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

August 1, 2010

The Opposite of Love

Elie Wiesel, who translated darkness into words in his Holocaust memoir Night, once said, "The opposite of love is not hate; it's indifference." You have heard of the many who stood by, hungry for their own personal security, as millions of innocents shuffled helplessly into gas chambers.  Wiesel mentions some of them in his book.  He recalls marching with his fellow breathing corpses through German towns, watching the Nazi soldiers flirt with the girls who lived there, knowing those citizens witnessed injustice and stood by without a word.  Silence can murder.

Surely in this modern era, in the most prosperous country in the history of the world, we cannot be capable of such atrocities.  Surely not. 

Stroller wheels spin as I march into the mall on a mission. "Just two stores." I reassure my boys we won't be long. But a panicked face meets my eyes beside the 25% off jeans.  "Dominic!" she calls.  Silence.  "Are you OK?" I ask.  "I can't find my son.  He was just here.  Dominic!" I and one other lady sift through clothes racks straining for a glimpse of a yellow shirt.  We call security.  

A store full of consumers stare as they stand in line at the register and decide which color tank top they must have.  "What's wrong with you?" I want to scream.  "This is a little boy!  He's lost.  Why are you just standing there?  Help this mother!  Can't you see the terror in her eyes?"  But my dry throat and my own cowardice can't mouth the words.

I scan the kiosks outside the store.  Maybe someone saw him.  I ask each kiosk worker, "Have you seen a little boy.  He's five, this tall, wearing a yellow shirt." Nonchalant answers return to me as one worker paints her nails and another finishes his sandwich.  "This is a person!  Put yourself in this mother's shoes," my soul screams out, but I move on and search the food court, where I meet a security guard slowly strolling towards the frantic mother.  "Do you know there's a lost child?" I ask.  "Yeah, we found him," she carelessly replies.  They found him near the carousel.  Tears flow freely from the mother's face now that the crisis has passed.  

But the crisis of self-centeredness is rampant, attacking one heart after another, leaving its victims cold and indifferent.  It is not enough to simply not do bad stuff.  Avoiding harming others is not enough.  It is passive.  We must act, and we must act in love.  What can we do, what can I do, to avoid letting our lives be just about gaining security and peace for myself?  How can I make sure I am constantly aware of others' needs, of others' hurts, of our world's injustices?  And what am I going to do about it?  

July 9, 2010

Redeem the Time

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as long as we live.   --Mortimer Adler

Coffee stains, tomato splatter, and watermelon juice polka dot my kitchen floor.  Didn't I just mop two day ago?  Yes, but I have two little boys.  Mopping used to be one of my most dreaded chores, but it's become my favorite because I decided to redeem the time.  

When tired little bodies, exhausted from the days' work of rock throwing and brother wrestling and ant watching, cozy up under the covers, I learn.  I've imbibed college courses and countless sermons so that in the process of scrubbing my house, I've also been given the tools to scrub my own heart.  

I will never stop learning.  My funeral will be my commencement ceremony.  Long drives and long walks are other occasions when I redeem the time by learning something new.  If you are commuting to the latest pop tunes or only listening the roar of the vacuum cleaner when you do housework, here are some of my favorites to download to your iPod.  All of the following can be found on iTunes for free!   

Mark Moore--a professor at Ozark Christian College.  Puts his courses online to educate the church at large.   

Tim Keller--one of the brightest minds in Christian thought today. Pastor of Redeemer Presbytarian Church in New York City.  Author of Prodigal God and The Reason for God, two must reads.  Redeemer Sermon Store

Matt Chandler--pastor of The Village Church near Dallas, TX.   Village Church Resources

John Piper--pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.  Author of countless books.  Find resources from him at

Mark Driscoll--pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  Go here to download his stuff.  

TED--TED is a non-profit organization dedicated to Ideas Worth Spreading.  TED is a conference that brings together great minds from all over the world.

Nate Bush--pastor of New City Christian Church and my husband.  :)

Do you have any favorite speakers you listen to?  


July 3, 2010

Girls Are Yucky

Micah: I met someone at swim class who's going to kindergarten too. 

Me: Oh, yeah, are you friends?

Micah (with disdain): No way, she's a girl!

Me: That's not very kind.  Why can't you be friends with a girl?

Micah (with serious contempt): Because they smell!

Me (trying to stifle a laugh): They do? 

Micah: Yeah, they smell like girl. 

Me (so glad I'm driving so he can't see me grinning): What do girls smell like?

Micah: Like pretty stuff.

Me: Do I smell?

Micah: No, girls in your own family aren't smelly. 

Even though it was a few days ago, I can't stop chuckling over this little exchange.  I love to glimpse inside my children's logic.

While I'm hoping Micah's distaste for the opposite sex will remain intact for another fifteen years at least, I can't help but imagine the young lady that might capture his heart should it be God's plan for him to marry.

What is she doing right now?  What are her little girl dreams?  How is God preparing her right now to be my son's wife?

I know that my mother-in-law prayed for me long before she knew it was I who would walk down the aisle to her son.  And I'm sure those prayers, along with my own family praying for me, protected me from my own immaturity, sinfulness, and lack of wisdom to prepare me to stand and live and work side-by-side with Nate.

So I'm praying for you, little girls, whoever you might be.  Little girls whom my sons will cleave to when they leave me.  Little girls who will wash my sons' grown man socks.  Little girls who will rock my grandchildren to sleep.  Little girls who will interlock fingers with my sons and walk with them through the hard times.  I think I love you already.

June 8, 2010

Desert Rain

I stomped. I shouted. Grouchy reigned the day. A layer of dust covered my soul when I saw the clouds start to roll in over the wide-open mesa.

Because I grew up and lived most of my life in Florida, rain storms used to be a comforting afternoon ritual for me. But here in the desert they are a treat, a surprise. A rumble of thunder and everyone rushes to the window scanning the sky for a drink. 

I can smell the wetness wuthering in from far way, so I close the windows in anticipation. Rain in the desert has an unmistakable scent. The drops come in big splashes, and our yellowed grass seems to stick out its tongue.  My withered heart feels the freshness too as I watch the world being washed anew.  Desert dusty air is clean again, and I ask for a do-over. 

Do-overs began when our rings were still shiny and our eyes were still starry. A misspoken word or rolled eyes or unthoughtful actions could be recanted with a simple request for a do-over.  The lovers reconcile.  Sometimes apologies come in the form of "can we start over?" from our little boys who are enrolled in the University of Relationships in our own home.  Their momma is more than happy to respond with grace since she knows she often needs it too.

And that's what I did during the rain storm that literally cleared the air.  I got down on my knees and looked into a wide-eyed pair of blue eyes and mischievous pair of big brown eyes and told them I was wrong and asked for a do-over.  Hugs and cuddles and giving my children the opportunity to live the Gospel of forgiveness happens in the every day right next to the sliding glass door, where the rain drops glisten on greener grass. 

Does your family have any rituals that help your relationships flourish?

May 28, 2010

Fictional Reality

My favorite time of night.  The desert wind gusts through the screen and fans the pages glowing orange in the late summer sunset.  A freshly shampooed, curly head cuddles up close. 

“Is this the last chapter tonight, Mom?”

“Last one,” I reply with a bittersweet tone.  Saying goodbye to a friend is never easy.

The reality in the fiction hits my heart tonight.  Salty, halting words tumble out.

“It’s OK, Mommy, don’t cry.  It’s just a story.”

He doesn’t yet realize that the best stories are the most true.

But I’m doing it again.  He’s used to it.  I did it when Jack the faithful bulldog died, when Laura’s home burnt down, when Eustace was undragoned, and when Christian reached the Celestial City. I’ll do it again, I’m sure.  We’re only at the beginning of our literary journey.  So many old friends are left for me to introduce him to.

“I was just thinking about what it will be like to meet Jesus like King Caspian is meeting Aslan.”

“Oh, now I see why you’re crying.” A knowing missing-toothed smile soothes me.

After the covers are tucked in tight, I retreat. More tears and a deep longing. Deeper than hunger or thirst.  Deeper than love for a child, even love for a spouse, is my longing to know the reality of what sometimes seems fictional because it's just that fantastical.

Why Am I Writing a Blog?

In the words of Lord Byron, "If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad."