Saturday, August 30, 2008

Traveling Mercies

I was lucky enough to find really cheap airline tickets to Texas and so the girls and I took off to Wills Point to see the whole family. Flying is so much better than driving, especially when I have to do it by myself. But, if you have children, you know that traveling of any kind is always a chore. Here is what it is like to travel via airplane, alone, with my two girls. I'm not writing to tell you about the horrors of it. On the contrary, I think they are actually pretty good, comparatively speaking. But, that doesn't mean it's easy. Here is a little bit of what we dealt with on this particular trip.

1. Getting two little girls through an airport is an experience in and of itself. Let's add to that the fact that now it costs a billion dollars to check even a single bag. So, since I am unwilling to pay any more for something that is so costly anyway, I chose to roll my suitcases through the airport. Correction. Hope rolled her own little bag, offering enormous help to me since Bella would rather wander aimlessly than cut a straight path to our gate. She occupied my one free hand, as I used it to either balance her on my hip or hold tightly to her own chubby little hand. (For those of you wondering why we didn't simply put her in the stroller...I bucked the system and opted out of the stroller because, quite frankly, it sometimes seems to be counterproductive to me. Rolling a suitcase with one hand and trying to steer a stroller with the other is always frustrating to me and I figured we would just take advantage of Bella's ability to walk and take our time getting to our gate. It worked out fine.)

2. One of the comics on "Last Comic Standing" made me think of this, so I can't claim credit for coming up with it, but, it still proved to be true for me so I will share it anyway. You know how there are always those people that come on a plane after you are on and situated and, despite all your good faith in our fellow man, you think to yourself, "Please don't let them be sitting in my row." For me, it is more about wanting my space...wanting my kids to have space. This time, though, I realized that I am that person. People watch me get on the plane with my two adorable children and I know that they think, "Please don't let the lady with the two kids be next to me." I really don't blame them, though. After all, they don't know how brilliant my kids are and what a privilege it is to share even a bit of life with them. :)

3. Bella won't be two until December so you know what that means...a free ticket! I am incredibly grateful for that, but let me tell you, we pay dearly for that ticket. In the real world, no one in their right mind would try to contain a twenty month old child on their lap for the better part of two and half hours. In the world of airlines, that is apparently a perfectly reasonable expectation. I consider it very lucky that Bella slept for an hour of our ride even though that meant that one whole side of my body went completely numb from trying not to stir. That hour was also the prime opportunity to learn that the combination of your sweat and your baby's super soft hair laying on your skin feels like someone is scrubbing you down with a brillow pad. I'll take it over crying, can't wait to get down, flailing baby anyday, though. I just choose to think of it an exfoliating treatment for the crook of my one numb arm.

4. Finally, Hope has become somewhat obsessed with death in recent weeks. It's not as horrible as it may sound. We have had a lot of great conversations about God and about what happens when you die. But, because of this obsession, it means that Hope worries a bit about flying. To her credit, she hops right on the plane without a fight. When we get on, though, she immediately pulls out the instructional card in the seatback pocket and "reads" (i.e. studies all the pictures) it cover to cover. She asks animated, detailed questions about how she should brace herself if we land in the water and where, exactly, the handles are that she has to put her hands in if she needs to use her seat as a flotation device. Then, she holds very tightly to me during the take off, somehow managing to plug her ears at the same time, and doesn't let go for the first ten minutes or so of our flight. If we are on a small plane (and we often are since we fly out of Colorado Springs a lot) she is even more nervous because you can feel every turn the pilot makes. These turns cause her to ask, rather loudly, "Are we going down, mom?!?", no doubt making everyone else nervous, too. She relaxes after a while and then, to my surprise, she braces herself for the landing and laughs hysterically when we finally touch the ground. I haven't decided if this is a laughter born out of immense relief or if it might be a telltale sign that she is, as we have often expected, an adrenaline junkie. Either way, flying with Hope is quite the experience.

My kids are great travelers. They really are. We have asked them to go places, and to do far more than the average kid ever has to do, as far as traveling goes. They are great about it, and it is almost always some kind of an adventure. And, when I really think about it, traveling is all about adventure, right? I'm sure some would say that a trip to Wills Point, Texas, doesn't really count as an adventure. Those people have obviously never traveled there with my kids.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Carried Away

I am pretty sure I have obsessive tendencies. Case in point. I get obsessed with songs. My trip to Walmart last week, with their soothing selection of 80’s ballads playing overhead, reminded me of a certain obsession I had in jr. high with Richard Marx’s Right Here Waiting for You. Golly I loved that song! I still do! For a while, in fifth grade, it was Glory of Love by Peter Cetera. (Thanks to Karate Kid 2) If I go way back I can also remember the obsession I had with Sandi Patti’s Upon This Rock. That was in 2nd grade and yes, I know, I had odd tastes in music for a 2nd grader.

For as long as I can remember I have been prone to get stuck on one song for a period of time…a song that either speaks to my situation at the time, or something that just has a beautiful melody, or thought provoking words, or a combination of any number of things. Then, the obsession starts. I begin to listen to the song over and over, memorizing every note, and word and nuance. Sometimes it’s simply for the sheer beauty of it and what that alone does for me. As of late, though, because the songs seem to be rich with meaning, I listen and sing it over and over as a way to somehow etch its particular message onto my heart. Okay, here is where it starts to get really weird. There are weeks when I listen to that song, and only that song, over and over in the car, no doubt driving my kids totally wild. Here is a funny side note. I don’t really do it when Loren is in the car. That is likely due to that little part of me that knows it’s kind of insane. I honestly don’t think he knows that I do this…until now, of course.

Recently, I found a new song. It’s by Watermark, and, no doubt, one could argue that they are an obsession of mine in and of themselves. But, it’s because their music consistently seems to be a real reflection of what I am feeling or what it is I want to feel. I can’t tell you how many months of my life could be catalogued by their songs. This particular song, Friend for Life, is a song I have skipped over for a while, because it wasn’t familiar to me and I was more into some of their other songs. But, the other day, I listened to it and, in an instant, it became my new obsession. Take a look at the words to the chorus, though, and you might understand why. They are full of such meaning.

Wash over me, til I can’t be seen
Living Water, swallow me
Deepest River, wash me clean
Jesus, Savior more of thee
Jesus, more of thee
Come and ruin me with Your love
So no other is enough
Come and leave Your mark on me
Jesus, more of thee
Jesus, more of thee

Even writing them now, something wells up in me that I can’t fully grasp. I can’t explain why the picture of being completely engulfed…waves crashing over until I can’t be seen, sounds inviting to me. In fact, I feel like a great deal of my life has been custom-built around the very opposite be seen. But it does sound inviting to me. And over the last two weeks, as I have listened to the words of this song, I have begun to long for this level of surrender in my life. I know that being swallowed up sounds like death. In fact, it is. But, while the chorus of this song calls us to surrender and die to be ruined by his love so that nothing else satisfies, the verses tenderly remind us that the One who calls us took our pain, is our friend for life, is the One who hears our cries, the One who saves us. It reminds us that he is most definitely worthy of our trust.

I know, at least in my head, if not always in my heart, that more of Jesus equals fuller, richer, more abundant life. Things that come naturally to Him….things that he just is. More of me is just…well…me, and the things that come naturally to me…like selfishness, and pride, and timidity, and criticalness. And who needs more of that?

I guess I would put it this way. I have definitely dipped my toes in the Living Water. I have also been known to venture out beyond the shore. I have even, a time or two, ridden a wave by his grace. But, am I ready to surrender to the raging river and allow myself to be carried away? That’s the pull, the tug, the undertow that I’m feeling. God, make me brave.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And So It Begins...

It’s been a big week for Hope and it’s only Wednesday! On Monday, she had her first day of Pre-K. Most of her little friends are starting Kindergarten this year and Hope wanted to go to school, too. She is so smart and has already been learning so much that I thought it sounded like a great idea. So, she is going three days a week from 9-11:30am and, so far, she loves it. When I went to get her after the first day and asked her how it went she said, “At first I didn’t talk much cause I was nervous, and then, I met a friend, and I started to talk more.” That sounds about right for Hopie. When I took her today (actually, all of us got to take her today. We walked, cause it isn’t far, and Hope rode her scooter with her backpack on her back. It was about the cutest thing I have ever seen!) she went straight in and one of her new friends, Grace, said, “Come here, Hope. Come sit by me.” That was the second cutest thing and just about the best thing a mom can hear when she drops her kid off on one of the first days. Here is a picture of my little girl heading to school.

Then, yesterday, Hope lost her first tooth. You may remember my angst over this earlier in the summer (see The Permanent Press). I wasn’t ready, then, for my baby to start losing teeth. Apparently, the tooth wasn’t ready either. It hung on, literally, until yesterday when, with only a couple of wiggles courtesy of my friend (and dental hygienist), Renese, it popped right out. Hope loves sticking her tongue through the window her missing tooth has created and her little jack-o-latern smile couldn’t be cuter. See for yourself.

I know I am supposed to be more sad about all of this, but…the truth is…it is all kind of exciting. Oh, believe me, I have moments where it feels like it is going too fast and I wish there was some way to slow it down. (again, see The Permanent Press) But, even back then, I had a sense there would also be a great deal of joy. At least for now, I am really feeling good about this stage of Hope’s life. I think partly it is because, in looking back, I feel like we have made the most of our time in the last few years. I am unbelievably blessed to get to stay home with my kids. It’s not always easy but, in being given the ability to do that, I was given the gift of time. I have gotten to experience nearly every moment of Hope’s precious life and I have gotten to enjoy her at every stage. This one is no different.

Some of my sadness was because it felt like there wouldn't be as much meaningful time with Hope once she was in school. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, though. I mean, it’s true that she is not physically with me as much, but I feel like the time I do have is more filled with conversation and interaction. Hope is at this great stage where, even though she doesn’t need me AS MUCH as she used to, she still chooses to spend time with me. She wants to read and help make dinner and talk about her day and ask about mine. There is a give and take in our relationship that hasn’t been there before. She is experiencing some of the world apart from me and then we get to talk about that experience and learn from it. It’s a whole new element of parenting and it's really pretty far!

So, for now, I’m gonna stop insisting that I feel sad about it all the time. I’m sure I will have days, especially as her school days get longer and longer, where there will be plenty of sad to go around. But, for now, I am just gonna continue to enjoy the stage she is in and work myself up to enjoying the one that is to come.

P.S. Bella is adjusting well to being at home alone a little bit. The first day, she was a little perplexed by Hope's absence and didn't quite know what to do with herself. Today, though, she went straight to Hope's room and started playing with all of her toys. She had a sneaky look on her face as she got out all the dishes and served herself up a nice little tea party. I caught her mid-party with this goofy little grin on her face. I think she'll be fine.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Our Time at Oakbridge #4 - The Big Picture

One last day at the beach before we left sunny California.

This post has been a long time in coming. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it. It’s just that I’ve been looking for the right words to really sum up our time at camp…to really put a finishing touch on all that I wrote about our time at Oakbridge. It was such a great time of learning and of stretching and of being filled that it seems hard to accurately sum up. The best way, I guess, is to talk about some of the big picture, life-altering kind of stuff that I took away from our time.

First, and maybe my most tender blessing, was how I fell even deeper in love with my amazing husband. It is always a gift for me to see Loren living out his passion, and our month at Oakbridge was no different, except maybe in regards to the intensity of it all. He is passionate about teenagers and their walk with Christ. So, as I watched him pour his life out, sacrificing his own wants and needs for theirs, in the name of Christ, it resonated with me in a deep way. I want to live that way. My admiration for Loren deepened with every day and, without being too weird about it, I have decided that watching your husband glorify the Lord with his gifts is about as sexy as it gets.

Secondly, I learned about community and the gift it is to be known. I met some wonderful people and was so encouraged by their experiences and the way that they live life. And it was so good to be with other people who are also immersed in this ministry and to hear their stories. But, at the end of the day, there is nothing quite like being known. I missed those I have come to rely on who know me best and can predict what the expression on my face means, what missing quality time with my husband does to me, and who know when I really need to chat. It is, apparently, a rare thing to have friends in this way, and I couldn’t help but learn what a blessing it is while I was away.

This last one is a bit hard for me to articulate. Initially, I was going to write about how I felt like I had really missed out on some time with the Lord. When we went, I anticipated having a lot of down time, and thus being able to really dig in and be with the Lord in a more intense way than I feel able to in my daily life. It didn’t really work that way. I did have down time (see post #3 in the series), but I felt busier than I expected because I was pretty much solely responsible for taking care of and entertaining the kids. I also tried to be involved in, as much as I could, the work Loren was doing, so that took up a good deal of time, too. So, initially, I beat myself up pretty hard(something I could win my own gold medal in) for not being more focused, more intentional with the Lord.

But now, as I look back on the month, I find it impossible to say that I missed out on God. The fact is that I encountered him each and every day in unique and transforming ways. I did not study his word like I wanted, but I was seeing it lived out every day. I didn’t make enough of an effort to learn more about his character, but I ended up learning anyway about the depths of his love, and his power, and his persistence, and his charm. In fact, I’m glad that I didn’t stay inside too long, studying, while God’s work, his heart, his passion, was happening all around me. Then, I would have really missed out. Don’t get me wrong. I know that his Word is powerful and that studying it is one of the most important things I can do. This is not a fact I have trouble recognizing. What I tend to have trouble with is seeing him at work all around me. I am, too often, unaware of the bigger picture and this month afforded me the opportunity to see the variety of ways that he reveals himself just because he desperately wants us to know him. And, in the end, I would not have missed THAT for the world. I mean, I hope that if Nicole C. Mullen (you know my affection for her, right?) came to my house, that I wouldn’t sit in my room listening to her c.d’s. How much more so with the Lord?!? (Please don’t over analyze this. I understand scripture’s importance…really I do!)

All in all, our assignment was as much a gift as I thought it would be. There is so much more, so many more details that I could share, and would be happy to share with each of you individually, but it is all really just pieces of the bigger picture. And here is the bigger picture. My family experienced the Lord at Oakbridge…through each other, through our fellow partners in ministry, through creation, through the Word that was shared, though the faces of jr. high kids whose lives were changed…and the list could go on and on. And so, for the month of July at Oakbridge in Ramona, CA, to God alone be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.