Wednesday, February 14, 2018

One True Love

Photo by Anna Kolosyok
I truly have a love-hate relationship with Valentine's Day, as you may remember from last year's post:  http://www.pancakesandperseverance.com/2017/02/worstvalentinesdayever.html

Love has been a tough thing for me over the years, often elusive and leading to jealousy and other negative emotions.  In the midst of the pain that love has caused, there has been one constant in my life.  One true love. 

Jeremiah 31:3  says it best:  "I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.  I have kept on loving you with a kindness that never fails."  My Savior, My God, has been loving me since the beginning of time with a love that lasts forever.  He has kept on loving me when others have failed. 

Verse 4 continues with "I will build you up again."  I have consistently seen God's love in my life through this phrase.  When my first love and I broke up after a tragic prom, and I realized he wouldn't be my true love after all, God reminded me:  "I will build you up again."  When I was crying in an airport, leaving a relationship behind, he whispered in my ear: "I will build you up again."  When I was incredibly hurt by God's people, he held me in his arms and sang to me, "I will build you up again." 

God is into rebuilding hearts.  He's kind of like the spiritual HGTV.  (The Property Trinity?)
You see, before I met my husband, he was in the deepest, darkest place of his life, having been through great loss.  In his pain, he shouted to God, "What good can come from this?"  Several days later, he met me. 

God repairs, he heals, he duct-tapes things together.  Other times, he asks us to wait.  I have a very sweet friend who has been waiting a very long time for love.  She has prayed and waited and watched so patiently, but God is still whispering "Wait."  I don't understand his timing in this, I want my sweet friend to experience what she longs for, but I see God working in her life in the waiting.  He has used her to help and encourage so many people and she loves deeply through her friendships. 

Love looks different for each person.  One thing that unites us is the love of our Creator.  Listen quietly for his whisper:  "I have kept on loving you with a kindness that never fails."  Whatever you may need today, whether it is a heart-fixer-upper, a friend, or someone to love you unconditionally, listen closely. 

Your true love is whispering your name. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Olympic-Sized Dreams

Photo by: Nathan Dumlao
I have to admit that when the Olympic song plays for the first time every four years,  I get chills.  I love the Olympics.  You could say I'm a bit obsessed with them.  I think my Olympic fascination began as a young girl when my Grandma took me to my first "Ice Capades,"  where I saw Olympic ice skaters like Scott Hamilton live on the ice.  I felt like I was in a magical place for those two hours. 

Sadly, at 38, I am realizing that my dream of being an Olympic ice skater probably will never come true.  These days it's more like an Olympic-sized pile of laundry that I am tackling.  Thinking about this induces a bit of a mid-life crisis, but I'll deal with that in another blog...

What I love about the Olympics is the way it causes us all to dream Olympic-size dreams and to cheer on those who have had them their entire lives.  I am in awe of our Olympians who have trained for so many years for four minutes of competition.  This year, my favorite is Nathan Chen.  I've been watching him for the last couple of years in the U. S. Figure Skating Competition, the world championships, and the Grand Prix series this Fall.  A young skater who has risen to the top as the "Quad King" of men's figure skating, he is amazing to watch.  I love the jumps, but I also love that he is trained in ballet, so his movements are deliberate and graceful. 

Looking forward to the Olympics, I pictured him taking home a gold medal or two.  Last night, he debuted on Olympic ice.  I was so sad to see him fall and not complete another jump.  His nerves got the best of him.  He was so close to his dream that it scared him.  Thankfully, he still has the men's competition coming up next week, so we'll see if he can turn things around.

I was also sad for Ashley Wagner, who didn't make it onto this year's team.  What I love about her is her fierce determination.  I know she will come back and fight for another journey to the the top. 
These Olympians prove to me the invaluable power of dreams.  If we aren't reaching for something, then we are stagnant, going nowhere. At the moment, I'm in between dreams.  (Jack Johnson plays in my head...)  I've achieved many of my dreams for my life, and I'm at the point where I need some new ones.  One of my dreams is so huge that it feels out of reach.  But, I will pour my energy into it, because what is life if you don't have Olympic-sized dreams? 

Tonight, we'll watch as the Opening Ceremonies take us in and wow us with the power of thousands of dreams coming true. 

Who knows, maybe Olympic curling could be in my future.  I'll practice with my laundry baskets...

Friday, February 2, 2018

Self-Portrait in Metaphor

Photo by Steven Wang
I am cotton
soft
reliable

I am blue
calm like ocean waves
yet searching for contentment

I am a snickerdoodle
sweet and fattening

I am jazz
smooth, yet syncopated

I am a cat
tip-toeing around
enjoying her sleep

I am a whisper
barely heard

I am fresh-baked bread
comforting
caring

I am a bucket list
filled with dreams

I am a bear
wanting to hibernate

I am raindrops on a pond
steady
strong
making small ripples on the water.

~A. Laska 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Keep dancing!

Photo by Brevite

Wednesday night I left my kids in the care of my husband and headed to the city.  I listened to my own music on the way there.  I sat at a restaurant and ate a nice quiet dinner, during which I didn't have to pop every three minutes to get something for someone.  In other words, it was heaven. 

After dinner, I went to see the dance company of one of my favorite choreographers.  It was my first time seeing them.  Although I could only afford a balcony seat at the National Theatre, which feels a bit like you may fall at any time, I was thrilled to be there. 

I debate with my husband all the time about the power of dance.  He sees it as a bunch of people jumping around the stage flailing their arms about.  (Pretty much his exact words.)  I sigh and try to explain the years and years of training the body that is required to do that one move that looks incredibly simple but is in fact extremely hard.  I also spent twenty minutes discussing what choreography means to the choreographer and to the dancer and to the audience.  The intended meaning and the meanings we take away.

He was still lost. 

For me, though, Wednesday night was thrilling.  The training of the dancers, the costumes, the concept, the props...there were all so, so good.  The partner work and the intensely creative choreography left me in awe.  There were many moments in the piece when I just wanted to scream, "Keep dancing, keep dancing!"  I could have died and gone to heaven right then and my life would be complete.  Well, not really, but it felt like it in the moment.

Great art lifts us out of the everyday.  It takes us to a different place for awhile.  It draws us in to their world and transforms us while we are there.  We leave changed, inspired, uplifted. 

We leave wanting to dance.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

January restlessness

Photo by Arnold Exconde
There is a restfulness to January, but also a restlessness.

January begins as the end of the holiday season.  The craziness of December fades and the cold and quiet of January covers like a blanket.  It feels good to be done.  Finished with the shopping, baking, parties, excitement, craziness and anticipation of the Christmas and New Year's holidays.  It feels good just to rest in the regularness of days.  To cuddle up with family by the fire, drinking hot chocolate and watching snow fall.  To play board games.  To organize that cabinet you've been meaning to get to. January is a time to breathe.

And yet, January is soooo loooong.  I get restless indoors for so many days in a row.  After the third snow day, my kids are at each other like squirrels going after the last nut and my nerves are shot.  I'm freezing and tired and I just want to go outside and lay out in the sun.  But not yet, not for about five more months...

January brings with it a sense of newness, of starting over.  You can believe you'll do anything in 2018, that all your hopes and dreams will be fulfilled.  Or, like me, you may not be as excited about 2018 as you have been about other years.  I have a few more fears this year.  A lot of wondering.  A lot of praying and thinking and deciding to do.

I can't complain too much about January, because it is also the month when I have fallen in love.  Three times.  My very first love began in January, many years ago.  Another great love began while building a gingerbread house together in the middle of this long month.  My greatest love began its fulfillment as I married my husband and gained a partner to walk this snow-covered journey with.  In the quiet and cold we hold hands to keep warm.

I pray that, as your January concludes, that you find warmth, that you find confirmation of your dreams and that you enjoy the beauty of bare trees, ice crystals and the crackling of the fire.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017: The Year of the Mini-Calling

New Year's 2017
Looking back on 2017, I'd say that it wasn't a bad year.  We had some challenges and some really exciting joys, as I'm sure most families do.  My oldest started Kindergarten.  My littlest started preschool.  My hubby had some major accomplishments in his work and educational life.  These required quite a bit of time and sacrifice on our part, but we were happy to support him as he reached for his dreams.  We took a vacation to a cute little amusement part called Knoebels, celebrated my 20th High School reunion (What??!!), and survived the month of birthday craziness that is called August. 

The thing that stands out the most for me personally is the mini-callings that God has placed in my life.  In 2017, I opened myself up to his leading.  I prayed and waited and wondered.  God didn't answer with some big life-changing calling.  Not just yet.  But he did answer with some amazing blessings that I've dubbed "mini-callings." 

Over the Winter, I spent time at our church's coffee bar, called The Lobby (Check it out if you live in the area!  The proceeds support hunger around the world.)  writing a summer curriculum series for http://fourfivesix.org/  I loved this opportunity!  It later lead to a new job as a content editor for the curriculum series, which I do once a month.  I have enjoyed reading the lessons and helping to edit the content using my love of English, theology and preteen ministry!  So fun!  If you work with preteens at your church, check out our comprehensive curriculum series called "Deeply Rooted.

In the Spring, I taught a class entitled "Writing Your Life Story" at the local community center.  I received so many blessings as my student told me her life story and we worked to develop it into a piece of writing.  It's never too early to begin writing down your memories and sharing them with family.

Due to my schedule, God afforded me the time to do some volunteer work.  I served at our church's food pantry over the summer and this Fall I began serving with our church's 4th and 5th grade girls. I also became a discussion group leader at our MOPS  (Mothers of Preschoolers) group.  Each of these things has brought me joy in serving the Lord once again in ministry. 

The most out-of-the-blue, amazing mini calling came in October.  While in worship one day, I had the inspiration to create dances for our church.  I had never seen a dancer on our church's stage, but it was something I had done in the past and loved. I had a lot of insecurity about this, due to the fact that I haven't been in a dance studio in five years and still carry around some extra pounds from the births of my children.  Despite my insecurity, I inquired at the church.  A couple of weeks later, in an odd coincidence I can only equate with God's timing, the worship team was looking for a choreographer for a dance for worship.  (WHAT??!!)  They have not had a dancer in years and at the same time that God placed the idea on my heart, they began looking for one.  (Chills, seriously.)  In October I had the privilege of choreographing a dance about the struggle to find God during life's challenges, set to the song "Say Something" by Great Big World.  I loved every minute of the two weeks (yes, TWO!) that I worked to choreograph it and teach it to a very talented dancer.  It was so awesome to see the dance come to life and to see our congregation respond to it. 

In December, I had the privilege again to choreograph a dance for the angel in our Christmas services.  It was a joy to watch her dance and to see the choreography come to life to "Oh Come Emmanuel" by the Piano Guys.

This Fall, I also went back to work part-time as a substitute teacher.  Despite the occasional really bad class and catching pink eye, I have enjoyed working with the students and learning more about the educational system.  I even had the privilege of teaching one lesson on the history of the Hebrew people, including Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon.  Another coincidence that God called me to work that day with that lesson.

My most challenging "mini-calling" continues to be the work/life balance between being a supportive wife, mommy of two, substitute teacher, writer and editor.  Life is crazy, but it's the good kind of crazy as I live out these mini-callings.  Thanks be to God from whom all blessings truly flow.


Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

"Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel"