Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Piano Lessons

On a weekly basis when I take my child to piano lessons, I have learned the most interesting things. For example one of the other parents is totally different than I; if both of our daughters were not doing these lessons I am certain our paths would not have crossed, and if they did I'm sure our conversation would be minimal. But thanks to waiting around for an hour and both of us having a desire to talk and listen, we are exposed to each other's worlds.

I've learned that her culture holds tight to their traditions. She is a wife and mother but she would never ask her husband to help out in the kitchen, nor does she feel she should. She stays at home and loves cooking and being a homemaker. Even though within her culture the men play a more outgoing dominant role, she is not a doormat or docile. There are parts of American culture when it comes to women, relationships and parenting that don't make any sense to her. Parents rule the roost in her culture, and there's no need to always try to accommodate a child's wishes. Her culture is very serious about marrying internally - if you marry a different ethnicity you risk incurring the wrath of your family. She has two daughters, so I asked, "If in spite of everything that you did, your daughters chose to marry outside of your culture, what would happen?" I shared my thoughts on marriage; in doing so, she realized that she could not come up with a good answer to this question.

She thinks every day should be Thanksgiving and is not big on this holiday. Many within her culture do not celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, but they make a big deal for New Years Day with a tree and all. So they get to shop after Christmas and get the best bargains.  We both related to what it feels like to be immigrants, or to be the only one of a certain ethnic group in a large gathering.

In these exchanges I have also schooled her on my culture and explained some of the similarities and differences between hers and mine.

As the new year approaches, be willing to try new things - have conversations with people that cross your path and get to know them a little better. You may be surprised at what you learn and how much you have in common. Be hopeful. Always try to see the good in people.

I never thought piano lessons would open up another world to me, but it did, and like playing a piano, we have had harmonious conversations while our daughters learned.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18,19
Can you guess her culture? What new thing will you give a chance this new year?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Leaving the Nest

At this point in our lives we have a child that is preparing to leave the nest, and I'm reminded of eagles.

As parents, we were the ones that taught her how to fly. We did that by teaching and modeling what we taught. This sounds very formal and oversimplified as I write, but children learn what they live. Having children forced me to become consistent in my beliefs.

As the eagle teaches her young ones to fly, so do we. When eagles are babies, the mother eagle uses her beak and picks up the eagle. At this point in time the bird can't fly, so as the bird starts to fall the mother eagle flies underneath the baby and catches it, so that the fledgling is flying on her wings.  Because eagles learn by imprinting (i.e. imitation) she will continue to do this, until the baby soars and can leave the nest. One motivation that the mother eagle uses is food. The baby needs to learn to fly in order to hunt for his own food so that he too can grow. As the baby grows, he won't leave the nest unless he has to. At first the mother is responsible for all of the baby's needs - she would bring meat to the nest. The baby eagle has grown and can fly, but not fast or far yet because he is still growing. At a certain point in time the mother eagle will stop dropping food in to the nest. It may even look like she is harming her young. But the mom knows once the fledgling is hungry enough, he will use his wings, imitate her and fly to where the prey is, hunt, eat and then return. Eventually the fledgling will not return.

An interesting illustration is thus recorded by Sir Humphry Davy:, "I once saw a very interesting sight above the crags of Ben Nevis. Two parent eagles were teaching their offspring, two young birds, the maneuvers of flight. They began by rising from the top of the mountain in the eye of the sun. It was about mid-day, and bright for the climate. They at first made small circles, and the young birds imitated them. They paused on their wings, waiting till they had made their flight, and then took a second and larger gyration, always rising toward the sun, and enlarging their circle of flight so as to make a gradually ascending spiral. The young ones still and slowly followed, apparently flying better as they mounted; and they continued this sublime exercise, always rising till they became mere points in the air, and the young ones were lost, and afterwards their parents, to our aching sight." (See Isa. 40:31.) - Easton's Bible Dictionary

Eagles in the Bible are noted for their strength (Isa 40:31), their longevity of life (Psalms 103.5), and for caring for their young (Deut. 32:11,12). As my daughter leaves, I'm hoping that as parents we have given her what she needed - we were her first role models and I hope that we've imprinted the right things on her heart. I am praying for the strength and beauty of the eagle in her life. And when she's tired, I hope she knows that she doesn't have to carry it all but that she can rest on Eagle's wings.

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isa 40:31
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4

Have your children left the nest? How was your imprint? Were you ready for them to leave?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

25 on 25 - The Gift of Marriage

While we never know what to give each other at Christmas, there are many gifts that we do give:
  • The gift of ourselves 
  • The gift of time 
  • The gift of listening 
  • The gift of consideration 
  • The gift of laughter 
  • The gift of commitment 
  • The gift of music 
After 25 years, you know:
  • It's not about you. 
  • You can't make another person change. 
  • Love is a choice that you make daily. 
  • Divorce is not an option. 
  • We may go to bed mad, but we won't stay mad. 
  • Things have to run their course - this may take a couple of hours or several days but it's going to be all right. 
  • Don't keep score; we are not in a competition but a relationship. Keeping score leads to resentment. 
  • Going through rough patches makes you and your relationship stronger. 
  • You don't need to go looking for trouble. 
  • We are constantly changing - I am not the same person I was 25 years ago, neither is he. Though some changes are for the better, secretly I think we all wish we could stay the same as when we first met. 
  • Don't ever stop communicating as this is the glue that holds everything together. 
  • Communication takes many forms - but keep doing it. 
  • Be grateful - take nothing for granted. I'm grateful for the person I am because of marriage. 
Being in a long marriage is a little bit like that nice cup of coffee every morning - I might have it every day, but I still enjoy it. - One of my favorite quotes from the Happy Wives Club by Stephan Gaines.

Just Married!

Have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy the gift of marriage if you're married.

PS - I can't find my wedding album. I hope it shows up before my anniversary.

Monday, December 23, 2013

My birthday

I turned 47 on 12/22.

47 seems like such a large number but I feel so very young. 
Chatting with my husband we were just musing about where we are currently in life:
  • We are happy with our children - we have one getting ready to leave the nest as I write this.
  • Our marriage is sound but we are always willing to try to improve as there is always room for improvement. 
  • We live on the west coast and like it. 
  • Our lives aren't well planned but God is in control and we both trust deeply. 
  • We are similar yet very different. 
  • Maintaining connections with extended family is important though not always easy. 
  • I love my husband and four children; my life is inexplicably richer because of them. 
  • I really don't need gifts but I don't mind receiving them. 
  • My circle of friends has grown and is much more diverse. 

I am happy! I'm grateful for another year to be alive.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Overwhelmed at Christmas

Twas the week before Christmas
And all through the house
Every creature was stirring
Including the mouse (eek!!!)

No stockings were hung by the chimney with care
For Ms. Betty was on her way over there.

The children were nestled, but not in there beds
Begging and shouting,"more, more, more!"

That's an incomplete parody of the The Night Before Christmas.  The poem goes on until St. Nick appears. I remember reading this as a child and always becoming nostalgic for Christmas.

But Christmas isn't so peaceful anymore -
      We have parties to attend and parties to plan.
            Gifts to buy and gifts to wrap.
                   Desserts to be made for our various Christmas parties.
                          And of course, we have to have the right outfits for all of these events.

Before you know it, we're all caught up with the excitement of the seasons while forgetting what caused the initial excitement in the first place. Jesus came - that is the reason we have Christmas. Don't be a scrooge, but please take a moment to be mindful of that first Christmas. Take time at the beginning of each day, to give thanks. Jesus was the first gift, which allowed us to have many more. I hope you're not feeling out of sorts this Christmas. If you are, take a moment and remember the reason we celebrate.

For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

What are you doing to stay calm at Christmas?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Soil Analysis

As a family, we've been reading the book of Mark.  Our pastor is doing a series on this book and suggested we find another person to read the book with - so we decided to read it as a family. Reading the Bible in this way, is quite interesting as it allows you to see what each person thinks, particularly your children. It also provides a foundation for rich discussion.

On this particular night we read Mark 4 which begins with the Parable of the Sower. This parable is also found in Matthew and Luke.

During our discussion, we each reflected on what kind of soil we were.

  1. The hard-packed soil - this soil was found on the wayside and it was very hard. Seed fell but the ground could not receive it; birds ate the seed. This soil represents someone who chooses not to be converted or someone who is not converted. This person hears, but does not understand and does not ask questions to aid in understanding.
  2. Stony soil - the stony soil was interspersed with the rocks. The seed that fell on to this soil grew but it couldn't thrive because it did not have sufficient roots. The stony ground prevented the seed from having a solid foundation. This soil represents a new believer who does nothing to cement his faith. This person hears the Word and receives it with joy, but since they have no root this joy lasts only a short time. Joy is not enough to live the Christian life.
  3. Thorny soil - this soil was thorny but seed was able to thrive for awhile until it was overcome by the thorns. This soil represents seasoned Christians who become caught up with the cares of this world.
  4. Good soil - this soil was ideal; it was a perfect environment for the seed to grow and bear varying degrees of fruit.

As someone who loves to garden, I know that you have to work to change the type of soil you may be dealing with. You may have to turn it, treat it, or remove rocks from it to get it to an ideal place. This is the same thing we have to do with our lives - it takes effort and work to produce fruit.

There have been times in my life where I have been all four types of soil. I remember when I first made the decision to become a Christian at the age of 8, and to this day I remember the initial joy I felt. I was stony soil. I remember having a season of doubt up until I was in my late teens; here I was also stony and thorny. Later, I remember being so in tune with the Lord I could feel his presence and was obedient to his commands via the Bible. Then, I was good soil. At a point in time, and sometimes even now, I became concerned with the cares of this world. When I worked full time, I was very concerned about raises and promotions and did not trust God with the outcome - at this point I was thorny soil. Prior to making a decision to serve the Lord, I was hard-packed soil.

Be encouraged, that if you are not good soil you can become good soil. Seek and ye shall find.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Matthew 7:7,8

What kind of soil are you?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Waste Not Want Not

The theme of a recent episode of Chopped was "Wasted". The premise of Chopped is to make great meals from random ingredients that are placed in a basket, that don't necessarily go together, within a short time frame. Contestants are required to make an appetizer, entree and dessert and do not know the basket contents until it is time to make the meal. The winner receives a check for $10,000.00. On this particular show, the basket contained items that are typically tossed.
Ingredients included:
  • Fish carcass
  • Overripe tomatoes
  • Wilted carrots
  • Potatoes with eyes
  • Ends of Bread
  • Orange halves already squeezed
  • Used coffee grounds
  • Hardened brown sugar
This show was a revelation to me as most of the above items would not be tossed by me. Now none of these foods strike me as waste; as a matter of fact I've used and probably still use some of these items when I cook, and everyone is still standing!

This show highlighted the old adage that one man's garbage is another mans treasure. My ancestors had nothing or were given the scraps and created amazing meals to survive on, which we now call Soul Food. Where I'm from, nothing goes to waste. My mom made sure to use everything that was edible in all of our meals. I watched her get the last bit of ketchup from a bottle by pouring hot water in the container, shaking it up and then pouring it out. In terms of food nothing went to waste and that mentality carried over in to other areas of our lives.

Willful waste makes woeful want.
In this joyous season, waste is the thing that undergirds many of our acquisitions. I'm all for shopping and getting a bargain but not at the expense of incurring debt. One can infer from the many statistics that are based on America's national debt that we need to be careful how we spend. I came across this bit of information as I was writing this post:
As of December 2, 2013, the official debt of the United States government is $17.2 trillion ($17,235,032,379,906).[1] This amounts to:
• $54,372 for every person living in the U.S.[2]
• $140,741 for every household in the U.S.[3]
• 102% of the U.S. gross domestic product.[4]
• 542% of annual federal revenues.[5]
 On a large scale, don't waste your money buying stuff you don't need even if it is on sale. Guess what, you still won't need it. Live within your means. Be creative with what you have. When it comes to food, before you toss, ask yourself, "Can something else be done with this?"
I've been guilty of wasting food and other essentials; I'm challenging myself to go back to the basics.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it [are] the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23

Do you re-purpose in general or only with food? Are you creative with food? Have you scaled back this holiday season?