Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fragrance of Christ

The power of scent is amazing to me.

To this day, I can catch a whiff of the slightly-bug-spray-esque Eternity for Men, and I am seventeen again... (sort of) dating this boy named Jonathan (for about a week). Riding in his big, ridiculous (awesome.sauce) jacked-up Dodge late at night. Don't get me wrong-- no regrets here. What I perceived to be heartbreak was actually the tender compassion of God. Last I heard, Jonathan has been married (and divorced) twice and is currently finalizing the paperwork to bring a mail-order bride home from Russia. And is still wearing Eternity for Men. So I am not sad. But I pass a man wearing this cologne, I smell it as I walk through the cosmetic department of Kohl's... and I remember.

It's tanning oil. I am laying out on the beach, my bathing suit straps pulled down so I don't have tan lines for prom. Remember?

It's Dream by the Gap. I am eighteen and achingly homesick at Fire School in Pensacola. I am wearing a lavender sweater. Remember?

It's Bounce fabric softener. I am chasing foxes on the moonlit beach with my friend Cameron. Remember?

Last night, I walked downtown with the girls, where they were having a block party and hosting an artist carving ice sculptures. Through the crushing throngs of people (and trying to keep track of three kids by myself), we saw very few ice sculptures. We did, however, manage to stop at one of the camp-fires, where the Boy Scouts were giving out free marshmallows to roast. The girls enjoyed their gooey treat, we wandered around a little more, saw some friends... headed home.

Later, after I put my little flock to bed, I turned my head and happened to get a whiff of my hair. It smelled like the boy scouts' campfire. And I was transported back to the Creation Festival, a Christian music event that I have been attending since I took up residence in my mom's belly.

I was three and roasting marshmallows on my mom's knee.

I was thirteen and had just met my future husband (but didn't know it yet).

I was sixteen, singing Indigo Girls songs while my sister played her guitar.

I was nineteen and had just smoked my first joint and lost my virginity in K-field.

(I'm kidding about that last part. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)

Regardless, even after I showered the smoke out of my hair, I found my thoughts wandering back to Creation. It was bittersweet-- as we had, after many pain-staking decisions, cut ties with the ministry last year. But still, I remembered. I think that, until the day I die, every time I smell a campfire, I will think of Creation.

As I pondered this, I was reminded of the Scripture about the fragrance of Christ:

"...thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." (2 Corinthians 2:14,15)

... through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him...

How beautiful. How terrifying.

I can see why society is largely disdainful of Christians and their Savior.

We stink of bigotry, self-righteousness, exclusion.

But oh, how I long for this to be different! In my life, in the small circle that God has given me, I want to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. When I am old and gray and my granddaughter pauses to think of me, I want her to remember that smell. The fragrance of Him. Remember?

When the waitress at the restaurant is flustered and weeded, I want to be the one with a kind word. A smile. A generous tip. I want her to remember that smell.

When my husband has had a long day at work, and is feeling discouraged and worn-down, I want to be ready with a timely word of encouragement. A kiss. A steadfast belief in my husband. I want him to remember that smell.

When my girls are naughty and bickering and making me crazy, I want to slow down. To love them. To cuddle them. To let them be kids. I want them to remember that smell. The fragrance of Him.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Kid Funny

Alternate title: Why We Might All Be Going to Hell

I bought some new bras today. Which is actually a blog-worthy event. Really. I have been using the same ratty old nursing bras since Evie was born almost five years ago. It was time.

Of course, I brought my entourage with me. Also known as my three whining children. I bribed them with suckers to be good. Except the baby. I bribed her with breastmilk.

As we're rifling through the endless assortment of lady apparel, Evie pulls out a black, lacy, uber-padded bra.

"Hey, Mom! Look!!!! It's a MENNONITE BRA!!!!"

You know. Cause it was lacy and black, like their head coverings.

God bless those Mennonites. They are (apparently) into some kinky stuff underneath that modest denim. ;)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Getting it

This past December, I did Advent with the girls. Can I be honest? While there were some sweet moments of reflection, it was not something that I looked forward to every night. Now, I know that I should embrace the childishness of my children... but in my head, it was so much more solemn. Contemplative. Holy.

In reality, it was chaotic. The big girls fighting over who got to blow out the candles. Cana wanting to sing the ABC's instead of O Come, O Come Emanuel. Ruby, who I had just gotten to sleep in the other room, waking and crying for mama to come cuddle with her. I am embarrassed to admit that I lost my cool and snapped at my kids... more than once.

The Christmas season is over. We have packed up our Advent wreath for next year, me-- perhaps a little more cynical and world-wise about what to expect for Advent with three small children. And truly, it was a bit discouraging. We left the season without my girls having attained any Biblical truths, or any spiritual renewal. I left the season without gaining any Biblical truths, or any spiritual renewal. We didn't get it.

But God is merciful, and He showed me a glimpse of His kindness the other day.

Continuing a tradition that my parents began, every night at Advent we pray individually for the families who sent us cards and letters. This, too, usually dissolved into fits of tears (theirs and mine), as Evie and Cana fought over who got to hold the picture of the baby... and a cross reprimand from me, "Girls! We are PRAYING to JESUS! BE QUIET!!" (I know, I am an amazing mother. Don't hate.)

The cards, which were displayed on the post in our dining room, have long since been taken down and discarded. (Can I say that without offending? Yes, I throw them out recycle them eventually.) One must have slipped out of the trash pile recycling bin and wound up in some dark corner of the house which never sees a broom.

My sweet Cana found it. The other day, I stopped what I was doing and looked over at my wee girl. She was seated at her little art table, the card in front of her. Her eyes were closed and her little babyish brow furrowed deeply.

"Jesus," she prayed, "please keep them safe. Oh, Lord, please help them to love You more! Be close to them, Jesus."

What a tender mercy for me to hear this!!

I long for the salvation of my children. I long for them to love mercy and to seek justice and to be passionate about the things that Jesus is passionate about. I long for them to love each other, to serve each other. I long for them to have wisdom.

And I beat on Heaven's doors with these requests-- but I know, despite any kind of good parenting or bad parenting on my part-- it is only the Lord's mercy that can save my children. And so I beg for it.

But I also want to be diligent-- Oh, God! help me be diligent! To love these girls, to plant seeds of kindness and compassion and service-- seeds that only Jesus can make grow.

Jesus, I cast my children on You.

I cast myself on You, failures and cross words and impatience- You know them all.

Help us to get it.