Good Guys/Bad Guys

Lil Prince has two drawers full of Legos that are pretty much the bain of my existence (thanks, Uncle Ronnie). But recently, Papa Bear has been helping him to build instead of simply scatter and throw, and that’s been fun to watch (as well as being easier on my feet). A few nights ago Papa Bear built Lil Prince two fighter jets (he kept working on them long after his oldest son went to bed). “This one is the good guy, and this one is the bad guy,” he said.

In the morning after school time, Lil Prince zeroed in on his jets. He picked them up and began flying them around yelling, “I’m gonna get you bad guy!” And then, “No, I’m going to get you good guy,” in a deep and sinister voice.

It was all so clear, so black and white. This one is good and this one is bad…no questions. The bad one will never repent and suddenly be a good guy. There is no forgiveness for the bad guy; and, of course, there’s no toppling from ivory towers and golden pedestals for the good guy. Everybody simply is what they are. And not only that, but everybody knows what they are. It’s so simple.

I can still remember the first time it fully hit me that the good guys in the Bible did really bad things that aren’t at all hidden from our sight (preventing us from revering and honoring them the way we might otherwise be tempted to do). I had been a Christian for fifteen years and had probably read through the Bible once or twice, but I was out of work, sick, and determined to do nothing else but read and eat and sleep until I made it all the way through. It took me twelve days to get from Genesis through Revelation, which was entirely too short a time for digesting all that He has for us in His word. Still, reading each story on the heels of the one before it allowed me to see things that might have escaped my attention had I been reading at more regular a pace.

“Is Noah, the only righteous man alive in his day, really so drunk that he’s passed out naked?! Surely not, but well, that’s exactly what it says.”

“Abram is pawning off Sarai as his sister, but Abram is one of the good guys so he must know something I don’t. Hmmm…no, he’s just being a stinkin’ coward! And, no, oh my gosh! He’s doing it again?!?”

“Sarah is giving her husband’s seed to another woman because she doesn’t have the faith that God will work through her. But doesn’t she remember that God afflicted an entire palace because she was so precious to Him? However, God didn’t really say that Sarah was going to be the mother of Abraham’s descendants. No, yeah, oops, I guess she really should have waited. Two nations will be warring until the end of the world just because Sarah didn’t trust God to use her.”

“David is a man after God’s own heart, one of God’s absolute favorite people, but wait…he’s also one of the worst dads of all time (as well as being an adulterer and a murderer). Am I reading that right? Uh, yes, yes I am.”

It was such a freeing revelation, not as a license to sin but as permission to forgive myself and others. There are sheep, and there are also wolves in sheep’s clothing. There are good guys, and there are bad guys. But sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. And, as far as I can tell, the only thing that has ever separated the two is true and turning repentance.

Live blessed today. And if you need a do-over, just reach out and take it.

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I Love It When They Smell Like Dirt

I think I might have an addiction…and you know how we feel about the destructive powers of addiction around here.

But, thanks to the invention of the digital camera, I don’t think I’ll be giving this one up anytime soon.

When Papa Bear said that he wanted to stop for pictures yesterday, I nearly fell over. All any us were expecting to do was hurry home and put him to bed. I think it goes without saying…although I’ll say it anyway, that he is kind of an amazing dad (and that he has a pretty high pain tolerance too).

We turned off on a blue bridge in Embudo, NM (a retired railroad station on the banks of the Rio Grande). We spent about twenty minutes playing and taking pictures like this one…

And these…
And then Papa Bear made, about thirty feet from where we’d been playing, the remarkable discovery of sand. Is there anything better than undiscovered sand? The only foot prints in ours were that of a small raccoon.
It sounds silly, even to me, but I’ve absolutely been longing for the beach and just getting my toes in the sand felt like a tiny little miracle. God seems to do that for us often…turning the days that should be stressful and awful into unexpected vacations.
These two might be my favorite pictures ever. I love seeing my girls in the mud! Of course, I also loved it, when we got home, when they all went straight to the bathroom to re-paint their nails.
We weren’t quite done playing, but I’d spotted a colorful little junk shop that morning on the way to Santa Fe. We brushed off our feet and headed a few miles north up the road.
And after playing in the sand and the mud, we were all in character for our junk shop pictures.
I asked the very cool junk man where he found this incredible horse made entirely of horseshoes. He smiled and said, “Well, I did me a little horse trading.”
If you’re ever just north of Embudo, be sure to stop in and say hello.
If you go in the spring, he’ll show you his beautiful crab apple tree.
There is no way to describe how wonderful it smells under that tree. Do they make a crab apple flower soap or perfume? Someone please let me know if they do.
I’m usually not one for the “hippie” peace sayings, but I think I want this for my deck. I don’t have to be anti- every-single-war to admit that peace is, ultimately, God’s, do I?
Peace, it’s a Fruit of the Spirit. It also makes for incredible works of junk art.
The junk man (I wouldn’t call him that but I don’t know his real name. I introduced myself, but he wouldn’t shake my hand because his was dirty!) showed the kids his “petting zoo” (a cage filled with ceramic garden art). I think it was then that they invited him to their next birthday party.
 I can’t explain why I suddenly want to decorate my entire house with old signs.
As I looked out over the sparkling river and the breathtakingly beautiful cliffs, I had to choke back the tears that spring from overwhelming gratitude. To doubt the existence of a purposeful creator, while standing amidst such beauty, will always be a mystery to me.
It is no wonder that the rocks will cry out.
And, as an important side note, the sky matches my dress, y’all. I love New Mexico skies. By the way, that is the dress I wore when I delivered Baby Bear. It’s my favorite thing to wear in the car.
We drove home with the windows down and without the radio playing. We were dirty from our feet to our knees, and we wore the world on our faces and the smell of wind in our hair. I kept remarking about how restful it was…even with five kids by the edge of a river. They really are growing up, our children, and it’s days like this that make me crave that returning sense of adventure that comes when babies become capable little people.
I know there are many more days like this ahead, and I hope we can absolutely cram this summer full of them.
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Do You Know the Way to Santa Fe?

This morning we woke up early, grabbed a bagged breakfast (and, as it turns out, lunch), and headed to Santa Fe to take Papa Bear to an oral surgeon.

This is how we do five quiet kids in a waiting room during an oral surgery.

If you give a Lil Prince a muffin, he will sit quietly and eat it.

We had the place looking like a day care for an hour or so, but it was spic and span when we left.
And after Papa Bear’s surgery, surprising all of us, he exited with a cheek full of gauze and a smile.
“Let’s go have some fun!” he said. And we did. Adventure pictures coming soon.
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Spice It Up!

Last night, we had roast for dinner. When I put the roast into the crock-pot shortly after breakfast in the morning, Cuddle Bug asked me what it was.
“It’s roast, Honey, you know roast.”
“Oh, and the big pot will turn it into chicken?”
So, yeah, we eat a lot of chicken. And we like chicken. You can hardly be as creative with anything else as you can with chicken.
My latest recipe over at Healthy Moms is an Indian inspired chicken and cabbage. Click here to read and enjoy. Well, you can enjoy the pictures, but you’ll actually have to cook it to enjoy the dish.
And now, for something extra special spicy.
The lovely and generous people over at Spice Station are offering a $25 gift certificate to one Kingdom Twindom reader!

This is a chance to stock your spice cabinet like never, ever before. With gourmet spices and teas from all across this globe, you’ll be equipped to cook in international style!

And entry is very simple (although we’re still hopeful that some of you will give to Amazima in the last few days remaining in this month, a donation is not required for entry into this contest).

To enter, simply visit the Spice Station store and take a peak at the tasty splendor they have to offer. Then, come back here and report on your findings, naming one particular thing you’d like to purchase if you win.

Spreading the word about Spice Station and this contest (tweeting, blogging and facebooking) will earn you additional entries. And, of course, I’d be happy to offer a bonus entry to all followers of this blog!

The winner will be chosen by and announced on May third (be sure to comment separately with each additional entry).

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The Year Was 1997

I went to the best high school in the entire world. There were seventeen people in my graduating class, and I have fond memories of every last one of them….some, of course, more than others. There was one particular boy that I have the most memories of. They are not all fond, but he was involved in my life to such an extent that he’s found his way into pretty much all of my high school memories. Let’s call him Todd….which is not his real name.

When it came time for our senior banquet (Christian school = no prom, but we called it prom behind the teachers’ backs), I had my eye on two boys to ask me. I was pretty sure that one of them would…if I played my cards right that is. I waited and I waited…and if I remember right, I flirted a little in the mean time. But no one, no one, ever asked me out. Then, just a week or two before the big night, four of my best girlfriends came running in from the schoolyard.

“Why are you going to the banquet with Todd when everyone knows you don’t want to?” they asked.

“Ummm, I wouldn’t go with Todd if he was dying I have no intention of going with Todd,” I insisted, as I had made my feelings of “only friendship” overtly and abundantly clear.

“Oh,” they responded, heads bowed.  “Well, he’s already convinced every eligible guy at our school that you are.” And they all mourned my romance-free existence on my behalf.

I can’t remember when I’ve ever been so mad. Maybe Todd hadn’t ruined my chances of being asked by one of the two potential loves of my life, but I certainly convinced myself that he had. At any rate, it was easier to be mad than rejected. Of course, my not being asked probably had more to do with the fact that I was sick all though high school, and I only made it to class once or twice a week (which is not quite as bad as it sounds, because I attended a college prep school and classes were only held three days a week). Whatever the real reason, I was mad.

Fortunately, in addition to having a great group of friends at school, I was also part of a swell tight-knit group of church friends. I called up my best girlfriend (from church and school) to work out a plan.

“OK, so you go with Jeremy* and I’ll call up his friend. We can all go together and have a super neat time!”

*Cammie and Jeremy were in the midst of a short-lived romance. Then they were best friends for umpteen years before getting married in a whirlwind courtship. Check out what they’re doing now. I am so proud to know them!

“Sounds great,” Cammie said, “But we should find someone to go with Todd so he’s not upset.”

“No problem,” I said. “He can go with Mary.”

Mary had graduated a year before me and was having some trouble at home. I invited her to share my room, drive my car, listen to Celine Dion while I was trying to do my homework, tie up my phone line, use all of the hot water…and quickly become one of my very best friends in the whole wide world.

“Sounds great! Then we’re all set!” she said.

Now, Mary had heard all of my recent gripes against Todd, so it did take a little persuading to get her in on our plan. After I held all of the aforementioned things over her head, though, showed her my small collection of formal gowns, and assured her that she had nothing against Todd, she was down for the count. Everyone had dates; and everyone was happy until my last minute date called to say that he couldn’t get off work for the night!

I’m pretty sure I cried. No, I’m positive I cried. My world was coming to an end and I was only a senior in high school! It’s a good thing that sense of drama hasn’t followed me through my life. Ahem. But after drying my eyes I asked another boy from church; and, thank heavens, he was excited to join us. Of course, since he was a good enough friend to ask at the last minute, he was also a good enough friend to give me a painful ribbing throughout the night…telling everyone that he was my fourth choice for a date, peeling his name off of his name card (looking for the name underneath) and sharing from the announcer’s microphone that he must have gotten someone’s fork because he had one too many. Now, he’s this lovely lady‘s husband. And he’s all grown up and everything!

So it was me and Michael, Cammie and Jeremy, Mary and Todd. We were all such good friends that the evening really should have been (and pretty much was) perfect. The only glitch was that Todd would have preferredto be going with me, and everybody (especially my date, the comedian) knew it.

We met at Cammie’s house and took a van from there. Todd drove with Mary in the passenger’s seat, Jeremy sat on the second row and Cammie, Michael and I climbed in back…putting Michael and I, as it turns out, right in the path of the rear view mirror.

It wasn’t long, about three seconds after this picture was taken, that the driver stopped watching the road due to distraction encouraged by some pretty blatant (and completely feigned for the purpose of revenge by both parties) flirting…the old yawn-and-stretch and that sort of thing. We swerved from the main highway, bump, bump, bump, thud, and screached to a stop in a pothole ridden construction zone, Mary screaming profanities from the front seat.

After the dust had settled, the guys climbed out to assess the damage. No one inside the van spoke for awhile. Once red faces returned pale, and frustrated voices returned to friendly, we came to the conclusion that no one was hurt and continued on our merry way. But like a funny joke whispered in church, we couldn’t stop laughing, and the laughter continued (and continued growing) all evening.  Of course, some of us thought it was even funnier than others did.

Oh, how mature was I?!
Yes, Michael, I agree. Let’s chalk it all up to being seventeen (although I guess I was eighteen by the time).

For better or for worse, that, my friends, was my prom night. Now that I’m looking through my old pictures, I can think of about a hundred other stories to tell.

But don’t worry; I’ll spread them out.

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Thank You

There are chocolate chip muffins in my oven and there’s a roast in my crock-pot. If it wasn’t snowing outside, it would be a perfect day. Well, either way, it’d be the perfect day if Papa Bear was home. He’s working Saturdays for a little while and taking Mondays off instead. Schedule changes like this are just one more reason that I love homeschooling. We work on Saturday and just pretend that Monday is still the weekend.

I’m sorry I’ve been absent since my downer post. I’m not sorry I wrote it, though. We are absolutely reveling in your prayers. We always appreciate the opportunity to be embarrassingly real with you. We have learned quite a lot on our three year journey, and we’ve been honored to pass some of that on to you. But it’s important that we regularly remind you (and more importantly be reminded) of the fact that we are walking this rocky road right along with every other husband and wife. And while there are no perfect people, we are far more imperfect than most.

And not only does that not negate our journey or taint our testimony, it is our testimony, as Laura so lovingly reminded us…

I hope Papa Bear doesn’t think that your friends (or your family, or your blog readers, or anyone else) respect him for being perfect. Because while I have no doubt that he is NOT perfect, I also know that that’s not what people (or God!) think or expect of him.

For myself, I can say that I respect him for being able to change – for going through hard things, making mistakes, and then taking responsibility for them and doing his best to fix them. That’s something I wish I did better myself, and one of the blessings of reading your blog is being reminded that it is never, ever too late to do the right thing.

The wonderful thing about this gift of Papa Bear’s is that it never stops giving – he can always do it again. A “perfect” person is no longer perfect when they make a mistake, but Papa Bear’s gift just gets a chance to shine when that happens.

Thank you, Laura.

I’m trying to decide what to post in honor of our lazy, snowy weekend. I know I want to write about the past…something funny like Ellyn does. I’m thinking about writing about prom night, because that’s the last old school story I told Papa Bear (while we were driving all over creation last week). He asked if I’d posted about it yet, and I was shocked to say that I hadn’t. If I can find the pictures, that will clinch it. Otherwise, I might have to tell you about the time I risked my life to save my pet hermit crab.

What are you all up to this weekend? How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

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Something is Different. God Is the Same

I don’t know what to say, but I know I want to say something. And I know I need to say something because I almost punched someone in the face while I was in church tonight. Alright, whatever, I didn’t almost punch someone in the face. But I did tell Papa Bear, “I want to punch her in the face”. And I was completely serious about the desire*; I committed face punching in my heart.

*While my anger was centered on the main “spreader of rumors,” the issue here is really my own bitterness.

I’ve alluded to the fact that we’ve been under various attacks (starting back when Papa Bear took two jobs that we completely failed to pray over). But things really aren’t getting any better. No one is committing adultery or doing drugs. We’re not secretly separated or threatening divorce. Somehow, though, we’re in a place of wounding and weeping that feels as painful (to me) as anything we’ve been through since the real deal more than three years ago.

From my perspective, I haven’t known what was wrong. I’ve just known that something was different, uncomfortable, and scary. An insidious beast of distrust and pain has entered my heart causing me to look at and relate to my husband in a way that has caused him pain. And, in return, he has responded in a way that is equally (well, let’s face, I’m a girl and so I think it’s more) hurtful.

In the last few days, we’ve finally come closer to identifying the problem. Maybe now we can step out of this deep, muddy habit of feeling dangerously low (we don’t really fight, we just get depressed) and then spending the next couple of weeks pretending that didn’t happen.

But the problem, well, it’s the root of all problems: Distance from a not to be distanced God.

In December, we walked through something painful that impacted Papa Bear much more deeply than I knew until last night. I bounced back pretty quickly, although the pain will always be close to my mind in a forever life-changing way. But Papa Bear, he’s lost his faith to some extent. And I’ve found myself, like Job, making sacrifices of repentance on his behalf (just in case), instead of concerning myself with the issues that need dealing with in my own heart and mind*.

*Hence, the face-punching desire.

Papa Bear told me last night, that, while he knows God is there, he doesn’t feel the relationship. I reminded him that he did, but depression is an accomplished liar. He doesn’t think he is the man that everyone seems to praise him for being. I know he’s that and then so much more. Someone asked him a question about overcoming guilt that he still hasn’t gotten around to answering. That’s because he doesn’t have an answer to that question, at least not at the moment.

We know everything we’re supposed to do in a “been there, done that,” kind of way. Now it’s just time for God to move. Valleys are a part of life, and we don’t expect life (or marriage) to be perfect. But we’re ready to stand once again on the mountain.

And, again, as we continue to pray for you, we would greatly appreciate your prayers.

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