This morning was greeted bright and early (as usual) thanks to our morning dove, Sivana, who likes to wake up around 6:00 a.m. (and sometimes even BEFORE that). Duane was wrapping up a night shift at the firehall so the darkness of the morning was interrupted only by the sound of the rocking chair as I gave Sivana her bottle and the occasional time she would sit up and say "Oooooo Wassat?" (Which I have come to assume means "ooooh what's that... as this is a highly repeated sentence for me when teaching the kids about their surroundings).
There is a syndrome that comes with being the wife of someone who works night shifts... apparently it is not restricted only to me as I have discussed this with other firefighter wives or those whose husbands work the occasional night shift. I am not sure WHAT to call this syndrome... what-the-heck-was-I-thinking Syndrome? Where-Did-I-Leave-My-Common-Sense Syndrome? Or better yet What-On-Earth-Am-I-Doing-Still-UP Syndrome! You guessed it... when our husbands are out working for a night, us wives have a tendency to delay going to bed to an empty bed... even if it means staying up watching the dumbest things ever, reading books or magazines or aimlessly surfing the web.
So when Duane works his night shifts, despite telling myself "okay, Rita, you know how you feel in the morning when Sivana is chiming away "AH DONE!" (all done) so NO STAYING UP TONIGHT! Despite this repeated conversation and what appears to be renewed resolve to overcome this syndrome, it seems to win each and every time.
Needless to say, sitting in the rocking chair with Sivana shortly after six this morning included the usual knocking myself over the head for being responsible for my own exhaustion!
Regardless, the promise of Sabbath together refuelled me and a surprising amount of energy began to rise with the sun! Praise be to God.
I found joy in my heart as I played with Sivana, I found creative conversation when Ethan came down and I sat with him as he ate his breakfast. We had to pretend that his spoon was an excavator trying to dump his load into the dump truck (his mouth). Ethan's "excavator" kept slowing down and stopped scooping and Ethan would exclaim he was out of fuel again... so I would pretend to pump him up with fuel and the excavator could continue "shovelling" his load in! After the sixth refuelling, I exclaimed "I think your excavator's tank has a leak, Ethan... here, let's use MY excavator." As I reached out my hand to grab his spoon to help finish feeding him, he gently took my hand, rested it on the table, put his overtop of mine with great sympathy and said "No Mom... you can't do that kind of work."
Somewhat taken aback, I said "Oh? Why not?"
"Because you're a girl."
GULP!!! Where on earth did THAT come from??? Trying to make the most of the moment I said "What do you mean by that, Ethan?"
"Well, only boys go and do the hard work."
"Hmmmm, well, when mommy is cooking all the food for everyone to eat, do you think mommy is working hard?"
"And when we drive Isabel to school, Melina to voice lessons, Anika to preschool... when mommy takes you and Anika to swim lessons, cleans up your accidents, changes Sivana's diapers, Izzy's diapers, gives you guys bath time, washes all of your clothes and puts them away, cleans up after your toys, cleans up after a meal, does homeschooling with you.... do you think mommy is doing 'hard work'?"
"And did you know that some girls also drive excavators and dump trucks? There are even some girls who are firefighters, just like Daddy! Hard work is found everywhere and is for anyone who is willing to give it their best!"
Now THAT was interesting! I had to reflect on that one and wonder where on earth he got the concept that only boys worked hard. Hopefully the message delivered was honourable, truthful and fruitful.
When his breakfast was finally done, Anika came and sat at the table with her breakfast. We sat together as she said "Mom, I LOVE the bible."
"Oh, well that is very nice to hear. It is a great way to learn more about God and His love for us as His children!"
"Mommy, He is God our Father, God the Son and the Whooooooooooooole Spirit!"
I chucked at that one, particularly because the choice of word may very well be more appropriate than I can fully imagine!
"Mommy, we have to learn to listen to God."
"Yes, Anika, you are right. How do we learn to listen to God?"
"Well, we have to be good and listen to Him."
"Yes, but how do we find out WHAT is good and WHAT He wants for us?"
"Um... Hmmm... I don't know!"
"You just said you love the Bible and that is the best place to find out WHAT God tells us is good and WHAT His rules are. You know that God is everyone's Father, right?"
"So if He is EVERYONE's Father... that means He chose to make each and every one of us, right?"
"Do you think God really wants us if He chose to make us? Do you think God loved you and wanted you when He chose to make you, Anika?"
With that, a beautiful smile spread across her face as she sat up straight as if proud of a new realization. Or perhaps she was proud for already knowing this in her own heart.
"Yes, Mommy... He wanted me."
"That must mean that your life is very special, Anika... because He wanted you to have it. So if God is everyone's Father, do you think He knows what is best for us?"
"Just like when Mommy and Daddy tell you not to play on the road, or to wear your hat and mitts when it's cold outside, to share your toys with Ethan and Sivana... do you think we give you these rules because we know what is best for you?"
"If mommy and daddy can figure out what is best for you, and give you rules to keep your body and your heart safe, then surely the Father of EVERYONE knows what the best rules are, right?"
"Anika, that's why we read the bible... so we can learn what God's rules are... so we can believe in Him and TRUST Him. And so we can truly KNOW His love for us."
The morning was proving to be far more of a gift than I had known to anticipate! I love that these precious children seem to have a genuine desire to LISTEN and to LEARN. I honestly believe with my whole being that humility is essential in one's spiritual journey... my fear is that if I am TOO certain of something, I have removed the part of me that is willing to find out I might be wrong!
And wouldn't it be better to find out you are wrong so you can fix it, then continue to live in error?
So I teach my children what I understand and remind them that what I teach them is ONLY that... my limited understanding of TRUTH. In the end, they will be responsible to take that and choose for themselves what to do with that understanding... grow from it, question it, or down right throw it in the garbage!
I have no idea what they will choose and I do my best not to fret over that. In the end, it has to be their own life story inscribed with THEIR choices, THEIR mistakes, THEIR outlived sorrow and wisdom gained.
What I DO fret about is whether or not I am providing them with the very tools they need to LIVE life and its challenges in such a way that it SHAPES them without destroying them. I want their sense of value to come from within and not from external praise or outside values. Even I have found myself struggling with this these days!
My darling Duane is not one to offer up compliments and this is a continued lesson for me NOT to look for them! But I did tell him early on in the marriage "Duane, think of me like your crops in the field... you are constantly worried about the amount of water they are getting, the nutrients, the soil conditions and you are out there regularly doing your best to ensure top quality in all these areas... I need you to touch base with me in a similar way. If you show me the same amount of concern about our marriage, our communication, saying positive things when they come to our mind, then it is like you are watering me and strengthening my root system!"
"Yeah, but I don't want to insult your intelligence by saying something more than once."
"But Duane, by that logic, why would we insult God's intelligence by thanking Him repeatedly for each and every meal?"
He genuinely looked surprised at that association, and I think even I blinked at the words that came out of me! But it was true!
It is insulting if the words are empty. No differently than I think our prayers are insulting to God if they are mere words, empty of their meaning. But if we can renew our thankfulness each time we pray and give thanks for our food, then we safeguard the genuineness that COULD risk being lost through repetition.
But still, when the weeks go by and Duane and I seldom have moments of sitting together and reconnecting, it is hard to face the emptiness that can grow... the distance that can threaten even the strongest love! And as I seek validation from him and cannot find it because he is too busy, or too tired (the poor guy is genuinely exhausted at this stage in our lives), I am digging my own grave in feeding that distance through my own hurt.
This is where mastering the lesson for myself will allow me to be a more fruitful wife... If I could seek my validation in being precious to God and to God alone, then any moment with Duane, even if weeks or months apart, can be as precious and significant as if they happened daily... they would not be expectations... they would simply be "gifts".
So while the morning was filled with opportunities to teach the children about hard work, God's love and His truly WANTING each and every one of us, I find myself humbly looking at where I fail to live my very own words! There is no man on this earth that I have ever loved nor will ever love as much as I love my darling Duane. He is my King, in all his glory and in all his humanity. I am failing him these days and humbly ask for your prayers as I remember my true purpose as laid out from the beginning of time... to be HIS helpmate!
I want to uplift him. I want to offer HIM understanding rather than demand it of him. I want to love HIM without condition rather than point out where he is being conditional with me or where I arrogantly believe that I am deserving of more love! I want to seek his forgiveness rather than point out the justification of my actions. I want him to feel validated by God, led by His spirit, and respected by me!
I want to stop thinking only of my needs and be a servant unto his. Not because he has earned it through his own actions but because he has earned it as my husband and life partner and as the father of our precious children.
I wish I could come before you and proclaim that I am always honourable and respectful. I wish I could declare that the very spirit of God exudes from my every being at all times but the truth is, I have been one big grumpalump since August now and I am really tired of it.
More often than not, I find it easy to confess my sins to God but ironically, I find it harder to profess my sins to my fellow brethren. Hopefully this public confession will motivate me to make some serious changes in my heart with a sincere desire to be accountable. I am wrong here... and I want to fix it.
Join me in prayer as I send this out to find you... that you may feel freed from your own limitations and mistakes... that you are willing to see where you have truly wronged someone else no matter how hard it is to admit it... so that you can finally be free of its burden. No one deserves to be poisoned by their own guilt whether conscious or subconscious. No one. And most importantly, I want you to know you are not alone in your mistakes. I am your fellow sinner... your sister-in-error, if you will. But I hope and pray that we can encourage each other, pray for one another, and genuinely desire for each other to rise above our challenges to become better people... better mothers, better wives, better sisters or daughters.... better children of God.
Afterall... He breathed His sacred breath into us. He loved us so much that He WANTED us and even sent His only Son to die so that not even our sins could keep us from being with Him. So let us love one another WHOLLY so that not even our sins (whether publicly professed or hidden) could keep us from truly loving each other unconditionally! God bless you all and know that this is the very place I come from when I say to you all, stranger or not... I love you!