Monday, April 29, 2013

Need to See God? (He's at a band concert)

"Hey, can anyone be me tomorrow night?"

Her husband recovering from a kidney transplant and in the throes of frequent doctor visits, my friend flashed an email through space. She needed someone to attend a band concert with two of her children and to video-record the music.

"While I can't be you, I would be happy to drive ___ and ___ to the concert and to record their band pieces," replied another woman, warmly.

Suppers slip on to their kitchen table on busy nights. Children jump into approved cars for quick hospital visits, and an email army stands ready to help.

Need to see God? I see him in women whipping up extra suppers and in grandmas wrangling seat-belts.

Need to see God today? I see him through a brother-in-law's generous living-donor kidney and a stitched up side. I see God's work in early hospital releases, lowered chances of infection, and in mylar helium balloons from a women's Bible study with the note: "You cause us to be astounded in our God! Thank you." The balloons bob in a yellow stucco dining room, as kids study and a shaved dog wags tail.

Need to see God? He's in kitchens, and carpools, and trips to the store for groceries.

And the joy? It flows over and down.

Linking with Ann at A Holy Experience and Emily at Imperfect Prose.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Helping Teens See Themselves (and Perhaps Helping You and Me too?)

I see it in their eyes sometimes.The quiet uncertainty that ripples out from quick side glances and downward gazes, to the way they walk and hold themselves some days.

"Do you see me?" "Am I visible, beautiful, interesting?"

This inner longing to be known, to be seen, to be captivating --we all wrestle with it, teens and adults alike, some days.

And so I purposefully reach out, speaking their names aloud as I see them, pass them in bus aisles, and sit beside them, across from cheeseburgers and sweet southern teas.

Speaking a teen's name aloud to them, looking them deep in the eyes, asking questions and listening hard, I strive to show them they are seen, cared for, valuable. And they have value, not because I see them or another person sees them, but because they were created by an Artist God who loves them and delights in them.

Saturday night in our hotel room, halfway through a weekend-long youth retreat, ten of us senior high girls and leaders gathered round. On beds, cots, couches, and carpeted floors, we curled up cross-legged.

"Have you seen the sketch-artist Dove experiment that has been blitzing facebook this week?" I asked my girls.

In the experiment, women in a waiting room were told two things: 1.) they were here to talk to a sketch artist, and 2.) to be friendly with the women around them, getting to know them. As their turn with the sketch artist arrived, the women entered another room and were asked to describe themselves to the sketch artist behind the curtain. Haltingly, shyly, the women listed their own features. "A rounder face, stubby chin, turned up nose..." and a picture formed from the words they uttered. Afterwards, almost as an afterthought, the sketch artist asked each woman to describe someone by name they had met from the lobby. In glowing warm words, each woman spoke of their new friend's eyes, cheerful smile, cute nose and dimples, and flowing hair. Dismissed, the women left the room.

In a gripping finale, the women were invited back into the artist's gallery to see two portraits hanging side by side for each of them. On the left was the artist's rendering of the woman describing herself. Each woman's insecurities amplified the features they were shyest about. Noses or chins were exaggerated, disproportionate.

Hanging to the right, however, was a second portrait, drawn from descriptions by friendly new acquaintances in the lobby. Suddenly, tears fell and silence dropped as women saw their own beauty through the eyes of others. A truer, gentler picture emerged for each woman through the eyes of strangers in the waiting room.

 My girls and I, we sat curled up and crossed-legged on couches, cots, and carpeted floors, as I told this story. And then with torn notebook paper and pens, we scribbled until our hands hurt, sketching images of beauty for the women beside us, telling them how we really saw them. Written words traced beauty in them; drawing a line around kind eyes, generous spirits, and fierce loyalty towards others; highlighting the skills and talents we saw in them. Our words erased the imperfections they hung onto --exaggerated in their minds-- and drafted sincere beauty.

Silence fell afterwards, once papers circled the room to arrive back at their owners. Each young woman read looping lines that traced her value and beauty from the new friends in the room.

Have YOU seen this newest Dove video, "Real Beauty Sketches"? Take a moment to watch this now. It's worth the three minutes, I promise you. Share it with your friends and families, will you?

Then, pick up a pen and perhaps trace some words of beauty to someone around you too? Let them know they are made by an Artist God who delights in them. 

Linking with Ann at A Holy Experience Emily at Imperfect Prose on a Dare to Love the Mom in the Mirror.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Camp David and a Danish

In an espresso-steaming coffee shop, all the tables are crowded. There are no vacancies except at the tall table in the corner. Three of us stagger ourselves respectfully amidst five close-proximity chairs, wielding our bags and books into puzzle-like-precision placements.

A cheese danish tantalizes me from a wrapped paper bag, while Komodo Dragon coffee and cream scald my throat deliciously. Warmth steals through my hand and body. The danish waits, however, while I resolve a relationship issue.

Tapping thumbs into a red and black cell phone, I text, "Hi, love, sorry. I did it right today when I worked at not criticizing. I messed up when... Will you forgive me?"

He responds gently and we start anew. With a click, the screen is cleared, and I proceed to my danish and books, feeling peaceful and relaxed.

Resentments in relationships can accumulate too easily, building up walls, brick by brick. In this new season of relationship, we're striving to stay soft-hearted, to be quick to apologize, and quick to forgive.

Do you have someone you need to talk to today? Leave the coffee, the danish, and grab a phone or a pen.

Linking with Duane at Scribing the Journey and Emily of Imperfect Prose

Monday, April 8, 2013

Who Doesn't Want More Joy and Energy?

In a flurry of pastel crepe paper, the pinata shattered and candy rained down on the four children. From the sidelines, we watched as they eagerly reached in to pick up glittering wrapped chocolates. New to pinatas, my four year old happily snatched an M&M's packet and then came to me to open it.

"Hey, you can pick up more candy, if you want," I suggested, handing him a plastic baggie. Intent on his mini bag of M&M's though, he was satisfied, and simply wanted to eat them. I gathered some candy pieces for him to enjoy later with his siblings, but his actions had captured my attention.
Credit to Nature Mapping

On the walk home from our friend's house, I pushed his green stroller through wet streets, and pointed out bird calls to him. "That's a red-winged blackbird," I said, as I squatted down to point out the bird in the branches above. Vivid crimson and yellow flashed on the wings of a black bird.
Credit to Mother-Daughter Press
A screeching blue jay swooped overhead. "That's a blue jay. They warn other birds that people are near," I taught Daniel. We followed the jay's flight with our eyes, and I described the white tummy, blue head and jacket, and black painted eyes of the vibrant Midwest blue jay. Pausing under a tree, we craned our heads up to see the bird that swayed in the crisp breeze on branches high.

It takes time to see these birds, and to train our eyes to watch for them. I am a novice at bird-watching but six or seven birds catch my attention, and I listen for their calls, or stop to watch their splashes of color in our trees.

Walking home from the pinata party this afternoon, I thought I was the one training Daniel's eyes to stop, see, and savor. As he quietly munched M&M's, hunched over in the green stroller, though, I realized that he was teaching me. Grabbing a bag of M&M's, he turned away from the pile of candy, and was satisfied, stopping to savor what he had.

I'm training my eyes. It's been a year and a half journey to stop, see, and savor God's gifts. These joy lists, these gratitude journals, this process of counting His gifts, bring joy and perspective. Statistics show that counting gifts, one by one, brings greater happiness, greater energy and attentiveness, greater joy, greater emotional health, closer relationships and happiness in life, and who doesn't need that?! They rekindle in me a love for my God, and a love for my husband and family.

 (Thanks to Ann Voskamp at a Holy Experience for her statistics above. Check out her post here on "15 Happy Ways to Teach Kids to be Grateful.")

I link with Ann today to count gifts.. 
-preschool hugs and bird watching
-seeing beauty and new variety in the hues of brown along the highway
-the joy of meeting new women at Moms-Next this morning, in my session on Talking to Our Kids and Teens about Sex and Sexuality, and the joy of sharing together.
-being able to speak with women, and it feeling like worship between me and my God
-pinata lessons from my four year old

Have you seen these older posts?
-Conspiring Teens Plot Joy (Want their Secret?) 
-Five Seconds Away from Joy, Better Health and Peace of Mind

Pick up pen or keyboard, friend, and join me. Who doesn't need more joy and energy?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Growing Daughters in Twilight

  "Mom," she laughs, as I slouch in the chair, gripping my burning throat.

"Ouuuuuch!" I squeal and slink lower in my chair, waiting for the scalding tea to finish its course through my esophagus.

"You look like a teen ager like that," she grins, shaking her head at me, compassion lining her face also.

The pain has passed, and I straighten in my chair. This life of raising a woman brings laughter, humility, and joy. 

On the weathered grey deck outside, we catch a sunset's hues and the last glimpses of her childhood, as time flits away with the sun. This willowy daughter stands taller than me now, and has a full-sized Holy Spirit in her. He speaks to her and through her, like he speaks to me or you. And I catch myself watching her lately.

"Mom, you're staring at me," she smiles quizzically those days. "What?"

It's just that I see myself in her, and yet so much more, I see her! A woman in a child's body, a child in a woman's body, and a sister in the faith beside me.

How do I raise this woman beside me? With my man-child off to college this fall, time melts before me.
Trying to see if the timer worked, we surprised ourselves once.
Pulling her next to me on the couch, we speak of our journals, of our times in God's word, and the God-sized dreams for our futures.The sun sinks lower outside, digital numbers on the grimy stove clock climb towards preschool bedtimes, and the moment passes.

Placing my favorite mug into the microwave for more tea, I press a minute twenty, and the seconds flash by.

Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose and Ann at A Holy Experience.