All the Miles…

15 04 2015

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All the miles of a hard road are worth a moment of true happiness.

{the moral of “The Mouse and the Seashore” from Fables by Arnold Lobel}

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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One of the writing workshops I attended this weekend ended in a place of Lament.

Lament.  Do you know it?

The expression of sorrow.

The cries of grief.

The words of mourning.

Lament can often feel like a place of shame, a plate leftovers we want to hide.

We do this over and over.  We seek to cover up these areas of pain.

Or to wrap them up with a beautiful bow to shroud the reality.

But…through the oddest voices in the most unsuspecting ways, I’m starting to see the value of Lament.

The growth to be had in ALL the miles…

in the catharsis of the LONG road.

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 Today, as we read about “The Mouse and the Seashore”, a beautiful fable in Arnold Lobel’s book, Fables, I could not help but be moved by the mouse’s tenacity.  Despite not being supported by his family, he sets off for the Seashore.

He faces many obstacles, losing his tail, limping away bloodied and bruised, tired and exhausted.

All the while, still pushing for the seashore.

And when he crests that hill, here are the rich lines:

At evening the Mouse slowly climbed the last hill and saw the seashore spreading out before him. He watched the waves rolling onto the beach, one after another. All the colors of the sunset filled the sky.

“How beautiful,” cried the Mouse. “I wish that Mother and Father were here to see this with me.”

The moon and the stars began to appear over the ocean. The Mouse sat silently on top of the hill. He was overwhelmed by a feeling of deep peace and contentment.

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{the glorious Oregon coast, Newport}

* * * * * *

That dear mouse has found contentment.

He faced the Lament.

He sat with the pain.

And eventually, after slogging through the muck, he found his ocean, and did you catch what he said?

I wish that Mother and Father were here to see this with me.”

He longs for his parents to join him in the beauty, even though they didn’t support the journey in the first place.

Reaching out, across the estrangement, to find connection again.

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I can’t seem to stop taking pictures of cherry trees, cherry blossoms…pink snow confetti.

It is just so shocking.

After weeks and months of dark, damp rain it surprises.

A seemingly normal, everyday tree explodes with hot pink fireworks so dense you almost can’t see the sky above.

It’s a visual triumph that has been waiting in the wings, dormant during the winter.

It has survived from the dark days of lament, arriving at its own seashore.

Were the miles and the long road worth it?!

For that moment of happiness?

Even when the sun goes down so quickly?

Or when the blossoms fly through the air or litter the ground overnight?

I hope so.

My students seemed to think it was worth the slog, the danger, even the emotional bruises along the way.

I love how those cherry blossom petals masked the harshness of the concrete in the image above.

The brick and the chain link fence are still there, but there is beauty in the harshness.

As a few shared at my seminar on Friday, a banquet table is set for us.

And at that table, there is a FEAST to be had and enjoyed.

But one of the platters just might hold a serving of Lament.

The Feast and the Blessing and the Nourishment is in tandem with the Lament.

The fill the table together.

May we see that table as a gift, even when the food may taste bitter and the road long.

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My students were working on Personification and wrote a group poem turning “Grit” into a person.  Wanted to share it here as a reminder of what it takes to keep going “all the miles of a hard road…”  Enjoy!

Grit does anything and everything.

Grit never gives up.

Even when she is afraid,

she jumps out of an airplane anyway.

 

At school, Grit takes a hard test and makes it her own.

She uses the harder questions to help her answer the easier ones.

Grit helps Frustrated with her stuck point and mistakes.

Grit’s friends are Self-Control, Zest and Courage.

They play baseball together at recess.

Grit knows that “Said is Dead!” and she attacks her multiplication & division facts, not giving up.

Grit sees Loneliness and asks, “Why are you alone?  Want to play?”

Grit reads the Little Engine that Could and takes an AR test.

 

Grit sits down for a lunch of mashed catepillars, onions & worms.

For dinner, Grit eats the Carolina Reeper Pepper and for dessert, has Hot Tamales as sprinkles on her ice cream.

Grit eats mushrooms, not knowing if they are poisonous.

Grit lives in a home far from Anger, in a Rainforest with animal skin rugs.

She helps her family with chores and even cooks dinner.

Grit has a poster on his wall that says, “Yes, We Can!”

 

Grit lives in a big part of all of us,

right next to her neighbors, Anger and Hard Times.

 





Lean Into the Discomfort :: Some Thoughts on the Faith & Culture Writer’s Conference

13 04 2015

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Dancing With the Stars started 5 minutes ago.  And a big part of me wants to turn it on, curl up on the couch with my tea now that the boys are in bed.  To ignore that I have a classroom of 3rd graders who will be staring at me at 7:55am ready to start a new week.

Today was a perfectly arranged school-wide day off since we crammed parent-teacher conferences into last week.  I envisioned a leisurely morning of catching up, maybe finishing my overdue library book.  Having my coffee without rushing out the door at 6:45am.  Finishing today’s 1-star Suduko.  Relaxing.  Instead, I filled it with scurrying around after laundry, balancing the checkbook, sweeping up LEGOS and tidying up the playroom/guest room (mind you….it now, 10 hours later….looks almost the same as prior to cleaning).  I made a weekly menu and a grocery list and shopped.

And really?!  All of these things are things on the list.  Not all FUN.  But things to be done.  Often, in an attempt to put discomfort at arm’s length.  Rather than leaning into the discomfort, I am often choosing this, that and the other to conquer and tackle rather than the important.

Instead of reality tv.  Or obsessing over my lesson plans.  I am planting my rear in the chair and writing tonight.  If for nothing else than knowing it matters.

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Matt and I had the chance to attend the Faith and Culture Writing Conference this past Friday and Saturday in Portland.  When trying to explain the conference to others—whether prior to attending or post conference—–I always hem and haw, not knowing EXACTLY how to spin, define or explain it.  Yes, the conference is full of writing tips, tricks, opportunities, advice and experts in their craft.  But for me, for the past two years, it has meant so much more.  A place for retreat.  A moment for re-adjusting and re-focusing.  A time for slowing the mind while simultaneously amping my thoughts into a frenzy.  I compared it to one of those blitz 2 week Europe trips where you try to squeeze in lots of museums, restaurants and historic sights and in the end feel a “full”.  In a good way.

This year’s conference started with a pre-conference called “Breathing Space”.  I signed up with the selfish desire of hearing Seth Haines and Nish Weiseth speak—-two bloggers and authors I have been a little star struck over for awhile now.  Seth talked about the need for retreat.  To move away from the drive to create, produce and compare.  That we are called to be “window washers” for others, allowing a new vision of God to be seen.  To clear away and wipe clean the gunk and mess and muck that makes clarity almost impossible.  The conference, for me, was two days of having windows washed; artists and writers and creatives sharing their work, but more-so, their hearts.

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{{such a privilege to meet this lady…got to take her to the airport and it was  highlight of the weekend for me}}

As Nish preached (and if you were there, you know she PREACHED in the best way, and didn’t just “talk” to us!), Jesus is subversive.  We see it in his actions, who he healed who he spoke to and hung out with.  He was relational, giving power to people in the margins.  Christ’s mandate was love.  Our writing is empty without purpose and our truest purpose is to love God and love people.  End of story.  Our writing is meant to serve others.  Our purpose is to use our very lives to live into the beauty and truth that God’s Kingdom isn’t some far off place we eventually arrive at.  It is happening now and that with or without us, we are invited to participate in what is before us.  Right now.

Later that night, two others wove similar themes.  Emily P. Freeman, author of A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live, reiterated this point.  As writers, even for me as a teacher, there is a call to

“Write like a hostess, not a crazy person.”

We get to live our day to day lives, inviting others in, or as Emily so eloquently frames it offering a bench to sit on.  Not a required conversation.  Or an agenda or a platform.  But a bench.  A place to practice the spiritual discipline of wasting time.  {{{For me, this often feels like Leaning into the Discomfort….You?!?!}}}  She shared how scary the question

“What is going on in you RIGHT NOW?”

can be.  We often like to talk about yesterday.  Or last year.  Or when I was 12.  Or plans for five years down the road.  But right now we are called to live, work, write, listen and love from a place of love.

At last year’s conference, Tony Kriz left me speechless and practically dumbfounded.  I just had no clue what God planned to unleash through that man’s heart and words.  He was so compelling and I promised myself that I would twist my husband’s arm every which way to read Tony’s books and come and hear him speak.  As Nish’s words and Seth’s and Emily’s and so many others from my writing seminar filled my head (Esther Emery, Velynn Brown, Ashley Larkin, Alia Joy, Kara Chupp, Michelle Watson, Nicole Bennett, Kamille Scellick, Ashley Hales…I could go on and on and on because that seminar was HOLY HOLY ground, almost feeling TOO raw to process here)…Tony pushed us to think about the “jar” we place up on the altar that is filled with how we are and aren’t allowed to think about, to talk about and to write about God.  The words that are fear-based, language used to constrain and constrict our faith.  Tony, in his own amazing way, wove the story that the jar of his youth, the big glass jar that was up on the altar, if you will, allowed for God is to be light…but not a rainbow.  God could be compared to a lion, but not a bear (too Native American).  God could be a strong rock, but not a crystal (too… Portland).  He went on and on and one with comparisons.  And me, being the simile girl {{{WELCOME TO ROOM 15, KIDS….WHERE WE WILL WRITE LOTS AND LOTS OF SIMILES AND POEMS BECAUSE YOUR TEACHER LOVES THE POWER OF FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE!}}} I was stoked.  Tony called us to take risks, use risky language and to even make mistakes with the goal of breaking the culture-imposed boundaries of who God is.

“My faith is like ____________ because it is _________________ . “

To force comparisons that stretch the mind.  That stretch our faith.  That stretch our worn out understandings of who God is and what God can do in and through us.  I am still giggling about when he asked us if we could compare our faith to our pancreas.  Or the Jihad.  Try, folks….do it!

The next morning…Romal Tune and Emily Freeman talked to us and we delved into seminars, hearing about Truth Telling from Alia Joy, The Holy Mundane of the Daily Lives of Holy Writers with A.J. Swododa, the Art of Questioning with Shane Blackshear and even a closing hour with Wm. Paul Young, author of The Shack.  Clearly I could write pages and pages about each of these seminars and talks, but for me?  The take away is one full of blessing, richness, meatiness, love and mental exhaustion/fullness.  I had opportunities to sit next to and talk with bloggers and writers I have long admired and realize…they are human.  And real.  And kind.  And funny.  Rather than feel like a D-list celebrity amongst A-listers, it was a sweet time of connection and laughter and listening.  Matt and I had the gift of attending together and sharing a huff and puff hike up Mt. Tabor along with conversation in and through seminars and speakers which was awesome.  After Easter and Parent-Teacher Conference mayhem, not to mention busy children duties, it was so refreshing to walk, eat, listen and rest.

However, as the saying goes, even on retreat, even at a conference like this, there is discomfort and moments of sighs and deep breaths.  Opportunities to lean in (or back like I often due after eating too much yummy Portland food), knowing that you are full, but just need time for it to digest and work its way through your being.  So I am stopping for now.  Maybe will try and catch a few minutes of Dancing with the Stars and fall asleep to dreams of VooDoo Doughnuts and thoughts about Leaning into the Discomfort knowing the truth of Zechariah 4:10. {thanks, Romal, for the reminder of this verse!}

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.”

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Facing Dark Mountains

13 03 2015

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“Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” Everyone is probably familiar with those iconic lines, read more times than is countable to sleepy babies and toddlers while predicting who will be seen next. Bill Martin Jr. is known for his prose and stories and collaboration with Eric Carle who illustrated these classics.

In my classroom, we have been delving into another work of Bill Martin, Jr. with my students called Knots on a Counting Rope. In my opinion, worthy of “classic status” too, but you may not have heard of it.

 

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In Knots on a Counting Rope, a boy, born blind, enlists his Grandfather to tell the story of his birth and of a horserace…to hear again and again the story of his life passed on orally so that he might remember it himself one day. Through some of the most beautiful language, Grandfather paints the picture of the Boy’s birth. The emotions are raw and the scene created is vivid. Boy connects with a horse who becomes his eyes. They become one, bonded in a deep way, allowing the boy to eventually compete in a horse race.

Dark mountains, the Grandfather narrates, were in the path, though. Inevitable. The boy faced many. Learning to sense the time of day without his own sight.   Figuring out the path, without vision to guide him. Even the boy’s own birth which was wrought with health challenges. Dark mountains all around.

Grandfather reminds him that he has walked right up and through many hard times. Moments and situations filled with fear. And…the surprise? Grandfather doesn’t shy away from reminding him there will be dark mountains to come. That he’s not done with those looming fears. More await on the horizon.

I looked out into my classroom and the weight of this storyline felt a bit too real. So many dark mountains faced. So many to come. At home, I see those mountains or maybe I start conjuring them up in my mind’s eye. Parenting often feels like one big, insurmountable dark mountain.

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Both at home and at school, I have felt a push from God saying, “It’s time to face those dark mountains.” We took a moment yesterday at that fork in the road. These moments arise every year during the teaching cycle. That split second where the power of narrative and story give the opportunity to go deeper, get personal, be real.

We named the theme. We talked about why Bill Martin, Jr. would create characters like Grandfather whose traits of patience and love would push him to share hard truths with his Boy. Why would he remind this Boy that there was more to fear up ahead? That even after facing and conquering one of his biggest fears, he should dig in to wrestle more?

And then the hands shot up and the truth – telling started. Authentic, real, “these are my dark mountains” talk. Third graders like to bring it all back to themselves, their own stories and narratives. Often. But sometimes, letting them tell their own dark mountains, not in long drawn out confessions, but simple naming, is needed. Community is deepened. Fears are heard. Peers can support one another knowing they may face dark mountains at home, virtually alone, but at least at school, they have companions. People who can remind them they CAN make it through.

Moments after this classroom confessional, the texts started rolling in. At recess I glanced at my phone to see friends sharing kids’ illnesses. We have been battling our own stomach bugs in my house for the last six days and it has been a dark mountain, indeed. Most people are grounded and calm about such things, but not me. I am an anxiety – ridden mess when it comes to the flu.

Dark Mountain Numero Uno.

But the love flowed over the text messages. Humor was found. Bonds are strengthened as we walk through these real life, everyday, sometimes yucky moments….together.

I went to pick up my eldest from school later in the afternoon and saw four moms whose kids I adore and who I truly love as well. The moms. The teachers. The colleagues. The ones who bring you Gatorade, Kombucha and bubble wands to lift you up while climbing the dark mountain. Others who bring daffodils and cookies and sit with you after a long night without sleep. Neighbors who make soup and bring bread when you can’t leave home long enough to go to the store. Family who send email and walk you through the midst of the scary (going into the grocery store in workout clothes, sans bra, in dress shoes…a dark mountain all its own!). A husband who cleans up every known bodily fluid of sick kids as I cower in the corner, shaking.

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It’s in these everyday moments that God speaks to me. God uses those around me to say, “You can do this. You’ve got this. You’ve done it before. Breathe and walk.” As we parent, may we remember the bold honesty of my students who named their mountains. To know that the challenges and fears are not taken away with a big POOF by our great God. But that in naming those places, by walking with others in their dark moments, we are given the reminder that we aren’t alone. That in the fearful places yet to come, we will have what we need to keep walking, even when the path begins to wind up a dark mountain.





What God Can Do Within the Dust

18 02 2015

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Mt. Angel Abbey Belltower Door

{Sharon, our associate pastor, read this at the Ash Wednesday service today. I absolutely loved it.}

 

 

Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.
Jan Richardson

 

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Picking up my Postal Worker from preschool,

he yelled out to all the homeless folks in Central Park,

“Look at Mom’s new, cool tattoo!”





The Fringe Hours

17 02 2015

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Sometimes self care seems extremely selfish.  Making time to invest in oneself feels frivolous.  Often it seems like more effort to push through the barriers and prioritize the things that give life than just sitting on the couch, lapping up reality tv.

Monday morning gave me an unexpected moment to practice this potentially selfish and frivolous thing.  I was shocked to see a clear sky, yellows, pinks, oranges pushing the blue of night away.  I grabbed my coffee and ran out to cozy up on the deck and take in the sunrise.  The birds were singing.  It was so restorative.  Simple.  Free.  Only 15 minutes.  And yet, such a rich, almost indulgent way to start the day.  Truly doing things from the soul allowing me to feel that true river of joy as Rumi coined.

As a Type A girl through and through, known for strong tendencies to overcommit and spread myself thin, I jumped at the chance last November to be part of Jessica Turner’s launch team for her upcoming book, The Fringe Hours.  This book explores the ways the “must dos” of life push out the activities and balance we need to take care of ourselves and our passions.   To see how life giving and life changing it can be to embrace the activities that we love, that allow for self-care.

Women, in general, tend to swing towards guilt and comparison rather than perspective and community and rest.  Success is measured in to-do lists completed and the impossible balanced effortlessly without breaking a sweat or swear word.  Living well can be a very gray area.  Is living well about achievement at all costs or about finding balance?  My calendar might be neatly scheduled but if my family is overwhelmed with to many commitments there is no true balance.

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Finding the “fringe hours”, as Jessica writes, requires first looking at the places in ourselves of deeply rooted beliefs.  What pressures do we put on ourselves?  Where do we operate out of guilt and comparison?  When we work on identifying how to prioritize caring for ourselves, we have to first figure out what that even MEANS.  As we approach almost eight years of interrupted sleep in our household, I sometimes find it hard to pinpoint what is life giving anymore.  Sometimes the zoned out mind, comfortably settled on the couch after the boys are in bed feels like the most life-giving outlet I can fathom.

And yet…there is more there under the surface.  For me, reading the Fringe Hours helped me re-tap into these areas of passion.  Photography.  Cooking.  Reading.  Making memory books for my family with photographs.  Traveling. Enjoying a hike or walk with a friend. Sometimes these pursuits feel too decadent, though, and Jessica’s book was a deep reminder to me of the ways these passions can be prioritized and pursued in the time we have.  Standing in line at the post office can be enriched when I have a book in my purse.  Keeping a few notecards in my bag allows for a moment in the waiting room to be used to get a thank you note written.  Keeping my phone memory free to take pictures when beauty crops up unexpectedly allows me to remember my love for framing the world around me.  Planning a fun, unusual meal once a week after reading the latest copy of Bon Appetit.  Sitting down with my eldest and reading together over a cup of tea each night.  He gets in his 20 minutes of required reading and I do too.  Sitting down at the dining room table to actually eat and digest my lunch over that day’s Suduko puzzle. Enjoying a podcast from a favorite author or blogger on my way to work in the morning.  These are the fringe moments that might have passed me by before, but for which I am now keeping alert for.

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My Dad just sent me this picture to remind me that my love for photography started young…perfect timing.

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The Fringe Hours isn’t a book to allow maximum time efficiency and thus a perfect, productive life.  Jessica Turner’s goal is to help us see what passions truly make us tick as individuals.  To overcome the fears resulting in comparison and guilt and pursue taking care of ourselves.  The heart of her message is “finding underused pockets of time in [our] schedule and utilizing them for [ourselves].”  To say no to some things.  To prioritize other pursuits to allow for fuller, richer days.

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The chapter on “Finding Rest”, the spiritual practice of Sabbath, was the most meaningful for me.  Jessica reminded that if we don’t take time to be still and rest, that we will eventually suffer.  That in “relentless busyness….we have lost the rhythm between work and rest.”  (Wayne Muller)

She quotes Muller again, “Without rest, we respond from a survival mode, where everything we meet assumes a terrifying prominence….Sabbath time may be anything that preserves a visceral experience of life-giving nourishment and rest….the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing or true.”

Finding the fringe hours isn’t easy, but it is vital for a balanced, rich life.  For me, even reading this book meant finding time to make it happen–during bath time!  (aka:  parallel play at its finest).

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I hope you will consider getting your own copy of Jessica’s book, The Fringe Hours.  I was provided with a free copy of her words in exchange for sharing my thoughts here.  But, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.  You will be asked to do hard inward work, but it is the topic that I find at the forefront of almost all of my conversations these days—how to not loose our truest sense of self in the midst of day-to-day life.  Sometimes we really need the reminder to stop trying to be everything for everyone and start investing in who and what really matters.

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The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You

Order where books are sold, including:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and DaySpring

Learn more and access resources at www.FringeHours.com

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Just Let ME Do It!!!

30 01 2015

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“MOOOOMMMMM!!!! Just let ME do it….PLEASE!”

 

I gripped my hands together, white knuckles blazing, praying to God while rolling my eyes and sighing deeply. I asked for patience. For a power outage. For a change of heart on his part. For a miracle & automatic proficiency. Nothing. Crickets. Just slow moving of the mouse. Whispering under his breath. And…improperly sized fonts and photo placement.

 

A few weeks back, on a Sunday afternoon (the same day as the NFC Championship Game to be exact) my seven year old decided it was time to produce and direct the creation of this year’s valentines. If you watched or heard anything about that game, you know the last half of the fourth quarter was pretty insane. Being pulled away to set up photo shoots and guide LEGO placement was not my top priority. I am a fair weather sports fan, but seeing the Seahawks in the Super Bowl for another year is pretty exciting for this former Washington State native. And thus, I was a little bit distracted.

 

Each year, we create photo Valentines as they can be a bit more personal and individualized. I have had many parent acquaintances comment that seeing the actual face of their child’s classmate is also helpful with connecting names with identity. Sometimes we’ll doctor up a photo we already took earlier in the past year. For the past two years, however, my eldest has wanted to create a brand new photo narrative all his own.

 

After ruling out “regular LEGOS” (clearly, SO 2014…), he went with a LEGO Movie theme. We cruised Pinterest for snarky, creative sayings that were the perfect marriage of the LEGO Movie with Valentine’s Day. Next, he set about collecting his Mini Figures and building a backdrop, planning each scene of his storyboard, deciding which characters would go with each phrases/themes.

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This process sounds serene. Creative. Calm. But….no. It wasn’t. There was shrill yelling. Sighs and Groans. Frustration over uncooperative LEGOS. Annoyance when Wyld Style was nowhere to be found. I kept rushing back to the TV to rewind and see Russell Wilson’s latest intercepted pass or the insane progression that led to the Seahawks win in Overtime. “Mom…aren’t you going to come help me?!? Don’t you CARE?!?!?”

 

It is a delicate balance. Helping. Offering/forcing independence, knowing full well that moments later they will be demanding for US to be hands off, allowing them to “DO IT MYSELF.”

 

“PLEASE, HELP ME.”

 

“MOM! Don’t do it for me! I can DO IT!”

 

Verbal whiplash….over Valentines. Over LEGOS.

 

The holiday focused on demonstrating love and affection through sentimental words—peppered with yelling and cries for independence.

 

Ironic. Don’t you think?!

 

After getting all the shots we hoped for, the game had finally concluded and my blood pressure could lower itself a bit. We trooped upstairs to sit down with the photos and start editing and designing on Picasa. Realizing we needed word bubbles and new fonts, we started researching, with Mom at the helm.

 

Quickly, though, I realized I needed to move to the stool and let him take the reins. I am an elementary school teacher and after fourteen classes of students, you’d think I would apply my pedagogy to my own parenting. Growth, learning and progress are never made by doing the work for the students. My current job share partner has perfected and modeled the phrase for me, “The only way the work goes away is if you do the work.” It would seem so much easier to just do it for them—say the word they are painstakingly sounding out, tell them the answer to multiplication fact they can’t recall, help make their paragraph flow with some choice words or ideas. But we all know that that won’t lead to independence. Rather, it is a delicate balance of guidance, support, silence, and presence that will get us there in the end.

 

So I sat on my hands. I tried to use calm words as I directed him through the steps. And over an hour later, he’d finished. And we both survived, mostly unscathed, even if my face resembled Angry Unikitty behind his back.

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Are there spiritual implications for these moments with our children? The daily practice of letting them learn and grow in independence? The hourly opportunities to bite our tongues and let our kids even fail, knowing growth may be on the horizon? I can only imagine the uncountable moments that God doles out patience, supporting us as we slog through the unknown. Watching our decisions when we find ourselves in the frustrating moments when we can choose to grow or stay fixed in our mindset. I’m guessing God doesn’t sit on hands or roll eyes to cope, rather sees the potential in the rocky road ahead.

 

I am grateful for the promise of a companion as I navigate these parenting moments, failing at many turns. An “in person” partner in my spouse, but also another Presence too, the Holy Spirit. Our Comforter. Our Counselor. Our Helper. Our Advocate. Our Strengthener. One who intercedes for us when we don’t have words. (John 14:26)

 

The Holy Spirit shows us the way we should be walking in too…serving as an advocate for our children. A counselor and helper. A strengthener. Not always dishing out words, advice and “let Mommy just do it for you”….but standing with them, guiding, often as a silent presence.

 

This approach to my role as Mom feels impossible to me on most days as I use words, LOUD words, to “guide”, as I am forced to sit on my hands or take a break in my own room behind a locked door to keep myself in check. But as we seek to have this mindset, the mindset the Holy Spirit graciously takes with us, we will realize the reality that we aren’t sent out to do this work alone. We are given this same Comforter, Advocate, Strengthener and Counselor to help us and walk alongside us, even when our own words and actions scream, “Just let ME do it!”.

LEGOland&SanDiego1

 

{This post is part of my monthly contribution at Practicing Families.  Feel free to hop over there too!….}





Daily “Yes” & A Winner

7 01 2015

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What is your “Daily Yes”?  What are the things you say “yes” to each and every day?  Getting up?  Squeezing in a workout?  Coffee?  Work?  Mascara?  Toys from the dollar bins at Target?  Just {{ONE}} more volunteer commitment?  Sitting down with the paper?  Skipping breakfast?  Watching reality tv in the evening?  Putting off bedtime to accomplish one more task?

I am a constant list writer, finding paper lists as one of my daily yeses.  It may house basic mundane tasks, but somedays, without it written down, it just doesn’t get done.  Today’s list included 8 cards I need to finish up and mail.  But…I sat down to lunch first.  Made a hot cup of PG tips tea.  Read the morning paper and did the Suduko.  Put Drew in front of a DVD from the church library.

Lately, as with many new year’s in the recent past, there is a new influx of requests and commitments.  Classes to sign up for.  Events to add to the calendar and plan.  Getting back into the swing of school and work.  And the pressure to do it all.  The conundrum of the urgent vs. the important.

The holidays took a toll on my students and it is palpable.  Divorces are being finalized.  Terminal Illness worsens.  Transiency has lead to some eminent moves.  And as we reflected back on 2014 and are working to set goals for 2015, it has felt a little raw and painful in my classroom.  Change is hard.  Seeing ourselves for who we really are isn’t always full of sparkles and glitter and confetti.

I keep bumping my own head up against the wall of “shoulds”.  I SHOULD say yes to this-or-that commitment.  I SHOULD wash and put away the dishes vs. sitting down and reading the paper.  I SHOULD be planning weeks in advance for school and writing detailed lesson goals.  I SHOULD be doing something…..ANYTHING…but sitting and watching tv.  SHOULD.  SHOULD.  SHOULD.

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But this week, I sunk into my book that was coming due at the library and found I have a lot more time in my schedule for reading than I seem to think.  My eldest needs to read each day for homework and we have settled into a rhythm of doing that together, side-by-side on the couch while youngest fights bedtime elsewhere.

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Last weekend, on our anniversary, nonetheless, we decided to embrace the crazy plan of heading to Portland to the Oregon Zoo for Zoo Lights on Saturday, our 11th anniversary.  We had plans in Bend but those were cancelled due to illness. Then booked dinner for a fancy place in Albany. We cancelled those in order to take advantage of the last weekend of Zoo Lights. Drove all the way to Portland and “marked time” at Powell’s Books and had a fun dinner at Tilt. New book purchases made our dining a bit more calm and manageable as the kids were occupied. And then the fated drive over to the zoo. Evidently all of Portland had the same idea. Scratch that, all of Oregon. Finally after 45 minutes of stop and go, parking lot mayhem, we decided just to get out of dodge and go home. I was fuming inside. Feeling angry with myself for not knowing what would unfold there ahead of time. For not planning better. Drove home in silence while the kids watched Lion King for the millionth time. About 10 min from home our eldest piped up that it was so much better to be almost home vs almost into zoo lights at 7pm.

I laughed at the resiliency of kids knowing standing in long lines is not their strong suit. That being home was much better. Got the kids to bed and watched a riveting episode of Railroad Alaska (slightly snarky tone) and went to bed exhausted at 9:15. And that was anniversary #11. But this quote from DREW’s book tied it all up in my mind. So so true….”adventure is best enjoyed together.” I am sure we will look back in this and laugh at the “11th Anniversary Adventure.” 

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Sometimes the SHOULDS (Zoo Lights) really are too much.  The SHOULDS should be left alone.

The book I’m currently reading (pictured at the top), The Best Yes, focuses not just on saying “yes” or “no”, but thinking about the BEST “yes”.  And really, most of the time, the best yes involves people.  Saying yes to what puts people first, not commitments and events and shoulds.

Luckily the night after the Portland debacle, we still had a wonderful, kid-free night out for dinner.  And saying no to dishes, laundry, the to-do list for a few minutes has been allowing me to recharge.  I am not sure if it’s the foggy layer that has socked in the Willamette Valley this week, but for me?  I am feeling this same need to focus in and stay put and present.  My best yes has been staying more in the moment at hand and not allowing guilt to take over.

Today this mentality allowed me to watch one of my lowest readers light up when he realized he could read an Elephant and Piggie book by the amazing Mo Willems.  As a 3rd grader, reading 10 words per minute, it can be a very painful reality to have so much text thrown at you and feel unable to understand it.  But he GOT Elephant and Piggie and was breakdancing (literally) after reading it cover to cover with expression.

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So today’s yes is pushing me to let the moments at hand take precedence.  To take in the red and yellow ninjas, read that extra chapter, struggle through the suduko, play a few extra minutes at the park and let the “shoulds” go.

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* * * * * * * * * *

Back on the 30th, I posted a little giveaway for a copy of Kathi Lipp’s new book, Clutter Free.  And the winner has been chosen via “True Random Number Generator”.  Whitney Hillestad?  Your book will be on it’s way soon…and in the meantime, PURGE PURGE PURGE!

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