Monday, June 25, 2012

Jumpstart Your Ministry

I was reading a brochure the other day.  It was an informational brochure for a ministry that provided helps of various kinds, in a voluntary capacity.  Cool.  Except the brochure talked more about who they didn't serve, than who they did.  I loved the sorts of things they do.  I loved the idea that an organization or group could contact them and say, "Hey!  We could use some help."  And they would go there and help.  Well, kind of.  But only if you were a certain sort of group or organization.  A very specific sort.  They had a list of prerequisites that the group had to agree to.  They had a list of demands.  In exchange, the group or organization could expect to receive a very specific number of skilled and unskilled hours of labor.  

I'm not entirely sure why, but it made me kind of mad.  Because I still wanted to picture people saying, "Hey!  We could really use some help here."  I wanted to picture these other people pulling up and saying, "We can do that."  And at the end of a long, sweaty day, they would all sit around and eat together.  And after many days like this, they would have had many chances to learn to know one another as they worked side by side.  They would know each others' strengths and weaknesses, and kind of like each other anyhow.  Then, and only then, would anyone care very much what the other one had to say, or thought, or believed.  And after many long, sweaty days, they would talk about that stuff while they ate together.  

They would probably disagree about a great deal, as people are prone to do, but it wouldn't matter because they would be friends anyhow.  And even if they disagreed about a great deal, as people are prone to do, they would enjoy talking about it, and thinking about it, and even arguing about it.  They would marvel that such radically different strangers could become such dear friends.  

I know that people will read this and think, well, that just isn't how things work.  That sort of ministry would never get off the ground.

That's another thing that has been bugging me lately.  I've been watching, and reading, and listening.  It seems as though there are all these ministries trying to get off the ground...trying to pick up steam somehow.  They want to be relevant.  They want to reach people where they are.  They want to be like Jesus, and go eat with the sinners.  Kind of.

Jesus was very cutting edge.  He ate with sinners and tax collectors.  He hung out with lepers and women of ill repute.  He got rebuked for it.  But the thing is this, every time he sat down and ate with another person, every time he touched someone, he was hanging with sinners.  It didn't matter if they were rich young rulers, or devout Jews, or whatever.  They were all sinners.  When I sit down and eat with anyone, I am eating with a sinner, and when I sit down to eat all alone, I am eating with a sinner.

I'm not Jesus.  I am not lowering myself when I eat with sinners.  I am not coming down from some place on high, to bring sinners a gift, or special message (that I have and they don't).  I am sitting with my family.  If I'm lucky we have shared a long day of work together, and we are sweaty and hungry.  It's likely that we'll disagree about a great deal as we sit around the table, as sinners are prone to do.  As families are prone to do.  But we would also marvel that such a rag-tag family could ever be assembled, much less stay together for any length of time.

We'd probably be so tired from our work, and so engrossed in the food and conversation, that we would scarcely have time to think about whether the ministry was getting off the ground.  We probably wouldn't need brochures much either.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Please Help...

I'm writing to ask for some help.  Life has been pretty hard lately.  I have been feeling pretty grim.  Acting grim too.  I've always been of a rather serious nature.  Pretty premeditated and careful.  But I used to know how to have a little fun.  These days I seem to have forgotten how.  It seems like too much work.  And then I find myself sitting in the middle of the fun thinking, "I'm not really having much fun.  What a waste of my time and energy.  I should have gone for the nap."

So I'm looking for some suggestions.  Easy fun.  Fun that requires a little bit of an investment.  Fun with others, fun all alone.  How does one do it?  And how does one stop comparing the fun to sleep?  Or falling asleep during the fun?

***In response to Queen B's comments:  That's just exactly it.  We don't have those children anymore, because they are all mostly grown now.  They will never gather to play in the back yard, or cuddle baby goats, or light saber fight.  The new children are different, and we are different.  Companionship for sure, but even that is different now.  I suppose I haven't liked that for a long, long time.  Which is probably part of the reason why I am so grim, and not so much fun.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Boundaries, shmoundaries....

Recently I've been doing a lot of reading.  Some of it has been books, read from start to finish.  But sometimes it's just me scrolling down the news feed on the old FB, and seeing a friend's status that catches my eye.  Maybe it's a link to a blog post or article, and over time you find yourself clicking your way onto some obscure rabbit trail that you never planned for.  It's how I've found some real treasure lately.

I recently read a blog post that really resonated with me.  It was about boundaries.  I haven't thought much about them lately, other than when I see my challenging children bumbling through life without them.  It's glaringly obvious when they push their way through other people's boundaries and find the person on the other side, shall we say, less than happy about it?  Or not setting them for themselves, and watching them get mashed and mangled in their relationships.

But what about me?  I just always assume I am the expert on all things.  Of course I have a complete and total understanding of healthy boundaries.  I could teach a seminar.

When I was growing up, I thought boundaries meant what stuff you can't touch.  And sometimes it does.  I thought it was the bubble of personal space we have decided is acceptable in our culture.  And sometimes it is.  But that's not all of it.  The post I read described boundaries as "a circle around yourself that brings peace to your heart and world".  As I read it, I realized that this was a foreign concept to me.  It felt selfish.  It felt too "me centered".  

But the thing is this.  The circle around myself has grown so tiny, so constricting, that it feels like a noose.  It definitely isn't bringing me peace.  In fact, I'm mad all the time.  And if I'm continuously crowded, and constricted, and angry, how can I bring peace and joy to anyone at all?  

Another brilliant thing this blog writer said was, "The thing about boundaries is that if you don’t set them in your life someone else will. It’s not their fault for pushing you, it’s yours for allowing it."  

I thought about this for awhile, and I realized something fundamental.  Teens and young adults are boundary pushers.  It is their nature to be so.  And I have six (count them) boundary pushers in my life.  No wonder I feel the way I do!  It's a wonder I haven't been smashed flat as a pancake between a couple of them.  

And so begins the summer project of redefining the boundaries.  I need to map out that circle and figure out just how big it needs to be, and what I'm keeping safe inside of it.  And if you know my temper, who I'm keeping safe outside of it.  It isn't easy for me to do.  It means figuring out what I really need, when I've been trying to survive on scraps.  It means taking time to be still, when I'm used to continual motion.  It means learning to say no, and then remaining firm when the pleading begins.

Here are some areas I need to work on:
  • Over/misuse of the internet in our home
  • Over/misuse of screen time (TV, movies, and computers)
  • Distribution of labor (i.e.  Mom shouldn't do everything for everyone)
  • Respect of my spaces/privacy
  • Respect for my marriage and time with my spouse
  • Guarding times for eating, sleeping, relaxing, exercising, working
  • Guarding quiet, empty times within the context of a large family
  • Letting go of the belief that I must fix everyone's problems and/or remove all struggle from the lives of my loved ones 
  • Letting go of the belief that just because I CAN do something to fix/help, does not automatically make it the right thing to do
  • Letting go of the belief that I must explain myself to anyone any time it is hinted at/requested politely/demanded
OK.  So writing these down, just makes me realize I am barely scratching the surface here.  Plus I have no practical ideas how to do some of these things.  But I do have a few concrete plans, and a few unformed thoughts.  I suspect I should be gentle, which is so foreign to this "take the bull by the horns" kind of gal.  I suspect there is no gentle way to tell teens that their internet privileges are disappearing.  Oh my word, I did not know Netflix was a constitutional right.  Or clean laundry.  Or the use of my car...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Goodbye May...can't say I'll miss you.

I know I don't write often.  I write even less often about our experiences in parenting our medically fragile child, Baby S.  But part of the reason I don't write all that often, is because her care eats up huge tracts of my time.  And most of the time it's boring stuff, kind of like taking care of an infant.  I changed a lot of diapers today.  I fed the baby eight times.  I washed a lot of baby laundry.  I played with the baby.  I was falling asleep in my chair as soon as the baby went to bed.  That sort of thing.

For the most part, we had developed a routine that worked.  Over the course of the last year, baby S had gone from a screaming, inconsolable child to a reasonably contented one.  Her issues with food had resolved.  She had gone from a diet of highly specialized formula, to a diet of pureed, real food.  She gave "growth spurt" new meaning.  Instead of a child living in a pattern of waxing and waning sedation, she was slowly weaning off her huge cocktail of meds.  She was also more aware of her world, which had its good and bad parts.  The good parts meant she could plug in more, and learn more.  The bad parts meant she was more easily overstimulated, irritable, and frustrated.  Overall, we chalked this year up as a good year's work.

Then came surgery.  Baby S had grown so quickly, that it rapidly became evident that her hips were drifting out of joint.  She needed to have her legs and pelvis reconstructed so that they would stay and grow in place.  For the last month we have struggled to care for her.  In the beginning she was clearly in a lot of pain, and everything was a challenge.  But children are great healers, and yesterday we were able to look at x-rays that showed her bones at the time of surgery, and her bones now.  The plates and screws are firmly in place, and new bone growth has filled in all the gaps.  Incisions are clean and clear.  The surgeon was elated.  He pronounced it a success, and expressed his opinion that she should be pain free.  

Which definitely did not explain why she was in the next room, screaming at the top of her lungs, her legs locked into an unlikely pose, vomiting all over the exam table.  

So we moved on to the next appointment of the day, and the next, and the next.  And at each stop she startled everyone with her lung capacity, pained looking positions, and her violent gagging and vomiting.  By all appearances she was a tortured child who needed immediate relief.  And at the end of each stop we were told that she was physically healthy.  Each office full of professionals, and each waiting room full of waiting patients breathed a sigh of relief that the screaming child was leaving...and not going home with them.

We have lost every inch of ground we fought for in the last year, and then some.  Every single one.  Trust and attachment are gone, nowhere to be found.  She rejects nearly all contact.  She rejects the food we put into her stomach.  She prefers to be left in her crib, alone, in a quiet and darkened room.  Everything else is met with vigorous protest.  

It reminds me of when we raised a nest of baby rabbits.  Sure they're cute and fuzzy...but don't go in there.  Don't turn on the light and look at them.  Don't talk or touch them.  Or they'll die.  Just wake up around the clock, hold them enough to get their formula in their bellies, then put them back into quiet seclusion.

It's not fun.  It makes you feel rotten all the time.  There are no good choices.  Every choice you make has negative consequences, and you second guess everything you do.  And you pray that it won't take another year to get your ground back again.  And you pray she won't need another operation when that happens.