Faith, Family, & Focaccia

A faith and culture Mommy blog, because real life gets all mixed together like that.


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Breathing My Baptism: Day 27 of the April Poetry Challenge

Today Princess Imagination is being baptized. She is almost seven, more than a year younger than I was when I made the same decision. She’s quite proud of that – something she’s doing before I did it – but that’s not her motivation. She is being baptized because she loves Jesus and wants to fully participate in the family of God. As dysfunctional as I sometimes feel that family is, I am nothing but happy that she wants to formalize her membership in it. For one thing, she can only make it better. For another, the simplicity and beauty of her desire reminds me of the simplicity and beauty of a sacrament that turns plain water into a powerful, identity-changing symbol.

It’s so easy to forget. But today, I am remembering.


 

Breathing my Baptism

 

The slightest drop of your immensity

floods over me

and lifts me off my self-sure footing.

The ground on which I stood

a labor of thoughts

dissolves in swirling currents.

There is no place for kicking feet to stand

no life raft to  construct

from illusions of my self-sufficiency.

A baptism of consciousness

and I am drowned

beneath the surface of a sea of Love.

I am inside the waters now

and fear is gone,

or in the least it does not fill my lungs.

I find they are transformed to breathe anew

not cold, thin air

but Breath of Life that makes me new.

And when I rise again above the waves

I do not gasp

or gulp for what I craved before submerged.

New life, a Truth both real

and beyond words

flows through my veins like water through the world.

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Dividing a Heart: Day 26 of the April Poetry Challenge

I have heard it said that if you allow a child to draw anything they wish the result will give you a view into their world. If that is true, then I am a very proud and happy Mommy today. Princess Imagination chose to draw a picture of her heart the other day, and what’s inside her heart had me tearing up.

And then, it had me writing poetry… about what the world could learn about priorities from my little girl.


 

Room In My Heart

 

The survey asks me to define,

to give a number,

to apportion value twixt the things the world tells me to love.

What is most important to you?

  1. love
  2. family
  3. education
  4. health
  5. money
  6. career
  7. power.

The question assumes a spot for each.

The only variant

is how much space I give each “what”

in the landscape of my heart.

But when my daughter draws her heart,

there is no room for “what,”

there is only room

for “who”

and “who”

is big enough for God,

and people in need,

and everyone.

 

 


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Dancing: Day 25 of the April Poetry Challenge

Thursday is little girl dance night. This means a bit of organized chaos for our family.

The chaos results from the combination of the location of Princess Imagination’s dance class (the town to the north) and the start time (6:30 pm), which turns a normally 10 minute drive into 20-30 minutes, during which the kids eat sandwiches in the car because there is no way dinner is going to get itself cooked, served, and eaten before 6:00. The commute is followed by 45 minutes of Mommy trying to entertain the Gigglemonster while simultaneously maintaining polite chit chat with the Dance Dads, and then the rush back home to get the kids into bed before Mommy’s dinner-less blood sugar levels dip into irrationality territory.

Despite the rush and the questionable nutritional balance involved in this weekly ritual, it is worth it for the smile on my daughter’s face when she comes rushing out of the dance studio after her class. She isn’t just happy; she is glowing.

This is despite the fact that half of the time it’s a nagging struggle to get her changed into her jazz clothes and into the car by 6:03. Dance is not her life passion. It is not what she was put on this earth to do. She is not even especially talented. (I know its sacrilege to say that about one’s own child, but I am a firm believer in only lavishing praise that is actually deserved, and she gives me plenty of opportunities to do that in other fields of endeavor – don’t even get me started on her math!). The first few months of the class I was wondering why we were even doing the craziness of Thursday nights. Watching on the closed circuit monitor she seemed distracted and unfocused during the class. She wasn’t really picking up the choreography, her timing was about a half-step off, and she nearly fell over every time she tried to pirouette. Exactly why was I paying through the nose to put us all though this once a week?

But then she comes running out of class and there is that bright fire in her eyes, I know this is the evidence I would offer to silence skeptics who don’t believe in heaven. It is right there – in the beautiful, brown mystery of her eyes.

She doesn’t care whether she is a good dancer, or whether she is learning the routine. All she knows is that she has spent 45 minutes dancing and it is more glorious than anything on this imperfect earth should be.

So now, Thursday nights are worth it not just for her, but also for me. Because I get to watch her dance, and learn what that really means.


 

Dancing Like a Little Girl

 

I want to dance like a little girl

free and happy in my own skin,

feeling nothing but the thrill of moving

through the space that hugs me,

as air becomes my joyful dancing partner.

I want to dance like a little girl

completely unaware of watching eyes,

unconcerned with looking graceful,

or sexy,

knowing that I dance not to impress, but to express.

I want to dance like a little girl

with a rhythm that erupts out of my soul,

and with a loose relationship to beat and time,

because the music is a friend

and not a task master,

a friend to join the play, not to set rules.

I want to learn to dance like a little girl.

and once I learn to dance like this.

I want to learn to live this way as well.


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Prayer on the Wind: Day 24 of the April Poetry Challenge

Yesterday I learned about a new form of poetry: Tanka. Tanka is like the big sister of Haiku, a little bigger and maybe a bit more grown-up. Although I understand the syllable count is not a strict requirement, the Tanka adds two lines (each of 7-ish syllables) to the 5-7-5 structure of the Haiku. While offering more freedom, Tanka is also more focused – presenting an image from the natural world and then expressing emotional meaning through that image.

I read that description and immediately knew I wanted to try it. Thankfully the day’s weather offered a perfect manifestation of the natural world to inspire me. The picture window off my dining room presented the picture of a warm New Jersey spring, but the wind that wrapped around my legs and tossed my hair the moment I stepped outside felt more like a mistral – the cold, strong gusts that tug at the Mediterranean coasts during this seasonal transition.

It was disappointing. The Winter that greeted our return to New Jersey has been so cold and long and – frankly – unwelcoming, that I am longing for Spring to really and truly arrive and tell me that this is where I belong. I don’t want to be blown back across the Atlantic when I am trying so hard to build my life here.

But then a memory of another Mediterranean wind blew into my mind and stopped my grumbling. It was the Summer wind that enchanted my daughter and I on the Greek island of Tinos and inspired one of my first ever blog posts. (That post is still one of my favorite things I have ever written – click here if you are curious). Sometimes the power of the wind cannot be measured in physical force.


 

Prayer on the Wind

 

The wind blows today

harder than I want, but then

I remember when

island wind blew through her hair

and taught my soul a prayer.


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Teaching Class: Day 11 of the April Poetry Challenge

My mom arrived for a visit yesterday, and was an instant Rock Star with my kids. Someone they love who has no dishes to wash, or phone to answer, and who could not be more delighted to sit and read twenty-seven books in a row!

Now, Rock Star is not my mom’s most natural persona, but she adapted well and soaked in the love, and smiles, and hugs, and exuberant attention. Then, Princess Imagination decided that it was time to play her favorite game. The result gave me a new appreciation for ways to teach my driven little daughter.


Teaching Class

 

When she grows up, my daughter wants to be a teacher

art

or maybe math

definitely grade school.

She likes to be in control.

She’s practicing already,

but her little brother is not a very willing student.

 

Gra’ma’s arrival means a happy partner in the practice classroom,

a student for her lessons,

who doesn’t bore the mini-teacher with distracting stories,

about the real-life classrooms she once taught,

or eight full years of teaching me at home.

Gra’ma is content to play the game.

 

Out comes the Easel, and the teacher-voice.

Perhaps she chooses math because this is Gra’ma’s subject,

or perhaps because her genes run true,

and numbers captivate her own well-structure mind.

 

Unfortunately, today she over-reaches

she can’t yet calculate below the zero line.

My eavesdropping ears tilt forward,

anxious for the sounds of six-year-old frustration,

when she cannot pretend to master all.

 

But somehow, there is only laughter

and a willing switch of teachers.

Gra’ma draws a number line,

begins a clear and helpful explanation

but

Princess Imagination doesn’t really want to learn

she wants to teach again.

 

So, a new lesson now: patterns

and Gra’ma sits and listens,

answers simple questions,

gives attention to the little teacher,

and as she does, teaches an important lesson by example.

The greatest teachers

are always ready

to learn.

 


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Share Day: Day 3 of the April Poetry Challenge

Today’s poetic effort is in the vein of narrative free verse. Hopefully the source of inspiration will be evident.


 

Share Day

 

“It was so exciting! I just can’t sleep!”

My sweet, calm daughter

normally so tranquil, so contained,

now wriggling and bouncing in her bed,

animated by memory.

 

The source of this ebullient agitation:

Her Share Day.

The class calendar marked with her name,

calling on her to rise and carry up the chosen, precious object.

“My Favorite Book”

 

She didn’t tell me her selection,

not until we were rushing out the door,

lunch bags and jackets trailing from lazy child arms,

keys slipping in my fingers as I rush to lock the house, unlock the car,

transport us all to each our destination.

 

 “Do you know what I’m going to share?”

A gleeful grin expands her face,

and, finally, tired eyes glance down to see the book gripped to her chest,

embraced with pride.

My Storybook Bible.

 

Two instant, instinctive, counter-acting thoughts.

 

The happy one beams out,

full of pride and joy

to know this precious book merits for her the singular title:

Favorite.

And even more to see the light

that shines our from her eyes,

so eager to share her love, and God’s, with others.

 

But parallel thought retracts,

trained by fear and pain,

by knowledge of how this book’s singular claims are oft received:

Judgment.

Descriptor both of content and of those

who speak with public voice of finding light,

those eager to share their words, or God’s, with others.

 

What will they think?

The parents of a class whose diverse names and faces I do celebrate,

the chance for her to see and learn from differences.

But will this difference be allowed to teach?

If children bring home tales of Bible stories read aloud

will some complain of violated boundaries, church and state?

Or… will they think that I am a sneaky proselytizer,

indoctrinating six-year olds, my own and through her theirs?

 

My own memory awakes, asleep now twenty years,

presents a shaking scene:

A High School English class; an assignment –

present an object that represents yourself.

I, my worn Bible in my hand, stand to face the stares,

the sneers, the cynical questioning of those who thought me fool.

I held that book because my faith was central to my core, my sense of self,

but also because I felt compelled to stand against the tide,

to prove my faith as genuine to evangelical satisfaction.

“Blessed are you when they revile you…”

 

But this is not her reason,

and I must divorce my own complicated story of love and pain,

both found within the pages of this book,

from how I let her write her own, new story.

Her reason is so much simpler,

just the natural child’s joy of drawing near to God in story form.

And so…

I do not question,

do not try to guide her steps away from pitfalls in the quagmire of pluralistic culture.

This is her share day, and the story must be hers.

 

Now she has shared,

all unaware of culture wars and bigotry,

without cold words of caution to quench the bright light shining from her eyes.

And now, when it is over, hours past,

she is bouncing on her bed, alert with joy.

“It was so exciting! I just can’t sleep”


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Morning Haiku: day one of National Poetry Writing Month

So, April is National Poetry Month. In our wonderful digital age this means, of course, that a community has organically sprung up to write and share poetry this month: National Poetry Writing Month or NaPoWriMo. The idea is to write a poem a day all through April.

My efforts during November for NaNoWriMo (1 novel in one month) fell dismally short, but I’m blaming that on the fact that, you know, I was in the final stages of preparation for an international move. Add that excuse to the fact that my life at the moment seems to be naturally generating a lot of poetic outbursts with little or no encouragement, and I feel fairly confident that this time will be different. Plus, I’m starting out easy. My first offering is the haiku that sprang to life yesterday morning when Princess Imagination burrowed under my covers in the blessed moments before we had start the day.

sleeping Princess

Waking-up Song

Mommy, can we snuggle?

Will you hold me warm and close?

BEST ask of the day.