Friday, December 17, 2010

Sifted Snow

Sifted all about, snow glistens in the morning sunshine.  Joey's eyes shimmer just as brightly with the anticipation of playing in the crystalline quilt that covers everything in view.  And, for a moment, I catch that joy, which lumps deep inside, and I recall the snow-sledding adventures I had as a girl.

With a stretch and a sigh, I plug in the little white lights to twinkle on the Christmas tree.  Again, Joey's eyes catch that light and a smile spreads across his face.  He touches a silver bell and chortles in glee-filled tones as it rings.  He turns a drum and runs a finger across the train, saying "choo choo."  And, for a moment, I catch that hope, which jingles and shines with the ornaments on the tree, and I recall the anticipation of the Advent season I had as a girl.

One... two... three drops swirl into a vanilla glaze that turns buttery yellow.  The wooden handle of the frosting knife is smooth in my hand as I smear dollops of the glaze on star-patterned sugar cookies.  Joey runs up to my side and delight fills his voice, "Cookies!"  A little hand slips up and snatches one of the simple sweets.  And, for a moment, I catch that peace, which accompanies the time placed into the preparations of giving and enjoying the holiday season, and I recall the serenity I had as a girl.

Instead of the gifts of the season, I too often feel the stresses and worries that float as glaciers in my life.  I try to avoid them, but instead those colossial sneaks creep upon me.  Do you know what I'm talking about, friend?  For me, they are finances or self-doubt or unkind words and acts by people I thought cared, etc. 

And you, friend, does a smorgasbord of unfavorable delicatessens fill your table?  Perhaps we need to lift the ends of the table cloth, gather up those worry-ridden treats, and toss them out the door!  Let's fill our day with acts and words that express the trueness of the season: joy and hope and peace and love.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dancing Bunny

Hops, a bunny I received while in college, is dancing along the top edge of the wooden playpen.  "O come let us adore him..." resounds over the little laptop speakers while I type.  Joey - if you had not previously guessed - is bouncing the bunny up and down in time to the music.  Then, Joey plops Hops on the desktop and grabs a sticker and paper, leaving me wondering in his wake.

It's amazing how many different things Joseph can do in a day.  He is so observant and tries to imitate things he sees Russell and I do.  For example, I tape Christmas cards to the wood flanking the entrances into the kitchen of our house.  Each one has a slight slant so that the cover picture hangs downward and yet still allows a quick flip to see the lovingly-placed words of the sender.  Joey took the paper and stuck it below the bottom-most card with a smiley-faced sticker beaming the words "great job."

But as his tiny fingers fly, I sometimes become impatient with their incessant grasping at adult-only items (like delicate snow globes or jars of spices).  In times as these, I need to remember that gleaming sticker's sign of encouragement and speak in the gentle words that ring loudly this time of year.  We can all use reminders of God's glory, especially during the constant influx of daily life that sometimes causes us to loose sight of the blessings gracing our days on earth.

And you, friend, what tests your patience?  Do you feel like Hops - bounding this way and that only to be left behind by your emotions?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cheerio-covered Floor

Cheerios drop, bounce, and rest across the floor under the kitchen table.  Joseph, humming a made-up tune and plopping his hands on his knees as if they were drums, crunches more cheerios - those that made it the harrowing distance from his bowl to his mouth without falling from the spoon - while Ezra sweeps the floor with his walker and squeals in delight.  It looks as if both boys were playing marbles under the table - and neither fared very well.  Alas, it is almost vacuum time.

Modern gadgets make cleaning up so much easier.  My heaps of laundry would have taken days to clean with an old ringer or washing board.  I can understand why my grandparents did not have as many clothes as we do today, and why they wore them longer before washing them.  I cannot fathom cooking a Thanksgiving meal on an old wood stove, but my grandmother did it most of her life.  Cars, planes, and trains allow families that live states or countries away to come together within a day or two journey.  Even Skype allows them to see one another if they cannot be together!

When we stop to allow ourselves to be amazed by such technology, we also have to remember that every day we take it for granted.  We don't care about the genius of electricity switching on a lightbulb, as long as the lights come on when we click a switch.  If they don't, we do care - and we let our local electrical provider know about it, too!

Friend, do you complain too much when our technological advances fail?  I know I do.  The next time technology lets you down, instead of calling to chew someone's ear off, perhaps take the opportunity to go for a walk, visit with a friend (in person), and savor the moment while holding thanksgiving in your heart that you even have such an option.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gray Sky

Leaves fall, fluttering in zig-zag fashion, as if inspired by the quilt of gray clouds outside.  A misty drizzle just begins to reach the window, where a nearby lilac bush nods its still-attached, yellowed leaves with each slight spray.  The day seems grim, but began with a bright sunrise stretching across the sky.

Whenever it rains, I would expect the dreariness to soak nature in dismal gray.  But, it doesn't.  Instead, a richness enhances the beauty of nature.  Blue mountains seem saturated in hue; leaves dance in a wide range of browns; trees twist high donning shimmering silvery skirts.  The clarity causes me to breathe deep and let the bottled up worries leak out into the storm's clouds, which act like netting to gather them.

When tendrils of sun come and sweep away the clouds, my worries are gone, too. 

Friend, do you have worries heavy upon your heart?  Pick one up, feel its smoothness in your hand, and let it skip out into the gray clouds as if they were waiting to help clear the clutter from your thoughts.  Then, take a deep breath and look with hope for sunshine to scintillate stars into your eyes once again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bruised Feet

I love being barefoot!  Soft tufts of carpet soothe my soles; gentle slaps upon smooth wood please my ears; free toes happily wiggle when inspired.  Nothing feels better than slipping off shoes and socks after a long day on my feet and letting them breathe.

But, my shoeless preference has led to bruised feet.  Ezra, smiling his two-toothed grin with drool dripping from the subtle point of his chin, rolls everywhere in his walker.  He's as fast as Fred and Barney at times, and more dangerous to bare toes.  Sometimes, I jump out of the way just before Ezra's careening sends him into my leg; other times, the top of my foot unwantingly serves as a bumper as he attempts to smother me with hugs from outstretched arms.

Loving someone so much it hurts is quite an odd affair in life.  After all, who hurts you the most?  It is usually someone you love deeply.  There are moments in time when the pain from unhealed wounds throbs as ardently as rain pounding on a metal roof.  Forgiveness is a constant event and it seems you'll never forget the personal harm.  It's as weighty as a tumor.

Instead of focusing on what cannot change, seek to change the behavior that has resulted from the pain.  Like favoring an arm or leg in-set with aches, when I favor the heart-wound, I tend to curl my attitude around it - protecting it.  I'm hindered from trusting others and allowing the ministry of true friends to soak my sores in healing balms.  So, I have to chance living with an open heart and looking to God to provide the strength and courage I need to walk without a limp.

Friend, how can you focus on changing your outlook, instead of licking your wound?  Would not you rather pour kind words from true friends over yourself, rather than ponder the past's unpleasantness?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wild Turkeys

Billows of gray dust rose in our wake as we took our hyundai on a narrow gravel-covered trek through George Washington National Forest.  On one side, layers of rock cascaded to the road; on the other, a steep cliff toppled over tall bare trees, large boulders, a brown carpet of crinkled leaves, and a gaggle of wild turkey.  Wattles shone bright red, backlit by the setting sun, and rhododendrons' waxy green leaves scintillated as we caravanned across high peaks and around tight twists.

Blue mountains, growing ever softer in hue, stretched to the horizon and seemed to continue even beyond.  Had I not once seen the endless expanse of the prairies, I would have expected rising ridges to go on forever.  And while our eyes drank in the beauty, our boys snored in the back seat.

So many times, my blinder-eyes focus so much on tasks, duties, or worries, that I forget the beauty and joy at arm's length in all directions.  I take the people I see daily or the chores or accomplishments I tick off a list for granted.  I seem to be sleeping in the back seat while life's bittersweet surprises slip by.

When was the last time, friend, that you stopped, looked around, and really saw what joys God sprinkled into your life?  I dare you to do so - and let the wonder seep deep and transform your vision today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lattice Work

Although autumn whispers all around - crisp brown leaves shimmering on gray branches, curled corn husks sleeping in the fields, clear purple mountain crests sighing in cool nights - the wisteria vine still smacks a verdant smile at anyone daring to stop and admire.  Her long shoots spray in a frenzied reach for higher ground.  Perhaps attempting to stretch to the sun, itself, the vine catches in an afternoon breeze.  Happy waves continue constantly, sometimes lessening but never ceasing.

It's impossible to be happy all the time.  If we wore eternal smiles, we wouldn't have realistic perspectives of the world around us - no matter what Barbie and Ken say.  Just press the television remote's power button or venture to your stoop, flower bed, or paper box for that trusty morning news and you will find several stories to wipe away any traces of a smile.  Most of us don't need the television, internet, or print sources to know that life is full of an assortment box of ill manners or bad events in place of delicious chocolate sweets.

But, we shouldn't dwell on those bitter surprises.  I would rather savor and celebrate happy like the father his prodigal son, whenever he decides to show up.  So, when happy is here, I tickle and dance with my sons, decorate yummy sundaes, and enjoy every second I have with those most dear and strive to leave the unkind events to mope in the corner.

What about you, friend?  How often do you let that joy shine and leave any worries, dreads, or illnesses fend for themselves?  Would you rather dwell on what kills or heals?  Wind your feelings of joy about a lattice work and wave your happy hellos today.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pouncing Kitty

Fitzwilliam leaps up to touch his paws to my two-year-old's hand, fringed with fog on the cool glass door.  As soon as his hind legs return to the wet wood of the porch, he pounces again.  Joseph laughs mightily.

Our home has missed a kitty.  We've sheltered and loved Artemis and Apollo, Ophelia, and Lydia - mostly strays or soon-to-be animal shelter live-ins.  Alas!  All have met the same fate, as we live close to a rural road, which most teenagers mistake for a freeway.  But, until their end, we make them as happy as any kitty-cat can be.

And isn't that what we all are doing?  We don't need to flip to the end of the book, because our ending is known.  Every last one of us has the same final word typed into the stories of our lives.  Shouldn't that jumpstart us to live and savor each precious moment?

I want to leap like Fitzwilliam, bringing a happiness to my own life and to the lives of others (especially my dear friends). 

My dear friend, do you want the same?  What have you put off for tomorrow?  Isn't today better than never?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Prismatic Possibilities

Colorful pot holders line the kitchen table and cushion shiny lidded pans that seem to stand at attention.  "I'm makin' lunch," declares Joseph with a can opener in one hand and a toy car in the other.

Ezra squeals in delight.  A constant "he-he-he" accompanies his broad smile while he cruises in the walker back and forth across the floor of two rooms.

Mesmerized by the can opener, Joseph slides the handles back and forth and contemplates the movement and clinks each makes.  Ezra brandishes a teething ring and stops every once in a while to chew with his two-toothed gums.

I can almost feel the mental concentration growing as thick in the room as the early evening's shadows fall from the wooded hill beside our home.  It is so amazing to watch my boys discovering the world around them.  Just to see their happy smiles, I place fascinating trinkets in the right place to catch their notice and then sit back and watch them explore their new discovery.

So many times I need to shift my own perceptions to get a different view of the thoughts that filter through my mind and the circumstances that march into my day.  Turning my attention to the prismatic possibilities that those thoughts or circumstances bring into view, I can encourage my mind to select the hue most conducive to spreading that smile across my face and the faces of others.

Friend, do you need to bend that rainbow's down-trod ends?  Perhaps bundle up, spread a blanket on the ground, and lie down to savor the scintillating stars tonight.  Or examine the intricate design of a happened-upon rock.  Whatever you decide to do, dare to dazzle your same-old-same-old view and let the moment smoothe your heart's rough spot.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Boiling Point

Flames flicker across the quartered wood chunks placed just so inside the Jotul.  From a safe distance away, wide eyes peer through the pane framed by cast iron arches.  Ezra, ready but not willing to fall asleep, blinks and notices a bright truck in his periphery.  He jumps into action, arms flailing in circular motions as his feet kick the walker toward the toy.  As I sit, lulled by the fire licking logs, the jolt from sudden activity stirs my mind awake.  It's then that I notice how warm the room has become and I peel off a layer to cool down.

There have been so many instances in my life in which I have felt the startling blush that arises from miscommunication, lack of attention, or inharmonious priorities.  When conflict arises, I have a tendency to clam up and avoid the topic as long as possible.  This habit has led to heated debates when whirlwind emotions no longer contain themselves.  How many times have I been in controversial conversation and left thinking of the perfect thing to say half a day later!  How many times have I opened my mouth to solve the dilemma with words of forgiveness only to convulse in sob after sob after sob!  How many times have I heaped blame upon another's head only to have my own faults gnaw at me later!

So, I stop and peel off that sticky layer in prayer to cool down.  Then, I pinpoint a hard-to-find positive in the situation, which usually falls just outside my view.  And, let the refinement begin, reminding myself that I'm not the only one that feels too warm standing by a woodstove.

Friend, are you trying to huff out glowing embers only to find the flames fanned by your efforts?  Take a moment to sit and sigh and search for a positive solution that reminds you others in the situation may be feeling just as warm as you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thin Whines

My days have been filled with thin whines.  It's like listening to air slowly sneak out of a balloon, whose neck is stretched between the thumbs and fingers on each hand, in just such a way that a squeak vibrates through the air.  Or like the hard-to-see mosquito that zips from ear to ear and emits its mournful tone.  But this whine comes from a two-year-old boy who has had a mild reaction to his flu shot.

There are times when I can almost hear some of my hair strands turn gray, when I can nearly see my body age instantaneously, when I can feel the root of a headache wound tightly about my spine, when I can smell the decaying leaves that gather about autumn-tinged tree trunks even though a window pane separates us, or when I can taste time's bitter sweep as it pushes past me.  I feel tired and worn.  Do you have days like that, my friend?

During times like these, I let my mind transport me to a rocky hill in Greece with a sparkling blue lagoon stretching all around me and the arms of an island encircling me almost like a hug from God.  And then, a good friend at my side, I toss a small rock down the cliff and listen to it tinkle through the silence that sits so thick.  And, I laugh, and laugh, and laugh. 

What moment can spiral you into a belly-tickling laugh?  Let your mind take you there and fill the day's exhaustion with the cleansing of a happy laugh.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Plan

Leaves, with curly-tips and dappled hues, litter the ground.  Clumps of gold cling as long they can to the hickory tree outside my window.  And beyond the canopy of trees that dance this way and that, splotches of vibrant blue sky peep and disappear and then smile their witty grins once again.

Ezra tried to scoop up sunshine from the floor during the morning's slowly waking lull.  Each time he raised his hand, palm full of the feather-light brightness, it vanished as soon as he tipped it toward his wide-open mouth.  Quivering on his side, arm up to his face, he stopped and looked about as if he had dropped it.  And sure enough, there the golden rays lay upon the carpet's ragged texture.  And so, he tried again.  And again the light spilled out as soon as his palm came perpendicular to his face.

It was quite amusing.  Until, I applied its metaphor to my own life.  I thought of how possessed humans are with time.  In an age where time is measured so precisely and kept close at hand in so many forms, I could see myself trying to scoop up time while it easily slipped through fingers and splooshed down arms.  I thought of how pointless people seem to find sitting in nature and savoring the stress-relieving beauty God created or talking 'til dawn with a friend or making the time to tell a spouse or parent or child "I love you", and yet we quite readily waste hours in front of a computer screen or television set and walk away with little to show for it.

Our days are not eternal on this life.  How do I want to spend the time that I have?  Plucking peace from the perviewed vales and crests or flowering buds and tinkling creeks; encouraging others to share their fragile hearts with a message of hope that this world so desperately needs; sharing life with the people God places in my path and daring to make them smile; cleaning out the clogged innards of my life so that I can shine with a pure heart; savoring the delights of a delicious meal carefully prepared or happy smiles and gleeful tones of my children at play...  There is so much to love about life and there are so many reasons to live and love and laugh. 

Friend, is time slipping through your fingers at a mind-boggling pace?  Stop.  Think about what is good and true and pure.  And dream up a happy plan to grace another's life with a loving act today.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sudden Squall

White cotton curtains with simple lace trim part to let sun rays lick the countertop, stove, and floor.  Leaves, brown and yellow, hang limp on the gray mimosa branch beyond the window.  Some daisies, with their wilted petals and soggy faces that whisper of the passed summer months, stand in a vase drenched by shadow below the dark cherry-wood cabinets.  The washer hums.  A lullaby chiming from the belly of a giraffe fills the still air.

Then, Joseph dashes into the room.  Papers rustle and come again to rest in his wake; tall block towers tumble upon his footfalls; baby's lids pop open startled by such a sudden commotion.  Life is funny like that.  One moment, the air is calm and quiet; the next, a squall surprises and shakes up day-to-day happenings.

Maybe your day is like that?  An unexpected illness or tragedy?  A deadline encroaching or pending news?  Perhaps financial stress or marital strain?  Is life yielding rocks instead of harvest?  Does dry dust tumble about, settling upon every corner of your mind?  Remember you are never alone!  God sprinkles our lives with friends we sometimes never knew we had.  Is there a prayer you need today?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Clangorous Tempest

Interlocking green, yellow, blue, and red building blocks litter the living room's carpet.  Tiny dinosaurs form a horde, plotting a return from their mass extinction, upon one of the sofa's cushions.  Soft rattles, plastic links, and bath books still smart their wounds from the toothless jaws of a six-month-old on the run.  Other rooms in the house exhibit the same chaotic clutter with high table-tops and shelves filled with these-and-those which fled from lower realms where toddler hands now easily roam.

Sometimes Joseph and I straighten up as the day marches by, perhaps before he pushes slick washable paints across white paper with excited fingers or bristled brushes, prior to play-doh creations that ooze through exuders, when my toddler asks for yard adventures that include pushing a small bike here-and-there or scraping about dirt in the garden.  Other times, I tidy up when the little ones fall asleep so that when they wake up their eyes fill with the wonder of making yet another notable mess.  And more often than I should admit, my eyes are so bleary and my bones so weary that I go to bed before pushing piles of cars and crayons into their holding bins. 

But most frequently, Russell and I share the labor of love, working together with nimble hands and swift feet to sprinkle a little order here, some cleanliness there.  I am so thankful for my husband, whose ready heart and gentle look inspire me to keep going when I'm often overwhelmed.  It's important to remind myself of the gift God has given me, because otherwise I take my beloved for granted.

And so, dear friend, what help-mate or sibling or parent or friend is your life blessed to have?  What characterstic do they possess that calms the clangorous tempest within you?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Elated Etchings

As a simple silhouette, glistening sunshine rings my son's happy face as he peers at the piles of papers on the edge of my writing desk.  That snapshot catches in my mind like an etching on wood.  I would like to think that I will never forget it.

Every day is filled to the brim with roller coaster emotions.  Hurt, frustration, fear, anger, all are mingled with the pleasanter moods of joy, elation, and peace.  At the end of the day, I often dwell too much on the negative lapses on which my feet have stuck, like stepping on a fresh cow paddy that gooshes up the sides of your shoe.  It isn't much fun to scrape the smelly strands and clods clinging tightly to a tennis shoe.  Instead, I would rather dance through flower-scented fields (sine bobus) and feel the warm sun upon my back.

I cannot ignore those times less desirable during my day.  Through prayer or solitude or writing or drawing or talking with a true friend or a plenitude of soul-refreshing activities, I can cleanse the scum that surfaces.  (Of course, with two children under three to care for, finding time for such activities is quite difficult and requires a great deal of creativity.)  My goal is to focus on the light-hearted moments that bubble up throughout the day and savor them as readily as a prism sprays its lovely light when the sun peeks from behind the gray clouds.

What refreshes your spirit when days are draining, friend?  How do you soak your attitude with jocundity?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shivering Leaves

Our air conditioners are drying on the front porch.  Their corresponding windows, vacant and screenless, exhibit a surprising clarity on this drizzly day.  Brown- and yellow-tinged leaves shiver on their gray branches, whose lichen-kissed bark drips droplets along with the quilt of rainclouds overhead.  Beside a drenched brown log and autumn-touched bush, a bench invites me to sit and contemplate life - a tempting offer if it were not quite so wet.

Just a few days ago, dry dust whirled here and there as the sun baked everything in sight.  Now, pools of water stand in low-lying areas and the air itself seems to sigh refreshingly.  Such extremes in so short a time!  It is commonplace for our life, too, and I hazard to say for yours as well, my friend.

So, take a moment and imagine yourself somewhere that rejuvenates you.  Close your eyes if you have to or take a deep breath and let the tension in your shoulders slip away.  Perhaps we're on a rocky ledge overlooking rolls of mountains and a little lake nestled among the vales.  The first sunrays shoot up in the horizon and reflect across the lake's surface.  Or perhaps we're watching waves splash white foam on the beach.  Water, smooth as silk, touches our toes and then quickly recedes.  Or perhaps we're on a Greek island, licking tiramisu icecream in a cone and clutching a crinkly brown bag of meaty pistachios for the ferry ride back to the mainland where we'll roam through winding streets and savor the delight of stumbling upon ancient remains sprinkled about Athens.  Or where would you be?  What imagining restores your soul when you are tired or lonely or in need of a break?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hidden Squash

For four days, Joseph has chanted, "Macaroni and cheese, please."  So, I finally made his favorite for lunch - macaroni and cheese.  Toss out the blue box; I use a from-scratch recipe.  Perhaps it sounds gross, but Joseph's macaroni and cheese is loaded with hidden yummies that are also nutritious for him.  Pureed yellow squash cooks into the cheese sauce, while I drain the semolina pasta wheels in a colindar.  Then, fluffing tuna with a fork, I stir that in along with those wheels.  The macaroni and cheese dish bakes for twenty minutes, cools, and sits upon a plate waiting for Joseph.

"Mmm... that's good!" Joseph says, with a noodle sticking out of his mouth and cheese smeared across his chin.

If I had served yellow squash and tuna on the side, he would not have touched it.  What my toddler doesn't know will not hurt him!  (Yes, Jenny, I know you're cringing and gagging over the tuna part, but at least it's hidden!)

It reminds me of taking medicine as a child.  Or sucking on a lush lemon.  Or chopping a strong-scented onion and feeling like its juice is pouring from your eyes.  Or slicing a paper cut across your fingertip when shuffling through papers.  Or sizzling your skin on a hot dish when you forget those trusty hotpads.  Or pounding a hammer on your thumb, which was out of the way a moment ago.  Or smacking an elbow so hard your fingers tingle all day.  Or...  Perhaps I've relayed enough painful experiences.

Albeit difficult, it is rewarding when we look for the positives in any situation.  Even when nursing wounds and a prideful heart ashamed, it is better not to dwell upon how silly we feel.  Have you recently felt the head-rising rush that accompanies an awkward situation?  How did you turn your blush into a flush of laughter?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bare Toes

Gray sweatpants, with dark blue side stripes, and a sweater jacket alternating thick stripes of mint green, tan, white, and brown cover Ezra's brown jumper.  Tiny red and orange stripes amidst the brown peer out from under the jacket, whose hood hangs loosely about my baby's face.  Little toes dangle.  Russell lovingly places cozy-looking Ezra into the backpack carrier.  My husband is so gentle with the boys, but he is a terrible dresser!  At least, I think to myself, he will be warm.  And, with a quick kiss, my boys are out the door.

For a few sweet moments, I am not bouncing a baby on my lap until my arms ache, sopping up spills from the floor, piggy-backing my toddler while my bones protest, enduring the cries associated with teething and disciplining, scraping lunch off chair legs and walls, picking up dropped toys, smelling fresh spit-up on a newly changed pair of pants or shirt.  And yet, in the silence, I dwell upon soft feet and hands, lavendar-smelling hair recently washed, quick smiles and wide eyes, ready laughs and made-up songs, pattable bottoms and bellies waiting for a raspberry.  Even though I cherish the minute amount of time I have alone, I find myself missing the joys of parenthood and anticipating the many unsavored ones to come.

There are so many times in life when we want a little peace from what we have, only to find that we want nothing more than to have it back again.  What in your life exhibits such a mutable dichotomy, friend?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Startled Awake

Being a mother has heightened my ability to suddenly wake up in the night.  Certain sounds - a muffled cry from the crib, a rustling roll from our toddler's room, a loud creak centering from who knows where - seem to switch my eyes from closed to open so quickly that I feel a little dazed.  Often when that occurs, I have not a chance of getting back to sleep.

My baby has an ability to sleep almost anywhere and in nearly every position.  However, there are times when he, too, is startled awake.  One moment, Ezra is asleep on some soft surface; the next, a little head pops up and large eyes seek out the offending noise-maker.  Usually the offending noise-maker is Joseph, my two-year-old.  Perhaps he's "do-do-do-ing" in his own song while marching and waving something shakeable.  Other times, he's whizzing past the play pen, foot-falls slapping the wood laminate like little thunder claps.  And often, he pushes a loud truck or train by the baby's head and chances to emit a whistle or honk at just the wrong time.

I'm usually good about keeping Joseph quiet when Ezra sleeps, but sometimes it's a huge task.  At times like these, I often need a double dose of patience.  So often, I feel as if my bottle of patience is nearly empty.  But Ezra is quite patient.  Instead of crying at the startling, he often smiles or plops his head back down to doze and dream some more.  Or, he's so amazed at what his older brother is doing that he wants to join him in the chaos.

For me, listening to the sing-song voice of my toddler and seeing my baby's gum-gaping grin remind me of life's jumbled joys.  It's hard to contain excitement that is bubbling over.  Such joy necessitates sharing!  So, fellow adventurer, what joy bubbles over for you?  Even when you are startled awake, how have you turned the experience into something grand?

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Dry Wind

Brown grass crunches underfoot; a dry wind tumbles crinkling leaves across the yard; tired tree limbs groan from the lack of moisture.  Days like this give me a glimpse of life as an ooey gooey chocolate brownie with semi-sweet morsels hidden inside.  And such a day it is - inside a baker's oven.

No, I'm not baking today.  But even on days I do not bake for my family, I dream of delectable desserts to create and savor.  My husband would say that a person craves sweets during moments of distress, perhaps he's right.  My days are often sprinkled with a little stress here, a little strain there - perhaps as one plate slides under another and creates rippling mountains on the earth's crust, so too do my ideas often collide with my toddler's ideas and those of my baby.  With three very different needs to fill, a mommy can feel slightly chewed by the end of the day (and for me that is literal).

So, I look out my windows and watch the wind whistle across the parched ground.  And, sigh.  Then I remind myself that the cool rains will come.  I will one day see how the sacrifices I make to focus more on the needs of my children than on my own often selfish wants, really do make a difference.  I can use some of my talents now, sharpen new ones, and hold on to the others until they are needed.  Too often, I want the rain now; but a sweet drenching is a gift given during the time it is most needed.

And you, friend?  When have you felt sunburned by the world?  What balm would soothe your current disposition?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lonely Little Luminary

Late last night, my sandal-shoes and I were treading down the blacktop with a foil-covered, cream-colored bowl of recently roasted pumpkin seeds.  Warm ceramic radiated in my hand and I sighed.  Then, a flash lit pink a distant cloud high above the mountain's sleeping form.  At first, I thought I was dreaming or that the day's busy-ness was getting to me.  But - alas! - another soundless sunburst bubbled into a brilliant blush and then deflated, disappearing almost as soon as it had formed.

Turning my head to scan for more thunderheads, a scintillating star grasped my suddenly vacant view.  My husband would probably tell me that it was a planet, not a star, since it shone so brightly.  Nevertheless, it's singularity struck me.  No other dazzling dots poked through the night's draped veil - save the happy moon.

As it often does on a moonlit walk, my mind wandered.  I strive for independence and often cringe when I need help with something.  But, my son Joseph reminds me that we are born with an inherent and very strong desire to help.  If I do not allow Joseph to help when he wants to, he is hurt and upset.  And so too with us adults.

If we assert ourselves and don't allow others to walk with us in this life, then we're going to be like that lovely, but lonely little luminary.  Likewise, we have to give what we want to get.  Unless we break down the barriers of doubt that linger in our souls like sucking leeches, unless we dare to share our scarred and bruisable hearts, unless we take the step that everyone around us dreads, we're going to continue spirally into ever-expanding singularities.  Personally, I have experienced enough singularities watching Star Trek Voyager!

And you, friend?  Is there an area in your life that needs pruning so that you can more fully experience life with family and friends?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Peeled Pumpkin

The last pumpkin of the season has been pierced, parched, peeled, and pureed.  Now it sits in neatly labeled cups in the freezer and awaits a glorious return as a chocolate-bottom pumpkin pie or cake doughnuts or spiced muffins.  All of it, that is, save four cups worth of that fluffy flesh.  Those four cups will make two pies, which I am about to make.

While I was squishing seeds away from the gooey meat in the hollow of the pumpkin, my glistening hands came upon one seed starting to sprout.  The thinly unfolding green shoot still clung to its sheath.  It reminded me of my sons.  When we take day trips to hiking trails or harvest festivals or favorite stores, my husband or I encase Joey's hand with our own.  His is neatly tucked in our palm, just as our eyes rove to protect him and Ezra from any potentially harmful encounters.  If we are hiking on a rocky trail, both boys are safely caravanned in backpacks; if we cross a busy road, we scoop them up in our arms and hold tightly; if we venture to a playground, we linger nearby in case their steps become uncertain.

I know we will not always be able to protect our children from the harms that float as dandelion fuzz about this world.  But by taking the time to prepare them, they will grow into something greater because of our love and care.  Young men with a heart for making positive impacts in the lives of others will benefit the world.

What are you doing, friend, that touches someone else's heart?  How can you use today to paint a smile on someone's face?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Moonlit Radiance

I live a double life.  I first found out when I was eleven or twelve.  Coming out of the physician's office, I saw for the first time trees' leaves rustling in the crisp breeze and wisps of cloud set just so in the dazzling blue sky.  The clarity which this new world held was so intense, I did not know what I had been missing before I got my glasses.

Tonight, I hiked to one of the highest hills in the county and followed the expanse of mountain that stretched up and down the valley.  The moon captured my gaze.  And, as Clark Kent removes his glasses to become what he truly is, I pocketed my own and watched the moon's boundaries melt into a radiant haze.  I entered an Impressionist painting without taking a single step.  There were no poppies smeared across the subtle hill, no towering poodle-puffed trees, no unidentified characters about which to dream.  Instead, a breeze smoothed my naked eyes with raw reality.  Crickets' clicking chorus strummed louder than before.  Brutus's big black paws crunched leaves with more ferocity.  Frogs croaked more intently from the trees silhouetted against the twilit sky.

And then I did something I haven't done for a long time.  I walked home without my glasses.  I followed the blurred fence and tree lines, walked with careful steps as the moon lit my path, and allowed other senses to divulge the secrets of this realm.  It's amazing how such a simple endeavor can bring the fringes of fear into the periphery.  But, I bolstered my faith and kept walking, knowing not the path's rise and fall under my feet, but the hopeful beacon of home's porch lights that loomed ahead.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fabulous Sleep

In anticipation of a fabulous sleep, I am about to take a shower much-needed after a day of spit-up, green-tinted Ezra poo, and perspiration from walking around the town of Edinburg.  Our spring mattress has been sagging, my back has been aching, and my body has been groaning for the last month or so.  Life's adventures change one's frame, I've found, my friend.  And so, a new mattress my husband acquired today - driving onto the gravel with his red truck and boxes strapped to the back.  At the sound of his return, I peered out the window with longing eyes.  It was not yet noon and I had a whole day until that delightful moment when I might go to sleep on the non-spring contents within those boxes.

Now, though, it is time.  How I love anticipation!  I remember it when we would go on vacation: suitcases or day-bags packed, clothes laid out the night before, snacks prepared and placed just so; or, when Christmas would settle: an Eve service by candlelight at church performed, food and memories shared at a family party, giddy girls tucked in bed with sighs for morning's sun; or, even now when tendered coupons cut the price of a shopping trip in half or more, when a prayer is answered beyond my imagining, when I receive longed-for news from a well-loved friend.  Those bubbly billows of anticipation set my mind sailing onto a journey filled with hope and guided by faith.  It's such a joy to experience!

And so, friend, what sends bountiful butterflies into your belly?  What happenstance has given you hope?  Dare to inspire others with the beauty in your life.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kazoo and Granola

The aroma of honey-vanilla granola, which cools on a wire rack in the lowly-lit kitchen, wafts through the house. Although it's still a little warm, I have already sampled the granola's tender crunch and finger-licking sweetness.

"Do you want to try some?" I say to my toddler.

Joseph smiles. "Yeah!" he says. And, with a quick taste, "Mmmm... that's g-o-o-o-d!"

Then, he bounds off to find a kazoo and zooms around the room in laps. The kazoo sings, while the baby naps. It always amazes me that the baby can sleep through Joseph's day-to-day adventures! And Joseph only has two volumes: loud and louder. Though he doesn't have the athletic grace or creative genius that Gene Kelly had, Joseph definitely has the endurance for his own "Singin' in the Rain" masterpiece. Every day it changes: different footwork, varied tones, new movements. Yet, every day it amuses. And when Ezra isn't snoozing, he looks up from his ring or rattle and, in awe, gazes upon his brother's impromptu performance.

What brings utter joy to your life, friend? What paints that beautiful smile across your face?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Check Your Steering

Tendrils of hair stick against Ezra's head, which moments before was pressed against the car seat's patterned pad while he dozed. Now, alert eyes peer all around the store as my sons and I shop for milk, freezer containers, salad, foil wrap, bananas, cereal, semi-sweet chocolate morsels, and heavy whipping cream. With one hand, I hold a basket containing our goods; with the other, I cling to the tail of Joseph's bear backpack (to keep him from running off) and push the stroller in which my baby rides in luxury.

But instead of running off, Joseph is content to help steer the stroller left past pop-tarts and cheerios, right past jello pudding and whole wheat flour, and straight ahead to the produce department. I announce the direction moments before we turn and Joseph is quick to adjust. At first, I fear roving into him or running over his foot. I try to force the turn, which only makes for bumps and wobbles. Then, I let go of my control and allow my toddler to help guide the way through the store. The difference is immediately perceivable and the ride smoother for Ezra.

My life is the same. I try to be in control of everything and make the pieces go into place even when I know they will not fit. When I relinquish my way and allow God to take over, my heart is happier, my shoulders less weighted, and my thoughts unknotted. It's so hard to let someone else help, but when we check our steering and trust others, life is a whole lot easier.

In what way is your life easier because you have trusted others?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Let Water Wash You

Water splashes across the kitchen sink. My little two-year-old grabs the bristle brush and scrubs the stainless steel, while droplets spray his nimble hands and focused face. Joseph loves to help. So, when he sees Mommy washing dishes, processing peppers into puree, and spooning semi-sweet chocolate and pumpkin into a baked pie shell, he naturally wants to help too. Thus, the familiar scooting chair legs, as mentioned in a previous post, and a toddler taking his place as Mommy's righthand helper become a quick commonplace.

Then, he grabs the sprayer! "Ooohhh, M-o-m-m-y! What's that?" And, as if in answer to his query, water sprays everywhere. Joseph's smile widens and his eyes light up with that sense of discovery. And, before I can grasp the knob to turn off the water, Joseph dunks his head under the stream of water running from the faucet.

My son is soaked. Whenever he attempts to help wash the dishes or scrub the sink, it ends the same - dripping wet. But, I have found that messes are required in life.

In fact, if I didn't make messes I would never learn anything! In order to throw a pot on a wheel, you have to get your hands in the wet spinning clay. In order to make a yummy chocolate-bottom pumpkin pie, you have to make pie dough and puree pumpkin - both of which are quite messy! Less visible lessons are that way too. In order to cultivate the fruits of the spirit, we have to dunk ourselves into the messiness of life. Only by being refined can we harbor that hope of eternal life.

What about you, friend? What mess coats the walls or even ceiling of your life?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sale Price

"Farmer in dell. Farmer in dell!" sings Joseph, a smile spread across his face.

Singing isn't just an interest for my two boys during the day. Tucked in bed, the night-light aglow and good-night kisses still fresh on his face, Joseph loves to sing himself to sleep. Ezra, too, as much as he can. Mostly, "la-la-la" or "hmm, hmm, hmm" emits from the room, but Joseph throws in random words that he knows.

As adults we do that too. It's always fun to try singing along with a tune and then discover the true lyrics in print. Actually, it's sometimes scary, too, to ascertain the true meaning behind the rhythms we so enjoy. Perhaps that's why I have steered to Christian rock. The messages are uplifting and the words are actually ones I would want my children to sing.

It reminds me of a pair of shoes I bought a month ago. They were on sale, looked great, and felt good. I even had a coupon to take a percentage off the sale price. So I did the sensible thing and bought them! But, when I got home and wore them for longer than the initial try-on, I discovered that the insole on one of the shoes kept creeping up the back of my heel. What seemed to be a fabulous deal really wasn't.

There are so many times when I want the easy way out - the sale price, so to speak. Do I really have to whip egg whites until they stand in high glossy peaks for good angel food cake? Do I really have to exercise to keep in good enough shape to chase my toddler around the house? Do I really have to practice declensions and conjugations to be able to read Latin and Greek? Do I really have to (fill in the blank with something tedious for you) to (fill in the blank for an end result that you love)?

Of course, the answer is always "yes!" In order to live life to the full extent that I want, I need the self-discipline to persevere through what I may not want. I cannot always go for the sale price or the easy way out. What about you? Share your fill-in-the-blanks above. How do you work hard and for whom are you doing it?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Odd Concoction

Lime juice, chocolate syrup, brie, penne pasta, and peach yogurt are the ingredients swiped up by hands eager to learn the art of cooking. Joseph is making breakfast in a large saucepan. A wooden pasta spoon stands at the ready. With wide eyes, this animated toddler lifts the lid and peeps in upon his simmering sauce. Not done! He shuts the lid with gusto and busies himself at finding more interesting boxes and containers from the recycle bin.

Such odd concoctions are quite commonplace each day, especially around mealtimes when I'm busy at the stove, sink, or slicing board.

Preparing food is such a joy! I'm thrilled that my little boy is also enthralled with the process. While whipping a sauce or kneading dough at the counter, I usually hear the scrape of chair legs across the floor as Joseph scoots a make-shift stool to my side. His head pops up above the counter and little fingers fly - as if he's morphed into an octopus. Flour spills into the stainless steel sink, salt sprays across the countertop, oil oozes down the cabinet door, dough plops upon the floor. My attention focuses so much on my two-year-old that a sudden whistle alerts me to the boiling water in a kettle or a snapping pop reminds me of the bacon sizzling in the skillet or rushing water motions me to the overflowing pitcher in the sink. Cooking is chaos in my house while dishes pile high, towels used for cleaning up messes create a haystack upon the floor, and trinkets seized by little hands dot every surface around the room.

One day, I'll be putting final touches on a delectable dessert, sumptuous soup, or other lip-smacking delight and I'll wonder where those little fingers went. Right now it might be an inconvenience to take twice as long to make a meal, but in no time at all my little boy will no longer pop up beside me while I work. Eager hands and a hopeful heart Joseph donns. I pray that with patience I can help Joseph keep both while learning self-discipline. I pray that with grace I can teach Joseph to clean up messes as much as he makes them. I pray that right now I can enjoy each hectic moment so that when these times are no more, I can re-play the sweet memories they will yield.

What is at hand for you, fellow adventurer? Perhaps you're dreading something or blissfully enjoying life. What even mundane task can you create into a splendid memory?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Utter Exhaustion

Red eyes overwhelmed by lack of sleep greet my gaze in the black-framed mirror. Cupped hands splash cold water over my face and then dab-dab-dab away the drops. I sigh. Then, tossing down the towel, I turn away from my reflection.

Little Ezra's waking grunts and cries beckon me to the nursery, where his hungry lips seek his morning sips at five o'clock. His contented nuzzling is interrupted by fast-paced footsteps falling on the wood-laminate flooring. Joseph is awake. He is a two-year-old whirlwind, whose turbulent adventures leave me spinning in his wake. At breakfast, banana-pancake-making becomes a juggling act as jars and spoons, bowls and boxes seek higher ground and cling fast to window sills or fridge-top as a way to find shelter from those fast-grasping hands. Lunch takes hours to prepare as I chase Joseph from kitchen to living room and back again while his gleeful wees dance in time with the potato-masher swaying in his hand and jiggling colander half-set atop his head. And this while holding baby Ezra, whose ability to sit himself is just in its infancy.

After a brief reprieve after noon, when smiling Joseph dreams beneath his bedcovers and little Ezra plops down upon his own mattress while his lips suck at air, I gain an unexpected moment of silence in the house. Hmmm... Laundry? Dishes? Should I finally wash the floor? Is that the exercise bike calling me, with the shower close at hand? Perhaps I should get a head start on dinner? Or a nap?, my body pleads! By the time I check two or three things off my mental list - sorry body! - the ever-familiar cries of a hungry baby redirect my attention.

And then... fast-paced footsteps falling on the wood-laminate flooring. Joseph is awake! And whatever speed he moves during the morning hours, after his nap that speed is doubled. So quick and fleet, Joseph seems to fill multiple locations at once: jumping on the sofa's cushions and grabbing bowls to fill with cars; sipping water from my cup and clicking lamp-lights on and off; hugging brother in his walker and splaying books across the rug; scribbling colors across his easel and squirting tooth paste all about; dumping paper in the toilet and grabbing milk cartons from the fridge.

When the day ends with both boys in bed for a blissful night-time sleep, utter exhaustion seems as marrow in my bones. The day's chaos reels over and over in my mind so as to stiffle the quiet of the room. Every nerve feels hyper-stimulated and completely confused with a sudden lag in constant motion. I sigh.

Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I laugh. But, I always thank God for the daily rediscovery of life's fullness. Living thankfully from one adventure to the next is a choice I make, whether I'm wiping spit-up off the floor, reading a child's favorite book three times in a row, re-organizing dresser drawers, cooking a grand Grecian meal, creating a washable-paint masterpiece, helping to design a Dr. Seuss-esque building from smooth wooden blocks, or scraping playdough from the whites of nails.

What adventures fill your life with thankfulness?