Sunday, December 18, 2011

He's So Clever

Don't you love when your children start to outsmart you?

The three-year-old tried today.

He's been on medicine for the last ten days and it is yucky! He says so and just smelling it has caused me to agree with him. So, his daddy taught him a trick...pinch your nose shut and it won't taste so bad.

For the last ten days that's what we've done. He's pinched his nose while I squirted his medicine into his mouth.

Tonight was the last dose. We were celebrating that fact in anticipation of one last swallow. Finally I looked at him and said, "Okay, now hold your nose and I'll squirt the medicine in your mouth."

He replied, "How about you hold your nose and I'll squirt the medicine in YOUR mouth!"

He's so clever...but I didn't fall for it!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When I Might Spank

Spanking is not an activity I participate in. It is not a form of discipline I embrace. It is simply not in me because in the deepest part of my core I just can't imagine motivating my children with physical punishment.

But, that doesn't mean that I'm not aware of the moments when I might spank...if I did.

Here are a few examples:

1) If I were a spanker, the day might begin with spanking. When I look at the clock and realize that the school day begins at kindergarten in exactly 13 minutes (ten of which is taken up by our drive) and we don't even have shoes and coats on and the boys aren't moving when I say move or in the manner that I want them to...then I might spank.

2) If I were a spanker, there might be spankings in the car. After all, when I get on the phone (you did know that my car is my phone booth, right?), having asked the children to be quiet, having turned down their favorite songs on the radio so I can hear my phone conversation, and then they end up not only talking but talking loudly or worse off fighting and yelling and I realize how easy it would be to reach back and slap (btw - I consider spank, slap, swat, any way of making harsh contact between an adult's hand or object and a child for the purpose of discipline or punishment to be synonyms) a flailing leg...then I might spank.

3) If I were a spanker, spankings might be part of our evening routine. When we are heading home from meetings or errands and it's already past the children's bedtime and they haven't been home since early morning and they haven't had time to play with their toys and did I mention it's past their bedtime so they are tired...when this is happening and we get home and I want them to hurry and get their pjs on and teeth brushed and get in bed, but they want to play for a moment with a new toy or have a snack or watch the last few minutes of a cartoon and so they don't move fast and they aren't eager to get pjs on...then I might spank.

4) If I were a spanker, our day might end with a spanking. When I've put the boys to bed and I've said good night and I've hugged them and tucked them in but then I hear the pitter patter of little feet (which I hear right now as if on cue) and the three-year-old says his throat is making him get up (which he did just now) or he says he wants to sleep somewhere else or wants me to lay down with him or it is too dark...and when I've responded once or twice or three times and there are still footsteps coming down the hall...then I might spank.

I could go on and on. In fact, it's not unusual for me to be in these or other moments and actually think - if I were a spanker, I'd be doing it now. I'm aware of many situations that while being in the midst of them spanking could seem like an appropriate or effective response.

I'm also aware of how glad I am to be highly committed to not spanking. Because as I look at this list and as I think about other moments when I might otherwise spank (or at least threaten it) I see how easy to would be for spanking to be as routine as hugging...for swatting to be more common than speaking...for slapping to become the regular physical contact.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if I am more often late than my spanking counterparts...more often sucked in to that one last pre-bedtime question...more often seen in public with "free spirited" children. And yet, I won't apologize for these.

After all, I dream of a world where we raise a generation who is not motivated by fear or threat. I dream of a world where we raise a generation who has not witnessed force or intimidation being used as the answer to the unknown or the out-of-control. I don't get to raise this generation, but I have the privilege of raising two of them and, although my voice does raise and on occasion my head spins, I will do my best to raise them with love and listening, with tenderness and understanding, with the respect I hope they will give to others.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Witnessing Generosity

My first born turned 6 this last week. In recognition that he's a big kid, my dad and step-mom took him shopping for his birthday gift rather than buying one of their choosing. My dad had told him before entering how much money he had to spend and then, within that amount, it was up to him. I wish I would have been there to witness what happened.

You see, my children (especially the 6-year-old, but following in his footsteps, the 3-year-old) have gotten into Webkinz. Are you familiar with these furry little creatures? They look like any other stuffed animal and come in ALL varieties. But the really cool thing is that they come with a secret code which allows you to then get on the website and create your virtual pet. You make him or her a home, feed and play with them, even play games. It's like two toys for one purchase! Ours is a home where four people and some obnoxious number of Webkinz live happily.

Having said that, the first thing the 6-year-old looked for at the store was Webkinz. So, upon finding the Webkinz, he began his careful consideration. Finally, meticulously, he picked out a Lynx. While his grandparents expected to move on, he wasn't done. He then picked out a second Webkinz, a grizzly bear. As he sat them next to each other he said, "This one is for me and this one is for my brother."

My dad waited, expecting him to propose that Grandpa buy his little brother this new toy. But that's not what happened. Instead, he turned to his grandpa for help with the math, added the two together, subtracted that from the total he had to spend and happily chose both toys.

A six-year-old's birthday money willingly spent on his little brother - that's generosity I'm happy to witness...and remember...and learn from.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lessons from a Lunch Box

In the last five months, since our community was struck by a tornado, there have been many conversations about the role of God.

Does God cause natural disasters or are they just part of nature?

How do we use the word blessing in the midst of such events? What are the implications of claiming blessing when my house was not destroyed, life was not ended, etc?

Does God really choose to be in control? Is it enough for God to be present?

Do bad things happen to bring about good outcomes or do good outcomes occur even in the face of bad things?

Is what we view as bad really bad or is it good in some bigger picture way?

In the midst of one of these conversations, I shared this story...

One recent afternoon, I picked up my kindergartener as I do nearly every afternoon. He got in the car and we began talking about his day. What did he learn? Who did he play with during recess? Was the lunch I packed okay?

(Cue sobbing)

It seemed he had left his lunch box at school instead of bringing it home.

Although this child of mine takes many things in stride, it is not unusual for the seemingly smallest thing to set him off and cause a major crisis. On that day, it was the lunch box left behind.

My first thought was to keep driving, tell him that it would be there tomorrow, remind him that he needed to be more responsible.

But before doing any of that, I thought better.

No, the lack of lunch box was not a crisis to me. Yes, it really would be fine if we got it the next day. (He does after all mark the lunch calendar ahead of time to indicate whether he is taking his lunch or eating school lunch and the next day was a school lunch day.)

But to him it mattered.

So, I pulled over and asked him to take a deep breath. How could we handle this, I asked. After a few deep breaths and some conversation, we came to the conclusion that we could go park, walk into the school and retrieve the lunch box.

As we walked back to the car, lunch box in his hand, other hand wiping the last evidence of his tears from his face, it seemed worth the extra trouble.

No, the lack of lunch box was not a crisis to me. In the big picture of his life, the forgotten lunch box will not really matter. But, how I respond does matter. Considering his feelings, whether they make sense to me or not, does matter. Validating his experience as real does matter.

Does God have some bigger view that allows for an understanding that many of our crises are really just minor bumps in the road? That may very well be. I simply do not know. But what I do believe is that even if this is true, God stands with us in the midst of our joy and our pain, mourning or celebrating along side us, validating our experience and reminding us that we matter.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

When It's Just Not So Black and White

I look at the title I just assigned to this entry and I laugh.

Is it ever black and white?

See, I'm one of those people who lives in the gray...who asks just one more question...who wants room to change her mind and doesn't feel like doing so requires an apology...who believes that there is a new understanding to be embraced just around the corner.

At some level I do understand that there is reward in black and white (at least for some people). There is reward in knowing (or thinking you know) something for making declarations without considering the thought that you are wrong. I get that that works for some people, but it doesn't work for me.

I listen to so many statements made by people of faith about families and I can't help but say it's not always black and white. You know the statements I'm talking about...

A woman's place is in the home. But what about the women I know who are gifted and called to vocations outside the home? What about the men I know who are gifted and called to work at home? What about families I know who are doing just great with two working parents.

The man is the head of the household. But what about families where the woman is the one gifted for spiritual leadership? And what about the reality that the first assignment of "head" to the man was given in Genesis as punishment for sin rather than the created ideal?

Gay people shouldn't be allowed to marry or have children. But what about the gay couples I know whose relationships are loving, compassionate, caring, generous, and forgiving? What about the straight couples I know whose relationships are full of hatred, laced with adultery, riddled with resentment? Why does having different body parts make a relationship okay even when nothing else about it is good? Why does having the same body parts make a relationship wrong even if it fulfills God's desires in every other way?

Children should be seen and not heard. Then why did Jesus call them? Why did he lift them up as examples for the receiving of the kingdom?

There are so many voices that would like people to believe that the downfall of our society (you did know we're in a downfall, right?) is due to: women working outside the home or gay relationships or children not knowing their place.

And yet I can't help but wonder if the most detrimental things in our society aren't hatred and fear. I can't help but wonder if maybe the answers aren't bound in neat packages where each family resembles the Cleavers (of Leave It to Beaver fame) but instead maybe the answers lie in love, in discernment, in discovering God's will for individuals, for families, in the sacred journey of discovering our true selves and respecting who God created us enough to become that person.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fiction or Non-fiction

Tonight (while avoiding going to bed) my five-year-old (who had already been told to return to his bed at least three times) came out to the dining room where the following conversation took place:

Him: Mom, one other thing. "Spooky Buddies" - you know, the movie - is that fiction or non-fiction?

Me: You learned something new today, didn't you? Was that in library time?

Him: (proudly) Yes!

Me: So, what is fiction and what is non-fiction?

Him: Non-fiction is when it's real. And fiction is when it's fake.

Me: (thinking someday - when he's more than five - we'll have conversations about how fiction isn't always fake and non-fiction isn't always as true as it claims to be, how Truth can be found in both and isn't always where we assume, etc, etc) So, what is "Spooky Buddies"?

Him: (thinking) Fiction!

Him: What about...

Me: Go to bed! We can talk about others tomorrow.

I love knowing what he learned and I love when he wants to share...

even if it's really all about avoiding bedtime!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Needing Comfort

You might remember that an EF5 tornado hit our community four months ago. The reality is that although many were not directly hit, everybody in Joplin and the surrounding communities was impacted. I was reminded of that today.

You see, we were among the lucky ones. Our house was well outside the "zone" and was fine. My son who has just started kindergarten goes to school in a neighboring district, so we aren't dealing directly with any relocated schools. Our daycare had minor damage that amounted to it being closed for three days, but since May 26th all has been close to normal. Our church did sustain damage, but we are worshipping in a sister church and our offices were outside the damage so my daily work routine isn't change much. Although we are still out of our church building for worship (and any meeting with more than eight people!), we will be returning in November so the end is in sight.

So, as you see, our household was affected but in minor ways. Yes, we talk about tornado damage routinely. At any gathering it's not unusual for my five-year-old's first question to be, "So how many of these people lost their houses in the tornado?" And yes, both my and my husband's routines have been disrupted as there are more demands on us now. Yes, my children are certainly aware of what's going on.

However, I found myself surprised when my five-year-old pulled a bag of goodies out of his bag when I picked him from school today.

"Look what I got!" he said. And he started pulling items out of a plastic bag: stuffed animal, notebook, bubbles, playdoh, fruit snacks, and more.

"What's that for?" I asked.

"I don't know," he replied, handing me some papers.

COMFORT FOR KIDS it read across the top

Comfort for kids? I read on. This bag of terrific things was a care kit from the Council of Churches of the Ozarks with comments about each items included and how it can help children cope with stress and anxiety. There were additional (wonderfully written) flyers and pamphlets about dealing with emotions of traumatic times, specifically tornadoes.

And I wanted to cry.

My kids were fortunate. Their bedrooms didn't blow to the next county. While one of their preschool friends is moving back into his house this weekend, they have been in their rooms every night since the tornado.

But this little bag was a reminder that they are affected, too. And a reminder that others were so much more affected.

I celebrate that entities like the Council of Churches put together such gifts for children.

I'm sad that any children - mine or yours or anyone's - need them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Avoidance by Technology

Just this week I've been in two different conversations about our interesting dependence on technology and all those delightful tools that keep us "connected" to one another. Most conversations on this topic I've been in have gone the same direction. We talk about how it's almost amusing how we seem to act as if we can't live without having constant access to texts, email, internet and sometimes even phone service. We talk about how in spite of the benefits of technology it would be good to have a day without such connection. We share our appreciation of moments when we've (usually accidently) found ourselves without such tools.

Today's conversation took a different turn. Today someone in the conversation began talking about how she had heard some statistics about the percentage of people in downtowns of big cities who walk with their phones up to their ears just to avoid human contact. She also talked about college students who walk across campus with ear buds in - sometimes with no music playing - to avoid interaction.

And thus the question arises again. Does technology really "connect" us or is it just a tool for avoidance...avoiding one another, avoiding responsibility, avoiding fear, avoiding real life, maybe even avoiding sleep?

I tend to be a "both/and" kind of girl, so I tend to believe that technology can connect but can also create deep chasms of distance between us which, if not careful, can become impossible to cross.

What do we do with this? Time, I suppose, will tell. Meanwhile, with heavy eyelids I fear that this technology is helping me avoid sleep that I am in deep need of, so it's time to say good night!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Lost Has Been Found

Today I found my calendar. I hadn't known where it was for nearly two weeks - hadn't seen it since the tornado hit our community. Now mind you, I knew it wasn't a victim of the tornado as my home, my office and my car had not been hit...and I knew it had to be in one of those places.

Actually, as glad as I am today to have found it, I also learned a lot by not having it. After all, on normal days I live as if I can't live without it.

Here's what I learned...

1) I can live without my calendar. In fact, it took me from May 22nd until June 1st to even realize that I didn't know where it was and hadn't been consulting it every day.

2) Although I tend to write notes about everything I want to remember, I don't think anything monumental has been forgotten. My mind really does its job and I can remember things without checking my calendar.

3) No matter how much planning we do everything can be changed in an instant and what really needs our attention will come to the surface and ask for it.

4) The relief I felt when finding my calendar pales in comparison to the relief I felt with each meeting or phone call that told me someone I cared about whose house had been destroyed was safe. My calendar may be my more constant companion, but it's people who really matter.

Yes, I'm glad to have found my calendar. I will go back to writing dates and notes on it. But these 13 days with it missing have had their own reward and this I will not forget.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Please, Do This...

Take a minute and go read today's post at Permission to Live.

It's about talking to your children about sexual abuse and it's very well written.

I won't say any more...I just encourage you to go read it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

What Blew Away?

Tornadoes blow many things away...

Signs and trees...

Utility poles and wires...

Houses and restaurants...

Churches and schools...

Cars and sadly, sometimes people.

But tonight as I joined in an interfaith prayer service we were reminded that tornadoes also blow away the lines that divide us.

I am living in a community that is no longer divided by theology or denomination or longer divided by political view or race or economic situation.

Suddenly...and for the past eight days...we have been united. We have lived together in ways we don't always live because of everything that blew away with the storm.

It will be interesting to see how we rebuild...what walls go up and what walls we might choose to keep down.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Glimpsing Normal

The surgery center called today. Our three-year-old's surgery (which was scheduled for this past Wednesday but cancelled due to the tornado) has now been rescheduled for Wednesday, June 1.

I didn't expect it to be that soon. I'm not sure I'm ready for it to be that soon...not because I'm not ready for him to have it, but because I'm not sure I'm ready to be that unavailable to the people I serve, so many of whom were directly impacted by the tornado.

At the same time, when they told me that the doctor could do it on Wednesday, I felt like we had to take that spot. After all, there are inevitably people who would like surgery rescheduled but can't because they are just trying to find a place to live or replace a car or desperately still searching for loved ones. I feel like since we can do it then, we really need to.

So, on Wednesday he will have tubes in and aednoids out.

And in that act, we will get a glimpse of normal again.

Little by little it will happen. While honoring the horrific loss. While mourning and hurting with others who mourn and hurt. Little by little we will do those normal, routine things of life.

We will again discover something we used to call bedtime.

We will again begin an exercise routine.

We will again have set days of the month to pay bills.

We will again do laundry before running out of underwear.

We will again visit people simply to check in, not to discover if they are alive and their homes are standing.

We will again (some months from now) worship in our church building.

We will again drive down the street without pointing out each fallen tree or downed house.

These things will happen...even if today we only glimpse them.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just Keeping On...

If you watch television for more than about 10 minutes...even, as I understand it, if you are halfway around the have now heard of our fair city and the tornado which struck last night.

So, what are we doing around here?

The three-year-old is...dancing while eating breakfast (that's likely to happen when the mommy absentmindedly says yes to candy for breakfast) and routinely making happy messes.

The five-year-old is...asking questions and wondering and just wanting to go into town and see his school and church and town (which I've not yet let him do). He's having conversations like this: "If the know where was that...with the really big waves...(Japan)...yes, Japan...if the earthquake there caused damage this big (picture hands held about 12 inches apart), how big is the tornado damage here?" (To which our dear friend, closing his hands to a few inches, said gently...about this big).

The mommy is...on the phone a lot. But when she's between calls she is fighting through imaginary shields with her all powerful kisses while children laugh and wiggle. She is doing her best at answering questions with words that speak of faith, hope and compassion while knowing they are as much for her as for her children. She is searching for members of her congregation which means many hours away from the children but being sure to kiss them goodbye and hello. She is celebrating each time that someone else is discovered okay (many of whom have been pulled from the rubble they used to call home) and working hard to give attention to toy car crashes and the need to stop and listen to her children. She is being thankful for loving friends who are taking care of her children while she is trying to take care of others.

Mostly in the midst of this bit of our journey we are just keeping on in the best ways we know how. And we are appreciating your prayers and care.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Big Enough

This has made it's way into the back seat of my car...

And at some level I am excited. I have to admit that...after all, I am the one who purchased it. And it's hard not to be excited. The five-year-old has been anticipating it for a long time.

And who can blame him? The law says you can ride in one of these when you are four. However, it also says you have to be forty pounds and that has been his problem. What it means is that for the last year and a half (yes, he's officially five and a half as of this week) rarely a day has passed without him getting on the scale.

"Mom, I'm 38.2!" he'd say as he came back to the table to eat another helping of dinner.

We've gone through this routine day after day for the last three pounds and 18 months. Just the last few weeks he's consistently been 39 pounds +. And finally the day came when he got on the scale and saw 40.0 and 40.2! (We had told him he had to be 40 pounds twice before moving into a booster seat) You can imagine his joy.

So, last night I took out the car seat and replaced it with the above pictured "safety device." And I told the five-year-old that I had a surprise for him that he would see today.

And he was surprised and least I think that's what, "AWESOME!" means.

But then I put him in and showed him how to buckle up and all I could think was...

Is he really big enough for this?

Technically, by law, he is. But suddenly he seems so small and so big all at the same time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Too Much

Am I the only one who gets overwhelmed by the "too much" of this world?

Just walk down the cereal aisle in your local grocery store. Have you ever counted the varieties of cereal? I have contemplated it but for fear of my reaction have decided not to take an actual count. I'm convinced Cheerios alone has more varieties than I'd need in my lifetime.

And that's just one simple example.

Cable packages offer more and more and more channels.

Put a keyword into your search engine and voila, more websites are available at the click of your mouse than you could ever read.

Even at the age of my children - just 3 and 5 - there are opportunities for athletic teams, art classes, interest groups, playdates, etc. My three year old can't even write his name, but his schedule can be filled with something different each night.

And, so as not to pretend that this is something outside of my life that I just observe...come to my house...look in my closet or my children's toy box and see the "too much" of our life.

Today after meeting an old friend and a newer friend for coffee (seminary being the connecting point for the three of us) I found myself driving away overwhelmed by the idea of keeping up with people from each place in which my life has been located.

See, perhaps the most difficult thing for me isn't just that there is so much, but that there is so much that seems worth my time. Although I like to use the cereal aisle as an example, it really doesn't overwhelm me so much, it just illustrates the point. What overwhelms me are all the good causes, real needs, valuable people, important things that are asking for my time and that all too often I'm trying to give my time to.

I am remind of the times when people crowded around Jesus wanting his help and he had to say, "It's time to move on." I admire that. I wonder how he did it. I wonder if I can.

Whether it's saying goodbye to that sweater I never wear anymore but have great memories of or putting off letting my children get overcommitted or saying no to one more meeting or allowing a friendship to be a piece of history...I wonder how to know when it's time to walk away and where to find the courage.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dream of This?

I doubt I'm alone when I say that I dream...

As a mother I dream of being better. I dream of taking more time for my children and having more energy. I dream of being more patient, more loving, more kind...all the things I try to teach them (sometimes in the "do as I say, not as I do" model of education).

As a pastor I dream of being better. I dream of actually getting to all those wonderful ideas which lie in stacks and sit on lists on my desk. I dream of actually visiting all those wonderful people who would benefit from some extra attention, a meaningful conversation, a loving touch. I dream of shepherding the people I serve in such a way that our little community is recognizable not just as a church but as a community of God's children.

As a wife I dream of being better. I dream of actually having energy left over at the end of the day for my husband. I dream of remembering to talk to him about the million little things I want to talk to him about over the course of the day. I dream of more time for us.

As a homeowner I dream of being better. I dream of having a cleaner house. I dream of not having piles on the table, on the counter, on the dresser...even just for a week or two. I dream of wanting to plant flowers and nurture a garden of delicious foods.

As a person I dream of being better. I dream of being kinder to strangers. I dream of continuing my education and pursuing another degree. I dream of becoming more active in my community and in my world. I dream of making a commitment to bring justice to those who it is so often taken from.

I dream. And I think there is a place for dreaming. I never want to be so content that I am unwilling or unable to become better.

And yet...sometimes I wonder how much my dreaming takes me away from where I am.

What would happen if I began to dream instead of imperfect life with a struggle to balance my roles and imperfect life where nothing is as neat and orderly as I imperfect life where I love and am loved. What if I allowed my life to be my dream?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God Loves You

(At the church I serve we publish a devotion each week based on the scripture from Sunday's worship. These devotions are provided in order to encourage people to remain connected with the scripture throughout the week. I'm going to start publishing these here on my blog with hopes that they might be helpful to you, too.)

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:7-11

Picture the best love you've ever known. Perhaps it was love shared with your spouse, your child, your parent. There are many stated reasons we love others and many ways to show that love, but this scripture reminds us of something we often forget: we are able to love - able to know the joy of loving - because God loved us first.

Even though we talk about God's love...even when we believe in God's love...there is another reality we live with: often we aren't sure how lovable we are. Often we know that there are reasons we don't deserve love. Often we wonder if God could really love us that much. But, look again at what the scripture above reminds us of: God loves us first and not because we loved God, not because we are perfect, not because we deserve it, but simply because loving us is God's nature - it's who God is.

Make a list of the things about yourself that are not lovable. Make a list of the reasons God shouldn't give you the time of day. Now tear up that list! Throw it away! God doesn't care! God loves you!

Spend time with that reality this week. Be grateful for God's love.

And, remember, it's not just about you. As you spend more time resting in God's you realize more and more how loved you how it increases your ability to love others.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Taking it Seriously...but Not Literally

There's a story my grandpa tells about his childhood. I've heard it all my life. Although I don't remember all the details of how he tells it, it is a story that has captured the attention of our family.

The story's climax comes as my grandpa (then just a boy) has fallen in a hole in a tree where he discovered some young bear cubs. Before he had a chance to get out, he looks up to discover the mama bear returning to her young. As she eased her way back into their habitat, grandpa knew he had only one chance to get out. Pulling his pocket knife out (every good country boy had a posket knife!), in one single moment he both grabbed hold of her tail with one hand while sticking her in the rear with the knife he held in the other hand. She yowled and leapt from the hole, bringing with her my grandpa who quickly ran home.

Ask anyone in my family, they know the is part of our family fabric. And we all believe it. But trust me when I say this is a story that we take seriously, not literally. I'm in no way convinced that my grandpa had an actual encounter with an actual bear. But I do know that the story represents his childhood - a time of adventure, regular encounters with nature, discoveries about himself and the world around him.

It's funny to me how easily people can accept the Truth in stories, especially family stories or our own stories, even when we know they are not factually true, while often struggling to do this with scripture.

Somewhere in recent centuries a phenomenon has arisen in which people have begun to insist that the Bible be taken literally. What's interesting to me is that if you know much about early, storytelling cultures, you know that stories were often told for Truth (notice the capital "T") not for truth (when I use a small "t" that indicates provable, fact). It is doubtful that those who wrote down the stories and letters that have become our Bible thought they were writing history (and they certainly didn't think they were writing scripture). Instead, they likely thought they were recording stories of the community of faith, stories to guide future generations as they sought to live faithfully, stories to remind people of God's faithfulness and encourage their own faithfulness.

It's also interesting to me that the idea of truth (provable fact) is really a development of science, not religion. It's really something that in the big picture of humanity is a new idea - only around for the last several generations.

Obviously, I'm an advocate of taking the Bible seriously while not taking it literally (thanks to Marcus Borg for this phrase and a new friend for recently reminding me of it). I'm an advocate of seeking the Truth - the big picture message about God - rather than arguing over the truth - things like whether Noah actually built an ark to those measurements.

The Bible is an amazing book. Unfortunately it's also been used as a destructive weapon. All I know is that when I read it seeking truth I meet a loving God who cannot give up on humanity because we are part of God's own self. I meet a God who longs for us and remains faithful to us against some incredibly difficult odds (often of our own invention). I meet a God who chooses us time and time again and who hopes that we will choose in return.

While you're thinking about these things...take a look at Rachel Held Evans' rules of engagement for having conversation about the Bible. She makes some really good points!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Heavy Heart

I awoke this morning with a heavy heart. During some moment last night while I was drifting to sleep I opened my eyes to see the headline "Osama bin Laden Dead" scroll across the television screen. I usually don't turn on the television in the morning (except for cartoons) but did first thing to see if it were really true.

I spend countless moments every day redirecting my children from violent or hurtful responses to responses that ask accountability while being kind and compassionate. I work to help teach my three and five year olds that even when someone else hurts us, we don't have to hurt back. I work to teach them that violence does not require a violent response.

And yet today I wake up and hear some (not all, mind you) people rejoicing at a violent death. And as a nation rejoices I wonder how to teach my children appropriate responses to the hurts we endure.

My reaction has nothing to do with who is right or who is wrong. It has nothing to do with taking sides. It just simply has to do with my heart which cannot rejoice in the death of anyone. My heart which realizes some rejoiced in the death of Jesus. My heart which regardless of a person's actions can't forget that everyone is a child or a spouse or a parent or a friend of someone else who loves him or her. My heart which is heavy today as I feel that the road to teaching my children peace just got steeper.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Earlier this month I celebrated (okay, truth is I passed - I didn't really do anything to celebrate) the first anniversary of starting this blog. A month or so earlier I had intentions of doing something special...maybe even a giveaway or something. But what happened in reality is that the anniversary passed in the middle of a month when I haven't blogged at all...interesting way to celebrate, huh?

So, both the anniversary and the non-blogging month have caused me to wonder about my blog and to ask questions about why and what and when I write.

I've been aware of my own struggle with what to write. I fluctuate between wanting to stick to my stated purpose of talking about faith and parenting and then at other times just wanting to write cute stuff my kids do. Mostly this last year I just tried to set that struggle aside and blog what came to me.

I've been aware of my struggle about why I write. Sometimes simply because I like to. Sometimes because I feel I have something worthwhile to say. Sometimes to record thoughts and events. Sometimes in hopes that what I write will be read.

I've been aware of my struggle with when to write. Part of the year I participated faithfully in weekly writing events and appreciated the discipline of it. Part of the year I didn't, resulting in two different periods of a month (or more) with no writing.

I've also been aware that sometimes this blog feels like something else that demands more of me than I have to give while sometimes I'm glad I have it.

In the coming year I'm going to work to...
1) Incorporate helpful discipline without letting it control my writing (because then it's no longer helpful).
2) Accept the strengths and weaknesses of my writing.
3) Write what I know, which sometimes will directly connect to my stated purpose and sometimes not.
4) I also suspect I'll write more about faith in general without making explicit connections to parenting. After all, I come with the basic belief that everything about what we believe and how we interact with our faith does effect our parenting, whether directly or not.
5) Mostly I'm going to try to let this blog be what it needs and what I need.

Looking forward to another year...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Any Suggestions?

The last few nights, bedtime has been accompanied by the words "I'm scared" coming from the three-year-old's mouth. My boys have been talking about/watching Beauty and the Beast and the beast is our new scary thing. During the day it's funny-scary. But the last few nights the three-year-old has said he's scared of the beast and doesn't want to stay in his room alone. Of course, not wanting to stay in his room alone isn't new, so this momma is trying to balance a desire to respond compassionately to real fear with a knowledge that this little boy will use many tricks to get a sleeping companion or to be transported to a different room to sleep. The last two nights fear has been solved by either falling asleep in our room or in his brother's room. I'm not sure either is a longterm solution. Neither am I sure that I have to force him to stay in his room crying. So, what are you suggestions? How would you handle it? How do you respond to your children's fear? How do you tell if there is some real fear you need to respond to or if your child is working the system? I'd love to hear your feedback!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Here's what I know...

Sometimes my body aches in ways that make me feel old before my time. Perhaps it's that extra 15 pounds that I carry around with me. My legs are thick; my shape is that of a pear...always has been, always will be.

And yet, I'm happy with my body.

My marriage isn't perfect. We are sometimes short with each other, sometimes don't listen, sometimes fight over the dumbest things. I have been known to watch other couples who seem so in tune with each other and wonder why we aren't more so.

And yet, I'm happy to be married to my husband.

My children are sometimes too loud, too messy, too wild, too violent. Brothers hit each other. Toys are strewn about the house. Spills are common.

And yet, I'm happy to be their mommy, so happy.

Ministry can be demanding and exhausting. Often I feel like neither my children nor my congregation get the best of me. I sometimes run from deadline to deadline. I sometime struggle to keep grounded in God rather than just to do the tasks before me.

And yet, I'm happy that this is my calling.

Life is sometimes hard. Sometimes boring. Sometimes frustrating. There are all sorts of things that can discourage...all sorts of things to be lamented. The grass can always look greener somewhere else depending on the lens through which we look.

But, here is what I know...I am happy. I wouldn't trade my life for anything.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bigger Picture Moments: Companions on the Journey

Many are celebrating St. Patrick's Day today.

I, however, am celebrating that six years ago today I met my midwife, the woman who would deliver both of my children.

For many people the one who delivers their child is simply a competent medical professional. But, for me (although she was a competent medical professional) she was so much more.

She was the one who not only shared her medical knowledge, but shared her personal story.

She was the one who not only listened to my questions about pregnancy and birth, but who got to know me, my husband, our family, who wanted to hear our story.

She's the one who cared enough about us to ask what we wanted at the birth of our child.

And she's the one who remembered and gifted us with the closest possible experience even when the birth became difficult.

She's the one who remained so calm when the baby was in distress that this mommy didn't know how distressed he was until he wasn't any longer.

She's the one who never risked myself or my child, but in the midst of handling some challenges still helped our birth be what we wanted.

She's the one who had me come in two weeks after delivery, not to check my body, but to check my heart.

She's the one who helped me see that a second delivery could be much easier than the first.

She's the one who was right and was there for that easy second delivery.

She's the one whose schedule helped determine my children's birthdates...after all, since they were both induced, it was according to her schedule that we chose the day.

She's the one who is a wonderful medical professional, the one who delivered our children, but more than that the one who shared her heart, who entered our lives, who became a companion on the journey.

It's amazing the difference the people around us make. And she made a difference!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Big and The Small

I suspect that if I asked how many of you were thinking about/praying for/hoping for/concerned with the situation in Japan right now, everyone would raise their hand. It seems to me it's part of the human condition - to care about other people, even if we don't know them. It seems it's something we want for our children - to be able to empathize with others even when they themselves haven't endured such circumstances.

When we face situations of the magnitude of what has happened in Japan we are unable - as people and as people of faith - to pretend it away, to live as if it doesn't matter. Even when we aren't sure what we can do, still it consumes part of us, still it has an effect on us. Big things do that to us.

But meanwhile small things get our attention, too. While an entire country is suffering and I care about that, it's not the only thing that gets my attention or energy. Today I've put energy into worrying about my three-year-old who won't be able to eat all day in a couple weeks when he is scheduled for simple procedure (yes, at this point I'm more concerned with 8 waking hours of not eating than with the procedure itself). Today I've put energy into wondering if I'm doing the best job I can teaching my children about being kind to each other and others. Today I've even put energy into wondering if I'll ever get my overdue haircut scheduled.

When things like what happened in Japan happen, we are given perspective. We are reminded about how precious and how fleeting life can be. We are reminded about what really matters. We are also reminded about how precious our "usual" routine is.

And when pictures of the destruction in Japan flash before my eyes, I find that I feel somewhat guilty about the way I go on with my life, mostly as usual, even giving attention to worries like haircuts.

Yet, even as I recognize that guilt, I guess I also need to continue to be concerned with the usual, the routine, the mundane. I need to continue to believe in a future that means facing a day when my child can't eat in preparation for a simple surgery...a future that means that teaching kindness to my children is important...a future that even allows me to tend to my hair...a future than also means that I will find ways for myself and my children to respond to Japan, that we will hold the people of Japan in our hearts and prayers...a future that is hopeful for those children as well as for my own.

I guess this is what life is...big things and small things mingling together, getting our attention, coexisting, and all mattering.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent Begins...

I had plans to write a post about the beginning of Lent...

to talk about the gifts of this season...

to challenge each of us to live into it in ways that draw us closer to God...

to talk about how we might help our children connect to this season.

I didn't write that post because my energy was needed somewhere else. I spent last night and part of the last two days in the ICU with my dear friend and her 7-week-0ld who has RSV. I didn't write because I was away from the computer. I didn't write because I'm tired - an ICU is a hard place to sleep. I didn't write because all I can write is to ask for prayers of this virtual community.

So, please pray for her.

And welcome to Lent...we'll talk about it another day.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Casting Out Fear

A few weeks ago I was reading 1 John and when I read these words, I heard them differently:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.

1 John 4:18

I know this will surprise those of you who have read my blog before, but I couldn't help but think about parenting. Even though I know that wasn't what was originally being addressed, I think it applies.

I am a big advocate that we need to understand the difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline is about guidance and instruction; punishment tends to be reactionary and is often about control. Discipline is about hoping better for someone; punishment is about wanting someone to hurt in response to their misbehavior/bad choice.

There are many ways that we can explain this difference, but I tend to think that if we are paying attention we really know the difference between the times we are disciplining our children and the times we are punishing them. And I (again, this won't surprise anyone) am an advocate of discipline, not punishment.

When I read this scripture, I was struck by what it said. Fear and punishment are connected and love casts out fear (which would seem to indicate it casts out punishment as well).

I read that thinking of punishing children and I had to wonder...

What is it that we fear when we punish?

Do we fear the impression our obnoxious children are leaving on others?

Do we fear losing control of these little people for whom we have responsibility?

Do we fear the judgment of others regarding our parenting?

Discipline is necessary and I believe it walks hand in hand with love. But when we are loving well, perfectly as scripture says, fear will not be part of our relationships. And when fear is gone, the journey from punishment to discipline is far shorter.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sometimes We Just Have to Listen

My children both went to the dentist today. The five-year-old who is a lover of all types of doctors has been a big fan of dental visits since his first one. The three-year-old had his first visit today and I was a little concerned because he's never been as eager with doctors as his big brother. But it went great.

Yes, there were some differences. For example, when my oldest went for the first time at three, I didn't even go back with him. When they called his name, he just went and I figured that was best. My baby...well, he needed his mommy...and I went. But once we were back there, he was so big. He talked to the hygenist, climbed in the chair, opened wide, had xrays, got his teeth cleaned...well the uppers anyway.

He was doing great. Then something happened - I'm still not sure what - she was spraying water in his mouth to rinse the polish and I suspect it hit him wrong and startled him. There he was doing so much better than I ever expected when he suddenly started to cry. He pretty quickly got over it and when the dentist came in he still let him look in his mouth. But he never did get his lower teeth cleaned.

And this is why...because he said no and they listened.

And I have to admit part of me thought maybe we should try a little harder. I don't want to hold him down or anything, but he calmed down for the dentist, so he might have been talked into finishing his cleaning. But that isn't their approach with little ones.

No, instead, they listen to the child.

And, even with my first instinct to talk him into it, I appreciate that.

I appreciate that my three-year-old can go to the dentist and help shape his experience.

I appreciate that he knows that the dentist's office is a place where if he's uncomfortable, then whatever makes him uncomfortable will stop.

I appreciate that he knows that at the dentist's office his voice will be heard.

I was reminded of something today at the dentist...sometimes we just have to listen to each other...sometimes we just have to listen to our children.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

No More Two-Year-Old

I've been watching the clock today, waiting for 4:00 p.m. It's not that our youngest was born then, but 4:00 was the time we checked in to the hospital to induce. 4:00 was the time when we knew we would soon meet him. And less than eight hours later - at 11:52 p.m. - he was born.

That is the boy we celebrate today!

Although it was less than three years ago that he looked like this...

Today, he looks like this...

And he is sheer delight.

This boy is rarely without a smile or a hug. And if he is without them, just wait, give him a minute or two and things will change. His face lights up easily, his heart opens easily.

There was a point where we thought that we might not try to have another child, that one would be enough. I look at this now three-year-old and I wonder how we would have existed without him. How could we have thought that our lives would be complete without this youngest child?

I look at him and I am again awed that I get the privilege of loving him, of raising him, of being his mommy!

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

On Being a Soccer Mom

As I mentioned in this post, I was reluctant to sign my five-year-old up for soccer. And yet I did so, in fact more eagerly than I would have imagined.

Today I was reminded of why I was reluctant.

As we got ready for our day, I reminded the five-year-old of his soccer game tonight (we are on game 5 of 7). I anticipated excitement as we gathered his soccer clothes. Instead, I got this...

I don't want to play soccer anymore, Mom.

WHAT?!?! (I thought this rather than shouting it)

I wasn't sure how to respond.

We talked about responsibility when we make commitments.

We talked about how much fun he has when he's playing.

We talked about his older brother who will be at the game tonight.

We talked about the fact that playing was his idea.

And after all that he said...

But I don't want to play soccer anymore, Mom.

I have to pick him up in less than an hour. The game is an hour and a half away. I still don't know how I'm going to handle this.

I watched another mother drag a crying, reluctant child in to a game a few weeks ago. I don't want to do that.

But, I'm not sure what I will do.

I've prayed all day that by the time I pick him up he will have changed his mind.

But he might not...

Any suggestions?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

That's What Happens When You're a Mom

I'm not a crier. Never have been. Yes, I know how to cry. Yes, I do sometimes. But not often...not easily. I can count on one hand the movies I've cried at (and still have fingers left).

Even since having children that's remained true most of the time. I love my children passionately. I feel for them deeply. But I don't cry (for joy or sadness) often - even when it comes to my children.

I didn't cry the first day either went to daycare.

I've never cried when they got shots.

I don't anticipate crying on the first day of kindergarten.

I have friends who have and do on these and other occasions. And that's real for them. It's just not for me.

Although I can say that I do get chocked up more easily since having children. But, even with children, I'm still not a crier.

Today the five-year-old and I saw "Beauty and the Beast" on stage. It was beautiful. It's so amazing to me how they bring set, costumes, script, music, cast, etc together to make a lovely performance.

Toward the end when the curse is broken and not only does the beast turn into a handsome prince, but the servants turn from pots and clocks and candlesticks back into people, there is one simple little scene where the only child in the show, Chip (the chipped teacup for most of the show) runs to his mother's waiting arms.

As I watched that child run across stage to his on-stage mommy, a tear ran down my cheek.

Mostly I don't cry. But sometimes I do.

That's what happens when you're a mom.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Do Love Snow!

(The following conversation was held at my house earlier this week as my husband and boys were playing in the snow)

Husband (to me as I stood watching them from inside): I thought you always said you love snow.

Self: I do love snow!

Self (thinking, not saying): Or do I really just love an excuse to stay in my jammies and drink hot cocoa?

This conversation has had me doing a lot of thinking about the things we proclaim about ourselves.

I grew up in Iowa. Snow (whether in reality, at least in my memory) was more constant than not from Thanksgiving through March. Snow on Halloween was not unknown. And snow sometimes happened in April.

Throughout my adult life I've lived farther south and although I've found things to appreciate about a more temperate climate, I miss snow. I miss knowing I can count on snow. I even miss snow that's around so long that you want it to go away if for no other reason than it is so gray and ugly it's an eyesore.

These are the things I've known about my relationship with snow. And yet my husband was confused. I say I love snow. But I wasn't the first out in it. Did I really love snow?

Of course my thoughts this week have been about far more than snow. I just keep wondering how much of what we think about ourselves is really true...still true? And how much of it is what we learned about ourselves some years ago and just haven't reexamined?

I have had the blessing of being around people over 100 years old who have believed that they still had things to learn, room to grow as long as they had life left in them. And they didn't just mean memorizing facts or learning new skills. Instead, they also knew that they could continue learning about themselves.

I believe God intends us to be on this continuous journey of discovery. I believe God wants us to continue to discover our truest selves - the selves God created us to be. I also believe that God wants us to examine and reexamine and recognize that things that were once true may not always be true. Likewise, things that weren't previously true may become true for us.

This morning we worshipped at a church my friend serves. He was talking about Jesus' frequent command not to tell. He talked about the importance of timing. The command from Jesus wasn't about never telling, but it was about waiting until time was ripe. It was about paying attention to what was right at that time.

Perhaps this isn't so disconnected from the questions I've been asking this week. Perhaps we are to pay attention to the time, to ask what it is right for. Perhaps there are things we have always proclaimed that just aren't true for us anymore. And perhaps there are things we've been ready to disgard, to change, but when we truly examine life that change isn't necessary at all.

Perhaps we are invited to live with authenticity to who God created us to be and to live fully for this moment.

And, by the way, I do love snow!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sabbatical Begins Here

Today is February 1st.

Today I receive the gift of time.

I am blest to serve a congregation that recognizes the value of sabbatical. Every five years I get a three month sabbatical. Having served this congregation now for ten years, today I start my second one. This time I've divided up the three months and so this first piece is the month of February. Today is the beginning.

And, on day 1, all my plans changed.

I was supposed to leave town today. Snow has been falling since the middle of the night. I don't know what the official count is, but we've received over a foot (with drifts far deeper) and the snow continues to fall. So, I'm home...not doing what I planned.

And maybe that's just right for sabbatical.

After all, what I am doing is resting, spending time with my family, cooking for the ones I love and simply being. With each hour I figure out how to set aside a little more of my worry that this month will go quickly and already I'm off course and instead I'm simply finding ways to be, here, today...tomorrow...and likely until the snow begins to melt.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How I Became a Soccer Mom

I have long believed that children shouldn't start organized sports until 2nd grade or so. Yes, that was when I was first able to begin playing, but I think my reasoning is about more than an "it was good for me, it's good for them" mentality.

Honestly, I'm not sure children are really capable of playing organized sports before that age. There are certain natural developmental stages it seems they need to go through first.

Having said that I've understood and applauded people who put younger kids in organized sports for socialization reasons (there are many kids out there who don't have many opportunities to be around other children) or for health reasons (there are plenty of kids who don't get enough exercise).

However, I felt strongly that my children wouldn't play organized sports until a few years into elementary school. And several years ago, I was pleased to read an article in "Parents" magazine that supported my position. Since my husband is a sports lover whose older kids played sports young, I figured that article would be good ammunition when the conversation arose. (Too bad I don't know where that article is!)

Honestly, I simply didn't think my kids needed organized sports at a young age. After all, they are in fulltime daycare on top of which they spend many hours at different church activities and in the church nursery. If they need anything it's more time at home.

And they are both active...neither one doing much walking once they learned to run. In fact the five-year-old gets on the scale every day hoping to weigh in at 40 lbs and move to a booster seat. But, what he doesn't realize (and what I won't tell him) is that he needs to stop burning calories for that to happen. Instead, he celebrates being 37.8 pounds...again and again. If they need anything it's to learn to sit still.

So, with my firm beliefs in hand...tonight we went to the five-year-old's first soccer practice.

And I became a soccer mom.

And even though I still think there's some absurdity in it, I delight in my son's excitement. I have smiled every day for the last two weeks when he has checked again and again to make sure he knew that his first practice was on Thursday, the 27th. I celebrated with him when I picked him up from daycare, ready to head to the Y.

And, I must say, there's nothing cuter than that 37.8 pounds of five-year-old kicking a soccer ball carefully and eagerly through orange cones or high-fiving his dad after kicking it into the goal.

So, not only am I a soccer mom...but I celebrate it!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It was 2 a.m.

2 a.m. in a night that had already been long.

The almost-three-year-old had been in bed with me since 11 p.m. Tossing and turning one minute...kicking and hitting the next...sleeping fitfully in between.

At 2 a.m. he awoke again, this time in a rage. He didn't want to be comforted. He began hitting and kicking. He wouldn't stop. There was no comforting him...not talking him out of it. So, I removed myself from this situation by putting him in his room.

As I walked back across the hall I heard things beginning to be thrown. Thankfully they were soft things...pillows, blankets, stuffed animals. He cleared his bed.

Once cleared he moved on to the toys. A football went flying. (Thank you Nerf for being soft enough not to damage) Again I heard his hands among the toys until he secured his next weapon. In the darkness I saw the outline of my sweet baby boy. He stepped out of his room...he was in the hall...he was coming toward me...his arm reached back and I knew what was about to happen. Whatever he had in his hand was being thrown at me. I was ready to dodge. Thankfully it was only a small plastic ball not a large metal truck.

It was 2 a.m. I was calm...amazingly even in my sleepiness none of this riled me just hurt my heart.

I wasn't sure what else to do...he didn't want to be calmed by me.

So, I picked him up, reminding him sternly that throwing things at people was not allowed, and carried him to his sick daddy who was sleeping in the other room trying to keep his germs contained. Feeling bad about awaking my sick husband, still I did it. "Honey, I'm sorry, but I don't know what to do with him. You're going to have to take him."

With that I returned to my bed, knowing the little one would be cared for, hoping for sleep.

But sleep didn't come easily. Rather than being able to just relax and rest, I couldn't help but think of him...wonder.

He hasn't been feeling well...does he need to go the doctor?

Sometimes I'm exactly what he needs to be comforted, sometimes it just doesn't do I know which time is which?

His brother went through a really difficult phase right when he turned that what's going on now?

I love him, I'm not mad, I just don't know what he needs...does he know that I love him? does he feel abandoned? does he know what he needs?

As I continued to hope for sleep my last thoughts lay not with my child but with God. How does God do it? So often we are like a three-year-old. So often we are pushing away that which we need most. So often we are challenging the love that just wants to embrace us, to calm us. So often we demand separation when what we need to closeness. And yet God's love is continues...always.

And so does mine. That little child cannot hit or kick or cry or scream or throw fits or throw trucks enough to get me stop loving him. It's not possible. I learned that from God.

And at 7 a.m. when he awoke, it was with a smile and a hug. A little boy wanting a little love from his mommy. A mommy glad to give it.