Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Coming untrue...

(Sort of "What isn't the answer, part 2)  Later in Reason for God, Keller says
The Biblical view of things is resurrection - not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted.  This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater.
Just after the climax of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee discovers that his friend Gandalf was not dead (as he thought) but alive.  He cries, "I thought you were dead!  But then I thought I was dead myself!  Is everything sad going to come untrue?"  The answer of Christianity to that question is - yes.  Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.
Having children after having struggled is a microcosm of that truth.  I occasionally look in wonder at my living children in a way that would not be possible had I not been convinced for so long that this joy would never be mine.  Sometimes, not often enough, when things get frantic around here, it makes me smile to think that Chris and I have, perhaps, more children than we can handle.  During the dark times, in my wildest dreams, I never would have imagined it.  God has been openhanded with me.
Lift up your eyes and look around;
   all your children gather and come to you.
As surely as I live,” declares the LORD,
   “you will wear them all as ornaments;
   you will put them on, like a bride.  
19 “Though you were ruined and made desolate
   and your land laid waste,
now you will be too small for your people,
   and those who devoured you will be far away. 
20 The children born during your bereavement
   will yet say in your hearing,
‘This place is too small for us;
   give us more space to live in.’
21 Then you will say in your heart,
   ‘Who bore me these?
I was bereaved and barren;
   I was exiled and rejected.
   Who brought these up?
I was left all alone,
   but these—where have they come from?’”
Isaiah 49:18-21
This is from Gilead, one of my favorite books.  This quote is in a letter from a dying father, who lost his first wife and newborn, to the young son he never expected to have.
I'd never have believed I'd see a wife of mine doting on a child of mine.  It still amazes me every time I think of it.  I'm writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you've done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God's grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle.  You may not remember me very well at all, and it may seem to you to be no great thing to have been the good child of an old man in a shabby little town you will no doubt leave behind.  If only I had the words to tell you.*
*This is my offical internet notice that I want someone to read this to my children at my funeral.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What the answer isn't...

Eleven years ago, my firstborn son died an hour after he was born.  Two years later we lost our next child, named Ellie, about five months into my pregnancy.  Losing Caleb was a spiritual crisis for me.  I had to face doubts I didn't know I had about the existence of God.  With a lot of support I worked through that and I believe God answered me.  That process was a blessing, but it was exhausting - spiritually and emotionally.  Then we lost Ellie, and I felt like after I'd just clawed my way out of a deep pit, God walked up and kicked me in the face and knocked me right back in.  Whether or not he existed, I did not care.  I was done.  A few months later I was running and thinking through giving up.  I thought, "I've got to get it together.  I can't give up.  That would kill Chris, and it would kill my parents.  They've done so much for me and have loved me so well through this." Then I had a thought that I believe came from God:  "How much do Chris and your parents love you???  How much do I love you.  I sent Jesus to die on a cross for you, and you've completely discounted that."

That was the beginning of a slow softening and shift for me.  Jesus changes everything.  I didn't understand why God would allow this to happen to me again, but I began to rest in the assurance that I'm loved - and by a God who didn't spare himself.  Jesus makes the things okay that are not okay.

I started Reason for God by Tim Keller this week (fantastic so far) and it's brought that truth back.  Here's a quote:
If we again ask the question:  "Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue?"  and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is.  However, we now know what the answer isn't.  It can't be that he doesn't love us.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Haircut hole in my heart...

I'm constantly and irrationally on the lookout for subtle issues that my kids might someday reveal in therapy as the symbol of their maternal wound.  I keep Bryan's hair longer than David's or Jacob's because it's slightly curly, and I think curly hair on little boys is so cute.  Last week, it was haircut day.  I put Bryan on the bar stool and it suddenly struck me that this had Mommy wound potential - "She gave my brothers cool soldier haircuts, but I had to have long, floppy hair."

Me:  Bryan, do you want a short haircut like David and Jacob, or do you want me to just cut yours a little?
Bryan:  (with enthusiasm)  I want a pirate haircut with the front part going over my eye like a eye patch.
Me:  (No signs of a wound, so manipulate him into the haircut you want.)  David and Jacob's haircut takes longer.
Bryan:  I want the one that takes shorter.
Me:  (Yes!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Man parts and the museum of fine art...

I took the boys to the art museum last week.  My usual strategy is to take a camera and let them take turns taking pictures.  That quickly fell apart when they noticed the nude sculptures.  They couldn't stop giggling over the bare butts - time to move on to Creation Station, where volunteers set up art supplies and instructions.  Well the day's project was sculpture.  You can imagine where this is going.  They weren't accurate enough on the rear ends for me to worry about it, but when the 6-8 year old crowd tries to sculpt man parts, the result is disturbing (think of those ancient sculptures with absurd anatomy).  Praise the Lord, they soon lost interest doing Play Doh porn and moved on to zombie sculpture, which you never see among the ancient greats but is much less disturbing to the artists' mothers.

The museum had fabulous children's programs.  After the adventures in sculpting, we moved on to storybook art.  We got mats, a picture book and a card with questions about the piece.  The boys laid down on their mats (David was almost too cool for it :( ) while I read them a story from the same country as the piece and asked them questions.  Then we searched the exhibit for the item we'd (theoretically) like to take home.  There was headhunter equipment and a large selection of weapons, so it was a tough decision for them.

Last was Art Detective.  We searched for the week's featured artwork and did some drawing activities.  Next an artist gave a very hands on explanation.  This week's piece was a sculpture of a Central American ball player.  The loser of the "game" was offered as a ritual sacrifice - hugely popular with my bloodthirsty crowd.  After the museum, I bought them cokes, chips and candy.  That's my highbrow way of encouraging the arts.

So, as it involves gore, bare butts and gas station food, the Museum of Fine Art is now a destination of choice for the brothers h.  They're very cultured children.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Love is...

There are lots of things about marriage that must be learned but can't be taught.  One that comes to mind is - marriage is hard.  A few weeks before my wedding I remember telling my uncle - "I believe you - it's just that I don't see how it's going to be hard.  We're so in love."  Fourteen years later, the how is truly clear.

Another one of those truths learned only by experience is families are different.  Remember those first few months - from how to fold the towels to whether the bed should be made every day, there's a lot of family culture difference to work out.  I think the minor things reveal themselves early on, but the bigger stuff can take years to work out - whether sarcasm is funny or just hurtful, exactly what one is saying by leaving clothes on the floor, ...

One of those big things for us is how you show love.  My family is a hugging, "I love you" group.  My in-laws are do-ers.  My father-in-law has driven me back and forth across the eastern U.S., often through the night, because he doesn't want me to have to drive the kids alone.  (If my grandmother were not so Baptist, she would have petitioned the pope for his sainthood for this.)  He's built me a patio, put up crown molding, finished my basement, installed screen doors, built a bunk bed, ...

And now...

Love is building (beautiful, huge, will hold every book I could possibly want to own in my lifetime*) bookshelves for your bibliophile daughter-in-law.

* Probably
** The boys got to help here and there.  They loved it.  They think Grandaddy can build anything.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tour de Papa...

Last weekend, for the first time in almost 15 years, I got together with just my parents and my brothers.  We surprised my dad for his 60th birthday.  The trip included all the major elements necessary for a Shelley family vacation:  radical lack of moderation, mayhem and a lot of love...

Lack of moderation:  We rode 60 miles to celebrate his 60th birthday.  I'm glad I didn't know ahead of time about the two monster bridges.

Mayhem:  (1)  It's just not a Shelley vacation without a last minute change of plans.  About two days before the trip we decided to meet a day early.  (2)  John very graciously brought a road bike for me. Aaron called me on their way to joke around and say they brought me a unicycle.  Then, a few minutes later, they realized that was exactly what they'd done.  They had left one wheel behind.  There were no open bike shops around.  John found a place further on down the road willing to take his credit card over the phone and leave the wheel outside in a trash bag.
This is right after we surprised him.

A lot of love:  We surprised Dad on a bike trail Friday morning.  He and Mom were riding toward us.  John, Aaron and I rode 3 abreast and said hello.  Dad said, "Good morning," and then told Mom what nice young people those were.  John:  "Wow, Dad really is getting old."  When he realized it was us, he was overwhelmed.  That may be the happiest I've seen my Dad.
The ride was amazing.  We rode River Rd.  along the Mississippi River passing beautiful churches, massive live oaks and plantations from another time.  Because my brothers know no strangers, we met some characters.  There was a Cajun man with his grandson who gave us water.  He said he likes to be prepared.  He travels with water, MREs and his pistol.  I think the little boy would have gone home with John.  John and Aaron came up on a homeless guy on a bike.  He complained about the headwind and they drafted him for a few miles.  Next we met a Cajun policeman who is a cyclist.  He talked bikes with us for a while.  A few miles down the road, there were a couple of cars behind us.  We heard our Cajun officer on his megaphone:  PLEASE PASS THE CYCLISTS SAFELY IN THE OTHER LANE.
It was HOT!

 Mile 45 - 55 nearly ended me, but then I got my groove back and avoided shaming myself by not keeping up with my 55 and 60 year old parents on a bike ride.
In front of Oak Alley Plantation at the end of our ride.
That night we went to New Orleans for dinner where Dad could have done without the walk down Bourbon St., and John searched fruitlessly for a post bike ride ass transplant.

It was a perfect weekend.  Here's hoping I'm young enough at 60 to do that ride again.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Eleven years...

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; may the name of the Lord be praised.

*You can see Caleb's grave from that swing.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July 6...

The big boys are upstairs ostensibly cleaning up Legos.  It's making me appreciate the fact that Rand can't talk.

Diseased and unclean...

We visited a church on Sunday.  I hated it.  I wrote out a blog post and told Chris about it.  He said, "You're being harsh.  You're going to regret posting that.  Why don't you wait a few days."  I thought he was wrong, but he has this annoying habit of being right when he says I'm being judgmental, so I waited.  Yesterday morning I read this in a commentary on Leviticus about the process for priests judging whether a person with a skin inflammation is clean or unclean:
It is a work of great importance but of great difficulty to judge of our spiritual state:  we have all cause to suspect ourselves (emphasis added), being conscious to ourselves of sores and spots, but whether clean or unclean is the question...The priest must not make the judgement rashly but must take his time.
Later that afternoon we drove by the church and one of the boys said, "There goes the dumbest church ever."*


Dear Unnamed Church,

I'm sorry for obsessing and ranting over your speck while the plank in my own eye remained fixed and free from commentary.  Also thank you for the life memory.  I will never forget sitting next to my serene Methodist mother-in-law when you requested we lift up our hands and shout.  If my life ever flashes before my eyes, that will be one of the scenes.

*My criticisms were, unfortunately, not confined to the pen.

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