Tag Archive | forgiveness

The heart of the matter


Here’s the song reference.

The son of someone I’ve known for a very long time underwent his twelfth brain surgery in his nine months of life yesterday.  I can’t imagine the anxiety level in their house about now; the little guy was born a couple of months early, and has been struggling for his life ever since.  Please, if you can, spare a prayer for Dylan.  I asked the tribe to do likewise yesterday, and the girls were only to happy to ask God to send another miracle for a baby they only know through photos on Facebook.  They also made little construction paper angels for him.

All Bugaboo and Beanie know about Dylan is that he is the child of an old friend of mine, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters to them is that he’s a baby who is sick and needs prayer.  They don’t know anything about the structure of the household in which he lives, and they don’t know that household is composed of two women, one of whom I lived with in a relationship for eleven years, and a baby.  What they do know is that God works miracles to heal bodies, hearts, and souls.  They understand that no matter what our points of disagreement or disapproval, love means we pray for one another.  As we learned yesterday, Christ can heal any sort of brokenness man can imagine.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who are healthy enough to wear me to a happy exhaustion at the end of a day, and who understand that You have blessed some people differently.  You are the Almighty Healer of bodies and souls, Lord, and You heal and forgive indiscriminately all those who approach You with humble and contrite hearts.  Help me teach Your blessings that all of us sin, that no one person’s sin is so great that Your loving arms do not yearn for the return of Your lost sheep, and that we, in love, are to pray for all of Your children who have need of our prayers.  Every life is precious in Your sight, and we would teach Your blessings to always see Your face in every person.  And, Lord, please send a miracle for Baby Dylan, as You have sent so many to me.  There are many who need to see Your face in his.

In the shape of a heart


Here’s the song reference.

Not long after I settled the girls in at the kitchen table, Bugaboo with her morning waffle and Beanie with her morning milk, I had to go downstairs to let Smudgie out.  Hoping to get a little laundry folded, I asked the girls to please eat and drink quietly until I returned.  Of course, a piercing Beanie wail shook the house as I took the second shirt out of the dryer.

At the top of the stairs, I  met Beanie’s tear-filled eyes and asked her to go sit on her bed and take a few deep breaths, so she would be able to use her big-girl words and big-girl voice to explain the problem to me.  As she watched her sister exit the kitchen, Bugaboo held up her hands innocently and said, “I don’t know what got into her!”

As I entered the girls’ room, I took a deep breath myself.  Beanie has a notoriously short fuse and a bit of a penchant for melodrama. We are thankful that as she’s gotten older, her expression of temper has gone from physicial aggression to tears and screaming, which are far less injurious to her siblings and her environment.  I knelt down beside her bed and held her little hand.

“Okay, Beanie, what happened?”

“J-J-J-J-JACK-K-K-K-K-KIE Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-YELLED AT M-M-M-M-M-E!”

“Okay, what did she yell at you, and can you answer with your big-girl voice, please?”

“She yelled at me to drink my milk and pick out something for breakfast and give her my toys and she tried to take my toys away and she said I was a bad sister.”

Now, this is a tough one.  Getting Beanie to ingest anything in the morning is often a struggle, and one I’ve been trying not to push overmuch, preferring to let her start her day, then have her breakfast after she’s been awake for a while.  It took a while for me to get to that point, since I have a thing for structure and doing things as a family unit, but we had hit a point where half the morning was taken up butting heads with Beanie over eating breakfast.  I backed off, she eats something reasonable when she’s ready.  Since I usually have to be awake for a couple of hours before I can stand to eat, it seemed a reasonable accommodation.  If it had just been a question of Bugaboo fussing at Beanie for not eating, all that would have been required would have been a gentle reminder to Bugaboo that Beanie’s breakfast habits are just another example of how God made each of us just a little different.

The issue of Bugaboo’s acquisitiveness, however, is a little more serious.  We’ve had an ongoing problem with our eldest daughter appropriating her siblings’ playthings, and, while there are occasions when said siblings simply leave things near Bugaboo’s storage drawer and she just puts them away at toy pick-up time, it’s more common that she gets it into her head that she has a better use for their toys than they do, and tussles ensue over her desire to “borrow” this or that.  Calling Beanie a “bad sister” was just out of line.

“Beanie, what did you do to Bugaboo?”

“I screamed at her when she called me a bad sister.  Sh-sh-sh-she was being MEAN!”

“Okay, Beanie.”  I pulled her off the bed and into my lap.  “Can we remember to save the screaming for bleeding, broken bones, and somebody trying to take you away?”

“Oooooooooookaaaaaaaaaay.  I guess.”

“Did anything else happen while I was downstairs?  Is there any other reason Bugaboo might have yelled at you?”

“Nooooooooooooooooo.”

“Is Bugaboo going to tell me about some other reason she might have yelled at you?”  This usually works at getting untold bits of story.

“Nope.”  Calmer now.  Hugs can work wonders.

“Okay, then.  You are not a bad sister.  You’re a very good little sister, and a very good Beanie.  It’s kind to share your toys, but since we’re not supposed to have toys at the breakfast table, you were right not to share just then.  Did you have the toy with you?”

“Nope.”

“Okay, then.  Go back in the kitchen and finish your milk.  Are you better now?”

“Yeah.”  She skipped back off to the kitchen, and I followed with a slightly less springy gait.  Bugaboo sat in her chair, munching on a piece of waffle and studying an ink spot on the table fascinatedly.

“Hey, Bugaboo, can you tell me what happened there?”

“It looks like somebody missed their paper with a marker and got the table instead.”

“It does, doesn’t it?  But I meant what happened with the Beanie.”

“Oh.  I don’t know.  I was sitting here eating my waffle and being quiet and all of a sudden she just started yelling for no reason.”

As I took another deep breath, looked at the ceiling, and started to pray silently, Beanie piped up, “That’s not true!  You lied to Mommy!”

I looked back at Bugaboo, who had suddenly discovered something terribly interesting on the floor.

“Well, Bugaboo? Beanie says you yelled at her and told her she was a bad sister.  Is she telling me the truth?”

“A little.”

“Did you tell a lie?”

“A little.”

I sat down at the table, and Bugaboo confessed.  We talked about how lying hurts people just as much as calling them ugly things does, and that both are things that sadden Jesus, who wants us to be kind and gentle with one another.  I gently worked in the word “betrayal” after remembering what some of the day’s homeschool lesson plans held, and reminded them that Jesus also calls us, in love, to forgive all hurts as we wish to be forgiven by Him.  After a few minutes of discussion, Bugaboo apologized to Beanie, Beanie forgave Bugaboo, and it was time to get on with our school day.

Beanie’s school day started with a reading and coloring page about Judas’s betrayal of Jesus.  Both girls colored while I read the story, first from the picture Bible, then from a more mature edition that included how Peter severed the servant’s ear, which earned him a rebuke from Jesus.  I pointed out that even in the face of His betrayal, Jesus didn’t hit or scream at anyone, and He even forgave the people who came to arrest Him, taking the time both to heal the servant’s ear and to remind His disciples that their weapons were of faith, not of iron.

Later in the day, we read the story of Pocahontas.  I pointed out to the girls the Pocahontas was betrayed by one of her friends, and asked them if they knew of anyone else who was betrayed.  Beanie and Bugaboo both, with wide eyes, breathed, “Jesus was, ” which prompted me to remind them that one of the reasons we study history is so that we can learn to see the patterns in the way people act and how those patterns can help us predict what the consequences of decisions will be. We talked a little more about what it means to be a good friend, and a good neighbor, and repaying kindness with kindness.

After we’d read all the books and finished all the written work for the day, Bugaboo and Beanie helped clear the table for their favorite part of the day, which is whatever art or craft project we have on tap to reinforce some lesson from the day.  As the girls put away their pencils, they peeked over their shoulders to watch me draw big hearts on two pieces of red construction paper.

“Do we get to cut those out?”

“Yep.”

“Can we keep them and hang them in our room?”

“Once we’re done with them, you may do that if you like.”

They bustled excitedly to the drawer where their scissors live, returned to their seats, and looked up at me expectantly.  I handed each of them a heart and instructed them to cut carefully and slowly, showing our loving Lord that love and hearts are important.  As they worked, I got out a couple of pieces of regular paper and a roll of tape.

“Are we going to tape the hearts to the paper, Mommy?”

“Eventually.  We have to do something else with them first.  You both did a very good job cutting them out.”

Two very round pairs of eyes, one hazel, one deep brown, stared expectantly at me.

“Okay, tear them in half.”

“Rip them up?!?!?!?”

“Yes, rip them in half.”

They did, half confused, half intrigued, then looked back to me expectantly.

“Tear them again.”

I had to stop Beanie from turning hers into heart confetti as I tore of pieces of tape and stuck them to the edge of the table.

“Okay, now take the white paper and try to put your hearts back together.”

They looked at me, flabbergasted.  Why had I told them to tear up perfectly good construction paper hearts and tape them back together?  Had Mommy slipped a gear?  As they worked, uttering little exclamations of frustration at the impossibility of getting them to go back together just exactly right, I explained.

“You see, when we lie, when we take things that aren’t ours, when we betray each other and God, we hurt both another person’s heart and God’s heart.  We do everything we can to fix what we’ve done, but that heart is never quite the same, is it?”

“No.  It doesn’t go back together right.”

“Exactly.  We’re only human, ladies.  We still apologize, to each other and to God, but we can never totally make it right on our own.  Can a broken heart be made whole again, ever?”

“Maybe?”

“Yes.  If we ask Jesus, He can heal a broken heart.  So when we do the wrong thing, when we hurt somebody, we ask to be forgiven, and we also ask God to heal the other person’s heart, and our own hearts.  It hurts us when we do hurtful things, too, and we want God heal our hearts so they want to love instead of being mean.”

“Oh.”  Bugaboo paused for a minute.  “That makes sense.  He’s God.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who understand that You can heal broken hearts.  Help me teach them to always turn to You when they are downcast either because of an injury caused by another or committed by themselves, and that You call us to forgive as we wish You to forgive us.  Please burn into our hearts and minds that forgiveness and the need for it are not a cause for guilt, but for rejoicing, and that the more we forgive, the more we grow in the love You taught.  While we sin through our own free choice, Your love and mercy are boundless, and You will grant us infinite grace and help to avoid it if we ask You with humble hearts.

Breaking the Law


Here’s the song reference.

Mondays tend to be a little trying at our house; the tribe really enjoys having Daddy home for the weekend, and visiting with Nonno and Deedaw on Sundays.  The extra attention and fun outings are grand; there are things that, given the ages of our children, are tough for me to do without another adult around, so we tend to pack those things into Saturday and Sunday.  When the first day of Daddy’s work week dawns, all four tiny people are a little glum, and more prone than usual to snarkiness — let’s make that screaminess and whininess.  I’ve tried outings, playdates, extra-super-special art projects, music, prayers, movies, chores that separate combatants, art projects that separate combatants, science projects, cooking, playing outside, bubbles, using the bathtub as a pool, letting them make phone calls, extended storytimes, naps, rational explanations, and about a thousand other strategies, and have finally come to the conclusion that, for the time being, Mondays will generally be replete with opportunities for me to offer up small sufferings to Christ.

Yesterday was, of course, a Monday.  The first sound I heard from each of the first three wakeful blessings was a scream.  Baby Guy gets a pass for his, because he was hungry; Bugaboo and Beanie were just screaming at each other.  There is apparently some deadly insult among little girls that involves referring to one’s sister as either a yak or a tree, and once that insult is offered, a full day of combat is required to restore the honor of the offended party.  I spent a great deal of time explaining the concept of forgiveness to our daughters yesterday, sometimes in less-than-dulcet tones.  Mr. Man helpfully followed me around, his hands waving, hollering at his sisters, “Not nice!  No throw!  No push button!”

Of course, he followed his admonitions by hurling blocks across the kitchen and resetting the cable box so the on-screen menus appeared in French.  Mondays.  It was at that point I decided that a run to the store for milk and eggs was in order, partly so that I could separate them all by strapping them into their car seats.  As I put it to a friend, it was the sort of day that causes me to frequently thank the Lord for children who have large vocabularies and no speech delays, and to recall that since the Lord will send what I ask him for in faith, causes me to pray for wisdom instead of patience.

I’ll spare you the play-by-play.  By dinnertime, I was about at my wits’ end; once four tiny people were safely ensconced at the table with their meals, I grabbed my Kindle and headed out to the back porch to read and listen to a little Scott Joplin on my Kindle (click the link, listen to something beautiful), and tune out any noise that did not indicate a life-threatening emergency for a few minutes.  I decided to check Facebook as well; sometimes laughing at the silly pictures reminds me to be joyful.  Unfortunately, what I found was a terse and unresponsive response to an invitation to Beanie’s upcoming birthday party.  Sighing and composing responses of varying degrees of appropriateness in my head, I went back upstairs to investigate the source of the banging noise (potentially life-threatening, at our house).

Having ascertained that no one was in immediate danger, and having counseled Mr. Man that banging on the refrigerator with a spoon purloined from Bugaboo is not an acceptable method of music-making, I started making the rounds to see who wanted seconds of what dish.  Bugaboo scrutinized me for a moment, then inquired, “Nobody’s being very nice today, are they?”  I concurred with her assessment, and added that even people who weren’t at our house were being somewhat rude.   She considered that for a moment, then asked, “But we have to forgive them anyway, right?”

Yep.  “We do, honey.  Just like I forgive you, but still expect you to not keep doing it.  If you keep saying nasty things, or saying things in a nasty way, I’ll still forgive you, because God forgives me, but don’t be surprised if other people don’t want to be around you if you keep doing it.  We’re supposed to love each other, right?”

“Right.”

“Do we love each other by being snotty when someone didn’t do something exactly the way we wanted them to?”

Pause.  “No.”

“Right.  Do you want seconds of anything?”

“Is there more macaroni and cheese, please?”

“You betcha.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your law tells us that we must forgive each other’s trespasses as many times as others trespass against us, because You forgive us infinitely more times than we forgive others.  Thank You for Your little blessings, at least one of whom already understands that.  Please help me teach them what love is, and what love is not, and that love is more readily shown in kind treatment of others than by ostentatious trappings and public declarations of one’s great love for and faith in You — and help me show it in my conduct on the days when they are trying to break the world record for the decibel level of screaming and whining.

Sisterhood social


Inexplicably, Mr. Man decided yesterday morning was the ideal time to see how many Kleenex he could stuff in his mouth, and what sort of noise he could make through them.

Often, I spend a good amount of our daily “quiet time” — that time when Mr. Man and Baby Guy are napping — refereeing disputes between my daughters over everything from who gets to curl up behind my legs on the couch to whose favorite storybook should be read first.  The phrase, “You don’t love me!’ is heard with lamentable frequency, directed either from Beanie towards Bugaboo, Bugaboo towards Beanie, or either girl towards me.  It would be impossible to count the number of permutations my “just because she wants x, doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you, we love people and use things” spiel has undergone, and I’m probably perilously close to repeating earlier versions.

Yesterday afternoon, we passed a pleasant hour of quiet time watching the girls’ favorite television show, “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” As it happened, the “Sisterhood Social” episode was airing in the second half of the hour.  For those unfamiliar with the show, I highly recommend it for both little kids and the kids who have reached the age of majority. The link in the episode title goes to the full episode.  Watch it, especially if you have siblings or more than one child.

Children’s animated shows may seem like an odd source of wisdom, and perhaps even an unlikely teaching tools for a lesson that matters more than most to me.  However, on this particular day, it worked.   The tribe had been playing with Legos for most of the morning, and the girls were still playing with them after their shows went off.  Bugaboo was issuing a steady stream of orders and criticism to Beanie, who wanted to take the Lego creation in a different direction than Bugaboo’s vision, and both girls were becoming frustrated.

In the “Sisterhood Social” episode, the older sister (Rarity) is so bossy and self-centered that the younger sister (Sweetie Belle) eventually declares that she no longer wants a sister, essentially disowning her only sibling.  This being children’s television, there is, of course, a happy reconciliation at the end.  I called my daughters over to me and asked them if they remembered what had happened in the show, what Sweetie Belle had said to Rarity, and when two little heads nodded, I asked them if either of them really wanted the other to one day decide she doesn’t want to be sisters anymore.  They both looked at me a little strangely, and both said, “no.” Bugaboo continued, “Mommy, that was just TV, and like you always say, TV isn’t real.”

I replied, “That’s true — My Little Pony isn’t real.  But sometimes, the things they talk about on your shows ARE real.  Sisters really do sometimes get so mad at each other that they stop talking to each other.  Sometimes brothers do, too.  Do you remember when we read in the Bible about Cain and Abel?  Sometimes brothers and sisters even get so mad at each other that they kill each other.  Really kill each other.  Sometimes they just never talk to each other again.  And it’s usually over something that if both of them had just remembered to love each other instead of seeing who could get their way with the Legos, wouldn’t have been that important at all.”

My oldest daughter looked at me and said, “Mommy, I don’t think Cain and Abel had Legos.”

I replied, “You’re right, they didn’t.  But they found other things to fight over, didn’t they?”

“Yeah.”

“So do you think you can find some way to either build together or share the Legos so each of you can make something cool?”

“Okay.”

I hugged them and kissed them, and sent them on their merry way.  After a brief conference, Beanie decided that she would be the Lego scavenger hunter for Bugaboo’s building project, since she didn’t really want to build, but to sort the different colors and sizes of little bricks.  It ended with laughter and, when they both got tired of blocks, a request to go play outside to see if the local butterflies had returned after the rain.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have sent us four little blessings.  Help us teach them it is better to be siblings like Moses and Aaron than like Cain and Abel.  You came to teach us to love every human being as a brother or sister; please keep us mindful that if we are not loving our own siblings as brothers and sisters, we’re doing it wrong and need to seek Your forgiveness and Your guidance on how to reconcile ourselves to Your way and our family members.

The evil ego and the vice of pride


Yesterday was the last game of Beanie’s maiden soccer season.  I don’t know how much she’s actually learned about playing the game, but I do know she’s had a stellar time running around the big field with a dozen balls, twenty-some little kids her age, a half-dozen or so teenaged girls, and the boundlessly encouraging Coach Jackie.  As soon as she had wolfed down her breakfast, she sped off to her room to change into her royal blue shirt, white soccer shorts, tie-dyed socks, and her pink shinguards over her socks but under her Hello Kitty sneakers — then proceeded to carom around the house, knocking into things and shrieking randomly.  Her excitement was hilarious, if a little nerve-wracking.  Poor old Bo fled downstairs and curled up against the washing machine.

Since Beanie was the first kid on the field, Coach Jackie let her pick her own “coach” for the practice and the game.  It was hardly surprising that the smallest player picked the tallest teenager to be her coach, to a cascade of giggles from her adolescent compatriots.  While coaching Beanie is definitely the most physically demanding job on the field, as she has predilections for sprinting off towards the woods if she sees butterflies and climbing the net anytime she finds herself within arms’ reach of a goal, I’m told that the benefit of abundant Beanie hugs and kisses for the person who fetches her back are a good offset.

While Beanie was cavorting on the soccer pitch with the rest of the boisterous midget mob, Mr. Man was exploring the perimeter of the field, Baby Guy was cheerfully disassembling my diaper bag, and Bugaboo was pouting because big sisters of players don’t get medals or trophies on the last day of soccer season.  I tried to engage her with an extra soccer ball, to no avail; instead, she informed me that she needed to find a potty.

I’ve missed a lot of soccer practice this season taking Bugaboo to find the potty, which is inside the school building, about 200 yards from the soccer field.  At roughly yard 199, Bugaboo informed me that she did not actually need to use said potty, but had merely wanted to go for a walk with me, and that she was tired of everyone playing attention to Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy.

I took a deep breath.  Then I took another one.

As we headed back to the soccer field, our oldest daughter and I had a bit of a chat.  I reminded her that, last spring, Beanie had faithfully stood on the sidelines for each of her big sister’s games, and no one had cheered louder.  I also reminded her that when she needs help with her schoolwork, I gently ask her siblings to wait while she gets the assistance she’s requested, that she is the only one allowed to use the shower unassisted, the only one who has a stash of books she doesn’t have to share with anyone, was the first to go roller skating, the first to have a drawing grace the wall of our upstairs hallway — it was a pretty lengthy litany of special attentions paid to our first-born child.  Then I explained, as gently as I could, because this is a very, very big flashpoint in our extended family, that being born first does not cause the world to revolve around a given child, that we love all our children, and that while each one of them will have moments when she or he is the center of all our attention, that centering in no way diminishes our love for the rest of them.  I also reminded that part of being part of both our family and the Lord’s family is that we share in each other’s joys and sorrows, choosing a share in our collective happiness instead of choosing to sit, sour-faced, on the sidelines.

I’m not sure how much of it penetrated Bugaboo’s cranium, and I’ll wager the speech will be repeated, perhaps with different verbiage, several thousand times over whatever years the Lord sees fit to grant me.

After a brief stop to pick up a couple of lunch necessities, we headed home to share a meal, with two tired and hungry little boys singing a wordless duet about their troubles in the middle of the van. As I was flinging plates and food towards each child, the phone rang, with a call that, while it was not unexpected, was no less sad.  My Aunt, of whom I wrote in a previous post, had passed away while our branch of the family tree was on the soccer field.  I stumblingly asked my cousin if there was anything he and my uncle needed, kicked myself mentally for stumbling, and told him I love him.  If you have the time and the inclination, please pray for him and my uncle.

Here’s the song reference.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, please have mercy on Your child, Geraldine, and welcome her to a joyful reunion with the family who preceded her into Your Kingdom.  Please comfort her husband and her son, and all of us who mourn her passage from this world.  Please soften the hearts of those who refuse to mourn, and fill them with Your loving grace.

Lord, thank You for the four blessings You have given us to raise.  Please help us teach them that while we are all part of a greater family in You, their first and best friends are the siblings with which You blessed them.  Please grant them hearts that are humble and forgiving towards all people, but most especially towards each other — and please, Lord, grant my husband and I the grace to show them, daily, what mercy, humility, and love look like in action.  Keep us mindful that no one of us is greater than any other in Your sight, and that to believe otherwise is to make the grounds of our souls fertile land for the seeds of envy, wrath, and pride, all of which serve to separate us from each other and from You.

Where the wild things are? Riiiiight here.


I believe that “wild things” day would have held far more laughter had the weather been slightly more cooperative — and had Bugaboo not decided, according to my husband, to wake up at 2 a.m. and play until around 4 a.m.  Heavy rain and a tired, cranky preschooler tend to put a damper on our plans.

At any rate, yesterday was CSA pickup day, so the tiny people awoke greatly excited about the prospect of frolicking around the farm for a couple of hours, looking for wild things and just playing in the fresh air and sunshine with whatever new friends happened to be there with their parents.  Bugaboo and Beanie were the first to peer out the window and understand that the likelihood of a farm play day was pretty low, but they gamely persevered in their attempts to convince me that it would be a fine day to cavort there if only they wore their galoshes and raincoats.  After I explained to both girls how horribly unfair that would be to Baby Guy (who does not walk yet), and also discourteous to the nice farmer who might not appreciate having his grounds damaged by rambunctious small people in galoshes, I thought I mollified them by explaining that they would be welcome to don their rain gear and enjoy the mud in our own back yard when we returned from retrieving our farm box.

We read “Where the Wild Things Are” over breakfast, and I explained to them that we could make a game of spotting wild things on our way to and from the farm.  Wild things, we decided, could be birds, animals, insects, or plants, and if someone spotted a wild thing but did not know its name, a description would do.  During a lull in the rain, we splashed up the front steps and into the van, chattering as we went over which of the things in our front yard were wild and which ones were cultivated.  Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man all agreed that while the peonies, which are definitely cultivated, may be the prettiest part of our yard, their favorites are the dandelions and buttercups, because they can pick as many of those as they wish.  All the signs for a fun, if abbreviated by the weather, outing were present, and I heaved a sigh of relief as I backed out of the driveway.

As we drove, we managed to spot several species of birds, including swallows, robins, and a huge raven, wild-growing trees of many kinds, wild grasses, and wild flowers, including cornflowers, goldenrod, and Queen Anne’s lace.  A fly had somehow entered the van with us, and Beanie excitedly informed me that it, too, was a wild thing, and that the mosquitoes that bit her arm the previous day were wild things, wild things she did not like.  As we approached the farm, though, Bugaboo renewed her campaign for playtime in the big play area at the farm, and was repeatedly met with the reasons it would be not only unfeasible, but also unfair to her youngest sibling (Mr. Man joined in Bugaboo’s campaign, wheedling, “Fahm pease?” to punctuate her every attempt).

Proverbs 15:30-31 kept coming to mind about then, to wit:  “A cheerful glance brings joy to the heart; good news invigorates the bones.  The ear that listens to salutary reproof is among the wise.”  I was working on those cheerful glances, but the steady whine from the back of the van, somewhat like the high-pitched whining drone of a big swamp mosquito, was starting to wear on me; I was thinking an awful lot about that “reproof” part as I loaded our veggies and eggs into the van.

Since the rain was still sullenly waiting inside the clouds when we left, we detoured to a local big-box store on the way home to restock our dwindling supply of milk and diapers, and to select some Mother’s Day cards for the gaggle of grandmothers.  Picking out cards with the kids is usually a lot of fun; while each child makes a card for each grandmother, too, all the grandmas are fans of products by the Hallmark company, so we make the effort.  Singing cards, glittery cards, cards with pop-up surprises and magnets — it’s generally a guarantee of at least fifteen minutes of fun in the greeting cards aisle.  Mr. Man requires close supervision, because he would like to procure one of each card design, but Beanie and Bugaboo are very good about carefully inspecting, then replacing the cards that interest them, without damaging them.  Baby Guy likes the music and sound ones.

The girls are usually able to agree on at least one card.  Not so yesterday; every time Beanie even smiled at a card, Bugaboo promptly exclaimed, “That one’s just not right!  We can’t give THAT to Grandma/Deedaw/Nana!”  After the seventh or eighth such rejection, Beanie started to cry, and I advised Bugaboo that since she didn’t like any of the cards, she could stand on the other side of our cart and Beanie could choose them with help from Mr. Man.  Beanie and Mr. Man were thrilled to be charged with such an awesome responsibility, and within three minutes, had selected three very pretty cards, all of which play music.  Bugaboo, not having internalized that a little kindness would go a long way, grumpily looked at the greetings and announced, “I don’t like any of them.  They’re all ugly.”

I finished our shopping very quickly.  Bugaboo got another disappointment when I told her, in response to her inquiry, she was welcome to select any sandwich filling she liked, but that we were not stopping at the fried foods counter for lunch, to which proposal she replied, “I just won’t get anything, then.  You just don’t want me to have anything I like.”

I could describe the rest of the next two hours until I sent Bugaboo to her room, where she slept for half the afternoon, but I’d rather just show the pictures of the fun things Beanie, Mr. Man and I did with wild things.  It amazes me that a child who is asked six times if she needs a nap will angrily respond, “NO!” each time, but when sent to her room because she’s being so unpleasant that I need a break from her, will immediately fall asleep.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your blessings are gifts from You, and I do my best to love and cherish them, to raise them in Your ways and to seek always Your face.  Please grant me the patience and wisdom to discipline when I must, but to prayerfully reflect at the end of each day upon the example of Your love I have set for them with my words and actions.  Please bless me with the grace of clear vision to see my own thoughts, words, and deeds through Your eyes, and to seek counsel from other wise parents who walk in Your ways when I am uncertain.  And, Lord, if I’ve done it right, please still my mind and calm my heart.

Stories without words


Bugaboo and I had a bit of a struggle yesterday morning over, of all things, sight words.  She was pretty adamant that she had forgotten all of the personal pronouns she’s been picking out of books since she was eighteen months old, and I was equally adamant that this was a required part of the day’s schoolwork.  After a couple of hours of tears and demands on her part, and redirections and seating changes on my part, we finally got through the list just in time for lunch.  I’m partly to blame for the problem; normally, I set the girls on their lessons while I’m making the morning phone calls (I check in with my mother and mother-in-law every morning, just to see how they’re doing and share the previous day’s funny grandkid stories), but yesterday, I opted to let them play during those conversations.  Oops.

The morning’s dispute ended up being a periodic topic of conversation throughout the rest of the day; I overheard Beanie admonishing her older sister, “You shouldn’t be ugly to Mommy like that.”  I chose not to bring it up, except during a quiet moment while Bugaboo and I were alone, reading a story together, when I asked her, “Honey, was it really worth all that?  We could have had an extra hour of stories and maybe even a craft this morning.”  She looked at me and sadly muttered, “No. I’d rather have the stories than a fight.  And I’d much rather do a craft.”

After dinner, the tribe settled in for a long storytime and a big bowl of popcorn.  One of the first books we read was Tomie de Paola’s The Knight and the Dragon.  Mr. Man received the book for Easter, and when I bought it, I had assumed it was a retelling of the St. George and the dragon story; since Mr. Man’s given name is, in fact, George, it seemed like a fun and appropriate gift for the big guy. I was surprised to discover that it is a far gentler tale, and I’d encourage you to read the review linked above.  At least half of the story is told solely through illustrations, and Bugaboo, Beanie, and even Mr. Man himself had a great time filling in the story in their own words.  At the end of the story, Bugaboo asked me, “Mommy, why did the knight and the dragon want to fight each other?”  I answered that they probably thought it was what they were supposed to do, since there are so many stories about knights fighting dragons, and even in the book, both parties found lots of books in their libraries about how to fight each other.   She replied, “I’m glad they decided not to fight.  I like that they opened a stand together instead.”

We read a lot more stories before we prayed, sang songs, and bundled the tiny people into their beds.  That particular story, however, kept coming back to me, because it reminded me of our morning struggle with the sight words.  Yes, Bugaboo needs to know her sight words; yes, she needs to learn to follow instructions; yes, she needs to learn that sometimes the tasks set before us are not our favorite things to do.  That said, my job is to encourage and teach, and perhaps, in simply giving her a list of words and telling her to read them to me, then digging in my heels as stubbornly as she dug in hers, I taught her a lesson in inflexibility instead of the personal pronouns.  There will, of course, be times where a certain thing has to be learned in a certain way; this morning’s vocabulary exercise wasn’t one of them, but because I insisted on making it so, it turned into a cause of strife.  In Ephesians 4, I’m reminded that my words should be uplifting and edifying.  Telling a little kid she’s being stubborn isn’t particularly edifying; it’s analogous to telling water it’s wet.

The lessons of the lesson were still on my mind this morning as I sat down to write, and it finally occurred to me why I couldn’t get the incident out of my head.  I pulled up the Bible in another tab, and looked up St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  Sure enough, there it was, right in the middle of chapter 3:  “Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged (Col 3:21).”

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that the kids and I have been studying the parable of the prodigal son.  This morning, I’m the prodigal mommy, as I have been before and, I’m certain, as I will be many more times.  By meeting stubbornness with stubbornness instead of a gentle turning, Bugaboo and I ended up as the knight and the dragon in Mr. de Paola’s excellent story — with one of our heads stuck in a rock and the other stuck high in a tree.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the means and talents to educate Your blessings individually, here in our home.  You have given me tools, knowledge, and wisdom, and have granted me every grace when I have asked it of you.  Please help me remember that each of Your blessings is a unique, small person, as You created no two of us alike, but all in Your image.  When I try to insist that one of Your blessings must learn a certain thing in a certain way, please remind me that even You had to speak in parables at times, so that Your people could understand You.  Thank You for the reminder from a friend that each of Your blessings has his or her own particular beauty, and that while part of the trust You have placed in me involves making sure they walk in Your ways, another part involves making sure they have an example of the love You give us, one they can see always before them.

Please, Lord, grant me the grace of knowing when to shut my mouth and let my actions speak. Thank You for little blessings who are quick to forgive, and please help me think quickly and speak slowly enough that I might minimize the number of words for which I need to be forgiven.  Please infuse all of our lessons with the joy that comes from having You as my supervising teacher.

Good will hunting


I had a tough time getting myself together to make it to Mass yesterday morning; my head was a little foggy from Saturday, and I was grateful for my husband’s gentle prodding to get in the shower and dressed.  He took on the challenge of waking Mr. Man, dressing him, and jollying him into enough civility to give us, as it were, a prayer of making it through Mass.  It’s a good thing my best friend was able to shepherd us all towards the van; he remembered what I had forgotten, that it was our parish moms’ group’s turn to serve the donuts after the 9:30 celebration.  I had forgotten it so completely that I had not notified the other moms, so it would have been rather bad if I had not made it to Mass myself.  Luckily, we share our duty with the Secular Franciscans group, and when I explained my situation to their lovely leader, she responded by embracing me warmly and assuring me that she would lift up our family in prayer.

The tribe was exceptionally well-behaved at this particular Mass, and my husband and I were actually able to hear Father Hudgins’s homily this week.  This Sunday’s Gospel was the passage about Christ as the Good Shepherd, Whose sheep know His voice and answer His call, no matter how lost they may be.  Bugaboo listened quietly throughout most of Father’s teaching, and I’m planning to replay part of it for them when we continue talking about the parable of the Prodigal Son this week.  It occurred to me that I am thankful for a husband who shepherds our family into Godly pastures, even as Christ tends his flocks and leads them to the best of lands when they heed His call.

My biggest lesson from Mass, however, was something I’ve heard at every Mass since last year.  Some readers may be aware that the language of the order of Mass was changed to a more accurate translation late last year.  As part of those changes, the Gloria is now sung, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.”  To me, that may be the most important prayer in the entire Mass at this time; I pray that the Lord will create me as a woman of good will, and help me raise our tribe as people of good will.

We are trying to create a household where our children recognize the rightness of kindness and humility.  A fellow blogger wrote a terrific post the other day about creating a 93% chance of a successful marriage just by managing the ratio of kind words to critical ones (5 to 1 is the target).  If we can set an example of that for our children, we will foster good will in our domestic church, and while we do not want our children to be fools, neither do we want them to grow into the kind of adults who immediately leap to criticize, to tear down, to find reasons to dislike.  Perhaps teaching them to see the beauty first, to see the work of the Lord first, and to spend five minutes admiring it before spending that one discordant minute, will have the effect of arming them against the temptation to petty divisions.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You call us to gather together in Your name on the Sabbath, to worship You as a community of believers.  When we gather, we see Your love in action through our brothers and sisters in faith, praying and singing together.  Thank You for a loving parish community in which to raise Your blessings, and for the many brethren who model Your exhortation to charity to them.   Please keep my tongue gentle, even when I must correct, and help me show always my love for Your blessings in the way I raise them.  They will treat each other the way they see me treat those around me, and if my mouth is filled with spiteful words and anger, they will learn it from me.  Please grant me the grace of a heart filled with mercy, and a direct line from that heart to my mouth.  Teach me to celebrate life and give thanks to You with every thought, word, and deed.

Serenity prayer


There is a prayer, popularly known as the serenity prayer, that goes, “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  I’ll be teaching that particular devotion to the tribe early and often.

My mother has one sister, who is married and has one child.  I had not seen any of them since my Granny left us in 1990, because of a disagreement between my mom and my aunt.  Because the disagreement escalated to a point where Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin have little to no contact with Mom’s side of the family, they hadn’t had any word of me since the early 2000s.

When Pop-Pop went to join Granny in 2009, I finally learned their last name.

After a modest amount of Internet sleuthing, I located a young man who I believed to be Cousin.  Since I wasn’t completely sure it was he, and wasn’t sure he, Uncle, or Aunt would welcome contact from me, I set a couple of bookmarks so I could contact him later if it seemed advisable.

Last weekend, I happened across a post by him on a website I read periodically, indicating Aunt was in the final stage of a fatal illness.  The advisability of attempting to contact Cousin was no longer debatable.  I posted a quick summary of the situation on Facebook and asked my friends for help in finding good, current contact information for Cousin.

The Lord is good, and sometimes tells me His will by what help He sends.  I contacted Cousin through an online messaging service he uses. He was quite surprised that I had managed to find him, although not displeased, and invited me to visit.  As it happens, they live less than an hour from us.  Cousin and I agreed that whatever else happens, the feud between our mothers will remain between our mothers henceforth.

We visited them yesterday.  Uncle and Cousin assure me that Aunt knew we were there. Cousin conveyed Aunt’s request that Mom not visit her.  My husband and I agreed to honor Aunt’s wishes. We have not yet told Mom of Aunt’s condition.

I hope there will be time for me to visit Aunt again in this world.  We will make the time for Uncle and Cousin.

As it happens, Uncle and I share a profession; we are both educators, although he teaches at the college level.  Cousin shares all of our love of music, my husband’s predilection for video games, and our daughters’ enjoyment of My Little Pony.

I held Aunt’s hand, and kissed her cheek, and told her I was sorry it had taken so much and so long for me to come see her and her family.

When I went to bed last night, and when I arose this morning, I couldn’t shake the thoughts of what might have been, how destructive resentments, grudges, and pride can be.  I have an uncle with stories to share who I’ve met, now, a total of three times.  I have a bright and interesting cousin who I’ve now met twice.  I have an aunt about whom I know next to nothing who is no longer able to tell me her story, and who the tribe won’t remember.  This estrangement has been for my entire adult life.  Has been.  It’s done.

I believe that I had to live every moment of my life exactly as I lived it in order to be who, what, and where I am today.  There have been times where the price has been terrible for my daily joy.  This is one of those times.  If I can go where the Lord leads me through this trial, I know my joy will increase, but I will have to listen more carefully than usual for His voice, because my memory of a grudge with foundations that are unclear to me will be trying to shout Him down.

Please forgive this unusually terse and inelegant post.  And please read Matthew 18.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for my cousin’s post on a message board that led me back to a part of our family I had given up.  Thank You for giving them enough mercy and love to invite us to visit.

Lord, please forgive me for my unloving thoughts, words, and actions over the past two decades.  Please help me teach Your blessings that there has never been a grudge among two people that has come from You.  Wrath is among the deadly sins for a reason; it cuts off a part of my heart from reaching out in love, and instead allows a hellish brew of anger and resentment to fester where love and forgiveness should be.  Help me teach Your blessings to stand firmly with You when asked to be a part of someone else’s grudge, and when I am tempted not to forgive, or am tempted to bear ill-will because of a wrong alleged by another, please show me my aunt’s face.  When I choose anger, I am spurning Your gifts.  Kindle in me a grateful heart, Lord, one that is open that what blessings You send.  Please grant me, and help me teach Your blessings, a spirit of genuine and generous repentance, instead of useless and selfish guilt.