Waste not…

DSC_0141Buried in my blog drafts from our life in East Asia 4 years ago…

Our family is reading Farmer Boy right now as our bedtime story.  It makes me feel a lot better about the minimal chores I expect my children to accomplish.  They understand their charmed life and gain vision on all they really can do!

We all listen with rapt attention to the descriptions of life before electricity, refrigeration, and machinery.  Clothes are precious because the yarn comes from sheep shorn on your own farm, wool spun by diligent hands, made into fabric and sewn by expert fingers.  A rip in clothing is no excuse to throw it away, mending is a crucial skill.

The food is fascinating too.  My kids salivate when Laura Ingalls tells of donuts, oatmeal, and apple pie for breakfast…all in one day!  Life on the farm seems like an adventure especially when you get your own oxen.  Little do they know, they observe daily a life similar to the one described in Farmer Boy.

We are city folk who live in the midst of an agrarian society.  We see strange things that are only strange because we are 2 generations removed from the farm.

Yellow millet sometimes covers the medians of roads right up to the solid white line. One time we drove over some crops laid on the road. The cars driving over beat out the grain.

Vegetables like the one pictured lay out to dry in odd places along fence posts, on house roofs, anywhere there is sun really.  Pickled vegetables make up an important part of the diet. I ate a wonderful dish of dried green beans the other day.

Many homes still don’t own refrigerators in the countryside or if they do they are unplugged when someone deems it frivolous to be on.  Lamps turned on inside a house in the daytime is an anomaly and deemed quite wasteful. A neighbor was seriously perplexed one day to see our whole family playing outside and our lights on in our apartment.

Cars rarely carry only one person and most people ride bikes or use electric bikes. They, too, often hold multiple people. Frankly, bikes are generally easier to use to get around the neighborhood than cars.

The average household trash can is the size of one normally found in an American bathroom.  It is emptied once a day and mostly contains vegetable peels. Ironically, while hosting many of the world’s worst polluted cities, the average citizen produces very little waste.

A few days before Thanksgiving, my friends began inquiring if anyone was going to use the turkey carcass after our meal. She, of course, was the lucky winner. As our friends divided up the leftovers from Thanksgiving including the turkey carcass (for porridge), the broth from the turkey (for noodles), and the side dishes (to eat the next day), I admired their skill in frugality.

I often choose convenience over limiting waste. I don’t fall far from my American heritage even after more than a decade overseas.

There is much to admire in the resourcefulness needed to live a life of such little waste and such thankfulness for what is provided from God.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Teaching My Boy to Read

It is dyslexia awareness month. I wrote this about 4 years before we figured out our boy is dyslexic. The struggle he has and that I was starting to grasp in this piece are very real. If you are reading this and it resonates with your experience of teaching your child to read at 6 or 7, please consider evaluating them for possible dyslexia.

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I’m teaching my boy to read these days.  Reading is a passion of mine.  If I was not so responsible I’d be up late with the light on to finish a book.  Who am I kidding? I’m not very responsible.

Luxury these days would be reading as long as I wanted rather than only as long as I could manage to put off other things.  I dream of the day when I will be the one at the pool with a book instead of the one with the bag of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

But my boy, he seems oblivious to reading. He’s compliant so he sits and participates in the lessons and he’s learning.  He’s also the one who told me quite clearly from the beginning that “some people read and some people build things.  I am the kind that builds things.” He thought that would get me…

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The August Smackdown

Texas in the summer is hot. People know this about Texas. Along with the Texas reputation for independence and friendliness is its summer climate. Its hot here.

So, when you’re air conditioning goes out, it’s a deal. Ours went out August 1st. It was a deal. It’s a deal that you get fixed and people pat you on the shoulder as you complain even when you know you need to trust God. 

August 2nd we went and bought ice cream among many other things at the store. Then, a man who looked like scary Santa rear ended our van with the ice cream in the trunk. It was a minor parking lot thing, but it still meant our van needed a 3 week-long repair job. It got a rear end lift at the dealer. IMG-5851

The grocery store was kind and we went home with three times the Rocky Road than we planned. Only one of us still likes Rocky Road anymore.

It’s kind of ironic or prophetic. Rocky Road. Get it?

The air conditioning and the van are pretty minor things in the scheme of life. Transactions take care of these things. They are painful but temporary. 

During this time, my mom was sick. She kept being sick and kept being sick and then sicker and sicker. Assorted antibiotics didn’t make a dent and so I drove the nice rental car our insurance gave us up to be with her. 

So, if you’re an accountant, the spring is a big time for you. If you are in college ministry, this is a big time for you. It’s like tax time in August and September. Busy. It was stressful to make the decision to pull away.

But sickness. Sickness is a different sort of trial. It takes over sometimes suddenly but sometimes slowly and then all of a sudden its a crisis that can’t be ignored. Things must stop or slow down so that proper care can be given. Sickness doesn’t check the calendar for an appropriate day or season. You don’t ask your boss ahead of time for sick leave like you do for a vacation.

It just invades and takes over.

I am so used to modern medicine that I am having a hard time figuring out how it can’t just be smacked down with a few pills. Just find the right ones and, boom, gone. We’re on the 5th kind of medicine and there was no boom.

We were all waiting for the boom.

Because I didn’t want to eat jello and cottage cheese for dinner, I went to a local restaurant to get carry out for myself. I debriefed with my husband, cried a little.

Things that felt important must take a back seat. Jobs that I planned to do myself get passed to others. Events I wanted to attend, I wasn’t at. I missed my dad. Absence of a family member in times like this brings up the grief in a fresh way.

Sickness brings life back down to the basics and that is painful to my strong desire to direct my own life. It makes me cognizant in a needful way to the order of my place in God’s creation and the impact of the evil invader. We are brilliantly made and pretty sturdy but surprisingly weak too. A microscopic thing can take over and cause horrible consequences, upending life and what we thought was important.

Sickness sorts priorities. We were sorted and its painful but freeing too. God was and is in charge of this mess down here. 

And, seriously, who but God can deal with it the way it needs to be dealt with? The show goes on without me, kind of humbling, but it does.

He gives grace too. Compassionate doctors, kind nurses, prayerful friends, understanding teammates, encouraging family. The next 5 days we spent I. The hospital were trying and the recovery is long for my mom. But, she is recovering and I’m so thankful! 

The August smack down was currently underway when I wrote this. At that point, Hurricane Harvey was forming in the Atlantic. 

Though the sufferings flow, I am assured that so does the comfort of Christ. II Corinthians 1:5
 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer, When the Thrill is Gone

Around May a combination of fatigue, expectation, and panic hits. The school year is coming to a close. Parties, field trips, award ceremonies mount up and I barely keep the schedule straight. 

Then, the weekday morning comes when I don’t have to wake anyone up, fix any lunches, or throw on half clean clothes to drive them to school.

That first morning of a relaxed schedule feels so good. It feels so good…for about 2 hours until kids are roaming the house restlessly looking for something to do. 180 days of scheduling and now…no schedule. It’s what they dreamed of so many mornings. No school! No schedule! Do what I want all day long! Livin’ the dream!

Except, the dream transitions to nightmare pretty quickly. Day one and I already heard the word BORED. I’m BORED, mom. Body thrown down hard on the couch which inches back under the weight of the boredom.

I quickly think of about 10 things that need to be done around the house. Despite boredom, none of the work I describe seems like the cure to them. No, I don’t want to take clean off my Lego shelf for new creations. I don’t want to pick up my room, transfer my dirty laundry to the washroom, or help make breakfast. 

But, I’m still bored.

It’s easy to mock these little souls in their struggle. All year they’ve wanted this and now they can’t figure out what to do. And! I’ve told them all year whenever they wanted to skip school that it’s not what it seems!

Did they listen? No! And who was right? Me!

They didn’t believe me and I want to point it out. Mom was right. Vindication!

But, kids are not so far from us adults. They express it more clearly and constantly, but it’s there in us, too. In me. My dream days of no commitments often turn into a frustrating search for significant rest. My idea of work and rest gets twisted, too.

Summer is stinkin’ hard for kids and moms alike! Some of my freedom is curtailed. I now must lead and direct the day, coaching my kids more constantly than I am used to doing. Conflicts happen and I must step in. Food must be fed and the dishwasher now gets loaded and unloaded one and a half times a day. I gotta get over it and embrace this special season, summer. The kids are home and I like my kids.

So, where do we go from here now that many weeks of summer loom in the near future? Well, for me the first step is to embrace the crucified life, accepting that it doesn’t get to be about me all the time. And, embracing the Spirit filled life, taking my sin and confessing it before the Lord, asking Him moment to moment for what I need to respond well to the new challenges.

The sermon I heard yesterday on leadership applied directly to my situation as a mom. Lead my kids spiritually. I can be a lot of different kinds of mom. The well-managed mom. The free range kid mom. The fun mom.

But, if I’m not a mom who leads both the soul and body of my child, I don’t think I’ll be all that God calls me to be.

So, some plans we instituted for summer pass muster. Kids need to do chores before they veg. Then, they don’t need to veg too long. Mom needs a pause in the middle of the day. Books are good and you will read over the summer.

But then, I feel that I must lead into the deeper issues of life. I want them to learn that work can be satisfying. Rest isn’t just the selfish pursuit of our own desires but a chance to fill up spiritually what leaks out over the course of our life in this world. And, recreation is a chance to embrace our God-given abilities and delight in His creation.

What an opportunity summer is to build into my kids lives!

I’m pretty sure, though, it will take reading and rereading my own thoughts to remind me…especially at 10 am when the word BORED has already entered the day despite dishes stacked in the sink and Nerf bullets scattered everywhere.

 

 

The Table

Each takes their plate and begins their trek down the long buffet loading up their plate, unable to fit all that’s available. Smiles, talking, laughter abound as one by one they finish. Walking away more because they can’t fit any more on the plate than because they are finished.img_4712

Each takes a place next to another on a bench that seems to always have room for more. No one saves a place for anyone else, no one jockies for position closest to the Provider of All. Content and at peace, there is no need for all know they are loved deeply, abundantly.

The family meal is diverse beyond imagination because everyone is adopted. Everyone came from a different table. Some use chopsticks, some use forks, some use bread, some use their hands, and some use only their right hand. All languages are spoken yet everyone seems to understand each other.

Love abounds and the conversation around the table celebrates the days events. Successes are shared without one upmanship. Failures are shared without smug looks. All is met with compassion, affection, and correction. No one is ashamed or embarrassed.

Before adoption, all came from other tables, more uncomfortable tables. Food at their former houses was sometimes locked up or there wasn’t any at all. Crusts dropped on the floor from the table and that was all there was. All devised a strategy to get a seat.

It was always better to be a certain color or have a certain ability in the former families.  Attention from the stewards in charge meant more provisions so it was sought at all cost, even the cost of another. Highlights of the day were shared at the expense of others. Praise for one was at the cost of praise for another. There was terrible fighting which never got resolved.

Even in the best families, there was lack of something. There was more order, more smiles, more peace which made it almost harder to recognize how much better the Provider’s offer of adoption was for them. Where things were smooth in their families compared to others, it seemed unnecessary to make a change and receive adoption.

For others, adoption was unbelievably good news. How could it be so easy? Just say yes? What was the catch? There must be a catch so they waited and prepared, trying to learn all the ways of the Provider’s family. They stood at the windows dressed up and ready but feeling too bad or unworthy to walk through the front door. They operated under what they had learned on the street–earn it, steal it, buy it.

There’s no free lunch.

Until a knock came from inside the front door, oddly. Usually, knocking came from the outside, but this one came from the inside, and someone was calling their name. Could it be that the door would open for them?

And then it did! The choice came to walk through…or not.

Most heard about the Invitation from the Father’s kids who couldn’t seem to stop talking about their new family. It could be really annoying to some. They talked about what their adoption was like, what it was like to learn a new family, to get used to new siblings with all their quirks and hurts, to blend into the Ultimate Blended Family.

It wasn’t perfect, yet, they said, but it would be one day. They were all excited about that day and it made a difference in today. There was always enough for today.

They shared how at some points, it was only the love of the Father that kept them from running away. The table wasn’t always like it was supposed to be yet.

Sometimes there was sibling rivalry. Sometimes siblings did jockey for a seat right next to the Provider only to have Him firmly correct them. There is a seat for anyone who accepts the invitation, He would almost roar. The correction was always right and fair and true. Instead of slinking off in shame, it was possible to receive it and know there was absolutely no love lost from the Father.

And no ridicule from the siblings…on a good day. Ridicule was met by just rebuke from the Father, another roar. Frightening like thunder, yet it also lit up the sky in a revealing sort of way. Noise and light, illumination, then order again.

Ones who had been at the table longer than others sometimes forgot about their first days in the family and had to be reminded. The reminders somehow freed them from a darkening that would slowly take place. It was easy to get used to the new family and forget how much better it was than the old. To forget the adoption. When reminded, they remembered and their lips loosened up and smiled again.

They began looking around again, and inviting again.

They remembered how wonderful it was to be part of the Family.

 

 

 

 

Stooping to Look Again

From four years ago….

I don’t like to wait. I try to find ways to avoid waiting. Call ahead. Go do something else and come back when the line is shorter. I especially don’t like to wait when I don’t know how long the wait will be. That’s what it feels like to be left, to wait for the unknown. When leaving, I think about the future, to what comes next. It’s exciting. When left, I think about the future, too, but what comes next? I know not.

The tomb scene in John spoke to my heart this week as I contemplate the departures of a few friends and teammates. Mary came to the tomb early and left late. She saw the men come and stoop to look inside and then they returned home. She, too, looked and saw emptiness inside, I suppose. The text doesn’t say specifically. She was left, so she thought, but she lingered anyway, weeping and waiting.

I don’t like to wait or to weep. I don’t like to be left.

But, then she stooped and looked again where others looked before and saw nothing. Amazing. Why did she look again? I don’t know but if I were her, why would I look again? I want to see. I want more. I want a different reality. Maybe I’d think that if I looked one more time, just once more before I left I could leave and go home and start to fill the emptiness on my own, sure that there was nothing left to wait for anymore. The act of stooping to look again is so full of faith.

She stooped and looked weeping and she saw angels…heard angels, spoke with angels!  She saw the Risen Christ, clung to Him, and He gave her a message to pass on.  For others who came and went, the tomb lay empty, just empty.  But for Mary, who waited and wept and stooped to look again, the empty tomb became a place of joy and comfort and hope and purpose.  The emptiness of feeling left by the Lord filled up with so much more.

So, I wait weeping more and more.  I stoop to look in the emptiness and wait for His explanation of the reality I feel so deeply.  He fills the emptiness more and more with the comfort, joy, and hope in His Word.  And, He challenges my view of reality.

I am not left.  I am not alone.  The emptiness of the tomb is the reality but the explanation for what my eyes see is far from empty.

Death with Death

On this Good Friday, two years after writing the following post, I still ponder the wonder of God’s gift through Jesus Christ. Death conquered by death and, then, on the third day, resurrection.

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It’s genius really. Infecting a deadly tumor with another deadly thing and seeing what happens.

60 minutes reported the news coming out of Duke University, and I smiled what I imagined a wry smile. My heart resonated. Fight death with death. The results look amazing. Polio is inciting the body to respond and in the process killing polio infected cancer cells.

A few people with deadly brain tumors are living longer than expected with this treatment. Tumors shrinking. The unstoppable growth is slowed, stopped, and reversed with an injection. A very precise, well-engineered, and tiny injection of a very small amount of polio into cancer cells and life results.

It’s as old as mankind. Brilliant, this discovery that is really an application of an old principle. Death is the antidote to death. It’s simply elegant and I wonder if everyone is sitting back and thinking, “of course it’s this way!”

With my father’s recent diagnosis of a brain tumor, we now know more about brain tumors than we ever wanted to know. What we know about my father’s brain tumor is that it is not the kind tested in this trial. We checked.

It is in more than one place. The tentacles and spiderweb-like appearance on the MRI mean one injection will not reach far enough. Death cannot overcome this tumor this time.

It hurts to long for an effective treatment and to sense that it is just around the corner. But, the corner is far enough away that the race to round it will DSC_0045not be fast enough for us. Others will benefit from the hard work of these scientists. We will not.

We are the ones, like Mary and Martha and so many others, recognizing that Jesus might have come sooner to put off death, but He didn’t this time. He didn’t for us. Why?

I’m left with His words, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die–ever. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26.