Sunday, November 25, 2012

Merry Macgyver Christmas: the yearly tradition of making something from nothing

I adore the Christmas season.  I love the softer, more golden shade of sunlight in the afternoon, cool nights (I live in So Cal after all), carols playing on pandora radio, balsam scented candles burning and peppermint tea in my favorite mug.  As a believer in Christ the season is a great celebration of "God with us" or God coming down to meet us here on earth and to walk with us.  I love all the traditions that come with the season as well.  Decorating the tree with ornaments we have picked up on all our travels, remembering each trip as we hang them.  Putting my churches on top of the bookcase, hanging our stockings and setting out our olivewood nativity, purchased in Jerusalem while we were living there.

We decorate fairly simply, but every year I want to join in the thousands of men and women who dust off their crafting skills and make something cool.  Now that there is pinterest, we can share ideas online and it has most likely spurred a sort of craft "revival" even for those who might have not ventured into those uncharted waters before.  I laugh at some of the ideas that really take a whole lot of money to accomplish even with a stash of online Michael's 50% off coupons and maybe a friend who owns a lumber mill.  Of course I still like those ideas, I just don't have a budget for them and am secretly (or not so secretly) jealous that they have a friend who owns a lumber mill.

That said, there are many, many inexpensive ideas out there for someone like me on a tight budget.  When I was a kid, I loved to watch "Macgyver" on TV (no not a flat screen, no not on netflix).  The guy could take the simplest more random things and turn them into something amazing.  He makes Jason Bourne, and 007 look a little un-creative if you ask me.  Just two examples I found online: In the first ever episode, he plugs a sufuric acid leak with chocolate.  Later, he builds bombs out of swamp gas, bamboo shoots, and mud.  I am not saying I do, or do not condone bombs, but this guy is seriously cool.

Back to the point - the holidays seem to bring the Macgyver out of people, and definitely out of me.  I dig in the bottom of my Christmas bins to find broken berries, bits of string, and scraps of fabric and can decorate my lamp shade.  I can hang old dollar store ornaments from the chandalier and use a "seen better years" tablecloth as my tree skirt.  I love to hear about other people's resourcefulness and how they can create something cozy, beautiful and magical with very, very little.  My favorite "Macgyver Christmas" craft ever?  The following wreath, made from the simplest of items -

An ugly bush (really, really ugly)

A metal hanger...
Taken and pulled and squished and molded into a sort-of circle
Cut branches overlapped thick end under the thin end and tied with simple twine
= a wreath to hang!

Here it is in our livingroom

A better look - also some more of that bush made it's way into a vase wrapped in old ribbon
I love projects like these because they are easy enough even for an impatient and low budget gal like myself.  And they are so versatile - you could use any greenery you have in your backyard or in the greenbelt or in your neighbor's backyard (rosemary, holly, cyprus tree...hey those have to be good for something other than being a tall, unsightly 70's-esque filler tree).  And if you don't have twine, use wire, or cut strips of fabric, or yarn.  I hereby decree that everyone needs to make this wreath.  Yes, I am excited about this project.  And don't even get me started on what you can do with a 3 dollar can of chalkboard paint.  Pretty much anything can be turned into something cool if there is chalkboard paint on it (unless you are my five year old...or my favorite shirt).  I hope to hear of many more Macgyver Christmas projects this year - I guess words like "reclaimed" and "repurposed" would be the more cool hipster/pinterest/good blogger way to phrase it.  So, devoted reader (Mom? Grandma?) you have some good Macgyver Christmas stories to share?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Short Stanley:just your run of the mill 7th grade day plus one bully

My oldest son is a very nice kid.  In the fourth grade he was bullied.  The kids were sorting out the pecking order and anyone willing to pick on someone else was safe.  If someone refused to turn and be a pick-ee, then they remained a picked-on.  It was a terrible year for our family and I was heartbroken and angry at the same time.   After that year things settled down but he never really developed close friendships with anyone at his school.

This year, our move to San Diego County from the OC has been wonderful for him.  A fresh start that we were all praying for.  He has really great buddies from school and from church.  The boy has more than made up for his lackluster social life leading up to now.  We are thrilled for him.

But today he came home and told me that a kid at school threw him up against a fence and punched him in the stomach.  What???!

The story goes like this:  Kid borrows money from Isaac.  Kid doesn't pay Isaac back.  Isaac continues to ask for his money back.  Isaac gives Kid "the eye" and rubs his fingers together (symbolizing "you owe me money").  Kid says repeatedly that he will not pay Isaac back.  Turns out Kid borrows from everyone at the school and doesn't pay anyone back.  He cusses and isn't very nice.

Today the Kid finally got mad at Isaac for asking for his money back.  Kid pushed and punched Isaac.

Here was my mom response:  Isaac you have no idea what hurts are going through Kid's mind and in his life that make him mean.  Maybe Kid is poor and needs that two dollars he spent on a poweraid more than you need it.  Maybe Kid's mother doesn't love him like your mother loves you.   Just let it go and try to be nice to Kid because he is hurting inside.

This was my pastor husband's response:  Punch Kid in the nose if he ever pushes you again.  He won't expect it and he will get a reputation for being the kid who got punched in the nose and will never be a bully again.  And he deserves it.


This is what happened...Isaac said to Kid..."you better leave me alone or I will get my 8th grade friends to back me up." Eighth grade friends (Isaac is the only 7th grader in an 8th grade class) start walking towards Kid.  The shortest 8th grader (let's call him Stanley) makes threatening hand in fist gesture and says "you just messed with the wrong 7th grader..."  Another 8th grader tells short 8th grader, "You are sooo not intimidating, Stanley (again, the name has been changed to protect Stanley)." Kid runs away and later in the day Isaac is giving Kid the eye again. (You'd think he would be afraid of the guy).

 He was laughing while he told me the story today in the car.  Whether this happens again, or if he punches the kid in the nose or prays for him or becomes best friends with him, I am just so happy he is not feeling beat down by it.  I am not even going to make this profound...I just want to visualize short 8th grade Stanley (shorter than most 7th graders according to my son) doing the fist in hand motion..."you messed with the wrong 7th grader, Kid..."  

1 Corinthians 1:25

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Worship in the front row

It takes a certain type of person to sit in the front row at church.  Usually you need to have a good amount of self-confidence to sit up front.  Or you need to be a part of a bigger group of friends that all sit in the front, so you can still feel like you are not in the front row.  Maybe you are a more mature member of the church who knows that no one likes to sit in the front, so you sit there to open up room in the back.  Or maybe you never show up late to church or have your cell phone ring or have to sneak out early to take your kid to a sport's event.  So the front row makes good sense.     Or maybe you are friends with the pastor or you think you should be friends with the pastor.  Because everyone knows that the pastor sits in the front row.

In fact, if you are new to a church and wonder who the pastor is...just look in the front row. He's (or she's) probably there. 

Ryan sits in the front left row of our church.  If I wasn't married to him I think I would sit in the back row.  It would be so much easier for me to relax.  Namely, because I figure people are paying way more attention to me that they really are.  And I am a goofball clutz that embarrassing things happen to, and in the back row those things are less noticeable.  

While sitting or standing in the front row of church, these are the general types of things that go through my head... "is my bra strap showing? " "Is my skirt tucked into my tights? " "Is my tag sticking out?"  Will my chair break? (this has happened)  "will people notice that I am not putting something into the offering basket?" There is also always the hazard of getting spit on or having the pastor make eye contact with you...which of course if your spouse is the teaching pastor for the day you have to just grin and bear that one...(or you can throw a spit wad...which only very immature pastor's wives or front-row sitters would ever do).

Last week I came in a few minutes late due to some unforeseen drama with the boys that morning.  I came in, walked up to the front, turned off my cell phone, set down my purse and water, then knocked my water and purse over, spilling out my collections of gum wrappers, to-do lists, pens and wadded up dollar bills that I keep in my not-so tidy purse.  Disruptive maybe?  Then I realized that I didn't have a bulletin and I always take notes so I excused myself to go to the back again to grab a bulletin.  Once the sermon started, someone came to sit by me and whisper that they thought Ryan's truck lights were on.  I left again to go check.  It was another white, giant hemi-engined man-truck (ok that is sexist...but that is how I see it) with it's lights on...not Ryan's.  So I had to go back to the front row again.  All the while I am wondering if people are asking "can't she just sit still?"

This week, during musical worship, I struggled again.  In the back row I feel the freedom to sing and praise God without thinking about anyone else other than me and God.  If I need to let things go, I may lift my hands up.  If I am happy I might clap or move with the music in my white-girl way.  I might sit if I feel the need to posture myself in a show of humility.  In the back row, I might even kneel.  In the front row I wonder...if I stand while most everyone is sitting what will others think?  People often watch the pastor to see what he is up to - if he sits, they sit, if he claps, they clap.  If he stands, they stand.  I personally don't like that practice because I think it is important for people to do what they feel led to do during that time.  Worship isn't a choreographed sing-along.  Worship (in music)  is one way believers express to God their gratitude and praise.  It is often done in a large group setting, but it is the heart God is hearing and not the outward expression that matters.  

Do I do my best in the front row to do back-row worship?  Yes I try.  But my request to worship leaders and to pastors is this - please teach those of us in every row what worship needs to be.  Remind us that we can express ourselves however we feel we need to - without judgement or ridicule (although if you dance around the church we might giggle a tiny bit...).  

I know I will continue to sit in the front row (except for those days Ryan is out of town...). I know I need to learn once again in one more way that I don't live my life for those around me, but rather for the God who made me. Today I sat when others were standing.  I felt like that made the most sense but it was hard for me to do.  After church someone came to me and said "I really wanted to sit before God during worship but no one was sitting...I saw you sitting and it gave me the courage to sit."  It sounds so silly but if you are a part of church you probably know what I am talking about.  It was a good reminder to me once again to let God dictate what I do and not the opinion of others.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fear Behind the Mask:How the church handles honesty

Today I found Ben hiding behind the couch with his flip flops and a roll of tape.  He was taping the sandals back together and it was obvious he had cut them.  Of course, in my mother way I simply asked, "Ben, did you cut your sandals?"

He said no.  I asked again, and he reminded me how Ian's sandals had broken once without being cut.  I showed him on the sandal where the seam was and how the straight cut didn't match up.  I asked again.  "Ben, did you cut this sandal?"

Instead of saying yes, Ben started to sob.  He ran back behind the couch to hide, and I had a choice to make.

I could yell at him for cutting his sandal and do exactly the thing that he feared enough to lie in the first place.  Or I could go to him, hug him and let him know I love him and I am disappointed when he lies to me.  I did the latter.  Of course I made sure to explain that cutting flip flops is not a good idea because now he doesn't have any.

As Christians we are terrified of honesty.  Even though God may know our hearts we still lie to Him, to ourselves, and to everyone else.  We are much more afraid of the consequences of our mistakes than we are of hiding them.  People who confess of hating their spouse, stealing from their work, or skipping quiet time for years at a time are rarely met with a "good job!  thanks for being honest!"  Those of us in leadership talk about Integrity and taking off our masks and being vulnerable.  We tell people that God wants us to be honest and to confess our sins "and he is faithful and just and will forgive us."  We tell people that if they have an issue with another believer that they need to go to that person and deal with it in order to have a richer worship experience.

What is wrong with us that we just can't tell the truth?  For one, the church says with its lips that we are all sinners, but real sinners are uncomfortable and we don't know how to deal with them.  What if the truth is that someone confesses a sin and says "I don't have the strength to stop it?"  What then do we do?  If they pretend to be alright and repentant and they do all the right things, then there is a better chance the church can handle them. (I also believe people can be honestly doing and saying the "right" things as well..)  But if they continue to be honest in their struggles, then the church can't seem to come to a consensus on how to walk with honest people, pray with honest people and help to restore honest people.

Truth is, we should not be so shocked when it comes out that people have blown it big time.  God promises us that we are fallen, that we are sinful, and that we will mess up.  Even the heroes of the faith in the bible mess up often and sometimes big time.

One thing that God consistently takes issue with in the bible is lying.  He calls the pharasees "white-washed tombs" meaning they look clean and perfect on the outside but they are full of decay and death on the inside.  He gets angry at those who did all sorts of great things on the outside for God, but on the inside their hearts were far from Him.  In fact He even at one point tells those people "I don't know you."

Honesty in church seems rare.  We tell people to tell the truth but do we mean it?  We ask people to confess their sins but will we confess ours?  The man hanging next to Jesus on the cross, condemned for a grievous crime, found himself in heaven that very night and yet those who pretended to be so good and yet were so far, were cast away from Him.  I am not saying we need to do away with consequences, but those will come on their own.  I am saying that I believe we need to remember that fake righteousness (lying) should make us more afraid than admitting our failures.  We may never know when someone is lying - they may live out a beautifully godly life all their days but on the inside, be far from God.  But we can sometimes know when someone is being honest and we need to treat them with at the very least, as much respect and care that we treat those who hide from the truth.   

Sunday, November 4, 2012

You know you are a mom of boys when...

In case you aren't sure whether you fit into this category, I am referring to mothers of ALL boys although some of the list may pertain to mothers with at least one boy.  Not sure.  I wouldn't know.

1.  You know that a nut cup is not something caterers use to display holiday chestnuts, walnuts and hazelnuts.

2.  You never yell at anyone in your house for leaving the toilet seat up.  In fact, after going pee, you yourself put the toilet seat up.  Otherwise, one of your boys will inevitably pee without lifting the seat and you will have sticky pee all over the seat.  It is just easier that way.

3. You often find yourself cleaning footprints off the wall at eye-height and hand prints off the ceiling.

4. You have a special camaraderie with other mothers with only boys.  People may think you are exclusive...but that's just how it is.  You need to feel you are special in some way because your boys and husband usually just think you are weird.

5.  No one uses plates on pizza night because it makes more sense to eat off of the box.  Boys are very efficient that way.

6.  I never understood the term "hoover" your food until I had all three boys at the table.  It's like magic the way they make the food disappear.

7.  You realize that the concept that a mom of all boys is like the "princess" in the family is a complete fallacy.  No one will treat you like a princess or see you that way because they don't know what a princess is, nor do they care.

8.  You spend more time cleaning urine off the floor than you do having tea parties.

9.  Boys without sisters don't see anything wrong with throwing snowballs at girl's faces or flashing their butts in public.

10.  Your children are honestly surprised when you mention to them to use soap in the shower and to change their clothes or at the very least, their boxers.

11.  If you can make it one week without someone breaking a bone, setting a fire, getting a black eye or getting a bloody nose sliding head first down the stairs on a piece of cardboard, it is a good week.

12.  If you can make it one week without any body slamming, double dipping, running in the house naked, ball-throwing, grunting, inappropriate gas-passing or burping, drinking out of the milk carton (again boys are efficient), or roll-down-the-window body oder...

Well...I wonder if you really have boys at all.

Let me know what I missed!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Halloween Party

Yesterday my husband posted on why we celebrate Halloween.  You can read his excellent post on the subject here and just know it receives a hearty "amen" from me.

Yesterday was one of those really fun days when I am happy that we are not seclusive Christians on Halloween night.  Ryan and I both believe that the best way to share the love of Jesus with the world is not by being one of the only darkened porches on the street with a sign that says "Jesus Loves You."

And so, we threw a party instead.

In the bible, the kingdom of heaven is described as a party (banquet) with lots of food.  

All day the boys and I prepared for the party - we made homemade salsa and carnitas, mummy cakepops and my favorite caramel apples.  First, we had to go foraging in the woods (or the empty lot behind the old abandoned bank down the street) for sticks.  I get giddy when I think about a party and as an introvert...I won't lie; the anticipation and preparation is my favorite part.

Jesus tells us...I will go and prepare a place for you...

We set out the food, lit some pumpkin spice candles, stuck some beer on ice, opened the door and in came our Halloween revelers.  First, it was some Junior High boys from my oldest's school.  They are new friends of his and are just learning about Jesus from my very verbal and not-ashamed son.  One was a vampire and one was a Civil War Veteran.  Next came the neighbors - every one of the houses we invited showed up as well as two extra families who don't even live on our street.  They were friends of neighbors.  Next came our friends from church.  We only invited one family from church because we wanted to really get to know the families on our street.

God invites everyone from every street corner.  

I love that our understanding of God not only allows, but compels us as a family to open our doors to anyone who will come.  And we don't invite people to convert them.  We invite them so we can know them and so they can know us.  It's a fun way to live.