Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I daresay it's because we are not really celebrating God Incarnate, the Greatest Forgiver ever.
Maybe, truth be told, we are remembering people we wish were still with us to make us happy, to see our accomplishments, to hold our children, to fulfill our longings.
Maybe we're trying to put a little "magic" or "wonder" or some other intangible delight into Christmas by stringing lights, making cookies, and singing about sleigh bells and mistletoe.
Maybe we are trying to make up for the way we mistreat our loved ones the rest of the year. As if we can atone for our sins against them by buying them things rather than saying, "I'm sorry, will you forgive me? I need your forgiveness, not your storebought or handmade present. And if you need my forgiveness for anything, you've got it. I forgive you." That's the kind of gift exchange I would love! I would rather know that I'm forgiven by God and everyone else than to open any paper-wrapped gift for the rest of my life.
To receive forgiveness, to know the slate's been wiped clean-- would that not make a person's Christmas the best ever, year after year ? Sure, we'd still our miss loved ones who have passed away or aren't with us. We're human. Sure, we could still enjoy the freedom we have in Christ to keep our special "worldly" traditions like putting up a tree, baking snickerdoodles, and admiring the light shows that December brings.
But if we Christians were to convert Christmas from a "giving" time to a forgiving time--purposefully making our list of people we needed to forgive and being unable to rest until we give that perfect gift of forgiveness-- what a way that would be to show that we understand why Jesus came to earth. I'm going to start today, the first of December, and see if by December 25th my heart has lifted from glum and weighed down, to free and light because of God Incarnate's gift of forgiveness.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Yet, I am thankful for how she prepared to "pass the baton" to her daughters.
And I'm really thankful for the help I got, because I could somewhat sympathize with being "not quite full tilt" healthwise this year. My kids did a lot of the cleaning before and clean-up afterward and everyone helped in some way with the meal. Sarah cheerfully did all the grocery shopping, too, which was my most dreaded feat. I struggle to give thanks for that chore, so being thankful for her willingness was easy!
That said, it was good to have my parents and sister Jill here as well as Ben's girlfriend, Deirdra, and her mother, Carabeth. They brought three of their family favorites: pumpkin soup, pineapple cheese casserole, and green bean bundles (which remind you of little green logs sprinkled with brown sugar and wrapped in bacon. YUM).
Pay no mind to the place setting that's missing a napkin. I had whisked away that one napkin to iron, then took a picture of the table, and returned the napkin (un-ironed, too tired for that nonsense. It is what it is. Besides, my older boys remind me, "They're just for wiping your mouth on anyway." The youngest insists we don't need napkins at all because that's what your arms are for.)
The funniest memory was of our Thanksgiving tree. Every year we send a child out to the yard to find a bare stick with twiggy branches. Normally the branches are fairly evenly distributed on left and right, up and down the tree. This year, though, Joel presented us with one that had a ...how shall I say this?... asymmetric look to it. (Scroll down a ways for exhibit.) That's okay; normally I coordinate birthday cups and plates to celebrate my dad's close-to-T'giv Day b'day, but this year I had a cheap sleeve of Boardwalk fries cups. It is what it is.
My mom made German chocolate cupcakes for my dad's birthday.
I made Paul's favorite kind of pie--coconut cream-- but this year I found a five-star rated recipe that we all just loved. Very rich, and takes a half hour to prepare, but it's worth the effort. (I made it the day before and let it chill overnight.)
Joel helped make deviled eggs as appetizers. (Note: good protein for when hunger starts to take over and the food or guests, or both are running late.) I got a kick out of watching him getting a kick out kick out of watching steam rise.
The best thing of the day came at about 11 a.m. (an hour before guests came) when I was in the middle of chopping celery, my mind still abuzz with the to-do list. Ben (my 22 year old) slipped his around around my shoulder and said, "I just wanted to tell you, Mom, that I'm really proud of the way you're handling stress this year." I wanted to cry, but I laughed and hugged him back when he said that. "Thanks" I said. "But don't you remember my meltdown just two nights ago?" His words were like "apples of gold in a setting of silver."
Here's to many more happy Thanksgivings.
The neighbor's empty pool full of leaves
announces an official "summer's over."
The leaves on the deck always seem to
fall and blow all over in a strange mix of random
and pattern. Can you see the hourglass shape
of the fallen leaves, starting under the table?
The tallest towering trees with messy
bird nests make me yearn to be able
to fly over everything I can see (and not
have to pick up unless it's edible or
Sadly, the view I had ten days
ago when I took these pictures...is over.
Goodbye, fall. I love you. See you next
year, Lord willing.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
I'm finally in the middle of making three throw pillows for the family room. Paul wonders why. "Tell me again why we need more pillows? We've already got like five." I tell him that
they are flat and old. Like us. Except we're just old. And also they're last year's models. Like us. Except we're last century's models. And I use the word "models" as in "prototypes," not magazine hotties.
But I digress.
I found these designer home dec fabric samples on clearance many moons ago. For two bucks apiece at JoAnn's, I was in textile heaven. Mixing and matching like Candice Olsen? Pure fun!
What's not fun is realizing that my eyes aren't capable of seeing the eye of the needle on my sewing machine. It was sheer providence that I could thread the needle at all. I found scripture rising up in my head, but perhaps I'm misquoting. "It'd be easier to ride a camel than to thread the eye of this needle."
Most of the time, I was happy to have Joel's help. Eight-year-old eyes work so much more efficiently! As he leaned in toward the presser foot, it dawned on me that moments like these would soon pass. Moments when he wanted to be near me. I nibbled his ear; he swooshed my lips away. I stroked his whipped-cream cheek and thought they'll have whiskers someday. I heard him ask in a youthful boy-voice, "Tell me when I can run the pedal!" as he sat like a Nascar driver waiting for the flag. I told him when I get my fingers safely out of harm's way and say "go," then he could. I thanked him by letting him make a little coaster from scrap Ravens fabric. (Didn't get a shot of that.)
Then I came home and played around with some photo editing
stuff for the fun of it.
Which one do you like best?
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Just when you think it's safe to wash your hair in the shower like you've done 20,137 times before, you reach up around to scrub it real well, and then--suddenly--POW! It happens. The spot on the inside of the right shoulder blade, five inches from the base of your neck--the spot that kinda/sorta troubles you on and off and just needs to be popped once in a while--THAT spot decides it's had enough. It decides to take you down and make you wonder, "Now, how am I gonna get dressed when it hurts to raise my arm over my head?"
That was the scenario on Tuesday. But God's grace-- and my overwhelming embarrassment at the thought of going out in public wearing only my birthday suit and some hair clips-- provided me the impetus I needed to fulfill the mission. The mission? Get thee to a chiropractor.
But who? Which one? The one I'd been to in 2000 (when I, the overachiever, had two car accidents in ten months) was no longer taking my new insurance. He hadn't for quite a while, so I just hadn't gone. I had let the problem of degenerative arthritis in my upper spine be treated with home remedies--a back pop once in a while, ibuprofen, exercise (and those in descending order of motivation).
My only choice for obtaining info as I lay moaning in the prone position on the carpeted family room floor, with pain so fierce it took my breath away? Call someone! Kelly! She uses a chiropractor nearby AND I have her number memorized. (I won't tell you that she empathizes by laughing hysterically while you're herniating.) I am a pain in the neck because I am the company I keep!
Anyhow, within the hour, I was at the new chiropractor's office getting x-rays. They confirmed a bulging disc and degenerative arthritis. Thankfully, the degenerating part is localized, not rotting away my entire spine.
So, as I consider all things possible, I am thankful for many things: pain that signals something is really wrong; ways to communicate; transportation; good insurance; ibuprofen, electrical stimulation, massage, chiropractic adjustments, patient kids who give me back-pops in between visits; a flexible schedule; a great bed; the ability to laugh while in pain, and slow improvement which has enabled me to clean a bit more which means I see progress, not just deterioration.
After all, next week we are hosting Thanksgiving and the house needs to get clean. As for my hair, I might not wash it again for a long, long time. It's simply too risky.
Monday, November 15, 2010
In her latest post, she reviews the book When Helping Hurts, and gives her own gracious but candid opinion from her vantage point of a new, long-term missionary to Haiti.
Sure makes me rethink the place of a short-term mission trip that a church spends thousands of dollars on. Not that it's all bad. But I always thought, before now, that short-term mission trips were all good. I took one to Russia with my daughter, and it changed us. All three of my older kids have to been to Mexico on a STM trip. But I hadn't thought of the ramifications that our brief, albeit well-intentioned, appearances may have had in the orphans' lives.
I love being challenged to think, even when it hurts my heart.
For as Heather puts it so poignantly, "We always want hearts to be broken for the orphan, but never at the expense of the orphan."
Saturday, November 13, 2010
You'd think I'd be satisfied. But I'm not. I'm not content with the status quo. I feel a restlessness growing within my soul, a sense that I have--for far too long--ignored the parts of scripture that I'm just not comfortable with. Or I've been okay with waiting for others to take the initiative and invite me to join them in opportunities to get out of the lukewarm kettle of water I'm in.
For example, every week I go to church, but seldom do I make the effort to get to know people whose faces I don't recognize. Our congregation is almost 450 people strong, and some weeks I don't even see people I'm trying to see. But there are folks I've never met. I fear that they've been around for seven months (or seven years!) and I haven't noticed or bothered to get to know them. My fear of embarrassment holds me back. Pride is ugly. Humility would say, "So what? Show yourself friendly. Don't wait for someone to befriend you. You know how that feels. Be different. Get over yourself."
Three times a month I go to some kind of church-based, small group meeting where we talk about our walk as Christians, or we discuss the Sunday sermon, or express what's going on in our lives, where we need to improve ("grow"), how we identify with each other, and sometimes we pray at length. It's a good group and we do need each other. But lately I have been examining how many
needs OUTSIDE the group I'm aware of (or callously disregarding), how many hurting lives I'm touching rather than merely talking about. Not sure of any except those of other Christians, perhaps. (I am tempted to say "we aren't noticing" or "we aren't doing" or "we are myopic," but I am not responsible for "we." I can't change the group, or even one other person. Just me. If I am hearing God's voice, I don't need to wait for others to initiate or join me. I need to obey regardless.)
I feel I'm sitting right now on a barbed-wire fence. Itching, somewhat annoyed, kind of scared, afraid to move, but more afraid not to. If I move, the barb will put a hole in my jeans and maybe cut my hands; it could really hurt. But if I stay here and don't move, my muscles will atrophy and the fence will rust under me and I could die in my spiritual paralysis.
The devil wants me to stay put and be comfortable because I'm rather ineffective for the Lord as long as I'm just sittin' and hearin', not gettin' up and doin'. It won't be long before I lose my balance. For too long the "balance" has been comfortable. The balance, for me, has really been imbalance. I never leave my comfortable world. I go to a Christian church, have Christian friends, homeschool my youngest child in a Christian family and teach in a Christian co-op. Even when I worked, it was in a Christian school. I have not made choices to leave the Christian bubble at all. To my shame, I am spiritually fat and weak for lack of exercise.
I think God is starting to affect my equilibrium so that I tip and tilt and finally tumble--heart, mind, soul, and body--off the barbed wire fence and into His service in more ways than are comfortable. Uncomfortable service. Uncomfortable sacrifice. Uncomfortable living. Living that requires more faith, more hard work, and in two words, more love.
I want to love more, not just be loved more.
I want to serve more, not just be served more.
I want the will to get over myself and see the needs of the hurting and try to do something--anything--to help relieve their suffering.
I want help through prayer in this, and accountability. I am tempted to say I want a leader in this, but the truth is, that would be an easy excuse to procrastinate. I can't sit on any fences for other people; I can only make a choice about what to do with the barbed wire fence I'm being asked to get off.
God, help me to choose, today, like removing one finger at a time from this death-grip I have on my fence, one person to love more and serve more. Help me be a better servant in my home where the mundane services go unappreciated and unnoticed unless I fail to do them. Help me to do more than think about orphans, the homeless, the widows, the imprisoned, the enslaved, the cold, the lonely, the hungry. Cause me to pray more and do more to show "the least of these" Your love. Let me loosen my grip on the barbed wire fence, and plunge headlong into the rough pasture below. My soul is in green pastures, yes--you've been so kind to give me more comforts than I can count, but I have enjoyed them rather selfishly for too long. I want to feel for those who aren't living in comfortable green pastures, and then go beyond feeling to doing.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Outside my window... the sun is shining, the gold leaves on distant trees glistening like trinkets of topaz against an aquamarine sky. A few rubies hang on to the tree closest to the house, ready to drop onto peridot grass.
I am thinking...I shouldn't be blogging right now, but I have been on my feet since 7:30 this morning, cleaning the kitchen, cutting up watermelon, making part of tonight's dinner.
I am creating...or rather have created today at 6 a.m., a watercolor sample of a painting by Winslow Homer for tomorrow's class. I was just about finished before Paul caught a glimpse of it as he bent to kiss me goodbye. He is the better artist, so I risk much when I ask, "What do you think?" Today his sheepish response was, "I can't tell what it is." I said, "It's an old man and an old tree. It's called "Old Friends." He smiled and said he thought it was a pirate in the woods. Argh. I wanted to tell him to take his old butt to his old job and leave me be. Oh, well, my fourth grade art students are usually impressed with my work. What else matters?
I am wearing...a pair of new, celery green pj pants I found on clearance at Kohl's for $4.20 and my hubby's bright orange Orioles T-shirt, plus black socks, cheetah-print indoor/outdoor slippers, and mismatched hair clips. A true fashion icon, I am.
From the kitchen...broccoli cheese soup I made this morning. Big head of broccoli from sweet little Amish boys who sell it for a dollar. Paul always gives them a tip for their hard work.
He loves to encourage young businessmen to succeed in their fields.
From the learning room: This verse, which Joel says is too long and hard to memorize...
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,"
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
Monday, November 08, 2010
I'm thankful for
1. my womb, the first home my babies ever knew
2. the joy and mystery of human conception
3. the thrill of feeling babies move and dreaming of holding them
4. the grace to go through the sorrow of losing babies
5. OB/GYNs who do what they do , whether specializing in infertility, high risks, or cancer
6. pain, which, in CS Lewis's words 'is God's megaphone"
7. significant blood loss that told me something was really, really wrong with me
8. phlebotomists who can stick me w/o a problem, whether I have 16 oz of water in me or not
9. labs that run necessary tests
10. doctors who respond quickly and compassionately
11. a mom who taught me to question things, not simply accept an authority's word on things that could be dangerous
12. common sense
13. a cousin who came back into my life at this critical time, who happens to be a Nurse Practitioner with myriad health problems herself, and therefore offers practical advice full of understanding from both sides of the bed, so to speak
14. a friend who coordinated meals to be brought to me when I was too weak to think about putting ingredients together, let alone stand and cook --a grace I thought was "reserved" for times when someone's just had a baby, surgery, or a death in the family. Grace is not reserved.
16. access to first, second, third opinions
17. excellent health insurance
18. not feeling overly claustrophobic during my MRI
19. the opportunity to spend a painful one hour on my back during the MRI. The agony from stiffness in that single position reminded me of Jesus on the cross. My suffering could in no way compare, but it did make me appreciate his, and to be able to say my afflictions are light and momentary.
20. snail mail that encouraged me
21. the food that was brought to us--delicious, iron-rich food. Often the food was things I had been craving (pumpkin pie, salad including boiled eggs and bacon, hot chili on a cold rainy day, Italian anything--my fave comfort food)
22. pain medication
23. heating pad
24. comfy bed
25. clean drinking water
26. the loss of the taste for coffee because coffee inhibits the absorption of iron
27. the beauty of the leaves outside my window
28. humor, the best medicine. When I told my friend Kim that I'd probably be having a hysterectomy, she cheered me with this. "Zo, what was it my mom used to say?... 'The crib will be gone, but the playpen will still be there!'"
Sunday, November 07, 2010
who might need a blog post inspiration to put on their own site.
I'll ask and then answer the questions about myself.
1. What is one thing you really look forward to every day?
It used to be the first cup of coffee and reading my Bible. Lately I haven't been having coffee since my iron count is low.
2. What is one of your good habits? I shower every day.
3. What is one of your bad habits? I don't always put things away when I'm done with them.
4. How does your place in the birth order affect you, positively and negatively? I am the second. On the positive side, I can take directions from people who lead well (ie if I agree with them and their style!) and I tend to be adventurous. On the negative side, I have always viewed myself as "not quite good enough" at anything since my older sister is smarter, more efficient, and generally better at most things (writing, cooking, organizing, remembering birthdays, finances, etc).
5. What is something you really admire about your best friend? Her compassion.
6. Do you prefer baking or cooking? Cooking. It's more forgiving, and it's necessary. I tend to be instinctive about flavors, although I've had some real botches in the kitchen that made even McDonald's look like a five-star restaurant. I have to be in the mood to bake, but that mood only strikes about 5 times a year. To me, cooking is art, and baking is science. I've always been more drawn to art.
7. What was the most embarrassing thing you've done lately? Wow. There are so many. I ALMOST embarrassed myself on the phone when the GYN called to tell me test results. (He's not the only man besides my husand I've nearly "woopsed" with this.) When the doctor said, "Okay, call me if you have any more questions," I ALMOST said--when hanging up, "Okay, love you, too."
8. What is one thing you'd like to accomplish in the next year? I want to improve a few key relationships.
9. What is something you'll pay "good money" for? A great haircut.
10. What was something that made you laugh today? Rereading my young boy's spelling assignment aloud to my husband. I had said to Joel on Friday, "Write a sentence for each of your 10 words, and write the words three times each." He wrote, "Dad's hair is grey. Grey, grey, grey."
Let me know if you borrow these questions so I can read your answers. Should be intriguing.
Friday, November 05, 2010
So I read a particular verse and told Joel that he and I would use my new acrylic paints to make pictures of the angel in this verse. The vocabulary is quite simple, but the image it evokes is grand.
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. Rev 10:1
I had hoped my rendering would somehow match the scripture in grandeur.
Excited, I set out paper bags, brushes, water, napkins, and the brand new acrylics.
This would be so good. I was embarking on a new joy: painting the scriptures.
robed in a cloud,
rainbow over his head,
fiery pillars for legs
and a face like the sun.
How colorful! How vibrant.
Just LOOK at this. Take a good look at my "angel."
Joel took one glance at it and laughed. "Mom! That looks like a little chick being born and saying, "Where am I?'"
I busted out laughing, too. A chicken! That's exactly what it looks like. I decided to paint a singing mouth on him. I could barely hold the brush still, I was laughing so hard.
Stephen came along and added his jokes. Said this hatchling appears to be looking in the mirror, shocked and bewildered. (In Steve's best animated Minnesotan chicky voice): "Nobody TOLD me I'd come out with a RAINbow on my head. This is kinda....kinda....weird!"
I was DYing!
Oh, the humble pie I eat around here.
And then--check this out--I had the nerve to offer Joel some constructive criticism for his painting.
"Why don't you make the legs longer, honey? Pillars are big columns."
To which he said, "Nah. At least mine looks like more like an angel than a chicken."
(Which is true. A parachuting angel with no neck and a unibrow, but an angel no less.)
Here's a sampling from our church's spin on Trunk or Treat. (We do more than just trunks. We do props and games, and much more. Love it.)
Our care group chose to do the LEGO theme. We tied for second, which surprised me, considering we were the only group not in costume. (One petite gal in our group DID dress up--thanks, Kris!), but the rest of us didn't. I would've had to wear a Samsung dryer box, which would've stripped the E-G-O away from my LEGO look. I guess we had a really kid-friendly theme, complete and bean-bag toss.
Toy Story came in first, not surprisingly. The people in their group are over-the-top creative. One of the guys in our group said, half-jokingly, 'Yeh, but they didn't have a trunk. They had a Corvette for Barbie and Ken, but Corvettes don't have trunks!" Oh, do I detect a bit of sibling rivalry??? :)
Two of my older kids, Steve and Sarah, belong to a college age group that did Music of the Decades.
We had a science theme,
a farm theme (complete with live chickens and goats),
Disney princesses, a diner,
a camping theme, and many
other trunks decked out for a night
for community contact and fun.
We had over 900 guests some of whom indicated they wanted to know
more about Christianity and our church. That makes it all worthwhile.