Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Living In Between

When you say you want something, but you do nothing to attain it, what is that called?
Lack of vision?
Poor discipline?
Self-esteem issues?
Fear of commitment?

It's something. I don't know what to call it, but I can tell you how it feels. It's miserable.

It's living "in between".

This is my relationship with many things in my life, loose fitting goals strung out in front of me. I read them like a menu: Should I do this or not? And then I choose not to order.

It's bothered me more and more lately that so much of my life is lived in the space between. With finances, with relationships, with God, with fitness and health. I choose not to choose.

And then that is my choice. This strange, icky, in between place where I feel compelled to do something, and yet repelled by it at the same time.

I want to spend more time with God. Why don't I?
I want to focus more on my family. Why don't I?
I want to write three times a week on my blog. Why don't I?
I want to be in shape physically? Why aren't I?

I talked to my friends about this phenomenon last week. My friend Kerry called it something like "competing values". I have a value to love God, but I also value something else more, or else I would spend the time with him that I want.

I have a value for health and fitness. But I value something else more, or else I would be fit.

This is the painful part. Peering under the boulders of inertia to see what my values truly are.

And do you want to know what mine are?

I think nearly every time I looked, I saw laziness, fear or a desire for comfort.

Really? These three things are shaping my life and destiny? Planning my days and moments?

Really? It's so disappointing. Our actions display our true values better than anything else we do. But how often do we stop to evaluate how well our actions actually match our values? I rarely do.

Instead, I made peace with the discomfort of in between. Why? I guess it's obvious by now: because it was too uncomfortable to change.

We all do it.

But if you're fortunate, if you're very, very lucky or blessed or divinely favored, something will happen and you will become uncomfortable again. A cosmic event, tiny or giant, will come along like an undertoe and sweep you up and you will just have to go with it. You will be forced to change, to adapt, to see yourself as you truly are.

But only if you're lucky.

And yet, the thing we need most, the discomfort, is what our comfortable selves spend our lives avoiding. Strange, isn't it?

I started asking for help a while ago, sending up loud, pleading prayers, recognizing my helplessness to make real, significant change.

For as progressive as the human race is, we truly are so limited in managing our own hearts and behaviors. We need help.

I don't like asking for help. I don't like discomfort. But even more than these, the thought that laziness, fear and a motivation for comfort are directing my life with more strength than God's calling on my life, that is too painful to ignore.

I'm making changes. They start with an acknowledgement I'm no good at self-help, a repentance for living without intention. And they're followed by one of Anne Lamott's favorite prayers: "Help!"

And then I try again.

[Photo credit: www.artisamerica.org]

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Happiness is...

...being reunited with the love of your life the day after your 2nd anniversary after he'd been gone at war for nine months.

Oh my gosh, don't you just love it? Miraculous.

Congratulations to my two wonderful friends who got to be together again today after a grueling nine-month separation. (In case you don't recognize her, this is my favorite photographer, our family go-to, Emma from RoseWheat Photography with her lovely hubby, Jeff.) 

I wrote about another reunion of theirs less than a year ago, the beautiful waiting, the longing that built up and the moment of togetherness. How it feels like our yearning for Jesus. 

A few months later, I dreamed a dream he'd make it back to us, safe and sound.

And today, here they are, together, having conquered an entire deployment already. And now, back together and stronger than ever.

Aw, man. Will you look at that? Just perfect.

All the 1940's postcards I've seen in the bookstores pale in comparison to the heart-melting emotion of their reunion. I've been staring at these photos every chance I get tonight. Their incredible photographer from Hello, Gorgeous. Photography captured the intensity just right.

Don't you just love love?

Monday, January 21, 2013

What God Hates More Than Bad Government

When God donned human flesh and arrived on earth around 2000 years ago, he knew there was a big problem. But God's idea of the problem, and therefore his solution, were a little different than the expectations to which he arrived. 

Scriptures foretold a powerful warrior king who would rescue all people and set up an infinite and eternal kingdom of his own. In fact, God-experts and prophets had been talking up a great salvation for hundreds if not thousands of years by the time he got there. 

The legalistic few had plenty of time to define the problem: the truest, wildest oppressors were the men and women who ruled over them with a heavy hand, who did not have their best interests in mind. 

This problem in clear view, they knew exactly who were looking for: A king who would use military strength to overthrow oppressive governments who were in opposition to their God, culture and way of life. 

So it's no wonder when Jesus showed up as a carpenter from the wrong side of Israel, all scraggly and earthy, it was clear he was not the long-awaited Savior. 

photo cred: throughthescriptures.wordpress.com

Jesus, a guy who doesn't bother to start his ministry until he is 30. Not at all in a rush to solve world hunger by age 25. Not making a run for public office. Hanging out with children and sick people and various vagabonds and ruffians. He just didn't seem to have much of a political agenda. 

Sure, he spoke like a man who knew what he was talking about. He had the nation talking, a figure of controversy. He started a movement. 

But he was no king. 

Don't stop what you're doing and get all bothered with this guy," the teachers of the law urged the people. "He's obviously not the one we're waiting for."

That much was clear. He was NOT who they were waiting for. Jesus was not the answer to their problem. 

But God, being God and all, had a wider scope of the problem. He saw human history as impacted by a far greater evil, a much more wicked tyrant: sin. Sin and its deception that we too can be God plunged humanity into its deepest darkness without a plan for self-rescue

This problem did not touch only one small people group. Everyone alive was under the spell. 

So along came Jesus, into the muck. Knowing he would arrive to a people who should be eager to meet him, and yet he would become the nation's greatest disappointment

Today we still pick the wrong enemy. We magnify the darkness of tyrannical governments and the political agendas of others with whom we disagree, only to miss the world's most horrific evil: the sin and pride in every human heart

It's in me. It's in you. We all want to be God. This motive is behind every war, every mass genocide, every murder, every hateful thought. 

And if it weren't for Jesus, we and the whole earth, would be stuck this way. 

But thank God for Jesus, who understood the true oppressor and dealt with it violently. Putting death to death, ripping away its sting forever. 

But to live in the freedom we've been afforded, we must identify the problem the same as God does. What evil do we hate most? Is it those who disagree with us or those who vote differently than us? Or do we hate above all things the sin found in our own heart? This is where God can swing in with generous helpings of the grace and freedom Jesus purchased with his death.

As we see our President swear in for four more years, whether we agree with his beliefs and intentions or not, please be conscious of the thoughts and intent of your own heart. Because those are what Jesus died for.  

One final note:
We do not hate ourselves - not ever. That is not agreement with God as we are made in his image. To hate self is to hate God. But he despise anything that comes out of us that disagrees with who God is and ask for grace to rebel against it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weekend Happenings: A Rustic Pink Vintage Baby Shower

I hosted a shower for one of my very dear friends this weekend. She is the first of my close friends to have a second baby, and this one is a girl so I am thrilled to give myself the title "Aunt Sarah" so I can have official access to purchasing all the pink, fluff and tullage a girl could want.

My lovely friend modeling a rubber ducky with an attitude.

Let it be known that I am not the cute, crafty mom that blogs about showers and parties and crafts. In fact, I don't even like cooking or baking. Fortunately, three of my friends helped me with food so all I had to do was whip up Mama Jean's amazing coffee cake, and I was done. That way I could focus on the part of the shower I enjoy most: decorating and design.

I throw showers and parties for friends fairly often, and although it makes me a little crazy in the process, I do enjoy gobbling up design blogs to see what other people have done. I always end up with a million ideas at the last minute. Like the idea to make party favor bookmarks from lace, ribbon and my Victorian scrapbook paper. Too late for that idea - not enough time, but maybe next time. 

I'm imaginative, but I'm also on a budget so I opted for the mostly pink fabrics and textures I already had around the house. I wanted to have a little Victorian touch to the rustic chic already in our home. Here is a tour of what I came up with:

Picking fabrics and textures is always fun, especially when your friend's baby girl is involved.

I don't really like games at showers or parties. The fun always feels forced, contrived and inauthentic. It's a bad feeling. Instead I like to pick activities or crafts for guests. I had a Barbie princess puzzle laid out on a table for guests to work on. I also picked this idea below as an activity for guests and way for them to give my friend a happy wish or prayer for the baby.

I call it The Blessing Tree, a combination of ideas I found on the blogs, specifically this idea from Baby Lifestyles. I am quite proud of this so feel free to steal the idea. I found a few small branches with some character in the yard, and used tulle to help them maintain position in the vase. Then I cut out leaves and birds from Victorian-style scrapbook paper and used clothes pins to clip them to the branches. 

Guests were directed to "write a prayer, wish or blessing for the baby" to be used to decorate the baby's room. I'm really excited for this to materialize in the decor of the room, although we're not totally sure how we will incorporate it yet. 

I will definitely be using The Blessing Tree at other showers though. Such an easy, pretty and fun idea.

The Blessing Tree 

Here is the Victorian paper again, this time with the baby name written on it. These are spin-off of a super cute baby girl shower theme, again from Baby Lifestyles.

In the bathroom, I classed up the towels by providing individual hand towels for guests with a small basin to disgard used towels. And there's the Victorian paper again. It goes with everything!

I love this glass lantern/cage my aunts and mother-in-law bought me for my wedding. I use it for decorating for the seasons and to display simple decor for parties and showers. Here I rolled dried flowers in pink tulle and placed it in the lantern. So easy. 

"Put a bird on it" door hanging. I love this too. I used these birds at a bridal shower earlier last year and repurposed them with a branch as a door hanging with the baby's name written on the birds. Also used the Victorian paper and extra branch from the yard at the top.

And here is my friend, opening one of her many gifts. She is very loved! Can't wait to meet this little girl. She is going to be one amazing little woman, just like her mom.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What the Waiting Is For

I was thinking about my daughter the other day. 

I don't know her yet. She hasn't been born. But for Christmas, I bought her a pink polka-dotted tutu from JCPenney. It seemed appropriate. I practically lived in mine the year I was 6. 

There's also an antique pink rose headband waiting for her, along with a plush, white crochet coat hanging in her closet. And she hasn't even been conceived. I'm expecting her though.

As I gave John a bath the other night, I remembered that not very long ago, he too was just a dream. Three years ago in December 2009, I wrote about waiting for something I really wanted, and the wrestling with God that inevitably followed when I took a risk and hoped for something. 

Is God good while we wait? 

What is the waiting for? 

Why does waiting feel so empty?

Why is hoping so risky?

Photo cred: http://viraeya24.tumblr.com/

These are the questions we ask when we want something and are forced to wait, and I've realized, we often give up without really asking. The longing hurts too much. What if God doesn't come through? What does that say about God? What does that say about me?

I hate to say it, but that's what I did this time. With John, I didn't know if I could get pregnant or not. I never had before. I prayed and lamented and cried and begged. I wanted a child, and I only knew one person who could get one for me: God. 

This time, I've been more hands-off. I've disguised it as a laid-back approach to conceiving, but it's really lack of faith turned apathy. I've been afraid to hope. 

I wrote about it in the dream blog. I tell my friends about it. I even buy her clothes. But I don't talk with God about it. I don't plead anymore. Too much to lose. I remember it hurt, the sting of wanting something I was helpless to get for myself, only to wait and delay again. I would rather just pretend I don't want it. Maybe she will surprise me

So what do I really want? And what am I willing to do to get it? 

My friends and I are reading through Donald Miller's Storyline book, and these are the ultimate questions of our lives: 
Who am I? 
What do I want? 
And what am I willing to do to get it?

The Civil Wars were playing in the background while John splashed in the tub, and the album arrived at To Whom It May Concern. I wasn't paying too much attention to the words until this song. I pulled John out of the tub and wrapped him in his towel, and hugging him close, I listened. 

Maybe it's not just me waiting. Maybe she is waiting for me

Maybe this is how God makes our hearts and lives ready for the things we want. He makes us want them desperately. And the desperation, the longing, is what forges in us the humility and character and beauty to care for the gift.

Beautifully, hauntingly, the Civil Wars sang, reminding me a dream is just as real as the thing itself. I was holding living proof there in my hands, soaking wet and squirming.

"Why are you so far from me?

In my arms is where you are to be
How long will you make me wait?
I don't know how much more I can take
I missed you but I haven't met you..."

So I swung him around in his fluffy brown towel, and we danced across the hardwood as I kissed the tiny face of the boy who used to be a dream. 

What's a thing or person in your life you have now that only used to be a dream? 

For most of us, it's relationships: a partner, a child, or even simply a sense of belonging or knowing one's life purpose. What do you have now that was only a daydream not long ago? 

It's encouraging to see that dreams do take shape and come to dwell among us. I need to remember this pattern so I can gather up my courage to dream some more.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Year's Vis-olutions: Learning to Dream Bigger

I know it's already Wednesday, January 16. And you think I forgot to talk about vision, goals and resolutions for the New Year. But I did not. I was quietly refining my hopes and dreams in my head and in conversations with God and with Josh. Because this is scary, grand and wonderful stuff here. And I don't take it lightly. 

I got nervous because resolutions always make me nervous. What do I want to change? Everything. I want so many areas of my life to improve. But that was the wrong place to start. And I always think too small that way. 

I decided to try something different this year, ask myself a new question. Below is an excerpt from my journal. his is basically a (clear) stream of consciousness on what I want my life to manifest, and what I hope for in this year, and in the next five years. As I wrote, my mind expanded. I let myself think bigger, dream wider. 

[photo cred: http://suhasagban.com/]

So for today, these are my goals, my vision and resolutions. I am going to be using Ron Edmonson's Life Plan steps to work out the details, but here you have it. This journal excerpt reveals what I want to be when I grow up. 

"I've been trying to figure out what I want to change, what I would like to be different in this next year. It's hard to start there. I guess I will start with the Miracle Question. 

What if I woke up in the morning and everything was perfect. What would it look like?

I would wake up in the morning EAGER to spend time with God. He would would meet me there. I would pray, worship, write, encounter him, and get great ideas.

I would not leave for work until 7:45 because I have a local office where I can go work on my book. I am writing a book and keeping my blog up to date. I have social media to manage part of the day. I have meetings. I have a trip to plan. 

My blog is successful. I find my niche and people are listening, getting impacted, lives changing, regularly having ah-ha moments. And they come to read because they know they will find hope and inspiration. They hear wisdom and get new insight. It's easy to write because I know what God is saying people need to hear. It's not a stretch anymore. 

And I dress like this. And look like this. [www.vi.sualize.us]

I would return home for lunch where I would have time with my family. 
I would hunker down in theWELL prayer room and spend an hour with God.

I would come home between 3 and 4 to play with my kids - because my work day is done - and get caught up on their day. We would do basic life things: laundry, play and get ready for dinner. 

I have a meeting that night, but it is energizing: a conversation with pastors, an outreach to the poor, an art showing or concert. But God is present, always present, and I never want to miss it.

In the evening, I have quiet time with Josh and more time in the IHOP prayer room web stream. I end the day with the peace and presence of God, just like I started it. 

Our money is not tied up in debt (school loans or credit cards) so we can do awesome things with it: we buy wells for villages around the world, we send children to school, we back missions and justice movements around the world that we want to see thrive. We support the ending of abortion and the ending of human slavery. We sense the power of our finances and instead of choosing to eat out often or do frivolous things, we see that our money can purchase the freedom of a 10 year old girl in Cambodia. Our priorities are right on. 

Trips to the grocery store or restaurant are consistently intriguing. God shows up because I bring him with me. It's fun to see what he does. He heals, he speaks prophetically, people give their lives to Jesus.

theWELL is a fun place to be because the Spirit of God is evident. There is a thriving Prayer Room working towards 24/7 impact, with multiple ministries springing up from the burdens on people's hearts: partnering with other churches to reach out to the poor, single parents, family ministry, powerful counseling ministry, children who come Sundays and get powerfully impacted by the Word, by the Spirit and meet God. People who come to theWELL regularly encounter the presence and the Word. They are prophetically ministered to. Healings happen often. We staff the Prayer Room with little difficulty. 

theWELL is responsible for the development of the arts in the city. First Fridays is well attended with a good reputation and extends to the secular world as a ministry. People come because they know they will meet God, and the artistry is second to none. Amazing artists, musicians and writers spring up in the community and come to be near the creative God who is the source for all the best ideas. Some of them hear crazy stories of what goes on and they come. They are changed, and they stay, or are launched intentionally into their callings around the world.

Transformational art. [Work by Jazzy Chun Earl]

The Army of God's people volunteer in this day. Our church is well pastored, well cared-for, and volunteers are easy to come by. There is a strong purity and holiness among God's people. They know truth and easily identify deception. Division has no hold and leaves easily. Same with witchcraft, manipulation and control: out before they even get a hold. And bitterness, hatred and murder will all bow in the presence of Jesus, never taking root or causing trouble.

Missions is active and strong. The church does not know how to keep quiet. Stories of God's movement open doors. Everyone who is part of theWELL has a story to tell, and everyone wants to serve, innovate, be on adventure. It's easy to organize mission trips locally and across the globe. Prayer and missions are intrinsically tied and everyone in theWELL knows it and serves the cause."

Coming soon...
Developing your vision: If you're stuck and don't know how to create a life vision, or you don't even know why you're here on this planet, try these tips on for size. Check back later for more on this.

Monday, January 14, 2013

How Does She (Not) Do It?

I'm not going to lie. Sometimes when I'm in self-pity mode, I wonder why more people don't ask me how I do it. 

I am a hundred things to many people, or at least six things to hundreds of people. My weeks are planned before I even get to them. I don't really do spontaneous anymore. Or I shouldn't.

Me and then some. [Photo cred: www.heddalettuce.com]

At home, I am mom and wife. Which means I cook, clean, encourage, teach, shout, whisper, laugh, snuggle, tickle, entertain, chase, battle and bathe. 

At work, I am a calming voice in crisis. I am the motivator, the creative brain, the journalist. I am the fixer, the one with ideas, the marketing girl and flyer designer, the sleep expert, the one of loves moms and babies.

At church, I recruit, schedule, prop up and cheer on our Children's Ministry and Women's Leadership Programs, which developed frantically and messily out of my brain from sheer necessity. And sometimes I get to preach too while I'm on my way to getting my pastoral license.

At night, I am a writer, a blogger, an aspiring author and big-thinker. I am only in the beginning of finding my voice and learning what I am all about, but I'm traipsing down the path, discovering things. Learning to like myself. 

Maybe I'm just like any working mom, but it feels like I'm doing a lot. Like there is always so much going on. 

But no one asks how I do it. No one wonders how I balance it all.

I wonder if it's because I'm kind of an obvious mess. When I talk to people after church, I'm in a hurry. And I'm chasing my son out of the corner of my eye. Maybe everyone can see that all the stuff that gets done is smashed together with as love and limited time. 

The anxiety of life has been getting to me lately. It's like I used to be able to outrun the "too much" factor, but I am definitely slowing down. Or it's speeding up. 

I want to be better, grow, stretch, expand. I want my writing to improve. I want to know God more, read more, fit back into my size 4s, get more time alone, get more time with friends, figure out how to teach and nourish my child's mind and soul, have another child biologically and adopt, encourage my husband, write a book, be brave and pray for more sick people for healing, finally get to India and power up some rockstar kids and women's programs at church. 

But I only have 168 hours a week. 

I'm trying to do it all, and I'm not doing any of it that well. I have great intentions. I really do care about people. I crawl into their shoes fast. 

But sometimes I care too much. And my priorities tilt against my sanity. I forget how to take care of myself, to value the voice of God and quiet with my family, to stop the spinning and sit in the silence for a few minutes. I lose sight of what I want on my tombstone: "She loved well". 

I just want to put it out there that I'm doing a lot, but at the end of the day, what I really want is to love. To love God, my family and the people I'm with. So when I'm talking really fast and when I tell you have a new idea for a website or a new book idea, just know I'm on my way over here, learning to love. 

You can remind me of what really matters if you want, but I promise my soul will bring me back to it. Remember to love. Love is the point.

And this is how I'm doing it, in this messy, "me" way. 

If you're feeling sloppy and slow, like you know where you want to go but you're so far away, there's grace for you too. God's not in a hurry so let's not be either. 

Let's just keep looking at Jesus, talking to him, and getting his feedback on this life. He's so kind, encouraging and gentle. He's not going to rub your nose in your failure. And neither will I. 

Let's be nice to each other as we figure it out. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What We Can Do For Syria

I know no one is talking about this, not really. But in the Syrian conflict to date, approximately 60,000 people have died, and they're calling for 100,000 more this year. Yes, they're making a casualty prediction. They're saying 100,000 more people will lose their lives in one tiny nation alone, in one year. It's like they're already assuming nothing will change. That no one will intervene.

We removed Hussein. We assisted in the removal of Mubarak and Gaddafi. But we won't touch Assad. I know it's expensive, but why did we draw this faux line about the use of chemical weapons? What about the Geneva Convention and the universal values of human rights? The U.N. is impotent, and everyone knows it. Let's not pretend that U.N. resolutions and statements of condemnation are real action. 

I know we are strung out from our own war. War is hard on any soil - home or abroad. The global economy is in shambles. Politicians are polarized over how to resolve the crisis. No one has a heart for anything but escape. We all want to escape. Maybe that's why we can't talk about Syria, a nation and leader killing their own people by the thousands, eliminating anyone who contests the authoritarian rule. We come home and flip on Netflix, drink our coffee and forget about the mess.


I'm as guilty as the world. I hardly let myself think about it. I've been like everyone else, not thinking, not looking. It's horrible to say to ourselves that horrendous atrocities occur daily in Syria, and we aren't doing anything because we are tired. 

I feel bad. I feel helpless because these people are helpless. It is right to feel this way, to absorb even the tiniest breath of solidarity with these people. They are at war daily, constantly in fear for their lives and the lives of their families. And they don't have an army on its way to rescue.

Libya knew help was coming. So did Egypt. They got an army of rebels together, and we backed them. Not Syria.

I remember watching a political forum in 2001 or 2002. An American Iraqi stood at the mic to tell the politician being interviewed how two of his family members had been killed by Saddam Hussein, and these were only two of over one million deaths during his rule. With fervency and pain, he asked, "How many more will need to die before you do something?" 

I was shocked to hear this request for U.S. military intervention coming from an Iraqi, knowing the U.S. brings its culture, values and politics alongside its weapons. But he asked. And eventually we did something. 

So the question is being asked again, but this time for Syria. "How many more will need to die before anyone does anything?"

All I know to do is pray. This is no longer a matter we can solve with our human wit and wisdom.

My prayer is that the Syrian people will get real help, not horses, chariots, or tanks. Not just big guns or explosives. I want the world to rise up against injustice, but even more, I pray they look up and see God defending them, even as Elisha's servant got his eyes opened to the angel armies coming to defend Israel. 

Today Syria needs a defender. Lord, protect the innocent ones. Tear down evil and raise up righteousness. Shatter the yoke that burdens the Syrian people. Break the rod of their oppressor. Give them freedom in Jesus. Bring restoration to this nation in anguish. Do what only you can do, Jesus. Rise up and rescue them. 

For those who would like to contribute financially to aid the Syrian people, you can do so through Save the Children. [This organization is BBB approved and has a good reputation.]

Recent news on Syria: 
Huff Post: Syria Military Intervention No Closer Despite Rising Death Toll
CNN: U.N. Agencies: Stop the Suffering in Syria 
NYT: Russia Supports U.N. Envoy in Syria

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Slightly Insecure English Teacher

Sometimes I am the most insecure of women. Especially when it comes to parenting. 

It's so easy to identify where everyone else is sparkly and functioning, where other children excel and where my child seems to be lazily lagging behind. And it's got to be my fault, I assume, some dormant genetic flaw, some information I'm lacking, too much television, not enough carrots. 

My primary area of missing confidence in parenting is in my son's speech. He's mastered the garbled language from another planet just fine. The problem is none of us can understand it. But he seems to enjoy watching us attempt to teach him this speaking system we appreciate so much.

Around the house, I promote the use of English by holding up an object for him to see, repeating its name, hoping his spongy brain is starving for the information. 

"Book. This is a 'book'. Can you say 'book'?" 

He stares at me with squinted eyes, wondering when I'm going to be done making that noise so he can move on with his life. Sometimes though, he repeats the word straightaway, as if that was one of the words that came with his original programming. Or maybe a cognate from his native tongue. Either way, he occasionally zings it out and we make a big deal with clapping and whoops and the works. So I know he can do it. 

Is he slow-er or just defiant? Or something in between? I wonder to myself. But since he doesn't speak great English, I don't know.

The other day I held up an orange.  

"Or-ange. OR-ANGE," I enunciated loudly and firmly. 

"Why-et," he replied, holding his pointer finger to his mouth. "Ssshhh." 

This is not going well. But then, I didn't know he could say "quiet". Kind of. 

He must know I am craving the inner workings of his mind. I can't wait to ask him why the sky is blue or what God is thinking about. It's going to be great. I just want to get there already. 

[photo cred: www.medicmagic.net]

Some of his friends are tiny wordsmiths already, scampering about with really rewarding sayings like, "I love you," and "You're silly, Mama." 

Seriously? What do I need to do to get that from my kid? 

It really does seem like most of his friends traded in their baby planet language for English with ease, and John is the only left, hanging on, refusing to acculturate. 

My pediatrician did nothing to assuage my mommy fears when I confided my concern about his speech. I hesitated when she asked about whether or not he's up to 25-50 words in English, which was my bad, but I didn't really know for sure. She proceeded to recommend Infant Toddler Services for his speech. And she wants to see him in six months. Thank you very much, lady-who-does-not-have-any-kids. I feel like a mom-fail. And by the way, what if he was making the quota

So you see, I come by my insecurity honestly. And by honestly, I mean, I apparently still think my son's success in the world is in direct correlation with my success as a human. So please talk already, John, so I don't flunk life.

Yesterday I decided to step up my speech pathology game. I didn't call ITS yet, but I won't rule it out. I'm sure they would be helpful, but I am still holding out that I can teach him. 

So instead I Googled "help my toddler talk." I found several great resources, which I am listing here. For anyone who can't wait to hear their toddler's inner thinkings and wants to speed up the learning, here are a few ways to help draw it out. I'll be trying them out, and I'm sure within a few short months, John will start writing my posts for me. 

Help My Toddler Talk.com. This is a blog with tips. There is a learning calendar available for purchase, but the blog has a lot of good ideas.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Why Risk-Taking Is So Hard

Most of the time for me, it comes down to this. I am not willing to be scrutinized, squinted at, gossiped about. I settle for smaller-than-I-am so I can just be understood. 

But am I really even being understood if the "me" I portray is smaller than the real version? In that case, what I am really settling for is not even being understood. I am simply deciding that not being rejected, scorned, kicked out, ostracized is better than courage. Better than making a difference. Better than pushing back. 

I shrink down tiny so they don't take my name off their guest list. 

Really? Is my birthright so cheap? Is my destiny so dilutable and trivial that I can sell it for acceptance by people who don't want to make a difference in the world anyway? Who don't even know who they are enough to judge my reputation with any accuracy?

I want to be big, make a splash, be brave and change things. But that awkward moment inevitably comes where I can take a stand or I can sit quiet, where I can leap on faith or stifle miracles with my doubt. Where I can pray for healing right then and there, or I can sympathetically inform them I will pray later. Not wanting to make a scene, of course. Not wanting God to disappoint us. Not wanting to be a fool. 

But as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O'Hara: "Reputation is something people with courage can do without." 

My prayer is only: Dear God, give me a hearty, sturdy soul so I can live with rejection, without reputation, in pursuit of your glory and your adventure every day. 

(I will be writing more on this. The topic of fearless innovation has snagged my soul more than most things right now.)

Photo cred: ouzouzouz.deviantart.com

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hospitality and the Ministry of Stuff

I grew up with a Mom who lived a humble hospitality. Holidays were acknowledged but without fanfare. Tasteful decorations indicated to visitors we knew which season it was, but no one thought we were trying to get into the home show. 

My folks were a conservative bunch. Generous with the least of these, our resources were not meant to stop with us. I experienced this philanthropic value throughout my childhood, although it was never clearly stated, and for many years resented how my parents chose to spend their money. It was not on extras for us. 

In college though, I took up the Poverty Equals Christianity banner and carried my family's history as a badge of pride. I took care to minimize my own possessions, secretly believing there was a special place in heaven for those who could cram all their belongings into only one vehicle. Annual trips to Salvation Army to purge the closet were my pilgrimage to the Mecca of Light Living.

Then I got married. My mother-in-law is a misplaced southern belle who likes pretty things. Her frequent visits to home decor sales were a pilgrimage of her own. 

The first three years we were married, she brought poinsettias, wreaths or other home furnishings to help me make our apartment a home. I did my best with what she offered, but I told her I just didn't do much decorating. I'm friendly; my hospitality is in my personality, I thought. 

That was, until a vase of flowers changed my mind.

This year we started Second Sunday Community Meals at church. Everyone brings something, and we all crunch together at sprawling round tables to eat. It's rowdy and delightful. 

One day my friend Emma skipped bringing food and brought flowers instead. She tucked tiny buds into vases and stowed them in the center of each table. The room transformed.

That was the day I realized that stuff isn't bad. Furnishings and decor in a room create the ambience: an environment of austerity and sucking in your gut, or a habitat of relaxed homecoming. 

The flowers were a welcome sign that dayA symbol to say, "We want you here so don't pack up and leave so quickly."


This year, all the Christmas decorations made it out of the attic. The Nativity scene. The tasseled red table runner. The  centerpiece I meant to create last year but never got around to it. Even the silly stuffed Santa doing a handstand. And this year, it looked like Christmas at the Siders' House. 

But it's not just things for things' sake. It's the Ministry of Stuff, the environment I create to welcome others into my life. It says "We want you here, and we made this place nice because you matter to us." 

Emma didn't know she taught me this lesson. She didn't know because this is just a value she intuitively gets. She doesn't say it out loud, but it's in her life. And I want it in mine. 

But I bet if Jesus had a house down here, he'd hang a pictures on the walls and a wreath on the door. Maybe a star on the tree. Candles would warm the corners with flickering fragrance. Hot cocoa in hand, we would all feel snug and welcome, knowing we're right where we belong