Will you have a conversation with me?

23 05 2010

I’m needing to free up some space in my mind.  This might be the wrong forum for me to explore this subject but I hope you’ll be kind and allow me space to think…to be unsure…to ask questions…maybe even to be wrong. This is not in any way a statement of position but rather a question of condition…condition of the heart.  My heart. I hope to be thoughtful and articulate as I write but because there are so many ideas, opinions, attitudes and even absolutes here I imagine it will be impossible for me to present this exploration very clearly. Be patient with me.

This tornado of thoughts began while we were at the beach several weeks ago trying to have an adult evening while the kids were asleep. Someone (I think Jeremy or Joe) asked if we had heard that Jennifer Knapp had come out regarding her sexuality.  I hadn’t heard that she was a lesbian but I was not at all surprised.  Not really even sad. I was more curious how she would reconcile her homosexuality and her faith…assuming she still claimed to be following Jesus. So I read her interview with Christianity Today. I was completely unmoved. Actually, that’s not entirely true…I was a bit annoyed. It was so weak. It lacked passion of any type.  Not at all like her music. I love her music. Maybe she just had great producers.  Confused and apathetic, I moved on.

So yesterday my homepage (CNN) came up with her story as the main headline (I’m not a reader so I only notice the headlines because they are the ones with the big pictures).  Again, I was far more surprised that this was a national headline than I was that she was gay.  I clicked on the link to read the article on the CNN Belief Blog and noticed that she had done an interview with Larry King.  I think he’s sort of weird but when he interviews someone it’s kind of a big deal.  Joe & I intended to watch it but it got late and sleep was more appealing.

We finally pulled it up on YouTube tonight (I started this post a few days ago).  It was so uncomfortable to watch.  She really struggled to express herself.  I felt really sorry for her because as she stumbled over this word and that I knew how she felt.  Here she is on national television and she sounded so incredibly unintelligent.  I don’t know what was up. I wondered if she really didn’t know what she was talking about. Maybe that’s just how she is.  Not exactly what I expected from such a gifted performer.  I imagine there were a number of factors that played into her incoherent presentation…her nerves…the subject…the audience…but I really had the sense that she felt attacked and while she wanted to put forward a confident facade she was clearly on the defensive without a leg to stand on.  To make things worse the pastor “challenging” her (who didn’t even know her) had a statement to make, and while he was probably right, he wasn’t the most articulate guy when put on the spot.  He’s probably not a jerk at all but he was hell-bent on referencing as many scriptures as possible so Jennifer and Larry chimed in with some Levitical laws that aren’t even in place under the New Covenant. Ted Hagard was then brought on the scene and his goal seemed to be to not make a statement but rather to dodge every question he was asked.  I seriously felt like I was watching a three-ring circus.  It was so absurd.  They all had an agenda and no one said anything. As far as I’m concerned there was no conversation but rather a deafening cacophony of hurt, frustration and insecurity. So weird. I really wanted someone to say something that I agreed with because I didn’t want to have to have to think through this on my own. I wanted it to be easy but it wasn’t.

I tried to go to sleep. No luck. It was 1 am. I should have been exhausted but questions flooded my heart and my mind. What if we moved into conversations without agendas? Is that even possible? Did Jesus ever have a hidden agenda?  He definitely had many methods but His message was always consistent and never a secret. He often spoke in parables but the motive behind all he did and said was love not conversion.

So then I began to wonder how much of my heart attitude regarding homosexuality is biblical and how much is cultural? I like to think that I base my conclusions on the truth of the Gospel but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take cues from the culture in which I live.  I’ve recently been wrestling with the question of community and what it looks like to live as a body of believers.  We are such an individualistic society and I truly believe we have no idea how to do this.  Every so often when tragedy strikes we get a taste of it but in day-to-day living we are so removed from the model the Bible gives us.  So, how much more sinful is homosexuality and the rejection of God’s great plan for our sexuality than living a life of independence and the rejection of God’s great plan for community life? Both are lifestyles that are in rebellion to God but would we ever think twice about rejecting someone just because they chose not to engage in community?  I’m not trying to present an argument and I’m not saying that struggling with something is the same as choosing a lifestyle…just trying to see differently.  What if the cultural glasses we are given to wear in our Christian microcosm are so distorted that we see upside down?  What if John Eldridge is wrong about masculinity, what if Gary Ezzo is wrong about parenting, and what about the swarms of people who choose James Dobson’s teachings over Jesus’?

I wish the church’s priorities were not so misplaced when it came to social issues. How did that happen?  Jesus was a hero of the social rejects. Why the polarization now? Why am I so much more offended by the sexual brokeness of a homosexual than I am of the sexual brokeness of a heterosexual?  Are they not both perversions of God’s most beautiful gift to us?

So not even for a minute do I pretend to have some earth shattering solution to the problem but I do have to wonder if prayerfully guided conversation in the context of relationship would not be a good place to start.  I say that in theory because I don’t really even interact with many homosexuals now that I live in the suburban bubble (you know, the one surrounded by the pretty white fence). I wish that was a separate problem but if I claim to be a Christian I have to choose to spin just one plate and forgo the worldly pleasure of compartmentalization.

The other thing that I’m sure is key is humility. When pride is present there is no way we can really step outside of ourselves and love one another. If redemption is what we hope for we have to give up being right. When we are humble we are more keenly aware of our own sin than we are of others and thus more willing to offer grace. I believe it is pride that has set in place this horrible relationship between church and culture and the only hope for remedy is a stance rooted in humility.

Now I will be completely honest and admit that I would rather Bradley have a sweet divorced lady over a gay man for a kindergarten teacher. It would not be a biblical dilemma but rather a situational preference.  I think that is ok.  I wish that I was more free to trust God with things like that.  I am asking Him to help me step into that sort of dependance but I am not there yet. In the meantime I will push through the daily struggles I have where my culture and my faith conflict and pray that we as a community will have humility, wisdom and vision.



23 05 2010

That’s how many hand towels are in the toilet. That’s how many “oh shit” things Bennett did this week and it’s how many hours he screamed today…that’s right, just one less than he was awake.  He is really and truly the cutest of cute but he is a crazy, curious, loud, stubborn ball of boy…very much like an indoor tornado.  Unfortunately we have been struggling with ruled by his temper-tantrums again this week.  I wake up in the morning and tell myself that I am the parent, that I make the rules, and I call the shots.  I give myself the pep-talk about staying calm and being consistent with my discipline, but I fail.

As long as I get to him before he gets upset, he is happy in the morning. He wakes up a sweet little angel but then something goes terribly wrong.  Maybe it’s the wrong spoon, the wrong bowl, the wrong breakfast, the wrong seat at the table. I never know what it is but we usually spend the better part of the morning trying to figure out a way to settle him down.  I know this is a stage.  I think this is a stage. I hope this is a stage. Please tell me this is a stage. A short stage.  I am past weary. Very fragile. Borderline depressed.

When he strikes (rather with a Sharpie, with water, or poop) it is almost funny because it is so much better than one of his tantrums. It is like the comic relief in the drama of our life. This week he tried to flush all the hand towels in the powder room down the toilet, and the same day he plugged the drains in both sinks in our bathroom and let water run until it started pouring through the ceiling in the room below (probably his worst attack on our home so far). The next day he used an entire tube of lipstick to draw all over our bathroom and bedroom. He tried to get some on every surface…including his clothes, face and hair. He finished off the job by giving himself a bath in his clothes. Yesterday he fell down an entire flight of stairs while pretending to be superman and he also single handedly emptied all the white sand out of the sand box into the various areas that Joe had just covered with black mulch. Today he managed to get a hold of one of Joe’s hammers but fortunately I caught him and grabbed it just as he began to swing it at my car (but then he had a tantrum over it). Last Sunday morning he took off his diaper and pooped and peed all over the train table and pretended it was dirt for his dump trucks. It took so long to clean up all the legos we missed church all together. And best of all he frequently bites, pinches, pushes and hits his baby brother but thinks it’s ok as long as he kisses him afterwards.

La la la la la la la la la I am going crazy.

Click here if you want to see the train table scene. Didn’t want to force anyone to look at it.

Bead runners…not just for the MD waiting room.

20 05 2010

When Bradley was born it took me about a year to give into the idea that having children would inevitably lead to the introduction of primary colors into my home.  When I was pregnant with him I was careful to make sure my registries noted that his nursery colors would be “Black, gray & white”.  Hilarious.  I flat-out refused to have toys or baby equipment in our loft.  He had been given a rubber ducky, a blue teether, a little Grover (the sesame street character) and a lamb Beenie Baby.  I would tie a piece of twine around each one and string them up between the coffee table and the television because I started feeling guilty about the “no toys” rule. I also bought a mobile for his changing table but I replaced the pictures with images of the Modern Classics (furniture) in hopes that he would learn about the great designers and architects of the mid-century by the time he was one. Poor Bradley.

Eventually I gave into the idea of wooden toys (like Haba, Plantoys and Melissa & Doug). They were not as visually offensive as the plastic ones and I had some false notion that they displayed some craftmanship that gave them extra value and were therefore more acceptable. I was fine with Tinker-toys, Lincoln Logs and I even gave into Legos. They’re a classic…right? Bead runners were one of my favorites to buy for Bradley. You know the ones with wooden bases, thick winding wires and wooden beads that you see in most Pediatricians’ waiting rooms?  They were easy to come by at consignment sales and yard sales because most kids don’t really play with them.  Bradley didn’t either. I really should have gotten rid of all of them a long time ago but I held out hope that my other boys might like them…

…and they do.  They don’t just “like” them. They are obsessed with them.  They go in the play room and cry and point and Bennett screams “bee-wunna, bee-wunna, bee-wunna” until I get them down.

Notice the Spiderman PJs : )

I have since been the proud owner of two exersaucers, countless ride-on toys, several Thomas the Train sets, about 400 plastic swords…from the dollar store (you know I love quality), a Spiderman thermos and plenty of others that I would have said “never” to 5 years ago.  A blog…check. Candy for my kids…check. Skinny jeans…check. Stupid toys…check. There’s one more thing I’ve moved over to the next column.

Maybe God is gifting me with their love of the bead runners since I have gotten over myself in this area and chosen my kids needs over my own preferences.  Maybe if I concede to getting rid of my car someone will donate a nice new Honda Odyssey to me…So I can sell it and buy an X5!

Being known.

17 05 2010

Sometimes I over-explain myself in an attempt to be known and understood.  I also lack the ability to be articulate. Words are not always my friends.  They often get me in trouble.  So instead of offering explanation I’ll just say enjoy. My friend Callie sent me this link a few weeks ago.  She said she saw it and thought of me. I felt known.

I am not a robot.

I like this version too.

I Am Not a Robot (L.A. Filming)

First Annual Pay/White Beach Trip.

14 05 2010

Sometimes experiences are just too good to put words to. I felt that way about our family Christmas vacation to Asheville last year and I feel the same way about the beach trip we just took to Ocean Isle with our friends the Whites.  Surely there were a number of contributing factors to the trip’s awesomeness but I think the simple fact that we are so used to living life together just made it easy…and the easy made it fun. Not much is easy with 6 boys under 5 so it was a breath of fresh air.

It's not about getting 4 smiles...just seeing 4 faces.

Packing for a family of 5 is never easy, particularly when you pack everything for everyone except your husbands clothes and cosmetics. I spent the better part of the week leading up to the trip making lists and collecting this and that from every corner of the house. It shouldn’t have been such a laborious task but the trick was trying pack when everyone was awake because I had to go in their rooms to collect the goods. Also, having 2 still sleeping in cribs and wearing diapers made the packing all the more obnoxious. Between pack & plays, sound machines, pillows, blankets, lovies, pacies, diapers, wipes, special sippy cups & bottles we used up at least half of our packing space.

Meal planning could have been a pain but fortunately we eat all the same things so it was just a matter of making sure we had enough.  Food can bring such pleasure but it can be such trouble too. I can totally see how diet was such a divisive issue in the Bible.  In fact the only real “fights” of the week were about food. Go figure.

The grand plan was for Lindsay & I to leave with all the boys except for Bennett before afternoon naps (only 5 would fit in her van) and for Joe to pick him up and leave later that evening.  We seriously started the process of packing vehicles as soon as we woke up that morning.  It was 3:11 before we left and by that time everyone was going crazy. I could write 10 blog posts on our road trip but they would all be bad.  We projected that the ride there would score a B or maybe a B minus.  I imagine it could have been worse but it was more like a D.  The only thing that kept us from scoring a big fat F was that we never had to stop.  How did that happen? I like to think that it was because I (the co-captain of the van) did such a great job of managing the chaos.

Upon arrival we had some drama getting the camper on the van unlocked but once we unloaded, made all the beds, put up all the cribs, put all the food away, got everyone fed and in their respective beds we managed to sit down and have an adult conversation. It was surreal.

Joe arrived late that night and since I am severely directionally challenged I couldn’t help him find us. He had to resort to driving around for a while until he spotted Lindsay’s van.  Oh well.

Jeremy didn't arrive until day 2 so Joe pulled Daddy duty alone...and did a great job.

The first morning everyone got up bright and early except for Dexter…and me.  That trend continued the entire time. I took full advantage of the very rare opportunity I had to sleep in. It was great…for all of us. The daddies spent most of each morning and afternoon on the beach with the 4 big boys and the mommies spent lots of time with the babies and in the kitchen…but not as much as usual. I always wish that there were two of me on vacation. One to do all the tasks that I’m still responsible for and one to relax. On this trip I got my wish. If I only half way completed a job I could turn around minutes later and it was done. I had time to take twice as many showers as I usually do in a month and even though there were 10 people eating at each meal I only prepared food or cleaned up half the time. It was amazing. And how could I forget…I actually got to run with Lindsay 3 or 4 times without strollers in tow.

Barack Obama's First Battle?

By the end of the first day we had a system down for every routine and most days it went like clockwork.  Everyone’s favorite part of the day was when we let the boys take the pillows off the couch for a timed session of play.  They began calling it “Barack Obama’s First Battle”. We have no idea where that came from. We think they just like saying his name. This is the way Bradley described this activity: “we get ready to fight then we take the cushions off, and we hit each other and push each other and jump up and down and the tough people slap each other on the back. It’s really fun.”  The other thing we all enjoyed were Lindsay’s great meal time stories about Tex, Dusty, Zeke and the evil villain, Blue Duck. I tried telling a story to give her a break but I failed miserably and was asked to stick to my gifts…drawing knights, pirates and race cars.

all 4 mesmerized by Lindsay's story telling magic

One day as a storm was brewing someone had the clever idea to take the boys out on the deck to steer our ship out of danger’s way.

I'm sure they were discussing who was the captain.

Later that day we went for a walk with the scooters and ride on toys. Even rainy days at the beach can be fun with friends.

The decision to leave costumes and weapons at home was genius.  The only time things got out of control was one afternoon when Bradley, Keller & Coleman began making weapons out of kitchen utensils and capes and costumes from blankets and towels. In hindsight we realized that 99.9% of all the fights the boys have are over weapons and costumes.  I even debated getting rid of them once we got home but alas I could not break Bradley’s heart.

We also celebrated Porter’s first birthday while we were there.  It was nice not having a set time for a party so we could eat cake whenever he was at his happiest. The first night we were there I witnessed him take two steps (which he didn’t do again) to get to the strings on the blinds but I really think his favorite part of the trip was just getting to be around all the big boys.

We like to think they are already best buds.

I really didn’t intend for this to be such a long narrative so I will stop now but I do have to say that we ate a record amount of chips and homemade salsa while we were there and we enjoyed the great success of bringing just the right amount of food. The only things we had to buy while we were there were milk and bananas. Not bad.

Can’t wait for next year.  The only things we said we’d do differently are pack parmesan cheese and bring less clothes since we do laundry everyday anyway.

This ending is week but I’ve spent way too much time on this post and things are beginning to break down here in Payville. I’m off to  change a few diapers and referee a fight. Until next time…here’s to good friends and good times. We are blessed.

Beach Trip 2010 Preview.

10 05 2010

We just arrived home from our First Annual Beach trip with our friends the Whites. I know it will be a few more days before I’m able to spend time blogging about what a wonderful time we had so in the meantime I figured I could at least post a few pictures of the boys. We had a gray day, a rainy day and several beautiful days but everyday was perfect.

Dexter only made it out to the beach once or twice. He hates water so it wasn’t his favorite but he ate plenty of sand.

Bennett enjoyed getting to be one the big boys for a change…more of that to come.

And nothing could have made Bradley happier than spending six days with his best bud Keller.

I was there, but in all 200 photos there was not a single one of me…so goes it for moms!

4 years . 4 friends . 4 seconds

6 05 2010

Around two months ago my friends Shelly & Eileen asked if I wanted to go on a road trip to Florida to visit our friend Ashley.  Leaving 3 boys under 5 at home with Daddy sounded a little scary but I figured if Shelly was committing to go 8 months pregnant with her third, I could too. It’s been 4 years since the 4 of us have all spent time together.  Needless to say it took us all of 4 seconds, if that, to get right back to the place we left off.

Eileen, Shelly, Ashley, Sarah

The ride down was SO long…but not long enough. We filled every minute of the 9 hour drive with constant conversation.  Even though Shelly, Eileen  and I see each other fairly often we really never have a chance to have uninterrupted conversation.  Children don’t allow for that. You can imagine how much we had to catch up on. We made it through about a third of the topics we wanted to talk about by the time we arrived.

Seeing Ashley when we pulled up was like seeing the ocean as a child after a long car ride to the beach.  Sweet reunions are the best. It had been exactly a year since I had seen her…too long for me but not long enough to have created distance.

We really only had one full day there but we enjoyed every minute.  Waking up late…Einstein Brothers Bagels for breakfast (the day I started drinking coffee again)…visiting an amazing local farmers’ market…laying out at the pool…taking our time showering and getting ready (can’t remember the last time I enjoyed that luxury)…clothes shopping AND buying (for me…not kids)…and enough good food to make me gain ten pounds.  To top things off, on this trip I moved another item out of the “Never” column. I bought skinny jeans. White ones. We left early the next morning.  Our 36 hour visit was fast but just what I needed to return feeling emotionally and relationally refreshed.

The ride back was even longer than the one down. We had to stop for THREE hours in stand-still traffic behind a terrible accident. The 9 hour trip turned into 12 but conversation never waned and since I knew Joe was doing so well with the boys I never had an anxious thought.

Thanks girls love you so.

Oh, and how could I forget the orange tree? Ashley and Spencer (her precious boyfriend) have an orange tree in their backyard so prolific that it looks fake.  Spencer picked a bunch of oranges for us to take home and the boys & I had so much fun squeezing orange juice the next day.  I snapped a picture just before we drank the last glass.