Sunday, June 20, 2010

mais bien sur!

it's funny, is all.

once upon a time, i decided to take french. in seventh grade. i'm pretty sure my parents would have preferred i take spanish--more useful, of course--and then in high school, maybe i should have taken latin--good for those sat scores and so much more, don't you know, and oh how helpful it was for sam in our years of dealing with medical terminology--but i took french. six years in junior high and high school, and i always loved it. so i went off to college, determined to major in english--which i did, despite advice to the contrary from all around--but decided to stick with the french, too. four years later and i opted not to write a french senior project along with my english senior project, knowing full well it wasn't of any use anyhow, and i left with a french minor. my ten years of study came in handy when i hopped around to france and a handful of other francophone countries while i was studying in london, and i occasionally used it in communication with students when i taught at the community college (but oh, how much more useful spanish would have been here in north carolina!). it's been most useful, to be honest, in communication with sam; since luke learned to spell so young, we had to find another way to discuss things we didn't want him to hear, and since sam took plenty of french, too, it has served us well. well enough, actually, that i had to stop teaching luke french a few years ago because it was starting to interfere with our ability to keep secrets (de la glace àpres diner? mais oui!). anyhow, that's been the extent of the usefulness of my french in the ten years since i graduated. not much of a validation for my minor, but oh well. i loved it anyhow.

meanwhile, i sort of used my english degree for a few years as the writing specialist at a local community college; though it was a degree in english lit and i was teaching developmental english, i occasionally had use for my literary skills in tutoring more advanced students, and i certainly had use for the skills i picked up as a writing tutor in the writing center where i worked as an undergrad. but for the most part, i'd say, i did the typical liberal arts grad thing: i learned to communicate well and make a generally good impression, and i went on to find a job based on those skills and not some specific technical skills i had acquired because of my major. later, once i'd left the writing specialist job and spent several years at home full time, i got called back to the community college to work as an editor in the marketing and communications department. again, not something my english lit degree qualifies me for, specifically, but a fine fit for a liberal arts grad. i've been happily editing away for about a year now.

fast forward to this past week, my second week at my new job as children's minister at our church. (my qualification for this job, by the way? certainly not my college education. though i'm pretty sure i mentioned here in a post once upon a time that i've learned more from my kids than i ever did in any i guess that, plus a passion for what i'm doing, qualifies me as much as any liberal arts degree!) anyhow, this past week i set to work on a pen pal project to connect the kids in our church to the kids at our sister church in butare, rwanda. as i prepared the materials for our kids to fill out--little booklets introducing themselves and sharing a little bit about their lives here in north carolina--i had a good chuckle. because i realized that in order for the rwandan kids to have a better chance of understanding the notes from our kids, they would need to be translated...into french.

ten years later, in my job as a children's minister--for which i have absolutely no educational qualification--i found a use for my useless ten-year-old french degree. i think God is funny that way. just another little reminder how much bigger His plans are than ours. thank God.

you're all my favorites

if it weren't the sad truth that all but a scarce few of my children's books are packed away in the (too too hot) attic, i'd have a very appropriate quotation from this book for you.

but alas, mid-june in north carolina feels more like mid-july this you'll have to imagine the quotation.

i love you, my three favorites. happy father's day, bayba.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


no, that title is not an encouragement to read this post aloud. as much as my husband is always trying to get me to engage in family read-alouds (insert gagging noise here), and as much as i am known to love to read aloud to children (ask my little friend e.k., bringer of many books to my lap)--as much as all of that is true, i will never encourage you to read this stuff aloud. disclaimer complete.

when is the last time you read something aloud with a group of people? if you're the churchgoing type, you've probably read plenty of prayers aloud. but in a large group, the effect i'm going for is kind of lost. so when is the last time you read something aloud in a small group? have you ever noticed how people emphasize different words?

recently, i read some scripture aloud with three friends. i've forgotten now what the passage was that we were reading, but i remember well the effect. i noticed that each of us emphasized a different word. for example, had the sentence been this one from psalm 37--"Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday"--one of my friends would have emphasized the verb "commit," another the subject "he."

i find that when i read passages like that i emphasize the word "will." i think it's something about claiming the promise embedded in that sentence. the Lord will keep his word, and we can rest in that. for me, the emphasis isn't on who will be doing the thing or what the thing is to be done or to whom it will be done; rather, for me, the focus is on the certainty: it will be done.

which says something about me, i'm sure, and about God, too. but it also highlights something that i love about the body of Christ. we're all looking in the same direction--upward, presumably--but we're all doing it with a different focus, a different perspective. when you put four people together to read a scripture passage and each person emphasizes a different word, the result is a collective emphasis on all the words. and that is Good stuff. we can't see all the glory of God at once, each individually, but we can each focus on the piece we can see, and together we can work to reflect it all.

it makes me want to read this passage from psalm 57 aloud with a small group of friends, too, because i think it's as important to emphasize our commitment as it is to focus on God's promises: "My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!" (emphases mine. how about yours?)

Friday, June 11, 2010

where i am today

(this is a repost from a couple of years ago. it's still true. and it's where i'm spending my weekend--and so not doing any new blogging. the original title was "raw.")

there are lots of things that aren't much good until you get past the outside. pistachios. eggs. tootsie pops. corn on the cob.

but i'm thinking more of a watermelon.

to have a husband with whom i am completely honest, completely open, and completely raw all the time is an amazing blessing. i could never think to ask for more. but to have a friend who searches out the raw--splits me open to the get to the inside--is an incredible bonus gift.

like a watermelon.

there's good, sweet, juicy stuff inside. and some hard seeds, too, not good for much, except maybe enjoying the spitting them out. but a watermelon has a thick skin. it requires a sharp knife, a strong arm, to get through to the raw insides. which have a sweetness that compares to nothing else.

i have a beautiful, strong friend who, with the delicacy, precision, and confidence of a surgeon, splits me open.

i can count on her, whether i like it or not, to split me open. a sharp knife, applied in just the right spot with just the right amount of pressure. the juice begins to spill almost immediately. it's sticky. but she's in it all the way to the sweet center, laughing as we spit out the hard seeds and endure all the messy stickiness that comes with getting to the raw sweetness.

my skin is thick. it means nothing to her. just like a watermelon rind is good only for what is secreted away inside, so my thick skin is only what hides away what she loves about me. and she'll get it, no matter what knife she has to use.

come to think of it, those seeds we spit away probably have their purpose, too. probably.

(she'll laugh at my comparing myself to a watermelon, too. and i'll love her for it.)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

for my mama, her favorite


attempting to drink it up.

(oh, but i wish you could smell it!)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

of helium

it was another moment when i wished i was a painter. or a photograph would have done fine, but it's not the sort of moment when you happen to have a camera. and anyhow, you can't take a picture while driving 45 miles per hour. not a good one, anyhow.

i was driving down the four-lane road and came to a place where there was a break in the median for cars entering from the cross street. as i looked to see if there were any cars coming, i saw a balloon. it was bright yellow with some sort of red design, and trailing behind it was a red string. it was the big round kind, delightful.

what was striking about that balloon was that it was rising straight up, from just a few feet off the ground, as if just released. the surprising thing: there was no one there. no car with an open window, no child crossing the street, no parking lot or group of people or store or anything anywhere nearby. that is to say there was nowhere for that balloon to be coming from. but it was rising and continued to rise, straight up. it wasn't floating, like an old balloon long ago released, rising and sinking rising and sinking. it was clearly on its way up, still full of air, as if it had just slipped from a child's hand that very moment.

anyhow, i'd like to have a painting of that. or a photograph, all the cars and trees and median and whatnot in black and white. all shades of gray but for that bright, round balloon.

how many different metaphors are there for a balloon rising? balloons have come to symbolize so many things. they are released in celebration and in mourning, in joy and in desperation. they represent childhood, festivals, birthdays, and graduations. they show up at memorial services and cemeteries. and, if you're a kindergartener learning about the ocean, a balloon released outside represents a threat to ocean life, not to mention birds and other creatures nearer to home.

some people think of balloons floating to heaven, delivering messages to loved ones who have gone before. if you know me, you know i don't tend to think that way. i was tempted to imagine the invisible child who released that balloon, to imagine some ghost (?) of eliza playing. but that sort of thing doesn't resonate with me, either. instead, i'll just file that untaken photograph, that unpainted painting away in my mind somewhere for when i need a bright spot in a gray world, a colorful reminder that there is something rising above the colorlessness that surrounds me.