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? 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

how to accompany those who suffer

Yeah, I know.  Not a lightweight blog post.
But, this is something I have been in the position of doing several times in the past year.  And I don't know if I am doing a good job of it.  But I'm taking notes here from my experience so I can work through this in my mind.  Consider this a working draft for a novice like me.

1) Call a lot.  My friends who are suffering sometimes reach out to me to share what is going on.  But sometimes they cocoon up in the pain they are feeling.  It's normal for us to go into our cave and protect our wounds.  But after a time, the cave becomes part of the suffering.  The dark and damp atmosphere don't actually help the wounds heal.  So sometimes I am the person calling at the entrance of the cave, waving a torch, banging on a rock to remind them they aren't alone.  I dont go into the cave if they dont ask me.  If they dont answer my call, I just wait a while and call again.  When they are ready, they will let me in or come out themselves.

2) Give a long hug.  Many of my friendships are the "hello hug" variety.  We hug when we see each other, we hug for good news, we hug because we are huggers.  But when a friend is hurting, sometimes I hug a little longer.  It is a way of saying, "I've got you"  and for me, sometimes the long hug just lets loose a dam of tears that need to flow.  Even with our kids running around, I have time for a long hug.

3) Say the truest thing.  By saying the truest thing, I dont mean being brutally honest.  If someone is facing a fatal illness, saying "You have a good chance of dying and not seeing your family again on this earth."  That is honest, but it isnt kind or necessary.  That kind of thing is what doctors are for.  Friends are there to say the Truth, and only when it is the right time.  The truth is, "Whatever happens, your kids have a lot of people that love them and are going to take good care of them."

4) Don't be an expert.  Ask questions, don't give answers.  Oh wow, how I am preaching to myself here.  Whatever your friend is going through, they likely have googled it and talked about it with people that, you know, actually went to school to learn about what they are facing.  Not just you with your, "My aunt had something like that one time in the 80's . . . ."  Just listen, and ask questions and dont react with faces of shock and pity.  Be there, just BE there. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

a letter to me in the past- to the new homeschooling mom

Dear younger me,

Today I was sorting books.  Homeschooling books.  Lots of them. Right now, you are in a house with few books, and lots of questions.  You are going to order a years worth of curriculum that comes in a big box.  And thats fine, thats a great place to start.  You are hoping you can do this every year and be all set for all the years of homeschooling.

But on the first day, you will read the 3 pages your curriculum plan tells you to read and then your eager beaver child will ask you to read more.  What do you do?   There is a plan, a plan that will carry you for 12 years of schooling, but you have to stick to the plan.  So for one day you will read just the amount the directions say, no more.  And that day will be frustrating to you and your child.

Day 2, you just go with it.  You read until he seems done, or until you are tired.  And then you read another book.  And that is the rest of your homeschooling career right there.  You will do what they need and what you need.  And the teacher's guides collect dust on the shelves.

In a few years you will start homeschooling your second child, a super special kid.  So special that there is no curriculum that is perfect for him.  Every single one has an element of struggle and frustration.  After many years and many curriculae that have held so much promise and yet fallen short, you learn he has dyslexia.  The written word is not his friend.  The very thing that compromises 80% of school is like chin-ups for his brain.

So you learn to look and to listen, REALLY listen to your child.  You take each subject and think- What is the goal for this subject?  And you make your own path to that goal.

Yeah, I know.  It's way harder than a box of books and a plan that takes you all the way through high school.

But that's what this kid needs, so thats what you do.  And its not pretty.  Lots of days you don't know if you are doing the right thing.  There are still tears and frustration, but at the end of the day, end of the month, you are seeing real learning.  Not nicely filled in workbooks, but real learning.

Just remember this.  Listen to your child. Each one.  Each way that they learn.  And then listen to yourself.  Be realistic with your time and expectations.  Give yourself grace each day.

As you bushwhack your way through this homeschool jungle, you will find a way to real learning for each of you.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Notes from a night given to a sick child

Don't read this if you're eating.

Our family is not a puking family.  I got food poisoning a few years ago and calculated it had been 15 years since I had vomited.  I just don't do it.

But not even the iron guts of our clan are immune to this particular stomach bug going around.  It comes in fast, usually preceded with "My tummy hurts!"  about 30 seconds before the puking starts.
But it blitzes through in 24 hours and then people are right as rain.

Last night, the toddler fell victim and her vomiting sessions came about every 30- 60 minutes all through the night.

The first time, she was very chipper and said, "I spit out my spaghetti."  and then said maybe tonight she should eat some more spaghetti.  Ew.

At one point, I had fallen asleep and had a dream that I was cleaning up her vomit only to be awoken by the sound of her vomiting.  That was some kind of twisted sci fi movie trick.

I finally got a straight 2 hours this morning when the older boys took her and played with her.  My dream was that the queen of the Netherlands had a mysterious disease that was slowly killing her.  Was it poison?  I was in the secret service or something trying to protect her and keep the public from knowing.  Definitely a combination of stomach flu nursing and watching lots of  West Wing episodes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

lovely and rare

 "Freedom is a community laboring for something lovely and rare." -  Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad

Last night I got to witness a little bit of the messy, uncomfortable and sacred process of reconciliation. 

My husband organized a forum where college students got to ask questions, voice their fears and assert their rights regarding racism in America.  

It was painful at times and beautiful.  We have so much to learn about loving others.  But how wonderful to make a few baby steps together. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Making room for the manger

Today in my son's writing class, we learned to pare down the information in our papers to what is interesting to us.  Even more than what is important, include what is interesting. 

Thats a good rule for this blog. 

I am going to write about what is interesting.  Sometimes that will be what is important.  And sometimes it will just be me getting out on (digital) paper what is going on in my head, and it may not interest anyone else.  So here we go.


We put away the Christmas stuff this weekend.  I have pared down my decor to just the things I really love.  Its pretty simple:  a tree, stockings, wooden ornaments on a garland, Jesse tree ornaments on a garland, a basket of Christmas books, and a couple nativity scenes.  The towels and dishes are gone and the ugly mugs too.  Just the things I enjoy seeing around the house. 

But it was time for even those things to go away.

I have one nativity scene that is breakable.  It is the one that would go on a mantle if we had a fireplace.  Every year I put it in various places that are out of little hands' reach.  This year I tried putting it on the buffet, which also is my desk.  Not a good idea.  My intent was to keep the mail and little desk items off of there for the Christmas season, but bit by bit things accumulated and when I went to wrap up the nativity scene, almost all the figures had been shoved to the back.

Oh what an image of my heart!  The Mary part gets shoved aside as the Martha part crowds in.  I find it nearly impossible as a mom to not have the many little worries of life come in and keep me from choosing the "better thing". 

This is why every week we sing again and again, "Now lay aside all earthly cares."  Because from Sunday to Sunday, I have picked up some more (and probably picked up the old ones again) and I need to lay them aside anew. 

When the burdens and cares are laid aside, then there is room for the manger in me.