Wednesday, June 27, 2007

quiet time

It begins with the creaking click of the knob turning, slowly catching the internal mechanism, and then releasing with a soft, metallic echo. The door swings open, and a muffled thump-thump-thump approaches my bedside. A small, impish figure, armed with three stuffed animals and a rather large blanket, hoists itself up beside me and begins to ruin my quiet, restful morning.

“Momma, are you ready to get up now?” the treble voice asks. I look at the clock. 6:30 AM. No. I am not ready to get up yet. Not by a long shot. “Momma…” I roll over toward the voice, which comes out of a deceptively angelic-looking face, framed with soft, sun-kissed curls glowing like a golden halo. In my stupor, I am taken in. The tender moment, however, is fleeting. “Buddy,” I croak in my “it’s dark-thirty AM” voice, “Momma is still sleeping. You need to go back to bed.” “I want to be with you, Momma,” he insists, throwing his legs over mine and grabbing my arm to position around him under his neck.

As I know it is a lose-lose scenario, I choose, this time, to give him a chance. “Buddy, you MUST lay still and you MUST be quiet,” I warn him in the sternest voice I can muster at this hour. It is yet another exercise in futility. Legs on top of mine, legs underneath mine. The arm is in the right spot, the arm is in the wrong spot. “Momma,” he urges, “roll over this way.” Groaning, I roll the opposite direction, to no avail. Tiny legs fling themselves across my torso, shifting roughly every three seconds. Ire is building within my not-a-morning-person spirit. I breathe deeply and hope that ignoring him will deter him.

I hope in vain. “Momma, are you ready to get up now?” he asks again. “I’m ready to eat now. Momma… is sissy up yet? Momma… did Daddy go to work already? Momma… will you play with me? Momma…” In miraculous self-restraint, I calmly roll over and insist that he return to his bedroom. After a moment of protests, he retreats in a fit of whining, slamming both my door and his own along the way, which requires me to get out of bed to address. Finally, I am alone in my bed (oh, sweet mercy) and, smugly congratulating myself for not killing my son, begin to drift back to sleep.

BAM!!! BOOM!!! I awaken and push my door shut, turning the fan up to deal with both the rising heat and the rising noise. CRASH!!! Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump. I roll over, glancing again at the clock. Another hour of “sleep” has passed. SPILLLLLLL!!! Yammeryammeryammer. “Buddy, you’re too loud,” I warn. He quiets momentarily. Then comes the tape player blaring math facts to poorly written imitation-80’s rock music. BEAT-BEAT-BEAT-BEAT. The clock reads 7:50. I groan and finally, wearily, drag myself from bed.

He appears the minute my door opens. “Momma, are you getting up now? I’m ready to eat, Momma. Can we eat now?” I stumble to the bathroom. “Yes, Buddy, we can eat in a minute.” “I want Cheerios, Momma. With honey. Can I have honey?” “We’ll see, Buddy,” I mutter, making my way in to wake up my 8-year-old sleep-loving likeness. “Time to get up now, Sissy!!!!” He diverts his attention to her for a moment, and I begin to dress in my slow, I’m-not-awake-yet pace. BOUNCE!!! “Momma, can we eat NOW?!?!”

Making my way downstairs, he curls around my feet like the cat. “Can I have Cheerios? I want Cheerios. With honey. Can I have honey, Momma?” “Buddy, I got it, okay?” “Okay, Momma,” he chirps, off to clatter with his trains. I enter the kitchen, the cat now curling around my feet, yowling to be paid attention to. My daughter thumps down the stairs and the bickering begins. “That was my train, Sissy! I had it first!” I attempt to ignore it and begin preparing breakfast. Dishes clank against one another, tones harsh and startling to my ears. My irritation grows despite my best efforts.

"Come on guys, it’s ready.” Spoons clinking, Cheerios crunching, children chattering. I place my ingredients in the blender and brace myself. WHIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!! “Momma, are you making a smoothie?” “What do you think, Buddy?” “Can I have some smoothie? I want some smoothie!” I pour my breakfast—MY breakfast—and come to the table.

I pull my devotional reading out, shuffling through the pages to today’s date. I begin to read, hungry for a nourishing moment. “What are we going to do today, Momma? Are we going to aerobics today? What are we doing after aerobics? Are we going to a friend’s house today? I want to play with a friend today, Momma. Can I have my gummy vitamins, Momma? I haven’t had my vitamins yet…” It takes me ten minutes to read the three short paragraphs. The moment I shut the book and lay it down, it has already left me. “Momma, I want some more…”

Some more. Yes. I want some more, too. More sleep. More peace. More “Mommy-Time.” More quiet. I know it is a season, one like many others I will encounter. But it is a particularly noisy, relentless season, and I am one who is sensitive to the noise and the pressure. “They tell me there will come a time when it seems too quiet,” I say to my husband one night, as they are bickering in the stroller. “I can’t imagine...” “Don’t say that,” he gently admonishes me. “You know it will be here all too soon.”

Yes, I know this. I remind myself of it daily, trying to be comfortable with the tension between cherishing the now and anticipating the not-yet. There will come a day I will long for that little voice to wake me up and fill my day, but, at the moment, the day is filled to overflowing. I pray for moments of quiet, moments of inner peace, moments of grace. One comes, as the children exit the kitchen and flow out into the backyard. Moving into the living room, I pick my devotional up again, and soak up as much as those three minutes will allow. “Momma,” I hear all too soon. “Momma, I need you..."

This time, I am ready to rise. I close my eyes for a moment, lifting up a prayer for our day, for my children, for my heart. Then I get up, placing the book back on the kitchen table, and I follow the noise to its source. With a newfound calmness, I respond.

“Whatcha need, Buddy? I’m ready now…”

Monday, June 25, 2007

just five or six more...

The scale read 140.0 two weeks ago. Tonight it reads 148.0. I stare at the glowing number in despair, my heart sinking, though not with surprise. How could I possibly be surprised, when I knowingly binged all afternoon?

Today was the low point of a slowly-gaining-momentum roller coaster ride—emotions out of whack and appetite out of check and my weight as up and down as the track. I can hear the clack-clack-clack-clack of the cable as I begin another ascent—up to the height of my irrational fear—and for a moment I perch motionless at the top before careening down a slippery slope of trying to control my never-satiated need for more. I clutch the crash bar for dear life, knuckles white, cursing myself for getting on this ride, knowing full well I never could handle roller coasters.

When did I first find myself back in this car, belted and barred and unable to place my hands and feet on solid ground until the ride has come to a complete stop? Until recently, life had become a fairly mellow ride—more like the Matterhorn—round and round and round with its predictable ups and downs. Things were steady—eating healthy, exercising regularly—and then a small dip—a weekend barbeque or a wedding reception—then back to steady, steady, steady, dip, steady, steady, steady, dip. It felt reasonable. It felt healthy. It felt (dare I say?) normal.

It doesn’t feel that way any more. For whatever reason—my monthly cycle, side effects of a newly-tried-then-newly-discarded medication, depression, spiritual attack—nothing is steady now. Not today. Not this weekend. Not this week. Not ever again.

I am, of course, becoming dramatic. This is because drama is what I do. It is much more compelling to write that nothing will ever be okay again than it is to write that in another two weeks I will be back on track and the scale will read 140.0 again. And, truthfully, it FEELS like it will never be okay again. It FEELS like I am 240 lbs and doomed to stay there, or, worse, increase. It FEELS like I have changed nothing and made no gains against my formidable appetite. It FEELS like I am still the sad, pathetic, lacking-in-willpower creature that I FEEL I have always been. I have lost. The battle is over. The white flag is up. I surrender.

(Pause for dramatic effect) Sigh…

(In a hushed, subdued tone) I surrender. I am desperately, hopelessly hungry, and there is nothing—NOTHING—that satisfies. Not Oreos or beef brats or corn on the cob or sweet potato chips with dip. Not pizza or strawberry pie or nachos or cranberry oatmeal cookies. I eat one, I want another. I eat another, I want five or six more. My stomach says, “enough.” My waistband says, “enough.” My spirit says, “enough.” My insatiable appetite says, “more, more, MORE!!!”

I am not satisfied. It is not my stomach that growls, empty and discontent, but my heart. I am hungry for more than my pantry can ever hold. I surrender—not to my appetite, but to He whom I am hungry for.

Delight my soul in the richest of your fare, Lord (Isa 55:2). I beg of you—meet me here, at last.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

more than a conqueror (a pantoum)

The white flag is raised—
tattered and torn, it whips back and forth in the wind.
I surrender…
there is no fight left in me.

My spirit is limp—
tattered and torn, it whips back and forth in the wind.
Weariness like a mountain weighs upon my shoulders.
There is no fight left in me.

I am overcome with despair.
My spirit is limp—
where is my hero now?
Weariness like a mountain weighs upon my shoulders.

“All-consuming-yet-never-satisfied-wants[1]” declare victory…
I am overcome with despair.
A conquering power brings the enemy to its knees[2]
where is my hero now?

Two sets of hands reach for me—only one may claim me.
“All-consuming-yet-never-satisfied-wants” declare victory…
but faith will overcome.
A conquering power brings the enemy to its knees.

There is another who fights for me—
I surrender
to the one whose blood was shed in victory.
The white flag is raised.

[1] Galatians 5:19-21, MSG
[2] 1 John 5:4, MSG