Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: Goodnight, Mister Tom

Our family loves movies.  One of the things we miss most about having my youngest son away at college is the role he plays as our Movie Guru.  When home, he would keep us in a regular routine of mixing up both old and new films, having done the research and reviewing so that we rarely met with a rude surprise that necessitated popping out the film and changing our evenings plans when we'd all looked forward to settling into a movie night.  I seem to have taken his place in his absence, but I am nowhere near his level of smooth supply.  We recently cancelled our Netflix subscription, which I never kept up with, and so I resort to bringing home something from our local library every so often. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.  This past weekend, I lucked out with a true find.

The film was titled Goodnight, Mister Tom.  On the back of the DVD case, the synopsis was general enough for me to announce that I wouldn't take it personally if the family vetoed my offering once we got underway, and we each nestled hopefully into our spots on our big couch.  Our story appeared to be a classic and familiar one: an old man has grown bitter, selfish, and cynical over the years, then suddenly has a child in need thrust upon him.  We giggled with the squirming struggle of discomfort as each found themselves in a relationship of necessity.  We have seen and heard other stories like this; however, when the boy (Will) has to confess that he has wet the bed during the night, we began to sense a deeper conflict at work.  And when the old man, Mister Tom, instructs the boy to remove his wet things, the camera's angle showed us what cannot be seen yet by the older gentleman - the marks of abuse on the child's back.  Our hearts jumped in pity and I gasped, and what began as a movie night of entertainment quickly shifted and drew us in to care and feel for the wrongs mankind does to one another, and the power we have to minister to each other and be changed in the process.

This is a film that many adoptive families will be able to identify with, although you should preview it to best judge if your child is prepared to see, wrestle with, and discuss the issues raised.  At one point, Will is called to return to his mother in the city, and her disturbed and sick treatment of her son and newborn child is very disturbing.  Overall, however, this is a story of hope.  It should serve as a catalyst for conversations about mental health, abandonment, abuse, trauma, healing, love, and transformation. These are subjects many of us must wrestle with, personally, or alongside our children.  Goodnight, Mr. Tom was a timely surprise, and a gentle tool to work hope into the lives we live.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween 2011

Halloween is not only a controversial subject among Christians, it has also been an area that I have wrestled with for at least the past fifteen years.  I grew up in a home where Halloween was not only an opportunity to get a bagful of treats (a rarity in our diet), but it was also a fun invitation to dress up using whatever we had around the house, calling on all of our creative impulses.  Once I grew up, married, and had kids, I'd still joined in by playing the part of a Mommy-mummy, pregnant hippy, gypsy, etc. as I met the challenge of dressing my children up and showing them how we didn't need to spend a lot of money to join in the merriment.

After giving my life to Christ as a Mommy, I began the process of trying to come to some sort of peace about this particular holiday.  I know I'm not alone in this.  I probably would have just turned off the lights and played games with my kids in our family room like many other families have chosen to do; however, my husband was not on board with the withdrawal tactic so I had to come up with some sort of compromise.  What worked for us was a progression of options.  First, we tossed out all scary characters.  You could be any kind of animal, super hero, role model, etc. so there were lots was options still available.  If there was a local church hosting a fall festival we attended there for the evening.  I prefer that choice over trick-or-treating (the other possibility) because it allowed my kids to both see other personalities as well as be seen, amounted to less candy to bring home, and the cast of masqueraders was communally of a milder nature.  No gore, no gross, no goblins.  I'm happy and so are my kids.

Bottom line for us was the fun of dressing up.  In fact, at one point my oldest boys felt too cool for Halloween.  I went out into the darkness of our neighborhood night with their younger brother that year while they stayed home to hand out candy.  A year or so later, their interest in Japanese anime and the chance to play their favorite characters proved too much.   Out the three went in orange and blue costumes with their hair gelled into crazy spikes and sprayed silver and gold.  They had a blast!

My girls have a public speaking club they participate in this year, and this week they had to dress up as a favorite author, book or movie character, or historical person.  They whipped up their costumes in a few hours before we had to leave.  I thought they looked great, don't you?  Can you guess who this is sitting outside prior to Gavel Club?

The Mad Hatter and Princess Leia

Have a safe, family-fun Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2011

As It Ought To Be

One of the best things about working as a greeter at church is it allows you time to get to know other people a little bit better.  It seems to contain all the possibilities of airplane seat brevity yet intimacy, bundled up with the expectations of the open-ness to be found in God's family.  Not always, of course - but the possibilities are there.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of welcoming others to worship alongside a proud Papa, only ten months old.  All I had to do was mention his adorable little girl and the smile deepened, the chest swelled, and the telling began.  I asked is she's walking yet, and he launched into a tale of love.  Describing a recent afternoon when he was reclining on the family room couch, his daughter decided she wanted his full attention.  Crying out to him, her arms lifted in appeal.
"Come on," he coaxed, and she scooted over to the edge of the sofa, pulled herself up, and creeped along in unsteady determination to reach her goal, cheered on by one whose eyes were filled with delight.  Once close enough, she was rewarded by being swooped up, coddled and kissed for simply being his precious child.

"That's so wonderful," I smile, my heart mixing memories with the present, "every child deserves to be loved like that."

"How could anyone not?" he asks with youthful innocence.  My smile remains, but my eyes turn a little sad.  Indeed.  If only all the Mamas and the Papas loved their children as this father and I.

This song is for my children.  The melody carries the lightness of a tune sung to a little one, but a true parent knows that our children never really grow old in our eyes. The lilting words speak of the love our Father holds in His heart for us, his dearly treasured ones.  They rise and fall like our own attempts to love Him back as He shows us how.  They provide a pattern of how it truly ought to be, how I so wish I were all of the time, and what I inch along towards with unsteady but determined steps.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mediterranean Greens

I have been trying my spoon at cooking up Greens lately. Here in the South, they are a favorite of long standing I am told.  However, my family, (of a more, shall we say "refined" taste, as I do not allow picky eaters to my table) has been less than enthusiastic with the resulting attempts. Lucky for them, I press on.

For tonight's main course: I cooked up a pot of wonderful tomato-y goodness today, throwing in browned beef, zucchini chunks, and fresh basil.  We'll have these over portobello mushroom caps with a sprinkling of cheese.  Although I am a stickler for proper English and refuse to dumb down even my texting - whatever did we do before the word "Yummo!"?

For our green side dish, I looked online for something that an authentic Italian would serve with pride.  I wasn't duly impressed, but my mind/mouth/tummy connection began working.  Here is the resulting dish, which I think will serve to impress my familial epicurean audience:

Mediterranean Greens

Healthy splashing of extra virgin olive oil in a generous-sized saute pan
1 organic red onion, sliced fine
16 oz. Bag of Nature's-Greens (Earth Fare), blend of mustard and turnip greens
8 gloves of diced garlic
1/2 cup of pitted Kalamata olives, cut into quarters
1 lemon, juiced
Salt, to taste

Heat the oil and add the red onion, sauteeing until nicely wilted.  Add the greens a handful or two at a time as they cook down.  Throw in the garlic and olives, allowing to cook for a minute or two more as you saute.  Pour 1/2 of the lemon juice over it all.  Stir to distribute well and salt as you like it.  Save the last of the lemon juice to let your eaters sprinkle over just before eating so as to give it the freshest sparkle of taste.  Maybe add a dash of red pepper flakes?

Oh so healthy and Nummy, nummy, nummy... another word-string I've come to love.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Smart Grey Gloves

Well, my little family (it always seems I feel the absence of those who are not with us) went up to Asheville this past weekend.  There's nothing nicer when the temperatures start to drop than to take a drive into the mountains and see the changing leaves of Autumn.  I'm pretty sure it's my favorite season.  The colors just come alive with vibrancy and seem to smile back at you.

I know some people just love Asheville, especially the young and/or artsy, something like the Durango or Manitou Springs (both of CO), but of NC; and it is a beautiful city, I have to say.  But it's so spiritually oppressive; I can only take so much.  I guess it's that way in just about any place that has a good deal of granola crunch.  I'd love to find a town that had the sort of appreciation and embrace for nature, the environment, and the earth - yet holds a holy reverence for the Creator as well.  And by that I mean God the Father, Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit, of course. I've often wondered what it's like for Christians living there.  I visited a church on a visit there, once.  It was an awesome experience, and I just adored the varied paintings of a local artist gracing the walls of the foyer; they were such a glorifying testimony to the Lord and humanity.  I remain encouraged by that memory.

We've developed a few traditions we enjoy repeating when we are able to head north of a visit. The Lab is probably our favorite restaurant.  They have a fresh menu that is varied, unique, and always delicious. We've often stopped there if we only have one meal to enjoy during a day of browsing the shops.  And we simply cannot leave without a stop by The Chocolate Lounge.  I have looked for some place akin to French Broad elsewhere within NC so that I might enjoy a similar indulgence elsewhere within the state as I drive here and there.  So far, it stands alone.  If you ever get the chance, you simply have to drop in!  Creme brulees, ice-creams, cakes, chocolates, and wonderful coffee served in adorable little handmade mugs.  Deliciously divine....

And sometimes I find a little something special to take home with me.  This particular trip I stumbled across these adorable and very practical gloves.  (Another group of things I love are gloves, caps, and scarves.) When winter comes in a few months and I need to use my smart phone, I won't have to force my fingers to endure the frostiness of the cold.  The light grey tips on these are screen sensitive!  And now that you know about them, you have a great idea for a Christmas gift...


Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Good Samaritan's Science Retreat

We've had some sizeable things hit the fan around our house lately.   When I begin a post with words like that, so trite but true, I feel tempted to go back and rewrite them later.  I want to say what I mean, but in a way that is both original and more palatable; after all, everyone knows what hits the fan in this American proverb.  But I'm going to let this one stay as is.  Sometimes the cliche works.

Months ago, back in the summer, I'd agreed to attend Greg Landry's "Mom's Science Retreat" with a friend.  When everything of recent was coming to it's most intense pitch within our home, I immediately thought, "I can't go!"  After a few days of dust settling, I uncertainly went to my husband, "Can I still go?"

"When do you leave?" he asked.

I had no idea what to expect, really.  Imagining that my friend and I (of a more emotional, touchy-feeley bent) would have to spend a good deal of our time sitting around listening to a bunch of Mommy Science nerds, S and I headed out on the planned trip.  And so it was that I packed up and escaped for three days of rest, marvel, and distraction from my daily life up in the beauty of autumn in the North Carolina mountains.  We arrived just in time to join the line for dinner, a gathering of forty or so other mothers.  We came singly or in groups of two or more, but we were all clearly so thankful to be there. Some were those moms for whom science is their favorite subject, but there were plenty of others for whom science feels like a foreign language.  We spent the majority of our time over that evening and the next few days learning about atoms and molecules; cells, osmosis, and diffusion; light and chromatography; conducting dissections of cow eyeballs, sheep hearts, lungs, and uteruses. The hands-on experiments we went through were experienced through the filter of God's creative and miraculous design - imagine that!  Even the most un-scientifically minded of us were moved by our Creator's hand and plan in the physical world around and within us.  The taste of Science was sweetened by a focus on our Father.

But as often happens, the best part of my time was the completely unexpected.  After dinner that first evening, Greg addressed us and then prayed for us.  His heart for homeschooling and his love and appreciation for our efforts within our individual families to lead and guide our children was unbelievably honoring.  I know every woman there was moved.  It is not a message we hear very often, and it washed like water over thirsty hearts much in need of encouragement.  He then proceeded to allow us time to introduce ourselves.  Now that could be seen as a very foolish thing to do with a roomful of such a great number of women!  But there was not a hint of rush, or moving us along, a reminder of the time. Our moment was our own.  What simple dignity there was in this.

Although this was a trip with an emphasis on igniting a fire for the revelation of Science, equally present was the purpose for this to be a retreat.  There was all the tea, coffee, and hot chocolate we wanted available to us any hour of the day or night.  The meals were all generous and delicious, and everyone knows women talk as much as they eat during meal times, especially when they are getting to know one another or trying to catch up on things. We were given an ample hour for breakfast, an hour and a half for lunch, and an hour for dinner.  During the various afternoons, I got a nap, a walk, and a hike in as each most benefited me.  The last night we gathered for a pajama party, discussing curriculum, and books, and our lives.  I was most blessed during this time in the mountains by those conversations with other women where we confided portions of the walk we have shared with the Lord.  We ministered to one another with the bonds of sisterhood, empathizing with shared valleys of experience, sympathizing and encouraging one another by trials withstood or currently endured with our Savior's strength.  In vulnerability, hearts were laid bare and probed, and our spiritual lives pulsed and beat in common purpose.

I was reminded of the parable of the good Samaritan.  I've no doubt that there were some within our group who came like me: stripped, beaten, and feeling in great need of succor and strength.  In the eyes, hands, and words of others, I was mercifully cleansed, bandaged, and received healing ointments.  I sought as well to be that good one who glorified the Lord in loving Him with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, as well as my neighbors at Laurel Ridge.  I know that Greg and the other teachers planned this retreat at least a year ago.  The ladies who came did so either climbing over various obstacles or neatly sliding this slot into their personal schedule.  It doesn't matter. His timing was perfect, and we were all there according to His design and plan.  Jesus' parable was illustrated in full living color this past week, and I am so thankfully refreshed.

Now as Jesus commanded us, let us all go and do likewise.


I'm sharing this at Above Rubies, We Are That Family, and Simple Lives Thursday