Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Gift

Every human is given a gift. That gift can either be hoarded, or in turn given away. Ironically the gift is best used when we take something ourselves. What is it?

Personal Responsibility.

When we choose to take responsibility for our actions, our mistakes, our children, our misfortunes, our decisions, our consequences, ultimately our life we give a rare gift. Indeed, it is becoming rarer in our day and age. Our personal responsibility frees our family members, coworkers, friends, colleagues, fellow human beings to live their lives without the suffocating burden of our lives. After all, each person is given only their own life to live for good reason. To try and live the lives of others is not fair to them - or us. We simply are not designed to carry the load of multiple people. However, it is evident that many do not recognize, or understand this rather simple fact. Even scarier than the lack of recognition is the blatant deception people chose to engage in to convince themselves they are not really the ones responsible for their own messes. I am surrounded by examples, and when looked at through the simplicity of a 3 year old the concept doesn't require a master's degree to grasp. Shall we?

Mary makes a mess of Polly Pocket. Mary decides she wants to play something else. It will take Mary several minutes to clean up her mess, which is not an immediately appealing reality. Mary recognizes she is not capable of stowing the container of Polly Pocket because the shelf is higher than she is tall. Mary illogically concludes that the restraints on her ability to accomplish the final aspect of the clean-up clears her of all responsibility to take care of the mess. Mary leaves the room to get herself a new toy, blaming Leah for the mess since she happened to play with Mary for 3 minutes during the time Mary had out all the Polly Pocket.

This example seems so obvious, does it not? Mary clearly has responsibility to clean up the Polly Pocket as best she can, and then take the initiative to ask for help in the small step of putting the container away. But what appears clearly in this scenario somehow gets lost in translation with only a minor adjustment of content.

Mary makes a mess of her finances. Mary decides she wants to purchase something else. It will take Mary several months to clean up her mess, which is not an immediately appealing reality. Mary recognizes she is not capable of immediately paying off the debt because the debt is greater than she is rich. Mary illogically concludes that the restraints on her ability to immediately pay off the debt clears her of all responsibility to take care of the mess. Mary files bankruptcy, and then complains of how high the credit card companies charge on interest.

Here we see Mary doing the exact same thing as when she played with her Polly Pocket! Mary should do whatever she can to rid herself of the debt she herself made. She could ask for help from debt consolidation, or credit counseling if the task was too great for her to handle independently, but her choices in spending are for her to pay - not someone else. This same concept works towards parents with children, and the responsibility often laid at the feet of the local public school to raise our children with social and moral values. I want to train my children that it is not nearly as much the other person's fault as our fallen nature would have us believe. Ultimately, the choices we make in spending time reading, playing on the computer, or watching television correlate directly with the loss of time to spend managing commitments, fulfilling obligations, and finishes projects. Trust me, no one forces me to play on facebook. Equally, it is no one's job to force me to responsibly manage my grocery shopping so my children have dinner.

I want to be ever vigilant in giving away the gift of personal responsibility - choosing to free others from the burden of my life's choices.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Once Upon An eBay

Once upon a time a young girl was wed. She received many gifts, but none satisfied her heart as much as the beautiful calla lily vase, not even originally purposed for her. Alas, as careful as she was she didn't see the evil witch, and with a single wave of her pointed finger the powerful sorceress smashed the girl's lovely vase. Heartbroken, the young girl vowed to fix the vase, but it seemed hopeless until... eBay.

Perhaps you think the story above must be part of a child's fairy tale, but I promise it is nothing short of the truth! Read, and judge for yourself.

I was married in 1997. Among the many generous gifts given to me and my husband was a Lenox Woodland vase. I will apologize now if this happens to be the starring piece in your collection, but it looked like a head of Romaine lettuce to me. I was genuinely disappointed because I thought it very sophisticated to have my own Lenox vase. After all, Lenox is something you have when you are an adult! But this vase was... ugly. I reluctantly took it back to Macy's, thinking perhaps I could exchange it for more of my dishes, but when I walked into the store I saw the most beautiful vase sitting alone on a small table. The calla lily vase was on sale, marked down because it was discontinued. I couldn't believe my eyes! The charming sculpture was especially touching to me because the calla lily was our wedding's theme, playing a role in our invitations, cake server, and the champaign flutes we gave to each of our guests. It remains my favorite flower. Needless to say, I lost no time exchanging my small, porcelain head of lettuce for the last of my calla lily vases Macy's would ever carry.

I spent the next few years displaying my vase with pride. One day, after a display of flowers had faded, I sat the vase on my counter next to my sink. I needed to wash it, but before I could get to it Hannah, only a small child at the time, was hungry for bananas. Taking a banana from its bunch I began to tug, noting to myself the precarious position my elbow held with the vase. The bananas, not quite ripe, were refusing to give up their most prized member. Determined to outwit the yellow fruit I gave it one last strong yank, releasing it from its bunch while simultaneously watching in slow-motion horror as my elbow made contact with the vase. It fell neatly onto its side and immediately broke on the tile counter.

I literally cried.

I was sick with myself for being so prideful. Had I simply heeded that small voice of caution, and placed the vase safely away from my elbow it would not have broken. I gently carried the pieces to my table, determined to salvage what I could. Using a tube of glue, patience, and a few more tears I managed to piece the vase back together enough for display - though it certainly was no longer water tight. Later that night I thought about checking into replacing the vase altogether, but the vase's discontinued state made it impossible to find on any website.

Over the following years I kept the vase for show, saddened each time I received a bouquet and was unable to use it properly. I didn't realize that as the years passed the glue I used for the original repair was slowly drying out, losing its bond, until one fateful day, about 3 year ago, my eldest daughter inadvertently knocked it over and the vase re-broke along the original break lines. Once again my beautiful vase was lying in pieces. I had continued checking websites, replacement catalogs, and even eBay in an attempt to find my vase but never saw anything even remotely like it. I couldn't even find the official Lenox name for the design! But I thought I might be in better shape to repair the vase this time, as I had recently learned of a woman who did museum quality repair work on ceramics. She was an artist herself, and owned a small studio with her own kiln. The vase's shards fit perfectly together, creating nearly invisible seams. I just knew that in the hands of a professional my vase could finally come back to life!

Boy, was I wrong.

I was almost as disappointed with her repair as when the vase was originally broken. The workmanship was shoddy, and while the inside looked neater than when I had glued it the outside carried long jagged scars. I could no longer hide its brokenness. However, I remained unwilling to get rid of it. I loyally placed it back in the center of my shelf, and grew more determined to someday find a thoroughly acceptable solution.

Last week I unpacked the final box from moving over a year ago, and wrapped with lovingkindness inside was my calla lily vase. We don't have a single display cabinet in our new house, having lost several hundred square feet of living space in the move. So, I placed it in a seat of honor among my other breakables tucked carefully in an upper cabinet. In the process I reassessed the damage done by the restoration artist. It got me thinking, again, about my desire to see the vase fully restored but it also reminded me that nearly 10 years of searching had not even produced a specific title.

And then came today.

Relaxing on a lazy Saturday afternoon, the idea suddenly caught me to check out eBay. I occasionally like to see what auctions might be of interest. For instance Josiah, our ever wayward child, is slowly destroying all my wonderful Richard Scarry circa 1970 books. The new ones just aren't the same, having yielded to political correctness. After discovering a boxed set of my four favorites I was about to call it a day when I typed, as I have at least 3000 times before:

Lenox calla lily vase

The screen blanked as the results were being pulled. I knew what I would see once the page refreshed - 0 results with exact matches. There would also be the 72 results containing, "calla lily" in the description, which I would scroll through just to make sure someone hadn't inadvertently listed the vase without the manufacturer's name. It was always the same...

And then the screen blazed back with a single match showing. Immediately next to the title was a thumbnail picture of my vase. My vase! I froze, and simply stared at those beautiful pixels. Once my shock was overcome I could hardly get to the listing fast enough. I scanned the listing, noting the price (acceptable - even reasonable), condition (new in the box), shipping charges (appropriate), seller's rating (great), auction time (1 day left of a 14 day list), number of bids... number of bids? I stopped. There were no bids. The auction was listed as a, "Buy Now" or bid sale. I practically shouted to Christopher, sitting a mere 7 feet away from me, "Can you believe this?" I clicked, "Buy Now," hurriedly finished the transaction, and practically hyperventilated waiting for my confirmation email to arrive!

UPS better drive fast.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cracked... or... Not Cracked

I remember the first time I heard my children saying this over and over and over again.


Or not cracked?


Or not cracked?

It started between Bethany and Hannah, but within a few moments there was a chorus of, "cracked, or not cracked?" floating out of my dining room. My curiosity got the best of me, and I poked my head around the kitchen wall to see what was cracked... or not cracked.

Graham crackers.

My kids were taking turns trying to fool their siblings by making them guess if the graham cracker they held in their hand was whole, or had been broken and then pressed back together to appear complete. At first I thought the game would lose its charm rather quickly, and doubted the ability of Mary or Leah to truly participate. Oh my, was I wrong! Some 7 months later I will still hear these words echoing out of the dining room any time I serve graham crackers - and all the children just love it!

Go figure.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


I have learned an important - albeit occasionally difficult - life lesson: apologize to my children. I mean really sincerely admitting when I have blown it, and going to them in the same way I go to my spouse, friends, or other family members. Treating my children with the respect, and dignity I expect from my peers helps build a foundation for healthy adult relationships in my children's lives. And it ensures that I remain humble, recognizing that while I am an authority over my little people I am still under authority myself.

I distinctly remember the first time I asked for forgiveness from Hannah. She was little more than 2, and I had lost my temper over a minor infraction. Rather than calmly managing the situation I flew off the handle, yelling inappropriately. Now, Hannah needed to have her disobedience addressed, and this was the point that caught me! If I apologized, telling her it had been wrong for me to act out the way I had would I be, in essence, stating that she had done nothing wrong? And if I repented how could I move forward with any further discipline? These questions had me stumped, but I knew that I had acted poorly towards her, and that if I didn't step forward and acknowledge the ways I was wrong I would continue to justify reasons to slide out of personal responsibility. Once down that road it can be terribly difficult to retrace your steps!

Since that first time it has become so much easier to recognize my faults to the children. After all, it isn't like they aren't keenly aware of the ways I mess up. The least I can do is not add, "carries a double standard" to the list! I knew that it was the right thing to do, but what I wasn't expecting was the freedom that comes from genuinely repenting to my children for the ways I walk in sin against them. It is such a relief to tell them that I was wrong, that I am not perfect, and that I don't have all the answers. The other side benefit to honoring my children through repentance is the practice it gives my children in forgiving. Besides the work they must do in learning to forgive one another, learning to forgive me (who generally trespasses against them in "justice" issues, which are far different from "relational" issues often present in their interactions with their siblings) provides them with important skills for a healthy adulthood. Learning to engage in reconciliation with a sibling is essential for healthy peer relationships; but learning to forgive a parent will carry over into their ability to rightly associate with all authorities placed in their life. That's pretty important!

However, of all the reasons (and beneficial results) listed above for seeking the forgiveness of my children the most vital pertains to the connection my parenting has with the Divine. Our God never sins against us. He never makes a mistake. He never has anything but our absolute best in store for us. Parents represent the first image of a caring, provider God to their children. I am sure we can all remember the time when our parents were, quite literally, perfect! If they said we were wrong, then you can be sure we were wrong. Period. How dangerous to not clarify the truth. And then again, when we realized our parents were fallible, but continued to act in a manner suggesting they were always right, how dangerous to not clarify the truth. Both of these realities can be fodder for a broken relationship with Christ.

So, I continue to apologize, acknowledge my sin, and repent to my children. They are wonderful in their responsiveness. And they receive the opportunity to taste the grace given to the forgiver towards the forgiven. I highly recommend it for everyone.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


I have been remiss. I am so sorry to all my blog readers for deserting you these past weeks! I have missed writing, and it appears that some have missed reading. So what possible excuse do I have for my altogether abrupt leave of absence?


Yes, it really is that simple. No under or overstatements necessary. Occasionally I do have to actually live with all seven of my children, and as much as I enjoy coming up with unique and catchy posts the truth is that my priority is in my home, with my family, and off the computer. This is hard for me to accept. I look at other writers who are prolific in their number of entries, details, pictures, blah blah blah... and I wonder what on earth is wrong with me. Why can't I manage to write something every day?

It certainly isn't a result of too little food for thought. Only yesterday I had a conversation with my son about praying for dead people - and why we don't. My backyard has undergone a monumental landscaping overhaul which came to completion only this past week. I went on my first ever personal retreat, and loved it! And of course peppered onto all of this are the many overheard comments, witnessed moments, and general happenings of my family. Lots has transpired since last we chatted. I promise to work on bringing much of it to you through the next few weeks.

As to what the future holds, I can't promise that another unexplained hiatus will never occur. That whole, "priorities" thing keeps rearing its head, beckoning me to take advantage of the here and now before it is then and gone.

Thanks for traveling the road with me.