Where Justice and Mercy Kiss

2210 2210_ () 2210 2210 Many thanks to those of you who have emailed me and left comments about my recent post, Dealing with the General Public (also: give me time to figure out how to link, have not gotten the hang of my new digs just yet).

There was a whole other section of that post that I failed to write, the part where I was going to ruminate on the tricky nature of dealing with strangers, and strange strangers at that.

It’s very complicated.

I understand the basics of Christian living and specifically how we, as Christians, are called to treat others. We are called to treat everyone with love and compassion. Just because someone is wearing raggedy clothes and missing teeth does not give me the right to be rude or callous, and certainly not mean. That man at the restaurant deserves the same love of Jesus that I would offer to the tidier restaurant worker, or even the well-heeled elderly crew that congregates there each day. I am called to share God’s love equally.

But here is where it gets complicated: I’m also called to protect my children and myself. I’m called to use my wit and intellect to make good choices about how I go about being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Further complicating matters is that I am over-the-top crazy protective of my infant daughter. It’s not that I would have operated out of lower standards if it had been one of the boys, but there is something about a sweet, dainty flower that inclines me to stay not only out of harm’s way, but out of harm’s umbra and penumbra too.

Which is what was going on in my brain the day this old gentleman got right up close to where I was feeding my daughter — where I had all my things sort of spread out on the table and not easily managed. There I sat and felt totally at the mercy of him and his desire to talk to me, and while I was polite at first, when I had engaged him for as long as I thought was loving and kind — well, he didn’t want to leave.

It was a scary situation for me, to be honest. I didn’t think the man was going to hurt me, but I also realized there was something going on with this man mentally that left me feeling like all bets are off. I was not dealing with an average person which meant I couldn’t necessarily predict expected behavior.

Now all of this is not to say that any person with special needs is dangerous. I don’t think this at all. But what I do know is that as a mother, my first and foremost responsibility is to protect my children. And in certain situations, that will require me erring on the side of caution. I am not going to become friends with this man because it just isn’t prudent, it’s unwise for me as a mother and as a woman.

I can still be the hands and feet of Jesus — I can smile and say hello. I can pray for this man and for others like him, that they would be shown the mercy and love of Jesus through those who come in contact with them.

And because I know I’m dealing with a person that does not seem to pick up on typical social cues, I will probably avoid this place, just to be safe. Not safe from him, but from a situation that would force me to act in a way that might possibly be hurtful to someone who probably is just looking for a chance to do a kind deed for someone else. 2210″

2210

A Saint How?

2208 2208_ () 2208 2208 My house is a mess. My children are tired. I am more tired than they are, which is never a winning combination.

The baby is teething, crying in agony as giant boulders emerge from her gums. My oldest son is hard at work, building a castle for a school project. This effort has involved no less than four eighth-graders scaling the walls of my garage in search of materials. From our rafters (and from Gramma and Papa’s garage next door), they have procured the workings of a drawbridge, tower and an inner gate — all of which currently inhabit the floor of my study.

There are lunches to make, clothes to wash, one centrally-located bathroom forever in need of a scrub. We have gone through our requisite six gallons of milk for the week and we’re also running low on chocolate.

These and a million other details of my life require time and energy and mental staying power — qualities in short supply on these challenging days. I’m afraid that the things of this world consume me, but none of them are things I can righteously ignore.

I remind myself that this is my path to sanctity, that these circumstances can help me become a saint. And then I quickly wonder if I really want to be a saint anyway.

But I do! I want to keep striving for holiness and heroic virtue — and so I go back to figuring out how wiping down toilets and keeping the troops in line can get me there. How can I achieve sainthood — or even consider striving for it — when my focus must be so practical?

Love, that is the answer.

A heart of love — for God, and for these beautiful creatures he has placed in my care. Operating out of that love, even on the most trying days, gets me where I need to be.

Life is wonderful, but isn’t always perfect (hardly ever, it seems), and in rough spots, I offer it all back to the Lord. I ask him to unite my “suffering” (if that’s what you call a cranky baby and a dirty bathroom) to him, to deepen my capacity to love.

Sainthood is not about perfection. That is the key. It’s true that the times I have things in order in my home (and my mind) I feel a heightened sense of peace. Order does indeed bring peace, and that is a nice ideal.

But then there are those times when perfection (or the illusion of it) is out of my grasp. There are these days of sad babies and hectic schedules and I am left to rely not on my own goodness and abilities, but on the loving mercy of God.

There will indeed be days when dinner is in the crock-pot before lunch, when the laundry baskets are empty because everything is in a drawer. I will enjoy the moments when my children are well behaved and we arrive on time to an important event and everything goes as planned and I drink in the beauty of the moment. In these moments I do indeed thank the Lord for his incredible goodness in my life.

But these other times, the days when I’m the lady being yanked down by a beautiful but ill-behaved child, these are my opportunities for growth. What am I made of, I ask myself at the end of a long, exhausting day? In these moments, when I feel so very inadequate, do I still recognize the tender mercies of the Lord?

And sometimes I think, when I take a deep breath and ask the Lord for more mercy than I’ve ever needed before — I think that maybe Sainthood is not totally off my radar, because in these moments of weakness, I need God more than ever. When I am weak, He is Strong.

Those are my chances. That’s what I cling to.

I am a person living in this world. I can be in this world, but not of this world. My path to sanctification is through married life and family life. I can only grow in holiness, and grow more in love with Jesus, when I embrace where I am and live that life with fervor.

This originally appeared in The Southern Cross.

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2208

Dinner Behaving Badly

2205 2205_ () 2205 2205 Tonight’s dinner was…especially gross.

What started as plans for cubed beef dipped in egg then flour then cooked up in olive oil ended up as something quite other. The plans for a nice gravy morphed into something closer to what can only be described as schmear. Maybe even schlop.

Don’t ask me how it happened because I just. don’t. know.

“We just don’t eat a lot of fried beef,” said Paul, as I mulled over where I went wrong. Country fried steak with buttermilk gravy it was not.

Even Ethan, who normally devours any food that comes his way, even he could not stomach this dish.

“Sorry mom,” he said as he cleared his plate, “but normally I’ll eat whatever.”

As the last of the boys was excused from the table, I once again marveled at just how bad our meal had been. It had been one of the worst.

“I’m a terrible cook,” I said in mock sadness.

“You’re a great cook,” said Charlie as he headed outside to play soccer with his brothers. “And you’re pretty lucky, because we all have stomachs of steel.” 2205″>

2205

Dealing with the General Public

2198 2198_ () 2198 2198 Yesterday I had a totally frustrating encounter and it reminded me of that old saying about being able to be a saint until I walk out my front door. When it’s just me and Jesus, we are good to go.

Henry, Isabel and I were running an errand and I opted to get a treat for us after our mission. We were pulling into a parking spot at a strip mall, zipping in to meet my sister-in-law for some fro-yo. I did a little back and forth, aligning my van just so, making sure that I didn’t park too far to the left or the right and end up preventing someone from getting in their vehicle.

I finished my parking job, grabbed Isabel from her seat and opened the driver’s door. I told Henry to climb in my lap and we’d all get out my door.

As I opened my door, I kept a firm grasp, making sure it didn’t swing open into the very cute little Volvo sports car parked next to us. Henry climbed down, and I followed after him holding Isabel. I got out and as I was closing the door, a young woman came marching quite deliberately out of a restaurant right in front of my parking spot. She walked towards us, got right next to me and paid me absolutely no attention.

She was staring at the Volvo, hunched over quite intently. There she stood, ignoring me and giving me her full, agitated attention all at the same time.

“Is something wrong,” I asked after second. She clearly wanted me to notice. “Did my door hit your car?”

“It’s fine,” she said with a huff. “Yes, you hit my car but it’s fine.”

She marched back into the restaurant and I headed off to our destaination.

I was shaken by her rudeness and also sad that I didn’t have the presence of mind to say, no, we actually did not hit your car though it may have seemed that way from your vantage inside the building. I was upset with myself for not pointing this out, because I was so taken back by her passive/aggressive communication skills that I failed to defend myself.

Oh well, I thought later, taking yet another deep breath. No harm no foul. Her car is fine and I guess that’s all the matters.

This morning, I was at my regular jaunt grabbing some morning caffeine and sitting to feed Isabel. I do this sometimes, get out of the house for breakfast to gather my thoughts before coming home, putting the baby down and getting some work done.

I tend to go to the same places over and over. Today, I was in one of those places and an old man who I’ve noticed before, he was standing by the restaurant’s entry as I walked inside.

He said hello as we walked in and I politely nodded. I didn’t want to say much because a few months ago, this same guy sat right next to me when I was having lunch. It was very frustrating. He’s clearly not all there and I know that sounds mean to say but it’s true. He tried to talk with me and after a few minutes of me sort of answering, he didn’t really catch on that I’d had enough. I couldn’t totally understand what he was saying and I felt like I had indulged the conversation long enough.

“I’m going to eat my lunch now,” I finally said pedantically, and then put my full, one-hundred seventy-five percent attention on Isabel and our meal. The old man sat and continued to stare at me and I was *this close* to saying something when someone I knew came into the restaurant and I invited my friend (quickly and loudly) over to eat with me.

Whew.

Today, the man was outside and I hoped he would stay there. Just the same, I sat at a table near lots of other people, whereas normally I sit a bit more isolated to make lists and write. And sure enough, five minutes into my meal the man came in and sat across from me. I ignored, ignored, ignored with all my strength. No luck — he came over and offered me his extra hashbrown.

“Thank you,” I said with a smile, “we have plenty of food.”

He looked blankly at me, a lone, brown tooth projecting from his lower gums. I didn’t want to kick this man while he was down, but please, I wanted to say, don’t force me to be rude!

He went back to his table and sat down and I finished up. As I was standing to leave, he rushed over and offered to throw away my trash. It was very nice indeed yes it was but my goodness I am not looking for a friendship here. I just Vant to be Alone and really don’t want to have a confrontation with someone who is probably just trying to be nice and is not totally all there.

I gathered my things, had my keys in my hand and with Isabel firmly on my hip, headed out to the parking lot and dove into the van.

My new plan is to not go back to the restaurant anytime soon, which is frustrating. But I don’t see another option, beyond having to cause some kind of scene with a person who probably gets treats like dirt on a regular basis.

Some days the life of a hermit seems oh-so-appealing. Then End. 2198″

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