Saturday, May 26, 2012

How Do I Love Thee?

I never really knew much about Pentecost until I was a young adult.  If we talked about it when I was a kid in the Baptist Church, I don't remember it.  In reading to my children from various children's Bibles I notice that there is a real lack of attention given to the story.  It gets half a page, a footnote to the story of the resurrection, if its mentioned at all.  Theology according to my kids' Bibles would lead us to believe that Jesus came, taught, died, and rose.  End of story. It's bad theology.  It's tragic.  It misses the point.

Before Jesus died he prayed these words:

that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:21-23)

I don't cry during love movies.  I've never been a big fan of Valentine's Day.  I don't swoon over romance novels.  I don't read romantic poetry, and I have no interest in ridiculous love songs.  But I'm not a romance cynic.  Far from it.  I'm in LOVE with LOVE.  It's just that all those sonnets and ballads can't begin to compare to the love song in this passage.  "...that they may be one just as We are one."  Sends chills up my spine.  The God who loves community so much that He created Himself to live in trinity died so that we could be united.  The division of the human species which occurred at Babel comes full circle on the day of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit enters the scene and suddenly we speak a common language.

I don't know what it's like to live halfway across the world in a different culture.  I don't know what it's like to live in a tribe in Africa where clean water is a luxury and food is scarce.  I don't know what it's like to tell your babies it's going to be okay when you know it's not going to be okay.  But I know what it's like to love your babies so fiercely that you'd do anything to make it okay.  I don't speak her language, but I understand her heart.  We are sisters.  We look different.  We live differently.  But we aren't so different.  We clean our babies faces and memorize the look they get when they figure something out for themselves and whisper to a higher power every single day our pleas for their health and happiness.  We both speak love.

And that's Pentecost.  It's not just a half-page story poorly illustrated in a cheap children's Bible.  It's THE love story which makes us one. 

We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity
May one day be restored

And they’ll know we are Christians
By our love, By our love.
Yes, they’ll know that we are Christians by our love

We will walk with each other
We will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other
We will walk hand in hand
And together we’ll spread the news
That God is in our land

And they'll know we are Christians
By our love, By our love.
Yes, they'll know that we are Christians by our love.
(lyrics by Jason Upton)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bare it All

I get a text every morning from my Bible app.  I call it my morning text from Jesus.  This morning's:

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  

Oh, no problem.  I'm good at this.  I'm really good at this.  I'm a little TOO good at this.  I bear my friends' burdens.  I bear my family's burdens.  It borders on unhealthy--for all of us.  Oh, let's be honest.  It crosses the line of unhealthy.  So, no problem.  Thanks for the text, Jesus.  I didn't need to hear that.  But thanks anyway.  It was a nice little pat on the back this morning.

I should have stopped there.  It's nice to think that you're doing it all right.  But I had to ponder it some more because I can't leave well enough alone.  I wondered if maybe Jesus wasn't so much trying to tell me to do the bearing as He was telling me to do the baring.  Hmm.  That's not pleasant.  I'm not good at that.  I'm not good at that at all.  It borders on unhealthy.  Heck, it crosses the line of unhealthy.  I'm pretty sure there's a reason I went into counseling.  People bring their burdens to me.  I don't return the favor.  It feels raw.  Exposed.  Makes me want to run and cover up or, more likely, distract by turning the focus on someone else.  How does that make YOU feel?

And yet, the Bible I love specifically says to bear each other's burdens.  Roles aren't assigned.  We don't have bearers and barers.  We have community--a community that mutually shares burdens.  You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.  I have been pretty busy scratching the backs of those I love and haven't noticed the itch on my own.

Not that I have a sense of direction as to how to begin being a barer.  I guess it probably starts with a little introspection.  I'm not as tough as I think I am.  I get sad.  I get lonely.  I get hungry.  I get tired.  I get overwhelmed.  But even as I write that I cringe.  Sounds like weakness.  Vulnerability.  No thanks. 

How does that make YOU feel?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hurry Up and Wait

Lately I get the feeling that things are changing so quickly that I just can't keep up.  But when I actually sit down to write all the things that are changing I realize that nothing's really changing at all.  It's the stillness that has me dizzy.

I recently applied for a job at my home church.  It seemed like a perfect fit.  The job was Interim Christian Education Coordinator.  It was just for the summer (although they will be hiring for a permanent fill in the fall), part-time, at the church I love, doing the things that I've been doing happily (without pay) for 10 years.  I applied, interviewed, and started mentally making plans for this life change.  It's been a while since I've worked outside the home, but I thought I was ready, considering that this was a just baby step back into the working world (temporary, part-time, and in a familiar location).  I never considered that I wouldn't get the job.  Why wouldn't I?  I have lots of experience doing the very things that they were hiring the new employee to do, and I knew all 4 people on the interview team very well.  One of them even encouraged me to apply for the job prior to my submitting my application. 

Long story short:  I didn't get it.

I was crushed.  I cried for a couple of days and felt cheated and insulted and looked for someone to blame and reasons to pick a fight about it.  And, although I still feel a little cheated and very insulted (and hurt), it's time to move on and get busy with...well...nothing.

This non-change in my job status occurred at the same time as the completion of our second full year of homeschooling.  We're on summer break, folks.  Last week was our last baseball game, cello lessons are spotty all summer with no group classes until fall, our Friday homeschool co-op is on break, Wednesday night church doesn't meet in the summer, and MOPS doesn't meet again until August.  In other words, our schedule is wide open.  Now I know there are some out there who might read this and think dreamily of empty blocks on the family calendar and days when the only thing on the agenda is using up the excess chicken purchased when it was on sale.  But I am not one of those people.  It's my nature to go.  I like a full schedule, a busy week, STRUCTURED TIME.  This's unsettling.

I came across the familiar Psalm (46:10) which reads: "Be still and know that I am God."  And initially I was annoyed.  Be still.  Sit.  Wait.  Meditate, even?  Not what I wanted to hear.  And then, because I am a geek, I researched the Hebrew roots of the verse.  And (happy dance) "be still" doesn't at all mean sit quietly and wait for something to happen.  That's just laziness.  Be still comes from the word raphah that basically means make yourself weak or humble.  Surrender yourself.  We're not talking zen meditation stillness here (which is good since I've never been very good at that kind of stillness).  We're talking pure surrender to the Lord's plan.  And, although that isn't exactly my strong suit (me, submissive? laughable), I can appreciate the need for that kind of stillness. 

So, no, I won't be going to work this week.  I won't be planning a math lesson or proofreading a research paper.  I won't be chauffeuring children to sports or music lessons.  But I will be doing God's work.  My children (now 6, 5, 3, and 18 months) need me here, being still, surrendering to God.  They need to see me in prayer, reading scripture, modeling a Christian lifestyle.  During these, the most impressionable years of their lives, they need Mama at home bringing them up by The Book. 

The days are long.  The schedule is light.  It's summer--the season when stillness is on the agenda.  Hurry up and wait for it.

Monday, January 31, 2011

She's Baaaack

Oh, golly.  I know, I know.  I haven't written in an eternity.  I hear it from my husband, best friend, you name it.  But, guys, I've been seriously busy.

To catch you up on the months or so...

We moved!  (Insert chorus of angels here.)  I won't bore you with all the stressful details of finding and buying our new pad, but I'll just tell you that we are now the very happy owners of a lovely new-to-us place.  We got everything (almost) that we wanted in the new home new:  5 bedrooms (essential for a family of 6), a playroom (essential for a mom who doesn't like toys scattered all over the house), a school room (essential for a homeschool family), a HUGE storage room equipped with a sink and bathroom and lots of built-in shelves (this room is next to the school room and doubles as our art/science room since it has easy-to-clean floors!), a music room (for all those cellos and my big piano), a real dining room (although it's still empty because we don't have a dining room table yet).  We are in a good school district, should I ever decide to put my kids in public school, and we are close to the interstate (essential after living in Karns for several years and feeling cut-off from the world!)  We are just really happy here.  The biggest hurdle was that our old house hadn't sold when we put an offer on this one.  So, the idea of two mortgages put us in a panic enough that we decided to rent the old place.  And so we are now landlords.  It actually hasn't been as scary as I thought.

I started homeschooling again this fall--this time registered with the county so it's official.  We're over halfway through the year now and still loving it (most days).  We are participating in the co-op again this year, and I'm teaching a preschool class there while my big boys go to their own classes.  What a joy!

MIKE GRADUATED!  Yes, yes.  Mike went back to school and finished his BS in Organizational Management in December.  No real change in our lives right now, since he's not planning to leave his current job, but it is SO wonderful that he has his degree now so he has so many more options for his future.

I took on leading the middle school youth at our church.  I've only just started, so it's too early for me to say how it's going.  I think it will be a great experience for me (and hopefully the youth too!)

Jackson and Ei played soccer in the fall, and Jackson is playing basketball now.  They will both play baseball in the spring.  They are both taking cello lessons and group classes.  I need a secretary to keep up with their schedules.

Aaron turns 3 next month.  We're potty training with moderate success.  He is hilarious.

Nolan turned one in November.  He's still referred to as "the baby" around here though.  He is still nursing and sleeping in my bed, and I don't plan to make him grow up anytime soon. 

I'm having a niece next month.  I'm sure you'll hear all about her because I am just so excited I could burst. 

Okay, so sorry about the "Christmas card letter" post.  I will do better about posting...maybe.  For now, I leave you with this picture of my precious family.  Happy 2011, all. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nolan, Man of Many Nicknames

Nolan Maxwell




Rolie Polie Nolie


Love Bug

Little One
Tiny One

One Year Old

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ei, Pie in the Sky

Ei Pie in the Sky
Gentle Giant
The Darling of His Mama's Heart

Firm Believer
Concrete Thinker

Tantrum Thrower
Precious, Sincere Apologizer


Mama's Baby Ei

A Brother's Best Friend

5 year old

Monday, August 2, 2010



question asker
cello player
Lego builder

fact rememberer
rule follower

loving big brother x 3
bearer of beautiful blue eyes

people pleaser
line leader

smarty pants
the love of his mama's heart
six year old

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Spill It.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Don't tell anyone. Promise? Okay. Here goes...

I feed my kids McDonald's. {audible gasp}

Oh, it felt good to get that out. Want to know more?

I use TV as a babysitter while I take showers and make supper.

If my kids fall asleep without brushing their teeth, I don't wake them up. They're going to lose those teeth anyway, right?

I count playing Wii Music as our music theory lesson for the day.

I sometimes clean the bathroom floors with baby wipes as opposed to dragging a bucket of soapy water up the stairs.

I Febreezed my kids' VBS shirts one day last week so they could wear them again the next day without my having to do another load of laundry.

I sometimes skip rinsing cans and jars before putting them in the recycle bin.

By sometimes I mean almost always.

I sometimes say things like "don't act like a moron" to my kids.

I pretend not to hear questions that I don't want to answer.

If I forget my reusable grocery bags in the car, I just use plastic bags rather than go back for them.

I almost always forget my reusable grocery bags in the car.

I bribe my kids with candy--pretty much every day.

And I don't feel guilty (most of the time) because I am still a good mom (most of the time). Anyone else tired of all the pressure to be perfect? Well, spill it, Sister. Put it out there that you're not perfect but you ARE still pretty darn amazing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Going UP

A few weeks ago I was sitting on the playground with my children. I was visiting with another Mama who was watching her littles play, and the atmosphere was chill. I love those days. No worries. Nowhere to be. No one crying or needy but coming by often enough to get kisses and nods of approval at the bouquet of weeks freshly picked. Heaven, I tell you.

The other Mama watched my boys race each other UP the slide and turned to me and asked a question I'd never considered before. "Do you allow your boys to climb up the slide?" Well, yes. Why wouldn't I? Why do I care which direction they go on the slide? If it's more fun going up, I say go for it. Play on, brothers. Play on.

Her question makes sense in hindsight. Last week my big boys were in VBS, but since there was no program for littles under 3, I had the two babies all week. My Aaron needs a routine and was bothered by leaving the two big brothers every morning, so we developed a new routine--drop the big boys off and head for Chick-fil-A where we ate breakfast together, then played on the playground and fed the birds our leftover biscuits. Every single morning I saw other kids rush out the glass door to the play enclosure and head straight for the slide--going up. Do you know that Mama after Mama insisted that those kids climb the stairs and go down the slide like civilized little playground users?

I think the other Mamas were trying for something very noble--respect. If you're going up the slide, those who are trying to come down can't reach the bottom. The thing is, my Aaron got off the slide anytime someone else was trying to come down. Being aware of others--now that's respectful.

I loudly praised him when he made it particularly far up the twisty slide. I'm sure the other Mamas glared. But the Mama at playgroup and I get it. Chill. Create your own sense of chill. Play on.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Love Them and They'll Shine

When he was 3, I took Jackson to the library to hear a string quartet. It was a fun afternoon, and I drove home feeling that "good mother" feeling that I get when I turn off the TV and do something enriching with my kids. I didn't think any more of it.

Days later, Jackson asked me what "the big one" was called. I had no idea what he was talking about. "The big one at the library?" he prodded. "Oh, the cello?" I asked. Yes, that was it. I inquired about what brought about his question. "I want to play it," he told me. I smiled. So cute. 3 is a fun age.

But it wasn't just a 3 year old's whim. Days turned into weeks turned into months of asking--begging--for a cello. And so, while his friends asked for bikes and video games, he asked for a cello for his 4th birthday.
But that was the easy part. For days after the birthday party, he asked me to help him play. I, having played the violin as a kid, had some idea as to how to put the strings on, rosin the bow, and make a sound. But that was about the extent of my knowledge of the cello. So I started researching teachers. I started by calling an old friend of mine who teaches cello. He was willing to take Jackson as a student, but his schedule meant it would be the end of the summer before we could start. He was eager to get started, so I decided to keep looking. I called a local string shop, and they gave me the names of several cello teachers in the area. I started calling. Each person told me the same thing: 4 is just too young to play the cello. I tried to explain that he was no ordinary 4 year old, but it was no use. They had it in their heads that I was a crazy whip-cracking mother who was pushing her child to be a musical prodigy for my own benefit. One teacher agreed to "give it a try," but her negative attitude about the whole thing put me on the defensive. It didn't feel right. I kept looking.

Finally I Googled "Suzuki cello teacher" and landed at I searched for a teacher in my area and found three that I hadn't previously called. I left messages for all three of them. One didn't call me back. One did call back but gave me the same song and dance I'd already heard about 4 being too young. But one called and was brilliant.

I talked to Kathleen Bowman for over half an hour. I described my situation, and she got excited. 4 is the perfect age to start, she assured me. I felt really good about her. So we set up a trial lesson.

My sweet Jackson talked about his upcoming lesson non-stop in the days leading up to our first lesson. He asked a million questions and wondered out loud about what it would be like. Then, finally, the day arrived. A surprisingly young woman opened the door and invited us in. And Jackson stopped talking.

He loved her. I know he did because he told me later--she was nice, funny, smart, pretty. He was full of compliments at home. But while we were there, he didn't speak. He didn't even look at her. Week after week we sat in her living room while she provided patient instruction, and week after week he sucked in his cheeks and stared at his toes. He did hear her though. Whether or not she knew it, he heard her. We went home and he repeated verbatim all that she had told him. And slowly, but surely, he started looking up. One day he looked right at her and answered with a "yes" instead of a half nod of the head. I could have kissed her then. She brought my little boy out of his shell.

Fast forward a couple of months. The end of his first semester of lessons was approaching, and with it came the Christmas recital. I could have predicted his reaction. I mentioned the idea of playing in a recital and tears formed in his tiny eyes. No, he didn't want to do it. Yes, he loved playing the cello. No, he didn't want to play in a recital. But this lady is brilliant. She asked him for a favor. Would he mind going with her to play his cello in a nursing home for some grandmas and grandpas? It would mean so much to them, and they wouldn't know or care if he messed up. Yes, he would. No, he wouldn't play in a recital. Yes, he would do mission work in a nursing home. It wasn't until we got home that evening that we told him he had successfully completed his first cello recital. We celebrated with a sundae. He beamed. And, the following week, he played in the Christmas recital--his second public performance--without any tears. He was proud. I never cared if my boy became a musician. I just wanted him to believe in himself.

And that's why I sing Ms. Kathleen's praises to anyone who will listen. She's an excellent cellist. She's a brilliant teacher. But most importantly, she's a compassionate Christian who loves her students. And they love her in return.

Those two handsome boys in vests on the front row? They're mine. They just had their spring recital. I asked Ei how he thought he did, and he replied, "I played like a 10 year old!" I asked Jackson if he was nervous, and he replied, "Yeah, maybe a little, I guess." That's the difference 2 years with a brilliant teacher makes. (She's the one right in the middle with the pink shirt, black jacket, and kind smile.)

Oh, by the way, if you want to learn more about Kathleen Bowman's studio, go to her website: No, I'm not on the payroll--she's just a good friend and has been wonderful to my family. I owe her a lot more than a link on a blog, but it's a start.