A Pinata for Jesus (a non fiction story for John and Marie)

“Come on and just hit it once, babe”, he said trying to include her into the family tradition of LasPosadas (a re-enactment of, No room at the Inn) . This was their first Christmas together as a young couple yet the tradition of going room to room, knocking on the door and asking brother or sister if there is room in the Inn, ending the festivities by hitting a pinata and eating tootsie rolls and faux Starburst  while opening presents was enough to put the love and integrity of this young couple to the test.

It was disappointing to Marley (he had been named after Bob Marley during his parents hippy, foreign substance days- at one point his parents had moved the family into a tee pee)  Lucy was not more into this family tradition. These are those awkward and disappointing moments where young couples discover that they liked the other one better when they were playing along and acting like everything they did was cute and adventurous. It’s when couples start asking themselves, “What happened to this person that found my jokes humorous and my anecdotes intriguing?” Yet, every Hollywood illusion must come to an end. The reality and annoyances of couple-hood set in and  we eventually have to ‘deal’ with the task at hand. We have to face the fact that the sound of their jaw clicking while eating a ciabatta role is enough to make you want to hit them over the head with the Heinz 57 bottle, the glass ones. What happened to the love? The cuteness of stinky feet and bad breath? The gazing with a half smile while they tell a boring story? I’ll tell you what happened, the ego kicked in! But I digress….

As Lucy was ‘forced’ to go room to room, singing with the family on the ukulele and asking if there was room for this baby to be born, she became more and more annoyed by the minute. “What have I gotten myself into?” she thought. “I liked him so much better when we drank Earl Grey together and talked about old movies that we watched while separately growing up in the eighties. Who knew that someone else saw Blazing Saddles and laughed during ‘the sheriff is near’ bit? Now I am singing, We Three Kings to the sound of a Hawaiian guitar, feeling like a fool and wanting desperately to Yule someone’s log to the pavement.”

Lucy and Marley are like all of us who have experienced love. This is always how it begins. We feel nothing can go wrong now. Others may struggle in their ego but not us. Jeff and Jan may argue publically about the exact quote from Seinfield episode 177, but not us! We’re solid and what’s more we know how to give and take. Give, take, Give, take. That’s what it’s all about; give and take!

But we are who we are, human, that is. Our ego lives and it is dying to stand it’s ground. One moment we will give our beloved the moon and the next we are slapping their hand to take it off of our friggin’ star! We become toddlers who cry, MINE! This does not denote love, it just exemplifies the reality of our humanity. Our egos are not evil, they just need crucifixion in the face of selfishness. Our love for one another grows stronger in the midst of our battling egos, and I do believe Lucy and Marley are rejoicing that their egos live.

After Las Posadas with Marley’s family a decision was made in this fresh relationship; never again will we surprise one another. Never again will we argue over petty incidences. Always will we mature in our communication and always will we give to the other what the world does not have, peace with one another! Today is a new day and we shall be triumphant!

Marley and Lucy exemplify the norm for most of us; the reality of disappointment and unmet expectations with the ones we love the most. I have no patience for couples that seem to act as though “everything is peachy and we’re getting along as smooth as creme cheese”. The reality is that love, at it’s core, is a choice to endure even in the midst of extreme disappointment and disillusionment. We thought they would want to zig yet they preferred to zag. They did not appreciate our attempt at a romantic evening by offering a ‘separate date night- you do your thing and I’ll do mine’. You wish she sang yet she preferred to remain silent. Love is full of complexity only because humans are complex; gloriously complex in their dignity and design. They often zig when we wanted them to zag and they usually surprise us with change and movement when we really thought we had their sedentary self all figured out. Blast! Yet, I believe, despite the predictable difficulty that relationships possess,  we wouldn’t have it any other way. Tension is a gift so glory in it!

My anecdote reveals more than a simple story of the rawness of human relationships at their finest. I’m convinved that Lucy and Marley have made a memory that makes for good conversation around the table at the dinner party. When asked, “what is your most awkward moment together?” everyone has their story and even though we prefer the traditional stocking filled with special dark chocolates and dollar gifts from Target, secretly we long for the pinatas filled with sweets for the ninos and songs of Silent Night sung to the sound of the ukelele. It’s your story being written; not theirs, but YOURS!

* the names and characters have been changed to protect the innocent

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Deck the Malls

It’s around this time of the year that I remember why I absolutely loathe the rush of Christmas. We had to go to the Mall with Matt’s family to pick him up for lunch. We were seven adults and four toddlers. Just looking for parking was enough to give me a panic attack. I felt angina setting into my chest when I considered the reality that we may not find anything close enough to walk outside in sub arctic temperatures with two little children. I finally found a spot and just as I was getting ready to turn off the key I realized the poor shlub in front of me had his Toyota Camry completely boxed in. I pulled out of the spot so as not to add more strain on his holiday fun but I was a bit appalled by how many folks just boxed a car in to create a parking space. This time of the year brings out the gangster in the most Caucasian individual of middle America. People will stop at nothing to shop for stupid hand stuffed teddy bears for Johnny and ugly slippers for mom.

After we were inside next was the child play area. This is where parents go to regain their composure after dragging a few unhappy and exhausted toddlers around the mall. But the parents are wrong, this is not the place to regain sanity; it’s the place where your heart is tested as you watch Bubba the chap lipped six year old push your kid around the plastic shoe shaped slide while Bubba’s raspy parents just smile at his ‘cute’ aggressiveness. So you stay and appease your children and endure the ‘fun zone’.

After you’ve had your fill of the friggin’ mall you make your way out to the car park again, praying that no one wearing a santa hat has boxed your car in, trapping you and your kids inside your Geo Prism in weather that has dipped into the negative digits with even more frigid wind chill. Now you have to wait and wait and wait for the cars to move, to turn into traffic and lollygag at 1.7 mph, looking for a place to park outside of Penny’s. !@#$

So now you’re out! You have survived the mall, again. Another year. It’s over after the 25th. No one will cut in line in front of you, race to take your parking spot or give you the stink eye if your kid screams as he sits on Santa’s lap. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The most agitated time where spirits come together to spend, buy and grab. God bless us, everyone!

I am exactly where I need to be

This has been a long and drawn out season of discovery for me. Painful, thankful, challenging (to say the least) and also frustrating. I tend to be more of a pessimist naturally by temperament. Pessimists unite! We change the world too! I often see what is missing as opposed to what is actually there. I make a great team manager, strategizer and problem solver. Yet this part of my personality, which often seems to dominate, does not always serve me well. I think of Adrian Monk who stresses to new acquaintances that his OCD is a ‘gift and a curse’. I hear him 100%.

It seems as though my temperament has served others more in their need for guidance or direction and their inability to see the hick-ups along the way. These days, however, I long to be right where I’m suppose to be. To live, love and enjoy in the moment. What is it with our worldview (particularly Christian worldview) that causes us to always feel we are missing something? I find that over many years I have thought I should be doing something else. Something more profound, more amazing and something that proves that I have made a success of my life. This part of me, the inability to live where I am in the season of my life, is tiring; it’s wearing me out.

I have  have two amazing, glorious, spunky and beautiful kids who need a mother who is enjoying life with them. Really, it’s not that I don’t enjoy them. I can’t think of two little humans that I would rather stare at all day long. Mainly, the issue is being with them in body but dreaming, strategizing and contemplating far away lands that need saving. Oh the nerve! As much as I agree in theory that moms take on a different role after their children leave their bodies and that role can last for decades, I am hard pressed to actually believe in my core that this is what I should be doing. I guess it’s the vibe from culture around me that says that I should raise kids but also…. (fill in the blank).

Really, I have never been nor will I ever be one of those crafty moms that come up with fun projects to do with their kids all day. I won’t be making candles with my kids or a peanut butter bird feeder any time soon. Some of the reasons for this is that it’s just  not even a notion that enters my mind until I see someone else doing it; I’ve got other giftings! Another reason is that my kids are more the ‘lets jump off the couch and ram into one another for fun’ type. They would just as soon eat the crayons rather than draw with them. You think I’m joking? Chloe has more than once ended a color time with rainbow colors smeared all over her mouth while the picture next to her remained unscribbled. Rather than make snakes or people with playdough my kids have always preferred to eat it. They are no more crafty than I am and you won’t see this cowgirl becoming a scrapbooker! Yet, I’d love to make you a sweet loaf of rustic, artisan bread or sew some curtains for you, maybe help you plant a garden.  I do have a bit of oomph in me. I’d just rather not make sandalwood and oatmeal soap if that’s ok.

So needless to say I am still trying to discover myself and how my life has changed being with two little, wonderful, creative and bright children all day long. I have moments where I feel like I’m suppose to be changing the world just a bit more than I am. That moment runs into the next moment where I feel like flipping the bird to the stupid value system of the world and saying, “Forget you! I’ll just stay with my kids and you can change the world without me”. Of course if you say something like that while flipping the bird then you aren’t a very compassionate Christian. So I refrain. My feeling of anxiousness doesn’t come from Jesus or any expecations God puts on me. He’s really into what I’m doing with my life right now. I am fully aware of that and this is what makes the mental struggle even more frustrating; I know it in my thoughts but I fail to embrace it in my heart. I’m trying to hold onto a dream of being a mom and a missionary; carrying my babies on my back as I help the natives plow the fields. Teaching my children the local dialect while beating my clothes against the rock by the river to clean them. I’m fighting my condemning thoughts to enjoy my dear ones and to expand in my life now; to be exactly where I need to be.

I heard a song recently. It’s quite folky and not really my style but also beautifully scripted. The heart behind it was knowing who she is and not feeling she had to embrace another path alongside the one she was on. She doesn’t need to be this and then some. It actually made me very emotional as I listened to her Ani DeFranco-ish sound. Some of the style is not really my worldview but the words hit me in the sensitive spot of my soul where I am failing to grow and mature in my perspective.  I sat teary eyed while my kids played with legos on the floor, unaware that mom is struggling to embrace who she is and the joy of living right where I am.