Friday, November 30, 2007

It's No Lost Cause, Mr. Jonathan.

Jonathan was taking a bath. I was doing some cleaning.

"Mamaaaa!" He bellowed. With that urgent, "hurry up I'm stuck or I'm going to have a bathroom accident or maybe I just need a drink of juice really, really bad" tone.
I hustled inside.

"What's the matter?'

"Mama, there is NO WAY I can learn to be a good boy."

Pause, while I try to catch up with his train of thought. "What?" (I know; I'll write a book about my mad parenting communication skillz sometime soon.)

"There's no place to learn how to be a good boy," Jonathan explained, with some patience but really not much.

"But what about how Daddy and I teach you? What about preschool?" I asked.

"But Mamaaa (implied in his tone here is: But, Mama, please try to get your slow and sluggish brain to catch up with mine), there are piano lessons and violin lessons and karate lessons, but there is NO PLACE to go to learn how to be a good boy. So. I. Can't. Be. A. Good. Boy."

Right, I think. Good Boy lessons are hard to come by in this town. Maybe at the Y?

Turns out that Steve and Jonathan had had a long discussion that afternoon about consequences and discipline and why we are helping him "learn how to be a good boy."

After learning of this, I returned to Jonathan and spoke with him of Grace. I explained that no one is perfect; we all are broken and do things that hurt each other and hurt God's heart. But, I told him, the beautiful thing is that because of Jesus, God doesn't see those things when he looks at us. He sees how much he loves us, and that's it. In the end, we try to be good out of our love and thankfulness for what Jesus does for us.

His reply to my explanation was not unexpected.
"I just don't know how to be a good boy, though! So I can't be one."

He is only 4.
I've got 28 years on him, and
I'm still wading my way through legalism to fall into grace.

Don't despair, sweet Jonathan. It's not a lost cause.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

They've Decorated the Courtyard

The kids call it a Winter Wonderland.

I call it...something else. It is indeed something else.

Well, If You Insist...

...I'll do my best to comply.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Show of Hands, Please

I ate leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast this morning.
Anyone else?

Grandma B's Fabulous Handmade Apron, circa late 1950's (?)
(I wore it all yesterday; if
a girl can't wear it while preparing Thanksgiving Dinner, when can she wear it?)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"What are you doing, blogging on Thanksgiving?"

I'm drinking maple walnut coffee
listening to Sara Groves, "Tell Me What You Know"
celebrating that this morning person can invest her a.m. energy in something
a little bit lazy
this Thanksgiving Day.

Also, I'm gearing up for the final preparation of a Thanksgiving meal for 8. (We can easily make it 9 or 10 if you're looking for a place to land this day. Com'on over.)

But the real question is: Have you read this blog?
The beauty of the story and the work that is being done...and the way it's told...sometimes leaves me breathless.
(Thanks, KJ, for directing me there)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We went to the Macy's Balloon Inflation Event

Kermit was there

So was a shady-looking Ronald Mc Donald
(Notice the minuscular size of the people standing near his hand
compared to the enormity of this scary balloon.)

And Shrek. But he was closer to life-sized and not as full of hot air

Hello Kitty must have been misbehaving; she was tied down tight

We'll watch the parade from home tomorrow morning and call it good.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Do Thigs

The kids have a rough time of it in the mornings.
I mean, I have absurdly high expectations.
Eat their breakfast...brush their teeth...the kind of things any kid couldn't possibly accomplish in one morning.

And most mornings, our interactions go like this:
"Jonathan, turn off the tv and eat your breakfast."
"But, Mamaaaa....!"
"Chloe, stop messing around and get dressed."
"Ok, but Jonathan's not getting dressed, either."
"Jonathan, get dressed."
"But, Mamaaaa...!"

Not exactly the warm fuzzy way to start your day.

So Chloe, my rule-abiding, list-loving, "I'll meet your expectations and raise them one" oldest child, has created some checklists for our morning routines.

Chloe's Do Thigs Chart.

Wake up at 6:30: check
Brus teeth: check
Get drest: check
Do hair: check
Pack bag: check
Jonathan's Do Things Chart
Wake uq at 5:30: check (that's a self-prescribed awakening time, by the way, and not mother-approved)
Brush teeth: apparently didn't happen today
Get drest: check

Why doesn't Jonathan have to do his hair or pack his bag? I'm not going to delve into that mystery. I'm just glad he gets drest.

Speaking of getting dressed, why is it that my dry cleaner uses bags circa: 1967?
Cuddly and soft as a, that's soft!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jesus and Emily Dickenson

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant--
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind--
Emily Dickinson

"That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.
Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat
and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.
Then he told them many things in parables..."
The Bible, Matthew 13:1-3

When I was younger, parables annoyed me. They seemed roundabout,
I wanted straight up, unadulterated, tell-it-like-it-is truth.

Parables still irritate me sometimes.

But I'm also old enough to know that oftentimes,

I need the truth, but I need it slant.

(Thank God that He knows us better than we know ourselves.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fresh Direct

Fresh Direct: Deliverer of Groceries and Robot Costume-making Supplies

Costume Design by Chloe
Modeled by Jonathan

Sunday, November 11, 2007


My blogging has not been comprehensive lately. I know this because many of you have been emailing me with "How are you? Tell me about..." kinds of questions. It occurred to me that others may be wondering the same things. Hence,

Grace in the City Frequently Asked Questions

1. How are things going with the church?
I've been hesitant to write about City Fellowship Church. I feel slightly protective of it, like it's a fragile newborn. But, friends, the church is going very well. God is bringing together a community of about 15 people each Sunday evening. We're alternating between times of worship and small group gatherings. And while we continue to work very hard to build this church, I feel awestruck as I look around the room on Sunday evenings. It is clear to me that God is at work, that this group will be built by Him and not our efforts alone. That knowledge is a gift to two type-A people such as Steve and me. And it's something we have to gently remind each other daily.

2. What's the church's worship style?
One of the core values of the church is "Experiencing Worship: Our worship is an experience of dialogue with the living God perceived through vibrant and creative liturgy, preaching to the mind and heart, and sacramental communion with God through Jesus Christ." Just exactly how that hits the ground is something that we are developing in community with the others in our group. Currently, our worship is a liturgy of three movements: 1. Orientation (to worship and to God) 2. Disorientation (expressing how sin disrupts our focus on God) and 3. Re-orientation (assurance of God's faithfulness and grace). The elements of these movements shift weekly, but in general, we sing a combination of hymns and praise songs, have a strong focus on scripture, and include as many people as possible in the various roles of the service. It's been a blessing to me, and I 'm excited to see how it evolves over the next year. There is much room for creativity within those three movements.

3. But how do you fit everyone in your apartment?
Let me show you why we chose this apartment over the others at which we looked:

When it's time for worship, we can move the couch against the wall, pull out every possible seating surface that we can find, and worship in the round. That works for now, but if more people join us, we'll have to head to Ikea for some folding chairs and modify that arrangement. We've got room for 25-30 all in. The table where Steve was sitting is where we always set out food. You saw the computer, too, so now you can picture me whilst I'm blogging.

3b. Wow, that's some stark white apartment. Why are the walls of your apartment so barren?
Because most of the walls are made of concrete, and I can't figure out how to hang things on them without a jackhammer. (Although the concrete wall is another reason why we chose this apt; it provides excellent soundproofing for worship).

4. What does your day to day schedule look like?
I get up at 5:30, which is Jonathan's favorite time to wake up. Chloe arises around 6:00, and we get ready for school. The kids ride with me to school. I buy a cup of coffee from a woman named Sarah at the cafe near school. Sarah is sweet and beautiful and knows how I take my coffee. She always asks after the kids. The kiddos hang out in my office for the 30 minutes or so before school starts, and then I send them on their way. Steve picks up the kids when school gets out, and I work for a couple more hours. I get home between 5 and 6, and then we usually have a church-type activity in the evening. We try to host many of them in our apartment, so as to cut back on babysitting.

5. Do you cook for all those people that come to your apartment?
Sometimes, sometimes not. I try to keep from being too uptight about it, but I'm not always successful.

6. What's the funniest thing your kids have said recently?
This one is from Chloe just this morning, while listening to "I Will Survive," by Gloria Gayner and twirling around the room: "I wonder how I got to be so good at disco dancing, when I've never taken a single lesson?"

Grace in the City Not so Frequently Asked Questions
(ie: Never Asked, but I Still Want to Tell You)

1. What did you do last night?
Steve and I and the kids went to a local restaurant, where Jonathan was regaling us with knock knock jokes like this:
"Knock Knock."
"Who's there."
"Hawaii, who?"
"Hawaii Beach! Get it? BEACH?"
To which Chloe would inevitably reply with a deadpan "No."

The atmosphere around our table suddenly grew brighter, and Steve looked up to see if a lamp had magically appeared. But no, it was, in fact, only the ignited bread basket paper on our table. The corner of the paper had dipped into the little votive candle and started on fire. The waiter quickly appeared and tried to turn the basket over and smother the fire. That wasn't quick enough for me, so I took my glass of water and doused the thing. Voila: Soggy Toast, house special.

2. Have you recently read any books which give good insight into the postmodern view of religion and spirituality?
As a matter of fact, I have. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, and Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert are both well written and entertaining reads that would spark great conversation about truth and God.

3. Is this the longest Grace in the City blog post ever?
Probably. Have a beautiful Sunday!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Friday Morning on the Way to School

Chloe and Jonathan come with me to the school each morning. It's a 10 minute walk to the subway and another 25 minute subway ride to the school. In general, I enjoy this time (I'll let you know if that's still the case when the temps drop below freezing. Doubtful.). The city is still sleepy when we leave, the air feels fresh, and the sun is rising. Clusters of NYPD cops stand on the corners, window washers are getting a head start on their never-ending task, and the coffee and donut carts are pumping out lovely aromas into the air.
I snapped some pics last Friday.

Taxis line up outside The World Financial Center, which is across from our apt. complex

We cross the Westside Hwy each morning on a footbridge. This is looking north. The World Financial Center is on the left, the WTC site is to the right.

Looking south down the Westside Hwy. Battery Park City is one of the last places in Manhattan with room to build. The condos that are being built will sell for millions of dollars each.

Rector Street Station. Our stop.

Chloe and Jonathan are often the only children in our subway car. We make the most of our time by reading books together, talking about the day to come, and reviewing spelling words or something similar. We're starting to recognize regulars who ride the same time as we do each day.

I Just Noticed Something in the Elevator

Our apartment building has 32 floors.
But no, it doesn't.
There's no 13th floor.

It's too unlucky, I guess. And there are plenty of buildings in the city with a similar setup.

But are the people on the 14th floor fooled for even one second? Do they really think there's some phantom 13th floor below them and they're really sitting safe on the more fortunate 14th floor?

Our building was built in the early 80's, btw. This is not some throwback to more superstitious times.