Long awaited child
I sweated, cried, raved, moaned
I was in pain to birth you
And all this for years before you finally came
Your water gushed out of me like the falling rain
that early morning
And again I waited
Early Saturday I woke to a meteor shower
The Perseids were falling in the east
One a minute, dropping fast
We watched them for an hour
Till dawn came
Again I waited
Early Sunday I woke to a shower of another kind
Again I sweated, cried, raved, moaned
Till dawn came
And you fell from my womb
A hot, ripe star
I wrote this in 2000. Mothering published it in 2002 in the same issue in which my friend Jill McCorkle’s VBAC article was printed. On this, my star’s quinceañera, I share this poem about her birth.
Mist around the street lights
Bullfrogs comment from the pond
A single katydid still chatters
We unroll our towels that will come up ripe with grass clippings, and set our sights upward
Between the black outlines of the trees and across the Milky Way
The Perseids, more than one a minute, dropping fast
As one, then another of us calls out, there’s one
did you see that one?
My little stars all around me, all grown up now
We watch the meteors
I’ve been chewing on this one for a long while. That’s because while am beginning to get glimmers of what it actually means, I still am nowhere near understanding it. And that’s because it’s really not understandable.
–the interface between my choices and God’s good will.
I’ve been familiar for years with the concept of God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice removing the burden of my sins.
But what about the mess?
Often, I am bogged down not by obvious sins–but by the general mess life can be. My habits. How difficult and confusing relationships are. Making decisions and finding out later I made a poor decision.
It’s not black and white, usually. It’s almost impossible to feel confident that there is one right way to go. I want to help others, not hurt or hinder them, but I also have other goals or wishes and frankly no matter how hard I try (when I want to try) there are things I screw up. There’s any number of situations that are just plain messy. And I am part of the mess.
You choose the wrong school for your child. You deal with the same bad habit, reminded over and over as years pass about the same thing you can’t shake. You decide to join a church for a questionable reason and find yourself wondering years later if that is what you were supposed to do. You live with a chronic health issue or other problem that limits what you can do and what you can contribute, and that feels like a mess.
I feel powerless to direct things they way I think they ought to go, to even control my own emotions, my own body. I walk forward doing the next thing, and sometimes just walking into the next mess.
Then like a hero who takes the stage when
We’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late
Well let me introduce you to grace grace
No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter what they say
Or what you think you are
The day you called His name
He made you flawless
He made you flawless
I can’t yet believe it, but I know it is true.
He’s redeeming and restoring everything. There is not anything that is going to be missed. It’s not as if God handles the solar system, the universe down to the atomic level and beyond, the salvation of his loved children, and every other huge disaster we create–but can’t handle the little stinkin’ messes. The yuck stuff we don’t want to talk about. He’s got that, too.
I’m not saying “Let us sin so grace may abound.” Nope. Knowing we are so fully loved by God, and that nothing can snatch us from the Father’s hand, can only lead to thankfulness and the desire to love him in return, and follow him.
I’m not saying God magically makes everything turn out perfectly if we just somehow have enough faith.
It’s not to say we shouldn’t go ahead and be the change we wish to see in the world. No, what we are doing is part of what he’s doing.
I’m not saying there are no consequences to our choices. We know that is not true. Each of us lives in the consequences of the choices we make each day, and sometimes in the ruin of others’ choices.
And I’m not saying that our mess is somehow OK, or that the little things we do don’t have any lasting effect, or that our yuck is actually good. This doesn’t mean that all we’ve done to damage our world is no big deal. It does not diminish the grotesqueness of sin in any way.
Screw ups are screw ups, mess is mess, but even the tiny stuff is covered. He’s got it. He’s got our weakness and our will enveloped right in the middle of his grace and his beauty. He’s remaking, renewing and redeeming us and the world, both now, and with an eye to eternity. That’s on a global level, a universal level–and right at our smallest, most pathetic moment.
Not much blogging going on here this summer, but today I have something worth saying.
Today is my 27th wedding anniversary, and that is worth celebrating.
I remain awed by the kindness that my husband routinely shows to me, and amazed that, after all this time, we still like each other. I know not every married couple is so fortunate as to actually continue to like each other. Sure, the two of us never had that much in common (although we convinced ourselves we did at the ripe old ages of 19 and 23) but we just plain like spending time together. I’m glad that is still true.
Every now and then I reflect on what my mom said when I asked her before I got married what she thought of my fiance. The only thing she was able to come up with at the time was “He’ll always be nice to you.” That doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement, does it? Well, she wasn’t sure of him at the time, and I suspect she wanted to come up with something acceptable to say since she couldn’t say she was crazy about him.
But, it turns out she was right and that really was an essential quality in him which I’m grateful for every day.
I had a friend from high school comment on our marriage several years ago and her words have stayed with me as well. She just told me that not many people are blessed to have a love like I do. I am sorry to have to sit and think about that, for sure. But what she did was teach me not to take it for granted. He’s good to live with, a good friend, a good lover, and a great companion: while life always has its difficulties, he’s not the source of the difficulties. Without her comment I think I would overlook, in the every-day, the amazing reality that I am married to a kind and faithful person.
This is true love–you think this happens every day?
So it’s been a while since I blogged.
In fact I’m not even sure how long it’s been.
Picture the graphic that’s been shared on Facebook. I posted it on my page about a month ago. Two pieces of graph paper side by side: the left one has a sharp, smooth, beautifully straight vector heading upward at 45 degrees. The right image is of a line which loops all over the graph paper, completely out of control.
Captions? Left side reads, “What I planned.” Right side reads, “What actually happened.”
Truer vectors were never drawn.
I usually make the mistake of thinking June will be less busy because school is out (it never is), but this year several additional variables got thrown in the works, primarily an ill-formed foray into the world of hormone replacement therapy. The theory was it would help me sleep better if I took estrogen.
It didn’t turn out that way. Instead I’ve spent over two months working my way back from relentless palpitations that lasted all night long (thankfully it wasn’t every night and is now much better), being completely off thyroid medication (which I actually do need) for four weeks, and starting a different thyroid medication (which I am still in the process of ramping up). Well, it was my idea, and worth trying. Still, it’s a classic example of the graph which I shared.
Expect the unexpected is a word to the wise. I try not to, and I guess I believe that if I assume it hard enough, things will be predictable and comfortable.
My now fourteen year old daughter took over the stories some years ago, during the time we spend together before I tell her good night, and we’ve either read lots of Rick Riordan books, or she narrated portions of the novels that she’s working on. It’s been fun. But last night she was talked out with a cold following on performing in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and she didn’t have anything to say.
I burst out with, “Would you like me to tell you a story?” not thinking she would say yes.
I got a nod though.
Cast about in my mind for what on earth to say. I’ve always been a story reader, not a story-teller. My idea of a good day is one in which I read out loud to my family a minimum of twice, so….I didn’t feel like doing a fairy tale. Or a variant of something I’d read that I thought she’d like–would take too much time to come up with. Nor did I feel particularly creative.
So I started where many parents do–with something that really happened.
“Once upon a time, in a little house high up on a hill lived a mommy and a daddy and a little boy, and their three cats and one dog.” That’s all true. 1998.
Went on from there to tell her all that was missing was a little girl to live in the house as well, the one the mommy had been wishing for for many years.
There were the elders visiting and praying for the mommy. There was the helpful doctor who kept trying different ideas for why the mommy was not having a baby. There was the surgery the mommy had (details omitted here) that took care of the problem.
And there was the story of the answer to the question the mommy asked herself a few weeks after surgery: “Am I pregnant?” which was answered immediately by an internal voice, with these words: “Yes, you are. And it’s a girl.”
My daughter really liked this story. And so did I.
I did it. I changed some things about a recipe I found in a magazine and improved it. Talk about satisfying.
I got this stir fry recipe from Kentucky Living magazine a few years ago. Here’s how I make it.
Broccoli and Beef Stir Fry, serves 5-6
1-1.5 pounds good quality beef steak cut into thin strips
garlic powder to taste
1/4 cup soy sauce (or more to taste)
3 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 cup olive oil or other oil
1 medium white onion cut into 3/4 inch chunks
1 sweet red pepper cut into 3/4 inch chunks
5 or more cups fresh broccoli florets cut small
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
cornstarch and water as needed
Combine steak strips, soy sauce and garlic powder; I used about 1/2 teaspoon maybe of the garlic powder? You could marinate with the fresh garlic but I like using both, so I start with the powder. Set aside for 15 minutes. Prepare all remaining ingredients.
Heat oil in a large skillet or wok. Add beef and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Move the beef to the side and add broccoli, garlic, and onion. Put the wok lid on to steam, checking frequently so you don’t over cook the broccoli.
When the broccoli is almost done, add the red pepper and continue to stir fry until vegetables are crisp tender. Reduce heat, and add a tablespoon of cornstarch with a couple of tablespoons of water if it’s too runny. Add more soy sauce if desired. Toss in the red pepper flakes, and serve with rice. Delicious. I like to serve it with yellow rice as the consistency is less sticky (turmeric is good for you anyway), so the kids eat more of the rice and it makes it all go further.
What made this improved?
The original recipe did not have enough garlic–only one clove. All the items I put in except the meat had a strong flavor. Some would say the soy sauce provides the flavor, but I think a stir fry is tastier if you keep fewer ingredients that all have distinct flavors.
Also, the original called for both yellow squash and cauliflower. I’m sorry, but yellow squash does not belong in a stir fry. It gets much too soggy too fast and spits seeds into the dish. Yuck. And cauliflower is too hard. Plus you’ve already got the broccoli. I just don’t see it. And the cornstarch wasn’t called for either so I added it. I like a sauce, instead of watery liquid seeping out from my rice on the plate.
So there you have it, my not so humble opinion.
The really fun thing was that the changes I made tasted the way I thought they would. As Mrs. Elton comments in Jane Austen’s Emma, “My friends do say I have a way with chicken salad.” However, I don’t know why I’m good at this. I’ve never known why I just picked it up from the beginning, right after we got married. I think there must be a spiritual gift of cooking because I certainly haven’t done anything to earn the good results I’ve gotten. Sure, experience helps, but–not that much.