Get The Gist

Just a friendly reminder that you can watch the latest episode of The Gist, right here!

I really enjoyed this episode. Full disclosure: it took some work for me to get comfortable watching myself. The first time I was like “my voice sounds like THAT?!” Also, I discovered that I’m a very active listener. Must. Stop. Head. Bob.

This week we’re talking about toddlers and discipline and also vocations. Also, I interview a nun (and a very cool layperson) about a fertility app for your ipad!

Good stuff, all around.

Life with a Big Brother with Bigger Brothers

At the tail-end of Isabel’s naptime yesterday, Henry asked if he could go in to play with her. She was starting to make noise and he figured she’d enjoy some company.

I said yes and off he went. A while later, I could still hear the two of them playing. I was surprised and pleased with how long they were staying entertained. It was nice.

At some point, I could tell Isabel was ready to leave her crib and when I went in to get her, her crib was filled with toys. Every single basket had been taken from the toy closet and dumped into the bed. It was a mess. Cars and army guys and hot wheel ramps spilled out from the slats, the occasional baby doll here and tea cup there. And there stood Isabel, in one small corner of the crib, boxed in by a cacophony of wood and plastic.

I pulled her out of the bed and instead of being irate, I was actually relieved. I had been putting off this very necessary and long-overdue nursery purge and now I had no choice but to face the music. Isabel’s clothes had been piling up on her dresser for weeks because I needed to deal with the drawers and the room was now such a disaster it was time to work.

Later that afternoon, I was able to spend several hours sorting clothes and toys and in the end had two large black trash bags for Goodwill (where in the world was all that stuff hiding in there?) along with two very clean closets and a host of organized dresser drawers. Walking into Isabel’s room now brings me joy, just like the old days before it had gotten so out of control that I was forced to shield my eyes as I passed it by.

In the midst of all that cleaning, we came across a CD one of the boys had gotten at Bible school last summer. I gave it to Henry, who immediately turned it on and fell in love with the peppy songs about Jesus and God’s creation. It listened to the music at bedtime and also wanted to bring it in the van.

This morning, Henry asked if he could bring the CD to school and when we pulled up in the car line, his teacher was happy to let him bring the music. Off he went, climbing out of the van, excited about treating his classmates to some Bible tunes over lunch.

When I came back for Henry this afternoon, I asked his teacher how the class enjoyed the music. She said they loved it.

“We found that yesterday when I was cleaning Isabel’s room,” I told her. I explained how Henry had forced a much-needed work party for me. “He dumped every single toy into that crib, and I had no choice but to sort through it all.”

“Yup,” said Henry, he with four older brothers who are in love with Chuck Norris, “I put all the toys in the crib because I was trying to put Isabel in a sweat box.”

Two Pics for a Friday

1. Charlie has the feeling someone is watching him.

2. My mom, taking cancer by storm.

I have been saying, up until now, that my mom doesn’t have cancer. She doesn’t.

But you know what? That doesn’t make this any less sucky. It still stinks that you can get this “bug inside you” (as Henry likes to say) and then there goes the hair and you spend time in the hospital and you feel like crud here and there. The alternative, not having to deal with this, would be so much nicer.

But truth is, you can’t spend too much time feeling bad about what a difficult time this is. The time is upon us whether we would have it or not. Our job is to cowboy up, look all this stuff in the face and say, “My God is bigger than this!”

And that’s what my mom is doing. She’s decided, “enough. Life is for the living.” And she is radiant and beautiful and confident in Jesus.

And we are confident in her (and Jesus too).

p.s. that is indeed my man Paul shorning my mom’s locks. Can you believe that? It was fun. It somehow made what could have been a less-than-ideal situation a little less less-than. If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.

Whose Children Are These?

I have a little game I like to play with my small children, a diversion I invoke when toddlers hit that age of abject crazy that turns even the simplest tasks into epic endeavors.

We call it, “Store.”

Store is primarily for two things: putting on shoes and getting into the car seat. Those seem to be the two worst  activities in the entire history of the world, if a two-year-old is to be believed. For the life of me I can’t figure out why my placing your chubby little foot into an encasement of leather should bother you so. And the car seat! Why must you despise it? We’re going somewhere fun, I promise!

But alas, the two-year-old is not easily persuaded and trying to calmly convince this child that it’s all for their own good and for a good cause and for good fun — well, none of these approaches seem to work.

So I invented Store, where I pretend that my screaming child is not a screaming child at all but is actually a short little customer just trying to find the right pair of shoes. I’ll use a fake accent, pretend the shoes are merchandise, and treat all obnoxious behavior as I would that of a stranger — with utter detachment.

“Oh, no no no,” I’ll calmly encourage, “everything’s going to be just fine. You’re going to love this shoe, I promise.”

The beauty of Store is that my freakishly calm affect seems to stun my child, but it also snaps me out of what tends to be a stressful situation. Instead of getting all worked up about things, instead of having my own little meltdown of frustration, I keep my wits about me.

Basically, I’m pretending this child does not belong to me.

How sad, I’ll sometimes muse, that in order to treat your child with the utmost in patience and love you have to pretend he belongs to someone else.

But it’s true. Acting like these children are not my own somehow (at times) gives me that boost, it inspires in me the valiant treatment I know I should give. It helps me remember to treat my children the way they ought to be treated.

This is not to say that I’m a robot; children making bad choices certainly must be corrected. But in terms of just having to get through stressful moments, me keeping my sanity is often half the battle.

Truth be told, I should always be playing Store. Because these children don’t belong to me. They are God’s children, put in my care. If I walked around with that reality at the forefront of my mind, I wonder how much better my stressful days would go. I would have love and joy to spare, because I am in charge of the children of the King of the Universe!

And it’s not that I’d be indulging these children; that’s not what it’s about. In fact, it would be just the opposite.

“No you can’t watch that mind-numbing garbage,” I’d be able to calmly explain, “because you belong to Jesus and you’re too good for that.”

In fact, taking this approach throughout every aspect of my day would make my life so much better. Every encounter would become not just about choosing kindness because it’s the right thing — it would be about loving and caring for the very soul of the person standing before me.

“Christ has no body now but yours,” says Teresa of Avila, “No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

These children, these people, they belong to Jesus. They are God’s property and it’s my job to treat that property well.

This originally appeared in The Southern Cross.