Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Discovering Roles On The Silvery Sea

Years ago my dear one and I went through some things that brought us to a point of greater defining and understanding of our roles. At first, I wasn't very keen on that word - Roles. It felt rather boxed in and prescribed, and I rankled with the accompanying clasps of constraint. However, the Lord revealed to me that this was an area where the real change needed to happen within me, not the word or idea of it, and in truth it is His plan and purpose that specific duties fall to me and are duly mine.

Some of these can be rather mundane or repetitive in nature, but whose realm of responsibilities do not contain such dealings? However, there is a great wealth of variety in what falls to me in my particular station in life and home.

Among many other things, in my family I am -

* The reader, the one who deeply delights in bringing stories to life for my children.
* The bedtime story teller to my husband.
* The trap setter for squirrels, mice, and even the occasional opossum, as well as the trainer of future trappers.
* One who is willing to listen to your differing opinion, but usually after you have obeyed if you are my younger child.
* Thoughtful in my decisions and answers, and not prone to changing them.
* Usually second to apologize.
* Genuinely available to you, anytime, your day or night or mine.
* Committed to praying for you, whether with you when you need or simply want to hear it out loud or when wakened or prompted by the Spirit - once again, anytime of the day or night.
* Growing in comfort at leaning upon others when I am weak.
* The laugher, both with you, at you, and often at myself - but I'll let you know when. (wink!)
* An accommodating driver of practically any distance for you.
* Willing to take an unpopular stand.
* The researcher.
* The one who will stop the car so we can get out and look at the sky or the circling of swallows. Stopping to marvel at the unexpected beauty of the ordinary is to be preserved.
* Comfortable with spanking, but more fond of counsel. But still....
* The protector of our collective health.
* One who cooks out of love for people more than food, and so will not accept any criticism.
* A straight-talking encourager.
* One who cautions slow judgments of people, having found myself not to be such a good quick judge.
* One who trusts my intuition.
* Usually, bad cop.
* A picky bed-maker.
* The one who will ride roller coasters with you (as I spent today doing with my girls.)

It's good to know your spot, your place, who you are, and who others know you to be. As I considered this today, imagery from an old nursery rhyme came unbidden to my mind from years long past. The moon asks, "Where are you going, and what do you wish?" Our lives are spent determining the answer to just such a question. If in obedience we filter all through the lens of Christ, we become who He calls us to be, where He desires us to be, and discover not only what we wish for, but more than we dreamed possible.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Dream-Cycle

Well, my kids have probably wondered why it has taken me so long to blog on my number one inanimate object of wistfulness. I guess it's because if I put it into the box, it might mean I will never get it in real life. But as of yesterday's "pretty", I suppose I've shown that that's not necessarily the case.

I half-mock myself by mentioning how I am saving up for "my bike." Every time I have gotten a noteworthy amount saved up in my piggy bank.... Yes, I have an actual piggy bank - it belonged to the boys when they were little. They pulled out the black plug years ago, but other than that it is perfectly serviceable. So it now lives on its back in my armoire where it patiently waits for me to put all spare change into the gaping hole in its pink belly.

Anyway, the money always seems to go to something for my kids. Swim lessons, shoes, books. I have wondered if I have a self-defeating martyrdom complex going on which succeeds in my never attaining my bike. And I can't quite make up my mind which one it would be. Even now, I'm not sure if it's this one exactly. I peruse Electra's and Trek's websites, toggling back and forth, reading reviews and looking for the sales that never are. Cream, green, or pink? A leather seat? Definitely has to have a basket. This would put me back a pretty piece of change, and the ever practical me always imagines as I consider this purchase. How sick would I be to come out of the grocery store to find such an expensive treasure stolen? Do you ever think of things like that?

This is a complete indulgence, plain and simple. I can talk about how I'd use it for grocery shopping and get all this exercise and blah, blah, blah. The plain and simple truth is that I just adore the quaint, practical, beauty of these bikes and they make me feel more like Corrie Ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot, and the little girl I once was.

If I ever bring you home, I'll take a pic and show everyone. But for today, I'll carefully, lovingly, and longingly place you gently into my box. I can almost hear the trill of your bell.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Open Road Is In My Mind

Today is dragging by.....

I woke up early and wanted to DO something with my day. M left in the grey morning light for his prison ministry - how I admire his love and dedication to this calling. I considered heading out to a Farmer's Market. I've wanted to do that all summer long, but haven't been able to due to one thing or another. Then I remembered that with our recent list of changes, the girls are allowed to sleep in on Saturday mornings and hang out in their jammies all day if they like. So, I decided to let them have the lead in tailoring the day.

I had a few other ideas, just in case they ran short of them. One was to take a drive up north and check out Mayberry. How could we live so close and never visit it? We could also try our hand at canning some of our tomatoes from our finally bountiful garden. And I pulled up several recipes to choose from or pick and combine for homemade granola bars. But my girls seem to already have plans. It's going to be a day of hanging out with neighborhood girls, chatting and visiting, working on costumes for their future "movie"... typical childhood imaginative play.

So, I have busied myself the mundane work of lone productivity. Cleaning a very dirty kitchen floor and feeling the satisfaction of bare feet upon it; toying with and declining making granola bars myself, seems rather useless today; doing a few loads of laundry, a task I have assigned my children over the years, but now find joy in doing once again as three of the five are out and about in the world now; pulling steaks out of the freezer for tonight's dinner; and getting started on the drying of tomatoes for a first foray into the world of preserving. I'll give the girls a few more good hours before we head out for tonight's movie pick at Redbox.

This could be a daily wash post, but I've been feeling rather speculative lately. So I'll place this in my box of empty pretties. Today, my desires are for wide open spaces, freedom from cares, and the open canvas of endless possibilities. Our wishes and our realities don't always match, but that doesn't mean we stop dreaming.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shame On Charlotte

Our family receives the city's publication, simply titled Charlotte. My youngest was perusing it as I checked over her math this afternoon, and asked me if I had any idea how much the purse displayed on pg. 23 cost. I didn't even look up, knowing that handbags go for ridiculous amounts of money. I guessed $130.

"No!" she replied, happy to shock me, "it's four-hundred-and-fifty-dollars!" This led us to a discussion on how out of touch media is with the reality most of us live in. At first, she defended the bag, a little caught up in the fact that it might even be "genuine leather." I couldn't allow my little one (she's 12) to be taken in by such foolishness, so I asked her how much the entire outfit would run somebody. Quick to take the challenge, she added up the cost for a shirt, an extremely skimpy denim skirt, a pair of sunglasses, and the afore-mentioned leather bag. Then we rounded tax up to 10% for simplicity's sake. The grand total was a whopping $1,000. Sick! (and by that I mean the literal use of the word.) I decided to write a letter to the advertising department outlining our little conversation, asking politely for Charlotte Magazine to take a big swig of a dose of reality. That's a monthly mortgage or rent payment ballpark!

All of this led me to take a closer look at this gazette. I must admit, most magazines have gone the way of soap operas for me and there are few that I find make the priority list of time expenditures anymore. As I perused the table of contents, I was delightfully surprised to see a friend of mine had an article within its pages on the bonding a family vacation can bring. ;D And I always enjoy reading restaurant reviews and recommendations. However, most of the material was on the subject level of what I politely call "fluff."

One article, however, filled me with deep distress. Titled Cheater, Cheater page 17 was littered with the description of an online dating service which is designed to cater to those in "committed relationships, particularly marriages." Yes, you heard me right. A dating service for married folk. This organization panders to the unfaithful in heart and intent. "It's for people who are looking to pursue something on the side without their partner's knowledge," says owner Noel Biderman, unapologetically. Here are some of its stats:

- Almost 9,000 members to date
- Usage has grown 63% from April 2009 to April 2010
- One third are women
- Newly married women using the site has increased 192% within the same time period

One anonymous stay-at-home mother of three confessed to having dated three men, but has finally found the one to leave her husband for. Our ingenuity at self-deception has reached new lows of creativity. Reflectively, this mother mused that women are looking elsewhere than their mates for a stronger emotional connection, but most men are simply looking for sex. Big surprise.

The article gives the reasoning that with the growing celebrity of infidelity it is becoming more accepted, even in "a traditionally conservative town like Charlotte." Rationalize, excuse, explain, find something to which we can point to try to figure out why we are doing what we are doing. In the end, it is all smoke and mirrors. We are no different than those in the garden or the Israelites during the time of the Judges when their situation of not having a king led to the life style where "Everyone did what was right in their own eyes." (Judges 21:25)

The Father of Lies is laughing big time over this one.

Monday, July 19, 2010

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask about the ancient paths, ‘Which one is the good way?’ Take it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah

I dashed out the door yesterday afternoon, giving my husband a quick word.

"I'll be right behind you," he called from his work at the computer.

I don't think so, I responded inside my head. Not at the pace I am moving.

I just needed to get away from everyone for a bit. I listened to my footsteps, sounding like the very word, "walk, walk, walk, walk" and the rhythm began to regulate my breath and thoughts.

This past week has been a whirlwind. We are not "youth group" people, nor are we "youth mission trip" kind of folk either. Yet somewhere along the line we seemed to have forgotten the things that we have already worked through in previous years. When our oldest children entered the ages commonly referred to as "teenage" (oh, how I cringe at the name) my husband and I began looking to the Lord's word to help us navigate this season. Deep inside, we did not believe that our children needed to go through a metamorphosis of ugliness in order to come out at some point down the line as adults, once again recognizable to us. What we found was that the Lord does speak to this time of change. The book of Proverbs, in particular, has so much to say to those whom we call 'youth'. Beginning in the first chapter, we read that the Provers are for:

..Attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight;

for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair;

for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young-

let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance-

And later:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching.

They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

What we saw at the time was an attitude within the church that seemed to be oblivious to the responsibility of the corporate body offering assistance to the parents as they train and teach during these still-formative years. The approach commonly held has turned out to be one in which "teenagers" are considered incapable of focus or seriousness, fun is the essential ingredient to any gathering, and inappropriate, self-indulgent behavior is given it's head like a feisty stallion.

Titus 2 has been a holy touchstone for us in raising our kids, but I stepped out against my better judgement this past week. This was not for our family, and yet....

As I returned home I passed two white-haired gentlemen in conversation going the opposite direction. We exchanged hellos and then I happened to catch a piece of their conversation when it resumed, "Yes, I remember my Mother would always tell me..." How blessed a role I consider this. I continued on, considering. I reflected upon the intentions, dangers, mistakes, and lessons from this past week. Thankfully, I know, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." Even in this, His ways and purposes will be fulfilled, and so I continue walking, but with a greater peace.

His peace.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Let Me Count The Ways

Some time ago, I began leaving notes for you, considering the ways in, for, about, and why I love you. I'm afraid they'll get wet from the bathroom sink and wind up in the trash. You know I am not a keeper of many mementos, but I want you to have this. So, I will keep my list here, as well as in my heart and mind, and on little blue pieces of paper.

1) I love your profile.
2) The way you support me.
3) The unmatchable sound of your laughter.
4) The way you are with our children - I love how you father them!
5) How much you love to Play.
6) How you make popcorn.
7) You - coming home to me.
Me - coming home to you.
8) How you savor vacations.
9) Your heart of Servant-Leadership.
10) The way you think of things I never would.
11) Your passion - for the Lord, for your family, for me.
12) Your voice on the other end of the line.
13) How smart you are!
14) Planning things with you.
15) The miracle that my Mom wanted me to marry you after she first spoke with you.
16) You're a talker - one who desires conversation and discussion.
17) I love how sentimental you are.
18) Sometimes all I have to do is start telling you a story about one of our kids and you start tearing up, I just love that about you.
19) Your mariachi laugh.
20) How good you are at saying, "I'm sorry."
21) You embrace conviction.  What an absolutely beautiful thing.
22) "We" are more important to you than who's right - even when I'm right.
23) How you hold your tongue with our kids, and choose your words wisely.
24) You can laugh at yourself.
25) You listen to me in the kitchen - most of the time.
26) You know the days when to give me a wide berth.
27) Your love for the men within Kairos.
28) How you are always growing....
29) Your gentleness.
30) The way you talk things through with me.
31) The way your hair stands up on your head when you're talking about something that excites you.
32) How you look at me.
33) The sound of your voice when you say my name.
34) That you take the time and make the time to do what matters.
35) Sitting with you in the movie theater.
36) Sitting across the dinner table from you.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

FIFA World Cup 2010

I am and always have been an un-athletic person. My sole claim to anything in this arena has always been flexibility - but even that diminishes with disuse. Perhaps this explains my complete lack of interest in any kind of sport, whatsoever... except Soccer.

I simply love watching the World Cup. It surpasses even the Olympics, if I had to compare. My family was stationed in Sicily during my teen years, and soccer was very big there, of course. I even recall collecting soccer cards for a time and having the coveted Pele. Who knows where they all went, like most every thing I had as a kid. But what remained was a fascination with this game. I usually choose to root for a team, making my decisions on random whim. Inside, I am the champion of the surprise - who will rise up and show himself at his best? It is a magical moment that is available to any one of them and could happen at any moment. Each man holds the possibility.

There is an element of dance in the player's movements. The individual counts, but team interplay wins out; speed is key but not necessarily critical; the tide can turn with the roll off of a foot or head. There are always the flashes of immaturity, but I look for signs of good sportsmanship and commendable manliness and they show up again and again. I love the variance and complexity of the teams and how they react to one another, coming from around the globe and stepping forward with pride to face worthy opponents. For me, there is simply so much to admire in the game, and more importantly, to honor. This World Cup has not disappointed.

Japan, Ghana, Paraguay - we humbly thank you. You were mighty warriors and a thrill to watch. Netherlands, Germany, Spain - we will be sitting on the edge of our seats, our appreciation is in advance for the splendor you will undoubtedly display.

In keeping with our4th of July celebrations this weekend, here is a noble quote by Thomas Jefferson: "Victory and defeat are each of the same price." And as such, walk off that field in South America with your heads held high, all contenders for the cup.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Do We Hear What We Are Saying?

Upon sharing the news that she was expecting twins, the other mother excitedly rejoined, "I'm not!"

Upon reflecting that his brother-in-law and sister have seven children, this young father remarked, "It's like they haven't figured out where they come from yet."

Upon getting married, the young bride explained that they would not be having kids because, "We've decided we want things."

Or all too often a mother has been heard to say, "After I had him, I just knew I couldn't handle even one more."

Names have been withheld in an attempt to protect my own skin. I am, after all, speaking from personal conversation and experiences and if anyone saw their words put in black and white like this they might very well resent me. If I left the quotes stand on their own, perhaps that would be enough.

Sometimes these sentiments have been voiced by non-Christians, and in those situations I must accept that there is a simple ignorance of the gift of Life that is bestowed upon this world in each child's conception. However, I have heard these words and others like them come from the mouths of Christians, and this saddens me. It reflects a worldly influence of which I suspect they are unaware. Most from whom I've heard these things are parents already, and it is quite evident that they love and cherish their children dearly.

There is almost a compartmentalization between the idea of having children and the reality of the ones we already can put our arms around. I think that we find it so difficult to let go of our own autonomy that we don't even see when we're doing it. My hand is raised - Guilty!

Autonomy - Ancient Greek: from αὐτο- auto- "self" + νόμος nomos, "law" "one who gives oneself their own law"
- self-directing freedom and especially moral independence

There are any number of areas where my personal hold on the lead reigns of control have worn deep grooves into the skin of my palms. I bear the calluses, blisters, and scars of my personal battles to have those straps wrested or coaxed out of my grip. And His hands are working on mine still. I hope that this is not misunderstood as self-righteousness.

This arena of children and the bearing of them is one for which my heart beats with strident tenderness. I believe we have bought into the world's persuasion without due consideration. All the rationalizations that negate an acknowledgement of our Lord as the One we would seek to determine the way in which we should go have become "common sense". Our flippant comments like the ones above prompt communal laughter and tell on us, affirming our waywardness.

The Lord tells us, " Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward."

So many will respond with joy to this truth when that little one makes his or her appearance, but it is true always. Before you decide for yourself, while you are carrying their developing bodies within you, if He calls you to travel state lines or continents to get them, and ever afterward for as long as He allows, they are His gifts; and as such I believe we are wisest to allow Him to determine their giving.

Psalm 127:3