My Grandparents’ 60th Anniversary

Standard

anniversary penniesLast night we skipped out on Growth Group (for shame!) to head about 30 mins south to have dinner with my family to celebrate my Grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary (actually June 12!) as well as an early Father’s Day. We went to Seasons 52, which is a fun restaurant (on the expensive side): everything is less than 500 calories, there are several dietary restricted menus if you need them, and the food is changed quarterly to match the seasons. It’s really neat!

Anyway, we had a private room at the back – there were 20 or so of us after all. In addition to the three of us, my grandparents and my parents, both my brothers came – one with his wife and 5 month old daughter (who both spent most of the time outside due to screaming), the other solo. Both my uncles and one aunt were there, as well as three of my five cousins. We had a lovely meal – including sushi and flat-bread appetizers and wonderful fish (and other things) as the main course. The fish was so good, in fact, that my daughter decided after eating her pizza that she’d like my salmon – all of it. Well, not all of it. Just the soft, tasty pink part. I could keep the charred part on the top. Our kid ate a whole personal pizza plus about 2/3 of my salmon! Good thing I had my own personal GF sushi appetizer.

Finally they had what they called “indulgences” for dessert – little 1″ x 1″ x 2″ cups of cakes, pies, or cream things. They had a special tiered tray to stack them and put a candle in the top little cup for my grandparents to blow out, so it looked like a fancy glass cake with treats inside. When Ashley the waitress set it down, my grandparents were so distracted by the desserts, they completely forgot about the candle. About ten minutes later I started to smell smoke and looked around and saw smoke curling up from the table. I briefly wondered who took up smoking (a e-cig?) and rejected that idea as soon as it crossed my mind. I found the candle in front of my grandparents and had to remind them to blow it out – they’d completely forgotten, as had everyone else remotely close to them.

Grandad selfie!My grandparents were adamantly against gifts, but I couldn’t help but give them stamped pennies from 1954. I apologized for screwing up the “no gift rule” and my grandad called me a terrible granddaughter (jokingly). They were so happy with the pennies – simple and meaningful. Then – my favorite part of the night! My brother showed my grandfather how to take a selfie with his phone. He was totally fascinated! He took a couple, then my brother showed him how to email them to people. Grandad was so thrilled he could take pictures with himself in them, but my grandmother was like “No. Nope. Nuh-uh.” She’s too proper (I had a former teacher call her “regal”) to be caught up in anything that’s not posed and clean and flattering. After that, we said goodnight and headed home.

What an absolute blessing to get to celebrate this wonderful occasion with my grandparents. I remember celebrating their 50th anniversary, but this has so much more meaning to me now that I have been married 8 years. I am so impressed with their example and their love for each other over so many years. I am impressed with their kindness, humor, charity, and love. And what impresses me perhaps the most is that these two people who are so dear to me are missing Christ from their lives. They live so fully, so wonderfully, and so sacrificially and are wonderful examples (and have been my entire life!), but they have managed to do so by themselves – with no guiding spirit or no church body for fellowship and edification. I pray daily for my family because these people are good, kind people, and they deserve to hear the gospel and benefit from the love, grace and mercy it can bestow on them – the same things they have been giving most of their lives, but not often receiving.

Last Day of School

Standard

The past month has been a whirlwind. In spite of the fact that I was feeling a bit off (see my post on depression), I had to just chug on, as life just seems to move forward whether we want it to or not. So while I seriously wanted to curl up in a ball with my comfy, cozy blanket and read a book, sleep, or watch netflix until the tv checks to see if I’m still alive, there were mom duties, church duties, and WORK duties. And work this month – ohmygoodness. I had 248 orders in May – that’s 8 orders a day. It was busier that Christmas last year. Or ever, actually. While I sure love the business, it’s been hard to find the time to work as well as parent and recover from the Tea that went awry (again, another post). As of today, my orders are more of less caught up – nothing due out until Friday, though I am trying to get orders out faster than my eta is stated to be. I have 60 orders currently in my queue. I’ve been meeting for VBS (and other church ‘things’) and trying to deal with family struggles.

But in the midst of all this, today was a nice breath of fresh air. After an agonizing decision about whether or not to hold our daughter back or send her into kindergarten (it totally wasn’t a tough decision at all), we decided she’d benefit most from a year of transitional kindergarten (TK), so she’s staying at the same preschool, with the same basic guidelines, leadership, etc. Some of her classmates will be the same. Her teachers will be different, but it will feel familiar. Her two best friends, on the other hand…one is moving to kindergarten. One is doing home-school TK next year – both great choices for those kids! However, today was the last day of school, and that always brings … emotions.

For me, it was sweet. Her teachers were sad to see their kids go. One teacher is getting married (yay!). The kids were SO CUTE in their “patriotic parade” shaking their shaker things (filled with rice or beans or whatever), wearing their red, white, and blue, and marching and waving at the HUGE CROWD (of parents). Their were hugs and gifts, thank yous and photos. Then we were ready to head home. It was pleasant. A nice way to end the school year and start the summer.

last dayFor the parents of my daughter’s friends, the emotions ran a lot higher. There was the realization that the babies weren’t babies any more. That they were headed to real school, leaving their friends, leaving the safety of preschool. After saying goodbye to their teachers, the three girls ran around the corner, stopping at the three yellow poles that mark the end of the corridor, and we all got a bit choked up – the last time these three would run together and play like this. Sure, there will be play dates and visits, but this – THIS EXACT THING – will never happen again.

But that’s silly. This moment (meaning me typing this post outside while my daughter plays in her pool and sandbox) will never happen again. She will always be a little older (as will I), a little different. Things will change, relationships will grow, people will drift apart. While I may feel a brief sadness at the thought of time passing, I look forward to the future, and what joy and promise it holds.

And I do have to say, I am glad of our decision to hold her back another year. Being an adult is hard, and I’m glad our kid has one extra year of being a kid.

Conversations in my home

Standard

Daughter: You’re silly.

Dad (my husband): You’re sillier.

Daughter: You the silliest.

Dad: You’re the Queen of the Silly People.

Daughter: Well, you’re the King of the Silly People.

Dad: I can’t be the King, you’re already the Queen.

Daughter: Well, you’re bigger and older than me, so you have to be the King.

Dad: Okay, you can be the Princess of the Silly People.

Daughter: I don’t want to be the Princess.

Dad: But the people need their Princess.

Daughter: No, they need Jesus.

—-

Our daughter is either going to grow up to be a missionary or something or totally rebel and be a hardcore atheist. Pray for her. I do.

So…no more depression?

Standard

So you know my post about depression? Yeah, I’m feeling better. I asked several friends to pray, and I started feeling better. That, and I actually rested a bit and stopped eating some stuff that was making me ill. Yay for not feeling the blues and being back to my normal (weird) self.

Depression Sucks

Standard

Ugh. Just ugh. I’ve been feeling so down lately. It’s been hard to get motivated to do much, even to blog (and just when I got my site back up and running). It’s especially frustrating because I honestly have nothing to be depressed about. Life is grand! …  I guess. What’s more, I’m not naturally a depressed person; I’m naturally cheerful, upbeat and optimistic.

I don’t want to answer emails. I don’t want to return phone calls (or pick up the phone at all). If fact, I’d rather just avoid all people completely if at all possible – even my friends (sorry friends). I don’t feel like getting the house cleaned or doing dishes or laundry, but I do those things because they need to get done. Work (stamping) is kinda enjoyable because I get to create something and I am bringing in money (which helps with our sinking fund and school loans), but it’s not fun like it usually is.

So what’s with me? Well, it’s probably my thyroid. I’ve been here before, when I hadn’t yet started my synthroid and I was dealing with brain fog, hair loss and inexplicable sadness. Now, after diet changes (fasting), extreme stress (hello Women’s tea!) and a few missed doses of Synthroid (grrr doctor’s office, call me back!), my body seems to be needing a break from everything, and that seems to be including my cheerful, upbeat outlook on life.

It’s an extremely odd feeling: almost like I’m a stranger looking in at myself telling me to “COME ON, CHEER UP!” After all, I am deeply familiar with people who are in much harder situations, I have so much to be thankful for, and everything in my life is honestly wonderful. But the depression won’t quit; it’s like a cough that just won’t go away – you may be on the upswing, but there’s that cough again, attacking and leaving you paralyzed at just the wrong moment. But you know that eventually, you will stop coughing because you can’t cough forever, right? Right?

I write this because my depression is not who I am, but it is something I experience. It’s not something I enjoy, but it is something I have learned from. For one, depression to me has become a physical state. It’s hard to mentally pull myself out of the physical gloom, but they are two separate things. There’s that little cheerleader inside of my going, “everything will be okay” that keeps me feeling fine, even when all I want to do is go back to bed in the morning.

But the real secret? That little cheerleader inside isn’t me. I on my own could never manage to be continually positive in the face of the physical heaviness depression causes day in and out (though I grant you, this spell has been blessedly short thus far).That cheerleader is the Spirit, speaking truth to my soul, encouraging me that I am not alone, that I do not need to fear. For each time I find myself ready to break down and cry, ready to give up or just go back to bed, I hear that quiet voice whispering (or sometimes shouting!):

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil 4:6-7

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
 He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1-3

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, Psalm 46:1-2

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil 4:12-13

…And countless other verses. I am not alone, and therefore cannot be lonely. I can be sad, but there is always someone there to comfort me. No matter how lost, sad, anxious, or afraid I may feel, there is a ever present peace that reaches out to cover me. And while I generally prefer the rejoicing and thanksgiving, I will certainly take the comfort and peace when I feel lost. I certainly am grateful to be able to experience both aspects of God’s love in my life. And even though the darkness sometimes seems overwhelming, it is never pervasive – it never swallows or consumes me because there is something much brighter dwelling inside.

Funny enough, one of the drafts I have to work on is titled “Joy” – I think I need to save writting that post until I’m a little more, um, joyful.

Annual Women’s Tea

Standard

Once again this year I was in charge of the food for the women’s tea, which always happens the day before Mother’s Day. Spoilers if you don’t want to read the whole post – we managed to get the food served, the food tasted good, I needed more help, and I am NEVER doing that again. For the long story, read on…

It all started off on the wrong foot when Easter landed late this year. I tried to start with planning and recruiting earlier than Easter, I really did. It just didn’t happen.

Then, there were people out of town. Or long time helpers who just needed a break this year. Or ladies who wanted to help but had emergencies. There were people who could help, but I simply ran out of time to call after so many nos and just needed to start working or nothing was going to get done.

Lunch!And that’s when it began.

(After planning the menu) I made the molded chocolates by myself. I figured out the shopping. I had a panic attack and called my MIL to take my daughter for a few days. I did the shopping (6 hours in one day). I made the special mayo, cucumber spread, chicken salad. I called for help. I got help with one of the desserts (PRAISE GOD!). I made the mini tarts (Lord, WHY did I choose this dessert?!?) which were not so pretty (but tasted good). I had three – THREE – helpers prepping with me the day before.

One of the broken trays BEFOREThen, the day of, I had 6 helpers (and one hostess who briefly stepped in to help until she needed to go host her table – yay!). I even called my MIL and asked her if she’d help when she brought my daughter home (she often helps my brother-in-law with his catering business). I really think that ten are needed. We ran around like crazy ladies for hours. The hot water needed to be boiled and poured into the dispensers (since the dispensers were slow). Praise God there was no sweet tea to make. We almost ran out of chicken salad. We nearly missed the lunch queue. We couldn’t sit because we needed to plate the desserts. Two dessert tiers fell apart on us. The desserts were late out. It was chaos and we were tired.

But more than that, there was a lack of grace in those attending that made the day really hard. There were not a lot of thank yous for my helpers. There were a lot of exasperated sighs followed by “the hot water isn’t ready yet?” There were frowns and arms crossed when we brought out desserts. There were ladies walking through the kitchen (an off-limit zone during the tea), who back-talked and rolled eyes when asked to walk around. It was a hard day for a whole lot of work.

themeIt was hard to see so many women who I know, many whom I love and many who are “church ladies” acting so – to be blunt – rude. I know that some were church visitors, but many weren’t. I know I snapped at someone once during the morning and felt awful. For me, the tea was a great reminder of how HUMAN church-goers really are. How flawed and self-centered/self-focused we all can get at times, no matter how wonderful or kind the person. It was a good moment for me for self-reflection. I myself recognize those times I fall short of my expectations for myself – fall flat on my face, in fact – and I try my best to improve my conduct the next time. The only thing I can do with those around me is to hope they do the same, and not to judge them for the same faults that I certainly possess.

However, the tea wiped me out. Four days and not enough help really affected my health and just about knocked me out since. Plus, it just didn’t seem fair to my daughter. So, regrettably, I won’t be able to lead the tea again. Besides, I’d rather be hosting a table, where I can invite my mother and grandmother, who are lost and could use the message.

In all this excitement, I did learn a valuable lesson (look! It’s an afternoon special!): Just because I am good at something doesn’t mean I need to do it – even if I am the best candidate for the job.*

*And I am in no way saying that I am the most qualified for doing food for the tea – I just happened to be the only person who would say yes.

Serve the City

Standard

This Saturday was our church’s annual Serve the City day. Basically, it’s a chance for us to get out of the boundaries of our church and go do something to give back to the city we live in. I absolutely love this idea because I think churches often get too focused inward and on serving their own community (or teaching their community how to serve others without actually going out to do so). If fact, I find it so important, I canceled out monthly Deaconess meeting to clear way for the ladies to be able to make time for serving instead.

We had two projects going that morning: beach clean up and serving at the local rescue mission.  My husband, daughter and I headed to the beach to meet everyone (last year we met at the church, but this year we knew what we were doing, so we drove straight there). We met up with our friends, grabbed a donut (sadly not me, *sniff*), and headed out on the beach to pick up some trash … all 11 of us. Yes, 11. Of 350+ who attend our church.

fake nose!So we had a great time. We let our four year old find shells instead this year (she was horribly bored doing trash for 2 hours last year). We found some treasures: butane lighters, toothbrushes, socks, a creepy doll, a medical boot, a fake nose, and a dead seal. Yay! Then we headed back to the cars, drove to a local restaurant, and enjoyed lunch and fellowship together before getting home before 1pm.

After chatting with the leader, we did find out there were a few people signed up to go over to the mission, but not many. I am extremely saddened by the number of people (especially those in leadership positions) who felt they had better things to do this morning. I myself did NOT want to go. I was exhausted from the tea last week, I have a ton of work orders, and I just need a break. But this is important!

As we walked on the beach, we ran into another group cleaning up the beach. They were chatting and having a great time! It was a fundraiser and contest, and all sorts of people showed up. I’m sure some of them were religious, but the event was clearly secular, and was infinitely more successful. How incredibly sad that we, who pride ourselves on being loving and caring, sometimes care more about ourselves than those around us – even to the point of ignoring a serve day that comes once a year. My heart just hurts at how hypocritical we (myself included – we’ve done serve day for years and this is only my second time!) behave.

However, times like this do make me grateful that I put my trust not in people, church, or religion, but in an all powerful creator. After all, the lack of people for a serving event is no different than my hypocritical behavior in other areas – I am far from perfect and am so glad I have someone to follow who IS perfect in every way.

Back (again)

Standard

Hello. Again. It seems that my little site is the perfect target for spammers. I wasn’t even listed on google forgoodnesssake. So anyway, I miraculously (*cough*with help*cough*) cleared the 15k+ spam emails sent from my site, the 60k+ spam comments in my blog, and the 3 pages on my site which – instead of linking to info about how I stamp or who I am – linked to a viagra sales site. The wonderful hackers even got into my cpannel and wordpress dashboard so that I couldn’t fix anything myself. With the help of two different web monitoring sites, I was able to get everything cleaned up, and now I can write again. Whoo! I’ve spent a bit of time backdating a few entries to cover the gaps, but I should be back to posting when my queue is down to a reasonable length (it’s at around 80 right now). Blessings as you read!

Pollyanna

Standard

Last night my family sat down to watch a movie. I’ve been on a Disney kick lately, but not the animated movie – the old live action ones. For the most part, they are safe, cheesy and fun to watch. I don’t remember them, my husband has never seen them, and my daughter will tolerate them, which is awesome because it means we don’t need to sit through another Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

So this week the movie choice was Pollyanna. My mom used to love this movie, so I watched it fairly often as a kid, though, to be honest, it kinda bored me, so I watched it less often than my mom wanted to. I remembered very very little from the movie. All I basically remembered was that Pollyanna came to live with her Aunt and slowly made the town a happy place to live. Color me SHOCKED when I found the movie to be heavily influenced by religion – something that was so over my head as a kid who never went to church. The discussion of religion kept coming and coming,

I was sitting half paying attention to the movie when Pollyanna casually mentioned that her (now deceased) parents were missionaries (me: wait, did they die on the mission field! TELL ME MORE!). At one point, Aunt Polly is sitting with the Reverend and hands him suggestions of verses to include in the next Sunday’s sermon. It’s pretty clear that the suggestion isn’t really a suggestion (Wait, is she just helping or is he forced to do that because of the money she gives?).

Aunt Polly Harrington: He said you only have the congregation for one short hour a week. And there are six long days of mischief for them before you get them again.

Reverend Ford: Ah! I see your point. Strike hard on Sunday the excessiveness of God’s wrath and hope they carry it with them a few days into the week!

 Later, the town tries to rally to raise money for the orphanage began by Aunt Polly’s father, but Aunt Polly pledges to take care of the problem – though only the bare minimum, not what really needs to be fixed. (That doesn’t seem like real charity to me.)  People talk about hating Sunday and it being the worst day of the week because of the sour taste the sermon leaves in their mouths. The Sunday sermon is awful: full of damnation and sin – and the viewers have to watch all of it (where’s the salvation, grace and forgiveness?). Later, the town rallys together and asks for the support of the church and the revered declares that he must remain neutral. (Is that really the church’s job – to not take a stand?) Pollyanna finds the reverend practicing his sermon “DEATH COMES UNEXPECTEDLY!” in a field and tells him about her father, who decided to concentrate on the “happy texts”

Reverend: The happy texts?
Pollyanna: Yes. Like, um, ‘Shout for joy,’ or, ‘Be glad in the Lord.’ You know, like that… There are eight hundred happy texts, did you know that?
Reverend: No, I didn’t know that.
Pollyanna: And do you know, my father said that if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must have wanted us to do it.

While leaving that thought hanging in the air, and after commenting casually, “no one owns a church,” she hands Reverend Ford a letter from Aunt Polly with suggestions for the Sunday sermon. Reverend Ford looks after Pollyanna as she leaves, starts to read the letter and falls to his knees, crying, “what have I done?” His sermon the next Sunday is full of love, joy and the “happy texts,” which he has spent the rest of the week counting. Spurned on by a change of leadership, the entire town starts to feel joy which eventually affects even sour Aunt Polly. If only church today had that kind of power – to reach out into the community, bring joy – reaching into the darkness and pulling people out of their isolation. While the gospel does have that power, it feels like too many churches themselves isolate and never bother to go out of their own doors to serve the community around them.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that my mom actually liked the movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us believe that church and region really is like that – often angry, condemning, and guilt-ridden. How redeeming then for the movie to turn not just the town around, but the church – the guiding light? The reverend realizing he’s been preaching fear and guilt, and, when confronted by a child, realizes that church (and more importantly) God and Jesus, isn’t about that – Love, joy and happiness is infinitely more important. If only people (like my mom) could realize that  churches like that are not just for the happy-ending-movies, but that that kind of freedom and happiness can be found just around the corner if you can find the right church home.

Shy

Standard

Today as I was working, I was listening to Pandora. I’ve been hesitant to do so because I had all the music I love already in my collection, but 1) I figured it’d be a good way to find some new music, and 2) when I got my new laptop, I lost all the music I had changed over from cds, and I seem to be missing a huge portion of my cd collection, sadly (all my Broadway music; so sad). Anyway, I’ve been listening to a Broadway station and remembering just how much I love Broadway music (and how much I love belting it out), when this wonderful song came on from Once Upon a Mattress:

I’ve always been SHY
I confess that I’m SHY
Can’t you guess that this confident air
Is a mask that I wear ’cause I’m shy
And you can be sure 
Way down deep I’m demure
Though some people I know may deny it
At bottom I’m quiet and pure
I’m aware that it’s wrong to be meek as I am
My chances may pass me by
I pretend to be strong, but as weak as I am
All I can do is try
God knows I try
Though I’m frightened and shy
And despite the impression I give
I confess that I’m living a lie
Because I’m actually terribly timid
And horribly shy

Now this song suits me to a T (okay, except the looking for a man part). People who know me – many who know me quite well, in fact – think I am outgoing and social, but the truth is that I am absolutely terrified to talk to people. It’s all an act. I am a huge introvert. Yes, I met my husband doing theater. Yes, I can memorize lines, stand in front of people, deliver a speech or sing a song – but I get nervous picking up the phone when I don’t know *exactly* why the person on the other end is calling. I stress about parties and social events, rehearse what I need to say to the doctor or dentist (only in my head), and generally feel unsettled around other people. I am comfortable in my own little world, in my home, by myself, reading a book, writing or making something. It has taken me YEARS to work myself up to coming out of my shell to become comfortable enough with who I am (socially awkward) to just be myself around people and to talk first, introduce myself, or fill uncomfortable silence.

I started singing in choir when I was in 3rd grade. Getting on stage terrified me – but it was that or violin, and I liked singing much more. WHen I got to Jr High, I realized I loved singing, and didn’t want to stop, so I continued with choir, still having near panic attacks before each concert. By then I realized it was a fear, and decided I needed to overcome it. I have no idea what made me decide that, but when I decide something is a challenge, I am generally too stubborn (stupid?) to back down, so I just kept going. I continued choir in high school, and if you were a good choir student (and I was a good student for everything else, so why wouldn’t I do well in choir?), you’d do solos; so I tried out for solos. And I sang them – shaking each time. The next step were musicals – three in high school, though just in the chorus. On to college, where I did plays and took leads, singing complete songs alone and memorizing pages of dialogue. (This is when I met my husband.) People can’t understand why I felt comfortable acting, but the truth is that acting is marvelous! It’s the only time in life that everything is scripted; for 2 hours you know exactly what you are supposed to say and – even better – what the person you are speaking to is going to respond. Once you gain confidence in your role, and the role of your costars, you can play to the audience, engage them, and draw them in. I took those lessons with me when presenting papers at conferences for my English classes, and was much less nervous than expected.

Yet despite all this training, I still almost never feel 100% at ease. And even when I do, my body gives me away. I have a central nervous tremor, which causes my hands to shake. So even if I do feel completely at ease, I can give the impression of being completely panicked. I think this is a gift – to help establish my real character, which is that of an introvert.

As I’ve become more active in my community and outspoken in church and in other social situations, I feel like a different person. I didn’t change who I was. I simply became comfortable with ME. I’ve realized that God made me who I am, and that specific person – awkward, nervous, introverted, but also someone who loves theater, music and sharing stories – that person that I am is specifically designed like no other. I am designed to be myself, to be the best me that I can be, and when I go out to do what God has called me to do – which is to share the love of Christ and the Gospel – then there is no reason to hide or change who I am. I need to introduce myself first and share stories about me because I am terribly timid, horribly shy – and there are others out there just like me who need to hear the good news from someone like me.

Easter – Part 2

Standard
Resurrection Grader BEFOREMy absolute favorite part of Easter is the resurrection garden. This is a tradition we have now done for three years, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. First, we get a large sized pot and fill it with dirt. Next, we get an apple or potato and hollow out a cave. Then we grab something to represent Jesus. A while ago I found these gingerbread marshmallows, which I like to use since they look like men, and I keep them around just for this project. You’ll also need a rock.

With all our supplies, my daughter and I head outside and talk about Jesus and how he died – we do this part on Good Friday. We set the potato/apple in the middle of the pot on top of the dirt, then cover it with dirt, and discuss the tomb. We then place Jesus inside the tomb, and then place the rock over  the entrance. We talk about how he was left there and everyone was so sad he was dead. Then my daughter and I go for a walk and gather flowers (and anything else) for the tomb. We come back and decorate the pot.

Saturday we check the flowers and see them drooping and talk about how the disciples must have felt. She (being young) usually wants to check and see if Jesus is still there.

Easter Resurrection Garden - AFTEREaster Sunday morning, my daughter wakes up and immediately asks if Jesus is there. She doesn’t care about the candy or the eggs (I’ve learned to keep them aside until after church). All she wants to know is if Jesus is in his tomb. We race outside. The rock is moved. Jesus is missing. “HE IS RISEN!” we all shout (this year in our front yard; I’m sure our neighbors thought we were nuts). Then my daughter notices the new and beautiful plants (that mom has planted the night before) and we talk about how Jesus brings new life. This is my favorite part of Easter.

If you’re looking for something else that’s enjoyable, I highly recommend resurrection rolls. We’ve done them the past 2 years but forgot this year (low on my radar since I was fasting and am gluten free).

Easter DecorationsI also recommend updating your decor to include something to reference the resurrection (I mean, that *is* the point of Easter!). I bought a plank of wood at Michael’s and a paint pen and wrote this message on a board, though you could go even simpler, and use plastic eggs and write the same message, like these eggs, which sit on our dining table.

Also this is a great time to give gifts to family and friends who might need a bit of a nudge – I gave books to my non-believing family (and prayed and stressed about it), but really, they were grateful I thought about them at all. Besides, if you can’t do that on Easter, when will you be bold enough?

Easter – Part 1

Standard

Easter is one of my favorite holidays. I always think Christmas is, but I’ve been working to try to bring Easter up to the importance of Christmas since I believe (theologically) Easter is far more important. One of the ways we’re incorporated that importance at our house is to create several Easter traditions that we enjoy repeating each year. 

The two that are the most important for us that are a bit different (besides the egg dying and hunting and whatnot) are coloring a basket and making a resurrection garden. This post is for the more “traditional” Easter stuff – next time I’ll post on the garden.

Easter EggsFirst, for the basket. Each year, my daughter gets several baskets from different family members – some are plastic, some are branch, some are wood. They all vary in quality. I wanted my daughter to have one basket that was hers to use each year that was special and meant something to her, so I found a good sized basket for her when she was nearly 1 (her first Easter) and then sewed a liner for the basket and let her smear paint all over the inside. That became her special basket that she painted.

The next year, she’d gotten bigger, and her baby basket was too small, so we used another basket. Only it didn’t have her name. So again, I thought it’d be nice for her to get to paint her basket liner. I sewed a liner out of some white fabric I had lying around, and let her paint. And thus after the 2nd year, a tradition was born. The next two years, she’s used permanent markers since she’s wanted to draw rather than paint (and we needed them to dry faster!), but the results are the same: fantastic, one-of-a-kind baskets that she made herself for that specific year that are growing with her in creativity and in personalization. And for me? The only difficulty is finding the time to sew the liner.

Another thing I did last year for decoration around the house was make Easter egg garlands – oh, how I loved pulling these out this year now that they were already done! I took a needle and thread and just sewed through the holes that are already in the eggs, and voila! Garland. Fantastic!

Obligatory egg coloring picture to the right. We hard boiled 18 eggs. I got to dye 3, my husband did 2, and my daughter hogged 13. But at least she was happy!

Egg Hunt at the Stub Hub Center

And finally, the egg hunts. We did 4(!) this year. First, a city-wide one at the Stub-Hub center (where the LA Galaxy plays), second, one at our church (eggs in the sanctuary, chaos!), third, family (cousins!) and finally our daughter alone at home. I missed my grandfather’s egg hunt this year. I think 2 years ago was his final year, which is tremendously sad. Easter was his favorite holiday (and he’s not a believer) – he’s still around, but too tired for the egg hunts he once did. He used to make false backs of drawers, safety pin shirt sleeves, unzip pillows on couch cushions, and pick up plants and put the egg under the plant in the pot. He’d also go to costco and buy packs of tissues and then open one, remove the tissues, put an egg in, put tissues back, tape it up and put the box with the other boxes. He’d put the egg in a bag ina  bucket of birdseed in the garage, in a box in a pile of boxes, in a half water bottle in a case of open water bottles, in a container in a toolbox, etc. He was dedicated to the hunt and had a map of where all the locations were, though we still usually couldn’t find one. Best of all, there was an egg trophy he’d made from an egg that stayed hidden for 3 years – each year, whoever found the golden egg got to keep the trophy. (I was the last winner of the trophy.) No one has experienced an egg hunt like my grandfather hosted. He’s one of a kind.

 

Fasting is over!

Standard

It is well with my soulI ended my fast on Maundy Thursday – not the traditional end of Lent, but it was the time that was right for me. I wanted to celebrate a Maunday Thursday dinner with my family and friends, and while cooking and praying about exactly what was okay for me to eat, I clearly felt that continuing to fast over that day would be more about me that about Jesus, so I stopped my fast. (Funny, I walways knew I’d end on Thursday and not on Sunday.)

Overall, my fast went well. I broke the Daniel Fast hugely once by eating meat at a Mission’s Dinner (I felt that it’d be to the detriment of the group to abstain), and there were several other minor rule infractions (which were basically having balsamic dressing on my salads when I went out to eat with people, and occasionally having some preservatives in food like tomatoes or beans, because it was insanity to avoid it in certain situations).

The first few days were hard because I didn’t really know what to eat, but I ended up getting the hang of it pretty quickly. I set up a pinterest board for Daniel Fast food (note, there are a lot of “Daniel Fast recipes” with honey or date sugar – NOT OKAY! It’s no precious foods, which includes honey, so those recipes are totally not okay if you are following the strict fast.). I found that Trader Joes was A-MAZ-ING. I could buy soups, beans, tortillas (and of course the fresh stuff) without any preservatives in it. My favorite things were potatoes coated in olive oil and baked and refried beans layered with bell peppers and tomatoes (simple 7-layer dip) with baked tortillas to make chips. Then I figured out I could make guacamole and I was in heaven. Drinking water was fabulous. When I craved sweet things, I made sorbets in my Vitamix or ate fresh berries. I ate a lot of nuts and peanut butter with apples and bananas. I discovered oatmeal with flaxseed, chia seed and bananas (best power breakfast ever!). I did find that salads did not work at all, which is what I expected to survive off of – I got bored of olive oil and vinegar REAL quick.

I did have a bit of troubles with potlucks, visiting friends, and eating out. I (frankly) showed up late to the potluck so no one would notice me avoiding the food, asked for water at friends houses (and ate nuts and fruit when provided), and when eating out, stuck with fajitas and beans (probably had some preservatives, but best I could do, salads (with oil and vinegar or balsamic – a slight cheat), or “bowl” type food.” While for the most part I did try to adhere to not telling anyone I was fasting, there were a few people I told: 1) my husband (duh), 2) my daughter (who is 4), 3) one of my best friends, who constantly brings me food, and both my parents and in-laws. While I didn’t intend to tell either sets of parents, it was necessary for the amount of meals I spend around them. I decided to fully explain to my daughter as a way of demonstration, and I needed to tell my friend for practical reasons. I later told two other close friends for purposes of discussing fasting and lent.

Overall, there has been a dramatic improvement in my prayer life. This has had a lasting effect (even a month later – noted on 5/13)! I find that when I don’t know what to think or when I have a problem, I defaulted to prayer, rather than practical solutions. Generally, when you are hungry, you eat. But when you are unable to do so for more than a month, you start to think differently. When I replaced the hunger with prayer – every time I felt hungry, I tried to pray instead, I found that I became accustomed to it. In fact, when I injured myself or had other problems that I’d typically solve myself (especially if there was delayed gratification involved), I found it quite easy to be content with prayer, whereas before my fast I’d be impatient or angry.

In general, I’ve felt better overall after. I’ve felt healthier and more aware of things – more at peace, and more whole: aligned in body and spirit. I returned to eating meat, dairy and sugar and within a few days, I felt ill and run down again. I keep telling myself I need to return to at least partially observing the rules of the Daniel Fast (likely it was the no sugar) because I felt so so much better. In fact, one of the lasting effects is that I haven’t been interested in soda, tea, lemonade, etc. The fast effectively killed my desire for flavored beverages, except in extremely small quantities.

I know that I will definitely fast again, and definitely do the Daniel fast as well. It’s been nothing but a blessing and a growing experience for me, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I do recommend having a few people to talk about it with (or even to do it with you!) because it’s something that it hard to do alone without prayer – not just your prayer, but the prayer of friends covering you.

Book of Mormon

Standard

(Warning, long post!) For my birthday, instead of a big party or something (since I turned 30), I asked for descent seats to go to a Broadway show. We’d heard – interesting – things about Book of Mormon, and my husband REALLY wanted to go, so we decided on that show. I had a vague idea of what I was getting into, knowing who the writers were (South Park), but I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I know it takes a whole lot to offend me, and, while I was expecting the show to touch on Christianity in general, not just the Mormons, I certainly didn’t expect the show to 1) make me cry, 2) make me pity the audience, and 3) feel convicted. Laughter, a touch of anger and disgust I expected, and I got that in spades. It was not a good show, by any means, but it was certainly a show that made me think, and it was definitely time well spent.

In case you were curious what the show looks like from an Evangelical Christian standpoint, here you go. I’m cutting it here because this is a LONG LONG post (and very possibly offensive).

Continue reading

Swallows Parade

Standard

Cowboys!One of my fondest memories growing up was going to the Swallows Parade every year in San Juan Capistrano. It’s not much of a parade (though I have since learned it’s the longest non-mechanical parade in the US), but it was fun growing up – my dad would always ride his horse in his riding group and we’d often know some people from elementary / middle / high school who were walking. They used to throw candy (but apparently not any more). We’d all come down from the community I lived in and camp in front of the Del Taco (where there was a nice grassy hill), and sit and enjoy the parade. We’d walk down to the McD’s for lunch (or one of the other fast food places) and sit and enjoy friends and the parade – and usually get sunburned.

This year my dad was riding in the parade again, which he hadn’t done in a few years. I hadn’t ever brought my daughter, so we decided to go. Of course it just happened to be the same day as one of the biggest meetings for church leadership, so I showed up for about 45 minutes of the meeting, then ducked out (nice, hun?). Ah well, it was my Dad’s birthday, and he loves my daughter.

So we went down for the parade. We met my mom and her friend and went to the staging area to meet my dad and say hello to all the cowboys my mom knows. It was really neat seeing all the horses on the football field of the local high school – crowed together, wearing all sorts of costumes, just waiting for the parade to start. We said hello, took a few pictures, then left to find a nice spot near the Mission San Juan.

Then the peace was broken and it got scary really quickly.

Within about half an hour of the parade starting, a wagon pulled by 2 large horses pulled sharply to the right just in front of us. One horse had spooked and the horses careened into the crowd. People dove over the bushes, knocking over their folding chairs. Drinks and bags went flying. The horses plowed over the chairs (thankfully empty) and the people in the back of the open wagon clutched to the children sitting in the back, who weren’t wearing seat belts. The man holding the reins tried desperately to bring the horses back under control,and pulled them back to the street, but they spooked again, made a turn, and headed our way. My mom yelled, “RUN!” as I was a bit frozen with shock. I picked up my daughter, and started running, looking behind me as I noticed the horses stopped. Everyone slowly returned to our purses and bags – all abandoned on the sidewalk. There was an eerie quiet, then the ambulances started to arrive, followed by a horse from my dad’s group carrying a well known doctor. They checked everyone and the only severe problem was a man in a wheelchair who was already paralyzed – he had some minor injuries. A few other bumps and bruises, but it could have been so SO much worse. My daughter and I sat down and prayed for everyone involved, for the audience, for the participants yet to march, and for ourselves. I sent a note to our church prayer chain and got some nice emails back much later in the day, though I felt the calmness wash over me almost immediately (as did my daughter). (Read about the incident here.)

What I found the most interesting, however, was what followed the accident. As the parade was getting ready to resume, a lady working for the parade (probably a volunteer) came up and down the lines, telling everyone to take a few steps back, and to make surer they were standing. Everyone had just started to calm down, but her words of, “You need to be standing. There is a big group of horses coming next, and you don’t know what they are going to do after they have been waiting so long.” After one woman didn’t move back to the ‘director’s’ satisfaction, the lady said, “I don’t mean to be rude ma’am, but what are you going to do if the horses get lose again and come over here? Are you going to take your stroller over those bushes? I don’t think so.” Then she walked away. People edged away from the curb, all their belongings in hand, once again anxious and fearful.

My Dad's GroupMy dad’s group happened to be the next group up – they were all dressed in crisp white shirts. Businessmen, lawyers, doctors, and real cowboys made up the group, but the horses were well-controlled, and the men were kind: smiling and waving at the crowd as if nothing had happened 30 minutes prior. Immediately everyone calmed down and began to sit again as a wave of peace washed over the parade route.

Watching the sharp juxtaposition in the wake of a truly scary event, I wondered what kind of person I want to be – do I want to be a fear-mongerer, frightening people into doing what I think is best? Or do I want to put people at ease, drawing them close, and bringing them the comfort they truly need when they have been deeply hurt or frightened?