Tuesday, December 29, 2009

they said it

We are thoroughly enjoying a week of rest, play, and family time at Jon's parents' house in Michigan. Nate and Dexter have quite an audience of grandparents, aunts, and uncles and they have not disappointed!


[Upon coming upstairs, directed toward Grandpa]

Dexter (loudly): Is anyone looking for a grandson?


[Nate got a Nerf gun from Aunt Keri and Uncle CJ. He was playing with it downstairs as we were about to gather the whole family together to sing Christmas carols.]

Jon: Nate, come upstairs - it's time to sing some songs about peace on earth.

Nate: Peace on earth? OK, I'll put my gun down.


[Referring to the pig-in-a-blanket that Dexter was trying to eat with a spoon]

Me: Dexter, you have to use your hands to eat that.

Dexter: It's too hot! Mommy, will you roll it up and pour soup on it?

I have no idea where my kids get this stuff, but it does provide good, cheap entertainment!

looking at the one

Haregewoin Teferra, from the book There Is No Me Without You

I am beginning to wake up.

I wish I could say that, because God so loved the world, I have too. I wish I could say that statistics about genocide and child soldiers and poverty and hunger have motivated me to make real changes in my life -- to sacrificially love the suffering world. Sure, I've shed a tear, prayed some prayers, even sent monthly checks. I've talked about these things at dinner parties like a good socially-conscious Christian should. But mostly I have felt numb and powerless, overwhelmed by numbers I can't understand and concepts I have never experienced. In the end, these problems have been too big and too far removed from my comfortable suburban life to move me to authentic compassion.

Even our decision to adopt from Ethiopia hasn't felt like a reaction to the suffering world, necessarily, but more like a simple yielding to the way in which God has called us to build our family. We don't view it as rescuing a suffering orphan, but rather bringing home our son or daughter and fulfilling God's promise to care for him or her.

As part of our adoption preparation, I am reading a book called There Is No Me Without You, the story of an Ethiopian woman who accidentally starts an orphanage in her home. Much of the book centers on the problem of AIDS in Ethiopia and other developing countries, and the tidal wave of orphans it has created as an entire generation disappears from the disease. I have heard all this before. I have read the statistics, heard Bono's speeches, and seen pictures from friends' mission trips. So why was I completely shocked by this book? Why did I feel like I was hearing all of this for the first time? What made me suddenly care?

Mother Teresa called it "looking at the one." According to sociological research, when human beings are faced with massive problems on a global scale they experience what researcher Dr. Paul Slovic calls psychic numbing. They don't care, and they don't act - perhaps because they don't feel that they can make any difference. When faced with the problems of a single individual, humans are empathetic, compassionate, and willing to give sacrificially to the cause.

One of the children in this book is my child. AIDS is killing the generation that should have fed, clothed, and educated my child, and all this time I have not cared. We have not cared. Miracle-working drugs have made HIV manageable and AIDS almost invisible in America and that is good enough for us. Drug patents, international trade policy, and illogical, self-serving rhetoric are keeping Americans safe, healthy, and rich while children in Africa wake up between two dead parents. Am I over-stating? Over-simplifying?

I don't know. All I know is that an Ethiopian child I've never met is already teaching me, waking me up, shaking my shoulders, and asking me to move.

Monday, December 21, 2009

they said it: movie edition

PLEASE can we watch The Lion King, Mommy?

If you have ever been around me and my siblings for more than a few minutes, then you have heard us quote from one of the following movies: The Princess Bride, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Orange County, Anchorman, or Dumb & Dumber (and please don't judge my siblings on account of this list, they were led by a very bad example). My poor sister-in-law Emma, who grew up in Australia, thought we were completely batty for the first year until she figured out that when we started talking nonsense we were actually quoting movies.

All that is a long way to say... my family likes to quote movies. Imagine my pride when I observed my children inheriting this wonderful trait! Nate enjoys quoting from movies, but his favorite thing is to play a game where I have to guess which movie the quote is from. I am terrible at this game, since he is quoting movies like Veggie Tales: King George and the Ducky, but he is very patient with me. "Think about it, Mommy!" he says encouragingly, even when I insist I have no idea who said "Now stick your tongue out!" (In case you're wondering, it was Mittens from the movie Bolt.)

Recently Dexter has also been showing promise in the movie-quoting realm. I thought he was just being strange yesterday when he looked up at me and said thoughtfully, "Mommy, when I grow up I want to be Peaches." But apparently, Peaches is a character in the movie Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which he watched at Nana and Papa's house this weekend. I am still deciding whether this makes his comment any less strange!

Then last night we were getting the boys ready for bed and Dexter escaped into the living room. He started jumping up and down on the couch stark naked and shouting, "I speak whale! I speak whale! I speak whale!" For those of you who did not watch the movie Finding Nemo 136 times in 9 days while your toddler was in the hospital... well, I guess you just won't get it. :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

fourth sunday of advent

Arrival, by Todd, Janet, Sage (8), and Karsten (5) Gibson

Sage, age 8, read this poem in church today:

First Coming
by Madeleine L’Engle

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

better than our promises

Our engagement photo, circa 2001.

We had a glorious weekend in LA for our dear friends' wedding. It felt like a family reunion in many ways: laughing, telling stories, eating, dancing, bickering good-naturedly. The warm sun coupled with deep friendship to do good work in our souls.

I had the privilege of being a bridesmaid in the wedding, so I had an up-close view of the bride and groom as they spoke their vows to one another. In that moment, the words of a Sara Groves song came to my mind: Better than our promises / is the day we got to keep them / I wish those two could see us now / they never would believe how / there are different kinds of happy.

I thought about my own wedding day and the words we spoke, having not the faintest idea what we were saying but knowing that we would find out together. And we have. It has been beautiful, enriching, painful, and redemptive. There are different kinds of happy and, as Sara goes on to say in the chorus of the song, it's a sweet, sweet thing.

Congratulations Matt & Tiffany! We pray that your marriage is richly layered with different kids of happy for decades to come.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

to pause

To pause may open
us to space
of stillness
solitude in unity.

Kneeling in the black
to let
a sinking quiet
seep against the flow
of pumping veins
from fingers, toes
to chambers,
and rest there.

The table
lifts a modest column,
wax and cord
as yet intact
now ready for
the melting trial.

Scraping flint to
spark and
gasping breath
do not disturb
our silent sweet
togetherness --

An unseen fire.

Monday, December 14, 2009

they said it

[Today in the car.]

Dexter: What are you eating Mommy?

Me: I'm drinking coffee, sweetie.

Dexter: Mom, when I'm two and a half, can I drink coffee just like you do?

Me: Um... I don't know about that...

Dexter: Then I will be big and strong.

[Today at the grocery store, Dexter sees a display with a 2 foot tall Pillsbury Dough Boy. I swear this was totally unprompted and I've never called him a dough boy... to his face anyway.]

Dexter (pointing at the dough boy): Look Mommy! It's just like me! It's just like me!

things that do not happen in LA

I do miss the sun once in awhile, but these 2 stories are just a tiny slice of why I absolutely love living where we do.

Two summers ago we were out on a walk in our neighborhood. Dexter was just not quite a year old at the time, and so naturally was in the habit of pulling off his socks any chance he got. When we got back from our walk I noticed that only one of his cute little yellow USC socks had made it home with us. I was bummed, as we don't have many stores here in Seattle that carry USC stuff (go figure). A week later we were at the local pool and another mom came up to me holding Dexter's sock! "We saw it on the sidewalk by 4th Avenue [about a mile from our house] and knew it must be yours," she told me.

On his way home the other day Jon was stopped at an intersection about 1/4 mile from our house and noticed a kid's glove hanging from a nail on the stop sign. He thought it looked suspiciously familiar, so he grabbed it just in case. Sure enough, the lonely mate was stuffed in Nate's jacket pocket - the other one must have fallen out on our bike ride a day or two earlier. Which means someone saw it, picked it up, and hung it on the stop sign just in case its owner passed by there again.

Oh, I do love it here.

For the record, the raccoon family that lives in our yard is NOT one of the reasons I love living here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

third sunday in advent

Joy To The World, by Cheryl, Brian, Michael (9) and Matthew (2) Spitzer

In addition to the poem and image, today I want to share an excerpt from another post about the 3rd Sunday in Advent (read the whole thing here).

Today is Gaudete Sunday ("Gaudete" is Latin for "rejoicing"). In the midst of Advent’s long journey, our worship on this day calls us to lift up our eyes, focus anew on our destination, and thus find renewed strength and refreshment from realizing that “our redemption draws near.” To mark this day, the liturgical colors are changed from deep purple or blue to rose-pink. That is why the third candle is different than the others on the Advent Wreath.

Here is a word to keep us going to the end. “The Lord is near.” So, take a few moments today to rejoice. Be gentle with yourself and others. Cast your worries on the Lord. Say a word of thanks when you pray. Receive his gift of peace.
Breathe. Rest up. Enjoy a moment of respite and allow yourself a little rejoicing.


The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold

by Madeleine L’Engle

The winter is cold, is cold.
All’s spent in keeping warm.
Has joy been frozen, too?
I blow upon my hands
Stiff from the biting wind.
My heart beats slow, beats slow.
What has become of joy?

If joy’s gone from my heart
Then it is closed to You
Who made it, gave it life.
If I protect myself
I’m hiding, Lord, from you.
How we defend ourselves
In ancient suits of mail!

Protected from the sword,
Shrinking from the wound,
We look for happiness,
Small, safety-seeking, dulled,
Selfish, exclusive, in-turned.
Elusive, evasive, peace comes
Only when it’s not sought.

Help me forget the cold
That grips the grasping world.
Let me stretch out my hands
To purifying fire,
Clutching fingers uncurled.
Look! Here is the melting joy.
My heart beats once again.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

second sunday in advent

OK, so it's Thursday. Hey, I'm just faithfully living out the words in my post from earlier this week about failure...

Origin Story (detail), Lily Hewitt (age 9)

Too Much To Ask
by Luci Shaw

It seemed too much to ask
of one small virgin
that she should stake shame
against the will of God.
All she had to hold to
were those soft, inward
and the remembered sting
of a brief junction- spirit
with flesh.
who would think it
more than a dream wish?
an implausible, laughable

And it seems much
too much to ask me
to be part of the
different thing-
God’s shocking, unorthodox,
unheard of Thing
to further heaven’s hopes
and summon God’s glory.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

the beaten path

Tonight I heard a poet I love speak words I needed. The poem she read contained a reference to a Fredrick Beuchner quote that sent me searching the interwebs for the full context. I was not disappointed.

From Wishful Thinking: A Seeker's ABC
by Frederick Buechner

We all pray whether we think of it as praying or not. The odd silence we fall into when something very beautiful is happening, or something very good or very bad. The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of us as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the skyrocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else’s pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy. Whatever words or sounds we use for sighing with over our own lives. These are all prayers in their way. These are all spoken not just to ourselves but to something even more familiar than ourselves and even more strange than the world.

According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it. The images he uses to explain this are all rather comic, as though he thought it was rather comic to have to explain it at all. He says God is like a friend you go to borrow bread from at midnight. The friend tells you in effect to drop dead, but you go on knocking anyway until finally he gives you what you want so he can go back to bed again (Luke 11:5 – 8). Or God is like a crooked judge who refuses to hear the case of a certain poor widow, presumably because he knows there’s nothing much in it for him. But she keeps on hounding him until finally he hears her case just to get her out of his hair (Luke 18:1 – 8). Even a stinker, Jesus says, won’t give his own child a black eye when the child asks for peanut butter and jelly, so how all the more will God when his children . . . (Matthew 7:9 – 11)”?

Be importunate, Jesus says – not, one assumes, because you have to beat a path to God’s door before he’ll open it, but because until you beat the path maybe there’s no way of getting your door. “Ravish my heart,” John Donne wrote. But God will not usually ravish. He will only court.

Whatever else it may or may not be, prayer is at least talking to yourself, and that’s in itself not always a bad idea. Talk to yourself about your own life, about what you’ve done and what you’ve failed to do, and about who you are and who you wish you were and who the people you love are and the people you don’t love too. Talk to yourself about what matters most to you, because if you don’t, you may forget what matters most to you.

Even if you don’t believe anybody’s listening, at least you’ll be listening. Believe Somebody is listening. Believe in miracles. That’s what Jesus told the father who asked him to heal his epileptic son. Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” And the father spoke for all of us when he answered, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14 – 29).

What about when the boy is healed? When, listened to or not listened to, the prayer goes unanswered? Who knows? Just keep praying, Jesus says. Remember the sleepy friend, the crooked judge. Even if the boy dies, keep on beating the path to God’s door, because the one thing you can be sure of is that down the path you beat with even your most half-cocked and halting prayer the God you call upon will finally come, and even if he does not bring you the answer you want, he will bring you himself. And maybe at the secret heart of all our prayers, that is what we are really praying for.

Tuolumne Meadows, inspiration for Luci Shaw's poem Making A Path.

Monday, December 7, 2009

homestudy buddy

We've heard that adoption is a hurry-up-and-wait process. If that's true, we are definitely in the "hurry up" part! Our first contact with our social worker was Friday, December 4. We met with her 2 days later and have 2 more meetings on the calendar, so by Monday, December 21 we will be done with that part of the homestudy. Then there will be about 2-3 weeks of writing for both us and the social worker, after which we will be completely DONE with the homestudy!

We will then have a few more steps to take to make our dossier complete and authenticated, but it's possible that we will be ready for a referral as early as February. For those of you unfamiliar with adoption-speak, that means we find out who our child is -- name, gender, pictures, biographical information, etc. There is usually about a 4-6 month wait between accepting a referral and traveling to pick up the child, so we are still shooting for late summer or early fall for our travel. This could all change of course, as there are many unpredictable elements in the process of international adoption... but still... we're excited!

[By the way, I titled the post "homestudy buddy" because I love love love our social worker! She is so helpful and encouraging -- one of those people who you meet and feel like you've known forever. And she brought me incredible authentic Ethiopian coffee. I love her.]

P.S. Our agency director, Joy Casey, is currently in Ethiopia visiting the orphanages... she will probably hug & kiss our child on this trip without even knowing it -- crazy! If you want to read the reports she is sending back, check out the YWAM Ethiopia blog.

sorry gene kranz (as played by ed harris)...

...but it turns out that failure IS very much an option.

How did a made-up quote from a 1990s movie about a 1970 moon mission get so deeply ingrained in my mind? In truth, I can't really blame Apollo 13 for my perfectionism. I have always wanted to do things right the first time. I have never wanted grace: I have preferred not to need it, thanks.

The other day I drove by a neighbor's yard and caught sight of a dark red apple hanging on an otherwise barren tree. I almost stopped. I so badly wanted to stand under the tree and look up at the lonely apple, hands on my hips. "It's December," I would say. "It's OK to fall now."

Friday, December 4, 2009

i feel you

Last night was our church's prayer service, a monthly gathering with prayer, silence, music, and communion. Toward the end of the evening we shared requests for ourselves and others and prayed for each other. I asked for prayer about our adoption process -- for God's guidance and provision throughout each step of our journey toward bringing our child home.

After all the requests were shared, we bowed our heads together. Forrest prayed for Bob. Vicki prayed for Lorraine. I prayed for Russell. And then Mary Jane began to pray for me and Jon and our child in Ethiopia. I have known for months now that we have a child waiting for us across the world. But last night, maybe for the first time, I felt it. All of a sudden I had strong and urgent desire to GO - to run across the mountains and oceans and cultures and red tape that separate me from my child. The child I love, but whose face I haven't seen.

Wait for me, my love. I'm coming.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

lost in translation

Things I love:
1. Hearing and understanding the opinions of others.
2. Voicing my own opinions and feeling heard and understood.
3. Communicating by email and social media websites.

Now what I'm about to say on this topic is in no way original or anything more than basic common sense, but I am still going to say it:

When written communication between individuals -- whether email, facebook, twitter, whatever - is not predicated by a mutual understanding of personality, perspective, and beliefs, then clear, efficient, and civilized correspondence is difficult at best, and often simply impossible.

Allow me to illustrate. I recently got a message from a total stranger. This person made judgments and assumptions about me based on a few sentences I had written on a social media site. In a tone dripping with condescension, they proceeded to write nearly 750 words telling me where I had gone wrong, why they were right, and what I should do about it. And this was from a fellow believer.

I could write 750 words right now about how this made me feel... but if I really think about it, why would I expect anything different? Why would this person understand where I am coming from, what I believe, what my history and experiences have been? And when I read the message sent to me, why do I assume I know those things about the individual who wrote it? I don't.

I struggled for a bit about how to respond. I didn't want to react in kind, or try to engage in a point-by-point debate, or write something fueled by emotion that I would regret later. In the end, I did write back. I thought about the chapter in Mere Christianity called "Let's Pretend." In that chapter, C.S. Lewis advocates a "good pretending," in which we pretend to be something that we ought to be, but know that we are not yet. So I pretended to love the person to whom I was writing. I pretended to believe the best about them. I pretended that I had already forgiven their judgments and rudeness, and pretended to believe that they meant no ill-will.

It was not very hard to pretend. The hard part is now allowing the person of Jesus Christ to come in and do the work of making pretense into reality. The hard part is relinquishing the unexpressed feelings of anger, hurt, and resentment. The hard part is choosing not to write 100 different scathing responses in my head. Because at the end of the day, those thoughts and feelings will only hurt me. I love this quote from recovering alcoholic and heroine of the Rebel Alliance, Carrie Fisher: Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Preach on, princess.

To summarize, I have re-committed myself to using social media primarily to share my thoughts about important stuff like how many times my 2-year-old peed today and why I love peppermint mochas. I'll save the boring politics/theology/hot-button issues for real life conversations - you know, the kind that incorporate tone of voice, facial expression, body language, eye contact, laughing, crying, and maybe even a hug.

first sunday in advent

I have decided to observe the Advent season on my blog by sharing a poem and an image each Sunday. All of the images were created by members of John Knox Presbyterian Church as part of our advent art exhibit. If you live nearby, come see the paintings on display at JKPC until January 3.

May God bless you in this season of waiting, hope, and promise.

Love Descending, Taylor Hewitt (age 12)

Advent Antiphons
Sister Mary Charlita, Immaculate Heart of Mary

From Mary's sweet silence
Come, Word mutely spoken!

Pledge of our real life,
Come, Bread yet unbroken!

Seed of the Golden Wheat,
In us be sown.

Fullness of true Light,
Through us be known.

Secret held tenderly,
Guarded with Love,

Cradled in purity,
Child of the Dove,


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

another step closer

The Check-List Wall.

Today, for neither the first nor the last time, we will mail a fat packet of paperwork to our adoption agency. It contains all the necessary forms that need to be in place before the homestudy begins in earnest (i.e. social worker in-home visits), including:

-Supplemental Homestudy Form (asks hard questions like "Have you ever been convicted of child abuse?" Um... do convicted child abusers really try to adopt??)
-Medical Reports for both husband and wife (had to be notarized -- good thing I know a guy.)
-Employment Verification letter
-Autobiography for both husband and wife (over 25 pages of questions about every last little detail of our whole lives... incredibly time-consuming to fill out... but we did it!)

It feels good to check stuff off the list, knowing we are getting closer each day to meeting our next child.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

hereditary hyperbole

Nate came into the kitchen as I was making dinner tonight. I did what seemed most natural at the time: picked him up, turned him upside down, sang a silly song, and tickled his belly. As I set him down and he trotted off I heard him say to himself, Ahhhh... that was the best thing ever.

Now where on earth would he have learned that phrase? ;)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ride the coal train

OK here comes a shameless commercial post... but hey, when I see a good thing I like to pass it along!

If you are like me, music for kids generally makes you want to stick your head in the oven. Asinine lyrics, annoying tunes, awful production, and for some reason your kids can't get enough. Well friends, the day has come -- someone has FINALLY made music that kids love and adults secretly listen to while the kids aren't around. Coal Train Railroad, by Katy Bowser and Chris Donohue is silly, fun, beautiful, catchy, well-written, well-made jazz music for kids. If you have kids in your house, or maybe just on your Christmas gift-buying list, this CD is a no-brainer. Don't believe me? Download a 2-song sampler free and my bet is that you'll be back for more. For the next few days you can get a 5-pack of CDs for $40 and knock out presents for your neices, nephews, bosses' kids, and the neighbor boy across the street.

Alright commercial's over. Dance party time at the Ballast house, also known as 'keep the kids from going crazy until Daddy gets home'... maybe we'll use some Coal Train tunes! :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

thy kingdom come

My nephew Asher is amazing. Although I don't blog about him often enough, I talk about him all the time. People I barely know stop me in the grocery store or at church and ask how he is doing. That boy has had a literal army of people (OK, technically a figurative army -- they are unarmed, unless you mean 'armed' in the metaphorical Ephesians 6:13 sense of the word, but I digress) praying for him his entire life.

I got to share about Asher when I gave the wrap-up talk at JAM (our church's weekly kids outreach program) last week. The kids are studying the Lord's Prayer this year and the topic of the week was "Thy Kingdom Come." Here's the gist of what I said...

[After some cheesy jokes to get them warmed up...] OK, so tonight I want to tell you about my family. I have 2 brothers and a sister, all younger than me. My brothers are Travis and Chase and my sister is Courtney. Courtney called me just over 2 years ago and gave me some really exciting news: She was going to have a baby! I was thrilled. Then about 3 months later, Courtney called me again. She had gone to her doctor's appointment to find out if she was having a girl or a boy, and she found out she was having a boy... [boys in the room cheered loudly, kinda threw me off! After they calmed down...] but she also found out that the baby wasn't developing normally and had some problems [whole room looked sad and said "awwwww." Lots of crowd participation!].

So my whole family and everyone we knew began to pray for this baby. The doctors said that the baby would need to stay in Courtney's belly [I thought the word "uterus" might freak them out] as long as possible in order to have the best shot at life. And then 8 weeks before her due date, Courtney went into labor. We prayed even harder - Lord, please let this baby stay in her belly at least a few more weeks! We prayed and prayed... but the baby still came, 8 weeks early. Here is a picture of when Asher a few weeks after he was born:

And do you know what we found out after Asher was born? The doctors were wrong! It turned out that he was born at just the right time, and that if he had stayed in any longer he might have had even more serious problems and might not have made it. But he did make it, and here is what he looks like today, at age 21 months:

So we were praying and praying for the baby not to be born yet, but all along God knew exactly the right time. Did God answer our prayer? I think He did, because what we were really praying was Lord, make it right! (which is another way to say thy kingdom come), and God did exactly that, it just didn't happen the way we thought it would.

Now when Jesus taught the disciples to pray "thy kingdom come," the disciples had a very specific picture of what that should look like. When they prayed "thy kingdom come" they were praying for Jesus to set up His kingdom on earth by literally becoming the King of Israel. So how do you think it felt when, instead of becoming King, Jesus was put to death on the cross? It must have felt a little bit like when the doctor came out of the room and told us, "I'm sorry, we can't stop the labor. This baby is going to come tonight." We were sad. We thought the worst. But we didn't realize that God was actually answering our prayer! And He was answering the disciples prayer too, even when Jesus was sent to the cross. By dying on the cross and overcoming death in His resurrection, Jesus did bring His kingdom to earth. His kingdom now lives in us, because Jesus our King lives in us. God is answering our prayers, God is making things right -- it just doesn't always look like what we're expecting or hoping for. Let's pray.

Our Father, who art in heaven
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory forever,

Monday, November 9, 2009

bad stanley

I found this in the basement and asked Dexter about it.

Me: Dexter, is Stanley in time-out?

Dexter: Yes.

Me: What did he do?

Dexter: He hitted.

Fair enough.

advent art-making

Last night a group of families got together in the church gym to connect and spend time together, share a meal, and create original paintings for our church's Advent art exhibit. I forgot my camera, so all I can show you (for now) are the pictures I took on my phone, but I am hoping to have the paintings photographed and I'll share more at that point.

Several times throughout the night I had that feeling - I call it a "pause" feeling - where I just wanted to freeze time for a moment and take it all in. An artist in his 80s smiling as he watched a two-year-old sponge paint. A family of four gathered around an easel, each quietly working on a different section of their canvas. Sisters flipping through their sketchbooks together. Three kids and their parents, new to the church, chatting with another family as they painted. A father and daughter explaining the theological themes and ideas behind their work.

God was truly moving among His people as we created in community. The paintings will be displayed in the John Knox atrium from November 29 - January 3. Come check them out!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

full hands

Me and the crew (+2) headed to the park this afternoon.

"Wow, you sure have your hands full!"

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that, I'd have at least $1.35, maybe $1.40. Not a lot of money, but it is a lot of times to hear strangers make uninvited comments about my life. Maybe this shouldn't bug me, but here are 3 reasons why it does:

1. The tone of voice is always one of pity, as in "Oh you poor thing." I don't need your pity. I am doing what I love: I am spending time with my children. OK, so maybe they just spilled a full bag of popcorn in the bottom of the cart at Target... I still don't want or need your pity, thanks.

2. When the tone is drenched in pity it makes me feel like that person is saying that this stage of family life is one that I'm expected to drudge through and just survive until the "easier" days of school-age or grown-up children. Why? This is the time in my children's lives when I get to see them the most -- when I get to eat, read, giggle, tell stories, sing songs, and play on the floor with them. Do I always feel like doing those things? No. But do I dread them or wish for this time to be over? Not for a second.

3. People say this to me when I only have my 2 boys with me (though I am often out and about with a few extra boys in tow - see above - and then I get even more strange looks and comments). This bugs me because we are planning to have at least one (or maybe two or three or...) more. What in the world will I have to put up with down the line when I am out with four or five little ones? "Yes, they're all mine... Yes, I'm serious.... Yes, we planned it that way."

I've been doing the smile and nod thing when I hear the "hands full" comment, but I think I'm going to start using a new response: Yes I do, and I am a very lucky lady! Because people are right -- I do have my hands full. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, November 2, 2009

sing it baby

Ever since reading this book I have been listening to my kids differently, and Oh! the things I am learning.

Nate has been learning songs at preschool and singing them at home. And singing them again. And then singing them again. And again. With all that repetition, Dexter learns them too and between the two of them it can get pretty loud around here. To be completely honest, I sometimes just tune out this incessant Bible song sing-a-long. But their most recent favorite tune is one I had never heard before, which has made me listen a bit more closely. Here are the words:

My God is so great!
So strong and so mighty!
There's nothing my God cannot do.
The mountains are His,
The rivers are His,
The stars are his handiwork too.
My God is so great!
So strong and so mighty!
There's nothing my God cannot do... for you!

More than once have my children been messengers of God's grace to me by launching into a loud and joyful rendition of this song at just the right moment. My God is indeed great.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

people like us

People like us, we are all and nothing, more and less.

We choose to carry borrowed cargo:
Echoes of harsh words and silent nurseries
Scars from skinned knees and heedless wanderings.

We can't leave it be or keep still
Our bodies resting while our minds are
Tracing the well-worn paths we swore we'd stop walking.

People like us, we love to love too much, and yet --

We run headlong into burning buildings and come out smiling.
We blink into the black night and grasp for hands.
We open our hearts like they're not broken.

We laugh at nothing and the joy is real.
We cry at beauty and are not ashamed.
We sing our secrets to the listening world, people like us.

well, bless my soul

Somewhere in the course of the madness that is the life of a typical four-year-old boy, Nate got a scratch near his eye this week. I am a big believer in the placebo effect, so when he complained that it hurt I rubbed a dab of Vaseline on it and told him that would help. No dice. Plan B was to pray for God to make it feel better. (Really? Plan B? But isn't that always how it goes.) After the prayer, Nate gave me a hug and scooted off to play. God: 1, Vaseline: 0.

Today it was bothering him again, and being a slow learner I once again tried the Vaseline. He waited a moment to see if it would work. It must not have, because a second later he let out a loud, desperate, and tearful cry:

Mommy, you need to PRAY!

Oh my sweet boy.

Maybe this was how he got hurt? Who knows.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

fall(en) beauty

Down the street from us there is a little old couple with a big yard. For as long as anyone on our block can remember, they have grown dahlias and sold them in a roadside stand. I love seeing their yard throughout the year -- fresh green shoots in the early spring, beginnings of blooms in May and June, and brilliantly colored flowers through summer and fall.

But this day comes each year, after the leaves turn and before the first frost, when I drive by the house and it is over. No warning. I wanted a big sign in the yard last week -- "Attention: These flowers will be unceremoniously lopped off and piled along the driveway on October 24. Please say your goodbyes accordingly." But fall must come, and it does not ask permission.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord stands forever."
And this is the word that was preached to you. (
1 Peter 1:23-25)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

thin places

Places of Light 3, Krystyna Sanderson

Throughout life there are moments - times and spaces - where the distance between the physical world and the spiritual realm is barely distinguishable, where the kingdom of heaven seems to touch the soil of earth. In Celtic spirituality these are referred to as thin places.

Yesterday a string of circumstances put me sitting in a hospital room by the bed of a dear saint - a woman who has seen a lot of suffering in her long years and who is now in severe physical pain from a broken hip. Muriel was dejected, confused, and hurting. She had an oxygen tube under her nose, bruises up and down her arms, and hospital blankets pulled around her fragile frame, but her eyes were what broke my heart.

We read Psalm 103. Her eyelids lowered.

"...who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases... who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's... the Lord has compassion on those who fear him... from everlasting to everlasting..."

Her lips moved and her brow furrowed. Tears slipped down my cheeks as I watched her soak in the words, tasting them, feeding on them out of a deep hunger. In that moment there was nowhere else on earth I would rather have been.

I want to be in those places - in the space where God meets us in our utter helplessness and satisfies us. I need to be where people are needy - I need to see my own neediness reflected there, and eat with my fellow beggars at the Table of truth and grace. In the midst of a life so easily sidetracked by selfishness, I need frequent and routine reminders of reality -- that apart from Jesus Christ I am wholly without a hope or future, and without Him absolutely nothing matters.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

stand-alone statement

"When it gets to the hard part, you just have to let go."

Who said this, and what did they mean?

Was it a philosopher? teacher? author? artist? pastor?

Is it about dealing with relationships? finding direction in life? working creatively? following Jesus?

This deeply meaningful, wise, insightful, and very true statement was uttered by my four-year-old son, and he was talking about toilets. Yes, toilets. [We stayed at a hotel last weekend and apparently the toilet seat had a mechanism that prevents it from slamming down. In trying to lower it himself, Nate discovered that it was best to let go when it got hard to push it down and it would go the rest of the way by itself. Thus, the gem of wisdom above.]

I am thankful to have heard Nate say this as he was walking into the room and, having no frame of reference, I was granted a moment to interpret it as a free-standing statement. (Unlike Jon, who was with Nate in the bathroom and heard it as a statement about toilet seats from the get-go.) It is true, about mechanized toilet seats and about many other things. Thank you, Nate.