Saturday, May 31, 2008

To My Precious Blonde Boy


I continue to feel badly that your birthday gets lost in the end-of-year shuffle every year. I'm thankful that we homeschool since having all three of you in school with activities and such would really make it hard to celebrate. I certainly have enough reasons to rejoice over the day you were born! You are such a delight to me. I love talking to you and seeing the energy and excitement on your face when you tell me something. I can hardly resist your creativity and your imagination. I hope that the way I celebrate having you every day helps make up a little for the way I tend to lose track of your special day each year. At least this year you didn't have to wait until December to have your birthday!

Ah, Stephen! Looking at old pictures of you brings back so many memories. You were such a fun baby and little boy! We never knew what new thing you would become, you dressed up so much. You were always surprising us with your mood too, and even now you can go from storm clouds to sunshine or the other way in a flash.

I feel sorry sometimes that you have inheirited some of my worst traits, but on the other hand, they come with so many wonderful strengths. You are a loyal friend, and it astounds me how long you and Matthias have been best buds. You are very sensitive to the feelings other people have, and you try to comfort them. You are always creating, lost in your own imaginary world.

One thing that amazes me is how you have changed. You used to be so bothered by little things--the texture of foods, sand on your feet, being hungry or tired. Now you tend to roll with the flow more. Of course, when you become emotional, it is hard to get you to calm down and think it through, but fortunately you can also be gracious and forgiving, and you like to be at peace with those around you.

You are still such a tough guy. You have always been the stereotypical boy--loving cars, balls, and "manly" things. You still love to be flying down the street on your bike or skateboard, and you are pretty daring. I think you have enough scars now that your modeling career is pretty much trashed, but you told me today (when you cut your head) that you'd rather have scars than stitches.

It's kind of funny watching you begin to grow into your own person. Lately you have developed a love for camera work, especially video and animation. You are quite a good artist, and you love to draw. You have decided you want to grow your hair out, which I have agreed to let you do.
You can't stand being cooped up all day inside, and you need to move frequently.

Stephen I love you so much. I'm so grateful that God chose to make me your mom. You might be the middle child, but your value and worth are certainly not less because of that. Please know that I love you and that I am eagerly awaiting to see how God continues to mold and shape you.

Happy birthday, kiddo.

Love, Mom

Convention Encouragement

One thing I forgot to mention was a great blessing the Lord gave my friend and I at the convention last weekend. She was invited to have coffee with author Sally Clarkson, and she very graciously invited me to come along. I tried hard to think of those difficult questions I always have--the ones I just want someone to give me advice on, but none of them came to me. Instead, we just shared our stories, the things we find hard in daily life, and Sally encouraged this friend and I who share the reality of life being hard even though our challenges are different in many ways. I'm dying now to get into some of Sally's books, and maybe even to do her new video series "Seasons of a Mother's Heart." She has incredible wisdom to share, and great compassion for the difficulties and suffering that we experience in the fallen world.

Check out the intro to this series here:

Watch Out Copola! There's a New Director in Town!

Last week the boys and I went to the two-day state homeschool convention in Orlando. (Thanks Mom!) Josh attended a teen conference run by Summit Ministries. I was eager for him to go and hear teaching on worldviews done by some of the most respected trainers of teens in the country. Stephen and AJ went with me to the convention, but the second day AJ decided to stay with the friends we spent the weekend with and play with their kids. Stephen and I had so much fun looking at stuff together, but I knew I was in trouble when he found a stop-motion video animation kit. It came with the camera for the computer and a very complete manual for a very economical price.

I ended up splitting the cost with him, and he made his first video today. He has already added narration and is hoping to add sound effects, but I need to help him do a little more research to be able to post the Windows Movie Maker version here. It is my hope that this summer he will begin learning more about movie-making. Several weeks ago he bought a low-end video/digital camera with money he had saved, and I'm beginning to think that with his interest in artwork and video, he has found a creative hobby that he could pursue further.

Notice that his video includes lots of car chases and fights. And yes, Doc Ock's head and hair did come off at the end. You'll probably see much more of this kind of stuff!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Economic Power of the Church

I had several interesting conversations last weekend while I visited with friends--things I have thought about for a long time now, but have been unsure how to communicate. As I put these several conversations together, I realized that I think the universal church fails to realize both its potential and its mission when it comes to economic power. Too often we concentrate on using our dollar to try to influence the world to be something it's not, and we neglect using our dollars to build what is eternal.

I often get e-mails encouraging me to boycott this company or that because of their stand against a moral issue or their support of an immoral one. I am not against boycotting per se, I just am not sure it always does what is intended. When it is used carelessly or too frequently, I fear we Christians turn ourselves into just another political cause instead of people called to live life differently and to make lasting changes in our culture. I am concerned about our testimony to the world when we expect it to believe and live as anything other than the spiritually dead, fallen reprobates that they are (and which we all were!). Even if we compelled unbelievers to live moral lives, they would still be just as immoral inside, and in fact might be farther away from seeing how much they need to be saved from themselves. If we expect them to live by the law, and they do, why do they need Jesus? Isn't it in fact greater evidence for the global need of a different way that every free culture, regardless of their form of government, religion, or philosophy, has ended up leaving its individuals, families, and economy (and nearly everything else) a broken mess? While I am not at all saying that as believers we should be silent about what scripture teaches or watch indifferently as the world steadfastly marches itself into destruction, I'm not always sure that using worldly methods like boycotts and petitions is the most effective way of causing change.

Don't misunderstand me, we are supposed to be causing change in our culture. But as I look at scripture and church history, it seems to me that change was brought about personally, deliberately, and sacrificially. The early church rocked Roman culture by caring for widowsm rescuing orphans, and worshipping God at great personal cost. Revival was brought about by individuals leaving the comforts of their homes and living as friends among native cultures, imitating more of their ways than criticizing or correcting them. Christianity is sweeping China because of the determination of believers to worship the living God even if they cannot sway their government to allow it. Part of the disadvantage of living in an extremely wealthy, techno-informational age is that I can transfer a little money by computer to my favorite charity, return to my cyber-game (or blog . . . heh), and feel good that I've done something to make the world a better place. I can pass along a handful of critical chain letters and petitions no one will really ever see by e-mail, and make myself feel like I've engaged the culture. The truth is, culture is at my front door, waiting for me to open up and let them into my messy life that has found hope in Jesus.

We don't have to go half-way around the world to impact it for Christ. Churches are filled with widows longing to invest the wisdom they have learned through suffering in the next generation of believers but are hindered in doing so because they are forced economically into the busy pace of the workplace. Fatherless children become virtual orphans as their already exhausted mothers work all day to provide financially and all night to provide everything else. How many times have I moaned and complained about my "difficult" life while standing next to someone who wonders how they will even make it through the next day, much less the next week? Even within our churches, culture is waiting at the door. To spread the kingdom of God throughout the world, we should be giving them snapshots of the difference He makes in our relationships, finances, families, etc. instead of giving them lectures of how to be good.

And I'm back to our economic power. We willingly give money to spread the Gospel to a few Muslim souls at a time but send single moms back to work and their children to the influence of government schools and child care. (Sorry to keep banging this one on the head, but it's a soft-spot for me!) We compassionately share to provide abused orphans secure homes, leaving recent widows struggling through grief and lonliness alone once the funeral is over and life resumes. We buy ourselves more Christian self-help books, when helping ourselves might best be done by cleaning house for elderly couples, taking time to help provide care for belivers in retirement homes and hospitals, and taking bags of groceries to the family who just lost their job. We have to begin bringing the broken, hurting believer right next to us in the pew into our lives and families. Then we should look for ways to do it all over again for the rest of the world.

I know that part of what holds us back is the monumental cost that seems to linger under caring for so many needs, but all we really need is a lot or prayer, a bit of creativity and a willingness to show grace and love. Hire the widow to provide housecleaning or daycare for your children instead of outsourcing that. Teach the single mother to perform a job she can do from home, or mentor her as she starts her own business. Invite a fatherless boy over to help with chores, then go to his house and help him do them there. Pay a little more for services that keep mothers of school-age children at home so they can be at home to share the Gospel throughout the day with their kids. And begin trusting that as we use what we have wisely, God will pour out on us the means to do even more. We have to stop forcing worldly models for resolving circumstances upon believers (which typically hinder relationships instead of nurturing them), and instead allow grace and show support to one another for the unique vision God gives each of us. Those of us who feel called to live simple lives at home should find ways to use that to serve those of us who are called to the workplace, trusting that God is working to perfect all of us according to His Word. And we need to stop clinging to the Gospel as all our own, and see the work of Christ for the kingdom-expanding work that it is.

Claim everything for the king! And use everything we have to claim it! Until He comes again.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I Still Miss You, Mom.

I was so young when I lost my mother, just 27. It seems so long ago now. I don't grieve the way many people do--don't visit cemeteries much, don't linger over old photos (kind of weird for a photographer, I know), and for a story-teller, I don't even tell my stories much. I guess my grieving is done deep inside me over a very long period of time. Maybe that's why I stay such a mess . . . why it is taking me so long to heal from all the disappointments and losses in my life.

I miss my mom. I wish she was here to talk to about all the hard stuff. She was always there to listen. Sometimes I think I'm making a mess of my life (Yes, Eva, I know. There's no plan B.), but one thing I love about what she taught me: how to put relationships first. She was so great at that. Sure, she probably drove some of her friends nuts with her type A intense personality, but I remember how much she invested of herself in those around her. Even her perfectionism was aimed at making others comfortable (although raking the shag carpet never did much for me).

I miss hearing my mom read to me. She read to my sister and I long after we could read to ourselves--The Chronicles of Narnia, A Bear Called Paddington, Pippi Longstocking. I tell people now that when I look back, I realize that I was government-schooled AND I was homeschooled. My mom just couldn't stop being a teacher, or a learner, just because we weren't in a classroom.

Mom died just as I became a new mom. I am confident God knew what He was doing, but it has never made much sense to me. Just when I needed someone to tell me how to be a mom, she was gone. Even though I don't think about it much, I still feel like I need her today. I wonder if she would have been proud of what I've done, trying to stay home with my boys like she did with us, trying to take responsibility for raising them and teaching them and loving them. God has faithfully provided me lots of other "moms," some very wonderful and close, but just as one of them told me none have taken her place.

I know that heaven should comfort me, but right now, while I'm here and she's there and I can't see heaven's beauty or know the depth of connection and belonging there, I don't feel enough comfort. I realized that there she won't be my mom, though I think that perhaps that I will feel equally connected to everyone. Am I confusing you? Good, because I don't understand it. Suffice it to say, right now knowing that I will see her again doesn't completely comfort me. I just want my mom here and now, and I'll never have that again.

Ugghhh. I sound like I'm drowning in sadness, but actually I'm grateful. I loved my mom, and I know she loved me. She was my dearest and best friend. So much of what I beleive and love has been impacted by her that I miss not being able to share it with her. At the same time, as I write I realize how much grief I still have over her absence in my life.

I miss you, Mom. Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I'm SO Not Ready for Teenage Girls!

Today was a first . . . another first . . . and where I was eager for them when the boys were small, I'm not so thrilled with them now. Josh was asked over to a girl friend's house to "hang out." Now we've had playdates with girls before, but this was NOT a playdate. After quickly saying yes, I realized that I needed a little more info. Were her parents home? Or someone to supervise? What did they plan on doing? And so on. I had to have "a talk" with Josh about what was appropriate and what was not, because all the rules have changed now. And although he said he knew all of it, I still feel a bit uncomfortable with this whole realm of hormones and attractions, as well as with how planned out teen girls are compared to the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants nature of boys. Mind you, this was not a "date" nor do I think that he and this girl are interested in each other except as friends, but still . . . the potential is now always there. And I've found myself going through moments of panic this afternoon wondering what I don't know yet. Ugh.

They called a few minutes ago, well . . . actually she called (of course) and want me to meet them at Starbuck's to hang out for a while. Guess they still have stuff to discuss. Hmmm . . . this IS kind of funny. And as I consider this . . . there is so much room for fun at my son's expense! I'm going for an hour. Cinnamon Buns!!! Leaving my little boys was so much easier--all I had to do was find a sitter! Now the sitters are the ones with my son, so I have to do the chaperoning!!! Isn't there something I can give Josh to prevent this disease just a little longer?

I really need to find a husband to help me with this.

Yes. More from Me.

Just what I need! A new blog!

After considering the advice from a friend, I have started a new blog: for movie reviews . I will be posting my reviews here as I watch DVD's and movies, TV shows, and the like. Maybe I'll even have some "guest" reviewers (ages 13 and 10--not sure I should have the 8-year-old reviewing yet). My hope is to provide the common man's (or woman's) Chrisitian view on media. I really hate trying to find reviews that take a parent's opinion into account. They either are too picky (understandably, since they are providing everything for consideration) or too approving. So here's my humble take on what's out there.

More Play Stuff

OK. More photos from the play.

I have received lots of compliments on Josh's performance. Quite a few of my friends who know him well have expressed surprise over his ability to deliver such a commanding presence. Not that I'm surprised--he commands a lot around here! (Sometimes when he should be asking instead!)

The interesting twist to his exposure to all of this is that he has asked to go the the Christian academy at our church next year. It would be the last year that he is able to go (they only have grades through Jr. High). We are seeking out the possibility, and praying about it. For now it doesn't look likely--the 8th grade class is full right now, and unless I get a lot of financial help I can't afford it--but I keep telling him that if that is where God wants him, nothing will stand in our way. Please keep us in your prayers as we explore that option. I'm content with either direction--Josh being in school would free things up here a bit so I could work more with the younger two, and would get us on more of a schedule. Him being home is great too since I kind of know in my head what direction I want to take for next year with him.

Sola deo gloria!

Friday, May 02, 2008

A Midsummer Night's Dream

What I wish I was having.

Actually, it was the play Josh was in tonight. It was a version edited for Jr. High production, and was very cute. It was also a very difficult play, because it used much of the original Shakespeare. Josh played Oberon, king of the fairies. He was quite good, and really shined in this new venue he loves so much.

Oberon, the king of the fairies, looks for an opportunity to teach Titania, his queen a lesson.

Oberon overhears a conversation between the couple Lysander and Hermia, and Helena.

An attempt to help the mortals in love has gone horribly wrong, so Oberon straightens it all out.

Oberon sets things right with his queen too.

So Exhausted I Can't Sleep

OK. I was in bed. Early for me! It's now 2 am, and I was sort of asleep. The boys were winding down from a whirlwind day watching a movie beside me, but I couldn't make it, and was dozing a half hour into it. But I just woke up feeling a bit queasy and achy. I'm having some anxiety issues again, and I think I've tracked it down to way too much coke and chocolate, fast food (even the at-home kind), and a lack of quiet time with God. I got up to have some saltines and move a bit (usually that helps), and now I'm not sleepy any longer, but I'm dead tired.

This week has been crazy! We're heading into that time of year anyway, but this week Josh is in a play, so we've had final rehearsals on top of our normal activities, cleaning, school, and everything else. The director had an unexpected curve-ball thrown at her today when the main mom helping her with details had a family emergency, so the school called me and asked if I could help. Being the no-inhibited woman I am, I said yes, and we headed out the door at 11 am, not to return until 11 pm. I discovered today that I'm getting too old for long days like this. I don't think we'll go anywhere next week (except maybe to bed).

I'm tired. And I can't sleep.