Baby Hands

Tonight as I was rocking Mitchell and singing to him, he took his tiny, chubby hand and held mine. His idea, his move. Of course, I absolutely melted with the sweetness of that moment. There is nothing like a tiny, trusting child taking the initiative to make contact. Not out of need, sadness, hurt, or any other thing they want from you, just out of the desire to be closer to you. As I sat there and drank in the presence of my precious baby, I thought of how often when I hold a child’s hand it is to protect him or her from harm. “Please hold Mommy’s hand and don’t run out in front of the cars.” Or, “If you get away from Mommy, you might get lost. Hold Mommy’s hand.” My initiation for his or her protection. Still very sweet but not quite the same as this moment. Or they hold my hand out of hurt or fear in a frightening or painful moment. Their initiation and still extremely precious, but there’s something missing from that contact that is present when a child just wants to be with you. Wants to touch Mommy and to feel love expressed physically.

As so often happens when I am still and present in my situation, God quickly moved my mind from these meditations to thoughts of His heart. I thought of this last week. How so many of us in this country and around the world have been moved to more thoughts of Him in our collective hurt, pain, and fear. We want to reach out and have Him navigate us through this parking lot of zipping cars coming in an out and not seeing our little hearts before we’re crushed in the choices of another human being who didn’t care to pay attention to those around them and what would happen to them. How a nation in pain has uttered many, many more prayers than average for these stricken families and this torn city. And that is right and good. I know His heart bleeds with us and while He cries for us and holds onto our often faithless selves whether we had run to Him the day before, or the year before, or a decade ago, or never…don’t you know He longs for that other contact too? That little hand curled around His powerful fingers when we don’t need anything except HIM. Why do I wait? Whether my life right now includes months of peace, days of peace, or only moments of peace, there is something I can offer. Some snatch of a breath of time to offer Him my affection. Not my need, my want, my hurt, maybe not even my praise in that second…just my adoring affection.

I wonder if some of that faith like a child doesn’t only come from an unawareness of evil or less opportunity to be jaded but also from a choice to not hold my heart aloof in quiet moments. If my moments are not spent building my defenses but in baring my little affectionate heart before a big Father, I feel that my faith would quickly follow. For He would take my affection even more carefully than I take my child’s. He promises my tears in a bottle, yet I don’t have the tears of my adored children. He says He knows the numbers of hairs on my head, yet I can’t give you that count on these little people for whom I would give my life in an instant. How much more does He love? How much does He long for us to go back to that place? And I think of this season and how God Himself became a baby hand curled around that of His Mother, and I feel quite certain that it is entirely possible that the God who can make Omnipotent Power Personified into a Baby Savior can also soften my heart into that place of affection again. That place of being present with Him for moments of belonging, not only moments of need.

I was teasing my boys tonight about being excited about what I got them for Christmas. I asked what they had gotten me and they sputtered and looked at me with a very “average-young-guy-at-Christmas-what-do-you-mean-oh-no-I’m-in-trouble” look on their faces. I laughed and told them I was kidding and not to worry. John V got a grin on his face and said, “Wait, I got you ME!” And then Levi went for the one up with, “Mommy, I got you my heart!” Melt. Sorry to all the jewelry stores trying desperately to convince everyone that a diamond is the only way to go for your lady, but that answer just gave me all I needed. That’s what I want. Precious little boys who trust my heart for them enough to want to pour theirs out to me, knowing it will be accepted wholeheartedly. They knew the reaction they would get. Hugs, kisses, and the assurance that those would be the best gifts ever. He promises that if I know how to give (or receive?) good gifts to/from my children, He knows unfathomably more how to give what we need.

He is beautiful. And that perfect Beauty wants me. My heart can’t hold that. He has sent us Emmanuel, “God with Us” and I think for Christmas I would like to give Him Courtney, “Child with Him.”

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A Cleansing Story

I mentioned in my No Fear Party post that for a month in October and November we cut out all sugars or sweeteners of any kind. We also cut out all grains except brown rice, all dairy, all nuts, all seeds, all beans, all soy, all vinegars…you get the picture. We ate meat, vegetables, and fruit. You would be surprised how well you can eat with those restrictions. I’m not saying you don’t miss the other stuff, but that short list includes some seriously good food. Some people really do not see the point of what we did. They think it’s hypocritical or something. “If you don’t do it all the time, then why do it? Aren’t you pretending to be healthy or something?” I find this logic slightly odd. There are a lot of good things we don’t do all the time, but we still try to do them on occasion or in certain seasons of life. There are also restrictions that are good for your body for a period of time but not long-term.  There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. You address the needs of your body as they arise. It is the discipline of fasting which cultures and religions all over the world have recognized as spiritually, mentally, and physically beneficial for thousands of years.

This “cleansing” choice is something that John and I began making years ago, spending some time yearly or twice yearly doing this. The list of things it accomplishes is quite extensive. The first time I did it was for a much longer period of time. It was a total of sixteen weeks with some of the foods like nuts and beans being added back in starting at eight weeks. I did this to address a particular health struggle I was having. There is absolutely zero substitue for diet change when wanting to address issues in your body. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. It’s our fuel, our batteries, our tools that allow our divinely created systems to do their jobs.

This time, however, was a first for our family. For the first time we did this as an entire group. Mom, Dad, and all four solid-eating children (which means Natalie technically did it too, I guess). No exceptions, even for the kids. By not making any exceptions you allow yourself to really and truly remove allergens and triggers from your system. When people say they’ve tried eliminating gluten, dairy or other things from their diets, I always ask if it has been complete elimination for several weeks. Otherwise there are still lingering intruders working their way through your system that might confuse your diagnosis of the issue. Then, when you add those allergens or irritating substances back in, it’s obvious. It will mess with you. You often realize that something you’ve been living with as “normal” was in fact completely avoidable and is a symptom you no longer choose to accept. Food tastes good, but if it takes away from your quality of life, it just isn’t worth it. I will make no claims to be an expert on any of this, but I have been extremely blessed to be taught by people who are. And it is a topic dear to my heart because I have seen it work. It gave me myself back when I was fighting through a haze of sadness, exhaustion, dizziness, nausea, and crazy emotions as the mother of three small children. What we choose to do on a day to day basis is a huge topic for another, or many other, posts, but for now I will just share what this month did for us.

“Depriving” ourselves and our kids for four weeks…

  • Reset our taste buds. It is crazy how quickly you begin eating things you didn’t think you liked when you take out your fall-back foods. I expected my kids to do better after a few weeks. No, the FIRST meal they ate plates of things they hadn’t wanted to touch in months.
  • Made us grateful. When you go for a period of time without things, they become more valuable to you. Certain tastes, the ability to eat out at a restaurant and order what you want, the joys and smells of baking all went from things we take for granted to noticed blessings. The ability to buy groceries that heal and nourish our bodies became something we thought more carefully about again. The simple and yet so enormous sensation of being full of anything. How many didn’t experience that today?
  • Allowed us to see if certain things were affecting our digestion, sleep, moods, or behaviors. Watching skin get clearer, sleep get deeper, tummies get calmer, and emotions get under control will make a believer out of anyone.
  • Provided us with at LEAST a year’s worth of health and nutrition training for our kids. How do certain foods affect our bodies? What is that ingredient and why do we avoid it? What are things we consume unintentionally in small amounts that add up to large problems? What are things that can be good for our bodies but can also be good things to fast from in certain situations? How can we consume foods more closely to the way they were designed to be eaten? My eight year old knows how to read a label. He knows that the daily allowances can be skipped while he goes straight to the list of ingredients. He knows that if he can’t pronounce it, it should be questioned. I don’t want them to know Mommy had a list of “yes” and “no” foods. I want him to know that he was created in the image of God. He is the one in charge of his own health. He will be the one who will need to learn to make his own decisions because he will benefit from or pay for his choices.
  • Showed us John V’s strength and maturity. John V has situations where he is in places without us. There is food around him and offered to him. We sat him down at the beginning of the four weeks, explained how this would work, explained why making exceptions would cause all of our hard work to be less effective, and then told him that the choice was up to him. Only he and God would know what he chose when we weren’t there and we weren’t going to question him. It was so sweet to me the bonding that came out of this. He was our little man. He would come back and talk about the cupcakes or pretzels where he was. How it was “Kind of hard not to eat them. You know, Mom. But we’ll have them again.” We were very open with our struggles and allowed them to be open with theirs. And we all grew closer through our “team” effort. He has been my pickiest eater because I didn’t start soon enough with him. This situation challenged him to rise up as a leader. He tried and tried new things and by the end was enjoying several foods he wouldn’t eat before. I am solidly sure he ate 500 apples.
  • Showed us Kailey’s desire for health. Kailey is six but she is better than I am about recognizing something will make her feel crummy and choosing not to eat it. She is far more in tune with herself than I would have believed possible at that young. She was eager to “be more healthy” and has been the most consistent in wanting to stick with better choices once we were finished with the four week period. If there was an avocado shortage around the first of November, Kailey caused it.
  • Showed us Levi’s will power in a truly positive light. Levi can be a hand full. Let’s just say that whenever possible, you really just want to choose to be on his side. Being on the opposing side can be an exhausting place to be. I know there are great things in store for him as that strength gets channelled into his purpose and calling. He took that same determination into this cleanse. Eight capsules? Swallowed in two swigs. Kale? Yes. Carrots? Yes. Chard? Yes. He can’t have that? Okay. It was staggering. I sort of felt embarrassed sometimes. He made me feel like a total wimp. He ate and went on with his life. Truly mind over matter with that kid. I have never, ever seen someone put away that much zucchini.
  • Showed us Mitchell’s flexibility. I thought he would be the hardest but he wasn’t. He ate what everyone else did. Which made me realize how much of two year old pickiness can actually be blamed on my own choices. If the right things are available and the wrong ones aren’t, it’s amazing what gets put away. Bananas and roasted kale, otherwise known as “dinosaur food,” were his favorites.
  • Reminded me again how grateful I am for a husband who can be a real man. He leads in this area just like any other. He doesn’t ask his kids to do what he won’t do. He backs me up. He helps me teach. He is not afraid of beet juice, spirulina, or a world without bread. He is awesome.
  • Showed me how often I make a choice because I “don’t have time” when, with a little preparation, it is actually quite possible to eat much, much better even with a busy schedule or while out and about.
  • Revealed addictions. I think it’s interesting how Americans classify addictions. An addiction to drugs or alcohol is bad. We should stop. But an addiction to food, sugar, coffee, soft drinks, or anything else is fine. They may have differing levels of impact on our health or lives but they all cause us to use a substance to handle heart, health, or life issues. To bandaid choices that need to be made about priorities, time management, and other problems. It’s a tough one for SURE.
  • Took us back to other things instead of food to: 1)Combat exhaustion. We slept instead of eating when we were tired. 2)Combat emotions. Somehow eating a pear does not replace your need to handle emotions. 3)Combat stress. Again, a carrot stick simply won’t perk you up. You have to deal with the stressor and move on. It also highlights how we use it to do everything from celebrate to entertain ourselves to socialize. While there’s nothing wrong with much of that, it is important to see it for what it is. It helps us to make better, more purposeful choices.

Suddenly “deprived” doesn’t seem like the right word anymore, does it? We removed something from our lives that we thought it would “hurt” to give up in exchange for growth, change, and blessing. If that doesn’t sound like a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is. I think that the God who recommended regular fasting for His people must have known what He was doing. Showing us more of Himself. I am extremely grateful for the ways that God has taught me how to care for my family over the past several years. It has been an interesting journey and is certainly one that is still in progress. I make lots and lots of mistakes. I get weary. We will continue to grow. I will change my mind. The teachers will change their teachings. Our needs will change. But I love knowing that just as He always has, He will put the right wisdom in my life at the right time to show me what we need and how to strengthen us. Because it’s really not ever foremost about what we’re putting into our bodies but about how we are feeding our souls and equipping ourselves for the real work. And what we’re putting into our hearts and into our bodies do often travel hand in hand.

Levi during our cleanse: “Dear God, thanks for Mom making this good food. And that it’s not lots of sugary stuff. And that we don’t talk about gross things. Amen”

Eating his "dinosaur food"

Eating his “dinosaur food”

Turn Your Eyes

There aren’t sufficient words for anyone to express their feelings over what happened yesterday. The interesting thing is that we always feel it’s necessary to talk anyway. It’s like we’re processing out loud, trying to make sense, trying to get answers for our questions. And yet I always find myself with slightly different questions than I see and hear in most places. Why does yesterday horrify us so when daily there are children living through nightmares as bad and worse? Why do we only get so upset when it gets a little closer to home and it’s “our” kids? “Our” kids who “should” be safe. Shouldn’t they all? Just like you, I wrestle with all of these. With pain and sin and suffering everywhere. Oh God, we are so broken.

Although I grieve with everyone else and am aware of general information about the situation, I have not once turned on my TV or radio. I refuse to be a part of what the media does in these situations. I will not watch one microphone shoved in the face of a grieving family, of a traumatized child, of a broken teacher. Hey reporter, I don’t need to know how they feel. I can take a wild guess. I don’t need details. DEAR GOD, why do we need details?! What is wrong with us?! If I lost someone I loved, I would be allowed to grieve in quiet, in dignity, in respectful mourning. But no, we can’t give them that. We deserve to know and they need to tell us. We’re like parasites feeding on their tragedy.

I’m sure you will have figured out by now that my kids have not been told what happened. A Facebook friend, Sam Jeffrey, posted a story Corrie Ten Boom told about her father. It describes perfectly my feelings about exposing kids to details about events like yesterday’s.

And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sex sin?” He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but, to my surprise, he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor. “Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he asked. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning. “It’s too heavy,” I said. “Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

God forgive us that we ask children to carry loads before they are able to bear them. Those children yesterday didn’t have a choice. They had to face something unthinkable because an adult made that choice for them. Carefully chosen words can be one thing according to the wisdom God gives us as a parent, but media images, their young minds can’t turn those off. Can’t choose to undo that. Can’t choose to unsee what we as adults set before them. Let’s not make sure hundreds of thousands more children experience pieces of the same horror. If I were to choose to tell my children anything, it would be stories of how there were some super hero teachers yesterday who went from being normal Mrs. X in the classroom to being warriors and rescuers. Do I need details to know that? Nope. I know lots of teachers and know exactly what they would do in those situations. They would be fierce and courageous. They have to do that every day. Anyone who respectfully and wholeheartedly takes the well-being of children on as a daily task is a hero. And way too often it goes unnoticed what a massive responsibility it is.

God forgive us that in the name of information we exploit hurting families and children in their grief. Somehow help us to stop. Deliver us from this insatiable need to view tragedy firsthand and help us instead to turn our eyes on the hurting before they hit the mainstream news.

God forgive us that we didn’t give that individual a bigger purpose to be a part of. A way that he could have impact. That he could feel like one of the warriors bringing about change as a created and designed individual. Maybe then he wouldn’t have needed to create a space for himself through destruction. Forgive us that he has seen our responses in similar situations and knew that yesterday we would be glued to the news saying his name over and over as he finally made a little space for himself in the cacophony of life that had drowned out his suffering.

God forgive us that it takes an event like yesterday to teach us respect for other human beings, for fellow students, for our teachers. Whether giving a giant piece of their lives yesterday or giving smaller pieces of it every day, the people investing in us deserve our love, gratitude and respect. They deserve for us to teach our children to honor them in their words and attitudes by modeling it with our own mouths and actions.

God forgive us that we need such horrible reminders to hold on to moments as precious. Why is it so hard to keep our priorities straight? Why is it so easy for me to become distracted, overwhelmed, tired, weary. Because my eyes are in the wrong place. More and more lately my heart has been turned to one plea. Because I know if I can do this one thing, all else will fall into place. I will see the needs of the hurting before they are unreachable. I will see the value of others before they are gone. I will see the daily as miraculous, the eternal as the important, and the unthinkable as temporary.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!