Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What are you saying to yourself?

It started out as a lovely transition between the chaos of dropping kids off at school and going out to meet a new friend for "coffee" (neither of us, in fact, drink coffee...we both had chi...YUM!).  I managed to get in a hot bath, complete with a bath bomb and a good book (Henri Nouwen's Home Tonight).  

But then, as I pulled my shirt down while getting dressed, I noticed them.... deodorant marks.  Those three distinct white lines across my otherwise solid dark purple shirt, looking soooo hot under my right armpit.  Unattractively testifying to my attempts at hygiene, they were stubborn in coming off.  And, although this is not an uncommon occurrence in the life of a socially conscience adult, this thought quickly flashed across my mind: "I can't even put a shirt on without a mess!"  And then..."I wish I had contacts."  Followed by..."Ugh...I knew I shouldn't have gotten my hair cut so short," and "I'll probably be late now - that will be a good first impression!"

It was amazing how fast I let those negative thoughts sneak in and steal a moment of joy.  Thankfully, I quickly realized what had happened and how "not cool" this was and resolved to turn my thoughts around.  However, it got me to things often do...about how they say you need 5 positive comments to cancel out a negative comment (or whatever the number they say it is).  It made me remember how often we, especially women (I think), have bad self talk that needs to be replaced with some positive self talk.

So, in light of this ugly reminder to me today, here are some things that I need to remember about me...and, likely, that you need to remember about you....
  • You are one of a kind - amazingly unique
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made by One who knew you before you even were
  • You have gifts and talents that make a difference
  • You are really good at ______________ !  It's true.
  • You were created in the image of the One who created all things
  • You are beautiful just the way you are (or - you are handsome just the way you are)
  • There would be a void if you were not here
  • God loves you like crazy!  
  • Each new moment is just that...a new moment.  Seize it.
  • You have value just because you are
I could come up with lots more specific to me.  Likely, I could come up with lots more specific to you too.  Feel free to call me on that one.  I'd love to remind you of some things you need to know about yourself!

By the way, today was the day that I met with Lisa, who I wrote about here.  I have to say that, despite being on the other foot, the shoe fit just fine!  I had a lovely time getting to know her.  Lisa and I had a lot in common, which was fun for both of us.  Some of the parallels were pretty remarkable, actually - the ages and genders of our kids, adoption, our kids' personality mixes, ministry experience, fabulous youthful good looks and great senses of humor (see how I put that positive self talk in there?!?!).   I imagine we will do it again sometime!  

After meeting a new friend, I got to hang with a dear old friend, whom I mentioned before. We went out for a fabulous lunch!  It was great sharing some more life with this awesome lady!  

Good family time at home and at the YMCA with my sister rounded out my day.  Awesome!

In spite of the miniature moments of ugly talk, I had an amazing day.  In my cheesiness, I found the following video to help reflect the sentiment...  (oh yeah...please, don't let the creepy carousel music stop you from enjoying the little walk down memory lane)

Thanks for reading!  And are amazing!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lessons Found in a Half Hour of Sharpening Coloured Pencils

My right thumb is crazy sore right now! Weird, but true.  I just spent about the last half hour sharpening coloured* pencils that have been lying in our pencil/crayon/marker/junk drawer since we moved into the house in August.  I sorted the pencils out last week and put them in a bag.  My intention was to bring them to school and run them through the electric sharpener, but, alas, they never made it out the door. When Elly invited me to join her in a colouring frenzy this morning, I heeded my own words to SLOW DOWN and took advantage of the moment.  However, I found myself repeatedly pulling out broken and dull pencils.  I needed to take action - for my sake and for Elly's. Once I started, I couldn't stop...and now, my thumb is in pain.  (I know you are all feeling very sorry for me right now, right?)

A couple things occurred to me during my pencil sharpening challenge...
  • There is a lot of assorted stuff that accumulates in our "junk drawer".  It is important, from time to time, to figure out which of it is truly junk and which of it has just not found it's place yet.
  • I really don't like sharpening pencils.  Roughly 33% of the time when I try to sharpen a coloured pencil, it breaks off.  I have to start all over or admit surrender.  If I didn't know better, I would think the pencil was defiantly laughing at me each time the lead broke off.
  • Sharpening pencils is messy and, occasionally, painful.
Here we go... personal parallels from the mind and thumb numbing task of pencil sharpening.  Are you ready?  I'm not sure I am, but we'll give 'er a try...

There is a lot of assorted stuff that accumulates in our "junk drawer".  It is important, from time to time, to figure out which of it is truly junk and which of it has just not found it's place yet.

I am sure we have all seen the home shows or heard professional organizers talk about this.  When something comes into your house or when you are in the midst of cleaning, you should look at each item and make a decision.  Does this "thing" go in your keep pile (for which each item should have a home)?  Does it go in your  toss it pile (if so, toss it and do not think on it again)?  Or does it go in your "reuse it in a new, but non-cluttering way", or "re-gift it to someone who could benefit from it" pile?

Anyone who knows me well knows that this process is not a smooth one for me yet.  Although, I have gotten much better at it over the years.  (If you listen carefully, I`m sure you will hear my sister giggling at me.)  It is true - if I automatically managed the items that come into my life like that, my house would be more organized and run more smoothly.  No doubt.

Now imagine just how much richer my life would be if I used this filter every day on all that I encounter.  

How many times do I allow the absolute junk of life to interfere with living life?  The junk may take a variety of forms... mindless or harmful media, words that carry no real weight but somehow tumble over and over in my mind, gossip in the workplace, judgmental thoughts toward another, worry over what someone might think of me, rumination on the "what ifs" of life, fret over the future.... the junk can pile high if I don't toss it right out.  I need to get better at getting rid of this junk and not thinking on it again!

As well, imagine if we used this same filter to identify the stuff that is mislabeled "junk" or just needs to find it's purpose or it's place in the world.  Imagine how many people you might view differently if only you saw them as just needing to find their right place or purpose.  I work with kids who are precious, but may be viewed as or view themselves as junk because of the challenges they face and situations they are in.  Quite often, my time with them has nothing to do with speech therapy (shh...don't tell my bosses).  Rather, my time has everything to do with helping them view themselves as worthy to move out of the junk drawer and into their purpose.  Sometimes, buried in the junk of our lives, we have some skills, interests, or gifts that just need a good polishing and a boost of confidence.  Then they can be used or displayed with the purpose for which they were intended.  

I really don't like sharpening pencils.  Roughly 33% of the time when I try to sharpen a coloured pencil, it breaks off.  I have to start all over or admit surrender.  If I didn't know better, I would think the pencil was defiantly laughing at me each time the lead broke off.

Sharpening pencils only to have them break made me think of the discipline I pour into myself and others.  I really don't like discipline.  It is not my favourite use of time or energy.  Often, I feel like I take 2 or 3 steps forward and 1 step back.  It sometimes feels like I need to start all over or admit surrender!  This feels true in the discipline of myself (i.e., for physical or spiritual wellbeing) or in the discipline of my children (i.e., for disobedience).  One moment I feel I am making good headway and then...I mess up.  I eat the chocolate hiding in the cupboard or I yell at my kid.  Ugh!

Discipline can mean "punishing" or "developing behaviour by instruction and practice".  Whoa - hold on here!  Perhaps the way I view the word discipline will help make or break the discipline I am trying to accomplish!  If I see my path to better fitness as a form of punishment, I imagine I won't go very far down that path.  If, however, I view it as development of behaviour through practice and instruction, I can mark progress and continue to practice in order to develop something I long for. Similarly, if I view the discipline of my children as developing behaviour by instruction and practice, my purpose and goal for discipline is so much greater than just getting my kid to "stop it now!"  

I've told my little lovies on a number of occasions that we "get on them" sometimes because we love them and we want them to be the best people they can be...ultimately the best grown ups that they can be.  That is much more palatable and rewarding than punishing for just the here and now.  Once again, it's a matter of perspective, isn't it?  Perseverance, patience, and perspective. 

Sharpening pencils is messy and, occasionally, painful.

Colored pencils don't work well if they aren't sharpened.  Getting them to the point of working properly to do what they were designed to do meant some mess and some pain.
Only a small bit of the mess made.

In order for me to be the best that I can fulfill the purposes I am meant to fulfill...means that I may sometimes get messy and experience a bit of pain.  It is far easier to sit in complacency and do not alot of anything than it is to live life out loud.  Believe me!  I am very comfortable sitting and doing a lot of nothing sometimes.  Yet honestly, it often leaves me feeling empty.  Doing things to fulfill my purpose may leave me awkward and uncomfortable for time, but ultimately fills me. 

It means taking risks, speaking out when no one will, saying "yes" or "no" when it is not the cool thing to do, searching my own thoughts and motives, and dealing with the hard things that come with the right perspective.  I think that most of my greatest heroes - Thea Jarvis, for example - have gone through their share of mess and pain.  They come out heroes because of how they choose to handle the mess and the pain and, often, who they choose to help them handle the mess and the pain.

One of my dear friends, also a Christian, is going through some major hurt these days.  She has been through far more than any one should go through.  And yet, she remains hopeful.  Here are some of the nuggets of divine wisdom that she shared with me in regard to the messy and painful stuff in her life.
I remain hopeful. Where else could I reside? 
I recall that I never stopped asking Him to grow the beautiful fruits of the Spirit in my life. 
I never stopped asking Him for the refining fire that would burn up all that doesn't really matter. 
I also know that God is able to heal without any of my efforts or striving. He is good. He is faithful. I have a history with Him and that is enough to maintain what has now become utterly blind faith. He gave the faith as a gift and I continue to choose faith. I will always choose faith. (In the darkness nothing seems to make any sense.)
Man, I hope I am as eloquent when I am in the midst of pain.  I hope that someday someone might look back and see some heroic qualities when things get messy and painful in my life.  Not for my gain, mind you, but for the glory of God.  Truly it's only in Him that I have any grace in me.

Now, I am off to continue my Tuesday time with Eliana.  We should be off soon to the YMCA for some discipline and pain.

(* A note to my astute spell checking readers: My spelling is a mix of American English and Canadian English.  I just can't shake some of the Canadian influences on my life. Usually I switch any Canadian spelling to American as it gets caught up by spell check, but today I have decided that what ever comes out is going to stay.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Sign Spoke To Me...or something like that

Every Monday and Thursday, while driving from one school to another for work, I see the following sign:

Though I've probably seen that sign at least 48 times since September, today it got me thinking.  My first thought was, "that's a goofy sign!"  It's not like the children that might be present will be lined along the road just so that we can see them.   Kids play hide and seek.  They play with balls that bounce away erratically.  They dart out into roads when we least expect it.  They don't alter their behavior just because we know or don't know that they are present.  In Calgary, playground zones were always slow zones between sunrise and sunset.  School zones were always slow zones during posted school hours.  At first this was annoying to me, but then I realized it made a lot of sense. 

Once I concluded that Calgarian school zone laws made more sense than Minnesota school zone laws - yes, I am a nerd - my thoughts moved on. 

The next thought I had was, "that sign is telling me  to slow down because children are present."  Huh.  What a good reminder!

So often my life is on fast forward.  If it's not on fast forward, it is frequently set to my own agenda.  Get the bills paid.  Wash the floors.  Send out that e-mail.  Run over to the YMCA for a work out.  Make an overdue phone call to a friend or family member. There is always something to do, even if that something may appear to have no purpose or value to an outside observer ( an occasional round of on-line scrabble, perhaps? Though we all know it's keeping my brain "fit").

Sometimes when my children are present, I forget to slow down.  I forget (or choose not) to involve them in my life.  I forget to involve myself in theirs.  I forget to be present.  Sometimes, make that most times, it is easier to stick to the things I want or "need" to do, rather than change my plans to fit the things that my children want or need me to do with or for them.

The older I get, the more often I hear myself saying, "how can it be ____day already?"  Perhaps, if I took more time to slow down when the children are present, the time would not fly by as fast as it does.  No doubt my time with the kids would be richer and more valuable.  No doubt the memories we make would last a little longer if I slowed down and spent more time with them. 

2007 Glacier National Park

The saying is true...they are only little for a little while.  Before I know it, my Zachary will be a teenager.  A T.E.E.N.A.G.E.R!!!  How can that possibly be?  My "baby" girl is only half a year away from starting Kindergarten.  In only half a year, I will have no more preschoolers.  My Benji will be the supportive big brother escorting Elly onto the bus and into the school.  Ahhhhh!  I can feel the wrinkles getting a little deeper as I type.

Ben and Elly slowing down together to read under a futon in 2007

My kidlets will be back home with me tomorrow night.  Perhaps I need to go out and find myself a street sign to remind me to slow down when the kids are present.  Okay, not really, but I do need to be more mindful of the time I have with them while I still have it.  I would never want my kids to look back and wonder why I didn't stop to smell the roses with them...or play in the puddles with them...or simply slow down and be with them.  I would never want to look back and wonder where the time went and why I didn't slow down and be present with my children while they were still present to be with.

Now, if you have children present, slow down and go be present!

Zac, Ben, and Elly at Glacier National Park, Summer 2007 - Aren't they cute?!?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hooray for homecomings!

I have been on my own this past week.  My amazing husband took my three monkeys on a road trip to see his parents in sunny Fairhope, Alabama.   After this trip, I really believe that my husband is the best there is.   

This was no wimpy road trip that you do on a sunny morning's drive.  Oh was a kick butt 20 hour road trip with a wickedly awesome hotel-with-a-pool overnight.  And, to top it off, this trip came complete with its own stomach flu!  You read correctly...stomach flu.  You see, while enroute, my middle guy started in with some vomiting.  There is nothing that brings out a father joy more than vehicular vomit!  Later, while in the hotel, Ben's other end started up as well.  Poor Ken was Ben's bed buddy too.   Ken's description of the whole event was humorously horrible!  I felt awful for my son and worse for my husband.  To top it off, once they got to Fairhope, this big nasty bug worked its way through each of my four family members.   Yet, every time I talked to Ken, he demonstrated a sense of humor and did not even complain.  Amazing!

Thankfully, the bug was as fast as it was gross.  After about 24 hours with each person, it seemed to be done.  Fortunately, they were able to soak up a few rays and enjoy some relaxation before starting the journey home.

I'm not gonna lie.  I have enjoyed some of the peace and quiet while they have been away.  However, I have also missed my crazy bunch an awful lot.  So, I decided to share just a few of the things I missed about my fabulous four!
First off, my hot hubby....

- his handsome good looks
- his great sense of humor
- his Legotime with the kids
- his backrubs
- his good perspective
- his amazing blue eyes
- his cute smile and dimples
- his care for people
- his smart thinking about many things
- his deep thoughts about God

Now to my zany Zachary...

- his crazy imagination
- his gift for drawing
- his gift for writing comics
- his sensitive spirit toward himself and others
- Zac sized hugs
- the help he offers so frequently
- his charming good looks
- his silliness
- his care for his siblings
- his hard work

On to my busy Ben...

- his big eyes
- his funny sense of humor
- his goofy made up words
- his smile
- Ben sized hugs
- his sugar
- his energy
- his persistence
- his pursuit of fun
- his care for others

And, finally, to my engaging Eliana...

- her sweetness: just look at that cutie pahtootie!
- her incredible imagination
- her free-loving spirit
- her stories
- her songs
- her snuggles (aka Elly sized hugs)
- her fashion sense
- her care for others
- her peacemaking
- her love for her brothers

I cannot imagine my life without the other four parts that make up my whole.  Though there are mommy moments when I long for quiet and stillness in my busy life, I would not trade what I have for the world. I have an amazing husband who reminds me daily that he loves me.  I have three fantastic kids who remind me daily what it means to live out loud - in the good stuff and in the hard stuff.  

It won't be long before the silence in my quiet home is broken and the freshly mopped floors are dirtied.  Lucky for me, that means it won't be long before I get to scoop up my kids to love on them and plant a big ole kiss on my hubby.  Hooray for homecomings!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Getting to the root.

Have you ever thought about how many things have roots?  I never really had before yesterday.  The reason I was thinking on roots is kind of gross.  I am risking eminent embarrassment and possible social ostracization by sharing whence these thoughts came.  This may be, therefore, one of those blogging moments that actually does hurt.  But, here goes...

I was thinking about roots because.... I have a plantar's wart!!  Okay.  Leave now if you must.  I understand. 

Here is a picture of pretty feet in the ocean to remove the image of my foot!

While I was looking for some ideas as to how to deal with said disfigurement and source of shame, I read multiple times that you have to get the root out.  Now, in further reading, warts don't actually have roots, though many people believe this medical myth.  Nonetheless, before I realized that I had fallen pray to the wart root fable, I started thinking about how many things have roots...

movements (grass roots)
numbers (square roots)
music (the base note in a chord)

With so many things having roots, surely they must be important.  Of course, they are.  Roots are foundations.  They are origins.  They are building blocks.  They are stabilizers.  They are transmitters of the things that sustain. 

And, in thinking more about roots, I came across the following description:  

What do a plant’s roots do? They keep the plant from wandering away from where it was put. They take in nutrients from the soil to feed the plant. They take in water to keep the plant from drying up and dying.

I really like that definition.  It is simple and to the point.  My 5 year old could understand it.  I could understand it.  And, I especially like the part about keeping the plant from wandering away from where it was put.  We would all be a little freaked out if plants suddenly wandered away from where they were put.

If roots are so simple and yet so important, what about my own roots?  What are the things that give me nutrients, keep me from wandering, and keep me from drying up and dying?

I kind of feel like moving back to Minnesota was a return to my roots.  Even though I was born in Virginia and moved to Indiana in high school, most of my childhood shaping was done in Minnesota.  Most of my immediate family is still here.  Coming back to Minnesota and spending time with family has offered some great nourishment.  It has fed me.

Yet, these "roots" are not necessarily permanent for me.  If for some reason my family moved away or something should happen to them, my presence of roots would no longer be here.  The sentiment of rootedness would be, but the tangible sources of encouragement and sustenance would not be.  In honesty, if my family was not here, it is unlikely that we would have returned to this area.  Even though I like the area very much and have fond affections within the memories made here, it is family that brought us back "from wandering away from where (we) were put".  Many of the things that once shaped my memories and root system are no longer active in the shaping of new memories.  And, as a result of many moves, I have been uprooted again and again from the physical places I have enjoyed and the people that I have loved by birth or grown to love.

Granted, I have my own direct family - 4 amazing people that I am deeply rooted into.  There would need to be some major earth shaking to undo the roots of my husband and children.  Yet, in reality, one day my children may move away and my husband (I cannot bear to think it) may pass away.  I refuse to even imagine that my children might pass away before me, but...  And while those roots will still exist until I'm old and gray wise and graceful, they will be different.  Always invaluable, irreplaceable and true, but changeable nonetheless.

So, what then?  If the things that seem to hold me into place are sadly, but humanly, temporary, where might I root?  What can I have a forever kind of confidence in?

My only answer is the One who is the beginning and the end...and the everything in between.  I can dig down deep and root myself into God's love for me.  I can trust that no matter where I go, I can draw up nourishment from Him so that I will not wander away from where I was put (my purposes in life) and so that I will not dry up and die emotionally or spiritually.  With each address change, every goodbye, and the repeated packing away of my material things, the truth of God's love for me carried me further than I would have imagined. 

It is my rootedness in Christ that has sustained me in challenging moments as a parent or a spouse.  It is the nourishment that comes from God that has kept me confident when I've had multiple medical scares.  It is the foundation and friendship with God that has kept me from fully drying up when I felt lonely or afraid.  And, while there were times when I felt like I was in a dry season, it was my history with God that reassured me that the rain would indeed come and quench the ground around me again.  These roots are not the temporary type.

Yes, it is good to come home to the roots I once left behind.  However, it is far greater and sweeter to be rooted into One that will never leave me behind.  

Ephesians 3: 14 - When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Hoyts

It's been a few days since I've written, but the post I hoped to have up tonight is still in process.  So in it's place, I will leave something that is sure to inspire you.

Today, because of a FB friend's link, I was reminded about the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt.  I first saw a video about the father and son a few years ago during a staff training.  I couldn't help but cry.  And, I wasn't the only one.

I was amazed by the love of this man toward his son.  Sacrificial love.  Live out loud love.  Selfless love.  I was amazed by the determination and passion of this son.  Gutsy.  Brave.  Amazing.

As I watched, I was challenged and humbled as an individual and as a parent.  Those feelings rang true again today.  It caused me to pause and think about the ways in which I love my children and how much more I might be able to love them.

And, as I watched, I was reminded again of the great potential that lies within each of us.

There are a number of videos out there about Dick and Rick.  The one I'm linking to is from the Ironman Triathalon channel.  Many of the others are set to songs which, of course, are real tear jerkers as well.  The story really speaks for itself.  I don't need to say anything else except, "Watch it and grow!"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It only takes a blink of an eye...

Watching videos from the tsunami in Japan is gut wrenching.  It brings about the same feelings I had watching the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and in some ways, but not fully like, the 9-11 attack.  There is a sense of awe and disbelief countered with the nauseous churning of the stomach and breaking of the heart.  On one hand, time has stopped.  How can it possibly be a week already?  Didn't the earthquake just hit?  Yet, on the other hand, the world marches on seemingly unchanged.  I continue to do all the things I did before last Friday when I first saw the horrifying images of water pouring over fields, houses, and cars.  My every day activities are no different than they were when the nation of Japan was turned upside down, literally, in the blink of an eye.

Tonight, Ken came and sat along side me.  I was sitting comfortably on my bi-cast leather sofa with a glass of water at my side, playing Scrabble on-line with a stranger in Houston.  I'd been munching on my trail mix and feeling gleefully confident in my Scrabble skills.  But then, Ken sat beside me, with computer in hand.  He was watching the latest videos posted from Japan.  Many of the videos were playing with the voices I had somehow been sheltered from out.  In agony.  In disbelief.  In shock.  In despair.  And then the photographs...a woman alone in a pile of rubble.  Search and rescue people bowing their heads honoring the unknown victim wrapped in blue.  The faces of two children, about the age of my oldest - one looking eerily like our old neighbor Yuey - sitting in a car with expressionless faces.  A man bent over in despair amidst the wreckage.

I tried to protect my heart.  I only glanced briefly at each of the images and videos.  I raised my shoulders to the sounds of desperate men and women, as if I could somehow block out the agony.  I focused on my game...sort of...I could no longer truly focus on my game.  Though, I couldn't find it in myself to truly focus again on the horrific images and heartache of this far removed place.  I just wanted it to go away.

But then... my friend had posted this link on her facebook wall.  The headline reads,

Students silently await their missing parents

Suddenly, I can no longer turn away.  I can no longer protect my heart from the floodgates of emotion.  I can no longer choke back the tears or the lump that keeps rising in my throat.  For this, is just too real...too raw...and too sad.  I want to run to that school and scoop up those children.  I want to hold them and caress their hair and reassure them that everything will be alright...though, in my heart, I know that for those babes, everything will no longer be alright.

I think of my own three loves tucked safely in their beds.  I should be (and am) so thankful that they are here, safe and sound with me.  Nothing can harm them tonight.  And yet, I struggle with sadness and loss for the mommies and daddies that I don't even know and for the little ones whose lives I will never intersect.  Nothing will ever be the same for them.

I know I need to break away.  I need to shower and get the stink of the day off of me.  Yet, it feels nearly impossible just now.  I feel a loss.  My heart aches.  My head is heavy.  And the prayers that I know MUST come are slow in rising.  Yet, they MUST come.  I cannot run and scoop up those little loves so far away.  I cannot take away the fear or hurt they must be feeling.  So, I MUST pray.  And, I MUST cherish what I have here.  For it only takes a blink of an eye, for time to stand still.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Don't miss a moment...

I could not help but giggle…at least in my head.  Four men dressed in their khaki-tan YMCA maintenance team uniforms edged their way over to the wall outside GYM A.  "Let's see... Thursday... Okay… well look here.  There is a group cycling class Thursday," said the first and tallest of them.  "What is that?" said the youngest of the four.  As the explanation of the class began to roll off first guy's tongue, the third grinned and said, "so, what?  You're gonna sign up for a class now?"  "Well, maybe," said the first. "Or what about this one?" said the youngest, moving in closer to peer at the schedule.  The first took another look and then, with a hint of either sarcasm or excitement replied, "there we go... Wednesday and Thursday next week."  The younger guy said in all seriousness, "gosh, I don't know if I'm ready for that yet.". The fourth, who had been hanging back, now chirped in, "well you know, you could go to a class today." Quickly, tall guy and young guy started listing off the reasons why it just couldn't happen today.  "I don't have my bag." "Um, well, I didn't bring my clothes." "Nope, don't have time today." And once again, "I just don't think I'm ready for that yet."

At first I giggled inside and grinned on the outside.  And then I thought to myself, “boy, these sound like familiar excuses...”

I am sure I could not even count the number of times I let a little excuse stand in the way of doing something good…or great…or amazing…or just what I needed to do.

an oldie, but a goodie, just for fun
Maybe I should get outside and go for a run.  Oh, nope, I just don’t think I’m ready for’s too cold yet.  Maybe I should take a photography class…nope, I just don’t have time.  "Play Barbies, Eliana, right now, before I get to the dishes?"…Um no, I really need to get to the dishes, besides I didn’t bring my imagination with me today.  Maybe I ought to ask that nice woman I just met to go out for a coffee.  Oh, gee, I can’t, I don’t have my calendar with me.   I really ought to write a love note of encouragement to Ken.  Nope, I don’t have my adequate levels of gush with me today.  Maybe I should go talk to that person; she looks kind of lonely.  No, I didn’t bring my courage today.  I should sit with Zac and look at the comics he’s made.  Ummm, I’d love too, but it will take a lot of time and I just don’t think I have my full patience or attention available.  I really need to sit and pray for a while.  Oh sorry, I just don’t have time.  I need to give up junk food.  I really just don’t think I’m ready for that today…I’ll start tomorrow.  "A bike ride, Ben?"  Ummmm…thanks, but I don’t have my energy for that.

How many moments have I missed?  How many more will I miss?  Moments that make up a lifetime of memories.  I really shouldn’t let too many more slip by.   With that in mind, I'm not even going to edit this post.  Instead, I’m off to snuggle with my man.

Goodnight and thanks for reading!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Beautiful Things

First off, as a quick update for anyone who was wondering, I did not win a scholarship to the She Speaks least not yet.  There were over 200 entries into the competition and only 2 people chosen.  I read the blogs of the winners and think they were very good!  They both had applied in past years, so it is likely especially sweet for them to have this reward to their persistence.  I am considering applying again through a couple other Proverbs 31 avenues.  We will see....

So on with today's post...

I've mentioned a few times that I am mom of a child with special needs.  It took me a long time to use those words, actually.  They still feel awkward as they spill out of my mouth sometimes.  I accepted them, however, long before a diagnosis was even given.  I knew my child well enough to know that the needs were there - along with some fabulously wonderful strengths.  Many mommas might have a hard time "accepting" the challenges they wish weren't there, but I believe, most of us, at the heart, know when our children march to a slightly different beat of the drum.  

Oddly enough, at one time...rather, on a few occasions...I told God that if He wanted me to be the mommy of a child with special needs, I would take that role on.  As well, He had given me a tenderness toward those with different abilities at a really young age.  I've been working in one way or another with individuals with special needs for about 30 years now.  My mom taught me early on that there are those who may look, learn, or think differently than I do, but who are just as deserving of my love and attention. So, I guess I should not be surprised that I was blessed with a special someone with unique needs.  

If you were to look at my beautiful family and, perhaps, even spend a little time with my crazy crew,  you may not realize immediately that there are special needs here.  Or, alternatively, you may think we all have special needs (which, in reality is so very true).  That's because my child's disabilities are "hidden", at least to a degree.  One of my kiddos has the dynamic diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  Along with the ADHD, there is the added label of a Learning Disability.  A Learning Disability is identified when a person of normal intelligence has difficulties in learning specific skills .  Unfortunately, my child's LD is not in one area, but three - reading, writing, and math.  Ugh.  Someone I love and respect who has ADD (that's ADHD minus the hyperactive piece) recently told me, "if I was graded for my effort, I would have had straight A's...I had to put in 4 times as much work and energy to get the work done."  And, it can just be so hard.  For my child.  For me.  For my amazing husband.  For our wee family.  How is it fair that one little person can be hit with so much?  

And yet, because the disability is "invisible" - no syndromic appearance or weakened limbs, no wheelchair or altered gait, just the beautiful face of a beautiful child, inquisitive and bright -, even though we are fully aware of it's existence every single day, we are somehow, sometimes caught off balance by it.  My friend Laura Luyt used a great analogy that resonated with me so well in her blog Little Feet In My House.  She said, 
Or like when you try to go upstairs in the dark – and you mistake where the last step is? Has anyone else done this? You take an extra step, thinking there's one more there, and your leg jarringly comes down to the ground later than expected, assaulting your heightened senses in the dark. It never fails to surprise me. .... Taking steps that are landing in unexpected places and being jolted out of where I thought I was going.
That's how my life feels sometimes as I navigate in the world of invisible disabilities.  DO NOT GET ME WRONG HERE...I am the first to say what an absolutely amazing child I have.  This child is like no other and has some fabulous strengths and a fun personality.  I wish a little bit of this wonderful miracle would rub off on me sometimes.  I wish I could bottle the energy therein.  If I could sell it, I would be rich.  If I could capture some of the willingness to live full out on fast speed, at least for a moment, imagine what I would experience.  If I were less afraid to look foolish from time to time in order to LIVE OUT LOUD what cool things could I accomplish.  There really is richness and wonder and amazing life living in this little person of mine!

Once again, I realize that I really must view the world and my children through the lens of the One that created them.  I need to see through the rough stuff and find the beauty EVEN in the middle of the hurricanes that come full force.  I need to encourage and support when the learning is so much work.  I need to remember that His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) and so can mine be.  I need to rejoice and celebrate the good stuff within and share it with my sweet pea.  I need to nurture the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  And, I need to make sure I carve out the time I need - with myself, with my husband, with my other children, with friends, and especially with God - to make myself the best mommy I can be.  

If you've noticed, I have not used my child's name in this post anywhere.  I have done this intentionally.  One day I may share, but for now, there is no need.  Please respect this if you choose to comment (and I love it when you do).  I love all my kids with all their unique strengths and weaknesses.  Each one stretches me beyond myself.  Each one reminds me what an amazing God we have...a God with creativity, wisdom, strength, and a good sense of humor.  Each child reminds me that I need His strength to get me through each day of my mommy journey.  I don't know how I would ever do it on my own strength...I just couldn't.

I am thankful for my child.  Some days, I hate the ADHD and the LD because of the heartache it can bring.  But I will forever be thankful for and love my child.  I cannot WAIT to see what God has in store for my sweet baby.  I cannot WAIT to see what God has store for me - as He continues to shape and refine me.  

I'm finishing with a video of a song that is new-ish to me and which I have been so encouraged by.  If you were here with me, you would hear me belt it out at the top of my lungs.  I am just so glad that God makes beautiful things out of us, even in our imperfection and frailty.  Thanks so much for reading and soak in the song before you go.  You will be glad you did.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Easy Bake Oven

Have you ever felt like you have put a lot into something, only to get a little teeny tiny return?  If you have ever done an Easy Bake Oven project with your son or daughter, I'm sure you know the feeling.

Elly and I had a delightful time last Tuesday baking in her wee light bulb heated oven.  And, while, relatively speaking it was not truly a lot of work, it sure felt like it in light of the 4 just-a-bit-bigger-than-bite-sized-cookies that were produced.

The preparation...

The physical exertion (ha ha)...

The baking...

The end result....

There were just enough cookies so that Elly, Zac, and Ben could each have one.  Elly ended up eating the fourth one also, as she was not sure she could bear giving the last of her creations away.  Four, oddish tasting cookies.  That's it...that's all that came from dragging everything out, making a mess, dirtying up dishes, and spilling flour on the floor.

You know what?  It didn't matter.  Not to me.  Especially not to Eliana.  

What did matter was the time we spent together giggling, taking pictures, making a mess, setting timers, and learning more about the fine art of Easy Bake baking.  It mattered that Elly had a chance to do something she really wanted to do with her mommy.  It also mattered that, in the end, despite how trivial 4 little cookies might seem to most grown-ups, Elly had done something that she was proud of.  

I had intended, when I started writing today, to share some deeper insights revealed to or strengthened in me through my afternoon adventures in Easy Baking.  However, there are princess fairies that need to be de-winged, visiting kids that must be brought home, a neighbor's cat to be fed, and a tad bit of tidying that needs to happen before some visiting grown-ups come over for pizza dinner (notice I did not mention cooking!!).

Thanks for reading!  Enjoy something with someone you love today...even if it feels like a lot of work for a little outcome.  Chances are, the outcome is greater than you expect.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Indecisive? Me? No Way.

Have you ever watched a shell on the edge of the beach being tumbled about by the waves... advancing toward and then receding from the shore?  The shell progresses forward, rolling over and over, only to suddenly shift directions and lose ground, regressing back into the depths.  With the next wave, the process repeats itself.  If the waves are coming hard enough, the movement appears almost chaotic.  If the poor shell had a will to get itself up onto the sand, it seemed to be losing the battle.

Well, tonight I observed a similar battle in my eldest son.  He was wrought with indecision over whether to stay home and eat dinner at home or whether to come with me to the YMCA, wait until I finished my class, and then take me out to dinner with a gift card he had won in a school contest.  He went back and forth over and over again in a chaotic painful motion.  He was torn between spending time with me, but at the risk of a boring wait and late night, and being in the comfort of his home, but at the risk of eating a dinner that wasn't his favorite.  Poor guy!

Zac comes by this indecision fairly honestly.  Just ask my husband, my sister, my mom, or anyone else who knows me well, and they will tell you that decision making is not my strong suit.  It is not as simple as that, however.  There are varying degrees of decisions that need to be made and, with that, varying degrees of decision making skill.  Some decision making is far easier for me than others.  I will, however, save that discussion for another day...maybe a rainy one.

I'm not sure why it is decision making is so difficult.  However, I have learned something over the years about this thorny process.  I do much better when I realize the following:
  1. Most often, I can make a good decision.  The outcome will be fine.  No need to panic.
  2. Most often, there are two good choices and either one can lead to a good result in my life.  Unless, of course the choice is between blatantly wrong and obviously good stuff - then, of course, there really is no decision that needs to be made.  The answer would then be clear.
  3. Most often, I will feel better once the decision is made and stuck to.
  4. Most often, everyone around me will feel better once the decision is made.
  5. If I am asking for God's input in the decision and trying to follow Him, He is likely pleased when I finally make a decision.  It means that I trust Him in my life and with the decisions I make in an attempt to honor Him.  He is big enough to help turn my decisions into good outcomes.
Tonight, in the end, Zachary chose to stay home.  Right up until I pulled away, however, he waffled in that indecision.  It was hard, painful really, to watch.  While I was away, Ken reassured him that some indecision is normal, especially at this awkward advancement of puberty.  Ken said he was relieved to hear this.  When I got home, I reassured him that I understood.  And, I told him that I knew where he got this swinging preference pendulum from.  I think he was relieved to hear this as well. 

More decisions need to be made tomorrow...and the day after that.  Hopefully he won't tumble back and forth quite as hard as he did tonight.  Hopefully along the way, he will learn some of the things I have about making those decisions.  And, hopefully, he will advance enough to grab a hold of the shore and rest for awhile with a decision that has been made.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Words That Can Crumble...

Today at lunch, a co-worker of mine asked, "does anyone know of a good alarm system they would recommend?"  She proceeded to tell us that she and her husband were looking into an alarm system because of recent robberies in their neighborhood situated out in the country.  This sparked stories from others about the time their houses were robbed.  These kinds of discussions always end up being kind of  fun, as inevitably one story teller tries to out tell another.  I must admit, I jumped in with the story about the time my sister was house sitting for a neighbor and we eventually found out that a man was "living" there secretly while the neighbors were away.  True story. It was a lively discussion.

Suddenly, however, in the span of one sentence, the conversation left a bitter taste in my mouth and sent my thoughts whirling.  I know the sentence was made with no malicious intent.  In fact, the speaker later tried to explain away her comment, perhaps realizing the sting it may have caused.  The woman, a very nice woman, was talking about a car suspiciously parked on the street in front of the acreage lots out in the country.  It was suspicious because of where it was parked, because of a missing license plate, and because it sat there for some time, "appearing" to be "casing out" their neighbors luxurious acreage home.  But, then came that stinging sentence. "...and there were two black guys sitting in the front seat."

 The sentence was not, "there were two unfamiliar guys in the front seat" or "there were two guys we'd never seen before" or, even, "there were two guys we didn't recognize as being from our neighborhood."  It was, "...and there were two black guys sitting in the front seat." I missed the next several seconds of what she said as that sentence echoed momentarily in my mind and I immediately thought of my son.  Oh, how I hope he is never on the end of a sentence like that, used in that way.  It was not intentionally hurtful, but the sting was still there.

Later on in the conversation, the woman did explain that there are no black families on their street, which is why it seemed out of place.  She even stated something like, "I don't mean to sound prejudice or just didn't make sense for them to be there."  It was an attempt to put context to the sentence.  But, by that point, the pain was already unintentionally inflicted.

Now, do not get me wrong.  I am not an overly politically correct person.  I don't know what the latest politically correct terms are for the variety of people groups we have in our country and around the world.  As well, I am sure that somewhere along the line I have said or done things that I would now hit myself over the head for.  As well, I am not someone who thinks we should never use someone's ethnic or racial identity to talk about a person or explain who someone is.  In fact, ethnic/racial identity is a major part of who someone is and impacts how their world view is shaped.  Ethnicity and racial identity are good things that should, to some degree, be acknowledged and celebrated in the world.  However, this kind of statement, especially if left hanging with no further clarification, holds within it history of inequality and judgment based on racial biases.

When, therefore, in my mind does it make sense to describe someone by including their racial or ethnic identity?  Okay - this is risky to put out here because I, myself, am not from a minority group.  I am merely the fierce lioness-like mama of someone who is.  Therefore, my opinion comes only from me, a very white middle aged youngish woman.  In my mind there is no reason to discuss this identity unless the identity is specific to their description for the purpose of distinguishing one person from another or for clarifying an appearance for appearance sake.  For example, if I was describing my son to someone because they were going to meet him for the first time in the library without me, I may well say, "he's 8 years old.  He will have on ripped jeans and a dinosaur t-shirt.  He has black curly hair and dark brown / black skin."  In order to help identify my son to someone unfamiliar, it makes perfect sense that I might include that "he's black" or "he's African", especially if they did not know that my son was adopted.  Similarly, I would describe distinctive features of my daughter perhaps as, "she is a bit of a princess warrior.  She will be wearing the pretty pink dress and dirty sneakers.  She has long blond hair and greenish blue eyes."  If I was describing a woman that I saw whose beauty struck me, I may say, "she was thin with dark eyes and long dark hair.  Her skin was a lovely olive tone, very Mediterranean in appearance."  I may also describe someone that I am referring to in a crowd by including their race, if it would help to identify them.  For example, if I was telling someone about my friend Marcus across the room, I may say, "He's the African American man over in the corner wearing the white t-shirt."  If the crowd had many white t-shirt wearing dark haired men in it, it could take me a long time trying to narrow down the list otherwise.  There would be no negative connotation behind that kind of statement.

However, race or ethnicity does not need to be used by itself as part of a description when those features do not set them apart from someone else, especially when there is some negative tone attached.  As my wise sister, Sue, says, "If you wouldn't normally say something like 'the blond person', there is probably no reason to say 'the black/Asian/Mexican person'."  Generally, people wouldn't use the same type of description for someone who was white.  For example, it is highly unlikely that this woman at the lunch table would ever have said, "...and there were a couple of white guys sitting in the front seat" or "....two blond haired men..."  Similarly, if I am discussing students at my school as being rowdy in the hallway, I hope I would not ever say, "there were a bunch of Hispanic kids messing around in the halls."  It should suffice it to say, "there were a bunch of kids messing around in the halls."  Now, if I was trying to identify those students to someone else for some follow up action and didn't know their names, I would likely use multiple physical descriptors to help determine who they were - just as I would if they were white students.  Get the difference?

Words - little combinations of letters on a page or formed in our mouths - are powerful.  They can be powerful in a good encouraging way or in a hurtful awful kind of way.  Words can build someone up or they can tear someone to pieces.  When spoken in love, they can crumble walls.  When spoken in ignorance or hate, they can crumble confidence, spirits, and lives.

I know the intent of this woman was not malicious.  Yet that simple sentence brought out so many protective instincts in this mama bear.  I think I need to gird myself for days to come when someone says something out of ignorance or hate to or about my child that causes me to stumble.  Sadly, it is bound to happen.  It already has happened.  And, I need to be ready to choose my battles and decide when to graciously ignore an unintentional arrow, when to humbly educate, and when to fight with love and passion for what is right.  It's something I will have to think about...and pray about.  I will also have to remember to watch my words in order to use them to crumble walls, not crumble spirits.  Ultimately, I will have to use that Jesus vision that I long for.  That's the only way I will truly see people the way they are meant to be seen.

Ben with his old best buddy and little sister out for his 8th birthday - getting their karate on!
Ben sporting his super strength with his scrawnier  best bud.