cultivate (kuhl - tuh - veyt)
v. 1) develop 2) nurture

graft (grahft)
n. 1) transplant 2) bud 3) union

Friday, August 15, 2014

Foamy Dough, Writing, and a Weird Confession

I'm lacking in the "pictures of dough" department, 
but it'll all make sense (ish) if you're not too afraid to keep reading.
And, yes, that is pizza dough with a marinara "T C" in a heart with an arrow 
through it. 

Us as newlyweds was adorably geeky.

There's something you should know about me. It's something I rarely stop to ponder, but this week it has confronted me with boldness. It is only because I believe in authenticity, and also believe you, dear readers, to be grace-filled, that I risk to share.

I've never passed along Amish friendship bread starter.

And while I'm at it, any "chain" in which I am required to be an active participant is doomed. Recipe chains? No clue. Postcard swaps? Forget it. Forwarding that chain e-mail we all got in 1993?* Deleted. The only "chain" I managed to pass along was the little country phone prayer chain from my childhood. And that was out of absolute fear that if I didn't man up and call the next person on the list, that some poor soul would be prematurely struck with death, and it would be all my fault for not notifying Jane and Peggy that so-and-so had twisted their ankle.

My hesitancy is two-pronged: A) I don't want to be the receiver, because of ALL THE RESPONSIBILITY. These things are typically time-sensitive, which means that awkwardly passing something along, say, five months later (all the while acting punctual and breezy about it) is lame. Causing the entire shebang to pile up is lame. And handing moldy starter dough to someone is...lame...and also kinda creepy. B) I don't want to pick out my victims recipients. I feel like they see me coming and just know. I survived a short stint as a direct sales consultant. I recognize the look that says, "Oh goody. Here comes Cynthia to schmooze her way into my pocketbook." It looks identical to the "Oh goody. Here comes Cynthia with bags of foamy dough goo."

I don't need that kind of pressure, man.

So, you can imagine my trepidation when a dear friend** approached me about participating in a blog hop. I didn't even know what it was, but I was humbled to be included, and also, I needed a jump start. Answering four simple questions seemed easy enough. And now I actually have to do it. Preferably before the starter dough turns rancid.

1) What am I working on/writing?

This blog post. Duh. (This is why I can't be trusted with this kind of thing)
Beyond this here post, I have been refining a children's book manuscript while my mom does the hard part: Illustrating. I've also begun working on a full-length historical fiction.***

2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

I'm pretty sure it doesn't.
Is "sarcastic, Jesus-lovin', homeschooling, orphan crisis-addressing, slightly crunchy mama to a large family" even a genre? 'Cause if it is? NAILED IT!

3) Why do I write what I do?

Because it's cheaper than counseling and socially acceptable to partake in before 5 o'clock. 
I write the things that God emblazons upon my mind and ignites in my soul. I fail more often than I succeed, and my words are often inadequate and clumsy. BUT they are His words, for His glory and good purpose. If he can use con artists and hookers, then he can use the awkward words of a simple stay-at-home mom who's just trying to save a few bucks on therapy.

4) How does my writing process work?

And here's where ya'll skip straight over a counselor and sign me up for my very own comfy cell.
I talk through my writing concepts. Out loud. Not to someone. Just out loud. Oh, there are, of course, people around. They are mostly under four feet tall and some of them have banana smoosh in their hair. And sometimes when I'm especially deep in conversation (ahem), I seek solitude, which lasts until someone sticks their fingers under the bathroom door. I don't even know why these short people ask to whom I am speaking. Shouldn't they know how this works by now? Maybe a few counseling sessions wouldn't hurt...

Well whew! That wasn't so tough. There's only one problem: Big, Scary Phase Two. 

Imagine if we all gathered in a happy little room, and you spied me peeking around the door frame to verify that the coast is clear. Except you, ya' wily stinker, are watching me while pretending to read a text. You see me sneaking to a side table where I unload a box. I've even pre-taped a note to the front of the box. As soon as I beat a hasty retreat and try to act casual with a group of ladies, you saunter over to the box. Inside are bags of bubbly dough and the note reads:
Amish Friendship Bread Starter. Please take one to assuage my guilt. Or not. Whatever.
Sincerely,
Ball Dropper
So here's the tricky part: I haven't chosen bloggers to whom to pass the baton. I. Just. Can't. And apparently there's no tag backs. So, here's my box of dough. Who's going to take some home? 


Eyeing My Blogging Friends,
Cynthia



*You know. The one where the guy had a vivid and terrifying dream that his friend was going to hell only to find out after waking up that his friend had tragically died in a car accident THAT VERY NIGHT. Don't wait to tell your friends about Jesus, ya'll.
**Seriously. Skip the rest of this blog post and go read her stuff. You won't regret it. She writes like me only she's actually good at it, she affirms the sacredness of coffee and chocolate, and is practically related to me. It's only a matter of time before our hunting and pecking around Ancestry.com proves we're long lost sisters.
***Hint: My research for this book has led me to communication with the director of the Museum of Menstruation. Yes. That's a thing. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Where Wholeness Should Have Been

As I write this, there are forty-one minutes left of Mother's Day, 2014. 

This morning I awoke to the familiar sounds of a wire whisk scraping the sides of a scarred mixing bowl. 

And I thought of her.

With uncharacteristic solemnity, two girls offered dutiful "Happy Mother's Day" while dumping a fresh-from-the-griddle pancake in my hand. And we laughed.

I wondered if she had laughed today.

A certain baby of the family insisted the pancake was hers. I fed her only a nibble, despite her protests. A corner of my heart squeezed at the thought of sustaining life with such a meager nibble.

She had tried. She had desperately clung to fading hope. 

Lastly, one more entered the room, flinging herself on the bed for a restless snuggle. A little prompting..."Happy Mother's Day". She craned her neck to see my face. Like most people, I am drawn to her deep, liquid eyes.


And I see her look of defeat as pools threaten to betray her glossy resolve. 

Seventeen minutes, and ticking...

Just a day earlier, I sucked a breath into constricted lungs as I heard the words "You'll always be my mama. I'm so glad you adopted me." 

We share the lump in my throat, she and I.
"Children born to another woman call me Mom. The depth of that tragedy and magnitude of that privilege are not lost on me." ~ Joy Landers
The clock blinks 12:01, and just like that The Day is done. She and I have checked another day off the calendar. Though I may never again see her this side of Heaven, I carry her with me every day. Oh, I don't keep her picture in my wallet. I keep her heart tucked into mine. How? I hold her despite having the wrong arms. I double-check her toothbrushing job. I slice her sandwich from corner to corner. I dive into books and icy cold swimming pools with her. I wince as she wobbles on raised training wheels, and dance when she keeps her balance. I scold when she hits, and I kiss when she hurts. 

And I look into haunting eyes, wishing that hope had bloomed into possibilities, and possibilities into reality, and reality into wholeness. 

Instead there is irreparable brokenness, of which our daughter is the shared fallout. Yes, I love her fiercely, but I wish my love was not necessary in the first place. I wish the woman who loved her first could continue to see her firsts; Her first school day, her first date, her first...everything. Instead, I will be the mama to celebrate those firsts. Those moments are not stolen, nor are they merely borrowed. They are shared in the most intimate, most anguished, and most cherished way possible. And I am grateful. 

Her arms were, at the same time, perfect and inadequate and beautiful. Her image is too sacred to parade across the screen of some blog. Her face, too precious to squander on blog hits. This is the most you'll ever see of this strong woman:

Final Embrace

And it is enough.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Did That Really Just Happen? (Home Edition)

Because I believe in transparency...

Because truth edifies...

Because there is power in stories...

But mostly because you'll feel better about yourself...

Did That Really Just Happen? (Home Edition)*

For my domestically-minded readers, may I suggest you take this post with a stiff drink, because you're about to lose all faith in my housery abilities.

1. When the Holy Spirit suggests you invite dear friends over, may I suggest you ask Him to remind you that your friend is a vegetarian, and also that chicken enchiladas are not a vegetarian meal? This close to having to serve up PB&J.

2. If you find yourself in a position where you will be instructing 20 girls in the mysterious ways of Origami cups, practice much. Measure twice, fold once. Unless you enjoy having 40 eyeballs glued to you while you attempt to decipher 6-step instructions that are clearly meant for people who have a working knowledge of pictures and folding things. BECAUSE WE ALL KNOW HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO FOLD PAPER. This is not rocket science, I assure you. Just. Cups.

3. If you are dressing for a casual family event where a certain one year old is going to be climbing all over you for 5 hours, wear a turtleneck. This will eliminate any concerns you may have that your adorable baby will pull your stretchy top until the neckline meets your waistline. It only takes a second, precious readers, to scar your father-in-law.**

4. During remodeling and moving, if you happen to have a screwdriver handy, it will make a poor excuse for a pintail comb. You will use it anyway, because SMOOTH PARTS BE HANGED.


Looking for more blunders? Remodeling has afforded us many a ridiculous moment, which will henceforth be referred to as "blogging fodder". Additional (ahem) transparency is forthcoming. You're welcome. 

Smile,
Cynthia


*If you're looking for the Original and Parenting Edition, look no further.
**Who may (or may not) avoid sitting facing you for the remainder of the day. It could be coincidence. Yeah, it's probably just coincidence.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mommy (rose-tinted) Goggles

If you've been anywhere online this past week, you've probably seen the link for a video by The Skit Guys. Mom Goggles has gone viral on social media, as do most videos extolling the virtues of mothers everywhere. If you haven't seen the video clip (SPOILER ALERT), the helpless dads rush order Mom Goggles so as to survive a weekend with the kids while the moms take a much needed weekend getaway. These Mom Goggles supposedly reveal the secrets of motherhood, which include cheering on mediocre art projects, being overprotective, fearlessly changing the most putrid of diapers and expertly folding fitted sheets.


I score one out of four.


I don't pour on the compliments for scribbly drawings, I gag when I change especially pungent diapers, and linens go directly back on the beds after laundry day week specifically so that I don't have to fold those possessed fitted sheets.* So basically, I'm guilty of being a tad overprotective. Yay me!


This is where, just like Grandma's giblet gravy, the plot thickens. A lump-in-your-throat phone conversation brings it all the surface. It goes something like this "Thank you, thank you, thank you. How would we ever survive without you? We're all so undeserving of you. Crap the kids are destroying things again."


Well, you get the gist of it.


To their credit, The Skit Guys have produced some top-notch videos for fathers too. They have directly addressed the importance of a dad's role in family life, and even touched on sentimental and emotional moments for fathers (not exactly the social norm). And yet, in my admittedly limited perusal of their father videos, I didn't find a single instance where the woman expressed true dependence upon her husband, and apologized for not telling him enough how much she respects him and appreciates all that he does. I'd love to be proved wrong on this one, because The Skit Guys are doing important work and casting a broad net within mainstream evangelical churches. I'm just not sure that men need more reminders to lead their families, work hard, pray more, take the lead, sacrifice, oh and be a leader!


To summarize, inspirational videos to dads issue a call to rise to a new standard, whereas inspirational videos to moms issue a call to dads to rise to a new standard. I've already hashed out my feelings on The Battle of the Sexes (part one and part two), so I won't bore you with a rehashing. Suffice to say that with an over-inflated view of my role, I would do well to see a few videos reminding me that I'm not "all that" in the home. That I am fortunate to stay at home and should be thankful for a hard-working husband who makes that possible. That I need to be vocalizing my respect and appreciation. It's not wrong to call women out on our uppity attitudes; It's wrong not to.


For several years, the Social Opinion of Stay-At-Home Mothers pendulum swung toward belittlement and disregard (I've whined about my own experience with this). We've sailed right past the place of balance, and are camped out at the other extreme. Now motherhood is being heralded as the World's Toughest Job, complete with no breaks, no life, no food...basically prison life in Sing Sing in the 1800's would be preferable to the back-breaking work of staying at home with children.


In reality, there are hundreds of jobs that would be tougher for me to manage. Aside from occupations which are outside the realm of my physical capabilities, there are scores of jobs that I wouldn't last one day on the payroll.


Nevertheless...


Lest you think I take my parental role lightly...There is absolutely no other job that can slice me to my very soul. There is no other job where I feel my failure as acutely. There is no other job where the stakes are so high it leaves me on my knees, in His word, seeking counsel, and scouring resources. In that sense, yes, my job is incredibly challenging. However, this burden weighs just as heavily on working moms, and (GASP) dads too. True, dads may not ugly cry over daddy guilt or scroll through parenting blogs for creative discipline methods, but their burden is just as real, just as fierce, and just as deep.


So why, oh why, do we continue to tell mothers, "You are the pinnacle of all society. We salute you." and we tell dads, "Stop sucking. Oh, and lead your families, because it’s biblical." Perhaps it's time to stop swinging wildly from the motherhood pendulums and shift some of our focus onto the Social Opinion of Fathers pendulum.


Can we band together to begin the momentum?


Ordering Daddy Goggles,


Cynthia




*...which DO NOT fold flat "like a charm" so just WHATEVER Pinterest.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Yelling At Pregnant Women (and other such nonsense)

You know those moments that feel surreal, as though you're watching it in Jello time? Things like car wrecks, or watching your favorite coffee mug falling to the floor, subsequently smashing into a bazillion shards.* Or seeing grown men throwing temper tantrums on the playground. Yeah that.

Recently, a group of us moms invaded a nearby park. Now, I realize some of you just got a fresh dusting of snow (whatever that is), but we're a month away from flaming hot monkey bars, and only two months away from having our skin melt off if we remain outside for more than 1.3 seconds, so we're frolicking while we still can. Bless it. Anyway, the park. The moms. The scores of kids. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I just assume that parks are a prime location for kids to be kids, and with that comes the typical kerfuffle between a couple munchkins, who are reveling in their barely-sanctified little souls. We've all seen it transpire, right? Joey threw sand directly in Susie's eyeballs. Katie was hogging the swing. Beth pulled Zachary down the slide. Blah, blah, blah. Then follows the Standard Parenting Protocol. Apologies are issued, kids are redirected, boo-boos are kissed, and so on and so forth. I'm not positive, but I think archaeologists have discovered Neanderthal cave drawings depicting these exact scenarios, because when it comes to kids, there is absolutely nothing new under the sun.

Enters Tantrum Man. 

There's nothing quite as sadly amusing and disconcerting as witnessing grow-ups indulge in a class-act conniption that rivals the toddlers at said park. 

After exhausting his cache of insults directed at my friend (who is apparently a no-good excuse for a mother. I did not know this!) and her son (who is apparently on the fast track for prison. You know, after Kindergarten and stuff), he decided her friends must be part of the problem. Apparently, by association, we were enabling her non-motheringness, and we must, therefore, also be welfare-abusing, soap opera addicted, lousy mothers. This was all news to me. My friend handled his tirade with more grace than I could have mustered, had I been in her shoes. After he huffed across the sand, I wanted so desperately to stalk over to him and give him a solid piece of my mind. After all, he had assessed my friend and arrived at his ridiculous conclusion all in the span of a few minutes. Impressive superpower. I wanted to tell him of her surprise pregnancy and how she endures severe migraines (so severe that surgery is in her future to address the issue). I wanted to make him feel guilty for making snap judgments, and insulting her so deeply**. 

And that's when I heard it.

Speak words of kindness.

Ugh. Of all the times for God to play that card. I double-checked my prepared speech. Nope. No words that passed for kindness. Perhaps if I smiled through gritted teeth, it would appear kind and sorta, you know, trick him. 

Are you not passing swift judgment as well? Are you not judging the whole based on a mere five minutes too?

Fine.

"Sir, I don't know if you're just having a bad day, or what, but I hope the rest of your day goes well."

I wish I could tell you his entire countenance changed and that we had a little Come to Jesus moment,*** but we didn't. He saw an audience for the encore of his scintillating speech, and seized his fleeting opportunity. I walked away, lest I lose my salvation and have to go to Church Camp to find it again. Perhaps it made a difference to him. Perhaps not...

It's tremendously easy to retaliate by raising the drawbridge and hurling insults across the moat, especially if the entire village participates.**** It's much more difficult to open the city gate, and offer lodging to your enemy. However, if we spend less time judging and throwing temper tantrums, we may just discover new allies along the way. 

"If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone."Romans 12:18

Turns out, there's nothing new under the sun for anybody.



Paddling Across The Moat,

Cynthia




*Which you will still find remains of six months later.
**Despite the fact that I'm pretty confident she could have taken him. Never underestimate the power of a scrappy pregnant woman. 
***Complete with The Circle of Trust and six verses of Kumbaya.
****Please tell me SOMEONE is reciting Monty Python. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Is Our Vision Dimming?


I find, in my (ahem) young-ish age, that certain things are best viewed over the top of my glasses. Things like needle and thread, words...faces. Basically anything within sixteen inches of my peepers. And also, what's with those tiny pictures on my phone??? I think I'm ready to sit on my front porch and yell at kids to slow down as they careen along the road. 

Pass the Ensure and prune juice.

I may be SLOWLY approaching the need for reading glasses, but something was brought into sharp focus today. In case you aren't stalking the newsstand, World Vision has loosened their employment requirements. They will now be accepting applications from the gay community (provided they still adhere to World Vision's statement of faith and are in a legally recognized marriage-no cohabitating allowed.). 

And starving children in Africa withdrew their applications for sponsorship. "We'll take our chances, thankyouverymuch."* Oh wait. Maybe it was the other way around. Yes. Yes, I think it was. The sponsors are withdrawing their sponsorship. Way to stick it to World Vision.

On the one hand I get it. It's a slippery slope (which W.V. denies). However, I have searched all over their website and, cannot for the life of me, find anything in their mission that says "Our goal is to combat poverty and starvation, insofar as our hiring does not cause conflict with our denomination affiliates and our child sponsors." Yeah, I just don't see it. Their mission is crystal clear:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.
Perhaps my eyes are playing tricks on me, but to withdraw financial support for the "widow and orphan" in order to teach W.V. a lesson looks a little white-wash tomb-y and plank-in-the-eye-ish. I've already disclosed the level of performance of my eyeballs, so I'll let you be the judge. 

I leave you with one last thought:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.
Matthew 23:23
Now, that supplies me with 20/20 vision.


Washing Smudges Off My Lenses,

Cynthia


*Or at least I think that was the translation.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Mundane Grew Claws



When we shrug indifferently at the mundane, the result may be shocking.

I've previously shared how altogether bland my word for 2014 seemed at first glance. You can't convince me that you were jealous of me for plucking Relationships out of the Divine Word Of The Year hat.* I mean really, God. I think I'm ready for something more out there. Something with pizzazz. Something astonishing. Something that says (and this is just a suggestion) "Here is a woman who knows her stuff, has her act together, writes remarkably insightful blog posts, which leave me running to Jesus. And to top it all off, she is supremely humble."

Again, just a suggestion for the Holy Triune Word Review Board.

And then, if you will recall, I shared how God basically said, "Shu-up, and watch me work, dimwit." (my paraphrase).**

And work He did.

And something that, two months ago, seemed benign and dispassionate has now displayed its true colors as an untamed creature loosed in my life. This morphed from an indifferent housecat licking its butt to something absolutely otherworldly with razor-sharp claws, which slice easily and swiftly. This creature called Relationships is undernourished, that much is evident. There are obvious signs of neglect. I've barely begun to brush the mats out of its fur. I've tried to harness the thing, to no avail. This is clearly going to be a process

In January, I distinctly knew this was a year to press in with relationships. I shrugged at the mundane. This past week I have been reminded in no uncertain terms that relationships sometimes pack an unpleasant punch; A message, which essentially said, "I'm moving on. It's not me-it's you. You're part of the problem. And, also, I'm jealous of your hair."*** Slice. Okie dokie. I'll stop shrugging now.

It is part of human nature to desire to have the last word. Now, add ten degrees to that desire, and you'll understand how important it is to firstborns to have the last word. Got that answer in your head? Next step: Add another...ohhhh, pffff...ten...bazillion degrees to that number, and you have arrived where the only-borns hang out. We're all just running around, wild-eyed, shouting the last word to anyone who will listen. Onlies are convinced that the last word is almost as necessary as oxygen (of which we consume at an alarming rate due to our last word shouting).

Two times in the past week, I have not had an opportunity to squeeze in a satisfying last word; No opportunity to defend myself was presented. And I survived. Did you hear that, Onlies? I survived! Another snarl is brushed out of the fur. In one case, a simple message of "I love you" was passed on to a third party, and I have no idea if said message will arrive to the intended ears (much less be warmly accepted). But if that is my only defense and my only last words, are they not the greatest? What more could possibly be said?

Why in the world would I choose to share all of this? I assure you, it's not for your pity. If I have learned anything from these two encounters, it is that there are things so much greater than the enviable last word. There is a space filled with humility and submission. Knowing more could have been said to clarify one's position, but in the end recognizing that if a relationship hinges upon a single conversation, the last word is most likely of little value. Sometimes a silent prayer and a surrendered soul to the Relationship Maker is the best move.

Come to think of it, Relationships is exactly what I needed this year. Which makes it astonishing. Quite astonishing, indeed.


Reading Taming Your Otherworldly Creature for Dummies,
Cynthia




*Where exactly does God hang that hat?
**Which kinda sums up a lot of the Bible. The rest is essentially "Do what I said, dimwit."
***Anyone who has seen my head knows I made that last bit up. God did not grace me with enviable tresses, because He knew it would be an utter waste of luscious hair, as I pathetically possess zero styling skills. Zilch. Someone please come do my "petite" hair every morning, m'kay? I'll pay you handsomely in sarcastic comments.