Thursday, February 11, 2016

Limit...

discussion sheet for dialogue on systemic racism and white privilege

As much as I dislike the idea, I have to admit that I'm limited by what I do (or do not) know. For example, if I don't recognize the privilege that I was born with as a white person in America, I can't move toward racial reconciliation, or use the advantages I've been given to help the disadvantaged.

I'm limited geographically and circumstantially - in this season, I can't wander very far afield, so I need to be especially intentional about reaching out to those near me, living in Gospel community with fellow believers and sharing Gospel love with my neighbors.

My ability to pray is limited by my awareness of people and circumstances that need to be prayed for. If I don't know that more Syrians have been affected by the humanitarian crisis in their country right now than victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Haitian earthquake, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and Rwandan genocide combined, then I won't be driven to constant prayer on their behalf.

But thankfully, God transcends my limitations and is Himself unlimited. He sees all and hears all, He knows everything and He cares about everything and everyone, and if I will bring my unattainable hope of a better world to Him instead of reaching for the stars like a child on a summer night, He can lift me up on His shoulders until those dreams become as close as fireflies.

It's Five Minute Friday! Each week a flashmob of bloggers, internet wide, gather to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then link up and share a little comment love. For more info, more posts, and/or to join in, head here!

Willing but Weak


I'm pretty attached to sleeping. Wait, let me clarify: I'm pretty attached to feeling rested. I tend to stay up late because my mind clears as those dependent on me for care fall asleep, and I will absolutely get up early for a worthy adventure - but in terms of the norm, I'd like to get about 6-8 hours, uninterrupted, every night. If that doesn't happen, or I'm sick or extra-tired for some reason, I'm not averse to a nap.

Except that I now have two children under the age of three, and at least one of them wakes up needing comfort, assistance, or sustenance at least once every night. And during the brief overlap of their naps during the day, there are too many other things that I need to do (and that I'd like to do) to get a nap very often.

You would think that two and a half years of this would have resigned me to it - rather, it's made me crankier and more entitled. I bid the covers a very fond farewell each morning until I've rushed through the evening's tasks and can return to their warm embrace. While I recognize sleep and rest as necessary to human function, this has become unhealthy.

So this year for Lent, I'm giving up sleep. Not that I plan to sleep any less than I already do, but to reframe the time I wish I was asleep as an offering, instead of reporting it as a robbery. I'm going to spend that time praying - first and foremost, for Syrian refugees (there's a Lenten prayer guide, produced by We Welcome Refugees, here if you'd like to join in that effort) because I strongly believe that's something I should be praying about, and then about whoever and whatever comes to mind after that.

It's a double discipline - shifting from frustration to gratitude, then redeeming the time in prayer - but I hope for change as a result, change that extends past this season and into the years to come.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little further He fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping... {Matthew 26:36-40}
Gifts...
2399. Ines helping me pray in Spanish (and not thinking I was silly)
2400. Brooklyn at least telling me that she'd had contraband, so I wasn't caught off guard by the ill effects
2401. Unexpected dinner out as a family (and Brooklyn and Tobin both happily eating refried black beans)
2402. A restorative Ash Wednesday service at church
2403. Adam staying with Brooklyn and Tobin so I could go alone
2404. Space to begin an organizing project

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

If


I don't remember how I first heard about IF:Gathering. I know that I've watched bits and pieces of it from home for the past two years, with variable success - the first year my extremely sketchy internet connexion kept locking it up at inopportune moments, and last year an 18 month old and a newborn kept me busy/distracted.


But this year, our church hosted an IF:Local, and I was able to attend the Friday night session. I've never done anything like that before - Adam's mom took my sister-in-law and me on an overnight prayer retreat that their church did (several years ago, just after he and I got married), but it didn't really extend beyond the 30-or-so ladies in attendance. 


This was a whole new adventure. IF:Gathering is simulcast out of Austin, and thousands of women all over the world watched together - some there in Austin, many in small-to-large groups in their own homes and churches, and then lots just from wherever-they-were-at-the-time. It was definitely more impactful, for me at least, to be with a group - especially for the first session, which included confession and communion (two things that wouldn't have happened had I been watching from home).

photo cred to Melanie P (seeing as how I'm in the picture...)

This year's theme was "What If We Lived Like Jesus?" and it was also really nice to start off by discussing that with the other ladies at my table. (I may also have benefited from copying other's notes when the speaker got ahead of my ability to write...)


Saturday morning I convinced Brooklyn (who is averse to change - no idea where she got that from) that it would be fun to eat her breakfast at my desk, and we watched it together. She applauded adorably when the speakers entered and exited the stage, and was very excited about the "ladies talking about Jesus." Tobin's favorite part was the worship sessions, to which he danced and bounced and clapped.

They ended by asking everyone to create a "marker" - some piece of take-away action for living out what they learned.

There was so much good stuff it's going to take me a year to process, and as I copy my notes over to a tidier notebook, I'm enjoying rereading.

   Look in the mirror and see Whose you are.
   I have nothing to prove and nothing to protect - I have enough and I am enough, but only because Jesus is enough.
   If you think the grass looks greener on the other side, water the grass you're standing on.
   Fruit is a byproduct of being rooted well.
   Instead of seeking to be known, seek to make God known.
   When we love well, we love people as friends. Not as projects. Not out of pity. Not as photo ops.
   Don't spend more of your walk on earth trying to look like other Christians than trying to look like Christ.
   Do the obedient, brave thing - whatever that is.

Seriously. I'm glad I was able to join IF:Local, and then that I had stable internet and agreeable Littles in order to watch the rest at home - in this year of adventures, it was definitely an unequivocally good one.

Gifts...
2384. Successfully parallel parking (that gets filed under "adventure")
2385. Brooklyn calmly agreeing to eat her cookie in the car, since it was the lunch rush and they didn't have any seats
2386. Remembering that I needed to make muffins while I still had the energy to do it
2387. A fairly easy day, after a fairly sleepless night
2388. Brooklyn courageously overcoming her fear of Tobin's rolling/singing/ball-shooting fire truck so that they could play with it together
2389. Actually having an IF:Local to go to, and being able to go
2390. Brooklyn's applause and Tobin's dancing as we watched the conference at home
2391. Inspiration and conviction
2392. The IF team
2393. Leaving for church early because we were ready, then realizing I needed gas
2394. Good, hard discussion in Mobilize
2395. The ingredients for a batch of homemade cookies (not the chocolate chip ones someone posted a picture of that triggered the craving, but some very acceptable pecan meringue ones, instead)
2396. Finishing the last IF:Gathering session before they timed out
2397. Everything I needed for dinner on sale and at the same store
2398. Brooklyn's delight over getting her very own mail

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Focus...


Focus. Not something I've had a whole lot of lately... My schedule has been chaotic and my mind has been full and prone to wander, causing trickle-down effects like leaving my keys at my parents' house and not realizing it until I'd arrived home, 3 hours away. (Thankfully Adam was nearby and able to let us in, but it led to several days of getting up when he did - at o'dark thirty - in order to lock him out after he left for work.)

Our church's women's ministry is doing Priscilla Shirer's Armor of God study this semester, and one thing it covered last week was common tactics of the enemy - how he prods at certain areas that he knows will produce a reaction. Relationships, confidence, identity... and, among others, focus. That gave me pause - because my distraction goes so much deeper than forgetting small processes and making minor mistakes. It roots in shifting my attention to the never-ending line of Tasks Waiting To Be Done and off of my only Hope and Help.

So this week I've made it a point to say, out loud, every time I hit a snag, just a symptom, not the disease. Sometimes that's all I have time for before metaphorical bandaids have to be applied, but it's helped me to rise above the moment and recognize my need for a Physician. For Someone who's gone through the stress of daily life and has yet risen above it, ready and willing to help me rise above, as well, if only I'll focus on Him.

It's Five Minute Friday! Each week a flashmob of bloggers, internet-wide, gather to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then link up and share a little comment love. For more info, more posts, and/or to join in, head here!

The Wrong House


Since Adam got a permanent position with his unit, we've been beginning the process of finding a house to live in, instead of our apartment. Aside from the occasional complaint about neighbors who slam the door when they leave at 6am every. single. morning. or think that it's totally appropriate to vacuum at 2am, I honestly prefer living in an apartment - with the same level of feeling that Adam, conversely, feels toward living in a house.

So, in an attempt to get on the same page, Adam and I sat down and he talked through What He'd Like in a House (such as Number of Bedrooms, Number of Bathrooms, Size of Yard, Shop Out Back, Garage Specifications - very grown up things). This exercise was accompanied by going through a real estate flyer and circling houses we found promising - out of over 20 apiece, only 2 overlapped between us. When he was finished, he asked what I thought.

"May I read you a poem?" I asked in answer. (This is what it's like, living with me, in case you ever wondered.)

"Um... sure?"

So I pulled The World of Christopher Robin by AA Milne off my bookshelf and turned to a poem entitled "The Wrong House."

"I went into a house, and it wasn't a house,
It has big steps and a great big hall;
But it hasn't got a garden,
A garden,
A garden,
It isn't like a house at all.

"I went into a house, and it wasn't a house,
It has a big garden and a great high wall;
But it hasn't got a may-tree,
A may-tree,
A may-tree,
It isn't like a house at all.

"I went into a house and it wasn't a house ---
Slow white petals from the may-tree fall;
But it hasn't got a blackbird,
A blackbird,
A blackbird,
It isn't like a house at all.

"I went into a house, and I thought it was a house,
I could hear from the may-tree the blackbird call...
But nobody listened to it,
Nobody
Liked it,
Nobody wanted it at all."

He just stared at me. 

This? This is going to be an adventure.

Gifts...
2378. Rain while we were where we going, but none in the transition
2379. Knitting and reading on the balcony
2380. Leaving the back door so Brooklyn and Tobin could run in and out (in February!)
2381. A clearer head than I've had for awhile
2382. Mum mailing my keys (and them arriving safely and quickly)
2383. Praying together

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

{For the Love} of Love


I know. I do this every year. But the fact remains that Valentine's Day is my favorite holiday - not because of the sparkly, flowery, chocolate-coated-ness of it (I mean, I like that too...) but because of the sudden inspiration and availability of notes and cards and fun things for expressing love.

See what I mean about availability? February is the only time I'm going to find that washi tape!

Though she hadn't ever heard of The Five Love Languages (that's Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch), my Mum did an excellent job of teaching me how speak all of those languages. If you love someone, you tell them what they mean to you, get (or make) them little treats, spend time with them, cook them a nice meal, and give them a hug. There wasn't really a distinction between them - all went under the header of demonstrated love.

She was great to leave notes - for me, on my chair at breakfast or in the little mailbox on my bedroom door, and for my dad, in his lunchbox - and she passed on that passion. Now, throughout the year I collect cute "love" themed cards and stash them away in a heart-shaped chocolate tin, so that when the impulse strikes, I have the perfect card at hand. That's augmented with a couple of pads of sticky-notes with cute/sweet/sappy sentiments already on them. (It's my plan to leave some sort of note somewhere for Adam to find every day leading up to Valentine's Day - shh, don't tell him!)

And, something you can do right now from the comfort of wherever-you're-reading-this-at is to send a little love to a patient at Arkansas Children's Hospital, here! You can choose from several designs and personalize your message (or choose a pre-written message, if you have no idea what to say), and they'll print it out and make sure it brightens a child's day.

adorable Fair Trade gift set from Mercy House
[image via Mercy House]

A few goodies from one of my favorite local artisans...
[image via Bella Vita Jewelry]

For a minimalist, I also love all that glitters and smells nice and tastes good! But over the past few years, I've also come to realize that my wants shouldn't come at the expense of someone else's needs (or humanity). Enter fair trade and local! There are an increasing number of unique, amazing, beautiful options (above are a couple of my favorites). I've finally talked/written/Instagrammed enough about this particular passion that it's becoming a defining trait - and I'm more than okay with that!

My favorite incarnation of Gifts, growing up, was doorknob surprises (think "may basket," but not just on May Day). After we moved away from Fayetteville, that's become treats in the mail. Notes, books, magazines, stationery, oddments, snacks, accessories, a picnic-in-a-box... for occasions ranging from Birthday to Butterfly Day (made-up family holiday) to I Saw This and Thought of You. I'm still waiting for a good reason to send a Frisbee (did you know that you can do that? As is, no envelope... also records and flip flops).


Quality time was another thing my family did well - game nights, hikes, roadtripping adventures. I still love walks and zoos and museums and drives, not so much for the sake of the thing itself, but because of what it represents - an opportunity to talk, to learn more about each other, to share a common experience and common joy, or to simply share the same silence. Ultimately, quality time requires little in the way of props or effort, and only a willingness to fully engage with another person (or people).


Acts of service is my weakest point, and Adam's strongest. I will gladly write you a poem, go for a walk, snuggle on the couch (my personal favorite), or buy you a new pair of earbuds after you accidentally run yours through the washer - but he is so good to cook amazing meals, clean and vacuum if he's home while I'm not, and get up with Brooklyn when she wakes up at night (to name a few). I was sick over the weekend, so he sweetly tucked me into bed and took both Littles to church - so that he could take notes on the sermon for me, and so that I would be able to rest in greater peace. 


All of that to say, there are so many wonderful ways to tell the person you love that you love them! And not just on Valentine's Day (or Valentine's month ;), or their birthday, or your anniversary - sometimes we most need to know we're loved when we least expect to hear it. I'd love to hear a few of your favorite ways, as well. :)

Gifts...
2363. Mum coming to pick us up and bring we-three to Fayetteville for a last-minute overnight trip
2364. Brooklyn and Tobin hanging out with my parents for over four hours (a record for Tobin) while I helped a friend with the final stages of moving
2365. Her inviting me into that process, instead of pretending to be okay and trying to deal with it alone
2366. Relationships with local business owners
2367. Quiet time on the corner of the Square on a beautiful sunny morning
2368. Walking and cookies and talking and tea
2369. Waking up (without an alarm) in time to get everyone ready for an appointment
2370. Brooklyn and Tobin's patience at the not-very-kid-friendly tax office (especially since Brooklyn wasn't feeling well)
2371. A gorgeous evening for a walk at the park
2372. Adam looking after Brooklyn and Tobin and taking them to church while I stayed home
2373. Leftover anti-nausea medicine
2374. Going to bed early
2375. A day with nowhere to be
2376. Tobin escaping whatever bug the rest of us passed around
2377. Feeling noticeably better by day's end

Friday, January 29, 2016

Quiet...


Quiet. Something I treasure deeply, on so many levels. There's the traditional kind of quiet, with a reduced noise level (and the remaining sounds are peaceful). There's a quiet space, one that's tidy and under control, so there aren't any visual disruptions or distractions. There's quiet of mind, the mental version of an orderly room... so many aspects and applications of the same concept, and the introvert in me wants them all.

I haven't had much quiet (of any sort) in my life lately... small kids and apartment dwelling (we're sandwiched between the first and third floors of our building, with a large family in a small space below us and a preoccupied med student with an odd schedule above) mean there's a lot going on in terms of ambient noise (only some of which can be drowned out by Beatles albums on repeat - and even then, that's not quiet, that's just controlling what noise we hear). There's also a never-ending line up of Things To Do, because (for some strange reason) it seems necessary to produce laundry and dishes on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, and toys must needs be gotten off the shelves and out of the baskets and scattered about the floor (crazy, isn't it?).

So that leaves me seeking the only quiet that's really left to me - little moments in which I can close my eyes, take a deep breath, release some of the tension that builds up in my shoulders, and unclench my fists... choosing, not to rush ahead and busy myself with yet another task (even if it's a voluntary/recreational one like knitting or reading), but instead to raise my empty hands to the Giver of Grace while resting in His stillness.

It's Five Minute Friday! A weekly flashmob of bloggers that gather, internet-wide, to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then link up and share a little comment love. For more info, more posts, and/or to join in, head here!