and plant some seeds in a couple future authors.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

One More Thing

Whew! I just got all the kids in bed and made it downstairs. Wasn't sure that was going to happen tonight...

Our bedtime routine is for everyone to get their backpack ready for the morning, lay out school clothes, get showered and teeth brushed, and then gather for Bible time and prayer. And it almost never goes smoothly, so tonight was on par with what I expected. When we're finished praying, the kids go to their beds and Brian and I say good night to and kiss each one. Part of my saying good night involves singing a song to them, and sometimes I'm amazed at how long they can drag out choosing a song. But tonight they out-did themselves.

It started with Joshua. I talked with him a bit and then asked him what song he wanted. He said, "Oh, just one more thing. You know those juice machines like they have at school? Are there sirens that go off if someone tries to break into one?" I simply replied that I'd never heard any. "But remember when we saw that guy at school open it up? How do you think he did that?" I said he probably had a key. I just wanted to sing the song and move on. This "one more thing" was becoming more than one thing. Finally, he let me choose a song to sing, I sang, and kissed him goodnight.

Then it was Matthew's turn. I asked, "Do you want a song tonight?" And he said, "Yes, but, one thing. Do we have any live plants in the house?" (I have no idea where that question came from!) "Uh, yes, there's a flower in the kitchen." "And the bamboo plant!" Joshua chimed in. "Right. Now, about that song, Matthew?" He was being very charming, offering lots of kisses as some kind of clue to the song he wanted, but it went right over my head. I really just wanted to say good night and move on. Finally, he chose "The Matthew Song," sung to the tune of Chile's baby back ribs commercial, and I said good night.

Upon entering Elizabeth's room, I could see she had "one more thing," too. She was making some trading cards and had to tell me all about how she was going about the project. Did I like it? Did I think she would do a good job? Would this color look right? She was full of questions. I tried to encourage her that I thought she would do well. She is very creative and was putting a lot of effort into her work. Still, I was looking at the clock thinking, "How long is this good night process going to take tonight?"

And then God brought a wonderful thought to me. He never gets tired of our "one more thing." He never looks at His clock wondering when we're going to stop asking Him things, when we're going to stop wanting Him to be with us, when we're going to let Him get back to running the universe. In fact, he loves for us to ask Him things - for us to recognize we need Him. He loves to be with us and wants us to want to be with Him. And He is perfectly able to manage the universe while He is also listening to our concerns.

I love when God uses my imperfections and short comings to show me how great He is. I get tired of my kids sometimes. Do you? I get selfish sometimes and want to do my own thing, not listen to more of their questions and babbling. What about you? Even though I love my children like crazy, sometimes I just want to get away. Can you relate?

But God never tires of us. His love is perfect and He always wants to be with us. Yes, He loves us so much He was willing to suffer and die a death we deserve, not Him, so we could be with Him for eternity. And He never grows weary of our "one more thing." How wonderful is that?!

Friday, October 06, 2006

It's a book!

Last April my family and I took a trip to Chicago for spring break. Upon arriving home, our answering machine was full of messages - one of which was a last minute request for me to speak to a MOPS group. Apparently the speaker they thought they'd had lined up was never given the date of the meeting, and she had another obligation. I was available and happy to fill in. And it was clear that God was in control of the situation when many moms told me they had really needed to hear what I had to say that day. I was thrilled to see God working!

But He didn't just bring me there to speak. After the meeting I was talking with one of the mentor moms and she mentioned that she'd written a couple of books. I said, "No kidding?! I've had an interest in writing, too." We talked a little and she gave me her contact information so we could talk more later. Time went on, I thought more about writing and publishing, and eventually Christine and I connected again and she agreed to be my editor and book coach and walk me through the process of publishing a book. I remember the end of that conversation. Christine said, "You've conceived the idea. It's going to grow in you over the next several months. And in the fall you'll give birth to a book!"

It has been a wonderful journey. Christine has often referred to herself as my mid-wife and I've gained so much from her wisdom and experience. She has been invaluable to me through this "pregnancy." It's been a running joke between the two of us, that I'm having another baby. Last week I got the news that printing was underway, and the end was in sight. I sent Christine a message, "Someone get the hot water! I think we're going to have a baby here!"

Well, this evening I was in the kitchen and my husband came in with a large envelope. He said, "You have a package. It's from Data Reproductions!" And when I opened it, I found two copies of my book! The baby's here and I didn't even have to push! I don't know if it's a boy or a girl, but it's beautiful.

These two will be followed by lots more next week, and then they'll be available to you! So far they're easy to care for. They don't eat or wear diapers and I haven't heard a peep out of either one. They're just sitting quietly on my shelf, and I'm smiling at them just like I did my first babies. My dream for them is that God will use them to speak His love to you and bring hope to your lives!