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Red Bucket

I always walked right past them, usually with eyes averted or a sheepish smile and a murmured “Merry Christmas.”

 

Until last year.

 

Firefly was only two and I held her little hand tightly as I absentmindedly rushed her past the red bucket and the bell-jingler. We stepped through the doors and I breathed a quick sigh of relief as the warmth of the drug store hummed over us. But she was old enough to start asking questions and her two-year-old queries halted me.

 

“Mama, what is the red bucket? Why do people put money in it?”

 

Before, my excuse for my hard-to-come-by generosity had been that I never carry cash and I pass by so many of those Red Kettles throughout the Christmas season – how could I possibly give to all of them? Oh, and my wallet’s change pocket? Well, my meager amount of pennies just seemed too  . . . meager.

 

But now she was asking if she could drop money in the bucket.

 

We walked out of the store, she with pennies in hand, and with a plink, plink, plink, her little heart gave too. And she changed me.

 

She asked about that bucket all year. Her little two -, then three-year-old brain, remembered right where it was. We drove past the drug store, the summer sun warming our skin through the car windows.

 

“Mama, why is the red bucket only there at Christmas?” She had asked inquisitively.

 

Her questions churned within me. And again, from the mouth of a child, my heart learns to lean a little closer toward the One who whispers. He’s the One whose Red Covering washes us clean and whose joy can fill us to overflowing….

 

Christmas season arrives again and she squeals excitement at the first glimpse of a red bucket. We walk out of the automatic doors of Wal-Mart, and she stands, hands cupped, as I dig through my wallet, trying to find as many silver coins as I can. The bell-jingler sits and waits patiently. She wears an oversized black and white parka and a dark toboggan, trying to keep warm. Her eyes smile as her cocoa-colored hands tilt the red bucket toward Firefly. I watch as my child steps on her tippytoes, dropping her coins, one by one, into the cross-shaped slot.

 

My heart slows.

 

The bell-jingler’s eyes meet mine and I wish her a Merry Christmas as she simultaneously bids us a blessed one.

 

We take a short step out from under the store’s towering shadow. Our eyes have to squint in the December sunlight.

 

 

Repost from Christmas 2010

More is More

I think I can count the number of flower bouquets from him on one hand.

 

Let’s see . . . one, two….

 

Yup, one hand.

 

My husband’s not much of a romantic in the familiar use of the word. Anything that feels the least bit contrived, like Valentine’s Day? He’d rather do without it, thank you. As a young bride, it took me awhile to see past this seeming bah-humbug way of his and into his heart.

 

But I can’t count the number of times this man of mine has surprised me with a long-desired CD, or maybe one of which I knew nothing, but promptly fell in love with. Two or three times a year, he’ll get that sheepish grin on his face and hand me a nearly-square plastic case — handpicked songs and lyrics that, unlike a spray of dried roses, still speak to me.

 

We’ve always been lovers of music, he and I.

 

We used to take piano lessons from the same music teacher back in our highschool days. Our teacher was a lady with short, silvery hair and large-rimmed glasses, with no children of her own. She was devoted. Once a month, her students would meet in classes according to advancement and she would teach music theory. They were extremely boring and nerve-wracking classes, as we’d have to critique one another’s performance of a recital piece. I suddenly began, however, to look forward to those once-a-month meetings as I got to know a particular brown-haired, brown-eyed boy who rocked at Grieg and Williams and Beethoven. Our teacher had two pianos in her darkly lit, red-carpeted basement and she would pair us off to work on scales, arpeggios and chords. I loved it when he and I got paired off. 🙂

 

Technique. Oh, how I hated it, but I was fairly good at all the little exercises because I could pretty much sight-read anything placed in front of me. I quickly learned that this guy who often sat next to me had a difficult time sight-reading but was a whiz at playing by ear.

 

 

It was several years before I told him that I used to purposefully stumble over my notes so that he wouldn’t feel embarrassed. 🙂 He looked at me like I was crazy.

 

So while, I could quickly read notes, my musical talent pretty much ended with the need for sheet music sitting right in front of my eyes. He on the other hand, wooed me at the piano, playing music that simply poured out of him. No sheet music, no rules, no lines. I could hear the sentiment. I could hear the dreams, the aspirations, the longings.

 

He won my heart while pouring his all over black and white.

 

 

He woos me like that in the everyday.

 

I think it’s partly my personality, and partly the fact that I grew up as the oldest of eight children, but I quickly learned that life goes much smoother if you just don’t rock the boat. Follow the black and white lines, follow the rules, don’t listen too much to your heart’s undertones and things will be much easier for everyone involved.

 

And this is probably mostly true in many relationships and aspects of life. Certainly, in a household of eight children, my parents didn’t need one more strong-willed, needy person to tend to. Growing up, I did a lot of dying to self . . . by keeping quiet. These were invaluable life-lessons for me.

 

But in the intimate relationship as a wife, I am learning that my “dying to self” sometimes looks exactly the opposite. This husband wants me to voice my needs? He wants me to open up to him? He wants more of me?

 

In the beautiful, intimate confines of marriage, the giving up, the laying down of me . . . is to give more me??? To not remain silent, but to knock? To ask? Receive? No holding back, no stumbling over who I am to supposedly make things easier for him?

 

This is a vulnerable place to be. This is scary. This is much more risky.

 

It is much easier to be low-maintenance.

 

And it is my downfall. Because my “gift” of being easy to live with and keeping a low-maintenance personality is laden with pride and the comfort of hiding behind invulnerable walls. It takes strength to come humbly and admit need or desires.

 

 

Whether he realizes it or not, he leads me to Him, just in the asking me to set aside all former pretense. All the safe practices of self-sufficiency.

 

They both call me.

 

Listen.

Come.

Pour out my heart.

No hiding behind safe black and white.

I dare.

Joining other women discussing marriage today at....

 

Deliverance

I shook my head again and again. “I can’t do this,” I kept saying – only internally, because the pain wouldn’t let the words leave my lips. Wave after wave of uterine contractions. One hand gripped the bedrail, the other clutched onto my husband’s poor hand. I searched his eyes, begging for help. He encouraged and said all the right things, but I just wanted to run away from myself. The baby was coming, nonetheless, and I could only be delivered from the pain by embracing more of it. I had a job to do . . . liberate a baby from my body-cocoon, but I was in the dreaded “transition” and I had run out of resolve. I had done this one time before, so I knew where I was, what was coming, and that the memories of the pain would fade. Regardless, I was in that frantic, feverish state, just wanting someone to deliver me.


Any woman who has ever delivered a baby knows that you have no choice in the giving up. You have no power to stop that baby from coming. And you don’t really want to. But you do. Because childbearing is one of the most taxing things you will ever do for the good of another life.

 

But the urgency for deliverance doesn’t end in the delivery room, does it?

 

The last couple of days, I feel like I have been in emotional transition in this childbearing phase of life. Delivering those babies of mine was only the beginning. If you are raising children, you know, you are giving up your body, mind and spirit every. single. day.

 

Because when that sippy cup is dropped on the hardwood floor for the twentieth time and the sound reverberates and the very vertebrae of my spine rile, I need to swallow that “contraction”, pick up that dropped cup, maybe say, “No, no” and let it go.

 

Every time the contraction of arguing with Firefly about whether or not to wear leggings under that dress, or wearing her brown sneakers instead of her adorable black boots, wears upon my soul, I need to take a deep breath, be the parent, not react, maybe let her decide, but definitely direct her heart.

 

Every time the contraction of seeing those toys on the floor that I just picked up (not three minutes ago) comes around, I need to stifle my murmuring and hold tight to the One whose grip will not let me go.

 

These are just the little contractions of motherhood. But they are constant. The seemingly little things can wear a mother thin, dissipate any semblance of confidence in her abilities, and make her want to run away and hide from the very things that she treasures with all her heart.

 

Whining.

 

Load after load of laundry.

 

Crumbs continually on the kitchen counter.

 

Toothpaste in the bathroom sink again.

 

That afore-mentioned sippy cup battle.

 

Battles of the will.

 

Another dirty diaper?

 

Knocks on the bathroom door when you’ve only been missing for 30 seconds.

 

“But I wanted such and such for dinner!”

 

Forgetting to stash the diaper bag.

 

And the wave after wave of giving yourself up for these simple tasks, directing a child’s heart, or the overwhelming desire for just a little break, is enough to make a girl wonder if she was cut out for a 24/7 job like this.

 

But I keep thinking on this passage:

“And women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” 1 Timothy  2:15

 

What on earth does that mean?????

 

I wonder if it means more than just physical labor and delivery . . . do you think it means childrearing? Because I certainly feel like motherhood helps me see more and more of my need for His cleansing sanctification than anything else.

 

I desperately need to have faith that he has given me enough strength and will give me enough wisdom to raise these two beautiful, little lives.

 

I desperately need true love for these two girls of mine. Love that guides, disciplines when needed and helps me lay my own wants and desires down at the foot of the cross.

 

And I desperately need a holy propriety in daily living with my children. All too often, I’ve been known to yell, become frustrated too easily, react and give in to plain, old grumpiness.

 

Oh, dear Father. Rescue me from running away from true deliverance. Because the more I fight to have more “me time”, or quiet, or a spotless home that bears no resemblance to one housing a busy, living family, the more the contractions of motherhood take the breath of your Spirit from me.

 

Please, yet again, bring life to my limits.

Red Bucket

I always walked right past them, usually with eyes averted or a sheepish smile and a murmured “Merry Christmas.”

 

Until last year.

 

Firefly was only two and I held her little hand tightly as I absentmindedly rushed her past the red bucket and the bell-jingler. We stepped through the doors and I breathed a quick sigh of relief as the warmth of the drug store hummed over us. But she was old enough to start asking questions and her two-year-old queries halted me.

 

“Mama, what is the red bucket? Why do people put money in it?”

 

Before, my excuse for my hard-to-come-by generosity had been that I never carry cash and I pass by so many of those Red Kettles throughout the Christmas season – how could I possibly give to all of them? Oh, and my wallet’s change pocket? Well, my meager amount of pennies just seemed too  . . . meager.

 

But now she was asking if she could drop money in the bucket.

 

We walked out of the store, she with pennies in hand, and with a plink, plink, plink, her little heart gave too. And she changed me.

 

She asked about that bucket all year. Her little two -, then three-year-old brain, remembered right where it was. We drove past the drug store, the summer sun warming our skin through the car windows.

 

“Mama, why is the red bucket only there at Christmas?” She had asked inquisitively.

 

Her questions churned within me. And again, from the mouth of a child, my heart learns to lean a little closer toward the One who whispers. He’s the One whose Red Covering washes us clean and whose joy can fill us to overflowing….

 

Christmas season arrives again and she squeals excitement at the first glimpse of a red bucket. We walk out of the automatic doors of Wal-Mart, and she stands, hands cupped, as I dig through my wallet, trying to find as many silver coins as I can. The bell-jingler sits and waits patiently. She wears an oversized black and white parka and a dark toboggan, trying to keep warm. Her eyes smile as her cocoa-colored hands tilt the red bucket toward Firefly. I watch as my child steps on her tippytoes, dropping her coins, one by one, into the cross-shaped slot.

 

My heart slows.

 

The bell-jingler’s eyes meet mine and I wish her a Merry Christmas as she simultaneously bids us a blessed one.

 

We take a short step out from under the store’s towering shadow. Our eyes have to squint in the December sunlight.