Sunday, September 13, 2009

Where do you go to church?

A few weeks ago I would have answered this question with.... First Church.... Then I read a book that challenged my thinking of the definition of church. Somehow, I have forgotten over time that I am part of the church... the body of Christ. That the church is more than the building or a denomination or a congregation. It is all of those things and more, linked together and alive because of the Spirit of God, alive within the members.

Yesterday I found myself in a room full of strangers, all gathered for the purpose of unity and service. What a great gathering it was as I found myself among folks who were from many different congregations and those who attended no congregation at all. All were joined together to spend several hours loving others by giving of their time and talent.

I had a moment where I felt like the baton of my folks had been passed on to me. They had raised me to a lifestyle of service and giving to others, and once again I found myself in a place where I might serve strangers as I had done in my childhood. I felt like I had joined in an event that they would have chosen to be a part of. But I am digressing... from the morning events I walked away with a word to answer the question at hand. It was asked of me by a few of the folks yesterday and I found that it settled well into my heart as I wrestled with how to answer this question, which is often asked of me.

What congregation are you a part of? I like that, the question is not what building, as though that would define where I worship, but rather what gathering of the body of Christ do I worship with. That fits better my new understanding of church. For I am a member of the body of Christ, who gather together and make up His "church".

Today we awoke and put on "church" clothes, all set to walk out the door and go to "church". Then the phone rang and it became time to put on my other church clothes, the ones I am truly more comfortable in. Our neighbor had a water leak, in the wall, and needed help. So rather than worshipping in a building we lived life before the Lord with wet butts and laughter and spraying water. We shared life with a friend who has yet to understand the Life that was sacrificed for her. We were the body of Christ in the life of this neighbor and in our hearts we worshipped the Lord and thanked Him for an opportunity to lay our life down for Him. We did not attend a set program, we broke our tradition and elavated the needs of an unbeliever over our tradition of attending a gathering of believers, and it was good.

This is not all that different from what my beliefs were a few weeks ago. Yet as I reflected today of my heart attitude of serving the needs of the lost and starving, giving them priority over serving the "expection" of the believers around me, I know I may be viewed as radical. To break tradition, to work on my day of rest, is it ok? Could this work be holy? Could serving be worship? Can one have church on a wet rug sharing life with an unbeliever? I think yes, I think that what we did today is what Jesus would have done, and so I believe that today we went to church at my neighbor's house, and it was a great service!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

If you go to Julie and Julia....

I feel like a character in the if you give a mouse a cookie book. If you go to see the movie Julie and Julia you willbe inspired by all the food and you will want to cook. If you open your cookbook you will think back on the movie. If you stumble upon a Julia related cookbook you will buy it......

So, I went to the movie, it was inspirational to me, has me thinking about cooking through a cookbook. I found that in the week following I was drying my meat so that it would brown, I was giving mushrooms space so they would saute better.The gleaned hints worked! And so I began to dream about cooking my way through a cookbook.

On Sunday I stopped at our local perpetual yardsale/ flea market and stumbled upon Baking with Julia. I opened it and the breads drew me in, crusty and appealing, so for $3 I had the cookbook to begin my journey. For the next few days I have wandered through it dreaming of the breads that would come. I bought my first bag of rye flour only to realize later that I did not have caraway seeds and it may be important, so since I am trying to be true to Julia's honor I will wait so that I may stick close (exact) to the receipe as possible.

Then I found myself returning again and again to this picture. I was inspired to try my hand at this crusty crunchy Potato Bread. The receipe was easy to follow and I think it came out well. The smell is wafting through the house, drawing studying children down from afar. The first hungry soul offered to cut me a piece but I declined yet when I went out to take pictures I found I could not resist, and yes, it was worth the work. It is crusty yet tender.

Spritzing water in the oven does make a difference, ice cubes on the bottom of the oven did not destroy it. Maybe the stone that it was baked on also made for a crispy crust.

I think I am going back to my past endevours and will again be baking bread . Bread is a favorite of everyone in the house and I just have not found the wonderful artisian breads that we came to love from the bakeries in NY and Germany. I expect there is a location locally that has them yet I also aniticapate that they are beyond my pricepoint preference or common travel path. So I will be playing in the flour again!

So, thank you Hollywood for the inspiration to bake and my family thanks you as well for who knows what will happen if you go to see Julie and Julia!

Academically challenging

The phrase academically challenging has hit a whole new level of meaning for me in the past week.

I have a son in college taking classes that the name I can barely pronounce let alone begin to understand what is taught- high level math and science classes... he strives to earn the prize of an electrical engineering degree. I expect he will make it to the goal but there will be blood and sweat along the way and so the prize will be all the more sweet along with the reward of a paycheck that could make life a bit easier. He has academically challenging courses and thankfully his brain cells process most of the information well, or he wrestles with it until he is able to make some sense of it.

I have a daughter who is also in college, her recent academic challenges have come in the form of learning grace and personal responsibility even when the professors are unintelligible. It seems that both of the kids have teachers who are of foreign birth and come to their universities with heavy accents so one of the challenges is to decipher the words spoken and attempt to align them with known words, not always easy. She tells me that often the teacher is spelling out his words as the whole class is struggling to understand the spoken words. She also has the academic challenge of learning that in college the syllabus is the guide and no matter what the prof may or may not teach you are responsible for the material presented in the guide. not an easy lesson after being led by the hand in high school.

Our next son has voluntarily signed up for AP courses this year. He "whines" about the work, we smile as we know the challenge is good for him. He is finding it academically challenging to keep up with the reading and studying. He is finding that the teachers mean business and expect the students to come prepared. He is rising to the challenge and we see it as a good thing as he seems to enjoy a life full of challenge.

All three of these kids face academic challenges as I have known them, that was my past definition, tough challenging coursework, above the norm expectations, needing focus attention.

This week I had a new look at the meaning of academically challenged as I began to realize the inkling I have had that this year would be a year of challenge came to fruition. Our youngest has had growing learning struggles. Not sure that they have grown as much as I have grown to realize how invasive they are. As the years have passed with his peers gaining in academic skills I have seem him move forward at his own pace. This year it is beginning to feel like the rabbit and hare scenario... one that I knew was on the horizon but had not come to fully acknowledge.

This week I am looking at it with the rose colored glasses off. This week the reality of advocating, intervention, accommodations and their place in our life has hit home. Class work that is simple for many will not be quickly mastered by this one, yet can be mastered in its fundamentals. I have come to realize that these are challenges that are to be faced, prepped for and negotiated. There will be need for prep for classes and extra study devoted. We will have to shift through the material and choose what is truly the important and what is fluff, leaving off the fluff as there is just not time and energy for more than the basics.

This week in the midst of the revelation and personal (yes, emotional) toil of my heart to face reality I saw God. As I again and again face what is and not what I want there to be God shows up to remind me that He is aware of the struggle and allows grace in the midst of it. I received a call from one teacher who affirmed some of the struggles and the reality that copying information from the board and listening to the lecture at the same time was not realistic. We talked about options and strategies for success in the class. Another teacher and I are in the midst of reviewing material to see what is also realistic and how to test for retention and bring success in another class. Both classes will be simplified and for this child that will be academically challenging. For another it would not.

Hmmm.... Academically challenging... when the child is challenged by the academics, to learn and get his brain to retain the material. hmmm, same definition but coming from the other side, I guess it is not a black and white definition. I guess I can no longer think that only higher level stuff is academically challenging. sometimes, for some people the simple stuff is academically challenging.

And so grace walks in... to accept each person where they are at, and allow for what is easy for me and you to be a challenge for a peer. To meet a child where they are at, accepting , encouraging and cheering them on as they wrestle with their own academic challenges.

And the Gracious One continues to shape me and mold me in his loving way. Again I find myself feeling like I am on the potters wheel, pressed upon and hugged as he lovingly makes adjustments and shapes and forms me. How different this parenting thing is when it does not fit the mold of the past children, when there are new situations to learn through. When your expectations don't meet with reality and there is nothing you can do but be patient and wait and live a dependent life fully trusting that God knows what he is doing. Ahhh, its that S word again, surrender. laying down and allowing Him to reign, letting go of control. So, I too am being challenged by academics, learning to let go and not place them on the altar of life as an idol but acknowledge that they truly are just a part of life and a stepping stone on the path of the journey.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Reflections of summer past

Summer is officially over, it is Labor Day, and so even kids in the north will be starting school tomorrow, if they haven't already, we've been hitting the books for over 3 weeks. As I stopped into the blog,I realized tonight that it really has been a long time since I have posted. My dear one is hanging around the saved swampland of the south (Florida) for a few days so tonight seemed a good time to stop and post.

The summer has passed with many busy days and a few down days. It felt like a different kind of summer as the dynamics of the family change with the shifting of children moving into new season. My son is busy burning braincells over Physics 3 and deciphering the accent of a prof along with working 20+ hours a week. Our daughter is settling into another local university to the east of our home. Our middle son spent the summer enjoying life, rescuing deer and waiting for school to begin again. Our youngest spent time working his way through metronome therapy, going to summer camp and enjoying a slower pace as well as some camping with Dad.

Now here we are in September, and schooling has begun again. The therapy that we worked hard on for 6 weeks has paid off. A child who NEVER noticed a joke is now telling us "you are teasing me", he is more interactive, aware and his reading speed has picked up. The 20 second attention span has moved up to 9 minutes. All this has delighted me as a mom and his teacher. We continue to work on learning struggles and life lessons that need to be taught.

The summer was active with canning... chicken, salsa, peaches, salsa, g.beans, salsa, potatoes, salsa, jam and salsa. Yes, we had tomatoes and peppers in moderate abundance, but not enought to can them alone so salsa was my default for a bucket of tomatoes and peppers. we are now blessed with a few shelves of canning jars, lined up and waiting for our appetites. It has been a blessing to also have a jar or two of homemade jam to share with those we love.

This was a summer of wedding travel. Our children are getting of the age where their peers are starting to wed. We traveled to Tennessee to see a childhood friend unite with her beloved amidst a volley of approval. (the outdoor wedding field backed to a skeet shooting range that just happened to be holding a shooting contest as the nupticals were spoken- perfect for a 'country wedding"). The simple wedding was beautiful and rustic, one that reminded me of our own wedding of 26 years ago. It was a sweet time as we visited with old friends and enjoyed the passage of seasons for our friend and her new spouse.

August brought us to the wedding of our "red headed stepson"- a favorite friend of our son and one we shared life with in NC. He and his bride had a beautiful wedding in a chapel and it was fun to watch the family rejoice and enjoy a day of beauty and joy as the couple sealed their commitment with a ring.

The trip to NC was one anticipated on many fronts- visit with friends, time spent sharing life with a girlfriend and the wedding. Life was what happened when I made other plans. My girlfriend had to leave town unexpectedly, yet I was able to spend time with a friend that was unplanned but was of encouragement to both of us. I also stopped by the place of fellowship one evening and had a conversation that left both parties encouraged to press on in life and loving others.

While in NC I began to see God in the midst of my travels in some very real ways. I was driving across town to visit my old neighbors when I noticed that traffic ahead was slowing, soon flashing lights appeared on the horizon. My cell phone rang and as I answered it, I found that it was my girlfriend, at whose house I was staying. She began telling me of her son having had a car accident. As we spoke I realized their accident was ahead of me. She was with her mother in another state and her husband was also traveling out of state. God was caring for their boys amidst a life event, and I was who He was putting there. I was soon on the scene of the accident and in comunication with the boys and caring for them in her stead. We are and were amazed at God's provision in the midst of the mess of the accident to have help so close by.

I made it to my neighbors the following day, finding it to be a blessing to sit in their backyard, enjoying their company and nature. My dear friend has walked down the pink ribbon path, battling breast cancer and as of now, winning. It has shaped and changed them, and given her a desire to encourage and share life with others who will embark upon the same journey. It was a sweet time of sharing life and longing for the minutes to stretch longer as we miss the sporadic chats we once shared amidst gardening. I have reflected upon the peaceful joy I have in the company of many elderly friends, a blessing I never anticipated as a youth, but one I savor as they come into and share life with me.

Along the path home was an exit that would have led to the homes of many of my husband's cousins. My son was anxious to return home so we decided to not call and stop in for a visit, yet I mused to my Lord about the possiblitiy of Him making it possible for us to meet one of them for lunch at that exit. It was a thought, a hope but not truly thought possible,as I never called anyone, yet we did get off the exit where they lived and into Arby's parking lot we pulled. Then my son said "Don't we know that person?" sure enough God had done it, my husband's cousin was standing in the parking lot talking on a cell! I jumped out and rejoiced as his wife came out and we enjoyed a lunch together. It was a sweet time for me as we had not seen them for 3 years. Life had been happening for them and I was able to hear a bit of their story, encourage them and now pray with wisdom for them.. Again, God had intersected our life in an unexpected way.

And not to miss an opportunity to speak of how small this world is for our God I will tell you one last tale of how he can connect people in this vast world to bless those who love Him. A few weeks ago a friend asked a favor of me. I was asked to search for and buy a homeschool book for her. It was a book she needed "yesterday" and so I looked. I found it on an online posting for selling books throughout the USA. I noticed a posting from AL, as I looked closer I noticed it was our local city. I thought of how it was a shame to wait on postal service rather than connect and pickup the book. On a whim I pulled out the telephone book and looked to see if the name listed was in fact a name. It was, and it was a gal who knew my name. I had not remebered her but she is a MaryKay gal. She agreed to sell the book to us, and my girlfriend picked it up that night. It was huge- as it eased stress in her life, but moreso because it was a way that God showed that he cares about the details of our lives, amidst the mess and stress, amidst the dissappointments and struggles, He is aware. A small thing, a book, and yet a big thing... connections made that perhaps are co-incidental and yet I chose to believe that it was the loving heart of our Heavenly Father that was caring for her daughter that needed encouragement and loving upon.

And so our summer has passed with moments where we have seen the hand of God, moments of life happening when we had other plans, moments of shared struggle and growth, moments of down-time and delight. I have risked my fear, faced th e canner and now it is my friend. I have slowed down and delighted in looser structure yet now enjoy a bit more structure to guide our days.

Perhaps I am back to posting again, not sure... Blogging is like getting a letter from a friend in the mail, a delightful way to catchup, keep up, inspire and encourage as we walk this path of life. Thanks for stopping in, may the month ahead have some moments where you too see the finger of God moving through your life.