Friday, December 30, 2005
I love the Christmas season. For me, it is filled with joy and wonder. I am in awe that the God of the universe did what He did for us, and I love the celebratory feel that encompasses the days of preparation. I enjoy making our home beautiful, doing projects with Peregrine, getting together with our families, and exchanging gifts in honor of the Greatest Gift ever. I love the carols that proclaim Jesus, even on the public radio stations. When else can you be grocery shopping and hear about the Son of Righteousness, born to give us new birth, even if the checker at the same grocery store isn't allowed to say "Merry Christmas" to you?
But it seems that every year, as this joy rises in my heart, I become more acutely aware of the pain and suffering in this world. I feel this great struggle within me as I contemplate the wonders of the Messiah, the freedom He bought for us, and see so many people around me who are living in absolute bondage and misery because of sin. Why is there such a disconnect between the way things should be and the way things are? I have often looked around at church and been in distress about this - here we are proclaiming the Truth that sets us free and yet there is that person in so much pain, another couple on the brink of divorce, a single Mom struggling to raise her kids. I have sat in many services with tears rolling down my face, feeling the joy and feeling the pain. And beyond the people around me I see a world ravished by wars, disease and suffering. We are broken, seemingly beyond repair.
And this year, I think I see the disconnect in my own life more deeply than ever before. I so easily get irritated with my wonderful husband, too quickly get angry with Peregrine, and so often feel frustrated when the day doesn't go as I planned. I so want to be the woman who smiles at the future and has a school of kindness on my tongue, but more often I feel like I can't see beyond the moment and speak words of hurt. How often I am that foolish woman who tears down my house instead of builds it.
The long-awaited Savior has come, and by His life and death has saved us from our sins. If I feel this simultaneous joy and sorrow, then I wonder how He must feel as He watches His beloved people continue to struggle while He offers them freedom. I think it's a fragment of His heart He allows me to share, the surge of hope and the tug of pain. The hope that one day we will be free from this body of death, and the struggle of being rooted in this earth but a citizen of heaven. We are broken, but He continues to offer to make us whole. We are faithless, but He remains faithful. This is the mystery. It is the sick who need a doctor, the sinner who needs a Savior. It is the hopeless who need Hope, those who dwell in darkness who need the Light to dawn.
And so out of the despair rises hope. As I see the pain, the wars, the suffering, and my own sin, I realize more than ever that truly the only hope we have is because of that Baby born so long ago. His words are still true, and He lives and works to change us into His image. What response is there other than to worship Him, to lay all of my sin and my doubt at His feet? To cry "Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!" O Come all ye faithless, Come let us adore Him!
Friday, December 23, 2005
I am so blessed by the simple faith that Peregrine has. We usually begin our morning with asking Jesus to help us through the day. I ask for myself wisdom and patience and joy, and for him a wise and happy heart and help with whatever specific things we're dealing with. He always follows with his own little prayer, which usually goes something like "Jesus, can you help me obey and give me a wise heart?" He then exclaims "He's doing it right now!" This morning I looked out in the yard and saw a squirrel that looked like he'd been the loser in a fight- his fur was patchy and his tail seemed to be lacking fur completely. Peregrine's reaction was "Let's pray for him." And so he bowed his head and said "Jesus, can you help that squirrel to feel better and fix him? And Jesus, Amen."
I so admire that kind of faith, the kind that asks and expects to receive, that believes Jesus has heard and is taking action! He doesn't keep obsessing over his request- he's left it where it should be left- at the feet of Jesus. He is the same one who said "Let the children come unto me... for the Kingdom of heaven is made up of ones like these" and "Unless you become as a little child you cannot see the Kingdom of God". I am humbled and convicted as I watch my little boy with his simple, yet great faith. I think I'm beginning to understand a bit more what Jesus desires of me. To come as a little child, asking, believing, and receiving.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
As Peregrine and I were wrapping a present the other day, my thoughts turned to memories of the Christmases of my childhood. I had let Peregrine pick out a small gift for Erik at the store and then he was helping me wrap it. He so enjoyed putting those sticky bows on the package that I let him use up the whole bag. (I had bought them on after-Christmas clearance for twenty-five cents.) The present is very, ummm, well-decorated now. And I know it will be well-appreciated by his Daddy.
As he merrily stuck bow after bow on the package, which looked more garish by the moment, I remembered how happy our Christmas celebrations always were. We lived on the Prairies of Alberta, where winter came early and stayed late. There were swirling blizzards and power outages and snowdrifts taller than me that we would build tunnels in. There was always ice-skating on the pond and bon-fires and hot cocoa. And bundling up to go play outside only to come back in 15 minutes later, frozen and shedding powdery snow all over the floor along with boots, snow pants, mittens, hats, and coats. Only now am I beginning to appreciate my Mom's relentless reminders to hang up our things, take off our boots at the door, etc. Then there were the frozen toes and fingers, and that horrible feeling if they get warm too quickly, the itchiness and discomfort that made me think that my I would never feel quite right again. But just about the same time Mom had sopped up all the melted snow and our things were dry our fingers did feel normal and we were asking again if we could go out and play.
And so on a biting cold day we would all get bundled up, Mom, Dad and five kids, and go out to cut our tree. It takes some serious deliberation and compromise for seven people to come to an agreement about which tree is the best, but somehow we always settled on one. Most of the time it was akin to Charlie Brown's famous tree, a spruce with sparse branches, perfect to showcase the ornaments we got in our stocking each year. So Dad would cut the tree and we would drag it through the snow and strap it on top of our station wagon. And then the real torture began. After letting all the snow melt off it in the entry way, finally our parents would bring it into the house and we would have to wait while Dad got it set up and Mom carefully hung lights on it. This took forever, especially since our tree stand was a plastic ice cream bucket with rocks wedged in around the trunk. I remember one year even the trusty rocks couldn't make our tree stand straight, so Dad got some wire, wrapped it around the tree about two-thirds up and then nailed the wire to the wall! It seemed that our strands of lights always needed several hours of repairing before they could be put on the tree, and then finally we got to put our ornaments on. What joy there was in carefully hanging the little wooden toys on the lower branches, while my Mom hung her glass ones on the top of the tree, safe from little hands. Once all the ornaments were on, it was time for the tinsel, which my Mom recycled year after year. (She wasn't an environmentalist; we were poor.) While most of us were busy hanging crumpled strands of tinsel, someone would inevitably "sneak" off to the bathroom and stick several pieces onto the mirror, then run out yelling in horror about how the mirror was cracked!
My Mom would always say that there wouldn't be very many presents this year, but there were always plenty. We didn't have much money growing up, but I never felt the lack of it. I know that my parents did, but they gave us as rich a childhood as I could imagine. They made us their priority, they played with us, taught us to love and to work and to laugh, and they created memories with us. We did Bible charades, reenacting various Bible stories, and we still joke about Jacob, who was always the donkey, whether carrying a pregnant Mary, Balaam, or the "certain man who went up from Jerusalem to Jericho". When we lived in a two story house we used to have "Christmas morning drills", pretending to sleep in our beds until one of us called out and we all ran to the stairs, slid down the bannister, and raced to see who could get to the tree first. We spent hours debating our parents about what time we were allowed to get up on The Day. Mom always made her famous English Toffee, Russian Tea Cakes, and Pecan Tartlets; we helped, mostly with licking the bowls. We had a crocheted Nativity Set, unbreakable, and we would take turns setting it up each day, taking great delight in placing the sheep in the manger instead of the Baby Jesus. "Hey look, it's the lamb of God!"
On Christmas Eve we were allowed to open one present, and then Daddy would read us the Story from Luke 2. We would each take a figure from the nativity set and act it out as he read. And then we were tucked in to our beds and made to promise that we wouldn't peek as Mom and Dad filled our stockings. And you better believe there were a lot of unnecessary trips to the bathroom and kitchen that took place after we were supposed to be in bed! Christmas morning would come and we would forget to slide down the bannister in our excitement. Our stockings were transformed into strange lumpy things that beckoned us. Inside we would find our ornament, and usually small practical items like lip balm, hair ribbons, pencils, and always a Christmas orange. We would have to wait to open our presents while Mom made tea. I could never believe it- why on earth would anyone want a cup of tea when there were presents to be opened! (Now I understand.) Starting with the youngest we would take turns opening our gifts, and at the end it seemed that Mom always had several left. I couldn't fathom how she was excited about things like oven mitts and dishrags, but she graciously exclaimed about each practical gift. After she carefully folded all the wrapping paper to be put away for the next year, we would proceed to the kitchen for our customary breakfast of nachos. So the day would go on, with us happily playing with new toys and reading new books and enjoying being together. And no Robertson Christmas would have been complete without the inclusion of some other folks with nowhere else to go on that most joyous of days.
I think that's what made my childhood so special, and my memories so dear. The days were marked with love; that of my parents for each other (how often we would groan when we caught them kissing in the kitchen), for us, and for the stranger, the neglected teen, the hitch hiker, and the lonely old man with no family but ours. The love that flowed through and around my Mom and Dad was none other than the Love that was given by God when He sent Jesus into this lonely world so long ago.
And so, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, as we once again make room in our hearts for the Christ child, I pray that the same Love will flow through Erik and me, and that the memories we are making will be dear, not only to our children, but to all that we encounter. I pray that some day our children will smile at their memories of sticking an entire bag of bows on a gift for Daddy, and of always knowing that they are surrounded by Love.
Monday, December 19, 2005
I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. Not about things that are really important, but there are certain things I'm really particular about. Like my jam has to be spread neatly out to every edge of my toast. And if you were ever to eat burritos with me and my family, they would probably warn you not to get behind me in the build-your-own burrito line. Because my burrito has to be perfect. I want a little of everything in every bite. So the olives have to make a nice little line on top of the cheese and the dobs of sour cream and salsa all need to be even. I used to work at Pizza Hut and you could say I wasn't very fast at making pizza. I couldn't stand to just throw everything on like we were supposed to. (But don't you hate it when you get a pizza and there are three pieces of pepperoni on one bite and none on another? That wouldn't happen if I had made your pizza.)
I've been thinking about this because now that I have little kids, I've realized that I have to give up a lot of this sort of control in my life. When I unpacked Peregrine's books I carefully sorted them all- board books on the top shelf, books of similar size together, all the Golden Books in a row, and so on. I happily thought how nice it looked and how he would just get out one at a time and then carefully put it back where he found it. Ummmm, it hasn't exactly worked out that way. And I'm realizing that if I want him to love books like I do then he needs to be allowed to get them out and read them. So, I've been letting go of my expectations about how his book shelf should look. If I don't then I'm going to be annoyed all the time, and so is he.
Today my sisters, nieces, and nephew came over to decorate gingerbread houses. In past years I have spent hours meticulously gluing bits of candy on my house, and everyone always teases me about mine having to be perfect. What can I say? I enjoyed tiling the entire roof with Chex cereal, building pretzel fences, drizzling dozens of icicles off the eaves and paving the pathway one candy at a time. That was fun for me and it was a bonus that my gingerbread house was always beautiful. Well, I decided that if this was going to be fun for Peregrine then I needed to let him do what he wanted with it. Of course, mostly he just wanted to eat the candy, but he also stuck some onto his house. He even got creative and realized that if you lick the candy enough it just might stick by itself. Nice. And you know what? I think his house is beautiful, even if there are gumdrops on one side of the roof and something else on the other. It's beautiful because it was something we enjoyed doing together.
So I'm trying to let go of some of my tendencies toward perfectionism, and I find that as I do I enjoy life more, and so does my boy. I feel a new freedom to see life through his eyes and it's so fresh and simple and full of wonder. After all, it doesn't matter to him if his peanut butter covers every square millimeter of his bread. But it does matter if his Mama is having a good time and being joyful as I go about my day. And hey, maybe I'd have more time to read to him if I'd quit organizing the bookshelf.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
We had a really hard evening with Peregrine tonight. He was crying and fussing about everything and doing what I call "falling apart". At one point he asked if I would hold him, and when I tried to take him in my arms he began to fight me. I sat in the rocker with him and held him. He screamed and tried to pull away and so I held him tighter. He complained that I was hurting him and I explained that if he would stop fighting my arms would be gentle but as long as he fought my arms would be strong around him.
And so we sat, my heart hurting over my boy's foolishness. I knew that if he would simply surrender, that we could share sweet fellowship together. This went on for some time. He would momentarily stop struggling and rest his head on me, and then the fight would start again and I had to use my "strong arms" to hold him close. In desperation I began to pray aloud over him, asking Jesus to help him to obey and to calm down. Immediately he grew still and his body relaxed as he gave up fighting and allowed me to hold him gently in my arms.
I was reminded of the verse that says "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places". Lately I feel like I'm in a battle with my precious son and I needed to be reminded that he's not my adversary, that I'm not called to fight him, but to fight for him. And that the battle is not merely for his behavior but for his soul. The enemy of our souls is at work to turn the hearts of the children away from their parents and ours away from theirs. Jesus calls us to shepherd our children and to gently lead them and train them up in righteousness. But we are in the midst of a battle. It's easy to forget that it's spiritual, that it's not me against Peregrine but that it's being fought in the spiritual realm. The very moment I cried out to Jesus for help He calmed my child. How I need to remember that He is right here and He is fighting for Peregrine! And if He is for us , who can be against us!
In his book "Shepherding a Child's Heart" Tedd Tripp writes "Ephesians 6:4 commands you to bring up your children in the.... training and instruction of the Lord; to function on God's behalf. Understanding this simple principle enables you to think clearly about your task. If you are God's agent in this task of providing essential training and instruction in the Lord, then you, too, are a person under authority. You and your child are in the same boat. You are both under God's authority. You have differing roles, but the same Master." This has really helped me to remember that it is not me against Peregrine, but that his God-given task is to obey Erik and me, and ours is to bring him up in the way he should go, training him in the way of righteousness. We have different jobs, but they are both given by our Creator.
He is sleeping now, sweetly, his long camel eyelashes closed. When I see him that way, it's easy forget about the battle that is raging for the soul of this little one, for his life. I pray for him, pray that he will learn to surrender to his Mama and Daddy, so that we may gently lead him in the paths of righteousness. And so that as he grows He will not resist the loving arms of the One who is calling him by name.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
The Golden days of Autumn have too soon given way to the dreary days of Winter. Growing up on the prairies of Alberta Winter was Blinding White and Brilliant Blue. I remember the crunching sound the snow made under our felt-pac boots and the brightness of the low sun in the sky. But here in Oregon Winter is Grey. And Wet. The rains that keep the Northwest green and beautiful make the winter skies sullen and angry. Autumn is my favorite season and somehow I always find myself reminiscing as the days turn cooler. I love the crispness in the air and the smell of the trees, the special blueness of the sky and colored leaves that dance in the wind. I love the way the sun shines golden at the end of the day and makes everything look so alive. And I love celebrating my favorite holidays- a day of Giving Thanks and the celebration of Jesus' birth.
Along with the changing seasons and the merriment there seems to come an inevitable busyness. It's more important than ever to take moments to reflect on the blessings that I've been given. I often ask Peregrine to "choose to have a thankful heart and not a fussy one" and just as often I need to hear that exhortation as well. Thankfulness is a choice, and it makes all the difference in my outlook on life. When I focus on the things that are hard I quickly lose patience with Peregrine and get irritated with Erik. But when I thank God for my kids and for my amazing husband instead of feeling frustrated I'm filled with joy. Unfortunately, too often I fail to do this. Way too often. Just this afternoon I had a meltdown over something as stupid as not being able to figure out how to use a new program on our computer. I know that it was such an insignificant thing, but at the moment it felt like the end of the world. This was just hours after hearing a sermon on Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, and being reminded of just how Wonderful He is, and then having lunch with a woman who is suicidal. That should put my computer frustrations in major perspective, and I could benefit from some of the things I was sharing with her. Like the promise that when we approach His throne we will find grace to help in time of need. If I can believe that He can give hope to someone who has lost the will to go on in this life, then surely He can give me grace to deal with the great unknowns of my computer.
I need to stop to think about all the blessings that God has poured out on me- I have a nice warm home, good food, a great husband who has a great job, two wonderful children, loving family, good friends and good health, just to name a few. Not to mention that the God of the universe gave up glory to become a little baby who would one day die to give us salvation. So, when I allow my heart to become grey and sullen like the winter skies, I need His grace to remember that I am abundantly blessed and have a million things to be thankful for. And that ought to be quite enough to keep me going for a good long while.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I got an unexpected phone call a few nights ago that made me really happy. Alethea was already in bed and I was telling Peregrine a story when the phone rang. Erik answered it and I heard him talking in that tone of voice like you do when you're happy to hear from someone unexpected. It was "Christy from Santa Cruz" on the line so I kissed my boy goodnight and traded him to Erik for the phone. Christy is a friend that was in Asia with me. I love her because she's sweet and we share so many wonderful memories and Erik loves her because she nursed me back from the brink of death in Nepal. (Slight exageration perhaps but Erik does give her credit for saving my life so that he could fall in love with me.) We haven't seen Christy since her wedding last December and have emailed just a few times. I was surprised to hear from her out of the blue. It turned out she was just down the road so of course I gave her directions and invited her to come stay. An hour later she arrived; we stayed up talking and saw her off the next morning. Thanks for coming Christy; it was great to see you!
I'm always so thankful when people "stop by". It's part of what I miss about living in Community- the weaving in and out of each other's days and lives. When I was in high school we had the sort of neighbors that you could go borrow a cup of sugar from if you needed to. I remember being sick once when my parents were gone and one neighbor had me come over and lay on her couch so I wouldn't be alone. And when I was in Bible school I can't remember how often I would run over to my friend Dar's house for some little thing- a carrot or to do my laundry or a bowl of her yummy lentil soup. (Which was made and given with such love that on more than one occasion it actually brought me to tears.) I love being in the home of a friend with whom I'm totally comfortable- where I can raid the fridge if I'm hungry or curl up on their couch and sleep if I'm tired. (You know who you are!) And even more than that, I love it when people feel that at home at our house. We're family after all, and isn't that the way it should be?
I'm so thankful for the example my parents gave me in this. They have always made room in their home and around their table for friends, and strangers too. We lived in some pretty ramshackle little places but I remember people coming in and exclaiming how much they loved our home. Even as a child I knew that what they loved was not the house but the warmth of welcome they received, the opportunity to be part of a family who loved one another. For this reason my parents' family is a lot larger than just the five children that were born to them.
So Christy's call made me really happy- happy to hear from an old friend and so pleased that she was comfortable to drop in like that. My prayer is that our home will always be warm and inviting and a place where a soul can find rest, just as my parents' home has been for so many. So if you're ever in the neighborhood feel free to stop by, okay? We have an extra room now with a bed made up just for you. If you're lucky I might have a big pot of lentils simmering on the stove. And I'll make sure to season them with lots of love.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Peregrine is incredibly clever. I know you're thinking that of course I think he is because I'm his Mama, but he really is. And other people think so too, unbiased people, like his grandparents and aunties and uncles. He can recite books to us, and stories that we've told him. And he runs around saying words in other languages, like "Buon Giorno!" and "Arrivaderci." Lately he's been wanting to hear about things that Erik and I have done. I've told him all the monkey stories from when I was in India and Erik has been telling him about bears in Alaska and working on boats. So now he tells stories like "Well, I was living in a city called Pushkar and sitting on an upstairs porch and I was reading a book about tea for you and I was having a steamer. And I was looking at the street. And a monkey scurried by and he got my old steamer he dropped it on the street below it opened up and all came out and then he ran away. And then I found it." He takes our stories and retells them with his own little details. It's pretty cute. And he seems to hear everything we say, except, of course, when it's directed at him. He must have overheard Erik asking me to buy some horseradish one day. A few days later we were at Euphoria Chocolate Company and when the saleswoman asked if we needed anything else he promptly replied "We need horseradish!" Needless to say she looked a bit confused.
His latest thing is these little scenarios that he tries to create. Like he'll come up to me and say "Mama, can you say to me "Would you like to watch a movie now?" " Watching a movie is not an every day thing for him and this is his way of asking without really asking. Or the other night during our Bible Study my niece Jessamyn was watching the kids in the next room. He ran in and asked if I could hold him and of course I picked him up and put him on my lap. Jessamyn came in and he said to her "Can you tell me to come out?" When she did he replied smugly "I can't because my Mom's holding me right now". What a little schemer!
So, I have this clever boy, but I'm not blind to his faults. For example, no matter how many times I've told him not to, he still likes to dangle his hands and feet in the toilet. He just doesn't seem to get it that it's a really disgusting thing to do, especially if you then rub the water on your face. Or that eating things out of the trash can is gross. Or wiping your nose with toilet paper that's already been used elsewhere. You would think that such a smart kid would just know better, but he seems to think that those things are perfectly acceptable.
What to do? Sometimes I'm amazed at how smart he is and then other times......well, I'm amazed, but not exactly in a good way. Later I can look back and laugh, but I admit I usually find it hard to see the humor in these things when they happen. So pray for me, that God will give me wisdom to match his cleverness. And that I will have joy even when he's dunking his shirt in the toilet.
I was challenged recently to write the story of how Erik and I met, so here it is:
In the Spring of 1996 I was 20 years old, full of ideals and ideas, eager to serve the God I loved, and anxious to get married! I had just been accepted to a school of missions and midwifery in the Philippines. But one of the things that always strikes me as I look back on my life is that the opportunities we don't take play as much of a role in our future as the ones we do. And so in the Fall I found myself, not in Asia, but at a small Bible school in McMinnville, Oregon. It was orientation night and as I made my way across the courtyard I stopped to speak with the director of the school. He introduced me to Claud and Michele, friends of the school, who had attended the same Bible college that my parents had when I was young. Having that in common, he stepped away and I was left chatting with Michele. She was kind and friendly, with twinkly eyes and a genuine interest in the students. She mentioned that she would be teaching a quilting class for anyone interested and I verbally enrolled on the spot! I had been wanting to learn to quilt and wondered if I would ever find a group of women to do it with.
Soon Bible classes were underway, and so were weekly quilting lessons. More than just a teacher, Michele became a dear friend, often having me and the other students into her and Claud's home. More than anyone I'd ever met, she seemed to take seriously Saint Paul's mandate that the older women teach the younger women. She not only showed us how to ply a needle, but she exposed us to world missions, canned peaches with us, and gave classes on becoming a godly wife and mother. I was often in their home and soon learned that they had a daughter and a son, Erik, who was attending seminary in London, England. Of course I didn't know it then but Michele had been telling him all about me and had even sent him my picture!
The school year came to a close, and with the Spring Erik came home to see his parents for two weeks before going up to Alaska to work for the summer. We met briefly. Claud introduced us one night at a coffee shop, we saw each other at church, and I ran into him at a fabric store, where he was trying to convince the employees to give Michele a discount since she brought so many women in to buy fabric for quilting! One day toward the end of summer I got a letter from Erik. He said that from what his Mom had told him, he was interested in getting to know me and wondered if, when he came home, he could take me out for juice or tea. I wondered then just how much he knew about me since he seemed to know I didn't drink coffee. I wrote him back and said that yes, I would go out with him when he came back.
So, Erik returned to McMinnville and took me out for tea. We sat in a diner booth and talked for a couple of hours. He says I didn't finish my tea. I don't remember that but I do recall thinking that our time together had flown by. He asked if he could take me out again before he returned to London and I agreed. So we went out one more time and also spent a day with both sets of our parents at an art show my Dad was doing. I remember writing in my journal about him, something along the lines of "We had a good time talking. He's very nice and seems mature. I'm sure that he would never be interested in me." He went back to London and I started school again. I had enjoyed our time together and felt like he was admirable, but we were also both quite awkward around each other and I didn't think anything would come of it.
Over the next four years we were both busy and all over the world. We would occasionally write and would see each other when we were in the same place. Erik was back and forth between London, Oregon, and Alaska and spent some time teaching English in Yemen. I finished Bible school and travelled to Liberia, moved back home with my parents, and then spent nine months in Thailand, India, and Nepal reaching out to western travelers. Around the same time that I moved back home Claud and Michele ended up moving to the same area as my parents which meant that Erik and I now had the same "home base". When we were both in town he would come by my parents' home and we would visit. Erik says he really began to get interested in me through reading the letters I wrote when I was in Asia.
When I returned to the U.S. in the Spring of 2001 I didn't know what to do next. I had been busy for years with school and various things and all of a sudden I had no idea what to do. I was almost 26 and very anxious to get married! Most of the time when I would meet men I could almost immediately tell that they would never do for me, but with Erik I could never really say that. I always wondered if he could be the one, and he says that I was always "an unanswered question". But apart from that, there was still a certain awkwardness between us. When I got back he came to visit and something was different than it had been before. We could talk for hours and were very comfortable together. He started coming over a lot and I would go over to his house (where Michele would conveniently leave us with big glasses of iced tea under the apple trees in the back yard.) Next thing I knew he was taking me out to watch sunsets and asking if he could court me!
It's hard to explain what had changed. We'd known each other four years and spent some time together but suddenly there was a spark that had never been there. Erik was scheduled to fly out to the Middle East to study Arabic for two years that fall. I was torn up about it- why had God waited so long to bring us together only for us to be separated for so long? At this point we had never even discussed marriage but both knew that God had brought us together and had a plan for us. We prayed and prayed that God would show us what to do. He went back and forth with his Mission board, asking their advice and permission to marry. We had the approval and support of both of our parents but he had made a commitment and and felt it necessary to go through the Mission as well. I thought that it would be best if he stayed home until we could get married and then go study language together, but I felt that I was not to persuade him to stay, but trust God to lead him. I fasted and prayed and asked God to show Erik what to do and to give me peace about his decision. One warm summer night I stopped by to see him and he took me in his arms and told me he had returned his airline tickets and was going to stay home! Needless to say I was ecstatic. Erik says I actually jumped for joy!
A few weeks later we went out to pick blackberries together. After filling our pails he took me up to a hill overlooking the city. It was a beautiful evening. We walked along, hand in hand, until we came upon a picnic set under an oak tree! I was astonished to see it all laid out, right down to red-checked napkins, all sorts of good things to eat, sparkling cider, and my favorite chocolates. We sat down and he pulled a gift out of the picnic basket and said "I got this for you in London". I opened it up and found a beautiful brush and comb set, made of ebony and inlaid with silver. He then said that he'd bought this for the girl he would marry someday! I looked and inside the box was a ring! As I pulled it out he asked if I would marry him and told me, for the first time, that he loved me. The story wouldn't be complete without saying that I gasped in surprise and said "Really?" instead of "Yes"!
I loved that he waited to tell me he loved me until he asked me to marry him. It meant so much more that way. And I loved that he planned this elaborate picnic with my sisters and had his Mom wrap the present and that when we got back to my house I didn't have to say "Guess what!" because my family had all been in on the planning. And I loved that the peace of God was so very present in the whole thing and that His hand on us was so evident. And, needless to say, I loved Erik!
And I still do. We were married on a cold winter day a few months later. There was a rainbow in the sky, a symbol of God's faithfulness. And In the presence of God, our families and friends we vowed to love and honor and cherish each other.
And we still do.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Peregrine just turned three. It's hard for me to believe that he's been in our lives for that long. While we have some moments that seem like they'll never end, overall the time has gone by so quickly. I look back at pictures of him as a baby, fresh and new in this world, helpless, vulnerable, tiny. And now he's so big, so full of energy and ideas, opinions and questions. He listens with rapt attention when we read to him or tell him stories and at other times I would think he was deaf if I didn't know better! (Yep, usually when I'm telling him to do something he doesn't particularly feel like doing.) His smile and his big round eyes are enough to melt my heart and it seems that I can be pulling out my hair one minute and dissolving in sweet laughter with him the next. On one hand he's bursting with curiosity about things and on the other he thinks he's got it all figured out and will contradict everything I say! He loves to "help with me" when I'm cooking or working on something and is eager to learn and explore the world around him. He likes to pretend he's characters from different stories and he usually has a role for me to play too- if he calls me "Mother" then I know he's playing Francis and if he comes out with his crown on then we're Babar and Celeste, King and Queen of the elephants! I find it hard to keep up though as he can go through several of these characters in a day- or an hour! He has begun to make up stories to tell us, some that have actually happened and others that are pulled from his imagination. And he loves to listen to our stories of things we've done and places we've been.
Wow. He's learned a lot in three years. And he's so eager to learn and experience more. I long to give him a happy childhood filled with love and wonder and discovery. But there are so many things that we have no control over, and I battle the fears and what-ifs constantly. But he's not really ours. He's in far bigger and better hands than our feeble human ones. And this is our greatest hope for our boy: that he will grasp the hand of the One who is holding him and give his heart to the One who knit him together. (And he is fearfully and wonderfully made!) And so, beyond the ABCs and the 123s, and learning about bugs and seasons and rivers, we want to introduce Him to the Creator of all these things, the One who holds it all together and who holds us tightly in His hands.
So happy birthday to my sweet boy, and may you someday receive the Greatest Gift of all.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Everything changes,and a lot of this has to do with Motherhood. I was lying awake at about 5:15 this morning and thinking about this. It used to be that I would go to bed at night, sit for a while and write in my journal, then fall asleep and wake up 8 or 9 hours later, well rested and ready for the new day. Now, by the time we get the kids to bed we want to have a few minutes to ourselves so we inevitably stay up just a bit later than we should. Then we realize how late it is and of course I have to check on the kids, make sure they're covered, gaze at them in wonder and kiss their sweet little faces one last time. We finally drop into bed and cuddle and talk a while before falling asleep. (Well, one of us often falls asleep in mid-sentence but I won't divulge which of us that would be!) Then, on a good night, we sleep through until 5 when Erik's alarm goes off and Poppy wakes up to nurse. Of course she's so sweet and cuddly that I don't mind this too much, and then she stays in bed with me until we get up around 8. That doesn't sound too bad, except that it seems more often than not, it just doesn't go quite that smoothly. Usually I wake up at least once to go to the bathroom. I think this is just a leftover habit from pregnancy or something. Very annoying. And of course when I'm up I have to check on the kids again, make sure they're still covered, and stroke their soft little cheeks. I stumble back to bed and usually am able to get back to sleep right away. And then there are the noises. I used to be a pretty heavy sleeper but now I have some sort of Mommy intuitiveness that wakes me up if one of my kids starts stirring. It's a pretty remarkable thing. I can even wear ear plugs (to muffle a certain person's snoring) and still hear when Poppy starts getting restless. Then, on top of the noises, there's my mind, which seems to be the biggest culprit in keeping me awake these days. When I wake up my mind swings into action. It seems I get my best thoughts in the wee hours of the night when my body is longing for more sleep because I know that all too soon the kids will be awake and needing me. Hmmm, maybe my mind knows this is the only time that it has when all is quiet and I can think clearly. So, I lie there, thinking all sorts of brilliant thoughts that I can't remember in the morning because I'm just too tired. It seems I finally fall asleep only to be woken by Peregrine calling at the top of his lungs "Hello, is anybody there? I'm speaking to you!) And so begins my morning; I crawl out of bed, tired and wondering why my sleep is so fragmented. And why was it that when I was single, and didn't need so much sleep, that it came so easily and so deeply. Maybe part of it is to teach me to rely on the Lord, and not on my own strength, since that would only carry me through about thirty seconds. If that.
Another change that I've given some thought to lately is mobility. Back in the days when I was single (and aching to be married) I would just hop in my ol' Datsun, Tess, and hit the road. Maybe go up to Seattle for the weekend to see Shelley and Corrigan, or to McMinnville, or down to California. I had a very flexible job and could pretty much go where I wanted when I wanted. I still have a flexible job in a way. I mean, in the morning hours I can run out to the store to do my errands as long as we're home in time for lunch and nap time. All I have to do is make sure the diaper bag is stocked, both kids are fed and have reasonably dry diapers, get everyone strapped in to their car seats and we're off. Sometimes I even remember to bring my wallet. By the time we're all loaded in the van I feel like it would probably just be easier to stay home. And that's nothing compared to going away for the weekend, which we manage to do every so often, usually up to stay with Paula in Camas. I don't even bother with packing bags; I just start throwing things in laundry baskets, which usually means there are piles of laundry dumped on the couch. (If we're lucky and it's clean.) So into the laundry baskets go all the kids' stuff- diapers and clothes and blankets and Peregrine's special pillow and his bear and his Bible story book and his classical music CD and his movies and his spill-proof cups and his spoons. And so on and so on. And then I pack our little cooler, because I want to show up with at least a little food, not just expect Paula to singlehandedly feed this family of four for the whole weekend. And of course Erik has to have his soy creamer and his coffee and Peregrine has to have snacks (okay, I like the snacks too). And then we have to bring the play pen and the stroller and by this time Erik is wondering if we should have gotten a small bus instead of the mini-van. And then, at the very end of this madness, I get around to packing a few changes of clothes in a bag for myself. I usually discover at this point that the shirt I wanted to wear is dirty and so I'm frantically trying things on and throwing them on the floor until I find some clothes that are not terribly frumpy. Of course I had told Erik five minutes ago that I was almost ready, which means to him that it's time to get the kids strapped in and start the van. So he comes back in and asks if I'm coming and I say I'm getting there and he looks surprised that I'm not ready yet. I finally manage to make my way out to the van, laden with five things I forgot until the last minute. At last we're on our way. We always have a great time; of course no one gets enough sleep and the kids' schedule gets all out of whack, but it's fun to get away for a few days. Coming home is nice too, although then there is all the unpacking to do. There's no where to put the dirty laundry since the baskets are full of stuff and we inevitably forget a few things at Paula's. But within a few days we're back to normal and I might even get that growing pile of clothes folded and put away!
I wouldn't trade sleepy days with my husband and family for for all the restful nights I used to have. And while I do miss being able to take off for Seattle or San Francisco (or India or Africa) I love the sameness of the days with my family- getting up with the kids, caring for them, feeding them, reading books and playing, looking forward to Erik coming home, dinner and evenings together, and finally collapsing into bed (after checking on those sweet kids one last time.) This was always the desire of my heart, and I thank the Lord for giving it to me and bringing it to pass. I know that all too soon my kids will be too big to cuddle in bed with us, and going places will be simpler, so I will enjoy the crazy days and sleepless nights that come along with these precious little ones.