Friday, December 12, 2008

Anticipation

I love the Advent season. My dictionary defines it as "the coming of something extremely important." The kids feel it. They're anticipating giving and receiving gifts, and we remember the coming of the greatest gift of all, our Savior. Our naughty little kitty Thora gets it, too. She is waiting and watching....


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mini Sermon, sorry, sometimes I can't help myself...

So while I have spiritual disciplines on my mind, (like observing the Sabbath, among other practices) I find myself mulling over the concept of being a disciple. Same root word, which according to the Webster's Revised Dictionary, means:
"Dis*ci"ple\, n. [OE. disciple, deciple, OF. disciple, fr. L. discipulus, fr. discere to learn.] One who receives instruction from another; a scholar; a learner; especially, a follower who has learned to believe in the truth of the doctrine of his teacher; an adherent in doctrine; as, the disciples of Plato; the disciples of our Savior."

What is the motivation to learn, follow, and believe the Truth of Jesus? It begins with my faith, believing that I cannot measure up to the perfection required to hang out with God. I'm not good enough, I fall short of the mark (that's a nicely worded way of saying, "I sin."). So I need a Savior. I need Christ to make it right for me before God. I believe that. That's the crux of my faith.

The next step then, is to follow Him, in all His ways. To follow is a response to realizing what He's done for me. It's a jaw-dropping, head-buried-in-the-hands, face on the floor, mind-blowing reaction to what He did for me, even though I did not deserve it. Except that I can forget about it. Like the second the phone rings, or one of my kids asks me for something. So I engage in these disciplines--these actions of following and learning--to help me get realigned, to keep my perspective on Him and His Kingdom.

And here's what is really amazing about the whole thing. The more closely I follow, the more I get to know Him. The more He opens my eyes to His activity. So, in addition to saving me, He also blesses me all the time with glimpses of Him and His ways! Do I do it because I don't want to get caught doing the wrong thing? No. Do I do it so that He won't slap me down when I make a mistake? No. Or maybe to make up for all the ways I've not measured up? No. The real motivation for me to be a follower of Christ is that I don't want to miss out on the blessings He has for me. The thrill of those glimpses keeps me coming back for more.

So, I'm not thinking about coming up with a way for our family to observe the Sabbath because I'm worried about following a rule, or because God is "shoulding" me to do it. (He isn't, for the record, anyway. Jesus and Paul both made it clear in the New Testament that we are not bound by the old law.) I'm thinking about it because it seems to me that spending some time as a family remembering that gift Jesus gave us would be a blessing. It could be a chance for us to get to know God better, together.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Day Set Apart


I was thinking this past Sunday about the practice of making the Sabbath holy. I had the idea that I would try to make the remainder of the day a time of rest. (I started thinking about it on Sunday--there's the first clue that I wasn't going about it right, but better to enter into the thought process late than never, yes?) I've heard enough sermons or read enough articles to know that the Sabbath is about more than putting my feet up; it's to be a day of "resting in the knowledge of who God is...." That's a beautiful phrase, one you can spend a portion of your Sabbath mulling. And I guess that's what I really wanted to do on Sunday. I wanted the God part of the day to go beyond church, to spill into the whole day. And then the kids want to play with so-and-so, and Luke needs new shoes for indoor soccer, and so life gets in the way.

What does it really mean for our family to observe the Sabbath?

For some, just making a habit of going to church every week is a beginning. For others, it may mean more.

I've heard/read lots about it. I've heard how a husband and wife actually observe a 24-hour period on separate days, because it works better for them. He takes it from Sunday afternoon into Monday afternoon, she takes it on a different day. Something about that doesn't sit right for me. When do the kids do it? But don't I sound all high and mighty...after all, we don't do it at all. I mean, we sort of do. We keep Sundays low-key. On purpose. But I think lately, I'm hungering for something more meaningful.

Maybe it's because I've been studying and reading Old Testament scriptures lately, I'm not sure, but I've just been wanting to get everything God has for me, and the idea of Sabbath is where I landed. I got out my copy of Mudhouse Sabbath, by Lauren Winner. She grew up in a Jewish home, converted to Orthox Judaism and then later became a Christian--she tells that story in her book Girl Meets God--but this little book, well, here's what she says:
"This is a book about those things I miss. It is about Sabbaths and weddings and burial and prayers, ritual Jews and Christians both observe, but also rituals we observe quite differently. It is about paths to the God of Israel that both Jews and Christians travel. It is, to be blunt, about spiritual practices that Jews do better. It is, to be blunter, about Christian practices that would be enriched, that would be thicker and more vibrant, if we took a few lessons from Judaism. It is ultimately about places where Christians have some things to learn."

She is quick to point out that practicing these disciplines does not earn us our salvation, but they are part of the way we are followers of Christ--disciples. I wish I could just quote the whole first chapter, but I can't. I wish I could find something that would just list out exactly how I ought to practice observing the Sabbath, but it doesn't work that way. I think what I get most from rereading Lauren's thoughts on the Sabbath is that it is not a day for me, it is for God, a day given to and spent imitating God. And it requires some preparation on my part. And so, how will this actually work, putting this into practice in our family setting, in 2008? Not sure yet, but I'm giving it some thought.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back in the Saddle

It has been a long time since I've posted. The more time goes by, the harder it is to sit down and write. I became a bit of a news junky for a while before the election, and it was all I had on my mind, but didn't want to post about it. Mostly because I didn't/don't want this blog to become a place to talk politics.

As right as I'm sure I must be in my convictions, (wink, wink) my relationships with folks who read this blog are more important to me than swaying someone's mind. It's a hard thing to "agree to disagree," so I'd rather not talk about it at all. It's not very brave of me, but that's the way it is.

So the election is over and I've weaned myself off of the news shows and pundits... and it's time to get back to writing regularly.

I'm just finishing up Beth Moore's study of the Patriarchs. I thought it would be a good study to do after reading some Old Testament books on my own this summer. I told the gals in the group I've been studying with, I've just loved doing this study, finding the connections in God's Word from Old to New Testaments, to life right here and now. I feel like God has been wooing me into His Word, giving me bits of His Truth, little treasures a day at a time... He has such a great Plan, and it's always good.

Our circumstances at any given moment may not feel like it, (think Abraham walking up to the top of the hill, preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac, or think of Jacob stealing and conniving to get the blessing from his father Isaac, or think Joseph, sitting in prison for more than two years when he was innocent) but God is at work all the time. He uses imperfect people. He loves us despite our unworthiness. Even when we waste a month watching the news....

Friday, October 17, 2008

Further Evidence of Cute Little Bugger

My mom made this birthday card for luke, and it arrived in the mail yesterday after my post....

The inside reads, "And now you're 10 Cause it's your birthday again!"
I can't think of any more words to add.... I mean, you know, he's too much!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, Luke!



Ten years ago today, Luke came screaming his way into this world. Now today he is a bright, determined, young man who goes after the things he wants. We're proud of him and so happy to celebrate who he is growing up to be!

This morning, Luke and I were looking at a photo album of his first year and I marveled again at what a cute little bugger he was. He still is, but he doesn't really like me saying that.... A favorite memory from when Luke was little, he always wanted more of everything. More food, more to drink, more time to play, more stuff. Scott and I would often say, "oh no, that's too much!" and Luke's reply would be, "but Mommy, I want too much!"

Sometimes Luke (and Lars and Lily) is too much, we are so blessed, I am overwhelmed when I really think about what a gift it is to be his mom.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mysterious Squash Plant Update

Whaddya know? We might actually be producing some fruit here in our pot! Remember my questions about the rogue plant growing in my pot in the back yard? Karen helpfully offered advice on how to keep this thing healthy and happy, and I took some of it. (Actually, all I did was move it to a spot with more sun and dirt, and buried some of the vine. Her other suggestions required more effort than I was willing to make. I meant to, but just never got around to it....)

So, despite my neglect, and the fact that this thing was probably planted by a squirrel, or maybe unintentionally by me in my compost, it is still working hard to grow something significant. There are two little squashes or whatever they are. They're each about the size of my thumb.

Amazing! And what does this say about the ways we might be fruitful--spiritually speaking--in our lives? I guess it doesn't always have to happen the way we map it out, and we may not always be the one who plants the seed, 'eh?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Bailout

Well, I did it. While it didn't come with a $700 billion price tag, there may be cost involved, and I'm watching closely to see.

I bailed out my seven year-old daughter and cleaned her room for her. I warned her for weeks that there was a problem, sometimes rationally, sometimes not so much. I gave her suggestions on how to tackle the job, and sometimes even ordered her to pick up all of one thing, or to pick one area and just clean that. I told her it was really getting bad, and threatened to go in there one day myself with a big garbage bag. Her room was declared off-limits for friends, even some privileges were lost, until she could make some headway. No matter what tack I took, she could not handle the enormity of the nightmare her room had become.

Lily's room could only be described as a disaster area. It was mess on top of mess: accumulated works of art in progress; paintings left to dry, little itty bits of paper, home-made board games, and "worksheets" for Lily's students to complete, or waiting to be graded; clothes--clean, dirty, and in between; just plain old garbage; discarded toys; crayons, pencils, glittery make-up; books, and countless containers of all shapes and sizes with the hope of purpose and usefulness ahead of them.... It took me two solid hours, and one filled-to-the-rim 13-gallon trash bag to get to the bottom of it all.

There's a lot that could be said about how different little girls are from little boys, and how the parenting techniques have to be tweaked in order to be most effective. And there's a lot to be said about how I may have become lax with my youngest, and I need to be more engaged, and get focused here.

Generally speaking, I am opposed to bailouts. I'm a big believer in real life consequences. But Lily was facing a crisis, I mean, the place was a fire hazard! Some of the blame could be mine, letting her have too much stuff in there to begin with. What was the real point in all of it? Did I want her to learn how to clean a room, or how to take care of her stuff? In the end, to me the important part is to help her grow a healthy attitude about stuff. What we acquire, keep, care for, let go of, etc. She couldn't possibly get that with the mountain of mess before her. If it took me two hours, how long would it take her (even with my help!)? I didn't want the lessons I spoke to her about stewardship to get lost in the action and huge amount of time spent cleaning. I decided that I needed to step in and give her a clean slate, and clear boundaries, so that she could start over and learn the lessons about being a good steward of her belongings and blessings.

I wasn't sure what her reaction would be when she came home to find her rug visible. (and lots of things just plain gone!) To my surprise, she was totally relieved and grateful. So far, it has stayed clean for over a week. And I've spent time with Lily, showing her how little effort is required to put things away properly, and she is buying into to joy of having a clean room, everything in its place.

Is there a tie-in to our government and that financial mess/bailout/rescue? Maybe. Maybe the terrible thing isn't the bailout itself, but would be in missing the opportunities to follow it up with a watchful eye, and capturing teachable moments.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, Lars

Twelve years ago today, I became a mother.
Lars was 13 days late, I waddled around the neighborhood day after day, trying to get things moving. But he waited until the last minute to finally introduce himself to this world.
I am still surprised by it.
How did we get so lucky to bring home this little baby?



And then, how did it happen so fast that he's now this pre-teen, lanky, head-full-of-ideas all his own, getting ready to grow up kid?! It is truly a miracle. And he is truly a blessing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Learning by Example

Betcha' thought I'd given up on this whole blogging thing. I haven't, and I've got things on my mind to write about, but the routine I so longed for is different this year, and I couldn't figure out when to sneak this in. A friend this weekend said she's giving herself until October to get a groove going. I hope it doesn't take me that long, but if it does, it does.

My kids are all in different school buildings this year, each on their own schedule, leaving the house and coming home at all different times. The nice thing about it: I get one-on-one time with each child every morning. The hard-to-get-used-to part: By 8:30, I've been up for two and a half hours, and I haven't gotten anything done, except get everyone out the door. This is fine, it's just something I have to get used to.

The biggest fan of the new morning routine? Greta. Especially on mornings when the kids have cereal for breakfast. There is the hope that she'll get to lick THREE different bowls of milk. This hope gets her so happy in the mornings, that she purrs and wraps herself around our feet all morning long. She flops over and makes herself all cute and irresistible to each groggy blondy at the table, treating them as if they're her most favorite person. It's fun watching them each fall in love with her a little bit more each morning.

I'm trying to follow her example, and show them my devotion, sending them off every morning knowing they're deeply loved. I draw the line at rubbing my face on their feet, though.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Art is making something out of nothing and selling it. --Frank Zappa


We had a great long weekend. Dear friends came into town and we went into the city and did all kinds of touristy things. We spent a night in a hotel so we could have two whole days of enjoying city things without the bother of using a car. One of our stops was the Art Institute, and I'm not sure the kids are sold on Picasso.....

Luke said, "do you think he just messed up on one of the eyes and then worked around it?"

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's Cookin'?

First full day of school. Ahhhh, routine. How I have longed for it.

I struggled this summer with the lack of schedule. We intentionally did not sign up for a bunch of things this summer, thinking it's good to get a little bored in the summer. But with all that free time, it seemed like I did more chauffeuring than ever, taking folks here and there because why not? Nothing else that needs to be done.... It left me feeling unsettled, not knowing if I had an hour to get something done, or 15 minutes, or 3 hours. That unsettled feeling soon turned to just plain old crabby.

I am learning that I need to be responsible for my own happiness. When you have babies and you stay home and the world revolves around their physical needs, your life gets turned upside down. As the years go by, you learn how to start spinning it back right-side-up, but still, your own wants get put on hold for a while. And it's ok, for a while. I was talking with a dear friend just this morning about how we have pressed the pause button on a few things in our lives. Willingly, and purposefully, we have set some things onto the back burner.

But I have to remember it's still on the stove! I found myself this summer feeling resentful of everyone else in the family because I had somehow become the coordinator and accommodater of their happiness, and who was doing that for me? You're cordially invited to my pity party. It's like I let some muscles atrophy, I couldn't even think what would make me happy, I'd been so used to not having the opportunity.

The kids are getting older, the needs are different. You know what they say, "when mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." There is some truth to it. Who wants a resentful, jealous, crabby happiness coordinator? I need to be looking into that pot on the back burner and stir it up, tend to it a little bit before there's nothing there, for all of our sakes.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Judges and Obama


After I got my Bible Background commentary for the Old Testament, I decided to try reading through these ancient books for the first time. I'm trying to understand all the verses, all the chapters, not just the familiar stories. It's a strange thing. The culture seems so different, the ways of the people so wacky. We don't live in the same world today. And yet, the nature of humans has not changed, we have not evolved into some greater beings. We still ooze jealousy and anger, we still think God would be wise to consider our input in His plans, we still want what we want, and we want it NOW! We live in the same world today.

I've made it to the end of Judges, which is a book full of inspiring stories that show how God will use imperfect people to draw nations to Him. There are stories that show how, when we are stepping out in obedience, we--with God--can accomplish impossible things. Think of Gideon and Samson. But the overall story of the book, I think, is that the people wanted a person to be their leader. they weren't satisfied with having God, the Creator of the Universe, as their leader. And I just keep wondering why?

It happens over and over in the book of Judges. The people do most of what God commands them to do, but not everything. They don't get rid of all the people in these lands as God instructed. And after a while, what do you know, they're worshiping God, the LORD, and saying with their mouths that He is the One true God, but they also just have a little statue for Baal in the backyard, just to sort of take advantage of the rain he might send, in case he's the real deal. And maybe a couple of little charms to give honor to Ishtar, the fertility goddess, you know, just for good luck. Not surprisingly, they find themselves in a pickle, get things really messed up, and then cry out to God. He raises a man or woman up to be a judge for them, they all remember that the LORD is indeed the One true God again, and they have peace in the land for 20, 40, or 50 years. That person dies, and before you know it, another generation of folks start to fudge a little with the other gods, make a mess of things again, and the cycle is repeated.

Is this so different from how we are today? I'm thinking not so much.

And, since I just finished Stephen Mansfield's book about Barack Obama's faith, I'm seeing a connection. I think of how millions of people have set their eyes on him as the great hope... Obama's big on a civil religion, one that will cover everyone's bases. What's the problem with that? His faith will "some allege, give people a watered-down religion of Americanism but insulate them from the raw but healing truth of revealed religion. In other words, it replaces traditional religion with a bland political religiosity that creates a mood without offering power. It is merely faith in faith rather than faith in God."(p.94)

Doesn't that kind of thinking sound familiar? Yikes. Are we being asked to find hope in that? Blech. A recurring statement in Judges is "the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes." Let us not grow too confident in our own eyes. Seems that just leads to big barrels of pickles.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book Review--The Faith of Barack Obama


You won't typically find me in my spot on the couch with this kind of book, and I found myself skeptical as I began to read it. But that's not Mansfield's fault. I don't watch the news, I read occasional articles in the Sunday paper, catch some stories on line and on the radio. But I definitely steer clear of Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck, Matthews, Colmes, etc., etc. I'm suspicious of all of them. They tell me spun versions of what they want me to hear, and how can I ever form my own opinion? So, I feel I must fess up to the attitude I had going into the reading of The Faith of Barack Obama.

This seems like a brave book to write, in that telling the story of anyone's faith--one who's living, that it is--is like trying to 'catch a moonbeam in your hand.' Our faith is a fluid, hopefully growing, active, moving thing. It isn't easily pinned down. Can you think of what "The Faith of (insert your name here)" would say? How would it end? But Stephen Mansfield tackled the brave task, in writing this book that is part biography, part sociological examination, and part US History lesson.

Mansfield asserts that Obama's faith, like everyone's, "is a work in progress, and no man can be accurately portrayed by a portrait frozen in time."(p.58) I agree with that, and it was interesting to get a picture of where Obama came from, where he might be now, and what he might be after--faith-wise. It helps me understand the appeal, and how people are so drawn to him. And I think I've gained understanding into why Obama's faith should be of any concern to me, and that is because Obama himself insists that our faith can't be held separately from how we govern, so we need to find a way to make it pleasing or acceptable to all. Mansfield describes this as a civil religion, "using social justice concerns as a call to religious neutrality in honor of the secular American way."(p.95)

This scares me, but a book review isn't the place to go on about that. I recommend you read the book yourself and see what you think. It comes across as a pretty objective look at Obama and sheds light on the black church in America, as well as the opportunity that sits before us to move toward healing in this country.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wacky, Wacky Old Testament

Since Judges follows Joshua (the last Old Testament book I read), it seemed like a good idea to dig into Judges. There is more killing and fighting; more of the Israelites getting themselves into a pickle, worshiping Baal and Asherath; more of God turning them over into the hands of their enemies; more of the Israelites crying out to God to rescue them when it got unbearable; and more of God doing just that--rescuing them.

These Old testament ways are hard for me to understand. I have to read them for a while, over and over, before I can make any sense out of them. The Israelites' troubles began when they didn't really clear out the land like they were supposed to, and then things snowball when they start dabbling in these other people's gods and rituals. The LORD said not to mess with that stuff, to worship only Him. They couldn't do it, time after time. They'd be good for 40 years or so, and then they'd slip and fall hard. So why didn't God just give them the Promised Land empty, without the troubles of other people and their gods? If He wanted Israel to worship only Him, why expose them to all this other junk?

here's what I think so far:
Its the free will thing. He wants His people to knowingly, purposefully choose to worship Him. They can see what else is out there, and go to Him. And, of course, when it gets really bad that's exactly what they do. I'd kinda' like to not wait for the ugliness, and make that choice now. But how quickly I can get distracted by the other things.

and

It's the He wants ALL people to come to know Him thing. God wants to draw all people to Him. If Israel is a tight little community that never has anything to do with anyone else, then the LORD is a secret. One of my favorite verses backs this up: “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us." Acts 17:27NLT

Monday, August 11, 2008

Summer Reading

Thanks to my friend April, I've been given the opportunity to review a book on my blog. I emailed the publisher saying I'd like to do it, and they sent me a copy of the book, and ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing, I'm gonna' be the writer of a book review. It came in the mail today, Stephen Mansfield's new book, The Faith of Brack Obama.



So, I'm busily reading, and will let you know what I think post haste!
Thanks April, for thinking of me and this little blog.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Plant Quiz

Can you identify this plant? Tell me what it is! And advise me on how to care for it. These big flowers open up in the morning, and then a day or two later they fall off.

I have no green in my thumb; I don't think I have the attention span for it. But I go to the annual plant sale at the kids' old school and buy some tomato plants, basil, and cilantro, and I usually buy some flowers to fill one big pot for the backyard. The flowers in that it this year were some cosmos, and two other flowers that have since been choked out by this rogue squash-ish plant. It wants to climb, so much so that it was leaning over and grabbing the basil in a pot 5 feet away! I unwrapped it from the basil and gave it a chair to climb on.

And maybe this little nubby thing will be some fruit someday? Or maybe it's just going to be a new flower....

Please don't tell me it's just a weed that I've let run roughshod over my flowers. That would be a bummer, and ruin the fun I've had watching this thing with a life all it's own. I'm hoping it will produce some kind of fruit someday. It does make me think of the verse in Galatians where Paul says you will reap what you sow. Where did this plant come from? Did I sow it? Clearly, I did, the plant is growing there in my pot.

Of course Paul is talking about motivations, behaviors and attitudes. Here's the passage:
Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. --Galatians 6: 7-9 NLT

So do you think we can unknowingly sow selfish-ness, or pride? Can we arrange a pot with a bunch of nice pretty Spirit-pleasing obedience and kindness, for example, and find, a few weeks later, that a big old, choking something else is growing there? Or, can we unknowingly sow goodness and find it unexpectedly flowering and producing fruit? Hmmm.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Know What This Is?


It's summertime in a glass!
Sangria made with a dry (not sweet) French Rose....mmmm...yummy in the backyard on a Friday night.

Wanna try some?

1 bottle of wine (white, red, rose, whatever strikes your fancy)
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup triple sec
a spoonful of sugar
fruit of your choice! slice up a lemon, lime, orange, apples, nectarines...
throw in some berries or grapes....
right before serving, add a 16.9 oz. botle of seltzer or tonic water

From me to you with love!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Terrible blogger in the month of July, am I. I've been tipping back and forth between guilt and frustration over it, (no time alone to think complete thoughts, having to share my computer, no routine, yada, yada, yada) until the other day I finally figured something out. These summers with Scott home and me home--they are a gift. This year, he doesn't have to work in the summer. This year, I'm not working. This summer, our whole family is unscheduled, not obligated to be anywhere. We're able to take trips places, or stay home and get bored, or be run all over kingdom come to play with so-and-so and do such-and-such. We get to go places and see people.

This summer we have these things. Will we next summer? Maybe. Maybe not. So I need to embrace the summer I'm in, and be grateful for it.

The thing is, this is the way summers have been since Lars was born. So I just slide right into taking it for granted, even complaining about it. And maybe it takes me two thirds of the summer to figure this gratitude thing out every year. Can you say S.L.O.W. L.E.A.R.N.E.R....? I don't deserve these summers. And yet, God has graciously given them to me year after year, and patiently waited for me to realize the blessing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Guess It's Not Too Surprising...

But we were surprised this afternoon to discover that Luke has the chicken pox! I had/am just getting over shingles, and I guess I've passed chicken pox on to my boy, who was vaccinated as an infant, but that doesn't mean much, apparently.

Poor guy. He's not good at laying low and missing out on activity. He has lots of bumps, but they aren't too itchy just yet. He had a headache, sore throat, slight fever, stiff neck....Tylenol made him a happier boy. I thought I was being pretty careful, but I guess not. :(

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An Activity!

I belong to an on-line writers group, which is for published authors who actually write for a living (or hope to). It's kind of silly for me to be a member of this group, as the only writing I do these days is on this blog, which is sporadic over the summer here, at best. I stay in the group, though, because I'm learning from it, and maybe I will grow up one day and be a real writer.

One of the questions posted this week was an interesting one, suggesting that you think of your 5 favorite movies...just whatever comes to your mind; don't spend too much time thinking about it. After you've got your list, then think about if there are any connections between the themes of the movies and your current writing project.

Well, so how about modifying it a bit? What are the themes of your favorite movies, and is there an over-riding theme that speaks into your life, goals, plans?

My 5 Favorite Movies:
Room with a View (Merchant Ivory production, not Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window)
Love Actually
The Long Riders
Pillow Talk
She's Having a Baby

A recurring theme? Sheesh. I don't know. Maybe that the characters are all unable to ignore the extraordinariness of the gifts of life and love. Their stories begin with just bee-bopping through life and then the wonderfulness of it smacks them in the face. They can't be unchanged by their realization. Though, I'm not sure that works with the Long Riders. That's just a beautifully filmed Western....
How it speaks into my life? Hmmm. I would like to not ever forget the wonder of the gifts of life and love. So easy to forget in my own daily bee-bopping.

Give it a try yourself!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

There's Always Another Way to Look at Things


This is Thora, one of our cats. She is watching the world outside, safe and sound on her couch, peering out from behind the curtains. I took this picture because it struck me funny, her little backside the only thing showing to us in the house, not really her finest feature. And how, if you were walking down the street, you would see something like this....

and possibly think this is a cute sight; she might even bring a smile to your face. (it all depends on how you feel about cats) Just a reminder that our perspective is everything.

We're studying James in our small group, and this made me think of when James says to consider it all joy when we encounter trials. (Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.) I think he's advising us to look at our situation from a different perspective. Be aware that there's a bigger picture, or another view. Maybe one that could even bring a smile to your face.

Monday, July 14, 2008

window into our little world....

Sitting before a bowl with three, possibly four bites of mac & cheese, Lily asks, "Mom, can I be done? How many more bites do I need to eat?" Luke asks, "Can I get down now?" and Lars asks nothing, just gets up and starts walking into the kitchen, all confident like of course he ate it all. Ha! Not!!

It's an age-old parent-kids game played at the table, isn't it? So, my version of the guilt trip about starving children in Africa goes something like this, "Umm, well, let me see now, are you asking me how much of this meal--that I worked to prepare--I would like thrown into the garbage? Like, when I was serving it up, I forgot to give the garbage can its share? So that you can come back to me in 20 minutes--right after I've finished cleaning up all the meal mess, and ask for a snack?! Yeah, I'd like you to eat it all. However many bites that is."

Mean, MEAN mom.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Summertime Blues

Why did I so look forward to summer? I don't know if it's just the ages our kids are this summer or what the deal is, but I feel like I can hardly keep up. There isn't as much clock-watching, or driving to this thing or that thing, but I feel like I'm busier than ever. People are in and out of this place like crazy, wearing 2 or 3 outfits a day, it seems, going through food, drinks, and towels (!) like there's no tomorrow.

I still have the same responsibilities as always; my workload just increased. Food and laundry in particular.....
I swear I'm not complaining or ranting, though I could easily...I really am trying to guard against that. It's just surprised me this summer. Yes, everyone is pitching in to keep things straightened, and the kids have even done some of their own laundry and lunch-making.


I'm not the easy, breezy, go with the flow girl I thought I was. And I think what's most upsetting about it all, is they're getting so big and they're growing up before my eyes, and I can't keep up. They're living their lives, having their own thoughts, conversations and friendships; my eyes aren't always on them. I want to slooowww it down. I think this picture kind of captures it...they're all doing their thing. Moving on. And I'm still standing here watching, not sure how I can be so proud and kind of sad all at the same time.

Friday, July 4, 2008

First post away from home

Happy 4th of July to you all.
We're in Galesburg, IL visiting my parents. Getting fired up to go see the fireworks tonight.

So, it turns out that what I thought was a funny bug bite on my back is actually a case of the shingles. I came home from the doctor disappointed and insulted. Funny. Weird skin things make one think of bugs in the bed and well, bad housekeeping. So I was glad it didn't turn out to be either one of those...but shingles is typically an older people's illness. Harumph! It's sort of like chicken pox for grown-ups. In the same family. The official name for it is "herpes zoster" and I'm on an anti-viral medication....

So, I can't decide what's more upsetting. Having an old folks disease, or something that sounds like a venereal (there's an old person's word for you) disease. It is kind of long-lasting, itchy, and painful. But, I need to have a good attitude, and just be grateful there aren't bugs in my bed. Right?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Reading Good Writing


Wow, this business of blogging in the summertime is not easy. The thoughts and the time to capture them don't seem to flow together very nicely. Not only have I not had the chance to sit down and write, I'm also way behind in reading other blogs. I think it's a combination of having to share my computer (in addition to my time) and just not being in the house as much. I'll probably get it figured out just in time to transition back into a new school year.

I have gotten to read books, however. It's a lovely thing to sit in the back yard with my coffee and my book. And I loved this passage from Leif Enger's new book, So Brave, Young, and Handsome. He's talking about his marriage:

Recently, it often seemed as if Susannah were looking at the moon while I looked somewhere else--say, at a lake. If I saw the moon in the lake I believed we were looking in the same place, but let anything disturb the water and we were two people standing alone. We needed to look at something the same way, as we once had, or as it seemed to me we once had. I didn't know how to do it. (p. 245)


Isn't that a beautifully written description of their relationship? I remember feeling that way toward the end of my pregnancy with Luke. It was soccer season, and Scott was the Varsity Girls' coach, so the sport owned him. Luke was our second baby, it wasn't as novel or urgent. I went to most appointments alone, unlike the first time around. I was all wrapped up in being a mommy to Lars, preparing to rock his world with a sibling, and Scott was hardly ever home. I longed to go into labor so that we would, for a few hours, be in the same place at the same time, working on the same thing. But I could never have thought of such a poetic way to put it into words.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Party's Over...

We've re-instituted the summer jobs for the kids. Today was the first day. I told everyone at breakfast today would be the day, and no one balked or was even surprised. I guess they could feel it coming. With everyone home everyday, the impact on the house is amazing. No one wants a resentful mom/wife, so all agree that we need to tackle this business as a team. We all have a role. It isn't all on me.

This worked well for us last year, so I have high hopes. Here's what we do:
I made a list of 13 jobs that could/should be done daily. I asked the kids to each pick three and make them their own. (so, get it? see, there's more jobs on the list than we need, so then nobody thinks they're getting stuck with the "bad" job. I'm so tricky, 'eh?) Then everyone had an extra job that has to get done once a week. Wednesday is extra-job-day. No screens until everyone has done their jobs...this way, they encourage each other, and they all want it done soon. It isn't all on me.

They aren't turning the place into an immaculate palace, but it makes a big difference to me when I'm not the only one picking up. It isn't all on me.

Maybe it'll work for you, too.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Happy Anniversary


Tomorrow is our 17th wedding anniversary. How can it be?
I think we are both surprised by how much fun we are still having together.

I've said this many times, but I can never say it too much. Scott is a gift to me from God. I was not wise enough 17 years ago to know what I was getting myself into. I backed my way into this really wonderful life, this marriage to a man of integrity. And I almost ruined it more than once, be we still finally figured it out. It had to be God. I am so grateful.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nothing Special

So everyone in the family is out running errands this afternoon, and I'm finally home alone. It seems I should use this time really well, and yet I'm at a loss. I've piddled around a little, watered some plants outside, done some dishes and tidying, but what to do? Can't think of anything meaningful to write about, but now is the time I get. I think I'm just going to read my book.

So strange, how it took me such a long time to adjust to having time alone this school year, and now, with everyone home in the summer, I'm having trouble adjusting to not getting time alone. You just can't win living with me!

And if I can't find a satisfactory routine or plan for how to use time this summer, how can I expect the kids to do it? It's technically only our 4th day of summer, so it'll work out. But right now, this moment, I'm stuck in this spot. It's always tricky, finding the right balance between being too programmed, and too idle.....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Highs and Lows

One of the things I do on vacation is buy the latest issue of People Magazine and read it from cover to cover. Guilty pleasure. So last week, I read about how Tatum O'Neill is dealing with her big mistake of trying to buy some illegal drug a couple of weeks ago. She was arrested and spent 36 hours in a jail cell. She said that she was feeling depressed. Her beloved dog had just died, and I can't remember what else triggered her profound feelings of sadness. One line in the article reminded me of something I've thought about before.... She said she just didn't want to be feeling the way she was feeling, so she decided to get high and escape. I've also heard this kind of thing said on that Intervention show.

This idea of "not wanting to feel the way we're feeling" is intriguing to me. I think it motivates a lot of behavior in our society. It doesn't always lead to doing drugs or addiction.

We don't want to feel too fat, too sad, too old, too stressed, too angry, too out of control, too controlled by others. Think of all the things we do to avoid feelings. We long to be on an even keel, flat. Why are we so afraid of feeling? People even pay big money for things like Botox...so that our faces show no expression at all. We bleach our teeth so there's no evidence of our having been alive for a few decades. We value privacy, so we can feel our stuff behind closed doors. It's in style to look flawless, clear, unmarked by life. Pretty wild.

But God did not create us flat. Or flawless. Or emotionless. I think of the verses in Ecclesiastes:
For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NLT


Sometimes it's completely right and appropriate to be sad or mad, or out-of-your-head happy. It's the way we were made. It's all a part of life, which God designed. What a goofy thing that we run around like a dog chasing its tail, trying to capture the feelings we want, and running away from the ones we don't want.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Another Vacation.....

This is what we do. We leave town in the summer, for a few days here and there. Cuz we can. So, last week we went to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. We rented a cabin together with some friends and we had a great time. Sorry for my absence. I thought I'd actually be able to post from there, but, it wasn't meant to be.



So we did some of this,


Some of that,


Maybe a lot...


Quite a bit of this, too.

It really was a dream come true for Scott. All of his true loves in one place. Golf, fish, family....

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mom, I'm Bored

Ah yes, the first day of Summer Vacation. I can report that some sleeping-in took place, and there was the wearing of jammies until 12:30 or so, too much tv and computer, some basketball and fishing. Now what?

Heh heh. Unfortunately, the entertainment committee seems to be on break right now, too, so we'll all have to figure out ways to occupy ourselves. Do you think they can do it? I know they can, but these are muscles that haven't been used in a while. Last summer the big thing that got everyone excited was having "sales" in the driveway. They sold lemonade, cookies, some outgrown toys and videos. The possibility of making some money was highly motivating.

What a relief to be in the days of not having to be anywhere at a certain time, so the ideas and dreams can be pursued. I look forward to watching the summer unfold, and seeing what the big thing will be this year.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I Thought I Could, I Thought I Could

Our boat trailer needed replacing, so the old, rusty thing was in the driveway along with the shiny new one holding the boat. What to do with the old one? There's a recycling center down the road a bit. But their operating hours and Scott's time at home just couldn't get together. I said I could take it there. I said I could drive the car with the trailer, as long as I never had to go backwards.

But when the time came to do it, whoa nelly, was I nervous. Make a mistake with something like a trailer, and the consequences can be pretty huge. But I did it! And look what I got for that hunk of junk!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Smooth Transition

Tomorrow is the last day of school. Yes, we are STILL in school, making up for all those snow days....

I sent the kids off with gifts for all their teachers, and notes thanking them for helping to make our transition into the big regular public school district from a tiny charter school a smooth and successful one. And as I watch this school year come to an end, I can say that for each of the kids it has been a good transition. We survived and thrived through a big change.

I heard a woman on the radio the other day, no idea who she was, or what the name of her book is, I only caught about 3 minutes. But she was talking about discerning God's will, and taking the journey He leads you on, and how we question if we're doing the right thing...how it can look great when all the doors open and things are going great, but the second we hit a rough spot we begin doubting. She spoke about the Israelites leaving Egypt. It was clear God was leading them out; He parted the Red Sea, He literally showed them the way: "The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night." Exodus 13:21 And He fed them manna, provided them with their daily bread. And even though the Israelites could SEE with their eyes where He wanted them to go, they didn't always feel certain.

The decisions about our children and their education have loomed large since we first had to pick a pre-school for Lars. As the years have moved on, the questions have changed, but they're still kind of the same flavor. And in my moments of doubt, I still wonder how my decisions might have marked him. Was I listening well enough? Did I do what God was leading or did I follow my gut? Did I want what I wanted so much that God couldn't get a word in?

It must be a natural human reflex to question and doubt first, and then realize late in the game, after worrying and fretting, that we can rest in His provision. We do this all the time. Not just about education. I have a friend who is starting a new business...lots of risk, and lots of decisions, lots of questions. We do it when traveling through the murky waters of relationships, health, finances, careers, you name it. I don't think the questioning itself is so terrible, it's when we let that grow into doubting that God is still leading, still providing.

As God told the Israelites before they entered into the Promised Land: "So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 And then many years later, the author of Hebrews wrote in references to this promise, "Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13: 7&8 ROCK ON!

Looking back on the school year, even the summer before, when Scott and I made the decision to switch schools, we can see it's been good, it went well. But there were times of fear and doubt. Maybe those times were something I needed to remind me to rely on God, and not get ahead of Him. Who knows. I'll ask Him about it someday. Meanwhile, we just gotta' always rest in His leading, in His provision. So easy to say, when I'm looking back....

Monday, June 9, 2008

Maybe I Need to go Live in the Forest for a While....

Writing to you from the house of technical difficulties. I have spent too much time during these last days of school (read my last days of solitude at home) on the phone with tech support people!!!!

Today's issue is with our satellite dish receiver. It won't power on, but it has a fan that has been running on it ALL. DAY. The sound of the fan is giving me a crick in my neck. It stresses me out. I feel like the poor little machine is over-working itself and might just blow at any minute. I don't even want to watch tv, I just want the fan on the bugger to stop.

I'm sure there are valuable lessons and spiritual insights to be gained, but I am not there yet. Not right now. I can't think with this thing buzzing!!! Since it's Monday, I didn't even try to call until after dinner. After spending an hour on the phone with Laura, the fan turned off and the tv turned on and all was well. She said, "I think you're all set." to which I replied, "yes, thank you so much!" I hung up and two minutes later, the machine turned off and the fan turned on. Curses!

They told me it's trying to reset itself and that could take up to 45 minutes. So I need to just leave it alone for at least that long. Then and only then, can I call back (for the third time) and try to convince the next person I talk to that indeed, there is SOMETHING WRONG!

Love and kisses....

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Arggh

Our modem went bad yesterday. Actually, it was in and out on Thursday, and then yesterday, caput. I can't believe how much something like that threw me off. I had begun the morning sending emails out to a few people whose replies would impact the rest of my day, and Scott was in meetings, so I couldn't get him to check email from his office. I was stranded!

Of course, there was the hour and a half spent on the phone with the dsl folks, which is not a chunk of time I had planned for. And a trip to Best Buy to purchase a modem, and then bringing it home and disconnecting the old one and installing the new one. Tasks like this can make me feel like a stupid female, and I hatehatehate that feeling.

I'm hearing the dad in the movie "She's Having a Baby" saying "You're all right now!"
Yes, I am aware that there are people in the world with real problems.....

Thursday, June 5, 2008

More Pics

Shall we follow up the deep thoughts with some fun photos? Yes, I think we shall.

We're travelin', travelin', travelin'....


Heading out for the rehearsal dinner


At the rehearsal dinner. It's not often we're all cleaned up at the same time!


Lily getting her hair done the morning of the wedding. "I feel like a princess."

Deep Thoughts this Stormy Morning

Yesterday I finally finished the Jon Krakauer book about the Mormon faith and some of the fundamentalist groups that have sprouted off of the main church. It was a well-written book, but the subject matter is truly disturbing. I couldn't wait to be done with it. Throughout the book, but especially at the end Krakauer throws in some questions about what faith really means, and how is one religion any different than another when they all, at some point, require that "leap" of faith? I say, bring on these tough questions. I want to know why I believe what I believe.

At the same time, I'm working on a study of the book of Colossians. I think Paul's letter could tackle some of Krakauer's queries. My faith is not in a religion with rules and restrictions about how to live or practice that faith. I don't have to do certain things to gain entry into heaven. My ticket to heaven is not jeopardized by my actions. Jesus died for me, (in my sinful, imperfectness) and I have accepted His saving gift of grace. My faith is in Christ.

As Paul wrote to the believers on Colossae about what he hoped his letters would do for their recipients, he said, I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ Himself. In Him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2&3

In following Christ, it becomes less and less mysterious, and our knowledge increases. We know God more and more. And this is accessible to any and all who want it! Here's some more verses that get right to the heart of the difference between accepting that salvation and going the next step--what it means to be a follower of Christ:

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6&7

Paul explains why the following piece is important, why it's imperative to do more than just accept the gift. We need to continue following Him because Satan is working hard to confuse people. He's the Great Manipulator and King of Lies. He takes bits of the truth, and weaves lies, and selfish, human-driven ideas into it. He presents twisted versions of the truth that can sound good at first, if you aren't rooted in The Truth--Christ. That's been Satan's playbook throughout the ages. In the next verse, Paul says:

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. Colossians 2:8

I can't help but think of the Mormon church, and the wackos that have taken Mormonism to extremes, or even of some of the ideas Oprah has helped to disseminate, from The Secret or Eckhardt Tolle. These are all empty philosophies, that come from human thinking and are not of God, they are of this world. How do we know the difference? We have to be rooted in Christ and let our lives be built on Him; not a religion, not a church, or ideas, but in and on Christ.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Making Memories



This is actually my favorite picture that I took....
I reminded my sister-in-law Lyn, the mother of the bride, to "take pictures with your mind" on the day of the wedding. Someone gave me that advice on my wedding day. (could even have been Lyn! I don't remember...) We didn't take very many pictures of the wedding; so many others were so it didn't seem necessary. I don't like carrying my camera around and snapping pics like crazy. I feel like I can't see, or really watch what's going on if I'm always thinking in terms of getting a shot. But I like the idea of taking pictures with your mind, because then you're holding on to moments, cherishing them in your heart.

In this picture, I walked into the "girls' room," which is where the bridesmaids and other gals changed into their beautiful dresses, and where Joy had to wait patiently, hidden from her groom's view, for the wedding to start. Joy was fiddling with her tiara, and talking to Lily....and Lily sat down because she was tired of standing...a sweet moment that I will always have in my mind, but was lucky enough to have my camera on a table nearby, so I can share it with you.

Some pictures

HI! We're back and we had a wonderful time.
Just my favorites from the wedding.....





I seem to be be having trouble getting more pics up on here....
More to come later...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Oh Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy!!!!

The big wedding is THIS weekend! Lily will be the flower girl, and Lars and Luke will be junior groomsmen (wearing TUXEDOS!). We fly south tomorrow, and we are all VERY excited. We've never left town and missed actual school days before, and this will be the first wedding for our kids to even attend, much less have a role. I'm looking forward to the wedding, of course, but also to a mini-vacation! And Michelle, I ran out today and purchased Leif Enger's new book and can hardly wait to crack it open once we get settled at the airport!! Maybe I'll start it on the car ride to the airport.....or, if I got everything crossed off the list tonight, I could just peek at it before bed....

I'm going to try to post while we're there, but I'm not all that savvy with any computer that isn't my own. I'm a little spoiled here with my pretty little iMac.

As I was making lists and realizing how little time is left yesterday, I found myself getting all "emo," as Lars would put it. I was paralyzed by my overwhelmed-ness, and got nothing almost done as a result. With all my thinking it to death, I think I've boiled it down to two things:

**1**It's been a long time since I've been involved in a wedding, like 15 years or so, back when we and most of our friends were getting married. And back then, I was so young, self-centered, and oblivious, it didn't occur to me--the big-ness of the promises, the beginning of a new family, the start of this fabulous adventure. I mean, I thought I did at the time, but I didn't. This time around, it's hitting me. And I'm so filled with hope or longing or something for our niece Joy and her soon-to-be husband. Marriage is a big deal, it's a great, wonderful, beautiful, big deal.

**2**I'm trying really hard not to forget anything important that would have an impact on the wedding. I don't want to leave a footprint, if you will. I just want our family to be a blessing to Joy et all, and want my children to look and act perfectly the entire time we're there...no problem. Well, it's good to verbalize your expectations, right?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reflecting....


Hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day, and that somewhere in the smoke from the grill and the spray from the sprinkler you got a chance to reflect on what a privilege is it to live here and the great things so many people have done so we could enjoy our bbq's and friends. Time of confession, we forgot to put our flag out yesterday. Doh! Well, it's flying today.

Didn't get around to posting yesterday, either. Maybe I'll post twice today! I guess today is make-up day. Makes me wonder how I'll do with this blogging business over the summer. Having the kids home doesn't throw me off too much, but when Scott is home too, the regular groove goes out the window. And he is home a lot in the summer.

On the one hand, I consider establishing a routine, and being very disciplined in following it. On the other, I think, "it's summer!" Every year that we are still both home in the summer, I realize it could be our last one. Each summer is a gift. When and if a day comes that he has a different job that requires him to work summers, or I have a job that doesn't follow a school calendar, would I really look back and wish I/we had been more scheduled? More disciplined?

Nope.

But I'll figure out a way to be a good blogger and relish the summer at the same time.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Proud Mama


I try hard not to make myself or my kids seem like we're wonderful and picture-perfect on this here blog. I'm trying to go for authenticity. And now I'm gonna' be really authentic, just let it all out and tell you how wonderful I think my son is. No holds barred. Because he's such a blessing! I would just like to brag about Luke for a minute. He's our middle child, the one the books make me feel like I have the biggest potential of screwing up. I gotta' tell you, though, he's growing up to be such a nice kid. He just finished his soccer season up. We always love watching him play, he's very intense and competitive, puts all he's got into the game.

Last night, he performed in the 2nd and 3rd grade musical at school, where he auditioned for and won a role with a solo! And he did magnificently. He was very nervous, and just so cute I couldn't stand it. And I sat in my chair in the second row just beaming. Luke is also getting into some poetry writing at school, and here's his latest poem:

When I am by myself
I am a tiger sprinting
I am a soccer ball charging the goal
I am a pro skater going on tours
I am a owl howling at night
I am a son of a soccer player
I am a loving boy
I am a frog snatching a fly
I am a apple in the fruit bowl
I am a thankful boy to my friends
I am a lens in my glasses
I am a guitar rocking the world
I am a basketball flying to the net
I am a Ferrari racing in the wind
I am a blanket wrapping myself around you
I am Luke


Thanks for listening. I'll only do this sort of thing every once in a while. :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A New Book...to me, anyway...

I started reading "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith." It's an investigative look at a 1984 double murder committed by two brothers who believed they were ordered to kill by God...they grew up in a Mormon home, and somehow as Jon Krakauer will tell the story, there is a connection to the FLDS, the Fundamentalist Mormons who were raided in Texas a few weeks ago.

We've had this book in our home for about a year now. I picked it up at a used book sale, and Scott read/skimmed most of it. I decided to read it now because of the news tories about these people in Texas and because Oprah had a show about them recently. I remembered we had this book, so found it and started it the other night. It is really disturbing, how sick and twisted the thinking is in the FLDS. They have "compounds" or whole towns, basically, in Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Canada.

This business of plural marriages--young, young girls being "married" to men twice, or three times their age--it's commonplace for them. It's just the way they live, the life they've been born into. I woke up in the middle of the night with some tummy trouble, and I first thought through everything I had eaten during the day, and then thought of the book I was reading right before bed and thought maybe the stories of these people had literally made me sick to my stomach.

So, I'm early into the book, but here's a couple of things that made me go Wow! out loud as I was reading:

Polygamy is illegal in both Utah and Arizona. To avoid prosecution, typically men in Colorado City [one of the towns they pretty much own in AZ] will legally marry only the first of their wives; subsequent wives, although 'spiritually married' to their husband by Uncle Rulon [the leader...father of Warren Jeffs], thus remain single mothers in the eyes of the state. This has the added benefit of allowing the enormous families in town to qualify for welfare and other forms of public assistance. Despite the fact that Uncle Rulon and his followers regard the governments of Utah, Arizona, and the United States as Satanic forces out to destroy [them], their polygamous community receives more than $6 million a year in public funds....33% of the town's residents receive food stamps--compared to the state average of 4.7%. Currently the residents of Colorado City receive 8 dollars in government services for every dollar they pay in taxes; by comparison, residents in the rest of Mohave County, AZ, receive just over a dollar in services per tax dollar paid....Fundamentalists call defrauding the government 'bleeding the beast' and regard it as a virtuous act.


and:

For all their fecundity, Mormon Fundamentalists are strangely squeamish about sex. Boys and girls are forbidden to date, or even flirt, before marriage. Sex education consists of teaching children that the human body is a shameful vessel that should be veiled from the eyes of others at all times....In spite of--or more likely because of--the atmosphere of repression in Bountiful [the town in Canada], incest and other disturbing behaviors are rampant, although the abuse goes conspicuously unacknowledged....because the mayor, the police, and the judge in Colorado City are themselves polygamists who are absolutely obedient to the prophet, there is 'nowhere' for victims of abuse to turn.


I can't believe that what I'm reading about is something that is happening right now, today, in our country. I'm not sure what to do about it. Religious freedom is one thing, but these folks are involved in criminal activity.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You're Welcome Here

Our house was built long before the concept of a mud room came about. Or, maybe that's a very old idea, but at any rate, we don't have one. We and any who enter our house come in through the front door, and there's no place to hide the coats, jackets, shoes, hats, mittens, backpacks, keys, mail, or anything else you may have in hand.

Years ago, we purchased this little shoe cubby thing, and a handy shelf with hooks that hangs above it. It is the first thing to welcome you into our home. Because the hooks are too tall for young ones, we hung a row of pegs over on the other side of the entry, for the kids to hang their coats on. I have tried to provide a place for the things, and a system for my kids to follow when they walk in the door. Shoes in a cubby, hats, mittens (when they're in need) and backpacks in the basket or on a tall hook, depending on who you are and how tall you are. I have clearly verbalized my intentions--at least a thousand times. I would like us to welcome folks with a doorway they can actually walk through, not a pile of whatever everyone had on them or in their hands when they walked in.

You know that definition of insanity, "to repeat the same actions and yet expect a different result..." It's funny here in the land of momming. You just kind of keep doing things, or saying things, over and over again, not realizing how it's draining the life right out of you and your relationships. I don't want the bulk of my conversations with my kids to be about picking up their stuff, or cleaning up, or the condition of the house at all. I want us all to have the same attitude, that this house of ours is a nice place to be, and we all need to do our part to keep it that way. I don't want to have the kind of relationship with my family where I'm like the clean-house Police. I'd like to spend my time talking to my kids about things much more interesting than the house...like how their day went, their friends, their dreams and frustrations. And I have verbalized this expectation as well.

But it occurred to me last night that I remind two of my children in particular to pick up their junk DAILY, if not SEVERAL times a day. I just realized yesterday that I keep saying it, and expecting a different result. So, we're making a change round these parts!! Apparently, they don't mind hearing the same things come out of my mouth day after day. I need to give them a little incentive to notice the debris themselves and not be reminded by me. Ah Hah!

I announced the new plan this morning. I decided that the real cause of the problem is hurrying in and out of the door. Being in a big rush to play with someone outside, or do the next thing, whatever that may be. So starting today, if I have to remind you to hang/pick up your stuff, you will spend 10 minutes doing nothing on the couch. Luke was aghast. "TEN MINUTES!?!" "Doing NOTHING??!" You got it baby. He decided that yeah, it would only take about 5 seconds to put everything in its place properly, and that wouldn't be costly. But those 10 minutes could be tragic. Hee hee.

And what about me spending a few minutes quietly in meditation with God? "TEN MINUTES?!?"
Hmmm.
I love the way God teaches me through this job He's given me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What's the Deal?

Things are changing. I guess they're always changing, and that's probably good. But it seems in my little world that no one is volunteering for anything these days. We get desperate email appeals from the PTA at school asking for volunteers from helping with specific events to taking an officer position. I was talking to a friend from a different school, and same story there. The ministries at church are recruiting, too, always in need of more folks to step up and serve.

Has it always been this way? Do people have less time now? Are these institutions that count so heavily on volunteers becoming irrelevant? The rule of 20% of the people doing 80% of the work seems to be changing to 10% of the people doing 95% of the work. The "inner circle" of people pitching in gets smaller and smaller, rather than growing.

Is this a problem, or just the beginning of a transition to a new season, where things get accomplished differently? It's discouraging to watch it happen, and yet, each of us is limited as to how much we can do. Are people in my generation selfish and entitled, and in need of a wake-up call--having a few things disappear, or organizations just dissolving--in order for them to realize it can't go on indefinitely without some help?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Julie in Wonderland....

Late post today, because I went on a field trip this morning with Lars' class.

I think that may be my last 6th grade field trip. Shheeesh! It was not pleasant. A 25-minute bus ride with 65 or so 11 and 12 year-olds. They can't bear to just sit quietly if they have nothing to say, so they call out everything they see. "Walmart!" "Let's go to Walmart!" "Shell Gas!" "Let's get some gas!" Such clever creatures. Have they never been out before?

The bus deposited us at a theatre where we saw an abbreviated version of the musical Alice in Wonderland, which I think is probably kind of a weird show anyway, but with 4 scenes cut out of it, one seriously could not follow the story.

The boy sitting two people away from me got sick in the middle of the performance, and that was a new experience for me. One I can cross off the list, done that, don't ever need to do that again. It was very stinky, as I'm sure you can imagine, and then the janitor came and poured some of that stuff on the yuk. The smell took me back in time, to third grade when JOnathan S. threw up in class. Awful. And the poor kid! And all these goofy, squirrely 6th graders making a big scene....

The show was followed by another long bus ride, where the poor ill boy couldn't quite make it off the bus in time, and was scrunched up, heaving, on the grass as 400 of his classmates walked by on their way into the building. Being respectful and sympathetic, of course.

It actually took me a few minutes of sitting in silence when I got home to decompress.

I love my 6th grader, but there definitely is a middle-school season. Where he is obnoxious, and loves to irritate other people. Either that, or he retreats into some other world, reading or watching a screen....This is Lars at our Mother's Day Brunch. Once his belly was full, he got back to his book. I know some would get mad about something like this. He did miss out on connecting with his extended family that afternoon. But I remember wanting to do nothing but read my book. (just yesterday! ha!)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Soap Box

My friend Jen spent some time trying to post a comment here on yesterday's post, and was never able to do it. I don't know why that happens sometimes. Kris can't ever seem to post a comment, either, unless she posts it anonymously and then signs her name....If you have tried to comment and can't, try doing it the way Kris does, because I would love to hear what you've got to say!

Here's what Jen wanted to post (she emailed it to me):
This whole expectation of happiness has really created problems for our society - hasn't it? I read/heard somewhere that expecting consistent happiness is a relatively new concept. People never used to have time to think about whether they were happy or not - they were too busy trying to survive. Want the real secret to happiness in this life? Be happy with what you have. Wow. That's deep. That, and have common sense enough to ignore the Harvard-trained-brain-trusts that are stupid enough to actually spend money and time trying to come up with a formula to measure "happiness". Give me a break.

Have a good day!
Jen


What about happiness? Is it a new, western concept--kind of the idea of privacy? Just who do we think we are? I think we need to get over ourselves! This life is "but a breath." It is a reflection of what is to come. Let's not let it slip away focusing on what makes us happy, or how to keep our secrets secret....This leads to more of the surrendering our selves discussion. Living here and now where we do, it's a hard thing to do! We have to do it over and over again. Jesus said we'd have to do it every day, but I find I need to do it about every 20 minutes or so.

You don't know how long (or short) your "breath" is going to be. Jen has it right, be grateful for what you have. Live each day like it's a day that matters. What are the gifts and dreams that God has put in my heart? What am I doing with them?

OK, I'll stop ranting.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wanna' Know What Makes me Happy?


Spring springing! A few more of the anenomes are open...

Dinnertime Again

Time for another installment from the book I'm reading, The Surprising Power of Family Meals, by Miriam Weinstein. Actually, my thoughts come from reading this book, and from a post by Beck yesterday about two recent studies showing that adults who have children are less "happy" than those who don't. They say "parenting doesn't lead to joy." Whatever/however "they" define happiness. As if one can even compare the life of a parent to the life of a non-parent. Blech. For being the educated elite in this country, sometimes I think those Harvard researchers are complete idiots.

But, I do wonder, are there ways of parenting that produce more happiness, I mean, can we do it better? Consider this quote from Miriam Weinstein:

According to researchers at the University of Michigan, in 1981 the average child could count 40% of his day's activities as discretionary. By 1997, that had dropped to 25%. In the same period, the amount of time spent on eating declined about 20% on weekdays. Did children learn to eat faster? Or did we just spend less time sitting around together at the table?

[Teresa] Arendell [a sociologist studying middle-class mothers in CA] explains that intensive parenting is now the norm. 'Good childhoods are intended not only to secure children's immediate psychological well-being and growth. They also aim to prepare children for their future roles as adults....Steady involvement in organized enrichment activities enhances and secures children's individual cultural capital, readying them for participation in select strata of adult life.' Or, as we all know, a child who doesn't play soccer, study oboe, and work at the soup kitchen, preferably all on the same day, can just kiss Harvard good-bye....

It's about parents investing in their children so the children can be worth more. But are we so obsessed with our narrow, anxious view of our children's future that we throw away the riches we can offer now?"


Yeah, well, if my kids can't get into Harvard to help produce ridiculous studies like the one referenced above, that's OK by me. It's always a tricky balance, figuring out how much to throw the kids into, and how much to hold back. My gut first wants to cling them to me, and let them just be children longer. Do they really need to have so much scheduled time? On the other hand, my children do have interests, and it's part of my responsibility as a mom to provide opportunities to pursue them, right?

Remember the 1989 movie, "Parenthood," with Steve Martin and a slew of other people in it? He had a niece who, at 4 years old was learning a bunch of different languages, and how to play a musical instrument, as well as the elements of the periodic table...While Steve Martin's 4-year-old was wandering around the house with a bucket on his head, banging into walls, singing the "Diarrhea Song". You gotta' love the kid with the bucket. But you may recall from the movie, both sets of parents are uneasy with how they're doing the parenting thing. It takes Steve Martin the whole movie to figure out how to be at peace with this execution of the role of fatherhood. Maybe that explains the Harvard study....Do you have to be confident in how you're parenting in order to be "happy"?

We do have riches to offer our children right now. Time spent eating together, just being our family, who we are, together, without pressure of performance, is so incredibly valuable. This actually does make us happy. Adults and children. Not that I'm totally convinced that "happiness" is the end-all. But dinner together has lost its place of importance in American families. Activities are often scheduled at dinnertime! I want to push back, and reclaim that time. Will this cause a problem when it's time to apply to colleges? Guess I'll have to cross that bridge when I get to it.