Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Parents don't get sick days

I had one of those mornings where I kept wondering who was being more awful, the kids or me? My husband and I have colds, thanks to our daughter who is finally recovering after 3 weeks of sickness and various medicines and breathing treatments. The kids have been out of preschool for years now, with an eternity of Christmas break days stretching ahead, and an unbearable 3 more days until Christmas. It's too cold to go outside, plus all I want to do is stay in bed. But, as you know, parents don't get sick days. I bent our 30 minutes a day TV rule to an hour, but that only intensified the whiny neediness (and I'm not just talking about me). I remembered in hindsight the reason for the 30 minute or less rule. So I decided to distract us with a project, making some playdoh. Of course I didn't have enough salt, and the kids fought over "helping" me, and then half of it ended up on the floor with no one being willing to help clean it up. So the screaming began (mine) and they were banished upstairs until I could get everything (me) sorted out.
And this was the scene I saw when I finally calmed down enough to check on them:

They were singing along to their VBS cd, using their books as "songbooks". Such joy, such sweetness, it almost broke my heart. To think that these angels could be the source of so much tension and stress for me that I could yell at them.

I was really not going to be a screamer. Or a spanker. I was such a good parent before these kids arrived. The work of parenting is unrelenting and often heartbreaking. You have such hopes, and beliefs that if you do and say the "right" thing, it will all be easy and work out like a 30 minute sitcom that ends on a happy note. But I remember clearly the first time my heart broke, realizing that they were fallible, just as I so clearly am. And I can never forget the hurt on their faces time and time again when I break their tender hearts (and Brady sobbing, "You hurt my feelings"). Those sweet cuddly babies turn into toddlers and preschoolers that tell you they don't love you, or they want another daddy, or call you "bad mommy" for any tiny manner of thing (mostly not giving them what they want). They refuse to listen, hurt their sibling, and endanger themselves.

And yet...and yet...what beauty they bring, and what hope and joy. Even when they seem to disregard everything I try to teach them at home, I know they are "getting it" when we go out and everyone remarks on what lovely, kind, sweet, well-mannered kids we have. They are so smart and creative and so giving, so kind to one another (when no one is looking). I wish they wouldn't save it all up for times when we're out of the house, but I'm glad to know that they feel loved and trusted enough to share all of who they are with us, the good, bad, and the ugly. Just as I hope and trust in their forgiveness when I show my bad sides.

I apologized to them for my behavior, and Maryn said, "'sokay, mommmy. I sorry for dumping playdoh on the floor. I won't do that anymore. Now sing with us. Here's your songbook." And on we go, continuing on the roller coaster ride of love and family, the best ride of all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Random things running through my head before bed...

I've been having some trouble getting to sleep lately, and a friend suggested I journal. That's a great idea, but I can't find any of the numerous journals I've started and abandoned! So here's a list of all the things on my mind right now (in no particular order):

-the trip to Chuck E. Cheese I promised my kids if they would stop whining and fighting for 5 days (I both hope they are successful and hope for no crazy mouse at the same time)

-the memorial service and Christmas chapels that I have to get together for Tuesday

-a birthday party for Jesus (aka: how to help our kids sort out what Christmas is all about)

-will the Nyquil John took make him snore tonight?

-Can we possibly have a night without being woken up by kids who need water or have a bad dream (come on kids, it's been almost 5 years of you should be sleeping through the night on a regular basis!)

-could we save money by moving to a house without flood insurance?

-Would I want to move?

-Brady starting kindergarten next year and leaving his perfect preschool

-trying to find time this week to spend with friends

-how to get rid of a ginormous trifle taking up our fridge (maybe share with the forementioned friends?)

-a dream and crafty idea coming together with a friend, new possibilities

-cooking our first real Christmas meal (how to cook a turkey or ham??)

-family drama

-did anything happen during the Christmas party for the residents that I don't know about and will be confronted with at work this week?

-how to help the grieving staff and residents at work (3 deaths in a month)

-need to sit down and reflect on this year and do a little visioning for next year

-want to start a regular blogging and yoga routine (not together, of course)

See why I can never get to sleep?!

Snow days

Ah, the things a mother will do for her kids.  I am not a cold weather person.  As I am cold most of the year anyway, I wish winter would find me hibernating inside for months with a stack of good books and lots of tasty treats.  It is not so with my kids.  Brady, in particular, got his first taste of snow play last year, and after waking up to snow falling yesterday with a whoop of joy, was ready to go out immediately.  I held him off yesterday as it continued to snow and sleet for most of the day...and I was punished severely.  Two whiny, fighting, cooped up kids made for a LOOONG day.  So today had to be different.  After venturing out for a pizza lunch, we promised a few minutes of playing in the snow.  Maryn was reluctant initially, and had been terrified last year.  But after watching Brady, she finally braved the cold and her delight mirrored his.

So happy together...(for the moment)

 Maryn finally had a chance to wear her beloved boots.

The only casualty of the snow days was an unfortunate and highly contagious case of the "chicken pox" (which Maryn kept calling "chicken butts" due to the new joke in our house thanks to preschool:
"Guess what?   
Chicken Butt!"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Abundance in a time of scarcity

I have enough...

-I have money to pay my bills, even though costs keep rising
-I have a warm house.  Even though it's drafty, we have heat, blankets, warm water, and the warmth of our love
-I have my family and our love is strong
-I have security--in my job, in our finances, in protection for the "what ifs", even if I don't always realize it
-I have the loving presence of God to guide me and to help me continually realize that I have an abundance, even when my tendency is to see what is lacking
-I have enough to share

Monday, December 6, 2010

What I want to be when I grow up...

Once upon a time, I was a very self-assured little girl.  I had tons of confidence and felt that I could be and do anything I wanted, as that was what I had always been told.  I worked hard and did well in school, and was self-motivated and goal-oriented.  I knew by the third grade that I wanted to be a marine biologist.  Never mind that I have never been a good swimmer and am just a little afraid of the water.  Nothing would stop me!  I graduated second in my class and went off to my dream school, William and Mary.  By this time, I had had a couple of inspiring science teachers and had slightly altered my plans to be a medical researcher.  I started out on the pre-med track and discovered my first true academic competition.  I struggled some in my biology and chemistry classes, earning Bs and Cs instead of the As I was accustomed to, but I never questioned my direction.  Even a talk with my research professor, who gently warned me that grad school for biology was extremely competitive and I would not get in with my 3.2 GPA did not deter me.  I continued through taking my GREs, but never even looked at my scores as finally the revelation hit me--I hated research.  I had signed on as a lab assistant and spent the summer going in to the lab at all hours of the day and night to monitor microscopic roundworms.  Microscopic roundworms!!  Somewhere in there, I hit bottom.  This was not how I wanted to spend my life.  I lost all motivation to compete with my peers, who were all too happy to pick up the tasks that I was dismally failing at anyway.  I graduated, moved to Richmond with friends, and took on several part-time jobs to pay the bills.  It was a low point for me as I finally began to understand that my dreams were not going to come true.

Now, years later, I'm glad that I went through this trying time and learned many powerful lessons.  It was during those dark days that I heard God calling me to ministry, and the joy and passion I've felt for this calling has sustained me for over eleven years now.  I loved seminary, the classes, the community, the friends, and feeling like I was living out of a greater purpose.  I also met and married the love of my life there.  It's been a beautiful journey.

I've been honored to minister at HopeTree Family Services, a residential group home for at-risk youth and developmentally disabled adults for the past seven and a half years and have loved learning and growing along with the residents, sharing my love and creativity.  And yet, on and off I've felt a stirring, a longing to find something more.

Perhaps this longing is my own personal need to reconnect with God in new ways, or maybe I need to find better ways to use my gifts here in my current setting.  But perhaps that still small voice is leading me to something new.  In many ways this terrifies me.  I want stability.  I am comfortable here...and maybe that's the problem.  I resist exploring other options even though I feel that I'm not always living out my calling.

I have lots of dreams.  I've thought about counseling as I love the pastoral counseling part of my job.  But that would mean more schooling, or training and certification.  My lovely husband is getting ready to work towards licensure, and we used to think about working and ministering together, maybe incorporating art therapy.  Maybe he'll hire me someday!  :)

I've also thought of starting some sort of coffeehouse that would be a cozy meeting spot for parents and their children to play and explore.  Something like this:

or maybe one that involves a space to create like this:

I've even though of a name--CrEATe and Play Cafe.  I love the idea of using my creativity to spark the creativity in others, and particularly with families working and learning together.  This is another of my favorites:

I love the work my friend Suzanne is doing in her art studio and in the ministry she does leading workshops and bereavement groups:

I also dream of writing (more than a blog).  Maybe a devo book as I've been writing for work for some time.  My husband and I have written a children's book, too, but after our first rejection letter I've become a little discouraged about sending it off again.  Maybe this new magazine will give me a chance to gain some writing experience:

Then, there's also my photography dream, which I've been slowly pursuing by taking some classes.  I'm inspired by and

So the dreams are there, but here I am.  I don't feel as stuck as I once did.  I don't know if it's laziness, or if this is a time of waiting.  I don't want to risk missing out on at least one of my dreams, but I'm in that land of trying to see which is best and how to make it happen.  I've learned that there's no "ONE PERFECT" path for me anymore, but now I need to learn how to take that leap of faith into the new....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Love never ends

I just had the privilege of doing a memorial service, and it was the highlight of my week.  Now that's not saying that I've had a bad week, but it was just one of those uplifting moments where you could feel the love of those gathered merging with the love of God.  God's love is always present, of course, but there are those moments when we get a little taste of heaven, where our joy makes us aware of God's loving presence in a powerful new way.

The service was for one of the adult residents in our Developmentally Disabled Ministries (DDM) program.  He was actually one of our first residents who joined us in 1992, so he had lots of friends, "brothers", and loving staff.  In all my years here (over seven), I never heard him speak, but even so, you could just sense his love in his welcoming smile.  It was amazing to hear everyone's recollections, but my favorite was that he was "love personified". 

I read from 1 Corinthians 13:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 8 Love never fails.

This is God's love, but in rare occurrences, we see it modeled in others.  Those gathered today had experienced that love in their friend, JC Davis.  Although he spoke few words, his life spoke volumes.  May we all be encouraged to live such a life of love, to "Be still and know God" and to BE LOVE to others.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Light over darkness

This morning, when I was leaving for work at 7:30, I was too lazy to scrape the ice off my entire car. Instead, I scraped the bare minimum, a couple of holes in the front and rear windshields that would give me enough visibility (or so I thought). As I turned the curve on our road, I was surprised to see bright streaks of pinks and purples and wondered at what it could be. When I got to the end of my road, I realized it was the sun coming up over the mountains. It's pretty eye-opening (literally) when you're so accustomed to the darkness that you almost miss the sunrise.

The same thing happened in a different way at work on Sunday. I've been in a low place in my ministry, questioning this particular calling as my passion (and thus my view of the effectiveness of the ministry) has been lagging. I work with hurting youth who live in a world of hopelessness a lot of the time. They've been subjected to unbelievable pain from the very people who should have loved them the most. As a result of their brokeness, they act out in ways that are often harmful to themselves and others. It's hard to watch their downward spirals and feel powerless to touch them and change their lives. But in a surprising way, they brought light into my darkness.

As it was Halloween, I had been busy setting up a chapel service on fear. The chapel was decorated with spiderwebs, fake spiders, mice, skeletons, and ghosts. The space was lit by only a few candles and scary music played in the background. I planned on leading a discussion on the fears we hold inside and how we often wear "masks" to hide them. Then I hoped to turn it around by showing the many verses in the Bible that urge us to "fear not". But when I went to have dinner with the kids, I was surprised to find a well-dressed bridal party awaiting me. They had coordinated their Halloween costumes so that there was a bride and groom, flower girl, bridesmaids, a father of the bride, and a minister. They had written their own vows and planned a fake wedding ceremony. So I switched gears, helped to direct a fake wedding, and ended up discussing love and marriage instead. We then had a reception feast of candy corn and other Halloween candy, and they carried away skeletons, and fake creepy things as favors!

It was a reminder to me that love always wins out over fear and darkness...when we allow it to. I'm thankful to God for God's light that shows up in the most unexpected places.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Superheroes

Not everyone is lucky enough to know a superhero...and I'm fortunate enough to have two living in my house! Super Why and Wonder Red always make life more interesting. But they are not your ordinary heroes. They do not fly, are never invisible, and don't tend to move very fast. But what they lack in speed is made up for in their wonder and compassion. Our most recent mission involved the discovery of a "woolly worm" in our "garden" (don't be confused by the lack of vegetation) .

It started as the most ordinary of missions (Super Mommy wanted to get pictures of Halloween costumes before the flurry and chaos of the actual event rendered her brain-dead and camera-less). But while frolicking in the gorgeous fall weather, they discovered a hairy (yet small) beast invading the former site of our "damaters" (tomatoes). Super Why was not afraid, and armed with the power of questioning (thus the appropriate name), he learned it was a caterpillar.

Super Mommy (armed with the power of worry) recalled in the fuzzy haze of her science background a zillion years ago that some caterpillars can be irritating or toxic and gently suggested that maybe the caterpillar would like to be put down (as it was cowering in a ball). Wonder Red came over to investigate and noticed the wet residue on Super Why's hand (poison?? urine??) and deduced that the woolly worm was crying because he was sad.

And so my two Super Heroes did what they do best. In their gentle and kind way, they collected mini pine cones and grass clippings as a "soft" blanket for the scared worm (Wonder Red, with the power of empathy, would want no less for herself). They worked together to shelter the worm and show their gentleness, kindness, and compassion. Then Super Why gently led his friend Wonder Red back to the house to the tune of:

"Hip hip, hooray...the Super Readers saved the day!"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Order outside, mess within

I'm an anti-hoarder. Most people who visit our home are utterly amazed by our lack of stuff. The four of us live in a 1300 square foot house (with one bathroom--shocker!). There are no knick-knacks, few pictures on display, and just a few neat containers and shelves to contain the kids' toys. You could drop by at almost any moment and be assured that there will not be any clutter. Most of the toys will be put away in their designated spots, the rugs will be vacuumed, and the fingerprints will be wiped off of the windows and doors. A lot of people consider it intimidating and will either ask me to come organize their homes or promise to never invite me over to witness their messes. There have been times when I've felt like an oddball as most people profess to want order and organization, but few seem to understand how to get there. So I become the anal, OCD butt of jokes or left-handed "compliments" ("I could never be this neat...I just want to be comfortable and let my kids have the freedom to play and have fun")

But lest you think this neatness is a sign of perfection (or an attempt to reach it), let me explain. The order on the outside is my attempt to control the chaos on the inside. I learned a long time ago that there are a multitude of things I can't control. For a self-professed control-freak like myself this is torture. I can't control other people, and I can't control their perceptions of me. I can't make myself fit in or always be the person I want to be. I can't always control how much money I have, or the health, fitness, and stability of those I love. I can't always make things better. But I can clean. I can straighten and de-clutter. I can keep the outside sparkling as an attempt at quieting the noise inside. This is my area of control.

Parenthood has taught me many lessons, and probably the biggest is about the illusion of control. I thought that when I was a parent, I could mold and make my family into what I wanted it to be. I could be the perfect parent along with my perfect husband, John. We even joked when I was pregnant about our little "Apex", the perfect baby-to-be. We were both ministers and very self-aware. We had a close and healthy relationship, both as friends and marriage partners. We worked with "problem" children and those struggling through unhealthy relationships. We knew what not to do, and thus assumed we'd know just what to do.

I followed the rules to a T in my pregnancy...didn't eat anything from the "dangerous" list, and kept myself at the ideal pregnancy weight. I read books to my baby in the womb and had lots of time to bond with our sweet baby boy before we even met him. Nothing prepared us for the unexpected c-section and preemie baby who was sick for much of his first year of life. And even after that, we still weren't prepared for the emergency delivery of his sister two years later that was like a scene out of "ER". I never expected children that wouldn't "submit" to my healthy food regimen, or who would whine, scream, bite, and hit, even when we explained how their behavior was inappropriate.

And so I clean, and straighten, and slowly take the time to straighten out my own perceptions. I'm learning that I'm not always in control...and maybe that's best. I'm learning that I can lean on others (like my as close to perfect as possible husband) for help and support. And most of all, I'm trusting in God to guide us as a family. I'm learning from my kids who show me that it's good to be spontaneous and silly, and that the most important thing is love. I was reading a book to my baby girl the other day that ended with a spider who had been searching for her mother saying something along the lines of you can always find a mother because she's the one who loves you best. Maryn replied, "I love you best, too, Mommy." And I think that's true. Through my kids' love and acceptance (even of my faults), I'm learning more about how to love better. And in all the ways I'm learning and growing, I feel the unconditional love of God, cleaning me on the inside.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sabbath weekend

It's been a great weekend. Peaceful, productive, slow-paced, sleeping in...did I mention that the kids were at their grandparents'? Thank goodness for breaks! I love love love my kids and the family the four of us make is the very best thing in my life. But sometimes the very best things can wear you down to your core and all you want to do is crawl under the covers for about three days. I knew I needed a break when my right eyelid starting twitching...and didn't stop for two weeks. In fact, just now I realized that it's not in a crazy spasm. It was enough to make me consider poking my own eye out (or at least wearing a patch...fortunately, my pirate-loving kids have a couple stashed around the house). So a break was in order. I'm thankful for my in-laws who help us out and also build great relationships with our kids, who look forward to their breaks from us at Nina and Popaw's, too!

I have savored the chance to catch up with John and remember the rhythms of our life before kids...going out when we want, sleeping in, actually getting things accomplished like:

John mulching the front of the house

and me weeding, planting bulbs, and mulching a small area under our bedroom window so that hopefully we'll be treated to a nice spot of color come spring.
John pruned our strange bush (which somehow produced apples for the first time this year?!) and made it much less strange looking

and I enjoyed stumbling across a decorative arrangement of tiny pinecones thanks to the handiwork of our baby girl the day before.
I feel so much more creative energy now that some things have been crossed off the ever-present to do list. Although I have to be creative with the kids (making up activities and games to keep them active and not attacking each other), it's not the kind of creativity that makes me feel inspired and productive...just weary.
I look forward to seeing my sweet babies tomorrow and hearing all about their fun time and creating new adventures together this week, but I'll miss quality time with John and the freedom to think and rest. It's such a precarious balance, this family life, one that I often lose. But rest has given me the perspective to continue juggling until the next blessed Sabbath.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The light at the end of the tunnel

Recently, I've been trying to improve my photography. The more I read and practice, the more I learn that it's all about light. A photograph is produced when light strikes a light-sensitive surface (usually within a camera). The word "photography" from the Greek means "drawing with light". A good picture, in large part, is about controlling how much light you let in.

I can draw parallels with my own life as well. I spent the better (worse) part of the past year in darkness, in a bit of a depression that was mostly irrational. I knew how wonderful my life was and how blessed I was by my devoted husband, sweet children, and by all the fixings that contribute to my stability and well-being (house, financial security, job, friends, etc). And yet I couldn't seem to rise above a sense of gloom. I was perenially tired and cranky, and was more apt to see the few negatives instead of the bazillion positives. I couldn't talk much about it (other than to my husband) as I knew I had no right to feel so down. I'm not sure how many people outside of my immediate family even realized it as I tried to carry on as normal. But whether it be biological, genetic, chemical, hormonal (likely), or a by-product of exhaustion (absolutely), I felt it nonetheless.

I can only talk about it now as I feel the heavy dark cloud lifting. I find myself playing more and complaining less. I can see and feel the light that surrounds me, and hopefully reflect a little of that back. One of my favorite scriptures is John 1:5--"A light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood it." (NIV) Another version (NRSV) translates it as "A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." I like both. The light of Christ can shine through us (if we allow it) and the darkness of this world, our hearts, and our minds cannot understand it or overcome it. The light wins out. Praise be to Christ, the light of our lives. May I continue to learn to share this Christ light with others.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's a day for a cozy sweater, chicken pot pie, and a nice coffee beverage (preferably pumpkin spiced something or other). It's a day for reading in a big comfy chair, and catching up with friends. Although it's a rainy Monday, the new chill in the air smells like fall, and brings with it the promise of new beginnings and new energy. I'm looking forward to visits to the pumpkin patch, baking bread, and taking lots of pictures of the kids on our short hikes, surrounded by the fallen leaves. I'm reminded that our world is beautiful, as is my life, even in all of its chaos and uncertainty. Even in my frustrations and busyness, fall reminds me to slow down and savor each quickly passing moment.

(by the way, the photo is from last fall...the leaves are just now beginning to turn)

Friday, September 24, 2010

I failed this morning. I rolled into work late after juggling with John the seemingly endless tasks of getting the kids ready to roll to preschool. I thought I was prepared the night before--I had packed Brady's healthy snack for fruit break (careful to avoid nuts and processed foods for his healthy allergy-sensitive class) and Maryn's lunch (heavy on the processed food Lunchable that she picked out at the grocery store, and therefore knew she'd eat as she's had a cold and has been eating less). I made granola (slightly burned but still tasty) for our breakfast, cleaned up, and did laundry so the kids would have clean, mulch and sand-free clothes. This morning, after breakfast struggles, brushed teeth, dressing, cleaning, packing bags, potty time, and an activity to tide over the whining, they were finally off in the car. I cleaned up (again), started a crockpot meal for lunch, checked email, talked to a friend, and finally made it in to work. My cell rang immediately, and it was Brady's preschool teacher. Apparently, I had mixed up the lunchboxes, leaving Brady with the highly coveted (yet not allowed) Lunchable, and poor Maryn with a measly pear for lunch (which wasn't even cut up). So I had to go switch out lunchboxes, rushing to make it before Maryn's 10:30 lunch slot (yes, really).

So my first thought was not how much I had accomplished, of course, but what a failure I was. I can (kind of) laugh about it now, but I've felt that this preschool is kind of out of our league in some ways, and to send in a Lunchable kind of feels like the unforgiveable sin. Now they KNOW we sometimes allow our children to eat bad processed foods (the horror!) And poor Brady, stuck with a Lunchable he wanted to eat, but couldn't, and a container of flavored applesauce that he had already told me he didn't like, must of thought he was being punished for something he hadn't even done. I know it's ridculous, but it just goes to show the kind of pressure I (needlessly) place on myself.

The up side is that I unexpectedly got to see both my sweet babies at preschool today. I snuck a peek at Brady playing with friends outside at the sand and water table (after leaving a back-up snack with his teacher), and I surprised Maryn by staying for lunch (brunch??) with her. I'm sure Brady will have questions for me later about why I sent him the wrong lunch, but it will be a good lesson for both of us that Mommy makes mistakes...and that's okay. I don't need to be perfect, just as I don't expect him to be.

I just read an article about the value of failure and how we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. So I guess I'm just learning. Maybe I'll learn how to be a little easier on myself.

As a reminder to myself, I'll post a picture of my sweet girl for whom (at least most of the time and particularly at the moment) I can do no wrong:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm big on ideas. I have notebooks full of promising potential projects and folders full of ideas for every area of my life: Bible studies, new work programs, recipes, kids' craft projects, travel itineraries, and lists of books I'd like to read and classes I'd love to take. The picture shows just a selection of projects "in the works" from my desk (and this doesn't include my various to-do list files and notes). I think I've even influenced my kids, whose favorite new phrase is, "I have a good idea, Mommy!"

I'm not lacking in direction(s) or interest, but my follow through is a little rusty. When I think of actually implementing any of these ideas, I get overwhelmed by the possibilities and the inertia of laziness takes over. It's so much easier to stay in the comfort and security of the status quo, even when I'm fighting against it. I wish I could have a job where I could just brainstorm ideas. I think I'd be a champ at that. Does such a thing exist? But I guess there isn't a lot of growth for me in that.

I think the sheer vastness of my generated ideas does not point to my creativity, but to my feelings of being stuck. I can come up with all kinds of thoughts on getting unstuck, but I still have to take that leap of faith from here into the great unknown. Although I don't enjoy feeling stuck, the discomfort is at least a familiar place to dwell for the moment. I'm praying that I will have the courage to take the steps I need and that the right ideas will "stick" (in a good way this time) and lead to areas of growth for myself and those whom I serve.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Peace to you

Did you know that today is World Peace Day? I probably would have overlooked it, but my son goes to a peaceable school, and when I went to pick him up today, they had decorated the fence outside with paper windmills and a sign that said "Imagine Whirled Peace".

Peace. What a difficult concept to even grasp in our fragmented, broken world. It's hard to even find personal peace when our minds and hearts get overburdened with all the chaos of life. Recently, I devoted a lot of time trying to develop a "peace project" at work that would hopefully help our at-risk youth and the staff who work with them find better ways of communicating and mediating conflicts. In my proposals to various groups, almost everyone agreed with the need for such a program, but I was told in a myriad of ways exactly why a peacemaking program would not work.

If peace is so important, why don't we have it? Why don't we work for it? I know the task seems insurmountable, but wouldn't one small step be better than none at all? What is the core problem? To me, it seems tied to our lack of community in our American culture. We are so segregated, so quick to isolate ourselves, so independent that we can hardly look at our neighbors, much less know them or care about their needs. And when we insulate ourselves from others, it's easy to judge them as "different" or "outsiders", the typical "us vs. them". It becomes a competition to get our needs the expense of others. Fear drives us to keep to ourselves and create barriers, and peace cannot live where people are divided.

I'm no better at this than anyone else. But I've started to think and worry about it more, particularly as my kids are growing up. I worry about sending them into "real" school. I get frustrated with situations in the world...and in my inability to change them (and my own inaction). I am infuriated when Christians perpetrate divisions and hate instead of sharing the peace of Christ. And yet my own hatred isn't breaking down any barriers either.

Oh God, may we be people of peace. May your peace live in our hearts and show us all the way.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The "in-betwina" times

There's a joke going around our house these days (prepare yourself--it was created by a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old):

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Betwina who?
(and the two jokesters collapse in laughter)

Wanting to figure out what was so funny (and who Betwina is), we discovered they were trying to say "Katrina", who, apparently, is a character on the tv show "Oswald". The name itself (and their inability to say it) became the punchline. After about a million and a half repetitions one day, I turned to John and said, "Betwina you and me, I'm a little tired of this joke!" So my clever husband suggested the title for this post.

I spend a lot of my life anticipating what is to come. You know, that magical time when the demands of life slow down and I have free time to relax and enjoy life. Surprisingly, that time never seems to come! I know that part of it is my own unrelenting drive to get everything done and to do it all to a standard that often leaves me frazzled, exhausted, and somewhat crazy. It also sets me up to wish my life away in a sense. Instead of appreciating the beauty of my life now, I dream of a day when the kids are a little older, a little more self-sufficient, and my schedule has a lot more flexibility. And yet, I realize that when I get to that point, I will miss my sweet little babies who so desparately wanted my time and attention.

So much of life is spent in the "in-betwina" times. In the church calendar, this is appropriately named "Ordinary Time" (the seasons after Epiphany and Pentecost, or time that is not Advent, Lent, Easter, or Christmas). When we look too far ahead to the momentous occasions (or developmental milestones), we miss the joy of the daily journey. Although the daily tasks can be onerous and unending, this is the stuff of life; messy, exhausting, miraculous life.

Living life in the moment and truly appreciating how blessed and fleeting it is can be a spiritual practice in itself. This is one I aim to practice more these days.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I have wanted to write a blog for sometime, but everytime I sit down to do it, I stare at the blank page and wonder how I can fill it with something creative and original. I spend so much time crafting things in my head, and then dismissing them as not ________enough (fill in the blank with creative, smart, clever, etc). In this age of Facebook, I feel like I need to create my image in a way that will lead to more "like"s. But even before Facebook there was the need to be "perfect" even when I was frantically and unsucessfully scrambling to pick up all the pieces.

I had to post this particular profile picture, even as I ruefully smiled at how tired I look, because that's where I am right now. While my life is blessed in so many ways, I still struggle to appreciate the good without anticipating or overemphasizing the bad. And yet there is so much hope in much that I want to express, experience, and discover.

So this foray into blogging is an attempt at a spiritual discipline for me, one that I have anxiously avoided. To be real. To admit my struggles as I live out my faith. To not try to "spin" things in a way that will bring me favor, but hopefully, to connect with others on the journey and learn to see the beauty in all I encounter.

Will you join me on the journey?