July. 1st month of Quirky Faith is just about finished. I have some random photos I took over the month I figured I'd share to wrap up the month.
Just a walk in the park. One month to go until this year's Portland to Coast. I've been flirting around with training for this relay over the past couple of months. Last week, I panicked a bit when I got my race assignment. Three separate legs of the relay totaling 19 miles. Um. My four mile a week training schedule is clearly not sufficient. Last Saturday I finally got in a six mile hilly practice. Still panicked. However, this pathway did a lot to restore my soul. Fresh air and gorgeous trees generally provide a reset in my life.
Just a little public service announcement that not everything cute in the world is good for you. We have a family of raccoons living in our yard. Darling. Seriously scary. My cat is such a tough boy because he routinely holds his own with these guys. He has a few scars and a mangled ear to prove it. I love my cat but I gotta admit he's not going to win any beauty contests. But his mellow temperament makes him quite the dapper man. Some cute things will scratch and claw and cause great havoc. And I'm not just talking about the raccoon. I'm hoping my daughters learn this lesson early in life. Go for heart quality, meh on the cute.
Just a little fish story. Really I have nothing to add to this photo.
Just Saying My husband believes that the phrase "Just Saying" is an annoying way for people to get away with rude conversation and insults. However, I'm going to live dangerously and use that phrase to get away with talking about politics. Hey!! Guess what everyone. We survived both the RNC and DNC conventions! I think I still have friends on both sides of the aisle (and some friends fleeing the building to avoid picking the groom or the bride). Here's my tip for the next three months:
Be nice, people! We are all stuck with each other.
Just some shameless Quirky Faith marketing. Our good friends of ours invited us over for pizza, pie and production. We sat in their dining room and made Quirky Faith buttons. Really this picture is a great analogy for the whole point of Quirky Faith. My life is lived out sharing with friends amidst random childhood clutter and some of my garbage and a big pile of fun work. And in the corner is Christmas. All year long I live in joy that Jesus came. Emmanuel. God with us. Not just in July.
The Beauty of Deep Water
I have a fear of deep water. I’m not afraid of water itself; in fact I have always loved to jump in the pool with my kids and walk along the beach as the ocean splashes over my toes. Not being able to see all the way through to the floor of the lake I’m in is what gets me. Random creatures skimming past my feet and legs while I float in the ocean totally unnerves me. A very large sea turtle once swam over the back of my legs as I was snorkeling on Maui. I didn’t think it was possible to scream while wearing a snorkel, but I sure tried! Some of my fear also centers around the fact that although I do love water, I am not a skilled swimmer. I can hold my own in the six foot end of the pool, but beyond that I flail and dog paddle to the side so I can hold on to the edge. As I recall these things about myself, it makes me shake my head and smile when I remember that last year I completed a mini triathlon with some of my friends.
I think a great deal of people assume they know themselves. Knowing myself and my fears of being touched by random critters while in deep water, and the fact that I can’t really swim all, should have led me to the conclusion that I should not attempt a triathlon of any sort. The mini triathlon that my cohorts and I wanted to complete included a 1/4 mile swim (in a lake), 12 mile bike ride, and 3 mile run. Did I mention I also don’t ride much and I don’t run? Another story for another time. One of my friends had completed life guard training as a young teen and the other friend grew up swimming in her grandparents’ pool every summer. I was clearly the amateur in the swimming department. We devised a plan that we would join the local YMCA and practice swimming. We figured out how many laps would equal a quarter mile. We donned swim caps, goggles, lap suits and then jumped in. Swimming came easily to my buddies, but not so much for me. I couldn’t get the hang of the front crawl. As I would turn my head to take a breath my feet would sink and I would gulp water. Other times I would work on my stroke and get water up my nose as I tried to avoid water in my mouth. I began to doubt whether I would be able to even complete the swim portion of the race.
What then? I resorted to about the only swim stroke I thought I could do; the side stroke. I had learned that particular swim stroke from my brothers’ Boy Scout leader as a kid. I remember him saying, “Pick an apple, put it in the basket. Pick an apple, put it in the basket”. The saying nudged my memory and brought me some relief in knowing that I could indeed, if not clumsily, do the sidestroke. I also was able to do a modified backstroke when I needed a break from water being too close to my face. So armed with my two swim strokes, I met up with my fellow racers to compete in the mini triathlon. We discovered that we could not swim together, since the swimmers were separated into age groups, and I was the oldest and was above the age bracket of my friends. I watched as my race buddies swam away from the shore as I stood and waited for my start time. Those of us waiting to start the final wave made small talk and shared some nervous laughs. The start gun went off and away we went. I had never swam with a group of people so close to me and going in the same direction. Very odd experience. I’m pretty sure I kicked someone in the head at one point. I slowly side stroked along as the other swimmers pulled ahead of me with smooth front strokes and powerful breaststrokes. Our wave was wearing bright orange swim caps. I would glance ahead to spot the large buoys that dictated our course. I could see all of the orange swim caps pulling farther and farther ahead.
As I fell farther behind, I felt a sense of panic setting in. I felt alone, and I was in deep water. I think a fish touched me. I tried not to think about it. “Pick an apple, put it in the basket. Pick an apple, put it in the basket” was running through my head. I kept swimming. I started praying, Please let me finish the swim, please let me make it out of the water without needing help. There were volunteers in canoes and kayaks out on the water on the course in case a swimmer needed help. If you swam to the boat and held on or got in, you were disqualified from the rest of the race. I looked for the shore as I rounded the final buoy of the triangular course. I could hear my family yelling - that meant I was closer! I swam and swam, oh so slow, but I swam. As I neared the exit point my husband yelled that I should be able to touch bottom. Low and behold I could! I felt heavy as I walked out of the water on my legs that felt like rubber. Most ran to the transition point for the cycling, but I could only walk. I was so very relieved that I had finished the swim. I was the very last person of our race out of the water that day, but I made it!
Swimming in deep, open water was challenging. I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. Just as a lake or ocean has depth, so does a person. By trying something that seemed beyond what I was capable of, God allowed me to see parts of me that I never knew were there. It is hard to comprehend the things that lie beneath the surface. It would probably be easier to stay along the shore where you can see every pebble and shell below the rippling surface. Nothing new is gained by always staying in the shallows. Go ahead, swim in the deep, open water and be amazed at what you find.
This photo is from the 2015 Baltimore riots. The line of civilians guarding the police is a beautiful reminder to me that we can protect each other. The people standing in front of the police potentially sacrifice their safety to provide a covering. Anytime someone dons a uniform and rushes into a burning building or a crime scene to save others a similiar sacrifice happens.
In Exodus, Moses warned the people that a final and devastating plague was coming and they were all in the line of fire. Unless they carefully followed directions. The people were told to sacrifice a lamb and paint their doorframes with the blood of the lamb. When the executioner came by to kill their firstborn sons he would see the doorframe and pass over. God provided a way for the people to remain safe inspite of the judgment headed their way. Protection required sacrifice. It usually does.
Protection requires sacrifice.
Exodus provides another hint of God's grand plan to restore people by showing how a sacrifice works to cover people under judgment. The Egyptions finally relent and the people head out of town. Two large barriers to freedom lay in their path. The massive Red Sea and the return of their enemy.
The Red Sea
If it had been me and I was an Israeli mama holding a baby in one arm, my posessions in the other and I was being asked to step into the Red Sea while the slave owners chased me down I would have been terrified. This story makes me think I've never been in a situation where I had to trust God with the lives of my children, with my full livihood, with my future on the line and my painful history chasing me down. The only thing they had going for them was that God said he would deliver them. The promise was more than plenty. Next chapter over and the enemy is vanquished, the future is bright and a miracle has been logged in their collective history.
The greatest miracles come in times of pain.
Moses heads up Mt. Sinai for a conference with God. God laid out the laws he wanted the people to follow. Three chapters including the Ten Commandments and a variety of social justice laws to protect the people from being as brutal to each other as the slavery they just escaped.
Sad thing when free people enslave themselves.
Moses went down the mountain and gave a report. Mind you, they’d just been dramatically rescued from slavery and seen the Red Sea part so they were in an amiable mood to accept rules from the One who’d saved them. Exodus 24:7 says the people said "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!" I like the exclamation point.
Moses goes back up the mountain. God resumes the conference with Moses. He’s gone forty days. It takes eight chapters. God lays out the plan for the tabernacle, offerings, priests clothing, altar and or meeting place. This is very exciting. Slightly overwhelming. I’m sure Moses was panicked. The creator of the universe wanted to spend time with His people. Moses is writing all the details down. Surely he’s trying to figure out where he’s going to find someone who knows how to carve Acacia wood or spin fine linen.
This is what I do. When I feel like God has asked me to do something I charge out with lots of questions. How am I going to do this? Who am I going to find to help?
Guess what? In Chapter 31 God says to Moses "See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge and in all kinds of craftsmanship to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze…" It goes on from there. I need to remember this next time I spin into overdrive.
God has a plan already.
The Golden Cow:
So Moses goes down the mountain all ready to give the good news to the people. God is coming to meet with you! You promised to listen to what He said so He’s coming to lead us! Moses has been gone a month. And the people were worshipping a golden cow. Just lovely. I do this too. I see God do amazing things in my life. I promise to listen. I get tired of waiting. My attention wavers. I end up over in a corner obsessed with something other than what’s eternal. Facebook or Pokemon or my fingernails or my checkbook. Sigh. Golden Cows.
Exodus has many more stories and lessons . Stories that tell of how God provides; manna, quail, and fire by night. Stories of loyalty and creativity and wise delegation; Aaron, Jethro and Miriam. Songs of praise and laments of pain. You really are going to have to read it yourself. See if you can identify what has to be the lamest excuse ever provided for a bad decision. Send me an email if you find it, or let me know what inspires you from Exodus and I'll send you something fun.
The Bible Project Exodus Part 2. Seriously if you have not taken the time to watch these you should. Love, love, love them.
Do you love symbols and history? If so, this is the book for you.
This story did not happen to me. It feels like it did though. It happened to my sister. She and I share an odd sense of humor, a strong will and a pitiful history where PE is concerned. So my little sister had a goal. (One I had too but didn’t actually achieve). She wanted to finish running the mile in high school PE and not come in last in her class. Totally reasonable goal. One day, she gave it her all. Ran like the wind. Finished ahead of someone. Looked up to heaven and closed her eyes to pray and to thank God, promptly tripped and fell flat on her face. Sigh.
I must point out here that another thing my sister and I share is a willingness to self-deprecate in order to have new blog material. She did in fact give me permission to throw her under the bus.
You know how in high school they try to talk you into buying an extremely overpriced coat so you can display your proudly earned letter? I had a letter but frankly wasn’t interested in wearing it. I’m not sure that Pep Band really qualifies, especially when you play the flute. The flute is designed for a symphony not a marching band. You can’t hear it over cheering football fans or a cadence from the drum line. Don’t get me wrong. I loved band. I just didn’t want to hear about it from all the sports people. I had a couple pins on this letter too…one for Honor Society and one for the Math team. In college, my debate coach thought it was hilarious to tell people I was on the math team. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that debate fell in the same category as competitive math.
My sister signed up with me to do the Warrior Dash this fall. Partly I think it was because she felt sorry for me because I came home from Rwanda with TB and she didn’t. Partly I think it was because it’s fun to surprise people and do something out of character. Partly I think because I’m the big sister and she’s used to sometimes doing what I tell her to. At any rate, we’ve been running for about two months now. We’re running at least once a week together just to stay accountable. The rest of the time we’re begging others to keep us in line and have acquired a couple of good coaches who push us. One of them is pregnant. I find it difficult to believe that I have a really hard time keeping up with the pregnant person. Sigh. Our other coach just finished this year’s Portland marathon. Starting running for the first time last spring and ran the whole thing. She’s my hero.
We all spent all last week eating. Decided yesterday we were ready for a “hard run”. Three Miles. Faster pace than normal. Really Really big hill. All three of us had to walk the last push of the hill. It’s a big hill. My friend said it felt like someone had ripped out her lungs. Clearly we all need a bit more training. Funny thing was when we finished the hill, the next bit was pretty nice. My sister had her best run ever.
In 2004 I did the Portland Marathon. I ran 1/4 of each mile and walked the other 3/4. At mile 15 or so I was feeling great. Mile 20 I was starting to get tired. Mile 21 my IPOD battery gave out. Mile 22 I was worried. At mile 25 with only one mile to go I had nothing left. I saw a little man shuffling ahead of me. I told myself “I’m going to try to run by this gentleman, maybe if I can encourage him, I’ll be able to finish”. So I ran in step with senior and said “You can do it, only one mile to go”. He said “This is my fifth marathon. I know I can do it. You can do it too. Don’t give up”. Okay then.
I did in fact finish all 26.2 miles. When I crossed the finish line, my mother burst into tears. She said she had a picture of me running a race in life and crossing the finish line into heaven.
I really don’t like to exercise. Not crazy about running. I do however like that my pants fit. I also like the extra energy when I’m faithful to run. I really don’t like much of what constitutes balance and discipline in life. Balancing my checking account, taking out the garbage, having those oh so hard conversations to iron out misunderstandings, saying sorry, getting out of bed even when the snooze button is calling me, devotions with my daughter, praying for friends, tackling the big hills.
Its easier to do anything with your sister at your side. And I know that it’s all worth it in the long run.
We spent most of last week camping with a pile of friends out in the high dessert of Eastern Oregon right next to Mount Jefferson. I am a huge fan of Mount Jefferson. Great backdrop for impressive sunsets.
The campsite was just over the bluff from Lake Billy Chinook which hosts speed boats, inner tubes, kayaks and the occasional party boat. We are of the party boat clan. One little guest called it the potty boat. Pretty accurate since its the one place on the lake you can convince littles to go.
I am frankly not a competent camper. I like cruise ships and hotels with room service. First evening of camping I hauled the kids and piles of cleanish clothes and my makeup bag over to the showers. Groaned when I realized that my toothpaste lid had failed and blue sparkly toothpaste now covered every item. I washed and dried and threw out the toothpaste. Ugh. Took more pictures of the sunset.
My youngest is a colorful one. She is a fan of rainbow t-shirts, fancy headbands and watermelon. She ate a lot of watermelon.
Some of my favorite colors are these blue eyes and sunkissed freckles. My girls chased bugs and found rocks. Road bikes and watched geese. Pointed at deer and watched the stars. Earned Jr. Ranger badges and rolled in the grass. Giggled with friends and cuddled in at night.
We had one stormy afternoon. At one point you could see the moon, a rainbow, lightning and these amazing clouds all at the same time. No filter. I think God was showing off.
Next morning I hauled my filthy children and my makeup bag to the bathroom to change. Dropped my makeup bag. Are you aware that fingernail polish is much harder to wash off than toothpaste? I wasn't fast enough and as a result my hands are now chapped from polish remover and stained slightly pink. It took quite a while to pick out the glass shards. Threw out my toothbrush. Who takes fingernail polish camping?
The contrast between my attempts at coloring my life and God's joyful painting may be the point of camping. Its about being out amongst the color and sounds and smells that are real. Blue sparkly toothpaste and pink fingernail polish have nothing on sunsets and watermelon. If you are feeling cynical or stressed try turning off the reality TV (or the election coverage) and go take photos of the sky. Take a walk. Eat veggies from the garden. Count the colors.
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Psalm 19:1
My friend Elizabeth is a beautiful picture of grace. I have been cheering and praying for this lovely woman as she rebuilds her life. I'm always amazed at her trust in God, her cheerful acceptance of difficulties and her open forgiving heart. She challenges me to make room in my life for all people.
A reliable dinner date
I no longer shred my cheddar cheese.
I used to buy those 2-pound blocks of cheddar and they would be eaten in a timely manner between family suppers, husband lunches and late-night nachos with friends. But the other day I found in my fridge a crusty, too-orange block of a mere 8-ounce bar of the stuff. From that day forward, I started buying bags of pre-grated, subpar cheddar for the blah quesadillas and noodles I regularly make my kids.
A bag of the shredded stuff is now a near-daily symbol of divorce to me. It’s one of a dozen small things that continually hit you upside the head, reminding you that your life is a lot different than it once was or than you had planned. I have tried to look at the silver lining around the cheddar-cheese bag: As a single mom -- heck, as a mom of two young boys -- there's not a lot of time to shred cheese. For that reason, thank goodness for bags of the overpriced, shredded stuff, right?
This month's holiday weekend escorted in another reliable reminder that I'm in singleton territory. In the married life, my husband and I always had big family plans for days like the Fourth: There were no broken divorce schedules to accommodate, and we could have a yearly tradition with extended family. I've lost that. I've lost all of the family traditions I had. I've even lost a social life we had with friends who still adore me. When you become a "mom and kids" and are no longer a man-carrying family, your event inclusion or hosting possibilities change. I totally get it: I now offer a mom-and-kids playdate vibe. Former friend-families aren't to be faulted. I have had to leave the married world and am a different puzzle piece since the divorce. Like me, some of my friends aren't sure how how I fit. (Whoever figures that out first, let me know. We’ll make nachos to celebrate. I'm on the cheese.)
Another one of the little things that reminds you that you are living in the Twilight Zone of your life is the small talk you find yourself engaging in when getting a pedicure. Suddenly, being asked if you have a husband takes on new emotion and silences the conversation. At least you hope it silences the conversation. One time, answering, "No, I’m recently divorced," spawned the question, "Did he leave you?" After I nodded yes, my nail technician commented, "Oh. You need brows done! You can’t let yourself go downhill now." Awesome. Those beauty experts have tried to get their hands on my brows for years. This one thought she had a new angle.
I didn’t let her touch my eyebrows.
Divorced people don’t just lose a spouse, deal with divorce-related kid drama and have new monetary considerations to iron out -- or new monetary considerations that leave them feeling smacked by an iron. The small, every-day things change, too. Like one’s social life and interactions. And how you buy cheese.
My boys questioned the lack of block-cheddar a while ago: "Don’t you have any you can slice?" they asked when I gave them a small handful of the grated stuff on a plate with some crackers. I must say, it looked pretty sad. What would the Oregon members of the Federation of American Cheese-makers say? A recent article by Michael H. Tunick, a research chemist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and author of "The Science of Cheese," said the federation made the largest cheddar cheese ever in 1989. It weighed 56,850 pounds (25,790 kg). And I can’t even house a 2-pound block?
Handing my boys little piles of grated cheddar to go with their Wheat Thins feels less than ideal. It is. But God teaches us that life's circumstances are often less than ideal. The Bible is full of stories of betrayal and hardship. However, the common theme in those stories is even more rich and wonderful than a block of Cougar Gold, the award-winning cheddar; God never leaves His people alone in an unfair storyline, betrayed or abandoned. And we never have to eat subpar quesadillas alone.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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