Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Skills, Scars, Fashion, & Inflection

From yesterday:

Pointing at the old stitch marks where he cut his finger while cleaning the turtle bowl, he demands, "Mom, how is God ever going to use this scar for anything?" Then, without hesitation or need to search, he points to other reminders of old accidents, "...And what about this one? And this one? All they're ever going to be is useless scars that remind me of times He didn't protect me from pain."

Oh, my dear son...

Sometimes it's hard to imagine how any treasure can come from our misfortunes. God calls us to walk by hopeful trust (faith) rather than understanding, but that's hard for me to explain to my youngsters. And a little bit hypocritical. After all, I've watched more victories rise from ashes. I have more testimonies--more understanding to go with my faith. Over time, Father God has mingled bits of understanding with my scars and my baby steps of faith to build my faith bigger. Now I'm to tell my children they "just have to step out in faith"??? How can I do that? Rather, I think what I have to do is: a) continue to step out in prayerful faith myself, believing He's going to help our children plow through similar stages, and b) seek Him for how to encourage them along the way.

But our children don't want the resistance of a plow nor the time and struggle of plowing; they just want answers. They want answers that make all their confusion go away... Right now. From us. Despite all training, testimony, head knowledge and actual proof to the contrary, our son still operates almost as though WE are God--kind of a "vicarious faith." Sometimes I feel like such an unintentional stumbling block between him and God that I live in relieved wonder that I'm still alive! (Whew! I live another day! He's still fixated on us, but the Lord hasn't chosen to wipe out his idols yet!)

The discussion about scars led to discussion about skills. The Lord says His yoke is easy. Theoretically, that should mean it's fairly easy to score a passing grade on our God-given assignments! I think we often expect our burdens to be heavier, though, and we discount the "skills training" God puts us through because we don't even realize He's giving us a work out!

For example, last week our children were delightfully surprised when I pointed out that by taking advantage of the privilege of going to play at their friends' house for the day, they were actually also serving the Lord. Their stay with their friends freed up their mother to chauffeur someone home from the hospital. How light was that burden?!

And today our son practiced skills of a different sort, and even moved up to the next level. Again, he just thought he was having fun:

"Mom. Mom! Can I please take my raft out? Will you please come down and watch so I can use it?"

Raft-Poling 101 (No, I have no idea how the Lord will use this for His glory, but based on all I know of Him I have to believe it will be good and life-changing!) ;~)

Raft-Poling 201 (Um...oops? Okay, I guess it's time for a dip! Yes, son, I'm sure it IS very cold--the ice has only been off our swamp for a week... But look, you amazing guy!--You just got great training! You learned and developed new skills! You saved your pole and spanning board from floating away, swam safely to shore even with wet heavy clothes weighing you down, recaptured your raft, and poled it back to dry-dock! And you did all that REALLY FAST!!! The last time you capsized into freezing water, your dad and I were right alongside of you, swimming and available to help. But THIS time, you did it solo--just you and God. And you did it VERY WELL!)

There was a tiny bit of blood on one toe when he emerged. It seems unlikely to leave a reminding scar.

Other skills in our children's developing repertoire:
  • Pipefitting/Engineering
  • Short-order Cooking
  • Fresh-water/Marine Biology/Chemistry
  • Reading/Writing
  • Art/Entertainment
  • Worship
  • Fashion
  • Mimicry/Inflection
  • Photography/Films
  • Biblical Studies
  • Nutrition/Exercise
  • Sports & Survival Strategies
  • Organic Gardening
  • Home Economics
  • Childcare/Parenting/Providing
  • First Aid
  • Fire Science/Natural Resource Management
  • Business (don't forget Business! Remember The Walking Stick?!)
  • Travel & Change
  • Customer Service
  • Relationships: The Art & Science of Loving Others
  • Discernment: The Art & Science of Seeking Truth
  • Wisdom/Discipline: The Art & Science of Loving Self
So many interests/skills/variables...no wonder we struggle to identify their "bend."

I wonder where they are going?

What an exciting mystery!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." --Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Garbage Swirl

This week we are studying Australia and Oceania (the Pacific Island countries).  Included in our study is the giant garbage swirl that stretches from Japan to the US.  If you have 7.3 free minutes, check out this interesting Feb 2009 TED.com video featuring Algalita researcher Charles Moore:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I was about my son's age when, during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec, 14yo Romanian Nadia Comaneci made history by scoring the first perfect 10 ever (that's 10.0! The scoreboards weren't even set up to display it correctly!) in an Olympic gymnastics routine. Nadia went on to score six more perfect 10's and win seven gold medals during those Games. At that time, she was the youngest gymnast ever to compete. Nadia and her Romanian teammates inspired millions, gained fans worldwide, and raised the bar on gymnastics forever.

I always wondered what happened to Nadia after the Olympics. When I visited Romania a few years ago, the students I was meeting with sought common ground by asking if I knew of her, but she was actually before their time--they were not yet born in 1976. Recently, though, I came upon a fact-based TV movie about Nadia's life before, during, and after the Games, and found fresh inspiration. The movie is called simply Nadia, and I haven't checked other sources but it is at least available via Netflix.

Nadia was recruited by her coach, Bela Karolyi, at a young age, and shortly thereafter determined that she wanted to be a champion. Her coach was equally determined to make her one. They were both tough-minded and focused, which was a winning combination through the Olympics. Within weeks of their return to Romania, however, several factors led to the entire team being removed from Coach Bela and moved to the national gymnastics team in Bucharest (Romania's capital). In the midst of the turmoil that followed, it became clear that Nadia was completely dependent on Coach Bela. He had developed her into an incredible champion, but she had no understanding of why he demanded the sacrifices he did. In Bucharest Nadia struggled not only with her sudden and unexpected fame (by nature she was a quiet, shy, sober girl), but also with controlling her diet, training herself, relating to both old and new teammates, defining what a new personal best would be in gymnastics, and processing stressful family issues. In an amazing finale before her retirement, Nadia was reunited with her coach. They both worked hard to free her from dependence on him, and she made a great comeback at the World Games in Ft. Worth, Texas.

This fuller story of Nadia's life inspired me to acknowledge, again, my dependence on my Coach. Without Him, I am clueless. All He asks me to do is love, and yet without His guidance I am often baffled at how to do that. Nadia's story also breathed fresh energy into my desire to freely be the "champion" He created and sacrificed Himself for me to be.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  --Ephesians 2:10