Friday, August 23, 2013

Per-spec-tive

Sacred, by Caedmon's Call

This house is a good mess
It's the proof of life
No way would I trade jobs
But it don't pay overtime

I'll get to the laundry
I don't know when
I'm saying a prayer tonight
'Cause tomorrow it starts again

Could it be that everything is sacred?
And all this time
Everything I've dreamed of
Has been right before my eyes

The children are sleeping
But they're running through my mind
The sun makes them happy
And the music makes them unwind

My cup runneth over
I worry about the stain
Teach me to run to You
Like they run to me for every little thing

'Cause everything is sacred?
And all this time
Everything I've dreamed of
Has been right before my eyes

When I forget to drink from you
I can feel the banks harden
Lord, make me like a stream
To feed the garden

Wake up, little sleeper
The Lord, God Almighty
Made your Mama keeper
So rise and shine
Rise and shine, rise and shine 'cause

Everything is sacred
And all this time
Everything I've dreamed of
Has been right before my eyes

More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/c/caedmons_call/

One of my great teachers, Mr. Charlie Derleth, taught me a lot about perspective.  He was one of my art teachers in junior high and high school, and though he is retired now, he and his lessons will never retire from my mind.  Art, he said, is about learning how to see.  It's about learning per-spec-tive (he would stretch out the word so that we would finish it for him).  He taught us the phrase, "I can't draw yet like I'd like to be able to, but with practice, I'll get better and better."  He also taught us the useful variant, "I can't draw yet like I'd like to be able to, but with practice, I'll get more and more frustrated."  
Why am I thinking about him right now, and what does it have to do with the song lyrics I posted?  Well, as I hinted at on my Facebook status this morning about the "POOPOCALYPSE 2013", I've spent the majority of the day cleaning up poop.  During a brief spate of time where she was on her honor to play in her room and take herself potty when necessary, Ruby had a poop accident and it got everywhere.  Also she totaled her room before (?) that happened, including pulling down her curtains and pulling every single article of clothing out of her brother's dresser drawers. So today has been pretty much an unending loop of laundry, running toys through the dishwasher, scrubbing the carpets, wiping puzzle pieces with clorox wipes, and generally getting down and dirty with a very unlovely waste product (although I must say I hate cleaning vomit even more than poop, and thankfully there hasn't been any of that today).  Finally, with both kids taking naps (translation: Max actually sleeping, Ruby playing quietly in her room, in a diaper because I'm burned out on accidents for the day), I perused the day's mail.  There was the alumni magazine from my high school.  I read through it, marvelled at how this is my baby sister's senior year there, looked at how some teachers don't look a day older and others do, raised my eyebrows at the new building improvements being made, and then flipped over to the "Alumni Notes" section.  I noticed that 3 of my classmates were honored by the St. Louis Business Journal for being among "30 under 30" success stories.  Now, I've never imagined myself being a business success in any way.  It hasn't been a dream of mine, and not something I deserve recognition for. In fact, my small foray into having my own business has proved to myself that I am just NOT an entrepreneur or businesswoman AT ALL.  Not my thing, and that's okay, really.  So, while I don't envy them their success, I do envy them the recognition.  Wouldn't it be rad to have a "30 under 30: Moms to watch out for"?  You know, a big fancy dinner where I get to dress up and put on makeup and get some little trophy for cleaning up my kids' poop all the time, making lunches, dinners, breakfast, etc.?  
The perspective comes in with the song lyrics.  Everything is sacred when I dedicate it to God.  Whatever I do as an act of service to others in the cause of God is sacred work.  Even cleaning up poop.  I may not get to have any fancy recognition here and now, but I hope someday to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."  That will be what matters.  
Still learning how to see, Mr. Derleth, but with practice, I'll get better and better.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It's been a day...


I knew all the answers
The way my life should go
And when I used to say my prayers
I would tell God so
It seemed he wasn't listening
I thought he didn't care
But lookin' back
It's plain to see
He was always there
'Cause I prayed for strength
And I got pain that made me strong
I prayed for courage
And got fear to overcome
When I prayed for faith
My empty heart brought me to my knees
I don't always get what I want
I get what I need
I'm not sayin' that it's easy
Or that it doesn't hurt
Nothing seems to go my way
Nothing seems to work
These days I'm getting better
At goin' with the flow
Accepting that sometimes the answer
To a prayer is no
'Cause I prayed for strength
And I got pain that made me strong
I prayed for courage
And I got fear to overcome
When I prayed for faith
My empty heart brought me to my knees
I don't always get what I want
I get what I need
Every time I've had a door slammed in my face
In time a better one was opened in its place
I prayed for strength
And I got pain that made me strong
I prayed for courage
And got fear to overcome
When I prayed for faith
My empty heart brought me to my knees
I don't always get what I want
I get what I need
Oh I don't always get what I want
I get what I need


Read more: Collin Raye - What I Need Lyrics | MetroLyrics 


I heard that song on the radio today at an opportune moment.  It's been quite a day, a day of not knowing where our next financial provision is going to come from or what form it will take.  It started out with hearing from Allen's carpentry apprenticeship program that they likely won't be starting any of the apprentices out until the beginning of October (which isn't exactly great timing given my October 4th scheduled c-section, but that's another matter)...which means he isn't making any money this month except what he can make doing scrap metal and odd jobs.  That was quite a blow.  Then, this evening, I got an email stating that I had actually received my August paycheck in error; that I shouldn't have been paid at all this month contractually speaking.  It was a one-two punch to the bank account, which is feeling none too happy after a summer of Allen not having regular work.  
And I must confess that I haven't been handling this particular adversity very well.  Fear, stress, anxiety, self-pity: these are the emotions I've been hosting today all too frequently.  I was thinking about it as I drove Max to the doctor's today, thinking about how I had asked my sister in law to pray for us.  What I had meant by that phrase "pray for us" was really--if I'm honest--"pray that God will fix this mess."  What I should have meant was "pray that God will increase our trust in His provision and help us to act on faith, not on fear."  How many hard times have we been in financially since we were married four years ago?  How many times has deliverance come in one form or another?  We haven't been homeless yet, even when times have been bleaker than this.  We have people who care for us and are helping us out in many ways.    
I've been telling Ruby stories from the New Testament, usually accounts of the miraculous healings that Jesus did.  One of her favorites is about the woman who was sick with a hemorrhage for twelve years, who had faith enough to believe that if she just touched the hem of Jesus' garment, she would be healed.  She did touch it, and she was healed.  Her faith made her well.  Or consider the story of the Gentile mother whose daughter was very sick, whose faith in Jesus' powers made him marvel and exclaim that even in Israel there were few who had this kind of faith.  Or think about the friends who took their paralytic friend to Jesus and had to dig through a roof just to get their friend to Jesus.  These are the kinds of people whose faith I want to emulate.  They are determined, trusting, persevering.  Instead, I often feel like the man who cries out, "I believe, help my unbelief!"  
This year I've been listening a lot to our local Catholic radio station.  Every day at 3 PM and 3 AM, they pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which ends with the following prayer: 
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.
It is a great reminder that God's will is not meant to hurt me, but to shape me and mold me, as the song that I quoted at the beginning also attests.  I also like how the Chaplet and the Rosary both begin with the Apostles' Creed, which begins "I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth..."  Sometimes it is easy to say that in a rote fashion, but when I stop to think about it, I am saying that I believe in a God who made EVERYTHING.  Is anything too difficult for Him?  If He can create Heaven and Earth from nothing, my problems aren't going to be too tough for Him to solve.  
I guess I'll end this post with some gratitudes to reframe my perspective.
1.  I'm grateful that my husband is willing to spend his days driving around in his pickup to get scrap.  It's a dirty, tiring, thankless job and sometimes requires dumpster diving.  Yet today he made almost $100 with scrap that he picked up yesterday and today (and since it is paid at a few cents per pound, you can imagine how much scrap that was that he found!)  
2.  I'm grateful that Allen is also willing to do just about any odd job that will bring in money for the family.  Whether it is driving around to pick up furniture to resell to antique stores, donating his plasma,  helping people move, doing yard work or maintenance, or baling and bucking hay, he will go the distance and get sweaty, dirty, and tired out to help make ends meet.  And all this he does without complaint: he's got a great work ethic. 
3.  I'm grateful that we have family members who are pitching in to help us get through the tough times.  Whether it is putting money towards Ruby's upcoming childcare expenses (preschool this year!) or offering to babysit the kids for free or for very delayed and far-below-par pay, we would be sunk without family.  
4.  I'm grateful that God has provided in tangible ways even today.  Allen had an uncommonly good day with finding scrap and then found two temporary job leads, one of which started immediately (as in right now!)
5.  I'm grateful for the witness of those saints who have gone before, whether in past weeks or past centuries, and have trusted God in far more trying and frightening circumstances.  
6. I'm grateful for technology that bears witness to God's love for us.  I can listen to uplifting prayer, teaching, and song on the radio 24/7 for free!  


Friday, August 2, 2013

Watchword

Psalm 127

Unless the Lord builds the house,
they labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
to retire late,
to eat the bread of painful labors;
for He gives to His beloved even in their sleep.

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
the fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
so are the children of one's youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
they will not be ashamed
when they speak with their enemies in the gate.


I'm sitting on the couch enjoying some quiet work time (thanks to my hubs taking the kids out on errands).  I was feeling overwhelmed with all the work that is coming up; it seems insurmountable.  To plan out the fall semester for 3 different social studies classes (with no set curriculum to work from, I might add), 8th grade language arts (also no set curriculum for this), one or two elective courses, and running 8th grade projects so that I can hand it all off to a sub when baby #3 decides to show up...umm, yeah, that's quite a bit of work.  Add to that being the mom of two little ones already, and a wife to a man who is about to start a new and demanding job of his own, and you've got a recipe for some stress.  I was starting to feel it, and I got up to take out the trash for a short walk and change of scenery.  As I walked out, I thought, "Well, I will just have to do a good job of planning things and I'll have to be really organized," (which is really NOT my strong suit, I'm afraid to say), "and it will all work out."  Then God brought to mind this verse: "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it."  I was struck with how much that applies to every area of my life.
Unless the Lord plans the curriculum...
Unless the Lord superintends the finding of a preschool...
Unless the Lord organizes daily priorities...
you get the idea.  I can try to do it all myself, and I may even "succeed" on some front or some level, but unless the Lord is the one superintending it all and unless it is all done to glorify Him, it is all work done in vain.
I went back inside and looked up the rest of the verse, and was shocked to see that the second half of the psalm was the one about being blessed to have children.  I had, of course, heard that many times, but I had forgotten that these two scriptures were connected.  Not coincidence, I'll wager, that Solomon put those thoughts together.  And as with all Scripture being "God-breathed", it is spookily relevant to my life today.  I can burn the candle at both ends, but to what avail?  God gives sleep and rest to his loved ones and he gives us the grace to deal with the work of the day.
I talked on the phone with my mother-in-law today and she was also stressing the importance of praying and seeking help instead of burning myself out.  She went through a lot of burn-out herself when she was a young mom and hopes that I can avoid some of the grief she went through.  As my friend Kelly would say, it's a "God shot" that I found this part of Scripture today to help me keep perspective.  May it be my watchword, O Lord.