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Friday, July 23, 2010

Throw Mountains

I'm excited to have been invited to post a guest blog over at Throw Mountains today. Renee Johnson and Sarah Cunningham have a cool ministry running over there for 20/30 somethings.

Renee invited me to write a bit about the metaphorical shipwreck many young adults hit after graduation, which is the topic of my first book.

If you have a chance, stop on over there, read the blog, comment, but also check out all that Throw Mountains has to offer!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Facing the Child

Noelle is exactly 2 years and 9 months old today, and I feel like I'm seeing the persona of a little girl emerge from the curtain and sheets of her toddler body.

Her protruding belly is disappearing. Her pudgy legs are getting longer, more gangly. Her face and mouth are turning into the silhouette of a girl and young woman I am going to get to know over the next several years.

This morning, she popped into our bed all bright and ready to chat.

"You guys went on a date last night?" she asked holding her luvie under one arm and crawling up the bedspread.

"Yep!" Dwayne said hoisting her up. "What did you do last night?"

Noelle sat up on her knees, her little feet splayed out beside her bum. "Well," she held out her hands and counted on her fingers. "I played and I -" pause, a twinkle in her eye "I pooped!" Then she slapped her forehead, laughed and flopped back onto the bed with us.

We were a crumple of sheets and bedspread and laughter.

I have had a revelation about my daughter in these last two days. Primarily about her personality. Well, that's not exactly it. I've had a revelation about my expectations of her personality.

Since being on this month long galavant across the country I have been forced to see her in a new light. Before this trip, I have been excited to fling open the doors and share my little girl with our family, to let them see the joy, the cuteness, the sweetness.

But then of course, we have been traveling, out of our natural setting, out of her normal rhythm, and she has been tossed around on the steady current of strange hotels, strange faces, strange schedules. In short, she's been sick and out of sorts. And on top of all of this, she has been, of course, a normal two year old. Primarily - obstinate and tactless.

For example, two nights ago, we had a friend over for dinner. During most of the dinner, my daughter was being a complete pill. I couldn't get her to sit down in her seat next to our guest. She was fussing and fighting, kicking and whining, and when she did sit down she was throwing her water around and making a mess.

After a couple trips to the bathroom for some correction, she settled down finally and pecked at her food. Later on, she was sitting in my lap and I decided to point at our guest and ask, "Noelle, who's that?"

She got that twinkle in her eye and said, "That's poop."

I was mortified. No idea what to do. I made her apologize and she did. Then I apologized again later to our guest. But I was fighting with myself the whole evening.

What was I doing that was allowing my daughter to be so rude? Hadn't she just been cringing and squirming the other day when NaNa was trying to give her a kiss? Hadn't she run away from BopBop yelling, "NOOOO" when he tried to say "hi"?

If you know me at all, you'll know that this sort of behavior would horrify me. And so I have set my mind to correct it. Dwayne and I have been admonishing Noelle to speak respectfully and kindly to NaNa and BopBop because they love us so much. And to talk nicely to people.

Anyway, back to the evening when Noelle called our guest "poop." After she had gone to bed that night, Mom, Dad, Dwayne and I all sat together in the living room.

"I don't think Noelle liked our guest much," my Dad said. I looked up to find him smiling. He was amused. Not defeated, like me.

"Oh because she called our guest poop?" I asked shaking my head.

"No, before that. I don't think she wanted to sit next to her at the table." And I could see in my father's eyes that he thought Noelle was onto something. When he looked at Noelle he didn't see a misbehaving little girl. He saw an intuitive child with the inability to manage her reactions.

And suddenly the light broke.

I do not want my daughter to be rude or a brat, but I also do not want to neuter her personality.

These are the new thoughts that have been swirling around my head and heart these last two days as I've been watching my little girl bounce around the house turning summersaults or sticking her feet outside in the pond:

- It's okay, if she doesn't like some one. We all have our aversions and attractions to people.
- But I want her to be gracious and kind.
- I don't want to make her feel like there's something wrong with her own tastes and sensibilities.
- But I want her to be well adjusted, to be able to move smoothly with society.

Ultimately, I am thinking about the line between training and guiding these little beings God has placed in our care, but then also giving them the space to be who they are?

The truth is, my child is much stronger than I have been willing to see. And I am recognizing that perhaps her personality is not going to be exactly what I would have chosen. Perhaps she'll be a bit more opinionated then I would have initially been comfortable with.

But when it comes down to it, I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world. I want her to be her. I want her to have all the fire and spice that is in her little being, because it is after all so much more interesting than being a "perfect little angel."

Last night, while we were on our date, Dad says that Noelle climbed up in his office chair, put on his glasses and sat at the computer. "I'm Bop Bop!" she retorted.

This morning, as I was walking across the grass to the back house, watching Dwayne and Noelle on the porch by the pond. Noelle stood with her hand on Dwayne's leg and shouted out over the yard, "Mommy!"

"Yes?!" I said.

She raised her little chin up in the air and crooned for the whole 3 acres to hear, "I love my Daddy!"

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Being in my mother's home is about as close as it gets to heaven for me. Yesterday, Noelle told me that "NaNa's house is like a palace." Which is to say she feels the same way I do. :-)

After flying two short hours from Florida, then driving an hour up from Indianapolis, our family arrived at my parents' home in Alexandria, Indiana yesterday afternoon. Yes, if you've been tracking the Facebook status updates, that means that we have been in five states, and eight different beds in a little over a week. But the travels have finally slowed, at least for the next few weeks.

All our belongings are safely stored in Bellingham, WA. We reconnected with family in Orlando Florida, for the family reunion. And now, we will stay in Alexandria with my parents for the next three weeks before returning to our new home in Bellingham at the end of the month.

It's hard to describe just how delicious this homecoming has been. It's as if my soul has been slurping up some sort of nutrition it's badly needed for a long while. I have loved living in Los Angeles the last seven years, but have missed the presence of my parents and my sister. I can't tell you how many times during these last two years while Dwayne was in grad school and I was the primary bread winner that I wished I had my mother's help. So in addition to finally being able to be physically close to mom and dad, being in their home also feels like a place to gather and recoup before the transition to our new lives in Bellingham.

I have missed these last few years, the quiet sanctuary of my parents' home. The truth is, even growing up, our house was a quiet house. It has always been so. My parents are quiet, reflective people, and I took the peacefulness that trails them like a fragrance for granted as a child and teenager.

I just believed everybody's family was this way.

At this age and stage of my life, I see the markings and traits that characterize my parents and the life they've built together. And I see it as an entity which has certainly shaped me but exists outside of my own being as a person. In other words, the home I am building with Dwayne and Noelle is different, certainly influenced by, but different than my parents.

And I think this is why, when I stepped into the cool, quiet space of my mother's home yesterday, the ceiling fans turning lazily above, the lines of each room so clean, and simple, I felt that insane, yet quiet joy of permission bubbling up: permission to be, permission to let go, permission to relax, permission to not be responsible, permission to help, permission to embrace, permission to replenish, permission to go, permission to stay, permission to play, permission to cook, permission to nest, permission to let someone else watch my daughter for a while. :-)

My parent's house is beautiful and they have arrived at a season of their lives when they can afford a beautiful house, but even before this sanctuary on the skirt of Alexandria, when we lived in a small, one-story house in North Marion, and when we lived in rented homes on the mission field with borrowed hand-me-downs, my parents' homes have always been a safe place for me.

And I believe this was because their sanctuary had very little to do with the buildings and structures we've lived in. It's mostly had to do with them, their own beings.

I remember once, while we were living in England, I was about eleven or twelve-years-old, and my mother sent Annie and I off to a Christian girl's camp out in the English country side somewhere. It was in a beautiful old stone mansion with large ivy covered sides, and rolling views from the windows.

When the week was over, mom and dad drove through the gate and up the gravel driveway to pick us up. Dad helped us get our suitcases in the car, and Annie and I lept into the back seat.

As we pulled off, and sunk down into each other's presence, I looked out the window at the passing fields, and low stone-walls, and sighed. "It's so good to be home!"

Dad laughed and glanced at me in the rear view mirror, "But we're not home, we're in the car."