Monday, October 31, 2011

This Little Light

Saturday morning started with the bubbly sounds of coffee percolating, the smell of freshly baked coffee cake, and the slimy squish of pumpkin guts.  Oh, and we were listening to Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Cryptkickers sing, "The Monster Mash".  Awesome.

The past two years we have bucked tradition and opted to do all our pumpkin carving in the morning.  It's a whole lot more fun to be creative and slimy when the kids are rested and Mom and Dad have a healthy and renewed sense of humor!  As opposed to past years with nutty kids who can't force their worn-out minds make a decision ("a cat ... no, a cheerleader ... no, a butterfly ... no, a cat!"), little bodies that can't stop moving ("if I sit down, I might fall asleep"), Mommy snapping at all the helpful hands ("don't wipe your hands on my shirt ... gross ...") and Daddy holding his head with his clean hand ("this is fun because ...?).

Yes.  Our morning of pumpkin production is definitely more fun!

The kids are rather creative in their choices of images to carve into their pumpkins.  In fact this particular morning, Brett lamented, "what happened to just a face with circles and triangles?"  Sorry, Daddy, that's old school.

This year we have a football:

A giraffe:

 An owl:

A football:

A ghost:

And Frankenstein:

So fun!

Of course, this took some work ...

We cleared the table and benches out of the kitchen, spread newspaper across the tile and set to work.  I sketched the kids ideas on their pumpkins with a pencil while Brett began cutting the top off Norah's green pumpkin.  When I had finished cutting into the other four pumpkins and finished Lydia's giraffe pumpkin (completely) Brett was still working on the green beast.

Unbeknownst to us, this particular pumpkin is all flesh.  Three solid inches of flesh with the seed imbedded in the flesh.  No guts, no gunk, no slime ... just seed impacted flesh.  Brett cut and cut and cut (read sawed, hacked and slashed) the top of that pumpkin and could not get the "lid" to budge.  In the end, it required a screw driver and (I kid you not) a crowbar.

Then the true challenge began:  getting enough flesh carved out of the pumpkin so that we could cut out the eyes and stitches and find the Frankenstein within!  Armed with only my Pampered Chef melon baller, Brett went to work on scooping out the flesh.  I, on the other hand, carved a football and a cutie-patootie ghost.  (And Lydia pieced together her giraffe parts and rebuilt her pumpkin.  It kept her busy and happy!)

Eventually Brett managed to whittle down one side of the green pumpkin, enough that we would be able to etch out the character's iconic features.  He passed the little green monster on to me and went to work on Ashley's owl.  With a few quick cuts (following Norah's to-scale sketch as closely as possible) we were able to declare, "He's alive!  He's alive!"

Fast forward ten hours ...

We've wrapped a up a busy day.  Dinner dishes are washed.  The kids are in pajamas.  It's time to light our pumpkins.

Look at that sweet glow ...

Tiny little lights illuminate the creatures and creations we carved.

But .... but ... but ...

there would be no place for us to set our little candles if we hadn't first mucked out the insides - cut away the flesh and "the yuckies".  There would be no lights to be seen if we hadn't cut away what wasn't a giraffe or an owl or a ghost or a football or Frankenstein.  There would be no "oohs and aahs" if we hadn't take the time to decide and design what we wanted.

Only after the hard work of cleaning and scraping, cutting and carving, imagining and sketching do we stand back with a sense of pride and say, "There."

God is the same way.  Maybe you've read about the portrayal of God, the Potter, at work at His wheel working the clay that is our being.  He shapes and centers, He creates and designs.  We are the work of His hands.

What if He is also a Pumpkin Carver?  He takes our lives and cuts away the gunk and the yuck - cutting away the flesh that crowds our lives, leaving no room for Him.  He cleans out the slime and the slippery stuff that sticks to us - purifying us from the sins that cling.  He has a plan in mind and each cut is intended to make us into the creation He has designed - the masterpiece He imagined.  And when He's finished with us, He puts us out to be seen.  He puts His light in us, His Holy Spirit, and tells us to shine.

The purpose of this little light is to show the craftsmanship of the Carver ... and to bring Him pleasure!

6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay (pumpkins) to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7, addition mine)

You are God's treasured pumpkin ... let your little light shine!


Well ... that's it ...  31 days of Mom in the Midst!  Part of me feels like, "Wow!  That was a lot of work having something fresh every day!", while another part of me feels like, "Oh.  It's done, huh. Hmm.", with one last part of me feeling like, "Well ... I still have more thoughts banging around in my head.  Guess I'll still have something to write about tomorrow!"

Thanks for reading along this month ... and coming back for more!

Day 6:  Me, Myself & I

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Monkey See, Monkey Do

We have an interesting phenomenon here in our house.  One that has mixed results.  Without necessarily meaning to, our older kids are constant and consistent role models to Lydia.  Of good things and things, well ... not so good.

For example, if you were to join us around the kitchen table, you might find the following scenarios:

Aaron turns sideways on the bench and leans against the nearest wall.  With one elbow propped on the table, he dips a steak fry in ketchup and with great care, navigates the two and half feet to his mouth.  As you look across the table, you might find Lydia lounging in the same comfortable position, but not nearly as successful with the ketchup delivery.  This little monkey doesn't have quite the same hand-eye coordination.  In fact there is a small trail of red ketchup from her table to her mouth, traveling up her chin!

Gratefully, Aaron also models responsible behavior at the dinner table.  As he is faithful to say, "please", "thank you", "may I be excused?", we have heard Lydia mimic these same words.  She is learning the importance of good manners as she watches and listens to her older brother use those magic words.  Of course, she still has a way to go.  Recently during dinner she sat at her seat, pointed to her soup and informed me, "that smells stinkies."  That silly monkey followed her previous winning compliment with, "This bad."  Those zingers are 100% Lydia!

Norah is a busy body around the table.  Up.  Down.  Up.  Down.  Up.  Down.  She has a lot of trouble sitting, due in part to the fact that her body has trouble containing her boundless energy and due in part to the fact that there are so many amazing things to look at in the kitchen!  As we sit down to eat, someone will comment on a magazine that came in the mail ... Norah jumps up to find said magazine and show it to  us all.  "Please sit down."  Next a song comes on our Pandora station and someone asks who the artist is ... Norah jumps up to check the iPod and informs us that it's Jack Johnson.  "Please sit down."  Someone at the table mentions that they are thirsty ... Norah jumps up and races to the fridge to get more water.  "Please sit down."  It wouldn't be such a big deal that she wants to be such a finder/informer/helper if she didn't have her side-kick.  With each leap from the table, our littlest monkey is right on her heels, seeking to find, inform and help, too.  It's like Grand Central Station in our kitchen.  "Please sit down!"

On the flip side, Norah is a terrific role model when to comes time to help in the kitchen.  As she unloads the dishwasher or helps to set the table, she is quick to give manageable jobs to Lydia.  She encourages her little helper to carry the kids' bowls to the drawer or stack the plastic cups.  With each completed chore in the kitchen, Lydia is learning where things live and how to help clean up.  Of course, we're still working on that monkey not licking the silverware before returning them to the drawer or sucking the clean cups onto her cute little face ... but she's a work in progress!

Ashley is a slow-waker-upper in the mornings which often results in her laying sideways on the kitchen bench.  In the middle of breakfast.  One minute we are all eating together and the next minute I look across the table and Ashley has disappeared.  A quick peek under the table reveals our little missy slumped over, eyes part-way closed and sucking on her finger.  "Sit up, please."  She moans and groans and pulls herself up to a sitting position.  Propping her head on her hand she starts in on her cereal again with a sigh.  As soon as she is vertical again, Lydia takes her cue to get horizontal!  But she's happy and giggling.  She stretches out next to Ashley and pokes her sister in the hiney with her pointy toes.  "Sit up, please."  That goofy monkey peeks above the table to see if I'm serious and then quickly plops herself in from of her own cereal.  Just in time, because Ashley is headed back to being prone!

At the dinner table, Ashley is our cautious eater.  She doesn't jump into eating different foods very readily.  She is much more comfortable with the old faithfuls:  tacos, pasta, hamburgers.  But ... she is willing to have her three required bites.  The same night that Lydia had such glowing compliments about the pumpkin soup, Ashley was equally unexcited.  She did have her three bites, however, and even voluntarily ate a few additional spoonfuls later on in the meal.  Her obedience in at least trying unfamiliar dishes is a great model for Lydia.  As our littlest monkey watches Ashley grimace through her mandatory bites, she is more willing to follow suit ... same bites and same grimace!

Our big monkeys are showing our littlest monkey how life works in even more ways than just around the kitchen table.  In light of that truth, I can honestly say that I am RELIEVED that we laid the foundation with our older kids about what is expected in behavior and attitude.  They teach Lydia more in one day through their actions and conduct than I am able to do in my efforts of endless visits, talking-to's and time-outs.  Whew!

In reality we are all participating in this game of Monkey See, Monkey Do.  We watch the people in our circle of influence and we mimic things they say and do.  And then we turn around and realize that someone is watching us ... and doing and saying what we say and do.  This fact makes my heart hammer ... and I can only hope that whatever I'm doing is worth imitating!

The apostle Paul was a proponent of Monkey See, Monkey Do ... as long as the model was Jesus.  He committed his life to following Jesus' model for life and in his letters he repeatedly challenged his readers to do the same.

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. (Philippians 3:17)

Not just because it was the right thing to do, but because this right way of life results in blessings and fullness.  We can choose the people we want to emulate by looking at their lives and seeing if the evidence of their faith confirms the rightness of their life.  It's a circle of rightness!

7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)

What are you seeing?
What are you doing?
Does your life reflect your faith?

Day 6:  Me, Myself & I