Friday, May 27, 2011

Elijah's Birthday

So, this year, for Elijah's birthday, we went to Roundtable pizza. It was sort of a haphazard thing, not a planned out event with lots of kids. (Which was probably good, because when we got there and I said I had a reservation for a kids' birthday party, the pizza guys appeared to have no idea what I was talking about. "Uhh, sure, you can set up in the back room if you want." Note to self: do not count on Roundtable.)

But, I brought all our laundry-money quarters so that the kids (mine plus the one neighbor boy) could play the arcade games. We had cake after the pizza. This was Elijah's first year getting to pick out a store-bought cake - last year I finally finished off the "You can't read this" series with "You can (finally) read this!". And Elijah opened his presents there. At one point he declared, "This is my best birthday EVER!" I think it was mostly the arcade games.

Which just goes to show how awesome even crappy things can seem to you when you're a kid. They had a couple of those "claw" machines, and the adults kept commenting on how rigged they were, against winning. Towards the end, I gave Elijah one last quarter or two to play, and was so sorry for him when he didn't get anything out of the claw, *again*. But he turned around and said in an excited tone, something like "I almost got something that time, Mom! It was so cool!" Kids.

The downside is... I didn't bring my camera! I was really bummed about not being able to get shots of his excitement. The following PicVids came after he got home, from playing with his new toys.

He got these squirt guns from someone and then had a blast going all commando with them.


Brotherly love.

I saw this and started to wonder if we were watching too much Stargate around the kids or something. But it's cute. :)

I don't think I had the camera out in time to catch the first one he did. It was awesome; he kind of did this commando-crawl along next to the table, and when Gabe came up, he held a finger up to his lips and said, very quietly, "shhh", and then they both jumped out together for a surprise attack.

Yeah, I think he did this a lot of times over again. It was THAT fun.

Of course, Julie got in on the fun, too.

Gabe kept running around yelling what sounded like "gone gone!" I eventually figured out that he was, of course, saying "gun".

What better use for plastic golf clubs that are still in the case, than as an ax?

Dad helped them set this one up.

I'm including this video too mostly because I think it's cute to hear all the kids' laughter.

Ok, so my videos were in reverse chronological order; this was actually the first one that I took after we got back. Hence the trying to ask Elijah to tell us something about being at the pizza place... an endeavor I quickly gave up on, since he was too distracted to talk to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Funny Things Kids Say

1. I was reading the Easter story to the kids on Easter Friday. I think it was because of the angels in the story that one of the kids brought up fairies. Elijah asked me right out if fairies were real. Thinking of the fairy books they've been getting from the library, I said, "No. Fairies are just for pretend."

Elijah responded by asking, "Then who puts the money under Kyrie's pillow?"

Erk! I was not thinking of the Tooth Fairy. And Elijah hasn't even lost his first tooth yet. (I'm not quite sure how he took my response, which was to guffaw with laughter and then try vainly to shove the cat back in the bag with some sort of hypothetical question like, "I don't know; maybe they exist after all?")

I'm putting up random pictures. This is me dressed up for my anniversary night out, with the kids hamming it up.

2. Kyrie got these scapulars from her First Communion class. Savi comes into my bedroom Fri morning (5/6) wearing the green scapular on a chain around her neck. She says, in a near-tearful tone of voice, "Kyrie gave me this so it can heal my toe which did get hurt and was bleeding."

Savi, with Gabe peeking in on the left.

3. I sent Elijah and Savi to stand in various corners b/c they were squabbling. Apparently Gabe was feeling left out, b/c he went to a corner, looked at me and said, "toenah?"["corner?"]. When I said, "You can be in the corner if you want to", he smiled and turned around to face the corner.

Gabe tried to apply lotion to himself.

4. To set the scene for this, let me point out that the available floorspace in our bathroom is maybe 3 by 4 feet. And half of that was taken up with laundry piles. So I'm getting dressed after a shower, and Savi comes in and says, "By the way, mom, did you even notice that Julie is in here?". No, no I did not notice the large 7 month old baby that I've been trying not to trip over for the last five minutes.

She's like a cat. You're standing by the table and all of a sudden something brushes against your leg. Really made me jump  one of the times that she did that.

5. Elijah, with Kyrie's help, was trying to make himself some chocolate milk in the kitchen. When he pulled out the chocolate syrup, he said, "It even smells like chocolate!" Um. What did you expect chocolate syrup to smell like?

6. Kyrie: "I read where you wrote "men are not angels". Me: "I did write that." Kyrie: "So that means angels are women or girls."

The kids' room got mold, so they spent a couple nights sleeping on the floor of my room while I dealt with it.

7. Gabe brought me a little Lego guy whose bottom half he could not get to fit into the top half. "Dah doopih" he said. It took me only a moment to figure out that he meant, "That's stupid." I was torn between angst over the other kids using the word, and amusement over Gabe using it for the first time.

8. I was looking at the massive volume of granola that I made, and I wondered aloud, "Where am I going to store all this granola?". Elijah promptly grinned and said, "In my mouth!".

Gabe really likes Julie. He INSISTED on feeding her.

Update on Kyrie's 1st Communion

There was one other incident that I forgot to relate in my earlier post, during the Mass where Kyrie received her First Communion.

Throughout his homily, Fr. David asked the kids a few basic questions. Every time he did this, Kyrie raised her hand, wiggling in her seat with eagerness to answer the question. (The other kids, when they did answer, did not usually raise their hands. I have wondered about this dynamic before.)

Towards the end of the homily, when Fr. David asked a question, Kyrie raised her hand as usual, and none of the other kids were answering. Fr. David tried ignoring Kyrie's hand, and then eventually said, "Ok, someone besides Kyrie answer this one", or something to that effect.

It was so reminiscent of my own childhood, and so typical of Kyrie. The whole congregation was mildly amused. I thought it was very cute.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What's Missing From the Evolution Debate?

Kyrie refused to draw an evolution picture for me on a sunny day when she could be outside,
 so you'll have to put up with my cartoons.
The Beauty of Evolution

Evolution-as-Science, Evolution-as-Religion, Intelligent Design, Young-Earth-Creationism, Old-Earth-Creationism - the debates around evolution go on and on. What I'd like to present here is something that I don't recall ever seeing in these debates before. I maintain that there is a beauty to the theory of evolution that many of us are missing.1 (The scientifically-inclined among us probably already see the elegance of the theory - I'm talking about a somewhat more theological beauty.)

Men Are Not Angels

The glory of the angels is that they were formed complete in the first moment of their existence. The legend of Athena says that she sprang, a fully-formed adult, from the skull of Zeus, her father. The angels are like this, springing full-grown from the mind of God. They are never children, never need to grow up.

Men are not angels.

Our glory is not to be complete from the start. Our glory is to come into being over time. We begin as a single cell, knowing nothing. We grow; we learn. We move from being self-centered babies to people capable of self-giving love. Mentally, physically, and spiritually, we begin as the tiniest spark and grow, over time, into the fullness of who we are.

As With Men, So With The World

This pattern that we find in multiple aspects of our own lives is repeated over and over again in nature.
  • An adult chicken grows from a small egg.
  • A giant oak grows from a single nut. 
  • The towering sunflower plant begins as a tiny, edible seed.
  • Every living organism begins as a single cell and grows into full reproductive maturity2
  • The human species as a whole began small - with a single Adam3 - and has grown now to our current size of almost seven billion. 
  • The very universe itself began as an infinitesimally small point before expanding rapidly from there4.

Clearly, it's a pattern God likes.


Evolution is merely one more bullet point in the list, right in between "human species" and "the universe". Evolution says that all of life, too, began as a tiny spark and grew continuously to become the large, diverse body that we have now. 

And that's pretty much it.5

1 I was talking with my sister-in-law one day, and she said she didn't believe in evolution. Knowing her to be a very intuitive, beauty-driven soul, rather than a primarily abstract thinker (as I am), I gave her an overview of how I see evolution fitting into God's design of things. I forget how long it took me to do it - ten minutes, maybe - but at the end of it, she said she was convinced. To which my response was along the lines of, "Wait, what? You've completely reversed your position because of something I said? Huh. That's not usually the response I get." Although she has since told me that she's still not completely convinced.

2 Even single-celled creatures require some amount of time and, I think, growth, before they can reproduce themselves by splitting again. But I admit there may be exceptions to that general rule that I am not aware of.

3 Assuming the Bible meant that literally, which it may not have. Although I am rather inclined to think it did. Either way, the human species definitely started off a heck of a lot smaller than it is now.

4 When I hear that scientists have found that the expansion rate of the universe seems to be increasing, I wonder if the universe is going through an adolescent growth spurt.

5 You would be surprised at how many related thoughts and speculations I made myself leave out of this post. Hell; free will; more on the angels; aliens; C.S. Lewis; Christian Scientists; intelligent animals; Limbo and babies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kyrie's First Communion!

In lieu of the post that I was planning, instead I am going to skip past all sorts of pictures and videos - including PicVids from Elijah's birthday - and post about Kyrie's First Communion this past Sunday.

Here Kyrie is hanging out before Mass with her cousin Evelyn and one of her friends in the parish. I would tell you the girl's name, but she's an identical twin, and I can't tell them apart. One of them is shown here; the other one was the altar server.

I snapped this shot, too, while waiting for Mass to start. She looked so beautiful, and I love her so much. 

On the left are Kathryn and Anthony, Kyrie's godparents. They came out from Minnesota especially for this. Kathryn's mom married my dad last summer; that's why their daughter Evelyn is now Kyrie's cousin. 

We bought her dress at a place called Boutique 5 de Mayo. It caters to selling gorgeous dresses and suits to the (very large) local Hispanic community, for baptisms, First Communions, quinceaneras, and more. More than one person commented on how all the girl's dresses looked like little wedding dresses, much fancier than the ones we remember having. I thought maybe it was a Hispanic thing, and Kathryn mentioned that at Evelyn's First Communion, all the girls had had pretty-but-little-girl type dresses, except for the one girl who was Hispanic, who had had a wedding-style dress. (Frankly, one of the reasons that I was shopping there in the first place was that I didn't want Kyrie to end up with a dress that she felt wasn't as pretty as the other girls' dress.)

I let Kyrie pick out whatever dress she wanted from 5 de Mayo. And she picked out some cute sandals with heels, and those two hair clips. She didn't like the way the veils fit, so we did not buy one there. This turned out well, because she used the same veil that Evelyn had used, which Kathryn herself and some of her sisters had used for their First Communions.

My one beef with the way things happened was that we weren't sitting with Kyrie. They had two kids to each pew, and the godparents were supposed to sit in the same pew, while the family was supposed to go find seats elsewhere. I had planned to sit directly across the small aisle from Kyrie, but it turned out that those were the rows reserved for Eucharistic ministers. So we sat a couple rows behind her, and across the aisle. I was not the only family who was not happy about that arrangement.

Kyrie got to do the first reading. I think the first part is really cute; you can tell that she practiced, because she recognized right away that what was in front of her wasn't what she had practiced. She just matter-of-factly turned pages until she found the right one.

And then she did a simply phenomenal job. And that wasn't from practicing, either. I mean, I'm sure practicing helped, but she never once sounded that good during practice. She always read too fast, and a few syllables would be too low to hear clearly. But when she got up there, she was paced nicely; she was clear; she could be heard throughout the church. One of her 1st Communion class teachers told me afterward she thought I had taken Kyrie home and practiced a whole bunch after the rehearsal last Wednesday, and was quite surprised to find that I hadn't practiced with her at all in that time.

I did pray for her, though. I'm thinking that has something to do with it. Also, I'm seriously thinking that maybe this means that God will be calling her to lector when she is older.

UPDATE: There was a cute thing during the homily, that I forgot to relate in the first draft of this post. Read about it here.

(You may want to turn the volume down a bit on this one).

All the kids were told to bring a basket full of things to give to the poor. Kyrie and I went to the Dollar Tree on Saturday morning to pick this up. Since she was set to receive her first Confession later that day, I asked her what she remembered about it. I think her answer was, "nothing". Um. Apparently the three or four months that her class had spent discussing it had gone completely out of her head. So we went back over the basics again.

While we were at the Dollar Tree, she really wanted to get something for herself, too. I didn't feel right about letting her get something, though. When we got back out to the van, I finally put my finger on what it was. I explained that sometimes we have to be willing to give to others even when we don't get anything back. So this time, I wanted her to give the basket to the poor without getting anything for herself. She seemed to take that to heart. (Or at least she stopped complaining about it). Afterwards, I thought there was a touch of the Holy Spirit going on in that interaction, although I hadn't been expecting it right then.

Kyrie receives the Body of Jesus for the first time. Yay! I get kind of squishy inside with excitement over this. 

They arranged things by having the godparents stand behind each child as the child receives Communion. Parents were, generally, all in a huddle, doing the same thing as I was: snapping photos and/or videos. (Or, in my case, both, since I was using someone else's camera to do a video while using my own to snap a photo. Thanks, Eileen!) The church set up a little barrier that parents could stand behind for photo taking; it gave parents a good angle, while keeping us out of the way (for the most part).

A video of the whole class receiving. Kyrie is third.

Kyrie receives the Blood of Jesus. (Someone reported to me afterward that Kyrie told them she did not like the taste, although she might get used to it.) It was hard to get a decent shot of this, since it was happening on the opposite side of the church from me. 

And, of course, the obligatory song, performed by children and completely unintelligible to all the parishioners listening. I know the refrain because I heard it so many times before. (We sang it a couple times for our Music lesson in homeschooling, to help Kyrie learn it better.) I'm curious if anyone else can make out the lyrics for the refrain or not. As for the verses, well, I don't think even most of the kids knew *those*, haha. Not that it's not cute and all, but I kind of wonder why the effort even gets put into this particular part of the program. Maybe the "Music is important for the soul" part trumps the "The kids don't know the words and the listeners can't hear it very well anyways" part. Well, whatever. They're all cute, especially Kyrie with her big hand gestures. And the choir director made a point of telling me how lovely Kyrie's voice was.

Left to right, along the back: Viviana, Jessica, Fr. David, Attila, Omar, and Zoltan.
Along the front: Sapina, Kyrie, Mateo, and Raul.

I taught these kids for two of the classes last fall, and got to know them a bit, and I enjoyed seeing them all receive their First Communion. 

Kyrie got presents from a lot more people than I was expecting. And 90% of them were rosaries. :D (Not really quite that high, but it was a lot. I think the nicest rosary came from her godparents; I will try to make her take special care of that one.) I thought that Grandpa Colin and Grandma Tina would appreciate watching Kyrie's reaction to opening their present. ("I love it!" she says as she hugs it to her chest.)

After that, Kyrie went out to OMSI with her godparents. All in all, it was beautiful and lovely and wonderful and all things good. :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


This is just a quick note to say that, since it's a half hour to midnight, today's post is going to be late. It's almost done, but it needs one more thing that I don't have time for right now. It is highly likely that I will post it tomorrow.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Stories of God

First let me introduce the idea of this project, and then I will tell you the story of how it came to be.

The Basic Idea

If you have a story about what God is doing in your life that you would like to share publicly with anyone under the sun, send it to When I get a few of these together, I will put them into an email and send it out to anyone who wants to hear the stories. If you want to receive these stories of God at work in people's lives, send me an email at and let me know and I'll be thrilled to add you to the list.

If you want, I can send you just a sample email before you decide to sign up. (Although you can also unsubscribe at any time, and receiving the emails does not commit you to actually read any or all of the stories if you're too busy! And it's free, of course, so signing up is a no-pressure thing.) :)

The Story of Stories of God

I wrote up an "invitational edition" with three stories in it, to send out to all the 114 people that ended up on my contact list. (I excluded various non-believing people.) The third story was the story of how this project came to be, which I include here.


It started in a conversation with my dad, Colin LaVergne. He said that one of his latest favorite ideas was of a newsletter that would share with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal all the successes that are still happening there. That was Hint #1. Hint #2 came in January of 2011, when my charismatic prayer group asked for ideas on how we could grow as a group. Many of the responses asked for stories; stories of inner healing, stories of listening to God's promptings, stories from other prayer groups, etc. The theme of "stories" really struck me.

As a follow-up to the request for stories from other prayer groups, I thought I ought to take the initiative to offer to contact my dad and see if his community in Minnesota could supply some. I felt a strong reluctance to do this, though. I took it to God in prayer to find out why. I realized that I was afraid that if I asked my Dad to share stories from his community, that he would suggest I start the newsletter myself, and I didn’t want another task to handle. So I turned to God, looking for reassurance that my fears were completely silly and nothing of the sort would happen. If I had to put into words the sense I got in response, it would be, "No, actually, do that." I was very taken aback. "You want me - me - to start a newsletter?!" But He gave me a strong sense of peace to go with the idea, and I began to get excited about it.

The next Sunday, at Mass, my parish priest gave a homily encouraging us to let our light shine out and make our faith more attractive to others. If that wasn’t enough of a confirmation, he then started sharing this story of a saint, a simple monk, whose superiors ordered him to keep a written record of the miracles that were happening around him. As the priest related this story, I felt like God was hammering it into my head “Yes, I want you to do this.” So here it is. :)


It's a good thing he did hammer it into my head, because it turned out to be more difficult than I was anticipating to get it started. I might have given up several times if I wasn't so thoroughly convinced that God wanted me to do it. Some things, though, did come together just right, like the three stories for the invitational edition. I was blessed to see how nicely the three stories complement each other by showing three different things that God offers: physical healing, healing from addiction, and daily guidance.

Finally, today, I am sending out the 114 invitational emails. (I was saving them as drafts, as I wrote them up. Do you know how long it takes to write 114 emails, even given that I was copy-and-pasting some of it?) Now I get to see how many people actually respond.*

*When I pitched the idea to three mom friends one day, two said no and one said yes. I'm wondering if that's the response rate I'm going to get overall.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Making My Blog More Attractive

Shortly after I felt God calling me to make myself look more attractive, I ran across an article about making your blog more attractive and how people who write about "the truth" often feel that they don't need to do this. The theme was so close to what I had just felt God telling me that I thought perhaps this was from him, as well.

There's also this ill-defined feeling that I have that God maybe has plans for my blog, or something. But it's too vague of a feeling for me to expand upon.

So here is what I have in mind.

1. Make every post scannable.

It may seem counter-intuitive to try to attract people to your blog by making it easier for them to skip over parts of it, but that's the way it works. Some people will be interested in reading every detail and getting the whole picture; others just want the gist. Making it easy for those who just want the gist means you're not driving them away from your blog. How do you make posts more scannable?

In a word, white space.

And bolded emphasis of key statements. Numbered lists with bigger text size also help, if relevant.

2. Use more pictures.

Ok, so I can't for the life of me think of a picture that would be appropriate for this particular post. But as I write posts, I'm trying to think of photos that I might be able to take that would be relevant, and use those. Pictures are like eye candy for a blog post.

3. Post more regularly.

Apparently, I've read a lot of blog posts about how to write good blog posts. And one of the things they often mention is that if you don't want to lose readers, you can't go long periods of time without putting something up, as I have often done in the past. I prayed about what kind of schedule I should keep, and got a definite sense for "Tuesday and Friday". So that's what I'm aiming for. There might be more trivial posts or PicVid posts on other days, but I am going to try to put something or other up on those days, at least.

4. Share more important stuff.

The best writing is writing from the heart. I've noticed that when reading other blogs, the posts that I find most worth reading are the ones that tell what God is doing in the writer's life. So I'm going to try to focus especially on those kinds of posts.

5. Write better headlines.

Ok, so this one's just a maybe. I read a couple articles about what makes for a good headline, but I'm not sure I really absorbed it. You can give me feedback if you can think of more interesting headlines, though.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Family Tree Photobook

I think I've made various references to my "photobook" or "all the photos I've gone through recently", but maybe most of you readers (all two of you) don't have the whole story, so I thought I'd share it.

It started when my uncle put up photos on his website of my great-grandmother. I had never seen her before, never seen pictures of my grandfather as a kid. It meant a lot to me, and I suddenly wished I had more photos of my ancestors.

This is my favorite photo of myself as a child.
After that, all these things suddenly came together. A friend of mine offered a code for a free photobook from Shutterfly. Ken went to Hawaii to visit his Dad and came back with photos of various relatives on his side. When I joined Shutterfly, they offered me 75 free prints, so I started sorting all my photos. (My older hardcopy photos looked as if someone had taken my life's worth of photos and shuffled them like a deck of cards. My digital photos on the computer were similarly scattered across multiple folders without any particular order. I'm still not done sorting everything.)

I decided to make a "Family Tree" photobook, with pictures of people in my kids' family tree.

My sister Cathy gives this look ALL the TIME.
I went through all my own photos; I talked my brother in Minneapolis into searching the family albums there and emailing me the results; I grabbed photos of relatives off of their Facebook pages; I put a photo up on Facebook and got my cousins to identify all of themselves in it (You rock, Lisa!). At the last minute, I got a photo of my Dad and his new wife at their wedding, that someone else had put up online. I used that archaic program Microsoft Paint to make an actual "tree" of first names, to show various relationships. Ken will probably be happy to tell you just how many hours I spent, disappeared into the bedroom, working on this.

This is my mom when she was young.
The four pictures I'm posting are on a page in the photobook that I call "four faces".

In the end, my only real regret is that I decided not to try to blackmail my uncle by threatening to have my kids forever remember him as "the guy who looks like he's about to scratch his face", if he didn't find some better pictures among his albums. (I found two photos of him with his hand making the exact same motion - I found that quite hilarious.) While I later found a better picture of he himself (playing pinochle, of course), I think he may have been able to come up with better pictures of my Grandpa, Grandma, and Aunt Julie, whose pictures I was not as satisfied with. (Little Jules is named after my Aunt Julie).

All in all, though, I was very pleased with the results, and it seemed to me like one of those things where God just brought everything together and made it all work out. Both Ken and I think that we would have appreciated having such a thing ourselves. Although our kids are way too young to appreciate the photobook now, I think they will, when they are older.

If you want to see the results for yourself, Click Here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Short Poem and a Long Explanation

The Background

Back when I was in high school and college, I wrote a few poems. I thought of myself as the smart brainy type, not the creative artistic type.1  But I had a couple of friends who clearly WERE the creative artistic type, and they somehow gave me the idea that I might be able to write poetry. So I tried it. And I even enjoyed the results.

When I tried showing my poems to other people, though, I pretty universally got the question, "What does it mean?" This was one of my first encounters with the notion that other people do not, inexplicably, live inside my head and understand everything I think.2 I don't remember much about my poems anymore, except a few images - floating around as the invisible observer 3, something being trapped in elastic polymer foam (written while majoring in materials engineering!), the smell of snow. For the most part, they are full of youthful angst, and don't hold so much interest for me as they once did.

But then there's this poem.

This is the poem that I think of as "the" poem.  The one I can recite by heart. The poem that's so deeply personal, I've been too scared to actually show it to anyone. (I showed it to Ken once 4, although he probably doesn't remember.) I share it now because I get the impression that God wants me to.

And I will go ahead and tell you what it means, so you don't have to ask. :)

1 All those stereotypes that we had in high school - those were REAL, right?
2 This is true in other areas besides poetry, too. I've been reminded and surprised lately by the need to actually SAY things to people, as if they can't read my mind or something. You mean you don't automatically know that I'm grateful for that gift? You didn't realize that something you said impacted my life forever? Go figure.
3 You mean ALL teenagers feel invisible sometimes? No, I'm sure I must have been the only one.
4 I believe he asked me what it meant. Just to make my point. :)

The Short Poem

The journal in which I first wrote the poem. And, apparently, rhapsodized it immediately. Well, I was 21, what do you expect?

Me and God

Random fire dances wild
'neath the moon which seems so mild.
Dances with a grace from God
so all you can do is nod.

Forest beckons deep and silent
with the power of ocean's current.
Beneath the inexorable tide of life,
lies a love more intimate than man and wife.

The Lengthy Explanation

The first stanza is "me"; the second stanza is "God", hence "Me and God".

1. Random fire dances wild

"Random" is probably the one word in this poem that doesn't really mean much. It's there because I was writing a different poema, and the line "random fire dances wild" was going to be the next line of that previous poem. When the poem suddenly took this deeper twist, I separated it from the rest of the prior poem, but I couldn't take out the word "random" without changing the rhythm of the line. And I like the sound of the word.

I am the random fire, dancing wild. When I would ride in a car as a teenager, now and then I would do this thing where I would imagine little dancers - something between a pixie fairy and a human - dancing along on the road beside the car. It was, as my sister would call it, a "thing"; there was a male dancer dressed in black who would dance on roads and cars and other products of human technology; a woman-fairy dressed in green who was only allowed to land on grass or trees or other living plants, who was the most frequent fairy; more rarely, other colored fairies, perhaps with their own rules, or not, depending on my mood. The dancer would jump and whirl from one tree to the next, do cartwheels along straight stretches, flip and spin. I would imagine my pixie fairies dancing with a lightness and grace, an energy and abandon, that I longed for, but could never match in my lethargic, clumsy, overweight body.

I am the fire, dancing wild.

To say that is to say that who I want to be is actually part of who I am, who God made me to be. Dreaming of lightness and physical grace is not just wishful thinking; it has some basis in reality, despite the appearances which say otherwise.

2. 'neath a moon which seems so mild

The mild moon is my outer demeanor. I'm the "nice" girl. I'm the one who almost never cracks jokes at other people's expense, for fear of hurting their feelings. I'm the one who everyone thinks is quiet and shy, at least at first. I'm the one who never did illegal drugs, never drank, never got into trouble. On the outside, I seem to others like the moon - silent, still, white with perhaps a few gray patches if you look closely.

But 'neath that... beneath the mild exterior and the self-control... lies the raging fire, burning and flaring in the utter abandon of a passionate dance. Beneath the stillness and white of the moon lies the flickering quickness and color of the fire. This is what I'm like on the inside, passionate and colorful.

3. Dances with a grace from God

My name, "Anna", means "graceful one", "full of grace" or "youthful one". I think I have also heard it translated "favored one". It has not been uncommon in my life for people to tell me that I am somehow special in God's eyes. Most recently one woman told me that I was one of God's favorites. "I mean, we're all God's favorites," she added, "but you're his favorite". I have mixed feelings about being told this; on the one hand, I can't help but enjoy being told that I'm on some higher plane than most people. On the other hand, I can't help but wonder what that means for the poor saps other people who aren't. Could God really love one person less than another? Is it somehow ok for him to do so, because he loves everyone so greatly in the first place? I don't want to put God in a box and say that he has to love everyone the same, in order to fit my idea of love and justice (especially in the face of the Biblical description of John as "the disciple whom Jesus loved"). But I can't reconcile, either, the idea of a God who plays favorites.

Be that as it may, I know that I am graced by God.

Everyone receives their own individual graces, but I can see in my life that God has given me numerous privileges which he has by no means given to everyone. Almost every family I know, even the basically loving, happy ones, has had some sort of serious issue, whether it's physical abuse, control issues, an emotional immature parent, physical disability, or something else. Not only did I not have to deal with any of that b, but I did not even have to struggle my way to God from a homelife that was secular or didn't take God seriously. Instead I was raised by Catholic Charismatics, for whom it was a bread-and-butter, basic fact of life that God wants to have a personal relationship with each one of us. I was encouraged to pray on my own in addition to our multiple family devotions; in our Christian community, there were many stories about what God was doing in people's lives, which helped me to see what He was doing in my own. As an adult I have come to see just how rare that kind of childhood is.

"Dances with a grace from God" expresses all this; that everything graceful and good about my life comes from God, and He is the one in whom I "live and move and have my being" (Acts 17:28).

4. so all you can do is nod

Have you ever found yourself so overwhelmed by something - a lovely sunset, a special insight, something else - that you were left speechless? When I think of all that God has made me, when I think of myself as the fire dancing wild with a grace from God, that's much like how I feel. Words cannot capture the beauty there. All I can do is nod in wordlessaffirmation.

5. Forest beckons deep and silent

For me, God is green. I see him in the forest, in the trees and the grass and the bushes. Once when I was in high school, I rode a few blocks with a friend of mine, who made some comment about someone walking on the sidewalk. I was like... "there was a person there?" This appeared to shock her a bit, and led to the revelation that, when driving down a street (generally speaking), she will notice the people, and I will notice the trees. Certain guys apparently will notice the make and model of every car they pass. While I have come to a greater appreciation of the personal, and not just abstract, importance of people over trees, it is still true that I really like trees.

So the forest is God, beckoning in his deep and silent way.

I'll grant, I am a lot less inclined to think of God as "silent", than I was when I wrote this poem nearly ten years ago. I've gotten a lot better at hearing him in the last two to four years. But even now, there is still that "cloud of unknowing", as the anonymous author put it. I can know a lot about God, and I can know him as a person, in a deep way, yet I don't get to feel his presence however I want, don't get to see him face to face. Yet despite the silence, God is beckoning, always inviting me closer to Him, always wanting me in a deeper relationship with Him.

6. with the power of ocean's current

The undertow of an ocean is dangerous, able to pull even strong, experienced swimmers out too far, where they cannot swim back. This is the power of God, his incredible strength. Only instead of being dangerous, as the current is, He pulls us exactly where we ought to go, where we need to go. To Him.

7. Beneath the inexorable tide of life

Think for a moment of those Darwinian images of the fish growing into a land animal that grows into a monkey and then a human being. Now picture something like that, only on a global scale, with a lot more detail. The amoeba bifurcates and multiplies, lakes teem with microscopic life; life spreads onto land, and over the course of the millennia, we have oceans filled with fish, more species of beetles than there are human beings on the planet; moles and worms and elks and yaks and kangaroos and lions and fir trees and mosquitos and spiders and oaks and whales and mulberries and dolphins and silkworms and rhubarb. The planet swarms with life, and it is beyond our power to stop it.d This is "the inexorable tide of life", and it is out of God that all this teeming, fecund life springs.

8. lies a love more intimate than man and wife.

God is Love. His love is not a dispassionate thing, not an abstract sort of love, nor a friendly well-wishing. No. Take the love of Romeo and Juliet, of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, of Bella and Edward, Scarlett and Rhett, Salim and Anarkali. Stack them on top of each other and multiply them a hundredfold and what you get pales compared to the kind of passion God has for you. If you have ever been moved by your grandparents' love for each other, or wished you had a marriage as sweet and enduring as that old couple down the street, then be happy, because God offers you a love even more intimate and more lasting than theirs. This is the love that I know, in part. The love that I have felt, at times, and know to be always there, whether I feel it or not.

So that's my poem. Hope you liked it.

a The earlier poem is called "Pictures". You can see the last two lines of it in the photo.
b The one serious exception to my happy childhood was my mother's death when I was 13.
I think my husband might be shocked to hear me describe myself as ever being "wordless". Whenever I've spent a while writing a blog post or email or comment, he starts referring to "that book you're writing". The other day he told me "you know you could have written a book by now?". Just wait until I really DO write a book someday, sweetie, haha. :) Also, yes I realize the irony in using a very wordy post to talk about wordlessness, but that was the sentiment of that line in the poem.

d Despite what sometimes seems like our fervent determination to try.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

PicVids: April 2011, 2nd Edition

Gabe took it on himself to pour a second bowl of cereal.

Heh. That's Stargate playing in the background. Ken and I have been watching all the episodes on Netflix. Meanwhile, Jules made her own way into the kitchen.

So I've been doing a routine on the Wii Fit, and it starts off with two yoga "Sun Salutations". Gabe likes to do them with me, and I finally managed to capture it on video. That boy is just too cute.

Julie made an escape attempt out the open door while Ken was bringing in groceries. This was taken right after the door was closed. She has mad crawling skills.

Just a bit of pure cuteness.