Friday, March 22, 2013

Getting the trash out

Yesterday was another windy day in my city. It was also trash day. Once, I glanced out my window and saw that my giant recycling can full of easily-blown papers was lying on its side, lid open. I rushed out to upright it, and I saw that my neighbor’s cans had also lost their lids. 

In the past, I have chased her trash around her yard while she is at work, righted her trash cans for her, and pulled her empty cans out of the street and up to her garage. I was anxious that today was going to be another one of those days where I had to check out the window every five minutes to make sure her trash wasn’t blowing all over the neighborhood. I spent about one minute feeling sorry for myself that this was turning into Trash Watch 2013 while my neighbor was oblivious to my very sacrificial civic duty, and then a thought came to me. She got her trash cans to the curb. On the right day. And suddenly I was in awe of her, of what she does.

My neighbor is a single mom whose kids I count as my own. She works full-time and somehow manages to single-parent and run her house as well. She pays her bills, feeds her kids, arranges for their education and child-care, and enrolls them in extra-curricular activities. She teaches them character and obedience, and I have to say here that they are great kids. I don’t know how she does it all.

In my world as a stay-at-home-mom, I do a lot of “drive-by reading.” I read blogs here and there, when I can. I read texts here and there, when I can. I read articles here and there, when I can. I check Facebook here and there, when I can. And many of the things I read have to do with parenting, and mothering specifically. After reading about another mom who took her kid to ballet (somehow I cannot manage to enroll Coralie in a dance class. I do not know why I am so dumbfounded by the process), or whose children just won the Leadership Award in preschool (!), or who saved $1500/year by cloth diapering (which, by the way, is the only loving way to diaper your child), I feel inadequate.

Yesterday, I read this article. Finally, I thought. Another mom who says, Enough! Enough of trying to look like Supermom! Enough of spending hours on Pinterest coming up with Easter ideas or birthday party ideas or Valentine’s card ideas! I felt validated in the choices I make as a mother that exclude me from the over-the-top-awesome-mom category. And then the author mentioned that she had read to her children for 20 minutes that day, played outside with them, bathed them, helped them practice guitar, and cooked them dinner and ate with them. And then I felt bad again. Because, yesterday, I did none of those things. I played with my kids a little, I read to them for maybe five minutes, I babysat another kid for a few hours, and I cooked dinner for them. But I did not eat it with them: I went to the gym during dinner. I also yelled at my kids, rolled my eyes at my kids, and ignored my kids. 

Ryan often tells me that I am a good mom. I always respond, almost desperately, with, Why? Why do you say that? I need to hear him tell me that he believes I am a good mom, because I doubt it often. Now listen, I’m not plagued with a low self-esteem at all. I’m pretty confident in myself and my abilities. But when it comes to being a mom? I need all the positive reinforcement I can get, because reading those blogs and those statuses and those tweets? They are not encouraging to me. (And, by the way, I have stopped reading Facebook and many of the blogs I used to read for this very reason.)

Ryan doesn’t read those blogs; he doesn’t use their metrics of 20-minutes-a-day reading to analyze whether or not I’m a good mom. He sees our kids, their character, their health, their security, their curiosity, and he knows I’m a good mom.

Sometimes, getting the trash to the curb is what matters. So what if the lid blows off, I didn’t make homemade Valentine’s cards, the recycling blows all over the neighborhood, I served my family a frozen pizza, the trash can blows into the street. So what. I took the trash out. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Take

It's been four days since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Four days, and I am still having trouble processing what happened there.

I'm bothered by many things. I'm bothered that someone killed 27 innocent people, the majority of them little children.

I am bothered that people blame one of the victims, the shooter's mom.

I'm bothered that people are turning this into an argument for atheism or for God's vengeance.

I'm bothered that people are turning this into an argument for gun control or for the second amendment.

I'm bothered that people are turning this into anything other than what it is: a horrible event that has dropped the bottom out of so many people's worlds.

I'm bothered that Facebook is yet again a place for inane narcissistic posting about what you ate, how far you ran, how great you are. And I'm bothered that it is also relegating this tragedy to another stupid, un-solvable political debate.

Tomorrow night is our church's youth group's Christmas party. I am to lead the youth in a devotion. What do I say?  "Merry Christmas, God loves you, let's pretend nothing horrific happened this week?"

No, I can't do that.

Instead, this is what I wrote:

In light of the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy and Christmas, which is a traditionally religious holiday even among the non-religious, God’s name is getting tossed around a lot. 

People are questioning why God allowed this, if there even is a God, and if there is a God, what kind of God He is.

To help you sort through the many conflicting opinions you are hearing, allow me to share one thought.

Please, do not equate BEING MORAL with BEING A CHRISTIAN. There is a difference between being a good person and being a Christian. Again, being a good person is NOT the same thing as being a Christian. 

Being “moral” means that you do “good things” and that you don’t do “bad things.” Of course, being moral is wonderful. 

Being a Christian means that you know that everyone sins. Everyone, not just murderers. Not just cheaters. Not just thieves. Not just liars. You. and Me. We’re both sinners, hopelessly lost and unworthy of redemption. It means that you know there is no one who is “moral.”

Some people say that America asked for this shooting because the choices we Americans have made lately, the movies we watch, the games we play, do not please God. These people imply that this is “God’s punishment” because we are not moral enough.

There is no place for that kind of talk in Christianity.

Hear me now: God is not able to be kicked out of schools simply because His name is left out of school assemblies. He is not uncaring enough to rain down a school massacre just because we don’t pray before lunch in our cafeterias. 

God is very much in our schools because He is in your hearts. God is not limited by our invitation, by our acknowledgement, or by our moral behavior.

I don’t know what you take away from this week’s tragedy. What I take away is that this world is not my home. This world is broken, is full of hurting people on both sides of the gun, and is desperate for love. 

I, for one, look forward more than ever to heaven’s restorative, reparative, comforting home.

It is a home with doors flung wide open for you, opened by someone who Himself saw His child born into such a broken world as this and witnessed His own son's massacre. THAT God, the one who still showers us imperfect people with love and hope, THAT God is the true God.