A Triple Shot of Wonder

“To see a world in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
–William Blake

I told the woman at the coffee shop it was my baby’s last day of kindergarten. She told me that in a week it would be her baby’s last day of high school, and so we commiserated together. I asked her to hook me up with something–anything at all as long as it was nondairy–and she gave me a triple shot in the medium size (responsible drinking I guess). So now I’m drowning my sorrows in triple shots of espresso and steamed soy milk. 

 Where does the time go?

I walked him into school today, unable to drop him off as usual. Somehow I felt walking him in would stretch out the time. We waited for his teacher a bit so I could immortalize the moment with a photo. Of course, Mrs. Scott (aka Sainted Woman) was happy to oblige. Evan hasn’t been the easiest of students, but he has been one of the most delightful and bright. I know this because she has told me often how remarkable he is for his age.

Even as she is handing me his paperwork Mrs. Scott tells me, “You need to show his next teacher this. She won’t understand how bright he is if you don’t show her. She needs to know he has a photographic memory. One time. He only needs to see something one time…” Her voice drifts off. 

 She leans down and asks him, “Evan, how do you feel about this being your last day of kindergarten?”

Evan begins, “I feel…” and then he motions with his hand, waving it back and forth in the air, “Eh…”

“What does that mean exactly?” Mrs. Scott asks.

“It means I feel kind of good and kind of bad at the same time.”

“Well, what’s good about it being your last day of kindergarten?”

He looks at her and seems surprised that she would ask the obvious, “It’s the last day of school, of course.”

“Of course,” replies Mrs. Scott with a smile, “and why do you feel bad?”

“Well,” he pauses as he collects his thoughts, “I’ll miss being in kindergarten.”

“Me, too!” She agrees.

Then Mrs. Scott looks up at me and says, “Most kids his age wouldn’t say that, you know. They wouldn’t be able to articulate their feelings so precisely. You do realize this, right?”

Do I realize this?

My name for him has always been Little Wonder. From the first moment I laid eyes on him, he has not ceased to astonish me. I can’t get over how he remembers absolutely everything about everything. I can’t get over how he lights up my world with just his smile. I can’t get over how he reads words like deserving and dastardly. 

 I can’t get over the amazing person my Little Wonder is becoming, even though sometimes he makes me want to poke both eyes out (his) and sew lips together (his) so I can enjoy a moment of silence. (***true story…see note below)

So here I am, drinking away my sorrows and blogging to remember the moment.

Ah Little Wonder… You have forever changed me. 

 Image used with permission by Tracy Kaye Photography. Her website is almost up and running, but in the meantime, contact her at tracykayephoto@gmail.com for all your photography needs. 

***Do not worry: no animals or children were harmed in the writing of this piece. I have chosen instead to invest in a good set of ear plugs and build quiet “rest and read time” into every day. 😊

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And It’s Gratitude For The Win

Gratitude…takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference. –Thomas Merton

I don’t know what it is about “Jordan Children”, but they are absolutely delightful when they open gifts.

Seriously.

I’m not just saying this because I’m the Jordan Mama.

I used to think Aaron and Lizi were grateful because Ryan showed such a great example of gratefulness. He was just one of those kind of kids, and I was certain the other two learned from him. But now, with the Little Wonder who hasn’t really lived with all of his siblings at birthday parties or even Christmas, I’m speechless.

He celebrated six years of life yesterday. Of course, we had a special birthday dinner including all of his favorites–macaroni and cheese (vegan), steamed broccoli and a tomato cucumber salad. Following dinner, we gave Ev his birthday gifts to open.

Here is a glimpse into that part of our evening.

The first gift Ev opens is from my mother. He carefully opens the gift bag and holds up a fleece jacket with total delight in his eyes, “Oh wow!!!! A sweatshirt of my very own to wear! Now I’ll just have to grow into it!”

He says this as though he’s never owned a sweatshirt in his life. He has.

As he models the gift swinging side to side, he laughs with delight, “I love it! I just love it! Thank you Grammy!”

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The next thing from the Grammy Gift Bag is pants and a shirt.

“Yes! And pants and a shirt.”

My mom interjects more in my direction than Ev’s, “That’s a matching set, Evan.”

With eyes full of wonder Ev gushes, “A matching set?! Oh wow! Mom look! I got a matching set! I Iove it!”

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The gift opening continued until like this even through underwear–the Lego Chima variety. At the underwear opening, you’d have thought he got a new bike with all the excitement he exuded. In fact, he was so excited he had to wear them to bed last night.

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I love the gratitude.

At the school where I teach, I’m always reminding my kids of ways to be grateful and reasons they have for gratitude. They listen intently as though they’ve never heard such things.

Is it just me? Am I the only one who preaches a gospel of gratitude?

We have so much for which to be grateful.

So. very. much.

Even in my darkest night of experiences, I have looked for those places where light shines through the cracks. Oh the cracks are still there, but somehow my heart feels lighter when I focus in the light instead of the cracks.

Maybe I am one of those eternal, infernal optimists (I had a coworker tell me this once), but I wasn’t always. I used to be very sarcastic. I loved sarcastic humor, and I thrived on cynicism.

But I’ve changed.

Or maybe a truer statement is that life has changed me.

Sarcastic and caustic negativity is a choice. It’s a choice that most often hurts those we love and inhibits our ability to love freely and experience life filled with grace.

When our focus is on the good–on beauty–so often our whole perspective changes. We may still struggle with the wrong shape of certain things in our lives, but in that struggle we will begin to see the glimmer of light shining through the cracks.

I would love to know…what are YOU grateful for today?

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On Creating New Vocabulary

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” ― Mother Teresa

IMG_2758.JPGWhy is it I always find myself in the midst of busyness? Even on vacation sometimes I find myself rushing to pack up or to make dinner or to hurry to the beach. I mean isn’t just the phrase “hurry to the beach” an oxymoron?

I have an app that reminds me to look at my list which is in another app. I set my phone’s alarm for first AND second alerts just in case I forget or miss the first one.

I tell the kids frequently, “Today my lists have lists.”

I’m fact, I derive so much pleasure from crossing things off my list that if I do something not on the list, I will add it just so I can cross it off. Plus, at the end of the day, it looks like I’ve accomplished more. To whom, I’m not quite sure, but somehow in order to feel good about myself I feel I must DO something.

But who is really watching? And who really cares if I overcommit myself?

Well I learned today that my Little Wonder is always watching. Always.

This morning I asked Ev the same question I ask him every morning: “What did you dream about, Ev?”

“Well, last night I dreamed about rainbows and God.”

“Oooooooh rainbows and God are my favorite kinds of dreams! Rainbows remind me that today is a new day. A fresh start.”

Sighing heavily, Ev replied with a tone of exhaustion, “Well, personally I have 124 things to do today.”

“Oh really? Like what?” I tried to cover the smile lurking at the corners of my mouth.

“Well,” Ev started very seriously, “Lila has to teach me the monkey bars and the swings. Then I have to come home and do work in the back yard…you know, like working on my swinging skills and stuff. I have a tough job, you know.”

Some days Ev is in a desperate hurry to grow up and “be big”. He has a tough job to grow up and accomplish all the things he thinks are important.

In writing about my son Ryan for his birthday, I came across this quote from the wise Henry David Thoreau who asks the question: “Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life…We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches today to save nine tomorrow…..when we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty pleasures are but the shadow of reality.”

Why indeed.

Why do I waste my life rushing around in a desperate haste to… To what exactly? For what exactly?

The pull to rush is great. So great that I have to intentionally pull back on the reins. I have to stop and remind myself to take a deep breath.

I look around me. I look at Ev. I think about this one moment I will never have the chance to live again. Lists are good and have their place, but they should never take the place of enjoying each moment to the fullest.

I want to teach Ev–and Ryan, Aaron, Allison and Lizi–that today is enough. I want them to see in me the truth that busyness is not the goal in life.

This moment is enough.

I want them to breathe in and know that in this moment, breathing is enough.

I will not rush through this day. In fact, today I will not make a to do list. I will live with my eyes and ears open to whomever God brings across my path. I will look at Ev and tell him to not worry about the 124 things he thinks he needs to accomplish today and not to worry about swinging skills or about anything else.

Today there are two words for the day: unbusy and unhurry.

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware, and by the far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness, I can wait. –Walt Whitman

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I Am Mama Hear Me Roar

I know that this blog is usually full of cute Ev quips or inspirational bits about parenting. Today the blog has a different tone. I’m as concerned with the secular culture of Ev’s growingupworld as I am with the ecclesiatic culture of his growingupworld. More than anything I want Ev to grow up to be man who sojourns with YHWH and abides in Jesus–a man who impacts his world for the better and takes a stand for equality and justice.

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Over the past few days I’ve read so much vitriol on Facebook. I’ve read about police violence and bigotry and defending the powerless and defending the law enforcement. I’ve read hurtful and angry words about those who commit suicide or suffer from depression. I’ve read disparaging and contemptible comments about f****ts and n******s. My heart has been heavy and my spirit discouraged by such outbursts of hatred.

And then Jamie, one of my favorite bloggers, weighed in. This blog post is one of the very best I’ve read. I hope you read it. Jamie talks about the whole picture. I won’t throw my biased, unfirsthandknowledgeable opinion into the ring about Michael Brown because I wasn’t there. I won’t delve into the details about Robin Williams and his faith (or lack thereof) because I never lived with him. The truth is these stories are tragic and heartbreaking on every level. I cannot begin to play judge and jury.

But I will take a stand for equality.

I will rise to my feet in the presence of injustice wherever I find it.

I will not be quiet because it makes some uncomfortable.

I will not be quiet because it makes some angry to hear that the reason Jesus was born was to fulfill his mission of love not to those who have, but I those who have not–to the least of these.

I will not be quiet so some can make themselves feel better about being advantaged by trying to justify tragedy or inequality; this demeans not only the individuals and families involved, but justice itself.

I will not be quiet so some can smugly claim that they have more faith or are less selfish because they’ve overcome difficulty or fillintheblank through prayer and bible reading.

I will take a stand against injustice and bigotry and hatred.

I will stand with Jesus on the side of “the weak, the burdened, the vulnerable, and the oppressed or depressed.”

I will always support the underdog.

No. I will not be quiet.

So consider this fair warning.

If my cry is too loud, you may wish to walk away now while you still have your hearing.

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Unhurried Lives

An unhurried sense of time is in itself a form of wealth. –Bonnie Friedman

Some people are simply not in a hurry; they come and go at their own pace when they are good and ready to do so. I don’t mind these folks. They can be amiable enough if one is patient, but when it so happens that one of these dontrushme people calls you mama….well, that’s a whole different story.

My first born chose his birth day by bursting the bag of waters which surrounded him (with quite a bang, I might add). Then, in typical characteristic fashion, he settled back into my womb and decided that he wasn’t quite ready to be born. Fourteen hours of walking changing positions and labor intensifying drugs later, Ryan had no choice but to be born.

Of course, after all the drama of his labor, I was exhausted and hoped for a quick delivery. When I saw the faces of the doctor and nurses after my first attempt at pushing, I knew something was wrong. The room buzzed into hurried motion. I was given oxygen, moved into my left side where I couldn’t see the monitor and told to push hard. Each time I did, I watched the faces of the medical staff crease with worry. I knew something was wrong and no one was telling me what it was. Finally, in a last ditch effort, the doctor gave me a nice large episiotomy, and Ryan was born.

The doctor counted out loud, “One, two, three!!! Wow! Three times!” He looked up at me, “Well, Mama, your son had that cord around his neck three times–that’s what caused his heartbeat to plummet every time you pushed. We can be thankful he is here and safe now.”

After his dramatic birth, Ryan continued to be frustrated with this world into which he’d been born. The littlest thing would send him into a crying jag that would last for hours. As a new mom I read every book and tried every method available to calm Ryan, but nothing seemed to work.

Nothing but time. Unhurried time.

Gradually, Ryan settled down into our little routine of simple living. As long as I didn’t try to rush him through a feeding or getting dressed or putting him down, and as long as I didn’t change our routine in any way for any reason, Ryan was a most cooperative and pleasant toddler.

Not many things have changed in the 25 years since his birth.

Ryan still doesn’t like to be rushed, and he still likes routine. He explained to me once that he loved routine because structure allows progression in a more efficient way. In this way, he could continue to grow because there was something that had been mastered.

Ryan was always good at seeing things. Like a good director, he had vision to see what would work or what would look good when it moved from a concept into a reality.

Ryan was my gotoguy for fixing things. From a a young age, he could figure out how to take things apart and put them back together again. I was always amazed at his patience and ability to see projects to completion.

I can’t think of any skill Ryan has set his mind to doing that he doesn’t do well–from dog training to furniture assembly to cooking haute cuisine.

His first quarter century has been racked with many difficult times, but through it all, Ryan has slowly, steadily and confidently accomplished goal after goal. In his beautiful, observant and unhurried way, he has quietly seen what needs to be done. And he has quietly accomplished it.

Even though when he was a young child I sometimes wanted to pull out my hair by the roots at his stubborn refusal to hurry or flex with a changed plan, I love my quiet boy who will not be rushed.

I love the way he observes the world–the way he observes me–and sees what needs to be done. Ryan doesn’t just see the obvious surface of what needs to be done; he sees the context of where, when, how and why. He comes along side and encourages and goes about getting the job done and bringing out the best in people along the way.

At least he seems to bring out the best in me.

For your next quarter century, Ryan, I wish you wisdom to see the important things in life and to unhurriedly enjoy them to the fullest. May your life be filled to overflowing in the same way you fill my life to overflowing.

“When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality.” –Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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Trade Offs

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” –William Faulkner

When I was pregnant with my second son, I started “nesting” right from the beginning of the pregnancy. I cooked meals from scratch, baked bread, sewed these pretty little flannel burp cloths, sorted through and washed all the newborn clothes by month four, painted the bedroom and generally waited with excitement for his birth.

Because I had preeclampsia with Ryan (my firstborn), I was very careful of my diet, cutting back on sodium while upping my protein intake. Overall, the pregnancy was uneventful, and I looked forward to giving birth in a freestanding birthing center attended by midwives instead of a traditional hospital. Actually, the wonderful pregnancy led me to be a little cocky about parenting a second child in general.

“You got this.” I told myself smugly. “No problem.”

After all, my firstborn cried four hours straight every night for months on end. His birth also entitled me to horrible labor inducing meds, a brutal episiotomy requiring more than thirty stitches, and an extended recovery period lasting most of his first year. Now, I was a seasoned professional. I was having midwives. I truly believed nothing could be worse than the infanthood of my firstborn.

What I discovered was that there are trade offs in everything.

The birthing center was beautiful and peaceful, but even they were surprised at the speed with which Aaron decided to be born. No labor inducing drugs were necessary. He flew out so fast his birth was nearly unattended by any midwife at all. Oh and he was kind enough to leave skid marks inside me. Nothing could slow his entry into the world. No stitches were required, but those skid marks were their own special kind of inconvenience.

I was so cocky about being in control of this birth that I didn’t pay attention to how Aaron latched on the first time he ate. As a result, I suffered through painful feedings for nearly three weeks.

Yes. There were indeed trade offs in this secondchildgig.

On the upside, Aaron was calm and peaceful and slept for four to five hours once a night right from the first day I brought him home. If he woke up earlier than I wanted him to, I would throw one of those hand stitched flannel burp cloths I made over his head, and he’d conk right out for another hour or so. (To this day, he still loves to sleep with a hoodie over his head.) Aaron rarely cried and went to bed awake without needing any special rocking or fuss.

But about three years old, Aaron discovered his temper. Perhaps he was so laid back in the beginning, he just stored it all up and saved it for year three. Whatever the reason, the season of temper tantrums hit Aaron with a vengeance. And they stuck around for a number of years, too.

I remember one time hearing some serious scuffling going on upstairs and heading up to see what exactly was happening. I found Ryan holding Aaron’s head at arms length and Aaron just swinging away at the air toward Ryan.

Immediately I set about rescuing poor Aaron, “Let him go Ryan! That’s just not nice!”

Ryan kept a firm hold on Aaron’s head and looked at me as if I had just grown another head, “Are you kidding me, mom?! If I let him go, those fists are heading straight into me!!!!”

“Oh no. He won’t hit you.” I said, confident in my ability to intervene. I looked Aaron in the eyes, “You won’t keep hitting him if he lets go, will you Aaron?”

My answer was a deepened frown and an increased intensity in his swing. Once Aaron made his mind up about anything (even being angry), there was no talking him out of it. He might come around eventually, but it would be on his own terms and at his own pace.

The evening of the scuffle between the boys, Aaron eventually tired and Ryan let go. They made up as they always did, and life went in as usual…until the next time.

Aaron’s temper was close to the surface for a number of years, but gradually his temper grew and settled into a kind of fierce determination. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry writes in The Little Prince: “The only things you learn are the things you tame.” Aaron didn’t let his his temper get the best of him; he learned to funnel all that energy into determination. He didn’t sit around and wait for life to happen to him, instead he went out and happened to life.

He still does. Just as Aaron raced into this world at breakneck speed, so he races into every experience in his life.

Today on his birthday, I celebrate the man he has become–a go-getter who follows his dreams, knows his passions and isn’t afraid to work hard to attain both. He doesn’t let obstacles or change stand in his way. Today, on his birthday I celebrate Aaron and his spirit of determination!

I wouldn’t trade a moment of the days I’ve spent with you, Aaron. May you continue to forge ahead wherever God leads you.

Happy 22nd Birthday!

“Determine that the thing can and shall be done and then… find the way.” –Abraham Lincoln

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Bravery Matters

We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are. –Madeleine L’Engle

IMG_2740.JPGBravery.

I’ve been thinking a lot about bravery today–about what exactly it means to be brave. I turned to my old friend Merriam-Webster for initial guidance, just to see if I was even on the right track. At first all the dictionary gave me was “courageous behavior or character.”

Great. Now I was left with another word to define.

A little further on I read: “Bravery is the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous or frightening.” And then maybe half way down the page of the google list, the word courage popped up in big letters–bigger than all the rest on the search page.

“Courage – Courage is the ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.”

By this definition, I suppose I can honestly say I have courage. I’m not afraid to speak my mind even if it means losing some friends–or a job. I’m not a fearful person in general. I love to walk outside in the dark at the lake house with only the moonlight to guide me. I have often walked into the unknown of a new experience with my eyes wide open, heart pounding in my chest. I have traveled to many new places alone, even places where I did not speak the local language. I have never minded or been afraid of being hungry when there was a scarcity of food. I have looked bullies straight in the eye and walked away with nary a scratch.

All those things I have done in the past.

But still I wonder about the future: Will I have the courage to swim across the current of negative opinion and harsh criticism? Will I be able to take a stand for what I believe is right and good and honest in the face of persecution not from my enemies, but from my “friends”? Will I have the fortitude to forge ahead with a detached intrepidity that looks only to love and justice for guidance?

I look at Ev. He’s five. The next 13 years of my life will be spent shaping him, guiding him, pointing out the way to live to him with every comment I speak or leave unspoken. My life will lead him.

And I wonder: What do I want my life to say?

I want to tell him that no matter what, standing up for the broken-hearted and voiceless is what really matters; that God created all people equal not the writers of the Declaration of Independence; that it is never all right to choose what he wants based on practicality or fear.

Living a life of love is what matters.

Lovingasawayofliving as I like to call it.

The opposite of love is not hate, but fear. Through the ages great men have said it in different ways. Gandhi said: “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.” Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” And of course I can’t leave out John Lennon: “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back…When we are in love, we open up…” Or a better quote yet: “All you need is love. Love. Love is all you need.”

Before all of them, The Aposlte John said it in his epistle: “Perfect love casts out fear.” It’s not wrong to have fear, but we must push through our fear. Fear is based on judgment and love holds none. True bravery faces the fear and love overcomes it.

Love and fear cannot coexist.

I want my life to shout, “Love and fear cannot coexist!”

Living in love without fear is true bravery and courageous living. My prayer is that Ev picks up this truth like a favorite rock on the beach and places it in a treasured place in his heart. I pray I demonstrate how to invoke a stouthearted approach to life and its challenges.

In the face of harsh criticism, I want to stand strong with my loving heart intact.

Bravery matters.

Lovingasawayofliving matters.

dauntless and daring
in the face of danger,
valor and honor
work together with boldness and love
to form a new kind of hero:
a brave one
who loves without fear.

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