My sister (huh… I just realized I don’t have a pithy non-name for her the way I do for everyone else I mention in the blog. That-Gorgeous-Creature-Who-Is-Literally-Everything-I-Want-To-Be-When-I-Grow-Up feels a little wordy, though definitely on the nose… let’s call her Superchick for short) has a tried and tested theory that the key to the earth continue to rotate without interruption, at least in the domestic sense, is mothers never sitting down.
I’ll admit it. I used to think this ardent belief of hers was really, deep down, just an excuse to be throwing herself into perfecting her macaron making, which, it has to be said, is second to none.
Let’s pause here while we straighten out a misconception that could be lurking in your young, fertile minds. These are mac-a-RONS, not mac-a-ROONs. The double “oo” is key here. Macaroons are traditionally chunky piles of coconut and chocolate. Any old hayseed can make a macaroon. Even I can make macaroons. Macarons are French: light, colorful meringue cookies sandwiched around any variety of lovely fillings (my personal favorite is a cardamom shell with swiss buttercream and blood orange marmalade filling. Superchick is brilliant). They have their own terminology — they have feet, and macronage (get your mind out of the gutter, it’s something to do with baking), and you thump the cookie sheets on the floor because something about air I can never remember… and it is worth maintaining close friendships with anyone that knows how to make them in the hopes that they will foist their “mistakes” off on you.
Ok, hit play again. Back to the story.
So my sister has observed that her 3 children will happily play, busying themselves with the all the joys of sibling comradery and the sweetness of childhood, until the second she has the audacity to sit down. Sitting down breeds NEED. The need for snacks, the need for explanations about where gravity comes from and why we have nose hair, the need for kisses on bruises and squabbles to be resolved, for towers of blocks to be protected from the littlest and for firm reminders that being looked at is not the same thing as being punched in the nose. And having witnessed this myself, I think I cannot argue with the theory. As the tyrants of recent years continue to insist, follow the science.
In my early years as a parent, my little quail were sick a lot. Have we discussed the unique genetics of Braendleins? Probably not. It is a dark tale, and hard to explain. Suffice to say, the quail all have mitochondrial disease and with that comes a wide range of medical complications, and back in the day, we regularly found ourselves in the hospital. I remember one particularly lousy month — I was finally getting to bring one child home from Seattle Children’s, across the state, and that same day, I had to shower and repack my bag to take another quail to the ER, where she got admitted, and by the time she was discharged, the first kiddo had come down with the same sickness and was being admitted. The Beloved and I swapped kids in the waiting room.
I tell you this to help you understand why it is that for years, I refused to even own a calendar because the joke was that writing something down on the calendar was a surefire way to make sure someone would get sick so that we couldn’t go to whatever the thing was that I was so excited as to write down. Paranoid? Maybe. But it’s funny how something that began as an admittedly dark joke exposed an underlying kink in my spiritual think.
We’ve been spending time together for a month now, so I am told, so I am probably overdue to offend someone regarding Lord of the Rings. Got your tar and feathers ready?
I have tried multiple times to love Tolkein. Honestly. I just have never successfully drowned out the voice in my head screaming, “LIFE’S TOO SHORT!!!” A few years ago, when I finally had my wisdom teeth out (I’ll tell that story one of these days. Do stick around, won’t you?), I was recovering on the couch and figured it was the perfect time to watch the entire set of movies — and yes, I know, Book Purists, they botched Aragorn and Bora-something-can’t-spell-it and you can write your own post about this unspeakable evil. That was 18 hours of my life that I can never get back. But this ramble has a point — and it is the eye of Sauron. You know what I’m talking about, yes? The creepy pulsing eye of flame at the top of the tower and Frodo is trying to dodge it while carrying but not wearing the dangerous trinket — DON”T DRAW THE EYE and all that?
Back to my fear of calendars.
While I would have openly mocked my superstition about writing anything on the calendar, in practice, I had reached a point where I almost feared praying about anything, feared drawing God’s attention to a thing I was looking forward to, because the season of trial was intense and it truly felt that if I prayed about anything, He would worsen the suffering. It felt as if I thanked God for a night of sleep, He would smile on me and think that I had somehow adjusted to the most recent torture, and therefore it was time to crank the electricity to 20. To say that my prayers were hindered in this season is an understatement.
It is humiliating to write this… what a horribly upside-down view of God, for one — how could I have missed His gentleness towards me in the midst of the darkness He had brought? He sustained me, provided what I need and not a moment too early. He still does. And in His kindness, slowly and through trials more painful than those of the early days, He has taught and continues to teach me to pray as a dependent child, full of trust instead of fear. I know I cannot handle what He is giving me. My handling it was never the point. I have always loathed being told that “God never gives you more than you can handle.” What tripe. Being asked to get out of bed this morning with my body actively trying to to kill me with pain is officially more than I can handle. Brushing my teeth (when I get to that) will be more than I can handle. Loving people who are actively lying about me this week is way more than I can handle. But none of it is more than God can handle, and that was the point all along.
But that isn’t actually what I was trying to write about. The silly little superstitions that we joke about often mask a different sort of superstition — the one that says if I am organized enough, spiritual enough, if I serve enough, if I plan enough, I can avoid the trial God is preparing for me. I can’t get cancer — I only eat organic. My kids cannot fall away from the faith — we had nightly devotions at the dinner table starting when I was 8 weeks pregnant. I cannot collapse under the weight of postpartum depression — I prayed for this child. My husband cannot lose his mind — we courted, remained pure… did… everything… right.
As if God cannot, or will not, break through my best plans and most holy obediences to do a greater work than I had the stomach for.
Write it on the calendar. Sit, stand, work, sing, push forward — and trust the God that you have no need to hide from.