Monday, December 21, 2009

And So She Danced

She leaned forward on the edge of the plush seat, binoculars in hand. Her eyebrows lifted as she waited. The lights dimmed and she inhaled quickly. We glanced at each other and grinned. It was coming.

And then the familiar Tchaikovsky strain, created long ago, whispered into the silent space. Violins gingerly tiptoed in one by one until an entire symphony of strings swelled with overture. The notes swirled about us, transforming the room into a magical world in which candy canes curtsied and dewdrops danced . . . .

Snow fell, mice threatened, soldiers marched, flowers blossomed. Mesmerized, she followed the story. "Who's that, Mama?" she whispered. "How old is the little girl?" she wondered (Perhaps my age? Could I do that? Mama knew what she was thinking). "Isn't she funny!" Her eyes widened as Mother Ginger took stage. "She's my favorite!" she stifled a giggle. And then more angels, shepherdesses and exotic treats. "They look like they're floating,
Mama . . . . " she whispered with a glow.

The curtain lowered and she sighed. "Can I get up for a bit?" she asked at intermission. "Sure, honey." We stretched our legs in the aisle, sizing up the stage and taking in the scenery.

Then it happened. She couldn't keep the beauty contained. She couldn't let the music stop. She couldn't let the feeling end. And so she danced. Her arms whirled and her toes skipped. She leapt and curtsied, twirled and pranced. The child, uninhibited, became the prima ballerina. And her joy was contagious. Another little girl swept into the aisle, and then another. A small boy tagged along. Each one responding to the beauty, wanting to be beautiful.

My heart ached as I watched the beauty of my child dancing before me, just as I had danced in that very auditorium -- perhaps even on that very aisle -- once upon a time. The emotions I experienced as a child were still with me. I remembered the uncontrollable desire to dance when I beheld beauty. The need to leap when my heart was full. The impulse to jump when my joy was brimming.

My girl danced, and I held on to that feeling, knowing that I want to remain young, even as I age. I want to dance when I behold beauty. I want to cry when the music swells. I want to sit on the edge of my seat, breathless, when the curtain lifts. My leaps may not be as graceful, and my tears may be diverted by a wrinkle or two. But that's okay. As long as there is beauty, this girl is going sweep into the aisles . . . and dance.
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Thursday, December 17, 2009


I'm a list-maker. I derive a great deal of satisfaction every time I pull a solid line of ink through an item on my "to do" list. Sometimes I add items that I've already taken care of, just so I can see how much has been accomplished. And when every single item on my list has been blotted from existence? -- (I'm giddy just thinking about it) -- now that's something to get excited about. I get to toss the whole thing in the recycling bin, never to face that same list again. It's done.

Now, I find that I'm at a crossroads here. It has occurred to me that I can follow this inky train of thought in two directions. One path leads to the blessed reminder that Christ has blotted out every one of my transgressions. When I confess my sins, He is faithful to forgive and cleanse. I write them on the list, he crosses them out -- with His cross -- and they're history. Done. He will never bring my faults before me and say things like, "Oh, but remember that time you got really mad at Avery for pulling apart the puzzle that you and the kids had started?" No. He has removed my sins as far as the east is from the west.

The other path acknowledges that some things are never done -- at least not here on earth. I felt a distinct pang when I realized that my children, although usually polite and respectful, would not automatically remain that way without continued guidance and training. I thought that I had crossed that one off my list: Obedience? Check. But it keeps showing up again and again, no matter how many times I try to triumphantly blot it out.

I am finding, however, that the two paths naturally bend and slope in harmony alongside each other. It is because Christ has blotted out my list of transgressions that I am able to address that other "list" -- the one that never ends. The list that includes attributes and fruit and lifestyle choices. Take "gentleness" for example. I sure wasn't able to mark that one off today. (Remember that delightful scene in which Avery reveled in puzzle destruction? Mama was angry.)

But this list -- this lifestyle -- isn't burdensome. At least it isn't intended to be. When I walk with Jesus, sharing the yoke He has fitted just for me, it's light. I have His Word on it. He is the strong one. He carries the bulk. I get to join Him and experience that strength firsthand. It's when I lag selfishly behind or race impatiently ahead that I place more of the burden on myself than He has intended.

And that is the key. I must daily ask Jesus to draw a line through the sins that keep me from enjoying a close fellowship with Him. As He draws His blood-stained line across my life, I feel the pressure lift. My walk is light. It is as it was meant to be. It is not always easy, but it is blessed by His presence. And I know that one day I will look back with my Savior and proclaim with joy that yes, indeed, my list is done.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009


After tossing my coat and purse on the conveyor belt, I herded the children through the security gate. Little Avery cast an anxious glance toward Mama, not sure why the entrance to this building was so strange. But then she saw a familiar face. And then another. Warm smiles and hugs welcomed her. Finally, she shyly glanced toward Sarah and Paige. They grinned back, twisting and turning on the heels of their matching cowboy boots. Their pink shirts announced the reason for our gathering: "Adoption Rocks." You see, this was a very special day for Sarah and Paige. This was Paige's adoption day.

When all of the families had arrived at the courthouse, we seated ourselves in eager clusters throughout the waiting room. I scanned the faces and felt an overwhelming sense of love and gratitude. It was like a family reunion. A dozen children were buzzing with excitement as they became reacquainted with each other. Many of the families there had been dear friends through a small group ministry at church. These friends had lifted the Thielbar family in prayer for a number of years as they faithfully relied on God to bring children, one by one, into their home through adoption. Our small group had watched Sarah grow, and now we had the amazing privilege of watching her new sister, Paige, officially join the family.

After a short wait, the judge invited the family into the courtroom. Zeb and Amber scooped up their girls and emerged through the double doors, beckoning their family and friends to follow. We timidly entered the room, assuming that it would be most appropriate to quietly sequester ourselves in the back. The judge, however, had different plans. "No, no!" he ordered. "Everyone come forward." We slowly inched toward the stand. "Keep coming!" he commanded with a grin. "This is an important day. We want everyone to be a part of it." We weren't about to disobey a judge. So there we all were, clustered around the family, as if each one of us was about to be sworn in.

Now a courtroom is generally considered to be somewhat solemn. But today was different. With two preschoolers seated atop the stand bantering merrily with the judge, there was little room for solemnity. But there was plenty of room for awe. As he carefully questioned the parents and became acquainted with the girls, we onlookers marveled at the beautiful picture before us. Parents promising to care for a child, to raise a child, to nurture a child. A child looking into the eyes of the judge and pointing with confidence, "This is my daddy. This is my mommy."

My eyes brimmed as I held Avery on my hip and watched the other parents, my friends, gently bouncing their babes and toddlers, entranced by the holy drama before us. Did our children see it? Did they catch a glimpse of the divine here in this room? Did they see that this is how it's supposed to be? That this is true fellowship? This creating of a family, surrounded by families that love and pray? And did the children see how important the life of a child is? Important enough to stand before a judge and declare, "This child is mine, and I will guard her with my life?"

The parallels unfolding before me were so vivid, I couldn't help but feel a flood of gratitude for the One who has chosen me and sealed my life with His own. And not only that, but has surrounded me -- surrounded Zeb and Amber, Sarah and Paige -- with a community of friends and family who have likewise been chosen by God and sealed by His life. Sealed by a Father who has given everything to care for us and nurture us that we might point to Him with confidence and say, "Yes, this is my Daddy."

I brushed tears from my eyes as the judge invited Paige to join him for one last proceeding. Would she care to hold the gavel? Why yes, she would. So the family of four ascended the steps and approached the bench. Paige climbed into the judge's lap. The room was completely still as the gavel was placed in her little hand. Down it came with a crash. It was official. Paige had a family.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rip City Romp

Submitted by guest writer, Drew Lawson

"Wake up Aidan!" I exclaimed excitedly. "Today we're going to the Rose Garden!" Yes, Aidan and I were taking a filming trip with Dad and Tim Denison to the arena of the Portland Trail Blazers. Dad was going to interview Larry Miller, president of the Blazers, about the Z-Man Scholarship with the Portland Police Bureau.

What did we expect? For Dad to shoot a video, outside the arena, of Larry Miller. But as we arrived with video equipment and hot chocolate from Tully's, Officer Chuck and Officer Chris from the Portland Police introduced us to another guy named Chris who led us to the corporate offices.

There a lady who appeared to be the secretary kindly looked Aidan in the eye. "Would you like a bobblehead?" Aidan shyly nodded, thrilled that somebody who worked for the Blazers had offered him something. She went back to a storage area and returned with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge bobbleheads. Apparently she had noticed me, so we both got a keepsake that now sits on our desk.

After we thanked her, Chris took us on an elevator and outside to another door. He explained that this is where the players enter the arena. "How cool," I thought. But even Officer Chris and Chuck (who worked at Blazer home games) were not expecting what happened next. Chris led us through a door, showed us the press conference room, then took us into a larger room.

"This is the locker room." The locker room! What a thrill! I noticed large lockers containing practice jerseys, shoes and drawings from young fans. Aidan quickly hurried to find Brandon Roy's locker and peered inside. Officer Chris told me to go stand by my favorite player, pointing out that it must be LaMarcus Aldridge, because of the bobblehead. However, I walked over to Rudy Fernandez's locker, explaining that he was my favorite player. Aidan just stood in awe, Mr. Denison snapped pictures at a furious rate, and even Dad seemed thrilled as he admired Greg Oden's montrous shoes.

Chris then led us through the dark tunnel and out onto the court. It seemed surprisingly small as Aidan and I ran around reliving our favorite Blazers moments. Then Larry Miller came in. I realized that this was the man that I had seen on T.V. Aidan and I sat quietly courtside, staring in wonder.

Dad and Mr. Denison shot the video, then Dad introduced us to Larry Miller. I shyly shook his hand, with Aidan doing the same. Larry Miller seemed like a very normal person -- short, quiet, dressed casually, a guy you might run into at WalMart. He was pressed for time, so he soon left. He walked down the visitor's tunnel, disappearing into darkness.

It was time to go. We picked up the video equipment then walked out, bobbleheads and all. After thanking everyone, we climbed into the car and drove away. I was still in shock over our experience that day. Soon we arrived home. Aidan and I walked in with shining eyes, ready to tell about our adventures. We knew that we would never, EVER forget our Rip City Romp.
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Best Way to Learn

I was feeling rather claustrophobic. A purple fleece coat girl was piled on my lap, squirming the way only a four-year-old can squirm. We had an hour to wait. I would have been content to sit and quietly watch Bethie's gym class, but Avery had other plans.

She opened her book bag and pulled out Gossie and Gertie. I like Gossie and Gertie. We read and smiled, then put the book away. I watched a Bethie stunt or two, then felt another book land in my hands. Poppleton. I like Poppleton. We read and smiled, she squirmed and wiggled. I glanced again toward Bethie and gave her a thumbs up, only to be attacked by a volume of Henry and Mudge. I like Henry and Mudge. We read and I . . . tried to smile.

By this time I was even more claustrophobic. She couldn't possibly get any closer to me. Her big shiny black boots were grinding into my thighs and her hair kept flying into my mouth. That's close. I attempted to peel the child from my lap. I succeeded only in that her rump landed on the chair next to mine. Every other part of her body still overflowed into my lap. Well, at least I could breathe.

Now it was my turn. I pulled out a book. "Avery, you get to read this one to Mommy now." She hesitated, linked her arm firmly in mine, and took a dive. "I w-w-w" she began. "Want," I prompted. "I - want - a - pet," she completed the first sentence. I smiled and kissed the forehead with pleasure. "Good job!" She grinned and continued, slowly tackling word after word, page after page, until the very end. My heart swelled. Maybe I don't mind the lack of personal space quite so much, after all.

I recently read in Catherine Marshall's book, Christy, about the importance of physical touch in a child's life. Of course I've heard this before, but it's fascinating to consider touch as it relates to learning. Christy recounts,

After I had been teaching for a while, I began to realize how hungry my pupils were for love expressed in physical contact. They were forever reaching for me, touching me, squeezing me . . . . At first I had not realized the significance of this yearning for touch . . . . . But then I stumbled on the link between the need for touch and a child's ability to learn. Three of my beginners . . . were having a great deal of trouble learning to read. When I would take them one by one on my lap and give them a lesson, they learned twice as fast.

I'm making a conscious effort now to touch my children as I teach -- not only the academic courses, but life courses as well. As we pray together in bed, Bethie snuggles up to me. I rub her back or stroke her hair. Avery burrows into me like a little bunny, claiming that she has to smell me (I hope that's a good thing). The boys like to hold hands in prayer, all three of us in a mini circle. These tender moments are developing a habit. A habit that I hope will deeply instill in them a love for their siblings and a love for prayer.

Tonight I was doubly rewarded for my gym hour of claustrophobic long suffering. Finally showered and snuggled in bed, my girls were ready to pray. And as I prayed, I noticed a little Avery hand gradually stealing toward her sister. She began to gently scratch her back, knowing that a back rub is exactly what her big sister likes best. Not only is my baby learning to read, my baby is learning to love.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy Hands

It's one of the more tricky hours of the day. That hour just after rest time, just before dinner. Stories have been finished, pictures have been sketched, and children begin to emerge from their curled-up-with-a-book positions. Everyone is expectant, hungry and a bit restless. And they all look to me. I look back (with an eye on the stove and a spoon in mid-stir) -- and panic.

The older ones are learning patience. I'm not as worried about them. But the little ones still start to melt during this crucial hour. Every imaginable discomfort and offense surfaces. Much tending takes place. I must quickly put out smoky fires among my babes, while taking care that no burning takes place on the stove as well.

If I act quickly enough, I can disarm the little time-bombs before any damage takes place. These little bundles of energy simply need to be directed. Like Colonel Brandon keeping watch over Marianne, they are silently begging, Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad!

Tonight as I faced this frightening hour, I was reminded of a phrase learned as a child from my dear friend, "Uncle" Ron. His smiling, rich voice taught my siblings and me that "Busy hands are happy hands." We used to laugh and giggle and clap our hands over the chant, eagerly taking on whatever task came our way.

So the minute I saw Avery's face begin to contort this evening, I knew it was time for her little hands to have an occupation. I pulled a chair up to the counter, opened the flour bin and glanced her way. It was all the encouragement she needed. Aidan was quick to follow, dragging his own chair around the kitchen island, hoping to crack an egg or two.

Disaster averted. Just in time. Dinner was late because it simply takes longer when six hands are bumping into each other. But those hands were happy and those hands were helping. Eventually, six more hands joined ours, and the kitchen became a bustling mess of activity, each one helping in his own way.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. Colossians 3:23

And lest you think, dear reader, that our Lawson hands are
always gentle and kind, let me dispel that myth right away! We've come up with our own little chant (complete with silly, exaggerated motions) to help during those times when hands insist upon flying in the direction of hurting rather than helping. The frowns gradually lift into smiles before the poem reaches its end:

These hands are for . . .
(fists "build" like blocks)
Playing, (hands clap)
Helping, (open hands extend to mama)
Praying. (hands come together in prayer)
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