Thursday, December 23, 2010

Remember that step of "bravery"?

Well I'm ready for another one. And I'm also ready to be less scattered, more centered. I'm ready to be more present in the moment, which (for some reason) can be very difficult for me! I often find myself in the world of ideas and abstracts rather than in the present moment. I love this "other" world, and I have no intentions of giving it up. But I recognize that I need to be here more. HERE. As in... actually with my kids, with our hands in the play dough, not off thinking about...oh...who-knows-what.
What am I doing to be more present? A lot of things. Actually, not a lot of things (because I don't do a lot of things at the same time well). A few things. One of the things I'm doing is this: instead of trying to keep up with two blogs, I'm going to return to just one. But I'm going to try to post what I would have saved for this blog on the other blog. For me, that's a bold step. (Yay for me!) And i'm going to return to journaling pen-and-paper style. Just for me.
How long will this last? Who knows. But I do know this: I long for a peace that extends beyond the borders of peaceful times and seasons. I long for the courage to be who I am without excuses or shame. I long to be more centered and grounded yet still full of feeling and emotion (which just comes so darn easly for me!). And, I think the reality of these longings are at least somewhat linked to un-scattering myself and refocusing some of my energy.
So this is not a good-bye--I'll still be alive and well over at thezsfamily. But this is either a permanent or a temporary closing of this particular blog. Obviously, only time will tell which it will be.
And maybe there really is no one to say good-bye too. Which is okay with me :). This blog wasn't really about "you" anyway.
Have a meaning-full Christmas. And as you ponder deeply, may you also experience fully today.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Quickly becoming one of my favorite animals...

The elephant, when found in his natural habitat, is majestic (and worthy of some healthy fear).

Because I don't like saying the same thing twice...

please see our family blog for the latest post!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This is Africa.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Be Brave, Be Bold, it's time for me to take a step.

Why do I shy away from it? Why is it so stinking scary for me to confess my morphing beliefs and values? Probably because I was raised with the understanding that we believe in what is True, and that never changes, so our beliefs and values *should* never change. Well, the truth is I feel like recently I've discovered a whole new world. An entire way of seeing and living that I had no idea existed! I've backed away from sharing this because I know (or think I know) how the people I love most will respond. I'm still not ready to have any sit-down talks and share the "new me" with anyone. That would be putting myself in the hot seat, and I'm not ready to sit there! But why not take the step and write down what it is I'm coming to value? It's a start, right? And on a blog, no less. Can't get much less confrontational than that :).

So let's do this. Let's write that list!  

I'm learning about Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf. Here's what I'm appreciating:
+ the seven-year cycles of child development
+ the value that is placed on cultivating imagination and awe--viewed as vital to a child's healthy development
+ natural wonder, daily time in nature
+ incorporating yearly, weekly, and daily rhythms (I love the word "rhythm"!)
+ the importance of including children in work, and doing valuable "manual" work
+ viewing children as whole souls, not incomplete adults
+ rhythmic movement, song, verse
+ experience before fact
+ story
+ the importance of beauty and peace
+ giving children the freedom to develop in their time

The small steps we've made:

+ We are holding more closely to morning and bedtime routines
+ We take walks throughout the farm almost daily, observing, collecting, imagining, moving
+ We have a mini "circle time" and "story time" 4 days(ish) per week, singing songs, saying rhymes, doing movement games, then listening to a story. Sometimes we do a story-related craft, sometimes we don't.
+ We are trying to listen to our children more, both to what they're saying (verbally and with their actions) and to what they're not saying. This, I tell you, has been difficult some days, and so very different to what we were "taught"

The challenges:

+ As long as we live out here in the bush of Africa, resources will always be a problem! I love love LOVE many of the meaningful, therapeutic "projects/arts/crafts" ideas of Waldorf. But until we go back to America for a visit, the supplies needed are largely unattainable. For example, wool, felt, watercolors, beeswax, "play silks"... it's all simply out of our reach. And to ship it would most definitely sky rocket it out of our meager budget.

+ Crafting, sewing, woodwork, etc. is quite intimidating for me. I am quite confident that if I could attend some classes or make a friend who would want to share their expertise with me, I could "do this." In fact, I think I would thoroughly enjoy it! But again, my location is problematic.

+ Community. We live in community. We love our community. But our community would raise eyebrows at our "new" values. I often daydream about what it would be like to live in a community that not only accepted me and my "different" values but encouraged me and inspired me in them!

+ Time. I'm spending way too much time "researching" right now! My thirst to understand more is insatiable. I've got a million sites bookmarked, I'm following too many blogs, and it's making me feel scattered and cluttered. It's like I need someone to sift through it all and say, this is valuable and worth your time; this is not. Streamline. That's what I need to do. But I need help!

+ Also, Waldorf does have some "Christian" roots, but I don't agree all of the foundational philosophy. I don't see this as problematic, but I do want to learn more about how to infuse my more "traditional" Christian beliefs into the Waldorf Way.

What books are "must have's"?
How do I modify projects to make them possible here?
How do I incorporate more Waldorf into our tropical climate and unique lifestyle?

It's because of these challenges that living where we do feels every bit as far away as it really is!

I guess my big question is, has anyone "done this" in a place like "this"? If so, WHO?! If not, HOW CAN I?

I did it. I wrote the thoughts, and now I'm going to post it. Was it as hard as I thought? I guess we'll find out :) 

P.S. Thanks, Vina, for inspiring me to do this. Your honesty, your ideals, your way with words... They've helped inspire me to take this seemingly small step.

P.P.S. I'll post another photo soon! There are many...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And so we wait.

I don't want to ever step foot in that court room again. Who knew it was possible to shake uncontrollably for so long?! But it's over. We have presented our requests before the judge, and now we await his decision. Will he grant us adoption of our dear Miss A? Will he make us the legal guardians of our happy boy? We will find out. But not before we wait.
I know there are lessons galore in all this, but at the moment, all I know is that we're waiting. Until December 9th at noon. Perhaps I'll look back on this and see a beautiful theme in the midst of what feels like nothing less than irritable, grumpy parents and overly emotional, sick children. This is not one of our better moments as a family! Dare I say it? Yes. My hunch is that there's a lot out there, beyond what I can see with my eyes, that really doesn't like this. And they're revolting. And we're feeling it.
Thankfully, ultimately, "they're" not in charge. Thankfully, ultimately, the One who adopts each one of us is in charge. And that, my friend, is the present shimmer in the otherwise dark sky.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Life! in a muddy, creative boy

My husband and I are very passionate people. We (I in particular) feel things deeply: Joy, anger, beauty, sadness, stress, peace... you name it, we feel it deeply. It lends itself to great creativity and imagination. It also lends itself to some pretty incredible arguments :). Our biological son got those genes! Happy 200%, angry 200% (and sometimes within a few short minutes). It can be exhausting. It can be hilarious. It can be marvelous.
His creativity and imagination flash me back to my own childhood, though my imagination often scared my mother. Anything that wasn't "true" was labeled as "wrong." I've learned that truth is a big word and much more complex than black and white. Truth is deeply meaningful, and meaning is always wrapped up in life. Take away the life of something, and you rob that something of it's meaning. they are united for ever-and-ever-amen.
My middle child, my biological son, is a well-spring of life and feeling. So much so that sometimes he doesn't know what to do with it all. It used to scare me. Now I see myself in him, and I remember. I remember what it was like to be young and to feel deeply and to feel alone. There has been redemption in my journey, and there has been grace. May my son experience freedom and guidance in his journey; may he know he is not alone, and may he embrace truth, meaning, and life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hiatus over (hopefully)

Several times I tried to post this photo. Several times I tried to post other blog entries. Fail, fail, fail. Internet was choosing not to comply. But, apparently, it's gotten over it (whatever "it" was). So, this is a much belated photo of the vine swing I mentioned in my last post:

These are the kinds of experiences and discoveries and days that more than make up for the lack of electricity, sketchy internet, and absence of all-things-convenient. My children don't know what a washing machine is; they have no idea what's on TV (or what TV is, for that matter!); they are not scared of poverty; their best friends were orphaned (just like them).
They know water is a precious resource, something to be conserved; because if we use too much, we will be without water until the next rain! Rain gives us water, makes our crops to grow, and keeps our animals alive. Sun gives us power, keeps our food cold, and dries our clothing. Healthy dirt makes for healthy crops (and is really fun to play in too!). This is what my children know, even though they don't realize that they know it :). It's just the way life... is!
And that, my friends, is more precious to me than take-out after a long day, and it's even more precious than a hot shower (though I do occasionally debate that one with myself!). It's taken me a while, but I've stopped counting the losses, and I've begun to take in the life.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Life! photo of the week

Stand and Stare

"Leisure" by W.H. Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where Squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

This is where I am, folks. I am making time, at last, to stand and stare. Finally. At last. And... I am one happy girl! The most fabulous part about it? My children and I are doing this together. Together, we venture out each morning on a "dragon hunt/princess walk," opening our eyes to the magic in the air. It's only been a week, and we are all happier! Tai collects swords, Ava collects magic wands, and A.J. is content to watch it all from the comfort of my back. We hear every bird that sings and every cow that moos. The children climb ant hills (trust me, they are everywhere here!) and find secret forts in the "bush" (after I do a quick survey for snakes). We even discovered the coolest vine swing ever. Ever. We stop when we want to, squatting to ponder a snail or a ladybug. By the time we get home, all of us have lungs satisfied with fresh air, bodies satisfied with movement, minds satisfied with vibrant imaginations, and hearts satisfied with time together. We all seem more alive. And why wouldn't we?!  We have been singing with Creation, whose song, day and night,  is Glory! and Life! This must be the path I was looking for. This must be the path that has been waiting for me...and my family. The wonder is beginning to awake from its slumber.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Life! photo of the week

The owners of these homes must be my kind of birds!
Their homes are attached to a steadfast tree, yet their homes are free to dance in the wind.
These are my kind of birds.

Life (of the rest of me)

For the life of the flesh is in the blood
~Leviticus 17:11

The life of my flesh is in my blood
The life of my soul, in the blood of Another
The life of the rest of me... a mystery.

My flesh is a breath
My soul is secure
So what about the rest of me?

Like a palm swaying fearless in the breeze
I long to be rooted yet free
Free to be the lover I am

A lover of Wild, untamed land
A lover of colors outside the lines
A lover of Light, wherever it shines

(Written by me, without a care in the world about structure and "oughts" of "good writing/poetry." Written from the heart.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bring On The Wonder

Can't see the stars anymore living here
Let's go to the hills where the outer lights are clear

Bring on the wonder
Bring on the song
I pushed you down deep in my soul for too long

I live in Africa. I live in the bush. The stars don't get anymore clear and spectacular than here. And yet, in the place I've been living, this time of jaded life and surface living, I can't see the stars! they sparkle through every glass-less window in my home, but somehow...for me...they just aren't there.

Let's go to the hills where the outer lights are clear

Sometimes the going isn't physical or literal. Sometimes it's a soul journey. That's where I am.

Bring on the wonder
Bring on the song
I pushed you down depp in my soul for too long

If that can be a prayer, it's definitely mine.
I remember a time when every hike in the mountains or run in the country or even the drive through town felt magical to me. Everything exploded with life, and I could see it. From the sun's reflection in a mud puddle, to the crinkling of dried leaves under my feet--it all shouted beauty; it all sang of God's kingdom come.
I still see glimpses of it: in the life-loving eyes of my daughter who was once seemingly doomed for death; in my students' howls as they feel the rhythm of poetry; in the storm hovering above.
The seeing just doesn't come as naturally anymore. And the heart-exploding wonder is gone. I want it back. No more pushing it down deep in my soul with worry...or efficiency...or oughts...or (you name it).
So, God, bring on the wonder. Bring on the song. Tonight I'm going to the hills. Tonight I'm stepping outside my door, lying down beside the swaying banana tree, and allowing the sparkling stars above to reopen my I can see once again.

~This post is dedicated to Amy Hooper and Kerrie Protasewich, who, once upon a time (many years ago), relished the wonder with me.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Life! photo of the week

Do you know what this is? It is a banana tree beginning its life under the shade of banana fiber (essentially dead layers of banana tree "skin"). The vulnerability of burgeoning life is sheltered by the very plant that gave it life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Breath of Life

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

Life/living: the Hebrew word can mean "living, alive; raw, fresh, running (water); life, refreshment"

Being: the Hebrew word means "soul"

It's not about me finding life or getting it back. I need God to breathe His spirit of life/refreshment/vitality into me. The thought of being raw and fresh, like running water...ahhhhhhh! THAT is it. I can see it, hear it, taste it. Raw. In its truest form, "out there" and authentic. Flowing.
"And man became a living being." Without the breath of God, I am dust. I am a body without a soul. I cannot grow, I can only decay. I cannot move or feel or choose or create. But when Abba breathes into me, my soul is born. My soul was conceived, and is sustained by, the Breath of Life.
Oh, Abba, breathe into me. Refresh me, revive me.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Show Me

Bind up these broken bones
Mercy, bend and breathe me back to life
But not before you show me how to die.

The entire song seems to swallow me. I listen to each verse and think Amen! Audrey Assad sings about all these ways she is willing for God to use her and to glorify Himself. But then she sings, "But for now just..." let me cry/ let me lie/ let me be/ stay with me.
The part that really gets me, though, is the part I wrote up above. Oh, how I long to be bent and breathed back to life! That's why i'm "back," right? To journey down the path of Life. I want life in my mind, life in my heart, life from the tippy-toppy-est hair on my head to the last cell on the longest toe on my foot (which, on my right foot, happens to be my third toe). And I don't want it for purely selfish reasons either. I know that when life possesses me like that, those I love and serve will be blessed! But that's obvious, isn't it? Remember, I'm not talking about perfection here. I'm not talking about never feeling down or disappointed or angry or like I just need everyone to go away...because I will always have moments like that. I'm an introverted intuitive feeler perceiver.
But even in those moments, I want to retreat into the peace and rest of a soul fully alive. I want to surrender whatever it is I'm fiercely (and selfishly) holding onto. I want to feel the presence of my Abba and hear His voice. I want to have clarity. Is that at least a tiny piece of what life looks like?
The song, though, doesn't stop with Audrey's plea for mercy to breathe her back to life. It's the last line that socks me in the stomach: "But not before You show me how to die." There it is! Death and life just cannot be separated. We cannot have one without the other. Courtney, you cannot have the one without the other. You, my dear, must let go. Surrender. Embrace the truth that Life looks differently now. It includes people. People you love! It includes happenings you can't control and some you don't like. You are still you, but you. are. different. Stop fighting. Let what must die...die. Fear not. On the other side of death is Life to the full.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I feel like the world is sitting on my chest. Maybe not the whole world, but definitely my world. We are finally ready to go to court for Ava's adoption, and hopefully Asher's adoption as well. But there's a pretty significant hang-up: the organization we work with needs to get its NGO status we can get new work we can prove to the courts that we are legally working in this we have a chance of being approved for these adoptions! And why is it important that we get these adoptions to go through soon? Because election season is fast approaching here, and it seems that it could get, well, like African elections often get: violent. Dangerous. Not that it will, and we're definitely praying it won't! But there's something to be said for being prepared.
So that's just one thing that is sitting on my chest right now. There's more. But that's the personal side of the weight, and that's always the one that weighs heaviest--even if it's not the most "important."
But it's Friday, which means family movie, smoothies, and popcorn. The kids are singing and dancing, and I finished writing the mid-term exam for my Literature class. There's plenty to rejoice about. But I can't ignore the stuff on top of me... that would be foolish, and today I'm not going to be foolish.
What's my advice to myself? Trust, dear one. He's got the whole world in His hands. He's got your whole world in His hands. It's not going to work out like you want it to. It never does. But it will unfold well...and wonderously...and gloriously. Take a walk. Breath in the fresh air. Watch the sunset, and gaze at the stars. This whole world that He's got in His hands, it's broken and struggling. But it's also stinkin' beautiful.

Not what i thought.

It's been a year. Apparently I have a problem with perseverance and continuing what I start. Frankly, that's always been my problem. And just as frankly, I am not returning to this blog out of guilt or a need to "right" the situation. I am returning out of pure necessity. I ignorantly thought (foolishly thought?) all my little quackers were lining up in a row. This past year was going to be We were moving on, turning over a page, starting a-fresh. Silly girl, when will you learn? You, my dear, are not like THEM. You can't do it all and be it all. You can't "just push through." You can't give like crazy without having serious time to ponder and reflect and create and be [end of self-confrontation].
I ache to be the kind of wife/mom/friend/teacher/etc. who breathes beauty and life and creativity into my children, into my world. I thought it would just come naturally. But this is the truth: I don't ooze Life like that on my own. I sure as heck have the capacity, but the actual STUFF doesn't have its origin in me. I do not hold an unending reservoir of beauty, life, and creativity. What flows out of me is as unique as I am; it's just not conceived by me.
So... I am back. Back to figure out what I need to be fully ALIVE. Back to grow in the beautiful fertilizer of the past that God has given me; to get to a place of thriving. There is just no way my children will experience the love and beauty and creativity and freedom and joy and authenticity and courage and honesty and adventure and generosity and winsomeness and LIFE that I desire for them unless I am alive. I want to figure out who they are, how they were created by the Creator, and give them a place to breathe and flourish. It starts with me. Thank God (thank God!) I don't have to be perfect in order to do this. We'd be doomed! Thank God that His Light shines through my cracks. Thank God that grace is abundant and forgiveness is foundational. Thank God I'm not alone.
What's my plan? know.... it's in the non-verbal stage, swirling around in pictures, abstracts, and feelings. But something is forming. It won't be a 3-step process or even a 12-step process. In fact, it probably won't include steps. I don't like steps. I like paths. And the best paths are the kind where you're not quite sure where they'll end up... but the scenery is refreshing.
So, like I said, I'm back (whatever that means), and I'm beginning a journey (wherever it leads). To God be the glory.