Friday, February 27, 2009

Head held high inside the werewolf-bubble

This morning's reading in our Lenten book was from Psalm 3. It starts out listing all the reasons David has for feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, discouraged, terrified, hopeless and despairing. Fortunately, most of us don't have to worry about about all the death threats he had. Still, the enemy of our souls loves to taunt us with the same message the people around David had: God will not help us.

Whether in doubting whispers deep inside us, or openly asserted, I think we all hear that fairly often. Regardless of our religious background, we are all confronted with the issue of theodicy. Is God helpless or uncaring, that such horrible things are allowed to happen? I have heard most of the arguments and counterarguments, though I am certainly no scholar or theologian (unlike several of my blog readers, I've never even taken any theology classes, let alone earned a degree in it!).

My personal little theory is that we humans are often oblivious to subtlety. If our perception of evil were reduced to something like that '50s-sitcom nadir of depravity, where a careless child broke a window with an errant baseball, we would scoff at the need for Atonement. Sin would merit nothing more than a "tsk, tsk" and a reproachful shake of the head. We would consider it nothing more than a baby dragon, inconvenient when it scorched us, but kind of cute, if exasperating. Seeing evil for what it truly is enables us to grasp the need for Jesus. But as I said, I'm no scholar, so I am sure others have both proposed and dismantled my little theory.

Anyway, I can see elements of truth in all of the arguments, but when it becomes personal, like it has for the people on my List, I really don't care too much about free will, or the transformation of suffering, the role that we should play in social justice, or any of the other reasons that are given. I just want a shield around me and those I love.

When I was little, I envisioned that shield like a bubble that would protect me from evil. Once, a friend was spending the night and couldn't sleep because she kept imagining a werewolf bursting through our window and attacking us. Our scepticism did nothing to reassure her. Finally, my sister and I told her of scriptures of God shielding us. She got a mental image of a werewolf bouncing off a bubble-like shield, and it gave her the giggles. I used to think of being shielded like that, too.

The problem is, too many of us have had that shield seemingly pierced. So many have been through devastating pain that has seared their hearts. I haven't been physically seared, but I've heard from burn victims how in the initial shock you can be unfeeling, only to go through unimaginable agony during debriding and regrowth. The Bible is full of verses on suffering, and it shouldn't come as a surprise to us, but it still does.

I wonder how the early church saw the juxtaposition of miracles and martyrdom? They were surrounded by both on a daily basis: people being healed of every disease, even raised from the dead, yet the were also dying for their faith. I believe that miracles still occur. From babyhood, I've been taught that we lay hands on the sick and that they will recover. I know it is real. I've also seen people die when I would have chosen a different outcome. I don't even pretend to understand it. I still choose to believe that God has surrounded us with a shield, even if it seems selectively permeable for unfathomable reasons.

Even more, I am comforted by all that Jesus endured. He knows what we are going through. He isn't aloof from our cries. Sometimes when I am holding Elena in her wrap and she gets worn out, I can see her struggle to raise her eyebrows in an effort to keep her eyes open, until finally she gives up and her head thuds against my chest. In the moments when we are too worn out to even hold our head up, when we want to bury our face in His chest and cry out all the confusion, despair and hurt, I believe He is there to cradle us in His arms. I know sometimes there is a gap, and it doesn't happen immediately, but I am also convinced that He will still bring us into His glory, and that He will lift our heads up, dry the tears from our eyes, and let us see true victory.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A warm and windy day

We actually got to spend a couple of hours outside. Kindly ignore the weeds in the yard--we'll get them soon.

Before the Dawn-Wind Rises

"Before the dawn-wind rises,
Before the shadows flee,
I will go to the mountain of myrrh,
to the hill of frankincense.

For me the reward of virtue is to see your face,
and, on waking, to gaze my fill on your likeness."

Song of Songs 4:6
Psalm 17:15
The Jerusalem Bible

Our church prepared and distributed a very cool devotional/journal for Lent. A couple of things that impressed me in the beginning were a call to contemplation, and listening silently for God.

It is really hard for me to still my mind. It immediately starts chattering away, babbling, even. Or else it listens for a split-second and then doesn't hear an instant response, and impatiently flits away to any random distraction at hand. That is one reason that my favorite time to spend with God is "before the dawn-wind rises". I can breathe in His fragrance with fewer things vying for my attention. I'm also learning again that it is OK if He is silent. All that matters is being together. I think I've shared before one of my favorite quotes from Jamie Buckingham, "Nothing is as important as wasting time with God."

I know that book tastes vary widely, as illustrated by a recent post (and thank you so much for your gracious comments, BlessedMama!), but one of my favorite fiction books is also titled, Before the Dawn-Wind Rises, by Laurie B. Clifford. I particularly wanted to share an excerpt from it (The Minnow Creek), but I can't without copyright infringement, and a synopsis wouldn't capture the power in it.

Anyway, it is a book that stuck with me, even when I wasn't sure that I liked it. Bits and pieces had a way of coming back to me regularly. I don't know much about Ms. Clifford's life, but her understanding of third-culture kids makes me think she must have been one herself. This book has some powerful ideas about hypocrisy in the church, surrender and acceptance. (Commercial within a commercial: her children's book, Evergreen Castles, is quite possibly my favorite kids book of all time. It is hilariously funny and real, but the message of forgiveness is compelling even to an adult).

This is the amazon link for anyone who might be interested.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The List

This is my special prayer list for Lent. There are many others whom I will be praying for, but these are the ones that specifically asked for prayer during this time. To me, one of the coolest things about praying for others is that it creates a bond. "Where our treasure [time, energy] is, our heart will be also." Already I am holding these people in my heart, and I would like to invite you to pray for them, too, not only for the things listed, but for grace, peace, hope, love and joy--that God's presence would fill their hearts and lives. Thanks!

Revvie--wisdom, spiritual guidance

Anaise and Liz--jobs to provide for their familes' needs, healthy babies

The Cox, Green and Sathers families--healing and grace

DrSteel's mom--cancer

MajorMilkFunction's family--her Aunt Mary passed away from cancer

Eliz2's family--dh is joining church, dd's 1st communion

cali_mami--a full-time job with benefits in Corcoran that nets at least $1300.00 a month

Pearl's friend, Baby J--2 months old, battling cancer and on chemo

ZachyTacky's FIL, Sonny--wrapping up radiation treatments for brain cancer

LaVaca--ds' health and eventual growth, dh's business venture

Meglet--dd's feet (Olivia). She's done with her surgery and casting now, but we're not quite sure it worked.

JillyG's friends--provision, a job that will allow them to keep their house, guarding the hearts of their children through this difficult time

AuLait's sister, Becki--protection and blessing as she does medical missions and language work in Guatemala

Lunch Buckets'dd's history teacher--brain tumor

Mandypta--no more eye infections

TabbyCat--rebuilding after loss of marriage

BlessedMama's friend, Michele--a mom of 3 (5, 4, and 2 years old) told she will be on chemo for the rest of her life for a brain tumor

All of those who preferred to remain anonymous--guidance, peace and provision; freedom from anxiety and panic attacks; renewed passion, delight and security in your relationship with God

Are you on my list?

I think God has a very quirky sense of humor. I thought about the whole Lent thing off and on after I posted--and I appreciate the comments, by the way!--then went to sleep. Briefly. I woke up with Psalm 63 going through my mind. I went through it in multiple versions, Spanish, English, but I kept getting stuck. I knew I was leaving out part of it. So, since I was wide awake, I started praying about Lent. I loved the idea about taking each day to pray for a different person, but I wasn't sure who all I should put on my list. Then I got very excited about opening up my blog to anyone who would like some very focused prayer.

If you want on my list, please just leave a comment. If you have anything specific that you would like me to pray about, mention it, and if it is something that you would rather not be posted publicly, please say that you do not want it published (I have to moderate all comments).

I decided to also go ahead with foregoing chocolate (but not coffee; I know my limitations) and reducing my computer time. I'll still do email and my blog, but not much Facebook or surfing. I am actually very excited about this.

Oh, yes, I mentioned a divine sense of humor. The verse I couldn't remember? Verse six: "When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You through the night watches."

Monday, February 23, 2009


Do you celebrate Lent? How? In the past, we've never really celebrated Lent, but I would like to this year. Lately, I have been feeling a tug to become more disciplined in...I started to say my spiritual life, but I believe that all of life is spiritual, and I've been seeing a need for it in every area. Some form of fasting or giving something up would be a good reminder for me.

I've been very blessed by fasting, but haven't done that since I was pregnant or breastfeeding. Recently, I've heard several ideas--giving up favorite foods, screen time, etc. One idea that I particularly liked was writing down 40 names and taking one day to pray especially for each one. I've been thinking of giving up chocolate (don't laugh!), but it feels sort of like cheating, because I've been suspecting an issue there with Elena, anyway. I could give up Internet except for email and my blog. I need to pray about it more, I guess. Anyway, I would love to hear any of your traditions or plans!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

On works of fantasy

I love reading--it is easily my favorite pastime. Since I was five, I've thought that pure bliss would be days on end in a bookstore or library, with a continual supply of snacks, of course. As I mentioned in the previous post, last night I got to chat with a new friend about some of our favorite fiction.

At times our perceptions differed radically. One of her favorite books is Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers. My mother, sister, and most other women that I know who have read it were deeply moved by it. Personally, I loathed it. (Sorry, Christy--feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph; it isn't meant to offend you!) It totally offended my sense of justice. The protagonist, sold into prostitution as a child, is a disgraceful fallen woman because she survived (although, surely suicide would be frowned on, too?). But, a supposed Christian practically rapes her, and is rewarded by marrying her best friend. It was fine for him, because he was a guy? Barf. Another of her books on abortion has a similar thread where once the woman is raped, her Bible-school fiance dumps her, because of course he can't sully himself with her. I personally get the impression that the author has both a very disgusting "blame the victim" attitude towards survivors of sexual abuse, and a revolting double standard when it comes to men and women.

But, aside from our divergent opinions on that particular book, we agreed that we both love fantasy. It was kind of funny because we both had brief periods in childhood where it was considered OK, then more or less prohibited, and even now as adults we find ourselves still working out our own standards.

When I was a child, my mother abhorred violence, even John Wayne-the-bad-guys-fall-down-with-a-bang-violence. She didn't mind magic or fantasy, as long as it was pretty and nobody got hurt. My dad, on the other hand, had no problem with reality-violence (not sadistic tortures scenes, etc, but general war movie or good-guy-gets-bad-guy violence), but strongly opposed any hint of witchcraft. My mom would oppose Bambi, my dad would disapprove of Cinderella. Even the Chronicles of Narnia were viewed darkly and with great suspicion!

I'm poking fun just a bit, but the truth is that I respect, appreciate and share my parents' desire for filling our minds with that which is good. There is Biblical precedent for standing against the occult in popular culture. At the same time, the cynic in me notes that any time something becomes intensely popular with children, there seems to be an answering wave in Christian circles condemning it as evil (and probably demonic). I've seen it happen many times, from Cabbage Patch dolls and wicked My Little Ponies to the Harry Potter books.

I believe that, like with a good many other things, there is some leeway for a person's own conscience. I love fantasy. I think that it is a beautifully rich, God-given form of expressing our imagination. Some of my brothers and sisters in Christ have used fantasy. Madeleine L'Engle's Time quintet is one of my favorites. I look at men like Tolkein and C.S. Lewis, who wrote successful and brilliant works featuring magic, wizards and any number of mythical and fantastic creatures. For that matter, I've read Daniel, the Revelation and several other passages in the Bible that teem with improbable creatures and the supernatural. Jesus himself was a renowned story-teller, and I think that fiction is a wonderful way to convey Truth.

So for those out there wondering, why yes, I am a Harry Potter fan. They are great stories, and the themes of love and self-sacrifice overcoming evil don't trouble my conscience in the least. I love Tamora Pierce (especially Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen), and am eagerly awaiting the release of Bloodhound. I haven't read any of the Twilight books yet (if you've read them, feel free to comment!), but I generally enjoy vampire stories.

If you are shaking your head over my reading material, you may be relieved (or amused) to learn that I rarely listen to secular music. The only CD I own that isn't overtly Christian is Andrea Bocelli. I certainly have no desire to restrict other people's choices (although, I will admit to a not-so-secret revulsion to country music). I've just noticed that after listening to it, especially if the lyrics are depressing, that I feel edgy and grouchy (note, my reaction to depressing lyrics does not fully explain my aversion to country music--I can't stomach country gospel, either). Again, so much comes back to our individual experiences. We may be convicted or comfortable with very different things.

I'll post before getting into all of my thoughts on Kukulkan, Quetzalcoatl, dragons and serpents...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Felicidades a Carlos

My beloved has now won the championship for the sixth year in a row! Congratulations, mi amado. Elena was very cooperative and well-behaved, despite not feeling too well (I suspect either teething or possibly an ear infection), and the students enjoyed having her in class. They did better than usual on the oral exams as well. One said it was easier to relax in the presence of a cute baby. :) After we got home, we wound up having a surprise (to me) party to celebrate Carlos' winning streak. It was a lot of fun. Carlos had some ribeyes that he had bought for a super-cheap price, we made blue-green potatoes (bleu cheese and green onion twice baked potatoes) and finished up with lots of decaf coffee and a pumpkin cake. The pumpkin cake was an experiment, but happily, a very successful one.

Later, we got into a very interesting discussion on fantasy fiction and its place in the life of a Christian. I will definitely post on it soon, but I'm sleepy and my thoughts are not as coherent as I would like. Elena is sleeping next to me and looks pretty happy. I am about ready to join her...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Getting ready for the weekend...

Today was a lot of fun. We decided on the spur of the moment to go to the indoor playground, then Carlos was able to join us for lunch. I was really glad that the kids got lots of solid play time. We've been cooped up a lot for one reason or another, and I think that Ariana and Joel were in desperate need of climbing and running (or at least doing it in a more congenial space than our living room).

Carlos is going for his....eighth? ninth? badminton championship. He wins almost every year. If you haven't seen tournament level badminton, don't let visions of gentle backyard matches deceive you. This is far more intense than tennis, and he trains for it pretty extensively every year. It is kind of funny, because one of the instructors is doing everything he can to put together a team that can defeat Carlos, but it almost never happens. Carlos has lost before, but usually only to a surprise international player, and even then, the second and third seed members on his team have been able to pull through.

Since he won't be with the kidlets, Elena is going to class with me. She likes being worn, but I'll be there about seven hours, so her abuela is coming along as back up. It will be an intense day for my students, too. They have to learn an entire chapter of new vocab, stressed possessive adjectives and pronouns, irregular preterites, the imperfect, and direct object pronouns, all before lunch! Then we'll review the previous chapter, with lots of regular preterites, stem-changers and spelling changes, comparisons and superlatives. Finally, they get an exam with listening sections, several cloze passages, reading comprehension, a short essay, and last but not least, a one-on-one oral section. Fun times! I have a really good group of students (if you aren't dedicated, you drop this class pretty quickly), so it truly is a joy to teach, even on a long day like tomorrow.

All this reminds me that I still have some grading to do, too...good night, and I hope that your weekend is a lot of fun!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Some sanctimonious syrup and nursing ewes

Image credit: unukorno on Flickr
There are times when I look back at previous posts and shake my head at how smug they sound. It is never my intention, but sometimes I'm sure they come across that way. In reality, I have enough of a sense of humor, particularly an appreciation of the absurd, that I would never put myself up on a pedestal. I actually described my thoughts on parenting as sanctimonious syrup once. But the thing is, it is earnest and sincere sanctimonious syrup (does that make it more palatable?). Even when part of me is laughing at myself and aware that I need to lighten up, I really can't help taking things too seriously and overthinking them most of the time. While I'm confessing my editorial failings, I'll admit to a weakness for alliteration, as well.

I am passionate about parenting and about gentle discipline, obviously. For me, this is my calling--to write Living Epistles. So, even though I blow it often (and that is just in the areas I am aware of!), I blog about it to impress more and more into my spirit my goals as a parent. I really want to be Jesus with skin on for them, to show them daily in tangible ways his love and mercy.

There are days when I am buried in diapers, laundry and dishes, and just want to get things DONE, when I am crabby and impatient, when I would much rather curl up with a book or play on the computer than do something with or for my children. Then, being the perfectionist that I am, I start to shame and berate myself for not living up to my own expectations.

One of my favorite verses since childhood has been Isaiah 40:11, "He shall lead His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them close to His heart; He will gently lead the nursing ewes." What a comforting picture! I love the image of baby-wearing, with the little ones nestled against His chest, listening to His heartbeat. He still snuggles us that way.

Image credit molajen on Flickr
And on the days when the responsibility of being a parent can seem overwhelming, when I am discouraged by the mistakes I make, I find rest in the last part of the verse, a tender promise to lead moms gently on the parenting journey. We don't have to race through it, constantly striving. We can take the time to enjoy quiet waters and green pastures as we nurse our little ones.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wha'cha gonna do about it?

I hope everyone had a great Valentine's weekend. We celebrated at home. Carlos grilled ribeyes and lobster tails (yum!) I made twice baked bleu cheese potatoes, and we had individual desserts--key lime cheesecake for Carlos, raspberry for Joel, carrot cake for me and chocolate strawberries for Ariana.

Poor Ariana got one of the worst shiners I've seen when she and Joel accidentally collided. He added a little color to a bump he had acquired earlier in the week. Ouch. We definitely need to get out to the park or some place where they can run freely.

Another reminder of the need to get the wiggles out was from Joel today. This morning he got into one scrape after another (fortunately, no literal scrapes to add to his collection of bruises!). He knocked over a vase that was a gift brought back from Bulgaria by a dear friend. He squabbled with Ariana, threw some things that were not meant for throwing, and capped it all off by ripping the petals off Ariana's treasured Valentine's rose from Carlos.

After consoling Ariana and sharing a fresh, fully-petaled rose with her, I finally stopped and really looked at Joel. I could see his spirit shrinking and crumpling with each scolding. He was miserable.

Some parenting philosophies would insist that punishment is necessary, that if we "let them get away with it", our children will turn into monsters that exploit every opportunity for wrongdoing. Other beliefs, including mine, feel that punishment gets in the way of our relationship, and that a combination of connection and guidance will help our children become healthy, caring people.

The sticky thing is that even we non-punitive parents fear the bogeyman of permissiveness, the passive parent who shakes her head helplessly and does nothing, leaving the poor child (and innocent bystanders) to cope with the unpleasantness of an unguided, floundering child who is trying to meet his needs in inappropriate ways that result in pain and anger for everyone.

Unfortunately, when we don't impose negative consequences, it can appear that not enough is being done to correct the behavior. Last fall, some very pro-spanking friends visited. Joel hit their little girl. I was mortified. I took him and held him with me and talked with him privately, but I was sure that inwardly my friend was thinking that I was letting him get away with it. Truthfully, I was surprised by the hitting and didn't have a set plan in place for dealing with it, other than getting him away in order to protect the other child.

Today, I knew what to do, though. I pulled him into my lap, and held him close, and spent the next couple of hours plastered to him. After a few minutes, I could feel the tension leaving him. We had a wonderful time snuggling and playing, and once his love-cup had been refilled, he was able to tackle the hard job of being three with peace and joy. He even dressed himself competently before I asked so that he would be ready to go when we went out in the afternoon. The next several hours were so pleasant. He waited quietly while I met a friend for coffee, then sat still and spoke charmingly.

Was he rewarded for bad behavior? No. My presence, attention and love are not rewards that my kids must earn; they are needs that I want to fulfill.

How many times have we had days that started off with a combination of poor choices and circumstance, that wound up spiraling into a whirlpool of frustration, discouragement and aggravation? Worst of all is the dull, throbbing pain underneath of knowing that someone you love is displeased with you. I've had those days, and I could see it in Joelito. Showering him with love helped him to deal with it in a positive way. I've been blessed with the same grace before, and know how powerful it can be.

I wrote this to fix into my memory the importance of breaking the suction of that whirlpool with forgiveness, unconditional love, and compassion. Some days I forget that I have the power to change them, both for myself and those around me.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fears and nightmares

Last night after Joel and Elena fell asleep, Ariana began sobbing. She was terrified that someone in our family was going to die. As she wailed, she specified that she thought we would be eaten by a great white shark. We reassured her that this wouldn't happen, but she refused to be comforted by logic. I mean, we live in Oklahoma. It is pretty safe to assert that a shark attack is not one of the leading causes of death in our state. Still, every few seconds, another heartbroken cry rises. At this point, Carlos and I are trying to calm her and do anything we can to avoid feeding the fear-frenzy. We gently cuddle and attempt to redirect the conversation to pleasant thoughts. Nothing doing. She asks point plank at least fifty times if sharks can kill people and if anyone has ever been killed by a shark.

The dilemma faced by every parent who tries to teach their children to speak the truth: is a lie justified? I try dancing around it by telling her how unlikely it is, all of the reasons why she doesn't need to be afraid, assuring her that we are safe, etc. She unerringly insists on a straight answer. Has it ever happened to anybody? I answer truthfully that it has, but tell her again how rare it is. I'm speaking very calmly and matter-of-factly, but it isn't helping at all. Finally, inspiration! Does she remember the story of Jonah? Even though he was swallowed by a big fish, he survived, and God had the fish spit him out. (Any story with vomit is always a good diversionary tactic). Privately, I think that a repeat of the Jonah story is far less likely than being devoured by sharks to begin with, but since it is bringing her comfort, I am not nearly stupid enough to say so.

From there, things take a theological twist. "Mami, why did Jonah run from God?" We talk briefly about wanting to do things our own way, about our own desires for vengeance, about repentance, grace and forgiveness, and finally, she falls asleep holding my hand.

Alas, once we finally fall asleep, both of us have horrific nightmares, of the sort that are so terribly real at the time, there is a moment of disorientation upon waking where one believes it really happened. In my case, I dreamed...get ready for it...that I fell asleep and woke up. Yes, really. In the dream, we were in a hotel in Mexico, and for some reason it was extremely important that I not fall asleep, but I kept doing it anyway. In the dream (yes, I was still asleep), I'd jerk awake with that heart-stopping panic that hits when you suddenly realize you have forgotten something vitally important. It happened at least three times. When I finally awoke for real, the night seemed wasted, because I felt as drained as if it had actually happened.

Ariana's nightmare, thankfully, had nothing to do with sharks. Instead, she asked me very seriously what her lips looked like, because she dreamed that they turned into monkey lips. I don't think I even know what monkey lips look like, but obviously, I am in no position to mock anyone else's nightmares.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

And away she goes!

Elena has picked this week to master three new skills: sitting unassisted, the backwards scoot, and tonight, perfect cross-crawling. I was getting a little concerned about sitting, so I'm relieved. She is quite pleased with her ability to get around and grab hold of anything interesting on the carpet. I think we had better start vacuuming more diligently...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Honk for Wumper Whoopin

Erm, let me clarify the title. Joel's speech is generally pretty clear, but for some reason, when it comes to superheroes, it becomes a bit garbled. He pronounces the other ones fine, but the Hulk becomes Honk, Wonder Woman becomes Wumper Whoopin, and Venom becomes Vemon. He is currently somewhat obsessed with superheroes. Fortunately for him, Ariana shares this.

My dainty princess wanted a fancy, elegant party full of glitz, glamour and rhinestones aplenty. Her gifts from us? All action figures. She got Firestar (her alter ego), the Invisible Woman (her other favorite), Spiderwoman, Rogue and Jubilee, thanks to Vintage Stock and Amazon. Today we had a special mommy-daughter coffee date, and picked up the Beast, Mr. Fantastic (with stretchable arms) and the Rhino (with removeable armour), much to her delight.

On his last trip to Mexico, Carlos got the kids Spidey, Venom, Doc Octopus, Thor, Wumper Whoopin, the Green Lantern, Ice Man, the Green Goblin, Wolverine, Flash, Batman, Robin, and I may be missing one or two. For Joel's birthday, he got Iron Man, Ironmonger, the Honk, the Silver Surfer and some vehicles for Iron Man and Batman. Between them, they now have most of their favorites, although we still need the Thing, Galactus, the Human Torch, the Black Cat, and Super Skrull. Overall, they seem to prefer the Marvel characters, although they like the DC Comics heroes, too.

I've never seen Ariana play with dolls, despite gifts of several lovely ones from her grandmothers, but she adores the action figures. Of course, looking back, when my sister and I played with dolls or Barbies, the plots always revolved around spies, crime solving, survival adventures and other action themes. Wonder Woman was my favorite TV show when I was Ariana's age. I know my sister in law, with two older brothers, probably played more with G. I. Joes and other action figures than with dolls, too, and grew up on action flicks. I guess Ariana comes by it naturally. For the record, Joel loves his little baby doll, and cuddles and nurses it often.

For the last few months, Ariana and Joel have had countless hours of fun playing with their collection. Bedtime now always involves at least a couple of superhero stories by Carlos, Nana and Beeps (it is usually a collaborative effort). During our coffee date today, Ariana earnestly explained that it was very important to have some villans, as well as the good guys, because without some form of conflict, there wasn't an interesting story. It is hilarious to listen to her and Joel play with their action figures and develop their story-telling skills. I'm glad that she sees herself as someone strong who helps those weaker than herself. I must remind her, though, that with great power comes great responsibility. That applies to picking up toys, too, right?

Monday, February 9, 2009

The early rains also cover it with blessings...

Photo by _marmota on Flickr

As I listened to the rain on the windows this morning, this verse came back to me, and it brought back the rest of the Psalm. It is such a beautiful passage. It was the perfect meditation during our breakfast of homemade doughnuts with fudge icing and cinnamon coffee. I thought I'd share it with you (and would have loved to share the doughnuts, too!) Most of my favorite Scriptures come to my mind in three different versions--the NAS, NIV and Reina-Valera 1960 (Spanish)--so I pick whichever version suits my mood or combine them. I also enjoy The Message, and find that some phrases stick in my mind.

Psalm 84

"How lovely are Your dwelling places, oh Lord of the angelic armies!"
Hey, that is us! Check out Rev. 21:3. We have it on the authority of God's Word that we are lovely. Stop and think about that. Let it sink deep inside you, so that the next time the lie is whispered inside you that you are not beautiful, the Truth will be stronger and louder. You are lovely. So are our sisters in Christ. Remind them.

"My soul longs and burns with desire for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the Living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the sparrow a nest for herself where she may lay her young at your altar, oh Lord of Hosts, my King and my God."
The idea of a mother laying her little ones at the altar of God is deep enough that I want to meditate on it some more.

"How blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising You."
The recurring theme of the whole Psalm--abiding in God's presence.

"How blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion/who have set their hearts on pilgrimage, Your ways are in their heart."
Our strength is in God. It isn't about us and our abilities. We don't have to be strong--we can acknowledge and even rejoice in our weakness, because His strength is shown to be perfect.
Obviously, the different translations diverge a bit on the next line, but I think they are all beautiful. A highway to Zion--for me (besides an ancient Petra song), this calls to mind a direct path, going straight into His presence. Jesus. A heart set on pilgrimage--the awareness that this isn't our home. Our time here is just the journey, not the ultimate destination. Movement. We are to keep traveling, not stagnate in our comfort zone. God's ways in our heart--choosing to follow Him, to obey, to live out all the daily odds and ends the way Jesus would. Training ourselves through long practice to discern between good and evil.

"Passing through the valley of weeping, they transform it into a spring/a fountain, the early rains also cover it with blessings/the rains fill the pools."
The verse that prompted my thoughts this morning. I know so many who are in the valley of weeping right now. I hurt for them. I'm clinging to the promise that in the middle of that valley, somehow, there is transformation. It becomes a place full of life-giving water.
The pain and confusion are washed away, and the holes that they left become covered and filled with refreshing life. I think also of the stories of travelers finding water holes. Not only will this become a place of blessings for those who came here weeping, but also for others who come to this oasis in the future. Somehow, the heartbreak won't be wasted. It will be used to bring life to others.

"They go from strength to strength/power to power, every one of them appears before God in Zion/they will see God in Zion." In Spanish, the noun translated to strength is usually translated as power. It is the same as the verb that means the power or ability to do something. It is interesting to shift perspective from strength that could be merely endurance to the power to take action. Dan. 11:32 reflects this, too, in that the people who know their God will display stength and take action, they will be strong and do exploits. I like the Spanish also that says that we will see God. It is easier for most of us to acknowledge that God is watching us than to believe that we will see Him.

"Hear my prayer, oh Lord of hosts; listen, oh God of Jacob. Look, oh God, on our sheild, and on the face of your anointed. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the doorway of the house of my God than live in the dwellings of wickedness."
Even if we see ourselves as only on the outer edges of God's presence, let's choose to get close to Him rather than fitting in with wickedness or living comfortably with sin. Even better, when we are tempted to be discouraged at the waste of time spent away from God, remember that the time with Him matters far more.

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord gives grace and glory/favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold/take away from those who walk in integrity/whose walk is blameless."
What amazing gifts--not only His grace and forgiveness, but even glory. Integrity. Wholeness. Completeness. Like an integer.

"Oh Lord of hosts, how blessed is the one who trusts in You!"

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Spring is coming!

Yesterday and today have been glorious, weather-wise. It has stayed in the upper '60s, maybe even low '70s, with a breeze and clouds. When I came into work today, it smelled like rain outside. I don't think that I have SAD, but I am definitely affected by weather. I am actually in a better mood on rainy or stormy days. I HATE really hot weather--it zaps any energy that I have, and I am not too thrilled with really cold weather, either. I'd be pleased if it stayed in the '60s year-round. Today would be a great day to take the kids to the park...maybe after class. :)

Thursday, February 5, 2009


If you are not an IHMMB regular, please check out the thread and contest for baconnaise. I was the one who originally posted, and so I want to promote it. Besides, isn't everything better with bacon?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

If you can't say something nice...

...then come sit next to me. Er, well, I don't remember who originally stated that version, but I doubt Thumper's mother would approve. If you've read my blog, you know how strongly I advocate gentleness and patience in parenting, looking at things from the child's perspective, etc. I rarely complain about my kids' behavior, mainly because they are really sweet and enjoyable kids most of the time. The other part is that I don't particularly want all of my own less-than-stellar moments documented and commented upon, so it seems slightly unfair to do it to my children.

Be that as it was trying for all of us. We all have our own little hot buttons, right? Mine is unreasonable (to my mind, of course) meltdowns. It takes every ounce of self-control for me to remain calm and loving if my child is shrieking and screaming for a long time about something that I consider trivial. Ariana must have spent at least an hour (it felt like several hours) in meltdown mode, originally because we were out of milk to make her a steamer, secondly because her pants got applesauce on them.

Drama queen? Ha! She was the Emperess of Dramalandia, Princess of the Islands of Hysteria, Majestic Ruler over the Molehill Mountains.

My ever-so-wise, mature and loving response? To yell (snarl, really) at a decibel level surpassing hers to stop because I didn't want to hear her yell like that again. Admittedly absurd. Thankfully, we both got a grip and calmed down, had a very pleasant dinner, and all has been sweetness and light since then.

To me, this was something I definitely could have handled better, although I'm sure she isn't scarred for life or anything (even if her dramatic tendancies do come from me). Grace is for moms, too. My only point in sharing is that yes, we have days like this.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Around the lunch, towel

As I was serving the kids lunch, Ariana requested permission to eat in the living room. My first thought was to refuse, because we have beige carpet and I had fixed pasta with roasted chicken, garlic, grape tomatoes and mozzarella. Since I am working on remembering to find solutions that make us both happy, we brainstormed and put a huge towel on the floor to protect it.

She took a bite, closed her eyes rapturously, and said, "Oh, mom, this is good! Thanks so much for the wagon wheels!" I told her that I was happy she enjoyed it and that she was welcome. She smiled radiantly and said that I was the welcomest. :)

A few moments later, she told me seriously that her tummy was full now, so all the rest of the food would have to go to her feet. And then to her eyes and nose.

My mom came over and we finished up with cinnamon swirl toast topped with honey butter and cinnamon vanilla coffee topped with whipped cream. Ariana took a blissful lick of whipped cream off her coffee and sighed. "Mami, it tastes like love."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Princess Party and Pics

After a week of getting about 2 or 3 hours of sleep a night, I think we are turning the corner. I actually feel rested, and the kids seem to be getting a little better, too. Elena is still wheezing some at night, and she and Joel both are drippy-nosed and congested, but playing very happily in the day and sleeping much better at night.

Since the kidlets were coming down with something, Ariana's birthday party was pretty low-key with just family. She cracks me up--she definitely wants the best of both worlds, with all the glitter and gorgeousness of the traditional princess, but with all the power of her favorite superheroes. We had a Fancy Nancy party (with many thanks to BlessedMama, from whom I stole the idea). Everyone dressed up. We had a chocolate heart-shaped cake with roses (which had several smears in the frosting where I had touched up some finger marks after the birthday girl sampled it). We also had little orange teacakes with a white chocolate glaze, empanadillas, and raspberry punch drunk from martini glasses with paper umbrellas in them.

Ariana got some lovely clothes from family members, as well as a guitar, and from us she got a Firestar action figure. I would still like to get her a little something else from us, maybe some art supplies. About halfway through the party, Elena's face broke out with a red, raised rash. I'm guessing it was from citrus, although I am not positive. So now we are back in the limbo of wondering which foods are safe and which aren't. I'm kind of hoping that it was some weird viral thing, but it went away quickly with Benedryl, and re-emerged the next time I nursed her, so I doubt the viral theory.

I can't believe my daughter is five! She is such a fun girl--I love listening to her and Joel play together. I know it is a cliche', but the time really does go by way, way too fast. I'll post pics before I get too maudlin. Look at those baby cheeks!