Bigger Than a Bumper Sticker

Last weekend I was One Proud Mama, overflowing with joy, as Teen had what may well have been the best weekend of his seventeen years.

It began with a rugby end-of-season barbecue where he won a coaches award for Most Improved player in his position. The coach spoke of Teen’s hard work, determination, and playing all in both before—and more significantly—after his six-week injury. He laid it all out for his sport and his team, and it showed.tournament 1

Racing home, Teen had 20 minutes to shower and change into his brand new Calvin Klein tuxedo complete with a tie-it-yourself bow tie for Junior Prom. It took Dad and Kid (consulting YouTube) a few tries, but he looked sharp—and he knew it, with that sweet arrogance of youth. This may have been one of the few times he did not complain about Mama taking too many pictures. He patiently smiled and posed, on his own, with his stunningly beautiful date, in this spot and that, and with friends. We even got a couple of family shots. I kept thinking: who is this good looking young man, and what happened to my rascally kid?prom

But Sunday was the best, a culmination of years of diligence and small achievements along the way. Sunday Teen’s Boy Scout Troop celebrated its 53rd Eagle Court of Honor to present eight new Eagle Scouts with Scouting’s highest honor.

Teen and I sat in the front pew of our church during Scout Sunday when he was just eight years old, not yet a Cub Scout. He watched older boys—shoulders back, heads held high—lead the service and share stories of adventures, brotherhood, and faith. He turned to me and declared, “I am going to be an Eagle Scout in this troop.” And he is.

Like most worthwhile pursuits, it hasn’t been an easy road. The troop prides itself on being boy-led, which means each Scout must play his role and take the leadership failures and successes at each level. Which means that, if you’re a Scout—or a parent of a Scout—in a patrol where the leader fails (it happens often), you feel the bumps. The learning curve is huge and yet, from this vantage point, I can truthfully say it has been the best long-term leadership training we could ever have hoped our son would experience.

During the private pinning ceremony, we presented our son with a blessing of words before we pinned the Eagle Scout pin on his uniform, right over his heart. We expressed gratitude for this Troop which has developed his leadership while allowing him to indulge his passions for the outdoors and for animals.

We told stories of his perseverance (he designed the District award-winning patch with the theme of Perseverance)—climbing out of his crib and over two stacked childproof-gates all the while whispering, “I can do it. I can do it.” At times, Scouting itself has felt like a sky-high mountain of switchback trails, and yet he has persevered.

We told stories of his gift with animals—just two examples, book-ending his Scouting experience:
his first Troop hike, accompanied by the Scoutmaster Emeritus, during which Teen safely caught and displayed (and released) countless reptiles and opened the Scoutmaster’s eyes to how many species of reptiles inhabited a trail he’d hiked for 34 years…
his kayaking trip last summer, when he was the only person deft enough to catch one of the many turtles populating the river.

During the Court, his Scoutmaster shared Teen’s outstanding qualities: kindness, thoughtfulness, his desire and gift for mentoring younger Scouts. A family friend told about Teen as a preK who, much like the Croc Hunter, insisted he come along while Teen narrated a critter-filled walk around the block. Teen’s spectacular gift is to insist that we notice critters we might never see otherwise and help us appreciate them for their God-created place in the ecosystem.

Passionate, exuberant, spontaneous to the point of recklessness… For most of Teen’s life I have been his advocate, helping others see the strengths in what, at times, seemed like weaknesses. On this afternoon, I listened as others spoke to the beauty of these strengths and how they will be gifts Teen will use to change the world.

These eight new Eagles form an impressive group. Two high school seniors and six juniors, they have a combined total of 387+ camp outs. They include the ASB President and Vice President and the Quarterback of the championship football team. They have demonstrated their duty to God through 24 trips to work among the poor in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica. They are scholars, athletes, musicians, and leaders in several arenas. While several have shared significant friendship beyond the Troop, together they share in a unique fraternity.2016Eagles2

Teen has participated in over 48 camp outs, including 5 week-long Wilderness Camps, a 3-day Mini Backpacking Trek, 2 Orange Torpedo Kayak Treks in Oregon, 2 Bike Treks, and a 50-mile Mt. Lassen Sierra Trek. For his Eagle project, Teen refurbished and built exercise stations for the Raptor and Reptile Rehabilitation Grove at Lindsay Wildlife Experience, an animal rescue/rehabilitation organization. In the words of the gentlemen who reviewed his project and approved his Eagle Scout application, “he didn’t build just another bench.”

A hawk working out on Teen's refurbished exercise equipment

A hawk working out on Teen’s refurbished exercise equipment

After the post-Court reception, after the post-reception dinner, after the cards and gifts had been opened, Teen explained to his grandparents the meaning and experiences behind each patch he had received on the road to Eagle. Tremendous experiences, so many memories, some hard and many glorious. At the end, I watched as my son turned his head aside. I sat on the floor at his feet and I wonder if anyone else heard as he almost whispered, almost to himself: “I set a goal, and I achieved it.”

There are very few goals of this caliber one can set in childhood and achieve during adolescence. Fewer still are goals of this caliber that will last into adulthood. Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout. He has accomplished something that will hold him in good stead throughout his life. He should feel proud of himself, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

“Just one time.”

At its center, every creative act requires vulnerability. And I am flat-out-on-the-floor humbled that today’s guest post writer allowed this simple blog and the invitation to express her creativity to become the vehicle to share a story so vulnerable, so powerful, so raw and real. She says, “God has been prompting me to write my story in some capacity for years, and I’ve never had the courage to do it before. If someone can be reached, changed, moved to obey and, God willing, to forgive, then my sharing will be worth it.” Friends, I pray you will read this story with sensitivity, and that you will be en-Couraged to forgive, to say YES to God in the hardest parts of life’s darkness, allowing Him to turn them to light.

Create Challenge #13: Karyn Bergenpage-banner-help-topic-forgiveness

The story I am about to share with you is a story of how I forgave someone when they weren’t asking for forgiveness. Sit with that for a second. Ponder what it would be like to truly forgive someone who doesn’t think what they did was wrong. How does a person get to the point of forgiving another when the forgiveness isn’t being sought after? The answer to that question in one word is obedience.

My purpose in sharing my story is so I can reveal to you what was created through my obedience To God’s prompting.

As a child I was sexually abused. The “by whom” doesn’t matter other than for you to understand that this isn’t a person I could rid from my life with ease. He was and still is intertwined whether I liked it or not. The abuse went on from the time I was about 5 or 6 years old to 12 years old. It was ongoing and consistent. It was normal until the day I figured out that it wasn’t everyone’s normal. That was the day it stopped. That was the day I never spoke of or thought of it again until I was a freshman in college.

To this day, as a 43-year-old woman, when I allow myself to look back it is often those memories that come to the forefront of my mind first. The abuse is ingrained in me. I live with the memories of it. Over the top of the memories, like an umbrella shielding me from a heavy rainstorm, is the knowledge that Christ is with me and if I remain obedient to Him He will lead me through my days.

When I was 34 years old I confronted my abuser. It was the first time we had ever spoken of what happened. I had convinced myself that a similar type of abuse must have happened to him otherwise why would he have done it to me? I was desperate for justification, I suppose. I needed to find a reason so it would make some sense.

It turned out that he hadn’t suffered as I had. It also turned out that he “didn’t think it was that big of a deal.” I marched on with the knowledge that he simply chose to abuse me and felt no remorse. To me, that was the worst case scenario of a truly horrible situation.

Fast forward. I was now nearly 40 years old. I received a text message from my abuser. He said he was suffering from residual effects of too many years of alcohol and drug abuse.

“Could you take me to the doctor because I don’t think I can drive myself?”

Here I was being asked to help the person who did nothing but hurt me. Why am I being put in this situation? As the text progressed into a phone conversation, I heard God whisper to me, “Just one time. Help him just one time.” The whisper was so gentle, yet so clear. It was a whisper I had heard a handful of other times in my life and had never regretted being obedient to the direction. I heard myself say to my abuser, “Yes, I will help. One time.”

I arrived to a gravely ill person who had been consuming nothing but handle-sized bottles of vodka for three weeks straight. His whites of his eyes and his skin were yellow. His apartment was unmentionable. I felt badly for him. His choices had led him to such darkness. My choice at this point, in this situation, was to remain obedient “just one time.”

My choice to remain obedient to God’s prompting led me to a place where I saw a broken person rather than my abuser. He could no longer hurt me. In fact, this time, I was in charge. This time, I was calling the shots. In all honesty, my abuser is darn lucky God was with me. I am human after all and I commit sins and act upon my free will. If it had been up to me I wouldn’t have helped him….not once, not ever. I point this out so you fully understand that what was created was not from me.

I chose to remain obedient “just one time” and as a result of that choice, I saw a person who wasn’t scary anymore. My heart broke open for him. My heart wished for good things to happen in his life. My heart felt towards him as I would anyone else who I held close and, dare I say, love. I was in awe of the healing that God brought to me as a result of the obedience. I forgave an atrocity when forgiveness wasn’t being sought after. I was freed from the confines of my own thoughts and memories.

To this very day, the forgiveness remains. He is no longer my abuser. He is a person whom I can say I care very much about. He is someone we see from time to time….not too often and never will my children be alone with him. However, the decision to protect my children isn’t fueled by resentment and fear. It’s simply smart parenting. Through obedience, forgiveness was created. God breathed. God’s will. My healing.

2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Matthew 6:14
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

Karyn also recommends this song:

 

KBergen

Karyn is a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, and believer in Jesus Christ. She resides in Alamo, California, with her husband and three kids. After many years spent as a stay-at-home-mom, Karyn now works as a teacher’s aid and substitute teacher at her children’s school, Alamo Elementary. She’s an avid runner who feels closest to God when her feet are hitting the pavement.

Thankful Thursday – Hufflepuff & Blooms

So uncharacteristic, I began running about six weeks ago.

Once-twice a week became two-three times a week became daily. Huh, I’m running! Not a runner, but running no less.

About four weeks in I felt a funny coldness in my throat. Then a cough developed, non-productive, just annoying. Then I couldn’t breath deeply – butterflies fluttered in my chest. Then my sweet Guy felt hesitant to hike with me because: what would he do if I can’t breath?

I did some internet research. The three main triggers for asthma:
* change in exercise
* change of weather
* air quality (pollution/allergies)

And the two big questions: any family history of asthma or allergies? Why, yes. Both in my own body: asthma as a baby, allergies currently.

And so, my attempt to get healthier than I’ve been in a long time kicked me in the rear. I now have asthma, and just picked up my first-ever inhaler. It may not be forever, but it is for now.

Bummer. And yet…

I am grateful for advances in science and health, scientists and doctors who know how to diagnose and treat various health issues.

I am grateful for hope that the inhaler will help.inhaler

I am grateful for all the crazy-beautiful blooms that release pollens that cause allergies, because Beauty.white rose white roses

I hope to always be on the receiving end of the rainbows God throws out, whether or not they appear vibrant, colorful, and delicious.rainbows

a place of refuge

For several of the Create Challenge guest writers who have posted so far, this has been their first experience with blogging. Which can be intimidating for anyone. Sheesh, I well know that writing can be intimidating for a lot of folks! However, most also speak English as their first language, which is not the case for Michelle and Jae. So I am all the more pleased that they said yes to this adventure in creativity. Michelle’s essay about her art and how faith has changed her and the way she expresses her humanity moves me. And I love the poetic image she creates, that God wears us as a precious stone in His earring, and that we also wear God. Last week we heard from Jae Moon Lee; this week we hear from his wife, Michelle Prinz.

Create Challenge #12: Michelle PrinzMPrinz intotheself

Never before have I pursued or been given the chance as here to express thoughts about work I created. Honestly it has been quite a journey for me to come up with anything that seemed to be relevant, first to me and then to others, the latter always a consideration but I have struggled to find a bridge to meet eye-to-eye with my surrounding world. Finding the confidence to present my creations, and anticipating judgment one way or another, has been a challenge.

I am a person who digests impressions of the immediate world by adding some of my own fantastical ideas so as to make sense of the different forces approaching me every day.

Looking at old work I have done, I notice an urgency to study faces and their expressions. Frankly their looks seem to me now quite blank and almost void of emotion while their soul struggles to make sense of life. Back then I might have seen them as retreating to their own sanctuary, away from daily toil and mindless chores. They have their eyes closed, dazed or just trying to dream of an ideal life, an escape from routine. In search of answers to the timeless question: what is my purpose here on earth and who in the end will benefit or reap a reward?MPrinz inspiration

Putting down the first stroke on a clean sheet void feels daunting to me. An urge to stain or wear it down a bit overcomes me as if to give it a previous life, a place where stories have been told.

In my later years I seem to search more for my own history and what it means now in the context of His story. I am so grateful that, a few years ago, my dear husband guided me to a place of refuge that fosters love through all ages and offers so many ways to get to know Jesus and His Father. Only now am I feeling renewed, believing in the good in human kind.MPrinz darkage

Not to falter and regress, not to give up on myself, not to stumble and feel worthless but recognizing that my endeavors are not in vain, by mindfully carrying your protective armor. Thank You for the gifts You have given me long ago to survive well on this earth. Though many of them remain unopened, I will keep looking at new disciplines to be steadily influenced by your splendid creation.

Slowly I am opening my eyes to see the new path ahead of my life and how to perceive and interact with my fellow humans. I did not use to care too much how others thought of me. I was a happy camper just jumping on my bike to roam your world. A place to hide and bask in, away from humankind and its sinister abilities, all along feeling but not knowing You.

Not ever giving up on guiding me at all times, I now see You with my eyes wide open.

MPrinz eyesofgod

What does life mean to me?
Going through with all my senses, breathing, living, guarding my well-being.
Choice making at a continual tempo!

You are the open EYE of this universe we live in,
ever seeing, protecting,  giving us light to see the good in all things and our purpose here on earth.

I see You as wearing us like this minuscule and preciously-made stone, hanging as a pendant from Your earring.

We are always with you, knowing it or not,
choosing to exist by our free will and own terms.
Choosing to use You as the occasional ‘sidekick’
though we breathe You day and night.

Being there in our sub-minds for the final choice and only option to salvation.

We all, at some point, want to be chosen and picked up. We have You but forgotten, though you are dwelling with us like a pendant on our earring,
our willful natures against the only choice to live.

We breathe You night and day.

MPrinz

Michelle Prinz is a native of Munich and has lived in the SF Bay Area since the early 80s. After her education in Art & Design, she also gained experience in Western Bookbinding and the Restoration of Paintings before earning a BFA in Illustration.

She has worked on logos, posters, spot illustrations and was honored to create images for a documentary about The Untold Story of Black New Orleans.

Express

I’ve been reading Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

I like it. Just over half-way through, I find it inspirational, insightful, and encouraging. She writes in short anecdotes that make you want to keep reading, except that at the end of each one I feel the need to put the book down and create.

Which is exactly what I did this afternoon. I read these words–

Perhaps creativity’s greatest mercy is this: By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us temporarily from the dreadful burden of being who we are. Best of all, at the end of your creative adventure, you have a souvenir—something that you made, something to remind you forever of your brief but transformative encounter with inspiration (172).

–and decided I needed to be absorbed, to adventure, and to hold something that I made.

I pulled out my watercolors and paper, a ruler, pencil, and markers. I sketched a circle and erased it. I reconsidered. I tried again, this time with no circle.

I recalled a delightful summer morning painting with my kids. We splattered watercolor paint in bright streaks and splashes across paper, sheet after sheet. We laughed and giggled and lost ourselves in the joy. Later I cut the paper into little squares, then cut petals, and then poked holes into which I wound chenille stems. We made a bouquet of flowers for my grandma, their great-grandma, flowers that would eventually fade, yes, but would not wilt with age. She loved them, and I found them in her apartment years later, after she herself had wilted.

But this time I couldn’t get the paint to cooperate. No big swaths of vivid color, but instead tiny dots. I told Fear and Frustration to get lost, and I kept at it. I prayed. I felt eager to play, to recapture the joy of that memory. Joy played Hide-and-Seek, and I kept playing.

When the paint dried I added the letters, and then I held my souvenir. It is not what I had envisioned. It is not what I set out to create. It is, in truth, a little bit of a hot mess.

And I love it. Who cares what it looks like, really? I made it. It’s an expression of me, The Whole Point! I can be bright, wide ribbons of color, and I can be subtle pin-prick polka dots. I can be precise and smeared. I can be a beautiful hot mess.

But so long as I have breath, I desire to create.express

Thankful Thursday – Burstin’ Blooms

SO much for which to be thankful!

* A restful spring break. * 270+ church friends built 12 homes and one classroom in Mexico. * Teen stayed safe and had (occasionally ridiculous) fun playing rugby in Italy. * Great worship experiences over the last three weeks. * Tween has The Best Trumpet Teacher who makes loving music easy and joyful. * Books and more books. * Speaking to our Moms’ group today (100+ women). * And now I have a full weekend ahead.

* And spring. I just can’t get enough of all this new life!blooms 1 blooms 2 blooms 3 blooms 4 blooms 5 blooms 6 blooms 8blooms 7

 

This last one: The star caught my eye and sent me running for my camera. But now that I see the picture, the bud’s face cracks me up!

Scenes Jesus Walked Through

I met Jae Moon Lee and his lovely wife, Michelle Prinz, when they became members at our church a few years back. Both speak English as their second language, and both actively work in The Arts. To my English-speaking California-born self, they seem to ooze Creative Spirit – and they do! Today you’ll hear from Jae; next week, Michelle.

Create Challenge #11: Jae Moon Lee

Creative activity to me means painting.JML mars

I often struggle when I enter the painting room. Coming up with something new can be a major task. Artists are often painfully stuck in their own style.JML moon

Out of the blue I imagine a scene from the desert being scorched by the everlasting sun. An isolated land stripped to its bare bones. A scene Jesus walked through.JML blue

He must have felt very lonely at times. So saddened by sinners like us and being tested by evil. JML solo

This kind of thinking gives me inspiration.JML yellow

I try to connect this random imagination of the landscape in my painting. I am trying to create my own recipe by hopefully adding just the right amount of salt.

 

JMLJae Lee is a native of Seoul and has made the Bay Area his home for the last 30+ years. Having earned a BFA in Painting and Printmaking, Jae has made a living in the Film, TV, and Theater industry as a Scenic Painter.

He is working on a series of paintings for a show soon.