Monday, August 29, 2011

Turtles and tanks - at what cost?

My eldest boy had a birthday during the week. And I will get to a blog about him...

But, today I think about turtles. The two turtles that our lovely pembantu (or 'maid' - seems like such an awful term) decided to give Caleb for his birthday. Did she not notice the distinct lack of pets in our family? Also the until-now-absence-of salmonella in our home? Apparently not. And yet kind and generous it was.

So we accept the said turtles with plastered smiles across our faces. Hoping we looked grateful. Knowing you can't quietly dispose of a gift when the giver works in our home every day. We did have a fun family meal listing and then voting on names - Zeke & Tilly it is!

Suddenly I am a concerned turtle owner, and realise I am most concerned about Zeke, who seems incredibly quiet in Tilly's presence. Tilly meanwhile is swimming around the plastic tub, looking decidedly thrilled to have four boys peering over at her every other moment of the day. Hhhhmmm...since I believe I have come to know these turtles in the past 48 hours about as well as my boys (oh, and done quite a lot of research), I decide they need to be in separate tanks.

Now our pembantu told us that she was also giving us a tank. When? Later. What does that mean? In Indonesia, no one knows, because 'yes' means 'no' and 'no' means 'maybe' and basically people say anything to keep everyone happy. So I don't know when a tank may or may not arrive. Nor do I know how big this tank is. Which worries me. Because I am a concerned turtle owner. And there is only so much room for two adults, four growing boys, and two turtles in an apartment. Too small - bad. Too big - worse. And I really believed that for Zeke & Tilly's mental health, two tanks was the only way to go.

So, in my best Indonesian, I explain to my non-English speaking pembantu that I am going to shop for tanks. I realise later that the word 'tank' is not understood in Indonesian. Big mistake by me.

After shopping endlessly for the perfect 'aquariums' (the word I should have used) for our some-day-off-in-the-future-will-be dearly loved turtles, the tanks appear on our kitchen bench.

And our pembantu is furious. Not just a little bit cranky. Seemingly very mad. Not-talking-to-me mad. And I don't know what to do. Other than feel like a little kid in trouble with the School Principle. And sick. I definitely felt sick.

I did try to talk to her. But to no avail. Since then I am concerned she will not come back to our house to work. Seriously. I may have offended her that much. And if so, I regret those tanks more than I can say! But it is so very easy in this land to hurt people, and it can be difficult for the relationship to recover.

I wait nervously to see if she will come. I'm not confident. I am saddened that such a seemingly small thing can matter so much. But that is the problem isn't it?

I thought it would be okay. In the process I discovered that we cannot always predict what is very important to another. Hurt abounds when we trample upon what matters to someone else, even when there is no intention to do so. It's not the first time. I like to think that when we are hurt, we should always consider the other person's motives, because people don't generally often hurt others. Before we start debating, I'm talking about everyday relationships with people we love - not governments, politics, history...

I'm glad for a God who is good, always loving, and intimately knows every one of his created beings. Because when I muck it up completely as I have on this occasion, I can pray that through his grace perhaps I will be forgiven, and the relationship will heal. This is a grace that brings hope to me, an imperfect woman, that I might be wiser next time.

The birthday boy, celebrating with his little brothers.

Giving thanks:

- My lovely pembantu.
- Wonderful generosity.
- Celebrating my oldest boy. 'Eleven' seems big!
- Zeke & Tilly.
- A God I can take failures to. 
- Reminders to trust Him.
- Bahasa lessons - apparently I still need to improve! 
- Grace and forgiveness in relationships.
- The freedom offered as a follower of Jesus - I don't need to hold on to things when I am hurt.
- Wisdom. Need more and more every day.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Our expensive child

Luke Miles is 7.

I remember when my waters broke. On the 29th of June. A week early. And the look of absolute horror on my man's face. Followed by the words, "Do you think you can wait?"

You see, on the 1st of July, the government were introducing the 'Baby Bonus', which meant they were willing to throw $3000 our way. But not on the 29th of June they weren't. No sir-ee! Cross my legs I did not. And after my most difficult labour thanks to a crooked head, our third little boy entered the world!

At his birth and beyond, this babe rarely cried. Happy to look around the room and absorb all that was happening. Silent. Content. With big eyes. "Delightful" was a word I used most frequently to describe him. 'Light and Merciful' is the meaning of his name. How apt. 

And he grew, constantly striving after being one of the 'big boys'. Tough being the most accurate word to describe his approach to all things physical. Not a tear during the 15 or so (some rather nasty) vaccinations before we moved overseas. Throwing his tiny frame hard into his brothers' games so that he could be one of them. Earning respect along the way. Especially from his Mum & Dad. The one who could not hold his shorts up due to his distinct lack of a bottom, yet managing to do everything one handed whilst holding his pants with the other.

So tough, yes. Did I mention vague? Oh my! Shirt on inside out, shorts back to front, shoes on the wrong feet, hat on sideways. All at once. Lost goggles, drink bottles, containers, balls, shoes (just one of a pair!), socks, thongs, notices, caps...I really could go on!!!! And hard to gather his attention when he has a non-fiction book or ball in his hand - which is pretty much one hundred percent of the time (except when he is holding his beloved teddy, Spencer). And when you call his name, it takes a little while for this boy to hear and respond, so entrenched is he in his own 'Luke world'. Like when you are kissing him good night, and he says in a far off voice, "Mum, what's 169 times 169?" 

I love the enormous heart this little man has! And fantastic priorities. He loves his brothers with a fierceness I don't see in others. He cries about people not knowing Jesus, because he worries about their eternity. When I ask him to change into better clothes he replies, "But Mum, the bible says we shouldn't worry about what we wear!" He readily gives his money away to a charity an older brother started. He is happy to play with his brother's friends, because the mother of this undemanding son often forgets to organise play dates for him! Must put that on my list...

His smile. The way he tells a story or sprouts the latest learned facts with such enthusiasm that he almost spits at you. Those eyes. Still big at those moments. His laughter, infectious.

So it appears we have forgiven him for the loss of that $3000. 

This son of mine. Joy and blessing beyond measure.

Giving thanks:

- God's timing.
- Contentment in my son. I can learn a lot from him.
- Generosity from my son. That too.
- Godly perspective from a little person.
- A big heart for people to know Jesus.
- An easy baby - every family should have one!
- The familiar sight of half of his bottom - always making me laugh.
- The way he still snuggles on my lap, playing with my hair. 
- His love for reading. Actually it is more about knowledge.
- The way he can't watch a footy game without running out of the room to play himself.

Monday, August 8, 2011

More or Less Encouragement???

I had a blog in mind. Sorted. Organised. But oh how the Lord has challenged me about the content!

You see recently I was grocery shopping and saw a Mum with a three or four year old boy. As he placed an item into the trolley, the Mum exclaimed, "Good job! I'm so proud of you!"

And I thought, really? Sure, great to see that he's a helpful little guy. But "proud" of him? I thought it was a little extreme. Surely not particularly sincere? 

Now before you say it, I KNOW! I have no idea what sort of a morning she had been having with him. Maybe there had been some discipline preceding  the said incident, and she was trying to turn things around. Or maybe this little man had other issues at the time, or in life, that meant he needed enormous amounts of encouragement right then.

At least she is shopping with her child. A rare event in Jakarta. Why bring them to the shops when you can leave them behind with a nanny? Never mind all they learn about colours, maths, food groups, healthy (or not so healthy) food...but I digress.

You know how once you see someone in the supermarket, you may as well strike up a conversation and have coffee afterwards, because you tend to follow one another around for an hour and could probably recite much of what is in their trolley and perhaps even guess at what they are making for dinner? Well, that is what I did with this lady and her son. Pretty sure it was spaghetti bolognese.

And so I noticed, that she didn't say thank you when her fruit and vegetables were weighed (which happens as you choose them in Jakarta - not at the registers). Now before you say it, I KNOW!!!!! Who's to say that I'm not distracted one day and forget? Or that she was thinking about other very important things and just forgot that one time, and I happened to witness it.

But it made me wonder, how are we teaching our kids about what is important? About what we value? Individual effort? Obedience? Taking pride in our actions? Or loving others? Showing gratitude?

Yet I find myself in that terrible conundrum you sometimes find yourself in - you know the one - who's throwing the first stone, take the log out of your own eye... Hhhhmmm.

You see this week I am finding there is more discouragement than encouragement in our home. It was made loud and clear this week through the Bible, a book I am reading, and a message at church - do you think I was supposed to be taking notice? I have been dealing with some character issues, particularly with my older boys. And tough things have needed to be said. But I'm not sure I said them in ways that will build them up. As the adult in the relationship, I have a responsibility to do that.

"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." Proverbs 14:1

I'm not convinced I am building rather than tearing at the moment. 

So I'm going to leave everyone else alone. 

And focus on my little flock.

Giving thanks:

- Reprimands from the living God.
- Forgiveness.
- Hard conversations with my sons. Chances to grow them into good men.
- Opportunity to think about what I value, but more importantly, to ask if I am actually imparting it?
- New days. The hope that I will do better through Him.
- Plans for one on one, times four.
- Wisdom in the bible - everything I need as a parent. 
- Good teaching, good books.
- All Mum's out there who are doing the best they can.
- My flock. And the gift of shepherding them.