Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My growing dislike of promoted love

With full knowledge that this may be misconstrued I have to say that I am growing to dislike holidays more with each passing one.  Not the essence of holidays, but the commercialized purchase push associated with them.  I cannot get over the fact that there is something wrong with a culture that ties the concept of love with things multiple times a year, constantly attempting to associate human value with purchase power. 

Here is what is resonating with me more and more:  Things mean nothing.  If my house burned down tomorrow (and my family got out safely) the only thing I would mourn would be photographs. (...and probably my poetry journals.)

15th Anniversary at the restaurant we ate at on our honeymoon.

People matter.  Memories matter.  Everyday moments matter. 

The hypocritical part?  I still went out and bought my girls and husband gifts.  It was not as much as previous though, and it is not that I do not want to have to give gifts, it is that I do not believe loving and giving should be confined to pre-printed dates on a calendar.  

When Barry sees, hears, or reads something he knows would interest me and he takes the time to share it by relating a story, or a passage from a book, or the way black-eyed susans leaned through a fence as if reaching out to greet him (Okay~ he would not say it quite like that.) that is an expression of love to me because he knows that the minute and the everyday are what fascinate me.  He knows that I look at the world with the open heart of a child and find beauty everywhere.  He knows me...that is what means so much.

It does not mean that if another person's love language is different than mine (quality time and physical touch) I think they are shallow or materialistic it is that I am growing to reject commercialized prompts.  I decorate for most holidays, major and some smaller.  (Seriously, St. Patrick's day is a favorite.) As things mean less and time means more I find myself gravitating toward the homemade, the handmade, the non-manufactured, and the thought out and unusual.  Perhaps that bleeds over from my preference for quality time, but it really is the thought that counts for me.  

As we sat together tonight on his all too short dinner break at a tiny Thai restaurant and handed each other our bought gifts I still enjoyed it.  I enjoyed the fact that our gifts were thoughtful, even though they probably would be misunderstood by the people around us.  

I bought him a book about interesting places to visit in the States.  I want to spend time with him doing things he enjoys.  He understood that it was not so much a book, but an invitation and a promise of, "I want to be with you."  I also wrote him a poem that expressed more than I could say in prose.

He bought me a small book of poetry, not because it was romantic (although it was) or because it was the thing to do on this day, but because it is my passion.  It was a love note and affirmation of what I do. 

Some day, hopefully many years from now when we have lived long and grown old together, our children will be sorting through our many books and find the inscriptions we penned today and will know us well enough to think they were romantic in their uniqueness.  

But even more so, I hope they find a random book inscribed with, "Because it was Tuesday and I found this small copy of Faulkner and I thought of you," and they will realize our love was so deep and plentiful that it was not bound to dates pre-printed on a calendar.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Our tradition

Christmas 2011
Bary and I started dating in October 1993.  Christmas came quickly and I did not know what to get him. I wanted to give him something thoughtful, but not too personal. I decided on a stocking. I filled it with candy, his favorite gum, soda, and two Civil War paperbacks.  I may have not spent a lot of money but I wanted him to know that I paid attention to what he liked, that I paid attention to him.  After that, our tradition was set. Each Christmas Eve we exchanged stockings.  Some years those little things were our only gifts to each other but they were more special for it.

While we were dating
My stocking two years later was my most memorable. He had bought me a romantic ornament from the Hallmark store, chocolate, expensive perfume, and other little things. At the bottom of my stocking was a small box... 

After 15 years...
We still exchange stockings each Christmas Eve after our girls are "all snug in their beds," and each year his gifts are loving and thoughtful. Little things I have mentioned, little treasures I sigh over.  And every year I remember the feel of the jeweler's box on the tips of my fingers, how my heart beat faster as my hand closed around it, knowing. How my breath caught as he asked me to marry him. How I know I would still say yes today and every day in between.   

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fearless in the face of perfection

18There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love [a]turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear [b]brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love's complete perfection].
1 John 4:18 (AMP)

When I live in fear I am not fully appreciating the Grace of God.  My failures, my humanity, these are stumbling blocks to me.  They made me miserable for years, not just because they existed, but because of my false expectations.  I made goals that broke and battered.  I desired an outward perfection, though I did not know it at the time. I saw through a haze of my own making. 

Today, in Jesus Calling, I read, "It's all right to be human.  When your mind wanders while you are praying, don't be surprised or upset. Simply return your attention to Me.  Share a secret smile with me, knowing that I understand."  God understands that I am human.  He knows I will fail and He is still waiting there, smiling.  The simplicity of returning my attention to Him, not condemning myself... Powerful words for a still broken woman trying to untangle lies like weeds grown in her heart.  The lie of perfection snares at my heart constantly.  I look at the outward lives of people and compare them to my inward life.  Lies. 

During the summer, my time to refresh and plan, I read a Christian home organization book.  The author seemed very sure of her plan and her system.  She also seemed so very young to me, so wanting to prove herself wise.  Her assertion that she believed God wanted her (and by extension her readers) to be perfect saddened me.  I may drink only water, and cook only organic meals, my laundry may be done, and my pantry organized, but this is not the perfection God calls me to.  He calls me to perfect my love.  So many other things are remedied when I work on perfecting my love.  

Perhaps she read "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48 (ESV) and forgot the previous verses concerning God's love and how we are to love.  I did for years, seeking to be perfect yet crushing love in the process.  Perfect meals, a perfect house, perfect kids.  The ones I loved were hurt as I tried to create perfection in rules and appearances, not in love and heart ties.  

Paul knew about being perfect in rules and laws yet he had to be humbled in the presence of Christ in order to realize his great imperfections. It was then that Paul née Saul began his true life.  My attempts at perfection cause me to become a Saul with clothing at my feet consenting to death according to expectations that I can never satisfy, turning my face from grace.  Timid and unsure, seeking to be intrepid and audacious, I choose fearless love. 

What I am thankful for: 
49. stinky science experiments with Bitsy.
50. the oldest helping the youngest.
51. hot coffee on a cold day.
52. a sweet note from my aunt.
53. friends who pray.
54. Angie, who dropped everything to come pray with us one day.
55. walking with our hands entwined in his coat pocket.
56. God’s Grace that I am reminded of always and in all kinds of places and situations.
57. making our home healthier for my family.
58. his scent on the pillow when I make the bed in the morning.
59. Bitsy in a tree reading a book.
60. Catechism study together.
61. Our little woman (all of 20!) talking and laughing with us, sharing herself more all the time.
62. Grace’s sketching.
63. the Word that drives out fear.
64. cooking together in the kitchen…how any time can become special.
65. beautiful words that fall into my mind and spill across the page.
66. friends who write beauty and heartache and hope and then share.
67. Truth that trumps man-made theology.
68. His gift of love and striving to be perfect in it.
69. God made perfect in my weakness.
70. fearless in love.
71. snow and sunsets.

multitudes on mondays

Monday, January 16, 2012

My word for 2012, the joy dare, and 1000 gifts

Me, feeling audacious after my first flight.

This year I resolve to be fearless.  There are synonyms for fearless that are two of my favorite words, intrepid and audacious.  Intrepid has a dashing girl detective feel to it.  It means to be resolutely fearless.  Its antonym is timid.  The antithesis of what I am working toward.  Shy to talk about my faith, ashamed to talk about my failings, nervous about plying my craft.  That is where audacious comes in.

I like the second definition...  extremely original; without restriction to prior ideas...  I am tired of being defined by my prior ideas of self.  I have carried those around since I was a girl, piling upon more with each mistake until I could not move under their weight.  It reminds me of what Justin Matisse says to Birdie Calvert in the movie Hope Floats, "You used to be so audacious. People would stop and stare when you went down the street. 'There goes that Birdie Calvert,' they would say.  I can still see that."  I do not expect to stop traffic, but I do want to be confident and bold in my life and all that encompasses.  I want to be a woman of passion and purpose.

Part of getting rid of that fear...what was, where I failed, what could or could not be, is to be thankful.  To open my eyes and see how blessed I am.  I want to express my gratitude continually to God.  I want to always live with hope in my heart.  I want to cast off fear and put on joy.  I want to live every day fully fearless.     

To help me remember I am taking part in Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts in 2012 challenge, her dare to find Joy.  I always work better when challenged.  I crave the assurance and encouragment of accountability.  So, hopefully, every Monday I will be sharing my gifts with you.

I am starting with my journal list and expanding from there.  The first eleven are kind of personal so I will start here:

I am thankful for...
12. summer rain.
13. the end of drought- earth drenching rainstorms.
14. a little girl who loves ducks because her daddy does.
15. another girl who sees a dragon wing in an everyday thing.
16. my husband's sense of humor.
17. our walking dates.
18. learning how to ride a bike...finally. 
19. flying for the first time - without fear!
20. change in the midst of pain.
21. waking up with his arm across me.
22. poetry.
23. not fearing authenticity any longer. 
24. old things made new. 
25. kissing.
26. sand in bottles...little remembrances of paradise. 
27. cuddling on the couch with an old movie and my girls. 
28. Burt's Bees minty lip gloss. (Always good to leave him tingling from a kiss!)
29. Cutie's clementines.
30. the river, even when it is muddy and rushing it is vital and inspiring. 
31. finally writing.
32. a good book and hot tea.
33. pizza with friends we have not visited with in a long time. 
34. new to me clothes and boots today for half price.
35. beautiful pictures that inspire me. 
36. old pajamas. 
37. how the wind sounds.
38. two Christmas presents already made for 2012.
39. remembering how to crochet.
40. watching birds at the feeders.
41. capturing moments in time with my camera. 
42. her hair, wet and curling.
43. dark chocolate with sea salt.
44. when he calls at lunch.
45. love texts.
46. kind words from a stranger.
47. brown speckles on yellow leaves.
48. the beginning of our love story. 

multitudes on mondays


Sunday, January 15, 2012

My favorite story

Sign Photo courtesy of Michelle at Prudently Painted Vintage.

Once upon a time a girl met a boy.  They were 12, awkward, and barely noticed each other three or four years.  They went out on a few dates in high school but she was foolish and he was a nice guy who did not seem as interesting as the older guys she usually dated.  Fast forward a few more years when they went to college at Westark.  She had just ended a one year marriage and had a two year old daughter.  They went to the same college but had never seen each other on campus.  Their classes ended at about the same time on the same days in the same building, it was October and they had never so much as bumped into each other.

She was sitting home one night thinking about her friends from school that seemed so far away from the life she was living.  She thought about everyone she had known and guys she had dated.  She thought about him, about how nice did not seem like a negative now.  She realized her foolishness.  So she took a chance.  She pulled out the phone book and called the first Mason listed in the little community she knew his parents had lived in.  It was his Grandma's house.  They had a nice conversation and his Grandma gave her his phone number.

She was more nervous than before but she called him and said the stupidest thing, "In my yearbook you said to keep in touch, so I am.  Keeping in touch that is.  Um, how have you been doing?" Somehow he did not think she was an idiot and they talked for hours.  Then she said, "Maybe we could get lunch after class some day." Rather eagerly he said, "How about tomorrow?"

She took him to Ed Walker's drive-in and they made more plans.  She went to work and he went home.  Later that night he came over.  They watched a movie and he held her hand.  When they said goodnight he kissed her and she knew she never wanted to kiss anyone else ever again.  This was their beginning.  It was not always going to be easy, but their relationship had started.  This is their love story.  His and mine.  It is my favorite story.    

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 Personal Goal: Be physically healthier

Sledding along the Arkansas River
This picture was taken in February of 2011.  It was such a fun day playing in the snow, taking pictures, and enjoying the natural beauty of Arkansas.  The thing is, I could not do this today.  I have been sick since the first week of December and I just cannot kick it.  Admittedly, part of this is due to the fact that we did not have insurance in 2011 and I could not afford to stay on my asthma medication, but a large part of it is lifestyle.  Mine is not healthy.

While Barry was still out of a job we had settled into a comfortable routine of exercising almost every day, even in the heat of the summer.  I learned to ride a bike, we walked several miles a week, and we went hiking when we could.  When Barry was offered a job right after school started it created some dilemmas for us.  Don't get me wrong, the job was an incredible blessing after a very long time without, but we had not planned the fall as if he were going to get a job.  I had a full load for the semester, while trying to homeschool, and suddenly he was not around to help.

You see, I am pretty spoiled.  My husband is incredible.  There are no girl chores and boy chores around here.  We work together as a team and half the team was suddenly gone 50+ hours a week.  That was normal for us once, but he had been at home only working part time for almost two years.  It was an adjustment.  This took a toll on our new healthy lifestyle.  A lot more fast food and processed food was consumed and exercising ended.  Immediately my asthma worsened, we both put on weight and lost the ground we had gained (stamina).

Now that the nightmare semester is over and his job has settled down a bit we are trying to address the problem.  First, I made an appointment with my doctor since we now have insurance.  I am getting back on my asthma medications.  (To be honest I would have had to do this and we would have had to pay out of pocket because I am sick constantly without them and I cannot live like that.) Second, Cole, our eldest daughter, and I are embarking on a six week vegan challenge based on Dr. Joel Fuhrman's Eat to Live book.  We are trying our best but our budget is a hindrance.  We are fixing two separate sets of meals, one for me and Cole and another for Barry, Grace, and Bitsy.  Third, as soon as I am physically able we are going to start exercising again.

Physical goals for 2012:
Eat healthier (90/10 to 80/20 vegan).
Exercise daily (even if it has to be short and sweet, I want to be moving daily).
Reduce my cholesterol, sugar, and blood pressure.
Lose weight and gain muscle. (I now weigh more than I did during any of my pregnancies.  Ouch.  That hurt to admit.)

I don't expect to look like a teenager again.  I don't have false perceptions of beauty that I am trying to attain, I just want to be healthy and live longer.  As soon as I get the courage I will be posting my before picture.  Maybe.  But I am totally going to put on make-up.  (Does it seem like people try to look worse in before pictures?  I am going to try to look as good as possible, dang it!)   

Whew.  An honest discussion about weight and health.  I can check that off my list of things I need to be honest about.  Just don't ask me how much I weigh.  I am not feeling that honest yet.



Sunday, January 1, 2012

Night is the mother of day

Friend, in the desolate time, when your soul is enshrouded in darkness
When, in a deep abyss, memory and feeling die out,
Intellect timidly gropes among shadowy forms and illusions
Heart can no longer sigh, eye is unable to weep;
When, from your night-clouded soul the wings of fire have fallen
And you, to nothing, afraid, feel yourself sinking once more,
Say, who rescues you then?—Who is the comforting angel
Brings to your innermost soul order and beauty again,
Building once more your fragmented world, restoring the fallen
Altar, and when it is raised, lighting the sacred flame?-—
None but the powerful being who first from the limitless darkness
Kissed to life seraphs and woke numberless suns to their dance.
None but the holy Word who called the worlds into existence
And in whose power the worlds move on their paths to this day.
Therefore, rejoice, oh friend, and sing in the darkness of sorrow:
Night is the mother of day, Chaos the neighbor of God.

Erik Johan Stagnelius 

The Beauty of Authenticity

At some point in the past year I finally realized the impact of being a people pleaser.  While I am still in an ongoing process (Is there a 12 step program for this?) I have come a long way.  Part of that is this.  This blog.  The place where I can be myself and share what I am learning as I work toward being closer to God, more honest with myself and others, and more comfortable with me.  I am trying to work out what it means to be authentic in everything I do.  For context I am going to add links to previous posts from my family blog ~ Life is a Garden.

Explanation: Dividing my interests

Striving to be authentic (in chronological order)

A New Season
On when I wobble but do not fall...
Standing still to see
Then I realized I wasn't alone
Walking out of death
Pouring out
Healing in words
Dream a little dream with me

I am going to be talking to my family about this past year and seeing what we are all comfortable with sharing because something that I have learned this past year, something that is now engraved on my very soul, is that God sent people our way to share with us.  Without them sharing their experiences, without them passing on His love, without their authenticity, I don't know if our marriage, or our family, would have made it or at least made it to the state it is now.

I can share this though, it is what my husband whispered in my ear today at the start of the new year.  "In many ways it was the worst year ever, but in many ways it was the best." It was and I replied, "From the ashes rises the Phoenix." (Because I am a nerd like that.)

So bear with me as I try to work out this authenticity thing.