May 31, 2006


First of all, a vent is in order: ARGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! I've been trying to post to this blog for a while now, but every time I've hit 'create new post', the session stalls. I've waited for upwards of 10 minutes for it to come back with no success. An email to blogger about the problem (because of course I could get other places in the blog; I was only excluded from making new posts) got me a generic form email in response - "We regret we're unable to respond personally to all requests for help; please visit these links for possible solutions to your problem!"

Never mind that I visited the FAQ's before I sent the email; it's simple courtesy to do that before screaming to support staff. I have family members who have done computer support work. It truly is as bad as Three Dead Trolls & a Baggie make it out to be.

After poking around and trying various combinations, I finally got to the new post editor. I better wrap this up - my internet session is sure to close on me as the web powers that be seek revenge for my outwitting their dastardly schemes.

Before Nathan was born, I had some fears about whether or not he'd enjoy learning. The prospect of having a child who didn't like reading seemed anathema maranatha to me. I have no such fears these days:

At the age of eight months, this child already enjoys a morning time of reading together - and turns the pages of his board books himself! Woo-hoo!

Spoken like a parent who has a long-standing addiction to reading. : )

May 11, 2006

A Toast to...

- My sister-in-law, for cleaning up her four-year-old son's offal from the bathroom floor (then scrubbing the floor, toilet and every other stationary surface in the bathroom with Clorox)

- My friend Heather, for attempting to paint all rooms in the new house despite having 4-yr-old and 8-month-old daughters Velcro-ed to her appendages

- My sister, for flying off to a conference <=10 hours after flying back home from the Midwest; may your new dresses and other purchases knock the socks off the other E3 attendees

- Me, for writing this in the same room as my youngest brother and his fiancee (Never before have I heard "My Swe-eet!" in such saccharine falsetto voices; our entire family ought to be getting hazard pay until their wedding - I am this-> <-close to ramming my fist down my throat. Fingers alone are insufficient.)

Of Golden Threads

"You're my anchor, my mainstay. You're... you're the sandbag for my hot air balloon."

"I'm your sandbag?"

"No, no, it's a good thing. Without your presence in my life, I might otherwise flit and be lost."

"Did you just say, 'flit and be lost'?"

"Are you making fun of me?"

"It just sounds like a derogatory comment you fling at someone: Oh, go flit and be lost already."

May 09, 2006

On Writing

Tonight I found this in an old journal entry; I usually need distance from my writing before I can appreciate anything about it. This is more than two years old, but tonight it helped me somehow. It helped me know there's something there... I don't know how long it will take before that "something" makes it on a printed page, but someday.

Philip (the main character in Somerset Maugham's book Of Human Bondage) is contemplating leaving behind his artistic life because he fears he’ll never be anything more than a second-rate painter. He has an intellectual appreciation for certain paintings and can parrot others’ critiques very well, but he doesn’t have a visceral, emotional response to a painting instinctively. He speaks to a colleague about it, and the colleague’s response is this:

"The artist gets a peculiar sensation from something he sees, and is impelled to express it and, he doesn’t know why, he can only express his feeling by lines and colours. It’s like a musician; he’ll read a line or two, and a certain combination of notes presents itself to him: he doesn’t know why such and such words call forth in him such and such notes; they just do. And I’ll tell you another reason why criticism is meaningless: a great painter forces the world to see nature as he sees it; but in the next generation another painter sees the world in another way, and then the public judges him not by himself but by his predecessor. So the Barbizon people taught our fathers to look at trees in a certain manner, and when Monet came along and painted differently, people said: But trees aren’t like that. It never struck them that trees are exactly how a painter chooses to see them. We paint from within outwards – if we force our vision on the world it calls us great painters; if we don’t it ignores us; but we are the same. We don’t attach any meaning to greatness or to smallness. What happens to our work afterwards is unimportant; we have got all we could out of it while we were doing it."
The first section gave me a feeling of recognition. Like a comment from John Howe (a Tolkien illustrator who was a designer for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy) said – seeing the work other designers did simply fired you with the desire to take a crack at it yourself. If I have a thought, the brass ring is finding the right words for it. The brass ring is always ephemeral. Sara Groves wrote in one of her songs that she could hear a distant singing, a song that she couldn’t write, but that it echoed in what she was always trying to say. It’s like trying to trap wind. I can create wind in an enclosure, but it’s a facsimile of wind. I can’t enclose the real thing. I can intuit a beautiful, glorious thought – and how bald and crude and clumsy it looks on paper. Merely trapping the idea in words removes some of its inspiration – and yet words are my most flexible and familiar medium. Simply reading the quote above fired me with the impulse to write this, to try to articulate my own feelings about it. Maugham didn’t include writers in the passage above, but he might as well have. An artist reaches for his paints, a musician for his instrument, and the writer for his vocabulary.

I had a brief thought somewhere in copying the passage that God equips every person to see his creation and himself in a slightly different way – God hasn’t changed, but the angle of viewing has. If I have prepared myself and surrendered completely, the gemstone of my life will refract his light in ways unseen before, to bring further beauty and glory to his name. Again, there’s a vast difference between the thrill in my heart at the realization and the pragmatism of words that communicate the realization. Someone may read this and also consider it an amazing thing, but my words only show me the gap between what I felt and what I wrote.

Maybe it’s someone else’s artistic pursuits that teach me; it’s the hope of finding just the right words someday that (tonight) drives me. I can’t look at the sun for more than a moment; I can stare at the sun’s reflected brilliance and be amazed by the moon for hours on end. I feel like I fall so short of communicating the right words for my thoughts or ideas, yet I can be amazed at others’ words or reflections of God. Others may be astounded at a phrasing, but it’s only after a period of time and distance that I could have enthusiasm fired again by my own writing – it’s more like reading someone else’s writing if enough time has passed. In the moment of writing, I’m still too aware of how far my effort is from my intent. Is writing, too, a sort of striving for holiness? Reaching for something, an ideal, that’s set apart?

I remember reading that the mere label The Fall showed the magnitude of it; Man Stubs Toe isn’t headline news. We don’t refer to it as The Trip – it’s The Fall. We choose self over God, then spend the rest of our lives trying to A-believe we’re better off, or B-try to reflect a perfect image from a fallen, fun-house mirror. Well, my writing represents The Gap to me. Comparing what I wrote to what I wanted in the moment is like holding a high school art project next to a Van Gogh. You may enjoy the art project on its own, but when you hold it by the masterpiece… what comparison could there possibly be? The project falls so far short as to be unworthy of notice.

I don't know how or why, but maybe something in these long lines of thought will help you, too.

May 06, 2006

Teaching Truth

I still remember one of my first times "teaching" someone something. A friend had problems understanding our math homework in 4th grade. Somewhere in my memory, I'm still there, lying on my stomach next to her on the living room shag carpet, poring over a math book. I can still hear her voice in my head, telling me I'm good at this, at explaining things.

Patience isn't one of my strong points, unless I'm trying to explain something to someone who truly wants to understand. Few things annoy me more than complaining that goes nowhere. I don't like complaints about something unless there are steps toward a solution - and I found a reason for it in (of all places) the Bible:
God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
~John 3:17, The Message
This, this is the true heart of teaching. Meeting someone where they are, coming alongside them with humility, identifying with them, sharing truth and insight, sharing a different perspective of the situation, then helping them see the next few steps of the path ahead.

Teachers should not be proud, contemptuous, scornful, harried, condescending, or self-righteous. They should acknowledge at all times that they can only teach what they themselves are willing to learn, that they don't have a corner on truth, that they can't see all truth the way God can - and they can only present the next few steps.

You cannot force someone to make a choice and expect that they will have learned the lesson. Learning anything requires surrender of self. The best teachers are those who are most surrendered to learning themselves.

We're all human. We all get tired. We all make mistakes - I'm keenly aware of my own. Despite frequent failures to uphold this standard myself, I feel strongly that any teacher who approaches a teaching opportunity without humility and a willingness to also learn from that opportunity will be held accountable to the last jot and tittle.

Don't ever treat teaching or being a teacher lightly. What happens in that moment is a supreme act of trust by the listener. Don't betray that trust because of pride.

May 02, 2006

Amazing Beauty

I have a little more than a hour to shower, wake/change/feed Nathan and prep all things Nathan-related for Trent before my sister-in-law picks me up ~6 for a girls' night out. We've agreed that once we've gotten away cleanly, we may never come back.

So... this post will be shorter than I orginally hoped (curse those internet blogs and the time sucked up by reading them).

Sunday my mom and I drove east to walk through an open house by the most amazing stained glass studio I've ever seen. They simply blow right past Tiffany lamps - even art glass auction houses classify their work as Tiffany-grade.

Bogenrief's Studio started in 1978 by a couple who worked at a meat-packing plant. During a labor strike, they decided to make a stained glass window for their Victorian house. They never got the window made, and they've never looked back. They're currently in an old high school building with different stages of the process set up in various former classrooms.

The window off to the right (known as the Jungle Window) is an example of their work. This piece is 9 1/2 feet wide by 11 feet tall. Yes, you read the dimensions right. Over 20,000 pieces of glass and 400+ shades of green, if I remember correctly. It hasn't been sold yet, but the price tag will be somewhere between a quarter and half a million dollars.

It's seeing art like this that just leave me speechless. I look and just want to halt my thoughts and actions... I just want to absorb.

Maybe someday we could save enough money to purchase one of their smaller blown glass art objects. I like the idea of the art in our home being by local artists or artists we know personally.

What I wouldn't give for our friend Matt McNary's MAP picture... (Never mind that it sold for somewhere in the neighborhood of $500) [sigh]