It’s a BROKEN World…

This post was written as part of “Five Minute Friday” where bloggers write for 5 minutes on a given topic, without editing or revising their work. You can see the link-up hosted by Lisa-Jo Baker HERE.

A few years ago we were working with at-risk young people in a remote area of Navajoland. Far too many children were raising themselves, or were taking responsibility for younger siblings, while the adults around them were constantly drunk, on drugs, or were out gambling and fighting. Some folks have accused me of being racist, or of being judgmental. I think the truth lies closer to being, at times, completely and totally overwhelmed by the broken world we found around us.

One day the world came crashing down around the teachers and administration at the local all-Navajo-student K-8 school. One of the younger boys, “S,” winced when his teacher put a hand on his shoulder to redirect his attention to his workbook. After proper procedures were followed to investigate what had happened, the student was taken into custody by the State Highway Patrol and a Social Worker, kicking and screaming the entire time; wailing that he loved his mother and his mother loved him.

When my husband and I got to the school a little later that afternoon for our tutoring/teaching responsibilities, we found the adults still in a state of shock. This precious fellow had wounds and deep bruising from his head to his lower legs and down his arms as far as his elbows. “S” had been beaten with a wire by his mother the night before. It must have taken hours for her to do that much damage to him…

A Mini-Art Project I recently made with longing for the day that Jesus brings healing to S.

A Mini-Art Project I recently made with longing for the day that Jesus brings healing to S.

Don’t talk to me of racism. Don’t talk to me of judgmentalism. Let me tell you about a broken, broken world. Especially when I tell you the end of the story: he was back with his mother within days and was moved to another school so none of us could be so “abusive” as to call authorities again.

I still get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think of “S.” And I was reminded of him just the other day during a women’s bible study I am attending. The focus was on Christ’s redeeming us from slavery. In Gal 3:13, it says that Christ became a curse for us. The teacher went on to describe the traditional beating by Jewish tradition: 39 lashes which left wounds and bruising from head to toe and half way down the arms. She made it clear that Christ took that beating for us; He took the curse intended for us; He paid the price in his own body for our wrong-doing.

All of a sudden it came crashing in on me. Young “S” was beaten. He was cursed with a twisted “love” from his mother. His life was, at least at times, a living hell. And yet…and yet…in the middle of that broken world, Jesus has already come to redeem that in “S’s” young life. I began weeping when I realized that someday “S” might learn that Jesus wants to replace those wounds and that curse with His own payment. Jesus wants to redeem and heal those wounds and make “S’s” life whole again.

Hurry, Lord Jesus. Rescue “S” (and other innocent young Navajo children) from this broken, broken world…

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Recipes from Life

I just finished reading “Recipes from the Dump” by Abigail Stone. Written in stream-of-consciousness form, it parodies cooking novels. I’m really not sure why I kept reading about the every day ponderings of a fictional single mom. Her fixation on catching a man got old after a while. The book did, however, challenge me to write a few “recipes” of my own.

For a taste of my life recently, try a few of the following dishes:

This first recipe comes from the first few months of living in a new location, with husband busy at a new job and teenage son far away as a volunteer camp counselor for the summer. Two extremely extroverted people (mother and daughter) who can’t figure out where and how to find new friends resulted in this stew.

LONELINESS STEW

(best made on a gray, rainy day, a week of rain is even better)

2 large onions, chopped

3 cups root vegetables, chopped

3 cups sorrel leaves

6 cups chicken broth

3 Tbsp hot sauce

2 cups, coarsely ripped chunks of stale bread

Lightly sauté vegetables in a large kettle: onions to make you cry and root vegetables to remind you of your life having been pulled up by the roots. Stir in sorrel leaves to add bitterness and sorrow to the soup. Pour chicken broth into the kettle and bring to a simmer, letting your fears and doubts seep into all crevices of the soup. Add a burning taste with the hot sauce, enough to bring more tears to your eyes.

Serve in a shallow bowl over chunks of stale bread, memories left over from better days.

Chop Salad

Overgrown Chop Salad

This next recipe is a necessary dish to prepare when you buy a house that has not been well maintained due to degenerative health problems of the previous owner.

OVERGROWN CHOP SALAD

2 lines of overgrown hedgerows along the lot lines

1 semi-circle of bushes overwhelming a brick wall

5 trees, out of control

3 predatory woody vines, woven throughout other bushes

House Gutters full of tree seedlings

Spend hours and hours over a number of weeks, chopping out overgrown branches, hedges, brush, and trees. Make a huge pile in the driveway, larger than your vehicles and higher than the eaves on the garage. Scoop handfuls of tree seedlings out of the gutters and toss onto the pile for extra spice. Let rest for a few more days for all the flavors to blend.

Rent a wood chipper and run all the woody branches through the grinder. Don’t forget to wear gloves to protect your hands!

Carefully shovel chopped bits onto exposed dirt areas under the hedgerows to prevent weed growth. Come back inside and enjoy a tall, cold one after all your labors.

Color Crunch (main dish)

Color Crunch (main dish)

Color Crunch (main dish)

As a main course, consider fixing the following recipe. It can be altered as needed, based on ingredients you have on hand.

COLOR CRUNCH WITH A SIDE OF CHAOS

1 brick wall (can substitute a sidewalk or driveway)

1 package of new sidewalk chalk in a wide variety of colors

                (my daughter informed me the 4 pack would never do)

2-5 noisy preteen neighbor girls

2-3 bicycles

Wait for sunny weather. This dish doesn’t work well on gray, rainy days.

Mix noisy girls with colorful chalk. Allow them to smear the chalk all over the bricks, making interesting patterns and color mixes. Step back from time to time to enjoy the mess. Add in dancing and MP3 music if desired.

If the mixing process is too noisy for you, consider wearing earplugs or hiding inside. (Pre-teen laughter CAN be loud and rambunctious!)

Add a side of bicycles thrown in the yard where they came to a screeching stop as the gathering started.

Enjoy!

Principle Ingredient of Nostalgia Pie

Principle Ingredient of Nostalgia Pie

As you start to make friends and feel more “at home” in your new neighborhood, you might still find some of the following dessert in the back of your frig.

NOSTALGIA PIE

1 crust made of photos, cards, and scrapbook pages

Several text conversations between old friends

2-3 invitations to parties being held in your old stomping grounds on the other side of the country

1-2 phone conversations with old friends

Tears, to bring out the flavors

Dig through packed boxes to uncover mementoes from previous location. Mix together photos, cards and scrapbook pages into a thick crust to hold the pie filling.

Use your phone for text and voice conversations with old friends. Listen to activities you are missing and reminisce about past fun had together.

Receive invitations for events you can not possibly attend, some with expressed regrets for your absence.

Mix filling. Layer on top of crust. Sprinkle with tears. Set aside for flavors to blend. (Warning: gray, rainy days deepen the bitterness and strong flavors of this pie, especially when previous home was in a bright, sunny desert location!)

When you think all traces of this pie are finished, you might well find more pieces buried in the back of your frig…

Finally, as you begin to adjust to your new life in your new home in your new location, consider finishing this meal with a cup of coffee, best shared with a new friend.

AFTER-DINNER COFFEE

Take time to check out the various gathering places in your new town. Share a cup of coffee with the people you find there. Suggested places to visit: local church, home group for said church, women’s group, local swimming pool, variety of neighborhood coffee shops, home-town library branch, and more. In addition to a cup of coffee, share pastries or other treats for extra sweetness.

Hopefully you enjoyed reading these recipes I have been cooking for the past few months. What’s cooking in your life right now?

Confession Time…

Some of you know this already. Some of you will be surprised. After all, I’m in my 50s now. I’m a suburban, minivan driving, stay-at-home mom. (Well, I USED to be that…before moving to the middle of nowhere, switching to a 4wd that can handle miles of dirt roads, and taking on reading tutoring for at-risk Navajo kids…but the idea is still the same, right?!!)

I didn’t make this decision lightly. I followed the advice I gave one of my sons a few years ago—I can cover it up and it’s something I will be proud of at any age. After thinking about it for almost four years, I finally found enough courage to get it done.

What is “it”, you ask? Why, a tattoo, of course! Yes, I am the proud owner of a chubby-faced monkey tattoo on my upper left arm. (For those of you who are shocked by that idea, please sit down and take a few deep breaths. I’m still the same ole boring person…really!)

Why did I do “it”, you wonder? It is a way to remember our son who died 4 ½ years ago. The monkey is a copy of a prize that he won in an international tournament in an on-line game just a few days before he died. The words “Heaven’s Gift” are both the name he gave that monkey and a reminder of what he was to our family.

Here are a few photos:

The artist who drew the final version and tattooed it on my arm…

Proud owner of a cute tattoo…

Tattoo close-up

And, to close, here’s a funny story:

A few weeks ago, I wore a sleeveless blouse to the school where I am a reading tutor. Apparently I haven’t done that since last April. One of the “little ones” (2nd or 3rd grade) ran up to me and gave me a big bear hug, squealing, “Mrs. E! Mrs. E! You have a TATT! That is sooo cool!” She then ran off to announce this amazing news to the rest of the little girls in the cafeteria, who quickly gathered to see this wondrous thing. Who knew that a cute monkey tattoo would give me “cred” with the playground crew?!

A Mile of Thanks a Day

As explained on the button above, for the 50 days before I turn 50, I am walking a mile each day, thinking about and praying for someone who has influenced my life so far. I don’t know if each of these people would want their names listed on the internet…so in this post I’m just listing the things I have learned from them. I am THANKFUL for what each one has added to my life!

A Mile of Thanks Each Day...

  1. We laugh together, we solve the world’s problems (and our families’ problems) together, and we enjoy traveling together.
  2. God has knit our hearts together as we have shared the joys and sorrows of life.
  3. I wanna be like you when I grow up!
  4. We have formed a mutual admiration society as we spend time being “real” together.
  5. You are an example of vibrant living.
  6. You support me through tough times and share a zillion resources.
  7. Our relationship moved from struggling because of stark differences to becoming good friends.
  8. You encouraged my passion for EMS…and in the process became a friend.
  9. We shared our kids, supported our husbands through scary times, laugh about the “other wives,” and enjoy time together…let’s not talk politics, okay?!
  10. You are a wise woman—with words, questions and silences.
  11. You encouraged me to fight for my marriage.
  12. You have walked before us…down the grieving road and down the helping others through EMS road.
  13. You always have a smile…and get excited by even the little things.
  14. We are raising “chiefs not Indians” and now that your kids are grown you are pursuing your passions.
  15. We have walked the broken road together.
  16. Some may see you as lowly mechanics…I see a heart for God and a passion for letting God work through you.
  17. You have an attitude of joy—even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
  18. You have faced so many challenges in life—and still trust and love your Heavenly Father.
  19. You continue to live your priorities.
  20. You pursue your “loves.”
  21. Love watching you add new languages to your resume and new stamps to your passport. WHEN can we do that travel book together?!
  22. You stretch me to THINK and introduce me to fascinating new ideas and topics.
  23. Watching you reach for the next opportunity and the next and the next…I realize how much alike we are…
  24. Love watching you move into adulthood with thought and care…showing me changes I could make in my own life!
  25. Steady and Reliable…Glad I can lean on you…and that I get to watch you spread your wings and fly!
  26. You are like me: with strong emotions and seeing everyone as a friend, even those you haven’t yet met!
  27. For as long as we have known you, you LIVE life with God.
  28. Wear what makes you feel good…and SMILE!
  29. You made it clear you believed in me…even when I was a rebellious teen!
  30. You make beautiful even simple things and simple times with others.
  31. Live with GUSTO! (and take a nap when you have to)
  32. My photography improved immeasurably with your advice to “take a step forward” and “take a few more shots.”
  33. You got me off the couch…and doing the impossible (training for a “tri”)!!
  34. Keep on dancing!
  35. In my “dream book” I want to someday see each of my children happily married—you are the first to join our family.
  36. Many years ago you affirmed the value of stay-at-home-moms…and I pulled to the side of the road and cried…
  37. Every time I open my Bible to the epistles, I remember your advice (about book order…and indirectly about marriage!): “Peter comes first.”
  38. You love my kids so dearly…and you have worked hard to pursue your passion.
  39. Thank you for being “real” as you have walked the grieving road.
  40. Your life choices were an example to follow…and you gave good advice as we wandered the RV lifestyle.
  41. Years ago in a small group setting you were a clear model of a servant shepherd and an example of how to minister out of hearing God’s voice.
  42. Your life has given an example and encouragement over the years—sometimes in ministry it seems like nothing is happening…but God may eventually bring clear results!
  43. You have supported me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams.
  44. You didn’t let me quit when James died…and look where I am now!
  45. You are “steadfast and immovable.”
  46. You were in my life for a moment…and our hearts somehow are intertwined forever!
  47. Because of you we became shepherds…searching for a lost lamb and learning so many other biblical lessons first hand!
  48. You helped tease loose the knots in my heart and emotions so I am more open and free.
  49. You repeatedly asked a question: “Does it lead to LIFE?” which still echoes in my heart today.
  50. You changed your life and your lifestyle to keep in line with your passions.

50 Personal Favorite Books

Books have always been a significant part of my life…and always will be. Reading is as significant as breathing to me. So I’ve added a page to this blog which lists 50 of my personal favorites, along with comments. (Plus a bonus section of favorite children’s books)

Check it out! (Click on this link or click on the appropriate “page” at the top of this blog to see my list.)

For more about my love of reading, you could re-read this post from a few months ago..

Consider taking time to make a list of YOUR favorite books—it was quite an interesting process…

You. Are. WRONG.

Some memories stick in your head for a very long time. Many of those memories are happy ones. Some are sad. And some are memories of injustice. Two such memories from my growing up years still have the power to make me clench my teeth. Still have strong emotion attached.

When I was elementary school aged, our family went to a party at a neighbor’s house. I have no idea if it was a holiday party or a “block party” or some sort of open house. I clearly remember adults talking and talking. I don’t remember kids running around, but we must have been. The snack table was glorious with every imaginable treat. There was even a big bowl of…BUGLES! I was going to grab a big handful, but remembered just in time that my folks would probably get upset with me if I was so greedy. So…I put just one pointy Bugle on each finger. There! Not too many snacks plus I could have fun playing with them before eating them one by one.

And then, then the injustice occurred. My dad saw me with my fingernails of salty snacks. He took me I don’t know where and lectured me. He said I was rude. He said I was greedy. He said lots more. As I stood there, seething inside, I wanted to yell “You are WRONG!” but knew that would only make things worse. So, finally, 40-some years later I will give voice to the little girl that was me: “Dad, you really didn’t understand. I respect you. I love you. But that time? That time you were indeed wrong.”

The second strong memory of injustice was during Junior High School. I had a wonderful art teacher. I loved art class. I could be creative AND use lots of color. It was enjoyable AND I was good at it. Art was a highlight of that year. At one point, we had an assignment that was challenging for me. We had to draw someone’s hand(s) holding something. I drew my mom’s hand, holding a glass. It was hard to make it look realistic. I drew it and re-drew it. (Did my mom patiently sit there while I worked so hard? Or was I re-working the picture from memory? I have no clue…) Finally, it was finished. I was proud of the shading. Proud of the realistic wrinkled joints, short stubby fingers, and veins on the back of the hand.

I was excited to turn in the project. I was certain I would get a good grade on the assignment. Even more important, I was sure the teacher would be happy with what a good drawing I had made. A few days later I got it back…with a lower than expected grade and no positive comments. When I asked the teacher about it, she explained that it was an okay drawing, but that I had made my mom’s hand look like an old person’s hand but it was supposed to be a drawing like a photograph, showing reality. Oh, Ms. Art-Teacher. You Were WRONG! Over the years, at random moments when I see my mom’s hands, and, increasingly, when I notice my own hands, I think again, you were SO wrong. Both my mom’s hands and mine ARE short and stubby with wrinkled joints and with veins showing on the back…

Why do I tell you these two stories? Partly because these are memories that still hold strong emotion. Partly as a reminder to myself to be more careful what I say to kids around me since words can be so powerful and echo for years into the future. And maybe, just maybe, by writing down the explanations I wish I would have had the courage to give when I was young, these stories will gradually lose their power. Maybe the echoes will fade. Maybe these injustices will become an insignificant part of my past. Maybe I can move on to other stories from my past with more positive echoes…

First Memories

“The first memory then becomes the starting point in our own narratives of the self. ‘Our first memoris are lik the creation stories that humans have always told about the origins of the earth,” [John] Kotre writes. ‘In a similar way, the individual self—knowing how the story is coming out—selects its earliest memories to say, This is who I am because this is how I began.’” –Miller & Paola, Tell It Slant

I have been reading books recently about writing and journaling. A few weeks ago the above quote caught my attention. The idea of a connection between our earliest memories and who we are today has been rolling around in my mind ever since. I’m still not sure that I agree with the authors, but it is an intriguing idea. Here is some of what I have been pondering:

My earliest memories are like snapshots, pictures of moments unrelated to full situations. I remember my dad standing up in river water, holding out a clam for me to look at. I remember running down a road, chasing a station wagon as it drove away; followed by sitting by a campfire arguing with someone that a cat cannot possibly be a fish. I remember a bright room, a dark window, shattered glass, screams, and blood.

Over the years, I have filled in the stories surrounding these mental snapshots. When I was young, we lived in a cottage not far from the Illinois River where we went swimming in the summer. There were clams along the river bottom, and my dad would bring them up to show to me, before throwing them back.

My parents were leaders of the youth group at church. The summer that I was three years old, they took the teens on a campout to a lake an hour or so away from town. At the end of the week, my mom left early with most of the kids. My dad drove back later. Somehow, he forgot that I had not gone home with Mom, an he drove off without me. As the story goes, another family saw me toddling after the car, and took me back to their campsite until my parents returned for me hours later. (I can’t imagine what that car ride back must have been like for my parents.) During that time, my rescuers cooked up catfish they had caught earlier that day, which I was certain was mis-named.

Finally, during a winter retreat with that same youth group later that same year, one of the girls accidentally put her arm through the window while climbing into a bunk bed. That explained the noise, and screams, and blood.

According to the quote that intrigued me, the fact that these are the earliest memories my mind has chosen to remember should also connect with who I am today. Perhaps it is a stretch, but I can see some connections.

I enjoy swimming, being outdoors, and discovering new-to-me critters and plants. There is no sense of panic or fear in the broken window memory. And today, when I deal with emergency situations as an EMT or as a ski patroller, there is a sense of fascination and a focus on helping the patient.

There seems to be an even closer connection from the little me left behind at the campgrounds and the big me of today. Again, there is no sense of fear or panic in this memory. While growing up, my mom frequently commented on how independent I was. I went to summer camps, eventually for weeks at a time, and did not experience home-sickness until going to college in Canada for a year.

I apparently had no shyness about the family who took me back to their campsite. Even today, I enjoy meeting new people and spending time with them; an attribute that runs from childhood through the present. I might have been overwhelmed if I had been totally alone when my Dad drove off. With a group of people to interact with, I was comfortable.

how can a cat be a fish?

Finally, the memory of arguing about a cat not being a fish comes with feelings of laughter. Apparently, even at that young age I was both fascinated with words and happy to argue my own beliefs. Whether considered to be strengths or weaknesses, both of these characteristics are still true of me today.

So…I look at my earliest memories. And I look at myself and who I am today. Perhaps the authors are correct and what I selectively remember builds and strengthens who I have become. Perhaps this is all a bunch of “hoo-ey.”

I would be interested to hear the opinions of my readers—based on my examples or based on your own experience. Do our earliest memories shape us or do we shape them?

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