Five Minute Friday: “reach”

A few quiet minutes this Friday morning because my husband has taken our girls on errands with him. Then we will together head to the girls’ new preschool to meet their teachers and other classmates. School starts next week. Hallelujah! We all are ready. And in bigger news, two of the gems of New Jersey (namely, my in-laws) will be moving down to us next Tuesday. We cannot wait for grandparents to arrive into town!

I join in Five Minute Friday – five minutes of writing unedited on a given topic each week.

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It was the last week of eighth grade, and I had yet to conquer the P.E. challenge of making it to “the beam team,” meaning that I would climb the 30 foot length of rope suspended from the gym ceiling. I was scrawny, not so strong by any standards. But that day, I made it. Maybe it was eighth grade adrenaline – who knows? But I reached the top of that beam, conquering fears and the apparent obstacle of my weakness. To reach the top – well, it surprised me and delighted me all at the same time.

photo credit: theblondecoyote.com

photo credit: theblondecoyote.com

I remember another time of straining to reach a summit. This one was a mountain in Ireland on a rainy, foggy day. I complained the entire time. Hiking just isn’t my thing, and I was out of breath and wondered if it would be worth it. Quite honestly, because the fog obscured any view, it did not feel very worth it to reach the top of that Irish mountain. At least I could say that I did it.

Reaching forward in life towards whatever it is that is your goal can feel similar. When I think of life goals of marriage, motherhood, career, I look back and it seems relatively simple. Like making “the beam team” despite myself. But when I think of looking ahead to bigger, less measurable life goals – like becoming more loving, more sacrificial of my time and resources, more gracious and less impatient – it can feel like that foggy Irish hike. Unsure of progress and unsure of whether it will feel worth it, I press on anyway.

Words come to mind from Paul in Philippians, and I feel like I may not be as alone and the goal may not be as unattainable as I feared:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

on my bookshelf, summer’s end edition

Way back in June, on the 12th to be precise, I presented my (ambitious) list of summer reading. It included the following:

  1. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller
  2. Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
  3. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne LaMott
  4. Perfecting Ourselves to Death by Richard Winter
  5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  6. The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick
  7. Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller
  8. Death By Living: Life is Meant to Be Spent by N.D. Wilson
  9. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber & Mazlish
  10. Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry by Barbara Bancroft
  11. Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle
  12. Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

Here’s what I’ve read of the list above:

  1. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller
  2. Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
  3. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne LaMott
  4. Perfecting Ourselves to Death by Richard Winter
  5. Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller
  6. Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle

Six out of 12 isn’t bad … at least for a mom whose summer was far from those of my youth when I would spend hours upon hours holed up in my room or out on the beach reading novels to my heart’s content.

books

I do have a few new ones on my current shelf, which perfectly illustrates my ADD tendencies when it comes to reading. I’m always hearing about great new books, or running into them at the Barnes & Noble or my Amazon “recommended” list and I can’t resist. Almost *every* time, I succumb to the allure of the fresh, new, yet unread book. And I add it to my ever-overflowing bookshelf.

I will give you a review of my current ones:

1. Made for More by Hannah Anderson – I had the privilege of meeting Hannah in Orlando at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. She is warm, inviting, and was incredibly encouraging as I asked her questions about her path to publication of this book. I’m only a few chapters in, and I love what I’m reading so far. It’s a fresh approach to the identity question we all struggle through as women. She wisely says in her introduction, “good times can initiate the search for identity as often as the bad,” and goes on to lay out how searching for identity is a search that will land us at the feet of our Maker, Christ himself. I can’t wait to read more!

2. Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker – My latest in the favorite of new genres of mom memoirs. So many, and so many good ones. Lisa-Jo’s stands out from the rest in her poignant descriptions of her reluctance to be a mom and the grief of losing her own mom years before becoming one herself. Beautifully written and heartfelt. It’s a page-turner for this mom’s heart! A favorite thought from yesterday’s reading – “Becoming a parent is a lot like breaking up with yourself. … Children arrive and blow through what used to be your routine.” 

3. Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson, M.D. – The professional book on my shelf recommended by several people. The thesis in the intro says it all: “I believe our lives will be abundant, joyful, and peaceful only to the degree that we are engaged, known, and understood by one another. I also believe we cannot separate what we do with our brains and our relationships from what we do with God.” Amen!

4. How Toddlers Thrive by Tovah Klein, PhD – Oh, yes, added to my very-long-list of parenting books, this one I picked up on a whim from the shelves of our local library and it’s a fascinating developmental study with practical tips on connecting with my seemingly inexplicable preschoolers. For example, she suggests the best way to conquer meal-time battles is to stop talking or focusing on what your child is eating and use meal times as a time for conversation about the day (novel concept, ha!). A good summary of what she says is helpful to remember in parenting preschoolers is to remember that, “Every time your child takes a step forward toward growing up more …, they are also reminded of how much they need you.” 

5. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – My novel I’ve been enjoying this summer. A bestseller that I’d heard a lot about before beginning, and I have not been disappointed in the writing itself. The story itself has a tragic beginning and some dark places in the middle, but I am hoping redemption is coming (about 2/3 done … we shall see). At 771 pages, the only way I could stick it out is with the writer’s compelling style. And the plan to meet up with a few friends to discuss it. 

Anything you’re reading now? Have you read any of the above? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you. 

five minute Friday: “change”

It’s been a good week. How could one filled with a visit from cousins and Uncle J. and Aunt Nic. not be? We laughed together and enjoyed simply being together. In living 6 states apart, visits are few and far between and for that, all the richer. 

Back to Five Minute Friday … my favorite writing exercise, with a new “host” – Kate instead of Lisa-Jo. Find out more here.  

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To move from one condition to another will always bring pain and joy and beauty. Think of the caterpillar growing fat upon the leaf, then cocooned in darkness while metamorphosis works its magic to produce – voila! – a radiant colorful winged butterfly. Nature knows change is both inevitable and painful. The seasons moving from one to another and bringing creation with them, from the fresh glory of spring to the long beauty of summer, then fall’s radiance as the prelude to winter’s sometimes bitter calm and death. All is barren. All is white (or brown, down here in the South where we don’t see much of the glorious white flakes). 

edupic.net

edupic.net

We are all part of change. Some of it I embrace. Bring on maturity, please, for me and my children. A new season just as I’m tiring of the old one. A newly planted hydrangea that blooms tenfold next summer. Yes, for growth and change. But hold your horses before you go forcing losses on me, for that’s also part of the change. The caterpillar must surrender its caterpillar-ness and cozy cocoon to become a butterfly. The trees surrender their leaves to turn brilliant and then begin again. Hearts grieve with the distance of friends and family who move away. Communities heave with sorrow after tragedy

To think that there is One who never changes during all of my changes? That breathes hope into even the bitter losses of change, and it enlivens the best of changes. I will cling to this Unchanging One through all my changing days. 

summer’s end (come quickly)

photo credit: huffington post

photo credit: huffington post

Their energy – boundless
My ideas run dry.
We have colored and painted (sort of) and read stories about Thumbelina and the Twelve Dancing Princesses
Attended the $1 summer movies together
Toured the local parks, zoo, botanical garden, and aquarium
Listened to night crickets and caught the elusive
Fireflies. Even put them into a jar
(until one escaped and lit up the nursery, to their horror).
But summer’s energy can’t be bottled –
(oh, how moms everywhere wish it could!)

Will I miss these long, lazy days by the pool
and spontaneous trips to the waves, salt, and sand?
The vacations to friends and visits from the same?
Well, of course.
It’s an exchange.
Of the unscheduled for the routine,
Of the lazy for the diligent,
Of the mom-directed days to the hours in the preschool teacher’s classroom.
And yet we will all be happier (in a different way)
come September.

Oh, summer! How I used to hate to see you go!
And now, it seems, I have tired of you.
Ah, school-days. Return soon.
I’ve missed you – they have missed you.
Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic –
we need you.
To rescue moms everywhere from summer’s long and lingering and endless days.

[disclamor: I do love summer. Honest. And I love my kids dearly. But preschool … dear preschool … it’s been just what all three of us need. See my post here:  “on the eve of preschool” ]

 

in the aftermath of tragedy

I have been at a loss for words. Understandable, after what we have all mourned as a community. And yet problematic as one who processes through writing, and one who seeks to give comfort through words of the same. It’s almost been two weeks since tragedy struck our community through the unexpected death of a mother and daughter. I think what feels both haunting and comforting is that life goes on. We have returned to our routines, and this feels wrong, for how can we ever really return to a “before” when tragedy interrupted our lives so forcefully and so permanently? Yet in all of the grief research, this very routine normalcy is part of how we grieve and process. Life has to have a rhythm, and it continues to roll on despite the times when I feel it should stop for awhile. Pause, let us catch our breaths and be able to absorb how life has now changed. It feels like a betrayal to grief that I should return to weekly grocery shopping and breakfast/lunch/dinner and reading stories and work-outs at the gym. All of this should be different. And it is, but it isn’t.

katrinadestruction.com

katrinadestruction.com

The analogy that comes to mind is walking through New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated that city. I was there with a team from my church to contribute to the ongoing rebuilding efforts. And four years later, there was still ample evidence of the destruction. Shops boarded up; homes crumbling in disrepair; areas of Ward 9 barely touched because of insufficient resources to rebuild. We began that week of rebuilding with a tour of the devastation. That helped us to have a context for our work, and motivation to work, and compassion as we worked. Could it be similar as we walk through the aftermath of this tragedy as a community? That now is a time for surveying what’s broken as we pray and grieve and ask about what and how we can begin to rebuild. 

We will do this in very apparently ordinary ways. Like bringing a meal to provide immediate relief to the surviving father and daughter, and not being afraid to reach out and call or email to say, “I’m praying for you. What do you need today?” I remember the words from my counseling professor Ed Welch in a class on how to enter into the suffering of others, and he said simply,

You show up. And you continue to show up. You aren’t afraid to reach out and to contact the person [grieving or suffering an unspeakable tragedy].

If you were impacted by this tragedy, how is it changing you? What’s the damage that will need to be repaired? Such as theological questions that came unhinged that will now need deeper foundations. Or categories of “how life should work” that seem to be obliterated. Even personal questions of how to support friends in need and how to know whether or not someone is in a desperate place and how to ask for help when I need it. All of these are part of the communal story of grief and response to tragedy. Let’s discuss them together and be changed for the good by such a tragedy. Couldn’t that begin to be part of the redemption story God promises to write, even (especially) here?

…For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. (Isaiah 49:13)