Wednesday, June 6, 2012

More About Growing Things

Many times, I only remember to water when things when I notice they are wilt-y. It keeps things alive, but they never thrive.

I wish that were only true of plants.

But it's the same thing as planning dates when Joel and I are arguing and distant. Or spending time one- on-one with my kids when they are acting out. Or pouring my heart out to God and seeking His help when I am in crisis. Doing laundry when the hamper overflows.  Exercising when my clothes are snug. Cleaning out the fridge because something stinks. Taking time for myself because I am out of patience.  Going to visit family because someone is ill.

Things need water to stay alive, to grow, to flourish.  I want my life to be one of flourishing, not just staying alive.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


People often ask us about the names of our children and how we chose them. Each of their names have special meaning, which is really a whole story in itself. But lately, I've been thinking not about the names we choose, but the names we inherit.

Almost two weeks ago, I traveled with Schaeffer to CA for 5 days to attend my grandfather's memorial. His name was Harry Loewenberg, and he was my dad's biological father, who I only met after my father died. The story goes that Harry left my grandma with two boys, ages 3 (my dad) and 1. They lived in foster care until my grandma got back on her feet. She married Ted Kelly, who adopted both boys, and that's how my dark skinned dad with Italian-Portuguese-Spanish blood in his veins, came to be a Kelly.  

It's easy to dismiss a man's character as despicable when he leaves his wife with two young kids for another woman.  It gets a little fuzzy when he remains married to that same woman for 65 years and I'm standing at a memorial where the character trait described most is Harry's unfailing love and affection for his wife. And yet his son Terry, my half uncle that I'd never met before, shared about about he didn't have much of a relationship with his father, even though he grew up in the same home. He didn't hear, "I love you," or receive time and affection from the man brought them into the world, and in those ways, his story and my Dad's are really not so different. The sad truth is that Harry himself was not originally a Loewenberg, but born as a Delvico and then, through some series of tragedies landed in an orphanage, grew up fighting to defend himself, and then eventually adopted to inherit his new name.

What is my real name? I could have been Melissa Loewenberg. Or Melissa Delvico.  Or, if my husband's family story was not peppered with it's own tragedy, Melissa Phillips, or Melissa Pendarvis. There's so much about the events and brokenness in their family that I wish I could understand.  I wonder about how traces of these decisions affect our family, even now.  In what ways am I wounded, blind, broken, gifted, strengthened, or equipped because of my family's heritage? How does God get glory in all of this?
"...To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it." (Rev 2:17)

C.S. Lewis has some interesting thoughts on the matter.
“…God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it. …The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.
 Lewis continues:
“What can be more a man’s own than this new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely, that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the Divine beauty than any other creature can. Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently?”

I don't have to understand all the pieces to this story. But I can search and participate, on this earth, for ways to glorify God with all the parts and names, all the brokenness and beauty.  And even when I can't see how it all works together, trust that God is a redeemer, and He is good.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Some are tired and overworked. Some are colorful.  Some are useful, while others break down quickly. They may be simple or complex, old or new, scientific or artistic. They are part of our uniquely developed human mind, and sooner or later, we all enlist them to communicate what we otherwise could not.

The metaphor.  Who has not experience the relief, after tugging and pulling at the knotted shoelace, of that perfect picture to describe, explain, or teach what we could not before?

Several years ago, as I was exploring new interests and hobbies, I took a pottery class. I had big dreams of beautiful bowls, funky coffee mugs, artistic pitchers, and a Christmas peppered with handmade gifts for all of my family and friends.

We spent all three hours of first class learning to prep the clay and center the earthy lumps on a wheel. 

It turns out that while it's called "throwing", which sounds lighthearted enough, you can't actually make anything on a pottery wheel unless the clay is the right consistency, with no air bubbles, and perfectly centered it on the wheel. Which needs to be moving at just the right speed.

It takes practice and some serious muscle to get to the stage where you actually pull up the walls of clay and start forming anything at all. It has to happen carefully, so as not to throw things off center, or the centrifugal force pulls the whole thing into a wild mess. Carefully, but firmly, because you are after all, coaxing earth into a new shape and it doesn't actually know what it's supposed to be unless you tell it.  All while the wheel is whirling, whirling, whirling. 

I quickly adjusted my gift giving plans. It turned out to be a really fun class, but the things that remain years later don't hold coffee or sit on a shelf.

I could not shake the metaphor. The image of God as the potter and us as clay. (Isaiah 64:8)

It makes perfect sense that God, as the perfect teacher, would know how capture my heart and mind with an image.

God as teacher, healer, gardener, potter, shepherd, father, mother, king, counselor.

He knows how to reach us in our everyday lives, in our everyday activities.

He knows how to reach me, the mother of 3 busy boys, as I try to love my family, and serve my friends and community.  As Joel and I try to discern what God has next for us regarding career, ministry, and calling. As I try to hold on loosely to things that familiar and comfortable. He sees my overwhelmed, confused, just-think-about-it-harder-and-you'll-figure-it-out thoughts.

He knows how to reach me.

This week, it was God and a hydrangea.

I planted one in our front yard last fall.  I was on the porch, studying it absentmindedly while the boys ate popsicles. Wondering if the slightly lopsided shrub may in fact be planted crooked, or just needs some pruning. Wondering if maybe I should move it to the backyard.  

And then I noticed. It has tiny light green blossoms forming on the tips of it's branches. 

It doesn't care about my plans.

I've heard the phrase "bloom where you're planted" countless times. But this is the first time it dawned on me that plants don't just put down roots where ever they are, they do whatever it is they are to do, without care or concern for whether they will soon be pruned, replanted, or transplanted. Plants bloom with no regard to the gardeners future plans.

Do what I am to do in the present, trust the good gardener to create the beautiful landscape he envisions.

I can do that today.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Salad & Showering

Do you remember the Seinfeld where Kramer discovered the joys of meal prepping in the shower? I think I need a waterproof computer. That's where most of my uninterrupted thinking happens. Today's excuse for my 20 minutes in shower:

- For the past 7 years my husband has been a pastor. One way I supported his role is in trying to love, encourage, and serve the people in our church and community. In theory, I've known that this is what I'm called to do regardless of his job. For now, he isn't "professionally" a pastor. I'm so relieved to feel the same desire to love the people that God places around us. I'm reminded, grateful, and reassured it has nothing to do with a "job."

- Anger has always made me nervous. It seems so messy and unpredictable. I'm realizing that I've been operating under this false ideal. My recipe for being angry without sinning?

1) Recognize that I feel angry.
2) Stop everything.
3) Wait until all feelings subside before doing anything.

This ideal doesn't fit very well with Jesus overturning tables in the temple. He didn't go away, meditate for a few hours, come back and explain to the money-changers over tea why he was displeased with their actions. This doesn't mean I get to fly off the handle when I'm angry, but it does mean if I keep waiting until I'm not angry to address certain issues, I'm likely to feel "stuck" in ways God never intended.

- I can't believe Schaeffer will be 1 soon. We're coming up the age where people often ask if we are "done". The truth? I wish it was possible to have 5 more children AND be at the stage of life where Joel and I can take a trip, go on dates, reliably sleep through the night, or have the energy to have fun not sleeping through the night. I love our kids, and yet I know one of the best gifts we can give them is two happily married parents.

- Gifts and privileges do not, on their own, create a grateful heart. Entitlement is the enemy of gratitude. True of me, and true of my kids.

- I've always been able to adapt easily to different people and situations. It's a blessing. But there's a fine line between being adaptable and co-dependant. I need to spend more time asking what God is doing in me, what He's calling me to, and how He's wired me, instead of what a person or situation "needs" from me.

So, that's what I've got. Not as impressive as Kramer's radish roses. But the boys are restless and excited for their trip to the Dollar Store today, and I did, after all, take a 20 minute shower followed by some computer time. Some multi-tasking is better left undone.

Time to go be a momma.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dust & Spring

Spring is just around the corner.

I've been saying that for 2 months now.

Every year it seems the same thing happens in March. A few warm, breezy, days to run outside, meet again the long lost neighbors...and then, weeks of bitter cold days that make you wonder if winter will ever end.

With three kids, my longing for spring has grown. It means fewer sniffles and fevers, more adventures and parks, and much less laundry. And sun. Oh, the sun.

That golden light is the reason for the spring cleaning. You can just see everything better, including the dust and clutter, when that light starts shining in. It's a chance to start fresh.

And let's face it, sometimes, I need an excuse to start. Something to move me from the planning and pondering to the deciding and the doing.

Spring is just around the corner, and it's just the excuse I need to dust off this blog. Life is happening all around and within, and I've got page corners to bend.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

First Day of School

Eli is back at Union this year, and brought along his favorite alter-ego. Here's Buzz on his first day of school.

Joel and I have been joking that if the obsession doesn't let up, we are sure to have Star Trek conventions in our future.


A wonderful evening with friends and s'mores. One of those nights that is simple and good and easy, and I am just so aware that I do not deserve this life, this family, these friends, but oh, am I grateful.