The Last Hurrah

Walker Park with Ruby

It’s the last Friday before the Labor Day weekend.  Which means the first day of school is just around the corner:  like Wednesday.  Eek!  I’m trying to get all of Zac’s miscellaneous documents in to the online high school.  So far, it’s been a bit challenging.  And trying to talk to someone in person on the phone, well, prepare to wait.  I got ironing done while I waited yesterday.  Not a total loss.

The imminence of the new academic year looms over me. I find myself alternately celebrating the summer and lamenting that we didn’t do more, experience more, as a family.  I am grateful Zac got his D.C. trip and some time away with a good friend on his family vacation, as well as seeing an old friend for one day in late July.  Ruby got to go to art camp and visit with her grandma in Portland.  We also went to Wild Waves way back at the beginning of summer.

For my part, I loved Wild Waves, too.  I also liked that it got pretty warm and the berries came on strong each month.  We bought some and picked some.  We sampled their sweet bounty.  We traveled, too, to Portland for our anniversary in June and to Wisconsin and Minnesota for Jonathon’s graduation in August.  We got to stay with family and friends and celebrate.  In July, I got some much-needed CDBG training.  I’m finally starting to understand what I’m doing on the shelter project!  Look out!

I always want more.  I guess I’m a greedy gal.  I want to make as many fun memories with the kids as possible.  That being said, Ruby and I went to Walker Park for the last time this summer.  Since it’s been raining hard the last 2 days, we avoided the soggy play structure.  We wandered the barnacle-encrusted shore.  We poked a dead sea star.  Ruby found a pretty oyster shell to bring home.  The air off the inlet blew cold.  Fall hovered, held back in the trees, the guardians of summer.  Soon enough they will give up and let fall with all its chilly changes move in.

“Ruby, what was your favorite part of this summer?” I wanted to know.  I hated to put it in the past tense already, but there it is.

Ruby thought for a bit.

“Right now”, she replied.  “With this shell.”  The oyster shell, I might add, that “looks like meat” on one side.  Yum!

I had to smile.  The beauty of that childlike spirit is that every moment is the best moment.  Your mom is your best friend.  Your brother is funny and your dad is strong.  And this moment, filled with sun and shadow and wind, transitioning to the next phase, is the best one yet.


Free Miley

Warning:  This post contains graphic content. 

I didn’t watch the VMAs.  Let’s start with that.  But a little gal named Miley Cyrus, formerly Hannah Montana, stirred up a lot of controversy with her performance.

I must confess I’ve only seen the stills.  I have no desire to watch the video of that performance.  But you can!

What disturbs me even more than seeing life-size teddybears is the reaction.  Miley incurred everything from open-mouthed surprise to outright disgust.  And believe me, just looking at the photos, I get it.

Where is the innocent little girl who followed in Billy Ray Cyrus’ footsteps?  Where did that Disney Channel darling disappear to?

Does anyone remember being a young person?  Miley is trying to figure out who she is.  She’s sowing wild oats.  She’s exploring her sexuality.  She’s testing the waters and pushing boundaries.  Now, I do not condone this behavior.  But I remember doing dumb stuff at this age.  Granted, I come from a more conservative background and I was not a TV and teenybopper music idol.  I could perform my ridiculous antics in relative anonymity.

Miley can’t.

I’ve seen several Facebook posts wondering what is going on and  they are frankly, very angry and spiteful.  Parents whose children followed her from the small screen to the big screen to the radio are disgusted.  I completely understand.

My question is:  Can we give her a little space?  Please?  I agree that her act made no sense.  She looked more creepy than sexy. I mean, I’ve done some acting.  You need to inhabit the part and make it believable.  She couldn’t even do that. The bears were better actors.

We need to have wisdom here.  If you don’t want your kids emulating Miley, turn off the TV.  Change the radio station.  Talk about why and what is going on, as best you can.  Too often we hold childhood stars to a higher standard, thinking they’re our kids heroes.  We sit back and let them take over as the chief influencers of our kids.  We simply can’t do that.  People are wild cards.  Justin Bieber.  Christina Aguilera.  Britney Spears.  Justin Timberlake.  Madonna.  The Beatles.  Elvis.  I could go back further, but you get my point.  Our culture expresses incredible disappointment in the behavior of our stars, from entertainment to sports, yet pays them exorbitant amounts of money.  At best, it’s a mixed message to them and our children. And controversy creates curiosity, which translates to more sales.

We shouldn’t put celebrities on a pedestal.  They have feet of clay and will let us down. I think, given time, Miley will figure it out if she has any intelligence at all. Let’s start sifting out the good parts of people’s acts and letting go of the things that offend us and drive us away.  Let’s be “wise as serpents, gentle as doves”. The talent and drive of these stars warrants admiration.  Their lifestyles?  Not so much.

Honorable Mention

honorable mention

I’ve been roaming through Romans (ha!) and finally finished today.  The chapters about doing good and serving each other hit me between the eyes this time.  How do we put that into action in our time?

Romans 16 concludes the book.  Paul takes an entire chapter to send greetings to his friends and introduce his Roman readers to others.  He lists 25 people by name in this chapter.  Everyone from Aristobulus to Urbanus gets a mention.  He commends them for their work.  He offers respect to those who were in the faith even before he was.  He calls out their helpfulness.

I commend to you our dear sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea.  Welcoem her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people…Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus…Greet my dear friend Epenetus…Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit….

I can’t even begin to pronounce some of the names.  Apelles?  Asyncritus?  Phlegon?  On first glance, their names resemble medications.

Generally, I skim these verses.  They seem unnecessary to us modern-day believers.  These people are long gone and they hardly matter.  Or do they?

What if we greeted and treated people this way, today, now?

Greet Cybil (completely fictional), who toils at her low-paying job, interacting with the public daily, keeping a smile on her face and a good attitude.

Greet Tom as he rises daily with acute physical challenges he shares with no one.  He keeps on keeping on.

Greet Mary, mother of 6 children, who has managed to touch, love and change not only her own brood but several others in amazing ways.

Greet the worn-out caregiver sandwiched between aging, failing parents and their growing, maturing family.  Greet the lawyer, accountant, and professors who share their knowledge, expertise and time with such enthusiasm, helping others learn and achieve their goals.

Most of the folks in chapter 16 of Romans we never hear of again.  Paul saw them and what they accomplished, even if no one else did.  Their wealth or social rank mattered little.  Their hearts and service to the Lord and His people were everything.  Now, they are probably in the “household of faith” in heaven.

Some sacrifices and services no one but God sees.  Yet, He does see and He does appreciate it.  You have gifts to share.

Thank you for all you do to serve others and bring joy to this world.  Your contribution counts.

Graceful Submission

So far, I have written two blog posts in the last 2 days.  Neither will see the light of day.

I am finding it harder to write about things with even a hint of controversy.  I am learning to mind the “checks” in my spirit but trying to still be honest. It sucks, frankly.  I don’t have it mastered yet.  A few things might come out here and there, like a slip showing beneath a short, sheer dress.

That leaves…everybody’s health, and the weather, right?  Just quoting Professor Henry Higgins of “My Fair Lady”.

For a lack of a good segue, I ran this morning.  The damp, fresh air and cool breeze revived my spirit.  I haven’t run before breakfast in awhile. Definitely don’t have much gas in the tank pre-fueling.  I didn’t go far.  Traffic was light.  The only steady sound was the clomp-clomp of my feet hitting the pavement.  The scent of damp earth, trees and concrete filled my senses.

The best thing about running in the early hours is it helps order my thoughts.  I have a list of to-dos to accomplish every day.  Sometimes I feel motivation to do them, sometimes not.  Running helps me accomplish them with joy.

I’ve been processing some things lately.  I’ve offered them up to God for His control.  Much as I’d like to think I’ve got it all together, control is an illusion.  Ask me about how Ruby’s last dental visit went.  Better yet, don’t.  Total meltdown in the vinyl chair.  Total gobsmack for me and I realized again the transience of submission.

Submission is:  the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.

I can’t make my child submit.  Okay, I can, if I use force.  But is that what I truly want?  No.  If I am supposed to model the Father’s heart to my children, it simply won’t fly.  I must find a compassionate, kind, gentle way to show them and, ala Love and Logic, let circumstances teach.

Me:  Zac, you might want a pillow for the overnight (youth encounter/retreat).
Zac:  Nah.  I don’t need one.

Guess who didn’t sleep?

Yes, I want the kids to be submitted to Jonathon and I.  But out of love, not fear.  Trust plays a big part also.  As I submit more and more to Jesus, I’m praying it gets across to them. I want to be living the Father’s heart towards them. I don’t have all the answers.  I am teachable, though.  I believe they are, too.



Friendship can be a tricky thing.  What does it mean to be a friend? I know I’ve covered this before, but please indulge me.

Remember when the word friend was a noun and not a verb?  It was only that, understood and accepted, until long about 2004 when Mark Zuckerberg and his cohorts at Harvard invented what became Facebook.

In the last 2 days, I’ve gotten a couple of unsolicited invitations to “friend” people on Facebook.  One was from a guy whom I’ll call Z.  Z. is Arabic.  I got that from his name. I have never met Z.  Nor is it likely since he lives in the Netherlands.  In fact, his profile says he’s from Netherlands, Missouri.  I was willing to overlook his geographical lapses, but then I noticed all of his pictures were of…himself.  Getting into his sports car.  Getting out of his sports car.  And did I mention he’s a Muslim?  I would have loved to talk faith issues across all those midwest miles, but lo and behold, he withdrew his friend request.  Guess if you snooze, you lose.  My junior high band teacher Mr. Kvech was right.

The second one is from a guy who lives in London.  He’s a 40-something dad (I think) of a young son.  I saw the pictures on his profile. They looked happy. But there isn’t much to his profile. Maybe he attended one of the Microsoft conferences where I take notes bi-annually? I rarely accept friend requests from people who friend me out of the blue.  I like knowing them in some context, past or present, or at least having a friend-of-a-friend connection.  Curious, I emailed him.  Do I know you from somewhere?  Why do you want to be friends with me?  I wasn’t trying to be standoffish, only trying to establish common ground. I thought maybe he’d read a blog post or mine or my insanely witty status updates.


He emailed back that he was a single dad and he was attracted to my picture. And he is a “man of different thoughts and feelings”.  Huh.  I tried not to fall into the pit of thinking “this is a pickup from across the Atlantic”, so I responded by telling him I’m married with two children and that we live in the UNITED STATES.

His response.  “Oh, you married?”

Yes.  Yes, I am.  So much for having a British pen pal.

Friendship in the here and now is difficult enough.  Communicating clearly, understanding and being understood face to face poses unique challenges.  It’s very possible neither of these men are who they say they are.  Anyone can create an online persona.  On the other hand, it’s entirely possible both of these men were genuinely reaching out to me in a platonic fashion.  In this case, however, pictures are worth a thousand words.  And a few words can negate any pictures.

Heart’s Delight

Esther & Xerxes

I got a little behind in my Bible reading plan and got motivated to catch up when I came upon one of my favorite books:  Esther.  Esther, as you may recall, is a slim book in the bigger Bible.  It’s a gem, slipped into the wisdom books like a little sip of cool, refreshing water between toiling on the crags of wisdom.

Esther is one of the few female heroes in the Bible.  Adopted by her cousin Mordecai, the beautiful orphan girl originally named Hadassah (meaning “myrtle”), lived with her people among the Babylonian captives.  Mordecai renamed her Esther, meaning “star”.  He raised her as his own.

I won’t bring in all the back story here.  You can read it and fill in the blanks.

Esther, most disenfranchised of all people, one of a conquered people suddenly thrust into the spotlight, takes the prize:  new queen of Persia.

She’s fasted for 3 days, along with her handmaids (Esther 4:15).  What struck me today was the scene in Esther 5 where Esther goes in to the king to ask him to save her people. She put on her luxurious royal robes – she is queen now, after all – and enters the inner court of the palace, across from the king’s hall (5:1).  To enter into the king’s hall without being summoned brought penalty of death.  For anyone.

The scripture says when the king saw Queen Esther standing there, glowing in her royal raiments, he welcomed her and held out his scepter (5:2).  Esther approached and touched the end of the scepter.  Acceptance offered, acceptance received.

“What is your petition, Esther?  Anything you ask is yours, up to half the kingdom!”

I am no Bible scholar, though I played one on TV.  Yet what I see here is that the king missed her.  He had a lot on his plate, dealing with the affairs of state and political maneuverings within his court.  Seeing Esther refreshed his heart.  Esther brought him joy.  Imagine:  he sat on his throne, probably most of the day, intervening in squabbles and bringing down the final judgment on wrongdoers.  Kind of a drag, I would think.  Esther became a bright spot, a place he could turn towards for a little beauty in his daily grind.

What I see here is that we do the same for our Father.  He watches over the earth’s affairs all day long.  He is never weary and doesn’t mind helping others.  But us actively seeking His face brings Him joy.  He longs to connect with us.  We put on our garments of praise and enter His presence (Isaiah 61). God hears our hearts and receives us.  He extends His scepter of grace – the sacrifice of Jesus – and we are in the beloved.

This vignette from Esther provides a short respite in what must have been a scary, uncertain time.  The Jewish people’s fate rested on one girl doing the right thing.  King Xerxes had a temper.  He banished his former queen and chose Esther out of a lineup of hundreds of beautiful virgins. He is not a perfect example of God’s merciful nature.  Yet because of Esther rising up in “such a time as this”, he became instrumental in saving an entire people group from annihilation.  Esther reminds us we are truly the apple of God’s eye.

Square Dancing

As far as I know, it never led to babies, despite all my Bible college admonishments.

As far as I know, it never led to babies, despite all the Bible college admonishments.

This blog sat in my “drafts” folder for months.  I’ve mulled it over.  I’ve discussed it with Jonathon.  Growing up in Las Vegas and the Ann Arbor area, he never square danced.   In truth, he chose not to answer on the “grounds that it might incriminate him”.  Has Zac square danced?  Nope!  Something is horribly wrong.  Why, oh why, did this get cut from the P.E. curriculum?  Take out table tennis, for goodness’ sakes, and put ritualized group humiliation back on the docket!

I had never square danced until we moved to Clackamas.  I want to go on record saying that.  In NE Portland, it simply wasn’t done.  Elementary school physical education consisted of flapping the multicolored parachute, racing 4-wheeled wooden scooters and kicking the Earth ball.  Not joining hands with our classmates and shuffling to songs more than 30 years old.

But then…

My brother and I moved in with our dad. He lived in Clackamas.  We rode the bus to Sunnyside Elementary, down a long, winding country road.  Unlike my Portland grade school, Sunnyside went from K-6th grade.  So my brother and I were in the same school for one more year.

Once I relaxed and stopped feeling like the nerdy new kid – somewhat – I really liked it.  The school.  Took me awhile to like square dancing.

I remember being nervous, my palms sweating and I became fully aware all over again of how totally unattractive I was to the opposite sex.  Think “androgynous troll” and you have it. I favored brightly-colored overalls and sported thick corrective eyewear.  I think at this age, kids chose their partners instead of what happened later, which was lining up by sex, boys and girls joining together in a loop-like fashion, randomly.  I suppose that was to minimize the rejection factor.

We tromped in rounded squares on the highly varnished wooden gym floor, stepped right, then left.  We spun around, grasping hands.  We allemanded left.  We do-si-doed.  We promenaded.  None of this translated to regular life, which appeared to be all about who was “going with” whom and then suddenly…not.

The social stigma factor aside, I really liked square dancing.  I discovered I liked dancing, period.  My unbridled enthusiasm earned me a few equally nerdy partners.  This was junior high.  High school, however, had a totally different vibe:  square dancing was not cool.  And if you liked it, well, gag me with a spoon!

The music, however…

The Andrews Sisters did it better. Okay, to be fair, it’s a different song (below).  Aren’t you glad?!

I used to wake up with the first song in my head. Jealous, right?

What exactly were we supposed to learn from this antiquated social ritual?  I totally get that I landed in an agrarian society, with a mighty FFA presence and entire Land Lab where high schoolers could study animal husbandry and grow crops during class time.

Possibly, it was the administration’s attempt to “socialize” us, in addition to the many regular dances we had.  Those of us late bloomers had the chance to lay our hands – appropriately – on the opposite sex.  Maybe that was the real goal:  to teach us to look each other in the eye and learn respect and kindness in the midst of raging hormones and klutziness and self-consciousness and growth spurts or lack thereof, while in a controlled environment.  Maybe we could learn to overcome our shyness and missteps and laugh together.  For those reasons alone, someone should spearhead bringing it back.