Tag Archive | Matthew 18

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.

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.

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.

Roman hands and Spider-Mans


I was musing about what today’s “blog moment” might be while doing my evening reading.  As it happens, I’ve been working my way through Romans, and after a few minutes I chanced across this gem:

“Let love be without falseness: hating evil, clinging to what is good, loving one another with fraternal charity, surpassing one another in honor: in solicitude, not lazy; in spirit, fervent; serving the Lord; in hope, rejoicing; in tribulation, enduring; in prayer, ever-willing; in the difficulties of the saints, sharing; in hospitality, attentive. Bless those who are persecuting you: bless, and do not curse. (Rom 12:9-14)”

I have probably read that particular passage at least two hundred times in my life, and I am quite aware that the Apostle was not intentionally referring to preschoolers.  However, it brought to mind one particular episode from the day, and caused me to reflect that we are called to have the faith of a child.  Everything to which I am called by that Scripture seems so difficult sometimes . . . and then the Lord uses His little blessings to school the homeschooler.

Mr. Man receive a belated birthday present today from two of his wee playmates who, being afflicted with hand, foot, and mouth disease, were unable to attend his birthday festivities at the Rodent Redoubt.  I had mentioned to their mom, who is a good friend and former colleague of mine, that our oldest son loves Spider-Man, and she helped her daughters select a pad of giant Spider-Man coloring pages, a Spider-Man puzzle, and a big playbal with superheroes on it.  The ball, to Mr. Man’s eyes, was pretty darned cool, and he had a terrific time taking all the puzzle pieces out of the box and telling me which ones had bits of Spidey on them, but the absolute treasure of the lot was the coloring pages, which featured an enormous picture of his hero on the package (that’s going to become a poster in the boys’ room tomorrow).

He stood on his Daddy’s chair at the table, eyes aglow and a positively jubilant smile radiating from his entire face, petting Spidey through the plastic (Mr. Man pets people and puppies alike) and cooing, “Hi, Spidey.  Nice Spidey!  Is big Spider-Mans!”  Bugaboo, whose admiration for the webslinging hero is rivaled only by her little brother’s, stood close by. I was carefully monitoring her proximity to Mr. Man’s new prize, since, as I mentioned a few days ago, Bugaboo has a nasty little tendency to “help” her siblings play with things by taking them away and using them all by herself.

While Mr. Man loves to color, these pictures are absolutely HUGE, so I asked him, “Mr. Man, would you like Bugaboo to help you color a big Spider-Man?”  His little face crinkled in thought for a moment; he squinted, cocked his head, and said, “Okay.”

This is what happened next:

When there is a kerfuffle at our house involving two of the tiny people, it is most likely to be Mr. Man and Bugaboo; although Mr. Man is very generous and kind for a two-year old boy, he is still a two-year old boy, with the attendant temper and tendency to disproportionate responses to wrongs, real or perceived, and his oldest sister’s acquisitiveness has started a few tiffs where I thought I might have to break out the boxing gloves.  He eyes her warily whenever she comes near something he’s really enjoying.  That said, he will almost always let her play with him if he’s given the choice.  He’ll even share his M&Ms with her if she says, “please.”

Last night, when he shared his coloring page, he was living Romans 12:9-14.  He doesn’t understand that yet, of course, but he loves his sisters and his brother, even though his sisters aren’t very kind to him sometimes; what he does comprehend is that if you love somebody, you share what you have with them, and are glad to share not only the object, but also the time and the joy with them.  No temporal laws or rules can compel loving behavior, and when he acted from his love for his sister (I would not have made him share, and he knows it), he reminded me that no matter how much I, as an adult, try to argue and nuance and rationalize, following Christ really is as simple as freely sharing our blessings, whatever those blessings may be.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You commanded us to love one another sacrificially, and to forgive one another as often as we transgress.  Your blessings reminded me today that simple, childlike faith and love are pleasing to you; no matter how I try to justify not showing love to particular people because of the wrongs they hay have committed, the offense of another does not relieve me of the responsibility to treat them with charity.  Help me teach Your blessings that if we love You, we will conduct all our dealings with others in the manner explained by Your apostle — with love, joy, honesty, charity, and diligence.  Thank You for the lesson You taught me through Your little blessings, and for softening their hearts towards each other (and, sometimes, towards their parents).  Please remind me that my tendency to rationalize uncharitable words, thoughts, and deeds comes not from You, but drives me away from You, and help me to see clearly the loving response You expect from me in every situation.