Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Finding Freedom in All Kinds of Places

It started with a Beth Moore teaching in my Bible study group about women and their/our obsession with body image, weight, food, clothing size... We humans often fall into one of two categories with most things in our lives. Obsession or Neglect. Ms. Moore gave examples from the Bible of God's trouble with the Israelites. Either they neglected God's laws or they became Pharisees. They either gave up or obsessed. We women often do this with our bodies.

And I've noticed a trend whenever I talk with people about attachment parenting, whole foods, alternative medicines, and natural living. The people who talk about it walk a fine line between balance and obsession. Worse yet, a spirit of judgment often accompanies those who obsess (which is not to say that the neglectful aren't also having their judgment-fest regarding the obsessed). This neglect vs. obsession dichotomy exists in other areas of our lives...housekeeping, finances...religion.

Freedom is somewhere in the middle. When I'm free I don't need to worry about what everybody else is doing. When I'm free I have walked away from the sickness that comes with neglect and the fear that comes with obsession. Ironically, the truest freedom comes when we release total control to God. Then we are free. Free from judgment. Free from shame. Free to be and do what God would have us do and be.

Is it wrong to fill our bodies with foods we know are bad for us? Sure. Is it wrong to have a donut every now and then. Absolutely not. Is the donut still junk food? Yup. Neglect says that we only live once and we should eat whatever we want. Obsession says donuts are bad and it's sinful to eat anything that isn't whole and natural and healthy.

I have always subscribed to a philosophy of balance, of finding the middle between the extremes. Of course there are absolutes. But for many, many things in life a happy medium is truly the free-est place to be. When we find a balance we find healing the parts of us that are sick from neglect and frozen with obsession. And there we find wholeness, which was the integrating motif for my Statement of Faith at Seminary. God wants us to be whole and free. God uses us even in our brokenness, but imagine how much more we can be used in our wholeness.

East Lake Library

We visited East Lake library yesterday & came home with:

Corduroy Goes to the Library based on Don Freeman's Corduroy books

Fiesta! Cinco De Mayo by June Behrens

Musicians of the Sun by Gerald McDermott (an Aztec/Mexican story)

The Night the Moon Fell by Pat Mora (a Mayan story from Belize)

And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel

Friday, April 20, 2007

Firsts

When Mane was born we passed the time noting "firsts." Her first smile. Her first laugh. The first time she held up her head, rolled over, crawled, got a tooth. Her first MayDay Parade, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter...birthday.

Since we met Vespera, another year of "firsts" have gone by... her first party with us was Mane's birthday. She came dressed in a wonderful, full-of-Mexican-flare black skirt. We blushed in our blue jeans and felt the cultural distance between us. The first time she spent the night at our house was after Mango's brother's wedding. She danced the night away with our neighbor's daughter, wearing out her feet in new sandals, and she slept soundly that first night. Difficult nights would follow, but that first night was sweet, blessed sleep. Mango and I lay awake in our bed holding hands with our two girls asleep in the bunkbed in the other room. Then there was the day she moved in. We gave her an ipod, a gift she uses more than any other item in her possession. We little knew how music would be a bridge between us. Our house has been filled with music since the day she moved here. Then there was the 4th of July with our neighbor's kids, the train ride downtown, and the fireworks on Nicollet Island. There was our first camping trip to Duluth at the campground with our weird drunken neighbor and days spent on the beach. There was adoption day followed quickly by the first day of school, soccer games, her first slumber party for her 16th birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter.

Yes, Easter. We found out on Good Friday 2006 that her adoption would be possible. I wrote about that then, having no idea what lay before me. It was Easter, spring, a time for new life, a time to accept our new life in Christ, and, through the strength and awesome guidance of the same Christ it was a time to give the gift of a new, more hopeful life to Vespera.

That all sounds so holy. And it is. Yet, I am grateful that the year of "firsts" has finished with a sense that the newness has worn off. The awesomeness of it all still hangs heavy on my heart. The familiarity makes the awesomeness bearable. The year of "firsts" is coming to a close, just as Mane's year of firsts also came to a close. And we know ourselves better. We know each other better. We know God better. A feeling of family has crept over us as we lived and celebrated together. Moments that we thought would never end have flitted away, leaving us with something greater, something deeper. We approach each other with a more knowing love and, perhaps, a little less caution. Because it's safe. Because we trust. Because we have built the foundation, and the building will not crumble.

I am so grateful. I am grateful for a new interest in soccer and latin music and spanish language. I am grateful for the conversations about culture. About food. About tradition. I am grateful for Vespera's questions. And for her forthrightness in asking them. I am grateful for her interest in God and for the family devotions we have established because she is here with us. I am grateful for another woman in the house. I am grateful that Mane has a sister, someone to love and to share with, someone to take the focus off her all the time, someone for her to admire.

I am grateful for my dear, sweet Mango. I have admired him in ways I never have before throughout this past year. His compassion that propelled us into Vespera's adoption. His patience in relationship with her. His willingness to be vulnerable, to love. His willingness to devote time and energy when it seems that there is hardly any to be had or to be given.

Most of all, perhaps, I am grateful for Vespera's willingness to invest herself in a relationship with us. I am grateful for her ability to embrace life and to embrace us with arms wide open. I am grateful that she cannot live without some attachment to the people she lives with, that she forges connections in the face of the unknown. I could never have dreamed up such a honest, open, adventurous daughter for myself.

Thank you, thank you, Jesus, for this blessed, wonderful, painful, emotional, exhausting, fantastic year of "firsts." We are still here, still waiting on You. Still watching for your guidance with every step. We are still willing. We are still open. We ask for your blessing. We beg for your blessing in the things that await ahead. Let us be witnesses for you, for your name, of your love and compassion and grace and holiness to our children and to the people around our family. God, we beg for your divine intervention in the details before us, in the parts of Vespera's immigration that are still not finished. We ask for your holy will to be done. We ask that you would guide us in that will. Help us to listen. Help us to hear. We are here. We are yours. Our family belongs to you. May we bring glory and honor to your name.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

I'm sitting helplessly at my keyboard right now trying to figure out what to say, how to say it. Every time a school shooting happens I think of Mango. I was standing in Savers yesterday when somebody next to me walked up and said, "My sister just called me, and there's been another school shooting." She didn't know anything else, as her sister's cell phone had cut out. And we stood there for a moment in our collective bewilderment.

I am still standing here in my bewilderment.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sumner Library

First, Mane read her first book last night!! It was a Henry & Mudge pre-level 1 book. She's been able to sound out words for a long time, but she hasn't been interested in actually reading and didn't seem to make the connection that sounding out words meant she could actually read something meaningful. Well, last night she took a big leap after we visited the library. She was showing lots of interest in the early reader books. So, we brought some home. And she decided to just do it. ....of course, as is typical with her whenever she makes a huge learning leap, she was crabbier than ever today, and I expect a rough weekend. She was like that with learning to crawl, walk, talk, etc... Every major developmental leap warrants an emotional week.

Ok, second, here's the new book list after our library visit yesterday afternoon:

Madeline Says Merci by John Bemelmans Marciano

Friends by Elaine Scott

The Berenstain Bear's Seashore Treasure by Stan & Jan Berenstain

Puppy Mudge Has a Snack by Cynthia Rylant

Puppy Mudge Takes a Bath by Cynthia Rylant

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman

Hip to Crochet by Judith Swartz

Kids Crochet by Kelli Ronci


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Books We Currently Have from the Library

A Child of God: Stories of Jesus and Stewardship Activities for Children by Michael J. Caduto

Moses: The Long Road to Freedom by Ann Keay Beneduce

Miriam's Cup: A Passover Story by Fran Manushkin

Easter by Jan Pienkowski

Ready, Set, Count by Marlene Barron

Dolls Kids Can Make by Sheila McGraw

Across the Alley by Richard Michelson

How Nanita learned to make flan by Campbell Geeslin

Chickens Aren't The Only Ones by Ruth Heller

Kids Learn to Knit by Lucinda Guy & Francois Hall

Knitting Pretty by Kris Percival

Knit Fix by Lisa Kartus

We love books. I've been meaning to keep a list of books we check out from the library so I can remember the ones I'm looking for later. So, that's the list of what's in the library bag right now. Two other favorites from this year are:

Pablo's Tree by Pat Mora

Tiny Tortilla by Arlene Williams

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Church, The Building

Bible study this morning brought up a number of thoughts for me. I'm going to write more than one entry about it because they don't all exactly go together.

I've been thinking already and for some time now about what the church is really supposed to be. As near as I can tell the church is supposed to be a community of people who believe in Jesus and who love and care for each other out of the overflow of Jesus love for them and their love for Jesus. This outpouring of love should be so powerful that it calls others to Christ. We need to be walking, talking, living vessels of God's love in our interactions with each other and everyone else. I think sometimes the Church Building gets in the way. We spend lots and lots and lots of time and energy on the building, not to mention our finances.

I'm conflicted about The Building. God's temple was certainly a building of great expense, extravagance, and beauty. It was the house of God, after all, a holy place, the place where people brought their sacrifice and encountered the God of Creation.

I don't see the New Testament Christians commanded to build a temple, though. The New Testament speaks of our bodies as the temple and the collection of believers as the body of Christ. What we know of the early Christians is that they met in homes. It isn't clear if they met in other building, which became Church Buildings. We know that they were commanded to hold their possessions in common and take care of each other, so that none would be poor and needy.

So, what does it mean when a small group of believers gets together and prays and grows into a large church. And then they build a building, and they pray for the finances to make the place big enough and beautiful, and the finances appear, and we have these huge beautiful churches. Is that God's plan? I heard one of those stories this morning. People give testimonies of God providing for these things. Is it really God's provision? Is it really God's plan? Who am I to question their testimony, their faith that God provided this for them?

And, of course, I am grateful for the things that a large church can provide...space for Bible studies and children's church, clothing and food shelves, after school programs. When we pool our resources we can help more people, do more things.

So, where is the balance?

Where is the close community of believers who love each other, who know and pray for each other? So often community gets lost in the big church building.

Are we spending so much money on the building that we cannot help those who are poor, sick, in need?

And how can we invite people who don't know Jesus to church on Sunday morning? What do they receive from a Sunday morning service? There is so little actual personal interaction. Everyone is so perfectly dressed, so perfectly behaved. The service is so ordered and pretty. I know there are churches that aren't like this. I'm not talking about them. I just believe they're few and far between. I believe that the collective Church has lost the vision and sacrificed it for buildings and programs.

What can I do? Jesus, help me. I want to know you. I want others to know you. I want your love and your peace to burn like candles in every window in every house on every street in every city in every state and country around the world. I can complain about the church forever, but I'm spinning my wheels. What can I DO?

Here I am. Send me.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Swirling Around...

Ok...I have about five billion things I'd like to write about right now, but Mane has been sick & is only giving me these little fragments of time to write. So, here's my list, which I'd like to get to later. Please feel free to vote on which item I should write about first!

- one year since I met Vespera
- thoughts on sleep
- the church (or is that The Church?) & community, trying to find a place
- Mane's about to turn 5!!
- The homeschooling dilemma
- Well, I'd love to list the books on my bookshelf, just like Kathy. That was a fun read!
- Bible study group's new study on prayer
- raising Christian kids

Well, there's probably more. That's the list I've been mentally going over in my head so I won't forget. Now I've got it down so I can remember what I was going to write about when I sit down to write later. :)

Happy Feet

I'm coming here today to publicly agree with Char's opinion of Happy Feet. Not a cute, sweet, happy little penguin movie. Way too much agenda. Way over the heads of the little people. Not even a very engaging plot line.

There. I've said it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A bit of history...

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Emma Lazarus, 1883 av JC