Torn Apart, Water Flows

I’m volunteering in my daughter’s classroom today. 

Surrounded by flowers, magnifying glasses, and scissors, I’m told I should let the children observe, draw, and then tear the flowers apart for scientific purposes. 

“There’s juice in here!” One boy cries and squeezes out the insides of the flower’s stem.   “There’s lots of juice in here, but it smells like asparagus.”  He passes the stem around to let the others share in his discovery. 

“Did you know,” another boy claims, “that if you cut a cactus in half, you could drink all the juice inside and live for days in the desert? Did you know that?” 

“I’m so relieved!” I say.  “We wouldn’t die out there.  We’d find a cactus and slurp all the juice.” 

“We’d be OK,” the children say, comforted by the thought of it.

We would.  I look at flowers and stems cut to pieces around me.  At that point of destruction, water flows.  We keep tearing, and I think, “Even in the desert, we’d survive.”

We’re all nodding together as water seeps onto our magnifying glasses, our fingers, and even our desks. 

We will survive.  No matter what the drought, we will.  Torn apart, water flows. 

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Penn State needs continued prayer.  Thank you. 

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There’s a Child In There

My daughters help rake the leaves into huge piles on the lawn.  They use the tree swing to launch up and across the yard, releasing themselves like summer swimmers into a lake of golden water.

If you want to experience the season, burrow into the leaves with the children.  

They hide deep within the piles, and even though it’s decades later, I still recall the burnt spiced smell of leaf piles.  I feel their scratch and crinkle on my face.

A Child Hides in the Leaf Pile

I see the afternoon sun filtered through a million brown leaves.  I hear that particular muffled silence that changes the whole world for a moment.  I taste the leaves’ earthen powder on my lips. 

My daughter surfaces, smiling. 

She’s in there.

Living with flair means we burrow deep, experiencing it. 

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Do you have leaf pile memories?

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First Grade, iPads, and the New Language of Six-Year-Olds

We’re driving across town, and my six-year-old and I have the following conversation:

“Mom, I uploaded two new apps to the iPad they gave me in computer time today.”

 (Note: I don’t have an iPad.  I don’t even have a phone that connects to the internet.)

“Really?  What apps?” 

“Well, one is for learning words, and the other is a game you play with another person. And the other person is really a computer program!”

“That sounds fun,” I say, but I’m still wondering why my daughter uses an iPad and I don’t.  She’s uploading apps, and I’m not sure I would know how. 

I remember my first grade year.  This language of apps and uploading didn’t exist in my vocabulary.  Many words my six-year-old knows didn’t exist when I was a first grader:  Google, Facebook, MP3’s, DVR’s, DVD’s, Internet, and even words like microwave and cell phones never came out of my mouth.  In fact, we didn’t have a home computer until after I was in college.  Even more shocking is that I dated my husband without the use of cell phones or texting.  We didn’t own mobile phones back then.

My college students always ask me how that worked.  “How did you find each other during the day?  How did anybody know where you were?”  They stare at me, mouths agape, breathing rapidly in terror as they imagine a world without texting.  

“Well, a person might leave a message on an answering machine on a ground line phone or write a note with an actual pencil and post it to the dorm room door.”

It’s inconceivable to them.

I wonder–in forty years–what someone might ask my daughter about life in 2011.  You used iPads?  How old-fashioned!  How did you ever manage?

What words will a future generation speak that have not yet come into existence? 

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Journal:  Does it shock you that first-graders use iPads and upload apps as part of a school day?

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“The Higher You Go, The More Sap There Is”

My daughter climbs high into the pine trees and returns to me covered in tree sap.  It’s everywhere:  hands, feet (she climbs barefoot!), arms, and all over her new white shorts.  They’re ruined. 

The next day, she climbs again.  More sap.  More ruinous results.  What can I do?  Do I ban tree climbing?  I imagine her high within those limbs, smelling the sweet pine oil, and enjoying the wind on her face.  Once, I climbed so high into a pine tree that I could see the top of my own house.  Something about that vantage point gave me confidence as a little girl.  Marked by sap, I returned to the earth happier. 

That horrible sap!  But I know this:  Just because there’s sap doesn’t mean she shouldn’t climb.  And the higher you want to go, she tells me, the more sap there is.  Perhaps every truly great pleasure brings its own form of darkness–its own trouble and cost–and we learn to account for it and manage it.  We learn to battle it because the higher we go, the more trouble comes.  I find this true spiritually and emotionally especially.  The more we embrace God, the more the enemy pursues.  The more we love, the more we risk.  

But we’re ready.  We are willing because the vantage point we gain delivers a certain joy.  What’s a little sap in light of this joy? 

Besides, we discover that Pine Sol cleaner really does remove tree sap from white shorts.  

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Journal:  Have you found that the higher you go, the more sap (trouble!) you experience? 

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Why We Need a “Yes!” Day

It’s only 7:30 PM, and I’m falling asleep.  My oldest daughter climbs up beside me on the bed and says, “Mom, you really need a Yes! day.  That’s what you need!  Remember the Yes! day?”

Oh, I remember.

A few years ago, I felt like every word out of my mouth was, “No.”  I’d scream that word about everything.  No she couldn’t eat this, touch that, go there.  No she couldn’t stay up late, sleep out in a tent, climb that tree, bake that thing, or visit that place.

I saw her little shoulders slump down further and further with every “No!”

So one day, I told her I was changing my ways.  We were going to try out a Yes! day.  For one entire day, I would say Yes! to every single thing she asked.   

It was a very long and very strange day.

It involved brownies for breakfast, glitter, playgrounds, visiting neighborhood dogs, eating pizza, and watching movies.  It involved baking, bubble baths, lip gloss, and dancing. It involved Polly Pockets somehow.  I can’t remember each event, but I remember I learned to say, “Yes!”

“Why do I need a Yes! day?”  I ask her, rubbing my eyes and yawning.

“You need a break.  You need to say Yes! to yourself.”

(insert long pause as a mother sits up, tilts her head, and considers the wisdom of a child)

She’s nodding with the words of an ancient soul.  “You need to wake up and say Yes! to the stuff you want.  You know, the things you love.  Maybe just for a day, you could say Yes! to all the things you love and want.”  She furrows her eyebrows very seriously.  “Like coffee.  You could get the best coffee tomorrow.”   

I want to cry.  Moms forget to say Yes! to themselves.

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Journal:  What am I saying Yes! to today?

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Seaweed and My Back-to-School Plan

I’m learning that children eat anything if you wrap it in seaweed.

I make a pot of rice and then mix in some rice vinegar. 

I spread the sticky rice over the seaweed, and then I arrange some cream cheese, scrambled eggs, and spinach on top.

I roll it up.

I slice and serve it.

The sushi disappears.

Who knew that my daughters and their friends would eat whatever I roll into the rice and seaweed?  I experiment with fish, nectarines, various vegetables, and even more cream cheese.  Gone

I’m packing sushi for lunch when school starts with lots and lots of spinach.  Living with flair means you wrap things in seaweed sometimes because children (and adults) love novelty and food art.

Maybe we can endure anything if we just clothe it and present it correctly. 

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Journal:  What can you arrange in a different way to make more appealing?

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Someone is Looking for You

Last night, my youngest asks me to tell her stories of when I was a little girl. 

“What kind of stories?” I ask.

“The ones when you get lost and someone has to find you,” she says.   

I’ve never told her a story like this.  But that’s the story she wants to hear:  a little girl lost and then found.  

Sometimes I think we can tap into the one great True Narrative just by asking children the kinds of stories they want to hear.  The story I tell her is the greatest story I know.  A girl was lost–desperately and hopelessly so–but a great God was looking for her and wouldn’t let her go.  He searched long and far and wide.  And he left clues and messages and little gifts along the trail to remind her of the way home. 

I was lost but Someone was looking for me. 

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Journal:  Children love stories of lost and found, and they love hide-n-seek.  What other stories do children love that reflect the great story of God seeking after us? 

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What You Monitor

Today my youngest cries out, “Mom, please tell me that you have not written your blog for today!”

“I haven’t written my blog for today,” I tell her.  “Why?”

“Well, I found the thing you are supposed to write about!”

“You did?” I ask.

“Yes!  Come with me!  There’s a little twig hanging from our balcony, and I just know it’s a bird’s nest.” 

I go out onto the balcony, and there I see all sorts of tiny bird nests tucked into the gutters, the light posts, and even in the railings.  I hadn’t noticed them before, but now, they were everywhere.  The one by the neighbor’s light post has two blue eggs in it.

“What should I write in the blog?”  I ask her.

“Tell everybody this:  I traveled a very long way to Colorado.  I found a bird’s nest, and now I have things to check on every morning like I did back in Pennsylvania.

I realize how important–how wonderful–it is for children to observe something growing.  A vegetable garden, a bird’s nest, their own bodies. . .

Adults take great delight in monitoring growth, but I think we forget the pleasure in it.  Maybe that’s why I love listening to a professor teach me the book of Romans and help me look back over my own spiritual growth.  Maybe that’s why I blog every single day.  I’m monitoring my own ability to find the one good thing each day, no matter what.  

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Journal:  What growing thing are you monitoring today?

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We Could Hardly Wait for This!

We could hardly wait.

No, it wasn’t anything electronic, expensive, or fashionable.  It wasn’t anything involving travel, tickets, or long lines for amusements.

It was a single red strawberry (our first one) in the strawberry patch.

First Ripe Strawberry

The squeals of laughter!  The bare feet running across the morning grass!  Living with flair has taught me that the whole family can take great delight in the profoundly simple.  This strawberry represents nearly two years of waiting.  Last year, we couldn’t let the plant produce in order to let the roots go deep.  Then, with the help of compost and netting to keep the birds and chipmunks away, we observed those green strawberries growing.

Every single morning we went out to check on the patch.

My youngest daughter just said, “This is the most awesomest day!  I can’t believe I picked a strawberry!”

It was delicious.  All of us had a bite in the kitchen.

Living with flair means simple, patient, ordinary living.  You don’t need any other life. 

And today especially, I’m so thankful for the men and women who fought and died to make these ordinary days possible. 

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Journal:  Tell us all something about your ordinary life.  What beautiful thing happens in your ordinary day?

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You Can’t Touch This

It’s finally warm enough to visit the vernal ponds in the woods behind our house. 

A  Vernal Pond

Last week, I didn’t know what a vernal pond was. 

It’s a temporary pool of water, normally full of rain or melted snow, that lasts through the spring.  What makes a vernal pond so special is the absence of predator fish. 

Without fish, a vernal pond allows all the toads, frogs, turtles, salamanders, and newts to develop and thrive without being devoured.  You can go to the vernal pond, examine all the eggs, spy on tadpoles and baby turtles, and pick up salamanders. 

I learn that in Pennsylvania, nobody knows how many vernal ponds exist or where they are.   These secret ponds evaporate and hide. The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources sends researchers deep into the woods to locate, certify, and protect these wondrous locations.

What child (and her mother) can resist the mission to discover a secret habitat? 

And how can I not relish the symbolism of such a beautiful concept?  Just as the forest depends upon that temporary safe haven that cultivates what cannot develop elsewhere, I might form my own vernal ponds–deep within my soul, secret and safe from predators–where the things of God breed and develop.

This new season of birth and growth in nature reminds me to protect my own inner habitat from things that devour my hope and energy.  And I want to be the kind of wife, mother, and friend that protects the places deep within the heart where others are growing and changing.  I ask myself and others what we need to thrive.  I live with flair by developing habitats where what needs to grow in us can and will.  Untouched by predators, not threatened by what devours, we have a season to thrive. 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons, Werewombat) 

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Journal:  What do I need to do to create a thriving habitat both internally and externally in myself and others? 

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