Are we like the sparrows?

house sparrow

I tried to like them.  I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe no one liked them because they weren’t as pretty as the others, or because they were so common.

So I gave these little birds a fair shake.  Three years worth of fair shakes, actually.  I defended them a bit, studied up on them and yet, I ended up not liking them in the end.

These house sparrows, with their loud chatter and obsessive territorial behavior, proved themselves to be just what everyone had said: pests.

The thought that I can’t escape, that keeps nagging at me as I think about these noisy little birds, is that we Christians are often just like them.  Instead of being known by our love, we are often known for being noisy, negative, and possessive.  In the eyes of many, we are the community of “shoulds” and “shall nots”, instead of the community of Grace.  I include myself in this, of course.  My finger is firmly pointed my own way.

I don’t think there’s an easy way to be both truly loving and still share truth.  Our attempts come across as judgmental and conditional.  And aren’t they?  Jesus, being fully man and fully God, is the only one to ever truly love unconditionally and still share the truth.  Because He is truth.

So why can’t we just share Him?

Without the rules, without the loud, judgmental chatter, without the add-ons.  Become known as a community that loves.  Period.  If we know Truth as a person, we don’t need to argue and defend, just introduce.  And if we disagree with our fellow Christians on matters small or even not-so-small, isn’t it more important to show grace on the inside of our community than to judge and try to convince?

Each morning I hear the obnoxious chatter outside my window, and every spring I see the sparrows chase away yet another pleasantly-settled family of birds from our birdhouse and I sigh.  I wonder if I’m perceived like that, and the thought saddens me.

So today, this week, this month, I purpose to be the one who loves.  Even if I disagree.  Even if I am afraid.  Even if it’s not popular.  Even if it’s hard.

Because the more I read Jesus’ words and actions, the less I find a rulebook.  And the more and more real Grace becomes.

 

Photo credit: Evan Finkle

Friendship: embracing the uncomfortable

I’ve written quite a bit on friendship this past year.  It’s been an intentional goal of mine: to learn to be real and true, and to break apart the walls of perfectionism and the desire to keep masks covering the fact of my messiness.  I’ve had lots of time to practice these things, to be uncomfortable, to ask for forgiveness, to share and put myself in vulnerable positions.

As I sat with a wonderful friend late at night on a recent trip, our children sleeping peacefully in beds upstairs and down, I unwrapped some ugly things I had been dealing with and gave them to her.  I did not hesitate.  She showed grace and care and tenderness as she listened and encouraged.

After I went to bed, I wondered if I should have said so much.  If I was too negative, too transparent, too ugly.  The “me” who likes people to think I have it all together surfaced and chided with a wagging finger.

The next morning, kids running all over the house, making noise and messes, my friend began sharing some difficult things in her life.  I listened and tried to be as careful with her sharing as she was with mine.

And then she said, “Wow, nothing like being a downer!”  I encouraged, told her of course she’s not, that’s what our friendship is for, and that I had wondered myself if I was too negative the night before.

I’ve pondered those conversations since that morning and I came to realize something I knew in my heart to be very important.

Maybe a barometer of our friendships, of their authenticity and depth, is how often we feel uncomfortable with our level of sharing.  Maybe we’re missing out if we never have the need to wonder, or even ask, if we’ve said too much.

Maybe real friendship does make us uncomfortable, and maybe that is a very good thing.

What about you?  How often do you share at a level that makes you squirm, just a little?

 

Photo credit: Fountain_Head

What my friends should know… {10*in*10}

10-in-10 iHomeschool Network

So it’s week 10 already?  Wow, that went fast!!  Here are my other 10*in*10 posts in this fun blog hop:

Top Ten Homeschooling Questions
Top Ten Reasons We Defy a Homeschool Label
Top Ten Reasons We Love to Homeschool (Poetry edition)
Top Ten Series for Middle School Boys
Top Ten Homeschooling Websites
Top Ten Pieces of Homeschooling Advice

 If you’re here, you’re a friend.

That’s how I think of you.  You read my thoughtful posts as I’m wrestling out my life and my faith.  You read my silly posts when my sarcastic sense of humor pops up.  You read my homeschooling posts, and hopefully learn from my many mistakes!

But what are the things I maybe haven’t told you, that you really should know?  The things that you would know if you were a local friend with whom I met for regular coffee chats or play dates with the kids?

Yes, I color my hair...

Yes, I color my hair, and yes, my kitchen is cluttered…

Here goes!  The real me, unbound and unashamed:

  1. I am a hugger.  I love to squeeze those that I love, whether it’s when they are celebrating, or mourning, or simply because I’m thankful for them in that moment.
  2. I am a lousy housekeeper.  It’s only been in the last couple of years that I have accepted this fact, and stopped trying to make excuses.  I’m not horrible, but I’m certainly not great.  My cleaning rotations are not as neat, tidy or frequent as some of the ones I see on other blogs (even the ones that claim to be homeschool-friendly) but I’m OK with that.
  3. I am a true book junkie.  It goes along with my main learning style, which is visual, and so when I have a problem or question, the first thing I’ll do is find a book about it and read to learn.  I thought, because I love the feel and smell of real books, that I would never get an e-reader, but I did cave and get a Nook to go overseas.  And I love that too, although when I have a book I need to really chew on, I use multi-colored highlighters in a real book!
  4. I think in images.  This is why my recent return to art has been so profoundly satisfying for me.  I’ve always been one to speak and write metaphorically about things, and come up with imagery to explain my feelings.  For example, in my work as a classical voice teacher I’m more likely to describe a sound I want my student to produce with a mental image, than with physiology.  Or when my husband asks how getting some art time makes me feel I tell him it’s like a “dry sponge that is immersed in a vast ocean and immediately swells with life.”  This is just normal for me.  My husband thinks it’s a bit weird.
  5. I am a true introvert.  If you were my neighbor, you’d know that I don’t often socialize (I feel badly about that sometimes.)  I love to be around a friend or two at a time and share deeply, and I love spending time with my family.
  6. I treasure friendship.  There was a time in my life when I didn’t feel understood, had no really close friends to share with deeply.  I had moved and was in the midst of creating this beautiful family I have with a husband who was trying to establish himself in his career.  It was a lonely place.  So therefore I do not take for granted those amazing women who give of themselves, and share their hearts and lives with me.
  7. I sometimes don’t want to homeschool anymore.  Yes, I have those bad days too, which is why it’s so important to have a back up plan.  But I believe so completely that it’s right for our family, and our children are thriving in this learning environment, so I have no real intentions of quitting, it’s just important to be honest about the fact that sometimes it’s tough.
  8. Sometimes I love homeschooling so much I want to convince everyone else to do it.  Just so you know how normal it is to vacillate dramatically between feelings of drudgery and the euphoria, I had to add this one.  And I can be obnoxious, on these days, in my gushing about how much I love it.
  9. I am a woman of highs and lows.  If numbers 7 and 8 didn’t give you a clue, here’s a newsflash: there is no “vanilla” with me.  I run hot or cold, with rarely any in-betweens.  This is also something I’ve come to accept as I’ve gotten older.  I feel things deeply, for good and bad, and sometimes am so whacked out of balance I need to pull back and just be alone.
  10. I’ll be 39 this week.   Ack!!  What should I do for the remainder of my waning journey to the big 4-0?  I need some way to chronicle this next year and make it a good one.  Any suggestions?

So, dear readers…what should I know about you?

Top Ten Tuesday

Visit Angie and link up your Top Ten for the week!

And hop on over to Today’s Housewife to read my guest post on Art Journaling!

Art Journal- Hopes and Dreams

“Hopes and Dreams”

A Paint-by-Numbers Life…

In a college known for its jazz music program, singers and instrumentalists scatting and improvising through their 16 bars on a skeletal framework, I was one of those who liked to follow what was on the page.  I could read anything you put in front of me, but I couldn’t ad lib.  And in a class with a jazz professor, I was jokingly called a “paint-by-numbers” musician.  It was not a compliment.

That’s exactly what I am.  I like bowing to the Beethovens, Bachs, and Mozarts of the world, allowing their genius to give me notes to sing, and rhythms to count.  The phrases are planned, perfected, and I am only to interpret and give them voice.  Compared to the abandon of a jazz musician, making it up as they go along, classical is safe.  Each color with its own number.  I must simply fill in.

This is me.  I am safe.  I like to have boundaries to inhabit and little geometric shapes to dutifully keep me in the lines.  I like being told what to play and what to say and what to do.  The “shoulds” and “ought-tos” of life, like the numbered spaces on the paint-by-number canvas, or the little black notes on the staff, give me a script to follow and keep me comfortable.

But this paint-by-numbers life has begun to yellow at the corners.  It is tiresome and false and based on lies about where my worth originates.  I want to be messy and color outside the lines and be free of the chains of my rule-following nature.

I want to be this:

Instead of this:

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died and 

your life is now hidden with God in Christ.

Colossians 2:13-14, 3:1-3

On this journey I am beginning to reinvent what I want to be, basing it on grace instead of rules.  Our God is one of completion, of finishing the good work He started, but also of new beginnings, and restoration of things broken.

As my children often do, I want to crumple up the artwork in front of me and begin again, with bolder brush strokes and wild colors that don’t match.  I want to stop waiting for someone to tell me where and when and how, and instead just make it up as I go along, following in the footsteps of Jesus, who turned convention on its ear and didn’t care who he offended, as long as he did the work of the Father.

Messy.  And free.  Being instead of always doing.  Not by numbers, but by heart and faith.

What piece of art do you want to be?
How do you want to play the music of your life?

A repost from the archives…
I’m off on an art retreat weekend, planning to get messy
and express all that bubbles up!

 

Be sure to visit next week when I’ll be joining up

with the iHomeschool Network, sharing

5 Days of Great Family Games!

Favorite Family Games {www.fruitinseasonblog.com}

What’s in the Bible? Review {The Songs!}

What's in the Bible Songs

{Giveaway at the end- don’t miss it!!}

We know music.  We are a family of musicians and know full well the power music has to not only soothe the savage beast (and we’ve got some savage ones, let me tell you), but also to aid in learning, and bring joy to a home.

So when the opportunity came up to review the CD companion to the amazing “What’s in the Bible?” DVD’s, I jumped at the chance.  After all, our minivan CD-changer needed some new songs, and we could all (mom included!) use a humorous, but chock-full-of-truth refresher on some Bible facts.

What is “What’s in the Bible?”

Remember Veggie Tales?  How could you forget?  My older two kids were Veggie Tales fanatics, and even now that they are older, they enjoy taking out a story to watch with the younger ones and learning about character traits, and God’s love for us.

“What’s in the Bible?” is a new series of DVD’s by Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer, but this time the series is full of biblical meat and potatoes.  The DVD’s take us through the entire Bible (the Old Testament in 8 Dvd’s- 16 episodes- is currently complete) with a cast of hilariously memorable characters (in the form of puppets, animation, flannel graph and even Phil himself) who tell the stories, sing songs, explain characters’ actions, and tie in everything to God’s bigger picture.

The website is a treasure trove of teaching materials and games.  There is a new area for study guides to use in your family, Bible flashcards, a section for coloring pages,  crafts and games, and a kids area with biographies of each puppet character and featured videos.  There’s even a church edition with curriculum included!

 What's in the Bible finger puppets collage

What we love best about “What’s in the Bible?” {The Songs}

Adults, big kids, and little kids alike can learn from, share, and discuss these episodes and songs.  I wasn’t sure how my twelve-year-old son would like the DVD’s or CD, but he is often the most vocal about wanting to watch or listen.  He also has come to me with questions in direct response to something he learned by watching or listening.

They are biblically-sound.  And the promise of God’s coming rescue is woven throughout the Old Testament episodes, which I love.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that the songs and dialogue are hysterical.  The song about Leviticus is my (and my oldest son’s) favorite, and when is anything about Leviticus anyone’s favorite anything??  The kids quote the shows and CD incessantly.  It is common to hear an interchange like this in our home:

“Well, actually, I tried to sell you once.”
“You sold me?”
“It was just to the neighbors…I got you back!”
“You sold me?”
{Yay for Clive and Ian!  They were discussing Joseph and his brothers…Well, you just have to listen for yourself!} 

For us, the CD is the perfect extension, allowing us to take the characters and stories with us in the car or into rooms where there is no TV.

The songs are catchy and lyrics are clever.  Anyone who remembers the perfectly silly lyrics in the “Silly Songs” that Larry the Cucumber sang will appreciate the subtle turns of a phrase in the “What’s in the Bible?” song CD.  And if you never knew Veggie Tales, be prepared to listen closely and laugh along with your kids.

The CD goes up through the book of Judges (which means there may be another CD coming!!)  My kids have been asking for the rest of the DVD’s and I’m sure adding another CD to our family repertoire will be next on the list.  

Here is a video of my kids singing the incredibly chatty theme song.  They pretty much had the whole thing memorized, and were thrilled when I suggested we make a video for this review.  You might not catch every word, but you can get the feel for the energy and integrity of these songs.  (And my kids are cute, so that’s an added bonus!)

 

Win a free video OR CD!

We will have TWO winners!

I happen to have an extra, unopened “What’s in the Bible?” DVD #1 to share with a lucky reader, and WITB has offered to give away a CD of “The Songs” as well!  Woohoo!

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me what Bible story or character is your favorite.  For extra entries you can:

Please leave a comment for each entry. This giveaway will be open until Wednesday, July 11 at 9pm.

{Be sure to visit these other bloggers to get their opinions on this series!}

iHomeschool Network

I received this CD for the purpose of review and am being compensated for the time it took to do so.  I only give honest opinions here, and choose to review things that I would use in my home and with my children anyway.  If you’d like more information, check my disclosure page.

Learn to love in the waiting… {Guest posting today}

I’m guest posting today over at my friend Krissie’s blog….come visit!

Strawberry b&wIn his hands was a strawberry, plucked fresh from our garden, in the perfect heart shape.  He stood proudly alongside his older brother near the bowl that was rapidly filling with bright red fruit, and asked:

“Mommy, is this one good?”

I looked at it, bent down and took it, turned the small orange and white strawberry over in my hand, and had to say, “No.  It wasn’t ready yet.  See? It’s not red. And now that it’s picked, it will not grow anymore.”  I smiled.  “It’s OK, keep looking.”

Keep reading over at Always Alleluia

Seasons…

Cezanne- Berge in der Provence

Every season brings forth its bounty in its own time, and our life is richer when we can take time to savor the fruit of each.  In the fall we chop and carry our wood, gather the harvest, rake leaves, prepare our home for winter, and give thanks.  In winter we are dormant, a time for quiet generosities, and reflection on the endurance of inner light in the midst of darkness.

In spring we prepare the soil for planting, we prune what has been lost or dried up, we feed the soil and plant what it needed, and take delight in the flowers.  In summer, we tend the garden, watch for weeds and crowding, thin what needs air and sun, at rest in the freedom of long days and warm nights, losing ourselves in the gift of sweet air and time.

To surrender to the rhythms of seasons and flowerings and dormancies is to savor the secret of life itself.

~Wayne Muller, Sabbath

There are days

grace, dandelion

There are days when I am ablaze with purpose and confidence.

There are days when the Word nearly glows with passages for me and I can’t possibly show and speak gratitude fast enough.

There are days when I blow through item after item on my to-do list and collapse into bed at the end feeling vibrantly accomplished.

There are days when I feel all sunny yellow and bold orange and joy flows from all of my full places. 

There are days when I write, when I homeschool, when I paint, when I love, with vigor and enthusiasm, and all feels easy.

And yet….

There are days I just need to graciously and intentionally accept the other side of me without judgement.

There are days that I can’t see past item two on my to-do list without feeling overwhelmed and certain of failure.

There are days that my emotions lie to me so loudly that I have to force myself to even get out of bed.

There are days when even the simplest of tasks becomes a heavy burden sure to drag me to the floor.

There are days when my soul is pale and drained of all color, and I put down the crayons and leave the creating for another day.

And because there are days like this, and days like that, I choose to love myself differently depending on my need.  Like Jesus does.

I challenge you today to do the same.  

Can you accept the different sides of yourself, the opposing emotions?  

Do you know when to lower your expectations?

Aging is worth nothing, if we do not become more aware of ourselves, more forgiving of ourselves and more willing to embrace our frailties.  And someday I want to be able to say:

Yes, there were days like this and days like that, but on all days I extended myself grace.

Linking up with Thought-Provoking Thursday at Michelle’s.

Thought-provoking Thursday

Photo Credit

Tearing down to build back up

pouring waterI had a dry sponge experience in church on Sunday, and if I’m honest, I’d have to say that it’s not an uncommon occurrence lately.  I come to church spiritually dry, hard and wrinkled, and feel as if the Word of God poured into me by the pastor and the leadership of the church actually makes me physically expand.  I leave broader and significantly increased in surface area than I came.

Yes, that is what church is supposed to be, right?

But God is doing something different in me than He’s done before.  I am on a continuous growth curve that I believe has turned sharply upward into a season of refinement.  My spirit sometimes feels unsettled, and I haven’t been sure of His methods.  During the week I feel adrift, and the spiritually-sodden feeling from Sunday drains away until I yearn for affirmation and encouragement from the Lord that seems lacking otherwise.

I’ve never been a “Sunday Christian”, and in spite of this struggle, I’m still not.

This past Sunday, in my spiritually thirst-quenching moments, I felt the Lord’s voice (yes, felt…do you experience that as well?) telling me that he must tear things down in my life– strongholds that have been in place for decades– before He can build.  I’ve noticed that my eyes have been seeing people differently in the past couple of years, more easily extending grace and not judgement.  I’ve found myself choosing gentleness of response instead of yielding to a critical spirit.  Even giving myself grace for hurdles I can’t seem to overcome right now.  The long-held rule-oriented faith of yesterday is eroding toward a more compassionate faith.

And these things are good.  Really good.  But tearing down hurts, regardless of how beautiful the finished product will be.  And I hear Him speaking to me to wait it out, wait for the revealing of the blessing.  Be faithful, even when my dry, hard, cracked surface feels like it can’t go on without water.

Because it will come.  It always does.

Has your spiritual journey taken turns you didn’t expect?

Photo Credit

When you’re always performing

Yesterday my husband and I sang schmaltzy love duets and musical theater songs for a women’s group at a local country club.  This is not an unusual occurrence, though it doesn’t happen as often as it used to.  My performing days are, for the most part, behind me, and the times I sing now are both a welcome treat and a minor stressor in my day.

But I’m not just a performer on the stage, gauging my worth based on reactions in the audience.  I’m a performer at heart.  And spiritually speaking, this is a challenge to overcome.

How does a performer raise children who know they are valued by their being and not their doing?

As one who has always enjoyed applause and recognition for a job well done, be it on the stage or in life, I have always found it difficult to claim my worth based on who I am rather than how I perform.  Call it an occupational hazard, if you will.  Even in scripture, I have found comfort in the “law”, passages on “grace” always seeming a bit of an enigma.

Thankfully, in these eleven years as a parent, I’ve learned (am still learning, really- sometimes the hard way) that grace must be not merely a visitor in our home, but a loving, in-dwelling presence.  I find myself bit by bit able to shed the doing and embrace the being, both in my children and in myself.  It may go against the grain, but that’s what makes it such a miracle.  The freedom to give and receive grace comes only from the One who is grace.

So I forgive, and ask forgiveness; tell and show my children I love them just because they are, and try to live that myself in the face of a performing life.  My actions- especially the daily accepting of my own flaws in front of my children- will speak loudly into their hearts, into who they will become.

Yesterday, at our performance, I messed up.  My singing wasn’t perfect.  And while years ago I may have hung on to the mistakes for days, today I’m OK with it.  When the kids asked how we did, we told them it was good, but not perfect.

And life went on.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

Thought-Provoking Thursday