Friday, October 29, 2010


2: the present time or any other particular time

A few weeks ago, B made a pretty big mistake.  The kind that makes you wish as a parent that you could go back and undo it.  It momentarily rocked our world, but after a few conversations with B, I was feeling better.  When I shared with someone how it had made me feel, she asked whether I felt fearful.  I told her no, that once I talked to B and heard her side of the story and her motivations, I wasn't fearful.  This friend then expressed some surprise that it didn't make me fearful about middle school or high school.  My response to that was that I try very hard to not think that far ahead.  When I do, my mind begins to swirl with all of the possible things that could go wrong.  But I know that I could sit here right now and make a very long list of all of the possible things that could happen and not hit on the exact mistakes that will be made.  Because I know that mistakes will be made.

The danger in letting my mind drift to A, B or K as high schoolers or college students is that some of those memories are fresher.  One goal I have as a parent is that my children make different mistakes than the ones I've made.  I know they'll make mistakes.  Let's just have some fresh ones, shall we?  Let's not repeat the old ones.  But if I imagine them in high school, it's hard for me to visualize how they will interact with friends or boys without using the only data I have about what it's like to be in high school - the data from my own life.  Same thing with college.

So I'm trying very hard to stay in the moment.  One mistake by a 9 year old doesn't mean she is doomed to repeat that mistake for the next twenty years, so I've decided it's best to try to treat it like one mistake, not as anticipation of a pattern that may never develop.  It may not sound like there's much difference there, but I think staying in the moment helps keep the emotional reaction more in line with the offense.  There's a big difference between a life of crime and a stolen pack of gum. I try to see it for what it is and not let it morph into something far bigger.

A friend recently said about parenting, "If you don't take all of the credit, you can't take all of blame."  I love this because it goes so well with my desire to parent in the moment.  I wasn't the one who made the mistake.  B was.  Did I play a role in it?  Yes, but a very small one.  It was her mistake and she should bear the vast majority of the blame.  But it was one mistake, not a foreshadowing of who she will always be.

I think another advantage of trying to parent in the moment is that it helps us get a clearer picture of who are children are evolving into being.  A and B are 10 and 9 now and I can look back and see ways they have changed over the years.  I can also pinpoint aspects of their personalities that have been there nearly from birth.  But I couldn't have told you five years ago which things were fleeting and which were here to stay.  So I think it's safest to look back on occasion and look forward very rarely.  In the main, I want to stay in the moment, right there with them as we walk through life together.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


1. perceived or understood as fact or truth; apprehended clearly and with certainty

As I was folding laundry today, I realized how well I know my daughters.  One likes tights, one prefers leggings, another knee socks.  One is always cold.  The other two refuse to wear pull-over sweaters, no matter how cold it gets (cardigans, hoodies and ponchos abound).  Two of them sleep in old t-shirts of their dad's - both are Brewers shirts, one from his childhood, one more recent.  I know who wants a t-shirt, who prefers a shirt with flowing sleeves, who likes knit pants because they stay on her body.  It warms my heart to fold clothes that I've purchased for my girls that they enjoy - a Tinkerbell t-shirt for A, striped leggings for K, a poncho for B - because I want to use my knowledge of them to delight them, please them, love them.

We all, I believe, want to be known.  It's comforting, encouraging, affirming.  But there's a push-pull to being known as well.  Because when we're truly known, we are very, very vulnerable.  Someone who knows you knows just the right gift to give, just the right word to say, just how to love you.  But that same person knows just how to hurt you, knows your weak spots.

When we're young, being known is often not a conscious desire.  Children expose much of themselves right from the start.  They are unafraid to tell you what they like and don't like.  They don't stop to think about whether someone wants them to be a certain way - they just do what they want to do.  I'm not sure exactly when this starts to change.   But gradually we become aware of others and what they want from us.  Often, we try to conform to that - consciously or unconsciously.  And that might mean we are a little less known - to ourselves and others.  Because if we devote too much time and energy to being who others want us to be, we lose sight of who we really are.

Last night, I was sharing something with my husband and I kept thinking, "I don't know who I am.  Tell me who I am."  J knows me incredibly well, but I don't really want him to tell me who I am.  When he tries to, I resist.  I want to find that out for myself, however hard that may be.  I want to figure out for myself what things I have my hands clenched around, so that I can loosen and open my grasp.  I want to figure out what metaphorical clothes I wear that need to be shed to reveal a truer me.  I want to know myself.  And no one else can do that for me.

I think a danger in parenting can be assuming that what we see and think we know about our children is true and/or will always be true.  I thought about this today as I folded laundry because the day will come when I won't know A's preference in socks.  The day will come when B trades in sleeping in her dad's baseball shirt for sleeping in her husband's baseball shirt.  They will change.  They will grow.  They will evolve.  And I don't want to tell them who they are or should be.  I want them to figure that out for themselves.  Just like I want to figure it out for myself.

Because once I am known to myself, I can let others know me by being who I'm meant to be. I long for the day when I can shed all of the unnecessary parts of me and be the bold me hiding under the "chlorophyll."  And I'd love to be able to do that fearlessly, even if I'm not quite there yet.  I'm still a bit afraid of who that person might be.  But I'd like to know her one day...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


6 a : a critical evaluation (as of a book or play)

I don't think I've ever posted one of my Goodreads reviews to my blog, but I finished a book last night that deserves a blog post of its own.  Just in case there are any friends out there who read this blog, but aren't on Goodreads, here you go:

All Clear by Connie Willis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Right off the bat, a few things to indicate how highly I think of this book:

1) I am a master of delaying gratification when it comes to finishing a book, yet I stayed up an hour an a half past when I was tired last night to finish this book.

2) I cried so much during the last 100 pages that I had to switch from regular tissue to the lotion kind because my nose was sore.

3) I gave it five stars, which I do not do lightly.

I loved this book even more than its companion Blackout. Blackout was a great book as well and it roused emotion while also engaging my mind. But in Blackout my favorite characters were the Londoners surviving the Blitz. In All Clear, I fell head over heels in love with the historians who were trapped in 1940s London more than a century before their birth. There's Polly, who traveled twice to WWII England, once as a medic, then as a shop girl. There's Eileen whose first assignment ever leaves her stranded in England after a period of nursing evacuated London children. There's Mike, who came to the 1940s to observe heroism and ended up a hero himself. I came to love them all. A book with great characters often equals a great book for me.

But All Clear has even more because it can be read as one of the most beautiful metaphors I've ever encountered for how God stands outside the bounds of space and time, yet inserts himself into our lives because he loves us so much. I have no idea what Willis' faith is or isn't, but truth rings true no matter. And this book contains truths about what things in life are worth sacrificing for. Truths about whether life is a comedy or a tragedy. Truths about what friendship is and how it shapes us. Truths about how far love will go to rescue.

So should you read All Clear? Yes, yes, yes. Read Blackout first, but I don't have the words to convey how good I think this book is. Read it and see for yourself.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 25, 2010


1. a place set apart to contain books, periodicals, and other material for reading, viewing, listening, study, or reference, as a room, set of rooms, or building where books may be read or borrowed.

Not long ago, a friend e-mailed me with a great idea: she wants to give her nieces and nephews books for Christmas each year.  Since her only daughter is almost exactly one year old, she wanted to see if I had any suggestions.  Did I have book suggestions?  Not only did I have suggestions, it made me start compiling a mental list of what books belong in every family's library.  This post contains books that top my list of baby shower gifts.  They're all for little ears and eyes.  That being said, many of these books still come off the shelves in my home with regularlity as we sit down to read before bed with our six year old.

Here are a few I came up with.  I'd love to hear your favorites.

Ish and Ruby's Wish: I know I feel strongly about these two books because they are my favorite gifts to give at a baby shower.  I especially like to give Ish when it's a second or third child since this book shows sibling relationships.  Reynold's other picture books (The Dot and The North Star) are also good.  Ruby's Wish is my go-to choice for a baby girl shower.  It's lesser known than many classics, but I can rarely read it aloud without crying.  Girl power in early 20th century China?  This book is a must have.

Llama Llama Red Pajama: This didn't go on my list to my friend because it's an Imagination Library selection. This means that if you live in Middle Tennessee and sign up for Books from Birth, you'll receive this book for free as part of the program.  But if you live elsewhere and don't know this book, get it.  Just say the title out loud and you'll know why.  It's a joy to read aloud and will turn even someone like me into a temporary actress.

Little Miss Spider: There's a lot to love about these books - the gorgeous oil painting illustrations, the rhyming text, even lovable Little Miss Spider.  Our family loves not only this book, but Miss Spider's Wedding, which has as endearing a plot as this book.

Barnyard Dance or something else by Sandra Boynton:  This book will have you singing and square dancing.  All of Boynton's books make us laugh and they are some of the most well-worn board books in our collection, which bespeaks my daughters' love of them.

Goodnight Moon: This classic needs no explanation.  Every child should get the opportunity to be lulled into rest to the sound of this lovely prose.

Guess How Much I Love You: My husband wouldn't forgive me if I don't include his favorite board book, which features a father rabbit and Little Nutbrown Hare.

Prayer for a Child: Another restful book to calm your little one down after you've read a fun book like Llama Llama or Barnyard Dance.

Harold and the Purple Crayon: Buy this book for its dreamlike quality and for its final line.

And, finally, a favorite from my own childhood.  I think this might be the only children's book that I remember clearly:  There's a Monster at the End of this Book.  Don't bother with the Elmo version.  Only Grover can make this magic work.

What have I missed?  What do pull off the shelf when your child lets you choose?  What are the must-haves for a child's library?

Saturday, October 23, 2010


3. any special day of prayer or rest resembling the Sabbath.
4. (sometimes lowercase) a period of rest.

Sometimes a sabbath day of rest doesn’t fall on a Sunday. Today felt like a sabbath for me even though it held no formal worship, no refraining from certain activities, no feasting. What it did contain was a quiet morning, time to read my current novel, time to talk to a loved one, work on an early Christmas present, a walk alone with my middle daughter (who actually held my hand during the walk!), a bit of quiet reflection spent on my Bible study, a roasted chicken and football on TV. It might not sound like your sabbath, but it was exactly what my soul needed.

My husband actually attended the Vanderbilt game alone tonight because when I wanted to stay home and just relax, the girls all wanted to stay here, too. They spent their evening eating dinner outside, sitting on the sidewalk chatting, playing together and then reading Halloween books aloud together. Their own sabbath, perhaps.

One reason this day felt like a sabbath was that it had a rhythm of my choosing.  The only two time commitments were either handled by J (driving A to serve with a group) or skipped out on (the Vandy game).  It's not that I didn't do some work (the word sabbath derives from the Hebrew word shabbath, which means "to rest from labor"): I spent time on a computer project, prepared and roasted a chicken, then made broth for tomorrow's chicken noodle soup.  But the pace was slow, the activities were pleasant and I find myself feeling rested at the end of a day instead of exhausted.

The interesting part of all of this is that experiencing a sabbath rest requires that I do something in order to rest.  Several things, in fact.  It requires that I know I need rest, that I choose to meet this need and that I say no to other good things in order to get the rest.  This may sound easy, but if you've ever attempted to observe a regular sabbath, you will know it is no easy task in this world we live in.  We are encouraged to do more, make more, consume more, but we are never encouraged to rest more.

A few years ago I read Mark Buchanan's The Rest of God.  I loved the straightforward approach Buchanan took to explaining the various components of sabbath, followed by practical suggestions for how to take steps towards sabbath in your own life.    A few concepts have stuck with me in the years since I last read the book:  I try to refrain from housework on Sundays (although I still cook) and I try to make sure we eat dessert on Sunday (it being a feast day).  Everything else he said?  I don't think I retained it.  I certainly didn't apply it.

But every now and then my soul cries out for some sabbath rest.  From where I sit, I can see another book about sabbath on our library bookshelf.  I need to make time to read it when I finish the novel in progress.  And I need to remember the way a sabbath can make me feel - the way I feel right now: content, satisfied, rested.  Because sabbath was designed as a gift from God to us.  A gift that was not meant to sit unopened.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


4: entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings

The girls and I went to one of our favorite places yesterday - Cheekwood Botanical Gardens.  I realized at fall break last year that Cheekwood is a wonderful place for my children to roam.  It combines several things we all love: art, nature, great picnic spots and a laid back attitude.  This visit was to be a bit different.  We were joining a group of home school parents for a self guided tour of the Chihuly exhibit.  My girls and I have seen this exhibit several times, but we were planning to go over fall break to see it one more time before the exhibit closes.  I thought it would be fun for B and K to meet some of A's home school friends and I thought A would enjoy exploring Cheekwood with new friends.

It went mostly according to plan.  The very large group pretty much immediately split up into several smaller groups.  My girls and some others enjoyed using water colors on coffee filters to create their very own versions of Chihuly's macchia sculptures.  I love to watch all of  my daughters create, but B is especially gifted in this.  She always comes up with her very own way to do things and others (ahem, me) often end up copying her style (though I tend to have less success).

K was immediately happy on this field trip. One of her ballet class friends was a part of this group and she immediately included K with her other friends and made her feel happy and included.  Likewise, A spent a good portion of the day hanging out with friends from her tutorial program.

And then there's B.  My nine year old middle child who simply must do everything her own way, who must chart her own course and live her life her way.  At one point, she came up beside me and said, "I don't think anyone who is home schooled likes me."  It just about broke my heart.  This comment came close on the heels of B complaining to me that the other children where telling her what she should and shouldn't do - something she hates, whether adults or children do the telling.

I share this to remind myself and others that no day in this life is never perfect.  Yesterday was a wonderful day.  Our morning started slow, with pancakes for breakfast and plenty of time in our pajamas before readying for Cheekwood.  Cheekwood itself was a blast - we enjoyed hopping from one glass installation to another, seeing our favorites but not stressing about seeing all of them.  We snacked, we sketched, we rested, we walked the sculpture trail just the four of us.  We laid on the grass, looked at floating glass sculptures and just enjoyed the day sinking into evening.

But it still wasn't the perfect day.  My girls fought with each other.  B felt wounded.  I was impatient.

Last year at fall break the four of us went to Cheekwood.  I realized then that our family is in a sweet season - K is old enough to go anywhere without a stroller, I never carry a diaper bag, no one naps (except me), yet our eldest daughter is still young enough to enjoy being with us.  We're in a window that may close at any moment.  So I'm trying to savor this season while it lasts. But in the midst of the savoring, I have to remember that perfection just isn't on the agenda.  Even with daughters who enjoy each other's company and are wonderfully unique individuals, there will be parenting challenges that leave me reeling, exhausted and without words.

I suppose this is how it's supposed to be.  If we could ever achieve the perfect day, we wouldn't have that ache for the life to come.  We might actually be satisfied here.  So I guess my girls are just doing their part to make sure I don't fall into complacency.  As for me, I'll keep trying to take the good with the bad and not let the failures and mishaps of life overshadow the loveliness of a day spent walking in the autumn sun, seeing beautiful art and hanging out with my three favorite girls.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


: grateful and appreciative

Christmas has always been my favorite season: baking cookies, surprises, extra time with friends and family, and traditions that have lasted for years.  But I must admit that Thanksgiving is steadily gaining in my rankings of favorite holidays.  We're still more than a month away from Thanksgiving, yet I find myself so thankful for so many things.  I feel my heart moving towards this holiday that calls us to recall and give thanks and I see how beautiful the timing is that thankfulness should lead us into Advent.

Prior to fall break, A and I had been in a bit of a slump with home schooling.  The four day week of fall break found me attempting to teach a student who clearly wanted no part of our lessons.  Math?  Ick.  Grammar?  Actual tears over it.  Even beloved history?  Going through the motions.  I decided by Monday afternoon that we would push through that short week as planned to finish up some things and then take a break from our routine.  So when we resume next week, we're going to focus our efforts on a unit study on Thanksgiving.  I found a great study that's already laid out (I'll caution you that the embedded link leads you to an 8 MB pdf - only open if you're truly interested).  Even this study doesn't have everything I want to learn and want A to learn, so I found another idea that we're doing together as a family:  a Thankful Tree.

I told the girls about the idea of the tree and it was greeted with enthusiasm all around.  So I bought some heavy drawing paper and heavier water color paper, found the perfect tree limb and we started looking for leaves to trace.  Every stage of this project has brought joy and thankfulness.

Today the weather was gorgeous (if a bit warmer than I'd like), so we hauled the watercolors, colored pencils, ink pads, stamps, oil pastels and paper outside.  There we perched, laid, sat and created together.  It was lovely. And it left me so very thankful.

Thankful that my girls are willing to spend time on a project.  Thankful that they are old enough to follow through on a project with several steps (collect leaves, decorate paper, trace leaves, cut out leaves, write thankful thoughts, hang leaves).  Thankful that I get to share my life with these amazing girls.

Monday, October 18, 2010


3. to pause, as for breath; take rest

Ten year old A finished her fall production Saturday evening and I feel like I can finally breathe for a bit.  This is the first time she's done a fall production - normally her ballet school has only a spring recital.  She absolutely adored being in The Little Engine that Could (what ten year old girl wouldn't want to be Tinker Belle?), but I'm personally happy for a bit of a breather.  Happily, the end of A's production coincided with a week off from choir practice for B, leaving us with a Sunday completely free of obligations.  So how do I fill a day free of obligations?  With blessings instead of duties:

I slept in until 8:30ish, 
my husband ran out to buy me a pumpkin chocolate chip bagel for breakfast, 
the sermon really touched a nerve and illuminate a lesson I've been puzzling over, 
I enjoyed a lunch made by my husband, 
our family spent an afternoon at the pumpkin patch and 
enjoyed an evening with our nephew.

Not bad.  Not bad at all.  In fact, it was like a breath of fresh air.  Now I feel like fall break can truly begin.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


1: a person with whom one has had no personal acquaintance

Sometimes I fail the little tests God gives me.  Just this Wednesday,  I was telling a group of friends that I hate to talk to strangers and that I almost never do it.  One sweet friend shared her favorite stranger story, which involved high tea at the Ritz Carlton in London, a pastry chef and good old fashioned Southern pound cake.  Then I shared a story about a Facebook friend who posted something about enjoying a great conversation with a total stranger.  When I replied to her status saying that I hate talking to strangers, one of her friends shot back to me and asked how I could possibly get through life without talking to strangers - how did my friends become my friends?  Being who I am, I obviously did not reply to this comment.  If I don't talk to strangers in real life, I don't talk to them on Facebook either.

I went on to share with this friends that I truly don't like talking to strangers, even if I'm standing in line at the grocery store.  Unless I have something in common with someone or some common bond, I'm just not inclined to talk.  It's not like I need to share my thoughts aloud.  Someone asked whether my approach to strangers (or lack thereof) had made it difficult to be at a new church.  Well, yes.  Even though I do make more of an effort there, in the hopes that the strangers in the pews around me won't always be strangers, my conversational small talk muscles are pretty weak.

I'm not sure whether God laughs or cries to hear my thoughts on this.  I don't dislike talking to strangers because I'm highly judgmental.  It's just that it makes me so uncomfortable, so acutely aware of the emptiness of my mind, so thoroughly without coherent words.  I had cause on Thursday to examine my reaction to strangers when A and I were taking a walk to the post office.  Things were going along fine for the first few blocks of our walk.  The weather was beautiful and the walk was helping to dissipate some tension between A and I over an unkind comment.  We were just about to start a game I'd observed from a second grade teacher: one student held a ball and named a noun, then threw the ball to another student who did the same and so on.  A's had a bit of trouble with pronouns and prepositions, so I thought we'd give this a try while we walked.  Only she was momentarily saved by a stranger.

As we turned off of our street onto a busier street, a young man was walking along.  We slowed a bit to let him get ahead of us, but this proved ineffective since he was ambling along and we were walking at a quicker pace.  When we moved around to walk past him, the young man turned to me and said, "Can I ask you a question?"  I didn't miss a step, but inside I froze.  What on earth could he want to ask me?  "Uh, sure," I replied, the hesitancy clear in my voice.  He told me the t-shirt he was carrying was for a friend.  He thought he'd have people sign the shirt with encouraging words and their phone numbers so that if his friend ever needed to call someone, he'd have reminders right there.  He wanted to know whether I thought this was a good idea.  Failing this opportunity terribly, I uttered a weak, "Sure.  That sounds like a nice idea."  I'm wondering at this point whether we can politely disengage.  Instead he asks me a follow up question, "Do you believe in God?"  Oh my goodness.  Seriously?  I reply affirmatively, but have no idea where to go from there.  He asks whether we go to church, where we go and shares the name of his church.  I respond, but only just barely.  I continued to feel less than up to the task of talking to this guy and in another block or so, A and I turned left to head on our way, while he continued on.

I felt even as A and I crossed the street that perhaps I was failing one of life's little tests.  Maybe God was saying, "You think you've changed?  Let's see just how much!"  And I responded by saying, "Whoa!  Not that much!" This lurking sense of failure was thrust back to the front of my mind a half hour or so later as we walked back home.  As we neared the spot where we'd met the guy on the front end of our walk, A said to me, "Isn't it funny how one conversation can mean just a little to one person and a lot to the other person?  Or how a young person can ask an older person for wisdom?"  Ouch.

So how are you with strangers?  Easy?  Tense?  Open?  Shut off?  Do you take advantage of the conversational gambits life throws your way or dodge them like knives thrown at you?  Maybe one day I'll be able to hang on to a sense of self strongly enough to answer a simple question from a stranger without having every thought instantly flee my mind.  Maybe one day I'll have changed enough for that to be possible.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


1. one of the expanded, usually green organs borne by the stem of a plant.
4. leaves collectively; foliage.

On a recent walk, A shared a fact that was new to me: When leaves change colors in the fall, the color they become is the color they really are.  When we see them all the same color (green), it's because of chlorophyll, not because that's their true color.  I gasped when she told me this.  How beautiful!  I have no idea whether this is scientifically accurate or not, but I'm going with it, if only because it's a great metaphor for life.

When I wrote in the early days of 2010 that this year's word would be change, I had no idea what I was getting myself in to.  There has been change aplenty and I see no signs that this is drawing to a close.  On the contrary, I feel like I am one of those leaves, about to be stripped of my chlorophyll.  Sounds glorious and maybe even a tad romantic, doesn't it?  Maybe, but it doesn't feel that way.  I know how to be a green leaf, one that blends in with all of the other leaves nearby.  I don't know how to be a bold gold leaf, a flaming burgundy one, a leaf being what it was made to be, not just what was required of it to blend in.

When  A told me about leaves and their real colors, I told her that's how people are, too - not just me, but all of us.  Sin is our chlorophyll and it masks who we're created to be.  It makes us all blend in with each other, unable to see one face from another, one gift from another.  I've always loved fall - for its beauty and for all that it heralds: cooler weather, the arrival of Thanksgiving and the way that holiday prepares our hearts for Advent.  Now, I'll have another thing to love - with fear and trembling - about autumn: how it reminds us all of the call to shed our masks like chlorophyll and boldly live as changed people.

All Photos: Fall Leaves at Shelby Park

Thursday, October 14, 2010


1. the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep.

Only one member of our family slept through the night last night.  Which one?  The male one.  K came upstairs at 3:45 because she'd had an accident and needed help finding clean underwear in her drawer in her dark bedroom.  B apparently woke up at 2:30 and was awake for a bit and A announced with much drama this morning that she'd been up since 4:30 and only fell back into semi-sleep (her term) after that.  She announced this with such flair to help account for the fact that she'd just yelled at her sister for making a request as A packed the school lunches.  We could all use a bit of rest around here - even J, who managed a full night's sleep.

Fall break starts tomorrow and it can't get here soon enough.  In a perfect world, we would start fall break as soon as school ends today.  In a perfect world, A would have next week off from her tutorial so that the entire week would be free and clear.  In a perfect world, fall break would find nothing on our schedule for eight straight days.  Instead, today we'll head straight to a dentist appointment after school for K, then across town to a dress rehearsal for A.  A will be at tutorials next Tuesday while B and K and I do something else.  And we'll still have an activity of some sort every single night next week.  Yes, that's right.  Every night.

All I really want to do is come home, eat a warm soup for dinner (accompanied by a crusty bread) and go straight to bed.  And follow that up with sleeping until 8ish tomorrow and reading books and watching movies until we're ready to take a walk and collect leaves.  Repeat seven times.  Alas, 'tis not to be.

Still, I'll take it.  I love fall break because it changes up our routine, gives us the time for some much needed rest and allows us to re-center ourselves.  Our lives are so busy that it's easy to lose sight of the things that matter most to us.  It's easy to feel like an automaton as I drive A to and from ballet, without pausing to think about all of the things she is learning from dance - discipline, goal setting, teamwork and much more.  A break from everything - however brief - let's me enjoy my girls for who they are, let's us get our minds ready for the season and let's us participate in the rhythm of our world.  Autumn should slow us down as we prepare for the quiet of winter.  We'll use the coming week to do just that.

Perhaps I shouldn't need a break to rest and re-center.  In a perfect world, I would always keep in the front of my mind the most important things - loving God well, loving J well, loving my children well, using my time and talents wisely.  But I don't always succeed in doing that.  I get swept up in the roar, hustle and bustle of daily life.  So instead of bemoaning the ways I fail to make enough time for rest - physical and spiritual - I'll just focus on taking the opportunities life hands me.  Here's to fall break!

Pictures are from last year's fall break trip to Cheekwood.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


1. greater in quality, quantity, etc
4. displaying a conscious sense of being above or better than others; supercilious

I know this couple.  This couple who has many giftings, who are blessed in many ways, who have unique talents.  But instead of using these things to define who they are, they most often define themselves via their relation to others.  Specifically, their superiority to others.  My husband and I have encountered this several times with them and it was initially frustrating that they always had to have the better car, bigger house, nicer clothing, etc.  But lately, it has quite simply saddened me. 

I don't mind that they have better "things" than I do.  J and I know that while we could have bigger, better things if I worked outside the home, our current situation is what we've chosen for our family.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to home school A without feeling like I am crippling the family budget.  And I'd rather have this extra time with her than have a newer, faster computer or a top-of-the-line kitchen gadget.  Even so, even knowing myself and my thankfulness for our marriage, our home, our children, it's difficult to not chafe against being around someone who constantly needs to demonstrate to themselves that they are above me.

How do you handle this? Are you able to easily see sly comments as being about the speaker rather than the one spoken to?  Are you able to stay present in the reality of your satisfaction with your life when presented with others who choose a different path, make different career choices or are simply blessed financially in a way different than your own?  Are you constantly - or sometimes, or rarely - comparing yourself to others?

Each one valuable...

Let's be honest: it's difficult to resist comparison.  It's hard to not look at your neighbor, your friend, your acquaintance, the stranger at the grocery store and not think, "Hmmm.  I wonder how she does that/ affords this/ lives there."  And if it's hard not to compare, it's perhaps even harder to not put others down when comparing, in an attempt to elevate yourself.  Even my 9 year old gets this. 

This weekend, B and I were walking through Vanderbilt's campus on our way to the football game when she said to me, "Why is it that when I see a group of people, I immediately notice the bad things about them?  Is that just human nature? And why is it that people are dressed nice, but they aren't really beautiful?  Just maybe cute?"  When asked a big question like this, I rarely give B a straight answer.  Because I don't have the answer.  But also because I think she's working these things through on her own.  If she weren't, she wouldn't even voice the question.  So we talked for a bit about what she thinks makes someone beautiful and she was able to articulate that she thinks beauty is about what's inside someone.  But she was on to something about comparison.  We do tend to 1) notice, 2) compare and 3) find lacking.  Now, we might find ourselves lacking or the other person lacking, but someone is going to be lacking.

Each one walking her own path

How do we get away from this?  How do we see ourselves as having value - not in relation to others, but simply because of who we are?  How do we see the value inherent in others no matter what poor or wise choices they make, no matter what clothing they wear, no matter what car they drive?  How do we escape the snare of superiority?