Monday, December 24, 2012

Closed for the Holidays

My kids have been home for a few days. My husband with a broken toe requiring surgery has been home a week. All that to say, there is neither peace nor quiet going on in my house. I am an introvert. I know that surprises people who know me because I am super talkative and rather social. But the truth is while I absolutely love spending time with people, I need quiet and alone time to think through big things, to process, to rest and recharge. And so with that in mind, I am closing shop for the holidays which in my household goes through January 6th.

But I will leave you with a few posts from the archives to read if you need.

For Christmas Week, as we remember baby Jesus...

What Seems Impossible
Our Bible study this year is focusing on encounters with Jesus in the book of Luke. I love Luke because he loves research and history and finding out what really happened like I do. 

Moving the Chess Pieces
When I consider my dreams, the things I hope for, the things I want to happen, the things I need to happen, it feels like a lot of different moving parts that have to come together at just the right moments. Daily chess pieces need to be moved about the board of my life often in moves I don't expect or couldn't even request.  

Jesus: Expected Part 1Part 2, Part 3
I broke into three blog posts the talk I gave at the mom's group at my church telling of Jesus, the Messiah expected. 

For the week after, home with the kids...

Lies Parents Tell Their Kids
My kids have taught me a lot of things but one of the most disturbing and yet handy is my improving skill at lying. I know that at the same time that I am teaching my kids to be honest and tell the truth, I am also actively engaged in the art of deception. Here are a few of my favorite lies parents tell kids:

I Feel Inadequate
I spend a lot of my days as a mom feeling inadequate. I don't know if I really am inadequate - I won't know that until my kids are grown up and talking to their therapists about their childhoods - but I feel it. I feel like a failure a lot of the time, broken only by small glimmers of getting it right for a moment in time.

Today I sat down next to Middle Man who was working on a special packet of work his teacher had created just for him. The worksheet he was doing involved hypothetical situations and Middle Man was supposed to figure out how he would handle the situation. 

#TotalFail
I write all that to say that my parenting of late has felt like a #totalfail. Here are a few what would have been my recent #totalfail tweets, if I were the type to display my failure for the world to see:

The F Bomb
It started innocently enough, a little potty talk among boys. But then I heard it. 

F@&*. 

What blog posts are you enjoying during the holiday break? 






Monday, December 17, 2012

Jesus: Expected, Part 3

I taught at our church Mom's group Bible study last Tuesday and am posting my talk. You may want to go back and read Part 1 (The Messiah Predicted) and Part 2 (The Messiah confirmed) if you missed them last week.

*****
The Jews of Jesus’ day were expecting a conquering hero. A king which the prophets had proclaimed.  But it seems that many Jews had forgotten the rest of the prophesies. The writings of the suffering servant who would come to save the world.

Isaiah 53:3 - 5
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed. 
Lawrence O. Richards writes in The Teacher’s Commentary, “The Jews’ of Jesus’ day, looking for the coming glory, did not see the majesty of the suffering.” 
The Messiah, the servant king, the redeemer of all of God’s people, came into this world quietly. He lived most of years a small life. It was not until his few years of ministry did anyone even really pay attention to who he was said to be.

As I read though Isaiah, I saw the images put forth of the coming Messiah. I read of the one that would bring justice and turn away those who plundered his people. The savior, who will meet out God’s wrath on the oppressors.

When I think about the Pharisees, the keepers of the law, and wonder why they could not see Jesus was God’s son, I think about what they had been taught about the coming Messiah. I think about how much the expectations of a warrior king were blinding them to what God really intended. Prophesies 600 years old. Turned over and over in people’s minds. The words shifting in meaning over 6 centuries. The expectations of the Messiah changing as the words are passed down from generation to generation to generation. I imagine that as the Israelites scattered, as they lived under harsh rule of other nations, as they dreamed of the coming Messiah, their eyes focused on the passages of scripture that gave them hope of a coming king’s rescue. 

Many missed Jesus, when he was alive and walking the earth because he did not come as they anticipated. He did not meet their expectations of what the Messiah would be. His brutal death on the cross proof to many that he was not the coming one.

We do that too. We declare situations good or bad based on how we want things to be. A lost job is bad. A healthy baby is good. We give absolute value, either positive or negative to things with words like good and bad. What if we shifted our language. What if we used descriptive words such as painful, happy, joy filled, agonizing, depressing, encouraging when describing the events and conditions of our lives. What if we acknowledged that God shows up in all these things and that His being there is good? Not that the death, the loss, the broken relationship is good, no those things hurt and are scary and painful and heartbreaking. But God in them, He is good.

I wonder if we risk missing God altogether when we hold too tightly to how He should appear? 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jesus: Expected, Part 2

This is part 2 from the Bible study I taught at the moms group at my church. You can find Part 1 here.

*****
One night long ago, a baby was born. A child unto us. The angels declared the good news to the shepherds who then ran to Bethlehem to find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. We know this story. And we know that later the wise men from the east visit bringing with them gold, frankincense and myrrh.

But there is a story in between, a story found in Luke 2.

Luke 2:22 - 35
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. 
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” 
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”
 
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
We read here about Mary and Joseph following Jewish custom and taking baby Jesus to the temple to be dedicated. At the temple they are greeted by Simeon. He had studied the scriptures. He, like most Israelites, was waiting eagerly for the coming Messiah, the king that would raise up an army and throw the evil Roman empire off God’s promised land.

“For my eyes have seen your salvation,
 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
 and the glory of your people Israel.” Seeing baby Jesus, Simeon knows that he has seen God’s salvation for the Israelites, but not just for them alone but for the Gentiles as well. The very people that have held the Jews captive over the centuries.

He goes on to tell Mary that Jesus will cause many to fall and rise in Israel, that he will be rejected and spoken against and that her own soul will be pierced. Not exactly what a mother wants to hear on the day her first born son is dedicated at the temple. Not what she was probably expecting knowing that this baby was the Messiah. 

The story continues.

Luke 2:36 - 38
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna knows this is the Messiah. She declares this truth to all those who are awaiting the Messiah, the redeemer of Jerusalem.


First the angels appear and tell the shepherds of the birth of a savior, who they find exactly where the prophets said he would be born.

And then, at the temple, baby Jesus is confirmed as the Messiah by both Simeon and Anna. Two different people touched by the Holy Spirit who were waiting and waiting and waiting for the Messiah to come.

Jesus, this baby born in a manger, was and is the Messiah that the prophets had foreseen.

But was he the Messiah they were expecting? Was he going to be the King of the Jews they were all anticipating? Or was Jesus, like Simeon said, one that would cause people to fall? One that would bring pain to his mother’s soul? One that was for the Gentiles as well?


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jesus: Expected Part 1

Yesterday, I was given the awesome privilege of teaching Bible study at my church's moms group. We are spending the year studying "Encounters with Jesus in the Book of Luke." I taught from Jesus: Loves Me from Luke 15 in September. If you are interested you can find those posts here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Over the next few days, I will posting what I wrote for this week's teaching, Jesus: Expected. Here is Part 1.

*****
It was Christmas time, three years ago. I was sitting in my friend’s living room with a small group of friends from church. We were in our Christmas pajamas, painting our toe nails read with white polka dots. The conversation drifted easily from topic to topic, our kids, our Christmas preparations, books we were reading or cookies we were making. The talk moved onto New Year’s resolutions. I half listened. I do not like New Year’s resolutions, mostly because I don’t like to fail.

But then someone said they wanted to read the whole Bible and everything stopped. That became our shared New Year’s resolution. We would read through the whole Bible, every word, in 2010. If you ever get a chance to do this with someone else, jump at it, because there is something extra special about reading God’s word together. Where each conversation is sprinkled with, “How’s your reading going?” and “Did you read....” My relationship with God was strengthened by spending massive amounts of time reading His word that year but so to were my relationships with those women. Mere acquaintances became dear friends as we read alone in our own homes, knowing we were doing it together.

I will admit though that reading the Bible in a year is a marathon full of sprints to get the daily reading done. I found myself in the fall rushing through the Old Testament prophet  books, my eyes catching the words but not having time to really understand what I was reading. I had no time to stop. No time to decipher its meaning. At the end of 2010, I had finished the whole Bible, and incidentally earned my ticket to a girls weekend with everyone who had finished the task.

It was a year later when I found myself lost. Lost spiritually and emotionally. Not confused or doubting. Not dejected. Just a bit lost, like I was walking through a new village without a map. I could see visual markers that guide me, a church steeple, a red cross on a hospital sign, but I was not sure where I was going - what my destination was. I needed my map, my Bible, but I could not decide where to start, what I was even looking for. And then I remembered. The books I read at warp speed, the ones I meant to go back and study in greater depth but had not. And so I turned to the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah was a prophet, a future teller. God used prophets to speak to His people, to tell them His will. Isaiah was full of warnings to turn away from pride, false worship and seeking protection in other nations instead of in God and if they did not, or more accurately, when they did not horrible things would happen. Isaiah tells of impending destruction and captivity for Israel. But he also tells of a coming savior. In the midst of all this pain and destruction, God will send a Messiah, a savior king. The Israelites, subjugated and held captive, dreamed of this one who would save them.

Isaiah 9:6 -7a
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
That was about 600 years before Jesus was born. After centuries of war and oppression and living under the crushing weight of the Roman Empire, the Jews of Jesus' day were eagerly awaiting this Messiah. The one born of the house of David in the town of Bethlehem. This Messiah would blot out injustice, rule as king and judge and fulfill the covenant promises. He would redeem Israel both politically and spiritually and free her from her oppressors. 

Are you eagerly awaiting a savior? An answer to prayer? 

Monday, December 10, 2012

From the Christmas Archives - No Rope


I posted this childhood story last year but I am posting it again for those who missed it last Christmas and for those who enjoyed it and want to read it again.

*****
Did I ever tell you about the time we forgot to bring rope to the Christmas tree farm?

It is a favorite family story, at least for my family. I think it causes my husband anxiety.

The story begins with a van load of kids and two parents driving about a mile from our house to a nearby Christmas tree farm. Living in Oregon you end up passing multiple tree farms on a quick trip to Costco. It seems that any farm land left has trees growing on it. Most of these trees are actually cut down at the end of November and sent south, where Californians pay a crazy amount for a real live noble fir. I will be one of those crazy Californians this year.

Anyway, the family, including the six teenage foster kids that lived with us at the time were all walking through the muddy tree farm looking for the perfect tree. (There seems to be a theme to my Christmas tree stories.)

We looked at trees that looked perfect on one side but had a huge hole in the back. It always reminded me of a big civil war era hoop skirt tucked into a girl's pantaloons in the back.

We looked at trees that were too tall or too short. Someone started grumbling, most likely my dad. Someone started whining, probably me but since this is my blog I'll blame my little brother.

Finally the good enough tree was found and cut down. Again, there were people kneeling down on coats and a few choice phrases uttered as the handsaw got caught in the tree trunk. The wet needles flickering drops of water on everyone nearby as it is carried back to the car.

We, and by we I mean the grown ups and my big brother, finally get the tree on top of the van ready to be tied down.

But there is no rope.

And here is where my memory gets foggy because I would assume that the tree farm had string. The fancy tree farm we took our kids to when we lived in Oregon had string. They also let you preselect your tree in September before the California trees were harvested. And then they cut the tree down for you on the day you preselected for pick up. Maybe our childhood tree farm was not that fancy.

So we had the tree on top of the van but nothing to tie it down. And here is where my family becomes the Griswolds because the solution they found was to have my big brother lie on top of the tree, on top of van, holding on to the luggage rack, while my dad drove the van full of the rest of the family home.

Seriously. We drove a mile or so with a Christmas tree and my brother on top of the van.

We love this story. It is the essence of my family. Pragmatic and determined. Safety conscious...not so much.

I think the image of one of our boys on top of the van may be why my husband does not like that story.

Because truthfully, left  in the same situation, I might try it. Hockey Boy is pretty strong.

Update - (I posted this link on my Facebook page where my brother read it. He confirms the story except for me forgetting to mention the rain and cold. Longest mile of his life he wrote.)

*****
Can you please help settle a debate between the kids who lived this story and the spouses who are slightly (or more) horrified by this story. Was this a horrible thing for my parents to do? Or a funny Griswold type moment? 



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Living Wonderstruck

Margaret Feinberg has a new book and 7-session DVD Bible study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God (releasing Christmas Day)—a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life.



I recently received the insider’s scoop about Margaret’s new book. I was able to read a few sneak peek chapters and cannot wait to get my hands on the whole book. I found a kindred spirit in Margaret. She recently did an interview for the insiders and I wanted to share a few of highlights from that interview.

Where did the inspiration for the Wonderstruck book and Bible study come from?

Have you ever had one of those seasons where everything goes wrong, and when you think it can’t get worse, it somehow finds a way? Most people who have worked in ministry have experienced those seasons—some may be in one right now.

My husband, Leif, and I had just gone through one of the roughest years of our lives. In the aftermath, as we processed the pain and loss, I had an unexplainable desire in my heart. I began praying for the wonder of God. In essence, I said, “God reveal yourself, your whole self to me. I want to know you as Wonderful. I want to know you as I’ve never known you before and see you in places I’ve never recognized you before.”

God did not disappoint.

What do you mean by “the wonder of God”?

Sometimes talking or writing about wonder feels like tying kite strings to clouds. It’s ethereal, and you can never quite get a grip on it. But if you look in the dictionary, the two main definitions of wonder are: “being filled with admiration, amazement, or awe” and “to think or speculate curiously.”

Those definitions come together beautifully in our relationship with God. That’s why I define the wonder of God as those moments of spiritual awakening that create a desire to know God more.

In other words, the wonder of God isn’t about an emotional experience or having some cool story to tell your friends, but the wonder of God makes us want more of God—to go deeper and further than we’ve ever been before.

*****
I love how Margaret engages God and shares her love and learning with the world. You can follow Margaret’s snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog. You can learn more about this great book by visiting www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck where she’s offering some crazy promos right now with up to $300 of free stuff.

Where have you been wonderstruck by God? Where do you need him to strike? 




Monday, December 3, 2012

Becoming a Mother

This week we celebrate our eldest son's tenth birthday. Hard to believe that ten years ago I became a mom, though really it started nine months before his birth, when I had to change my life to take care of the little alien living inside of me. I was suddenly nauseous and vomiting all day long until finally I was given some medicine to keep me from becoming dehydrated. So thankful for really good insurance and the scientists that created Zofran. At the same time I was giving up caffeine and my daily trip to Starbucks because that was what pregnant women did back then before the rules changed.

To top it all off, my husband was offered an amazing overseas assignment which we jumped at, mostly because the offer actually came before we knew we were pregnant and had already said yes. After two years of infertility, we had stopped planning our life around the possibility of pregnancy. And so that summer, the one ten years ago, we moved to Santiago, Chile and I became essentially a stay at home mom even before the baby was born.

My entire identity was now defined by the person growing inside me because honestly it was the first thing you noticed about me. The heft I carried was staggering. And it was all consuming for me. Being pregnant.

I had way too much time on my hands, living in a new country where I did not speak the language. Too much time to research baby products and pour over message boards at Babycenter.

And each new friend I made, through the American Club and Bible study, knew me as a mom to be. They did not know the old me. The professional me. The intelligent woman who could actually think before pregnancy brain set in. They only knew the pregnant me.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVED living in Santiago. I had the most amazing time being an expat wife. It was through the American Club that I discovered how funny women in their 40s could be. Irreverent and comfortable in their skin. Having lived enough life and gained enough perspective to not take things too seriously and see the joy and humor in life. It was through the English speaking church that I found the unity of God's family. People from various denominations coming together to worship, serving wine and grape juice at communion, leaving denominational differences out of Bible study and focusing instead on the love of Jesus that unites us. Chile is where I fell in love with women's Bible study.

Hard to believe it was October ten years ago, that I had to say goodbye after only a short time together, when my husband's team was transferred home. Even harder to believe is that my eldest, my Hockey Boy, my darling boy was born ten years ago this week.

I could gush for days about what an amazing kid he is because he truly is. He taught me to love, to guide, to be comfortable with the word penis, and even to lie. He made me into a mom. And though there are days when I have considered giving one or all of them back, I love being a mom.

Not just a mom, but their mom because they are the reason I am the mom that I am. 

Happy 10th Birthday Hockey Boy!

What have your kids taught you? How have they shaped you as a parent?




Monday, November 26, 2012

Motherhood Mondays - Beck and Call Girl

I was watching a movie this weekend about a career woman trying to juggle her work and her family and all the struggles that come with wanting to have it all. And all I kept thinking was, I want her life. Not the late nights trying to make homemade pie for the bake sale after getting home from a business trip but the business trip. The night away. The excuse to leave everyone behind and do your own thing. And it is not just the night away, it's the days at the office where people treat you like you know what your doing. It is having a legitimate, acceptable excuse for not volunteering more at the kids' school. It is the nanny and the husband sharing the household burdens because you both work.

Yes, I know it is hard. I know that I really do have it easy because all I have are the household burdens and the homework, carpooling and feeding of our kids when they are home from school. Except I really hate cooking and cleaning and shopping. I didn't notice it much when the kids were little because the household chores gave structure to our very long days all home together. A trip to Target was not an errand, it was our afternoon activity. We would wander and let the kids look at the toys after I checked out the cute toddler clothes. The grocery store was an educational activity for the kids, where I showed them different foods and how to decide what was the best price, ending the trip at the bakery for a free cookie as a reward for good behavior in the store.

Now though, these are simply errands. Goodwill items piled in the bathtub. Christmas decorations that need to find homes in our new place. Grocery store runs and school forms. Things that have to happen and usually during the quiet hours I have alone to write. And so I put them off until there is an emergency trip required for milk. I recently went into Target for the first time in over a month because I discovered that Amazon will deliver almost anything directly to my door.

And it's not just the housekeeping. Or the birthday planning. Or the make all the appointments and remember to get the kids' flu shots thing. I miss being someone. My own someone. My entire life revolves around my family and yet each of them has a part of their life completely separate. My husband goes to work. It's not easy I'm sure and I know it can be stressful and tiring but its his own. And when he lets me know he needs to travel or work late, I adjust my schedule. My kids go to school all day. They play sports with their friends. They go to other peoples houses. And I work around those schedules, organizing the calendars and driving and siblings.

I am thankful I got to be home with my kids when they were little. I am grateful I still get to be home because I cannot imagine the stress of trying to do it all. But sometimes...

Sometimes I wish it didn't all fall on me. Sometimes I wish I had a real excuse to drop the ball, to escape, to be my own person even at the expense of my family.

I am transitioning to a new phase of parenthood. The kids in school all day and what does that mean phase. And while most days I am really happy with my freedom to stay home and write, there is a small part of me that wants to go back to work so I can have an excuse to not be a full time on the scene parent. Because without a paycheck, without a place I have to be, I still very much feel like I am my family's beck and call girl. And I don't like how that feels today.

What part of being a parent is hardest for you this week?


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Instead of Receiving This Year


A month or so ago, the grandparents began asking for birthday and Christmas gift lists from the boys. When I asked them about what they wanted, they named a video game or two but they all had trouble coming up with anything they really, really wanted. I suggested that maybe this year instead of receiving Christmas gifts from all the extended family this year, they might ask instead that their family give gifts to a charity they choose. 

I was surprised that the boys all quickly agreed this was a good idea when I first mentioned it. This may be because all three of them have winter birthdays and would receive gifts then as well as knowing that Santa Claus would still be filling their stockings and under the tree like he does each year. But I also think they are realizing how much we really have (and how little our home is to store it all).

And so they jumped on board with the idea. They especially enjoyed choosing their own charity to support. Each spent time considering their options and their choices are definitely indicative of what they love and value.

Today the boys sent this email to the family.

Subject Line: Giving Instead of Receiving.
Dear Family,  
When we started to consider Christmas wish lists, we realized we have lots of toys, books and games and we don't really need any new things. We know we are blessed and there are kids in the world that don't have as much as we do. We would like to raise money for a charity instead this year. Each of us has chosen a charity project that means a lot to us.  
Hockey Boy is collecting money to buy books for kids who do not have the amazing library he has through Ethiopia Reads. (Link
Middle Man wants to buy chicks through World Vision to give to families. (Link
Little One wants to give soccer balls to kids who use grass and mud balls to play soccer that he saw in the World Vision Gift Catalog. Link
If you would like to give us a Christmas gift this year, we ask that you support these charities instead. Santa Claus will still be visiting us so don't worry about us going without fun toys on Christmas morning. You can make checks out to World Vision and Ethiopia Reads or to each of us individually and we will send them on as a group. You can also donate directly online if that is easier but please let us know because we want to keep track of how much we are able to raise.  
Happy Thanksgiving!
Hockey Boy, Middle Man, and Little One

I would not say that my boys are especially compassionate or empathetic. They are not the kids that get upset about the homeless person on the corner or worry about the starving kids in Africa. But when a specific need is presented to them, they want to help. Maybe that is the lesson here for those of us with kids that don't take the initiative. We need to give them the opportunity to help.

And don't worry about my kids being all sad on Christmas morning. I am sure that Santa Claus will be pretty happy with their generosity and will be putting them on the nice list, the extra nice list.

How do you help your kids love the world? 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Falling on Grace's Side




I am tired of being told I need to stand up for truth. 

I am tired of being told which sins "we" must fight against. 

I am tired of being told I must vote a certain way because I am a Christian. 

I am tired of my faith being used as part of a political agenda. 

When asked what the greatest commandment was Jesus replied:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Matthew 22:37-39)
I have chosen to err on the side of love. If I am going to miss the mark, I would rather fall on the side of grace than that of righteousness. One I cannot attain. The other I can only give because it was first given to me. 





Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Words From My Pastor Regarding Women In Leadership

We are in the midst of the holiday season. We have a few family birthdays in the month of November and December to add to the holiday fun (and frenzy). I am thinking that over the next few weeks, my blogging will be sporadic and completely off schedule and topic. Starting with today.

*****
I was sitting in church this last Sunday when our Pastor John Ortberg said something that almost brought me to tears. In the middle of his sermon centered in the book of Judges and the cycle of sin and redemption, he said words that touched my heart. I want to share these words today because I sit here and know that a war on women is happening in the church universal. As someone who has been pushed to hide my spiritual gifts because it might make someone uncomfortable, I know the body is being hurt by the diminishing of God's people.

And so I share these words. Words spoken by a pastor. A well respected pastor of a well respected church. A trained theologian who points to Christ with each word he preaches. In the middle of the story of he adds these words:
I'll say a word about this, because people sometimes wonder about God and the Bible and women in leadership. So notice Deborah was the highest leader of Israel. Although she was married, she (not her husband) was chosen by God to be the leader of Israel. 
Her husband was part of Israel, so he (her husband) is one of the people she (a woman) is leading. Notice this text does not say God did this because no other man would step up to spiritual leadership because it was supposed to be a man. It doesn't say that. It just says God chose her. Just one little indication. Even way back in the Old Testament, God chooses women. I, for one, am so glad to be a part of a church where woman and men can serve and minister and follow and lead together on the basis of spiritual giftedness and not gender. - John Ortberg  
You can watch the entire message at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church's website. (The story of Deborah and Jael and Sisero starts at about the twelve minute mark.) It's a good sermon about the idea that you reap what you sow. That was the point of the sermon. It was not about the role of women in the church.  It was about the vicious cycle of sin, pain, redemption, peach and sin again. But in the midst of the message he said these words because Deborah and Jael were there, in the Bible. He didn't avoid the story of these women. He didn't discount the role of Deborah.

He simply taught what the Bible said.

Deborah was a prophet. She was a judge. She was the leader of all of Israel. She was a woman.

I am thankful for my church, for a place where my gender does not determine my place in God's family. God does.

What has your pastor said recently that you needed to hear? 


Friday, November 9, 2012

Fiction Friday - Quiet

I honestly feel empty. Empty of energy. Empty of ideas. Empty of words. I wonder if this emptiness is why I can't write... or if more likely I am empty because I am not writing.

Today, I will make an attempt to engage and pray that it brings me more than it takes from me. In order to get started though, I am going to merge two ideas into one post.

On Fridays, I try to focus on fiction - my love and my truth telling place. I write here on these last days of the work week a piece of fiction as a prompt to my reader (and myself) and then leave you, me, to finish the story.

On Fridays a group links up over at Lisa-Jo's place for Five Minute Fridays. They write for five minutes. Five minutes only (unscripted, unedited, real) on the word for the week.

Today I will spend five minutes in a fictional world using this week's word - Quiet.

GO.

The office was quiet. Too quiet.

She had been late getting out of bed this morning. Her alarm clock too quiet to break through the deep sleep she had finally found around 3 am. She had been groggy when she finally reached over and hit the snooze button. It took a moment for her to remember, to realize that she had overslept and was in jeopardy of being late for the all hands meeting at work. She rushed through her shower, got dressed, threw on her make up and clothes, never stopping to check her phone for emails or the news.

She had run the four blocks to her office. Thankful for the proximity and the sunny day. The elevator had been empty. Another sign of her tardiness.

Now standing in the empty office she sought out the sound of something, anything to direct her to the meeting. Was it even on her floor?

Her eye caught a quick movement off to her left. The conference room she saw was full with her colleagues. She moved toward the room, hoping to sneak in unnoticed. She was successful because all eyes were on the speaker, a man she recognized from a few cubicles away from her own small work space. His voice was low. His words too quiet for her to hear at first. As her heart rate calmed from the rush over and her ears adjusted to the quiet of the room, she finally heard him.

STOP.

What was he saying? 

(Add the next part to the story in the comments below or on your own blog and link it in the comments.)


Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

WednesDAY of Faith - I'm Not Happy With God

UPDATED: This post was actually written last week for today. I did not consider that today would be the day after the Election. This post has nothing to do with yesterday. Nothing.

*****

I'm not happy with God right now. He knows why. I would tell you but it really is between him and I and the details would make me seem small and petty I am sure.

Nothing big or dramatic happened. I'm just a bit frustrated, no angry is a better word. I am a bit angry right now at God. Or a lot angry. 

In the past, I would have been scared to say those words out loud, to admit that I am angry with God. Because in the past, I did not think it was okay to question God or His plans. I thought that faith was accepting what God ordains without question. Faith was admitting that God knows best and He is working all together for our good even when we do not see it. I thought that faith required me to do these things without emotion, to accept blindly without question or even disappointment.

But here's the thing I have learned about God. He is BIG. He is STRONG. He can handle my pain, my disappointment, my anger. Not only that but my faith can handle it. I am strong enough to be angry or hurt and acknowledge those feelings without losing my faith altogether.

It's new. This willingness to go before God and tell him how mad I am that something happened or something else did not. It felt foreign the first time I really opened up and said out loud how frustrated I was with God. But it felt right.

Turns out I have kept God out of a corner of my heart because I refused to access those feelings myself.

I do believe that God's plans are best. I do believe that He does work things together for good. I do believe that He is sovereign, in control. But that doesn't mean I like it.

I hate watching my friend's son continue to be sick.

I hate watching my son's friend lose his mom to cancer.

I get angry when things are so easy for some and so hard for me.

I get hurt when it feels like I am working and striving toward nothing.

Hate. Anger. Hurt.

Emotions that do not change the truth. 

So I am not happy with God right now. But I am right with Him because I am finally telling him the truth about how I feel.

God, I am sad and bewildered by the pain I see.

But I trust you.

I am jealous of your blessings on others.

But I trust you.


I'm hurt and I am angry with you God.

But I trust you. 

Are you able to trust God with your feelings toward Him? 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Motherhood Mondays - Thanksgiving Trees

I have always wanted to do a Thanksgiving Tree with my kids. I envisioned having a tree mural painted, or stuck, on our wall and then spending the month of November adding leaves each day with the words of the things we are thankful for on them. Or anyone of the creative Thanksgiving tree crafts -  Pinterest is full of them. But see, I am not crafty nor do my boys enjoy crafts, or writing, or most any project I plan. 




I considered buying this premade Thanksgiving Tree but Pottery but I kept forgetting and this year they didn't even have one for sale. I thought about just doing what I had done the last few years and thinking about it and then not following through on anything. 

And then I had a premonition. No that's not the right word. Inspiration. That's the word. A great idea that came upon me suddenly. On November 1st which meant now or never because if I did not put it into action on day 1, it would be day 10 before I would actually get going and starting late kills momentum and perseverance I have learned.

I bought washable window markers. Truthfully, my friend actually texted me from Target and asked if I needed anything, and he bought the washable markers and brought them to me. I did pay him back. I promise.

When the boys got home, I gave them each a window marker and told them to write one thing they are thankful for on our patio window. It was that simple. And since it involved writing on the window which is almost as awesome for a boy as writing on the walls, there was no complaints. They each quickly wrote their one thing on November 1st and on each day since.

The window is full of smears from erasures and fingerprints. But is also full of the names of people we love and little things that brought us joy that day.

It may not look pretty but it is full of love and gratitude. 


How is your family preparing for Thanksgiving? 


Friday, November 2, 2012

Fiction Friday - Thankful

It is November which means my family along with celebrating Little One's birthday will be creating lists of things we are thankful for in preparation for Thanksgiving.

And so today, I give you the list of great fiction books we read this year and for which we are thankful.

My List
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Heft by Liz Moore
The Expat by Chris Pavone
The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

The Husband's List
Walking Away (Though that may be because his wife wrote it.)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (He does listen to books while commuting to and from his office which is far, far away.)



Hockey Boy's List (Avid Reader - 4th Grader)
The Enchantress (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) by Michael Scott
The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull
The Pendragon Series by DJ McHale
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
Heroes of Olympus Series by Rick Riordan
The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

Middle Man's List (Emerging Reader - 3rd Grader)
Harry Potter by JK Rowling (He has made it through the first three books in the series.)
The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan
Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling

Little One's List (New Reader - 1st Grader)
Anything Berenstain Bears - He still loves to have us read these to him. I did find some of the Leveled readers that he can read.
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss - This was first "read" book he read aloud.
We Are In A Book by Mo Willems (He loves all the Mo Willem books)
If You Give a Dog a Donut by Laura Numeroff (And all the Give a Blank a Blank books)

What are some of your favorite fiction reads for which you are thankful? 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

WednesDAY of Faith - Moving the Chess Pieces

When I consider my dreams, the things I hope for, the things I want to happen, the things I need to happen, it feels like a lot of different moving parts that have to come together at just the right moments. Daily chess pieces need to be moved about the board of my life often in moves I don't expect or couldn't even request.  

Last Wednesday, I wrote about Zechariah and Elizabeth and the impossible pregnancy. This morning, I was reading about Jesus' birth in Luke 2. Luke gives very little detail about Jesus' birth.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 
Seven simple verses to describe the birth of Jesus and most of these verses explain why Joseph who was from the town of Nazareth was even in Bethlehem. 

I use a small group study Bible for my morning readings and one of the questions was, "Why was it important that Jesus be born in Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2)? Most days I skip over the sword drill questions, the ones that have you flipping all over the Bible but today I am having trouble starting the writing on my next book and so procrastinating I turn to Micah 5:2. 
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”
Prophesy foretold that Jesus would be from Bethlehem. And so God needed to get a very pregnant Mary to the city of David. Having traveled while pregnant, it takes a lot to motivate a tired, heavy with child, swollen ankled woman to leave home when she her body is preparing for birth. A census, decreed by the Roman Caesar, would be a good reason. Not a liked reason. I can imagine Joseph and Mary were not pleased with the oppressive Roman government telling them to travel at such a time. But an emperor's decree is compelling, especially when enforced by Roman soldiers. 

And so Jesus was born, in Bethlehem, a town his family did not call home. All to fulfill the promises God had given the prophets during the dark days of captivity and destruction. God moved the pieces around so that everything lined up as it was meant to be. 

I think back to when I was moving here to the Bay Area with preschoolers. We started looking for a preschool for the older two in May. Mind you we had already signed our kids up for preschool in what would become our former home in January. Because January is when preschool sign ups happen, sometimes even earlier, but never as late as May. Looking for a preschool in May is crazy. I never thought we would find the right school for my two boys. See not only did I need a preschool, I needed TWO slots for a preschool and it was MAY. 

I have no idea how it happened but we found a preschool. Actually we found the perfect preschool that had a slot for both my older boys at exactly the same time on the same days. And it gets even better because this preschool we found through an internet search led us to the place that would become our church, which we love dearly. 

To this day I believe that God was moving around the chess pieces just as they needed to be so that my boys could be at that school, so we would be introduced to that church, so we would find our spiritual home in this place. 

Now I need to remember this. The right people, the right eyes, the right words, the right time. God is able to move all these things so that what He wants to accomplish will be. There is no impossible for Him. 

Where has God made what seemed impossible possible in your life? Where has He shined in the improbable?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Motherhood Mondays - I Love You

I love you. 

I have been saying those three words to each of my boys since the day they were born.

I love you. 

When they snuggled with me on the couch.

I love you.

When I dropped them off at school.

I love you. 

When I kissed them goodnight.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

The words though, those three little words, were not reciprocated. My boys would take the words from me and hold them tight. It was something Mommy said. Something they believed. Something that went one way.

I get it. They are boys. They don't really talk about feelings or love or like. They don't understand that idea of reciprocity, especially when it comes to Mommy. I am just there. I am solid and comforting and loving and I can fix things and make things better. I just am.

But the truth is I want to know my boys love me. If asked, they will quickly say yes. They do love me. They just don't say the words.

It was Middle Man that caused me to notice this, possibly because we are more aware of teaching social norms and cues to him because he is as we say quirky. I would say I love you to him and he would say nothing. He would let me hug and kiss him but he doesn't seek out cuddles and love like my other two boys. He is a bit standoffish. We like to say he makes you earn his love.

And so a week or so ago when he said nothing again when I hugged him and said I love you, I talked to him. I explained that people like to hear that you love them. That I would like to hear that he loves me.

He said nothing.

The rest of the week, I would hug him and maybe even sneak in a kiss before saying I love you.

Nothing.

I would say it twice sometimes.

Nothing.

I would put my nose against his, eyes to eyes, which is something he alone does, and say I love you.

Nothing.

And then last night, our noses pressed against one another, I said I love you.

I love you. Whispered. Almost too quiet to hear.

Joy. Absolute Joy.


Where has your child/ren brought absolute joy to your life? 



Friday, October 26, 2012

Fiction Friday - Going Silent

She sat quietly, her pew seat off to the side of the sanctuary. A place to be unnoticed. Which was good because she had nothing to say.

She had stopped speaking. Months ago. It started small. She simply stopped saying the important things, the words that mattered to her, the words he didn't seem to want to hear.

But then with each day, she spoke fewer and fewer times. A week ago she stopped speaking altogether.

She had thought he would notice but he said nothing. The house silent though they both continued with their daily tasks. Today being Sunday, they showered, dressed, passed one another in the bedroom. They drove to the church, parked. Walked to their seats and sat down. Then up again as the worship music started. Then down again and silent prayer.

That's when the words appeared. Out of nowhere in her mind. The words that were not her own. She knew this because her words she wrote down, she placed each one carefully in a notebook she carried with her. No these were new words. Unexpected words spoken silently into her heart.
Until you can let the person I sent love you, how can you really experience my love? Until you can be honest with him with your feelings how can you be honest with me. I gave him to you to teach you these things. If you can't be vulnerable with the person I gave you how can you say you trust me? 
Those were not the words she wanted to hear. 

#

The car ride was silent again. The words churning in her mind. She did not want to speak. She did not want to make the first move. She had tried that before. She did not want to get hurt again. And yet...

Those words, the ones she knew (or felt, or believed, maybe) were from God. They pushed.

"We need to talk," she said, the words hoarse escaping her mouth.

"I know," he replied. "I've been waiting for you."

#

Your turn. What does she say next? Why did she stop talking?




Wednesday, October 24, 2012

WednesDAY of Faith - What Seems Impossible

Our Bible study this year is focusing on encounters with Jesus in the book of Luke. I love Luke because he loves research and history and finding out what really happened like I do. He even starts off Luke by writing,
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1: 1 - 4) 
Or as I like to think, Luke fact checked the material.

He then begins by telling the story of Zechariah, a priest, and his encounter while serving inside the temple one day.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1: 11 - 18)
I read this passage this morning and was immediately struck by two things I need to hear this morning.

First, Gabriel tells Zechariah, "Your prayer has been heard." Prayer. Singular. Your prayer, that thing you have been bringing before the Lord, that one thing that is mixed in with the other prayers you say but is really the point of your heart, that prayer was heard.

And second, Zechariah's questioning, "How can I be sure of this?" I'm old he explains. It is improbable, he knows for his wife to get pregnant. The statistics are not on their side.

These two things I underlined in my Bible as I read them. I felt them immediately and personally.

God hears my prayer, that one I keep to myself, the one where I dream the impossible dream. He hears my prayer. And while my dream is statistically improbable. While I am not the most credentialed or best candidate, God is bigger than all of that.

He can make old women pregnant. He can have my words fall into the laps of the right people.

I know he may not. I know that my worth is bigger than my accomplishments or lack thereof.

I know all that.

But today, I was reminded that God knows my prayer.

And that God is bigger than any statistics or improbabilities.

Today that hope is enough.

Where do you need hope today? 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Motherhood Mondays - When I Need a Moment

Last week, I sent my baby out into the world. Not my actual baby, my book baby as Carole Radziwell would say. I sent query letters to agents asking them to consider representing me and my novel. It was terrifying sending emails to all those agents.

Later Monday the first rejection email came. It was a polite I'm going to pass on this email. Nothing personal at all included and yet, I felt as if my whole being had been rejected. I was sad and dejected and demoralized and questioning all that I had done, all the work, all the friends' positive feedback, everything, because of that one pass.

I was also walking out the door to hockey practice when the email came. I was now sitting in my van, in traffic, trying to get one boy to his hockey team pictures and another to his practice on time. The kids had no idea what I was feeling because I was not ready to tell them or anyone. So when they played the usual, Bus Game on the freeway they had no idea that I was not in a place to hear them all shout "BUS" every time they saw one, or saw the same one again.

They had no idea that my patience was thin because I felt so defeated inside myself.

I asked them to be quiet at first. Then I snapped at them. Then I felt awful for snapping at them.

I needed a moment. 

But Motherhood doesn't really allow for you to take a moment, at least not in the moment. Motherhood requires me to buck up and move forward, even when all I want to do is crawl into a ball and let the tears flow. And so I did just that. I pushed away the email, I pushed away the pain. I focused on the kids and what they needed and where they needed to be. I checked hockey jerseys and socks. I helped with knee pads and Gatorade. I chatted with the other hockey moms about school and life. I made it through and got home. I helped with dinner and then once everyone had what they needed, I went in my room.

I went into the bathroom. The one place this girl in a house full of boys has claimed as private and sacred. I sat on the floor and I let the sadness come. I sat in the pain. I wallowed.

I let the feelings come.

And then I did what mothers do. I wiped away the tears. I got up. I gave goodnight kisses. I moved on.

Motherhood doesn't allow you to stay in the dark too long because kids still wake up too early in the morning full of enthusiasm and needs, like lunches and tied shoes and rides to school.

But once they are there, once they are tucked into their classrooms, if I need a moment, I know I can take one. I just might have to wait a moment.

Where do you go when you need a moment?




Friday, October 19, 2012

Fiction Friday - The Ideas

I have written before about how I get my ideas for what I write. Most of which come from some part of my own life, or the stories of friends, and then are weaved together until the original strings are no longer visible. 

Sometimes though I see something in the open world, the world apart from me, and I find my mind wondering what the story is behind the image. 

This morning, while having coffee with friends we saw a mom with her two young girls walk into Starbucks carrying their iguana. It was in a cage but still it was an odd sight. I wondered why were they taking the iguana with them to Starbucks. What conversation must have happened between the mother and the girls to convince her that they should bring their pet along. I thought about the possible name for the iguana and what he (or she) ate. Does Starbucks have iguana food on a secret menu? 

Yesterday, I was driving down the street and I saw a man carrying a sledgehammer. Now I assumed that he was going to do some kind of demolition on a house nearby but still I had questions. Was it his house? Is he a contractor? What if he accidentally knocked down the wrong wall? Could you imagine the conversation. 
He takes his cell phone out of his pocket and scrolls through the numbers for the homeowner's name. He is anxious making the call, his hands clammy. He feels a momentary sense of relief when the phone goes to voicemail. But then the beep happens and he has to speak. 
"Uhh... Mr. Jaxson. This is Teddy. I'm over at your house and well...." 
Just as he is about to explain Michael Jaxson drives up and finds Teddy standing out front. 
 What happens next? You tell me.

 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

(WednesDAY of Faith) Jesus: Loves Me - The Elder Son

A few weeks ago, I taught from Luke 15 at the mom's Bible study at my church. You can read Part 1 and Part 2.

Part 3 - The Elder Son

On that day in 8th grade, the day I first really heard the story of the Prodigal son, I found my identity. I am a child of God, loved and redeemed. It is the very essence of who I am.

But how long does that confidence last? For me it was my senior year in high school. That was the year that I had my crisis of faith because somewhere along the way, my song had changed. I was now singing, “Jesus loves me this I know, for I’ve been good enough to earn it so...”

Nouwen writes later in his book The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Homecoming, “Although claiming my true idenity as a child of God, I still live as though the God to whom I am returning demands an explanation.”

I was the good girl. I was doing all the right things. I got good grades. I stayed away from boys. I didn’t drink, smoke or go with boys that did. I followed my parents directions, even when I would never get caught. I was the model child and it was wearing me down.

I was religious, a law follower, a zealot. I was the Pharisees hearing the next part of the story.

Luke 15: 25 - 32
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Tim Keller caused me to think about the elder son in a new way. He writes in his book The Prodigal God, “He (the elder son), too, wanted the father’s goods rather than the father himself. However, while the younger brother went far away, the elder brother stayed close and “never disobeyed.” That was his way to get control. His unspoken demand is, “I have never disobeyed you! Now you have to do things in my life the way I want them to be done.”

Keller later writes, “There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good." 

I had never thought of the elder son that way. I had seen him as resentful, angry and jealous of the father’s love for the younger son. But the idea that doing the right thing as an attempt to control God, to be my own savior? Wow. That hits deep, that squeezes my heart just a bit.

How many of us moms are trying to prove our worth, to earn our reward? How many of us are trying to keep all the plates spinning so we can keep control of our lives? How often do I expect God to do things my way because I have done the right things.

The elder son was with his father the whole time. All the father had was his. And yet he was lost. Lost in his own home, never really understanding his father's love for him because he was trying to earn something that you cannot gain through work. He was too busy proving his identity as the son to enjoy living life with his father. 

Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.

But do we trust this? Do we believe what God has told us? What He did on the cross? Do we believe we are loved? Do we believe we are forgiven?


I have to tell you that I do believe it. I know that Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so but even more than that I believe it to the core of my being. My identity begins and ends with Jesus - his love for me and the work he did on the cross to save me. It has taken years, my own testimony full of altar stones, markers along my journey of faith. This story, these two lost sons are part of my story.

The father ran to his son who had wandered away. He left the party to go to the one that had stayed behind. God meets us where we are, he finds us when we are lost, and wraps his loving arms around us when we go home with him.


I love Nouwen’s words about trusting God’s love for us. He writes, “Without trust, I cannot let myself be found. Trust is that deep inner conviction that the Father wants me home. As long as I doubt that I am worth finding and put myself down as less loved than my younger brothers and sisters, I cannot be found. I have to keep saying to myself, ‘God is looking for you. He will go anywhere to find you. He loves you, he wants you home, he cannot rest unless he has you with him.’

God is looking for you my friend. He will go anywhere. He will follow you as you wander off, denying your need for saving or he will stand beside you as you try to control everything around you, trying to save yourself. He loves you. He wants you home.

And when you are home - oh my will there be a celebration. Because notice all three of these stories end with rejoicing. Joy. Unending joy.

Are you lost? Do you want to be found? 

Or are you already enjoying your seat at the table?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Motherhood Mondays - My Sick Boy

On Thursday, Middle Man stopped talking. He wouldn't say anything at all. Now he is not that talkative most of the time, at least not talkative to other people, though he often does have very animated conversations with himself. But on Thursday he wasn't even answering the usual questions. The what did you learn at school question that he answers with "nothing" every day. He instead just looked at me with sad eyes.

Turns out he had a sore throat and it stayed with him all through Thursday evening and even Friday morning. He didn't complain. He didn't cry or ask to stay home from school. He just didn't anything. And so we kept him home from school because the one question he did answer was do you want to stay home today? His yes was enough to keep this school loving boy home.

It was a quiet Friday for me. Just a library volunteering stint that had to be cancelled but they would manage without me I knew. But it was also the first quiet day all week and now my space was being taken over by my sick little boy. Except he really didn't invade my space at all. He just curled up on the couch with his book and read. When he got tired, he closed his eyes for a bit, and then he read some more. He didn't need anything from me, except for me to stop asking him if was okay. Apparently that is annoying when you don't feel good.

The problem is I want to be the caring mom, the one with the magic medicine and cuddles that make the world better. The truth though is that I can't make his sore throat stop hurting, only time can, and maybe a little children's motrin. Oh and chocolate ice cream because everyone knows that the cold will numb the pain for a little bit and chocolate makes everything better.

All this to say that I am thankful for the margin I have in my days to be able to shut everything down and let my baby be sick. I am grateful that I am able to be home for my kids even while they are gone at school because sick days happen. Library volunteering happens. And sometimes writing happens.

Where do you build margin into your life? 

Linking up again with Joy in this Journey and the Parent'Hood.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Fiction Fridays - Prelude

Last week I was volunteering in the school library when a fourth grade class came in looking for historical fiction books for their October Book Logs. 

I loved historical fiction growing up. I would go through phases. First it was all things Laura Ingalls Wilder and Lucy Maud Lovelace. Then it was the Revolutionary War with Johnny Tremain and My Brother Sam Is Dead. I moved onto the Civil War and at some point later in my youth the World War II and the Holocaust. 

And now I get to introduce my boys and their friends to some of my favorite books as a kid. I told one of the girls in the class about my favorite historical fiction writer, Ann Rinaldi, and she checked out In My Father's House. This week I saw the same girl at lunch and she told me how she had already finished the book and loved it. She wants to read more of Ann Rinaldi's books now. In a world full of fantasy and supernatural books, I love knowing that I helped a girl discover great historical novels that will not only entertain but educate

That is what I love about fiction. I am always entertained by a good book, but I also learn something from almost every book I read. Whether it is discovering that Prada is a designer label or kite fighting is a competitive event in Afghanistan, my world opens a little wider as I see it through the lens of a character living out their story.  

And as I have said before, as a writer, fiction allows me to really tell the truth without worrying about hurting anyone's feelings, having my characters fact check my details or offending anyone with the real struggles of faith and doubt and living in a grey world. I get to explore feelings and experiences without getting caught up in explaining. I can merge and dissect the details while keeping the moment true to its core. I get to take life, remove the facts, and make it real again

Now that I am writing novels, yes plural, as the characters for a second book have started infiltrating my mind, I am finding myself observing the world around me more. I see the woman standing on the corner and I not only wonder what her story is, I start to write one in my head. I see my son curled up on the couch not feeling well and I begin to describe the scene in my thoughts. I have found myself spending a lot more time moving words around in my head and less time speaking out loud. This once very social introvert is starting to look like an actual introvert. 

With all this in mind, I have decided to use Fridays on my blog for fiction. Some Fridays it might be a scene I write and you can finish if you want. Some days it might be a book I want to recommend. I am not sure what Fiction Fridays will look like exactly, but that is the joy of fiction. You get to make it up as you go along. 

Oh and since I am volunteering in the library quite a bit this year with different elementary age groups, I would love to know what books did you love as a kid

What books you wish your kids would read? (Children never seem to want to read the books their parents recommend. Mine will only read something if it was discovered by someone else, a librarian, the person at the children's bookstore in town, the One Great Book Blog lady. Pretty much anyone but mom.)




Wednesday, October 10, 2012

(WednesDAY of Faith) Jesus: Loves Me - The Prodigal Son

I taught at our church Mom's group Bible study last Wednesday and am posting my talk. Here is part 2 with a little overlap from Part 1.

Part 2 - The Prodigal Son

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so...” 

I sang that song in Sunday school as a small child and I believed it - wholly. If you had asked me about Jesus as a small girl, I would have known that he loved me, that he saved me, that he lived in my heart. I would have told you about the love of the shepherd for the lost sheep, that God will pursue us into the wilderness. I knew my value as a child of God.

But small girls grow up and the world begins to replace the words of that song.

Remember those middle school years, the ones that destroyed all that self confidence we had as girls. The ones where we were starting to see the world, and the people in it for what they really were, flawed and scary. The years when we begin to sing a new song.

“No one loves me this I know, for the world tells me so...”

I was that girl. The one that believed that I was not loved, not worthy of love. The one that walked through life, who spoke of God and Jesus, and the stories in the Bible but did not feel it. And then one day it all changed for me.

I was in eighth grade the first time I really heard the story of the Prodigal son. It was a sunny Sunday morning in Oregon. I can picture the Sunday school classroom with the thin metal chairs. The song that played to illustrate the lesson - the story of the Prodigal son from Luke 15.

While we can all understand Jesus loving the lost sheep and searching high and low for the lost coin, the next story, the story of the two sons... Oh my this was a paradigm changer.

Luke 15: 11-24
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
Tim Keller writes in his book The Prodigal God that this request. “...was a sign of deep disrespect. To ask this while the father still lived was the same as to wish him dead. The younger son was saying, essentially, that he wants his father’s things, but not his father. His relationship to the father has been a means to the end of enjoying his wealth, and now he is weary of that relationship. He wants out. Now. 'Give me what is mine' he says."
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
I think we often look at this story and see the son’s arrogance, his independence, and then his eventual repentance. We see the story from our point of view. It was on this particular Sunday in 8th grade that I saw the father for the first time. It was verse 20 that sunk deep into my soul. “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and was filled with compassion for him; he rant to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

The father ran to him. While he was still a long way off. He ran. He picked up his robes and ran for his son who he saw in the distance. When he reached his son, he threw his arms around him and kissed him. He did not wait for his son to apologize, to grovel, to earn his way back into the family. His father loved him, even after all the harm he had caused. His father loved him because he was his son. It was that simple. 

I don’t know why I was lucky enough to really hear those words that day, to know deeply that my father in heaven loves me, but I was. I knew once again that Jesus loved me. This Bible story told me so.

Henri Nouwen writes in his book The Return of The Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, “It was the loss of everything that brought him to the bottom line of his identity.”

On that day in 8th grade I found my identity. I am a child of God, loved and redeemed. It is the very essence of who I am.

Where do you find your identity? How do you describe yourself as a person? 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Motherhood Mondays - Do You Remember?

"Do you remember the time we lost you at the beach?" my mom asks. "You were two." She says it as if we are remembering something funny that happened when I was a kid. I reached to figure out the connection to the conversation, the only thread being that we were going to drive near the beach to get to the harvest festival we were taking the kids to.

"No," I answered but I left off the part about not having a lot of childhood memories. I have fragmented memories that hit the high points. I also have the memories of the stories told to me about my childhood but I do not remember getting lost at the beach when I was 2.

Nor do I remember the time I was around 18 months and almost drowned but I remember the story told by my parents. The story of the family swimming in a pool and someone looking down from a balcony and yelling down that there was a baby in the pool. I was face down. Not sure how I got there, either that part of the story is left out or my brain decided to cut that part of the story out of my memories.

I know that 1975 was a different time, a time when kids could play in their front yards without adults hovering nearby. When we walked to school with our friends starting in kindergarten, again sans adults. It was a time before CNN and 24 hour news shows reporting each isolated kidnapping as if they are happening every minute and parents have to be ever vigilant of these evil doers. I say that not because kids are not taken, I know they are, someone just attempted to kidnap a girl from her school a few miles from my house, but because the rates have not really increased over time but the reporting of them makes it seem like it happens every day.

Today parents are seen as negligent if we let our kids ride home from school too young or leave them in the car when we run into the bank. I remember agonizing over whether it was okay for me to leave my preschooler in their carseat in the car parked right in front of the dry cleaners where the door was open the whole time and I was not ten feet from my child. I finally decided that was okay because getting the kid out and then the kid and the dry cleaning back in the van seemed like a more precarious option. But I still ride my bike with the kids too and from school and not just because the youngest is in first grade.

But I go back to that story, the one where I as a two year old wandered off at the beach, only months after falling in a pool and almost drowning. And I wonder. Why did that little two year old girl decide to go to the bathroom alone? That was where I was. In the bathroom. I guess I needed to go and so I went. By myself.

I was a pretty independent two year old it seems. I don't know if that is in my DNA or a result of me having to take care of myself. I just know that I was though I remember wishing my mom or dad looked after me more. But don't all kids. I know my boys would prefer I make their school lunch for them like the other parents.

It is hard to know what messages we pick up when we are young. I wonder what my boys will take away from their early years, or have taken away now that they are all elementary school aged.

After hearing the story of my getting lost at the beach this weekend, I felt sad. Sad for the little girl who felt she needed to go to the bathroom alone. Sad for the grown woman who had more insight into why she did not feel safe with her own mother.

Sad that the stories of my early, early years are all told of me being invisible.

Oh, except for the stories about my mom playing with me in the middle of the night so my big brother would not get jealous. She would tease him that, "babies can be annoying can't they," when I would interrupt their fun needing to be fed or changed. At least that is the story she tells me.

And I have learned over the last few years that those stories change.

Have your childhood stories changed or taken on new meaning now that you are a grown up? *****

Turns out I am not the only one writing about parenting on Mondays so I thought I would join in on the Parent 'Hood fun.


Friday, October 5, 2012

From the Archives - Want Friends?

This is the final week of the (in)courage (in)RL {real life} series on Community. The final question. They have all been hard but this one really does require something of me, of us. If we say we want community and we say we are ready to be authentic and forgive and open to community, then we have to answer this question - “How do we build community right where we are, not letting circumstances limit our connections?”

In January 2010, I wrote a post with a few suggestions for making friends and building a community of your own. I miss these women!!

*****

Last night was my turn to host our monthly girls night out group. Since it was January, I made sure to have some veggies snacks along with homemade chocolate chip cookies. We drank greyhounds (grapefruit juice with vodka) which I got from a mutual friend who had moved away's Facebook page. I felt bad we ran out of vodka. We are not a big drinking group but almost everyone was there last night. We talked, we painted toes, we prayed for one friend's son. We hit the big topics, the silly topics. We got to know one another more deeply yet again. I found out there is a new cupcake place just one town away that I now have to try. It was a wonderful evening with a few of us hanging on until after midnight.

I write this not to make people who don't have a group like this feel bad. I have been the new person in a room at the women's spring tea listening to the speaker tell us about all her amazing friendships and being really annoyed. I don't really need to hear how much people like you. I need to know how to get friends of my own. Having moved as much as I have here is what I have learned about making friends, real friends that you can talk to and laugh with.

1) Be available. Show up. Keep showing up.
Making good friends takes time. I remember when we moved to California and I was all alone and my husband worked all the time. I was desperate for human contact with adults and this was before I discovered Facebook so I had to hang out places where other moms hang out. I joined the mom's group at our church. I hung around the preschool after pick up and started little conversations with the moms. I got discouraged at times. But I kept showing up. It took a long time but sometime in January, I was having play dates with two different families. And by the time we moved away they were two dear friends. Same thing happened in kindergarten. The room mom invited everyone over for a coffee the first week of school. I was nervous. I had Little Man who might tear up her house. I did not want to get sucked into the cult that is the PTA. But I said yes because that is how you make friends. That is how you get to know people. One of the best yeses I have ever said. What an amazing woman she is, a beacon of hope to this mom of three a little farther behind in the journey. And what an amazing group of kinder parents I got to know! Miss them all so much. So say yes. But also know that if you are the person that flakes on a group of friends enough, they may stop calling you. Or if you don't say yes the first time or two, they may think you don't want to be their friend. So say yes. Make it work. Find the time. Friendship takes face time and a length of time to grow.

2) Take the initiative. Be brave.
I was the person that did start the girls night out group that I mentioned at the start. I really wanted a girls night out group, a book club, something to get me out of the house once in a while. I kept waiting but no one invited me to join the book club. I had waited for two years in California to get invited to join a bunco group, or dinner club. Never happened. I sort of missed the boat a bit because my kids were born up north and I found that with preschoolers most of us made our friends when our kids were babies and were now busy, the groups were full. My baby friends were up north and I was alone in California. I was making a few friends through church and preschool, but even there someone has to make the first move to invite people over for coffee or out to dinner. But I think we are all a bit scared and insecure. It feels like middle school all over again. What if they don't like me. Will it be a pity yes? or even worse a no? When I moved back home I decided to make a group. I asked two friends from my church to join me, we had met in a small group years before and I was so glad to be back with my friends. They said yes, and then I asked them to think of more people from our church that might be needing some deeper connections with a small group of girls. (I do think it is funny that I still think of us as girls, though the insecurity in the initial inviting people to join our "club" made me feel like a girl.)  We had some yeses, a few too busies. And our group was born. We had a plan. Meet once a month. Rotate the host. Invite new people - though we keep it to people from church who are local. I did this last month with someone I felt like I was supposed to invite but was worried because while we have been in small group for a while I was worried she might not like me. Silly me, silly insecurities. I am loving getting to know her in a different setting, a more relaxed sillier setting. Last night seven women were here while our pregnant friend was at home catching up on rest. We are growing together. We are supporting one another. We are loving each other. Don't get mad at us that we did not ask you to join us. If you know us, ask, we love new people. Or better yet, start a group. Find one friend and go from there. Take the initiative! Don't sit back and wait for the invitation.

3) Be yourself. Be truthful. Be real. Be authentic.
It is so much faster to get to know someone when you actually are getting to know who they really are. Now there are times and places for this. I don't need to share my love of reality tv and twitter with my Bible study small group at church. But I have to be myself with the people I really want to come alongside me. I fight this sometimes because I know that my real self can be a bit brash at first. I grow on people like I wrote here and sometimes I want to make a good first impression. Which is funny because it rarely works because sooner or later my foot in mouth, loud, brash but deeply caring personality will come shining through. But I also know that being real with people builds connections. Just this week I saw a friend carrying a set of the Twilight books in a bag because someone had just returned them to her (not because she is a nutcase). This is a friend who I have shared in many numerous theological and parenting conversations but I did not know she was a fellow Twilight addict. And in knowing that I felt a kinship that I did not before. I also had a friend recently hit the "like" button on one of my more spiritual status update. She was someone I had no idea even thought about spiritual things. Now there is an opening for a conversation.

So those are my hints. I have been lucky enough to move around a lot and get to make some amazing new friends. Though I have also been unlucky in that I have moved around a lot and have had to say goodbye to many wonderful friends. Which is why I love Facebook, blogs, email and Christmas cards. I worked hard at times to make my friends. I am not letting them go without a fight!

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