Monday, October 18, 2010

my Christmas Eve

I remember the anticipation. The giddy butterflies that compounded in my stomach as my family and I drove up the 101, back home after an evening of celebration with family. We passed through the hills of Camarillo, by Lady Face Mountain of Agoura Hills and finally crept into quiet Thousand Oaks. Every inch closer to my bed that night meant we were closer to the Wonderful Inevitable.

It was Christmas Eve.

I didn't know then that those butterflies, as much as they contributed to the sheer glee of Christmas, had a shelf life. Year by year, their population diminished and the magic seemed to wear off. I had that awkward, "it's-not-about-the-gifts-but-I'm-still-thinking-too-much-about-them" phase, where I'd try to guilt myself back into the anticipation, back into the magic, but for less materialistic and more noble reasons.

And so it goes.

With the birth of my son, Carter, the magic started to return, the welcomed fluttering of intangible excitement. And we, my family of husband and me, still love Christmas.

My Christmas Eve no longer falls on the 24th of December, though. My first Grown-Up-Christmas-Eve fell closer to the New Year of 2008. The anticipation, the wonder, (the fear), the loss of breath over what-may-be all built around the coming of my first child.

And we're hear again. In this season of pumpkins and plastic front-yard ghouls, my soul is being brought back to the childlike joy over the imminent arrival of one of the greatest gifts and privileges of my life. Motherhood. Again. To a distinct, unique and marvelously crafted son.

It's kept me up at night. I've slipped out of bed and quietly crept to the nursery to muse. To finish thank-you cards. To write in his baby book. To appease the butterflies that denied me sleep.

I love that I'm brought back to the wonder. That the privileges of childhood are not completely lost along with the innocence and naivete. That once again, my soul is invited to dream and to hope and to skip a few soul-beats over the promise of what's to come.

This is my Grown-Up-Christmas-Eve.

And I can't wait to share with you the gift.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

behind the mic

I've always been a Talker.

My mom has, stashed away on stacks and stacks of VHS tapes, home videos of my talking.

The time I hosted a cooking show. The time I gave a tour of Grandma's garden. The time I directed a neighborhood play based on my all-time favorite movie, Hook. I've led Bible studies, I've sung from stage, I've even managed to find a way to send my thoughts through cyber-space with this blog.

And all the while, I've known that I've needed to listen more.

To be fully present when someone else is telling their story.

To ask questions that lead to more insight into the Other Talker's life.

To find increased appreciation for the opinions, life-experiences and values of the Other, without interjecting my own conclusions or related stories.

Last week was a grand experiment in the April-Needs-To-Listen-More-Project.

On a blue and green plaid couch, outside of Starbucks on creaky wrought iron chairs, in my dining room over pumpkin spice lattes, and later armed only with tap water,

I listened.

I listened to the stories of four different women. 

One with a heart-breaking journey through infertility. One with a brave story of following Jesus as a single woman. One whose happy-family-ever-after was tragically transformed in a weekend, launching her into the unknown territory of single motherhood. One who wrestled with God over dreams deeply rooted in her soul to discover a step or two closer to their fulfillment.

I want to invite you to listen, too. 

I channeled my inner Nina Totenburg (NPR journalist) and recorded, with permission, each conversation.

And I'm now in the process of transcribing them. They're part of an upcoming women's breakfast for the ladies at my church, Church at the Bay, and I'd like to give you the opportunity to be encouraged, inspired and challenged as well. You can email to request to receive these conversations as email, which will be sent out starting on October 11.

As much as talking helps me process this world, I'm finding that listening is a far greater force for growth.

Would you like to join me?

Monday, October 4, 2010

the Bible, censored

Tucked in the back of my son's closet are some newly-forbidden books, hidden from sight, begging to know what destiny awaits them.

And I have no answer for these books, except that they stay hidden.

For now.

I don't feel right chucking them; I could be okay giving them away.

These aren't Katy-Perry-dances-around-with-Elmo kind of books; they don't teach evolution or get into why-Ella-has-two-mommies;

they're Bible stories.

Three Bible stories.

Months ago, I could flip through the pages, rewriting the text, moving quickly past the pictures of sinister-looking men. Now, my son is too smart for that.

Let's take Joseph's story.

It starts with an illustration of a kind, old man putting a rainbow-colored coat on his son.

I skip the part that says, "Of all his sons, he loved Joseph the most." With a brother on the way, no concept of favoritism needs to be introduced.

The next picture is of Joseph, happily trotting down the road, older brothers in the background, with arms crossed and scowling faces. We ignore the text that speaks of their anger and jealousy. 

There are more scowling faces until we reach the page where Joseph's brothers throw him in a pit, his perfectly-animated face displaying some contortion of horror.

Here's where I transition from paraphrasing

to skipping over

to lying.

Joseph fell in a pit, I tell Carter.

And then he went on a journey to see the pyramids and Joseph's daddy is crying because he thought Joseph was hurt and let's please try to ignore those awful, sinister, evil faces of Joseph's brothers one more time.

Then Carter will ask for Daniel's story. Another classic.

The very.


starting scene.

shows a picture of a boy playing with his toys. And then some soldiers appear on the opposite page, one with an arrow drawn and the other, reaching over a wall, snatching the boy's toys away. We're told, "One day, a great army came and captured all of the people there and took Daniel to a strange land."


So, next time you're innocently playing with your toys, son, you should be aware that soldiers just might come and take you away, too.

The story moves on, giving us a brief respite from having to paraphrase. skip over. and lie. until we reach those sinister men.

And once again, I'm brought to a very familiar place--lying about how our hero came to find himself in a pit.

Daniel fell into a pit with lions. 

The king was worried, God made the lions "be nice" to Daniel,

and one would think we could end the children's version of this Bible story right here.

Of course not.

Let's mention that the bad men had to be thrown in the pit with lions and, for kicks, let's include a colorful illustration of the lions lunging at the frightened (sinister) men.

Don't even get me started on Noah.

While I have less paraphrasing, skipping over and (no) lying to do with this story, I can't help but wonder why the makers of everything-Baby have chosen this story to be their mascot.

The one time God is so fed up with the world and disgusted by the violence of men that he chooses to wipe out the entire population, sparing only Noah and his family, is immortalized in pastel colors plastered on nursery walls and baby bedding around the world. I guess if the story of Sodom and Gomorrah had a few cute token animals and a rainbow, we'd be churning out artistic renderings of it as well.

So, I'm in a quandary.

I don't want Mickey to be the only character capturing my son's imagination.

I also don't intend to lead him to believe that the world is a perfectly safe place, protecting him from the inevitable truths of bad people, conflict and pain.

But seriously.

He's only two and a half.

I think (I hope) I'm right in thinking that these themes of betrayal, war and the horror of this fallen world can wait...

just a little longer.

We're only innocent for so long, anyway.