Wednesday, December 17, 2008


After Jesus was born and the visiting guests, angels and prophets had spoken their blessings, the Bible tells us that "Mary took all these things and pondered them in her heart." Allow me translate that for you: "Mary took all these things, hefted them onto her own shoulders, cried her eyes out for a few days, then finally gave it over to God. Only after that did she begin to understand His amazing plan." I have no doubt in my mind that Mary had some sort of expectation about how the birth of her son was supposed to look. Even though she was somewhat outcast because of her pre-marital pregnancy, this girl had ideas. She had probably seen dozens of births in her own family and knew exactly what she wanted. Who the midwife was, what her mother and sisters would do, how the room would look at the moment she pushed the baby out, the smell of incense in the air, the quiet light of oil lamps.

Surprise. The baby is born far away from home in a dark, dank cave with a bunch of animals standing around watching, the least of which is her soon-to-be-husband who has never even seen her naked, let alone in the "beautiful" moment of birthing a baby (which men didn't usually participate in, anyway). All new moms understand the drive to cleanliness in the weeks before the baby comes. All of Mary's nesting was useless. I'm guessing the cleanliness of the stable wasn't up to the usual Birthing Unit standard. The Bible doesn't tell us if she had any help from local women, but you can bet she felt pretty alone without her own support network there.

So, there she sits. Staring at this swaddled thing in her arms. Every mom has been there, we all know the feeling: "Now what?" Next thing you know a pile of shepherds appear (think "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever). I'm pretty sure the last thing Mary wanted to see just then was a bunch of unknown, smelly guys with sheep in tow. It's not quite the glowing picture we're used to imagining, is it? Eight days later they have the baby circumcised and receive some strange words from the local prophet contingent. Then, there's a lull for 2 years when Mary and Joseph begin to wonder what they're supposed to do. No angels. No visions. No dreams. Did we miss a road sign? Suddenly, three wise men show up with a caravan and the equivelent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts. God finally sends a dream: "This gift is so you can flee to Egypt." Hmm...let's travel 2,000 miles by donkey with a 2 year old. Sounds great. "I don't care if he's the son of God, woman- he has to keep up with the donkey if he's not going to ride..." "Well, if you hadn't taken that detour back in Sinai, we'd probably be there by now..."

Ok- so back to the story at hand. Mary took all of these things and pondered them in her heart. She cried. She yelled and screamed. She kicked and punched and wailed. She was heartbroken that she couldn't give her amazing child the birthing experience he deserved. Or what she thought he deserved. But after she had a chance to sit back and see it in hindsight, she began to understand. It had to be this way to fulfill the prophesies. God's plan was perfect. Not only were prophesies fulfilled about where, how, and when the birth would occur (this is obviously a huge topic for another time-see below), but the story was written in a way that would make it irresistible to anyone who was drawn to Jesus:

  • Children love the animals in the story as well as the baby and the angelic choir
  • Young people love the idea of the adventure- traveling to Egypt! Oh the joy of gifts from far-away lands and wicked kings wreaking havoc.
  • Single moms love it that Mary was one of them.
  • Women appreciate that the son of God came from a woman (i.e. not born out of some god's head)
  • Men love it because even the lowliest shepherd has a place of honor in the story and they appreciate Joseph's integrity, humility, and obvious trust and devotion to his young bride (women like that, too).
It is so obvious to me that God wrote the story of His grace for each of us. And He wrote it in such an unexpected way that he fooled the enemy of our souls. Satan missed the whole thing unfolding right in front of his face.

So. Who am I to mourn the loss of an experience? Who am I to concern myself with small details that don't go the way I expect? God has a plan that is bigger than my shortsighted vision. I'm so glad the author stopped to tell us that Mary pondered these things. It reminds me to stop and look back once in awhile. What is God doing in this moment? What did I miss because I was caught up in my own web of intention? How can I tune into God's frequency? He gave His own son so we could draw near His throne of grace, perfectly clean and pure. He loves us. Passionately.

Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."

Immanuel means "God with us." God- tabernacled among us, living in our midst, living, breathing, flesh, born of woman. Right here. Right now. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything we've hoped, dreamed, and practiced for.

Some of the Prophetic Fulfillments of Jesus of Nazareth:
  • He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14 / Matthew 1:21-23; Luke 1:26-35)
  • He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2 / Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7)
  • He would be heralded by a messenger of the Lord (John the Baptist) (Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1 / Matthew 3:1-3; 11:10; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 7:27)
  • He would perform miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6; Matthew 9:35, and throughout the gospels)
  • He would preach good news (Isaiah 61:1-2 / Luke 4:14-21)
  • He would first present himself as king 173,880 days from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25 / Matthew 21:4-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38)
  • He would enter Jerusalem as king riding a donkey (Zechariah 9:9 / Matthew 21:4-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38)
  • He would die a humiliating and painful death (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53 / Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19)
  • His hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16; / Crucifixion accounts of Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19)
  • His executioners would cast lots for his clothing (Psalm 22:18; John 19:23-24)
  • None of his bones would be broken in his execution (Psalm 34:20; John 19:32-36)
  • His side would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34-37)
  • He would die with the wicked and be buried in a rich man's tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

I'm about to confess something rather unexpected. You who know me well would have been surprised to discover me hunched in the corner of the children's section at Barnes and Noble tonight with my scarf pulled up around my face. As clandestine as I felt, I was on the search for something I couldn't find through my beloved Barefoot Books. I was on a mission to browse the Christian books for a Bible for June. Of course, Barefoot Books doesn't sell Christian books (yet!) and certainly not Bibles. They also distinctly disapprove of the "big box" bookstores like B&N and so do I. HOWEVER, all that aside...I found the book I was looking for. If I had browsed online I'm sure I would have found it as well, but I needed to touch it and flip pages as would any good bibliophile. The unfortunate truth is that there are many poorly written and poorly illustrated Christian books for children. The fortunate truth is that this book is not one of them. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name is written by Sally Lloyd Jones, an award-winning British author who has a way of explaining difficult Biblical concepts in a way that any two year old or reluctant theologian could understand. Not only that, but it is illustrated by the amazing Jago, who has also illustrated for Barefoot Books. This book was published over a year ago, so I'm sure I'm a little late on the blog-train, but I couldn't resist sharing this with you!

The Jesus Storybook Bible tells more than stories or history, it tells the underlying purpose of every page of God's word: Jesus. Jones relates every story, from creation to revelation, to Jesus Christ. At the end of the story of the fall of man she writes: "most stories would now be at THE END... But not this one..." continuing on to tell the promise that God lays out in Genesis 3:15 that a Redeemer would come who would crush the evil that so easily entangled Adam and Eve (and all of us).

Jago's artwork reflects the fantastical quality of Jones' stories. Fun, colorful (dare I say "whimsical?") and ethnically appropriate (one of my BIG pet peeves with Christian children's books), my two year old will easily sit through a full page of narrative with one of his pictures in front of her to spark her imagination.
I had to share this with you all, my faithful blog-readers. While you consider all the great Barefoot Books you want to buy for your kids, don't forget about the greatest Book of all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Change is in the air-

All across the blogosphere, people are furiously typing, impassioned by a speech that may be the best I will ever hear in my lifetime. Some people are weeping in frustration, others are elated with hope, a few are just happy to get back to real life. I'm sitting here, in a pool of tears and soap bubbles; I clean when I'm emotional- you should see my kitchen...

I'm moved by the idea that a man whose parents could not sit together on the bus or even go to the same school, could be President of this country. I'm amazed that the year which marks the 40 year anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination could also be the year we see racism turned on it's head in The United States. I'm moved mostly by the idea that people in this nation still believe that hope and passion truly are the forces that move us towards our loftiest goals. So much of our rhetoric in recent years has been garbage- spin doctoring, dog wagging, pork barrels, subtle twisting of truths that become unrecognizable, greed, outright puppetry... somewhere in the midst of all that, a man was able to circumvent Washington politics and resurrect a vision that we all wanted to believe was still out there.

Ultimately, my hope is in God. But I believe God can work through Barack Obama to:

1) Funnel money towards helping people in need- health care, social services, financial crisis management

2) Raise awareness for social injustices across the world- including religious persecution, race, gender, etc.

3) Unite generations broken by politics and dischordant ideals

4) Remind us all to live with intention and integrity in our lives, unspoiled by the deep brokeness surrounding us, but moved by compassion to change it

I'm proud that my daughter is part of this generation. I'm sure there will be regrets, setbacks and disappointments. But right now, in this moment, I'm actually proud to be an American. And those words are rarely, if ever, spoken by me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dangerous Kids

It's tough raising a girl in today's world... there are so many voices in our kids' heads: magazines, tv, music, internet, not to mention the things you learn the other kids. My plan isn't to shelter my daughter, it's to make her dangerous to the status quo. I'm not talking about raising a rebel, here, but about raising a woman full of determination, strength, courage and self-love. What would happen if we raised our kids to be dangerous? How can we disassemble the norms that so easily permeate our parenting, plans and potential?

Matt and I talk about this a lot. We've made a conscious effort to reduce our family's cultural absorption levels. We don't have television. We don't let June watch "movies," other than a few educational videos. We don't buy fast food or expose ourselves to other junk food (mom and dad sometimes sneak some ice cream or chips and a movie at night- that's part of the cheap date segment I'll write later). We insist on using polite words and displaying gentleness towards each other. We don't spend excessive time shopping or focused on material possession. Our computer is in a family area and only harbors family-friendly content. Most important, though, we pray for June's purity and her heart. We pray for her decision making skills and we pray that she will be a leader, not a follower.

I've noticed since I've become a stay-at-home mom that I've become very sensitive to the world around me. R-rated movies are completely unwatchable. Even tv ads have become grating and disturbing to me. We would love to be able to watch football, but it's not worth it for everything that comes with it. These choices are hard, and every family has to weigh them against how they feel they are being called to live. I intentionally choose everyday to make parenting an important piece of my life mission. I'm glad so many of you out there do, too. We all need the right kind of community that will encourage us to do what's best for our kids and to have fun in the process. So...let's go!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Toddler Sized Faith

June is at such a fun stage right now. By fun I mean wildly unpredictable. Her verbal skills are very good for a two year old. She speaks in complete sentences and will repeat anything just to hear herself say it. Unfortunately, not everyone speaks her toddler-lingo. She's been having trouble with hitting other kids (and hitting Mommy and Daddy). It's not malicious, I think she's just exploring her world in a physical way when she feels she's not being understood. She's also developed an amazing ability to completely ignore me when I'm talking to her. So...we've adopted a new mantra at our house: "Listen with your ears, use your words, be gentle with your hands."

Matt and I were talking tonight about some ways that God is challenging us in our lives, right now. It occured to us that God may have the same mantra for us. "Tori and Matt, are you listening to what I'm telling you? Are you talking to me about your needs, desires, fears? Are you loving and cherishing others as gently as I love you?" The truth that I may be a spiritual two-year old is alarming but completely hilarious to me. I knew I'd learn a lot about myself by becoming a mother, but I wasn't prepared for how much I would learn about God. His desire is for us to grow up, but not too fast. I wouldn't be upset with June because she can't ride a bicycle, or cook her own breakfast. God isn't upset with us, either. He's just watching, waiting, gently reminding. Usually I'm good with the listening, but sometimes I need a time-out, too. In the meantime, God loves the stage I'm in. The innocence, the trust, the total dependence. I love the stage I'm in too, but I want to keep growing up, just like June. Tonight she sat in a big chair at the table and ate with a fork. She drank her water from a "big girl" cup and participated in our conversation. She's growing up, but God is teaching me to enjoy each moment of each day I have with her. These years are precious to me, and to Him.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Just Dance!

Matthew Harding may be old news, but this updated version of his video startles me every time I watch it. Is it so impossible to believe that we are all the same, regardless of race, culture and age? I'm suddenly reminded that love is strong enough to conquer fear, that it's still possible to make the world a better place than I found it, that an individual can make a difference. Matthew Harding's little project stirs something deep inside me where hope grows.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

June's Second Birthday!

Wow, what a crazy month! Anyone who knows us knows that August is the one month of our year to be dreaded, anticipated and then lived out with wild abandon. Earlier this month we got to visit Matt's family for a few days in Sweet Home, at Heather's annual August shindig. From there, we headed up to Vancouver for my step-brother's wedding. After that we visited with my family in LaCenter, WA, drove back to Portland for the night, and returned home in one piece on Monday.

August was the month we celebrated Matthew's 31st birthday, my mom's 60th birthday, Matt's brother's birthday, his parents' anniversary, and my brother-in-law Jon's birthday. This month we also launched our Barefoot Books business (thank you, everyone, for your support!) and of course, June turned 2. Whew. That almost beats out last year when I threw a surprise birthday party for Matthew and June within days of moving into our new house! Here are some can always go to Facebook or Picasa to view more photos. Enjoy!

June and Daddy playing with balloons-

The all-too-rare June and Mommy picture-

Birthday dinner with Daddy and Mommy and a funny hat-

June with Aunt Heather and June's new tea set! Thank you Aunt Heather!

just Grandma and me...

June and Grandma share a cracker

Laughing with Grandma and Grandpa

blowing out birthday candles with Daddy (and cousin Elizabeth)-

opening a present from Grandma and Grandpa with VERY cool wrapping paper!

Here is June...hiding in the pillows (a favorite pasttime while naked) sorry it's sideways.

I must end this blog entry with an apology to my family- our memory card only holds a few photos and we ran out of space before we reached the, hopefully we'll gather photos from far afield and complete the collection, soon. Blessings to you all!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Barefoot at Last!

There's something magical about this moment: June comes running over to me (she never walks anywhere if she can help it) with a book in hand and says, "Mommy, read a book! Couch! Sit down!" Fortunately, I don't need to be dosed with this moment, I get the real thing, in technicolor, all day long. I can't define being a stay-at-home mom as a job for one very important reason: I am not putting out, I'm taking in. This life-work fuels me in a way I never expected.

Here's a great section from David Guterson in "Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense":

"In fact, 'I can't wait for school to start again because the kids have been driving me crazy all summer!' is a common complaint in this country. We have even made advertisements out of it: the harried mother who at last gets them out the door with their lunches, books, and rubber rain slickers, then settles into her exotic coffee or a bubble bath and romance novel. What is she doing but feeding herself with food she does not get from her children--food that cannot stick to her bones any more than bath water does? If things go far enough she will gradually learn to treat herself as the neediest child in the house, buying herself toys and then playing with them in various corners of the known universe (men are more prone to this than women): the windsurfing here, parasailing there, snorkeling in the tropics while the children attend summer camp, relaxed and at peace while the children are not around, fretful and irritated when they return. She has not learned how to take sustenance from them, is riven by doubts about herself as a mother, cannot understand why she prefers their absence, feels relief when they head for the school bus. The seven-hour respite school provides is in reality a hole she cannot climb from."

Needless to say, one of my many goals as a human being is to foster a deeper connection with my daughter. I want to be available when the crazy-haired junior goddess of the universe comes to me with book in hand. And I want her to have good books to choose from. This is a big reason why Matthew and I have embarked on our latest obsession (ok- it's my obsession, he just plays along). We are now independent booksellers/stallholders of Barefoot Books, a children's publishing company based out of Cambridge, MA and Bath, England. I'll let the video speak about why Barefoot is more than just a home business for us. In the meantime, visit our website, check out our new business blog: Barefoot Stories and cheer us on as we have some fun, together!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Three Pigs

“T’ree pigs, mommy! T’ree pigs!” comes the muffled toddler voice from deep within her cushioned crib. The books are read, the water‘s drunk, and I’ve hugged and kissed every animal in her bed. Now it‘s time for a story. The three pigs came to me one night when we were both exhausted. Just singing wasn’t doing it, so I said, “ok, honey, mommy’s going to tell you a story. Once upon a time there were three pigs named Oink and Oink-Oink and Oink-Oink-Oink.” She listened to every word.

The story started with my grandfather, the youngest of several boys raised on a farm in the middle of nowhere. I don’t remember anyone telling stories like Grandpa; his pigs had attitude, they even had names. Oink (was real smart), Oink-Oink (had sharp eyes) and Oink-Oink-Oink (wasn’t real bright, but was really good when it came to understanding people). Those pigs did everything from saving their Uncle H.H. Hog from cattle rustlers, to having obnoxious, distant relatives visit on Thanksgiving day. It was always the same basic premise, and they always worked together to foil the wolf‘s plan, but it was usually the least likely candidate, Oink-Oink-Oink, who wound up saving the day.

Grandpa’s stories had side-stories, too. There was a deaf sheriff the pigs always called when they got in trouble with the wolf, then he had to call his deputy to come so he could get any idea of what was actually happening. It turned out the Big Bad Wolf had put peanut butter in the sheriff’s ears once when they were younger, as a prank, and that was why he couldn’t hear. The best part about Grandpa’s stories, besides crazy pranks involving peanut butter, was that they always had a moral. Grandpa wasn’t satisfied to just have the wolf eat the pigs. He was a preacher, and a good one. At the end of every story somebody told the Big Bad Wolf about Jesus, and the pigs extended some kind of grace to the one that perpetually tries to gobble them up. In one story, the Big Bad Wolf has a religious experience in prison, recalls the incident with the peanut butter, and pays to have the Sheriff’s ears cleaned out. “Oh boys,” the wolf tells the pigs, “I’m not a bad wolf anymore, you can just call me Mr. Wolf, now.”

Back to my toddler in the crib…I tell her about the pigs and how they built their houses. The middle piece is familiar:
“Little pig, little pig, let me come in!”
“Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin (I‘m not letting you in!)”
“Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!“
And he huffed and he puffed and he blew the house in.
At the end of the story I find myself hesitating. I know it’s silly, but I cannot let the wolf gobble up those pigs. So, my pigs find themselves looking out the window of Oink’s brick house, feeling sorry for poor Big Bad who is thirsty, tired and hungry.
The pig brothers open the door, with the latch still on, and say,
“Um, excuse me, Mr. Wolf?”
“Would you like to come in for some water? And maybe some soup? You look awfully tired and hungry and thirsty. Just promise not to eat us up and we’ll let you in.”
“Well, ok., that sounds pretty good!”
And they all live happily ever after. And I’m satisfied that my daughter’s moral compass is intact.

There will be many other great pig stories in my daughter’s future. This doesn’t, however, mean an end to the perpetual bedtime routine. I hear the muffled voice, again:
“Sing, mommy, sing!”

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Standing Memorial

Friends and Family- The past few years have been full of incredible blessing and we've decided to share our story in full so each of you can enjoy what God is doing.

Our story begins with two young people refusing the life we were given. We were chronic pot smokers, drinkers, cigarette-smoking, party animals. I was into Goddess-worship and anything else that I knew would make God mad. Matt and I were both raised in good Christian homes, and though we each had heartbreak, and lots of anger, our lives were good. Matt lost his twin sister to a brain tumor in 1990 and my parents divorced when I was younger, leading to major emotional instability (depression, suicide). In college we met and a few years later were reunited and fell in love at first sight. We see in hindsight that God manufactured that moment. We lived together for a few years before a man at Matt’s work relentlessly pursued him and brought him back to the Lord. I came along later, just on the cusp of giving up everything that was good in my life because of my pride and rebellion. We took a few months apart to reevaluate what God wanted for us and decided to get married. We lived celibate for nine months before our wedding day and God honored our choice to put Him first in our lives, freeing us from the party-life.

We prayed and decided that God was calling us to Bend, both for our spiritual and emotional health. The fresh start we sought led us to Westside Church and jobs at Mt. Bachelor. Soon after moving here, God healed me of my ongoing struggles with depression. One day I heard God call me to be healed, so I went to the prayer team after church and they prayed for me. I spoke against the strongholds of depression, and a few others, and the burden was lifted. Forever. I can honestly say I've never relapsed.

About a year later we took a huge step of faith. We gave our only car to a cousin in need, one who would most likely never repay us. The avalanche of blessings began. Matt’s employer (a Westsider) loaned us a vehicle. We got pregnant and soon after Westside Church gave us a car. We stepped out of our comfort zone and took the MTI (Ministry Training Institute- class at Westside, learning more about our freedom in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

During this time, I was uninsurable because of my “pre-existing condition” of pregnancy, but a month before our baby was born, God led us to an insurance agent (we found out later he goes to Westside) who got us into a state program. We had been planning a midwife assisted home-birth, so didn’t think we’d need the insurance, but God told us to do it anyway. Turns out June had to come via emergency c-section, while I was under full anesthesia. Juniper Grace and I were in the hospital for a week, though nothing was found wrong with her at all (I had an unforeseeable infection). God spared both our lives, and our financial lives through our last-minute health insurance coverage. The brokenness that came from that birthing experience changed us, teaching us that faith is real and God is bigger than anything we face. Also, that we really need to do exactly what he tells us to do! God put a desire in my heart to stay home and be a mom, which meant decreasing our income by more than half. “Ok, God,” we said, “You’re the miracle worker. Show us what You want to do.” In 2007, the first full year of June’s life, we received over $10,000 in gifts from unexpected inheritance money to friends and family just plain giving us cash, expecting nothing in return. The cousin to whom we gave the car sent us $500. That’s more than we'd paid for it. A “real job” dropped into our laps (from a Westsider) so Matthew could work full time, year round, with paid family insurance. At the same time, we were handed an opportunity to rent a house for exactly the amount we could afford, less than we‘d been paying for our apartment. Our free car recently died and we were given another by friends (again, at Westside). I can’t count the times money mysteriously appeared in our checkbook, or a friend offered a few hours of work that would just cover a bill needing to be paid.

Without a doubt, I can say that God has called us to a life of simplicity and one of being set apart from the world's values. I could write a book about our journey on that path, but I’ll just say that it is an incredible way to learn about God’s favor, what faith in action really looks like, and how to live within your means. We recently discovered that after much prayer, mediation and (some) worrying, God has made us financially free. This is not what I thought it would look like, we don’t make more money or have less financial responsibility, but we are free. We are no longer “needy,” we are simply very blessed, living as the Levites did, owning nothing, serving God daily, and walking closely with Him. Our house, car, child and job are all manna from heaven! If I had to choose between the life we have and one with more worldly success, there is no doubt in my mind I’d choose this path of faith. So, be encouraged out there, if you’re barely making it. God is doing an incredibly amazing work in you. But it will be humbling, sometimes painful, and always unexpected in the way He will choose to do that work. I didn't share all the places we fell short, ignored God's voice and went our own way. These are setbacks, but He uses them for His purpose.

This is our testimony to you, and our memorial to where we have been. This is a door opening to huge breakthrough in the year to come. And this is a thank you to a church that is more than walls and chairs. You pray, you give and you fight hard. You are a battleship, not a cruise ship, and we’re here to testify to that.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

late nights with God

Fredrick Nietzsche once wrote: “Without music, life would be a mistake.... I would only believe in a God who knew how to dance.” This is a sad statement written by the same guy who said "God is dead." I can't help but think Nietzsche wasn't paying attention.

When examining the heart of God, you don't have to go much farther than King David (1 Samuel, 2 Samuel). The guy has more written about him than just about anybody in the Old Testament. Dave was called "a man after God's own heart." He grew up the youngest of a bunch of boys, relegated to tending sheep, spending long weeks alone under the stars with only a harp to keep him company (and the sheep- but they aren't much for conversation). You have to believe that a kid like that spent some time talking to God and hearing God talk back in the big dark silence. Little Dave wasn't afraid of anything because he knew God was bigger. Sure, he played the harp. He sang. He danced. He wrote music. He loved women (and they loved him). But he also killed lions and giants and bears (oh my). He was a fierce warrior who, at a very young age, was put in charge of the entire army of Israel. Oh yeah, and he was anointed King when he was still a child but didn't get to realize the dream until many years later after betrayal, violence, and death should have caught up with him. David was inspired, broken, reignited, and molded until his heart looked a lot like God's.

Did Nietzsche understand the passion, the tenderness and the beauty of God's heart? I don't know, but David did. Did Nietzsche know that God created him to worship? To sing and dance unabashed under the stars, a tender tango between creator and clay? I don't know. I just hope he has a chance to meet David before he has to stand before the God who slays giants.

How do we teach our daughter to hear the drum beat of God's heart that calls her to the great adventure for her life? How will she know she can stand before giants with the strength of her God beside her? We have to teach her to kneel in the silence, so she can hear God, then we have to teach her to dance.

Psalm 18:28-36

*written by a man who knew God and wasn't scared to dance

You light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness. For by You I can run upon a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God, the God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds' feet, And sets me upon my high places. He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; Your gentleness makes me great. You enlarge my steps under me, And my feet have not slipped.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Finding The Good

I can't deny it, we do watch a bit of T.V. here at our house. We don't actually have T.V., per se, but we do borrow a lot of videos from the library. Our favorite videos these days are the "Signing Time" video series. If you don't know what this is, you really have to go check out the website (listed under my Parenting Links).

The woman who started "Signing Time" is a huge inspiration to me. Rachel came from a musical family and was a working folk-singer when she and her husband, Aaron, discovered that their one year old daughter, Leah, was deaf. Rather than take this as a total blow to everything their life was supposed to mean, Rachel and Aaron threw all their energy into learning American Sign Language (ASL). Not only did Rachel learn ASL, but she and her sister embarked on a mission to teach it to other families in an informative, exciting way. Using musical skill and production saavy, the sisters created a production company and a fantastic venue for learning ASL using music, dialogue, and actual shots of children signing. "Signing Time" became a national phenomenon, with added emphasis by research that came out around the same time touting the benefits of signing for hearing children as well.

The story doesn't end there: Just as "Signing Time" was beginning production, Rachel and Aaron had their second daughter, born prematurely with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Though it was possible that she would never be able to sign (because of stiffness in her fingers), the couple was undetered in their dreams for their youngest daughter. Today, Lucy signs with her big sister and goes to a mainstream school. Leah is well adjusted (famous, even!), having learned to "talk" when she was only a year old.

June and I started learning signs (food, drink, milk, more, all done) when she was about 6 months old. She didn't pick up on it right away, but with the help of these videos and lots of practice (mostly for Mommy), she knows about 100 signs (my favorite is "elephant"). I love it that we have our own language we can use in public, whether surrounded by chaos or by silence. June has excellent verbal skills (research says signing kids have an earlier understanding of vocabulary and the importance of communication) and more than once we've stopped a melt-down by utilizing signs when her spoken words were unclear to me. There was a recent article in the New York Times online about helping toddlers avoid tantrums. The article ultimately surmised that the adult should get down on the child's level, talk to them by repeating their own words back to them, and let the child express what they need to say, knowing they are being heard. Hmm...isn't that just Basic Communication, 101? So...signing helps. Using simple phrases in language she can use and understand, she speaks. I hear.

In the meantime, I'm inspired by Rachel as a mother. Instead of letting a hard situation break apart her family, she allowed her life to change around her child's needs. Instead of putting her dreams first, she put a vision of her child's future first. As a result, this woman has inspired millions of people and opened a door to communication and understanding with an often marginalized culture. We have a couple ASL interpreters at our church that sign for the 9 am service on Sunday morning. Maybe someday that will be June up there, using her second language. At the very least, she'll be able to share a few phrases in a foreign language with someone who just needs to be heard.

I'll end this post with one of Rachel Coleman's songs. I cry when I hear the acoustic version:

The Good by Rachel deAzevedo Coleman
(dedicated to her husband, Aaron)

It was you and me and the whole world right before us
I couldn’t wait to start
I saw you and dreams just like everyone before us
We thought we knew what we got

And then one day I thought it slipped away
And I looked to my hands to hold on
And then one day all my fear slipped away
And my hands did so much more

So maybe we won’t find easy
But, baby, we’ve found the good
No, maybe we won’t find easy
But, baby, we’ve found the good!

It was you and me and a new world right before us
I was so scared to start
I saw you and dreams just like everyone before us
But how did they move so far?

And then one day I thought it slipped away
And I looked to my hands to hold you
And then one day all my fear slipped away
And my hands did so much more

So maybe we won’t find easy
But, baby, we’ve found the good
Maybe we won’t find easy
But, baby, we’ve found the good!

Signing Time ©2004 All rights reserved. All songs Written by Rachel de Azevedo Coleman. © 2004 Two Little Hands Productions, LLC
P.O. Box 581037 Salt Lake City, UT 84158 • tel: 801.533.0444 • fax: 801.880.5151 •

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Waiting for a knight in shining armor

I plan to teach my daughter to believe in the knight on a white horse, destined to carry her away from all this to a land far away where she'll be a princess and live happily ever after.

I plan to teach her this, because it's true.

The deal is, she may have to wait a long time to see this man. She's in an engagement period and she has to be patient, to save herself for him, to love no one more than him, and to pledge to love him all her life. While she's waiting for him, he may ask her to do some hard things, like fight for him. The good news is he's already given her a sword, a shield, and a full suit of armor. Don't worry, he won't put her in any situation alone, he has a whole army at his disposal that helps her fight, comes alongside her, before her and after her. It's a pledge of her passion and her desire to have him.

He's a great guy, as princes go. He's very powerful, but the best type of man: fearless and tenderhearted at the same time. He's a healer, a public speaker, an educated man, and a hard-worker, not to mention his princely qualities. He's also generous, kind, gentle, passionate and has a great sense of humor. His dad is even better. The king has already adopted my daughter as his very own! He treats her just like his own child.

The only thing that could mess this up is if she gets tired of waiting for her prince...I really hope she doesn't. He picked her out especially for himself before she knew him. He's been watching her from afar, admiring, loving, waiting for her. It's one of those great scenarios where he's totally in love with her, she can't imagine a prince could love her like that, then they get to live happily ever after. He's even building her a house, with room for everyone she loves and cares about, though hopefully she'll be willing to go to him even if no one goes with her. But who wouldn't want to be with a guy like that?

It gets better...this prince is a great adventurer and plans to take my daughter to some truly amazing places, from the hightest mountain tops to the depths of the deepest ocean to the beautiful garden he built just for the two of them to share. There's a lot to be learned from a guy like that.

I really hope she waits. I'm glad I'm waiting. I hope you're waiting, too.

Here's a paragraph from one of his love-letters:

"You've captured my heart, dear friend. You looked at me, and I fell in love. One look my way and I was hopelessly in love! How beautiful your love, dear, dear friend— far more pleasing than a fine, rare wine, your fragrance more exotic than select spices."-J (SOS 4:9-10)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Things will be great in 2008

Things will be great, in 2008, in spite of the impending election. This begs the question: Since when was something eleven months away considered "impending"? Elections. Chalk up another point for bipartisanship. Sorry, back to family news...

We survived the holidays and had a ton of fun. This is the first year since we've been married that Matthew and I have been able to celebrate Christmas with family, thanks to Mt. Bachelor. Needless to say, we sort of overdid it.

The holiday highlight for June was definitely chasing all her cousins, second-cousins, and step-second-cousins-twice-removed around Grandma and Grandpa Maurer's house. She also enjoyed the abundance of Christmas sparkle you always find there. The highlight for Mommy and Daddy was the snowboarding we've been able to enjoy together the past few weeks. Mommy got a "sweet" coat thanks to Daddy's Christmas bonus (thank you Arnold Irrigation!). She now gets gazes from her husband on the chairlift that say, "hey beautiful" instead of "wow, honey, we need to get you a new coat."

Having recovered from a short, busy holiday, we raise our heads above the fog and find that the snow has melted (for now), life is moving again, and Matthew is back at work. The upside of rain and wind is the vocabulary potential for our dear little sponge. Her latest words include: puddle, umbrella, wind, ski, whisper and yell. Sign language is popular at our house and June knows about 25 words including bunny/rabbit, hug, cold, help, share, sit, eat, drink, MILK (her favorite), moose and cat (this one is adorable). The hardest thing about sign-language is that Mommy and Daddy have to keep up with the learning curve.

Another highlight? June's new favorite word: Elmo. I have no one to blame for this but myself. Sesame Street has about 200 video clips online and a hefty portion of them involve Elmo, everyone's favorite, furry friend. Side note: I think it's hilarious that Elmo is actually a big burly guy who looks more like a bouncer than a preschooler. Maybe this is why Elmo flirts so much with the ladies who come to visit Sesame Street (seriously, watch him carefully next time). Women everywhere, including my daughter, are drawn to Elmo's soft vulnerability and cheerful attitude. June asks for Elmo constantly. In fact, Elmo may be more popular at our house than Noah. But, that is a story for another time involving a sweet 9 year old who has stolen my daughter's heart.

For now, we live each day with the hope of glory, and, like our new favorite bumper sticker says (it may appear soon on a primer-gray 1980's Nissan Maxima near you), we are "Dopeless Hope Fiends" and loving every minute.

This entry is a lot like my holiday season; disjointed, fun and family-oriented. I can live with that. What have you been up to, family and friends? Please drop us a line and let us know.