Category Archives: Gideon James

zebras

Mom, who is that guy?

(We are watching football.)

MOM. Who is that GUY? With his arm up? Who is that white guy?

(I blink quickly but do not move.)

That guy is the quarterback. He throws the ball to the other guys.

Oh.

Well, who’s that black guy?

The what?

That BLACK GUY! What does he do?

(I physically flinch. I am not ready for this conversation. I reach in my mind for conversations from my childhood to guide me, but there are none. NONE. Sixteen years of military dependency, and most of that isolated on 2 small bases overseas, offered plenty of opportunities to discuss country politics, rank, and branch loyalty. But color? Everyone was the same color: green camo. It’s not an excuse, but it explains why I am unprepared on a Saturday afternoon to talk about this particular brand of diversity with a four-year-old. I am simply not ready.) 

He’s the receiver. He catches the ball the quarterback throws.

(I watch him as he tilts his head.)

I don’t like him. He’s weird.

(And here, my heart sinks.)

Gideon! Bud. He’s not weird. God painted us all kinds of different shades of colors in this world. Sometimes it tells us what country our family is from. Sometimes it tells us we’ve been in the sun too long. But someone’s skin never tells us anything about whether they’re weird or smart or scary or nice or anything like that. Do you understand?

It’s his SKIN?!

Yes.

Why God did paint him like a zebra? That’s WEIRD.

(I look at the game again. I walk up to the tv and point.)

Are you talking about this guy? In the stripes? 

Yeah.

That’s the referee, Gideon. He makes sure everyone is following the rules.

Yeah. He’s weird. I would NOT want to be him.

Well, I think a lot of people agree with you, Bud.

And I don’t want to be the white guy, either. 

Who do you want to be?

I want to be the blue guy. 

(I look at the game again.)

You want to be on the team that wears the blue pants.

Yeah. They’re awesome.

Not the white pants… the “white guys.”

Yeah.

YOU’RE awesome.

I know. And I am FAST, Mom. So fast.

There will be more conversations, I know… about weight and race and railroad tracks and religion and faith and tattoos and all those millions of feelings (learned or innate or bestowed) we must individually filter and hold up to the Light throughout a lifetime in the broken world. There will be so many more conversations. 

Please, Lord, remind me to ask twice as many questions as may be obvious, to listen more than talk, and to be thankful for the dialogue. And, please- when it is time… every time… give me words that build and expand, not diminish. Give me actions that care and affirm my words. And give me a heart that is not afraid.

Prejudice is a learned trait. You’re not born prejudiced; you’re taught it. • Charles R. Swindoll


permanent

I do so very much love my children.

I returned home from four days away and found all three of them pressed against the screen door, waiting for me. Rylie pushed the door open and stood on the top step with her arms outstretched and legs wiggling. I think she was humming. It was very sweet.

Gideon reverted to his dog impersonation, which is his go-to overwhelmed expression of love. He paused long enough to hug me around my neck and whisper, “I did miss you long time, Mom.”

Awww. Me, too, Buddy.

Now, Abby June… that girl. She hung back. When she finally made it out onto the steps she hopped up and down, which is two-year-old for PICK ME UP… so, I did. She sighed and kissed my cheek. Sighed and kissed me again. And then she buried her face in my neck and mumbled, “I did draw on your cabinet.”

The other two dropped the heads in defeat and marched back inside.

Now, I had been warned. I knew there had been a major incident that morning involving all three children and a permanent marker. Standing in the Atlanta airport listening to Curt’s brief run-down, I secretly rejoiced. IT IS ABOUT TIME this kind of stuff happened on his watch.

Oh, y’all. I had no idea.

The kitchen table was stacked with toys scarred by a fat, black Sharpie. Trucks and wooden blocks and matchbox cars and magnets. Rylie’s work was clear… her name scrawled across wooden blocks left no room for denial.

Gideon was a little more subtle, though it surely took more work to color entire vehicles. It could have taken weeks to notice the orange and red and blue cars that were now black… but the child forgot to color the BOTTOMS of them. No coat on the undercarriage. Rookie.

Abby’s contributions were the most traditional and the most painful. My beautiful vintage cabinet. Rylie’s door. The wall leading down to the basement, now graced with a single wavering line about 18-inches high.

I took it all in silently.

Curt made sandwiches.

The children… sat.

I turned around and put my hands on the island.

“Wow,” I said.

“You are mad?” Gideon asked.

“Take toys away?” Rylie offered.

“Well, I don’t know yet. Dad and I will have to talk about it together. I just, I don’t know guys. I honestly don’t know what to do.”

From the corner of the kitchen came a tiny but sure voice as Abby explained, “Dad already did give me a big spankin.’ He did.”

“I will take that into consideration. Thank you, Abby. Seriously, though, guys. What were you thinking? Rylie, you know better! Abby? Gideon? What in the world?”

Their Disney eyes grew wider than usual in silence. And then Gideon dug deep.

“God did tell me to do it, Mom. God did tell me to draw on my cars.”

prek

While I do not question my son’s potential prophet potential, we are now accepting all forms of ideas for a consequence for the above described childhood vandalism. We’ll deal with the ‘messenger’ situation another time.


tiny kingdoms

What do you think your gifts are? Your spiritual gifts? she asked with a broad smile. How are you specially equipped to further the Kingdom? Fill out these forms and we’ll help you find your place, your comfort zone.

I look at her and wonder if my skills can even be measured. If there is a chart for my particular brand of talents.

Every day I am out of my comfort zone.

My place is here.

I am building tiny kingdoms.

Dressing little bodies.

Monitoring little bodies dressing themselves.

Protecting little bodies who undress themselves.

I am the chief Completor of Forms. The holder of medical records. The one with the key to the birth certificates.

I am the builder of bridges, ramps, garages, and rockets. I make houses and barns and tents. I divide supplies equally over tyrannical consumers, and I supervise the demolition of a day’s hard work.

I dress American Girl dolls with speed and efficiency.

I am the monitor of snacks and the keeper of sugar. I pour the milk that is too full for little hands. I open the Ft. Knox wrappers of granola bars and cheese sticks and juice box straws.

I remember where I last saw the beloved bear or baby. I know all the secret hiding places for the one missing shoe. Why is it always the same one?

I am the only one who can be trusted to buckle and unbuckle bicycle helmets.

My kiss magically heals wounds and quiets tears.

I am a master of fitting thumbs into mittens, tiny toes into boots, and hats on frantically moving heads.

I know who wants honey on a bagel, nutella on a sandwich, and jelly-no-peanut-butter on half a slice folded over. I know these things.

These… THESE are my spiritual gifts.

leaf

My gifts don’t transfer especially well to the Real World, but they hold my little people- my tiny kingdoms- together.

Is it not spiritual to be able to decipher a cry for help from a scream for joy? Am I not equipped for battle with grace and laughter and discipline… and more than a few tears along the way?

I am not always a grateful bearer of Truth, a kind giver of gifts, a silent hand of encouragement. I am usually looking for instead of handing out. I am simply not ready to be more things to people beyond my own gates. The tiny kingdoms are still stretching my time and my talents.

Someday, I will graduate or expand to sharpening the more traditional spiritual gifts, and I will be useful in different ways. But for now,

Every day, I am out of my comfort zone.

And yet, my place is here.

Building tiny kingdoms.

And to you, too crazy to make a meal from scratch right now, too overwhelmed to take a walk at night, too behind on laundry to fold AND put away… too tired to write blogs, too unscheduled to bring a meal to an acquaintance, too walking-a-fine-line to reach out- to you: You are not alone. Do the next thing. Just, the very next thing. That’s all you have to do. Eventually, you will be given more. More time, more sleep, more capacity. But for now, just do the next thing in your tiny kingdom. It is enough.


Gideon goes to school

Gideon James,

You are 45 pounds and 4 years of awesome. Independent, loud, cuddly, freakishly coordinated awesome.

For weeks, you asked daily… multiple times daily… when we were going to Colorado. Colla-Waddo. If it wasn’t Codda-Wado, it was camping. When we were camping or in Codda-Wado, you wanted to know what we were doing next. Last night, with a mouth full of toothpaste, you told me again you wanted to go home.

You ARE home, Love.

Oh. I mean Texy. I want to go to Texy and DRIVE. MINES. TRACTOR.

Buddy. 

You have always wanted to be where you are not. On to the next thing. Over the next hill. Fast as you can. Nothing to ninety in less than a minute.

And now it is time for school.

Just a little bit of school.

Thursday1

Three times a week for a couple hours each day you will jump into science and painting and Bible stories and new books and field trips and fire alarms. You are going to love school, Gideon James. They have endless art paper and a jungle gym and A BUS! They have kids your age and PLANNED ACTIVITES, son. They are ready and waiting for you.

You told everyone you know, and a few bank tellers and nurses you didn’t, that you would be riding a bus to Rylie’s school this year. All true. You have a backpack and new superhero shirts. You will only wear baseball (read: slippery) shorts, but we’ll deal with winter later. When asked what you were most looking forward to, you answered, “Snack time. AND the water fountain.”

You ask the absolute best questions. I am so excited for you to begin learning things that haven’t even occurred to you yet.

What am I hoping you’ll learn at school? 

vocal restraint at appropriate times 

bathroom etiquette 

to wait for others  

home is safe 

your parents do not know everything

it’s ok to grow big

non-moshing dance moves

actions have consequences

mom will always be waiting for you 

Thursday2

I will never, ever forget seeing you walk in a line returning from recess yesterday. All the parents were milling around the classroom door, waiting anxiously for their Littles to come back from their first day.

You didn’t see me sitting there on the floor with Abby. You were so calm… serious, even?… and CUTE there towards the back. I couldn’t help but whisper-yell, “Gid! Hey, Bud!” And you heard me and you spun around and you found me and you ran and tackled me without a word. Then, as quick as you came, you ran back to your place in line, entered your classroom, and wrapped up your day.

That 30 seconds kind of made my life. 

I got to see you before you saw me…

and you were just fine.

You would have been just fine had you not seen me until the official dismissal. But, you were fine AND you were thrilled to see me. I could not ask for anything more.

I’m your biggest fan, Gus Man.

Your absolute, biggest fan.

Love,

Mom


put me in

FMG

I have a question for you, he says, and I cannot help but smile. This boy who mixes tenses and verbs and syntax often sounds like a little man now. I hate it, but I love it.

What’s your question?

You wanna pway dis game I did make?

Yes, I do.

Ok. I have all the stuff. Come outside.

And I follow him.

He has 2 wiffle balls, a padded Detroit Tigers bat, medical gloves, and a plastic machine gun lined up on the lawn. I am directed to stand a ways off.

You gonna throw the ball for me, AT me. I gonna hit it. Den, after I hit it I gotta run run run run run run run around back to my gun. And den I haffa shoot the sprocket.

The target?

Yeah. The sprocket. 

And what do I do?

You haffa get the ball a’fore I get to my gun and shoot the sprocket.

Is this like the biathlon we watched? With the skiing and the shooting at the Olympics?

I watch as his face breaks out in unmistakable joy.

YES. ‘Cept us don’t have any skiis. Or snow. Or glasses. Ok? You got it? You ready? I’s gonna hit the ball.

Y’all. I played this game for an hour yesterday and have the bruises to show for it. That kid can turn a wiffle ball in a missile… and don’t worry about his form. He hits just fine. He also runs like he stole somethin’. I just… I’m just so tired.

But I know the time is coming when his speech will even out, when he’ll be able to start his bike on his own, when he won’t ask me to play scary biathlon with him anymore. Right now, I am the starting pitcher on his team and I plan to be at every game.

I’m going to need some body armor.

baseball

[Bottom right? That’s his game face. The machine gun is behind him. Top right? I pitched 2 high balls in a row. He was considering calling the bull pen but realized I was his only option.PLEASE do not miss the medical gloves on his. These were KEY.]


Gideon is 4.

It’s always so hard for me to start again, to find my rhythm. When I do not know why to say or how to feel, I write a letter. The music always finds me there. 

GIDEON JAMES!

Did you think I had forgotten you in all the quiet of Lent? It is impossible to go a second without searching for you… in mind or on foot. Your name is usually said and spelled in ALL CAPS, either out of excitement or exasperation. Lawd, Child… if you aren’t the most full of life heartbreaker I’ve ever met. You must wear socks to bed and “baseball forts” (which, for the record, as actually basketball shorts) under all your pants just in case the weather blows fair. Most folks have never seen you without a baseball cap. You sleep in one most every night and sometimes forget to take it off in the shower.

Gus1

You grasped the concept of a wish list early and were prompting us for your 4th birthday well before March 11. A trumpet. A kite. A motorcycle. A movie about dragons. A blue helicopter. A soda pop. A fishing pole. A fast bike. A boat. I’m so sorry we weren’t able to come through on some of those… but you have a lot of life left. While I do not know the number of your years, I know the quality of your days. You have logged more smiles and tears in the first four trips around the sun than many do in a lifetime. You do nothing small or quiet or gently. You love big and hit hard, Gus. You will always be my Gus Man.

You wake up slow. You love fruit loops for breakfast. You eat a peanut butter sandwich every day for lunch. You are fascinated by machines and how things work. You struggle with empathy and focus. Abby is screaming in pain because you are sitting on her but wait is that a tractor and where are your fast shoes can you have some candy? You absolutely hate going to bed, and every night since the day you were born has been a battle to that end.

Gus3

You can drive a tractor by yourself and pull a wagon of passengers behind you. You can ride a 2-wheel bike. You can fly an RC helicopter (sorry it’s red) and make legitimate noise on a trumpet. You know all the names of Thomas and his friends by sight and can jump almost as high as Dad on the trampoline. You are life. Absolute untamed, unfiltered life.

My beautiful beautiful beautiful beautiful boy.

You have thrown me into the high and low drama of being a mother of a son with the potential to change the world. I see Mary in a whole new light after meeting you, living with you, loving you. You can break my heart and save the day in a matter of minutes separated only by tears and laughter. Certainly, you have a mind of capable of comprehension, but should you find yourself lacking you will excel by sheer determination, bruises be damned. You are the middle child with no concept of being lost… only being where you never have been before.

Gus2

All of these lines across my face tell you the story of who I am: I am your biggest fan, your toughest critic, and your only mother. May you seek God’s face and desperately, gleefully chase after His heart. May I be the kind of parent who you gives you room to roam and as few hints as possible. Be wild at heart and compassionate in victory. I will be the one you see every time you turn around. But look ahead- eyes in front, Son. See all Christ has in store for you, which is immeasurably more than you can imagine, Child. So. Much. More.

You are worth every tear, every bruise, every broken anything.

I absolutely adore you.

Love, Mom

Gideon is born.

Gideon is 1.

Gideon is 2.

Gideon is 3.

 


purple

I had an inheritance from my father, It was the moon and the sun. And though I roam all over the world, The spending of it’s never done. – Ernest Hemingway

royalty

[Happy Birthday today to my boy… my tornado of awesome. You are a PRINCE!]

Open the eyes of their hearts, and let the light of Your truth flood in. Shine Your light on the hope You are calling them to embrace. Reveal to them the glorious riches You are preparing as their inheritance. [Ephesians chapter 1, verse 18]

My usual stories with words will be replaced by daily stories with photos for the days of Lent. You see, I’m trying to look for Lent this year instead of waiting for it to find me.

:: resources and readings ::

Jesus Calling Lenten companion by Sarah Young

Instagram Photo-a-Day Journey by Catholic Sistas

Beneath the Tree of Life Lenten devotional by Michelle DeRusha

Holy Lens Lent-stagram project by Survive Our Blessings

daily lectionary readings

Lent and Easter devotions from Bible Gateway

family Lent devotional from Ann Voskamp