Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Peace - The second candle of Advent

I've been trying to put my finger on a definition for that simple little word. Peace. Something in me knows what it is. How do I explain it to my 4 year old? We light the candles each night. Our conversation goes like this:

Me: What is the first candle for?
Mane: Hope.
Me: What is hope?
Mane: Waiting for something.
Me: What are we waiting for?
Mane: Christmas!
Me: What's special about Christmas?
Mane: It's Jesus' birthday.

Me: Now, what is the second candle for?
Mane: Peace.
Me: What is peace?
Mane: Calm. I don't know.
Me: Yes, peace is calm on the inside. It is not fighting. It is feeling content inside.

Not to mention that she doesn't really know what "content" means. It's hard to figure out how to define peace.

I've been studying peace in Bible study, too. Isn't that interesting? Things coincide in such marvelous ways.

And today I think it came to me. Peace is trusting God. It is knowing that God sees us and knows our needs and cares for us. Peace is not being anxious or afraid. Because we know that God is with us. Jesus came to be peace...the Prince of Peace. To be "God With Us." Emmanuel. Knowing that God is with us brings peace.

Peace is knowing you don't have to worry. I don't like to define things by what they aren't. Somehow, though, there aren't any good synonyms for peace. Peace is the absence of fear. Peace is the absence of war.

I've felt around for other words. But "calm" isn't exactly it. I don't think you always have to be placid and calm to be peaceful. And "happy" isn't it. You can have peace and still feel sad. Jesus did. He wept. Yet he is the Prince of Peace.

It's a knowing. A contentment. Contentment is as close as I can come. Maybe it's security. Knowing you are secure in God, the one unchangeable, immovable being. The Unseen Hand. The Creator. The Alpha and Omega. Prince of Peace.

And may the God of peace bring you peace this day...this week...this month...this year...this lifetime. May you know the truth of peace...undefinable and completely free.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Be Nourished

I wonder if it's a uniquely American thing to have such a love-hate relationship with food. Americans, in general, are so easily satisfied with cheap food, fast food, junk food and so disconnected from real food, slow food, good food. Obsessed with being thin, so often overweight, and always in search of the perfect 5-minute meal.

We have been on a food journey for the last several years. A few years after Mane was born we started eating almost entirely organic. The difference is huge. Everything tastes better. We eat whole grains ...better for the body and more filling. It's partly an environmental mission, both the external environment of the world and the internal environments of our bodies. It's also an economic mission, supporting organic farmers, fair trade, small farms. It's an economic sacrifice for us, in hopes that it will bring about change in the larger community. A perk is shopping at the co-op, which always smells great and is small enough for me to let Mane walk around. People know us there. One of the clerks has a son Mane's age. We were pregnant at the same time.

As most in the organic foods community can tell you, convenience foods are still available to the organic consumer. Mac and cheese still exists, as do canned soups, microwave dinners, and french fries. Organic doesn't necessarily mean healthy, and it doesn't mean that we've slowed down and learned anything about food.

This is something we've learned from Vespera. Really good food is a process. The time we sacrifice for good food is repaid in something more nourishing than flavor. Caldo is a good example. Boil and season the chicken, chop and add veggies, taste, adjust the seasoning. Chop more veggies to serve cold over the top, lime wedges, avocados, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, onions. Warm the tortillas. Serve in big bowls, everyone gathered around slicing their avocados, squeezing the limes, dipping tortillas. It's a ritual. It is not eat-and-run. It isn't a perfect 5-minute meal. It is nourishment. Body and soul.

If you ask Vespera, food doesn't taste as good if it isn't home-cooked. If the lingering smell of it doesn't fill the house. Partly, the food is better for the anticipation. You will soak and blend and strain and boil the chilis, and you will wait gladly when you know that mole is in the making. Though your stomach growls, you will not demand a simpler meal. You know what you are waiting for. You can do your homework better knowing mole is on the way.

And when we all come to the table and perform the ritual of dishing the plates, slicing the tomatoes over the top, crumbling cheese and spooning cream, we are nourished, knowing that our food is slow and real. There's something in the familiarity, once you know how it's done, that feels like home and comfort.

Being American, I had no idea how important food could be. And, I think, that somewhat strained relationship Americans have with food makes us hesitate to love food. Loving food is associated with obesity. It means you like to eat a lot. Loving food in other cultures, though, has a lot more to do with quality, ritual, familiarity. It means that sometimes you eat a lot, but, often, just a little is satisfying. And the look on Vespera's face when I get her family's timeless recipes right is worth every single priceless minute I spend in the kitchen.

It isn't that I love to cook, though sometimes I really do. It's that there's something in the process that is so much more rewarding than quick food.

I laugh, too, when I think of a saying I once heard and heartily agreed with. I heard that we should eat 90% for nourishment and 10% for pleasure, or something like that...meaning that we are too focused on dessert, and we need to learn to eat foods that are better for us, even though it isn't fun. I think this attitude of denial is why obesity is so rampant. I want to tell people that it's ok to love food. Find a way to cook it that makes it so good you can hardly stand it. That's going to take time. It's going to be slow food. But it is going to be worth it.

You will be nourished.

One Reason We Don't Spank

Please be advised that this blog entry is rather sensitive in nature.

http://untotheleast.blogspot.com/2006/12/spencer-spanking-plan.html

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dreaded Adolescence

I will make no more bones about this. I am sick of people moaning about teenagers. I hated it when I was a teenager, and, now that I have a teenager, I still hate it. In fact, I wish that the words "teenager" and "adolescence" did not even exist. If we couldn't stuff them in a category and slap a label on them, maybe we'd treat them like real people and stop moaning about them.

Ok...vent over.

Here's the serious part. I was talking with a bunch of moms the other day and they were all worrying about when their kids become teens. I know that being 13, 14, 15, 16 can be difficult, confusing, frustrating. There's a depth and intensity, though, that I think is precious, valuable, golden. I wish people would cash in on that intensity they way they exclaim over precious baby toes and teeny-tiny fingers, they way they all reach out to hold the little bundle in its early years. Nope, teenagers don't want to be treated like little bundles, but, I think they want to be treated with joy, love, respect. I remember hating being looked down on as a teen, everybody expecting me to rebel...assuming I was rebelling at the slightest statement of opinion. Are adolescents what they are because we expect them to be so? Their emotional volatility makes it difficult to know what to say sometimes. And, yet, there's so much life in a teen. So much intensity. Does it scare us? Do we hate to be faced by the emotions we learned to push down and master somewhere along the way?

We watched a video in Bible study, and the speaker had just done a book signing for a children's book she had written. The book was about royal people in a castle, and the children were invited to come in costume. The girls dressed as princesses and the boys as knights. That's just what they chose. And it was completely natural for them. Small children assume that they really are royal. They have no trouble believing that they are special, destined to be great, heirs of a great inheritance. The rest of the world is pretend for them...dull, boring, nothing like who they really are.

Somewhere along the way, we all become convinced of something else about ourselves. Growing up is hard. But, just when they need to know they really are knights and princesses, we begin wishing the years away. We want them to be young again or to grow up already. We do not like the painful process of growing and becoming.

What would happen if we rejoiced over teenagers, invited them into the stuff of growing up, talked to them about life and love. What if we told them what we really thought, dug deep in ourselves to be vulnerable and intense just as they are. Perhaps, we hate those years because they hurt us. But we have put up the walls. We know how to hide. We are not emotional and vulnerable. We must not let them see who we are. But...if we did. If we did? How would it change things?

I am practicing. I am practicing with a girl who was raised by someone else. She is sweet, honest, deep, emotional... I didn't raise her, and I cannot take credit for who she is. She is not demanding. She doesn't insist on having things her way. She wants to help. I cannot take credit for this, and, yet, I can't help but wondering if, when Mane gets this old, I can be the same way with her, if it will take the pressure off that dreaded adolescence. I *tell* Vespera when I feel like there's something wrong but I don't know what. I tell her what is painful for me. I tell her what I wish about myself. I tell her how beautiful she is, how talented and creative and funny. I tell her how happy it makes me when she's happy. I sit in her room when she studies. I ask her to keep me company in the living room when we're home alone. I tell her what I want for her and what I expect from her.

And I can't help but wondering if this isn't the way it's supposed to be. If we open up the communication wires, could we ease the transition? If we let them in on our own struggle, would it help? If we tell them what is on our minds, would we all feel better?

Of course, my therapy training tells me it's important to not put to much pressure on them, don't expect them to be adults, don't create a situation where they feel responsible for how you feel, guilty for your own hesitation and pain. You cannot force them to talk, and I suppose some won't.

As with everything in life, I suppose there is a balance. I suppose we are in trouble if we go to either extreme.

I suppose I am idealistic and I know nothing about parenting a teenager. As I have said already, Vespera is someone I cannot take credit for. I will visit this post in ten more years and know if it holds true for the child I have raised from birth.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

MANGO


Introducing: My dear, sweet husband's new internet "handle." Thanks to all who made suggestions for him, including, but not limited to, MidnightMenu and MidnightSpecial.

My wonderful man will now be known as "Mango" wherever I go on the internet. That's pronounced the Spanish way: Mahn-go. Meaning: one who is sweet, delicious, juicy, irresistable, refreshment to my thirsty eyes, nourishment in the midst of my daily life, the one I love and live for...

It was Vespera who helped me stumble upon this handle, and it stuck. I asked her what word she uses in Spanish when referring to some gorgeous dude she passes on the street. Her prompt reply: "Mango!"

So, there it is.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Road Less Travelled

I wanted to say that this blog isn't about anything. It isn't about adoption or granola living or politics or homeschooling. Though all of those things are high on my radar. And it isn't about Harry Potter or Tolkien. Though, I have an awful lot to say about both of them. It just is. It's where I'm at. Day by day.

So, last night I drove home from my cousin's house and I listened to Amy Grant in the car. First, I thought how disgusted certain people might be that I still listen to Amy Grant. Then, I decided that it was me & Mane in the car and we were going to play it as loud as we wanted. The song of choice was I Surrender All. I am captured by the lines:

Take me, Jesus.
Take me now.

I am here. And I have given my life over and over to do whatever it is that I'm supposed to do.

So, I took the road less traveled, and it's totally as unclear and untraveled further down, ok folks? Don't kid yourself into thinking that once you get so far upon that less traveled road, you'll suddenly find the way sunny and clear. Yes, there are patches of sunshine. And sometimes we just sit in them for a while to warm our backs. But then we get up and move on with our pocket knives at the ready to cut through the brush. Because we can't just sit. Then the road would start to look like that well-traveled one we didn't take. Maybe it would even morph into that road...become that road if we sat too long, getting sedentary, complacent.

And I don't mean it to sound like such a downer. It's exciting and exhilarating, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I get tired, and I get sick, frustrated, sad, angry. But I also get those moments of complete contentment, awe, wonder. I get the moment of sheer joy. We talked about joy in Bible study...how the Hebrew word that is translated "exceedingly glad," actually means to "jump for joy." This road has those moments...the moments when we skip and leap along the narrow path rather than fight through the brush. The moments of breakthrough are well-worth the struggle.

I wouldn't trade this for easy.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Internet Screen Names

A word for anybody why still doesn't know... "Mane" is a Latin word for "Early Morning," and "Vespera" is a Latin word for "Evening Prayer." Mane is our beautiful morning sunrise, our first child. Vespera is the answer to many evening prayers.

I call myself MidnightCafe most places on the internet. It's a handle I started using when Mane was a baby and nursing all night long, and it stuck. The name reminds me of coffee shops with Dh late at night, of lying in bed on hot summer nights with a soft breeze coming in the windows and Dh and Mane breathing softly in their sleep beside me. It reminds me of walking silently through my house at night, feeling content and peaceful. So, that's the story of the internet handles.

...still looking for one for Dh, though...

Bridging the Gap

Nothing in life has prepared me to watch two people I love so much struggle to find their way in a relationship together. Vespera has never had a father before. And, likewise, Dh has never been the father of a teenage girl before. He's having flashbacks of his dating years in high school trying to remember what 16yr old girls were like. And Vespera is particularly sensitive to anything that comes out of his mouth. This experience impresses on me how important fathers are to young women, and how powerful and influential fathers can be. The minute something comes out of Dh's mouth, it has gone straight to the heart. She's taken it personally, deeply. Quite simply, his opinion matters a great deal. From his perspective, he is an outcast, always saying the wrong thing, someone to be totally disregarded. You see the disjunct here? Everything he says matters to her. And he doesn't want to say much...at least, not without thinking it over a great deal.

And then these moments happen...moments of quiet connection...studying for biology, sharing headphones at the computer, a drive home in the car when she tells him about a dream she had or the guy she likes. Tentatively, a relationship is forged.

She had a very disturbing dream about him. It was upsetting...for all of us, I think. But it got something out on the table. "This relationship is very difficult." Nobody quite knows what to do. It was good to say it. At least, from my outsiders perspective it was good.

Last week saw a certain breakthrough, I think. It was silly, really. He teased her...in a way that would have never made me think twice. She was heartbroken. I asked her what happened and she dissolved in tears. I called for him. He came...he apologized...he told her how much he loves her...she did not look up. She didn't move until he left the room. I said simply, "I know you trust me. And you can trust me when I say that I know he would never mean to hurt you."

How do I bridge the gap between them? My heart is tight, constricted, tense trying to hold them both as they fly apart in opposite directions. I know she is afraid. She wants to accept the love we offer, but she doesn't want to expect it of us. She cannot relax in it, knowing that it is there, expecting it to always be there, because she is still afraid she is imposing...that we've taken her in but she's somehow getting in the way. She allows Dh in a little bit, but then any little teasing just confirms her fears...that she is imposing on our family, that she is asking too much of us. He can she allow herself to be unconditionally loved and accepted if she is worried that she's a bother? And Dh is shocked at the depth of his own emotion for her. He says over and over that it's just as though she was born to us. How is it possible to love her so much? I feel it myself...hardly believing that we did not even know her at this time last year. The attachment bonds have formed quick and strong and deep. It is mostly her. She "wears her heart on her sleeve." She is so open and vulnerable...allowing things in, and then experiecing both the wonder and comfort of love and the wounding pain of vulnerability. It hovers in a fragile balance.

She said that it was ok, that she understood he was teasing. I told her he needed to hear that then. Being silent allows him to think that she is still upset and will not forgive him. God forgive me for being pushy. I could see that they needed to mend this somehow before she stepped out of the house for the weekend. The divide between them would grow over the weekend, and I would be left with a tight heart holding them both as they again fly apart. I let it drop and went to joined Dh & Mane in the living room.

She got her things together to go home and tentatively stepped out into the living room and sat down. He said, "I'm sorry," as tears splashed down his face. She was shocked, taken aback. Here is real emotion, a tangible deomnstration of love. Dh had been trying to keep his emotions checked...trying not to guilt her for feeling bad. The tears spilled over anyway. My heart lurched. And I tried to stay quiet. It ended with them in a tight hug, both crying. A strand of trust began weaving it's way between them.

She went home for the weekend...just minutes afterward.

She bounced into his classroom Monday and gave him a big hug.

This week that little tightness inside me loosened up a bit.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Jesse Tree


And for inquiring minds...This is a picture of our Jesse Tree, which, quite obviously, is actually a Jesse Wreath. It's from last year. There's an ornament to go with each scripture reading we did over advent. So, this was the picture from Christmas Day, once all the ornaments were up.

Music and Advent


Our lives continue to revolve around music. I feel as though I've made some kind of full circle in my life. When I was young, in high school and college, music infused nearly every moment of every day. I went to sleep playing music, even woke to turn it back on sometimes. Now, I am living with Vespera, who is young, in high school, and who spends hours upon hours steeped in music. And my life is filling with music again.

I walked out of the bedroom after reading Mane to sleep a few nights ago to find Vespera & Dh, each with one earphone from a shared headset, at the computer scrolling through itunes. Dh has always been a connessuir of music. His listening menu is broad - from the meaningful to the comical. And now Vespera listens to everything from The Sound of Music to Billy Joel and much in between.

Mane goes around singing Do, Re, Mi, and I Surrender All (that's from Amy Grant's Rock of Ages, if anybody wants to know)...and also the cherry cola song by Savage Garden.

So, now I'm in search of music for Advent, as a way to enrich our Advent time together this year. And, yes, folks, that means Advent is beginning soon! December 3rd is the first day of Advent this year. We'll be lighting candles and doing a Jesse Tree again. And maybe adding some music to the list.

Ok, so now Mane is sitting on my lap & I can't see the screen any more.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Just to write

I'm writing today because I rather feel that I ought to. The writer in me believes that you need to squeeze something out every now and then even if you don't really know what to say. It's good practice.

I'm off for a weekend with the girls on Saturday. We're glazing pottery and spending the night in a hotel. I assume lots of other various and sundry things will be part of the weekend, too, as usual, but I have no idea what. Vespera is coming with this year, by popular request. They love her. I do, too, and I'm looking forward to the drive. Hopefully I can be quiet long enough to really listen. This is my goal. Be quiet. Listen. Speak when it's time and not before. I can't do it, really. I love to talk. And I so rarely get to hang out with my friends and there's always a million trillion things on my mind. I'll try, though. God help me. I'll try.

So, I thought about sending my Bible study ladies over here to read. Decided I was too radical. What if I say something offensive? The friends I'm hanging out with this weekend think I'm a rule follower. I laugh in my hands. Yeah, appearances are not everything.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Anniversary


Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the day Dh asked me to marry him. Recently a newly married friend commented to me that she couldn't imagine how in love Dh & I must be, considering the way that she was falling more deeply in love with her husband every day. My response? You're absolutely right. You cannot imagine.

We snuggled our warm bodies close under our soft blankets, hands clasped, faces close together and spoke our memories of that night ten years ago...and the events that came before and after...clay forms and market square, Mississippi, the Mary Chapin Carpenter concert, the full moon and a truck full of roses, Uncommon Grounds, walks in hills, Sleeping Beauty in the attic bedroom, first kiss... We hardly knew each other. I laugh and call us children. Carried by a passion we could hardly understand, upheld in the Unseen Hand called Love. Life is deep and wide, intense.

That great Unseen Hand scooped us up. The mighty angels of heaven stood gaurd to protect this blessed union, the force unleashed by two children of God becoming one and pledging to stand together in the middle of God's plan. I like to think of the angels presiding over our wedding, the many invisible eyes and ears bearing witness.

"Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of his house for love,
it would be utterly scorned." ~ Song of Solomon 8:6-7

And here we are, ten years after we first spoke our love to each other, hardly recognizing our former selves...yet recognizing in each other the same blazing fire, the same mighty flame. We stand together, united, strong, passionate...leading vibrant lives of service to the Almighty and to each other.

I could hardly have composed a statement of such strength when our lives together began, yet I felt it then. The power was there, though the knowledge was not. And still we walk somewhat blindly, unsure where we are going next, awaiting the next word from the one who is continually creating and calling us into being. We thought we knew then what love is. The amazing and wonderful truth is that the more we discover, the more we realize just how little we know. And yet it is this Love that holds us, and we can be content knowing that it is far bigger than we could ever imagine.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hearing with Spiritual Ears


Just got back from Women's Bible Study at Park Avenue. What a timely message. Just the other day Vespera was asking how we know when God is speaking to us, and here I am talking about it with the women at church. Not only that, though, the message was about gray areas, which my life seems full of right now - questions about my career, about Vespera, about what to say to some hurting friends, about which questions to ask and when to stay silent.

Oh God, send your Holy Spirit with spiritual words with which my spirit can resonate. Help me to allow myself to be moved, like the chess pieces. It is so amazing to know to be compelled by the Spirit and to move...to hear the Inaudible Voice, to be touched by the Unseen Hand. It is so clear when I need it, and yet I always wish for more. Help me to have faith, to need nothing more, to hear the Voice when it speaks. And, I beg of you, guide me in the gray things.

I will not argue. I will follow.

"When the Unseen Hand leads you in its grasp, you follow. Or turn back and live in eternal regret. Of course there is no certainty in following either. That is what makes faith. Follow or turn back. There is no middle way." ~ Merlin in Merlin by Stephen R. Lawhead

Harry Potter, Chess & God


I was explaining to Dh the other day that the chess games in the first book of Harry Potter remind me of human relationships with God. Harry borrows chess pieces to play with Ron over Christmas break. The pieces can talk. They argue about where they should move. They try to assert their will over the one directing the game, act like they know best, refuse to do what they are told, make their moves themselves. That is, that's what they do when they don't know the person playing the game. Ron's chess set is an old worn set that's been in his family forever. His pieces know and trust him. They submit to his direction because they know he has a plan, and he's a pretty awesome chess player.

You follow?

So, near the end of the book (and this may be considered a spoiler for those who haven't read it), Harry, Ron and Hermoine go through a series of magical "traps" to get to the sorcerer's stone and save it. One of the traps is a room with a chess game. You have to play the game and win to get through the door to the other side and to the next test. The trick is that you have to exchange places with the chess players & play your way across the board as though you are a chess piece. These are human-sized chess pieces who knock each other out, beat each other up, and try to kill each other when they capture another piece in the game. So, Harry and Hermoine put Ron in charge because he is the one who knows how to play chess. They trust him. So, Ron, the awesome chess director, places himself on the board with the players to help his friends win the game and move to the next level. He realizes at some point that one of them will have to be sacrificed in order for the game to be won. So, he offers himself, after telling Harry and Hermoine what their next moves are. Then he steps into his next moves and is knocked out cold by a laughing member of the other team.

Still following?

I think it's like that. There are those who know God and submit to the plan, the direction that God offers because they know and love and trust him so completely. And there are those who argue for their own direction, refuse to budge, play dirty and knock out everybody else. And then one day the awesome Director came down to be a chess player, one of us. And He took some blows for us. I try to live my life as one who knows this and trusts this and takes it seriously. I try to sit back and trust.........back to the re-occuring theme of Faith in my life lately. Now I have two analogies...the garden and the chess game. The thing is, the chess pieces don't try. They just do trust....because they trust the Master. They know the Master. They love the Master.

God help me to know you. So that my faith may increase.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

More for the Collection

"Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup
And I'll not look for wine." ~ Ben Johnson

"Where there is no extravagance there is no love..." ~ Oscar Wilde

"Talking about kissing is like humming about fire." ~ unknown

The Shirt by Jane Kenyon
The shirt touches his neck
and smoothes over his back.
It slides down his sides.
It even goes down below his belt -
down into his pants.
Lucky shirt.

"Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after. The same can be said of a good kiss. Enjoy communicating and kissing, and worry about sleeping later." ~ from Kissing; Everything You Ever Wanted to Know by Tomima Edmark

"All human love is a dramatic enactment of the wild, reckless, unquenchable, undrainable love that powers the universe. If death is everywhere and inescapable, then so is love, if we but knew it. We can begin to know it through each other. The tamer my love, the farther away it is from love. In fierceness, in heat, in longing, in risk, I find something of love's nature. In my desire for you, I burn at the right temperature to walk through love's fire." ~ from The PowerBook by Jeanette Winterson

"Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps...perhaps...love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath." ~ from Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Love is in the Air

I'm going to a friend's wedding next weekend, and I've been inspired to collect some of my favorite poems & quotes on love here in my blog...

To start with:

"The Bible says that every human being is created "in the image of God," and what that incredibly powerful verse means is that the same way that God is the one and only - there is no other like Him - every one of us is also the one and only. There is no other like us. ... And the essense and ultimate purpose of a relationship is to establish and substantiate that uniqueness. When someone chooses to love you, it can only mean one thing - that you are worth loving."

"People today appear vulnerable and rudderless. ... To counter this atomization of humanity, God gave us marriage, the essense of which is to find a soul mate who grasps us fully."

"Your marriage is not a facet of your life. It is your life. It is a not a detail of your happiness, but its central source and greatest blessing."

Both of these are from the book "Kosher Sex" by Shmuley Boteach.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Slumber Party

It is through the blurry eyes of a mom, who just hosted her first slumber party, and with a BIG cup of coffee that I write this post today. The girls are still sleeping soundly in Vespera's room. Mane is watching Sesame Street after declaring to me that it is MORNING, Mama, which, of course, means that it's time to get up. I'm not so sure about the time to get up part... Anyway, Mane slept with us so the big girls could have hers and Vespera's room. Now I remember why I moved her to her own bed.

The party was a total success! Vespera was surprised. Her friends did an awesome job decorating before she got here. They ate her favorite foods, had cake with Dh's parents and the neighbors, played volleyball over the parking pad fence, roasted marshmallows over our newly-aquired firepit, watched Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and asked each other questions from the new Table Topics set that I bought. The night was beautiful...

And I hear giggling in the bedroom...gotta run!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Freedom



Freedom and the gardening/faith examples keep coming up - popping their little heads out of the garden of my life, like prairie dogs coming up here and there all over the place. Freedom is a theme both literally/tangibly and spiritually in my life right now. Vespera, whose name means Free, lives in my house, my house that both holds her captive and promises her freedom. ...just as, I suppose, the freedom we seek in God both holds us captive and sets us free. We are not free to do whatever we want or to seek our own direction in life. We are held captive, indeed captivated, by God's Spirit, which leads us to perfect and total freedom, leads us to life in the presence of God where we are continually called into life and being. Vespera, by her very presence, reminds me of freedom. She is real and alive, vibrant and free in her being, in who she is...in her inside emotion. She is free.

Inside Emotion by Storyhill:

I won't wait for tomorrow, 'cuz it won't go away
And there's no one there to follow so I'll go my own way
I've changed my answers and I've changed my plans
And I'm living for the feelings I can't understand

I've gone away from all I have known
And I'm holding on to freedom so I won't be coming home
I've gone away from all I have known
And I'm holding on to freedom so I won't be coming home

A little inside motion but it's nothing I can't take
A little part of me's been sleeping but I think it's now awake
And I see it in the summer and the way that it's dying
Life is so much deeper than the feelings I've been fighting
So I follow my heart now 'cuz my mind's been misleading
And somewhere down the road I think I'll find what I've been missing

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Gardens and Miracles

We picked another tomato from the garden this morning...and a carrot! And we cut several sunflowers for the vase on the table. It really is amazing the way all those little seeds turn into great big plants and then real food that we can eat. I've got 4 quarts of canned tomatoes in the cabinet from the garden this summer, and I have 6 more tomatoes in the fridge...not to mention the several dozen that are yet to ripen. I am totally looking forward to next year. Now that I finally broke ground and grew a garden, I'm ready for a bigger one next year. I'm glad I just did it this year even though it was late going in.

So many things in my life are like that garden. I don't know what I'm getting into until I just do it, and then it's wonderful. I put it off, daunted by the size of the task, forgetting that baby steps are possible. I'm learning something about that this year...about taking baby steps, not trying to do everything all at once, not worrying about getting it right the first time, stepping forth without knowing what the end product will be. I thought I knew what faith was before, and now I am astonished. I am learning faith...baby steps...little by little. And now I see how far I have to go. And as I learn faith, I do believe that God takes everything just one step further. The Unseen Hand waits for me just one step ahead, always pulling me forward, calling me forth into the wild future and the abundant provision...calling me to a bigger garden...more work and more provision...more faith and more miracles.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Settling In

Life has been a whirlwind of camp, summer homework, and then school starting and soccer season for the last few months. Vespera came home to us after a long weekend with her family. I sense that our relationship is turning into something new now. It's painful, and yet I'm filled with curiosity. This summer she needed me a lot, and it was intense. She cried and I held her. We walked arm in arm. With the start of school, I think she feels less alone, and I am less her sole comfort. I see less of the deep emotional part of her, and I think the intensity has cooled a bit. Now, it's time for her and I to do the real work of building a relationship. The desperation of the summer months has passed and we are learning the dance of life together. It occured to me that I'm not sure how to be affectionate with her when she's not crying or upset. I'm not sure how to reach out and hug and love her when we're just here, us, being family. It's the German part of me showing up. And I think it's a bit of fear, too. I want to be the right person, do the right thing. God help me. I'm not perfect, but I sure want to be. I don't want to make mistakes with her. She seems so fragile sometimes. Dear perfect God in heaven, show me the way.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Music

You know certain pieces of music can bring you back to certain places, certain times in your life? You can almost smell and taste them the way that the music brings you back...emotions of some past moment suddenly wash over you as the words wash over your brain.

The music that will bring me back to this time in my life...the time when Vespera first joined our family will be UB40, especially "Swing Low," and the soundtrack from Stand by Me, especially Lollipop & Mr. Lee. Vespera sat at the reception following the award ceremony at her summer intership on Friday night humming Mr. Lee. It cracks me up...this Mexican teenager humming American music from the 50's. She's a music-lover, an addict, just like Dh, and he's been digging up music for her and loading it up on her ipod. They're swapping music. Now I find him listening to the Venga Boys and "Oye Como Va." And...uh...I think somebody named Shakira.

I drove her to her intership a few weeks ago early in the morning. She had to be there at 6:30 for a special breakfast. She plugged in her ipod and blared "Red, Red Wine" all the way there. That'll wake you up in the morning. We're all discovering a special love for reggae.

And last night we played the Beach Boys after successfully finding her a bathing suit at the mall. Ah...the bathing suit...that's another story for another day.

Monday, July 24, 2006

New Meaning

Everything takes on this crazy sense of meaning since Vespera joined the family. I just gave her and Mane their vitamins. Silly girls. They were lying in bed together. Vespera was reading history homework. Mane was pretending to want to know all about it. I make sure they both get their vitamins. It's weird. I took Vespera to the chiropractor last week, which is totally normal for our family, but she's never been to a chiro before. Her Mexican birth family is all about herbs and natural healing. So, it isn't too much of a stretch for Vespera to learn about the things we "do" like chiropractic and organic foods, natural cleaners and recycling. She showed me last night how her mother pulls her hair in a certain way on her head & makes places on her head "pop" in order to get rid of headaches. I almost fainted when she did it to her head & I heard this loud pop.

And speaking of all the stuff she was telling me last night... She came in my room to say goodnight at about 9:30, and she talked and talked and talked at the edge of our bed until 11:30. Usually we laugh about how Mane can't stop talking. Last night Vespera was like some kind of teenager on the phone, except she was in my room talking to me. She was talking about the half-moons on our fingernails, whether men have hormonal changes when babies are born or not, and what she thinks about black and white magic. We talked (Vespera, Dh & I) about angels and demons and how not all supernatural powers are good...maybe not even those of supposedly "white witches." We talked about how we go directly to God when we have troubles and we pray over our home to be protected from anything evil. We talked about how evil spirits cannot inhabit the same body where God is present. What an unusual turn of conversation. She is hungry for knowledge of God. We have begun reading the Bible after dinner most nights, before anybody gets started on homework or anything. Vespera has even done some of the reading. We've talked a lot of theology in a very short time.

I think God sent her to us BOTH because she is hungry to know more about God AND because we needed something in our lives like her to get us into a faithful routine of paying attention to God as a family.

Last week she cried and cried Thursday night & told me she's not sure she'll ever get used to this. I told her that I think she will but it will be a little like when somebody dies. You become able to live without that person but you still miss them sometimes. You even cry and get really sad sometimes. It gets easier, though, not so heavy. She didn't want to go visit her birth family last weekend because it's hard to leave them again when she comes back here. I told her that she needed to go see them. They can give her so many things that we cannot, and she does not need to tough it out and refuse to see them just because she's trying to get used to being here. I told her that I don't really think that not going homw would make it any easier anyway. She would still miss them.

This morning I made eggs for breakfast. I broke open 6 eggs. Every single one of them had 2 yolks. I got chills every time I broke open another one. I wonder what it means... of course, I suppose it could mean nothing at all, but I find that highly unlikely.