Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New Year's in July

Time to put the fort-making and teen Facebook monitoring on hold, along with all the fighting over who gets the good Wii controller. Mount Hermon, here we come - where donuts grow on trees, where beauty is every-which-way, and where I got proposed to twice, once at the age of four by a cute boy in super white sneakers and then 16 years later by my husband in Timberland brown leather work boots (see 17 Years of El Jefe).

Ah, Mount Hermon... a non-cheesy, Christian family camp nestled in the coastal redwoods of California. We go every year around this time. And it kind of sets my yearly clock. So with school starting shortly after, Mount Hermon is like my New Year's Eve. One could say my 12-month calendar starts in August and ends in July.

And because of that, I might make a few resolutions while up at camp. Well maybe not in the traditional sense, but I might do some sort of life check. You know, to see how I'm doing. What are my Molly issues? For starters, I'm a bit of a complainer, love dessert way too much, and interrupt people when they're talking.

And I tend to prioritize strangely. For example, on a good day I'll arrange my priorities in this order:  God, hubby, kids, friends, work-outs, and house. The next day:  Work-outs, friends, house, kids, God, and hubby. Not too bad, right?

But then suddenly, the following 17 days in a row will consist of entirely new sub-categories, prioritized in this order:  Buttercream frosting, creating iTune playlists, Us Weekly's "Just Like Us" page, Internet searches for the-perfect-crumb-cake recipe, and Target's shower curtain aisle. (Have you seen their shower curtains lately? Adorable.) And maybe out of guilt, I'll squeeze in a kid or two.

But my very wise aunt put me at ease when she said, "Molly, sometimes we're A+ wives, B- mothers, and D+ friends." She said this in light of all the expectations we place on our kids to be the best at all times - perfect grades, perfect obedience, perfect behavior - when in actuality, they have days just like the rest of us.

I guess as it relates to my aforementioned "Molly issues," I might, for example, get a big fat F for complaining about not getting enough dessertYet, simultaneously get an A-plus-plus for listening to my friends, not interrupting them.

Besides, 1 John 3:19-20 says (my most favorite verse), "This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than hearts, and he knows everything."

What a verse for my upcoming "new year." It's so true - my heart condemns me all the time. So glad God is greater than my heart, having more compassion and understanding toward me than I will ever have towards myself.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gosh Darn Web

Saw the new Spiderman movie last week. Really liked it. Probably because it has a lot of story-telling. (I may or may not have teared-up a couple times.) And that Emma Stone - love her. And that Spiderman - does whatever a spider can.

And it was nice watching a super hero movie that doesn't have a ton of action scenes. My mind drifts during those parts - "I hope plaid is in this Fall... Mmm, vanilla frozen yogurt with crushed Butterfingers... Am I too old to fangirl with my friends?"

Either that, or my movie theater "sensory overload" issues - my spidey senses - get heightened beyond their norm. I can't handle people eating popcorn or opening packages around me. Come on guys, what is this? A movie theater? 

But action scenes usually mean there's a bad guy or some kind of problem to overcome. Just imagine Spiderman with no enemies, no "missing parent" mystery, and not being weirded-out by his body as it transformed from the ordinary Peter Parker. 

How about other movies? What's Shawshank with no Redemption? Cinderella with no midnight curfew? Pride and Prejudice without Mr. Darcy describing Elizabeth as being "tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me" at the beginning of the movie, only to "ardently admire and love" her at the end?

It's safe to say that movies without conflict are boring. And lives without conflict are boring. Mean people, sassy kids, fender benders - all make for one thrilling adventure. Er, well... at least the part where God works all things together for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28) - either here or in eternity.

But truth be told, I'm the last person to shout praises when I'm in the thick of things. I can't even move to Alabama without freaking out. That transition several years back was a biggy for me. I was (am) so embarrassed about how hard I took it all. I would sob, "Why am I falling apart like this?"

However, someone in Alabama asked me (at a real low point), "Molly, who are you to tell God which types of trials are worthy of refining you?" In other words, was I really about to not let God use this one to make me a stronger, more capable, and well-rounded person? I guess I thought God reserved his best work for only those who've experienced horribly tragic things. Because Alabama was just... Alabama. Nothing torturous.

Ah, but refine me he did. Like gold and silver get purified in fire. And now I'm starting to see the beauty of my life in the South. (Three years this August since moving back to Cali!) The forever friends I've made. The four seasons. Business opps. Family memories. And learning to be still... on a quiet back porch... trusting in the One who brought me thus far

Life can be tricky, though. Some "life lessons" just don't seem worth the heartache involved. I get it. But I've heard it said the purpose of life is not to arrive at death safely. And if conflict in a movie makes the story better, then conflict in my life must make me better.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lace Curtain Irish

My house is going to be one of those "old lady" houses someday. It may already be one. I try so hard at being modern, not country - contemporary, not old-fashioned - by doing things like, say, paying close attention to when Nate Berkus tells me I need at least one shiny and metallic thing in every room. (Does my Amish, "punched tin hearts" table lamp count as metal?)

And I may say things like, "Oh, this room definitely needs a pop of color... arrange decor pieces in groupings of three... furniture should never be pushed up against the walls, but rather positioned at cozy, inviting angles - this isn't a dance floor, people."

But it's mostly all talk. What do I really know about home interior trends? After all, I don't live by all the rules. One visit to my little cozy-nook-of-a-house would expose me. Same with fashion and techy trends.

And with food.

Jeff and I went on a little road trip this past weekend. We were hungry, so we asked the hotel's front desk guy where to eat. And off he went, like he's been waiting for this all day, "The Black Cat serves local, organic fare, and has food that is cognizant of wine parings to electrify the palette. And at Robin's, the season's bounty is truly reflected. Also, you can't go wrong with our town's Japanese fusion bar."

I was all, "Oh, okay. Mmm, sounds delish. Amazing. Right, got it. Okay, thanks a ton." My I'm-so-interested-in-what-you're-saying face was very convincing. Just ask Jeff. But we ended up ordering pizza and eating in.

And the next day, we went to a farmer's market. Not a "cognizant of wine parings to electrify the palette" type of farmer's market, but a homemade ice cream and hay ride type of place. And as I reflected on days gone by of black-seeded watermelon, I overheard a woman tell her friend, "A person hasn't lived until they've tried some good pickled beets."

Fusion bar? Pickled beets? So confusing. Where do I fit in? If I had to pick, the I've-arrived Molly would choose fusion bar. But the everyday, relaxed Molly would choose pickled beets. Well, maybe just the category of pickled beets. You know... folksy, down-to-earth, unassuming, friendly.

So does all this count me among the Lace Curtain Irish - people who put on a good show by hanging lace curtains, while the insides of their homes lack sophistication? Because I don't want to be fake, but I do appreciate class. What to do?

Proverbs 30:8-9 says, "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."

Not sure how that ties in, but I think somewhere right down the middle is a good place to be. And what's that again about old lady houses? Because my favorite "old lady" is my 83-year-old Nana (word on the street: 83 is the new 73), who is anything but fake and has the classiest New England charm home - with a colonial twist - that I ever did see.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rehash My Trash?

I'm a snob when it comes to walking - that's power walking. I like to walk fast. I walk to eat more cookies. Although my legs are short, they sure can move. Even my six-foot-two husband has a hard time catching up. And my dog can only keep up for so long. And my kids are hit or miss.

So oftentimes I go alone. So that usually means I start thinking. And thinking turns to praying. And praying sadly turns to coveting as I pass by my favorite white house with black shutters and red geranium window baskets. (One day I hope to get a good, long look into its cute insides. So cozy.)

And I pass all sorts of people, too. Some are super friendly. Others I can tell from way far off that they're psyching themselves up just to pass me. You know, human interaction. During one walk, a crazed woman mumbled as she got closer, "I bet you think I belong in an insane asylum." So odd.

I see interesting things, too. The other day I walked by an open garage, and there was a trash can inside, labeled, "Trash to go through." Hmm, what could that mean? Isn't that like "bills to pay twice?" Wouldn't they want their trash to be trash - and that be the end of it?

The only time I go through my trash is when I accidentally throw away a good piece of chocolate or something important, like a check from work. (Apparently direct deposit is the way to go.)

Kind of gross, but I literally hung the top half of my body over the rim of the large, outside trash can just to find the lost check. And while down there, I learned a few things: I don't recycle nearly enough, I eat a lot of apples, my kids need to stop throwing away their forks, I'm a pretty consistent flosser, and there is no smell like the smell of leftover, wet cat food.

However, do I really want to re-visit my trash? My trash trash? Things from the past? Things I've done or thought of doing? Things I've judged wrongly or stupidly said? Maybe digging it all up is helpful - perhaps seeing where I went wrong in a situation is a good thing? Could be.

But knowing me, dwelling on my trash would slow me down - just like rocks slow down my speedy walking pace. Rocks? Yes. It happens every time. One will get lodged in the grooves of my Asics. And since I have this tendency to parallel my mundane experiences with my faith, I compare that rock to life dragger-downers - my fear, my pride, and my jealousy over houses that are cuter than mine and filled with Pottery Barn furniture.

It's true what David Crowder Band sings: "I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way you love me." And, "If your grace were an ocean, we are all sinking."

Okay then, when does rehashing past and present "trash" become wasted time? When I really-really-truly begin to grasp God's love for me - understanding that it's not contingent upon my life's performance - I let him throw my trash away. "As far as the east is from the west, so far does he (Jesus) remove our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12)

So here we go, neon-orange-laced and rock-free Asics tennies, it's time to put our best (and fast) foot forward and move along unencumbered. Love - not guilt - is going to power this next walk.