Archive for December, 2006

I go to the woods…

I found the woods today. Not the one between the worlds, but the woods around my in-laws house. After driving for two days in the pouring rain through six states, boy did I need to get out and get some air. And not into my lungs either…my brain was all glare and overspray and ‘mommy are we there yet’. This morning I went for a walk, and off of the road I was taking was a path beckoning me into the woods. I don’t know this area, and never knew that a forested area was so near by, so was I EXCITED to find this doorway into the misty trees.

I really believe God invited me into the woods today. I bushwacked down the mountain and searched for the stream that I heard bubbling from the top–I knew there was water to be found from all of the mist rising up from the valley. When I found the stream (following a deer path, taking care to avoid their, um, evidence…) I saw across the water a larger path that led me further up the other side of the mountain and into a foggy field. Oh I needed to be with God today, and He provided the cathedral. I’ve been ‘trying’ to meet with Him, and feeling so overwhelmed by my own wretchedness that I can’t get past hello. But today I didn’t have to do or say anything. Just walk in the woods. He showed up and filled me with joy and such peace.

Of course I had no idea if it was hunting season, so I kept calling out, every few steps, ‘person walking! Not a deer! Please don’t shoot!’ And in between I told God all the things I’ve had on my mind for the past few weeks.

 What a Christmas present for me–to get to go on a woodland adventure with God. I had such a great time wandering around and eventually finding my way out again. I felt safe and refreshed and muddy and wet. But it was just lovely. Merry Christmas!


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Off to Work

I was driving my daughter to preschool this morning–extremely bed-headed–and I noticed the people in the other cars on their way to here or there: they looked ready for work. It’s been five years since I was on my way to work at 8:00am and I feel a little like I’m coming out of a dream. Of course I assumed that all these people were on their way to fulfilling jobs that make them feel useful and significant in the world.

The reality is that when I was working, I spent lots of time thinking about NOT working. Waiting for the weekend, dreaming of the time that I didn’t have to work anymore, anticipating vacations… It’s that damn grass–always greener wherever I am not.

The people in the cars this morning–looking slick and shined and ready for another day–would probably give anything to have the kind of time I have on my hands. Time to take classes, get the house in order, read if I want to, visit with friends, work on hobbies, cook a yummy dinner every night…time to exercise or spend time with God or go back to bed if I feel like it. I just want to know why I’m’ not enjoying it.

That’s my question. Why am I not happy where I am? Why am I always looking to the next thing? I was thinking this morning in the car: wouldn’t it be nice to have a job to go to right now? What, am I INSANE?? As if having a job that compensates monitarily for my work would actually change my inside discontentment? I know from years of trying to fill that gaping inner void that an external solution does not work for an internal problem. Yet I continue to believe that something outside myself will surely make me happy.

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Do I HAVE to?

Yesterday, Sadie and I went to a little park. Before going, I called every friend of hers I knew to come and play with her so I wouldn’t have to be the ‘entertainer.’ Since she was little, I have taken that role on to make up for her lack of a sibling. Her only-child-ness has been a source of anxiety for me for four years and counting. But yesterday I DID NOT feel like playing with her. I kept putting her off on going to the park because I had no energy to play. Here’s what I wrote at the park while I was practicing NOT playing with her, and working on being true to myself:

I feel like Monster-Mom. We’re at the park at the Episcopal church and I firmly do not feel like playing. I’m tired of faking it. But I don’t know what feels worse–telling her no–I do not want to play–or forcing myself to obligation play and hating it the whole time. I just don’t feel like using my imagination right now. But the guilt–oh the guilt! I think ‘she’s only going to be four for such a short time and soon she’ll have no interest in playing with me at all…’ Am I just being selfish?

I guess I have always made myself play and be fun with kids–it gave me affirmation, and made me the favorite among the young ones (and their parents…) Sometimes I have felt like it, and often I just thought I ‘should’. But today I just don’t want to. Am I horrible? Am I being my mom who didn’t really engage in much imaginative play with me?

Here’s what I realize: I can’t be the other sibling any longer. I cannot be the sister Sadie will never have. She HAS to deal with her ‘one-ness’, her only-ness, and if I am always relieving her loneliness, I am doing her a grave disservice. She’ll never learn the valuable lesson of playing on her own and enjoying her own company. She has to learn that, and I’m NOT a horrible mom for stating my boundary and pulling back a bit when it is just her and I–like it is today.

It’s hard to be real with her. To let her down. To not meet her every need. I am pulled always in my irrational ‘should’ direction. What I need to do is be honest with her, be true to myself and let her learn.

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Signs and Wonders?

I saw something this morning that disturbed me. Someone put music to Benny Hinn’s slaying-in-the-spirit antics on Youtube. Watching him usually disturbs me, but this was something else. I come from a slaying-in-the-spirit kind of background, and have seen first hand people falling over–shaking and writhing on the floor. In my old church, all of the strong men were the ‘spotters’ when the traveling prophet came to town, and they would stand behind the line of people who went forward for healing. The ‘prophet’ would run down the line giving high fives to everyone’s heads and they would all fall back. It looked like they were doing the wave at a sports event, except instead of sitting back down in their seats, they landed backwards on the floor.

I do not attend a church like this any longer, and honestly don’t know where in my head to put my ‘charismatic’ experiences. I have heard thousands of people speaking in tounges, seen people casting out demons (with accompaning pig squealing sounds coming out of the afflicted…) and of course the witnessed the people falling down ‘in the Spirit.’ Heck, I used to play tambourine in the worship band.

I don’t know what to conclude about it all now. I believe that the Holy Spirit is active today, and God can do what He wants; but these things feel overdone to me now, overemotional and actually pretty scary. Once, when my sister and I were learning to ‘rebuke’ evil things, we pointed at a picture of Ozzy Osbourne (hung on the son’s wall of the person my mom had taken us to visit) and said “We rebuke you in Jesus’ name.” We didn’t tell anyone we did it, but the next day, my mom’s friend called and told my mom that the weirdest thing was happening. The Ozzy picture kept falling off of the wall until it finally broke. My mom asked us if we knew anything about it (she knew we had been playing in there) and we told her the story. We were in Jr. High at the time.

What am I supposed to do with THAT?

Anyway, all that to say that my jury is still out on signs and wonders–but I’m pretty skittish about the whole thing now. And seeing Benny Hinn conducting his orchestra of falling bodies doesn’t make me want to attend a church like that anytime soon.


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Spilled milk…

Sadie didn’t want to go to school today.

She spilled her milk (again) yesterday, and her teacher spoke to her about needing to be more careful. Her teacher wasn’t mean about it–and assured her that it was ok, and when Sadie cried a lot about it, told her ‘we don’t cry over spilled milk.’

Sadie was so full of anxiety about spilling her milk again that last night she couldn’t sleep, saying all she could picture was her milk spilling across the table. “I don’t feel good, I don’t think I can go to school tomorrow.” She cried and cried when I said goodnight, after singing about 63 songs to try to calm her down. So I curled up in her converted toddler/crib bed and held her until she fell asleep.

It freaks me out a little to see such anxiety in my child. I know I can’t take it away from her, and that I need to let her experience life. But I see this little girl, trying to be perfect AT FOUR, and I wonder how much of my own perfectionism and anxiety has rubbed off on her. Or would she be this way even if she had a laid-back super peaceful hippie mom?

Nature? Nurture?

Ms. Murray said that whistling was FORBIDDEN in my first grade class. I had buck teeth then, and a talent for doing this lisp-whistle that would sometimes come out of my mouth even when I wasn’t trying to do it. I wanted to be so good, and was horrified when air accidentally escaped my mouth sounding like a whistle. We were lining up to go outside, and I raised my hand and immediately told on myself. “Ms. Murray? I just whistled, and I’m sorry. It was an accident.” She looked puzzled (I’m sure she hadn’t heard it at all), but told me it was alright.

I still remember where I stood in line, and that ‘Do unto others’ was on the bulletin board by the door. I was scared of getting in trouble, but I was even more afraid of my conscience. I felt guilty all the time–like I was constantly doing something wrong. So I was an anxious kid, desperate to please.

I suppose Sadie comes by it honestly, and I hope for her sake she didn’t spill her milk today.

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In C.S. Lewis’ book “The Magician’s Nephew”, the mad uncle-magician finds dust from the lost city of Atlantis and believes he can use it to travel to different worlds out of our universe. He creates rings filled with the dust, which, if worn, will draw the wearer back to the dust’s original place. He is too much of a coward to try it himself, so he manipulates his nephew Diggory and Diggory’s friend Polly to put the rings on and see where it takes them. When Diggory and Polly disappear, they land not in a specific ‘world,’ but a place that is in between our world and other worlds. It is a lush-green, drowsy place which Polly calls “The Wood between the Worlds’. It is still and quiet there–so quiet that you can hear the grass and trees growing. All around are small puddles that the children discover will take them into the other worlds if they put the magic rings on their fingers, hold hands, and jump in.

The image of this wood has always captivated me–and feels now like a fitting illustration of my life. I have sent my daughter to all-day preschool–so my days of staying at home full time with her are over. I’m still at home, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do now. I’m in that in-between place where not much is happening…though I can see lots of possibilities for my next jump.

I chafe sometimes at this waiting. As a Christian, I believe that my life has purpose and direction in serving God, and doing what pleases Him. Though it was difficult, I knew that I was supposed to stay home as long as I did with my daughter. God used the time to transform me and teach me so many things (though I begged Him to let me out of it often…and checked the classified ads on a regular basis…). Now I want to know what He has for me in this next stage, but He’s been pretty quiet about it.

So I plan meals, try to keep up with the laundry, transport my child to and from school, work on keeping the house together (falling short in that department on a regular basis…), visit with my other stay-at-home mom friends and wonder what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I feel insignificant and lonely some days.

Essentially, this blog is about the in-between space where I find myself living. I’m trying to keep my eye on the bigger picture–that significance doesn’t come from what I DO, but WHO I AM in Christ–and how I love and serve Him in my daily living. This presents a paradox to me–a tension between living in this accomplishment-driven society, and following the unconventional Jesus. His priorities weren’t to make himself known or to feel important. He came to serve and love–not in the limelight with the celebrities of the day, but backstage–with the lowly people.

I wrestle, wrestle, wrestle with wanting to be ‘somebody’, to feel affirmed and validated, to matter in this world. Who doesn’t, right? I wish I could love God and love my neighbor, period. My humanity is just in the way all of the time. So I trudge through, praying for transformation, praying for right perspective, desiring to want God above all else. Thankfully this is a journey, and not a destination. I trust that God will help me find fulfillment, show me where I’m to use my gifts and abilities and lead me into a deeper relationship with Him.

In the meantime, I’ll be here in this green, sleepy place–listening to the grass grow.

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Community drought

Just returned from a Christmas open house at our university president’s new home. I felt such a sense of warmth and community. We brought Sadie along in her fanciest dress and she was quite a hit. She was polite and even used the tongs and a napkin to get fudge. (though I did see her playing mad scientist with some drinks that I KNOW didn’t belong to us…)

I didn’t realize how much of a ‘community drought’ I was in until I felt such a part of things tonight. Being a part of a Christian college faculty/staff really does feel like a family sometimes. I get so discouraged with this American culture sometimes. I wish I was part of a communal society where people lived their lives together. It just seems silly that we all need to do the same things in life–eat, raise our kids, have fun, whatever–I wish there was more of an opportunity to do it together.

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