Pooh Bear was excited about it. Thrilled. Stoked. I, on the other hand, hadn't seen my ballet slippers for at least five years. I only had those shoes, because I once was on a liturgical dance team many years ago. Pooh Bear dug them out of my closet last week, placed them on the cedar chest at the end of my bed just to make sure I was ready. Pooh Bear's ballet teacher included mothers in her class yesterday for kicks. Only one other mother besides myself braved the proposal, and I knew Pooh Bear expected me to participate. No bones about it. I do love to dance, but not especially formal ballet technique. I can't figure out if my bottom is sore today from leg lunges I added at the gym or plies' with Miss Michelle. Miss Michelle's mom knitted lovely soft pale pink neck scarves for each little girl as a gift. Though it's certainly not cold, Pooh Bear wore it for the afternoon. Love is a sweet thing.
No wonder my children think I'm a nag. I'm no fun compared to Buck. I home school and make them make their bed. I make them fold laundry and put it away. They must clean their rooms before they are permitted to have screen time.
However, when I go out of town, my husband takes them to incredible events. Last time I went to Atlanta, Buck hooked up with our beloved master of fun middle school ministry intern and took the children to see Charlie Hall. Buck says Charlie is his inspiration for his won hairstyle. I could hear and feel the electric current of excitement in my family when I returned.
Over the weekend, Buck took everyone to see Group1Crew and Toby Mac. Nerdy or not, three of my children can't take the noise of concerts and must be back from the stage a bit, and Pooh Bear wears earplugs to safeguard her developing ears. Tater, who can't hear music unless it's loud, made his way to front and center stage to watch the sweat pour onto guitars from the musician's brows. Everyone showed off their Toby Mac wrist sweat bands to me. Have we returned to the 70's or something, and I completely missed it? Do people actually wear running gear like jewelery again? Seriously?
Apparently, the cameras caught my family a few times and put their faces on the jumbotron. Buck got a call from our youth pastor on his cell, saying, "Hey, I see you're here, man!"
Buck replied, "Yeah, the cameras are scanning for good looking people. I wonder why they haven't found you?"
For me, it was the final weekend of the course I was team teaching. The other two trainers inspired me to no end. I learned more about the work I do with children from my co-trainers and the participants than I ever have. As team teachers, we discussed running our course in an experimental and experiential mode. The traditional way to teach the course has been for the participants to take note on lectures and presentations (lessons for the children). Thankfully, the trainers I learned from had a particular knack to make the lectures more discussion than preachy. However, the format didn't match the method we offer children. Liz, Lori, and I took the lecture notes in our leader's manuals and asked the question, "How can we take this from lecture to a meaningful experience?" Here's an example of how that played out.
My assigned "lecture" was titled The Method of Signs: Baptism. I'd hidden five dollars in the room the day before and told no one. I led a warm-up discussion on how God has hidden things for us to find in the Liturgy and the Word. I told them about the money I'd hidden for someone to find and asked, "Why didn't you find it?"
"We didn't know it was there," they replied.
"What can this experience tell us about God and signs?" I inquired.
"They're everywhere, and we just have to know to look." came the answer from the participants.
We explored the parable of the prodigal son for signs. Their search yielded a white board of interesting and wonderful signs I, for one, had never considered. We went into the children's classroom and looked for signs leading us to God there. The participants filled the white board with what they found hidden in the work. These people see.
Lastly, we were to end with the gifts and signs particular to baptism. Such rich faith. Discussion lasted ten minutes past my concluding remarks. To me, that time of reflection showed the depth of the participants.
Good weekend. Now, back to the task of being a mom. How in the world can I measure up to the bliss my dear husband creates while I'm away? Fortunately, he's going to stick around and keep making fun for us all.
Mac gave me two particular prizes as I helped her sort and pack over the weekend- -two items I've always wanted but have never bought for myself.
1. a copper saute pan 2. a cast iron skillet
The black cast iron skillet has already been properly seasoned, and that's something one cannot buy. It's ready to receive yellow cornbread batter on my next whim. What a delight! And maybe, because I'll have the right kind of pan, I could serve edible fried potatoes. In the wrong pan, I've burned them beyond recognition or the crisp skin stuck to the stainless steel pan.
Last night, I lifted the bright copper pan from it's new home- a hook on my kitchen pot rack. It's solid, shiny, heavy, flat on the bottom. It heated nicely on the red hot burner. The chopped onions I sauteed sizzled and popped as they grew transparent then carmelized into perfect squares of brown. How the right pan does make a difference.
I have been thinking about the simple celebration in a meal contained in each day. It's God's way to bring us together around something everyone enjoys. Good, hot, well-prepared food matters. I daily fight my tendency to make something easy, quick, hardly celebratory. There is not a time that my family is unappreciative in either case, but have I given my best when I'm thoughtless about dinner? That's no gift. I giggle when I think of the book Like Water for Chocolate in which the despair and bitter tears of the wedding cook poisons the guests. There's something to that isn't there? Is my attitude reflected in my cooking? I think it is. The attitude of others is revealed as well at table.
Last night, Tater and I prepared a lovely dinner of fish in white sauce, cheesy mashed potatoes, and spinach. Three minutes before it was time to savor the meal together, one of our children thundered at Buck and I over corrections to a diagrammed sentence and stormed out of the house. I knew the child's anger would not pass quickly, so the rest of us sat down to eat. Buck never eats when he's unhappy, so he sat with us, his head in his hands, sighing. A lot. The rest of us ate and tried to make the best of it, but consuming during discord never quite works. This meal revealed the upcoming task we must undertake to bring our child back to a place of peace. I predict hard work for us all and a bumpy summer with this person.
Hopefully, our next meal together tonight will have some celebration- even if it's to recognize everyone is present and happy for the moment. I'll do my part to put care into the food, and we'll see where things go from there.
So you think nothing happens in the country? Today's excitement involved a car plowing into a tractor and throwing the tractor operator to the ground. Lifestar (University of Tennessee Medical helicopter) flew onto our road and took the man to the hospital. My family heard it, we're too far off the road to observe the street.
I do not want to make light of it, because if Lifestar showed up, it was serious. I do not know these neighbors, but I know they could use our prayers.
On Sunday nights, I listen to God with children between the ages of 2 and 12. I am constantly in awe and get choked up by the depth the children take us during our discussion and work. We are finishing our work concerning the death and resurrection of Christ. It's one of my favorite times of the church year, because the material is so very rich.
With the older children, I've began to ask these questions for the end of the year: 1. "What is your passion? What stirs your heart into action on behalf of the Gospel? Widows, orphans, poverty, care of the earth, children who have been hurt or scared, animals? Do you like to cook, garden, clean, or make things?"
2. "How can YOU make a difference?"
In order to make this a real experience, we must spend time listening to God for our call as individuals and a group. Last week, I sought the Lord for more ideas on how to do this well. He brought his own 40 days of fasting and prayer to me as a precedent for the children. It was the beginning of his own ministry. He reminded me that, "Yes, I was tempted, but in that 40 days, God gave me serious direction for my teaching." So, I looked up the teachings which immediately followed. He was tempted, walked on water, and then gathered the crowds for...ready...
The Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes.
Oh, my perfect work to study with the children on this project of "How can I make a difference?"
I thankfully had asked for binders to create prayer journals before Easter, and then promptly forgot about them after being swept away with the flood of Easter preparations and celebration. I pulled those journals out and cut paper to fit for the work last Sunday evening.
The older students and I opened our Bibles to the 40 days in the desert and discussed what else may have happened during those 40 days of prayer besides the temptation. My ten year old scholar announced, "It must have been very quiet in the desert. Jesus probably had a lot of time hearing to his Dad." So I asked, "What do you suppose he and his dad talked about?"
He thought for a long time and said, "Maybe God told Jesus the things He'd like him to say and do next." BINGO. This child went right where the Spirit told me to lead.
"Let's look at the next time Jesus spoke to a crowd together." I requested, and we turned to the Beatitudes. "We'll talk about three of these and then we'll pick one to write in our prayer journals."
The discussion moved beautifully. "Who are the poor in spirit?" I asked.
Ten year old scholar proclaimed, "The ones who have great trouble and problems but still turn to God."
The meditation on the next two beatitudes were just as meaningful. after reading "Blessed are the meek.", he mentioned how he had protected a toddler from falling off a slide when others behind him were rough and pushing for the toddler to hurry. He had used his strength help someone small and weak just like Jesus.
When it was time for silence, I immediately wrote "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." in my journal as it applies to this season in my life. Then I moved on to attend the young children.
Out of the corner of my eye, I observed the ten year old scholar take at least ten minutes to choose which of the three Beatitudes to write. He wanted to hear from God which one specifically should go in his journal. He took a painstakingly long time to write "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs it the kingdom of heaven." in cursive. I know that writing is a chore for this child. The work had the quality of a gift to his Father in heaven given from the bottom of his heart.
I'll be there Sunday nights again until summer break. I wonder what difference we will make together? Another student wants to give to orphans, because she was enamored with the movie Annie. I think that is a marvelous starting point. Don't you?
I have another (less permanent) goodbye coming up. My dear girlfriend, Mac and her precious family, are moving six hours drive away. Tomorrow and Saturday, I'm helping her sort and pack. Mac is a sentimental soul, and with my help, I hope to make her load to move lighter by helping her let go.
At the baby shower for my first child, Mac said, "True, I mean this when I say it. You can call me any time of the day or night if you need something." I hadn't known her very well until I took her up on her offer. She answered the phone every time I called even though I was sleep deprived and whiney. She listened intently, one of her best qualities, and offered advice and help. She kept Peace for the first date Buck and I ever had after Peace was born. Our children love one another. We have been there for one another in adopting and parenting children. We've choreographed and danced at a conference together. She and I even painted our bedrooms in the exact same icy blue color. We've prayed earnestly in one another's homes. Mac blesses me with every interaction.
So, as we sort antique linens and boxes of creative art supplies, I'll be saying, "How do you feel about parting with this?" And she'll cautiously answer.
All the while, I'll silently ask myself, "How do I feel about parting with you, dear sister?"
I'm obviously not finished grieving for my Uncle Laughter yet. I'll write to see if it helps process my feelings toward resolution and peace. I still want to sob in a moments notice if something reminds me he's gone.
Forty-four years ago, my very young mother went for help to my father's sister Artful and her husband. She had become pregnant with my father's child, before she was married in a time when marriage was a prerequisite to children. Uncle Laughter and his wife threw them a wedding and helped establish the new couple in an apartment.
I don't remember a time that Uncle and Aunt weren't an integral part of my family's life. They celebrated all holidays and birthdays with us as children. When my parents divorced while I was in second grade, they made a special effort to help my sister and I through the transition. When my dad married again, and had second family, and became disinterested in my sister and I, Uncle Laughter stepped into a fatherly role for us. I spent the night with them regularly. They took me to the museum, church, plays, circus, state parks, school field trips, parties, swimming, horseback riding, amusement parks, movies. One of my most fond memories of my Uncle Uncle Laughter remains in our yearly trips to the town Fair to watch him judge the horse shows. The horses pulling Southern Belles seated beside handsome suited men in buggies stole my breath every. single. year. You can imagine my strong attachment to my Uncle Lsughter through all the investment he made in my life.
When I graduated from high school, my aunt and uncle sat beside my mother. When I walked down the aisle at my wedding, I hung on Uncle Laughter's arm. He and Aunt Artful moved an entire day's trip from me around the birth of my first child. Uncle Laughter's hearing loss made a phone relationship difficult. We have enjoyed each other at a few family get togethers and funerals. Our family visited their beautiful island home on our last vacation. We intend to go back again to see my aunt this year. I don't suppose I'll ever feel ready to let go of a man so dear.
Though he hasn't lived in Kentucky for more than a decade, Uncle Laughter's funeral was packed. The receiving line of friends went out the door. He'll have another memorial service on his island too which I know will be jammed with those who love him there. Pray for strength for my dear aunt- these services are long and taxing. Did I mention how handsome and proud he looked in his white suit? Even in death his manner filled me with peace. The pastor who founded with Uncle Chuck's help, preached his funeral. I remember Brother Pastor fondly from my childhood days.
Saturday, just before the coffin was closed, we took a few minutes to stand with Uncle Laughter again. I was surrounded by a host of loving Uncles and my dad who all call me by a childhood nickname. My dearest Uncle W. and I lingered together a long time weeping, knowing this was our last moment with this great man. I stroked Uncle Laughter's cold hand and clutched Uncle W. with my other. Uncle W. helped me feel comfortable being a crybaby for just that little while. I needed to let go so desperately. Uncle Warn steadied me, pointed directly at me, and whispered to everyone standing around, "Laughter loved this one to pieces." Oh, don't I know it. Don't I feel it still?
I sat down in a nearby chair with my head in my hands as men took my Uncle's glasses, lapel pin, Mason apron, and ring. My mother came and put her arm around me. There's nothing like a mother's arms for comfort. Such a surprise to have time with her so soon after her surgery. And boy, does she look fabulous. I know the trip took everything she had to give, and I hope she'll rest these next few days.
I spent the afternoon chatting with my family, including my dad, and friends at a restaurant. Dad told me his wife's mother is on her deathbed. I was so sorry to hear that. I was amused to talk to my sister's first husband after 18 years. He's still the same gregarious person. My children enjoyed my sister's children as usual.
I had a soap opera moment that only my very own family could produce. I noticed two of my cousins whom I enjoy talking to very much, chumming with someone I didn't know. I hugged each of their necks and stuck my hand out to their friend and said, "And who are you?"
He gave a pleasant grin and shook my hand. "B.", he replied. I hope my reply was warm though I'm quite sure my face showed surprise, "B. Yes, well. You're my brother then aren't you? (!) Strange place to meet, but I'm glad we finally have."
He doesn't know it, but B. will have my heart forever- I watched him take off his suit jacket and place it around our shivering Aunt F. at the graveside. Selflessness and kindness win me every time.
Uncle Laughter united a broken family in the same room with his good life and death. Miraculous. Now if he can work on uniting hearts as well from heaven with God's help...
Kat has asked about chores in Parent's University today. I have three things to say on the subject.
1. A friend of mine, Meredith Lee, taught me this about work and children a long time ago, "Make it look delicious!" Kinda like the Tom Sawyer painting the fence white, or "The Happy Working Song" from Enchanted. If I'm training my child in a new housekeeping skill, I need to present it in a positive "This can be fun and meaningful" kind of way.
If I'm sour or demanding, no one will want to do the job. For example, I hate folding laundry loads of whites/matching socks. No one here likes to,probably because of my attitude toward it.
2. Meredith Lee also taught me to make chores daily, so it becomes a part of a simple routine. No child of mine balks at emptying the dishwasher, caring for the livestock, or putting away laundry here. It happens everyday.
3. Wage war on clutter! I must battle it in my own life and the rest of my family's life. In this American culture, we drag home papers and stuff from every outing. We work together on getting rid of things we don't find essential. On their own last week, Tater (12) put a box of toys in the garage for Goodwill, and Pooh Bear (7) sold her doll house to a consignment shop.
Tonia posted something very moving to me on habits. Check it out if you have time.
My sweetest sweet pea of an uncle passed away night before last. I don't have too many words except to say that he was one of the kindest most precious men on earth. He never had children of his own, so, since I was a child, he has treated me like his princess. He worked hard and enjoyed life to the full. I am not half the person he was, but I'd like to be more like him. God rest his soul. I know he's in the arms of Jesus whom he loved so very much. And please whisper a prayer for my dear aunt. He was her world.
image A friend explained to me that adolescent eagles have longer tail feathers than adult eagles. These tail feathers assist the maturing bird in flying, because they tend to lack good judgment in their air-borne expeditions. During puberty, hawks tend to overshoot and undershoot their destinations. The extra length of feathers accommodates the awkwardness of flight imbalance of the struggling youth. A full grown adult sheds these feathers when he has mastered flight.
I love how nature whispers clues to me about raising my own children. As my boys approach the clumsy, bungling, gawky teen years, I move from being ultimate authority into a place of flight adviser, "I wouldn't take off from that position. You won't have enough runway to gain speed."
"You can go on the camp out, but you might not want to go to party the next day. You'll need some good rest sometime over the weekend or you'll be too tired during the school week to study."
My son can heed my advice or try it his way. I have to talk myself into letting him try and fail on his own. It's easier to tell him to go bed rather than watch him fall apart, because he has not rested the night before. Which experience does he learn more from?
I still have to force myself to listen to stories I've no particular interest in concerning my young men's interest in science experiments, cheesy science fiction, twaddle movies and games in order to keep the lines of communication open. It's a gift I give to my sons, not something I like to do. If we are talking about his stuff, the more likely he is to listen when I speak to give advice. I also must discipline myself to not react with anger when I see his failure, or I won't be the soft place he falls in times of trouble. He'll find someone else who most likely lacks maturity and won't have his best interest in mind to listen to him.
Because he's a teenager, my authority must take a back seat and allow advice to drive, or he'll never have a chance to try things for himself. Otherwise, he'll leave my home without developed tail feathers, yet expected by the world to fly with precision. How many adults do I meet who are unprepared to face daily challenges with excellence?
I've just returned from a conference in Nashville. I had a lovely time, and I look forward to reconnecting with my family today. Much to my surprise and delight, I'm being offered many opportunities to travel with my work. For the first time in my 14 years of being a mother, I have decisions to make concerning how much I can be away. Can Buck juggle my jobs and the pressure of his own? What happens to the hearts of my children when they are used to me being around twenty-four seven? It's a blessing to even consider these things, but I'd like to be wise. Off to church and then a pioneer themed birthday party with Pooh Bear. It promises to be a long fun day.
1. Every day counts, even if it doesn't seem so that day. 2. Every word counts, even if it doesn't seem so at the time. 3. Discipline doesn't achieve everything. Sometimes grace is better. 4. Children require everything. 5. God is good. 5. Husbands need attention. 6. In a relationship, nothing good grows in a long periods of silence. 7. April Fool's birthdays are challenging. One shouldn't have to be on guard the entire day. 8. Anything worthwhile requires hard work. 9. Friends help me breathe. 10. People taught to have a relationship exclusively with the Bible or exclusively in Eucharist cannot find a relationship with Jesus. 11. Children are close to the heart of God and have much to teach us about Him. 12. There will be a great and terrible day of the Lord. 13. Revenge costs the one seeking it the most. 14. Chickens and toddlers make me laugh. 15. Laughing is important. 16. Exercise releases tension even when I think I'm not tense. 17. Listening is the better path. 18. Letting go works out better than clinging to impossibility. 19. Grandparents are a treasure to cherish. 20. Love foolishly, even if it means it will hurt. 21. Music moves me. 22. Good food matters. 23. Learning keeps life interesting. 24. Stories are the quickest way to the heart. 25. Blogging is good for my soul. 26. Bill Cosby, Bin Laden, Bono, Oprah, the Pope, President Bush, are people just like you and me. 27. Growing things nurtures me. 28. Character reveals the inner man. 29. The charitable assumption is the high road. 30. Always better to focus on the Presence of God than his absence. 31. Together, brown and blue speak to me. 32. It's not right to demand of people what only God can give. 33. Quiet is essential for me to become. 34. Kindness brings the giver peace. 35. Anger gets in the way of relationship. 36. Wonder takes me where I want to go. 37. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 38. Abide is one of my favorite words. 39. Time does not wait for me and doesn't heal anything. 40. All I have to give is enough. 41. Art and beauty inspire. 42. Sudokus help me sleep.