treasuring up all these things

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
~Luke 2:19

My whole life I have heard the Christmas story told year after year.

It wasn’t until I became a mother that the story took on a new life in my heart.

It was still about God sending a savior, but there was a new level that has taken on a life of it’s own; it is the story of Mary.

The first Christmas Eve after Eddie was born, we were at Cortney’s mom and step-dad’s house like usual.  And like usual, someone read the Christmas story aloud from the Bible. I remember being struck by how scared and confused Mary must have been.  How she must have said so many times to herself during her pregnancy, “this is crazy, right? Am I really doing this? Carrying the savior of mankind?  Am I really the virgin that they have been prophesying about for thousands of years?”

(an aside: for years now I have been grappling with the idea of “truth” in the Bible. I don’t believe that all the stories in the Bible are literal truth, but I do believe the messages are truth.  That is a whole other post, but I wanted to put that here because the story of Christ’s birth is one I don’t really analyze as far as historical fact.  To me, as a literature teacher, it doesn’t matter if the way it is told is exactly what happened.  Like any story, the idea is to feel the characters…to be able to try to feel what they feel.  The Christmas story does this for me in a big way. In that way, the Christmas story is extremely true to me.)

When I was pregnant with Charlie, I was in my brother’s wedding.  Even though my family are all members of the Reformed Church of America (RCA), the wedding was Catholic because his bride was Catholic.  I’ve been in and to a number of Catholic weddings and masses but there were many things I never understood, the top of that list being the fascination (my word, because that was my persecution) with Mary.  Why did they consider her to be holy?

The priest (deacon?) who married my brother and sister-in-law explained the “deal” (as he put it) with the Virgin Mary to all of us at the rehearsal who were not Catholic.

His explanation has magnified my fascination with her.

He told us that Catholics see Mary as a very important figure–not as a holy figure in that they worship her–but holy in that they go to her so she will go to Christ.  “What better person to talk to when you have a request than a man’s mother? No one has as close of a relationship with a boy than his mom does.”

I remember tears filling my eyes as I sat in the pew with my hand on my swollen stomach.  Charlie did his usual gymnastics routine in there and I wondered if Jesus was a kicker while in the womb.

It’s this time of year that my mind and my heart always come back to Mary.

The mother of Christ.

CHRIST.

I wonder if some days that wasn’t horribly overwhelming to her.

I wonder if some days she simply forgot and did the best she could to just get through the day.

I wonder if she suffered the Baby Blues or if it got worse and manifested itself as depression.  Did she yell at Joseph in a fit of frustration?  Did she lose her patience with a whiny Baby Jesus who would not just take a nap already?

Was Jesus fussy?  Did he have colic like Eddie?

Did she struggle with keeping Jesus in bed when he was preschool age?  We know she had trouble keeping an eye on him because we have the stories of a young Jesus going to the temple at a very young age.

Did she lose her temper with him?  We know he was “sinless”, but Mary wasn’t.  She was just an ordinary woman that God used in an extraordinary way.

Did she snuggle him at bedtime and tell him stories?

Did she kiss boo boos and sing songs with him?

How much am I like Mary?

In Luke, the Bible tells us that when people came to visit her child and give him gifts she, “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Mary was not naive; she knew what her son’s purpose was.

She knew that he was the Christ who would have to die so that the rest of humankind from then on could live.

She knew her son’s purpose was to be tortured and killed.

How many times did that cross her mind?  I mean, she didn’t know what age he would live to,but she knew he would be a teacher who was loved…and hated.  Hated so much that his own people would murder him.

She knew he would have to suffer.

I know that life is hard and that I will not always be able to shield and protect my boys from the evil out there.  I don’t know what sort of suffering they will have, though.  I hope it’s just the regular kind of suffering…broken heart, a few bumps and bruises and possibly stitches, but I just don’t know.

So like Mary, I treasure all the wonderful things.  I tuck them away in my heart for when the hard times will undoubtedly come.

Unlike Mary, I hope not to watch my sons be nailed to a cross and assassinated.  I can’t imagine having to bear that sort of heartache as a mother.

But like Mary, I know I need to hold as much of the good in my heart and mind as I can.

Because bad times will come, and when they do I will need something to hold on to.

Did Mary think about Jesus’ baby smell when she saw them throwing things at his tortured body?  Did she remember the first time she held him?   Was she recalling all those who came to him with gifts and praise…reminding herself that the rest of the prophesy goes on to say he will be great forever.  That this suffering of his…of hers…is temporary?

I identify with Mary.

Not because I was chosen for such an important role in mankind’s history, but because I too store the good in my mother’s heart for the day when sadness will come.

And I trust that God will carry me through it the way he did for her.

**************

I have felt a tug on my heart to write out more of my thoughts on my faith and what I struggle with.  Just thought I should put that out there for the regular readers since I know it’s something I haven’t really focused on before.  I hope for some great discussion and insight into the faith and beliefs (or non-beliefs) of others by sharing my heart.

*************

Yesterday, my friend Law Momma posted this beautiful post on this topic of Mary.  Grab a tissue if you go to read it.

Through Their Eyes

This particular day, I had been asked 2347983345ddfa234879 questions.

(yes, there are letters in the middle of that number.  It’s a whole new high number that was just discovered the day that many questions were asked of me).

Every single one of these questions was begun with either “Mrs. Sluiter?” or “mom?”

And all of them ranged from slightly tinted with whine, to being drenched to the point of dripping with it.

I had calmly answered all of them.

(Calm being subjective.  On the outside, I never snapped.  There may have been twitching, but no snapping.  My insides, however churned fervently.)

For those wrapped up in getting their questions answered and their “needs” met (needs also being subjective here and really would be better defined as “wants”), nothing was different.

I was just a means to an end.

A grade question.

A make up test.

A missed assignment.

Absent work.

A sounding board for complaints.

Chocolate milk.

Mickey Mouse via Tivo.

That rattle over there that can’t be reached {yet}.

Doing all the things that aren’t allowed.

They didn’t notice the weakening in the wall…the cracks running up from the base all the way to the top, slowly splitting the foundation of the calm exterior.

That which was whole and safe was moments from crumbling.

But no one noticed.

I sometimes wonder if these fault lines would be detected if I was around friends or family or my husband more than I am during the week.

If Cort wasn’t gone three nights a week he might see me weakening.

If I reached out to my mom, maybe she would recognize the tell-tale signs of a wobbly foundation.

If I was around more friends during the week would they notice the chips and cracks?

But adding “people” to my already jam-packed week is more stressful than relieving.

And so the foundation quivers.

And the cracks deepen.

At first I speak uncalmly.

Then I speak unkindly.

And then I do not act out of love, but out of frustration and anger.

My boys cry.

Out of sadness?

Out of fear?

Out of hurt?

Probably all of them.

I don’t hurt my children ever.

Not with my hands.  It never comes to that.

I would rather die.

But I know my sharp words and harsh tone and surprising volume pains them.

They bear the brunt of it because their wants and needs happen last in the day.

All day my bucket is emptied into others’ buckets and there is precious little left for what is most precious in my life.

The ones who deserve the most of my bucket get the least.

As soon as a chunk of my wall falls, I immediately work to patch it up.

Fill the hole with plaster.  Sand it down.  Paint over it.

All is fine.

Fix it.

It didn’t happen.

I’m sorry. Mommy is sorry.

And every time they forgive.

There is love and hugs and…understanding?

But after everyone is put to bed and the house is quiet and all I hear are humidifiers humming and the heaving breathing of all the boys slumbering…

when I lie there and try to quiet my brain–and heart–I wonder.

What do they see?

What does mommy look like to them in a fit of rage and weakness?

And what does mommy look like as she immediately humbles herself and makes herself vulnerable before them?

What effect will this leave on their impressionable hearts and minds?

How will this mold their view of me, of women, of family?

And I am left to pray for a fresh start, a new heart, and a stronger wall tomorrow.

one on one

Last week Friday Cort flew home from work, packed up the truck, grabbed Eddie and took off for “up north” (as we call it here in Michigan) on a camping trip with his mom, stepdad, siblings and their spouses/kids.

The plan was that Charlie and I would drive up Saturday for the day since Charlie is as much of an “outdoorsy” type and I am, and we knew everyone would just be happier if Charlie and I slept in our house.  With AC.

But Friday night I got sick.

As in “please Charlie fall asleep because mommy has to get back in the bathroom ASAP” kind of sick.

As in “I can’t walk and bounce you to sleep because it makes the pain want to come out the back-end, but if I rock you I want to vomit” kind of sick.

When he finally went to sleep, I put myself to bed only to have to get up and feed him at midnight because he chose this weekend to hit a mad growth spurt.

By Saturday morning I felt a tad better, but when Charlie took his morning nap at 9:00, I laid down with him.  For two hours.

There went the idea of going up to the campsite.

But I think it worked out better this way.

Eddie got a whole weekend away doing something special with his daddy, and Charlie and I got over 36 hours of just us.

Just the two of us…

I was astounded at how much personality he has developed since our first three months alone together.  In the past month and a half he has started to find his own individuality.  His own character. His own…self.

We spent HOURS just lying on the floor together.  He relished the undivided attention and lack of distraction.

There were long chats.  Me telling him stories about his daddy and Eddie and his uncles and grandparents and aunties and people who love him so much that he hasn’t even met yet.

And he told me stories.  You know, in the way four and a half month old babies tell stories.  With “oooooo” and “ahhhh” and “grregglellleggpth” and “zzzzpbbblllllt”

He never gets this much attention, so he filled it with all his sounds.  And smiles.  And serious, thinking faces. And giggles.

Oh the giggles.

My baby giggles at me when I am silly.  He giggles when I blow raspberries on his tummy.  He giggles when I nom on his chubby little thighs.

I spent 36 hours (minus sleeping and puking) focused just on him.

We played with every single toy he has.  We did loads of tummy time.  We played on the activity mat, the bounce seat, the swing, the bumbo, the blanket on the floor.

I even busted out the exersaucer when I realized Eddie was in that thing by four months.

Surely Charlie was ready for it too!  He loves to “stand” better than anything because he can see what everyone is doing.

He wasn’t too entirely sure about it.

Eddie was…full of it.  That kid laughed at the wind and jumped before he could walk and just MOVED AND LAUGHED constantly. He jumps then worries about the owies (real and imagined).

Although he seems to feel no pain, Charlie is more cautious.

The first time we put Eddie in a saucer he immediately bounced and shrieked with happiness.

Charlie just looked at me like, “what is this?  why am I in this?  what do you expect me to do with all this…stuff?”

Eventually he started spinning one of the toys, but he did not freak out and try to do ALL THE THINGS like Eddie did.  He tried one thing. For a bit.  Then was done with the whole thing.

I also decided to take him for a walk, but I didn’t want to get out the entire baby carrier/travel system stroller and I guessed, due to the massive growth spurt it seems he is having, that he would fit in the umbrella stroller.

To be fair, our umbrella stroller is a Bumbleride Flite.  Not your average “umbrella stroller”.  I mean, I could totally put the infant carrier on it, but I didn’t want to use the carrier at all.

So I didn’t.

And Charlie LOVED it.  For the first time, he was faced forward while we walked which meant he could see where we were going and what was going on around us.

He kept his little feet crossed the whole time and didn’t say a word.  He also didn’t fall asleep like he usually does on walks, but I could tell he was sleepy.  I guess seeing the world from the stroller is just too exciting to sleep through!

Everything we did was slower than normal.  More deliberate.

We weren’t on anyone’s schedule but our own.

Eddie didn’t need this, that, and everything all at once.

Daddy wasn’t coming home soon for dinner which needed to be made yet.

I didn’t need to set him in his bounce seat and move him with me from room to room as I cleaned and did laundry.

Everything was done.

We just had ourselves.

And so we spent a lot of time cuddling and cooing at each other and just remembering what it was like for two to be one.

One of my greatest concerns when I was pregnant with Charlie was that he and I wouldn’t get the time Eddie and I did.  Eddie had almost 3 years of being the only.

Of always having all of our attention.

It made me sad that from the get go Charlie would have to share.

But thankfully, because of a much better experience, a wonderful husband, and awesome daycare, Charlie and I have had lots of together time.

Lots of time to melt into each other and forget that we are two.

Thank you to my wonderful family (Cort, Eddie, Mom, Ray, Kenzie, Dave, Kingston, Kyrie, Liz, and Cody) for understanding that it was just too much for us to come camping.  Because of a sick night Friday, I was blessed with some much-needed quiet time with my youngest.  Thank you.

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