Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Point of Pencils

I like finding multiple pencils in every room of my house, on our driveway, all over the car, in the garage and in the yard.  I have a reason and even a point, but would rather have a little fun first.  Whenever I need one, I can always find one, even when I want to jot down some profound thought while I am walking from the driveway to the garage.  However, sometimes I may only remotely recognize the long skinny piece of wood as a pencil.  The once smooth hexagonal object, most likely, has had a sad, arduous existence. If you should spot one in the crevices about my home, it will look as if termites relished their snack time or as if it has been run over by a truck or lawnmower somehow.

So if you are lucky enough to recover one when in need of scrawling, TOO BAD if you make a mistake because there is never an eraser atop the piece of wood covered lead. Depending on whether you bought the hundred for a dime at the back to school sale in  August or splurged and purchased the self proclaimed, “best pencil ever”, the Ticonderoga, the erasers either snap off on the second attempt of erasing or the kids have a flashback of the comfort of teething squishy objects and its little useful rubber cap is gone leaving the scratchy metal tip which is bound to destroy recycled math sheets everywhere.

As for the other end, how I wish I had purchased a hand crank sharpener!  The grinding and vibration of the electric sharpener’s motor is just way too intriguing.  Its diet of wood shavings come in large and extended servings so a brand new pencil comes out looking like a precarious dart ready to put out an eye or puncture epidermis.  The good news is the needle nose isn’t dangerous for long because as soon as it hits the paper at a pressure capable of etching stone-- and it will--- it needs sharpening, or grinding again.

Well, if my kids find one that is in working condition-- with half of an eraser, a place to grip that won’t fill their fingers with splinters, and a point that writes, we have yet another mountain to climb.

The challenge seems to be, for them, just keeping it in their fingers or even simply, on their desk.  There are a few things awry here.  If you are seriously leaned over your work, pencil clenched as your brain cranks out answers to math problems or the next letter of your spelling word, HOW does your pencil fall out of your hand?  Exactly.  For a pencil to hit the floor, there has been some daydreaming happening,  maybe some hair twirling, or some foul play performed in place of the discovery of the sum, difference, product, quotient or the next phonogram.

To complicate matters, at our house during school hours, NOTHING is done quickly.  No one, under ten, understands the concept of “hurry”. (or does “efficiently” sound better, more spiritual?)  When a pencil is dropped, it may be five whole minutes before another brilliant mark is made with that pencil.  Getting out of one’s chair gives way to all sorts of distractions-- the need to go to the bathroom, the 2 mm wide Lego piece that had been missing since last summer, yesterday’s line time pretzels, earring backs, money dropped from Saxon’s “morning meeting”, hair clips, the desperate need for water, other long lost pencils sharpened to a nub, and a reason to find me to report to me what all has been resurrected.

 So, yes, I just wrote an entire page on pencils.  I love pencils.  I prefer them slick and lean, new ones, but will use them splintery and just about used up.  Imperfect as they may be, found in the oddest places, they are now a reminder of how I spend most of my hours these days, the stage my kids are in and what the Lord has led me to do.  Each day is different, some with hints of perfections, some with missing parts, some with painful splinters.... on our road to sanctification.  Together.  Using pencils.

191.  sunshine warming skin

192.  kisses on the cheek from Mrs. Cox

193.  hugs after spanks

194.  being on the receiving end of the "I'd pick you" story

195.  the nerve to click on "make reservation"

196.  transparent conversations that knit hearts together

197.  childhood friends

198.  shiny sinks

199.  written words from Jeff.....that stay with me

200.  kisses on my sleeves

201.  old pictures of my parents

202. games in the front yard

203.  a well spent twenty four hours of encouragement and challenge

204.  time to think about it all

205.  museum week

206.  pencils

Monday, February 14, 2011

Simply Love

God, the Eternal God, is Love. Covet therefore that everlasting gift, that one thing which it is certain is going to stand, that one coinage which will be current in the Universe when all other coinages of all the nations of the world shall be useless and unhonoured. You will give yourselves to many things, give yourselves first to Love.-Henry Drummond

I came upon this quote a while ago and remember being intrigued by it so I kept it- on a index card, of course. Valentines rolled around and there it was, like a billboard in my brain. As I feebly attempted to give myself “first to love”, I wound up watching it far more than I was able to give it. With the “Day of Love” approaching, I had ample opportunities to see the currency in different forms leaving me with an increased desire to “covet therefore that everlasting gift”.

All week, I received multiple sheets of paper from Brighton with hand drawn hearts that looked more like fat peanuts in their shells. With every piece, I got an “I love you, Mom. See the heart?”.  Love was tickling my ear.

Wanting so badly to write on his little cards, Brighton asked each day if it was Valentines. Julia was equally as eager for Friday when we would have a party with all of our school friends. Out of love for their friends, they both worked long and hard at the kitchen table on their miniature cards and envelopes. The night before, each greeting was licked tight and ready to go for the big day. Love was in crooked letters and corny cards.

My idea of a fun Friday afternoon with friends was NOT watching/hearing Jeff express love in the form of discipline to Brighton as he “showed out” for everyone at the party……….. a couple of times.  This is by far the least enjoyable form of love to express, but necessary and fruit-bearing. Love was a spanking.

A day or so later I got a sweet message from a friend who had to witness the whole episode encouraging me that we had handled it well. Her phone call communicated love for our family. Love was affirming me.

On Valentine’s morning, Jeff was the first one up. With my head still on the pillow, he came in the bedroom and asked, “Where is the red food coloring? I want to make pink pancakes for the kids.” Love was out of its comfort zone.

He did it again when he cooked dinner for me and served it fireside in the back yard. Love was dancing on my taste buds.

When we arrived at home after the party, there were three familiar white boxes sitting on the bench by my front door. We all knew what they were. Pa Paw has cupcakes, heart shaped cookies, petit fours, and more cookies delivered every Valentines Day. “Universal coinage” was sent from Georgia via the Bluebonnet Bakery. Love was in the form of sugar.

Some new friends invited us to eat dinner with them and they wanted to hear our adoption stories. Well, I can hardly think of anything else I would rather talk about- the waiting, the process, the precious families, the goodness of God, the birth experiences, the babies in our arms. Love was experienced through memories.

“You will give yourselves to many things, give yourselves first to Love.” This seems simple enough, but with my task driven personality, “simple” becomes intentional which at times can come across as rehearsed or forced, therefore “useless and unhonoured”. Expressing the “universal coinage” is sometimes the last thing on my mind. The majority of my day is given to housekeeping tasks, returning emails, and keeping children busy at half way constructive play. Are the demands of daylight all laced with love? Not quite. If the resurrection of the quote by Drummond wasn’t enough to taunt me, I read a story about a pastor’s battle with cancer in a book I finished last week. He continued to ask the Lord this question, “How do I live these days of low energy in which I am more aware of having to let go of things than doing them?” One day an answer came: “With love. With great love.”

He went on to say, “I began to practice the simple things with love. I loaded and unloaded the dishwasher with thoughts of love. It was very different from thoughts such as, “If I didn’t have to do the dishes, I could do more important things,” or, “It seems I am doing more than my share of this mundane stuff.” I practiced waiting in love while the computer started up instead of fidgeting and scolding the machine’s sloth. On days when I could drive, yellow lights at the intersections became reminders to brake, to stop and refocus my life in love, not accelerate and hurry…..”

How different my life and my family’s life would be if I gave myself “first to Love” and “practice[d] the simple things with love”? I don’t know about you, but the loftiest thought I have when unloading my dishwasher is, “Now I can empty the sink.” How can something so basic to my Christian faith elude me so often? What ARE the things I have given myself to that all but block the paths through which love can be expressed? I stopped math for 2 weeks in January to give Julia time to master her flash cards of math facts—to nail down the basics of math. Since then, her double digit addition has flowed from brain to paper instead of sputtering all the way down. Practicing the basics made her school time more enjoyable, more fruitful. Love. What could be more basic, more fruitful, not to mention, foundational to the Christian faith? What, besides love, could make my days more beautiful, more joyful? Honestly, there are some days I think it is a good cup of coffee……….with whipped cream. How pitiful is that?

Oh, to love as Christ loves me. To fold clothes with thoughts of His Love for me and my family. To slice an apple thanking God for His Love shown to me by countless others. To serve a meal to my family of four with so much Love they think even the broccoli tastes good. To pick up shoes praising God for His expression of Love through the death of Jesus on the cross. Simple? I don’t know yet. Fruitful? Most definitely.

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born...." Luke 2:6  Love came in the form of man.

"Covet therefore that everlasting Gift."

“We love because He first loved us.” I John 4:19

(Feeling like a bonafide blogger today, posting from the "archives".  I'm still hoping these thoughts to be a consistent reality in my life.  --from February 2009--)

181.  raising kids in a city like this--with all its tradition

182.  big, pink, HAPPY paper flowers

183.  time for creativity

184.  a nap at three

185.  a house full of people I love

186.  white boxes from the Bluebonnet Bakery via Papa

187.  my children’s expressions- this time delight

188.  breakfast on the couch with kids-- blueberry muffins and a stack of books

189.  tulle

190.  texts from Daddy

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hoping Still

Home seems to be always two places- where I grew up and where I am growing up now.    This Texas town rolls off my tongue as “home” just as easily as that little town in South Georgia.  Both are home.  Both are, because of the people, part of who I am now.  There are plenty of things to look forward to when I head home to Soperton, but the visit only seems complete when I able to go to church.  This December allowed for that and I’ve been thinking about that Sunday after Christmas ever since.

Being raised in the church on 3rd Street was significant for me.  It wasn’t a model church and I knew of more problems than I should have, probably, but there were the few I knew had a genuine love for the Savior.  My parents made it a priority to attend as a family.  They saw great value in Sunday school and so my brother and I still reap the benefits of faithful teachers.  When I was 11, my pastor’s wife shared God’s plan of salvation with me after a piano lesson one afternoon.  I was saved on the piano bench in the living room of the pastorium.  Eternity sealed.  Significant.

Not long after that, the kind lady who played the piano handed me a square piece of aqua paper graced with the words of Psalm 19:14.  "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."  She encouraged me to memorize it and mentioned the value of hiding His Word in my heart.  She challenged me to a lifetime habit.  As I entered the youth group, ladies who became lifelong mentors and dearest friends poured their rich spiritual lives into my wanting one.  After hours and hours, days and days, road trips and camps, years and years, because of them, I am absolutely a different person.  Significant.

Sadly, my home church has suffered.  Living a thousand miles away, I have missed the times that caused aches that made you wonder if you'd ever recover.  Years have passed and they’ve recovered, mostly.  Within the last three months, a new pastor has been called and while I was home, Jeff and I got to meet his beautiful young family.  We were able to hear him open God’s Word from the pulpit I’ve stared at a few hundred Sundays.  From where I sat on my pew, I heard it.  I felt it.  I saw it.  The familiar Hope.  A month or so later, I don’t remember what his sermon was about (sorry, Mike) but I do remember sensing the Spirit among us.  A familiar feeling in that place, but, for me, it was like the long lost snow that was falling outside.  It had been many years since I had seen snow on and around all those pine trees.

At the end of the service, Pastor Mike asked for people to come to the front and pray for the church and for God’s work in the community.  I didn’t go down, but I watched and what I saw has had me thinking.  I felt like I was fifteen again, watching the same ladies bow on the same Wedgwood blue steps faithfully asking God for His blessing, His wisdom, and His salvation for others just as they had for so many of my friends and for me.   They hadn’t forgotten either.  They hadn’t lost Hope.  Their Hope was bigger than their hurt.  Their Hope was bigger than what they could see.

Their years of perseverance made my head spin while I stood in my place.  I looked at them thinking, HOW many times have they done that?  My eyes stung and the blue carpet went blurry, wondering had I hung around for twenty some odd years after high school, would I still have hope perched in my soul?  Would I trust Hope when change seemed always just beyond reach?  Would I have persevered like these on their knees now?  Asking God for the same things, Sunday after Sunday, year after year?

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  Romans 5:3-5

Hope does not disappoint us!  After all that, it cannot disappoint.  I didn’t get a chance to ask them, but I bet if I asked them if after all these years, are they disappointed in, I speak carefully here, God?  You know what I think they’d do?  They’d laugh-- throw back their silver hair and laugh at my question.  One would embrace me, pat me on the back, then hold me at arm’s distance so she could see my eyes through her bifocals and say, “Never, sweet Krista.  Never.”

She knows.  I know she knows.  Hope does not disappoint.  He cannot.
163.  spark of long held hope fanned in my "growing up" church

164.  snow days

165.  fire in the fireplace from good morning to good night

166.  unexpected time given, waiting for a memory...... or a really good book

167.  Wind pink cheeks

168.  Snacky meals

169.  the encouragement of strangers, yet sisters

170.  for now, being her preference

171.  a day of contrast to remind me of grace

172. bedroom window revealing a fresh blanket of perfect snow

173.  first snow steps crunch

174.  snowy day playdate

175. borrowed plastic sleds

176.  sharing friends with friends

176.  my first repeat, but I can't help it-- Brighton's hat flaps, flying fun  (affectionately called his "puppy hat")

177.  cooked caramel icing

178. board games

179.  one who taught me Him still sowing seeds in my family

180.  provisions unexpected...............grace

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Framing the Clouds

I took a dive one morning last week.  I assure you, it wasn’t pretty.  I landed in the icy waters of irritation and couldn’t, wouldn’t swim my way out.   

The blank slate of our school day was stained by our sinfulness.  That doesn’t surprise me but it always is embarrassing- even if I don’t tell anyone.  We all had acted ridiculously.  We spoke hurt that pierced exactly where we intended.  It did the unholy thing that we knew we’d be asking for forgiveness later.  It stung. In the midst of all the disappointment, the crying, the harsh tones, and the absolute aggravation, sensible here-is-the-way-out thoughts started floating and I couldn’t clear my mind.  As I tried to reign myself in, the good thoughts, like clouds, morphed into something else entirely-- negative thoughts, self-pity, and then, for me, the dreaded whys.  It was then I knew I need a few minutes to “frame the clouds”.

I have a new favorite musician about every six months or so and right now, it’s Christa Wells.  The first time I heard her lovely voice sing these words in my kitchen, I understood.   

All the words, they are my fingers on a face
oh the words
 looking for patterns in the shapes
You’re so good
 to be a witness to my sounds
trying to frame the clouds

Many nights, Jeff is the “witness to my sounds” trying to figure out my day, the things that happened here, the discipline administered, the conversations we had or didn’t have, the few pages I was able to read, the riff of the day between our two, or the phone call or email I received that was still lingering in my thoughts.  As I have said before, many nights, there are ugly sounds.  No matter, the thoughts just can’t be left drifting.  Each one needs to be framed--- to learn from it, to see it for what it is, to not forget, and to make sense of it.  To frame the clouds. 

That day won’t be hanging on our staircase wall.  I truly thought of my hopes to be thankful, to count the gifts and I wondered how creative I would have to get to write down just one.  Ann Vos Kamp, the author of 1000 Thousand Gifts, also has what she calls an “ugly beautiful” list-- those circumstances or those things in our lives that are difficult or complicated-- but as we give, what may seem at first mechanical thanks for them, He can soften us and use the “ugly beautiful” for our good, for our sanctification.  I wince admitting, that day, I didn’t even try.  It seemed an unfeasible task.

Until much later....

All the tension was mostly between Julia and me, although Brighton was splashed pretty well as I went about my day.  As I reviewed the morning with her, explaining why I was so  disappointed in us, she met my own remorse with her own fresh repentance.  Her actions had stirred me up and she knew it.  I had thrown out lots of words as the clock ticked into the afternoon-- so, after all was said and done, I asked her what she had heard me say.  Her nine year old frame curled in my lap, brunette head buried, “You said you loved me, no matter what.”  That was easy to pluck from the confetti of words she saw scattered about her, necessary for her to frame.  

After our talk, she had framed her own clouds.

She needed to.  

Just like me.  

And I like this frame from Lamentations.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.  (3:22-26)

148.  a day that reminds me, like Thursday’s child, I have far to go

149.  ninth dozen yellow roses from my brother to my daughter

150.  a slipper day

151.  tease of spring

152.  secrets shared

155.  saloon strummer singing that he’s forever in Your debt

156.  table of lunch food ladies like

158.  the courage of my husband

159.  Esther’s story being read on blankets in our cul de sac by daughter to friend

160.  by grace through faith

161.  anticipating winter’s blast

162.  time to frame the clouds