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My dearest Lilly,

Well, kiddo, we did it.  We made it.  When you came to us on August 1st, 2016, we weren’t sure what to expect. I know you didn’t either.  It’s been a time with lots of ups, and some downs, but I wouldn’t trade these past 10 months for anything.

20160801_231817 Tomorrow we’re flying you back to California – to a place with lots of memories for both of us.  Tomorrow ends your journey at our home in Texas, and re-starts the journey with your Mom and Lunna and everyone in California. You’re closing this chapter and tomorrow you start the next chapter of your life.

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Before you do, I want to remind you how much you are loved.

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It’s easy to look back at the past year and only remember the really strong memories.  But there were so many other moments of joy, fun, and laughter. 20160924_162151

You’ll find that life is mostly good, but sometimes bad.  It’s easy to remember the bad moments. It’s easy to focus on the things we really wish we had done differently, instead of remembering the moments we got stuff right.  But Lilly, when I really think back about the last few months, it’s been incredible to think of how many good moments we had.  Moments where we hung out, and grew together. Moments where we shared our life with you and you shared your innermost thoughts with us.  Moments where we laughed and played and went on adventures.

20160914_183929 Moments where there was lots of love.

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You’ve made some new friends – friends I hope you keep in contact with throughout the next year, friends who loved you when you had good days, and loved you when you had bad days. And you’ve gained two brothers who love you – and two parents who will continue to love you from 2000 miles away. 20170315_181949

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IMG_20170318_161531_909 You’ve gotten to know aunts and uncles and extra cousins you didn’t know before – and they’ve loved you and poured their wisdom and kindness into you. 20170316_165925

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We drank a lot of coffee this year!

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We did a lot of camping this year – and adventures in the outdoors. We swam and camped and took hikes.

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You struggled with your identity a lot. That’s pretty normal at this age – and we tried to help as much as we could. This is something you’ll struggle with more as you grow and mature – and I hope we helped you learn some new ways to identify the next steps.

CYMERA_20161012_181905 IMG_20161231_153024_770 You’ve got the world at your fingertips. You’re almost 14 – so close to adulthood – and about to start high school. The next few years of your life are going to fly by, but every day is going to feel like forever. I hope your time here was full of moments you’ll be able to think back on with fondness.

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I hope you walk away from us stronger, healthier, happier, and more self aware. I hope you take Jesus with you everywhere you go.

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I don’t think we were perfect parents for you, but we were what you had for this time of your life. And at the end of the day, no one is perfect. We’re all just struggling along trying to find our way. We mess up. We do stuff the wrong way. But through it all we tried our best to love you like Jesus loves you. We tried to show you a way different from what you’ve tried before. And I think – I hope – we did that. I hope, when you get back to California, you’ll have an opportunity to use the lessons we’ve taught you. I hope you can call me one day and tell me about some situation where you made a good, loving choice…even when it wasn’t the first thing you thought to do. I can’t wait for that phone call.

But until that phone call comes, I’m going to hold on to the memories we have. I’m going to remember the fun, laughter, and joy that you brought into our life.

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I’m going to remember how much Eli loved it when you played with him.

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I’m going to remember letting you play hookie on your last day of school so you could come watch me teach.

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I’m going to remember how hard you worked.

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I’m going to remember you achieving your goals.

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I’m going to remember that today, 10 months later, you’re a better person than you were when you came here. You have grown and expanded how you understand the world in ways that make me so proud of you. I love you so much – even when the words are hard to come by, I’m glad God gave you to me, even for this short time. I can’t wait to see what your future looks like.

Love,
Mom aka Aunt Jennet

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Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2015 began?
At home, with family.  We were celebrating Eli’s first birthday the next day!

Who were you with?
The Sullivan family, Scott family and Breese family!

Was 2015 a good year for you?
Yes.  I had a great year! Not being pregnant, not working night shift, and not having a new baby does wonders for the ability to rest.  There was a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, isn’t there always though? But it was a great year!

What countries/states did you visit?
Justin and I took a cruise with some family to Cozumel, Belize and Honduras.  It was an awesome, relaxing, revitalizing experience.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions? 
Sort of. Yes, mostly. I wanted to go a year without eating candy – which I mostly did! No candy at Easter or Halloween, which are my two big holidays with stuff I love to eat. However, I did take a day off in May so everyone in the family could eat Wonka candy while watching Willy Wonka – Benjamin and I read the book, and followed it up with the movie.

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Finally, NO. But next year Cory and Erin will be adding a new baby to the mix!

Did anyone close to you die? 
Not particularly, but one of the Lieutenants that retired from Cedar Park passed away, and that was very sad because he was really an amazing guy.  Also, we lost one of the Fire Department administrators at work, her name was Debbie and she was SO incredibly sweet.  They both will be missed!

What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I don’t think I have had any particularly standout dates.

Experiences:

What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
Taught my first “Train the trainer” in February for SAFVIC, which was an AWESOME experience!! Took both boys to their first baseball game in April. Sent my son to school – although that’s really more of a first for him than me!  We bought a truck!

Did you have fun in 2015?
Yes!

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Found more time to be a Husband and Wife instead of just Mom and Dad.  Being married is a lot of fun, but if you don’t take time to have dates you really miss out on connecting.  I exercised a lot, but I wish I had done more, more consistently.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
I wish I’d been injured/sick less.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 31! We drove out to Houston to visit family. It was a quick turnaround trip, and I ended up offending one of my family members inadvertently, so I spent most of my birthday feeling like absolute crap over a breakfast plan misunderstanding.  That’s the second year I’ve had a bad birthday experience for at least part of the day, so I think next year I’m going to make my husband take me away for the day!  This year he bought me (besides the truck) a nice flannel shawl.

What did you want and get?
Justin and I have needed a vehicle with one more seat for some time, for the times we need to transport 4 kids and 2 adults (which is more often than you’d think). So we debated what to buy and finally pulled the trigger on a 2013 Chevy Silverado with low mileage and leather interior.  I’m in love with it and we’ve already been camping once in it!

What did you want and not get?
Debt free. But my priorities shifted this year, and it is worth it to remain in debt because now I have the vehicle necessary to go camping.  Also, did not get to spend more time outdoors. Spent a lot of time the end of the year working, and unfortunately all the days off I did get were usually bad weather days!

Others:

Whose behavior merited celebration? 
Amanda. She doesn’t see me watching, but she’s turning into an incredible young lady.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
All the folks that left dispatch (Vanna, Charitie, Jared, Jen, etc) made me very sad.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2015?
Not particularly. I think there were a few situations where Justin wasn’t treated like he expected, and that had a significant impact on me since we’re married – so, sort of, but only as a bystander.

Who were some new people you met?
Vanna, Ginger and Jono.

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2015? 
Probably August.  We took the kids to the beach, Benjamin started school and Justin and I started our cruise (and finished it in September).

What was your favorite moment of the year?
Probably Benjamin starting school, when he looked at me and said he was good for us to leave him. So big!  I’d also have to list Eli finally saying “I love you” back to me!  Also, buying the truck with Justin!

What was your least favorite moment of the year? 
Taking Eli to the hospital because he was having difficulty breathing.  That was stressful and terrifying.

What was your favorite TV program? 
STARGATE! Who’d have thought?

What was the best book you read? 
Tough call. I read a BUNCH of books this year – it’s been really awesome having the kindle, I read so much more.  The most EDUCATIONAL book I read this year was “Parenting your powerful child” by Kevin Leman.  The most ENJOYABLE book I read was Ready Player One. And the book that was the most well written was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

What were your favorite films of this year? 
Big Hero Six (I know I technically saw it for the first time the year before, but I watched it a LOT this year) I also really enjoyed Age of Ultron and Inside Out….I really missed a lot of good movies this year though due to schedule, so hopefully  next year we can watch a few more.

What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Diablo III!

What was your favorite new technology/application?
My fitbit! I got it at Christmas – so not much time to use it – but it’s already been well appreciated!

What was your greatest musical discovery?
I really enjoy the following songs this year:
Maps – Maroon 5
Let her go – Passenger
Honey I’m Good – Andy Grammar
Counting Stars – OneRepublic
Shut up and Dance with me – Walk the Moon
Thinking out Loud – Ed Sheeran

What was the best thing you bought? 
THE TRUCK!

Self-reflection:

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
I made some good strides in priority evaluation and I lost quite a bit of weight.  I also received an award at work for “Distinguished Leadership” which is an amazing honor that made me feel recognized in my efforts at improving relations between employee and employer.  I’m so blessed to work where I am, and this award means quite a bit to me.

What was your biggest failure? 
I just can’t eat healthy for nothin’! At least, not consistently.  I keep trying!

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
I got most of my PF under control but broke my ankle (well, hairline fracture, but it still hurt a lot!).  I also got sick ALL of November and half of December with Bronchitis and sinus infections that would NOT end.  Then I had tinitis (ringing in ears) until Christmas morning.  However, it did make me more greatly appreciate my health and I’m going to try really hard next year to spend more time appreciating my good health when it’s around.

Where did most of your money go?
Medical bills. We were crazy sick this year, especially the boys.  School starting and allergies did a number on our wallet!

What kept you sane?
The boys.

Who did you miss?
Friends. All of them.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
CAMPING!

Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? Happier
ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner!
iii. richer or poorer? POORER! But – happier. I’m willing to make the trade off.

Did you fall in love in 2015? 
I usually say “over and over again” but I would have to say no – this year was one of the years where we worked hard to maintain – not in a bad way, just in a “we’re in this for the long haul and not every year is all roses” kind of year.

Did you lose anything important this year?
My church.  I’m still feeling the effects. I’m heartbroken and I believe this is the right decision for my family, but it’s not an easy one and I’m so very, very sad.

What was your proudest moment of 2015?
Benjamin’s first piano recital!!!

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2015?
Calling someone “Fellatio” over the radio

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Good
• Emotional Health – Good
• Physical Health – Fairly Good
• Social Health – Very Bad (My status did not change AT ALL in 2015, so I’m downgrading this and planning on working to address this next year!)
• Spiritual Health – Fairly bad
• Intellectual Health – Good
• Financial Health –  Fairly good

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas? 
Already had it! We spent it at home, with the family, and it was awesome.  Aunt Lynn, James, Teresa and Amanda joined us and there was lots of presents and lots of fun.  We spent the day playing with the boys playing with all their new toys/games.  I got a new Fitbit Charge HR, which I’m looking forward to having!

How will you be spending New Years? 
Not sure – I work at 6am New Year’s day, so we will probably stay in with the family, maybe play some games, and enjoy time with them.

What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015? 
Hmmmm.  I would like some more friendships.  I would like to have a church home – which I did have for most of 2015, but lost at the end.

What are your plans for 2016?
To spend more time outdoors, to get Eli introduced to the potty (not trained, persay, but at least on his way), to get Benjamin riding a bicycle with no training wheels, to log more time on my bicycle, to get my BMI to 27.4 (170 lbs, right in the middle of “overweight” instead of obese. I previously set a goal at the start of 2015 to be at 185 by the end of 2016, but since I made it to 208 by the end of this year I decided to go ahead and aim for lower for the end of next year…we will see!

Will you make any new years resolutions for 2016?
Maybe. I don’t know yet – I am seriously considering taking a year long social media break.

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015: 

You only have one life to live. This is it, folks, a few trips around the sun and then you’re dead. I believe this life is just a jumping off point for eternity, and I know not everyone believes that, but either way I believe and really learned this year that you have to make the most of it. Live hard, love harder, work hard, and push yourself. This is the only chance. You’re worth it to make the most of it.

So worry less about the bank account, but save as much as you can.

Try to be as healthy as you can, but enjoy a piece of cake now and again.

Set goals, push yourself, and strive for greatness.

I know that’s all really cliché advice but this year I really realized how true it is.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I’ve been, I’ve been praying hard,
Said, no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars, yeah we’ll be counting stars

Dear Benjamin,

Last week you turned the big TWO!!  I was reading the letter I wrote you at 21 months and it’s amazing how much you have changed.  Even over just a few months you change and grow. 

You still talk and talk and talk.  You love to run through the house, play with swords, and tickle Mommy and Daddy.  The dogs drive you crazy (especially Frankie), and when you and Frankie are energetic and chasing each other you both drive US crazy.  We’ve been swimming half a dozen times this summer and if I put you in your swim donut you can swim around the pool yelling “Kick! Kick! Kick!” as your legs frantically propel you forward.  It’s a joy to watch.

We had your birthday party the day after your actual birthday.  Lots of friends and family came over.  I made you chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with chocolate and vanilla ice cream.  You started crying when I lit the candle on your cupcake and everyone started singing.  I’m not sure why – maybe the attention? Maybe the singing? However, as soon as we were done and you got to eat the cupcake, you were much better!

You got some neat toys for your birthday and love to play with them.  Lots of animals and blocks and cars and trucks.  Puzzles and dinosaurs and oh, my, the vehicles.  Our house has become a speedway and you are the driver of racing machines darting in, out, and over the couch.

We took a trip to California almost two months ago.  We were worried about how you would do in the plane, but we shouldn’t have worried.  You love any kind of vehicle, planes included.  Daddy sat next to you on the plane and talked about how you were going to go really, really fast, and go up, up, up!  You loved it.  We rode in the car for ages and ages, and you rarely fussed about it.  We drove through random subdivisions in Elk Grove, and you asked if we were going to Mae Mae’s house! It was the cutest thing, and you made Mae Mae’s mom giggle about it when I told her.  We went to a wedding for my best friend Amy.  You love Amy, and you loved dancing at Amy and Keith’s wedding.   We went to Monterey Bay Aquarium, and you had such a blast hanging out with your 3 cousins.  We went camping (which you LOVED) at my old camping site in California.  It was heart-wrenchingly beautiful to see you scale the same rocks I had scaled as a child.  To see you in the “rock club” and down at the water’s edge was an incredible experience for me.  Even though the water was freezing cold you stood in it until your feet turned to chubby little icicles, and you loved it.  Watching you eat s’mores with your cousins is a memory I will treasure forever.

A few weeks ago we travelled to Senatobia, Mississippi to visit Papa’s parents.  Mimi and PaPaw loved you, and we loved visiting them, and you had a good time running around their house and showing off.  A mere week after that we went down to Houston for your cousin Austin’s graduation.  Each road trip you demonstrated your willingness to sit still when needed, your love of movement, and your love of music.  I love how you love music.

Son, I’ll be honest, because it’s my letter and I’m allowed to be: I don’t know what the future holds for you.  What I do know is that you capture the attention of people – your joy, your mannerisms, and your movement.  Watching you is like watching life take place – it’s like observing the best the world has to offer.  Maybe you’re just like every other two-year old on the planet, I’m not sure.  I hope that I can teach you to harness that attention-grabbing skill and use it to better the world around you.  I know that living with you teaches me every day the meaning of slow down. Observe. Breathe. Love. Be patient.

Your Daddy and I talk about you, often, after you’ve finally given up and gone to sleep.  We lay in bed, snuggled, and talk about whether or not we’re doing a good job (most days we think we’re doing OK).  Recently we were talking about your exposure to television and video games.  We don’t want to shelter you from the world and its issues, but we don’t want to desensitize you either.  It’s tough to say “No, we won’t play this video game while Benjamin is awake, because it depicts violence too accurately,” but that’s exactly where we are at. 

This world is dangerous and violent and broken, son, and you’ll have your whole life to learn that.  I hope that we can teach you about the beauty of the world first, and it’s dark side later. 

Eventually, Lucky will die, and you will learn grief.  Eventually, you will ask where Mommy’s parents are, and you will see me cry.  Eventually, you will ask why Jesus hangs on the cross, broken and beaten, and you will learn about sacrifice. 

Our hope, though all of that, is to teach you about love.  Love that shines through grief and brokenness, love that taught Mommy how to heal, love that makes Daddy get up even on the days when his depression beats his heart and soul, love that put Christ on the cross and love that triumphs all of the dark things in this world.

However, before you have to learn all of those things, I want you to know joy.  I want to continue to see my baby boy, beautiful and full of grace and energy, running around squealing with laughter.  I want to continue to love you so much it hurts.  I want to see animals for the first time all over again, though your eyes.  I want to continue to chase the dogs in the backyard until we collapse into fits of giggles.  I want to dance with you in the living room until I’m sweaty and exhausted.  I want these good and wonderful things for you so that when darkness seems to sneak in, you can remember the things from the light.

I hope you understand, one day, how hard it is trying to figure all this stuff out.  I hope you have enough grace to forgive us when we mess up.  I hope I have enough grace to forgive myself!  But either way, we’ll muddle through this crazy adventure together.  Being a Mommy is quite an amazing experience in general, but being Mommy to you – well – I think that’s my favorite job yet.

I love you son, happy 2nd birthday.

Love,
Mama

Today is my first day back to technology for almost 3 weeks.  The vacation was amazing and lovely, and I came to work with 1000+ on my Google Reader and over 600 work emails.  As I work through the deluge of information I came across one scripture listed two different places (here and here).  I really, really, really like the scripture – which is one of the types of scriptures that you’re just going to read over until someone makes you stop and see it for the first time all over again.  Here is the scripture in its entirety:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)

There is one other part of the bible in the New Testament that sums up what we should do:

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 
 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40, NIV)

I like how it’s worded in both portions of scripture.  The second one is much more well-referenced, and for good reason since Christ says it is the greatest commandment.  But the first – to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly – I think it sums up a lot of what we need to do now.  But when I think about how much outrage and judgement I see on a daily basis (not just from Christians, mind you) I think that the first scripture from Micah is a good reminder that we maybe should see a bit more often.  Because loving mercy is hard.  Walking humbly is difficult.  Acting justly – while loving mercy – now THAT is tough.  If we can maintain love throughout it all I think the world would be pretty amazing.

Camping was an integral part of my childhood.  We all loved the outdoors, we were never more at home than when we were in the middle of nowhere.  There was one particular spot that we found when we were pretty young that became “our” spot.  We always called it Cherry Lake.

 Jake, Jennet, Alan and Dad

That was the only year it really snowed while we were there.  I remember pulling up to the campsite and hiding in the car while Alan, Mom and Dad set up the campsite.  While we slept, snow fell across the campground and blanketed the world in white.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.

I remember waking up when we camped there.  It was always so cold in the morning, so I’d be buried deep in my sleeping bag and listen to the rustling of the tent, the songbirds, the crackle of the fire.  I could hear my parents hushed voices and the occasional laugh as they shared their morning coffee.  If I close my eyes I feel myself transport back to those moments, when the world was perfect and at peace.

As we visited and grew older we wandered further and further away.  The following picture is the “Rock Club,” a place just far enough away from the campsite to make us feel independent.  We would wander there daily, hang out on rocks and talk about life, or have adventures in between the cracks.  We would climb to the top of the rocks, and look out, terrified of falling and thrilled at the prospects ahead of us.

 

We went there every year, sometimes twice a year.  I remember being 9 years old, laying on a hot rock and contemplating the grandness of God.  I remember learning to whittle sticks, and trampling through brush to find a “walking stick.”  I remember seeing a water snake for the first time in the lake down the hill.

It was always the most beautiful place on earth.

 

I climbed up this wall once, and got all the way to the top.  On the way back down I felt myself losing my grip, but something pushed me back against the wall.  I believed in angels before, but that experience pretty much cinched the deal.

 

The last time we visited Cherry Lake it was 2002 and right before we moved to Texas. 

 

Ten years is a long time.

Since that time, my older sisters have tried in vain to find our old campsite.  They’ve combed Stanislaus Forest and driven around for hours, all to no avail.  When I visited in 2010 I tried to help them find it and we were yet again unsuccessful.  I told them I’d see what I could do in the future for my next visit.

So I contacted the Stanislaus National Forest Office in Groveland, since that was closest to where we thought the campsite was.  I spoke with a charming lady named Gail who was willing to listen to my story and my plea for help.  She gave me her email address and I sent her a bunch of pictures, and a map of the grounds (as best I could remember).  Then I waited.

She called me back just a short time ago and thanked me for giving her such a fun project.  She said she had some of her park rangers act as detectives – print up the pictures and try to match up the pictures while they were out driving around.  She thanked me for the map I had drawn, and said we had done a good job remembering.

An old ranger, one who had lived there forever, knew exactly where we were talking about when he saw the pictures.  We had always called it Cherry Lake, but the park rangers knew it as Cherry Barrow.  Gail told me if we drove to the Groveland Park Ranger station she would be able to show us exactly how to get there.

I cried when she told me.

 

I’m going back in just over a week – I’m flying to California Monday for Amy’s wedding and after the wedding I’m heading to visit my sisters.  We will go camping, hopefully at this spot, and I will once again drink in the beauty.

I can’t wait.

I haven’t done a “Miscellaneous Monday” in a while, and there’s all sorts of tasty goodness on my blogroll and out in the world today so I am going to share! 

The problem with “Homosexuality” – Justin Lee writes openly and honestly and I really enjoy his thoughts.  He raises some good questions here and I think they merit further consideration.

Counting the cost – Scott discusses the importance of thinking about the “real” cost of self-defense, and the link provided is, in my opinion, essential reading for anyone who thinks they have an opinion on what the media reports on the Martin-Zimmerman case.

Bicycle clutch – You don’t have to read this, you just have to admire the beauty. I am currently using a lunch tote tied up, but this would double as a purse once I’d arrived at my destination! Brilliant!

Old & New Project – A collaborative project for graphic artists to display artwork themed around bible stories.  Some of them are incredible, all of them are interesting.  So far my favorites are Judah&Tamar and Deborah’s Song of Jael. If you want more amazing visual scripture, be sure to check out Jim LePage’s solo project Word.  Don’t ask me to pick a favorite, I can’t, I mean, 2 Corinthians is amazing, Hebrews makes me smile and I can’t forget Titus, 1 Timothy, Habakkuk, Job, ok really, I have to stop, just go. Look. Learn.

Peace like a River – Breathtakingly beautiful honesty. I can relate to this post in a lot of ways and I think a lot us can.

So, did any of these pique your curiosity? Which ones? I’d love to see if anyone else enjoys these as much as I did!

I don’t really even know how to start this. 

Ska music is, and always will be, a part of who I am as a person.  Growing up my parents didn’t like any “new” music, but ska music forced its way into my soul.  It was cheerful and bouncy and never fails to make me happy when listening to it.  Ska music was the catalyst that introduced me to my best friend Amy.  I am forever indebted to ska music for the friendship I have with her.  I’ll never forget the apprehension and excitedness and how hard it was for me to reach out to the pretty girl that sat behind me in class (or was it in front of me? I can’t remember now…) and tell her that I liked her backpack, I liked the FIF patch, and OHMYGOODNESSSOMEONEELSEKNOWSWHATSKAMUSICIS!!  And she liked my hair clip and the rest is history.

I guess some people already know this, but I did not: OC Supertones is making a new album! If they can get funded, that is.  They are one of the classic Christian ska bands from the 90s/2000s, and my personal favorite.  I’m going to be donating to their Kickstarter project, and I ask you very nicely to please do the same?  We have 18 days to come up with another $10,061 and if I had that much money I could give it to them in a heartbeat.  For just a glimpse of what this band means to me, read one of my blog posts where I wrote them a letter.  This was the first ska band I heard, and I can’t even describe how excited I am to know I’m going to get new music from them.

Seriously.

Excited. 

So, go to the Kickstarter page, listen to their new song (here’s a link to some lyrics), and give them 100 bucks. Or $50. Or $25. Or $5. Or a dollar. Just help them, please, a tiny bit, for me, and for the world.

So for lent, all the things I gave up, I failed at.  I did not increase my prayer time, I did not read my bible more.  I did not grow closer to God.  I did not stop checking facebook, I just stopped posting.  I did not cut out my sweets, I just didn’t go out of my way to eat them.  I did not stop watching TV with my son, the whole family got sick and that was all we could do.  With just two weeks left I’m calling this Lent a spectacular disaster.

I suppose, though, that if I look at it honestly – I did become more aware of my utter brokenness.  I am now, more than ever, aware that I fail at being good on my own.  So I guess it wasn’t a complete disaster.  In fact, I suppose, I kind of actually accomplished something in my failure.  Or maybe I’m just saying that to feel better. Who knows?

I guess I’ll just keep being me, and keep trying (and failing) and eventually, maybe, I’ll get the hang of this thing called faith.  If not, it will probably continue to be quite an adventure…

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1979 Book of Common Prayer (source)

My prayers are tiny and my soul weary; I look forward to Lent for the renewal of my spirit.

I think this year I will observe Lent.  I found a great set of questions on Rachel Held Evan’s blog that helped me make the decision to do so.  I really like her (and her blog), even more now that I know she agrees with one of my basic tenets I hold close to my heart: that really, everyone is broken

I had already been thinking about Lent this year, thinking about changing a behavior, thinking about the timing, thinking a lot of things.  When I saw that RHE’s feed had a post on ideas for Lent I was all ears.  The first question I read on her list almost knocked the breath out of me:

When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different?

Well.  In all the times I have observed Lent, I don’t think I ever took the time to ask myself that question.

Growing up in a Pentecostal church gave me a pretty decent grasp of the bible, but did not help me learn anything about the history of the church.  I mean that seriously.  We never learned about the differences between catholic and protestant, or about how communion is different in different churches, or why some people baptise and some sprinkle.  For the most part that stuff wasn’t even on my radar at all.

Over the past, say, 10 years or so, I have met many people who have opened my eyes to a different way of looking at my faith: a way that is steeped in history and culture.  While I find it creates for a much messier faith, I think it is also much more beautiful.  Over those ten years I have attended pentecostal churches, non-denominational churches, emerging churches, catholic churches, episcopal churches, baptist churches, and methodist churches.  Each one had its purpose to increase my education and help shape me into the person I am now.  Each church helped shape my faith in a different way.

So now, even though I attend a baptist church, I still keep in mind the little bit of education on Church traditions and history I’ve gotten over the years.  For instance, even though my current church doesn’t follow it, I love the church calendar.  I fell in love with it when I attended one of the Episcopal churches in Houston.  I love how each church season creates a new focus in your walk with Christ.  How we focus on Jesus’ sacrifice building up to Easter and we celebrate his birth in Advent.  The first time I received ashes on Ash Wednesday I spent the rest of the evening feeling like I was walking on holy ground – or better yet, as if my body was marked as holy.  I never knew there could be so much holiness in an action, but I found that there was. 

While I try to observe the church calendar I don’t always have it all figured out.  Like others, I’m sure, I am learning as I go.  I always viewed Lent as a way to put myself in Jesus’ shoes when he fasted 40 days in the wilderness.  I knew it was supposed to make me a better person and draw me closer to God, but those goals have always been pretty undefined. 

The question: “How will I be different?” makes me look at Lent as more than just the very generic “self-improvement” or “exercise in holiness.”  Suddenly I don’t want to look at Lent either of those things, or even as a time for me to give up my bad habits (I should give those up anyways) but more as a time to remove something from my life in the hope that after 40 days without it I might possibly be more Christ-like.  Suddenly my priority has shifted from looking internally in a selfish way, but looking internally in a holy way.  I like this.

With all this in mind, I’ll spend the next few days praying and trying to decide what to “give up.”  I think I’m going to go to one of the local churches that has a Ash Wednesday service, too, since I don’t think mine will have one.  I don’t know that I necessarily “look forward” to the next few weeks, but I do hope they are helpful to me in the long run.  We shall see.