LovelyLife #4: Little Explorer

“Explore often. Only then you will know how small you are and how big the world is.” 
-  Pradeepa Pandiyan


LovelyLife #3: Tomatoes

Growing Tomatoes
Don't you just love the smell of tomatoe plants in the summer time?

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. ”
― Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals


Lovely Life Photo Series Begins

The road we walk upon is sometimes so smooth and beautiful and sometimes so treacherous and painful. And don't we all know it.

I find one of life's great challenges is to be able to feast upon flecks of good amidst the terrible that is bound to come, or even amidst the quasi-terrible, or from the monotony of the everyday. To choose joy. Choose hope. Choose to have a good attitude.

In my ever-present quest to not overlook the lovely, please allow me to share a few snapshots with you. For the next however long, whilst I seem unable to find the time to blog in words, here are some images of the lovely, as I see and capture them. May they provide at least a fleeting moment of peacefulness in your day.

I don't have a fancy camera. It's about a $75 point-and-shoot Cannon, nicely adorned with some hefty scratches. But I do like to take pictures. And even more, I like when I'm wise enough to see some of the beauty abounding on God's earth.

Looking for the lovely,

- Mossy tree -


The Jesus Under My Porch

As you might remember from here, we've been house hunting for a while now.

Since our last search-offer-fail expedition in our coastal city, we moved our sights a couple states over and recently moved into a lovely home in a foresty suburb.

We packed up last month, piled in our car, and set off on the roughly 1000-mile trip. A few days and countless "how far is it"-'s later, we excitedly rolled up to our house. It's our first home, and it's bigger and better than we ever imagined.

We began to unpack ourselves into a slurry of surprises this said dream home had in store for us. This isn't working, that's a little off, those will need some work...

Most of it is normal home-owner stuff, I suppose. It's all new to us just the same and pouring in like the unseasonable torrential rains that welcomed us last week.

Years of scrimping and saving, of planning carefully and underspending led us to this strange place where every which way we turn we need to spend money. Actually, no, you don't even need to "turn" - just move your eyes and the dollar signs will rack up across the horizon of empty, furniture-needing rooms, golden, late 80's chandeliers, dirty white carpet, rotting deck, and leaky showers.

I won't go into all the details, partly because that would be boring and partly because I might look a little insane spending our life savings to make this purchase. Instead, I'll just say, if you come visit us, you might need to go out to the garage to answer the telephone; jiggle the door handle up, not down, if you find yourself stuck in the downstairs bathroom; and maybe do some push-ups to build-up your arm strength before you arrive, just in case you should like to open a window during your stay.

Hold on now. I'm painting a picture of a pretty dumpy place. It is not. It's a beautiful, huge home with a great floor plan and a big yard, sitting in a fabulous neighborhood.

There's just a lot of... surprises. Like the Jesus I found under the porch the other day. I crawled under the deck to turn smack into a massive hunk of wood and plastic greenery with a chipped old manger scene set into it. It's 15 feet long if it's anything. What, pray you, am I going to do with that? (Pun intended.)


Add it to the list.

The endless number of projects that I can not tackle immediately nor by myself, the constant outflow of money, the decisions... it's making me a little bit crazy. Crazy like I forgot to take my kids to the first two weeks of swim lessons that I had worked for two days getting them registered for. Crazy like if I have to pick out another light fixture I might point to the gilded gold monkey ones and say, "Those will do." House crazy.

But then, fortunately, by the grace of God (or the Jesus under my porch), my son's Nerf bullet hits me in the eye and I really look around. I am so blessed with this house exactly as it is. Shame on me that I should ever go a minute forgetting that. I hear my daughter's little pink, plastic heels click across the sidewalk and catch a glimpse of her out there in her underwear, following the neighbor's daughter around. Taking care of my family is bigger than any house or yard project will ever be. And then I hear my husband jiggling the bathroom handle, stuck inside and trying to get out. And I laugh. Oh yes, we're going to have some fun here.


Fighting for Humility

Humility is a hard-learned lesson. Just ask any kid.

Or, ask my kid. My six year old totters in this odd place between thinking he can’t do something at all or that he is absolutely fantastic. Either he cannot read or he is the most skilled kindergarten reader that ever walked the face of the earth. Either he cannot build the Lego set himself or he is such an adept architect that surely Lego Magazine would like to feature him in their next issue.

When he is in that place of supreme confidence, the lessons often come hard that he is in fact not the savant he believes himself to be.

I rarely let those learning opportunities pass without jumping in to lecture him against boasting or false pride.  But this is a tough one to teach. Little ones’ developing senses of self naturally want to recognize any attribute they can possibly (or imaginatively) accredit themselves with. And yet, at the same time, they often possess fragile self-esteem that we certainly do not want to squash.

I am treading in the common parental paradox of teaching humility and modesty while also to have self-esteem and confidence.

And really, this is tough to do.

I don’t have to work at remembering to tell my son when he has done a good job, when I am proud of him, that he is loved by me and by the God that created him. But I do work at helping him to see the value in focusing on others and not himself. I try to teach that humility is a big fat key to opening doors of friendship and success, to living the life God brilliantly taught us will bring joy.

So... however do I convey to my children that to value humility is one of the most profound pieces of wisdom I can offer them?

I say the words over and over again. I try to find new words to say the same things.

But none of it means a whole lot to a six year old, I'm afraid. Not yet anyway. I hope over time they will mean something.

And until then, there’s also the real-world-learning creeping into his developing personhood. I watch him get wrestled to the ground and have to get back up -- literally, wrestled to the ground. His older cousins take him down easily in good natured wrestling matches, in spite of his taking martial arts lessons -  and thereby of course being a superhero fighter of Jedi-skill and strength, in the confines of his own mind. He doesn't heed my words warning against building up his fighting skills, but he does get knocked into teary humiliation on occasion. And I’m okay with that.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I feel bad for my little guy every time. But I figure a little wrangle to shrink his head down to a size that suites him better is okay.

After all, it is humility that leads us to a place of honest recognition of who we really are. It is humility that brings us to acknowledge our need to trust in a God who is greater and wiser than us.

Certainly I would prefer my son didn’t have to get knocked to the ground to be reminded he can in fact be knocked to the ground. Better that we remember we are not Jedi fighters before we start fighting. But I’ll take the fight, if it must be so, over the alternative.