Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Things I Learned in September

Did I ever get an education in September. I had the privilege of spending a third of the month in Italy! I have so much to tell you that I'm hoping to spend the annual “31 Days” challenge this October recapping our trip. Starting tomorrow, if I can get it together before I leave for yet another weekend out of town (just me this time--speaking at a women's retreat, so fun!) I’ll be posting all kinds of fun stuff: our favorite activities and restaurants and accommodations; the weird things we ate; the best gelato places (I miss my daily gelato!!); tips and tricks for travel and planning; and stories like The Great Taxi Disaster. And of course pictures…I may or may not have taken in the neighborhood of 1,800..

I chose not to post about the trip at all while we were gone, for several reasons: One, I didn’t want to broadcast publicly the fact that we were out of the country. Two, I wanted to be fully present in the moment, enjoying time with Steve and enjoying Italy rather than being buried in my phone. And three, I didn’t think the entire world needed to experience our anniversary vacation with us in real time. :) The break from social media was so refreshing—but now that I’m back, I’m excited to share my stories and photos!

In the meantime, I do have a few other of the usual random tidbits to share from September:

1. Set up your Medical ID on iPhone. 
You know how, from your lock screen, you can touch "Emergency" in the lower left corner and be able to dial 911 without unlocking the phone? Well, if you open up the Health app and touch the "Medical ID" icon in the lower right corner, you can enter all kinds of information: medications you're on, two emergency contacts, blood type, whether you want to be an organ donor, etc. Then when you get to that Emergency screen with the keypad, the lower left says "Medical ID"--and clicking on it takes you to a screen where medical professionals can quickly and easily access all that critical information, without your phone being unlocked. (Credit goes to a health professional named Katherine Jarmy who shared this info on Facebook.)

2. These flowers are called lantana - and apparently Instagram thinks "meta" is a bad word.
photo :: jennifergfreeman//Instagram
This photo popped up on the #itssimplytuesday hashtag a few weeks ago, and the photographer thus taught me the name of a flower I've seen and admired many times, but didn't know what it was. I thought it was kind of funny that I learned something from Emily P. Freeman's hashtag to share on Emily P. Freeman's monthly blog roundup, so I tried to comment to the effect of "that's so meta"--but Instagram gave me some sort of ominous warning message and didn't publish the comment. Baffled, I tried again two more times and never could get a comment to post. Weird. But the more I think about it, the more I think maybe it really wasn't an appropriate use of the term "meta" maybe IG was trying to help me not sound dumb??

3. If you clean the house before you leave for vacation, your future self will love you. 
Usually when we head out of town, I am so frazzled trying to get everything ready to leave that cleaning the house is the last thing on my mind. I try not to leave a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, but the dishwasher might have some in it. The dining room table is often littered with papers, the bathroom is whatever it is, and I don't give a thought to the floors. This time, in an unusual burst of diligence and planning ahead, I managed to get my house clean before we left town: shower scrubbed, dining room table emptied and wiped down, kitchen tidied up and floors vacuumed. Even clean sheets on the beds. Coming home to that late on a Sunday night after 16 days away was GLORIOUS. I thanked my two-weeks-ago self at least four times.

What did you learn this month? Check out the roundup at Chatting at the Sky for more What We Learned posts...and stay tuned for a slew of Italy posts coming up here!

Monday, September 07, 2015

On Seeing and Being Seen

“Mama, watch!”
“Mom! Watch this! Watch me!”
“Did you see that, Mom?”

Little boys dangle upside-down from playground equipment; they leap from ledges and hurtle down slides. And this is their constant refrain, repeatedly called out to where I sit: Look at me. Watch me. Do you see me?

I may be decades older than them, but the cry of my heart is often the same. I plod through the never-ending tasks of homemaking, and no one is watching while I transfer laundry to the dryer or scrub the shower on hands and knees. I struggle to navigate how to use my gifts and passions for God’s glory in my particular context, and sometimes it feels like I am sitting on the sidelines, whispering to the coach: Do you see me?

*          *          *

God’s answer to that heart question begins in Genesis with an unlikely character. When He reveals a new name of His for the first time, it’s not Enoch or Noah, not the “big three” of Abraham, Isaac or Jacob, who meet Him. It’s an abused, despised slave-concubine: Hagar.

I have an article up at Ungrind today reflecting on Hagar’s story and the present-day testimony of Sara Hagerty. So often, I have recognized that in my various struggles with sin, my main problem is that my eyes are on myself. I know I need to fix my eyes on Jesus--I wrote a 31-day blog series about it two years ago, for crying out loud!--and yet often I'm still not even sure how. I know that He is beautiful, but I don’t delight in His beauty. I know that He is good, but I do not taste His goodness.

These two women--one ancient, one modern--have been helping me think about seeing Him. Click over to read "Seeing the God Who Sees."

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

August Gifts + Instagrams

"To be a creature is to be a receiver. 'What do you have that you did not receive?' (1 Cor. 4:7). The great privilege of man is to receive everything that God gives in all the ways that he gives it, and then to know it and enjoy it and delight in it and sing about it, and to know him in it and to enjoy him in it and to sing about him in it." 
--Joe Rigney, The Things of Earth

Somehow the entire month of August slipped by without my getting a gratitude post up, so here's a big roundup. Thanking God for all that He has given and I have gladly received in the last month, including...

7472. the distant rumble of summer thunder
7473. the "kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk" of blueberries hitting the bottom of a pail

7474. eating our fill right off the bushes

7475. purple passionflowers

7476. grace to slow down, stop yelling, see myself as no different from my boys
7477. beautiful promises in the Old Testament prophets
7478. learning the habit of adoration from Sara Hagerty
7479. flyswatters
7480. getting to hear the detailed story of how He miraculously, repeatedly saved a dear friend's sick little boy
7481. inter-library loans
7482. end-of-summer lunch date with Daddy

7483. fountains at Bicentennial Mall for splashing and playing

7484. how good it feels to wash off sunscreen and sweat at the end of the day
7485. oatmeal pancakes with warm peach topping
7486. seventeen years of our church growing and thriving
7487. our pastors' faithful preaching and shepherding
7488. Jude's Sunday school drawings of what God created: water, sea creatures, the moon, an astronaut, and hot lava

7489. abundant basil, plenty to share
7490. our church's beautiful process of selecting elders and deacons
7491. a nature scavenger hunt with the boys
7492. Jude looking through the binoculars backwards

7493. Elijah's enthusiasm about school
7494. my own fond memories of second grade with a beloved teacher
7495. amaaaaaaazing blueberry cheesecake flapjacks

7496. hearing the boys recite selections from Revelation 19 and 21 about the coming of the eternal kingdom
7497. morning walks to preschool, Jude's chatter
7498. snail mail surprise: card + awesome set of brush pens from a friend

7499. Elijah's friendship with boys whose mom is a dear friend to me
7500. the incredible, free(!) indoor playground at Cornerstone Church
7501. peach milkshake from Chick-Fil-A
7502. being near to all who call on Him
7503. His personal, specific salvation: not just "He will save people from sin" but "He will save HIS people from THEIR sins"

7504. feeling heard, respected, and valued by my husband
7505. the safe arrivals of two friends' new babies
7506. the sounds of locusts buzzing in the trees
7507. Steve's unflappable patience when I am inexplicably grouchy
7508. Jude's excitement about preschool and popularity with the kids there

7509. Steve's creativity in coming up with a Lego Ironman vs. Hulk cake

7510. a free oil change
7511. inviting me to ASK Him
7512. my cousin and a friend's son both preserved through bicycle accidents
7513. naked ladies blooming along the side border of our yard

7514. a visit from Grammy and Pops
7515. sitting in the sun chatting with my mom
7516. their babysitting so Steve and I could have a date

7517. free big band dance at Centennial Park
7518. fabulous burgers at Burger Republic
7519. laughing and foxtrotting with my handsome husband
7520. a friend asking if I was OK, and really wanting the truth
7521. Dad bringing his ice cream maker and laboring over a batch of mint chocolate chip

7522. how amazing that ice cream tastes

7522. the recipe, written down in his handwriting

7523. 23-pound and 27-pound watermelons from the farmers' market
7524. surrendering and drinking the cup I deserve
7525. Amber Haines's exquisite memoir

7526. technology: reading a picture book about boats to Jude, seeing an aircraft carrier, and within seconds, pulling up a video on my phone where we could see planes landing on a ship. What is this world we live in?!?
7527. restraining His freedom in order to set me free
7528. boys making ninja masks out of shirts thanks to Lego magazine instructions
7529. sweet time in prayer on a quiet afternoon
7530. the fact that He is sovereign and can be trusted

7531. eyes to see and confess my sin
7532. humility to receive criticism and take it to Him
7533. getting to hold my dear friend’s adorable grandbaby
7534. being able to share with friends how I’m seeing evidence of His grace at work in me
7535. gorgeous calligraphy in my Instagram feed

7536. reminders that my days with Jude at home are precious and fleeting

7537. eyes to love him and say “I see you!” with enthusiasm

7538. the glorious promises of Romans 8
7539. girls' night, with friends being transparent and vulnerable
7540. the beauty of Jesus in their gracious bearing up under trials
7541. a new EP from Nichole Nordeman after ten years!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Things I Learned in August

Here we are again at the end of another month, and I have just a few interesting random tidbits to share about what I've learned...

1. A pangram is a phrase that includes every letter of the alphabet.
Last month I came across a fun community of calligraphers on Instagram who were doing an ABCs challenge. After they finished the alphabet, they extended the challenge with a few bonus prompts, and one was pangrams. The most famous one is probably "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," but Sharisse of @piecescalligraphy called for more and got all kinds of fun ones:
  • Grumpy wizards make toxic brew for the evil Queen and Jack.
  • Six jelly doughnuts for breakfast very quickly zap my willpower. 
  • My girl wove six dozen plaid jackets before she quit.
  • Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.  
photo: @piecescalligraphy
Incidentally, the extended ABCs challenge morphed into a whole new Instagram account, with a new challenge posted every Sunday. I have enjoyed having my IG feed filled with lovely lettering from so many talented people!

2. Related: Brush markers are not magical tools that make you instantly able to produce the kind of lettering you admire. 
I discovered Tombow in August (which was how I got on a rabbit trail that led to all the calligraphers in the first place) and though I didn't win their giveaway, I received a generous gift in the mail from a friend: a set of brush markers! To my dismay, I immediately learned that brush markers do not make you magically able to write beautifully. I gained a whole new respect + admiration for the talented people who create beautiful calligraphy so skillfully. As I practiced, it was a good time to remember The Nester's slogan "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful," and also to apply a quote from Goethe that I'd just read in Italian Journey
 "I can see clearly what is good and what is even better, but as soon as I try to get it down, it somehow slips through my fingers... However, feeble as his efforts may be, the amateur should not despair. ...One must not compare oneself with the artist, but proceed in one's own manner. Nature has provided for all her children: even the least of them is not hindered in his existence by the existence of the greatest. 'A little man is still a man.' Let us leave it at that."

3. "Hispanic" and "Latino" are not interchangeable terms.
A friend who has a son adopted from South America shared this enlightening comic that set me straight. It turns out that "Latino" refers to geography and "Hispanic" refers to language. You can be both; you can also be one but not the other. I had no idea!

How about you: What did you learn in August? Head over to Chatting at the Sky for more sharing of fascinating facts.