Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Life of Leftovers

The only welcome leftover in my mind is pizza. Pizza is the perfect leftover because it’s never around long enough to raise any questions of its shelf life. I love leftover pizza. I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and on some occasions I have. Microwaved pizza is okay, but anyone who is blessed to own a toaster oven knows that a slice of skillfully reheated leftover pizza can be even better than it was in its original form. I actually just finished having one for lunch. Thirty seconds in the microwave to take the chill out of it, then into the toaster oven to await the crucial window between when the cheese starts bubbling and when toppings start sliding off onto the heating elements. With just the right timing you end up with a slice of hot, crispy goodness. Leftovers just don’t get any better than that.

Why is it that a fridge full of non-pizza leftovers is so depressing? It’s probably because leftovers serve as a barrier to the food you really want to eat. You can’t justify ordering Chinese or grilling up that fresh package of chicken when every time you open up the fridge there are six Tupperware containers staring you in the face. I think Tupperware itself is one of the major reasons that leftovers are so undesirable to begin with. It’s simply not an appetizing method of packaging food. Everything is all mixed together in there, squished up against the sides like a kid doing a blowfish on the school bus window. Then, dare you open it, you discover a virtual terrarium has formed inside as a shower of condensation falls from the underside of the lid, soggifying the inhabitants below. I usually try to get my leftovers from the fridge to the microwave with as little eye contact as possible. If I’m reheating them for Matthew and the substance is particularly unrecognizable, I’ll ask him to stay out of the kitchen so that he never sees the food in such a dismal state lest he lose his appetite and the burden to eat it is cast on me.

Matthew is actually pretty good about eating leftovers, provided that he enjoyed the meal the first time around and that I do the reheating. If he has no choice but to prepare leftovers himself, our overachieving microwave actually comes equipped with a “senso-reheat” button, most likely designed specifically for men. Put the plate in there, push the button, and the microwave decides when your food is ready. I can just feel myself becoming obsolete with every evenly-heated entree. Matthew is also a friend to the leftovers in that he is willing to give them a longer window of opportunity. Personally, I give them three of four days max, depending on the contents. He’ll pretty much eat anything that’s in there without raising question of how long it’s been around. This propensity of his makes it necessary for me to be diligent about cleaning out the fridge. I used to leave stuff in there for a while, mentally marking it as inedible after several days had passed, knowing I would throw it away when I got around to it. But if he’s desperate enough, Matthew will dig around in there and come up with stuff I forgot I ever made. The typical shelf life of garbage-destined leftovers in our house goes something like this:

Day One: I make a pot of Tortilla Soup, store remainder in fridge
Day Two: Have a bowl for lunch
Day Three: Feeling a little tired of tortilla soup, go with another option
Day Four: Soup is now listed as questionable, though still a possibility if necessary
Day Five: I officially write soup off the menu
Day Six: Soup remains in fridge in case the more courageous Matthew decides to partake
Day Seven: I dump the gelatinous mass into the trash can
Day Eight: “Babe, what happened to all that soup that was in here?!?”

Sigh…

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Non-Stop to Nowhere

So I really have nothing interesting to say, but I feel like if I don’t blog soon an angry mob will form outside my door. Maybe if I just start typing, it’ll become something interesting. In fact, what if I didn’t stop typing? What if I just kept rambling on and on without stopping to consider my words or organize them into logical thought patterns? This is a bit scary, but I guess I’ll try it seeing as thus far I have succeeded. I don’t know what to say… okay at least I don’t type as fast as others so I do get a moment to think things out. I never did learn tot type correctly. I’m what some people refer to as a “pecker”. Peck, peck, peck, using four of my 10 potential- what’s the word? Here is where I would normally pause, scan my internal files of vocabulary and find what I’m looking for, insert it seamlessly into the text and my readers are none the wiser that 23 seconds elapse between one word and the other. But no- no such break here. I must keep typing while simultaneously searching my brain for the word I’m looking for. I think it’s something like metacarpals. I wanted a fancy, sciencey sounding word for fingers. If I was pausing I would have switched those last two sentences. If I was pausing I would change “switched” to “flip-flopped”. See how this works? I’m not nearly as eloquent this way. That’s why I always prefer to write rather than speak. Like Paul. Bold in writing, timid when in person. I’ve learned a lot about insecurity. It’s really an epidemic among the world and of course the church. I’ve been understanding it in my own life and thus seeing it and doing my best to root it out as I identify it. The one frustrating thing that comes along with such growth is that then you can see the sin in other people. It’s like x-ray vision. So now I see insecurity everywhere and I just want to shake people and say “Stop It!” but I still haven’t stopped it so what do I have to say about it anyway. I used to think it was “humble” to be camera shy, for example. Oh, don’t take my picture. Oh, no. But actually, it’s none other than pride cleverly disguised as- crap, I can’t think of the word again. I almost cheated and paused anyway, but then I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight. Because of how my computer is positioned, I have to type with my arms slightly elevated. I wouldn’t have guessed that it would be my biceps of all muscles that would be starting to ache at this point. That reminds me of an interesting fact about myself. I never realized until a short while ago that the majority of the population drives their cars with their heel comfortably planted on the floorboard. I’ve been driving around for eight years (wow, that’s not very long, is it?) with my toe pointed like a ballerina or an equestrian jumper and having to do calve exercises to take road trips. I can’t go back, but I would say “to prepare for roadtrips”. Anyway, that’s a funny thing. I’m just too short. My feet don’t reach the pedals very well. Well, I guess they would if I moved the seat closer to the steering wheel but then if I ran into anything going over 25 miles an hour I would be decapitated by my airbag. I’ll take the toe-point, thank you. Okay, my arms are really aching now, and this is one loooooong paragraph. Oh, that looooong just gave me an idea of how to get a break. This sure is a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong paragraph. Ah, that was nice. Now I’ve got my elbows resting on the counter although it’s much harder to peck this way. Speaking of elbows, I used to be in a kung-fu class with this Persian dude. He was the nicest guy. His name was Phar-mar. He’d say “Phar-mar. Just think: Mars is very Far away”. Anyway, he was working with me and we were talking about a particular move and he said something like “You need to bend your knee-bows.” I thought that was so funny. You know, like elbows on your legs would be knee-bows. I thought it was funny anyway. Maybe you had to be there. Well, this is getting old and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. I must say, this is the fastest I have ever put in a blog entry, hands down. (yuk yuk). I’ll spare us all and quit now, but don’t say I didn’t blog! Don’t say I didn’t throw something out there for you! And one day, when I get out of this mental cloud-funk I have been in for the past few weeks I’ll do my best to actually say something useful. Until that day, goodnight.

Monday, October 16, 2006

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's.... SuperFoods!

I’ve never really been one for “healthy” eating. I don’t sit around with a bag of Doritos or down whole cartons of ice cream, but I’ve never eaten a balanced diet. I don’t care for many vegetables, and my only relationship with fruit is juice and the occasional smoothie. In fact, if tomatoes hadn’t made it into the fruit category, I would never consume fruit of any kind that actually requires chewing.

Recently, however, my mom had been giving me little snippets of information from the new “SuperFoods” movement, and I think I've officially been sucked in. It’s basically a list of 14 foods, each with several “sidekicks”, that are labeled as “super” based on nutritional benefits and disease prevention. The thing about this diet is that it isn’t exclusionary, but inclusionary ( I don’t think that’s a word, but just go with it). No one is telling me to eat bunless hamburgers or that my margarine will give me cancer. Rather than reminding me what a horrible person I am for continuing to eat french fries, it tells me what’s good and what to add to my diet. A lot of them are things that I actually like and I can make a more concerted effort to include in meals, like tomatoes, blueberries, nuts, and yes- dark chocolate. Things like spinach and beans I’ll have to be more creative with. And then there’s broccoli. I’d rather eat my foot that one floret of that nastiness, so I won’t be getting any of broccoli’s superpowers any time soon.

So yesterday, with my new SuperFoods book, I ventured into Henry’s, the local healthy-hippie type store. I felt like a pagan in church. I didn’t know what I was doing or where anything was. I just wanted to slip in the back and try to blend in. As I passed other shoppers, paranoia began to set in. Was everyone staring at me? What is she doing here? It felt as though they could see right through my skin and into my clogged arteries. I grabbed a cart, tried to look as healthy as I could, and began walking each aisle. I started with crackers. I needed whole grains. I came upon a sample station for multi-grain crackers that had all these little specks and seeds on them- the kind of stuff my hamster used to eat. They looked pretty healthy to me, and they actually tasted good too, so I grabbed a box and put it in the basket. I picked up a box of cereal bars for the kids, read the ingredients, and, finding I could pronounce every one of them, added two boxes to my cart. I found some good yogurt, a box of soy milk, and a bag of snap peas. It wasn’t until the cereal aisle that I began to get suspicious of my multi-grain crackers. All of these cereals touted different grainage- whole grain, multi-grain, oat and grain- and after a minute of investigation I realized that many grains are actually only partial grains masquerading as whole grains. I checked the first ingredient on my crackers and sure enough: Enriched wheat flour. I don’t know what enriched means, I but I know that it’s a bad, bad thing, so I made my way back to the cracker aisle and exchanged them for the real deal.

Once I was sure I had exceeded my intended budget, I headed for the checkout. I wasn’t sure what to expect here either. Would they check my I.D.? My cholesterol level? The checkout lady smiled and greeted me as I approached the register. To my relief, she rang up my groceries and I was on my way without anyone taking my blood pressure or inquiring how many servings of green leafy vegetables I had eaten that day. I returned home with my groceries and a sense of triumph. I could feel the Free Radicals cringing as I emptied my bags of SuperFoods into the refrigerator. Nothing could discourage me now!

Nothing, that is, except possibly my two-year-old.

Later that night Bethany climbed on my back and wanted me to crawl around the house and give her a ride. As we lumbered down the hallway she declared with delight, “I’m riding a whale!”

I’m never eating again.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Someday My Prince Will Come

My mom and I took the girls to Costco the other morning. It's always fun to go anywhere with the kiddos, but especially to places where we will inevitably come across a Disney character on a book cover or a box of diapers, because it's fun to watch Bethany's reaction. If she sees Pooh or Buzz Lightyear, she points and excitedly announces their presence. If she sees any of the Disney Princesses, her eyes get very wide and she leans out of the shopping cart, calling out each of their names. And if she sees The Little Mermaid, she practically hyperventilates.

Ariel is by far her favorite of the Disney princesses. We have multiple Ariel dolls, I am the human jukebox for Ariel songs, and I have been known to fashion a rather impressive play-dough Ariel. We think it's adorable that she's so enamored with The Little Mermaid, and has been for months now. As she gets older, however, and as we become more familiar with the Doctrines of Disney, Matthew and I have come to realize that Ariel may not be such a stellar role model for our daughter.

Ariel deals with a myriad of issues, most significantly a self-centered mindset with little concern for others and a general lack of discernment. But we have to be somewhat understanding. After all, she is living in a single-parent home (as are all Disney Princesses) with a father who has an anger problem. To add to her predisposition to selfishness, she is the youngest in a long line of markedly uglier sisters and is unquestionably her father's favorite child. From this dysfunctional family setting, several themes arise that flew right by me as a kid, but now as a mom raise some major eyebrow.

First of all, the main statement the movie makes is to follow your heart- even if it means directly disobeying your father and signing away your life to a massively overweight power-hungry octopus-woman. Second thing I never noticed: By the time the movie ends with newly-wed Ariel floating off into the sunset on her wedding ship, the average watcher who hasn't seen the film 36 times has most likely forgotten that Ariel clearly stated her age earlier on in the movie... she is a mere sixteen years old. Her daddy of course gives this marriage his blessing and in fact makes it possible by magically giving her legs, but what can we expect from a father who passes off his parental responsibilities to a crab.

If I had nothing else to do, I would probably have a lot of fun making sequels to these fairytale movies. The post-honeymoon tension is already building in my mind... Prince Eric and Ariel go out to dinner, and Eric orders the flounder.... Eric wants to watch the big game at his favorite sports bar, but they card Ariel at the door.... King Triton wants the pair home for the holidays, but Eric can't breathe underwater. Probably didn't have time to think through these kinds of details during their 3-day courtship.

Admittedly, I am going a little overboard (yuk yuk) for the sake of what I call humor. Matthew and I are not going to burn all the Little Mermaid paraphernalia and boycott Disney, but we will need to be mindful of what our daughters are taking in. In reality, we will probably end up drawing a number of lessons from the Disney princesses and will find ample teaching opportunities in them as Bethany gets older. After all, there is some truth in every lie. Like the princesses, we are all born longing for something more; something greater than ourselves. There is in fact a grand Prince to fall madly in love with. And, best of all, there most certainly is a happily ever after.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Under Where?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that most everyone has back-up underwear. I don't mean a spare set of underwear that is carried around on one's person in the event of a bladder malfunction. The underwear I'm referring to are those 3 or 4 pairs that you own but rarely wear. They are an unfortunate few that you didn't intentionally buy as back-ups, but over time eventually fell out of the rotation. It may be that they don't quite fit you right, or they make you feel fat, or they have a propensity towards wedgies, but for one reason or another they have slowly and surely worked their way to the back of the drawer to mingle with the Christmas socks. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I will have you know that I have spent the entire week wearing back-up underwear. As I type this, I can almost feel my readers squirming in empathetic discomfort. I appreciate the sentiment. Why, you may ask, would someone subject themselves to such a tortuous state of existence? Perhaps for one day, possibly two, when the laundry has gotten out of hand, a pair of back-ups will be worn. But an entire week? Allow me to explain.

We stepped off of the cruise ship in Vancouver last Saturday morning. Royal Carribean had an elaborate luggage system in place including color-coded tags, ours being Orange 11. We were instructed to attach the tags to our bags, place our luggage outside our stateroom doors, and Royal Caribbean would take over from there. You already know where this is going. The morning we were to depart, we were all sitting around waiting for our luggage color and number to be announced so we could proceed down the gangway. After several hours and a rainbow of other colors, Orange 11 was finally called. Matthew and I cheered audibly as onlookers smiled with a combination of amusement and envy, and we headed off to the bus that would take us to Seattle where we would catch our flight home. There were two buses, actually, both full of Seattle-bound cruisers, and as we boarded the buses we all shared the same concern. The luggage on the sidewalk by the bus was not Orange 11 luggage, but Orange 10. Not to worry, assured the cruise representatives. It's all part of the system. Your luggage will be on the other bus. So off we went on the 3 hour drive to Sea-Tac airport. The other bus had a head start on us and, upon arrival, we pulled up to see its passengers standing around with arms folder and brows furrowed, anxious to get into our luggage compartments. Understandable, we thought to ourselves. After all, we must have their luggage, and they must have ours. But neither of these statements proved to be true.

It was utter chaos for about 15 minutes. The only thing worse than a mob of angry people is a mob of angry rich people, and that is indeed what we were caught up in. Matthew and I, being neither rich nor angry, tried to be as understanding as possible with the terrified Royal Caribbean representatives. We filled out some paperwork and waited around for what we should do. After much yelling and phone calls it was announced that our luggage was still in Vancouver. To add insult to injury, due to some kind of protocol, they refused to send our luggage on a bus without passengers. The only option was to ship our luggage out to us the following Monday, giving it an ETA of 4 to 5 days. With renewed rage, the mink mob descended upon the RC reps once again, breathing out fiery threats and vows of retaliation. Matthew and I picked up our carry-ons and quietly slipped out of the fray and into the terminal, knowing that coming home to Phoenix we would not be much missing our sweat pants and overcoats.

I am, however, missing my underwear. I do the laundry every two days to keep the fragile cycle going. I suppose I could have just gone to Target and bought more, but throughout this underwear crisis my bench has really come up big. I don't think I'll be returning any of them to the starting line-up, but I have to hand it to them. They're getting the job done.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Reluctant Early Riser

I woke up this morning when it was still dark outside because some nut was out there mowing their lawn. This is double-irritating because 1) I lost an hour’s sleep and 2) It only served as a reminder of the jungle we are currently growing in our backyard. I think it’s been literally 3 months since Matthew’s been out there mowing, although last week he did go after the front lawn with a weed-whacker and gave it a bad haircut to buy more time with the HOA. But in the backyard, the lawn is seriously out of control. I hesitate to take Bethany out back to play because if she wanders into the grasslands, we may never see her again.

So the Lawnmower Man woke me up and now I can’t go back to sleep because there are a million things swirling around in my head. All wonderful things, but things nonetheless. Most prevalent is a contract I received yesterday from a publisher that I will possibly be working with on a song-by-song basis. They sent the agreement for me to look over and sign, calling it “a standard document that simply outlines our understanding”. Let me tell you, there wasn’t much “simple” going on over here, and even less “understanding”. Here’s an excerpt:

AND WHEREAS Purchaser has agreed to purchase and Seller has agreed to sell 50% (fifty percent) of Seller’s undivided right, title and interest (whether existing, contingent, expectant or otherwise to the full extent thereof) in and to the Compositions, and copyrights thereto and by this reference made a part hereof, and the assets more particularly described below (the “Copyright(s)”) for the consideration and upon the terms and conditions hereinafter contained;

I’m working through it paragraph by paragraph, and with the help of lawyer-dad, will hopefully have it decoded by the end of the day, signed and notarized by the aforementioned lawyer, thereof. Hitherto. Forsyth.

On top of that, I’m thinking through the planning necessary to leave the kids for our 5-year anniversary trip. We disembark on Saturday. That’s right- “disembark”. We’re going on an Alaskan Cruise. Some savings, a contribution from a wonderful person, little Harper’s tax refund, and we’re on our way! We always held an Alaskan cruise out there as a 10-year or maybe 15-year anniversary, but as we thought about it we realized that we could get hit by a bus or Christ could come back or Canada could take over Alaska before we ever got to go. So we’re going now. Very logical reasoning, if you ask me. Seriously, though- you have to live life. You can’t just wait around or make grand plans for the future. Carpe Diem! Carpe Cruise! Carpe Buffet!

Other than those two big fish, the rest is just the plankton of the day floating around in my head. I have to run sound for Women’s Ministries this morning, I have to hit the post office to ship out a box of Archie Comics I sold on eBay, and there are still a bunch of loose ends to tie up before we go. So, as long as I can successfully navigate the legalese and no crocodiles emerge from the Outback out back, this should be a pretty good day.

Monday, September 04, 2006

You Might Be a Mommy

1) If you've ever done a load of legos in the washing machine...

2) If you've ever enjoyed an oatmeal-facial unintentionally...

3) If you find yourself singing the theme song to "Dora the Explorer" in the shower...

4) If there is more food on the floor than in the refrigerator...

5) If you've ever looked into the cost of installing a GPS system on a sippy cup...

6) If your purse is too large to qualify as carry-on baggage...

7) If you've ever contracted a sore throat from talking like Elmo for too long...

8) If you've ever used your vacuum cleaner directly on a human being...

9) If you've ever excused yourself from a social setting by saying "I have to go to the potty..."

10) If you've ever been overwhelmed by God's goodness in the blessing of kids...

You might be a Mommy! (Or a Daddy, I suppose... except for the purse one. :)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Confessions of a Hygiene-Challenged 9-year-old

Personal hygiene is like eating vegetables and room cleaning. It's an acquired taste that kids will eventually grow into, and no matter how hard you try you can never implant the appreciation for it into them. They may wash up to please a parent or to avoid punishment, but in their heads they're still thinking how pointless of a practice it is. I know because I still remember thinking those very thoughts as I ran the water in the sink and rubbed my toothbrush up and down on the grout between the tiles on the bathroom counter for that authentic teeth-brushing sound. It took a while for my parents to catch on, but they did eventually. I had a mouthful of cavities when I was a kid, but that grout was spotless.

After particularly hot days helping my dad in the garage, he would often try to persuade me to take a shower before I went to bed because "you would feel so much better"! But at nine years old, he may as well have been speaking a foreign language. The only thing I felt after a shower was wet. One night I thought I had found a short cut to the shower by simply running the water for 10 minutes and then sticking my head in to get my hair wet. My plans were thwarted, however, when I walked into the kitchen with soaked hair hanging down my back and dry, feathery bangs in front. If you ever try that trick, learn from my mistake and be sure to get your whole head in there.

These days there is nothing better then the feeling of falling into bed after a hot shower, and I often think of how my dad was right all those years. It is also impossible for me to go to sleep now without brushing my teeth, otherwise I can feel the little plaque armies crawling all over my mouth, pillaging my enamel, and I can almost hear the dentist strike up his drill. I may be cleaner than I was 15 years ago, but I still haven't quite grown into vegetables. At least not the dark green ones. I have gained an appreciation for a clean house, albeit just in time to see the possibility of such a phenomenon in my own home vanish for at least the next 10 years.

At this point I am blessed that Bethany asks to have her teeth brushed. I think this is only because she likes to eat the toothpaste, but I'll take what I can get. I don't know how she'll feel about it as she gets older, but with grout-less bathroom counters I guess she'll have to be more creative then her mother.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Down from the Mountain

Well, I'm officially home from the mountains. At 6:00am Sunday morning I boarded the death-shuttle from Estes Park to the Denver airport with 10 other bleary-eyed passengers. I took the shuttle last year, so I knew what was coming, but my companions remained blissfully ignorant until the van came squealing into the parking lot, catching serious air on the speed bumps. After the first few mountain curves taken on two wheels the women in the front row pleaded with the driver to slow down because they had children at home who needed their mommies. He didn't seem particularly sympathetic, but I think he realized that in two hours he'd either have a van full corpses or furiously angry people, neither of which tip very well. He reluctantly obliged and slowed down to a reasonable speed. We arrived at the airport, kissed the ground, and went our separate ways.

It was a pretty uneventful flight home. Had some ginger ale, stashed the peanuts in my purse for Bethany, and spent the flight organizing my thoughts from the week. It was much better than last year it terms of what I blogged about before I left. It seemed like everyone who stood in front of us made a point to hammer in the concept that competitions don't matter, recognition is secondary to simply using your gifts, and the importance of "blooming where you're planted". These mini-sermons, combined with time in the word and prayer, served as refreshing reminders that seemed to keep us all in the right place. There were great concerts, I met some really great people, and even went horseback riding with a new friend at the end of the week. Of course, it doesn't take much to make me happy. I had a blast just being around people who could feed themselves, carry on intelligent conversation, and use the bathroom without my assistance.

I did miss my kiddos, and Matthew of course. It was pretty hard on them, actually. It wasn't easy last year when Bethany was only 10 months old and Harper was still in my tummy, but Matthew said with two kids it was craziness and Bethany was visibly bothered by my absence. Next year, they're all coming with me. Next year… used to seem so far away. These days it’s just around the corner.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tap the Rockies

About a year ago I was flying home on a plane from Denver, exhausted and still reeling from all I had just taken in. I was coming back from a conference in Colorado put on by the Gospel Music Association called “Music in the Rockies”. I had heard about it from Aaron Rice, a writer who judged at a local songwriting event, during a Q & A session. The question was something like, “What can amateurs like us do? How do we get heard?” His answer was Music in the Rockies. I resolved at that moment that my next step as an aspiring songwriter was to be at that event. As it turns out, it was not the next step, but a giant leap.

It was basically 6 days of drinking out of a fire hose. There were more classes that I wanted to attend then I had slots in the day. There were more people that I wanted to meet than I had the time or opportunity. Then there was the overwhelming feeling of sitting down in a class with “industry professionals”- people who were living my dream- and listening to them share their wisdom and experience with plebs like us. I took in volumes of information. I met scads of great people from all across the country. I even had one of my songs critiqued by the author of “Crucified With Christ”, and he liked it. It was quite literally a mountain top experience for me as a songwriter, and well worth the cost.

But there was a dark side to Music in the Rockies. It’s a kind of disease- one that spreads like gangrene among the registrants. It can be seen in the dejected faces of those who were not chosen, wallowing in self-pity. It manifests itself in people huddled together over critique sheets, angrily arguing each negative point as ridiculous and unfounded. The worst case I saw was in my roommate, who simply went home early after discovering she was not a finalist. The disease has many names and many symptoms, but pure and simple it is none other than Pride. I came unprepared for its assault on my heart and became infected on Monday evening, along with all of my roommates and the majority of other registrants. But I quickly found the cure to be the same as it is at home- spending time with Jesus. An hour or so with the Savior renewed my heart and spirit, returned to me the perspective I had lost, and reminded me Who I was serving and Who I was writing for.

I went home without winning anything, but I did come away with pages of furiously scribbled notes, a new understanding of the industry, and, most significantly, another conference to sign up for. All week we had been wearing orange lanyards with www.WriteAboutJesus.com emblazoned on them to hold our nametag and meal ticket, but nobody seemed to know what it was. It turned out that Sue Smith, one of the clinicians, ran a conference of her own out in St. Louis called Write About Jesus. I was in several sessions with Sue and got to hear a bit more about the conference and her heart with it, and before I left the Rockies I had decided to register for the October event.

Write About Jesus was even better than Music in the Rockies. Not only was it shorter and much more affordable, but it stayed true to its name. It was about Jesus. It wasn’t about winning competitions and impressing judges. No one showed up with six garment bags and a steam cleaner. It was about writing and being with other writers. The people were amazing. Some of my greatest memories from being there were not classes or competitions, but sitting around a table at Dairy Queen with like-minded people, sharing our hearts and laughing our heads off. The clinicians were much more accessible and approachable and there was simply a different atmosphere then in Colorado. I guess it all boils down to this: Music in the Rockies is something you go to. Write About Jesus is something you belong to.

In a few days I will be on a plane back to Denver to do Music in the Rockies all over again. While I am really looking forward to it, it now serves as more of the advent of “Songwriting Season” for me. Being in the Rockies means that Write About Jesus is just around the corner. It’s kind of like the appetizer, and Write About Jesus is the anticipated main course. Music in the Rockies will whet my appetite for writing and hopefully re-ignite my dreams, and Write About Jesus and the people there will satisfy my soul. I look forward with great anticipation to both events, eager to discover what great things God has planned, and what He will accomplish when my heart is all about Him.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Two Kinds of Drummers

I'm sitting back here at the sound booth and the band is practicing for the upcoming Sunday morning. This is always a good time for blogging as I sit by a computer for an hour with only minimal interruptions to turn up someone's monitor or ask the drummer to bring it down a notch on the snare. Ah, the delicate relationship between the drummer and the sound man. Each can make or break the other. It's a love/hate thing, really.

I have a long-held theory about drummers. There are only two kinds, two categories to divide them into, and these categories are distinguished solely by which personality disorder a particular drummer is afflicted with: ADD or OCD (Attention Deficit Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Some of you other musicians are already nodding your heads in acknowledgement. Non-musicians have clicked on the "next blog" button in the upper right hand corner. For those of you still with me, I will continue. The ADD drummer drums the way he lives: Scattered, constantly moving, and loud. I've played with and run sound for many such drummers. The best thing about them is their visible passion for the music and their Spirit-led musicianship. I just wish the Spirit would tell them it isn't necessary to beat the drums within an inch of their lives to passionately worship. We have one drummer at our church who needs a Dirt Devil just to suck up all the stick fragments that litter the floor after he plays a service. This sort of ADD drummer often poses a problem for the sound man. You don't want to squash his creativity or take all the passion away, but on the flip side a worship set is much less effective when words are indistinguishable. "...CRASH! ..Indescribable, CRASH!... Uncontainable, ...SNARE! placed the CRASH! in the SNARE! and You CRASH! them by TOM FILL!..." That just doesn't fly with the over-forty crowd, and they're the ones who are always filling out those comment cards. We've resorted to encasing our ADD drummers in Plexiglas, and this has worked well for the most part. The biggest drawback to this is that now the sound of the drums reverberating around their little cubicle only serves to deafen them further, thus causing them to play even louder. At least when they're forty they won't be able to hear anything and they won't write me any comment cards.

The OCD drummer is a good drummer because he is steady, sure, and always on. He rarely overplays and sometimes even shows up armed with his metronome just to make sure. Problems don't usually arise until you need to change something. If you need to repeat a chorus or cut a verse on the fly, you can't just notify an OCD drummer of the change. You have to completely reprogram him. This can get hairy 15 minutes before doors open. But you've got to love the OCD drummer because he always shows up to practice on time, he's always prepared, and, best of all, he stops playing when the worship leader is talking. His music is in order and he's always writing stuff down. The OCD drummer is the safe drummer. They're just not as fun to watch as their counterparts. I watch some of the particularly militant ones play and I think to myself that if they're missing a stick, I have a pretty good idea where it might be.

I don't think any of my drumming friends read my blog, but I think some of their friends do. So if you are one such friend, there's no need to pass this blog along to them. Just sit smugly with your new-found insight into their psychological issues, and silently sift them into their appropriate categories.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Please Don't Deport Me

MSN recently offered a sample quiz of 20 questions from the United States Naturalization test on their website. Any immigrant would be required to pass the complete version, 100 or so questions, in order to gain citizenship. The questions varied on subject matter, but all were patriotic in nature- powers of government, dates of ratification, current political figures. As I feared would be the outcome, I failed. Not miserably, but still a full 5% away from baseball, McDonald's, and my civil rights. Slightly disheartening, I must say.

Contrary to first glance, I am a natural-born American citizen. My mom was born and raised in Iowa, but my dad was born in communist China, where he later fled to freedom when he was a little boy. Genetically, my sister and I ended up inheriting many physical traits from dad- dark hair, dark eyes, and enough of a variation in eye shape to have experienced that irritating playground chant that I won't type here, complete with hand-motions. I was also amused in elementary school by the concept of "Chinese jump ropes", "Chinese cuts", and "Chinese fire drills". I wasn't sure if my classmates actually believed that everyone in China jumps out of their car at stoplights and runs around in circles. I later came to realize that "Chinese" was simply a more interesting way to say "weird". All the playground stuff never bothered me because, afrter all, they made fun of everybody. The only instance of official "racism" didn't come until the 7 th grade when Matt Hubbard called me by a racial slur, and even that didn't really get to me. I knew it was wrong, but I also knew Matt Hubbard was an idiot, so if the teacher hadn't heard it I probably would have pretended I didn't either and spared us both an awkward trip to the Principal's office. The only other time I had ever gone to see the Principal was when someone attempted to flush by backpack down the toilet, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't racially motivated.

I guess thinking about it, Junior High was when I really began to realize that I was indeed half Chinese, and to the untrained eye appeared fully Chinese. It's a strange phenomenon, realizing what you look like to other people. It's similar to the outlook of the little dog. The little dog never seems to realize that he's little. A Pomeranian will go after a Great Dane without thinking twice. It took me a while to realize that people saw me as different then themselves, even though I didn't see myself that way. I remember one day walking up behind a friend who was trying to describe me to another student who didn't know who I was. "You know," she said, "she's the little Oriental girl." I recall thinking to myself, "Who is she talking about?", only moments later realizing it was me. In my mind, "Oriental" was a flavor of Raman noodles, not the first word I would use to describe myself. My eye-opening process continued in the social realm. As you may remember, Junior High centered around the endless pairing of preadolescents in both actual and hypothetical combinations of who should, could, and is "going out". The little dog phenomenon would rear its shaggy head whenever I would have a crush on a white kid but everyone would tease me about hooking up with the Chinese guy. I think I proved my point in eighth grade by going to Promotion dance with a black kid. I was never one for racial barriers, I suppose. And now, of course, I'm married to my wonderful husband Matthew, possibly the whitest man on the planet. I love you, babe.

Growing up half-Chinese did have its perks. Every year, on what was just another random day in February to my friends, I received a red envelope full of money from my dad. And the food. Oh, the food. Dad is an amazing cook who puts P.F. Chang's to shame. More significant are the "Chinese" character traits born and built into who I am: discipline, diligence, frugality, and dogged work ethic. But there are two sides to every coin, the second coming in pressure to perform, expectations, and a culture built on guilt. A friend once asked me if I liked being Chinese. I'd never really given it much thought, and I gave him the only answer I really could. I don't really know if I like being Chinese, because I've never known any different.

Find out if you should be deported at http://www.uscis.gov/graphics/exec/natz/natztest.asp?FormMode=INITIAL

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Best Day for the Gym

I belong to a gym that allows for month-to-month membership, which is one of its most endearing qualities. It only requires 30 days of discipline at a time. Anyone can be disciplined for 30 days. It’s after the novelty wears off that brings the true test of diligence. This is only my second month so far, and already my resolve is beginning to wane. It’s not that I dislike going. I really do enjoy working out and how it makes me feel. I enjoy feeling like I’ve accomplished something no matter what else happens that day, and somehow it takes the guilt out of that cheeseburger and fries at lunch. I enjoy the early morning drive to the gym, being able to roll down my windows without having my eyebrows singed off. And I enjoy getting a chuckle out of seeing drivers circling the parking lot for the space closest to the entrance, because Heaven forbid they’d have to walk an extra 17 steps to get to the treadmill.

My gym is actually a rec center, so I avoid a lot of the less appealing aspects of a traditional gym. There aren’t any of the those glistening gargantuan guys who’s necks have long ago disappeared into their pectorals, and spandex sightings are thankfully rare. There’s a lot of natural light in the place and good ventilation, which wards off the caged-hamster-on-its-wheel feeling. And there’s even a rock wall if I’m feeling particularly adventurous- which has only been once so far. (This experience provoked sentiments similar to those of my last ski trip, which can be read about in detail in a previous blog).

I generally spend my time at the gym at four stations. First, I stretch. Not because I really feel that big of a difference, but because it seems like that is what good people do, like washing your hands before you eat and covering your mouth before sneezing. I do the chicken-leg stretch and the I-dropped-a-quarter stretch, then a few that I make up as I go along. Once I’m feeling limbered up, I hop on one of the six elliptical machines. There’s usually one or two others that are already occupied, so I try to space myself out accordingly. It seems to be the unspoken etiquette that one does not take a machine directly beside another person if the next one over is available. Kind of like church. I am willing, however, to break protocol if necessary to secure machine number 6. Number six not only sits directly beneath the ceiling fan, it is also positioned in front of the television that broadcasts ESPN. There’s nothing like watching the closed-captioning try to keep up with play-by-play commentary. My numerical goal on the elliptical machine is always to go for thirty minutes and 2.5 miles, but in reality everyone knows that true success is staying on longer than the person next to you.

After my cardio is complete, I take a cool-down lap around the indoor track and head for the weight machines. I only do one weight machine, mostly because it’s the only one I know how to operate. I do a few sets on that and then I go to the sit-up bench thingy. This is my favorite station of my workout because I get to lie down. It’s basically a bench with a foot-holder that has variable degrees of incline, in case regular sit-ups aren’t difficult enough. I don’t really have that problem, but I slant it anyway so that when I’m gasping my way through my final set I can tell myself it’s because of the incline. Once I feel like I’ll never digest again, I go back to the weight machine for a few more arm reps before I call it a day and stumble down the stairs on jello legs, clinging to the banister with quivery arms. One thing’s for certain, it’s the only flight of stairs that I encounter where going up is easier than coming down.

I'll go to the gym tomorrow for sure. That's always the best day anyway.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Servant's Heart

At Lifegroup last night one of the guys brought up a really great self-test that I want to share with all of you:

If you think you have the servant thing down, how do you react when someone treats you like one?

Convicting.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Can't Sleep

What do you do when you can’t sleep? I have a myriad of remedies, ranging from reading and writing to just closing my eyes and trying to envision the back of my head. Sounds weird, I know. But you should try it some time- it really works. Just like if you feel a sneeze coming on and you don’t want it to get away, you’re supposed to scratch your wrist and think of cows. Never fails. On the flip side, if you feel a sneeze coming on and it isn’t a very good time for a sneeze, the tip is to quickly locate a light source and stare at it until the sneeze goes away. I’ve used this method through many a church service, but I have come to realize that it has nothing to do with a light source or even looking at anything. The secret is simply in keeping your eyes open, because it is impossible to sneeze without closing your eyes. Some have even gone as far to claim that if you were to sneeze with your eyes open, your eyeballs would pop out. This makes for an interesting mental image, but I am doubtful that it’s true. I have two friends that have a glass eye. (To clarify, they do not share a glass eye, thankfully they each have one of their own. Nor did they lose their respective eyes by sneezing with them held open.) Is that strange to know multiple glass-eye owners, or does everybody know a couple of these folks? I guess it’d be hard to really know, unless they were like my one friend who enjoys popping it out at parties. I never go to any of his parties. I was at a goodbye party a few hours ago. A guy in our Lifegroup is moving to Texas, so we hung out with him and watched as the Suns allegorically lost one to the Mavs. I enjoy a good play-off game, but you know what I hate about the NBA? Watching grown men whine. In baseball, when they get a bad call, they never whine at the umpire. They yell at him. I much prefer yelling to whining. Hopefully there won’t be much of either in my house. This entry is going to be a short one, because it has already accomplished its purpose: to bore me to sleep, and it has likely done the same for you. Buenos noches, mis amigos.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Return to Sender

I get the mail a couple times a week, at best. It's always jam-packed, but 95% of it will invariably end up in the trash can. I've gotten pretty good at picking out the junk mail and knowing which envelopes need to be opened and which can be expedited directly to the garbage. Dead give aways are the obvious computerized attempts at handwritten addresses or the ominous phrases printed on the envelope. Pretty much anything that says "Do Not Discard" or "Personal and Confidential" will never see the light of day at my house. I'm pretty sure I get more "personal and confidential" mail in a given week than the head of the CIA.

Then there is the barrage of catalogues from companies I have never purchased from, and never intend to. Some I have inherited from the previous home owner while other retailers have, through some form of surveillance, determined my demographic and send me catalogs they feel are appropriate. One that I find particularly irritating is the monthly arrival of Pottery Barn Kids, which I have learned not to open, because every time I do my house magically gets uglier. They may have enough sophisticated technology to know that we have children, but they obviously didn't go as far as to hack into any of our financial records, otherwise they would know that they are just wasting their paper on us. For the price of what it cost to furnish our entire home, Bethany could be sleeping in a beautiful pink and white "Madeline Canopy Bed", and if Matthew got a second job, she could have the matching curtains too. Maybe it costs so much because they go to the trouble of beating up the furniture for you to give it that lived-in look. "Manufacturer's Distressing" is the technical term for it. Personally, I am drawn to manufactuer's distressing not because it is considered chic, but because when the piece is eventually rammed into a wall or sideswiped by a tricycle, any damage will blend right in.

The other day I got the mail and it contained a letter that I look upon with heightened disgust, a letter from the HOA. Not an unusual happening, I must admit. It always begins by stating the "violation date" and it always has to do with our landscaping. We're the first house on the corner, so I'm sure that has something to do with it. This time it was the weeds. I thought they blended in nicely with the lawn, but apparently Kinney Management doesn't share my opinion. They really are sticklers, that HOA. Last year we were trying to do our part in the water conservation effort by not fixing our broken sprinkler system, but with complete disregard for the environment they demanded that we "revive our dying lawn". I guess not everyone sees the beauty of two-toned grass. Neither Matthew nor I had a clue how to fix the system, but before I resorted to buying a can of green spray paint my dad came over and saved the day. As a result of a well-watered lawn, however, we are now plagued by the violating weeds. You just can't make these people happy. I'm sure their yards are perfectly spotless. They probably shop at Pottery Barn.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Adventures at the Airport

I returned from my sister's California wedding this past week. It was a lot of fun and everything went really well considering it was planned from 500 miles away. Bethany was the flower girl and while she didn't exactly walk down the aisle on her own, she was adorable. Actually, she pretty much ran the other direction. But like I said, adorable.

On Sunday the bride and groom took off for the Mexican Riviera while the rest of us headed back for Phoenix. That was a bit of an adventure of its own. First of all I was flying with two children under 2 years old without my husband. I am convinced that this would surely have been my end if my mom and some friends hadn't been there to stand in the gap. It took two of us and a helpful airport employee just to get us through security. Each child must first be removed from the stroller and carried through the metal detector, then the stroller itself must be made to fit through the scanny thing. This poses quite a challenge for a full-size Graco Duo-Glider, which we affectionately refer to as "The Suburban". The whole contraption eventually made it through, albeit in several pieces. It was while I was attempting to reassemble it that the real escapade was taking place.

My dad was the next in line, carrying his small duffle bag and a box of wedding gifts that the groomsmen had given him to take home with us. Everything was going swimmingly until the TSA guy stopped the conveyer belt and frowned. "Who's box is this?" He asked.

"It's mine." My dad replied, stepping through the detector.

"Do you know what's in this box?" TSA guy asked accusingly.

"No, actually I don't", my dad answered. "They’re my daughter's wedding gifts".

"Oh, you don't know what's in here, huh?" TSA guy taunted.

"No, I don't!" my dad insisted.

Really?” He sneered. “You have no idea what’s in this box?”

Turns out that among the wedding gifts was an entire set of steak knives, complete with a butcher knife. It wasn't looking too good for dad. Not only had he inadvertently broken a federal law, but this particular TSA agent suffered from a severe case of "Mall Cop" Syndrome (MCS). In case you aren't familiar with this condition, it generally afflicts those who carry a pretext of authority but in reality have very little at all- those uniformed individuals who dream of carrying a firearm and chasing down evil-doers in squad cars but are trusted with only a maglight and a golf cart. Victims of MCS are known to consistently overreact to rebellion with fervent zealousness, eager to throw some weight around, even if it’s in the form of a beer belly. But I suppose I can empathize with the guy. After hours of watching x-rays of underwear and hairdryers go by, those knives must have been a sight for sore eyes. It was clear from his visibly repressed glee that he was secretly hoping this mild-mannered grandfather with a bum knee was really an international Ginsu-Ninja terrorist. What a notch in his belt that would be. So my parents waited with him for the Sheriff to arrive, along with one of the bridesmaids who was still carrying her flowers to give their story a little more credence. Is was up to the Sheriff to decide what my dad’s intentions truly were and if he should be fined the maximum $500 per violation.

But, as it turns out, my dad was not trying to take over the world or the airplane, and the sheriff determined that he found “no foul intent” with him. My mom was then allowed to check the box along with the other bags and both of them made it onto the plane without further incident. The TSA agent didn’t get to make the catch of his career that day, but at least it gave him a good story to tell his wife that night, and an interesting blog for me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Evolution of Date Night

Matthew and I have always been big fans of a weekly date night. We are so blessed to have my mom, who comes over every week to watch the kids so we can get away together. Date nights have somewhat evolved over the years. When it was just the two of us, date night was a wonderful way to ring in the weekend after five days of work and school. Throughout the week leading up to the event, we’d talk about what each of us would like to do, make any necessary reservations or preparations, and anticipate our night together. Planning these days is mostly to secure babysitting. My mom will call the day before and ask what time she should come over. Most of the time I won’t really know what to tell her, but the general rule is, the earlier the better. “Where are you going this week?” she’ll ask me. A pause. “I don’t know…”, I’ll reply slowly, realizing that we’ve overlooked this minor detail. “I guess it really doesn’t matter.”

Most of our dates are still pretty typical- dinner and a movie, then maybe some ice cream. But it’s more the getting out that counts, and sometimes getting out is all we have the energy to do anyway. One Friday when Harper was just a few weeks old and still waking up throughout the night, we were particularly exhausted. We had just finished a nice dinner at Charleston’s, our favorite restaurant.

“I am sooo tired,” Matthew groaned as we got up from the table.

“Me too,” I sighed, taking his hand as we made our way to the exit. “I just want to lay down.”

Matthew nodded in agreement. “That would be wonderful,” he said dreamily.

As we stepped outside into the night air, we stopped and stared. Just 100 yards across the parking lot, lit up like a beacon of hope, was the neon sign for Sleep America.

Moments later we were staring up at the ceiling, flat on our backs on a $3,000 king size Select Comfort Sleep Number mattress. If it hadn’t been for the pesky salesman who insisted on visiting us periodically, we may have drifted off right then and there. We laid there for as long as possible without looking suspicious, feigning interest in prices and different models, calculating our individual "Sleep Numbers". It was only when someone from the church walked in and recognized Matthew that we decided it was time to go. We thanked the salesman and left our pillow-top respite, brochure and business card in hand. We both agreed, dinner-and-a-movie was highly overrated. Dinner-and-the-mattress-store was the way to go.

Then there was last week when we had dinner and went to Michael’s Arts and Crafts together. I practically had to drag Matthew out of the car. It didn’t help my case that the car in the space next to ours was occupied by a man sitting in the passenger’s seat, reading a book. Once inside, I searched for table d├ęcor as Matthew trudged along behind me, insisting that I count the number of men we encountered. I must admit, I didn’t see any other men while we were shopping, but when we got to the register, each of the three women in line ahead of us had a man standing dutifully by.

“See?” I touted on the way back to the car. “There were three guys in there.”

“Yeah,” Matthew retorted, “And they all looked like me- like they wanted to die.”

Next week we will probably go back to the standard dinner and a movie. “The Sentinel” is coming out and we’ve been waiting for that one. But on those weeks when nothing good is playing, you never know where you might find us, although Costco is a pretty safe bet.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cease Striving and Know That He is God

Laying down to sleep each night is always a bit of an ordeal for me. My mind needs time to unwind and organize itself before it can completely shut off. Unlike Matthew who says he simply “takes his brain out and sets it on the nightstand”, I have to file through the day’s events and plan out the next one, which sometimes makes falling asleep a tedious task of its own. A few nights ago this whole process was compounded by the unsettling discovery of a scorpion in our laundry basket. Unfortunately, scorpions are not rare visitors in our home. This was an unusually large scorpion, one that you might find encased in glass and sold as a paperweight to some sick individual who has undoubtedly never encountered one scuttling across their bedroom floor. After Frank (our cat) alerted me to its presence, I plucked out the gym shorts that it was clinging to, rinsed it off into the bathtub, and crushed it with a baseball bat.

Thus was the advent of scorpion season in the Braselton household. This is a season of watchfulness- eyeing the floor with every step, scanning ceilings as you walk into a room, and performing black light inspections of the nursery before laying the babies down at night. Needless to say, this made getting to sleep that night even more difficult that usual. I was laying in bed for over an hour, wide awake, thinking only of scorpions and how to protect the kids from their potentially fatal sting. Jumping every time the sheets brushed against my legs, I went over my anti-scorpion warfare tactics and wondered if maybe I should peek into the cribs just one more time. It was in this anxious restlessness that God chose to teach me something about sleep.

John Piper has an excellent article on why we sleep. I can’t remember the title (Luke, maybe you have a link or something that you can post in comments), but he speculates to answer the question of why God would create us to need to spend a third of our lives sleeping, when so much more could be done for the kingdom in that time. He says a lot of great things, but his bottom line is that our need for sleep is to show us that God is God and we are not. It is along those same lines that I have been brought to look at sleep as a nightly opportunity to trust Him.

I think that women are generally very fearful creatures, which is probably why Peter admonishes us specifically not to give in to fear. I spend roughly 12 hours a day working and worrying, and doing my best to care for and protect my family. But as surely as the sun will rise the sun will set as well, bringing with it an inevitable moment when I must relinquish all control. It is at that point that I must lay down my fearful vigilance and realize that I was never really in control in the first place. Going to sleep renders me unable to continue pretending that the burden of running my little universe rests upon my shoulders.

I must sleep. I have no choice in the matter. And so it serves as a wonderful daily exercise for me to literally cease striving, and know that He is God.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bumble Bees and American Cheese

I had a songwriting first today. I was sitting out by the lake with my guitar, working on a song and enjoying the warm, sunny morning. While jotting down some notes, I saw something coming across the water out of the corner of my eye. It was flying straight at me, and it was coming fast. It was a bee. I am aware that for some people, this would be classified as only a minor inconvenience, warranting a firmly stated “Shoo!” and possibly a wave of the hand. These people group bees in with other common nuisances, such as moths, house flies, and door-to-door salesmen. I am not one of these people. For me, a Russian submarine may as well have surfaced on the face of the water. I lost sight of the bee as it zipped in closer, and jumped up from the bench where I had been sitting. Guitar in one hand and notebook in the other, I proceeded to perform a rousing rendition of the where-is-the-bee hokey pokey dance. Turning in circles and hopping up and down, I alternately extended each of my appendages to see if the bee had landed anywhere on my person. When I had finished publicly humiliating myself, I turned around and looked behind me, expecting to see the bee buzzing off in the other direction. Surprisingly, I neither saw him nor heard him. He must have been too fast, I concluded, and returned to my perch on the bench, quite impressed at the agility of this particular insect. I continued strumming along, toiling over my second verse. After about 20 minutes or so, I stopped playing to write some lyrics in my notebook, and I froze. There was a sound coming from my guitar. It is very common for guitar strings to buzz while being played, so I had thought nothing of this buzzing until now, when my guitar rested across my lap and yet the buzzing continued. Horrified, I gently and hastily laid my guitar in its open case and quickly backed away, my eyes glued to the sound hole. I have dropped my share of picks in there, but my reflex to flip the guitar over and shake vigorously wasn’t looking like a viable option. Luckily, no action was required of me as the bee seemed as eager to escape his deafening wooden prison as I was to be rid of him. He rose up between the strings, hovered for a moment, and then was gone.

I hate bees. I hate anything with a stinger attached to it, and I always have. When I was a little girl I remember having two distinct goals in life: Never to tear a slice of American Cheese while removing it from its plastic wrapping and Never to be stung by a bee. Thus far I have succeeded in keeping both of these lofty ambitions, though not without cost. The cheese just takes a bit of patience, but the bees require dogged vigilance. When we were growing up, my sister and I had an intricate bee-avoidance system for the swimming pool. One of us would yell “bee!”, we’d both dive under water, and then we’d surface beneath an overturned raft floating at one end of the pool, specifically positioned for that purpose. And there we would stay, treading water in our bee-shelter, until one of us could muster the courage to see if the coast was clear. I even remember a day when my family was barbequing in the backyard and one of those disgustingly huge black wood bees descended in front of my face. With my eyes trained on the bee I scrambled backwards to get away and ran right into the side of the barbeque grill. I had a nice 2nd degree burn on my leg and a scar for several years, but by golly, that bee never got to me.

I wonder what came of my little winged co-writer. I got away with just a few heebie jeebies, but I’m pretty sure that little guy is going to have some permanent hearing damage. Do bees even have ears? Hm. Let’s find out. Off to google I go… Aha! Here’s what I found:

Question - Do bees have ears? If so, where are they? I seem to remember that grasshoppers have ears on their knees. Do bees too?
----------------------------------------
No. Honey bees do not have "ears" even like those of crickets and grasshoppers, and do not sense sound in any way like humans or other animals.
J. Elliott

My conscience has been assuaged.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Journal to Self- Truly Living

(Whenever God teaches me something particularly remarkable I will write a journal entry to myself, knowing that one day, after having long forgotten my epiphany, I will be flipping through the pages and get to re-learn the truth all over again. I have found that the most effective format for the purpose of preaching to my future self is a question/answer, problem/solution sort of system.)

Are you struggling to stay rooted in the Word of God; to be immersed in it regularly?

Then perhaps you are simply not living a life that demands such a rooting, or such a regular time with the Lord. Perhaps your life has grown so self-centered, so safe, and so easy, that you find that you no longer need Him. We all make a beeline for the throne of God when trials come and hardship presents itself. But unless it is thrust upon us we would choose to live in quiet comfort, avoiding tension, difficulty, and uncomfortable situations at all costs.

Do you want to want the Word of God? Like Tozer, do you thirst to be made more thirsty still? Then do something hard. Take a risk. Search out your lepers and serve them. Attempt something for Christ so beyond yourself that you have no choice but to depend on Him. See if you don’t come running back to the Truth in Scripture- back to the answers, back to the wisdom, the power, and the strength.

He is the Source of life. If you find yourself feeling no difference whether near Him or not, than perhaps it is that you are not truly living.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Thoughts On Tailgating

Well, I have received my first official blog request from my friend Stacy. Her topic of choice? Tailgating. Not the intoxicated-and-shirtless-man-mass-huddled-around-a- barbeque-grill-in-the-parking-lot kind of tailgating. I’ve come to believe that such a scenario either exists only in Miller Lite commercials or is simply foreign to my world, because I have yet to witness anything like it firsthand. This is probably because parking lots in Phoenix are much like crock pots, and, were Phoenicians to tailgate, burgers and bratwurst could be prepared sans grill, seared to perfection on the hood of an F-150. No, I’ve been assigned to write about the other kind of tailgating. The kind of tailgating that has elicited such bumper stickers as: “I brake for tailgaters,” “Stop tailgating me, or I’ll flick a booger on your windshield,” and “Unless you’re a hemorrhoid, get off my…” Well, you get the picture.

The experience of being tailgated almost always begins with a look into the rearview mirror. You’ll glance up at it as you do periodically, then do a double-take, wondering why the car behind you has no hood. “Am I towing somebody?” you may wonder to yourself. Perhaps so, but more likely you are the victim of a tailgater. I think the offense that we find with tailgaters is similar to that which we find with close-talkers: an invasion of personal space. The difference with a close-talker is that if you need to suddenly end the conversation, the threat of whiplash is not involved. This must be why following too closely can be punishable by law and close-talking is only a minor social annoyance. But that is a blog for another time.

I find that riding in the car with a tailgater is far more nerve-wracking than actually being tailgated. The driver will carry on casually, oblivious to the concept of a following distance and completely unaware of the nail marks that you are leaving in the armrest. You may attempt to hold up your end of the conversation with distracted “uh-huh”s and “oh, really?”s, but mentally you are occupied with visions of truck under-ride and airbags deploying as your right foot continues to involuntarily press down on the imaginary passenger-side brake pedal.

I must admit, as most of us would, that I have been on both sides of tailgating. I’m not much of an aggressive driver now that I cart around two babies in the backseat, but over the years I have learned a thing or two about the practice both firsthand and through the observation of others. One thing is for sure: while there may be a time now and then when tailgating is warranted, there are more often times to relax and back off. So I will wrap up this fragmented entry by compiling a short list of guidelines that the casual tailgater may find helpful in discerning when tailgating might not be the best idea.

When Not to Tailgate

-On the freeway.

-When testing for your driver's license.

-When you’re stuck behind a car that has had its turn signal on for 6 blocks. This is a waste of your energy. If they haven’t noticed the continuous clicking and flashing lights coming from their dashboard, they most certainly are not going to notice you either.

-When the car in front of you displays any or all of the aforementioned bumper stickers.

-When any of your passengers have a known heart condition.

- When driving without car insurance, or with a deductible that could single-handedly send you into personal bankruptcy.

- Sunday mornings, en route to church. Chances are, the driver in front of you meandering along at 10 miles below the speed limit is headed to the same place you are. Better to be a few minutes late then to rear end an elder.

-When the car in front of you indicates an affiliation with the NRA.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

No More Blue Runs

Matthew and I are off on a ski retreat with West Valley Bible Church this weekend, leading worship for their youth group. Our girls are in the care of a 10-person tag team babysitting extravaganza, so for the next three days we will experience both the miss and the bliss that goes along with leaving them behind. Part of the bliss is chances like this, to write uninterrupted for hours at a time, so I will take this opportunity to document our adventures thus far.

Our first day on the slopes was tenuous, at best. We’ve both been skiing before, but once we had strapped them on we realized that skiing is not quite like riding a bike. Lathered in sunscreen and layered with clothing, we shuffled over to the nearest lift up an easy hill and away we went. The majority of the conversation on the ski lift was spent in a concentrated discussion on how we were going to accomplish getting off of the lift without colliding into each other and tumbling down the mountain in a tangled mess. We reviewed the disembarking strategies and agreed on who would veer in which direction, vowing not to take the other down with us. As the top loomed, we shifted into position. Eyes wide and breathes held we pushed off the chair and executed our plan. We slid to a stop. We were still standing. My ear- to-ear grin of relief and Matthew’s hearty “Woo-hoo!” must have made our state of affairs obvious to other greenhorn skiers as they smiled and laughed in acknowledgement and kindred spirit. Unfortunately, this would not be the only laughter we would encounter from other skiers that day.

Our first couple runs down were pretty uneventful. We spent them relearning the balance, coordination, and complete disregard for personal safety necessary for successful skiing. Avoiding falls is always my highest priority, as evidenced in my painstakingly slow descent down the mountain, providing Matthew with ample opportunities to practice stopping. About the third time down we came to a fork in the slope with an easy run (green) going one direction and a more difficult run (blue) going the other. We both decided that it was time for Matthew to move on to bigger, better, and steeper things. So we wished each other well and went our separate ways. I coasted off carefully down the winding green slope, and soon I came to another fork offering a blue run. I stopped and assessed the situation. It looked harmless enough. A little steeper, but it was certainly wider than the slope I was on now. With Matthew’s line of progress resembling that of the stock market in the 1990’s and mine the 1930’s, I knew I had to try something to improve myself. This ambition, combined with an insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain, led me to leave the safety of the green run and turn off onto the blue.

I started out okay, making wide, careful turns across the hill, until I reached a crest in the slope where I stopped to survey what was beyond it. It was only then that I was able to see what qualified this run as a blue: Moguls. For those of you who have never done something this stupid, moguls are large mounds of snow built up to create a landscape of miniature mountains that a skier must navigate through. Indeed, the wide road leads to destruction. I turned and looked back up the hill, considering hiking back to the green run, but wasn’t sure I was able to do even that. So I gathered my courage and began to make my way down.

The next 15 minutes were simply pitiful. I slid around like a Labrador on ice skates, barely managing to stay on my feet. About 20 yards into the moguls, my better judgment finally kicked in. “This is ridiculous,” I thought to myself. I wobbled over to the side of the run and removed my skis, planning to hoof it down to safety. As I sat in the snow, I heard skiers coming down behind me. “I’m going to watch how this is done,” I decided, turning up the hill to see them. And watch I did, as a mother and her six-year-old daughter went swooshing down, having the time of their lives. Now completely deflated, I rose to my feet to begin the walk of shame, only to quickly realize that walking down was not even an option. The slope was too steep and too icy to keep decent footing. It was time for plan B. I sat down in the middle of the run, lifted my feet off of the snow, and let physics take over from there. I must say, butt-sledding down the remainder of the run was probably the most fun I had all day. I slid to a stop at the end where another green run awaited me. It took me a good 10 minutes to reattach my skis, so by the time I reached the bottom of the mountain I had been up there for over a half-hour. I kept picturing Matthew worrying at the lodge, maybe sending one of those rescue teams after me. I scanned the mass of people surrounding the lift, but I couldn’t spot him. I turned around and lo and behold, there he was, just coming to the bottom of the slope. My first thought was that he had gone back up to look for me and was now returning, but in fact he too had just completed his descent. “That was horrible,” he gasped, and we took turns dramatically relating our respective miseries to one another.

It turned out that the blue run where we originally separated turned into an expert run about halfway down. Knowing his limits, he too took off his skis and decided to hike across the wooded area to an easier run. It wasn’t long before he was up to his chest in snow drifts, laboring over each step. He in turn was picturing me at the bottom of the mountain, worrying that he had been gone for so long. After enduring sweat and snowdrifts and the ridicule of grade-schoolers on the lift above him, he was finally able to make it down the mountain a mere 15 seconds after I did. Upon completion of the telling of our tales, we both heartily agreed- no more blue runs.


Epilogue
Matthew and I went out after lunch and stuck to the greens for a run or two. Matthew ended up back on the blue runs before the end of the day, and had an absolute blast. I stayed on the greens that time around and again managed not to fall for the rest of the afternoon. Matthew is back out on the mountain this morning, testing his limits and rising to new challenges. And as for me, I sit here by the fireplace in our room, enjoying the snow falling outside our window, my skis in the closet where they belong.

The last time I went skiing, I noticed that my level of ability was beginning to correlate with my age. When I was 11, I was amazing, speeding fearlessly down the slopes. Then at 15, aware of my mortality, I took a few more precautions but maintained a taste for the thrill. By 19 I was all about taking it slow-and-steady, but still enjoyed myself. And now, 24 and a mom, I think that perhaps my skiing and snowboarding days are over.

Skiing is not very much fun unless you are willing to take some chances, but the thrill in taking chances has somewhat faded for me. Perhaps it is because what I am chancing is infinitely more valuable now that ever before. But whatever it is, I resist this change of heart because I know that this is how people get old. They lose their sense of adventure and spontaneity, becoming fearful, worrisome people whose chief concern is to avoid hazards and prolong their lives. Growing old is a daunting prospect ( I’ve always prayed for death before dentures). I imagine that it must happen slowly and quietly, like sinking into quicksand, until one day you wake up terrified of eating a mad cow, boarding a doomed airplane, or investing in anything but your IRA. The fact that I no longer find skiing enjoyable is probably not going to mean my total demise, but it serves as a good reminder. When those risks that truly matter present themselves, those risks for the cause of Christ, I want to be found holding my life so loosely that at a moment’s notice I would lay it down for Him.

Someone just popped their head in the door and invited me to go inner tubing down the slopes with them. This is an invitation to put on layers of waterproof clothing, leave my cozy lodge room, and go out into the cold only to careen down snowy embankments at unreasonable speeds with no way of controlling myself, much less stopping.

Well then, I guess I’d better get going.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Throw Pillows

A few years ago Matthew and I were in the market for a sofa, and we had it narrowed down to two choices: A green one and a gray one. The retailer didn’t actually call the gray one “gray”, probably because “gray” makes the buyer think of depressing things like cloudy days and getting old. Instead they called it “bone”, which for me isn’t much of an improvement given that I immediately visualize the remnants of my 3-piece Original Recipe Meal sitting in the garbage can. To give the bone couch a fair shot in the decision-making process, I mentally renamed the green couch “peas, trampled underfoot”.

Both sofas were made of a very nice micro-fiber, sheik yet inviting. But the green couch had a very distinct disadvantage. It was flanked on either side by the most hideous throw pillows we had ever seen. They were leather, which is usually a positive quality when dealing with furniture, but not these pillows. These pillows were multi-colored scraps of cowhide sewn together into a mosaic of pure ugly. Just the sight of them made our faces contort, but we decided to do our best to look past them knowing that throw pillows can indeed be thrown- far, far away.

We began to bargain with the saleswoman on the green couch. It was soon established that it was impossible for us to purchase this particular sofa without involuntarily acquiring the throw pillows as well. After we had spent some time negotiating and were still several hundred dollars apart, Matthew posed an intriguing question. How much of the price, he inquired, was tied up in those pillows? The saleswoman, who had up to this point been referring to my husband as “sweetheart” and “honey”, began to get a little less affectionate. She obliged, however, and retreated to the backroom to crunch a few numbers. Several minutes later, she returned with the answer: Ninety dollars a piece. Matthew’s eyes grew very wide. It was not looking good for the green couch.

The saleswoman tried to reason with us. She even suggested buying the couch and selling the pillows to someone else. But since we didn’t know any blind people with $180 to burn on cushions, that was simply not a viable option. The bone couch was looking pretty good by now with its sensibly matching pillows, and it was indeed the bone couch that we purchased that day. I feel a little sorry for the green couch, but not nearly as sorry as for whoever purchased it. And if, by chance, you’re reading this saying “Hey, I think she’s talking about my couch”, then you should be sorry too, because you have really, really bad taste. :)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

He Will Gather the Lambs In His Arms

It’s shortly after midnight and there’s no way I’m getting back to sleep anytime soon. I guess I’ll just write it out until the melatonin gets the best of me and overcomes the lingering adrenaline. Bethany woke up about an hour ago crying hysterically, and when I went to her she recoiled from my touch and fought against me as I tried to lift her from her crib. Matthew came in a few moments later and was able to take her in his arms and, after several more minutes of crying, to settle her. We spent the next half hour or so trying to decipher what was so terribly wrong and tried to calm and reorient her. We were finally able to get her back to sleep, though we still had no idea what the cause was. Matthew went back to bed and I went straight to Google, a mother’s 24-hour best friend. After about 10 minutes of research I am pretty confident that Bethany had what is known as a “night terror”. It’s different from a nightmare in that your body is awake while your mind is still sleeping. Apparently it’s very common and not really anything too serious, apart from giving mom and dad a heart attack. I don’t know who actually experienced more “night terror”- Bethany or me, but given the fact that she’s in her crib sleeping peacefully and I’m sitting here writing a blog entry, I’m going to go with me.

They say that having a child is like having a little piece of your heart walking around, exposed and vulnerable to the world. I have come to find this to be one of the most accurate analogies ever presented. It’s one of those things you can never understand until you’re in the place yourself, and I have already had several occasions to understand it. I remember the way my dad would recount the “scariest moment of his life”, when my sister was careening down a hill on a sled, accelerating and out of control, completely unaware of the fast-approaching stand of trees as the bottom. “I thought I’d lost her…” he’d say. That was always just a story to me, kind of an oh-wow-that’s-interesting sort of thing. But I get it now. I know what it’s like to think you’ve lost her and I know how heavy a heart is when it plunges into your stomach. And you know what's even scarier? I’ve only been a parent for 18 months.

At times like these I ask myself, what did I sign up for here? Did I miss some of the fine print? You know, the part about loving someone so much that your heart physically aches for her and that when she hurts, you hurt worse? The part that tells you that neither your greatest dreams nor your worst nightmares will ever be about you again, but that life in all its sweetness and bitterness is bound up in these fragile little creatures? We are so beautifully helpless as parents. We can teach them, we can train them, we can give them Tylenol, but we cannot save them. We can only trust. Trust that the Shepherd who gathers the lambs in his arms will indeed gather ours to Himself, and that He who laid His Lamb upon the altar will gently lead us on.

“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” –Isaiah 40:11

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Age of The Smell Test

Just the other morning I found myself faced with a potentially life-and-death decision. I will do my best to communicate the conflict despite the fact that, seeing as I am obviously alive to tell the tale, much of the suspense of the moment will be lost.

I had just finished up my oatmeal, prepared the only way I'll eat it: Mixed into chocolate chip cookie batter and baked in the oven, and I was craving a tall glass of ice cold milk. I opened the fridge and pulled out the carton. Judging by how little was left, I figured it had been in there for a while, so I checked the date printed on the side. There are two dates, actually: The "sell by" date and the "use by" date, both of which invariably include the year, as though such a specification were necessary to distinguish between milk that is 3 days old and milk that is 364 days old. In any event, I've always been a stickler on expiration dates, especially on dairy products, so whenever I come across milk that is even past its "sell by" date, I'll either throw out the remaining milk and open a new carton or I'll pour it into Matthew's glass because he never knows the difference anyway. But this morning was a turning point. Just six days prior I had implemented a new family budget which included significant cuts in the grocery department. Every dollar would be accounted for. Every receipt would be analyzed. Something had to give.

I read the date, looked at the calendar, and did the math. Three days. Not past sell by. Past use by. I was practically holding a carton of toxic waste. Fighting back the urge to deposit it directly into the outdoor trash can and despite the fact that there was a brand-new container, pristine and unopened, sitting in the fridge, in the interest of frugality I emptied the substance into my glass. I stared at the milk, waiting for something to happen. Bubbles, floating chunks, perhaps melting glass. Nothing. It just sat there, perfectly nonchalant about being three days expired. I was not convinced. Eyeing it suspiciously, I slowly leaned forward to perform “The Smell Test”. The Smell Test ruled in my house growing up. If something was questionable, my mom or dad would simply give it a good whiff to see if it smelled "bad". I always wondered what it would have to smell like for my parents to deem it "bad". Garbage? Feet? Dorito-breath? I don't know that there was ever a set rule since my parents still can't agree on how long eggs are safe. Mom says two weeks past the sell by. Dad seems to think that as long as no baby chickens are hatching in the refrigerator, they're good to go.

I gave my milk a cautious sniff. No garbage, no feet. I took a small sip. It tasted fine. Refreshing, even. With a sense of liberation I threw the empty carton into the trash, scoffing at its melodramatic scare tactics. They would phase me no longer. It was the end of an era. The ushering in of the Age of The Smell Test.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Wonderful Day Indeed ("The Qwest One")

A lot of people have angry blogs. Blogs that they use to criticize and ridicule and vent their frustration at the world. While mine is not one of these kind of blogs, my next entry could be classified in the "venting" category, but it is not my intention to vent so much as it is to recount a moment of triumph.

It's about 3:30 in the afternoon. I'm sitting on the couch with my 3-month old who is happily working away at her bottle. The phone rings. Rrrring! I'll just let it go. Rrrring! But I am expecting a couple of calls... Rrrring! Yeah, I'd better get that. With the poise of an Olympic gymnast and the agility of a border collie I spring from the couch, wrap my free arm around the baby while still holding the bottle to her lips, and dash over to the kitchen counter. Rrrring! I quickly shift into a Flying Crane stance that the Karate Kid himself would applaud, balancing the baby and her bottle on my raised knee without disrupting her mid-day meal, allowing me a free hand to grasp the receiver.

"Hello?" I gasp into the handset.

"Hi!" says the perky voice on the other end. "This is Andrea calling from Qwest, your telecommunications company! How are you today?"

I feel my eyes narrow.

"Fine." I reply through clenched teeth, tucking the phone under my chin and trudging dutifully back to my seat on the sofa.

"First of all," Andrea continues, "We'd just like to thank you for doing business with Qwest..." she pauses, and I can't decide if she is waiting for me to hang up or to begin thanking her for such impeccable phone service. I want to tell her that a card would have sufficed, but having been recently convicted over my conduct with telemarketers, I stick that one in my back pocket.

"Uh-huh..." I say, skillfully side-stepping her corporate manipulation tactics. Her perkiness is undaunted.

"Well, we wanted to inform you of some of our additional services that are available to you!" Andrea announces, with a level of cheerfulness that would be merited only had she just told me that Qwest had decided to pay off our mortgage.

I am incredulous. Qwest has control of our telephone service, our television service, and now, our high-speed Internet service. Unless they plan on sending out a representative to do our laundry, I'm not sure how much more involvement they can have in our lives at this point. Caller ID, I suspect, would be among her suggestions, one that I find particularly enticing at the moment. The baby is crying now, and, this being the fourth or fifth call I have received from Qwest since we switched to them a month ago, I am not amused.

"Is there any way that I can not get calls from you guys anymore?" I ask, ignoring the introduction to her gospel of call-waiting and additional phone lines. "I'm on the Do-Not-Call List."

"Oh, are you on the National Do-Not-Call List?" she probes.

"Yes..." I reply cautiously, wondering if perhaps they have evaded my only weapon of defense by stationing Andrea in Mozambique.

"Oh, well you see," she explains, "Because we have a business relationship with you, we are still allowed to call you, even though you are on the list."

And Qwest wonders why the average American regards them with contempt. Could it be because they reward their newly acquired business relationships by descending upon them with customer service evocative of a cloud of gnats? I shudder to imagine the consequences were I to initiate a personal relationship with their company. Feeling defeated, I begin to envision myself twenty years from now, fending off their attempts to sell me videophone service, when Andrea pipes up again.

"Would you like me to sign you up for the Qwest Do-Not-Call List?"

My eyebrows rise in disbelief. Was this a trick question? She wouldn't try to pull anything over on me, would she? Surely not, especially not with my call monitored for quality assurance. I take a moment to grasp the magnitude of what I am about to accomplish with one simple word.

"Yes." I say definitively. "That would be great."

She types in the necessary information and gives me one last chance to change my mind.

"You do understand that by signing up for the Qwest Do-Not-Call List we will no longer be able contact you by phone for any promotions or additional services that could be available to you?"

I can hardly contain my glee.

"Yes, I understand."

"Well thank you for choosing Qwest and you have a wonderful day,” she concludes.

Oh, I will Andrea. I will.

Feeling like a man marooned on an island that has just stumbled upon a freshwater spring, I hang up the phone in triumph. A wonderful day indeed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Redemption

I can’t sleep. I was doing okay, drifting off, until the fax machine that has called us periodically ever since we moved in decided to give us a ring. The baby is stirring anyway, so I may as well write until she realizes how hungry she is. I realized something myself yesterday. More like reminded, I suppose. I was reminded of just how dark the heart of man truly is. Just how steeped in sin, how tangled in pride, and how our hearts are riddled with the consequences. We truly are broken. I forget that sometimes. When the sun is shining and the birds are singing and life is skipping along, that happy rhythm can lull me into an acceptance of the world as it is; of life as we know it. I set aside thoughts of heaven and the difficult pursuit of true life in Christ because hey, maybe this world isn’t so bad after all. Maybe Adam just tripped and stumbled. But no. No, yesterday in my very own living room, I clearly heard the dull thud that has been reverberating in creation from generation to generation.

We are like wounded animals, as Matthew observes, crouching in our corners, lashing out at those who come near. And Christ alone is our hope. Only He can draw us out, and He does. But do you know what I find most wonderful about it? The greatest comfort to my soul? He does not merely dress our wounds and send us limping off on our way. He brings something far greater than healing alone. He brings redemption. A full exchange of what is worthless for what is most precious, of what is hideous for what is beautiful, or what is ours for what is His. He sets us free. Redemption. Speak the word aloud. Let your eyes linger over its letters. If it doesn’t set off fireworks in your heart then it will do so later, at another time, when your own reminder of our brokenness amplifies the groaning of your soul. For me this morning it brings to mind a thousand pictures and a thousand stories, all valiant attempts to capture a beauty that cannot be contained. But regardless how brilliant the colors of the butterfly and how zealous the cry of “Freedom!”, Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer. And He makes the woeful heart to sing.

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Romans 8:19-25 ESV

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Quiche and Storage Bins

I don't have anything in mind to write about yet... just kind of wandering into it to see where it goes. I have the time and it's been a few days, so I figured I should come up with something. It's been a pretty nice morning so far. No major catastrophes, nothing too remarkable- except for the 6 mini quiches that Bethany put away for breakfast. In case you aren't familiar with mini quiches or the eating habits of toddlers, that's an awful lot of nosh for an 18 month-old. The kid baffles me. She holds up one of the little pastries and looks at me questioningly. "It's quiche," I say. A pause. "Quiche!" She declares and delightedly stuffs it into her mouth. We worked for months on "da da". She still can't say her own name. But French breakfast cuisine? We've got that one down.

In a few minutes here we'll be off to Toy 'R' Us. Not to buy toys, mind you, because that's the job of grandparents who have made careers out of purchasing toys. Were there a ladder of advancement in place for them they would all be vying for CEO. That being the case, we are now in the market for toy storage. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, purchasing stuff to store all the stuff that we already have. It's really more organization than storage because it's not that the toys don't have enough floor space to be strewn across (Bethany seems determined to prove that point at least once a day). But it seems that many of them need homes- somewhere to hide when company arrives and a place to go back to at night. Especially the Legos. Especially at night.

Between this paragraph and the last I have since returned from the toy store with a nice set of 3-tier stackable storage bins. Apparently we have resorted to the strategy of building upward that is implemented by the larger land-locked cities, seeing as I have just purchased what will be known among the toys as "The Projects". After 30 minutes of assembly with an infuriatingly small Alan wrench, the bins are complete. I try them out. They stack. They store. Success.

Bring it on, Grandma. Bring it on.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Sun Sleeps In

Just put my sweet little Harper back in her swing to catch a few more hours' sleep. I, on the other hand, only have about 33 minutes before my appointment with the toothbrush, and I have recently decided that unless there is more than one full hour of potential sleep time, I am officially up. Matthew somehow hit the wrong button on his alarm clock the other day and inadvertently put himself in another time zone. We think it's hilarious now, but he didn't think so when he was standing in the shower, bewildered by the clock on the bathroom counter displaying 3:30 am. That's the trouble with these winter mornings. The sun sleeps in.

It's still dark outside as I type this, but I can always tell that it's morning by the rhythm of the traffic on the arterial street just outside our door. A few beats between each car- still a little time left before night loses its battle with the sunrise. But as it slowly grows to a steady dull roar, it pulls me to my feet. Something about knowing that the rest of the world is already out there listening to the morning news, sipping coffee, and forming a plan of attack on the day's agenda makes me feel like if I'm still in my pajamas, I'm missing out on something. This morning has already begun and I need to join it now, otherwise two children will go without bath and breakfast and Travis will simply have to project.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Six Years Ago Today

I guess you could say that I've been procrastinating in starting my blog, but really I was simply trying to accommodate this little desire in me to make the first post on a day with a significance of some sort. The way things have timed out, I had my choice between Valentine's Day and my grandmother's 88th birthday. So here we are.

It's a little after six o'clock in the morning as I type this. At this time six years ago I was driving home in the dark, a silly grin across my face and little butterflies in my stomach that come after you've just pulled off something great. I had it planned for weeks. This was my first Valentine's Day with a Valentine, and I was going to take full advantage. Several days prior I had scoured the yellowpages until I found the biggest stuffed teddy bear in the greater Phoenix area. He was white with red hearts on his paws and, were he able to stand, would have been nearly eye level with me. As an 18-year-old, hopelessly in love, I wasn't thinking the practical thoughts that would come to my mind today. "A 5-foot, 40 pound bear. Where exactly is he going to put him?" or "Perhaps there is a more productive way to spend this $90.00." No, I thought only of Matthew, my boyfriend of 5 months, and nothing was too wonderful for him. So I hauled teddy home, imagining how great he was going to look surrounded by the 2 dozen balloons I had ordered.

The plan was simple: Get to Matthew's house before he got up for school. Leave my homemade card and a plate of blueberry muffins (still warm) on the kitchen counter. Put Teddy in the driver's seat of Matthew's car and cram any empty airspace with pink and red balloons. I had arranged with his little sister that I would tap on her window at 6:00 am and she would let me inside. This was where the only glitch came into play. Apparently her memory doesn't kick in until a few minutes after she is awakened, so upon hearing a tapping at her window she promptly jumped out of bed, ran into her brother's room, and woke him up. Fortunately for me, Matthew is not one who parts easily with an extra 15 minutes of slumber, so Rebekah was able to keep him in bed and get me in the front door. She watched me bleary-eyed as I raced around the house, carefully and thoughtfully placing out the various symbols of my love and devotion. Not more than 5 minutes after I had arrived I slipped back outside, bidding Rebekah and Teddy farwell as I drove off into the sunrise, my cell phone lying on the seat next to me in anticipation.

And now, six years and two babies later? Well, today being a Tuesday we will spend the evening surrounded by 200 other twenty-somethings as we do each week at church. Matthew will spend the day at the office and I will return to the flower shop where I once worked to help distribute over-priced roses to the masses. We won't forsake the Day entirely as we will most likely go out and celebrate on another night later in the week. But as I'm sure others would testify, Valentine's Day and all that goes with it simply does not mean what it did to us then. And that is not something I lament, because nothing has gone that has not been replaced by something greater. The silly grins have turned to knowing smiles flashed across a crowded room. The butterflies, though I still feel them now and then, have been edged out by a quiet assurance and content security. And as for Teddy? He sits on the plant shelf in our oldest daughter's bedroom, watching silently as we wake her every morning and pray over her each night. Although he may not be the most practical use of our limited space, you will never see him sitting out in one of our garage sales or in a bin for goodwill. He will remain with us always, wherever we go, as a reminder of that precious season we spent together and how faithfully God has grown us since.