Friday, October 29, 2010

Pie for Everybody!

What we needed was pie.
(My unprofessional diagnosis.)

Since I'm home at the moment, writing and searching for a job, I had the time to do it right.

I pared the Granny Smith apples the old fashioned way, remembering how my dad still does it, letting the peel trail toward the floor in a long curly snake. I sliced the fruit thin into the bowl on my lap, thinking of apple pies I'd made before when the kids were little. How the smell would fill the house. How they'd wait at the table, and Sarah would make up a silly apple pie song.
Now Sarah was off at college and the boys were plugged into the computer or buried in homework. Checking off To Do lists, answering cell phones.

We were all in need of pie, the boys, my husband, and me. We needed laughter and the comfort of something ordinary and warm, smelling of cinnamon. A reason to put away the college applications, the insurance paperwork, a calendar full of doctor's appointments, the want ads and the homework.

We've moved cautiously through our days of the last couple weeks, bracing ourselves at times when surprise aftershocks from Ben's accident washed over us, managing the normal stressors of life with teens and tweens. Stresses of a boy who's already lining up suitcases in the hallway of his mind, getting ready to leave us and set off on his own. Stresses of a younger one who is trying to figure out who he is, yearning to feel understood and respected. Stresses of life with a forty something mother, wandering and searching, and a forty something father, working so hard, focused on his family.

You may be well acquainted with this section of road we're traveling. You may be struggling with much steeper roads, staggering, treacherous ones, or catching your breath in a smooth spot. We all go through rough patches and deal with stress in different ways. We may try to control things or cocoon, we might bicker or get quiet, we might worry or pretend that life isn't fragile at all, that thinking about it and talking about it is silly, a waste of time.

What we really need is pie.
Okay, so pie can't solve everything, but it can't hurt, right?
(Unless you're diabetic. If so, disregard this post. :)

So, back to the pie baking.
After the apples were sliced and tossed with sugar and flour and cinnamon, it was time for the crust. I rolled it into a ragged round and lifting it gingerly into the pie pan, filled it with apples and the syrup they made, added lumps of butter, and blanketed the top crust over, sealing the crusts together like my grandma used to do, pinching around a thumb, making a circle of V's. A few slits in the top crust to let out the steam, and it was time for the oven.

Forty five minutes later, the house smelled like heaven.
Boys suddenly appeared and stood around, waiting.
My husband got up from his seat at the computer, and we talked and took out plates and forks and found the ice cream scoop. I tortured them all by announcing that the pie needed five minutes to set before we sliced it, but three minutes in I couldn't take it anymore.
We sliced the pie and passed the plates around, and as we sat there chewing and oohing and ahhing, it felt like a holy moment. It was a holy moment.
Take, eat.
Laugh, enjoy.
Yes, life is all about messy loose ends and aftershocks, wandering and moving on, and sometimes saying goodbye.
But life is also about eating pie at the table. Sharing a baked prayer, topped with a slab of vanilla ice cream. Savoring every tart-sweet morsel. And maybe having seconds!

So I'm curious. How do you serve up prayers for your family? What concrete things do you do that sometimes create those holy moments? I'd love to hear about it!

Have a wonder-full Friday, y'all, and a super weekend. I wish you much pie and the time to enjoy it with those you love most!

Love, Becky

Photo courtesy of edwardkimuk, through creative commons.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pictures of Grace

What does grace look like?
Today I'm joining Emily Freeman over at Chatting at the Sky in sort of a blog party of grace. She's asked us to share a photograph of what grace means to us. It sounded like a fun challenge, so I started flipping through our photos, thinking. What picture would show God's generosity, his free gullywasher of love to every one of us, no matter who we are or what we've done? Even though we haven't earned it and couldn't if we tried?
Of course I couldn't settle on one.

I like the chick in Sam's hand above, because I see myself in that little fellow. Not sure where I'm going, vulnerable to the world, but curious and ready to explore. God holds me in his hands, no matter who I am or what I've done. God's hands are steady and loving, ready to release me if I want to walk away, to embrace me if I want to snuggle in, always available, offering me rest, calm, and encouragement.

Photo 2:

I see God's grace in the framed piece of art created by a member of Triune Mercy Center in its art room, a place where the homeless and the suffering can sit at a table and create whatever God puts in their hearts and heads and paint brushes. I see a savior in the painting, a powerful agent of light, speaking to the artist, offering himself to the painter, no matter what his circumstances, no matter how low he's fallen. His wings show he's ready to fly, swooping the painter up out of his depths, onto safer ground.

Photo 3:

I love this photo of downtown Clermont Ferrand, where we used to live.
Let's focus on the bas-relief carved in the wall of the apartment on the corner.
Here's a closer look.

The scene is opposite the cathedral, and as you can see, it depicts Christ washing the feet of the disciples. It's an incredible, almost unbelievable picture of grace to me, and I think how uncomfortable I would have been, waiting in line. To me, this is grace in its purest form. Christ himself, bending before us, washing our dirty parts with his own hands.
We are so loved. So lucky!

What speaks grace to you?
Hop over to Emily's place and join the party!

Have a wonder-full Wednesday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Sounds of Change

If you've been reading here long, you know there's a river near my house.
I try my best to take our dog on a walk there every day, to exercise this body that mostly sits at a desk, and to keep Tanner the Slobber Dog too tired to fish out the aluminum foil and yogurt cups out of the kitchen trash and gnaw them down like a goat.

We walked again yesterday afternoon, and in the stillness I couldn't get over the percussion of autumn sounds.
The clicks and chatter of the squirrels,
the pings of acorns against the ground, the thumps of hickory nuts on moss,
the leaves dropping, skittering across the path.
(I see why they call it Fall.)

The walking path follows the river. There are moments when you can't see the water on account of the brush or the rhododendron, but you can always hear it gurgling, rushing, and splashing.
Even the parts that seem absolutely still are moving, changing, polishing the pebbles underneath, brushing the algae on the rock, moving along the fallen leaves and twigs.

As I walked yesterday, I think I discovered a new reason why autumn is my favorite season. (Besides the flashy red and orange and yellow trees and the refreshing coolness after the oppressive summer heat.)
I think I'm partly in love with Fall because it celebrates change, party style.
The crows call it out from tree to tree, the oaks throw acorns like confetti.
The maples turn red and shake their leaves around, while the wind does the wave through the woods.
They say the only thing constant in life is change. Fall seems to have fun with that.

Maybe the orchestra of change outside my window helps me notice the sounds of change inside my house too.
A boy who once cried before school performances (once because the music teacher made all the turkeys in the Thanksgiving program "shake their bahonkas" while they sang) now asks to try out for a part in the youth musical.
A girl who never cared about cooking now calls me for recipes to try out in her college apartment.
A boy who used to sit blankly through church now talks about the message and tells me what he thinks.

Change can be beautiful music.
Now, if I could just get Tanner to stop growling and barking at the skeleton on my porch!

What are your favorite sounds of Fall? Do you hear the sounds of change at your house?

Have a wonder-full Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just Call Me Alice

For the last three days I've been a cleaning machine.
I've dusted ceiling fans and scrubbed baseboards, I've moved furniture and fixed wobbly table legs, I've vacuumed carpets and mopped hardwood floors. I've laundered slipcovers and tried my best to rid my world of dog hairs and dust bunnies.
Somebody better hide Tanner the Slobber Dog or I might vacuum him too.

So why the white tornado of cleanliness?
You've got me.
In about eight hours, sixty some teenagers will descend upon my house for a pasta dinner, to get their bodies pumped up for tomorrow's race, but I'm pretty certain that nobody will notice my grime-free piano keys (seriously, how do piano keys get dirty?) or that for this very moment in time, I'm completely caught up on laundry. (In case you're wondering, that sound you hear is the chorus of angels.)
But I'll hug those kids anyway.
Their visit gave me just the gift I needed: a reason to tidy up a bit. The chance to get carried away.

As I was scrubbing tubs and erasing smudges, my brain took a few days off. I worked out my stress of my son's doctor visits of the last few months, the crumpled, upside down car of last week, the questions of where I'm going, what God may have for me.
I took it out on the dirt and it felt good.

I noticed filth I'd never noticed before. I know I'm no neatnik, but really?
The house was that dirty?
I'd been staring at it every day and never saw it.
The shock made me look a little harder at the other corners of my house. At the corners of my mind.

You can get so used to looking at something you just don't see it anymore.
As I cleaned, a song from my college years kept coming to mind. It was "Create in me a clean heart oh God..." It was John Michael Talbot's version, probably because there I was, monk-like, on the floor, scrubbing.

The song prompted me to look up Psalm 51. I'm just crazy about how The Message words it:

Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean,
scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don't look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don't throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!

Don't you love that? I do.
Okay, God. I'm standing tall, arms outstretched.
Breathe your breath on me. I'm ready to sail!

Does a clean-fest work wonders for you? What do you do that gets you out of your head, to work out your stress?

Much love to you!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cartoon or Caricature?

Sam went to the state fair on a mission.
No, he wasn't searching for The Famous Cheeseburger Between Two Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (which curiously disgusts me and makes my mouth water at the same time.)
He wanted to have his caricature done.

I was a little hesitant.
"Are you sure you want a caricature?"
He nodded.
"Do you know what a caricature is, exactly?"
"Duh Mom. I'm almost 12. Of course I know what a caricature is. It's kind of like a cartoon but they exaggerate all your weird features and it still looks like you."
"Okey doke then. If that's what you want."

Personally, I've never desired to see an artist make my nose bigger than actual size or my eyes droopier or wrinkles deeper. Even if the girl does look like me!

He found a great artist to do the sketch and had a blast with the whole experience.
First question the guy asked?
"Cartoon or Caricature?"
There was a choice?
Yep. Mr. Rasheed could draw a straight caricature, or he could pose him with Sponge Bob. Or Scooby Doo or Superman.
Sam picked Cartoon. Duh!
"Can you put me with Chuck Norris?" he asked. Mr. Rasheed laughed and thought a little.
"Sure. I've got a funny idea."

As I stood there, watching the artist do his magic, I flipped through his sample book of work. His cartoons were amazing, as is his website, here.

I can see why people prefer cartoons to caricatures. Who really wants to see their chins or noses ballooned up so big?
The whole experience got me thinking about caricatures. It made me wonder if I don't sometimes make others into caricatures of themselves.

I was a caricature expert as a little girl, dividing people into good or bad, based on my exaggerations of their features. I even had a checklist. Did you?

Drink or smoke? Bad.
Cuss? Bad.
Steal gum from the store or cheat on a test? Bad. Very bad.
Say "yes ma'am"? Good.
Please and thank you? Good.
Nice to teachers? Good.

But then there were problems. My granddad smoked a cigar in the truck on the way to the lake to fish. I had aunts and uncles that smoked cigarettes and drank a little. They weren't bad people.
I knew kids who said yes ma'am and were nice to your face, but said mean things when you walked away.

It's interesting to me now what I put on my list. All those easy black and white rules, that weren't so black and white in flesh and blood.

I wonder now if I don't still make caricatures sometimes. Draw loaded pictures of people in my mind and discount them, judge them, instead of looking at the whole picture.
I'm afraid our culture does this all the time, especially when it comes to people we disagree with politically. We exaggerate some characteristics and oversimplify others. We try to make things black and white, because gray is so hard to manage.
Why do we classify anyway?

I'm lucky God doesn't see me as a caricature. I'm thankful God sees the whole picture, the good and the bad, all mixed together, and loves me anyway.

Cartoon or caricature?
Cartoon, please!

Just for fun, and because I'm weary of heavy thinking after the accident in our family, (Thanks again, by the way, my dear friends, for your words on Monday,) lets have a little fun.
Which cartoon character-or larger than life person-would you pick to pose with in your cartoon?

Here's Sam's finished product. Excuse the sweaty head. I made him pose after his baseball game last night.

I'll get us started. I pick...King Julian! I love that guy!

Have a wonder-full Wednesday, y'all!
Much love, Becky

Monday, October 18, 2010

Caramel Apples and Tissue Paper Life

I stood in the midway at the North Carolina State Fair, head spinning.
Was it the Tilt-a-Whirl that had my stomach churning, whipping me and Sam in blurry loops and twirls as we steeled ourselves against each other, laughing and screaming at the same time?

Or it might have been something else. Leftover terror and panic and joy spun up together, still reverberating, vibrating in the core of my heart, 2 1/2 days later.

Just Wednesday night I was driving through the dark on a road I've never traveled before, searching for the car that backed out of my driveway just a few hours earlier.
I was chatting with my neighbor when he pulled out onto the street.
I'd mouthed, "Love you."
"You too," Ben nodded and waved goodbye.

Then a few hours later, Sarah sat beside me in the passenger seat as I drove, squinting through the darkness for a glint of his white car.
"Should I call Daddy?"
No, It was almost 3 AM in France. He couldn't do anything from his hotel room except stew and worry. Ben had made it clear on a stranger's phone that he and Ellison made it out okay. Might as well let Todd sleep until it's over.

"Is that it?" I say, scanning the edge of a farmer's field.
"No," she said. "I don't think that's a car."
It wasn't. It was white paint on a cinder block shed.
My brain conjured up the screeching, the explosion as the roof hit the asphalt, the crunching, glass breaking.
I searched the darkness, praying.

Then we saw it, first only the policeman's blue light in the distance.
There was the car, upside down on the road, shattered glass around it, blue glitter as the police light turned. The two figures standing by the guardrail in the darkness.
Two beautiful figures.

Thank you, God.
They crawled out. They were fine.
Thank you, God.

It's so strange how life happens.
One day, everything is ordinary. I'm doing laundry, making banana pudding.
Sarah comes home for fall break. We pack for the trip to Raleigh. Ben is going to stay home and work on college applications, and I'm giving a talk at the beloved church of my childhood. Everything is ordinary.

The title of my talk comes to mind and I have to laugh a little.
Bumping into Jesus: Surprise Encounters with the God of Wonders
It was about meeting God through the least of these, children and the poor, the homeless and the sick. But Bumping into Jesus? Not yet, God! Lets keep the boy's feet on the earth right now.
Let's put my 18 year old son in a little box on my coffee table. Keep him safe. Open the lid now and then and say hello.

One day, everything is normal. And then the next, my child and his sweet girlfriend crawl out of his upside down car, on a highway in the middle of nowhere.

Life feels tissue paper thin.

Someone tells me how lucky we are and I say yes, yes, yes.
Someone tells me God saved him, and I say yes, thank you, God. But then I think of Gordon.

Gordon had beautiful olive skin and dark hair. I was his babysitter when he was small. He and his little brother liked to play spaceship. We'd take off our shoes and stand in the shower stall for take off. He'd do the countdown and we'd take off!
By my senior year in high school he was in 6th grade, and I remember how much he loved to make kids in the youth group laugh. I went to college, got married, and moved away, but one day my mom called me about Gordon. He was killed in an accident his freshman year at UNC. Time stopped for his family. Their foursome became three.

God didn't save Gordon.
Did God really save Ben? I don't know. My inclination today is no.

I have a hard time believing in a God who decides to save one and not another.
But I do believe in God, with everything I have.
My God surrounds us with his love, helps us hobble through this life, helps us run through it, dance through it. Helps us puzzle our way through the mystery of it all.
I don't have to understand everything, but I'm grateful. So very grateful.

I stand in the midway, and I see my feet on the asphalt. Sarah's feet, Sam's, my mom's and my dad's. I'm thankful for Ben's feet on the ground back home, and Ellison's feet on the ground where she is, and my husband's feet in Paris.

I smell the polish sausage and the deep fried twinkies, and I hear the barker guess the age of the teenage girl clutching the giant pink elephant, and I feel like quite the lucky lady.
I'm loved and in love.

I send much love to you!

Photo by grrrrl, creative commons

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I look good!

"Dang," said the boy, looking into the side mirror on the way home from school. "I have the most awesome hair color."
The mom nodded.
The boy kept looking at his reflection.
"When the light gleams on it, my goodness. I just look good."
"Your hair is nice."
"And my dimples. My cheeks look just like...what's the food Dad likes to eat? You know, in the back yard?"
"No, on that tree thing."
"On a tree? Hmm. Figs?"
Yeah, my cheeks are just like figs."
The mom smiled at her boy and tried to act normal.
But the truth was that he had blown her away!

I don't know about you, but in my forty some years, I've hardly ever say things like that.
I can make you a list a mile long about things I wish were different about my appearance--
I wish my lips didn't disappear when I smile.
I wish my eyes weren't so round.
I wish I would lose ten pounds.
Et cetera. Et cetera.

I rarely smile in the mirror and say, "Dang! I look good!"

But why not?
My friend Alison wrote a post recently about how she always looks back at old photos she once hated, and thinks, "Wow, what was I complaining about?"
I do the same thing!
Why can't we do a better job seeing the beauty that's right there NOW?

So today, I'm doing a daring thing. And I'm daring you to do the same.
Tell me what you like when you look in the mirror. Just one little thing. I know you can do it!
I know in my head, at least, if not in my heart, I'm a beautiful creature of God. Let's find it. Celebrate it!

I'll hold my breath and start us out. Ready?

I like my dimples, even though as a child I used to blow up my cheeks like a pufferfish to make them go away. I like them now. Dang, they look good!

Okay. Now it's your turn!

Have a wonder-full Wednesday, y'all!

Love, Becky

Photo by quinn.anya, creative commons

Monday, October 11, 2010

Running Away to Home

God was making an appearance and they didn't want to miss it.
The mountains rushed in waves, rolling their shoulders against each other,
throwing themselves into the arms of God.

Me too! I want to see God!
And I did. All around me.

Whenever I'm wandering, my feet beg to find their place on a mountain path.
My hands plead to turn off the light, to shut the door on a house full of laundry and dishes, to leave sentences dangling on the computer screen, the phone ringing in the kitchen.
Let's run away.

We go to the mountains and they welcome us.

We've been waiting for you.
Growing, dying, blooming, decaying,
while you spin,

do your human things.

We breathe God's breath. He pulses through our veins, sings to the earth through the water trickling on rock, whispers to us in the brush of leaves against leaves, fluttering by the wind.

We start our hike, and all thoughts of doing and earning and accomplishing somehow dissolve into the mountain air.

On the path, there is only listening. The crunch of the underbrush as we walk, the break of twigs as squirrels jump from tree to tree, the faint gurgling of water in the creek bed down below us.

There is only smelling. The decay, the leaves fallen years before, now broken into soil. The pines. The rhododendron.

There is only seeing.
The trees, stretching into the sky, reminding me of my smallness

and God's greatness.

We walk, and it strikes me.
The beauty in all the messiness.

The tangled vines. The fallen leaves, the moss, softening our footsteps.
The stumps decaying, the beetles crawling,
the life thriving in all the brokenness.

The path reminds me of what I left behind.
The way the light grows dim at times.
The way my feet lead me into uncertain places.

I must keep walking.

Sometimes you can barely see the light.
But it's there.

And if I can let my eyes adjust,
brace myself against the urge to bolt,
if I can breathe and take a look around,
I see the beauty blooming in the darkness, out of the layers of what came before and was broken.
It's right there at my feet!

I can spend a moment looking, listening.
And when the time is right, I can listen for the water.
I let God's creeksong guide me out of the darkness.

And I'm filled with gratitude.
So much can come from brokenness. From wandering.
I'm so thankful!

I see the water over rock, and I'm reminded of the stone at Horeb.
Remember the story?
God's people were so thirsty, and there was nothing to drink.
"At least when we were in slavery," they cried, "we had water! We would not die of thirst!"
God told Moses to strike the rock, and the water burst forth.
Water, out of a broken stone!

I tell the story and I remember Another One, a Rock, broken to offer living water to all.
Wash me in it, God! Soak me!

Where do you go when you need to hear God's voice? Is there a special place that makes it easier for you to get in touch with the Holy One?

I hope that you have a wonder-full Monday, y'all!
Much love to you! Becky

Last photo by Just Us 3, creative commons

PS. I happened upon this commercial recently and it spoke to me--in a weird way! It reminds me of how crazy it is when we think we have to do everything ourselves. It reminds me Who holds the real power. It's so creative! Enjoy.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Weary of Wandering

Is it possible to feel homesick in your very own living room?
Lately it's been that way for me.
I've been doing my own wandering through the desert, looking for life-work that feels like home to me. Listening for God's voice to guide me.

I've been writing full time for several years now, and I want to write forever. I want to write about encountering God through the poor and through children, through the hungry and the forgotten, through the least of these. I want to write about motherhood and the poisonous way we compare ourselves to each other, the way we measure ourselves by an American culture bent on busyness and gathering stuff.
Writing makes me happy. It brings me to God's side.

But in the last few months, my heart has nudged me to search for more. To look beyond my computer screen, to the opportunity outside my window.
Even as I write, I need face to face work, something that will energize my soul and be yeast to my heart. I need to find that place my hero Frederick Buechner describes, "where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet."
I've put feelers out. I've told people I'm looking. I've wandered and searched. Where is God's answer?

In my fourth grade Sunday class at church, we've been telling the Old Testament stories.
We talk about Moses and his people wandering through the desert, listening for God to lead them to a home they've never known, a place God meant for them.

To tell you the truth, as I sit in our story circle and move the wooden figures through our sandbox desert, the people seem pretty whiney to me. Why did they moan and groan so much? Couldn't they remember that God took them out of slavery? Couldn't they keep their eyes on the future, on God's great promise to them?
But now I see me amongst the haggard group. I'd be the one complaining about my sore feet. Just a few months in, I'd be pointing to the villages on the horizon, saying "Look at them. They've got a home. What about us?"

I'm not a good wanderer. It's only been a few months, and I already get jealous of others. At times I feel invisible, ignored, left out. Sometimes the homesickness leaks out in tears. What have you got for me, God?
Sometimes I think I should just hang it up. Go back to the way things were long ago, when I thought more about finding something to use my degrees, rather than finding The Thing. I had a paycheck then. A job I could talk about.

But then I think of God's people, who did find home in the end.
I hang onto the liturgy of my life, the rituals that keep me going and feed me.
I write about God's presence. I take care of my family. I teach my Sunday school class and do my volunteering. I talk with my friends. I walk. I go to church and I search and I wait.

And I reread the passages of the wandering. God was with them, even as they wandered and fussed. He camped out beside them, and as they moved, He led the way.
I know God is with me too. I just hope it won't take forty years!

Have you ever wandered through your own desert, looking for home?
I'd love to hear about it.

Have a great weekend, y'all!
Love, Becky

Photo by iko, creative commons
PS. If you're wandering too, here's a psalm that helps me.
I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn't slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God.

Blessed are you who give yourselves over to
God, turn your backs on the world's "sure thing," ignore what the world worships; The world's a huge stockpile of God-wonders and God-thoughts. Nothing and no one comes close to you! I start talking about you, telling what I know, and quickly run out of words. Neither numbers nor words account for you.

Doing something for you, bringing something to you—
that's not what you're after. Being religious, acting pious— that's not what you're asking for. You've opened my ears so I can listen.

So I answered, "I'm coming.
I read in your letter what you wrote about me, And I'm coming to the party you're throwing for me." That's when God's Word entered my life, became part of my very being.

I've preached you to the whole congregation,
I've kept back nothing, God—you know that. I didn't keep the news of your ways a secret, didn't keep it to myself. I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough. I didn't hold back pieces of love and truth For myself alone. I told it all, let the congregation know the whole story.

God, don't hold out on me, don't hold back your passion. Your love and truth are all that keeps me together. When troubles ganged up on me, a mob of sins past counting, I was so swamped by guilt I couldn't see my way clear. More guilt in my heart than hair on my head, so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out.

... But all who are hunting for you— oh, let them sing and be happy. Let those who know what you're all about tell the world you're great and not quitting. And me? I'm a mess. I'm nothing and have nothing: make something of me. You can do it; you've got what it takes— but God, don't put it off.
Psalm 40: 1-12, 16-17, The Message

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Caching in on a Great Time!

Want to go on a treasure hunt?
We went on our very first one on Saturday and had a great time. What's not to enjoy? You get fresh air, a walk in the sun, and a prize at the end. Perfect!
Have you heard of geocaching?
All you need is a GPS, the coordinates of a treasure from a free membership at, and time to go hunting.
There are millions of treasures hidden all over the world, probably a few in your very own neighborhood. When we entered our zipcode at the geocaching site, a half dozen caches popped up within a couple of miles of our house!
The first one was near Tanner's home away from home, within walking distance of our neighborhood.

It took us a little while to get the hang of walking out the directions, but we soon found our way to the center of the coordinates. The tricky part is to find the cache. Even when you're smack on top of the invisible X that marks the spot, sometimes it's hard to see.

Who would've expected to find it in an old newspaper stand? But there it was!

There's a log book to sign...

And a prize! Woo hoo! We've got a choice: Happy meal toys, a video, or an old lawn sprinkler head!

If you take one, you leave one. We left a key chain from Discovery Place in Charlotte.

It was so much fun that we went on another hunt after school on Monday.
The cache was titled Too Many Signs, and the coordinates led us to a parking lot. Now, where were too many signs?
This looked likely.

But where was the cache?
We looked behind the signs and around the pole...

Eew. NOT under the dirty Kleenex.


Could this be it?

It is!

Now that's a tiny log book!

As it so often is, the journey was the best part.
You bump into other treasures along the way.
Things like nail studded seed pods,

A hillside transformed by kudzu into an army of ghosts,

flowers in a weed patch,

freckled mushrooms,

silver and rust stripes in sandstone,

first signs of fall on the pavement,

and an owl face hooting from a tree.

All this hunting reminds me again why I love writing this blog and hanging out with you guys so very much. As we frisk our lives for the presence of God, we find it! And not only that, we bump into all sorts of treasures along the way.
I count you amongst my cache of treasures!

Have a wonder-full day, y'all!
Love, Becky

PS. Enjoy this clip about geocaching from the movie Splinterheads.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Snug As a Bug in a Rug

This snugly baby looks just like our first child, Katie.
She could also be me in the bed at 6 AM this morning, that is, if I had a cat face and whiskers and Tanner the Slobber Dog pinning down my legs.

It turned deliciously cold last night and I woke this morning under piles of quilts and a dog, only my face exposed to the chill.
I so love fall. Don't you?
I love the chance to wrap myself in a patchwork cocoon, feel the weight of the layers over me, my legs and arms completely relaxed, as if I were a swaddled babe.

If you have kids, did you swaddle them?
I didn't do it that much with Ben and Sarah, but by the time Sam came along, swaddling was a big deal.
"It's good to make it tight," they told me in the hospital. Since tummy sleeping had been banned by Those Who Know, we were putting him down on his back. The startle reflex was freaking the little guy out, as well as his parents. We remembered how swaddling kept Sarah and Ben from startling, and the doctor was all for it. "Why not give him a fourth trimester?" my doctor said. "Make him feel that security of the womb he left."
So we swaddled.
As I wrapped Baby Sam tight in his blanket, I looked at his sweet nine pounds, fifteen ounces self, and all that emotion and post pregnancy hormones overflowed into tears. I'd swaddled him in a blanket, yes, but also in my love, my hopes and gratitude for his little life.
Baby Sam was happy, we were happy, and he slept. Hurray for swaddling!

We can't go through life swaddled up tight, wiggling around like an inchworm, wrapped in our covers, but it's a nice way to start out, don't you think?

I remember the swaddling, the tears and the deep rivers of emotion--of hope and thankfulness--and I think of our God who wraps us in his love.
Have you ever felt absolutely swaddled in it?

I can think of a few times. When babies are born.
When family gathers.
In bed on a chilly Saturday morning, knowing all my chicks are back in the nest, hearing them laugh with each other, smelling the coffee from the kitchen.
When a child says something that touches me, time stops, and my gratitude to God overwhelms me.
At moments of true worship.

I might wish I could go through my life feeling the joy, the security of God's womb, but I know that to grow into the mature Christian I'm meant to be, I need my arms and hands and feet unbound.
I need to be free to express who God made me to be through my work.
I need to be free to swaddle others or hold hands or just make dinner for a hungry family.

When have you felt swaddled by God? I'd love to hear about it!

Have a wonder-full Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Cat photo by jek in the box, creative commons
Swaddled babe photo by Sean Dreilinger, creative commons

Friday, October 1, 2010

Celebrating Story

Maybe it's a sign that I'm getting older, but lately I can't get enough of Antiques Roadshow.
It's the stories that get to me.
"My father bought the necklace for my mother back when they didn't have two cents to their name. He found it at a second hand shop and told the cashier it would show off my mother's green eyes. When he reached in his pocket and discovered he didn't have the eight dollars the lady wanted for it, she patted his hand and whispered just to take it anyway. Years later, Mother used to wear it when they went out to dinner--or whenever they'd make up, after an argument."

Or even stories like...
"The painting terrified me as a child. My aunt hung it on her stairway, and I can't tell you how many times I fell down the stairs, trying to manage those steep steps with my eyes closed!"

The stories give meaning to the objects and pump them full of life.
Some time back, I heard a news story on NPR about a thrift shop that broadcast the stories of their merchandise over the loudspeaker as people shopped. When folks brought donations in, they were invited to tape what the objects had meant to them. "This used to be my favorite shirt--I'd wear it all the time. But I was wearing it last week when my girlfriend broke up with me, and I can't hardly stand to look at it now. Still, it's pretty great shirt. Somebody ought to wear it."
According to the reporter, sales were up!

People love stories.
My kids sure do. They get such a kick out of hearing what they were like when they were little.
How my Sarah went to a preschool where all the little girls wore cute little outfits and big bows in their hair, but she INSISTED on wearing her neon orange toboggan, her "camping hat," pulled down over her forehead, like an eraser on a very short pencil.

We tell how Ben, my runner, was the only child of mine who didn't have to be coaxed out of the womb. How at 11:30pm one night, I had a curious desire to stand on the bed and clean the ceiling fan and three hours later, I was in the hospital bed, listening to the nurse tell me I couldn't push yet, that the doctor wasn't there. From day one, he's been running. The child doesn't know how to walk through anything.

And we tell Sam "My do it" stories. How he'd pull up a chair to the VCR and push the button, saying "Me rewindy." The way he loved to pull up a chair by the stove and help his daddy mix the crepe batter, singing "The one who helps dad make the crepes get the first crepe. And the other ones don't and that's too bad."

Stories like these are fun to tell, but they're also interesting tools. It fascinates me that traces of the people my children have grown to be were there from the very beginning. The stories show me what they're becoming. When we celebrate the stories, we realize again how precious we are to each other.

In the last couple of years, I've spent a lot of my private writing time tracing my own faith story, trying to discover how God has moved through the story arc of my life.
Have you spent much time doing this? Examining your life, your own time line, for clues of God's presence and involvement?
It hasn't been an easy process. It's not something that happens accidentally, at least not for me. I've had to devote time to it, and I'm constantly shepherding my brain away from the tangents of normal life. But I can't recommend it enough. It's helped me grow closer to God, it's helped me understand myself, and it's helped me see where God may be leading me as my time line continues.

Have you ever read Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation?
It's a beautiful book. I love how he describes the stillness required to examine our own soul stories.

"The soul is like a wild animal--tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek."

It's a rewarding hunt!

Have a happy weekend, y'all!
Before you go, I'd love to hear about the power of story in your own life. What do stories do for you? For your kids?
Have you spent much time reflecting on your faith story? Is it easy or hard for you?
Any Antique Roadshow groupies out there?

Love, Becky

Photo by JetSetJim