Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving with a Side of Bittersweet Pie

I have always adored hosting friends and family for everything.  Truly, it is my favorite thing. I've made a bit of a hobby out of collecting serving dishes, trays, platters, tea pots, cute dippers, special knives for cheese, as well as crystal glasses for every conceivable adult beverage.

That said, Thanksgiving has long been one of my two favorite days of the year (the other is our Christian version of Passover).  I host the Thanksgiving dinner at my house annually -- or at least I have for the last ten years, or so, since we've lived in the House on the Hill.  All the local family come, along with whatever random friends and acquaintances they bring.  We've had people from Laos, people from Colombia, along with an interesting array of local yokels, and yesterday, a wonderful gentleman from China. The whole extended family has made a concerted effort to make sure everyone in our circles has a place to go. I try to make it fancy and festive, creating many family traditions, in hope of giving my kids some warm memories -- like using the same recipes and always having some child make a cranberry necklace for the turkey to be displayed in.  After dinner, we hang out together while the tryptophan works its magic, and then play games.  We often play into the wee hours. 

All that said, we are not the family Norman Rockwell would have painted at Thanksgiving!  

Although, who really knows what that poor woman had to go through to get to the point of serving a beautifully roasted turkey in a spanking clean apron to a table full of people dressed to the nines?

Mentally, if not physically, my hair is always standing on end by the time dinner is served.  I can handle the cooking, which I largely do the day before, but I really like to have a clean house by the time guests arrive. And since the normal state of our house is to be covered in dirty socks, Legos, and dog hair, that is no small feat.  It is actually very stressful for a mom with a very busy husband and three boy-children; of which the oldest two actually and literally hide in their room for fear of being put to work.  Although, to be fair, I have to say that my youngest (age 8) just embraces it with a series of cheerful inquiries:  "What next, Captain Mommy?!" 
To me, the process of delousing and expunging has always been well worth it when the first guests arrive and ooh and ahh at my lovely, cat-hair-free tablecloths and settings.  But, as I approach the half-century point, I'm realizing that what makes me happy just doesn't do a thing for all the men-folk around me.  Cranking at one another is not how anyone wants or needs to spend the morning of Thanksgiving.  That time should be preserved for Twilight Zone re-runs on Netflix, or the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on HGTV. Why, you ask, did this take me 21+ years of marriage and 18 years of parenting to learn?  Well, I guess I should change my name to the Queen of Denial on the Hill. 

So, with some mixed feelings, I have declared yesterday my last to host Thanksgiving.  At least for a few years.  The next year will bring many transitions for my family, as we shuffle some of the details of our lives in hopes of bringing more simplicity, more sustainability, and more peace.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost/Feast of Weeks

Because every blog about faith should have shiny, happy music in the background, this is my selection for Pentecost.  This YouTube video is perfect for this joyous, completely optimistic day!  

Read on, if you like:

Today is Pentecost.  I know that not every church observes this day, but ours does, and we observe all of the other holy days of Leviticus 23.  This is because of their rich dual meaning, in almost every case pointing to something that happened in the past and something in the future.  As they say, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it!  And I would add the corollary that those who have something to look forward to find it easier to stay on track.  Last, but not least, we observe these holy days because God actually calls them "His Feasts."

Lev 23:2  Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. 

They are the "Feasts of the Lord," not "Feasts for the Jews alone."  And actually, if you look up the word translated as "Feasts," it looks more like "appointments."  I like that concept.  I feel that I'm accepting an invitation from God when I circle these days on my calendar and make a point to spend that day with the Lord.

Pentecost (actually a Greek word for "fiftieth" used in the New Testament for the observance), was built around the wheat harvest. It was called Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament (Hebrew), based on the instructions for calculating its date (7 weeks + 1 day).  It is also sometimes called "Feast of First Fruits."

Exo 34:22  And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end. 

Specifically, it is counted from the first Sabbath to fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread. Thus, it is by design 50 days from the first Sabbath that falls after Passover:

Lev 23:15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 
:16  Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. 

Yes, I know numbers can be boring.  But the fact that it needs calculated at all is really interesting.  Every single other holy day is on a fixed date.  It makes you wonder what you were meant to contemplate in that intervening time between Days of Unleavened Bread, when you are supposed to be putting sin out of your life, and the day God baptized His people with the holy spirit.

The most famous Pentecost, of course, was the one which followed the death and resurrection of Jesus:

Act 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 
:2  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 
:3  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 
:4  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 

How cool is that?

It is sometimes overlooked that the people were actually gathered there to keep the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost when the holy spirit fell upon them.  They weren't just hanging out at the coffee house, playing mini-golf or even attending Sunday School (although it was the first day of the week).  Read the first verse once again:

Act 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 

They were there, specifically observing the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost.  Jesus' followers were in the right place at the right time keeping their appointments with God when God set their church on fire in such a delightful way. So rumors that this was the first Pentecost are somewhat exaggerated.  There had been something in the neighborhood of 1,500 other Pentecosts by this point in time, a point that may be obscured by the switcheroo from the Hebrew to the Greek name for the event.

Just before His ascension, 40 days after his resurrection and 10 days before the coming Feast of Weeks/Pentecost observance, Jesus had actually told His followers to remain in Jerusalem for this special occasion:

Act 1:4  And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 
:5  For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 

It sure pays to be where Jesus tells you to be, especially when He tells you to keep that appointment with God!  I'd have hated to have heard about this event later around the water cooler.  These days, someone would've surely caught it on Instagram, but back then, you'd have just been out of luck.

Fun fact:  3,000 were baptized that day.  Wow!  I'd love to have heard that sermon.

Reaching farther back into the history of Pentecost, a whole lot of people believe that Pentecost is, in fact, the day that God gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Most of Judaism, in fact. But there's some controversy about whether all the travel to Sinai from Egypt could have been accomplished within that 50 days from that Sabbath following Passover.  I don't have a position on that.  I suspect it to be so, but I can't prove it and it really doesn't matter to me.

There is so much more to be said about Pentecost.  About how awesome it would be to open your mouth and speak and be understood in the language of all the disparate people around you.  About why the loaves of bread waved by the Priests were leavened. (Because we are yet sinful, but are made holy before the Lord.) What it means that Jesus was the first fruit and what it means that we are meant to follow Him.  But I will end it there, with a very enthusiastic wish for a Happy Pentecost!

1 Cor 15:20  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 
:21  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 
:22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 
:23  But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. 

James 1:18  Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Transition to Homeschool Mom of Two... plus One Adult

 For months -- and I'm ashamed to say just how many -- I've been just "getting by," due to the stress and strain of all that goes into getting a homeschooled senior through that last year of high school and into college.  I've become that mother I once looked down on.  You know the one.  The one who is late everywhere, or missing entirely because she forgot the meeting, or didn't hear there was a meeting, or who has to ask three times for the location of said meeting, or who has lost that paper vital to whatever the meeting is about... Yep.  That's me.  Let's not even discuss what That Mom's hair and make-up look like.  It is hard to believe I was once considered a Type A personality and an overachieving marketing manager at the managerial level in a globally significant accounting firm.  I was known for working small miracles, and with partners who were considered hopeless.  My consulting rate (last time I consulted) was $xxx an hour.  But throw three school-aged kids at me and I'm a babbling fool.

In technical terms, what really happened in my brain is that the static of a constant To Do list running through my head finally zapped my Random Access Memory and disabled my Operating System.  True story.

What happened in my heart was that I was so fearful of screwing stuff up that I succumbed to Analysis Paralysis.  Check your Merck Manual.  It's a real thing. What that looks like is a lot of hands waving in the air (and not in praise!), a lot of empty threats about what will happen if this paper doesn't get turned in by such-and-such time or if errant teen doesn't text "safe" or "here" upon arrival, plus a whole lot of repeating myself, a dollop of hair standing on end, and a whole lot of frustration -- on all sides.  In my case, it was exacerbated by the fact that there was really noone else actively involved and I felt like it all fell on me.  I did ask for help sometimes and sometimes, I did receive it. So maybe that feeling wasn't entirely accurate.

How did I arrive at a place so far from my nature?

I can only guess that "fear" is the answer. I hovered, annoyingly and ineffectively.  I nagged.  (Yeah, again, annoyingly and ineffectively.)  I gnashed my teeth.  I lost sleep.  I cried.  I gained weight.  LOTS of weight.  I neglected my other children and my parents.  I didn't garden.  I didn't clean my house.  I didn't do my One Year Bible Readings that I so wanted to do.

I learned to say no.  Which was probably the only positive thing that came out of the entire school year.  And with my newly established identity as "Loser Mom," my nos were very convincing.  (Who wants to put the person who loses everything in charge of anything?  I should have thought of that before.)

 I simply and sincerely felt like I had no time physically, emotionally, and spiritually to do anything until the details of the boy's graduation and pathway to college were established.

Well, now those things are done.  That first boy baby I cuddled in my arms and danced with all night, singing "You're Mommy's Special Baby" to over and over is now a high school graduate, as of June 6, 2014.  He is an 18-year old with a car and a job and an acceptance letter to a great college.  I really haven't fully digested that.

But there are other important things I would like to say about my boy.

1.  When he bumps into me in town, he immediately comes and hugs me, no matter who is watching.
2.  Part of his college decision was based around his desire not to be too far from his grandparents, as they enter their 80s in the next few months and he doesn't want to miss important time with them and he feels he can be useful to them.
3.  He thinks his slightly younger brother walks on water.  He honestly thinks he is just such a good person, and he goes to bat for him every chance he gets -- even on dumb things, like his desire to avoid a haircut. ;-)
4.  He would walk barefoot across fire to help a friend.  Seriously.
5.  He insists that we ask the blessing at meals, even if I forget.
6.  He still comes and sits on my lap sometimes.  Not because he needs it, but because he knows that is who I am and that I need it.

Probably, I could've come up with a good solid ten, but those are the things that were in the forefront of my battered and bruised heart.  Or maybe I should say "battered and bruised pride," because Pride, regrettably, often dictates what I do.  I say pride because I hate that I didn't perform on a higher plane this year.  I really do.  But parenting, thankfully, is not the same as other careers.  As a mom looking at the end of an 18-year job contract, these outcomes are pretty doggone terrific, in spite of myself.  I raised an individual who will make choices for himself.  I will not love all of those choices, but I will love the heart that made them.  For it is truly a thing of beauty.