Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lying to Your Kids :: {Yes, I do it}

When I was 8, we had just gone through missionary training camp in Papua New Guinea, and were half way through the 'village living' segment of the training.  It was 1989.  The Berlin Wall was being torn down unbenownst to us, but the fall of Communism was nothing compared to learning to fish with dynamite and eating squid eyes.

We spent our month of village living on a tiny island nestled in a bay carved into the coast of the PNG mainland.  The island had three huts, one for us, and one for our 'Wass Papa' ('watch father', or 'watch family', who looked after us and taught us how to do basically everything from poop in the outhouse perched over the mangrove swamp, to gut a fish), and one for our Wass Papa's inlaws.  The bay was filled with little creatures that shimmered iridescent at night, leaving a starry wake when you moved a paddle or your hand through the water.  There was one huge tree at the far end of the island, which had a rope tied to an extending branch, from which we'd swing with wild abandon into the bay.

Even at the mature age of 8, I had a special blanket with silky lining around the outside edges, which I would rub against my face while I sucked my finger.  It was incredibly calming.  And at this time of upheaval in my life, when we'd just left America and were living in drastically different conditions, that comfort was incredibly important to me.  My mom, with her typical foresight, had cut a small piece off of my blanket to take to village living with us, so that the entire blanket wouldn't be accidentally dropped in a cooking fire and be lost forever.

Although I was supposed to leave my blanket piece at home, I snuck it out of the hut one day when I went to meet my Wass Papa's kids at the rope swing.  One thing led to another, and before I knew it, an hour had been spent swinging out and then dropping into the water.  When the fun was over, I realized, with a sinking stomach, that my blanket piece was gone.

I was hysterical.  My mom responded the way I later would to my own kids:  "Well, I'm sorry, honey, but it's your responsibility."  My dad, on the other hand, responded the way Scott does now.  He took his mask and snorkel, and went out in a Herculean attempt to locate one lost blanket piece in the vast ocean.  An hour later, he came back, and told my sobbing 8 year old self the following lie:

"Honey, here's what happened to your blanket piece.  A mommy fish was swimming along, looking for something soft for her baby fish.  You see, the mommy fish's nest in the coral for the baby fish was hard and the poor baby fish was so uncomfortable.  The mommy fish found your blanket piece floating along, and took it in her mouth and put it in her nest and now the baby fish has a nice, soft place to rest."

It took some convincing, but I eventually acknowledged that the baby fish needed my blanket piece more than I did.

It wasn't until my 20's when I realized that fish do not actually make nests like birds do, nor do they need soft things with which to line the nests.


Fast forward 24 years, and I am sitting at my kitchen table with my own 6 year old, talking about our upcoming beach vacation with the cousins.  Sophie had never been to the beach before, and was excitedly talking about everything she wanted to do with Paige, her 4 year old cousin.

"We are going to splash in the ocean!  And make sandcastles, and look for shells.  And pearls.  I want to make a shell necklace AND a pearl necklace with Paige."

Me:  "Um, honey, pearls might be hard to find on the beach.  You see, clams ..."

But Sophie interrupted me, "Oh, no, I am going to look REALLY hard for them.  I'm really good at finding things, Mom.  Paige will help me, and we'll find pearls and make fancy pearl necklaces together."

My heart softened, and I was struck by sudden inspiration.  "You know,"  I said slowly, "Sometimes, you can find nests of pearls on the beach.  Maybe you and Paige can look in the sand and find some pearl nests?"

A quick call to my sister in law and my mom set the rest of my plan in place.  Weeks later, on our first day at the beach, my mom pulled me aside and showed me the strands of pearl beads she had found on sale at Hobby Lobby.  I slipped down to the beach, created six 'nests' of pearls, and marked each site with a single bead on the top of the sand.

A few minutes later, the girls arrived at the beach, buckets and shovels in sand, and what followed were twenty minutes of wonderment and excitement.

Paige kept yelling, with a hysterical pitch to her voice, "We're RICH!!!  We're RICH!!!", while Sophie grabbed frantically at the pearls and dropped them into her pail.  

Yeah, I lied to my kid.  But it was totally worth it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Reblog - Jamie the Very Worst Missionary :: {Human Sex Trafficking}

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, is a blogger I've been following for a while.  I really respect her view on missions, and also Christianity in general.  Her honesty, boldness and empathy floor me every time.  I highly recommend checking out her entire site, but I wanted to pass along this very important post.  She recently took a trip to South East Asia, to witness the sex trafficking trade.  I'm usually highly skeptical of things like this (especially if they seem sensationalized), but Jamie's post was honest and heartfelt enough to bring tears to my eyes and literally tug my heartstrings.

Go check her out:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Walmart on a Friday Night --- To the Lord!

In our small town, Walmart is kinda like Rome.  All roads lead to it.  Scott and I usually go together, because each of us would rather pick out what we need than risk the other getting the wrong thing.  So we load up ye old Suburban with the three kids, blue recyclable bags, Moby wrap, sippy cup, water bottles, snacks, and after a last shoe check to make sure nobody arrives barefoot, we set off.

This past Friday we weren't doing a 'big trip', where each of us takes a basket and we stock up on groceries for the next two weeks.  We had just run in to get some sundries for the weekend.  It was the end of a long day.  Scott had risked going in his work clothes in order to save time.  Usually, he changes into a t-shirt and a ball cap, in order to avoid awkward encounters with people whose loved ones he had incarcerated earlier in the day.  The kids were hungry.  We were rushing.

I had promised Xander that he and Sophie could pick out a Lunchable for dinner.  This is a rare treat, since Lunchables make the kids hyper and usually don't fill them up enough.  As soon as we entered the door, he was tugging on my arm.  "Mom, can we go pick out a Lunchable?"

"No, son, we need to shop first.  When we go near the Lunchables, then you can pick one out."

"But WHEN, mom?  WHEN can I get a Lunchable?  How many minutes?"

This is his new favorite question, and as a four year old has no concept of time, it seems rather pointless to me, but I answer anyway.  "Twenty minutes."

"TWENTY MINUTES?  Like, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 .... 11 .... 12 ... 15 .... 17 .... 18, 19, 20?"

"Yeah, like that.  Come on."

We start our loop at the toiletries first, and by the time we've checked the store's ammo supply, he's already asked four more times, and I have to threaten peanut butter sandwiches for dinner if he doesn't start being patient.

When we finally get around to the deli section, where the Lunchables are displayed in a brightly colored array, we've already stopped three times to talk to someone we know, and Manasseh's drained his sippy cup and either eaten the crackers, or else dropped them in a trail through the store.  I may or may not have kicked a few under some shelves on the way.  The baby's starting to fuss, and I know we're pushing bed time.

"Xander!  There's the Lunchables.  Go pick yours out."  He runs to the display.

Now, here's the thing about my oldest son.  He is the most exuberant person I know, and throws himself passionately (sometimes this is a literal thowing) into everything that occupies his attention.  He's also always been musical.  I remember him tapping his matchbox cars against different surfaces to hear the sounds they made when he was barely crawling.

He accompanies himself, often loudly, with a soundtrack throughout his day.  His favorite refrains are the themes of 'Super Hero Squad', 'Power Rangers', and singing, 'to the Lord!'.  Each of these applies to different situations - if Xander's eating lunch, he'll absent mindedly hum, 'Super hero SQUAD!' to himself.  If he's succeeding in something, he'll sing, "Go, go, big boy BIKE RIDE" (to the tune of Power Rangers).  And if he's just accomplishing some every day task, he'll sing what he's doing, and add an enthusiastic, "To the Lord!"  to the end of it.  For example:  "I love my friend ... to the LORD!", and, "I hit my sister ... to the LORD!"

This must have been a To the Lord moment, because Xander planted himself in front of the display case and sang, at full volume, "Lunchables!  TO THE LORD!!!  OHHHHHH YEAAAAHHHH!!!!  TO THE LOOOOORRRRRD!!!!!  I love Lunchables!  TO THE LORD!"  I was sure the people clear over in the dressing rooms could hear him.

"Come on, son, pick out your Lunchable.  And turn it down a little."

Whispering now, "Oooohhhh yeah.  I can eat a Capri Sun Lunchable ... to the Lord."

He and his sister finally picked out what they wanted, and we made a break for the checkout.  We'd rounded the corner of the frozen foods, when Sophie let out a shriek and I heard a scattering, rattling sound behind me.  Turning, I saw her standing in the middle of the aisle, with pearl beads bouncing and cascading rapidly around her in an ever widening circle across the white linoleum floor.

Sophie had chosen to wear her pearl necklace to the store that evening.  When one is six and a half, one knows the importance of proper accessories when going out in public.  This was a special necklace, made from pearls she had found on our beach trip last month.  (What, did you not know about pearl nests?  Apparently, you can find nests of pearls in the sands of beaches everywhere, with pearls conveniently pre-drilled for stringing.  Sophie and her cousin went on a pearl hunt while we were on vacation and found six such nests amazingly close to the path we used to walk to the beach every day.  Perhaps I'll write that story out soon - it bears telling.)

Anyways, she had strung her precious pearls and was wearing the necklace that night, when the fishing string had become untied and now we had a pearl emergency, in the middle of the Walmart frozen foods, with Lunchables quickly warming to room temperature and a one year old approaching critical melt down.

I couldn't just leave the beads on the floor, because besides the fact that I didn't want someone to slip on them and break a hip, Sophie believed they were actual REAL PEARLS, and she had found them with her cousin.

That is how I came to be on my hands and knees, with shoppers taking a wide birth around me, fishing pearls out from under a freezer with my 6- and 4-year-olds, while Scott watched the cart and blew raspberries on Manasseh's fat cheek.

Don't judge, ya'll.  I'm a mom.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Clanging Cymbals - My Guest Post!

So I haven't written much on here about my spiritual journey.  Of course, my faith, as part of my life, is mixed in with most of my writing, but I don't usually write *about* my faith, itself.  Over the last several years, I've been slowly sorting through things from my childhood, teen and young adult years.  It's been a process of unraveling the dogma from the very real and good exercises of faith and righteousness.

I'm involved in an online community called, "Stuff Christian Culture Likes" (curated by Queen Bee Stephanie Drury, on Facebook and a blog).  She often posts articles that are related to 'Christian Culture', pointing out the alternating ridiculous, hurtful, or healing aspects of the Christian Church.  She sometimes posts articles by Zach Hoag, who is a published Christian blogger, and who always writes with respect, thoughtfulness and empathy.  I was involved recently on a discussion on his blog, after which he asked me if I'd like to write a guest post for him.

 Let me think about it ... um, YEAH!!!

My thanks to Zach, I'm honestly humbled and honored that you even asked for my thoughts.  And everybody, head over to his blog to not only read my post, but also check out his writing.

Clanging Cymbals:  Danica Newton on Twitter Preachers & Bad Fruit

Monday, July 15, 2013

Burning the Midnight Oil

It is the witching hour here at the Newton house, and for some reason I am as wide eyed as the cats who are stalking shadows in the next room.  I'm already regretting my sleeplessness because I know that toddlers wait for no man, and tomorrow Manasseh will be crying for his milk bright and early, as usual.  But here I sit, a square of sea salted chocolate in hand, with the warm night soft around me.

I remember waking up late at night on Luaniua, when the moon was full.  Of course, we had no indoor plumbing, so a trip to the beach was my only option for relief from a full bladder.  The moon was so bright, that it poured like molten silver through the louvered windows, cutting the blackness.  I pulled my lava lava tight around my waist, and slipped through the house, which swayed slightly on its stilts at my movement.  Down the stairs, and out onto the coral perimeter of our house.

I stopped for a moment, taking in the alien starkness that the moonlight gave to the huts around me.  Shadows were thrown into sharp relief, everything was bright silver or black.  A ghost breeze set the coconut fronds above me clattering, and I began padding my way through the huts, towards the distantly pounding surf.

I walked, alone and quiet, through the rustling night.  I passed squat huts, whose slumbering inhabitants betrayed their presence only by the occasional snore filtering through mat walls.  Cooking fires had long gone out in each doorway I passed.  Even the pigs, when I reached them, grunted grumpily and rustled their moon kissed snouts into the sand.

The moon follows the tide.  So when the moon is as round and bright as a silver platter, the ocean draws itself high up onto the beach, further than at any other time of the month, and cleans away 26 days of debris.  It sounds different in this state, and I could hear the altered cadence of the waves as I neared the end of my path.  Breaking through the last of the pandanas trees, I was suddenly out of the world of light upon shadow, and was now fully bared before the moon's gaze.

The beach, spreading out before me, reflected the brilliant light back up into the night, so with the moon above and white sand below, the whole place seemed to glow.  A cool breeze skipped off the waves, coming towards me after eons of travel.  It tugged at the hem of my lava lava.  The moon sang down.  With my toes sinking into the wet sand, I unwrapped my lava lava, clutched an end in each hand, and flung my arms open to the night.