Friday, April 11, 2014

Extreme

I always wonder about people who put bumper stickers on their cars. I tend to think that they are people who talk a lot. Share everything. Discuss politics and religion and all those things that you have to be careful with in mixed company. Maybe that's not true of bumper sticker people. Maybe it is. I really don't know, because come to think of it, I don't think I know anyone who has a bumper sticker on their car.

I often read bumper stickers and try to figure out what kind of person drives that car. Sometimes the stickers make me laugh. Or think. But mostly I wonder what in the world someone was thinking when they stuck that sticker on their car. There are bumper stickers that I dislike. The ones that insult politicians...whether I voted for them or not. The ones that put down other people's beliefs...whether those beliefs are mine or not. The ones that use bad language...because little kids who are learning to read, read everything...and big kids read everything, too.

Today I saw a bumper sticker on a big, green truck today that said, "Extremely Rightwing." Really? Just what does that mean? And just what does this person want me to think about them? Am I supposed to make assumptions about their political beliefs? Am I supposed to honk if I agree...or if I don't? Should I assume that we couldn't be friends...or that we could be best friends? Am I expected to be moved to become extremely rightwing, too? I just don't know what the purpose of such a bumper sticker is.

Maybe I just don't understand being extremely anything when it comes to politics. I'm slightly on the right, I suppose. But I'm okay with those who aren't. If you and I were having a conversation about something and you asked me my opinion, I'd tell you. But the person driving behind me down the highway or stopped behind me at a stoplight, do they really care what I think? I don't think so.

There are some things in my life that I feel extreme about. I feel extremely protective of my children. My inner mama bear is lying, ready to pounce on anything that threatens my cubs. And I am extreme about the love I have for my husband. After 22 years, it is a comfortable, safe love. One that will last forever because we are both extremely dedicated to the life we've made together. I am extremely thankful for my family, the ones who live under my roof and the ones who don't. We are extremely blessed to have each other and the relationships we share. I am extremely happy about the sister-friends God has put in my life. These girls are the best...really, the absolute best. I am extremely loved by God, Creator of the universe. And I try to love Him extremely in return.

So, yes. Extreme exists in my world, I suppose. I guess I just feel like "extreme" should be reserved for kind, loving, good things. Things that unite us as people. Things that divide us should not be extreme. They should be...what's the opposite of extreme? Mild, moderate, slight? Or even less? Is being rightwing uniting or dividing? I'd have to ask someone who is to know for sure. Are my extremes uniting? I hope so.

So if you ever see a bumper sticker that says all of that, let me know. Maybe I'll stick that one on my minivan. But probably not, because I'm not really a bumper sticker kind of girl.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Really?! Boxes?

A few months ago, Arrty was reading a book given to him by his boss. It's called "Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box." Sounds exciting, right? Well, when he was almost finished with it, he asked me if I'd read it when he was done. He said it was really good and would be good for me to read. Uh-oh. I told him that maybe I would while secretly figuring he'd forget about it and I would escape reading a book with both "leadership" and "self-deception" in the title. But he didn't forget. And every time he saw me reading something new, he'd ask me if I'd read his book yet. No. No, I hadn't. Even though there was a really sweet pink post it on the front that said, "Jen, please read. I love you!" Really?! Leadership? Self-deception? Mysterious boxes that I should get out of? I had absolutely no desire to read it. So I didn't. Until finally I did. Arrty noticed a new book that I had begun reading and asked me again about his book. I told him I didn't want to read it. I don't like non-fiction. There were so many other things I wanted to read instead. But then he pulled out the big guns. He reminded me that I read all kinds of books that my friends give me. Why wouldn't I read the one he gave me? After briefly considering "losing" his book, I realized that he was right. Sigh. I wasn't being fair.

So later that evening, I sheepishly went into the bedroom and picked up the book. It's written like a conversation between a man and his boss. Not your typical leadershippy style of writing. And I was getting through it pretty quickly, which was helpful. But then something strange happened. I started to get it. The whole thing about the leadership and the self-deception and the boxes. I was getting it. If I tried to tell you about it, I wouldn't get it right, so I'll just give you the gist. Every person that we come in contact with just wants to be seen as the person they are. But many of us, me included, often see people as objects that are getting in our way...on the roads, in line at the store, at our workplaces. But if we thought about others as people with their own hopes and dreams and goals and not deceive ourselves into thinking that our hopes and dreams and goals are more important than theirs, we'd all be better off. The guy driving too slowly in the fast lane might have had a recent car accident and is anxious about driving and is in the fast lane to avoid having to change lanes at his exit. The lady in line at the store who is using 23 coupons and is taking forever maybe only has enough money to pay for her groceries if she uses all those coupons. And the workplace...which for me is filled with 5 year olds...can be especially challenging. Every shoe I tie. Every question I answer. Every hand I guide to perfect letter writing. Every single one represents a person. A person someone loves and cherishes like I do my own children. A person with hopes and dreams and goals...and bright futures. And more than that, a soul on his or her journey through this life. Wow! That's big!

And all of this also translates to family relationships. Do I treat those I live with as their own person or do I let my needs/desires/selfishness get in the way and allow myself to see them as a hindrance. This hit me like a ton of bricks when I thought about it. Do I? I know I love my family with every fiber of my being. I cook and clean and shop for them. I spend what seems like every ounce of my energy on them. But do I deceive myself into thinking that my actions justify my feelings. Oh. My. Goodness. It was put to the test a few days after finishing the book.

If you know me at all, you probably know that I hate homework. Hate it. I give my students very little and only that so that their parents can see what they're learning. But the school the boys go to does not share my aversion to homework. So the boys have at least math every night. If you read my post about Adam, you already know he has some trouble with focus, so for him, homework is a long, drawn out fight to the finish. Sometimes he wins. Sometimes I win. But really we both lose, because four nights a week pretty much all he does all evening is math and pretty much all I do is sit with him so that he can focus enough to get it finished. When I was thinking about the way I treat my family, this situation came to mind. Because I know, I know, that in the past I've felt very bitter about having to do homework instead of my own chores or reading or playing Bubble Shooter. And I've said so...loudly. If only he'd get more done at school. If only he could focus more. I blamed him. Or his teacher. If only she'd give them time in class to work. If only she'd give them fewer problems. If THEY would only change, MY evenings would be so much easier. Now if that isn't self-deception, I don't know what is. So that night, when I wanted to huff and puff about homework, I took a deep breath and thought about how Adam is my child, whom I love with all my heart. Not about the books or the time or the what ifs. And guess what? We finished his homework without anyone screaming or crying.

This new way of thinking has carried over into all areas of my life. Now if I begin to get frustrated or impatient, I think of my box and that whoever is standing in my way is a person, not an object. It has helped me slow down and think through my feelings and actions. It's not easy. As a matter of fact, I texted Arrty one day shortly after finishing the book, "Dang boxes! I like my boxes! I don't want to be nice!" His reply, "Crickets." As in, "I'm just going to be quiet about that." I guess he has learned a thing or two over the last 21 years, after all.

If there's one thing in this world that we have to deal with every single day of our lives, it's other people. And it's hard. But it can be easier. By getting out of my "me" box and thinking of others as people, souls, I have been more able to be patient and kind like I should be. Like I want to be.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why I May Never Go To Another Secular Concert



On Saturday night, January 11th, I took Josh, Adam, and their friend Sam to the Rock and Worship Roadshow in Spokane. (Arrty was going to go, but had to stay home and play Noah in the flooded basement.) I bought the tickets for the boys for Christmas and we were all excited about it. But I have to admit, that once the time actually rolled around I was wondering if it wasn't meant to be. There was the flooded basement and backyard. There was the driving to Spokane in 5:00 traffic. There was the taking three teenage boys to a sold out arena by myself. All of those things were enough to make me second guess my decision. But the boys were excited about going and under all the anxiety about it, I really wanted to go, too.

 So we loaded up the van and headed west. The line to get into the parking lot was long and slow. We decided to park at the back of the parking lot and walk to the arena. Which was the right idea, because the rest of the parking lot was crazy. Once we got in and found our seats I had time to take a breath and take it all in. I know that there are bigger arenas than the one in Spokane, but there are a lot of people in there at a sold out show. A lot of people. Which led to some deep breathing and self talk to keep myself calm. Once I located all the exits, formed a plan of escape if I needed it, and convinced myself that I wouldn't go deaf from one concert even though I forgot my earplugs, I relaxed.

And now here's the part where I began to realize that I may never again go to a secular concert. The show started with a prayer. At which time I recalled the verse from Matthew that says,

"And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” 

Well, there were certainly two or more of us gathered. And we were there because of Jesus. So, guess what! He was there. Maybe he was the guy sitting next to me. Or the little old lady three rows down. Or the teenage girl in front of me. Or maybe he was just everywhere. In every heart. And His peace that passes understanding came over me in a group of thousands of people where I would have normally been fighting a panic attack the whole time. He was there.

When the show started, I admit that I did wonder what I had gotten myself into. The first band, We As Human*, was loud. And hard. And I confess to asking Jesus right then and there how he felt about that. But then I listened harder to try to hear the words through the noise. And there He was...Jesus. And no matter what it sounds like, He loves to hear us sing His name. And throughout the night I continued to be convicted that everyone, no matter how they look or what they wear or how they choose to praise the Lord, every single person is loved by Jesus unconditionally and completely. And any one of those people is free to love Him in return.

After that, the night just kept getting better and better. The second band was The Neverclaim. They have kind of a southern rock sound. And I could understand most of the lyrics, which was a plus. Their song Mighty Jesus is amazing! That's when I finally knew I was in the right place.

Next was Royal Tailor. I kept thinking that they were the "boy band" of the bunch. There was even a moment of synchronized dance moves. They were really good, too. And I was surprised to learn after the concert that they were among my boys' favorites of the night.

Before or after Royal Tailor (my memory is foggy from the extreme volume), was Andy Mineo. A hip-hop, skateboarding, rapping artist from New York. He rode his skateboard on stage which was really weird when I couldn't see his feet but just him floating across the stage. He rapped about Jesus. And he jumped about Jesus. And he had thousands of us in the audience doing it, too! Josh especially liked him since he is the hip-hop fan in our house.

Then we saw a worship team from Columbia called Soulfire Revolution. They had a unique sound and a more intimate performance on just the front of the stage.

One of the headliners was Third Day. I had heard a few of their songs on Christian radio and had certainly heard of the band, but didn't really know what to expect live. I was pleasantly surprised by their performance. They were easily my favorite band of the night. The lead singer has the kind of voice I like to listen to. Deep and smooth with a little bit of a growl. And their whole sound was perfect for me. And then they did a short acoustic set while the stage was being reset. When they led the audience in an acoustic/acapella version of Blessed Assurance, I was sold. I loved it so, so much. Gotta love the acapella!

The last act of the night was Skillet. (First of all, where did they get their name. I must google it.) Skillet rocks! That's all I can say. In every sense of the word. I'm usually not a big fan of the hard alternative style of music, but there's something about Skillet that made me okay with it. They are great performers, too. They had a violinist and cello player who were amazing. And a stage with sections that would rise with different performers standing on them. Lights and smoke created a real "rock" atmosphere. I think I will check out some more of their music soon.

So now back to the reasons why I may never go to another secular concert.

Reason 1: Prayer. Nothing makes me feel more like I belong than prayer. And I can honestly say that I've never felt like I belonged at most of the other concerts I've gone to. But I belonged that night. We were all there for the same reason: to rock and worship.

Reason 2: Worship. I can't even explain the feeling of worshiping with thousands of people. It had less to do with the music or the singers than with the presence of God being there. You don't get that at secular concerts.

Reason 3: Security. I didn't have to worry about what was going to flash on the screens for my teenage sons to see. Or what was going to be blasted at them from the speakers. I'm not naive. I know what's in the world. But I will try, for however long I can, to let them be kids and keep them, when it's in my power, from being bombarded with worldly sights and sounds.

Reason 4: Safety. I didn't have to worry about the people around me. Knowing that we were all brothers and sisters gave me a sense of safety that made my night easier. And since they weren't selling beer, I didn't have to worry about having it spilled on me by the guy sitting behind me. (It's happened before.)

Reason 5: Jesus. That's reason enough for me.

All in all, the night was a roaring success. The boys had a ball and I was encouraged to see that all kinds of people who praise God in all kinds of ways are all in this whole Christianity thing together. All of us Third Day people can stand beside the We As Human people the Andy Mineo people and worship together. And isn't that how it's supposed to be. Because I sure think it is.


*The way We As Human had their name written on their set was very hard to read. So until about halfway through the concert when I saw it written more clearly, I thought they were called Weashu Man. 

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Resolved

I'm not really a resolution maker. I couldn't even tell you the last time I made new year's resolutions. But, I can look back at my journals for the last 20 years and see that I've had many of the same goals for all these years...live a healthier life, grow closer to God, be a better wife and mom. They have been, and will always be I suppose, my objectives in life. And over the last 20 years, I have become healthier (in some ways) and closer to God (in many ways) and a better wife and mom (most days). I admit that when I found 1995's journal and read what I'd written, I was discouraged. Really?! I STILL haven't reached those goals?! I'm STILL trying to be that person?! But I've come to realize that as long as I live, I will strive to meet those goals. I will always want to be healthier and holier and better. It's not a bad thing to have the same goals every year. Because will I ever be the best I can be? Not until Heaven. And if I can be just a little bit better as time goes by, I'll be happy.

So hello, 2014. Welcome to the world. I can't wait to see what adventures we'll share.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dear World

Dear World,

You may not have noticed my son, Adam, yet. He hates to be the center of attention, so it's okay that you haven't noticed him. He likes it that way. But I want you to know more about him before you do. Because he's a special kid, my middle child. I've known a lot of kids in my life and career and have never known one quite like him.

He's highly sensitive. And I don't mean that in the way you might think. I mean it in the personality type way. There are people, 15-20% of people in fact, who have this type of personality. Adam is one of them. That means that his senses are heightened in every way. Bright lights are brighter. Loud noises louder. A little poke, very painful. He is extremely prone to car sickness and gets nauseous even on straight roads. (But strangely he loves roller coasters. The faster the better!) Ironically, he has a very high tolerance for some pain and barely made it to the emergency room for an appendectomy before his appendix burst because he didn't want to complain and be any trouble.

Highly sensitive people notice everything around them so are often easily distracted and seem to lack focus. That's not what it seems, though. He can be extremely focused on the things that are important to him. It's just not always what I, or you, World, think should be important. Please take time to see what he sees. Because frankly, he sees way more than most of the rest of us.

Regardless of distractions, he is a perfectionist. When he was in my kindergarten class, I could not figure out why the slightest mistake could cause a major meltdown. It was the perfectionism. And take it from me, a non-perfectionist, perfectionism in others can be very, very frustrating. Sometimes I just want him to get the job done. It doesn't have to be perfect! But just try telling him that. The upside is that if you are patient, whatever he is doing will be done well.

He is very intuitive. He can read other people's feelings much better than the average 12 year old...often better than the average 40 year old. Sometimes it's like he can read my mind. He knows what I'm thinking about the most random things. Once when I was going to get money out of the ATM for vacation, he knew how much I was going to get. The weird thing was, I didn't even know how much I was going to get until I got there. I had been debating in my head about how much we'd need and finally settled on $300. When he saw the amount, he said, "Mom, that's weird, I knew you were going to get $300." Weird indeed. Things like that happen often between he and I. He has also started experiencing frequent deja vu. I don't know if that has anything to do with his sensitivity, but I think it might.

He is also very clever and has an amazingly mature sense of humor...always has. When he was about three years old, he was in the bath and every time I pulled the plug, he'd close it so that he could play longer. After about the third time, I said, "Adam, if you close that again, you're going to get a spanking." To which he replied, "No closing costs, Mom." Really? No closing costs? He was three! (And had apparently seen way too many mortgage commercials.) That's just one example of many I could share about his unique sense of humor.

He is a thinker and has always been a child who asks questions way beyond his age. A lot of questions. He asks questions about the state of the world and God and other people. And he truly wants to know and cares about the answer. Sometimes his thinking leads to worry, which is, well, worrisome. I don't want him to worry when he's 12. At least not about things he has no control over. I try to encourage him to let me be the adult and to enjoy being a kid.

He is ultra-sympathetic. He hates to see people, or any creature really, suffer in any way. Even when he was very young, he would give up things to keep his brother happy. And he goes out of his way to make sure other's feelings don't get hurt. But if they do, he hurts for them. I love that about him. But, World, you might use that against him. Don't. We all need people who protect those who need protection. Embrace that about him.

He can become obsessive. Whatever it is that he is into at the time will fill his mind and rule his thoughts for as long as he is interested. I've learned to accept that about him. I might find Halo guys extremely unimportant, but he finds them fascinating. So I listen to the description of each one and try my hardest to appreciate what he appreciates.

He is a rule follower and a truth teller. Things are black and white to him. He has a hard time understanding why others can't just follow the rules. They're the rules for a reason. If he hears about someone doing something terrible in the world, it hurts his heart. He feels for the hurt ones and just can't understand why anyone would want to hurt others. Even when doing current events for his history class, he looks for news stories that are good or uplifting. Nothing about devastation, please.

Not until just recently while reading the book, The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron, did I realize how very special Adam is. I've always known he was different than my other children and all the children who have been a part of my life. Not bad or good, just different. Imagine my surprise when I learned that there are millions of people just like him in the world. And most don't even know that there are others like them. So, World, watch out for these special souls. Treat them with gentleness and understanding. They won't be the ones on center stage (although they make good actors because of their sympathetic and intuitive natures). They will be the ones working to make a better world because they truly care about others. They will be the ones finding cures for diseases because they are single minded in their interests. They will be the thinkers and planners and fighters for justice. And one of these special people is my Adam. So watch out, World, because when you do finally notice him, you'll never be the same.

Sincerely,
Adam's Mom

Thursday, October 10, 2013

10 Things Thursday--Josh Edition

10 things about Josh on his 14th birthday.

1. He was born on the first day of elk hunting season. I called my dad just as he was leaving for hunting that day 14 years ago to tell him that he might want to wait. That was the 9th. Josh wasn't born until the 10th. Dad waited...but went hunting on the 11th.
2. Since he was born on the first day of elk season, I knew it was only a matter of time before he spent his birthdays in the woods instead of with me. This is the fourth year that that's been true. (I'm not as okay with it as I pretend to be.)
3. He has one of those magnetic personalities that cause people to want to be his friend. He's always been kind of a charmer.
4. He finally likes school. After about the first week at his new school, he declared that "school's not so bad." That's as good as it's gonna get, I think. (He's still not crazy about the work, though.)
5. He's taller than me. He loves to stand next to me and remind me of that fact often. Honestly, I'm glad. If he was shorter than me, he'd be really short.
6. He loves all things fishing and hunting. He wants to be a professional fisherman when he grows up.
7. He has a great laugh. Just hearing him laugh, makes me laugh.
8. He is the epitome of "a growing boy." He's always hungry and seems to grow an inch everyday.
9. He was my guinea pig baby. By the time Adam came around, I was an expert compared to when Josh was born. I'd barely even held babies, no less kept them alive.
10. The day he was born was the day part of my heart began to walk around outside my body. And now, 14 years later, that still holds true...only 14 times stronger.

Happy birthday, Yosh. I love you more than words can say.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

10 Things Thursday

10 of the nominees for the 2013 induction into the Toy Hall of Fame that you could find in my house.

1. Bubbles
2. Chess game
3. Clue game
4. Fisher Price Little People
5. Magic 8 Ball
6. My Little Ponies
7. Nerf toys
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
9. Rubber Duck
10. Scooter

11. Bonus: Pac Man (in various forms)

(Green Army Men is also on the list and I'm sure we have a few around somewhere, but my boys were more of the little plastic cowboys and Indians type.)