Beautiful Monsters

Beautiful Monsters
Beautiful Monsters

Friday, December 28, 2012

I resolve... to not resolve...

It is that time of the year, again, when we all set about to lying to ourselves and everyone around us.  With the best of intentions, of course.

It goes like this: "In 2013, I really am going to ____________________________________".  Already, my friends have been making New Year Resolution boards on pintrest, and planning, and a few impatient souls have already jump started on theirs.  I admire the resolve, the desire, the optimism this takes.... but it just makes me feel tired.  Really, REALLY tired.

I have been thinking on simplicity lately.  It was an abnormally simple Christmas for my family.  No out of town relatives, no driving, no hoopla... not even the traditional big dinner. We hung out in our jammies.  We opened gifts late into the morning.  We played board games, watched a movie.  We ate simple beef stew with a loaf of home made bread.

It was the best Christmas I can remember in ages.

It was simple, it was quiet.  I was joyfully content.

Proverbs 15:30 says "The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones."

and then

Ecclesiastes 4:6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.

So, in my pursuit of contented joy, do I need to make a list of things to strive for?  I think not this year!  Instead, I am going to choose contentment. With who I am.  With what we have. With how we are.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not giving up and condemning my children to live in squalor.  I am not going to become the m and m eating queen.  I am not pursuing disorganization.

But instead of being slavishly committed to a goal that statistically I will have given up on within the first week, I want to spend a little time each day and be content with where we are, what we have, who I am.  If my God will meet all of my needs according to His riches, I can rest a little easier knowing that He's got this, and I couldn't possibly do better than Him, right?

Each day this year, I hope to get to write down something happy from the day, something good.  Something worth remembering.  I hate journals, so a sentence or two is more my style.  And then, next year, when everyone is again frantically trying to figure out how to fix their (already incredibly blessed and abundant) lives in the following 365 days on a budget, I would like to take the time to read through and remember how good my life is.

And, if along the way, all of those pans I am so thankful for figure out a way to be organized and put away logically, then I can be thankful for that bonus, too!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Recognizably Me

So a while ago, after a short power outage in our town one morning, we were talking at Bible study that night, and the outage came up.  A beautiful friend was remembering a time, many years ago, where the town power was out for almost a week.  She was sharing that one of the only places in town that had power was the Pizza Place, through a generator, and of course the wood ovens were working.  So the Pizza Place became the gathering place through the days.  She was laughing, remembering not recognizing people in their "natural" states.  No flat irons, no curlers, no blow dryers.  We laughed about how much we use appliances to look "normal".

I wondered about this.  Am I prettied up on the outside, made into what I think will be acceptable to the people around me, showing what I want seen?  Is it a glossy front, leaving my insides hidden?  If someone could see my heart, see my thoughts, would they match my face?  Would they recognize me?  Do my insides, my natural state, match my "Christianized" outsides?

Fast forward a few months, and the theme comes up again.  It is all well and good to sound and look the part, but does it go past that?  Is my faith about the Christian life, or about Christ?  Is it about people thinking good things about me, or doing God's things for people?

Ach.  A heart is a tricky thing to know.  Faith is hard, because it is one of the easiest things to fake.  People are easy to please.  Man looks at the outward things... and we do.  Does she look like a Christian? Really?  What does that look like?  Is there a dress code I missed? And yet, we take a look, and "can tell".  Because the tatted up kid with purple hair... obviously a lost soul.  The conservatively dressed young man with the standard boys' hair cut?  Probably one of us.  Does she sound like a Christian?  Talk in code like "faith" and "hope" and "sister" and "fellowship" and "quiet time"?  Never swear?  If she is talking about someone else does she preface it with "I only say something because I am concerned about ... "?  If you ask them how they are doing do they say "I'm blessed"? 

God looks at the heart.  I know I can focus so much on my outward, that I forget that God could care less.  He doesn't care what I look like.  He really doesn't care what I sound like.  I think He is waiting for us to be real.  With each other.  With the world.  If we could be real, about who we are, what we are, that we are just regular, can't find clean underwear, dog hates the neighbor, kids don't always brush their teeth people, who have an amazing God who loves us JUST THE WAY WE ARE... the world would change.  So many times I feel like I have to clean up MY act to go to church, and I KNOW better - I know its cow pucky.  How much more so my neighbor who I invited to come along must feel.  My job isn't to be the bouncer for God's club... no dress code, no cover charge, no approved guest list.  But do I live like that for myself?  And if I can't really accept it for myself, do I really believe it for you?  

Would anyone recognize the real me if all of the artifice were stripped away?  I hope so.  More and more, that is my plea.  To be real.  To say I'm not okay,but I hope it is going to be better soon.  To share how things really are.  To not candy coat my faith.  To worry less about my hair, or (lack of) makeup or what my kid looks like sitting in church, if my income measures up, what the people around me think of me and give myself over to completely being present in church - in fellowship  and worship.  To share life with people who are real people - and even real lost people - and love them just like they are, because that is how God loves them.  To have those snarky, less-than-charitable thoughts in my head quiet down and then disappear, so my thoughts more closely match my words.  My hope, recently my most honest prayer, is that if someone could see my insides sitting at the Pizza Place without all of the usual beautification, they would walk over and sit down for a while, because they would know it is me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stepford Religion

This week has been kind of  a grouchy week, and I think I put my finger on why.

 I have been letting other people's rules sit in my soul, and weigh heavy there.  They are good rules, and perhaps spur them on in their faith and draw them nearer to God.  But they aren't God's rules.  It is man made boundaries to define what "godly" looks like, or does.  I think it is all well-intentioned,  someone read something in the Bible, thought they should apply that to their life, and then decided that since God spoke to them about it, He must mean that everyone else should do it too.

If I thought God had shared something spectacular with me, I would be wrong not to share, right?  Go ye therefore into all the world, huh?

For all of our so-called diversity, we live in a pretty homogeneous world.  Macaroni and cheese tastes like Kraft, our meat all looks the same, our eggs are all the same shape and uniform in size in the cartons.  Thanksgiving dinner is pretty much the same with slight variations on the theme, across the entire country.  We even dress similarly, with huge style trends that come and go. It is convenient, and less expensive, and easy to have everything mass produced, and just buy what everyone else does.

It reminds me of my sister's "secret recipe fudge".  Once upon a time, when people did for themselves, and everything was not the same in a box, grammas would have their own recipes, handed down through the family.  It made them unique.  It was personal.  Now, our secret recipe is the same one on the back of the marshmallow fluff jar.

So we go make disciples of men.  Except that we are trying to make disciples of us... what we see, what we think, what we do.  Because everything should be the same.  And if my faith is real and vibrant for me, then have I got a formula for you!  Except that God didn't create one-size-fits-all people.  I really believe that if He so wanted uniformity among His creation, all tigers would have the same stripe pattern, all roses would be exactly the same, and we could make  a template for snowflakes that they all would fit.  

It is Stepford Faith.  If we all look the same, act the same, talk the same, read the same books, listen to the same music, have the same mantras, raise the same kids, hang out together in protective bunches and never stray from the path, it is safe.  We must be doing it right.  Because we are all doing it the same.  Right?

The Bible lays out what God says we must do.  I love that it really boils down to -
1. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.
(Luke 10:27)

Simple.  Love.  Love naturally puts constraints and boundaries on us.  When I love someone, I won't do something that hurts them. But because of my love.  Not because of a pithy saying that you think I have to live by in order to meet your standard of holiness.  That isn't love.  That is bondage.

 Colossians 3:  12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate                      hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another,forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I grew up in my faith in a place where not a lot of Christians "looked like" Christians.  I know as men of faith the guys at the Set Free Church with their biker vests and long hair and tattoos.  I know guys who look more like beach bums than pastors, but can tell you about Jesus in a way that will make you weep with joy.  Jesus didn't call only the guys that looked like everyone else to be His chosen inner circle.  God didn't send an angel to a band of accountants to follow the Star.  He found the value in the person as He created them.  He did call Saul/Paul and didn't ask him to become a rough and tumble fisherman before he entered his ministry.  But neither did he tell Peter to get a hair cut and shave before he really could be a serious follower of the faith.

Galations 5: For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified[a] by the law; you have fallen away from grace.For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you willtake no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers,[b] still preach[c] circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!  13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

I hear verse 9 used a lot in talking about sin.  A little sin leavens the whole batch.  But that is NOT what this says, in context!  I never realized that verse 9 is talking about legalism.  That changes so much.  I might have to spend some days thinking on that.  A little legalism ruins the entire thing.  Why?  He set us Free!  I have to think that if He meant any other word than free, He would have used it.  And then again, love.  I have never met anyone who came to a saving relationship with Jesus because they wanted in on all the rules.  They come to know Christ, because of love.  In fact, the same crowd that uses verse 9 to point out how much trouble you are in backs it up with verse 13... and here... try out these rules.  They will keep you safe.  They will keep you steady.  You will be like the rest of us.  I can't help but feel, as I read the power of the Good News, see the amazing variety of folks God works, and the crazy way He brings about His will, that soul changing, life saving faith is a wild and free thing.  It sees the man-rules, and laughs, and goes about its business. 

So I think, after a time of meditating on this, and digging deeper, I will have a few things to say about folks who want to help me find the rules I am missing in my life.  I am sure I will be a whole lot more careful about trying to "fix" other people's walks by what God has convicted me of in mine. God forbid I be the one trying to chain up His children.  I know as a human parent how I would react to someone trying to do that to mine.  And if it is a sin for you to be on Facebook, or carry extra pounds, or watch TV, then by all means, I will support you in it.  But don't put that burden on the people around you.  And absolutely don't put those chains on me. My God set me free.  And since He has set me free, I am free indeed. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Learning is hard.

The boys have been hip deep in football this fall.  The middle school team ended the season at 1-8.  The high school team is coming up on playoff games at 7-0.  The same freshman on this year's unbeaten  high school team had a season last year with not a single win to his name.  They learned a lot.  Like my 8th grader this year is learning a lot.  But it is a hard, long, cold, heavy way to learn.

I like to believe that my son who didn't win a game last year learned what it means to give it every thing you have, every ounce of try, every bit of sweat, every push during conditioning, all the heart in the world, and still lose the game.  And hopefully, hopefully, it makes him a more gracious winner.  Hopefully he will understand that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, how much you want it, you don't win.  And have a little grace for people that he might otherwise be tempted to look down on or dismiss as lazy or not trying hard enough.  Maybe wishful thinking on my part, but still.  If this year is any indication, my youngest will get to learn all about it next year, too, when he hits 8th grade.

I got to learn a little this week, too.  I teach our ladies bible study, and we are working through a book called  "Unglued".  Mostly about godly reactions during emotionally charged situations.

I had a victory with this last week, where, instead of stuffing how I was feeling, and then exploding later, I expressed myself like a grown-up, and then moved on.  Took 30some years to learn how to do that, but - yay! I got it!

So of course, enter the stupid situation that should have been a whatever thing.  No reaction needed.  I had a homework assignment for a project management class returned for not showing my work, where I didn't think showing my work was necessary.  Truth, I still don't.  It is a senior level college class.  I looked at 7 weeks to finish half of the project, and 0 weeks to finish the other, and just wrote "The project will take 7 weeks to complete."  I did not write out 7+0=7.  The whole college senior thing made me think we were past that.  Apparently not.

So of course, I sat down quietly, and fixed my answers and re-submitted them.  I wish that was true.

I wrote a dissertation on how, if a person can't look at the chart and the given information and the narrative they had already written on the project presented and figure out that 7 weeks and no weeks is 7 weeks without writing out 7+0=7, perhaps they weren't smart enough to be a Business Management major.  I certainly don't want them even cashiering in my business.  THEN I started in on the grading process, the people doing it, etc...

I wish it ended there.  I really do.

THEN I got out my crayons.  And some paper.  And for each of the problems, I drew pictures, with detailed explanations.  7 blue squares (one for each week) and NO red squares , count them, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 ... Gasp!  7!  Each problem also had a number line, and a hundreds chart.  All colored, with my best crayons.  I wish I could tell you I didn't spend almost two hours on this.  I would be a much better person if I could.

But I can't.  When I didn't send in the snarky, illustrated version, I can't even say that I did it because I got my head back, and I wanted to be on God's side more than I wanted to be right.  I didn't send it in, because the graders could sit on the assignment until after the term was over, and cause me to fail the class for this semester.

I know this, because it is exactly what I would have done.   Strike 4?  5?  Pretty sure I am out.

And I got to thinking.  I am learning.  How better to learn a lesson, than to live it?  How could I teach this, if I wasn't walking it?

God says that He began a good work in me, and He will be faithful to complete it.  Right through when he comes again.  There is good news in that.  He began a work, and HE will complete it. My part is to willing to let Him.  And try not to sabotage the works.  There is better news.  He is going to be completing His work, for my whole life.  So any illusions I had about getting "there", about arriving, about making it... I can let go of those!  Because it isn't going to happen.  If God is going to be fixing me from now until forever actually does come, do I really think that I can do it in the next 3 months?  As a New Year's resolution?  Truly?

Sometimes, you get the perfect pass, tuck the ball in, and a running lane opens up and you truck that ball on down the field and do a dance.  Sometimes, you get to the end zone, but in a series of 3 and 4 yard advances that are hard fought and truly earned, every step by step.  Sometimes, you have to sit the bench while bigger players with more experience get the glory.  And, sometimes, you line up and the next thing you know the biggest guy they have is testing you out like a mattress for firmness and bouncability.

Learning is hard.  But if life is the game, the game is worth it.  After all, Jesus is providing personal, private coaching sessions, and He is sitting in the stands cheering loudly for me.  And He already paid off the refs.

His "mean" face! 

Now he's in High School, he is all business. No smiles for mom.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pulling stitches

So  I have been working on these quilts for my friends littles, made from their baby t-shirts.  I have been TERRIFIED to mess them up, because of the whole *irreplacable* aspect.

You know what comes next.

Trying to be SO careful to NOT make a mistake, I botched it.

Thankfully, only with the backing.  I have been puzzling over this for days.  How do I fix it?  Without having to take apart the whole thing?

Man, I had a WHOLE LOT OF TIME to think while I was picking out those stitches.  It seems mindless, but you can't really do anything else.  So I thought.

I get to points in life, where I think I have it all together.  You know?  This is pretty good, looks great, going smooth, doing what I'm supposed to do...


Something is wrong.  It might even be something no one else can see, certainly I don't think there is a problem .... but God does.  He has a different plan, or needs to correct something in me, or sometimes, WHO KNOWS?  And all of a sudden, the stitches are being pulled out.  Sometimes, one at a time.  This falls through, then that, then the other, then another... or He gets out the seam ripper and T-E-A-R!  It all comes unraveled at once.

I have learned to recognize these times earlier as I get older.  It doesn't make them any easier. Relationships, jobs, family situations, opportunities - more than once I have thought that we were finally where God wanted  us, doing what He called us to do.  Something must not have been just right!

The Bible never mentions quilting (that I have found), but it does call God the Potter.  He wants us to be His masterpiece!  I am sure that if that quilt could have complained about me picking at those stitches, and then shoving it all through the machine, again, it would have.  I know that when God smacks me back on the potter's wheel and shapes me differently, I do.

I just hope one of these days he shapes me like Tyra Banks.  :P.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Getting Old..

So, it seems that I am getting old.  My oldest turns 15 today, actually - specifically - about 10 minutes ago.  We almost lost him - he was an emergency C-section.  I am so proud of my son.  I can't say it enough.  He is amazing.

Couple with that, I had to take off my glasses to see to remove stitches while sewing the other day.  I knew that couldn't be a good sign.

The final straw was a few weeks ago.  I woke up, and was stiff and sore, and having a hard time moving.  This has happened before, after an ill-advised decision to start jogging, or a day hiking, or hard yard work.  I had been READING the night before.  When reading is a total-body-sore-the-next-day event, you know it is downhill from there.

I don't know why this is all hitting me so hard.  I don't FEEL old.  Maybe because I am looking 40 in the face.  Not eye-to-eye yet, be she's walking down the street towards me.  I also seem to be more and more aware that it isn't just my kids that are entering new stages of life, I have to grow up and graduate too.  They have their own lives - which they like to remind me of, with great flourishes and drama.  Our lives used to be the same.  They don't need me for everything.  My role has transitioned from the yapping, nipping herd dog rounding them up and moving them along to the guardian on the hill, watching out for big threats.

As I think about being O.L.D.  the verse comes to mind "the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord stands forever".  As I was  meditating on that, it occurred to me that my role, what I will be, isn't the point.  I will wither and fade, like the grass.  (Hopefully not like the grass at my house this summer.  It was brutal hot. I couldn't keep it green for anything.)  It is humbling to think of myself on the same level as the grass we walk on, and complain about mowing.  What IS important is that whatever this stage of life, or the next, brings that I am living God's Word.  That is all that will remain of me, my only true legacy.

That is comforting.  As a MOM, I have been very secure in that role.  I know it well, what to do, how to live it out.  The next stage, a mom, to older and hairier kids, I am not so sure of.  But as long as I am living out God's Word, I am doing what I should be.  It provides an anchor, a plumbline, a boyscout handbook of sorts, for these coming less-known next 6years, and then the completely unknown years after it.  Thank God I am just grass.  I don't know if I could take the pressure otherwise.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

God in the Chicken Coop

A friend (Wonderfriend) and I have been working, slowly, haltingly, stutteringly at living more independently, doing more on our own, living a more handmade life, if you will.  Wonderfriend is much farther along in this particular journey than I am, as she and her family have been at it longer, and are much more proficient.   In my self-pity-party moments I whine to myself that she has a husband to do the dirty, hard or heavy things for her, but when I quit being a baby I know that she does most of the dirty, hard and heavy things herself.  That isn't my point, but then, I rarely am able to stick to a point for long... 


In this journey, we have decided that we need chickens.  Of course, they had done chickens before, while I had not ever even held a fully grown chicken before.  Easter chicks in kindergarten don't count.  Neither of us can HAVE chickens, because we both live "in town".  (Where I live, it is like a huge red line divides the highway where in town becomes out of town, and it is A.BIG.DEAL.)  So, what to do about chickens?  

I have a relative who lives in the magical place we call "out of town".  Even though you can look at the houses 50 yards from hers that are "in town", out of town is a paradise of chicken-owning-freedom.  AND they used to have chickens (and carrier pigeons, of all things) at that house and OF COURSE! we are welcome to use the old coops.  

We were in chicken heaven, and happily ordered 50 chicks.  They came, and we housed them.  We watered them.  We fed them. We cut holes in the walls so that they could run free in the chicken yard.  We named the ones that we could pick out of the crowd. We threw random chicken scraps at them, and laughed  at their chickeny-chickeness.   The kids, especially my Moon, fell in love with the them.  My Sun added it to the "you think YOUR mom is crazy" collection of stories he likes to swap with his friends, but he liked the chickens.  My Stars couldn't care less.  Chickens don't come with controllers, graphics and sound effects.  And they don't turn into zombies. (Although I have to admit, that would be super cool). 

Unfortunately, we were not the only ones thrilled that the chicks had moved in.  The local raccoon population  believed we had built them an all you can eat buffet.  The first attack came, and the coons got 10 of the fryers.  Wonderfriend's hubby knows that even the thought of gross things does me in, and cleaned up the chicken carnage.  We cried, got mad, and started nailing on the doors of the coops at night.  

SIGH.  About two weeks later... Wyoming Chicken Massacre.  The coons got into the layers pen and demolished 20.5 chickens.  (HalfChicken got most of its upper feathers torn off, and we are still watching for infection, but seems to be doing okay). Since then, we have been on high alert.  We have gone over and over the chicken wire surrounding the chicken yard and put countless hours into zip-tying and wiring and staple gunning even the smallest gaps.  We have buried wire in the dirt.  We have nailed doors in better.  We have moved large rocks to surround the bottom of the coop building where something was digging under.  The game warden has live traps set.  We have worked hard, our kids have worked hard, to fortify Ft. Bawx.  The coons are destructive.  They seem to take delight in tearing up the chickens.  They don't even eat them.  The point is to cause mayhem and mess.  And we have put A LOT of time and effort and attention into making sure that they don't get in again. 

Which brings me to my point.  You were hoping I had one, yes? 

How much effort do I put into fortifying myself against sin? 

(WHAT?   How is that even remotely connected?  I know, right? )

Sin is destructive for the sake of causing mayhem, harm, senseless hurt and havoc.  It is persistent, trying to find the smallest gap to wiggle in through, digging under my defenses, yanking away my protection, attacking when I am sleeping and unaware.  It comes, again and again and again.  Even when I rebuff it's attack once, it comes back, seeking, searching, testing for that weak spot to get in again.  

1 Peter 5:8   
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

And I can't afford that soul carnage.  The stakes are too high to not put in at least chicken level effort into protecting my soul from sin, doubt, fear, jealousy, anger, impatience, selfishness and on and on and on.  They  are predators.  And they smell game.  Will I give them an open buffet?  Or guard my heart, my mind and my soul as well as I guard my chickens? 

Phillippians 4: 4-8

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Complain? ME?

My thought for the day... I can either believe that God is sovereign, loves me intensely, is omniscient, all powerful, and very much involved in my life OR I can whine or feel bad about my life, my circumstances, what I have, what I don't and what I would change. I can't have both. If God does love me and is all of those things, I have nothing to complain about. Not a thing. Because He is God, and if it pleased Him, if it brought Him glory, if it fulfilled His plan for my life to be different AND I am submitted to Him, then it would be. 

Side note. We watched a video about John Stumbo, who was on his deathbed with a still un-diagnosed disease that he was healed from, and he said something that really stuck... With God, the absolute worst thing that could happen, the very worst thing, is that I get to go to Heaven and be with Jesus! How amazing that thought is, how freeing. If Heaven is my worst outcome, where do I have any room to complain, or fear? 

Secondary side note. I was laughing with my kids this weekend about a saying I heard: "My job is not to house happy teenagers. It is to raise responsible, well-adjusted adults"... well, I was laughing. The kids weren't really impressed. They beg to differ. ANYWAY... I do that too, with God. His job isn't to make me happy, giddy, carefree... His job is to lead me to greater holiness, to refine me in the fire, to give me opportunity to expand my testimony and impact on the little world around me. Sometimes that is happy. Sometimes it really isn't, it can be angering, or hard, or lonely, or heartbreaking. Argh. I get the boys' point now.

The song is called “We Are Young” by FUN. So, no, taken all together and at their face, the lyrics are not going to be found in a hymnal. I don’t think my church owns hymnals. But if we do, this isn’t in them.
BUT, when I hear this song, I always think of my kids, because – well, the song is really catchy – but more, the chorus rings true, and there is a universal theme underlying it.  (Chorus - Tonight... We are young.. So let's set the world on fire, We'll burn brighter, than the sun)
And today, at a Pizza Hut, I was sitting down with six hungry boys, and this song comes on. Just like an episode of glee, in the third line, they all start laughing and singing together, getting up and getting their pizza and singing, swaying a bit… I almost cried, right there in Pizza Hut. The kids did this to me once before, in the eighth grade computer class they all just broke out into the fireworks song by Katy Perry.
There were some older folks there, and they were laughing and enjoying the show. I think they got the moment, too.
I am struck how amazing that they get to be a part of THIS. I had a very special experience in high school with a very close knit group; I believe that experience was different from the norm, and I am so glad that my kids get to experience this as their norm.

We eat our pizza. We go to the pool. “My” boys dominate. They rule the diving boards. They are wild berserkers in water fights. They are proven babe magnets. They flash their newly formed pecs and their long practiced smiles, roam in packs and eschew any form of wussiness, up to and including posing for photos that I so embarrassingly insisted on taking and using sunscreen. “My” boys are manly men.

THEN… on the car ride home, I am flipping through the stations and I hear, no! Go back! I do, and suddenly I have a car full of kids – boys, tall, hairy, macho, girls-phone-numbers-collecting boys, singing at the top of their lungs. Full volume. With FEELING.
With Adele. “someone like yooooooooouuuuuu”… voices rising and falling in pitch, a car full of scarred-but-wiser, singing-through-the-pain, football practice-starts-next-week songbirds, *ahem*, songraptors. I am still laughing about it. I wouldn’t have pegged that one in a million years.

Taking Time

That is a funny phrase, “taking time”.   It gives the impression that we can put it in our pockets, store it away, keep it for ourselves or give it back.  So much, recently, is impacting the way I see this.  Time isn’t something I can catch up on, waste, lose, or store.
I think the reason I never have enough time, is because time isn’t something I have.  And I can’t make the time, mostly because I am NOT the Almighty God (hold your applause and sighs of relief), so I don’t have anything to make time out of.
It’s here.  And now.  And not even mine.  My time doesn’t belong to me.  If it did, I could tell it what to do.  And, after, well – quite a few – years, I have finally learned that time is like sleep, and chickens.  The more I try to control it and force it to my needs, the more wiggly it gets.  And time isn’t even a gift.  It’s on loan.  I don’t get to claim it in the end.  My time doesn’t even belong to my kids, or my friends or my family or my employer.  My time is on loan from God.  Someday, He will take it back, and I will stand accountable for my return on investment.  (Matthew 25:14-30).
My mind boggles as trying to fit the concept of a God outside of time into my time oriented brain.  All I know is time.  We’re early (rather, we might be. someday.  someday.) – we’re late – we’re out of time – we’re wasting time – and lately, I have to take the time to _____________.  Your blanks might be different from mine, but they can create the same sense of  urgency,pressure, sometimes even in despair or desperation.
So if time isn’t something I have, can make, stop,speed up,hold,get more of or take, why does it control me so much?
Go with me here.  Where I grew up, we had water parks.  In those parks were these places called the Lazy River.  These are pretty neat things, because all you had to do was get in them, and float.  It took you along.  Sometimes, it was slow, and other times it moved you pretty fast.  At times, it pushed you into a group of other people, and others, you were more spread out.  You could lay in it, sit in it, talk to a friend, drink a soda, even read a book.  (The mom thing.  I didn’t get it when I was younger.  Now, I would SO bring a book).
Thing was, you COULD walk against the current.  You COULD walk with the current, and speed it up.  But both of those were HARD.  Either way you got pushed at or pulled at by the “natural” current and other people, and had to fight to keep your balance.  I am seeing time as a lazy river.  It is so much better to be in it, enjoying it, and taking it as it comes.  I am finding that going with the day, instead of wrestling with it, fighting it, trying to make it in my image, instead of trusting God to make it in His, generally gives me more time.  I can address the needs of now, being totally present.  I am less likely to have to go back and apologize or fix or alter what I did, because I was more mindful of what I was doing, while I was doing it.
And more, when I am open to God “interrupting” my day, He brings the best people and times to my world.  Often, that is the way it is, though.  My way is okay, and God’s way is amazing. Can I do it?  Can I ride the flow, use the minute, fill it full and then release it back? I hope so.  Deliberate living, in this time and place, every day.  I hope so.

Reflecting at the Pool

There is something bittersweet about going to the pool with my boys.
When they were littles, we went to the pool all the time. They swam WITH me, and we played games and sang songs and I gave them rides and they were all cute and adorable and their whole lives were a huge mystery, waiting to be played out.
Now, I sit and watch them play with their friends and check out girls and how their muscles compare to the other teen-aged boys’ and laugh and have fun and generally not NEED me for much, except to hold the electronics and provide the snacks and laugh at the stories they run over to share and pretend to be annoyed when they splash me. BUT, I also watch the new littles with THEIR moms swimming in circles and playing games and jumping from the sides and Look-at-me-mom!-ing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this time of their lives when they are teetering between childhood and adulthood and their lives are defining themselves and now THEY know all about their potential and it is awesome and scary and funny and joyful all at the same time. I love being able to hear their ideas and observations and enjoy who they are today, and those hints, glimpses, sneak peaks of who they will be yet.
But I want to reach out to those moms, the young ones checking the clock to see if it is time to go home yet, and tell them, just blink. And you will be here, amazed at how hairy your babies got, and thinking about how short time is, and wishing someone wanted to play ring around the rosy or jump to you one more time! And I know they have heard it before and they THINK they understand, because I had, and I did. I also know that it is something you can’t know, until you are past the time when you were learning it.
It is amazing. I Love Every Minute of It. (Except for the bickering on the ride home. That, not so much. But all of the rest of it.) But it is bittersweet. And it makes me wonder who *I* will be in six years, when there aren’t anymore hairy, taller-than-me babies running around. Maybe I am sitting on that edge of potential too, still yet to discover who the new me will be, and what I will do and how it will be to be just me, instead of we. I know I don’t want to go back and do the diapers and napping (except for me. I like naps for me.) and raising kids using the trial-and-error method. Except for sometimes, somedays. I wish I could step back, just for a moment, to those chubby, sticky, little kid days, that smelled like peanut butter and dirt instead of shaving cream and Axe. Bittersweet.

Beautiful Monsters...

My beautiful monsters are my three boys. Yep, three. I wanted ten. God knew better. The bulk of their childhoods are behind us, and we are on the downward slide toward adulthood, if not maturity! I like to tell them that I am almost to the stage where I can expect dividends on my investment. They roll their eyes. They have no idea what I have planned for when they are working and it is my 20ish year turn to live off of them.
Seriously, I like to say that my boys are my Sun, my Moon and Stars …. my Strength, my Soul and my Song.
My oldest is my Sun, my Strength. He burns, he shines. Ever since he was a toddler people are attracted to him, and tend to do what he says. He is all fire and heat, energy and intensity, strength and drive. He is a natural leader, an athlete and terribly responsible. He has a great tactical mind, is extremely loyal, knows how to make the best of a bad situation, is smart smart smart and has a wickedly sly sense of humor. I have no doubt that he could rule the world one day … like the Elvish queen in LOTR, all would love him and live in terror of him. He isn’t mean, just very black and white. And blunt. You always know exactly where you stand with him. With my Strength, you make the cut, or you don’t.
My middlest is my Moon, my Soul. He shines, but with a quiet, steady glow. When I am sad, and not saying anything, he is the one who knows instinctively – he has amazing intuition and compassion for people. He also feels things intensely, and internalizes much of what goes on around him. He is one of the most thoughtful people I have ever met. Not to confuse thoughtful with always kind or caring – this is a 13 year old boy. But he THINKS, intensely, deeply, exhaustively about EVERYTHING. Everything from how many more chickens would be in the world if we weren’t always eating the eggs for breakfast to what he was wondering about particle physics blah-blah-stuff I don’t understand-blah. This one, this one, will either save the world or destroy it (probably via implosion, which he is fascinated with).
My youngest is my Stars, my Song. He sparkles, he enchants you, and he n.e.v.e.r. s.i.t.s. s.t.i.l.l. He is constant motion, even bouncing on his feet playing video games, and loves to make a joke. He is a people person to the core, he will seek out company. He likes to be in charge, but will never force the issue. He sings because he loves to, and will talk to himself if he can’t find anyone else to talk to. He is game for almost anything, and absolutely will find a way to enjoy the situation once he’s in it. He is also still a suck up, very much my baby, which comes in handy sometimes! Out of the three kids (all my kids sounds like a have a zoofull – no matter how much it feels like it, there are just the three) he is the one who shares my love of books, of story or losing yourself in another world. And if for no other reason, I would love him for that.
I also collect assorted monsters, kids around the community that know they are always welcome at my house, about what time dinner is served, that if it is in the produce basket on the table it is free game and where I hide the “good” snacks. I have been known to get a phone call for lunch, or a jacket, or a ride from one of my “extra kids”. I have also been known to chew them out, pep talk them up, and ground them for the weekend (followed by a call to mom to make sure she knows I grounded her kid. I love small towns!).  I love them like I love my own, and make no mistake about that.
Some day, I hope to be able to adopt young teens or pre-teens. I have such a heart for kids that are going to graduate the foster care system with no family, no holiday home, no one to come pick them up when the car breaks down or their heart is broken or they just need to do laundry. Boys make sense since I already have been practicing with my three. This is a door I hope God opens someday.
So, my monsters keep me hopping. From sport to sport, school to events and activities, and the never ending round of cooking, dishes, put away, cooking…. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. What would the world be like with no Sun, Moon, or Stars? No Strength,Soul or Song… I wouldn’t even want to contemplate it.