Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Redwoods: God's Coolest Idea

You know how people mark their kids' height on the moulding of a doorway? We do that. But before you say, "Oh that Jeff and Molly - they think of everything," keep in mind we have four incomplete ones going at the moment - three of them in houses we don't live in anymore.

What about parents who chart their kids' growth on something moveable, like a piece of wood? Geniuses.

So, since we haven't been smart about it, our permanent measuring tape of choice has been our yearly (as in "so much for that trip to Hawaii" yearly) vacation in Mount Hermon.

Mount Hermon, California. Just a few miles in from Santa Cruz. "Where the trees meet the sea," they say. Ginormous, ancient redwood trees. A dozen people linking arms might still not be enough to circle around the older, pre-Jesus ones.

And nestled in the middle of it all is a magical family camp. We often call it Mount Hormone for those on the prowl. Its trees sometimes become kissing trees. I speak from experience. First kiss at age four (been going to camp a long time) and engaged there sixteen years later (different guy).

However, there's no need to ramble endlessly about my Mount Hermon growth record. I'll just stick to my kids. But I'm fairly certain no one wants to hear me compare their finger-painting-in-toddler-day-camp years with their current "I do what I want, go where I want, buy my own ice cream when I want" years. (Hear that? Doing stuff like buying ice cream, NOT kissing behind trees. Not my children. Do as I say, not as I do.)

So, without going into braggy-bloggy detail, let's just say my kids thrive in Mount Hermon like no other place. To put it poetically: The place nourishes their souls. To put it adolescently: "It's okay, I guess." But trust me, it's way more than just okay.

I'd even say the place has a redwood strength about it. A strength found not just in the trees, but in the people - counselors, friends, and family they've come to know. A lasting, generation-to-generation strength that can only come from God - their creator and defender, their redeemer and friend.

Who wouldn't thrive when surrounded by people like that? Spiritual redwoods, that's what they are. My kids tend to stand tallest up against folks like that. And year after year of measuring their growth in Mount Hermon, it sure beats doorway moulding.

"He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers." Psalm 1:3

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Love and War

I'm tired. Not just I-ran-a-zillion-errands-today tired. But soul weary tired. I think it's this whole woman thing I've got going on these (almost) 40 years. Being a girl can sure get complicated. There are lots of lasagna-esque layers to it.

Because the pressure is on to put organic spinach between those layers. Or kale. Or meatless things, flourless things, tasteless things. Non-GMO things. Or stuff our caveman ancestors would eat. Stuff Dr. Oz would eat. Stuff my husband wouldn't eat.

Forget about lasagna for a minute and think just layers. Life layers. The pressure to have a glowing skin layer underneath the designer handbag and size 2 skinny jean layers can be a bit much. What about the pressure to "better hurry up and get that forehead crease botoxed before it really sets in?" Too much, I say. Somebody please get me some quality chocolate and dependable WiFi. Quick!

Or what about the more noble and virtuous life layers? Like being a good, loving wife - the kind who helps her husband remember their anniversary. Or amping up the mommy skills by layering in more patience, becoming a "yes I would love to watch you do 23 cartwheels in a row" kind of parent.

That's not all. At any given moment, the pressure is also on to act smarter than I am:  "Nuclear proliferation seriously de-stabilizes international and regional relations..." 

Or act more sophisticated:  "No I didn't get this scarf on clearance at Target for $3.24...yesterday..."

Or more clever:  "Because seven-'ate'-nine, and roosters don't lay eggs!"

It all just makes for one very pooped-out me. So it's a good thing I was paying attention during Bible study this week, a Bible study called Love and War.* It's about the battle we women face for our futures and our hearts as we go into each day. And the speaker, Debbie Eaton, challenged me to ask myself this question:

"What would my everyday look like if I knew, really knew, I am known and loved by God?"

At first, I felt I had to reprogram my thinking - like I had to turn off the side of my brain that says "God loves me and sees me better when I hit the ground praying each day...and when I stop to listen to my chatty neighbor...and, oh yeah, when I floss."

So once I got all that turned off, my first response to God's unending love for me was:  "I'd probably be blushing constantly." Is that weird? Think about it. The God of the universe LOVES us. Ephesians 1:4 says, "Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes."

So even when I am busy running from who I am, he loves me. Even when I doubt my value, he loves me. Even when during the very act of telling my friend, "You know, blogs with cuss words in them are usually the popular ones. I'm thinking of adding one here and there," HE LOVED ME. But of course, because of his love and the woozy, I'm-forever-yours effect it has on me, I've never added a cuss word. (But keep praying for me. We all have a breaking point.)

Okay. Where was I. Oh yes, lasagna. I'm thinking God would go bonkers over my lasagna layered with pork sausage, cheese, whole milk ricotta, and more cheese...nestled between regular ol' 1980s lasagna noodles. Truth is, he'd go bonkers even if it was layered with sea kelp and pumpkin seeds and coconut milk. Nothing cheesy about that!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fourth of July

Most people don't know I have a side. I do, and it's pretty hardcore. So don't try to get crazy with me. I've got connections in North Orange County.

So what's it gonna be - what's your poison? Purple Rains, Piccolo Petes, Roman Candles? Or if you'd rather start off slow and work your way up, I've got flowers, sparklers, smoke bombs. Bing bang boom, I'm the firework pusher. And it's gonna be on like Donkey Kong this July 4th.

I just hooked-up my neighbor with some snakes - black ones and rainbows. They're hard to come by in these south county parts. Good thing I know people who know people who...work at a, uh...um...

Okay fine...who work at a firework stand near my mom's house that just so happens to support my Alma mater's band and colorguard. But keep it on the down-low, okay? The cops. They don't monkey around. They put up that sign: "Firework-Free Zone!" And one single Piccolo Pete peep could shut this whole thing down.

All jokes aside, Fourth of July is so much more than forking out the caysh for fireworks. We are free people. Not just free people because we live in this amazing country, but true children of liberty - no matter where we live - when we realize just how much our Creator loves us. Because..."If the son has set us free, then we shall be free indeed." John 8:36

Have a wonderful Fourth of July!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Age Nine is Sublime

Need a boost? Lacking a little joy these days? My solution: Have another kid. A third kid, to be precise. They're great. Especially when they turn nine.

Don't have even one kid yet? Go adopt a few. Or go hang around a bunch of nieces and nephews and cousins. Or perhaps you have too many kids? Pay close attention to what the younger one says, particularly how they respond to their older (teenage) siblings. Things get funny.

There's just something about being both the baby of the family and age nine. Day in and day out, my nine-year-old is privy to all sorts of juicy family details...details I wish I could share. But my kids would flat out DIE if I dished all. So since I can't talk about their "poopy diapers" anymore, just watch an episode of The Middle or Claire's family on Modern Family, and you'll catch a wiff. Er, I mean...catch my drift.

So as you can imagine, my youngest is my savviest. Who else asks the tough questions around here - "Is Bud Light real beer?" "How much money is a lot of money (and) do you make it?" "What are six-pack abs?" "Did you guys kiss yet?" "Did Michael Jackson love Jesus?" - while practicing hand stands and waiting for UPS to deliver her new craft book and 48-count gel pen set?

I often tell my "thank you but we are happy at two" friends to do what needs to be done - close your eyes if you have to - and go for it. Have one more before you get the snip-snip. Yes, life is sweet when they're eight and five. But trust me, soon they'll be 16 and 13, and you'll wish you had a third one doing cartwheels in the background when your 13 year old burps obnoxiously in front of company and your oldest one almost crashes the car into the garage.

Sure it's not that easy. Having more than two - or having any - isn't always a practical decision, I guess. And of course, kids these days, right? Plugged-in all the time. Kind of bratty and entitled. Before you know it, their bra strap is showing - on purpose - and you've had it up to here.

And if adoption isn't an option, there's the whole getting pregnant again thing. And having to get it out of you thing. AND the first three (exhausting) years of the kid's life thing. All that is over with in a flash. And what if that bonus oops baby extends stretch marks an extra inch? You can always work it out with a plastic surgeon later on.

But what I'm saying is, if at all possible, have at least three. Joy aplenty will be yours. That's my experience, anyway. Got a third and it's not working out for you? Like I said, hang in there until they turn nine, an age that stands bright and cheery up against the backdrop of all-things teen.

Besides, children are a gift from the Lord. "How joyful is the one whose quiver is full of them," says Psalm 127. How full is full exactly? There's no rule. I'm merely suggesting three. If not for any other reason than to hear your youngest - when he or she turns nine - say, "Can I have another brownie? Because I wasn't paying attention when eating the first one."