Category Archives: City Living

Effortless.

A few years ago I used an exercise DVD with several types of exercise. One of my favorites was a beginner’s ballet routine. I followed it so many times–not that it turned me into a ballet dancer, but it did program some of the instructor’s words in my mind. Sometimes I still hear them.

One of the things she said about ballet was, “So the arms make it appear effortless at the top, while the legs are working hard at the bottom.” The beauty of this has intrigued me quite a lot because ballet is, in fact both very hard work and an elegant art of gentle movement.

Last night was one of those times I heard those hard-effortless words in my mind, but this time it had nothing to do with  ballet. Instead it was a picture of the dance of mothering.

We are in the middle of upheaval right now since we discovered mold in our house.  The boys and I left home and lived in SC for nearly a week and Virginia for a little over two weeks while Steve worked on getting rid of the mold in three rooms in the evenings and weekends after work.

We came home two weeks ago to our main living area crammed with the contents of other rooms waiting to be cleaned and sorted. Most of the living room furniture is in temporary storage and Steve and I are sleeping in the guest room while the master area is torn apart.

We definitely were reacting to the mold that is still in the house and tried to keep those parts of the house closed off as much as possible. Still we didn’t feel feel well at all.

This past weekend we all moved into a hotel for a weekend, so Steve could tackle the next three rooms–a closet and our master area.  Our friends Eric and Linda so generously came up to spend the weekend with us. Eric helped Steve work on the house on Saturday and we got to enjoy time together.

Although the men got a lot of work done on the house, it wasn’t ready for us to move home on Monday like  we had been expecting. We hadn’t taken our school books with us, so I planned a field trip to keep us from losing a school day.  I planned to go to a nature reserve a few miles away, and they even happened to be hosting a  homeschool day.  Then it started raining.

I searched a little more and decided to take the boys to a train museum about a half an hour further north. It turned out to be a great, low key place for us and we all enjoyed our time there.

We killed a little time at a library close by, ate a little food then started toward home. I’d heard about a really great Christmas light display, and thought we could drive through on the way home. At that point I was so t.i.r.e.d., but how hard can a drive through be?

It was fantastically fun, only we ended up needing to get out and walk around.  Finally everyone was packed back into the car and we were driving HOME after a long weekend away. I didn’t know what to expect at home, and besides for the mold there are lots of big things on our minds these days.

The boys were happy and there was Christmas music playing.  Zac was sitting beside me, and his eyes were sparkling. He let out a long happy sigh.  “This has been the best day of my LIFE.”

In that moment I recognized the contrast between my experience and his. And those words from long ago came back, “So the arms make it appear effortless on the top while they legs are working hard on the bottom.” They felt very true to my mothering in that moment.

In a sense mothering had been [working hard]

All day I’d been fighting to find joy while hard things pressed against me.  I had also been thinking about how to make the change in plans work for us, how to incorporate school, how to keep this day happy for the boys even when it felt hard to me. I needed to redirect whining, find snacks, and keep boys safe on the street. I’d been looking out for places to eat that would work for our diets and places to go to fill our time without requiring a lot of energy from me because I wasn’t feeling great.

while also [making it look effortless]

All day we had been sleeping in, eating lots of good food, going to new places, stopping to play at a playground we passed, finding a bridge to run through, hanging out as long as we wanted in the museum’s educational play room, never rushing, visiting a great light display, listening to holiday music, and coming home and drinking hot chocolate.

Of course there’s a little bit of heart between the arms and legs for us, too–the times when they hear me recognize a problem and ask God to help us or when we talk about asking Jesus to help us find happiness or when we take our fears to Him.  But mostly I love that the boys don’t really see the ugliness of life, yet.

Maybe because there’s so much hard stuff in our life I know our children will see and feel sacrifices and brokenness a lot. Obviously we want to engage them in processing it well, but I also want the boys’ childhood to be carefree.  While there is all kinds of turmoil in our world and we’re working our way through it, they can lean back in their seats with stars in their eyes and see it as the best time in their lives. Effortless.

 

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Leave a comment here.

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Glimpses

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We’ve been soaking up the last summer days. Ready (Ian) or not (Zac and I) we’re starting our school year the end of this week.

Here are several pieces of life around here–most of which have to do with going places or conversations that happened while driving– indicative of the types of days we’ve been having.

:: Last week the two older boys attended VBS at a small community church in a neighborhood adjacent to ours. The boys LOVED their time at VBS, and for me the quiet forenoons with Paxton were a gift from heaven.

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:: I registered the boys to participate in several developmental studies at Emory University. They contact us when the boys fit the demographic for a current study.  If the boys participate they get a small compensation after spending about 90 minutes of being evaluated while they play. Since then I’ve become particularly interested when I see articles reference, “In a study conducted by Emory University…”

This week we joined our first study.  They had requested Paxton and Ian, but only Ian met their criteria for participants. The study was looking at how children learn to recognize their surroundings and how they navigate their way around obstacles.  Ian had so much fun playing a guessing game and a video game. He was begging me to sign him up for more studies. As a bonus they gave a gift card big enough to buy a new Lego set.

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:: While we were driving, we noticed a man whose entire chin and jaw was bandaged. The boys were guessing what may have happened.

“Maybe a ball hit him.”

“Maybe he bumped his chin on a cupboard.”

I noticed his unsteady gait and a few details that made me guess something more like a fall due to lack of consciousness or maybe a fight.  But I like that they still voice such innocence when they live in a place where they see so much brokenness. I love that their perspective reminds me to look for the good.

Experiencing generosity has a way of opening our hearts to extend generosity.

This has been true many times in my life, and probably more than ever since we moved to Atlanta. Here we are surrounded by poverty and we get to witness so many people sharing their time and resources to meet other peoples’ needs.  This week someone showed me an example of generosity and now I’m wanting to be a better giver.

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On Wednesday Ruthann drove a little over an hour to spend a day and night with us while Steve was out of town for a couple days. She helped me with housework and childcare during the day. She’s the kind of person who is not intimidated by the mess and dirt in our house and she’s quick to encourage other people. We laughed and talked together over chicken coconut wraps<< on the patio, and had a fun evening walking the Beltline with lots of other Atlantans.

<<a link to the recipe, so you can make them, too

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On the way back to our house we pulled up to a stoplight, and a woman with a cardboard sign caught my attention. We talked through the window, found out what she was needing, and I told her we would buy her some food.

(One of the boys offered the last two bites of the Larabar he was eating. So sweet of him, but we let him finish his snack.) :)

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We drove into a nearby drive thru and Ruthann  pulled her wallet out of her bag. She said she would like to pay for the food we were buying, “Because we don’t get the opportunity to do this for people as often where we live.”

Ruthann’s gesture of paying for the food, her spirit, and the way she saw serving as an honor was so beautiful to me. That word opportunity  has been circling my thoughts ever since.  I’m realizing that as these opportunities have become routine for me, they have started looking a lot less shiny and a lot more inconvenient.

When we got back with the food it took us a minute to find the lady again, but she was still there. She seemed really hungry and almost snatched the bag from my hand. I was so glad we had gotten food for her. We also left info about where to call for more resources.

It’s so good to see our life through fresh eyes. After hearing Ruthann’s perspective, I’m thinking of how much more I could give. Instead of simply handing a bag of food, I could also hop out of my car and give a hug, too. (Kind, human touch is something people living homeless do not get very often.) I could easily spend a few more minutes to really listen if someone wants to talk, and I could ask if they want me to pray with them about their needs.

I’m feeling inspired to find happiness in giving.  I hope you feel the same.  

On Gifts not Received

You would have noticed her, too, the woman leaning into the passenger side window of the car parked next to mine desperately begging from two men who were equally determined not to be disturbed.

When she didn’t leave even after they clearly showed they weren’t offering her any help, they simply drove away without a word–leaving a woman cursing the back of their car and a boy about eight years old watching tail lights.

I’m not sure why I wanted to help her because, If I’m honest, when I walk into the parking lot and see another person looking for charity headed my way I often sigh inwardly. It happens so often and after five years of many people walking away when I offer them the thing they are asking for–food, transit–I’m finding it harder to respond to their requests with patience and love.

As I unloaded my groceries I found myself hoping I’d get a chance to talk with her.  Not surprisingly, she headed my way next. She said she she needed help, that she was homeless, that her little brother was killed in a fire in a hotel a few days ago.

I asked if they needed a place to stay. Surprised at my question, she said they did, but her needs became deeper with every offer I made. There were eight of them. Her mom is in a wheelchair.  She didn’t want to go to a shelter because her sister was raped in one a few days ago.

She was shaking all over and her shoulder muscles were bulging. Her son yawned as though he was bored. A security guard was keeping an eye on us–ready to step in if needed.  I was doubting her story; but if it was true, if even part of it was true, she really did need help.

I told her I’d make some calls to see what I could do to help. She stepped aside, and I went to the back of my vehicle to get a couple bananas while I was calling Steve. I had a pretty strong sense that her story might not be true, but still wanted to help if I could.

A few minutes later I had the phone number ready. I looked up expecting to see her at another car begging the next person while waiting for me, but she hadn’t stayed  to see if I could help. Another time I might have left, but God had stirred compassion in my heart and I circled the garage over and over hoping to see her again.

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She was gone. I drove home with the phone number and a couple bananas on my lap, a little sad, praying for a stranger, hoping that she would find the help she needs even if it looks different than the help she’s looking for.

When people are desperate and we want to offer hope. We give freely because we know a God who offers second chances, who loves unconditionally, and who can completely change lives. We really want to share Him with others.

What we have to offer could change someone’s life.  It might be passed by.  It’s disappointing when our gifts (whether it’s just a couple bananas or something much more life changing) are rejected or abused, but there is peace in following God when He leads us to do good whether or not giving results in changes we want to see.

Sometimes stories don’t end the way we wish, but it’s always right to offer love.  And when you think about it, the story might not be over.

Golden.

14 Sept-0153_WEBOne night Zac and I took a walk at sunset and were treated to such a pretty show.

Sometimes only one of the boys walks with me. They feel really special to have a little outing with mama all to themselves. They chatter and tell me their deep thoughts.

These pictures were taken in October, but I loved the golden sunset so much, I still wanted to post them.

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Walking up the street from our house toward the park:14 Sept-0136_WEB

At the top of the bridge we cross, we can see the skyline to the left. To the right we watch trains coming and going. MARTA runs every fifteen minutes and the freight trains go through several times a day.

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The sunset cast a golden glow on the city–absolutely beautiful!   14 Sept-0171_WEB

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We crossed the bridge and walked to the park. It was warm, but cool, so we just sat and looked at the sky. 14 Sept-0185_WEB  A few bats came out for the night (look closely and you can see tiny black dots close to the lights). Bats are Ian’s favorite animal, so now we’re excited whenever we spot them. 14 Sept-0192_WEB