The Incredible Shrinking Czar

Those of you who know me fairly well may or may not remember that I love Shrinky Dinks. They're these plastic papers that you can color, cut out and shrink in the oven. In the end they look kind of like stained-glass...but more like stained plastic. Anyway, they've been around a long time and if you ever find them in a store you'll see that the Shrinky Dink company has clearly spent zero dollars on packaging design in the last forty years or so.

I remember watching Paul the First shrink in the oven...

A few years ago I found this amazing book on the Russian Czars and naturally I decided to put that history into Shrinky Dink format. I told the history from the time of Catherine the Great until…I can't remember which Czar I ended with. I think I stopped when I lost interest, or maybe when I realized there was absolutely no reason to shrinky dink the czars. I remember watching Paul the First shrink in the oven, and as he shrunk I told my kids his very sad story.

Poor Paul the First was the son of Catherine the Great, and she was not impressed with him. She didn't let him make any decisions himself. He didn't even get to decorate his own castle (but he did have a castle, so we can't feel too sorry for him). When Paul grew up he became riddled with fear that he would one day be assassinated—not a groundless fear since LOTS of his predecessors had been assassinated. So He came up with a plan. He built a castle fortress with big drawbridges and he and his family and his most trusted advisors closed themselves inside. Paul was safe at last! Until maybe a day later when his most trusted advisors assassinated him. Poor Paul the First!!

...a fortress that fails sometimes is not good enough...

I can relate to Paul. Sometimes I long for a fortress. A place to hide. The idea of somehow locking all the bad stuff, and even the unknown, outside sounds wonderful. And in various ways I do arrange my life carefully, trying to make a fortress that will work. But over and over again my carefully crafted fortresses fail me. They don't fail all the time, but they all fail sometimes. And a fortress that fails sometimes is not good enough. God is the only one who never fails. I definitely don't mean that He always does what I want. He doesn't always rescue me from pain, like the fortress  me and Paul the First had in mind, but He does rescue me from fear. And He gives me courage so that I don't have to hide while life passes me by.

~ Amy

A Place At The Table

You know that feeling when you walk into the lunchroom in junior high or high school, and you hope there will be a place for you to sit? I'm not talking about a vacant seat. There will definitely be one of those somewhere, because most likely the school has figured out how many students are enrolled and they've bought enough chairs. I'm talking about a place to sit where you are welcome. A non-hostile environment where you won't be an outsider or a nuisance or a nobody.

...I said I wanted to be a rabbit.

I frequently refer to myself as a "quirky bird". I have always been this way. I remember this one time in five year old kindergarten when we sat in a circle and each kid was asked to share what they wanted to be when they grew up. I don't remember the other kids' answers but I imagine some wanted to be teachers and firemen/women and police officers and doctors and nurses. Things like that. I do remember when it was my turn I said I wanted to be a rabbit. This is where my memory gets foggy again. How did my teacher respond? Did she go along with my plan to become another species when I grew up or did she correct me? I don't know. But I'm pretty sure I was the only one who answered like that. I was convinced that I could become a rabbit, and that in fact the transformation had already begun. I remember wondering if anyone had noticed…Well, I'm grown up now and not a rabbit, and don't plan on becoming one, but I continue to have an unusual perspective.

You're one of us.

I had a wonderful dream many years ago that still comes to my mind pretty often. I dreamt I was outside at night. It felt like summer. The grass was green and stars were out, and I could hear the sound of a fair and see the ferris wheel just over the hill. I was barefoot. A group of unusual looking people walked up to me. I talked to them and said, "Who are you people?" One of them answered, "We're the Luna People. We only come out at night. You're one of us." And I remember
feeling so incredibly relieved that I belonged with these people. I had a place.

there is a place for them at God's table.

So many people feel out of place or worse—like they have no place in this world. Maybe it's because they are quirky birds who want to become rabbits when they grow up. Or maybe it's for some totally other reason. But the truth is that everyone was once an idea in God's mind. And because they came from Him they belong in Him and with Him. I hope that people feeling alone will hold on tight to the truth that there is a place for them at God's table. And their Luna People do exist even if they haven't met them yet!

~ Amy 💚

Beauty & Brokenness

I love the Looney Tunes episode where the Abominable Snowman picks up Daffy Duck and says, "I will love him and pet him and call him George." I think everyone loves that episode. My favorite part is when Daffy says, "I'm not like other people, I can't stand pain, it hurts me." That line comes to my mind more often than you'd think. Because so often I find myself thinking, "I hate pain!" And that sentence is linked forever in my mind to Daffy Duck. Clearly, I'm a very stream of consciousness kind of person… and not especially mature. 

And as much as I hate pain, I love happiness. I'm pretty sure I've just described the sentiments of everyone on the planet. One thing I've noticed about suffering though is the way it joins people together. We can relate to one another's pain and brokenness. And if anyone seems above pain and brokenness—if they seem too perfect, with happy families, perpetually clean houses, successful jobs, great marriages, impressive children, we can't relate to them at all.

We prefer to hide shame and display awards...

Everyone knows that social media can be misleading. Sometimes it appears that everyone is perfectly happy, well adjusted, and thriving. Holiday cards can be like that too. Pictures of happy, clean looking families with words like JOY scrolled across the image. And I love those pictures. I save them and string them on a garland across the mantle. No one wants holiday cards with pictures of people weeping or yelling or shaking their fists. I wouldn't display those. Although I will say, once one of my best friends sent me a Christmas card with a picture of her whole family running from a giant photo-shopped cat, and I definitely displayed that one. But my point is that it makes sense why people make Facebook updates about their kids making the A honor roll but they don't typically make posts about their kids feeling desperately lonely. And there are plenty of "Happy Anniversary to the greatest husband or wife ever" updates but very few that say, "the last 12 years have been a real nightmare". It's because pain is personal. Happiness isn't. That's why there are award ceremonies instead of shame ceremonies. We prefer to hide shame and display awards. And it really would be weird if it was the other way around. But it's so tempting when we look at status updates, holiday cards or award ceremonies to start believing that we are alone in whatever pain we're suffering and that everyone else is fine. And that simply isn't true.

...make the effort to acknowledge unspoken brokenness...

This world is full of beauty and brokenness. When we're on the outside looking into other people's lives through such a  limited keyhole view, we have to make the effort to acknowledge that there is more than what we see. There is pain that this person isn't shouting out to the world, not because they are trying to mislead other people, but because they don't feel safe sharing. We, as the viewers, have to make the effort to acknowledge unspoken brokenness or we'll find ourselves in false territory. I've found myself there many times!

~ Amy 💚