{ Noisy Nature }

I hauled two busy boys along on a walk last Monday.

I warned them in my best tough-mom voice:

“We will walk ten miles today, boys. If you want your water bottle, carry it yourself. If you grumble and whine, you will not get a treat at the end. You can do this. We can do this. Let’s go build some muscle, guys!”

So we started off on a well known path.

They were trailing behind me.

Perfect time for me to whip out my earbuds and listen to my own audiobook.

Peace and quiet and lovely time to myself.

Nah, I will wait a little.

Then it got noisy.

That throaty, burping frog pond.

That airy, whistling, bird choir.

The rustles in the dry leaves of tiny who-knows-whats.

I couldn’t miss this.

Spring was waking up here.

The sun was melting my winter slouch.

My ears were being treated to a magnificent, miraculous, musical racket.

“Make a joyful noise,” said the psalmist.

Maybe this is what he meant.

~~~~

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 

Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

~~~

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

–from the 1901 hymn “This is My Father’s World” / lyrics by Maltbie D. Babcock

{ Ava Eleanor }

When most of my people have exited the house on a busy Saturday, then my brain has a chance to focus on the few who are still at home for the day.

Today’s “brain focus target” is my youngest daughter, Ava.

When Ava was born, she looked like a beautiful, brown-skinned Nunavut native. “Our Eskimo baby”, we called her.

Ava means “birdlike”, which suits her, because she likes to feed suet and seed to the many hungry birds who flit around our rural property. She also likes to paint with watercolors, but she doesn’t favor anyone hovering over her shoulder while she works.

She makes thick, fruity smoothies that overflow a pint-sized Mason jar, and she has a favorite book series about Peter Pan that she has read several times.

Today, I worked in my room while Ava sat at my desk and browsed over the latest library book Beautiful Boards, a photo cookbook of appealing snack boards you can create at home.

Then I rested on the sofa with a headache and when I woke up, Ava had made lunch.

“I saved something for you…” she said.

“ARE YOU THE BEST?!” I asked her. “…THE BEST?!”

Then I ran off after her, laughing and calling out: “ANSWER ME!” 

Ava Eleanor and her blessed Mama.

{ Spring Break with Mom — Part Two }

Waves

The beach is mesmerizing, and I could sit and watch the translucent-teal waves foam up on the sand all day long.

The way God fashioned waves is a repeating design pattern in life…but that is another blog post in itself.

Hypnotic waves on Miami Beach

Patterns & People

Last night, after the beach, after makeup removal, after getting cozy on my chair, Gino asked me to go for a walk around the colorful 4 x 4 block radius that we have called “home” this past week, where he has explored so much more than I.

How could I say no?

The air was balmy on our last night, as he led me through the upscale design district in my pre-bedtime state of appearance. We pranced right through a busy, outdoor bar where fancy people chatted in a courtyard. We weaved through a maze of colors and patterns, past designer shops with their sparsely-chic shelves and products. Everywhere we went, it smelled like someone wearing high-end perfume had just recently sailed through.

The abundant patterns and colors of the Miami Design District

Goodbye, Miami

All good things must come to an end.

Geoffrey Chaucer

When I start calling our place “home”…

When I start thinking about a Starbucks run every day at 3 p.m. just because it is within walking distance…

When I start swaying to Latino rap like it’s normal (all those Uber rides)…

Then I know it is time to hightail my homeschool-mom-self back to the Midwest.

{ Spring Break with Mom – Part One }

You might think it is strange for a mother to accompany her son to Miami for Spring Break, but here is how it happened…

My 20-year-old son Gino, who is taking online college classes, announced that he wanted to take a trip to Florida for spring break. After considering this, I mused aloud…

“It would be fun to go with you.

I wonder if I could swing it.

Would you hate that?” 

Then, I let it rest.

A few days later, he said, “That would actually be nice — you going with me.”

“REALLY??!!!!?” I asked.

My husband agreed, home duties were delegated, and so it was planned. Gino reserved our flights and our spot at a spacious 2 bedroom Airbnb. 

Day One

Arriving in Miami

We landed at 11:00 a.m. and basked in the 35 degree temperature change. We rode to our neighborhood, but the place wouldn’t be ready until 3:00 p.m. Gino stopped at Target and met me later, where I was lounging outside under the palm trees at a Starbucks. We hung out there before walking a few short blocks to our lovely little duplex in the Miami Design District. 

First Meal, Best Meal

Since Gino and I had been up at 4:00 a.m. for our 6:30 flight, and we hadn’t eaten a solid meal all day, we decided to go to Versailles Restaurant, whose tagline is: “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant.” My Cuban-born husband and I discovered it when we went to Miami years ago, and its mouthwatering fare has haunted us ever since. Gino and I both ordered the Classic Cuban Sampler Platter. He polished it off, and I brought home half to enjoy tomorrow.

Day Two

Frank from Instacart left two grocery bags on our doorstep at 7:55 a.m. Gino went walking. I wrote out my own paraphrase of Psalm 9 and pasted it up on our refrigerator. The morning was leisurely, but our goal today was to hit the beach!

Uberimmediately

Gino takes care of (and pays for) our Uber rides and I am grateful, since I am quite unfamiliar with all that. Today, Gino asked, “Should I call for an UBER?”

“Sure.”

I started thinking about what to pack for a day at the beach, such as my:

  • walking shoes
  • snacks
  • sunscreen
  • lip balm
  • sunglasses
  • reading glasses
  • water bottles
  • earbuds

…and suddenly Gino announced:

“Okay, he will be here in one minute.”

Whaaaaa?!

I rushed to cram everything into my backpack, and bumbled awkwardly into the car as I simultaneously strapped on a mask. I looked at Gino, who was calmly sitting there with absolutely nothing in his hands. 

“Do you have everything?” I asked.

“Yep.” he said.

Miami Beach

Once we arrived at Miami Beach it was breezy and around 70 degrees, but the sun peeked out from time to time, which gave stunning photos!

We split up when we reached the sand: I walked north and Gino walked south. I trudged happily six miles along the windy, lapping shore, searching in vain for large shells, but finding bouquets of sea vegetation and washed-up iridescent jellyfish.

After a few hours of walking, I headed west to the paved pathway that runs parallel to the beach. I found a bike rental kiosk and on a whim, rented a Citibike for two hours.

After 20 minutes, I met up with Gino on the path (where I shared some of my snacks with him, since he had come without any…hehe) and after an hour and a half, we met up again at the kiosk and planned to get a ride home.

Once again, I had barely untangled myself from the bike and gathered up my bulky wares, when Gino said, “Okay, our ride is almost here.”

Tweaking Expectations 

After getting home, he showered off all of the sand, came out of the bathroom and said:

You know you can go places without me, right?

This struck me as a strange juxtaposition of the parent-child relationship, but maybe this is the emerging story of aging and could I possibly be on the brink already?

To reassure him that I was capable, I took off for a walk to Target when he wasn’t looking, and I forced myself to take extra time browsing so I wouldn’t get home too soon. 

As I was heading home, whom do I see on the sidewalk, but my own son, giving me a minimalist smile in exchange for my motherly wave hello?

I got home and boldly drank strawberry kombucha out of a wine glass.

Day Three

Gino moves in and out of this place like a Ninja. One minute, I hear him exiting the bathroom, and the next minute I walk out to the living room and notice that his shoes and keys are gone. 

So, to prevent myself from calling out his name just to see if he is still here (I think this annoys him) I have resorted to checking his Google location (a temporary, trip-only concession).  

This morning, I told him that I’m going to stick around home and relax.

“I will probably walk over to Starbucks later this afternoon,” I said, hoping this would impress him.

But tomorrow — our last full day — I definitely want to go back to THE BEACH!

{ Paraphrased from Peter }

Surprised by suffering? 

Unless you caused it,

Fear not and be glad.

Fiery Trials? 

Embrace.

Rejoice.  Share

In Christ’s suffering.

Named as one of His followers, longing for heaven —

Glorifying God in it all.

—-

Easy to scrawl the words, harder to live out. All by God’s grace.” ~ Me

“Nobody likes 1 Peter 4:12-19!” — Pastor Troy Dobbs

“The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

“When suffering, rise to the occasion. Do what the trial demands of you.” ~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

“Why do you always have to cry?” ~ what my 12-year old son said to me after I listened to an uplifting sermon about suffering

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,

    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. — 1 Peter 4:12-19 ESV

Photo by Photo by Illiya Vjestica on Unsplash

{ A Thank You Note to Covid Winter }

Dear Covid Winter,

We just wanted to touch base and let you know that, despite all of your villainous efforts, we are grateful you came along.

When we first saw you come into our lives (thankfully, late — around the first part of December) we weren’t so sure. What with isolating mandates and masks in play, we didn’t exactly welcome anything else that would disrupt life.

Covid Winter, you were a taker — upsetting plans and outings with cancelled meetings and closed public places. You tried to ruin our lives with blizzard warnings, wind chills and the fear-mongering tactics of icy roads, spin-outs and accident reports. Oh, you weren’t just a taker, you were a giver, for sure:

  • Instead of red hearts, you gave us those red hazard triangles on our screens — those weather alerts that made chills run down our spines. (As if we didn’t already have enough chills running down our spines.)
  • You gave us a frozen laundry pipe, so we had to manually drain the loads.
  • You gave us an opportunity to park outside, because the garage door froze in its tracks and the spring broke.
  • You gave us cracks on our skin and frost on our windshields. 

And that brings us to why we are grateful — despite all of your endeavors to make us miserable. Even though you tried to give us your worst, we are emerging victorious. We are adding books to our Goodreads list like crazy, creating delightful things in the kitchen, and focusing on home repair. We stayed on top of our homeschooling, with limited outings or events that would have distracted us from our schedule. We haven’t wasted time on the library computers, loitering in coffee shops or browsing in stores. We have found fun things to do at home, and some of us have:

  • Become yoyo experts
  • Recently read or re-read one or more entire series of books
  • Returned to daily violin playing
  • Affirmed that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing
  • Made and eaten soup every day, realizing that you don’t really need a recipe
  • Written and received snail-mail letters regularly
  • Discovered and excelled at watercolor painting

Covid Winter, you have given us what spring, summer and fall have not been able to give. 

And, for that…we say a big “Th-th-thank Y-you.”

~~~

When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here in February, and basking in the warmth of our books, our soups, our blankets and our cozy naps, we couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.

 — taken and revised from the movie Groundhog Day

Photo by Unsplash

{ Thank You, God }

[ this was written by my son and reposted from his blog ]

Dear Father,

It seems an odd thing to miss someone who you’ve never met in person. However, recently I have felt an intense urge to be with you. I long for the day that I can stand in your presence and look you in the face. I cannot wait for the day that this mirage of a life no longer separates us. In the meantime, I know I have my instructions. I am to run around this darkening world giving light to those who will receive it. Please allow me to be used by you in the way that brings you the most glory. Give me the ability to love others the way you do father. To think, you came to this desolate place so many years ago to save me from my sin! Father, it’s almost too much to comprehend.

You reached out your hand to me. The thing that breaks my heart is that while you sought me, I ran as fast as I could away from you. I wanted nothing to do with you. Nobody on this earth seeks you. God, but you are the only one who offers life and true happiness. I am here on my knees tonight, Lord. I am a broken soul that comes to you for mending. You are the author of the entire book, and even though the book has countless pages and numerous characters I was among those you picked to spread your message of hope. Every day I wonder how you could even use me for such an important mission.

Give me your strength Lord! Help me do all I can to spread your message of love to the world. You have given your sons and daughters the responsibility of getting people ready. One day you will be back. And it won’t be like the last time you were here. When you make your return Lord, everyone will know it. The sky will open with the sound of trumpets, you will descend ready to greet your children. Help me to have done all I can till that day father. Cause me to remember that everyone I encounter is an eternal soul. Everyone is in the same boat before you. Nobody deserves anything good, yet you offer the best thing to the worst of sinners. Thank you, God.

(c) G. Luciano 2021

{ Mama Makeover }

This post is not about pickles. Please keep reading.

Mama Makeover: Part 1

It started a few months ago, as documented in a previous blog post.

Summary: my oldest adult daughter gently wondered why I have been wearing such unlikely wardrobe combinations / mismatched outfits. I could blame it on a mid-life crisis, that I have nothing to wear, or on cabin fever. I could have blamed it on Covid-19 as many things were in 2020.

This first daughter pointing out my wardrobe issues was the initial step in what I believe may be a groundbreaking 2021 Mama Makeover. Yes, it is past due. Indicators that a mid-life makeover may be mandatory include the color-damaged lifeless hair, the lack of age-appropriate makeup, and the extra 10 pounds gained in record time.

Mama Makeover: Part 2

I showed up at my sister’s house on Christmas Day, feeling rather blah. Sara is only 4 years younger, but is slim and accomplished and doesn’t even have to color her hair. She is a great listener and encouraged me when I realized that I had forgotten our plate of cookies at home, but I brought a helping of my age-related grumblings instead. We commisserated together for a few minutes before diving into the lefse.

Mama Makeover: Part 3

Hours later, my next oldest daughter lounged on my bed (I love when she does that.)  I laughed and summarized my Christmas Day aging discussion with my sister. She affirmed me as she always does…and then gently and tentatively added some makeover ideas. 

Have you ever seen The Pickle Story episode from the Andy Griffith Show? Aunt Bea offers her homemade pickles to her neighbor Clara, who has been the winner of the county fair pickle contest 11 years in a row.  At one bite of Aunt Bea’s unsavory pickles, Clara winces and nods her head, trying to be kind. But then she slowly adds several recommendations, revealing that Aunt Bea’s pickles truly need serious improvement.

In like manner, my daughter rolled out a few tips:

  • Maybe you could get bangs again, so your hair would frame your face…
  • You seem to wear a lot of dark colors. If you wore bright colors once in a while…
  • And, your glasses make you look a little severe…
  • I follow this one homeschooling mom on Instagram and even though she is home every day, she always wears lipstick…

The Makeover Continues

Guess what? I have explored and followed many of these suggestions. Why? Because when a Mama gets makeover support from her young adult daughters, this is wise advice from the people who know her the best and love her the most.  My girls know that I don’t wear lots of makeup or fancy clothes and I usually keep my hair in a ponytail. They know my favorite accessory is an apron, that I shop at GoodWill and that I could never give up cookies. They are the ideal consultants to brainstorm a few changes that I can live with — so, the 2021 Makeover is to be continued….

~~~

Note: Because I believe that God created me in His image, it is my personal desire to make improvements where needed — not to try to recapture youth, over-focus on outward appearance or to imitate the world and its values, but to make my aging, imperfect body the best it can be for myself, my family and for service to my Creator.

~~~

I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself…” 1 Corinthians 9: 26-27 The Message Bible

{ Boxing Day Poem }

photo-1575833947349-69324d765146

Don’t Put Yourself in a Box.

You are a 1-of-a-kind person

2 unique to be summed up,

condensed

or ignored

You might be one of 3 negotiator types

Or a brain type 4

“Experts” say there are 5 types of cat owners,

Communication styles,

Love styles

and

6 types of people and “you are one of them” 

7 motivational spiritual gifts

8 types of intelligence

9 enneagram types

But YOU

Are an unpredictable, imperfect,

Lovingly crafted,

Image-bearing

 !  10  !

so

Don’t Put Yourself In a Box.

~~~~

I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex!
Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking.
It simply amazes me to think about it!
How thoroughly you know me, Lord!
15 You even formed every bone in my body
when you created me in the secret place,
carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something.
16 You saw who you created me to be before I became me!
Before I’d ever seen the light of day,
the number of days you planned for me
were already recorded in your book.
17–18 Every single moment you are thinking of me!
How precious and wonderful to consider
that you cherish me constantly in your every thought!
O God, your desires toward me are more
than the grains of sand on every shore!
When I awake each morning, you’re still with me…

Psalm 139: 14-18 TPT

~~~

Btw, don't put God into a box either...

[ More about that here and here]
Every time I put God in a box, I'm left sweeping up the pieces of shredded cardboard.
-- Josh Riebock