Sunday, March 28, 2010

Communion Sunday

It is our last day of Spring Break and I am not ready to face the real world yet. But I did want to quickly write about an amazing feeling I had this morning in church. Today was Communion Sunday. Normally our church does a more individual style communion service with tables at the edges, with a cup of grape juice and pieces of bread. The pastor says the usual words but then we walk to the tables sometime during the singing. There are kneeling pads and when it is your turn you get to take a piece of the bread, dip it into the grape juice and partake of communion. It is very intimate experience which I do enjoy.

But today for some reason, the full communion servers were set up at the front of the church. If you are not familiar, they are tall silver towers that separate out into trays that serve a row with little cups of grape juice in one and some sort of bread in the other. These are passed down the row from one person to the next. I am always a little nervous when handed the grape juice tray because I don't want to be the person who drops the tray, spilling grape juice and creating a scene as the tray clamors to the ground. This may be why our church usually uses the tables?

What surprised me today as I was sitting in my usual spot, among the usual people that I know only because we sit near one another in church, was how much joy it brought me to take communion together. To take the tray from the usher, to pass the tray to the girl a few seats away who is sitting with her family that I greet many Sundays but know nothing else about. To see my friends behind me all passing the silver trays as I turned to return to my seat. To see us together as one body sharing in Lord's Supper.

My faith is very personal and intimate. I think as a church we have moved away from community faith to a very personal faith. For those who believe and participate, this personal faith is very real. But we seem to have lost a sense of our community faith, our faith which binds us together because we are a family, a family made up of God's children. A very real family. And seeing us together today, taking part together in a sacrament that started with Jesus at the last supper with his disciples, brought me such great joy. I felt it so deeply and so fully it was almost overwhelming. What an amazing way to spend Palm Sunday!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Break

I forgot to post that I was going on vacation with my family for the week. We are enjoying our Sunriver cabin and days on the mountain. Well most of us are. There is a story or two in there but I am typing on my phone so it will have to wait. See this is why I need the new iPad. I had thought I would have time to post on my laptop but when my kids have comandeered it during our little computer time window. I do have to say that I get stage mothers now. I am having so much fun watching my kids. Also blog karma is only funny when it happens to someone else.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It's Hard Work

Middle Man decided he wanted to play hockey like his big brother Hockey Boy. He is not that interested in the NHL yet, but after watching the Olympics he is determined to be a Team USA Hockey Player. He is determined until it comes time to skate. At first he was really enthusiastic about putting on his skates and heading to the ice. Until it was time to actually walk on the ice. Middle Man was really scared of falling down. So scared that he is really cautious on the ice. So different from Little One who also started ice skating lessons last month. Little One just stepped right onto the ice and went for it, falling down often and then getting back up and going again. But Middle Man was so scared of falling down that he had trouble trying the things his teacher wanted him to do. He marched on the ice very tentatively the first few lessons, but slowly, ever so slowly, built up some speed. He never fell but he also got really frustrated with how hard it is to learn to skate. Last week he fell for the first time and was really upset at first laying on the ice for a bit. It was his first fall and I think he had to figure out that he really wasn't hurt. He had been so scared of falling up to that point that I think he really built it up in his head. It was holding him back from trying new things.

There have been many tears but he has stayed on the ice. As his coach said last week he just wants to be good now. It is frustrating to see others get it so easily or to see your big brother skating around the ice with ease and not be able to just walk onto the ice and go. Yesterday, I took him to a makeup lesson. He got ready for the rink without any problems, but when we got there, he said it did not want to skate. He did not want to play hockey anymore. I put on his skates and his helmet as he was saying this because I knew that while it was hard he really did need to persevere. He wants to play hockey, but he wants it to come to him easy. He does not realize how much work it has taken for Hockey Boy to get good. But ice skating, like life, takes hard work. It takes perseverance. It takes time. We have talked about it, but in the moment, Middle Man wants to take the easy path. He wants to not skate.

So yesterday I asked him if he still wanted to be on the Olympic hockey team and he said yes. And then he walked off toward the ice. He had an amazing class. He swizzled forward. He wiggled backward. He did hard things for the first time ever. He was actually skating and I heard him say, "I'm going so fast." He was so proud of himself! He had persevered. He is getting better each time. And someday he will be on Team USA!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How Much?

Lately I have been hit by the concept that God has a much bigger work planned for me than I realize or deem myself worthy. In Bible study I learned that God wants to take me SO far. In the book I am reading about prayer, "With Christ in the School of Prayer" by Andrew Murray, I recently read a chapter entitled "How Much More?" Murray takes this phrase from Jesus' teaching in Matthew 7:9 - 11 which says,
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

How much more will God in heaven give to His children. Murray goes on to write about the Father relationship we are to have with God. That prayer is part of a relationship we have with our Heavenly Father. "The power of the promise, 'Ask, and it shall be given you,' lies in the loving relationship between us as children and the Father in heaven. This is a difficult characterization of God for my brain and more importantly my heart to grasp. Partly because I bring to this my experience of my earthly father, partly because I am tied up in the logic and teachings of this world, and wholly because I am sinful, depraved and rebellious. God as a loving Father, makes sense to me when I talk to other people. I fully believe and know deep down that Our Father loves His children with a deep and fierce love. But when it comes to my own relationship with the Father I don't feel it. I don't believe it. And I don't trust it. That is me. Not God. I want to protect against being wrong or hurt. I want to protect also against feeling disappointment when I disobey or choose the easy road. I don't want to let my Father down and I know I will. I will disappoint and sadden my Father. I don't know how to be loved, not in the way my Heavenly Father loves, with a love that is pure and holy.

So this is my prayer, the prayer of a little girl who wants to cry out Abba Father, who wants to know deep in my soul how much my Father loves me.

I love the prayer at the end of the chapter. In it Murray writes, "we know so little of the love of the Father. Lord! teach us so to live with the Father that His loves may be to us nearer, clearer, dearer, than the love of any earthly father." Later he writes, "Lord Jesus' it is fatherlike love that awakens childlike trust." My heart was pierced by this. This idea of how great is the love of my Father, a love I can trust. A love so big that only He can teach me to accept His love, to create a childlike trust in me that allows me to rest at peace in His hands.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I don't usually write about my husband for a lot of reasons, but mostly because if he wanted to tell his story he would have his own blog. Also since he does not read my blog, it would feel a bit weird, like I was talking about him behind his back. But today I am making an exception because thirteen years ago today, I married my beloved.

When I was in college, I spent a semester living in Europe with a group of kids from my college, studying European history and literature while traveling to all the great locations, taking classes in the basement of our youth hostel or on a bus as we drove through the Alps. On this trip I got to know one of the great kindred spirits of my life. One night while staying in a hotel in Italy she and I made a list of the qualities we wanted in our men. Here is the list:
- leader (both spiritually and in everyday life)
- FUN!
- good family
- sensitive yet not sappy!
- stimulate us/challenge us spiritually
- not be afraid to be put in embarrassing spots and be able to embarrass us (all mine)
- content in his situation (including financially)
- willing to try new things
- cross cultural experience
And still others I have forgotten!

As I retype this list, I am humored and a bit embarrassed by what I wanted. Some of those things are actually rather mature for two 19 year olds traipsing through Europe. But looking back now, I cannot imagine ever wanting to be in embarrassing situations. I did not know at the time, but I think I wanted someone who was comfortable in their own skin, confident of who they were.

It was a few years later, that my husband and I met on another college study program but this time in DC. Our paths would have never crossed if we had not both been there that semester. But God had a plan in place, a plan that would bring two people who needed each other and were best for each other together. When I married my husband, I married someone I truly felt safe with. I married a partner who would take me on grand adventures around the world and who would also help me grow in my own time and space. I married a hard worker who would provide me a life I never expected but who I am also confident would be okay if we had nothing. I married a man who is an amazing father to our three boys, who is calm and able to see them with a long time lens. I married a grown up, someone emotionally stable and constant, someone who provides a sense of security and peace I desperately needed. I married a man who loves God and wants to do the right thing no matter the cost, who is willing to make tough choices and take risks to follow God's plan. Even if that risk involved marrying a flighty, loud, brash, woman who lived on the west coast.

I grew up praying for my future husband. Asking God to bring me my perfect prince. People kept telling me I had to get out there, be more assertive, that Prince Charming was not going to just knock on my door one day. But I knew that God had the right guy out there for me. I did not need to go chasing him down because God had a plan. And then one day, my beloved literally knocked on my door.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wonderfully Made

This past week we celebrated Middle Man's birthday. We had a simple family celebration on his actual birthday and also an Olympic themed birthday party over the weekend with our friends. The kids had fun competing and playing a variety of games. Thankfully the rain stopped and we were able to enjoy a few events outside including a relay race and the long jump. Middle Man loves the Olympics and hopes to play on Team USA's ice hockey team one year. I think though his favorite part of the party was the closing ceremonies where we handed out gold, silver and bronze medals and then played the National Anthem. He stood so still, hand on his heart, staring at the flag. He had smile on his face and took the whole thing very seriously. Watching him in that moment reminded me yet again of what he has taught me as a mother.

If my first born taught me how to be a mom, how to cuddle and love, to chase bad dreams away, to kiss the booboos, to stay out of the way of bodily fluids coming forth and how to give a time out, Middle Man has taught me how to love him. He has taught me how very unique each child is and that each requires a different set of tools and communicates love in a very different way. Hockey Boy still loves hugs and kisses and wants to sit close to me. Middle Man started rubbing off kisses recently but will give knuckles. I have learned from Middle Man that each of my boys are who they were made to be. God made each of them which different character traits, talents and struggles. Psalm 139:13 says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." Middle Man is not nearly a combination of his father's and my DNA, if he were, then he and his brothers would be more similar than their blue eyes. He is a child of God, a masterpiece of the Great Creator, made with a purpose and plan set in place before Middle Man was born.

From Middle Man I have learned how to love him which is much bigger and deeper than loving a child. Loving each of my boys is a different experience, no better or worse, but unique and individual. I have learned to respond to who he is and what he loves. I have found joy in watching him create treasure map after treasure map or read our Children's Dictionary with fervor. I have learned that those parts of him that frustrate me now, his completely independent spirit that does not crave affirmation but is content in who he is will serve him so well later in life. Hockey Boy is a people pleaser by nature which is something we already have to protect him from at times, his perfectionistic tendencies and his need for outside praise. Middle Man is self motivated, often self taught, and can only really be controlled by himself. Frustrating at times, especially when what we want or need him to do does not fit with his plans. He may not respond now to my look or my disapproval of what he is doing, but he also will not respond to those in the world that want to sway him off his path.

Middle Man has also taught me how precious we all are to God. Seeing God's work in creating Middle Man, I have also seen this attention to detail as a symbol of how much God loves me. I was also knit together in my mother's womb, made with a purpose. Psalm 113 continues, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thoughts a Rumbling

I have a few different thought a rumblin in my brain the last few weeks and I am not sure which to tackle first. I did recently read a quote at the top of a friend's blog by St. Augustine that reads, "I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." I love the idea behind this quote. Because that is true for me. I love to share what I am learning with others through writing, but I also learn so much more about myself and the subject matter when I write. It is cathartic and educational for me to write. I get a lot out of the process personally which is why I think there is value in making the time to write. And yet I don't always.

I have recently been busy with life and have not had a lot of time to think, to ponder or to write blog posts. I have been busy doing things that are worthwhile and often necessary but things that keep my mind and body busy, leaving me little time or energy to read, ponder and write. I have felt productive getting things checked off my to do list and yet I have also felt like I have been spinning my wheels a bit and not really getting any traction. Because while my to do list was getting done, I was neglecting those things that make me really feel alive and present in my life, reading and writing. I was getting my "assignments" done but I was rushing through them without absorbing what I was doing. I was checking things off, getting things done, being productive and yet, I felt very unfulfilled and superficial.

This is the struggle I discussed with my husband on that long drive across the state of Washington in the dark. I am not a task oriented person. I am relational. I am contemplative. Given time to myself you will likely find me at Starbucks reading a book on prayer or whatever great read I have in my bag. Right now at this moment, I am exhausted and really just want to crawl into bed and yet I really want to write this post. I want to think and use my mind to create something. I want to put words down on the screen and feel my hands and mind working together as my fingers tap along the keyboard. I love that feeling of a sentence or an idea flowing from my mind, through my hands and onto the computer screen, knowing that when I hit publish post, I will have created something lasting. And maybe, just maybe someone will read what I write and be challenged or encouraged. If I am really lucky they may even leave a comment and my writing brings connection.

I can be practical also. I know there is work that needs to be done and done on time. I want to get dinner on the table with as little fuss as possible so we can then enjoy our evening as a family. I make the next days lunches while the kids are doing their homework, thus supervising and getting prepared for the next day. This is the work that the world sees as productive as valuable and this is the paragraph I write to let the world know that I do real work for my family. I write about my volunteering in the kids' schools, the driving I do for my kids, the meals I prepare, the laundry I fold. I justify my contemplative nature but making sure the world knows I do real work. Thinking, writing, learning are my hobbies because those can't be real work. They are the things I do after I have finished my real tasks of the day.

And yet, somewhere down deep inside me, I know that the thinking, the learning, the listening, the reading, even the writing are my real work. Because it is in the quiet moments of contemplation that I learn more about who I am meant to be. I learn more and more about who God truly is and not who I think He is. It is in the quiet moments of thinking through the tough issues, of seeking more information, studying what God's word says on a subject, that I find what I need for that day. Life is complicated, full of choices and challenges. I could easily get caught up on the good mommy's to do list and create a "normal" life for me and my family without ever thinking through what is really best for us. What is good, what is right, what grows us up in God and closer to Christ.

I don't think everyone needs to sit at Starbucks with their music playing, tuning out the world and spending time thinking and pondering and wondering what life is all about. But I am thinking that it is okay for me to do. I am being productive even if I am not crossing anything off my list.

Monday, March 8, 2010


It was that time of the month again, no not THAT time. It was the once a month moms group at my church that I love. I am getting to know some amazing women beyond the quick hello/goodbyes we shout as we chase our kids through the hallways on a Sunday. It helps that our moms group has a great children's program. So our kids play and learn and eat snacks, while we chat, and craft and drink coffee. I am also meeting some new women from our community which is a blast. There is nothing the joys and trials of motherhood to bring a group together. Where else can you talk about your sons peeing on you as a right of passage without getting funny looks. Not to mention the colors and textures of poop, our bodies or our children's art projects. I love hanging out with other mommies.

I do a little talking to the group each month. We have chosen the fruits of the spirit as our themes for this year, obviously something I enjoy since this blog is all about finding God's fruit in my life. In the past I have posted what I wrote to share about peace and love so here is this month's thoughts on patience.

When we think of patience we usually think of handling life's frustrations without losing our tempers. Sometimes it is the long line in front of us at Starbucks when we have not had our morning coffee. Other times it is our child refusing to put on their shoes. We think of patience as not throwing a tantrum standing in line or yelling at our kids when they don't move fast enough. Patience used to be one of my better qualities and then I had children.

But lately I have come to realize that patience goes way beyond not yelling or tantruming. Really our reactions to those situations is a question of self control. Patience is something bigger, something deeper. I loved how describes patience, "quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence." Patience is allowing enough time, being keen enough to understand the bigger picture, and a willingness to persevere through the process. Patience for me begins with really understanding that my kids, my life, my world is a work in progress. We are not finished products, nor our my kids done growing and learning once they are potty trained. This brings a lot of relief to me as I watch Middle Man struggle with carpet time. I tried everything I could think of to help him sit still. We talked about carpet time behavior - "Criss cross apple sauce, hands in laps, chocolate chips - zipped lips." I made a reward chart for when he sat quietly in his place on the carpet which has not been very successful. I was getting really frustrated with his inappropriate carpet time behavior. What more could I do to help him succeed. I was seriously wondering if I was going to have to find some special carpet time tutor or kinder whisperer until one of my friends kindly reminded me that HE IS 5! That is what kindergarten is all about. Learning to sit still and listen when someone else is talking. And as my brother also reminded me, there are a lot of grown ups that cannot do carpet time but are still highly successful in their worlds. Patience starts with remembering that life is a process. We don't have to be in a hurry just because the world moves so fast. Life is hopefully long. He will someday sit quietly in meetings or choose a job with very few meetings. He will outgrow his fidgety 5 year old self.

Beyond that, for me, patience really comes down to first, being prepared. I remember once forgetting to put an extra diaper in my bag. I was not concerned because my 2 year old was on a pretty set schedule so I figured he would only need the one diaper I had. Turns out he did not realize he was only allowed to go once while we were out that day. I lost it a bit which is pretty sad when I realize I was annoyed at a 2 year old for doing what has to be done. I was unprepared that day.

And the second key to patience for me is allowing plenty of time. Most days when I lose my cool with my kids it is because I am either not prepared or because I have not left enough time in our day. There is nothing that will slow a 4 year old down faster than telling them to hurry up. I must rush my kids a lot because Hockey Boy now worries about being late which is doubly sad because he is always the first one ready to walk out the door and I am often bringing up the rear. When I do leave more than enough time to get everything done, when I have the lunches made the night before, when the laundry is folded and everyone has plenty of clean clothes, when the shoes are in their cubbies and I start the leaving the house process more than 2 minutes before our scheduled departure, life goes more smoothly. There is less anxiety on my part which translates into the kids being more peaceful and therefore more helpful. I have to admit that I really struggle with this. I usually "allow" plenty of time, but then I lose track of time and forget to start the shoes, jacket and backpack process. And so we are often then rushing at the end to get to the bus stop on time. But I am working on it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Mind Needs Space

So it has been over a week since I last blogged. I did not feel well part of last week. My husband was traveling. Life got busy. I did have time to sit at my computer and read other people's blogs or get my Bible Study homework done but then I was quickly off to another task or another meeting. This weekend it was a hockey tournament full of unexpected drama, thankfully outside of us, but still touching our minds. What I have found when I am busy being productive is that I don't have time to let my mind wander. My mind if full of lists and plans, interactions I have had or conversations I need to have. I am moving from task to task, assignment to assignment, keeping my mind busy. There is no space to let thoughts settle in and germinate. There is no time for all the various things I am reading, thinking and hearing to float by one another, banging into each other like atoms wanting to create a compound idea. It turns out that in order for me to blog, I need to have time for my mind to process the thoughts and feelings swirling through my brain. This I discovered on a six hour drive in the dark on my way to the hockey tournament. And while I would love to spend time writing about the conversation that followed with my honey about the value of being productive vs. contemplative, I have a long to do list for tomorrow morning that needs to be done tonight. Maybe tomorrow?