Monday, February 28, 2011

Mundane and Grace

I am becoming a reading machine!  Isabelle and I have gone to the library 2 weeks in a row and I keep coming home with good books.  Right now I am powering through this great, quick, Christian read.  It is called, "At the corner of Mundane and Grace" by Chris Fabry.  How great a title is that?  I wish I could rename my blog that.  The book is pre-blog world written in 1999 but is basically set up like a series of blog posts.  Stories of the everyday of this guys life while opening his eyes to the amazing ways God is present.

It has me thinking about my life right now.  And the return of winter.  I have predictably and manically gone from the victorious heights of the near 50 degree day to the defeated lows of too much snow and stinging wind.  Dear God PLEASE deliver me!  I cannot do this one more day.

Then I think about my life at the corner of Mundane and Grace.  Why am I so quick to bask in the joy of a lazy summer afternoon but I bitterly endure a cold winter afternoon?  I am missing in my misery the chance to enjoy cuddling up under a blanket with my daughter or husband on the couch.  To enjoy a warm roaring fire.  The cup of hot tea.  The coats ability to cover a bad outfit when you are out.  To have no reason or desire to leave the house and the opportunity it gives to spend more time with the family, get projects done.  I won't have those wonderful gifts in the summer.

So this week I am thankful for more everyday mundane things:
  • not sliding into that cold on the way home from the grocery store.
  • setting up a "play date" for Jake because his friend lost his cell phone privileges but his mom and I didn't.
  • Knowing Jake's friends are comfortable enough to hang out at our house when Jake has to leave for 2 hours.
  • Jake's first behind the wheel lesson.
  • The end of wrestling
  • The beginning of my son home after school.
  • tough teachers who give detention to a student who is chronically 1 minute late.
  • Swimming with Isabelle one last time before they close the pool for remodeling.
  • 100 days of school.
  • Boxing with you daughter on wii sports.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The joy in their faces

 With my son just 16 months from High School graduation I have been busy creating a "this is your life" photo situation. I have nice shutterfly albums for all the years I have digital photos. Those photos are all on my computer in neat dated files. While I might not know exactly what is going on in all of them 15 years from now I will be able to tell you exactly how old we all were when it happened. Not so the paper photos. Although some do have a date on them I have a series with 12/31/89 on them which seems unlikely since it was 5 years before Jake was born and we are wearing shorts in some of them.  I did seem to occasionally jot down a date or at least year and occasionally the occasion but mostly I couldn't imagine I wouldn't recall every detail of my sons life for the rest of his life.

Turns out I can't.
 I did manage to get the albums in a somewhat obvious chronological order (hey I do have them in albums) but unfortunately I put them in the albums about once every 2 years and I just grabbed the pile of photos and started stuffing so within the albums there is no real order. And remember how we used to get doubles of all our pictures? I am finding repeats of pictures in different albums.

Having decided to do a thematic approach to Jake's life rather than a chronological approach, today I started pulling pictures out of albums and looking for themes. You know, like birthday, holidays, covered in mud, naked...You know, themes.

As I was going through those pictures of my 1-5 year old son and his 24-29 year old parents I was struck by how happy and carefree everyone looked. Are we all really that good at faking it for the camera or was I really that much more relaxed in my 20's?
I can see how easy it is to look back on the past with rose colored glasses. I see those happy faces and I only remember the happy times. The family trips, water fun in the summer, sledding in the winter, fishing at the farm, catching my little boy asleep at the bottom of the stairs, teaching him how to cook and letting him spray the hose on the driveway wearing nothing at all. Nobody was pulling out the camera on those dark days when I was depressed about not having a baby or feeling insecure about how I looked or going to battle with my 4 year old and loosing.
Of course I also have the perspective of hindsight. I know that young mom is going to be just fine. Her bills are going to get paid, she will eventually loose that weight she is gaining, drive a mini van just like her friends, take that trip to Africa she has been dreaming of, see her son become a wonderful young man and hold that long awaited baby in her arms. So I don't see the pain of the unknown but the joy of what is to come.
 15 years from now when I look back at the pictures of myself today will I see a woman who is happy and carefree or a woman who is tired of carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders?  Someone who can't see how it will all work out or someone who knows that just as He has in the past God will deliver her into the future blessing her with amazing gifts along the way?

Childhood is fun.  Adulthood is fun.  LIFE is fun.  Looking at the pictures of Jake as a baby reminds me of what a joy my life has been and how richly I am blessed.  I praise God for the opportunities I have had to learn and grow along the way, for never abandoning me and for the hope of the future as life keeps moving forward and I continue to enjoy every moment.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Passionate Doldrums

Regular life is buzzing along here in MN. 

Yesterday spring ended and winter returned with a 12+ inches and counting snowfall. John was busy re-wiring his plow the night before the snowstorm and has been out since Sunday afternoon clearing clients driveways.  Of course his plow broke at the last account but it sounds like he will be able to fix it and still make the continuing ed class he is supposed to take today for his contractor license.  It should be canceled but it won't be.  This is MN, we just keep plowing forward no matter what the weather.  Conveniently, for the second time this school year our district had the foresight to pre-plan a day off immediately following a big snow storm so they wouldn't be forced to cancel school or, more likely, ask students to come in during the snow storm.  I also, conveniently, changed my work day from Monday to Tuesday this week so that I would not have to leave the house on this blustery day either. 

In other news, Wrestling is about a week from ending which will return my son to a more relaxed and more available schedule.  I, of course, have a long list of things we have been putting off until wrestling is over.  For instance, study for the SAT which he is taking March 12th, get a job, choose and begin working on the preliminary paperwork for eagle scout project.  You know, just a couple little things.

Isabelle's emotional management continues to exhaust me.  Yesterday she had a break down during the service because the little girl whose parents play music for our worship did not sit by her but by another friend.  Therefore, Isabelle concludes, she hates Isabelle and Isabelle has no friends and it is the worst day ever.  As we walked down for communion I told her all those things were lies and if it was a bad day she could keep it to herself.  Once home she had a break down because I wouldn't let her watch yet another day of netflix (we just got it and have been indulging in its novelty.)  Then she comes up with something she knows I don't like to do, glitter, which I say no to and has another break down.  Finally we agree to play a game but when she is sulking every time I get one space in front and then breaks down when I win 2 times in a row I tell her nobody likes to play with someone who is a sore looser and we aren't playing again.  That was about 20 minutes of breakdown in her room.  She FINALLY decided to just move on with her life and play with the many toys she has and the rest of the day went pretty well.  While I didn't say much to her during that seveal hour long break down about chosing joy I did manage to give my son a short speech about it last night.

I continue on through my life.  My job is going better as I learn more and more and become comfortable with the routine.  I have read 2 books in the last week per my new goal.  "Home to Holly Springs" and "Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind".  Both were entertaining quick reads.  I reserved a couple more books at the library and am waiting for them to come in.  I am managing to keep the house up again after the January transition with work and Dorothy which caused life to fall apart a little.  And I have re-engaged my brain in women's ministry and retreat planning.

It is a lot to manange, this life and family of mine.  And it is nice to be in this place where things are going along in some state of chaotic normal.  There are no crisis' in our life right now, no big changes, no difficult relationships to deal with, no financial strains, no health problems.  Just the regular doldrums of life.

Yet I am noticing that in the regular day to day of life I just move forward in a day to day way.  I loose the intensity and passion for life that exists in times of crisis.  And I forget to rely on God as heavily as I do in times of crisis.  He is still there and I still acnowledge him but somehow I forget to continue relying on Him.  I don't walk through my life with the anticipation of seeing him work the way I do when I am in crisis.  I am not as open to hearing from Him and listening for what he would have me do each day.  I just do the same thing each day, what is in front of me.  I get up, get dressed, work, clean, make meals, meet friends for coffee, exercise, watch tv read, go to Jake's wrestling meets, play games with Isabelle.  When life is simple I just go through the motions.

I want my boring day to day life to have as much passion for God as my life in crisis has.  I want to depend on God as heavily in the good, peaceful times of life as I do in the stressful and dificult times.

My need for God and my totaly helplessness is so clear in those times of need.  But my need and helplessness is no less in times of peace.  God's daily presence in my life gives me purpose, brings me joy, direction, clarity.  No day with God is ever boring.  There are no doldrums with God.  He brings passion to everything I do.

Psalm 5:3
"In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Close Call

Afterward my heart was racing but as it happened I just stood there quietly observing.  Wondering what would happen, not totally convinced I should be freaking out but not sure how else to respond.

I was watching Isabelle standing at the bus stop about 50 feet from our front door.  She was playing in the puddles on the sidewalk.  Actually I must not have been watching her but the traffic going by instead because I watched an old man in a hat come around the corner, turn his head to notice my daughter and pull over on the opposite side of the road.

We live in a safe reputable neighborhood but on a busy road.  Not crazy busy but it is a main road for our neighborhood, for getting to the jr high and high school and for a few people who cut through the neighborhood on their way to work.  I can recall in years past driving down the road and seeing a little boy waiting for the bus or getting off the bus on this busy road with no parent in sight and thinking how unsafe that was.  I would never let my child stand on this busy road alone I smugly thought to myself.  But then reality comes and mornings are busy and your child has more enthusiasm to get out and stand in the wet slushy world than you do.  I am watching with the door open.  And in retrospect, that mom probably was too.

So when he pulled over I initially thought he was just worried about a little girl standing alone on the side of a busy road.  He was an old man after all.  I pushed open the storm door so that he could see I was there.  I watched as he sat for a moment in his car seeming to do nothing.  My husband was still home and I mentioned the activity to him as well.  There we both stood looking at the car while holding open the door as his car door started to open and then immediately closed.  Now my husband is getting on his shoes and I am reaching behind me to do the same.  Then I look up and the bus has come.  I watch my totally oblivious daughter safely board the bus and moments after the bus pulls away the man drives off in the opposite direction.

My husband and I are stunned.  What do you make of that near encounter?

As my mind started clearing I wished I had called Isabelle to come back up by the house.  In the frigid cold weather she stands either in the house or on the front stoop and runs out when the bus comes but the warm weather and puddles were calling this morning.  Nothing happened and I am coulda, woulda, shouldaing.  I can't imagine how much second guessing goes on in a person when something actually does happen.

I left for an appointment but my husband decided to call the police and just give a heads up.  They decided to send an officer out to our house to talk with him.  Amazingly enough, another cop was driving the area and found the old man in the white VW wearing the English driving hat.  He lives a few blocks away. Yes, he said he was the one.  He had simply pulled over, as was my first instinct, because he was concerned for a little girl on the side of the road.  The cops said they tended to believe he was telling the truth but put him in the system.  Frankly, I tend to believe him too.

It is sad that we live in a world where so many sick, sad, desperate things happen that I can't let my daughter stand unsupervised in my own neighborhood in my own front yard.  Yet I know I can't which is why I was watching.  It is sad that an old man just trying to be friendly ends up in the "system" and suspect should anything ever actually happen in the neighborhood.  And it is sad that we jump to the conclusions we do when someone is just trying to help, but we have to.  Because while most of the time the situation is innocent the other option is unthinkable.

Tomorrow I will be standing in those puddles with her.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Hope of Spring

Hope springs eternal.  Especially here in MN.  Give us a couple 40-50 degree days and we quickly forgive and forget the 20 inches of snow, the below zero temperatures and the challenges that go with it. 

Suddenly instead of planning my escape from the frozen tundra I am planning my spring and summer.  I am wondering, as I do every year, if I will actually plant a garden this year.  I am thinking about spring cleaning.  I am thinking about our annual garage cleaning and how I can get it even more organized and streamlined.  I am thinking about the possibility that we will actually paint the house this year and wondering what color it will end up.  I am running through the neighborhood my body buzzing as it soaks up all the vitamin D it could want.  I am excited about every little thing that I need to do because when the sun is shining and running errands are not a strain on my body life is GOOD.

Even my hubby is in on the action.  I came home today to find him fixing the locks on our back door, something that has been on the list far too long.  There he stood with the door just hanging open working on the lock.  And I left the front door open as well when I came home.  Something that would not have happened only a week ago when i was in the heavy down jacket and still shivering.

I like to refer to this time of year as "Manic".  While hope soars today a week from now it will be cold and snowing again.  But we don't dwell on those days, the cold, lonely, painful days of winter.  We quickly turn to the hope that comes from a random warm few days and believe that eventually the cold will leave for good and we will all be basking in the beauty and warmth of a MN summer.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Our God is a Great Big God

Why do we wait until the last minute to bring things to God?

The past couple weeks have been filled with stress.  John's stress, Jake's stress and my stress.  The three of us have just tip toed around the house trying not to cause an explosion.  Finally I called a family prayer meeting on Tuesday night.  We prayed for each of our needs and laid it all before God.  And do you know what?  Wednesday wasn't nearly as stressful.  Problems that didn't seem like they would ever be solved got solved.  Tasks that needed to be done got done and everyone seemed happier and more relaxed.  Life was still busy, stresses still existed but God was there.

Why didn't we do that 2 weeks ago?  Why don't we do that every day?

Last Friday Jake and I had an hour in the car together.  We fought about his future college plans almost the entire time.  I wouldn't let it go.  And I wouldn't hear him because I KNOW I know best.  Then after dropping him off I was praying about someone else and felt God saying, "Why aren't you praying about college?!"  I forgot.  God is in charge of college, not me.

Why do we limit God?

Yesterday my sister told me about her new job which God so clearly handed to her.  She asked, "why do we act like God is so small?"  Our God was also Moses' God.  If God could part the Red Sea for the people of Israel why don't I think He can get Jake through college without a lot of debt, drop the perfect job in my lap or help me find the perfect pair of jeans--on sale?

The kids at our church sing this song, a good reminder for us all:

Our God is a great, big God

Our God is a great, big God
Our God is a great, big God
and he holds us in his hands.

He's higher than a skyscraper
deeper than a submarine
wider than the universe
beyond my wildest dreams

And he knows me and he loved me
since before the world began
How wonderful to be a part of God's amazing plan!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recommended Reading

I woke up one day and realized I wasn't reading anymore.  Not that I wasn't thinking about reading.  Not that there weren't books on my nightstand but somehow in the business of life I had stopped reading.  Then I realized when I would think about sitting down to read I would feel guilty.  I had so many other things to do I didn't think I could be so lazy as to sit down and read a book.  How indulgent.

But the further I get from the last book I completed the more I am realizing that reading isn't a leisure activity at all, it is a necessity to my life.  It is where I get information, learn new things, visit places I may never otherwise visit and escape for a moment from the world I live in.  And when I return I am a new and often better person.

So I have decided I am going to give myself permission to just sit and read a few times a week.  And I am quite excited about it.

I usually just wait until I come across any random book that strikes me but I was thinking maybe this year I would create a reading list for myself.  So far my list is pretty short and sad. 

I want to finish the book "Paul" by Chuck Swindoll which I started last summer.

Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit  -     
        By: Charles R. Swindoll
  I am re-reading "Body by God" to inspire me to get my body ready for summer.
Body by God: The Owner's Manual for Maximized Living [Book]
  I read the first book in a series about an Amish girl written by that Christian author that writes a lot about Amish. Beverly somebody?  You know the one.

The Englisher, Annie's People Series #2   -     
        By: Beverly Lewis
Here it is, I found it.  Beverly Lewis.  I read "Preacher's Daughter" and now apparently need "The Englisher".
That is it.  Short and Sad.  So now I am looking for suggestions from all my favorite people. 

My sister recently was raving about "Crazy Love" and "Radical" which I might look into.  I think she left "Crazy Love" for me when she was visiting but my mom confiscated it for her own reading.  I will need to get it back. 

Since my theme of the year is "Maintain" some books on contentment, simplicity, frugality, joy would all be good.  And I am praying with women's ministry so anything good about prayer.  And I always love books on homemaking.  I really like non-fiction mostly because I can put it down to make dinner plus I can often apply it to my life. 

On the fiction front I did just finish the Mitford series and loved it.  I like fiction but nothing too deep.  Something like the "Cat Who..." series.  I like series.  I like to re-visit my friends over and over again.  I like to read about people who are smarter than me, better read than me and work harder than me.  I do not like novels about world war II Nazi camps or anything traumatic where reading it is going to enrich my life through more realistic understanding of the events.  I don't want to experience how traumatizing a concentration camp was through a book, I have a good enough imagination on my own.  I read "shopaholic" this summer and could barely get through it.  I am not fascinated by self indulgent people who supposedly have a good heart but bury it so deeply in self centered justification you really can't see it at all.  How did that book get sequels or a movie?  Torture.

I am also currently without a devotional book so any suggestions on that front would be great too. 

And, finally, I prefer to get books from the library so older books are better but that is not a hard and fast requirement for recommending a book.

So What is everyone reading these days?