How Jackson Pollock saved a summer morning

Summer is fading.  I know because the school bus brakes hiss in front of our house around eight-fifteen every weekday morning now.  The big box stores devote an entire section  to brightly colored school supplies – folders and Trapper Keepers, glue sticks and protractors.  And, because I am seeing less of my children.  They are wandering about the house in search of entertainment, irritably spending more time alone in their rooms.  Let’s not relive the petty squabbles that have become way too prevalent the last couple of weeks.

It was time to take action.  And it turns out it wasn’t that hard.  I focused on G, and everyone else seemed to fall into place.  My goal was to get him outside running around before he realized it was time for PBS’s Curious George.

I asked G if he wanted to paint outside like the famous artist Jackson Pollock.  He was enthusiastic.  A had been wandering up and down the stairs and overheard me.

“Can I paint too?”

“Sure…if you want.”

We began to gather supplies from the bottom drawer of our craft cart – paints, plastic tray for a palette, brushes, yarn, craft sticks, etc.

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S came storming down the stairs.

“Can I do a Pollock painting, too?”

“Of course.”

Here we are eight-thirty or nine in the morning.  Outside, under blue skies.  Taping our paper down on to the back patio.  Happy, all three boys doing something together again.  And it wasn’t that hard. It really didn’t take any planning.

the MixWe talked about how Pollock worked over his canvas, flicking, smearing, pouring the paint directly on.  We talked about how he created as he went, letting the paint land where it willed.  There were no mistakes.  If he didn’t like something he continued flicking, mixing until it looked right.

“I’m NOT Jackson Pollock!” G kept insisting.  “I’m Van Gogh!”  And with his purposeful, short, thick strokes, he was.

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I’m not sure why I was so surprised by how pleased they were with this unplanned activity, or how different each of their paintings turned out.  But I was.  Happily so.

A's painting
A’s painting

 

 

G's painting
G’s painting

 

 

 

 

 

After they finished painting we did watch a brief video of Jackson Pollock describing his technique.  You may view it here.

If you asked them, however, I suppose, they would vote for another round of Nerf guerrilla warfare throughout the house with their dad.  They are energetic boys, after all.  But Jackson Pollock did save that morning.

We were outdoors.  Together.  We were engaged in a familiar activity in an out-of-the-ordinary location.  The birds were singing.  They were allowed expected to make a mess.  Mistakes never factored in to the equation.  There was not a single mention of whose painting was the best.  Competition did not exist – for the moment.  Each of them was simply busy, creating…for the moment.  Quite a feat, Mr. Pollock.

A final tip: Wipe up any stray paint splatters as soon as possible.  We may or may not have had rainbow-freckled siding at our house for a few days.

S's painting
S’s painting

Keeping Track: reading lists

A dear friend wrote a blog post last year about an Indy reading challenge.  Set a reading goal for yourself and strive to read at least that many books in one year.  You can read about this challenge on her site at  dressedherdaysvintage.com or read how it originally started at Read26Indy.  I hope you all have this sort of friend who imbues your life with a sense of graciousness.  I am blessed to have someone who has cultivated such a genuine appreciation for everyone in her life.  She intuitively sees the blessings each person brings to her days.  It is difficult to teach that, but her example is certainly rubbing off on me.

After a brief discussion with her I was encouraged to log my own reading history again.  I have never really been in the habit of this with the exception of when I have been pregnant.  What does pregnancy have to do with reading lists?  Apparently, a great deal to me.  I know some people keep pregnancy journals or choose to scrapbook during this life-changing event, but I found it more appropriate to jot down the titles of books I was reading while caring for my babies in utero.  Not only has it enabled me to recall books I perhaps read for the first time, but I have a way to preserve my thoughts during a special time of bonding.  Now, I have all boys, so realistically I am not sure they will place a high importance on what their mother was reading while their bones were being knit together.  However, I care.

Somewhere midst Hemingway and Maugham, Tolstoy and Cather, somewhere between biographies and parenting books, I am reminded of the fact that I am a mother, but I am also an individual, continually in need of growing my own mind and spirit.

I have lately encouraged my offspring to do the same.  Two years ago when we began this homeschooling business I printed out a form for them to write, author and title, every book they read in a school year (and during our unofficially schooling summer).  We include books they choose to read for fun, books that are part of our language arts curriculum, and read alouds, that is books we read together as a family.  My hope is that they can look back, as I have, and be impressed with the sheer volume of their efforts, as well as be reminded of the friendships forged and adventures bravely undertaken through these pages.

On a similar topic, articulate millenial Alice Ozma has written a humorous and charming memoir chronicling her relationship with her father. From about the age of eight or nine, the two embarked on “The Streak,” a promise to read together EVERY night without fail.  Even to her mortification when he interrupted her high school drama practice as it dangerously approached midnight.  It was a promise that lasted until the night she left for college.  At the end of The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared she includes a list of the books they remember reading together.  There is also a customizable reading promise you may claim as your own.

Early Reader Chuckles

Somewhere between the insipid and obsolete Dick and Jane books and the latest preschool television-character phenom lies a wonderful collection of early or emergent reader books.  These books not only emphasize age-appropriate character development, but also infuse the reading with clever facial expressions and witty lines even you as a parent or adult facilitator would appreciate.  In short, they are not mind-numbingly dull.   My apologies to Dick and Jane and the BOB books.  Authors like Arnold Lobel have intuitive books with beloved characters who speak in repetitious ways without boring their readers, young or old.  Thank you, Mo Willems, Arnold Lobel, Kate Di Camillo, and others for providing us opportunities to share a giggle together on the sofa, growing closer, growing in literacy.  Here are our favorite early reader chuckles.

MO WILLEMS

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The Elephant and Piggie series is a brilliant blend of facial expressions, font choices and speech bubbles.  The text is simple.  The plot is basic.  The vocabulary is repetitious.  The personalities are HUGE.  I dare you not to laugh at Elephant’s irritated expression, or Piggie’s elated grin.  There are many choices to choose from in this series.  Truly, any of them will instantly become your favorite.

 

 

 

ARNOLD LOBEL

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This classic series is priceless for many reasons.  Written in simple sentences, replete with endearing illustrations, these very early chapter books are also full of life lessons and sweet reminders of friendship.  There is always a reason to giggle at Toad’s worries and Frog’s laid-back approach to trouble. Cut out a pair of toad or frog foam feet for your young reader and turn these brief stories into fun, impromptu plays.  These two will always be our friends.  Titles in this series include Frog and Toad are Friends, Frog and Toad Together, Frog and Toad All Year and Days with Frog and Toad.

 

 

KATE DICAMILLO

DSC_0001_2636Just look at that face – pure exhilaration!  This is how Mercy Watson approaches most adventures.  From wearing a pink tutu to an adventurous Saturday drive the “porcine wonder” of Deckawoo Drive charms her owners, readers and sometimes even her grumpy elderly neighbors.  Each adventure includes giggles, mishaps and a tall stack of hot buttered toast.  Honestly, I would read these stories even if I didn’t have a young one next to me.  Award-winning author Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) deftly places humor in simple sentences.  And Chris Van Dusen’s glossy, gouache illustrations only add to the merriment.

 

Go ahead, let your little one read to you.  You will not be bored.

Eyes for the Unseen

In my day-to-day driving, my car could almost steer itself.   I tend to go to the same places on a regular basis.  At times, it feels like the family car nearly travels repeatedly on the same tracks.  However, there is an occasional day when I venture out with the kids further down the highway, not really sure of which lane to exit from.  In this case, I look for signs.  The only problem is my distance vision seems to be deteriorating.  Frequently, I squint and lean forward in the driver’s seat, simultaneously shouting to those in the back, “Is this the lane for north or south?”  When no one answers, I repeat, “North or South?  NORTH or SOUTH?!?!”  It’s not really a good way to navigate.

So I had my eyes checked last week.  It turns out my vision is 20/15.  Great.  But my eyes do have problems focusing.  It’s not only highway signs I need help with.  My spiritual vision is often out of focus.  The truth gets blurry.

Nature trails are easier to navigate.  My boys,  with their indefatigable energy and boundless curiosity, run paces ahead of me, eager to find something new around the next corner.  Or maybe they are just slowly pulling away, growing up, wanting to feel what it is like to possess even this tiny bit of independence.  Walking ahead.

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I watch them making their way further and further down trails until sometimes they are nothing more than bobbing shapes.  Their distance leaves me space to ruminate on what A’s awkwardness will one day transform itself into,  how S’s excessive frustrations may one day melt with the warmth of a sigh.  What future passions will carry G through his life?  I think about the aggravation I feel when they display a lack of empathy, responsibility or integrity.  It is so hard at times not to worry or panic when they don’t seem to be getting it right.  Have I neglected their character development?  Is there yet another deficit in their education?  G still hasn’t learned to speak calmly when he is disappointed.  Why does S seem so apathetic today?  And will A ever learn to take pride in his work, or to complete a task?

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew 9:36

Yet if I watch them from behind making progress down a tree-lined path, involved in casual conversation with one another, I just see how precious they are, what good friends they really are, and how wonderful brotherhood actually is.   I am able to focus.  Seeing with the eyes of God is clearer, less blurry.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we  fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

They will not always be so impetuous, irresponsible, impatient.  I am reminded that I have, indeed, been given the eyes of God.  His eyes are the ones that see me as perfect, though he sees through me perfectly.  The eyes of grace see not what is there, but what may be, what will be there.  Grace sharpens our vision.

[Grace] calls things that are not as though they were.

Romans 4:17b

Grace will be the only thing to navigate us home.

 

TURKEY RUN – part 2 of Touring the Trees

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Turkey Run is a state park in western Indiana.  Founded in 1916, it covers over 2,300 acres and arguably boasts some of the state’s most breathtaking trails.  It is allegedly named after the wild turkeys which once thickly congregated in the warmer canyon bottoms.  The state park features an inn, cabins, campgrounds, historic sites, not to mention places for canoe rental and tubing.

Am I specifically advertising for the park?  No, but our family just recently spent an amazing day there picnicking and hiking.

G, trying to recall his last hiking adventure inquires,  “Mommy, do they have play equipment there?”

 

Suspension bridge
Suspension bridge

 

Rung ladders - good thing he had been practicing at play grounds all summer.
Rung ladders – good thing he had been practicing at play grounds all summer.

Lots of stairs and climbing on trail 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Punch Bowl-  "splash pad"
Punch Bowl- “splash pad”

The big brothers at Turkey Run

Just a little help to the car from a brother.
Just a little help to the car from a brother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, G, they do!

This is what happy looks like.

 

 

Touring the Trees

After the winter of continuously plummeting temperatures and persistent ice, came the message of the harbingers of doom for the summer: it would be unbearably hot and sticky.  And yet, the last few weeks have found the Midwest enjoying gorgeously mild temperatures and azure skies with only intermittent days of storms and rain.  Beautiful.  Gently breezy.  Lush with leaves.  Let me just walk into my flip flops and I am out the door.

Both with and without my children I have been on walking trails, about the city, in parks, through mature neighborhoods, and sightseeing about the town I now call home.  A tour of the trees.  Here are a few I share with you all.

I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.

-Willa Cather in O, Pioneers

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119. Trees

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain,

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

- Joyce Kilmer

Enjoy the various locales about the greater Indianapolis area through the trees.

Traders Point Creamery

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If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!

- Luke 12:28

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The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.

-Proverbs 11:30

Holliday Park

Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky – up- up-up into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then, I’d just feel a prayer.

-L.M. Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables

 

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Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the LORD…

-Psalm 96:12-13

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Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?

- Walt Whitman

 

Grounds about the IMA (Indianapolis Museum of Art) and 100 Acres

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I couldn’t live where there were no trees- something vital in me would starve.

-L.M. Montgomery in Anne’s House of Dreams

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The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

-John Muir

Around my suburban trails

American Sycamore

That each day I may walk unceasingly on the banks of my water, that my soul may repose on the branches of the trees which I planted, that I may refresh myself under the shadow of my sycamore.

-Egyptian tomb inscription, circa 1400BCE

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 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

-Psalm 100:1

DSC_0086_2510Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

-Psalm 90:1

And for those ultra-local….

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Can you name this location on a windy road?

 

Isaiah Berlin and Muriel Barbery on Tolstoy and Truth: a juxtaposition

“The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  This is the opening of the essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox” by philosopher-critic Isaiah Berlin.  Remembering these words was what prompted me to pick up Muriel Barbery’s second novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog in a local bookstore about five years ago.

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I was instantly reminded of Tolstoy.  Yet when I read the synopisis on the back cover, I was disappointed.  No mention of Tolstoy, nor Berlin.  The premise still intrigued me, yet it was not until last month that I actually read the novel.  Indeed, there are references to the great Russian writer.  The story takes places in Paris, concentrating on characters who reside in a high-end apartment building.  The main character, Renee Michel, owns a cat, not coincidentally, named Leo.  Later, she is stunned to discover her new neighbor’s two felines are called Kitty and Levin (p. 150).  These are, of course, specific references to Tolstoy’s characters in Anna Karenina.  Renee, though a humble, formally uneducated concierge, loves philosophy, Japanese art films, and War and Peace.

The novel makes no mention of Isaiah Berlin, nor his essay.  The true Tolstoy connection, however, is the one that is unspoken, assumed in everything.    Renee describes herself as “short, ugly and plump” (p. 19).   It is this unassuming elegance, however, which eventually attracts the attention of Kakuro Ozu, the mysterious, new Japanese resident in her building.

“She’s not what we think.” Ozu confides in twelve-year-old Paloma, a fellow resident and philosopher.  “She radiates intelligence…Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside, she’s covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the simple refinement of the hedgehog; a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary-  and terribly elegant.”

Indeed.  Awkward externally.  Internally a searcher of beauty and one single truth.  Recalling a camellia growing  against moss, she defines her focus for us as the “contemplation of beauty within the very moment of life.” (p. 101).

Defining Renee as a hedgehog has further implications.  Not only is she a peculiar mix of beautiful and awkward, but she is single-minded, focused.  In short, she is Berlin’s interpretation of how the Greek poet Archilochus depicts the hedgehog.

“one of the deepest differences which divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general.  For there exists a great chasm between those on one side who relate everything to a single central vision…and on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory” (Berlin).  Berlin continues to name Dante as a hedgehog (having one central vision), but Shakespeare as a fox (pursuing many ends “with no moral or aesthetic principle”).  According to Berlin, foxes would be Aristotle, Erasmus, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac and Joyce.  Hedgehogs are Plato, Pascal, Dostoevsky, Ibsen and Proust.  DSC_0044_2465The remainder of Berlin’s essay proves to his readers how Tolstoy, an intuitive fox, strives to transform himself, and thoroughly believes in being a hedgehog.

This single-minded focus is even mirrored in the precocious Paloma, the neighbor who at twelve years old has despaired of a purpose to life and has determined to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday.  Paloma still retains a sense of sweetness even while arrogantly demeaning her family and neighbors in the journals she faithfully maintains.

As she is pulled in by her father to watch a rugby match, she describes the Maori player during his haka, or “warrior chant.”  She writes, “What makes the strength of a soldier isn’t the energy he uses trying to intimidate the other guy…it’s the strength he’s able to concentrate within himself by staying centered.  That Maori player was like a tree, a great indestructible oak with deep roots and a powerful radiance – everyone could feel it…giving his strength to the group.” (p. 40-41)

A single central vision.  A hedgehog.

We begin to see the struggle of hedgehog and fox surface in an early comment which Renee delivers to fellow-resident Bernard Grelier.  “War and Peace is the staging of a determinist vision of  history.” (p. 49).  Again, this drives us back to Berlin’s interpretation of Tolstoy as a conflicted hedgehog.  According to Berlin, Tolstoy fought to believe in “great men” determining their own destiny, but succumbed to the mere illusion of free will.  Tolstoy’s preoccupation with history led him to wrestle with the appearance of a free will and “first causes” of events.  He tried to create a “unifying pattern of the world for a monistic vision of life on the part of a fox bitterly intent upon seeing in the manner of a hedgehog.”   It was a search for meaning, a single over-arching purpose in life.  For a sharp contrast, for example, one might juxtapose Tolstoy’s War and Peace with Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables in order to examine their differing views on free will and fate.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog revolves largely around the blossoming friendship of Renee Michel and Kakuro Ozu.  Renee learns to discuss the qualities of Dutch and Italian painting, her favorite Japanese films, as well as her troubled, neglected past with Kakuro in an easy fashion.  Even so, the emphasis is on the “contemplation of beauty.”

Renee discovers from her one friend Manuela that Kakuro has decorated his apartment with elegant, assymetrical designs.  One lamp of a kind.  One singular table.  Nothing is the same.  Nothing matches.  Renee’s reaction is noteworthy: “I’ve never thought about it.  But it’s true that we tend to decorate our interiors with superfluous things.” (p. 161)  Manuela does not seem to comprehend.  Indeed, I am not sure I do either.  It is as if she were speaking of her soul, and not merely her living quarters.

Muriel Barbery has written a book in which the reader can appreciate the delicate flavors of zaru ramen and Jasmine tea, alongside the quiet beauty of a camellia.  The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a beautiful book on the possibilities of unlikely friendship and on finding the one truth and beauty in life.

 

 

Gently

We were outside playing and pulling weeds.  Then, we decided to fill the watering cans.

“Flowers need to be strong!”  His little nose wrinkled up when he said it, and he flexed a tiny fist.

I thought only of the bright fuschias, reds and pinks in our meager flower beds.  Strength just didn’t seem to be a characteristic.

Gently wateringDo all little boys revere strength?  From the moment they can compose a sentence, they claim the boast for themselves.  “I can do it!  Look how strong I am!”  Precious young man, may you ever be willing to help.  While this mama brags on her son for his growing muscles, she also recognizes another need.  And yet does not voice it.  Little boys need gentleness.  Enter my job as his mama.  In learning to stop and use a gentle touch, in being compelled to slow down and rein in their impulsive, continuous movements, they just might grow into stronger men.

Carrying water requires strength.  Helping carry one another’s burdens requires even more.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ…Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” Galatians 6:2,9-10

In knowing what it means to brush a petal softly, to pull a weed tenderly, a boy might one day know how to use his inner strength when it is most needed.  One day he might be a man who knows the strength it takes to embrace gently.

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Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves….Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:10,12

Talking FAITH and ETERNAL LIFE to your preschooler

mango

Several weeks ago S unceremoniously flushed a pet platy down the toilet.  He was fond of the little fish, though, and I could tell he was hoping for a replacement.  At breakast he announced to his brothers that “Mango” had died.  A expressed his disappointment, but G wanted to know when he would be coming back to life.  When we reminded him that when animals or people die they don’t come back to life, he protested.  “But Jesus came back to life.”  As if that settled the matter.  This is when I was reminded of the fact that preschoolers are still trying to make sense of the physical world around them.  Metaphysical issues are not comprehensible if you do not have a firm grounding in the basics.  In other words, to a certain extent, a miracle is not glorious or spectacular or joyful unless you first know the reality of pain and sorrow.

Below I have listed a few ideas on how to share with your preschooler your understanding of death and the afterlife, i.e. life with God. Two caveats before I begin: first, these ideas are shamelessly Christian in nature.  For those who do not believe in God, or in Jesus, specifically, please feel free to share how you comfort and reassure your child.  Second,  these are not meant to address little ones who have suffered real loss or who are experiencing emotional difficulties.  Instead, this is simply meant to describe how G and I (and his brothers) have talked about death, God and heaven at home as it comes up in natural conversation.  As the “Mango” illustration above shows, he hears about death in relation to pets, , insects, through stories, movies, etc. in everyday conversation.

How to talk to preschoolers about death when they “do NOT want to go to heaven.”

All three of my boys experienced this aversion to talking about heaven or living with God during a certain period in their preschool years.  As adults, we might imagine how wonderful such an existence will be.  To a child, however, this may just sound strange and scary.   Here is what we do:

1.  Listen and ask questions.  Their fear of death or heaven may not be a real worry, but more of a curiousity at this stage.  Likewise, it may mask another concern, like having to move to a different neighborhood, or not knowing when they will be able to see a family member from out-of-state.  Make sure you listen for the root of the concern.

2.  Stress happiness and family being together.  They need to know you all plan on being together, and they will not need to be without you.

3.  Speak openly without vague language.  Phrases, such as “when we rest in peace,” or “living in the clouds” will likely only confuse them.  Let them know that you, too, recognize the sadness of someone dying.  We all know someone whom we loved that has died.  Let them know that even though we will be happy to see them one day when we live with God, they will never return IN THIS life.

4.  Ask your child how he imagines heaven to be.  Give them the opportunity to explore the possible answers through their own speech and imagination.  Their theories just might astound you and inform your own theology.

5.  Allow yourself a few “I don’t knows.”  Admitting you are wrong or don’t know an answer may seem counterintuitive, particularly if you are the parent who wants to have all the answers, doesn’t it?  However, by opening up to the possibilities that we just might be living on the same planet in the afterlife with new and improved trees to climb, we are inviting our little ones to look forward excitedly to his promises.  It may even speak to the comfort and reassurance they crave at this stage.

In any case, do any of us have definitive answers?

 

Tiny, cold droplets of joy

Like the tiny, cold droplets of Chinese water torture,

so is yet another negative word from a child’s lips.

I crawl to bed, feeling not so much the physical weariness of a mother with toddlers, but  the emotional paucity of one who has battled with discouragement, and lost…yet again.  I am not sure whether our daily struggles are more related to emerging adolescent grumpiness, or a more serious condition related to A’s Asperger’s, but I am often utterly exhausted.  One can smile through an occasional grouchy day, or lightly sigh through temporary bouts of bad attitude.  Yet the ever present negativity?  It affects me…deeply.  It is wearing me down.  Like tiny, cold droplets.

Nehemiah said,….”This day is holy to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

Nehemiah 8:13b

Do not grieve?  There is joy even after every sigh?  In the midst of the constant complaining?  During the meltdowns induced by rigid thinking?  I ache at the evidence that my child seems so unhappy.  So ungrateful.  My anxiety swells as I contemplate his future, and blame myself for his lack of thankfulness and confidence.  How will he rely on God for his strength?  Does he see the beauty around him?  Within him?

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Psalm 94:18-19

Hold me, LORD.  I cannot sleep reflecting on how many times my foot has slipped.  I have spoken the wrong word.  I have yelled the wrong phrase.  I have used the wrong tone.  A rough hand.  An impatient gesture.  A harsh look.

Anxiousness.  Negativity.  They are creating something ugly in our home.  And my foot is slipping.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me…He has sent me to…bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3

I have read these verses over and over, praying that I will receive an epiphany…or a glimmer of understanding to their significance.  Because, honestly, there are many days like today when I truly have no strength, much less joy.  These are the days when the force of gravity no longer feels like it is pulling me down, but is the only thing holding me up.  There may be a thin line that I cling to in desperation, maintaining my focus.  And I know it is not joy.  It is not even strength, but perhaps the hope of joy, the hope of strength.  I trust it will eventually be mine.  I trust that the joy may one day belong to A.  May I, then, grow and stretch through my sorrow, anxiety, and weariness.  May A one day be an oak.  And may the LORD love his every leaf.

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