The Only Kids in the Creek

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It was a pretty normal morning.

Our three children and I were wading through a close-by stream, searching for little creatures.  We were quite the sight - large rubber boots, nets, and nature jars in our hands.  But we had success - a toad - croaking loudly.

As we emerged from a treed space, I noticed a large group of children of all ages lined at the edge of the water.  "Must be a homeschool group" was my first assumption - I'd never seen children here during a school day.   Our children are always the only kids in the creek.  Upon asking a young blond boy, I was pleasantly surprised to find out they were from a local alternative school.

"HEY!  What 'cha doin' in there?"  another boy hollered.  Children were everywhere, crouched at the side of this glistening stream.

"We're catching toads!" our son calls back.

As we come out of the water, teacher's eyes wide (I'm certain they thought I was crazy), the school kids ooooh and ahhh at the sight of the brown toad.

"WOW!!!  A FROG!" exclaims an older boy in a jump suit.

"No, a toad," corrects a short boy in glasses.  "Is it poison?"

The children circle us begging to see the poor frightened creature.  Our daughter holds him out and I'm blown away by the shock and awe of these sweet children as they push closer to the croaking wonder.

"No... it's not poisonous," she assures as she smiles at me.

"We love catching frogs and toads!" I offer.  "But we always put them back in their natural habitat."
My seven-year-old son chimes in. "We do this every morning."

A little symphony of "Ah, you're so lucky..." and "Ohhh, that's AWESOME!" pipes up. I can't help but grin.  Yes, we are lucky.

"Ms. Smith, can we go in?!  Can we go in the stream like them?!" a little girl shouts.

"No, hun.  They have boots on, you're all wearing running shoes.  We're not prepared for that."

Seems logical.  The kids hunch at the water's edge, staring longingly.

I sit across the park with my three under a large Weeping Willow and eat Watermelon and Tuna Sandwiches. As we mount our bikes and start the ride home, we pass over the bridge of the stream.

My heart leaps.

Children in the water.  Children everywhere in the water.  Shoes and socks are strewn all over the grassy field.  Little girls giggle.  Boys search fearlessly for creatures.  Teachers laugh and shake their heads at the rocky edge, helpless to stop this little rebellion.  I wave and smile, my soul tickled deep within.

Well, well.  Looks like we started a little movement.  Children immersed in the beauty of creation - nothing holding them back - not dirt, not slippery pebbles, not bare feet.  This is the image of bliss.

I take a mental photograph as we glide past, breathing in the laughter as we go.

Linked in -
Good Morning Girls



Friday, May 25, 2012

The Spring breeze tickles the leaves and the sun warms my cheeks.  My toes are brown with soil and it's only 8am.  We munch cereal in the grass as the children chatter about who swings best and who jumps higher.

Above us, birds sing a symphony of morning glory.  I pause long and wonder what they're saying to each other - or to me.  These beautiful, cheery tunes, always present, but so often unheard.  A Mourning Dove bellows - breathtaking.  A Robin natters from the fence post - a familiar sound.

I hear them and breath in.  They are amplified in my awareness now.   But, really - I so often miss the chance to listen.

All of nature is a wide open opportunity to tune in to the Creator.

To embrace the spirit song.
To awaken dry bones.
To come alive to His majestic presence, everywhere.

Later, as we stroll through a familiar path, I think of the disconnect most have from nature.  We build our cities and hide people and children in buildings and we wonder why we can't find our soul, our center.  We search for happiness and can't realize that we're looking for the wrong thing.   

God waits to be found. 

Forget a Church building.  I meet God most easily right here, in the middle of a leafy wood.  At the foot of a raging waterfall.  Feet wet, wading in a glistening stream, wild branches shading a sunny afternoon.  This is where the opportunity lies - to choose to open up to the spirituality all aroundTo this nature-kiss that God bestows in these beautiful places He painted with His very hands.

Seize the opportunity today.  Don't waste it.  Won't you go gently out to a green and lovely place and open wide to what He is saying?  Open up to those beautiful bird songs?

They whisper incredible secrets.

Written for Five Minute Friday

Advertising and your Children (The Better Mom post)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Today, I'm over at The Better Mom.  I'm talking about how advertising affects our children and what we can do to protect our families from negative messages about consumption.

In a world of complete over-indulgence, it's time to start changing the way we look at our lives and our media intake.  We need to be aware that everything our children see and hear affects them deeply - right now, and for years to come

  Join me to hear more and learn how you can protect your children from media message drenched in materialism...

I Have All I Need.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Another flyer arrives in our little mailbox and my heart pounds.  Advertisements for pillows and vases and more Spring-like STUFF haunt me.  They haunt me while I pray for a young boy in Uganda who wants only to be healthy.

And we say we care.  We care about the poor. We care about the sick. Oh yes, we're Christians!  Of course we care about people.  Really?

I'm realizing that saying I care and living like this consumer-driven world tells me to - is just plain lying. God is doing something in my soul, whether I want Him to or not.  And I've come to this point where a simple flyer makes me almost nauseous.

I read a blog post about another boy in Tanzania.  He lives in a mud hut where he barely has the basics for survival, yet, on the walls of his humble home he boldly paints "Psalm 23".

"The Lord is my Shepherd,
I have all I need."

This boy, who to most of the world has nothing - knows this truth - when the Lord Jesus is your Shepherd, you truly do have everything you need in this world.

I breathe out and the tears come.  Again.  They come often these days.  But, I am the most at peace I've ever been in my life.  I truly am.  Yet my soul is uneasy.  But I think our soul ought to be uneasy in this messed up world.

The scripture says it, TEST everything.

So, I'm testing myself and I'm testing this culture.  So many of us live life wanting the next thing - always the next thing... the more, the bigger, the best.   We want to buy, we want to be entertained, we want to do whatever we want.  My heart aches and I'm literally sick of it in myself.  No more of this 'baby steps' garbage I've been telling myself for years when it comes to what I need vs. what I want.  There is no time for baby steps.  We are called to live in leaps for Christ.  I want to leap.  I want to run towards Him with every once of myself.

I want to say "I have everything I need", and actually mean it.  Actually live it out.  Actually make others my priority in a way that means, yes, I sacrifice.  But when I start talking about the things I can sell - heads shake.  It's radical... it's weird.   No, it's not - it's required.

I long to want for nothing so I can
intentionally hold on to what really matters.

I want to hold dear and smell long the little potted Basil plants our children made for Mother's Day.  They were so proud to give this simple gift.  So joyful, bounding from Sunday School with colorful mugs in their little hands.  I want to savor these simple gifts, given in such pure, unconditional love, and know I have all I need. 

I want to memorize what it's like to watch our children scooping for tadpoles and playing with frogs. Their innocence.  Their ease with nature.  Their need for nothing that comes in packaging or with a price tag.  I want to be all there and just engage.  Stop cleaning, stop fixing, stop doing and just be.  Just be in this mindset of, "I have all I need".  I want to live in this child-like state of complete contentment and awe of God's creation.

We are called to truly live in an "I have all I need" mentality for a reason.  It frees us from the bondage of consuming.  It opens our eyes and ears to the Lord.  And it frees us to wildly give of our time, money, resources, and every other little thing He calls us to let go of - so we can cling to the precious, the eternal. 

The LORD is my shepherd,  I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.   
On the journey... never there,  Cassandra 

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

I find myself in a gentle stream where birds chirp above, minnows scatter below and the fallen trees bounce in shimmering water.  "Homeschool" at its richest.

My boots fill completely with icy water while I desperately chase a Spring frog.  I laugh hard - right out loud, so loud, everyone hears, some give me strange looks.  My kids giggle and look at each other.  It is pure, sweet, child-like joy that overtakes me in a moment that 10 years ago would have made me madder than ever.  I remember a nature walk when I did nothing but yell at my husband because my feet were 'mucky'.

WATER in my boots?  WATER IN MY BOOTS?  Yes, water in those boots - and flowing over... pure happiness.  Haha!  Praise God for transformations.  And frogs.

And in a world obsessed with, "What do you do for a living?", I find my LIVING right here with a glorious frog in my bucket.  And I'm fighting and learning to be completely happy to just LIVE.

To just BE...
in this moment
in this stream
in this life.

Yes, THIS life.  The life God gave specifically to me.  I'm striving madly to be in His purpose.  I'm reflecting today and I'm again realizing how backwards everything is in this crazy world.

Our culture has made life about DOING instead of BEING.

So, we ask, "What do you DO?" rather than "WHO are you?"  And we all rhyme off the things we 'do', getting different responses, depending on who we're talking to.  Some of us desperately try to impress, to convince people we're doing enough to measure up. Or at least we're doing more than her.

I don't want to be lost in doing - I want to be lost in loving.  Loving life, loving creation, loving these children, loving my husband, loving others, loving the moments.  Loving grace.  Loving the constant changing of my heart.  I want to be still, do nothing the world views as 'successful', and still, find divine purpose. 

To be 'just a Mom' spending mornings wholly flooded by stream water, toads, and laughter - for many, it isn't much of an answer to the question of, "what do you do?".  It just isn't.

"So, Cassandra, what do YOU do?"

"Oh, I romp around with my children all day.  We play in streams and read books and eat snacks by the waterfall.  We breathe in God's beauty.  You know, that kind of thing."


 I'm starting to think the question "What do you do?" truly means, "What have you accomplished?"

And it's all a matter of perspective.  A worldly view of success and identity pitted against what Christ says about why we're here.  This should be the question at the front of a Christ-follower's life: "who am I?".  How we live it out determines our destiny AND our eternity.

'If I gain the whole world and forfeit my soul..."  then what? 

Identity,  TRUE identity is found slowly, gradually.  It's that Christianese word, 'sanctification', to which we are all called.   And it comes down to accepting who God Almighty has designed us to be.  And you know what I've realized?  If we are truly in His will - our identity might not be very impressive to others in the so-called "real world".  We may end up with nothing but a frog in our bucket - but it will be pure bliss.  It is what it is, friends.

Overwhelming joy, however, is found sitting right smack in His arms, surrounded by the life He gave me. Surrounded by the ones he gave me.  Wet socks and all.

"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, 
yet forfeits his soul? 
Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"  
Matthew 16:26

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever 
loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 10:39

 Linked in @ Five Minute Friday

Growing and Writing and Fruit.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

This week we're tilling and planting and digging and getting dirt-covered.  We're smelling fresh rain and marveling at shoots springing up everywhere.  With soil in my gloved fingers, I've been doing a lot of thinking.

I've been considering Fruit.  Fruit on a vine, fruit plants in bunches lined in soil along our deck.  Fruit waiting to bloom everywhere.   And vegetables too - but the bible doesn't talk of the "Vegetables of the Spirit", so, we'll stick with fruit for the purpose of being at least somewhat linear.

And the Fruit of the Spirit is what we're discussing around our breakfast table this week too.  Love, joy, peace - being patient, kind, and good.  Being faithful, gentle, and having self-control - I so want all this.  I strive for it.  I dig and till, and water, and beg God for it.

This week, as I've strived to 'not write',  I've realized writing is part of who I am.  I'm hesitant to call myself a 'writer' - not sure I've earned that name.  But I do know writing is like breathing for me.  I write to communicate.  I write to understand.  I write to muddle through.  I write to seek.  I write to encourage.  I write to realize I know nothing.  I write to press into almighty God - to press into what really actually (seriously) matters.  That writing here can actually be worship and a very real way of seeking Father God.

For me, to not write, is to not fully inhale and only partially exhale.

My parents tell me when I was a kid I'd go to bed talking and wake up continuing the conversation I couldn't finish the night before.  I still do that.  My poor sweet husband tries desperately to stay awake at 1am while I talk on and on about injustice and Uganda and a family in Soroti I long to hold.  It's 1:12am and I'm still writing about building houses and holding orphans and scribbling the, "Oh LORD... let me see... open me fully Lord, that I would be more like You... USE ME, use me, use even me, if You will..."  I often have to verbally remind myself to slow down, shush, and stop talking but the mind never stops and it won't.  Until I get it all out.

I chuckle now, thinking how God has a sense of humor in all this - you know, because He DID make me. 
The same goes for pen to notebook or finger tips to keys.  I can choose to not write, but I honestly feel I'll bubble over if I don't put thoughts to words and words to sentences.  And those sentences become realizations.  Sometimes epiphanies.  Sometimes life-changing read-alouds when those divine 'ah-ha' moments leap forth from the recycled paper page.  I am humbled to my knees at the times God speaks to me right through the clicking keys.  Right through the sloppy pen strokes.  And His truth can actually speak right through this little blog and this little heart of mine.  And this is only possible because God uses the incredibly broken.  Thank you, Jesus.

I'm captivated by tiny shoots and dark soil and every kind of growing plant, bursting with color and hope.  I'm envisioning how God plants seeds in our very hearts and with His living water, makes them grow.  And I feel the churning of the soil, the tilling, the newness and excitement of planting season - full of dreams and possibilities.  And I'm longing for the springing up.  The growth.  The Fruit.  Only through Him and only in Him does this amazing transformation of a soul take place.  And I've been blessed to feel it, to know it.  To not be there, but to 'press on' towards what He would have for me.

And - well, to keep writing about it.  Because we are called to profess it with our lips and maybe that could mean through typed words that shoot up from the pit of my vulnerable heart and wind up here, on this little page or in a journal or on a piece of loose paper, sprawled cursive in the dimness of wee-hours.
And I'll keep seeking and begging and clinging to the truth that He has a plan for these scribbles - ashes to beauty.  Chicken scratch to eagle's wings... but only by His grace.

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