Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Things I Learned in August + September

Once again I am linking up with Chatting at the Sky to share some miscellaneous things I've learned over the last two months--some silly, some simple, some meaningful and fascinating.

1. Misty Copeland is an incredibly talented ballet dancer who has found tremendous success despite all odds being against her. I love this kind of feel-good story. This video was going around Facebook--best commercial ever. I find it astounding that the human body can do that (and her calves! unreal!). Then a friend of a friend posted this article with a bit more background.

2. I figured this out a while back, but it occurred to me to share now as something YOU could learn: Store cut watermelon in a salad spinner. All the juice drains away from the cut pieces, so they stay fresh instead of the pieces at the bottom getting soggy and gross.

3. I learned a bunch of useless but interesting trivia about the evolution of cold cereal in America from this brief history.

4. The word "wheelhouse" is used to mean an area of expertise, or a "sweet spot."  I'd never in my life heard it before two friends used it separately in the space of a week. I thought the first one was a victim of autocorrect, since I had NO idea what she was talking about! Apparently it's an idiom derived from baseball jargon.

5. After seeing friends using it on Facebook, I finally installed the Timehop app. It's a neat way to revisit photos and old posts from social media--fun to see what I was doing on this day two or four or five years ago, without having to make the effort to go back and look it up. 

6. Taking kids to a wedding is both hugely undesirable and wildly fun. Our own wedding was not generally open to kids (though exceptions were made for older children of family members), so I was not surprised or offended when my brother and his fiance decided to have an adults-only celebration. They decided to invite my boys anyway, as the only nieces/nephews on either side. I couldn't believe how much whining and pushback they got from people who *were* offended and wanted to bring their kids. After taking my boys to the wedding (their first), I felt even more baffled. WHY, exactly, are you upset that you can't take your children to an event where they have to sit quietly for long periods of time, eat fancy food that comes in courses and takes forever, wear uncomfortable clothes and be up well past their bedtime? I mean, really?

Generally speaking, I'd much rather get a babysitter and enjoy a date with my husband. That said...I will say that it was sweet for my boys to be included in celebrating their uncle and new aunt (Elijah and Jude were very excited about it)...and, dancing with them at the reception was super fun.

7. In preparing my material for last weekend's women's retreat, I discovered "focus view" in Microsoft Word--by clicking the button, you can make the rest of the screen go black so you can only see the document you're working on. It won't help if you're toggling between multiple Word windows, but works great when you need to review and revise a single document without the temptation to click over to the internet. 

How about you...what have you learned lately?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 332

I am behind on gratitude posts! Two fun events this past month have kept me super-busy but also given me a huge number of blessings to thank God for. My brother got married on September 13, and then this past weekend, I got to speak at a women's retreat with my dear mentor and friend, Diane! Countless answered prayers and beautiful gifts, including but by no means limited to...

6431. a beautiful new sister-in-law

6432. the way my brother looked at her
6433. my boys being so well-behaved all weekend, all things considered

6434. Steve taking care of them most of Saturday while I was getting ready
6435. friends and family who came from far away to help celebrate

6436. my friend's mom who brought us donuts from the county fair back home :)
6437. Elijah: "When I get married, maybe my wife bride will wear a white dress!"
6438. my mom's sweet and hilarious dance with my brother
6439. Elijah's desperate desire to dance with *his* mother...his devastation when he found out we wouldn't get a special dance all by ourselves...and the fact that we finally, after much coaxing and pleading, convinced him to dance anyway
6440. doing "The Twist" with Jude

6441. East Coast Swing dancing with Steve
6442. my dad photobombing the best man and one of the bridesmaids taking a selfie--SO FUNNY
6443. church, lunch and a train ride with one of my dearest friends and her family
6444. our boys giggling together over pizza
6445. honesty, apologies, forgiveness, reconnection

6446. glowing reports from the boys' teachers at parent-teacher conferences
6447. dinner and time to catch up with a dear friend, long overdue
6448. our boys loving each other and playing so well together
6449. the way her zeal for the Lord always encourages and challenges me
6450. warm chocolate chip cookies

6451. sweater-jeans-and-flip-flops weather
6452. apple season
6453. awesome used book sale
6454. Jude encouraging me while I work out: "You can do it, Mom!"
6455. a birthday outing to a bounce-house place one of Jude's little friends

6456. pumpkin spice lattes
6457. "broken + beautiful" playlist
6458. a friend's willingness to speak hard words, and her sensitive heart about how it came across
6459. the opportunity to speak to women about Jesus
6560. eyes to see His beauty in their faces and stories

6561. sweet times of prayer and worship
6562. friends praying for me
6563. women's voices lifted in praise
6564. one woman's recitation of Romans 8...made me weep
6565. eleven years of getting to walk through life with Diane...beyond what I ever imagined

6566. ministry alongside her, more than we ever could have dreamed
6567. Steve and the boys getting to enjoy time with her husband and kids while we were gone

Friday, September 19, 2014

Treasures :: A Rainbow Lanyard with a Pewter Cross Pendant

Inspired by Leigh McLeroy's book Treasured: Knowing God by the Things He Keeps, I'm asking: What tangible pieces of my spiritual history would I place carefully in my own cigar box for safekeeping? What stories have shaped my journey with this ever-faithful, treasure-keeping God? After a several months-long hiatus, I'm picking back up below with part five of the "Treasures" series. 

V. A rainbow lanyard with a heavy pewter cross pendant

A woman placed the colorful necklace over my head on a Sunday afternoon, at the close of one of the best weekends of my life. I was emerging from a three-day chrysalis.

We high school girls gathered on a Friday morning, some nervous, some excited, some reluctant. They told us, “Don’t anticipate, participate,” and they called us caterpillars. We divided into small groups, sat around tables and named our groups—names with which we’d have to introduce ourselves for life, but we didn’t know that at the time.

We listened to earnest, thoughtful talks, and we discussed and prayed and cried. We laughed and snacked and created posters, skits and songs. On Saturday night we got a little taste of Heaven: I have never experienced the love and welcome of God before or since quite so powerfully as I did in that candlelit sanctuary.

On Sunday afternoon, they announced, we were butterflies. We had grown, we had seen God, and we were ready to take our “Next Steps” back into a world that hadn’t changed while we were cocooned inside that church. We read piles of letters from loved ones, collected by our sponsors, and the tears rolled down my cheeks, my heart fit to burst.

At the closing service for Greater Findlay Area Girls’ Chrysalis Flight #13, we each received a necklace—a heavy pewter cross with a butterfly engraved on one side and "CHRIST IS COUNTING ON YOU" on the other, hanging from a lanyard someone had knitted with variegated yarn dyed in bright Roy G. Biv hues. As the Lay Director hung the necklace around each girl's neck, she said, "Christ is counting on you," and the girl was to respond, "I am counting on Christ."

I would go on to serve as a Teen Table Leader on one of these weekends two years later--another priceless, incredible experience on the other side. In the meantime, I’d shower others with “agape” (our name for the notes and gifts as tangible expressions of love poured out on the participants all weekend long). I’d set alarms for three a.m. prayer vigil slots and write letters and hold candles while singing “Love, love, love, love / The gospel in one word is love…” I’d even sponsor both my parents to go on an Emmaus Walk (the adult version of Chrysalis). And at monthly gatherings, I’d sing “modern” (1980s) worship songs with reckless joy and introduce myself as “Amy Kaylor, Greater Findlay Area Girls’ Chrysalis Flight #13, Table of God’s ‘G’ Girls.” I always felt silly saying that name, but I dearly loved the woman and the girls who had sat around it with me.

This community nurtured me and fed my soul while I was enduring the growing pains of no longer fitting in the church where I’d grown up. And then eventually, I no longer fit here, either.

I wore the rainbow lanyard one last time in the fall of 2004, after I’d graduated from college and was engaged to be married. I was invited to serve as an Adult Table Leader this time, to nurture a group of young caterpillars and watch them take flight. It was an opportunity I dearly cherished, but I was quickly sinking into a season I'd later refer to as a "dark night of the soul"; dry and empty, I had little to give to my girls. The low point was a huge and heartbreaking moment when one of the speakers basically said something heretical in the Q&A following her talk.

I realized that the rainbow lanyard had served its purpose, that its colors and heft no longer felt right against my chest. Yet while the time had come to nestle it in a drawer, I did so with fondness. I had been deeply moved and changed by the opportunities I'd had in this community to be loved and to love others.

The Emmaus/Chrysalis community loves and serves Jesus by loving and serving each other so practically and faithfully. They fill 72-hour prayer vigils; they serve meals and drive shuttles to shower facilities at six a.m. They serve on administrative boards, clean bathrooms, sacrifice weekends. They give hugs and make bookmarks and overwhelm people with a thousand little ways of saying, "God loves you. You are precious to Him, and you matter to us. We will go out of our way to help you encounter Him and know Him."

While I needed to move on from Chrysalis, there was no mistaking what the movement had done for my sense of identity, my understanding of the personal love of God, and my concept of the power and beauty of a body of believers.

Treasures, previously:
A broken piece of cornerstone
A sharp pebble
A pastel index card 
A Bible with a broken spine

Monday, September 08, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 331

OY. It's been a while! Thanking God these past few weeks for many things, including...

6391. a walk home from school in the pouring rain

6392. easy + open communication with Elijah's teacher
6393. a bushel of peaches...gone before any of them made it to the freezer
6394. boys cheerfully emptying the dishwasher
6395. Steve beautifully preaching the gospel to my unbelieving heart
6396. Jude "working" right alongside Daddy (and by "right alongside" I mean "literally in Daddy's personal space")

6397. confronting me with the ugliness in my heart
6398. finding out about my alma mater's alumni chorale for homecoming in time to get one of the spots
6399. Steve's example of perseverance and learning through failure
6400. friends buying smart cards for Elijah's school fundraiser
6401. Aldi bacon cooked in a Pampered Chef stone bar pan (PERFECTION.)

6402. stories of slavery courageously told
6403. the people who fought for its abolition
6404. people who work to free modern-day slaves
6405. new book won on a blog giveaway
6406. an unexpected phone call from a dear friend

6407. the low angle of the rising sun on our morning walk to school
6408. peacemakers
6409. Skype
6410. a long-overdue phone date with my college roommate
6411. boys telling me I look pretty

6412. Jude begging to watch This Old House (seriously. what 3yo gets excited about that show?! love it.)
6413. a friend loving me enough to call me out on being harsh with my boys
6414. extended study time in the Word
6415. husband enabling me to get away and work
6416. husband engaging with his boys--bike rides, obstacle courses, wrestling, spaghetti-and-marshmallow towers

6417. teachable moments with the boys
6418. a stark, convicting reminder of how hurtful yelling is
6419. Pioneer Woman's Italian drip beef (we serve it open-faced on ciabatta with provolone...be sure and broil it the last minute or two to brown the cheese :)
6420. my boys' health and life, and reminders of how fragile both are
6421. Labor Day dinner with friends

6422. toasted marshmallows and s'mores
6423. carpet installed upstairs!

6424. KIND bars
6425. Steve's porkchop grilling. also perfection.
6426. company picnic at Beech Bend Park

6427. the apostle Peter
6428. God's patient mercy with him and with me
6429. coffee with a friend
6430. another unexpected phone call from another dear friend and plans on the calendar to catch up in person next week!