Little Pitchers

I have no idea where the term “little pitchers” came from.  Pitchers, like kids, hold onto a lot I suppose?  I do know I put the term to good use with the other grownups in my life when one of my three comes rolling in during the re-telling of a story with adult language or themes (not that it’s a Tarantino movie around here or anything).  But the older my children get, the more I find things – undesirable things, embarrassing things – coming back to me.

Yesterday, Jesse and I made the gathering of the multitudes of laundry from all corners of the house into a game.  I was smirking at my own brilliance – I have yet to fully capitalize on this mini-army of child workers of mine.  And by capitalize, I mean “get them to listen,” and by “workers” I mean “doing anything other than playing the iPad or the PlayStation.”  I was so happy to be working in harmony with Jesse as we dragged full hampers to the laundry room, I started in on a little military boot-camp chant:

“I don’t know what I’ve been told!  Jesse’s cute and really bold!  He’s working hard and really fast! We love to wash and – “

Jesse: “KICK YOUR A4$%!”

This was followed by hysterical laughter.  Jesse is four.  F-O-U-R.  He is too young to sound like Honey Boo-Boo.

Oh Lord, help me.

How does a mouth this cute emit something so ugly?

How does a mouth this cute emit something so ugly?

This kind of language is in part due to my children’s attendance at public school.  No longer are my children issued demerits for bad language, as they were at last year’s Christian academy.  No longer are my children reminded that bad language hurt’s God’s heart.  Also, there is the “flow down” effect of Noah and his older classmates – the ones who are surfing YouTube faster than I can lock the computer down, the ones so recently motivated by what is cool and what kind of language they feel will make them “belong.”  And, not to pull an Eve here and shirk my own personal responsibility, but Jesse’s father has been known to let a few colorful words fly every now and again.

My mother in law knows this all too well.  When I picked her up from the airport a few years back when Noah himself was only four, we heard amidst our chatting:

“Oh f$%& it, Gran!”

I nearly ran us off the road.

I choked out an explanation: “Mom, I can assure you he did NOT hear that from me!”

She looked straight ahead, her mouth in a tight line.  “Well he’s certainly never heard it from me.”

“That only leaves one person,” I blurted.  “YOUR SON!”

I shouldn’t have thrown him under the bus like that.  All I can say is that the serpent made me do it.

What I realized in ankle-deep kids clothes yesterday was that there is not a thing my children see or hear that doesn’t register in the tiny, open spaces of their growing hearts.  What they witness, what they hear contributes to the formula of what makes them up.  Every rule and edict we give them is diluted with inconsistency if we don’t live ourselves the very things we tell them to practice.

“Train up a child in the way he should go.  Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6) (NASB)

I find myself apologizing a lot to them lately.  “I shouldn’t have said that.”  “Mommy made a mistake here.”  It is the only way I have found to catch my mistakes before they fester into a kind of spiritual leniency, a leniency that proves harder to undo the older they get.

That conviction’s a heck of a thing.

Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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Cold as Ice

snow pictureThe thing about snow is that it’s bigger than us.  It covers the whole of our visible world with itself.  It spans our horizon, it covers everything we know.  Which is why we love it so much.

The kids pray for it, talk about it, angst over whether their schools will be closed, or delayed.

Matt and I lay in bed laughing above the open vent where we can hear all their conversations, where the dialogue is something like:

Noah: “I hope we’re off tomorrow.  I want to go outside and play.  And I’m going to download a new game to the iPad.  And I’m going to sleep late.”

Jesse: “I’m going to make a snow LOBSTER!”

Matt and I are punching each other’s arms under the covers, giggling because one of the many quirks of this old house is the perfect way in which the sound travels upward like a waft of smoke through a chimney.   We hear the boys’ plans and semi-quiet scheming, and for a moment we think about how little we were once, too.  It’s as if we also have a snow day.

Noah and Jesse love the pressure of the hard, crunchy snow on their bodies, and they love the feel of it against their faces as they are towed behind the 4-wheeler on the flat, slippery sled Matt tows.  They screech with laughter, and for as long as they last, they can scream as loud as they want and no one reprimands them.  I am glad for snow days, where the whole of the outside world is cold as ice and our small space is warm with fires and popcorn and our communion.  I love that on these days that are cold as ice, I bring my children in toward myself and hold them under my wings, as God has taught me how (Psalms 91:4).

I am a child born of Wisconsin, in the month of January, of Scottish and Icelandic and English descent.  Cold runs in my blood.  So on these days, cold as ice and dubbed with the nomenclature of “Polar Vortex;” those days that have become the harbinger of dreams for school children the country over, I love the smallness of my children in the vastness of this storm.  I am grateful for how the white expanse reminds me of the order of a universe I do not control.  I love the large white-ness of a storm bigger than us, and one that brings us together.

I love these things, cold as ice.

-          Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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These Hands

When I was younger, my mother would sometimes take my hand in hers and turn it from side to side.

“You have the most beautiful hands,” she would say.  “Long, thin fingers.  Lovely nails.  So feminine.”

“Mom,” I would retort, “I’d like to thank you for the genetics that made them possible. They’re your hands, really.”

“Oh my hands?  My mother called them ‘capable.’  They are a worker’s hands,” she’d respond.

For they were.  They were knitting hands, and gardening hands, and cooking hands.  They were baby-holding hands, and candle-making hands, and hands that played piano and rubbed grubby faces with soapy water.

My hands – those on which my mother would comment – were twenty-something hands.  They were hands with professionally manicured nails, absent of scars or dry skin and the crookedness of once-healed bones.  They were easy hands, used to typing, holding drinks, applauding at concerts.  They were indeed lovely, but they were far less capable than my mother’s.

Now, my (very nearly) forty-year-old hands are something altogether different.  The skin is more wrinkled, the joints predominant.  There are three scars I can easily find.  These hands have not sported long nails in over a decade.  Once you start to push little people out of your body, thus begins the long, sacrificial road of personal overgrowth.  The nails are the first to go.  Later, you will go on to perhaps let your hair run amok, and if you really don’t keep an eye on things, you may also realize your eyeglass prescription is now totally useless, and the last time you had dental work was when your nine year old was a five-year-old and you managed a two-fer dentist appointment before his kindergarten enrollment medical records were complete.  So it will not surprise you that at least three of your molars are killing you.

An (almost) old lady's hands.

An (almost) old lady’s hands.

These hands, now?  Well, they’ve been exposed to nearly every kind of domestic animal excrement you can imagine.  Horse, dog, cat, fish, guinea pig, goat, donkey, you name it.  They have also been exposed to the human variety.  Poop is, of course, the detritus of infancy.  But even though he is nearly five, I dread Jesse’s pronouncement that “I gotta go poop!” because it will be followed shortly thereafter by an equally loud, “MOM! CAN YOU WIPE MEEEEEEE?”

These hands now show knuckles that belie their age.  They look arthritic, because they are.  When I am in a flare, the joints swell so that I cannot wear my wedding rings.  These hands are unadorned.  These hands now show the wear and tear of age-related clumsiness: the nick of a carving knife, the bruise of a car door.  They show the scratch from a piece of horse tack hastily assembled (I do nothing slowly, or with relaxation), or the indentation of a bite from one animal or another.

This hand, courtesy of a horse who decided to break part of it.

This hand, courtesy of a horse who decided to break part of it.

 

But these hands, oh these capable hands.  I would not trade them, not for the Gwyneth Paltrow version, not for a thousand free manicures.  I care less now about what these hands look like, and more about what they can do.

These hands have held babies in soapy water, and wiggled toes the size of grains of rice.  These hands have fought with car seat buckles and stroller hinges.  They have taken notes on IEP’s and held a husband’s hand on the walk back to the house from the barn, which is what amounts to “quality time”  these days.  These hands have pressed the keys on phone pads to dial up a “maybe” friend for one of mine who is steeped in awkward isolation.  They have petted fevered foreheads, and picked at buried splinters, and carried sports equipment, and into them have slipped the little hands of the youngest one in the middle of the night when he needs a comforting only these hands can bring.  These hands have carried bodies of children that are heavy as anvils when they fall asleep in the wrong place.  They have carried art projects light as air with glued-on glitter and feathery additions.   These hands have reached out to squeeze hands that do not want to be held on the days that change our history; and they did, on the day we learned – nay, were TOLD – that autism would be our forever friend.

This hand was held on that day.

This hand was held on that day.

Oh, these capable hands.  Thank you, God, for all they hold.

-          Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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Little Boy Blue

Creepy, but effective.

Creepy, but effective.

In the chaos of Christmas, when the paper is flying, and you’re watching all the effort you’ve lovingly invested into the presentation of gifts become airborne in a shower of ribbon and tissue, and your oldest is starting to freak out and yell at you because things aren’t moving quickly enough for him and he is crying because there must be, THERE HAS TO BE! a bigger box at the back of the tree into which someone has packed the PlayStation he has tormented you for this entire season, there is only one thing to do.

Zip him into a body suit and back away.

This is what saved Christmas.

I mean, not literally. There is the meaning of Christmas.  There is its eternality, and the hope of someone Bigger than us giving us His greatest gift, and the love that binds us together when we’re forced to share living space for a week with out of town relatives (especially when you run out of toilet paper).  There’s that, too.  But what actually saved Christmas morning looked more like something from the coroner’s office than something you’d love finding under the tree.  But I raised my hands in a silent Hallelujah when Noah pulled it from the gift bag because I knew what would happen next.  If I’m being honest, I was also raising my hands in a “I TOLD YOU!” gesture to my husband, who suggested, tactfully, that perhaps a lycra body suit wasn’t on every 9-year-old’s wish list.

Noah’s eyes were welling with tears and each little thing – a sweater, or a board game – was sending his anxiety skyward.  I could hear his brain churning, “What if I don’t get it! Oh no! I told Santa I wanted it! And if I don’t get it, then that means Santa doesn’t really exist, and if he doesn’t exist, they’ve been lying to me the whole time, and I am the victim of a great and terrible conspiracy! Alternatively, if I don’t get it, I have been bad this year, not good! And I am a terrible person who is UNWORTHY OF A PLAYSTATION! AAAAAARGHH!”  This is how it goes.  Little bit upset, mind out of control, a lot bit upset, repeat.  So I grabbed the package with the body suit in it.

Noah took it out and quietly fingered the heavy lycra material.  Then he noticed the Velcro front.  He did not need to be instructed on what to do next.  Wordlessly, he unhooked the tabs, and stepped in.  Then he asked if I would close it up.  And when I did, Noah got down onto the floor – right there in the living room among the fireplace and the presents, over the smell of coffee and the sound of laughter, in the midst of every stimulant that had sent his nervous system into overdrive – and he curled up into a little ball and was quiet.

That was how the body sock saved Christmas.

Now it sits in a heavy puddle in his desk drawer for easy access.  Sometimes, I find Noah inside it, completely enclosed, playing the iPad.  It is among his most treasured possessions because it told him – without telling him – that I knew what he needed.  It told my little boy in the blue body suit that without a specific request from him, I could give him the thing he wanted most: a quiet, darkened space that would help him find level space for his always-running mind.  For that, I thank the Lord and the intuition with which He has so graciously bestowed me.

I also thank Amazon.com.

Happy New Year!

-          Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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Courage, With Us.

This is Christmas.

This is Christmas.

On a pre-Christmas Saturday, Matt and I have chucked conventional wisdom and taken all three children to run some errands.  Into a suburban WalMart we’ve pressed ourselves against the tide of people moving in the opposite direction, and I remember there that the kids need Christmas cards to exchange with their peers.  Finding an inexpensive box of cards with beautiful artwork and a few designs for each of the kids, I show them to Noah.

“Here, bud.  I just got a box of cards for you and Grace to hand out during your parties.”

Noah scans the box, and then opens it to peruse the messages inside.  They are all spiritual in nature: “May God bless you this Christmas!” and “Let us rejoice – the Lord is come!”

Noah closes the box and hands it back to me.  Then he lowers his head, but turns up the corner of his mouth at me like he’s Jimmy Cagney.  He doesn’t want to be heard.

“Mom, I don’t like these cards.  I want something with Santa on it.  Or a snowman.”

“Why, honey?  These are great cards!”

But I know his answer before he even utters it.  Before this boy – who is spending his first year in public school, who has been reminded by the administration he cannot talk about God, who is anxious to his core as a function of his autism and his personality – before he can tell me, I know.

“Because Mom, not everyone believes in God, and I don’t like these cards because they might make people mad.”

We are in WalMart, and I keep losing the little one behind me because he is distracted by all the toys, and Grace wants to make her case for pierced ears this year as she passes the jewelry, and Dad is on a mission to find a Christmas tree for under $100, and then there is this, with Noah.

I take a deep breath.

“Noah, why do we celebrate Christmas?”

“Because of Jesus’ birth.”

“Right.  That’s what that manger scene in our dining room is, right?”

He doesn’t answer.  I don’t want to patronize him – and in an effort to simplify things for him in an often-frightening world, I realize what comes through is sometimes something closer to baby talk.  So I say the hard thing:

“Noah, it doesn’t matter if other people don’t believe in God.  It doesn’t matter if other people don’t believe Jesus was God’s Son.  We believe it, and we want to wish everyone God’s blessing during Christmas.  Jesus is at the Center of Christmas.  Not snowmen, not Santa.  Nothing else.”

“But mom, I’m scared.”

I hear him say this to me, and my own heart repeats it.  I have spent so much of my own life being “scared” because of my faith.  I was terrified of the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Go.  Make disciples.  Teach them to obey.

Fear, anxiety, rejection, confrontation!! ACK!!

And then there are “other” Christians – the ones that make it so hard to fulfill the great Commission because they ensure we are met with contempt and scorn and accusations of theology-wide hypocrisy.  The ministry leaders who have affairs, the pastors who embezzle, the churchgoers with their “God hates fags” signs, the pro-lifers who bomb clinics, the ones with the vitriol and hatred.  The sinners.  Like me.

I blow it most of the time, this attempt toward righteousness, this endeavor to live as Christ-like as I can.  But I have tried to live so that others might see my light and glorify my Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)  Most people I know recognize that I’m a Christian.  To God be the Glory.

But at Christmas, I am bolder with my faith.  Christmas is about the God I serve.  And for a brief moment, the rest of the world – even in passing, even without accepting – must recognize His presence.  It is a time when, to quote my favorite Christian author, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God.” (C.S. Lewis)

Oh come, oh come Emmanuel.  “Emmanuel” meaning, “God with us.”  Meaning, God loved us enough to send His only to be with us, to love us, to die for us, to make a way for us.  Meaning, I will wish others a “Merry Christmas,” I will send Christmas cards with scripture, set my manger in a visible place.  Meaning, I will buy the cards that proclaim the birth of Jesus for my son’s Christmas party, and I will teach him to have courage, too.  Because God is with anxious him and me, both.

-          Sarah

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Fail

keep calm and clear customsOur treatment of the mentally ill in the United States is legit crazy.

Let me start by saying this: writing is the great refuge of introverts.  As Kafka wrote once, “Writing is utter solitude,” and its exercise is a great comfort for people like me who are happiest in front of a plain white screen than in front of a room full of people.  Writing is also where I’m bravest, and while I normally reserve political commentary (choosing instead to discuss only matters of the heart), I will today share with you a little bit of my current righteous indignation related to an op-ed piece that recently appeared in the New York Times.

Ellen Richardson, a Canadian woman was recently denied entry to the United States because she had been hospitalized for depression in 2012.  Before her entry, she was required to obtain medical clearance from one of three doctors approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Her reason for visiting?  She was on her way to New York, where she had intended to board a cruise to the Caribbean.  Border authorities quoted a portion of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows patrols to block people from visiting the United States if they have a physical or mental disorder that threatens anyone’s “property, safety or welfare.” Find the Act’s full text here.

How her medical diagnosis was retrieved by authorities remains questionable.  A long-ago 911 call to police based on a suicide attempt in 2001 may have set off the investigation.  However the final version of the federal health care stimulus bill negotiated by the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate includes a provision creating a federal database that will hold the personal medical records of every American.  If the database isn’t already in place, it soon will be.

The fact that Ms. Richardson’s depression diagnosis was relevant at all to her passage through this country is what raises the hair on the back of my neck.

Here is the unbalanced truth about the mentally ill in the United States:  state standards for institutionalization of the mentally ill remain inappropriately geared toward personal liberty unless the mentally ill individual is essentially holding a gun to someone’s head at the time of commitment.  That leaves many who are in desperate need of care on the street, or in a potentially explosive situation.  Adam Lanza was the perfect candidate for institutionalization, but the ACLU was instrumental in recently ensuring that Connecticut’s SB452 bill for “assisted outpatient treatment” was defeated before it could help him. (See http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/12/16/Recently-Defeated-Connecticut-Mental-Health-Bill-May-Have-Stopped-Friday-s-Shooter.)  This treatment may have led to his institutionalization, and ultimately, the prevention of one of our nation’s greatest tragedies.

The same country failing to adequately treat the mentally ill is also blocking them at the border through articulation of the same standard, and according to the whims of the customs officers who happen to be perusing medical records that day.  So apparently we won’t institutionalize the mentally ill because of their right to privacy, but we’ll fail to admit them to the U.S. by invading that very same privacy right?

Even when a state’s involuntary commitment laws appear in theory to protect those most at risk, they don’t always do their job.  Take the recent attack on Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds by his son who – after stabbing his father – went on to kill himself.  While institutionalized under an emergency protective order the previous day, he was released due to a lack of beds in the psychiatric hospital.  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/11/21/virginia-looking-into-treatment-creigh-deeds-son-before-stabbing-attack/

Our mentally ill are not only stigmatized – injury enough, I believe – but they are the victims of a great hypocrisy: they are not enough of a concern for proper medical treatment, but are apparently enough of a threat to be turned away at the borders.

Pray for our leaders.  Because frankly, our mental health system is – to quote those YouTube, Twittering millennials – an utter and #epicfail.

-          Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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The Season of So Much

Christmas tree with giftsJesse has a habit that was either modeled by his big brother, or which sprung ex nihilo from their shared genetic make-up.  Each day in front of the t.v. (yes, my children watch t.v. every day; we can argue about this later), Jesse will monotonously chant, “I wanna get that.”  There is a commercial for a race track. “I wanna get that.”  Next is an ad for a Wii game.  “I wanna get that.”  There is even a spot for a doll set.  So great is this “compulsion” of his, that out he blurts – “I wanna get that!”

Yes, he apparently even wants a Barbie dream house.

When Noah was young, we realized that in so chanting, Noah believed he had covered his bases during Christmas. For if Matt and I couldn’t hear him, then Santa surely would.  And he would deliver everything asked of him.

But to ask him on Christmas morning what it was that comprised this verbal list?  No clue.  He’s always happy (thankfully for his parents and grandparents) with what shows up under the tree.  And what shows up is generally a lot.  In securing the “wow” factor, there is generally too much on Christmas morning.  I fault the grown-ups for this, but this year, we’ve committed to changing it.

My children have yet to discover the value of moderation.  They are so used to “so much” that they don’t recognize there is an alternative to it.  For them, this is the season of stockpiles and stores.

Understandable.  Because for all of us, there is so much to be had.

There is fellowship and warmth.  There is community and music.  There are full bellies and the sheen of new wrapping paper and gleaming ornaments and the smell of pine brought indoors.

But more than all that, there is so much because of Him who gave His everything for us.  He is so much, and we have so much because of Him.

So on Christmas morning, when I get a comment about the relative “smallness” of the stash, about why there are fewer gifts this year than the last, I will remind – praying that it somehow registers – that the gifts are a bonus, an add-on.  I will preach in a gentle tone the value of moderation, because the ultimate sacrifice was already made.  They have so much already.  They have everything they could ever need.

No matter what they chant to the t.v.

-          Sarah

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Clothes Force

When the first ray of morning’s light slices its way through the curtains and I know – despairingly, begrudgingly, painfully – that it’s time to get up, I also have this accompanying thought:

“Oh no.  I’m going to have to get Jesse dressed.”

You see, dressing Jesse is like an episode of Top Chef, wherein I am given a fixed set of ingredients and am forced to come up with something satisfactory enough to prevent a little red-faced blonde guy from screaming at me.

I will spare you discussion of dressing Noah – who refuses to wear anything but shorts, even in the dead of winter because if he breaks a sweat, the sensation of damp clothing will send him through the roof – or of Grace – who took to wearing the knee-high boots from her Halloween pirate costume over her cheetah leggings like she worked, ahem…”downtown.”  I have an inch of room to manipulate with them.  With Jesse?  Clothes are a fight to the finish.

For a year, it was a firefighter costume.  All the time.  We had three, which is the only thing that saved me from having to run a load of wash.  All the time.

Then it was his tracksuit and flat-brimmed ball cap phase.  All he was missing was the mouth metal and the giant clock around his neck.  My son had fallen into an early-nineties rap time warp and couldn’t get himself out.

Today, it’s his “prep” phase.  It MUST be khakis.  It MUST be a collared shirt.  The soft cotton clothing I bought for Noah and diligently saved for his future sibling is not good enough.  All the comfortable play clothes that were both easy-wash and easy on Noah’s sensory system hang unused in Jesse’s closet.  But the stiff-collared button-downs and clip-on ties I was certain we would never re-use are his distinct preference.  As are the pants he can barely button because they’ve been outgrown.  I am no longer the only person who has to suck in their gut to button a pair of pants.  I am typing this and already thinking about a pair I’m going to throw out because they look like capris on him, and he’s finally tore a hole in the knee.  I’m sure his preschool teacher thinks I’m either blind or supremely lazy.

On any given day, THIS happens.

Yeah. On any given day, THIS happens.

But then today, after he had dressed himself and doffed his hat to me like a bigger, human version of Mr. Peanut, he said, “Mom?  Can you wash away my freckles?”  I swooped down to gather him up, kissing his little round cheeks and squeezing him like an accordion. (On a related note, I swore I would never baby my children.  Now, ask me whether I fed Jesse last night.  Like, whether I actually put the food in his mouth.  Because he asked me to.)

“Oh honey!  I LOVE your freckles! They are precious, and adorable, and unique!  They are part of what makes you, YOU!”

As is the way he dresses.  This way of expressing himself, of layering unmatched clothes, and popping his collar, is his tiny manifestation of self in a sometimes too-big world.  So I guess tomorrow I’m going to have to dig around for another pair of high-water dress slacks, and trust that this is just a phase.  Who he is underneath, and what he aspires to be is far more important.  He could use a part of the universe that makes sense, and is controllable by him.

Besides, knowing Jesse, next week we’ll be on to ninjas.

Anybody know where I can get a Chinese throwing star?

-          Sarah

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Flights of Fear

How powerful is the hand of fear, how strong its grip. And it has my boys – my little princes, my sons of thunder – in it every day. They wrangle and scrap and holler. They break things and chew with their mouths full and torment the dog as little boys do. But they tremble more than little boys ought.

Noah had his football playoff game this past weekend – for a boy relatively inept at sports this was the pinnacle of accomplishment for him. His hands shook at breakfast. He was ice cold. During the game, his anxiety choked him and he fumbled snap after snap. He sobbed on the sidelines. His body was more uncooperative than usual because he was stunted by fear.

Noah brings me every flyer for a group, activity or fundraiser that comes home with him. I am content to throw half of them in the trash. He retrieves them and waves them in my face, “But we HAVE to!” He is afraid of being left out – that something good might transpire without him, that he will not be accepted otherwise.

Jesse’s night wakings have begun again. He cannot fall asleep, and when he does, we can nearly count the hours, until we hear the crack of the door hinge, and he is finding a space between Matt and I where he can bury himself in safety. We were playing hide-and-seek with his sister a few days ago, and it was my turn to hide. My foot gave away my presence, and Jesse yelled “I FOUND YOU!” only to burst into terrified screaming when I jumped up and said, “Boo!” He is afraid of Bigfoot (no thanks to Noah, who delights in telling Jesse that he is real). He is afraid of being lost, or left alone. He is afraid of being hurt. He clings to me like a monkey baby, hanging on my leg, laying on my stomach. He tells me he is safe there.

He's scared of everything, so for Halloween, he tried to scare everybody.

He’s scared of everything, so for Halloween, he tried to scare everybody.

My anxious sons feel something I cannot pry from them, though I would love to take it on myself. I quietly stew, “Did they get their anxiety from ME?” (I am, too, a very anxious person). Anxious about my SONS being anxious. If that’s not neurotic, I don’t know what is.

I have lived most of my life as a prisoner to anxiety and fear. I know that gnawing, white emptiness in the stomach’s pit that nags well into the dark hours. How have I managed it?

I remember how deeply I am loved.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

I remember that I am never alone.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

I am made perfect in love. I am not dismayed. I am strengthened and upheld by a God who clearly knew we humans would be prone to fear, as much as His words speaks about it.

As they get older, my boys may need more help than we can give them in managing their fear (Jesse has already proven this), but always, they will know they are deeply loved, they are never alone, they are strengthened and upheld – not only by their parents, but by their Heavenly Father, who conceived of them before the world began.

I pray, someday, I might watch their fears leave them, and take flight.

- Sarah

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Today

TodayToday was a good day.

Today my husband started his job after 6 weeks of unemployment, during which the severance ran out, and after which we didn’t know whether we would have gas money for the week.

Today my two older children hopped on the bus they had begged me all summer to take (wait – I don’t have to drive you myself? SCORE!), one bounding after each other, “bus buddies” for the day. Their homework was done, their lunches were packed. Noah had even remembered to bring home his jacket (though I would learn later that he had forgotten his lunch box and two other jackets at school). The tiniest of uninterrupted routines – the most miniscule of predictabilities – has proved reason for celebration. There are some days I cannot even anticipate what they’ll be wearing when they come home (Grace, where is your hair bow? Noah, where is your jacket? Son, WHY is your shirt inside-out?!)

Today, I laid my hand on the neck of my horse and took comfort in his clean bed and full tummy. I rolled the wheelbarrow to the compost pile and looked out over the cotton candy sky, past the horizon to the pond full of blowing geese.

Today was my day with Jesse. It was the day that he called to me from the other room:

“Mom?”

“Yes honey?”

“Never mind.”

Because this is what he does to make sure I am still near him, that he is safe and not alone. He does this repeatedly. But it is a simple thing to call back that I am here, and he has nothing to worry about.

Today I cleaned the first floor, and in Jesse’s bedroom, moved one of his many fire stations to the side so I could vacuum. If you haven’t read my previous posts, you will not remember that his affinity for fire trucks is really an obsession. Four fire stations, three fire fighter costumes, 32 fire trucks.

His interested piqued, Jesse picked up his Play mobile figurines, only to note that they “didn’t have the right hair because their fire helmets wouldn’t fit,” and I needed to help him find the right plastic hair to snap on their tiny, open heads. After searching for a few minutes, I told him he needed to make do with what he had.

To which Jesse responded by losing his ever-loving mind in an all-out screaming, kicking rage-fest that lasted a good 30 minutes. After rationalizing with him and calmly explaining that “what we have is what we have,” I told him that I was going to continue cleaning, and he was welcome to play if he wanted.

Finally exhausted from his brawling, he went back to his playing, muttering, “I sorry I hurt your feelings, Mom.” Which is about as good a thing as I can hope for – when my young son understands the marriage of action and consequences, and takes responsibility for his behavior by offering an apology before one is even asked for.

I scooped him up into my arms.

“Oh Jesse, it’s alright. You know that whatever you do, I will always love you. Nothing can change that.”

Then there was a lunch of macaroni and cheese, and discussion of more fire fighters (with some ninjas, a classmate and a dinosaur thrown in).

Finally, there was naptime – the last few hours before Jesse’s siblings descended on the gravel driveway. This, my favorite part of our day, and what made it so very good was a story under the covers with the fan humming in the waning afternoon sun masked by heavy drapes, his little head in the crook of my arm, a portion of my shirt pulled up to his nose because, as he once told me, I’m “comfy and [I] smell good.”

These good days are seasons. They are not guaranteed to last (Eccles. 3:1).  But I was reminded during Jesse’s brief emotional tornado today that no matter the circumstances, I am responsible for my attitude, and that gratitude is best experienced in the moment the gift appears.

- Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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