Just your average tableware

I really want to be fine china- the kind you have to put on a bridal registry and wealthy relatives can only afford a couple place settings or the kind you have to hand wash because of the exquisite gold rim.

Instead, I’m pretty certain I’ll be your average, every day tableware. Dishwasher and microwave safe too.

To find out how this terrible mistake happened, let’s rewind a bit.

The wheel spun in front of me with a low murmur. Having mastered (or so I thought), just the right amount of pressure, the clay inched slowly up the wheel. Too much pressure and a hole would have punctured, too little and the clay would slump down in unattractive blobs. Patience and precision brought the smooth glistening texture and shape I was hoping for. Something extraordinary and valuable was being fashioned, to my great satisfaction.

Or so I thought.

I can’t say exactly when or how, but my wheel came to a screeching halt. Who was I fooling? It wasn’t me sitting there to begin with.

I WAS the lump of cold, malleable clay- moist and earthy.

There was someone at the wheel though. Not just any old potter, but a Master- one so skilled, that no piece He crafts has ever been discarded. With hands of perfect precision, He applies pressure, molding the clay into shape.

Depending on the day, the design changes. There are days when the wheel’s friction causes an uncomfortable heat. Sometimes it’s a slow, steady spin. No matter what, the Master never leaves. Ever. His presence is constant. His touch is purposeful. His plan for the finished product? Common tableware.

And me? That ugly lump of clay? I acquiesce to being worked on, always trying to stay formable and susceptible to the Master’s touch. Some days though I am, honestly pretty sick of it. Can he just hurry up and be done already?

Until completion, I strive to rest and trust for however long this process endures. This is no easy task for a control freak like me. But I can say with confidence: fine china is not happening.

pottery *Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/26167782@N06/7959118388

 

 

 

 

One Word

A few months back, I posted how we like to hear ourselves talk about this or that. This is also known as, venting, blabbing, gabbing or (if you’re of the female persuasion), bitching.

Since that post, my desire to write became wrapped in something mysterious. It was a little like fear, something until the events of this summer, I had never before experienced. Me, afraid of words? How could this be?

After some evaluation, I realized I wasn’t afraid at all; I’d simply become more cautious, more reserved. I want what I say to be reflective and impactful. Every breath matters and I don’t want to waste mine.

You see, over the summer, I met a woman who had an aura about her so divine and spiritual, her words burned into my soul. She was simple yet authentic in prayer, with pauses that were downright uncomfortable, each word deliberate and thoughtful. She didn’t waste breath, yet what she said hung in the air like a beautiful fragrance.

I guess I learned to be okay with silence, actually, not just okay, but to invite the quiet, to bask in it. And strangely when I did that, both in prayer and in life, a single word would come into focus. The prominence of that word would overcome every other thought, flickering like a neon sign until its full brilliance was illuminated.

Now I can put my finger on it: that is what has changed.

A powerful word can linger on the tongue like one bite of a decadent dessert or savory appetizer. It stays with me throughout the day, simple and beautiful. Words like:

 Lavish

Exquisite

Marvel

Array

Bountiful

Steadfast

Long-suffering

Unshackled

Enraptured

I read a statistic that women speak up to 20,000 words per day while men only 13,000. We are word gluttons, gobbling them up and spitting them out with great rapidity.

I intend to change that. Starting one word at a time.

throw down the trophy

3445f_Starlet_TrophyThe faux golden bauble stood admiringly on the shelf. The pride swelled in my heart and I gave myself a little proverbial pat on the shoulder. I had worked so hard for that thing! In fact it had been pretty much a relentless 24/7 job earning it. Thankless, tiring and consuming as it seemed, I now had this symbol displayed for all to see. And why not? It represented the blood, sweat and tears, my personal achievement monument…

I picked it up, took one last prideful gaze and threw it on the concrete with every ounce of force I could muster. It shattered and splintered into bits, unrecognizable as anything it was before.

Man, that felt good! A wave of awareness washed over me- it felt strangely like relief; like the sigh that comes at the end of a hard work out session. My striving was over, the expectation to live up to what that trophy represented was gone now. I was liberated from the pressure of my prize and pride!

   ~~~~~~~~~

Our children can become our trophies: set up as an enduring symbol of our hard work, our push for achievements, our endless hours of driving all over for classes or lessons, our relentless and tireless pursuit of the right education, our sacrifice for the “right stuff”, etc.

We want them to shine like stars (and of course they do in our universe), but that isn’t quite good enough. We gotta have some recognition, some “Ooo’s and Ahh’s” from people, especially other parents.

Here’s the lie : IT IS NOT EVEN ABOUT THEM IN THE END, IT’S ABOUT US. It is a self-seeking venture to garner attention for our own achievement. I mean, everyone knows that a kid like THAT HAD to come from great parents!

And here’s the antithesis of that lie: another lie, that if they don’t turn out as a crowning achievement, amazing student, upstanding citizen, destined for fame or fortune, WE ARE THE FAILURES. We are at fault. We did something terribly wrong. Our trophy never arrived.

This is the most damaging, beguiling lie of all.

So, dear reader, maybe you have that bauble already set on a shelf (because, dang, your kids turned out alright) or perhaps you are already eyeing the wall for a display case you know you’ll need soon. Conversely, you may have anger, resentment, profound disappointment or dashed hopes because well, frankly, your prize is tarnished, damaged, misshapen. You have nothing to show for all your labors.

Throw down the mentality that your kids are yours to behold. Give them wholeheartedly to One who created them. Yes, work with all your might to teach them right from wrong, shape their thinking. And love them no matter what. Then remember that God is molding them and they may look very different from what you’d imagined.

Mantras to Live By

I grew up in a house of idioms. No, not IDIOTS! Idioms- catchy, sometimes pithy sayings meant to convey life application, but sometimes equally as baffling, crass and just plain ol’ unhelpful.

You see, I’m not quite sure if was a generational thing or a cultural thing (or perhaps my parents just had a way with words), but they were adept at throwing an idiom at any situation. It is said that there are 25,000 such expressions in the English language. I easily heard at least 5,000 growing up.

So maybe this scarred me. I can only retain short one-liners because frankly, I spent much longer than I should have trying to decipher what these words ACTUALLY meant. Or maybe this helped me become the lover of words that I am today; these deeply, meaningful brain-twisters made me dig under the surface for meaning (which I’m pretty certain only left weird mental pictures).

At any rate, I do currently subscribe to living by mantras, not in a Buddhist meditative kind of way, but as a simple implementation tool for my mind. The truth of its strong message can hold sway over the negative thoughts that come too easily. Here’s my list of favorites:

La Vita e Bella– or Life is Beautiful (in Italian)- When I saw the 1998 movie with this name, I was struck with profound emotion. (If you have not seen the movie, do and watch it in Italian with English subtitles.) This was also the year my mom passed away, which compounded the message home to me that: each day is a gift, life is too short to be lived in the doldrums, and if I live it beautifully, I can rise above the ugly.

God is everything. I am nothing. – Now before you get your feathers ruffled, let me say that I know this is contra to what our Western culture espouses. And this is the very thing I fight against every day. After years of misguided expectations for myself and unrealistic “putting on a pedestal” of people or things, I realized that humbling myself was the very place I would find true happiness. By acknowledging that God is the pinnacle from which all else is divinely appointed in my life, I finally have rest. This does NOT mean that I sit emo-ishly in a corner with a self-abasing razor strap held to my back. It does mean that I submit myself wholly to the GREAT POWER that is God, not from a needy weakness but from a willful whole-minded humility that admits my utter ineptness to be the master of my own destiny.

Everyone has a story- none of which you know and most of which you wouldn’t understand. This mantra came on the heels of the previous one- to be humble and to recognize that humanity in general is a beautifully messy business. This means every aggressive driver that flips you the bird, every grumpy waiter or waitress, every cross cashier, every holier than thou church member, every overly hormonal know it all young adult, every cantankerous older person- they all have a story, written over decades by every person and circumstance that has been part of their cosmos. Give that person grace & mercy because you know what they say- “Humans are like snowflakes- no two are alike.” 🙂 Your story isn’t theirs.

Words mean something. – You are probably saying, “Duh” and making a face while reading this. Shame on you!  This mantra, though simple, is one I tell my children and myself over and over and over again. I have this little problem of being, oh, let’s say, slightly venomous with my words. I let my emotion bubble and foam up over the very essence of what I should have said and boy does it make a mess- (think boiled over sugar mixture on a hot stove). Our words really DO have powerful sway, they really can’t be retracted and they showcase what’s in our heart. The book of James says it best:  It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

These are my “basic mantras”- the simple profound truths I repeat everyday because they MEAN SOMETHING.

What mantras do you live by?

i am ALIVE again!

It’s been far too long.

I’ve missed this.

You know how when you don’t do something for a really long time, you feel a sense of paralysis to tackle it again?!

That’s been me.

Why is that? We shy away from the very thing that helps make a better us.

For me, it’s been fear- fear that I have nothing valuable or clever to say, fear that I will present a post that is boring or grammatically incorrect (for shame, you know), fear that the FEARS I am currently facing in my life would bleed through to my writing and readers would play on their tiny violin when reading my failures. I am so often constrained by expectations still (need to work on this more)!

But then it hit me: I write because I love it. I write because it frees my mind. I write because if one person can resonate with my thoughts or feelings and it encourages or helps them, my heart is HAPPY!

My blog means something to me and I have neglected it. I intend to change that starting today. You may find an occasional syntax error and I might just type some offensively strong language at times, but I am OK with that.

I strive towards integrity in all things and this can be done only through candor and without fear.

To that end I will write. Hang on. It might be crazy!

 

Plainly,

Jane

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look Here

Perspective.

In light of this recent cold snap, I was reminded that so much of life truly is perspective. The word, as defined by good ol’ Webster means:

~the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance

or

~the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed

You see, I say, “I’m freezing. It’s so cold outside”, then I hear that the town we used to live in in Idaho is exactly 0 degrees and I stop complaining. Later I read about parts of Montana that have a wind chill of 50 below zero and I think that you might have to be part crazy to live there!!!!! I’ll take my 27 degrees any day!

I remember the first time I really grasped the meaning of this concept (although at 17, it would be years until I was able to really apply it to life). It was my first semester of college and I was FORCED (note that word) to take an art appreciation class. While attending a field trip to the L.A. art museum, we were instructed to write observations on all kinds of paintings. There was one that I’ll never forget. It was an idyllic fall scene of a sleepy town. The rich golds, crimsons and oranges still stand sharp in my mind, but it was how the light morphed that really struck me. I had to view the painting from a variety of angles and distances and as I did, the canvas evolved before me. It was as if light was coming alive inside the painting. As my perspective changed, so did the scene before me.

Throughout my life this has happened time and time again. I have been sitting around, wallowing in a large vat of self-pity filled with stinky stuff like: financial woes, child-rearing woes, health woes etc. then BAM, I hear about a friend’s problem or a natural disaster that trumps my vat o’ crap by 10,000 stink points. I immediately admit that things could be much worse. Conversely, I’ve been sitting prettily atop my high horse thinking “I’M ALL THAT”, when BAM, someone rides by on an even higher horse. All at once I get knocked flat on my derriere, taken down by pride. I am forced to look straight up from my new perspective lying on the ground.

You see, no matter where you are, in the valley or on the mountain, you know by now that things can and DO change in a heart beat. Not only that, there is, in the wide world over invariably someone out there better or worse off than YOU! (The nerve of some people that seem to continually fall into the “better off” category!)

So here’s my challenge for you and myself:  Change your perspective. Shift your focus. Embrace where you’re at. Try to change where you’re at. Step back. Step forward.  If you get knocked down, lie there a little while and take in the view. If you are at a pinnacle moment type of place, look out into the distance and realize where you came from. See the bigger picture, the sum of the parts. Find the beauty in the broken, the meaning in the muck, the purpose in the plight. Recognize and appreciate the fractal light features that appear as you shift your perspective.

60 day challenge- Smash Fear!

Sitting near the edge, I could feel the immense upward pressure. Parts of my body had gone numb. My heart palpitated like I had just completed a 100-meter dash. Above the din of the plane engine, I knew my instructor was assuring me, reminding me of the procedures we had been over and over, but I only heard every third word. They had warned me of this exact moment- panic, fear, apprehension- far beyond anything I had ever experienced; something that took over my mind and body relentlessly. My eyes met the vast expanse of sky- that’s what they said, “Never look down”- and I didn’t. Suddenly I saw the pilot give the signal, my instructor grabbed my arm and we jumped…

That would be me, conquering one of my greatest fears and strangely I am drawn to it. It is on my “bucket list”.

At the beginning of the summer, I stumbled across this book at the library that made me come face to face with a few realities:

  1. I have more fear than I like to admit.
  2. I have not worked through the “why” behind many of my fears.
  3. These fears have held me captive for too long. It was time to do something about them.

I am no super woman. I am no risk taker (by nature). I have spent the greater portion of my adult life caring for others, carefully avoiding those things which would interfere or impede this job. In short, I didn’t want to rock my boat of hum-drum duties or my “safe” life.  But this book challenged me to stop and LIVE, not in a self-consumed, “I AM WOMAN. HEAR ME ROAR” kind of way, but in a “what’s stopping you besides this huge obstacle called FEAR” kind of way.

And so I began writing my book and training for a half marathon- small steps towards a bigger process of facing fears like rejection and limitation.

So here, dear readers, is our new 60 day challenge (because 30 days is just too unrealistic and being realistic is key to this):

Face your fear. Confront it. Overcome it.

Some day, I want to skydive. Some day, I’d like to climb an impressive mountain like Mt Fuji in Japan. Some day, I’d like to be the speaker at a women’s conference or be sitting at a table signing my book that people bought and were helped by.

But right here, right now, there are much smaller fears that I have- smaller only in the less daunting fashion of doing something about them- but just as large in the paralysis that results because I am conquered by them, instead of me conquering them! These are the fears that hold me back, that keep me from accomplishing things, that make me unable to enjoy life.

How about you? What are YOUR fears- the things or situations that you wish you could overcome to have an experience or accomplish a goal? Maybe socially, you have always wanted to sing in front of a crowd or go see a movie by yourself. Perhaps intellectually, you have always desired to learn more about math or sociology. Physically, you have always wanted to run a race or take up swimming.

You get the point. So now for homework:

Make a list of fears you have in several different areas. Pick two of them. Then list tangible solutions for ways to overcome them. Be realistic. Be purposeful. Be brave. Be FEARLESS!

Doing this just might change your life forever and we can do it together. That is what makes it fun! Share this challenge with as many friends you can! We can be a team- rooting for the underdogs, encouraging each other, keeping it real. We will dub ourselves: THE FEAR CRUSHERS.  Nothing is too silly or small to conquer and we each have unique fears.

So, holler back if you are with me. Let’s start this weekend. Ready? Set? GO!

How I’ve Screwed Up Parenting and Other Idiotic Mistakes

I hate the expression, “If I could do it over again, I would….” because, well, we CAN’T do IT OVER AGAIN! Sad, yet true. But a little introspection never hurts either. That’s what this post is about: the raw emotion of coming to terms with mistakes I’ve made; good ideas done with wrong intentions or motives and a fair bit of kicking myself squarely in the arse.

Mercy me. At this point in my parenting, I can assure you that, whatever I thought I knew before, I now realize I knew nothing of the complexities I would face and if I did, I may have just run off into the sunset as a DINK (dual income, no kids) with the hubby.

Who signed me up for this job anyways???

It began with breast feeding only and organic homemade baby food. Yep. No feeding on demand though. No rocking my babies to sleep. No siree! That would “spoil” them, make them too dependent on me and make our home a child-centered place. Assinine me bought into these ideas hook, line and sinker. {Just for the record- I am still a HUGE fan of breast feeding-  total La Leche mama over here.}

God laughed at my foolishness and gave me a first born with a will like iron, who has pushed every boundary from the get go. I read a few books that were so misguiding, I can hardly contain myself thinking of them. “Spank them till they break.” Oh, o.k. 5,000 spanks later, no will broken, just fomented anger in my child and in myself. Great idea. NOT. Stupid, abusive idea. Not what God’s intentions were when He tells us to “withhold not correction”.

Sending them to school daunted me. The idea of my kids being surrounded by a bunch of trash talking heathens for 6 hours a day?! No way! Home schooling would be the insulating blankie we could wrap them up in. Yes, no prob. This way, I can teach them my worldview AND make darn sure they don’t hear the “F” word.  (At 7, my oldest comes home and blurts “FUK” out after playing at a church friend’s house-oops.) Foiled again.

For all the good it was having them at home 24/7, it had its down falls. One thing for sure is, my strong suite is not patience. I am a tiny bit “Tiger Mother” by nature and that is not a quality of a great teacher. I tended not to look favorably on childish behavior or the inability to apply oneself to the glories of handwriting and computing arithmetic problems. My hypocrisy was such an ugly thing and I modeled it for them like a pro at moments- teaching them the Bible one minute and yelling at them the next!!

Presently, I am coming to terms with the fact that in two years I will have 2 “adult” children. OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!!!!  Just recently, I realized that somehow, somewhere along the path, I had overlooked something so important, I have pretty much been doing continual face palms since it dawned on me- I neglected PRAYER- the everyday, without ceasing for each and every situation kind (not just in moments of crisis or peril). And most of all, unceasing PRAYER for God to save them! I was too busy believing that if I just taught my kids the gospel message enough, they would in turn embrace it whole-heartedly and never look back. Wrong again. For all of man’s efforts, do not change the heart of a child. Only God does. Plain and simple.

You see, I did some right things, very good things even. Teaching my kids at home had its sweet, memorable moments and I do know they heard the truth of God from the beginning. BUT, my motivations were a bit askew and definitely wreaked of spiritual pride.

Yes, I DID pray for my kids, but not nearly as fervently as I should have. I should have spent concerted effort on bent knee before the feet of Jesus and less time applying the rules.

I am majorly humbled as I write this; saddened by idiotic mistakes I’ve made and by seeing the folly of my own prideful ways.

If I may be so bold, I would shout it from the mountain tops: “PRAY, PRAY, PRAY FOR YOUR CHILDREN!” Don’t trust in human efforts: in organic eating, or clean living, or home schooling, or spanking, or church programs, or being a godly example even, or anything- BUT GOD. Check and recheck your motives for everything you do to make sure that pride has not crept in in place of true humility and utter dependence on God each and every day.

Newton Shmooton

Newton’s third law of motion states:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This is true in physics AND in parenting teenagers.

You push, they pull. You apply force, they resist. You bear down, they buoy up to the surface, gasping for air.

Often times, the very thing we try, try, try so hard to coax out of or impress into our teens seems to snap back on us like a rubber band to the skin. It stings. We’re hurt. The lesson gets lost like a rock in quicksand and we are left feeling void- void of hope that they will ever be different.

From day one when baby comes bouncing into the world, we look at he or she like a ball of clay. There they are all moist and fresh, sitting on the potter’s wheel, just waiting to be shaped. Away we go with our tools and hands: molding, carving, pinching, pulling, stretching, pounding. So often we go at the clay with past regrets of our own past mistakes. Other times we are angry, rough and impatient because it will just not cooperate. Then sometimes, it is so pliable, easily molding into the perfect, smooth masterpiece we had envisioned.

There are many moments when we forget who should really be sitting at the wheel. We put ourselves in the chair, thinking we are the potter- and in one sense we are. Our children are largely shaped by us- our ideals, our personalities, our passions, our dislikes, our philosophies, our methods.

But nothing seems farther from the truth when they are about to embark on their own journey called life.  No matter what forces we have applied, they are moved more by who they have become and less by what you hoped, planned or tried to make them be.

God is the Potter of every human soul. He fashions and shapes the clay of humanity in His time and in His ways.  And He is the MOST EXCELLENT POTTER of all! His vessels are always perfectly fit for His plan and purpose.