Embracing with Faith our Summer Re-location

One thing I appreciate about living in Colorado:  There are no lizards. I can leave the front door of our apartment open when the weather is mild and never worry that I’ll find lizards running around the floors (or inside our shoes) later in the day. This spring–back in Orlando–I found a little lizard in our kitchen sink. I can’t count how many times I’ve almost tripped trying to avoid stepping on a lizard in our driveway or on the sidewalk. But I’ve never seen a lizard in Colorado. Also:  No fire ants. NO FIRE ANTS! Those are parts of Florida I don’t mind leaving behind for the summer.

Colorado offers beauty, adventure, outdoor fun galore. It’s also not home. It’s not the place where I do life. I do like to travel–as in, pack bags, go someplace for a visit, and then come home. {I actually like living overseas more than I enjoy travel, but there again, one puts down some roots and establishes a life if making a home in that place, wherever that place may be.} But this is more than–different than–travel. It’s packing up our house for a summer renter. It’s packing our family’s belongings to be away for over 2 months. It’s asking questions:  Do I pack the crock pot, or buy one at Goodwill when we get out there? How many dish towels should I pack? Will our tenant take care of our plants for the summer? 

frames

It’s also recognizing that we’ll be away from our church for 11 Sundays. ELEVEN. Another question:  How can we connect with people there–especially when we know hardly anybody there–if we’re not THERE? 

And it’s work. So. Much. Work. Imagine giving your entire house a spring clean to prep it for a person who’s going to pay (a modest amount) to live there, while simultaneously packing lots of boxes to be shipped out to Colorado for your family (along with suitcases and school supplies, since our home school year didn’t end until mid-June) AND continuing with normal life chores. Baking cupcakes for the Cub Scout den party and prepping for our end-of-year home-school evaluations, for instance. You know how busy the month of May can be for families, what with all the end-of-school-year functions? Yeah, like that. Plus readying my home for the house sitter AND getting all four of us packed to travel cross-country and plant ourselves in a new place for the summer–long enough to be more than a trip, but too short to consider that we’ve moved to a new home.

cupcakes with sprinkles

But here we are. End-of-year festivities and responsibilities have been fulfilled. We live in a 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment this summer–instead of our 3-bedroom, 2-bath house in Orlando. Less housework is required, and the weather is delightful. I mean, there is NO humidity. The city of Fort Collins is a cool, interesting place to be. Our boys are making friends with other Cru kids, and the pool is just steps from our door (although the water has been far too cold for me so far). There’s a community gas grill that Mike has used multiple times already, enjoying a working grill since we actually moved our broken gas grill to our new home in 2015 and still haven’t fixed it. He’s missed grilling and is making up for that by grilling everything from corn on the cob and tomatoes to chicken and pork chops.

We’ve hiked, biked, fished, played, taken advantage of the plethora of summer yard sales out here. I got a small tape measure for a nickel–just 5 cents–that I’m using as I sew more quilt tops while we’re here.

There’s much to appreciate in this place where I’ve spent the summers of 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and now 2017. And even with my horrible sense of direction, I’ve lived here enough months collectively that I remember how to get many places without using GPS.

But there’s still struggle, transition–the boys have their own, and I have my own, and I must help them navigate theirs. Conducting school out here, even at a slower pace, has been really difficult. I don’t have a specific summer job to do with our ministry out here, as my husband does. I still edit ministry stories on a minimal basis, the role I fill normally with Cru. But I don’t have a niche to fill out here; my real purpose in being out here is so our family can be together for the summer while Mike serves in his summer role. That’s more struggle.

And yet, since we’re planted here for the summer, I want to bloom here for the summer. In early May, I wrote in my journal, Lord, thank you for whatever our summer holds. My desire, my hope, is to embrace by faith whatever God has for us–and for me–this summer. I want to have the heart to receive with grace what He gives.

picnic tea set

What He’s given so far (besides that crazy cheap tape measure):  On the way out to Colorado, I spoke at my sister’s church about the Luo Pad program (led by Cru’s humanitarian ministry, GAiN), a cause close to my heart. The women who attended responded with great interest in sewing Luo Pads as an ongoing project. What a treat that I got to do some public speaking–which I love but rarely get to do–and that I got to share about a ministry opportunity that meets tangible needs as an expression of God’s love. I’ve also had a chance to help a mom with a Cru conference job here who’s needed an extra hand.

luo pad chalk board

There’s more summer to come, and I’m hopeful that God will continue to give me grace to take hold of all that He ushers into my time here in Colorado. I want to remember that EVERY DAY counts. This is not a season of simply marking time until we arrive back in Orlando in early August; these are days of living by faith, living out my faith. Embracing it with faith.

 

 

 

Wear It Well Wednesday: Summer Travels + Road Trip Survival Tips

It’s been over a week since we left home, beginning our trip out to Colorado for the summer. We’ve visited with family, caught a bit of time with a friend over BBQ and ice cream (I was in her wedding; she was in mine), watched my boys play long and hard with their cousins. We also set aside a day to experience the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport, Mississippi…not far from my hometown.

The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center was birthed out of my aunt Carole Lynn’s desire to honor her daughter–my cousin–Lynn, who passed away as a college freshman. Aunt Carole Lynn’s labor of love produced a top-notch, hands-on destination for kids. While exploring the outdoor attractions of the Discovery Center–including some impressive tree houses–we snapped this shot of my latest Wear It Well Wednesday ensemble:

allison at lynn meadows discovery center

All of the above consists of hand-me-downs:  The peachy/coral tank came from the give-away table at Mike’s office. Both the shorts and light blue-almost lavender short-sleeved cardigan arrived in a box of cast-offs from friend and ministry supporter Vivian in Texas. I kept these 2 pieces from her for myself. This is one of the outfits I will don over and over this summer while away from home. We tried to pack minimally; nonetheless, our van is stuffed to the rafters.

Speaking of traveling and road-tripping…I like to shake up the routine from time to time, but getting our entire family to Colorado for the summer, trying to establish a sense of rooted-ness and a sense of home in an apartment that is not ours, is challenging. For over a week now, I’ve felt the limbo that comes from living out of a suitcase (or duffel bag, to be exact). So I wanted to share a few of my road trip survival tips:

colored pencil set

  1. Books. I brought the first book in the Andrew Peterson Wingfeather Saga series (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness) that I borrowed from my sister. I’ve been reading this aloud to the boys while we drive. We also downloaded several audio books in the Boxcar Children series–thanks, Hoopla!–to entertain the boys, too.
  2. Hug your children. On a normal day, I hug the boys almost hourly–especially Garfield, whose love language is probably physical touch. Apart from hugs, we also wrestle (by trying to pull each other off the bed); I give piggy back rides; sometimes Garfield even sits in my lap for school work. When they spend days playing non-stop with cousins–or we spend days riding in separate seats in our van–we rarely get our usual cuddle time/play time/wrestle time with each other. So I take advantage of moments to hug them when I can; it helps us stay connected.
  3. Floss your teeth. Nothing is “normal” when on the road, including our eating. Eating out then is more for calories than fun, and I start to feel I cannot make one more decision about where to stop for lunch. I can’t provide made-from-scratch, whole-food dishes for myself or my family when we’re in a different place from day to day, but I can take care of myself in other ways. Like flossing my teeth. I can at least do that, and it gives me a small sense of accomplishment that I’ve done something good. 
  4. Move when you can. Not only is our eating anything but normal, I’m not working out with any regularity, either. Self-care takes more discipline while traveling with family in tow–and I honestly don’t have the time for work-outs right now–but I can do something. I can walk with Garfield around a restaurant while we wait for our food. I can do some calf raises, squats, stretching in a corner of the hotel room before bed. Even a little bit of movement helps me feel healthier.
  5. Drink loads of water. Eating not-so-well and not getting enough fresh air or exercise already, I try to consume plenty of water. Especially at altitude.
  6. Make time to have solitude. It’s unrealistic to expect abundant alone time while visiting family and road-tripping cross country. That’s not really the point, after all. But if you’re an introvert, like me, you’ll probably enjoy your family more (and they will DEFINITELY enjoy you more) if you can carve out a bit of time to be alone and recharge. One night while at my sister and brother-in-law’s home, I went to bed about an hour early so I could pray, write in my journal, and reflect on some Scripture verses. I went to sleep refreshed and at peace.
  7. Elderberry syrupI buy homemade elderberry syrup crafted by a woman in the Orlando area. We take a spoonful a day as preventive medicine because elderberries are very high in anti-oxidants. I ordered a special batch from Julie, who makes this syrup using raw honey and organic elderberries, so that we’d have a little immune booster in the midst of all the junk food we’ll consume while on the road.

Hopefully, the next time I post we’ll have finished our 4 nights of hotel stays (and 7 nights with various family members) and will be settled into our summer apartment. Enjoy your Wednesday, dear readers!

Life Begins At…

Earlier this week, I used a bag of pumpkin that I’d baked, pureed, and then frozen in our deep freeze to make a loaf of orange-pumpkin bread. It’s not a yeast bread, which makes it a “quick bread.” I needed to use up the pumpkin, because I’d mistakenly thawed it instead of the creamed corn that I had assumed it was. And once it was thawed, I couldn’t re-freeze it.

I baked this bread in a stoneware pan I had ordered back in the fall of 2000, when I was 26. A friend from my church at that time hosted a Pampered Chef party and invited me, along with lots of other women from our church. I rarely bought non-necessities for myself, and I love to bake (then and now), so I purchased the loaf pan that night.

Near the end of the evening, when the presentation had finished and I had begun writing a check for my order, I listened to the conversation flowing around me. One of the women mentioned working out at the on-campus gym at the university in our town–where I mentored college students in my role with Cru. I also worked out at this state-of-the-art gym and loved the classes there. So I was paying attention to the chatter even as I wrote out my check.

But then the woman describing her experience at the gym made a comment about the thin young college women who typically populated that workout facility. This woman, a mother of several children, then remarked loudly, “Those girls have never used their uteruses.” {I think the plural of that is actually ‘uteri,’ but anyway…} 

Our corner of the room grew very quiet and still. I looked up from my checkbook to see some rather awkward expressions. I was fairly confident I was the only woman in the room who was neither married nor had had children. I suppose that made me one of those girls who’d never used her uterus. And most, if not all, the others in that room knew that about me. It made for an odd moment for all of us, even though I knew the comment had nothing to do with me personally.

me at rangitoto sign
In New Zealand, pre-children.

At the time of the Pampered Chef party, I was a single woman in my mid-twenties living in a small town. I often felt hard pressed to find “my place” at church, in community. There was no “singles group” or Sunday school class for young adults who were neither college students nor part of a couple. And if there had been, I’d probably have been the only person attending. So I sidled out of the college student class I attended and began teaching Sunday school to 4- and 5-year-olds at our church. This turned out to be a fantastic experience.

But it would be another 6 years before I would use my uterus, if that means having a baby. During that same season of life, when I lived and worked with college students in that small Mississippi town, a freshman who’d recently experienced a bad break-up with her boyfriend came over to my apartment for dinner. Before she left that night, she asked me, “Are you OK with being alone?” I thought she was referring to my not having a roommate. So I answered that I had wanted to have my own apartment for a while and appreciated living by myself. She explained that she actually meant “alone,” as in “not married and not attached.” I was genuinely surprised she had asked.

sweet smelling flower at hog island

Growing up, I believed, at some point, I would get married and have children. And I wanted that–although my life has certainly not turned out as I had expected or hoped or asked God to bring about in some ways. And I got both:  marriage and children. But that doesn’t happen for everybody, and that does not mean that you’re “less than” if you haven’t used your uterus. 

I was living a full life before I had a husband or sons, and some of my richest, most life-shaping adventures took place before I even met Mike. Life didn’t begin when I became part of a couple or when I became a mother. Nor did it end when I left the single life behind (or the childless life behind, although Mike I never find ourselves at Barnes and Noble at closing time on the weekends anymore).

My worth isn’t wrapped up in whether I’d be chosen as a wife or whether I could birth and nurture a new little life. My value is not determined by what I can do or accomplish, but by Whose I am. One of the verses from Scripture that speaks to me so strongly currently is Ephesians 2:10:  “For you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do.” I’m God’s workmanship–a poem He is writing–not because I can muster up some good works but simply because I’m His. Because He has awakened me to faith in His Son and made me His child. Now, I have the privilege of doing good works because I get to partner with my Father in His redemptive plans for this world.

And that truth has never been dependent on whether I’ve used my uterus.

 

 

 

Another Easter Birthday

In the early hours of Easter Sunday 2006 (April 16th that year), I gave birth to my older son–the one I call Woodrow on my blog. He actually arrived 6 days past his due date, which happened to be my grandmother’s birthday. But I felt more than a little overwhelmed at becoming a mother and didn’t mind waiting a few more days for his debut. Plus, Mike and I felt elated to welcome a new little life on the day we as Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus.

A few days after our holiday baby was born, a lady in a Bible study I attended sent me an email message listing all the upcoming years in which Woodrow would again celebrate his birthday on Easter–since the date itself changes from year to year. Every 11 years, his April 16th birthday would coincide with Resurrection Sunday. At the time, his 11th birthday felt eons away.

cupcakes from Wilsons birthday
Cupcakes for Woodrow’s 8th birthday.

Well, those eons passed quickly, because Woodrow turned 11 on Easter Sunday this year, just a few weeks ago. We threw Woodrow a party on Saturday, April 15th…a full-to-the-brim day that began before dawn, when we arose early and then ran a 5K together (the boys and I). Then I gave all 3 of my menfolk haircuts, and then we hosted the party, complete with water balloons and water games. So on the 16th, our day was a bit more low key:  church service and then brunch with our church family, but there was more on my mind as well.

Last fall, for Garfield’s birthday, I baked him a red velvet cake from scratch. Only he wanted it to be blue instead of red–so I set out to give him that. I didn’t, however, have enough blue food coloring and ended up with a color more akin to olive green (the cocoa powder overwhelmed what little blue dye I did have). Since my boys love camouflage, I tried to convince Garfield the cake color was actually sort of kind of almost camo. But I topped it with a homemade ermine icing–also called boiled milk icing–and we all enjoyed the cake. Garfield was satisfied, despite the fact that I didn’t buy candles–and thought we’d already had some but apparently didn’t. Instead, I lit several matches, placed them atop the cake, and let him blow those out. Mom fail, I guess?

This year, Woodrow didn’t even want birthday cake–he requested ice cream sandwiches, so I bought two candles in the shape of a number 1, poked them into the ice cream sammie, and we sang “Happy Birthday.” At least I had the candles this time, right?

honey smiley face
Woodrow finds wonder in almost everything. Here, a smiley face made with honey.

Cake and ice cream aside, there are many, many parents who remember and reflect on April 16 in a very different fashion than my family or I do. Because on Woodrow’s first birthday–April 16, 2007–parents of almost 3 dozen individuals lost their children in the Virginia Tech shootings. I recall that day with great clarity. Woodrow hadn’t begun to walk yet but was taking steps as he passed from one piece of furniture to the next. We went grocery shopping that weekday morning, just he and I, and I bought him a big, helium-filled balloon. I have a picture from later that day of Woodrow holding onto the coffee table in our living room and reaching for the balloon as it bounced across the floor.

But even as we rejoiced at seeing our chubby-cheeked, bald little baby turn one, I ached for the parents who would never get to celebrate with their children again. Who would never throw birthday parties or buy balloons or go to the grocery store together again. There were several students killed that day at Virginia Tech who’d been involved in the Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) movement on that campus. Later, I read a book about the life of one of those students, Lauren.

bowl of shells

Now that Woodrow is 11 and has officially crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, he’s begun to go on camp-outs without us. When he does, I pray off and on all weekend for him. I know that I can’t spare him of every hurt or protect him from every disappointment, and I pray for myself, too–that I will trust God with what He allows to hurt my child. I will safeguard my children; I will set healthy boundaries. And I will also seek to trust our Father with what I can’t control. I don’t know how that ultimately plays out; neither did the parents of those killed at Virginia Tech ten years ago.

I do not in any way believe that God causes this type of evil, this kind of tragedy. But I do believe that there are times when God could stop some kind of suffering but chooses not to do so. I don’t understand all that and have no good answers for the “why?”, but if I’m humble enough to acknowledge that I am not all-knowing or all-powerful and certainly not perfectly loving, I must acknowledge also that I don’t see the whole picture. That I’m called to trust God more than I can see or feel. That He will ultimately bring all things to their rightful end.

If asked where God is when the ones who love Him suffer, I would say–He’s right there with us. When I was bullied at age 16, He was with me. When I was sexually assaulted at 21, He was with me. Although there have been times I’ve doubted this (and times in the future when I’m sure I will wrestle with this, too), moments when I’ve cried out, “God, do you SEE me?” Yet I’m learning to say, like Hagar in the book of Genesis, “You are the God who sees me.”

He is with His people when we suffer, and He suffered FOR us. That’s what Easter embodies–the Son of God willingly giving up his life, in agony and torture and execution, to reunite us with the Father who loves us and made us for Himself. That Father who, like the parents of those shot and killed at Virginia Tech, also mourned the death of His own Son at the hands of sinful humanity. Indeed, it was MY sin that held him there…

Revelation 21:4-5… “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

*A helpful book dealing with the question of why God allows suffering is The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis. Another is Trusting God:  Even When Life Hurts, by Jerry Bridges.

We’re Together, and They’re Mine

A month or so ago, I finally watched the movie Loving–even though it was released last November. In case you don’t know about this film, you can view a trailer for it here. We received free movie tickets as gifts over the past year, and I wanted to use those to go see this movie. But we ended up finding it on Vudu or something (you’d have to ask Mike if you want to know for sure.) So the free tickets are saved for another day.

As a woman in an interracial marriage, I feel a kind of kinship to the couple in this story. I’ve never feared that Mike or I risked going to jail for marrying each other. But had we lived (and married one another) 50 or 60 years ago, we would certainly have faced push back, maybe even persecution. And because, even generations later, there are still challenges involved in interracial marriage.

I watched the previews for Loving 3 times before watching the entire movie, and I cried at it exactly 3 times:  at the sadness of this practice of White supremacy, outlawing marriage between Black people and White people because miscegenation was such a hated concept. At the frustration of how courts (and sometimes churches) redefined marriage as being a union that could occur between men and women as long as they were of the same race. (Well, actually, the White supremacists didn’t seem to mind if Black folks married Asian folks–for example–but they didn’t want White people marrying outside their race.)

My great-great grandmother, a Choctaw Native American living in Mississippi, married a White man (my great-great grandfather) over a hundred years ago. She entered into marriage with a man of a different culture and ethnicity. I think about her sometimes and wonder how she folded herself into a family and culture so different from her own. I feel a kinship with her because I too married a man unlike myself in some ways; I too birthed children who look different from myself. She must have been brave, I’m sure.

My Papa, who died on Valentine’s Day this year, was one-quarter Choctaw. When we were little, our grandfather would point to a dark birth mark on his arm and tell us, “That’s all the Indian I have left in me.” In myself, I have only one-sixteenth.

I’ve been asked several times if my half-Korean sons were adopted. “Are your boys biological, or did y’all adopt them?” a mom at our home school co-op asked years ago. “Where did y’all get your boys?” a man asked me at our church one Sunday. Once, a college student at an apartment complex asked me, “What are they?” I didn’t quite know how to answer that until he said, “So, are they Thai? Or what?” In all fairness, he seemed a bit tipsy, and he told me that he was also half-Asian.

nanny boys and me at michael wedding
My grandmother, sons, and me at a family wedding about 5 years ago.

We sold a chair on Craigslist once to a young Asian- (I think Vietnamese) American woman who brought her mother with her to our house to pick it up. I could see the mother, who wasn’t speaking English, gesturing to my sons and then to me as she asked her daughter questions.

I could guess what she wanted to know. To all these questions, I simply respond, “My husband’s Korean.” And that takes care of it. Truthfully, these questions don’t bother me; most of the time I think they’re funny. Although when I was pregnant for the first time, I did mourn a tiny bit that people might not be able to recognize that my child was mine–even though I would grow him inside of me. Now, I am so grateful that my children’s appearances reveal their Korean heritage.

Calvin on bench at airport
Baby brother (AKA Garfield) waiting at an airport in 2012. Can you stand this cuteness?

When they were each very little–just learning to talk–both my sons asked me, “Why you white, Oh mah?” They also wanted to know why my eyes were green (I’d grown up thinking they were blue; now they look watery gray-green to me). They would say, “Why you have green eyes?” My typical answer to these questions was simply, “That’s how God made me.”

They also wanted to know why I had a black dot in the center of my eyes. Their eyes are so dark that their pupils are often difficult to distinguish from their irises. Woodrow and Garfield didn’t notice a black spot in their own eyes and were confused as to why I had these spots in my eyes.

Just the other day, Garfield pointed to the underside of my upper arm and declared that the skin there was “ridiculously white.” My response was something along the lines of–what did you expect, honey?

One morning when they were very little, I took the boys on a bike ride while I walked beside them. Across the street from us, an African-American boy was riding his bike to school. Garfield pointed him out to me and stated, “He brown, Oh mah; he brown. That mean he Korean.” Well… We’ve grown in our understanding of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds over the years.

Not only have my children grown, but *I* have grown, too. Marrying someone of a different cultural and ethnic heritage has helped reveal to me how much I went through the world not really aware of my White-ness. How much I didn’t recognize the struggles of people with skin a different color than mine. I’ve been humbled in this cross-cultural marriage of ours, realizing just how ignorant I am in many ways, especially as I’ve come to understand how much my husband has had to learn to adapt to the majority culture in our country.

mike and me at tiri tiri matangi
Mike and me in New Zealand, 2005.

I take notice of the world around me and realize that it’s looking more and more like my children look, and I wonder about the spouses God will give my boys. Will their children be even more multi-ethnic than they are? Will my grandchildren have more African heritage than Asian?

When I think about the words in Revelation, the last book of the Bible, describing the great multitude surrounding God’s throne–from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation–I am almost overcome with weeping. I can hardly wait for that day, to meet all my brothers and sisters in Christ. Some will look like me; others, like my husband. Many will look like nobody (currently) in my earthly family. And some will certainly share the coloring and features of my great-great-grandmother.

 

 

 

The Adventurous Life of a Boring Mom

When I was 8 or 9, my family and I visited some extended family members in a small town near Vicksburg, Mississippi. While there, my distant cousin, Dru, who was the same age I was, had a soccer game. Her step-mom invited me to go along, so I went, happy to be included.

I’d never been to a soccer game before, ever. At that time, the sport of soccer had not made its way to my rural hometown. I had to sit alone during her game, since her step-mom had to work the concession stand or keep score or some other job.

The weather was hot, and I got bored. So, near the end of the game, I occupied myself by turning cartwheels on the sidelines. Over and over and over. I kept myself busy by moving–and moving a lot–but always coming back to the exact same spot.

primary colors plate

Last school year, I read a book aloud to the boys:  Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. I did a fair amount of research before reading that to Woodrow and Garfield, because I couldn’t figure out how to pronounce the name “Bowditch.” I finally discovered it’s pronounced like “bough,” as in “take a bow.”

The story centers around travels on a ship, so the pronunciation makes sense:  like the bow of a ship. Some of the phrases, particular to those seafaring men, connected with me. When a sailing vessel has insufficient wind to move it along, that ship is said to be “becalmed.” Another phrase that struck me:  Swallowing the anchor. Which refers to the time when a sailor retires from sea-going life and settles down.

There are times, whole seasons, in life when I feel this so acutely. When I feel that I’m where I’m supposed to be, but I’m just cartwheeling myself along the sidelines until the game finishes. When I feel I’ve lived with steps of faith and taking risks that led to adventure, but that those days, whole seasons, are passed–and that I must swallow the anchor and settle down to life ashore. These feelings ebb and flow with the natural push and pull within my own soul.

A genuine contentment {most of the time} at being at home:  home school mother, stay-at-home mom for right at 11 years now. My life truly revolves around our home–parenting, teaching, hours of reading aloud and playing games and listening to countless stories about Garfield’s favorite Hot Wheels and Woodrow’s ideas for new inventions. And all the serving that goes with this life-orbiting-around-the-home–from giving haircuts to piggy back rides to birthday parties. This is what I want.

Henry Ford drawing by Calvin
Garfield’s recent portrait drawing. My boy is a Ford truck man.

A genuine restlessness {once in a while} at being at home:  My husband travels to New York for a week, serving others in his ministry role, while I stay back and home school and take the boys to Scouts and fix meals. He eats at fancy restaurants and sees a Broadway musical, and I think to myself–pettily, I know–But I loved New York first! I lived there for a summer during college, serving with Cru on an inner-city mission project. I went back for a week during my time serving with Cru at Mississippi State, leading a group of college students to serve in and learn from inner-city ministry during spring break. Then I also spent a few days there right after 9/11, involved with Cru service there. Mike thinks he doesn’t travel much for work (and compared to others, he really doesn’t), but he gets on a plane numerous times a year. I haven’t flown since 2012.

Before we had children, I discussed with my then-team leader our plans to go to New Zealand for a year and join a team ministering to college students there. I pondered that, if we were going to do this, it might be better to go before we had babies. His response:  “You better get while the getting’s good.” It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that his comment terrified me. What did that mean for my life one day as a mother?

butterfly drawing

I have ten years left–only ten!--to finish laying a foundation in my children’s lives, before they are (more or less) launched into the world. I will not wish away a single moment. I will continue to stop what I’m doing and make eye contact with the child who has another question, another story. I will sacrifice the travel and give up the adventure for time–lots and lots and lots of time, for there simply is no substitute for it–with my children.

Yesterday, we spent a half hour finishing an elaborate game of Memory that Woodrow had made up. Before bedtime, we spent almost half an hour reading, even though I’d already read a chapter from that book in the morning, too. If time is money, I’m investing it in these boys.

When my sons and I spend a morning packing homeless care bags together, or shopping together for socks and underwear and t-shirts to send to a ministry to men engaged in survival prostitution, or cleaning together at a friend’s condo as she prepares it for a new tenant, my eyes of faith crack open a bit wider, and I can see more clearly:  This IS the adventure. 

 

 

How Not Complaining Gave Me Better Understanding

For Lent, we decided as a family to fast from complaining–and we chose not only to give up something but also to add something during the season of Lent. We elected to add acts of kindness. As you can imagine, at least one person in the family fails almost daily in the giving up of complaining. But therein lies the value of choosing to ‘sacrifice’ this habit for Lent:  We know that we can’t be good enough in our own strength, our own power, to uphold our own standard of goodness (much less God’s standard). So as we slip and stumble, we’re reminded of our need for Christ. Of our need for the gospel. Of our need for the gospel EVERY SINGLE DAY.

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But recognizing that we ARE fasting from complaining helps to make me at least more intentional about noticing when I do it and about kicking it to the curb when I catch myself at it.

This past Sunday afternoon, on a glorious and bright and sunny day, we took the boys to a lake with Woodrow’s kayak and their fishing gear. I took my workout plan and found a shady spot to do my crunches, squats, Russian twists, and the rest, while Mike watched the boys play around with the kayak mostly near the shore.

A massive, well-attended dog park sits next to the park with the pier and the lake where our family spent time that day. Dog owners bring their pets to the dog park here to run and play; they even have a bit of lake shore set aside for their enjoyment. All this is separated from the lake park (called Lake Baldwin Park) by a fence. The fence even extends several feet out into the water, and the place across from the multi-acre dog park–where the boys paddled in the kayak and fished off the pier–is marked with a sign reading “No Dogs Beyond This Point.”

Almost every time we visit this lake park, we see dog owners bring their pets right out onto the pier, past the sign informing them not to bring their dogs to that area. The dog park has its own entrance, so there’s no need for the owners to walk their dogs on or near the pier. Sometimes these dogs startle my children while the boys dangle fish hooks in the water, but the dogs are usually on leashes, and I typically don’t say anything to the owners about it.

This past Sunday, however, we encountered a different situation with a dog and her owner. The man dropped his dog off at the dog park and then walked over to the lake park, to the pier, and stood on it while yelling at his dog across the fence. He wanted her to swim around the fence that stretched out into the water and make her way over to him on the pier. He tried to get her to swim around to him over and over. She didn’t seem to understand the command. Eventually, he went back inside the dog park to retrieve her. Then he brought her with him back to the lake park, to the side of the lake NOT designated as a dog park. He took her off her leash, letting her run freely.

And run she did, round and round. She ran around him; she ran around me; she ran around the pier and into the water. At one point, Garfield turned around while sitting in the kayak to see a large dog running full speed toward where he sat in the water. I called out to him that it was OK. But it wasn’t OK with me. 

During the time the dog ran wildly around the lake park, the dog owner kept calling to his dog. It was clear he’d lost control, although I could tell by the tone of his voice that he didn’t want it to sound that way. When I tried to reassure Garfield that it was OK, he heard me and answered, “Oh, she won’t bite; she just wants to run.” I didn’t respond to him, but I could see how exasperated he was getting with the dog. He seemed to be the kind of person who wanted to give the appearance of having things under control, of being IN control. It seemed to matter to this man that the handful of people at the lake saw him as a guy who could get things done, as somebody who certainly wouldn’t be bested by his dog.

We got ready to leave just a few minutes after this man finally wrangled the dog and got her back on the leash. As I walked over to Mike (from where I’d been exercising), I considered venting about this irresponsible dog owner. Which is a bit of a pet peeve for me, y’all. But I believe God prompted me to hold my tongue; there was no reason at this point to comment on the situation. So I chose not to say anything–not to complain.

But I thought about this occurrence at Lake Baldwin Park over the next couple of days. I thought about this man, not just about what he did that bothered me or frightened my children, but about him. And I concluded that he was embarrassed. He was embarrassed that his dog had gotten the better of him–and in front of other people at that. All his bravado, his very calculated nonchalance, was to cover up his embarrassment. His fear of not being seen as the person he wanted to portray to the world, even to strangers.

And instead of feeling annoyed by him, I felt some compassion for him. I also realized that most (all?) of us struggle with this to some degree:  fear of being exposed, of being found out, of not being seen as the pulled-together and competent and capable people we want others to know we are so that we can be assured of being accepted and wanted.

When I think about all this, my heart feels freed up to extend more grace to this man. And just think–perhaps none of that would have been possible if I’d complained.