Thursday, May 31, 2007

Yahweh and Man: a narrative of redemption (Part 1: Beginnings)

Before the beginning
ever began
You were.

Holy God
perfect by nature
so beyond my mind's understanding --
there simply are no words.
For you are full,
and complete
way above my finitude.

You are love.
You are mercy.
You are judge.
You are righteous.

You are alone.

There is none like you.

* * *

In the beginning
you created.
Master artist
you joined your
zesty imagination
with your love for beauty
to form the earth
and the heavens.

Your powerful hand
wrought the stars,
the mountain summits,
the ocean depths.
Your gentle hand
molded ladybugs,
and baby's breath.

Giver of life,
creative beyond comparison,
you made all things.

And you saw that
they were good.

* * *

Creator of beginnings
you saw that all was good.
But you were not yet finished.

For your grand finale,
you made two more
Man and Woman.
Of the same form
yet different,
you made them.

In holy tenderness,
you breathed your life
into them.
You placed your treasure
into their clay pots
and called them
"in my image."

Though created,
we are creative.
Though finite,
we seek the infinite.
Though individuals,
we need relationship.

Thank you, God,
for the life you have given us.
Thank you for
making us image-bearers.
Thank you for beginnings.

April 1998, for Christian Thought class at Wheaton College

Hellos and Goodbyes

Hellos and goodbyes
They breeze endlessly
through air terminal after air terminal
around the world
never stopping for breath
cleverly evading any grasp

they taunt my frailty
my heart
so fragile and worn
from infinite departures

My family
my friends
my love
dancing shadows
in flickering firelight
I touch only
cold night air
and then cry my tears.

(On Steve's departure to England, Oct. 1, 1998)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Everything's growing: Ethan, house and plants!

Ethan is 5 months old now, and has just begun rolling over. It's so fun to see him change and grow. He smiles all the time, finally sleeps on his own and takes regular naps, and loves to gum anything in reach. His favorite is when I'm drinking a smoothie. He grabs my ice-cold glass and gnaws on the rim of it. He must be teething...

Dad's house is also 'growing,' in that the whole place is finally roofed (in the basic sense). This brings a sigh of relief to Dad and the guys because now they can still work when it rains and the house doesn't get flooded with pond-like puddles. They also have wrapped the house in Tybek, an insulating material that goes on before the siding. This, too, keeps the rain out, but also the breeze and the birds. Little birds had been enjoying flying in circles through the various windows, but now they use the stairwell and the chimney as their playground.

Since I blogged two months ago about planting avocado, lemon, and grapefruit seeds, as well as a sweet potato, I'm including pictures showing their progress. The citrus were the first to sprout but are now the slowest-growing. The sweet potato and avocado are higher every day. In the red pot are sweet pepper plants and in the small green pot are tomato plants. While eating cherries today, the kids decided we should try planting a cherry seed, too!

Monday, May 21, 2007

A new (unwanted!) house-guest

The other day I was up with the kids in the morning and thought I heard a funny sound somewhere in the house. There was so much going on, though, that I didn't really think about it. Later I heard it again, but thought maybe it was my bread machine. No... could it be the fan in my room with something caught in it perhaps? No... Oh, Ethan's awake now. Maybe he's been making weird noises.

As I passed the laundry room, I heard distinct animal noises and realized this was not Ethan, or my fan, or the bread machine, but a creature.

I have to admit: I was a little afraid. I could tell it wasn't just a mouse. And it sounded like it was loose in the room. It wasn't squeezing under the door so I figured it must be bigger than that. I made the mistake of asking the kids to listen, too (to make sure I wasn't just losing my mind), and they joined me in my anxiety. Except that I was scared of an animal making a mess of my room or perhaps being rabid or unpleasant like a skunk. My kids were saying things like, "Maybe it's a leopard!" I assured them it was nothing of the kind.

While I got on the phone, trying to find someone to help me, Naomi and Josiah went in their room and shut their door. I called my mother-in-law, my apartment manager, the health department, my landlord, and finally, because I hadn't reached anyone else helpful, the sheriff's office to speak with animal control.

In between calls, I heard happy sounds from the kids' room and realized that they were making a game of this! I tried to go in there to talk to them and couldn't open the door. They had barricaded it with their little rocking-chair, other little chairs and doll strollers. Naomi said that Josiah had the duty of "Watching the Door." They were still sure this creature was none other than a crocodile or a lion.

A few hours after I'd first heard the sounds, my landlord finally came over and went into the laundry room to check it out. By now, the kids were visiting Mimi and I was alone with Ethan. The landlord never did hear the animal sounds, but after looking behind things and in boxes and not seeing anything, he concluded there had been a bird in our dryer vent. He turned on the dryer, admitted that the grating on the outside of our dryer vent doesn't stay shut, and told me not to worry.

It's been a week now, and we still hear our bird everyday, throughout the day. We told our landlord that this is a continuing problem, but he just said, "Keep running your dryer -- it will go away." It's not working. We think this bird has actually built a nest in our tubing. And anyway, it's so warm now that I'm trying not to use the dryer, and am hanging up my clothes outside to dry. So while my clothes are on the clothesline, I run my dryer for 10 minutes at a time to try to shoo this unwanted house-guest out of our house.

We're used to the sounds now. But even tonight, Naomi got out of bed and said she was afraid the mommy bird was bringing food to the baby birds and that the food was BUGS. She was sure there would be bugs getting into our house now because of this bird. I'll let you know if we ever have baby birds flying around our laundry room once they've battered their way through the small hole in our tubing. Hopefully we'll be gone by then...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

After Twenty Years

Have you ever called someone up after not having spoken with them in 20 years? I did that very thing, crazy though it seemed, just the other day. I'd been thinking of my elementary years and how much I'd moved around. I decided to go online and see if I couldn't find some old friends of mine. I used Google, and looked up various close school friends who I'd completely lost touch with. One friend actually had a current photo and phone number on a medical lab website. So I called him...

David Scoville lived in the building next to mine when we were in fifth grade. Our dads were both at UCLA and we were living in family student housing. We went to Clover Elementary School and had Mrs. Shapiro as our teacher. Both of us were pretty good at math and Mrs. Shapiro didn't quite know what to do with us. So David and I would sit in the back corner of the classroom everyday during math time and work through the book together at our own pace. We also occasionally walked to school together, and were both in the GATE program.

He moved away after that year and I hadn't seen or talked to him since. After twenty years, I found him online and called him.

He's currently in an MD/PhD program in Kansas, researching adult stem cells, specifically in the intestine. He's married and has two little boys, aged 3 1/2 and 2 1/2. We've had quite different paths: he went to junior high and high school in Idaho, while I was in L.A. and Africa; he went to college in Utah and studied microbiology while I went to college in Illinois and studied education. He's committed to many years of higher education while I'm home with kids full-time. But it was fun to talk about memories of California and fifth grade, and to catch up on what we've both done since then.

Last summer I read a book called "Third Culture Kids" and thought about the benefits and losses of being a missionary kid. The authors wrote about the instability a missionary kid feels, as he lives in one culture and has furloughs in another culture, as his friends come and go at different times, and as he never feels quite like he belongs. I thought of my childhood, moving from one university to another as my dad did various degrees, and realized that being a student's kid is similar to being a missionary kid.

By the time I was in eighth grade, I had lived in 8 different apartments and gone to five schools. I'd make a good friend in each class and then have to say goodbye. The most stable things in my life were my grandpa's house in San Diego, and my church in Los Angeles where we were involved for six years in a row. I talked with David about this. As he pointed out, there are so many benefits to that kind of life. We can move pretty easily. We make friends fairly quickly. And we have friends scattered across the country (or world).

But I heard some people here in Lexington talking about their kids growing up their entire lives with a best friend and it made me sad. It made me wonder: what has happened to my friends? I can't go back to one hometown and see old schoolmates. They were student's kids, too, and they could be anywhere in the world now. But I do have a history. I did have friends who knew me at various times.

That is why it was so neat to find David Scoville and chat for a while on the phone. He's part of my history, even if a brief part. Talking to him reminded me of my past and helped me feel like I'm not a completely root-less person. Now I just need to get a hold of a few more of those good friends from twenty years ago...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Boxerwood Gardens

We discovered a fun place just outside the Lexington city limits called Boxerwood Gardens. They officially opened a new preschool play section on Mother's Day and we were there to check it out! What a delight...

Almost everything was natural, using raw wood or recycled items. There was a "Mud Kitchen" where children could make mud food and serve it on child-sized table and chairs. There was even a sink for them to wash their hands in when they were done. There was a "Willow Tunnel" which will eventually be completely covered with vines and a small grassy mountain with a tunnel going through it. Josiah enjoyed the sand area, where there were rakes and shovels to play with.

The highlight for both kids was a re-circulating creek. There were little plastic frogs, snakes and lizards hidden in the water or under rocks. Josiah loved finding them, throwing them back in the creek and then retrieving them again. Steve spotted a REAL frog and Naomi was occupied with that for the next 45 minutes. She and another little boy played together, catching the frog, touching the frog, chasing the frog, laughing at its antics. I even held it for a few minutes -- my first time ever!

We had such a good time that we went back yesterday, bringing Mimi and cousin Owen with us. This time we also explored some wooded trails in the preschool section, where the kids gathered shells in baskets, got to feel antlers and bones, and made towers from sanded bits of wood. We also watered flowers with watering cans that were provided.

I enjoyed letting the kids play outside in a 'natural' environment where they could explore, but within bounds. I only had to watch a small section of water to make sure they didn't get hurt in the creek. I knew the woods were fenced in. But Naomi and Josiah got to use their imaginations and play in a different way than they do at a playground. Plus I reveled in the gentle breeze, the cool shade, and the lovely sound of babbling water. Almost everything there was shaded since the trees have been growing on this property for a long time.

We still have more to explore in the general gardens. It should be a fun place to visit all summer, and maybe we'll even see that frog again!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Two Seems So Easy!

After my horrendous Sunday, I told Naomi that she would forfeit her weekly overnight stay with Steve's parents. Instead, Josiah went by himself and I was left with Naomi and Ethan. We had a marvelous time! I couldn't believe what a difference it made to just have one preschooler gone. Naomi didn't have anyone to fight with or raise her voice over. She happily entertained Ethan for me. We had time to scrapbook together -- Naomi's just starting her very own. And dinner was actually pleasant!

She kept noticing the 'peace' in the house and said that it was Josiah's fault that there isn't usually peace in the house. I tried to help her realize that it's not the fault of any one person in our family, but the dynamics when we all get together and start fighting!

I'm going to try to do this more often. The only problem will be that if I send Naomi away and keep the boys, I won't have anyone keeping track of how aggressive Josiah is with Ethan. I'll have to watch him carefully. But it is good to know that my kids aren't necessarily 'terror children' in all circumstances! I thank Mom and Dad Gertz for the respite they give me!

Sunday, May 6, 2007


I can not believe how difficult it is to parent. I feel like I must be the worst in the world, for Naomi just keeps getting more and more defiant, and Josiah is increasingly disobedient. I try everything I can think of, but Naomi's attitude is unbelievable. She says things now like, "I don't have to obey you. I can do what I want" and "You're so bad, Mommy." She's also treating Josiah more meanly everyday, and saying harsh things to him.

I don't know what to do. All my life, I've been pretty good at following instructions, reading and learning, but there's no instruction manual for this job! There are no extra study sessions, and my results are not just a grade on a test but the atmosphere in my entire family and home. I'm tired of battling and punishing. I'm tired of hearing complaining and disrespectful words.

I guess I haven't been surrendering my life very well to Christ, and maybe this is evidenced by my kids. I haven't been praying for them, and it's pretty clear that they're not going to change without Jesus as their Lord. I need prayer for my own commitment, to fall in love with Jesus again and let his Word pour into me. And I need prayer for my sanity as I struggle to not go bonkers.

On the positive side, Ethan is finally sleeping well. He used to only take 10-20 minute naps, and only if he was being held. Now he will nap for at least an hour at a time, and we're putting him in his own bed (which he doesn't appreciate yet, but he's getting there...) He's happy now to be in a johnny-jumper or an exer-saucer, and he loves chewing on teething toys, stuffed animals or rattles. It's much easier for me to get stuff done when he can entertain himself a little and sleep for an hour in a bed!

By the way, I probably won't benefit from any 'parenting advice' you think you can give me. I've pretty much heard it all. I think I just need a heart-change in my kids. Please, God, help us...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

G-gpa and Julie Visit!

My grandpa and his wife Julie visited us last week, coming all the way from California. It was great to catch up with them and get some Grandpa hugs, but I think the best thing about their visit was seeing my kids get to know them.

Naomi and Josiah didn't remember the last time they'd seen Grandpa and Julie (2 years ago) so at first they were a little nervous to see them again. But when I talked about the visit ahead of time, saying how excited I was, they caught on to my joy and anticipation. They helped me clean the house and Naomi wanted to make a special cake and sign to welcome them.

Both kids were a little shy at first, but by the time G-gpa (for "Great-grandpa") had read Naomi a book and given Josiah food, they were warmed up! One of our few days together was rainy, which gave us a good excuse to do origami inside together. Naomi called it 'folding' and said it was her favorite thing about their visit. We also made paper airplanes and helicopters. (Helicopters are VERY easy and fun to watch spinning through the air -- just look it up online for directions.)
Josiah says his highlight was having G-gpa and Julie read Curious George books to him.

Naomi and Josiah spent hours outside, too, catching big ants and playing with them. Grandpa was amazed at how well my kids play together.

When I was little, I had three great-grandparents who I saw at least a few times a year. They all lived in San Diego, near my grandparents, and were a part of our holidays and special visits.

Grandpa and Julie are such neat people and part of so many memories that I wish my kids could see them more. It makes me sad that they might not know each other very well, but I'm grateful that they at least had this short visit. I'm glad that Grandpa and Julie were willing to do 'kid-things' with the children (instead of sight-seeing things) so that Naomi and Josiah have memories of specific things like origami.

Thank you, God, for my great family!