Saturday, July 21, 2012

Love was a Black Door

There’s a sweet, tiny, little square house in the middle of a neighborhood of other similar tiny square houses that holds some of my most precious memories. It was a house not big enough to hold much else, but luckily memories aren’t the kind of things that have to be stored in closets or stacked in cabinets…or packed away when you move. Memories from these days are memories of beginnings. I loved my job as a high school English teacher, and my husband was beginning his work as a Nashville police officer, and we were newly married and living in our college town, responsible for only each other and our dog. I had no idea, then, how much those days were responsible for creating us as a family, welding us into a oneness as dresses and black tshirts all squished into tiny closets together, as we waited impatiently at the single bathroom door, as we meshed our lives together to transform his tiny college house into our home.

These were days of drop in friends, silly parties, spontaneous trips, and falling asleep on the couch while I waited on him to get home from work. We got married the day after Thanksgiving because his schedule would be even more unpredictable after graduating the police academy in December. Along the way, we learned to get used to him working crazy shifts with different days off, and we had to learn how to be patient and understanding with each other... which was sometimes accomplished by failing to be patient or understanding and then trying to do better.

And it was in one of these days that he painted the front door black. The architecture of the front of the house consisted of the front door and two windows. One of the windows had an arch over it, so it was our fancy window. The front door had been primed white, but never painted, and it really, REALLY needed painting. My idea was to paint it black to match the shutters, and to keep it from showing dirt so easily, and one day I came home from work to my sweet husband putting the final coat of black paint on our front door as a surprise to me. I was so, so happy that he was so, so thoughtful to spend his day off painting the door simply because he knew it was something I wanted. But I was also just a little dismayed that I came home just in time to see him putting the finishing strokes of black paint on the INSIDE of the front door. The outside looked great painted black, clean and welcoming and new. But the inside looked, well, pretty awful. The wall was taupe, the trim was white, and the black door was not just ugly, it was also scary. Every time I glanced toward the front wall, I had to swallow a small scream because it looked just like the door was wide open, and it was the deepest, darkest middle of the night (even if the fancy arched window clearly showed daytime sunshine streaming in.)

But the black door stayed the black door because was so pleased at his effort to surprise me that I certainly couldn’t tell him how awful I thought the black front door was. And every time I looked at the front door (after I convinced myself the door was closed), I knew that he painted that door black because HE loved ME, and I didn’t tell him how horrible it was because I loved HIM, and all that love would always make me smile... even if I had an ugly black front door.

I don’t know how many months I waited before I told him that I had never intended for the inside of the door to be black and how awful I thought it was, but it was long enough that we both laughed like crazy over it. And we laughed it every time one of us jumped up to close the door that was already closed and locked up for the night.

We never painted the door back white, and although I’m not usually very sentimental, I don’t think I would have wanted to, because in that tiny little square house with the fancy arched window, love was a black front door.

And now we live in a bigger house with more than one bathroom, and our friends call before they come over, and spontaneous trips include an extra fun little boy and extra fun times waiting for Ryder. But sometimes I long for those early days when we were becoming us, while we were living in that sweet, tiny house with the ugly black door. (But if you read this, Cody, love in our current house is most definitely a white front door. Maybe a white front door and a surprise date to eat Italian food. :)

(Picture taken in front of our black door at a Halloween party where our college friends dressed up and came to the house to eat together and hand out candy to our trick or treaters.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Works Cited

In my previous life (dating back to pre-Ryder times), I was an English teacher. I have, therefore, written many, many, many citations for articles, books, websites. It has never been fun. I taught my kids how to write citations. It was never fun...and I like to think that I made not fun learning things fun....but not bibliographic entries. Even the word is no fun.

But I just for the very first time (in either lifetime) wrote a citation for an article in a magazine that I had written. And well...yeah...that was pretty fun. (I am also a big nerd, but I'm pretty sure after reading that last sentence you didn't need me to tell you this :) Sooooo, the citation wasn't really needed, and it was posted at the end of the article I just posted on my blog. (I'm not a big enough nerd to have written an entire paper just so that I could cite my own least not yet, anyways!) But I looked up the format just to make sure that I hadn't forgotten it in the last four years of learning really important which superheros fight with shields and which ones can fly, or how to pack a diaper bag without leaving something important out (not sure I ever actually learned that one, come to think of it :)

Thanks so much to all of you who have left kind comments on the blog and on my facebook page. I've loved writing for my blog where I have no due dates, no grades, and fun background changes, and where so many friends have taken the time to read and to comment on what I have written. I have really enjoyed writing for the fun of it, and although my posts aren't regular, I am determined to keep the blog fun...which means no stressing about it...even if I haven't posted in a very long time or have not a single post about a birthday. But I am grateful to have realized that I actually do like to write and to play with trying to use words to create an emotion or an image or a moment, and I think through all the writing I had to do for school, I had forgotten how to write just for the enjoyment of it.

I was so excited when Cody's mom called to say congratulations on being published. But I was also surprised. I had sent in a few articles to Think magazine a few weeks earlier, but I didn't realize that any of them would be published until she called saying she had seen my article in the magazine while visiting in Middle Tennessee. She didn't have time to read it, so she didn't know what it was about, and it was fun waiting for the subscription to come in, so we could all see what I had written about :) I am very grateful to Think magazine for allowing me the opportunity to write for them, and to see my words on thick, shiny magazine paper! Thank you all for the encouragement you've given me as a friend, a mom, and a writer.

I've posted the article below, along with the know, just in case you might be as big of a nerd as I am :)

***The picture in the post is of Ryder in his Batman costume. This picture is not in the magazine, and the picture of the kid in the cape in the magazine is not Ryder, but the picture they chose is pretty amazing :)

When Christian is a Given

To add to his eating noise, my four year old now has a thinking noise and a loving noise. The loving noise is in Spanish. He likes to wear a cape, his good guy bracelet, and carry a shield while he carries around Mannienewt (his imaginary squirrel) in his pocket. There are so many things I love about this boy, whose name is Batman for today, but one of my favorite things about him is that he is not afraid to be himself.

So when a friend asked on her facebook page, “What one trait would you love to instill in your child. Christian is a given,” I thought about my answer as I read the responses of other friends. I read so many wonderful qualities that thoughtful, precious parents desired to instill in their children. I read each one and agreed that being gracious, or a leader, or grateful, or kind, or sympathetic were certainly qualities that I wanted my son to grow in. In thinking about how much I loved my son’s individuality and how I hope he never loses that under pressures to fit in with others, I decided to type this for my answer. But I was hitting delete before I finished my sentence, because I realized that no one has ever been truer to Himself, His purpose, and His identity than Christ.

I realized then that I needed to renew my definition of a Christian. Yes, a Christian is one who has heard, believed, repented, confessed, been baptized, and tries to live a faithful life. Yes, a Christian should be at worship and be one who is religious. Yes, a Christian should be one who lives a moral life. But, somewhere along the way, I had forgotten that the word Christian means so much more. It means to be like Christ. And in being like Christ, I will have obeyed the commands to become a child of God; I will be honored to assemble to worship my Father, and I will strive to live a moral and upright life before God and man, but really, those are just the basics; the givens among a life much fuller and much more conscious of striving to be Christ-like.

If I am to be a Christian, I am to be thankful. Mark 14:23 tells us that Christ “took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.” Christ gave thanks for the cup, for the fruit of the vine that was to be a remembrance of blood that he would shed in a cruel and violent death for an ungrateful humanity. If Christ gave thanks in this instance, to be Christ like, I should surely be taking more opportunities to be thankful for the many blessings in my life.

If I am to be a Christian, I should be gracious. Christ was gracious to so many as he went about teaching and healing those who were sick. He was gracious when he told the woman caught in adultery to “Go and sin no more” (John 8:10-12). He was gracious to the children and their parents who wanted to see Him, and he told his disciples to “let the little children come to me and do not forbid them” (Mark 10:13-15). He was gracious as he told a tax collector to come down from a tree, and he went to visit at his house-despite the objections of those who were supposed to be religious (Luke 19). Jesus took the time to respond to people who were in need of graciousness and mercy, and He changed their lives. Perhaps by taking the time to respond to people with graciousness, I can lead others to Christ, truly believing He can still change lives.

If I am to be a Christian, I am to be a leader. Christ took twelve apostles who were largely uneducated, poor, and ordinary, and taught them to change not only their lives, but the world in which they lived through the gospel. Christ taught that His followers are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5). If I am to be like Christ, it must be my mission to lead people to God.

And if I am to be a Christian, I must not change who I am in order to fit in with others. Others expected Christ to be born as royalty, to be a military leader, to set up an earthly kingdom. They certainly didn’t expect him to be born in a stable, converse with a Samaritan woman, and submit to a cruel death. Christ’s identity as the Son of God was steadfast in the face of temptation, betrayal, and death. If I am to be like Christ, I must know that I am created and loved by God for the person He made me to be, and not listen to the world’s attempts to have me fit in to any other expectations that are contrary to the will of God.

` I am thankful to my friend for her thoughtful question, and to the responses that prompted me to think so much more about what it means when being a Christian is a given. And since I have considered that being thankful, kind, sympathetic, gracious, humble, strong, a leader, a person who is unafraid to be Himself would all be present in one who is striving to be like Christ, I think my answer to my friend’s question would be something along the lines of hoping Batman learns to be a great cook who loves to clean the dishes.

Hinson, Kristy. "When Christian is a Given." Think June 2012: 24. Print.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Letting Go

Ryder climbed up the yellow wall on the playground. He stood gripping the top of the wall with one hand, the blue railing of the doorway with his other, and he was nudging his foot slowly over. He looked so big, way up high with his shiny shoes and his MTSU hoodie that he had dressed himself in for our February picnic and park day. Kids were laughing and running, and Ryder was silent and concentrating. In just a few moments, hands and feet came together, and he was running on the top level of the playgym, ready to slide down and start all over again.

He was oblivious to my fears below as I let him climb. I let him hold on with one hand while he reached for that bar with another. I watched as his tongue traced his lips in his concentrating pose. I wanted to tell him not to climb so high, not to let go with his hand, and most definitely to not stick his tongue out.... because every mother knows that is a sure way to bite your tongue completely off. But I didn't. I stood there silently, and I let him climb.

I stay at home with Ryder now, and we plan to homeschool when that comes...but no matter how much I am with him, I can't stop the process of being a mother learning to let go, and he is just three. I don't miss him being a little baby at all. I most definitely don't want to go back to those days of babbles and drools and me being his only means of locomotion. So much of my joy in him is learning who he is, and watching the boy, and eventually (very, very eventually :), the man he is on his way to becoming. But fighting that motherly urge to fix all his troubles and jump up every time he falls takes effort, and lots of it! And he is JUST THREE. His troubles usually revolve around an issue with sharing or with who is going to be Batman today, and while those are major to him, I know they are such small things compared to what he is going to face as he gets older. And there is a line, a tiny, almost invisible line that I am going to have to learn as a mother between letting him work things out on his own, and between keeping him safe and protected, and sweet and nice in a world that does not promote sweetness and niceness.

He is just three, and today he climbed all the way up the sunny yellow wall. And I watched silently...from my place directly beneath him, ready to catch him if he fell. (And I use catch loosely, because it would have more accurately been a softening of the fall, as both of us landed in a tangled heap on the ground). I hope I can always be standing beneath him, as I'm waiting for Ryder to grow and climb, even when one day, when he's older than three, and he's climbing out of my reach.

***Written in February 2011, but not posted.

Growing Up

I hold you in my lap now, and wonder how you ever fit curled up in my arms, with your long legs that reach to the floor, and slender arms that can squeeze the tightest hugs. After bathtime is the best with hair sticking up everywhere that smells of No More Tears shampoo, and a belly just starting to lose that toddler roundness, and wrinkly toes and a shiny clean face that I know will only last until the next jelly sandwich...if that long. And it takes extra long to comb your hair and brush your teeth and get on your pajamas because I am listening to you rattle off stories and questions and songs and happiness and right now, you still fit in my lap, head tucked underneath my chin, warm and cuddly, and full of warmth.

 And it's in these moments that I understand what parents mean when they say they don't want their kids to grow up. Because of course they want their kids to grow up, to learn and see and laugh and become. But I think maybe we mean that we don't want our kids to stop making up stories, and being proud that they picked up their toys without being asked. We don't want them to look in the sky and see clouds instead of dragons and trains and swords. I don't want him to look in the mirror and ever doubt that the person he sees is beautiful and wonderful and special and loved and created by God. I don't want him to stop giving me hugs and saying I love you and wanting to know who I think the bestest superhero ever is. I don't want you to realize that I don't have all the answers, and I can't fix all your problems, and that sometimes you will need more than a kiss and a band aid. Maybe what we really mean is that we want you to grow up; we just want you to do so without losing all of the child that you are now.

So while you are waiting for me to read your bedtime story, just know that I am treasuring these moments with you, and I am loving watching you grow and become the most amazing person I have ever met. And when I make you promise that you will never be too old to hug your momma, well, just count on it that I'm planning to hold you to that no matter how big you are. Because you may grow to be too big to sit in my lap one day, but your whole life will fit in my heart forever, and you will never outgrow that.