Tuesday, July 9, 2013


It was the fact that he used his deliberately calm voice that completely freaked me out. No parent wants to get a call that their kid is hurt. When that call comes from your husband, and he's using that deliberately calm voice and both your husband and son are in a foreign land, one that suggests special vaccinations and malaria medications prior to going, one that speaks a different language, one that requires two airplane flights and a three-hour bus ride to get to, there is only one word to describe the reaction.


Panic, followed by prayer, followed by the realization that you need a lot of people praying, and pronto. Praise the Lord for Facebook. Praise the Lord for family and friends who conduct your neurotic google searches faster than you can and send reassurances: "modern hospitals, not shamans," "most kidney lesions heal on their own." Praise the Lord for insomniacs who read posts at 2 a.m. and pray. Praise the Lord for friends asking others to pray, resulting in strangers praying for your child. Praise the Lord for friends who know when to distract with joking, juicy tidbits of stories and when to focus on Scripture.

More prayer, leading to peace, a dribble of additional information leading to panic, leading to more prayer, leading to peace.

Reading the official version of the event on the mission team's website today seemed odd to me. While by any objective standard their accounting is true and their praises justified, it totally misses my subjective reality of what happened.

Experiencing it in real time as a mother separated by nearly two thousand miles from her son, it felt different. My son hurt and really hurting. My husband detailing some extremely worrisome symptoms in our kid. Agonizing hours of silence. Another call at midnight. Rather than an all-clear, this call has words like internal trauma, bleeding, additional testing. An eternity later at 2 a.m., another call. Yes, bleeding, but not so much anymore. Yes, trauma and a lesion to the kidney, but a 1 on a 1 to 5 scale. Yes, concern for a jostling ride back to camp, but a day in the hospital for rest and observation first.

Objective summary and subjective experience are both realities in the Christian walk. Objectively, we know God wins; God is in control; Jesus loves us. We know that, really know that, to the core of our being. Subjectively, we go through things that scare us and hurt us. Christians operating in the objective reality show the hope that we have. Christians operating in the subjective reality show that we're human, you know, just like everybody else. Operate only objectively and people wonder if you can relate to them, to their very real troubles and pain. Operate only subjectively and people wonder why bother with faith if it makes no real difference.

Panic, prayer, peace. It's not a once and done. It's a moment-by-moment as we navigate life toward its conclusion and fulfillment in Christ. We need the objective summary, the end of the story from the perspective of the One who writes the story, for hope. We need the subjective to remind us of how much we truly need our Savior.

On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf, for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 1 Corinthians 1:10b-11

photo courtesy of Emily Neal

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Awesome Chore System

Need an awesome chore system? You may want to visit my friend Emily at her blog. How could you not take advice from someone whose chore charts look like this?

When I enthused over her charts, Emily replied that I, with five kids, surely had some wonderful organization system I was withholding from her and the rest of the world.

She found me out. I've been keeping my superpower secrets from you all for far too long. Here it is, in all its glory. You may need to hide yourself in the cleft of a rock and not gaze directly, lest the majesty of it be too much for mere mortal eyes.

For those who could bear no more than a glance, let me enumerate a few of the differences between Emily's approach and mine:
  • Emily's charts have her kids' names at the top. Apparently, my children are named A, B and C.
  • Emily has a chart for each of her children, even her non-reading preschooler. I lost steam after "C" and haven't gotten my mojo back although I am now on "E."
  • Emily's charts cover the whole house and more. Mine is for kitchen clean-up only.
  • Emily's charts are on clipboards. I had to dig mine out from behind the calendar. Note: I mean my non-personalized, paper calendar we get free from the city each year. This one (Emily would know how to rotate it to be viewed properly):

Not a calendar like Emily's created on a fancy website and color-coded by family member:

You get the gist.

Emily also likes washi tape. I don't want to disparage her efforts, so I've kept that area of my life hidden from her as well. Emily's creation: 

That's fine, as far as it goes. If you're into aesthetics and good taste and all that. I'm slightly more, ahem, utilitarian and low-tech:

Surely there's more to life than chore charts and washi tape. Take cooking, for instance. Every mom knows that cooking for a family of hungry kids requires a fair amount of effort and talent. Emily has got that covered for you. Take your pick of links to Emily's varied thoughts on food whether that be meal planning, crock pot adventures, or exactly what to do with 15 pounds of ground beef. 

My cooking is also legendary. Not to brag, but friends gave me this sign for my kitchen: 

While they have no idea how I kiss, it's a safe bet to give a person like me a sign like that. What did I tell you? Legendary, baby! An entirely different friend posted this on my Facebook wall because it reminded her of me: 

Why I need different friends will be the subject of a future post. When I do give cooking advice, you'll note that the recipes come from websites with names like "All Easy Recipes" or are associated with appliances not normally thought of for food preparation. Dishwasher salmon, anyone?

Despite it all, we manage to keep the house reasonably picked up, the kids have routine chores even if they don't have a snazzy system, most of my decorating attempts are more successful than my pen jars. No one has yet starved, though the fact that Mr. Wonderful and the kids are all thin may have something to do with that missing delicious-ness component of many of my meals.

I am mostly ok with all of this except for when I really am not and weep at Mr. Wonderful about my inadequacies and failings and general worthlessness. This happens with a disheartening predictability that could be covered in a blog post Mr. Wonderful--who is no fool--will never write, "The Joys of Living with a Perimenopausal Psychopath." In my deeper and less hormonal moments, I remember A.W. Tozer and his explanation of the "hyphenated" self sins. Tozer warns that both self-pity and self-confidence contribute to the veil around our heart that keeps believers from the face of God. 

"I keep looking at all the people around me, and everyone else seems to have it so together." That would seem to be an entirely fitting conclusion to the evidence I've presented in this post, wouldn't it? Surprisingly, that quote comes from my friend Emily. Yes, I almost spit my coffee across the keyboard when I first read it too. I know what you're thinking and I completely agree. If this is how Emily, Emily of the charts and the washi and the cooking feels, what hope do the rest of us have?  

And this is why I love Emily. Because she gets it. You can read her whole conclusion, but **spoiler** Emily understands it's not about us, it's about God. He uniquely makes and equips us. Great charts, great crafts and great cooking are not how God equipped me, though I may do well to improve in those areas. And with Emily's help, I just might.