Mom to the Left

I'm a mom who tends to live just to the "left" of most of the people around me here in Indiana.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"October's poplars are flaming torches lighting the way to winter" - Nova Bair

The woods in October in Indiana, I think, are at their best. The leaves whose greens blend together in summer, become defined in shades of gold, orange, red, yellow, brown. With each passing breeze a few stray leaves begin their slow glide to the ground. Acorns litter the ground, waiting for the wildlife to gather them up.

Last week we had Fall Break at school so we decided to take one last camping trip before the weather turns too cold. This time we went to Yellowwood State Forest in southern Indiana. Camping in October is so different from camping in May or June or July. We dressed in layers, huddling around the campfire at night out of necessity. Temperature ratings on sleeping bags were put to the test this time. And when we woke in the morning, our breath was visible until the sun warmed us up again. Instead of cold drinks and hot dogs, this time around we prefered beef stew for dinner and oatmeal with hot chocolate for breakfast.

As much as I love camping and hiking in the early summer and identifying spring wildflowers, I have to admit that I really love autumn camping too. There is nothing like a scary ghost story told while huddled for warmth around a campfire in October.

Before I go I want to show you the view of the lake on Saturday morning as the sun rose behind the trees before the morning fog had burned off. A more beautiful sight I cannot imagine...

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Knowing God *is* the reward

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a talk (lecture seems like too formal a word) by co-authors Philip Gulley and James Mulholland at my church. Together they have authored If Grace is True: Why God Will Save Every Person and If God Is Love: Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World. I'd read both of these books some time ago and consider them among the few transformative spiritual books that I have read on my journey. They helped me to define who I am and what I believe.

I was almost ecstatic when I learned that Gulley and Mulholland would be speaking at my church. While their books are gaining attention nationally, they are actually located not far from where I live. This is their home territory. They are just as entertaining in person as they are in their books.

Many things were said. Much of what they said was material from their books that I'd already become familiar with. I sat there nodding my head a lot. One thing they said which really put the whole thing in crystal clear terms for me was talking about our relationship with God.

Some believe our relationship with God is all about fear. We should fear a wrathful God and go about our lives trying to avoid his punishment. Others believe our relationship is about reward. We should jump through this hoop or that hoop in order to appease God and thus, gain his "eternal" reward. But what Mulholland suggested was that just knowing God *is* the reward. We participate in religion and spirituality not to appease an angry God or to manipulate God into giving us something, but we participate out of love for God and the joy that we are able to know God.

Another meaningful thing that was said was about their opinions of a possible afterlife. They pointed out that all discussion about an afterlife is speculation because no one can know until they die. But our opinions about an afterlife greatly impact how we treat other people in this life. It is for that reason that we should think about what we believe and why and how that motivates us to live in this life.

Very cool discussion.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"God works in mysterious ways"

I remember hearing people say, "God works in mysterious ways," and not really getting it. I have now come to the conclusion that God works in a way that isn't at all mysterious. I believe we (human beings) are the hands of God and through us he moves and creates and sustains the world.

As you've probably noticed, I haven't been around the blog world much lately. Uumomma even emailed me recently to check in on me because I'd been feeling low when last I was posting a lot. I'm popping in tonight to let everyone know that my absence from the blogosphere isn't really due to an emotional low (thank God), but rather the hectic life that this time of year usually brings. As the kids get older it gets even more busy.

In the past six weeks I have:
1. subbed almost daily in one particular elementary school
2. led five Cub Scout meetings including a hike to earn Forester badges
3. dropped off and picked up from band practice kid #1 sixteen times
4. chaperoned 5 day-long high school marching band contest trips
5. taken kid #2 to 5 soccer practices
6. taken kid #3 to the public library 4 times
7. attended 6 Saturday morning soccer games
8. attended church 6 times (one of those times teaching RE)
9. attended one UU Christian Circle meeting
10. attended two band parents' association meetings
11. attended one Boy Scout Court of Honor/pitch-in picnic
12. delivered kid #1 to two separate weekend parties

Basically, I have been going 7 days a week for at least 4 weeks and the couple of weeks prior to that was almost that busy. On top of that, we have computer wars at my house. I have kid #3 wanting to play Reader Rabbit or Sesame Street games, kid #2 wanting to play Jedi Academy or look up Pokemon info online, kid #1 wanting to chat with his friends on myspace or facebook, and husband wanting to catch up on blogs, email, or myspace. My computer time is so limited, blogging has become a luxury. But soccer and marching season are ending soon, so hopefully I'll be back again soon.

Keeping busy has been a blessing. It has done two things: 1. It keeps me from dwelling on our financial problems and my difficulty finding a job. 2. It reminds me what is really important in life. One warm Saturday afternoon as I sat on the sidelines watching my son belt out part of the marching band show at the climax of the music, I was moved to tears. Those are the moments I live for. No creditor or possible employer can ever take away from me the joy I felt at watching my son perform. What food we did or didn't have at home didn't matter one bit in that moment.

An interesting thing has happened over the last month or so. We have been sustained. As I said at the beginning of this post, I believe God moves on this earth through the hands of the people around us. At a time when I often wondered where our next meal would come from or how we would have enough gas to get to work until payday, little things started happening. Friends and family would do small "coincidental" things that helped to sustain us and get us through. For example, one day at work, a coworker of Big J's asked him if we'd be interested in some meat for some Philly Beef Steak sandwiches. Apparently he and his girlfriend had gotten some and didn't care for it so offered it to us as a gift. Unsolicited by us. They had no idea that we'd been trying to figure out what to have for dinner. Several other similar things happened around that same time when we were at rock bottom. I really believe that God sustained us.

We are not out of the woods. Things are still tight, but we are recovering. And I have more good news. Last week, the principal came up to me and offered me a 10-week maternity leave. It isn't a full-time job, but it is a stepping stone. Not having a maternity leave has been an obstacle in my way preventing me from getting an interview in the past. So I am turning a corner.

My faith has been strengthened by this hardship. And every day I thank God.

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