Friday, April 30, 2010

Bundle of Joy

Our newest bundle of joy arrived last week and already she has hearts fluttering from coast to coast. Addison Claire Avarell came into this world to join her big sister, Makinlee and her parents Kurt and Ashley. What a beautiful family!

I am so lucky to be a grandma, a mom and a mom-in law. There's just nothing better!

I love being Gia. And I can hardly wait to hold this new little spirit. Thank you, God.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Does It Rest Well on My Heart?

I never bought a WWJD bracelet.

However, I did ask myself the question on occasion.WWJD? What WOULD Jesus Do?

But in the past few days I have been exposed to two variations of the 90's message bracelet, both communicated with words. No metal involved at all.

Today Siobhan Magnus, the most recent cast off from American Idol said the following: "I do what I do because it rests well on my heart and it is who I am."

ME: How lucky that at her age she knows who she is. And to make choices based on how they rest on your heart...what a perfect concept. I want to live my life making every decision with the qualifying requisite that it rests well on my heart. I wish I had done this my entire life. However I am not going to make a DIRWOMH bracelet.

And earlier this week, I was reading a profile on FaceBook and read the following (slightly edited to protect the privacy of the author) with my thoughts immediately beneath each quoted paragraph:

HER: "Favorite things to do and things that are interesting to me: Hanging out with my awesome family, U.S., Roman, Greek and Egyptian history, politics, public policy, pointing out -- and being annoyed by -- hypocrisy and bad behavior in the political classes regardless of party affiliation, trying to make every days' decisions in a way that will glorify God. I would travel every week if I could."

ME: Wow. I wish that was my profile. I want to be like that! I wish that was how I thought of myself, and how others knew me. I love hanging out with my awesome family, and I love history (although I haven't taken the time to study it in my adult life), and I am increasingly annoyed by hypocrisy and bad behavior in politics, whether it be a candidate, elected official, political party or pundit, or over-the-top grassroots groups. And more than anything I wish I was making my decisions in a way that will glorify God...I need to remember him more. And I would definitely travel every week if I could, and often do.

HER: "I come from a close family - pretty much all of them (except my Mom) still live in Massachusetts and I miss them every single day."

ME: I have a close family - and although most of them live in Utah, in recent years we have been spread throughout the nation. I miss them every single day.

HER: "My best friend is Kelly, and my aunt, who's 92, is still one of the most fun people on the planet. I am adopted, and have a great relationship with my birthmom and siblings who I met 12 years ago."

ME: My best friend is Dee, and all three of my daughters, the four most fun people on the planet. My Mom was adopted and I am beginning a relationship with her birth-relatives through FaceBook and hope to meet some of them someday.

HER: "I have two kids, two cats, one great husband and a lot of deer to eat my plants. I love my work so much that it is my hobby too."

ME: I have six kids, eight grandkids, a borrowed dog, a husband living in another state and lots of out-of-control plants in my backyard that desperately need deer to eat them. I love my work and the associations it allows so much that it is my hobby too.

HER: "I am an unapologetic conservative, but not a fan of political mockery, so I don't put photos of Obama on my website where he looks like the Joker, or has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. This is difficult as I believe that Obamafear transcends traditional politics and this is the first time ever that I have been truly afraid for my country, or what will be left of it when he's done."

ME: I am an unapologetic conservative, but not a fan of political mockery, so I don't put photos of Obama on my website where he looks like the Joker, or has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. This is difficult as I believe that Obamafear transcends traditional politics and this is the first time ever that I have been truly afraid for my country, or what will be left of it when he's done.

HER: "I used to be wretchedly selfish and made lots of really stupid decisions until one day when my friend Pam brought me to Bent Tree Bible Church in Plano, Texas and Jesus leaped into my heart, nearly knocking me over in the process. (Literally) Previously a disillusioned Catholic, I was "born again" - a term I previously mocked - and I have never looked back. I believe with all my heart that His death provided me with eternal life, that He walks beside me every where I go, and am grateful that He accepts me the way I am, sins and human failings included."

ME: I consider myself at times to be wretchedly selfish and prone to really stupid decisions, in spite of my 'conversion'  26 years ago. I don't remember Jesus leaping into my heart, but I do remember reading the scriptures on my couch in the little apartment in San Bernardino, CA and feeling a warmth through my body as I FELT the truth of the gospel in my soul.  I believe with all my heart that His life and death provided me with the opportunity of eternal life if I live appropriately. I want to believe that He walks beside me every where I go, but I don't think I invite him along as often as I should, and I am inadequately grateful that He accepts me the way I am, sins and human failings included.

HER: "I am now a proud member of McLean Bible Church, and cheat pretty much every day on prayer, as I feel closer to God through music and song than anything else."

ME: I am now a quiet and faithful member of my church, but not as outwardly active as is politically correct and expected, and admittedly not as diligent as I could be,  and I cheat pretty much every day on normal, accepted prayer, as I am only able to concentrate on my thoughts and supplications when just about anywhere but kneeling beside my bed. I think this can be traced back to being a young mom at the side of her bed with children knocking on the door or bursting in. I wasn't the type who could just continue praying (which would have been the perfect lesson through example), so my prayers often ended before they really began. 

HER: "Every day I wake up and wonder if I can find a way to tell the men and women of our Armed Forces that I love each and every one of them, and I keep them in my musical prayers every day."

ME: Every day I wake up and wonder if I can find a way to tell the men and women of our Armed Forces and the missionaries in the field that I love each and every one of them, and I keep them in my thoughts and prayers every day.

HER: "I am delighted at the kind, funny, delightful woman my daughter has turned out to be and amazed at the deep faith and patriotism that lives in my son's heart."

ME: I am beyond delighted at the kind, funny, enjoyable and authentic persons my children have turned out to be and amazed at the depth of conviction each has to their own principles.

HER: "Somedays I still want to kick the cat or slam the door, but mostly, I'm just grateful."

ME: Ditto. Even if it doesn't rest well on my heart.

Bottom line: Two women I didn't even know have made a huge impact on my life by their example and their words. Someday I will tell them.

And when I do, that will rest well on my heart.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's Nine O'Clock Somewhere

It’s time to reevaluate.  Again.

I am wondering, and when I am wondering about things, I also like to wander.

So, basically, I am wondering while wandering - about choices, and to Miami. In case you were wondering (and wandering).

It dawned on me today, that for the first time in over three decades, I am making decisions based on my wants, and my needs, as opposed to probably more than 90% of my past decisions which were made while in survival mode, or because someone told me I should.

This isn’t a new thought, I realized this sometime last year, but I think as the three-legged stool of my life starts to level out, I am reevaluating exactly what this might mean. Obviously this is a real change in my life and I am embracing it fully; I just like to analyze the why of everything, like: why was my stool so wobbly for so long?

Family, Faith, Finances – the three-legs of my typically wobbly stool. Family, because in life there’s nothing that matters more. Faith, because without it life has no clear purpose and sometimes makes no sense at all. Finances, because life is about money.

There, I said it. Life is about money. But shouldn’t it be about family and faith and service and friends?

Most of us divide our time between work and family. We calendar meetings and ball games and service projects and work hours. We talk about dinner-time and quality-time as if they are appointments in our day planner, but sadly, they rarely are.

And maybe that is part of the problem: these special times, dinner-time and family-time and quality-time and time-to-give-service-to-others, get lost in the myriad of other prioritized activities we manage to log onto our calendars, but they rarely make it onto our radar screen of scheduled planning.

I recently listened to a lesson on prayer, given by a mother of five. She talked about her college days when she was younger and had moved overseas for a semester-abroad program. She talked about the homesickness that sometimes engulfed her, in spite of weekly phone calls home.

She shared that the one constant she could always count on was her knowledge that at 9 PM her family was kneeling in family prayer. They always had, they always would.  What a blessing and comfort this knowledge was as she was away, and what an admirable daily tradition for that family.

I wish I had done something like that for my children.  It wouldn’t have mattered if one of them was not able to be there, the fact that they would have known that at 9 PM, or some appointed time, the members of their family were kneeling in prayer could have brought wayward teenagers home on time, and dawdling students home earlier from the library. It would have made me be certain to be home as well. It would have united us in prayer, no matter where we were individually.

It takes faith to create a standard such as family prayer, every night at 9 PM.  It takes faith to follow through when not everyone is home, or when other things interrupt. It's easy to make the excuse that 9PM just doesn't work because it's too late for some of the family, or someone hasn't arrived home, or etc. But, when you stop to think about it, what could be more deserving of a calendared, structured, planned time? Remember the three legs on my stool? Well, two of the three are present at family prayer: faith and family. Those aren’t bad odds.

In fact, they are great odds. But they are odds I didn’t take advantage of, to the detriment of myself and my children. We could have used that time together on our knees. We could have used that structure. We could have used that comfort. We could have used that unifying habit, whether we were physically present at 9 PM or not.

I suppose it's not too late for me to start this tradition now.  I’m not with my children, but they are always in my thoughts, so, from now on, whether alone or with family, I plan to have family prayer every night at 9 PM.

Just planning it is comforting to me, and I hope my now-grown kids will find comfort in knowing that their mother is praying for them and their families at 9 PM every night too.

It’s never too late to start a good habit, to act from faith, to think of family, to give service, or to find yourself.

I love reevaluation. I love choices that are made because I want to make them and need to make them, not because I am forced to make them to survive, or told to make them.

And I am beginning to love structure. Self-inflicted, self-managed, self-implemented structure.

Wondering while wandering is just one of my things, and that isn’t going to change. But regular family prayer just became my favorite thing. 

See you at 9. Somewhere in my wanderings. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Fashionable Death

I can see it obit. "It was death by fashion...."

Normally I don't think a lot about what my obituary will read, but today I had a moment. Or two.

As I was racing through my little adobe house, fashion-necessity-scarf flying behind me simply from the speed of my movement, I was suddenly, and without warning, stopped cold in my tracks as my body arched backward, the artfully tied knot at my throat tightening as the silken fabric constricted around my neck.

What in the world?!

I stopped, not by choice, but by force and caught the now-taut scarf in my hand, tugging it from my airway as a few carefully chosen words spewed from my mouth (proving that I was not truly being strangled or suffocating, it only felt that way).

My equally carefully chosen, artfully hand-painted, fashionable accessory had almost been the death of me when the silken strands on the ends somehow caught in the door frame of my bedroom as I was rounding the corner at Mach-5, and stuck, even as I kept flying forward.

It would have been a fashionable death, so to speak, but I am not ready to die under any circumstances. It took me 20 years to even wrap a scarf around my body in any way, so to have this near-death experience happen, when I have been so overly cautious about being trendy, was a bit disheartening.

Anyway, I have escaped death once again. And I looked good doing it, too.

And so I'm off. And my scarf is flying. We are alive and we look good.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sunset from a Different Porch

If there is comfort in structure, it makes perfect sense that there is discomfort where there is a lack of structure, i.e. chaos.

This explains a lot.

There isn't a day in my life that doesn't have some chaos in it, and it's in the hours following those uncomfortable moments of confusion, panic or stress that I suddenly realize that my life is often more chaos than structure. 

And always has been.

Oh, I have had days, possibly even weeks, of structure throughout my lifetime. But that calm, serene, still- small voice time has rarely been sustainable for me. 

And I think it's my fault.

I am not one to sit still for long. I get bored. I want to keep learning, meet new people, try something for the first time, read a new book, make a new friend, explore a new destination, greet a new challenge, see a sunset from a different porch...

I am in a love/hate relationship with change. On a daily basis.

Morning brings excitement for a new day of opportunity, daytime fulfills that expectation - sometimes too much - and nightfall comes with a sense of accomplishment tainted with the unsettling emotion of feeling unanchored, even unsteady.

It's almost like being sea sick.

Sometimes life seems to be rocking when I want it to roll. And as soon as I regain my balance, another wave of change knocks me back to my knees.

And sometimes I actually stay there.

Kneeling is a good place to be when you are feeling tossed and turned by life's storms. It also usually means you will be still for a short period of time. At least for me, it does. I am never tempted to kneel-walk once I hit the ground. I am just there. Still. Kneeling. Asking. Hoping. Listening.

Be still, and listen. 

No wonder kneeling is the best position for prayer. It forces us to stop for a moment, or longer. And that's when we can listen for that still, small voice. 

On our knees.

But once that's over, the listening complete, it's up and at 'em again. Lights, camera, action. Life jerks us up from that nearly perfect moment of calm introspection and off we go with our reddened knees and humbled spirits to fight the good fight one more day.

And that's not such a bad thing.

Especially if after a chaotic day of balancing time with tasks, and money with expenses, and energy with to-do lists......there's fresh air, a walk through the neighborhood, dinner with friends, soft music in the background, jeans and a t-shirt, fuzzy slippers, a warm quilt, loving family, good food and laughter. Another day of craziness is not such a bad thing if there's a safe place for us to escape to at the end of the day.

Home. The safe haven from the tumultuous chaos of life.

And for someone like me - who loves change and hates it too, who craves the warm comfort of home as much as the call of the road - the importance of comfortable structure in the midst of life's chaos could be life changing, if not life saving.

Family and home should always be my safe haven; faith, my anchor. An honest day's work too. And those calm, quiet moments of stillness on my knees. These should be the source of my comfort, the  foundation of my life's structure. I need that. We all do.

Because there's always going to be a new friend, a new book, a new experience and a new destination in my future. There will always be change and chaos at some level. I can't avoid it, and I don't want to. That's who I am. That's who I have always been. And that's who I want to be (with enough structure in the mix to keep me, and those around me, sane and anchored).

Home, family, faith, an honest day's work, and red knees. And that still, small voice.

And thankfully too, there's always a sunset. From somebody else's porch, or maybe even my own.