Monday, January 30, 2012

The Bad Words I Know

I used to substitute teach and I really loved it.  There was always a new adventure everyday, and I loved seeing how different teachers ran their classrooms.  The younger grades were always fun because they like to help you do things just the way their teacher does them, and they are very eager to help you get it right.

One day I made a big mistake.  I said a word that their teacher, apparently, would never dare to say.  It was banned from the classroom because it was so bad.  I realized I had done something wrong when suddenly the entire class gasped and got pretty wide-eyed.

What?  Is there a big spider behind me, I thought.

Then they started whispering.

Did I say something wrong, I asked.

Yes, you said a really bad word, they assured me.

I couldn't for the life of me think what it was.  So I dared to ask.

Mrs. Z, you said STUPID.


Why is that a bad word?  This was before I had kids of my own and I could experience, first hand, how "stupid" can be used as a lethal weapon in verbal battle.

I explained my word choice, clarifying how I thought it was demeaning for people to call one another stupid, but how sometimes I used the word as a companion with choice, to show how there are always wise choices and stupid choices and that they have positive and negative consequences.  For the students' well being, I didn't want them to make stupid choices, because then they would have to live with the consequences.  But they could always correct a stupid choice by choosing a wiser choice.  There are second chances.

So in conclusion, I reasoned,  I don't think anyone is stupid, but that there are definitely stupid choices that we can make if we don't use our noggins.

Apparently that went over alright, because they didn't tell on me, and I got asked to sub again in their classroom.  Several times.  Phew.

Lately, I have been using another very terrible bad word.  Probably for the last couple of years, it has seeped into my lexicon.  Are you ready for it?


I know, you are shocked, right?

This word has just seemed appropriate for the stuff I have dealt with in recent months.  Depression and anxiety are full of it.  Disease is full of it.  The imbalances in my hormones and glandular issues are full of it.  How all this has affected my family is full of it.  What I've seen happen lately in the various relationships of people I love is full of it, too.

I read a blog post that gave me some unexpected hope about this word.  Donald Miller said that "Our crap can grow a garden."  That statement itself made me laugh out loud and maybe snort a little, too.  My kids asked me why I was laughing, so I told them.  We had a big discussion about all the things in life that can be crap.  Then we talked about how God can use it for good and actually utilize something disgusting to grow something beautiful.  It's really a pretty amazing concept when you consider it... when you start thinking about how He can transform things in such a radical way.

It's even in the Bible.   It is usually translated as "rubbish."

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ..."
Philippians 3:8

But the word rubbish is actually skuvbalon which means dung or crap.  (There is your Greek lesson for the day.  You're welcome.)  All that suffering and loss (crap) is nothing compared to the beauty of Christ and what we gain in Him.  This I need to remember.  That He is somehow transforming all of this to grow a garden that will display His beauty and glory.

Spring is coming.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

R.I.P. Chip

It was Saturday morning, and I hadn't heard our little dwarf hamster moving around in a while.

How's Chip doing? I asked the boys.

I don't see him.  Oh, wait, there he is, Josh replied.  Mom, I don't think he's moving.

Josh's voice started to get choked up as he realized our little rodent friend had passed on.  He began to cry and Jason soon followed as he understood the gravity of the situation.  We wrapped our arms around the boys to offer them comfort.

After a few minutes, we decided we should have a proper burial for the little critter.  Josh went to his room to find a tiny white box, and Jason bravely wrapped little Chip in a paper towel and placed him inside.  Then, still in our pajamas, we made our way out to the apricot tree, Patrick with shovel in hand.  He dug a shallow little grave, the box was placed in the earth, and we all said how much we had enjoyed our pet.  After we each put a handful of soil over the box and the hole was sealed, Josh ran across the driveway to find a smooth river rock to mark Chip's grave.

Knowing we all needed more comfort and closure, Patrick prayed and thanked God for the blessing we had had.

Chip was the third little "adoptee" animal we have taken in.  We have a leopard gecko passed down from a friend.  And then came our little Sophie pup.  We knew when we took Chip in from another family, that he wouldn't have a lot of time, since hamsters don't live more than 2-3 years.  He was already over a year old... so it was hard, but expected.  We were thankful for the few months we had.

What wasn't expected was what happened this evening.  

The same day Chip died, the boys wanted to get a new hamster, so we cleaned out and washed Chip's cage and headed to the pet store.  We found a darling creamy-white, short-haired Syrian hamster, named him Henry, and promptly fell for him.  Careful to help him adapt, we brought him some of his pet store bedding and gently played with him a few minutes each afternoon so that he'd get used to us.  He was healthy and spry, and we all loved his cute personality.

This evening when we got him out of his nest, something was wrong.  He wasn't inquisitive and alert.  He curled up in my hand and closed his eyes.  Maybe he was in a deep sleep and wasn't quite ready to play, I reasoned.  Maybe he was in a "hamster trance."  But that wasn't the case at all.  Henry was terribly sick.  I held him in a towel, keeping him warm and comfortable for the next hour and a half or so.  Patrick tried to dose him some water with a little dropper, but it was too late.  Before we even knew what was happening, he began gasping for air and then he died in my hands.

I am heartbroken.  I don't know what went wrong.  There were no signs or symptoms... it just all happened so quickly.  We didn't even have a chance to have him seen by a vet.  I felt so helpless, not knowing what to do for this poor animal who had quickly become part of our family.

So, as you can imagine, it has been a rough week.  And there will be another burial and more tears in the morning.

Yes, life will most assuredly go on, but losing pets is never easy.  Even when they're small.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I See You, I Hear You

Lately, we've been watching Parenthood on Netflix.  At first, it was difficult, because I just couldn't see Lauren Graham as anyone else but Lorelai Gilmore... but now I am getting used to it.  Sort of.  Actually, not really.  Anyway, that is not the point of this post.

The point of this post is that the senior Bravermans, Zeek and Camille, said something that peaked my interest.  Z & C are the parents of 4 adult children and the grandparents of many more children, and they have been having some serious marital problems.  In counseling, they learned the phrase, "I see you, I hear you."  When Zeek gets riled up and wants to start a fight, he stops himself and says this phrase, acknowledging Camille's thoughts and feelings.

Patrick and I liked this so much that we have started using the phrase in our every day lives.  See how art has become reality?  We don't have a lot of tension in our marriage right now, so we kind of just laugh when we say it and smile at each other.  It's really going to come in handy someday though, so we are practicing.

When you think about it, there is such a good concept behind this phrase.  We all have that desire to be seen and heard, don't we?  When we share our thoughts and feelings with another person, we are opening ourselves up to them.  We become so vulnerable.  Will this person understand?  Will they be gentle with my heart and try to really know me?  Will they think I am stupid, that my ideas are lame?  Will they not really hear what I am saying and insist that we do it their way without even hearing me out?  Even worse, will I get a patronizing response just to make me happy so that I'll go away?  Will they just talk louder so that they don't have to listen?  Or will I be met with silence... just leaving all my vulnerability hanging out there in space?  I think that one hurts the most of all.  That one makes you just want to take it all back.  And not try anymore.

When I am not seen or heard, I tend to build up brick walls around me, like a little cylindrical fortress.  I leave one brick out so that I can see out, but other people can't see in.  I realize this is wrong.  A cylindrical fortress is stifling, dark and cold... certainly not a place that place that promotes any life or growth.  I do it anyway.

But then there's God...

"O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, 
in the crannies of the cliff, 
let me see your face, 
let me hear your voice, 
for your voice is sweet, 
and your face is lovely."

Song of Solomon 2:14

My God is El Roi... "The God Who Sees."  Hagar knew this out in the wilderness, rejected and resented by Sarai.  She cried out to El Roi, the God who saw her, lonely and despairing.  He told her to name her son, Ishmael, meaning "God Hears."  He saw them and heard them in a tragic circumstance.  And He let them know.

Not matter where we are, whether we are purposely hiding in the cleft of a rock or wandering in a vast wilderness or even just lost in the masses, we are assured that God sees us and hears us.  This is who He is.  The God who is tender with us, like a dove.  He who gently persuades us to emerge so that He can listen to us and look upon our vulnerability with His tenderness and love.

I see you, I hear you, He gently tells His beloved.

I will not make fun of you.
I will not brush you off.
I understand what you are feeling... I have felt that, too.
Tell me about your thoughts.
I have noticed your struggles, how can I help?
I am right here beside you... I won't leave.

You can trust me.
With everything.

I love you.

I see you.

I hear you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The House I'm Building

I was feeling pretty good on Sunday.  After church, I said, let's head north... so we did.  A spontaneous adventure.  We live relatively close to Hearst Castle, but we hadn't been since our honeymoon eighteen years ago.   Scurrying, we caught the last bus for the six mile ride up the winding hillside, overlooking the sparkling blue Pacific.

We were greeted by the familiar edifices I remembered.  The ornate construction.  The European influences.  The extraordinary architecture.  Relics of old mixed with modern conveniences.

Each space superbly engineered.  Attention to every last detail.  A marvel, really, to consider how these artifacts and raw materials were transported to this remote location to create a modern day palace.

Foliage entwined with concrete and tile.  Details reaching even beneath the eaves.

The indoor Roman pool completely covered in mosaic tiles.  Gold leaf accenting the cobalt blues.

The stunning Neptune pool, surrounded by colonnades, beckons even the fully clothed swimmer.

There were many important and influential women in William Randolph Hearst's life.  His mother, who inspired his love of European architecture and antiquities through a grand tour of Europe. His wife, Millicent.  Their honeymoon inspired the desire to publish his first magazine, starting his media empire. She also gave him the legacy of 5 children.  Marion Davies, his girlfriend (bummer), who was perhaps his muse.

But the relationship that truly intrigues me is that with Julia Morgan, the master architect, who partnered with Hearst for 28 years to build the elaborate buildings and grounds known today as Hearst Castle.  I can scarcely imagine the degree of commitment and ingenuity it must have taken for the two of them to pull off such an incredible dream,  leaving behind them a legacy of dedication and beauty for the world to enjoy.

While I have never had the desire (or talent or resources- ha!) to build something of such grandeur, I want to build my own home with such deliberation and care. 

"The wise woman builds her house,  
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down."
Proverbs 14:1

Although my physical house will never boast such affluence, the home I'm building can exemplify so much of God's riches.  Towers of praise-filled prayers, exalting His name.  Choice words like golden apples that build my family up.  A place to refresh and feel renewal, like the cool, shining waters of the Neptune pool.  Comforting arms, instead of rich, velvet chairs.  Peace-filled conversations, like beautifully appointed gardens.  

That type of building takes years and years of dedication and commitment, too.  It takes the partnership of two people, who are willing to see a purpose bigger than themselves, who are willing to overcome obstacles along the way, to gracefully wade through the mundane, and to keep working toward what would seem impossible this side of heaven.  Morgan and Hearst ended up redoing the outdoor pool three times before they were satisfied with the scale and ultimate resulting beauty and function.  Sometimes it is necessary to do that to, too... to return to a solid foundation and rebuild firm and true.

Ultimately, I want God to be the master architect of my home.  I want to draw from His beauty, wealth, depth, and creativity.  

I know that what He establishes will last.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Favorites

gave me a blogging award last week.  

Have you met her yet?  She is adorable, spunky and crafty.  
She also loves being a part of God's Kingdom work... 
ministering to oppressed women and helping them to be set free.  
I love that.  It inspires me.

There are rules for this award, but I don't feel like following rules today.  
I'm such a rebel, aren't I?  
But I would like to share with you a couple other "new to me" blogs that I found just in the past year 
that have also been inspirational in my life.

Hannah encourages me so much with her happy personality and all the Scripture and heartfelt words she posts.
She makes me smile.

I love her Grace on a Thursday.  She has such a beautiful way of weaving truth and grace into my life.
I look forward to it.

 Tamera is an amazing artist.
She has a keen eye for beauty and makes jewelry.
I'm learning from her as she is in a transitional stage in her life.

Ok, I'll follow one of the rules by filling out this form.


1.  name your fave song  
"in your eyes" by peter gabriel (patrick's & my song)
"amazing grace (my chains are gone)" by chris tomlin

2.  name your fave dessert  
chocolate. period.

3.  what ticks you off  
when peeps are judgmental (stole this from Andee)
especially because i can be this way if i don't watch it

4.  when i'm upset i...  
sometimes have a tantrum
pray and tell God about it
ask for help from my loved ones

5.  what's your fave pet   
sophie, my little chihuahua/terrier mix
she has a great story you can read about here

6.  black or white  

7.  biggest fears  
pleasing people instead of God 

8.  everyday attitude
i want it to be joyful and loving
some days i make it, and some days i start again tomorrow

9.  what is perfection
the truth and grace of God in equal measure

10.  guilty pleasure
dancing with the stars? :)

 If you'd like to play along, link back to Andee's original post for all the official rules, k? 

I'll leave you with one more favorite for your weekend.
I adore this video.
It is pure smiles.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Random January Outfits

WIWW #20

pleated poppy

Here are some random outfits.
I think some of them may be from December, but don't tell.

Hat: Handmade; Top: Thrifted Anne Klein; Tank: Ross; Jeggings: (gift) Walmart;
Boots & Socks: (gift) Macy's

I crocheted this hat myself... with my own bare hands.
Last year, I decided I needed to learn to crochet before I turned 40, so I learned on YouTube.
If ever you decide you don't want to do your hair or put on any makeup,
wear a hat and some boots and no one will notice.
The art of distraction.
At least I think they won't notice... people are probably too nice to say.

Cardigan: Marshalls; Dress: F21; Tank: Nordstrom Rack;
Belt: Goodwill; Boots: Macys; Earrings: ??; Necklace: Vintage Pic N' Save

I wore this on Christmas Eve, but let's just pretend I wore it for New Year's or something.
Like I went to an amazing party and I was out dancing 'til 3am.
Ya... I went to bed at 10:30.
Anyway, I love this dress... I got it on clearance for about $11.
I heart it and it makes me smile.  And it's very "me" when I want to be loud.

Cardigan: Target; Dress: Ross; Leggings: Walmart; Bag: Made by my SIL;
Shoes: Naturalizers; Necklace: Lisa Leonard

This outfit I definitely wore in January.
This was my anniversary weekend... 18 years of wedded bliss.
I wrote a whole post about marriage and purity and stuff here if you're interested.

Since I've been dealing with chronic illness so long, it's been a long while since I rode a bike.
Patrick got the great idea to rent a bike and he pedaled me all over the place.
It was so very fun... loved every second!
Every single person we passed smiled or waved... 
I think tandem bikes are kind of like boats and trains, they are just sentimental and fun!

Later, I put on this infinity scarf, because it's super cold in California, you know.
I crocheted this with my bare hands as well, so that I could brave the harsh winter.

Sorry, I really would share the sunshine with you if I could!!
Hope you are all keeping warm and having a great New Year!

Monday, January 9, 2012


Yesterday, Patrick and I celebrated our anniversary.  It's been eighteen years already... our marriage is an adult.  I'm so proud.  In some ways the years have flown by so quickly, and in others it seems like the day I walked down the aisle to meet my sweetheart's tearful gaze was a lifetime ago.  We have literally grown up together, clinging to one another as we've navigated life's sometimes exhilarating and other times turbulent waters.

Recently, my parents gave me a painting that has hung in their home for many years.  It was painted by an artist who lived in the town Patrick and I grew up in.  As I was taking it from wall to wall, I decided it would look best above a little chest of drawers where wedding photographs of Patrick and I sit.  Looking at the grouping together, I began to notice the lush trees and meadows and then the fence which worked its way into the horizon.

Patrick and I didn't always have clear fences around the flourishing garden of our marriage.  As insanely and passionately in love as we were when we married at 22 and 23, I don't think we ever thought to protect our marriage.  Love would carry us through anything, we naively must have thought.  Divorce wasn't a part of our vocabulary.  We would never betray one another.

"Catch the foxes for us, 
the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, 
for our vineyards are in blossom."
Song of Solomon 2:15

But like a child needs boundaries and guidelines to keep him safe from harm, marriages need fences, too.  Within the first few years of our marriage, we learned that neither of us was immune to the charms and attention of another man or woman.  It happened to me first.  I worked with a man I allowed myself to become to close to... just a friendship I thought.  Only I had no clear boundaries.  We became far to familiar with one another, spending too much time alone.  One day, I realized that although it was never my plan, I had led myself straight into temptation.

I was too fearful to tell Patrick.  Even though I hadn't acted on anything, I couldn't believe I had let my guard down and even ventured as far as I had in friendship.  Some of the emotional intimacy that should have been Patrick's alone, I now was sharing with someone else.  So I turned down a future job opportunity, and thus erected a fence that should have already been in place.

Had I been vulnerable and told Patrick at the time, we would have seen to the tending of many fences.  We would have avoided a similar circumstance occurring in his life only a couple of years later.

There is a very sly fox who would like nothing more than for brides and grooms to get so wrapped up in their love that they think they are immune to the spoiling of their vineyards, lush meadows, and blooming gardens.  He who seeks to devour the fruit of God's covenantal  love is relentless in his desire to put asunder what God has firmly planted.

As our marriage has grown up, we have realized how important it is to tend to the fertile ground of our love.  We have erected fences of many kinds.  We don't travel or have meals alone with people of the opposite sex.  Guarding the intimacy of our marriage, there are some things we only tell each other, some jokes only between us, and a vulnerability cultivated only within the confines of our relationship. Unabashedly flirtatious, we banter with one another, and make sure we are uninterested nerds to everyone else.  Even, and especially, spiritual intimacy of a certain level is reserved only for one another, because God's word promotes intimacy like nothing else.

Through the years, we have also learned a lot about watching out for the little foxes that would come and spoil our fruit.  Sometimes even "good" things like relationships, ministries, career ambitions and the like can begin to spoil the vineyard.  There have been times that God has painfully removed us from a situation or had us build a protective fence in a relationship to help our marriage to continue growing in abundance.

Within the fences themselves, we also have learned to continually cultivate the garden.  To water it with time and attention.  To shine upon it with the warmth of love and respect.  To admire the beauty that God is growing in it, simply laughing, having fun and enjoying it.  And to allow Him to prune in areas that have gone a bit wild or aren't producing good fruit.

And then, of course, there is maintaining a fertile ground through physical intimacy.   Oh how the enemy tempts us to buy into physical oneness, devoid of a true commitment, before vows are exchanged.  Then he tempts us to neglect the gift that it is once we've been married for a while... when life gets in the way.   Yet God has created the marriage garden to bloom in safety in an undefiled bed in which we have no fear and are unashamed.  Where we can comfort one another and express committed love and intimacy, to the extent which we do in no other relationship.

"My beloved has gone down to his garden to the beds of spices,
to graze in the gardens and to gather lilies.
I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine;
he grazes among the lilies."
Song of Solomon 6:2-3

There is some scandalous Biblical authority for you.  God has crafted such a beautiful plan for marriage.  Wait for it, until it is sealed by vows, and then cultivate it and guard and protect it once it has been sealed.  I want a garden that is vibrant and full of beautiful blooms, a respite from the world, that declares God's glory.

Do you, friend?  How does your garden grow?
Praying for life, beauty and strong fences in your relationships.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Dilemma?

I think there may be two or three men who read my blog... my husband, who won't care about this post and maybe one or two other guys.  So to the one or two other guys, you may want to skip this feminine post.  Consider yourselves duly warned.

Yesterday, I went to the doctor for my annual.  Except that it wasn't really an "annual" since I hadn't gone since Jason was born which was, ahem.... six and a half years ago.  I know, I'm bad.  Please don't follow my poor example.  Get yourselves checked out regularly.  Early detection and avoiding bad stuff like cancer and all that.

Anyway, the doc (whom I happen to like a lot... he's helped me with hormonal balancing and such) said things were looking just fine, and he didn't expect anything abnormal to come back on my test results either.  Oh, good.  But then he said something kind of interesting.  

Have I talked to you about bras yet, he asked.

Well, no, I don't think so.

He then informed me that he doesn't recommend them.  He talked about lymph glands and such.  Said some stuff about women's bodies being healthier without them and that they didn't have any bearing on sagging.  He gave me some statistics that kind of flew around my head.

Trying not to look perplexed, I laid there in my flimsy pink gown trying to process this information.

Have you ever seen Joe Versus the Volcano?  There's a character who repeatedly says, "I have no response to that."  I think her name is Angelica.

I was laying there on the exam table thinking.  Hmmm... not wear a bra.  Then in my head, in my Angelica voice I thought... I have no response to that.  I just don't.  I mean, where do I begin.  I have heard and read a lot of medical advice in the past year, but this one was just unexpected.

Consequently, I began having visions of myself at a Joan Baez concert dressed in a flowy, embroidered tunic with a garland of daisies adorning my head.  I was singing Kumbaya and frolicking in the tall grass with the earth squishing between my toes.  It was sort of nice, I guess.  

But then I envisioned myself after the concert in normal clothes, and that wasn't as nice.  I was crossing my arms a lot and looking down awkwardly.  The people in this vision were also looking down awkwardly. It was all very awkward.

So I am quite unsure what to do with this advice.  Are you feeling as awkward as I am?  Does this call for a bra burning?  I am so perplexed. 

Please tell me your thoughts.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


My little Jason is adorably affectionate.

Lately, he has a new way of kissing.

I think he and his dad came up with this new method.

He kisses me on each cheek.

Then he holds up his hand and pinches his fingers to his thumb...

and says,


Melts my heart and makes me smile.

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