Nov 24, 2014

The Saturday I realized I wasn't man enough

The weekend before last started out with a bang.  Or rather the opposite of that: a dead battery on Friday night.  I was supposed to go out with friends.  When I opened up the hood I saw a corroded battery and so what does a good independent girl do?  I put on my big girl pants and...called the hubby in Chicago. With some trepidation, I thought maybe I can handle this. I had to ask him how to jump start the car with our battery pack since I literally haven't had to do this since college. Lame.  I know that my parents did their job when I got my license and made sure I knew how to do that and change a tire, but I haven't really had to ever do THAT.  There has been almost 20 years between that lesson and now. Needless to say, jumping it did not work out and I was sitting there with a can of battery cleaner in the dark, kids still in the buckled up seats whining that they wanted to go, trying to decide if taking the cables off to get it clean and then putting it back together was something I could actually do.  I decided "nope".  Friday night, I succumbed to being a "girl" and we hustled back inside for movie night with hot chocolate.  The next day Tone sent over one of his friends and my great neighbor and his friend took the battery and nasty cable out, ran down and bought me new ones, and got me back on the road.  I paid him with bottles of Tone's homemade beer and a piece of pie.  Classy.

I apparently was feeling the hit of not being "man" enough, because within 10 minutes of getting my car working, Hunter was complaining about the hedge in the backyard attacking him as he swung on the swing.  We have been meaning to take this massive hedge out for the last couple of years since it is growing over the lawn and taking over the flower bed.  I eyeballed it and thought I would give it a leeeeetle trim.
Within the first hack of the hedge trimmer I realized:  Mistake.  It was going to have to be all or nothing since all the green was on the outside and a little trim left a huge bald brown spot.  So I went for it.  For two hours I hacked at that beast.  I had the ladder out and everything.  The whole lawn was twigs, leaves and branches.  Two hours later, I was defeated.  The beast won.   Currently, he is still sporting a brown bald top.  However, I could now see the fence and that was something I haven't seen in months! Here the finished atrocity as it currently looks.  Bwahahaha!

My arms couldn't even lift anymore.  I looked around and realized I probably still had an hour of clean up to do. It hurt to bend over just to stick the leaves in the trashcan.  I had once again tackled something that was not a "girl" job on my own.  Car and hedge were the clear winners, but I gave them a good solid shot.

Apparently, I am a slow learner sometimes about the power of community.  I almost never ask for help because I feel like I burden people.  I am usually quick to give, but slower to receive.  I am so grateful for those that took a morning to get my car working.
And that hedge?  I'm pretty sure I can't get that bald top off by myself.  That part is the hubby's job.
Sometimes I just want to be "man" enough.  Sometimes I'm just not.

Nov 11, 2014

War games

Veterans day dawned dark, foggy and cold today.  On my way to work there was literally no visibility and the trees were dark sticks barely visible.  Currently, the kids are hunkered down with the neighbor kids over playing board games.  At first the boys were a little lost since we said no video games today. Daddy decided to break out Stratego and teach the boys to play.  It's all so very sweet and cozy and innocent.  The house is full of quiet children's chatter over who is attacking whom and who they lost on the board.
If only there was no war and the strategy of war could be only designated for children's board games.  As a parent, this is the closest you ever want your child to get to seeing war.  I want it confined to simple children's games.  But of course, if not my child, then whose?  Every soldier is valuable and not one is expendable, but yet there we are acknowledging that we depend on their volunteering to be expendable if it's asked.  The strategy of war plays with real people and lives and to this very real sacrifice we owe this afternoon of getting to sit down and safely play board games at home.
How does one even spend a day saying "thank you" adequately?  One can't, but one can acknowledge that the comfort of home, safety and family time is a reality because of what a veteran does and has done.  So we are holed up, enjoying the day, mindful of those we owe it to.  We are enjoying the simple moments because they are a gift and it seems that accepting and enjoying the gift is to give respect to those who gave it.  So, this is a very sincere and appreciative "Thank You" on Veteran's Day.  Soldier, if you are not yet home today because of the work you are doing, our prayer is that you come home soon.  

Nov 9, 2014

Of lazy mornings and pie

The other morning was a lazy, late, wake-up morning.  At some point my groggy four year old decided my bed was the place to be and by wake-up time, all three were snoozing up in my grill.  Tessa hasn't quite lost all her toddler chub yet and she burrows her soft little warm person up into my side for the night.  The other two are leggy and older and yet they still come in for the comfort of a warm family bed.  All was calm and quiet as it was our first foggy day outside and the morning light was very grey.  It struck me that this close family time can be a sacred moment while they are all still little enough to enjoy being tucked up close to a parent.  Even occasionally and every so often the ten year old.
So my last post revealed that I had been looking into the prayers and meditations of Benedict and other people who spent time in quiet and silence in God's presence.  However, this practice of silence often makes one imagine running away into the desert into isolation and escape from the daily pressures of social and relational living.  And I'm not really sure that the message of God's gospel love is to disengage from life and people.
I'm a mom with a busy schedule and job.  I homeschool.  I teach classes.
Things just got real.  A nice little desert trip to Palm Springs for reflection isn't EV-EH gunna happen for me.  So God had better be able to show up here for me too.  This learning to live in quiet doesn't mean that since monkhood isn't an option, the ship has sailed for me and chaos has become my middle name.  I think it is more of taking time to observe and appreciate the daily blessings that surely come even when life rages.

The girls wanted to make a pie.  While trying to grocery shop with three exuberant kids, I grabbed a roll-out pre-made pie crust and a can of filling and called it done.  Now I know that I actually have the best recipe for real crust and pie filling under the sun in my old recipe book, but the margin to make that in my life is about, oh, zero right now.
So Friday night saw us going crazy with the canned goods and making that fake-ish pie.  Complete with aprons and everything.  They were absolutely thrilled and the house still smelled amazing.  Tessa wore her usual tiger costume under her apron.  Standard uniform around here.
We made that pie.
Now this pie would never ever have won an award at any sort of country fair, and the girl's fork prints around the edges were wonky at best.  But let me tell you, that was a moment to appreciate time with them and enjoy the great smells that God invented.  Pie smell was one of His better ones I think.  Fake-ish or not.  Thank you Jesus for Friday night pies and time with my sweet girls.
And then today, there was a still a couple slices left.  After church today, during my Sunday rest time, I plopped that pie plate on my lap and enjoyed that pie blessing again.  

Here's the thing.  When I grab 15 to 20 minutes during the day to reflect on God and offer Him my day,  I am much more able to identify the sweet blessings during the day that He consistently gives me, dropped right down in the middle of chaotic, real, and all-consuming relational living.  He comes to me again and again and again with reminders of His love.  I do not have to escape to find Him, He is willing to come to me.

He'll remind me in the hush of a lazy morning when I inhale the sleepy smells of their hair and toddler skin pressed up close.  He reminds me in a "more rushed than I would like" moment of pie making.  He reminds me again and again of His presence.  He is close and accessible if I would only train myself to listen.  

Nov 5, 2014

Silence and clutter

Since we have come back from Costa Rica, the house has seemed barraged by noise and clutter.  The kids seem noisier and wild.  They reeeeeeally decided to bring the wild home with them.  The copious amounts of stuff we brought with us got dumped in the entryway to mock me day after day while I had zero time to unpack and put away.   We fly standby.  We bring carry-on bags. We pride ourselves on our light packing. How the heck did we EVER manage to get all this stuff in these bags and on a plane???  We don't even bring that much stuff, but yet there it was.  An literal explosion. The piles of daily living just went right on top of it.
On Halloween, I managed to clear out the main living space and I snapped this picture.  This is my "V" for victory shot, you all! However, the kid's rooms and the playroom behind me were still piled high.  Ouch - but I mean, lets not shoot for the moon.

But you know, I've had this kind of chaos in my house before, and it didn't translate to my heart.  This time my heart felt full of chaos and the buzzing of thoughts right along with the house. My heart felt frazzled, busy and cluttered.  I became a noisy dramatic mom in my discipline and interactions with my children. Because clearly, when the kids bring the wild home with them, upping my own voice tone over the din ought to calm everyone down a peg, right? Strategy fail.  I wanted my heart to be able to live in a place outside of circumstantial noise.

I yearned for quiet.  For silence.  For a centering.

I have been intrigued lately with daily meditations done by Benedictine monks.  I have looked into their prayers and quiet meditation on God's Word.  While I am not Orthodox in Christian practice, I feel drawn to taking time for moments of reflection and silence before the Lord.  I feel barraged by clutter, even in "holy" spaces that block my way to being with God alone. I feel the barrage of ideas on social media, the noise of family living, the buzzing of my to-do list, the chatter of relationships I pursue.  The chatter of life was obscuring God's invitation to live in His presence and His love for me.

Do you ever feel the same?  I said, "Self - Whoa Nellie!" and pulled the reigns up short.  I knew what I needed.  I got back to the basics.  I needed to go back to a healthier way of living in communion with God.
My quiet times have looked different this week.  They really are quiet and meditational.  They are more of an invitation to enter God's presence than to jam more knowledge about Him into my overly cluttered heart.

 I begin with silence.  Have you ever tried to Just. Be. Silent?  It's tooooough!  Oh my goodness!  Training the soul to stop and be quiet and sit in God's presence alone is no joke.  So much clutters the path to God's presence.  But it's more than just silence.  It's an invitation to let HIM speak.  A giving up of my words and requests and emotions within my pedal-to-metal thoughts and letting Him enter in with nothing blocking the way.  It's waiting for Him.

Next I take a small chunk of scripture and just chew on it.  Read it.  Read it again.  Chew the words around in my mouth.  I stop on phrases and wait.  Again, the waiting and invitation for God to speak into His very own words in His way just for me.  And He SPEAKS.  He speaks to the heart and shows up.  He exposes what is there, my desires and actions.  It is a very quiet voice that thunders in it's power to transform.  Truly it's a humble submission to the power of His presence.

I love ending on a short devotion, prayer, thought, quote, or poem by other Christians through the centuries.  Some are current and some have long been in the presence of our Savior, but all of them have tasted and written about the sweet presence of our Lord, and focus my mind on who He is.

And I pray.  I hold out with hands open what I have to hold out to Him.  Emotions, thoughts, actions, puzzlements, joys, requests.  They all are poured out to Him and I ask Him to take them, transform and do what He will with them.

In one day of re-centering around the Lord there was a dramatic difference in my soul.  Peace descended, motivations of the heart were exposed, love started refilling a heart running dry.  Truly, it was a gasping for His Spirit that nothing else can quench.

How do you invite the presence of the Lord into your life?  The practice of silence can be so difficult but is such an important exercise for the soul.  Certainly, I have begun to wonder if there is not a more important practice for learning submission so that God can transform.
"Be still, and know that I am God".

Nov 2, 2014

The Rainy Season in Costa Rica

We just got back from a 10 day vacation in Costa Rica.  One of the major reasons we homeschool is because we love to travel in the off-season with the perks of my husband's job.  This year we thought we would try Costa Rica in the rainy season.  A house overlooking the beach was rented, the dates were set, and off we went.  It basically took one full day of travel to get there and back but it was worth it.  I had to keep reminding myself that It. Was. Worth. It. for two long drives and two long flights to get there.  The kids held up marvelously, but it's always hard for me to not be stressed out of my gourd while flying standby with three kids in tow.  Now that they are older and very very used to flying standby, it has gotten much much easier.  All in all they did great.
We arrived there late afternoon and had enough time to swim in our pool and sit on the deck that overlooked this view.  I didn't realize we would get treated to such a sunset every night and watch this view as we sipped our coffee in the morning. Speaking of the pool, Tessa thought it was the best thing since sliced bread and was in it by 7 or 8 am every single morning, rain or shine, usually begging for someone (anyone!) to join her.  Basically, the whole trip we were wet.  We were either in the pool, the ocean, or the rain.
A couple of the days we boogie boarded and the boys took surf lessons all afternoon one day.  We stayed at a gorgeous, flat and pretty isolated beach.  We loved playing in the water and walking the coastline looking for whatever the ocean had washed up at high tide.  We visited the beaches to the north and south of us as well and it was surprising how different they each were from each other.  At each one, there was a different kind of animal, feature, or shell to discover.  In fact, some mornings we woke up to the trees outside filled with howler monkeys calling to each other, an iguana chilling on the retaining wall, or a coatimundi trying to get in the garbage.
One day we zip lined.  Tessa was a huge fan.  She practically demanded that she be first each time and the other two tourists with us were nice enough to let her.  Rude child.  She also lost her shoe on a platform (the guide had to scramble down for it) and had to go potty halfway through and we got to experience going in the jungle.  Super.  The guides were great with the kids and let them fool around a bit with trying no hands and going upside down.  They were well tipped.
Half way through our zipline adventure, this guy joined us on our platform 100 feet up in the air. We were having a snack and our guides apparently regularly feed him.  Literally I'm a foot away while he's chilling by my leg and I'm praying I'm not next for his lunch. Hunter, however, was delighted to be so close to an iguana.
One afternoon it just poured rain so we thought we would go for a drive and see if it would let up.  It didn't.  However, we did discover that getting to the next beach over could take an hour or more when the bridges are gone and roads are a soggy mess and you have to find a route around it all through a dripping rainforest.  We finally got to the next beach over which was a turtle nesting beach.  The beach was full of empty holes and rubbery egg shells where the turtles had hatched and made their way to the ocean.
It was usually hot and sunny in the morning and we would watch the rain clouds roll in from the ocean and send a deluge most afternoons.  Rain and rain.  Since we have been in such a drought here at home, I wished we could bottle it up and take it with us.  The rain was usually a welcome break from the sticky heat.
On one particularly rainy day, we decided to visit some tidepools around the point we were staying on.  We found these little tiny coves that you had to scramble down into and they were full of shells....that moved.  Hermit crabs had moved in and stolen all the shells and the whole ground was crawling and moving with shells of every size scrambling here and there.  It was the most bizarre thing I have ever seen.
One might think that on such a fabulous vacation with a country literally bursting with life everywhere, there was only delight, smiling faces and relaxation.  But on a vacation, you can't escape yourself.  I found myself getting grumpy and impatient and annoyed by the hot sticky atmosphere, whining kids and the copious amounts of bug bites.  Apparently, the insect life is also bursting in Costa Rica. It happened, and on more than one occasion I felt frustration bubbling up instead of joy.  In fact, in the first picture of this post, the one where the kids are all sitting smiling in a swing, we had just experienced the most frustrating eating experience on the beach on our last full day.  The place was on the beach, under the trees and had great food.  It was just that we were human, tired and it all caught up with us.  We had a "come to Jesus" moment where I realized all this angst was coming to a head with bickering, whining, and drama over a little spider that ended up on our table.

Rain and water.  There is that verse: "Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life."
Really, it doesn't matter where you go, and how much of God's natural glory is displayed all around, humanity is the same.   One would think on such a fabulous vacation, only the good would bubble up, but unfortunately, my true self follows me wherever I go, and so does whatever we are fostering in our family.
In this way, vacations are like a cleansing water I have found.  Vacations tend to expose our family's interactions for what they are, and provide for me moments in time to assess what I am experiencing and find bubbling out of me.  I find beautiful sweet moments and moments of ugly.  I found myself once home, praying for something better.  A sweeter heart, for God's life to bubble out of me with even more patience and love.  I find myself so thirsty.  Thirsty for more patience, more love, more life-giving relational living.
Once more, I pray for the Spirit of God to bubble up with life and over-run my life with love.  It seems to be the gasping desire of my heart. More of God, more of His life, more of His love.  I can never get enough.