Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Early Christmas Magic #ISMCCX

I love Christmas magic. I normally am very staunch about No Christmas Until After Thanksgiving. However, we had an opportunity to preview the Celebration Crossing exhibits at the Indiana State Museum last night with a group of bloggers - and we got to see Santa.

The timing was very interesting. Just that morning, both kids decided to confront us on the existence of Santa Claus.  Teagan has known for a couple of years. Well, she's been questioning for a couple of years as she has heard that he isn't real from schoolmates.  Our response has always been to neither confirm nor deny - but to instead focus on Santa as a way of celebrating Saint Nicholas and Christmas magic.

But with Zach adding his thoughts in... it started to feel like our Santa days were coming to an end.

We didn't continue the subject but hurried off to school and work.  At the end of the day, as we drove downtown to the museum, the kids were discussing what they wanted to ask Santa to bring them.  Teagan wants a new CD player for her room (very practical since hers keep breaking) and Zach finally decided on a new Wii but what he really wants is a computer.

We arrive at the museum and are enjoying all the lovely decorations and the spaces that are set up through out the museum to celebrate the season.  It all has a lovely old time-y feel to it.  Very retro. Taking you back to the days when L.S. Ayres was the place to celebrate the holidays with the Christmas windows and Santa's arrival and fancy lunch in the Team Room.  All of that has been recreated and brings a great sense of nostalgia and history to Christmas in Indiana.

The original Santa Claus Express from L.S. Ayres. Many have memories of riding this little train as kids!

Santa's mural in the "playground" area - a space where the kids can play and do activities and parents can SIT!

92 County Tree. Representing all of Indiana's counties with an arnament made by an Indiana Artisan.

The updated but fully recreated Santa Claus Express - slightly larger and delightful all the same!
But the real magic came when we went to visit Santa.

Teagan announced to us that she was going to ask Santa for something different than what she had told us.  She was going to ask him for something secret and then she'd know once and for all if Santa was real.

You may recall her "test" last year - asking Santa for something that she knew Mom or Dad would never ever buy.  A bucket full of candy.  And she got it.  A bucket. With some candy and lots of Candies brand stuff (lip gloss, bath gel, lotion, etc.).  Santa is certainly clever!

Jeff and I are going along with it and quietly discussing how we are going to pull this off.  That's when I noticed the Indiana State Museum employees who had been our tour guides... so I stepped over and asked if I couldn't get a little "elf help."

Turns out, Mrs. Claus was standing there. So I discreetly pointed out my daughter and explained her idea of testing us with this "secret" gift she would ask Santa for... and Mrs. Claus promised to help us.

We step up to see the jolly gift bringer and Teagan instantly goes into star crossed mode. We go in with her but promise not to listen.  She then tells Santa what she wants but she says it all out loud - a new CD player and new sneakers.

Then came the magic... Santa said, "Are you sure there isn't anything else you wanted to ask me to bring you?" Teagan, wide eyed, shook her head no.  "Really? Because one of my elves heard you saying that you were going to ask Santa for something secret... there's nothing you want to whisper in my ear?"  Eyes bigger... huge grin... pink cheeks... head shaking no...

Christmas magic... parent orchestrated... with the help of some special elves... but I think we just bought another year of believing.  Another year of full on childhood belief in magic.

You can find your own bit of Christmas nostalgia and magic when you visit Celebration Crossing! We plan to come for a full visit soon - we want to spend time in all the other exhibits, too.  And we plan to visit Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg and swing by the Indiana Historical Society and a visit to the Zoo - it's going to take an entire weekend to fit in all that downtown Indianapolis has to offer!

Celebration Crossing opens Friday, Nov. 28.  The Indianapolis Children's Choir will perform at 11 and then all are invited to gather in front of the museum to see Santa's grand arrival by helicopter!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Shot a Gun

I'm not a gun person. I didn't grow up around guns. I didn't grow up around people who went hunting. Guns are not part of my family culture. I've shot a shot gun at a can once out in the country. I've gone to a trap shooting event.  That's it.

I had an opportunity to go to a shooting range and learn to fire a handgun.  Other co-workers had gone previously and enjoyed the experience. Our industry deals a lot in connection to gun using industries (we make safety products like hearing protection and eye protection) so I work with a lot of folks who shoot or who hunt.  I go to church with people who shoot or hunt. I have Facebook friends who shoot and hunt.

I was eager to try it.  Honestly, I thought I'd feel... powerful. Kick ass. Big and bold.

I sat through the safety video on how to handle the gun. We put on our safety gear and headed out to the range. We were shown how to load bullets.  My partner went first.  She shot her 5 bullets and then it was my turn.

I was already jumping out of my skin every time a gun went off. The sound was jarring and violent. Even with earmuffs on.

I stepped up and loaded the 5 bullets.  I loaded the clip into the gun (forgive any terminology here - remember, I am so not a gun person).  I raised it and aimed at the target, using the sites to make a line the way they showed me.

I squeezed the trigger.

And I hated it.

I got through my 5 bullets and was done. I didn't want the gun back in my hand. Bottom line was that the purpose of a gun is to hurt someone. To end someone's life. And that isn't something I have in me.

I shared that feeling with others and the response was... "yeah, but if someone was hurting my kids, I'd be able to shoot that person!"

I don't know that I could. Just being honest. What if I miss and shoot my kid. And what are the chances of walking into a room and suddenly finding someone hurting my child and I just happen to have a gun on me or sitting on a shelf within reach?  Or do I tell my kid to hold on while I go retrieve my gun and then my ammo so I can come and save the day?

Bottom line is that I'm still not a gun person. I'm glad that there are people who can handle guns. But I also wish that everyone felt such a strong sense of non-violence and such a desire for peace and love that they also weren't gun people.  That they weren't violent people.

There is so much violence in the world right now.  And so much violence in our country right now.

What's happening in Ferguson is just highlighting a piece of the big picture.

The picture is that this is a broken world. A world where too many desire to control, to be in power, to keep others down. A world where "I'm right and you're wrong" is more common than "help me understand your experience." A world where what's mine is MINE and what's yours should be managed by me because I know best.

A young officer shot his gun for the first time ever while on duty. He killed a younger young man. My heart breaks for that officer.

A young man lives in a town and in a country where the color of his skin has defined him since before he was born. Through a series of... unknown events... he ends up dead. My heart breaks for him, for his last moments, for his family and friends.

Anger erupts.

Lives are ruined.

Justice is desired.

But is there ever really justice in these circumstances?

The under the surface anger erupts again. Because peace was never really found. The anger of hundreds of years has continued to build and build and explodes from time to time.

I read a quote from a man who runs a ministry that serves the homeless population of a large American city... "I just want to end the suffering I see around me."

Maybe that's why I don't like shooting a gun.  I don't want to contribute to suffering. I want to contribute to peace and love and joy. I want to contribute to compassion and caring. I don't want people to look at me and think that I could hurt them or kill them.  I want someone to look at me and see eyes looking back that are filled with love, arms eager to surround them with compassion, a smile filled with joy. A gun doesn't fit into that picture of who I strive to be - who I believe I am called to be in Christ.

I guess it's like the story of the starfish on the beach and the kid tossing them back into the ocean and the old man saying there is no way to save them all so why bother and the kid pointing out that he's made a difference to that one that he threw back.

I know I can't change the world. But maybe I can touch 1 life with joy, with peace, with compassion.  Maybe just 1 person will know that someone in the world values them and loves them, even without knowing them.

Some positive impact is better than no positive impact, right?

I have to believe that.

I simply have to believe that.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Giveaway!! Indy Int'l Festival


We go to the International Festival every year - it is one of my very favorite events. The food, the exposure to people of my city whose heritage is from another country, the music, the dancing, the arts... I love it all!

This year, I've got a great opportunity for YOU to attend with your family!!  I've got a family 4 pack of tickets that you could win! Check out the Rafflecopter and enter as many ways as you can!


  • If you can go on Friday afternoon, approximately 200 people will become U.S. citizens in a moving Naturalization Ceremony.
  • Italian street painting - try your hand at this beautiful type of art.
  • Kids can play on the giant world floor map.
  • Each booth will display traditional clothing from that heritage.

If you choose to just go and enjoy this event without winning the tickets (and believe me, it is worth it), adult tickets are $10, kids are $6 and kids 5 and under are free.  Bring cash so you can try a wide variety of food from around the world! There is also a beer/wine garden for the adults.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TKD Update: The Tournament

Teagan competed in 2 events - form and board breaking. Next year, she can add sparring to the list.

She took 1st in her group in both events.  All kids get medals. Each group of 3 is awarded 3rd, 2nd, and 1st. But I saw instances where the rank of 1st was given as it was deserved - not just based on who you competed against.  A strong, solid performance meant first place.

Of course, for Teagan, 2nd or 3rd would have felt like a failure so I'm very relieved that her first tournament experience was very positive.

At attention, prepared for her first event - Form.

Horse riding stance. 

Waiting for her turn to do her form.

Receiving her first place medal.
At attention, ready to break a board with a jump kick.

Blurry but you get the idea!

Waiting for results...

1st place!


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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hunting and Church

This is going to seem like a very random post.  But follow along - it should all come together.

I am not a gun person.  I am not a hunter.  I know people who shoot and I know people who hunt.  But it isn't my thing. I have a hard time killing a bug let alone shooting a deer or a duck or whatever.

I see hunting as very different than butchering. I will freely admit that I prefer to turn a blind eye to the killing part of enjoying the meat on my plate.

I feel differently about people who hunt and then consume that meat and they specifically hunt for that purpose.

What I don't find any joy in is someone who kills an animal for fun, who celebrates the violent death of that living creature, who then gloats and parties it up.

Yes, I believe that animals have a purpose to feed other animals and people. I do not believe that animals serve a purpose to have humans enjoy killing them.

There was a guy I have been following on Facebook for a few years now.  I don't always agree with the stuff he says and posts but there was always something I found in what he had to say that I enjoyed. He claimed to be a God guy and he works to bring others closer to Christ through worship.

But then he went hunting and killed his first deer and posted video and pictures that were very bloody and very joyful and very celebratory of the killling of an animal.

I found it distasteful and heart breaking.

I left a comment and I unfollowed.

And he left a quick reply that I didn't like one sermon so I quit the church.

Um. Dude.  YOU are NOT my church. You are someone I paid a scant amount of attention to on social media because you were consistently seeking Jesus, even in dark times and through struggles. If you think posting on Facebook and writing a blog and making videos in any way makes YOU a CHURCH, you don't understand what church is in the first place.

Here's what church is to me.

It's a family. It's people who come together seeking a single purpose - Christ. We might not all know that we are seeking Him when we walk in the doors. But eventually, the journey leads us to that Truth. Church is where the seekers gather to learn, to worship, to praise.  Where we support and love and listen and share.

There are people in my church who hunt and people who are vegan. People who are opposed to homosexuality and people who support gay marriage. People who are appalled at assisted suicide and people who believe in a right to die. People who are pro-life, people who are pro-choice. People who are rich, people who are poor.

You get the idea, right?

There is a guy in my church who is an avid hunter. And I love him. Not because he hunts. Not because he refrains from bloody pictures of hunting on social media.  He hunts, I don't. I love him because he is seeking the same thing I am.

There is a woman in my church that I love dearly. She doesn't hold the same position on homosexuality as I do. She strongly believes that she is biblical in her position, just as I strongly believe that I am biblical in mine.  I love her. She is seeking the same thing I am.

So, random dude on the internet, when I unfollow you because I find your sharing to be distasteful, inappropriate for my kids to see... it's not because you've given any kind of sermon and I'm certainly not quitting your "church."  I was never part of your church.

I can and do love people with different opinions than my own.  I can and do love people who believe differently than I do - because really, we all believe differently, don't we? I can and do listen to sermons that I don't agree with and I haven't left my church family yet.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Life Lessons

Has your child ever been nervous about something?

Let's say your child has started a new sport. And the new sport has a specific uniform, as many sports do. And has specific skills to learn, as many sports do.

And it's the first day.  And your child is in uniform.  And is a little nervous.  What do you say to them?

"It's ok! Put on a smile and do your best!"

"Everyone has a first day when they start - it will be fine!"

Or maybe we even get a little frustrated and tell them they are being silly, that everyone else is wearing the same thing and doing the same thing... just get over it.

"Just give it everything you have - no reason to feel silly!"

I got to experience a little something that has certainly changed my perspective on how to handle those types of anxieties and nerves.

About 2 months ago, Teagan started Tae Kwon Do.  Within 6 weeks, she had earned her yellow belt.  The school then had a Parent Workshop - an opportunity to take a short class with your child and then have questions answered, learn more about the philosophy of the school, and learn how to best support your child.

Turns out, one of the ways they believe you can best support your child is by signing up to take 4 weeks of classes.  For free.  I get that it's really a great sales pitch and that at the end of my 4 weeks, they will be very complimentary and will want me to sign a contract at a special one time only rate.


I signed up.

And I went to my very first class last night.

I put on the uniform.  White pants. The white shirt that has a weird elastic thing inside.  The white belt.

And I felt ridiculous.

Seriously ridiculous.

But the look on Teagan's face... she was positively beaming.

So I went to class.  Actually, we went together to a family class.

And as I sat on the floor, waiting for the class to be called on to start...

I felt ridiculous again.  And got this knot in my stomach.  And I was suddenly very uncertain about what I was about to do and what kind of ungraceful idiot I was going to appear to be.

And it struck me that this is probably how my youngest son feels at just the thought of doing a class like this.  And that this is how my daughter must have felt on her first day.

I'm generally a confident person.

But signing up for TKD? Signing up to do something that I've never done before, never had any interest in before, something that has never even been part of my radar??  Standing in front of kids and adults and Black Belt Master and trying to balance or kick or punch or do forms?

I don't have the brain power to memorize Korean terms (counting to 10, terms for school and uniform, how to say thank you, etc).

I'm old and fat and jumping jacks make me pee a little.

How can I possibly think that this was a good idea?  I was ready to tuck tail and run.

And then Teagan grabbed my arm and said...

"Mommy, I'm so glad you're doing this with me!"

Heart. Melted.

Confidence. Gained.

During class, I felt fat.  And old. And terribly out of shape.  Thankfully, the jumping jacks were not pee producing.  I felt silly and I felt awkward.  I understood exactly why my daughter gets that grin on her face - because sometimes it just feels silly.

It was an important lesson on confidence and humility.

I'm not exactly sure what I will tell my kids the next time they face something new... but I do know that I will look back on this and remember the feelings.  And I know I won't be just telling them to suck it up and try their best.

Life lessons. Taught by stepping into my daughter's shoes.  Pretty powerful!

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Beauty In The Broken

I've been kind of hiding under a rock a bit.  Some people won't believe that - I'm still doing all the stuff I've been doing.  But I've been hiding from my blog because this is where I usually share my deeper thoughts, my experiences, stuff about my insides.  And lately there has been stuff that I can't really share because I'm trying to figure it all out on some level.

And today, I got to do some figuring.

I'm part of the leadership of my church.  My term is about to end as my time leading my particular ministry is coming to an end after 3 years.  This weekend, our leadership team had our annual retreat.  And I had something of an "ah ha" moment in a big discussion about our spiritual gas tanks.

I realized I wasn't full.  I wasn't empty.  I wasn't in the middle.

Or rather, I didn't know how to tell if I was full or empty or on the middle.

My gauge is broken.

I've been having some personal struggles.  The kind of struggles that aren't easy to define.  It isn't money or my marriage or stuff with my kids.  It isn't depression or illness or a fight with family members.

In the midst of the conversation about our spiritual filled-ness, as I was pondering if I feel spiritually full or not, I realized that I simply didn't know.  I know that I am in an internal struggle right now and I know that part of my struggle is church related and interpersonal relationship related and self evaluation related.  And I also know that God is carrying me through this.

But it suddenly struck me that God isn't just carrying me through it.  He brought me to it first.

As a dear friend and faithful mentor shared with me:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule."  Matthew 5:3 (The Message)

I'm in this place for a reason.  I'm in this place - where I feel lost, feel unsure of who I can trust, feel unsure of how truly loved I am, how much people actually like me - because it's here that I am vulnerable.  And it's in this vulnerability that I learn to see where I am broken and learn to see that God loves me in my brokenness.  And that the broken people I see around me aren't a sign that I have to pull back and protect myself.  I need to step in and love them as they are, where they are - the way God does.

But it's hard. And I'm not sure that I fully know how to do that because there is still a lot of uncertainty and a lot of desire to protect myself and a lot of wondering about my selfish need to be liked and this jealousy I've found within myself.

And then I had a random conversation with another friend.  About nothing related to any of this.  It was about our kids.  She's been through some hard seasons with her kids.  And she's supported me through some of those hard seasons with my kids.  And now here we are, both enjoying where we are in parenting.  For this moment.  Knowing hard times are ahead.  And knowing that more of these likeable seasons are ahead.

And it struck me...

She's a friend that has stayed by my side... even if there had been distance between our sides... through a lot in the past year or so.  That even though we've recognized distance between us because of life and lack of time and whatever else... we still have God's love between us.  We still have a heartbeat that is in sync as we seek to be the hands and feet of Christ and we both have a spirit of desiring to love others.

She's someone who loves me in my brokenness.

And it made me realize that my life is filled with people who have loved me - even in my brokenness, in my flaws, in my pain, in the pain I caused, in the midst of my personal chaos.

My friend Cathy who stood by me through a lot of personal trauma in high school.

My parents as they supported me and loved me through a decade of nearly impossible parenting of my teen self who was terribly damaged.

My husband as he has suffered with me, loved me, sometimes maybe been a bit frustrated by me, encouraged me, and let me support and encourage him.

Friends who have sometimes faded and sometimes stood solidly by my side.

Friends who have prayed for me. Friends who have fun with me. Friends who hug me and hold me (and sometimes even pet my hair to calm me down).

Yes, there's been a garish light on some of this interpersonal difficulty lately.

But the light is starting to shine bigger and fuller and I'm seeing more and more that in this time of vulnerability and uncertainty... God has given me the incredible gift of people who love me.  People who love me just as I am - even when it is nearly impossible, even when I am very unloveable.

There is beauty in the broken. Beauty in the vulnerable. Beauty in the pain. Sometimes it is hard to see it or feel it or know it.  But it's true.  And I pray that if you are in one of those darker seasons that there are points of light surrounding you so that you know that you are still loved.

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