Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blessing by Cupcake

Well, I still haven’t found my talent to use for Christ yet, but I am experimenting with different ideas. One was really fun last week. It’s the idea of giving. Simple. Easy. Something Dennis and I have been trying to do since we married. Last week, however, I tried something a little different. We bought the best cupcakes from church to support a mission trip to Costa Rica. They are from a bakery called Dimples. I highly recommend checking out their site at http://www.dimplescupcakes.com/index.html
Even if you just buy them from the store and they don’t support a mission trip, they are worth it!

We bought quite a few. We bought eight in fact, and decided we would share with other people. We only ate two, and that took some will power, then all week I thought of people to bless with cupcakes. Now, this is not the healthiest blessing one can offer. In general, Dennis and I are big believers in taking care of our temples(bodies), and junk food doesn’t fit into that on a regular basis. Okay, the first trimester of my pregnancy, it’s fit in a little more than it should have. But in general I would not offer lots of fat and sugar to someone as a gift. This seemed different though. The money had already blessed a mission trip, so these cupcakes somehow seemed special. I started making a mental list of people I wanted to have them.

The first was a friend from school who is amazing. She is constantly doing things for others, always has time for me, and is just an all around awesome lady. I gave her a cupcake on Monday, and Tuesday she came back and told me it had been an “orgasmic” experience. I think she felt blessed!

Tuesday I bought one for a woman I co-teach with. Not only is she a great co-teacher, but she puts up with me and has to see me on a regular basis. That is probably a challenge. She frequently comes in to visit me in the morning before school to make sure we have our day planned. I’m a morning person, but when I get to work I generally like the first 15-30 minutes to pull my mind together alone before I begin socializing. Sometimes she pops in during this time not knowing that, and instead of telling her, I sometimes just go on with what I’m doing while trying to have a conversation with her at the same time. Now that I type it, it sounds bad. But she has put up with it and has even agreed to co-teach with me next year. She deserved a cupcake. Plus, she forgot to bring her lunch. My cupcake was her lunch. Though we can’t live on bread or carbs alone, that felt like divine intervention.

Next, I bought one to a woman that anyone who has seen me in the last 12 weeks should thank. She has kept all of you from a slow and painful death. Okay, it may not be that extreme, but she has helped you. During my first trimester of pregnancy, I have bad breath. I don’t mean a little bad. I mean I almost throw up when I taste it, and my sense of taste is muted because I can’t smell. It’s that bad. Generally because of a mild case of TMJ, I don’t chew or carry around gum. But lately, gum has kept me from vomiting or creating awkward social situations for everyone around me. This teacher has provided that gum. In fact, Wednesday she gave me her last piece, then went to the store and bought me my own package. Thursday, she got a cupcake.

I don’t think my cupcake mission is changing the world. Even orgasmic cupcakes don’t cause world peace, maybe just momentary happiness. But it is a time to look outside of myself to what other people are doing, what they might want, how they have blessed me. I’m blessed everyday by a ton of people, and I am usually too busy to say thank you. Making a decision before I go to bed of who I want to thank keeps me from spending all my time griping about people or stupid situations. Upon reflection, I gripe more than I should about things that don’t matter. I have a great life, and I love every second. Why should one negative word come out of my mouth? Maybe my breath has been so bad because it reeks of ungratefulness.

So even though this feels like something anyone could be good at, it’s been nice to have God point out something that feels like a talent, even it’s built into everyone. Maybe my ultimate goal in life is not to offer baked goods to people, but it could lead to more opportunities like volunteer work or just a less self absorbed thought process. That in itself would be a gift.

Note: Dad and Judy, if you are reading this and saw the cupcakes when you visited Sunday, I had every intention of offering you both one for all the nice things you’ve done. Ask Dennis. But then we started talking about blood sugar levels and how Judy has given up bread. I thought it might not be a blessing to make you both sick.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Does it have to hurt?

Our pastor is encouraging us to look for our talents to use for Christ. I do not consider myself a particularly talented person. I’m okay at a lot of things, but not really a master at any. I have never known exactly how I was supposed to serve Christ using my talents, and now that I realize I have no idea what they are, I understand why using them has been so hard. So Dennis and I are on a journey to figure out where we need to serve the Lord and how. That led us, of course, to the Bible and Dennis asked a question I hadn’t thought about but that I think is underlying in most beliefs about Christianity: can you use a talent you enjoy to serve God, or does it have to be something you hate, therefore making it a hurtful, hard experience to prove you’re willing to do it for God?

I immediately said that I thought this idea of serving God hurting was just the guilt we had been raised with from church. I have no problem with organized religion and think that the fellowship and growth with other Christians is a vital part of the Christian walk. However, I was raised around a lot of church people telling me, “if it feels good, it’s of the devil.” God is depicted in the Bible as many things, but joyous and someone who wants His children to be joyous is there, though it was not discussed much in the churches of my youth. So to me, this was just us trying to attach non-Biblical junk to something that wasn’t meant to be that hard. However, Dennis brought up two very Biblical examples of where I might be wrong: Moses and Jonah. I’m not a Biblical scholar, but the short me version is Moses didn’t want to be a speaker, but God said that’s what he was supposed to do. Moses did it, but it wasn’t his first choice. Jonah refused to use his talent the way God said so he got to visit the inside of a whale. I’m sure if Jonah had enjoyed using his talent this wouldn’t have been an issue. However, he didn’t, so the calling was painful and the persuasion process God used to get his attention was even more dramatic.

This is timely, as is pretty much every thing God is laying in front of my lately. I am struggling right now with not just Biblical talents but professional ones. I have been building a business on the side for a company I love and will always be a customer of. I enjoy building the business, but it requires networking which I don’t consider myself particularly good at or familiar with. That’s made it a challenge, and sometimes it hurts. However, I’ve soldiered forward because it offers an opportunity to be home with my kids making as much or more than I do now. But it also requires I do some things that make me uncomfortable. So is God calling me to do this so He can see me through it or not?

The answer to that question didn’t seem nearly so elusive until another opportunity was presented, one I’ve been reluctant to even discuss because the thought of it makes me so happy that I don’t want to jinx it just by thinking about it. In fact, I still talk about it in vague terms as not to jinx myself, so forgive me for my paranoia. I found a job that would be more home-based. Actually, a friend blessed me with this information last year, and I was sure no job openings would ever become available so I put it out of my mind. But jobs did become available, I applied, and then I received a link to take an assessment to begin the possible recruiting process. Then, nothing. Does that mean no job for me? Is this just a slow process? I don’t know, but the possibility is out there; the possibility of doing a job that I’ve had experience in, a job I’ve had some level of success in, a talent that doesn’t hurt. So, can it be real? Or is Dennis right: are we only called to use talents that are painful, talents that stretch us, talents that the Lord has to lead us through because they aren’t what we enjoy or find natural? And if so, why?

So for now, mystery unsolved. I’m hoping to have a Wren “That’s Jesus” moment and just see Him and the answer. I do believe God wants us to be happy, though that’s not always possible living in a fallen world. I don’t buy into the whole wealth, health, and only good things because I’m a Christian lifestyle that so many people are trying to sell now. However, I don’t think God puts things on my doorstep to make me cringe. I know He knows how much I would love the easier, already-know-how-to-do job. It’s up to Him, and that means it’s not up to me or anywhere in my control. Now that hurts, but it’s comforting too.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Livin' in a Lonely World

My endocrinologist’s office has the best magazines. It makes the wait to be poked with a syringe more bearable. While I was reading Friday, I came across an article that some of you may have heard about already. I don’t remember names or many specifics, but here is a quick summary:

A father of 3 year old twins finds out he has cancer and realizes he may miss some very important moments in his daughters’ lives. He starts forming a community of dads to be there for his kids in case he can’t. Each one of these men possesses a trait or quality that he wants his daughters to see and learn from. Luckily, the man is still alive, but his community building is continuing because, cancer or not, we do have to plan for the future of our kids.

Now, I have never bought into the idea of “it takes a village.” I saw a quote once that said, “I’ve seen the village, I’ll raise my own children, thanks.” I think most villages have more village idiots than people I actually want influencing my children. But what if I got to choose who lived in the village? What if Dennis and I built the community? It’s not about controlling every person my kids meet, but it is about making sure quality time is spent with people whose values we also value.

For the record, my sister and brother-in-law are the godparents and official guardians should anything happen to Dennis and me at the same time. Plus I expect both of our families to influence our children with their values and talents, so they are already built into the community. But who else would we include in our community? This man chose six people, so that seemed like a good place to start. Over our IHOP pancakes Dennis and I began brainstorming. That’s when we realized that living on the corner of anti-social behavior and hermitville for years has cost us something valuable: true friends.

To say we are friendless is not accurate. We both have acquaintances, and we have people in our lives who go past just the acquaintance status. However, between the two of us we thought of one person for my community of moms, a woman I have taught with for 4 years who I adore and expect Wren to be around tons anyway. That’s it. One. I teach with 77 teachers, I work a business on the side of my full time job, I am officially enrolled in six meet up groups, we attend church regularly, I used to work for a company where I estimate I came into contact with no less than 1000 people in my 5 years there, I lived out of state for a year, and though it’s far from a full proof indicator, I have 190 Facebook friends. I went to college, grad school, have a gym membership, and Dennis and I had four baby showers when I was pregnant with Wren. How did this happen?!?

T o gain some perspective, I spoke to the one person on my list. She feels like this is okay and even points to the fact that Dennis and I are passionate about our immediate family, and we like to spend time just us, Wren, and pregnant belly doing what we do. I agree our relationship is strong, and I think there is some truth to this. I know people who never see their spouses, are happy to spend time away from their kids when they have already been away from them all day, and that’s okay for them. It would never work for me. When Wren was 3 months old I cried because I didn’t want to go to the grocery store after work because I missed her so much. I didn’t go and we had take-out that night.

Basically, what you prioritize flourishes and what you don’t doesn’t. I have prioritized my family and I have amazing communication with my spouse and child. I feel in tune with them regularly. For this, I am proud. But God commanded me to love my neighbor, and in general, I’m supposed to care about people. My actual neighborhood neighbors are a mixed bag. Of the four I’ve met in our almost two years in the neighborhood, one household is full of insane, cuss at your television sports addicts, one household is as crazy busy as ours, and two have answered the door in their underwear when I came over. I am pro-naked, especially in your own house, but please put clothes on before answering the door. I have not enthusiastically headed back to either of those houses again.

So, I am not following the fellowship/friendship/love therefore by default get to know commandment very well at all. Part of it is not wanting to make time and the other part is I don’t really know how once you are 30 years old you get to know people you are just now meeting. I mean, I kind of know how, but there is no way those people are going to know me like one of my friends who knew me in kindergarten did. They will never know all the bad things I’ve done and love me anyway because I won’t tell them, so can they be true friends? And what most of my sort of friends know about me is pretty basic: I can’t smell so if it stinks like somebody tooted, it was probably me and I don’t know that it stinks; I am sarcastic; I stood on my head on Wren’s due date in a pool trying to convince her to turn from her breech position to a head down one so we could avoid a c-section. But my kids, if they are at all at an age of awareness when something happens to me, won’t need other people to tell them I’m weird. They will pretty much have that figured out on day one. So what I need is for people to be able to tell them who I was and then be the example they need to see a woman be. And I haven’t gotten to know anybody any better than I’ve let them know me, so I don’t know who these people are. Except one. Thirty years and one community member outside of my family.

I need to fix this. I have been craving fellowship more lately, but how do you balance it? Christian, mom, wife, daughter, sister, grandchild, full time job, on the side business, someone who does periodically crave alone time. All the roles and positions I love, but where does loving or even knowing others to build a community fit in? God, how do I do it?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Historical Happenings

Teaching 8th grade has given me more than enough material for a book. Everyday I have a story, and this week has been no different.

For my students’ project this week, they are supposed to be writing about historical happenings from when they were in middle school. I explained the directions to all 3classes the same way, or at least I thought I did, but one class took this assignment a different direction. As I walked around to see what the students focused on-Obama’s election, natural disasters, laws that had been passed-I didn’t see any of these. I saw a passage about the Black and White Ball, a dance the 8th graders had this year. I saw a story about a teacher falling when she slipped on some food in the cafeteria during lunch duty. I saw a paragraph about receiving a detention. When I stopped and asked the girl with the detention paragraph why she wrote about this, she said, “Because it was my first detention.”

“How is that a historical happening?”

She looked shocked. “Uh, it was a pretty big deal in my house. I got grounded for, like, ever. It was historical to me because my social life was seriously affected.”

And with that, I explained the directions again, though I did let them keep their personal historical happenings as part of the assignment. I mean, who was I to crush them by requiring them to think of the world outside themselves more than the world within their 8th grade social lives?

I do most of my thinking in the car, so as I drove to pick up Wren I pondered the sheer selfishness of a group of kids who could turn events in history to events in their history and honestly think it is the same thing. I mean, I love these kids, and I do blame myself for a misunderstanding in the directions, but really? And even after the directions were explained, most of them still viewed their event as the most important one. It affected them, period. I was glad we had less than four weeks of school left.

My self righteous I’m-older-therefore-know-better attitude did not serve me well a couple of days later when I realized I was worse than the 8th graders. As I prayed later that night, God really gave me the ability to listen to my words. I prayed for Wren, Dennis, CC(our name for baby number 2 till we find out the sex). I prayed for opportunities I was hoping would open up for me. I prayed for no more nausea and that the junk food I was consuming would not affect my unborn child’s brain development. I prayed for weaning to be easier for Wren. I prayed for guidance on a million different things I was seeking answers for and for protection from a million different things I didn’t ever want to experience. Then I started drifting off to sleep. Before I was completely out, I remembered Wren’s daycare director and that her daughter had recently been paralyzed in a car accident. I threw up a quick prayer about that. Then I remembered a woman in the business I work on the side has a daughter close to Wren’s age with cancer, so I sent up a quick prayer about that. Then I remembered the nurse at my endocrinologist office who told me the story about giving birth to her twins who were dead when she was five months pregnant. The list kept going on and on in my head, but I was tired. I had spent my early, quality, awake prayer time on myself and my needs. I fell asleep without getting to any one else.

The next day I went online to my usual news outlets. I saw headlines about bomb victims, hunger, murder, all the usual. I skipped that depressing stuff and clicked on a link to see if I could find any spoiler information about the Lost finale on Sunday. Who wants to read about people starving when you can get the latest scoop on Jack, Sawyer, and the mysteries of the island? Yeah, I actually lacked that much self awareness.

When God did let me start getting dealt with, it wasn’t good. I do pray for other people, but the ratio of how much I pray for my loved ones and myself versus other people is not good. Maybe 50:1. I hate that others suffer, but the sun is shining in my world. I don’t want to suffer; I don’t really want to be affected by suffering. That requires your feelings and heart being open in a way that actually makes you hurt for other people. I can cry at a Huggies commercial, but I won’t watch the news all the way through because if I do it’s real, and then I get to feel bad for those people on the news for the rest of the day. I don’t want to feel bad. And I need to pray for those people I know are suffering. But when do I have time for all that?

I read a quote once, and of course I can’t find it now, but it was from a man who said that a day where less than 10 hours is spent in prayer is a waste. If I were to pray for 10 hours, my child would starve, we would have no clean underwear, I would have no job therefore no place to live, etc. But I still don’t think the quote is irrelevant. What if I reprioritized my prayers? What if I prayed truly for God’s will for me, my loved ones, and others, and what if I actually remembered to daily pray for people I probably at one point said I would pray for? What if I didn’t say, “God, I’d really like this situation to turn out this way, so please work out the logistics for me” and instead said, “I’m trusting You to know what’s best for me, and praying you make me smart enough to follow what You show is best for me”? What if I didn’t spend time looking for Lost spoilers and instead spent it praying? What if it wasn’t all about me?

That was a fear with this blog. When I first told Dennis about this blog idea, I shared with him my fear of it becoming about us to the point that it was too self absorbed to be anything else. The point is to make this a focus about the Lord and what we learn and are shown through Him, not just about us. If it ever stops being what we originally focused on, I don’t think I’ll be able to do it anymore. But I think focusing on Christ, not me, in prayer, in writing, in raising our children, will help us focus on Christ in everything, and that’s when you get to the good stuff. Focusing on Christ helps you focus on others, and that’s what I need to obviously do more of. It’s time to look at the happenings outside of my own little world.

So, the historical happenings fiasco may be the best thing that came out of the jungle called junior high the last four weeks of school. The students always teach me more than I teach them, but this lesson will last long after they leave. Maybe they will take some of the lessons I taught with them, but if their social lives haven’t been “seriously affected” by my teachings, then it may have all been in vain.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

That's Jesus

My daughter is 17 months old and is talking all the time. Sometimes it makes sense and other times my husband and I just nod and say, “yes” or “really” or we ask questions if it seems appropriate to do so. I am 100% sure that my daughter knows exactly what she is saying and we have just failed to catch up.
Last week she did start using a phrase that was crystal clear: that’s Jesus. She would walk to the window in our kitchen, point, and say, “that’s Jesus”. She would then scurry to another part of the house, point to a wall and say, “that’s Jesus”. This went on for about 2 minutes with her pointing at various objects and exclaiming proudly that, well, “that’s Jesus”.

As a Christian, I am ashamed to admit that one of the first things that crossed my mind was, where did she learn the word Jesus? We pray before every meal and frequently have family Bible studies, but I didn’t think she was actually picking up a ton of that just yet. I did try to sing “Jesus Loves Me” in the car to her one morning, but she growled and said “bah, bah”, her official request for “Bah, Bah Black Sheep”. Wren did start Sunday school daycare last week, but I’m not sure that’s where this came from. I imagine it would be hard to have hard core Jesus curriculum with a class of 11-18 month olds attending for about an hour. Plus, Wren is one of the oldest and most mobile in the class. While the other kids are still trying to crawl properly, Wren is giving them looks like, seriously, stop drooling and let’s run around in circles. I have a feeling conversations with her during class probably go something like, “Wren, that’ Caleb and we don’t step on his head while we’re walking to get the blocks.” But who knows. Amazing teachers can produce amazing results.

My husband and I didn’t discuss in depth where this came from, but we were proud that the words were so clear and that she thought she saw Jesus. I had one of those aren’t kids so cute when they don’t know what they are talking about moments, but it hit me later she might be having an aren’t adults so stupid when they refuse to see the small stuff moments. I have heard before that the Lord is present everywhere. He created the universe so why shouldn’t He inhabit every part of it? And while my daughter can still see clearly that Jesus can be standing outside the kitchen window or living in the tree in our back yard, I as an adult only look for God in the answers I specifically seek, and sometimes it stops there. I ask, God what is your plan for our life when the second baby arrives? Will I be at home with the kids? Will I still be working? Will the business I am currently building on the side take off? God, is the baby in my belly safe? Am I brushing Wren’s teeth enough? Should we be weaning right now? God, and on and on and on. That is often how I approach our relationship. I wonder sometimes if God has a huge set of ear plugs and if He ever feels the temptation to shove them in His ears when He sees me open my mouth to address Him. Unlike my daughter, I don’t go around screaming in an elated voice, “that’s Jesus” when I get up and the sun is shining. Or when we are all healthy with more than we need and nothing we want. It might cross my mind when that person doesnt’t side swipe me while talking on their cell phone and smoking a cigarette at the same time that that was Jesus, but I quickly forget that to get back to focusing on what I want. And that’s a very human inclination, not Jesus.

So, in order to be more like my daughter, I am writing this blog to look for Jesus in the small things, the everyday things. Dennis and I are going to use it as a journal about our journey as a family, but more importantly about our journey as a Christian family. We are in a place in our lives where we see amazing things happening daily, even if we don’t acknowledge them enough, and this is a place for us to say, “that’s Jesus”! We started trying to make a list of the events that have occurred in our lives lately that we feel are divinely inspired, and the list got too long and we realized we were going to lose track. This will give us a record and a way to see how we grow, where we fail, and ultimately that Jesus is in everything. Let me add the disclaimer that I have been a Christian for 15 years and there are probably a ton of people that, if they read this, will be shocked by the goals of this blog. I haven’t been that good at the Jesus thing and fall horribly off course on a pretty regular basis. This is a humble attempt, so view it as that. Plus, for all the family members viewing, Wren updates will appear here also.