Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hiding presents...or chocolate...

I was the obnoxious, frustrating kid who used to get into all the Christmas presents in my parents deep closet to the left of their bed next to their porch doors. I was much younger when I got into all the gifts my Mom carefully wrapped and hid. I don't remember too many of them, except for the robe one year and the wooden instruments another year, and the books and art supplies the following year. Something like that - I guess I remember more than I thought. One Christmas when I was older, though, my Mom got me. She asked me to store this big, wide, nondescript cardboard box in my bedroom. She told me that it was a gift for my uncle. Over the weeks during December my clothes, shoes, books, and general teen clutter amassed on the top of this box. Perhaps it was so overcome with my junk that I forgot about it, but on Christmas morning after all the gifts were opened my Mom told me to get the box from my room. I proceeded to follow her directions and was informed that this was my Christmas gift. My Mom was smiling a smug "I finally fooled you, and am so happy I did" smile as I opened the box. In it were four beautifully framed lithographs of Monet's most popular paintings. My Mom knew of my interest in the famous watercolor artist's paintings and thought I would like them. I did. They have hung in prominent places in every home we've owned. It was probably the best Christmas gift I've ever received and am reminded of my Mom's clever persistence to finally surprise me on Christmas morning.

Interestingly enough, you'd think with six daughters I'd have one that would find and open our Christmas presents. Nope. Amazingly enough, we manage to hide them well enough. We do have one, or two kids, that manage to ransack the other girls' Advent calendar chocolates, however.This is a serious problem. It happened last year and again this year. It was a fleeting moment of forgetfulness coupled with exhaustion and distraction that led to the big no-no: I left the flimsy cardboard calendars with cheesy Christmas scenes on the counter before I went to bed one night. Uh oh. What proceeded the next morning was predictable: my early birds arose and imagine their surreptitious joy when they discovered the calendars, with chocolates in them !, on the counter with no adult or older sister to stop them. So, an hour or so later I get out of bed and stumble into the kitchen to discover the proof of chocolate thievery: little cardboard tabs with various numbers on them, strewn over the kitchen floor amidst the cardboard containers that had been greedily ripped apart. The cardboard carnage was all over the kitchen floor. The guilty ones were watching T.V., buzzed on chocolate, and smiling in a way that said "We've completely forgotten about our chocolate heist and will pretend we know nothing about it - before blaming the other sister." The shrieks of horror and outrage expressed by my older daughters at the unthinkable deed quickly prompted a round of discipline and a good talking-to with the younger girls. When am I going to learn? Perhaps the lesson I need to learn is not to do Advent Calendars - or, fill them with nuts and veggies instead. That'll do it: a healthy Advent Calendar! Yeah, right. Well, at least we don't waste wrapping paper on prematurely opened gifts -yet.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Most Amazing Birth Story

I don't stress over Christmas. Christmas should be enjoyed, but I don't get overly sentimental about it. However, I was thinking recently about how profound it is that God chose to reveal himself to the world as a baby. He actually had to be born-through a birth canal, no less. Jesus was considerate enough not to need a c-section; he wouldn't do that to Mary!(And I'm sure he didn't get stuck, either!) Besides, they didn't do c-sections back then and Joseph was a carpenter, not a surgeon. Birth was especially dangerous in those times, and yet God saw to every detail, even a warm, safe place for Jesus to be born. Apparently, the Inn was an open-air, very exposed place. The stable was much preferred for a laboring woman. Joseph, the unsung hero in Jesus' early life, actually delivered the Savior. This is quite astonishing if you think about it. I bet Mary got skin-to-skin contact right away and bonding with Jesus, with the sheep and cattle mooing and "lowing" nearby. Wacky environment, huh? Very natural and down-to-earth!I bet Mary also nursed Jesus shortly after birth, with no trouble at all. Can you imagine breastfeeding God?! I bet he never bit her after he got teeth! But, back to that miraculous night....Of course, there were the shepherds who had just been informed by the angels shortly before of the Savior's birth nearby. I'm sure Mary was all cleaned up and covered up by the time they arrived. I'm positive the shepherds were very considerate of her regardless of how she looked.

It just amazes me that God chose birth as his way of entry into the world. He could've chosen a different way: I'm sure of it. (I'm just not clever enough to think of how.) That he would choose a helpless, vulnerable baby that would one day save people from their sins is nothing short of incredible to me. It made me think about birth itself, as I have experienced this past year. (The picture above is one of two happy pictures taken of Julia's delivery. I'm so grateful Tim was able to capture it.)I believe God has a special grace and place in his heart for those who give birth and those who help them. I'm convinced that those who love to witness and aid in the miracle of a baby's birth, be they midwives, nurses, doctors, doulas, or the occasional husband (intentionally or with great surprise), are close to God's heart. My prayer for all those birth providers this season is that whether they call Jesus Savior or not, they would be struck with the realization that they are doing God's work in bringing vulnerable, needy little souls into the world who will hopefully love and serve God one day.

On a personal note, I think and pray especially for the scared, inexperienced nurse who delivered my baby this summer. Although she used horrible judgment and deserved to be let go after my delivery, nonetheless, she was used by God to deliver my baby safely and quickly. I pray that God would give her special comfort this Christmas season. I also pray that she learns all that she's supposed to from her time with me, Tim, and our precious Julia. And regarding my last obstetrician: I know my labor and delivery will not rank as a career highlight for him. I'd like to believe that had it been any other day my experience would have been different. But I belong to God and he orders the events of my life, including my babies' births, with kindness and excellence to accomplish his greater purposes. In that truth, although I've wrestled mightily with it, I rest.

And to all my pregnant friends: I'm praying for you! May God grant you a joyous, peaceful delivery in 2009. I'm here for you!

Friday, December 5, 2008

"There Must Be A Better Way To Do This"

As I was getting dressed for another wearying day of washing laundry and combing my girls' lice-infested hair out this morning I asked God for wisdom about this daunting, seemingly unending situation I was facing. "Is there a better way to do this God?" I queried the Almighty. He made head lice (or was that the Devil?!!)and he knows the number of hairs on our heads (and so do I after combing each of my children's hair and checking every strand for nits dozens of times!), surely there might be a better way to go about this situation. Later that morning the school secretary called to inform me that Chloe and Leanne's school work was ready to pick up in the office. As I arrive in the office they inform me that now I'll need a doctor's note because the girls have missed so much school. "Huh?" I say. "I'll go talk to the school nurse."
"We've just been talking about you," the school nurse tells me after I introduce myself and ask about the doctor's note I apparently needed. As I describe all our lice treatments - lice shampoo, mayonnaise and vinegar and tea tree oil and the countless hours of combing - she looks a little puzzled and tells me that head lice usually goes away in a couple of days after a treatment and combing. As she describes nits, eggs, and lice, it became apparent that all the little white eggs we were constantly combing off the girls' scalps - "When you flake at the scalp, girls, look at all the eggs that come out! Oh my!" - was dry scalp. OOHHHHH!!!UUGGGHHH!!!!
I asked her to check me and she declared me lice-free. I left quickly - laughing most of the way home with a gut-busting, hearty laughter that I haven't felt in a looong time - knowing the girls would be ecstatic when I declared them nit-free.
Although I felt like an idiot for thinking that dry scalp flakes were lice eggs - "Oh look at that big one!" - I was grateful that God answered my cry for wisdom. My girls were ecstatic that the party they had already cancelled on for Sunday was resumed. My mood improved considerably as well.
I now declare myself an expert on all things related to lice, egg, and nit identification and removal. And, to boot, all of our hair is super-shiny and combed beautifully straight. And I know each of my children's scalps intimately. Ha! Ha!