Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Story - Foster Kids

As always My Story is from my point of view. You can read my disclaimer here.

When I was 6 we moved to Oregon. My mom had spent a few years there as a child and wanted to go back. This was also when they started working together as full time group home parents. We had a few foster kids living with us in California but they were the easy kind. The little kids who needed a safe place to stay while their parent(s) figured things out and got their act together. My parents always said that they wanted to serve Jesus by loving and caring for the widows and the orphans.

I have mostly fond memories of these foster kids. I remember a girl named Wendy who was my exact same age. She and her older brother and sister lived with us for a while. She had brown hair and brown eyes and I had white blond hair at the time with blue eyes. We were yin and yang.

Now my parents were going to start a group home for 6 teenage girls. This was no longer a simple act of taking a few kids into our home while we lived a pretty ordinary life with Dad commuting into the city from the suburbs. No this was a wholly new life, full of drama and chaos, teenage expletive laden rants, and being exposed to a world of evil and pain most little kids do not know exists. I learned about sex and molestation as a young child. I was yelled at and belittled by teenage girls who resented the fact that my father was not abusing me. I was introduced to the darkest of evil at a very young age.

My world was a much older place than my young age. I was expected at 6, 7, 8 to participate in the same chore chart and kitchen duties that the older kids, these teenage girls did. I was parented in the same manner as these high needs, at risk kids were parented. I was also very aware that these kids needed my parents, needed their care, even if that meant I did not get a story that night or my mom was late to pick me up after a school activity. I had my parents living with me and these girls did not. I needed to share, I needed to be willing to give unto others.

I don’t know if this was right or wrong. I sometimes wonder if my kids need to be doing more around the house, if I am coddling them too much. But I look at my 8 year old and wonder how my parents ever expected me to do all my own laundry, do all the families dinner dishes on my night, or clean a bathroom without adult help.

I also wonder if I could open my home to a group of kids who had suffered so much damage, so much harm, that the people around them are inevitably part of the pain and the healing process. At one point I remember doing family counseling, and by family I mean the 5 of us and 6 teenage girls who changed month to month, year to year. I don’t know if I could or would ask that of my kids. I guess if that is what God has called us to do we would. And my parents were always really adamant that this was their calling, that God had told them to do care for the orphans, not just in spirit or with donations but in our home.

A few years back when I was talking to my mom about how I was having a hard time with the monotony of being a young mom, she told me something that sort of changed my understanding of my parents being foster parents. She mentioned that she was so bored with just the two of us, my brother and I, being a stay at home mom that they decided to bring in more kids. We were probably 2 and 6 years old.

This new kernel of information tainted my altruistic feelings of taking in the orphans and those in need. I understood her boredom, but was it the right decision for her kids, for us, to bring more kids into the family just so she wouldn't be bored. It certainly makes me wonder how many times really good acts are based on selfish motivations, selfish desires that may be harmful to those around us. The story of my parents taking in foster kids eventually did harm my family. I know that many kids were helped through the years, but when I saw the end results, it made me ask was it the right decision?

I don't have the answers. I know that being a foster parent is a tremendous gift. I do know though that it is a complicated decision that cannot be taken lightly.

Monday, August 29, 2011


4829 - that is how many words I have written for my book.

10 pages in a word document. I have read that novels start at about 80,000 words.

I have some writing to do and I love it.

I love spending part of my day in a fictional world. Some of the time, I am pushing the story along, but I have had those moments I have read about, where a character changes things on me. Where I am writing dialogue in one direction and I can almost hear the character writing different words. Nothing crazy, just the character becoming more alive and less of a cliche in my head.

It is work for sure to sit down and face a blank page, to have to figure out how my characters are going to get from one scene to the next. It is work just to get myself to the blank page. It is easy to get distracted after school drop off, to fill up the few hours I have when the house is quiet enough to really get some work done. There are so many things I want to do with these few hours of freedom I have. I want to get to the gym. I want to have long, uninterrupted chats with over coffee with friends. Even when I am at my desk with my laptop, there are so many places on the internet to visit. I love twitter @findingfruit and finding new people to follow. I love seeing what my friends up in Oregon are up to on Facebook. And I love reading other people's blogs and then clicking through the comments to new blogs. The distractions are endless.

But more and more, I am wanting to write. The story is taking on more shape. I am finding myself drifting into the story when I am folding laundry or driving the kids to the pool. I am finding myself sitting down at my desk more and more often to type out a new scene or to let the characters find their way to the next major plot point I have in mind.

I am loving the writing and yet it is also so incredibly scary to do something that I feel completely inadequate to do. I feel so silly at times. Who am I to think I can write a book? I read amazing stories crafted by talented authors and wonder how I have the audacity to think I can do the same thing.

I recognize that my writing may never amount to much more than the process. But what I have learned is that most of life is not about the results. It is about the process. The best life lessons, the most growth have come as I faced the unknown and walked the steps. There is value and worth in the process no matter the results. I will be changed in the process.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Blogs I Wish I Wrote

I am trying to work on my book, which means I am spending more time clicking through twitter feeds and blog comments, instead of actually writing. The fun thing about procrastinating is I often find some really good new things to read.

Today I found a few blog posts I wish I had written. Ideas I had been contemplating but had not gotten around to writing. And now that I see these blogs, so well written with great content, I realize I don't have to write everything. Sometimes, it is better to pass on something that is really good than to make my own.

Sprinkles cupcakes are so much better than my attempts at homemade cupcakes (which really means from a box).
A great quote can often better some up a thousand of my words.
Store bought clothes still beat anything I can make myself.

And these blogs -

Kathy Escobar writes about loving God in lots of different ways. I commented but it has to wait for moderator approval so this is what I wrote about her post,
I have been struggling with how I love God for a while. I know I love Him, but my love looks so different from those around me. Looking at your list I am an intellectual, a traditionalist, a contemplative. I find God in His word. I find him in church. I find Him through music. But my response is intellectual. It is a series of beliefs that dictate my choices. It is not a feeling thing. It is a thinking love. And sometimes this doesn’t feel adequate, like I love God enough because my emotions are not affected. Thanks for this post. It reminded me that we give and experience love differently. Not better or worse, just differently. My love for God is very real, even if it looks foreign to those around me.

Preston Yancey admits to possibly being the worst theologian ever. In the middle he writes,
All the while, the rooted faith, the desire to glorify, love, and serve the Lord remains.
The doubt and questioning have nothing to do with Him, but with practice. And feeling. The terrible, beautiful gift of feeling.
Beautiful and so true for me.

And in this last post, Jennifer at You are My Girls speaks about confessing glory in a vlog (video blog). I actually sat on that same couch yesterday talking with Jennifer who is a dear friend. I love that everyone can hear her wisdom and the sweetness of her words. I just wish everyone could also taste the yummy pasta she made us for lunch.

I would love to read your favorite posts from the week. Want to share?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Story - I Loved School

As always My Story is from my point of view. You can read my disclaimer here.

With Little One staring kindergarten last week, my mind has wandered through my elementary years. Little memories from my childhood.

I remember going to kindergarten in Simi Valley, California. There was a gate around the kindergarten classroom. I cannot remember my teacher's name but I do remember that we got a lifesavers lollipop when we were able to identify all the lower case letters of the alphabet. It took me a couple of tries, those b's and d's were hard to tell apart, but eventually I got my strawberries and creme lollipop. I felt so proud of myself. 

I remember being so sad at the end of the first day of first grade because I did not learn to read that day. I had been wanting to learn to read for so long. As a kindergartner, the school had wanted to have me go to first grade for a reading class but my mom declined. She did not want me to be bored in school like she was all those years. She promised I would learn to read in first grade. Turns out that was not the curriculum for the first day. 

I remember moving from California to Oregon at the end of October during my 1st grade year. In Oregon we rode a bus to school. I liked waiting at the bus stop and riding around the neighborhood with my friends. In first grade in Oregon we played on the bars at recess and made houses out of the trees on the playground. 

I remember in 2nd grade, my friend and I used to make colored glue using our markers and white glue. I am sure we were supposed to be doing something more productive with our time but we were both often done early with whatever lesson we were doing that hour. I remember going home after school with my friend Rebecca and roller skating in her culdesac for hours. I think that was the year my mom made me a Little House on the Prairie dress that I wore as many days as I could. 

Third grade was a hard year for me. I was an incredibly emotional little 8 year old. I left the room crying a lot. I thought it was all the stress of my family life at the time, but my Hockey Boy is also really emotional and he often had to sit in the hall to calm his tears once he turned 8. I survived though even though I was convinced my teacher did not like me. A hard thing for a little perfectionistic, teacher lover like me. 

I remember times tables in 4th grade and having a male teacher for the first time. I liked his class though he was the teacher nobody wanted. I liked the times tables tests. I liked being good at math. 5th grade was another male teacher. He was older and spent a lot of time building character but did not seem to care too much about the academics. It felt like a play year to me but I think I actually learned a lot as well. 

One of my favorite school lessons ever was in 5th grade when a group of us got to go to a special class once a week or so and create our own civilization. Philofire because we were lovers of fire. All our artifacts had fire references. At the end of the unit we went to another school and buried all our artifacts in a big pile of dirt. We then dug up another school's make believe civilizations artifacts and tried to figure out what they were all about. What a great lesson plan!

School was a refuge for me. There were rhythms and systems in place that did not change year to year or moment to moment. There was lunch times and recesses to play and be kids. There were new places to visit in the pages of the books we read. There were caring adults, well except that one third grade teacher, who took care of me everyday no matter how they were feeling. 

I loved school. I loved it so much that I eventually became a teacher myself. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Book?

I did it. I sat down today and started writing, not a blog post or an email but an actual book, a novel. I have had a story brewing in my head for a little while. I am not sure how it will start or how it will end, but I know a few points in the middle. I don't plan on it being a best seller or even getting published. But I have always wanted to write a book, sort of like other people want to run a marathon or jump out of a plane. It is something on my own personal bucket list.

I don't think I will share much of it along the way, but I wanted to share what I wrote today. Mostly because I finally sat down and started. Though this part that I wrote is actually somewhere closer to the end. It might be awful and trite. But I am okay with that. First time marathon runners don't try to win, they just keep running.


As they walked through the door of the small coffee shop, the ring of the bell reminded Mia of their first date, the first time she finally let this man buy her a cup of coffee. How long ago that felt. How far removed from this moment.

They both ordered lattes and then went to sit at a table by the window. Neither spoke. Mia could not even look at Tim. She kept her eyes on the little girl sitting on the bus bench outside. Tim watched Mia, hoping she would finally say something, anything that would fix the words that broke him.

The barista came over and set down their drinks. Mia held her cup. The heat of the milk and espresso warmed her hands. As she picked up her drink to take a sip her eyes fell on Tim’s face. The pain she had seen in his eyes the day before was still there. It had hardened though. It looked less wild but deeper.

Tim looked back at Mia. He searched her eyes but found nothing that explained what had happened. This Mia before him was the girl he loved. She looked back out the window again. The bus bench now empty. Still no words.

Tim finally spoke, “I know what she said.”

Mia’s eyes stayed moved from the bus bench to the tree. Anything to keep her eyes off of Tim’s face. Anything to keep her gaze trained and her heart in check.

Tim’s voice grew quieter. “I’m sorry.”

The pain was so clear in his words. Mia could hear it. But she could still hear his grandmother’s words. Those words, mixed with the words her mother had spoken to her all those years, rang louder in her head.

“You know what she said is not true. You know it. Why, Mia? Why do you let her words change our love?”

Mia finally looked Tim in the eyes. Her voice strong with conviction, “I told you. I refuse to be a disappointment anymore.” 

And then her eyes went back to the tree, putting distance once again between the two.

“But Mia, you are not a disappointment. You know that. You know how much I love you. Why is that not enough? Why does what my grandmother says or think matter?”

Without looking at him, Mia said coldly, “She is your family. You are tied to one another. I do love you, but I cannot do it again. I cannot be part of a family that is clearly disappointed to have me as a member. It took a long time to escape that once, to find my own person, my own footing. I cannot do it again. I won’t lose myself again. I cannot be with you.”

Tim breathed deeply. The words stung again, more so even, because the shock had worn off. The first time he heard her say it, he didn’t believe it. He was caught off guard but convinced that once they talked, once they saw one another face to face, he could fix it. But these words, her coldness, her conviction felt so final, so true. His heart was breaking and he did not know what to do. He did not know how to fix it.

He looked around the coffee shop. There was a business man in the corner typing away on his laptop. A couple of students were studying at a table nearby. The baristas were happily chatting, waiting for more customers to come through the door and ring the bell. And here in this room, his life was falling apart. This girl, the girl he loved deeply, was letting go. His pain turned to anger. How can she not fight for us? How can this strong, smart, beautiful girl, this girl that put him in his place and taught him how to love, how could she let go so easily.

As he looked at her again, looked at her steeled face and her clenched hands, he saw her pain. He saw the fight within her. She was not blasé about this. He could see it now. He could see through his pain into hers. He could see the struggle she was having between protecting herself, a need that was deep inside her after all those years of trying to please someone who was never going to be happy with her, and loving him in spite of his family.

Suddenly his heart grew quiet. His body relaxed. He took a last sip of his coffee and stood.

His movement startled Mia, it broke her concentration. She looked up at Tim, finally looking in deep into his eyes.

“Mia, I love you. You are where I want my life to be. But I do understand now. All I ask is what you once asked me. Pray. Talk to God about this. See what He has to say.”

He then turned and walked away. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Stepping Into the Quiet

My baby started kindergarten this week. All three of my boys are now at the same school together and I am home alone for 3 hours every day. Every day. Last year Little One went to preschool two days a week for 2.5 hours. So doing the math last year I had 5 hours to myself and I spent one of those days at the other boys' school volunteering. This year, I have 15 hours to myself. Even if I volunteer and hang out with friends or join a Bible study, I still have hours and hours unscheduled time for myself.

But what to do with all those hours? I made a decision years ago that I would not do any work around the house while the kids were gone that I could do when they were home. Why waste those precious moments on laundry and dishes. Also, I did not want my kids to come home every day to a clean home, made beds and fresh underwear in their drawers and think all that work just magically happens when they are gone. I am pretty sure my future daughters-in-law would not appreciate that. While it might be easier to just do the work myself, it is better for all of us in the long run if I take the time to teach them how to help and eventually do this work themselves.

So I'm not going to be cleaning or cooking. I still have hours after my kindergartner gets out of school for errand running, just the two of us. I decided instead to dedicate this time to reading, studying and writing.

But now that the hours are before me, it is scary. Now I have to actually do the work. I have to open the book, think about things that shake me a bit, and actually sit down and write. It is a process. It requires discipline on my part. A conscious decision to turn off the Today Show and plop my behind at my desk. It requires me to let go of the insecurities, the thoughts that what I have to say was already written so much better by this blogger or in that book.

I recently read Rachel Held Evans book, "Evolving in Monkey Town: How the Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions" which I highly recommend for anyone who grew up in the church. I love her blog and tweets. She was a voice I was growing to really respect.

Her book felt so personal to me and then... And then she started to write about the tough things; the questions about our faith, our God, His judgment. Questions I have had, but don't want to address because I don't know if I can reconcile my faith with what I think is fair and right and loving. I got to the middle of the book and wasn't sure I wanted to keep reading. What if Rachel fell off the "Christian" cart? What if her conclusions felt like she was leading away from and not toward God. I had respected so many of her blog posts, her views on social justice and Jesus' love. Yet here I was in the middle of her book wondering if I could handle her answers, wondering if I wanted to keep reading her questions. Not to spoil the experience for you, but the book is worth the journey.

This is the thing about having time. It can be scary. You have to face some of those tough questions you put off for all those years you were just trying to get through the day.
Who am I? How should I spend my day? Am I good enough as I am?
What is my purpose? How do I contribute to this world? Am I doing enough?

I think I have some of these answers and some probably don't need answers. But it is implementing these answers that scares me. What if my work is not worthy? What if no one cares? What if I am horrible at it?

It is so much easier, at first, to stay in the known than to step into the unknown. But if I have learned anything from moving as many times as I have it is this, the unknown is full of rich blessings when you walk where God's lamp leads your path.

So I will walk. I will read. I will write. And I will try to quiet the still small voice that even in this moments critiques.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Story - Why I Went to College

As always My Story is from my point of view. You can read my disclaimer here.


My mom always dreamed of graduating from college. But she married my dad right after graduating a year early from high school and they headed east right away. College became a series of starts and stops for her. When I was four, she was enrolled in a community college nearby. While she was in class, I went to the preschool on campus.

I think my mom was studying to be a nurse. I am not really sure. She was often studying or working on an assignment. One of her classes involved bringing home a cat cadaver as homework. I would have thought it would be traumatizing seeing a dead cat in the house, but it wasn't. The smell though was overwhelming, not of death but of something that reminded me of disinfectant. 

I knew even then that her work, her going to school was important. I was taught from a very young age that college was important. Neither of my parents went to school right after high school. They are both incredibly bright people. My dad worked with computers back before it was popular, back when computers took up a whole room. He did not need college to do his job. But he loved to learn. I remember the day my dad hung up the huge mural picturing earth from space on the wall in our living room. It covered the entire wall with the darkness of space broken up by the bright blue, white and green of the earth. They loved that mural. They were nerdy like that. They are both inquisitive and always learning but a traditional college experience was not available to them at the time. But for their kids, college was a given. 

It was really, really, important to them that we go straight off to university. We were also told from a young age that we would have to pay for it ourselves. There was no college savings plan at our house. Foster parents do not have any extra money at the end of the day. It was sort of a confusing message to give to a kid I realize now. "Go to college which is really, really expensive, but we cannot help you with money." But it made sense to me then and it makes sense to me now. My mom gave up college, the dream she had for herself, to marry my father. Marriage at 16 and kids just a short time later was not her original plan. She wanted more for us but knew she could not help us get there beyond giving us the vision. But the vision was enough for me. 

I learned watching my parents struggle to get through school over years and decades. I watched them and knew I did not want to be managing life, kids, and cutting up a cat cadaver all at the same time. I knew I wanted to go to college and be free to have a full college experience. 

I am so glad I stay focused on that goal because college was life changing and life saving. And it did not involve a single cat cadaver being brought home. I was able to visit my dead science projects at the lab. 

But again, I am getting ahead of myself. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

I live a life that is blessed. Not just in a One Thousand Gifts, let's find the good, the eucharisteo in the everyday. My life is blessed in very tangible ways. I have freedom that most would fight to experience. I have a home, food, clean water, and enough money to buy new shoes for the kids without worry. I am married to an amazing man. He truly is but he doens't like me to write about him so I won't tell you how amazing. Just know that he is so amazing that he puts up with my attempts to help him become even more amazing. My kids are healthy, bright, happy and full of life. I have great friends, no matter where I live.

I am blessed.

But every once in a while, especially after listing how great my life is, I start to think about the downhill that must be coming. I am trying to get over my obsession with waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am trying to not measure life by the what goes up must come down theories. But they are always there in the back of my mind.

It is a tough thing to try to figure out the whys of blessings and trials. Is economic turmoil a result of bad decision making or is Satan testing me? Is illness a result of bad genetics or keeping my cell phone in my back pocket all my life or do bad things just sometimes happen to good people? Is there a set of weights and measures so that every great moment must be counter balanced by a horrible circumstance?

I was brought up to believe that those who were closest to God, who were the most obedient would be tested the most, that Satan would be constantly trying to lead them astray. But this does not really fit into my theology anymore. I don't doubt that God's people are attacked for their faith and good works but I don't think it is mandatory.

I guess I am coming to the conclusion that life is unexplainable. Maybe the shoe will drop someday. Maybe it won't. Or maybe the shoe has dropped but because I am no longer at the mercy of my circumstances, I didn't really feel the weight of the fall.

I know there are dark days ahead in life, but I am also thinking that maybe the darkness is no longer so dark for me. Maybe I have found enough light, enough hope, enough grace to brighten the dark days.

I had this post written and then I read these paragraphs by Shauna Niequist in her book "Bittersweet."
Grace isn't about having a second chance; grace is having so many chances that you could use them through all eternity and never come up empty. It's when you finally realize that the other shoe isn't going to drop, ever. It's the moment you feel as precious and handmade as every star, when you feel, finally, at home for the very first time.
Grace is when you finally stop keeping score and when you realize that God never was, that his game is a different one entirely. Grace is when the silence is so complete that you can hear your own heartbeat, and right within your ribs, God's beating heart, too.
I love these words. God is not keeping score. Grace is knowing the other shoe is not going to drop. Not because hard things are not going to happen because they will. But knowing that those hard things will be full of grace. I am no longer at the mercy of life's circumstances. The noise of this world, the fear of life's counter balances, are slowly getting quieter and quieter. The silence of grace in my life is becoming louder.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fighting for Me

In my mind I am defined. I list descriptors of myself, words that have been with me my whole life.

Where did I get these words? Why do I see myself as someone who has to fight all the time?

I know I have changed over the years. Most people would not use those words to describe me now, okay they would probably still say I am talkative and have a problem with interupting and being a tad loud. I just get excited about what my friends are sharing and want to join in and share their story with them. But I don't think I am judgmental or stubborn anymore. I think I have softened over the years.

I don't know why it was always such a fight when I was younger. I am sure it has something to do with growing up in a family where both my parents also insisted they were right. I probably did have to demand some attention as a kid when all the energy and family decisions were being made to help my mom get better. When you have been forgotten to be picked up after an activity and have overheard your parents fighting over whose turn it was to have to go to my soccer game, you start to need to make your voice heard. And I realize that asking my cash strapped parents for a class ring when I was in high school was probably unrealistic. I was 17. I was unrealistic. But to call me selfish when I did not ask for much and paid for everything else in my life myself seems harsh. But I took on that label, along with all the others I was given along the way. Demanding. Emotional. Selfish. Lazy.

Somewhere along the way, sometime after leaving home, I was able to put down the boxing gloves and stop fighting. I found that I didn't have to demand that people pay attention to me. I made friends who genuinely seemed to like to be with me. People who enjoyed sharing life with me and who were willing to give and take in the relationship. People who wanted to listen to my pains without having to defend against it. I was able to take care of myself financially once I was in college. I did not have to rely on my parents for tuition or book money. I was no longer tied to their financial decision making. And in being free from my parents physically, emotionally, and financially, I was able to stop fighting.

I didn't have to fight to keep my own identity any longer. I didn't have to fight the quicksand I felt pulling me into who my parents saw me to be. I finally had time and space to actually figure out who I was, not who I was as a reflection of my family.

And it turns out I am not a fighter. I certainly can fight. I can stand my ground when I need but I am very willing to compromise. I can lead, I can make decisions for myself and others, but I also am happy to follow.

I know more about who I am. I have found myself apart from anyone else's definition of me. I have found my place in God's kingdom. I have found my identity as his child, loved and redeemed. I am learning that I can be generous and loving. I can be selfless and self sacrificing. I have found grace and can share that grace with those around me, even those I don't agree with or who have hurt me. I am thankful for life, for the little moments and the big life changing provisions.

It is not just that I have found my identity in Christ. I have also been figuring out more of who I am in this world. What kind of friend, wife, mother and participant I am. I don't have to fight to be heard any more. I don't have to fight to be cared for anymore. I have my own place in this world.

When I moved, many of my friends took some time to tell me what I mean to them. The words they used to describe me and our friendship were not on the list above.

They used words like authentic, honest, sweet, thoughtful, loving, friend. 

While I do not want to find my worth or my identity in how other's see me, I do think it is time to let go of those words, those descriptors that are no longer accurate, and replace them with words that do describe who I am now.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Story - Jesus Loves Me This I Know

As always My Story is from my point of view. You can read my disclaimer here.


I don't remember a time not knowing who Jesus is. I grew up hearing Bible stories in church and praying before dinner. I knew that Jesus loved me because he loved all the little children, red and yellow, black and white. I knew I was precious in his sight. 

I grew up going to church. I heard the story of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, Jonah and the whale. I knew that Jesus was born on Christmas and rose again on Easter. I was told that God loved me so much that he sent his only son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. 

I knew I was a sinner who could choose whether I would go to heaven or to hell when I died. And when a four year old is faced with those options, I am pretty sure most would choose Jesus. But not me. At least not in that moment when they told us the story at church and explained about asking Jesus into our hearts to receive salvation. I was not going to jump on that bandwagon. No I was a thoughtful little girl. I wanted time to consider my options and think it through.

And then later that week, I was sent to time out. I have no idea what I had done that day, but I was sitting in timeout and instead of thinking of what I had done, I was contemplating this whole Jesus choice I had. And it was in timeout, all by myself, that I decided that yes, I did want to ask Jesus into my heart. I did want to go to heaven. I did want to follow Jesus. 

I prayed the prayer they had taught me. I told my mom. And nothing really changed. At least not noticeably. My life went on. I kept going to church and praying with my family before dinner. I learned my letters and eventually went to kindergarten and then first grade. I grew up physically and intellectually, but I also grew spiritually. I continued to learn more about Jesus. And the more I learned, the more I grew. 

I have had my share of crisis of faith moments. I have had doubts and struggles with the church and what it says about Jesus. But I continue to grow and learn and follow Jesus down the path I started when I was a little girl in time out. 

My first step of faith was at 4 but that step was in response to a simple truth I have always known, Jesus loves me this I know. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Opposite Race

My boys are always in a race. A race to drink their milk first. A race to get dressed first. The most important race in our house right now seems to be the seatbelt race, as in who gets their seatbelt on first. This is a competition I can endorse because it gets everyone out the door faster and since we no longer live in a town where everything is five minutes away, we are often running late.

But there is a part of me that wants my boys to also learn to let others go first, to serve others. On Friday, I posted the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. This passage ends with the verse, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matt. 20:16)

I recently talked to the boys about this verse and about the importance of looking out for one another, helping each other be successful, and allowing other people to go first sometimes.

I thought maybe my message had sunk in a little bit when I saw Middle Man, patiently let his older brother get in the van and then wait to buckle his seat belt.

Turns out he had changed the race to an opposite race once he realized he was going to lose the seatbelt race to Little One. So instead of the first winning the race, the last would be pronounced the winner.

I am not sure that is what Jesus had in mind.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Days Wage

Last week I took my boys to VBS at one of the satellite campuses of our church. Driving to the church, I pass a place where day laborers congregate waiting for work. It is an ever present reminder of how many people are wanting to work. These men want are willing to do hard, manual labor for a days wage. I don't like having to do too many loads of laundry in one day. I may be able to check off a to do list and keep my family in clean clothes but I have never been accused of being a hard worker, at least not when it came to getting dirty and sweaty. I am happy to do the heavy lifting when it comes to being in air conditioned rooms with a computer screen and books to read.

So driving by these day laborers I am aware of how blessed I am to be able to be with my boys and write a little. I do not understand why God choose to provide me more than I need materially and why other people cannot find work. But I am beginning to see that God's generosity is not in the material provisions but in his spiritual provision. The peace I feel in my life does not come from having, because I felt this same peace when my family lost our home and we had to move in with family friend's a state away. (That story is coming in the My Story series.) This peace comes from following God's lead, wherever it takes me. It might mean moving. It might mean waiting tables to pay for college or making bricks on a mission trip. It might mean giving more or learning to be content with having more.

God's generosity is not in what he gives but in who he is. He is generous. Seeing these day laborers day after day waiting for work reminded me of the story Jesus tells in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20:1 - 16. I do not want to be the grumbling one who has worked all day. I want to celebrate God's generosity not matter who is the recipient.
  “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
    “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
   “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
    “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
   “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
    “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
    “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
    “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
    “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” 
I am learning that my place in line doesn't matter. I just want to be in the line.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Story - Lake Days and Campfires

As always My Story is from my point of view. You can read my disclaimer here.


My niece is getting married this weekend so we are traveling to Michigan, the land of my husband's birth, to celebrate with her and her fiance. We will get to spend time with all my in laws at my husband's parents' house on a small lake. I have always believed that the ocean was the greatest body of water ever. Until last summer. Last summer, I got to sit by shore of the lake, reading my book, watching the kids play in the shallow, quiet waters of the lake. It was warm and sunny. This was where my husband spent his summers as a child. The house was not there, it was just a trailer on a piece of lake front property, but it holds so many memories for my husband. I could get use to life at the lake. 

My childhood summer memories are centered around camping. My family would meet up with my cousins and their parents at Jedediah State Park in the Redwood forest in northern California. We would sleep in tents, walk through the redwoods, swim in the river and take part in the junior ranger programs. I remember washing dishes on the picnic table and then the littlest kids being washed in those same dishpans. I remember having a lot of freedom to explore with my brothers and cousins. Occasionally we would go canoeing or tubing on the river. I learned about ferns and moss, redwoods and cooking on a propane camping stove. We caught our marshmallows on fire because we liked our s'mores crispy. 

I also remember looking for the missing kid, who was always found. My parents having trouble with the air mattress they brought for their tent. The hard ground under our sleeping bags. The rain. Wet tents that kept you dry as long as you did not touch the side of the tent. Being scared of the dark in my own tent. I wish though that I remembered more, that I was able to hold onto more of the memories. 

I have wonderful memories of camping. But at some point we stopped camping. I don't know why. We stopped packing the van and tents and started staying home more. 

The idea of camping seems so romantic and relaxing to me. But the logistics involved, the dirt, the shared bathrooms, the sleeping on the ground, the cost of all the equipment and the fact that neither my husband nor I are the outdoorsy type and I realize that we will probably never take our kids camping. I feel like we "should" take them camping, give them the typical childhood camping experience. I feel a little bad that we are not willing to sacrifice our comfort and clean sheets for tents and camping for our boys. But I am willing to get over the guilt. We can still visit Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, we will just stay in the nice, clean, warm hotels nearby. That is why they built hotels near national parks, right? 

Monday, August 1, 2011

To Work or Not to Work

Recently a friend and I were having a conversation about the purpose of work. It was a text conversation because it appears that is now where we are in the world of communication. We text. We read each other's blogs and comment on each other's Facebook pages. And honestly as someone who moves a lot and therefore has a lot of long distance friendships, I like texting. It lets me stay connected without feeling pressure to find a nice long window of time to talk on the phone. Though I did video chat with a friend last week which was fun, except I kept being distracted by how ugly I looked in my little video window. My friend was as beautiful as ever though. All this to say that I like feeling connected to my friends even if we cannot just show up at each other's houses for coffee anymore.

So my friend was talking about how she and her husband have been discussing the purpose of work, specifically how it pertains to jobs - actually real paying jobs. Unlike the "work" I claim I am doing when I want the kids to leave me alone while I am checking email or playing Zuma on Facebook. Work seems to be a topic right now. Another friend of mine had been planning to go back to college this fall to start a new career but is now postponing that plan for a while. I have noticed that as our kids are all getting older I am hearing the question, "Are you going to go back to work?" more and more often. I am starting to feel like a bit of lone wolf because I don't plan on going back to work, more specifically I don't plan on going back to a job.

It is not that I am not tempted to go back to teaching, if I could find a position. I loved teaching. I loved being in the classroom and working with high schoolers. And I loved bringing home a paycheck and having my own thing. I loved being a professional.

I have a masters degree in teaching and I instead spend most of my days keeping tabs on my kids bodily functions and how many fruits and vegetables they have eaten at any given meal. My life is at the mercy of sick kids, school holidays, and tantrums. And the tasks involved in this job never end. Laundry, meals, pick ups and drop offs. There is always another load, always another dirty dish and always another practice or activity. It is never ending. Just as I think I have made it through the to do list of my day and I am off the clock, Hockey Boy comes out for a drink of water or Little One comes running into my room scared from nightmare.

So the idea of going back to the world of a real job, with real hours and a bit of respect, is very attractive. Especially since I have a real passion for teaching and what I did once upon a time.

But then I look at the actual logistics, the having to get my kids to school which starts after I would have to be at my own school. Then the pick up, the conference days. Not to mention a sick child or a hockey tournament on a non holiday Friday. Most of the time my husband could help with some of this but he also travels sometimes, he has serious commitments at work too and the truth is his job pays a whole lot better than any teaching position ever would.

Just thinking about the logistics makes me tired. I don't like feeling tired. I spent a lot of years being tired all the time. I fought Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for a few years at the beginning of our marriage. Most likely brought on by PTSD and my type A personality stressing over my work and being perfect at everything. I worry that if I went back to full time work, I would fall right back into being stressed and overwhelmed by demanding parents and too many papers to grade in one weekend. And even if I can manage the stress and figure out a good work/life balance, a teacher's schedule is not flexible during the school year. Yes, we get the summers off, but on school days I am expected to be in the classroom, even if one of my kids has a classroom pancake party or another has a overnight field trip.

The truth is I like my life. I like being available to my kids. I like being able to pick them up after school and volunteering at their schools. I also like the down time I get when they are all at school or camp. I like the moments I get to sit and read a good book or write a blog post. I like having time to meet with friends for coffee or be in a small group at Bible study. I like being able to have strong relationships with the women around me because I am not having to rush off all the time. I like having space in my day for the unexpected.

I feel a lot of pressure at times to find a role in life now that my kids are all in school. A title to tell people when they ask. It feels a bit decadent to say I stay home, that I have 3 hours a day that are all mine, and in another year it will be 6 hours a day, 30 hours a week. I start to feel a little guilty about the freedom I have to even choose. The truth is I don't need to a job. We don't need the paycheck. We have created a life that works on my husband's salary. We won't be flying off to Europe anytime soon and we drive our cars for a very, very long time before buying another one. But we are more than blessed and we know that.

For me it is not about the money. I am free to make the choice to work or not. And I know that is a huge gift. I do want to contribute though. I want to be productive. I just don't think a traditional job is the answer.

My work happens every day, without a title, without a job, without a paycheck. I am beginning to think that work is that which you do with intention. Work is where we plant seeds and care for our plants, whatever they are. For my husband that involves accounts and ledgers and financial plans in a world of renewable energy. For me that involves taking care of my three boys, loving my neighbor and using my mind and gifts to serve God however he calls me to. If that someday involves a real job I am ready, if it involves building relationships and haphazardly writing and sharing my stories with people, I am ready for that too.

The great thing about God is that he made us all different. He designed us for different work and different jobs. We all have our part to play. The world needs us in different roles. There is not right or wrong in the work. The right or wrong comes in the intention. Are we serving God with our gifts, our talents our work? But since we can never be all right or all wrong, are we at least trying? Are we at least moving in that direction?