Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Raising or Resenting our Kids

In my brief years of raising children, I have discovered that parents fall into one of two categories. Either parents become resentful or satisfied as their children grow up. The resentful parent will go through their children’s younger years pushing them from behind; hurried for them to become independent. They become tired and resentful because it requires so much from them. Or they jump in with both feet and become satisfied and thankful for their children. Consequently they experience the joys alongside of their kids. I realize that these are clear-cut categories that are actually murkier in real life. In general though I think that parents can be fit into one of these two categories of thinking.

The idea of becoming parents is tempting and satisfying because it’s the next logical step in life. I think that most people get to a point where they are prepared for parenthood, but not prepared for the sacrifice. Those who accept the sacrifice as a reality and even as a gift end up becoming parents who see kids as a joy instead of a burden.

As Christians we cry out our life’s goal as becoming more and more like Jesus. While this is an important goal, we need to remember Jesus’ life as a whole. We prefer to live like Jesus when he was showing mercy to the hemorrhaging woman or restoring the demoniac. We lay him out at the last supper, feeding and washing the feet of the disciples. Our minds seem to skip past the betrayal, suffering, mockery, and pain Jesus experienced here on earth. We picture the wonderful times he and the disciples spent feeding thousands and fishing late into the night. Or the times he had to rebuke the disciples for going about healing in a wrong way. He even went so far as to call Peter a name-Satan.

But Jesus continued to walk with them. He looked to the disciples as his children. Children who would get messy and say inappropriate things in the market. He was going to be needed to bind up wounds and explain why people gossip. He didn’t look down at them as children unworthy of his time or resources. He understood that his time with them would be short. He also knew that they would turn from him, thankless for the lives that he had given them. Yet he continued to walk with them, not resent them.

Did he have other things to do?  Sure. People from every crevice near and far wanted his attention. But over and over again, we see him piecing off and living with his disciples. He didn’t see his nurture and care for them as a waste of time. He saw it as part of his purpose on this earth. To help them understand what the Kingdom of God was like by knitting consistency and trust into the hearts of the disciples.

When we treat our kids like they are a burden or getting in the way of things we’d rather be doing, we are knitting holes into their understanding of the Lord. These holes add up to a shoddy, weak understanding of a faithful God. We won’t be perfect, but if we are consistent, repentant, humble, and honest then at least all the strings will be attached. The knitting might look lopsided or the wrong color, but at least there are not holes and gaps that are difficult to fill after that little one is old enough to fill it with other things. Let’s commit together as parents to put our whole selves into the task of parenting. To teach our children that committing to them is not only our gift to them, but a gift to us as well.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Our MTV Movie Debut

I have had a dream of being a rockstar. Flipping my hair in an "I don't really care that I'm singing, playing guitar, and all of you are chanting my name" kind of way. Ripped jeans, cool scarves, and swanky coffee shops. When I sat down this weekend to play the piano in an MTV movie, this is not quite how I envisioned my rockstar debut as going. 

 Several weeks ago, our landlord asked us for a favor. Favors are how things are done over here. So we agreed to perform in an MTV movie about a man named Milton Gardner

We did hair and make-up for a really long time. This whole getting pretty stuff takes a long time, that's why I don't do it very often. They tried putting make-up on Makaria. I just stood by and laughed. She looked like she had run through a dust storm, tripped, and dragged her face through a sand pile. After the make-up artist looked up at me with desperation, I told her that none of her make-up would look right on my gloriously black child. 

They spent forever on my hair. I then went to another hair lady and she did it all over again. 

As we started shooting the first few scenes, I realized that I had received no direction from the director. I cannot play the piano, so I just pretended like I was typing my name on a keyboard. That is apparently not correct. They called someone in to teach me how to put my hands and gave me direction on where to look and when to smile. 

Kesed managed to get a picture with the most glamorous Chinese woman on set. All before lunch. 

Malachi and Charis had to jump rope in a scene. The Chinese kid got the ax when we heard the director tell him, "You are an ugly jump-roper!" This took several takes because Malachi had to run in while Charis was jumping. The smaller kids had to be jumping up and down, counting, and clapping. There was lots of hand-eye coordination happening and well, you're dealing with 8 kids under the age of 10. 

The director was so patient though and did a fantastic job instructing the kids. Another time he told a Chinese boy, "You are handsome, but you're a wuss!" 

I was supposed to be teaching a music class. Without knowing how to play the piano or any ability to sing, it required an Oscar-like performance. I'm really not into theatre, so this was quite a stretch for me.  But getting to watch my kids learn what it is like on a real life movie set was totally worth every hour we spent on that mountain. 

Then they had Malachi (who was playing Gardner as a young boy) and a boy climb a 1,300 year old tree. It's a local historical landmark that I'm sure we didn't have permission to be climbing. They made a call to local officials to take a sign down because it was interfering with the shot. They made the call, but I'm not sure they ever got an answer. The kids yelled and jumped while the tree climbers beckoned them to come up. 

Then we headed to a grassy area to play ball and other games. 

All the family actors.

Then they brought out the piano that I was supposed to be gaily playing while the kids pranced around the yard. 

We headed to another location where at one point, my son and a girl were dangling from a large wall. 

The director explained things to the kids and kept commenting on how wonderfully my children were being raised. I was so humbled and also proud of how well they did.  

They told Selah that had she been a few years younger, she could've performed too. The kids spent lots of time watching playbacks with the director. 

In the middle of the shoot, an old woman shuffled by to fill her bucket at the well. We were making a movie and she was trying to cook dinner. Look how tiny she is! She would've taken me out in an arm wrestling match, no contest. 

We had to buckle down the mountain a ways to get to the ancient well.  

Losing daylight, the director asked for everyone's iPhones. They shot the second half of the scene being lit by seven iPhone flashlights. 

The Chinese boy dropped his bucket in the well and no joke, 2.3 seconds later a mysterious 80-year old man come bouncing up onto the well. He hoisted himself down into the well and fished out the bucket with his feet. Then he pulled himself back up! WHAT?! Nobody knew where this guy came from. But all three of his teeth were beaming as we clapped his heroic rescue. 

We aren't sure when the movie is coming out. They still have to come over one more time to film a dinner scene. They have said that they will give us a copy when it's finished with production. It was a long 12 hour day on the mountain, but we learned a ton and had a blast doing it. 

And somewhere along the way my dream was full-filled of being a music star :).

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Flower Grandpa

A few weeks ago I started trying to breathe in people's stories. Not in the nod your head and smile kind of way, but in a slow me down and let me understand you kind of way. 

While I am boiling dumplings at my archaic stove, this man has become a mini-series of stories for my mind to enjoy. Daily he wanders downstairs to water his plants or dry out red beans in the afternoon sun. His lanky shoulders tower over dainty dandelions as he steals dirt and puts it into his house plants. He shifts the dirt into piles so that passersby won’t notice what he’s doing. But I see. I watch his sly grin purse as he pats down the new dirt and he gingerly tends to the garden already there. As if being gentle minimizes the fact that he is stealing their dirt.

My kids roll through and talk to him. I watch him teach them about uses of the sunlight and how much water to feed a potted aloe plant. He laughs and sometimes scolds as my kids take off their shoes to run around in bare-footed freedom.

I’ve never seen a wife, son, or daughter with him. But his connection with his plants has become a stop in curiosity for me. He tenderly wipes their leaves with a soft rag. The flowers are spoken to. I haven’t listened to what he is saying, but I imagine he is telling them that he will be back tomorrow. That tonight it’s going to rain, so they will need to be brave. But he will be back tomorrow. As he exhorts the tiny dandelions all tucked in for the night, I see his sense of purpose straighten out his shoulders.

With retirement he was replaced by talent and youth. That did not go unnoticed. But he walked into retirement determined to find his place. While he is no longer a manager of hundreds of people, he knew he could be a manager of a few. He knew that instead of letting retirement be defined by self-indulgence and pity, he could still serve someone else. He walks down those concrete stairs each late afternoon, looking around to try to find a need to be met. It requires keen observation to see a need that is buried beneath the surface of things. It requires patience and thoughtful digging to bring resolution. But because he is willing to engage the world in such a way, rows of dandelions march through the summer breeze in confidence. My kids run downstairs to ask him questions because they know he will take the time to answer. He is present. Presence sees the person in front of you not as a task but as a story.  And in that presence he is listening.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Entrepreneurial Fails

Last night, the hubs and I went on an all too rare night out. We joined the other 6 million people in our city who went out to eat during this holiday week. Within 25 walking steps of each other, I snapped these few pictures. This top one was my favorite. It's a coffee bar/cat playground. No joke, you go in and buy something to drink. As you do so, cats are walking around and on the tables. It was filled with young college girls are sitting on the floors, hanging out with the cats while drinking green tea. 

Next up was a "Unique and Artless" children's play place. At least they aren't faking a creative billing. You walk in and play. There is no creative art happening. But at least those wide-eyed non-Chinese children decals look happy in their non-tactile play place. 

Rounding the corner, we ran into sushi cakes. That honestly sounds like slang for cow patties. But in case you are looking for an edgy kindergarten birthday party snack, Sponge Bob sushi cakes will definitely do the trick. 

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