Thursday, May 26, 2011


I think there is power in my Shark mop.  I always seem to become inspired when she (my mop) and I team up to sanitize my floors.  We don’t spend a lot of time together.  There’s only so much floor to mop, but for some reason I tend to seriously mull things over when I mop. 
Today I was thinking about what an observer I've become.  When I was younger, I liked to be front-and-center, doing the stuff, you know, performing, getting a reaction, (hopefully one of approval and acceptance).  And now, I like watching.  I still very much like to do things, but just recently I've discovered that I really enjoy (and value) observing, processing, reacting (mostly in my heart), learning, gleaning, and growing from what I see.  The eye as a gateway is a powerful thing, indeed.  
This past week I watched our girls T Ball coach light up when his son stopped a ball and tagged a runner out at first.  As we walked back to the car I asked Josh if he saw the coach’s face when the boy made the out.  He said, no.  I noticed.  There was power in his reaction.  It was explosive.  His entire countenance lit up.  The son was encouraged, and smiled wide in response to his Dad’s praise, but you know kids, especially in front of a crowd -- NBD (no big deal).  The moment lasted all of 5 seconds, but it was packed full of excitement.  The coach said, “Great job, buddy!” as he scooped up the ball and tossed it to the umpire with a proud look (and a giddy laugh-smile) on his face.  The satisfaction that radiated from him, and spilled onto anyone who cared to notice, was moving to say the least.  It was his moment.  I really liked his reaction.  It was absolute and heartfelt, instinctive and true.  It was the highlight of the game.

And then there’s Mrs. Reeves, my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher.  Here is a portion of a letter that I recently wrote to our school’s Principal, acknowledging what an outstanding teacher Mrs. Reeves is. 

“Mrs. Reeves is a true asset to Moravian Falls Elementary.  I don’t know the backgrounds of all of the students in her class this year, but I can guess that the socioeconomic status varies from one extreme to the other in her classroom.  My husband talks about a day when he arrived at school to find Mrs. Reeves brushing a child’s hair.  Sounds simple enough, but it broke our hearts (in a good way).  Mornings are one of the most busy times in the classroom, but Mrs. Reeves is, and never was, too busy to show a child the heart of a mother, and the love of a teacher.  And then there was the time that she came to our daughter’s (and a few of her other students) T Ball game and cheered them on.  It was a funny thing to watch.  She would say, ‘Go Avery.’  Or, ‘Go Chase,’ and almost every time the child would look into the stands with a quick look of confusion on their faces, followed by an immediate smile.  It was like they weren’t sure if they were in school, or on the T Ball field, but they knew to respond to her voice.  It wasn’t a look of fear; it was the look of honor and respect.  When they saw that she was there cheering for them and showing her support, they were so happy.  It was a look of, ‘Mrs. Reeves is calling me.  No, wait.  She’s here cheering for me.  How cool!’  After that particular game I asked Avery if she had fun.  She said, ‘Yes!  And my favorite part was when Mrs. Reeves came.’  That’s something she won’t soon forget.  And then there was the time that another student gave Mrs. Reeves his trophy for winning his motorcycle race just because she came to cheer him on at his race. 
I have observed Mrs. Reeves during award ceremonies.  She looks each child in the eye and honors them.  There have been times when the audience has laughed at a child for doing something quirky or cute.  And while the audience finds the child’s words or actions funny, the child finds it uncertain.  I have watched many children look to Mrs. Reeves in moments like that, unsure if the laughter is that of acceptance or shame, and she’s never failed to meet their gaze with a sure nod of confidence and reassurance.  And just like that, the child is settled and confident once again.  It’s awe-inspiring to witness.  It’s heartwarming to feel.  The learning, love and wisdom deposits that Mrs. Reeves makes in the hearts and minds of children are precious and priceless.  Teachers like Mrs. Reeves are the hope and prayer of parents like us.” 
I’ve learned a lot from Mrs. Reeves.
And then there are my kids and my husband.  What a privilege I have to get to observe them every day.  I mean, it’s my life’s greatest, purest, most passionate, raw, obscene joy.  I love them madly.
I often watch my husband react to things I say.  Sometimes I say things just to see what he’ll say or do.  I know it's rotten to test him.  I shouldn't do it.  Maybe I'll stop.  Anyway, it turns out my husband possesses an integrity that is deeply rooted, and not easily shaken.  He’s rarely ruffled by the things I say, or the bad choices I make.  (Yep, I make bad choices sometimes.  Ha!)  He’s usually much more mature than I am, even if he’s younger than me.  It’s nice to be in a home where the husband really is the cornerstone of what we are building and becoming.  I’m getting off subject here.  What I meant to say is that I love the example of integrity that I watch my husband walk in every day.  Whether it’s with clients, friends, family, strangers, me or our girls, it’s always there.  It’s steady and unswerving.  I want to be more like him.  I like to look at him when our girls talk to him.  I like to see if he will return their affection in a way that only a Daddy can, and he almost never fails.  (I would say, “never fails,” but that would mean he’s perfect, and we all know no one is perfect.)  I take that back.  To me, he's perfect.  Perfect for me, perfect with me.  He’s a dreamboat.  :-)  I admire him so much. 
And my Trask babies.  (Sigh.)

Yesterday Claire showed me a note she wrote to her teacher, Mrs. Bare.  She was extremely affectionate in what she wrote, but what stood out to me most was when she said, referring to Mrs. Bare, “You are such a blessing.”  I appreciated her use of the word.  I like that she could find no other word to clearly articulate her point.  Our girls use the words “blessing” to refer to people or things, and “blessed” to refer to how they feel, but not in a religious, dry kind of way.  They use them in a real, ordinary, no-big-deal sort of way.  They’re blessed by their blessings.  I like that.  It’s honest.  It’s sweet. It's uncoached. 
And Avery.  I have to watch Avery.  She’s quiet and wild all at the same time.  My pretty little paradox, (and I mean that in the most sincere way).  I watch her a lot.  Words and actions hit her deeply, and her face is usually an instant give-away to how she feels.  But there are times when she puts her blatant, in-your-face, pout away for a more subtle, quiet kind of hurt.  Moments like those break my heart.  I've become pretty good at observing when they happen, (if I happen to be in the same room when they happen), or at the very least why they happen, even if it means it's time for 2,000 questions to get to the bottom of something.  But when we arrive at the source of discomfort I find the grace of God rushes in so strong.  I catch myself saying things I didn't know, or things that are way beyond the confines of my seeming wisdom, and with the help of the Lord, I somehow have the ability to save her day.  (Josh often does this for me.)  I don't solve every problem, or fix every  hurt feeling, but the victories definitely outweigh the defeats.  God helps us handle what we can, and then He takes care of the rest.  I'm definitely no superhero, but I am a Mom -- a strong, powerful Mom. 
(That reminds me of the time the girls were running up the stairs after I fixed something for them when I heard Claire say to Avery, “See?  I told you she could fix it.  She fixes everything.”)  I melted.

I like how my girls play on their own.  I give them their space, but am usually not too far away.  I'm always listening to them.  There have been times when questionable subjects come up between them, you know, like boys, and I just listen.  I try to never interject right away.  Instead I like to see where the conversation takes them.  I’ve had so many proud Mom moments during times like these.  I’m normally so encouraged by the stands they take, and the convictions they have.  I pray that stuff sticks forever.  It's good stuff.  :-)

And then there’s Noelley Belley Boo.  My one-year-old wonder.  So full of curiosity, and so deep in wisdom.  Her eyes tell stories too complex for me to understand, while her adventure seeking feet and tiny wandering fingers remind me that she’s just a baby, my baby.  I love watching her. 
(Side note:  I have a theory about babies.  Ready?  I believe the reason babies can’t talk when they’re first born is because they’d tell us all the secrets of Heaven, and we either wouldn’t believe them, couldn’t handle it, or we’d never leave them alone.  Naive, I know, but I really believe it.  It’s okay if you don’t agree.)  Wouldn’t you agree, though, that they do arrive with instinctive traits that had to come from somewhere?  How else do babies arrive on earth knowing that their little fingers are the perfect size for picking their noses?   That’s not learned behavior.  They come with that knowledge.  And how do they know to dance in reaction to music?  How do boys know to grunt and growl, and girls know to nurture?  I know I’m generalizing here.  But there are some traits that are pretty standard across the baby spectrum.  I happen to think their perfect knowledge of our Creator is just one of them.  It's just a theory.      
I love this quote:  “Before you were conceived I wanted you.  Before you were born I loved you.  Before you were here an hour I would give my life for you.” – Maureen Hawkins
(That was totally random, but isn't it good?)

I’ve carried on a lot in this one.  Before I end though, I thought I’d leave you with a few other things I’ve learned over this past year.  (My list is incomplete for sure, but some of this is kind of funny, so here you go.)
-  There are lymph nodes behind the ear that swell when a child (or person) is sick.  It's our bodies immune response to sickness, and NOT a tumor.  Phew!  :-)
-  Milk is bad.  (Way long story.)
-  Mediterranean eating is the way to go.
-  Selfishness is ugly, ugly, ugly.  I have given a lot of stuff away this year in attempt to be less selfish. 
-  Boundaries are good.  They help us understand our value.  Think about it. 
-  Creativity cannot be duplicated.  Ideas can be appreciated and expressed by a multitude of people, but the creativity that is produced, based on another person's idea, is never the same as what inspired it.  We are all far too original.
-  Honor is so important.  Think of the word, dishonor.  Eww, ugly! 
-  Some words are entirely too strong to use carelessly.  Words like, "always" and "never."  I try to use these sparingly. 
-  Concrete floors are easy to scratch.
-  Drilling into metal window jambs is generally a bad idea.
-  Hanging pictures without a level is a bummer.
-  Taking time to sand furniture, before painting it, is time well spent. And choosing the right sander is key.  Power sander, good.  Belt sander, bad.
-  Homes with really nice grass are a testament to hard work.  Who knew growing grass isn't as easy as spreading seed and hay, and then hoping for the best.  :-)
-  If flowers can come up on a gravel driveway, what's stopping me from blooming where I'm planted?  Same thing with acorns.  No one planted all of the oak trees growing in my yard, and yet there is an upcoming grove of oak trees right outside my window.  Acorns fall, trees come up.  Isn't that amazing?
-  Kale, garlic greens and onion greens, pea shoots, and boiled fresh beets are all delicious.  (New foods to me. Thanks Harmony Acres.)
-  Peanut butter, banana, and mayo sandwiches aren’t half bad.  Thanks Pop.
-  Movies about horse races are right up there among my all time favorite movies.  (I'm such a Mom.)

And finally, here are a few that I’ve known for a long time, but am constantly reminded of.  There is so much power in what we say and what we do.  Actions do speak louder than words.  The tongue is the keeper of life and death.  I just read something on someone else's Facebook page where a person wrote, and I'm paraphrasing here, "the way you look makes me laugh."  What if she would have said, "the way you look makes me smile"?  See the difference?  What the person wrote was coy, underhanded and downright mean.  Words carry the power to either build up or tear down.  So, I'm reminded to speak carefully.  Act appropriately.  Find and know Love, and behave accordingly.  And better watch out, I might be watching you.  Haha!  More importantly, our kids are watching us.  Lord, help us.

Monday, May 16, 2011


My husband said to me the other day, “I want to read your next blog.” 
“I haven’t written a new one yet,” I said. 
So, here I am, avoiding my Monday chores to write.  I was thinking this morning about how much more I like myself lately.  I know what you’re thinking, “Oh no, here comes the narcissism.”  Wait.  Don’t leave yet.  I’m not talking about how much I love the way I look or behave, or about how smart I think I am, because believe me I don’t like to dilly-dally down that path.  It’s way too uncertain, unsettled and undone at best, (nightmare!), but I have come to the place in my life where I'm really starting to enjoy Jenny. 
For example, I have some flowers planted in front of my house in planter boxes.  I was trying to figure out how to best arrange them so they’d look best to visitors when I said, “I like them here because I can see them.  I like to look at them.”  In true Jenny fashion, I ignored how I felt, and continued my futile attempt at landscape design.  Puke.  It's so overwhelming.  I love my land, but, oh the money it would take to whip her into shape. 
Anyway, Josh was out there with me, moving things according to my whims when he said, “Why don’t you just leave them here?  You just said you like them here because you like to see them through the window.” 
Now, let’s be clear here.  He wasn’t trying to help me add value to our house, he was trying to get out of work.  I mean, I can’t blame him.  It was boring, aimless work, with no guarantee of an end in sight.  But, he was right.  (Sometimes a husband’s ploy to get out of work is him being used by the Lord to bring freedom to his wife, even if he's just trying to get out of work.)  So, with that said, I conceded.  I had him leave my flowers, and my most favorite baby tree, right outside my window where they teeter on uneven patches of grass and red North Carolina dirt.  And you know what?  I love them there.  And you know what else?  They make me happy there.  I can see them.  They bring me joy by living there.  They look like a line of yardsale plants, but they make me happy. 

When we get serious about landscaping I’ll become more strategic about placement, but I’ve made up my mind.  I will landscape around my heart.  I’ll put my flowers where I can see them.  They’re here because they caught my eye.  I don’t want them to be hidden from my view.
Something else.  I often wear these shoes with socks.  These aren’t meant to be worn with socks. 

I mostly do it because there's a no-shoe policy in our house so when it’s time to go, these are easy.  It's not right, but when I look down, it doesn't seem so wrong.  I like that.  It's me.  When I was a teacher I purposely wore socks that didn't match my outfit.  I did it to be quirky.  I thought, teachers should be quirky, so mismatched socks were my attempt at being odd.  And it was easy.  It seems that socks being mismatched makes me happy.  They either don't match my outfit, or the shoes I wear.  I'm okay with it.  I think it's funny.  And side note, I don't like stinky shoes from sweaty feet.  Socks with these shoes, problem solved.  :)
Okay, let's pause here.  There are many things I DO care about getting right.  (I'm not totally free yet.)  My house.  I'm particular, especially where cleanliness is concerned.  It's a deep issue of control.  I get that.  But, it also makes me happy.  I like when things are tidy.  I can better relax when things are together.  I grew up in an uncertain environment.  My parents are my heroes, but I've lived my fair share of rough times.  Having things in order is a sense of security for me.  It's predictable and safe.  It's not for everyone, but it works for me.  I could stand to let loose a little, and if you ask Josh, he'd say I have, but maybe a little more would be good.  Maybe soon.  Maybe not.  We'll see.  The trick is finding balance between keeping a clean house, and enjoying my life.  I'm working on it.  I mostly clean while my kids are at school, Noelle is napping, and Josh is at work.  But, I'll be honest, I've missed many fun times with my kids so I could tidy up one more thing.  Bad.  Shameful.  Regretful.  I purpose to miss no more.  I like that about me.  I like that I've given myself permission to let go; permission to make a conscious decision to let go; and permission to hold myself accountable when I choose chores over babies.  I like where I'm headed in this.  
I also like that I have a no-shoe policy in my house.  Whoa!  Whoa!  Whoa!  Now, it's getting crazy in here.  Hahaha!  I know.  It is!  But it's me.  And I like me.  We are surrounded by red dirt/mud, as previously mentioned.  It's my house.  I like clean inside, mud outside.  Period.  I used to feel terribly guilty about asking people to take their shoes off when they come in.  Now I don't.  I learned that it's one of my boundaries, and boundaries are good.  I cherish, honor and value my friends.  I don't ask them to remove their shoes to be bothersome.  I do it because it's my house.  It makes me happy. 
I suppose my point in all of this is that I've come to a place in my life where I actually like seeing the real Jenny come out more and more.  I watch how carefree my girls are, and how their personalities come out in unique, creative, uninhibited, shapeless ways.  That's them in their purest pursuit of joy.  That's what I'd like to bottle up and keep for their whole lives.  That's what this tired old world needs.  It seems we grow out of that, and into a person that the world, (Christians and non-Christians), find acceptable, and better yet, appropriate.  Listen, I'm all about honor, integrity, good character, and living a life pleasing to the Lord.  But I will do it in a way that is expressly, uniquely me.  I will live a life of quirky righteousness.  I will teach my girls to be themselves.  What I overcome, I overcome for generations.  I will be free in the true sense of the word.  I will not be reckless, nor will I be unaccountable or rebellious in my freedom, but I will make an effort to let myself be me.  I will live close to my God and family, and operate honestly from my heart.  I pray my girls will do the same. 
I like being 32, but I like the Grandma-feeling I'm starting to have.  Not the, I'm ready for grandkids, Grandma-feeling, but the, I like who I am and it's starting to show, Grandma-feeling.  The gentle peace in who I am; the strength and security I get from living honestly; and the pure, raw joy that comes from letting myself and my family be who we are, trusting God in everything, and letting Him come out in ways that can only be expressed uniquely through us.  I like this point in my life.  I like this new Jenny.  I like her a lot.