Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A sliver of solace

The one constant thing about having three kids is how constantly I get my butt kicked. Transition from zero to one child was by far the hardest. But transition from two to three has been much harder than the transition from one to two. But seriously, I have friends who have six children and thriving. So really, I need to stop blabbering.

Quietness is a gift.

Slivers of solace tucked between other louder, distracting things. A little goes a long way. Like the Belgian dark chocolate truffle I just dropped into my hot cup of coffee. There, it rests. Quiet and wonderful. Like my Hanan. The Lord's grace and mercy, tucked between his faithfulness (Emeth) and steadfast love (Khesed).

A lot of speculations are made about the middle child. But I hope my Hanan grows to know how much he is loved and cherished.

I love his quirky ways.

How he plays with his legos. Here he is making a 10. He has since figured out ways to make 11 and 12.

How he is so keen on making sure I am happy. "Are you happy? Let me kiss you. Are you happy now?"

How he lays claims on anything medium-sized and the number two. Because he is the middle child.

For lunch today, he wanted me to cut his pizza into "medium" bites. If he wants them bigger, he would say "bigger medium." If he wants them smaller, he would say, "smaller medium." But they are all medium. Because he is medium.

He ran to me one morning, laughing and shouting, "Mommy!!! I have two problems!!! I don't have one problem or three problems. I have two problems."

How he doesn't know what the word "problem" means.

How he can't seem to talk as fast or as much as his big brother. With a sad face, he said, "I can't talk. I need new batteries."

How he named his "orange thing" Character. As in, "Character! Character! Where are you?"

How he asks for "bread with fig jam and mascarpone" for breakfast. How he loves fig macaroons.

How he says I love you. "I nove you a-not."

And how he loves chocolate. "I nove brownies a-not. Not black-nies, not red-nies, just brownies."

Friday, January 17, 2014

The way honey is to Winnie the Pooh

I am recently re-learning how to praise God. Back to the basics.

It all started when my sister Jean explained to me how praise is different from thanksgiving (thanks, Xin!). Such a curious thought.

Praise is an exercise of adoring, enjoying, and declaring the characters of God.

So, if I am adoring honey, I would say, "Hmmmm.... YUM! Honey, you are sticky and sweet. You shine like liquid amber, a luxury I can afford. You are pleasant and smooth on my tongue. You are better than sugar in my tea. You are not merely sweet, your flavor complex and floral. You possess healing power for my aching throat."

Something like that.

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is an exercise of giving thanks for our experiences of God. What we have seen, heard, and tasted. We give thanks for the spoonfuls of  honey, so to speak. "Thank you, honey, for the sweetness you bring to my cups of tea. Thank you for soothing my throat, and for the magic you make with lemon juice."

Adoration and thanksgiving have some overlap, to be sure, but they are distinct.

Here are some things I learned:

1. In my prayers, I give thanks a lot more than I praise. Giving thanks, while necessary and good, is not enough. Praise is motivated by the wonderfulness of the Lord, while thanksgiving is motivated by the wonderfulness that I have received and perceived. While it is good to be thankful for the spoonfuls of honey, but what of days when there is no honey to be had?

2. I then realized, I don't praise God very much. My praises to God are often embedded in the songs I sing, or the psalms I read. In other words, I do not intentionally praise God. Rarely do I break out in thoughtful, prolonged meditation about the wonderfulness of the Lord. Rarely do I stop and allow my soul to be moved by the character and person of God.

3. I must learn to praise the Lord, especially when I don't feel like it. Because my heart is crooked and deceitful, I am tempted to make my thanksgiving, my petitions, and even my repentance to be about me, for me, and because of me. Adoring him would turn my eyes to the Lord, to help me think about his faithfulness and steadfast love.

4. Praising the Lord reorients my heart, in order that my thanksgiving, petitions, and repentance would be about the Lord, for the Lord, and because of the Lord.

5. Praising God feels a little awkward at first. It feels weird to tell God things about himself that he already knows. Then again, he already knows all of my prayers even before I think to pray them. I am learning to praise the way my one-year-old is learning to stand — by doing it, with a lot of help (listening to Hans' prayers), and falling a lot.

Begin by recognizing something incomparable about God. His steadfast love and his faithfulness, for example. Or his patience and mercy, perhaps. Or the way he forgives. Allow ourselves to be moved by these thoughts. Out of this adoration, renew our allegiance and devotion to this God. Remembering and reciting scripture helps a lot.

6. Praise is a great offense and defense against my tendency to worry and freak out. I am no football fan (I know, what a great way to win the hearts of you who love football). But I do remember Hans saying that a good defense is the best offense. Or, was it a good offense is the best defense? Anyway, I clearly have no idea what I am talking about.

7. Praising God is a command. It is therefore our duty. Like all of God's commands, they are the way of grace. Praise is to our souls the way bread is to the famished, water to the thirsty, freedom to the slaves, honey to Winnie the Pooh.

Listen with me the praises of Habakkuk,
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.
 (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sometimes, boring can be good

As I was cleaning out one of my thumb drives, I stumbled across a poem that I wrote to Hans nearly five years ago. I have no recollection of it, until now. It is so incredibly nerdy and so thoroughly boring that I must share it.

I think I was trying to be funny.
But I wasn't

Truth be told, I can't even understand most of it.

No, seriously.

This post is simply to demonstrate that marriage is not always exciting. It can sometimes be, in fact, quite boring. And with three little boys running around the the house, boring is good. An uneventful day is a good day. Putting people to sleep is good, as well.

So yeah.
Here is to more boring, sleepy days ahead.

A Literary Study of Poetic Devices in a Conceptual Metaphor
A mystery,
lovely and hidden
in public squares and enclosed places,
a thing of many kinds and lengths,
created work of
selection and combination,
an interplay of
parallels growing into one,
an asymmetrical reciprocity,
a giving and returning of
pairs juxtaposed,
equivalents yet contrasts,
alike yet unlike,
paradigmatic yet syntagmatic,
multiplying fruits
in silence and togetherness,
full in emptiness,
a hendiadys,
an oxymoron,
two making a third,
repeating and echoing,
enlightening and completing
one another’s ellipses,
fulfilling one another’s gaps
in moments of enjambment,
overflowing and interrupting
storms and rage,
deep waters overcome waves
when understood and interpreted
with gentleness and reverence
while hoping and believing
in toil and rest,
lament and praise,
fear and awe,
exposing the Beautiful

For Hans,
my poem and poet
March 17, 2009