31 Days of . . . Looking for the Little

DSC02765 last round, 31 days

I’m not quite sure why I fall for this insanity every year, but fall for it I do. The Nester has been inviting bloggers to a 31-day challenge for several years now, and I’ve joined in for the last two.

Last year, it was 31 Days of Giving Permission . . .

The year before, it was 31 Days in Which I Am Saved by Beauty.

I will say, right out of the chute, that these posts, this year, will be far less ambitious than those were. A brief scroll revealed oodles of photos and way too many words. 

So this time around, I am committing to ONE photo and about 200-300 words each day. That’s it. And it’s in perfect keeping with the theme that flitted through my head when I was wondering what in the world to write about this year.

Our littlest granddaughter came to play with us this week because she wasn’t feeling 100% and wasn’t quite up to going to school. And as I walked by the door through which she hopped into our hearts, I saw her shoes, just sitting there.

And they grabbed me for the rest of the day.

She is four years old and growing up fast. A very tall and willowy girl, she’ll be graduating from high school in the blink of an eye.

But right now? She’s still little. And I want to see her in all the beauty of her littleness. I want to be on the lookout for that kind of beauty in the rest of my life, too. 

So for the month of October, I’ll be on talking about small things. Beautiful, quirky, interesting, thought-provoking — whatever.

But little.

Just Wondering

A line that I’ve used frequently in preaching is this one, courtesy of Robert Capon: “Jesus came for the lost, the least, the littlest.”

And that’s what I’m asking God to give me eyes to see this month — the little things. Join me?

Just Write: I Never Stop Being a Mama

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It’s the strongest, loudest piece of me, this mama thing. I was surprised by motherhood when it suddenly showed up. There we were, thousands of miles away from home, totally green about all but the basics of married life. 

And then she was born, and the entire world shifted on its axis. And then her sister and then her brother, and then, oh my! three littles in less than four years. And tired? Unbelievably so.

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But here they were and there I was, a mom. Not a particularly great mom, truth be told. Impatient, overbearing, insecure, torn by wondering if I should be doing something ‘more’ with my life than wiping bottoms and breaking up bickering.

But I chose to be there, at home, doing exactly that. And I have never regretted it, not even when my eldest questioned that choice when she was about twelve, wondering why I didn’t have a real job like all her friends’ moms.

The most wondrous thing is this: that as they began to grow up, they each showed signs of independence and quick intelligence and wonderful humor and insight. And I became their student, in so many rich and wonderful ways.

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My children have taught me so much. About humility, first and foremost. About laughter and anger, about love and disdain, about temperament and truth. Each one of them, wildly different from one another, beginning with that first flutter-in-the-womb. And yet so closely woven together. So close.

Yes, indeed, they were mean to one another, on occasion. I’ve learned more about their childhood meannesses since they’ve grown up! But underneath all of that there has always been a fierce loyalty and love, a deep desire for the best in one another, a willingness to come alongside in the tough times and to joyfully celebrate the great times.

I now have a grandson the same age I was when my first child was born: 23. LORD, have mercy! How is this possible? I truly don’t know how time can sprint by in a blink. I can call up elementary school orchestra concerts (on, my ears!), youth group scavenger hunts, early dating experiences, and long courtships for each of them.

And then suddenly — here we are! Three thriving families, eight grandchildren, every one making real contributions to their community, their church, their friends. 

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So I am still learning from them. Every day. And I am still mama at heart, at base, at center. One of them is facing into back surgery; a little grandgirl has a chronic disease; one has been widowed and remarried; two grandkids are searching for ultimate answers, the prayers of us all undergirding their journey. 

No matter what else I have done or will do, no matter how many people I interact with, love, preach to, partner with or direct — these ones, these children, children-in-love/law, grandchildren, along with my husband — these are the community of first commitment and most essential ministry. 

How did I get so lucky?

I haven’t done this in ages, but I so love it when I do. Joining with Heather at EO for her Just Write this week. JUST WRITE whatever comes, then join the community and see where everyone else landed. It’s fun, I promise.

Doing the Work

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Life is such an interesting, beautiful, terrible mix, textured and rich, sometimes overwhelming and difficult, but laced with grace and beauty, often in surprising ways.

I wrote a back-to-school blessing for my husband last week, and he is back at it full-tilt, bringing treasures to share, stories to tell, strong arms to push swings and build forts.

This morning, he brought this beautiful nest, discovered in a plant hanging outside our window. It held two lovely small eggs within, abandoned by their parents. For some reason, this loveliness was a powerful reminder to me that sometimes life doesn’t happen the way we plan or hope or imagine. Sometimes the eggs never hatch, no matter how beautiful they look.

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It’s been a week of gray days mixed with sunshine, extreme fatigue tossed together with energy spurts. I drove my car for the first time in three long months last week — and the adrenaline high from that joyous event carried me through two overly busy days that led to a crash-and-burn I’m still recovering from.

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The next day brought a sobering morning when my mood matched this sky. But the following day, there was a delightfully delicious morning celebrating this blond child, the one who now has her Poppy for a teacher two mornings each week.

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The pre-school hosts a Grandparents’ Tea the first week of school, so I hung out with Lilly for about 90 minutes, watching her agile body climb every piece of equipment in the play yard,

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enjoying her creation of an abstract water color delight, listening to “I’m a Little Teapot,” with miss Lil being the tallest student in the center of the back row of the ‘choir.’ We finished the morning by stringing colorful beads on yarn and then giving each other our creations. (We’re wearing them in that first picture.)

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The entire week felt a bit like this bowl of brightly colored beads — a mixture of bright and dark, shiny and plain, loud colors and quiet ones.

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The mixed-up-ness continued into Sunday, where the text for the day was one of my least favorites anywhere in the New Testament, Matthew 18’s admonition to deal well with conflict in the body. This is a text that has been sadly abused and misused, but it’s also a text that we need to ponder.

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It’s a tough thing, this conflict business. Often easier to avoid or ignore it than to face right into it and try and bring resolution, even reconciliation. There are those days when we feel like a broken pot or a string of barbed wire, and conflicts inevitably arise when one sharp edge meets another. It is never ‘fun.’

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Everything in me resists this topic — which generally means, pay attention, kiddo! — so I did.

I paid attention to the entire morning — the music, complete with a kids’ rhythm band, the prayer, even the announcements!

Fall marks a definite up-tick in events, programs, small group opportunities. The slower summer is good for all of us, but it’s always energizing to see the college students return, to welcome families home from vacation and to enjoy more opportunities to be together outside of Sunday morning.

Every section of the service served to underscore the wonderful/terrible truth that we do this work, this Jesus-following work, together. That’s the way it’s meant to be. When we say ‘yes’ to Jesus, we are invited into community life. And that means there will be wonderful and terrible things ahead. For all of us.

Why? Because we’re human, that’s why. And conflict is inevitable — just take a casual look at the New Testament and it becomes crystal clear that church struggle is nothing new — it’s built into the whole idea. And done well, it can nourish and replenish and bolster the ways we belong to one another.

That text I try to avoid? Well, it turned out to be the perfect one to dive into as this busier season moves into high gear.

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I was grateful that it happened to land on Communion Sunday in the lectionary rotation. That table that we share is all about togetherness, isn’t it? Unless we’re housebound and ill, we are meant to partake of the Lord’s Supper with the community, not by ourselves. And passing the bread, the cup? Offering the words? It’s tough to do that if you’re harboring bitterness or anger.

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Jesus tells us clearly that if we’re upset with someone else in the community, we need to deal with it. Directly.

We are not invited to tell others how p.o.’d we are, and we are not instructed to get someone else to make things right between us, at least not initially.

We are told to work it out between us. To talk, discuss, apologize as needed, and to forgive. If we can’t manage it privately, then we invite an elder or two to come along and help us. And if that doesn’t work, then the entire leadership team is made aware of the difficulty. And then? Well, this has always been the sticking point for me.

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Then. . . we’re to treat them as ‘pagans.’ I have always felt like that was an extreme and unexpected thing for Jesus to say! Until Pastor Don helped me remember that Jesus treated the pagans with a lot of loving attention and grace!

Tax collectors? Women? Adulterers? People on the edges? 

They all were offered grace. GRACE.

Those who continue to hold a grudge of some kind may choose to disassociate with the community. But if they do, they are still loved, still welcomed back whenever they are able to return, and held before God with tenderness and concern.

We welcomed new members on Sunday, as well — another piece of sweet timing. And the elders laid hands on them all, as the entire congregation affirmed our desire to support and encourage each one. A rich morning, reminding me of the mixed-up-ness of life together and calling me to do the work, to welcome others, to seek reconciliation wherever and whenever possible.

Streaming out into the warm sunshine after the service felt good and refreshing. And as the afternoon sun began to set, we came back and enjoyed a magnificent block party to kick off the new year. Bounce houses, taco truck, badminton, face-painting for the kids and a fun photo booth. 

This is life, and we are woven together as we live it together. Sometimes the work of weaving is painstaking. And sometimes it is glorious and exhilarating and fun.  ALL of it is good.

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Joining this with Laura Boggess’s Playdates with God, Jen Ferguson’s SoliDeo Sisterhood, and Jen Lee’s Tell Your Story – so grateful for these friends along the way.

A Back-to-School Blessing

I have so enjoyed reading a variety of back-to-school blessings offered from moms to kids as September unfolds. But in our house, we are long past back-to-school. Or are we? Apparently, not quite. My husband has volunteered at our youngest granddaughter’s preschool since she started there, two years ago. This is her last year and Dick will be working with our favorite teacher, an exquisitely gifted woman named Miss Annie, for two mornings each and very week from now until June. So this blessing is for him.DSC01623

Again, the excitement building.  . . 

Almost forgotten, but not quite.

It’s been a lotta years since the last of our own flew this nest,

but here we are, feeling that back-to-school fervor.

And how sweet it is!

 

So I offer these few words,

from my heart to yours,

as you step into the first week of pre-school

for the third and last time.

 

May you, my sweet husband, be blessed by this September

and the year that it portends.

May you be blessed by each smiling face,

by every resident of Room 3 who calls you ‘Poppy,’

(because you are Poppy to one of them),

by every colleague who invites you and your gifts

to come and play,

come and learn,

come and grow.

 

What a gift you are!

To me, yes. The best of my life.

To our children, yes. They saw you live what you believe

each day for all those years

we were in the same space together.

And most definitely by our grandchildren,

every one of whom rises up to called you ‘blessed.’

 

Never forget that you are one of the good guys,

one of the truly remarkable humans who

instinctively knows how to please a pre-schooler,

to encourage and accompany and invite

and truly, deeply love and understand.

You get this gig,

like few people I’ve known in my life,

you get it.

 

So, as you begin a new year,

so eager to jump in and watch these kids blossom,

may you be blessed with

kindness unmeasured,

grace overflowing,

wisdom beyond your years,

energy to survive, even thrive,

and an open, honest heart.

 

More than these — because these blessings —

(let’s be honest here)

you already enjoy and exhibit —

I also pray for you these:

moments of wonder,

words of love,

sticky arms around your neck,

monkey bar shenanigans,

building block triumphs,

craft projects you can actually do (!!),

and sign upon sign that what you do,

what you say,

and who you are,

make a difference in Room 3.

Because they make a difference right here,

in our room, and in my heart.

 

I love you,

and I thank God for you.

Now, go get ’em!

I’ll Love You Forever

The longer I live,
the more convinced I am that
the way fathers love their daughters
has a profound impact on the
fabric of society.

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My dad, half-smiling on the outside. Always smiling on the inside.

 

As we have walked this last leg of the journey
with each of our mothers,
we’ve seen this truth in surprising,
and sometimes beautiful ways.

My mother-in-law grew up with an affectionate,
charming, faithful, imaginative, wordsmith for a father,
a man who adored his daughter
and told her so with every breath.
She never once doubted herself,
even as the fog of dementia rolled in

and slowly erased her life.

My mom grew up with a damaged dad,
a man who left his family of origin after 
being cheated by his own father,
and then drank and gambled his way
through mom’s early years.
He seldom had a kind word for 
anyone in that house.
And my mother is riddled with self-doubt,
often convinced that others
believe her to be a terrible person.

I’m sure there are more factors at play than just this one. Basic personality traits between these two good women
are markedly different in several ways.

However, I remain convinced that ‘just this one’
marks out one of the most basic ways
in which our two moms have faced
into their long, last journey in life.

I believe that a father’s unconditional love is foundational
for each one of us.
But for female children?
It is critical and crucial.
It can sometimes make the difference between
humble self-acceptance and crippling self-doubt.
I also believe that the formation of the female spirit is
critically important for the healthy development of
family, culture, church.

In other words, it’s a big deal for girls/women to have a loving father (or father figure) somewhere in their story.

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Working through some puzzles with our eldest daughter, one of several in our family tree who have inherited his mathematical and logical gifts. I am not one of those.

My own dad adored me.
And I knew it.

All my life, I have been deeply grateful for that truth.

I’ve got insecurities by the bushel basketful,
that is true enough.

But I have never doubted my father’s
deep and abiding love for me.

Not once.

And I believe that sweet piece of my story says a whole lot about who I am today.

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Mom and dad in the 80s.

My father was a school teacher and a musician,
a handyman and a thoughtful, interesting person.

He liked butter on white bread, Buicks,
and playing the piano.

He was quiet, wise, gentle and good.
And he had an absolutely killer sense of humor,
a dry wit that would pop out from time to time,
most likely very soon after you’d decided that he 
wasn’t even really listening to the conversation.

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My beautiful, fun mama.

He was crazy-nuts about my mother,
and they made quite a pair,

she all bubbles and up-front laughter,
he behind-the-scenes deep and sometimes mysterious.

My father’s hands were big enough to span an octave,
plus 2 or 3,

and strong enough to hold a crying baby,
bringing calm and quiet more efficiently than
anyone else I knew.
He loved being a grandfather
and his grandkids idolized him in so many ways.

 

IMG_0224Me, in the 80s – a combo of the two of them, don’t you think?

He gave his testimony in church once,
speaking honestly about his own wrestling spirit,

and eloquently about the truth that his faith was his life.
And if it wasn’t his life —
if it wasn’t changing the way he lived that life —

then it wasn’t worth much, was it?

Dad believed that a Jesus-follower should be steady,
sturdy,

         devoted and
                           careful. 

And more than once,
he gently but firmly reminded me to 

live that way, too.

 

I love you, Daddy.
I miss you every day and,
as you know —
I talk to you with some regularity!
You’ve been gone from this place for
almost a decade now,
and though I’m grateful that your struggles
with health and frailty are behind you,
I wish you —
the healthy, happy you —
were still here with us.

I miss your advice,
your kindness,
your steadiness
and your unshakeable loyalty.
The older I get, the more I realize
how rare those qualities are,
and the more I miss your being here to model them for us.

I’ll love you forever, Dad.
And I thank God for your love every day that I breathe.

It’s Not That Easy Being Weird — A Guest Post

One of the best books I’ve read this year is Michelle DeRusha’s beautiful, funny, and profound memoir called “Spiritual Misfit.” I’m honored to be guest-posting for her today, in her ongoing series about being a misfit. Here are the opening paragraphs of that essay . . .

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All my life, I’ve been the one who didn’t quite fit. No matter where I’ve landed in my own spiritual journey, I’ve managed to be the one who is different — quirky, opinionated, on the edge.

I was the kid who had the most memory work badges and sang alto in the kids’ choir at our first church. But I was also the kid who hid out in the caretaker’s apartment, playing with his baby and talking to his wife instead of socializing around the punch bowl with the rest of the 5th graders.

We moved to a new town and a new church when I was 12. The youth group was huge and I went to every thing that was offered.  I landed in the hard-working-leadership-tier, but never in the popular-kids-who-also-have-skills elite. And that was okay by me. I was tall and rangy and not terribly graceful. I was also physically fearful and lurking underneath my loud voice, an insecure, uncertain teenager.

I married young. It was a great decision for us, one that took us halfway around the world to live and work for two years. And I was really a misfit there. A southern California conservative looks nothing like a Pennsylvania holiness conservative and I found that out the hard way. Yet, somehow, we survived and even thrived in that beautiful place.

We had our kids early, and our grandkids even earlier. So for the last 40 years, we’ve been ahead of the curve by a long shot. And guess where that puts us now? Smack dab in the middle of just about everything. We find ourselves sandwiched between ailing parents, home-buying adult children, college-aged and pre-school grandkids.

We’ve found ourselves sandwiched between generations theologically, too — 

Please come on over to Michelle’s beautiful space to read the rest of this weirdness. . .

A Granddaughter Remembers — A Guest Post from My Daughter

Visiting the blog tonight is my middle child, Joy Trautwein Stenzel. Joy is exactly what her name says she is – a joy to us. She and her husband Marcus are raising three good young men in Monrovia CA and are both special education teachers, working with blind students across the age span from pre-school to 22. (Our eldest daughter also does this good work.) Our children grew up with their paternal grandparents less than five minutes away and were often in their home, as you will see. I love the way this piece celebrates what some might call the ‘old-fashioned’ virtues. To me, there is nothing old-fashioned about any of it — it’s a heritage we are humbled and pleased to call our own. Interspersed throughout her lovely words are photos scanned for us today by one of our grandsons, Joel Fischinger. Here’s Joy:

IMG_0022Joy, Mama, Lisa – on vacation at Mammoth Lakes, an annual excursion for many years.

Solid, dependable, disciplined, hospitable, thoughtful, committed, consistent. 

My grandmother embodied these qualities.  In an increasingly chaotic and unpredictable world, such characteristics are on the decline.   And for an overly anxious and easily overwhelmed child, the unwavering reliability of my grandmother was a source of familiarity and comfort on which I knew I could rely.

IMG_0104The first in her family to graduate from college, at UCLA in the mid-1930s.

Mama was very steady and measured emotionally—quite the contrast to me.  She rarely (if ever) raised her voice, and I only remember seeing her cry twice—when speaking of a beloved brother who had died too soon, and when her only daughter and her family were pulling out of the driveway to move across the country.   Her level mood created an atmosphere of comfortable predictability for an emotionally volatile child—I knew exactly what to expect when I walked through her door. 

So solid.

IMG_0703Enjoying Crater Lake with Jean and Richard, early 1950s

I knew when I went to Mama’s that there would be no surprises in either her temperament or the physical environment.  Almost all of the furniture, toys, games, dishes, and appliances (no new-fangled microwaves for Mama!) stayed the same in their Wagner Street house from the time I was born until they moved to Santa Barbara. I played with my dad’s old toys, as did my children after me.  I took great comfort in the familiarity of it all. 

So dependable.

IMG_0113One of the last pictures of both Mama and Papa with all of their grandchildren, late 1990s

If we ever spent the night at Mama and Papa’s, we knew what we would find when we walked into the kitchen in the morning:  the two of them seated at their little blue kitchen table, drinking coffee, reading the Bible and praying for family, friends, and missionaries.

So disciplined.

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Same grandkids, several years earlier! On Kauai for M & P’s 50th Anniversary.
We hope to continue that tradition in the summer of 2015 – can you believe it?

We also knew that we would be well-fed when we entered their home.  Mama was a wonderful cook, and hosted frequent meals for family and friends.  She had a small but delicious repertoire of family favorites:  BBQ short ribs, lemon meringue pie, tapioca, homemade applesauce—terrific food served on the same dining room table with the same china, flatware and crystal goblets year after year.  To ensure that everyone would fit around the table, the piano bench served as a seat for the two smallest family members at one of the short ends of the table—no kids’ table at Mama Trautwein’s!  Every leaf of that table would emerge from the closet so that we could all be together.  That dining room set now resides in my own home, where I can only hope to entertain perhaps a quarter of the number of people she hosted so warmly over the years. 

So hospitable.

IMG_0556Gathering around that dining room table, about 1979 or 1980.

When birthdays rolled around, we knew there would be a dinner in our honor at Mama and Papa’s house.   Mama would let the birthday girl or boy set the menu.  We always picked our favorite dishes (which probably weren’t her favorites!):  orange jello packed with pieces of fruit, butter brickle cake topped with toffee pieces and hot fudge.   When we became teenagers, Mama made each of her grandchildren a treasured cookbook filled with handwritten recipes for the family favorites we all loved, complete with personal notes and anecdotes related to certain dishes—a gift we all cherish and use regularly.  My own children have even been fortunate enough to experience the anticipation of an unfailing Mama Trautwein birthday tradition—every year on their birthdays, she has sent them two dollar bills, the same number of bills as their age.  Needless to say, they have amassed an astounding number of two dollar bills! 

So thoughtful.

IMG_0174Not only did she host birthday dinners at her house, she also came to birthday dinners at our house.
We did birthdays up right in this family.
This picture cracks me up because the Birthday Boy almost got cut out of it.
And we just noticed tonight, he’s wearing doctor gear, of all things! And now he wears the real stuff. Go figure.

Mama established countless family traditions which were joyfully anticipated throughout the year.  Every Easter, we knew we would receive a heaping plate of bunny and lamb cookies decorated with pink icing with chocolate chips for eyes.  We dyed eggs every year at that little blue kitchen table, and Mama took us on annual Easter egg hunts at Descanso Gardens.  Mama decorated a Manzanita tree every Christmas with tiny ornaments, and she gave my sister and me our own manzanita branches when we were in college, with new ornaments for them every year.  Each member of our extended family had a stocking that had been lovingly decorated by Mama, unique to our interests.  Mama found a lot of joy in holiday traditions. 

So consistent.

IMG_0515This woman LOVED Christmas! 

IMG_0060And the Easter egg hunts at Descanso continued with the great-grands, too. The four oldest, about 15 years ago.

Mama and Papa also loved to travel.   They arranged annual extended family trips to Mammoth Lakes.  These vacations gave the cousins a chance to bond, and allowed Mama and Papa to share their love of fishing, jigsaw puzzles, and board games with their offspring.  Mama and Papa took exciting vacations without us as well, and invited us over for slideshows when they returned to share their adventures.  They always brought back trinkets and souvenirs for us and sent us postcards from around the world.  And Mama sent our own family off on road trips with boxes of cookies and wads of dollar bills to purchase souvenirs of our own.  She did these things every summer, without fail. 

So committed. 

D-68cMama, Papa & Jean visiting us in Africa, summer 1967.
I was 4 months pregnant with their first grandchild on this trip.

We will miss Mama, but many of the traditions she established continue in our own families, keeping her memory alive.  We have been blessed indeed to have such an amazing woman so actively involved in our lives, setting an example we all aspire to follow. 

Solid, dependable, disciplined, hospitable, thoughtful, committed, consistent. 

Old-fashioned qualities?  Perhaps.  But never out of style. 

Thanks so much, Joy. Beautifully said and right on target.

IMG_0103Kathryn Trautwein, in the early years at the Samarkand, before dementia.
A truly lovely lady in every way I can think of, a good, good woman.

And the Winners Are . . .

My thanks to each of you who entered your name into the drawing for a copy of Michelle DeRusha’s wonderful new memoir, “Spiritual Misfit.” Yesterday afternoon, I rounded up my two 8-year-old grandchildren and we drew two names from the hat. (Warning – I begin to sound like a very lame game show host pretty quickly. So sorry!)

Here’s the proof, although you may have to squint a little to see your names!

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Congratulations to Martha and Gwen! PLEASE send me your snail mail addresses ASAP so that I can send off these great books. My email address is dtrautwein at gmail dot com.

Which Mirror? — SheLoves

Can I just tell you what a privilege it is for me to post with the remarkable group of women gathered over at SheLoves magazine? Such beauty and goodness flowing over there. Our theme for April is “Mirror.” And here’s part of what came to me on this topic. You can follow me over to their site to read the rest of this piece. . .

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I remember visiting an elderly parishioner who had a treasure trove of beautiful antique furniture in her home. The house itself was a Craftsman bungalow, with built-ins, high ceilings topped by crown molding, and beautiful wood trim around every door and window.

She owned several old dressers, with lovely framed mirrors attached, and there was one mirror in particular that I enjoyed. It had been in several homes over the years, and somewhere along the way, had lost a fair amount of its silvering, causing a series of dark spots to appear, especially around the edges.

When I looked in that mirror, I liked what I saw. And may I just say — that’s a fairly rare occurrence in my life? Generally, I avoid mirrors. And cameras, unless I’m shooting the pictures myself. I don’t like my image very much. I’m working on it and have actually mustered up a fair amount of what feels very close to affection for the tired, older face I see these days.

But when I was visiting this home, I pretty much avoided mirrors, except to do the most basic daily ablutions or to check for spinach between my teeth. Yet somehow, that old, spotted mirror was easier for me to look into.

Why?

Because if I positioned myself just right, I could blot out the parts of my body that I liked the least. And because the old silver could no longer hold as much light as it once did, everything else about me faded into a more impressionistic version of reality. I liked seeing less, I liked seeing a toned down version of the real me.

The real me, you see is quite often too much. I am too tall, too heavy, too opinionated, too candid, too loud, too bossy. And when I look in the mirror, I am uncomfortably reminded of all of that ‘too much-ness.’ And the truly weird thing about all this too-much is that it leads to my feeling a whole lot less-than most of the time.

Slowly, and with a large dose of intentionality, I am learning to look for different kinds of mirrors in my life. I’m not sure I’ll ever love what I see in the mirrors hanging in my home, but I think I’m making progress. And I think I’m heading in the right direction when I choose to see myself in some different kinds of reflective surfaces  . . .

Join me at SheLoves to find out where I try to look now to see a truer version of me . . .

On Vulnerability and Boundaries — A Guest Post for Nacole Simmons

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In the fall of 2006, I got a new boss. He arrived on the scene after two years of searching, two years marked by upheaval in my life, personally and professionally.  I had been working as an Associate Pastor, part-time, for almost ten years by then, and I was deeply relieved to welcome him and to learn to work with him and for him.

One of the first things he asked me to do was start a blog. Yes, you read that right. My boss, the senior pastor, asked me to begin writing on a blog. He already had one, and used it for brief reflections on life and ministry, very rarely for anything personal.

But I’m not wired in the same way, and when I was invited to write, I chose to get pretty vulnerable, pretty quickly. And I loved it. I was careful, especially when trying to write out the difficulties that always attend a new working relationship. I tried to make it about me, and what I was thinking/feeling. And, for the most part, I found my way to a pretty good balance. I posted infrequently, about once or twice a month for that first year. I learned to import photos, and often chose to write about my family, especially my grandkids.

But in July of 2007, something hard happened. Our son-in-law was in the midst of a long and very difficult dying, suffering from the after-effects of intensive radiation to his head and neck when he was a teenager. Our daughter was trying to finish a masters’ degree in special education, so that she could go to work after fifteen years as a homemaker. Her husband was on full disability at that point, and they desperately needed medical insurance. Her program required a 10-week internship at a hospital 400 miles north of her home and she worked like a champ to make everything happen. Some weeks, her husband was well enough to go with her, but some weeks, he needed to be closer to home.

We housed her husband and two younger sons (the eldest was working at a camp on Catalina Island that summer) for one of those closer-to-home weeks. And that experience was one of the most difficult times I’ve ever walked through. Watching someone you love suffer — and watching how that suffering impinges on the lives of two young people — well, it was hard, sad, painful. . . there are no words.

But I tried to find them anyhow. I wrote a post, not using names, about watching this particular kind of suffering. I finished it late one night, posted it and went to bed. At 7:00 the next morning, I went in and removed it, feeling unsettled about writing something so deeply personal.

The post was up for less than twelve hours.

But in that time, someone close to him found it and was deeply wounded by it. I was crushed — repentant, sorrowful, so sorry for causing pain and for further complicating my daughter’s life. My heroic girl was already exhausted and overwhelmed and my post made everything worse.

I crossed a line, one that I deeply regret.

Please follow me over to Nacole’s site to read the rest of this post . . .

 

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