Still Christmas

......well pretend like it is. Mainly because I am posting this about 3 days too late. My blogging friend Margie wrote it and it is too perfect to wait until next year.

Definition of Advent:
Decorations
Tree
Lights on the house
Stocking stuffers
Pictures with Santa
Cookies
Rudolph and Frosty
Teachers’ gifts
Updated family picture mailed to friends and family by mid-December
Last-minute dashes to store
Gift-wrapping frenzy
Menu lists

We are immersed in a culture that starts “doing” Christmas months before the event itself. In September, bright banners waved along busy streets to announce this year’s holiday market opened October 2. The girls saw decorated trees when we passed them on our way to buy this year’s Halloween costumes, and the Jack-O-Lanterns sat one aisle away from holiday wrapping paper that was promoted by a display of gifts topped with large, oversized bows.

Our pastor suggested that the synonym for Christmas is distraction.

In Preparing for Jesus, Walter Wangerin, Jr. writes, “Mindlessly do the bells of secular celebrations jingle for Christmas. Meaninglessly do carols repeat their tinny joys in all the malls of America. No richer than soda pop is every sentimentalized Christmas special on TV. Fearless is the world at play with godly things, because Godless is its heart.” (emphasis mine)

I could almost see the author looking at me as he wrote those words.

While I don’t consider myself an overtly Christmas-y person – I don’t count down the days until it’s time to decorate, and I dread the rigorous task of hauling out dusty boxes of ornaments and setting up the tree – my mind has been far from the “reason for the season,” the celebration of God entering time itself for the purpose of redeeming our sinful, and Godless souls.

Distracted would best describe me, the answering of endless questions about presents and when? when? when? from the girls who, at ages 3 and 5, fully understand the gift part of the holiday. The poring over incomplete lists of family gifts, and wanting to get to cards, but never quite finding the time. Like Martha, I have failed to recognize Christ’s very presence – in my home, my prayers, my daily tasks.

In short, I’ve sent the Great Creator, the God of the Universe, and his redeeming lamb to the back of the line.

Wangerin says this: “A self-examination both humble and true must cause us to tremble before the living God…But even as we feared, so do we rejoice when we hear the light say, ‘Don’t be afraid. I have not come to punish but to give you life. I am no judge. I am the Savior born for you…’ The mercy of God? Is not this a dazzling wonder?” (emphasis mine)

Yes! Yes, I say. I need his mercy, want, and desire his mercy. I want to be transformed by His love, and by my own recognition that I desperately need Him. I want to sit at His feet, and find perfect rest.

Advent comes from Latin’s adventus, which means “the approach,” or “the arrival.” I will symbolically celebrate His coming in two days, and be reminded again Who He is, and who I am in relation to Him, that baby whose birth was heralded by angels of the Heavenly Host.

My merciful, gracious, lovely redeemer.

Jesus:
Name of wondrous love, name all other names above,
Unto which must every knee bow in deep humility.
Jesus:
Name decreed of old to the maiden mother told –
Kneeling in her lowly cell – by the angel Gabriel.
Jesus:
Name of priceless worth to the children of the earth
For the promise that it gave, “Jesus shall his people save.”
Jesus:
Name of wondrous love, human name of God above;
Pleading only this, we flee, helpless, O our God, to Thee.

(words by William W. How, 19th century)



And since I am posting this a little late, it begs the question. Did you miss it? Were you too distracted to focus on what yesterday was really about?
Don't wait until next year.
You can tremble today. And tomorrow and the day after that....even if it isn't the 25th.

The days after

The presents are all opened. Only one slice of pie is left. Now what? Why do the days after Christmas always feel like a let down.
Or a relief.
Like ok, Christmas done. Let's make our exchanges and go back to
our regularly scheduled lives.
If this was a book, that was the climax.
Then all the loose ends get tied up and we all live happily ever after, or just go back to work.
The build up is over.
All we can do is take the tree down and grade papers.
Or is there?
I think this is why we like to make new year's resolutions right afterwards.

Because it doesn't feel right to just keep going as normal.

Christ was born.
Our lives should change.
And somehow all those packages and gift cards don't seem to do it for us.
So instead we promise to be better, or thinner, or whatever.
Even if it is only for a few days.
or weeks.
And then we give up,
and go back to our normal lives.
until we have something else to look forward to.

but what if we didn't?
what if you didn't make ridiculous resolutions that you can't keep.
what if we didn't forget about Christmas after we put all the decorations back in the attic?
what if we took the best things from the season and kept doing them for a while?
what if kept giving.
looking around in wonder.
singing in the car.
puting our quarters in those red buckets
you get the idea, now go try it...

love and journals

I used to keep a journal, before I started this whole blogging thing.
What was different about my journal was that it wasn’t supposed to be read.
But I think maybe I hoped someone would read it anyways.
I wrote in fear
And also with a little bit of hope..
That someone. Anyone. Would read it.
And that I would be known.
Really known.
And I hoped that that someone. Anyone would want to keep reading.
And still want to know me more.
And still want to be my friend afterwards.
And they would learn all the things about me that I was afraid to say. Outloud.
Because saying something outloud makes it real.

And this blog isn’t my journal.
But it is still pretty outloud.
And personal.
And I go places that I have a hard time going in person.
And sometimes someone will mention reading it.
And I suddenly feel naked.
Like they just read my journal without my permission.
Even though I post it on the internet for the whole wide world to read.
Known. and vulnerable and exposed.

But being known means you can be rejected.
Not just this persona that you put on.
Or the work you.
Or the church you.
Or the funny you.
Or the stressed out you.
But the real you.
All of you.
And that is a very hard thing to recover from.
So usually we hide it and shield it and protect it. Fiercely.
And this thing that we desperately want isn’t so much to be known.
But to be known.
Really known.
And loved anyways.

1 corinthians 13 - christmas style (week 4 - love)

No, I didn't write this.......but the author is unknown.

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny tinsel but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a
myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on
Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way.
Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust.
But giving the gift of love will endure.

The joy of giving....

.....LESS
.....and more intentionally.

of course I'm talking Advent Consipiracy here. I posted that video last year (if you don't know what I am talking about you can read about it here).

but now here is one from trade as one:

advent week 3: Joy

This is a guest post from my friend Sarah. You kind find more of her witty stuff here : http://alittlewhineandcheese.wordpress.com/

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. I Peter 1:8 (NIV)

Every Christmas I try not to miss it, to miss Him. I make it my goal to complete all my myriad tasks in an organized and timely fashion, so when the time comes, I’m serene, peaceful, and ready. I hurry and scurry and plan and prepare, so that when The Moment I’ve set to enjoy Jesus comes, I don’t overlook it.
The truth is I usually still manage to miss it. Every year I fall further behind. More unexpected guests show up, or my Christmas banana bread implodes, and I’ve got to make another batch. When I finally look up from the holiday wreckage, I discover that it’s time to pack up the ornaments, and I haven’t met with Jesus at all.
I can blame my busy schedule, my chronic procrastination, or my overwhelmingly large family for my failure to connect with my Savior at this most precious time. But if I really care to stop and examine my life, I see an insidious pattern of activity and planning, with very little room for stillness and worship. I realize the busyness is not the problem but a symptom: I haven’t the first clue about how to enjoy Jesus.
My faith is generally characterized by action. I go and do, I serve and help, and I make giant spiritual to-do lists to track my personal progress. But lately, I’ve felt a tug on my soul in the opposite direction. “Get back to Jesus,” it whispers to me. “All this activity will never fill your heart and deeply satisfy you.” “But,” I argue, “what about all the things on my list? They’re good things, things that need to be done.” “Yes,” says my soul, “but unless you do them from a heart overflowing with Jesus, they will not bring you the joy intended for you.”
So where do I begin this process of enjoying Jesus? This process that cannot be wrapped up and conveniently opened on Christmas morning, like a much-anticipated gift. If I want to experience the Christ in Christmas this year, I have to allow my soul to experience the discomfort of not knowing what to do or how to connect with Him. I have to sit at His feet, over and over, waiting patiently as He breaks down the walls I’ve built to guard my heart from His. Walls made of control and lists, of disappointment and fear. Simply put, I must learn to worship.
Truthfully, though, the worship transformation I need cannot only happen in my quiet times, although they are the bedrock. Instead, I must learn to enjoy Jesus all the time. John Piper says about worship, “It is not a mythical interlude in a week full of reality.” I’ve got to find a way to change my spiritual glasses so that I now see everything in my life as evidence of the presence and love of God and as proof that He is marvelous, glorious, and ultimately satisfying.
Enjoying Jesus is not a feeling I can conveniently manufacture at Christmas time. It must become my lifestyle, as much a part of my daily routine as breathing. Retraining my heart to recognize and praise Him in the everyday parts of my life will enable me to stop and enjoy Him, even in the middle of the busiest Christmas chaos.
I experience Jesus and know His presence in my life as I love and enjoy being loved in return. I must also translate my happiness and enjoyment of His good gifts to me into worship. If I can recognize His goodness, mercy, and glory in my everyday life and respond with a grateful, praise-filled heart, then when I am confronted with the enormous and overwhelming love He showed in His Advent, my heart is prepared to respond.

advent week 2. peace and funerals


Phillipians 4:4
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The small house was filled with people. As usual, we were a bit rowdy and loud, even on this grim occasion. Owen ran circles around the living room. Tess scowled at anyone who tried to hold her. Too many people were in the kitchen and I was on at least my second cup of coffee.
But the little quiet old man in the room managed to get our attendtion because he wanted to say a blessing.
And we were silent.
And he thanked God for his wife of 66 years. He thanked us for being there. He thanked God for the food that had been prepared.
Even if we the cinnamon rolls were a little burnt.
His voice was barely over a whisper but we hung on his every word.
And he started to tear up. And so did the rest of us.
But he thanked God for his wife.
That he would bury in a few hours.

There was no anger or doubt in his voice.
And that is peace.
To be able to pray and thank God in that huge cloud of grief.

Over breakfast he would tell me that they had a routine.
That every night starting about 5:30 that they would play gin rummy.
And have a few drinks.
And start dinner.
And go to bed.
Every night for as long as he could remember.
And now he’s not so sure what to do.
Every night without her.

Later he would seem so sad and so fragile as we shivered at the graveside.
His wife, was my husband’s grandmother.
And I had only met her a half dozen times,
But tears still slid down my face and I watched his shoulders shake as he cried in the pew in front of me.

But I kept remembering his prayer at breakfast.
And I know that this was a man he knew and trusted in the Lord.
A man who wasn’t sure how to get through the next evening.
But could still pray.
And that is a peace that transcends all understanding.

hopeful still

know it is Sunday, and we are already on to week 2 of Advent (Peace), but I just read this......and have to post it here.
It is written by my friend Beth, that many of you read about here.
I have been really pondering on these words ( hope, peace, joy and love)….and struggling to try and tell you what they mean and how to be them. To really offer up hope and peace and joy…and I have been coming up a little short. These little nouns and how to be them are more than I can wrap my words around.

But hope. I thought of Beth. She has been down an ugly path this last year. And she is so so sad. But she is also hopeful. I like that she doesn’t pretend and trade one out for the other. Her grief is real and visible on her face even these many months later when the condolences have stopped coming. But she also smiles and laughs and keeps living.
That is some ridiculous hope. And here is what she had to say……..

You can hope for silly things. Like, I hope Texas Tech wins the Big XII. And, you can hope for important things. Like, I hope my daughter grows up to be a good person. But, the hope I'm talking about is that thing -- the gas that keeps us moving. Our reason for being.

It was the worst day of my life. And, I hope it will be the worst day I ever have on this earth. I knew he wasn't moving. I knew when I got to the hospital that they wouldn't find a heartbeat. My 35 week old son's heart stopped beating inside of me. I held him in my arms and weeped. I was empty as Michelle so honestly wrote about in her blog "For Tucker". Not a day goes by that I don't picture his face, and miss him, and want to hold him. But, I know that all of this sadness is just for me, and that my little Tucker is in a better place. I know that he never had to experience the hardships of this world that I will never be able to protect my daughter from. I know that there are much more beautiful lullabyes in Heaven than I could ever sing. And, I know I'll see him again some day. That's what keeps me going. The possibility of having another child who needs me. The promise of eternal life with my son. I've been reading a lot of blogs written by men and women who lost an infant due to still birth or other reasons. Many have tattoos and many of those tattoos say or symbolize Hope. Some people didn't have names picked out for their children, and named their still born daughters, "Hope". What is it about loss and despair that would inspire HOPE?

I am so glad that Jesus was born. If Jesus was never born, I wouldn't have the promise of Heaven, and I wouldn't know where my son is, and I wouldn't know that I will get to see him again and hold him again some day. The fact that Jesus was born onto this earth -- the Word became flesh -- is the ONLY reason that I have any hope at all. This world is not all that there is. This is not the end. We have eternal life, and that is what I can put my hope in.

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for." Which means that it's not just something that we know is going to happen, but it's something that we WANT!

I used to hate change. I used to despise the fact that change is the only constant. I used to be so nervous for something new. But, then I grew up, and life got harder. Now, I am thankful for change. I hope for change because it means that things won't always be this way. Everything is temporary, and I'm glad for that during trials like this.

I am sad. But, I am also hopeful. And, it's okay to be both.
I'm very thankful for all that I have been blessed with on this earth. And, I am so thankful that Jesus was born...

Hope

Just a few years ago I gave birth to a son. I took a packed bag, received an epidural, made a mix cd, and I think the hospital even had cable…..although I never thought to turn it on. I had multiple doctors, nurses, pillows and morphine ( lots of morphine). All my friends and family showed up. A few friends even waited all night (literally!) behind closed doors for that first cry. Afterwards I received flowers, presents, 19 staples, ice chips and of course a beautiful little boy swaddled tightly in his hospital blanket.

Mary, was just a scared teenager out back in the barn. No epidural or even clean towels.
I love these humble beginnings.
This is the Christ child.
God could have orchestrated his appearance on Earth anyway He wanted. He could have been beamed down like an episode of Star Trek. He could have immediately sat on a throne. Or He could have at least reserved a room for him in the inn.
Instead he shows up where we least expect him.
Out back in the manger. Small and helpless with only his scared parents and some shepherds for an audience.

At Christmas we focus on that babe in a manger. Before the miracles, before the sermon on the mount, before the resurrection. As purely the hope and promise his appearance offers. This baby hasn’t conquered anything yet, and yet even the stars shine brighter and kings come bearing gifts!

So often, I forget to come and worship. Instead I treat my Jesus like Santa Claus and bring him my list. I ask for help, I ask for rest. I ask for healing. Sometimes I ask for other people, but mainly I just ask for myself. Either way, I am asking and expecting him to deliver. It seems that I am putting my hope in his answering my requests, not just that HE IS.

I want to take a little while to remember Christ as that tiny baby swaddled in a manger. Like I held my son in the hospital those first few days. Just as a pure and precious gift. I didn’t ask him to say please or pick up his toys. I just wanted to hold him close and memorize the moment.
It makes me wonder when the last time I just stared into the manger, not the cross, and pondered all these things in my heart.
Like Mary did.

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. "
Luke 2: 16-19 NIV

i heart advent



I haven’t put up my tree yet.
I haven’t even gotten it down from the attic.
I’m not opposed to get all Christmas-y.
I’m just not to the tree stage yet.
I like to do it one step at a time.

Yesterday we made a list of 25 or so things.
One for each day.
Yesterday we made an advent wreath.
Well sortof.
It isn’t really a wreath ( just a big candle holder), and I don’t even have the right colors.
(Micheals and Target were all out of purple……..and good luck finding tapers!)
But in the middle of our kitchen table is a glass dish with three chubby pink candles and a one green one surrounding a big white candle that Owen likes to call the Jesus candle.
Owen couldn’t wait to light the first candle ( of course, he couldn’t because he is a little pyro).
….but he knows that it represents hope.
…..and he knows that next week he will get to light another.
And eventually…..we will get to that big special white one in the middle.

Not everyday, but often enough I’ll be posting about Advent.
A few years ago my writers group and I published (does kinkos count as publishing?) a little Advent booklet for our church. I’ll be recycling plenty from there….but going through the traditional four weeks: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
I am hoping (begging) for some help. If you would like to guest post and write a piece for one (or more than one) of those weeks please contact me ( email me if you know it, or comment below) and I’ll work you in.

Today, we set out the nativity scene.
And we talked about Jesus’s birth.
(and then O arranged them into an animal vs. three kings battle while Tess chewed on the baby Jesus).

And maybe tomorrow (or the next) we will tackle the tree.
Because Advent is a season of preparation, and it doesn’t have to happen all at once.

walking on air

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breakfast with Andrew or Geoff

Mansfield has one homeless man that I see on a semi-regular basis.
He doesn't look like he should be homeless.
He looks more like someone I went to highschool with.
Who could really use a shower.

This morning I saw on my way home from getting coffee, and pulled over like I occasionally do.
I didn't have any cash.
So I went next door and got some breakfast instead.
Two sausage egg and cheese bisquits.
And I pulled them out.
And he remembered me.
And we sat on the stoop and ate our breakfasts together.

And introduced himself as Andrew.
Which is probably not his real name.
Because later he told me a different one.
And we jumped right into our stories.

Before getting on to me about what is "safe"....
I don't really think we are called to safe.
But nonetheless I didn't give him my last name or social security # or address or anything crazy like that. (well one thing crazy, and maybe we will talk about that later).

I didn't ask.
But he told me bits about how he got here.
That he used to be a newspaper writer.
And that he has been homeless for 7 years.
And told me that he has a facebook.
I whispered my secret dream of being a writer too.
I asked him a little about how it is and if people are nice to him and if the weather is warm enough.
He sang me a song about his life. Which had a little something for everyone alcohol, Jesus, women and dumpsters.
We laughed.
And not the awkward I'm not sure what to say laughs.
But real true laughs.
And we ate our bisquits.

And as I got up to leave, he thanked me and opened his arms for a hug.
He smelled of cigarettes and sleeping outside.
But I hugged him anyways.
I thanked him for one of the most real conversations I've had in months.

Even if his name really isn't Andrew.

cliche

The old “when God closes a door he opens a window”.
Open windows I can handle.
But what about when God opens the door, lets you get just a peak at what’s on the other side and then slams it in your face.

That is what has left me a bit reeling this morning.
Because I feel like God is so ridiculously good to me.
But.
I am not always so good to him.
I am searching for what it is I am supposed to do.
How I am supposed to serve.

And just when I go out on a limb and am obedient.
Which is scary.
But feels so good. Because for a rare moment you are doing exactly what it is that you are supposed to do.
The stars align and you know it isn’t the stars and then,
The door slams.
Right on your nose.
With no windows in sight.
And it hurts so much more than it should.

And there is always the question….
Is God closing this door?
Am I supposed to start looking for my windows.
Checking my motives.
Should I placate myself with holding up my end of the bargain.
Finding whatever lesson it is that I am supposed to learn.
(which that last sentence implies that it is indeed about me)
Which maybe it isn’t. And maybe that’s the whole point.

Or instead maybe I am not supposed to roll over.
Maybe I am supposed to push the damn door down.

But how are we to know?
When to start looking for windows…
Or pushing down doors….

thanks giving

Lately I haven't really wanted to go to Sunday School.
It has been .... kind of off.
The study we are in hasn't been drawing out real conversation.
We mostly make jokes about something else. Watch the clock tick. And decide on where to eat afterwards.
I had even been wondering if this room at 11:00 o'clock was still the one for me.

But then there was this Sunday.
The food was lame store bought muffins ( I can say that b/c I brought them).
There were many empty seats.
The study was still a little stale.
But right before praise and concern we did something different.
In honor of Thanksgiving we went around the circle and were each asked to share one thing that we were thankful for.
Sounds so second grade right?
Wrong.

We went around and people spilled their hearts.
No one just said, " I'm thankful for my family".
Instead they praised their wife sitting beside them until they weren't the only ones choked up.
No one mentioned a new iphone ( not even me), but instead were so amazingly grateful for unexpected pregnancies, and blessings and healing and new relationships.
Something about looking into our hearts and sharing what was good.
What was God given.
What was grace.
Broke us with the amazing blessings that have been lavished upon us.

So many people were thankful for this class.
The very one that I was having thoughts about.
And by the end, I was blubbering like a baby.
And I was too.

a start

so haven't blogged in 10 or so days, (which is a while for me).........
I have 10 straight days off ( counting yesterday that I wasn't supposed to be off but stayed home with sick kids)....and I figured I'd catch up on my blogging.

Only really I don't have much to say.

And that is a problem.

I figured I'd post anyways.

But I think there is a message here anyways.
Something about how we need a story.
We need things to write about.

Which is probably going to take me getting off the couch.....

par for the course

All these serious posts lately….and I’m not really a serious girl.
So, let me lighten the mood.

One word: golf.

You see I am not really a detail kind of girl.
More often than not my socks don’t match. My posts (and all other written correspondences) are filled with typos and misspellings.
And I see the speed limit as more of a suggestion to me than an actual value that I think I am supposed to stay under…

But golf is kind of a detail sport.
I think the whole point is accuracy.
Not, just to hit the ball as hard as you can. Who knew?

In college I used to work at PuttPutt and figured this made me a professional golfer of sorts. I can putt through a freakin windmill, surely I can land a ball on the green. (turns out that is faulty logic).
So I bought clubs and played with Shaun a few times.
I thought years ago ( before kids), that if I learned to play it would be something we could do together.
Until he tried to actually “instruct” me on how to swing.
Teachers are the worst students.
Especially if we have a big ass golf club in our hands.
There was also the crazy lingo ( birdie, bogie, eagle…what the heck?)
The only word I need to know is “mulligan”.
Also there is all that secret golf etiquette.
Like not to step on someone’s line.
I don’t see any damn lines!
So, lets just say this I’ll learn to play golf phase so we can do it together thing didn’t last long.
I’m also not so sure about any sport that wants you to wear collared shirts and khakis.
I barely do that to work.

But, then my parents came in town and wanted to play.
My parents aren’t really athletes.
Well, my dad can play a mean game of ping pong and my mom can kick everyone in the family’s tail at Wii hula hoop…..but that is about the extent of their athletic abilities.
They must have grown tired of their sailing phase, and cooking club phase, country and western dancing phase and have now moved on to another socially acceptable senior activity….golf.
So Shaun gets us a tee time , I dust off my clubs ( literally) and put on my khakis.

I mentioned that me and Shaun had played a few times, but he had totally been holding out on me. This time we got carts!
I would pay a green fee just to drive those fun little carts around all day.

Shaun was super patient and mostly held his tongue.
There was cussing.
There were lost balls, dropped balls, completely missed balls, and sand traps. Lots of sand traps. There was even a dog bite. ( don’t ask Shaun about this part). But, next time you consider hopping a fence to retrieve a golf ball……you might just want to take the drop instead. ( a drop…look, I’m learning the lingo J).

Two hours later we had only made it through hole 5, and the real golfers behind us were getting a little impatient ( and yes, we had already let some people play through).
So we drove our cute little carts back to the clubhouse.

On the way home, I asked Shaun when we could play again. And he about drove off the road.


(some final thoughts on my whole half experiment coming soon……..)

week 6... the grand finale

The grand finale.
Well, I was hoping for one but I’m not so sure this is it.

This post is a little late because I couldn’t decide what to do for this week…..
I kept waiting….

I was hoping for a big fat check to land in my mailbox.
So that I could be faithful and give away half.
And of course go skiing with the rest.

But no big fat check came.

Turns out I have to give away what I already have.
Because that was what it was really all about any ways.

I also toyed with the idea of giving away half of what is in my savings account, or checking account, or something else big and substantial and impressive.

But that isn’t where I have ended up.
Instead I’m not giving away much.
But I’m hoping you will.

In front of me is a short stack of 10$ bills.
All crisp and new and fresh and straight from the ATM.

But these bills are marked.
In Sharpie across the front is this verse:

“For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory.” Romans 11:36a

Because all these things I have been giving away, weren’t really mine to begin with.

When something isn’t yours, you treat if differently.
Usually better.
When I borrow a book I am careful with it and treat it much better than one I actually own.
I try not to dog ear the corners or leave it laying around or let Tess rip out the pages.
Because I want to be able to return it in okay condition.

So I am trying to think about all these things I have and the numbers in my bank account like they really are.
Not mine.

A gift. Or on loan.
And I have to ask myself a really tough question…
"Are the things I own being used in any capacity for his glory?"

Would I treat my stuff differently if I saw it as God’s instead of my own hard earned paycheck?

Something tells me Jesus didn’t have a storage unit somewhere filled with all his extra robes and wedding presents.
(and for the record neither do I, but…..I could easily fill one).

So back to the 10$.
The idea came from a few places…
Sometime last fall my friend Tina posted about this thing called the 10$ blessing which was essentially to stick a 10$ bill in your wallet, pray for an opportunity and dole it out whenever one shows up.
And secondly, from reading in a book about a man who had received a 100$ bill from Shane Claiborne (read about it here…but the book was This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God by Rick Mckinley). How special this money was and how he knew he needed to use it for good….because Shane is one of the poorest guys he knew…and well because this money was marked. Each bill had the word “love” written on it.
So I’ll be mailing out my 10$ bills. Not as many as Shane.
And they are also marked.
But they don’t come with any kind of instructions.
That part it is up to you.

And if no money shows up in your mailbox in the next few days.
Don't be dissapointed. Instead, get out a sharpie and mark your own.

wasting time...follow up to week 5

(Week5)

Let me be up front that I am a cheater.
This should be obvious to that noticed that I didn’t post anything yesterday.
A girl using her time wisely shouldn’t miss her weekly Sunday post.
…..but I had an exceptionally busy weekend.
And I am a complete cheater.
I checked my facebook and google reader almost everyday.
Even on my so called days off.

But maybe I spend a few minutes rather than the better part of an hour there.
I was amazed at how hard it was to not come home and plop myself down in front of the computer.

My kids watched less cartoons.
I graded more papers.
We danced in the living room.
I cooked dinner. Real dinner, vegetable included.

Overall. I got more stuff done.
And my son didn’t have to say,
“Mommy, I’m talking to you! Pay attention!”

And yes, I was available to help a few people out.
I didn’t do anything spectacular.
I delivered a meal and I babysat for someone on Owen’s soccer team.
Neither of which I wanted to do.
Or were for a good friend that I was happy to serve.

But I couldn’t help but think that
That was exactly what this time had been carved out for.

The babysitting gig was especially tough.
I mean the kid was nice enough.
Owen loved having a friend over.
and the parent thankful.
but it kept me up a few hours past my bed time.

So as this kid up polished off the nilla wafers, downed the last of our milk and told me for at least the dozenth time that he wasn’t going to sleep I tried to remember that this wasn’t “my time”, but time I had gladly given away.
I was annoyed. I was tired. I really just wanted to go to bed.
I kept waiting for the warm-fuzzy-happy-I-am-doing-a-good-deed feeling to come over me.
Instead I just kept getting more tired and impatient.
I was also a little disappointed.
Why hadn’t God used me to do something really cool?
Rather than just babysit and pick up dinner for some people I barely knew.

Well because then it would have been about me.

And well. Serving isn’t supposed to warm and fuzzy and happy.
It is mostly just supposed to be work.
Although the fuzzy warm stuff is an occasional side effect.
Giving is meant to be about the giving.
Not what I hope to receive or learn or get recognition for.

(and stay tuned…..week 6 is coming. Tomorrowish.)

raw

When I was in college I tried snow boarding.
Us girls thought the snowboarding pants and boots were much cuter than the ski ones.
My snowboarding experience only made it halfway up the bunny hill.
I fell and my knee made a funny noise and felt all loose inside.
I tore my MCL before ever even getting on a lift.
So much for those cute boots.

I opted out of surgery and only had to wear a big bulky expensive brace for a few months. Ok, I think I was actually supposed to wear it for a few months which I translated into a few weeks.
But despite not following the doctors orders it healed up ok.
Mostly.
When it gets cold or I run too much or I play a particuarly aggresive soccer game...it creaks and cracks and hurts. Then I'll favor the other leg for a while until it doesn't hurt anymore.

Today, while driving in my car to meet a friend...
I remembered something.
which made me remember something else.
which made me remember something else.
and then I hit a raw spot.
not eddie murphy raw.
more of the exposed and oozing variety.

It caught me off guard and frustrated me.
I thought that this raw spot was something I was over and done with.
Something that I had moved past.
That I was fixed.
or healed from.

And most days I am.
If by healed you mean not something I think about.

But today.
on I-20.
I was oozing all over the place.

There was no crying or breakdowns or anything like that.
Just an old aching wound.
Reminding me that it is still there.
Reminding me that we are all a little bit broken.
and that if you look closely...
you will see that everyone is walking around with a bit of a limp.

Week Five...and possibly the hardest week so far.

So I am wishing that I had only made this a 4 week experiment.
I could probably.
I mean, how many people actually read this blog anyways.

But…I’d hate to disappoint the eight of you.
So I have 2 more weeks to go.

And this week,
Inspired by my favorite day of the year,
I am giving up something precious to me.
Something priceless.
Something that I am incredibly wasteful with.
Something that last night at 12:01
I magically received a little bit extra of
….well at least until next Spring when it will be taken back.

My time.

Because it isn’t always about stuff.
Sometimes it is just about being available.

Literally giving up half my time would be almost impossible
Because I still have to you know…work and sleep…
And that takes up over half my time as it is.
So there will have to be rules.

For this week,
I will at least try not to waste half my time.
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday
(ok, for you math whizzes out there…I realize that 3 days out of 7 isn’t officially half, I am not counting Sunday...because technically I “rest” or at least try to that day anyways..)
….I will not facebook.
Or catch up on my TiVo
Or spend hours reading strangers blogs.
Or run to QT during my conference instead of grading papers.
Or all the other wasteful things that I do with my few free moments.

I think it would be bigger of me to tell you that I will serve with that time.
Or pray.
Or read my bible.
But all I can promise is not to waste it.
That I will be intentional with it.
And that I will be open and available to those around me.

And taking a nap isn’t a waste.
Or going for a run.
Or playing hot wheels on the floor with my son.
Or picking up the kitchen.
Or reading the same book to Tess over and over and over, rather than one of my own.
Or getting a babysitter on going on a long over due date.

Sadly I am a little afraid of how hard it is going to be for me to not check for new comments until Tuesdays.
Or look up everyone I used to go to high school with on facebook.
Or watch last week’s episode of House.
Or to finish one of the three books I am in the middle of.

And I am pretty anxious to see what happens in those empty spaces.

The now annual Halloween post

This is a repost from the same time last year...

Owen just scooted out the door for the day dressed as spiderman. His school is having a halloween party......but I am not sure he was supposed to show up ALL day in costume. I also considered the fact that they are serving lasagna for lunch, and the outfit is a one-piecer making "potty time" a nightmare. I thought maybe just taking his costume to put on at party time would be a better idea. However, I could not convince my child of this.Before leaving he asked me a question that has stuck with me ( well maybe because he asked it about a dozen times in a span of 5 minutes).
"Who are you going to be today mommy?"

First I tried responding with something easy......"Owen's mommy". Apparently that was not exciting enough.Then I tried to appeal to the superhero in him with "super woman". Apparently they don't show that cartoon anymore so there is no such thing if you are 3. I started to get desperate and told him I could be "Dora". He considered this a bit longer before declining. He finally agreed with an old classic......."a ghost". He looked around for a sheet.......but settled for a few "boos" before he was out the door for a day filled with future cavities.

I am still in my pjs and don't plan on dressing up as anything.........but it's not a bad question to ask yourself first thing in the morning.....and not just on halloween.
So, who are you going to be today?

punkin patch







Here are a few shots my friend Rhonda got last week at the pumpkin patch...
check out more of her stuff at snapshotsonlocation.com




the piano fairy

last night around 10:40 p.m.
Owen sticks an elbow in my ribs and says,
"is that the piano fairy?"

I had just fallen asleep.
but, I rubbed my eye and looked up to see a strange man in my bedroom.
older, balding, wearing a jumpsuit and a little creepy looking.

"yes, Owen, that is the piano fairy".
He went scrambling out of bed to watch and
this stranger and Shaun rolled a piano into our bedroom.

My old piano.
The one I learned to play chopsticks on.
and some song about a little Indian.
and the one your only use your knuckles to play.
and a few real recital worthy songs as well.
and practiced for hours.
or at least it felt like hours.
The one my brother and sister played.
And the one my mother could play beautifully.

Owen plopped down on the bed while they unloaded it from the dolley.
His eyes were big and wide and he asked, "We're getting a real live piano?"

I giggled and hoped he didn't think this was like getting a puppy.
"Yes, Owen a real live piano"

But it is alive.
Kind of.
It is big and brown and shiny and holds some beautiful potential inside.

I'm sure Shaun will be digging out the old sheet music for moonlight sonata.
and I will remember a few bars of fur elise.
and teach Owen chopsticks.
and even let Tess bang around to her delight.
and we will have our own "real live piano".

Thanks mom and dad.

week four....are you hungry?

a few of my favorite things:
cheese fries from snuffers
homemade cobbler
chips and salsa almost anywhere, but especially uncle julios and chueys
medium wet wings from wings n more
fuzzy's fish tacos
my mom's spaghetti sauce
warm sourdough bread
red wine
greek salad from pappadeaux
sexy roll from piranha
easy cheese and a box of trisquits
garlic mashed potatoes.
a chilli cheese dog from the coney
a good ceaser salad
warm garlicy hummus from mellow mushroom
hashbrown casserole from the cracker barrel
fries from wing stop
fresh baked cinnamon rolls
..........and welll i could go on and on.

I like good food.
I am spoiled like that.
And wear the pant size to prove it.
Both my parents are amazing cooks and they don't mind dropping big bucks for a really good meal.
Like the lobsters we shared last time they were in town!

Did reading all that make you hungry?
Did you start picturing what you were going to have for dinner?
Did your mouth start to salvate and your stomach start to grumble?
Well guess what.
You aren't.

Hungry, that is.
Not really anyways.

The other day I shared coffee with my friend Julie.
We caught up and talked about work and our kids and many other things that I have already forgotten.
But what I do remember is this.
Her sitting in one of those big green overstuffed chairs in the middle of Starbucks.
Telling me about one of her students.
And her chin started to quiver.
And her eyes got big and wet.
And she cried.
Over a beautiful and bright teenage girl who sits in her class everyday,
and worries about boys and drill team and college just like every other girl in the class.
But she also worries if she will get dinner, or if she will just have to wait until she gets to school the next day to eat again. This girl is hungry.
And so are the kids on those commercials.
And the ones with the signs.

And so this week, I won't be having any of those things listed above for dinner.
I did my weekly shopping yesterday...
and thought more aobut what food would go further for less money
(like rice and beans and chilli and hot dogs)
than maybe what I usually buy.
Or spend eating out.
And I spend less than half of the usual weekly shopping bill....
And as for the other half ( what I didn't spend), I hope it finds it way to that sweet girl.
And somethings tells me,
that this week my rice and beans will taste exceptionally good.

week three - free books


(If you haven't been following read the 2 previous posts first)...

Today Owen got his first library card….and was really proud of it. Really proud of it.
He carried it around in his pocket all day. He even fished it out at “children’s time” at church……..interrupting the entire lesson to show off his magical plastic card.

But library cards are pretty powerful, I mean you can just walk in, flash that puppy…and walk out with an armload of books. Which are 100% free if you can remember to return them on time and keep your kids from coloring in them ( both of which I struggle with).

Turns out I have built my own little library. Minus the Dewey decimal system. I have always wanted a house filled with books. And I have it. There are too many books to count, so I won’t even try.
There are at least 9 shelves of books.
Not counting the random piles of coffee tables, kitchen tables and bathroom counters.
Not counting the bookshelves in Owen in Tess’s rooms.
Not counting the borrowed books stacked neatly (or not so neatly) on the bedside table.
Not counting the ones in the car or the bathroom or the ones at school.
At least 3 of those shelves are probably Shaun’s. Leaving 6 shelves of my books.
So the goal is to get it down to 3.

I am happy to load my friends and family down with books that I have read.
I lend them out freely, often telling them to pass them on to someone else when they finish.
I rarely reread a book.
So, I have no problem passing them on.
I want to pass them on.
I want my friends to read my books.
Because I love them. Or because they have changed me. Or because they were just plain good. And I want to share that. I want my friends to love what I love. Learn what I have learned. And be changed or entertained or challenged right along with me.
A book is so much better if you can talk about it with a friend.
I’m not sure why I am so free to give away books and not other things. It isn’t like I ever just hand a friend 20 bucks or my favorite pair of jeans…and say enjoy …and tell me what you think about it afterwards.

So I thought giving away half my books would be easy.
I do it pretty regularly anyways. In addition to giving all my favorite books to my mom and my friends, I have also filled up big boxes to the brim with books that I don’t want anymore. I take them to half price, gasp a little at the ridiculously low price they want to offer me for these prizes, but take it anyways……….and do what any literay loving person would do. Which is buy more books.

But usually when I fill up those boxes, I mostly give away Shaun’s books.
Or the books that I didn’t really like or remember.
Not the good ones.
Not the copy of Catcher in the Rye that I’ve had since the 9th grade.
Or the signed copy of Bird by Bird
Or my favorite CS Lewis (Until we have Faces).
Or the books that make me want to be a better person, like Donald Miller’s latest: A Thousand Miles in a Million Years. I’m still chewing on that one.
Those are the books that I ask for back when I give them to a friend to read.
That I don’t want to part with.
That even though I usually don’t reread them. I take comfort in the fact that I can.
Or because I think they are the books that will impress people when they see them sitting on my coffee table.
So this week, I will give away my books. Half of them. And there are too many to count, so I’ll just go by shelf space. Not my husbands or my kids or even the ones that my mom has passed on to me. But mine.

So currently they are piled into a footlocker size tub waiting until my husband gets back in town so he can lift them into my car. Because I can't make that tub budge.
But eventually I will drive them down to Half Price.
And they will offer me some offensively low amount for all these books. And I'll say ok.
And I will take that little white slip to the counter.
And I might possibly have to close my eyes while I walk there so I want be tempted by all the pretty covers and stories that I want to be a part of.
And I will cash out.
And I will give that money to the first person I see that needs it. Or asks for it. Or has a cardboard sign.

But some of the books.
I will give to you.
And all you have to do is ask.

The rules……
Just pick one.
Leave your name and the book you want in the comment section. ( first one to request it gets it).
If I need to mail it you, please email me your address (shaun.michelle@sbcglobal.net). Be patient on the mailing. I despise actually going to the post office. Shipping is on me, but I’d like it a lot if you gave the $ I spent of shipping away.
So here are the prizes….I tried to pick a wide range.

Let me Tell you a Story by Tony Campolo (life lessons from unexpected places and unlikely people)
Rachael Ray 365: No repeats Yes I still heart Rachel Ray even if she is too smiley
Me Talk Pretty One Day by Dave Sedaris. If you don’t love Dave Sedaris you should.
Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Wasn’t over the moon about this one…..but it is pretty popular right now and it has some great moments.
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. Love love this novel. Kind of a female catcher in the rye. Complete with lots of fbombs.
Sex God by Rob Bell, no Velvet Elvis…..but still pretty great. And no it isn’t naughty.
Don’t make me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman (heart and scripture oriented discipline)…..and obviously a book I need to reread if you have ever seen me out and about w/ my two crazy kids.
Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver ( or you might know her from the Poisonwood Bible)…this is a collection of essays…kind of scienc-y, earthy and spiritual all at the same time.
Grace Eventually by Anne Lammott. I heart Anne Lammott, but it all goes a bit down hill after Traveling Mercies.
The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. And no, I absolutely do not want to give this book away….but I’m pretty sure it is what Shane would do.

half part two ( of six)

So if you are just tuning in, last week I decided to give away HALF of one of my possessions each week. (Read the last post if you want to get filled in).

The popular question this week was, “So what are you giving away this week?”
Which made me panic a little.
I meant my post last week.
But, how often do you mean something and not really ever follow through.
People asking meant, I had to follow through.

So I went back to my closet.
Bottoms.
Jeans, khakis, skirts, pajama bottoms, work out pants, etc…
16 pairs of pajama pants ( I heart pajama pants and would wear these all the time if it were just slightly more socially acceptable).
8 pairs of workout/sweat type pants
18 pairs of jeans
16 pairs of brown/khaki pants
10 pairs of plain black pants
6 other ( plaid, print, etc.)
12 skirts
And I didn’t even look in the hamper.

I filled 4 trashbags completely full with pants to donate!

Going through all the piles gave me plenty of material to write about.
Like for example that I found 16 pairs of jeans but have been wearing the same pair for the last 3 days in a row.
Like how I discovered clothes that I completely forgot I even owned.
Like how the first few pairs are easy. The ones that have holes or stains or aren’t comfortable. And then it isn’t.
How I seriously considered rescuing a pair of black drawstring pants out of the bag before slipping them in the donation bin. No one would know.
How I kept hoping that this would feel so good, be so freeing.
But it is pretty hard.
Sad that a girl with 16 freaking pair of khaki pants had a seriously hard time whittling it down to only 8 pairs of khaki pants.
Instead, I’ll focus on hope.

You see, the sizes in my closet range from an 8 to a 16. (skinny to post baby)
And I am actually somewhere in the middle.
Unlike shirts, pants sizes are pretty specific.
One week of donuts, pie and skipping the gym……and I am up a size.
Meaning, there are plenty of pants in my closet that I can’t wear.
That, well I probably haven’t been able to wear since like junior high.
Some are too big, and some are too small…but I keep them around just in case.
Even sometimes when my heart isn’t…
My closet is full of hope.
My closet thinks that maybe one day I will be more (or less)
of the person that I want to be.
The one who gets up early to run and the one who eats veggies instead of pie.
And I know lots of people with entire sections of their closet that they can’t wear.
Even my really negative super pessimistic friends have clothes that they are one day hoping to fit back into.
When it comes to our jobs, or credit card bills, or marriages they start to lose heart.
But when it comes to their ass, they are hopeful…
That one day it will squeeze back into those jeans.

So today, when choosing which clothes to keep and which ones to donate,
I fully expected to give away all my skinny jeans.
And I did put a few in the bag.
But most of them I hung right back up.
Because when it comes right down to it,
I didn’t want to give away the hope that they represent.
Because if maybe I think that I can be that girl.
The one who fits back into her skinny jeans,
Then maybe I can also hope to be
The one who gets up and reads her bible.
The one who eats dinner with her family at the table most nights.
The one who follows through.
The one who pursues her dreams.
The one who sweeps under the couch.

And most of all the one who doesn’t own 74 pairs of pants.
But the one who has learned to give with a joyful heart.
Which is something I am still very much working on.
That ….and fitting back into those jeans.

An experiment in Half: Part 1 of 6

16Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" 17Jesus said, "Why do you question me about what's good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you." 18-19The man asked, "What in particular?" Jesus said, "Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself."
Don’t murder. Check.
Don’t commit adultery. Check.
Don’t steal. Check. Well unless you count making personal copies at work, or snagging Shaun’s last pair of clean socks…
Don’t lie. Uhm…..Not bold face ones at least. Telling the telemarketer that I’m not home, surely that doesn’t count.
Honor your father and mother. Much easier now that I don’t live at home.
Love your neighbor as you do yourself. Sure, as long as I can pick which neighbor. The friendly one who bakes bread and lends me eggs. Love love love. The crabby one who gives Owen dirty looks when he squeals with delight a little too loudly, well I’m cordial.

So if that if that is the test you have to “get eternal life”. Surely I pass. Maybe not with a 100%, but I figure I’m a solid B. And Bs are good enough. Right?

But, the story continues…
20The young man said, "I've done all that. What's left?" 21"If you want to give it all
you've got," Jesus replied, "go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me." 22That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crest-fallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn't bear to let go. Matthew 19: 16-22

OK, this test I’m not so sure I’d pass. I’d like to think that if Jesus showed up, in the flesh and asked me to give up all my stuff. All my stuff, the junk, the treasures, my favorite stuff, the stuff that I forgot I even have and even they stuff I buy to put the other stuff in……that I’d tell him yes.
But I’m not so sure.
You see I have a lot of stuff. And I’m pretty fond of it. I know that God would surely provide. But I sleep better at night knowing that I ……. well that I actually have a bed to sleep in.

What if Jesus had asked that poor man to only give up half his stuff? I wonder if he still would have walked away. (Yes, I know that Jesus asks us to surrender everything, not half of everything…this is just an experiment…so bare with me).

So, inspired by this blog post wrecked , I decided to count my shoes. And whatever number I ended up with….I’d give away half.
So I did just that.
25 pairs.
And I am not particularly a shoe girl. I wouldn’t know a pair of Jimmy Choos if I tripped over them.
But 25 pairs is kind of sickening.
I could almost wear a different pair of shoes every single day of the month.
So I spread them out on my bedroom floor and started the weeding out process.
At first it was easy. I placed a broken pair of flip flops in the bag, an old pair of tennis shoes. The ones I keep in my car just in case. Another pair of flip flops that are uncomfortable. A brown pair that I swear I have had since college. And so on.
But after about 7 pairs I was stuck.
I liked or needed all the other pairs on the floor.
In the end I ended up giving away 2 pairs of shoes that I loved. Yes. I said loved about shoes.
The same word that I had a hard time saying about my neighbor.
Which is an ugly thing to learn about yourself.
That I can love a pair of cute black boots and a pair of red and gray North Face tennis shoes more than real live breathing neighbors. Even grouchy ones.

In the end, 13 pairs made it into the bag. Even though I had to cheat a little…counting a cob webby pair of rollerblades from the garage.
And this is just the beginning.
For the next six weeks, I am going to pick some possession ( clothes, books, food, whatever)…..and give away half.
And half is really hard.

queen of awkward

Recently I couldn't wait to see a friend.
Even though I knew it was going to be really awkward.
She just suffered a great loss and I knew we weren't going to be able to just hug and giggle about old times. There might be long pauses. Or some staring at our feet. Or laughing and then feeling guilty that maybe things shouldn't be this normal.

This summer I hung out with some old friends. Some were easy. And it seemed that we slipped into conversations like comfortable old jeans. Others were strained, and we weren't always sure what to say. Eventually we caught ourselves laughing almost as easily as we used to, but not after a few conversational dead ends and at least one failed joke. I hope to see both next time I am around. Bring on the awkward pauses, if it means I get to hug an old friend. Even if it means we don't have much in common anymore. I bet if we talk long enough we will find something.

I also have some friends that have made some decisions or done some things that I don't feel very comfortable with. (don't worry...it isn't you...most of those friends probably don't even know that I have a blog).

I have two very close friends that I have been friends with since I moved here. But we have seasons of weirdness. Like when I had to tell my friend, who had just decided to give up on fertility treatments because they were sucking her bank account and heart dry, that I was pregnant. Almost just by thinking about it.
But we tried anyways.
We still had dinner or pedicures.
We still complained about school and laughed.
Even though sometimes I know she cried on the way home.

Friendships may begin over a cup of coffee, grow over a gab session, but they are truly solidified in those awkward moments.
Calling anyways.
Even when we don't want to.
Or are mad or jealous or don't know what to say or don't particularly agree.
Asking about the new boyfriend, the one you think is a bad idea.
Letting them tell the same story, the one you have already heard before, again.
Apologizing, or accepting an apology...even if you want to stay angry for a bit longer.

As far as being a friend goes.
Well, I don't always remember birthdays.
I never write thank you cards.
I often don't think before I speak (read insensitive).
I can't keep a secret.
I am a chronic interrupter.
I make horrible coffee.
But, I don't shy away from awkward.
And I am pretty sure that counts for something.

How much?

On the way home from school Owen says, "I love you, mommy"
Sweet yes, but he also had alterior motives...he was trying to butter me up for a stick of gum.
So I responed, " How much?"
"More than........." (and he paused dramaticallyI expected him to fill in that blank with something he partiucuarly enjoys like cartoons, or cheetos, or the color red).
He continued, "More than 12."
12 huh.
Well, I guess it could be worse. He could have said 4.

A Slow Burn



Ok, disclaimer. Not of fan of 90% of “Christian fiction” (imagine that I just made those quotations in the air with my hands” and possibly even a gagging sound). It is often too sweet and sappy and unrealistic. But maybe, just maybe a mom of three with a nose ring can do it right. Within less than a dozen pages I was hooked.

Instead of going to bed at a respectable hour, or doing the dishes or grading papers……I found my self in the middle of Defiance, TX.
Mourning with Emory of the loss of her daughter Daisy.
Hoping with Hixon that he will manage to win Emory’s heart.
Wishing for Emory to finally come around.
Praying that Jed would survive under all the weight of his self-imposed guilt.
Wondering if Ousie would stand up to or be crumpled by the hand of her husband.
And most of all wanting to find out who the killer is.

And that is just the first few chapters. In other words, A Slow Burn, is anything but a slow read. So, let the dishes pile up. Let some one else put away the laundry and be prepared to stay up into the wee hours with this one.

This book can be dark, with themes of loss, guilt, abuse and addiction. But you are not left in the dark ( well, except all those tidy little answers that I hope to find in book 3!). In even the darkest of moments are patches of hope and grace that are enough to shine light on God’s bright and amazing love. Enough hope that somehow, you end up rooting for and wanting redemption even for the shadiest of characters.

One final question for our author Mary DeMuth, and surprisingly it isn’t who dunnit, but……..
When does the final book in this trilogy come out?

Some links of interest:
Buy it Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0310278376 (I'd lend you mine, but I already promised it to my mom!)
Mary's website: http://marydemuth.com/
other bloggers on this tour: http://www.blogtourspot.com/slowburn-tour/slowburn-tour-stops/

the birthday blog




The doctor pulled and tugged and cussed.
Asked for more clamps and rags and billed us for extra time.
Thankfully I couldn't see much beyond the blue sheet.
It felt like someone was sitting on my chest. And really really cold.
The anesthesiologist tried to distract me, and suddenly there was a flurry.
A slippery slimy 8 pound 2 ounce little Tess.

And we waited.
For the nurse to suction her mouth, and for her to scream.
The relief of that sweet scream.

And she has been screaming ever since.
Before she got here I thought I had this parenting thing figured out.
Owen was easy. Laid back. Active, but usually eager to please.
I thought it was because I was good at it.
Apparently it was just beginners luck.

Tess is stubborn and sassy.
She takes short naps and wakes up at the smallest of noises.
She is picky and particular about what she is wearing, who is holding her, what she eats and even the room temperature.
But she can throw her head back and giggle.
A giggle so big that it consumes her whole body.
She jabbers and dances nonstop.
She is skinny and fair but tough enough to withstand a big brother who occasionally tries to ride her like a horse.
She can hold her own in a battle over a toy or the last cheeto.
She will grab on tight with both fists to my pants and follow me anywhere.
She will bang on the computer like it is a drum, empty a box of Kleenex in three seconds flat and splash toilet water all over the bathroom.
She will shake her head no at you, drop her dinner plate on the floor and then cry the biggest saddest crocodile tears when you so much as look at her sternly.
She looks so small and fearless walking across the room.
She doesn’t have much hair, but what she does is so soft and fine and smells like lavender.

I should have known that we were in for trouble in the hospital when the nursery nurses kept wheeling her back to my room in the a.m.
Saying that they were sorry, but that she wouldn’t stop crying.

But somehow something so little and difficult is so easy to love.
So now this little bundle of trouble weighs 18 lbs(ish), has 7 teeth, says a half dozen or so words and more often than not still keeps me up at night. But she can smiles as big as her eyes when she sees you and it is enough to make you forget how tired you are.

90 minutes

Yesterday Owen had his first official soccer game.
We have had practices and a soccer tots class, but this was the first REAL game. With jerseys and refs and long socks that go up to his thigh.

So Saturday morning I packed up snacks and drinks and the camera and headed over to the U5 fields. The ones that are smaller than my living room.

After circling a parking lot full of minivans and suburbans for 20 minutes, I finally found a space and unloaded Tess. I pushed Tess's stroller at top speed to the assigned field ( where O's game was already underway). As I rolled passed some of the bigger kids fields, I started thinking this was the first of many many mornings I would here. I usually try to shrug the soccer mom image, but I actually like the soccer part. I soaked in the smell of the freshly cut grass, the chalk lines, sunshine, whistles and the orange slices. I wondered how many goals my sweet little boy would score today.

I finally approached O's field ( and yes, I missed the entire first quarter) and immediately spotted my shaggy haired guy on the field. His yellow jersey swallowed him and my mommy heart swelled with pride.

And then I got closer, and realized that the rest of his team was further down the field actually playing soccer, while my son stood at the other end kicking at the grass. Oblivious to the goal scoring going on at the other end.
He is a star at practice. Kicking and dribbling and heading the ball even after the drills are over. However, he is apparently not a fan of the actual "game" part. He wants no part in the huddle of kids all kicking and runnig after one ball. He would much rather weave in and out of cones without a mass of kids or a ref blowing a whistle on his tail.

My emotions are the sidelines were confusing. Part of me was disappointed and slightly embarrassed at my kid not pulling his weight. Not trying. So I did what any good mom would do, and resulted to bribery. I promised candy and toys if he would just run and kick the ball with everyone else. And he would for a second, until someone else tried to kick it away from him and then he would stand off to the side and look for bugs in the grass.

I was kind of sad that my kid wasn't the soccer star I had imagined. Not only was he not as good as some of the other kids, but he didn't even seem to want to be there. Reconciling my hopes and aspirations for him .... for his own is a bit more challenging than I thought it would be. And lets get real. This was just kiddie soccer. Not even important stuff. I need to be ready to love and cheer on whatever he wants to do, not necessarily what I want him to do. Even if I don't like it. Even if he isn't the star.

I wonder if my God ever watches me from the sidelines. Playing my own game miserably, rather than the one I was designed to. Hoping and longing that I will start lining up my passions with His.

strike

 

 

 

 

So I got the pants beat off me in the first round by a 4 year old. damn bumpers.
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knees knocking

I did something completely terrifying this weekend.
No, I did not ride the Titan or sky dive or spend the night in a haunted house.
Instead, I went to a conference. At a church. With some really nice people.
But, here is the catch.
It was a writing conference.

Still don’t see what was terrifying about this.
Well, some of these people were "real" writers.
They have written actual books, and articles and have their own websites.
Even the aspiring ones seemed to be carting around a manuscript or a service.

Me, well.
I blog.
Along with everyone and their grandma.
And after attending this conference, trust me everyone’s grandma has a blog.

I want to write.
But I’m not sure what exactly.
This kind of stuff.
But how do I describe that when you go around the dinner table with all these people who actually belong here, and someone finally asks me the dreaded question.
The one that I have been praying no one will actually ask me.
The one that makes my knees knock a little bit and my stomach start to churn.

“So, what are you working on, what do you write?”

You see, normally I have a safe answer to questions about what I do.
I teach high school.
This normally gets me a look of admiration, or pity or fear. And sometimes all three.
But to this question. The one about my writing,
I wonder if I can say “pass”.

I want to write.
For real.
I want to have projects that I am working on.
Manuscripts on my thumb drive.
Query letters in my portfolio.
And article ideas kicking around in my head.
Instead I just have a desire.
And maybe a voice.
And know that coming here and admitting that
Could be the first step.
To eventually having an actual answer.
So I mumble through my response while looking at my shoes.
Or just try to think of something funny and clever to say instead.

I am realizing that as a grown up – I have been playing it too safe.
My kids and students are forced into opportunities to fail all the time.
Tests, quizzes, play tryouts, asking that cute girl out on a date, SATs, or the Friday night game. But I have created a life with very little opportunities to fail.
At least significant ones.
Like aspiring dreams.

Instead maybe my lesson might fail, and my kids won’t ever really understand projectile motion.
Or the new recipe will fail, and we order pizza.
Or I can’t really get to all the places I am supposed to be, and Owen is late to soccer practice.
But nothing that is really going to hurt. Like a rejection letter.
It is comfortable and cozy here and most of the time I like it.
Except, when someone asks me just the right question and I know that I want to have more to answer with.
So today, I am ready to get serious and give myself the chance to fail.
Or maybe even succeed.

sandwich run

Today I forgot my lunch, so I ran a quick errand to get a sandwich. On my way out of the Which Which parking lot, I saw a man across the street that I thought might be homeless. Mansfield doesn't have too many of these people purusing the streets with signs or shopping carts so I took notice.
He pushed a shopping cart and seemed to be picking up trashn in a gas station parking lot. I watched him carefully because I was trying to decide if he was homeless or just cleaning the parking lot.
I gave away my last 5 bucks last night, but thought maybe I could give him half my sandwich. Then I felt guilty about only wanting to give him half. I decided that maybe I should give him the whole thing. I did have a granola bar stashed away in the store room back at school. But the more I watched him, the more I thought he was possibly an employee of that gas station. His cart seemed to be outfitted with all kinds of containers and cleaners -- and I did not see any "belongings". And his clothes seemed neat enough.
I was secretly relieved that I would get to keep my sandwhich, but as I turned the corner to drive off I saw him jump all the way into the dumpster and start tossing some things out into his cart.
He definantly did not work there.
As I kept driving off in the opposite direction, I kept thinking that I still had time to turn around. And although, I had already taken a bite out of my sandwhich...I could still offer him the other half.
Maybe I wouldn't make it back in time to eat with my friends, but I could still turn around.
I thought that all the way to the next light.
And as I pulled into the parking lot.
Instead I shamefully finished my sandwhich.
I did nothing.
And I hope, that he had more than my nothing to eat for lunch today.

fishing

Tonight I went fishing.
Really the plan was just to take lots of pictures, but I got distracted.
The fish kept biting.
I could hardly drop my pole in before I was reeling in another one.

Shaun, his dad and Owen were all packing up the land cruiser, and I was still reeling them in, in the dark.

Not sure what it was.
My hands were dirty and slimy.
My tennis shoes were covered with sticker burrs.
My pants were stained and smelled strongly of fish.

But it was beautiful.
And not just the sun setting over the creek.
But the dirt on my son’s face.
The wiggle of a worm.
And the wildflowers blooming on the bank.

This morning I sat in a church (not my normal one!)
And felt nothing.
The service was cold and boring.
The music ( sang to a tape of backup music) was lifeless.
And the preaching, well I have already forgotten what it was about.

But there at the creek.
God spoke.
Not in words so much,
As in grasshoppers
And crickets
And fish breaking the water.

for Tucker

I have a friend Beth who has my favorite laugh of all times.
It is the best laugh you have ever heard she is very generous with it.
She is just one of those bright happy people that you just want to be around. Because well, when she is you find yourself smiling and laughing more too.
In one word she is joyful.

But a few days ago, my sweet Beth had a son. He was a beautiful 4 lbs 3 ounces and looked a lot like his older sister.
He was stillborn.

I can't read or type those words without feeling like I am being hit in the stomach.

She wrote about it very breifly on her facebook page and I am absoultely humbled by the amazing grace that she displayed.

I know that our God is good.
But it is so hard to remember in this moment.
and it almost seems wrong to even type it.
People keep expressing sympathy for her loss.
And loss is such a huge understatement when it comes to a child.
She was robbed.
But my friend Beth still manages to see that she is blessed and will continue to be blessed.
By her daughter.
By her family.
By her friends.
that are all willing to greive with her.
that are all pouring out their love and sorrow and questions
by trying to find words that aren't there.
with flowers and phone calls and food.
and prayers and hugs and tears.

Because you see.
My friend Beth might have a dark hard path to walk down but
she will not be doing it alone.
and Nothing
neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to steal her joy away forever.

So however long it takes friend, I promise to still be praying for you when you are ready to laugh again.

stealing the covers

Tess has a urinary tract infection and has been crabby and clingy for the last few days (with good reason). So, last night as I attempted to put her to bed.....I didn't quite have the heart (or the energy) to let her cry it out. Reluctantly, (after a few unsuccessful tries in her own crib), I tucked her in between me and Shaun and went to sleep.
I actually intended to put her back in her own bed after she was sleeping, but that would require getting out of my snuggly bed. 5:30 am: Owen comes creeped in and attempted to stake out a claim on my mattress. 5:30 may be wake up time during the week, but this was Sunday....and we did not have anywhere to be for awhile. I was desperate for a few more hours of sleep and told him he could stay at the foot of the bed. A few minutes later, after jockeying for position and covers, the dog leaped up on to the bad to claim her acerage as well.
In frustration, I picked up and headed to the couch.

I do like my babies in the bed with me. Especially before bed reading stories or Saturday mornings giggling and watching cartoons. I have even been known to start a pillow fight or two. There is something perfect about that time, my bed filled with all the people I love in one big jumble of sheets and elbows.
However, I do not love trying to sleep like this.
Owen talks in his sleep, steals covers and scoots closer and closer until there is only a tiny portion of my side of the bed left. Tess is restless and prefers to sleep horizonatlly with her feet in my face. It is far too crowded and almost impossible to get good rest like this.

My life is often like that crazy crowded bed. Every inch of space (or time) is covered with somewhere I am supposed to be or something I am supposed to to. At times this feels good. I like being busy, and seeing people and doing "important" things. But there is very little space left over and it is almost impossible to rest. I start and end my day tired. Although most of the things on the list seem to still get done and I keep most of my committments I catch myself getting there late or leaving early or doing them only halfway.

So about six weeks ago, I intently started carving out a bit more space to rest. I have cleared the calendar for at least one day of the week (Sunday). I have made a few rules, but do not stress about actually keeping them. At first it seemed intensely selfish. And maybe it is. But I think it is begining to bear some fruit. That time, that I am NOT doing housework or schoolwork is spent playing on the floor, reading books (the kind with pictures to my kids and the kind without for me), snuggling on the couch with Shaun, writing, running, and napping.

So on Sundays I rest. Even if the bed is crowded, my day isn't. And there is room to stretch out and breathe.

stiff necked.

No, I did not sleep funny.
My neck actually feels fine ( not that I'd pass up a massage if offered but)..
I am referring to stiff necked in the biblical sense.
(ex32:9-10 acts7:51)

Stiff necked is an odd adjective of choice. It manages to show up at least a half dozen times in the bible, both old and new testement. When I have read it in the
past I have always used my context clues and assumed it meant something like proud or stubborn. Googling this, told me that I was mostly right.
It usually used in reference to the obstinate Isrealites who keep going back to their idols. Their stiff necks keep refusing to bend to God's will.

But why stiff necks?
What about stiff backs, or shoulders or any other body part?

Ever have a crick in your neck? It makes it almost impossible to look around.
You are stuck only looking in one direction.
To some of the world this sounds like a good thing. Driven and focused.
But only looking forward has it's drawbacks.
There is no looking up.
There is no bending your head in prayer.
There is no looking back and rembering who brought you out of Egypt.
There is no looking around and noticing the needs of those around you.

positively not

Today was convacation, which is esentially a big teacher pep rally. The district paid big money for a big name speaker ( Jon Gorden - The Energy Bus).
And he was fine.
Well dressed, had lots of funny stories, name dropped, tossed in plenty of quotes, clever andecdotes and cliches to keep us entertained and possibly inspired.
But...
His message fell a little flat with me. He talked a lot about "staying positive, good energy, work hard, don't ever give up" type stuff.
Emphasis on the positive energy talk. And truth be told, we teachers need it. Staff developments tend to lead to an abundance of texting, yawning and grumbling amungst the staff. There is lots and lots of complaining.
Negativity is draining and exhausting, but.......I'm not so sure that "staying positive" is the easy catch all solution my speaker would like to make it out to be.

You see, I don't Jesus ever told his disciples to just stay positive. To look on the sunny side or find the silver lining. He didn't placate or pretend.
I read recently that "positive thinking" is just another word for faith.
I strongly disagree.
Staying positive is good. I'd rather be around someone who is going to make an effort and point out good things rather than tear down or complain.
But it isn't the same as faith, at least not a faith in anything other than self.
Positive thinking is defined as a mental attitude that expects good and favorable results. Google power of positive thinking and you will find lots of stuff like this:
"A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health and a successful outcome of every situation and action. Whatever the mind expects, it finds."
My faith in God calls me to believe not in specific situations or daily outcomes, but in the ultimate goodness of God.

The goodness of God and my own personal happiness, health and success aren't necessarily the same thing. I'm not saying God doesn't want me happy or healthy. I'm sure He wants good things for me, but most of all He wants me to rely on Him....and well to be honest I tend to do that the least when everything is going along super great.

I can't find too many examples of Jesus being Mr. Positive Energy Man. When he approached the woman at the well (John 4), he didn't try to butter her up with compliments or a list of her better attributes. He faced her with love and compassion and had her take an honest look at her actions. He never asked anyone to just get a better atitude or outlook on life. He asked for things that were much harder. Honesty, humility, and relationship. He didn't promise his followers promotions, or good health, or carefree happy days. He never told the disciples that if they could just be more positive that he could skip the whole cross thing.

Don't get me wrong. I am not endorsing a negative atitude. Nor do I think the Bible does either. (plenty of verses on controlling the tongue and renewing our minds), but I don't think there is a whole lot of power to positive thinking. That power has always come from a much greater source.

You see I don't really think Jesus cares if your glass was half full, or half empty. He just wants us to drink. (John 9:9-14).

reunion

On Saturday I was headed to a mini-reunion of sorts. Some girls from a sorority I was in in college were getting together for lunch. Most of these girls I haven't seen in almost a decade, and some I didn't really know to begin with. I was excited about seeing everyone and catching up. I had a busy day but insisted on fitting this lunch in.
It wasn't until I was on my way to the resturaunt that I started getting nervous.
I seriously considered turning around.
I was not expecting nervous.
High school reunions of course,.......but this was just a small group of girls. My emotions caught me off guard.

Lunch was of course fine. Fun even. I regretted that I had to be the first person to leave and head off to my next event and made plans to do it again in a few months.
I got to the shower that I was hosting and my friend sensed that I was a little off and asked what was up.
I mentioned the lunch and that seeing people that you haven't been around in years and years is often a little unsettling.
Whether you want to or not you have to face the person that they remember.
That's the thing about reunions. You aren't just catching up with your "old friends" but you are remembering a bit of the old you.

back to school

So Monday I went back to school...voluntarily early for a staff retreat.
It was nice to see people.
Babes chicken for lunch. Yum.
Icebreakers I could have done with out, but I'm a good sport so I went with it.
Performing skits in front of everyone and having them filmed. Well that part really sucked, I hate being funny on purpose.
What made it ALL worth it was the big fat typo on the staff information sheet we had to fill out. You know, name, cell phone, emergency contact, favorite snack, favorite candy bar.
Except she left off the word "candy".
Favorite Bar _________________________________.
I was all too eager to fill that line in :)

doorframes

About every 4-6 months Owen stands proudly and flatly in the doorway to his room while me or Shaun take a sharpie and mark his growth on the door frame. All I have to do is glance at those black and red marks up his doorframe to see how much he has grown over the last few years.

I just finished a book recently ( Blue like Play Dough) that said this:
" Some people may wrongly assume that raising our kids is all about the kids growing up. It's not. It's about us using these challenging times to grow up ourselves. As we watch our kids grow into the people God designed them to be, we are also participating in our own transformation."

So maybe my growth can't be measured with a sharpie against the doorframe. But I have probably had to grow and learn just as quickly as Owen has over the last few years...

some things I've learned:
how to live on much less sleep.
quickly been made aware of what i watch, listen to and the kinds of things that slip out of my mouth aren't nearly as funny or cute when said by a 4 year old.
that my time and agenda aren't really mine ( only takes a quick stomach flu).
the phone # for poison control.
how quickly a snack can fix things.
how discipline can be so hard.
how an afternoon nap is truly a gift.
that playdough is really hard to get out of the couch.
and gum is even harder to get out of hair.
that a cell phone can't survive very long in the toilet.
that a cardboard box is far more entertaining than a room full of toys.

and mostly that it all goes by so quickly that i don't want to miss an inch....

forever

...this makes me really happy :)

the waiting game

I keep waiting for the better version of me to finally make an appearance.
The one can fit back into her size 8 pants, flosses, isn't insecure or jealous, pursues her dreams rather than just blogging about them, serves consistantly rather than in random spurts, thinks before she speaks, shaves above the knee and doesn't have so many typos.
That girl is there I'm sure of it.
She just gets so distracted.

I used to give myself a break. Jesus didn't start doing much until he turned 30.
30 came and went, and all I really have to show for it is another tattoo.
Well, that and a beautiful strawberry blonde baby girl.

I keep finding reasons to postpone this new and improved version of me's debut.
like, I can start working out more consistantly this summer...or after school starts.
I can start really serving at the Mission Center when my kids are bigger.
I will email her back next week when I'm not so busy.
I'll track my spending next month when we don't have to fix the ________.
I can go to that writer's conference next year when I have more money and more sick days stored up.
But when my excuses run out I only manage to find new ones.
This improved version of me is going to waste away waiting for the most right and convienent time that will never be.

What if I stopped waiting or making excuses or trying to do it all at once.
What if I just started becoming slowly but surely that girl that I want to be.
Not all at once mind you, but so very gradually. Little by little. One thing at a time. Forward and then occasionally backward and then forward again.

So tomorrow I won't wake up any skinnier or any better. My closets suddenly won't be organized, I will probably run late. I won't make any empty promises to eat healthier and memorize scripture and change the sheets at least every other week.
But I will stop waiting. And start becoming. And cut the fatter, messier version of me some slack in the process.