Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm honored!

Post Mommy surprised me today with a "Versatile Blogger" award! I've never received a blogging award before, and I'm honored! I met Post Mommy through Momalom, and it's been delightful reading her blog (hint: that = go on over and check it out!)!

It appears that I must tell my readers 7 things about myself and then pass the award on to others. So, here are my 7 things (trying hard to come up with things I haven't already said in this blog):

1. In spite of all my talk about organic foods, natural products, attachment parenting, and the like, I cannot grow a garden worth beans.

 2. I wore a bikini for the first time last summer.

3. I've been to 5 other countries outside the U.S.A.: Canada, Mexico, England, Scotland, and Belize - in that order.

4. I've known my best friend since we were 7 years old. (Go see her over at Driving With the Windows Wide Open!) We used to pledge our friendship over a stream in the woods behind her house, and we played with paper dolls that I still have in an album on my bookshelf.

5. I have a daughter and son-in-law from Mexico, and I still don't speak Spanish worth beans.

6. I don't really know how much beans are worth.

7. I resisted blogging for a long time, and I still sometimes wonder why I'm typing everything on the internet for the whole world to read. 

I hereby bestow the Versatile Blogger award upon...

Driving With the Windows Wide Open because she truly is a Versatile Blogger, moving in and out of newsy items, stories, links and videos, and a timeline of Tolkien's life!(Just click on the award to make it load in a new window & copy the link to post it in your blog!)

Lauren at Something Glorious because I know she reads my blog, and I really, really want to see her post something in hers! You've got to read this woman's writing! It's fabulous!


Ash at Simple Gifts, also because this woman is totally Versatile!! He blog has some serious and spot-on thoughts on parenting, fabulous photos, prose that'll make you laugh and cry, and a garden enough to make you hungry!

I would nominate Char at Well Blue, Productions, but I'm afraid she's busy with newborn twins right about now. Love you, Char!!


~ MidnightCafe

Friday, May 21, 2010

Where There is No Vision - More Marriage Thoughts

My Bible study group was discussing recently something Beth Moore once said about how churches get all caught up in legalism and things that don't really matter when they aren't actively living out a mission together, when there is no goal, no vision, no active work of God's Spirit or God's presence. When there's nothing active happening, the waters stagnate. Churches die, and the people that are left end up arguing about minutia, spinning circles with nothing to do.

Proverbs 29:18 says (in paraphrase), "Where there is no vision, the people perish." It seems to me that marriage is the same way. When we lack vision, common goals, something we're actively working on together, the marriage dies - from lack of attention, from neglect and boredom. And this happens even when life is busy and it seems like you're doing a lot together (i.e. childcare, household care, meetings, events, etc...). You can be very, very busy, and still lack vision. Vision gives your life purpose and direction.

For busy couples with young children, it can be enough to make the things they're already doing together their vision. It's about intentionality. If raising your children together really is your vision and you're intentional about it, you can be just that - intentional and present. Still, what we've found is that when we finally have time alone without children, is that we used to spend the time wondering what to do. We needed direction for ourselves as a couple apart from the daily daily of life...long term and short term intentional things we wanted to do and accomplish together. Some things currently on the list are as simple as going to see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the science museum. That's a goal sometime when we finally have a minute to spare.

Mango and I were talking about this the other day, and he offered this perspective:
Marriages need things that couples are working on together - common goals, common interests. Sometimes life gives you these and you need to work together or support each other. When it doesn't you have to create your own common goals. But every couple should anyway. What do you want your life to look like? What do you want to accomplish together? What do you want to do to enjoy life together and enjoy each other? What things do you want to do together, learn about, what skills do you want to develop, what places do you want to visit?

Couples need to plan time that they can spend together and ask each other to do the things they want. Otherwise they end up living side by side parallel lives - together but alone (that's the worst kind of aloneness to have). So time for each other needs to be a top priority. If people don't make some plans, their time will just slip away and leave them feeling disappointed that they didn't do anything valuable with it. Or they will default to doing their own thing or things that are easy but neither of them really care about (and watching TV doesn't count). It will start to feel like they should have just worked more hours or done things with someone else. But in reality, it's not that they don't enjoy time together, it's just that they haven't given themselves a chance.

Also, couples need to make space to be intimate together. Instead of just waiting for an "appropriate" time to initiate something, like when you are going to sleep, and already too exhausted, couples should talk about desires ahead of time and spend a nice evening together anticipating what they planned for later - set up expectations and give intimacy a chance, give anticipation some time to build.

It is fun to be really spontaneous, but sometimes complete spontaneity doesn't work. We keep a note book of places we have heard of that we want to visit and things we want to do together. It's not like it's a lot of work - just a place to keep the cards, advertisements or places or events that you jot down so you can actually do them. Then instead of not knowing how to spend your time when you finally have some, these things make you really look forward to having time together and being excited about it. It will start to feel like you never have enough time to experience all the things you want together. It lets you be more spontaneous because you always have things you would like to do.
So, there you have it folks...more thoughts on marriage by MidnightCafe & Mango!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Say Yes!

I received a very valuable piece of parenting advice once. The advice was to say "yes" to my children as often as possible so that when I needed to say "no" they could respect it.

I must say that 8 years into this parenting adventure, this advice rings true. I find that, for me, the word "no" comes far too quickly. When I know that things will be messy or exhausting or chaotic and they'll require a lot of set-up and clean-up and monitoring, I'm tempted to say "no." I have to ask myself if my "no" comes from a good reason or if it's just my own impulse to keep things neat and clean and simple.

Because when I say "yes" I let my child know that what they want is important, too. I let them know that I hear them, and that I want them to have a say in how their life should go. I open us both up to new experiences and possibilities just by being willing to try out a "yes" before I decide if "no" is really worth it.

Saying "yes" releases me from the power struggle of saying "no" for no good reason. It builds contentment in our relationship because we aren't constantly fighting about what they can and cannot do.

"No" still isn't always well-received, but I know that it's built on a foundation of "yes," and that means our relationship will recover. And because I know that my "no" isn't just instinct or impulse, I can provide a valid reason and respond with confidence. My confidence gives my child confidence - confidence that I know where the boundaries lie, that they will not just keep running to the edge of the world until they fall off, but that they will, indeed, meet up with a fence that keeps them safe.

And so I try to practice "yes" because I know that "no" will come anyway.

This post is a part of Momalom's Five for Ten...

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Call to Lust

The Momalom topic of the day is...lust.

I rolled the word around in my head and off my tongue over and over yesterday. What is lust anyway?


Ardent Enthusiasm,





Intense Eagerness...

I thought of how we describe a healthy baby's cry as lusty and the brilliance of an object is its luster. But lust all by itself almost always connotes something sexual. It also almost always connotes something illicit or indecent. Lust has a place though, an invaluable place in a whole and holy marriage. In marriage we find a place where it's safe to crave, to hunger, yearn, desire...lust.

In this unexpected Momalom assignment, another piece of the vast writing that Mango & I have done on marriage has fallen into place - the piece on desire. Though we wrote quite a bit on the value and meaning of physical intimacy, desire is different. It's the relish, the final ingredient without which the whole dish loses its flavor.

It's about wanting
and being wanted
and wanting to be wanted.

It is what sets eros apart from all the other kinds of love. Unlike other loves, eros requires a mutual desiring. Equally, it is giving and being given to, loving and being loved. As such, it also requires that we say what we want...that we, perhaps, lust, for our partner. Lust is going after what you want because you're desperate for it, hungry for it. It's a craving for closeness - body, mind and soul. And this is so essential to a marriage that is alive and whole and beautiful.

You see, marriage is only partly about doing our best to love our partner, pouring out our words and actions to bring them joy and satisfaction and fulfillment. That is only half the picture. The other half is about allowing our own needs to be met, desires fulfilled, wants answered. In fact, we deprive our partner of the ability to fulfill their own calling to love us in marriage if we cannot say what we desire.

I believe that it is the desire of God for us to love and be loved. Scripture tells us that God is love. And I believe that when we refuse to be loved, we are refusing to accept our partner's God-given calling to love us. We're interfering with their life's calling, preventing them from accomplishing God's mission for them here on this earth. So, in fact, accepting love is also a calling. And this is not a passive acceptance, but an active calling. We must take responsibility to ask for what we want, to go after what we long for and desire.

And I don't believe it's always as easy as it sounds. Though lust looks lusty, it isn't always so simple to go after what we hunger for in a marriage. It's vulnerable to say what we want, especially when we're in them middle of difficult or stressful circumstances, misunderstandings, or conflicts. And it's difficult to persist when one way of asking doesn't get us what we want. We forget that spouses are like foreigners, coming to each other from different family cultures, and it takes time to learn the language of the other. Sometimes we have to ask and ask and ask again...but this is what hungry people do. Likewise, our partner isn't always in the position to give, and all of our desires must be rooted and grounded in care and love. We must bind our lust to our love for our partner. They must be inextricable so that we never ask without regard for the person whom we are asking.

Most often, I think one person gets caught up in giving, in trying to be the perfect, selfless partner, the one who takes care of everyone and everything while denying their own hungry self. This kind of thinking, though, leads to a relationship that lacks depth and growth. When a person fails to tell their partner what they want, refuses to pursue their own needs, they don't allow their partner to really know them or to be fulfilled in their own call to love. The giving becomes empty because it doesn't exist in relationship, it lacks mutuality and synergy. It fills up the other person for a while but does not build relationship. Eventually the other person feels empty, too, because they don't really know their partner and, therefore, cannot reciprocate the giving. A refusal to speak your desires is a refusal to be known.

And so, to fulfill the call of marriage, the call of eros, we must risk pursuit of those things we crave, our innermost hungers and desires. We must stop being saints and martyrs and risk being known. We must dare to yearn for those things we want...in fact, to lust for that person whom we are called to love.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Indelible Beginnings

I remember when I realized that the words I was reading meant that you loved me, that you wanted what I wanted, that we had been hoping for the exact same thing. And then I was all shy and embarrassed, like when we open Christmas presents in front of the whole family, everyone watching and anticipating a response. I remember the olive green trenchcoat you always wore and the way it smelled of the woods and your cologne and the way I leaned into you, holding your coat pockets. And there was the Ford Bronco named Elf where we sat together as lightning flashed across a blue black October sky, the whole back a pile of red roses.

It took long moments for me to really understand what you were saying, to know that it wasn't just wishful thinking, that you were really there and I was really there, and you were asking if you could kiss me. I'd never kissed anyone before, unless you counted my parents and all the little babies at church. I leaned in to you, and you leaned into me, and then I pulled back, too overcome with awkwardness mumbling something about never having kissed anyone before. And you said, "It's ok. I've never kissed anyone I loved like this before." And I knew you were nervous, too, and then it was ok.

I remember the cassette tape of songs you had recorded for this very night. (Remember cassette tapes?) And there was the notebook I had been writing since the night of the Mary Chapin Carpenter concert at the State Fair when we wished on the first star together. I had wished for this moment ever since.

You slid a little gold ring onto my finger. The ring bears the swirling pattern of a Celtic knot, something that's part of your heritage now belonging to me...

...now belonging to the family we have created together. Everything's built on this memory, the starting point, this fragile, tender, indelible beginning.

This post is a part of...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Memory Outside of Memory

I remember her playing with Mane when we came to pick Mango up from school, and when we drove home Mane said, "I wish Vespera was my sister." Did she know? Is there a memory outside of memory for the things that haven't happened yet? Not one month later we'd be in the process of adopting her. I didn't know that day. Mango didn't know. Mane, at 4 years old, surely didn't know.

I remember back, 4 years prior, my pregnant self walking in a gently falling December snow and thinking that Mane would be born in the snow. I shook my head at myself. Mane was due 4 months from then - in late April. Even in Minnesota, that would be late for snow. She was finally born - ten days past her due date - in early May following a late spring snowstorm! How could I know? I didn't know. And yet I knew...as though I remembered already.

Memories, for me, are something mystical. Sometimes we remember before, sometimes after, sometimes differently than what someone else remembers, sometimes ALL the details, and sometimes only fragments. Sometimes we remember nothing but the feeling, or the smell, or the music. Our memories store themselves in the time of year or in a type of weather, in favorite foods, and in kinds of flowers. And, I feel that even when we can't remember, we have a certain type of memory. Our bodies know things that our mind does not, stores things in our hands and feet, in our arms and legs and the smalls of our backs. So, we remember.

Sometimes I want to make myself remember. And so I write things down and take a lot of pictures. I close my eyes and try to freeze-frame the thoughts and feelings, colors and textures of the moment. Then I discover that memory doesn't work that way, will still come and go as it pleases, with the smell of lilacs on the breeze and changing color of the leaves in the autumn. As much as I promise myself that I will remember forever, I still pick up an old piece of writing and am surprised by the things that happened to me.

Perhaps we'd be crushed if we remembered all the pieces of ourselves all at once, if we could remember everything that ever happened all at the same time. The present would be drowned by the past. Instead we call up only the memories we need to inform the present moment. And then, occasionally, we are blessed by the sweetness of an unbidden memory, the softness of a baby cheek, the smell of old perfume in a box of letters...or, perhaps, something that is yet to come in the gently falling snow.

This post is part of Momalom's Five for Ten

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Happiness is..."

To get my blog out of its bloggy slump and to connect with some other bloggers out there in blogland (and because Heather of the EO is doing it), I've decided to join Momalom for their current Five for Ten event. (Except it's day 3, and I'm a bit behind...)

Today's topic is "Happiness is."

I'm having a lot of trouble with this one (I know, I just got started, and already I'm having trouble) because I so very seldom use the word happy. I try to focus on joy, on contentment. When I think about the things I wish for my children, I want them to be happy for sure, but even more than happiness I want them to be content with their lives, to be satisfied, to be fulfilled. In the words of Thoreau, I want them to "live deliberately...to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life." Sometimes that isn't always happy work. It's complex and confusing, often arduous and sometimes painful.

"Happy," for me, conjures up images of neatly wrapped packages all tied up with pretty bows. Sometimes we receive those packages in life. And it's beautiful when we do. It's lovely to receive one of those gifts and have the excitement of unwrapping what's inside. It's lovely to have one of those moments when everything is tied up neatly, just for that moment, shimmering and sparkling and just plain pretty. But that's exactly what they are...just moments. It's not a whole lifetime of one beautiful present after another. Often our gifts come plainly wrapped with little fanfare, and we have to work for them. We have to dig up the treasure, get some dirt under our fingernails, sweat a little. And that, I think, is where the real joy comes from, the contentment that isn't just skin-deep happiness.

What it really comes down to for me is that life is really about people. It's about loving others out of the overflow of God's love for us. And loving others, although it can be filled with happy moments, is not always happy work. The depth and strength of the love we build when we endure life's less-than-happy moments is where we find true contentment and fulfillment. It is the true lifeblood, the marrow, of our lives.