Friday, July 27, 2012

I've got something yellow coming out of my ear.

First and foremost, let me say – does anyone need a little crooked neck summer squash?  Or a lot?  Short of that – does anyone have a rockin’ squash recipe that uses up seven…or fifteen…pounds of it?  It’s a horrible drought, yet, somehow, we have been harvesting four or five big ones a day.

We got our garden in late, relative to most other vegetable gardens around here.  Anxious to get a good crop going on the first try, we pretty much over-seeded everything.  Then I was so excited when all the little sprouts started coming up that I just did not have the heart to thin them.  They were such cute, little baby plants.  I couldn’t imagine having too many plants in a garden.  So I let them all grow; I was sure that the minute I pulled half, or even a third of them, the rest were going to change their mind, shrivel up, and die.

Well, nothing changed its mind.  We compounded our lack of thinning with gross overwatering when we forgot the sprinkler – watering the garden from dusk ‘til dawn not once, but twice.  Despite the distasteful accountability of having to pay the inflated water bill, I still feel guilty every time someone comments on how huge our plants are.  Our soil is truly fantastic, but our abuse of the municipal water supply certainly played a role.

Now we have a jungle that is producing a harvest with which we cannot keep up!  I need to find ways to incorporate squash in breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night snacks.  And if I’m successful at using up the squash, who knows what I’m going to do with all the cucumbers.  Trust me, I’m not complaining.  I’m just trying to mitigate my guilt.  Farmers are crying for their lost harvest this year, grocery prices are about to skyrocket, there are children starving all around the world, and I’m here, hording squash.  That’s me.  The Squash-Horder.

 “For the next ten days, let us have only vegetables and water at mealtime. Daniel 1:12

Friday, July 20, 2012

My kids don't think I'm parenting them.

The girls have coined a new term this summer.  They like to point out my “Mom Mode.”  More specifically, they like to celebrate the instances where, according to them, I’ve forgotten to be a mom.  They generally take me completely by surprise with a sudden, “Ha!  We love it when you get out of Mom Mode!” or, “Uh, oh, now you’re back in Mom Mode,” as if we’ve been hanging out in the basement together watching R movies, chugging beers, and smoking dope.

Two times they cracked me up with a Mom Mode comment this week.  One time, a family outing to the park segued into an episode of “This is Your Life,” as the kids began quizzing my husband and me about our early romances.  They wanted to know about our first kisses, how many people we dated, whether we ever fell in love before we met each other.  This segued back into a little bit of water play at the drinking fountain before we headed out.  On the way back to the car, I got one of their happy comments about Mom Mode.  I had to chuckle to myself that the kids thought we had forgotten for even a moment that we were parents.  As if we weren’t measuring every word of every phrase, trying to answer their questions with honesty, but also knowing that this moment of curiosity was a key opportunity to impart our wisdom and values to them before they begin their own romantic pursuits.  We really pulled it off, if they mistook “Mom Mode Hyper-drive” for not being in Mom Mode.

Another comment came when I joined them in the pool.  With an hour or two of daily swimming, the kids’ swimming skills have been advancing quickly this summer, resulting in the Incredible Shrinking Swimming Pool effect.  When they were spending most of their time on the surface, playing with float toys or splashing, the pool seemed large to them.  Now they are tooling around under the water with goggles and snorkels, dive sticks, and underwater tricks.  They bump into each other more and more.  Every now and then, I find a time to get in with them and introduce some new pool games, or some new challenges to make the old games harder.  You know, my sneaky way of making the pool bigger again, getting them to challenge their swimming skills, and therefore avoiding aquatic bickering.  After an hour or so of crowding up the pool, I made my way to the ladder and they gave me a gratifying whine that they were disappointed I was going back into Mom Mode.

Of course, I’m enjoying this whole Mom Mode thing immensely.  It takes me by surprise every time.  The best part is knowing that parenting doesn’t have to mean never having fun together.  Their comments remind me of exactly the opposite: sometimes we do it best when they don’t even realize we’re doing it.  Hopefully, instead of disciplining them for fighting with each other, I will get to enjoy watching them play pool games together.  Hopefully, instead of hiring surveillance and grounding them for their entire teenage years, I will be able to hear about their developing relationships and help them navigate those muddy waters.  Maybe not, but at least I’ll know I tried – I’d definitely rather play with them now than yell at them later.

Let’s face it, I could never forget that I’m a mom – but it’s OK with me, if they forget it sometimes.

The LORD answered, “Could a mother forget a child who nurses at her breast? Could she fail to love an infant who came from her own body? Even if a mother could forget, I will never forget you. Isaiah 49:15

Friday, July 13, 2012

We're not wasting change, even when it feels like we are.

In our years of church life, my husband and I encountered a fairly steady stream of troubled kids.  Often they would come to church activities and programs with their wounds emotionally oozing all over us.  Whether it was sassiness, obstinacy, compete lack of social skills, or intense neediness and a relentless pursuit of our attention, it was easy to diagnose the deep, open hole in their soul, that no one in their life was filling.  After hearing a heartbreaking back story on one of these kids, my husband was discouraged, wondering what the point was in submitting ourselves to so much bad behavior; as if our meager kindness could somehow make a difference in lives that were so steeped in brokenness.

Trying to encourage him, and myself, I suggested the metaphor of a well.  Every kid has a well where they store up the love and care they’ve been given.  Some get their well filled at home, and they go out into the world whole and confident, needing only a little top-off now and then.  Others have an open, empty well, and we are trying to fill it up with one little penny at a time.  Every little thing you do for them, from a warm smile, to a pat on the shoulder, to a cupcake snack or a firm redirection, is a penny tossed into their well.  You pray you’re not the only one tossing in pennies, because it may never be enough.  But if enough of us are tossing pennies into these empty wells, we can hope and pray that it will eventually make a difference for a kid who never otherwise had a chance.

Once in a while, you actually get to hear a penny strike the bottom, like when a kid, half a dozen years later, quoted a lesson back to me about how I’d once challenged her to open her Bible to any page and she could find something encouraging about God’s love or power.  She said she’d tried it over and over again – and never failed to find a message of God’s love.  Those moments give you the encouragement to keep tossing pennies, don’t they?

If you’ve been tossing pennies into empty wells, I have another story of encouragement for you.  It involves my sister.  She is in Africa right now, about a day’s hike away from the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Lots of people will be impressed when she comes home and tells us the adventurous story of her summit attempt, but that’s just another feat on a long list of her accomplishments.

My sister was once one of those kids with the empty well.  She was sassy and rebellious.  She dated older boys, dropped out of school, moved out of my parents’ house, and added a tattoo to her piercings.  Not to hate on tattoos, but she went and got the biggest one she could afford.  She wandered a while looking for her calling, first in one state, then another, until she ran out of steam and money in Colorado.  My sister was never a bad person, she never pillaged or stole, got in trouble with the law, or hurt others, but she was definitely the so-tough-on-the-outside, you’d never guess she’s soft-on-the-inside young person, that others find difficult to love and even harder to help.  She also had a huge educational deficit.  She was bragging one time about how she couldn’t wait to get to college, because high school was so lame.  When I mentioned that someone who was flunking high school should hardly expect that college was going to be a breeze, it was not our friendliest conversation.

Fast forward fifteen years: my sister has a Masters Degree in Education and Curriculum Development.  She is bilingual in English and Spanish.  She’s studied and taught in Mexico and Spain.  She was accepted to a highly competitive Denver Scholars program that only takes 1% of its applicants.  She has three years of teaching under her belt, all in bilingual classrooms of the Denver Public Schools systems, at schools with free lunch rates over 75%.  There is no scheme those kids can pull on her that she didn’t once use herself.  She’s done all this with a G.E.D. and a well-full of pennies, tossed in by teachers, friends, aunts, grandparents, mentors and others.  I am so grateful to the people who invested their loose change in my siblings and me.  We’d never have become who we are without you.
Here she is at the top of a peak in Colorado. 
She's been blogging her preparations at:

My sister applied for the program to go to Africa, knowing it was an incredible opportunity and willing to work for it.  She thought she might be able to get a half-scholarship.  Imagine her excitement when they offered her a full scholarship to come participate.  After she summits the mountain, she’ll spend two more weeks in Africa, experiencing as much as the continent has to offer and gaining a thousand moments of inspiration that she will bring back to her classroom this fall.  She got a new job this coming year – same district, but teaching Spanish and Art.  Where she will go on tossing pennies down wells – and now and then hearing a gratifying clink when they hit the bottom.

I think she’s pretty incredible.

 Don’t get tired of helping others. You will be rewarded when the time is right, if you don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

Friday, July 6, 2012

I'm adopted.

My husband and I were already engaged before I met his favorite uncle, and that uncle’s fiancĂ©e.  They were planning a July wedding, about two months ahead of our own.  I don’t remember exactly what it was about them: the casual hospitality of their lake house, the fun afternoon of sun and water activities, or the absurd way I was included in the early morning wakeup call of “Good Morning, Vietnam!” blasting out of the stereo by my head at dawn.  Something about them, right from the start, included me, as if I had always been there; as if we were related by something more than marriage.

They put me up every week for years, when I was commuting to Kansas City for seminary.  They hugged me tight and expressed admiration for my courage when I was trying to be brave after a miscarriage.  They go out of their way to come by when they are in town, even when they are booked tight for holidays.  They keep an open home and open hearts, not just for my husband and me, but also for our girls.  From braving the heat to spend an afternoon at the petting zoo with me and the kids, to coming up with the wildest array of kid friendly meal options every time we come to town; they show by deed as much as word that we matter to them.

We visited my husband’s aunt and uncle on our way through town twice this week.  My daughters pitched a fit when we wanted to take them out for breakfast, because they love so much sitting around their table, eating strawberries, and chatting through the morning.  I can see why – it is a lot of fun to visit with people so well-read and thoughtful; always giving us something new to think about before we hit the road to head home.

It is such a privilege to share our marriage year with a couple who live out such a true expression of mutual submission and boundless love.  I grieve that they didn’t know each other soon enough in life, because their kids would be amazing people, but I’m grateful to God for giving them such a bounty of love to share with the rest of us!  We are, indeed, related by something much more than just marriage.

Jesus and the people he makes holy all belong to the same family. That is why he isn’t ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. Hebrews 2:11