Prayer and Politics

Because my trusty Suburban is too old to have satellite radio, I was flipping through stations the other day as Spuds and I were making the hour-long trek home from Costco.  In the midst of this flipping, I heard a soothing male voice talking about hurricane Harvey, so I stopped (station flipping, that is, not the car).  I like soothing voices, especially soothing voices on the radio.  The soothing voice very quickly transitioned from talking about the possible weather repercussions of the hurricane to talking about President Trump pledging to donate one million dollars of his own personal stash to hurricane relief efforts.

The soothing voice went on to say something to the effect of, “I really respect the president for that.  I don’t know how anyone could not respect that act.”

That got my attention because, even thought I am no fan of Donald Trump as a “reality” television host, President of the United States, or pretty much anything else, it still seems pretty obvious to me that the media are showing their bias like a two-year-old in a sun dress shows her underwear — with gleeful reckless abandon and completely unaware.  So to hear the words “I respect the president” spoken over the airwaves was a bit of a surprise.  The soothing voice had my attention.

Next it started talking about how Governor Abbott had issued an official proclamation calling for a day of prayer in Texas, and how this was a positive step, and I was left driving down the road thinking, “Whoa!  I have stumbled into the Twilight Zone!  Or, wait, maybe I’ve stumbled across a Christian radio station.”

Then the soothing Christian radio station voice read the entire proclamation word for word, clear to the end where it says:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GREG ABBOTT, Governor of Texas, pursuant to the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim Sunday, September 3, 2017, as a Day of Prayer in Texas.  I urge Texans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers on that day for the safety of our first responders, public safety officers, and military personnel, healing of individuals, rebuilding of communities and the restoration of the entire region struck by this disaster.

I was so moved by this.  I was moved by the inclusion of everyone and everything, all faiths, the victims and the rescuers, the here and now and the work to be done in the future.  I was moved that a government official would throw political correctness to the wind and urge his constituents to turn to their God.

And then the soothing voice proclaimed in its soothing manner, “Now, as a Christian, I can’t agree with the part about all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds.  As a Christian, I know there is only one God of the Universe, so I can’t support urging others to pray to their false gods.  There is only one God we should be praying to.”  I’m paraphrasing, since I couldn’t drive and write down direct quotes that I never ever expected to hear, but that was the general gist of what he was saying when I changed. the. station.

I didn’t want Spuds to think that we should scoff at the prayers of others.

Which brand of Christianity, I wondered, does the soothing voice practice.  Is he Methodist?  Presbyterian?  Baptist?  Evangelical?  Pentecostal?  Catholic?  Don’t they all disagree, at least a little bit, about who and what God is?  So are they really praying to the same God?  Does he also scoff at the prayers of his fellow-but-different Christians?  I suppose he would scoff at my non-mainstream-Christian prayers.

I can’t speak for the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor can I speak for other members of my church, but here is what I personally believe about prayer and praying, regardless of your faith and religious tradition or background:

If you believe there is a God, if you approach that God with sincerity and faith in your heart and you humbly pray your righteous desires to that God, the God of the Universe (to directly quote the soothing voice) will hear you.  I don’t care what you or I or anyone else calls that God, and I don’t care what you or I or anyone else knows or thinks we know about that God. If you are approaching your version of God as God, He will hear your prayers, because He knows you, and He knows you are putting your faith and trust in Him and appealing to Him, and He loves you regardless of what your level of understanding of Him is or isn’t.  If you’re sincerely praying then you’re sincerely trying to know Him, too, and that counts for a whole heck of an awful lot.

What parent among us hasn’t heard a child’s voice call the word, “Mom!” or “Dad!” only to turn around to respond and discover that it’s not our child, and it’s not us to whom they are calling?  I believe it is kind of like that with God, except that we are the children doing the calling and He is the parent to whom we are calling, always, because we are all His. Maybe we are calling to a parent who we don’t fully know or understand, maybe we are calling to a parent about whom we have some pretty big misunderstandings, but God hears us anyway, because He is THE parent.  There is no one else.

Unless you’re a satanist or something, but I think I pretty much excluded you in the above paragraphs anyway.  You know you’re not praying to God at that point.  Run along now.  I hear Hot Topic is having a sale.

Bottom line:  If I am, or a loved one is, ever involved in a crisis, either as a victim or a rescuer, I welcome your prayers on my behalf, on behalf of my loved ones, on behalf of my community.  If you believe there is a God, if you believe He can help us put the pieces of shattered lives, homes, and communities back together, then I welcome and appreciate your prayers.  I suspect there is a large part of Houston that welcomes your prayers as well.  I am sorry there are those who don’t.  Please know they don’t represent all of us, no matter what you hear over the airwaves after a bout of channel flipping.

Tewt the Christian Newt wishes you well (and, admittedly, has made one or two purchases at Hot Topic — but he got in and out as fast as he could).



Proud Mom Moments

I don’t know why it took so long, but today we found out that L~ got a 5 on the AP English exam she took last spring.  My English major/mom heart is happy.

Shortly after getting this news, I was shopping at Costco with the 13-year-old, almost-12-year-old, and the two nine-year-olds.  You all know I deserve a massage and a medal now, right?  Because I do.  Anyway, as I was pushing around the cart laden with, among many, many other things, 160lbs of dog food (who needs Crossfit when you’ve got about 250 lbs worth of dogs at home?) we saw this:

and my almost-12-year-old son said, “That’s from Macbeth!  ‘Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.'”

My heart almost exploded.  But only almost because, you know, somebody had to pay for and drive all those canine comestibles home.  At any rate, I’m feeling a little more excited about starting our homeschool year next week.

Tewt the Newt thinks that’s a good thing.

Team Bedlam

I am currently holed up in my bedroom with my laptop and a pound of bacon (okay, 12 oz., but let’s not split bristles) because it’s either that or have a nervous breakdown.  Somewhere in my house, at this very moment, my eldest is fighting back tears and thinking I am just the most insensitive, mean mom in the world because . . .

Drum roll please . . .

I told her we are absolutely not adopting a teenage boy no matter how badly she wants an older brother.  She is claiming she has always wanted an older brother.  A few years ago she wanted us to adopt a twelve-year-old girl because, she said, she always wanted a twin sister.

This would all be much easier for me to deal with if she were off crying somewhere for some normal teenage reason – like because we won’t let her dress like a whore or go on dates to the drive-in with a pot-smoking boyfriend.  Then I would feel wholly justified.  But instead, she is off crying because I won’t adopt an older child right now, so, rather than feeling justified, I feel like a heel.  There are lots and lots of teenage boys who need families, and I’m saying no to all of them.  Bad, bad me.

And yes, it is me.  It is all me.  If it were up to the trusty husband, we’d have adopted a teenage sibling group by now, so I am completely alone in my compassionless, selfishness as I keep telling them, “I just can’t handle it right now.”

Because guess what?  I can’t.  It’s not like going to the pound and getting a puppy.  A lot of baggage and struggle comes with a teenager who doesn’t have a family.  Who could expect anything less?  I wouldn’t expect anything less, but I know I’m not ready for it.  Now is not the time.

My dream in life at the moment, for the past several years’ worth of moments,  is to just get my feet under me, to have a year or two of status quo.  I have begged for that.  It has yet to happen.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful.  I have been blessed a lot.  I mean, A LOT, and I know this.  And the past three years?  Have been some of the most stress-free years of my married life.  Nobody has died, we have not had any screamy, colic-y, unable-to-sleep babies, we have not gone through any adoptions, we have not moved, I have been able to get reasonable amounts of sleep, I have been able to manage my migraines relatively well, we have not had financial struggles, there have been neither surgeries nor job changes . . . life has been pretty good for the most part.

But . . . there is always a but.

There is a lot to do around the homestead.  Never ever in my life did I ever fantasize about living on a farm, mini or otherwise, yet that’s pretty much where I am.  I mean, real farmers would scoff, I’m sure, but once you buy a tractor and plop a horse in a fence and put on muck boots even once, that makes you a farmer in my book.  We’re now on our second tractor, and we have three horses.  I was wearing muck boots last weekend.   Thanks to the weather and the million other things I have to take care of, my garden still isn’t in.  That is major stress right there for a farmer.

So I’m living my husband’s dream on the mini farm while he’s off at work all day, sometimes out of town for days, and, though I don’t have to do the day-to-day horse and barn chores, I’m always the one here when one of those beasts escapes (and, generally, if one is lose they all are lose), and I’m always the one here when the fence gets broken, and I’m the one here when one of them (or all of them) throws a shoe, and I’m the one here giving cats IV fluids and shoving antibiotics down their throats, and I’m the one here when the animals die (the cat stayed in a box on our back porch for days until he got back in town to dig a hole in the frozen ground), and I’m the one here dealing with the never-ending behavioral issues stemming from one son still acutely feeling the sting of abandonment and inaccurately surmising his birth mother must have gotten rid of him because he’s bad, and I’m the one dealing with the stupid school district, and I’m the one doing the homeschooling, and I’m the one planning the vacation, and I’m the one making sure the 10 million animals get fed, and I’m the one always saying no to getting more animals (because I’m apparently the only one with any common sense), and I’m the one here all day with the barkingest dogs in the world, and I’m the one feeling like a complete failure because I can’t keep up with it all and, oh my gosh, don’t even ask me when the last time was I cleaned our showers.

And I realize he works hard.  He really does, and I am grateful for it.  And I know he has to deal with stupid people and situations at work every day.  But?  Whether or not those people ever pull their heads out and get over their stupidity is really not, ultimately, his responsibility.  If my kids don’t become decent adults/people, if my son doesn’t get past some of his aggravating, accusatory, self-pitying, pushing-people-away behaviors and is never able to have  healthy relationship when he’s older, if my oldest daughter never gets her nose out of a book and figures out how to have an actual life?  Totally my fault for not being a good enough mom.

The weight of my calling to be a mother is very heavy on its own, is what I’m saying.  I don’t take it lightly.  I never have.  Sometimes I wish I could, but I don’t know how to just relax about the whole thing because . . . eternal consequences, you know?  I don’t want to fail.  Add the weight of all the rest of it, and I feel like it’s just driving me down into the ground.

But all anybody seems to notice is that I won’t let them get chickens and/or goats, and the horses stress me out, and I melt down when the newfoundland rips a big hole in the screened-in porch so she can stick her head in to try to play with a cat (that I didn’t want but we had to get because we need barn cats to keep the mice out of the hay), thereby making us look like the epitome of white trash, and they don’t like the food I cook because it’s healthy, and instead of gushing non-stop* for days with gratitude over the new flooring in the basement I am stressed out by the fact that our entire basement (and, oh gosh, it is a big basement with an entire apartment in it and a lot of crap) is just completely torn apart with the aforementioned crap strewn everywhere (never mind the fact that I frequently asked if we couldn’t just cull the crap before we started the flooring project, because I knew this would happen), and why haven’t I done a load of pinks yet?  And now?  Now?  I won’t try to adopt a teenage boy.  How selfish and thoughtless can I be?

My lack of being a team player knows no bounds.  I just never expected to be a member of Team Bedlam.

Tewt the Newt is in hiding.  I don’t know if he’s eating bacon or afraid of becoming bacon.

*For the record, I have gushed: I have thanked, I have admired, I have appreciated, I have praised, but that’s not what gets noticed.

But That’s Not What This Story is About

First, a long overdue thank you to Deanne for the recipe for homemade taco seasoning in the comments of the last food post.  I shall be trying it soon!

But that’s not what this story is about.

So the other day my washing machine fainted.

“What?!” you ask.  “How does a washing machine faint??”

Well, it’s like this:  One day last week, I don’t remember which day, probably Saturday, I threw a load of laundry in and we all went out somewhere, I don’t remember where, but probably to see the horses.  When we came home, the astute and perennially studly husband (who, not surprisingly, has lost more weight than I have) noticed the washer was making a very odd noise, almost as if it were saying, “Quick!  My swoon bottle!  I must have my swoon bottle!!”

“What’s this noise the washing machine is making?” he asked, as if I were the Maytag man.

By the time I could join him in the laundry room, and before I could give him the swoon bottle schtick, the noise had ceased and the washing machine was doing nothing.  NOthing.  I spun the nob and tried restarting it, and nothing.  SWOON.

So the IT god husband got the bright idea to unplug the washer and leave it be for a couple hours, then plug it back in to see if it worked.  I mocked him and said that one can’t reboot washing machines.  He called my dad, who told him to unplug it for a couple hours and leave it be, then plug it back in and see if it worked.   Puh-lease.

After a couple of hours, I plugged the thing back in.  And?  It worked.  So you see?  My washing machine didn’t die.  It fainted.

But that’s not what this story is about.

Incidentally, we are replacing the washer and dryer anyway.  They are relatively old, our family is large, and I have neither the time nor the patience for fainting appliances.

But that’s not what this story is about, either.

This story is about the events leading up to the Big Swoon.

It began in the morning with Tank Boy telling me he didn’t have any clean underwear in his dresser and a subsequent massive search through the clean-but-as-yet-unfolded laundry piled in a basket on the dryer.  The search was futile, and Tank Boy was forced to go commando while I began sorting and doing even more laundry.

Throughout the sorting process I noticed a conspicuous lack of Tank-Boy-sized underwear and asked him where it all was.  In typical six-year-old boy fashion, he shrugged his shoulders and said something like, “I dunno.”

As I continued to sort and shove laundry around on my laundry room floor (what?  who cares if it’s on the floor?  it’s getting washed anyway) I noticed a clump of clothing behind the door.  I pulled it out to find, of course, several pairs of Tank Boy’s unmentionables.  Predictable, no?

What I did not expect to find, however, were what can only be diplomatically described as severe skid marks gracing the little boy boxers briefs.  I will spare you the graphic details and an expanded metaphor about how much rubber was on the road, but, obviously, a conversation with my son was in order.

“Dude,” I said, “If you don’t wipe well enough and your underwear winds up like this, TELL me about it.  Don’t hide it.  I need to wash it right away, not have it festering behind the laundry room door.”

I know at this point you are wondering how bad my house must smell if we hadn’t noticed the odor of more than one set of soiled shorts, but the truth is?  They just didn’t stink.  My house doesn’t smell.  I’ve even had someone ask me how we can manage to have such big dogs and a house that doesn’t stink.

“So in the future,” I asked, “you are going to put the dirty underwear in the laundry room and tell me about it, right?”

“Right,” he said.

“Because that is totally gross,”  I said.

“Okay,” he said.

“I’m not going to be mad at you about dirty underwear, but if you hide it again I will probably be mad,” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

“Okay,” I said.

“Mom?” he asked, “how is it again that women get pregnant?”

“And that,” says Tewt the Newt, “Is what this story is about.”

Today My Heart Broke Into a Million Little Pieces

And it’s not even because my baby started Primary at church. *sniff*

So I need to give you a little backstory first:

There are seven girls (including L~) in L~’s primary class in church.  There is a division in that class that existed before we ever moved in.  Though I don’t think the girls are overtly rude or mean, there is a group of three girls who are decidedly The Girls, while the other three are . . . not.  They don’t even seem to be their own group.  They are just three girls who seem to not be part of The Girls.

When we moved here, L~ became girl number seven, and she was quickly embraced and accepted by The Girls (putting that group up to four) (in case the math is too difficult for you).  At first I thought maybe I was imagining the divide, but the teacher told me one day that she was concerned about the divide in that class.

I talked to L~ about it.  I told her I was happy she had made friends so quickly (because I was) and I told her I was happy that she feels like she “belongs” (because I am); but I also asked her to please make sure she was never mean or exclusive, either intentionally or accidentally, to the other girls in the class.  I asked her to please make an effort to be friendly to them, and talk to them, and involve them as much as she can.

She said she would.  She said that, as far as she could tell, the only reason the other girls weren’t involved with The Girls is because they didn’t want to be – they didn’t talk much.  I told her nobody ever wants to feel like they are on the fringes, and if they don’t talk much it is probably because they feel unsure about how their involvement would be received by the others.

L~ is not a mean girl.  Don’t get me wrong, if she gets really mad at one of her siblings she can be sharp-tongued and shrill, but she is not mean-hearted (just intensely defensive of her position).

But she is a pre-teen girl – a pre-teen girl who is happy to be accepted by the group that seems to be The Group, The Girls. I can’t blame her for that.  Who doesn’t want to “belong”?

Today L~ and one of The Girls straggled into primary several minutes late.  They had spent a little too much time in the bathroom.  When they got into the primary room, the other two girls who are a part of The Girls were sitting next to each other.  Next to them was one empty chair, then a chair with another girl, not one of The Girls, sitting in it, then another empty chair.  L~’s friend sat in the empty chair by The Girls who were already there, which left L~ looking around, realizing she wasn’t going to be able to sit with her friends.

Without being asked, the other girl scooted over to the empty seat next to her so that L~ could have her seat by The Girls.  It was such a kind gesture, and my heart broke for that sweet little girl as I sat, watching from behind, while she gave up her seat to my daughter simply because she knew she isn’t really part of The Girls and my daughter is.

But then my heart shattered into a million little pieces as I watched L~ scoot her chair over as close to her friends as possible, thereby scooting away from the girl who gave up her seat.

I quietly got up (luckily it was not yet time for me to do singing time), walked over to where the girls were sitting, tapped L~ on the shoulder and gestured for her to follow me out into the hall.

I whispered, “She gave you her seat.  You should have thanked her.”

“I did,” L~ whispered back.

“Do you understand,” I asked, “what message you just sent her by scooting away from her?”

L~ looked slightly horror-stricken.  I really don’t think she saw it as scooting away from that kind girl.  She just wanted to sit closer to her friends.

I was fighting back tears, and she could tell.

“You might not have meant to, but you just reaffirmed to that girl that she is not one of you.  That you four are a special group, and she is not part of it.  You have just made her feel less.”

I was still whispering.

“When I was your age, I was that girl.  I wasn’t one of the special group.  I was on the outside.”  I was really fighting back the tears as all the memories and emotions from that time in my childhood were flooding through me.  “I cannot watch one of my daughters do that to someone else.”

L~ was . . . I don’t know.  Shocked might be the best word.  Mortified, perhaps?  As far as moms go I’m . . . umm . . . not the frumpiest one she knows?  I’m not saying I’m a 40-year-old hottie who everyone thinks is the cool mom (I’m sure my kids will tell you just how un-cool I am), but I don’t think I come across as the “outsider” type (I’m doing my best to avoid using the word “nerdy” and failing miserably) (I should have e-mailed Michelle for a more delicate synonym – she’s the queen of those).  So to see me standing there, trying to not cry about how badly the thoughtless (and sometimes very thoughtful, but not in a good way) actions of others hurt me when I was her age, to realize that I really wasn’t one of the cool kids . . . I think, I hope, something really clicked for L~.

Like I said, we’ve had conversations before about the importance of  being nice to everybody, but I’m not quite sure she got what all that meant.  I think maybe now she gets it a little more.  Again, I hope.

We went back into the primary room and she quietly took her seat, then scooted it back to its original position.

Later in the day, at home, I told her I thought maybe she should invite the girl who gave up her seat over for a day, or for a sleepover.  L~ said she had been thinking the same thing already and was going to ask me about it.  We’re going to try to find a day that works next week.

I don’t know what else to do.

I see a real opportunity here for L~.  She is in a position where she could help bring the other girls into the circle of The Girls, and I want to help her do that, but I’m not sure how.  How do you help an 11-year-old girl understand that she could bridge a long-standing divide and make a huge, positive change in the lives of a few girls?  How do you help her actually bridge that divide?

I don’t know.  I don’t know because I spent most of my childhood on the wrong side of the divide.

I wish I were Lorelai Gilmore.  She’d know exactly what to do, and it would involve merriment and great hilarity.  And maybe muffins and nail polish.  Hmm . . .