28.6.11

Some times you just have to go with it.

Some times a child asks when you are ever going to make breakfast before you notice that it's almost 11am. Those might be the same times when you are fighting off a cold and spent a lot of the night woken by a baby doing the same. You may have been staring half blind at things for a few hours, not even remembering routines. This would be a perfect time to announce that instead of breakfast we will have brunch!

Then you make it an event, do it in grand style with scrambled eggs, toast with jam, brew some sun tea and make some tea biscuits for that mid afternoon hungry that will hit, because you've skipped lunch, calling it brunch instead, which is brilliant, there will be fewer dishes to clean up.

Sometimes you don't get to morning prayers until noon, and math waits until the sun is high in the sky.



Some times you only just now remember that you should hang some laundry to dry, and fold what is hanging.

And sometimes you don't remember that you are still in the clothes you slept in until mid afternoon until just now, and perhaps you should do your pilates and change. It might help clear the brain fog.



Sometimes your whole living room will be covered in puzzle pieces and you will go outside to take pictures of the wildflowers in your planters instead of worry about it just yet.

Some days it's good to give yourself permission to relax, regroup, and just enjoy the day, the people around you, and the life you have. Even if you still have to remember to pay the bills.


Who wants to come over for tea biscuits?

27.6.11

Hubris? I has it.

My husband is the kind of man who allows you to feel the full force of his displeasure by steadfastly not saying what he is thinking and instead working his jaw and clearing his throat over and over again. He is doing this as he drives to a friendly dinner at our pastor's house while I sit silent in the passenger seat telling myself pretty much everything he is thinking. He has good reason.

The fridge had already put our marriage in jeopardy once. A gift from a kind couple at church it was meant to replace the teensy apartment sized one I picked up for $30 the day before Independence Day from a guy who had momentarily dropped the price in order to pick up some quick cash so he could show his girlfriend a good time. He even delivered. But it was little.

A friend told me, after a visit, that we could have the extra fridge in their garage. It wasn't pretty, and it wouldn't fit the space exactly, but it was big enough to actually hold all the perishables we go through in a week, even leftovers. I had started cooking specifically to avoid leftovers, buying things only a day in advance because I had no where to keep it cold.

The first time the fridge threatened was a Sunday. Since our friends live quite a ways from us, and the church we all attend is a sort of halfway point, I thought it would be a good idea for Aaron to go get it this particular Sunday, since he had his truck that day. It would save on gas, time, it seemed like a good plan.

Aaron's body is not very consistent, he has a lot of health issues that stem mostly from parasites he picked up traveling overseas. He has good days, and bad days. Had I been paying attention to something other than my desire for cold storage I might have seen that today was not a good day. Actually, I did notice, and halfheartedly, after telling him where to go, I said, "You don't have to go today if you don't want to. We could do it on a day that you're feeling better."

But he said he would go anyway.

Have I mentioned how big and heavy this old fridge is? It's really, really heavy.

Aaron found our friend's house, manhandled the giant fridge into his little pickup, and drove home.

Then he manhandled it out of the truck, up the curb, broke the dolly cart, and lifted the thing, just lifted it, up the 2 stairs to our front door. There is nothing hotter than a man moving furniture for his wife. But, here's where things got bad. I had measured to see if it would fit in the space in our kitchen for a fridge, and it would, if we removed the cabinet doors above and didn't mind that it would stick out at least 5 inches past the counter top blocking a bit of the back door of the kitchen. (Beggars are not choosers.) What I had not measured, what it had not ever occurred to me to measure, was whether the fridge would go through any of the doors in our house, specifically the front door, and the kitchen door.

To make a long story short, Aaron took the front door off it's hinges, and got the fridge into the living room. That's when we realized that the handle made it too wide for the kitchen door, front or back.

You know that moment when your husband announces, "Well, we're going to have a fridge here in the living room until someone comes and takes it away, I'm done!" and then goes to lie down? That's never a good moment.

I took out an ad on craigslist. "Please save my marriage, come take away this big ass fridge."

Then I remembered my friend Megan was looking for a fridge for her garage. So I called her. She brought a truck and two big burly men over the next day to help save my marriage. I had to take the front door off it's hinges myself this time. I watched 2 strong guys take an hour to figure out how to get that fridge up onto the truck.

That should be the end of the story. I resolved to find an affordable proper sized fridge with time and vigilant checking of local bulletin boards. My friend Megan was happy to have a big fridge in her garage. But then I saw the lovely and generous previous owner of the fridge at church again who asked, smiling, how we were enjoying it. Upon hearing the sad saga she wondered if we couldn't have unscrewed the fridge handles. (She also was concerned about the state of my cold storage.)

I wondered if maybe we could just open the fridge doors and then sort of turn it through the doors. This would have to be tried at some later date. Megan was amenable to a fridge swap, kind person that she is. So after several months passed, I decided to try and get this profanity inspiring fridge into my kitchen again.

I thought I had it figured out. First, ask Aaron's little brothers, and friends, to move it since they also are strong and still young enough to enjoy showing off their muscles. Next, we would try bringing it up the back stairs instead of the front, bypassing the oven door handles that stick out into the other doorway.

Well, to begin with, we change the day we're doing it so now the swap is the afternoon before we have to go to dinner. But if we start at 2:30 there should be plenty of time, right? They actually get here with the fridge at 4. It took them that long to get it into the truck and drive a mile. Also, it's hard to carry a fridge up the stairs with the doors open, because there's not enough room once at the top to open them. I hold them open. It still doesn't fit through the door though, in fact, it's wider. I kind of forgot that fridge doors have shelves that stick out. You can't blame me, I've been using a very tiny fridge for almost a year now, with no shelves to speak of at all.

They took it back down the stairs. We removed the handles. They brought it back up the 6 steep stairs. It won't make it with the door in the way. They take it back down.

Here's where it gets worse. We measured, all of us. (Aaron was home from work by now.) The fridge is 30 inches, the door jam 31. The boys take the door off it's hinges. They bring the fridge back up the stairs only to discover a metal panel at the back, jutting out, probably encasing wires. It is just wide enough to keep it from going in the door. "You did measure this all beforehand, right?" Aaron asks, eyebrows raised disgustedly. The guy spends his days measuring, making precision cuts in expensive pieces of wood and solving problems like these. He doesn't like to do it when he comes home and I fail at basic measuring.

Here's where my husband starts muttering to himself, "This is why I didn't want to come home first."

This whole time I am trying to make salad, and get the kids ready, all in time to go to dinner. The baby has mercifully conked out in the highchair where I stuck him with snacks to keep him safe and out from underfoot.

It's almost time to go and we have a back door off it's hinges, a fridge still on the outside of our house, and ice cream melting away.

It's a good thing Aaron did come home. He gets up and pulls the oven doors off. Did you know that you can just pull oven doors off? Neither did I. They get tossed on the couch. Then he unscrews the little panel thingie that also sticks out and tells the boy to bring it in through the front door. Fortunately, without handles it fits through without having to remove the front door too.

They get it into the kitchen. Hooray! I now have a big ugly monstrosity hulking in the corner with 3 crisper drawers!

I throw things into it as fast as I can, run out the door in the same shirt I wore to clean the other fridge earlier, and leave the boys to replace the door and lock up.

Which brings us to the jaw clenching throat clearing man in the driver's seat occasional asking with disbelief, "Who's idea was it to take it in the backdoor? But you did measure it didn't you?"

A few hours later we told our friends the story of how we met. Fortunately for me my measuring and planning skills were not a factor in why Aaron married me. Also fortunate for me, his character, and patience, were a factor in why I married him. Not to mention that he is stupid strong and can lift fridges all by himself, even when he's feeling awful, and pull the doors off of ovens.

23.6.11

7 quick takes

1. I wanted to share with you my BIL's most recent post. On the Enigma of Hell, and Bakersfield He currently lives in Uganda and works with a few organizations there. Here's a snippet. "The question I'm more interested in is how, in light of all the restoration, rebirth, adoption, validation, new life, healing, deliverance, good news, etc. throughout scripture, does "not going to Hell" become the big sales pitch? It's like using pictures of Detroit to convince people Fiji is a worthwhile destination."

2. I really liked reading this article about Challenge House. Basically people move into really impoverished neighborhoods with the goal of engaging and building community with the people living there and finding out how to help. They've established a non-profit to help buy houses to use. This is one of my dreams, with the addition of a house for expecting mothers.

3.I've discovered Pinterest. It could be I'm using it wrong, but for me it's a great tool to let me close a browser window I would otherwise leave open. You know how you find something cool and you wan tot remember it or show it to someone so you bookmark it, or leave that page up but you never remember what your bookmarks are of and eventually you have 30 pages open? Pinterest works right into the toolbar of my browser, so when I want to remember something I can just click on the little pin and put it on one of my boards. IT automatically links back to the sight the picture is from and at one glance I can remember all sorts of cool things I want to keep track of.

4. I'm linking to this amazing post by Katie for all 5 of you who don't already read her blog. Around here we bend low. Some of the back story here. found via Jen's best reads of 2010 list. The challenge I think in reading this post is to not dismiss it as something only amazing people in Uganda can do and rather to ask ourselves where we should be bending low, who is in front of us to serve? Family? Neighbor? Whiny child? Where is my bending?

5. My dear friend Emily, who has been volunteering to help me get on top of The Charis Project administrative load, which is substantial, sent me this song on facebook today. You all have probably heard it but I've had my head in the proverbial sand for a while. I've never heard it before. I love it. (It actually starts about a minute and a half in.)



6. I interviewed Rae about her book The Eve Tree this week over at blogher. An Interview with Rachel Devenish Ford, author of The Eve Tree. It was her and my first interview of this sort. I put it up at blogher hoping they would decide to feature it so she would get more publicity, which they did, and it was totally awesome. I felt cool for all of 5 minutes. That was before I realized that the totally excited words I meant to send to Rae when I forwarded her the email they sent me actually went back to the editor who emailed me. That was kind of super embarrassing. You really can't take me anywhere. They should invent an unsend button for Gmail. But I have blog bling so I may as well put it up here. Gah.

Featured on BlogHer.com
7. Speaking of blogher, I'm totally going this year. Finally they hold it in my city so I can afford to go. And then, I applied for and got a bloghership, which means I can go for free! I'm so excited to finally meet some people in real life that I have known and loved via the internets for 5 years or so. I've already volunteered to bake Liz a birthday cake and get Aaron to make Lotus margaritas. It's looking to be a busy week.

Homecomings

"We were just thinking about you!" they all exclaimed as I rounded the corner toward the green where we used to spend so much of our time. "I called and left you a message just about 20 minutes ago. We were all outside and saying how much it was just like old times, but we missed you. and here you are!"

We revisited old haunts yesterday. The Boy's orthodontist is back near where we used to live right next to the library, with it's big children's section painted like an African savanna, and the street where the farmer's market is. Every time we're at the orthodontist go they beg to visit and I'm usually in too much of a rush. It used to be a weekly ritual, visiting the library and then the farmer's market every Tuesday. It's one we miss. This time I purposely scheduled his appointment so we would have time after.

We spent the day of solstice reading and then wandering in the heat, buying strawberries and local honey, munching kettle corn from the best kettle corn stand ever, and took our time choosing which flowers to bring home. When it was time to go home there was a chorus from the back seat. "Can we visit, can we visit, can we visit?"

So, even though it was getting late we drove over to the apartment neighborhood where we used to live. It was like coming home. It's just short of a year since we moved out but yesterday, it felt like it was just yesterday, apart from how much taller all the children are. I sometimes forget just how many friends we have there.

Little girls ran screaming toward mine, hugging, embracing, asking, "Are you going to stay for a while, are you going to stay and play?" "Can she come in my house and play with me for a while."

The gang of boys, ever changing, always running, pulled the Boy into an hour or more of all out hard play, and women I used to talk to every day, firm friends still, even though we see each other so infrequently chatted and herded children and it was just like old times.

When it was almost bedtime when we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of one friends apartment to go home, only to have the Girl come running from the playground to tell me of another friend being out to play and can we stay a little bit longer?

I'm so glad we did because this friend is 4 months joyously pregnant after a miscarriage last year and was just about to scan and email me an invitation to her baby shower since she couldn't find my mailing address.

Monday I wrote about the difficulty of not having a place to come home. Tuesday I went home, to yet another place where we belong, but don't anymore. That's really the difficulty I think. We create community, we invest in relationships, we form attachments, but then we leave, and part of our heart stays in that place that we called home for a time.

But the pain of leaving is good. It means that our presence in a place had an impact, made a change, in us, in the people we met. That they are happy to see us again tells that there was more good than bad done in our time in that place. It is better to love, even though there are no guarantees, than to protect ourselves from the pain pf parting by choosing not to enter into relationships and care for and about the people around us.

When we finally, way past bedtime, said goodbye to the last friend and tucked ourselves into the car for the 15 minute drive home, to our new home, I told the kids, "You don't remember, because you were too little, but when we first moved in there we didn't have all of those friends. We didn't know anyone, and it was pretty lonely. But we kept going out, we kept talking to people and asking them to play and join us for dinner and now, even when we move away, those people are our friends and we have so many people there who know us.

I know it's hard still in our new house. You have kids to play with sometimes, but none that you would call really close friends. But if we don't quit, and keep trying, and learn more Spanish, in time we can have good friends where we live right now too."

I wonder if a good way for us to gauge the quality of our life is by how sad people are to see us go, by how much we will miss the people we see everyday, and how much they will miss us. I hope we are brave enough to keep starting over, making friends, learning new languages and social conventions. I suspect that if we embrace it it will make our lives richer, not poorer, to move from place to place. I can hope.

20.6.11

When you're praying to live like Jesus

A response to  Ann Voskamp's post of the same title.

A field in Tak province, Thailand

When I first see her life, married to a piece of earth, in a house built with their own hands, and guided by the rhythms of the changing seasons I want to plant roots and tie myself to a piece of land as well. My heart is in the Canadian prairies and my soul longs for a place to call home to settle in, to grow old.

I want my children to know a single place that they can always go back to, that doesn't change, like the farm my grandparents still live on, the house my uncle built there where he and his wife have lived every year of their married life, raised sons and daughters now moved out, married, moved on.

I'd never wanted that before. Blessed with place in abundance I moved out, and moved on. I moved 9 times my first year of marriage, purposely tying myself to a man who wouldn't be tied to one place instead. We've never really settled anywhere long, all in search of a life worth living and a place to serve.

Burmese women harvesting
It's harder than you might think, finding a place to serve, a way to live like Jesus as a mother, even if your heart is wide open to do it and you spend a decade knocking on doors and chasing opportunities down. We chafed against our wealth, and poverty, simultaneously because, if we were rich serving would be simpler, not worrying about a family to feed, yet, we are so rich by comparison to those we wish to serve and how do we find a way to go down, when all around us are looking to move up?

Then Ann writes about sky, and earth, and gifts abundant and my heart for the first time turns toward home. I find contentment in the life we have. I am at peace, loving the children I have been given to love, making my bed and lying in it.

We make our peace, we settle in, to a place, a direction and there is contentment.

In a second that all changes, a knock on our door, another door slams shut, and this one swings wide open. We go through and spiral downward, bit by bit.

Mae Kasa hotspring, Thailand

The downwardly mobile live with uncertainty. The lease is month to month, the things never really ours, the purchases weighed in terms of perhaps giving them away in less than a year. We lay slow plans to move to Thailand, to serve orphanages and help them become self sustaining, and go beyond that to make it so the community doesn't need an orphanage anymore. We will serve these children and we don't know where the journey will take us. Do I want this anymore? Do I really want to give up my pillow and comfortable bed?

I read Katie's life on the screen and I wonder if a mother should do this. Can I do this?  Should a mother cart her kids halfway around the world? Should she let them forgo the things that all the other neighborhood kids have for the sake of a life of service? Am I shepherding my children well while I serve these abandoned and forgotten ones?

There is a man in Thailand who Aaron has met once or twice. He comes to the teaching sessions. Five years ago Jesus got a hold of him and he's never been the same. He loves everyone, murderers, outcasts, he takes them home, treats them like brothers, and they like the way Jesus loves through him and they keep coming back. Several of them now know Jesus too and are preparing to go back into conflict torn war zones to tell the people there of the Jesus who loves even murderers. I wonder if I could ever love like that.

Charis Community Mae Kasa
I wonder if I am worthy to serve one who loves with such abandon, me, with my careful ways and wanting to know what tomorrow holds and the year after that and all the years at once.


My heart wants an anchor, a place to put down roots, yet here I am out on a limb, pulse racing, waiting day by day on a path that is uncertain. I remember when I was stuck in place and how I longed to get to here, to have a chance to love, "in a big way". Yet it was loving in small ways, day in, day out, doing my best to love faithfully the ones who are put in my path that prepared me for when my path would cross so many.

For it's easy to believe it would be easier to be like Jesus if only the circumstances of how I live were different. The truth is wherever I am, and whatever I'm doing, I'm still stuck with the same old me. I still have the same old struggles, the same character flaws, the same old fear when it comes to loving with abandon, the same longing for the thing I don't have, the place I couldn't wait to escape.

Now I know that it's not the place that matters, or the type of people. It's not the situation that's in need of change, but the heart. My heart must learn to respond to the one in front of me, to love the one, before the many. We all need love, and we all need to learn to give love. The big scary things and places that some of us find ourselves giving love in and the people with more obvious needs don't change that. In the end love is the same, and only love can truly change hearts, no matter where we are.



All photos taken by Aaron on his last trip to Thailand for The Charis Project.

16.6.11

How I do it all

I'm rolling out the pastry for great grandpa's pie and thinking of the little time that is left and the choice between being late and finishing and she is curled on the stool next to me coloring at the wrapping for his present.

"I'm done mama," she chirps. "Is it beautiful?"

I pull from my reverie to see that the pencil scribbles I've been hearing were all over the cover of the book we are giving him, coloring in the white, covering the words, and my words come spilling out sharp and unkind.

"What are you doing coloring on a book? Don't you know not to color on a book. It is not beautiful. You've wrecked it."

She lays head down, hides it in her arms as I pound away at the dough, more easily molded than the little broken heart beside me. It is the Girl who first shows mercy, running over to erase the evidence as Little continues to weep quietly into her sleeve.

It is, I think, the first time I have ever spoken so harshly to her and the pain of it mixes with the weight of the rushing, and the feelings I am feeling about someone who isn't present, and the guilt of a hundred things left undone all crest at that moment and crush me.

But it is nothing compared to what 3 sentences have done to my 4 year old.

We will be late, I decide. We will not go, even though it's not often someone turns 85, if I can't sort this out first, with her, with me.

At least, that's what I wish I had done, stopped then, and reconciled. But I'm still trying to do it all and I continue pounding pastry with a perfunctory apology and a distraction and she stops crying and walks away.

The Girl comes in as I'm finishing, to ask again a question I already answered. But she doesn't like my answer.

"Why are you doing this?" I erupt. "Why are you doing this to yourself and me? Why are you making yourself miserable again and revisiting all the tears of an hour ago and making me listen to it? I already said no. I'm not going to say yes. Why now? Can't you see how busy I am getting this all done?"

It's her turn to cry on the stool and mine to swallow down aggravation and the bitter tone to my words. I put the pie in the oven pick up the baby who is desperate for me; the Boy has been doing his best to to help him while I'm busy. I set the Girl to making sandwiches while I change diapers and nurse him to sleep and his smile and hand brushing my face softens the hardness that has been pressing and the ball that clenches tight. I catch Little, running through the bedroom as I'm finishing with diapers, hold her close and whisper, "I was wrong to talk to you that way. I'm so sorry. My heart hurts that my words hurt you. Please forgive me."

She looks down, avoids my eyes, staring at her toe as it works a hole through the hardwood and then brightens, "I forgive you mama."

She says it like it's the password to her release and I hug her tighter for a second and whisper thank-you before letting go and watching her run off to play. She will probably remember this, and whenever she searches the annals of her childhood to justify her teenaged insistence that hers is an unhappy life, this day will be rehearsed. It will serve me right for all the times I did the same.

It's only after the baby is asleep, and the lunch eaten, the Girl made me a sandwich too, that I recover some sort of sanity. I call the person I'm feeling feelings about and say them out loud, which almost immediately disperses their bitterness. I make another call to let those waiting know to go on ahead of us. We'll be there when we can. I will not do it all today.

Then I frost the cake and call Aaron to apologize for the state I will be leaving the kitchen in. He makes me laugh by pretending to care.

We leave, a full hour behind schedule, and I once again ask forgiveness in the car for my words and actions, a path of repentance that is worn, maybe wearing thin, and I console myself with the thought that it's more useful to children to see how their parents handle it when they inevitably fail than to never see them fail at all. I'm good at failing it seems. I have a lot of practice.

So please don't ask me how I do it all. You really don't want to know. It's far from pretty and I often fail. I'm learning as I go. Just like you.

14.6.11

Focus

I had only read about 2 other blogs when I started this one back in 2006. One was a crazy humor sort of style that Aaron really liked called enraged baboon, and the other was written by my friend Rae of Journey Mama. I started it because I had some silly things to say about breasts, specifically, a form of making peace with the ones I was dealt and it seemed that a blog was the type of forum to use for random silliness. (I still get more random google traffic from that first post than any other since then by the way. Something about how I mention Halle Berry on Oprah and the word breasts in the same paragraph. It's a mystery to me why that would bring so many searches. Apparently there are people out there who really liked that episode of Oprah?)

I had no idea in 2006 that there was a blogging community. I had no idea that I would meet people over the internet that I feel just as close to as my real life friends. I didn't even know that was possible.

But this community changed me, for the better. There were women here on the internet who taught me. From their example I was able to find my way through the the maze that was my life and marriage to the place I began, only now there was joy in that place, and peace, and contentment.

And then this blog became the platform for The Charis Project. It became the place where ideas grew and children were cared for and I learned that the internet is an amazing place, full of kind, compassionate, giving people. It's because of this blog that we were able to do so much so quickly.

You're probably wondering why I'm taking this little trip down memory lane today. What this blog hasn't been is very focused. I haven't really decided or figured out why I'm writing. You know, besides that I love writing, and I want to tell the story. Truthfully, for me it's been exactly what a journal is, a place to record memories, thoughts, and heartaches. Only here it's had the added bonus of feedback from others, and a community to help me find my way through it.

I've been thinking recently however that I want more focus. I want to have a guide to what I write here. There is more to say. I have lots more to say. But without some sort of overarching concept, theme, some guiding purpose, much like life in general, I don't think it's as good as it could be.

So I'm asking you for your help, your opinion actually. Could you take a second and tell me what you really like about this blog, and what you don't like? Could you tell me your favorite posts? Your least favorite? The things that make you stare blankly at your screen before clicking away?

I care enough about this community, about what goes on here to try and make it better. I'd love it if you helped me out.

Thanks.

10.6.11

10 months


You stand there in your bouncer, legs astride as though you are walking and I wonder, when did those legs get so long little boy? When did you get tall enough to reach over the coffee table and sweep everything off of it in a single motion? When did you start to crawl so fast that gates are needed everywhere and nothing is safe?



It seems like yesterday you were barely sitting on your own and maybe 2 days ago that you were a tiny newborn snuggled in my arms and why does time have to go so relentlessly in a single direction never stopping, never pausing to give me just a moment longer to smell your downy head and hold you close as a newborn.

You are fascinated by bottles.


You have 2 teeth, you are working on 2 more. You jump like you are on a mission and you tear things of of shelves and pile them on the floor.

You blow raspberries all the time and your shirts are constantly wet from drool.



Your square head and straight hair sticking up as you squint at me in the sunshine reminds me of every picture of my little brother, your uncle, when he was little. It squeezes my heart to think of the years in between those pictures and now, the pictures of him with his own little girl. Time will march on and take you with it.

You are always smiling. You love to meet people. You try to eat your favorites, especially other babies. You approach them as you approach life, mouth wide open, ready to receive whatever is good. You have tasted toes, and ankles, giving love bites to your family just like a puppy.

I hold you and you press your warm little forehead against mine, and we rub noses before you turn to nibble on my cheek and we press cheeks together, while I pop little kisses with my lips on the spot, just under your ear that makes you laugh, before doing the same to the back of your neck.

This is you excited. You rarely stay still.


You laugh when tickled, or surprise, you love it when your brother and sisters play peek a boo. You life is so full of other people who are so exciting and entertaining and you greet each of them with anticipation grabbing their faces, their noses, their hair, smiling triumphantly that you got them.

You crawl into the big kids bedroom at night in search of them. You want them to get out of bed and play with you. You will always be a social person, I can tell. Easy going, delighted by others, and happy to be in a crowd. You get restless and cranky when the kids go away and it's just you and me, like you are worried that they are missing.



Fourth babies are so much different than 1st babies, that's for sure. These months seem to have passed in a blur. I'm homesick already for the baby you no longer are, even as I look forward to the toddler you are becoming.

I'm trying to hold onto moments with my senses, the feel of your hair against my lips, running through my fingers, the sounds you make, the way you looked just then, even as I know that many will just slip right through my fingers like water, drowned in the now of who you will be next year, and the year after that. But still I try, because these days are precious, maybe the best ever. I love this season and I want to be more present in it because it's almost over.

Love,
Mama

Conversations

He's been reading the Chronicles of Narnia in his spare time, 3 books at least in the last week, which makes me all kinds of proud to have a reader around. He's almost finished the last book when he asks, as we sit at the dinner table, "Are there any more books, like about all the other worlds in the pools that Digory and Polly didn't jump into in the wood?. I think that would be cool if there were more books about other places."

"Maybe there will be a new one coming out?"

That's when I tell them that C.S. Lewis is dead.

"Maybe one of his kids could write another one," the Girl wonders.

Aaron and I exchange looks, "Perhaps," I say. "But that didn't work out so well for Tolkien."

"What do you mean?" The Boy asks.

"Oh, when Tolkien died his son published some stories that he found that his dad had written but never published. It was called the Silmarillion, it was a history of middle earth, but it wasn't nearly as well written as The Lord of the Rings."

"Oh."

But it makes me so happy to know that he has experienced that longing we all have for a good story to just go on and on and on, the regret we feel when it comes to a close.

*********************

I am reading to all of them, sitting on the couch. Little has found a small plastic comb somewhere and is attacking my hair with it, in the name of making it pretty. She gets the detangler, sprays and combs, and sprays and combs as I read.

"Mommy!" She exclaims, interrupting a sentence. "Sometimes If you stay right there you look like a princess."


*********************

We are eating tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. LIttle leans over to me from her chair.

"Mommy, when you were a little girl where did I live?"

"You didn't. You weren't born yet. You didn't live anywhere."

"Oh, right. I was inside of your body."

"Yes, part of you was, and part of you was inside daddy and after we got married those parts met and you were born."

"But I was born first." The Boy interjects.

"Yes, you were born first."

"And God knew exactly what we would be like and who we would be before any of us were born." He announces.

I wonder who he's been talking to or what he's been reading because I'm not sure that's actually an accurate understanding of what the Bible says. Rather than agreeing I say, "It does say that he knows us before we were born, while we're being put together in our mother's womb..."

"Mommy, mommy, mommy," Little interrupts. "Who will I marry when I grow up."

"I don't know who you will marry. But I pray that whoever you marry is loving, will be wise and strong in character and be a good man to take care of my girl."

"When I grow up I want to marry someone just like daddy." The Girl announces. "Well, maybe not who looks like him, but someone like him."

9.6.11

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

It's almost too late for this link up but I had pictures to show you so... Ever feel like you've been working all day and nothing got done? Yeah, that was Thursday for us too.

Pretty


The Girl made these all by herself with crocheted yarn and buttons. She also did the presentation for a gift for auntie Ana. The careful observer will note the pretty cardboard she found is a cut up 6 pack.


There are fields and fields of daisies heaped up everywhere there's dirt here.

Happy


These are all letters and drawings from kids at the Charis Home for their pen pals. They just came today and are so sweet.



Funny


Poor kid was tuckered out. Crawling and eating everything you find is hard work.

Real



My living room right now. It doesn't show the train tracks scattered everywhere behind.


This was a very pretty hydrangea once until I forgot to water it. It's not dead... yet. It may come back If I'm kind to it


round button chicken

8.6.11

Skirts vs. Pants- Majoring on the Minors

Apparently, in several circles there is a great debate raging over whether or not women should wear skirts or pants. Seriously.

This week I've read several different posts from different bloggers, Catholics, Protestants, conservative homeschoolers of both traditions, (surprise) and others are of the opinion that modesty and sincere faith in God require that a woman only wear skirts because pants are immodest.

In that vein I've also read several posts discussing modesty in general. I've already gone on at length about my thoughts regarding modesty in this post. Modesty Protects? But allow me to belabor the point just a little bit more, since everyone else still is.

First can we please just all agree that what is modest and what is not is an entirely arbitrary line that is drawn differently in every culture, subculture and country. To insist any differently, or that your view of what is or isn't modest is the only correct one, is borderline xenophobic, and definitely ethnocentric. England, France, Australia, these countries have no problem with woman going topless in public. Hill tribe villages in Thailand believe teeth turned black by chewing beetlenut are beautiful and ancient wizened and withered old grandmothers walk around on hot days in nothing but a handwoven skirt. (I suppose they might pass since the clothed half is in a skirt rather than in pants.) They will also gather to watch the American guys in the outdoor shower to see if there really is an anatomical difference in certain areas. (Aaron and Sean experienced this first hand.) In the case of the hill tribes, most of this is really quite innocent, though shocking behavior for North America perhaps.

And yet, here in the United States there is heated debate over whether pants are too revealing, too enticing to men and should a sincere Christian woman be seen in them? WTB! What the Bloggess?

Which brings me to my second point. It is a dangerous trend I see for women to take upon themselves the responsibility for what is in the heart of a man. Yet that is what youth group leaders preach, that is what male pastors preach, that is what Muslim Imams preach. "You women don't know how enticing your form is to men. You need to help them out by denying the beauty that God gave you and turn yourselves as plain and unattractive as possible. It is your fault that they struggle with unclean thoughts and actions. You as a woman, the way God made you, your very presence can defile a man. So it's up to you to be careful."

Personally? I find that line of thinking about as offensive as those who say a woman who is raped was asked for it based on how she was dressed.

Not only that, it's demeaning and disrespectful of men, our sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers, first to shame them for noticing the female form in any way and appreciating it and second to equate them with little children, no more in control of themselves than a 2 year old, who thinks everything he sees belongs to him.

Alongside this blaming of women for what is in the hearts of men is the effective stripping away of men's inherent dignity, nobility, and God given instinct to protect and treasure women. Seriously, how insulting, and how typically female of us to take on responsibility for something that is not really ours to be responsible for.

Suppose my son fails or struggles in an area, perhaps sports, he gets angry when he loses and hits someone. How helpful is it for me to pat him on the head and say, "There, there, I know you can't help getting angry. It's how your brain is wired. You were made that way and it's really those other player's fault that they aren't being respectful of how you were made and what you struggle with. They should have let you win because now they've caused you to stumble again and that's not biblical."?

Yet that's what we effectively say to Christian men when it comes to sexual temptation. "Because of the way God made you, you have no control over your thought life, and if only all women wore burqas, then you wouldn't struggle so."

No!

"Because of how God made you, and through his spirit in you redeeming and renewing all parts of you, you can control your thoughts, you can be free of addiction, you can see the women around you as wonderful, precious, real human beings that you care about so much you can't imagine demeaning them in such ways."

Here's a another question. What about the men who wish their wives would dress less modestly? For example, I dress far more "modestly" than Aaron would prefer. He buys me bustiers and corsets and absolutely loves it when I wear them out on a date, or a dress with a plunging neckline, usually borrowed. My usual standard of dressing is entirely detached from any desire to please my husband. Truthfully, it's a mix of what I feel comfortable in and my concern for how other people perceive me and what they would say about me. Lets take that a step further. I'm dressing "modestly" based on other women's standards not on mine or my husband's. Which leads back to my first point about modesty being an entirely arbitrary sets of rules, often made up by women. *

What about the fact that my husband wears skirts, in the form of kilts, lungi and sarongs? How does that factor into this discussion? Modest or immodest? And while we're discussing the guys for a moment let's talk about this double standard of expecting our girls to wear skirts while our boys go shirtless. Men's pants hug and bulge and reveal also. Perhaps they should all wear skirts as well. Why is the conversation always about women's clothes? I am tired of hearing that men are more visual as an answer by the way. Woman are visual too. Women are tempted too. But the double standard remains. If we're going to say it for one gender we should say it for both.

Here's my 3rd point for today, and the most important I think. Do the people so seriously discussing this issue have any idea what they are doing to the gospel by worrying such small details to death? If God had a specific directive about how a woman dresses, I'm pretty sure he would have put into the Bible, "Woman should not wear pants."

What is in there is a directive to women to not be obsessed with outward adornment, I'll venture that the pants versus skirts debate is included, and rather let our beauty come from our character, and our heart. In other words, it's what's inside the heart of a woman that counts, not what's on her body.

A wise man, aka my father in law Ken Blue, once said, "Be careful of those people who major on the minors, and minor on the majors. They are dangerous."

For example, a person in Aaron's extended family, while pastoring a very large and prominent church, wrote a book about manners, the importance of saying please and thank-you, etc. It was a best seller by the way. However, while he was writing this book, about the importance of manners in today's society, he was simultaneously, quite politely I'm sure, cheating on his wife with his secretary.

Manners - relatively minor
Adultery - Somewhat major

Skirts vs Pants-relatively minor
Having a heart of compassion and gentleness, and good character - Somewhat major

Dressing "modestly" by the standards of the subculture you are in - relatively minor
Truly loving and caring about people - Somewhat Major

Spending the bulk of your time convincing other people that you are right about skirts vs pants - Relatively minor
Spending your time actively seeking to participate in the kingdom of God - Hugely major

So can we all just please stop with this whole discussion of what it is proper for a woman to wear? Could we maybe even trust the God who draws her to Him to teach her what she should do in that regard, just as he teaches each of us, even if it differs from person to person?

Could we direct all that passion towards something truly major and valuable? Maybe the orphan crisis, world hunger, human trafficking, injustice, clean water, kindness, dignity, love, and gentleness. There is a lot of good to be done, take your pick.

Or am I wrong? Is modesty a major issue? Am I missing something?


*I read that paragraph to Aaron and he very helpfully commented that "Of course it's arbitrary, it's made up by women."


Here are a few reasonable and graceful posts that I enjoyed reading on this subject this week.

Grace for the Scantily Clad

Touching a Nerve

And Rachel Held Evans relevant, though not quite on topic, post

Idols of Paper and Ink

Update. I found this picture. It seemed to fit.

3.6.11

I love my Granny swimsuit from Walmart. What does that say about me?

This picture makes me laugh

The last thing I was expecting when I walked into Walmart was to buy a swimsuit. Return a pair of shoes, perhaps a new package of underwear, some floss picks, maybe, but definitely not a swimsuit engineered with the older woman in mind.

Yet there it was, in all it's floral glory, hanging there on the end display and I WAS going swimming the next day...

It's always been a struggle for me to find swimwear that offers the right kind of support in the right places on the kind of budget that I have to work with. I generally end up wearing a nylon sport bra underneath a swim tank I bought off a clearance rack somewhere and running shorts. In fact, that has been my swim ensemble for several years now. Every so often I try wearing different swim top but however cute it is, it fails to do a good enough job of corralling the girls as I keep toddlers afloat in the pool and feed them snacks and chase them down. I always go back to the sport bra ensemble, which leads to really bad tan lines by the way.



This suit looked like it would keep everything in place, and cover all the things I'd rather have covered, and maybe even flatter this still slightly lumpy postpartum shape of mine.

It has pleats around the bodice, straightforward straps, a short little skirt that falls just below the hip line and, oh happy day, an under layer that actually covers my whole butt and makes it so that extreme shaving measures are not required. So I tried it on. (The kids were with their dad for the day, that never happens.)



I have never once purchased the first thing I tried on, ever. But I'm telling you it was almost as if the heavens opened and an angel chorus sang that's how much I liked what that suit looked like on me. It was cute, it was flattering, it kept the girls in a properly covered yet elevated place. You have no idea how hard it is to find a suit that can do that. Best of all it skimmed over the bit of paunchiness that remains in my belly and lets me deceive myself that my thighs are doing alright, stretchmarks not withstanding.

I wore it the next day. I shall be wearing it all summer. I think I look good in it.

At the back of my mind though is this dawning awareness that I just purchased the kind of swimsuit that I see somewhat elderly women wearing quite often. Now I know why.

If I should happen to see an older woman in the same mass produced granny swimsuit this summer that I am sporting I may just have to high five her and yell, "Yeah, the girls are staying put. I know your secret now."

Yeah, this is as close as you will get to seeing me model a swimsuit for the internets. Cute no?

1.6.11

Frustration-Updated

So yesterday I was doing what I normally do at the end of the month, visiting the bank and then the RiteAid down the street from it to wire money to Thailand for The Charis Home.

I wish I could say it's the best part of the month but it's not. This particular RiteAid, chosen entirely for it's location, close to the bank, on the way to my MIL's house and open later than any of the other ones, has the slowest, worst customer service I have ever encountered. Even when they aren't understaffed, which is often, I end up waiting at the customer service desk for at least 10 minutes before they even acknowledge my existence, even if I stare meaningfully at them as they chat in the middle of the aisle right in front of me.

The floor manager is taciturn, defensive, downright rude and usually distracted by any booty hanging out at the ice cream counter. I wish I was exaggerating.

So I sat there, fuming at the wait again and resolved that this would be my last ever visit to this store. Surely there was another Western Union location with a few miles of my house. (It turns out there are 10.)

Unfortunately, consoling myself that I would not wait at this counter ever again was too small a comfort in the wake of what happened next.

You see, I accidentally hit credit instead of debit on the transaction. For some reason it accepted this even though it's not supposed to and finished the transaction. Only, Western Union won't send money with a credit card transaction. He had to make a call.

We waited. The girls found a Fancy Nancy book that they just had to have. They pooled their money and waited in another line nearby to buy it.

The manager came back and told me he has to refund the credit transaction and redo it as debit. They can't let it go through as a credit payment.

The girls got to the counter, only to find that the book they loved and wanted was 4 dollars more than they thought it was. They walked away sad, Little crying quietly into my leg.

Balancing a sad 4 year old, a cranky, teething 9 month old and the card we tried to do the transaction once more as debit. Only, guess what, that money isn't yet back in the account. It could take 3 whole days for it to clear again so I can send it. He goes to make more calls.

The lady behind them in line comes over to me with the book in a bag. "Here is a present for your little girl," she says, with a hug. It was such a kind thing to do.

Little is thrilled, she doesn't even mind as Jellybean pulls her hair as I read it to her. We've been there almost an hour now. Several minutes later I'm informed that there is nothing they can do, I'll need to talk to my bank. There will be no rice money sent today.

We go to the van. I didn't take the sling because I didn't expect to be out for so long. Jellybean is hungry and tired and I need to nurse him before tucking him into his car seat or he will wail all the way home.

While I am balancing him on one knee, in the relative privacy of facing my open van door, I just start nursing him when an elderly gentlemen approaches from behind, headed straight toward the exposed parts. "Excuse me ma'am," his voice is quavering, "could you help me out? I'm trying to buy some food for my wife and I."

"I'm a little busy right now," I call over my shoulder, discomfited by all that has come before and trying not to drop the baby or flash him or fall over. "Hold on a second."

But he only heard the first part and he is walking away. I watch him go, trying to keep an eye on him while I finish nursing and strap Jellybean in. I have $5 in my purse and I drive around the parking lot, circling 3 times, trying to find him in the half light, but he has vanished. I try not to imagine what happens if his story is true and he goes home without anything to eat. We say a prayer for him as we drive home, to our incredibly late dinner and go to bed.

Today I discovered to very useful things. there is another Western Union even closer to my house than that one, so I never need to return to the RiteAid. Second, Western Union will now let me send money online, straight from an account, so I don't even have to leave the house again. It takes 3 days but if I plan ahead, next month should be easy.

But there is a 3rd and 4th thing that are less exciting. The bank still says the money is not back in the account and there is an email from Chala.
We would like to buy the rice.We have one sack left..no more rice.
 Crap!

The bank also says that if that same store, which I am now getting close to hating, will fax them a letter that they will be able to release the funds within 6 hours. That means calling back and talking to the same manager and entrusting him with all the numbers on the debit card, so not comfortable with that, so he can send the fax for me. Which I have done. Of course, he had to make a few calls first. I'm still waiting for him to call me back it's been several hours. I'm going to have to order a new credit card in the morning I think.

So now I'm figuring that if we hold off on paying the rent for another day or 2, it's not overdue until Sunday, we could send money from our family's personal account to pay for rice and deal with the book keeping nightmare that follows from that.

Which leaves me wishing I'd chosen a different way one month sooner.

I'm doing my best to hold onto the kindness of that one woman who blessed my girls in the middle of all of this. I may be failing on occasion.

But enough about me and the wrinkles I'm failing to smooth out. How was your day? Tell me something unexpectedly kind that happened to you once. You can go ahead and tell me something that went catastrophically wrong as well, since I just burdened you with my tale.

Well, I guess the guy at Rite Aid did send it because the money is back in the account and I'm off to a completely different Western Union location to send the money. Yay! Thanks for all your prayers.

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