Saturday, September 27, 2008

MOPS: Adventures in Mothering

Do you remember your first trip to the carnival as a young child? The whirling, blinking rides; the fragrant funnel cake booth; the carnival workers shouting from the midway, “Step right up! Winner every game!” My own early impressions of the carnival are full of wonder and excitement, coupled with a bit of being overwhelmed at all the sights, sounds, smells and crowds that are a part of the whole.

Motherhood brings its own carnival-like experience to our lives, doesn't it? The constant barrage of little voices, dinners, diapers, playdates, baths, shopping, and more can leave us as dizzy as if we had ridden the ferris wheel all day. Yet the little victories—first steps, quiet snuggles, moments when the kids get caught doing good—bring as much excitement as if we had just won the giant teddy bear from the ring toss booth.

Our MOPS theme this year is “Adventures in Mothering.” In salute to all those carnival moments, we will bring you topics such as “Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster” and “Surviving the Relationship Tilt-a-Whirl.” Through this theme, we hope to convey the deeper adventure of experiencing Christ's love in our hearts.

In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul shared what is our unifying thought for this year: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:17,18)

For years I translated that thought to simply refer to the fact that we cannot get away from God's love. But then I took a moment to think about the significance of each word. The love of Christ is wide, encompassing the whole earth. Truly, I cannot get away from it. His love is long, lasting from the beginning of time and through our lifetime and beyond. Christ's love reaches deep enough to grab us from the pit of doubt, discouragement, and despair; and then reaches high enough to place our rescued selves in the very throne room of God. What an amazing prayer this turns out to be!

We know life with children is a never-ending adventure, and we at MOPS desire to be here with you as you navigate the carnival rides inherent in early childhood. It is our hope and prayer that through your participation this year in MOPS, you will have a chance to be rooted in love, and may have a fresh understanding of how wide and long and high and deep is Christ's love for you. Blessings to you as we journey through this year together.

This article was first published in the newsletter of my local MOPS chapter, targeted at mothers of preschoolers. The national theme for this year is "Adventures in Mothering." This entry was the first in the series that will continue throughout the school year.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hurricane Thoughts

Hurricane Ike aerial view

I have officially weathered my first hurricane in Texas. Ike made landfall late Friday night along the coast, then began to move northward toward us. We were wakened Saturday morning around 5:30am by wind whipping around our house. The kids came to find us and shared space in our bed for a few more hours, while we listened to the moaning through the crack in the back door.

The sounds and the sensation of being blown by the wind (although our house stood very sturdy) showed me how a hurricane can, indeed, have a personality. It was as if a malignant force settled over the street and the house, threatening anything in its path. I can only imagine if the wind had been stronger, or the rain more... rainy. Brazos County officials reported this as a "brush" with the true force of the storm. If that is true, wow.

I am kicking myself at the moment that I did not think to pull out my phone and take a photo or two of our tree bowing in the wind. Found out later that we experienced about 3.3 inches of rain, and sustained winds of about 50 MPH, gusting up to about 70 MPH. It was predicted to be even more intense, but at the last moment the storm turned a bit more to the east and we were west of the eye by about 30 miles, I think. Ten hours of rain and whipping wind were quite enough for me, thank you very much. This isn't my palm tree, but it conveys some of what we felt.

Ike made his presence felt from Texas to Canada, dumping rain and downing power lines in a powerful sweep up through the central states. Even my parents in Ohio experienced Ike's fury, as they spent about 48 hours without power. What in the world, that a storm we experienced in Texas would 24 hours later be knocking on their door?!?

As I mentioned in my previous post, we were able to fulfill our role as a safe haven for thousands fleeing the coast. Additionally, in the wake of the storm, most of the rural counties surrounding us have lost power. More than a million and a half customers in Houston are still without power. And residents of Galveston, well, it sounds like there just is nothing left to go home to.

Our community continues to provide support for those who are still trying to work out their next steps. Those in the rural counties are driving here for groceries, and gasoline for their generators. The streets here are busier than usual, but we are all just so grateful to have experienced such a slight disruption in our own business.

I did decide to go out today to fill my tank, as lines have been long this week but are lessening as Houston begins to reopen for business. I think the surrounding counties are beginning to come back online, although there will be many without power for as long as two to three weeks. We were fortunate indeed, and I hope to remain aware and grateful for the blessings I have.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Weather Personified

In the last six weeks I have gotten to know a few personalities that were born, traveled, and vanished in the span of 20 days. Edouard was my first. He seemed about to visit me, but apparently became broken up over the prospect of traveling so far. Then I became acquainted with Fay, whom I knew only by reputation. And of course my friend Gustav, who made his presence felt in a bigger way, yet in the end did not live up to the reputation which preceded him. Cousin Hanna traveled in other circles, so I did not know her well. But now her crazy brother Ike seems to be the one who is about to personally shake my hand.

Perhaps you have met Ike, too. Here is his mugshot, although it changes from day to day:

Living in hurricane country has helped me begin to see these gigantic circular storms as deserving of the personification we give to them. I think they would have even more presence if I were down on the coast of Galveston watching them blow in, but I am starting to understand that when a storm interrupts your life, it somehow helps to have a name to blame it on.

Although we live just a bit too far inland to ever worry too much about any but the most major and direct of hurricanes, our little corner of the world has been designated a safe place for coastal residents to flee in the event of a weather emergency. And so, today Ike has become the first in my tenure here to make his impending arrival something to disrupt my own routine.

As Brazos County prepares to accept a large number of Houston area evacuees, all resources are being diverted toward that cause. To that end, classes at A&M, as well as the local school districts, have cancelled classes for tomorrow. Kids up north get snow days; apparently we get hurricane days.

I realize that for me, this is still something of a lark. I have never personally witnessed the devastation of a storm of this size. But I am also aware that beyond my own sphere, these recent storms have brought a 1-2-3-4 punch to the island nations of Haiti and Cuba.

My heart breaks as I read that hundreds of people have died, and more than 800,000 people have been made homeless in these poor countries within the last month.

I don't know that words can ever convey the real meaning of "total devastation" until one has experienced it. I have been blessed never to have come close enough to make it real in my own mind. But I do know the One who knows the depth of sorrow of every mother, brother, and child who is living through loss right now, and I know he cares.

I am moved to pray that this hurricane season will mercifully end soon; and that aid can be allowed to reach those who need it the most. God, bless the souls whose lives have been ripped to shreds, and give them strength to begin again.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I am very hot at the moment. This first week of school, I have been arriving 30-50 minutes early to wait in line to pick up Maren after school. I remember last year, if I weren't at the beginning of the line, it would take forever to get through to pick her up. So this year I just decided to suck it up and go extra early so she doesn't have to sit out in the heat waiting for me. Next week I will come a little later, as the line will both move more quickly and have fewer cars in it.

But for now, I am hot waiting in this line. And boy am I glad I have a bottle of water with me. Water is a funny thing, isn't it? Someone has figured out they can make money by packaging and selling this most plentiful element on earth. And now we all pay for the privilege of carrying portable water with us everywhere we go.

As I was setting up utilities for my new house a few weeks ago, I was struck by how water even dominates our bills. I have arranged to pay for one utility company to pipe water into my house; a second to heat my water for me; a third to power my refrigerator to filter the water I want to drink; and a fourth to take the water away when I am finished with it. I am even paying a fifth company for peace of mind in case water ever leaks inside and damages my beautiful new house! Whoever says water is free isn't paying the utility bills.

In this world where even water isn't free, Jesus offers free water to all who ask for it. In John 4 we read that Jesus offered living water to a woman he met at the local watering hole, and even promised that once she drank this special water she would never be thirsty again. The water he referred to was eternal life, something that transcends any momentary needs we have. Imagine a modern-day company offering a product so satisfying that you would never need to replace or upgrade it!

Sometimes I lose sight of just how satisfying Jesus' eternal gift is, even in terms of my everyday life. I fret over the unknown, begrudging the pressures and stresses that constantly seem to crop up. But the whole point of the Christian life is that we are guaranteed to have troubles of many kinds; yet we can have peace anyway, because Jesus has overcome all the troubles life can throw our way.

Sitting in my hot car on this hot day, I choose to look at my water bottle and be reminded of Jesus' oh-so-satisfying gift of eternal life. What is a little sweat on my brow today, compared with the greatness of knowing I will spend the rest of eternity in comfort, in the presence of the one who made me?

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Not even a cold drink of water.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. [Psalm 73:25-26]