Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wanna Be

My son's first email address was wannaberockstar@------. It perfectly defined him at the time. He still uses that email address, but he's no longer a wanna be, and he's not a rock star either. What he is is a talented musician with a guitar strapped to his shoulder and a high hope that it will bond to his skin and become a fifth appendage. He's a songwriter, the youngest in our church's praise band, and leader of youth worship and the teen praise team.

Unlike him, I still live at the address -- I still wanna be a lot of things. A better mother,  a better homemaker, a writer, a full-time professional. I have a generation head-start on my son, and he seems to be more accomplished than his mom. What's his secret?

Could it be that he's confident? And fearless? He looks dead in the eye of the skeptic with a defiant belief in himself and a firm grip on his dreams, his passions. He's undaunted by the fact that he's unorganized and can't seem to hold the details together before they slip past his creativity. He just lets nothing stand in his way. It verges on arrogant, but he's just winsome enough to get away with it. It's audacity (to ransom a word brilliantly taken hostage and branded by, and probably forever married to, President Obama).

And I wanna be that too - except that I'm not. Not wired that way at all. Why do we wanna be and have what is someone else's, discontent with who and how God made us? I'm in my 40s, never having stared boldly back into the eye of my fear and skepticism, a Wanna Be, still. This kind of tenacity flies in the face of the quiet and gentle spirit, the peacemaker, and follower that I am. Those traits disqualify me from passage into the land of Dream Achievers

So I'm still a Wanna Be. I wanna be a full-time income earner, a writer, a bible teacher, a mom my kids will - someday - be glad they had. I wanna be all these things because I'm wired with a love of words and an unused (as of yet) English degree and a passion for God's word and my kids.

Instead, what I am is a part-time bookkeeper, a blogger (with an encouraging mother), a bible teacher with no room at the church for another class, and a mom that's often most unpopular with her kids.

The gap between my "wanna be" and my "am" is the validation of others and the word someday.

I don't wanna be a wanna be anymore.

I read this today on Billy Coffey's blog:
You are a real writer the moment you put pen to page and soak it with your tears and sweat and dare to share yourself with the world. It is that supreme act of courage that gives your life meaning, not a piece of paper to sign and initial at the bottom.
I qualify -- I am. I have already put pen to pages soaked with tears and sweat and dared to share myself with the world. There may have been no contract or paycheck, and perhaps nobody else has called me a writer.

The defining factor is that I don't see it as an act of courage, I see it as a necessity, as natural as breathing. The difference between courageous and necessary is not a gap but a bridge:  from the land of "Wanna Be" to "I Am."

I'm also already a cherished mom, a bible teacher, and prayerfully a better income earner soon.  Saying so feels uncomfortable and wild because I'm wearing the King's mantle of audacity that's flying in the face of this gentle, follower type. But I'm learning tenacity and embracing the inheritance of my Father's genetics. He is, after all, the great I AM.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Out of the Mouth of Babes

You know those emails that circulate round and round and never stop? Well, my youngest daughter loves them. She sends them to her entire contact list and eagerly awaits her  responses.

Yesterday she sent one out that asks lots of questions about yourself, and one of her answers just knocked me off my desk chair, because it is true: pride goes before the fall. I thought I'd share it with all (two) of you, since it was quite profound and from the heart of a little girl.

The Question:

"What do you think a best friend should be?"

: : :

The Amazing, Eleven-Year-Old-Girl Answer:

"Christian, trustworthy, funny, knows when to laugh, when to change the subject, and when to just listen. Knows when I'm having a bad day (and how to handle me on them), confidential, crazy(in a good way) and doesn't back down from a challenge. offers good advice." 



Dear Lord,

Make me a best friend, I pray.

Amen   

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Love Is Like Riding a Bike

I taught my three kids to ride a bike. I didn't like it; it was hard work. And I thought it was a Dad job. But I was the one who was home every afternoon, so it fell to me.

The bike was heavy with a kid-with-no-balance perched on top. Trying to keep it straight with one outstretched, woman-weak hand firmly clasped to the back of the seat while running wildly to keep up didn't feel like a winning plan. I'm sure it wasn't a pretty sight. Yes, this is definitely a Dad job.

They all learned to ride though, and I survived it too, I suppose. My kids learned balance and gained control of the bike. It unleashed them to broader territory. And all it took was balance and control, keys to the kingdom. After all, they're the same thing, right?

I learned that wobbling through trial and error really does lead to learning, and that you might have to look a bit foolish in the process.

My little bike-riders of yore are now adolescent and not so sure they want their mama hanging on behind them, fighting desperately to keep them from falling. I, too, am beginning to think I might be dead weight, making their job harder. And it's definitely not a pretty sight.


I'm the one who is now off-balance, flailing and stumbling behind the confidence and eagerness of youth peddling wildly forward. From my vantage point, I see, not confidence and eagerness, but inexperience and exposure to greater risk. But I can also see (and hear) why they might want to shake loose the frantic woman behind them who incessantly reminds, pesters, badgers, pleads. Why is letting go so dog-gone hard?

Maybe because I see a few potholes up ahead. Maybe because I see my own scars from the ones I hit. Maybe I don't want to relinquish my role as their teacher, knowing Life's lessons are ever more painful. Maybe I love being in control. Maybe I'm realizing I never really was in control. I thought the process was fail safe. It worked for riding a bike. How I wish this could be a Dad job.

But riding a bike and living life are not the same, and neither are balance and control. In fact, one must be let go of to grasp the other. I'm beginning to figure out which one I want to lay hold of. And this is definitely a Mom job, because Dad sure seems to be having no trouble.




What does LOVE look like in your home?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

48 Hours

A weekend away with Mike.


I've never been to a Bed and Breakfast before.


Gorgeous! You know...the house.



Built in the trolley car "suburb" of Charlotte, North Carolina in 1917,
 which is now the heart of "Uptown" with some of the most beautiful historic homes and trees I've ever seen.
The home had great bones, and smelled like my first piano teacher's house,
although I don't remember her house being this amazing...
And I know her piano wasn't as "grand."


And details this great....



A libraray with antique books I'd have loved to peruse,
tempting me from the top of the ladder,
an overhead bookshelf encircling the room.


Our private room as beautiful as the common ones...




And the cranberry breakfast scones were melt-in-your-mouth good.
I didn't even get a picture of them!

We spent Friday walking and talking, and eating fabulous food,
window shopping in stores we can't afford,
but holding hands, and that's all that really matters anyway.

Saturday morning held glimpses of the Truth Project
and excitement over a sememster of swimming
in Christian worldview
with the finest in the pond...I mean, field.

We lunched in a hole in the wall pizza joint
with the most authentic Italian pizza I may have ever had,
and leftover espresso flan from the night before,
agreeing it was the best flan we'd ever eaten.
Which reminds me...


Cortadito (translation: a small cut):
Cuban espresso "cut" with steamed milk also from the night before.
(Was it even called "living" before there was Cuban coffee in my life?)
*     *     *
An amazingly mild early-Fall afternoon
at the Billy Graham Library
celebrating how God can use one man
and transform the ordinary
into something quite remarkable.

I don't think I realized how much Mike and I needed some time away
...alone...
the absolute best detail of all.
No doubt about it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Family Night Takes Flight

The push of the days, they crash into one another. The busyness speeds minutes into hours, into seasons, and life spreads wing and fies. A new video game, a stop at two stores on the way home from work, homework in three progressions, and I hurriedly add the details of dinner. How much activity can be crammed into one evening, without the lid blowing off?

The plan was for the work to be done by 7pm to make way for family movie night: the fourth installment of Love Comes Softly. But life often happens to the best laid plans these days. It was 7:45 before we began, and after bedtime by the end. But how else will family time happen, if we don't just squeeze it in?

The demands and the desires press down hard against me and the clock mocks me with its tick-tocking. The toilet overflows, and the man-child erupts, and the showered girl needs a towel, and a momma simply tries harder, runs faster to hold it all together.

The other day, we visited friends who had experienced a healing that just may have save his life. The wife sat quiet beside him, with the dog who thinks he's a lapdog taking up two. And Steve spilled forth his joy, and thanksgiving, and with humbled inability to put words to any more, he spilled the rest from his eyes. As we listened, I watched a magnificent hummingbird through the picture window behind him. The petite gracefulness nothing short of a work of art. She perched on a branch for a while, then motionless hovering over the necter, then perched again quiet and effortless.

I think of the bird tonight. I have not hovered motionless and perched, effortless quiet. But I want to be the beautiful bird that sucks necter from life with the poise and elogance of ballet. Instead I am an ant, who scrurries helter skelter after the boot drops. Right up and over those who are closest - but in my way, the crazy madness of a mosh pit, biting, stinging in the flesh. The high-pitch is because I'm not breathing from my diaphram. And my chest aches and my ears ring, and my shoulders are a tight-rope. I speak too many words, unable to dam the floodgate. And I need Thee, O I need Thee. Every hour I need Thee.

While I mop up the contamination from the bathroom floor, I wonder how I will clean the contamination that overflowed my heart. And the words from Haggai that flowed into that heart only two days ago bite and sting my spirit now. Because the impure indeed defiles what is pure when it touches it. And I have presented my members as an instrument of unrighteousness, and sown discord, not peace. I have looked into the mirror and walked away and forgotten Who I am to look like.

God disinfects with mercy and grace. Forgiveness, too. And a new day dawning tomorrow. He lifts me up--I am not an ant trampled under foot. And He humbles me--neither am I the hummingbird, beak dripping stolen sweetness. The bird God watches is the sparrow.

And I sing because I'm happy and I know he watches me.



Friday, September 10, 2010

Cowbell Waving and Football Playing

It's football season, and you know what that means. Nothing.

Mike began playing organized ball his senior year of high school at the urging of one of the coaches. Coach was drawn to either Mike's large frame or his band uniform - I never could figure out which. He taught Mike how to play the game out of sympathy: Mike was getting his block knocked off at practice because he was a talented trumpeter, but not so much of a football player. He learned fast, and that's all it took.

Love of the game caused him to want more, so he walked on to the junior college team. He played with such heart that, when they were cutting players every Friday, they asked him to report to the office. Instead of a cut, he got a raise. They offered him a full scholarship because Mike played football straight from his toes. And his sophomore year, they were national champs.  This earned him a scholarship to a small college in Georgia, where he got distracted by girls with cars, and he lost the most important free ride of them all.

But love for the game never really left him. He coached a few years while paying his own way to college graduation. And he still holds out hope that our large-framed, guitar- and piano-playing son will turn footballer, following in his father's footsteps. But watching football just doesn't do it for Mike. He says, "When you've been the player on the field, being a fan in stands is not very satisfying." So football season around here means nothing.

But it always brings to mind one particular game when I was in college myself. Five freshman took a road trip to see our team play Mississippi State. State is Mississippi's agriculture school, complete with vet classes, chemistry experiments involving soil analysis, and cornfields with grazing cattle. It's no wonder State fans carried cow bells to athletic events.

Abandoning our assigned seats for some reason, we found a sliver of USM fans in that huge stadium just before kickoff, and settled in. My head was already ringing with cowbells. The family in front of us consisted of Mother, Father, and two children about four and six.

Father watched the two children who were utterly unimpressed with the football game. He saw little of the game since he had two mischievous, ice- and coke-covered children to entertain. He seemed undisturbed by his role reversal with his wife.

While Father was busy playing mother, Mother was busy playing fan. From the beginning Mother looked anxious for the game to start, sitting quiet and attentive. She was well prepared in her two pairs of glasses - the inner pair to see the happenings on the field, the outer pair to block the sun. She carried a purse so large it should have needed its own ticket. She gripped it tightly and looked to be guarding it closely. Then we found our why.

Within the first minutes of the game, she reached into the deep regions of that bag and pulled out her very own Mississippi State Bulldogs "Bully Bell."  The five of us looked at one another aghast.  We could not believe this lady had the audacity to sit with the USM Eagles and cheer on MS State Bulldogs, and with an obnoxious cowbell to boot! Nonetheless, she sat calmly in her seat, cowbell extended high toward heaven, and waved it, loud and proud. Bill, who had wanted to sit in our designated seats from the beginning, lost all control of himself and began screaming, "I TOLD YOU! WHAT DID I SAY? I TOLD YOU!"

Mother cheered through the entire game. She didn't speak or leave her seat - not even through half time. But as wrapped up in the game as she may have appeared, she, in reality, was not. Tension mounted with the score tight, yet she remained calm in her seat, rhythmically ringing her bell, never once reacting emotionally to the game. That bell was supposed to say it all. I could tell that she was routing for State only by the bulldog covering the side of her cowbell. She was not upset by the outcome of the game, even though Mississippi State lost (GO EAGLES!).

I wanted to ask her why she even bothered coming to the game (other than to deafen everyone within a six-seat radius, of course), but I didn't.  It wasn't until years later and meeting my ex-football-playing hubby that I realized that some people stand on the sidelines and, with all their might, make as much noise as they can. Some quietly get in the game and, with all their heart, play to win.

Then there's me, who approaches football with neither might nor heart. It's only a game; I just tag along for the ride and for the fun food. I reserve my might and heart for real life. That's where everyone wins and and loses, everyone gets to play and cheer on others,  and nobody but God knows the score.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When Your Daughter Has Locker Trouble

We are well into our third full week of school, and Noelle still isn't using her locker.

The sixth grade teachers make a big to-do over lockers, locks, and combinations. They hand you the combination printed out on an unimpressive slip of yellow paper, but with all the fanfare, you'd think it was the keys to the kingdom. They even suggest these young'uns move into it like its their first apartment.

But by seventh grade, it's supposed to be old hat. The thirty-five seconds it takes to pass out the combinations is all the time that's invested in hallway real estate, and most of the kiddos are fine with that -- they learned that lockers were over-rated about halfway through sixth grade.

Not so for Noelle. She homeschooled through sixth grade and totally missed the locker hype and learning curve. She had only minimal practice the day before school started with a borrowed locker and combination, a generous gesture by her sixth-grade-cat's-meow sister, who was quite enamored with her new locker and middle school status. And Noelle found success after only three failed attempts, then did it again, just for fun. She'd figured it out; Right of passage gained; The end . . . or so she thought.

The next day, nerves all but gone since yesterday's success, she faced the unanticipated: a built-it lock. Noelle had memorized her combination in fifteen seconds flat, but soon learned that knowing the combination doesn't earn you access. Open Sesame just won't cut it, and locker locks are totally unimpressed with the height of embarrassment.

Humiliated, she excused away every opportunity for help. "I forgot to ask," "I didn't have time," "There was no recess today..." Finally, after I emailed her teacher, she was given the opportunity to linger in the hallway during recess to figure it out.

12-33-7. Nothing. 12-33-7. Nothing. Over and over, for the entire length of recess, with each jerk of the lock that was unmet with success, negativity heaped higher.

Failure.
You Can't Do It.
Humiliation.
Why Try?
I Look Like An Idiot.
How come everyone else can do this?!

And the pack on her back got heavier and heavier. Not with the weight of books, but with shame. The kind a kid shrugs off as nothing when they're trying hard to fit in and look like they've got it all under control.

So today, I'm driving to the school to pick her up. And to pick her up. We'll enter the front door, and storm the seventh grade hallway together, owning the place. I'm a woman on a mission because the real shame would be in allowing my middle schooler to be defeated by a yet-empty, metal box. We won't leave until she has claimed the square footage of that school that rightfully belongs to her.

Today she takes back her pride. She'll learn that when problems arise, you can't just stuff them in your bookbag and lug them around with you. It might hurt a little. It might be a bit embarrassing that Mom had to come to the rescue, but I know deep down she'll be relieved that I did, even if she won't admit it.

I won't be deterred, because middle school's too heavy to carry around on your back every day. She needs access to the place where she can lay her burdens down. Aren't we all in need of that?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Naming Them One By One

I have a perpetual To Do List. It is never complete and continually evolving. What a blessing it is to have now another list that is perpetual, ever-evolving, and never complete. It's God's Done List, entrusted to my keeping.

210. autumn skies, crisp and clean; the summer haze mysteriously and prematurely absent



213. Mom's approaching kidney transplant anniversary

214. phone calls from Dad

215. leaving job interviews having learned that you really are an alien, stranger to this earth because you can't answer their questions or play the "corporate America" game

216. humbled that the true answer really is, "I want God's will for my life," "I want to serve the Lord,"

217. loathing interviews because of the competition, the comparisons, and the selling of oneself

218. thankful that I'm good at none of the above?

219. a scary realization that I have gotten not one of the jobs on the resumé based on my own merit

220. a husband who is not like me: when I see my own insufficiency in black and white, he sees a list of God's faithful provision

221. when fear is humbled before almighty God

221. conversation with Mike cradled in the cover of darkness, supported by touching toes, and the safe fortress that is our bed

222. our bedroom: square footage in our home dedicated exclusively to our marriage

223. door locks to employ when necessary, to ensure and protect
 the above

224. trimmed bushes

225. watching the banana spider that has webbed his way into our kitchen window this week

226. the welcome mat at the front door gently reminding that our home is much more than a place for clean feet

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tangible Math

8 cousins:
the product of 4 siblings
plus 3 wives (not pictured)



divided by 2 spouses
who multiplied:
4 more the product,
adding 2nd cousins...
7 boys plus 7 girls from 1 clan
equals the next generation

the equation solved,
the theorem proved:
1 large and lively family
with exponential love and laughter



and a remainder of loads of loud and crazy fun.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Paradox

I've been so busy trying to keep pace with this hectic life, I find myself not recording it. I started blogging because I felt life was passing by me without it being savored. Important things were whizzing past along with the trivial. Sometimes the important is camouflaged as trivial until it is noticed and exposed for the profundity it was all along.

And yet, I don't want the documenting of things to keep me from living those things. Minutes. Hours. Days. They are important, both as small pieces and as the sum of the parts.

Three and a half moths. Tiny ticks in the cog of a globe that spins on the axis in orbit of the great fire-light, the gear that produces time and space. Three and a half months come and go, Baby V's brain tumor all but disappears, and Baby I breathes her first and her last. Simultaneous brain scans reveal both.

Families reel from the good turned bad and the bad become good. There is grief in the face of rejoicing and rejoicing in the face of grief. Those polar opposites are married in the body of Christ as the gear shifts unrelenting and cranks out yet another moment. It is heavy and light, but it is one.

How does one live a life that counts? What would today look like if it were my last? Would I throw caution to the wind and live with abandon? Dessert before supper from now on? Heck - dessert for supper! Or would I cling to my convictions and try harder to hunker down and do more of the right thing? The hard thing? Pray without ceasing, seek to do good to others, build myself up in my most holy faith? Good deeds piled high on the far end of the scale as the counter-balance of what exactly? Too many empty calories?

How do we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep... at the same time? How do you live like you're dying?  Because we are, you know, living and dying...at the same time. So what's important in light of malignancies turned healings, and robust newborn life snuffed out all in the same tick of the clock?

Something in me needs to make sense of this. Something else needs not waste the tocks of the clock, for they march on. Live while there is living. Let God alone be God - but cling to Him. And my darkness and His light marry and become one. My questions are embraced with the Answer that He is. Yet they remain questions unanswered.  And I must be content in that He alone knows, and because He does, I need not. This life that I live I now live by faith. And by knowing I am not alone.

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