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.


I would say it twice sometimes.


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


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!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

(WednesDAY of Faith) Jesus: Love Me - Storytelling

I taught the Bible study this week at our mom's group at church. We are spending the year studying Encounters with Jesus and I taught this week that Jesus: Loves Me. I will be using the next few Wednesdays to post what I taught.

Part 1 - Storytelling

You know that moment when the story sneaks through your ribs and squeezes your heart tight for a second and you know that it was meant for you. The world for you changes in that moment.

True stories are wonderful. It is encouraging to hear testimonies, to know that I am not alone in my feelings, my experiences. But sometimes I get caught up in the details of the other persons' story. I lose sight of the real truth while analyzing how different I am from the person giving the testimony, how their experience is different because of the details.

This is one of the reasons I love fiction and have begun writing novels. I love having my blog as a place to write about what I am learning, how God is working in my life, but there is something incredibly freeing about writing fiction, to tell the truth without worrying about hurt feelings or fact checking - to just tell the story. I love to read fiction as well. I love books that are comfortable, that remind me of truths I believe. I love a good romance where pride and prejudice are taken down by unexpected love. I like stories of friendships that have people rising up to care for one another, where love conquers all. I like stories of good defeating evil after an epic battle that reminds us that we need to do the right thing.

But then there are stories that make me see something in a new way, that change the way I view the world, or my corner of it. Books that introduce me to new worlds or new ideas. I remember reading the Hunger Games and having my mind shocked by the story but even more so by how easily our world could turn on one another, how propaganda and fear and our survival instincts can turn children against each other.

One of the things I love about Luke is the stories Jesus tells. During Jesus’ ministry, the time between the baby Jesus story and the Jesus on the Cross story, he spent time healing the sick, preaching on the Mount, building relationships and telling stories. Luke 15 includes three stories that Jesus tells. The first two verses set the scene for us.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 
Jesus' audience was made up of two groups of people - the sinners and the religious. The tax collectors, the sinners, were Jews who had betrayed their own people by working for the Romans. Not only did they collect taxes but they typically demanded more than was due. They stole from their own people on the authority of their oppressor. They were seen as some of the worst sinners and yet, Jesus ate with them.

The other group listening was the righteous, at least that is how they saw themselves - the teachers of the law, the Pharisees. They followed God’s laws even more than God himself had required of them.

These two groups of people were gathered together listening to this man Jesus and instead of explaining himself, instead of telling why he was eating with sinners he told three stories.

Jesus begins with two stories, simple ones that everyone could relate to.

Luke 15: 2 - 10
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. 
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
I have lost things before and to be honest, the amount I time I spend searching for it depends on the items value to me. My cell phone... I will look for hours, trekking back to places I have left to find it. A lost library book... well, I might look through the house once or twice. I will check under the seats of the car. I will ask my kids to look again. But at some point, I am willing to give up and pay the $35 for the lost Billy the Kid biography we checked out for a school project.

Honestly, the value of the item is not determined by its monetary worth, but by my willingness to keep searching, to continue pursuing after what is lost even at a cost to myself.

Jesus tells these two stories of chasing down the lost, pursuing the sheep that wandered away, of finding the coin that was lost in its own home, to remind us how much the Father loves us, the lost. It is the pursuit that shows our value. And God will keep looking for us until we are found.

“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.

Do you know that Jesus loves you, the person reading this right now? Do you believe it? 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Motherhood Mondays - I Can't Make the Bullies Be Nice

Last year I was the classroom reader for our school's anti-bullying program, Project Cornerstone, for my two older boys' classrooms. This meant that once a month, I would go and read a picture book to their class and talk about the lessons we learned from the book.

We read books about how we fill each other's invisible buckets by being kind and helping one another. We also sometimes dip in someone's bucket by name calling or being mean. 

We read books about not taking the bait when people try to catch us in their mean comments. We learned to walk away, distract, or make a joke while avoiding chomping down on the hook. 

We read books about spreading gossip and standing up for one another. We talked about sticking together, getting help, and knowing the difference between tattling and telling. 

And yet, each month the kids would look at me and ask the same basic question, "How can we get the bullies to stop?" 

We talked about people sometimes using bully behaviors because they were sad or insecure. The kids understood this. No, what they were really asking was how do we get bullies, those mean spirited, destructive, gloating and controlling, to stop. So I had to tell them the sad truth - bullies exist and I cannot make them be nice. 

Bullying doesn't stop when they grow up either. I have seen adults try to bully other people. I have used this blog to call out the bullies, the bullshit, when needed. But I cannot make people be nice. I wish I could but I can't. 

And so I told the students the same thing I have taught my boys. You cannot control the other person, you can only control your response. You cannot make the other person stop being mean, but you can remove yourself from the situation. 

I came face to face with bullying last year. My oldest, Hockey Boy, had a kid on his team who put him down, made fun of him when he left the locker room, and didn't want to be his partner. I did not like that other kid. I was angry and hurt. But my son, my dear sweet boy, did not even realize he was being bullied. He gave the other kid the benefit of the doubt and when the other kid was having a bad day, my kid skated away, he found a safe place to be and got down practice. He did not let this bully distract him from his game, from his love of hockey.  

I thought my kid was just clueless, not to know what was going on, but maybe he was clueless because he choose not to let someone else's behaviors define him. Maybe he had made a decision to use some of the tools he learned to not take the bait. Maybe he was confident in himself and his friendships to know he is valuable and loved no matter what some kid on his hockey team says. 

I wish this was a story with a happy ending, one where the two boys become best friends. They did not. And at some point the other boy became physical with my son so we had to step in and get more adults involved in keeping my boy safe, including the other child's parents. It was uncomfortable at times and I was always a little anxious during practice that something might happen. But my son amazed me. He got help from the coaches when he needed it but otherwise he stay focused on why he was there - to get better at the game he loves. He never once didn't want to go to practice. This one bully was not going to define his day. 

Oh how I wish I as an adult was better about letting the negativity flow off my back like water off a duck, like my son who didn't let this one boy ruin his fun.


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.