August 31, 2015
[An eternity ago], when I was on an undergraduate mission trip, I stumbled upon a verse in Psalms that struck me: it seemed out of place in my normal realm of Bible-Study-leader genre of readings, and was intensely comforting. “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” (Ps. 55:6, NIV). I repeated this verse to myself, like it was a favorite song refrain. Wow, I thought . . . a spiritual giant like King David would admit, out loud to God, no less, to wanting to get away from it all? If so, surely there is hope for me, secretly wishing I could just run away . . . just be “at rest”!
Eventually I grew up from that rough patch of life and moved on with a slightly more balanced, but still outwardly active life. In more recent years, I have found my struggles to be less in the realm of depression and more in the realm of overwhelmed stress. I bring it upon myself, oftentimes, filling my schedule to the point of breakneck speed. Thankfully, I now have a husband who calls me out about this, challenging my adrenaline-addiction and, sweetly, giving me permission to have human limits.
Last night I opened to my usual Bible app right before bed. Generally I open up the verse of the day and then expand it so as to read the chapter in its entirety. Without fail, I find some applicable comfort for the particular day when I do so. Last night I opened up to read “Les paroles de sa bouche sont plus douces que le beurre, mais la guerre est dans son cœur; ses paroles sont plus onctueuses que l’huile, mais ce sont des épées nues.” (Ps 55:21 OST) For those of you who don’t tend to read a French version, this would be “His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords. (NIV).
Humph. I grunted my displeasure at such an unsatisfying evening read. But I continued my routine of opening up the rest of the chapter. I was fidgety and distracted, and almost didn’t notice that there, in this chapter, was that verse I had loved so much, so many years ago. But the strange thing about it was the meaning was different. Or, at least, the way I translated the connotation was—and in a way that struck me just as powerfully. I know, intellectually, that verses have a different meaning at different seasons and stages of life; but I think this is the first time that has hit home with such reality for me. This time I read, “Et j’ai dit: Oh! qui me donnera les ailes de la colombe? Je m’envolerais, et j’irais me poser ailleurs.” and mused on the fact that to “poser ailleurs” does not mean to just fly away and be at rest. Rather, it is placing oneself in another place. So now, having wings like a dove gives the ability to lift oneself up from a current setting and get to another one.
Beautiful, I breathed. So now, as I get weary with the daily tasks of life, my comfort is a more active one. The truth is that I get deep satisfaction from being engaged in tasks that make me feel “needed,” and that keep me busy with meaningful work. Why not, then, have a relief from weariness be a more fulfilling role, as opposed to just getting away from it? And yes, tonight as I switched from homework-finished queries to lunch-packing for a preteen, I realized that the household tasks were somehow refueling me for another day of teaching . . . though in the middle of classes today I had wondered at my ability to manage the day’s worth of duties and roles. When it comes down to it, I guess, the act of moving from just one task to the next one is, at times, the most realistic way of tackling a mountain of said tasks.
*I snapped this photo during children’s church yesterday. Somehow, the image of little ones gleefully eating cake just seemed fitting for this post :-)
August 22, 2015
The honeymoon is over. We had a week of such fun that I was tempted to think “what’s so hard about this parenting thing anyway?” Except that I knew better than to say such a thing, even if it had been just in my own deluded head :-)
Sure enough, after that first week of ease we entered into the reality of post-pubescent life, and began to have the corresponding battles: morning school-prep delay tactics, for example. Or sneaking 2 extra laps across the pool after the “time’s up” warning, when she thinks I’m not looking.
Used to this sort of routine by now, I was surprised to find her uninterested in swimming after school yesterday. I had anticipated a fun Friday swim and ended up with a child throwing our plan for a loop as she expected to be able to sit at home by herself. We realized that we’ve had such a habit of asking her what she wants in any given scenario that we had no response ready when her idea didn’t mesh with ours. We decided to insist on an outing and set out, the two of us discussing discipline ideas while a sullen preteen shuffled her feet behind us. The remainder of the evening was smooth enough, but I found myself insecure, wishing we were smiling and laughing together, or that she’d show interest in doing yoga with me as she often does.
The truth is that I’m jealous of my husband-jealous of his laid back and patient nature, and jealous of the way he draws people to him and smooths out issues. I, on the other hand, get too easily stressed out and impatient with difficulties. I get frustrated by things out of my control and react by obsessing over minor details that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. In the household this means I’m the one who’s the stickler for rules, and the one always bringing up what needs to be done, and what hasn’t been taken care of. In other words, I’m the strict parent. And I’m realizing that I get very self-centered in my neediness to be “liked” in the home: this need does not mesh very well with a parenting role.
But back to yesterday. I had invited the boys over for a movie night, so all the boarders were together with us last night. A few times during the movie I asked P if she needed help with her hair. I had set up an early morning appointment for her at a nearby shop, after she’d said her weaving was coming out and she needed to get it fixed. I knew she was supposed to take out the old ones before the morning, so thought maybe I could help her do it while we watched the movie. She said no each time, though, saying she didn’t need help. She also said she didn’t need help waking up in time in the morning [which is said each weekday as well, with each weekday needing, in fact, said wake-up call after all :-)]. I said ok, though—no wake up call—and before long headed to bed myself, being rather zonked from the first full week of teaching. The boys and Peace finished the rest of the movie while I read in bed. A bit later, once all were headed to bed, I heard a knock on the door. Peter answered from downstairs, and I heard her respond that she didn’t need him. She asked to come in and, when I said to come on in, she fidgeted for a moment before asking me what she should do about her hair. “Well,” I began, you can either stay up late tonight or wake up early in the morning—you do need to take them out, right?” She nodded, but didn’t respond. “Do you want me to help you?” I asked. She looked up then. “Will you?” I told her I would, and got out of bed. Realizing it was going to be along process, I called for assistance from a neighbor as well, who came over immediately. The two of us made relatively good time with the braids, chatting with P while we did. I told her the story of my hair-buzzing when I was in my twenties.
Frankly, for all my rule-enforcing tendencies, I was relieved that she had asked me to help her. Somehow it eased my insecurity over my role, and it gave a sense of purpose that calmed my nervous spirit. In so many ways, I know I am not suited to the roles placed in my life right now: teacher, parent, wife . . .
Lord help me as I piece them together, best as I can, and somehow, someway, survive the refining process brought about in the process.
August 15, 2015
I will never win Mother of the Year: I generally tell others that my husband is the one with the nurturing tendencies. So it came as a surprise to me more than anyone when tears sprung to my eyes as I beamed with pride. We had walked in, slightly flustered at my worry that we were short on time before the bell, and as we walked up the stairs another teacher looked over at us and exclaimed that my girl looked so smart in her uniform. “I know!,” I said, smiling so big I had trouble enunciating …”doesn’t she?”
The funny thing about this was that her uniform-wearing was a total improv job for us, right before we walked out the door that morning . The truth is that our rush was my own fault-I was the one stressing about my appearance and changing clothes at the last minute, so that I did not notice till the last minute that she was not wearing the uniform I had expected her to be in. Due to some payment confusion, she had spent the first few days of school in regular clothes. While the school had given us permission in this regard, I did feel bad that she was having to stand out among her peers; I’d been excited, then, to borrow a couple shirts the day before. We then discovered that she actually had with her a skirt that looked almost identical to the uniform skirts!
So yesterday morning when I saw she wasn’t wearing our planned uniform, she explained that the skirt had a problem. I asked to see it, while explaining that she still needed to wear the shirt, even if the skirt didn’t work. When I saw the problem, I realized that I could make it work sufficiently enough for the uniform to appear all together; there in the kitchen we did a quick change-and-clothing-hack, and then headed out the door.
It occurs to me that oftentimes my life is like a clothing hack–I end up finding ways to make do, but always have an underlying suspicion that the rest of the world “has it all together ” far better than I do. While I intellectually know this cannot be true, I still persist in living as if I have to maintain appearances of planned-ness, of professionalism, of “normalcy,” and of proper spirituality. Most of the time, the reality is that I tend to figure things out as I go, for better or for worse.
Peace. Our dorm daughter’s name is Peace. And ever since she arrived, I have had Paul’s benediction running through my head. “Grace and peace to you …” Somehow, with my own name (meaning and middle name) being grace, I cannot help but feel there is a significance to the fact that the two female names in our household are meant to be. In some way, we are to live output names. Somehow, we will be the recipients, as a household, of both grace and peace. In spite of mothering inadequacies :-)
August 2, 2015
Wow. I’m tired … This transitioning business is intense. How could I forget, in just three years since my last new-country transition, how draining it is to be a newbie in the world. Ok, fair enough-I’m not exactly a newbie in the world :-) But I might as well be, seeing as how my world is all new right now: home, work, community, language … Even “family,” shortly, once our boarding house “children” arrive this week. And that part, in fact, I am super excited about. Somehow, settling into a large house with beds made up for students has left me eagerly anticipating the youngsters, in a way that comes as a surprise. My customary reaction to change involves either fearing or feeling numb about that which is to come – only after having some sort of experience, some frame of reference for excitement, do I look forward to something.
Marriage, for instance: before my wedding, I would quite truthfully answer “no” when asked if I was excited. How could I feel excited about something that was unknown to me?, I wondered. So why would you be willing to do anything new, you ask? I should clarify that my lack of excitement does not indicate an expectation that something will be negative: He has proven to be faithful in bringing good gifts with each step I have taken, oftentimes overwhelming me with the goodness of it all. So from experience I know that it is right to walk forward into the unknown, even if I do so fearfully, anticipating the things I will have to give up, and the hardships that are to come. I can use that experience, then, to remind myself and to coax myself forward past the fear … And into the goodness (which married life definitely proved to be overflowing with!)
Back to the present [or to the future? ;-)]. All that to say, I find it curious that I’m looking forward to the arrival of our students, since I have not yet experienced the role of dorm parent. Maybe the fact that I have experienced dorm life serves as some frame of reference …a possibly deceptive frame, now that I think about it, considering the fact that I was not in the primary parent role before! Then again, this time around I have a husband who will also be primarily filling that role :-)
Here we are–a couple of parenting newbies stumbling our way along this transitioning road: making errors left and right [primarily those of the “left” variety, being 2 lefties in a culture where the use of our left hands generally indicates the intent to be offensive ]; trying to have patience with each other as we do so; praying for grace, for each other, and for ourselves!
*one of my potential goofs involved the taking of this photo. I had happily happened upon a view over the city, from the university’s botanical gardens while running. I stopped to take a picture and, as I did, heard a voice behind me asking if I was taking a picture of “his garden.” Uh oh, I thought. My response was simply to stammer “Um . . . yes-it’s beautiful!” Hopefully not too bad of a goof, but it did make me inclined to be a bit more cautious in my photo-taking :-)