Dishes

This morning it occurred to me that there is an impassible gulf between my expectations and what I am actually willing to pay for when it comes to my plates. Over 15 years  ago now, when we were preparing to move across country from California to Colorado, I bought a couple of boxes of blue plastic picnic wear by Glad.  The set came with 16 oz drinking cups, cereal bowls, and large and small plates. The Gladware was supposed to serve as a stop gap so that I could pack my kitchen and still not be reliant on paper plates during the moving process.  The problem is, the stuff was great, and it gave me an unrealistic set of expectations for how well constructed, how long lasting, and how inexpensive informal dinnerware should be.

When we were settled in, I bought a set of Correl living wear, the kind that comes with dinner plates, cereal bowls, desert bowls, mugs and saucers. I treat the plates as if they were fine china, only bringing them out on occasions when I want to have a particularly nice looking table like Christmas and Thanksgiving. The rest of the time they languish beneath stack of mismatched, decidedly disappointing plastic plates. We do use the cereal bowls, desert bowls and the saucers. You can tell what we use and how much we use them by counting the different stacks of glassware in the cupboard. The plates still have their original 8, but there are only 5 cereal bowls, 4 saucers and 6 desert bowls. The cereal bowls rest beneath mismatched cereal sized bowls, but the plastic bowls are relegated to serving as impromptu side serving dishing, a place to empty a can of baked beans into before blasting them in the nukyerwave for a couple of minutes before dinner is served. We don’t actually eat out of them because I couldn’t find any that were the perfect cereal bowl size.

This brings me back to the Gladware and my unrealistic expectations of what I should be able to purchase and enjoy that its brief existence ingrained in me. For a season after our move, we had a beautiful set of semi transparent, nearly kid proof dishes perfectly sized for every day enjoyment.  The dinner plates were a good size for adult breakfasts and dinners, the small plates were perfect for the kids when they were babies, or for a sandwich and chips at lunch for the grown ups. The cereal bowls weren’t too deep for cereal and soup but still worked well for heating up that small side dish at dinner. I got spoiled. When the inevitable started happening, and they started to wear out I tried to go buy a new set. Unfortunately, my pretty temporary set had lasted so long that by the time I went to purchase replacements, they had stopped selling them.

The first pieces to wear out were the small plates. Serving double duty as both baby ware and lunch plates meant they were the first pieces to meet their demise. I bought a cheap set of medium sized, medium blue ridged plastic plates. They were less than what I wanted in so many ways: they were less lovely, they were more ridged and they were not quite the right size, landing between the dinner ware and salad plates I was looking for. Still hoping to stumble across the translucent deep blue and perfectly  sized Gladware, I bought them as a stop gap. I started with a stack of eight, and am down to 4. I cannot find my second choice plates now either.

My next attempts at replacement table ware were a set of red, lighter weight, less ridged, 4 for cheap plates in the seasonal dishes display. They were at least big enough to serve as dinner ware, and they were a fun color. They worked fairly well. When I went to buy more a year or two later, I opted to buy two more bundles of the red and 4 for cheap. It was only when we started washing them that we discovered that the second wave of the red plates were missing a small ring of reenforcing plastic around the bottom, so they don’t sit flat when something warm is put on them.

We have developed a hierarchy of who gets which plate at dinner. My  husband and I eat off of the medium blue plates if they are clean, or one of the “good” red  plates if not. The round bottom plates get used for the lunches and dinners of the guys who could care less what their food is served on as long as it is served in a timely manner. The ones that do notice such irregularities as a rocking plate get the reinforced ones. We end up using all of them most days, although I watch the blue ones for signs of cracking, as I figure its only a matter of time before the rest of them succumb to age too.

While I don’t fret about my tableware, there are days when I kind of hope to walk by the paper plates and find boxes of translucent cobalt blue Gladware waiting to be scooped up and taken to the checkout again. Having matching, perfectly sized, durable tableware was a treat I kinda miss. It would be nice to have pretty daily use plates instead of make do pieces whose biggest selling point is the number in the bundle.  Sooner or later, age or the stove top will make my shopping for new plates inevitable. Maybe next time I will find something both pretty and durable, and will not find the price point the most compelling consideration when I make my choice. Until then, I am thankful for the enduring nature of my garish red plates, realizing that I have it far better than many folks. 

Grace and Peace.


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Soaking

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  Rm. 10:17 (NKJV)

Lately, I have been soaking, like a cucumber in brine, taking in and meditating on a handful of teaching series by preachers I know love God and are called according to his purpose. I haven’t been very communicative – for me at least- during this process.  I am not done steeping, so this post isn’t about what I am learning or what I am gaining by the slow simmer process.

Unlike my studies on the topic of theology, my current process is not taking notes and writing papers and engaging intellectually with the lessons I am taking in. I could go through the process of writing a well reasoned and academically proven paper about each of the topics I am soaking in. But the purpose of my current engagement is not to be instructed about a topic. I am seeking to get the truth of what I am soaking in past my mind and into my heart. It is not enough to know about the truth of God’s word.  If that truth is to impact and change life as you live it, it must get past your mind, into your heart, and it must be so real to your heart that it changes how you think and react and speak. Believing in your heart is not a mental exercise. It is more than agreeing that something is true. It is agreeing that something is true and then allowing that truth to impact how you live your life.  What I am striving toward is not heady stuff- but rather I am striving to enter the promised rest.  I know the Word will reveal Himself to me as I sit at His feet.

Grace and Peace.

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Jacket time

I think at times I get too ambitious or philosophical. This morning though, my main purpose for writing is simple. Its cool enough to warrant a jacket while waiting outside for the bus. This may seem like a silly reason to take time to write something- and maybe it is. But silly or no- it is the first school morning where jackets have been warranted and so I am taking note. September is slipping by, and the hot sunny weather has held its own for a while now. Hopefully, as the month starts to grow old we will need jackets a bit more often and the trees will start to take notice and fall will arrive with its weather on time.

Silly thoughts but it keeps me awake and thoughtful as we wait.. hehehehe.

grace and peace.

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Adding lines to the page

It is easier to shut down and let the page remain blank than it is to pull from my mind and heart threads that weave a theme that is worth sharing with the world. I sit here wondering how to push back against the impulse to let the blank page remain unaltered, unblemished- unstained with the markings that evoke words which in turn invoke ideas- those dangerous things that are constantly scrutinized for their correctness by self appointed guardians of the public square. If the wrong ones appear the sentinels of political correctness are sure to respond to their threat. It is with dismay that one recognizes that these vigilantes of the written word have no regard for civil discourse, regarding anything that is not in line with their notions of what is correct as a danger to be warred against. Writing with the notion that others will read my work has caused me to generate verbal cotton candy – spun sugar that melts into sicky-sweetness, or to let the blank page win the day rather than provoke further discord in the already raucous public arena.

I suppose that all of that is to say I would rather protect my heart from which I pull my thoughts and ideas to share with the world, than to write something that is not ready to be seen just so that my voice is heard. Anything that is shared in such an exposed arena requires that what I write be either throw away chaff for the wind to carry where it will, or that I prepare for the possibility of a siege with deeply entrenched fortifications in place and carefully thought out responses laid up in case I need to defend my position. Even that is disagreeable to me, since to cause strife means I have missed my mark.

If I am still, it is because I am brooding like a hen over her clutch of eggs. I must be content to hold my peace and protect my heart, and let the precious sprouts emerging from their seeds grow in safety. When the fruit is ripe, I will share the abundance of my harvest.

Grace and peace.

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Cross Roads or Cross Purposes

It’s been close to a month since my husband and I finished our on-line masters degree program.  We have poured out everything we had, and used up the last bits of what was held back. Now with no fresh infusion due, it feels as if we are on a razor’s edge- being cut as we balance, looking for what to do- the right church, the right job, the right place to jump to.  Church first- because that is kingdom placement. Job second, because that is how to pay the bills, place comes with church and job, the right house for our kids to finish growing in, and for us to open up to those we connect are connected to.  If we remain locally, we ask is the church we were married in, where we have orbited about for the past 14 years,  the place we should find a way deeper into. Or should we go to the church that is most closely connected to the ministry that is not local but is where we would go if given the chance. We don’t happen to live in Branson, MO or in Sarasota, FL, or we would feel like we were in place. We live here, on the western slope of the Rockies, 40 miles from the state line with between Colorado and Utah, and being poured out and spent means that this is where we have to come to the answers of church and job and place.

Part of what is hard to sort through is what is that place we are supposed to be in and what is that work that we have prepared for by getting a masters degree in theology. I know it was the right thing, I know that the program opened up for us so that we could continue our education and at the same time study God’s word through a Christian world view.  Now looking for work that has nothing to do with doing God’s work is an agonizing prospect. Its not that we don’t want to work- its that everything is filtered through kingdom vision and getting a retail job when the heart is to serve in the kingdom seems less than somehow. We have studied to show ourselves approved but we are not ordained with any denomination, we have never had the chance to teach a lesson for over twenty years, and we have a distinct lack of experience that means we would need to intern in order to prove ourselves, and without someone to vouch for us, our hard work is a just a piece of paper. Do we get work doing what we know work wise or do we try to find a way to find first steps into a kingdom purpose- and how does one do that with a family and special needs kids and debts that have to be paid?

I know God has a way for us. I know God has a place for us. He is faithful, even when we can’t make sense out of what we are looking at, and the lack of familiar signage makes us wonder if we took a wrong turn and have gotten lost. He is our Good Shepherd. He is leading us, and we will follow.

 

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Not What You Expected

(Instead of my usual random essay about life in general- I am beginning a series of letters to a younger version of me. I do not claim to have all of the answers or to have landed on some really good insider knowledge- but rather hope that these will come across the screens of people who are like me- wanting to hold on to their faith when their world is upside down and sideways of what they expected- and the only thing they are sure of is that they love  God and are in need of Him and His help every day.)

Dear Younger Me-

I look back at you with the lens of hindsight and I want to tell you- God is faithful.

You who are sitting there naively taking in the first IEP meeting for your three year old who has been pronounced autistic, being told by experts that they can fix this. They are confident that with a simple addition of structured routine, they will accomplish what you can’t. You have tried so hard to teach your wiggly little boy to color instead of try to eat the crayons. You have tried so hard to coax words from his mouth, and are so keenly aware of how frustrated it makes him who can so beautifully reaches out to your heart with his eyes and his smile, but can’t shape words the way he wants to.

You who can’t help but hear accusation in their words, even when that is the farthest thing from their minds, because you feel that somehow you have failed your child- take heart.  Just as you are blameless before God because of the work of the cross, you are blameless in this. You live in a broken world, and you will learn that you are far from the only mom facing this monster word autism as time goes on. But right now you need to know that God didn’t do this to you, but that the world he was born into did this.

Right now you are numb. You are not yet feeling the sting of the word because you are so very trusting. You believe that what they are telling you is right. You are willing to sacrifice  your confidence in your ability as a mom so that you can make this whole thing make sense. I wish you hadn’t. In time you will get some of that courage back, but right now I am watching you let it seep away- trusting the words of men and women who are experts because they have gone to school and worked with other kids, but you are the expert on your son. The skepticism you are squelching to maintain your composure as they tell you that with in six months he will be just slightly behind his typical peers because they can offer structure to him will echo again in your heart when you meet with them and see them guessing just as much as you are. I wish you weren’t in awe of their education and degrees, because you nod silently and say yeses when your heart screams no-

Numbness will carry you for a little while, and for now you are not lying when people ask you if you are okay- the grief will come later and I will write again about that pain later.

Right now though, you need to know that the connection you made with God when you felt isolated and alone and bleeding heart broken while sitting in youth group when you were sixteen and seventeen will serve you. Right now you aren’t so sure maybe. Right now you aren’t sure where to go to church, but are really sure things will get better if you could go. You aren’t ready for what will come of that hope now, but I will say, keep pressing in to God.

Dear heart,  you will make it, and as I keep moving forward I too will keep making it, not because of the footprints in the sand that everyone is so agog about, but because when you fall flat on  your face running  your race, your Heavenly Father will always be there to help you stand back up and support your shattered steps as you keep moving forward in this race.  You don’t yet know how long this road will be,  but you are right to keep trusting in God. There is no other hope that will help you stand – and you are going to have to stand.

Love and courage-

Your future self.

 

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Unexpectedly Unchurched

Growing up I was always in church. Not only were we always at church, but my parents were always in the thick of whatever lay ministry was available, and eager to prove themselves to be considered as lead pastor material until they were finally given the opportunity shortly after I moved out and got married. As a devoted Christ follower I have always known the place I needed to be in was with a solid, Bible teaching and believing church come Sunday morning. My expectation was that church would always be an integral part of my family’s life. In fact, when we were expecting our first child my husband and I were worship leaders at my parent’s church. But then the world sort of shifted. The church which had never been anything close to thriving went from a fellowship of five families,  through the death of one member, and the moving away of another family, dwindled down to  three families, all of which were related to my parents, and it was no longer worth the blood sweat and tears of my dad’s efforts to lead while working full time as a school custodian to keep trying to make it work. The decision was made and the church disbanded just after our son was born.

We struggled to find our selves a place to be a part of again, and worked with another group trying to prove our worth to another pastor, who offered to use us and then put us aside. So we struggled to find our footing and raise our son, and then our son’s, and we moved away to find a better source of income. We would hardly be the first to regret such a move but that is another story. The first thing we did when we moved was to try to find a church home in a place that was full of churches but had only one church of the same type we had been a part of, some twenty miles away and our car was dead. Still, for a while we got rides and tried to make the tenuous connection we had flourish while working opposing shifts full time to keep up with the bills. God in his mercy moved us to a better place in another city, and we struggled again to find a church home. This time though, we discovered that something was not right with our youngest who was too old for nursery but was not functional enough for age appropriate classes and stood in the toilet when they agreed to let him stay in nursery.  We were struggling as a couple and struggling to raise our boys and struggling to figure out how to be a family when we were so broken and without Godly mentors to help us. For the first time in my life, we were unchurched.

In case you are unfamiliar with the term, unchurched is a term that is used in ministry circles to refer to people who are out of their place- they are technically Christians, but the connotation is that they are rebellious or back-slidden, and who are a target group for church outreaches. They are not seekers- people who don’t know Christ but who are wanting to find out more about God and come into church- but again I digress- we are not talking about what church linguistics, but about my life.

Every conversation with my mother was the same thing, are you doing to church?  Guilty and sheepish I would try again to bolster my courage and try to figure out how to make my child acceptable, and make my husband want to go to church, even though he wasn’t sure church was where he wanted to be at the time.

A year or two later, we moved again and started the process again. Easter Sunday my parents came up and we took my young son’s to a local church. The older boy did great, the younger boy well.. the children’s church worker told me point blank- if you want to bring him again, you will have to come and sit with him in children’s church. So there it was. By then we knew he was severely autistic and even though he went to school and had people working with him, he could not manage a regular classroom setting and follow directions. I remembered then the reading I had done as part of the ministry team I was on that was church lawyers explaining how to protect a ministry from being sued by parents- the big news was pedophiles in positions of trust- and churches needed to protect themselves by doing background checks on all volunteers and making sure that no one volunteer was ever alone with any one child ever. So my son who needed a person to be a one – on – one helper was out of luck.

From that experience on I went to church. I talked to children’s pastors. I tried to figure out a situation where I could bring an unpredictable kid with some pretty intense behaviors including but not limited to pinching and howling and bolting out of a room or destroying stuff if he wasn’t allowed to do whatever else he pleased. Now no one ever said they didn’t want us to come to church, but there was never a solution to how to take my growing family which eventually ended up with two severely autistic kiddos to church and be a part of things. That was on us. We had to sort it. And literally for years it has been the same thing. I have gone to church, sometimes taking one of the boys with me, but more often than not leaving them at home under the supervision of my husband who loves them, and loves God and wants us to all “as many as we can figure out how to” go to church, but again.. how?

I thank God that we live in a time when I can log into a church service that is going on and participate long distance, but it isn’t the same as being in church.

I am frustrated because I can’t figure out how to make us unchurched. Maybe what we are is shut ins- again another category created by church leaders somewhere to describe church members who are too ill or physically frail to attend church any more. They used to warrant special pastoral care, but then who wouldn’t want to go visit a bitty mother or father in the faith who ooze with  faith and dignity and  who in spite of their frailty are strong and encourage those who visit them. I may have strength to offer but dignity can go out the window at any moment here- its part of raising these young men- and I suppose that is my quandary.

My young children who couldn’t sit still and listen, never got the love of Jesus in Sunday School. My one’s who could sit still never got to make friends and go to camp because we were never able to be a part of a body enough to make sure they were always part of what was going on. My sons love God, but they are not churched.  My oldest is almost 23 now and he hasn’t been to church in years. My next church capable son has been to church less than a handful of times in the past three years. My husband has been about the same amount of times. I was going regularly, I was even serving monthly, but my family?  We are a Christian family, who love God who want to honor  him and serve him, and as a couple we are studying Theology together to prepare us for ministry and yet- and yet- we are for all intents and purposes in the bean counters charts- unchurched.

I am  uncomfortable with my comfort with going to church myself.  I have lots of people from church that I call friends- facebook friends- but no one I interact with outside of church. I am bumping into this notion that something is very wrong with how this is playing out, but I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know  how to fix my sons. All I can see is what I can’t do, and how they have acted every time I have tried to take them  to church to be ministered to. And.. and.. there is so much in my heart to say and so many broken dreams I could express but lingering here is painful,and grief guts hope and undermines faith so I will cut this short. I will only say- God my God- how do I raise my children in the way they should go if I can’t find it myself?

 

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