Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June at Random

It's absolutely beautiful here. Perfect temp, sunny and breezy, shimmery light, no bugs. If you don't live around here and you just felt a tinge of jealousy, remember that my skin will age quicker than yours and I will be at greater risk for skin cancer. There are always two sides to the same coin.

My errands went quickly and I'm waiting in the car - windows down and sunroof open - while Michael finishes up weight training. Surprise of all surprises, I have a minute or two to blog. In a way I feel like I'm spending the summer driving my teens to places they need to be, and I'm having a hard time adjusting to this type of summer schedule. My younger ones are begging to go to the beach, and all I've been able to manage thus far are short and simple trips that last an hour or so. 

But life is good. I slow my mind down to take it in. I noticed particulars of life with my kids that make me smile, and wish only to be mindful to see more. For instance:

*On the way here Michael rode in the passenger seat with his socks on his lap, skateboard tucked to the side, his knees up to the dash (at 6'1" he can't help it), eating the flesh of a coconut split in half. 

*I took a short bike ride with Andrew this morning so he could show me the homes of more "clients" for his garbage can business. He has a dozen clients now and has increased his profits from $6 per month to $70. Anyway, he found a cool bug as we biked along and wanted to take it home. Since he was on his unicycle, I kept his biting beetle the length of my thumb in my cruiser basket. It hisses. 

*Jacob has wrapped his arms around my waist numerous times today and I stopped long enough to hold him tight. This is super important to him.

*Olivia looked cute and confident as she ran into the ice-cream and candy shop... her summer job.

Well, I've only got some iPhone picks available today. They help me to remember the little things too.

Driving with her is not as scary anymore, until suddenly it is. 
She is doing awesome, but it's a good thing I enjoy adrenaline coursing through my veins now and then.

A painting project I expected to take one day turned into three. I was tired, but now I'm glad it's done.

Three days spent painting rafters is not at all bad for building arm muscle.
Wood stain/tannins that bleed through builds patience and a healthy feeling of "good enough" after 5 coats.

Jon hired Andrew to make and bring me coffee in his stead. I'm spoiled, I know. I get coffee in bed every single morning. I'm so not a morning person, and they feel sorry for me.

A quick, Sunday afternoon trip to the beach to test a new wetsuit and new-to-us board.

He dreams at night and during the day of being in the waves. 

After a couple hours of driving, plus several lengthy errands, we made a quick stop on the way home to check out a new spot. Seriously the coolest place. How is it, local people, that you don't tell me about these places? Why did it take me nearly 6 years to find this?

I'm on a running schedule again. It helps me so much to have an actual piece of paper that tell's me when and how long to run. I'm certain that's telling of my personality...

Also, night runs are the best. Morning runs are the pits.

How I found Jack one morning. He plays hard, therefore he sleeps hard.

He was working on his Father's Day note for the poster my kids make each year.
Then he took Jon out for coffee on Sunday with money he made selling lemonade.
He is our generous spender.

She was looking over the fall course catalog, wearing my dress, looking cute, while I did handstands.

I'm getting closer to not needing the wall. Hanging upside down is so energizing. 
The dorky socks are to keep the wall clean.
Yes, the bedroom walls are seriously under decorated. 

I love finding her selfies on my phone. Most times they are silly, but this one was cute.

Jon and I sort of slept outside one night last week, and we woke up to five ducklings in our pool. There was no sign of a parent, and no way for them to get out. We spent some time chasing them round the pool in the dingy, boxed them up, then took them to the wildlife rescue place. We are so Californian. Upon our return, Andrew's big, beautiful butterfly had hatched and we let it out into the big blue sky.


It's a day later, I'm happy-tired, and wouldn't you know it... here I am again. 

I look through the above pics and see how many there are of me, and I think it's rather funny. In reality, the kids' photos far outweigh mine in number, except at the moment theirs reside on my camera's memory card. 

For a brief moment, I wonder what some of you will think. Maybe some will think it's vain or lacking in humility, or someone will judge my clothes, or judge my motives, or think some other negative thought about me that I cannot guess. I wonder if I should take them down just to avoid being the object of negative thoughts, and the reason for ruffling some one's feathers.

Olivia and I talk about this sort of thing. We all know how some people plaster the internet with photos of themselves. I guess this could be vanity and a waste of time. But for others, it could be a creative expression or a celebration of a happy and blessed life. Who am I to determine some one's motive?

Here's the thing I tell Olivia: It's no less wrong to live in fear of what others might wrongly judge, always trying to please others (which is an impossibility) than it is to be filled with vanity and pride. I'm seeing with increasing clarity that I allow what I think folks might think to dictate my choices. I'm guilty of letting the fear of man stifle joyous living.

This past spring, for instance, I watched on Facebook several friends train and complete long distance runs. I loved following their training progress and I silently cheered from my side of the computer screen when they achieved their goals. They posted pictures, results, medals, happy faces. I never for an instance thought they were being proud, but rather I admired their work and accomplishment, and their freedom to simply celebrate. The funny thing is that I trained and ran too, but could not bring myself to post anything just in case it came across as prideful. It is a twisted, false humility that masks the fear of man! Can't we just celebrate the good things in life with each other? I think most people do, and it's certainly the kind of person I want to be.

So, yes, I did run. Running and the injuries I've incurred by running have only made me work harder to feel better and enjoy life more fully. And I'm rightly proud of that as I continue to push myself. I've loved the results I've worked for. Is that really so bad to say? 

But three weeks before I ran, I had to nearly stop training because of a foot injury (couldn't tell if it was a stress fracture or tendinitis). In fact, the whole 12 weeks of training didn't go very well at all, despite an iron infusion for chronic anemia at the beginning. Having to pull back during my peak weeks of training was a real disappointment. I had long let go of my goal to finish my second half marathon under two hours, and just determined to finish the race and enjoy it. I knew running was a risky gamble, but I tried to let my foot heal well enough for race day. When the day came, the odds were very much against me and I imagined having to be picked up and driven back embarrassed. I stubbornly lined up with my group in wave 2 and looked for Michael and Olivia waving past throngs of people. Then I had the best run ever, only slightly annoyed with my foot, and finished under the two-hour mark. I was a happy, limping girl during the days that followed, but the feeling of accomplishment was more than worth it, as were the weeks of foot recovery that followed.

I'd like to think that personal accomplishments should be reasons to celebrate the gift that it is from God who enables, rather than a reason to cower in fear of what others may think. Yes? The point is not running, or finishing well, but embracing the freedom to enjoy things that make us thankful!

Jon is my sweetheart. He tells me to live and be who God made me to be. His small words in passing are big deals to me sometimes. Just saying.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Journals of June Opening

I'm trying to keep this blog alive. I tell myself to just keep documenting, even if that means it's only disorganized thoughts and sporadic records of random events. April, May, and now June... it's all going by so quickly and I struggle to find the time to pause and remember. I've sat to write short journal-type entries this week, but they are nothing in comparison to what I'd like to record. Pictures help to call to mind the simple moments. Raw, understated, spontaneous moments are what compose most of life, and these are at the greatest risk becoming lost to me. I am reminded once again not to grumble at the mundane, but to actively look around for beauty, sweetness, humor, and the gift that is this life.

When I am old, I will cherish the many seaside walks at sunset I took with my kids.
If I have a failing mind one day, I hope this brings back memories of walking shoulder-to-shoulder with my teens. 

I want to remember stopping at odd places to gather flowers with Olivia.
These wild artichokes or giant thistles by the train stop were our latest.

I want to remember waking up and finding my boys doing the wonderfully odd things they do each day. Who thinks of reading in a rubber rowboat while the rest of the family still sleeps?
Andrew, that's who. 

Thursday, June 1

I sit hear near the end of another week, tapping the keys to form this first sentence and I'm frustrated by the blankness of my mind right now. It's so odd. There are many things I think of during the day that I'd love to write, if only I had the time. Sometimes I dialogue words into my head in the hopes of remembering them for transcription onto this screen at a later time. But then I sit here, like I am now, and it's all faded and gone.

I tell myself to try anyway, even though I know that blogs have fallen out of style for a reason. One of those reasons, I am sure, is that blogging can be work!

Oh, yes, work! That's where I can start. The kids' hard work this school year is paying off, and we are beginning to feel that sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as the year comes to a wrap. We didn't get a clean cut finish like we've had in the past. Last week Jacob and Andrew have finished 4th and 6th grades respectively, and I couldn't be happier for them. They've worked hard and completed a fantastic year, and they are ready and deserving of a break. Olivia completed her last class day today; we conference with her cohort teacher tomorrow, and she will take her finals next week. She has done amazingly. She has some concurrent credits under her belt, way more high school credits than usual for a sophomore, but still saved some time for youth group and service at church, and for entrepreneur club and areas of service. After finals, she plans on taking another CLEP exam and needs to take some math and English placement exams at our community college. This girl has incredible drive! Michael has a couple more weeks left before his science course is complete, but let me just say he has completed his best year yet. I am so proud of him. This dyslexic boy of mine has made incredible advancement this year. We have worked together for years-- blood, sweat, and tears kind of work-- and he is shocking us all with his accomplishments now. Yes, the very boy that struggled so much to learn to read and write recently tested beyond the high school level in some areas. He is an out-of-the-box thinker, intelligent, creative in peculiar ways... all strengths that are not measured by standardized tests. He keeps me wondering every single day about how he will use his life! I have no doubt it will be something interesting a unusual. Tomorrow, we will attend an awards ceremony. I'm not sure what he will be receiving, but he has been selected and we are going to find out. 'Course he couldn't care less about an award, but he's going for my sake.

Homeschool is work, let me just say. And transitioning into traditional school is another kind of work. So is preparing kids for life away from home and from our constant oversight. We are doing all these things at once.

The kids each have plans for work this summer as well. Olivia has been searching for work and has some good leads/opportunities that may result in a summer job. Michael is looking too, but at 14 it is a little harder to be formally considered. Most employers don't want to be bothered with work permits, or risk hiring an immature kid. Still, he is managing to pickup a few jobs here and there. He will be weight training (which is another kind of work) and learning to do sound at church, and has developed strategies for acquiring work in the coming years. Andrew went around the neighborhood on his unicycle with fliers advertising the work he can do. He found one lady who hired him to take in her three garbage bins for a total of $1.50 per week... which was kind of discouraging at first! Still, he is taking this job seriously and sees it as an opportunity to build his reputation. He and Jack want to set up a lemonade stand soon... and Jack plans to have a wagon full of succulents for sale. He artfully grows them in driftwood, rocks, and small containers. I buy them from him 'cause I like them, but also just to encourage him in his endeavors.

I want to remember these brother-friends and their boy-faces and projects. Someday these faces will have hair on them and their lives will be more complex, but I want to remember days like this: Side-by-side eating fresh strawberries in milk with brown sugar, and watching two spiders fight for life in a mason jar. May the remembrance of these happy, simple moments be like a happy balm to them when their faces are weathered and hairy, and when their lives are completely different!

I want to remember peaking into the sunroom and finding her "studying."
Truly, she is no slacker.

He was working on his last assignment of the year. I want to remember that he never worked at usual places.

This is exactly the kind of thing I tend to forget, but really want to remember...
Jacob's "store" in which he pulls out all of his junk and "treasures" to sell because he realizes his older brothers are making more money. I'm usually the only one to buy things. He stays behind his counter for hours, except to put up "Open" signs. I feel bad for him, so I buy more things.

We have this giant ball that was going to be thrown out. I want to remember the hours of fun and my boys' fearlessness. 

Friday, June 2

It frequently happens that I feel the need to somehow apologize to my neighborhood for the noise we create. Like now. My younger boys have a friend over for the night, and it's just amazing how much noise three boys can make in the pool. I shouldn't be surprised anymore, but I watch/listen in amazement every single time. Three boys make noise without even trying, like maybe 10 times more than if there were only two boys. The dynamics completely change when you go from two boys to three or more. If Michael goes out there, look out. (Look at the two pictures above and imagine more boys. Now add to that image lots of sound. Now multiply that sound beyond what is reasonable and necessary. Now multiply by 10 or 20, depending on the game.)

But the happy faces and loud, happy noise is wonderfully relaxing to me right now at the end of a long week. The evening is as it should be.

So Michael's award today was for "outstanding communicator." I'm not entirely sure what he did this year to warrant the award, but I sat there next to him with tears in my eyes during the lengthy school ceremony. My tears, though, were because of the hilarious things he kept whispering to me. I almost snorted through my nose trying not to laugh. His humor can be absolutely brilliant or insanely immature. Eventually I had to separate the boys because we were all getting out of hand. Life isn't boring for me, and being a mom to boys has been an adventure.

Like last Friday, Andrew was walking home from his $1.50 garbage bin "job" and noticed a snake under a bush. Not being sure if it was a rattle snake or not, he ran home for Michael. When I heard about this as they ran out the door, I considered saying "no." After all, is a rattle snake bite really worth it? Then I remembered how I need to trust them to make their own decisions. I knew they would be cautious; they've got good a head on their shoulders. And if not, I know how to get to the nearest ER quickly and I formulated the plan in my head!

A few minutes later they came home with this (not a rattler):

They are not allowed to bring snakes in the house, but clearly that didn't stop anyone. I'm no better; I don't help enforce rules when I grab my camera and take pictures.

I really do hate snakes. But I like my boys. I like that they aren't sissy boys, I like that they experiment ("Let's see how he swims..."), and how they find entertainment away from screens. Isn't this becoming a rarity in boys nowadays? Plus, there are much worse things to fear and fight against in life than snakes, and I'm all for allowing my kids to grow in courage.

That means I have to grow in courage as their mom. Yeah, I know the dangers out there in the real world are plentiful, but living according to fear is a far greater danger. Fear is the opposite of freedom, whether that relates to peer pressure, or trying new things and chasing dreams, or doing what's right in the eyes of God when it costs. Courage is needed to live freely. So often my freedom is hindered by fear of offending, fear of failure, fear of getting hurt or embarrassed, fear of being misunderstood, or fear of what others might think. How often I withhold true love because of fear!

Furthermore, if I fear everything that could happen to my kids, and imposed that fear on my kids, I'd surely fail to prepare them for life. Fear stifles, and it leads to a wasted life.

I'm not sure this makes sense to anyone else right now, and maybe you just want to judge me for being a reckless parent. I'm OK with that. For me, there is a whole discourse shaping in my heart on the subject of fear. It's a much bigger subject than I can grasp yet, but I think the implications will be awesome.

When I choose to live in fear (and it is a choice), I am essentially saying that God is not big enough to be trusted. I want to know freedom; I want to come to a place of trusting in my great, big, trustworthy, all-powerful, loving, and good God.

I am beginning to see some of the ways fear has dictated my life. Christ died so that I would have freedom in it's truest sense. Why is it, then, that I revert back to living in fear? If I have died to my self, and if Christ raised me to LIFE in him and sets me FREE from bondage to sin, why would I go back to living as a slave to fear? It makes no sense, and it need not be!

As I learn and grow, I want to expose to my kids ways in which fear is bondage to a lie about God. HE is bigger. HE is trustworthy. He calls us to a fuller, freer life! How great is that?!

(Also, courage and stupidity are not the same. Being stupid in the name of fearlessness is not what I'm talking about here! We need to teach wisdom, too!)

Sunday, June 4

Our water bill is out of control, and the city complains of our water usage. They don't realize that in the summer we run a recreational pool and youth program. They should compare our water usage to the city public pool instead of our elderly and working professional neighbors; they should take into consideration how many people sleep under our roof (or outside on our property, as the case may be), and how much laundry, showers, and dish-washing all these people and activities produce. I think we'd fare a bit better that way.

Sunday afternoon now, and our pool deck is soaked. Wet towels and swim suits lay everywhere. This is a huge amount of wasted water for which our wrists will be slapped by the city. I'm sure our energy bill will be high as well because of the jacuzzi. The grocery store, however, has never complained about our food bill! 

The way I see it, though, is that these bills are investments. I'm not expecting the city to understand that investing in people and relationships is worth a pretty penny. I'm pretty sure we'll never regret putting our money there. Making our home a place where our kids want to be is important to us. In fact, we want our home to be where their friends want to be and place where we can welcome strangers with ease. I am consciously working to prepare such an environment and to improve my skill and readiness. Let me just say it doesn't come naturally to me, but it does come with commitment and with practice!

Anyway, I am happy again today with all the noise and the wasting of resources. I'm thankful that my husband feels the same way.

Right now, Jack and Andrew are playing street hockey with a friend (and likely some neighbors). They will be back to swim, no doubt. Michael is with a friend this afternoon; they are kayaking and fishing out in the ocean. I am actively not thinking about all the shark sightings and attack reported this spring. Olivia clocked in some more driving hours and instruction, and is now reading in the living room. 

I am thankful for a rich time at church today, thankful for learning more deeply of God's love for me. I was reminded again of his desire to save, to open the eyes of the spiritually blind, and to create new hearts that live fully for him. He is holy and fully just, sovereign and perfect in all his ways, and yet he desires relationship with us, knowing us before time began, and provides a way of salvation through the suffering, death, and resurrection of his Son. What love! And what hope we have as we go before his throne to appeal for mercy on the lives of our loved ones!

A picture, when there was no time to be taking pictures, to remember Olivia's last day of class as a sophomore...


Monday, May 22, 2017

For Olivia

She is my Olivia-girl. My sixteen year old first-born, my feminine comrade and companion, my daughter-friend.

And she is my most devoted blog reader, looking over past posts and pictures with regularity. She loves family tradition, documentation, and consistency, and she KNOWS I haven't posted her birthday pics yet! 

But I haven't forgotten. (Plus we still want to do a little photo shoot to commemorate this sweet year of life.) These are from a few celebrations she had with family and friends over the course of a few days. The last set were taken on a whim in the middle of a school day.  

So here you go, Liv...

You are loved and admired by your brothers...

...loved by your Auntie and Grandma,
by extended family in the North,

...loved, adored, and treasured by Dad and me.

And your friends, too... They cherish your friendship!

You are the best to venture with; you are always game for finding secret places, and for laughing over odd people doing odd things. You make the best impersonations, and have a way of making us relive the good times! 

(Won't we always remember how I almost got assaulted by a whiskered woman for taking this picture?! Wait, are you a Kennedy?)

You appreciate simplicity and find beauty in people and in relationships.
You make the world lovelier with your art and music, your tender heart, and respectful conduct.

You are devoted to the most important things in life, hard working and yet fun-loving.

You are at peace, and you strive to bring peace.

You are confident. 
You seek to understand true freedom, but display maturity with your consideration in that freedom.

You feel the allure of beautiful places and things, a common bond we share.
You partner with me and set aside obligation and responsibility to consume and create beauty.

If memories can be art, you've created 16 years of beautiful art with me.

Never give up your JOY in life, never let another steal your PEACE.
Never lose the IDENTITY you have in Christ...

... Because these just might be your secret weapons.

I have watched your faithful study of God's Word.
Keep searching for God in the pages of His Word; know that when you seek Him with all your heart, you will surely find Him.

Know that God is all around, near to you, never leaving.
He loves you with an everlasting love.

Live your life fully, Olivia, and chase hard after the dreams and the desires God has put in your heart for His glory. 

And yet, live your life with open hands of praise. Hold your ambitions with open hands, too. When life doesn't go as expected, know that His ways and His plans are higher than yours, and He can be trusted always.

Keep your eyes on eternity, fixed on Jesus Christ who is the author and perfecter of your faith.

My heart is big for you, Olivia. I want to be your most passionate cheerleader in life! You are remarkably gifted and you have so much potential, and we are incredibly proud of who you are and who you are becoming!

I will always cheer for the good things you have and do in life-- you can count on that. I want to remind you, though, that your worth far more than your accomplishments, far more than your talents. Your value is not defined by your beauty or your brains. It's more than what people think of you or how you build your reputation. 

I want to go deeper than just cheering and waving and smiling. There are difficult realities to life that await, and I would do you such harm by neglecting to warn and prepare you. There are battles that lay ahead, sometimes hidden behind unexpected corners. 

I already told you how I blurted out to a group of people a while ago that we need to be training up warrior women. Yes, warriors. Strong, resolute, and sometimes bloodied warrior women are desperately needed. We talked about it briefly in the car on the way to school. I told you how I wished I had bloodied my knuckles on some boys who harassed, disrespected, and regularly groped me in the crowded hallways of my high school. I let them and others convince me that things would get worse if I fought back, and I feared not being believed or being humiliated even further if nothing was done by others to protect me. The fear of getting in trouble or of embarrassing my family (I know, how twisted!) was greater than the respect I had for myself. Go ahead, Olivia, bloody your knuckles; kick and scream and make a scene. Run. Warrior style. 

Don't be overcome by lies. Be wise and savvy to the ways of the world, and know that you can be tough. There's no telling what your battles may be, but keep telling yourself that you are worth more than the evil or the lies some would want to harm you with. Know that you can always be stronger, braver, bolder. Know that you can learn anything, drive anything, conceal carry if you need to.

Sounds extreme? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Being tough and brave in the midst of fear is still not enough. God calls you to even stronger skills!

I think the church often trains up girls to fit a certain (faulty) definition of femininity that is soft and tender, "protected." This is not true femininity. You need to be suited up for battle with armor; you need to know the tricks of your enemy, and you need to know the battle plan of your Commander.

Much more than what you can see and feel and comprehend, the life we live is a battle fought in the spiritual realm. Let me tell you, it's a scary world and it's getting scarier all the time. Persecution and suffering is promised, and you need to be prepared. I don't know: your fight could be in the midst of armies, it could be against people or false teachers/leaders, it could be within the four walls of your house, or a battle in the crevices of your heart. 

But be confident in this: God gives you protection, and He is with you to the end.

You know about the armor of God, but please don't forget! The belt of truth will give you confident protection all around by KNOWING who your God is, and what He promises in Christ. Train hard for battle by knowing the Word. The breastplate of righteousness causes insecurity to vanish, so put it on in order to stand firm against the lies of the devil. When accusers come your way, or when the Accuser threatens to shake you and break you, wanting nothing more than to destroy your faith in God or convince you of unworthiness, scream back with full conviction that your God is greater still. 

"So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares you deserve death and hell, tell him this: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is JESUS CHRIST, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!'" (Martin Luther)

Scream that into your dark battlefield, or your pillow, if you need to.

Then put on the shoes that God gives you. They will make you ready with the gospel of PEACE. You will need the gospel of peace in your life, and your shoes will enable you to bring it to others too. You can run with those shoes wherever God takes you, and you can hold up your shield as you run. Your shield is your faith, and it will extinguish all the fiery javelins which the devil throws your way to burn you up. Hold it tight in one hand, and in the other hold your sword. This is the Word of God, your ultimate power-tool.

Also, God gives you a special helmet, Olivia. It's an exceptional gift no one can take away. That helmet is salvation, and someday it will be exchanged for a crown.

Sweetheart, you may fight hard and you may get weary. Maybe you will one day see your hollow eyes looking back at you in the mirror, or maybe they will be swollen from tears. When you feel like giving up the fight, when you feel all is lost, remember this: God is always with you, he gathers your tears in His bottle, and He wraps you in His care. Go to him for comfort. Find your strength in Him, day by day, moment by moment. He gives you Himself. Walk with Him.

There are so many things in my heart to share with you. The task of raising a human being is seemingly too great at times. If there is only one thing I could impart to you, it is this: Jesus Christ is where we find our hope, satisfaction, and eternal life! He is enough. Though I fail as a mother, and we fail as human beings, we are perfected sisters at the foot of the cross till the day we are glorified princesses in heaven together with God! That's how good God is to us!

He is the redeemer of life. Your story may be one of a warrior girl who has seen hardship and pain. You may come to the finish line, the end of the battle, all bloodied and broken. That's OK. It will be worth it.

Take heart! The victory is already won! Your story, then, no matter what, is already a story of victory!

Love you, baby doll.