Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Has anyone seen the tooth fairy?

Last Sunday my 7 year old son lost his tooth! It wasn't his first lost tooth, but it was his first upper FRONT tooth, so he has officially begun that 5 - 7 year period lovingly known as the "awkward years." Now, being his mother, I think the missing front tooth is absolutely adorable, but if my son is anything like me, he'll look back at photographs of himself at this period of time and just shake his head. Truth is, he might be looking at the rest of our family and shaking his head too - who knows?

Anyway - the lost tooth. At our house we're careful not to play up Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Although we haven't been dwelling on their "un-realness", we try to capture the true meaning of the holidays instead of these traditions. HOWEVER, the tooth fairy is part of my kids lives and she is real, living, takes used teeth and leaves money in it's place. She is little and flys and somehow enters into our house summer or winter. I don't know why they are so convinced that the tooth fairy is real, or why we perpetuate this myth, but it's what happens, and we all play along. So, Sunday was a big day! Another tooth, another $1 in the piggy bank. (I know, inflation has hit since MY tooth fairy came too!) This is a monumental event in my child's life - probably the highlight of his week. I kept reminding myself throughout the day that the tooth fairy needed to "visit" that night. And guess what? Yep, I forgot.

I'm taking a shower on Monday morning, when I hear knock on the bathroom door. "Who is it?" I ask. My son yells his name, and immediately I remember what I have not done. "Come in!" I say, feeling all the guilt you can possibly feel standing in the shower. "Mommy, I found my tooth box with my tooth inside and there's no money." I am in the shower, and I can HEAR the distress my child is feeling. So, I say to him..."Let me finish my shower and dry off, and then I'll help you out." I mean, come on, what was I supposed to do while I'm halfway through rinsing out my hair? Plus, I need time to make a plan. I can either:

a) Explain that the tooth fairy had a former commitment and that she'll come tonight.
b) Somehow sneak the $1 into the bed and convince my son that he had missed it.
c) Come clean. Not shower clean. Confession Clean.

I'm mulling over my choices in the shower when I realize that all of our money is downstairs, so option b, which I was leaning towards, is no longer an option. Sadly, option c never really crosses my mind as a REAL option because I don't feel like explaining such in-depth matters to a 5 & 7 year old at 7 a.m. Plus, I LIKE the tooth fairy. So, I finish showering, dry off and escape to my room. I'm still trying to figure out exactly HOW I have some kind of knowledge of the tooth fairies whereabouts when I see it. I see the answer to my dilemma. Praise God! My husband had left a crisp dollar bill on the dresser that night, after emptying the contents of his pockets. Option B might work after all. I get dressed, stuff the bill into my pocket and head to my son's room.

"Let me take a look here - are you sure you didn't miss it?" He's pretty sure, but has also noticed that his tooth box is broken. It wasn't that way BEFORE he went to bed. Hmm...When I asked where he found it, he said on the floor. I thought maybe the tooth fairy had a struggle? He's thinking about it and coming up with a few ideas of his own. PERFECT! Now I just have to get the bill into the bed without him seeing it. I haven't actually climbed into the top bunk of a bed for a while - which is where my son sleeps, but in order to pull this off I knew that I was going to have to root around. As I'm doing this, my son says "Mommy - I think you are too heavy to go up there." I didn't say what I was thinking (you know something to the tune of...Kid, if you want this $1, you'd better can it!). Instead, I just replied "Honey, it's ok - it's just for a moment." I spend a few seconds reaching into the cracks and crevices of the bed (After all, I want it to seem real) when I finally slip the dollar under his stuffed webkinz penguin sitting on the side of the bed. I tell him I've found it and too look under the penguin. He switches places with me, finds the dollar and his faith in the tooth fairy is restored. AND she is quite clever for hiding the $1 under the penguin! I only feel a little bad about passing blame off to Penguino. :) Someday, when my kids have children of their own, I'll tell them this story. For now, I'm the hero - and I kind of like it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hell, yes!

The other day at dinner, we were wrapping up and my energetic husband who can't sit still begins leafing through his mail. Apparently the stories of puppet shows, lunch menus and book reports were not interesting enough for him! Ahem, moving on...

Anyway, he picks up the latest copy of Architectural Record that had arrived for him that day and starts flipping through. If you are not familiar with the magazine, its a magazine of buildings. Lots and lots of them...with the occasional interview of an architect therorizing about buildings. Let's just say, it's not something that I thought I would need to screen for my kids. But -this particular day Steve was reading some article and my 7 year old son looks over his shoulder. "Daddy" he asks, "What does that say? - Hell, yes?" he says, proud and confident that he can finally read.

"WHAT?" I scream across the table. "What are you reading?" He shows me this building photo and on the front is a piece of big, bright sculptural art that says "Hell, yes!". While it's not really funny, my husband and I burst into laughter because we can't believe what is happening! My husband then begins attempts to explain the concept of "bad" words to my confused son...who at this point wishes he'd never learned to read in the first place. And if it's so bad, why are mommy and daddy laughing hysterically? We don't know, and we can't stop.

Later that evening, my husband wonders aloud if it's too much to ask to drive him to the train station for his early meeting tomorrow. Are you kidding? At 7:00 a.m., with two kids getting ready for school? I barely got the words out before he started laughing..."Hell, yes!"

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A little time off brings a lot of learning.

I don't like uncertainty, and I don't like change. I never have and I have to fight the urge to control things every day. And yes, that DOES make me a control freak. Well, not a "freak" exactly, because I hide it well. I PRETEND that I don't mind if the service repair man will come anywhere between 9 and 4:30, but I'd really like to schedule an actual TIME that he can come. But these are the ways of the world and like it or not, I have to adapt to it.

Can you even imagine how much this affects how I relate to God? If you're like me, all too well! I like certainty. I like stability. Sometimes, that's not what God chooses for me. Recently, I took a sabbatical from my volunteer ministry to regroup. I assured people before I left that I wasn't going under or "burning out", but if I'd been really honest with myself, I wasn't sure I was coming back.

About 3 weeks ago when I was praying with some friends they asked about my recent sabbatical. I told them: "God has given me two messages while on sabbatical. 1) Live in
the moment (today) and don't borrow trouble and 2) STOP COMPLAINING." God's words were direct and powerful. It became clear to me that if I obeyed, there would be freedom. If I didn't, ministry would be over for me.

When it comes to complaining, I have huge obsticles to overcome. I have embraced this sin, feeling that it's my "right" to complain when I feel that there's injustice. I'd manufactured
this grid that, over time, wouldn't let me see anything good about ministry. I would clean up from the program on Sunday and feel depressed that there was no hope for our church. But God has so much more for me, and for Beacon, and for the Lighthouse. Some dear friends reminded me that so much good has come from the work that's been done...and I realized that God is not
confined by our weakness (in fact - isn't he made perfect in it!!?).

These last 2 weeks, for the first time in a LONG time, I've allowed God to give me the freedom he's always offered and it's been WONDERFUL!!!! I now know what I was missing, and I don't want to go back. Now that I don't let myself gripe and complain about what's NOT there, I see a lot of things that are. I know there's a lot of work ahead. But, I'm over the top
that God has chosen to redeem me...I wasn't honestly sure that it was
going to happen, or that it COULD happen.

To add another twist to the story - Every day for me is about living in t-o-d-a-y. It's about keeping your head in the game and not thinking about whats next. Word came to me last week that someone has anonomously donated money as a salary for the minstry that I do. It's taken a whole week to sink in. I'm on my knees in praise and humility. God is in control and I HAVE to stop believing that I own my future. It's times like these that I realize I wouldn't want to be in control even if I could. I'm elated of course about the possibility of being able to be undivided in the time I devote to ministry, but also realize that there are challenges with it. But I love even more that God was patient with me to find the right answer, before I found the "fix". I had been pining before taking this sabatical about what I might do when I have to choose between ministry and paid work. This choice is coming up in several months. The "fix" of stability and certainty through being paid for the ministry I do could have carried me for a while, but God knew that my time "off" held answers that would sustain me for eternity.

I love what I do. I've found my calling. I'm filled to the brim. And I believe that growing children up in real relationship with Jesus Christ is worth sticking around for.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Visiting churches...

So, I haven't had a chance to share this story very much, but it's worth a go...

I decided that while I was on Sabbatical, it would be wise for me to visit a church in a prominent location in our town to see if we'd have potential for connection. In reality, we are very much in need of space, and their location was absolutely a dream for us. I'd heard the stories of this church. It was rumored that with the exception of 1 or 2 people, everyone there would be 30 years my senior. I packed up my 2 children, donned my nicest church-going clothing (we're a much more casual church), and warmed up my hymn singing voice as I got ready to go. About 3 minutes before I exited the door, I got cold feet. I'm sure you can tell that I coerced myself into going or this would be the boringist blog ever. But I promise...I went, and it's good.

So, I arrived at the church at 9:40 a.m. with the service to start at 9:45. Now, let me explain something to you. At my church we are very late and very loud. 50% of our congregation is kids, so you can imagine how that affects both of those things. I arrived 5 minutes early, and I thought I might be the first because I didn't hear anyone, but I realized that it was one of those quiet churches. The kind that make you wish you hadn't worn corduroys. Anyway...

I am keenly aware that there is no one my age there, and there are no children except my darling little angels. Turns out the people at church notice this too. As soon as I arrive, I notice lots of stares. But, I am prepared for this, so I keep walking. I have to admit, that I KIND of thought they'd be thrilled to see me. And yes, I am THAT vain. I thought they'd jump for joy over this young woman with two beautiful kids who wanted to worship with them. I thought it would bring out their "inner-grandparent" instincts. But they weren't and it didn't. Many of these people were VERY aged. Some were in need of physical assistance, some had breathing apparatuses, and quite a few had enlarged hymn handouts that they needed because they couldn't read the 12 point text of the hymnal. I was not prepared for that reality. I thought it would be a group of 50 grandmas and grandpas ready to eat my kids alive - Turns out that most of them weren't the kid-loving type. At least my kids weren't bombarded with hugs and kisses. There's a silver lining.

The other thing that I was very confused by, is that there were people only sitting on one side of the church. Not wanting to impose my young family on some unsuspecting bystander, I chose to sit on the vacant side. Plus, I thought there were probably more people coming anyway, since I was a WHOLE 5 minutes early! I promptly picked seats on the other side of the church. As the service begins, I realized that while we are clearly set apart in age, we are also literally set apart in the sanctuary. Hmm... About midway through the service - at the fellowship time - I'm told by the pastor that they use space heaters to heat only half the sanctuary since much of their congregation is "older" and feels the sanctuary is too cold. She gives me the option to move or to stay. Being that I've settled in 2 children with our coats, belongings and bag of tricks, I opt to stay. Besides, by this time, I kind of like having 1/2 the church to myself.

The service begins. My kids have come prepared with a bag of activities to help entertain them. My daughter is coloring her fairy book and my son begins to color his velvet art. As he starts I hear "squeak, squeak, squeak" as the marker brushes against the cardboard. I look at him and he looks at me. As a very perceptive 7 year old, he knows that this sound is making a lot of noise for this "quiet" church and he wants my guidance. I look at him, shrug, and nod for him to keep coloring. "Squeak, squeak, squeak" he continues. At this point, I'm having a hard time containing the laughter. As my 4 year old daughter leans over to whisper something to me I am simultaneously realizing that I've never actually successfully taught her how to whisper. "Mommy? My underwear is bothering me." At this point, I'm hurting as I hold back the laughter. If you go there, you can remind them that I'm the smiley mom with the loud kids.

All in all, I have to say that my kids were AMAZING. I rewarded them with Wendy's of course! I couldn't help but think - we are a fairly quiet, reserved family- And we felt SO conspicuous! It would be interesting to see a non-quiet family darken those doors. I wonder if they'd stay?

Being fair, the service had it's moments. And I did talk to the pastor at the end. I made the connection, she apologized about not having a children's ministry. She said she could refer me to churches that do. I told her I lead a children's ministry and would be glad to be refereed by her to other families that come. She gave me a kind smile, but she didn't ask me for my name.

Well...I tried. I walked out my front door and into the church. It wasn't walking on the moon, but for me it was a big step towards both connection and breaking down the walls that divide churches. After all, we're all on the same team, right? Who knows what God will do. Maybe it just makes for a good story...