Mama Told Me There Would Be Days Like This (sing it with me!)

Tuesday evenings are "me" time. Troy leads a group in the city every Tuesday evening and once I get the kids in bed, it's time that I can do whatever I want! If things go as planned, a Tuesday evening might include home-made sushi and a movie :)

Let me tell you, today is not going to be one of those Tuesdays!

It's been a crazy day. In between staff meeting, a haircut (OK, that was a nice spot) doing some follow up work from our team launch, and doing the afternoon school run, I have been to the bank twice to try and make a deposit. Tomorrow is the 1st and that means all sorts of bills are going to be pouring into my Spanish bank account. And how much is in there. Um, around 8 euro I think. Both times the ATM was unable to help me due to some random reason. The second time I had about a 15 minute window before I had to be home so Troy could take the car to catch the train to be at his meeting. Hmmm. So now the plan is to get up at 7 tomorrow morning and buzz to the bank BEFORE the bank day starts. OK, not the best plan but workable.

But the day gets more interesting!

At dinner with my charming children, my son upchucked all over the bench. That made my leek soup seem fairly unappealing. I set Meg to doing her homework and put Nic in the bath. Did I mention that I am also hosting a baby shower tomorrow morning for the Mom's & Toddlers group and that my house will be overrun with small children? In the midst of all this, there are phones ringing all over the house. If I am in the kitchen, it's the land-line and of course I do not have the cordless with me. When I go down to the office, it's my mobile phone that I left in the kitchen. (I've gotten smarter now. I have both phones within reach!) My husband calls to cheerily remind me that tomorrow is the first and it's my turn to send out our email update.

It's only 6:30 but Nic says he is ready for bed after his extremely short bath. This is not a good sign. I get him dried and in pajamas. The moment we are done with prayers and the ever important saying of the bedtime rules, he does it again. With great force and volume. In a moment of utter motherly abandonment, I have to step in the hall to wait for him to finish (I am a sympathetic puker!) What kind of a mother am I? So I run another bath and collect the piles of nasty laundry. A few stray items get dropped on the way downstairs, but I make it finally with no gagging.

In the meantime, the phones are still ringing and my daughter is shouting for help with her homework. Math homework, which is not my department. Thankfully it's fractions, so I manage. In a couple of years she'll be in trouble with my math help.

I clean up and remake Nic's bed and get him dressed again. This time I dose him with some anti-nausea medicine (so far it's working and he's nicely asleep.) Meg has her bath and while she's in there I check her homework and find she has done a couple of them wrong. So after the bath and the pajamas and the complaints that her ""electric toothbrush is not charged, Mom!" (again, what kind of mother am I?) we fix the homework and she goes to bed.

The kitchen floor is now mopped and now I just have to go upstairs and tidy up the chaotic playroom so that all the kids can trash it again tomorrow. And send out the email about the follow-up work we did earlier because it is due at the end of the month!

Guess what? My husband just called. Only one person showed up to group so he is on his way home! So much for "me" Tuesday. I think I'll go to the bank again and let him tidy up the toys!



God's Kiss

I woke on Thursday morning with a start. I could tell by the heavy darkness in the room that it was still early. Outside, the rain that seems to have been around for weeks now drip, drip, dripped its way into my consciousness. The weight of it pressed against me like a cold wet hand. It was not a morning where I could huddle deep in my warm bed and listen peacefully to the rain. Instead, each drop fell splashing into my stress, raising the level of it one drop at a time until it threatened to overflow completely. Worries about money, school, church, the many details on my to-do list, grieving over losses and impending losses, uncertainty, and (oh yes!) PMS swirled around me in the darkness. And outside, the pouring rain emptied on my world. I thought wryly of the prayer that I had written to God in our church's week-long prayer room. Something about wanting to stand in the downpour of His love and be completely drenched and overwhelmed with it. "Is this love Lord? It feels more like misery to me." I stayed in the dark and grumbled to Him.

Two small beams of light shone into my darkness as our kids wandered into our room and cuddled into bed with us. For awhile I gave up my sulking and took comfort in small voices and soft hands holding mine. Eventually we managed to get out of bed and start the day together. While we ate breakfast and brushed teeth and got backpacks and jackets and boots, the rain poured down, a constant nagging background track to life.

After school trips and coffee with a seeking friend (I put on a mostly cheerful face after admitting the "rain" was getting me down.) I hibernated at home. Being our day off, it meant I could keep the shades down, read a book, blow off a couple of errands I had planned to do and nurse my misery comfortably. I did this successfully ALL day.

Then it was time to pick up Meaghan from school. I went outside to the car and was greeted with blinding sunshine so bright it almost set me back on my heels. The sky was beautiful Madrid blue, the blue that comes from high altitudes. Only a few peaceful puffy clouds lingered in the sky that only hours before hung an inch above my head and dumped its full store of water on me. On the highway, starting up the hills towards school, the sun burned in my car window and branded my face. It was so warm and so concentrated that it burned into my very soul. I felt His kiss on my cheek and I heard His voice whispering to me "I SEE you. I feel your hurt, your stress, your worry. I hear your cry for relief. I pulled back the clouds and give you sun (and SON) so you will know this. I SEE YOU."


Ode to Friendship

Being "in the ministry" can be a lonely place sometimes. Especially when you work in a church. It's hard to know where you should vent, where it's safe or even appropriate to share your struggles. When do you stop being a church leader and just become a friend who needs to pour out the deepest things in your heart or have a laugh that makes your belly hurt? Sometimes friends come from the most unexpected places.

During our time in Barcelona, we met a couple not much older than us who were married but had no kids. In some ways we could not have been more different; we were missionaries, they were not even believers. We were fundamentally different in many, many way, but we accepted each other into our respective worlds with a rare dose of freedom and they became our best "hang-out" friends. Since they didn't have kids, they were happy to come over to our apartment and we would play cards until the wee hours of the morning. How we laughed! She and I got into the habit of exercising together at least once a week. I got used to her "colorful" vocabulary, something my missionary kid ears had never dealt with in real life. They would invite us to their house with other friends of theirs who thought that smoking a little pot after lunch was the perfect way to start a relaxing afternoon. Somehow our friends felt comfortable including us in this mix, knowing that we wouldn't partake yet somehow sensing we would not condemn either. We even got the chance to have some deep spiritual discussions with them. But mostly we just had a great time together.

When we knew that we would be moving to Madrid, I started praying that God would provide some friends for us that would meet the need that our unlikely friends in Barcelona had met. I prayed it deliberately and I prayed it for months. We arrived in Madrid late February of 2002. In August, our whole family was doing grocery shopping at Lidl. As we made our way up and down the aisles with our two loaded carts (we only go once a month) with a kid in each, Meaghan made a comment to Troy. The man passing us with his cart looked sideways at us, paused and then asked us (in English) where we were from. Within five minutes we found out that Jacob was also a church-planter, that he and his wife had two kids, lived in a suburb close to us and were really feeling the need for an outside source (other than their church-planting work) of fellowship. (As a bonus for me, they were also Canadian, eh?)

You guessed it! Jacob and Karen and their two girls are now our best friends in Madrid. We get together as often as we can, and boy do we laugh! You will often find us around somebody's table, usually eating Chinese food or rotisserie chicken and french fries. We watch movies, we play games and Jacob always makes the coffee no matter whose house we are at. But not only do we laugh and eat (lots!) we share our struggles with living in Spain, raising kids in another culture, measuring our successes with God's ruler instead of ours, and every other random thing that pops into our heads. We have cried together, prayed together, celebrated holidays together and started traditions together. We joke that we never invite anyone else to join us because they would think we were all nuts.

So here's to you, Jake & Karen. I raise my glass and say "Ears!" And pass the pan de gambas.


Prayer Room Poem

I stand before You
Shuffling my feet,
Rubbing my gritty eyes.
Miserable in my shame and guilt.
I clutch the list of my sins
Behind my back
so You won't see.
But the look in Your eye
says You have seen it
You beckon me to bring it to You,
unbending my stubborn fingers
with a gentleness I cannot resist.
I hang my head and wait,
for the humiliating announcement
that I have done it.
Instead, I hear the glorious sounds of
tearing paper.
I open my eyes and watch
tiny scraps of paper drift past my feet.
You blow, and they scatter wildly.
For one mad moment, I run and try to capture them,
Convinced we somehow need a record of my wrongs.
Your voice stops me.
You blow harder, and I stand in the whirlwind,
Captured by the delight on Your face
As You blow my sins away.

October 22, 2004


Some things are given

It goes almost without saying that if I go to bed exhausted and thinking how very much I need to get good rest that night; I won't. I should have learned by now that I should not even think that thought! But no, I have not learned! On Friday night I put my flannel jammies on as soon as the kids were in bed at 8:30. I had been sitting all day; either in front of the computer or the sewing machine. Enough was enough! Over the jammies went the comfy robe that used to be my Mom's and I retreated to my big chair in front of the TV to watch a movie with my husband. He is, incidentally, fighting a cold. So I was treated to listening to his hacking and wheezing in painful duet with the movie soundtrack. Frankly I was too tired to protest.

After the movie was done I crawled into bed, ridiculously pleased that it's cold enough for the feather duvet. My pillows had never been more welcoming. I drifted close to the edge of sleep and was about to tumble blissfully over when I heard it. The tell-tale shuffle of little feet in footed jammies and the "Mom!" that I hoped was a dream. It was not. It was my almost five-year old son, standing in the dark on my side of the bed. (Why is it that he always stands on MY side? Could it be because he knows that his father sleeps like the dead and rarely hears any noise made in the night by a child?) Anyway, I hauled Nic into the middle of the bed, murmuring vaguely comforting nonsense with the hope that he would go back to sleep in a reasonable semblance of stillness. Again, this is a lesson I should have learned already!

Nicolas does not sleep still. Rather it's a bit like a whirling dervish that flails and pummels you if you have the misfortune of being in the same bed. There is a reason that there is still a side rail on his bed. If you have seen "The Perfect Storm" you may be able to conjure up a mental image. And this is on any normal night. However if you add any measure of illness or bad dreams, well, matters get much, much worse. So it was this night. First I tried the usual questions about tummy aches or being afraid. My son responded with sleepy but incredulous negative responses. No Mom, his tummy did not hurt, he did not have a bad dream and he was not afraid of anything. After being kicked and rolled on for awhile, I convinced him to let me carry him back to his own bed with promises of finding his green blankie. How he had made it into our bed without in the first place was a mystery.

I managed to carry him back to his own room in the pitch dark without stubbing or breaking anything. I settled him back in his bed, found his blankie and stumbled back to my own bed. I left his door and mine ajar so I would have warning of any further trouble. It was not long in coming.

I'm not sure how much time had passed or if I really slept at all. In the distance I could hear growing rumbling and pretty soon there was a small face close to mine. This time the green blankie and "baby Max" the toy dog had also made the journey. Since I am such a considerate woman I thought I would spare my husband this continuing saga, so I gathered up blankie and Max and said small face and took them all back to Nic's bed. Here I made another great mistake. I gave it to those sweet pleadings of "You can sleep in my bed with me Mom." At that moment it seemed more sensible to be able to stay in one bed and maybe sleep a little.

You have to understand that sleeping in Nic's bed is like taking your pillow and just climbing into the toy box for the night. An amazing array of toys must accompany him to bed. You can never be quiet sure which toys will be the chosen ones. But rest assured, there will be a host of them. Trains, cars, plastic "crackets" (crickets) Woody from Toy Story; all these friends are essential for a good night's sleep. At least for Nic.

So I crawled into my son's bed with him, hoping that maybe we would both get some sleep. We did; sort of. He moaned and whimpered; he rolled back and forth across the bed, blissfully unaware of the obstacle (me) in the way. He held conversations with more than one person. Don't ask me who they were; I only know that some of them were in big trouble with Nic. Finally dawn began creeping through the cracks in the parisianas (blinds). I began to hear the roaming of my 7-year old daughter around the house. When she finally figured out where I was, she came and announced in a stage whisper a little lower than a shout "Mom, it's time to get up!" When I quietly protested that it was Saturday, that Nic and I had not slept much and that I was NOT getting up yet, she protested "But, Dad's up." Somehow I managed to convince her to go away. My cherubic son sprawled beside me, snoring to his heart's content.

He snored until a little while later, when he woke up, looked at me with a hint of annoyance and announced "You can sleep in YOUR room Mom!"

We got up.


For lack of anything else

My friend Kelly and I made a deal that she had to create a blog for herself by the end of the week and that I had to actually post something on mine. Much to my chagrin it has taken more than one try for me to figure out how this thing actually works. So much for being computer savvy! I'm pretty pleased though, that I figured out how to get my photo in my profile. I guess there may be hope for me after all?

I had been working on a piece of writing, an essay of sorts but I think that I have lost it with all my messing around with this page. I think it's still rattling around somewhere in my head so we'll see!

The main reason I started this blog is to get myself to write again. Now that both my kids are in school in the morning, I have a little more time to do it. I hope that somehow over time I can regain the sense of writing for myself. In high school I wrote constantly (mostly bad poetry) but then I went to college and "got educated" about how bad my stuff just might be. But you know what? I don't care so much anymore if it's good or bad. As long as I like it, that works for me :) So we'll see if this works to motivate me.