Archive for October, 2009
I’ve been thinking about figs a lot recently. Well, one in particular. My fig. I don’t even know if I like figs, really. I mean, sure, I like them when they’re made into a paste and spread on top of foamy little cake rolls and sold in little plastic trays in the grocery store. But I’m thinking about figs, and I just can’t seem to stop.
And the sad thing is, I’ve got raisins in the pantry.
Now that you’re thoroughly confused – or thinking I’ve completely lost my mind – I suppose I should back up a bit. When I attended my very first informational meeting for my trip to Uganda, our pastor reminded us to be prepared for God to test us…our commitment, our obedience, our willingness to follow. He gave examples of things that might “come up” along the way that God would use to grow us in Him as we prepared to go. I was excited. I was ready. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I was up for the challenge.
The part that went unsaid was that there’s another side to this story. Yes, God may test us. But we are going into a country that is engaged in powerful spiritual warfare. Satan has a stronghold in Uganda, and he wants nothing more than to keep God’s people out and prevent God’s work from being done. And to do that, he uses figs.
He’s done it before. Right there in Genesis. The whole serpent-in-the-garden scene with Eve and what we’ve commonly referred to as an “apple”. Except it probably wasn’t an apple. More than likely, it was a fig. A juicy, ripe, delicious fig that he dangled before Eve and tickled her ear with promises of a better life if she would only take it…and eat.
And so we come back to my story. You see, I’ve always known about figs. They’re healthy and are rich in fiber, and can be used in all sorts of ways. But to be honest, I’ve never really been interested in them. The fig tree has always been there, in the garden, but frankly I’ve had no interest in going near it, or trying one of its fruits. I’ve been content with the variety of other fruits on hand…especially those raisins in my pantry. Because in the grand scheme of dried fruits, raisins are by far my favorite.
But several weeks ago, when I was preparing to send out my support letters, something inside me changed…and suddenly I noticed that fig tree. I noticed its shape, its leaves, its scraggly branches. And I noticed a fig that looked like it was made just for me, hanging from one of the low branches. I noticed its color, its ripeness…and was intrigued.
So I spent some time sitting under that fig tree, taking a closer look at the fruit. I know enough not to pick it. I even know enough not to touch it, lest I be tempted to pick it and eat. But I’d never been that close-up with a real live fig before and I was curious to learn about it: to see how its color changes as it ripens, to notice its shape as it grows and matures, to see the texture of its skin and the way that it hangs from the branch.
But life keeps moving and soon I found that I needed to leave the garden and the fig tree behind. Yet, despite the busyness of life and the variety of fruit in my own kitchen, I found myself thinking about the fig. Wondering what they taste like. Do you eat them like an apple? Or do you have to peel them, like an orange? Looking through cookbooks for recipes – even though I know I’ll never make a single one of them. And even though those thoughts were not necessarily wrong, I found that simply by dwelling on them, I was losing my appetite for other fruit, particularly those raisins. Nothing else seemed appealing. Nothing else sounded like it would taste good. I didn’t really want to EAT the fig…but the curiosity was threatening to consume me.
So I confided in those who are closest to me. Those I can trust. Those that will hold me accountable and follow up. Those that I know will commit to intercede on my behalf. And I shared with them my struggle, that though this is not a battle of eating the fruit, it is a battle for my mind. For my thoughts. For my attention. And God honored their prayers and gave me the ability to “place every thought into captivity”…for a time.
But the enemy is relentless. And he began a different type of attack, a different way of thinking about figs. I mean, what if suddenly the raisins in my pantry were gone? Certainly then I could at least *try* a fig. I would have been a good steward of what God had given me. But the reality is, I have raisins. And I *LIKE* raisins. Raisins are good for me…and have many of the same health benefits as figs. Do I really *NEED* to try the fig to be happy when I already have a canister full of raisins that I enjoy?
Of course, the answer is no. But in my minds’ eye, I can still see that fig, swaying gently on the branch, tempting me with wondering thoughts. And I know the battle is far from over.
Yes, it’s true.
Remember last year, when I had to go out and buy a new swimsuit on our trip to South Padre because all of my old ones were too big and I was – literally – “swimming” in them?Â Yes, that suit that I was so proud of…that suit that bared my midriff…yeah, after one day I couldn’t wear it.
No, not because it’s too big.Â Actually, it fit better than last year, and I had one happy and proud husband when he saw me wearing it.Â No, the problem stems from that bare midriff.Â Despite slathering on the sunblock – and SPF 50 at that – I somehow managed to get a wicked sunburn to that pale, white skin.Â And it HURT.
So once again, I set off to buy a new swimsuit.Â A one-piece this time, that would cover the belly, so that I could actually bear to sit in the sun without screaming in agony.
But this time, I was shopping a full 6 lbs. lighter than I was last year.Â Yes, you read that correctly.Â As of Sunday morning, I had dropped a full 2.5 lbs. from the week before, and reached the 34-lb. mark in weight loss.Â I am now a mere 15 lb. from my goal weight, a goal that now seems attainable – and maintainable – by year’s end.Â And much to my surprise, with those few extra pounds gone, I was shopping smaller – as in size 10 smaller.
And for the first time in a long time, that 10 fit me.Â And I believed it.
That is the title of this year’s PTA Reflections contest.Â As a teacher, I did my duty to inform the students and parents about the reflections contest…but never anything more than that.Â And for the past 5 years as a parent of a school-aged child, I would read through the packet of information, become quickly overwhelmed with all the requirements, and promptly file the paperwork in the great big green “filing cabinet” just outside the garage.
But this year, I have a budding artist on my hands.Â A little pixie-faced sprite who absolutely LOVES to create, whether it be creative writing, drawing, singing, dancing, or 3-dimensional forms.Â And when I asked her if she wanted to enter a project in the Reflections program, the answer was a resounding “YES!”
We began by deciding to build a sculpture of a butterfly that she could paint.Â I got out the Crayola modeling clay and we made the body, head, antennae, and both wings before we received the packet that stated “No sculptures or 3-D models will be accepted.”Â Sadly, the butterfly found its way into the great big blue “filing cabinet” outside our garage.
But, not to be deterred, Crisana then decided she would enter a photograph.Â When I suggested that she might be able to find something beautiful to take a picture of on our trip to South Padre, she immediately latched on to that idea.Â Which is an amazing concept for a girl who changes her mind about 60 times a minute.
One afternoon, while the sun was shining brightly and the morning clouds and haze had cleared, and while Trey and Matt were playing in the surf, Crisana and I took my trusty little digital camera on a mission to find little pockets of beauty.Â It didn’t take long to find them:
…from the sheer beauty of the South Texas coastline…(don’t worry, no dead fish were harmed in the taking of this picture.Â And if you look closely, you can see a little speck of a person in the water.Â That would be Trey.Â A moment of beauty for Mom as I watched the exuberance and joy of my little guy having the time of his life in the ocean.)
…to the ever-changing landscape of sea and sky.Â (Now, if you look closely, you’ll see two specks of people in the water as Matt has joined Trey to keep him from being carried out to sea by the undercurrent.Â Another moment of beauty for Mom as I watched my husband and son play together…and remembering that it was only a year ago we weren’t sure how many more of these moments we would have.)
…to the vivid palette and dynamic interplay of textures and colors that grace our walk from the condo to our oceanside perch.
…to the creativity and uniqueness of each plant, designed and created especially for this environment by the Master Artist Himself.
…to the indescribable beauty and peacefulness of the bay side of the island.Â The same gulf waters, with two completely different “personalities”.Â One wild and powerful, the other calm and tranquil.
Yet within these vast landscapes are smaller details, little surprises of joy and beauty that God places there to delight those who take the time to notice.Â Like this little “star”, which ended up being the picture Crisana chose for her project.Â A little burst of beauty, tucked away amidst the large green leaves and tall sea grasses that line the swelling sand dunes outside our condo.
Beauty is… all of this, and more.Â Beauty is the never-ending creativeness of the Creator Himself.Â Beauty is being able to enjoy His amazing world…and knowing that He created it all with us in mind.
I have a friend from church who has been on an amazing creative journey recently.Â I keep up with her blog and followed her as she’s struggled through this entire process.Â And though she may not be thrilled with the final product, it is good nonetheless.Â Thought-provoking, stirring, inspiring, challenging.
To both of the JT’s who collaborated on this project…thank you.Â Thank you for sharing your gifts and talents with us.Â Thank you for allowing God to use you to touch me and challenge me deep within.Â Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone…to encourage me to step out of mine.
Well, we made it!
And so, apparently, did the red tide.
As soon as we opened the car doors after pulling into the parking lot at Marisol, it started.Â Coughing, choking, nearly gagging, we stumbled up to the apartment wondering what in tarnation was going on.Â Sure enough, a local informed us as we picked up a few staple grocery items at the Blue Marlin IGA that it was “spores from the red tide.”Â Or, as we learned on Wikipedia, scientists prefer to use the term “Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB)”.Â Whatever it is, it’s no fun.
But despite the hacking, we are managing to have a great time.Â We enjoyed a bright, sunny, warm day at the ocean, playing in the largest waves we’ve enjoyed in all our visits here.Â As we quickly learned, not only does the “Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB)” make it hard for humans to breathe, it also makes it hard for the fish to breath.Â To the point where they don’t.Â And they die.Â In large numbers.Â And wash ashore.Â We saw our first of many casualties as we set up our chairs oceanside:
Trey and Crisana were totally broken up about it:
But playing in the ocean always makes you feel better, even if it is a little cold at first:
Unfortunately, the way the calendar fell this year, we missed both Roar by the Shore and Sandcastle Days.Â Since Roar by the Shore is a bike rally, we aren’t too sad about coming in on the tail end of it, but we were very disappointed to miss the sandcastles.Â That is always one of the things we look forward to each year.Â We did walk down to the Sheraton to see if any were still standing, but we only found a couple of sculptures left:
We thought this one looked an awful lot like Clifford, despite him being neither big nor red.Â And being made of sand, not fur.Â At least Crisana could “pet” this one.Â And then there was Tide-Eyes…the great sea sandserpent, rising out of the deep….
Trey decided it was better to be behind him than in front.Â I guess people are harder to swallow that way.
So with a little dip in the ocean, we headed back to our neck of the woods:
After a few more hours of fun in the sun, it was time to head out for dinner.Â We traveled across the causeway to Port Isabel to enjoy the fun and ambience of Pirate’s Landing, one of our perennial favorites.Â You gotta love a place where you can dine with pirates, especially pirates with 4 arms like this one:
Or pirates with really cute, small faces, like this one:
Or really pretty pirates in sundresses, like this one (but beware, I hear she has a mean left uppercut):
Beach time, sun time, sandcastle time, family time, pirate time.Â All in all, I’d say our first day at Padre was a success.Â If only I could be this productive all the time.
Well, glory be.Â It finally happened.Â It’s taken a year, but it finally happened.Â I have hovered at the 28-lb. mark for so long, I was beginning to wonder if I was destined to live the rest of my life there.Â And I guess I would have been happy, knowing I can wear size 12 jeans again…but somehow things would have felt unfinished.
But by God’s grace, I am rejoicing in two things today:
1.Â I crossed the 30-lb. mark on Wednesday…and the 31-lb. mark on Thursday!
2.Â My tens digit is now reduced by “1″.
And with all that happy dancing I’m doing, I just might lose the rest.