On Egg Hunts

Months after the Easter egg hunt in our apartment complex in Asia, the kids and their friends found another Easter egg. A real egg. Left rotting for months outside in a climate of 110% humidity. Yuck.

We hid them pretty good, I guess. It was the find of a century in their minds, a marvel of discovery for a kid who played multiple times a week in that area. Then, one day, bam, an Easter egg!

It was disgusting. They didn’t eat it, fortunately. But, it provided tons of laughter amongst the childhood community in the area. That time we found the Easter egg! It gave them hope to continue looking for a plastic egg that might still have viable candy. They gained new focus in their outdoor play for a while.

Still, yuck.

Watching kids hunt for Easter eggs is pretty hilarious. Early on, we had to teach them to go get the egg. They were uninterested until they realized there was candy inside the plastic ones. Our oldest would then find the plastic eggs, pop them open, eat the candy, drop the egg. She preyed upon her little friend who hadn’t yet discovered the treasures inside her eggs by eating her friends candy too.

As they get older, the hunt evolved. It became about winning. Getting the most eggs. So, we met the challenge and tried to teach consideration. We established quotas and hid the eggs with a little more craftiness. But, whoever met their quota first “won”. What can I say? Human nature gravitates towards selfishness.

We urged them to hunt even when they didn’t want to hunt and the only eggs left were the second class citizens of Easter egg hunts, the hard-boiled eggs sweating off their color dye in the grass. Go get the half-cracked, weird grey egg that got dipped in all the dye cups! we cheered to no avail.

Kind of explains the mystery of the undiscovered egg I guess.

One year I had to intervene to prevent a potty training kid from practicing in the Easter hunt area. Hey, don’t judge. We were in another country where this was not frowned upon for kids. We took advantage of the freedoms! It was a great place to potty train. Not the egg hunt area, the country.img_5535

Then there were adults who wanted to continue their family traditions of ultra competitive egg hunts. You know who you are. Those were the most fun to watch. Grown ups dressed in their Easter finest in an all out physical scramble to find the most eggs. Hilarious!

Last year, we introduced Cascarones to our celebration. Smashing eggs filled with confetti on each other fits our family life stage. It’s fun. Its violent. We play together. We’re adapting.

In all of the evolution of Easter traditions in our family, though, the one thread through it all is new life in Christ. The symbol of the egg in Easter.

Go find it, search aggressively for it, don’t let others get in your way, enjoy the treasures that reside within, help others find it, celebrate it with others.

Just find the new life, the breath of life, offered to all through Jesus’ sacrifice to free us from the deathly effects of sin.

Read more here and here.

Do You Confess?

One of my kids has “reactive airways”, doc talk for asthma. Not all the time and not that sudden type but the type that whenever he gets sick, it goes straight to the chest.

Then he starts this distinctive cough that lets me know my next few days will be spent hauling out nebulizers, inhalers, Vick’s, netipots, and on and on. The cough’s purpose was to force out trapped air so when the airways relax, the cough goes away.

Breathing is a pretty essential activity to human life so asthma attacks are stressful. We’ve always been able to turn the tide and get out of danger. In the middle of it, though, you don’t know the end.

Spiritually, the concept of breathing has been on my mind. I talk often in ministry about spiritual breathing- a cycle of confession (exhale) and filling (inhale). A few tough situations over this past season, namely the August Smackdown, brought me close to exhaustion…and my own need to breathe.

That tightness in my chest would come, that prompt to take a deep breath. A sigh. Like an old lady lament. I was feeling it, the old lady weariness.

So I sighed. Then, with each sigh, I reminded myself of the need to breathe spiritually as well as physically.

Exhaling. Recognizing I was trying to take control of the humanly uncontrollable. Fearing that God was not in control. Releasing the toxic build up of the thoughts and emotions and very real sin so I could take in more life-giving breath. This is confessing.

Breathing in. Each time asking God for more of His resources, His oxygen to extend farther into my soul and strengthen me for the situation. To have mercy and help me. Filling.

So what about asthma? Asthma, if left alone and not treated, slowly suffocates the victim as I understand it. With no room in the lungs to take in more oxygen, and CO2 trapped inside the lungs, the body is deprived of the oxygen that keeps it alive.IMG_0587-0.JPG

All the while the body is trying to breathe in unsuccessfully.

The body begins using almost every muscle it can in the torso to bring air into the lungs. Retractions, where the skin sucks in at the collar bones and around the ribs, notify us that our son is really, really struggling to breathe. The lungs work overtime trying to cough out trapped air. Lips begin turning pale. It’s terrifying and it would be time to go to urgent care.

In the physical world, there is albuterol and steroids to resolve the problems of asthma. Steroids control the tendency to flare up. Albuterol treats a flare up.

Spiritually, there is ordering our lives to God and His revealed truth in the Bible, the fellowship with the community of believers, the Spirit of God convicting and directing us…and regular confession. These all serve as the anti-inflammatory control to prevent serious flare ups of spiritual asthma.

But asthma strikes still. When spiritual asthma comes and we struggle to breathe because we know we are not right with God. Or we are working overtime to win favor and status with God by doing, doing, doing…there is, again, confession.

Exhaling by agreeing with God about our sin or our human efforts to earn forgiveness. Inhaling by receiving the resources He gives through His Spirit to live a life pleasing to Him. Sometimes over and over about the same old things.

Slowly, surely the toxic is released so the pure and fresh can roll in and bring life again.

 

 

 

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.

eternalwaitofglory

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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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.

 

 

 

 

Fancy Pants

We sat and waited,my brother and I, all dressed for the Christmas Eve service at our Bible believing evangelical church. Somber colors were the tradition for men. Black suits, white shirts, maybe a Christmas tie or a daring green sweater would be seen in the narthex, a fancy word for the place where children wait for their parents to leave church.

My brother and I loitered around the living room, waiting for our parents to come down the long hallway ready to go to the service. Would he wear them, we wondered? Would this be an off-year? We never knew until we heard his footsteps and he turned the corner.

He liked to present himself holding his hands out to the sides, squatting a little with a goofy smile. A “ta-da” befitted his presentation though I’m not sure he ever said it. He just acted it. And we knew he was wearing the pants.

They were hard to miss. Brilliant red, black, green, and yellow plaid pants. A little tight after 20 years of ownership and life. A little short, a side effect of the little too tight. They did not break at the ankle as well-fitting traditional pants should. Tight rolling was the phenomena of the early 90’s. These pants were bell bottoms.

The pants were social suicide we knew we’d never live down.

We usually protested a little but we knew it was a lost cause. We rolled eyes. Groaned. Some years he changed in response to our complaints, but most he stuck with the pants, loyal to a fault. One year he wore a white sweater he probably got the same year as the pants.

Pendleton! Mom reminds us when we laugh about this story that lives on in legend at the family dinner table. They were nice, Pendleton wool pants! As though our roasting was unbefitting the dignity of Pendleton wool with its long history quality and tradition. She was personally invested in the pants and may have even bought them as a gift in their early married days when they were in style.

The joke’s on us now. Pendleton is back in the cool column now. I eagerly expect to see a hipster with a weird beard and funky glasses at church wearing my dad’s pants this year along with a vintage white sweater. Different is cool. Tacky is a sign of courage and independence.

My dad was a man before his time. A hipster before hipster was hip. We didn’t appreciate his genius.

And it was genius. His slightly snotty teenagers needed a little bit of his devil-may-care attitude. I was too much concerned with others. I missed out on the levity of not caring what other people thought. Of trying to climb the social ladder that never ended. Only as an adult and a parent do I see what a gift his red pants were to us.

My dad when the pants were first in style.

My teenage self found that the world kept spinning. We were no more and no less socially advantaged by our dad’s pants when school started back up in January. I lived, and I laugh more and care a little less because of those pants.

The pants made fewer appearances as the years went on. Sadly, we don’t know where they are now. My dad is with the Lord, probably reunited with his red pants, and my kids are approaching those teenage years when people loom large.

I may just have to find my own pair of Christmas pants to continue the tradition of bringing the world into perspective.