Monday, January 31, 2011

My Anne

"You'd find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair... People who haven't red hair don't know what trouble is."
- Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

 Most of you know that LM Montgomery is one of my very favorite authors. I have quoted The Story Girl and The Golden Road, likely Emily of New Moon and possibly The Blue Castle countless times. But has anyone noticed that I have never once quoted Anne? I think the books are well enough. I enjoy the movies mostly because they were a part of my childhood. But I have a confession to make, I am not really a huge fan of Anne. I have rarely sat to think why. Perhaps because she is the most popular? My own rebellion does kick in at odd times. Perhaps because there are too many books that the character was just taken too far? Perhaps because Anne was one of my first glimpses into someone of great imagination succumbing finally to the woes of twitterpation. After all, if it could happen to her, were any of us safe? But I think that the real reason I never found a true friend in Anne is that she and I are just too different. She is emotional and flighty, I am pretty straight foreword. She runs headlong into trouble without a second thought, I like to work things our before I start them. She is constantly concerned about her looks and what others think of her, I don't worry too much about these things....She is always crying!

So I do not see myself in Anne. Sure, I can be entertained reading her stories, but I will not feel the friendship I feel with Sara or with Emily. So to me she remains on paper....until now.

You see, I had an epiphany the other day. And it has haunted my thoughts ever since and made me want to take up the books once more. True, I am not Anne in any way shape or form....but my daughter is.

 I choose the Megan Follows Anne, because to me she is Anne. But look, can you see it? 

Right down to the red hair that matches her red rimmed eyes, the emotions, the actions before thought. The fact that she rarely MEANS to get in trouble, it seemed like a good idea at the time but oh it so rarely goes as planned. She, like Anne feels the need to know people, to take them apart as she would a machine. She delights in beauty and feels the woe of disregard. She feels very deeply and therefore assumes everyone else does too. Much to her demise as inevitably beloved playmates will eventually look to another for affirmation and entertainment, even for a moment. To her this is a kin to murder.

Ah, my Taylor has much to learn. She would probably love the movies - I believe the books would still have too many words in them. (though Anne does say - and this is for you Diana: "people laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven't you?") Perhaps Taylor and I will pick a mom and daughter day soon. We will eat popcorn and drink hot chocolate and watch the first Anne movie together. She will find much to relate to in these stories. She may learn something from the stories. At any rate, I think it will be good for her to see someone so like herself. We all need a reminder every so often that we are not alone in our quirks. Especially when one has a mother that is so unsympathetic! 

I do not always understand my Taylor. But oh she is so very loved. And she keeps me on my toes for sure! I have much to learn from Taylor. And I have a feeling that in order to do that I may need to become more like Anne. Every so often I need to care so deeply it hurts. I need to walk a roof line just to see if I can do it. Every so often I need to stop and stare a little more carefully at the beauty around me. I need to jump without looking, I need to cry.  

Your mother is a slow learner sometimes Taylor. But I am trying. In the meantime we will make one another frustrated and laugh together at just how different God made us. 

  "There's such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn't be half so interesting."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What are little girls made of?

"There was a path across it, and Phillip followed the path.
'Because,' he said, 'I'm more likely to meet Lucy.  Girls always keep to paths.  They never explore'
Which just shows how little he knew about girls"                  E. (Edith) Nesbit

Not very many people know about this amazing author.  She happens to be one of my favorites.  'Five children and It' may well be one of her best known stories since it has been made into several movies, mostly of European origin.  One of the things I have always loved about E. Nesbit is her ability to put into words the things that I am already thinking - of course isn't that the mark of a good author?  In the story above, the boy Phillip is angry because his beloved older sister has married. Now, this man whom she has married has a daughter around Phillips age and he decides from the beginning that he hates her. So when they both go over to the other sides of their dreams into the city that Phillip made from blocks and toys and candlesticks he comes back through and leaves her behind. The remark above he makes to himself when he goes back into the city to find her, not because he likes her, but because that little annoying voice in his head tells him that Lucy is probably lonely and scared and it was his fault she was left behind.

I am reading this story currently to my girls and I stopped and laughed when I read that last remark - you see, I have a pet peeve.

Do you know I have two girls and I am currently pregnant?  Well, the aforementioned fact (having two girls) suddenly becomes news to people when they discover I am pregnant.  Because almost every time someone hears it the first thing they say is "Do you think it will be a boy this time?" Well, first off, how am I to know?  So when I answer as such the answer almost always involves "Are you hoping it will be a boy this time?" Do you want the truth?  I am hoping for a baby!  Though who am I to say it would not be entertaining if a wort hog came out of my nether regions right around the middle of July...but a baby is really what I am going for. 

Please, no offense to moms of all boys.  I am sure you get the same thing just flipped when people look at your family.  But how is it that I am missing out on something, or am not REALLY a mom until  I have a boy?  "Moms of Boys" seem to have a certain stigma about them.  And you will hear it in their voices when talking about their kids vs. others.  It is like there is a competition to see who's are the most rambunctious, the most adventurous, the most BOY.  Where-as to them all little girls sit quetly in their rooms, hair perfect playing with dolls and answering “yes mother dear” when asked to complete a task.

Now, I know that there is likely some truth to the matter.  Boys do play more physically by nature - but what else?  Are they dirtier?  No, not that I have seen.  Are they tougher?  No, we just don't put up with the emotional outburst from them the way we put up with it from girls.  Are they more adventurous?  Hell no!  Does their imagination play involve more bad guy vs. good guy?  Perhaps.  Though my Taylor, as girly a girl as they come, has taken a liking to Star Trek lately and spends most of her free time pretending to shoot Romulans with phasers.  So you tell me.  Ayla LOVES her baby doll - and just this morning she was playing in a box and proudly announced to me that she was "pretending the box was a rocket ship" and proceeded to make all the appropriate sounds needed for such an adventure. 

Now, I am not one to believe that boys and girls are just what we make them.  That we shape them based on our social norms and influences.  But I do think we categorize too much.  Or perhaps it is just me getting defensive.  Perhaps you don't see this taken the other way around as often because rarely do you find a mom wanting to defend to the world her sons right to have tea parties and dance around the room in a tutu - though every single boy who visits us tries on the tutu and gets right in there with the girls.  I am so excited when moms laugh and tell their sons how beautiful they look.  And I admit I cringe when they criticize, shaking their heads and turning their son around saying: "That is not for a boy!"  And why not!?!  They are just pretending after all.  Isn't that what we want?  We are so concerned that our girls not be meek little mice in today's society but we don't allow our boys to just play and then we wonder why they are more violent?

Ok, perhaps I am taking this too far. I don't mean to offend and I know I am taking this to the extreme. I know very few boys that fit that description, and most of the moms I know are amazing.  I would even go so far to say none of the moms I am truly close with fit into the category that has me shaking my head in shame.  Of course, I don't have any boys so who am I to judge right?  Alright - but then they don't have any girls so why is it ok for them?

Can you tell this is something that gets under my skin? 

Mom 1: We are having such trouble with Jimmy lately.  Since he turned 3 he has been hitting me, not playing well with his friends and fighting with his brother a lot"

Me: Yeah, we go through stages like that with our kids too.  Hang in there and be consistent, this things pass.

Mom 1: Yeah, but you have girls so it is a little easier for you.  Boys are just a breed of their own!


Yes, I have had this very conversation.  So now boys are not even human?  A breed of their own?  Of course, I will admit that next to this particular subject, my worst pet peeve is those that are not parents giving parenting advice.  So perhaps when it comes to this subject I really should just keep my mouth closed.  I don't have a boy after all, so maybe I just really don't know.  But you know what?  I may never have a boy, and yes, I do long for one.  So does that mean that I have missed out on a part of life?  Am I doomed to forever walk on one side of the path never knowing the adventures (that apparently are more dangerous and adventure-ish) that lie on the other side?  I refuse to believe this.  I think that God is bigger then that, and I refuse to spend my life wondering "what-if." 

Perhaps this child inside is another girl, and you know what?  I am so beyond happy about that.  But a word of warning to you all, if one of you asks me if I am disappointed it is not a boy I can't guarantee my response will be nice and polite.  I will tell you the answer now.  NO.  I am not disappointed.  You know why?  Because I am not in charge here!  And three girls would tell me that without a doubt these are the kids I am supposed to have.  I am 100% sure that I can be completely peaceful with that. 

Some of you know; from before my brothers and sisters and I were born to when we leave home my dad writes us letters.  I have 4 books written completely to me.  I have not read all of them yet, I have trouble reading past the age my kids are at.  But oh it is so nice sometimes to read, sometimes about the EXACT same shenanigans my kids are going through as something I did myself at their age.  And I turned out ok......right?

One of my books starts this way and I will end with this:

I never would have guessed.  Sarah was such a proper little princess of a baby.  Dainty and polite.  Rarely crying...or so I remember.  Now a three year old, Sarah is the classic little tomboy.  She can't walk, but runs everywhere. she climbs everything and everybody, eats like a football player and argues like a reckless  taxi driver.  When a friend came to visit last week, his comments about Andy (1 year),  
"Isn't it different having a boy around?"  
"There was a world of difference raising my boy and raising my girl.  Even when they were babies."  
"How so?"
"Well, for one thing, Allen was always taking chances, always getting hurt."
"Go on."
"He was louder and messier."
"played with snakes and ate bugs - you know, just like a boy."
"Not like a girl?"
"My girl never did those things."
"Allen sounds much more like Sarah then Andy."
Actually, I think you are good for the world Sarah.  People's thinking gets lazy - people who you least expect sometimes to allow their thoughts to go unexamined.  We all need to be shook up, awoken from our cultural slumber.  I am convinced that heaven will be full of such surprises. 

Perhaps what really bothers me is lazy thinking. Ayla fits that above description perfectly too. I don't want my kids put into boxes. I want them to be free to be themselves.

Do I think this baby is a boy?  Maybe.  Do I want it to be a boy?  Maybe a little.  But if it is not I will be so so so happy with my girl.  After all, boy or girl, this baby is exactly who it is supposed to be.  Just like Taylor, just like Ayla, just like me.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Heaven's breath

You are harvest, You are golden sun
You are cool rain, You are all in one
And in all my deepest thoughts
And in all my battles fought
You are within

You know, coming off the Christmas season the song that is WAY over played?
 You know, the one sung by Amy Grant and several other artists?  It is called Breath of Heaven.   Perhaps it is simply because it has been a while since I have listened to any Christian radio station with any regularity, but I get the feeling most people consider it a rather new song – perhaps a follow-up to the equally overplayed Mary Did You Know.  Now, I like these songs well enough – not trashing the songs…but come on, after the 87th time hearing them in a four week period it gets a little old. 

My question for you?  Listen:

 You are crimson, you are midnight blue
You have called me to discover You
You have warmed my heart of stone
You have borne my pain alone
Speak to me now, speak to me now, speak to me now

Can you hear it?  This is the real Breath of Heaven.  This is the one I first heard as a lonely teenager when I needed something real to hold on to almost 15 years ago.  These are the words that go through my head when I need to remind myself that God is here in the middle of pain.  I admit I get teary listening to them because they represent to me joy, peace and laughter in the middle of confusion and anger. 

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am longing to be with You there
And with every fading fear
There is healing in my tears
Now I belong, now I belong, now I am strong

Generally speaking, I am not a huge fan of Christian music.  I know my share of it, mostly the DC Talk and Jars of Clay from my teenage hood.  But since then I admit I’ve lost track.  I listen to the “Christian Station” now and then and it just bothers me.  Ok, perhaps I need to get over it.  I have had so many people tell me that by filling my day with spiritually uplifting music I can keep God at the focus and yada yada yada.  Ok – now I really sound terrible!  Perhaps it is the rebellious spirit coming out in me.  But I ask, why is God only in “Christian” music?  I dare anyone to listen to Les Miserables and not see God.  Alright – I’ll go one further and say I dare anyone to listen to music produced by a true musician who is truly in love with music – someone who has it pouring out of their soul, Christian or no and not tell me it is a truly spiritual experience.
 Look at the lyrics above.  Not once is God or Jesus mentioned.  Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with God or Jesus being mentioned in a song.  I would say that there are probably lots of R&B songs that mention God and Jesus all the time – so I am going to venture to say that the lyrics don’t always matter.  Don’t always, I said always, sometimes they do – don’t get all fluffy with me yet. 
 So what is it about music that moves us?  Why is it spiritual regardless of religion? 
 While they were in college my parents did a project together that explored that.  Can you listen to music and interpret the emotion the composer was trying to communicate without the aid or words?  I believe for the most part (and correct me if I am wrong) that the answer was yes…but why?  How? 
 People ask me what kind of music I like.  Well, to be perfectly honest as long as it is MUSIC there is always something I can find that I love.  My children get to hear it all, really.  Well, we don’t listen to country much…but aside from that I think between my husband and I we have just about every genre covered.  However, I will admit that “Christian” music is rarely played in my house.  I think I have trouble defining music by only the religion of the artist – not to mention there is perhaps less actual artists in that genre.  Perhaps I am just naive?  You tell me.
 There are three very specific kinds of “Christian” music I like.  And I admit often worship music does not fit into one of these categories…yes, I don’t always like worship songs.  Of course some of that probably stems from my considering it a very one sided thing to assume that worship can only take place in a church while singing…but that is a post for another day.  I also understand that this is just me – other people will worship in their way. 

The first kind of “Christian” music that moves me is that which has no words.  Perhaps I should be connecting this to snippets of the actual music…but think of the most beautiful piece of music you have ever heard.  For all of us it will be different – this is the one that when it comes on you want to turn it up, close your eyes, block out the world and let it entirely consume you.  For me this is often classical piano music, probably because that is what I listened to as my dad played it while going to sleep as a child for many years.  It speaks peace to me.  The great thing is that I can claim it as Christian music regardless of the religion of the person who wrote it, because it is entirely up to interpretation. 

The second kind I like is scripture and story set to music.  Now, this is a little harder to explain…and this is where the confusion of Worship songs comes in.  For my worship songs I like to do just that…I want a song that is saying “God you are AMAZING” I don’t want a song that is quoting David in the psalms.  True, there is a time and a place, but for me “I cry out for you to heal me” is not really worshiping, it is praying.  Now, I am well aware that this point is arguable – but for the moment just humor me.  My best example of biblically based songs is an artist named Michael Card.  He is an older Christian artist.  Not contemporary at all, and coincidentally a classical pianist – probably another reason I loved his music.  Now, I would say 90% of his songs are simple stories from the Bible.  Let me see if I can find an example…

God Will Provide A Lamb lyrics
Michael Card
Genesis 22:1-14 & Hebrews 11:17-19

Three days journey to the sacred place
A boy and a man with a sorrowful face
Tortured yet faithful to God's command
To take the life of son with his own hands

God will provide a Lamb
To be offered up in your place
A sacrifice so spotless and clean
To take all your sin away
Here's wood and fire, where's the sacrifice
A questioning voice and the innocent eyes
Is the son of laughter who you waited for
To die like a lamb to please the Lord

A gleaming knife, an accepted choice
A rush of wind and an angel's voice
A ram in the thicket caught by his horns
And a new age of trusting the Lord is born
For God has provided a Lamb
He was offered up in your place
What Abraham was asked to do he has done
He's offered his only son
What Abraham was asked to do he has done
He's offered his only son

See how there is even a scripture reference?  The melody is simple, beautiful.  This song is about the lyrics. 

Completely unrelated I have always wondered if Isaac suffered any psychological trauma at almost being butchered by his father.  We just read this story this morning in our Children’s Bible and it talked about how relaxed and trusting Isaac was.  Now to my memory, The Bible does not actually mention his state of mind at that time – and I can imagine that if he is old enough to ask where the sacrifice is he is old enough to understand what his Father is about to do.  As a college project I actually re-wrote that store once from the child’s point of view.  I love thinking of Bible Stories from other viewpoints.

Related to scripture songs, I also love in your face, no holds barred God needs to get your attention songs.  I like the directness.  This is why James is my favorite book of the Bible. 

 My third love in “Christian” music is like the above Chris Eaton song – oh, yes that is who wrote “Breath of Heaven” not Amy Grant.  It is not a “God loves you, God loves me” type song.  Perhaps that is really the kind I am trying to avoid, anything with a generic message or a cliché catch phrase. Less then stellar melody or elementary musicians makes me gag.  Unfortunately so many songs fit the above-mentioned category in my mind and I simply don’t have the patience to sift through them.  I don’t care if God is mentioned, you still know.  I don’t care if it has the “right” words.  All I care about is that when I hear it, I am moved.  Listen:

Don't let the past keep holding you back
Don't lose the dream in which you believe
For I want to do, deep within you, something new
When you're dry as a desert, you can drink from me
water rich and free
When you need some forgiveness
I will show you mercy and light a fire
That will burn a brand new road
It will show you where to go
Don't let the past keep holding you back
Don't lose the dream in which you believe
For I want to do, deep within you, something new

That isn’t the whole song – but I want to scream these lyrics at some of those I love.  Don’t lose the dream.  Don’t, please.  There is more.  And I am not talking about let’s all hold hands and sing Hallelujah.  I am talking about God’s breath coming down from heaven and healing.  Makes me think of Aslan.  You can rest on this breath and it will take you exactly where you need to be.

Breath of heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness for You are holy
Breath of heaven