Thursday, January 28, 2010

Naughty Girl

Probably just like you, I resisted a cell phone. Like our parents and their parents, planning meeting places and carrying an accurate watch were my route.

However, I was not about to die on the altar of no-cell-phones. With surprising ease, I have slipped into the cell-phone club. And I like this club. I can't text and I have no idea why everyone writes LOL on things (I have been informed that LOL stands for Lots of Laughs, which I suppose is some surreal way of saying that in the middle of typing some sentence, I just bust up into hysterics. Not reality, my friends.). Knowing that, I would never text while driving. But the newest scheme in town is to outlaw cell phones as morally irresponsible while driving.

Here's what I understand... driving while talking on a cell phone increases your chances of an accident fourfold. It does not matter if you use a bluetooth. The new phrase is, "It's your head, not your hand, that is engaged with the cell phone." One hand or two does not seem to be the issue, it's the actual talking that seems to be the problem.

So, if we are going to outlaw cell phones because the brain is distracted while driving, I'd like to offer my own added bylaws.

No more of this...

And definitely no more of these.

Because if talking is the problem, I'm a complete car-driving moral failure.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blog Stalk

Dear Four Three Readers,

Or Subscribers. That's what blogger calls it. Makes me sound so...subscribed to.

I'm sure that you are wondering where this blog is headed. I have no idea. Not even a clue. BUT I will let you in on a little secret. I'm enjoying it far more than I thought I would. The scary part about that is twofold - 1) I just might keep a New Year's resolution for the first time ever; and 2) you, my four dear friends, are S.T.U.C.K. This scary ride ain't ending any time soon. If you want to get off, you're going to have to jump. As in, "Oh Karen, we don't have internet anymore" or even better, "We don't believe in computers."

Remember when you were in college and you walked into a class for the first time. It was perfect when it was a huge auditorium with about two hundred other people. A little snooze, a quick flip through a magazine in the back row was hardly noticed. But then, there were the other classes. Where you walk in and your one of EIGHT people. Yes, Dr. Jobe's New Testament class. What recourse do you have? None, but a perfect attendance record and notes that would make a discouraged professor weep with joy. That's what our parents paid a lot of money for. But it really stank when you wanted a little anonymity.

And you, dear girls, are in that same spot. What can you possibly do with this blog stalk?


Wave the white flag.

Tell your husbands that I'm a super, high-maintenance friend that just requires a lot of energy...and reading. (What a downright lie!!!) And a potential guest blog every once in a while.

Some day, when we get up to six readers, you won't have to feel so harassed. Until then, my sincerest stalking apologies.

Resting in Him,

Please pass the tea. To the stalker.

(And so it begins...)

Although two of you are my sisters and two of you are lifelong friends, the fact that you are reading this is humbling. And exciting. If we had virtual coffee, I'd offer you some. But as it is, I'm sitting here by myself listening to the dryer. And the quiet. As much as I miss Craig, I've got to admit that a full monopoly on the remote control is a pretty sweet consolation.

I stayed up WAY too late watching the first two installments of this.

Emma. It was GREAT. Now, I have to wait until Sunday night for the last two installments to air on PBS (Masterpiece Theater).

What's on the docket for tonight?

Wives and Daughters. I figure I am one. So I better take the next five evenings to really brush up on it.

By the time Craig gets home, I'll be talking in a proper English accent and eating cookies but calling them biscuits.

Enough codswallop for tonight. Cheerio!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Book Idea #100,009

True confession: once every six months or so, I dream of Mrs. Bateman. DR. Bateman. My high school AP English teacher. She was not unkind, nor was she sweet. She was aloof. She graded our papers like a teenage artist under an overpass with a can of spray paint - boldly, with utmost care for detail, a perfectionist. Although I'm exactly 13 years from my high school days (do not do the mental math here to figure out my age. Why waste brain cells on silly notions like that?), I dream of walking into her class, the dry erase marker smell permeating the room, and realizing that a paper is due. I haven't read the book, and I certainly do not have the paper.

I wake up from this dream and shake my head to rid myself of the old haunting feeling that I've failed AP English. And thank God that the only writing I have to do is for my three faithful readers - thanks Sum, Steph, and Alicia for not grading me so harshly!

This morning, though, I ran into Mrs. Bateman at the grocery store. My first thought was, "She eats?!" and my second thought was, "Where's her car so I can egg it?" Just kidding. I wouldn't do that. I had a child with me at the time. Duh. Number one lesson from parenting books - never egg teachers' cars with toddlers in tow.

But it did get me to thinking...[insert smug remark here.]...wouldn't it be fun to see Mrs. Bateman and ask her how her kids are? Then, because she's not so aloof anymore, she would ask me how I am. I would smile and sigh, and quietly admit, "Oh, life is simple. I just change diapers and write bestselling novels."

This is such a better dream than the one I keep having. And I could settle for non-bestselling novels. They could be pamphlets on how to keep a pantry clean, for all I care.

If I ever actually write something other than an occasional email or blog post, I will consider my life completely finished, job well done. At honest moments like these, I need to refer back to my very own Sir Topham Hat post, and let the whole dream go. But, perhaps when the kids are older...when I'm not so distracted...when my brain cells that left the remote control in the refrigerator decide it's time to funnel their energy towards composition...I will write.

And if when I write, I'd love to write a story about a little boy who cannot walk and tries to get to Jesus. Nevertheless, he is unable to get to the front of the crowd, despite help from his friends. After a long, harrowing journey (to be continued when I find my missing creativity - probably in the refrigerator with the remote control), he reaches Jesus. But it's too late. Jesus is on the cross. In hopelessness, he mourns what could have been. Of course, he receives the best miracle of all - forgiveness - and finds true joy. [Deep thought of the day: whether we fly like Superman or crawl on our elbows, the best gift of all is never physical healing, but spiritual healing. Thank you, Mrs. Wannabe-Oswald-Chambers.]

But being the anti-Steel-Magnolias person that I am, we must tie up any and all loose ends. The boy finds himself at the temple much later. He's filled with peace, but still penniless. Begging for money, Peter tells him, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" And he does.

Hooray for happy endings! Hooray for book ideas! Now, if I can only get it down on paper...and if only the paper doesn't have Mrs. Bateman's red pen marks slashed across it. She wouldn't do that, would she?

In the meantime, I continue to dream. And laugh. And hunt for the remote control.

Dreaming of Scary Eager Publishers,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Current Distractions

The number one reason why I am not getting very much done around my house today... who knew history could be so riveting? Have you read it yet?

A Real-Life Gilbert

This man has had my heart for 18 years.

He holds it completely.

Even just from the looks of him, you can tell he's someone you can trust with your heart. And you can!

I grew up watching Anne of Green Gables, wishing that I had been born in another century. I read almost everything Lucy Maud Montgomery ever wrote (which is quite a lot!) and spent many hours wandering our property pretending I was Anne Shirley dancing in the mist with Gilbert Blythe.

Then, I grew up...a little bit. When I was thirteen years old, I met a real life Gil. Ours was a friendship that blossomed over time and many miles. He was a basketball superstar, I was a heads-in-the-clouds freshman. He was a college student and I was an independent teenager. He was a "Hot Shots" fireman all summer and I was a Christian camp counselor. Then, we were thrown together at the same college and the pieces finally came together. Two friends with a lifelong commitment to Christ. The timing was right. And I never wished I was Anne Shirley again.

Until this week. Because if I was Anne Shirley and he was Gilbert Blythe, he would not be flying across the ocean to explore Saigon, New Delhi, and Malaysia with a bachelor friend of his. I would get to sit and read books and wander Prince Edward Island with him instead of helping him pack for his adventure.

I know I sound like a whiner. I'm not. Really. It's just that he is a Gilbert. And although I'm not nearly an Anne Shirley, he makes me feel like her. Charming, complex, approachable, and of course, beautiful. Days without him feel dreary and lost, like I'm missing an arm or a leg. Or my brain.

My twin sister is learning to live like that, as her husband is here.

If you can't see it clearly, it's Afghanistan. And those men are guys who our family hardly knows, but who receive the majority of the prayers in this house.

Perspective helps around here. I'll stop the whining. But not the loving. That's like stopping the ocean tide.

Happy travels, Gil!

Friday, January 15, 2010

A First

Having been a mom for a few years, but still a rookie when it comes to the strange world of boys, today held a monumental first for me.

It involved this little man...again. It usually does. Do you see it? Behind the sweet smile and big brown eyes?

Yes, it's that gleam of manhood just waiting to come out. And I saw a small glimmer of it. Or better yet, I felt it. On my leg. And I heard his grunting as he smiled wickedly at me. And tooted on me. Then laughed so hard he fell over. Of course once wasn't enough. He came back to me, quite proud of himself, sat down on my lap yet again, and repeated it: pushed hard and laughed when his rear end produced the satisfying vibrations he was going for.

What is a woman to do? My daughters are not perfectly mannered, but never, NEVER, have they pushed out their gas on me. On purpose.

A really cool mom would have done it back to him. I'm not that mom. Nor am I capable of being that mom. Namely because I cannot do such things on cue. But the weird thing is, I've never wanted to. Until now. If I could have, I would've.

A first for me. Enough said.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sir Topham Hat and Jesus

The Island of Sodor seems to be near perfection.

The breeze is gentle, the birds glide, and trains whistle like they should - sweetly.

But I have a beef with Sir Topham Hat.

This guy.

If you haven't seen Thomas the Train, you might be a bit confused by the look of constipation all the human characters have. No fear, that's just the drinking water on the Island of Sodor.

But I digress. My problem with Sir Topham Hat has nothing to do with his physical appearance. I'm not that catty.

My issue is this: on almost every episode I've been privileged to watch (snuggling a toddler or two, popping goldfish from their grab-it bowls, it's where it's AT on a weekday morning.), we watch the various trains get into and out of certain dilemmas. Not a problem. Until the very end of each story, when Sir Topham Hat announces (without moving his lips - apparently, all of the human characters are constipated AND ventriloquists.), "You are a very useful engine." And the train chugs away happily, as if he or she has received the greatest compliment ever.

But, as a recovering Type A perfectionist, I've spent my life being "a very useful" person. The highest compliment anyone could pay me was, "You get so much DONE!" or "How do you do it all?" I cringe when I remember all the times I shrugged with false humility and inwardly inflated with pride.

My self-efforts were nothing but sin. Perhaps even worse, sins made to look like good deeds. In Bible terms, that's nothing but "filthy rags." And wrapped in a cute Christian package, I was a gorgeous mess.

But any method I use to meet needs for value or importance (or anything really) apart from God is a sin. That's one thing that Jesus found despicable about the Pharisees. And being useful was a big one for me. I still struggle with it today. That self-effort crops up daily, as I check my to-do list (not to see what needs to be done, but to pridefully pat myself on the shoulder for all that I do) or as my husband asks me about my day and I report what I got done. You know you've got this flesh pattern when someone asks how you are doing over the phone, and you report what you're doing. Probably I will fight this flesh pattern all of my life.

There is nothing wrong with being useful. And there's certainly nothing wrong with working hard. The Bible often commands us to work hard and with excellence. Interestingly enough, though, Scriptures talk about a mindset of humble service as we work, not about what results we produce. What I have learned is that my job is humble willingness to be used, Jesus' job is to produce the results. They are not mine. My usefulness and effectiveness are not mine, they are His. Just like they are His fruits, His peace, His power and strength, at work in and through me.

So to praise one or to receive praise for being "very useful" is a bit backwards for me. We are useful because the Holy Spirit animates our lives and produces in us. The act of surrender in those moments is our only role. Although it sounds like an oxymoron, working hard, in that moment of rest, is our joy.

We would be remiss if we did not instill the value of hard work in our children. And usefulness is...well, valuable in our world. But if we somehow communicate the flip-side - that only useful people have value - we have done our children (and ourselves) a great disservice.

Perhaps this is a bit "slippery slope" of me, but isn't an enthusiastic "You are a very useful engine!" not so far off from "And that makes you valuable"?

This idea should grieve every God-fearing person. It's the mentality that aborts babies, euthanizes old people, ignores anyone who cannot produce.

I must admit one caveat: Sir Topham Hat is a business person, he's the owner of the station. So, he's allowed to commend usefulness, isn't he?

It's Jesus who draws the line there. Be a servant of all, strive hard, but only under the direction and animation of the Holy Spirit will this produce true, lasting results.

If Jesus were Sir Topham Hat, which thank the good Lord is where my metaphor breaks down completely, I think he would not say, "You are a very useful engine!" He would say, "You were used today!" Because in God's economy, it's not about producing results, or producing anything. It's about obedient surrender to His usefulness.

It's not our usefulness that makes us valued by God. It's just US. Whether we have a job or we're unemployed, whether we're useful or not, we can rest in Him and then, as we abide (John 15:5), He makes us useful, fruitful. Jesus doesn't need us for anything, but He wants us to be a part of His good works each day.

"Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in us will be faithful to complete it..." (Phil. 1:6)

Thankful to be used, not useful, today!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What do you get when you cross a loose garage stud with two overstuffed shelves of paint, spackle, wallpaper glue, and extra bathroom tiles?

I wish I had taken a picture.

But I was so awestruck by the magnitude of yellow paint and plaster all over the garage and the rear end of my van.

Want to hear the best part of the story? There is no running water outside our home because every hose is frozen. I felt like Ma Ingalls, hauling bucket after bucket of water from the kitchen sink to the garage.

But all is well. The damage could have been much worse. No one was standing under the paint when it decided to take a flying leap of its own. And the only casualties - my favorite pair of jeans, lots of rags, four split cans of paint, one wall-mounted sprinkler system, and my pride as all the neighbors watched me scrub the driveway. In winter. In Northern Nevada.

One other casualty - a quiet evening dinner with Craig and the kids. I had to apologize for snapping at all of them. That's the only part that's not funny two days later. We had a good discussion about trying to be "in control" of situations, and how when I'm not in control, I go into "sequester and submit" mode where everything gets put in its place until control is restored. Nothing but sin, ugly, dirty sin. As I always ask the children when they sin, in that moment, what need was I trying to meet apart from God? The need for control. Security. Predictability.

It's amazing how an explosion of paint can reveal layers of dirt in me.

And this morning, I'm amazed at God's restoration, full and complete, that invites me away from shame and into freedom. As I walk in His strength today, I'm praying for less paint and more fruit, less control and more freedom in Him.

In His strength,

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Two Dear Sisters

I have two dear friends, sisters really. They always seem to be there when I need them.

Other than a few little quirks, which I forgive like any good friend, they are just great. Easy going, they keep a secret well, certainly don't air the family's dirty laundry.

I can call on them whenever I need to and they don't care how high maintenance I am at a given time.

Here they stand, faithful and true.

The question is, how faithful and true will I remain over the years? It's the rocks in the dryer, the high demands I make on dear sister's spin cycle. My guilt is daunting, but they remain. Do I change the lint screen like I should? Is the detergent gentle enough for their sweet little gadgets?

Perhaps it's time to get out of the house for a little girlfriend social time if these are the objects of my sisterly affection.

But after our New Year's I feel it is time to put these two girls in their rightful place of family ardor.


This morning, with a cup of coffee and a dark, quiet house around me, I was reading this...

Of course, I'm over one year behind on this daily reading, so you know this is not as routine as I'd like it to be.

Here's the nugget I loved...

"Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days." (Italics are mine.)

What?!! Imagine me with my face scrunched up (not hard to do, I know).

He loved them. So...he showed his love by returning to Bethany immediately? By sending one of his disciples back to heal Lazarus? By fasting and praying for his dear friends? Nah. Jesus stayed where he was for two more days.

Because that's the reasonable thing to do when you love someone.

Excuse my sarcasm here. I know I've had to ask God to forgive my sarcasm at times. Because although I've never died or buried my dear brother, I've definitely had times of waiting in my life, times of suffering and sorrow. And my heart overflowed with sarcasm and downright anger that God did not rescue me. To think that "God loves me, YET..." is difficult.

But true.

God loves me, just like He loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. BECAUSE of that love, He chooses to let me remain where I am sometimes. Painful moments of waiting, sorrowful times of agony. And although we might rant against a God who would dare to do this to us or allow it, He answers, "I love you, yet..." It's because of His love that He chooses to allow things in our lives. As simplistic as it might sound, a dear friend's mantra does seem adequate in these times: God loves me and He knows what's best. I might add...even if I hate it. Even if I don't deserve it (or DO deserve it).

His love requires a "Yet" because it's in the "yet" moments that He woos me, despite all rational analysis, to surrender. And that little three-letter word - yet - does not mean His love is conditional. The "yet" is LIFE within the safety of His unconditional love. Miserable, marvelous, or mundane, it's all a "yet" that passes by. I can either abide in Him through it all, or not. But the more I know about Jesus, the more empty I think that latter option sounds.

Twice in this passage, Jesus says, "that you [they] may believe." The "yet" is often planted right in our lives to draw us, and others, closer to Jesus. Perhaps this sounds odd, but the trials in my life seem easier to swallow if they have a purpose. This comforts me. It also reveals a weak faith on my part, that I must continuously question the purpose of trials, as if I need an answer to everything. (Note to self: see Job for God's answer.) So, if the yet-moments draw myself or someone else closer to Jesus, it really is a JOY to be a part of the process.

One final thought - no matter which I choose, either to surrender and submit to my loving Father or to fight His will every step of the way, God is always glorified. He doesn't need me to be a willing participant, He doesn't need me at all. But He invites me to be a part of the "yet." I want to say "Yes" to His invitation!

Embracing the "yets" in my own life and the One who allows them,

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Considering it

New Year's Eve was in all its glory at our house. At midnight, there were neighborhood fireworks that woke up the kids (I'm now one of those grumps who is mad at any celebration that extends past 10 p.m.). But it wasn't the fireworks outside that really stirred things up. And fireworks weren't the only thing exploding around here right around midnight.

The culprit. Gastroenteritis. More commonly known as the stomach flu.

The hapless victim.

The helpless bystander.

The results. An overworked laundry machine, the first household shower of 2010, and a ginger ale party in the wee hours.

Anybody else get puked on on New Year's?

Friday, January 1, 2010

The "F" word...

I don't "do" New Year's resolutions. Never have. Probably because I'm such a perfectionist, I understand that resolving to do something (either big or small) on a given day of the year and perhaps every day after that, is only setting myself up for failure. And that word, hard to even type it as my left hand lingers over the "f" button, f-f-f-failure (gulp) is a little bit of an issue for me. It conjures up images from long ago...when I spelled "potpourri" wrong in the seventh grade spelling bee...when I struck out in the ninth inning of varsity softball playoffs...and images from not-so-long ago, like last month when I yelled at the top of my lungs for the kids to stop yelling...or when I agreed to make Christmas Eve dinner for our extended family last week and showed up with styrofoam boxes of Chinese food. And acted like that was completely planned, right down to the soy sauce packets.

However, that was then. This is now. And I'm going into uncharted territories. A personal blog of my own. Read at your own risk. You'll see I'm afraid of failure, but I'm not afraid to tell you all about it afterwards (for reference, see above paragraph). I claim no consistent schedules, no daily posts, no failures-on-Friday weekly articles. Just me, free for the taking. When you're feeling bad about yourself, you come on over and I'll air out some dirty laundry for you. You'll leave feeling so much better.

Just to start it off, shall I tell you about the time I accidentally left my four-month old son in the stroller at Disneyland and GOT ON A RIDE??? But the other two kids were smartly dressed with well-ventilated walking shoes, fresh coats of sunscreen, and personalized dog tags in the event that they were lost. Does that get me any bonus points? F-f-failures abound in this blog. But more so, Jesus abounds.

Yes, "failure" is one of my least favorite words.

But have I mentioned one of my most favorite words. Freedom. No stuttering on that one. It's what has me trying to figure out what the heck HTML stands for and what McLinky means. All because freedom is bigger, it's sweeter, than any failure I've experienced. So, starting a blog is for ME - to document the freedom that I continue to unearth - and if I'm being perfectly honest, it's for YOU - to warmly welcome you into my hideaway where we can commiserate on those I'm-a-failure-because-my-kids-eat-frozen-non-organic-waffles, and where we can dance whatever bizarre dance God gives us each day. Because His freedom, this act of surrendering to Him, makes it all - both the best and the worst, and anything in between - glorifying.

Thank you for reading about my failures - P-o-t-p-o-u-r-r-i, that is such a terrible spelling word for a 12-year old. C'mon. If I could have talked smack at that age (or this age), I would've given them an earful. Ridiculous. Sigh. But I'm over it. Can't you tell?

And thank you for rejoicing in my freedom. "If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed."