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When You Witness True Goodness

Some weeks, nothing seems to go right.
Life is full of disappointments, frustrations, and pain.
You can't stop asking why.

But then there are other weeks.
Everywhere you look you see generosity, love, and kindness.
And you can't stop smiling.

Fortunately, I've had one of the good weeks. I've had the privilege to witness people giving and caring for others in marvelous ways. Their actions humble me and inspire me. And I know that God is real and moving in this world—because I've seen the way He answers prayers and moves in the hearts of His children.

I hope you've seen God this week. And if you're having a week of struggles, I hope you hang on until next week. He'll show up.

 
 

Classic

We've exposed Kaelyn to some classics in recent months:



Books
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Mouse and the Motorcycle

Movies
• the original Star Wars trilogy (next up: the prequel trilogy)
The Princess Bride

Music
• "Ice Ice Baby"
• "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"
(Don't worry—she's already been a longtime fan of the true classics like The Beatles and Elvis since birth!)

Stage
Swan Lake
Annie

It's fun to share my childhood favorites and pass along wonder and laughs to the next generation. What favorites have you passed along?

 
 

It's an honor just to be nominated

Some people have grandiose visions for their lives: places they want to go, tasks they want to accomplish—degrees to earn, corporate ladders to climb, money to spend.

I've never been that way.

I've just gone about life and lived it. I don't see five years ahead. I can barely handle the next five weeks/five days/five minutes, thank you very much.

This was exemplified in college. I began my freshman year in that age-old program of "undecided." Because decisions go along with vision, I think. And you may have heard, decision-making has never been my forte.

By my second year, I had to choose something. But I'd never envisioned me doing anything—except for being famous. (That vague notion that some movie director would wander by one day and beg me to be in his next film.) So I thought about it. I like to write. Is writing something I can choose as a major? Is writing something I can do as a job? (I was a diligent, straight-A student in high school. Why hadn't I thought about some of this beforehand?) I switched colleges, chose a major, switched majors the next year, but ended up in Journalism, also taking as many other Communications classes as I could.

It worked out for me. I spent 11 years in full-time publishing work, as an assistant editor my first year and then as an editor for another decade. I truly enjoyed what I did. Then I stopped when my husband generously took on more work so I could stay home with our kiddo.

Twice in the past four years, I've been offered to dive into full-time work again. And my thoughts were:
• Wow. They want me? For that? How awesome! Flattering. Are they really asking me?
• I could see me doing that. It sounds like the job of some fancy character in a novel I've read. I could be that woman.
• But I stopped working full-time to give more time as a mom. What would this take away from the kiddo? She won't be young forever.
• They really want me?
• Hmmmmmm . . .

If you talked to me back in my early 20s, the goal lowest on my list was to be a mom. I assumed it would happen some day, but maternal instincts were the least of my skills and therefore the least of my priorities. Putting that off for a long while seemed best. So if I had either of these two job offers back then, I would've jumped at the chance.

But when God brought a daughter into my life, even my vague thoughts of what the future would look like began to change. And the role I feared most and felt the least prepared for became the biggest source of joy. Somehow I became addicted to spending time around this small child. Who knew this kind of love existed? (Well, maybe many people did. But I didn't get it till then!)

And so, faced with giant decisions when I hate deciding—I thought and prayed and then said no to both job offers. Strange that it felt right.

So I continue to freelance and piece together work on a schedule where I can work during school hours. And I have a wonderful husband who works hard to provide this opportunity. Though I could've had some snazzier titles to tell people when asked what I do, I feel a peace and contentment right now. I'm in a season of life I didn't expect to dwell in. But God sure likes to surprise us with blessings when we least expect it.

 
 

Want to catch up?

Apparently the bliss of an island vacation swept all thoughts of blogging from my mind at the end of summer. Sounds glamorous, right?

Here's what's been going on lately:

• Returned from glamorous anniversary vacation. Listlessly refused to get back to reality. Spent as much time with Kaelyn at the pool as we could squeeze in until summer began.

• School started! Big second grader in the house. (I love the pic below. Steve is snapping pics and Kaelyn turned to something I said on the side. I can see the look of excitement plus nervousness in her eyes. Yet she moves forward to be brave.)

• Labor Day weekend we had a fun family time. All 3 of us did the trail run with her school. We did an urban hike downtown. And hung out with the Carrs.

• Soccer started mid-September. It filled our fall with fun. Kaelyn enjoyed her first team sport. I learned not to be a stressed-out audience member. Steve patiently encouraged Kaelyn's first ever season, and she learned each time out. She's ready to play again in the spring. Their team finished 6 wins, 2 losses.

• Saw the Reds win their final home game before they lost in the playoffs.

• My parents came up to see Kaelyn play and to visit.

• Our neighborhood had a fabulous food festival this past weekend. Great day for the community.


Now you're caught up—if you care. Yes, you do. I can sense it. :) Hope your fall has been superb.


 
 

Things I Learned at VBS



This past week, our church conducted our first ever VBS. We had a great turnout and a mix of all types of kids who came. Loved it! 

Here are some things I learned:
 

• Getting a room full of kids to scream loudly and jump up and down to worship songs is a great way to end your night.

• Snacks will always be the favorite part of any church endeavor.

• Even the coolest of kids will do arm motions to cheesy songs if everyone else is doing it. And if it’s mockingly at first, they still might actually start to have fun.

• The smallest child will gravitate toward the tallest adult sponsor. And they will be best buddies. (Talking to you, Elder Most High!)

• You can be utterly exhausted and overwhelmed with joy at the same time. (Well, I likely learned this when I had a newborn in the house, but this was a good reminder.)  

• When step up to the plate and give their all in service to God, it energizes you. Seeing people using their talents (even ones they may not know they had) is a wonderful sight to behold. My respect and adoration of my amazing friends at Echo Church grew exponentially this week. (I didn't think that was possible!)

• It’s good to be reminded of the perspectives of 4- through 12-year-olds. The questions I heard were informative as well as challenging.

• Even the wildest behaved child wants to feel special. And if you assign that child a special friend to guard and guide, then that child feels even more special. (And the volunteers who took on this task this week were adored by all!)

• Even when you think they aren’t paying attention to what you’re saying, children are observing things.

• If you look closely at each child, you can see the hope and potential brimming inside. Believe in that.


I've helped with VBS in various churches over the years—but being more involved in the organization of the week was a whole new perspective. Plus this was different than when I've helped in larger and suburban churches. This has truly helped me appreciate all the years Price Hill Church of Christ has given such a huge effort from a smaller congregation in an urban area. They are an inspiration!

And I was super amazed by Alicia Gee, who came up with our entire program. She rocks!!

We hope that, ultimately, the kids felt God's love.
Thanks to Echo Church for being the church.


 
 

No Words

Sometimes there are no words.
Out of pain.
Out of fear.
Out of self-consciousness.

But sometimes it's out of awe.


I like those moments. Because a lot of my day is filled with words—words in my head, if not on my tongue. And I can go all day buzzing from one thought or conversation to the next. Yet all of these communications surrounding me are on the here-at-hand, the stuff of earth.

Therefore I like it when the stuff of earth draws my attention heavenward.
Because when I think on things above, the stuff of earth finds meaning.
When I think on things above, I find the strength to move ahead when the earth beneath my feet makes me weary.
When I think on things above, even the beauty here below glows with more hope.

A simple drive home tonight, windows down, radio off, gave me a chance to clear my mind of the day's commotion. And so I was better prepared to receive the beauty placed in my vision. And better prepared to allow it to draw my attention to an amazing Creator's artistry.


(*Photo taken from the car window. I pulled over to capture the moment.)

 
 

Randomness, randomness is what I strive for . . .

So it seems that if I continue to wait until I have something brilliant to write on my blog that I will continue to neglect it until the world ends. (Which must be soon, judging by the number of world-ending themes slated for the summer movie schedule.)

In an effort to force my brain to construct sentences and perhaps craft something that will challenge me toward further creativity, I give you today's randomness (bulleted for easy reading and in no particular order):

• I watched my first 3D movie. It was even IMAX! Fancy, I know. Steve and I watched the new Star Trek a couple weeks ago. I didn't get a headache, as I'd feared. It was definitely a good flick to be my first. I liked it a lot. Now I'm not a Star Trek fan by nature or history. I only jumped aboard on these last two flicks by J.J. Abrams—and I haven't been disappointed. The actors, the action, and the visuals were enjoyable.

• Isn't it fun to see a kid accomplish something that they were so afraid to try? And isn't it such a relief that you no longer have to resist the urge to slam your head against a tree in defeat while trying to teach the stubborn kid that there's nothing to fear? (Not that I've experienced this recently or anything.)

• Crazy animal encounter: I was running down a path in the park the other day. I heard a small rustling nearby. Apparently I startled a chipmunk on my journey. But instead of fleeing the scene in the opposing direction, the chipmunk decides to make a break for it and sneak between my outstretched feet. Have you ever leaped over a rodent while jogging? If not, you have to try it sometime. It definitely lightens the mood.

• I revel in the summertime pace. I'm a night owl by nature. So not having to set an early alarm makes me happy.

• I love to swim, but last week's cooler weather caused me to be too chicken to jump in. Kaelyn, on the other hand, is a fish and impervious to cool temperatures. She swam three times in three different pools last week. Maybe I'll test the waters this week.

• Family is excellent. In the past week I've spent time with all the Carr clan over the span several days, some more than once, and had quality time with my grandparents. Not to mention texting several other relatives I didn't get to see in person. I'm glad to have these folks in my life.

• Church family rocks as well. One June 1 there was quite a mass gathering to assist two different moves on the same Saturday. Church family that likes to hang together is quite lovely. Having time to go out to eat with them after church services is always a pleasure. (Even if I had to sit at the boy end of the table!)

• People around us continue to be affected by fire. While our next-door neighbors still aren't moved back into the condos that caught fire last June 24, another fire happened over the weekend. The family who generously housed us for the summer eight years ago when we were between dwellings (and who have generously housed many people over the years) had their house go up in flames.

• I've been reading some. People of the Book and Cutting for Stone are both superbly written. I needed to read some quality writing after some duds I'd experienced. The stories were deeply moving and spoke to the triumph of pursuing life and pursuing failed human beings, despite pain and heartache.

Enough random thoughts for now. After all: "When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." (Proverbs 10:19)
I'm choosing wisdom. Peace out, yo.

 
 

Haiku for you

Posted this on Twitter and Facebook. Since it's "creative" in nature, and I'm trying to keep track of some creative writing here on the blog this year, I'd better post this in belated form. The good news is: the subject matter of the haiku has ceased. Hooray!


6 a.m. Loud cats
Outside my window. Frisky.
It must be spring now.

 
 

Trial and Error

Some days success alights upon me:
I'm a helpful volunteer at school, I finish my freelance assignment with confidence, I've exercised and prepared a healthy meal for dinner.
Look—a beam of light is shining upon my brow, crowning me for a day well done!

Some days feel defeated when the day has just begun:
Why do I obsess over small things and keep fussing at the kid?
What happened to my attempt at being more laid back?
Why do I want an entire box of Cheez-Its and Diet Coke to be my lunch?

Most days fall somewhere in between:
some failures; some victories; lots of learning along the way.

When I focus on futile attempts at perfection, I'll only remember the defeated days. Or I'll discount the victories that happened on those in between days.

But beauty can be found in each day when I look for it.
Beauty can be found in me too.

Those scuffs and scratches and bent edges of me testify to the wisdom I've gained in trial and error. And today is no different. I've already experienced parental regret in one hour but found confidence in facing a scary task the next—and it's not even noon yet!

So here's to facing today's trial and error, successes and defeats.
And finding the grace to try again tomorrow.

 
 

The Act of Holding Back

Not all of us are patient enough teach. I count myself among that number.

Although I've taught in small groups and youth groups over the years, though I've taught my child a thing or two, and though I've had to teach a few tasks in the workplace, I struggle to remain a patient instructor. Clearly I can see what needs to be done. Clearly I understand how to do it myself. And when it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r for someone else to grasp what I already know, I can be a wee bit huffy.

[Sidebar: Because I have a tendency to get frustrated and bossy, especially with my own kin, that's why Steve taught Kaelyn how to ride a bike. That's also why some day it will be Steve who teaches her to drive. I'm already planning on staying far away!]

Have you ever had to teach people something that comes naturally to you? You may wish the lesson to be over. Or you may just not want to see them struggle any longer. In those moments, it's easy to want to grab the task back out of their hands and just do it yourself.

[Sidebar: Insert SNL skit here where Jimmy Fallon plays "your company's computer guy" and yells "MOVE!" to fix a problem himself. Love that!]

But if we're patient enough to allow people to struggle a bit in the learning process, they will grow because of it. They will have to figure it out. If we take over, they learn nothing.

I wonder if that's what God does for us. When I pray, I seek the easy solution. Whatever causes the least amount of struggle for me, for those I love. And sometimes those burdens are lifted. But what about when they aren't? Is God simply ignoring us?

Perhaps God isn't standing far away, doing nothing. Perhaps He's committing the biggest action of all: restraint.

What if God knows that the burdens we struggle with will make us amazing people in the long run? He sees the pain that we endure. But He also sees the end result. Have you ever imagined how hard it is for God to NOT take over? Does His heart break as He holds back His power in order to let us grow?

We'll never fully understand Him. But today this perspective causes me to keep trusting.