Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall Harvest

“Only he can understand what a farm is, what a country is, who shall have sacrificed part of himself to his farm or country, fought to save it, struggled to make it beautiful. Only then will the love of farm or country fill his heart.” 
                                                                            ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944)
Fall harvest, for many farmers, is the last lap of an exhausting race that has been run since the early days of spring, when winter's frost has disappeared and specks of green, breaking through the earth, shouted "Go!" to those who work the earth. 
When the time came for our corn to be harvested, our school year had already begun. The boys could not disguise their itch to get outside and take in some of the harvest action.  So, I threw my schedule and routine and chalk and tiara out the window, piled the babes into the bus and tread down the dusty gravel to the field. Delighted in our decision to abandon school, we forgot to slip on wranglers, work boots and a caps, for one must always dress for the occasion. But, like most things in life, I'm more uptight than they are about things being just right, stars in line, always prepared like a scout.  
They just know how to jump in to the day with both feet, and and savor all that life can bring, every step of the way, unconcerned with discomforts and imperfections. Darn kids.  They always solve the Rubik's Cube of life before I do. (I'm gonna think about that while I eat another fist full of candy corn.)Life at their level just looks different.  They see things that I would never notice. Raccoon tracks and ant hills, a jack rabbit bounding down the narrow lanes. Breaking corn stalks and squishing bugs in the sand is just right for the moment. There are times when moving to the farm has admittedly been extremely difficult. And, all the little broken expectations, stored quietly in my heart, have bled frustration and exhaustion and pain.  Then, quite unexpectedly, the wounds are nursed by experiences that bring comfort, peaceful joy, encouragement.Experiences like taking my boys out to a field where they can run free, play, explore, and break into whoops and hollers at the wonder of a mighty, raucous combine eating up the acres, or a sizable semi-truck waiting in the wings to be loaded with freshly cut kernels.  They are not confined to the barriers of four walls, the invading grip of techno gadgets and ticking of the clock telling them that it's time to move on to the next best thing.    
I was free that day to choose this for them.  How good it was for their little bodies, their little souls, their little lungs, breathing in the goodness of the farm. 
They had no idea that I was actually having more fun than they were, as I watched their every move, their every expression, their every delight.  It was good for me too.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Little Lesson From "The Help"

Last week I had a rare opportunity to spend some quality "girl time" with two very special people, Steve's mom and sister, in Kansas City.  Bidding farewell to the grit and grime of being a mom on the farm for two days was like having an out of body experience.  The entire trip I kept thinking thoughts such as, "Somebody pinch me, I just went to the bathroom alone!" And, " Holy smokes, is that what it feels like to sit and eat at the same time??? Dreamy!!!"

One evening, after a leisurely day of shopping, we decided to order room service and watch a movie (more pinching!!). Relaxed in comfy jammies, with hors d'oeuvres and wine close at hand, we watched the movie The Help.

Rarely do I ever become completely absorbed in a movie. Books tend to have a stronger hold on my attention and affections, but the experience of watching The Help was so very different.

Up front, the movie impresses upon the viewer images of mankind's ongoing disconnect between the objective eternal dignity and purpose of every human soul and the subjective interpretation of his or her external appearances by others. We all wrestle with this disconnect to varying degrees and probably will until the end of time.

In Last Sunday's Gospel reading, Christ proclaims the second greatest commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.  How can something that seems so very simple be so very complicated for us?

In  The Help, the demand of this commandment upon the characters is particularly visible, and yet there were several scenes where the fruit of following this great commandment, of love being chosen, is so apparent, so endearing.

In one particular scene, a little white girl sits upon the lap of her soft-spoken nanny, Aibileen, and they are not distracted by differences, but present to one another, recognizing all that is good, true and beautiful in the mystery of God's presence within each other.

For days following, I kept replaying this scene over and over again in my mind.  At first I experienced the scene in the context of history, trying to untangle the tightly woven cords of reason, or better yet, lack of reason, why since the beginning of time man has taken favor with hate over love, jealousy over charity, selfishness over generosity....sin over salvation.

I kept asking myself, why can't I get this movie out of my head??  Then, it dawned on me, there is something for me to take in, to take home....

And, I hear myself being the "good mom" who is able to juggle macaroni and cheese, football practice, Latin phrases and flower beds, a rhythm of work set to the daily soundtrack of "be nice, say you're sorry, make your bed, finish your work, eat your supper, brush your teeth....."

So often we float through life being told what to DO. We are doers.  Doing is living, living is doing. And from doing we learn about who we are, what we like, how to act and how not to act, what to think, how to feel and when to do this and that.

We want our kids to be good.  Honestly, we want our kids to be great.  But, what if they are learning about being good or great through what they are good or great at doing - sports, music, academics etc. etc.???  What if they go through life seeing everything that they are doing, and not knowing or caring about who they are as being????

Aibileen didn't tell the little girl, "you keep your room so neat and tidy" or "you can dance so wonderfully."  Rather, she was a mirror to the girl of the goodness she saw in her, in who she is as a child of God.

You are kind.  You are good.  You are important.

I would like to begin my week of day-to-days, and end it hearing those words from a reassuring voice.

You are kind.  You are good.  You are important.

How different my day, my days might be if I sipped from the life-giving Spring that flows from my Father's heart.....the one that showers upon me the graces that help me recognize that I am made in the image and likeness of the One who is unfailingly kind, smart, important.

Then, I could breathe those words over the foreheads of my children.  Mixed in with "brush your teeth, study your spelling words and take out the trash", could those words, spoken honestly, spoken earnestly, bless my children with the freedom to be who they are meant to be? To love others as they love themselves?  To recognize their own personal inherent dignity and the dignity of others?

You are kind.  You are smart.  You are important.

Thank you, Aibileen. Thank you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tackling Breast Cancer

Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles.  ~Alex Karras

Yesterday I watched dozens of young boys, brimming with excitement, dash onto the football field ready to earn a victory.  It was a beautiful fall day, cool breeze, bright warm sun, the buzz of families and friends visiting about everything from their kids, to college football rankings to.....cancer.

Acknowledging October as Breast Cancer Awareness month, the YMCA encouraged the little players to show their support by adding something pink to their uniform, and so many of them did.  As bright pink socks and wristbands flashed across the field, lighting up the event like fireflies in July, I wondered how many of those little athletes were wearing pink in honor, or in memory of someone they know, someone they love.
That was the case for my boys. They teamed up with their cousin Ethan and together they wore pink for their Granny, and wore it proudly.

As you read this you can probably think of one or a few persons in your life who have battled breast cancer.  Cancer, just saying it feels so heavy, the weight of it's meaning indescribable.  It has crept into our vocabulary and become as fluid in conversation as the weather and politics.

When a loved one announces that they have cancer, it has a way of stopping you in your tracks, the force compressing your chest.  The word echos through your soul like thunder, the silence after the storm frightening. Slowly you absorb the news, what breath is left inside is exhaled in compassion, in fear, and in hope.  And, that is the story of every breath you breathe each and every day as you wait for the one you love to be healed.

If you are reading this and know of someone who is bravely fighting breast cancer, will you join me in prayer for them, for all of them? Today, may the pink we see around us serve as a reminder for us to wrap each woman in arms of affectionate prayer, with the hope that tomorrow pink will be the color of victory.  A battle hard fought and courageously won.

Father, for the strength you have given me I thank you. 

For the health you have blessed me with, I thank you. 
For the women who are going through breast cancer and their families 
I ask you to strengthen and to heal as you see fit. 
Lord we know you want us to be in good health and to prosper. 
Lord use us to do the work you have for us to do. 
For we know time is getting short on this earth. 
Lord be with every woman who is sick 
and encourage them as only you can. 
I know how faithful you are. 
You have shown yourself to be everything 
you say you are in your Holy Word. 
I praise you for you made this body 
and you can heal this body. 
In Jesus Name I pray. 


(This prayer was found online at a breast cancer support page.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Little Wildcats

Last weekend we took the boys to Manhattan to watch our beloved Wildcats battle on the football field with Missouri.  We had tiger for lunch.  Mmmm-hmmm!
I am still recovering. Packing for and traveling with 6 males who have purple adrenaline pulsing through their veins is beyond any mamas call of duty.  I've been listening to Fleetwood Mac and ZZ Top all week just hoping that their tunes might overtake the marching band's Wabash Cannonball and its unending assault on my brain.  
All drama aside, I seriously love K-State football.  Throw in a tailgate with fantastic Farmhouse friends and sprinkle a little Aggieville on top and it's a recipe for a gooooood time. Notice I said a little Aggieville. As in Varsity Donuts and Hibachi Hut before 10:00 p.m.  Without the kids it would be Varsity Donuts, Hibachi Hut and Kites. Next year, man, next year.  

We also took a spin through campus where I attempted the impossible...
and again.....
this time with bribes and threats....
That's more like it!

While snapping the pics I was caught up in the realization that it had been almost 15 years since I last strolled through this campus harnessed with textbooks, highlighters and hopes for a certain future.  Funny how those plans change....
And, I couldn't help but envision these boys walking the same well worn sidewalks, taking in the rhythm and soul of campus, dedicating hours to study, completely engrossed in their major checking out girls and counting down the hours 'till dollar night in the 'Ville.
Someone please freeze-frame my life.  I don't want these boys to grow up.  Please stay little and let me love you forever, my little wildcats.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eight Was Great But Nine is Fine!

For Andrew on Your 9th Birthday...
Today, for you, is a day of uncontainable excitement. A day of celebration, of pride in knowing that you have successfully graduated from being 8, of soaking up all of the affirmation and love being poured out upon you.  It is a beautiful day. Turning 9. The clock ticks.  The hands of time pushing you on toward 10.  And, it is all going by so very, very fast.
Today, for me, is a day of remembering.  I will look into your rose flushed face all day long and see the baby boy grown big and the big boy who will one day be a man.  And, I will hide behind a smile all of the fragility a mother feels in those glimpses, reassuring you that today is, for me, also a day of celebration. 

I remember with great clarity the day I discovered that you were alive within me.  

Your brother Benedict, only 8 months at the time, played at my feet on the carpeted floor of our tiny apartment, and as I watched him I couldn't stop repeating through tears of delight that he would soon have a sibling. He would soon have you.
I wondered how I would manage with two babies so small.  I wondered, as my womb was stretched, if my heart too could be stretched with more love, love just for you. And, I wondered if my lifetime would be enough time to tell, to show you just how much I do indeed love you.
Andrew, every day that I get to be your mom is a most wonderful gift.  In you I see God's light, manifested in your stillness and your actions, your words and your silence, your smiles and your tears. 
I cherish your joyful spirit, the one that draws others close enough to you so that you can embrace them in your arms and raise them up on your strong shoulders.  You're always watching out for the little ones, always ready to help, ready to give up a little something so that others might receive, always there to encourage at just the right time, always trying so very hard and wanting to do what is right.
Your dreams right now are to become a professional football player and then a priest.  I see how your eyes beam with hopeful confidence when you talk about this. Whatever dreams may fill your heart, I believe that  God has a very special plan for your life, for your strength - physical and spiritual. 
You teach me so very many things....someday we will sit on the porch together and I will tell you about every one of those things.  And, we will laugh, and I will ask you the same question that I have asked you every day since the day you were born, "Andrew, have I told you today that I love you? That you are my most favorite Andrew in the universe?"
I hope that your answer will always be yes.  If someday I forget to ask, please promise me that you will still remember how very much you are loved.

Happy, Happy Birthday!!



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Housekeeping, Football and Vince Lombardi

I thank Thee, O Lord for the gift of football.  I thank Thee also for the gifts of chess and Shakespeare and Beethoven, yet today I be ever more thankful for football.  For Thou who has given me five boys has preserved my sanity (and my furniture) with the gift of football. ~ Amen.
For the past three months, this has been my little prayer of gratitude. 

Out of that prayer has sprung some creative graces.  Graces that turned up that little voice inside (a.k.a. reason) which said, Hey man, if football is life then life will have to relate to football.

I'm not making up this "football is life" stuff.  You'll have to blame Vince Lombardi for that.
Football is like life - it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority. ~ Vince Lombardi 

And so football has become for me a platform from which I might transfer an activity which the boys are wild about into things at home that they are less wild about, like cleaning their room.  Thus, football has turned the gruel of housework into a game victorious.  

My mother-son chat is coded in football lingo these days.  It's consuming me. 

I daydream about play calls (Blue 42 = clean your room, 28 Toss = take out the trash and Wide Wheel 9 = pick up the toys) . 

I dreamed I lost my whistle last night. Then, I woke up and realized I don't own a whistle.  Then, I stubbed my toe while staggering into the kitchen to find a pen to add "whistle" to my grocery list.  Then, I went back to bed and dreamed I forgot the plays.  

I woke up with my hat on backwards thirsty for Gatorade.  
George has volunteered to demonstrate just how this new creative lingo works on any given day.
These are my time out motivators (note: Steve is George's flag football coach.):
George, does your dad have to tell you to run full speed with the ball, or do you sprint as fast as you can toward the goal line?  What's the goal?  That's right, a clean room is a touchdown! Now get to it!
George, does your dad have to remind you to pay attention on the hike, or are you ready every time?  That's right.  Then look at me when I'm talkin' to you, or you're going to miss the ball (my instructions)!
George, does your dad have to tell you to zero in on your opponent and pull the flag on defense? No? That's right, so you need to block out the temptation to play Lego's and focus on getting your schoolwork done!

George, do you fight with your team mates in the huddle, or do you band together and focus on the victory?  That's right, then remember, your brothers are your team mates.  Now get out there and get along!

It's half-time boys (retreat to the locker room and be quiet so mommy can nap)!

Mommy is now too tired to come up with locker-room motivation magic.  So she must resort to more Vince Lombardi stolen quotes:

Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work (mommy's household work).
I'm not sure what I will do when the football season is over.  Wrestling is up next.  That one makes me squirm.  Maybe we'll just have to stick with chess, Beethoven and Shakespeare. And, daddy will have to take me furniture shopping.

Fan appreciation...
Vince appreciation...

I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious.