Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Life in the Stillness

The sun rises over the horizon and I stop to gaze…in the midst of the rush that is my day, I pause.  I grab my camera, capture the beauty and it occurs to me…it’s here every morning. 

Every morning, the sun rises.  Every evening, it sets.  And most days I miss both in this mad rush to live life…and live it on time.  A counter-productive race that ignores the Bearer of Life for the sake of living it.

Camera to my eye, I ponder why the stillness eludes me.  The Light of the World brings me a sunrise every morning and every day I cry out for stillness…while the color-filled sky is hung by the Master like a canvas backdrop to my morning.  And I fail to pause.

The elusive pause...

True life exists in the glorious moments of pause.  The sunrise.  The lone robin on a limb.  The eyes of a child.

Serving Jesus…denying ourselves…means stopping.  It means, bending down and looking into eyes of an expressive child, chattering away.  It means stopping to notice the bird and his song.  It means admiring the sunset…capturing the beauty and tucking it away to help carry us through the less-beautiful moments of our day.

I turn from the window and catch a glimpse of the laundry piled up...the evidence of a week spent rushing about, succeeding at half-tasks.

I hold my camera and smile.

Suddenly the tasks at hand seems less daunting.  Suddenly I feel like a bird in flight, a woman...a mother...prepared to tackle the day.  And not because I'm worthy or capable. Not because I suddenly have it all figured out.  And definitely not because the tasks are less work that they were 10 minutes ago.  But because in my hand, I hold the evidence of a sacred moment.  A moment I chose to pause and receive the beauty handed to me every morning by a Savior who longs to see us find life in the stillness.



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mother First

Time stands still.  They all look to me and I, unsure of how to respond, stare at them silently and feel...defeated.  

The three-year old is crying.  The seven-year old needs help with math and the five-year old wants to read me a story.  Who am I in this moment?  To whom do I respond and with what hat?  Mother?  Teacher?  Listener?


If I fail to be one, I fail to be...for which one of these things exists outside of myself?

How do I exist in an environment where I seek to be so much to small beings who need me to be all?  How do I lay my head down at night feeling as though I did not, in fact, fail to be everything they need...everything God has called me to be?

As I struggle through this complex issue in this chaotic, redeemed life I have grown to love, I feel the Lord pressing upon my heart a simple truth that can set me free if I choose to embrace it.  If I choose to ignore the world and exist in a moment to moment life of clinging to the very heart of a Savior.

Mother first.  Everything else follows.

As I strive to be mother first, the all of whom I am created to be, the rest follows with a great amount of order.  Any day I strive to be a teacher first, or cleaner, or cook, and choose to ignore, even for a moment, the call of mother, it all falls apart.

In the chaos that seeks to consume, it's easy to forget my first love and tear through the day with my list and my books and my food.  The child sits, math completed and phonics accomplished, with a heart hungry.  The three-year old weeps for the mother while she remains vacant in this foolish race.

Race for what?  For what and whom am I rushing?  Through my precious moments? Through this precious life, redeemed by the Father and blessed with His mercy of small, smiling faces?

I think...I have to think...there is enough time to be mother first and teacher second. Because, in the end, the mothering is what facilitates the teaching.  Without a comforting, loving heart that is turned toward my children, their hearts are not open to instruction.  As I mother my children and feed their souls, the rest of the pieces start to fall into place.  More teaching is done.  The meals are prepared.  The house is cleaned as we work together...mother and child.  Isn't the essence of this very truth the miracle that led me to homeschool in the first place?  The fact that the mother holds the heart?

When I comfort the small child and the others remain patient.  When I help with math...a smaller child on my hip.  When I listen to a story...the little one snacking on my lap. When I hug the math student for a job well done and praise the reader for all she has learned. When history gets postponed for a moment or even (gasp!) a day while I read to the smaller child, hungry for a mother.  Will not God honor these more than a curriculum completed perfectly or a checklist marked off completely?  Will not God fill in my gaps when I honor Him by being mother to my children?  Is not God's grace sufficient?

I have years to teach them and they have a lifetime to learn.  A child on my lap is fleeting and the picture books fade fast.  I want to never miss a chance to mother my children.  I never want to discount the mothering for a lesson completed more quickly or a house a little cleaner.  And as I feed their souls and hold their hearts, I teach them the most important lesson of their childhood...the lesson of sacrificing all for the sake of the little ones.  The lesson of pouring out a life for the least of these and of wearily holding a child, with a still heart, in the midst of chaos.

A still heart in the midst of chaos is a gift that can only be given by a mother who hears her call and embraces it completely.  Wholly. Putting aside the pressing matters of now to invest in what is eternal.





Sunday, November 6, 2011

Musings About a Murderer

I just finished reading Crime and Punishment and have a mind full of circular, drifting ramblings.  I recorded them here for the sake of preserving my sanity.  I want to caution you that the ending of the book is evident in my musings, so if you would rather not know how it ends...don't read this post.  :)

"The candle-end had long been burning out in the bent candlestick, casting a dim light in this destitute room upon the murderer and the harlot strangely come together over the reading of the eternal book."

The murderer, in his attempt to alleviate discomfort...or perhaps in an effort to bring another being into his suffering, seeks out the good-hearted harlot and confesses.  He then asks her to read to him from the book of John...the story of Lazarus.

She reads.  The candle burns.  He confesses.  She weeps.

She enters into his suffering and he, not yet able to fully connect, is shocked by her empathy.

This scene stands out in my mind as the catalyst of the rest of the book.  Following this moment are many encounters and a myriad of emotions that border on insanity.  He breaks from reality...deep in his thoughts...but always comes back to the most forceful thought of his existence:  He...unlike the great men of history and not able to kill and forget.  He is incapable of murdering and counting it to the greater good of society. While regret does not border on the forefront of his mind, a certain kind of discomfort seeks to consume him.

It's hard to know what type of discomfort he is experiencing.  I took him for a anti-social man who is not truly able to enter into the arena of sympathy, regret or even deep contemplation centering around the well-being of another.  His entire existence is centers around himself and the angst of his soul.  The angst, being more at the frustration at his inability to kill and exist free of inner-turmoil than being from the regret at taking a human life, is not exactly an angst of nobility.  Human life, to him, is nothing but existence...and his existence, if he is able to kill a "louse" of a woman and move on, unheeded by social norms and conformity, is more important and noble than that of any common person.  Just like Napoleon and all great men.

So the discomfort...the inner turmoil...what is it exactly, if not a full-fledged regret for his crime?  What is this inner turmoil and from where does it stem?  It's all rather ambiguous and it quickly becomes circular.  A man free of convictions exists in a world of torment after a crime he committed...a crime he does not regret!  My head spins and I am torn and I am taken to a place of deep contemplation.  And I relish in it.

The story continues.  He confesses.  Truly confesses to authorities and he is shipped to Siberia.  An existence, less noble than any common person, complete with cockroaches in his soup.

The harlot follows him to Siberia.  She no longer exists under the crushing empathy and responsibility of her younger she leaves her lifestyle which was always for the sake of providing for those weaker than she.  She becomes a seamstress and spends her days sewing and investing in the murderer who chose her.  She visits him.  She withstands his contempt and trusts her meek, quiet, loving spirit will redeem him.

And just when I think he is beyond redemption...when it becomes clear he is incapable of love and connection...he is resurrected.  The author uses this term to describe his transformation...or the beginning of what would become his transformation.

They sit on the bank...and he falls at her feet and weeps. that's as if someone has called him forth just as Jesus called Lazarus that day the candle burned in the dirty, barren apartment.

The history of his soul...the selfishness of his spirit. The incessant rambling of his mind that bordered on insanity and took him to places of egotism amidst self-loathing. All of it was, in fact, representative of a spirit, an existence, that was...dead.  Without life.  He was not living...merely existing...and for what, he knew not.

Until the hour he killed, confessed and was resurrected.

Did he ever learn to truly regret his deed?  Will he always be a man who wanders and wonders?  Will he ever feel love for anyone, other than the harlot who so selflessly beseeched his devotion?  Is he capable of killing again or will his transformation become complete?

As I ask these questions internally and turn the last pages of this thought-provoking narrative, the words stare at back me:
"But here begs a new account, the account of a man's gradual renewal, the account of his gradual regeneration, his gradual transition from one world to another, his acquaintance with a new, hitherto, completely unknown reality.  It might make the subject of a new story-but our present story is ended."

And so it ends...with the hope of a new beginning.