Saturday, March 27, 2010

Everyday Attitudes

The remarkable thing is,
we have a choice everyday
regarding the attitude
we will embrace for that day.
Friday turned out to be a litmus test for my attitude. Oddly enough, I had a conversation with Josh that morning about his attitude, that turned out to be equally as useful for me. Josh had a less than enthusiastic attitude about his schoolwork that quickly led him into the depths of despair.
He furrowed his brow, and the corners of his mouth turned down in a sour frown as he regaled to me how much he despised math. He figeted in his seat and sighed loudly as he wielded a No. 2 pencil in his hand.
"You know, Josh... math doesn't have to be your favorite, but you can choose your attitude about doing your work. Did you know that?" I asked, expecting a comeback. "You can choose to do your best, and you can choose to not be tormented over it... and then move on."
I left the room before he could launch into an argument of courtroom proportions. He would make an outstanding lawyer, possessing the logic to win just about any debate if engaged in a heated moment. Sometimes it's just best to walk away and give my words a chance to take root.
They did sink in... he decided to choose a different attitude and get on with his day.
My day, however, continued to be met with several more attitude defining situations.
The garage door opener broke. A few hundred dollars later, we have a new opener installed. Oi! I choose to believe that the unexpected check FedEx'ed to our door the same morning was God's provision to cover it.
Our foster care agency called... there are items on our certification that will be expiring soon. We will need to take renewal classes, and we still don't have any kids in our care. Discouragement. Yet, maybe this is one of the many "signs" God seems to be giving us in the last couple weeks that it may be time to pursue another agency.
The boys had tantrums and fought with one another all day long. I struggle with anger and impatience. In the end, I choose to see this time as an opportunity for growth... to help my boys grow in love for one another. And I choose to take some "mommy moments," driving up to San Luis for a mini-getaway.
I stop at Kohl's with a $10 coupon in hand. The purse I saw in the ad didn't turn out to be what I wanted afterall. I guess it just wasn't meant to be. No big deal.
On to the SLO Little Theater. I had been looking forward to seeing a production of Enchanted April for two weeks. I approached the box office... they had just sold out. Not a single seat left in the house. By this time, I felt pretty dejected.
But today, I'm choosing to move on. Because as Anne Shirley would say, "Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it." In the grand scheme of things, there are far worse things that could have happened, and sometimes I need to remember that instead of letting all the little, silly things pile up and defeat me in the end. Today I'll have a fresh set of circumstances. A new day for new attitude choices. And a new day to focus my eyes on Jesus.
How do you make attitude adjustments?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Oh, Muddy Waters...

Look out for Tom & Huck

Boys and Rivers
they're just made for one another

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Beauty Marked

circa 2008

The year was 1992. I was all of 20 years old, having a chat with Patrick and some guy friends. The topics of discussion with these guys usually ended up including theology, politics... and girls, not necessarily in that order. Somehow in the course of our conversation, Olivia Newton-John was brought up. During the events of that summer, Olivia had been diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a modified radical mastectomy. The gorgeous singer and actress' body had been assaulted by a deadly disease, and her beauty had been altered because of it. My heart was heavy for her, and I wondered if she was struggling with the results of the operation, or if she was simply thankful to be alive and able to see her daughter Chloe grow up.

And then the guys, minus Patrick, opened their mouths. They didn't hold back their brutal honesty and unfiltered feelings.

"That's just gross. I will never be able to think of her in the same way again," was a paraphrase of the harsh reponse.

"That is so mean! She is still a beautiful woman... and a cancer survivor! I can't believe you would say that," I replied, my feathers obviously ruffled. I had to defend this sister.

"Ya, but it totally ruins my attraction to her," one of the guys countered.

Within the months that followed, I had some doctor's appointments of my own. You see, I was born with a "beauty mark" on my chest, a mole that had grown and changed in appearance and texture over the years. My mom had always kept tabs on it, knowing it could become cancerous at some point. Finally, it had peaked concern in a physician, and he recommended its removal.

He described the relatively simple procedure, and he described the effects. Because of the location of the mole, it wouldn't be an unnoticeable scar. It would initially be about an inch of stitches, but then it would stretch out with the weight of my breast as it healed.

Olivia came flooding back into my mind. Patrick and I were getting close to marriage, and all I would have to offer him was a damaged, scarred beauty. He would be repulsed and wouldn't want me anymore. Tears come unexpectedly and easily as I remember the feelings I wrestled with over 18 years ago.

Tenatively, I shared my troubled thoughts with the man who held my heart. We had always shared our struggles before, and I didn't want to keep this from him, especially since I felt it would be of such concern to him on our wedding night.

My love embraced me and reassured me with his calm, soothing voice. He couldn't believe I was so worried. He cared that I was alive, and no scar was going to affect his attraction to me or what he perceived about my beauty.

Patrick loves me. He sees beyond my many flaws to see a woman made in the image of God.

As much as the infommercials tell me that I can be flawless and airbrushed, toned and tanned, I am a flawed person. I am scarred for life. I am pear shaped. I have cellulite. The parenthesis around my mouth are becoming more pronounced and plentiful as I am fast approaching 40 next year.

I am flawed on the inside, too. I lose my temper. I have mean-spirited thoughts. I am impatient. I'm too sensitive. I make some poor decisions. I am prone to isolate myself. I'm selfish. Where does the list even end?

Yet, by the grace of God, I am being refined and renewed day by day. He is polishing my flaws so that I shine for Him. I want to reflect His image and His glory, so that when others look at me, they don't see my flaws, but a reflection of a flawless and beautiful Creator. A Creator who loves me and sees Jesus in me. He is my beauty.

The King is enthralled by your beauty;

honor Him for He is your Lord.

Psalm 45:11


Click on this link to read more stories about beauty
at Sarah Markley's website this coming week

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meet Daphne

After the great LOST incident of the summer of 2009, Patrick got me a little gift. He'd been wanting to bestow this gift upon me for quite some time. Finally, I accepted... gladly.

I now own a GPS... I named her Daphne. She tells me what to do... politely.
As soon as it gets warmer, I'm going to take the kids geocaching. Because I'm a nerd, and it seems like a fun thing to do.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

LOST... and Found

Part 2:
(part 1 here)

Golf Center Parkway exit. Was that it? Did the sign say Golf or Gulf? I couldn't be completely certain as I drove right by... it looked like Gulf, and the exit just didn't have a familiarity about it, so I drove on. Quickly, I crossed over to the city of Coachella, not remembering whether I'd passed Coachella on the way out. Coachella is a very small town, and before I could decide if I'd gone too far, I had already passed it and was heading into the barren desert. There were no street lights or city lights and the darkness quickly enveloped me.

"Ok, don't panic," I spoke aloud, "There is bound to be an exit right up the road."

Only there wasn't. Several minutes later, I had driven further into the shadowy landscape accompanied by an occasional trucker. I began to ask God to help me remain calm and to show me a place to turn around. Eventually, I found a turn out on the left hand side where I could see the outline of a big rig. Perfect. I could drive across the divider and carefully get back on the freeway going the other direction. If only there wasn't a guardrail on the other side.

Back on the freeway, heading toward Blythe, I called Patrick. I can't seem to find an exit, I told him. Could you look one up on MapQuest? I immediately sensed that Patrick was worried. I blinked back the tears.

"I don't see any exits at all," he said. "There literally aren't any. As soon as you find anything, you need to turn around."

"Ok, I love you," I replied.

By this time it was after 12:30am. I prayed and I desperately strained my eyes to find an exit on the horizon. Soon I found an exit, but I was disappointed to find it was only a rest stop, so I got back on the freeway again.

Tears began to fall as I struggled with fear and the dangerous scenarios which began to unfurl in my head. I had been driving for over twenty minutes past my Indio exit. Patrick couldn't help me, technology couldn't help me, my van couldn't help me, and I certainly was of no help to myself.

I continued to pray to the only One capable of offering the help I required.

"You are my only help and my salvation. I have faith in you and I trust in you to deliver me," I prayed.

I began to think of my Joshua, whose name means "God is my Salvation." He was born after Patrick and I had endured a church split which had spiritually crippled and discouraged us. As we fought depression and sin, the only thing we could believe, without a doubt, was that God was indeed our Salvation. We clung to that simple, but powerful fact, and wanted to be reminded of it on a daily basis.

I continued to utter "God is my Salvation" out loud. Yes, I believed it when He saved me, I believed it when Josh was born, and I still believed it as I prolonged my midnight drive toward Arizona. Just God and I in a desolate wilderness. My heart-rate slowed and I put my life in His sovreign hands.

And then the exit came.

Joshua Tree... it was Joshua Tree.

"Oh, thank you, Lord," I sobbed in gratitude. "You are my everlasting Salvation! I can't even comprehend how good You are!"

It was one of the most amazing, tangible moments of faith, trust, and worship I have ever experienced. As I corrected my direction and began heading back toward the hotel, my heart exploded with praise and song to my God who sees me, hears me, protects me, and saves me... from the darkest valley and even from myself.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

Psalm 23:4

Sometimes I walk through spiritual valley times, too. My surroundings and circumstances become so dark and bleak that I cannot see any light. But God is always there with me. I keep calling out to Him and He answers. He is my Deliver and my Salvation.

He is my Joshua Tree.

Photo by E.J. Peiker

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Part 1:

Last June, as I was preparing for my girlfriend reunion at Disneyland, Patrick approached me with concern in his voice.

"What if you get lost?" he queried, with a bit of apprehension behind his eyes.

We were in Indio, out in the desert past Palm Springs, and he was anxious about the prospect of me driving the long trek from there to Anaheim and back, by myself, after a long, exhausting day of amusement park fun.

"I will be fine," I assured him. "I'll memorize the freeways and I've been there so many times, I know the streets by sight."

"I just don't want anything to happen to you... I wish you had a GPS," he persisted.

"You are really worried about me, aren't you? That's so sweet honey!" I replied, thinking how cute it was that he was being so protective of me.

Patrick was basing his worry on 20 years of knowing me and my non-existent sense of direction.

He had a point, yet I was sure I had improved over the last few years. Yes, I did end up at LAX once on the way to a bridal shower in Whittier. There are certain towns like Cambria and Santa Barbara that completely turn me around, but I think that has something to do with city planning. And there was the occasion that I thought my car had been stolen at a San Jose mall, because I exited at the wrong door. But generally speaking, I have been doing better, and I was convinced I would be just fine.

So I made sure my phone was charged and memorized my route. The 10 to the 60 to the 91 to the 57. I wrote it down and I repeated it in my head several times for good measure.

"Don't worry, I know where I'm going," I told Patrick as I kissed him goodbye. My stomach was a little queasy as I began to doubt if I could really make it without having a slip up somewhere in Riverside County. No, I had prayed and asked God for His direction and protection, and everything was going to be just fine.

The trip out was one beautiful, seamless transition after another, and before I knew it, I was ready to find parking in Pumba and Timon or some other character's domain. Nothing to worry about. Maybe I had grown out of my directionally challenged state.

Then came the return trip. I was careful to prepare for the journey, topping off my gas tank at a station which shared a parking lot with a coffee shop, then being patronized by the occupants of 2 police squad cars. Feeling pretty safe and secure with my caffeine infused mocha in hand and a whole playlist of Switchfoot tunes on my iPod, I was ready to conquer the reverse leg. Piece of cake.

It all went quite smoothly, even the dark winding roads of the 60. About 20 minutes from Indio, I called Patrick, telling him I was almost in the vicinity and he had worried over nothing.

Famous last words...

To be continued.

(Part 2 here)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Books I Grew On...

I love picture books!!

The artwork, the silliness, the lessons, the touching moments.... I love it all!

Since a lot of you have little ones and many of you
are wonderful aunties, I thought I'd share my very favorites!

Have you read any of these?

What are your very favorite picture books?

What Do You Say, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin
What do you say when you bump into an alligator on a crowded city streep? What do you say when the Queen feeds you so much spaghetti that you don't fit into your chair anymore? The answer to these manner related questions found here! I like to do all kinds of accents while I'm reading this one!

Wake Up, Big Barn! by Suzanne Tanner Chitwood
Despite the title, this one is actually a great "going to bed" book. I love the fun phrases, and the collages that the author/illustrator created are visually stunning... especially if you like the color red!

Trouble on the Tracks by Kathy Mallat
I discovered this one when Josh was little and he was a huge train enthusiast. We read it over and over again and practically knew it by heart! It has a bit of a mystery element, too. I won't say any more, or I'll give it away!

Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
This is my favorite folk tale. It's a hilarious story about why Chinese kids have such short names. Such a fun read aloud! Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sa Rembo Pari Bari Ruchi Pip Peri Pembo.... now that's a mouthful!!!

Teeny Tiny by Jill Bennett
It is so fun to build up suspense while reading this book and use your super scary voice! Tomie de Paola's illustrations are always so wonderful, too. His style is one kids can emulate with success. It would be fun to make up variations on the story, too!

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
This is a touching story about appreciating family and never giving up. I always get a little teary eyed and I just love the sweet, pastoral illustrations. Be careful what you wish for and savor the moments!

Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
Skippyjon Jones is a cat who thinks he is a chihuahua. That fact alone makes for one hilarious scenario after another! I love that his mother has nicknames for him like Mr. Fluffernutter, too. I read this one with a Spanish accent and it just cracks me up!

Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare
by Patricia Polacco
I enjoy many of Ms. Polacco's stories that have a Russian flare. This one is definitely a departure from those, but it has the same relatable quality that she infuses into all of her books. This one is on sibling rivalry and learning to live with and actually love someone who drives you nuts!

If You Give a Pig a Pancake
by Laura Joffe Numeroff
This is my favorite of the "If You Give..." series. The pig gets into even bigger messes than the mouse... she's a pig, of course! I love the cadence of these books and predicting what the animal might do next! I think it might even help kids understand what it's like to be a parent sometimes!

Nurse Nancy by Kathryn Jackson
Nurse Nancy is my favorite Golden Book of all time. My mom and Aunt Nancy used to tell each other, "I'm a nurse at this," when they were little, so this book reminds me of both of them. It encourage little girls, especially, to dress up and play act at a career.

Noisy Nancy Norris by Lou Ann Gaeddert
I'm not sure if this one is even in print anymore, which is a shame! It is the story of a very noisy girl who lives in an apartment building... a situation that spells trouble. I love to act out her behaviors with the kids and have an excuse to be noisy and obnoxious. Then we learn why it's important to be considerate!

The Maggie B by Irene Haas
My mom always loved this book. It is about a little girl who makes a wish and gets to sail away for the night with her little brother. It is a sweet, endearing story and it ends peacefully, just in time for bed.

Lentil by Robert McCloskey
Mr. McCloskey is better known for books like Make Way for Ducklings and Bluberries for Sal, but Lentil is my favorite! It is the story of an unlikely hero and an unlikely antagonist in a small town setting. Brush off your harmonicas and play along!

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Mr. Van Allsburg has written and illustrated so many wonderful books. I've lost track of the awards he has received. I love Jumanji because of its whimsy. It is easy to suspend your disbelief and imagine yourself as part of the story as well. Board games will never be the same!

I Stink! by Kate & Jim McMullan
Anything can be turned into alliterative poetry... even garbage! It's absolutely disgusting, and I'm not sure little girls would sit through it, but my boys think it's the best!

Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber
I must have checked this one out from the library at least 10 times as a little girl! What happens when you're invited next door for a sleep over, but you've never slept without your teddy bear? Oh, the dilemma!!!

I Love You As Much by Laura Krauss Melmed
Tissues, please!! As a mom, I simply can't read this one without crying. No, it's impossible! I'm getting teary... I better move on!

The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Oh, how I adore Mr. Carle's books. I have yet to meet a child who is not enamoured by his collages and clever stories. This one, though, is the classic. I've used it to teach about metamorphasis and the days of the week and the perils of junk food! We have it in the Spanish version as well, and it is hilarious to hear my huband read it with a throaty, deep accent!

Harry the Dirty Dog by Margaret Bloom Graham
I had a college professor who implied this book was racist. No, I just can't see it! I think it's just a dog who runs away from home because he doesn't want a bath. It's a cute lesson... I think I should read it to my almost 10 year old who still hates bathes! Maybe it would encourage him or at least make him laugh!

Fritz and the Beautiful Horses by Jan Brett
An enchanting story, that teaches beauty is so much more than only skin deep. I love the fairy tale quality about it, and pulling for the underdog! The illustrations are also amazing, but that's to be expected of all of Jan Brett's books. I love The Mitten, too.

Corduroy by Don Freeman
No matter how many times I read this book, I alway feel for the little bear with the green overalls. I can't wait for him to be taken home and loved despite his "flaw." I think all children imagine stuffed animals to be real, don't they?

Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months
by Maurice Sendak
Mr. Sendak is known for Where the Wild Things Are, but it is this cute little gem that caught my attention. It is a fun way to learn the months of the year. I love it's repetitive a quality, and of course, it's fun to heat up a bowl of chicken soup with rice to go along with it!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin
This is both a fun read and a wonderful, inventive alphabet book. It's hard to not get sucked into the rhythm! Add a drum to make it even more fun! Set it to music and start rapping! Or get some alphabet stickers to illustrate your own version!

Animalia by Graeme Base
Speaking of alphabet books, this is my other favorite! The illustrations in this book are so detailed and beautiful. You could literally spend a half an hour on each letter finding the hidden objects and exploring the world of Animalia.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
by Judith Voirst
Because some days are like that... even in Australia!

Tomorrow is our library day... so I need to know some of your favorites!

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