Monday, February 21, 2011

Links I Love

How to Be a More Patient Mom in Just 24 Hours @ Inspired to Action


Expert Advice: Protect Your Uncircumcised Son @ Mothering

Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas @ Pioneer Woman

That's all for today!  Today I start my 12 weeks of training for my Super Hero Half Marathon!  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Garden dreaming.


So while our garden outside looks like this, I can't help but dream of spring planting and garden plans.  I started to tell you all about our garden back in June and again in June, but we never got past the point in the story where our garden looked like this.


I figured this might be a good chance as I am dreaming of this year's garden, to show you how last year's garden actually ended up! 

Here was our final structure before planting.  


We did a strange and unscientific combination of square foot gardening, and well, not square-foot gardening.  We planted some of the seedlings we'd grown as well as some starter plants we bought.
 

And these beams that I expressed some concern about in the build process were exactly as much trouble as I expected.  Let's just say my head and these beams are very well acquainted.


 But we did okay.  The plants grew and grew and by September, the garden looked like this.  We succeeded in some ways but not in others.  We ended up with some mildew on our zucchini plants that causes us to cut them back almost completely mid-season.  We had a good amount of green beans, lots of lettuce, a ridiculous number of white eggplant, and lots and lots of peppers among our harvest.  We were very happy with our first year at this site.


But all season long, the bunnies were found staring longingly but no critters found their way inside!  Success!!!  It's a good thing considering the ridiculous amount of work it took to dig the 12" deep and 12" wide trench surrounding the gardening to sink the fence underground.  Did I mention our ground is really really rocky

So now, I sit with my garden under the snow, dreaming of picking the fruits of my labor while feeling both excited and frightened by the labor ahead.  We're hoping to add some pots to the front and back porch while attempting to avoid the many critters. We'll be starting from seed again, although, we haven't started our preparations. Do you garden?  Do you start from seeds?  Where do you buy your seeds from?  What are you planting this year?  
 
I'm off to drool over seed sites and keep dreaming of spring. Oh, and I signed up for our CSA this week. Warm weather is going to bring some good eating at this *that* mom's house!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day - Commercial Crap or Day of Love

As Valentine's Day came and went, I found it really interesting to hear people's approach to the holiday.  There was the grumbling about school parties with excessive food, goody bags, decorations and more!  I talked a little bit about my own issues with the school party thing in my Recycled Valentine's Post. My issues center mostly around the waste involved in school parties as well as the junk food, but I've heard parents go so far as to say that the parties are a total waste of time that should be spent on education. Meanwhile, I've heard other parents recoil telling me how they were out buying all the pieces for the goody bags (seriously, schools give goody bags for Valentine's Day?  Guess I don't have it so bad) and baking eighty pink heart cupcakes. These parents get frustrated with those of us that are total party-poopers, because they love this stuff.  Others find themselves somewhere between the two extremes.

In the same way, I saw the same continuum with couples. In my facebook feed, I saw all sorts of pictures of dozens of roses and boxes of candy. I read about people on fabulous dates or giving presents that cost more than we spend on groceries in a month. And, I heard those people who choose to decide this day is like any other, and I heard the complaints of the commercialization and cheesiness of it all.  There was the ever popular question, "Why do we need a special day to tell the people we love that we love them?" Of course we should do that every day.
The love of my life: Not many men will help a woman 32 weeks pregnant climb a tree just because she wanted.

I used to be really good at joining the cynical masses.  Combine it with my desire to reduce commercialism in my home and my family's carbon footprint, and I am fully set up to despise and ignore Valentine's Day.  I remember many years I protested the day dressing all in black as if mourning the commercial disaster of our culture.  But, it's that question that gets me. Why do we need a special day to tell people we love them? Should the people we love know it every day?  Absolutely.  Should we go on dates our significant other just because and shower them in romance (if that's what they want)?  Absolutely.  Should we go out of our way to make every day special, filled with love in big and small ways for the whole family?  Absolutely.  But do we?

Our circle of love.

I don't know about you, but for us life is crazy. We stumble through our days sometimes for weeks on end, barely getting dishes off the table before it's bedtime and often feeling five steps behind.  We work to simplify our lives and minimize this, but it still happens. We get wrapped up in our kids and don't give our marriage the attention it deserves. Or sometimes, we get wrapped up in our jobs or commitments and don't give our children the attention they deserve. My husband and I work to pull ourselves back from the chaos and re-focus on a regular basis. It's not easy, and for the first time in a long time, I can see Valentine's Day as one more opportunity to re-focus and pull myself back to what matters. I see Valentine's Day as a time to make my kids smile with heart shaped pancakes. Could I do it any other day? Yes. But I don't. Sometimes we just need the little push to do things that make our families feel how special they are.  If Valentine's Day is what it takes to remind my husband and I that we need and deserve a date night, then I'll take it!  If Valentine's Day is the thing that can pull us out of the chaos and remind us to tell each other why we love them, even if it's just that my husband loves how excited I am that I learned to make pie crust, I'll take it.



We didn't do anything too special for Valentine's Day. I did make heart shaped pancakes, and I bought the kids a Yoga DVD I'd be planning on buying them anyway. We did yoga together as a family before bed, and I watched a movie by myself because my husband fell asleep putting the kids to bed. But there were a few extra hugs, a few extra I-love-you, and a few extra reminders of how much we care for each other in our day. And I can't complain about that, ever.


I think this is true for so many of our holidays or traditions.  New Year's resolutions are a great example.  Many people scoff at them because of the commercialism and the populations overwhelming inability to keep those resolutions.  The cynics wear it like a badge of honor telling everyone that they don't make resolutions with the air of disgust aimed at those of us mindless followers who do. But, I can see New Year's as a time to evaluate how the last year went and set some great goals and focus for the year to come. It's a natural break in the timeline for me, and I love evaluating my goals and setting new ones. This all feels funny coming from me, someone who is as cynical and sarcastic as the best, or maybe it's the worst, of them. But I am beginning to feel like this whole hatred for the holidays is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  I ignore the commercialism of so much of everyday life so why not do the same with holidays, drawing from them what is useful to me, making fun memories with my kids and continually re-focusing myself and my family on what's important to us. 


I can complain about the commercialization of, well, everything ,and the ridiculous ways people distort holidays, but I refuse to throw the whole thing out.  Just because some people take something to extremes and lose focus of what I want to focus on doesn't mean that the holiday is stupid or worthless. Sure, maybe we shouldn't need a holiday to remind us to love each other, but I do, so instead of using it as a reason to embrace my bitter and jaded self, I'm taking the reminder and trying to soften my perspective just a little.

Now, on to St. Patrick's Day?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Links I Love

I Have a List @ (in)courage
I love this.  I want a work space like this.  Hmmm.. off to find a closet. Yea, I know the list is much more important.  And I could just frame that.  But the entire space is so inspiring.  In reality, I imagine it starts with the list and the rest will follow.


Not Enough Words for "Friend"  @ Mothering
After a fabulous day with college friends, a party with my some of my kid's school and playground friends, and a night out with my holistic moms friends all in one week this rings particularly true for me.


How to Avoid Chemicals in Flame Retardant Pajamas @ Green Your Way
My kids love footie pajamas, but I do not love knowing they are sleeping wrapped in chemicals.  I love these easy tips on how to clean up those pajamas as well as information as to why you would even want to bother!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mabel's Curbside Labels Winner

As a result of some wonky settings and me fighting with blogger, I'm counting entries that were placed in the comments of the blog giveaway post itself as well as those over on my Facebook page where that blog post was posted.  And because of this, I was so low tech as to write all the entries on paper and put them in a hat to choose! Ha.  Clearly, I'm new to this whole giveaway thing (and to be honest, I don't see it becoming a regular feature on the blog).



But, I'm delighted to announce that Marisa S. is the winner of the set of 2 Mabel's Curbside Labels!

Congratulations Marisa!  I'll be in touch to find out how you'd like them personalized!

Hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday.  I'll be back tomorrow with Links I Love!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Recyled Valentine's Day Cards & Why We Do Things the Hard Way

This all started with a big *that* mom moment.  I was bothered by the big bag of Valentines my son had brought home from his earthy 'green'-minded school last year.  I was just as bothered by the many candies attached to them.  I thought there had to be a different way to do this to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce the impact of sugary junk on my child's immune system.

  
A few weeks ago as I realized Valentine's Day was coming quickly, I sent the director at my son's Montessori school a message in the kindest, nicest way possible asking if we could re-consider the way we do Valentine's Day.  Maybe that would mean each child bringing in one (instead of 25) specially made Valentine and trading randomly so that every child would go home with one (instead of 25).  Or I don't know something else, anything else.  Or if we had to do 25 valentines, maybe we could encourage the use of recycled materials.  You can guess which one she went with.

I also asked if we could minimize the amount of candy that came in the form of Valentines in addition to the treats they ate at the school party.  What ensued was a short conversation where the Director explained that she was not dogmatic about sugary treats and believed they were the spice of life (oh dear, don't get me started) and I explained that while not being dogmatic, we do try to establish never, sometimes, and all-the-time foods and show our kids that you can celebrate and have special foods without them being things that very bad for us.

I also tried to explain that while a school celebrating may appear to be a once-in-a-while treat, the truth is when it comes holiday time, children are bombarded with everyone in their lives from schools, playgroups, families, and churches thinking they are giving them a once-in-a-while treat that actually turns into a week of no-holds-barred junk.  That week then leads to a week of agonizing detox for families, well at least this family.  I didn't even bother pointing out that while some children attend M-W-F and some attend T-TH, some attend every day of the week so they get that special party filled with once-in-a-while treats two days in a row.  She responded and said yes if you really want to go crazy, watch the documentary Food, Inc. and you'll never want to go to the grocery store again. Oy. Well, yes, maybe we've gone crazy, but I love that documentary, and we try to buy our food as local and as direct from the source as possible avoiding the grocery store when possible.

In the end, she was very receptive which I appreciate and she sent an email out encouraging parents to use recycled materials or print on recycled paper, and not include sugary treats with the actual Valentines but instead send snacks in for the party.  A compromise, I suppose.  But this is how I see this playing out.  Parents will get the letter, be annoyed that they are being expected to do so much work when they can just buy a box of commercial Valentines at the store, and will probably do that anyway.  Because, this is harder.  It's harder to spend the time I have cutting out cereal boxes and magazines and gluing things together.

Reducing our carbon footprint and the impact of toxic foods on our children is harder when we are fighting a system.  It's harder when we are making compromises.  It's hard to sit and make 25 recycled Valentines than it would be to rethink the whole celebration possibly having every child only make one which would be much more reasonable or deciding to celebrating in another way.  If try to stay in the box our culture is stuck in, it is always going to be harder to make counter-cultural decisions.  It's when we think outside of the box completely that these decisions become easier and the path becomes a lot less rocky.

Just like it's going to be very challenging for me to prepare Ben and send him into school for a day full of treats some of which he knows he can't and some he knows he can and yet he is bombarded with the teachers he respects offering him both, opposed to if we changed our perspective and only offered healthy things.  I understand with food it's not that easy because every family has different guidelines, but it doesn't mean we can't try.  Or maybe it's that we find ways to celebrate without food, making children with allergies a lot safer. I don't have the answers.  I just know that when you make the right thing to do harder, people aren't going to do it.  Sometimes we have to take five steps back and look at our approach, instead of taking one step back and changing one element of the situation.

 


But without further ado, here are our recycled Valentine's Day cards.  We cut out cardboard hearts from boxes out of our recycling bin from pasta, cereal, or crackers.  We cut out squares from magazines of solid color.  We glued the squares onto the hearts making a collage of color.  I found some small hearts or other Valentine's themed designs in the magazine as we were cutting and glued one of those to the center of each heart.  We then painted them with glitter glue.  And finally, Ben signed the back.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Goals: Spring Race Schedule

Back in November, I told you all of my goal to finish 2010 strong with the goal of a running a New Year's Day 5k in under 30 minutes. November and December got overwhelming and running (and health) took a back seat.  I didn't run that 5K.

Then, I announced on my personal facebook page that on February 12, I would be running a Cupid's Chase 5k, and that my goal was to finish in under 30 minutes.  That's not going to happen.



As life continues to overwhelm and schedules and weather make it near impossible to run regularly, I am re-evaluating.  I took some time without a race on the schedule to feel out what I wanted from my running and what I could work into my schedule.  I've discovered that with or without a race on the calendar, running in the winter is hard.  It's not actually so much about the cold or the weather, but it's just the place I find myself physically and emotionally.  I've discovered even with weeks and months of barely squeezing in one to two runs a week, I still want to run.  It's not a passing phase.  My body, mind, and soul remember the way running regularly made me feel, and I am committed to being there again.  I've discovered it's much harder to run once a week than it is to run three to four times a week.  When you are running once a week, every time is like starting over.  You know it's going to suck almost every time you go out.  You know your fitness is not improving the way you want, and it's just not nearly as fun.  The only way to solve this is to suck it up, get out there, and run more often getting over that hump.

With these things in mind, I have built a race schedule for the spring.  I can say I am more excited about the races toward the end of the spring than the ones in the beginning, but that's because I know by then I'll be feeling good.  I also know to feel that good I have to get through the beginning of this schedule.  There's a pretty big gap in April and I might throw something in there at the last minute, but for now this is what I plan on...

Saturday, March 12 St. Patrick's Day 5K Morristown, NJ
This is a 5K about the time I was looking for one.  It's about an hour from where I live.  And it's on a Saturday, which is important because so many races are on Sundays making it difficult for my church-going, church-working family.  My goal is to set a PR (personal record) on this, but maybe not under 30 minutes.  My best 5K time in my life was 32:41.  If I start running, I can set a PR. BUT, and you all are hearing me say this, I will run this race whether I am going to set a PR or not.  I will run this race whether I have trained or not.  I will not quit on this one.

Sunday, May 1 The Gettysburg North-South Marathon Relay Gettysburg, PA
Don't get too excited about that marathon word.  I'll be running one leg of a four part relay.  My leg will either be 7 or 7.3 miles.  I am excited about this because it will be in Gettysburg, a town I love having gone to both undergraduate and graduate school there.  I am excited about this because it will be my first time as any part of a marathon event.  And I am most excited about this because I'm running with my running inspiration who is a dear friend of mine and ran my first 10K with me, her husband, and another friend.


Sunday, May 15 Super Hero Half Marathon Morristown, NJ
Yes, you read that right.  A half marathon.  Wow.  It's still a bit of a shock to me. I'll be following the Beginner Training Plan on their site.  And I'm hoping that my aforementioned running inspiration will run this one with me as well.  I excited and terrified by this challenge.  But I think this is the perfect half for me as running makes me feel like just that, a super hero.  I can and will do this.  Remind me of that when I'm freaking out in another month or so.

Saturday, June 25 Run Amuck 5K Mud Run Harriman State Park, NY
And this is the one that I might be the most excited about.  Running through a state park through mud and obstacles in the middle of June?  Sounds amazing!  I can't wait.  I'll need to concentrate on some serious strength training to feel comfortable going into these obsacles so I am excited about that as well.  And once again, I am running with friends, at least one maybe more.

So there you have it.  My spring running schedule.  I have officially registered and paid for all the events listed.  There is no backing out now.  And to start off, I'll be going for a rather windy run later this afternoon!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mabel's Labels Giveaway!

I've mentioned before how I am a Mabel's Labels Buzz Mama and how I love Mabel's Labels!  Well I still love them.  I get compliments on our labels all the time!

One of the Mabel's Labels products I have thought was so cute and convenient from the beginning was these nifty curbside labels.


Since we moved a year and a half ago, we don't put our garbage or recyclables curbside in our garbage cans.  We take our recycling to the recycling center, and our garbage goes out in plain black trash bags.  But, I just can't bear the thought of someone else not getting these fabulous labels that Mabel's Labels have given to me!  So here goes my first ever *that* mom giveaway!

Here's how it's going to work.  The winner will receive 2 curbside Mabel's Label's! These labels are water resistant, peel and stick, and personalized with your address to identify your garbage cans.

You can receive entries for this giveaway by doing any or all of the following things:
* Check out Mabel's website  and come back here to leave a comment!
* Follow Mabel's on Twitter and leave a comment saying you did.
* Like Mabel's on Facebook and leave a comment saying you did.
* Like I am totally *that* mom on Facebook and leave a comment saying you did.
* Spread the word on this giveaway by posting on Facebook, Twitter, or somewhere else and leave a comment telling what you did.

The giveaway will close for entries on Saturday, February 12 at midnight.  The winner will be announced on Sunday.  I will then contact the winner for personalization details and shipping information.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Personalize!

First of all, this is a shameless plug.  I'm getting nothing in return for this.  I just want to share it with you because I am totally excited about it, and I think you should be too.

Meet Dawn.  Life Coach.  Performer.  Author.  And all-around awesome person.
I added that last part myself.  But it's true.
 I met Dawn a few years back through my work on the event team for a youth ministry organization.  That's where I've met a lot of the cool people in my life.  But, don't click away just yet if you're not a Christian or not into youth ministry, because that just happens to be where I met Dawn.  That's not a box you can put her in.  In fact, there isn't any box that you can put Dawn in.

One of my favorite things that Dawn does is writing a great blog.  You know the kind of blog that you get to excited to see there is new posts when you're going through your blog reader?  Yep, that kind.  Go ahead, give her a follow.  She even blogged about the time she stayed at my house just a month after we'd moved in and helped us get ready for a housewarming party for our entire congregation!

And she's a life coach.  Up until now, I haven't had the opportunity to work with her, although it's been on my list.  But now, Dawn has started some amazing new e-courses that are so accessible, I couldn't miss the opportunity..  So starting tomorrow, I will be a part of the Personalize e-course for 4 weeks.   Here's her description.

Personalize: Who are you created to be?
  • Week 1: Your past: What gifts and talents have always been true about you?
  • Week 2: Your present: What reality have you created for yourself?
  • Week 3: Your future: How can you leverage your talents to create the most good in your world?
  • Week 4: Your statement: What phrase embodies who you are and what you are best at doing?
 Not your cup of tea?  Check out the other course, Organize!  I'll be sure to keep you posted about the course and what I'm learning, but I really hope that some of you will join me, meet Dawn, and explore with us over the next four weeks about who you were created to be.  I can't wait!

Dawn can be found at her website, on twitter, and on facebook.

Links I Love

Here we go with some more links I love.


What's a GMO & Why You Should Care Guest Post by Robyn O'Brien of the Allergy Kids Foundation on the Wellness Bitch
"Well, if truth is any indicator, our kids don’t seem to be digesting these foreign proteins all too well. And while correlation is not causation, the stunning increases that we are seeing in the number of kids with food allergies (not to mention the big kids raising them) since the introduction of these foreign proteins into the food supply in 1994 should serve as a canary in the coalmine that maybe this new technology just might not be as safe as the scientists blasting these proteins into our food supply (and then patenting them for their novelty) had hoped it would be."

Everybody's Afraid of Something by Kitchen Stewardship
"As much as I claim that I’m all about the positive, taking baby steps, and doing what I can to be healthy without worrying so much about what’s “unhealthy,” well…I still get all tight in my chest when I realize that the yogurt at my in-laws’ house, where my kids will be this weekend, is sweetened with Splenda, they only have skim milk, and it’s a gamble as to whether they’ll have butter, ‘light’ butter (what IS that anyway??), standard margarine or the latest “heart healthy” tub blend."

Get Your Paint On by Free Spirit Knits
You have to watch the video.  I love it.


Our Parenting Philosophy in 10 Words or Less by Just West of Crunchy
"I really believe that “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”  That makes it a whole lot easier for me to decide how it’s acceptable to interact with people and parent my child.  Dr. Seuss said brilliantly, in less than ten words, what a lot of parenting books (and this blog post) take hundreds and thousands of words to say.  Amen, Mr. Geisel, amen."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Sermon: Camp and Congregations Partnering as Salt and Light


Matthew 5:13-20
13“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.


One of the things I learned my first summer as a camp counselor was that the really cool, expert counselors that everyone looked up to did NOT carry flashlights.  It was like a badge of honor.  They knew every path, every twig, every rock so well that they didn’t need anything to guide them at night.    Even though I was the newbie on staff, I had been a camper there for years and years.  I figured I knew the land as well as they did, and I knew I was at least as cool as they were.  So my flashlight got hidden away at the bottom of my duffle bag. 

It was all well and good until the night I had to leave campfire early with one of my campers.  Susannah was 33 years old and a part of our special needs program.  She was the sweetest woman on earth, and I loved spending my days with her.  We forgot Susannah’s flashlight at the campfire that night.  I almost went back to get it, but figured nah, I got this, who needs a flashlight?  Someone else can grab it.
Susannah wasn’t very steady on her feet, so she leaned on me for support, as we walked up from the campfire first dodging tree roots along the path and then maneuvering over the rocky trail.  We were doing okay with Susannah gripping my arm and me feeling for the path…. until we got far enough from campfire that it got really, really dark.  Suddenly, my confidence in my ability to maneuver in the darkness disappeared.  I was stumbling along while trying to hold Susannah up.  In trying to avoid the rougher terrain, I lost track of the path.  After a few near falls and a twisted ankle on my part, I gave up.  Susannah and I stopped and sat down in the middle of the woods.  And there, we waited for everyone to leave campfire and come with their flashlights to save us from the darkness. 

After that, I accepted flashlights as a sometimes necessary evil at camp.  In the dark, dark woods  without the light pollution we see in the cities, suburbs, or just living around the corner from some ski slopes,  campers are aware of their need for light.  Campers who would never be afraid of the dark anywhere else become obsessed with where their flashlights are, which is why we have so many flashlight rules at camp, like the all-important rule that flashlights must stay pointed at the ground!  

As a counselor, there was nothing more maddening than getting blinded by 13 flashlights shone in your face at one time as your campers tried to locate you when campfire ended….  But in the darkness of camp, we needed  the light of those flashlights to guide groups of campers unfamiliar with the terrain safely back to cabins.  

In our gospel today, we hear about light.  You are the light of the world.   A city built on a hill cannot be hid. Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.  

While camp is a place of great darkness, it is also a place of great light.  Jesus tells the disciples, you ARE the light of the world.  We don’t run from darkness, instead we shine our lights into the darkness, and not just with our flashlights.  At camp, as we leave the limits of our daily lives, we leave the expectations others place on us and the labels we’ve been given, and we enter into a safe and sacred community where we are reminded of our identity as Children of God.  Firm in that identity, we are able to explore, try new things, ask deep questions, make new friends and share our gifts and talents.  

I think this is one of the reasons that camps are such an ideal place for leadership and faith development, because at camp, no one has to be afraid to shine their lights.  More than 60 percent of seminary students say that outdoor ministries served a significant part in their decision to attend seminary.  I know it did for Pastor. Camp is among the most formative pieces in the faith development of young people.  At camp, youth are set out into the goodness of creation for a week of independence, friendship building, campfires, and worship.  They paddle canoes, do arts and crafts, and try their hand at the climbing wall or the high ropes course.  And they return home more connected to creation and to God who created it all.  They return home citing improvements in confidence, in faith, in the ability to stand up and be a leader.  And it’s all because the community at camp, beginning with the staff, shine their lights into the darkness for others to see…and that encourages us to shine our lights for others.

Once again I think back to that first year as a counselor at camp.  I received a note from my secret pal.  Secret pals are a silly tradition where staff pick a name from a hat and then shower that person with random acts of kindness and encouragement throughout the week in secret only to reveal their identity at week’s end.  I got a lot of great things that week from a big sign welcoming to breakfast or fresh flowers in my cabin one afternoon.  But this note I received has stuck with me ever since.  It was a quote by Nelson Mandela. 

Our  worst fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?" Actually, who are you not to be.

You are a child of God; your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone of us, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

At camp, in intentional Christian community, in the safe and sacred space created, we get to test out our lights...  we encourage individuals and communities to let their lights shine and to be who God calls us to be.
But camp doesn’t do this alone.  Camp doesn’t replace congregational life.   The Gospel of Matthew was written to the Jews.  In today’s text we read how Jesus did not come to abolish the law or the prophets.  Jesus’ teachings didn’t take away from all that came before him.  Jesus couldn’t be Jesus without the prophets.  In the same way camp doesn’t take away from the work of the congregation, and camp couldn’t be camp without all of YOU. 

As partners, camps and congregations work together to raise up disciples, shining our lights into the world to show others how to let their own lights shine.   Together camps and congregations are cities on hills that cannot be hid.  The light can shine forth so brightly from these places no one can miss the presence of God.
Together, we encourage one another and everyone around us to be who God says we already ARE.  That’s right, Jesus says in today’s gospel, that you ARE the light of the world and that you ARE the salt of the earth.   Jesus doesn't say, "If you want to become salt and light, do this...." Or, "before I'll call you salt and light, I'll need to see this from you...." Rather, he says both simply and directly, "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world." It’s like last week's Beatitudes – it is sheer blessing, commendation, affirmation, and commissioning.

It’s easy to hear this, and knowing all too well our sinful nature, our failures, and to say “yea, yea, uh huh, of course.”  In fact, we hear all too often of our brokenness.  The messages we receive from our culture and our world are that we don’t measure up, that we are never good enough, and that unless we do more than any one person could ever do, we are failures.  Jesus says otherwise.  You are the light of the world.  You are the salt of the earth.  Did you hear that?  Are you really hearing it?

Psychologists have told us that for every negative thing children hear, they must hear ten positive things to restore their self-esteem.   Children, to put it simply, become what they are named.  So if we call a child bad long enough, they will live up to that label and act bad.   I’d venture to say this doesn’t change all that much with age. So if the world around us is telling us that we as individuals, as Christians, as the church… that we are ignorant, we are irrelevant, we are hypocritical, we are failures.  What do you think we are in danger of becoming?   

But what does God say we are.  God says we are salt. God says we add flavor, interest. God says we preserve and enhance. God says we bring light. the light that lets the Holy One be seen.No matter what the world says, no matter what we do (and we sure do a lot to the contrary) we can't shake our saltiness or lose our light. It's what God has made us to be.

This is big.  We are so inherently valuable to the world around us, we have gifts that we must give.  But what’s really awesome, is that because God made us so carefully and wonderfully, so special, even just one of us can make a difference.  In the dark, dark woods, just one flashlight can change everything.  And a little salt can go a long way… think of those recipes where you need just a quarter of a teaspoon but without it, your dish turns out bland and flavorless.  Each and every one of us has the ability to be salt and light all on our own, and together in community with one another, the power is enormous.  As Mandela said, We were born to manifest the glory of God within us. . It is not just in some of us, it is in every one of us, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  

Remember, the campers I described with the desperate need for their flashlights in the overwhelming darkness.  We are those lights.  Light functions in order to allow humans to see.  We are the light that allows others to witness God in the world around us.  God’s work, our hands.  And salt, think about salt.  It’s not an element useful to itself.  By itself, it’s just a rock.  Its value comes in its application on other things.  Salt and light are meant to serve.  As followers of Jesus, we are called for service with others.  We are called to take these amazing qualities, these gifts, this light God has created in us, and use them… as congregations, as camp, and as individuals in the world.  Do not lose your saltiness and do not hide your light.  Be that city on the hill.  Give light to all in the house.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

One Small Change - February 2011

How is it already February?  I don't know, but it is!  That means it's time for another month of One Small Change.

Our January Small Change was a big success around here.  We managed to get back to regularly putting all compostable material in a bowl on the counter, and it made it out to our compost pile every so often, although it admittedly sat on the counter for a while first.

For February, my change is pretty personal.  I am committing to eating less. I am very sensitive to the amount of food we consume and the amount of food we waste.  I am aware of both the rising obesity rates of the United States and the 925 million people in chronic hunger worldwide.  As a culture, we are over-consumers of everything from stuff to food.  A culture of over-consumers creates an excess of waste from the packaging of products alone, not to mention the amount of stuff that ends up in our landfills.  As we over-consume food, we tax our food production system and ignore the issues of hunger in our world.  Furthermore, the excess consumption of food leads to obesity. 

Obesity is responsible for a variety of health issues which prevent individuals from living healthy, active lifestyles (often lessening their time in and connection to nature) and which call for a plethora of medical procedures and medications which eat up more resources and create more waste.   Obesity increases our carbon footprint.  We rely on technology more. We drive more, we walk less. It's a vicious cycle. Obesity feeds the habits that cause obesity.

I am overweight, although I am on a journey to reach a health weight for my body. I overeat. I eat for reasons other than hunger. I eat more than my body requires, and that is wasteful of both our food supply as well as my health. It is naive of me to focus so much on what my family consumes by way of the things in our home and the products we use but to ignore the sheer amount of food we waste whether by eating in excess or throwing out good food.  So this month, I will make conscious decisions to eat less, not based on any vain desire to be thin, not on a crash diet, but in an attempt to be aware of what I am consuming and the effects of it on my carbon footprint as well as my body.