Come Harvest Time

Grain-Tumblr-Wheat-Wallpaper-Desktop

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

Last year, I bought this old Plymouth Voyager mini-van. What attracted me to this vehicle was not only the low price and the low mileage, but the fact it had a cassette tape player. Yay for me, I could play my favorite Cat Stevens cassette. But, alas, the tape deck doesn’t work, and the radio only gets one decent signal – KEAR, Family Radio’s SF Bay Area station. I don’t mind KEAR, so I’ve been listening to the Bible readings, the Bible contests (which are hard), Alistar Begg sermons and various types of Christian music.

Two wonderful songs have come my way through KEAR: “I Take Refuge in You” and “Come Harvest Time”. I absolutely love when new things come my way that resonate deep down, and these two songs do so. Another beautiful providence. Glen Campbell sings “Come Harvest Time”, and I knew I had heard it before, but never listened. Funny, the difference between hearing and listening! That I love autumn and harvest time is no secret to anyone, and this song poignantly tells the story of human sowing and reaping.

As we get older, we begin to reap that which we’ve sown. My weight doesn’t budge because I’ve sown poor eating habits. My pocketbook is “holey” because I’ve sown poor financial management habits. However, I’m seeing some glints of golden grain in some of my parenting endeavors. My kids, who have been through a lot, are always surprising me with acts of kindness towards others, smart financial choices, varying degrees of compassion and good common sense.

One son is just completing his first journey to Europe and North Africa. He kindly kept me abreast of his and his girlfriend’s activities with pictures of churches in Barcelona, of  a sultan’s lunch spread in Fez and of the first Catholic Church in Lisbon. Despite the horrendous heatwave the Iberian Peninsula experienced this past week, he was able to hold up, and I’m sure he’s relishing the thought of San Francisco’s chilly fog as he makes his way home. I showed my Portuguese mother the pics from Lisbon. She was so excited about his trip.

This kind son asked me, “do you want me to get you anything?” I answered, “No, that’s ok, maybe something churchy for Grandma.” He immediately sent me a pic, a pic of a simple, silver Portuguese rosary from that first Catholic Church in Lisbon, with the text, “I got her that, don’t tell her.” This text conversation was going on with “Come Harvest Time” playing in the background. And what came over me quite strongly, was that….this is my gift. That my son already thought of his 90 year old grandma and purchased a gift for her that will be close to her heart…literally. A glint of golden grain, “Come Harvest Time”.

I know I’ve made many mistakes in my life, especially as a mom. But I am determined to make up for them by praying for these ten souls (actually they’re many more now with grandkids, girlfriends and a great son-in-law) and imploring God to bless them much like Jacob did when he wrestled with the Angel. By God’s grace, I will not grow weary in this endeavor.

 

Come Harvest Time

 

 

Lyric-ese

languages

I love languages, I have since I was in 6th Grade where I had my first brush with Spanish. Took a little German in college, and over the years have learned salutations in over a dozen languages. The Filipina caregivers are very impressed with my ten words of Tagalog as was my Egyptian coworker when I wrote my name in Arabic.

Unfortunately, my children are monolingual, and I’m not too sure its English they speak. The words are English, the grammar and syntax appear to be English, but, for the life of me, there are times I’m not fully understanding them, or they’re pulling the wool over my eyes. I texted my Author Talk flyer to all the kids, I got a few responses: cool, do I have to go? and finally, it’s gonna be lit! Huh? I know I’ve heard these phrases somewhere before, and then I had an epiphany. During one of our many “drive-bys” by the ocean, I heard their language, it’s their music, the lyrics from the songs they play…over and over and over again. They speak lyric-ese, some kind of new slang.

Since most attempts at conversation with my young people result in “huh?”, this is how I imagine they’d go if they did respond:

”Eva, what  time you gonna be home? And don’t get in a car with a driver whose  been drinking AND don’t take a drink from anyone.”

…Like why you so obsessed with me.  What’s that suppose to mean? I’m your mother.

”Ellie, where are my clothes? Weren’t you gonna put them away?”

To the left, to the left, everything you own in the box to the left. Don’t sass me!

“Eloisa, what do you think you’ll do after you get out of school?”

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadow, if I fail, if I succeed, at least I’ll live as I believe. That’s, uhm, good. Relax, a little, we’re just talking about 8th grade.

‘’’Beasto, you’re so quiet, what are you thinking about?”

I got money on my mind, and my mind on my money. Good.

Espi, you’re almost done with school. How exciting! How does that make you feel?

Young, dumb, broke high school kid. Okaaay.

”Hey, quiet it down in there.”

Let’s get it started…hah! Let’s get it started in here. (They are bad kids.)

Well, two (or eleven) can play at that game. When I’m done raising these kids, I’m gonna take this job and shove it because I’ll be ready to take a chance again. I’ve looked at life from both sides now from win and lose and still somehow it’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all so if you miss the train I’m on, you will know that I am gone, you will hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.

I may never pass this way again so don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy, lighten up while you still can, don’t even try to understand, just find a place to make your stand, and take it easy. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu, adieu, to you and you and you (+ 7). I’m glad to go I cannot tell a lie, I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly. And kiss today goodbye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Least There was Milk in the Fridge

milk

Often, I would have one of those excruciatingly painful conversations with one of my offspring when they highlight my failures as a parent. I never cared. I never listened. I never did anything for them. Well, I respond with, “at least there was milk in the fridge.”

Yeah, we had some tough times. Yeah, the kids went without a lot of things. Yeah, we had our share of drama. But I did what I could. I am certainly not perfect, evidently short-sighted and obviously not too good with money or birth control.

It’s funny what my kids remember. Some remember raising all the kids. Some remember never getting attention, some remember getting too much attention, some remember things I would like to forget. Some, though, remember a happy childhood, things weren’t so bad. Any painful memory my kids tell me makes me feel like crap, of course. We try so hard to shield our kids from the reality of pain and hurt in this world, but it’s futile. And it’s worse when that stuff comes from someone who’s supposed to be one of your biggest cheerleaders. And I feel bad when my kids say I wasn’t there for them. I tried, I don’t know where else I was, besides maybe in a nearby corner with a book.  At least there was milk in the fridge.

It wasn’t all bad. There were times when we had more than enough. More than enough room, clothes and food. We don’t remember those days so much. It is easier to remember what hurt because it still hurts. Yes, there were bad days, and the worst, only a few, when there was no milk. If I didn’t have milk, there were no bottles, no pancakes, no cereal, no homemade bread. Just beans and tortillas. We always had beans. And Ricky did make delectable butter tortillas. LOL. But I know for a fact there were only about five days when there was no milk, what I mean was there was no money for milk. No milk money. During this hard, hard time, God providentially supplied our milk needs. The pastor’s wife worked for OUSD, and would often bring crates of surplus little milk containers, she kindly gave them to me. That held us over for a while.

Five days in 30 years, not too bad. I also tried to provide a different kind of milk. I tried to be kind. I tried to teach kindness. The milk of human kindness has all sorts of nutrients. I hope they got some of that nourishment.

I’m loving those “humankindness” commercials, the one with the pony and the other with the little fella trying to blow out his first year’s candle. That’s what I wanted to provide in addition to all the things the kids needed physically. Kindness is a quality that only compounds with its usage. Once it is firmly rooted in one’s heart, it only needs exercise to grow.

Kindness is balm for the soul. “A soft answer turns away wrath.” It is powerful. William Wordsworth said, “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” I guess we don’t remember those times. I need to do better.

I am going to try to underscore those things, the kindnesses given to me. I will always remember the sweet texts my sons have sent me off the cuff. I’ll remember when my girls cleaned up without asking. I’ll remember when my friend gave me and my kids boxes of things we needed. I’ll remember when family paid for my kids’ schooling, housed us, helped in emergencies, all without complaint. When I remember these kindnesses, my heart is soothed. I guess it takes awhile to not only practice kindness, but also to remember those gifts we’ve received.

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
~William Shakespeare,
Merchant of Venice (Willie Wonka)

 

 

 

Psalm 27 to the Rescue

Silhouette of helping hand between two climber

The last couple days have been kinda hard. Actually, the last couple years have been hard. My mom had a stroke two years ago, and my siblings and I have been increasingly taking more care of our parents. With my mom’s partial paralysis and my father’s decline into early dementia, the responsibilities as well as the emotional toll are being felt deeply by all of us. On top of that, aching old scars and fresh wounds seem to have resulted in acute estrangement from them and from one another.

Saturday night I went to bed carrying a lot of this emotional weight, not the kind of weightlifting I resolved to do this new year. Saturday was tough enough dealing with one of the kids’ issues, and I was looking forward to collapsing into bed and getting a good night sleep without having to get up early in the morning for work. Texted my son, who was out, “you good?“, his reply:

“Yea gonna be home around 10”

Good, one daughter was out babysitting, and she’d uber home whenever, late, no doubt. Around 9:30, I crashed and slept fitfully for over two hours. I woke at midnight. Checked my phone and there was a text. An hour-old text from an old friend: “Hello Donna, I know its late please can you life me up in prayer/medical issues. need them thank you so much. I texted back: “praying…”. I said a little prayer, then got up, went to bathroom and checked son’s room. Not home. Quick text to son, “You ok?” Ten minutes later:

“Yea”

Ok, good. Probably be in soon. He sometimes stays out late even if he has to work in morning. I sent up another quick prayer for my friend. Then I tried to go back to sleep. I couldn’t.

My mind went into manic mode as it got swept up in the family drama and distress. Every time I closed my eyes, the feelings of estrangement and rejection swirled and churned inside me. After about an hour of wrestling with fears, doubts and feelings, I checked the clock: 12:54 AM. Son still not home. Well, as any reputable helicopter mom could tell you, my mind was ripe for panicking about what possible harmful scenarios my son stumbled into. I sent another text, thinking he may just spend the night at a co-worker’s: “Are you coming homr”, ( I was tired.); another at 1:20 AM: “Ok?”; and the last one at 2:09 AM: “You good?”. No answer to any of those texts or the couple of texts I sent my daughter. But, I figured she’d just stay over and get a full night sleep away from the baby.

As you can imagine, I was getting frantic. Sleep was impossible. Even if he came home, I was so wound up, that an all-nighter was inevitable. I hate these kind of nights.

I put on my Bible study, often that would put me to sleep. J. Vernon McGee on his Thru the Bible radio show has been going through 1 Chronicles. It is his opinion that although 1 Chronicles seems like a rerun of 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings; it is the same stories and characters, but from God’s point of view. The latest Bible study was about David’s great sin. No, not the one with he and Bathsheba, but the one when David numbered the people. McGee contends this sin, in God’s eyes, was worse in the sense that David was no longer trusting God, but in the numbers, in the strength that he thought he had accumulated. Wasn’t I failing to trust God like David? Yep.

In my emotional mania, somehow that lesson began to seep into my mind. I’ve been trying to be more trustful of God. And I was failing miserably, I was not trusting the Lord at all. I could not get a grip on the worrying, the pain and the despondency. I checked my email, and my daily Henri Nouwen devotional was already delivered. I read it:

Nouwen post

The further reflection took hold of my attention. I got out my Bible and read all of Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

I read it again. I saw that even if my parents forsake me, the Lord will take me up. Even if what I feared was true, I had God to turn to. Then, finally, wait for the Lord. Not my strong suit.

As I let these words, these words of healing and solace, soothe my tempest-tossed mind, the storm slowly stilled just like when Jesus stilled the storm at the behest of his frantic friends. I began to trust, trust Him that my son would be OK, trust Him that my family’s issues would smooth out, trust Him that my financial situation will prove to be enough and trust and believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Far past two o’clock, and as I was drifting to sleep, I heard the jingle of his keys and the door unlocked. Before I fell asleep, I muttered to him as he passed my door, “Ten, huh?” He said something about dropping off friends (good kid!), and I finally said so he could hear, “glad you’re home safe.”

Good night.

Individuate!

individuatepic

I am a word nerd. I love words. When I had a boring job in Half Moon Bay back in the 1970’s, I entertained myself by reading the dictionary. I still have the lists of words I learned. Words are great, wonderfully great and terribly great. Words can harm, cut down and poison; but on the other hand, words can build up, inspire and heal. Just like I have comfort foods such as creamed tuna and pumpkin pie, I have comfort words, “Providence,” “hope” and “sublime” to name a few. I am always excited when I learn a new word.

Sometime in the 1990’s, my family was watching “Home Improvement.” Jill was having one of her talks with the fenced-obscured neighbor, Wilson. She was having trouble with her older son, Randy, and mentioned to Wilson that she believed that Randy was probably trying to “individuate” from her and Tim. That word caught my ear. I had never heard it used that way, and I took a psychology class in college (my worst graded class, by the way — that may explain a lot).

Individuate! Not only did I love the word and the way it gave my tongue a mini workout, I also understood immediately what Jill was talking about. As my children have grown, I have witnessed them “individuating” away from me. For some of them this came early, one at about a year and a half and one at three years old when she declared in front of many witnesses, “It’s my life” (this one was going to move out when she was 8), but the others were in the typical age range of 12-15 years. This is a hard stage of parenting; but I am in it for the long haul. I think I can, I think I can …

As I do with words and other things, I like to add my own spin. I think it is time for me to “individuate” away from my kids.  It was natural and exciting to pour myself into these little lives….but eventually, their personalities began to take over. Early on I should have known things were bad when after we got a set of Laurel and Hardy movies, I called my sister bemoaning, “Linda, I need to get out, I think Stan Laurel is hot!” Symptoms continued, singing the Rescue Rangers theme song while doing dishes, penciling in the “Good Luck Charlie” Christmas movie on the calendar and being more conversant with people under the age of 20 than my peers.

Those are the harmless aspects to full immersion parenting; however, things can get ugly. They are nice for awhile and then they turn on you. If you are not prepared, it can be brutal. “It’s not fair.” “You never do anything for me” “You like everyone else more than me” and, the topper, “I hate you” can certainly wear down one’s defenses. At first, I would indignantly defend myself as being a perfect and fair parent (LOL) and try to hide my hurt feelings. As they individuated away from me, I also had to individuate away from them.

My first step toward individuation was to build some strong battlements. I couldn’t be so sensitive. I had to garner some courage and fortitude to handle their time of individuation. In the process, I was delighted to find myself again. I didn’t need to spend every minute with them. I didn’t need to hover over them; I could pursue some interests of my own. I could listen to Barry Manilow instead of Tupac and Two Chains.

I still have young ones at home, and am appreciating the things that I used to love. Funny, I caught the 13-year-old listening to Barry Manilow awhile ago. That’s the best of both worlds.

http://pacifica.patch.com/articles/individuate