Sunday, August 26, 2012

If life were a park...

If life were a park, we'd set up our picnic blanket together.

He'd sit still looking and listening to the world around him.
 I'd be frolicking about chasing butterflies. Or blowing bubbles and doing cartwheels.

Every now and then, I'd grab his hand and we'd run around, blowing dandelions and laughing at the wind.

Then he'd grab mine and we'd sit still, watching the world around us.

Friday, August 24, 2012

today I believe

Expressions of faith
Lord, You have always given
bread for the coming day;
and though I am poor,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day;
and though I am weak,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
peace for the coming day;
and though of anxious heart,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept
me safe in trials;
and now, tried as I am,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
this darkness of mine;
and though the night is here,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
when time was ripe;
and though you be silent now,
today I believe.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


It is currently afternoon nap for bébé. He's 6 months old and I'm babysitting him - or bébésitting him twice a week.

During this season of my life, I'm trying out many things. I've started doing Mommy-Baby yoga, or rather leading a friend and her tiny son through it, since I (fortunately at this time) have no babies.

But that all changes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Bébé gets dropped off at my house and we do all kinds of fun things. Especially interesting for this developmental psychology minor, I observe him as he observes the world. He's learning all kinds of cool linguistic stuff. I speak to him only en Espanish and encourage all the sounds he makes. Babies can make all sounds but then, due to reinforcement, they prune their sounds down to the ones the grown-ups get all excited about. Bébé is also discovering the use of his arms and hands and claps quite joyfully. You would too if all of a sudden you realized that these long things hanging off your shoulders could be CONTROLLED and actually MAKE NOISE! Mind.Blown.

But one of my personal working hypothesis is that babies can understand language. I'm trying to explain things to him as if he understands everything I say to him. I got this idea from the book Bringing Up Bébé, which is about an American mother who can't understand why French children sleep through the night early, are well-adjusted, and eat bleu cheese as 2 year olds. It's kinda, sorta, FASCINATING!

A friend came over with her 2 month old today. The babies sat on our laps and Bébé made a baby noise at her son. She said to him (in a kind voice, but not in baby-talk), "Do you want to say something back?" And sure enough, he responded with his own noise.

They understand EVERYTHING. Seriously.

Later, Bébé was mad. He finished his bottle without falling asleep. Scratch that. He was WIDE awake. I was unsure of how the looming nap would go without that bottle to drowse him into dreamland. He played for a bit (see third paragraph) and then had a mega-diaper change. The kind that sent us running for the bathtub. He was screaming and I was laughing, because really, what else could I do? We didn't need two screamers.

After he got all cleaned up, dry, and snuggled into new clothes, he was still not happy. So I clipped him into the baby carrier and wore him around. I could tell he was getting tired, so I decided to give my hypothesis another shot.

I gently told him in Spanish that I could tell he was getting sleepy and that the best thing for him to do would be to not fight it. I told him that I'd hold him for a while, but I couldn't hold him for his whole nap. I also explained that I was about to give him all the instructions he needed to fall asleep:

"The first thing to do is to close your eyes," I started. Bébé gave a long blink. "Holy cow," I thought. "This might work."

I continued, "Good! Now leave them closed a little longer. Also, you need to let your mind just get quiet." I touched his head lightly. He gave another long blink and lay his head on my chest. "Yep, just like that." I quietly affirmed him. "You don't have to worry about anything. You're safe, I'm going to lay you down in a minute and I'll be close. You don't have to worry though."

And by golly, wouldn't you know it, the kid fell asleep! I placed him on the towel I was using post diaper change in lieu of his blanket. He woke with a jerk about 8 times and each time I gently whispered to him that he was safe and I'd be close. Then I told him that he simply needed to close his eyes and go to sleep. And he did, every time!! Finally I said, "Next time you feel yourself jerk awake, don't worry. You can just go back to sleep."

Voila. Sleeping bébé.

Monday, August 20, 2012

[Nobody wants to read this]

"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man (and woman), the lust of [his/her] eyes,  and the boasting of what [she/he] has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the [man/ woman] who does the will of God lives forever." - 1 John 2:15-17

"All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don't tiptoe."

"Too often we just do what makes sense to us and ask God to bless it. In the Beatitudes, God tells us what God blesses - the poor, the peacemakers, the hungry, those who mourn, those who show mercy on evildoers... Rather than do what makes sense to us and ask God's blessing, we'd do better to surround ourselves with those whom God promises to bless, and then we need not ask God's blessing. It's just what God does."
- The Irresistible Revolution p.225 and 219

"There is enough for everyone's need, but there is not enough for everyone's greed." Gandhi

"Ellen, don't end up driving a Prius and buying organic produce and think you're changing the world" - Dave Nonnemacher

I am unemployed. (Sort of.) I babysit two days a week. One job ended on Thursday and I quit the other one close to a month ago. And you know what? Being unemployed is a blessed place to be. As my jobs spiraled to an end, I started to learn what it means to trust God. I started praying. After each of my two "last days of work" I was filled with a space and openness I hadn't felt in a long time. I am not foolish (well maybe I am), I know that I must look for a job because rent, car insurance, student loans, and food are very real things that must be paid for. For once though, these are not consuming me. I am filled with a sense of trust. It will come. God will provide for my needs.

In the meantime, I am wrestling with these passages above. What about getting a good job to pay off my bills and save money? What about saving up to buy a house in the right neighborhood to send the kids to a good school?

I am becoming increasingly convicted that when Jesus tells us to love our neighbor, he means it. I have a funny feeling in my tummy that my mom isn't going to like where my life is headed. I am starting to think that serving the poor and homeless doesn't just end with donating to a food pantry. For the past few years, every time I drive or walk by someone asking for food or money, I do something. I look at them. I see myself in their eyes. I let God transform my thinking until I can imagine that Jesus is standing there as I drive by.

I drive by.

Sometimes I have stopped, given them an orange, a granola bar, a can of soup, or a dollar. But when it comes right down to it, I roll up my window and go to work. Or to my house. Which has a couch. Where, theoretically, someone could sleep.
See the dividing lines? There are several. Why does Jesus call these people blessed and then say in Mark 10:25 that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

What the heck, Jesus? A camel through the eye of a needle?

I have struggled with these things before. Many times. But I usually go back to whatever I'm doing at the moment and this time I CAN'T. Because I'm not in college any more. I'm not working. I'm starting to pray again and this is what I keep coming up with. I keep bumping into Jesus and he gives me a hug and tells me to love my neighbor and he'll provide the rest.

But I keep wondering when I'm supposed to work on my resume and apply for all those jobs I found.

I have no good conclusion to this post because I'm not sure there is one. So here's some food for thought:

Love everyone with the same love a mother has for her child.
The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Phone tucked into the strap of my red one-piece bathing suit, mask and goggles on, I drag the five gallon bucket outside. I check one more time to make sure my phone won't fall into the bucket of calcium hypochloride. It's secure between my sweaty shoulder and strap. This was my least favorite part of being a sophomore in high school and it is my least favorite part of being a swimming instructor. Chemistry. I adjust the mask and goggles, put the gloves on and take one more breath of fresh air before unscrewing the lid... My phone rings. Shoot. Right glove off, mask down. I answer.

"Your first student is running late and may not be there at all."

Ten minutes later, with the pool's chlorine level adequately restored, my phone rings again.

"He won't make it today."

I look over the empty pool with newfound anticipation. two minutes later, I am in the water. I swim the obligatory freestyle down and back one time. Then I just float. There is a window above me and I look up at the sky. I breathe deeply and relax. This is why I love swimming. I float suspended by water for a timeless while, then take a breath and flip over, slinking my way to the bottom of the pool.

The water looks like glass from below, and if you can manage to hold your breath long enough, the ripples start to slow above you and you find yourself in an inverse world only limited by the need for oxygen. The sky above and the outline of the pool start to seem like a dream that you look at through a lens at the eye doctor's. "One or two?" she'd ask, and you'd yell out the number that caused you to see THIS. It's all so clear and yet it ripples in the movement of the water ceiling above.

My lungs burn for air and I must heed their calling. I emerge or submerge into the space full of air (that doesn't really feel like reality from down here) and take a breath. I am surprised to find that I am panting. Newly oxygenated, I return to the world where air looks like silver umbrella-shaped bubbles that flip and turn playfully to the intersection where air and water cannot mix.

I lay there in watery bliss and immeasurable time until my lack of breathing reminds me that somewhere, a clock is ticking.