Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Are You Thankful For?

Our daughter Alli came out of the womb barking orders. And in six years, not much has changed. Last night at the dinner table she decided she wanted to play school. Before we could swallow our next bite, she launched into some very loud and determined directions. We were all instructed to come up with five (and only five) things we were thankful for and then list them off for the family to hear. She went first to demonstrate and give an example in case we weren't bright enough to understand what she wanted. Her list went something like this: "One: my house. Two: my schisters. Three: My Mom and Dad. Four: My brother. Five: Jesus-oh-and-Dusty-the-dog-but-that-would-be-six-and-that's-too-many."

She pointed her bossy finger at Curt and he rattled off his list, followed by Paige and Katie. They all pretty much said the same thing: family, a house to live in, a dog, and Jesus. Then it was our nine-year-old Grant's turn. Never one to be outdone and with a fondness for waxing poetic, he launched into his list and this fairly close to what he said.

Alli: ONE?
Grant: Jesus, because He chose to die on the cross for my sins.
Alli: TWO?
Grant: My siblings because they're fun to play with except when they're bossy or mean.
Alli: THREE?
Grant: The Bible because it's God's Word to us and it teaches us about God and how to live like Jesus.
Alli: FOUR?
Grant: A warm house and shelter from the storm outside because so many people don't have the luxury of a house to call home.
Alli: FIVE?
Grant: A Mom and Dad who love me and take care of me.
Alli: Mommy's turn.
Grant: No, I'm doing ten things.
(argument and verbal war ensues, but Grant came out on top.)
Grant: SIX (with smirk toward Alli): The Holy Spirit because He guides me in how to grow the fruit of the Spirit in my life. SEVEN: A dog to wrestle with and play with and she's such a good Dusty. EIGHT: My salvation. I'm so grateful that Jesus saved me from my sins and gave me new life. NINE: ummm... The fact that I live in a free country and can worship God without fear of arrest or persecution because people all over the globe suffer for serving Jesus. TEN: Food to eat cause I'm hungry a lot and we have food when others don't. Your turn Mom.

Well how on earth do I follow up on that? Pass the Kleenex please. Sheez. I started down my list of Jesus, Daddy, kids, a warm house and my friends, but as I launched into number six, Alli stopped me dead in my tracks. Apparently she only had the bandwidth for one family member to step outside the boundary of her rules and I didn't get to finish. But Alli doesn't have access to my blog, so here's what I would have said given the chance to wax poetic like my son.
  1. My Savior, Redeemer, Healer, Forgiver, Friend, and Giver of a Thousand Chances, Jesus Christ. I can't imagine what a mess my life would be if it weren't for You. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
  2. My Smokin' Hot Husband Who is a Stone-Cold Fox (courtesy of Will Ferrell and Talledega Nights). You are my best friend, soul mate, provider, lover, partner in crime, and laugh-generator. My life would be so dull and quiet my life without you in it.
  3. My Four Crazy Kiddos. Holy cow. Who knew such little people (or not so little now that Grant comes up to my shoulder) could evict such strong emotions? I never knew I could love so deeply, defend so fiercely, or frustrate so easily. I have learned boatloads from each one of you and I am so grateful God chose me to be your Mommy, for better or for worse. Thank you for your grace when I screw up, your hugs every morning, your messes to keep me busy, and your loudness and excitement for life that fills our home.
  4. My Extended Family. We are wacky and slightly crazy, but we are family and I love each one of you. You have all shaped my life in some way and I am grateful for the fingerprints you've left in my life.
  5. A Shelter From the Storm - what a blessing to have a roof over our heads, food on our table, running water and electricity, vehicles that start when we turn the key, and heat when it's cold outside.
  6. My Kingdom Family. There is beauty in the family of God. I am so grateful for my brothers and sisters, united through Jesus, who pour life-giving love, grace and mercy into my life. What a gift you all are.
  7. Okay Dusty. You make the list. You are the best dog EVER. (But don't tell anyone I said that. I have a reputation to keep you know, so now you can leave my feet by the computer and go lay down.)
  8. The Good 'Ol USA - I am proud to be an American and thankful for the freedom and opportunity I receive from living in this great nation.
  9. Health. So many people we know are fighting disease and pain. I feel so unworthy to have not just my health but the health of all my children and my husband. For those who are suffering, we are praying for healing and strength.
I'm sure I could get my list to ten, but I'm stepping out into new and uncharted waters by making a list that doesn't end in a five or a zero. So what are you thankful for? Picture Alli's finger in your face, and start counting! Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Silent Order

My friend Melanie Dobson is a writer. Not just an "oh I like to write" writer, but a real-life author who always is on deadline for another novel. I was glad I met her first and found out what she did later because I would have found her completely intimidating otherwise. She is magical with words, loves research (which I find to be incredible in and of itself because I'd rather bang my head against the wall than do research), and is so humble about her God-given talent.

I have the privilege of praying for her as she writes each book so when they finally arrive in print, I can't wait to get my hands on them. Her most recent accomplishment, "The Silent Order," was the most anticipated for me because I got to help her choose the title. I know. Such a small claim to fame. Anyway, I devoured this book and loved it. Here's the review I posted and I would definitely encourage you all to go read it.

I’ll be honest, when I think of a great read I don’t think “Inspirational Fiction,” but I have never been disappointed by any of Melanie Dobson’s work. I am not at all interested in studying history or reading another mindless love story but Dobson has a way of working magic with her words. She cleverly disguises her history lessons in suspenseful plots with believable characters and while she’s at it, she sneaks in questions we all ask but are too afraid to voice out loud.

In The Silent Order she tackles finding God in times of pain and suffering and brilliantly compares and contrasts two sisters who chose opposite paths to deal with their pain. My mother’s heart resonated with the heroine, Katie Lehman, and her desire to protect her son at all costs in spite of living in a society that promoted peace at all costs. My heart ached with Rollin Wells, the hero, as he wrestled with guilt, shame and grief. Could God really forgive his deepest, darkest secrets and sin?

Dobson drew me into this suspenseful story within the first handful of pages and I literally read the book cover to cover in a matter of hours. I found myself continually flipping back to the first couple of chapters, amazed at how Dobson connected the dots of her plot in unexpected ways. Without trying, I learned about the Amish culture, the Mafia of the 1920’s, and God’s redemptive power to heal, forgive, and make all things new. This is one story I did not want to end.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Studying in Africa by Grant Stilp

Grant wrote this writing sample recently in fourth grade. The assignment was to draft a creative writing piece using assigned vocabulary words in context and to try to spell everything correctly. I could only find one misspelled word. Here's what he wrote (didn't he do good?).

"Studying in Africa

This is my third day in South Africa on the Boone and Crocket game reserve. I feel peculiar with all these pros. I yearned to get out and tag all these animals. The leader was bewildered when I tranquilized an elephant, a leopard, and an endangered vulture all in one week. We made a bargain that I would tranquilize and they would collar and track. All the pros were impressed with my skills. Thank you for reading this see you soon.

Grant Stilp"

Friday, November 5, 2010

An Original Masterpiece

Kaitlin's 3rd grade class took a field trip to the Portland Art Museum today. They've been studying self portraits in art lit so why not take a few hours off school and go to a real museum to look at real self portraits? (There was no photography allowed, so I have zero pictures to prove I was actually there.)

We arrived a few minutes before the museum opened. We made the courtyard look more like a zoo than a museum as the handful of chaperones tried to corral fifty 3rd graders who had just survived a jerky, nausea-inducing, 45 minute bus ride. The kids climbed on and over the benches, stuck their hands through the metal fence that cordoned off a statue garden, chased each other and slid down the railing of the stairs.

At exactly 10:00, the museum opened and well-dressed, softly spoken museum employees calmly walked out to meet the madness called third grade. They quietly introduced themselves, separated us into groups of 12 students with their chaperones, and guided us into the exquisite lobby. I'm not sure what our "docent's" (the fancy word for teacher guide) name was because she never spoke above a controlled whisper and I couldn't hear her over the initial din of our group. But she was lovely, sophisticated, well-spoken, and very good with children. She made a point of squinting at their name tag to call each child by name when they answered a question, laid down the museum rules in such a liltingly beautiful voice that the kids didn't even know they were being told what to do, and pretended not to notice how their dirty sneakers, jeans and graphic T's didn't exactly blend into the perfection of museum life.

Over the next hour, she guided us into several different galleries choosing one portrait out of each gallery to stop and muse over. She explained to us that the information card for each piece provided details such as when the piece was created, who created it and how. She told us each portrait tells a story and showed us how to look for the story in the background, the wardrobe, and the accessories. She defined "medium" as the tool the artist chose to create the piece and "palette" as the scheme of color. She also told us that every piece we saw was a masterpiece. It was one-of-a-kind, unique, and personally created by the artist. What made each portrait valuable was the fact that it was the original. No copies allowed on these museum walls. If we looked closely, but not too closely to set off the alarms, we could see individual brush strokes and cracks in the paint, indications that these paintings were truly original masterpieces.

It occurred to me that life is a self-portrait. We use the medium of imperfection and the palette of mistakes and create with our lives a masterpiece only a Daddy could love. But that Daddy, a real Creator, lovingly takes out His art supplies. He grabs His brush of grace and His palette of compassion, mercy and forgiveness and lovely transforms our rudimentary portrait into a masterpiece. He doesn't cover up all the cracks in our paint. Look closely. You can see his brush strokes, making every crack, every color choice, an original masterpiece.