Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Suitcase by Jane G. Meyer- My first book review!!

Today I read a sweet book that stayed with me.  The Suitcase by Jane G. Meyer is a simple story that gives adults and children food for thought about what really matters, what do we value above all?  The watercolor illustrations by Chiara Pasqualotto complement perfectly the colorful, rich, but simple story.  At first we meet the protagonist, Thomas and wonder at the things he does.  I expected this to focus on his challenges and areas of struggle, but rather at the end, Thomas is the teacher.  In fact, the Sunday School teacher in me was picturing all the lessons I could create from the contents of his suitcase.

This book has spiritual lessons straight from Jesus' teachings on the Kingdom of God.  They are not explained in detail, but are alluded to and will be a great springboard for more discussion. Yet, through a subtle choice by the author and illustrator, we see the Kingdom of God in this very family.  Thomas has his unique personality that everyone in the family seems used to and comfortable with.  One sister seems to be of Asian ethnicity which brought to my mind questions about adoption or blended families.  This isn't addressed in the text at all, and I couldn't help but think that in fact, it didn't really matter when what we are talking about is the Kingdom of God, the place where we are all family.

In this sweet tale, we see what it looks like when a family is loving each other, sitting around a table, listening and journeying toward God together.

 I received a reading copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

In the thick of it

I joined Facebook about 5 years later than most everyone else.  At some level, I just knew that it would be like a drunk in a liquor store.  The extrovert in me would want to be catching up with everyone all the time.  The sensitive part of me would get hurt by the judgement and hostile things people say. 

But I eventually had to join to connect with a new group of friends as that was their main mode of communication.   I put limits on my time, on the number of people I friended and what I would post about. It helped keep things in check and sane. 

But things have gotten out of whack.  I am spending too much time on Facebook now and I am thinking about what is said there way too much when I am away from Facebook. 

I have an image of my well of peace.  Its a well inside a courtyard in a vast and beautiful garden.  That well feeds the plants in the garden.  It must have good water for all the good and beautiful things to grow.  Enemies may surround the garden and take it over and destroy all the beautiful flowers and plants, but if the well is protected, then even when destruction happens, the garden can come back.  If the well gets tainted, the garden just cannot grow.

So these days, I feel like I am having to work really hard to protect my well of peace.  I am pushed in by events in the world and the stresses of life around me.  They are forcing their way toward my well of peace. 

I need to reclaim some land, push back on these stressful things.   To keep my well of peace intact, I need to say no and turn my back on things that are encroaching. 

I am in the thick of motherhood.  A teenager, a preschooler and one in between.  I know this is a short time of my life and they are the primary recipients of any good water from my well.   So I am saying no to Facebook, at least for a while, and turning my attentions to things that feed this garden and keep us growing.  I'm cultivating. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

what a body really is

I am purchasing glasses online for the first time.  After 20 years of being a mostly contacts wearer, I now have a condition (giant papilla conjunctivitis- don't google it!)  that makes regular everyday all -day glasses necessary.

If you haven't done it before, to buy glasses online you upload a picture of yourself looking straight at the camera and then you virtually try on glasses by selecting them.  It does save time and is a lot cheaper, but I found myself going through the same litany of internal dialogue that I have in the brick and mortar glasses store.

"that makes my nose look too long. . . that one does too . .. maybe my nose is just too long!  That makes my eyes look old  . . . so do those  . . . so do those. . .  maybe I am just old!!"

and on it goes about chin(s), hair etc, etc

A variant of this goes on in the dressing room at every store, a catalog of all the parts of me that don't fit the clothes on the hanger.

 I know this discontent with my body is part of the burden I bear as a woman living in America.  I have seen this same attitude in the women in my family and my friends.  The voices from the outside telling us how we should look have come on so strong for so long, we have forgotten how to see ourselves as we really are and rejoice in that.

Ironically, I was interrupted in the middle of writing this by a sleepy preschooler needing cuddles.   To give cuddles, you need a lap and arms and that quality of tenderness that comes with a heart of love.  You don't need to be skinny, you don't need great abs, a tight butt or any other part of your body to be "perfect".  

And that is what our bodies are-  they are a gift.  A gift to us to help us live,  and a gift to others to give them what they need to live and thrive.  They are not bad, they are not to be judged, they are to be honored and used in service to others. 

And that is what I will say to myself when I put on my new glasses. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

equity vs equality

"Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity takes differences into account so everyone has a chance to succeed. The first one sounds fair.  The second one is fair."
Jodi Picoult

If you have read any Jodi Picoult books, you know the formula.  Moral dilemma + trial + twist at the ending= a book you can't put down.  I have read a few of her books and though they aren't Pulitzer level, they do really get you in the shoes of the character and to think about ethical choices you may not have considered.

Small Great Things follows the formula, but deals with an issue that touches every American- racism.  It was inspired by a true story of an African-American nurse who was asked by a white supremacist couple to not touch their baby.  From there is a journey of learning what it is like from the other side.  If you are black, you will see inside the heart of a white supremacist and see the pain and anger that fuels his hate.  If you are white, you will see a few of the millions of slights and injuries that a black woman faces in her life. 

I wouldn't call this a great book, but it is good.  And at a time when we can be so divided, we all need help to see.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Draft- Day 2- too great not to share

Read Luke 1:39-56

The word that jumps out to me in verse 39 is "hurried".  Mary had this world-changing encounter with the Gabriel and she rushes to see her relative, Elizabeth.  As we say now, she knows she needs to process this with someone, a close friend that will understand.  And if anyone could understand, it would be Elizabeth, who has her own unique conception story.   When they meet, there is a spirit of joy and thanksgiving.  They have received an unexpected gift and they are overflowing with gratitude. This is remarkable considering that neither one of them was in the usual situation of having a baby.  I'm sure some people commented about Elizabeth being too old to have a baby and others probably raised their eyebrows at Mary's young pregnancy.  But even if others didn't understand, these women were thankful.

None of us knows what life will bring.  We can have our futures planned out with school plans, career paths, steps to prosperity.  But God is the one who holds our days.  No one plans on car accidents, cancer,  job loss, or disability.  These are things that come without us knowing or planning.  And yet God is with us wherever our path goes.

Even if the path is difficult, we can respond with songs of praise.

Friday, January 20, 2017

8 years ago

8 years ago I was in an attic packing and listening to the inauguration of our first black president.  It was one of those times you remember right where you were.

Our family was starting a new era, moving across the globe, leaving what we called home with many questions as to the future.  And America was transitioning too, taking a step to healing the wounds caused by my ancestors.  The past 8 years have showed us that growth is messy.  Fits and starts, victories and defeats.

I can say honestly that we are a much healthier family than we were 8 years ago.  We have stronger relationships, better suited work situations, educational resources and a web of friendships that lift us up when we need them.  But none of these things came immediately when we moved.  We had friendships that ended in disappointment and hurt.  We had schooling situations that were not a good fit and jobs that were full of daily stress.  But over time we learned to say yes to the good and no to the bad.  With counseling, honesty with ourselves, and just plain old good fortune we have cultivated a life-giving home here.

And that is the journey our country is still on.  We are still in a hot stuffy attic, figuring out what matters enough to keep and what should be cast away.   What do we need to be healthy, to be whole, to have a society that gives life and not death?  These are the messy questions we have not yet answered.  

God, give us the strength to join together and walk towards light, life and health.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Draft- Day1, The story before the story

So this is probably a dangerous thing to do, but I am going to use this blog and the FB group Blogging like its 2005 as my writing accountability. I have SO MANY writing projects in my mind that dont make it to paper/ screen.  So here I am going to just put them out there.  Unpolished, unvarnished, un everything.  So, if you comment, be merciful.

This first set is for a series of books I want to do called 40 days with_____.  They will be Orthodox devotional books written for families.  They can be used for older kids to read on their own, for families to read together around the table, for a church school teacher to read for a short lesson.  Each one will have a scripture, reflection and questions.  One page a day for 40 days, so they can be used for Great Lent or other fasts.   Or one per Sunday for a whole year of Church school.  I have ideas for several of them, but the first will be 40 days with Christ and here would be day 1:

The story before the story:
Luke 1:26-38
 What is the most powerful word ever spoken?  Maybe you are thinking "Let there be light" when God created the world.  That was pretty amazing, but I am talking about only one word.  I think the most powerful word is "yes."  
At the beginning of this story, we meet a girl, only about 14 years old who is doing what girls did back then.  She was helping.  But this girl was helping in the temple because she had been given to the temple by her parents at a young age to serve there. So she is already remarkable in that her time isn't in her family's house, but God's house. Tradition tells us that at this particular moment, she was helping weave a curtain to go across the Holy of Holies in the temple, the most sacred of all places.  
In midst of her routine work, an angel appears with the craziest sounding message ever heard.  And although Mary knows the scripture and worships faithfully, even she is confused.  How can this be?  How can I be pregnant with God's child when I am just a maiden? She wasn't doubting, she was just trying to put the pieces together. 
The angel explains more fully the mystery of the Holy Spirit coming upon her.  And though that doesn't make much more sense to our rational minds, she takes a minute and then responds with the most powerful word ever spoken; "Yes."
With that simple response, the whole course of history and humanity was changed.   I'm sure she was scared and worried about what would happen to her, but despite that, Mary gave permission for God to come down and inhabit her body so that Jesus could be born.  The God of the Universe was knit together cell by cell in the womb of Mary.  All because she said, "Yes."  And that "yes" made her into the Holy of Holies, the place where God dwelled. 

Why is "yes" such a powerful word?
Do you think Mary could have said "no"?  Why or why not?
What is the Holy of Holies?  How is Mary like the Holy of Holies?
What powerful things could happen in your life if you say "yes" to God?