Sunday Ramblings

On this lovely Sunday, I begin 3 days of kid-free existence. I feel rather giddy about it. And also rather nappy. In fact, a nap may very well interrupt my writing of this post. Which might make this the best kind of Sunday afternoon, except for the problem that I often wake up crabby — scratch that, I always wake up crabby.

The Sunday afternoon nap remains an appealing daydream, despite the fact that I’m a terrible napper. Not only do I always wake up crabby, but I also have to trick myself into sleeping. Even then it mostly doesn’t work. Just now, for example. I had This American Life on the radio and all those mellow voices were lulling me. My eyes were getting heavier and heavier. My behind was sinking deeper into the couch as my muscles relaxed. I put the computer down, but kept the radio on, and curled up, listening and not listening, trying to distract my brain.

No go.

My brain whirls and whirls. So there was no nap.

Just rambling.

* The telling moment

It happens in fiction all the time — that one little moment, comment, reaction — that tells the truth of who someone is or how healthy a relationship may or may not be. But we don’t always gets to see one in real life. Here’s one I heard about recently.

A young man liked a young woman. Happily for him, the young woman liked him back. But they were taking it slowly, making sure they had a solid foundation of friendship before taking things in a romantic direction. Truth be told, this was the first young woman to like the young man back.

Both of them had recently read The Fault In Our Stars and were looking forward to seeing the movie when it came out. The young man’s mother told her son about something a friend of hers had done: seen an advanced screening, with the author, during the movie, they were served risotto during the dinner in Amsterdam scene, and after the Q&A, they all went out in the parking lot and egged a car. She told her son, thinking that he’d get all jealous about her friend meeting John Green and doing that cool stuff.

But, no.

The young man turned a serious face to his mother and asked about the throw-up scene, and how graphic it was, because the beloved young woman had a problem with seeing other people throw up, and he’d like to be able to warn her about it, so she’d be more comfortable seeing the movie.

[sigh]

What a lovely glimpse of her son as a boyfriend.

* Scope for imagination:

A Facebook friend linked to this article this week. It was an interesting piece about a subculture I’d never heard about: young women in southern Guangdong province in China who could choose to become “self-combed women” rather than marry. Now, it’s not like they could then go to university and live a fabulous and independent life. They had to leave their families and work hard, either in factories or as servants in others’ households. They were illiterate. They were expected to send most of their income to their family of origin. But the women made money, and their contributions to the household were worthy of thanks — these were unusual in that culture in the 1800s through the mid-1900s. Women who entered (either by choice or by force) their husband’s family’s household would have had to endure whatever kind of treatment the husband and his family deemed their right, and they’d have to serve their parents-in-law with no thanks (because they were merely doing what was expected). Also, the self-combed women were expected to remain celibate. They were independent of the marriage system, but still bound by cultural norms; able to choose, but not have many choices.

The thing that has my imagination all fired up is the name itself, “self-combed.” By deciding not to marry, they wouldn’t get to do the pre-wedding ritual when their mother would comb their hair into a bun to symbolize their transition from single girl to married woman. They combed their own hair into their own bun.

When I looked into this more, I found a contemporary visual artist, Man Yee Lam, who sees her own life in the complicated story of the self-combed women: “‘Self-Combing Women’ is an exploration of my relationship with my ancestral roots, and of my life-long battle between my independence as a woman and my experience of subjection to cultural patterning.” Click here to see the piece she made of a woman inside a silk cocoon (the self-combed women often worked in silk industry factories).

* Do I miss my children when we’re apart?

I won’t keep you in suspense: no. For the most part, I do not pine, I do not ache, I am not distracted by their absence. When they’re gone, I am glad they are on whatever adventure they are on, with whichever friends they are with. And if I’m the one who’s gone, I’m generally consumed by whatever adventure I’m on, with whichever friends I am with.

This is in the forefront of my mind these days because my 15-year-old son is off in Europe for 2 1/2 weeks with his best friend and said best friend’s mother. In the week he’s been gone, I’ve had one teary moment — right after we’d finished a FB chat. We talked via Skype this afternoon, and there was no teariness. He’s having way too much fun, seeing way too many amazing things.

And, as I said at the beginning, I’m giddy because my daughter is camping with a friend and her family for 3 days. It’s fun for me and my husband to have the house to ourselves, to have cut in half the needs and schedules we have to negotiate. This time, I’m not even racing to paint the kids’ rooms, as I was the last time we had them both gone for days at a time.

There are many different kinds of mothers, and I guess what I’m doing here is claiming my own style, my own way of loving my children.

* I must confess

That most of my ramblings these past few days revolve around bad words and unkind thoughts that I aim at my neighbors and their love of all-day and middle-of-the-night fireworks, particularly those booming M-80s.

Netherlands Lion* And also Hup Holland Hup

I’ve been enjoying The Netherlands’ performance in the World Cup, spending lots of money at the Dutch store, eating more dropjes in the last month that I normally do in two years.

 

SO, what are you rambling about this Sunday?

 

Prayer Lives of Children

You know what they say about assumptions? When you make them, you’re making an @$$ of you and me? You know who most loves to mess with our assumptions? God.

So there’s a little dude in my children’s worship group, let’s call him Calvin, in homage to Calvin & Hobbes. Those of you familiar with the comic strip will have a good idea of Calvin’s general demeanor. If you don’t know the strip, Calvin is a 1st or 2nd grader who doesn’t follow behavior rules, has a gory imagination (which he uses often), and neither his feet nor his mouth are able to stay still for long. He doesn’t have the disdainful eyes of a kid who doesn’t recognize authority, he’s just got an excess of … everything (especially liveliness and mischievousness). I really like my young Calvin, but it’s work to keep him reined in so everyone can pay attention to the story. And so that wrestling doesn’t break out, which is not a choice in children’s worship.

Except once. Last year, in an activity before I told the story of David and Goliath, I had my preschool group try to defeat the giant (my 6-foot-tall teenage helper) by trying to push him down with their own strength. They couldn’t. Of course. But I digress.

This past Sunday was a pretty typical day for Calvin. I did have to break up wrestling once. The story was a little more conceptual, so I didn’t have to repeatedly remind him not to tell the story overtop of me, which was a nice change. Towards the end of our time together, we did some intercessory prayer. I took prayer requests (there were a lot of loose teeth, which I asked to see, because the kids were so proud of them, but which also made me a little queasy). And then a little girl said she wanted to pray.

I got everyone settled down, and then she whispered, “I don’t know how.”

To demonstrate that praying wasn’t a big deal, I shrugged. “Just use the same words you would to talk to anyone.”

But still, “I don’t know how.”

This happens fairly often. A child will volunteer to pray out loud and then get stage fright. “That’s okay, I’ll–”

“I’ll do it.”

Calvin offered to pray for us, and proceeded to do so, matter-of-factly, and totally comfortably. He remembered about half the things the other kids had mentioned, and I took over when he said he forgot the rest.

It was one of my favorite moments of the year (along with the glorious dog pile of a few months ago). When I was done praying, I thanked him.

“Oh yeah. I pray all the time. Pretty much, any time I’m napping, I’m praying.”

THIS is what I love about doing children’s worship — these little glimpses into the deep and real spiritual lives of children. I am so glad God dashed any assumptions I had about young Calvin.

I like to collect stories about children praying.

When friends of mine announced to their two sons that the mother was pregnant with a little girl, the younger son piped up, “I’ve been praying for that!” His parents had no idea that this had been their child’s fervent prayer. Don’t know if they even knew he had his own prayer life.

In a meeting with a pastor-friend, he told me about a member of his church who had recently come back from a tour in Afghanistan. He was in some kind of commanding position over there, and while he was gone, the Sunday School children were praying for himm. The leaders had the kids come up with what they wanted to pray for about this man. They decided on two things:

1. That people would use their words.

2. That he wouldn’t even have to fire his gun.

So the man returned and when they welcomed him back on Sunday, he said a few words about his deployment. He talked about how things ran really smoothly in his unit, how when they’d interact with local villagers, they’d manage to work through their issues through talking (which wasn’t the case for other units nearby). And then, offhandedly, he mentioned that he didn’t even fire his gun once. The Sunday School teachers were instantly weeping — nobody else knew that that’s precisely what the kids had been praying for.

I love these stories, but I’m a little wary about telling them, because there are surely many prayers of children that do not get answered in such dramatic fashion. There have certainly been prayers children have asked me to pray that I can’t and won’t. It’s the lesson of a lifetime that prayer isn’t about getting what you want, it’s more about communicating with the God who loves you, and about changing your heart. And being grateful when you do recognize God at work.

I don’t know whether my children have a prayer life outside of what we do together. I certainly encourage it. And we model praying in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. Maybe I’ll ask. But maybe I’ll let it surprise me sometime. That seems to be the method God prefers.

Do you have any stories about praying children you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.

 

 

Prayers of Children

Sunday was our last day at our church. They said “see you later” (not “good-bye”) beautifully, with tears and hugs and prayers and gifts. We served them one last time in music, dance, prayer, technology, and children’s worship. Handed in our keys. Now we start our summer of rest, when we actually get to sit together for the entire service, to hear my husband sing the songs right next to us instead of through the speakers. We will arrive at church at the same time, in the same vehicle, even. It’s been nine years since that has been possible on a regular basis.

I’m not going to belabor the leaving after this, but I do want to talk about one thing I’ll miss: praying with young children.

I loved it. You never knew what you were going to get: could be sweet, serious or silly. I accepted it all. Prayed for it all. There were a few sticky situations over the years, of children asking for a baby brother or sister (when I knew that wasn’t happening) or wanting me to pray that their mother never die. I would pray for God to shower the family with blessings, pray for a long and wonderful life together.

While cleaning out my office, I found sheafs of notes I’ve taken of the kids’ prayer requests (so I wouldn’t forget them while we prayed). They are so dear and such a reflection of what children are concerned about. Indulge me as I list some below.

brother hurt his chin
people in New Orleans
brother with surgery on his head
Nana died
Mama’s baby
a big dog
burned myself
sister crying
me and Mommy playing
brother got shot
Aunt Susan is going to have a baby, so he doesn’t die
that I make the basketball team
blisters on my toes
sister, Mommy and dad and friends at school and help me be nice to them and play well
Mom and Dad pick flowers
falling off my bike
happy to play video game at friend’s house
boo boo on Daddy’s braces
friend burned her hand
grandma died / grandpa died
little girl hit by a car
the Lost Boys
my tooth came out
my cough go away
my friend who doesn’t have a home
scratched myself on my face
that I have a good time at my dad’s today
that I can do something special with my dad
my grandma needs medicine
my brother is having bad dreams
stop my sister’s biting

There was a lot of concern for family members and friends, and very few requests for God to give them specific items (although my children would periodically want prayer for “Mom and Dad going shopping,” which is odd, because we almost never go shopping together. Maybe we should?).

We always thanked God for our snack, and I let any kid who wanted to do the prayer to do it — if 4 kids wanted to pray, they each got to do it. It never failed, at least one kid would give a heartfelt request that nobody would have to be sent upstairs and that they’d all stay downstairs. So sweet.

I will miss this little window into their lives.

The last story I told was the Ascension, a version that includes the line: “This is the mystery, that Jesus went away, but somehow he is still with us.” When I asked how Jesus could still be with us, a few children said, “In our hearts.”

I told that story on purpose, so I could tell them that it was that way with me: I was leaving our church, but I would always be with them, because they were in my heart. They are.