This past weekend saw the Stones strewn about the Texas coast engaged in various vacation-like activities. One such activity, surprisingly, included babies falling asleep easily in their own separate rooms at the same exact time. Can I get an Amen?
We also did lots of swimming, visited the Texas State Aquarium, and learned how to suck bait shrimp straight out of the wet sand. The adults spent quality time together while enduring the cruel vacillations between toddler whininess and exuberant cuteness. The babies got to enjoy the excellent company of grandparents and a silent Uncle Nate. All in all, it was fun!
A special note of appreciation goes to the Intex inflatable toddler bed which Lillian adored. Totally dad’s idea, too.
Nighttime is the province of mothers.
Almost every night I find myself reciting some version of this same directive: “Lillian, why are you crying? It’s still nighttime, baby, let’s get back in bed.” She doesn’t usually answer my question, but I kneel on the floor beside her bed and hold her for a few minutes before leaving her with BeBe dog and a pile of less important stuffed animals.
Last night started off typically. I was in bed by 10:30, but up again at 11 to nurse the baby and 11:30 to kiss Lillian back to bed. I found myself awake again at 4 to nurse Cara, only to send her off again into restless sleep which also kept me awake. Eventually I retreated to the couch to sleep for another 30 minutes before being greeted again by Lillian’s screams and refusal to go back to bed.
As I spent the morning bleary eyed and coffee-dependent, it occurred to me that as a wife and mother the home in a general way, is my mission field. This is especially true because my husband is not a Christian. No surprise there.
But nighttime is when the Gospel really walks and talks for me.
These nighttime risings challenge me to serve the needs of someone else through my own desperation at precisely the moment which is the most inconvenient to me, and I have a choice whether to serve in joy or in bitterness. Today I tried to greet the day with charity even though it started a lot earlier than I hoped.
This is my nighttime ministry.
I’ve often wished over the years that I could view the world, always, through an amber lens. Green is–clearly, objectively, unarguably–the best color. The end. And it looks so lovely through an amber lens. Today I spent quite a long time driving and taking the scenic route. I keep being floored by the beauty of Texas spring. It looks like living in the Shire. When I am holed up my house in protest of the burnt brown landscape in July and August I will look back on these spring days fondly. I’ve been so inspired of late that I bought a cheap watercolor set at Wal-Mart so I could at least attempt to capture some of what I see and cannot photograph! But I also try to photograph when I can!
This evening as I knelt on a folded, brown bath mat and reached into the tub to douse Lillian with another cup of tepid water, she looked intently at me and proudly chirped, “blue eyes.” She is getting so good at noticing little details. I am intrigued and a somewhat horrified of this little person becoming a mirror which reflects back interpretations of reality. Who am I in the eyes of this person I relentlessly love and yet get so frustrated with? The person whom I yell at and slap the wall in front of? Who am I reflected in the lenses of the person for whom I want the very best, but who inadvertently unearths my most deeply buried faults and sins?
Sometimes I need an infusion of patience and empathy.
What is it like encountering the world for the very first time and you are only two years old? When your delighted discoveries elicit a frown and disapproving tone?
Lord, give me patience.
Oliver: Mass would be better if the priest would talk longer, and they got rid of all the singing and praying.
Me: Um…that’s the liturgy?
I live in an “unequally yoked” marriage. In a certain sense, every marriage is unequally yoked by nature pairing together two flawed human beings. I frequently find myself baffled by singular male habits. After years of study I still haven’t discovered the reason why underwear never lands in the hamper and empty beer bottles adorn the counters like trophies after Friday or Saturday night festivities. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I have grumbled in my head, “why am I the only person who can see this mess?!” He thinks I am equally crazy, but also has enough sense not to tell me in what way.
Drawing inspiration from Scripture, I like to see my husband and I as a couple of oxen pulling the cart that is our life and family together. My husband and I contribute in our different ways to the greater good of our family and pick up the slack when each other fail. What that means in my marriage is that I am the only ox pulling the cart in the “faith” department. He procures the money and multimedia. I take care of the children and prayers.
It’s taken years to come to some kind of peace about this arrangement for both of us since I converted after we were married. I believe that my having faith does both of us good as it challenges me to keep chipping away at my natural selfishness in a way that my former Paganism never would. Imagine converting from, “An’ it harm none, do what you will” to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” My creed as a Pagan was about taking what you could get and putting yourself first. As a Christian it’s about giving all that you have and becoming the least. What this means on a practical level is that when I fail and shrilly nag, “why am I the only one who can see this mess?!” I might actually feel sorry about it.
Our disagreement about faith also presents us with certain challenges that couples who are united on that front don’t face. For instance, I diligently keep my symptothermal charts and he has the freedom to procure contraception if he chooses to do so. I invite him to come with me to mass, and he has the absolute right to decline the invitation. He allows me to baptize our children but I have no intention of teaching them that their dad is in any way “less”.
St. Paul says that in his opinion the unbelieving husband is made holy through his believing wife (1 Cor 7:14). I have to carry on and believe that even in the basest way, my prayers and example (Lord, help me) will benefit my husband and everyone else in my family. I have to live my faith for the both of us and not just personal fulfillment. I have to look to God to tear down barriers of pride and build us both up.
At least that’s the goal. The doing is the hard part.