Monday, December 20, 2010

Bring an Umbrella


It was supposed to rain. It did. The weatherman was right this time. But my friend just said, “Bring an umbrella.”

It was a Christmas Party and a Caroling Party and my friend’s way of blessing her neighborhood. True enough, the gospel is contained within the lyrics of many a Christmas Carol. The Light of the World’s story is sung. The name, Jesus, is pronounced as the King of kings and Lord of lords, and people smile. I don’t know the impact a Caroling Party can make in one’s neighborhood, but I know the impact it makes on me.

Years ago I remember having caroling parties. It was tradition for us back then, too. It was my heart to bless my neighbors with truth and love and music and it was so much fun to be with my friends. I hoped for some of that tonight and I got it in spades. Spades, I tell you!

The truth of the matter is you can’t rain on a Jesus Parade and that’s what we were... that’s what we are. When the Wonderful Counselor shows up and the Spirit is walking along side you, what’s revealed is encouragement, hope, fellowship, friendship, food, laughter, games and quite simply, peace on earth. It’s not contained in the activity itself but in the people who bring the message.

Often our instinct is to look at the circumstances. “It’s raining,” you might say. But my friend said, “Bring an umbrella,” because she knows what matters. It is not what you see, but what you don’t see. It’s not the obstacles or inconveniences, those things are always temporary. What counts is people, living for eternity’s sake with streams of living water flowing from them. Rain is just wet and rain always goes away. By the way, God sends rain. Matthew 5:45

So whether you are toting an umbrella or singing in the rain or walking on sunshine remember this, "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." John 7:38

I say.... Let it Rain.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Merry Peopling to You

It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. - Charles Spurgeon

Isn’t that the truth?

Some people would argue that starving people in deprived countries need STUFF. What I argue is that they need HOPE... and yes, clothes, clean water, access to healthcare and education, freedom, Jesus... My heart aches for the broken hearted and crushed in spirit... everywhere...and for some people in the world, hope is borne in a vaccination, a sewing machine, a well dug in their community.

Community.

Many of the studies that have been done on life satisfaction around the globe clearly indicate that PEOPLE connected to PEOPLE creates the conditions most necessary for happiness. Gretchen Rubin makes mention of this somewhere in the first six chapters of her book. The studies consistently show that what ya GOT, physically speaking doesn’t compare with WHO ya got. Good people make a rich life indeed. Exhibit A: the United States, one of the richest countries on the planet, is not the happiest.

But getting back to my point - Good people spur you on to love and good deeds and shall I say it? ... Yes, bring Joy.

Christmas Season is about JOY to the world, right?
JOY to the world. What? JOY.
JOY to the world. To WHO? The world!
JOY to the world, WHY? The Lord has come!... as a... PERSON! A human being. Living. Breathing. He came.

He ate. He drank. He laughed. He touched. He wept. He cooked. He sang. He listened. He spoke.

Do you hear the bells ringing it? The songs being song? Are they resounding in your heart and your home? Are you sharing that music with people? Are you donating to charity or buying someone in Chile a cow? If so, are you enJOYing it?

It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.

So whether you are ready up to your eyeballs in Christmas boxes stuffed with stuff from too many years of tchachke collecting, or whether you are up to your eyeballs in bills and burdens, enJOY your holiday season... with PEOPLE..... and your God.

I wish you JOY! To who? To YOU!

Here is my little drummer boy. We Got The Beat day is his favorite day of the week. Why? Because in addition to drumming, he loves “peopling”. He made that word up. He said one day after I asked the “How was your day, dear?” question that he had a great “peopling” day.
I said, “What do you mean, ‘peopling’ honey?”
He replied, “I just love people.”

I think Jesus did, too.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Generosity

We love because....

My little girl has been on-the-ball this Christmas season. Do you have any kids like that?

Even before the holiday she wants to go shopping. Not for herself. For others. She is begging to look at Amazon wish lists. She is counting her money and even making a budget. She is probing her brothers for everything they want, because she wants to (smirk, giggle, eyes lit up) SURPRISE them!

I am in wonder of her generosity.

Jillian: Mommy, why is everything on your amazon wish list so expensive?

Me: I don’t know honey. Maybe it’s because the things I want and need that are cheap, I just buy them for myself.

(In the back of my head the little voice cries out, “Do not cheat her of the joy of giving! FIND SOMETHING that she can give you. She wants to do it. She wants to give!”)

(The other voice in the back of my head asks, “When did she look at the amazon wish list? Who was her accomplice? Are there other things she’s doing on the internet I don’t know about?)

(Voice Number Three arrives - yes, I talk to myself often - and she says, “Relax.”)

So, today, I need to find something that she is excited to give me that she can afford so that she can enjoy the gift of giving me something I want. Isn’t that a funny take on Christmas giving?... My 10 year old’s heart is so generous - a lot like Jesus’ heart.

Jesus can afford everything and He gave it all. All. He didn’t hold one thing back. He didn’t budget His mercy or His grace. He didn’t try to do what was convenient or easy. He KNEW what we most wanted. He KNEW what we most needed and he poured himself lavishly...isn’t that a beautiful word? ...lavishly....excitedly....sacrificially....joyfully.... and He still does it today. It’s why He came. So that he could keep on giving!

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us. 1 John 3:1

Why? We love because.... He first loved us. He came so that He could give love, through us.

So whatever you are in position to give this holiday... to your God or to your family or to your friends.... Give it like a little child. Smirk. Giggle. SURPRISE! Let your eyes light up and GIVE. Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the details. Just do it. Lavishly, excitedly, sacrificially and by all means, joyfully.

God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor. 9:7
He loves it. Don’t you?
This is my cheerful giver giving me a bouquet of paper flowers she made for me and our skyping with daddy so he can see them.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Extra Especially Blessed Brag Blog


We had a marathon day in Fresno yesterday. 15 hrs. Grande. I woke this morning with a spring in my step because the adrenalin from a God crafted blessing is still running in my veins. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for coming to see the show!

All semester, starting in August, the kids have been involved in some really cool stuff. Last night, at their semester concert, we got to see many pieces come together. Not everything, but some of it. What’s hardest to record are the relationships being forged. When I think of the people we have met and are getting to know better, the word “abundance” comes to mind. I rejoice seeing glimpses of Heaven.

Eventually, we’ll have our own DVD of the evening. I’d love to try to post snippets if I can figure it out. Stuff will likely end up on YouTube, at least from the high school crowd. For now, you can see the works in progress and the reasons why we feel extra especially blessed.

A bit from Zach’s Youth Choir at People’s School for Creative Arts


This is a bit from a Interpretive Speech the boys are working on together. It falls into the “duo” category and we’re learning how to do this together. They will take it into competition with STOAca.org next year. It’s already been changed a million times since this movie was made.... and we’re still not finished with the whole story. Why are we doing this? I don’t know.... but it’s FUN! Oh, and this had nothing to do with last night’s festivities but we did have speech practice before the concert!


I didn’t want to inundate you with choir stuff, but here’s a sample of what Jillian’s learning and getting to share with her class.



Evan’s Concert Choir practices are only once a week for 2 hrs. It blows my mind that our kids can compete with local high schools, but there you go. This Choral Festival was a month ago. They sounded even better last night.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thanksgiving, Christmas and Free


It’s beginning to FEEL a lot like Christmas....

Okay, it’s not Christmas yet. Thanksgiving might even be your favorite holiday. For me, it’s all about the turkey. And the mashed potatoes. And the green bean casserole. And the pumpkin pie. And the people.... oh..... I love that part.

Hospitality is not my gift, but I manage to get everything out more or less warmish and it’s usually on a half decently decorated table. Jillian always helps. She likes making place cards.... at the last minute.....with whatever paper and pens we have on hand.

Hey! By the way, I need cloth napkins. I can’t believe how long I haven’t had them. You know what, I need to read chapter 7 of Happiness Project because it has something to do with buying happiness. I know, I know. Money can’t buy happiness. I agree! But I can’t help wondering what Gretchen Rubin will say about purchasing?!?!?! Nevertheless, you can’t deny the fact that money can buy me cloth napkins!

Last year I went looking. Cloth napkins just seem ridiculously expensive. THIS year I already went looking. Know what? Cloth napkins are still ridiculously expensive. I should learn to sew. But last year at this time I stopped should-ing myself; I am letting cloth napkins go. Dear Jesus, Can you please help me find cloth napkins at a good price this year, in a set of 12, neither too fancy nor too plain and definitely not white or help me just be content with paper napkins on Thanksgiving? Amen.

It’s beginning to FEEL a lot like Christmas....

I know, for so many it is the busiest and craziest time of year. For me, however, Christmas gets simple. I carve out time in my day to listen to music. I carve out time to bake cookies. Last year, I forgot to carve out time to wrap gifts and ended up at the post office way too close to deadlines.... but it all worked out. It’s beginning to FEEL a lot like Christmas because I am already looking forward to the CHANGE.

Funny I should say that as I recently had an epiphany.

In the last 6 years or so, I have had way more change to adapt to than I ever in a million years wanted. Finally, as we adjust to a new community of people in Fresno (we haven’t moved there... we just go there a lot) I have realized that I am really tired. On the weekends when we are home, I sleep. I sleep a lot. One night last week, Jillian gave me a 3 minute backrub (it was 3 minutes because it was all I could afford....she charges me...and I am saving for cloth napkins)... after my backrub, I fell asleep. Where I was. In the middle of the hustle and bustle of our house. Long before anyone went to bed. I was done. I am done.... with change and the stress even good change causes. I’m done, while being very thankful for the change that has taken place.... in me.

If nothing else, I can sleep with a clean conscience because I am too tired to let the failures of a day reign over me. A clean conscience because I am too tired to try to control the universe. A clean conscience because what doesn’t get done today will get done tomorrow.... or never. I’m thankful Christmas is coming. I am thankful Christmas came. Because of Christmas, I am free....

cloth napkins or paper
wrapped gifts or unwrapped
warmish food or hot out of the oven
dog tired or wide awake
FREE

Evan: I like it when you are like this Momma.

Me: What do you mean?

Evan: I like it when you are silly.

Now, if that ain’t happiness wrapped up in a bow, for a stressed-out, overly-tired mom, I don’t what is.

Despite the breathe of fresh air my son’s comment brings my weary soul, I’m still dog-tired and tonight is Friday. We’re watching Once Upon a Mattress and I’ll sing along with the silly lyrics that I know... what are you doing tonight?

Whatever it is, I hope you do it, free.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chapter 6 of the Happiness Project

Alright already! I am finally posting this post. It's been sitting on my desktop. I’ve not been happy with it for some time. I just can’t find the words. I know, hard to believe that has ever happened to me!

The simple truth is that Gretchen Rubin is right. Friends are really important. I mean, really really important. I get that sometimes friends are mostly your family. I get that sometimes people live in such a way that a few friends is all they ever want and need. But you know what? God uses PEOPLE! Thumbing through the CBD Christmas Catalog this morning I found this. Yup. That’s it. That’s what I’ve been wanting to say.
Friends are God's Way of Taking Care of Us
We ought to consider that friendship is one of the gifts we give other people. Rubin talks about how to do that. Lots of practical advice. Lots of it. Will you take the time to read, Make Time for Friends? Chapter 6. It’s a winner.

And so is this video!

I’ll try to tell you how Rubin describes the nurturing of friendship. If you are getting buried in the other parts of life that don’t involve friends, here are a few tips to keep growing:

Remember Birthdays
Dear Friends, Thank you for the recent gift so precious it made me cry and so perfect it made me laugh and the heartfelt apology because you forgot!

Be Generous
Dear Friends, Thanks for your encouraging words. Thanks for your words of wisdom. Thanks for telling me exactly what I needed to hear in just the way I needed to hear it. Thanks for trusting me enough to be honest and loving and fair... oh! And Thanks Emily, for not forgetting me ;)

Show Up
Dear Friends, Thanks for the call. You know who you are. Thanks for visiting. Thanks for writing. Thanks.... for all the times I’ve cried on your shoulder.

Don’t Gossip

Dear Friends, Thanks for teaching me compassion and consideration, when I got snooty. Thanks for reminding me that life is hard and extending extra measures of kindness is required. Thanks for helping me be the person I want to be. Thanks for being someone I can admire. Thanks for being good and helping me be good, too.

Lastly, Rubin suggests that we make 3 new friends. How do you do that? Get the book!

I can’t help but to think how immensely grateful I am for the years in which I nurtured friendships outside of my family... because now, in this busy season, I rest well at night knowing fully that my friends (who are mostly in their very busy seasons, too) are counting the years and the months until we can make MORE time for each other. Oh friends, I miss you.

Hey Friends, did that video make you smile?

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Day In My Life - The Calendar Saga

This is an excerpt from an email I sent to a busy mom friend of mine. I promised to tell her my calendar sob story, but I have decided to also share it with you. I wonder if Gretchen Rubin has a chapter on Life Maintenance in the Happiness Project because now that my closets are clean, my calendars are a mess!

Calendar Saga. A Day In My Life. Ready. Set. Go.

So for the last 5 years Joe has been trying to get me into the 21st century and use the computer. I still write everything down on a gigantic calendar and then put the minor things on a mini calendar I can carry in my purse (when it is there and sometimes it isn't).... but THIS YEAR, I finally adapted to using the computer calendar. Easy for him because he can download our entire life onto his iPhone with a click. BUT I am still managing this mini calendar which doesn't have the space for everything and it's starting to get confusing and I'm missing things and I have to reschedule 4 different (or was it 5?) appointments the last 4 weeks. This was after I went to Hallmark to buy a "bigger" mini calendar in hopes that if I had more writing space it would help. 3 doctor appointments, and a dental appt... it was 4 appts. THEN, LAST WEEK, I do my volunteer time with the drum club only to discover when I get home that it wasn't even my turn that day and I really needed to go to Winco!!!! SO I beg my husband to buy me an iPad and of course, we can't afford one. He says, "Go to the office store and get a bigger monthly calendar that fits in your purse. I promise to use your old fashioned calendar and update my iPhone with YOUR old fashioned calendar." Okay. So I go to the office store, spend 45 minutes with 2 distracted children, looking at all my options.....and I buy a planner along with gummy worms and chewing gum thank you gifts for my distracted children... that DOES NOT fit in my purse.

I go home.

THEN, I spend time taking things out of the planner that I don't need. Eventually, I begin fishing out coupons and receipts and business cards that I want to keep from their various homes in my drawers, baskets, envelopes and wallets so that I can consider if they will have a home in my new, snazzy, red planner. I ponder the content of my piles. I sort. I restack. I toss things. I decide to keep my Colorado drivers license. 2 hours later, when I finally get down to entering drum club gigs and speech tournaments, orthodontist appointments and scout events to my calendar, I realize I bought one without NUMBERS. Yes, my friend, I had to WRITE THE NUMBERS IN!!!!..... all 12 months.....

......and now.... I need a bigger purse.

What does a day in YOUR life look like?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Yarnspiration



Oh, dear. Dear dear dear.

I know it’s fall when the knitting bug starts overwhelms my every thought.

We’ve been so busy. Soooooo busy. I mean, I don’t have time to breathe.

But, one of the benefits of being busy is making new connections. I met a mom through my son’s drum club, We Got The Beat. Mom knits. Need I say more? She dies yarns, too. Ooohhh la la! Mom recommends new yarn store. Birthday money burning hole in my pocket. Oooohhhh la la! again!

I’m having so much fun right now that I just have to share the joy. Here are a few of my latest projects on the needles. Oh! and those of you waiting for the lucy bag... well, you might get lucky because I am so Knit Happy I think I may start one of those before too long. I’m just giddy with yarny joy.

Fall. Cool weather. Hot tea. Big red chair. Worship music. Thanks Abby for the new CD! Yarn and needles in hand. Amen. Sitting at piano lessons in Mrs. Walker’s comfy couch, listening to my kids tickle the keys musically and the lilt in Mrs. Walker’s voice as she helps them play better. Bliss. Yarn and needles in hand. Kumbahyah My Lord, sung by 60 little voices. Homeschool choir. Thank you Mrs. Clark. Thank you for teaching us the most beautiful thing a child can sing is “ooooh” and thank you for helping them do it so well all together. Yarn and needles in my hands. Happiness.

Chapter 7 of my Happiness Project is Buy Some Happiness. I guess I got a jump-start with the help of birthday money and yarnspiration! I haven’t even read the chapter yet because I have been too busy knit knit knitting!.... and running my kids all over to choir and drums and piano.

Sometimes you don’t need a happiness project to make you happy. Sometimes you just need YARN!

By the way, if it looks like I am practicing my lame photography. I am. I can’t remember which chapter of the HP learning new things pertains to, but there ya go. I’m trying.


This little watermelon gem is in process. See the black threads? got more seeds to stitch... no pun intended knitters.

The red dooly bop I'm starting will someday look like an apple with a stem, kinda like the little plum hats I finished. Why does red look pink in pictures? Another photography lesson for me to learn no doubt.

This Waterfall Scarf defies explanation. It's a slice of Heaven. I'm using a new stitch technique and yarn I've never worked with before. I'm loving it. I wish my pictures could catch it's subtle texture and colors. Every row makes me want to stitch another, you know what I mean?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Happiness Project, Chapter 5. For Reals.


Okay, so I’m back at it again. To be perfectly honest, Chapter 5 - Be Serious About Play wasn’t all that fun for me. However, Chapter 6 rocks and so here I am, in my dutiful fashion blogging about Chapter 5, first. Why? Because maybe you read it, too and have something YOU want to share. I hope so!

Gretchen Rubin’s points from Chapter 5 include: Find More Fun, Take Time To Be Silly, Go Off The Path and Start A Collection.

Each one a nugget in itself, I could write endlessly about any one of these main ideas and how they apply to me, but instead, I want to introduce you to an idea the author has been alluding to all along....Be Yourself.

In her words, “Be Gretchen.”

In mine, “Be Shirin.”

Simply put, the Happiness Project is about self-discovery. I think Rubin would admit her need to write the Happiness Project resulted from living a full and wonderful life, complete with expectations and obligations. Like many of us, she wears many hats and in doing so, she was content, yet not free. She needed to reclaim her freedom to make choices. So far, she has addressed the choices we make toward happiness in the areas of energy, marriage, goals and parenthhood. This chapter on leisure has helped me begin taking seriously what is really fun for me.

Rubin writes on p. 116, “If something was really fun for me, it would pass this test: I looked forward to it, I found it energizing, not draining; and I didn’t feel guilty about it later.” Later on she repeats the notion, “Fun is energizing.”

Anyone say, YES! to that?

She also makes note of the fact that there is a genuine scientific phenomenon called “emotional contagion” wherein we unconsciously catch emotions from other people - whether good or bad.

Anybody find themselves strangely attracted to people who are cheerful, laugh easily or best yet, create fun? Golly. I know I am!

She also introduced the idea of different kinds of fun. Challenging Fun is the fun stuff you have to work at to get good at. Accommodating Fun is the fun stuff you do because people you love find it fun and you know how to make the best of doing what they like. Relaxing Fun is what we call in our family, “vegging” or “chilling out”. Relaxing fun is eating a bag of doritos while watching your favorite sport on TV, without the guilt. If there’s guilt, then you need to eat celery and carrot sticks for it to qualify as relaxing fun.


Since I read this chapter I realized that I get a kick out of watching movie musicals, reading Jane Austen and going to plays. I love shopping for the perfect gift. Challenging Fun for me is homeschooling my children. Accommodating Fun for me is playing Herd Your Horses with my 9 year old. Relaxing Fun includes many things.... fewer calories the better.

I don’t always have time to do what is fun. Or, I get stuck in one form of fun which runs its course and dries me up. It’s been good to identify some of the things that make me happy because it helps me more clearly see what God has made me to be.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made so why I shouldn’t I just... “Be Shirin”?

As I said before, it’s good to mix things up and not put all your happiness eggs in one basket, you must diversify your happiness portfolio. Now that I have a fuller picture of what is fun for me, I can make some more thoughtful choices and get more serious about play!


What is fun for you? Seriously.....

Musicals are often all about being happy, finding happy, living happy. Maybe that’s why I like them!


Take this quiz and see if you can identify the musical that goes with the song.

1. Favorite Things (ask yourself: what are a few of your favorite things?)

2. I Enjoy Being a Girl (what about being a girl do you enjoy?)

3. Happiness (fill in the blank: Happiness is.....)

4. Put On a Happy Face (who helps you wipe off that mask of tragedy?)

5. Make ‘Em Laugh (what makes you laugh?)

6. Put On Your Sunday Clothes (what do you wear that makes you feel wonderful?)

7. Thank You for the Music (what do you sing in the shower?)


Now that I have you thinking, what music makes you happy?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mele Kalikimaka


Being with the Yuens is a lot like Christmas. Much anticipation. Thrills. Noise. Chaos. Fun. Song. Food. Love. AND Peace. We never know what will happen, but we know it will be good.

When my kids were little, I insisted on having every Christmas in our home, with our tree, with our songs, with our stuff. A creature of habit, I like things to be predictable. It feels secure. Yet, I’ve changed in recent years. I’m no longer bound to my town or my home or even my people. I no longer need to have Christmas here. In a sense, I’ve taken Christmas out of the box!

Someday, I want to have Christmas in Hawaii. Maybe the Yuens will join us! And Yes, I COULD drink a mai tai instead of hot mulled cider on Christmas Eve and wear a muumuu instead of flannel Christmas morning. I am more at peace with the unpredictable and new. It’s a lot like fishing, isn’t it?

Sometimes you throw your nets out into the sea and come up with nothin’. The disciples knew that. Other times, you throw your nets out and come up with a whole lot of somethin’! Someone once said, “It’s all good.”

Maybe the Yuens and the Schneiders will meet again in Hawaii! Who knows, maybe we’ll even have another hukilau.

What’s a hukilau you ask?

What?! You don’t KNOW?!

I’m teasing. My favorite line is “Paradise now, at the hukilau.” It’s all there, in this silly, singable song.

And for my friend Jill, listen to the words....they are for you ;)


You can check out Jill’s blog to read about our hukilau prequel. Maybe you’ll understand why I have Hawaii on the brain. It was quite a gnarly ride!

A hui hou kakou - Until we meet again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Happiness Project, Intro to Chapter 5


"Research shows that regularly having fun is a key factor in having a happy life," writes Gretchen Rubin on page 113 of the Happiness Project.

Tough truth to hear when 99% of what you do isn’t fun. I don’t like cooking. I don’t like laundry. I don’t like cleaning or disciplining children. I don’t like driving them all over creation either....

"Studies show that each common interest between people boosts the chances of a lasting relationship and also brings about a 2 percent increase in life satisfaction." (p. 119)

Bummer. I’m not that into what my kids are into. Yikes. I really want lasting relationships with them.

Oops. I haven’t finished the chapter. I didn’t realize I hadn’t finished the chapter until I sat down to type this blog. Why did I choose now to write this blog? Because I had some unexpected play today and Chapter 5 is entitled: Be Serious About Play.

Seriously.

So, even though there are plenty of parts of my job that are really NOT fun. Even though I’m not into what my kids are into and I spend the vast majority of my time with them, there are ways to play.

Tonight I enjoyed the privilege of attending my Boy Scouts’ Court of Honor. An occasion in which they receive numerous awards. My boys raked it in tonight. Yeah! Worth celebrating. But before we left the house, this was the NOT FUN conversation.

Me: Zach! Did you wash your shirt when you got home from camp?!
Zach: Yeah.
Me: It’s filthy!
Zach: It is?
Me: You can’t wear that tonight.
Zach: I have to.
Me: TAKE IT OFF now, it’s going into the wash. I can’t let you go looking like that...

Horrendous Mommy Moment. I know. When we all get to heaven no one will care that his Boy Scout Class A Uniform shirt was dirty. But the Mommy Monster took over and me and Shout It Out had a party in the laundry room. Big Brother, and eldest child, who was recently nominated Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) starts having a fit because he’s doing the math on the time. Stress. Anxiety. And it’s all my fault. A NOT FUN mommy moment, indeed. SPL will be late to his first Court of Honor that he has to direct.... yada yada yada.

Fast forward 30 minutes. I took the clean class A out of the wash. Threw it in the drier. Numerous debates ensued over the time issue. How long does it take for a Boy Scout Class A Uniform shirt to dry enough to wear it?????

Me: Zach, take it out.
Zach: Now?
Me: Yes, now. It’s time to go.
Evan, new SPL: We’re already going to be late.
Me: No, we are not.
Zach: It’s wet.
Me: It won’t be when you get there!

When we got into the car I told Zach to hang his shirt out to dry on the way. We had FUN! Zach dodged cars, (think - matador!), as we let his shirt take wing on our windy roads. And guess what? It DRIED. Upon arrival Zach looked as spiffy as the rest of his troop.


It wasn’t planned, so I know this doesn’t count as the “regular fun” the research recommends. It wasn’t the kind of “common interest” the studies refer to either.
But we shared a common goal.


I’ll have to finish the chapter to find out what it really means to be serious about play, but on this occasion, we found the fun. We laughed. We rejoiced. We played.

A definite 2 percent increase in life satisfaction, for all of us tonight.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What do you see?

What do you see when you look at this picture?

You notice the candle thingy?



What do you notice about the candle thingy?

For years, I’ve only noticed the paisley design. There’s a vine-like leaf pattern, too. These are the patterns I have noticed. That’s probably why I bought it. I like nature. I think I’ve owned this Yankee Candle accessory for 5 years. Maybe more.

Funny though. I never noticed the hearts. Never. Not til today.

This morning, while praying for God’s mind and heart, this homey, sweet smelling bit of tchotchke was sitting front and center. I happened to be looking at it. This morning, I looked at it in a new way. I saw the hearts.

I realized that often, I don’t see God and in my frustration, I keep seeing the same things. Usually negative. Usually things I have to work hard to fix. Just like I haven’t really seen the heart pattern on this familiar piece of decor, I miss what is in front of me. Today, like the blind man I can cry out, “I was blind but now I see.” What’s important to recognize is that just as Jesus healed the blind man, Jesus needs to heal me. I can’t show myself these things. He must do it. He opens eyes.

As I think through my relationships, I know, too that I often ask my friends this question, “What am I not seeing?” or “What am I missing?” or “Am I interpreting this correctly?” Perhaps my conscience knows what a failure I am...at seeing things way God’s sees them.

Guilty.

But what I love about God is that simple requests, the simplest prayers always seem to get answered.

Like, help me have compassion. The next thing I know I’m sobbing at everything. I donate time toward the leukemia society. I actually walk up to the people begging for money and offer them something, so they don’t have to ask. I pray for the woman in the store being mean to her children, instead of walking away with that self-righteous chip on my shoulder.

Like, help me love my husband.

Like, help me love my children.

Like, help me love You, oh, Lord.

My most recent prayer: Help me see what You see.

What are you seeing? Most importantly, what do you need to see? What simple prayer might you prayer inviting God to open your eyes?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Happiness Project, Chapter 4

Lighten Up.

God knows, I need to lighten up!

In fact, in a group of people last spring I boldly proclaimed, “I need to find ways to have more fun!”

Have I done it? Nope. Not really. But I’ll blog about that in Chapter 5. Chapter 5 is my favorite so far, but here we go on Chapter 4. One chapter at a time....

What resonated most with me was found on pg. 98-100. The author was discussing the importance of people’s feelings, specifically her children. Gretchen Rubin writes, “We should acknowledge the task is difficult (in the case of a child’s frustration or complaint)....Experts say that denying bad feelings intensifies them; acknowledging bad feelings allows good feelings to return.” Please read it again. Slowly. I think it works even with adults. Have you found that to be true?

Many years ago I prayed to become a more compassionate person. I knew I was heavily task oriented, and I needed something to help me live more in the moment. Prayer change things. I still err on the side of duties and check-lists, but I am more aware of my tendencies and mindful to put people first. When my children were losing it, I began to stop what I was doing. Then, I would pause to feel their pain. Filled with genuine sympathy I say, “Oh, what a bummer.” With my husband I use, “Man, that really stinks.” A few simple feeling words is enough for most people. For me, it reduces my natural inclination toward should-ing and shaming and empowers me to sympathize a little better. Now that I know what the “experts say”, I hope those I love feel heard and understood. Hopefully, I have helped them to lighten up.

I love this Bible verse from Romans 12: Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn. It’s part of what it is to love people. I try to keep that verse in the back of my mind. I think the simple principle is often the sugar that helps the medicine of life go down.

Other aspects of the chapter are like this one. It's stuff I already know. I keep photo albums of happy memories. “...recalling the past amplifies the positive.” Traditions are important. I’m not so good at that as our holidays are different each and every year, but we have a few basic traditions we enjoy as a family.

Take Away Point: When burdened, I need to lighten up a lot.

I like what Rubin advises about identifying the problem. Sometimes, it requires simplifying something. Sometimes, it is realizing that the work you are doing IS important to you, even if it is a momentary trouble.

The Bible says, “God loves a cheerful giver.” So, whether it is cooking up a storm for holiday guests, driving my kids to music lessons on a stormy afternoon, or wrapping Christmas presents at 11PM on Christmas Eve, I can anticipate the joy, savor the event as it unfolds, and express the happiness of the moment when it comes. Singing along with my children as they play Christmas Carols on the piano Christmas morning is the culmination of all this good effort. Forever, I get to recall those happy times and will have the pictures to prove it....


Thank you God for using your Word to lighten my path before I read Happiness Project, Ch. 4. Thank you God for your compassion on me, for hearing my prayer.

Friday, August 6, 2010

It's a Ladybug World

I experienced a ladybug miracle last week. One of those wonderful moments in a person’s life when you say, “Remember when.....”

I’ll always remember the first time I saw a bald eagle, perched in its nest, regal and still. I’ll always remember the time a red tailed hawk swooped into my suburban backyard to snatch an innocent bird at my feeder. I’ll even remember the time I carelessly hopped over a baby rattlesnake because I wasn’t paying attention. And I’ll remember this day at the river with some of my Ladybug People.

Once I wrote about ladybugs. They eat the aphids that suck the life out of the blossoms on my roses. Ladybugs are my friends. They help me bloom. I’ve been blessed with many in my life and continue to enjoy little reminders. I don’t know if I was blooming in their presence the other day when we were all together, but I know I couldn’t help but catch a whiff of their sweet aromas... sugar, spice and everything nice, rosy, serene with a hint of sunscreen.

See what I mean?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Learn the Lesson of Not


Can you see it? The lazy days of summer are coming to an end. We are starting school next week. I just found out we need to leave our house at 7AM Tuesday mornings because Zach has a class that starts at 8. Wasn’t expecting that. Evan doesn’t get out of his classes til 3. You do the math. One long day. I’m sure this isn’t the end of surprises as we face a new school year. Homeschooling’s like a box of chocolates, don’t you know?

I wanted to share with you something I read from Sit Walk Stand (originally published in 1957). I don’t know why I want to share these things. I just do. I also know that people who don’t comment, are reading my blog. So, comments or no comments. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes we give gifts with wrapping paper and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we write thank you notes and sometimes we don’t. It’s not the receiving that counts.... It’s the giving....

Watchman Nee writes the following in the chapter entitled: Stand

John 5:19, “ The Son can do nothing of himself.” How often in the books of Acts we find the Holy Spirit prohibitions! (... he mentions Acts 16) Yet this book is the book of the acts of the Holy Spirit, not of His inactivities. Too often we think that the actual doing is what matters. We have to learn the lesson of not doing - of keeping quiet for him. We have to learn that if God does not move, we dare not move......

.......The abiding principle of all true christian work is, “In the beginning God.” (Gen 1)

...all work, to be effective, must depend for its continuance upon the power of God alone. What is power? We often use the word loosely. We say of a man, “He is a very powerful speaker.” But we have to ask ourselves the question: What power is he using? Is it spiritual power, or is it natural power? There is today all too much place given to the power of nature in the service of God. We have got to learn that even where God has initiated a work, if we are trying to accomplish it in our power, God will never commit himself to it.

You ask me what I mean by natural power. Put very simply, it is what we can do without the help of God. We give a man a task of organizing something because he is naturally a good organizer. But if that is so, how hard will he pray? If he is accustomed to depend on his natural gifts, he may feel no need to cry to God. The trouble with us all is that there is so many things we can do without relying upon God. (Exod. 4:10)

.....Somehow, in our history with God, we must experience that initial crippling touch of His hand to weaken our natural strength, so that we can stand forth on the ground of the resurrection life in Christ alone .....

..... When God commits Himself to a thing, then He comes out in power to prove that He is in it and is Himself its Author.


What a way to start my school year!

I’m an expert at trying hard. Aren’t we all? I even try to appropriate God’s power for myself. It goes like this: This is a good thing I feel I must do, therefore I will ask God to give me the strength to do this good thing I feel I must do. Ouch. Argh. Groan. Guess it’s time for me to re-learn an old lesson from a study I once did by Henry Blackaby. “Look for where God is already at work... then join Him.”

I’m not saying God can not originate a thing through me, He certainly can. I’m just sayin’ that no matter what I do, I want God the Author of it and the Power behind my activity in it. Anyone say, Amen?!

Our homeschool motto is Psalm 127, "Unless the Lord builds the house they labor in vain...." It could just as easily be a family motto or a life motto. A motto is an Italian word for pledge.

What do you pledge as your summer comes to an end and another school year begins?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Happiness Conflict

Conflict.

What was supposed to be a leisurely afternoon nap turned into a heated discussion about closets.

A number of weeks ago, when I started my Happiness Project and knew that sooner or later, I’d be cleaning my master bedroom closet, I mentioned to my husband, “Ummm.. by the way one of these days this summer, I’m going to either go through your closet stuff or ask you to do it.” It’s a secret, but I already went through his stuff before Father’s Day and dumped some shirts into a garbage bag. He didn’t notice and that garbage bag is still taking up space in the closet.

So our leisurely discussion about whether or not to have a garage sale and when/where to dump to stuff, excess stuff, more stuff than people need and currently stuff we don’t want, became a knock-down dragged out discussion about who is storing too much stuff and who won’t let go of too much stuff.

All I was asking was for him to either commit to doing a garage sale with me or tell me where to store the bags and boxes for him to take to Goodwill. (The thought hadn’t occurred to me to drive an hour to Fresno so I could take it to the Goodwill there.... since our discussion, I know I have a Plan B). All I was asking was for him to get rid of the extra shoes I had already asked him to get rid of months ago.

Him: You didn’t tell me those shoes were supposed to be donated.

Her: Yes, I did. I told you when I set them in the garage on your work bench in that blue basket.

Him: I don’t think you did. I remember you pointing them out a few weeks ago. That was the first time I saw them. (Note: They SIT in driver’s eye view of the driver of the car whenever you pull in or out of the garage. NOTE 2: He recently cleaned the garage of a myriad of cobwebs and had to have moved that shoe basket in the cleaning!)

Her: Yes, I did. I am sick of looking at it. And by the way, I needed duck tape the other day and couldn’t even get to your organizer where you keep the tape. I couldn’t reach your toolbox either when I was trying to adjust the thingy on the carpet shampooer and had to keep reaching around the pingpong table into your dark toolbox (we have black widows!) to try to find a tool I couldn’t see.

Him: Well, if you would keep clean the shoe and jacket area, we might be able to move the pingpong table over there. And I’ve been wanting to sell that headboard that your aunt left us. It’s in the way.

Her: YOU are the ONE who let Zach bring home a free camping backpack and you don’t even have space for the 2 we have! And YOU are the ONE WHO....

Conflict. It wasn’t pretty. Currently, my closet is not cleaned. But it will be.

HP 1 I am supposed to clean my closet
HP2 I am supposed to create an atmosphere of love in my home.

Oh my goodness.

HP 3 Apparently, I’m not aiming higher either.
Point 1 - Arguing wasn’t new. It’s really old.
Point 2 - Focusing on one element. Oh bother.
Point 3 - Didn’t make the discussion fun. Rats.

My husband’s response was to clear space and set up a donation station in our garage. See?
The sign reads: Goodwill and Garage Sale Staging Area Only. Violators will be shot!

Sometimes happiness results from what others do for you, not what you do for others. When that happens, you get happy and really humble. I also got hopeful that someday I might be worthy of those whose grace I don't deserve. In the meantime, I will, at the very least, clean my closet.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Happiness Project, Chapter 3

In all honesty, this is NOT my favorite chapter.

Aim Higher

I think when you are already disposed to reflection and are self-critical, you don’t need anyone to tell you to work or try harder. I like what Watchman Nee is telling me currently in Sit Walk Stand. Nee says it’s a lot about doing nothing and just sitting at the feet of Jesus. Yeah. That’s what I need to hear. But anyway, blog I shall. Why? Because I said I would do it and that’s my nature.

According to Rubin, p. 69, “...the happy outperform the less happy.” Oh, my gosh! In the Mommy World, that is so very true!

Therein lies the cruxt of my difficulties with this chapter. Mommy World. Rubin talks a lot here about striving in her professional life. Well, my professional life at the moment is being a wife and mother. So, in a sense, where do I strive to do better? That is the question I have to ask myself. What Take Away Points can benefit me in my Mommy World?

I like these points -

Point 1: “If you do new things - you are more apt to feel happy than people who stick to more familiar activities.”

Point 2: “Research shows that the more elements make up your identity the less threatening it is when any one element is threatened.”

Point 3: “The fun part doesn’t come later, now is the fun part.”

New Things: So, where I fantasize about what “real job” in the “real world” I might sooner or later acquire once again, the Now is about continuing to do New Things. In the last 6 years I have learned to ski, started running, hiked Half Dome, learned to enjoy camping, wrote a music appreciation curriculum, taught a literary analysis class to 6 high schoolers, and learned to crochet. I also started to blog. Currently, I am creating a website for families in my area. New Things. Check. Continue to do New Things... yes, but what? I love that question.

Something you should know about me. I am not naturally adventurous. I chose to be. I chose to be for my little girl. I chose to be so she wouldn’t be afraid of trying new things, physical things. I purposed to be a good example for her and it was prayer that opened the doors and gave me direction. By God’s grace I learned a new meaning of being a “new creation”. If you don’t know what New Thing to do next, ask God. He helps people.

Do you get Point 2? I think of it this way, it’s important not to put all your eggs in one basket. In other words, if your total purpose is wrapped up in just a few things and those few things start to unravel at the seams, life becomes a drag. Whereas, if you are cheerfully engaged in a variety of meaningful life-giving pursuits, then you can handle better that cousin, twice removed, who is blaming you for ruining her life when you were both 12 because you were better than her at playing guitar. That cousin twice removed does not have the power to pop your joy bubble; she can only make a little leak, because you are filled with many good things. Diversify your happiness portfolio! (oh, and choose wisely what you fill yourself with!)

The Fun Part: Life is challenging. There is plenty to stew over, but I know from our recent vacation that 3 flat tires in Barstow in mind-boggling heat, is the fun part. We played catch on a blacktop with a nerf football while a couple of guys fixed our tires in the scariest “off the beaten path” place I had ever been. My only trouble, I kinda forgot how to throw a good one. I used to know how to throw a football! The weird stuff. The hard stuff. That’s the fun stuff. The Now really is the fun stuff if you look at it that way.

My Take Away Points - Aiming high for me means looking at life Now with my God Glasses on. I have to remember that all things really are possible; new things, many things, and fun things.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Love does not seek its own...1 Corinthians 13:5

So far, I have no one tracking with me on my HP (Happiness Project) although I have at least three friends who have bought the book and at least two reading it. That’s somethin’!

One of my favorite subjects, Love, I have blogged about previously. But Love has come up again as a result of my HP. You can read Happiness Project, Chapter 2 if you scroll down. My Take Away Point - What says “I love you” to my family?

And then, one of my favorite pastors, BG (Bill Giovannetti) of the Neighborhood Church in Redding, CA has recently blogged about one of my favorite subjects, Love! Please read what he wrote in theological terms about Love, one of my all time favorite subjects. Perhaps it is the most significant topic to dwell upon, ponder and grow into which is why Love is one of my favorite subjects!

Part 2 of BG’s message is here.

I LOVE this stuff even if no one else cares because love does not seek its own!

(That’s just another way of saying, you don’t have to like it just ‘cuz I like it. It’s okay to be different. Love doesn’t need for us to agree about everything or even prefer the same things. )


Don't you just love learning new Bible stuff?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Happiness Project, Chapter 2

Gretchen Rubin titles her Chapter: Remember Love

Yeah. I remember it.

Hear the ringing enthusiasm in my voice? I’ve been married 22 years and sometimes I think if I haven’t figured it out by now, I never will. That’s what I thought at the beginning of the chapter, but as I read along, I realized I was reading a woman’s journal as she discovered truths I have already learned such as “nagging only makes him feel bad and me feel worse”. (Those are my words, not Rubin’s and if you haven’t figured that one out yet, every time you nag, pinch yourself or sit in time-out or make yourself take a spoonful of cod liver oil. Stop nagging, ladies, you are just digging a hole for yourself that someday you will be buried in.)

Okay. Moving on.

Chapter 2 was a celebration of what I have learned and what I have already put into practice in my life and in my marriage. Yahoo! Nothing to work on!?

No, I’m not that lucky.

Doing something about something....hmmmm.... I mentioned that in my last post.

Here’s Rubin: “Happiness,” wrote Yeats, “Is neither virtue nor pleasure, nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” Contemporary researchers make the same argument: that it isn’t goal attainment but the process of striving after goals - that is, growth - that brings happiness.”

I know and you probably do too, that husbands want happy wives. It’s that simple. Heard the phrase, If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody’s happy? It’s true, isn’t it? So, get happy!

But, how?

On page 68 Rubin reminds her readers, “The fact is - you can’t change anyone but yourself.”

Duh. That’s marriage 101, right? Putting that principle into practice is perhaps that hardest part about being married, but at our core we know we ought not strive to change our husbands. So, embrace the truth. Change yourself. (For the record, I believe abuse situations require more than these simple principles.)

My Take Away Point from this chapter leads me to put into practice some things I am reading about in another book, For the Family’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. As Macaulay talks about the dynamics of home life she has reminded me of my overall goal: Create a Loving Atmosphere in My Marriage and in My Home. I have to do something about that. It won't happen by itself. It requires me to grow. Bingo! and growing makes me happy!

For the Family’s Sake motivates me to keep my husband and children my priority and the bonus is that in practice, loving them well makes me really happy. Gretchen Rubin puts it this way: Give Proofs of Love. I put it this way: What says “I love you” to my family?

Can you relate?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happiness Project, Chapter 1

My mother and nephew are coming this week. It’s no week to clean my closets. But just so you know, the Happiness Project isn’t just about cleaning closets. In all honesty, I don’t know what it’s ALL about. I’m only on Chapter 2. Today, however, I thought it was time to share what I have been doing about Chapter 1.

Vitality.

For a moment, however, let me move along to Chapter 2 on marriage. Gretchen Rubin reminds her readers of the business school truism: You manage what you measure. She even applies this principle to RELATIONSHIPS. As I read along, it makes a lot of sense. I have a feeling the Happiness Project is a lot about managing and measuring. As I mentioned previously, my fondness for list-making makes this the perfect book for me.

“It is by studying the little things,” wrote Samuel Johnson, “that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible.”


Many years ago, I figured out I like to take small steps. I like to achieve. I like to meet my goals. Overwhelming goals like losing 5 or 10 or 15 pounds just aren’t my style. I prefer goals like, I will eat a salad every day. That I can do. I will walk on the treadmill at least 20 minutes 5 days each week. That’s so much easier than training for a marathon. And I feel good when I do what I say I will do. I agree with Samuel Johnson, for me, it is in the little things.

Sometimes I call my little things, Take Away Points. They are the nuggets of truth or measurable principles I can walk away with and do something about. After church, our family always discusses the Take Away Point. Half the fun is hearing everyone’s different points of view and realizing that when God speaks, there are lots of Take Away Points possible! Doing something about something... well, there’ll be more in Chapter 2 on that subject!

The biggest Take-Away point for me from Chapter 1 is this: The One Minute Rule. Don’t postpone any task that can be done in less than a minute.

I LOVE THIS RULE!

It keeps my underwear from sitting in the laundry pile on the couch.

It keeps crumbs off my counter.

It keeps books stacked neatly.

It keeps pillows happily propped in their proper places.

The One Minute Rule creates energy. Hence, it is my primary Take Away Point from the chapter on Vitality. Gretchen Rubin talks about exercise and sleep and organizational goals like cleaning your closets, but the One Minute Rule is easy to implement and has already made me happier.

What is making you happy?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rhapsody on a Theme from Princess Bride or The Happiness Project, Scene 1

“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

No! That’s not what I meant.

How about this one?

“Inconceivable!”

“I do not think it means what you think it means.”


No! That’s not it either.

Here we go.

“He’s not dead. He’s only mostly dead.”


Know any dead people? I know you don’t. But it’s slightly possible that some of the people you know are only mostly dead. Okay. I know. I’m crazy. What on earth am I saying?

I’m reading the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Right off the bat, she makes the point that she’s not depressed. She is simply asking some basic questions. I can tell Gretchen Rubin is a “thinker”, like me. She’s also a list-maker, like me. Gretchen Rubin isn’t searching for happiness the way some people in this day and age search for “purpose” or “inner truth” or whatever it is they do..... Gretchen Rubin takes a scientifically sound, statistical approach and asks, What makes people happy? What might make me a happier person? What choices do I have to increase my happiness? Not schmultzy, mushy, sappy, cheesy, warm and fuzzy happy - no, content. Read that both ways. CONtent and conTENT. Simple acts like getting enough sleep and putting things away when you are done with them. Creating order. Creating energy. That’s where she begins her project. I've re-worded Rubin's ideas and summed it up this way for myself: The CONtent of my life choices will increase conTENTment. duh!

But what I like best so far is not so much that I need cleaner closets or a better night-time routine, but that the Happiness Project is a way to choose a little bit MORE life.

We can fill our lives with so much “stuff” that we don’t choose; we don’t live much. We are mostly dead, reacting to our environment as opposed to embracing the choices we have. We all need a Miracle Max to chocolate coat a little pill we can swallow that will improve our circumstances. But as he said in the movie, “You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.”

My girlfriend, Kristy recently shared with me what gave her the courage to become a painter, at the ripe old age of 42. She’s got 2 kids at home with plenty to do; homeschooling, running those boys all over creation, fundraisers, church stuff.... but she realized God had given her a passion to create art. What she lacked was the discipline. Her Happiness Project (and she hasn’t read the book) was the CHOICE to combine her passion with DISCIPLINE. A few years ago, she committed to draw or paint every day. It was that simple. She made a choice. This summer, she has several shows lined up and people, including me, who want to buy her work (but I can’t afford it, she’s already that good!). Wow. To see her work, click on Kristy.


Apparently, Miracle Max was correct, “There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”

So the slightly alive part of me is challenging the slightly alive part of you to read the Happiness Project. If you can’t, that’s cool. But ask yourself, what do I need to do with the CONtent of my life to increase conTENTment? The Apostle Paul said he had to learn to be content. It takes time. It takes discipline. But do you want to be happier? Will you join me?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

BYOK or Bring Your Own Kleenex

Emily Adcox shared with Catey a blessing. It was more than that, to me, however, because what she shared was a question. The question was about legacy. Not the highfalutin’ kind. No. Emily shared a simple gift of passing something on.

As she shared, I found my mind reeling back to my mother. My mother who did not teach me to clean toilets or do my own laundry. My mother who did not teach me to cook or sew. But I couldn’t stay there in my mind when I thought of all the things my mother did teach me... to believe in myself.... to trust my instincts... to not give up.... to stand alone....to choose good friends.... to make memories..... to hope for more. Thought I didn’t grow up in a conventional Christian home, my mother also taught me how to pray... Now I lay me down to sleep..... So when the storms hit later in life, to whom did I turn? I have my mother to thank, in part, for Faith, the greatest legacy.

About 8 months ago, maybe it was 10. It was hot that day so it must have been last fall or even last summer. I was on my front porch on the phone with mom. In fairness to those of you have a strained relationship with your mom, you have got to know that my mom is not, nor ever has been, my “BFF”. We don’t have a relationship like that. We have our obligatory calls, which my mom usually initiates and sometimes we talk about heart issues. But it took a long time before we could do that. That day, I decided to put the advice of The Blessing into practice. That day on the phone, I told my mom how grateful I was that she gave me so much advice growing up. That sound, wise advice, have been the pillars of strength in what has been a most difficult time in my life. I hear my mother’s voice when the world closes in, and my gratitude overcomes me. It was time to tell my mother that and thank her.

Emily has 5 young children (one on his way from China!). She’s a young mom herself I think. She is about to teach her daughter to cross stitch. Her mother taught her to cross stitch. Cross stitch has been for Emily what baseball is to some father/son relationships. Cross stitch is the tie that binds, the spark of communication. Cross stitch is a legacy the women in Emily’s family share. Joy over finished projects. Enthusiasm over new ones to come. Frustrations about bad patterns, missing stitches, doing and re-doing. Shared excitement. Shared losses. Shared vision. Shared hope. But her question to Catey was what struck me most: What is your connection going to be? What will you pass on? She asked Catey this while giving her a beautiful cross stitch to place in her Hope Chest.

Here I am, with 3 not-so-young children and like iron sharpening iron, Emily asks a question of another person that is a gift to me.

WHAT AM I passing on?

Some of you know why I don’t crochet. My mother crocheted. Like crazy. And when I tried to learn how (she bought me books and hooks and yarn), I failed...miserably. So that’s when I went to my mom-in-law to learn to knit. Deep within, I was longing to have something to pass down.

Little did I know when my mom-in-law taught me my first stitches, that there was a whole world out there of enthusiastic knitters taking the world by storm with free lessons on YouTube! But at that time, I was trying to create a memory and a miniature legacy of my own.

But here I am today, thanks to CATEY, (who is responsible for the whole Emily connection because I met Emily at Catey’s Blessing Celebration), I am also a crocheter. CATEY taught me to crochet my first flower. I needed to see it all in 3-D. Thanks to Catey, I have now crocheted several hats and this picture is her wearing one with a flower SHE taught me to crochet. That day on the porch, I delighted in telling my mother that I had finally mastered a small aspect of crocheting. Connection. Sharing. Passing down. “I finally got it, Mom!” “Good for you!”

I intend to leave a legacy of every other good thing my mother offered me, as well. Thanks to Emily's blessing, I will be intentional about passing on the most precious gifts of all. Wisdom. Words. Encouragement. Hope. Prayer. Faith.

And if I forget, I have this to hang on my wall. A story to share with all who enter my home. A piece of Emily Adcox and Catey and Me. We each have one. Emily made it for Catey and gave it to her at her blessing. Mine will arrive soon, a free gift given to me for no good reason. Maybe that’s the best reason of all.

For the record, all of my children, including the boys, can knit and crochet. They don’t all love it, but they know how. Best of all, stitched in their minds forever will be pictures of me, propped on the couch, in the car, and in our trailer - reflections of memories I have of their grandmothers... yarn in hand....flowing from a skein that never ends.

What do you give? What will you pass on? What will your story be?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Blessing

The Blessing: It’s a book by Trent and Smalley. I’ve read it 3-4 times. It’s one of those I come back to again and again because I want to give blessings, not curses to people. When you’ve been cursed, it’s as if someone has put you to sleep and diabolically planted thorns in your flesh. (That’s not from the book. That’s from my imagination) Those thorns cause pain. Whenever someone rubs you wrong the way, they get poked or stabbed. Sometimes, the thorns themselves cause aching and anguish for the bearer. The Apostle Paul had a thorn in his flesh that he prayed to be removed. Musta been a pain.

Sometimes, the thorny nature of people, simply keeps you from being close to them. When I shop for roses I’m like that. If I see a wallop of thorns on the stems, I skip it. The suckers that often grow from good roses are often thornier offshoots of the original plant. What to do with those? You cut them off... as close to the ground as possible. You don’t let them grow because no matter how pretty the flower, them thorns are vicious! And they’ll eventually take over the whole plant. Kinda like the proverb, a companion of fools suffers harm. Keep away from the cursed!

But I am cursed. In part, I was born that way. Sinful nature and all. So in response, I read the Blessing, because I wanted to be a blessing to others. I want to be a thorn picker. One of those people who patiently de-thorns the rose stems before I put them in the vase. I recommend it. It’s a good book.


Another recommendation is to GIVE a blessing. My friend, Jill, did this for her daughter, Catey. I got to be a part of it. Here’s the “How to”.

First, have a momentous occasion. 16th or 18th birthday or a graduation. In Catey’s case, it was her high school graduation celebration that prompted the date for The Blessing.

Second, a Hope Chest is a good idea.

Third, send an invitation and descriptive letter to all significant women in daughter’s life. Tell invitees to come prepared with a written blessing to share verbally and to give to the Blessed for her Hope Chest. Explain that the Hope Chest is to be started that day, filled with the hope and promise and blessings of a future, along with colanders. (inside joke)

Fourth, make a whole lot of sandwiches!

Fifth, inconspicuously place tissues around the room (Jill forgot this part) and be prepared for the wisdom of the ages to come pouring out of the women you know who love your little girl.

Some blessing ideas: A set of candles and candlesticks - to remind her to let her light shine before men in such a way that they will see her good works and glorify her father who is in heaven. A tablecloth - a foundation on which to build service and hospitality. A quilt- to comfort her with the comfort with which she has been comforted by Christ. Tea things - to encourage her meditation. Coffee Mugs - to encourage her meditation after she has children when she needs something stronger than tea to get her going in the morning. Books that have changed your life - Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee and The Rest of the Gospel by .... okay, so you can tell... I WAS ENCOURAGED AND BLESSED! You know those 2 books are currently in my amazon cart for when I get done with the Happiness Project and Bold Love.

One of my favorite of the blessings, deserves a post of its own. Because it wasn’t just a blessing to Catey, but because it was the kind of blessing that is changing me. Stay tuned... and BYOK (bring your own kleenex).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Paradox


Paradox. I love 'em.

Read this today. Thought it might strike a chord in you, too.

Both. And. Having your cake and eating it, too. Truth. In Love.

Justice. Mercy.

Not unlike my recent blog post about Truth and Grace.

Think about it. Abundant life born from giving up your rights to everything. (Matthew 10:39)

The wisest people are those who can receive instruction. (Proverbs 9:9)

The last will be first and the first will be last.

What paradoxes come to mind for you?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Two Lucky Ladies

Looks can be deceiving.

You can’t always read a book by its cover.

All that glitters is not gold.

You’ve heard them all before and you know they are true. The hard part, is unlike the God of the Universe, we are prone to judge on appearances. Why is that? We are wired concretely. We respond to what we see.

The dog really is impressionably challenged. She’s ugly, but in a cute way. That’s what I thought to myself but before the words were fully formed and I gave it any thought I simply blurted out, “She’s ugly.” I’ve spent many years considering the importance of tact. But sometimes, I don’t have any. It’s kind of like appearances, I guess. Some people don’t give the best first impressions, yet underneath an impression lives someone quite the opposite. Sometimes.

Most of us merely want to be loved for who we are INSIDE. Not what we do. Not even what we say. Not what impressions we give. I’m like everyone else.

Like Popeye of old, I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam. Tactless though I be on occasion, I’ve been blessed with something not everyone has. Thanks to one very important person in my life, my mother, liking myself has been mostly easy. That was a blessing all by itself. Of course, then when I met God, I realized, my mom was really right! God says I am fearfully and wonderfully made! Yahoo! Sometimes, I am ugly, or tactless but in an okay sort of way. Sometimes, I don’t make the best first impressions or say the right thing. It’s okay, though, because I am His. The older I get the more I realize how rare a thing it is to both strive for personal improvement and live contentedly in one’s own skin, with mistakes, blunders, failures, warts, wrong motives and all. I am very fortunate to belong to a forgiving God.

Meeting Lady, the ugly dog, reminded me of this kind of unconditional acceptance. She’s been re-homed 3 times now (kind of like being stood up for the prom) and needed someone to take her in. She is the blind date that no one would take out, the wallflower that no one wanted to dance with, the Ugly Duckling of the dog world or Cinderella in dire need of a fairy DOGmother. But a few weeks ago, she got loved.

Even though she is really funny looking, my friend, Jill, Carli “The FunYuen’s” mom, saw her full potential as one of God’s creatures and invited Lady into her family. Spots and all. It doesn’t matter that she can’t dance and that her head is too big for her body. Jill saw beyond all that…..saw her for who she really is. Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? How lucky Lady is. She may be ugly in a cute way, but what’s best is that she belongs.

When I think about it, Lady and I have a lot in common, but what's obvious is that we both have a great personality! (grin)
(seriously) Maybe we do, not because of who we are, but because of who loves us the way we are. We are two lucky ladies.

DISCLAIMERS:
(no animal feelings have been hurt in the writing of this blog)
(photo has not been touched-up, re-touched, altered, stretched, colored, exaggerated... no.... that’s what the dog really looks like!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Car-tripping with Carli is a Trip!


We went to see Catey Yuen graduate and be blessed. That was the goal. I can’t say enough about her that wasn’t already said to her face. She is loved. She is admired. She is blessed. So many people celebrated her and the Schneiders were overcome to be among them.

But then, we snatched Carli! Nicknamed, The FunYuen! What a hoot to have Carli on wheels among us. Fiesty. Friendly. FUN! Here area few glimpses of Car-tripping with Carli as we traveled from Colorado back to California pulling our trailer behind us, camping along the way.

These are notes I (Aunty) wrote to her Momma (Jill) so she could share in the FunYuen from afar:

Carli upon completing a lovely origami elephant exclaimed,"Look Uncle Joe!"
Uncle Joe replied, "What a nice giraffe!"
Carli's expression in reply, priceless!
Let the laughter begin!

Today Carli and Aunty walked around Bear Lake. While traversing in several feet of snow, learning to slide as we go, we both stepped straight through into the lake! Undaunted, we finished the course with wet socks, wet shoes, cold feet. By the way, your precious girl doesn't complain!

We finally got showers today. Laundry done and spaghetti dinner and grocery shopping. A full day... Thank God there was no snow and lots of elk to see. Did some browsing in Estes, too. Don't be surprised when you hear Carli being elected Mayor of Estes. Everyone knows her now and she can introduce you to half the shopkeepers in town. Carli for MAYOR! Hip hip Hooray! That sweet girl makes the world a better place and this trip a better trip ! Tomorrow swimming. Exploring. And maybe no wet socks.

"Certain members" of the Yuen family are Energizer Bunnies! Joe and I are a bit concerned.... Will Carli crash and burn? Do we need to make her go to sleep? She fell asleep during story time last night - it was late. But woke this morning bright eyed and bushy tailed... How much sleep does The FunYuen need?

She lost panties in the locker room. Loves to shop, but seeks advice about spending wisely.... Washes hair at lightning speed. Discusses the importance of modesty quietly with me while naked mother searches for daughter in locker room. Orders Dr Pepper at restaurant.

Has named free toy frisbee, Violet Petunia Switsengard. According to Carli, her frisbee doesn't like men. So Aunty is holding free frisbee while Carli goes to bathroom. The FunYuen won't let Uncle Joe, who paid for dinner and therefore, paid for the free frisbee, touch Violet Petunia!

Carli doesn't appreciate Aunty's Latin rock/60's mix though she can sing on queue, “TEQUILA!” with the rest of us.

She thinks she found missing panties in Cedar City laundry room. She lost the panties in laundry at Glenwood Springs ( uh?)

Carli has taught Zach to crochet..... Is that why we trailer ? ( guess so)

Ate limas. Didn’t complain. Cleared plate. Confesses that she still likes brussel sprouts better.

Carli wants to make sure Aunty likes Steve Winwood while she blasts him from the bunkhouse. Aunty is concerned about sharing. Had to find Walmart to buy crochet hooks and yarn so everyone wasn't borrowing from generous Carli. Poor girl inspired all 3 kids but didn’t have enough hooks and yarn to go around.

Evan's highlight of the day: Carli’s wild hair at the super windy gas stop between No Name and Somewhere.

This morning is a Cap'n Crunch morning.
Carli says, “I don't think we are eating one serving.”
Uncle Joe, “Let's see how much is one serving.”
(Joe hunts and finds measuring cup)
Joe measures, beginning lecture on serving sizes, sugar and calories.
Carli, “Can you be quiet now?”
Zach asks for a Pop Tart to round out his meal.
Evan asks for a banana ;)
Love mornings.....

Carli purchases ice cream cone larger than her head.... But she earned it! 5 mile hike. No slouches or grouches. Carli gets award for most interesting find- mating frogs!
Carli, “Aunty can I touch them?”
Me, “Sure.”
Mating frogs hop away....attached!

Carli was dismayed when she discovered Uncle Joe allows sodas for breakfast on vacation. Zach had a Sprite to go with his pancakes while the FunYuen had taken the high road by ordering chocolate milk. Bummer . As the meal progressed she eyed Jillian’s apple cider in a frosty mug. As soon as Carli finished that milk she leaped at the chance to order something sweeter.... Which she totally consumed before I could finish this note.... Ready for shopping Cracker Barrel and naps now.

There were many I could choose from today, but the 100 degree heat and the Blizzard from DQ knocked me out. Here's a quick keeper:
Carli, “I did it!!!!!!”
Aunty, “What did you do?”
Carli, “I did it! I flushed the toilet while sitting on it!”
Carli is now officially Trailer Trash - no no no - maybe put it another way- how about Toilet Trained- no no no! - I mean Trailer TRAINED!
That's it.

THIS morning Carli was the 5th one up! I think we FINALLY created enough activity that she was inspired to sleep in!

At lunch she names the flies, Bob and Larry. She cons Evan into catching a moth for her.....which she is scared of! They try to trap it in a napkin, 3 times. (S’cuse me, Why does she want a moth she is frightened of?) She orders a BLT and takes out the bacon (?). Jillian eats the bacon ;)
Numerous questions to waitress about her very cool hoop skirt! Don' t be surprised if she wants to get married in one . Vacation is way more fun with Carli .

Good day at Yosemite except that she is too smart. She seems to have lost her sweatshirt somewhere sometime, so Joe slyly bought her a new one. On way back to car she does NOT ask "What did you buy?" nor does she ask "Did you find something you liked?" No.
Carli asks directly, “Can I see what is in the bag?” (dangit!)
So much for surprises......

Today she nursed her bug bites, learned what a junco looks like, smelled a dogwood blossom and swam in a mountain lake. S’mores when we get home so we can authenticate trip officially as "camping". A very God kinda day. Did I mention horrible traffic due to roadwork? BUT Jesus gave us a perfect parking place in the heart of Yosemite Village and a memorable experience on a crowded shuttle. Met Mike and Tracy on the shuttle and became intimately acquainted with German tourists ;) While walking to the car we quizzed her on the people we met along the way.
Who was the guy who met us at the door at that place in Glenwood Springs? Levi!
Who was the first waitress at the place where they gave you Violet Petunia? Alicia! the waitress. Who wore the hoop skirt? Shiloh!
Then there was Ranger Jack at the Rocky Mountain National gate. Connie, who helped with the bowling scores.... and the list goes on.

Her last night with us she tells me, “Aunty, I know this doesn’t sound right, but I miss my family!”

“Of course you do! You’ve done so well and this has been such a long trip for a 10 year old girl.”

“Yeah. But I mostly just missed my dog.”

The Dog, is a blog for another day.....

In the meantime, watch the FunYuen in action!