My Unpopular Opinions

I had a dream last night that I was in heaven. It was a really strange dream. I was exploring, and I was aware that I was dreaming. And I kept hoping that I wouldn’t wake up, because I wanted to see more. It was peaceful. I remember, in the dream, taking note of how I felt, Hmm, I don’t feel creeped out like I usually do in dreams, this feels peaceful, it really must be heaven. But, there wasn’t very much that was “heavenly”. It was like being in a regular city. The buildings weren’t amazing, just regular city buildings. I went inside one building and it just looked like a regular building. Nothing amazing. I talked to people and there was nothing that stood out about them. Just regular people. The only two things that were different was I had a “new” body that I barely paid any attention to, and I was handed some amazing french baguette bread, and told I could eat it without worrying about gaining weight. (Yay!) And then I woke up, thinking, huh, that was a weird dream. And I’ve been thinking about it and I quickly realized what was wrong. Jesus wasn’t there. I think in the dream, I was subconsciously looking for him the whole time. And there was no sign of him, except for the peaceful feeling. And a pleasant city with pleasant people, but no Jesus? That’s just not heaven. 

 

All the biblical descriptions of heaven make it very clear that God is the center of heaven. God on his throne, angels worshipping him. 

 

Revelation 21:23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

 

I would think that if the glory of God is the light source of heaven, you are definitely going to be very aware of his presence when you are there. In fact, if I were to give a definition of heaven, I would say, it’s being in the presence of God. 

 

And for some reason, my mind is drifting to our country and politics and the current mess that we are in as we approach an election in the Fall. 

 

I have found it pretty amazing that I have had Christian friends express the sentiment that to vote for Trump is “unchristian” and at the exact same time I have had other Christian friends tell me that to vote for Biden is “unchristian”. 

 

Can I ask a favor? Could we stop doing that? God is not setting up his kingdom solely in the United States of America. His kingdom happens to be in every single country on this earth. His kingdom does not rely on which party is in office. His kingdom does not depend on whether our country is socialist or capitalist. His kingdom does not depend on us being a republic or a democracy. There is no government that can stop the spreading of God’s kingdom. 

 

In my dream, the “heaven” I was in was nice, peaceful. Pleasant enough people, the surroundings were ok. But it wasn’t Heaven. Jesus wasn’t there. It was just a nice place. Kind of like our country. Nice place. Not heaven. 

 

For some reason, right now, Christians on both sides of the political spectrum seem to be taking a stance that if their candidate wins, we will be able to have a country where the Kingdom of God can be advanced. But, if the other side wins, the future of Christianity is in grave peril. 

I would like to put forth the idea that God is sovereign. He can and will advance his kingdom no matter who is in office. And while our country is a nice place, filled with nice people, it’s not heaven. It’s not the headquarters for God’s kingdom. God’s throne is not in Washington D.C. (thank God!). Believe it or not, this upcoming election is not going to be a deciding factor on whether God’s kingdom advances. 

 

Now, I know that by now, everyone is mad at me. I’m sorry. I understand that your political stance is very important to you. And I understand that you are very worried about the upcoming election. Thinking about our country being led by a political leader you don’t respect and don’t agree with is alarming. And right now, our political beliefs are so strong that we seem to have overset our tendencies to be polite and respectful to other people. 

 

We need to understand something though. There are born-again, on fire, devoted believers on both sides of the political spectrum. And when we start tossing around the term “unchristian” concerning our political beliefs, we are causing a LOT of division in the body of Christ. And we are living in a state of fear that is unnecessary. God is on his throne, his kingdom is not in danger. Yes, your Christian beliefs have shaped how you feel you should vote. But please understand, this is true for both sides!!

 

So, yes, have your political beliefs. Campaign for your favorite candidate. But keep in mind, this is an earthly kingdom we are talking about. Somehow, our country is going to have to gain some unity. And a good first step is to stop throwing around the term “unchristian”. 

School: Day 4

School: Day 4 

 

I’m feeling the need to try and figure out what I’m feeling about this school year. Every day this week I have rolled out of bed at 6am when my alarm goes off, jumped into the shower, took all my vitamins and supplements, sat and had my devotions. This morning I grabbed my phone, which I purposefully leave far away from my bed, so I have to get up, and then I climbed back into bed for another half hour. I’m starting to feel a little tired. My homeschooling-seventh grader is still asleep, and instead of dragging him out of bed at 7:30am to eat breakfast so we can get started by eight, I’m letting him sleep a bit longer. In the past three days I’ve figured out that we actually get our work done pretty quickly. There is no rush. 

 

I’m having mixed feelings about homeschooling. I think the primary problem is that I really don’t want to be homeschooling. I am doing it because all of our school options are wacky this year, and this is the best option for these three kids. 

 

There are things I’m enjoying. My second grader brought me a library book to read in the middle of the school day. Sure. I can read it to you. The book happened to be about a little girl in South Sudan. So, we read the book, then I thought, Hey, let’s go with this. So, I pulled out our kid’s “Circling the Globe” book, and we looked up Sudan, read about it. Googled some pictures on the internet. The story was about the need for wells and clean drinking water and so I told her some personal missionary stories that I know about providing wells and clean drinking water to people in need. 

Here’s a pic of the book. It’s actually an excellent read, I was getting teary eyed at the end. I just happened to grab it off the library shelf for a read aloud to take home. 

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My kindergartner was doing a rather simplistic Social Studies Lesson where he had to draw a picture of his house. I was able to go grab my “The Usborne Book of Houses and Homes” where they have pictures and descriptions of homes from all over the world. The second grader joined us and we picked out which ones were our favorites which included marsh homes in Southern Iraq and carved rock homes in Turkey. 

 

I love the fact that I can have my kids do a lesson and then send them outside to jump on the trampoline for ten minutes. The fact that we migrate around. Let’s sit on the couch for this lesson. Let’s sit at the dining room table. Let’s sit on my easy chair. I’m enjoying teaching the kids music, here, let’s clap out this rhythm! 

 

I also am enjoying the fact that I can help my second grader get caught up in areas she’s weak in. And my kindergartner has been able to just move into first grade level books, because he already knows all the kindergarten stuff. These are all good things.

 

But I’m a little worried. Worried about my mental state. Worried about whether I can maintain a positive attitude. Worried about my seventh grader getting behind in band, wondering how I can get him access to a baritone horn so he can practice at home. I’m worried about my second grader who has made it very clear to me that she is home against her wishes. She wants to be at school. And we have a daily conversation about the reasons I have kept her home this semester. I worry about how I’m going to keep these guys occupied in all our spare time. 

 

I worry about my public school kids too. Our elementary school had a hard lock down  yesterday because of something happening in the vicinity of the school. My fourth grader told me she had to hide in a closet and she was scared. And that’s just not right. These kids do NOT need this added stress in their lives. But at the same time, they are SO happy to be back at school. I won’t even go into my highschooler doing virtual school. That should have it’s very own blog. 

 

So, here I am. Happy. Worried. Determined. Worried. Frazzled. Worried. Confident. Worried. Insecure. Worried. And basically just wishing that all the uncertainty of this year was over with. 

 

The past two days I have had two different people post a bible verse that resonated with me. 

 

Habakkuk 3: 17-18

 

Though the fig tree does not bud

    and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

    and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

    and no cattle in the stalls, 

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

 

This school year is not what I wanted for us. I am struggling with worry. So, I will rejoice in the Lord. He never changes. He has gone before me. He has hedged me in, behind and before. I will trust in his goodness and take it one day at a time. 

 

My Cats are Lame

My cats stink at being cats. 

 

We have had a mouse in our upstairs for a couple weeks, and you think, well, surely if you have four cats, this will not be a problem at all. In fact, the first time my daughter frantically texted me from her bedroom (on a night when my husband was not home), telling me she saw a mouse in her bedroom, my first response was, put the cats in your room! They’ll save you! (Cause I’m sure not going to do anything!) And my daughters ran and got the cats and the cats’ response was to get comfortable on my daughter’s beds (the cats are usually refused entrance to the teenaged hallowed domain). 

 

I talked to my husband about the mouse problem and he suggested that our cats would surely take care of it. Just give them a minute. 

 

Several minutes or weeks later, (today actually) my daughter complained again about a mouse in her room. Ugh. I guess it’s time to go buy some traps. I hate killing things. Even annoying mice. 

 

Then tonight as I was trying to get kids to bed, my daughter starts yelling out in the hallway. 

 

THE CAT HAS A MOUSE!! 

 

I ran to the doorway of the room I was in and saw the cat with a very alive mouse in the hall. 

 

Playing with it. 

 

Not hurting it. 

 

Not killing it. 

 

Not dragging it away out of our sight. 

 

Nope. 

 

Just letting it go and then chasing it whenever it ran. 

 

I looked around for something to jump up on, just in case the mouse ran in my direction. Little kids started running into the hall to see what was happening and I was yelling at everyone to get back into their bedrooms. Yelling at the cat to just kill the mouse or take it away! Then the mouse ran under a folded sheet that happened to be on the floor. (I have no idea why there was a folded sheet on the floor, it seems to be a favorite pastime of my children to haul things off the linen shelf and just leave them on the floor, it’s a mystery.) 

 

The cat was circling the sheet, trying to figure out where the mouse was and the five year old thought he should come and pick up the sheet, just to see what would happen. I’m yelling for him to get away before the mouse runs up his legs. Then the eleven and thirteen year old boys run out of their room. 

 

What’s going on? 

 

GET THE MOUSE!! YOUR CAT HAS A MOUSE! CATCH IT! 

 

They both quickly jumped into macho-man mode and tried to catch the mouse. Working in tandem, one son pinned the mouse to the floor with a stuffed animal. 

 

Ok. What are you going to do now? 

 

He shrugs. I don’t know. 

 

Then he lets it loose again!

 

DON’T LET IT LOOSE AGAIN!!!

 

But he redeems himself by scooping up the mouse with the sheet and making a run for the stairs to take it outside. 

 

YAY!! You are our hero!

 

Dumb cats. 

Weak Spots

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Today was my son’s thirteenth birthday and we celebrated by going to the Smoky Mountains to play in the river. I had been watching the weather reports and it said it would rain, but by lunchtime, our city was sunny, so I was hopeful. But, as we approached the mountains, we could see heavy rain clouds covering everything. Ah well. The whole point was to go and get wet. What difference did it make if it was rain water or river water? 

 

The rain actually helped us. We went to Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area, which is usually full and very busy, and we found a picnic table right away, right next to the path we needed to go down, and right next to the restrooms. This never happens. But the rain was pushing people out. We put out some of our picnic stuff then headed down to the river, rain sprinkling down. 

 

The kids had a lot of fun. There is a big rock with a deep pool beneath it that people like to jump off. The kids had fun jumping off the rock, riding the current down the river, climbing on rocks, swimming. I hung out with the three year old. He adopted a favorite rock in the middle of the river and spent most of the time playing there. 

 

Later on the rain let up and we headed back to the picnic site to do birthday cake and snacks. Then, after cleaning up, back to the river. By the time we got back, you could see some blue sky and the sun was shining. A couple other families had ventured out now and were also jumping off the rock. 

 

I observed as one father tried to get his young son (maybe two?) to jump off the rock. The child was terrified and was refusing. Screaming. The father finally picked up the child and jumped off the rock with him, the child screaming all the way down. After they resurfaced, the father turned in triumph to his son, See! It was fun! The child kept crying and the father insisted that he try to jump again.  Later on the same dad made a comment to his older son (maybe nine or ten?) that he should STOP BEING A GIRL and do a flip off the rock. The son looked angry and sullen, but he didn’t do a flip off the rock. 

 

This family eventually packed up and moved on and another family soon appeared. The contrast was amazing. The second family also had younger and older children. The father jumped off the rock then swam below. He held out his arms and called to his daughter, Jump! You can do it! The girl who looked around six or seven, hesitated a moment and then took a flying leap off the rock towards her father. Lots of cheers and compliments. 

 

As I sat and watched all this, I thought about how we handle these things. Our general policy in the outdoors is, if you can do it by yourself, without help, then you are probably old enough to do it. We told our kids they could jump off the rock if they wanted to, the weak swimmers needed to be wearing their life vests. All the older kids launched themselves into the air.  We told the five year old he could jump if he wanted, but he didn’t have to. He sat and thought about it for a while, then grinned and took a flying leap. The three year old also climbed onto the rock. He was getting close to the edge (he had his life vest on) and we asked if he wanted to jump. He looked down at the water…shook his head. Nope. (Smart kid, he takes after me.) My husband encouraged me to jump as well. I took a look at the drop off and the cold water below and I agreed with the three year old. Nope. That does not look like fun. I made an off-color joke about why I couldn’t jump and then climbed down the side of the rock with the three year old into the water.  End of story. 

 

And I wonder as I think about the Pushy Dad. Does he constantly live with a feeling of having to prove himself all the time?  Prove you’re a man. Prove you’re strong and brave. Does he feel pushed into doing things he doesn’t want to do, cause he has to prove something? And does he push his own boys, because he has to prove they are brave as well?  And I just wish I could say, Stop Striving! You’re enough!  God accepts you as you are. God made you the way you are. No one’s keeping track of how many feats of bravery you did. No one cares if your sons don’t like jumping off high places. No one cares if they happen to like music and theater instead of football and car mechanics. They are individuals. You are an individual. Don’t feel like you have to conform to some cookie cutter stereotype. Be yourself, and above all,  let your boys be themselves. Celebrate their uniqueness. Stop striving. 

 

Then I have to stop and think for a minute. What weaknesses am I blind to in myself? How am I inadvertently passing these things on to my own children? Cause, I can be proud and say, I’m nothing like that dad I saw today, but in reality, I’m sure I’ve got my own stuff that comes out in its own toxic-parenting way. And I find myself praying for more grace as I observe the human race around me. Lord, open my eyes to see what I am blind to in myself, and give me grace when I notice the weakness in others. 

 

It’s OK to be Sad

Do any of you struggle with feeling Big Feelings? I always feel like I need to apologize for being depressed or angry or sad. Like, these emotions are on the bad list and I need to switch over to Happy and Content and Peaceful as soon as possible. 

 

This week has been a bit rough for our family. My kids have been dragging around and have been downright depressed. Do you want to go to the creek to play? No. Do you want to go to the one open playground that I know about? No. Do you want to go bike riding? No. And then they ask, when is school starting? When can we see our friends again?

 

We have talked about school, how it’s going to look different for the kids who are going to the actual school building. Social distancing! Masks! Don’t share things! The little kids who I’m keeping home to homeschool, want to know, again, why they can’t go to the building? And I’m tempted to just go and enroll them and hope for the best. Except that all the reasons I have for homeschooling still exist. I’m sorry sweetie. If school has to shut down for sickness, I don’t want you having to do computer school when you’re only in 2nd grade. But, if everything goes smoothly this semester, I’ll put you in school in January. We just have to wait and see.  

 

And I realize, my kids are mourning. They are mourning their lives being turned upside down. School being different. “I hate the coronavirus!” has become a common refrain. A couple of my kids seem to have just closed in on themselves. Kids who always needed a bit of a push to engage, and now I have nowhere to push them. 

 

And I’m wracking my brain, trying to figure out how to help them, and realizing I’m in the same boat. I’m feeling isolated and scared to make any plans because things might change at any moment. I will have three kids in the school building which means, there is the possibility, every single day, that I will get a phone call saying that one of my kids has been exposed to a positive case of Covid-19 and now we all have to quarantine. Not fun.

 

I think about needing community, and things to look forward to. I contemplate planning musical evenings, and poetry nights, and having people over. And I really want to, but I’m fighting the unease. What if I have a bunch of people over, and then a day later, I find out that one of my kids has been exposed and we have to quarantine, and now I have to call a bunch of people and tell them, hey, you might have been exposed. While I am not overly concerned about getting sick (as my husband says, it’s a virus, you can’t stop a virus, we are all going to get it eventually) I still feel bad about causing alarm to anyone else. And so, I drag my feet about planning gatherings. 

 

And I realize that I am also mourning. I am mourning that I can’t send my kindergartner to school. He’s been looking forward to it for a long time. I have too. Yeah, he’ll do fine homeschooling, but I wanted him to have all those Firsts. First day of school. First time meeting your teacher and class. First time getting to go school with the big kids. I am mourning the fact that everything is uncertain. Yes, we will establish this schedule, but everything might change. You never know. I am mourning the fact that inviting people to my home now feels risky. Yes, we’ll have a cookout this weekend, Lord willing, and we don’t have to quarantine! I am mourning the fact that my daughter won’t be doing ROTC this year. My quirky son won’t be able to try out for the school play. My other son won’t be doing soccer club in the after school program. My second grader won’t get to see if her best friend is in her class again this year. 

 

We are all mourning. And I keep feeling like I need to apologize for not feeling perky and happy. 

 

So, No Apologies! This year has been hard! It’s ok to not have it all together. It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to mourn. 

 

My mourning is not hopeless. My trust is in the Lord. I know that he will bring good things out of the bad and he will carry us through this time. But, in the meantime, it’s ok to be sad. 

Switched Off

Today marks one month of no tv for the family and no devices for the younger kids. Supposedly the teens and I have reduced our phone usage to two hours. But I haven’t got a good handle on how that’s going yet. 

 

I decided that I had a tv/device habit that needed to be kicked. So, the tv has been removed to my husband’s shop and the devices are put away in a drawer. 

 

Things I have learned since turning everything off…

 

I have been seriously dependent on the tv to calm my kids down, entertain them, give myself quiet time, babysit them when I’m gone, and just basically fill any gap that pops up in our day. 

 

It has definitely helped me to be lazy in my parenting. 

 

Let me just state for the record, there have been seasons where tv has saved my life. Even the last season we just came out of, I don’t know how I would have done it without being able to turn the tv on. Our devices have been a motivational tool during this pandemic that have gotten us through a lot of school work and chores with minimal pain. Tv and devices are good tools. As long as you are controlling the tools and the tools aren’t controlling you.

 

I think what has mainly been the deciding factor for turning everything off this time (cause, yes, I’ve done this before), is that I want to change the culture of our home. I want us to have a reading culture. I want my kids to know how to get creative when they’re bored instead of just whining to watch a show. I want us to have family time in the evenings where we have devotions and read books and poetry out loud and do music together. And somehow, I had let the tv take over the house and we had lost those things. So, we’ve turned everything off. 

 

Mentally, it’s been a big adjustment. I am having to learn that instead of just sending everyone off to watch a show when they’re driving me crazy, I can send everyone to their rooms, or send everyone outside. In the evenings, instead of retreating to my room, I am learning to settle on the couch with a giant pile of books that we read out loud. During the day I am offering piano lessons to bored children, crafts, learning games, trips to the library. I am also trying to turn a blind eye to random forts and clubhouses that are popping up all over the house, toys littering my bedroom floor, kids digging around in my drawers cause they need paper to write a book or a play. 

 

Honestly, I think turning the tv off has hurt me the most, not the kids. I have to be more engaged. Put up with more chaos. Deal with more messes. 

 

But, overall, we’ve had good results. 

 

My five and seven year olds have been keeping a list of all the books they’ve either read themselves or had read to them, and they are close to 100. The older kids have significantly increased the number of books they’re reading. My older boys have gotten very creative with their legos. My nine year old wrote a play. The three year old is sitting with books, pretending that he is reading, pointing at the words, making up the story as he goes. And, best of all, all the kids are desperately anxious for school to start. Me too. 

 

I told the kids we would do this for four months. We’ll see how it goes. 

Truth

In the book The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis (the last book in the Narnia series) there is a great deception where an ape and a donkey attempt to pretend that they are Aslan. Many people are fooled. But there is a group of Dwarves who remain skeptical. Later in the story, the deception is revealed and the dwarves are confronted with the Real followers of the Real Aslan, but they refuse to believe them. They say that they aren’t going to be tricked again. Later, even when they are face to face with the real Aslan, they still won’t believe. Holding firm to their determination to not be “taken in” they can’t see the truth, even when it roars in their face. 

 

I’ve always felt a bit of disdain for these dwarves. What was their problem? They were so determined to not be taken in by another deception, that they lost their ability to see the truth. In the book, there was no solution. There was no way to help these dwarves. 

 

This morning I opened up my email, read through the various news outlet updates I get. New York Times had an article where they were trying to figure out how Qanon had become so influential. Now, I’m going to come right out and say that the New York Times is incapable of writing anything from any other perspective than Democrat and liberal. They just can’t do it. They are incapable. Just like Fox News is completely Republican and conservative. I like to glance through both just to see what the Democrats are believing these days and see what the Republicans are believing these days. I also enjoy a whole host of articles from Facebook that promote all kinds of theories and “conspiracy theories” and all kinds of ideas. Some of them are so badly written and full of blatantly erroneous material, that you know right away it’s just quackery. Others are more convincing. 

 

This morning, I admit, I felt a bit like the dwarves from The Last Battle. This is all lies! No one is telling the truth! It is impossible to know what is true and false any more! Bah Humbug to all of you. I’m done. I’m done with social media. I’m done with the news. I’m just going to live my simple life here in my house with my family and forget about trying to stay up with what is happening in the bigger world around me. I’m done being “taken in”. 

 

And it’s scary. Because I don’t think I’m the only one in this situation. Our culture is being bombarded with “News” and the news is saying exact opposite things depending on whether you read Liberal or Conservative, and in the end, we are all skeptical and don’t trust any of it. And if we do hold to one side or the other, we are accused of Drinking the Koolaide, and basically being idiots for being “taken in”. 

 

Here’s the thing. I know the truth, and it’s not found in a news site. It’s found in the Bible. I can cling to God’s word. I can say, ok, the world is screwing me over, trying to trick me, but at least I know that This is True. This is a Solid Rock that I can cling to. 

 

But what about those people that don’t know the Bible is true? They are being bombarded by so many lies, so many conflicting ideas. In the end, are they just going to scoff at the Bible as well? I’m not being “taken in” by those old myths! I think it’s a very real possibility. The more our culture twists and plays with “truth”, the more likely people are to not believe anything. And I don’t know how we can stop this from happening. 

 

I have, on occasion, had conversations with my older children about truth. How can we really know that the Bible is true? In the end, after all my logical arguments and proofs, in the end, it comes down to me and my life and my experience. I can tell them, I have met Jesus. He talks to me. I have felt his presence. He has changed MY life. The word of God has comforted me, it has given me wisdom, it has given me direction, it has given me hope. I am who I am because of God and his word. 

 

As we try and navigate these dangerous times where we can no longer rely on our leaders and news outlets to tell us the truth, I’m reminded of a story my parents told me as a child. A young man is apprenticed to a Goldsmith. He shows up to his first day of work. The goldsmith gives him a chunk of gold and tells him to sit in the corner and hold the gold in his hand. He is not given anything else to do. All day he just sits and holds the gold in his hands. The next day he is given the same task. This goes on for several weeks. Finally the young man has had enough. He walks into work and tells the Goldsmith, I want to learn how to work with gold! You aren’t teaching me anything! The Goldsmith looks at him, nods, and throws a chunk to him, Here, hold this gold. The young man catches the chunk in his hand then exclaims, Hey! This isn’t gold! And the Goldsmith smiles and says, Now you are ready to work with gold. 

 

If we want to know the truth and be able to discern the truth, we are going to have to spend a lot of time in the truth, with the truth. Memorizing the truth. Meditating on the truth. And as far as convincing others, in the end all we can do is say, Look at my life. I am who I am because of God and his word. 

 

I am feeling more and more the need to withdraw from the drama of this world and put my focus on God’s word. It’s the only truth I can be certain of.

 

Psalm 1: 1-2

 

Blessed is the man

Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,

Nor stands in the path of sinners,

Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night.

Happy Anniversary

This weekend my husband and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. We kept it pretty low-key. Went out to eat one night, and then on The Day we went for an evening paddle in our canoe while my parents watched the kids. 

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My husband patiently held the canoe while I gingerly climbed in. I have yet to master the art of getting in and out of a canoe gracefully. I was sitting up front, he was behind me. He gave me some pointers on holding my paddle. I adjusted accordingly. We pointed out birds that we could see, fish jumping out of the water. There were many times that we were silent for so long that I half-wondered if my husband was still in the canoe. But, I could feel the tug and pull of his paddling as we sliced through the water. At one point in time, I felt him shifting around, getting a drink from the water bottle, and I was the only one paddling. Suddenly the canoe was barely moving, making it obvious to me that my paddling efforts were not really what was making us move. 

 

We went up the lake and found a creek that we explored a bit. The water narrowing, trees over top of us.

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Then the canoe started tipping back and forth and I could hear a scrabble behind me.

Long pause.

I finally asked, What are you doing? 

I’m trying to get rid of a spider.

The canoe stopped tipping. 

Another long pause. 

Then he says, He’s headed your way now. 

WHAT! 

Just how big a spider are we talking about??

 

Fortunately no spider attacked me. 

 

We ended our paddle peacefully. 

 

And I think about marriage. What do I say to my kids as they approach the age of where marriage is something to think about? 

 

I would say, marry someone that you can be silent with. Marry someone who’s willing to pull the weight of the canoe just cause they want to be with you, and they don’t care how bad you are at paddling. Marry someone whose company brings you peace and a feeling of safety and well-being. 

 

As I write this blog and smell the Chili burning on the stove, because I forgot I was cooking. As usual. I would also add, marry someone who will eat your burnt Chili without comment. 

 

Happy Anniversary My Love. 

You Don’t Belong Here

You don’t belong here. 

 

This has long been a theme in my life. As a white American child growing up in Haiti, I felt it, You don’t belong here. Even in Haiti among the different missionary groups, each group keeping to themselves, You don’t belong here. 

 

Living in Eastern Kentucky, attending a small country school with the name Esther Picazo. Every time my name was called to take roll, it was there, as the teacher stumbled over how to pronounce Picazo, You don’t belong here. 

 

Maybe the only time in my childhood that I didn’t feel that singling out was when we lived in Bush Alaska, in a town that was about half Y’upik Eskimo and half white Americans. Somehow, the culture of that little town made me feel welcome, even if it was only for a couple years. 

 

But then college, as I walked past a group of tall, tanned, blond girls, all talking about fashion and their latest dates, I felt it radiating out to me, You don’t belong here. 

 

My time in Chile was more of the same, as I struggled to communicate in my very poor Spanish, a look of surprise and then, Oh, You don’t belong here! 

 

Moving to our little city here in Eastern Tennessee, everywhere you go, there are pre-existing groups of friends. Polite, but still holding up the invisible sign, You don’t belong here. 

 

And over time, you learn how to make your own groups of friends, you carve out your own little niche. Create your own little cliques. A fortress where you can stand and say, This is where I belong! Though sometimes the walls of that fortress are a little shaky. Sometimes they don’t withstand time. Sometimes those friend groups dissolve. Sometimes the cliques reform and suddenly you are not on the inside, but are left out in the cold, You don’t belong here. 

 

And sometimes I forget. I think it’s just me. I’m the only one that feels this way. Everyone else belongs. I’m the only outsider. 

 

Except. If you listen to enough people. Really listen. You find out. Most people feel this way at some time or another. 

 

Many years ago, during a worship service at our church, God gave me a vision. I was standing in heaven, before the throne of God and my knees were shaking and I was overawed. And God spoke in this thundering voice and he said, What right do you have to be standing here? And I almost panicked. Sure this was the end. I had no right to be here. I was so sinful and imperfect. But then, I looked at myself, and I realized that I was entirely covered, head-to-toe in a white gown, all my imperfections were hidden underneath this gown. And I spoke boldly. I said, I can be here because I’m covered. I’m covered with Jesus’ righteousness. And I showed off the gown. And God smiled his approval. And my fear went away. I knew everything was ok. I could be there. I was welcomed. I belonged. 

 

The last verse to the hymn Solid Rock has been going through my head.

 

When he shall come with trumpet sound,

O may I then in him be found,

dressed in his righteousness alone,

faultless to stand before the throne. 

 

And maybe that’s just another reason I love Jesus so much. He claimed me. He paid the price for my sin. He opened up a way for me to be with him and he stands with open arms and says, Come, this is where you belong. With me. 

One List at a Time

We are back from vacation! I think the drive home hit our world record for least eventful, fastest, calmest drive we’ve ever had.  We did twenty hours straight, drove through the night. Only stopped for bathroom breaks and to get gas, one pass through the drive thru. Kids didn’t fight. No complaints about being bored. We didn’t even watch any movies, just listened to music. I do not have any idea why everything went so well. It’s never happened before. 

 

So, after this amazing trip, I walk into my home. And I’m greeted by an old musty house that is pretty messy. No couches in the living room cause they were nasty and I threw them out a couple weeks before vacation. Stacks of homeschooling books. Clutter. Lots of unfinished projects. My daughter runs up to me, When are we going school shopping? Can we go right now? (What??) No, we JUST got home. We are not going shopping. (School starts the middle of August here.) 

 

I look through the mail. Bills. People needing information from me. Phone calls I need to make. 

 

Mom, when are we taking our kittens to the vet? Uh..soon. Not today. 

 

What’s for supper Mom? Uh, let’s see what’s in the freezer, I need to go grocery shopping. 

 

Mom! The fish tank needs more water! Yes, I will fix it tomorrow. 

 

I sink into my chair. Yikes. Deep breath. Today. Focus on today. Today, I’m going to unpack a couple things, take a shower. Go to bed. 

 

This morning I woke up and again had to fight off the urge to get overwhelmed. One step at a time. In order to get myself from fretting, I sat down and wrote a list of goals. Things I want to happen sometime this Fall. 

 

Personal goals: Exercise every day, get my blood sugar under control.

 

Spiritual goals: family devotions, bible memory.

 

Household goals: buy couches, get a homeschooling space set up.

 

School goals: get everyone ready for the school year, get a school routine going.

 

Nothing unrealistic. All stuff that needs to happen. Writing it down makes me feel better.  When it’s all written down, it feels possible. Like, one day, I will wake up, and all these things will be checked off this list! 

 

I am feeling optimistic about the future. Homeschooling is actually sounding fun. It helps that it will only be three kids, not seven.  I ordered some books for the coming year and I was flipping through them today, How many chapters? How many months do we have? How many pages do we need to get done a day to finish this on time? And it was fun. I’m feeling ready to hit the stores and buy out the school supply department. 🙂 

 

This coming school year, with kids in public school, doing virtual school (one highschooler decided to stay home and do virtual school instead), and homeschool, it is going to be weird, and unnatural, and uncomfortable, and alarming at times. But right now, coming from a place of rest and refreshment, I just have the attitude of Bring it On. I’m ready. One step at a time. One list at a time.