Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Taggy Blankets

These have been my latest project.  I usually cut out enough squares for 4-6 blankets at a time, then sew them all up in the course of 2 days (working mostly at naptimes). These have become my "standard" baby gift, and I let Eowyn judge each one before washing & drying it. (She usually responds with glee, immediately putting them to her cheek or burying her face in them.) I've experimented with 2 sizes and with or without buttons in the middle (always very large to eliminate choking risk).  Each blankie is unique, but the consistent elements are one silky-smooth fabric, one fleecy-soft fabric, and one cotton patterned fabric, with tags of various textures. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hoppity Hop Hop Hop

Revisiting home means revisiting an old sensitive issue...

Church hopping.  Throwing in the towel, giving up and moving on.

Two articles on the topic which I thought were helpful.
"First, we become critical consumers. “As consumers we reserve the right to pass judgment on the products and services we use, and the companies that service us begin to cater to our demands. ‘The customer is always right’ may work well at McDonald’s, but in a church it undermines the authority of the Word of God and the leaders God has called to represent Him. We do not go to a particular church to decide whether that church is doing everything right, but to hear from God and humbly find out where we went wrong that week in our own lives and what we need to do to make it right.” 
Second, we become invisible spectators. “Church-hopping turns you into a nondescript pewsitter. A number. A statistic. When you’re shopping around, you never stay in one place long enough to know anybody or be known. We like this because we have gotten into a habit of being anonymous in our culture. Church-hopping helps protect anonymity we already possess, and it keeps us alone.” 
Third, we become detached from what we are. “When you were a child, did you ever make a church with your hands folded together, forefingers pointed up like a steeple and all your fingers interlocked inside? Remember opening your hands to see all the people?  Well, that’s exactly it. We are the church. You and I are the fingers and toes and eyes and ears of the body of Christ. To be only a spectator in church is to detach yourself from who you are — like cutting off your fingers.”              --thinkpoint blog
I think it's interesting to contrast the above quote (especially point 2) with this one:
" hopping is about more than generational differences.  "It's a values issue more than a generational one," says Brad Sargent, a Baptist who studies ministry in the postmodern era. Futurist Cassidy Dale agrees. "I think often when people church hop, they're looking for spiritual hooks. They want to be drawn in deeper. They're looking for spiritual depth."

He pauses, then drops the bomb. "Many churches don't offer this."  --Beliefnet article

Maybe I'll email Dr. Moore or Dr. Mohler and ask him about it...

Then I can link to it and tag all my church-hopping friends on Facebook. Ok, just kidding about that last part.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

11 mos. Old

Dear, delightful Éowyn,

As I write this, you are off to the mall with Daddy on your first ever Daddy-daughter date.  He just called to tell me that you were laughing non-stop, loving this new view from your front-facing car seat in the truck's cab (one of the few benefits of having an old truck without passenger airbags).  You are so big, so full of life, definitely a little personality instead of a sweet floppy newborn.  This month you've suddenly begun to show your feminine side, with shoes, bows, baby dolls, and photographs becoming your favorites literally overnight.  One morning you discovered the wonder of footwear, and we spent a happy hour trying on shoes.  Sometimes you try to put them on my feet (toes), and we both giggle.  You insist on having a hair bow, but often don't want it in your hair.  You want it in your hand or mouth.  Upon waking, be it from a nap or the night, you invariably ask to get down a Raggedy Ann or Andy doll from your shelf, or make the tour of the framed pictures in your room, grinning as every person is named.  You point out yourself, saying "de-de! de-de!" (bebe, Spanish for baby).  You seem to have learned that other small children have individual names instead of the universal Ellie, and we love hearing you try to repeat their names.  Jane is 'Nnn,' Magnus is 'Mah-na,' Gunnar is 'Guhh,' and Hannah is a perfect 'Hannah.'  You really enjoy other kids, and are much more content to let me out of the room when you have friends over.  "Ellie" is now your baby doll, which is perfectly sized for your little arms.  At times you bring her to me and insist that she be rocked, patted, kissed, and put on my shoulder.  I love to listen to you play in your crib in the morning, talking so sweetly to your babies, reading your books, singing.  When you're ready to get up, you call out decisively "Ahh done!" and stand at the crib rails until we come get you.  You greet us with exuberant "hi!"s (it sounds like 'Iiii!'), or my favorite, 'Hi, Dad!'  You've yet to greet me by name... though you definitely call for me, usually in tears.

This past month you journeyed again to Paris, where your top front teeth finally burst through (after 5 months of threatening to appear), and to Copenhagen, where you took your first steps, and briefly to Malmo (Sweden), where you rode your first merry-go-round.  You were a champ, napping in the stroller or on my back, making friends with everybody and making Mommy fit right in with all the Swedish parents, also toting around blond-haired-blue-eyed-darlings.  The only hitches were your aversion to nursing (and eating in general) with all the alternative activities around you, and your discovery of throwing things to the ground.  We lost (and found) a cup, one shoe, a blankie (twice), and a bottle.  Thankfully, you guzzled mommy-milk in a bottle happily, so we got around that problem...we're still working on not throwing stuff.

We still share our eggs in the morning, and you begin begging for eggs as soon as you see them.  To avoid the tears that invariably come when the eggs don't cook immediately, I've taken to putting you in your swing in the other room with music playing while I get breakfast ready.  You love watching the Windows Media Player visualizations!  I've also started making fruit & yogurt smoothies for us to share, and you are so cute sucking it happily through the straw.  As far as food goes, we've had a rough past week or so, with you refusing solid foods and wanting to nurse exclusively, but that seems over, and you're happily chowing down on avocado, winter squash, carrots, blueberries, and frozen grapes or peas, among other things.  Oh yes, tomatoes.  How could I forget?  You are obsessed with them!!  Good thing we have a garden full of ripe organic juicy ones!  You also have learned to bite off chunks of banana like a little monkey, which I find cute.

As far as skills go, you point very well (a skill learned on the plane to Europe), and have signs for 'please, 'milk,' and 'more,' as well as hi/bye, and respond when asked to sign in either Spanish or English.  Yesterday you stood at your baby gate and practiced greeting people for a solid half-hour.  You'd call out 'Iiii!' or 'dye!' (bye), wave, and grin, then repeat.  All animals growl according to you, especially dinosaurs & lions.  Food you like is 'mmm!' and what doesn't please your palate is "pthththth" (spitting).  You use 7ish words and innumerable jabberings.  Daddy and I love to watch and listen as you lecture us emphatically on various topics, known only to yourself at this point.  We also find it amusing when you decide you don't want any food and begin waving your hands around like Eden's cherubim with the flaming swords.

You were napping for 4 hours a day once we got back from Europe, but, alas, I think it was just jetlag. Lately you've taken to talking and playing for one or both of your naps.  I'm still persevering in putting you down at 10:30 and 3 every day.  We'll see how it goes.  You are ready for bed at 8 and sleep until 6 or 7 (with a dream-feed at 10ish).  We try to go outside every day, and you are getting close to fulfilling your goal of sampling every rock, stick or leaf in our area.  Yuck.

You wear 12 mos clothes, are long & lean, and at last check (at the airport going to Copenhagen) weighed 20 lbs.  I love you more and more.

~ Mommy

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Prescription v. Description

In America, we hear a lot about things being "Bible-based," "Biblical," or "God's way," whether it's child-rearing, gender roles, diets, education, preaching style, church government, taboos, or guy-girl interaction.  It can be overwhelming!  Many use this as sort of a trump card, and it's hard to argue with it.  "If it's in the Bible, well, I guess I HAVE to do it?"  I mean, how can you argue with the Bible?  This post is an attempt to help us remember what is fair use of the term "Biblical" and what isn't.  Some of you might wonder "why in tarnation is she going into this?"  I guess because this is something I've been chewing on in my mind for the past year or so, as I discuss various topics with friends... I'd think "I know that's not quite right...but why?" and think about it some more, talk to Ryan & others... The results of those questions and self-examinations have turned into this little post.

First, what I call "fair trade usage." =D  Ok... how about just fair.  We can call something Biblical when it's an issue clearly addressed in Scripture.  Many (most even) aspects of morality, church government, familial structure, and gender roles aren't vaguely mentioned in Scripture.  They are clearly explained, with examples given of those who followed wisely, and those who followed foolishly.  There are clear commands, clear expressions of God's opinions on the topic, rewards promised and punishment or discipline warned about.  We call passages like that "prescriptive."  Like a prescription a doctor writes, which says "Take this much of this drug for this problem for this long," there isn't too much interpretation needed.  Saying that the Biblical position on stealing is that it's wrong is obvious.  So is saying that God's way for children to be raised is in loving families, not state-run daycares.  The Biblical position on human life is that it's sacred because humans are made in God's Image.  It's also clear in Scripture that life begins at conception.  Therefore, murder is wrong... even if that murder occurs in the womb (abortion).  Now, there are differences among Christians about how to interpret Biblical teaching or even what the words mean, but the face-value is pretty clear.  For example, we might disagree on what baptism means, but we all agree that Christians are supposed to be baptized!

OK...  That was the easy part.  There's a very incorrect way to interpret Scripture, and that is to take all as prescription when some is description. According to Princeton's online dictionary, description is "a statement that represents something in words."  I describe something to you when I tell you what I ate today, or what sort of houses I saw on my drive.  The Bible is full of these sorts of things. When I tell you I saw a family outside their two-storey brick, am I implying that you should buy one?  Not unless I start talking about how it's better than any other home, or explicitly tell you to buy one-- then it's prescriptive, not descriptive.  (You might be thinking "duh," but hear me out.)  I've heard so many people go from saying "this is described in the Bible" to saying "thus, we should all do it."  Let me give three somewhat "duh" examples, just to make my point.  The Bible talks about houses with roofs, as well as living in tents.  We don't imply that the "godliest" forms of houses are roofed or are goat-hair Beduin tents.  In the Bible, most of the children have Hebraic names. Does that mean that you are more "in line with God's way" if you name your kids Hebrew-derived names?  Well, no.  Isaiah 25 refers to a shroud being used in funerals.  Does that mean we HAVE to be buried in a shroud in order to be "biblical?"  No. 

Why does this matter?  Because there are some really serious weights that can be laid on people, and I want us to be able to spot them and then steer clear of them. For one, there's the idea that the "betrothal" method of "dating" (where couples are formally betrothed before beginning a relationship at all) is "most Biblical" because it is the only method mentioned in Scripture.*   I'm not saying there couldn't be valid reasons to choose a betrothal model of relationship if you're in a situation where that'd work for you.  I am saying that doing it "because it's the only model in the Bible" is a bad reason.  As a last "case study," I'll give a concrete example, from this article.  I almost don't want to link to it, it's so awful, but... otherwise you might think I was making it up.

The article says that the only way to be a godly, Bible-keeping mother is by not only breastfeeding, but by nursing on-demand all night long. In short, I found the article to be one of the saddest excuses of exegesis I've ever seen.**  What's wrong with this article?  Every Biblical text is ripped from its context (most aren't even full verses), but most importantly, none of them are texts mandating any mother-child relationship at all! They aren't prescriptive texts!!  Every one of those statements assumes something about the mother already, so they could very well be cultural expectations.  I think there's something to be said for inferring from oblique references, but we have to be very careful to not turn these into hard and fast rules, which this article does.  We can't turn description automatically into prescription.  Doing that places a burden on people that Scripture doesn't place. 

* This post isn't meant to deal with dating in-depth.  I think the Word of God DOES clearly give principles for guy-girl (and all human) interactions, and personally espouse the "courtship" model (a la Joshua Harris). The betrothal model can work in some (rather unique) situations, I've seen it with my own eyes, but I don't think it's any better because it happened to be the cultural norm 2000 years ago (in a very different society).  Scripture doesn't ever condone or promote it.

**Superseded in horror only by one video on the text "them that pisseth against the wall" (totally not kidding, sadly), and closely followed by an article on why women should wear head coverings:  as a badge against Satan's angels who like to come and rape women who don't wear headcoverings... again, not kidding!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Earthy Spirituality, Spiritual Earthiness

I love the Old Testament.  I love the stories, the crazy old kooks and unlikelys that God uses to work heroism and rescues...  I love how the nuggets of everything you need to know as a Christian is hidden in all the Old Covenants in "seed" form, like all the clues to solve every good mystery are there right in the opening chapters.  Once you know the end, you turn back and there they are, plain as day, and you wonder why you didn't figure it out!  I love the raw emotion of the Psalms, the proof that every situation in which we might find ourselves is worth bringing before the Lord and talking to Him about.  Not just one on one, but in public, accompanied by music and shouts, hand-raisings, claps and dancing.  The hard, the exuberant, the completely baffling, it's all supposed to come in His presence, ready for His answer, singing yourself into a humble, thankful state, or at least a wanting-to-trust one. I'm so thankful for that handbook to human emotion and prayer given to us.

Right now, though, I'm finding a new love for the "wisdom literature" --Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon.  I love how often I want to say "duh" after reading quips or quotes from these books.  I love how they describe the homey relations and trappings which are now so obviously my life:  husbands, wives, children, food, sex, friends, homes, houses, money, savings, gardens, jobs, love, hope and despair.  It keeps me grounded, reminding me that I am a soul WITH a body; a citizen of Heaven living very happily here on earth.  It teaches me to whole-heartedly enjoy "the husband of my youth," glasses of good wine, sweat in the garden, and making my home beautiful, even as I long for a Home I haven't yet reached.

My circle of friends tends towards the over-spiritualization end of the spectrum.  Sometimes we wonder if we shouldn't live with the absolute minimum in order to give more away, or whether it's ok to save some of your salary for your retirement (is that trusting God?)... Whether fasting and praying isn't more holy than romancing your husband, or enjoying really good food.  (And I'm not saying we shouldn't buck our culture in those ways, to a degree, we should!  And some are called to live even more radically than others)

But amidst all that wondering and feelings of guilt, I remember these books of the Bible, and it all slides back into perspective.  Yep, your life is brief, the Spirit tells me,-- so enjoy it!  Enjoy it in a way that leaves you ready for its end.  If you aren't ready to meet the Maker, you won't enjoy life fully, anyway.

Work hard; this brings glory to God, joy to you, gives you plenty to give, and allows you to keep blessing your children long after you are dust.  Make friends, especially the kind who will tell you the truth when you don't want to hear it.  Love your wife.  Wear nice clothes, or rather, wear your clothes nicely.  Have a dignity that robes you no matter what you wear.  Make enough to give away.  Treasure the right things, like harmony and familial love, not hoarded wealth.  Don't nag your husband.  Meaning in life isn't to be found in indulgence, asceticism, scholarship, or hedonism, but in knowing your Maker...and if you know Him, you'll truly enjoy everything He's given to the fullest.

When we get "over-spiritual," we really have gotten too narrow a vision, not too Heavenly a one.  We've stopped remembering that we serve the Lord who made the stars sing for joy at their making, who made the sun "like a strong man finishing his race with joy!", that our Savior is the Lord of the Wine who promises to throw a feast like time has never seen before.  He's present with His children in homemaking as much as in Bible translation; in disciplining rebellious toddlers as in risking your health for the heathen.  We forget that it is the very word of His power that holds this "merely" physical world together, every atom, every cell.

Far from making my worship flippant or easy, though, this lends weight to every moment.  I have the calling, the joy, the duty, of seeking the Lord in every thing, in remembering and being concsious of His presence and company in every phone call made, book read, coffee drunk, dish cooked, or diaper changed.  I've got to rely on His sustaining grace and be as open to His direction here as I would be in the jungles of Thailand. This sort of living gives everything more weight.  The weight of glory.

May we never forget that every action holds a parable, if we know the Story-teller.

Friday, September 03, 2010

So Just How Long Are You Contagious?

A friend and I were just discussing this in light of my recent cold, so I thought I'd post what I found: Read it here.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Victims of Porn

There is little I hate more than pornography. 

I hate what it does to marriages, to men who look at it, to their wives and to their children. 

I hate how it takes unwitting little children from innocent to never-able-to-get-those-images-out-of-my-head in a matter of seconds.  Just like that, a piece of their innocence is irritrivably stolen, all because they picked up a magazine or clicked a computer link.

I hate what it does to the Kingdom of God.  One of my pastors once described counseling godly young men who should be out on the mission field but can't be, because they can't stop looking at porn.  That made me cry and cry and cry.

I hate how it is so pervasive in our culture, almost ok.  It's even worse in Europe, where ads with half-clad women are on billboards everywhere, and "Porn Sex" shop signs brazenly line the streets like badges of honor.  Talking to acquaintances, their basic assesment was that "as long as it's between two consenting adults," it's ok.  Porn, adultery, prostitution, it's all "ok."  I hate how hardened the porn industry has made us to the evil of infidelity and fornication.  Of course they're not ok! They hurt everyone involved!!  "Consenting"?  What does that even mean?  How do you know what the parties involved actually want?

Now, after a blog I follow linked to this site, of a stripper/hardcore star whom the Lord saved, I hate pornography also for what it does to the women whose pictures trigger such lust.  I never stopped to think about it.  I never knew.  But it makes sense, of course.  The very fact that the women are on display indicates that they are utterly devalued.  Why wouldn't they be treated as such?

My heart grieves for them, for the women in my neighborhood, in my city, in my state who know no other lifestyle, for their parents and their children.  Lord, send Your Servants to love them and save them all!  Place those lonely ones into families, as Your Word promises.  And please crush Your Enemy who delights in these evils beneath Your feet.  Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.  Amen.

One More Reason to Have a Baby...

... you get to listen to fun music without anyone looking at you weird! :)  Well...I mean, I assume so.  Never having actually lived in a time when people didn't look at me a little weird, I don't actually know.

I digress.

Lately I've pulled out all those kids CDs I've been slowly stockpiling over the past 4 years, some bought for my preschool class, others for my "nieces and nephew" the young Powells, some for Eowyn... A lot of them would have been too overwhelming for her as a newborn, but now that she starts dancing every single time she hears music (even if it's a little toy's sound), she is more than ready!! We have kid CDs in the car, in her room for naptime, and most used of all, I've put them all on a playlist and we jam to varied music all day long!  To give me a second in the kitchen without tears, I sometimes let her watch the Windows Media Player visualizations from her swing (no more than 15 minutes a day)... she loves it.  Who needs Baby Einstein? 

Anyway here are some of our favorites.  Please suggest more!  We have an "allowance" for her every month for CDs and books!

- Slugs, Bugs & Lullabies (Andrew Peterson & Randall Goodgame)
- Guard Your Heart, If You Love Me, Teach Me While My Heart is Tender, Pilgrim's Praise (Judy Rogers)
- Wee Sing America
- Upward Bound, Olympion & Space Probe (VBS Reachout Adventures)
- Las Numero 1 de Cri Cri (in Spanish)

- Sounds Like Fun (Discovery Toys)
- First Start French I & 2 (the songs on there)
- The Belltower Boys (the Belltower Boys-- my college's all-male a capella group, this is their first CD from way back when...1995 I think!)
- Hide 'Em In Your Heart Praise & Worship (Steve Green)

Also on our list:
- Yeladim for Yeshua & You Gotta Jump (Jews for Jesus)
- Blessed (Judy Rogers)
- Awesome God, To Be Like Jesus, Walking with the Wise (Sovereign Grace Music for Kids)
- any/all of the Seeds albums-- I've just started hearing about these and really look forward to checking them out.
- Wee Sing Christmas
- Hide 'Em in Your Heart Vol 1 & 2, Guardales En Tu Corazon (Steve Green)
- more Cri Cri albums

Of course, we don't always listen to kids music-- we listen to plenty of ethnic music (Irish!!), Indelible Grace, and others of my/Ryan's favorites!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

HutchMoot 2010

Last night around 11 pm, Ryan, Mark T. (a friend from church & neighbor), Eowyn & I got home from the first-ever Hutchmoot, a Christian Creativity conference (I don't really know how else to explain it) I probably should wait a few days to let everything percolate before posting about such a packed weekend...

(This was begun 3 weeks ago, and never finished...blame Paris & Copenhagen for the delay.)

The Hutchmoot began as the brain-child of Pete & Andrew Peterson, growing out of another of their brain children, the Rabbit Room, which is an online community of Storytellers-- artists of all stripes, be they culinary, literary, musical or visual. It in turn is modeled after the room where the Inklings (GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and other folks with real names instead of initials) met, a little room called "The Rabbit Room" at the Oxford pub, "The Eagle & Child."  Andrew Peterson beautifully tells the story of his trip to Oxford & London here.  I love that post because it resonates with me.  I, too, have walked the streets of Oxford, thinking of Aslan, and Harry Potter, and Luthien dancing for Beren, and of God's Severe Mercy in my life and everyone's... I've longed for artistic community, too.  I've felt the whispers of 1000 thoughts seep out of every cobbled stone as I walked the crooked High Street and listened to dozens of bells. 

And then I've come home, gotten married, had a baby, and felt every bit of poetry seep out of my bones.  Well, not every bit-- there are those moments, when I see my baby's glowing grin upon learning a new trick, when I feel the unspeakable Joy that is the precursor to every good poem-- and there certainly have been days of dark greyness, the deep Mourning of which is another heartbeat to True poetry.  Before I met Ryan, I wrote poems all the time.

I remember walking across campus as golden leaves danced in the wind, and feeling words building themselves to poetry in my mind.  I remember laughing with delight at the thought that God had ordained those very leaves to bring ME joy!  I think I lived more Coram Deo then (consciously before the face of God).  I remember using rhythm and rhyme to describe what I couldn't put into mere words; worship, youthful romance, truths teased and wrestled out of Scripture, desperate Hope in dark times, experiences and pleadings with various friends, especially one dearest to me.  Then, my junior year of college, my world imploded.  I have never known darker days, nor do I ever want to.  The Lord brought me through; He carried me, sad poetry and all.

I met Ryan the following summer, and began our fairy-tale-perfect courtship.  I remember sitting in my oh-so-picturesque apartment on St. James Ct, and trying to write a poem describing my journey from stubborn-trust-in-despair to amazed, thankful joy... and I couldn't. It was like I couldn't bear to write of happiness like I had written of grief... like I didn't want to put Ryan in the same category as those who had broken my heart. I put the pen down, and never picked it up again.  In 4 years I haven't written a single poem.  Nor a story... I've voraciously devoured good Stories, but never had the urge to write one.  Deep down, I still felt that I could write, but that I just didn't have any good Story to add.  I prayed "Lord, if you want me to write again, give me a Story or the drive to find one."  In the meantime, I was content using my story-telling ability to make the Testaments come to life for my preschoolers, SS class, VBS and middle school girls' Bible study.

Slowly, though, I've begun to miss written Storytelling.  As my daughter gets older, as my marriage gets both easier and harder, I want to leave a legacy of Story to carry others walking a similar road.  Lately, I've wanted to have a story to write, instead of just realizing I didn't have one.

Ryan writes stories like some people doodle.  He has all sorts of story-ideas, good ones too!, and he writes a character study here, a scene there, and that's it.  He's got fabulous ideas, and notebooks full of bits and pieces of tales I'd love to read... but nothing finished.  Oh, except the fairytale he wrote to ask me to marry him.  I guess he was a little more motivated to finish that one, seeing as how The Question was the ending.  It worked. ;)

We sure love Andrew Peterson, and all the original Rabbit Roomers (the Inklings).  We like to journal and blog, to talk and hear good stories.  Faith & imagination are the topics which first drew me to Ryan. We love reading and music and art fairs and thinking movies and hearing people's stories.  I'd been craving a bit of direction for my one remaining authorial outlet-- this blog-- and maybe this would provide some of that?  Besides, it would be something to do together, and that is usually a good thing.  And the Hutchmoot just sounded SO COOL!!  So we signed up to attend the Hutchmoot, and drove down to Nashville, literally still asking each other why exactly we were here while stuck in traffic on the Nashville turnpike.

After our first amazing meal, I felt like Charlie in Mr Wonka's chocolate factory (we'd just watched Johnny Depp's version the night before), as Mr. Wonka goes down the line of children, describing each one's claim to fame "And you're the little buggar who cracked the system!... You're the one who... You're the one that..."  Then he gets to Charlie: "And you're just lucky to be here, aren't you?"  Swallow.  Yup, that's me.  AP kept referring to us as "Rabbit Roomers" and most of the people we met were authors or aspiring ones, artists or movie critics... every one of THEIR blogs was cool and well-thought-out... and mine... does it even have a point?  And Ryan & I would just look at each other, and tend the baby.

This feeling continued throughout the weekend, but instead of feeling excluded, I felt completely inspired.  These people were people who felt, who appreciated so many of the same things that I do!  "Oh the joy of meeting one who knows the same poems as you!" I was reminded of so many stories I'd forgotten, and amazingly, every one of them brought to mind a friend (or myself) struggling with something.  Maybe in our counseling we should use more stories!!

I'll share the biggest "aha!" moment, then close this rambling tome...hopefully before Eowyn wakes up from her morning nap. :)  SD Smith, Travis Prinzi, and Pete Peterson did a session on struggle and imperfection as part of our characters called "Perfected in Weakness."  I believe it was Travis Prinzi (I'll check once I can get my notes from upstairs...after said baby awakes) who drove home the point that good outcomes ALWAYS come from mercy-God's mercy-, not our merit.  I tend to think that I just have to do the right thing, that when it really counts, I've GOT to obey, or else the gig is up. I tend to despair when I fail... again.  He brought up Lord of the Rings' ending.  Sam and Frodo have been so faithful, so obedient, and have brought the Ring through impossible hardship to the very brink of destruction.  Then, at the moment when obedience really matters-- when Frodo stands to cast it into the fires of Mt. Doom-- he fails.  Instead of casting it in, he negates his whole prior obedience by cradling it to himself, counting it more precious than the whole world and all its good. Gollum shows up and the two begin a fight to the death, as Travis put it, "that's my evil!" "no, MY evil!" "No, MY EVIL!" Great... lots of righteousness going on here... But then, Gollum-- his life spared by Mr. Bilbo out of sheer mercy-- saves them all.  By God's will, he slips and falls, clutching the Ring, into the fire, and both are destroyed.  Mercy, God's mercy, Mr. Bilbo's mercy, saved them all, not Frodo's obedience.  Wow.  Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it.

So I want to write now.  I remember that I don't have to have a great story-- just something that reflects The Story.  I don't have to have it all figured out.  I don't even have to obey perfectly (which is good because I don't)... I do have to cling to Mercy...though even then, It is clinging to me.

As you can see, we came home with LOTS of  new books, and I'm resolved to read with even more intentionality.  I'm starting up my old quote journal!  Ryan & I have been drawn closer by discussion of these things we both love. We've started to read together more, and to talk about our stories.  I keep hoping he'll post on how the Hutchmoot affected him. (nudge, nudge, honey) I've gotten several more great blogs on my BlogReader and they inspire me. I've also been inspired to seek beauty in all my work, even in little blog posts.  So I hope you will see more "every-day musing" style posts up here, and probably more organization in when I post on more topical...topics =D (i.e. Tuesdays- Theological Musings, or something of that sort), or at the very least better tags... We're motivated to get up (that book review site I've mentioned) & running ASAP.I'm also even more excited about attending the Relevant 2010 Blogging conference!! I guess biggest of all, for both Ryan & I, is the desire to be more of a part of the amazing creative communit(ies) available to us.  I want to maximize our marriage's potential for creative community, maximize our Louisvillian surroundings and the similarly-inclined friends we already have here (you know who you are), and I want to be more available to the online communities I have- Rabbit Room, Relevant, and even this little webcorner, Eowyn's Heir.  I guess that's kind of why I went into so much background info, so that all of you reading this, from wherever you are, might know me a little more.  That's a scary thought... but I think it's part of every good story.  The protagonist has to be known, right?