Friday, December 15, 2017

A Fleeting Moment

If my life is a mere breath, here today and gone tomorrow, then what are these few, short, fleeting years I have with my kids?

Tomorrow we celebrate Michael's 15th birthday. Those 15 years have past far too quickly. On a day like today, it is hard not to look back and think about those years that are gone.

Psalm 90 made a huge impression on me as a young married in my early 20's. I was just beginning to search and pray for understanding regarding motherhood, almost desperately trying to understand God's design in comparison to cultural norms, and untangling all my misunderstanding and courageously face selfish desires. Babies were already in the picture, and the struggle for understanding and acceptance of truth was daily. "Who am I, and what am I doing with my life?" was my persistent question.

There is a real struggle in death, especially when we are called daily to the death of self. In the dying, though, I found the desire to live for something greater than my own present happiness. I saw that in the daily dying there was taking root a greater purpose for life than me, and I began to see the work of my life as something greater than the culmination of my days on earth. Through passages like Psalm 90, I began to see I can choose to live with eternity in daily view, knowing that life is a momentary breath while eternity stands, well, forever. It's not something we can afford to gloss over.

As a new mother, I began to understand that my life has eternal implications, and the work of my days will influence the eternal soul of my children. The Spirit used Ps. 90:12 in a particularly affecting way:

"So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom."

If I am to be wise, then, I must look to the Lord for instruction rather than to the ways of the world. I must ask God to show me life as it is, not as it appears. These days are like a breath, a vapor, a dream. They are numbered. But they will count forever.


Several months ago, Michael and I spent some time at the botanic gardens. It was a rare time for just the two of us. A special time, really. I'm not sure where his interest began, but Michael has a peculiar fascination with plants. It was a pleasure for me to peruse the gardens with him. His knowledge regarding plants is fascinating and surprising; he is endlessly experimenting with new varieties and arranging/growing displays in terrariums. 

He is not as interested in being photographed, though! I do respect that, but hope he will let me take just a few for his birthday nonetheless. Here was the sole picture I took of him all day, with permission.

I don't remember the name of the plant pictured below, but this is some kind of death flower. Its putrid smell is designed to attract flies, which are then trapped and digested in the center.

(If I'm not careful, I will be taking you down a trail of thoughts with this flower of death... because life is not always as it appears. Be careful about where your affections lead you!)

A forest of cork...

I wanted to climb this tree, and a boy looking over my shoulder just now voiced the same desire.

Being a boy mom makes me enjoy taking pictures of bugs. I enjoy the challenge of inching up close as well.


The years of motherhood are wonderful to be sure, but they are not always easy. In fact, the best things in life almost never are. 

Because of the impression Psalm 90 made on me early in my mothering days, it is difficult for me to think of it outside the context of motherhood. It is such a special passage to me. These words have long been my prayer and plea to my God, the compassionate giver of good~

"Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
 Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!"


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Morning Haze

Southern California is on fire. Again. I'm not trying to trivialize a situation that is grave for some; I'm only expressing life as it is for me...

The morning sky was hazy, ashes wafted in the hot, dry air, and the smell of burning wood seemed far too pleasant for the reality of danger and devastation. Occasionally life is deceptive like that: Destruction smells wonderful, and beauty rises from the ashes. I am reminded never to look at life without discernment or without hope. Life would be dangerous and dark without discernment and hope. "Truth and Grace" come to mind right now, and I wonder how to find that beautiful intermingling of hard and fast truth and tender, hopeful grace.

But JOY came to the world and we sing of Him who rules with truth and grace. Oh, the wonders of His love!

How this has anything to do with morning smoke heavy in the air may not make sense. Maybe it doesn't make sense, really, but when I sit to write I somehow make associations that go beneath mere observation. I'd like to think it's alright for me to explore meaning and depth to life by letting my eyes see, my mind think, and my heart hold. Truth and grace, discernment and hope, smoke and light: They make beauty together.

Making beauty together... isn't that a noble endeavor within any relationship? Beauty comes in so many forms. Maybe it's through forgiveness, or compassion; maybe it's by way of simple pleasure, understanding, memories, knowledge; perhaps by acts of service, making art, food, adventure; maybe beauty is found in healing and restoration. There are countless ways to make and experience loveliness, even in the midst of the difficulty of life. It wouldn't be a noble endeavor if it came easily and without intentionality.

In the smoky morning light (which, by the way, was more as a result of my burned French toast), Olivia let me blend her movement with golden haze. We captured beauty in a frame, made a memory for our remembrance, and pursued living beyond the boundaries of obligation and routine.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Too Hot for the Holiday Season!

On Monday morning, Olivia and I went to our local nursery and picked out a beautiful, bushy tree. We used to get the tree as a family, but the last two years she and I have strong-armed it together. OK, never mind. Even though I was ready to flex my muscles, a hunchback man named Vince loaded it without batting his eyelashes. Later, Michael and I took it off the truck together and Jon hauled it in. I strung the lights last night while most of my kids were at their youth group Christmas party, and we're hoping to decorate tonight. Michael and Olivia have loads of school work, but I'm sure they'll give us a bit of time.

So I need to make our traditional gingerbread cookies for tonight. The trouble is the weather. I'm a Canadian girl and this hot, dry weather is sapping all motivation from wanting to Christmas bake and decorate. Frankly, I feel like sunbathing today. I even bought myself two new swimsuits yesterday when I should have been Christmas shopping for others.

Christmas events are gonna be happening here, ready or not. I'd rather be ready, so I'm limiting my sit-down time to just a few minutes. No sunbathing today.

In celebration of my non-Christmasy weather and mood, I'm posting some hiking pictures from a few weeks back with my kids. I had recently completed another half marathon, so it was a rare Saturday where I didn't have to run 11-13 miles. Hiking was so leisurely in comparison.

Gold and Black is festive, yes?!

I'm a nature girl at heart, so you can be assured I'll be bringing in nature as part of my Christmas decor again.

Three kiddos squinting into the sun to give me a picture. 

Trying to video a trapdoor spider. Impressive creatures they are.

Break time over. The sun will set soon and the temps will drop and the festivities will happen. It's all good. It's always good.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"Little Boy" Teenager

I finally took birthday pictures of Jacob and Andrew. They are super late for Jacob, but I don't think it is inappropriate for me to take birthday pictures of them together. They are brother-friends, they claim to share a brain, and they've got each other's back. The rest of us here in this family still refer to them as "the little boys." It was a term that came about when all my kids were little, when Michael and Olivia had interests and capabilities that differed from the little boys. Maybe the little boys needed to nap, but Michael and Olivia could stay up and play, or the little boys couldn't go in the deep end of the pool while the other two could. The term stuck. They are not little anymore, but we think the habit of calling them "little boys" might just stay for a long while still.

And now Andrew is officially a teenager. It's hard to believe, yes, but I am not sad and I am certainly not concerned. Teenage years are good years; they are funny and awkward and exciting years. I anticipate some pretty wonderful times with this guy.

Pictures at this age are also, well, funny and awkward. My boys are funny. They are quick and they don't want to pose. If they do pose, though, they are feeling uncomfortable and dorky. I try not to ask too much of them (because otherwise I'll never get them to agree to pictures again!), so I keep expectations minimal and simply endeavor to capture something of who they are at this moment in life. 

They were embracing their awkwardness, laughing about the reality of their mutual feelings regarding posed pictures.

Honesty makes life funnier, yes?

Being at ease in expressing who we are made to be is immensely more valuable than the poser-life, and I am endeavoring to promote individuality and to embrace life as it is. For these pictures, I just let the boys be...

Andrew is more serious about getting things "right" while Jacob is hardly ever serious.

They delight in their friendship; they have learned to appreciate and value how different they are from each other.

This was a more candid pose (below). He was heading down the rocks when I called him to look at me. He looked over and smiled, knowing my camera and zoom were pointed at him.

Jacob is a big-picture thinker, an adventure-seeking go-getter. He moves from one activity to the next, and, well, he just MOVES. He is physical all the time, affectionate, communicative (OK, more like a non-stop talker!), and incredibly kind-hearted.

Andrew is detail and goal oriented, strategic, and mentally disciplined. He is perceptive to the needs and feelings of others. He accomplishes physical feats because of his mental discipline.

While Andrew balanced stones, Jacob jumped from boulder to boulder over and over again. He jumped to see how high and how far, he jumped while throwing sticks and while attempting to do tricks. He jumped until Andrew couldn't resist joining him.

Jacob jumps before thinking...
Andrew thinks before jumping...
But they both jump for the love of living fully in their own way.

With the theme of just letting them be, I just let them run...

Again, Andrew trying to do what he was supposed to be doing, which was to take b-day pics.
Again, Jacob forgetting and pulling out some card tricks instead. (Andrew is incredibly patient!)

A favorite image (below), but I'm kicking myself for having the aperture too wide and allowing Jacob's face to be out of focus.

We had just a few minutes for these pictures, by the way, and we were late getting home and changed for football practice. At this point I had called them back in because we needed to head home in a hurry. This last set of running pictures speaks volumes to me about their personalities and their relationship to one another. Because we just celebrated Andrew, I'd like to highlight him here...

When I called for them to run back together, Jacob bolted towards me while Andrew looked back to make sure Jacob was coming. He is, in one way or another, always looking out for his brother.

He kept his pace slow to make sure they were together...

Andrew's situational awareness is unusual, but here it displays his thoughtfulness and care towards his younger brother.

Both running shoulder-to-shoulder, Andrew's concern was not to outpace him or to win, but rather to be together. Andrew doesn't seek to outshine Jacob, but is concerned about his welfare, happiness, and success. He may not even be conscious of this yet, but Andrew keeps a watchful eye out for Jacob. His disposition is to sacrificially love his brother and to position Jacob to shine at a cost to himself. It may be years yet before Jacob realizes the treasure he has in his brother. For now, though (and probably for always), Jacob wouldn't save his own skin at the expense of Andrew. In their own way, they cover each other's back.

I imagine them as men someday, and I picture a loyal friendship of rare proportions.


Andrew's 13th was already last week. On the day of his birthday, we did the bare essentials of our schooling and took off for the beach. We spontaneously met up with Jon at In-n-Out for lunch, then ran around town looking for places with murals (an odd thing we like to do together). We had a simple celebration around the table at night, because celebrating on the actual day is always nice if it can happen.

The candlelight that reflected in my lens is kinda cool. Thirteen glowing spheres make a halo around his head. I'm not superstitious in the least, but I can't help remember that on the 13th of December, 2008, Andrew would be in an accident that would result in an actual halo over his head. This is another cool remembrance of God's graciousness to us for these thirteen years of LIFE!

On Friday night we had the "little boys'" gang of friends for a party. They played sports till it was too dark, played Twister and Quelf, ate, sang (and sang some more), ate cake, and swam in the cold pool and splashed in the hot jacuzzi. It was crazy loud at times. Crazy loud. But our neighbors were kind.

Sadly I didn't take a single picture with my big camera. I posted some video on FB stories for extended family far away to sort of take part in the evening, but that was it. I'm disappointed about that. The camera phone is just so handy, ya know? I'm deciding right now to repost those videos on my timeline. (Several years ago I tried to post videos here unsuccessfully, and I don't have it in me to try again tonight. It's probably not hard for the average person, but many average-type things are super hard for me.)

Happy birthday, bud. You are loved.