Thursday, April 28, 2011

Getting to Know Them

One thing that was said at MOPS Summit a few weeks ago was that "to love well, you must get to know a person--what makes them, them."  This is really a kind of simple idea, though not so simple in the implementation.  This is really hard for me because I just am not that interested in other people--okay, that isn't precisely true, but still digging into a person and finding them does not come naturally to me.  Since it does all tie into loving people like Christ loves them, I have been trying to be more intentionally interested; actually since I heard a similar idea 5 years ago, I have been trying.

Well, regardless of other people, there are three people in my life that I love with a passion that I am still in the process of knowing.  I can stare at them all day long, but what goes on in their hearts and minds, I don't always know--and I want to.  These are my three children*.  It is a long process, and one I delight in.  My children are just such excellent people.  

Huckleberry is a deep thinker, curious about everything but human interactions, full of faith, loving and very helpful with chores and his sister.  He is a wonderful son and brother.  He is also relatively easy for me to get to know since his personality is a simple blend of mine and my husbands.

SnapDragon is swimming in compassion (complete opposite from me), bright, caring and moody.  Helping him shoulder the cares of the world as he feels them is difficult but so inspiring that one so young can care so much.  I met with a young women recently whose personality is similar to SnapDragon's so I can get into his head a little better.  The insight she shared about her life will help us parent SnapDragon better.

Sunflower, we are still getting to know this little bundle of energy.  She is sweet and kind and is always worried when others are upset, but she also believes the world is hers to command.  She alternates between sheer joy with laughter and fake crying darting from place to place sometimes raining kisses and hugs as she passes.  I consider guarding her heart and learning to understand her a sacred trust.

But my point of this post was not to brag about my children (as mamarazzi as that is).  It is just that someday I hope to grow in love for a fourth child by learning them.  Since I will have missed her first 1 or 2 (or more) years, it will be even more difficult, but all the more critical.  I have seen with my three children that making assumptions about one of them because of how the other reacted or how I would react often leads to me failing them in that moment.  When/if we are ever given the privilege of caring for a fourth child, I want to eliminate assumptions and seek her.  I am writing this idea down so that maybe when that time comes I won't forget that guarding her hurting heart and learning to understand her is a sacred trust that alone I can so easily fail.

In the meantime, starting at noon tomorrow, I get to forget the joyful challenge of getting to know my children and dig deeper with some wonderful women at the women's conference.  My husband does excellently with the children, so I am not worried.
No.  Not worried at all.

*I also love my husband, but not only do I feel like I know him well, every time I wonder what is going on in his head I ask "what are you thinking?"  Apparently men can sometimes be thinking nothing; I always have 8 or more answers.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sunflower and Animals?

I believe 2 out of my 6 readers will be very interested in these two photos of Sunflower from the weekend.  Sorry to my other 4 readers, feel free to skip this post.
Sunflower walking Stella
Sunflower and Tux--we actually had to ask her to give Tux more space
To my two friends who graciously have us over and watch Sunflower even though she shrieks and cowers in fear from your pets--or tells your beloved animals to "Go AWAY, Puppy!":

I promise these are SOOC and not doctored.  We are making progress.  Thanks for being patient with us!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

I heard something this summer that profoundly changed my walk with God.  I have always striven to know God and to allow Him to make me more like Christ.  However, while I knew I had not yet achieved perfection, I felt like I didn't know what was next, that I had kind of stagnated.  Sermons were good, but nothing new.  There wasn't a book in the Bible I hadn't read and I had even done an extensive Bible study on most of them.  I knew there was more to learn, but what?

Then I saw a video and it talked about how we are all on a spectrum of where our walk with God is--the beginning being long before we chose Christ progressing through seeking, accepting, loving, learning about, and then serving God and Jesus.  But then it went one more step--loving others as Christ loves (which was different than serving in a ministry).  Now there is no simple way to describe everyone's walk with God and we don't stop learning about God just because we have now added serving to our relationship.  

But it was profound to me.  

I had all the other components, but I had never spent concentrated effort on becoming more loving, seeking to love like Christ loves us.  I changed my focus and now 9 months later--Wow!  God has revealed so much more of Himself to me.  I'm not actually that much better at loving yet, but I know so much more of God's heart and feel like the last nine months have been a period of great growth and learning for me.  
Oh, I wish I could explain this better.  It is more than just learning to be more compassionate or less judgmental.  It is more than being a better listener or serving others more purposely.  These are all areas I have grown in and still need to grow in.  It is that my whole heart has softened, even some of my long held beliefs have changed (not heretical doctrine, but certain accepted assumptions);  it is like everything has spun and I'm looking towards the same thing but from the other side of it.  

Here are some ways everything is now backwards to me.  I talk about being less judgmental, but it means God wants me to show more grace.  I pray about being less hateful, but God sees it as being more loving.   I used to think the important point of the Gospel message is that we are all sinners and God died for our sins.  This is important, but after studying Acts (for the 3rd time) I see that the early church concentrated their emphasis on Christ's resurrection from the dead--the hope! 

I am not claiming God has changed me from a negative person to a positive person over night.  It is possible I haven't changed much at all--in fact, my actions are not significantly more loving than before (and they should be).  But I have no doubt that I know God better and that I am in the process of getting out of the way so others can see Christ more clearly--not the Christ whose dislikes and frequent impatience look an awful lot like mine--but the Christ who, while we were yet sinners, died for us all.

Oh, and rose again so we can hope in the resurrection and have new life in Him.

The Tomb is Empty!
Christ is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter Photos

If you spend 45 minutes outside trying to get that perfect Easter picture, it might not happen.  But if you can let go of perfection, you can enjoy yourself and you might even learn a lot.

You might learn that kids won't open their eyes if it is too bright out...
but they'll look adorable anyway.
If you didn't already know this, you will learn that children love jumping...
But they can look pretty silly doing it:

If you delete all the imperfections, you might not remember later...
That 95% of the pictures you take of Sunflower show the side or back of her head as she moves away from you.

If you only keep one shot of three kids jumping, you may not remember how hard it was to capture all three children in the air at once...
And that is just barely.

If you wait too long to look at your photos, you may not realize until too late that your child ate a bit of a flower...
Yes, your 7 year old.  Either not poisonous or not actually ingested.

If you throw away all the photos that have a bad focus...
You might not see how long your son's hair is getting- but look at those sharp trees!

If you intend to not cut off the feet as is apparently better composition...
You should probably pay closer attention to the length of your sons' pants and buy them new shoes.

If you delete all of the pictures where they are goofing off...
You may not remember how long SnapDragon pretended to sleep and all the ways Huckleberry tried to wake him up.

If you want to show the photo where you finally got the exposure right when you've been shooting manual for only 5 weeks...
You better not be embarrassed to see your son* in a pink hat.  (He is covering Sunflower's head because she complained that she was cold without her hat.  He's a problem solver, my son!)

If you go outside to get that perfect shot...
You probably won't get it (if you are me).  But you'll get a lot of memories worth keeping and maybe, just maybe, something that captures your kids' personalities.
the long road=
 * since Dad wore the hat after church Sunday so we wouldn't lose it, it is safe to say that a 7 year old boy wearing it won't cause us too much shame.

Also linking with Watchful Wednesday at Flower Photography.  The theme is emotion.  These photos evoke a lot of different emotions in me, but the primary one is joy (after getting past the frustration that not one of 657 pictures turned out perfect).
Flower Photography

Are You Nervous?

Yesterday all three children were playing outside--yeah for sun!--when Sunflower came back in early.

"Why are you in, Sunflower?" asked Dad.  "Are you cold?"
"No.  The guys making me nerus."
"Yeah.  Nerus."

I wondered where she got that phrase.

A few hours later:
"Sunflower, stop what you are doing," I said (this is after various acrobatics caused her to hit her head 3 times in the last hour.)
"I jumping on the couch!"
"Stop.  You are making me nervous."
"I not making you nerus.  I'm jumping!"
Her words are not always clear to others, but I know what word she is saying, so when I write it out I cannot properly convey how it would actually sound to others.  I just don't remember.  She is very verbal for her age, but I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking she is a genius.  My husband and I are the only ones that believe that; well, and her brothers--the guys.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Love the One You are With

One thing Jonalyn Fincher said at MOPS Summit that really stuck in my head is that "if you love well, you will love less people."  I have been mulling it over ever since.  On one hand I think--yes, it takes time to love well, but on the other hand we are to love everyone.  There are some 6 billion plus people on this earth and I am to love them all--God certainly does--even the one that ____________ (fill in the blank).  But rather than nit-pick further on the inaccuracy of what is basically a catchy phrase that makes a valid (I feel) point, I'll focus on what I take away from it.

I can look back at almost every year in my life and see a theme of what God was teaching me that year.  One year was being more kind, one year joy.  This past year was compassion and love.  Of course it is like the kids' math curriculum--we keep circling back to what we've already touched on while adding a new concept.  So this year I also worked on grace, kindness, and joy while growing in compassion which all link to loving better.  

Love is used all the time in so many different contexts.  It is one of Sunflower's newest words--and she uses it a lot.  Even though there are 73 episodes of Dora on Netflix we have to watch the one about saving the puppies over and over because "I love that one!"  A few days ago she said "I love falling!" when I wanted to know why she kept flinging herself backwards out of my lap.  She also loves Mommy, Daddy, the guys, and Captain Awesome.  I think she may love me more than a Dora episode, but I am not 100% positive.

As much as I love Sunflower telling me what and who she loves, this word means a lot more than personal preferences.  If God is love as the Bible says, how does that impact my behavior?  How does one love others as Christ loves?  This circles me back to Jonalyn's statement--love well.  Christ certainly loves well.

John 15:12-27
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.   I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.  This is my command: Love each other."

Jesus loves well, and I so don't.

I Corinthians 13:1-3
"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."

I don't want anyone to think I believe I'm a completely selfish, heartless person (though at times I do behave that way; especially early in the morning).  Neither do I believe I can love well by sheer will power and self determination.  I need the transforming power of Christ in my life for change to occur.

So now that is clear, let me be completely real.  There are people in my life I would rather not have.  There are people whom I adore and with whom I could easily spend all my time.  Then there are people in the middle--I love them, but they take work or people who are easy to be around, but I don't have much invested in them.  So this phrase I understand--if you love well, you will love less people.  The pouring out your time and energy and making sacrifices in order to learn a person and love them for who they are rather than who you imagine them to be--that takes real emotional investment.  It is not possible to do this for every person in the world.

But I could easily use this phrase as an excuse.  Look at me--I'm invested in these 3, 8, even 20 people.  You cannot expect me to do more.  Christ only had 12 disciples and many theologians agree his inner circle only consisted of 3 men.

Whew!  I'm off the hook.  Christ has asked me to learn to love like Him this last year, and it turns out I'm already doing it.

No!  Yes, I do have some close friends, and I have been a slightly better friend to them this year (still growing).  I have a lot of family that consume a lot of my time and energy.  However, there are lots of people with whom I interact.  I need to grow in my love for them, also.  I need to love them well.

It doesn't mean the woman on the edge of my sphere that I see once or twice a week instantly becomes my best friend.  That isn't even the goal.  It means that when I do exchange hellos with her I do it with a warmer smile.  If she stops to talk I express sincere interest in what she is sharing.  Maybe our friendship will grow, but maybe not.  Maybe it is just about showing love through kindness in the brief moments.

Okay, maybe you already know that basic politeness is necessary to our society.  It isn't that I am purposely rude.  Often my smile cannot be warmer or my mind more focused.  It is about my heart.  I want my every action to be motivated by love with everyone I interact.   It is true that my ability to love well is limited by time along with my inherent selfishness.  I know people who pour out more of themselves and their time to others than they can afford.  I am not one of them.  

So as this last year was learning about compassion and how and who Jesus loves, it is time for the rubber to hit the road and for me to allow the Holy Spirit to enable me to do the same.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8:
"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away."

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Want Candy!--Why Doesn't She?

I am working on a post about the things I learned at the MOPS Summit I attended two weeks ago, but when I went to create the link to the speaker's website, I got sucked into reading some of their posts.  Then I dealt with 2 missed opportunities for a Rolo and 1 missed opportunity for a m&m (all within 1/2 hour).  Now I have a head ache and another missed Rolo to fix, so I'm just going to give you their link.   Dale and Jonalyn Fincher were great speakers.  I still plan to share what I learned from what they had to say, but today feel free to go meet them for yourself.   

I hate potty training.  Good thing I love this girl.
Just in case you were not certain--yes, it is a Blue's Clues potty seat around her middle and I did clean her up before finishing this post (but after taking a few pictures.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sometimes Entertaining a Two Year Old is Easy

My little girl loves playing in the car.  I've found that I like it, too.  It is a guilt free way for me to read blogs and forums while she plays happily next to me.  So thankful for wireless internet and my husband's laptop :)

Today we got home from a meeting and she didn't want to go in the house; she wanted to stay in the car.  Okay!  We went into the house for her to earn an m&m (used to be Recess Pieces), got a bag of chips and the laptop, and out we went.  The sun was too bright on my screen so I sat in the back seat.

After a half hour of contented play and reading, it was time to go in for Sunflower to earn a Rolo.  However, the back seat has child locks and cannot be opened from inside.  So I climbed to the front and got out.  Then I spent about 10 minutes trying to turn off the hazards.  I almost called Oak for help, but Sunflower came to help me instead.  We fiddled with all kinds of buttons.  (Be careful starting the van, Honey.)

Finally success and the end of our adventure.  No Rolo was earned but a pair of underwear did get flushed down the toilet.  I promise it was an accident and not a desire to get out of laundry.  They're really little; I don't think we'll need a plumber.

On the up side, when Sunflower asked for a pony for lunch I immediately realized she meant Bologna--which she assured me we had since Daddy had bought some; she was right.

For those of you that don't visit my photography blog--here is my wonderful threesome:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Where is My Time Machine?

I have started this post three times now.  Who knows if this time is the last (edited to let you know that we all do now know it is the last).  This week God has been showing me how well He can deal with my sins of pride and desiring to appear perfect without us giving up on adoption.  I think this is good news since it means we can continue forward with adoption, but it doesn't feel like it in the middle of my humility.  Truly, every day I have made another mistake, one that cannot be hidden from my friends, family, and even on-line community.  Sigh, I am not liking it.

Now everyone has responded with grace.  No one else cares about my imperfections.  Sometimes in the past I have purposely pointed out my flaws to help others feel more comfortable.  I cannot figure out why this week of mistakes is so painful.  Maybe I haven't yet learned the right lesson.

I keep thinking it is about pride and having a broken and contrite spirit, but trust me, my heart has been broken since last Saturday.  I am ready for the comfort, God.  Wait, He has forgiven me.  He always knew I wasn't perfect.  Maybe it is just an answer to my question of should we give up adoption so I can become humble, but I have that answer.  Oh, maybe it is about becoming better at extending grace myself and growing in compassion.  That would fit with the lessons of last year and even the talks I've been hearing recently.  Ummm, I'll need to explore that more.

In the meantime, I won't bore you with all of my mistakes this week like being late for my grandma's birthday party, forgetting to put a memory card in my camera, and burning my egg casserole at MOPS (just three of many).  But I will confess the worse mistake I made this week.  It is one of the worse mistakes I have ever made.  If after you read it you think, "if that is her worse mistake she still doesn't know humility" then I haven't made it clear how important this is.

Saturday was the day for Huckleberry to go to the Regional Science Fair.  He loves going to the Science Fair.  Every student stands with their project for 2 hours while judges come by and ask questions.  He loves talking science with all these people actually interested.  He was the only student going from his school (about 80 participate) and only one of about six going from his school district.  It was a great honor to be chosen.  It is a great experience and last year he won first place.

Did you know that putting it on my blog does not add it to google calendar?  That talking to my husband about how it is the same day I want to be gone and having his agreement that it is okay for me to go does not put it in his ipod?  That sending an e-mail to my friends saying I am going although it is the same day as the Science Fair doesn't do anything?  That various e-mails from the Regional Science Fair director does not trigger my mind to realize the time is here?  There are so many variables and touch points that could have connected, but Friday, April 1st I did not remember about it, so Saturday, April 2nd, Huckleberry missed the Regional Science Fair.  This is something we talk and plan for all year.  I feel horrible that he missed it.  He has forgiven me, but me, I am still grieving. 

Now I feel like I should transition to some uplifting message about grace and love and how no one is perfect and God loves me anyway.  I'm not there yet.  But at least you know why I haven't written all week--if you were wondering.

I did intend this post to be funnier, but this just isn't funny to me.  It was pretty funny that I remembered the Science Fair at my MOPS convention when the lady was talking about mommy guilt.  She was saying how you can't do everything and sometimes you have to make choices to be a good mom, like she was missing her son's soccer game to be there.  I gasped so loudly she interrupted her talk to say, "see, you're horrified by it."  I didn't take the time to explain to her why I was horrified before I left the room.  I probably should have stayed to hear more tips about how to get past mommy guilt.  Do you have any ideas?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Oobleck--Sunday Snapshot

Have you ever played with Oobleck?
 My husband thought it was a great way to start Spring break.
 It's a solid or
liquid depending on pressure.
Oak says most people argue that it isn't either just that it behaves like both depending...
 Either way it is a serious mess and
 Serious fun...
Captain Awesome
 For children of all ages.

Ni Hao Yall


Friday, April 1, 2011

Picture Perfect

Ordinary Miracles & The Crazy 8
This crazy (actually she says she's crazy, but I haven't witnessed it), and terrific (which I have witnessed), lady that I met on the adoption forum I love has started a new photo linky party--a once a month themed photo.  I've already entered with my photography blog, but since I met her because of our mutual interest in adopting from China and she said you can enter more than once, I thought I would also link from here.  If you want to join in the fun hop on over!

Picture {Perfect}

This month's theme is Your Muse--what inspires you to take pictures.  Yesterday and today that happens to by my friend's newborn (13 days old).  Isn't she precious?

What is Green?

SnapDragon insists I share his newest poem with you:

What is Green?

Green is Ivy growing
on a vine.

Green is a feeling right
on your spine.

Green is the bushes and trees
that you see.

Oh, the things that you can see
that are green!

Green is the grass that is in the shade
on a sunny day.

Green is wonderful!

When I asked what he meant by feeling right on the spine he said, "it's my opinion!"

If you are interested in my take on green feel free to visit my photography blog and my green edits.