pumpkin seeds and puppy training

I have been absent from here for a long time. There are some boring reasons for that. There are also some intentional reasons. I’ve been marinating in life… just trying to live it and not analyze it. Now I am feeling it’s time to write again and reflect on what has been going on inside me.

We welcomed a puppy into our family last month. She’s been a joy. She’s been annoying. I have taken on the main responsibility to train her, which is a painstakingly long process of repetition. And consistency is needed. Can you hear me sighing with impatience? We are, however, beginning to see the fruits of all my labor.

Which has me thinking about seed-planting… recently, my son and I cut open a pumpkin he specially picked out on a school field-trip. at his request, we made pumpkin pies out of it, but he also felt strongly that we should collect the seeds so that we can plant them next year. It was neat to watch him pick out each seed and carefully clean it and lay it on the paper towel to dry. He spent at least 20 minutes doing this. I was amazed at his diligence. Now the seeds are clean and dry and stored in a plastic bag, awaiting next spring. But I haven’t been able to put them away… they are still sitting on my kitchen counter. All over our 10-acre wood, things are dying and preparing to sleep for the winter. But here, in my kitchen, life awaits. The seeds are just waiting to burst. Waiting.

I feel like so much (too much?) of my life I have spent waiting… waiting for the next thing, waiting for me to be prepped and ready for whatever I’m supposed to do, waiting to see what the point of my life is. But something about watching my puppy learn and looking at these pumpkin seeds has crystalized a new thought for me. I can see fruit already! Right now. Right now I can see fruit that God has been able to bear in my life. So I wonder…. what the hell have I been waiting for??

Just in the last few days I have been able to reconnect with someone I knew and helped to teach more than 10 years ago. She remembers things I said to her, things I taught her. Just a few weeks ago, I was reminded that all the God-stories I’ve shared with my young daughter are now being shared with her teachers and friends. She remembers things I’ve planted within her. Just a few months ago, I was able to reconcile with a young adult who was in my youth group… someone I wounded. He remembered my actions. He also remembered that he could talk to me. The healing was sweet fruit.

I do not want to overestimate my impact on people’s lives, but I have lived the other mistake, when I think I have done little to nothing of value. Was I just place-holding and not planting living seeds? Is there something fearful about recognizing the significance of what I am doing here and now? It’s tragic to miss the fruit in the present and the past because I am forever looking ahead. It’s as if somewhere in the back of my mind, I refuse to believe that these seeds I am planting are worth something. I always think there is more somewhere down the road, that this is all just prep for that big something else. But this is it. This, right here and right now, is my life and my calling. Sure, there is still waiting involved. When you plant seeds they do not instantly sprout and grow and bloom. I have no magic beans here, Jack. However, my seeds are alive and they are growing. How have I missed that for so long?

practicing open hands

I like to write on rainy days… something about the gray colors, the closeness of the clouds and even the smell, make me introspective and thoughtful. So here I am, at my computer, listening to my children discuss the characters on PBS (choosing who will be Cassy and who will be Ord). And while I find rain a disappointment because I love to be out in the sun, I love the effect it has on my spirit. I relish times of reflection and thought in this season of my life. I need it.

Here are my thoughts for today, for whatever they are worth to any readers: It is good that we are practicing living with open hands these days. My family, that is. I was explaining– again– to someone how we come to find ourselves about to walk away from our home of 11 years and our brand new backyard decks, patio and pool. As I was describing the circumstances surrounding our decision to move to the woods and a smaller, older house, this thought came to me. It is good to let go. It is a good practice to let go of what we have worked for, the fruit of our hands and backs, even a place where precious memories have been made… our dreams and wants, what we have spent our time and money on. It is good… because to cling to this house, to call this “ours” and possess it fiercely, is actually a potential distraction.

I’m not saying that if we had decided to stay here and enjoy our house and decks and pool, that that would be a bad thing, necesarily. It is not sin to enjoy what we have worked hard for. In fact, one of our dreams for the backyard was a dream of hospitality and sharing our home and lives with our neighbors. It was not entirely selfish (well, maybe a little bit selfish). But what we have been called to do now is an even greater act of hospitality, and it is beautiful. To care for this home and beautify it for someone else, for another family. Sometimes it kills me to think about “giving away” all of this (in quotes, because it’s not like they will be getting it for free). To think that we’re only building this for someone else and not for ourselves… it’s frustrating and agonizing… but why not? Why not make something nice and beautiful for a stranger? Why not give it away? Why should this place and these things be so precious to me that I am not willing to hold it with open hands, ready to release it when God asks… and then be ready to receive whatever is next? This is a discipline that we are learning and it is good and right to learn it.

It is also good that our children observe us learning this practice of holding what we have with open hands. They have asked us why we are doing this, working so hard on these projects when we won’t be staying here. My answer? Because God has called us to move on, and our new home will be beautiful, too– the new adventures we have there, the memories we make there, will be wonderful. The work we do there will be good… and we hope whoever comes to live here next will enjoy what we have made. It is as it should be. We hold all these things with open hands, freely receiving… and freely giving it away when the time comes. It is good.

pursuit of happiness

I confess that the thrill of our adventure into the 10-acre wood has all but vanished for me, fickle human being that I am. My days are filled with lists and that nagging notion that there is always more to do, in spite of my busy hands and sheer exhaustion. I feel guilty when I choose to sit and read (or write) rather than clean out closets and cupboards… another part of me resents the burden of all these extra tasks that have invaded my life… and I get frustrated with my lack of maturity about these things.
This was my choice. I knew what it would mean and chose it willingly. What do I have to be frustrated about? During those times of normal routine when I had plenty of time to complete all of my necessary tasks, I imagined myself as a gracious person– patient, compassionate, thinking of others, giving generously of my time and attention. But then I entered real life… and where did that lady go? Turns out I am miserable, resentful, exhausted, short-tempered and selfish.
This past week has been especially difficult. I have lost my temper and my joy, and I am afraid that my children may think, that I simply don’t want to be with them. The truth is, I just don’t have much left to give to them right now. I know this isn’t the good-Christian-mom thing to say (because our kids are supposed to be our priority, right?), but it’s true. I try to imagine myself as that mom who can plan out her days so that her kids get her “best” and not her left-overs… but I come to find that this isn’t me.
The thing that most disappoints me about my current inner state is this: it seems I have bought the lie that my life is supposed to be about my pursuit of happiness, that I am on some journey to find my “happy place” where all is well and at peace and I can finally take a deep breath, relax and enjoy it. I am not satisfied to be on the way, on the path. No, I must get there and I’ll be pissy until I am.
Even now, as I tell the truth about who I am and have been, I want to fix whatever is wrong with me, so that I’ll be happy (and then everyone around me can be happy, too). Can’t I just change my thinking about the work on the house? Could I just order my tasks differently, schedule some “days off” to play with the kids? Maybe I should call in some help from friends? None of these are bad ideas, and I may actually choose to do one or more…. but there’s something deeper going on here, and it disturbs me.
As a Jesus-follower, happiness is actually NOT my goal. It’s not what I am aiming for in this life (yet somehow, it seems some part of me must think so). My goal is union with Jesus– to put on his way of life, to have his heart and mind, to follow him so closely that it is hard to tell where he ends and I begin. I trust that happiness will result, though I prefer to call it joy. I trust that peace, wholeness, beauty and goodness will come of this union. But those things should not be my pursuit; they are not my focal point.
My focus is Jesus, the King of Love… in the face of my children, in the soapy water where my hands get wrinkly, in the vacuum cleaner and the dusting spray, in the voice of my burdened husband, in the piles of junk that I don’t know where to put, in my exhausted and sore muscles and my chaotic brain. Jesus. Jesus, my Lord. Be my pursuit. I will say it until my heart and mind follow in obedience. I will speak it until it is true: I pursue YOU, nothing more and nothing less than YOU.

Scars

Emily, at Think.Laugh.Weep.Worship put up another great post today.

Check it out.

http://thinklaughweepworship.blogspot.com/2009/09/theology-of-stretch-marks.html

Sex and Seminary

I decided to do something bold tonight and attend class in a formal dress, high heels, with make-up on and hair curled. I was curious to see what kind of response I would get, because my usual attire is frumpy, non-gender-specific clothing (sweatshirt, T-shirt, jeans, sneakers). I was surprised to discover that the men of my cohort were very intentional about NOT reacting to my new look. Even my male seminary friends outside of my cohort had to be prompted before they would talk about it. I asked some of the older men why this was… why say nothing, why avert your eyes, why pretend that I wasn’t dressed up at all instead of complimenting me or at least acknowledging that I looked different? He replied that it was fear—fear of being misinterpreted and then accused of harassment, fear that I would take it as condescension and be offended. While this makes sense to me on one level, could it really be so after three years of classes together? Are they afraid of me as a woman? Really? That saddens me. I would have hoped that we would be beyond such surface tensions by now.

Then again, perhaps they aren’t the only ones feeling some fear. I present myself in a certain way to this group, every single week. While I do not do it entirely consciously, my habitual appearance is decidedly un-feminine. I cloak and cover all the parts of my body that could be construed as sexual… large shirts that hide my chest, long shirts that cover my hips, low heels that do not accentuate my legs, no make-up, my hair often uncombed and thrown together haphazardly (some of this is due to my day-job as mommy of preschoolers, but I don’t think that’s all of it). Not conscious, but very interesting… am I trying to pretend I am not a woman? Being a woman in this setting is clearly difficult. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t… sometimes I forget I am when we’re in the midst of an intense discussion (I’m just one of the guys, right?).

One of my cohort-mates remarked on the sexier outfit I brought with me but did not wear: “What is that doing in your closet, Kris Anne?” He was half-kidding, I know, but it was an honest question. In our Christian sub-culture, there are definite rules about what is and is not appropriate for women to wear. This is not often discussed, however, except in the homes of adolescent girls as parents forbid certain items of clothing to be worn outside the house. And the reasons given? It’s immodest, too revealing, too distracting to the men and boys. There’s a definite air of shame around these conversations, even as the poor girl is just beginning to get used to her womanly figure. She hasn’t even had time to appreciate its beauty, and she’s being told that it’s only there to be covered properly.

I am certainly not one to argue against modesty or privacy. And I do understand that men are visual creatures; I would never want to knowingly manipulate their thoughts in a sexual manner. I would never want my daughter to place so much value on her body and its sexuality that she places her self-worth in how men respond to it, and then does everything she can to attract attention to it. She has a powerful mind and spirit and so much to offer this world, apart from her sexuality! I hope I raise her to appreciate all of who she is and treat all parts with respect and care. That said, I am concerned about the sense of shame we place on young girls and the way we label their bodies.

I wonder about the sense of shame I carry into seminary every night. Why do I hide who I am? I’m accepted more easily by myself and my brothers when my femininity is thoroughly covered and hidden away. It’s termed a distraction when it’s highlighted or accented. The very fact that my brothers were afraid to talk to me about the way I appeared tonight reveals the Christian label we place on women’s bodies: DANGER. Is that a burden I should rightly bear; is it my problem to manage? Or does the real problem lay elsewhere, since according to scripture, my female body bears the image of Almighty God and is named “good” by God Himself?

She’s Wearing my Shoes

I was down on my hands and knees the other day, fishing around for something that was lost under the refridgerator. Suddenly, I heard Heidi saying something to Ben. She had taken his hand and was bending over, looking into his eyes as she was speaking. “Ben, I know you don’t really want to go, but it’s time for school so you need to get your shoes on now. Let’s go. Come on, honey.”  I looked up and said, “Heidi, what are you doing, why are you talking to him like that?”  To which she replied: “Look, mom, I’m wearing your shoes!”

First, let me just say, that I’m glad the first words out of her mouth, as she was pretending to be me, were NOT “Stop that! Come here now! Listen to me for once- I am your mother!!” etc., etc.  🙂   But secondly, I wonder what it is about shoes that define the person, in the eyes of children. Maybe it’s just that they are the easiest articles of clothing to find lying around. But why not my coat or my sweater? What is it about shoes that are so fascinating? Well, whatever it was that prompted her little charade, it has me pondering imitation.  Heidi longs for time with me, longs for my attention. She uses my words and tone… even my facial expressions sometimes. She constantly talks about being a mommy someday and having a daughter. Imitation comes naturally to her. It’s how she learns.

I also learn best by imitation. When I’m learning a new melody line, rather than sitting in front of pages of music, I play the song on my computer over and over again, singing and playing along– trying to get the notes, rhythm, mood, and tone of the song exactly right. I also noticed that I write in a style similar to my favorite authors (though I’m obviously not anywhere close to being as talented as they are)… I use their vocabulary, imagery, sometimes even their writing rhythm. This is not really a conscious thing, but the repetition of reading the same authors’ writings over time has imprinted their style on my brain, I think.

So here is what I am currently wondering… As a Christ-follower, how do I learn best? Currently, I spend a lot of time sitting in a classroom, talking about theology and leadership and church history (or reading textbooks and writing papers)– but do I adore my Lord so much that I strive to imitate Him? Am I learning from Him the way I learn a new song, with repetition and detailed observation– in one sense, “singing His Song” along with Him? Am I beginning to think and talk and the way He does, because I have heard His Words so many times that I don’t even realize they have become part of me?  I realize I’m probably not saying anything new here, but it hit me again when I saw my little girl wearing my shoes.

“Anyone who claims to be in Christ must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6

Of liquid poop, birdseed and gravy boats

So here it is, my Thanksgiving post. It’s a few days late and actually, I wasn’t going to post anything about Thanksgiving. To be honest, I don’t find the typical Thanksgiving blog post interesting (“all the things I’m thankful for….”). I really don’t mean to criticize– it’s wonderful to remind ourselves of the countless things we have to be thankful for. But after I read about 5 Thanksgiving blog posts, they all start to sound the same. And if you know me at all, you know I tend to buck the status quo… for better or worse, that’s me. But after my family gathered for a belated Thanksgiving meal Saturday night, I just HAD to make my list! After you hear this story, you’ll understand.

My day started out very peacefully. I was rinsing the dust off my good dishes, getting out my punch bowl, had the turkey in the oven at 1:30… everything was going as planned. My kids were a little cranky, given that they didn’t have my undivided attention, but that’s to be expected on a day when one has a big meal to prepare.  My father and step-mother arrived around 2:00 and she helped me with some odds and ends. I was pleased with how smoothly all the preparations were going.  At one point we discovered that I owned no  gravy boat, and we chuckled over the fact that I decided to use one of my ceramic pitchers as a substitute– hey, we can just pour the gravy then… no spoon needed. Haha! I thought I was being rather clever (see me pat myself on the back).

My sister’s family arrived at 5:00, and we pulled the rest of the Thanksgiving side-dishes together and got everyone settled in their places. It was a lovely and delicious meal, thanks to Edith’s gravy, Jenn’s oyster stuffing and green beans and cranberry sauce, Dad’s mashed potatoes and my punch, cheeseball and crackers, turkey, corn and desserts (purchased of course!).  We shared stories and laughter and giggled about my gravy boat (it sure is unconventional, but it works beautifully!).  As often happens with big meals, the kids were finished first and ran in all directions in the house to play. At one point, while we adults were clearing dishes, I noticed that both of my children were in the downstairs bathroom while my niece was using the upstairs bathroom… hmmmmm… “oh well,” I thought, “Heidi will probably help Ben go potty when she’s finished. That will work out nicely. Then I can keep working in the kitchen.”  Haha, mommy, think again!  Not five minutes later I hear Heidi, “Um, mommy, i don’t really want to tell you this, but… um… Ben pooped NOT in the potty.”  Noooooooo…………. but, alas……… yes, yes he did! Apparently he couldn’t hold it until Heidi was finished. And this wasn’t chunky, semi-solid poop. No, this was runny, semi-diarrhea, liquid poop. Amid my lovely gagging sounds and Ben’s whining, we somehow survived the next fifteen minutes and sat down for dessert– not sure my stomach was really ready to handle that transition, but I deserved some pumpkin pie, darn it!

After some clean-up, my sister’s family was ready to head home. As the kids were gathering up their coats and shoes, I noticed my niece pull a bag of birdseed out of her coat pocket. “Hmmmm,” I wondered, “what is she going to do with that?” No sooner had the thought resounded in my mind, that her brother gave the ziplock bag a good squeeze– yep, you guessed it, a shower of tiny seeds rains down on our feet. If you aren’t familiar with a traditional birdseed mix, some of those seeds are as tiny as a pin head. Seriously. Now here is something to be thankful for– we were on a hard floor, right beside the front door. I got a broom and we swept the little seeds right out the door and then off the porch and into the grass! Problem solved. I’ll take birdseed over liquid poop ANY DAY and twice on Sundays.

With the help of my dad and step-mom, we had the house back in order before 8:30. Amazing. So here is my Thanksgiving list for 2008:

1. I am thankful for windows that open when there is uncontained poop in my bathroom.

2. I am thankful that I can breathe through my mouth instead of my nose when I need to.

3. I am thankful for the person who invited wet wipes. I would kiss them if I knew who they were!

4. I am thankful also for the person who invented brooms- what a genius!

5. I am thankful that my children will not always be preschoolers who cannot handle their own waste issues.

6. I am thankful for improvisation… including improvised gravy boats!

But mostly, this year, I am so very thankful for my family– who embraces my quirks and my intense personality, and helps me laugh through my stressed-out tears. You all “go right with my gravy boat” (inside joke) and that’s a GREAT thing!

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