Sunday, September 13, 2009

The church I attend is like any other church I suppose in small town America, the growth ebbs and flows. There are times when our little building seemed to ready to pop like the finger play (here's the church, here's the steeple, open it up and see all the people). While other seasons it seems like there are more empty seats than full. My church is like any other church in small town America, some times I agree with the Pastor and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I like the worship and sometimes I don't. The thing that makes my church going experience unique is that my Pastor is my sister's husband. In fact my entire immediate family with the exception of my brother who lives hours away, all attend this church.

Yesterday I spent the entire afternoon with my sister and her family. It was an impromptu, fun filled afternoon. It was great. We hung out, we ate food, we talked, we shared, we caught up. I have known my sister my entire life. I thought my life would surely cease to be when she moved out to get married. We attend the same church and we live fifteen minutes from each other and yet, I learned all kinds of stuff about my sister yesterday. This got me me to thinking about what it really takes to know a person. You have to spend time with them. You have to talk to them. You have to listen. You have to be present. I can't just show up on Sunday's and stare at the back of my sister's head and really know what she is going through. Those of us who perhaps have been around the western church for any amount of time know this analogy has been used about our relationship with God. You can't just show up on Sunday and know God. You have to be present with Creator. You have to cultivate a relationship.

But the same holds true for all the people, be they fifty or 250, that sit around me every Sunday in service. I can't expect to have relationships without getting to know people outside those four walls. And if I don't know anything more than the back of their hair and what they said that drove me nuts, well then I'm not prone to really like them much am I? But what if I knew that they said that really annoying statement because they talk when they are nervous? And what if I knew they are nervous because their husband is losing his job, their children are giving them a run for their money, and they too feel so, so alone in this great big sanctuary? Maybe instead of muttering under my breath that I am the last sane person attending church, I might empathize. I might cook a meal and take it over. I might send a message of encouragement on facebook or gasp even in the mail. I might offer to babysit so they can get a break.

I just think it is amazing that after 37 years I still find out things I didn't know about my sister. I'm no extrovert but I love people one on one. God help me know more about your children than how they part their hair and what their political views are.

  • Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
  • 12.
  • Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
  • 13.
  • Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
  • 14.
  • And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
  • 15.
  • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
  • 16.
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
  • 17.
  • And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians (NIV) - bold mine:)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Everyone Has a Story to Tell

I have to make this a really quick post today because in just a few minutes I am going to pick my kids up from school and take my oldest on a date to see the Half Blood Prince. When all the hype started coming out for the new movie I told my kids with no apologies that NO ONE in our family would be seeing this movie until they read the book (in case you didn't know a main character dies). Well Jman finished this week, took an AR test at school on it and made a 100! Since I am pretty sure this is the last day the film will be running in our area I decided to make some arrangements for Miss Thang to go with my Mom and J and I are going to dinner and a movie. So much fun!

But that is not what I wanted to blog about today. I wanted to share some links to three different sites that allow anyone (especially children) to write their own stories. I think storytelling is a great learning tool. How better to learn about the English language than to create stories? It also engages that creative side of the brain and allows kids to share their ideas.

The first site is meddybemps. This is a great learning site for kids in general. They can play all sorts of games but the link should take you to The Young Writers Workshop. This activity gives the children a story starter and they complete the story. If you have a class of new writers or you homeschool and have not done much writing yet, well this is a great place to start. It's fun even to do as a group, allowing each person to tell the next part of the story. How fun would it be to print and post a collaborative story your class or family created! I do want to note for those who care that this site uses imaginative creatures including a kindly witch. If this offends you keep reading... there is a site for you!

Next is tikatok. Tik a Tok allows you to create a story all your own. You can scan in illustrations of your own or use ones found on the site. But the greatest thing about this site is you can order a bound "published" copy of your child's story. How neat is that? Think about what a great gift to give a little one. I also think this really helps validate children in their own creative process. So good!

And the newest guy on the block is storybird. I found out about story bird from Lovedrunk who is an amazing writer herself. I jumped right into this site and created a story you can read here. This site puts a new twist on storytelling. Basically the site gives you access to amazing original artwork from all kinds of different artists. You then pick a picture and tell a story with it. The art inspires the story. Again, what a great tool to use with kids. Allow them to work in groups or work at home as a family to create an amazing original story. The stories are then posted where other storybird users can read them. I was as excited as a little girl when I got my first comment on my story!

Whatever avenue you use, I hope you will tell your story and teach your children to do the same!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Snapshots of the Mind

I realized this morning as I was grumping around straight from my grumpy slumber that there is a great disparity between the thoughts/ideas/memories I tend to want to capture on film and the ones I am constantly capturing in my head. I was loading some pictures from my cell phone onto my computer when I started looking through a whole slew of photographs from the last two years. You know what I noticed? Every single photograph was an attempt to capture some aspect of goodness in our day to day life. Why then do I insist on capturing less than pleasant memories in my daily thoughts. By that I mean, why do I choose to mull over and meditate on the very things that drive me crazy, make me mad, etc.?

If I had taken a photograph of my face this morning as I sludged through my disgustingly dirty kitchen it would not have been a pleasant sight to behold. Do I really want my kids to have to look at that first thing in the day? Now in my head I am grumpy because everyone else is grumpy. Kids have allergies and colds, nobody wants to get up, Dad is sick and stressed, house is a wreck, and the list goes on and on and on. But why do I want to capture that energy as my own? Could it be possible to smile, as if this moment the paparazzi of my heart were lurking somewhere outside my kitchen waiting to capture my tude on film? And what if that smile causes someone else's day to get a little brighter? I know mine did just looking at the "happy" moments we have captured on film. And even if everyone is still schlepping around in their own misery - maybe just maybe - I'll feel better if I just smile. Think Happy Thoughts. Capture the moments in my heart and in my head that are worth being there.

Moments Worth Remembering This Week:
  • Playing dress up with the kids while being chased through the neighborhood.
  • Finding an even more perfect flower girl dress.
  • Getting all my money back for the first flower girl dress.
  • Hubby finishing laundry that would have taken me another week to finish.
  • Kiddos helping neighbor.
  • My car starting every day.
  • Tomatoes from the garden in the pasta.

Philippians 4:8 (The Message)

8-9Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Today I have spent doing what should be accomplished on any good Sunday, I have rested.

Yesterday however, I am proud to say, I spent the better part of the day cleaning out the mountain of chaos in my garage also known as my sewing/crafting/decorating "stuff". DH and I have been slowly plodding away on organizing the garage. It used to be home to most of my grandmother's worldly possessions and therefore was a magnet for all the junk we accumulated but did not know what to do with. Periodically we would donate items or have a garage sale but then it will just pile up again. This time we invested in some inexpensive shelving and bike racks to help keep the clutter tamed. We have tried to purge everything we do not use. So all the camping, repairing, painting, recreational, musical, and other stuff used by the entire family now has a permanent place. But that still left my mountain of mess which I was hoping would somehow organize itself.

Once I resigned to the task, I managed to fill an entire trash bag with fabric scraps not big enough for another project as well as a trunk full of things to donate. I discovered I had enough clothes that needed mending to fill and entire laundry basket (that's tomorrows project). I placed all like items together and was amazed at how many materials I have to use. I have been fortunate to inherit much of my mother's and grandmother's sewing supplies and really had no idea what all was there. I found some felted Christmas stockings my mom had started and never finished. There are four, one for each person in the family I have created, (which also means my mom most likely started that project before I was even born...I'm 37 uhummm). I plan on finishing them and using them in some fashion in our Christmas celebration this year. Fun!

I feel very grateful to have so many materials at my disposal. I also realized that materials are worthless if you cannot find them easily when you want to use them. For example, I found three measuring tapes yesterday. Just last week I was wrecking the house in an attempt to uncover the one measuring tape I knew I owned. Well I never found it when I needed it and resorted to measuring with a plastic ruler. Then yesterday, not only did I find mine, but obviously my grandmother's and mother's measuring tapes as well. Now they are all safely tucked in their new home, a little organizer tray for the sewing stuff I use regularly. I also had just purchased elastic for some of the many pairs of t-shirt shorts I made for my boys this summer from The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule. Much to my chagrin, I found enough elastic to fill a gallon size ziploc bag. The bad news, if I had organized sooner I would not have had to purchase new materials. The good news, I have lots of elastic for future sewing projects and I know exactly where to find it. Probably my favorite discovery was the vintage lace and trims I uncovered from my Mom's and Grandmother's sewing baskets. I'm not sure just how I will use these lovelies yet, but when I do, I'll be sure and share them here.

With all these amazing materials at my disposable I am anxious to create something fabulous in the near future. I am hoping I find the time to craft and sew amongst the busyness of this season of life. Which brings me to another point I really stopped to think about as I was discovering "new to me" materials in my mother's sewing stuff. I had never paused to consider how invested my mother had been to creating things during this same season of life (thirty something). It made me wonder why she stopped and if I too will stop one day. I must confess the idea made me more than a little sad. I hope to always be doing something creative.

And while I am typing this, my ten year old has decided to don a makeshift Batman ensemble along with lego created Batman weaponry. I am happy to see that ten has not squelched his creative need to play dress up. Maybe I too will stay forever young:)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Pats on the back...

So today I am proud of myself for finding a flower girl dress for my little T bear and paying cash for it! My niece is getting married in six weeks and my sister has been more than a little stressed trying to get everything done. To help out I offered to find my daughters flower girl dress. I am notorious for putting off tasks like this. I'm a longtime procrastinator and not a huge fan of the mall. But my b.f.f. from Telford (and mother of the other flower girl) and I forged ahead and fought the good fight. We braved the mall and survived. Not only did I find a dress for T Bear but also one for myself and did I mention I paid cash! So, kudos ME, for helping make your sister's load a little lighter,while not accumulating new debt! And thanks be to the Provider of the Universe for keeping me in perfect provision and peace in spite of my universities constant blunders with financial aid.

Oh and for those of you who are wondering, the wall art with the awesome motto is from Gracious Designs.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Positivity my dear

Perfectionist, idealist, melancholy, artistic, sensitive, moody. These are all adjectives that have been used to describe me on more than one occasion. I know I come off all cute and bubbly but it's just the shell holding in all that dark brooding;) Anyway, regardless I tend to be one of "those" people that focuses on what is not "right". I have learned after many years of practice not to always share what I am thinking, but the majority of the time the mental track running for me is a running list of all that is not right with the world. Because of this thinking, it is really easy for me to start feeling overwhelmed or even downright depressed. I had an epiphany recently about the overwhelmed thing and decided my motto for this season of life was going to be "simplicity first". (Wow is it just me or am I becoming that annoying girl from the nineties who keeps throwing up air quotes?) ...Well I decided today along with my new motto I am going to try and post daily a personal kudos or encouragement for ONE thing I did "right" that day. These will range from the profound to the absurd, but regardless I will try and find at least one thing I did well each day.

Today's Kudos...

I went to visit my grandmother who has been on loan from heaven for the last 94 years. She is a hoot and lives across town which makes it really challenging sometimes to visiting. I try and visit at least once a week. I was able to see her over the weekend and I really wanted to see her today. So I got ready before the kiddos had to be at school, dropped said kiddos off for their mandated education, and headed on over for a brief visit before my classes began. I am happy to report that she was more coherent today than on my last visit.

Kudos to you, MaryEl, for planning your work and working your plan. Instead of thinking of the millions of other projects and people you did not invest in today you made time for your grandmother and followed through. Those other people and plans will see their day in the sun, I just know they will! Why as Scarlet herself said, "Tomorrow is another day!"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mothers and Daughters

When I was eight years old I experienced a serious disconnect from my mother. Serious as in - change the choices I made as an adolescent, send me to therapy for years, kind of serious. My mom became very ill and worsened to the point that she was on death's door for the better part of that year. She spent most of the year in the hospital where I was only allowed to visit once (because everyone back then knew that kids have cooties that will surely usher the feeble and sick on into Glory) and only then when my father disguised me as a patient and snuck me into her room. He was in fact sure it might be the last time I would see my mother and so we went covert, Vietnam style baby.

At one low point when my mother was actually home "recovering" twenty miles from the nearest hospital, I witnessed her unconscious, lying in a deep pool of her own blood. Family screaming, panic palpable. In retrospect I think that was the moment the disconnect occurred. See in all my eight year old wisdom I knew that I was losing my mother, and I also knew that it hurt like hell. My solution, just don't love her anymore - or at least don't get too close, and then my dear- problem solved - you don't ever have to hurt again. My story has a happy ending. My mother slowly recovered and at nineteen I finally recognized the unconscious decision I had made at eight and decided to reconnect. I am happy to say we managed to reconnect quite successfully (my husband might even say too successfully).

I share this here because the other day my daughter confided something in me that almost made my heart explode with happiness. She said she was talking to a girl in her class at school who is "dating" (my daughter is eight - thus the irony). Anyhoo, she was explaining to this classmate that she didn't date yet when her friend volunteered this information : "Oh you can date whenever you want as long as your parents don't find out." My daughters reply? Well that's what made my heart burst. She said, "Are you kidding? My mom and I can talk about anything. I wouldn't ruin that for the world!" The little girl seemed shocked and conceded that she did not feel she could tell her mom "anything".

I will be the first to admit, I have more days as a parent when I mess it up than when I get it right. But I have spent more than a few hours stretched across my daughters bed allowing her to spill her guts and ask me the most embarrassing of questions (at least embarrassing for me). These are not always convenient times for me. These aren't scheduled talks. These are, "mom I need to talk to you and I want to do it right now" kinda moments. I have two thoughts on this :1) I never want to miss an opportunity to hear my kids hearts - I mean come on, parenting is hard enough as it is and if the only gauge I have on their emotional and spiritual health is their heart, I had better pay attention. 2) I always want to be as honest as possible in our discussions. It is a subtle art telling the truth in a way that is appropriate to your child's age. I have been asked things I never thought I would be asked by a six, or seven, or eight year old. I take long pauses to think about how best to frame the truth they seek. But I don't lie. I don't tell them babies come from heaven or kissing. And I don't shut them down - "We don't talk about that," or "We'll talk about that when you are older,". Listen my theory is if they are asking then they are thinking. I would much rather them know the truth and our family's values on the matter versus allowing them to hear all kinds of cock-a-mamy ideas from their peers (which for the record - my kids have shared some of the ideas they have heard and there are some crazy ones).

So I celebrate healing today. Healing between mothers and daughters. I pray that though our relationship will evolve and change, my daughter will always feel like she can tell her momma anything!