Friday, September 6, 2013

Filling bellies

Come into my morning if you will.

I shuffle, still haven't spoken words, into the coffee maker, the toaster, the cereal bowls, the milk. Fill the empty bellies. Anna is crawling around my feet, pulling up to my legs to be held. James is asking if I want to play Legos. Really so sweetly and with such good manners that it hurts my heart to say no... again. 

And the day begins. My brain is already searching for my own space. Push away. Leave me alone for - just - one - minute - PLEASE. No solace. Where's the quiet that was so fleeting with sleep? 

I sit with my breakfast, take one bite. 

"No, no more juice. Fill your cup with water if you're still thirsty."

"Anna, are you already stinky?"

"You don't have to announce that you footahed, James. Just say excuse me."

I don't think I have finished one complete thought yet.

Anna soon goes down for her morning nap. Ah. James is playing Legos at the dining room table. Yet still I am on edge. The day isn't half over and I feel so panicky. Crazy. Still bitter inside, even as I sit with my now-room-temp-coffee. Just waiting for one more interruption, to feel justified in my internal wrath. 

I open my Bible to Matthew's account. 

I see here that Jesus, too, was once on edge. His cousin, his dear close friend, the one who baptized him was just murdered. Beheaded. A bigger deal than my semi-chaotic-first-world-breakfast-morning, I suppose.

He was in mourning and wanted to be alone. He needed quiet. And for excellent cause.

But he didn't get it. THRONGS of people searched for him and found him. THOUSANDS of people interrupted him. They interrupted his agony and his need to have complete thoughts about the death of his friend. 

So where was his bitterness? Where was his lashing out and his leave me alone for just - one - minute?

It was lost and gone. Killed by his compassion for the hungry bellies in front of him. And he fed them - all of them - until they were satisfied.

He still needed to be alone, though, and that time did come. He went high on a mountain to pray and found his quiet after they were all gone. But I see that in the meantime, in the interruptions, he was patient. And compassionate. And so generous and gentle. I have a feeling he wouldn't even call them interruptions.

And so when the inevitable chatter began again, I was thankful to find my heart a little softer. At least this time. Grace for today. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Storytelling with little ones

If you tell bedtime stories to your kids, you're making them smarter!

My parents are incredible storytellers. Growing up, we snuggled in their bed and listened to the adventures of Tubby Turtle, Ricky and Rhonda Robin, Moo-Moo the Cow and the Doodah Bear. Sometimes the bad guys were The Troggs who would try to make Tubby into turtle soup. We later learned they were the band that sang "Wild Thing." Nice. My parents told stories slowly and with lots of detail. And we were rapt.

The benefits are numerous. Selfishly, it's a great excuse to lay down and rest and cuddle with my boy who doesn't always want to stay still these days. But also, he is forming the story in his imagination - no pictures in a book, no screen to dictate the action that he sees in his mind's eye. And it doesn't take much. Not a super complex storyline. Just a not-too-scary problem, lots of sillies, and the good guys winning at the end.

Now we are trying our hand at some storytelling. We let James name our characters and each character is a member of our family. Jim is Bobalob the Bear, I'm Hubbly the Owl, James is Funny the Fox, and Anna is Honky the Horse.

We're a blended family, obviously.

Mainly, their adventures occur in the woods with other woodland creatures. A baby mouse with her tail stuck under a fallen rock; Funny the Fox comes to the rescue (yea, forget that Funny would probably make a snack out of baby mouse.) Bobalob the Bear has to climb waaaaaay up in a tree to rescue Honky the Horse because she climbed up but, Hello! she's a horse and now is stuck.

But honestly, the very best stories are when James gets us started. Riveting plots such as, "...when Bobalob takes everyone out of the forest to eat at Papas and Beer!" or "...when Funny the Fox asks Hubbly if he can play a game on her phone."


And of course you can always do the sneaky parent move where you reinforce a moral or solution from  reality. You know, when Funny the Fox didn't want to go to bed or Honky the Horse knocked down Funny's tower...

There's a reason storytelling is so powerful. Check out a bit from this incredible article:

It's in fact quite simple. If we listen to a powerpoint presentation with boring bullet points, a certain part in the brain gets activated. Scientists call this Broca's area and Wernicke's area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that's it, nothing else happens.
When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.
If someone tells us about how delicious certain foods were, our sensory cortex lights up. If it's about motion, our motor cortex gets active. 
In short, telling stories makes meaningful, creative, and lasting connections with our children. And it's really no surprise to me that, once upon a time, Jesus did the same.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sweet Anna at 5.5 Months

I know. Five and a half months is no significant milestone. But I just realized that she's almost six months old and I've dreadfully succumbed to the "second-child-doesn't-get-baby-book-filled-out" thing.

Of course, she doesn't even have a baby book... and I think James' is only about a third filled out. I did keep regular milestone updates for James on here, so I better get crackin' for my girl!

I must say, Anna Jubilee is simply a joy. She's somewhat bashful and oh, so sweet. Usually, she's looking around, wide-eyed, with her eyebrows lifted in expectation. When you talk to her, she'll tilt her chin down and look up with her big dark (smoky green/brown?) eyes to throw you a grin and your heart just plummets right to the floor.

At the same time, though, when she gets excited (the changing table = Disney World), her plump little legs go wild, kicking so fast there's not much hope for diving in there for a diaper change. She's perfected the feminine squeal. I remember the first time she did it, I thought, "Whoa. That sound has never emitted from my rugged little man-boy. She IS a girl."

She loves to be held and walked around, facing outward. If you hold her toward you, she twists and turns and kicks until you turn her around.

She has most blessedly slept through the night (7pm - 7:30am) for the past three nights. She takes sporadic 45 min/1 hr naps, but I have no complaints there. She has marginally tolerated a few helpings of baby cereal and we'll probably go for some avocado soon.

She has two teeth on the bottom row and she drools and blows bubbles so much that I barely notice it now... probably much to the chagrin of strangers around us. If there is anything within her fluffy arms' reach, it is immediately deposited into her gnawing chops.

She rolls from tummy and from back and has been for a while now. I caught her trying so desperately to push up to her knees to reach a toy the other day. But don't worry, she got a severe reprimand for growing up THAT fast.

I can't believe it's almost been 6 months, and yet of course I can't imagine our little life without her. I'm so excited to watch her grow.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Buddy Conversation.

I was admiring a recent Lego construction and said, "Wow, you're so creative, James!" He looked at me for a moment, then back to the space ship, then back to me...

James:  Mommy, God created the heavens and the earth.

Me:  And he created us, too. And he created us to BE creative.

James:  What's creative?

Me:  It's when we make things. Like painting, or cooking, or building with Legos, or planting a garden outside...

James:  ... or telling stories... or making BABIES!

Me, laughing:  Yep. And babies.

He gets it.

Jim has a habit of speaking scripture to James in a conversational way, just like he's telling him a story. I'd love to do this, too, but it helps if you have some memorized... which I don't... or not that well anyway. The first chapter of Genesis is a frequent one and it's so beautiful when conversations like this happen and it's clear that he's been listening. Even when sometimes as Jim finishes, James will respond with something like, "Look at this booger I got, Daddy."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Her name.

This is my dear, precious, best, bosom friend, Anna. In this picture we are juniors or seniors in high school, squeezing each other in the frigid football stands of a marching band competition. She played the piccolo, I played the clarinet.

And here we are with our other sister-friend, Rachel, around age 4 or 5. Anna would still rock those gold shoes and wacky hair bow today. Shamelessly.

Anna has been my friend since my memory begins. We were neighbors, children together, up on Chestnut Mountain. Way out in the boonies where no one else was. We slid down rocky creeks in just our Hanes Her Ways and picked blackberries along the road that was cut through the woods on our mountain. We swam in the muddy lake and got stung by yellow jackets in the summer. Our playground was a seemingly endless forest with fabled bobcats (often heard but never seen) and maybe even a bear or two.

She was home schooled for some of her elementary years and then joined me in 5th grade at our little public school. It absolutely made my year that my best friend was going to be in my class. We were inseparable into middle school. 

Middle school. As tragic as middle school is by itself, Anna also endured the loss of her mother to cancer. Carol was a beautiful, gregarious, welcoming, and artistic woman. It was devastating. Anna spent many nights with our family during that time, some of which I would wake to her crying. An awkward seventh grader myself, I would have no clue what to say. My mom was alive. 

With our mamas, Anna and Carol on the right.

We weathered middle school together, became women together. We liked some of the same boys and got in trouble for talking too much in freshman biology class. We both drove little white Toyota Corollas.

In late high school, boyfriends and youthful indiscretion (read that: underaged drinking of cheap beer) distanced us. Anna pursued the artistic gifts from her mom through photography. I pursued shallow popularity. A really cool thing happened, though. On the very last day of our senior year, it was like all of that had never happened. We fell right back in step. That tends to happen with true friends.

On Senior Day.

We continued on into different colleges, but remained very close. Anna obtained a degree in black and white photography and then another in art history. I chose elementary education. She was there for me when I finally realized the futility of partying and when I transferred schools because I just wanted to come home. 

She was there when I remembered Jesus. She was there to affirm that, yes, he is in fact the greatest in all of existence. And that's not to say she didn't have her own struggles with God. Her faith was deeper. Her's was wrought out of anger when he took her mom. The pain that she felt as a middle schooler, I have yet to experience.

She was there when I met Jim. She was there in the tiny apartment that we shared, already crying happy tears as I walked in the door because she knew he had proposed that day. She stood beside me on my wedding day as my maid of honor, holding my 800 pound bouquet of lilies and roses.

I watched her, in proud awe, as she boarded a plane to study art in Italy. She came home a different person, worldly-wise and fresh with adventure. Her strength, independence, and bravery are some of her greatest attributes. 

She shed more happy tears when I announced that I was pregnant with James. She stood outside the delivery room and was one of the first in to see us.

She remains one of his favorite people.

So when we found out that we were pregnant with a girl, we began the daunting task of choosing a name. (It was easy with James Walker Thompson the Fifth, for Pete's sake). But then, all of the sudden, it became clear. Of course she should be called Anna. 



My beautiful friend.

Anna is now finishing her graduate work in seminary to become a counselor. She has traveled to the Dominican Republic to serve others and regularly helps the needy in her area. She still loves the arts, but wants to be able to help people who are hurting. She is kind. Compassionate. Selfless. 

Strength and dignity are her clothing and she smiles at the future... and I pray that our Anna will follow in her footsteps.   

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Watermelon and saying hard things.

I don't like cutting up a watermelon. Or a pineapple. Or even uncooked potatoes.

Twelve-year-old me, standing next to my mama chopping in the kitchen, she teaches me, "Sara, you have to have a special balance of confidence and caution when using sharp knives. Without one or the other you will cut yourself. Be strong but always know where your fingers are."

I try to remember this but my knees still get weak as I try to push a big knife through a cantaloupe. It takes practice.

Confrontation also makes me physically sick. I get queasy and tongue-tied and would rather do anything but tell someone something uncomfortable. But we are not to sacrifice our loved ones on the altar of comfort. It, too, takes practice.

I have to be confident and cautious. Confident that it is always right to tell the truth and cautious with my words. They have to be compassionate and edifying and helpful - not browbeating or condemning.

And with that, Ephesians 4 is a good read. May we learn to speak the truth in love and kindness to one another.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

As a mama, how do I approach scripture?

I must admit, when I hear Christians use scripture in debate with atheists or agnostics, I cringe. I feel like I can see the other person stop listening.

Clearly the authority of scripture is a cornerstone of the Christian faith, but engaging with our world means understanding that not everyone recognizes that authority and may see it as silly-from-the-Dark-Ages circular reasoning.

Anyway, this post is not about that. This post recognizes all of those differences, but lands on the fact that I do hold scripture in an extremely high place in my heart and home. So reader, if you do not, this post is not for you.

But as a Christian mama, why should I make it a priority to study scripture and teach it to my children? Shouldn't it just be a private thing between God and me? Shouldn't I let them decide what they will believe on their own as they grow and mature?

After all, we wouldn't want to be these frightening parents...

As with everything, we must seek the balance. If I staunchly require James to read his Bible before he's allowed to eat breakfast, there's a problem. However, if he witnesses Jim and me reading and singing scripture because we find joy and comfort and truth in it, that is better - - and much closer to scripture, I believe. I want to teach him that we don't read scripture to know a book (and certainly not to model behaviors of a number of Old Testament characters) but to better know a Person. 

But how then will he call on him if he has not believed? And how will he believe if he doesn't hear? And how will he hear if his Mama doesn't tell him???*

So I will tell him. 

Broadly at first, with great resources like the Jesus Storybook Bible, wherein "every story whispers His name." Showing him the whole arch of the redemptive story, how it all fits together and points to Jesus. And with our wonderful Fellowship Kids ministry who so beautifully partners with us in simple monthly memory verses and activities. And as he grows, we can dive in more deeply, learning together what this great and mysterious book means to us. 

All that said, even if I were to choose to force scripture down his throat OR be more passive in hopes that he'll "catch" it, it doesn't matter. It's not up to me. I can do the best job within my knowledge and capacity as his mama and he could still grow up and curse God. And if that's the case, I will still utterly love him because I was loved. For while I was cursing and lying and giving myself away, God loved me. 

But perhaps one day - and I pray that it's so - James and Anna will meet the God of this book. Perhaps they will be given eyes to see and ears to hear how this God was Jesus and came to us and died and killed death and was alive again.  

And while it will be my greatest joy, the glory will not be mine.

(*Rom. 10:14, my words)