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Posts tagged ‘life’

Fortune Cookies, Robins & Irony

I had every intention of writing here after my last post, but have been somewhat remiss. Crazy family happenings changed my schedule. In lieu of a more thoughtful post, I thought I’d simply share some completely unrelated thoughts that have been mulling around my head.

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The Heart of Advent

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The most basic definition of advent is a coming into being. In preparing for Christmas this year, I wonder how do we “…come into being…” this Advent? How do we rekindle our focus on the greatest advent the world has seen, that which culminated in the birth of the Son of God? Drawing near to God is crucial, but how do we draw near to God during this time of wonder? All the trappings of Christmas are tradition and no doubt a welcome enjoyment. But how do we see beyond the bustling with tinsel, lights, cookies and presents?

In the Christmas story, Mary experienced a “coming into being,” an advent of her own. “Do not be afraid,” the angel declared Christ’s coming birth to his young mother. An encounter of the simple with the divine and the whole world would be changed forever. What faith Mary had answering the angel, “Let it be as you say. I am a bond-servant of the LORD.” A bond-servant. Not just a servant, but one who sells themself into servitude. She had the freedom to choose. Yet, she chose to accept the circumstances laid before her. The public scorn would have been tremendous for a young pregnant Jewish bride. The cost so great, she likely would lose her husband in the process. Her life would be changed forever. None of that mattered. She took the angel’s words to heart, believing she needn’t fear and that she was “…most highly favored…” by God himself.

Mary offered herself to be a dwelling for the Christ child; in the womb, through infancy, toddlerhood, boyhood, and manhood. She even followed him to his death on the cross. She had to have known the prophecies about Israel’s Messiah King, perhaps even knowing that one day he would ultimately pay the greatest price for his people. Yet, she took on the role of the mother of the Christ child with wonder in her eyes. We’re told she pondered these things in her heart. Mary willingly became a dwelling for the King of Kings, despite any pain she might endure. In doing so, she was blessed to experience the closeness of a relationship with the divine.

At the crux of coming into being this Advent is a willingness to be a dwelling for God. Like Mary, to experience being with him, not doing for him. Come near to me and I’ll draw near to you, he tells us. Emmanuel – Christ with us. A revolutionary concept today, just as much as it was two thousand years ago. All the power of the divine rests in Christ. Christ’s birth should be celebrated, not because it gives us the opportunity for all kinds of Christmas revelry. It should be celebrated with joy and thanksgiving, because it turned the whole created world upside down with an offer of divine proportion. The God of the universe extended an open invitation for every man, woman and child to enter into a living and life-altering relationship with him.

The heart of Christmas isn’t merrymaking, it is life itself. And that life is in Christ. “I am the way, the truth and the life. I’ve come to give them life and life to the fullest,” he tells us. “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy burdened. Come to me and I shall give you rest.” The traditions of Christmas aren’t sufficient balm for the ache of living in a world fraught with great difficulty and pain. Who but God himself could meet us in our darkest moments, bringing us healing tenderness, strength and comfort? For the orphans hidden deep in third world squalor; for those facing down a terrifying sickness in a loved one; for those broken with guilt over what they’ve done; and for the loneliest of the lonely – there is one who can meet you where you are, one who desires to know you. As the angel declared, he was born “…for you…” on Christmas day.

Come near to him and delight in the divine. Allow him to dwell in your heart and you will experience his transforming, life-giving power. Come experience his rest in the midst of the worst turmoil this world can throw at you. His peace is real and never-ending. The greatest present ever given – Emmanuel – God with us. Walking with us, carrying us, filling us with the hope that can only come from the divine. Come near and experience him this holiday season. Come to the manger, he’s waiting.

Photo by Maija/KIIW – DeviantArt

Sand, Water and Light – Early Morning at the Beach

There is a desire in me to be like the clear waters before me, calm and illumined by the gentle morning sun. That my heart would be as pure as the water, clean and clear enough to reflect the loving rays of my God. That like the ever-changing ripples of sand, tenderly sculpted by the rolling waves above, I would trustingly allow the hands of my God to mold me.

The Divine Artist sculpts a beautiful and continually transforming pattern in the golden softness underfoot. Rays of light bend with the water, stretching out into a spectacular light show, alive in each movement. The waves gently ripple across the surface, molding the sand and bending the rays beneath. Neither the water nor sand hold tightly to their formation. They don’t rebel or fight against the waves as they come, one after the other. The water and sand give of themselves readily. They willingly submit to the force of each wave, gentle or strong, as if knowing full well they are being made a masterpiece.

If only I could do so as easily and give myself fully to God, who meticulously crafts a unique work of art in each of his children, desiring them to radiate his light for all to see.

Photo – Lake Michigan, South Haven, MI

No Best Friend for Janie – Should Kids Have Best Friends?

Last week an article appeared in the New York Times questioning whether or not it was in a child’s best interest to allow them to have a best friend. Hilary Stout, the author of the article, spoke with various adults working with children in an administrative capacity who feel that allowing a child to foster a close friendship could potentially lead to the formation of cliques and create a culture of bullying. These administrators contend that the exclusive nature of a best friendship is detrimental to the social well-being of all children involved.

Stout reports that one New York summer camp takes active measures to prevent close friendships from forming. “If two children seem to be too focused on each other, the camp will make sure to put them on different sports teams, seat them at different ends of the dining table or, perhaps, have a counselor invite one of them to participate in an activity with another child whom they haven’t gotten to know.”

Along with presenting the camp’s negative perspective on close friendships, Stout quotes a director of counseling from a St. Louis school, who also takes active measures to prevent such friendships. “I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults – teachers and counselors – we try to encourage them not to do that. We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.”

Reading the article, I found myself getting a little angry that adults in authority would manipulate a child’s natural bonds of friendship. As a parent, I appreciate their concern and desire to prevent a culture of bullying. However, I think their perspective is simply wrong.

No one would argue with promoting kindness and respect for all, but by making it impossible for kids to naturally form close friendships, I think administrators are actually making the situation worse. Psychologist and professor, Dr. Irene Levine points out on her Psychology Today blog that children, like adults have different friendship styles and preferences. Some children are naturally more social, while others are simply more comfortable spending time alone or with a close friend. Also according to Levine, “When teachers (or parents) hover too closely or meddle at the first sign of a tiff between kids, children are denied the opportunity to learn friendship lessons they will need as adults.”

I’ve written here briefly about my own experiences with my childhood best friend, Jeannie. Our friendship taught me invaluable lessons growing up. Jeannie lived down the street and we were nearly inseparable from kindergarten through high school. Our friendship continued in college and although we now live in separate states, when we do get together it’s as if no time’s passed. Husbands and children have been added to the mix, but our friendship still remains. We’ve both expressed how grateful we are for our longstanding friendship that weathered the storms of growing up. Loyalty, honesty, encouragement, selflessness, perseverance and grace are some of the life lessons I learned as our friendship spanned the years.

Even though we were “best friends,” we didn’t exclude people from being with us; rather our friendship enabled us to share with others. Reflecting on those “growing years,” any cliques I remember seemed to exist with those who desired to fit into a group, changing themselves into whatever was acceptable according to current “group think” mentality. Having a “best friend” was a strong support to simply be me, and not to struggle with being a chameleon and only acceptable when put into a mold. I’m bothered that adults would prevent kids from having such valuable, essential developmental experiences. I’m not sure I’d be the same person had Jeannie not been a part of my life. Dr. Levine closed her piece with, “It’s a mistake to make the leap into thinking that close friendships lead to bullying. In fact, when children are bullied or excluded, it is their true friends who “have their backs” and can buffer them from that trauma.”

In the Times article, psychology professor Brett Laursen questions the wisdom of encouraging kids to have “…all sorts of superficial relationships.” “We want children to get good at leading close relationships, not superficial ones.” I wholeheartedly agree with Levine and Laursen. Relationship skills are honed in the wonder years and it’s those skills we carry with us into adulthood; into our marriages, friendships, and workplaces. As a mother of two, I know it’s natural and necessary to help kids by providing needed wisdom and discernment. But taking steps to prevent any close friendships, I believe, robs our kids of the skills they’ll inevitably need later in life. Sometimes it’s better to just get out of the way.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress

A Sunny Stroll Through Bovine Heaven

It’s not everyday that something out of the ordinary happens, but when it does I try to take notice and give it my full attention. I find myself asking, “Is there some meaning behind this or maybe a lesson to learn? A few days ago I tweeted about going for a walk with my daughter, down the long gravel road leading to our house. It was a perfect day for a walk with sunshine, blue skies, green popping up all over and lots of singing. “What could be better?” I threw out to the twitterverse, not expecting an answer.

Our walk began with Sofia asking for her animal of choice. “Cow?” she asked with her big blue eyes pleading. “No, no cows, Sofia,” I replied. “Why don’t we sing a song? How about Old McDonald?” I ask, happy with my motherly ingenuity at fitting her current favorite animal into our walk.

“And on his farm he had a ….?” Pause. Silence, followed by more silence. “What, Sofia?” I ask. “What did Old McDonald have?” She came back with a resounding, “COW!” Every time. It occurred to me, she might have thought we were going to visit the nearby farm center. Every since our recent visit, she’s been quite taken with cows. All the baby lambs, fuzzy ducklings, goats and piglets at the farm center were met with a nonplussed nod of acknowledgement, followed immediately by a request for that special animal. “Cow. Cow, mama,” she’d say directing me to push her stroller onward in her quest.

Thankfully the farm had in residence at least one cow, a really big mama cow with its’ tiny baby calf snuggling up next to it. They didn’t seem to mind being gawked at by an inquisitive little girl and her mom. So it really came as no surprise that while singing Old McDonald on our walk, I’d be subjected to multiple rounds of “Moo. Moo.”

Singing and strolling along, I began reflecting on what a dichotomy life can be at times. Most of my friends’ children are school age now and way beyond toddler songs and potty training. Many of these women have returned to the work force, after having taken leave to be with their young kids. Yet here I was still singing Old McDonald.

The truth is I’m happy to be doing this. I love being with my daughter. I wouldn’t want to miss out on all the little things like singing about cows for the millionth time, while taking a slow walk on a beautiful day. These are the things I get to do with Sofia. And like any parent, I’d hate to miss the wonder in her eyes when she sees things for the first time.

Still walking, we reach the end of the road and turn around to head home. I begin another chorus, while contemplating the complexities of my life. “Moo…Moo,” Sofia sings, and I catch something out of the corner of my eye. I turn to look to the side of the road, to see what’s caught my attention.

Up the hill overlooking the road, scattered between the trees, staring us down was a multitude of bovine. Not just one cow; a herd of cow. White cows, brown cows, black cows and multi-colored cows stood statue still while watching us intently. Shifting their frozen gaze to the new, soft grass carpeting the ground beneath them, they began to graze. Bovine heaven on a long dirt road.

“Sofia! Oh my gosh! Sofia, look!” I say. “Cows…look! Look at the cows!” She looks and grins wide, not nearly as surprised as her mom. “Where in the world did they come from?” I ask out loud to no one in particular, knowing no one else is around. I pull out my phone and begin taking pictures of these cows that seem to have materialized out of nowhere. Seven years I’ve walked this road, not once ever spotting a cow, much less a multitude of cows.

We continue our walk home, me laughing at the unbelievable. What do I make of this? I ask myself in true form. I’m stumped. All I can come up with is that God must have a really good sense of humor. He had to be laughing if he was watching us that day.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com