Gifts

Confession: I was up so late last night, three hundred and forty-two miles from home, that my brain is buzzing and my husband said to me “Are our phones goofing up? You sent me a text that apparently came in at x:xx. Were you really texting at that hour?”

And I said “Yes.”

In the strictest sense of the word it was no longer “last night” but we are not discussing that in this forum.

scarves on us

I want to stand up and say what the Lord Jesus did for me in the last week. It is so complex a sequence I can only get a hold of it in bullet points.

  • Several weeks ago, my mom asked if I would like to join in a surprise visit to my sister in Virginia for her 30th birthday. Joy! We got it all planned… how long we’d be gone, when we’d leave, who would go along.
  • Three days before departure, Jesus gave us an answer to prayer: a foster son. Yes, yes, absolutely yes!!
  • Could I still swing the weekend plans? Should I give them up? We decided to hold them with an open hand and see what turned out.
  • As K (our foster son) adjusted and adapted, Ryan said “I really think I can do this. Go ahead and plan to go. You’ll have Kelly; I’ll have the boys.”
  • Then we found out that K’s court date was set for half an hour after our estimated time of departure. I told my mom I wanted to stay for it if she was game—could we leave an hour later than planned? She was more than gracious, and we went to court.
  • In the hallway outside the courtroom, we found out that a kinship option had suddenly materialized and K was going to leave us. That day.
  • And then I said, “Oh thank you Jesus thank you.” That I got to meet this small person and love on him for three days. That I didn’t cancel my weekend plans and miss the trip to Virginia by one hour. Most of all, that I didn’t leave before the court date, and miss the chance to say goodbye to a child I thought we’d have for weeks and weeks.

When I release a foster child I think how lucky I was to meet him. All the training and waiting seems so worth it because in this short slice of time I became part of an amazing person’s life—I got to hold him and love him and find out his favorite things and give him one toy to keep and kiss him and make him giggle and pray over his sleeping head.

And the trip?

To die for.

My mom, my sister, my daughter. I am most blessed.

the four of us

kelly and jean

kelly and i

There are several things I will never understand:

  • How three people can laugh so much alike, over and over again: our forms bent double and no sound except desperate gasps for air.
  • How you can talk and talk and talk all weekend and still have to stay up till the wee hours of the last night, to get it all said.
  • How there can be so much beauty and color in the world.

scarves

  • How Jesus can answer my child’s earnest wish for “a balloon that goes up without me running.” She clutched her dollar and begged, as we drove the six hours and as we walked the pedestrian mall. “Honey, I’m sure we will find one!” I said over and over. We did, in Hallmark—and the white-haired shop owner made her laugh and played pranks with her and taught her math facts and then—gave her the gift of helium, for free.

kelly with balloon

This right here was the low point:

kelly with hydrant

Hot, tired, waiting, missing Daddy. We sat on the street because in Kelly’s emotional condition I could not bring myself to navigate the toy store where my mom and sis were shopping.

lying in the street

We sat there like the homeless and the poor, wishing and fearing that someone would come drop money in our bag. To cheer ourselves up we passed the time acting.

Happy–

happy

sad – (she can do the suffering sheep look better than anyone I know)

sad

crazy.

crazy

There is a final thing I do not understand:

  • How we could have agonized in this city, a year and a half ago, with my sister so weak we thought we might lose her. Stem cell transplant; and a woman so drained she had to start all over again. Learn to eat, to laugh, to run, to care for herself. Now she stays up late with us and she eats what she wants. She sasses me back and she runs a lap around the hotel and she dresses cute and she finalizes plans to move to Israel in January. And when we visit the hospital room where she lay, so that we can draw that painful circle closed, she is strong–

jean in UVA

and she walks out on her own two feet.

walking out of uva

I want to stand up and say what the Lord Jesus did for me in the last week.

Happy September!

This is for my husband, who has won the game too many months in a row. I have to resort to rather underhanded methods, and I think also that I have the Spirit.

Happy September to all the rest of you as well! May this be the month in which you finally gain dominance over your spouse. That is, unless your spouse also reads this blog; in which case I can only say “Fight it out, children. Fight it out.”

Picnic

The picnic date

goblets and juice

was everything I hoped for

shari

and then some.

food

We drank sparkling grape juice out of goblets

and ate garden freshness

and hummus

and drank a toast to joy.

drink

In the end, there is nothing quite like taking timed selfies with your husband of eleven years in a green and quiet graveyard.

crazy

together

Jesus, bless our parishioners…

Popcorn

Popcorn [pop' corn] Noun

a. A delicious snack made from superheating the dried kernels of corn.

b. A brief and random collection of thoughts and experiences. A smattering.

popcorn and a book

  • Last night I thought that with popcorn, coffee, and The Fellowship of the Ring, my world was as complete as it could ever be. Except I drank the coffee too fast.
  • Someone I just learned to really love is leaving facebook in submission to her husband. I am full of admiration and sorrow.
  • I am trying to decide if I can babysit a bunny for my friend’s children. He is a most beautiful bunny named Jo-Jo and we would all love having him here. But can I run the risk of him getting lost, eaten, or harassed in the meantime? Can I really take the happiness of her children into my hands? Hmm.
  • Someone in my church offered a pastor appreciation gift: keeping our children for several hours one evening and sending my husband and I off with a complimentary picnic lunch. I cannot imagine any more perfect gift. Do it for your pastor soon: unless you are in my church. In which case you should find a different way to bless me, soon.
  • If anyone takes that seriously I will cry.
  • I’m taking my mom along when we go school shopping on Wednesday. Our August schedule has pushed the date later than I would ever have chosen. But I think having Mom along will make me and my three littles very peaceful, especially with a break for donuts halfway through.
  • My husband just gave me four Pinocchios for a line I wrote. And worse, he was right.
  • I do not know what this is:

porcelain knob

…a little porcelain knob with a hole. My son found it in the woods. Do you know?

  • My siblings and I are having an email discussion/ share time about what it was like growing up as the children of John Coblentz. My dad initiated this conversation by sending us a link and inviting our thoughts. I like this about him, and I am discovering things about us that I never knew.
  • I have a big project with a looming deadline and I am not getting to it. And I’m trying not to look at the state of my garden.
  • But I spent a very sweet weekend of oasis with some beautiful ladies. And I’m ready to come back to my normal, humdrum, exquisite life and live happily ever after.
  • Sometimes I don’t know how to thank you guys for reading my blog. And clicking on my ads. And blessing me every week with your sweet words. I don’t know blogger etiquette very well; I try to stay out of my own comment section because that’s YOUR place to talk and I don’t want to dominate and micromanage. But so often I wish I could click “like” about what you said, or give you a hug, or tell you how much your words mean. So thank you. I don’t know how to say it without getting all maudlin on you, but it means the world.

Love,

Shari

*****

Share your popcorn?

Ten tips for busy moms

Confession: I forgot what it was like to be a really busy mommy. I had four kids this week instead of three—the fourth a precious boy we got to parent for a week and a half. I’m probably not allowed to say more than that, and I can’t post any pictures of him here even though he was such a darling and I would love to show him off to you…

These days, with my kids aged 9, almost 7, and 4, mothering moves in comfortable cycles, through the summer birthday parties into the back to school sales, holiday celebrations, winter doldrums, and spring delights. And around again.

I don’t have to deal with body fluids very much anymore. Everyone is potty trained and reasonably tidy. They eat with their mouths closed and help clean up the kitchen. They’re still a whole lot of work, and joy, but mothering is one of the things I play in. I almost forgot what motherhood immersion felt like.

When you can’t wash a sinkfull of dishes without leaving two or three times (five times? six times?) to care for a child.

When you have one ear open, always, and both eyes as often as you can spare them.

When the laundry hampers fill faster than you can empty them.

When small chatty voices sound to you like fingernails on chalkboard because you’re so crazy tired and don’t think you could answer another question to save your life.

When the endless afternoon stretches out before you, and it’s raining, and you honestly think you might drown in work and boredom.

I LOVED this week. It was an answer to prayer, a sign that God has not forgotten us. But I had to learn a few things in order to stay sane and here they are, just for you, if you are in the crazy stage as well…

To some of you, four children would be a piece of cake and I thank you for your grace to me as I hold forth on busy motherhood. To you and all the rest, I say–

1. Drink coffee.

My favorite pastor’s wife swears by this. Except she doesn’t actually swear, because she is the pastor’s wife and I keep her on a very tight tether. I don’t even let her eat open-toed cupcakes. She reluctantly affirmed instead: Coffee alone is the secret to her success with five children. That and regular church attendance. I drink decaf and it still works wonders: something warm in the hand and strong in the stomach.

2. Use paper plates.

I hate to joke about it, but all I know is that when I use glass plates three times a day, the environment in our home goes downhill fast. Saving mother’s sanity, one tree at a time.

3. Say yes a lot.

This prevents many battles, and even more negotiating.

“Can I do A?”

“No.”

“Well can I do B then?”

“No.”

“When can I do A? Soon? Next year? In fifteen minutes?”

“Ummm….”

“Can I do A if I use the little brushes and clean up after myself?”

Much is simplified if you just say YES, the first time, unless it’s a moral issue or dangerous to the wellbeing of siblings, pets, and houseplants. Hey, they found something they want to do! Just say yes; and then deal with the fallout.

4. Do laundry often.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t deal with a Mt. Fuji of soiled socks and sweaty jeans. One day at a time, sweet Jesus…

5. Get out of your mind.

A quiet life of the mind, like time with your spouse, is divided roughly in half with the addition of each subsequent kid. I promise it’s true. So stop trying to think it all through, give up for a while on the memories and the quiet meditations and the inscrutable depths, and just get those hotdogs in the skillet. You won’t be allowed the luxury of silence; come out of your meditations and into what’s now. Laugh. Sing. Talk to your kids.

6. Ask for help.

You weren’t made to do it alone. After three or four or five, you can’t do it alone. Let your mom buy groceries for you. Let your husband ride herd while you take a ten-minute bathroom break. Swap services with another busy mom. Whatever it takes. There are a whole lot of people cheering you on, even though in the wee hours of the night you may wonder where they got to.

7. Make a tight schedule and follow it loosely.*

*This is not my phrase. I cannot remember the name of the lady who said it… one of the Funk sisters.

A schedule is your friend. If you know that snack is at 10:00 and lunch is at 12:00, it makes it so much easier to know when everyone’s blood sugar is at a low ebb and whether or not starvation is as imminent as they claim. Knowing that you’ll sweep that floor on Friday makes it okay to wink at the dirt on Wednesday and Thursday.

But then—take a chill pill. A schedule is just something to shoot for. If you marry yourself to it, you’ll go crazy.

8. Know when your next break is.

It may sound silly and selfish, but knowing you can run errands ALONE for one hour on Saturday, or sip a quiet cup of coffee after they’re tucked in bed tonight, makes all the difference. You can hang in there till then, right?

9. Stop listening to how everyone else does it.

The day you really bomb as a mother (drill sergeant/crackdown/getyourbuttsinhereNOW and lookatmewhenI’mtalkintoyou) will be the day that every blog and facebook post you read will be a mommy-mommy one about how sweet kids are and how fast they’ll grow up and how you should let everything else go and just love them. You’ll have only one thought: I blew it all.

You didn’t blow it all, honey. You’re a very human mother who had a terrible day.

You will make it through. You can learn from anyone, but the ones you need to listen to are Jesus and the people He placed close to you. Enough with facebook already.

10. Give grace to others. It opens your heart to receive it too.

Keep your eyes open for the mothers with babies climbing all over them. Every one of them could say these words to you: “Please notice me. Please give me grace. Please see beyond my wrinkled outfit, my fussy child, my frazzled face. I know my house is a mess; it’s only clean on Fridays. I know what my hair looks like; it’s only nice on Sundays. My waist disappeared in 2002 and I still can’t find it. I’m lost in here. Be nice to me.”

Let me tell you something about Jesus: following Him doesn’t make life easy. But He is always there. Wipe the tears and snot on His shoulder and let Him rock you a while. He’s soooo good with crying children.

*****

I’m sorry this got long. It’s a good thing I wrote it before our fourth kiddo left because afterwards I didn’t feel like laughing anymore. I miss him too much.

What have you learned in mothering? I’d love to hear your tips, your pieces of the story.