Blogapalooza Fun

It is Blogapalooza Day here at Rare Rocks! This is Angela’s blog party at Just Go! On her blog you’ll find the other partipants in this cyber party. The party game is simple: “Tell us the story of your strangest or scariest trip ever.” (The picture of Claire is so other Blogapalooza-ers can find the right post – mine is a picture of a pumpkin carrying a pumpkin! Look at little Claire!)

My strangest or scariest trip started out just fine. Not normal, mind you, but fine. I believe youth group leaders are some of the craziest people in the world, and mine were no excpetion. (I loved them of course. But, now, looking back, I can see they are a crazy genre of people.)  Our trip was a weekend excursion to Mexico. (Only without airlines or beaches.) We were going to make the nearly 27 hour drive to Monterey, Mexico, and be home by Monday. Crazy, I tell you.

But as youth group trips go, the trip is fairly uneventul on the way down. As a high school senior, I am excited about doing something (anything) adventerous and out of the ordinary. I even get to take a shift driving one of the vehicles for a middle of the night shift! (Did I mention the C-R-A-Z-Y?)

Our destination is a beautiful Bible College campus in Mexico. Once there, we spent nearly two days soaking in the humble hospitality and being reminded of the blessings we take for granted in middle America. We learned to speak what Brother Andrew calls the language of Agape by using Scripture verses to communicate our new found brotherly love between friends who don’t share a spoken language. I rolled out my first real tortilla in their dormitory kitchen and ate real tacos at a roadside cafe.

The trip home is where this story takes its strange and scary turn. Of course we’re exhausted. Of course we’re driving through thunderstorms. Of course half of our travelers battle digestive issues associated with out-of-country travel and we are forced to pull over often and at less than desireable facilities. But it gets worse.

During the first few hours of that drive, we are scheduled to go through Waco, Texas. This is when David Koresh and his followers are under investigation by the U.S. government. (Now I know that Waco is a nice Texas town with plenty of good things going for it, but at that time I only knew of Waco as the place where that weird guy lives with a stockpile of guns.) I hate traveling in bad weather. I hate riding with people who are sick. Just when it seemed that nothing could be worse, someone notices a huge glow on the Waco horizon.

The Branch Davidian ranch we’d been hearing about in the news for several weeks is burning! CNN is broadcasting live the veiw we are seeing from our minivan windows. It is too much. A few people in our caravan mention historic event and we can always say we were here. I just want to be home RIGHT NOW!

And of course we made it home just fine. I can say I was there, but it really didn’t turn out to be the kind of thing that very many people remember. Still, for a girl who usually finds any kind of travel a joy, this one was ruined by that strange midnight drive in the glow of Waco’s infamous cult.

Happy blog-reading today, friends old and new! I hope you’ll come back sometime!

Festi-Fall

The kids’ school is having a Festi-Fall next week and this year they get to dress up as Bible characters.

Claire’s choice was instantaneous: Mary. She is sure she needs a blue dress, a cover for her head, and a baby Jesus to carry.

Ada wasn’t sure. I suggested she be a “lilly of the field” but she just giggled. When I suggested Deborah, she thought that sounded cool. I’m thinking something kind of Zena Warrior Princess with a modest twist.

Anyway, it has me thinking today, what Bible character would you be this year? Any great costume ideas for my girls? I mean, Biblical women are great, but how can we be distinctive? It wouldn’t be much fun if every kid showed up in her bathrobe as Mary. What can we do that is cheap, easy, and creative? (Boy ideas are also accepted!)

Some Cuts are Hard to Make

One of my favorite short animated films from Pixar is called “Boundin'” – you can find it on the special features of The Incredibles DVD or take a few minutes and watch it here:

My favorite part is when the fluffy sheep knows the truck is coming to shear him and he just sticks his little leg out as if to say, “Bring it on!” For me this cartoon is another parable like the one Jesus spoke of concerning vines and pruning – it has to be done and the result is more fruit and a healthier plant.

True. But that doesn’t mean it feels just super great right after the pruning. In fact, sometimes it is embarassing. Sometimes it feels like you’re naked in front of a room full of your peers. Sometimes, even though you know the pruning is in your best interest, it feels lonely and strange.

I could wrap this up with a charming story of how the the best grapes come from vines that are carefully pruned and how we should embrace these seasons in our lives for the way they will make us better people. But right now I’m stuck in the ugly feeling. Case in point: this was my dog several months ago.

And this is my dog after we brought him home from the groomer on Friday just after he had to be shaved practically to the bone because I had let his fur get irreversibly matted.

As if that Halloween bandana was supposed to take my mind off of the fact that my cute fluffy puppy now looked like a doggie disaster! Poor Chuck!

So now I’m thinking that going through the pruning season yourself is hard enough, but watching someone you love traverse through a similar season is even worse. (Especially when I feel somewhat responsible for the pruning season in Chuck’s life since I hadn’t read up on how to keep his coat brushed.)

Do you know this feeling? The pruning comes from various sources. Maybe through a humbling experience. I’ve felt it before when I messed up something at work. I’ve seen it happen to people after a Bible study that really challenged their thinking or identity. No matter how it comes, it can be an uncomfortable time.

When I look at Chuck right now, I just keep reminding myself it will grow back.

And he will be fluffier than ever! And so will you.
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An Open House

Once a year our church invites the surrounding community to an Open House. The food service department puts together a free steak dinner, the music department organizes a short program, and everyone else sets out signs and displays that highlight our best efforts in education, health care, recovery programs, and other services. It is both exhausting and exhilerating.

Tonight I feel pretty confident about our big day tomorrow, but I wonder if I’m as prepared for an Open House in my own home?

Practice hospitality. This is one of Paul’s simple encouragements to the Christians in Rome. But I find myself reluctant to put this one into practice. It seems my bathrooms are never clean enough, my laundry never caught up enough, my cooking never interesting enough. We are always too busy or too tired.

But are these just excuses? Once when the women in my family were trading group emails concerning the endless work of house cleaning and how frantic we were to get it all done weekly, my grandma piped in with a short email scolding us all. In an effect, it said she knew she was never an immaculate housekeeper but hoped we had “felt the love” in her house anyway. Well, did we ever!

Since then I’ve tried to remember that Paul didn’t tell us to practice cleaning the house. He didn’t mention cooking gormet meals. He never even said anything about making sure our home decor was up-to-date. He just said to practice hospitality. Sure, that includes getting better at making people feel welcome (and that means having a sofa clear enough for people to sit on), but in its most basic form is just means to do it.

When I think about it, the reasons to not practice hospitality are usually selfish, usually about my pride. Yikes!

Hey, do you want to come over?!

Practice

This week my choir classes have a big performance. We’ve rehearsed for weeks – months even – and tonight is our dress rehearsal for the church. Friday night will be the actual performance.

Kids are funny because anticipation for them usually means louder squeals and more frequent giggles and a general sense of pandamonium. Even my teenagers, who want desperately to look unaffected, are a little more active and talkative. My instinct when coming up to a performance is usually silence. I want to still the world, sit quietly in a corner, and focus. Not possible with the crew I’m working with right now. I gave them lectures about how we only have a few more rehearsals before we stand on the stage in front of literally hundreds (1,200 people were at this Open House last year) of audience members and we must WORK, but they only look at me like the too-serious teacher that I can be.

Yesterday when my 3rd-5th graders had to practice marching up and down their risers in an orderly fashion several times they just thought they would die! But when we filled the last few minutes of rehearsal with an impromtu performance of our “Little ‘Ol Cowboy” song, in which they get to yodel and say, “Yee Haw!”, they perked right up. Smiling, laughing, singing at a perfect volume.

I think as Christians we are in danger of making the same mistake I make when coming up to a performance: We’re entirely too serious! If our final performance is a life in eternity, I think spending this life anxious, silent, and tense is not very effective use of our remaining rehearsal time. In that spirit, I guess all I have to say to close is, “Yee HAW!”

Does this dress make me look…

Gorgeous?! My four year-old, Ada Jewel, drew this portrait of me today. It reminds me of everything I WISH I was doing: wearing pink, enjoying fine weather, and walking in a field of blue berries! Coming off of a couple of days of Stressed Mommy, I’m glad this is how I turned out in the picture.

This picture reminds me of one that got away before I could preserve it digitally. Last week during church I was entertaining my son Jesse with drawing prompts such as, Draw a picture of what you love about your Mom and Dad. His picture of Dan at the piano was charming – little black keys and everthing. I was actually a little excited to see what he might draw me doing. Would I be teaching or singing? Maybe I’d be out in the rose garden or dancing with Macy?

Jesse handed me the paper with a smile. I looked at my caricature. What’s that in my hands, Jess?

“Macaroni and Cheese! ‘Cause I love it when you cook!”

Kids are great for affirming your identity! : )