Thursday, September 26, 2013


While it's really unspeakably difficult to walk through cancer with four young boys in tow, these little ruffians I live with do a lot to lighten the mood around here. A sampling...
  • Thinking man is always turned butt out. This was not my vision for him when I bought him.

  • At dinner a few weeks ago...
Bryan: Rand, put your finger in your mouth.
Rand: (innocently obeys)
Bryan: Now put your finger in your ear.
Rand: (complies again)
David, Jacob and Bryan: (Uproarious laughter) He gave himself a wet willy!

  • Later during the same meal...
Jacob: (finger gun pointing at Rand) Bam, bam, bam. 
Rand: (theatrically collapses to the floor) 
Chris: Rand, get back in your seat. 
Rand: (slowly stands up, arms outstretched toward Bryan) (weird, loud monotone) OHM, OHM, OHM! 
Me: I think he's a zombie. Just give him a second. 
Rand: (pretends to eat Bryan's brain and then calmly sits back in his chair to eat his roll and ignore his soup)

  • After school today Bryan made Rand a super hero suit. Rand's self-proclaimed super hero name is Super Aunt Janet. Seriously, these guys make my heart happy.

"Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power which no subsequent connections can supply." Jane Austen

Sunday, September 15, 2013


From last weekend...

I'm living under a shadow. Most days I can walk here with, if not nonchalance, then composure. But today was too much for me. There was nothing new or unexpected, but the weight of what my family is battling lay particularly heavy on me. And so, of course, the boys sat on the front row at church, and by the time I dropped off Rand at his class and joined them, the seats were full and there was no other option. And anyway, how do you explain to your children that sitting in the front row of church is weird and the closest the normal people go is about the third row or so. It's too... I don't know, raw and naked, like Mary anointing Jesus' feet with perfume and wiping them with her hair and her tears. That scene would have been less awkward if she'd just teared up and kind of spritzed some perfume in his general area.

So, thanks to my children who don't yet know how to hold back part of themselves, I was in the front row when we sang "It is well with my soul..." and "From the depths of woe I raise to thee the voice of lamentation..." Most days I can sing those songs with, perhaps a few isolated tears, but not today. Today I crossed from composed sadness to undignified grief. The only tissue I had was decorated with bright purple, pink and yellow flowers. I felt like a self-conscious, overweight 15-year-old in a too-short skirt who knows everyone is looking at her and thinking she is ridiculous.

Then communion was served. The congregants walked to the front of the sanctuary row by row, so I received the bread and the wine first. Not wanting to make eye contact with anyone in my disheveled state, I closed my eyes and listened as the man standing in front of me serving communion bread said, "The body of Christ, broken for you," about two hundred times.

The body of Christ, broken for you. The body of Christ, broken for you. The body of Christ, broken for you. The body of Christ, broken for you. The body of Christ, broken for you...

This is what makes a day like today survivable for me: the broken body of Jesus on the cross is not only about the forgiveness of my sin; it is also God taking my suffering seriously.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering. Isaiah 53:4a


Thursday, September 5, 2013

A time for mercy...

Four Seasons by Nicole Mastrodomenico

I'm about to indulge in a parenting brag, so to maintain balance, I'm going to admit something embarrassing. I have a hard time keeping up with my children in crowded public places. You know that terrifying story most families have about temporarily misplacing a child? My family has... more than one. I think my problem is an unfortunate mix of ADD and optimism. I assume they're where I want them to be, and I'm chronically distracted.

Now, let's move on to something more flattering. This story is from a while back. I felt like things were off with one of the boys (I'll call him H). He had been distant and surly for a while. I couldn't decide if he was just going through a phase, but something seemed off. Chris and I decided to make a particular effort to spend time alone with him. We each pursued him on our own. One night Chris was playing a WWII board game with him. Things were not going well for H. His army was in a hopeless spot, and he started to get very upset. Watching this scene go down, I was immediately annoyed. My first instinct was to say,

Hey, bud. Your father worked a very long, hard day, and then spent a couple of hours playing this game with you because he loves you. Do you think your attitude is showing him that you appreciate this?

But a soft voice in my heart, one that I've come to recognize as the Spirit of God, said, "Slow down. This is a time for mercy." So I brought H a bowl of chocolate chips and said,

When my men are facing imminent slaughter, chocolate always makes me feel better.

The attitude slipped away; he smiled and resigned himself to the destruction of his army and the loss of the game (in Household H there is sometimes mercy in relationships but never in board games), and the evening ended well.

I'm not saying there's not a time to be on a kid like "white on rice in a glass of milk on a paper plate in a snow storm"* - actually my 3 year old could use some more of that action, as evidenced by the whining situation around here. But there is a time for mercy, for withholding what he deserves, justice, not out of weariness or laziness or distraction but because it is the right thing for his soul.

But how do you know when it's right to choose mercy over justice? You don't. It has to do with his soul, and that is a thing of God and not of you. All I can say is that when I'm in a place of pursuing God there is sometimes a subtle, whispery leading that is not there when my life is crowded with too much food, too much TV, too much time spent mentally nursing personal grievances.

And the stakes are high. One of the reasons I remember this scene so well is because of what happened afterward. Just a few days after the chocolate board game incident, H came to us with something serious. It's something we needed to know, and I don't think we would have ever discovered it if he hadn't volunteered the information. I believe the reason he felt safe enough to come to us is that he had been pursued mercifully that week. It makes me wonder what we've missed over the years through laziness and self-involved anger.

So, I realize this post is shamefully braggy, but I'm not going to apologize for my arrogance. To the children out there who need mercy this week, I pray that you find it. To the ones who require something much less pleasant (ahem, Rand), I heartily wish you get what you need as well.

* Major Payne


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