Saturday, June 16, 2012

Notes to My Younger Self

When I first saw this photo on Facebook this morning, posted by my sweet boyfriend/husband to celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary, I looked at that 21 and 24 year old and wanted to hug their precious, ignorant selves. And then I wanted to sit them down and give them a strong talking to and hand them a list of truths that would make their next 26 years easier.

Married or not, have you made your own list of what you'd like to say to your younger self? I'd love to hear what's on yours.
I'll share a few things on mine- some meant just for me and some for both of us:

1.  If you consistently throw up every morning before work and have at least one cry every night (and you're sure you're not pregnant) you're probably in the wrong job. It's okay. Get out of there.

2. Don't rent that apartment in Greenbelt, Maryland. Those people exchanging things in the parking lot are not trading baseball cards.

3. You can't be God's teacher's pet by trying to be good all the time. We're ALL God's teacher's pets. God loves all of us the same, whether we like it or not. :)

4. Get off that foil tanning blanket and throw away the baby oil! You'll thank me later. (Though the dermatologist won't.)

5 .If you want to work, work! If you're doing something that makes you happy, your children will benefit. And you'll be able to afford vacations which will make you more cheery and less grouchy.

6. Don't let well-meaning people talk you out of a job you want. You'll eventually come back to it anyway.

7. Be nice to yourself and buy good shoes.

8. If you're going to choose parts of the Bible to take literally, be ready to take it all literally- the shellfish ban, the multiple wives, the stoning a wayward child, slavery, the ban against mixed fibers. Consider taking a hard, serious look at Jesus instead, so you don't end up tangled up in law and estranged from love.

9.  Remember that with your sweetie- and with coworkers and anybody- it's better to be kind than right.

10. Don't walk on an icy Denver street with a blueberry jello salad. Even if you do feel very coordinated at the moment.

11. Becky, if you work all the time and don't write and paint and sew and draw, you will start to wilt and wither and get easily irritated and mean.

12. Realize now that one of you is an extrovert and likes to talk, and the other is an introvert and likes to think inside her head. Allow each other space to be what you are. Neither way is better so don't try to be the other. It won't work and it will give you a headache.

13. Don't haul off your husband's favorite easy chair to Goodwill when he's on a business trip.

14. Don't try to pretend you're not squeamish. It's better to tell the doctor ahead of time so you don't end up on the floor with a wet towel on the back of your neck and a room full of nurses trying to give you Coke.

15. You will have difficult times and you will have delightful times. Hang in there and know that it really does get better and better.

Okay, so that's the short list.
What would you say to your younger self?
Becky

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Welcome to My Studio! Er... I Mean Office!

Maybe it's just me, but I love to see the spaces in which people work. What kind of tools do they use?
How do they make their space their own? Inspire their own creativity? Make themselves laugh in the middle of their workdays?

Give me a trip to Santa's workshop over a visit on his lap anytime!

I'd love to hear about your own space, so I thought I might break the ice by showing you around my workshop/studio/office. Ready for a tour?

First of all I should remind you who I work for.
I suppose it's God most of all, but as Minister to Children at FBC Greenville, the work I do is all about ministering to/with great kids like these...

and their families.
Don't let the mustaches fool you- these kids aren't as old as they look!
I work with kids 1st grade-5th grade.

They're super fun and creative and full of ideas, and I want them to feel happy and comfortable in my office- it's a space made for them too.

So along with all the supplies and books, there's plenty of toys and other stuff to keep them smiling and not bored.




There's a bench for lounging and a rabbit and turtle that can always use a hug, if somebody's giving them out for free.










I also hang a lot of art that makes me happy.
Like this piece that I found amongst some Sunday school literature. It's probably about fifty or sixty years old. I love how it shows the child exploring her beautiful world, feeling God's presence.

We use the Godly Play approach in Sunday school (see my other blog The Wonder Circle if you're interested) in which the children learn to listen and look for God in the sacred stories from the Bible, but also in their own lives. I think this picture shows that same quiet reverence.
Plus I just love artwork from that time. It makes me feel good.





I love this too, Jesus calming the storm. Charles Pate, Jr. did it. Very powerful.


Karen Lucci, an artist friend, painted one of my favorite Bible stories for a postcard for Triune Mercy Center. It's the story in which Jesus appears to the disciples after his resurrection and makes them breakfast.
I've also hung a bulletin board full of pics of my sweet kiddos. When I first started it helped me learn their names. Now I enjoy looking at it and thinking of them.




A very important part of my office decor: the Jolly Ranchers!
It's a great way to get the kids to come in and talk with me!



Kids (and adults) seem to love the wind up toys. They'll stand there for surprising amounts of time, winding it up and watching it go.


This piece of art belonged to my friend Bev, who had my job before me. I love it--children all over the world, in a dance.


One of my duties is preparing the children's worship bags. Bags are always all over my office!



The kids seem to enjoy this piece, made by mixed media artist Jeannette Janson. They can't resist touching it as they try to figure out where all the parts come from. Father Time is written in the center. It's already made for some good discussions. If there is a Father Time, who is it? Why might he wear a crown? He's holding a key. Could it be the key to the kingdom? What might that be?










So that's my office!
Now what about you?
What's your favorite thing in your workspace? I'd love to hear about it.
Oh, and if you're like me and love checking out the studio nearest you, you might want to hop over and give a look-see to Where Women Create. It's a fun blog/magazine sure to inspire you!

Love, Becky




Friday, May 25, 2012

Poppies, the Sensitive Soul, and the Wizard of Oz

Today's Wonder of the World is poppies!





















They're finally blooming in the garden on our old coffee table.

And right in time for Memorial Day.
Perfect for a remembrance flower.












They make nice hair bows for Tanner the Slobber Dog, if he'd only let me bobby pin them on.















Nope, he's too busy wondering how they'd feel in his mouth.

That is, until the tomatoes are ripe.
Remember that? I'd rather not.
"Who, me? I was just seeing how they felt on my whiskers."













I was looking at them yesterday, noticing how crinkly they are, like crepe paper.
And so delicate, almost translucent.
Better enjoy them now, because they fade so quickly.

They remind me of two friends I've had the pleasure/blessing/gift of being close to.
Intense.
Vibrant.
Brilliantly beautiful.

So sensitive, though you might not know it.
They were different and found life more difficult than we realized.
I miss them.

I guess the poppy is a remembrance flower for good reason!







Do you have poppies around you? It's good to be reminded to keep an eye on them, to try to make sure they get the care they need.
Being sensitive makes life beautiful, but it also makes life hard.

Anyway, let's move on. :)

My strongest memory of poppies is seeing them out my train window when I was nineteen. My dad had a business trip overseas and the whole family went along. I was so sleepy as I looked out at the poppy fields, not realizing I had a full blown case of tonsillitis. They were in bloom everywhere, and I was so tired...

It was just like the Wizard of Oz!

Kind of. Minus the tinman and the cowardly lion and the scarecrow and the dog.
Add in a family of four from Raleigh, North Carolina-- and LOTS of gelato.

Have a great weekend, y'all!
Becky

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life's So Ruff When You're a Dog

Things at our house have been crazy this week.
Sarah moved off to her new town, to a new apartment, to a new school, to a new life-- and felt like she had to take all her worldly possessions with her. My arms are killing me and I didn't even load that much in the van.
And tonight Ben and Todd drive to Charlotte so that he can catch his plane way too early tomorrow morning to Togo, Africa where he'll spend most of the summer.
So for the last week we've been running all over, packing moving boxes and buying apartment supplies and bug repellant and Gatorade powder and trying our best to fulfill our duties as staff /support to our excited children. 
As you can see, it's exhausted Tanner the Slobber Dog.
















Not even the camera flash would wake that doggie up.

















Okay, well the second flash did.

But no worries, he's back asleep again.
I think I want to be a dog. That is, if I could periodically yank my puppies back to the house by the scruff of their necks.
But dogs have to go off and run their own lives, I guess.

Peace and plenty of pats on the head to you, friends! :)
Becky

Friday, April 27, 2012

Stuff

Need stuff?
If you're in the Greenville, SC area tomorrow (Saturday, April 28) from 8am-1pm, I know where you have to go! First Baptist Church is having a huge yard sale, with all proceeds going to youth missions. So all of these old couches and Christmas ornaments and Tupperware will be changed into building supplies for our youth mission trip. Very cool.

My daughter and I have done our part already, shopping for her grad school apartment.  What did we snag? A comfy chair, a desk chair, a dresser (really it's a desk but Youth Minister Frank is such a good salesperson he convinced us to use it as a dresser-beware of him :) and tons of stuff for her kitchen. So yey. We have new stuff and contributed to a mission trip all in one shopping spree.

It amazes me that we do this every year, yet our church donations always manage to fill up the gym. It reminds me of what a missionary in an impoverished, far away country recently wrote to one of my friends: something to the effect of "we pray for you all too, because we know how hard it is to be close to God when you have so much stuff in your way."

Wow. Maybe I'll do a better job cleaning out and donating next time around.

Love and peace to you!
Becky

Thursday, April 26, 2012

One of the reasons I LOVE my job...

One of the reasons I LOVE my job is that I get to see artwork like this every single week.
Sometimes it just blows me away.

We're so lucky to hear the voices and see the thinking of children.

I think I want to be a child when I grow up.

Love and peace to you!
Becky

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I'm back and I've missed you!

Hey there, stranger!
It's been so long that you probably don't even know me anymore. I feel like I should offer you something for being so nice to stop by. How about some brownies and sweet tea in a classy plastic Doctor Pepper glass? There's no ice in there but I got it right out of the fridge so it's still nice and cold. Don't mind the bird there sitting on some dead-ish moss. I just like him there no matter what anybody says.

See the birthday napkin? We celebrated my Sweetie's 50th birthday yesterday (I know! I can't believe it either!) but since you're here, we can pretend it's your birthday. I was going to serve you some of the left over banana pudding and even put a candle in it, but I'm afraid you just can't make banana pudding look appetizing on film so we'll stay with the brownies. If you come over in real life I will give you two big dollops and more to take home because I've got way too much in my fridge and only three of us here to eat it.

So I hope you'll tell me how you're doing and what you've been up to lately!
I've missed my blogging friends and blogging too. Life got uncomfortably crazy and I got bloated and grouchy so I took a break for more than a year, and now I'm glad to start back again, blogging on faith and family and the wonders/curiosities/weirdness of life. I'm not sure how often I'll post. When I started the blog (back in 2008!) I posted every day and I loved it. And then I switched to three times a week and that was fun. But now I'm feeling so at ease with life and its nuttiness that I'll just say I'll post when I feel like it. How about that?! :) I hope you'll come by when you feel like it too. 

So when you last left me back in February of 2011 (or I guess I left you--sorry!) I was making stew and writing for Reflections. So shall I catch you up a little on what's happened between then and now?
I'll make it quick. Sort of.
First I got a job working with these fine teenager people.
That's the youth group at my church. They needed someone to help part time, and they're a lot of fun.The job involved a sweaty hot mission trip, a sweaty hot youth camp, and a sweaty hot retreat, but I can still truthfully say that I really enjoyed it! (Just not the sweating part.) The kids made me feel good about the future and humanity and let me keep tabs on my youngest as well, so what more do you want?

Meanwhile, my middle baby was getting ready to graduate from high school.
I will always think of him like this.
No one ever told me that when your middle child (who was your baby for many years, during a time when you had exceptionally big hair and no thought of a third child) gets ready to graduate, you do crazy things like deciding to put down engineered hardwood in the sun room before all the family comes for graduation.
What poor posture. Don't look. Instead, focus on Tanner. What a lazy bones. He wasn't any help at all with the vacuum.

Sometimes I worked to the tune of tuba music.
 
Oh, and Ben finally decided what school to go to. It's in Durham, North Carolina and it rhymes with Puke.
Sorry, but I'm an NCSU fan at heart, and anyway, it's hard to cheer for the Devil.  But I'm really happy for him and I will still love him just as much as long as he doesn't become obnoxious. :) He's promised me he won't and he hasn't so far.

So graduation came and went and we all survived.                              Then in June (on Flag Day, as usual!) I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary with this lovely man. Do not fear, he has shaved since the photo was taken.
And in July, guess what movie the whole family went to see?
And yes, we took the broom.

You still there? 
It will be over soon.

Then, on the very hottest record breaking day of the year, we granted my mother's birthday wish (for which she had pined and hinted way too many years) and had a professional photo shoot of our whole family. It was 99 sweltering degrees, but Ashley Stephenson at Story Photographers actually made it fun! (And no one had expected that! At least I hadn't!) And Mom brought Popsicles so that helped.




Okay, speeding things along here...

School started again. Sarah went off for her senior year, Ben started his freshman year, Sam started 7th grade at a new school, and a couple months later, I got my dream job! Really!


As Minister to Children at my church, I get to do all the things I love the most.  I work with children ages 1st through 5th grade, directing their Sunday school experience and working with a faculty of awesome teachers. I get to write a lot--new Godly Play lessons for them to enjoy, a Godly Play blog The Wonder Circle for their teachers, and a weekly newsletter for families. I work with the Children's Committee to plan monthly fun activities for the kids, and I do whatever it takes to support their families and the church in building their faith. This summer I'll co-direct 2 sessions of Children's Mission Week, take a group to Camp Prism for 4 days, and lead Excellent Adventure, a VBS experience for elementary kids. I couldn't be happier and I never ever want to leave. No matter what.
Really. Don't fight me for my job. I might have to smite you.

I could go on and on about my job (and I will I'm sure) but what else happened while you were away?
My sweet Sarah got accepted into an Occupational Therapy program for grad school and got in some early practice on her grandma when my mom had her hip replaced over the winter.

Christmas came and my Sam got a prank kit.
How that boy loves to freak people out.

Ben started racing with the cycling team at school. He loves it, and only has flown over the handlebars once or twice. (Yey for helmets.)
Then yesterday, my honey turned 50 and we had a party. Oh yeah, I told you about that. It reminded me how much I love having a house full of people, as long as Tanner the Slobber Dog is at the Doggy Motel where he can't eat off your plate and sneak a lick of your hands whenever you aren't expecting it. Maybe that's part of what I miss about blogging--having a house full of people ready to chat whenever they have a moment. And getting to stop by your place too. No trips to the kennel or cleaning and cooking required.

Won't you say hi and tell me what's new in your life?
Much love,
Becky



Saturday, February 5, 2011

Stew, Anyone?


On an cold wet day like the ones we've had lately, what could be better than a bowl of hot stew, maybe with a big hunk of crusty baguette? Sounds like comfort food to me. Shall I set a bowl for you?

I think there's another reason I've had stew on the brain the last week or so. The folks over at Smyth & Helwys asked me to write a series of devotionals for their Reflections guide a month or so ago, (yey!) and the ten scripture passages recently arrived in my inbox. I'm LOVING the whole writing process, mostly because it's reminding me of the mysterious way God can teach me when I allow God some thought-time in my day. If I had to invent a name for the method, it'd be easy. STEW!

First and most important step?
Just manage to read the verses at some point each day.
That's like assembling the ingredients, dumping God's words into the crockpot, and setting the switch on low.

On good days, the words stay in the background on the kitchen counter of my brain, and as I go through the hours, their aromas swirl, bringing out the flavors of God's message hidden within conversations and images, within mundane chores or memories. Sometimes even within a story I hear at the grocery store or a random thought in the carpool line.

I wish it always worked that way.

Some days I manage to read, but then I get swept into the tornado of the day. The words sit frozen in the pot. I'm too busy to let myself entertain open passage between my spirit and God's. I focus on my own words and nothing simmers. No aroma. No tender morsels. Just a tough cut of meat and raw potatoes. No comfort there.

Other days I put bad things in the pot. Instead of God's promises, I stew on worries and fears. I pile them on top of each other, and set the temp on high. I stand by the pot and wait for them to bubble up. I breathe in the smell, even when it makes me cough.
When I start dining on fear, I push aside love and don't even know it!
I focus on getting my share. On what if's.
It's not pretty, y'all.

But stew done right?
Tastes great. More filling!
I really must ask God to help me get better at doing this every day. To help me not be so consumed by busyness that I shut out God's voice as He/She tries to speak.

What about you? Is stew part of your daily diet?
I wish God's best love-stew to you!
Love,
Becky

Photo by Jess Gambacurta, creative commons

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Doubt, Trust, Fear, and Crowd Surfing


"It's not how I hoped my faith would be," I told my friend as we sipped our coffee and shared in whispers the darkest moments of our lives.

"I knew it would happen to me some day. Of course sorrow and fear would visit me too. Why wouldn't it? I expected that at some point I'd experience a life and death crisis, a fear that terrifies. I knew it would happen, but when I'd imagined what it might be like...I don't know," I said, feeling my eyes well up, remembering it as if it had happened just days ago. "When it did come, I didn't react how I thought I would."

My friend nodded, listening generously, not rushing me or trying to squeeze in words.

"I guess I thought that when it happened, when I was plunged into darkness, I pictured myself locking arms with God, tossing aside my fears and springing out of the murk, into the light. It wasn't like that at all."

"What was it like?"

"I couldn't even pray. I thought I'd stay in constant communication with God, but instead I felt kind of stony, focused on getting through each hour.
God wasn't as much a presence as a motor in me, pulling me up from the floor to my hands and knees, helping me crawl from one moment to the next. But I knew God was there, even if I didn't hear words."

"Even if you didn't talk to God. You trusted," she said. "That's trust."

"Maybe," I said. "I guess that's what it was. I didn't feel capable of much else but trust, to be honest. If I could trust, it's only because of my circle of friends. I knew that they would pray even when I couldn't. I felt the quiet inside me, and I knew where it had come from. I was so thankful for their prayers."

I remembered this conversation when I saw the opening photo.
I was that person, carried high by the hands of others. Knowing that they were taking my concerns to God, I could still myself and listen to the faint echoes of scripture and prayers of my past sewn into me. I'm so thankful for community, both online and in flesh and blood. Friends to sit with me beside still waters, to carry me to the Shepherd.

My faith wasn't what I imagined it would be, but it was real. And thanks to my friends, it was enough.

During the dark moments of your life, how has your faith surprised you?
I'd really like to know.

Love, Becky

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;
he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


Photo courtesy of Wild_Child_HC, through creative commons.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What's That Growing on My Coffee Table?


Don't misunderstand the title of this post. I haven't totally given up on trying to keep a somewhat halfway sanitary house.

Nope, I'm talking about the coffee table outside. You may remember that because of my doofus dog and his intense desire to dig up the entire back yard and transport it between his doggy toes to my white bedspread, Todd and I are not able to garden like normal people. We grow our tomatoes and peppers and herbs on top of an old coffee table out our back door.
As you can see from the photo above, it's not tomato season.

So what's that growing on my coffee table?

Just a couple months ago, the coffee table box was vacant, except for the dirt.
Then Todd worked in a box of bone meal, which was supposed to make our tomatoes even more juicy and delicious, and (of course) Tanner sniffed out the scent of bones, hopped on top of the coffee table and did the backstroke through the soil. Then he ate up half its contents.
He felt a little sickish after that.

So anyway, after his dirt binge, the box sat empty.
And then I started noticing bits of green freckling the soil. I hadn't planted anything. Was the wind transporting tiny seeds to my garden? Or did the birds do it? Maybe there were already seeds in the soil that we didn't know about.

This morning it's a mass of green, as you can see, growing up and out of the box, trying its best to tickle the cement pig keeping watch. And whispering a word to me.
Entropy.
And then it recited The Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Or maybe that was the former chemistry teacher in me talking.

(Science Nerd Police, close your ears. I'm about to get a little loosey goosey here.)

The garden full of mystery weeds reminded me that unless you've got an outside organizing force at work, everything tends toward chaos.

Like a twelve year old boy's room. If left alone, a room previously straightened by a loving mother will slowly transform into a pig sty.
If left alone, no one can find the remote in the den and dirty glasses pile up. And microwave popcorn bags are left on the coffee table.

It takes INTENTION to change things. (Or a mom who threatens to take phones away or computer time.)

If we don't plan anything for the garden and weed the soil and plant what we want, chaos takes over.
If Todd and I don't take time to think about what we want our family life to be like and we let the kids sign up for whatever they want, soon we'll be sucked into the craziness of running all over the county every night of the week, just like so many other people.

This leads me back to my faith life too. What am I missing? How do I need to change?
I need to set aside time to imagine what kind of faith I want, and then time to think about how to get there. Do I need to set aside a set time for prayer? Or a plan to turn the radio off after I drop Sam off from school, to think on God? To listen for God's voice. Where do I want to be in my service to others?
If I don't take time to think about what I want my life to be like and what I have to do to get there, it just won't happen. Chaos - or just busyness, American style - takes over.

Do you struggle with this too?
Do you make time for thinking and planning the most important areas of your life? Or are you like I am sometimes, remembering the need for intention as the river of busyness and noise tries its best to sweep me downstream? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Have an awesome day and weekend, y'all!
Love, Becky