Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I'm Thankful for...

Today was a 'Luke and Aaron' day at our house, which means that they arrived soon after 7am and spent the day with me.
Aaron with me
We did many things, including building with blocks, sweeping, vacuuming, burning trash, playing in the sand, riding trikes, reading stories, dancing to rap music, taking naps, and we baked a pumpkin.
At lunch, after I fixed the boys their sandwiches and they began to eat, we remembered to pray.  Luke's favorite prayer is "Thank You For the World So Sweet".  We have to sing it at every meal.  It will be a sad day when Aaron decides that he wants a different song.

After we sang our prayer, I said something to Luke about how it's good to remember to thank God for the good things He gives us.  He looked a bit confused.  I told him, "That is what we just did.  We were singing thank you to God for things we like.  How about we say more things we are thankful for?"

So the rest of our lunch was filled with taking turns saying things we were thankful for.  It was fun and full of laughter, especially when I would say something I was thankful for (like Papa---Chuck) that Luke was just ready to say himself.  Most sentences began with, "I'm glad God made..." and then we'd say the next thing we were glad for.  Of course, with kids there is less distinction between what God made and what is man made, so we were glad God made clocks and sandwiches and bread and cheese and pickles and marshmallows and many other things.  We were also glad for sunshine, and Osage Nature Trail, and pumpkins, and hugs, and especially all the people we love.

The pumpkin was done baking and I took it out of the oven just before the boys had their naptime routines.  By the time they were both down, it was cool enough for me to work with.  I began scraping the flesh from the rinds and thinking about what this pumpkin would become.

I thought it would be such fun for Luke to be able to eat something made from the pumpkin he'd helped prepare, so I got to work making some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins. 
While I was working on them I decided that pumpkin for supper would be a good thing too, so I got out some sausage and began to thaw it.

When Luke woke up, he was pretty excited to see the muffins.  He wakes slowly so he was glad to sprawl out on the rocking chair while we waited for them to cool.  By the time they were cool Aaron had also gotten up and we had a muffin break.

While the boys munched on muffins and drank milk, I worked on the supper. I mixed the rest of the pumpkin with a pound of browned sausage, about 3-4 cups of cooked brown rice, and lots of grated cheddar cheese.  I added salt and pepper to taste.  It turned out to be enough for us and for Laura and Greg, so it was hot and ready to go when Laura came to pick up the boys.

It's not a beautiful casserole, but the home grown sausage mixed with pumpkin is a good hearty fall meal.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Scarcity and Being Enough

I recently read the book, Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown.

 There is a lot in this book.  The title comes from a quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

 It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. 
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly . . .”

That quote alone is what motivated me to read the book.
I have read the other two books written by Brene Brown and really enjoyed them, but that quote....     that quote provided a small measure of healing for me.

I remember already in high school knowing that I wanted a faith that did not shrink from hard tasks.  I wanted my faith to be more than personal.  I wanted it to increase the God's kingdom of love and justice and truth and mercy and compassion on earth.

During college I had a great (and humbling) time of teaching Sunday School to Jr. High girls.  After we got married we became youth sponsors...again, great and humbling.  Then we read an article about Sabbatical as a Christian practice, a sort of Jubilee.  The suggestion was that every seven years Christians could try to practice a form of Sabbath year.  It could be doing a year of service, or it could mean trying to live on a service budget and donating more to support a service worker, or it could mean trying to do some kind of special service in your home town.  The possibilities were only limited by your imagination.

We just happened to be at a point in our lives where leaving our farm for a year was possible, so we did.  We took our 3 year old and our 1 year old and moved to a city in Illinois.  Chuck worked in housing rehab, and we were both unit leaders for a group of around 10 VSers.  It was a great year, and it gave us space to see things in new ways.

One of those new thoughts was how much easier it is to go into VS and do service than it is to incorporate service into your everyday life at home.  In VS your assignment and your support community are given to you, and your living expenses are provided.  What would it look like to live a life of service in our home community?

After we returned home we began to pray about a way of being in service where we lived.  We wanted something that would be a joint effort, and something that would not take us away from our kids too much.  Eventually we settled on foster parenting.

Foster parenting led to adoption, and by birth and adoption our family increased until we had 7 children.

And that is where the quote that inspired the book gets me.  

I'd assumed that there was an implied promise from God that if we were doing something for God, we would be saved from making mistakes, from bad choices, from decisions that hurt ourselves or our children.  That was a false assumption.

We tried to do things that were hard, and sometimes we did them well, and sometimes we did them badly.  Sometimes we got good advice and followed it, and sometimes we got bad advice and followed it.  And usually I'm OK with how that works out in life, but I struggle with it mightily when others get hurt by my mistakes.  I want my mistakes to only hurt me.  Not others.  Especially not children.  And especially not children who have already seen too much hurt.

So now that all our children are gone I spend too much time reviewing what I could have done differently, repeating to myself what I should have known, berating myself for not knowing those things, wishing I could have been more, or better, or stronger.

The book, Daring Greatly, talks a lot about what it takes to be able to dare it takes being willing to be vulnerable, to show weakness, to lack perfection in our everyday lives.

Brene also talks about what gets in the way of daring greatly.  One of those things is an attitude of scarcity.  Scarcity, according to Brene,  is waking up in the morning and your first two thoughts are: "I haven't had enough sleep" and "I don't have enough time to do everything I need to do today".

Does she listen to my thoughts?  How does she know that I wish I had been more, or better, or stronger?  Or that I still wish to be more and better and stronger?

Scarcity is big in my life.

According to Brene, people who are able to pull themselves out of scarcity thinking do it through gratitude.  I'm already working on gratitude.  I started being more intentional about that when I read Ann Voscamp's book, 1000 Gifts.  I noticed changes, but I still woke up in the morning thinking about not being enough.
During the time I read Brene's book, my Psalm of the week was Psalm 103.  I had begun to memorize this psalm a couple of years ago but never really nailed it.  That week I realized that this Psalm might be a good waking ritual, so I memorized it again.  

Now I repeat this Psalm every morning.  I know it by heart but soon I will know it so well that I don't have to pause to remember the next line.  It is full, completely full of reasons to be grateful.

who forgives all your sins,
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.

From everlasting to everlasting
the Lord's love is with those who fear him.

I sometimes walk for exercise.  I've learned to play podcasts or Spanish lessons on my mp3 player to make the time pass and to occupy my mind for the thirty minutes it takes me to go there and back again (as it seems on barren country roads).  On days when I walk with no input, my mind gravitates to hard things, times I've been less than I wanted to be, hard things that I'm responsible for.  Yesterday as I walked, with only Rich Mullins singing on my mp3 player, the tears rolled with memories of hard things playing themselves out in my mind.

Then I thought about how God would be seeing this and remembered my Psalm.  I had the sensation of God taking my face in his hands, looking into my eyes, and repeating, "You are forgiven.  You are forgiven."  I am forgiven.  I am enough.

I did dare greatly.  Only time will show what was good in in our fostering and adopting, but I do know that it was something worth trying hard for, something worth even failure.  What if no one dared to do that?  What if no one felt called to try? I feel honored to know families who are choosing to dare in this way and are doing such a good job of it.  It gives me hope and joy.  I feel honored to know people who are daring greatly in many other ways in their lives as well.

I hope I can continue to dare greatly, knowing that I will fail at times, but knowing also that it is worth the struggle.