May 28, 2011

Typewriter Man

A few months ago in Satellite Coffee in Nob Hill in Albuquerque, I saw an old man typing on a typewriter surrounded by a sea of MacBooks and PCs. His story has been mulling around in my head for quite some time. Today it got out. 

Grizzled beard but
Knowing eyes lean over the obsolete keys
Wrinkled hands poking
Out of elbow-patched sleeves
Gather the run-away thoughts
Into phrases and clauses
Each pound of a letter
Results in a clickety slap
Followed by an ink smattering
Reminiscent of a literary era
Now bartered for in antique stores
Before the delete key existed
When you had to be sure of each word
Typing now is so haphazard
But he is deliberate
He clinches the past just as
He grips the edge of the machine
So it won't slide off his corduroy pants
And the gurgle of the cappuccino maker
Drowns out the sound of the
Collegiate debate all full of hubris
But the striking of the teeth-like keys
Smacking the linen paper
Echo louder than everything else
As if to say you are too
Let's forget time and forget
Our to-do lists
Come revel with me in the
Perfect collection of words
that do not defiantly glow back
I control them, not the other way around
And typewriter man silently, staunchly proclaims
There by the barrel of coffee beans
That he will sip life and savor it.

February 25, 2011

When I Grow Up . . .

 Micah was star of the week at school. He got to make a poster all about himself and bring in a show-and-tell toy. This may be the epitome of kindergarten.
One of the things he put on the poster is so dear, I needed to save it here for posterity.

The poster announces, "When I grow up, I want to be a soldier, a chef, a church planter, and a dad."

Don't those four dreams say so much about a little man?

Soldier: Micah was born with the fight in him. Most little boys are. No one has to teach them to use a weapon. If you don't buy them a play sword, they'll make one out of a stick or a pretzel. God plants in them the heart of a warrior to fight for his kingdom.

Chef: Mommy watches too much Food Network.

Church planter and dad: The little boy wants to be just like his own dad, which means his dad must be one to look up to.

Childlike Faith

Oops. I haven't posted since September. Consistency has never been my strong suit. I get achy pretty often with words scratching and pressing to get out. I guess today the ache burst open.

You see, lately my youngest has been wiggling to shed his toddler skin. I have a hundred stories of his most recent discoveries and antics and thoughts come aloud.

Just this morning he was frustrated because he couldn't see his own head. And when I went to cut up the strawberries for breakfast, there were three with bites out of them. Oh, this one!

But my delight in my little one, and in his Creator, crescendoed this weekend reminding me that it is not because of me, but in spite of me, that Corban's view of the unseen is developing along with his little body. 

He played in the bounce house, sang the song, ate gobbled the cake, watched as the presents were opened, and went home a very contented young man with his orange helium balloon. But the desert spring winds are kicking up early this year, and a big gust yanked the string from Corban's little grasp, and we all watched as the prized balloon danced into the atmosphere. 

Immediately tears fell from his expressive brown eyes. "My balloon, my balloon!" I tried to help him see the poetry in a balloon frolicking free in the breeze, but I was of no comfort. Older brother was maybe a little more consoling.

"Corban," said wise big brother, "Just imagine your balloon is a gift to God. You can give it to God as a present to tell him thank you." Corban's tears abated, but the whole ride home I could hear an occasional sob from the back seat.

Corban prayed before dinner that evening. "Dear God, Thank you for Mommy and Daddy and Micah and the ketchup. Please send my orange balloon back to me. Amen."

Then it was my turn for tears. This was his first true request from the Almighty, his first honest expression of his own two-year-old faith. I think his previous prayers had been copies or promptings. But here he was revealing his own heart-felt longings to the Maker of Heaven and Earth. Oh, Lord, may this be the first in a long line of precious and candid conversations with you. 

His faith is big though. He hasn't grown jaded by vague perceptions of unanswered prayers or untruthful ideas that God doesn't really care.  Colossians 4:2 instructs us, "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."

And Corban was watchful. Driving to the grocery store two days later, he spied an orange balloon floating high over the grand opening of a dry cleaner. "My balloon!," he squealed, "God sent it back to me!" And he smiled, blissfully admiring his orange balloon as I pushed the grocery cart inside as slowly as possible.

"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." -Jesus in Luke 18:17

September 16, 2010

The Purpose in All This Book Learnin'

I admit I was a huge dork of a student.  Gold stars were my language, and A's were my ultimate in satisfaction.  I can remember stinging tears of shame and a sinking feeling of disappointment when papers came back to me with a less than perfect score.

And guess who is just like his mom?  One of the first things about school Micah told me is the paper apple each student has hanging on a bulletin board.  If they are well-behaved and complete their work, they get a scratch-and-sniff sticker on the apple, and when they've accumulated enough stickers that waft root beer and cotton candy, they get to choose a prize from the treasure box.  You would have thought Micah had climbed Mount Everest that first time he got to dig his little hand into the treasure chest of toys from Taiwan.

I now see that lust for gold stars was pride.  I wanted to be better than everyone else, and I was seeking approval from others through my school work.  Rather than finding my identity in Jesus, I found it in being a straight-A student.  And the cycle could continue if I let it.  I could be so intent on the destination of being the best mom or the best teacher or the best wife or the best leader that I lose sight of the journey.  And what happens when I get a D- in parenting on Wednesday?  I don't just have a bad day; I lose myself.  So I must guard against allowing my roles to become me.

And how do I protect my little boys from falling into the performance trap?  I continually consider the end game.  What is the purpose of education?  Haven't all teachers and parents had students ask them indignantly, "Why do I have to learn algebra or grammar or chemistry?  I'm not going to be a mathematician or a grammarian or a chemist."  You're totally right.  I want to say.  Diagramming sentences is completely impractical.  You will never diagram in the real world.

But this is where we as a society of educators and institutions have sadly fallen short.  We've told our students the purpose of education is to get a good job someday.  So we do well in school so we can get into a good college so we can get a good job so we can make lots of money so we can send our own children to the best schools so they can do well so they can get into a good college so they can get a good job.  And the cycle becomes one of endless futility.  Is the purpose of education to turn children into greedy workaholics?  Is having a good job wrong?  No, of course not.  But there has to be more than money on the line for the seventeen years (or more) of eight-hour days we all sit in a desk with a number 2 pencil in our hands.

John Milton said, "The end of learning is to repair the ruin of our first parents."  As an educator first to my own children and then to other students placed under my care, I must remember that the intellect shares a space with the soul.  I cannot feed one without affecting the other.  The goal of education in our home is wisdom.  Proverbs tells us wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing we desire can compare with it.  Reason can only be acquired through wisdom.  And reason is what our souls use to perceive reality.  The knowledge a student gains seeps into their souls to perfect their ability reason.  And, of course, the beginning of wisdom is respect for the Lord, so Nate and I train our children from a very young age to honor God.

Micah attends a university-model school which means he learns at home for two days a week.  I must keep the end goal in mind on the days when lessons don't go exactly as planned or on the days when he gets prideful because he does so well.  Why are we here?  Why do we sit at this table sounding out words, singing songs in a dead language, and memorizing the continents?  We do this because the end goal is wisdom.          

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,  and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. Proverbs 3:13-14

Post script: A special thanks to my dear husband Nate and my fellow educators at The Potter's School, HEED, and Oak Grove Classical Academy for much of the above content.  

September 3, 2010

For the Love of a City

Milestones have a way of making me nostalgic.  One year ago today a red Dogde Caravan filled with a visionary pastor and his hopeful wife, two wiggly boys, an overwrought cat, bulging suitcases, an heirloom kitchen table, and way too many fast food wrappers passed through a canyon and rounded a bend in I 40 from behind the Sandia Mountains.

I can remember catching that first glimpse of Albuquerque.  I had seen it before from an airplane, but that visit was different.  Then it wasn't our city.  Now it was ours.  It was our mission field, where we had been sent.  Our purpose lay inside those miniature doll houses and drove in those toy cars and walked by the side of that ribbon of water meandering through the metropolis.  I knew no one, but I was already in love.

If you've been pregnant, you know.  You've felt the love of something not yet actualized.  I was in love with a church that didn't yet exist, and I had dreams for people whom I had never met.  My heart was breaking, and still does, for people who are marginalized and hurting in this city.  Every day I drive down Paseo del Norte and get a view of the whole city and still get choked up for the masses who might feel lonely, who might need hope.  Especially when I see the whole city a night, I can't help but think that behind each twinkling light is a story, a soul.  Each person behind each lamp will be somewhere in a million years.

I didn't know it was possible to feel so at home in one year.  I think God has a way of showing you where you're supposed to be.  New Mexico has become my home.  I have embraced her beauty and her eccentricity, and she has enchanted me.  In honor of our one year anniversary I've compiled this list of 52 things, one for every week we've been here, I love about this place.

1. New City Christian Church 
2. Magnificent city vistas
3. Brilliant sunsets that turn the mountain pink
4. Hiking in the Sandias
5. Wildflowers
6. Hiking the volcanos
7. Walking in the Bosque
8. Seasons
9. Green chile
10. Red chile
11. The smoky, spicy smell of roasted chile in the fall outside every supermarket
12. Nob Hill
13. Chile ristas
14. A short drive and you can be in the middle of nowhere
15. Farmer's markets
16. Junk shops on 4th Street
17. Our bustling house
18. Camping
19. Good neighbors
20. The mesa behind our house
21. The drive down Paseo
22. Oak Grove Classical Academy
23. MOMS Club Ventana Ranch Central
24. Hippies
25. The Rio Grande
26. Leaves that turn yellow
27. The ABQ Zoo
28. The ABQ Botanic Gardens
29. Explora
30. Tumbleweeds
31. Farm animals in the middle of the city
32. The Frontier Restaurant
33. The Lobos
34. Roadrunners on my back wall
35. Desert rain storms
36. Turquoise jewelry
37. Cowboy boots
38. Cottonwood fairies
39. Wide sidewalks in Ventana Ranch
40. Lavender in the summer
41. Good friends for my boys
42. Sophia's Place
43. The Petroglyphs
44. El Pinto
45. Enormous blue sky
46. Snow on the mountain in the winter
47. Balloon fiesta
48. Dry air, which equals great hair!
49. Turquoise Trail
50. Madrid
51. The diversity
52. A big city that feels like a small town

September 2, 2010

Ordinary Moments of Grandeur

Me: Make sure you remember what happens at school today so you can tell me what happens when you get home.  

Micah: Ok, Mom.  I'll write everything down in my mind. 

And so he does.  He gives details about what he played at recess, who he sat next to at lunch, and what book his teacher read aloud.

I want to write the moments down in my mind, not so I can dwell in the past, but so I can realize the glory of the extraordinary in the everyday.  Remembering the miracles will comfort when the load gets heavy and weight seems like too much to bear.  And the miracles don't necessarily arrive on momentous occasions or special days, but they happen in the monotonous wanderings of our every day.

So we left the dishes unwashed, and even though everything for Sunday was not quite ready, we hiked a trail expecting those miracles in the commonplace around every zig zag.  And we were not disappointed.

Fields of black-eyed susans

Juicy raspberries right off thorny limbs

Sweet mouths stained red

Cool mountain breezes that erase the desert heat

Aspen leaves fluttering their hello

Little boys with sword sticks fighting enemy trees

Majestic bucks surprised by our presence

Fading purple flowers announcing summer's end

Holding hands like young lovers

So the pictures are on my camera, which I can't find right now, so I'm writing these ordinary moments of grandeur in my mind.

"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands."  Psalm 143:5

August 17, 2010

The Exciting and Wonderful Business of Being Alive

He had trouble falling asleep last night and bounded out of bed this morning.  Micah was made for academia.  "Do you think I'll learn how to read on my first day?" he asked me last week.  Knowing how excited and ready he is to go to kindergarten certainly makes things easier for me, but this one giant step from babyhood to childhood still plays tug of war in heart.  If growing up is good and natural, why does it burn and ache?

excuse the bed head

I tried to make this morning special, with "K" is for kindergarten pancakes and a fun photo session, but I mourned for yesterday, the last day before school began.  It's those last days that can slip from our minds.  I don't remember the last time I changed his diaper or the last day he crawled or the last day we had our "copy" together.  (He used to drink his milk on my lap every morning, but he called his drink coffee or "copy." For years any morning drink he had was coffee.)  Did I treasure the last while anticipating the first?

Micah and I have been together practically every day for his five years of life.  I have rocked him and kissed his boo boos and shushed away the nightmares.  This milestone seems to have come so quickly.  I miss hearing his chatter and his imaginary play.  I miss just knowing he's with me.  Who else can love him like I can?  

I sent him off with a Bible verse this morning.  I chose it to make him feel better, but it probably did me more good than him.  Joshua 1:9 says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  There is someone who loves him more than I can. 

When I'm tempted to hold him too tight rather than allow him incremental independence, a quotation from Madeline L'Engle's novel Meet the Austins reminds me about breathing in and out.  "We can't stop the road of time. We have to keep on going. And growing up is all part of it, the exciting and wonderful business of being alive."

I shed my tears.  I mourned the end of babyhood.  But perhaps part of it is a prideful mourning.  I'm mourning that he doesn't need me as much as he used to.  And there are so many things to be thankful for in this new chapter. 

   Precious time alone with sweet Corban

   Brothers who missed each other today.  They're sleeping in the same bed right now.

   A comfortable teacher, Mrs. Rhodes

   Arts & crafts presents at the end of the school day

   New friends

   A little boy who loves to learn new things

   A Heavenly Father who makes up for my earthly flaws

   The promise of the future