Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Elder Wisdom

In the continuing wake of the unexpected loss of my father-in-law this past spring, I feel moved to meditate a bit on my other two dads.  One who gave me life and supported me throughout my life, and one who came along in the nick of time to offer extra needed support.  If anyone needed two dads, it was probably me!


Things I learned about parenting from my Dad:

Dad in his home environment
1) Play with your kids.  Legos and board games are best.  And camping.
2) When your kid runs away, don't give her the option of moving in with you.  Escape doesn't help anyone.
3) When said daughter calls and asks for advice, don't tell her what you think.  She might blame you later.  Besides, you love her either way, right?
4) Be graceful about your transition to an adult relationships with your kids.  Stop treating them like kids when they become adults.  Enjoy grown-up things with them, as much as you enjoyed kid-things when they were younger.


Things I learned about parenting from my step-dad:

Other Dad in his home environment (with my kid)
1) Play with your kids.  Legos and board games are best.  And camping.
2) When your kid runs away, don't nail her window shut.  She'll just go out the front door.
3) When said daughter asks for advice, pray a lot before responding.  Then take her camping instead.  Preferably far, far away from civilization.  Maybe you should take a boat.  Then you can tell her what you think and she can't get mad and run away again (see #2).
4) Be graceful about your transition to adult relationships with your kids.  Don't be afraid to take advice from them.  They might actually know something after all those years of hanging out with you.

Thanks, Dads.  I'm one lucky kid.

Does this really need a caption?  Seriously?






Wednesday, September 7, 2011

All Tangled up

I reluctantly allowed my Grace-girl to watch "Tangled," the Disney version of Rapunzel.  I say reluctantly because Disney princess movies irritate me on many levels:  Over-sexualization of young girls, over-commercialization, and general Disney-creepiness rate high on my mommy-richter scale.  In this case, she had already seen most of the movie because of a Fred Meyer playland experience that I'd rather not discuss (WHY are they showing PG movies in Playland?  You have my kid for 1 hour- can't you keep her occupied?  I digress...).

I must admit that the movie really, truly moved me. 

*spoiler alert*

The story of Rapunzel typically symbolizes a loss of innocence, a journey into puberty (in this story) not handled gracefully.  In the traditional story, Mother Goethel cuts Rapunzel's hair and "releases" her.  The cutting of hair symbolizes separation from mother.  There are many biblical parallels, but, as usual, my interpretation has taken me in a new direction.

In "Tangled" we meet a spunkier, happier Rapunzel than I have seen.  She is content, but somehow feels she is  missing out on something important that she can't quite put a finger on:

"And so I'll read a book
Or maybe two or three
I'll add a few new paintings to my gallery
I'll play guitar and knit
And cook and basically
Just wonder when will my life begin?
And then I'll brush and brush,
and brush and brush my hair
Stuck in the same place I've always been.

And I'll keep wonderin' and wonderin'
And wonderin' and wonderin'
When will my life begin?"

She is being deceived by the witch, pretending to be her mother (this is a disturbing element for the under-six set).  As I was watching the movie I realized that the tower and the hair are symbolic of sin, "The sin which so easily entangles us" from Hebrews 12:1.  Sometimes we are so "wrapped up" in our sin-life that we think it is normal life.  Normal?!  Living in a tower with fifty feet of hair to care for?  Not hardly.  We also tend to see our sin as a gift or something that we simply must live with or protect (in her case the hair heals).  But it is not until we are willing to step out of the tower to experience LIFE abundant that we see our sin has really been hindering us.

"Look at the world - so close, and I'm halfway to it!
Look at it all - so big - do I even dare?
Look at me - there at last! - I just have to do it
Should I?
No.
Here I go...
Just smell the grass! The dirt! Just like I dreamed they'd be!
Just feel that summer breeze - the way it's calling me
For like the first time ever, I'm completely free!
I could go running
And racing
And dancing
And chasing
And leaping
And bounding
Hair flying
Heart pounding
And splashing
And reeling
And finally feeling
Now's when my life begins!"

And finally, when she realizes she's been deceived...
 
"All those days watching in the windows
All those years outside looking in
All that time never even knowing
Just how blind I've been
Now I'm here blinking in the starlight
Now I'm here suddenly I see
Standing here it's all so clear
I'm where I'm meant to be."
 
In this version of the story, it is Flynn (Eugene) who cuts her hair.  I see Flynn as a prophet/Christ in this movie.  He's a reluctant one, for sure (but aren't they all?).  He carries a message for her that he doesn't even understand.  He's not the worthy prince or the fearless warrior...definitely a prophet.  His one act of bravery, cutting her hair (rather than save his own life) is a true act of love and selflessness.  Jesus had to cut away our sin to free us- at his own expense, his own death.  We love him, we don't understand why he has to die, then it all becomes clear. Satan (Mother Goethel) is thrown from the tower (read Revelation much?), Rapunzel's love revives Flynn, and he and Rapunzel live happily ever after. 
 

They do return to the tower (in the original story) to visit their forest friends.  Sometimes we must remember, or memorialize, the places where we have been freed from sin to remember how not to become entangled again.  But in this story Rapunzel gets to return to the King's house (God) and regain her right role as a princess of the kingdom.  

Now... have you claimed your rightful place in the Kingdom?  Or are you living a locked up life? 

Photo Credits: Google Image

Thursday, August 11, 2011

When the World isn't big enough for your dreams

 
Greeting the Sea
My little Grace-girl is turning five this week and I'm quite literally stunned by her beauty.  Somehow she grew into a princess.  I don't mean the plastic Disney dress-up kind, but the kind that embraces the world with grace and poise. 


On our annual trip to the beach we pulled into a campground in the dead of night, pitched a tent by sheer willpower and collapsed into sleeping bags barely unfurled.  By the early light of dawn (yes, those are my kids camping next to you) the girls we all woke up and ran to the beach for our annual homecoming.  Baby Rain was on daddy's back, as it was raining and we still had far to drive that day.  But Grace-girl kicked off her sandals and ran out onto the sand with all the appearance of a child who will jump into frigid water without a moment's thought.  Then she stopped.  And she raised her hands gracefully to the sky and to the sea as if to say, "hello old friend.  I'm sorry I've been away so long.  You look lovely, today."  


When she came back to us she said she had to say hello as a mermaid returning to the sea.  


It's moments like these that make me glad I'm not tied to a traditional life.  God has given me a spectacular life, one full of adventure and unknown treasure.  We've chosen to homeschool our girls (for now, at least!) and that lends itself to all sorts of adventure.  A beach trip is more than a family vacation, it's a learning experience that will bring resonating memories for years to come.  While others are scrambling to get their supplies in order and buy new school clothes and worry about the new teacher and think about how to juggle schedules... we simply are.    Not that I don't worry and stress and think about things, but there is peace in knowing that this path is the right one and that it can only lead to more adventure.  


When we left the ocean for the year, we made one last stop at a well-traveled beach.  I found a shell to give to my Grace-girl and told her it was a goodbye gift from the ocean.  Her eyes sparkled, her face lit up and she looked at me with joy.  Then she turned to the ocean and blew one last kiss goodbye.  Until next year.

Monday, July 25, 2011

House Rules

Lately I've been feeling like the rules just aren't laid out well enough.  A good friend once told me that we often take the things for granted things that we think our children know and understand.  So I began to question my Grace-girl (5 next month). 
  • Why isn't it ok to knock over your sister?
  • Can words hurt?
  • What does "consequence" mean?
  • Is it ok for mommies and daddies to be mad?
  • Is it ok for kids to be mad?
  • Why do you have to take time-outs?
I was surprised to find that her reasoning on these points wasn't quite what I thought it was.   For example, "It's ok to knock her over if it's just an accident."  Or "it's ok for daddies to be mad, but not mommies."  So we began, again, talking through things a little more.  As the eldest, sometimes I pin so much on her and forget to explain myself in the process.  Have patience, mama.

When I ran across this picture (see header) I began to think:  what are my house rules?  Really... what are those things that I value most in our home environment?  Why not add things like "laugh*giggle*be silly"?  Maybe we take ourselves way too seriously. 

So I'm thinking of creating my own wall of rules... but rules that matter.  Here are a few of my new

HOUSE RULES:
  1. Use kind words
  2. Laugh every day
  3. Use your imagination
  4. Make someone smile
  5. Read more books than ever before
  6. Make music freely
  7. This home has an open-door policy
  8. Treat others as you would like to be treated
  9. Exercise extreme love
  10. Breathe deeply
What would you add for your house rules?  Would you be bold enough to print them on the walls of your house?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Finding the visual "me"


I don't usually use this blog to randomly promote something, but I've been discovering some amazing things about myself because of a new site I've been using:  Pinterest.  It may sound a little shallow and silly to say that a website can help me discover myself, but it's true.

Pinterest is great because they don't spend a lot of time explaining what they are.  Simplicity seems to be the new thing on the internet.  Nice.

Pinterest is the place to "pin" visual images, found online, that you find appealing.  You pin your pictures on a "pin board" and you can have as many different boards as you want.  It's super easy.  Once you've installed your "pin it" tool on your toolbar the rest is cake.  Just click and go.  Right on your own board.  Imagine these categories and more:
  • my dream kitchen
  • PINK!
  • Organization, please
  • romantic places
  • my utopia
  • kids' stuff
Now- every time you stumble, tumble, or google your way across an image you don't want to forget, stash it on your pinboard.  Etsy much?  Pin it.

I personally struggle with style.  I've never had tons of it, and didn't realize that I might have my own rather than needing to grab onto someone else's.  Now I can see all the things I love, pinned up onto one page.  Per topic.  It's like a 3D bulletin board with multiple layers of different things I LOVE.  All about ME.  Sounds a little selfish, but take this into consideration:

Then: I'm frustrated, overwhelmed, a little lonely and craving something beautiful in my life (besides the obvious beautiful things in my life!).  Have I forgotten the core of who I am in my effort to become what I must be?

Now:  I see the things I love in front of me.  And I see my house.  I suddenly see where the two connect and where they fail to make sense. I'm finding myself, again.

I'm realizing as I grow older that the things in our lives do have value.  Not because they are expensive, but because they instill joy, bring beauty and artfully express "self" in a way that is sometimes seemingly inexpressible.  Plus- you can find kindred spirits out there.  Check it out- tell me what you think!

ps- all the pics in this post are ones I've pinned on my pinboards.  

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pruning

This year was the year of God's increase.  I say "was" because I really think it began when we bought this house a year ago.  Two years ago if you told me we have two good cars, a house of our own and another beautiful girl, I would have been like Sarah. I would have laughed.  And God would have waited patiently to watch my wonder and amazement as His plan unfolded. 

We named the baby Josephine Rain (God Will Increase Rain) because we believe in this year of blessings and favor.  And she is a blessing!  So is the rest of the stuff that has followed her conception and her cathartic (for me) birth.

But with every birth comes a dying.  For new growth to come, a pruning must occur.  There was a miscarriage.  A dying of my own will and ambition around childbirth.  And what was born in that moment was a humility that needed to appear before I could be ready for this next season.  And then...

This February my father-in-law died unexpectedly from lung cancer and other complications.  A few weeks after that my maternal grandmother died from complications from a stroke.  Then, a week or so ago my paternal grandmother fell on her face and broke her nose creating bleeding in her brain.  After an operation and a stroke she no longer had movement in one side of her body, or use of her speech.  She went to be with Jesus, this morning. 

I know all three loved Jesus.  The irony of the supposed "rapture" that was going to happen today is not lost on me.  But all joking aside, I know loss must happen.  I know Joy can be full in the midst of sorrow, and I fine myself living more and more in the dichotomy of that place.

I'm sure there will be more on this blog about loss, gifts and life.  For now I'm sitting a little stunned by all this, but expectantly waiting to see what comes next.

photo credit

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blogging 4 Dummies


If I could write the book, I would- but why read books about blogs when you can read BLOGS about blogs?  If you have ever wanted to write a blog but didn't know where to start, or weren't sure what you wanted your focus to be, I have the perfect answer:  GoodBlogs.com.  It's an interesting little social experiment, in my opinion.  It works like this:
  1. Write a blog post.  It cannot appear anywhere else (including other blogs) but on Goodblogs.
  2. Publish the blog post on the site.
  3. Wait and see if people like it.  Most of the readers are other bloggers.
  4. If you make it to the front page (the most votes, tweets and Facebook "likes"), you earn $20.
 If people don't like it, you've learned something about blogging, or yourself.  I find it's a great site for these reasons:
  • It's a quick and easy way to get something out there.  The site is a no-frills, easy to use platform.
  • I like the sense of community- everyone who reads my blog posts is blogging as well.
  • It's competitive.  It forces you to be your best in written form as well as idea form.  It's great practice.
  • I have a chance to write things that don't fit into my other blogs.
Here's what I don't like.
  • It's become apparent to me that people don't care about grammar.  I'm frustrated by how many poorly written pieces make it to the front page (not all that interesting, either!)  so...
  • Is it a popularity contest?  I hate those.
  • It's addictive.  My "real" blogs are suffering.  Not cool. 
It is fun, and it's a great place to float an idea and see how it pans out.  I suppose I'll keep doing it, but with better boundaries.  Come check it out- it is fun!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Running Shoes

 
Once upon a time, I was a girl debilitated by doubt.  You know what I'm talking about.  The lie sneaks in, untruth weighs anchor in your soul and suddenly everything you thought was real seems slippery and indefinable.  I grew up believing in Jesus almost from the day I was born.  I could recite the books of the Bible, sing at the top of my lungs in a choir of children, and even beat the best at a "find that verse" contest.  But somewhere along the line I forgot to tend to my soul.

Or maybe I thought that part of soul-tending is soul-rending. 
So I walked away.  Actually, I ran.
Far away.

The funny thing is that you can't really run far when you're running from the Creator of the Universe.  He sees you more clearly than you see yourself, even in the darkest, dankest, deepest hole you can dig. 

I'm sharing this because I believe God creates beauty from the ashes of my life.  I know someone out there is trying to run as hard as I did and I want you to know my story.  

Fed up with the God thing, I strategically sought truth in my known world and beyond through religion, sex and drugs.  I traveled to magically mystical places and met authentically  wonderful people.  I was open to everything in the universe except God.  Finally the fruitlessness of my quest caught up with me.  It no longer made sense to exclude Him.

God. 

I was literally on my knees in the little cabin refuge my mother and step-father built for me, knowing I would find the path home.  

I know you're out there.  I just don't know who you are or what I'm supposed to believe.  All I want is the truth.  Please, please just give me the truth and the faith to believe in it.

There was no bright flash of light, no epic vision of angelic choirs, no face of Jesus appearing on my toast.  Just a calm sense that He heard me.  And He answered.

Try reading the Bible, again, I felt Him urge.

sigh.

Right...that dilapidated, broken down, conflicted, misogynistic old piece of...
OK.  I will.

From Genesis chapter 1, verse 1, suddenly I was reading the Bible for the first time, with fresh eyes.  A new perspective had been planted in my heart, like a seed in fruitful soil (there was plenty of fertilizer in there, believe me).  And the faith grew.  It didn't grow like a temperamental hothouse flower.  And it was no rose with hidden thorns.  Instead it grew like a sunflower; reaching for the sun so hard that you could almost see it gain altitude in your very presence.  Strong and sturdy against the most prevailing winds my faith grew, always reaching for the sun. I took off my old, smelly running shoes.  Time to stop running.  This was truly holy ground that could grow a faith like this.

Repentance means "to turn," and I wasn't just turning back around.  I was lacing up new running shoes and running like I never ran before.  Running home.  It was a short trip because for every step I took, the Father took about twenty to meet me.  And it was a sweet reunion.

So, I share this with the hope that you will reach for the sun, today.  None of us are satisfied to wallow in the shallow soil of a meaningless life.  Dig deep.  Then dig deeper.  But stop the running.  You might be surprised to find that Love is a free gift- for all.  Even to those with the most worn out running shoes.

This blog post was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. She's giving away a scholarship to the upcoming She Speaks Conference.  The conference is about women connecting the hearts of women to the heart of our Father God through writing, speaking and leading.  If your heart is to serve Him in this way, as mine is, please check it out. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Daddy's home

When I was a little girl my dad played the guitar for me and my sister before bed at night.  I'll never forget it.  When I fell in love with my husband, he was a mediocre guitar player.  I mean, he played-Stairway-to-Heaven mediocre.  But I knew it would be ok, somehow it would work out.  And it did.
 My girls both love music, as do my husband and me.  We play guitar, piano, drums, recorders, harmonica, whatever is at hand.  We're not great at it, but let's just say that he plays a lot more than Stairway to Heaven, now.
 Last week my husband's father passed away somewhat unexpectedly from Stage IV lung cancer.  No one knew he was sick.  In reflecting on how this has affected us, I find myself mostly being thankful for the kind of father my husband has been to our kids.  I might blog more later on my dads and what they've meant to me, but this one is for my husband.
 We fell in love because we enjoyed being together and having fun.  Having kids hasn't changed that.  He's still my best friend.
 He works hard, too.  And he's teaching our girls what that means.
 
 He's patient, he's kind, and he knows how to communicate.  He might object to the subject of this blog post because he is truly more humble than he'd like to let on. 
He's not perfect, but he's mine.  And I'm so thankful that he is.  This man loves his kids and he loves Jesus.  Isn't that a great thing?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Grace and Rain

GRACE
 
We gave her the middle name Grace because the day she was born was an exercise in Grace for both of us.  I woke from the full anesthesia, numb, broken and weary.  It was hours before I was able to see her and longer until I held her for the first time.  The agony of that time has almost been erased, now.  The healing, while never fully complete, has certainly run it's course.  She has infinite grace for me, loving me in spite of my shortcomings, never holding a grudge and always willing to cry with me.  She is my graceful child, ready to dance, sing, perform and show me what she can do.  And every day she teaches me about grace and patience.  Oh, lots of patience.  I pray that she will know what it means to Worship with abandon, that she will be free in her spirit to always know God, and that she will know His calling in her life.  Grace. 

RAIN
We gave her the middle name Rain because God told us it would be a year of increase for us, and it has been!  Rain often symbolizes spiritual blessing as well as physical blessing. Her birth occurred on a rainy day in July, the storms brewing outside while the storm of labor brewed in my body.  Her birth flooded my pain and sealed, finally, the wounds from the birth of our first daughter.  I pray that she will be a leader among her peers, a girl who knows her mind and will sway others to do the right thing.  I pray that she will always bring blessing, not curse, wherever she goes.  That she will speak life into others and they will know God because of her words.  I pray also for her, as I do her sister, that she will always know God's plan for her life and most of all that she will always know Him. She is Rain to me, always smiling, always willing to flow with our haphazard plans and best intentions.  Rain.

These are my girls, my greatest blessing, and my number one job.  I've never been happier, loved better, or been more sure that I'm absolutely doing the right thing with my life.  Just wanted to share with you all.  :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A day to celebrate a dream... reflecting on MLK Jr. Day

Almost 30 years ago my parents took a leap of faith and moved their small family from a suburb in Southwestern Washington state to a town in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico (sorry, NM friends, it's true).  Gallup, NM is mostly known for it's brief mention in the "Route 66" song as well as its amazing ability to be on the way to just about anywhere in this country.  (As in: "Oh, yeah, I think I drove through there, once"...)  A few years later, as a fourth grader, I realized the unpleasant truth that children as far away as exotic Michigan didn't even know we existed, as a state.

I went to school with kids who had never spoken English until they came to board at our school.  They knew nothing of the gringo world except grocery stores and tv. I was a minority.  I thought they had the cool life.

I remember vividly learning to sing "Jesus Loves Me" in Navajo.  I remember going on field trips to the Rez to watch the sheep shearing and to watch the women weave on their large upright looms.  I remember, as any child who grew up in New Mexico must, the taste of fresh fry-bread filled with honey, or with pinto beans and cheese.  And of course, I remember chilies.  Not the restaurant- but actual chilies.

My mom, I'm sure, must have wondered what we were doing out there.  My dad was probably just doing his best to find a good job after finishing his PhD.  My sister and I loved the sunshine, the wild open spaces and the friends we found.

Regardless of what happened to my family after that, or whether we stayed in touch with friends (thank you Facebook)... I know that Gallup, New Mexico will always be part of me.  As the sun is part of the horizon.  

I realized very early on, as I suppose most 16 year olds must, that a suburban life is too restrictive for me.  I was made for deeper waters.  Acting on some sort of epiphany, I traveled to genocide-torn Albania, through coffee fields of Nicaragua, and stayed in towns gripped by drug cartels in Colombia and Ecuador.  I saw broken people, I saw beautiful people.  I loved traveling and I hated it just as much.  I was never alone but was always lonely.  I sought some sort of adventure that would surely add purpose to my life.

My life has changed, a little.  I live in a suburban neighborhood where every house is the same.  I home-educate my kids (so far) and love my church, my family and my life.  I haven't sold out.  Quite the contrary, actually.  The battlefield of mediocrity (in my own life) seems to be my toughest challenge, yet.

My number one job is mother.  There are two small lives entrusted to my care.  This is scary.  I knew when we had kids and then when we bought this house that I would struggle with fear, doubt and questions.  I also knew that the answers had to be deeper than geography.  I'm not about to ship off to a proverbial desert just to prove a point. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be... The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists."  Indeed.  I pray (and work hard to see to it) that my kids will lead a life of character worthy of notice.  Skin color may be a fading concern in our world, today, but content of character is not.  Let my adventure be this; to raise children that make a difference.  To show them a world worth living in and worth saving.  And in the meantime to "drive out darkness," as Dr. King said, with love.  

In the journey I now travel, I daily meet broken people.  And beautiful ones. I love traveling this life, and sometimes I hate it.  I'm never alone and sometimes feel lonely.  But now I know that my life is the adventure I was seeking. My creator has a great purpose for me, and somehow, this is it. 

What's yours, dear friend?  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Holy Day

We survived Christmas.  It is some sort of miracle.  We traveled three separate times between November and January and now we are home again, reaping the benefits of a warm house, a happy family and a feeling of satisfaction from holiday bliss (read: 10 extra pounds).   How do you react to the post-holiday stupor?  Here's my take, but I'd love to hear yours.

THEN:
In years past I would have been depressed by the inevitable end of holiday joy.  By depressed I actually mean despondent.  I would have faced a winter of cold days curled up in bed, trying not to weep.  I would have written dark poetry, feigned lonliness and fought myself tooth and nail to accomplish anything worthwhile.  Well-meaning friends would have tried to call, stop by or invite me out.  I would comply or not.  I would walk through each moment as a shadow, reflecting light only when it shone directly upon me.

NOW:
Today is a Holiday.  Every day is a Holy Day, one that doesn't have to end.  Since God instantly, miraculously healed my depression about 6 years ago, I can find everyday joy.  Melancholy still grips me now and then.  I might disappear into a book or force myself to go for a walk which is enough for a breather from my intentional life of joyfulness.  Now that I have two kids I can't afford the self-indulgent ways of the past, so I find new ways to infuse life into everyday.

ACTION POINTS:
  •  DO SOMETHING.  Anything.  Especially exercise.
  • Come visit my other blog to see how we have stretched Christmas out past December 25. 
  • Look ahead to something else.  Find a point in the future that you can get excited about and focus on that.  How about that garden this spring?  Or the project that's been waiting for the end of the holidays?  Do you have a vacation in the works?
  • Are you a list-maker?  Set some goals or New Year's resolutions.  Write a list of things you can do to get to those goals.
  • Reply and let me know how you cope with post-holiday blues or what your New Year's Resolutions are.