The Red Flower Of Wisdom

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. –Victor Hugo

NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month), my nemesis, my old friend, has whisked me away to places and spaces unknown yet again. The prompt was supposedly a “simple” one: write a poem about a flower. Having spent yesterday afternoon at the gorgeous Oklahoma City Botanical Gardens, this should have been an easy task. Lucky enough to have my sidekick photographer with me, I had stunning photos for inspiration. My friend Agi graciously printed my favorite, and I asked Little Wonder to paint it for me as I wrote my poem. I thought I would simply throw down a lil red flower ditty as the boy painted.

When the singing began from the back terrace, I was at once both enthralled and enchanted. His joy for living emanates from the core of his being. In that moment, listening to him sing as he painted his red flower, I felt honored to be in the presence of such pure joy.

Thus my simple little red flower poem became an ode to my wise and wonderful Little Wonder. I wouldn’t trade a minute with him for he is slowly teaching me the art of living.  the red flower

a little painter
squints in the sunlight
scrunching up his brow
in concentration
intentionally
choosing brilliant gold,
vibrant red and green–
a kaleidoscope
of tapestried hues.
a lone red flower
rising stark but strong
centers everything.
how does he know the
vibrant story of
red hot life stands strong
as the universe
whirls wildly by?
a tiny prince of
infinite wisdom:
my darling sings and
peace settles.
 (Photo Credit: Tracy Kaye Photography)

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Lost: One Cool, Calm and Collected Mama

We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.  –May Sarton

This post has been sitting in my draft pile for over a year. I don’t know why I hesitated posting it. I think I still have some residual perfectionist church girl in me. 

For so long, I thought it was necessary to make everything seem perfect. I hid the truth of my struggles and flaws not only from my family but from myself as well.  I thought being authentic meant giving the right answers and asking the right questions.

Instead of authenticity, I propetuated the pharisaical culture of facade that is so prevalent in the evangelical church. When I finally realized the lie I was living, I was desperate to pack my bags and move out of the church. 

My plans were neat and tidy (read:picture perfect), but God had other plans. In a messy, hurtful and demeaning way, I was shoved out the door of the evangelical church I had attended for over twenty years. My wounds were deep and oozing, but I maintained a facade of perfection even then. 

When I left,  I didn’t know where I was going, I just knew I didn’t want any part of the suffocating evangelicalism I left behind. 

The first Sunday I stayed home, I felt odd and strangely liberated at the same time. After all, I had gone to church every Sunday as far back as I could remember. Would God even consider me his child if I intentionally stayed home? Well one week became two and the next thing I knew, a few months had passed. Slowly during my churchcation, the wounds in my heart began to heal.

When I was finally ready to attend a church service, I stayed as far away from evangelical churches as I could. I ended up at a lovely Presbyterian church where the atmosphere is less about perfection and more about loving and accepting people just as they are.

So here I am. 

Baring the bones of my soul on a blog, perfectionist church girl be damned.

But it’s ok. I don’t mind. My afterangelical self is ok with this revelation of brokenness because I don’t feel the obsessive need to prove my goodness anymore.  I feel free.(Photo credit: Tracy Kaye Photography)

So sometime in February 2015, this happened…

Last Thursday I lost my cool.

I know I shouldn’t have, but I did.

It wasn’t Ev’s fault; it was mine.

I don’t know why I was so cranky. Well, perhaps there were reasons: the weather was well below freezing, I had school anyway that day, my least favorite class to teach was waiting for me when I got there, and Ev was being particularly obstinate.

For all these reasons my fuse burned short. I snapped at him as he was getting buckled into the car. When my explosion finished, the silence was deafening. Quietly, Ev asked if he could pray.

I simply nodded.

“Dear Lord help me be good today.” Then he looked up at me with those big, blue eyes and added almost in a whisper, “I don’t know what else to pray, mom.”

My heart broke as it melted.

Why couldn’t I have employed some self control? Sigh.

Feeling like a first class creep, I apologized, confessed how wrong I was to be unkind toward him and asked for his forgiveness.

And that’s when it happened.

Ev smiled through the tears pooling at the corners if his eyes and said, “I forgive you, mama. I love you more than to the moon and back a hundred million times.”

Oh Ev.  (Photo credit: Tracy Kaye Photography)

He has no idea how much he is loved and wanted and treasured. I wouldn’t trade a moment with him. Each one is miraculous–filled with important lessons I need to learn.

In spite of the fact that I have been parenting for 26 years, I still really suck at it. A part of me stuck in the past, hates that perfection still eludes me, but I am learning to relish the  failure. For it is when I open myself to  the vulnerability of confessing failure that I truly catch a glimpse of grace–the glorious grace of God which restores me to wholeness, makes up for my imperfection and creates something beautiful out of my brokenness. 

I am (mostly) free now from the demon of trying to be what I’m not, of aiming toward a perfection I can never attain. Mostly.

Authenticity begins with vulnerability, with facing the truth about ourselves and refusing to look away. My heart is filled with gratitude for a God who loves me as I am in my brokenness. I am grateful he doesn’t leave me there, but he makes all things new, even a tired old mom who loses her cool.

Most of all, I’m grateful for my Little Wonder.

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We Are Family


 (Photo credit: Tracy Kaye Photography. Paintings by Syrian refugee children)

Through a God guided set of circumstances and connections, Tracy and I are privileged to be able to interview four Syrian families tomorrow for a video we are putting together. In our discussions about the project, Evan has asked many questions. Always, I try to answer as honestly as I can without going into unnecessary detail. In his own astute way, Little Wonder has absorbed the innuendo and essence of the refugee crisis. 

I know this because during our evening prayers tonight, tears came to his eyes and he looked at me with a sense of urgency and earnestness: “I want to pray the best prayer ever, Mama,” he cried.

Then, with tears streaming down his cheeks he began, “Dear God, I just pray for the Syrians tonight for the families who have had people die and even children die, and God please please please help the good team win over the bad teams who have hurt and killed people. And keep the Syrians safe God. And help them be able to fight back against the bad teams. Amen.”

Up until Evan’s prayer, I had struggled with the writing prompt for NaPoWriMo 2016 today. I was supposed to write a poem that takes the form of a family portrait, and I was searching for what angle and voice to give to the poem. I think in the process of writing, I started and stopped it at least ten times.

After Evan’s prayer I realized why. Evan is so tender hearted and fully embracing of all people. He doesn’t see lines of division. Instead, he sees us as all connected. He sees us as one big family.

The poem wrote itself after that realization. Here it is…

family portait

we are family.

affiliation by consanguinity is only one definition of family.

family is an affinity by kinship however people choose to form that unit.

and seeing family love in action alwaysalwaysalways changes the face of the world for the better. 

so often, we look at other families and perceive the differences even as we distance ourselves because of those differences.

when we get close–really, really close–the lines of difference become blurred, and we no longer see eye color and skin color and race and religion.

instead we weep with those in pain and rejoice with those in celebration.

we are family after all.

we are connected to one another in ways large and small, by blood, yes, but even more so by the kindred spirit of God who flows through our veins.

we are family.

like all families, we hunger for love, we long for acceptance, we desire respect, and we wish our stories to be told to future generations.

we are family.

all we need to do is open our hearts and listen to our common, beating heart.

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Seeking the Good

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. 
Frederick Buechner

I know this blog is about  life with Ev, but sometimes a brief diversion is necessary. Of course, this diversion reflects many things about the way Ev is being raised so in an around the bush way, this post is part of Ev’s story, too. I began attending a lovely Presbyterian church with Evan a little over a year ago, and in all my years in the church, I have never been part of a more authentic and loving church body. They have changed the way I look at church.

I continue to have new experiences there. Yesterday, I attended my first ever Ash Wednesday service. For a girl who grew up in the church, this seems odd, I know, but my previous churches always stigmatized such things as “ritualistic” and communal prayer as “vain repetitions”. I realize now how wrong they were–how they missed entirely the beauty of the liturgical calendar with its movement from life to death to resurrection–the turning and returning of our lives toward God. I realize the rhythmic cadence of the liturgy enriches my soul, and each of these experiences awakens in me a new understanding of the traditions of my faith.

I really didn’t know what to expect at the Ash Wednesday service. In fact, I felt a bit nervous at the thought of all the “unknowns”, but soon my fears were allayed. The service itself was stunningly simple, but rich in meaning. As a collective community, we confessed our sin before one another and before God. I have come to love this ritual of communal confession; it’s powerful and purifying even as it connects us more deeply with one another. It requires a certain level of transparency and vulnerability that deepens intimacy and encourages authenticity.

The music during the service, while more somber, was beautiful and reflective. We sang together, “What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul..Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul…” I felt the goosebumps rise on my body when the pipe organ swelled and the congregation belted out, “and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on…and through eternity, I’ll sing on.” Long after the last chord resonated though the sanctuary, my spirit was rejoicing in the beauty of those words. When we prayed together, “Creating God, still Center of the world you have made, we come to you in this season of turning and returning…we return to you and turn toward you”, my heart was ready to listen.

“Dust you are and to dust you will return,” the Pastor said to each of us as he marked our foreheads with ashes in the sign of the cross. What beautiful symbolism! The ashes on our forehead are a sign and reminder of our mortality. When we look at them, we remember our finiteness and confess all the broken bits of our lives. We acknowledge that only the infinite grace of God can restore us to wholeness.

From the first moment to the last, the Ash Wednesday service drew my focus toward God’s wondrous love. Instead of giving something up for lent, the pastor encouraged us to go inward and have a lenten season of reflection, a time of contemplating what good God would have us do. My heart was nearly bursting with the desire to pour myself out for God.

All day today, I find myself sitting in the pastor’s challenge and contemplating what good God would have me do. Although I feel that there is something specific God will reveal to me over the next 40 days, I know already some of the good God is calling me to do: God is calling me to kindness and mercy. He is calling me to practice lovingasawayofliving. As Mother Theresa said, “We are called to be contemplatives in the heart of the world — by seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, everywhere, all the time…”

And so I seek God’s face.

I seek his face in that difficult child in my music class. I seek God’s face in the person who impatiently flips me off on the freeway when I’m driving slower because of the weather. I seek God’s face in the Facebook “unfrienders” who are quick to judge and slow to forgive. I seek God’s face in the homeless and those in need God sends across my path. I seek God’s face in the “unloveables”, the kids who are rejected by the church or parents for one reason or another.

I seek the face of God in everything, remembering always my finiteness in the presence of his infiniteness. I do this because I know the truth: Dust I am and to dust I will return.

And in the end, seeking the face of God is all that really matters.

  

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The Grace of Grandmas

 It is as grandmothers that our mothers come into the fullness of their grace.      –Christopher Morley

My poor mom has been suffering with sickness since Christmas day. She is still too sick to go out, so we have been bringing her food and groceries as needed. But because of her sickness, Ev hasn’t seen her. 

He started saying lately how much he missed his grammy, sometimes with tears in his eyes. His impassioned and tearful pleas moved me to action. In spite of my own recovery from pneumonia and general exhaustion from teaching full time, we planned to stop in and visit mumsie today after school and a hair cut.  

Not being 100% myself, I was almost too wiped out to go after the hair cut, but on the way home Evan said, “I know you are exhausted mom and want to just go home and rest, but I’m sorry I cannot have it. I need to see my grammy. I miss her so much that we need to go see her no matter what. That’s just how I roll.” 

Needless to say, Ev and I went to visit “his grammy”. My little mumsie was so delighted. Evan entertained her by “playing the piano” and eating everything she put out for him.  He told stories, and she laughed in all the right places. He threw his arms around her neck and told her how much he missed her and how he loved her with all his heart. She told him how there is no one to give her hugs these days and his hugs are the best in the world. I just sat on the sidelines in wonder of the sparks flying between them.

Those two have always shared a unique connection. 

And for a little while when I was watching the two of them together, I forgot all about my exhaustion and coughing. The love shared by grandma and grandson was the magic cure. 

     
 

Grandma always made you feel she had been waiting to see just you all day and now the day was complete. –Marcy DeMaree

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The Gateway of Gratitide

Every day Ev and I begin our day with “Yay God!” I start off with something like ” Yay God for the rain because now the grass is so green!” Ev follows with “Yay God for the beautiful leaves in the trees!” And so on. When we begin to slow down, I usually end it with “Let your God Light shine today!” 

This morning at the end of our usual exchange Evan piped up, “Yay God that next week mom will be letting her Light shine at my school!” 

Yay God indeed. 

wasn’t looking for a new job. I wasn’t planning on leaving. But God opened the door at Ev’s school; I couldn’t help but walk through it. Beginning on Monday, I will be teaching two blocks from home in the same school where Little Wonder attends. In so many ways, it is perfect, and yet, a piece of my heart will always be at BHA.

Today was my last day at BHA, and I was feeling weepy before I even turned into the parking lot. What a privilege to have worked with such a fine team of colleagues, such a warm and a welcoming student body and such a supportive group of parents! The friendships made and the lessons learned I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

In the true hospitality of the school, my colleagues not only brought in breakfast for my last day, but also made the most beautiful vegetarian luncheon. Delicious to body and soul! 

Classes sang to me in the lunchroom and made special visits to my classroom. Kids brought me handmade cards and gifts. The middle school students created a video. Colleagues gave hugs and well wishes and cards and gifts. 

I cried.

A lot.

And then I cried some more.

One of my middle school girls who had been difficult in class last year gave me a big hug and said, “Oh Mrs. Jordan I’m sorry for any hard time I ever gave you. I didn’t mean it. You always believed in me. Don’t go.”

Another matter of factly told me, “You still have time to change your mind and make the right decision to stay with us.”

One of my darling five year olds told me her first tooth was wiggly and then proceeded to throw her arms around my neck and cry, “I’m gonna be missing you!!!”

And then there were the teachers…

Honestly, I could not imagine a lovelier group of teachers and teaching assistants. I am so grateful for their warm and immediate acceptance of me. This introvert was never so surprised as she was by the depth of her connections at BHA.

icouldneverimagine
unimaginable friendships
(those unlikely alliances)
happen unintentionally–
when we are not searching
the spark of connection ignites.
now icouldneverimagine
life without you.

 I am so very grateful for the past year and all the wonderful people at BHA.  I am also grateful for this new opportunity and for the possibilities it offers. 

Yay God for change.

Yay God for new friendships.

Yay God for His Light.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” –Winnie-the-Pooh

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It’s All About That Grace

Yesterday was Evan’s last day of summer school. Putting him in summer school for a five week session turned out to be an idea of sheer brilliance. Because he is changing schools, the opportunity to become familiar with the building and meet some of the students in a relaxed camp-like setting seems like a perfect opportunity. It also solved my need to constantly try to juggle everyone’s schedule in order to find a caregiver for Ev while I was working. Win-win!!!

Last year was a wonderful year of learning for Ev. His teacher, Mrs. Scott adored him even though he was the reason for the bald patches on her head. Well, ok, maybe not literally since she was beautiful and kind, but I can only imagine he did cause her to want to pull her hair out on more than one occasion.

Evan is precocious and quick witted–quicker on a pun than some linear thinking adults. He is the youngest in a family of adults and consequently not only has the vocabulary of a much older child but also has the classclownneedtomakeeveryonelaugh tendencies that seem to go along with it. Mrs. Scott used to tell me that the problem was Evan was truly funny and even she couldn’t help laughing at his antics.

On more than one occasion, he landed in the principal’s office for some offense. They system they had of smiley faces did not help. Evan began every day with a smiley face but each type of offense changed the color. Our language at home changed around this system and the words “have a smiley face day” took on tones of religious fervor by the end of the year.

I hated it.

Absolutely, unequivocally hated it.

Here I had parented three other grown children and never had a micro spec of issues with behavior when I went anywhere with them. But by the end of the year, if the school’s number appeared in my caller id, I panicked. I had that sick, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

At one point, the principal decided Evan should be “suspended” from school for a day because he hit another child in a private area. At first I was stunned. I couldn’t imagine Ev doing this as it seemed totally out of character for him. But as the event was recalled, it came to light that the hitting had happened due to Evan swinging his arms in line (yes, probably when he should have been standing still). Yes, it was inadvertent, the principal agreed, but Evan was…so….so…(he was searching for words)…so nonchalant about it all. Why Evan wasn’t even afraid of the principal. Imagine it?!!! Horror of horrors!!!! So he was leaving the suspension in place.

Oh and by the way, the principal added, I should probably consider using some stronger methods of child rearing to curb his behavior. His kids behave in school, he proudly told me, because they are more afraid of what will happen to them at home if they don’t. At which point I made a hasty exit with hand over my mouth lest my response be as profane as his suggestion.

I regret that. The leaving without a word, part.

I should have blown up with outrage.

I should have let him have it–pow bang zoom to the moon!

But that’s not my style.

Instead, when I got home I googled “kindergarten suspension”  and  “my child has been suspended from kindergarten”.  I was shocked at the number of stories! Is this the new thing–suspension from kindergarten? Have we no other recourse? I felt the whole world had gone mad.

Immediately, I contacted a few good people I know in counseling and social work to see if somehow there was a solution for this seeming impulsive aggression in Evan. I rarely witnessed outbursts at home, and he was never a problem in other places like church Sunday school. The problem only seemed to be present in school.

I tried everything. Some things worked well and other things we filed in our nevertobetriedagain/thatwassuchabadidea file. Somehow we managed to get through the rest of the year with no more suspensions, but we rarely managed more than two smiley face days in a row. Ev was always devastated when he didn’t get a smiley face. He lived his life for the smiley face.

I started school shopping in January of last year and found a hidden gem. Right in my own neighborhood there was a Montessori school that runs as a charter school. My excitement ran high as the woman I spoke with told me they had openings for Evan in the fall. After a visit where I was completely impressed with their program and Ev was completely delighted with his classroom visit, and after lots and lots of paperwork, Evan was accepted into the school.

Woo hoo! God smiled and the Angels applauded!

The transition–even to thinking about going to a new school–hasn’t been perfectly smooth. Evan was anxious and wondering. I was anxious and wondering, too. One day, I noticed the information on the summer school program had been clipped to my fridge since Evan was accepted into the school. Almost impulsively, I called.

Why yes we have openings. In fact a new session begins next week. Why yes, we would love to have Evan.

Well, I thought to myself, it is now or never. Sink or swim. Either Evan is going to have issues in school his whole life or we are breaking this cycle now.

After the fifth day, Evan said, “Mom, that is the first time ever I have had five super good, smiley face days in a row. Seriously, mom. It’s the first time ever. I really like this new school.”

Yes!!!!

There was one day during the five week session where Evan came home a bit dejected and said he got in trouble for breaking something another kid had built. We talked about it. I asked him why he always asked his grammy to not wreck one of his building creations whenever we have to leave her house before he is finished.

“Well mom, I want her to save it because I like it just the way it is, and if I have to try and rebuild it, I may not be able to build it exactly the same.”

“Do you think maybe your friend might be sad because now that you knocked over his building, even though he can rebuild it,  he won’t be able do it in exactly the same way?”

He thought for a moment and looked at me with true regret in his eyes. “I feel bad mom. I shouldn’t have done that.”

The next day when I took Evan to school I said something to his teacher about Evan’s “rough day yesterday”. She looked at me puzzled, and I told her the story.

She laughed.

She actually laughed out loud.

“That’s not a bad day,” she said, “that’s just kids! Trust me, if there is ever something really bad that happens I will be communicating with you directly. But I can’t imagine it. Evan is a delightful student. ”

A delightful student.

Those words sang in my heart through the next few days.

Of course, I knew he was delightful, but now someone else saw it, too. A teacher no less.

The grace of that teacher washed over my parched soul like a refreshing rain. Meghan Trainor may croon it’s all about that bass, but for me, it’s really all about that grace. We are just broken bits–full of heartaches and mistakes and failures. Everyone breathing is broken. But grace speaks of restoration of bringing wholeness to the broken. There is no hesitation in grace–just a swift completeness.

Yesterday was Ev’s last day of summer school. He can hardly wait to start a new year with some of the new friends he made while attending. He is happy and calm and full of positivity.

There isn’t a price tag for the kind of peace that brings me as a mama.

My heart is bursting with joy.

I wanted to do something special for the teachers as a thank you. They will never know the significance of this summer school experience to us. I wanted to give each one involved a special gift–something useful but wrapped beautifully. After scouring Pinterest and the Internet and consulting my not so large pocketbook, I decided to give bright colored thin tipped sharpie pens including a couple of highlighters in a reusable mason jar with a drinking lid. The tag read “Thanks for being the HIGHLIGHT of our summer.” Evan signed the back of each with his name and…a great, big smiley face, of course.

teacher gift3 teacher gift2 teacher gift4

Honestly, the staff has no idea what five weeks of smiley face days can do for one mom and her very special and a bit out of the ordinary boy. A little bit of kindness and love goes a long way, but grace….

Grace covers it all.

embrace grace

 

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