Of liquid poop, birdseed and gravy boats

So here it is, my Thanksgiving post. It’s a few days late and actually, I wasn’t going to post anything about Thanksgiving. To be honest, I don’t find the typical Thanksgiving blog post interesting (“all the things I’m thankful for….”). I really don’t mean to criticize– it’s wonderful to remind ourselves of the countless things we have to be thankful for. But after I read about 5 Thanksgiving blog posts, they all start to sound the same. And if you know me at all, you know I tend to buck the status quo… for better or worse, that’s me. But after my family gathered for a belated Thanksgiving meal Saturday night, I just HAD to make my list! After you hear this story, you’ll understand.

My day started out very peacefully. I was rinsing the dust off my good dishes, getting out my punch bowl, had the turkey in the oven at 1:30… everything was going as planned. My kids were a little cranky, given that they didn’t have my undivided attention, but that’s to be expected on a day when one has a big meal to prepare.  My father and step-mother arrived around 2:00 and she helped me with some odds and ends. I was pleased with how smoothly all the preparations were going.  At one point we discovered that I owned no  gravy boat, and we chuckled over the fact that I decided to use one of my ceramic pitchers as a substitute– hey, we can just pour the gravy then… no spoon needed. Haha! I thought I was being rather clever (see me pat myself on the back).

My sister’s family arrived at 5:00, and we pulled the rest of the Thanksgiving side-dishes together and got everyone settled in their places. It was a lovely and delicious meal, thanks to Edith’s gravy, Jenn’s oyster stuffing and green beans and cranberry sauce, Dad’s mashed potatoes and my punch, cheeseball and crackers, turkey, corn and desserts (purchased of course!).  We shared stories and laughter and giggled about my gravy boat (it sure is unconventional, but it works beautifully!).  As often happens with big meals, the kids were finished first and ran in all directions in the house to play. At one point, while we adults were clearing dishes, I noticed that both of my children were in the downstairs bathroom while my niece was using the upstairs bathroom… hmmmmm… “oh well,” I thought, “Heidi will probably help Ben go potty when she’s finished. That will work out nicely. Then I can keep working in the kitchen.”  Haha, mommy, think again!  Not five minutes later I hear Heidi, “Um, mommy, i don’t really want to tell you this, but… um… Ben pooped NOT in the potty.”  Noooooooo…………. but, alas……… yes, yes he did! Apparently he couldn’t hold it until Heidi was finished. And this wasn’t chunky, semi-solid poop. No, this was runny, semi-diarrhea, liquid poop. Amid my lovely gagging sounds and Ben’s whining, we somehow survived the next fifteen minutes and sat down for dessert– not sure my stomach was really ready to handle that transition, but I deserved some pumpkin pie, darn it!

After some clean-up, my sister’s family was ready to head home. As the kids were gathering up their coats and shoes, I noticed my niece pull a bag of birdseed out of her coat pocket. “Hmmmm,” I wondered, “what is she going to do with that?” No sooner had the thought resounded in my mind, that her brother gave the ziplock bag a good squeeze– yep, you guessed it, a shower of tiny seeds rains down on our feet. If you aren’t familiar with a traditional birdseed mix, some of those seeds are as tiny as a pin head. Seriously. Now here is something to be thankful for– we were on a hard floor, right beside the front door. I got a broom and we swept the little seeds right out the door and then off the porch and into the grass! Problem solved. I’ll take birdseed over liquid poop ANY DAY and twice on Sundays.

With the help of my dad and step-mom, we had the house back in order before 8:30. Amazing. So here is my Thanksgiving list for 2008:

1. I am thankful for windows that open when there is uncontained poop in my bathroom.

2. I am thankful that I can breathe through my mouth instead of my nose when I need to.

3. I am thankful for the person who invited wet wipes. I would kiss them if I knew who they were!

4. I am thankful also for the person who invented brooms- what a genius!

5. I am thankful that my children will not always be preschoolers who cannot handle their own waste issues.

6. I am thankful for improvisation… including improvised gravy boats!

But mostly, this year, I am so very thankful for my family– who embraces my quirks and my intense personality, and helps me laugh through my stressed-out tears. You all “go right with my gravy boat” (inside joke) and that’s a GREAT thing!

Cracking the shell

My three year old son, Ben, is in a frustrating stage right now– and it’s frustrating for all of us, I might add, including the cat. He wants to zip up his coat himself, but two seconds later, he’s crying for me to do it. He wants to open his own yogurt cup, but then claims he can’t do it. He wants to put on his own shoes, but then begs me to put them on for him. He’s a walking paradox, wanting to be his own person at the same time he wants us to do things for him because he is convinced he can’t do them.  Needless to say, it creates some very tense and unproductive moments in our house (especially when we’re trying to get out the door to some appointment!).

I’ve realized something recently, though– or maybe I should say I’ve realized it AGAIN, because I think I’ve known this about myself for a while– I’m also a walking paradox.  I push against closed doors, scream and cry when I’m not given enough freedom, while at the same time I hesitate to make decisions and take less when I’m offered more. I am more certain today of who I am and what God has created me to be and do, but I’m also more intimidated by the consequences of my actions now than I was when I was in my twenties. I’ve made mistakes. I know what happens when I screw things up.

I never would have categorized myself as a “people pleaser.” I’m way too opinionated and stubborn for that label. I’m a rebel of sorts, and I’ll question assumptions and ask ‘why’ until people are ready to throw me out the window. But someone said to me recently that my thirst for affirmation is holding me back, seriously holding me back… from fuller and more effective ministry, from truly living into my calling. And she’s right.

To be honest, it’s more than that (and I think she knows this, too). Underneath my outgoing, confident shell, is a very frightened girl. She’s afraid of failure and rejection, yes, but she’s also afraid of success. “To whom more is given, more is expected.”  If I gain success, there’s more to lose when I fail the next time. I don’t trust myself.

I was on a seminary retreat this weekend and was praying about some of these things, and I realized the extent of the self-centeredness of this whole line of thinking. I like being self-reflective, but I do not like how self-absorbed I become when I start thinking in terms of success and failure. Because here’s the thing: Who the hell cares, either way?  My life is really NOT crucial to the world! What matters is my First Love, my Lord and His Kingdom. As I become less focused on my job, my job performance, my success or failure, I will be more focused on His Mission to reconcile the world to Himself.

Our retreat speaker gave us a beautiful breath-prayer that I will be using this week:

(breathe in) There is Another

(breathe out) Who lives in me

(in) There is Another

(out) Who completes me

(in) There is Another

(out) Whose righteousness is my own

It’s not about me– how well I do, how I am received, accepted or rejected. Christ lives in me, He completes me and His Kingdom has come, is coming and will come– no matter what I do, this is true. Blessed be His Name!

Bedtime Prayers

When it’s my turn to put Heidi and Ben to bed at night, I say the same closing prayer, after we pray for friends and family (and dolls and stuffed animals and leaf collections and bikes and trikes, etc.) of course.  I’m not exactly sure how this prayer came to be… except that it’s my hope and dream for both of my children.  The theology behind this prayer is very intentional. It’s holisitc; it’s all-encompassing– mind, heart and body.  The faith I’m praying for involves their inner world and their outer world– belief and practice, saying and doing, agreeing to and acting on.

Ben has started to say this prayer with me now, which is such a blessing! Hopefully the theology will sink so deeply into his soul that he won’t be able to forget it! I don’t want my children to grow up thinking that saying they believe in Jesus is enough. Faith without praxis is no faith at all. Faith expressing itself in love is EVERYTHING.

On that note, for whatever it’s worth, here’s my little closing prayer:

Lord, may Heidi grow up to KNOW you and LOVE you and SERVE you, with her WHOLE HEART and her WHOLE LIFE. Amen.

Amen, sister!

Follow the link below to a great post by Emily Hunter-McGowin. I find her wise, articulate and mature.

She put into words many of my feelings regarding our behavior during this election season.


If you’d like to engage in some conversation regarding Emily’s post, you are more than welcome to here at Driven to Wonder or feel free to comment at her blog, too. She seems very open to discussion.