Wednesday, December 31, 2008

st. martin-in-the-fields and the girl who cried wolf


If you know me at all, you know that I am prone to hyperbole.  I mean, I probably use hyperbole more than anyone in the world, maybe even the universe - seriously.  I've been known to say things like, "This peppermint mocha/chicken taco recipe/serrated knife is the best thing ever!"  What can I say, I am enthusiastic.

But now I have a real problem.  After overusing the superlative in my descriptions of silly things like coffee and kitchen utensils, I have lost credibility to describe something truly extraordinary.  This week I experienced something that simply cannot be described with the same words I have previously put to use in exclamations about SNL skits and diet soda.  What's a chronic exaggerater to do when faced with something beyond exaggeration?

For what it's worth, in light of the cheapened value of my endorsement, the sound of stringed instruments playing inside the St. Martin-in-the-Field Cathedral in London is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard in my life.  

We were in a hurry, hoping to get in a quick visit to the British Museum before going to Evensong at the Westminster Abbey.  We would have hustled right by the cathedral, but my father-in-law just can't walk by a church without peeking inside.  My mother-in-law laughed and rolled her eyes as he darted in the door ("He's seen a million churches and he still has to go look!").  I told her we'd be right back and followed him in.  There was a rehearsal taking place at the front of the church, some sort of stringed ensemble.  The musicians were young, maybe college-aged.  The director was standing with his hand on his hip, giving direction casually without concern for the tourists coming in and out.  He raised his hands and the musicians readied their instruments.

And played.

Before I could even form a thought in my head, tears sprang to my eyes.  I blinked them back, trying to soak in and commit to memory the rich, velvety sound of the strings.  I can't say too much more about it because, again, I don't want to use the same words I've used for stuff like automatic mini-van doors and free shipping.  I'm only writing about it here because I don't ever want to forget that moment, short as it was.  Highlight of my trip so far.  More to come soon!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

this makes me happy.





My friend Stephanie is getting some last-minute shopping done today so her 4 kids are hanging out with us for a few hours. She thinks I am helping her out but it's really the other way around, for two reasons:

1) I was dying 1,000 deaths of house-bound boredom before her kids arrived. We've been in weather-induced hibernation for over a week and I am going stir-crazy.

2) I love love love having extra kids in our house. Just looking at all the little bowls and plates lined up for lunch made me giddy.

So thank you Stephanie, for saving my life today! Hope your shopping is quiet and successful. It's loud and happy around here, just the way I like it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

nate's nativity musings



When Jon was growing up one way that his parents taught their kids the Bible was by acting out scenes as a family. (Sometime ask Jon about acting out 1 Samuel 24 while on vacation in the mountains.) Anyway, one of the Biblical stories Jon's family acted out was Luke 2 (the events surrounding Jesus' birth) and now that Nate is old enough to understand it we are going to incorporate that into our celebration as well. So last night at dinner Jon was talking to Nate about it, asking him who was going to play certain characters, etc.

Jon: Who is going to play King Herod?

Nate: Me! I want to.

Jon: What does King Herod say?

Nate: Tell me where this child is, I want to go worship him!

Jon: But does he really want to do that?

Nate: No, he wants to kill him. (Wow, his Sunday School teacher is doing her job!)

(about 5-10 minutes later)

Nate: Mommy, what does 'kill' mean?

Me: 'Q' is a letter, Nate.

Nate: No, KILL.

(Jon laughing because he thought I was trying to get out of the question but I really just didn't hear him, I swear.)

Me: Oh. Ohhhh. Well, Nate, 'kill' is when someone does something to someone else that makes them die.

Nate: Oh.

Me: It is very, very, very naughty. In fact it is the worst kind of naughty.

Nate (quietly, looking kind of upset): I'll just be a wise man.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

doing christmas


I was making plans with a friend last week via email, setting up a sledding date for us and our kids. As we coordinated our schedules, I wrote to her that we couldn't hang out on Saturday because my sister and brother-in-law would be in town and we were doing Christmas with my side of the family.

Doing Christmas. Hmm.

Saturday came, and Jon, the boys, and I trekked down the snow-crusted hill to my parents' house. The whole family was there (except sweet Asher in the hospital) and we spent the entire day together. My mom cooked two delicious meals with all the Christmas trimmings - Spode china, sterling silver, evergreen centerpieces, glittering candles, and a roaring fire in the fireplace. We had drawn names for a gift exchange, with everyone giving either books or board games to each other. Once the gifts were open the house was full of chatter and laughter as we played board games and watched the little boys delight in their new toys. It was a lovely, lovely day. But it had nothing to do with Christmas.

Besides some heartfelt prayers from my dad before our meals, we said nothing about the Bethlehem miracle that changed the world forever. We left the Bible on the shelf, the words of Luke 2 quiet inside the leather bindings. Our conversation covered politics, science, and even theology, but we never mentioned the Christ child, Emmanuel, God with us. We didn't do Christmas.

I love my family to bits and pieces. Spending time with them is truly a gift from God. But being with family is not, in itself, Christmas. I love my mom's cooking and her incredible Christmas decorations - brightly lit trees and signs of the season in every nook and cranny. But evergreen trees and nutcrackers are not Christmas. Christ is Christmas. Period. Without him this whole business of Christmas is little more than a sham - something to give us warm fuzzies and perhaps help the economy.

I had a great day on Saturday, I think we all did. But we missed something, or more accurately, we missed the something, the only thing. I hold as much responsibility for this as anyone else, and I'm ashamed. Thankfully it is only December 21st. It is still Advent. Christmas is coming and this time I'll be ready.

Friday, December 19, 2008

can't see the forest...


At youth group with my girls.

I've been thinking back to my days as a youth leader at our old church in California. The last year that I was there I was leading a weekly high school girls' Bible study. I put in hours preparing each week, thinking through each lesson, praying for the girls and for our time together. There were a few girls in particular that I would often pray for, girls that I considered to be leaders and role models for the rest of the group. But week after week, these same girls made excuses and found reasons not to show up to Bible study. Maybe they had legitimate reasons, I don't know. All I know is that almost every week I was bummed out that they weren't there.

OK, so the three or four girls who I really wanted to come usually didn't show. But who did? The group was small each week, but there were a few girls who came every time, and I am just now realizing... I don't think I even noticed them. I was so busy worrying about who wasn't coming that I forgot to see who was already there. I'd like to think that I put together some pretty darn good lessons and discussions... but I usually came home from them disappointed because so-and-so wasn't there. Basically, it didn't happen just the way I pictured, so therefore it's a disappointment. What a small picture of God's kingdom! Surely it is bigger than my expectations. How often do we miss what God is doing while we're obsessing over what He's not doing?

I am remembering that the kingdom of God looks upside-down sometimes. God doesn't need big crowds or powerful individuals to accomplish His purposes. The places where God is moving don't always look successful or even important. Don't we have ample visual evidence of that at this time of year in our nativity scenes? Stables and shepherds, what could be more common and trivial? We are seeking God on our terms, waiting for Him to do what we expect. In the meantime, while we're looking for a parade or maybe a limo, God is defying expectations and breaking into humanity by way of a trough.

God doesn't do what we expect, so I want to stop expecting and start seeing. I want to stop complaining and start noticing. I know God is working. Even in the places where I am experiencing disappointment and frustration, God is not silent. Maybe it's not what I was hoping for, but who am I? Who am I to say what God should do? I know He is at work, and that is enough for me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

between weep and pray


In yesterday's post I talked about Hans Rookmaaker's response to our broken world: weep, pray, think, work. I would say that I am at different points along this sequence for different parts of my life. There are some things for which I am praying, others I am thinking through, and still others toward which I am working. But there is one thing in particular I am weeping over and I need to talk about it.

The other day I had a conversation with a friend that broke my heart. I won't go into detail here, but at the end of the discussion I was left to face the reality that my friend, a professed Christian, does not love God's Word. Doesn't want to read it, doesn't want to listen to it, and certainly doesn't want to hear it preached. Something simpler please. Something broken down and easily digested. Nothing confusing or hard to pronounce.

I don't want a simple, easy God! I don't want 3 Steps to Success. I don't want to send someone else up the mountain while I sit at home with my golden calf. I want the living, breathing, holy Word of God to speak into my life every day. I need it. I'm half-dead without it.

And so I'm sad. I weep. Don't live half-dead, my friend! Don't choose the tame, made-up fairy tale god, the safe and watered-down version. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is scary and confusing and hard to understand... but He is also real and true and good. His Word has unfamiliar cultural references, hard-to-pronounce names, and long genealogies... but it holds life and breath and truth.

When Moses is about to die and he is giving instructions to Joshua and the Israelites, this is the last thing he says to them:

"These are not just idle words for you -- they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess." (Deuteronomy 32:47)

The Word of God in the Bible is not just idle words, to be taken or left without consequence. If we love God, we love His Word. He has not really left us another option.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

bear with me... more hans


By What Blessedness Do I Weep, by Jen Grabarczyk

As a mom, I don't have hours of free time to read. For the most part this bums me out, but there is a bright side: when I do make the time to read something, it usually has plenty of time sink in and saturate before I have time to move on to something else. All that to say... I'm still thinking deeply about "Art Needs No Justification" by Hans R. Rookmaaker.

In Chapter Two, Rookmaaker outlines a formula we can use to (in his words) "wake up" and respond to the state of the world: Weep, Pray, Think, Work. We wake up, open our eyes and see the atrocities of our world. We weep. We see our part in what is wrong with the world, and we see that we cannot fix it alone. We pray. We listen to God's response and invite His transformational power. As we are transformed, we engage our minds and apply our God-given reason. We think. As insight arrives, we are stirred to meaningful and purposeful action. We work.

Hopefully you can see why this is something I am still chewing on.

I can look at different aspects of my life and see how this formula has played itself out, even without my conscious knowledge of it. For example, as Jon and I have heard (and continue to hear) about children in this world without homes, loving parents, food, etc. we have wept. We have prayed for these children, and prayed for God to show us what He would have us do. We have thought about the problems, thought about who we are and what gifts and material things God has given us, thought about the desires and dreams we have, thought about how different choices we make would affect us, our children, and other children in the world. And soon we hope to work - filling out paperwork, getting fingerprinted, mailing in forms, interviewing, and someday bringing one of these children into our home as our own. Weep, pray, think, work.

What I love about this sequence is that it doesn't let us stay stuck in despair. (This is a temptation of mine... which is actually what I sat down to blog about today, but it will have to wait for a later post now.) Rookmaaker's formula reminds me that weeping should take us to our knees, that prayer should open our mind, and that contemplation should drive us to action.

Monday, December 15, 2008

this morning's breakfast table conversation

Nate: Mommy, what's a status book?

Me: What? What are you talking about Nate?

Nate: A status book!

Me: Are you trying to ask 'what is a facebook status?'

Nate: Yeah! What's a facebook status?

Me: (laughing) Well, Nate, a facebook status is something that tells you what your friends are doing.

Nate: Oh.

[5 minutes later]

Nate: Wonder what Jake is doing. (Jake is our 3-year-old neighbor)

Me: I don't know - maybe he would want to play in the snow with us.

Nate: What's the status... face... status?

(at this point I lose it and laugh for 2 min)

Me: (still laughing) Um I don't think Jake has a facebook, Nate!

Nate: Do we have a facebook?

Me: Well, Mommy does but you don't.

Nate: Wonder what Adam is doing.

Dexter: Lela!! Lela!!

Nate: Yeah, wonder what Lela is doing.


Nate using the "Friend Finder" tool to see if Adam and Lela are on facebook.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

maybe we came from monkeys after all

The boys and I have a standing play-date with our buddies Rachel, Lela & Ellie on Wednesdays. Today we hit up toddler gym time at a local community center for some trike riding, hoop shooting, and general burning off of our kids' endless energy. Now you all need to know that Nate and Lela are betrothed. They adore each other. Rachel and I finally had to tell them no more kissing, only hugs, because a) it was borderline inappropriate and b) they passed the same cold back and forth at least 7 times.

Back to today: we arrived before the girls so Nate was already running around with a horde of boys when Lela arrived. Seeing that he was unavailable for their customary greeting, Lela just walked up to the first boy she saw and gave him a hug instead. The boy was very obliging, and the two of them stood there in slow-dance position for a solid three minutes - it was really cute. Lots of cell phone pictures by their moms, etc. Eventually Nate noticed them hugging and came over to check it out. He walked slowly around the couple. He sized up the other dude. Then he lifted his shirt and hopped around crazily while pounding his chest. Full on primal. It was like an Animal Planet special on mating rituals, right there at toddler playtime. If this is happening now, I am going to need some sort of special training to handle puberty. Pray for us.

I don't have a picture of primal Nate, so here's the next best thing: Dexter with about 3/4 of a banana in his mouth.

Monday, December 8, 2008

rookmaaker had it right



A week ago the Freedom From Religion Foundation put up the above sign in the state Capitol building in Olympia, WA.

Here's what has happened in the week since the sign was put up:

*The sign was stolen.
*The sign was found and put back up.
*Bill O'Reilly got all upset.
*9,000 people did what O'Reilly asked and called to complain.
*Several hundred people rallied outside the Capitol to protest the sign.

Ok, people I get it. The sign is judgmental, divisive, rude, and against the stated policies of the Capitol building administration (A Capitol administration rep stated that organizations may put up a display as long as it isn't considered disruptive or seen as promoting one religion over another.).

But c'mon folks, are you really helping the cause of Christ by stealing the sign, calling to complain, or jumping around with bullhorns outside the building? Here's what bugs me: The general attitude of Christians that we need to fight like heck until the whole world looks like the inside of a Christian bookstore. Ugh, I got a bad taste in my mouth just writing that.

During the election people kept throwing around the phrase "culture war." I didn't really know what they were talking about, but now I think I'm starting to get it. I think it starts with fear. Fear that your side won't win without the right propaganda. Fear that people are too dumb to choose for themselves and need to be told exactly what to believe, or even what to watch, listen to, and wear. Fear that if people hear what the other side is saying, it will sound smart and attractive so it must be drowned out or shut up.

When Atheists do this, I understand. If there is no God, then its all just propaganda. If there is no Truth, then whoever talks the loudest is the one who matters.

When Christians do this, it makes me ill. Our mission is not to make the world palatable to our own weak stomachs. Our mission is to be, live, and do the gospel: Christ crucified, resurrected, and coming again. When I see all this ruckus over a sign, it elicits the same response as when I heard that some guy organized over 4000 people to do the Michael Jackson "Thriller" dance all at the same time: Congratulations. Now please go use those great organizational skills to do something useful.

Hans Rookmaaker (yep, I love me some smart Dutch guys) had a lot to say about Christians and culture. Here's a quote from his essay, Art Needs No Justification:

Christ did not come to make us Christians or to save our souls only...he came to redeem us that we might be human in the full sense of that word. To be new people means that we can begin to act in our full, free, human capacity in all facets of our lives.

Jesus didn't come so that we could go out and make people part of our little club, where we all read the same books, watch the same movies, and listen to the same three chords on the guitar. Jesus came to make us like Him, fully human and fully free. May God forgive me when I act or think otherwise.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

today's gems


My funny boy

My mom is always telling me that I should write down all the funny things that Nate says. Here are a few things that made me laugh out loud today:

*We were playing a game where I knock on Nate's bedroom door and when he answers I pretend to be different people who might come to the door (mailman, milkman, Jehovah's Witness, etc... ok not really JW but you get the idea). I knocked and when Nate answered I said, "Hi, I am a repairman. Do you need anything repaired?" Nate thought about it for a second and answered, "Sure I will have a pear!"

*I was out running this afternoon with the boys in the jogger and over the music in my headphones I heard Nate yelling something. I turned off my music to hear him yelling, "Mommy! I'm lucky!!" (Why are you lucky Nate?) "Because I saw a garbage truck!!"

*On the run Nate asked me to pick him a dandelion. He smelled it and said, "Mmm, Mommy this smells like a candy cane!"

*At dinner he said, "Can I please have some more vegetables?" Ok this one isn't funny, but it made me supremely happy so I thought I'd record the moment!

I love that kid.

unreasonable beauty: a follow up


Whidbey Island, Washington

Last night Jon and I went to the once-a-month prayer gathering at church. We've been going to these each month for several months and as our pastor likes to say, "It is a sweet, sweet time." To begin our time last night, the pastor read a poem entitled Christmas, Whidbey Island, by Loren Wilkinson. Here is the poem:

Not in the waves, nor in the wave-torn kelp;
Not in the heron by the lake at dawn,
Nor owls' haunting of the wood,
Nor rabbits browsing frightened on the lawn;
Neither in the widening whirl
Of seashell, galaxy, or cedar burl,
Nor in the mushrooms' bursting of the humid ground:
In nothing of his bright, shy world
May God the fathering be found,

If not found first in Bethlehem,
In thirsty hay, on hoof-packed earth,
Where a girl, cruciform with pain
Grips manger boards in childbirth.
There in the harsh particular
In drafts and stench of cow manure
The squawls of Christ, Creator sound:
Where God grasped not at Godhead in a child,
There only will the God of life be found.

Now: if we upon this wave-shaped bluff
Stand in the straw of Bethlehem
Then God shines out from everything:
The agate in the surf, the withered flower stem,
The fish that gives its body for the seal
The flesh, the fruits that form each common meal,
The dance of pain and love in which our lives are wound:
Since God was flesh at Bethlehem,
In all the world's flesh may God be found.

I hear in these words a new perspective on what I wrote earlier about beauty. The beauty of creation is always glorifying God, but our eyes are fully opened to it when we see and understand the Incarnation. I wish I had more eloquent things to say about that, but Wilkinson has said it all. I won't take away from his words by adding too many of my own.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

the advent conspiracy

What does Christmas mean in America today? A crowd of shoppers in New York began the Christmas season by trampling a Wal-Mart worker to death on Friday. Is this what it has come to?

Let's do something different.

video

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

unreasonable beauty



We had a stroller picnic this morning. The kids have these amazing bibs from Baby Bjorn which I filled with cereal and cut-up fruit and we hit the road to enjoy a gorgeous morning. It is breathtakingly beautiful here. I'm tempted to qualify that sentence by putting 'in the Fall' on the end, or maybe 'when it's not raining,' but I won't. It is incredibly beautiful here every day.

I've been thinking about beauty. The dictionary says that beauty is the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind. I agree with that definition, but I also see beauty as pure gift. It is a reflection of God's grace. There is no other explanation for the extravagant, immoderate, and unreasonable beauty in this world. Surely God could have made a natural world with all the same function of this one, but none of the form. Instead he chose to create fiery orange leaves, crimson red berries, emerald green grass blanketed by a shiny ice-blue layer of dew... and this is just what I can see from the sidewalk today. He chose to give us the gift of 'intense pleasure (and) deep satisfaction' through the beauty of creation.

I'm thrilled and astounded daily by the beauty I see around me, but what blows me away even more than this is the beauty I don't see. This is the true extravagance of God, that He creates the most exorbitant beauty even where no one will ever see it. How many flowers bloom each Spring completely unseen by human eyes? How many salmon jump at sunrise each morning while the world sleeps? There are uncountable moments of beauty happening all over the world at all times, some seen and some unseen. All of this leads me to the realization that beauty glorifies God, whether we witness it or not. God never ceases to be glorified in and through His creation. Even though we can't see it all, let's drink up what we can each day and give God the glory.

Monday, November 17, 2008

why we live here

this was last july. i may need to watch this once a week until next july.

video

Friday, November 14, 2008

big news... if you're 3.



Jon took the boys running the other day after work, and when they got home he let Nate go in the house while he jogged down the driveway to get the mail. When he was half-way down the driveway he could hear Nate yelling at the top of his lungs from the house. "DADDY!!! DAAAAAA-DDY!" He stopped and listened, trying to figure out if Nate was OK. Should he hike back up the driveway and see what was wrong or just grab the mail and then go investigate? Being the smart daddy that he is, he reasoned that if something were really wrong Nate would be crying not yelling, so he got the mail first and then hurried back up the driveway to see what Nate was carrying on about.

Jon: (out of breath) Nate, buddy, what is it? Why are you yelling? What's wrong?

Nate: We switched placemats!

Jon: What?

Nate: Me and Dexter switched place mats!

Jon: That's what you were yelling to me about?

Nate: Yep! He used to have the one with the farm animals and I had the one with the other animals but now I have the farm animals and he has the other one!

Jon: Well, thanks for telling me son.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's Not The Same





I'm sure that many of you out there are just dying to see a blog post about politics. You've been searching fruitlessly for just one little shred of political opinion on the internet. Right? Right?! Ha. Well, primarily for my own sanity and not for your reading pleasure, I am adding to the noise.

I already expressed my disgust with the illogical, uninformed, and fanatical behavior we saw from both parties' supporters during the election. Now that the election is over, I am seeing a new and possibly even more disturbing behavior: the complete and total union of religion and politics in the minds of many Christians. Here are two statements I read this week, both from professed Christians, one from an Obama supporter and another from a McCain supporter.

"We've been waiting so long for this. He is our Moses!" (quoted from Seattle Times, who identified the woman as a 'church stewardess')

"Maybe McCain on his own cannot defeat Obama, but our God can and He will if we take to our knees in prayer and raise a mighty cry to the heavens to 'Save us O Lord'" (quoted from a message by Dr. Charles Stanley, founder of In Touch Ministries and senior pastor of First Baptist Atlanta)

Both of these statements make my skin crawl.

I am absolutely appalled that the line between politics and religion has become so blurred for people that they believe these things. Obama is not Moses. Only Christ can set us free. And McCain was not God's Chosen One either, so praying against Obama is nothing more than unbiblical nonsense.

But my observation of this unholy marriage between religion and politics goes beyond what I've read in the newspaper and online. I'll call it a vibe, because I can't really pin down where it's coming from, but there is this arrogant and judgmental vibe I am getting from other Christians when it comes to politics. As Christians, our central belief is that Jesus is The Way. We believe that we are objectively right in our religious beliefs, and that other religious beliefs are objectively wrong.* HOWEVER. Religion is NOT politics. I don't care how sure you are that God Himself is calling you to passionately support, campaign for, and give your life savings to a candidate. If I do not support that candidate, I am not by definition outside God's will. I am not categorically, objectively wrong if I disagree with your politics.

As Christians, for God's sake, let's stop thinking a politician can save us. Let's stop praying for our own agendas and instead pray as Jesus did: Thy will be done. Let's stop thinking that politics = religion. Finally, let us pray wholeheartedly for those in authority, while remembering Christ's ultimate authority.

*Update: I want to make a slight clarification to the statement about Christian beliefs being objectively right. I certainly do not assume that every religious belief and doctrine I profess is 'correct', only that I believe the central tenets of Christianity to be Truth. (i.e. Jesus Christ crucified & resurrected, the Bible as God's Word)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

today


what i'm reading: acts chapter 7

what else i'm reading: an amazing article by russell moore about being a single issue evangelical

what i'm eating: sweet potato fries from kidd valley

where i've been: coulon park with friends and kiddos -- slides, swings, hungry ducks, and mom talk.

where i'm going: the grocery store to grab celery, thyme, and bread crumbs for a recipe i'm trying tonight

where i'm going after that: to teach
baby signs class

what i'm listening to:
lamb of God, we fall before thee by joseph hart, music by brian moss

what else i'm listening to:
spookley the square pumpkin by joe troiano

what i'm praying: God of grace, we grieve that the church, which shares one Spirit, one faith, one hope, and one calling, has become a broken communion in a broken world. The one body spans all time, place, race, and language, but in our fear we have fled from and fought one another, and in our pride we have mistaken our part for the whole. Yet we marvel that you gather the pieces to do your work, that you bless us with joy, with growth, and with signs of unity. Forgive our sins and help us to commit ourselves to seeking and showing the unity of the body of Christ. Amen. (from the Confession of Sin at church a few weeks back, also found
here)

Friday, October 17, 2008

50 Things


#19 case-in-point: today's bed-head.

My friend Karen did this and I really enjoyed reading hers, so I am writing my own list.

50 Things About Me:

1. I wear the same jewelry every day because I never ever take it off (tiny diamond studs, a white gold cross, and my wedding rings).
2. Before we had kids, I thought I'd never drive a minivan.
3. I love my minivan.
4. When I left Seattle to go to college in LA, I thought I'd never move back.
5. When I met and married a California boy, I knew I'd never move back.
6. We moved back to Seattle a year and a half ago and we both absolutely love it.
7. Jon and I are both first-born children. Poor Nate is the first-born of two first-borns!
8. Since we are both first-borns, we both like to be right, but Jon is right a lot more often than I am.
9. From ages 13-20, I spent an average of 20-25 hours a week, 50 weeks a year... underwater.
10. I am obsessed with maps. Every time I pull out a road map in the car on a trip, I end up spending hours poring over it.
11. I have poor spatial intelligence (Maybe this is why I like maps - I can't picture geography in my head so I like seeing it on paper).
12. I used to think I wanted to be a teacher. Then a physical therapist. Then a counselor. Then a reading & literacy specialist. Then a teacher again.
13. I don't like the physical sciences.
14. I love the social sciences.
15. When we leave parties, Jon has to tell me we're leaving 30 minutes before he wants to leave because that's how long it takes me to say good-bye to people.
16. I met my best friends in college. We live far apart now, but we will always always be best friends.
17. My swim coach once assigned me 4000 push-ups as punishment for "not doing my best." I injured my biceps tendon on the first 800, so he "let" me do sit-ups instead.
18. I've never been to any part of Europe, but we're going to England for Christmas this year to visit family there and I can't wait.
19. I regularly go out in public with bed-head. With my hair, you just honestly can't tell. At least I don't think you can...
20. If I wear mascara more than once a week, something's up.
21. My boyfriend dumped me right before prom. Well ok, I broke up with him... but he was asking for it! Still, it was sad.
22. I wanted Jon to ask me to marry him at least a year before he did. (See #8.)
23. We prayed for guidance in when to start a family, and felt God leading us to wait 3 years before having kids. Nate was born 2 days after our 3rd anniversary.
24. I had so much fun this summer eating all kinds of "free" food: prunes from our trees, apples from my parents' trees, blackberries from around the neighborhood, veggies from my garden... nothing beats delicious food that you didn't have to buy!
25. When my whole family gets together for dinner, it doesn't take long before we are all quoting our favorite movies and laughing hysterically.
26. I wake up before my kids every morning.
27. I love college football.
28. I really want to be graceful... but I'm not. I love watching dancers and gymnasts because there's no way I could come close to what they do!
29. My dad can still beat me in a 25 yard freestyle race.
30. I want to get a goat in our backyard. I don't really have a good reason for this, just think it would be cool.
31. When I find something I love, even if its something trivial like a great brand of laundry soap, I am passionately evangelistic about it and want to tell everyone how great it is.
32. I am an optimist.
33. There is nothing in the world more important to me than Jesus Christ.
34. My fastest times in swimming are from when I was 15, even though I swam until I was 20. Darn puberty.
35. I am a recovering affirmation addict.
36. We want to adopt a baby (maybe lots of babies?) someday.
37. I have always always wanted to be a mom.
38. I miss school a lot. I miss tests and homework. I don't even know what I would go back to school for, I just know I'd love to go back someday.
39. I think bribery is God's gift to moms.
40. I feel guilty for the same stuff that I tell other people they shouldn't feel guilty about.
41. Jon and I love vegging out and watching TV or movies together. I honestly view this as quality time together.
42. Sundays are my favorite day of the week. Church is my favorite part of the day.
43. My kids eat way healthier than I do.
44. My mom is my hero. I don't know how she does it, she's amazing.
45. I love having people over to our house and I wish we did it more often.
46. When we first moved to Seattle, the sounds of birds and squirrels in the trees of our backyard totally freaked me out. City girl...
47. I would rather go through labor and delivery 5 times than experience the first 4 months of pregnancy once.
48. I love Flaming Hot Cheetos.
49. I am a morning person. I love seeing the sky just before the sun comes up... everything is fresh and new.
50. My kids are probably up from their naps now. :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fall has Fallen


the ballast fall harvest: figs, tomatoes (fit only for frying), beans, and apples


"mommy, can i sleep here?"


nate checks out a giant mushroom... dexter, mommy didn't forget you!


thanks for your help nate (and mommy)!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dexter's Busy Day

Dexter had a busy day today! First, he had to plan his narrow escape from a dark fate in the pantry:

a comic strip!

Then he got his first hair cut:





Then he started potty training! (If you think we're nuts for potty training a 12-month-old, click here.)

video

Thursday, October 2, 2008

how quickly we forget



Why is it that election years bring out the worst in people? Over the past few months I have been completely amazed at the utter lack of decency I have observed, NOT from the candidates themselves, but from their fans and followers. It's like suddenly everyone has forgotten everything they know about human behavior, relationships, perspectives, priorities, diversity... All that matters is whether you're voting for my guy. If you are, high 5. If you're not, I will spew hateful judgment upon you while praying for calamity to strike you on the way to the polls so that you can't do the will of Satan and cast your vote for evil.

Seriously, people? That is the phrase that has come back to me over and over and over lately. Seriously? Do you seriously believe that anyone who votes for John McCain is an ignorant, narrow-minded bigot who doesn't care about the poor and oppressed? Do you seriously believe that Barack Obama is secretly an American-hating Muslim who would use his presidential power to carry out jihad? Do you really believe these things?

I feel like doing my own version of the fantastic segment on SNL's Weekend Update: "Really", with Seth & Amy. Really people? Really? So, let me get this straight... if I vote Republican, I don't care about my children's future? Really? And really, if I vote Democrat, I hate unborn babies and advocate homosexual behavior? Really? You can't accept that your neighbor has a different set of priorities from you? Really. Really? You can't understand that every person in this country has a different history, a different story, different needs, different opinions and that does not make them stupid or worthless or ignorant? So, just so I understand you, only the people who think just like you are valuable? Really. REALLY?

I understand that people get passionate about these things. I think that's great. What frustrates me is when a passion for one person leads to the disrespect of another.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Brothers

The older our boys get, the smaller the age difference between them seems. Although there is a huge difference between 1 and 3, Nate and Dexter interact more and more as time goes by. Watching the kids interact usually brings us joy, frequently makes us laugh, and periodically makes us want to pull our hair out. The pictures below all represent instances of joy/laughter producing interaction, but here's a quick story that is firmly in the hair-pulling category:

Last week I was vacuuming the upstairs while the boys entertained themselves - Dexter in the living room with one of his new birthday toys and Nate all over the house with a feather duster. Seeing that each boy was happily engaged in a good and safe activity, I decided to quickly vacuum their rooms. It took me 5 minutes at the very most, during which time I couldn't see or hear either boy. I turned off the vacuum and heard a sound that is scary to any mother: silence. I glanced in the living room and didn't see Dexter, so I headed toward the master bedroom. No sign of them in there, but I decided to stick my head in the master bath just in case (God forbid) they had ventured in there. I will not soon forget the scene I walked into: Dexter was leaning over the toilet while Nate was dipping the feather duster into the toilet bowl and flinging toilet water all over the bathroom. Both boys were soaking wet, head to toe and clearly having the time of their lives. Ahh brotherly interaction.

Playing at Children's Hospital while we visited Courtney, Jesse and Asher

Nate "helping" Dexter figure out a new birthday present

A very rare nap in the car on the way home from Vancouver

Both boys love a good book

Their newest (and my favorite) activity: playing under the table


Cheesing it up at breakfast

Monday, September 15, 2008

If you don't have anything nice to say... ask for a fork.



The Scene: Yesterday. Nate is strapped in his car seat, ready to go to church. He has some fake food to keep him occupied; he is pretending to eat spaghetti and ice cream. I am making too many trips between the house and the car, getting us all ready to go.

Nate: Mommy!

Me: (while shoving extra diapers in Dexter's bag) Yes Nate?

Nate: I have something nice to say to you!

Me: (pausing and looking up, excited to hear a gem of love from my boy) What's that buddy?

Nate: Um... can I please have a fork?

At least he had something to say nicely... if not something actually nice to say! But maybe he had just lost his train of thought, because out of the blue about 10 minutes later while we were driving to church he says, "Mommy? (Yes, Nate.) You're a princess." There it is.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A 3-year-old's perspective



Me: Nate, what would you think about having another baby in the family? (We are NOT planning to have one anytime soon, I was just asking out of pure curiosity, I swear.)

Nate: (excited) Oooh! ...Or we could go to the park! Or the pool!

His Beloved Whore (go read Hosea)


The church is a whore but she's my mother. - St. Augustine

I'm getting tired of listening to people criticize the church, and I choose the word "criticize" very carefully. Not rebuke, admonish, or call out. You can rebuke someone in love. You can call someone out on their destructive behavior because you love them and care what happens to them. But when you criticize, you are putting a wall between yourself and that person; labeling them as bad and separating yourself from them.

[I may need to stop here and define "the Church." Let's go with this: the gathering of God's people for the purpose of worship. So when I say church I'm talking specifically about people who are gathered together to worship God, not just the general idea of all Christians everywhere. Notice that the concept of people gathering implies a particular space and time.]

It is absolutely true that the church needs rebuking, and you can start with me. Of all the things the church is criticized for, I'm sure I am guilty of most (if not all) of them. Hypocrisy? Check. Idolatry? Check. Impure motives? Self-absorption? Self-righteousness? Check, check, and check. So I guess this is why I don't see you on Sunday? Because church is full of people like me?

Here's why I don't get it: Sure, we're hypocrites. Yes, we miss the point. Ok, we come for the wrong reasons sometimes. But isn't it still worth it? Even if I waste half the time worshiping any number of idols (the great band, the sound of my own voice, the intellect of the pastor), if I experience even one moment of true worship... one moment where I put self aside and bow before the God of the universe... isn't that beyond worth it? Even if I miss what the pastor is saying because I'm trying to figure out where the girl in front of me got her dress... if the Holy Spirit breaks through my shallowness and reveals the truth of God's word, how blessed am I? What grace, what beautiful overflowing grace, that God still pierces through my human nature and reveals His presence.

This happens to me every Sunday morning. In the midst of my sinfulness, my idolatry, my blindness... God shows up. I see Him in the words of ancient prayers and hymns. I remember Him as I come to the communion table. I feel His peace as I join my voice with others' in prayer.

Are there hypocrites at church? Yeah. Is there corruption, greed, and self-righteousness? Yep. Somehow even still... Is God moving among His people? YES. Can He break through our sin and allow us to worship Him in spirit and truth? YES. Has God abandoned His bride? Never. So bring on the rebuke, call me out. But do it in love, because God loves the church.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Was it a good trade?


(I don't know these people -- this picture is purely representative.)

One of the reasons I'm not sure I could ever be in full-time youth ministry is that I get really REALLY bummed when kids mess up. So since kids are human and we humans tend to mess up a lot... I end up really bummed on a regular basis. This is something I wrote as a response to one of those youth ministry experiences. I wasn't going to post it because I thought it wasn't relevant to this blog. But it turns out my preschool kids will eventually be youth group kids... not to mention the fact that everyone messes up, not just teenagers, so I guess that makes it relevant.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Every act is a spiritual act. It's whether you're aware of the spiritual implications of what you're doing.
-Rob Bell

I see you.
You are bartering. Trading.
Do you know?
Somewhere, you do.
Was it a good trade?

You heard them. You listened.
They lied, but you didn't care.
This will be fun.
Let me show you.
You laughed, but without joy.
You felt release, but no freedom.
You were numb, but still hurting.

What did you bring to the table?
What did you trade?
Innocence.
Purity.
Decency.
Beauty.
Simplicity.
Truth.
Trust.
Peace.
Me.

Come back!
The robe, the ring, the feast...
It's all waiting.
I'm standing on tiptoe, hoping.
I love you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Good Intentions

This summer God has presented me with some incredible and very humbling opportunities to share my faith. As I reflect on those experiences, something jumps out at me. Nearly all of the people I talked to had hang-ups with Christianity because of negative experiences, either with Christians themselves or with Christian education. Some had been turned off by judgmental or hypocritical people who claimed to be Christians. Others had felt forced or pressured into religion through Christian education, then put off further by 'boring' rituals, rote memorization, and graded tests on religious principles.

What scares me about this, particularly as a parent, is not that my kids will be led astray by hypocrital Christians they meet or overly strict Sunday School teachers. My fear is that I will prove no less hypocritical... that the religious education my children receive, whether around the dinner table or at church, will lead them to empty rituals instead of fulfilled relationship. Of course I have the best of intentions for my children... but anyone who admits the existence of Truth must also admit that good intentions are not enough. I don't doubt for a minute that our local Christian high school was founded with the best of intentions. And yet, in the minds of the students I spoke with, the beauty and truth of the gospel has been reduced to a set of motions one must go through. [To be fair, I have also met students from this school who love Jesus and have been radically changed through their relationship with Him.]

Getting back to my point, parental (or institutional) good intentions are not enough. Intending to teach your children the truth about God does not guarantee that they will get it, and apparently they may end up resenting you for it. So what is a parent to do? Some parents take the 'let them find their own way' approach, based on the idea that religion is something everyone has to discover for themselves. I can see where these parents are coming from, to some degree. But how could I hide the love and grace of God from my children? It would be like withholding food from them on the grounds that it will taste better if they go out and find it for themselves. But at a certain point (and here's the hard part), kids need to start making their own PBJ... and making their own choices. I can teach them everything I know about fiber and protein and trans-fats, but I can't and won't go off to college with them and make sure they eat right in the dorm cafeteria.

So I guess that is the same approach we will take with spiritual matters. By our lives and our words, we will testify to our children the love and grace we have received through Jesus Christ. We will pray for them, hoping that as they start making their own choices (and their own PBJs - yay!), they will respond to the good news they have heard and follow Jesus. What happens if they don't? That's a question I don't have answers for.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Two Small Coins



Every time I've set foot on this rock
You've reminded me that I am not alone
That I will never be alone

(Brandon Heath)

Two weeks ago I went to a Young Life camp in Canada called Malibu Club. It is my favorite place in the world. Though I'm not very well-traveled, I am fairly certain that I could visit every country in the world... and come back saying that Malibu is still my favorite place to be. It's not just the beauty of the place, it is what God has done in my life on that little piece of rock that juts out into the Princess Luisa inlet.

On this last trip to Malibu I got to lead a cabin of 11 girls from 4 different high schools, and I also brought along Nate, Dexter, and Katie (our babysitter). I could spend several hours and thousands of words writing about all the stories, laughs, challenges, struggles, and victories of the week... but I think I'll just talk about one word that keeps coming back to me when I think back on the trip: Redemption.

If there is one thing I learned during and since that week, it is that our God redeems. Like the widow in the temple, I gave Him two small, nearly worthless coins, and He made them into something beautiful and eternally valuable.

I offered the time I had to give, though due to prior commitments I had to go to camp a day later than the rest of the group.
I thought it was silly to go through so much hassle to travel separately and get up there after everyone else.
God redeemed when it turned out three campers had to come up a day late as well, so I was able to travel with them.



I brought
my two small children along.
I thought the kids might be in the way, that they would be a distraction or take away from what was supposed to be happening.
God redeemed when a camper stood up on the last night to share that he had grown up without a father figure, but that as he watched Dr. Bob play with his grandchildren (my kids) in the pool this week he was able to see what God's fatherly love looks like.



I gave each girl half an hour of my time on the last day of camp to talk over what they'd been hearing at Club throughout the week.
I thought they don't get it, they're not ready, this isn't sinking in.
God redeemed as one by one, each girl told me they wanted to begin or renew a relationship with Jesus. Later that night they stood up in front of their peers to profess their new faith.
God redeems still as these girls call me for coffee dates, hungry to talk about what this new life means and how to live it out each day.

It doesn't matter how little or how much I have to give... just that I give it with a joyful and grateful heart, knowing that our all-powerful God can use it for His glory.

Monday, June 23, 2008

June 20

flip-flops crunching rocks and sand
towels around necks
heavy-laden daddies and coolers
passing babies over the bow
flat water
glorious mountain
warm boys snuggled close
wind-whipped hair
squinting through brilliant evening sun
iridescent eyes
beer and bratwurst
chips and salsa
pudgy hands chasing ants
never-ending rocks for throwing
family
following the sun home
squealing, shrieking, singing balance out
an arm for each
grabbing tight through freighter trails
sleepy eyes and heads
majestic mountain darkens
from home
to home























Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kids as Art


Sabbath.

Art.

These two words have been playing off each other in my brain for a couple of weeks now. I guess it started when our pastor preached a sermon about Sabbath, and that same week there was an "Art Night" at church. I'm not sure if that was coincidence, but this quote (used in the program for the Art Night) pairs the two together in an interesting way:

“Like visitors to an art gallery who arrive 20 minutes before closing time we rush from exhibit to exhibit, fearful that we shall miss something worthwhile. The horizon of our own finitude haunts us, and we rush to cram as much as we possibly can into the available space, traveling ever faster and further, seeing and tasting more, trying out as many options as we can while we have the time and, ironically, as a consequence having time for very little at all. Has there ever been a generation with so little time actually to take time and enjoy the world? Always craving the next thing we so often fail to savour the moment offered to us.” (Hope Against Hope: Christian Eschatology at the Turn of the Millennium by Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart, 178)

I've been thinking about Sabbath and Art as they relate to motherhood. My children are two of the most exquisitely beautiful pieces of art I will ever see, and I am lucky enough to have them with me every day. But so often I am rushing around, trying to make time for everything... failing to savor the moment... haunted by my own finitude.

I can hear God calling me to slow down, to see what He has done, what He is doing... particularly in and through my children. An art exhibit may stay in a museum for weeks or even years, but today is the only day that my children will be who they are right now. What a privilege to hear them laugh, see them grow, help them learn today.

God, bring me out of the rushing chaos and into your Sabbath rest. Thank you for the amazing art you have created in my children. Help me to slow down and appreciate it today and every day. Amen.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Strike A Pose


Brace yourselves for some honesty. Some raw, middle-of-the-night, why-did-i-drink-coffee-at-7:30-pm honesty. You ready? Here it is:

I am a poser.

If I take a good hard look at myself, I see that apparently my favorite activities are posing, posturing, preening... basically doing what I can to convince the rest of the world I'm pretty awesome. Which I am. See, there I go again! Shoot.

Seriously though, it is really ugly to watch if you know its happening. Take the following conversation I just had with a friend this evening:

-------------
Friend: Hey looks like you've been getting some sun lately.

Me: Oh yeah, I'm coaching a swim team so I'm outside a ton. Actually I got sunburned in the rain the other day. (i.e. I defy nature. How awesome is that.)

Friend: (apparently thinks this is interesting and launches into song about getting sunburned in the rain)

Me: Yeah, people are always saying 'Wow, you're tan!' like its a good thing. I forget that people here actually try to get tan... I really try not to, I don't want to get cancer! (i.e. Other people think my tan is awesome, but I am way too cool and health-conscious for that.)
------------

This is just one example out of a million. See how I'm tricky about it? It doesn't really sound on the surface like I'm being a preening, posing, try-hard... but it's there if you're looking for it. Of course I know we all do this on some level; as humans we crave acknowledgment from one another. But it's still not pleasant to see that element of my broken human nature up close.

Why does it bother me so much? Because ultimately I want to become someone who has lost the taste for that, who no longer craves it. I want to believe God when He says that His grace is sufficient. I want to stop hearing it and start listening to it. I want to live on the razor's edge of face-to-the-dust humility and eyes-to-the-sky worship.

So here's something true I can say about myself - no posing or posturing now. My most precious asset is intimately linked with my most horrible fault, for I am the worst of all sinners (1Tim 1:15) and yet Christ loves me and died for me (Rom 5:8).