Perfect Moments

We are rich, and everything which we possess is a gift and a sign of the love of God and the love of men, it is a continuous gift of divine love; and as long as we possess nothing, love divine is manifested continuously and fully. But everything we take int our own hands to possess is taken out of the realm of love. Certainly it becomes ours, but love is lost. . . the moment we try to be rich by keeping something safely in our hands, we are the losers, because as long as we have nothing in our hands, we can take, leave, do whatever we want.  (Bloom, Beginning to Pray)

Today was one of those gorgeous Texas spring days. There was bright sun, a cool breeze, and no bugs. Zenie and I walked down by the river and had a picnic lunch. She had on her old sun hat, pink tutu and green rain boots. I was wearing one of my grandmother’s old blazers and a new pair of dangling earrings. We ate left-over pizza by the water and watched the ducks and turtles. Zenie made up silly songs. Every moment was perfect. God’s richness and love was evident.  I wanted to stay there, in that place, sun and ducks and songs and never let it change.

These moments happen from time to time.  They used to be reunion lunches with old friends or late night talks around the table. Now often they are the precious cuddles  on the couch with my little girl or  quiet dinners with Michael.  They are times when the world just feels right.

My problem is that just when things feel perfect a tension begins to build in me.   I want so much for nothing to change, for things to stay exactly as they are that I try, as Bloom says,  to take the moment into my hands, to possess it, to make it last. This tension sometimes is so strong that I end up ruining the moment that I could never have truly captured in the first place.

Of course, sometimes I’m just the opposite. Zenie is sweet and hilarious and I am so caught up in all that I have to do I don’t notice her. The world around me is irrelevant, I am living in the future, or at least in my mind, running through my to do list and missing out on what is right in front of me.

I love being a mom of a toddler and I want so much for my darling little girl to stay as sweet and little as she is right now. Sometimes each moment of growth feels like a loss . Then sometimes I feel like I need to just close my eyes and make it through, to plunge ahead and not stop to look around.

I think part of what Bloom is getting at is that we have to live right now. Not in an imaginary world of what may come, not in  trying to stop change from changing and not in the past.

My little girl today is not who she was yesterday (really for those who are around toddlers, you know it is true). Life must be lived in the present, no amount of thinking about the past will actually take me back in time. No worry about the future will get me there sooner. I only have right now. I can cherish it. I can breathe deeply and enjoy the sun and wind and the snuggles. I can know that God is there and his love is there in each moment.  And then as time moves on I have to let it go and live in the next moment as it comes.  I can’t make my girl stay little but I can enjoy who she is each day. And I can make each day fuller by keeping my mind here, on this time, not reciting an argument from last night, not planning one for tomorrow. Just being there in the sun feeding the ducks, enjoying that God gave me that moment to recognize that what I am enjoying are the manifestations of his divine love.

Coming to Terms with my Inner Two Year Old

I have a hard time believing that God is real. If God is really in charge and he is really good then why am I suffering and why is there so much misery in the world? These are questions I ask myself everyday (seriously, several times per day).

But if the fullness of light and good is to exist it only makes sense in the context of the fullness of darkness and evil. If things were always good and everyone always got what they wanted then we would all walk around self absorbed and greedy. It takes the potential for loss and grief to keep us grounded and to know what we value and why. Likewise if everything was miserable all the time then we wouldn’t know the difference, we would suffer and hurt but not have reason to hope for more.

The truth is it isn’t necessarily suffering that makes me doubt. My bigger problem is my I think I know more than God.

I want to have a second baby as much as anyone wants anything. We are good parents, healthy and have a great family, it doesn’t make sense, why would God keep this blessing from us?  There are wonderful families that I pray for daily whose children have fatal diseases, why would God let this happen?

But as much as I think I know, I don’t really. I can’t see the past or the future. Perhaps the heartache of infertility will make me the exact sort of mom that my daughter needs. Perhaps another pregnancy would lead to health complications and not allow me to raise the daughter that I have?

Yet I stand before God and stamp my feet and say “Please let me have what I want, why won’t you let me?”

I pray like Bloom says, with passion and eagerness not because my heart is stirred for God himself, but because I desire to get my way in the world.

Taking a step back, this scenario feels familiar. I remember Zenie this morning wailing, crying, stomping because she wanted milk in a pink cup not a purple one.

I’m not so different when I come before God with my demands and pleas.

“I am the door,” Jesus says. Bloom adds “. . .-before you knock at the door, you must realize that you are outside.”   I am realizing that to pray isn’t to list off the things that God already knows that I want, but to recognize that I need God.

10 Tips for a Long Distance Grandparent

When we announced our pregnancy to our families they were thrilled. However their excitement was quickly followed with concern. How would they as grandparents in Ohio, Alabama and Georgia be able to have the kind of relationship they had always dreamed off with their Texan granddaughter?

I know this is a challenge for many families so I wanted to share some ideas that have worked well for our family.  Zenie’s grandparents have worked hard at establishing and maintaining a relationship with her and it is paying off. She loves them and talks about them daily even though she only sees each of them a few times per year.  Here are some tips.

1.   Skype: Between Skype and Facetime and all the other options Zenie does get to see and talk to her grandparents on a regular basis. It isn’t the same as being there but it sure helps. We always try to do a few virtual visits before an actual visit to help her warm up to everyone, this helps reunions feel smoother and the adjustment period is quicker when we visit.
Send a special gift:

2.  Gifts don’t have to be expensive. Try to pick something you can give again and again. My mom likes animal cookies. She sends a box a few times per year. She will have me hold the package until her and Zenie are on Skype together. Then she will open a box and Zenie will open her box and they can have a cookie together. Plus every time Zenie sees a box of animal cookies she thinks about her Yiayia.

3.  Make your Skype time interactive. Turn on music and have a dance party or read a book. My mom plays Dancing Queen via Skype and then when Zenie and her get together they turn it on and have a real life dance party. Read a book together when you are visiting, then read it a few times via Skype, then mail it or a copy of it. Zenie has a few books that she associates with her Yiayia because they read them together so many times.

4.  Make a special book or photo album.  My mom will takes photos of her visits with Zenie and laminates them or puts them together to make little books. Zenie loves getting these in the mail, and they keep her thinking about her Yiayia all year long.
Make the most of your time together. Try to plan a visit at least once per year if you can.

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(A sample of laminated pictures and photobooks that Zenie has from her Yiayia)

5.  Plan special outings. They don’t have to be expensive. Something simple like going to the park or library even the pet store can be memorable to little kids. If you don’t like to go out get a special book, puzzle or game that you can do together. Then send it how with the grand-child so that it will be a special memento of your trip. Or make something together, paint pottery or make a craft, the child can take home. During our last trip to my Dad’s house they painted pottery. Now she has this painted puppy to remind her of their time together.

paintingpottery
6.  Emphasize what is special and unique about your space.  Zenie loves to go back to Ohio to see snow. Before her visit my mom will send pictures of snowmen and other things to get her excited. Zenie also loves playing in basements, something that we don’t have in Texas. When in Ohio we always get excited to go down the basement and play with toys some old toys that my parents have saved. This last trip my dad got a used plastic car that Zenie could ride in for $6 at the Goodwill. He sent a picture of it to us before our trip. By the time we got there Zenie was beyond excited to play.  This made for a fun time and great memories for Zenie. Often she will say “Remember that car down in Papa George’s basement.” There is something unique to every geography and home that kids can get excited about.

7.  Send a video. We don’t do a lot of videos for Zenie but we do let her watch little video clips that her grandparents send. Thirty second clips of the dog, a snowman  or whatever help her to get excited about visiting, help her to understand who her grandparents are and remind her that they are thinking about her.

8.  Keep family photo albums. Zenie loves to look at pictures. We let her do this on the phone occasionally but try to put them in an actual book that she can get down and look at by herself. She quickly learned the names of lots of family members who she had only met once or twice. You can also put photos in calendars or puzzles too or make a special cup or other item that your grandchild can use regularly.

9.  Say family prayers and write cards. Every night before bed we recite a prayer together we ask Zenie if she would like to pray for anyone. We may ask specifically if she wants to pray for her Yiayia or Lollie. She often does and this helps her to remember them and remember that they are special to her.  I also sit with her regularly we write out letters, thank you cards and draw pictures to send to her family who she doesn’t get to see.

10.   Pick a theme. Themes help children build associations. When my mom went to Peru she brought back a little llama for Zenie. It turned out that there was an actual llama living nearby which Zenie thought was very fun. My mom has since sent a book and shirt with a llama. Now every-time Zenie sees a llama she thinks about her Yiayia.

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As parents we want Zenie to have good relationships with her grandparents. We try to visit as often as we can and we talk to her often about her grandparents and extended family. These ideas have worked well for us and there are certainly many more.  We would love to add your tips and experiences if you want to share.

Aimless Happiness

Reading Beginning to Pray, I was struck by this passage:

“When I found myself confronted with perfect happiness, a quite unexpected thing happened. I suddenly discovered that if happiness is aimless, it’s unbearable. I could not accept aimless happiness. Hardships and suffering had to be overcome, there was always something beyond them. But because it had no further meaning and because I believed in nothing, happiness seemed to be stale.”

I relate to this. I find myself always eager for the next thing.

“If I could only finish medical school. If I could only find an amazing husband. If I could only have a child. If I could only be a stay at home mom.”

Desire after desire have been satisfied. Each one is pleasing. But none of them really makes me content. There is joy, but not fulfillment.

I don’t think I am alone here. In America we have so many options to entertain ourselves and occupy our time. We are encouraged constantly to keep up with the latest fashions and trends. With each new desire there is the hope that this will really make me happy.

I wonder what it looks like to seek contentment in each moment. To say “I know I don’t have what I want but I am going to set my heart of being happy with what I have.”

I think Bloom would say that, in itself,  probably is not enough. That just having a good attitude will wear us out. But that we are able to be happy at all times only because God is in all things and as we know God our happiness continues to grow because God is infinite.