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.