Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You Have to be There

I am so small on this earth, I am nothing without You;
Daring to doubt You at all turns the knife in my heart...
"You Have To Be There" from "Kristina from Duvemåla"


My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Psalm 22:1-2 

photo by Mutasim Billah Pritam

Can I be perfectly honest? Some days I just don't have this whole faith thing figured out. I stand in church and I mouth the words to songs that skim like a skipping stone along the surface of my day and I don't know what any of it means. I sit down in the mornings, coffee in hand, with Bible and highlighter and it's all just words that crumble if I try to grasp them. I pray and I wonder if anyone is listening. I wonder what the magic trick is to figuring this all out, to being one of those so sure and steady in their faith.

Am I too much a cynic?

I scan back through words written over the years. Some days it seems that I understood it, that I grasped this idea of God-love pouring over our lives. Or were they just words? I wonder if I'm all talk and no substance.

Am I a fake?

I read through the picture Bible with my boys and they want to know why Isaac is on the altar and I don't know the answer other than that God told his dad to sacrifice him and Abraham said 'OK' because he loved God more than anything. I don't know how to tell them this without raising the specter of "What if God asked you to sacrifice me?" And I don't know how to tell them that if it came down to that I would choose them over God any day.

Am I a bad Christian?

I have not suffered. I have never lost a child, a job, a house, a life. I have never gone hungry, never known the pain of terminal illness, of famine, of war. I am loved by my husband and my children. I have friends. My petty trials have been so very easy, so fleeting in the grand scheme of things. How can I have all this and be so small in my faith compared to those who have suffered loss, pain, sickness? How dare I doubt?

Am I simply weak?

I know that God can handle my questions. I know that I don't have to have everything figured out. But sometimes I feel like the least certain of his children, the one in the back of the crowd trying to get a glimpse of him but always falling off of whatever I've climbed up on for a view. And yet I stay here, because where else would I go? Even if I can't see him, he HAS to be there.


Note: I first heard this song almost a month ago, and have spent the past month writing and re-writing this post trying to articulate why this song resonates with me on such a deep, gut-wrenching level. And thus the quiet on my blog, because every time I opened it this post was staring at me, daring me to finish it before I wrote another word. I can't be all light and happy and 'oh, look at the room we just painted' at the cost of being authentic. So here it is. Here I am.


Sharing this bit of myself on Life: Unmasked at Joy in this Journey.

Life: Unmasked

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

To a First Grade teacher



Dear teacher of my youngest child:

I met you at the school open house last night, and you seemed to be everything I want in a first grade teacher: warm, open, caring, a person who relates instantly with children, who can get my shy child to actually tell you his name! I’m looking forward to this year with you and to everything that you will teach my child.

Before I hand him off to you for nearly seven hours a day though, there are some things I want you to know about my child. Oh, I know that you had us fill out a paper at the open house “My child in a million words or less.” But I’m an introvert and I don’t process thoughts that quickly, and I’m a word person who can’t distill my child into a few short paragraphs. So here is what I would have told you about this child, one of the great loves of my life…

From the moment he was born I was sure this was going to be my extroverted child. Whatever he did he did with gusto and went after it with a single minded determination. Imagine my surprise, then, to discover a few years into his life that he takes more after his introverted mother. This child will play well with a few close friends, but everyone else gets the shy head duck. Even classmates he spent the past year with will be nearly strangers if he meets them in public.

A classic introvert, he wants to please and he craves affection. This can sometimes get him carried away with clowning around because he loves to make people laugh. He loves to get reactions from people. It has taken me several years to realize that this is his way of saying “Here I am, SEE me! Notice me!” I’m learning that what he really wants most is the connection, the hand on the shoulder, the smile, and the affirmation of who he is.

In solitude he has one of the richest imaginations I’ve ever seen. He will sit for hours by our refrigerator playing with the magnetic poetry words. Not so much reading them as turning them into characters in whatever elaborate story he happens to be making up at the moment. They are spaceships, they are monsters, and they are animals and people and a thousand other things living out their story on a white background. Give him outlets for his imagination and watch him come to life.

This desire for solitude will be your biggest challenge, as it is mine. There will be many days when he just doesn’t want to go to school. I’m beginning to suspect they are the days he just wants to hole up in the introvert cave and be silent, the days he wants it to be just him and me. Be gentle with him on those days. You will know them because he will arrive at school with tear streaked face and stubborn eyes. He’s lost the battle to stay home, and I’m counting on you to remind him that school can also be a safe and nurturing place.

Delight in and nurture his imagination.

Be patient with his frustration when he struggles to master a concept. (Anything linear; days of the week, time, math…these are the things he will struggle with.)

Be gentle but firm when he acts out. He will get carried away; he will need to be reminded.

Most of all, love him. Love him because I worry that loving him from a distance won’t be enough to carry him through his days. Love him because he is loveable. Love him because he is my child, because he is anybody’s child.

I’m giving you the sacred trust of helping to teach my child. I wouldn’t hand that over to just anybody. I wouldn’t hand HIM over to just anybody. Be worthy of that trust.

Sincerely,
A mother


Friday, August 5, 2011

What I'm reading - August Edition


The problem with reading blogs is that occasionally frequently they will review books that sound really interesting. This is causing my 'to-read' list over at Goodreads to increase beyond what I could possibly read in at least the next six months. And every time I knock a book off, two or three more come to take its place. This could get expensive if I bought every book, fortunately we have a great library system that has most of them available. But sometimes books hover at the top of my list for awhile and the library doesn't have them and I never win any of the free copies given away on blogs, so I give up and order them. I just got an order in this week, so suddenly my pile of books has grown dramatically. Here's what I'm reading, or contemplating reading, this month.

Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna. This is a library book that I'm about half-way through. So far it has been a surprisingly easy read (there are copious footnotes and references at the bottom of each page for the more scholarly minded). The book explores the roots of...well, just about EVERYTHING we do or see in church. From the set-up of the building, to what we wear to the order of service this book shows where those practices came from and how they deviate from what the 1st century church looked like and was intended to be.

OK, I wasn't naive enough to think that the early church looked like how we do things now. Still, it is eye-opening to see just how we differ and why that can hinder the church functioning in the way it was intended to function. No, I'm not ready to run out and join a house church; I love the church I'm at too much for that. But this book is making me rethink how we function as a body and wonder if there is any way to move back at all.

Following somewhat off that is the next book on my list Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh. If you know me you know that I am an introvert's introvert. There's not even any question about it. My 'I' on the Meyers Briggs is about as heavily weighted of an I as you can get. So from the moment I saw this book reviewed I knew I had to read it, because honestly the attitude of the many wonderful extroverts I know that with God's help I can exhibit my passion just like them is getting a little bit wearying. If God wanted me to act like them then wouldn't he have made me an extrovert? This book is about introverts finding our place in a church that values extroverts as the highest example of the what we should attain to. It is a book for introverts like me, struggling to find their place. It is a book for the extroverts who love us, to help them understand that we are not simply less passionate versions of themselves. It is a book for the 25% of pastors who are introverts in a position where people expect them to be extroverts. It as a book for the members of their churches wondering why their pastor doesn't act the way they think a pastor ought to act. In other words, its a book for all of us.

The next book on my list is Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women by Carolyn Custis James. (Are you detecting a theme here?) This book is my antidote to the teaching of 'what a Godly Christian Woman (TM) looks like'. It takes away the assumption that all women operate on the same economic or stage of life footing and examines what God really calls us to be.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Kristof and WuDunn is next on my list. (See, I just took the theme and turned a corner!) This one hit my list mainly because I am passionate about women's and children's issues and am trying to figure out how to direct that passion.

And finally Just Moms: Conveying Justice in an Unjust World, a compilation of stories from 27 authors on modeling Christian social-justice principles for our children. I will admit that so far this one is my favorite because it is SO readable. Every story is short, every story is self-contained, every story is REAL! This is the perfect book for moms like myself who are right the thick of mothering and wondering how to teach our children about things like simplicity, equality, peace, and giving. It is a book to reassure us that we don't have to follow some program and get it perfect, that we don't have to turn out perfect little activists. We just have to be real, and allow our children to be real as well.

Oh, ok, that's not the last book in my list. Lest you think I'm all about the non-fiction let me assure you that my primary delight is fiction and this month I am also reading:

Unwind which I need to pick up from the library today and also A Game of Thrones because it has been awhile since I geeked out on a good epic fantasy. I may also work a few cheesy mysteries and chick-lit books in there as well. I am so not an intellectual!

So, that's what I'm reading, what about you?

P.S. I can't possibly read all of these books at once, so if anyone in this area really wants to borrow one I will happily lend it out.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Let us not grow weary...

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Gal. 6:9 (ESV) 

I see them staring out from my computer screen. Faces of children dying of starvation in Somalia; 29,000 of them in the last three months. That is JUST the number for those under the age of five. That would be all but 7,000 of the preschoolers in Washington, DC. Half of the preschoolers in Delaware or South Dakota. 1 out of every 100 in California. I read the news stories and I glance at the comments hoping to see people moved to help. I need to stop reading the comments, because how can people look into the face of suffering like this and be so hateful, so vengeful, so unmoved?


I read the stories from bloggers currently traveling in Bolivia with World Vision. More faces of children, more stories of poverty, of children walking an hour to get to school, of fathers leaving families to find work and never returning. Stories that bring tears to my eyes and rip holes in my heart. And I hear the frustration in the words of the bloggers as they report that their blog stats are down because apparently people don't want to hear about the broken places.

The other week our family participated in the annual Minn-Kota  Festival for World Relief. This sale takes place to help support the relief, development and peace branch of our denomination's ministry, Mennonite Central Committee. Handmade quilts, wooden furnishings and a variety of other items are auctioned off, theme baskets are created for the silent auction, food abounds. But every year the sale is smaller, every year it seems that fewer people attend. People in our age group just don't make the effort.


Indy after a busy day at the sale
What's the deal? Have we grown weary of doing good? Is there too much suffering in the world for us to comprehend and so we close ourselves off because the small difference we could make doesn't seem to be enough? Are we so caught up in our lives that we just don't care enough to make the effort to help?

I wish that I could instantly help every child who needs it. I wish that I could change the world. I wish that I weren't so self-centered sometimes, that I could think more of growing the kingdom of God and less of growing my possessions. I wish that I could find more ways to consume less and give more. I wish that I didn't feel such a pull to live like everyone else around me.

And so I start small, because small is what I do best. I glue a map of Africa to a jar and set it on the kitchen table. I toss in the coins because they are just change and really I won't miss eighty cents, will I? And eighty cents grows into two dollars and then three and I start to look for more ways to make a change. I step on the scale and I'm pretty sure it's broken and I should get a new one...but do I really need something to tell me that I'm still eating too much? Couldn't that $25 feed a family instead?

I clear my closets and bag the excess to take to a thrift store. Double blessings here because maybe someone will have clothes they couldn't afford, and proceeds from this store go for world relief. My children want to know why we don't have a garage sale and all I can say is 'because we don't need to'. And we don't. I am not so poor that I can't afford to give away.

So I keep going with small. A dollar here, a dollar there. I can't change the world, but I can change the way I see it. I can change myself. I can refuse to grow weary of doing good.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Potluck

Can I make a confession? A confession that could potentially alienate my friends or at least cause them to roll their eyes and say "Really? Get over yourself!"

I am a competitive potlucker. It is sort of like my own mini version of 'Throwdown with Bobby Flay' or 'The Next Food Network Star'. Oh come on, don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about! Either you do this or you know exactly the woman at your church of whom I speak.


There's a church potluck tomorrow and I began mapping out my strategy early this morning. (Yeah, I'm a lightweight. A real competitive potlucker starts the moment the potluck is announced.) Should I bring one dish or two? One dish allows me to pull out all the stops and really give that dish my full attention. But if it fails then I have just brought one really bad dish that no one likes. Two dishes means I must divide my time and attention, but there is greater chance that at least one of them will be a rousing success. OK, two dishes it is. Best to do a main and a dessert, there's just not as much glory to be had in a really well done salad. But it IS summer and pushing 100 both outside and apparently in my kitchen as well, so I'll do a salad-y sort of main dish. Risky, but necessary.

Once the courses are decided on the searching begins. Go with a tried and true recipe, or find something new off the internet? Take a risk on a recipe on a food blog that doesn't come with a rating or use a site that has handy stars or forks to rate how highly recommended a recipe comes. Stars are always good, preferably from several hundred people or more. Nine hundred people can't be wrong, right?


Hmm. Blueberry zucchini bread? Interesting. Summery, should hit about the right note. Do I go for the full sugar that I know earned it a lot of those rave reviews, or follow my instincts and the advice of the more health conscious reviewers and reduce it by half? Ah, health consciousness, I hope you won't be my downfall...half the sugar it is. Oh, one reviewer added streusel topping; should I do that? Nah, I think I'm going to aim for the 'simple knockout' strategy on this recipe. Into the oven it goes.

Whew, it's getting hot in my kitchen!

Salad time! Did I mention that there are bonus points to be had from knowing that some people love the lack of highly processed ingredients? Yep, there are. Hmm. The ramen noodles may take me down a peg, but the dressing is all homemade. And once again the heat wins out as I chop up a rotisserie chicken instead of preparing my own.


When the day of the potluck dawns I will cart my offerings to church and lay them out on the altar of fellowship. I will sample the foods that others have brought, I will watch the dishes to see which item disappears first. (It's always the pizza and KFC, but I'm not counting those.) Did someone just take seconds of my dish? Point! Did someone at my table just say "Wow, this bread is amazing? Who brought this?" Double point! Triple points if a short conversation ensues between several parties about how good it is. Bonus if I get asked for the recipe after humbly declaring my ownership of the item in question.

Yes folks, I am indeed competitive about my potlucks. But in the end, whether I succeed or fail the truly wonderful thing is gathering with my church family. Some of them can't cook worth a hoot, bless their hearts, but I couldn't think of anyone I would rather have fellowship with, no one I would rather laugh with, chat with or drink powdered lemonade with. So bring on the potluck, and may we all go home satisfied!

Disclaimer: This is slightly tongue in cheek, I'm not really THAT competitive. Maybe.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review - The Muir House

The Muir House
Link to Amazon
When I received The Muir House in the mail I jumped in and began to devour it in my typical 'Let's read this book as fast as I can because there are more books to be read and I don't have time for them all' fashion. And then I slowed down, because this book is just too good to rush through. Unlike many pop Christian authors Mary DeMuth writes with nuance and with symbolism that invites the reader to slow down and savor her books, mulling over characters, pondering thematic elements and sinking into the sense of place that often develops in each book.

After finishing I sat down to write my review. And then I got up without writing a word. The next time I think I got about three sentences on screen before giving up. Because the truth is, I loved The Muir House so much and want everyone to read it that I'm afraid a less than polished review won't do it justice. Sigh. Apparently I have taken the entire weight of DeMuth's career upon my own shoulders. Yeah, I have an overblown sense of my own importance like that.

But enough about me, on to actually reviewing the book. Did I mention it was good?

Willa Muir has just been proposed to by the man she loves. She walks away with the ring on her finger but with her future with Hale the green smoothie-drinking quasi-hippie boyfriend still in doubt. (Oh, how I love the descriptions of Hale!) Because Willa can't say yes, can't move forward with her life until she answers the one burning question that has consumed her for years. Events transpire fairly quickly that thrust her back to the place she does not want to go, the only place that still may hold the answers she is looking for. Questions of what defines home and how one finds it when what you have had is less than perfect are central to the story in The Muir House. Walls, houses and building become symbols for the internal journey even as they relate to the plot of the book.

Can I just be honest for a moment? There are times I wanted to smack Willa for refusing to move on with her life because of questions in her past. This is, I think, what makes this such a good book. Because after I think about smacking some sense into her I start to think about how much I may do something similar in my life. This is the beauty of DeMuth's writing, the flawed character with whom we can identify. I quickly tire of characters who solve every problem with perfect Christian composure and the scripture to back it up. I can relate to a character who is unavoidably messy, incredibly real, and DeMuth's books always have their share of messy. Even the perfect Hale deserved a little shaking at some moments.

Although neither a suspense nor a mystery book, this book contains enough questions to satisfy a mystery lover. Characters are introduced, past conversations are alluded to and gradually we piece together the story of who each person is, how they fit into Willa's life and the role they play in shaping her memories.The conclusion is neither saccharine sweet nor forced into a reality-defying turn of events that requires suspension of all common sense. It was, in fact, a satisfying conclusion that left me hoping for the possibility of a second book focusing on other characters in Willa's story.

Mary DeMuth gets better with every book she writes. Old fans will no doubt love this book as much as the others, and I hope that new fans are created who will then go back to seek out some of her past writing. She is well worth the time.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in hopes that I would provide a favorable review. All opinions expressed in my review, however, are 100% my own.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mama angst

I dropped him off at camp today, oldest child, newly sprung from 3rd grade, looking somehow smaller than all the other children even though this is supposed to be 3rd grade camp. What are all these other parents feeding their children, Miracle Gro?

Him, excited, nearly spinning himself into mental circles with the wondering of "What do we do next?"

Me, nervous, nearly falling down under the weight of the wondering "Will he be ok?"

Him, picking a bottom and then changing to a top bunk.

Me, remembering my husband's "I had a few campers fall out of the top bunk every year," not knowing what to say to him in front of his peers that wouldn't make him lose face, wouldn't take the light out of his eyes. Closing my eyes and trusting God to guard his sleep.

Him, wanting to change into his camp shirt right away.

Me, making him wait because 'none of the other boys are changing right now, so why don't you wait until they do?' All I want for him these next two days is that he 'fit in'.

And then there was the running off and me begging for a goodbye and him moving on and me getting in the car and driving away wondering if these boys barely old enough to shave are really capable of caring for my child. Despite my providing the camp with a guide to the hallmarks of Aspergers and the areas Gates will most likely struggle in, are they REALLY ready? Will his heart and his soul be nurtured or will I get back a child scarred when the dearly desired experience turns sour?

I come home and I worry. Worry about the bathroom and what if he needs to go in the middle of the night but is so frightened by the dark and wind that he wanders into the lake? Worry that he will be so overcome with newness that he will sink to the ground overwhelmed and no one will hear his cries over the wind. Worry that for two days no one will talk to him. Worry that the shine of camp will dull and cut too quickly.

I do not worry that other children will find him strange. I know they will. But will they find him loveable? Will they see the heart that I see? Will they marvel at the knowledge held in his mind? When he laughs too loudly, will they laugh with him? Will the staff be a safe place for him to fall?

I open Facebook and I see a Twitter update from a favorite author. Just one verse and nothing more.
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deut. 31:8, NIV)
God himself going before us. Going before my child. Never leaving him, never forsaking him. I am not there, but God is. And God cares and loves and knows him more than my wildest abilities.

If I say I'm not still worried, I would be lying. My frantic Facebook updates chronicle my restraint in NOT emailing the camp to see if he has survived the last 4 hours. But I am trying to rest in this, the exhortation not to be afraid. God is there.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Get well soon and don't touch me

One of the challenges for a child with Aspergers is helping them to learn empathy. To say it doesn't come naturally to them would be VASTLY understating the issue. So it came as a bit of a shock to me this morning when Gates embarked on a mission to help his poor, sick mother feel better.

When I coughed he got me a cup of water.

He asked me about ten thousand questions about what time I started feeling sick, and what felt sick first, and how sick did I feel, and did I have a temperature?

He prayed to God to help me feel better.

And then he wrote me a 'Get well' card. I will probably keep it forever (for one thing, he told me to keep it).

The first thing you need to know is that he is incredibly practical and to the point. No fluffy pictures, no little jokes. He didn't even get out the nice paper, just some scrap paper.

See? Straight and to the point.
And then I am told to keep this helpful card.

But most importantly, there are TIPS!

Most important? Pray to God. Second most? Don't touch anybody.

And that, folks, is  how an Aspie wishes you Get Well Soon! With a handy list of tips. I love my boy!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mystics, Moonbeams and Myers-Briggs

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You AreSeveral months ago I picked up a copy of the recently released One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I had never read her blog before, I was simply intrigued by the idea presented in the book and more than a little drawn in by the beautiful cover. Written in the rhythms of poetry the book is an invitation to discover grace in every moment, both the beautiful and the ugly, to see God in the mundane moments of our lives.

I was only a few chapters into the book when controversy erupted in the blogging world, perhaps not on the level of the controversy recently created by Rob Bell and Love Wins, but nonetheless, the parallels were there. Defenders of the faith, aghast that anyone would dare write something outside the realm of what they deemed appropriate spiritual writing, criticized the book severely for what they deemed a number of heretical ideas. It felt like a spiritual witch-hunt, complete with burning torches and the mobs in frenzied agreement.

The claims? Mostly that Voskamp dares to use mystical language to talk about spiritual matters, that she speaks of relationship with God in sexual terms, and that she doesn't see God as holy enough. Perhaps even that she lessens the sacrifice of Jesus. Illustrations of being drawn to worship God under the light of a full moon are projected into criticisms of panentheism, despite her own insistence that nature is but a reflection.

I do not know Ann. I cannot know her heart fully. But what I can say is that having begun reading her blog I see a woman who is DEEPLY in love with a holy God. I see a woman who realizes that viewing God's holiness is not limited to words left for us from centuries ago, not limited to the confines of the church building, to heads bowed in prayer. God's holiness encompasses all creation. It lives and breathes through every moment of our days and if we but take the time to stop for a moment and look we can see the artist's signature written across the world.

If one wants to question the orthodoxy of her beliefs she has spelled out beautifully in a page on her blog exactly what she believes:
I believe in Jehovah God who created the whirling galaxies, the birds soaring in the sky overhead, the endless crashing waves and all that dances within them. I believe in Father of all who knits together life, made in His very own image, in the secret quiet of our beings.
I believe in Jesus Christ, the One with no earthly Father, with the dust of this earth between His toes, and with our names etched onto the palm of His hands, right beneath the nail scars…Who now sits at the Father’s right hand making endless intercession on our behalf. I believe in the stone rolled away, in the Body being raised, in the first fruits of the dead…and us all following soon, very soon.

I believe in the Cross as our only Hope, our only Claim, and our only Foundation. I believe that in the pounding surf of life we have only one thing to cling to: the feet of our Lord, hanging on that tree, His lifeblood flowing down, washing us whiter than snow.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, moving, whispering, indwelling our very skin. I believe in living by the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, and producing fruit in the Spirit…in the Spirit who helps us in our weakness with groanings that can’t be expressed in words.

I believe in the infallibility of the Bible, God’s Word – a sure Word, a pure Word, the only secure Word. I believe the words on those pages are breathed from the very throne room of heaven, are the love letter penned from the heart of the Lover of our souls; a beacon of light for stumbling feet to find sure footing on a dark path.
It seems orthodox enough to me. Not that I am the perfect judge of all that is orthodox, but I'm pretty sure she covers all of the basics.

Photo by Ben Leto
So, what of this claim of mysticism? What of the accusation that quoting mystics somehow equates with heresy? Why are some bloggers so bothered by her 'heresy' that they CANNOT LET IT GO, continuing to dig at her with little jabs designed to get their audience nodded and jabbing along with them? (And why do I keep going back to these blogs, trying to figure out what motivates them?) What is the block that seemingly keeps them from understanding a more mystical view of things, the block that keeps me from understanding their seemingly cold adherence to sola scriptura?

As I lay in bed last night pondering this for the millionth time it hit me. Personality type. I wonder if it all comes down to personality type.

If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs type indicator and the Kiersey temperament sorter then you've probably seen groups of letters tossed around: ISTJ, ENFP, ESFP, INTP, etc. Each letter of the group indicates how an individual is disposed to interact with the world around them; how they relate to others, how they process ideas, what energizes them. For example, a strong E personality is energized by their relation to people and objects in the outer world, whereas the I personality receives energy from the inner world dealing with ideas and concepts. S's prefer facts over ideas; N's prefer ideas over fact.

In a 1982 study (The Prayer and Temperament Project) Chester Michael and Marie Norrisey divided the four main temperaments into four streams of church spirituality: Ignation (SJ), Augustinian (NF), Franciscan (SP), and Thomistic (NT). Each of these temperaments deals with spirituality in a uniquely different way. I'm not going to detail the differences here although it can make for some interesting reading. Here are a few resources if you would like to learn a bit more:

http://thenoxfactor.com/files/NoxonMyers-Briggs.pdf

http://www.liturgy.co.nz/spirituality/info.html

http://www.youthministry.org.nz/?sid=134 (Uses Corinne Ware's four quadrant approach to spiritual type)

http://www.msgr.ca/msgr-3/personalitytypeprayers.html (OK, that one's mostly for fun...although once you dig deeper into the site it has some excellent suggestions on types of prayers that flow most easily from your personality type as well as suggestions for areas in which each type may need to focus additional attention.)

So, what is my point? Simply this, each of us will approach our spiritual life in a different way. Some will approach it entirely from logic; eschewing all idea that feeling might have any validity in the spiritual walk. Some will rely entirely on feeling, trusting that what they experience is real. Neither one is entirely wrong. Nor is either one entirely right. Simply because we are predisposed to relate to the world, to our spiritual life, in a certain way does not mean we should not challenge ourselves to understand from a different perspective. Most descriptions of Myers-Briggs types will also include areas of weakness for each personality type that will require effort in order to become a more balanced person.

Ultimately, my point is that more grace needs to be extended when we see someone who experiences God in a different way. If you are a realist, a person who deals in what logic and the printed word says, understand that there are people in whom God has placed a personality that is willing to embrace the unknown, a personality that is ok with some divine mystery and the creativity to express God in words that may feel awkward to you.

And if you are someone who dwells in the realm of mystery and metaphor, understand that not everyone will be able to understand that bent. Don't be quick to write off the ones who combine logic and scripture as hard-nosed, uncaring people whose only concern is using the Bible as a weapon. (And yes, I'm speaking to myself here.)

photo by amanderson
It all comes back to the heart. Only God can truly know another person's heart, only grace can make us shut up long enough to get a glimpse of it, only love can teach us to live with those whose hearts beat for the same God but whose minds express it differently.



photo by Elliott Brown





photo by Johan Hansson







Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sometimes it just takes time

A year or two ago I went to a plant sale and bought an iris to plant by my house. If there is any plant that I truly love (next to tulips and daffodils) it would be the iris. I've always admired homes that have great bunches of them blooming in shady patches, slender stalks stretched tall with velvet crowns.

Well, the iris did not grow the first year. It did not grow the second year. (Or possibly I am imagining that two years have passed, time has pretty much ceased to have any meaning for me.) So I was quite shocked this past weekend when I noticed it had shot up and was getting ready to bloom. I now have two beautiful blossoms as reminders that sometimes things grow when you have given up all hope that they will ever bear fruit.


For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10-11 (ESV)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fill 'er up!

When I first started this blog I thought I was going to spend a lot of time focusing on the choices we make as we try to live simply. As I wrote more I realized that part of living simply is tied in to the quest to live authentically, but "Authentically Rea" just doesn't have the same ring as a blog name. Still, simplicity and what that means and how that looks are a big part of my life and shape a lot of the things that I do.

So for today I want to pose this simple thought...


What if we said grace every time we started our car? Or every time we filled up with gas? What if we treated our fuel consumption with reverence? Would it change the way we drive? The way we feel when we swipe our card at the pump?

I first saw this short video yesterday, and today with my tank nearly empty I stopped at the gas station. I swiped my card, pumped my gas, cringed at the total and thought of how little it used to cost to fill my car. And then I got in the car, bowed my head and gave thanks. I gave thanks for a checking account balance that allows us to fill up our car when we need it instead of letting it sit in the driveway because we can't afford the gas. I gave thanks for my smaller car that can still be filled up without cracking the $50 mark (unless I'm SERIOUSLY on empty). I asked for wisdom not to take this resource for granted, but to be a good steward of my driving habits.

And a curious thing happened. I pulled away from the pump happy.

Sometimes the root of simplicity lies in knowing how to give thanks.

Monday, May 2, 2011

First is last

I'm writing this for Rachel Held Evens' "Rally to Restore Unity" this week. The idea is to remind us, with humor if possible, that no matter what we are all one body. I'll admit at first I wasn't sure if I could do this. Lately the gut-punches of being on the wrong side of the Real Christian™ fence have felt like they are coming hard and fast and I can't catch my breath before reading or hearing something that slams me down again. Sometimes I wonder what the point is. This post is simply my thoughts on the matter.


My boys are arguing again. I'm tuning them out because it is the same old argument that they've had for months and they both are right but insist the other is wrong; there is no winning until understanding grows.

The beginning? One of them declares a race of some sort. Who can get to the car first. Who can stand up fastest. Who can say "I win!" first. You know, typical 6 and 9 year old stuff. Nonessentials. And whenever the 6 year old wins the 9 year old says with the full weight of scripture behind him, "Well, first is last and last is first, so I win!" This, of course, sends the 6 year old into a tizzy as he defends his title and me straight into migraine zone if the argument happens on the way to school (as it so often does). This week I had a talk with the 9 year old about his attitude not quite being what Jesus had in mind when he talked about the last being first, but he clearly didn't get it.

As grownups we can be just as childish sometimes. We seem to think that Jesus said we should ACT like little children. Three years ago I read an article about a fracas between Greek and Armenian (not Arminian) priests and worshippers on Orthodox Palm Sunday at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Apparently it began because a Greek priest was present when it was the Armenians' time to hold THEIR service, so in the true spirit of the risen Lord, they kicked him out, pushed him down and started whacking him with palm fronds.

Yes, palm fronds. Which were then also used to assault the police who tried to break things up. Because nothing says "Hosanna in the highest!" like using your palm frond as an assault weapon. Apparently the centuries old 'status quo' of who can be where and when had been upset and all bets were off. And we won't even go into the pre-Christmas fight at the Church of the Nativity when the priests went at each other with brooms.

In some ways it's easy to read stories like that and be almost amused. Imagine that, those priests pummeling each other instead of living out a life of love made flesh, the very reason for the sites they are so jealously protecting.

And yet...and yet...are we that far above all that? Maybe we haven't turned to brooms and stones or palm fronds. But how often do we pummel at our fellow Christians over the insignificant stuff? Over who has the 'right' to do something? Over our worship styles, the formality of our services? Over whether or not one used appropriate language to speak of God? What is the 'status quo' we think we are protecting? Who holds the perfect understanding of every nuance of God's nature? We've marked our territory, we've declared that we own this part of Christendom and then someone comes in and challenges us, enters our sacred territory with different garb. And the fists come up. First is last, last is first...or is it? It depends on how we're looking at it, doesn't it?

So maybe we need to put down the palm fronds and the signs. Maybe we need to figure out where our common ground is. We worship a risen Savior. None of us can fathom the depths of who God is. We love because HE loves.
(apparently Jesus also loves us when we make silly faces)
I don't know how to heal from the slashes of the palm fronds. I haven't figured out how to reach across that divide in love just yet, there's too much risk. All I can do is try to speak love with every word and every action. The only person I can change is me.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The life of pie

I pound the prezels small, dust coating my counters as they prick through the too-thin bag. Heat the butter, add sugar, mix in the crumbs. Press it into the pie pan. Once again I've been too hasty, not tarried over the pounding and the processing (d'oh...food processor, why didn't I just use that?) and the crumbs are too big and the crust unbeautiful and lumpy. But it's the taste that matters.


I make this pie once a year, birthday dessert for a husband who doesn't like cake. I know he likes peanut butter pie, although mine doesn't compare to his favorite and that's ok because no one's does and that baker doesn't share her recipe. So I make mine, chiffon and lightness to the denser creaminess of that one. But this is my mother's recipe, fading, stained and creased and once a year I make it and remember childhood.


Pounding the pretzels was always my job, after we rubbed the extra salt off of them. Oh how I hated the rubbing, coarseness of salt scratching my hands as we rubbed until mom said they were ok, and then pounded in the clean breadbags until she pronounced them fine enough. And meanwhile my mother's hands cooked and stirred the filling, then cooled it just long enough to make the air and the dense mix together in smooth perfection and I ALWAYS cool mine too long and the blending is uneven. But it's the taste that matters.

And so I mix the sugar and the egg and milk and stir while two full days of driving away my mother's hands are resting in a hospital bed, lungs working away at breathing so hard. One week ago all was fine, and the heart catheterization was sure to show nothing wrong, she said. And then there was the 100% blockage in one artery and the 60% in another and three days later the double bypass surgery. I talked to her two days ago, and words came in starts and stops as air ran out of lungs not full enough.

Remove the mixture from the heat, add peanut butter and stir. Chill. Waiting for that just right temperature because I WILL get it right this time. How many times did I not get it right with my mother? Angry words and me wondering what I did wrong, why I couldn't be loved just the way I was and maybe why couldn't I love her just the way she was? Trying to figure out just the right balance of me and her, pleasing and being. And I always got it wrong, until my heart set up too hard to let the softness blend in.

Pour the whipping cream into the chilled bowl. Real cream, not the Cool Whip in the recipe that my mom always used. I long for the authentic, tasting reality traceable to its roots, not the reliable, but chemical tasting product that would be so much simpler to use. So much richness, the work doesn't seem like any effort to make it. Sweeten it just the way I want it. I am my mother's daughter, I can trace it through the taste back to her homemade granola and her fresh baked bread and all the times she said that homemade was better (but still she used that Cool Whip).


Whip the egg-whites, the sugar, add the peanut butter mix, once more cooled too thick. Fold it gently with the whipped topping until all is mixed together, and there are lumps but isn't it the final taste that matters? Pour it into the pie crust and then refrigerate, waiting for family to devour its sweetness and declare it good. And isn't it all good, this love we make for others?


(Note: My mom is home from the hospital now and recovering well.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Not just a Sunday Hosanna


1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,


5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” (Matthew 21:1-11, ESV)

He rode in one day, and the crowds acclaimed him. Shouts of Hosanna, shouts of blessing and praise, they honored him. Acknowledged his kingship, bowed before him.

I stand in church on Sunday and lift my hands. Songs of blessing, honor and praise flow from my mouth. I acknowledge his kingship, bow before him.
20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”  (Matthew 27:20-23, ESV)



Why the change? The crowds that so easily praised him so easily swayed to call out against him? One day of 'Hosanna!' and then they shout out for his death? Oh fickle people!

Monday comes and the Hosanna is silenced as I slip myself into the fickle mold of life. I acknowledged him king, Lord of my life...and then I turn away when tempers flare and it isn't easy and God isn't acting like I think God should act so away with him as I take the lead. Oh fickle me.

Can my Hosanna live beyond Sunday into the taking up the cross of every day life?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Inertia

Photo by roeyahram
These words stick sometimes
Hard in my throat,
Never making it to my mouth
Never whispering across teeth and tongue
Breath formed and shaped by lips,
Vibrations stilled before beginning.
Accumulation
Left unsaid for years
Choking like pebbles that lodge
And stick.
The other words, they make their way around,
'How's the weather there?' and
'What's growing in your garden?'
But the other ones, the big ones,
The ones that mean everything,
Are held fast with glue of time
And yes,
Of unforgiving.
And if today were the last day,
The last chance,
Could 'I love you' overcome
Inertia?



Friday, April 1, 2011

Not what was

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)



Once upon a time, a very, very long time ago I looked like this. Pre-kids, pre-husband, pre-going back to school full time and working part time, pre-accounting job. I could hike up mountains, climb over rocks, and spend the day on the trail. It was glorious. It was also glorious to have the body of an active twenty-something. Now I have the body of about two twenty-somethings.


Somehow in the midst of all of the schooling, the working, the getting married and the having children I lost that body and I would like it back, or at least a reasonable facsimile. But the numbers on the scale creep ever upward despite my efforts and I hide from the camera to avoid documentation of my current state.


Will I ever be what I once was? I will never be twenty again. I can’t undo the changes of carrying two children in my body. I can’t erase the (blessedly few) wrinkles that time has etched on my face. There’s sagging and stretching going on all over this body and no matter how successful I may end up being at losing weight I will never be what I once was.

But look a little further into the picture, behind the eyes. See the girl-woman that inhabited that body. See loneliness, confusion, self-loathing, darkness, depression, uncertainty. Read the journals from those years. What was on the outside looked fine, but the inside was a mess.

How I longed to feel whole, to feel loved, to feel that I was more than some cosmic mistake, some joke played at my expense. I ached with all of the words left unsaid, with all of the times I had watched friendship, love, trust slip through my fingers and disappear. Awkward, shy, socially inept, quiet; there are so many words I could use to describe what I was.

The picture changes though. Grace moved in. The corners of my heart began to slowly fill with God-love. Light burned away the darkness. The years flick by like frames of an old movie and even as I see my body changing and growing I see my soul changing as well, being reshaped, remade into the image of the God who loves me more than I could have ever known.

Oh, how I long to turn back time. Not to have the body and the youth, but to be able to take that face in my hands, look into those eyes and say “You ARE loved, you WILL be changed. Be patient, dear one. There is a love that is beyond all human love you know, a love that does not use and discard, a love that holds no expectations, a love that sees you as beautiful even when you don’t see it yourself.” I ache for the pain of things to come, of postpartum struggles, of the child who is not what I dreamed of but who is exactly the child I needed in order to learn grace. I ache for difficult moves and the search for a church home and the years of no friends. But there in the middle of it all, there was grace.

Grace changed me. God changed me. He knows me and loves me with all my baggage, all my mistakes, all my longings.

I am not what once was. And I am glad.


I believe that some day God will give me the opportunity to broaden my voice, to encourage other women on their journey as they learn the beautiful grace that God has for changing them from what WAS and into HIS image. She Speaks is a conference designed to equip women as speakers, writers and leaders to help encourage and connect other women to the heart of God. If I could pay my way I would in a heartbeat. Fortunately, they are offering a scholarship opportunity through Ann Voskamp's blog "A Holy Experience". Maybe this will be the moment, but if not for me than for some other woman who hears God's voice whispering grace through her to other women.


Dear husband...

Remember that time you went away on that overnight trip? Remember how I said I was so tired that I fell asleep on the couch all night? Remember how I said I had a crappy day and it made me feel so good that you had made the bed for me before you left and how it was so sweet and I felt bad that I didn't even sleep in it?

Yeah, I lied. I knew darn well that you short-sheeted the bed and I re-short-sheeted it when I got up in the morning. It was fun going to bed that night and knowing that you had indeed secretly scampered to set the bed aright so that I would never know you hadn't been acting from the purest of motives.

Happy April Fools Day!

(P.S. No, this is not a challenge to do it again.)

(P.P.S. Thank you for all the times you really do actually make the bed.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Soul balm

Wednesday, and the day was grey with snow flurries from low hanging clouds of winter slipping through a loophole into spring. Grey to the eyes and grey to the soul.
Some days all I can do is hold on, mark the spot where I stand and determine to not give way. Hold on to the God who sees the sparrow fall, hold on to the God who knows my pain. And so I searched for gifts to be thankful for and I repeated Psalm 42:11 over and over as I ran my morning errands.

Quick stop at the church to drop off the groceries for the evening meal and there is my friend, Anne. She gifts me with small succulent plants, children of her succulent garden that I admired, started for me and nurtured for me without my knowing.

Such a small gift, big in its timing. I take it home, put it in my window and the closed up tears fall from the grace of knowing that I am known.


Gifts #15-45 of One Thousand Gifts...

Bird song in the morning.
Hazel eyes and strong arms that surround me.
'My mom is nis' written in chalk on the driveway.
Psalm 42 that speaks to my soul.
Early morning God-meeting after a rough night of sleep.
Circle of women sharing hearts and scripture-truth that heals.
Christ in me, the hope of glory.
Seeing the God-light shining from the face of a friend.
Chives growing taller, lit with sunlight.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mommy-bot, v.1.0

Republished from April 2008, because it's one of those days when I have to remind myself that I'm human.

Introducing the newest invention to spring from the genius minds of Silicon Valley, it's Mommy-Bot! This simple microchip, implanted in your head will turn you into the perfect mother. No more yelling at the kids, no more frustration.  With a smile on your face you will be able to manage a surly teenager, a recalcitrant five year old, a tantruming three year old and a newly mobile one year old all at the same time! Oh, the wonders you will be able to perform with the Mommy-Bot chip. No more throwing some seeds in dirt and calling it a science fair project, you have the genius of NASA engineers in your brain and your child's science project will amaze judges far and wide. Each day you will happily whip up (from scratch) three nutritionally balanced meals from the huge database of nutrition information stored on the microchip. No more sighing and rolling your eyes when asked to play Piranha Panic for the 53rd time in two hours, no more saying "Let Daddy build it" when confronted with the 500 piece Lego Star Wars ship that must be built right this instant. You will be master of games, leader of fun, AND able to maintain a sparkling clean house in your spare moments. No more feeling inadequate next to all the other mothers out there, you can hold your head high because you will be The Perfect Mother.


Ah. Wouldn't that be nice? To finally be the mother I always thought I'd be? I was so sure before my son was born that I would do everything right, that I'd never get frustrated with MY child. No matter what he did, I'd be able to handle it with a smile and some gentle discipline. No formula for him, I'd nurse for at least the full first year. I'd rock him peacefully to sleep every night. As he grew older only the healthiest foods would pass his lips, and he'd joyfully eat whatever I served him. I'd be the 'fun' mommy, getting down on the floor and playing games with my children. I'd open up worlds of creativity to them, expand their horizons, and teach them about the world around them. And on and on the list went.

We all have lists. Lists of what we think the perfect mother should be, and what the perfect mother should do. And then reality hits in the form of a human baby, born to an all-too-human mother. I've never managed to be perfect at anything else I do, I don't know why I thought parenting would be the exception. And still I can't stop. I compare myself to the mothers around me. I compare myself to the mothers I interact with online. I compare myself to that impossible model of perfection in my mind.

But it's time to face reality. I'm a human parent, not Mommy-Bot. I have emotions. I WILL get frustrated when trying to dress a tantruming three year old and I will mutter through gritted teeth, "Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy." And somehow I'll get the clothes on him without breaking an arm in the process.

I will kill the carrot seed that Gates so proudly brought home from school. And weeks later, when he remembers and asks if his carrot is growing yet I will sadly tell him, "Honey, the carrot just didn't make it. Some seeds just don't grow." And then I'll make it up to him by letting him pick out seeds for the most gigantic sunflowers in the seed rack, and I will plant them in our back yard. And hopefully I won't kill them.

I will feed my children pancakes for supper because it's all I can muster the energy to cook. (But if I have ripe bananas I'll smoosh them up and add them to the batter, hey, that's balanced, right?) I will allow Indy to eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every single day. I'll still read labels in the store, I'll still try for good nutrition, but the reality is that some days they are lucky to even have supper on the table at all.

I'll struggle to balance it all: work, kid's playtime, self-care, quiet time, blogging, and cleaning. I'll learn that if you keep the curtains closed and the lights off (and if you squint just right) the house doesn't look so bad. I'll explain to my boys what dust bunnies are, and I'll laugh when Indy spies a piece of fluff under the piano and says "Mommy, Mommy, a bunny ear!"

Sometimes I'll get frustrated with them. Sometimes I'll yell. Sometimes I'll sit them in front of the television because I just can't deal with the constant demands for the moment. Perfect Mommy fell by the wayside a long time ago, now she's just a mask I wear.

Ideals are great, until they become idols. If I were Perfect Mommy I wouldn't need to depend on God's grace to get me through each day. If I were Perfect Mommy I wouldn't be able to relate to all of the other mothers out there who are struggling with the same challenges I face. If I were Perfect Mommy I would fail at the most important task of all, teaching my children how to be human.

To Whom It May Concern: I am returning your Mommy-Bot chip. There is nothing wrong with the functioning, but I don't want it anymore. It was impairing my abilities to be a true mother. I couldn't teach my children how to deal with frustration when I didn't have any myself. I couldn't teach them how to apologize when I never did anything that needed apologizing for. The nutritious meal program failed to take into account that you can lead a child to the table, but you can't make him eat. I need to be human to teach my children things like patience, self-control, and love in the midst of the tantrums. I like myself the way I am, flawed, but growing.

Sincerely,

Imperfect Mommy

(P.S. - If you ever come out with a Gardener-Bot chip, I might still be interested in that.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

The bitter bite of wanting

Photo by '28 misguided souls'
It devours me, this incredible, ever voracious beast of WANTING. I could blame it on a thousand things, the Barbie I never got for Christmas, the polyester thrift store clothing of my childhood, the college summer when I ate moldy bread and mashed potatoes made with soured milk because it wasn't pay day yet, the months fresh out on my own before a job when secret friends delivered sacks of groceries. My life is a sketch-book of never quite having the dream, always hovering on the edge of barely enough.

But I have claimed contentment, have BEEN content. I AM content. I have come to terms with thrift stores, I have embraced minimalism in my possessions, I have learned the beauty of simplicity. I have, in fact, chosen this life, stepped away from the rush and the money and the letters after my name and the stress that never ended to embrace all that I have right here in this house.

And yet...and yet...I drive past the large houses, those architectural dreams and I WANT, I WANT. Despite the knowing that I have all the space I need, despite my delight in my quiet street and my little garden, WANT growls like a beast deep inside me.

photo by Martin Heigan
I see the women in their beautiful clothing, sweaters swishing with lovely drape, patterns and color and texture, necklaces and bracelets and scarves placed just so and WANT stares out of my eyes.

My children beg for the latest toy and I know they don't need it, won't play with it for more than a week but I WANT for them a life of more and how can I say which path will free them from being devoured by their own beast of WANT?

I pray for contentment, I pray for WANT to go away and still it lingers, prowling and pouncing when I least expect it. I toss it lattes and chocolate bars, second helpings of dessert to try to pacify it, but still it growls and paces, digging claws into my heart.

I can tell you about the lilies of the field, the sparrows that God cares for. I can point to the thousand times my needs have been met in spite of circumstances. So why do I still struggle so with WANT?

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are is what the title on the book reads above a picture of two perfect eggs nested gently, held in grateful hands. I buy a copy because something draws me, something gentler than WANT. Live fully; how do I do that when I am devoured? I begin to read and am drawn in by the story of 'eucharisteo' and learning to give thanks, to reach out and actively receive what God has given us. Gifts in the ordinary moments of life.

I wonder, could this practice, this active acceptance and naming of blessings be the tool to defeat WANT? Would it slink away every time I gave thanks for that perfect pair of jeans found for $4.50 at the thrift store, for the first signs of spring in my garden, for the laughter of my children?

I start to write...

1. Socks knit for me by an almost-stranger, just because she wanted to do it.
2. Hazelnut coffee warm in my cup, made milky with farm fresh cream.
3. Bed-head boy's rooster-tail hair sprouting wildly from his head.
4. One thousand questions from the boy whose wordless years were deep heart-pain.
5. First robin of spring.
6. The rapid in-out breaths of small creatures.
7. Words, beautiful words, strung together in books waiting to be read.
8. Purple.
9. Indoor plants alive in spite of me, a study of green leaves in green ceramic.
10. Sunshine on my floor.
11. Little boy spinning up in the swing and unwind-flying.
12. First day of spring.
13. Sun-warmed arms.
14. Soap bubbles that drift from around the corner of the neighbor's house.