Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Waiting for It to Get Easier

I didn't want to write this post.  A lot of people with better thought out arguments or more researched opinions have already written this post. The news has shifted. Parents who held their children more tightly this weekend quickly pecked them on the cheek this morning as they fell back into the routine of packing lunches, checking backpacks for homework folders, and chastising kids for messy rooms making it impossible to find matching shoes, glasses, gloves, or scarves.

Most of us are ready to move on with our lives.

We are still sad.

We are still angry.

When we stop and think about the 26 people killed, more specifically, the 20 children killed, we can't help but be over come with emotion.

So mostly, we are ready to stop thinking about it.

And I didn't want to write this post.

But here I am.  Computer open. Typing. Maybe because the little four year old boy playing on the floor makes it impossible for me to forget that 20 families are staring at floors in their houses that are void of toys that just last week they were cursing about tripping over.

Maybe it is because I spent 13 years working in school districts, writing crisis plans, and training school administrators what to do in case of various emergency situations.  Like if a shooter enters the building.

Maybe it's because I am one of those parents who held onto my children extra tight all weekend and then gave my daughter a quick peck on the cheek as I sent her off to her third-grade class this morning.

Maybe it's because I keep hoping if I look at this in a different way, if I think of it from a different perspective, if I read enough blog posts, or see enough motivational pictures or scriptures, if I hug my children enough times, or if I just stop and mediate, it will get easier.

Easier to understand. Easier to swallow.  Easier to make sense of something so senseless.  Easier to keep believing in a God who is good and who is big enough to stop someone from walking into an elementary school and shooting 26 people, 20 children, but who did not.

It isn't getting easier.

In fact, the more I look at it, the more I think about it, the more I stare at my four year old, the harder it is to understand.  The harder it is to make sense of anything.

The harder it is to believe.

Weeks like this challenge my faith. They send me running to God screaming "Why?" and "How could you?" and "Where were you?"  "CHILDREN!"

Weeks like this leave me filled with disdain for some of my fellow man and grace and mercy for others. Weeks like this all of the sudden make me think of all of the other injustices in the world; places where children die due to lack of drinking water, genocide, AIDS. Most days I don't give any of these things a second thought.  I flip past any news stories or specials, because come on, they are depressing. And they are  oceans away and have no direct effect on my life.

But this week, when I'm questioning everything that is good in the world, I question all of these things.

And I question God.

And I wait for a voice that sounds like James Earl Jones (because that is what I assume the voice of God sounds like), but the voice never comes.

God doesn't tell me why.

But He does remind me (in a whisper, not a JEJ voice), that He doesn't have to.

Job 38:4-18 (New Living Translation)4 "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. 5 Do you know how its dimensions were determined and who did the surveying? 6 What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone 7 as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? 8 "Who defined the boundaries of the sea as it burst from the womb, 9 and as I clothed it with clouds and thick darkness? 10 For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores. 11 I said, 'Thus far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!' 12"Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? 13 Have you ever told the daylight to spread to the ends of the earth, to bring an end to the night's wickedness? 14 For the features of the earth take shape as the light approaches, and the dawn robed in red. 15 The light disturbs the haunts of the wicked, and it stops the arm that is raised in violence. 16 "Have you explored the springs from which the seas come? Have you walked about and explored their depths? 17 Do you know where the gates of death are located? Have you seen the gates of utter gloom? 18 Do you realize the extent of the earth? Tell me about it if you know!
I didn't really like His answer. I don't ever really like it when God reminds me that He is God and I am not. But it did remind me that even if I didn't like the answer, He was still God.  He was still in control. He is still here.

It reminded me of all the times when I was a little girl and other kids were mean to me.  My dad would come home from work and I would climb up into his lap and tell him how awful my day was.  Then, with tears in my eyes, I would tell him, "It just isn't fair daddy."

And he would wrap his arms around me and say, "No, baby, it isn't."

And that's exactly what I told God. "Someone walking into a school and shooting twenty-six people, twenty of them little children, God, it just isn't fair."

And as He wraped His arms around me, I heard Him reply, "No it isn't, Kristen. No, it isn't."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Waiting for a Little More Crazy

I've always loved Christmas.

More specifically, I've always loved Christmas trees. Maybe it's because I'm from Montana and there we just call them trees.

Many of my fondest memories of choosing a Christmas tree revolve around my brother, my dad and me wandering through a series of evergreen trees while my we tried to come an agreement on a tree that not only Jason and I approved of, but that my dad, who apparently had better spacial sense than we did, figured would fit into our living room.  This took some doing, as my brother and I are both perfectionists when it comes to choosing the perfect tree.  There is a certain symmetry that must exist on at least three sides, along with a deep green color, and branches sturdy enough to hold lights (the old fashioned giant - one goes out, we all go out- lights), garland, ornaments, and at least four boxes of tinsel. Basically a tree had to be able to hold a family of giant possums on each and every branch to stand up to the kind of decorating it would be subject to at our house.

The biggest argument came down to size.  It went like this. We would find the perfect tree and my dad would (patiently) explain that our house did not have 35 foot ceilings, and as much as he would like to climb 28 feet up the tree to cut off the top seven feet, he was neither a lumberjack, nor crazy, and we were going to have to pick another tree.  This usually went on for about two hours before we finally found one that was closer to twelve feet, which was still five feet to tall, but doable.

I honestly didn't even know they made such a thing as artificial trees until I came to Texas to attend college. If I would have known most 95% of the state had fake Christmas trees, I probably would have ended up in Michigan. As the years went on, I continued to defy the artificial tree racket in Texas and buy a real tree each year.  But something happened to my tree trimming tradition the farther I got from home. I stopped stringing popcorn, and the garland disappeared completely.  My ornaments became color coordinated, and I couldn't even tell you if they make tinsel anymore. My last semester of college, which happened to be the one year I lived by myself, I stood back and looked at my finished tree and thought it was the most beautiful tree I had ever seen.  Mind you, this was before Facebook, before Pinterest.  I'm not even sure if Martha Stewart was a household name.  But I had created this amazing tree, perfectly symmetrical, and not just the tree, but the placement of the ornaments.  The colors and lights (not the outside kind), were all coordinated and just stunning if I do say so myself. And I do.

I loved that tree.

Then I got married.

To a Texan.

A Texan who did not understand my love of real trees. Our first Christmas I had to make the dreaded call to my father telling him that....we had.... bought....an....artificial tree.

To this day it is the only time my dad has hung up on me.

But still, Richie and I made our metal and plastic tree as beautiful as you can make a, you know, metal and plastic tree.  By that time, adding ribbon to your tree had become in vogue and someone made us an amazing bow to top the tree.  We started a tradition of decorating our tree in a different theme each year, to reflect that year in our lives, or you know, just because.  When UNT went to the New Orleans Bowl the first year (oh, how long ago), we did a Mardi Gras tree with masks and feathers.  The year our daughter was born the tree was adorned in all pink.

And then something else happened.

Our daughter grew into a toddler.

She wanted to help decorate the tree.

My tree.

If you have small children or if you have ever seen a tree decorated by small children you know how it goes. First, you put up all of the ornaments that can break, which by this point are most of them, because you have been collecting all of these awesome ornaments for years.  Then, you start handing the small child all of the unbreakable ornaments, which he or she proceeds to hang.

On the same branch.

Every single ornament.

On the same branch.

It doesn't matter if you encourage the child to move to the other side of the tree. It doesn't matter if you pick up the child and physically move the child to the other side of the tree or hold the child up so they can reach a high branch.  It is as if the child is drawn to that one and only branch. So every ornament the child touches gets put on that branch.

Interestingly, if you have two small children, they will both be attracted to the same branch.  I'm not sure why this happens, but it is true.  I have seen up to five children all hanging ornaments on the same branch.

I give props to artificial trees on this point.  Thanks to their titanium innards, their branches hold up to the barrage of ornaments much better than real trees. We have seen it go both ways, as Richie and I came to an agreement in order to save our marriage, which is I get a real tree every three years, or on years when I have a baby.

Once you have children, not only are all of the ornaments bunched up on one branch, but the small children (we now have two), start bringing home "ornaments" they made at daycare, preschool, kindergarten, church, in the back yard, during nap, and anywhere else they have a hook, some paste, and some clay type substance.  I think we have one that is made of used bubble gum and a paper clip that one of the kids tried to pass off as a shooting star.

So as the kids started "helping" decorate the tree, I did what every proud and loving mother does; I waited until they went to sleep and re-decorated it.  I re-distributed all of the ornaments, moving the less desirable ornaments to the lesser viewed side and using ribbon to hide some of the imperfections. The kids don't notice.  The tree looks great.

Everyone wins.

This year is a real tree year in the Escovedo house (every third year - not a baby year) and to my credit, I let the kids pick it (with just a tad of guidance).  And can I just say, it must be in their genes, because they picked an amazing tree. And they are getting the hang of decorating too.  They are eight and four this year and I am to the point where I am starting to enjoy reminiscing as I look at the decorations made in kindergarten and Santa pictures from prior years.

As I sat last night with the Christmas lights on I looked at the tree and then down at our daughter my heart was so full as I said to her, "I think you did an awesome job.  I really think this is our most beautiful tree yet.  What do you think?"

Long pause.

"Anna, what do you think?  Do you not like the tree?"

"It's not that I don't like it. I just think there is something missing mommy."

"What?  What is it?  What do you think is missing? Does it need more lights? Ribbon?"

"Hmmmm... It just needs....I don't know.  Well, it needs more Ryan.  It needs a little more crazy. It just doesn't quite look like, well, us."

As I looked at our beautiful, symmetrical, color coordinated tree, I realized she was absolutely right.

It didn't look like us. 

We are not symmetrical, nor are we ever color coordinated.  We are, well, a little more crazy.

So tonight, she and Ryan got to work fixing the tree.  Out came the foam, scissors, tape, and markers. I watched and they worked carefully putting together ornaments that just a year ago I would have hidden in the back, but tonight I let them proudly hang right in the front where everyone would be sure to see them.

Because thinking back on my childhood Christmas trees, the joy in my memories is not because they were perfect.

It was because they had a little more Kristen.

They had a little more crazy.

I won't have imperfect trees forever, so you can bet your elves I am going to enjoy every bubble gum shooting star ornament while I can.

Turns out, they are priceless.