Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bedwetters in the House of God

We have a persistent bedwetter in our house. Having been a bedwetter myself, I sympathize with her. She tried and tried not to wet the bed, but usually failed. She was so excited about nights she made it through, and so disappointed on nights she didn't. Wanting to see our girl succeed at what she attempted, Jeff and I took on ourselves the responsibility of bringing her to the bathroom around midnight every night. She doesn't even know we get her up most nights. Sometimes she'll say in the morning, "Mom, I didn't go to the bathroom last night, and I didn't wet the bed!" I smile, because I know her dad brought her to the bathroom, and without his help, she fails every time.

Several months ago, after she'd had a dry night (with our help), I realized that God's heart towards His children is that they succeed. He offers us the help we need because we are too immature to do it on our own. He finds joy in our joy at reaching a milestone -- even though it was His work that got us there. I don't know why one child at the age of two or three stays dry all night, and another is still wetting the bed at twelve. But I know both are loved by their father. And they both seem to mature eventually.

"We are afraid to take God as our tender Father. We think of Him as a schoolmaster or an inspector, who knows nothing about us except through our lessons.

"Now open the ears of your heart, timid child of God! We aren't supposed to learn to be holy as a hard lesson at school so we can make God think well of us. We are to learn it at home with the Father to help us. God loves you not because you are clever or good, but because He is your Father. The Cross of Christ does not make God love us. It is the outcome of His love to us. He loves all His children: the clumsiest, the dullest, and the worst...

"Think about how He knows us personally, as individuals with all our peculiarities, our weaknesses, and our difficulties. The master judges by the result, but our Father judges by the effort. Failure doesn't always mean fault. He knows how much things cost and weighs them carefully where others wouldn't... His great love understands the poor beginnings of His little ones, clumsy and simple as they may seem to others."
(Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer)


A prayer: You who ask us to help others with their burdens cannot leave us to toil under ours alone. My responsibilities are too great for me to bear. Help me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Conversation

"How fat is God?" Talia asked Elisa.

Elisa's patience was thin. "Talia! I haven't seen Him! I don't know!"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Scattered Sheep

I've had something on my mind to write for a week or two, and have been mulling it over. A passage in my children's read aloud today pulled it together in my mind. We were reading from Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates. A young boy named Peter was sent out to "shepherd" the flock for the first time. (A wise old shepherd remained close by, working at another task.) Peter fell asleep after lunch, the sheep dog was tending to an anxious ewe and her twin lambs, and the sheep scattered. When Peter woke up, the sheep were gone, the dog was gone, and he didn't know what to do. Benj, the wise old shepherd who had not been far, helped him to gather them and right it all.

"It doesn't take much to keep them together," Benj said quietly, "but once they get separated, it's a lot of work to bring them together again."

Jesus commanded us one major thing in regard to how we treat each other. Love one another. He said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34,35)

Romans 12 says, "Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality..."

I've been thinking about how love without hypocrisy ought to behave toward the body of Christ. Whenever bitterness comes in, we excuse ourselves from Jesus' commandment to us. "They wronged me. They're hypocrites." We exempt ourselves from this command when our brother or sister has hurt us, or wronged us, or paid us less than we were worth, or just didn't respond to our need that they didn't know we had. Their failure is all too evident to us. We see every flaw, because we're family to them. We know every mistake they've made, every time they've tripped. And we count their sins as worth twice as much as ours, because their mistakes cost us something.

Beloved, let us love one another -- LOVE is of God. Accusing the brethren is not of God. Love is of God. Preferring others over myself is of God. Kind affection toward my brothers and sisters is of God. Patience in tribulation is of God.

I love my husband. Shall I then make a long list of all his failures over the last 11 years of our marriage? Every sin against me? Shall I post them on a website's message board? Who is the hypocrite in love if I do that? I am. Love suffers long, and is kind. Love acts like Shem and Japheth acted toward Noah (they were blessed). Knowing him to be drunk and naked in the tent, they went in backwards to cover him -- to protect him from shame. It doesn't act like Ham, who exploited his father's failure: who mocked -- and told everyone he saw.

Love comes alongside to help lift a heavy burden that his brother is carrying. It doesn't watch him falter under it and post a picture in the news. I may be right in every assessment of my brother's sins, failures, and negligence. Where does that leave me? Will I act like Jesus, reaching out to heal? Or will I grab my camera and my notepad to document their wrongdoing and publish it abroad?

I was sickened to read lists of grievances online by Christians against members of the body of Christ. They probably didn't see it that way, because it was against "the church".

We were forgiven so much. Can't we forgive our brothers? So what if we were wronged? Does nursing my grievance serve Christ? When we forgive, we unite ourselves in action with Christ, who forgave us. When we make lists, and check them twice, and accuse our brothers, we unite ourselves in action with the accuser of the brethren.

There is a place to pour out our hurts and our anger. To our Father in prayer -- not to the world. Pour it out to Him. And if someone has sinned against me, Jesus told me to go to that person.

I am asked by the One who forgave me to forgive. How can I refuse Him? Are even His commands trumped by my measly little owie? Is my dignity of such value to me that when my Savior asks me to forgive my brother I will not? Have I forgotten Him? No one owes me a debt so great that my own debt to Christ is not bigger. And He took it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Can't I nail my brother's debts there, too? It may be a real debt I am owed. SO WHAT? I owed more. Christ is worth more to me than the sum of all the debts of every brother who ever stepped on my foot.

"If he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account." (Philemon 18)

"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us..." (Ephesians 4:30-5:2)

"Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ."

"May the God of patience and comfort grant you to be likeminded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God." (Rom. 15:5-7)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Grabbing up the Gift

I'm sure you've all taken food samples from Sam's Club before.

Lately, whenever I've gone by those little sample stands, my attention has been caught by the people waiting for the handouts. There are two kinds: adults and children. The adults almost all walk casually up, and wait expectantly just within reach.

The attendant will say robotically, "Would you like to try _____?"
And the adult says (as though he is doing the attendant a favor), "Sure."

The children, on the other hand, run up to the person with their hands out, and blurt out, "Can I have one?"

I've contemplated the two ways of receiving a gift. The one is much more dignified. But the other is what God wants from us. I've often heard Jacob faulted in the Old Testament for his grasping at the blessing that was promised to him by God. Interestingly, of the two, it is Esau who was faulted by God. Willing to sell his birthright for a full stomach, he found no place for repentance. Jacob wanted what God had. Rahab wanted what God had. Tamar wanted what God had. And all of those people considered the gift of God of more value than their family relationships, their pride, their security, their homes.

"Assuredly I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3,4)

"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Papa's Stories

In the last year or so, I have been really enjoying emailing my Papa. I started asking him questions about his life (since my acquaintance with him has been much briefer than his life). I've loved hearing about the farm he grew up on, the food his mom cooked, the snakes in the creek he swam in, the house that was taken out by a tornado while they weren't in it. We grandkids don't often think about our grandparents riding their own homemade rafts down muddy creeks into fences. Or sleeping in the kitchen on a cot. Or having fruit fights.

I've enjoyed hearing about his time in the service. And the first time he saw Grandma. My memories of Grandma include her jumping on the trampoline with us kids, and riding my bike when I was seven, so I wasn't too surprised by the stories about her.

I heard my mom's memories of her parents all my life, from the view point of a kid looking at adults. It's a blessing to hear their memories themselves.

If your grandparents are alive, ask them about their lives. I have enjoyed becoming friends with my Papa. Our lives are so much richer when we have something other than our own histories to remember. It seems to me like the 60's generation has been commemorating itself since I was born, and America began a long time before 1960. It puts some things in perspective to hear about them first hand.

Thank you, Papa, for taking the time to tell me your stories. I love them. And I love you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sister's Keeper

Talia is not permitted upstairs without an older sibling.
(This helps us to preserve our home intact.)
"Talia! Come downstairs! You're not allowed to be up there alone," I yelled.
After a pause, her voice drifted down. "God's with me, though."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Why Johnny Can't Read

I'd like to tell you about a difficult day in the pursuit of knowledge.

We began schooling after breakfast, as we usually do. Five minutes into our language arts (the first subject we tackled), I heard unusual crunching sounds and laughing in the kitchen. I looked suspiciously through the door and saw Silas sitting on the floor amidst the broken eggshells of our breakfast, gleefully smashing them and smearing them everywhere he could reach with a dirty rag. Talia watched, delighted. Lessons halted while I washed his hands and shooed Talia from the kitchen. One student was required to restrain the prisoner while I mopped up the Salmonella and took out the trash.

Ten minutes later, we returned to our schooling -- for five minutes. I was interrupted by Talia, who was sitting in an empty diaper box in the living room. Wide-eyed with guilt, she called out, "I peed!"

I ran to get her out, hoping to remove the box before it leaked onto the carpet. Snatching her out of the box, I set her in the laundry room. In the living room, I picked up the box and tried to transport it without spilling it. I wasn't successful. The box rained urine across the floor, directly over Silas (wetting his hair for him while he toddled obliviously after me). It drizzled through the dining room, through the kitchen --spattering the area I had just mopped the egg mess from), and through the mudroom out into the driveway. I grabbed my Clorox Ready Mop, put a new pad on it -- the eggy one had been thrown out-- and started with the laundry floor, moving through dining, kitchen, and mudroom. Stomping a towel on the living room carpet, I tried to soak up the urine. Several baby books had been sprinkled and had to be cleaned. I sent Talia upstairs to the bathroom, gave the older kids Cuisinaire rods and math pages, and scooped up Silas for a bath.
With the younger ones smelling sweet, and more time lost, I returned to my pupils.

The phone rang.

Silas toddled round and round the table saying, "Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-OH!" I tripped on shoes the baby had scattered in his wake.

Talia yelled, "Silas smells stinky!"

As I read about people of the world to the kids, Talia made herself conspicuous by standing in the living room and pointing behind me with a smile.

"What?" I asked. She intensified her pointing and smiling, and then pointed into the living room, too.

"What?" I asked.

"Dirt," she said.

I didn't understand.

"Dirt. Dirt in there, and dirt in here!" Her smile never wavered.

I looked around me to see handfuls of dirt sown through the dining room and living room. Silas was busily adding more. I plugged in the vacuum and vacuumed up all the dirt. Silas toddled fearfully away, crying in dread of the vacuum. Elisa spoke encouragement to him, taking his hand to lead him out of the vacuum's path.

By now, our obstacles had become downright funny. (At least, to me. But I'm easily entertained.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Working for the Witch

I have been reading The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum with my children. I was struck yesterday by a passage in it from chapter 12: The Search for the Wicked Witch. Bear with me -- I have a point.

'The Wicked Witch was both surprised and worried when she saw the mark on Dorothy's forehead, for she knew well that neither the Winged Monkeys nor she, herself, dare hurt the girl in any way. She looked down at Dorothy's feet, and seeing the Silver Shoes, began to tremble with fear, for she knew what a powerful charm belonged to them. At first the Witch was tempted to run away from Dorothy; but she happened to look into the child's eyes and saw how simple the soul behind them was, and that the little girl did not know of the wonderful power the Silver Shoes gave her. So the Wicked Witch laughed to herself, and thought, "I can still make her my slave, for she does not know how to use her power." Then she said to Dorothy, harshly and severely,
"Come with me; and see that you mind everything I tell you, for if you do not I will make an end of you, as I did of the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow."
...The Witch bade her clean the pots and kettles and sweep the floor and keep the fire fed with wood.
Dorothy went to work meekly, with her mind made up to work as hard as she could; for she was glad the Wicked Witch had decided not to kill her.'

There she was, kept safe by the mark of the kiss on her forehead, walking around in power she didn't know she had, and working for the Witch. Do you find yourself there? Do you know you have been set apart by the love of Christ? Have you been made a slave because you don't know the power you're clothed in?

"God's divine power has given us everything we need for life and for godliness.
This power was given to us through knowledge of the One
who called us by His own glory and integrity.
Through His glory and integrity He has given us His promises that are of the highest value.
Through these promises you will share in the divine nature
because you have escaped the corruption that sinful desires cause in the world.
Because of this, make every effort to add integrity to your faith;
and to integrity add knowledge; to knowledge add self-control;
to self-control add endurance; to endurance add godliness;
to godliness add Christian affection; and to Christian affection add love.
If you have these qualities and they are increasing,
it demonstrates that your knowledge about our Lord Jesus Christ is living and productive.
If these qualities aren't present in your life, you're shortsighted
and have forgotten that you were cleansed from your past sins.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, use more effort to make God's calling and choosing of you secure.
If you keep doing this, you will never fall away."
(2 Peter 1:3-10)

Serving sin is no place for a free person clothed in power.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

About Holy In Christ, by Andrew Murray

Wow. Reading this book was like being on Daddy's lap. I hated to finish it. A few excerpts:
"There is no holiness but what He has, or rather what He is, and gives. Holiness is not something we do or attain: it is the communication of the Divine life, the inbreathing of the Divine nature, the power of the Divine Presence resting on us... When God calls us to holiness, He calls us to Himself."

"Where God is, there is holiness; it is the presence of God makes holy."

"Holiness is not something we bring to God or do for Him. Holiness is what there is of God in us. God has made us his own in redemption, that He might make Himself our own in sanctification."

"Seek not holiness in the first place in what you are or do; seek it in God. Seek it not even as a gift from God, seek it in God Himself, in His indwelling Presence."

"As we enter in and abide in the holiness of Jesus, it will enter in and abide in us."

"The more I see and have apprehended of the holiness of Jesus, the less shall I see or seek of holiness in myself. He will make me holy: my tempers and dispositions will be renewed; my heart and mind cleansed and sanctified; holiness will be a new nature; and yet there will be all along the consciousness, humbling and yet full of joy: it is not I; Christ liveth in me."
(Andrew Murray)

The older I get in the Lord, the more I appreciate the simplicity that is in Christ. I am not smart enough to remember all the steps to make myself good enough for a real Christian. And they have no charms for me. But I can remember Jesus, who gave Himself for me, and lives to make intercession for me, and invites me --ME-- to abide in Him, and He in me. And He wins me over every time I think on Him. His kindness towards me; His patience with me; His work on my behalf sweep my soul off its feet. His love for me is a mystery I do not understand. But I want it, and I am so thankful for it. This book highlights it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

God's Will and my Submission to it

I have been reading a book called Holy In Christ by Andrew Murray. I recommend it to all believers: it has been so edifying. This morning I read the chapter about Holiness and the Will of God. A few quotes stuck out to me, and I thought I'd share them.

"So long as we look at the will of God... as law, we feel it a burden, because we have not the power to perform --- it is too high for us. When faith looks to the Power that works in God's will, and carries it out, it has the courage to accept it and fulfill it, because it knows God Himself is working it out."

"An acceptance of God's will prepares the believer, through the Holy Spirit, to recognize and know that will in whatever form it comes... In accepting his circumstances as the will of God to try and prove him, he is in the right position for now knowing and doing what is right."

"He has chosen the will of God as his chief good, and has taken the life-principle of Christ to be his: 'I delight to do Thy will, O God.'"

"A life in the will of God is rest and strength and blessing."

"May this be the holiness in which I live, that I forget and lose self in pleasing and honoring Thee."

I don't know about you (although I have my suspicions), but I am so aware of my own self-will that rises up against doing the will of God. My spirit wishes me always to be doing His will -- and delights in it. But my flesh is always opposed to His will, whatever it may be. I was praying this morning for help to mortify the deeds of my flesh. I want to live in submission to God's will, to serve Him with the body and mind I live in. But I can't serve Him myself unless He abides in me, filling me. I need Him: His Life, His Strength, His Will working in and through me. I am utterly corrupt -- completely opposed to all the will of God. But Christ on my behalf has fulfilled it. As I live in Him, I am one with Him in purpose, action, and desire. Thank you, Jesus.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Awaiting Our Cue (From an Email to a Friend)

I meant to write to you weeks ago about our individual places in the body of Christ. I was watching a PBS thing about a symphony orchestra, and the Lord really used it with me to show me a few things. I pulled out my journal right there and began to take notes. It was right after I had become so discouraged about my place in the body of Christ, because I didn't like the ministry I have of exhortation (at least at times). I get tired of having to say things when everyone else gets to play the good guy and be well-loved.

So, first: a couple of verses He encouraged me with.

"The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works." (Psalm 33:13-15)

"We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

"Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)

About the symphony:

Every person had an instrument. Every instrument had a different part. Sometimes the same instruments had different parts to play than each other. Every member got his cue individually from the same person -- the conductor. When each member plays his own part, on his own instrument, the harmony of sound is beautiful -- unified beauty.
It would be so tragic if one part tried to copy another member's or instrument's part.
Sometimes a musician sits idle -- waiting for his part. He doesn't look very busy just then.
It's almost like the conductor plays the orchestra by his direction of it.
The parts are different -- some slightly; some greatly. Some are loud and solo, some are quiet and soothing. Some are part of a group of the same sound.
At the end, it is the conductor who gets the glory.

These things really ministered to me. I don't know -- Lani thought you might like to hear about them, too. We all have different parts to play in the body of Christ. Stillness is supposed to be time of waiting on the conductor's cue. Don't take your cue from the fellow workers -- they could very well be playing a different part, or another instrument all together! Play your own part well, on cue, and He will be glorified by it. And there's a place for your part -- even if you only get to bang the gong one time.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

God Loves a Cheerful Giver

One day in May, I read to the kids from the last two chapters of Luke, and the first two chapters of Acts. When I finished, Elisa said to me, "I want to give all of my money and my heart to Jesus."

Isaiah, who told me he had given his heart to Jesus several months ago, said he also wanted to give all his money to Jesus. I asked them if they understood that if they gave all their money to Jesus, they wouldn't have any money left. I asked Isaiah if he knew that giving all his money away would mean he couldn't buy the Transformer he had been saving up for. He nodded. I told him he did not have to do it, but that if he did, the Lord sees what he gives Him, and He Himself would reward him. He insisted he wanted to. His prayer: "Lord, the only thing I want more than Transformers is You. And I know that Transformers are worthless to You."

For days, we studied the Samaritan's Purse gift catalog to choose how to give their money. Talia insisted she also wanted to give her money. She pointed at a baby held on its mother's lap in the catalog. "I want to feed that baby."

Altogether, their offering amounted to $23. I expected to see them miss their money after it was gone. Not at all. They seem joyful every time they talk about it. Sometimes they ask me again how many babies their money fed. ($9 feeds one baby for one week.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fear and Faith and the Price of Oil


My heart nearly stopped when I opened the mail and saw our new budget plan for oil and propane this year. It had gone up an additional $140 from last year per month. (It was already high.) It's now $10 less than our first house payment, which was only bought six and one-half years ago. I resorted to Lamaze breathing all day long every time I thought of it. I keep reminding myself that the Lord cares for me, and He is not limited by price. We must trust Him, because He is trustworthy, and He has never failed us yet.

I was fretting about a lack of money about 12 years ago. My dear friend Matthew said to me in his Texas drawl (in response to my "But it's $___!!"), "He has a lot more than that, y'know. My Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills." I've thought of it often over the years.

Our Father is the One who multiplied the loaves and fishes, who caused the widow's oil and flour to never run dry, and of whom it is said, "Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you." "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make your requests known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes understanding will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

I came across this verse out of Deuteronomy 8 as I pondered my needs and God's ability to meet them: "He humbled you and made you hungry; then He fed you on manna." Later in the chapter, it says clearly that His purpose was to do them good. God's purpose is to do us good. To feed us manna, instead of the bread that results from our work.

Why is that humbling? Because I can't do it. Because I need Him. Because it makes me a beggar of God. Jesus said we have to have faith like a child. A child has to ask for its needs to be met. A child can't reach the shelf the cups are stored on. If my children are thirsty, they have to let me know. They can't walk in so self-sufficiently to the kitchen, get their own drinks, and move on with their own plans in life. They don't have life insurance policies and 401k's and savings accounts. They have a father. They have to just be children, and Daddy will feed them.

The daughters of multimillionaires do not concern themselves with the price of oil or of food. It doesn't matter to them, 'cause Daddy's rich. My Daddy pays the bills, and I just need to remember it. And if Daddy pays my bills, it's a lot easier to not hold so tightly to the money in my hands. (If it's not my money, I spend it much more freely.) We needed something to lean harder on Jesus for. It always keeps us closer.

"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Give Thanks

As part of our school curriculum, the kids memorized a Bible verse for each letter of the alphabet this year. When we finished 'Z', I decided to go back to 'A' and have them tell me all 26 in a row, if they could. It was Elisa's turn to say the 'G' Bible verse.

She hesitated a little, and then said confidently, "Give thanks in all circumcises, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)

"Uh, that's 'circumstances', honey."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Anxious Prayer


I choke my prayer out,
gag my fear,
and catch my breath for you.
I force myself to
take a step
and brave-faced, walk in hope.
But in my heart I
choke and gag,
and I still hold my breath.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Syllables


NO!
Barren?
Without hope?
I'll have no child?
Not son or daughter?
No grandchildren either?
I cannot bear it.
What shall we do?
No laughter?
Despair.
Dead.

But-
What if...
What if God-
Maybe He would-
Have pity on us,
And give us our desire:
Laughter, sleepless nights and smiles,
Money woes and worries,
Adrenaline flush,
Hand-me-down clothes,
Hospitals,
Fevers:
Bliss

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Why Everyone Knows Betty Crocker was Childless

Silas thwarted dinner all morning. No matter when I tried to work on the lasagna, his contentment immediately changed to a screaming tantrum. At 10:30 I browned the meat to the sound of his anger. I spooned baby food bites into his mouth in between chopping up onions to add to the meat. He doesn't like baby food. He doesn't approve of it. He objected.

When the meat was cooked and his complaining grew unbearable --okay, who am I kidding? His complaining was unbearable all along-- I turned off the pan and picked him up to change him and feed him the mama-nectar he adores, but had refused when I offered it before. As I nursed the baby, I read roughly 223 words in a book I'm trying to finish. That's more or less a half page. Silas prefers my undivided attention while he eats. If I speak to other people, read anything, or try to watch a movie, he yanks his head back, yells baby talk at me, stares any offender to shame, and grabs a page of any book or magazine I've held before him and twists and wrenches the page until it's crumpled. And he bites.

Once he had been appeased, I placed him on the floor to see if he would be happy. He was. He crept everywhere, happily playing with the cyclone debris scattered over the house. (These cyclones go through frequently in our parts, leaving toys, books, blankets, couch pillows, sippy cups and crumbs in abundance on our floors.) I thought the coast was clear. I made my move.

Once I'd escaped, I made sandwiches for the older kids and got them settled at the table. I pulled 2 eggs, 3 different cheeses and a mixing bowl out and set them on the counter. Within seconds, Silas started howling again. I put him in his walker in the kitchen, where he continued to cry pitifully at me. I tried to speak soothingly to him, but he was not soothed. His pacifier was missing.

I poured a cup of sauce into the bottom of my pan. Silas whined. I spread it around and laid lasagna noodles on the sauce. Silas whimpered. I smeared a third of the ricotta and egg mixture over the noodles and sprinkled a cup of mozzarella over that. Tears rolled down his face. I threw in a cup and a half of sauce and four more noodles. Another third of the ricotta and half the meat went in accompanied by his cries. Ricotta flecked my glasses. I dumped another cup of sauce over it. Silas got louder.

"Isaiah! Find his pacifier!" I yelled. He couldn't find it. I laid out more noodles, spread the last third of the ricotta mix, the other half of the meat, and some sauce. By this time, Silas was furious. I made Isaiah sit beside him to keep him company. I dealt out another layer of noodles, and emptied all the remaining sauce and my last cup of mozzarella over it. Silas was screaming like he was in pain. I covered the lasagna with foil and jammed it into the fridge.

The shattering crash of a ceramic plate on the floor of the dining room demanded my attention. It was Talia's delicate signal that she'd had enough. My discouraging response brought angry tears and moans from her, too. It crossed my mind that from the outside, our house sounded like a torture chamber-- full of shrieks and misery.

I washed Talia up and let her down. I grabbed a dish rag and wiped all the sauce and cheese off the counter. I took out the broom and swept nearly a quarter cup of junk off the dining room floor, shaking out the dustpan just as Silas began to quietly study the xylophone Isaiah was accompanying his song with.

But the magic ended when he saw me. Frantic with anxiety, Silas beat his fists in the air. I picked him up and carried him to the living room, where the cause of his desperation became clear: he had a teaspoon of pee in his diaper.
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