Friday, April 29, 2011

Kids that color together...

One of my favourite things is seeing and hearing my children get along with one another.  There is such contentment in watching them work together, play together, and encourage one another.  A kind word shared between two or three of them is like a song to my spirit.  A helpful hand or supportive gesture is a gift not only amongst themselves, but directly to me as well.  Cooperative laughter and giggles is the best kind of medicine.

One of the cool things my kids enjoy doing together is drawing or coloring.  Over the last year, especially, I have found them time and time again, lined up in a row, coloring together.  Often times, one starts out, proclaiming that he or she is going to color.  Before I know it, another has joined in.  Eventually all three are lined up in a row at the bar or gathered round the table.  Often, Zachary can be found coaching or encouraging the younger two as they strive to draw something as intricate or "awesome" as he did.  At times, Elly asks Ben to help her as well, such a confidence building moment for this big brother.  Much of the time, stories are generated along with the drawings...wonderful creative minds at work.

There are, of course, some moments when the cherubs do not get along so well.  But moments like those above are a soothing salve over the scrapes of sibling rivalry.   The joy found in a simple act of putting pen to the page together bonds these three in special ways.  Who knew the power hidden in a marker moment of togetherness?  I can't wait to experience more and more of these moments along the way.  Now, if only, I could figure out to slow the sands of time...

(Short and simple tonight - it's been a busy end to the week!)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sometimes I feel like a fish...huh?!?

There is a little stream or creek about 2 miles from our house.  It connects the two large lakes close to our home, Spring Lake and Upper Prior Lake. 
This is a map of where we are living.  My neighborhood, on the left with a blue dot,  is not yet developed in this view.  For my far away friends, I've added dots indicating where my parents and my oldest brother live to give perspective of just how close we are to them now that we have moved.  My sister lives just a bit off the map on Lower Prior Lake, which is an extension of the lake to the north.  I feel really fortunate to be so near family and to have so many lakes near by.
For the last couple weeks, I noticed people standing on the banks of the stream looking down into the rushing water.  I kept meaning to stop to see what the fuss was about.  So, yesterday, Elly and I decided to check it out.  I figured there must be a few fish or crayfish hanging out near the bridge.  What we saw, however, surprised both of us!  There were not a few fish, but hundreds of fish!

At first, when we approached the water, I noticed a few of the fish along the shoreline.  But it wasn't until I stood back and really looked at what I was seeing to realize the sheer number of fish that were really there.  Originally, I thought the stream bottom was black. But then, when I looked from a different vantage point, from the direction that the sun was shining, I realized that there were hundreds of fish all massed together, turning the rusty tan stream floor into a black undulating mass.  Oddly there was a natural break from one mass to the next, as seen in the photo to the right.  All that black is fish on top of fish, blending one into another, one hardly distinguishable from the next.

Clearly, the fish were attempting to make their way through the concrete tunnel under the bridge and out to their spawning destination in Spring Lake.  This past fall during road widening, the bridge was reconstructed, however, changing the waterway slightly.  According to my dad, there is some concern that the fish may be having a harder time getting through this year.  As you can see, there are only a few that have made it to the concrete and, from what Elly and I saw, there seemed to be none on the other side.

Elly and I really enjoyed watching the fish.  El decided that she would like to be a fish, though she was sure she did not want to fall into the fish mass.  Later, we also brought the boys by to see this fun phenomenon.
Sometimes, I feel like one of those fish.  Sometimes, I feel as if I am fighting upstream.  I know where I am supposed to be headed.  I may even be able to see the end in sight or know that it is just out of reach.  But, as I fight to gain ground (or water, in the fishie analogy), I feel like I am just stuck....treading water, sometimes making a big 'ole splash, but making no headway.  Maybe the route that has worked in the past suddenly (or not so suddenly) has a new barrier that needs to be overcome.  Perhaps, the rush of day to day life just pushes too hard for too long and I can't seem to break through it to regain momentum.  Most days are not like this, but some days are.  Thankfully, I know there is One who is with me in those moment, fighting the battle along side me.

Sometimes, I feel like one of those fish.  Sometimes, not very often, I feel as if I am just one in a mass of many, hardly distinguishable from the rest.  I wonder on occasion, "What sets me apart?  What makes me unique?  What, if anything, is my 'je ne sais quoi'?"  Although there are times when blending in is a plus (like when you are a zebra trying to confuse a lion or if you don't want to be called on in class), most of us want to be seen as having something of worth or something unique.  Most of us want to be noticed for something - a charming or enduring quality, a unique job, an achievement or accomplishment, the hard work we do, the positive choices we make, the glimmer in our eyes when we smile, the silky softness of our hair (okay, now I'm just being silly).  Most of us don't really want to be just another fish fighting an upstream swim.  When I start to feel this way, I remind myself of the One who made me, fearfully and wonderfully, and who sees me even in my day to day when no one else might.

Thankfully, sometimes, I feel like one of those fish.  While I am not a lover of always blending in with all the other fish around me, I am a lover of community and the support it brings.  Imagine if you were the only fish in that stream trying to make your way through to the next lake.  The water is pushing against you, the hawks are circling above, some city guy messed up your route, and here you are all alone.  (I can hear the sniffles of shared compassion for that fish now.)  Since I am not a fishologist or fish psychologist, I cannot say whether or not fish have some degree of "emotional" need for community that humans do, but clearly (given that many breeds of fish school) there is at least a primal survival need for community.  My need for community is emotional, physical, spiritual, and survival-al (I am sure that is a word).  I am not sure how I would do this life without the support, encouragement, and just plain fun of others.  I cannot count the number of times that a good friend, partner in ministry, or family member came along side me (or my family) in a time of need.  I cannot imagine parenting without others occasionally cheering, affirming, guiding, and listening.  I would surely flounder (pun, possibly intended) if I tried to walk my faith walk without other can be done, but I'm sure glad I don't have to do it.

And, how boring would life be if I could not also be a part of someone else's community?  I get great joy from being a support and encouragement to others and I just plain loving having fun with others.  Today, I had to miss out on 3, count them 3, adult relational activities due to my sickly daughter (only pink eye, but the risk of spreading eye crust to others kept us hibernating) and the need to be home for one of my sons this afternoon.  I could have had a fabulous Y work out, followed by an early movie or lunch, followed by a late afternoon play date, but I had to turn them all down.  (Okay, in reality, I am not sure I could have handled that busy of a schedule today, but I am all warm inside just knowing that the option was there - I am growing in my community!).  While three back to back opportunities may have done me in, I am so thankful that the One who created the universe, created me with a longing for relationship and community.

Wow!  Who knew that watching fish could bring about so many thoughts?  Okay, probably anyone who knows me well at all knew that something like fish watching would cause me to think a little more than maybe I ought.  No wonder I have such crazy dreams while I sleep.  I gotta work out all the things I didn't get to finish thinking about during the day!  Ha ha!  At any rate, be glad you're not a fish and have a great night!  Oh, and feel free to let me know if and how you ever feel like a fish.  :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Just for fun

Video games are a big deal at our house.  Somewhat to my chagrin, my kidlets, primarily my boys, really love to play video / computer games.  For one child, this has not really been a big deal.  Like a social drinker, he can handle going a few days without playing games quite nicely.  But when given the opportunity, he enjoys kicking back and playing one of his favourites.  He especially enjoys showing off his creative creations that some of the computer games allow him to generate.  For one child, however, video games have an addicting effect.  Video / t.v. time limits must be enforced in our household because of this addict-like longing.  Despite knowing the draw that games like MarioCart and Wii Sports might have, I never would have fully predicted the hold that the gaming realm would have on my sweet pea.  And, if I could turn back time, I'm not sure I ever would have allowed the systems into our house.  Funny...I don't ever remember Pong having such a hold on me. 


While I could draw a TON of life lessons from this observation, I am not going to do so tonight.  I may at a later point, but I am far too tired right now.  Rather, I wanted to use that observation as a segue to something I found recently that made me laugh.  (By the way, I just learned that the word segue is spelled s.e.g.u.e., not s.e.g.w.a.y. - cool.)  A FB friend of mine posted a video by Julian Smith the other day and I got hooked into watching a number of his videos.  He is very creative and funny.  I must say, off the bat, however, that there is at least one character/sketch series (I have not viewed all of his videos) that I am NOT a fan of for a variety of reasons (Jeffrey).  But, many of his videos are witty and fun.  Some offer funny insights into issues of the day and the ridiculous things that we do.  This particular video falls into this category.  It made me (and my kids) laugh out loud.  Enjoy...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

More for Less

Everything was going along swimmingly.  I got home from a decent day at work.  The kids were playing well together.  They chatted and giggled happily about who knows what.  Much to my children's delight, I announced that I would soon be making my infamous breakfast dinner.  Thus, with a little time to spare, I sat down for a little "me" moment, catching up on the day and others via my "social network" of choice.  (Actually, my social network of choice would have nothing to do with computers and everything to do with a face to face visit some place really comfy.)

And then it started.  Slowly, but surely, the picking began.  You know, honestly, I can't even recall what all the jabs were about or why they started.  But they came nonetheless.  Little knocks at one another, not necessarily all intentional, but causing frustration in one another...and causing resentment to build between one another. 
Can you imagine these guys ever fighting?  I hear the resounding "YES" from those who have seen it in action. Ha!

You know, I find it such a fine line - knowing when to step in and knowing when to let them work it out themselves.  Sometimes I know I jump in far too soon, while other times I probably let it go on a little too long.  It is, perhaps, a fine which I have not mastered.  At any rate, one too many comments laced with a touch of poison and I jumped in with my own voice, raised louder than I intended.  Before I knew it, the peace of home had been misplaced, even if only momentarily, by the selfish intents of 3 little people and, perhaps, 1 larger person.

Thankfully, it wasn't too long before attitudes were adjusted, hearts were better aligned, and peace was generally restored.  I know that some of the change was due, in part, to the kids' desire to please their mama.  But I also know that much of the improvement was because they wanted to watch a movie after our pancake feast.  They knew that things needed to shape up if they wanted to earn this privilege.  Yet, I made sure that I talked through with them the impact of hurt feelings and broken relationships within a family.  I wanted apologies to be sincere and changes to be true.  "Sorry doesn't mean anything unless you try to change your behaviour", the broken record played.  However, I knew, at some level, that some of the improvement was based on the "first...then" principle. First you shape up and treat each other right. Then you get a movie night.  At it's core, I am doubtful that the change of heart was completely out of altruistic sibling love (if you have ever been there, I'm sure you are catchin' my drift)...and, at this stage of the game, I wouldn't expect it to be.

As my brain would have it, this little series of interactions led me to think something like this:  How we treat others when we have nothing to gain is the true measure how much we value the relationship and, in reality, who we are underneath.  Anyone can treat someone well if they think there is something to gain from it.  It takes character and integrity to consistently treat someone with respect, care, compassion, and dignity whether or not there is something to gain. 

As I started to write the last sentence, I almost wrote, "...whether or not there is something (other than relationship itself) to gain."  But then I realized that even expecting a relationship is an anticipation of something to gain, therefore, something for me. The way I treat complete strangers, simple acquaintances, and even those I will never meet face to face, speaks volumes about my character and the condition of my heart.

Just imagine if everyone treated each they encountered in a "do unto others, as you would have done unto you" sort of way, without the purpose of getting something in return.  What a radical idea!  Radical, perhaps, but certainly not new.  It was, in fact, Jesus who said "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" when he was giving his famous Sermon on the Mount.  And it was Paul (in Philippians 2) who said, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

I can only imagine the peace that would come if the world adopted those principles.  I can hope and pray for that kind of peace in my home, desiring that each of us (big and small) would adopt and daily live out those principles.  I know the peace and satisfaction I experience when I choose to do unto others in humility.  And, although I can't make my children do nothing out of selfish ambition, I can sure try to model it for them.  I can't make my co-workers treat one another and all students as they themselves would want to be treated, but I can try to live in such a way that others might see this lived out through me.  And, when I see these principles being displayed by a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or even a stranger, I can offer acknowledgement and encouragement for a moment well lived.

Food packing for Impact Lives in the fall.
I am far from perfect when it comes to consistently showing care and good treatment to others while expecting absolutely nothing in return.  My human nature longs for a little least a crumb from the return.  And yet, He's not finished with me yet.  Maybe one day I will get to the point where I altruistically give my all to others with no expectation of gain, but I kind of doubt it will happen this side of heaven...though wouldn't it be cool if it did!  In the meantime, step by step, I hope to move in this direction of giving more out of selfless ambition.  I long to leave a legacy of living in such a way, to the glory of God and for the benefit of others.  Only time will tell.

As I wrap up my writing, it is my pleasure to note that my children ended their night well. Mater's Tales was the film du jour and enjoyed by all.  Popcorn was the tasty treat.  Elly decided to have a sleep over in Ben's room, a fortnightly event in our home.  The kids are now fast asleep.  Peace reigns in the Castor home once again.

A foreshadow of the slumber party friendship these two would have...taken in the winter/spring of 2007

Friday, April 22, 2011

What kind of Friday?

Over the last few days, my mind keeps coming back to the name that was given to today.  Good Friday.  I can't imagine that anyone witnessing the events of this day would have considered it good.  Can you imagine the appalled look that would have come across the faces of Jesus's friends and family members if someone said, "you know, one of these days, we'll all look back and call this a good day"?

Can you imagine how Peter must have felt, knowing that, in the hours leading up to this day, he had repeatedly denied the one he repeatedly said he loved?  Can you imagine Mary, the mother of Jesus, watching helplessly as her son hung beaten and bloodied on the cross?  Can you imagine Joseph and Jesus's brothers, likely physically strong men (being carpenters), holding themselves back, knowing there was nothing they would be able to do?  Can you imagine all those people Jesus had healed in the previous 3 years, wondering how the one who had done so much for them was now in this place?  Can you imagine the bewilderment in the mind of the boy who had given Jesus 3 loaves and 5 fishes and watched him feed over 5000 people with it?  Can you imagine the heavy hearts of those called "sinners" and "unclean" (and far worse names, I'm sure) as they watched the man who accepted them and cared for them just as they were?  Can you imagine the sheer terror in that day?  I simply cannot imagine that, truly, to anyone that the day would have seemed "good".

I think that even those responsible for Jesus's death, zealous religious leaders and Roman political leaders, could not have really felt good on that day.  They knew that Jesus was not a criminal worthy of death.  They knew that He had not done anything wrong.  They were afraid of Him, of what He represented, and of how He could upset the order of things in their lives, but they could not substantiate death on a cross.  I imagine that a number of these men...and those that physically beat and hung Jesus that day...maintained an outward appearance of superiority and confidence in the decisions that lead to this moment.  Yet, I imagine that on the inside, many, if not all of these men, felt a sense of disgust, horror, and shame at the thought of what they had just done.  Like so many awkward villains portrayed in movies and television that know the error of their ways, but cannot seem to break out of the wrong doing that holds them captive.  Like Judas, the betrayer, I imagine others struggled with their own self worth and value after this "good" Friday.

Even Jesus on the cross, despite being fully God and fully man, likely, in that moment, would not have called anything about that day good.  He carried the weight of the world's sin on His shoulders as He hung in indescribable pain.  His lungs bared the weight of his unsupported body, held up only by the nails that held Him in place.  The physical pain perhaps paled in comparison to the emotional pain of it all.  He called out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!" revealing scripture / prophecy about himself (Psalm 22), but also in His agony and in His momentary separation from the Father.  Even the earth, bringing forth an earthquake, cried out in anguish.  The weight of the day was so far from good.

And yet, today.  Today, we know the amazing truth of the story that was unfolding on that horribly awful day.  Today, we know what happened three days later.  Today, we are aware that death on the cross, as wretched as it was, was a necessary part of a beautifully good plan.  Today, we can celebrate the fact that Jesus died so that we might live.  Jesus took the weight of our sin so that we would have forgiveness.   Today, we can look back and know that in an oxymoronic sort of way, it was indeed, a very good Friday.

A few days ago, my brilliant and handsome husband reflected on the goodness of today in his blog.  So, rather than going on and on myself, I will steal borrow his words to end this reflection.

A Very Good Friday (from

Jesus came for the sick.
Jesus seeks after the lost.
Jesus searches for runaways.
Jesus finds the hidden.
Jesus heals the broken.
Jesus gives footing to the lame.
Jesus opens the closed ears of the deaf.
Jesus restores sight to the blind.
Jesus frees the prisoner.
Jesus has coffee with the prostitute.
Jesus loves the sinner.
Jesus forgives the repentant.
Jesus strengthens the weak.
Jesus fills the empty.
Jesus dwells with the lonely.
Jesus comforts the mourner.
Jesus weeps with the sad, the hurting, the grieved.
Jesus breathes into the lifeless.
Jesus lifts up the trampled.
Jesus gathers the displaced.
Jesus feeds the hungry.
Jesus quenches the thirsty.
Jesus puts the last at the front.
Jesus eats with the unsanitary.
Jesus dines with the despised.
Jesus carries our burdens.
Jesus dies for his enemies.
Jesus bleeds for his friends.
Jesus stretches out his arms for us.
By the way, I posted this within less than a day of my last post.  So, if you didn't read that one yet, feel free to check that one out as well by clicking here.  And, as always, thank you for reading and feel free to add your thoughts or comments below. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Afraid of the Dark

I was roughly 10 minutes from home when I got the call.  A panicked, quiet voice barely breaking through from the other side caused my heart to skip a beat and my thoughts to swirl.  

“Mom....I’m scared.  (brief pause)  I think there is someone in the house.”

“Okay...What do you mean, honey?” I asked, hoping not to lead the response in any particular direction.

I figured I would have received this call at least once by now, given that my eldest is having more frequent home alone time.  Nevertheless, it was still a call I hated to get.  Not because I actually was concerned that anything was going on, but because I knew the feeling that he was experiencing.   

I vividly remember some of the moments I spent on my own before my parents came home after work.  I recall once locking myself in my bathroom and calling my friend when I heard something unfamiliar.  (As if a burglar could not break through my hollow bathroom door.)   I was hoping my friend could talk me out of my momentary fear that someone must have made the noise I just heard.  And, I was hoping she could reassure me that everything was just fine.  It worked.  And, no, there were no cell phones way back then (I don’t even think we had a cordless).  But, for some unknown, but brilliant, reason, we had a phone outlet in our bathroom.  Maybe the previous owners also thought the bathroom was a good place to hideout or conduct important business.

My son’s call also brought to mind how I would run from light switch to light switch in order to get from upstairs to downstairs, or vice versa, at night.  As my energy conserving penny saving parents did not want us to leave un-necessary lights on, the unlit hallways appeared to grow longer as I contemplated how I would get from point A to point B without being consumed by the dark.  So, like any clever dark-fearing-girl might do, I ran from light switch to light switch, often singing or talking out loud along the way, flipping the switches on or off according to the direction I was headed.  Looking back, I'm sure this was quite the spectacle.

Why is it that so many of us are afraid of the dark?  Why is it that we can make the leap from a ticking sound of an expanding heat duct to ‘someone must hiding under the stairs’ so quickly?  Is it simply the fear of the unknown or something else?

While I am sure there are many different pieces to the fear puzzle, I am convinced that part of fear is related to aloneness or separation from those we care about.  Why do I think this?  Because of the way my son handled his fear and the ways I often handle my fears.   When my son thought someone might be in the house, he almost immediately called me – for guidance, for support, for help, and, ultimately, for connection.  My hunch is that he knew no one was there, but he longed for reassurance and relationship.   When I was afraid as a kid, cowering in the bathroom, I called out to a friend for the same reasons.  I knew she couldn’t come help me (we were far too young to drive), but I knew she would listen and share connection.  Talking and singing out loud in my light switch running was, in addition to being a little silly, a subconscious attempt to communicate with feel not so alone in the dark.  Even today, when I have a moment of fear or anxiety, my desire is to reach out and connect to someone that I know cares about me.  

We all long for connection.  For relationship.  For intimacy.  It’s the way we were designed.  From the outset of the world, we were made to be in relationship - first with God and then with others.  The Genesis creation story shouts this out.  After all the amazing work God did in creating the stuff of the world...all of which He called “good”...He desired something more.  So, before He decided to rest, God made people in His own image.  In the garden, he created Adam to walk with, talk with, invest in, and share relationship with uniquely...and it was "very good".  It was so good that God decided to allow Adam the pleasure of this relationship with Eve as well.  And so it began...our desire to connect with others was created within us.  And, this relational desire will always be a part of who we are as human beings.

When I got home a few minutes after receiving the call, my son sat alone on his bed, even though his brother had come home in the meantime.  His little brother, though he tried, could not offer him the kind of connection that he needed in the moment.  It didn’t take long, however, to talk him down from his level of heightened alarm and fear.   We determined that the wind was causing the garage door to make an unusual noise.  I was glad that a combination of rational thinking and loving relationship moved him beyond being stuck. 

I half expected the call to come again yesterday or today.  It didn’t.  But, if it did, I hope I would have been ready to listen, to reason, and, most importantly, to simply be in relationship with my son. 

Afraid of the Dark - Shel Silverstein

I’m Reginald Clark, I’m afraid of the dark
So I always insist on the light on,
And my teddy to hug,
And my blanket to rub,
And my thumby to suck or to bite on.
And three bedtime stories,
Two trips to the toilet,
Two prayers, and five hugs from my mommy,
I’m Reginald Clark, I’m afraid from the dark
So please do not close this book on me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A King on a Donkey

 Eliana stood proudly in her "puppy princess dress", lovingly named for it's beautiful princess quality, complete with a hot pink bow, and fashionably placed dalmatian print pattern.  Her fancy dress was topped off with sneakers and white bobby socks.  A perfect combination for my little warrior princess.  I'd asked her earlier, as we were leaving the house, if she would wear sneakers with her wedding dress one day.  "No way," she giggled, as if this was an absurd question. "I will wear high heels!!"  

The kids had filed into the middle school auditorium waving palm branches and singing...or not they made there way up onto the risers. They started off our Palm Sunday service with three songs this morning.  It was a wonderful way to begin a new week. 

[Elly waiting backstage prior to the service (left and center) and then during the "concert".  Thank goodness she wasn't sitting while she sang in front of everyone!]

As they were rehearsing prior to the service, the children's pastor, who is becoming a friend of mine, asked the kids whether a king rides a donkey.  Of course they all shouted "no", to which she replied something like, "that's right.  But Jesus did come on a donkey and He was a king".  It made me recall something that I had heard for the first time earlier in the week, which I then shared with my new friend.

Apparently, back in the time of Jesus, a king rode in on a horse if he was coming in a time of war.  However, if he was coming to announce peace, he rode in on a donkey.  The people welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday so long ago, did so waving and lying down palm branches to pave the way for their king, who was coming to bring peace.  The people had no idea the way in which Jesus would eventually bring peace.  It certainly was not in the manner they expected. 

As Easter approaches, I hope to carry the image of Jesus, as a king bringing peace, with me.  The temptation will be (and already is) to stress myself out this week with things that need to be done.  Today, that stress already bit me in the behind at least once or twice.  And yet, the Prince of Peace...the King of Peace...wants none of that for me.  He wants me to rest in Him, in my bobby socks and sneakers, expecting for Him to bring about some peace in ways that I cannot even imagine or expect. 

....and may the peace of God, that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Light ThirstDay Night!

When I was about 9 years old, I had this shirt - imagine a very retro form fitted looking shirt - that said "Glad it's ThirstDay" on it.  It had a picture of a rootbeer float (or some such beverage) and straw on it.  I wore it only on Thursdays.  I thought I was very cool and extremely hip.   Somewhere, I've got a picture where I'm wearing this shirt in front of my Uncle Marty's house.  I'm standing with my good looking male cousins (you know, with awesome 70's boy hair and short shorts) and thought I was really hot. Today, it makes me giggle.  For some reason, I've had this shirt on my mind today.  And, given that it is Thursday, I thought I should jot it down before it leaves my thoughts again.

I decided, as I was thinking about my "ThristDay" shirt, that I would go light a skinny latte (apparently...since I don't drink lattes or other coffee based beverages).  So, in honor of my skinny latte kind of day, here are a few things that one may or may not know about me, but may bring about a few giggles...

1)  As a kid, I was in children's theatre.  That in itself, may not bring about a guffaw.  However, the following picture may just cause a smile to crack.  Steve, a friend from my childhood and recent re-connect, posted this on F.B for all to see.  We were "co-stars" in Tom Sawyer.  It was the biggest role of my theatrics career - with the ghost of Christmas Past (? - I think that was the one I was) coming in a close second.  I thought I had really made it big!  Must have been the feathered Farrah Fawcett locks and turtle neck that secured my role!

2)  I sing out loud alot, especially to 70's and 80's music!  While growing up, it was very common to find me playing Barbie in my yellow-gingham-flower wallpapered room, while listening to the radio or my LPs.  I am amazed at how I can still  hold the lyrics of songs in memory and recall them on a whim, but can not remember what I did over the weekend by the time Monday roles around.  One of my favourite songs was America's Horse With No Name.

I still pride myself in knowing most, if not all, of the lyrics to Devil Went Down To Georgia. AND I can sing it time with Charlie Daniels.  Looking back, this may have been a precursor to rap.  Hmmmm....

3)  My best friends and I used to enjoy putting on "shows" for our families and each other.  We would put little make up dots on our chins so that it looked like faces if we lay on our backs.  We thought we were extremely funny...and I believe we were. 

This past summer, my girlfriends and I got together with our kids.  It had been many years since we'd all seen each other.  For the sake of our children (yeah, that's it), the three of us pulled out our "Chins" act again.  Still a crowd pleaser!!

After our show stopper finale, several of our kids decided to do their own performance.  It made it all worth it!  Zachary added glasses to his chin man...very nice touch.

4)  Often, when my husband gives me a compliment, especially if it is related to how I look, I can't help but make a goofy face.  It's like it's just too much for me to handle seriously.  I love the compliments, but don't handle the attention very well.  We usually end up laughing about it.  Sorry, no visual supports for this one!

5) I talk in my sleep.  I'm not sure that I talk in my sleep as much as I used to, but I used to talk in my sleep ALOT!  When we were first married, Ken would tell me almost every morning about some strange thing I said or did in the night.  The one that stands out most was the time I started yelling out, "Watch out!  It's falling!"  When Ken jolted awake, he opened his eyes to find my hand slowly coming down toward his head, while I continued to bellow out my warning.  Needless to say, he grabbed my hand to keep it from colliding into his face, narrowly escaping certain pain...okay, maybe only certain awkwardness, as my hand was moving quite slowly for someone yelling with such earnest.  I'll have to ask Ken if I've been talking much lately.

6)  I have an extremely vivid and active dream-life...which may well explain the sleep talking.  Most mornings, I wake up remembering, at least for a period, what I dreamed about.  Often, I wake up tired from the life I live while I am asleep.  One of the first dreams I had that I still remember happened when I was 10 or so.  It was about UFOs that came and started shooting lasers down, disintegrating everything in their paths.  I ran from place to place to stay out of the deadly rays (under tables, behind walls, etc) as I watched people and things crumble to dust.  Wow...okay, that is not so much funny as it is sad and scary.  But, the funny thing, perhaps, is the glimpse into my crazy busy mind.  Sometimes I wish I didn't dream so much because it can truly be exhausting.  At the same time, however, I cannot imagine my nights without my dreams.  It's like going to the theater every night...minus the popcorn and pop.  It is a fun wild night life that I lead.

7) last one for the night.  This one takes courage.  Here it is.
When I was 13 years old or so, I took..................................................................Break Dance lessons!
It is true.  To this day, I can still recall a snip-it of one of my smokin' routines.  I took lessons with a friend who shall remain nameless at this time (you know, to protect the innocent).  We were pretty much hot stuff!   It was around the time break dance movies, and break dance in general, were popular.  I still have one of the song lyrics from movie Beat Street in my mind today as it played on a preview commercial....
Beat Street is the king of the street, you see him rockin' that beat from across the street.  And (huh huh), beat street is a lesson too, because ya can't let the street beat you! HUH!.... (spoken) Beat Street...rated PG.
During this same era, a family of brothers (who were friends of mine) put down massive cardboard pieces on the floor in their basement.  This served as a hot break dancing zone!  Ha ha ha!  I don't think I actually did much break dancing there.  I'm sure I was far too embarrassed. 

Ahhhhh...this was fun.  I like light Thursday night.  Maybe I will have to do it again sometime.  But for now, I am far too tired as I stayed up too late reminiscing and giggling to myself!  Off to bed I go!

As always, thanks for stopping by! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Words on a Rock...

On the lawn outside the school where I work, there is a large boulder.  It's sort of an all occasion greeting card stone.  Sometimes, it boasts a victory: Way to go, Cougar Wrestlers!!  Other times, it leads a charge:  Beat the Panthers!  Other times to mourns a loss of someone significant:
Although it stood for everyone to see, I covered up the name out of respect.
This is the way the rock looked today.  Freshly painted, with carefully printed words for passersby to read.

Some of the words neatly crafted on the other side of the rock included: 
We miss you!       Talented     Special

When I saw the memorial monolith, I knew it marked the passing of a student.  The name, however, was not familiar to me (as many are not since I work with such a small group of students and am still relatively new).  So when I had a chance, I looked up the name to see if I could find out a little more information about the young person being grieved.   The obituary was sadly sparse, which suggested the sad truth about how this young person died.  I later confirmed my suspicions that this student, only 17 years old, tragically took her own life.  Dishearteningly, this is at least the 2nd time that the rock has offered this particular kind of remembrance in the last 6 months.

One of the thing that struck me about the rock and the tragedy it represents were the simple words of praise and admiration that were expressed.  It made me wonder how the young girl missed the fact that others felt this way about her, or more so, how she missed the fact that her life had significance and value.  It made me wonder what  the other powerful words of negativity were that echoed in her mind and heart when she closed her eyes at night.  Believe me, I am in no way passing judgement or trying to determine if someone is responsible for this.  I cannot even imagine how the family and close friends of this young person must feel.  And, I realize that sometimes, even the best attempts at caring and intervention do not prevent someone from taking their own life.  BUT, I still wonder, how it is that, at the end of the day, this treasure did not know her worth?

In reality, I think many of us have dark moments.  But, for most of us, I hope and pray, those dark moments are fleeting.  Or, if they linger longer than they should, most people have the ability to seek out the help needed to move from dark into light.  The clouds that fog the mind and distort perceptions usually break and usher in a new day.  But, for this student, somehow the darkness must have not had a silver lining.  Or perhaps in a desperate moment, she allowed an impulsive short term decision determine the long term outcome.  

When I read the words on the rock, I wondered about how many times she heard those sentiments from others...or how often she said them to herself.  I wonder if I ever passed her in the hallways and smiled at her.  I wonder if I ever held a moment of eye contact with her, giving her some sort of affirmation that someone noticed her.  It made me wonder about how many times I pass other students or staff members in the hallways without noticing them or acknowledging them.  Not that every teenager out there wants this 40 year old woman to smile at them...some might find that uncomfortably odd....but everyone, I believe, wants to know that they are not invisible.  Everyone wants to know that they somehow matter.  When I read the words on the rock, I desperately wanted to turn back the clock so that this young woman would simply know that she mattered...and that she was loved...that she was considered beautiful, talented, an angel, and special. 

Dear ones, today, I want you to know that you matter!  You are beautiful, talented, and special!  You are uniquely gifted and infinitely loved.  You are, by the very fact that you are, a treasure and a gift.  I know I've written something similar here before, but too bad.  Truth never goes out of fashion...unlike my mall hair of the 80's and the low-risers that are beginning to phase out when I have finally gotten comfortable in embracing them!  Yes, my friend, you are made in the image of the Divine Creator....if that ain't cool, I don't know what is.

I know the rock will soon be repainted to acknowledge some event around the bend.  I imagine, however, that the image will remain with me for some time.  May I have the eyes to see and the heart to act when someone needs to simply know that they matter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Glimpses of the Divine

I stood under the hot spray of my shower head last night, tasting the sweat of my Zumba work out as it washed off my face.  I stood there for a long time, not wanting to turn off the water.  I would have lingered longer if my fatigue and the fear of a hot water run-out didn't overtake me.  I stood there as long as I felt I could - or should - as if I might be able to wash away some of the ugly of my day.

Yesterday was a day when the plight of "invisible", but oh so obvious challenges, reared their ugly heads.  Too many times, I felt as if I was in the crossfire of a battle of wills and wits within the daily combat against ADHD.  It was a day in which I heard my internal voice saying, "this is not what I signed up for" and "not again, Lord!"  It was a day in which I had to force myself to remember El Roi because I was not getting the affirmation or feedback that I longed for and desperately needed.  It was a day that caused me to yearn for the rest that escaped me, not even seeming within reach.  It was a day where a simple act, like picking up a prescription, turned into an aggravated mission.  It was a day I really wished I could have just washed away.

Oddly enough, when I look back on the day that wouldn't go away, I can see glimpses of the Divine still present...still reassuring.  A symphony of sounds coming from the pond behind our house...a reminder that spring is here and life is awakening around us.  Sightings of eagles and deer and hawks and muskrats...a reminder that the Creator is at work.  An unprompted apology at the end of a long day...reaching out for restoration and reunion of relationship.  The warmth in the air with long sun-filled day...the promise of summer.  The sooner-than-expected arrival of an important document in the mail...provision revealed.  A sink that is often spit covered and left unclean after evening brushing, washed out without request...reassurance that growth is underway.  My sister waiting to work out (when she had planned to go earlier) such that I could work out with opportunity to enjoy relationship with one of my favorite people while doing something good for myself.  Having a home and a hot shower to come home to when I feel like I need to wash some of my day away and find some rest...a realization that I am far better off than most in the world when it comes to the "stuff of the world".  A husband who reassures me the dishes can wait when he finally makes it home at the end of his long day...a word needed to take the pressure off my already weary soul. 

I suppose some might see these as ordinary, day to day happenings.  I, however, trust that they were flashes of the Divine...allowing me to have a taste of something good in a day that in many ways, was not.  And, in some sense, these mini-revelations of God may not have necessarily been directed right to me or just for me.  Perhaps they just were.  But in their being, they were ripe for the taking and observing. 

If only I had taken these moments and rested in them for a minute longer...soaking them in at the point of impact, rather than reflecting them off all too quickly.  If only I had savoured the flashes of inspiration and glimpses of grace as they occurred rather than waiting to realize their relevance a day later.  If only I had wondered a little bit longer why the owl was making itself known earlier than usual last night.  Perhaps then, I would not have felt the need to wash the day away...figuratively or literally.  Perhaps then, I wouldn't have had to remember El Roi...I would have just known El Roi (you know, God sees me).  Perhaps then, the day would have been far more fruitful and much less frustrating in the end.

I am thankful for mornings.  Certainly not because I like mornings...I would prefer to sleep in.  But, I am thankful for mornings because they offer fresh starts.  Even God's mercies - His compassion and forgiveness - are new every morning. 
God's loyal love couldn't have run out,
   his merciful love couldn't have dried up.
They're created new every morning.
   How great your faithfulness! - Lamentations 3: 22-23 The Message
I am happy to say that today was a much better day!  I am happy that things went smoother, but also that I was also a bit more aware of the Divine.  I am pleased that I know God sees me in the midst of my day to day.  And I'm tickled pink that my sister-in-law, Karen, gave me a shout for joy and a welcome back to writing.  That was a gift for me for sure...and, in my mind, a glimpse from the Divine.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It's been a week...

It has been a week since I've written.  At some level, I hope there are several people who missed the daily or every other day updates and are voicing a collective sigh of relief (or shout for joy) at my return today.  On another level, I remind myself that, when I started, I determined that I would not be concerned with how many visits I got or what my following was.  Rather, I would be concerned with the process of exploring my thoughts and ideas in a new way, and, ideally, encourage someone en route. 

In the past week, there has not been an absence of blog thinking.  My mind has actually been thinking on many things, but I've had so little time to steal away and write.  This, post, therefore, may end up being a hodgepodge of thoughts thrown together, which I hope leads to somewhere significant.

Much of my time last weekend and early in the week was dealing with taxes.  Sadly, even when I was not actually working on the taxes, taxes clouded my thoughts more than one would ever choose.  And yet, within my financial flurries, TurboTax gave me moment to pause and be reminded of a touching truth.  Here is the screen that did me in....

"Once your adoption is final, Benjamin becomes your child, and you no longer need to call them adopted."

It's not like I needed the insight and "blessing" of TurboTax to recognize this truth about my son, but it was a cool statement to see in the midst of the number crunching going on.  While each of my children are unique and special in there own ways, Benjamin is my son, equal in status to my other two children.  Nothing will change that.

And yet, the TurboTax wisdom was not only a great reminder of my relationship with my son, but it was also a reminder of my relationship to my God.    As a follower of Jesus, I have been adopted by God and am now called a "child of God".  Nothing will change that.
 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. - Ephesians 1:5

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! - 1 John 3:1
A friend of mine connected me to this video, though I'd heard the song many times and really liked it.  If you watch, be sure to watch all the way to the end....I was hoping it would end that way!

Okay, so as I started this post, I fully intended to write more.  My time, however, slipped away unexpectedly.  The thoughts that occupied my mind all week will have to wait for another day...or, perhaps, they were never meant to be shared in the first place.

Before I close my computer and my eyes, I will attach a picture that I took with my phone this afternoon.  It is a picture of a flock of White Pelicans that are setting up residence, or perhaps merely stopping by our lake for a visit.
When I was a kid growing up in Minnesota, I don't recall ever seeing a pelican.  In fact, if someone told me then that pelicans lived in Minnesota, I would have probably laughed at them, convinced that they belonged only along the southern coast lines.  And yet, many years later, the beautiful, sometimes clumsy appearing, birds are making a comeback in a state that once served as a common nesting ground for these feathered friends.

Not unlike the White Pelicans, I am in a place of rediscovering my roots - geographically, emotionally, spiritually.  So much behind, so much ahead, and so much right where I am today.  My hopes are that I hold on tight to those things that matter in this journey and simply release those things that do not.  And, my prayer is that I can distinguish between the two.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Painful Pigs and a Tender Tushy

I have spent much of the last two days working on our taxes.  It's true.  I decided, in light of all the craziness Ken has going on right now, that I would take on the annual duty this year.  Armed with TurboTax, I dove into the complicated mess of U.S. taxes.  I am, however, only half way done as we still have the Canadian end of our tax dilemma to complete.

Why on earth wouldn't we hire someone to do this?  Well, as life may have it (notice I did not say luck or fate - this was the result of a life choice we made), there are not too many people that are willing and able to do both U.S. and Canadian taxes.  Ken spoke to one person who kindly offered to do the job for a hefty $1200.  No thank you!  I figure if someone else can muddle through our "mud", then so can we...with the right tools and a bit of perseverance.

Oddly enough, other than a momentary headache, this has been a relatively painless process.  However, the two major breaks that I took from entering data, sorting through papers, searching for "you know...that one thing", and talking with friendly TurboTax man, did result in some pain.

Yesterday, my sweet sister Sue called me up and invited me and the kids for a bike ride.  I was hesitant as I was elbow deep into the taxes.  But, not wanting to miss an opportunity with my sister and her girls, I agreed to meet her at Cleary Lake Park.  It was a GORGEOUS day and I am so glad I took up her offer!!

Now, Ben, as one might imagine, is a fabulous biker.  He takes turns at breakneck speeds and fancies doing tricks when he can, especially if nobody or, alternatively, somebody special is looking.  Eliana, however, is not.  She is a true beginner despite a few times out on the bike last summer.  With training wheels fully engaged, she took off at a breakneck snail's pace!  Needless to say, she and I went at our own, somewhat painfully slow, rate.  Oh, did I mention, this was just over a THREE MILE RIDE?  Elly was determined, however, to make the whole loop without heading back from whence we came in order to shorten the trip.  And while it was a challenge going so slowly, knowing that somewhere Sue, Jess, and Ben were waiting for us, it was, in reality, one of the best bike rides ever!  Watching Elly rejoice in the smallest of successes and ring her bell while greeting complete strangers along the trail brought a smile to my spirit.  Yelling loudly, "Whoa!  I am going so fast - like Lightening McQueen!" when she was merely puttering along at a slow stroll's pace brought a chuckle from my heart.  Discussing things like mole burrows, the effects of shade on melting snow, and how far a kilometer is delighted my mind.  It really was a special time.

However, today, my butt is sore.  My tushy is tender.  Yet, I would not trade my time of going slower than I ever thought possible on a bike, for a comfortable keister.  It was just too good.

Today, we had a lovely morning at church.  Ken chortled as he commented that I was "popular" this morning...hardly an accurate description, but a pleasant experience of feeling connectedness in this place that is still so new and different to us.  It just so happened I had a few conversations along the way...and picked up a book from my new "coffee" (though not really coffee) friend...and worked on a "date" for a games' with another couple.  Not "popular" by any stretch, but just nice!  This caused me no pain, by the way.

The other event that caused me some pain was a 3 1/2 mile walk with my neighbor and her dog.  I was just sitting down with Zac to work on math - a joy all in itself - when the doorbell rang.  To my pleasant surprise, my neighbor, Ruth, asked if I wanted to go for a walk.  Absolutely!  What a great chance to get outside and get to know my neighbor more.

So, off we went.  Although Ruth and I have spent some time together, we have not really spent this kind of time together before.  By "this kind of time", I mean, the kind of time where you are really "stuck" on your own with someone with no good escape plan if things get uncomfortable.  It's not like I thought of this as we were actually didn't occur to me until just now.  But there are those times with someone you don't know well that you are glad you have an out if you need to (of course, I never feel that way about anyone...but I know some people do).  Today, there was no easy-out, as there was no quick route home in order to bail.  The great thing was...there was no sense of wanting or needing any sort of escape.

Ruth and I chatted the whole 3 1/2 miles of walking.  When there was a pause or quiet moment, it was not awkward.  It just was.  That was a good thing.  I'm not sure I would say that Ruth and I are similar.  In fact, I would more likely say we are very different.  And that's a good thing.  Too many of me's around and no decisions would ever get made and talks would last forever.  At any rate, I enjoyed my walk with Ruth and hope to do it again sometime.  However, now - due to a combination of "fancy socks" and "runners that aren't quite right" - my big toes hurt on both feet.  The odd thing was that I didn't even notice the pain until after we stopped and chatted at the driveway's end.  Once I started walking again, the pain grabbed a hold of the piggy that went to market and made me cry (on the inside) all the way home into the house.

It is ironic to me...I'm not sure if it would be to anyone else...that the thing I would have chosen to do least, caused the least amount of physical pain.  The things that I would have chosen to do most, however, left me with painful piggies and a stinging seat. that's something to think about.

Not tonight, however, as it is time to retire this body in hopes of a good night's sleep.

Which reminds me...two nights ago, two owls woke me in the middle of the night as they hooted back and forth to one another.  While I am not a fan of being wakened from my slumber (I do that on my own enough as it is), I do enjoy the opportunity to experience this nocturnal nature.  Since moving into our house, we have been absolutely delighted by all the visitors that enter our yard or are within view - owls, hawks, eagles, turkeys, a racoon, deer, foxes, rabbits, and a variety of "normal" birds.  I love this and am so incredibly thankful!

And now, off to bed with no witty or succinct conclusion...I'm too tired now for either one of those.  Good Night!

Friday, April 1, 2011

I Am Not Unseen.

The day started like so many do.  Before the alarm even went off...the feet were to the floor and running, without fulling lifting from the carpet.  The "swoosh swoosh swooshing" of fast feet dragging across the modern shag and into my room for a sweet, but all too short, morning snuggle in bed.  Then out again and galloping down the stairs to find a sibling and morning sustenance.

"Slow down and pick up your feet!" I bellow, not quite ready to drag my tired body and mind out of bed.

Soon the loud, somewhat random, and occasionally obnoxious ramblings of a mind in overdrive start up.  Statements of silliness are said to no one in particular, but with the clear expectation that someone must be listening.  Drawers and cupboards open and close as the search for the most important meal of the day commences.  Friendly sibling banter begins, though there is a hint of frustration and annoyance teetering closely to the edge.

"I'm on my way..." though I wish I wasn't.  I'd rather stay in bed a little longer and cover my head with the blanket.  It would be so much easier to block out the noise and the daylight for a few more moments.  Perhaps today they could magically get themselves all ready for school....even the littlest one.  I'm sure she could do it with just a little help from one of her older and much wiser brothers.

Thankful that my oldest is fully independent for his morning routine, I must focus in on keeping the other on task, while remembering to wake one more.  How can it be that we still have issues getting through a simple breakfast? Have we not done this same routine (or some similar variation of it) for at least 2922 days now?

Deep breaths - oh right, yes....the mind and body that is in overdrive right now.  Okay.  I can do this.  We can do this.  I am not alone.  I am not unseen.

I continue with the morning, ushering one out the door, awaking another, helping with toothbrushing (just to be sure), checking wardrobe choices, completing breakfasts, packing up back packs, hugging and kissing (whether you like it or not, you will be hugged by me today), arguing over who knows what, and on it goes.  Okay.  I can do this.  We can do this.  I am not alone.  I am not unseen.

I am having a break now from the hustle and bustle of mommy-dom.  It is my Spring Break and my parents have invited me to lunch.  I've had some quiet time, writing and reading, and playing on-line Scrabble.  Yet I know, by 3:00, I am back "on" with life that is not me focused.  Much like the morning started, there will be others' focused things that need to get done...and may go unnoticed or unacknowledged by those that the doing is for....getting kids home from school, helping with homework, making dinner, putting laundry away, washing more laundry, emptying the dishes,  encouraging an overworked hubby (who is loving what he is doing, just doing far too much of it all right now), cleaning up messes, dealing with occasional attitudes (no way,  not my children), listening to random ramblings, and the list goes on.  Okay.  I can do this.  We can do this.  I am not alone.  I am not unseen.

PLEASE know...I am not complaining here (at least not today).  I am just stating the facts.  I am so thrilled (most days) to be in a position where I have others to focus on and give love to...  I cannot imagine my life without my husband and my three cool kids.  BUT, the reality exists...there are days when I can feel as if what I do is just what I do because I have to do it.  This is not only at home, mind you, this reality exists at work as well.  There are some days when I feel like I am spinning my wheels trying to do the best that I can for the students and staff I work with.  And yet, I feel like there is nothing to really show for it...or acknowledge it.

My HOPE, therefore, is in El Roi.  El Roi is one of the names for God.  It means "the God who sees me."  (It is used in Genesis 16:13-14 when Hagar has run away from Sarai.)

If I remember El Roi, that God sees me, it matters a little bit less to me whether I or the things I do "get seen" by those I am doing for.  Ultimately, my value and my strength, comes not from what others think of me, but the fact that El Roi, God sees me.  That is why I can say,  "Okay.  I can do this.  We can do this.  I am not alone.  I am not unseen."

If, I am scrubbing toilets...El Roi.   If I am making lunches...El Roi.   If I am dusting banisters....El Roi.  If I am disciplining a child, even if it's not going swimmingly...El Roi.  If I am writing progress notes that don't even get read...El Roi.  If I am playing Barbies for the 3rd time in a day...El Roi.  If I am praying for my husband's crazy day...El Roi.  If I am picking up socks left on the floor again...El Roi.  If I am folding laundry....El Roi.  If anything...El Roi.  God Sees Me!!  How good is that?

Well, my time is up.  My parents will be waiting for me shortly and I do not want to be late.  I'll check for edits later.  :)

I want to leave you with a video of a talk I saw at Women of Faith some years ago.  I believe this is where I really grasped the idea that El Roi.   It struck a chord then and it does today still.

God bless your socks off today.  And, remember....God Sees You and loves you!