Archives for September 2011

Coming up:31 days

For the past few years, I’ve followed along with The Nester and Emily for their ’31 Days’ series in October. Their challenge was to write posts for each of the 31 days of the month around a central theme. You can check it out here and here.

This year, they and six other regular 31 day contributors have invited anyone who is interested, to join them in this writing challenge. I’ve always believed that to attempt anything for 31 days straight is a symptom of impending lunacy, but I’ve decided to invite a little crazy into my life and accept the challenge. 
Although I tend to make life altering decisions on a whim (hello marathon. hello switzerland), I’ve put a lot of thought into this next month of writing. Thought, because it’s a huge commitment for this haphazard blogger, but more importantly, thought because the topic I’ve chosen to write about is one that makes me feel like I’m standing in a crowd of people wearing only my underwear. I feel a little exposed, maybe even vulnerable.
So I would like to ask that you grant me patience and grace over the next month as I blog on 31 Days to Finding Freedom. Come along and join me, won’t you?

Day 1: A Start
Day 2: Who makes the rules anyway?
Day 3: Silence the voice of guilt
Day 4: Don’t be afraid to fail
Day 5: More on failure
Day 6: People pleasers
Day 7: Truth hearing
Day 8: Truth speaking
Day 9: The Truth
Day 10: Why you will never see me naked
Day 11: What are you practicing?
Day 12: Freedom fits
Day 13: Shape not break
Day 14: Both hard and holy
Day 15: Release
Day 16: The tough talk
Day 17: Sweet land of liberty 
Day 18: Art in the ordinary
Day 19: On freedom and flying
Day 20: On being locked in
Day 21: Inspired
Day 22: Fight or flight or a little bit of both (re-post)
Day 23: Just do it
Day 24: Music that makes me cry and a challenge
Day 25: Your turn
Day 26: On books and giving permission
Day 27: Words
Day 28: Give it away
Day 29: A very good place to start
Day 30: Just a taste
Day 31: On to Freedom


A confession

It’s very easy to give in to the idea that the perceived problems in my life are, in fact, real problems. What they really are, in my first-world, comfortable middle class life, are annoyances. You know the ones, the dog poops on the rug or the husband travels too much or we do battle with the kids over dinner each night. They are something to talk about over lunch with a girlfriend.

What we don’t always talk about are the down and dirty, nitty gritty bits of life. The stuff that real problems are made of, like pride or jealousy. We don’t reveal that hidden in the dark corners of our hearts, we let judgement hold court and gossip feed our souls.We don’t tell each other that our acts of service are really just self serving, or that we nearly choke on the harsh words that trip and fall so easily from our tongues.

We hide that we are all Adam. We are crumbling cathedrals, grasping for grace as though it would slip through our fissures and cracks.

If we were to go to lunch today, I would tell you this; my dog poops on the rug, and too often I speak sharply to my kids. I like it best when my needs come first. I think my husband travels too much, and I am jealous of other’s success. And in this world of virtual realities, where everything seems all beauty and no mess, I am a crumbling cathedral, one that is being rebuilt daily by God’s grace.

Some of the cracks remain, but I hope that the dark and broken places would be where the light of Christ most clearly shines through. 


Make Merry

Her cheeks remind me of chipmunks when her face shades pink and the giggles rise from her toes. She laughs until the tears roll down, salty streams. The rest of us sit and stare, and one by one we grin and giggle too.  Then she turns it off as quickly as she starts.
She flicks her hair.
‘See, I told you I could make myself laugh. It’s my talent.’
I begin to wonder if she has a future as an actress, or at the very least an extremely high maintenance girlfriend.  She’s only six and already she can turn her emotions on and off like the kitchen tap.
When she first exhibited this ‘talent’, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Do I laugh with her? Do I tell her to stop pretending? Or do I let her do her thing? I decided to let her do her thing.
She can pluck emotions off the wind and wrap herself up in them until we are all wrapped up with her. This does not work in our favor when she chooses tragedy as her emotion du jour. Tragedy is usually reserved for the daily life and death struggle with her socks in the morning. Sorrow is saved for sibling relations, ennui for pretty much everything that was not her idea.

I know her emotions are as real to her six-year old heart as they are to mine, but I believe she decides which one she will choose on any given day. After all, it is her talent. If she is free to choose, then my hope for her is that she will learn to embrace laughter. I pray that her girlish giggles will help her to laugh at the days to come, and that the rest of us would pluck merry off the wind with her.



My littlest can remember important details like what her sister wore for a party three years ago, or the color of my friend’s favorite earrings. She calls it her ‘ReMemory’, which is so adorable it makes it impossible for me to stay angry when her ‘rememory’ doesn’t work to my advantage. She does have an exceptional memory for detail, a trait which I have long known I do not possess.

I know she comes by it genetically, as my husband can still remember his childhood best friend’s phone number. You can imagine how difficult it is to win an argument with such a person. Fortunately, he doesn’t have as much recall for emotional outbursts as he does for numbers, but it is still a challenge when he’s able to remember exactly how much I spent on a visit to JCrew.

My memory is very poor, which is decidedly unhelpful during arguments, when writing about past experiences, and in situations under which I feel intense scrutiny. One such situation is the ubiquitous ‘class coffee morning’. This week I had three to attend, and as I have an extreme aversion to small talk and experience hot flashes in uncomfortable social situations, I find them to be of the devil. I kid. Sort of.

At my third, and thankfully final coffee this week, we were asked to give a short bio of ourselves and how we found our way to Switzerland. Easy, as I do remember my name, my children and my husband’s employer. What I did not account for was a question and answer period, in which a woman who is now referred to by my friend as ‘The Interrogator’, would tell me that her husband works for the same company. Not a problem, until she proceeded to question and then correct me on the exact location of their office, which as memory serves me, my husband is never at. She wanted to know where he travels, and how often. She then could not understand how he travels for work and for graduate school. Frankly, neither can I.

Then she wanted to know his precise, and I do mean precise, title. I got three quarters of the way through it (it’s long) and drew a blank. I drew a blank on my husband’s title in front of a co-worker’s wife and thirteen other people.

I could not remember and it was horrible. Cue the hot flash. There I was sweating and my mind was reeling and fourteen people were staring at me, and she says ‘Oh come on. You can do better than that.’

Well, no. No, I can’t.

The Interrogator then comments upon leaving ‘how embarrassing that must have been for me’.

Well, yes. Yes, it was.

That is one coffee that I would like to wipe completely from my ReMemory. Comments are now open for any and all embarrassing moments you would like to share. Thank you.


Without Borders

Coming from suburban New Jersey, in particular a town filled with folks that look, act and speak exactly the way I do, living in Europe has been a bit of a revelation. I admit to being somewhat isolated from the Swiss. My complete inability to comprehend anything without hand motions and their frequent political campaigns aimed at ousting foreigners make for an uneasy relationship. This is unfortunate, however we are blessed to be surrounded by a vibrant and diverse group of expats.

My oldest is reading an assigned book set in Russia, a subject entirely new to her, and her Russian friend, Anastasia, has been there to guide her through it. Anastasia pronounces the names in her mother tongue, explaining what is fiction and what is not, making the book not just history but a living, breathing story. 
It’s not without it’s challenges, as inevitably cultures collide, especially where child rearing and boundaries are concerned. Sometimes it leads to meaningful discussions about what we believe and why, but more often it leads to ‘not fair’ or ‘so and so does’ or ‘you suck’. I can’t substantiate that last one, but I don’t doubt my kids are thinking it. In spite of that, it is a gift, this life of new stories and cultures and friends. 
The greatest gift for me has been attending an expat women’s Bible study. We are a small group, but we represent six nationalities. We come from far flung places, speaking different languages, walking separate paths. It might seem that we are living disparate stories, but the truth is, our stories are all the same.
They all begin and end with Jesus. 
Together, we worship a God who understands a mother’s hurting heart, a newcomer’s loneliness, and our individual fears. He hears my flat American english scripture reading, her lyrical Finnish prayer, our guttural German hymn and He knows. He knows it all. And I am reminded again that He can not be contained by borders or beliefs. He is not limited by our differences and denominations. He is God of it all.

‘He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together’
 Colossians 1:17.