Monday, August 25, 2014


Isaac burned his tongue on his macaroni and cheese tonight at dinner (yes, we eat in style), got angry, and impatiently said, “Cool this off! Give me the salt and pepper!” After a quick little lesson in manners, he was on his way to cooling off his mac n cheese with the salt and pepper. Because, you know, it takes a good 3-4 minutes for a 4-year-old to carefully tip the salt shaker, watch each grain of salt hit the orange cheesy goodness, and repeat. And then the pepper grinder, well, that thing just needs to be taken apart, its inner workings examined and explained, and then working knowledge applied liberally until the kiddie food is too spicy for an adult to eat. By the time the process is done, the mac n cheese is plenty cool.

Eden is (maybe, sort of) excited about starting homeschooling this week, but only because she thinks that it is going to be wildly fun. I think her expectations are somewhere between bounce house and waterpark slide, and I’m not sure how to put her feet back on the ground gently. She asked to do math the other day, and I gave her a bunch of suggestions…she could do a lesson from the curriculum we used to finish up Kindergarten, or play with the linking cubes, or the geoboard, or the attribute cards, or hey, we could even play Monopoly and work on money counting skills. She replied, “No, I want to do, like, fun first grade stuff.” She also told our pediatrician last week that the thing she’s most excited about learning in homeschool this year is how to ride her bike without training wheels. It appears that in my attempts to make homeschooling appealing and fun, I may have inadvertently left out a few details.

I start back to work this week, beginning the jarring jumping between the world of teaching my children how to be kind and decent human beings and teaching other people’s newly grown up children how to think critically about their world and put together a few logical thoughts into a compelling written argument. I love it and I don’t know why I do it, all in the same week. I get to put on real clothes, listen to NPR in the car, have colleagues and an office (shared with 3-12 other adjuncts). I’m not quite gone enough for my kids to ever get used to it, so there are still often tears and leg hanging on and whispers of “I don’t like it when you go to work” at bedtime. I feel pulled and torn and I need to teach and to write but oh, the effects.

There is never a settledness and there is always a better option and there is never quite enough…of me, of time, of energy, of fulfillment, of foreknowledge and security and peace.

And this is all there is, and this is the good stuff, and this is enough. Enough. I had it etched into my body in the hope that it would seep into my heart and my soul…I am enough. We are enough. You are enough. This moment of my life, with the too hot food and the too high expectations and the too strong pulls in opposite directions…this moment is enough. Buried within it is the epic nature of the ordinary, the sacredness of the mundane, the soul-stretching draw to the divine. It. Is. Enough.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Prayer: Crumbs From the Master's Table

I’ve been struggling with the idea of prayer lately. The extent of my frustration with prayer came out late one night, when one of my children wasn’t sleeping well and I prayed the universal mother’s prayer of sleep-deprivation: “God, will you please just help my child sleep through the whole night. Even just this one time. Please. Please. I’m so tired.”

It’s a silly prayer, really. In the grand scheme of things that could be prayed for, praying for another person to sleep falls far beneath world peace, ending hunger, healing the sick, and about a million other things. But, even as I recognized the insignificance of my request, I got angry at the unlikelihood of it being answered. Because shouldn’t the fact that my request is so small make it that much easier for God to answer it? It would take just the smallest nanoparticle of God’s mercy for my child to sleep all night. And if it actually happened, I would have no explanation other than that my prayer was heard and answered, and I would recognize the miracle.

So yeah, I also know that God doesn’t really measure out his mercy in particles and pounds. But how does he measure it out? When does he answer prayer? And how do we know that something that happens, either positive or negative, is him answering a prayer?

In bible college, one of my roommates was the type to see God in every empty parking space, lost keys found, and canceled class. My skepticism would rise to the surface and I’d be asking, so if I don’t find an empty parking space when I need one in downtown Chicago, God doesn’t love me as much as he loves you? If I don’t find my lost keys right away, then God’s trying to chastise me for my irresponsibility? If my class isn’t canceled when I want it to be, it’s because it wasn’t God’s will? Because if you see God behind every positive thing, every moment of serendipity in your life, don’t you have to also see him behind every negative thing? And if every positive thing is because of some good you’ve done, staying in God’s will, then doesn’t every negative thing have to be because you’ve somehow messed something up and lost your way?

I’m aware of the need to have eyes to see…that disbelief in the divine precludes seeing the divine. But that doesn’t equate to indiscriminately declaring any happening around me to be an act of God. I’m not comfortable with the logic that claims that every good happening is from God, and every bad happening is the result of my personal sin. Remember Job? Remember how the rain falls on the just and unjust? Bad shit happens to good, innocent people. Really good stuff happens to evil people. It just doesn’t add up so nicely.

So where does that leave prayer? I’ve heard the argument that the purpose of prayer is really to change the person who is praying. That the act of putting myself in contact with the divine isn’t about what the divine can do for me, but how I can change to be more aligned with the divine. I get that, and to some extent I think that’s true. But if God really exists and cares about people, and if prayer really is communication between God and I, shouldn’t it be a two way street? And isn’t the soul of humanity’s calling on divinity to beg for the divinity to intercede in this messed up place we live in, to beg him to act? And don’t people who care, act?

This morning in church the pastor talked about the story in Matthew where a Canaanite woman approached Jesus and asked him to heal her sick daughter. Jesus points out that she, not being a Jew, is an outsider. She has not been invited to the table yet, so why should he serve her? She reminds him that even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table. He acknowledges her faith and heals her daughter.

I feel like that outsider woman, begging to be allowed to have the crumbs that fall from the table above. Hoping that if and when I receive those crumbs, I’ll be able to recognize whose hand they came from. And hoping that if no crumbs ever fall, God still exists, still cares, still somehow acts in ways that I don’t see. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

In The Middle Of It

It’s easy (well, easier) to write when the story has a beginning, middle, and end. Writing flows naturally when it’s leading to a conclusion or insight.

In the middle with no clear end, things are foggy. There’s no tidiness or satisfaction. Language is stilted. Words don’t come. Specifics, the cornerstone of connection between writer and reader, seem too risky.
I’m in the middle of it.

Eden just turned 6, but really it feels like she turned 16. She tells me in anger that we’re not her real family; her real mom lives in Canada. I know she doesn’t mean it, but it still stings. She is brave and goes to soccer camp by herself, one of the youngest players there, knowing nothing about soccer. She smiles with excitement and bites her nails in nervousness. She dreams that week that she has a neck injury at soccer camp and the coach doesn’t know how to call 911 and no one has my phone number. I write my phone number next to my name the next day when we sign her in, just in case. She tells me that she wants to make her own decisions, wants to live in her own house so she can do everything she wants to do. Later that week she tells me that she still might want me to lay with her at bedtime when she’s 10, and is that okay? Will I still lay with her when she’s 10?

She’s in the middle of it. I am pulled along by her towards independence, my heart unready but my mind willing, and my spirit cheering her on. I am stung by her declarations, but hold her feelings along with my own. She needs me to see that in the end, she will be okay.

Isaac just turned 4, and he seems sad. He feels things big. I think it feels physically painful to him when his feelings are hurt; he tells me that a boy punched him when I know the boy didn’t. But he feels left out, and what really happened, the truth, objectivity, doesn’t matter. He feels punched. And I feel punched along with him. He moves to shame quickly, can’t sustain the smallest amount of frustration in my voice. I steady my voice, try not to fall under the weight of his need for me to stay calm, try to carry his feelings along with my own.

He’s in the middle of it. I feel buried by the pain that a little soul can feel. But I remember feeling things strong, feeling big pain, at a young age. He needs me to know that in the end, he will be okay.

I don’t feel okay. I feel tired, stretched, disturbed, and I feel love so big it could swallow them and me whole. I don’t see the ending. Parenting, mothering, loving…they are murky waters.