Defeathering the Nest

While my nest is certainly not empty, it is beginning to feel somewhat cramped for space. Not in the literal sense at all; there is more than enough room. But in the figurative sense. With all three children making leaps to new levels in the fall, the attitudinal space is what feels all too cramped lately. 

My husband still feels the need to guide every step and pave the way for every new adventure. And in the way that he does those things, he is right – they still need guidance and advice. 

I, however, being the more emotional one, am admittedly ready for some of these attitudes to find their own way. I love them, and would do anything in the world to help them, but sometimes it’s quite difficult to maintain my own emotional sanity in the midst of the growing confidence of teens and young adults. 

I remember well how they are feeling. At their ages I thought I  was all grown up and was tired of my parent’s guidance. Not that they weren’t good at it, I was just itching to try my own hand at adulthood. I wanted to order my own day and make my own decisions and tell everyone around me how they would fit into my plans (rather than asking permission or seeing how two or more sets of plans could merge). 

That is where it seems my own children are finding themselves lately. Not wanting to be under our roof and still doing our chores and doing what we tell them to. And it is right where they should be. 

But being the one who tries to emotionally balance all these egos is exhausting. 

My husband tells me to mind my own day and they will have to work around me. That makes five people in the house that would all be trying to make it work that way and exactly zero people understanding that some elasticity would go a long way around here. So I try to be the elastic one, but I am sure that some days see my elastic self being snapped across the room – flying through the air on my way to land a sting against an unexpecting victim. ( I have confiscated enough rubber bands from middle school children in my day to know the damage that can be done through a carelessly aimed shot.) 

Now, I am the one having to adjust – still trying to help my husband uncover their unmet needs so that we can make a way for them to get what they need means I still have to do the (figurative) backpack checking to see what is left undone. But that means I have to be creative in doing so in order to maintain my status as helpful mom rather than prying, snooping, controlling wench. 

Everyone wants to be a family, but everyone wants control of how the family works. I just want a nap.

I know that my place is ordained. That it is purposeful in these trying days, but sometimes I struggle to see myself in these verses:

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: (‭Proverbs‬ ‭31‬:‭25-28‬ NIV)

But I know that it is when I am weak that He is strong. 

Lord, I pray today that you would guide my restless spirit into the peace that you alone can bring. I pray that you will help me to still my tongue when it would be harsh, but let it speak instead your truth and wisdom. I pray that you would order my mind so that there is no confusion found in me, for you are not the author of confusion. I pray that you would guide me through the process of helping our children to become the adults you would have them to be, while not loosing sight of the woman you made me to be as well. I pray also for the comfort and closeness that marriage can bring in all its changing seasons and that I would yet be a helper to my husband and not a hindrance to his own growth in you. Thank you, Lord for all your ways, for they are surely higher than my own.

You Light up My Life

Yet again, I must thank the FCA for inspiring today’s post. 

While I sit here on my steps with my coffee, I am already beginning to notice the change from springtime light to summertime light – it’s a small shift in the angle of the sun (well technically it is the earth) that places the light a little more behind the neighbor’s pine tree, a little more behind the edge of my roof and my crepe myrtle instead of coming directly in over our open yards. It actually keeps my steps a little cooler a little longer – oh but when it is directly overhead – watch out! Burn notice for my red headed, freckled skin!

It reminds me of recent experiences with my son and my husband. 

My son had an opportunity, just before he graduated from high school, to work with a polymer chemist  as she conducted experiments for her dissertation. An arrangement between a university that’s not too far from his school and either the school district or the state (not sure on that) allows doctoral students in STEM areas to co-teach certain classes. 

If you are a chemist, you might understand the words that my son uses to describe the work they did – I don’t. I do know that the idea was to use a powerful dye within some kind of polymer structure to be used in a coating. The dye, if it is able to be contained properly, absorbs light in such a way that it helps the light to kill microbes on the surface of whatever the coating will be placed on. 

The work they did showed that the dye worked better in certain types of light, but the chemist and her team are still working on the containment issues. All of which is at the molecular level as far as I can understand. I’m probably saying it all wrong and if you are a chemist you are guffawing at my ignorance right now. That’s okay – I never claimed to be a scientific genius.  I laugh at myself too. 

The experience with my husband is not necessarily recent nor is it a one time thing. He is excellent at pointing out what is yet to be done – those little, oft-overlooked tasks that you let go by without realizing how much they could contribute to a more functional day. Things like cleaning out cabinets and drawers that you don’t use that often, but that really need to have order so that you can find something in them when you do. (Instead of looking all over the house and garage for whatever it was because it was hidden behind something else in the cabinet. Talk about a wasted afternoon!)

Truth be told, I’m not a great housekeeper. I don’t even delegate housekeeping tasks to others very well. I am the proverbial absent minded professor – if I don’t trip over it, I don’t notice it. My mind is just often focused on theoretical ideas rather than the concrete spaces I live in. Well, it isn’t only the concrete spaces I ignore, but I sometimes ignore myself; my own habits and quirky behaviors that I don’t realize can be annoying to others. 

Which actually makes my husband and I a pretty good match. He has such laser focus that it makes up for my lack of focus. Most of the time. Meaning that sometimes I don’t want to hear how my propensity to procrastinate made someone else have to wait on me, or that my forgetting to go to the store, like I promised to do, meant we didn’t have a tool that was necessary to fix something that really needed fixing. 

You all know me by now – there is a connection.

The verses that the FCA used in the devotional were these: 

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (‭1 John‬ ‭1‬:‭5-7‬ NIV)

When I read this, I realized that Jesus is the light that comes to purify us (clean out and kill the bad microbes), and that my husband’s habit of noticing small things is similar to the dye in my son’s experiments (focusing the light where it is needed). But there is still that containment issue. 

And that is where God started tugging at my heart – that containment issue? – that’s all on me. How, you ask? Because it is my attitude, my willingness to hear, that allows me to benefit (or reject the benefit) of what is being said. 

My attitude is like the polymer matrix that is necessary to hold the dye and filter the light in order to drive out the big (umm little) bad microbes. 

Now, Jesus can certainly do his job without any help from my husband, but that isn’t how he wants to do it. The Bible clearly shows us how he wants to use husbands to help their wives: 

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭25-27‬ NIV)

The word radiant in that verse means two things (both of which describe the kind of woman I’d  like to be):

  1. Emitting rays of light, shining bright
  2. Bright with joy, hope, etc.

So if I allow my attitude to be open, I can walk in fellowship with my husband – just like the verses from 1 John say I can. 

If, however, my attitude is, well – attitudinal, then I miss the fellowship that is supposed to exist in my marriage, deprive my husband of his place in my life, and keep walking in the dark. Which then means I am allowing myself to be a liar. That is really what it says, folks. Choosing to walk in the darkness when the light is available and you know it, makes you a liar. 

God didn’t create us to be liars – it isn’t part of our true identity. So why would we hold onto things, even abstract things like our attitudes, that aren’t part of our God-breathed identity?

It is amazing how God creates the real world in tandem with the theoretical one, isn’t it? Don’t know what I mean? – I challenge you today to find a nice sunny spot, soak up some lovely vitamin D in the form of sunshine, and let it infiltrate your brain with all that great serotonin that helps you maintain a good attitude. And if it’s raining where you are they actually bottle the stuff. Boost your attitude so that you can let the light of your relationships shine on your heart today. It is so worth it!

Margarine in the Margins 

Lately I have cultivated a new habit – I bring my coffee out to my front steps (there isn’t enough room for a porch table – just the steps), listen to and watch the birds flitting around in the pine trees and read a devotional or just open God’s Word and read it. I have put off listening to God for so long that He has much to say – it takes less than a moment before my heart is brimming with new precepts. Sometimes, like now, I am stumbling forward, my mind racing to catch up to what my heart has just heard.
I am wondering why I don’t seem to be able to make things come together. So much of my life seems to fit into a margin of one kind or another. Too many things seem to exist on opposite ends of a spectrum.

It’s frustrating because in some situations the opposite ends of the spectrum are where I have thrived. I’ve typically been good in those extremes – able to find the common ground that can bring resolve to both ends. So why do the particular ones I’m currently facing seem so elusive?

I realize that the Sabbatical can’t continue forever- by nature they are designed to help you learn something that you can bring back with you. So I am looking for what or where that reentry may occur.

In that process, I was asked to state my philosophy of teaching in 3000 characters or less. (Aren’t online job applications wonderful?)  I answered it, knowing that what I wrote was so far from what I used to write, but so much closer to my heart.  I focused on teaching being born of a desire to meet student’s real needs beyond the curriculum. But still, I didn’t write about or explain the concept of “my kids in the margins” which is where I find myself at my most effective. Hopefully it was obvious from what I did write.

Still, leaving it out bothered me and colored my thoughts about everything this morning. Even as I read The Proverbs 31 devotional  for today, I couldn’t help but think about how my husband and I are in opposite margins regarding the way we approach our daily tasks, which was the topic of the devotional.  The two focus verses for the devotion were so clearly related to the opposite sides – those who don’t take action but need to, and those who are so active that they can miss relational opportunities. Both extremes produce wrong results.

And there it was – the margin kids – and we were they. My heart hurt . Those margin kids are my specialty so what is it that keeps me from bringing the two of us closer toward the moderate path?

At that point, filled with a desire to pray, again, to manage those daily tasks in a way that brought honor to God, I decided to not even read from the Bible this morning. God had other plans. I still had the Bible open to Job from my time yesterday. And again, my eye landed on something unusual:

When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil;
Job 29:6

Here I am sitting on  my steps with all of this going through my head and trying to find God’s voice in that lightning path, and Job hits me over the head with butter – what?  Why would anyone wash their steps with butter? It’s so expensive and would be greasy, but shiny and perhaps it could moisturize dried out wood or stone?

I had to read the whole chapter then, because this was just too weird!

So to shorten this already kind of long post- my final supposition is that Job is using this phrase kind of like we would say “he’s got money to burn.” But it comes In the middle of his comparison of when he had position and power and was able to prioritize his life in a way that helped everyone to his current state of illness, extreme loss, and powerlessness.

Again with the margins!

And that is when the lightning path opened up. I’m not the one who is good in the margins – God is. In my classroom, with those margin kids, I am closest to what He created me to be- and that is when He can use me best. That is the only reason I have success there – He gave me the heart to be there, to see the needs, and to pour out on them what He has given me. I can hear Him now – laughing at my suddenly useless arrogance and my little child face as I realize that My Father lifted that weight for me – I wasn’t really that strong.

The lightning crackles again as I realize that He is the one that will bring the margins together in every area of my life – to do lists included, future jobs included, finances included. He is all inclusive.

So my next question is – if I open my heart at home the way it is open when I teach – how much butter will God show up with?

Job 29 butter steps