Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pinterest Inspired Projects

I jumped on the bandwagon awhile back and joined Pinterest. It took only a hot minute for me to realize that it could very easily become just one more, big fat waste of my time: especially because of my predilection for controlled chaos of the Pinterest variety.

So I made a deal, of sorts, with myself: use it, or lose in, try things based upon these inspiring images, or find a better use for my time. I created a board called "Tried It & Liked It" onto which I pin every time I try and like something.

I've tried several recipes, by now, also two activities for my girls. But I thought I might share with you the Pinterest-inspired, crafty-type things I've done.

This is a bulletin board at my church. It's a little hard to tell, but the words of John 3:16 are lined up so the word "Valentine" runs down the page in red. I went "King James" and used stencils instead of stickers. The red and white background came from the  Dollar Tree; it's a tablecloth! I bought the heart garland at the Dollar Tree, too.

I love footprint, handprint, and fingerprint art! This hangs in my dining room and looks so sweet with the green curtains Mom made for me, recently.

This is actually the sixth such craft I made. (I also made two birds, two owls, and a rooster.) The words are from this Magpie I wrote awhile back. I tore the dictionary pages out of a humongous dictionary my grandma gave me; I'd carried it from place to place for twenty years but never used it. I love knowing that pages from my grandma's dictionary hang, now, in the homes of five of my friends. Pinterest inspired this particular piece by providing not only the general idea but also the photo from which I took the elk silhouette.

I need to better affix some of the lower pinecones, and the bow is all wrong. Doesn't it look like a bath scrunchie?

I really like this little grapevine wreath covered entirely with Sweet Gum balls. Obviously, I haven't decorated it at all, yet.

What about you? What sorts of new things have you been trying, lately?

Movie Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Cade and I went to see Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, tonight, to celebrate his birthday. I must say: I'm thankful that movie wasn't the only thing I had up my sleeve.

Listen to what I'm saying to you: if you're in need of a good cry, get yourself to the theater to see Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close; however (Are you paying attention?)--if you're in any way sad or depressed--this movie will make you want to poke your eye out with a stick. If you're not in any way sad or depressed but have ever been sad or depressed in your entire life, this movie will take you back to that moment, and you'll want to poke your eye out with a stick.

Even if you want a good cry; are in no way sad or depressed; and have never been sad or depressed in your entire life, you may still want to poke your eye out with a stick while watching this movie. Because its unfurling of events will require big-time suspension of your disbelief.

I found the events unbelievable but the actors' emotions very believable. For both reasons (Need I say it again?), I wanted to poke my eye out with a stick.

Main themes of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? (Spoiler alert!)
  • Things don't always make sense.
  • To feel disappointment is better than to feel nothing.
  • The miracle for which you're hoping may turn out to belong to someone other than you.
  • The truth doesn't always set you free.
  • If you're lying or sneaking, your mama probably knows what the hound dog you're up to.
  • Most people are kind and helpful.

That's all you need to know. Now go: be kind to your eyeballs. See a different film.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Getting One Up on Rachel

Lately, my little Charleigh has taken to leaning out of my arms and reaching for Rachel, 
while screaming: "MOM!"

This bothers me much less than you might imagine because, I mean, 
Charleigh's chosen the perfect back-up.

Plus not to mention, I'm accustomed to Rachel's immense popularity. 
I just feel blessed that she always picks me.

So, anyway. Today, Rachel's son Zach picked me over her, and it knocked my socks off.
Well, not really, because the people at Monkey Joe's will kick a person out quick
if she doesn't keep her socks on.

But here's how it went down. Also, how we went down. Watch carefully:

Ok. That was Rachel, Zach, and Clementine coming down the big slide. Now watch this:

That was Zach and me, coming down the big slide. That's right, ladies and gentlemen. Today I discovered the one good thing about having a little junk in my trunk. I FLY like the wind down the big slide at Monkey Joe's. And--after Zach had come down the big slide with me--he was no longer interested in coming down the big slide with his mama's tiny hiney. He just kept yelling: "BRON-DEE!"

So it turned out to be a good day, after all, and now I think I'll go take off Jim's cap and wash my hair.

When Bad Things Happen

I prayed a prayer, yesterday, that went something like: "You've taught me that my loved ones don't belong to me: that they belong to You. So why aren't You doing a better job of taking care of them?"

No matter in which direction I look, right now, I see pain. I carry some residual pain, myself, and--because I bear easily the burdens of others--I feel a little overwhelmed.

Chances are, many of you are in my same place. Because let's get real: bad things happen to everyone. Each of us is a sinner trapped in flesh, camped out on a broken planet. Sadly, it will never be right this side of heaven.

I wouldn't say I'm in the pit, exactly, but you know those scenes in movies where someone dangles over the edge of a cliff, clinging desperately to a skinny limb? Yeah, well. We've been staying home more than adventuring, watching tv more than reading. Sometimes I feel unmotivated to shower. Sometimes I shower and forget to wash my hair. Yesterday, I told my mom I didn't want to talk to her: not because she's (ever) done anything wrong, but because she's an easy target for whatever ugly words I'm harboring.

And I don't have the answers to my questions, let alone yours. Rilke once wrote:

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

I don't believe God hides from us, but I do believe He grows our understanding slowly lest our heads pop off. I believe His ways are different than ours; His vision is different than ours; His timing is different than ours. I believe He has a plan than includes everyone. I believe He works things to our good when we love Him and have been called according to His purpose.

I believe God loved Job, also that Job was more righteous than I but suffered more than I will ever suffer. I believe God allowed Satan to attack Job because God knew Job--in his unwavering  integrity--would live forever in history as an example for us, in our times of trouble.

I believe in turning to God's Word when we suffer: even if (especially if!) we don't feel like it. Same goes for praying. I believe it's ok to be honest with God; He can take it. Also, He knows all about our garbage, anyway.

I believe it's better to be vocally angry with God than silently angry with God. Because if we're not talking to Him (through prayer) or listening to Him (by reading the Bible), we're blocking two of His major channels of communication. I believe in hunting down, in scripture, what we need or what we need to get gone. And I believe in doing it with passion.

I believe we're limited in what we can do for ourselves and others. I believe God is unlimited in what He can do and that, therefore, we do well to tap into His strength. I believe--when our loved ones suffer--the best and brightest thing we can do for them is keep ourselves out of the pit. Because, in the pit, we're one more thing wrong for our loved ones.

See Brandee dangle and cling.

Do you have some words of wisdom about surviving times of trouble?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Godspotting with Sheila Guest Post

I've come to realize: in blogging--as otherwise, in my life--I derive most of my satisfaction from authentic relationships. To that end, I am blessed in having jumped down the right rabbit hole and met Sheila Seiler Lagrand in the blogging world. Sheila's warm and witty; she writes beautifully; and--as the title of her blog suggests--she's on the lookout for God everywhere she goes. She's finding Him, too, and often in unusual places and ways. If you've never visited Godspotting with Sheila, you're in for a real treat!

In an attempt to learn my friend better, I asked Sheila if she might share something of her testimony here, in my space. She shared something better, and I know her words will touch you as they did me. Please enjoy:

Today’s Testimony 

When I’m asked to share my testimony, I cringe. The road that carried me to this place is rutted, narrow, and littered with bloody wreckage. It’s not a scenic cruise, and the beautiful part is all at the end of the line. 
So let’s start now, rather than back then, shall we? Instead of my painful and lurid tale of arriving at a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, today I’ll tell you what that salvation means to me while I am yet alive on this earth. Four key points come to mind:
1. God has forgiven me.  Before I was born, God knew every cutting word that would pass from my lips, every bruising decision I would make.  Before I was born, Christ came down and paid for my ugly nature. All I had to do was acknowledge my sin and His sacrifice, and bam! Clean slate. My soul labored under the burden of this huge sin debt. Christ covered the tab, restoring my bankrupt spirit. Yes, I still sin. And yes, I still ask forgiveness. But I know that forgiveness is mine. 
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9 (NASB) 

2. God values me. God created me so He and I could love each other. Then He adopted me into His family, not because I’m good enough, but because He is. God values me so much that He sent His only Son to pay for my errant ways. The Creator of the Universe saved a place for me at His table. If I devalue myself, I devalue His creation.

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7 (NASB) 

3. God is with me. The Spirit of Christ dwells within me. When I depend on God, trust Him with my life, surrender my will to Him, He provides. I don’t have any special powers, but He does. And I need nothing more.

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 (NASB) 

4. I have nothing to fear. It’s a pretty wild story, isn’t it? The omnipotent God, who created time, yet stands outside it, knew I’d make a mess and He forgave me for it. And He didn’t absolve me with some cheap trinket—no, He sent His only Son to clear the slate for me.  Then He adopted me into His family. Finally, He sent the Holy Ghost to set up housekeeping in my shrunken, hard, human heart. He’s busy refurbishing that hovel even as I write these words.

Nothing that I can do, nothing that can happen to me on this earth, can wrench me from His love and care.  So long as I remember that I walk in His light, fear disappears like a mist at midday. Then my real task, glorifying God, comes naturally.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NASB)

Now, I don’t mean to say that this walk with Him is easy. Too often I focus on my plans, not His. I want to be in control. I want everything my way. And almost all the time, my way is not His way. Sometimes I swallow back fear a dozen times before I’ve left the house in the morning.

But without Him, I’d be afraid to get out of bed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Learning from the Wild Orange

If you know my Clementine (or even if you've only read about her here, or on facebook) you know: she's a real zinger. She's a mystery-surprise, and she challenges me in ways that Cade (or Charleigh, for that matter) never has. There are days when I think: Lord have mercy, just a little break from Clementine! But then she goes to sleep or leaves the room, and I want her back almost instantly.

Because she takes all the energy, light, movement, and sound with her.

I try to live with the question: what am I supposed to be learning from this little firecracker that no one else can teach me? And I get answers, sometimes, but mostly, I'm worn down, bit by bit, into a much calmer person. Because what choice do I have, really? It's chill or lose my ever-loving mind.

Clementine will turn three late next month. Last year, for her second birthday, I invited most everyone who plays an active role in her life, and it was a rip-roaring affair: a real hullabaloo. When it was over, I sent notes that said, mostly: "Thank you for celebrating Clementine's second birthday with us. I'm sorry to say I'm not sure which was your gift?, but Clementine loved all her presents, and she loves you. Thank you for doing life with us." Or some such.

Anyway, coming up on Clementine's Birthday #3, I said to Jim: "You know, we don't have to throw a huge party every year. What if we just invite Camden and Zach [the two children with whom the girls spend the most time] and their families for dinner and call it a day?"

Jim loved the idea, so I called Clementine to us and asked: "MeMe, who do you want to have over for your birthday, next month?"

I assumed, of course, that she'd name Camden and Zach.

But--without any hesitation, whatsoever--Clementine said: "Mike and Linda."

Jim and I just looked at one another, stunned, and smiled. I could feel the blessing in Clementine's answer run warm from my head to my toes, and I felt my heart swell.

Mike and Linda are almost exactly the ages of my parents, and--knowing that Jim's and my family members are far away--they've adopted us. We have many close friends here, but Mike and Linda are the friends with whom we spend holidays. They're the friends with whom we celebrate.

So the Wild Orange surprised me one more time, and she caused me to ponder two things in particular:

1) Children know (with whatever knowledge base they have) who loves them. Also, children consider those who love them to be their besties. They don't sort people based upon age, gender, race, education or income level, profession, etc. They sort people into three categories: those who love me, those who seem indifferent toward me, and those who don't seem to like me at all. It's that simple. How do we get away from this sorting, as we grow? I fight to continue looking, simply, for love; even so, I find myself longing to establish friendships with certain people who seem indifferent toward me...or who don't seem to like me at all. Why?

2) Every one of us has the opportunity to be that answer: to be the name spoken, without hesitation. To be the person most desired at the event, whatever it might be. How are we revealing the love of Christ both inside and outside our blood families? How are we opening our hearts, our homes, our lives to others?

Cut Off Their Tails

I need to preface this story by telling you: my mother-in-law gave one of the girls a book for Christmas called Sing-With-Me Sing-Alongs. It's illustrated with cartoon animals and plays a different, classic song with every turned page. The girls love it.


Unfortunately (and unusually), this book plucks my last nerve. The singing voices are terrible. I don't really even know how to describe them, other than to tell you they're whiny and nasally. Think of the brattiest kid you've ever met and imagine him or her singing, and there you go.

If you find yourself obligated to buy a gift for a toddler whose parent you dislike, I highly recommend this book. The child will love it, and it will drive the parent bananas. 

I put the girls' copy in a give-away box, but Clementine found it before I could get it gone.

So, anyway, we have at least one mouse in our log cabin at the moment. We know it's here only because it's a bold little critter; it ran right up to us one night, while we were watching tv. Also, it makes a lot of racket: actual squeaks, believe it or not.

So far, the mouse hasn't been enticed by our peanut butter. Jim asked me, tonight, if we had any peppermint wallflower bulbs (for our high falootin' Bath & Body Works air fresheners); he'd read that mice are repelled by peppermint.

"We don't have any peppermint bulbs," I told him, "but we have regular mint."

"That'll work," he said. "Mice are supposed to hate mint in general."

"Does it matter if they're chocolate mint?" I asked, snickering.

Just about this time, someone said plain as day: "Hey! Let's sing a song about the time I chased the mice out of the house!"

Sure as I'm sitting here, little Charleigh had chosen that exact moment to open her horrid Sing-Alongs book to "Three Blind Mice."

01/19/11 7:56 am: Exciting Update! My beloved is the great mouse hunter!