Saturday, June 30, 2007

Who Woulda Thunk It?...Small Scribbles is an Award Winner

Readers,

Get your mice (mouses?) ready! This post is going to take you all over the Web.

When I wrote Turn-Right Rides a few days ago, I linked it to The Preacher's Wife blog so that other women participating in the I AM Bible Study could read it. This Bible study has actual questions that you are supposed to answer but because I am a triangle and a squiggle I did not answer them. I went off in another direction. (I promise you, Lisa, if I were doing a real life study with you, I would do the same thing.) And because Lisa is a circle and a squiggle (see April 14th) she did not whip off an e-mail that went something like, "Hey! Lady! You did not follow directions! You did not answer one...single...question.Now be banished from my corner of the Blogosphere!" Instead she gave me this:






These are the directions for choosing a Blogger Reflection recipient:

"Give to those who have who have been an encouragement, a source of love, impacted you in some way, and have been a Godly example to you. Five Bloggers who when you reflect on them you get a sense of pride and joy… of knowing them and being blessed by them.”
“This award is for the best-of-the-best so consider who you pick, carefully. This award should not be given to just anyone. If you’re going to do the award don’t just write a few words and slap it on your Blog. Write real thoughts about these Bloggers and what they’ve meant to you. If the Bloggers you pick have already been given the award, don’t be afraid to give it to them again. They deserve it as many times as it’s given.”

I love Lisa's blog for its humor and its depth. She has left a trail of encouraging comments all across Blog Land. She lives the words, "Encourage one another and build each other up." I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible. I ordered it because Lisa has one. I want to know God's Word the way she does. I could give this award right back to her, and indeed she would deserve it. But instead I choose to pass it forward to these five women:

...to my real life friend Stephanie at Notes from the Soul. Moses is referred in Numbers 12:3 as a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. Stephanie is the most humble person I know. She is an amazing songwriter and pianist. Amazing. She does not seek the spotlight but seeks God with her whole heart. We are walking similar paths right now. We served together at the same church over a year ago. Since then we each have moved to different states. Our husbands have had to make hard choices when faced with difficult circumstances. We homeschool. We blog. Stephanie makes me think. She and Jesus are friends. This makes me jealous which in turn makes me work harder at my friendship with Him.

...to Kathy at Sumballo. She caught my attention because she has a Master's degree in theology. I study the Word at the kitchen table with my babies and feel overwhelmed by how much there is to know. Kathy can write about hard truths and well known Bible stories with simplicity and clarity. Her words are profound, challenging and accessible. I learn so much from her writing. Her post on The Dead Sea Principle is one of my favorites.

...to Rachel Anne at Home Sanctuary. She knows about paint! This impresses me because paint colors and I have a long and sordid history. I read her blog for her decorating tips but I mostly read it because she writes in a way that draws you in. Her words are welcoming. Her post Company Girls is a good example of this.

...to Christy at After A Cup of Coffee... or Two. One evening I was blog hopping and I came across the post I'm Going to Lose it Anytime Now. She wrote about the heartbreak of preparing to say goodbye to her husband. He has been deployed to Iraq for a second tour of duty in the navy. She writes with honesty about her circumstances and with pride about her husband. The photos on her site of her children are gorgeous. She and the next recipient have brought the war in Iraq home for me. I clicked over to her site to check out some details that I wanted to write about here and her post for today is about the next person that I am including in this list! What are the chances?

...to Jennifer at Mississippi Girl. Her husband just returned from a seven month deployment. There is joy and courage and humor in her posts. The hedge trimmer photo is my favorite. (To see it scroll down on her home page.) She has made her house the homiest home. I want my house to be that cozy. I'm inspired her homemaking skills but more by the way she lives her life with purpose and conviction.


Whew! There you have it. Thanks again, Lisa.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Turn-Right Rides



On Saturday afternoons when I was a kid, we used to pile in the wood-paneled station wagon...three in the front...three (or four) in the middle...and three in the WAAAY back. Looking back, these rides probably preserved my mother's sanity but I did not know it at the time. We just saw them as a break in routine. We would stop fussing and fighting for the hour or so that we meandered through the countryside. Turn-Right Rides we called them. No particular destination in mind. When we came to a stop sign we voted. Left or right? A decision was made and the car pointed in a new direction.

We played the Silo Game. 1 point for white silos. 5 for the blue Harvestors. You could only count the silos on your side of the car. We drove over a bridge with a grated metal surface. The Tickle Bridge. "Everybody put your feet on the floor, we're coming up to the Tickle Bridge." We laughed as the vibrations came through the soles of our sneakers. We held our breath as we crossed long bridges and our noses when we came across a cow pasture.

Mom would look out the window and enjoy the peace and comment on the houses. "Look how pretty that one is. I love that wrap-around porch. Look at that garden."

Dad, an agronomist, would study the corn fields. Sometimes he would even stop the car and inspect the health of an ear of corn. These were alway short stops because we protested. Who cared about the corn's constitution?

Aside from these visits to the cornfield, we rarely stopped. But sometimes we did. At a playground behind a country school. At a maple tree farm when the sap was running. We sat on the edge of our seats when we drove through the little town with the ice-cream stand. Sometimes we drove right by and and all of the kids felt deflated as the balloon of expectation was pricked. But sometimes we stopped. Soft-serve chocolate and vanilla twists in a cone or in a bowl were passed around. The cheers silenced by the softer sounds of licks and slurps.

We turned right and left and right again. We always made it back to our own driveway no matter how convoluted the route. My dad has a sense of direction like a homing pigeon.

This memory came to mind after I read yesterday's I AM Bible Study. Lisa uses the life of Moses and the Israelites to illustrate a Biblical truth. When trials come our way we can share them in a way that will make God famous.

Just over a year ago, on this ride that is called life, my husband came upon several STOP signs in quick succession. And did so I, because we ride in the same vehicle, called family. The signs were not expected. Neither were they "fair." For a while, we concentrated on the signs. We shared with a few close friends a play by play of how we had arrived at the intersection. We made decisions. Turn left. Turn right. We looked at the signs in the rearview mirror. (OK, so it was mostly me doing the looking.) What if we had turned right instead of left? Was there anything we could have done to prevent coming upon those stop signs in the first place?

God is good. He kindly turned my eyes from the intersection to His face. "You are missing the view. Stop rehearsing the details of these events. That brings glory to you...not to Me. Rehearse the details of My character. Look at Me. I have so much more to show you. Enjoy the ride and stop wishing you were on another road."

We have not "arrived." I do not know how this particular Turn-Right Ride will end. But I do know that I am beginning to turn right. I am learning to look out the front window at where we are headed. I am learning see more and speak more of the goodness of my Jesus. I know that my God is in the driver's seat. He created the sense of direction in the homing pigeon and eventually we will surely arrive at the destination that He had in mind when those STOP signs first loomed on the horizon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Trust the Force, Luke (or The Further Adventures of Super Crab and Super Turtle)

Yesterday, I touched a little bit on the creativeness of my kids. They seem to be bursting with it. At this very moment John is writing about Were-Chickens and Faith is sculpting a crocodile and its babies. These are surrounded by squiggly clay strips that represent the borders of Egypt.

This slide show created by John and Lauren is Exhibit A into how their minds work. The pictures are infinitely funnier if you realize that the dog in the first photo is evil and is using The Force (think Starwars here) to control the other animals. If you double click on the photos you will see the captions that accompany this work of art. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Decorating Woes

I think of my friend, Dawn, as the Bruce Lee decorator. "Take that! And that! And that! Hiii-Yaw!" Fabric, flowers, paint colors and pictures fall into perfect order at her command.

Me? Notsomuch. My decorating abilities are more like the duel between Merlin and Mad Madam Mim. "Take that! I mean that! OH! That's not what I mean!"

Our one-income budget does not allow for this weakness. I must choose between school books and floral arrangements. My home is comfortable and cozy but you would not be awestruck if you were to walk through the front door. What we lack in beauty we make up for in serenity. This I can attain with music, candles, organization and a structured schedule. It is much easier on the wallet. Oil lamps and the fireplace in the winter make up for the lack of pictures on the walls. The smell of fresh bread and homemade soup might distract your attention from my kitchen table.

We found a large oak table in the newspaper and bought it from a woman who used it solely for company. It was in mint condition. Now it is home to academic discussions, arguements and laughter. We cover it with school books, spilled milk, playdough and science experiments. Dirt and sand have rubbed away the finish. Little hands have carved shapes and letters in the wood with scissors, knives and pencils. The table will not catch your attention because of its beauty. You will notice it for its scars. It wears the badges of serving a productive, creative young family.












When I read Better Homes and Gardens I pull out the Swedish and Shaker pages. I dream of a house with light colored fabric and paints and floor coverings. My children do not aspire to live in this type of home. My children LOVE dirt. They make tiny bricks out of mud and build fairy houses. They carry bucket loads of glop to form a bridge across a small puddle. The glop and clay inevitably makes its way through the door. So I must choose. Showplace or creativity? Pride or peace? Two incomes and the luxuries that come with that choice or one and the once in a lifetime chance to leave a lasting imprint on my impressionable young?

Today, I again set aside the longing for the perfect house. I meet my muddy children at the door with a bucket of soapy water and a washcloth. I still wish for a little of Decorator Dawn's abilities even if it may be years before I can put those skills to use.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, Tim

My brother Tim and I were born nine years apart to the day. This is a letter I wrote to him recently in commemoration.

There are some things you might not know about the day of your birth and the days leading up to the day of your birth because you were busy developing and being born and stuff. I, however, know a few things because I was eight and then I was nine. These are my memories.

I was an undercover spy when I was eight. I knew where to look for top-secret goods…In Mom’s top dresser drawer. You know the drawer. The one with the Twizzlers and chips, the nightgowns and underwear and all manner of confidential things. That one.

One snowy afternoon in January 1977, my sleuthing turned up a home pregnancy test. I knew a few things about pregnancy tests by the time I was eight. I determined that this one was positive. I just couldn’t decide if this test was for a baby to come or for one of the previous six who were now running around the house. You know how Mom saves things. Turns out it announced a baby to come…in June.

"On my birthday, Mom and he’s going to be a boy."

"Well the baby is due around the 17th and there’s the chance we could have a Molly."

Mom was always angling for a Molly. But I knew with her track record for boys there was NO POSSIBLE WAY you were going to be a girl. I did not know that you were a genie who would grant this almost nine-year-old princess the birthday of her dreams.

Sure enough. I came downstairs on June 24th to find Mom up to her eyeballs in stacks of laundry and lavender cupcakes. This was the big day. Kids and clothes were parceled out amongst kindhearted volunteers. I have no idea where anyone else ended up. All I know is that Sarah and I and the lavender cupcakes went to Timmy Hipskind’s house. This stands out because in third grade, I was IN LOVE with Timmy Hipskind.

While you were busy being born and stuff, I was staring across the dinner table at Timmy Hipskind with big moony eyes and drinking soda and watching TV…lots and lots of TV because you know we were television deprived.

After a day or two, I got sick of Timmy and turned my attentions to his two-wheeler. I learned to ride a bike that week in the flat, flat subdivision where he lived. I was so proud!

Then you came home and so did we. Home to the gravel driveway and rolling hills. And so, my bike riding days came to an abrupt end. I was happy to welcome you into our family but I sure was sad to say goodbye to Timmy and his soda and his bike.

Happy Birthday, Tim!

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Becoming One

I have been wrestling with God this week. This has a predictable ending. I won't leave you in suspense. He pinned me firmly to the mat and held me there until I cried "Uncle!" It took a few days.

On Wednesday, I wrote this:

Famine and Psalm 33

I am starving
For companionship,
And conversation.
Hungry for meaning,
For purpose.
Will faith disintegrate
To dust under the enormity of this weight?
Carried at length
With no end in sight.
But God says
His eyes are on those who fear him
Who hope in His unfailing love
He will keep my spirit alive in this present famine.
He promises.
And so it is true.

I could not bring myself to post it then because I was still wrestling. Still nursing self-pity. Still lobbying for my rights. God is gracious. He did not grind my weak frame to dust and laugh "BUAA HAA HAA!" in a deep scary voice. Instead He lifted me up and dusted me off. He renewed my strength as I was reading Luke Chapter 11 in preparation for going through it with the kids. While reading Chuck Smith's commentary on the Lord's prayer, I learned Yahweh or Jehovah means The Becoming One. This is the I AM that God identified Himself as to Moses in Exodus Chapter Three. I checked the Hebrew and looked for other commentaries that agreed to be sure that Mr. Smith wasn't out in left field.

The Becoming One. The character of God is so enormous that we can spend a lifetime with Him and still be continually surprised by an aspect of Him that we had not previously considered. He reveals Himself to us slowly in bits and pieces so that we will not be overwhelmed by His complexity and His glory. He does not become real to us through study. He becomes real when we meet Him in our everyday lives. We recognize God as a provider when he provides. We recognize him as an encourager when he pours out his comfort in the Psalms and sends a friend at just the right moment with encouraging words. We recognize him as a Restorer when he picks up the pieces of our shattered lives and puts them back together as something whole and beautiful. He is not a stagnant, distant God but One who is so in tune with our lives that He becomes to us what we need when we need it.

We can live a victorious life when we live minute by minute and acknowledge our frailty. We do not need to try harder. Rather, we need to grip the hand of our Father harder. We must remind ourselves that God IS what we need. When we are tempted toward impatience God IS patience. When we are tempted toward anger God IS love. We begin to be sure, to be confident, of each expression of his character as we rely and He becomes.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Breathing

The house is just beginning to stir. I balance a load of laundry on one hip and tiptoe toward the laundry room. I pass Claire on my way. She is dressed and rummaging in the pantry in search of a pre-breakfast snack. My early morning girl. Lauren, still cozy under her covers, turns the pages of The Indian in the Cupboard. I peek in on her but she doesn't notice. Faith sits up in bed and pushes tangled curls aside. She dangles her legs over the side of the bed and rubs her eyes. The sun pushes through the curtains and makes patches of light on her feet and on the floor.

I pause at the boys' door and scan for dirty laundry. The room is dark. The sun will not make its way to this side of the house until the afternoon. John's stack of midnight reading and his flashlight are in a heap. I pick up a shirt and a pair of shorts and add them to my basket. John and Charlie are sound asleep. John sprawls on his back tangled up in his red fleece blanket. His arms and long legs stretch out. His ribs rise up and down with slow regularity. "He's so thin," I think to myself for the thousandth time. For a moment, I am filled with a familiar ache and worry. It is a fleeting thought. I watch his serene face, eyes closed under long, long lashes, and smile at the menagerie of animals that make bumps under his covers. Sweet innocence.

Charlie's fleece blanket lies crumpled on the floor. His sun browned body is tummy down a few feet away from John. He wears only a pair of Lightning McQueen undies. He breathes deep breaths and sighs softly on the exhale. His little rump and Lightning McQueen rise and fall with each breath. He has pudgy little boy legs and arms and a sturdy frame. I wonder at the difference in the build of my two boys. I watch them for a minute...two minutes...loathe to leave the tenderness that is in this room. Charlie rolls to the side and opens his eyes but he is not awake. A second later, his eyes close again and his hand covers his face. I slip out and give the night owls a little longer to dream. I feel my own gentle breathing as I continue down the hall. Peace.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Laughing Afternoon

It's four o'clock. The school debris is tucked swiftly into the drawers and shelves that hold these things. The kids hurry the way kids do when they are working toward a goal that is their own.

John rubs sunblock over his nose. Faith helps him reach the hard to reach places on his back. Lauren pulls swim trunks up around Charlie's middle. She threads his arms into floaties. Claire recently graduated from her floaty suit into a big kid swimsuit and I have graduated to one with a skirt. Time marches on.

By the time I slather on my sunblock, the small tribe has assembled itself outside the gate to the pool. They wait for the go ahead. When they see me, John produces the gate key from a secret pocket in his shorts. The group swells through the gate with shrieks of delight. The sun shines in a cloudless sky and lights the pool with its late afternoon glow. Splashes from the slide and diving board shatter the smooth surface of the water.

Charlie grabs my leg, "Get my swim noodle, Mama."

I pull the swim noodles from the storage box and toss all but the purple one into the deep end. Charlie tucks the purple noodle under his arms. The floaties bulge out over the top like huge blue muscles. The muscles are tatooed with warnings, "Complete supervision necessary at all times."

Charlie jumps in the deep end, goes under and comes up cackling and shaking water from his eyes. I slide in beside him. My head does not go under water. Ever. I hold out a blue noodle to Charlie. He grabs hold of it and we become a two-car train. When John causes a train wreck by swimming over the top of us, Charlie and I take to the airwaves. I hold the noodle to his ear and broadcast into it. "This is Mama coming at you live on Blue Tube Radio."

Charlie giggles and puts the tube to his mouth. "Hi Mama, I am swimming in the deep end with my Blue Tube Radio."

Faith tries to put a noodle up to my other ear but I am too distracted to run two radio stations. Disappointed that she cannot have my full attention, she takes a Polly Pocket and stuffs her into the hole in her swim noodle. She fills the noodle with water and blows into the other end. Polly catapults across the pool and lands on the other side with a tiny, tiny splash. The kids erupt with howls at this creativity.

Charlie swims off to play with a bucket of plastic animals in the shallow end. The big guys are thrilled because this means I am free to play Ball Tag. We take turns firing an oversized ball at the heads of our opponents. Because I refuse to seek safety under water, I am often IT. I marvel at John's strength and Lauren's speed. They are long and sleek as they glide away from me. In a matter of minutes, it seems, they will be gliding away into adulthood. I catch Claire unguarded and wing the ball at her. Yes! A direct hit!

We tire of the game and everyone climbs onto a noodle. We are knights preparing for a joust. We gallop from the corners of the pool and battle in the middle. Knees and elbows meet as we try to knock our opponents from their steeds. No one is successful until John declares his horse a camel and begins to spit water at us through the tube he is sitting on. We convulse with laughter and topple from our horses. John declares himself victorious.

The sun touches the treetops. The dinner hour is upon us. We store the swim toys and drip into the house. The heavy sensation of gravity pulls at our bodies but today it cannot reach our souls.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Father's Day in Tanzania

My Dad is on a plane at this very moment winging over continents and oceans. My brother, Alex, waits for that plane to touchdown on Tanzanian soil.

Alex has been serving in the Peace Corps since September 2005. He works at a college at the base of Mount Kilamanjaro. His main assignment has been to set up and maintain a computer lab for the college.

Alex is a wonderful writer able to convey the beauty and frustration of living and working among the Tanzanians. He has written about the joys of transportation, about having his camera stolen, about a stay in the hospital. He recorded a story of a student who managed to fill the power source to three or four computers with water and in Alex's words, "wash the life out of them." His most heartbreaking story took place when he was a passenger on a bus. The bus knocked over a charcoal stove and a pan of hot oil onto a child. The next time I am tempted to get frustrated with an emergency room here, I will remember that in Tanzania if you are involved in an accident you must carry your child with third-degree burns to the police station before you are allowed to carry your child to the hospital.

Alex must sometimes long for the comfort and familiarity of home. I'll bet there are days when he feels forgotten. He does not come out and say this but there is a recurring sentence in his recent posts. A countdown of sorts. "My dad is coming here towards the end of June...My dad is coming here in four days...My dad is coming."

I think about Alex on foreign soil trying to make sense of experiences that are sometimes senseless. I know this time in Africa is molding his character but I also know that occasionally he must just want to come home. I am the same way. I find myself wanting more than what this life has to offer. I look at the cruel and senseless things of this world and somehow feel homesick for a better place, a place I have never been. I love the people I love with all my heart and they love me but it is not a perfect love and it is not enough.

Then I am reminded, God has set eternity in my heart. I live with a sense of expectation because I was not made to be content with the here and now. This weary earth is not my home. In my Father's house there are many mansions. Among those mansions...a place specially designed with me in mind. I may be buried beneath the piles of laundry and fussing kids and chaos but I am not forgotten. One day, My Dad is coming to take me home.

Happy Father's Day.

We Are Going Under Cover

We got a creepy phone call from a creepy person that we have known for way too long, today. It reminded me that we know a creepy person who might "discover" this blog. (If you type all of our names into Google we come out as the first six sites listed. This kind of scared me as the creepy person knows all seven of our names.)

For this reason, we are going under cover. I thought about just using initials or weird nicknames like Aragorn and the Terminator but that would make story telling less fluid. So we will have aliases. I will be Kate. Oh wait, I am Kate. I will still be Kate. I will be married to Stuart. My children will be John, Lauren, Faith, Claire and Charlie...in that order. The kids had a great time choosing what they would like their names to be. Hope this doesn't throw you for too much of a loop. And yes, this means deleting a portion of the post about our names. This is sad because it is one of my favorites.

Friday, June 15, 2007

What If

What if you're right?
And he was just another nice guy
What if you're right?
What if it's true?
They say the cross will only make a fool of you
And what if it's true?

The kids and I were coming home from the library yesterday after story hour.
Lauren asked, as she always does, "Will you turn on some music, Mama?
I flipped on the radio. Nicole Nordeman joined us and performed What If for an audience of six. I sang along with her but not very well because I always get a lump in my throat over the lyrics.

What if he takes his place in history
With all the prophets and the kings
Who taught us love and came in peace
But then the story ends
What then?


She sings my story in these words. In college, I let go of my childhood faith and embraced tolerance and enlightenment. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha...all equal...all historical figures. I saw spiritual people as basically good...all on the path to eternal bliss.

What if you dig
Way down deeper than your simple-minded friends
What if you dig
What if you find
A thousand more unanswered questions down inside
That's all you find

What if you pick apart the logic
And begin to poke the holes
What if the crown of thorns is no more than fokelore that must be told
And retold

"Maybe", I thought, "there is not a personal god but a god who created the world and left us to our own devices." I thought Christians were narrow minded and lived narrow, judgemental lives.

Cause you've been running as fast as you can
You've been looking for a place you can land
For so long
But what if you're wrong


But then John was born and I dared to search for more. I dared to put aside my preconceptions and look objectively for truth. I was astounded by the logic and practicality of Christianity. The more I read the Bible the more I found that the truth began to chip away at my skepticism and reshape my thinking. I dared to choose One whom I would follow. I dared say there is but One way to heaven. Because I dared, restlessness was replaced with peace. Uncertainty, with a sense of confidence. Not confidence in myself but in my Savior.

The idea behind the song lyrics was repeated again at the lunch table. We nibbled our Keebler Elf cookies (The elves seem to have gone through a growth spurt. Has anyone else noticed this?) and read Luke 9:28-36. Peter saw Jesus, Moses and Elijah as glorious radiant beings and was filled with the compulsive need to comment.

"Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."

I have always thought of the tabernacles simply as tents and have seen Peter's words as simply foolish. God showed me (through the study of this commentary and research on the meaning of shelter translated from the Greek word skēnē ) the seriousness of Peter's words. He did not mean tents. He meant houses of worship! Oh, Peter! He saw Jesus, Moses and Elijah as equals. I think this understanding of the word shelter is accurate given the way God responds in verse 35 to Peter's words. "This is my son..."

The search continues in countless lives. The voices of Islam...Buddhism... New Age...Mormonism... Scientology...Agnosticism...Atheism... call to those searching for truth. So many voices. But God says of Jesus alone, "This is my son...listen to Him."

But what if you're wrong?
What if there's more?
What if there's hope you never dreamed of hoping for?
What if you jump?
And just close your eyes?
What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
What if He's more than enough?
What if it's love?



Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Me and Judas

The kids and I have been reading through the Gospel of Luke. The gospels are full of the Bible stories that I have known since childhood. It is so easy for me to read through them without really thinking about what I am reading. I have been asking God to teach me more than the obvious as we work our way through the chapters. I have been asking Him to show me how these familiar stories are relevant to the very minute I am living in.

We read and discussed Luke Chapter 9 between slurping bites of Ramen Noodles and grapefruit this afternoon. A sticky meal. In verse one, Jesus gives all twelve disciples power and authority to drive out demons, cure diseases, and to share what they had been learning from Him. All twelve. Judas included. Judas who later turned informant. Judas who pocketed the amount of money one would receive for selling a slave when he sold information on Jesus' whereabouts.

How could he do this? Judas had seen Jesus raise people from the dead, teach and heal crowds that were so large that there was the danger of being crushed to death by the sea of humanity. He, himself, had felt the healing power of God flow through his body. God whispered a word to me as I put this question to the kids. Agenda.

Judas had an agenda. He wanted to be with Jesus because this was his ticket to fame, wealth, and power. For a while, it appeared that his agenda and Jesus' were one and the same. Jesus challenged the status quo. He was a rebel and He had super powers to boot. But by the end of same chapter in which Judas was driving out demons and healing the sick, Jesus started talking about storing up treasure in heaven, serving others, and dying instead of taking over Palestine. This was not what Judas had signed up for!

Judas' agenda was about the promotion of self. Jesus' agenda was about saving the world!

That one word reverberated in my head. My agenda, of late, has been the promotion of self. I am questioning and doubting God for moving us to Smallville. I want to be known. I want to be important outside of my family. I want to be useful and valuable in a big way. Right now, that is not on God's plan for me. But if I look at Judas and Jesus' agendas side by side then I can know for sure that God's reasons for moving us to Smallville are enormous and that the doubting and questioning are a big waste of time.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The History of this Blog (not that it's been around long enough to have a history)

The land of the blog is a culture that takes some time to absorb. There is a hefty learning curve involved in becoming a proficient speaker of Blogese. Good blogs attract readers who write comments and real friendships develop from comment comaraderie. Kind of like pen pals from the days of old but with a sense of immediacy to it.

There are millions of blogs and a writer has to be creative in attracting a readership beyond close friends and family. One of the ways that blog sites do this is by hosting "interviews" (in Blogese: "memes") on their site. They write out a list of questions and any blogger who cares to answer the questions can link back to their site. I have seen a few of these but none particularly interested me...until yesterday. I came across on hosted by Chilihead .(Yes, you read that right. Chilihead. I'm sure there is a story in there somewhere.) I found questions listed there encouraging bloggers to share the history of their blog. I'm not much for following rules so I will not bore you with the questions but will instead just tell the story.

I know you are wondering how someone with a two month old blog can write about its history. But I ask you, can a mother of a two-month-old baby write the history of that baby. Yes, of course, she can. Well then, let me bore you with the details of this baby!

We had recently moved to Smallville when Small Scribbles came into being. Two of my real life friends let me know that they had started blogs...Refresh My Soul and Notes from the Soul. I did not read their blogs right away but I thought to myself, "I could write one. I think. " And so I started. I wrote ten or fifteen posts before I let anyone know that I was writing. I thought that my brain might freeze and I would have nothing to write about after two posts. This did not turn out to be the case. I found the longer I wrote the more I had to say. I began to find the extraordinary in the ordinary events that make up my days. I was thankful for an outlet that kept me from becoming The Invisible Mom.

I wish, in a way, that I had spent a few months reading blogs before I started writing. I would have come up with a catchier name than Small Scribbles. ( The name does best describe the essence of this blog.) I always find myself clicking on blogs with catchy names and if I were to do this over again I would call this one Fried Twinkies and Other Southern Delights. Alas, it's water under the dam and I am The Small Scribbler.

In a way, I am glad I did not start reading other blogs before I started mine because I would have been tempted to write with the grace and beauty found in Lots of Scotts or with the spiritual depth that I enjoy in Notes from the Soul. I like the self-consciousness and honesty that I read in kittyhox and the snappy way that Antique Mommy puts thoughts together. If I had read all of these before I started my own blog I think I would have been a schizophrenic writer. Even though the very nature of blogging is schizophrenic...a post on turtles one day and marriage the next... there must be some continuity to the style of writing. I try to tell these things with a rhythm, an honesty, and attention to detail that draws people in. Sometimes sarcastic sentences form in my head but I usually end up choosing simplicity over sarcasm.

The most surprising thing to me about writing a blog is that I have family members who read it faithfully. My mom and dad and my sister-in-law read it and they like it. This shocks me. Susie, my childhood babysitter, and friends that I have not seen for years are readers. I am astonished at the way this has rekindled connections from days gone by. Stuart is my best critic. I watch him as he previews a post and wait to hear him chuckle or make comments and suggestions. John and Lauren are excellent editors. I count their critiques as school.

Blogging has helped me to become a more keen observer of my surroundings...of sights...sounds...scents...emotions. A story is infinitely more interesting if all the senses are engaged. It is magic when I watch a story unfold before me as I go about my day. I find myself searching for descriptive words and hoarding memories like a squirrel stores nuts to later replay at the computer.

These days, I am decoding the mysteries of Html, figuring out Technorati and SiteMeter, and fighting to keep this blogging thing a hobby and not an obsession. I am a homeschooling mother of many. I do not have time for obsessions.

I am off to Blogging Basics 101 to figure out how to link this thing to Chilihead's blog. If I am successful I will have one more tool to add to my Blogger Geek Toolkit.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Name by Any Other Name Still Means One of Us

The neighbor down the street has three grandkids visiting her this week. We have a pool. And Game Cube. And five kids of our own. We are seeing a lot of the grandkids.

Grandkid One and Two have "Yes, ma'am" down to a tee, excellent manners and immediate obedience. Grandkid Three? Not real strong in the obedience department...or the manners...or the honesty department. I have learned something about dealing with kids who spend a good amount of time at my house. I make them toe the line from day one. This kid is learning that he can't pull the wool over my eyes and I won't cut him any slack. He does not know who he's messing with, buddy!

He also doesn't know my name or any of the kids' names or Stuart's. He came to the door at 8:30 yesterday morning. "I want to play Game Cube with that big kid. What have you got to drink?"

"The big kid's name is John and he's still asleep. If you are thirsty you can get a glass out of the cupboard and get some water."

"Don't you have tea or soda or anything?"

"I have water."

"What are you drinking?"

"This is coffee. You cannot have coffee. You can have water. Then it's probably time for you to go home. None of the kids are up yet. We'll come get you this afternoon when we go swimming."

He left. I wished for a stiffer drink than coffee.

The Grandkids Three joined us later that day for a few hours in the pool.

"Miss Squirrel!....Miss Squirrel!....Miss Squirrel!"

It dawned on me that Grandkid Three was speaking to me. There was, after all, a Miss prefacing Squirrel.

"My name is Miss Kate. What do you need, Grandkid Three?"

"Watch this!" Two sommersaults in a row without coming up for a breath.

Grandkid One and Claire were hanging out beneath the slide. Grandkid One asked Claire, "What's your name again?"

"Claire."

"That's a long name. I can't remember long names."

"My mama calls me Claire or Rosie. Can you remember Rosie?"

"I might be able to remember that."

Grandkid Three bellowed from the far end of the pool, "Mom! Mom! Your little kid needs you!"

"I'm Miss Kate, Grandkid Three and that's Charlie."

After a few hours of this, the Grandkids Three dried off and headed for home. We reminded Grandkid Three to get the orange golf ball that he left the first time he came over, the bottle of bubbles from his second visit, and his shirt. He did not remember. We added his towel to the collection.

In a few hours, after The Little Kid and The Kid With the Long Name and The Big Boy and the other two go to bed, maybe Mr. Squirrel and I will go out for a swim. Alone.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Inky the Clown

Stuart wants to take a year off, sell everything we own and sail around the world before the kids leave home. Seriously. He's been trying to sell me on this for fifteen years. So far, I'm not buying. My idea of an adventure would be to travel from library to library and read my way across America.

I love libraries. My favorite two are on opposite coasts...the Warwick Public Library in Rhode Island and the Corvallis-Benton County Library in Oregon. Both are hunormous structures with rooms of quality children's books. My least favorite library in the whole country is The Padlock The Hamilton County Bicentennial Library in Hixson, Tennessee. You could read all of their outdated children's books in about a week. None of these places have Miss Jane though. She is the children's librarian at the little library in the center of town...the best children's librarian there is.

I was on the phone with my sister, Sarah, recently. She was filling out entry forms while we talked for a drawing to win a four-foot chocolate bunny from the Corvallis-Benton County Library. She lowered her voice, "I hope we don't win. What would I do with a four-foot chocolate bunny?" The next time I talked to her she was planning a bunny-sharing picnic in the park with all their friends and anyone else who happened to show up. Even after the park extravaganza, half of the bunny still resides in their freezer. She is using that bunny and her awesome library as bait to get us to make another trip west.

Sarah told me their library is kicking off the summer reading program with a sleep over. There's room enough for the whole county to sleep in that library. If we tried that at our tiny library the kids would be locked together like snap-down flooring. Instead of a sleepover, at story hour today, we had Inky the Clown. He shaped balloons into animals ...and flowers...and a palm tree with a bunch of bananas and a monkey in its leaves. He did magic tricks of the obvious variety and juggled and told jokes of the slapstick-sarcastic variety. The kind that six-year-olds love.

The room was filled with children. There might have been fifty or more. After a few minutes of Inky, I turned my attention to the crowd...a mixture mainly of Mennonites and African-Americans. It was a study in contrasts. Amish pageboy haircuts and hair twisted and tightly pinned intermingled with cornrow braids and beads and ponytails sticking out every which way. Smooth blond heads beside dark nappy heads. Neon raspberry, lime and orange shirts commanded attention but so did the long-sleeve denim shirts and jeans and drab colored jumpers for there were so many of them and they were so plain and hot looking. Sandaled feet trod carefully so they would not step on the bare feet peeking out from under the plain skirts.

Inky the Clown captivated them all. Every child laughed at his jokes. He amazed them with his juggling. They saw the magic in the magic tricks. They hoped to be one of the lucky ones who would get to take home a balloon. Even some of the adults rolled with laughter. There is an innocence that can come with living your whole life in the same small town. Inky's magic might not have fooled the eye but it did have a way of reaching the heart.


P.S. If there is a great library in your area let me know so I can start planning my trip.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Leaving the Nest

I looked out the window this morning to see a male red-bellied woodpecker feeding seeds to what appeared to be a female. "Oh good,"I thought. "Something to post in my sidebar under the Through the Kitchen Window heading. How romantic." But the drama continued and turned into fodder for this post.

A moment later, I realized that the Will You be my Honey? season is long gone. By now, aviary males and females have met, mated and reproduced. This woodpecker was feeding a baby... a gargantuan baby. The baby was the same size as his father. I watched him drop two or three more sunflower seeds into the impatient young one's mouth. Then, because he was the father, he did not hover for a second longer than necessary. He flew off and left the little black-headed baby to fend for himself.

The red-bellied baby clung to the fence and peered at the seed trays below. He wore a puzzled expression. He boosted himself down into the tray of corn kernels and wrapped his beak around one seed. It promptly flew out of his mouth and hit the ground. He tried again a few more times with the same results. He was a pretty smart little guy. He figured out all by himself that this was not working. He stopped spraying corn kernels about and looked around for the tasty sunflower seeds his papa had been feeding him. He located them eight inches away. He hopped into the sunflower feeder and began to feast. This baby did not drop a single seed. He did not leave either. I began to get bored watching him gorge himself and turned to make my morning coffee frappuccino.

When I turned back, he was still eating. A flash of red caught my attention in the foliage overhead. The papa was back and he had a second baby with him. The mother was nowhere to be seen. She was either home cleaning the nest... or... in tears because her babies were getting so big....crying because she couldn't handle the fact that they were preparing to move out. I'll bet that was the reason. It was left to the papa to teach the birds to fend for themselves just like it will be left to my Paul to teach the children how to drive.

The second baby clung to the tree trunk. The papa brought seeds from the feeder and dropped them into the baby's mouth. He nudged the hungry one toward the feeder but that little guy dug in his toes and would not be moved. The father brought a few more seeds and nudged again. Again with no results. The father shook his head and clucked his bill irritably.

A blue jay came to the feeder. He is at the top of the feeder pecking order and so the father and his timid baby and his stuffed baby flew into the treetops. They did not return.

They left me thinking about friends that have children who have left the nest. Some of these children quickly got their feet under them and have moved into adulthood successfully. Other fledglings have gone and returned a few times. Their entrance into adulthood was awkward and precarious though they eventually landed on their feet. I'm sure we'll have some of each kind when our children reach the age where they stretch their wings and soar... or tumble headlong... toward independence. I'm also sure I'll be like that timid mama bird who can't bear to watch as they leave.

Addendum: Stuart has been out of town three out of the past four weeks. I got the following e-mail from him after he read this post:

I think the mama is probably dancing for joy that the papa took the kids along for a change instead of leaving them with her!

I love you!!
S

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Monday, June 4, 2007

Living With Ghosts

The children were dressed in identical orange shirts today. Stuart came home from work with his arms loaded with pool supplies. They swarmed around him like a wildfire and sounded cries of "Papa's home! Papa's home!" The fire disbanded into individual flames who went back to their play. Stuart set down his packages on the floor. He sat down on a stool at the kitchen table. I joined him...happy to see him. He was still carrying an invisible burden...one of the heart... and as we sat there he set that down too.

"I had a dream about Renee (an old girlfriend) Friday night. We were walking down a long hallway towards each other. We met in the middle of the hall and talked for a few minutes. It seemed so real."

He woke up shortly after but her spectre remained on his mind. He tried to ignore her to no avail. He tried to push her away with kisses. I was left breathless... and clueless... but still she remained in the room.

"My boss wanted to send me to Dallas on a business trip but I told him I didn't want to go. I was afraid I might run into her."

"Honey, the chances of you running into her would be almost nonexistant."

"I know but I don't feel comfortable even with those odds right now."

There is a mirror over our kitchen table. I watched our reflections as Stuart shared these things. He looked tanned and handsome in his work clothes. I was wearing overalls and yesterday's makeup. I didn't feel pretty. Especially when I compared myself to a woman who has remained nineteen for the last twenty years.

Secrets of this nature can burst into a destructive blaze when they are not shared. By choosing to be accountable, Stuart took a fire extinguisher to the hold it had over him. I am thankful for a husband who knows that this is the way to keep a marriage strong. I might not feel pretty today but I sure feel loved.

We have seen friends blanket small secrets. These snowballed into sin that tore the fabric of their marriage to shreds and left them deciding who would get the children.

We are teaching our children to wait until they are ready to be married before they begin to date. We want them to spend their time as single adults preparing for a career, preparing to be a husband or a wife and growing wise in the ways of the Lord. We are teaching them to wait until their wedding day for their first kiss. We know full well the message that our culture has to share with them. We know that there is a good chance they will not embrace our teaching but as parents it is our job to hold out the ideal for them. Who knows. Maybe they will suceed and will not spend their married lives living with ghosts.


*******

We were washing dishes together after dinner. Stuart turned to me and used the words he often hears me say, "I feel a blog coming on." Here is the story again from his perspective.


Trading a Marriage for a Mirage

The last few days I’ve been living with a ghost. She’s a beauty, to be sure, with strawberry blonde hair and a smile that melts my heart. However, like most ghosts, she is mostly in my imagination. She is the ghost of a relationship past; a memory that faded years ago, though apparently not completely. Oh, the pain of a broken heart, twice because I’m a slow learner, is gone… but the memories of beauty and youth are very strong indeed. I told my wife about my ghost this afternoon, quite an awkward moment actually and yet liberating also. You see, that ghost in my mind, for all its beauty, had an insincere motive. In my mind, the ghost did not want to be revealed, it wanted simply to occupy some of my closet space and entertain me from time to time with sweet memories of a time long gone. It wanted me to remember my youth, and the youth of a woman who was once the love of my life. It wanted me to be discontent with the woman who IS the love of my life. The true darkness of my phantom has become apparent.

How many of us entertain ghosts like this? Worse, how many of us allow these crafty spirits to rob us of the joy of today and replace it with jealousy, lust, or a craving for a life that we believe would be infinitely better?

Now I can see clearly the advantage of remaining pure until we’re ready for marriage. One man, one woman, and no ghosts… Would life not be infinitely better if we simply followed the instructions of our Maker?


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Play-together Friends

There is one good paragraph in the book, Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail. Just one. It is this:

Skunk and Epossumondas were waving friends, not play-together friends. So they waved, and Skunk pranced on by, swishing her thick black-and-white tail.

I like these words because I have many waving friends here. They glide by in their cars and wave. They wave from their pews at church. They wave from their porches. I have not yet discovered a good play-together friend in this small town.

I've been getting tired of the waving. I opened an invitation in my inbox recently to visit with play-together friends. I packed my bag and headed east for a blitz visit.

There were hugs when I walked in the door. Hugs hello to friends and hugs goodbye to family. There was joy at seeing familiar faces and a longing for those who could not escape family responsibilites to knit their hearts and stories together with ours.

The hours we had to visit were few. We wasted no time with small talk. Each of us put aside the mask reserved for aquaintances and showed our real self. The four of us live small lives and dream big dreams. It takes trust to share dreams and hurts and shortcomings.

We sipped coffee and Diet Coke from mugs. We ate tortilla soup and pigs in a blanket. We talked until we were bleary eyed and wobbly. To bed after two and up before eight. There was more visiting to do so we didn't bother with getting out of our pajamas...or switching glasses for contacts...or brushing our hair. We poured more coffee. Lots of coffee. We picked up where we had had left off a few hours before. We poured out encouragement and funny stories. We shared what God is teaching us for we are all learning.

Too soon, it was time to return to our everyday lives and our families. I was not sad though. Just thankful for a little bit of time with play-together friends (though we did not play) before I went back to the waving ones.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

A Sparkly Place

Claire is a planner. She found out on Christmas Day that we would be going to Disney in March. She immediately got out her suitcase and had that baby packed down to the toothbrush in ten minutes. We unpacked her pajamas every night at bedtime for three months. Nothing puts that girl into high gear like a road trip.

She is excited today because we are headed to Atlanta. Claire packs her clothes. She packs our snacks. She packs our books and buckles her younger brother in the car. They wait while the rest of us gather our stuff together and haul it out to the Suburban.

We pull out of our driveway, turn left onto the highway and drive five minutes. Five minutes!

"Mom. Mom. Has it been an hour yet?"

"Claire! You can practically see the house!"

"Is it time for lunch?" The kid is eternally hungry.

"Claire! We just ate lunch five minutes ago."

"Can I have some juice?"

"Let's save it for a little while because if you have juice we'll have to stop to use the bathroom."

We drive along two lane country roads. Cotton fields and corn fields stretch out on either side of us. Roosters scratch for insects along the side of the road. Armadillos lie belly up. We see huge gardens and little traffic.

Stuart gets stuck behind a slow car. "Driving to Atlanta in the blue-haired lane! We'll be there in about eight hours if I can't pass this woman." The two lane road switches to three periodically and Stuart edges by the tiny woman. We look down and see her peering through her steering wheel.

Claire continues the commentary from the way back. "Why are we going from side to side?... Papa! Make the road stop bumping!... Are we going the right way?... Mom! Mom! I have a thread on me!"

Three lanes widen to four. Purple and red and yellow wildflowers fill the median. Cars fill the lanes. We drive in the fast lane and look into the windows of the slower cars. We pass a car with two people wedged into the front seat. The back seat is stuffed with all that they own. Paul glances over, "They packed that car with a plunger!"

We see many moving vans with cars hooked to their bumpers. My mind takes a detour from our destination for a moment to wonder at how our roots seem to be more attached to a U-Haul than they do to solid ground. We wander from place to place in this country like nomads in search of a more promising life.

I snap back to reality and find our Suburban surrounded on all sides by tractor trailers. The little girls cry from the way back, "Papa! Papa! Pull over quick!" My heart races and my head swivels around to see what the emergency is.

"We need to let Creative and Playful out!"

"Who are Creative and Playful?!"

Turns out they are two flies who climbed into the car with the children at the last reststop. The Fig Newtons stuck to the seats were irresistable. John rolls down his window and shoos them out.

Four lanes turn to eight. Expensive cars and SUVs merge onto the highway. Charlie finds a snorkle tucked in the pocket of his door. Everyone needs a snorkle in their car in case of an underwater emergency. He trumpets into it in his hillbilly voice. He sounds like Gomer or Goober. "I have to go PEE-EEE-EEES! I have to go PEE-EEE-EEES!" We search for a restroom. Up ahead, a Dunkin Donuts! We get off the highway. Turn left across three lanes of traffic. Turn left across three more lanes of traffic and hustle him into the restroom. Turns out it was a false alarm.

Back in the car. Back into traffic. Back on the highway. Claire urges Stuart on, "Go faster, Papa! Go faster!"

Charlie picks up his snorkle and bellows at the cars in the lane next to him. "Go red car! Go blue car. Go cars! Go!"

We come around a bend. The Atlanta skyline stretches out in front of us. The buildings reach greater heights as we come closer. Soon we are enveloped in the heart of the city. Adrenaline fills the car as we weave through the lanes. The kids are excited to reach our destination. Charlie's eyes take in the glamor and the bustle and the buildings crowded together. He points his snorkle at me and blares, "It's a sparkly place, Mama! It's a sparkly place!"
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