Monday, June 13, 2016

Prioritizing Beauty.

Corciano, Italy

When I was 21 years old, I lived in this outdated, but charming little apartment on the top floor of a home in this sleepy little medieval hill town in Corciano, Italy for about 4 months. It was a study abroad program for art. The old lady who owned the house (and lived downstairs) would come up early in the morning while we were still sleeping and curse at us under her breath in Italian, lazy art students, while she picked up our clothes off the floor.

She showed us how to cook pasta the right way, motioning to the two ceramic canisters on the counter, speaking with short slow italian phrases and lots of exaggerated hand motions. The sale gross (coarse salt) goes in the pot of boiling water and then the sale fino (fine salt) was for finishing the pasta after you have cooked it, is what I pieced together from the game of charades.

The other two girls and I would get super desperate for food during that time, because the grocery store was a good twenty-minute complicated bus ride.

Once we got to the store, we then had to figure out where the milk was and why on God's green earth was it in little boxes just sitting on a shelf (non-refridgerated!) I thumbed through the tattered edges of the worn translation phrase book I kept in my purse religiously. (This was just before the smart phone boom). I remember we ate a lot of strange food combinations in that humble apartment kitchen. When I walked in to my roommates eating hard boiled eggs dipped in mayonnaise for dinner, I knew we had reached an all-time low.

The view was breathtaking though. So there was that.

I remember sitting on the cool terra cotta tile balcony floor and staring out across the valley, mesmerized by the straight and narrow cedar trees lining the driveways like soldiers, getting smaller and smaller and disappearing into the pale blue fog of the distance. They brought to life all of the paintings we studied. I sat there several afternoons and painted the scene with watercolors and sent them as postcards in the mail back home.

We lived about half-way down a steep cobblestone street. It was a short walk straight uphill into town. I'll never forget that beautiful hillside. All along the left side of the street surrounding the homes was a mature olive tree grove. One day, after returning from printmaking class, I walked down the hill past neighbor after neighbor all standing on wooden ladders, their heads in the boughs. They were shaking the branches while showers of little green marble-sized fruits plummeted to the ground and landed on nets laid out, skirting the old twisted trunks.

Each neighbor would stop for a moment as I passed, peek down at me through the leaves and cheerily shout, "Buongiorno!". There was an excitement in the harvest. A real sense of pride and of plenty. A time to celebrate. We shared meals together at long tables that began in the kitchen and connected to other tables and even more tables, all hodgepodge until they made their way out into the garden area and we ate pasta and olives under the evening sky. It was our group of quirky artists from America and the locals who hosted us, such an interesting mix of people all enjoying life together.

I often think back on those rich experiences and wonder how to get back to that earthy, simple way of life. It wasn't perfect, but it was real. And it was beautiful.

What is it that makes being a Mom hard to live a lifestyle like that? Why do I sometimes feel bound to the American standards and the daily grind? Why do I feel like I may never have adventures again? How do I invite my children into that kind of lifestyle? Why do I feel so much pressure to join the rat race?

Maybe the heart of the question is more about how to be open. How do I open myself up to live a life that sees that kind of beauty again and cherishes it, prioritizes it?

To stop and chat with a neighbor and allow them to come into my kitchen and teach me how to cook pasta, even if they do swear at me under their breath. I can't help but think that God can move in those messy, sometimes unpleasant ways to teach us all more about the beauty of life.

Let's open our hearts and our lives to the ordinary things of life and in turn find the beauty.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Jovie loves her Daddy and cheese.

My little girl is the best. Like really, she is just the best.

She is only three years old, with two little chestnut brown pigtails that curl up into perfect ringlets and big root-beer brown eyes you could just swim in. 

She has the most precious soft and tiny voice and is always humming some tune while she plays. 

Yesterday, she laid her head back against her car seat as we rode along and with the most dramatic expression staring out the window softly started singing, " me......" and even went for the super high note at the end. 

I mean, it is just melt your heart sweet three-year-old innocence. I can't get enough of it.

Don't get me wrong, we have had our moments. We have had the moments that turn into whole days and occasionally a whole grumpy-pants week. 

She knows what she wants (usually cheese) and she's not going to settle for anything less! 

At the same time, I admire a girl who knows what she wants. Miss Mae will not have a problem in life holding her own.

The other day, Dan came home from work and fumbled in the door arms full of books and things.

 Jovie ran right up to him and just stood in front of him while he unpacked. Bare toes prancing up and down and holding her fists under her chin, she kept whispering, "It's Daddy, It's Daddy...." with a dramatic breathy excitement. 

She 'pranced' in place like that for a solid 3-4 minutes. 

She inspires me with her enthusiasm for life..... And for cheese. 
I'm so thankful for this sweet spunky girl.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wonder in the Small Things

I am writing by candlelight and watching the drizzly mist outside turning into snowflakes. Soft, small, flurries that fall slowly onto the sharp lime green blades of grass still holding onto life.

I love the way the candle moves gently and the shadows from the negative spaces of the outer candle holder shift back and forth ever so slightly.

I am grateful for this small moment, where I can truly be alone. Alone with you Lord.

Just now I catch a glimpse out the window again, in between sips of warm fragrant black tea and I am amazed to see the whole sky filled with big, fat flakes dropping quickly like heavy plops of vanilla frosting amidst a shower of slow fuzzy debris.

It's amazing how beautiful this one precious life is. How full of mystery and wonder. How a small candle and a view out my window can ground me. How You use the small, seemingly insignificant things to speak to my soul.

I see it in my children's eyes, the glassy reflection across their young fresh eyes, widening with wonder. 

They have so many questions, always craving to know more, experience more. And yet, at some point we grown-ups have lost that wild wonder. We plow through, our heads to ground, not to be bothered with such foolery. We need to be working to pay the bills, get food on the table, keep up with our schedules.

The steam is now rising up from my freshly poured tea cup and catching the light of the candle. This is my one glorious moment, when you break through to me. 

I lift my head from the plow and see the glowing steam rising to meet the shower of heavy plops of whipped cream falling behind it and I am moved. What a wonderful, sensationally quiet moment with You, Lord.

Rid me of hurry. Rid me of frenzied distraction. Rid me of fear and self-doubt. 

Help me to see the wonder reflecting across my eyes as if for the first time, over and over again. The first time. Help me to stay near to you.

May you lift your head and see the wonder all around you today.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Real Promise

A couple of months ago in July, there was the most perfect double rainbow out in the back field. It was the closest I've ever been to a full double rainbow, it went directly over the house.

The children were snug in their beds and the short reprieve from the storms happened just at the golden hour. That special half hour or so when the sky is perfectly golden and full of glinting fuzzies and glittering light peeking through tree branches.

Dan and I slowly pulled the slider door open in half disbelief, muscling the smudged glass pane aside from the real view, crisp and bursting with color. Can this be real? 

There are few moments in life that truly amaze me in my old age. I've become cold, distant and most of the time, over-stimulated and just plain tired. But this time...

My heart starts to race and sure enough that old familiar feeling floods into my body, a bit of adrenaline, breathing getting heavier and fighting back the inevitable smirk.

No matter how old I get, God never fails to amaze me with his creation. And for us, in that moment, his promise. The very next morning, Calvin and I had the big talk. He brought up how he wants to live forever with Jesus. He wants to ask Jesus into his heart.

Something about the way he said it, gazing out the back slider and contemplating his words, I knew it was real. He had time to think it all through.

Time to muscle back the smudged pane of glass he had been peering through. He had a real view this time. A crisp, bursting with color, view of the promise.  

A promise he wanted to hold onto and keep forever.

There is nothing that a mother who loves the Lord wants more for her children.

Lord, help me to give guidance and help me to talk about you and all the things you have done for me in our everyday conversations. Help me to tell the stories that have made me who I am in You, to our children. 

May you do the same, my sisters and brothers. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Season of Growth

Spring time is full of new beginnings, new growth becoming evident. Fresh seeds pushing up through the flat, otherwise idle soil. I love the way God orchestrates new life each and every season. Pink blossoms and green tentacles rising up out of the ground all around us.

 Like a season of our own lives, there are times when we thought all was idle and dormant within us, then suddenly, slowly one day we see that little green stem slowly push the dirt out of the way and rise up to its new potential.

What is new in you? How is God calling you out of your dormant season and into new growth? What have you learned, applied and are now seeing growth in you or others around you?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dirty Winter Wasteland

I am tired of dirty. 

Dirty, chalky gray floors by the back and front doors, tracking into my kitchen daily. The thick, gray slush squashing out from under the treads of my black snow boots through the garage and onto the rug inside. 

I'm tired of stepping in surprise drips of icy cold melt in my sock feet. 
I am weary of this heavy, wet wasteland. 

Isn't it interesting how our surroundings affect our overall state of mind?

 I am struggling with winter. We are on the homestretch here, so close to March and then blissful April! And yet, each and every year about this time, I feel like I'm on the verge of screaming at the top of my lungs- enough already!

I'm not going to play the tough man game. I give up. I just need to say it.

Looking for encouragement in the bible today I came across this wonderful, hopeful verse:

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. -Isaiah 43:19

Help me to see this new thing that you are doing Lord. In me. In my life and the lives of those around me. I want to see it springing up in this late winter wasteland. 

Let us be perceiving of this new thing God is doing in us and around us. There is hope for a time of rejoicing and sunshine just around the corner. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

That's right. I'm talking to you. 

I just secretly scrolled through every last one of your photos, close-ups of toes in the sand, fruity drinks with an adorable little yellow umbrella popped-up on the side, a wedge of pineapple and the whole shebang. Flashing white pearlies against tanned cheeks, rosy from too much sun. 

And then, just now, I walked to my car in the most horrible kind of wind-whipping 'polar vortex' temperatures that actually hurt your teeth.

Maybe I'm living through your experience as an escape. 

Maybe I do really envy you, secretly wish that your life was mine. 
Maybe I feel that I have to compete with you. To put up the latest and greatest activity I just accomplished with my kids. 

This week alone, I've had a handful of conversations about struggling with the 'highlight reels' we see playing over and over on the Facebook machine. We are living in a new age. 

An all-knowing, all-seeing, always uploaded and updated age.

Is the idea of envy really a new one? Yes, the means by which it is delivered is much different, but God was addressing the problem of envy long before our generation took the stage.

"Let us not become vainglorious and self-conceited, competitive and challenging and provoking and irritating to one another, envying and being jealous of one another." Galatians 5:26 AMP

It's even in the ten commandments for heaven's sake!

"You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”   Exodus 20:17

You shall not covet your neighbor's tropical vacation. (my emphasis)

The problem with envy is that it can lead to thoughts and actions that divide and isolate us.

When we are competing or envying our friends' Facebook highlight reel, we are less likely to open up about our real struggles and end up thinking we must be the only one who doesn't have it together. Don't walk through the valleys alone. We are designed to walk together.

The truth is: My life is not all that glamourous. 

And I have a suspicion that besides that week you spent in Jamaica, your life looks a lot like mine too. 

As a body of believers, we are to work together, unified in our purpose.

How can we be unified if there is a wall up around our heart and a seething sort of discontent brewing inside of us? 

Let's practice gratitude to combat the ever present struggle. Because we have so much to be grateful for. The fact that we have each other. The fact that I have you as my friend. 

And through that gratitude and unity let's accomplish great things together for HIS kingdom right here. Right now.

"And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:14