Friday, September 30, 2016

Gratitude and gifts

Once the aspens start to turn their magnificent yellow and my new planner arrives in the mail, I can't help but look ahead to the holidays. It's a little, or actually a lot, different now that we don't live by a lot of our family, but there is still so much to look forward to. We figure out if we'll have a smaller Thanksgiving at our house and invite people from the community or if we'll go to my mom and stepdad's house. We decide which 5k fun run our family will do on Thanksgiving morn and divvy up who is in charge of making what for the always decadent feast.

Then we figure out what cookies we'll make for Christmas and which church service we'll attend and what kind of soup we'll have for our special crockpot dinner on Christmas Eve and decide how much we can spend on people and what we want to get them. We make our wish lists to give to others, too. That's where things get dicey.

My fourth child turned 3 this summer. We had a grand time playing at a park with some family and friends. They asked what he wanted for his birthday and I couldn't really think of anything. Nothing. I mean, sure he'd love another hot wheels car, but after about 3 days it would go into the overflowing bin of hot wheels cars that we already have and he wouldn't even know the difference. Yes, he'd think a bright t-shirt was cool, but he has plenty of clothes already. Jim and I struggled to come up with ideas.

Now Christmas is around the corner and the question looms again. I'm in a major purge of toys mood in our house. Bags and bags of clothes and toys are being tossed out or donated. We've already decided that we're not getting our kids gifts in the traditional sense. They won't have anything under the tree from us. We are taking a road trip to California later this year and that is our gift to our family. They know about the trip and know that is their gift. I just can't buy another toy for the sake of buying another toy so the kids have something to unwrap. I think that might make me sound like a Grinch, but I really don't feel like a grinch. I have a heart of gratitude and love for the generosity of those around me, but I am also acutely aware of the excess in my life. And I really don't like it.

Am I alone in thinking that we buy stuff just because the calendar says it's gift giving time and we think we should, disregarding the fact that we don't actually need anything? What if this year was different? My kids' hands-down favorite gift from their very generous grandparents was a monthly sleepover. Once per month, one kid gets to spend the night and have some serious quality time with his or her grandparents. Every now and again, all three or four go on the same night. Talk about making memories. Other ideas I love are museum or zoo memberships or tickets to a movie or play. These things don't overwhelm our homes with more stuff, but they definitely flood our hearts with new memories made with people we love.

How do you handle gift giving and receiving? Will you do it differently this year? Do you have other "outside the box" (see what I did there?!) gift ideas to share?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Jacob's Hope

Tonight I told my kids about Jacob Wetterling. I am organizing a little Colorado version of the Running HOME for Jacob 5k. My kids will attend and help prepare for it, so it was time.

I told them about the kind of kid he was. I shared a much sanitized version of his kidnapping and death. I stressed the insanely amazing ways his family and friends are fighting to keep Jacob's Hope alive in this world. We listened to the song "Listen" by Rod Grammar and "Jacob's Hope" by Douglas Wood. I was transported back to vigils and Hands across America and tears. My toddler sat in my lap and wiped the tears from my cheeks as we talked about the deep hurts of the world and the always redeeming hope and love. My 12-year-old recognized that he's the same age I was when Jacob was kidnapped and horrendously killed.

I sat and talked with my kids around the kitchen table as we ate fresh corn on the cob, "those sandwiches," veggies and hummus. I thought of all that has been denied to Jacob these nearly 27 years. I thought of the woman who never got to be his first love and the kids he never got to tuck in at night. I thought of the graduation his parents didn't get to celebrate and the slamming doors of teenagerhood that they would have given anything to experience.

I know life isn't fair. We all know life isn't fair. But there are some reminders of that cruel truth that knock the wind right out of my sails and I wonder how I can ever re-right the boat. The details of Jacob's death are too much. Every time I think of Jacob asking to go home, saying he was cold, asking what he did wrong, I am again blindsided by the fact that a human being could hear a small, tender, shaking voice ask those simple, innocent questions, and not feel a tiny crack in his hard armor to let just enough light in to let Jacob go. That he could hear Jacob's family and friends beg for answers and ignore their cries all of these years. It is beyond my sickest imaginings.

I want to shut down. I want to hide and cry and ignore the universe. But, once again, I have to answer the question of how one could possibly survive this pain with this answer: With faith, courage, hope, and a vision of a better, safer world for our kids. When those four things feel as impossible as they do right now, when the world feels so deeply dark and depraved, we need them all the more. I have to look to Jacob's family and friends and the strength they have shown. I have to call on my faith in God, who promises that we are never alone. Not Jacob or his family or you or me. I have to pray that Jacob felt that on October 22, 1989.

Many sports teams in Minnesota, from youth on up to professional teams, are honoring Jacob by wearing patches with #11 on their jerseys. Jacob's family loves the idea and came up with this list of 11 traits we can all commit to living.
  1. Be fair
  2. Be kind
  3. Be understanding
  4. Be honest
  5. Be thankful
  6. Be a good sport
  7. Be a good friend
  8. Be joyful
  9. Be generous
  10. Be gentle with others
  11. Be positive
I'll ask you again to join in being Jacob's Hope. It's easy today, when Jacob's name is all over the news and the hurt is fresh and all-encompassing. Let's keep it up next week and next month and next year, when our horror isn't so fresh and the news cycle has moved on about 592 times, but Jacob's family is still aching and raw. Commit to something today and write it down. Send a donation to the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center. Teach Sunday School. Help feed hungry kids. Foster an at-risk child. Do something. Write it down, type it into your phone, set a timer, and make it happen. Be Jacob's Hope in your corner of the world and pray it ripples far and wide and reaches someone who needs your voice or your money or your caring.

Let our lights be brighter. Let us be Jacob's Hope together. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

It's all I can think to do

I'm not going to utter his name because his name doesn't deserve another thought. I'm going to talk about Jacob Wetterling and his family. I'm from central Minnesota. I am a year older than Jacob. My friends were his friends. My brother graduated from the same high school with his younger brother. We've hoped and prayed along with Jacob's determined, courageous, and incredible family. For 27 years we have hoped and prayed that Jacob was out there somewhere and that he would be brought home. This weekend those hopes and prayers were crushed. On Tuesday the details of the abduction, molestation, and murder were made known. I have thought of all of the adjectives I can and none of them come close to the disgust I feel.

I have a 12-year-old boy. How does one recover from this heartbreak, this sock in the gut, never breathe the same again, horrendous, incalculable pain? How does one go on?

I'm not going to utter his name. I'm going to talk about Jacob's mom, Patty Wetterling. While living a nightmare most of us cannot even bear to imagine, she fought hate and all the worst case scenarios that had to run through her mind on a daily, hourly, by the minute basis, She lobbied for change, created a foundation, ran for government office, and fought. She fought back against all of the pain and horror she was living and her weapons were, and remain, love and hope.

I have a 12-year-old boy. How does one recover from this? The pain that I assume must always be there, simmering beneath the surface sometimes, overflowing in weeping and horror at other times.

In Patty's case, she publicly worked for a better world for all children. Maybe that's all we can do. We can aspire to be a Patty Wetterling in a world too often marred by unfathomable murder, abuse, and pain. We can find our passions and use them to help people so that maybe, just maybe, we can help one person overcome hurt or offer another picture of life's possibilities to someone walking down the wrong path. It's all I can think to do.
quote from Jacob's mom after the discovery of Jacob's remains

I have a 12 year old. How does one survive this pain? With faith, courage, hope, and a vision of a better, safer world for our kids. When those four things feel as impossible as they do right now, when the world feels so deeply dark and depraved, we need them all the more.

I won't utter his name. I have thrown all of the swear words at him that I can think of. I have cried until I thought I was done and then cried some more. I know I will continue to cry, but, more importantly, I will channel this brokenness to be Jacob's Hope for my kids and your kids and your nieces and nephews and neighbors and students. I will hug tighter and love bigger and advocate harder. It's all I can think to do.

Join me, won't you? Be Jacob's Hope.

Friday, August 26, 2016


I have a new tattoo and I love it. It means many things to me and brings a happy little smile to my face every time I look at it, which is often since it's front and center on my right wrist.
Still red and swollen, it's my fresh new tattoo
Here is what it means to me: The balloon meandering away symbolizes life, the fleeting beauty of it and the teeny tiny blip of time that we have the honor of living and loving here on earth. We can watch it float away or we can grab on and go for a ride. I hope my life reflects my decision to grab on. Although my favorite color is blue, I chose deep purple to honor the lives of those who have died of pancreatic cancer, especially my friend, Jenna. It is another reminder that our time here is limited so we might as well live, really live, while we're here.

The string of the balloon says believe, which means many things to me. It means believe in Christ. It means believe in the good of this broken and hurting world. It means believe in the strength of myself. That last one is key. I've been battling myself and losing for quite a while now. That time is over. I got used to living half alive. I went through the motions, I put on a smile, and then I retreated into myself as soon as possible. The song "Jar of Hearts" was on repeat in my brain. At one time, the words felt like the only thing I would ever know. Now they remind me of where I was and where I am and where I can go from here.

On Wednesday I signed up for my second marathon. I finished my first marathon in October of 2015 and it is an almost constant reminder of how depressed and sick I was and of me giving up on me. I am in a different place now, I am working to be in an even better place, and I want redemption. I want to step up to the start line prepared and I want to finish the race proud. I believe I will succeed on both counts. Running is a mental game and my head is back in the game. I believe.

On Thursday I did my first training run for a trail half marathon in November, then I have a marathon next May, and trail Ragnar in June. I am setting goals. Last night I made lasagna and unloaded the dishwasher and corrected math and did the dishes and read books to kids and tucked them in. It's regular mom stuff, but it feels really impressive because just a few months ago getting dressed was quite a big accomplishment for me. But that's then and this is now and I'm setting goals. It's scary to put that out there. I don't want to fail. I don't want to fall. But trying and failing is better than living a shell of a life. I believe. I have to believe. I have to believe I'm worth the effort. Because it's still effort. It's still work. But I believe.

Also from "Jar of Hearts," this is my message for depression
We all have our demons. Mine overwhelmed my life. With my history of depression and my family history, I can't say they're gone forever, but I can say that I feel a lot better and I believe in me again. No matter what you're struggling with today, I hope you can say the same thing.

Peace for the journey, friends. We're all in this together.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cuatro es tres.

Our littlest fellow turns three tomorrow. Well, actually he'll wake up tomorrow and the magical changing of the year will have already happened. I've hugged my two-year-old for the last time. Audrey and I had a good cry about that one when I tucked her in. She's so sad that he is growing so big because he's so cute and funny and sweet. I reminded her that she did the same thing. She even had the audacity to turn ten. It's a grand injustice of motherhood, is what it is. What I wouldn't give to rewind 12 1/2 years to begin again with all four of my kids. Instead, tomorrow marks the beginning of 7th grade, 5th grade, 3rd grade, and 3 years old. It's really too much for one mama to handle in one day. Too much new growing and changing of the guard and pangs of the heart.

I hugged Asher before bed, a nice and tight one that I never wanted to end. "I would start all over if I could," I told him. He smiled and laughed, oblivious to what that meant, oblivious to the tears trying to slip down my cheeks, oblivious to how incredibly happy and sad I am that he is turning three. I think mamas are especially good at the mingling of sad and happy feelings, at watching little people grow to big people, at mourning and celebrating the exact same moments.

All he wants is an ambulance. A few weeks ago, we purchased a used playset for the backyard. Jim and my cousin took it apart and hauled it here and were carrying it to the backyard when Asher boy looked down from the deck and incredulously shouted, "But I wanted an ambulance!" Good grief, we laughed about that. Really, we're still laughing about that. (He'll be unwrapping an ambulance in the morning.) Tomorrow he wants homemade pizza and sweet potatoes and cake and ice cream. We're having a small party next weekend. He wants to play at the park and have cupcakes and ice cream.

Those are the details. But then there's the boy. He's a nonstop talker, hugger, magnet block builder, car driving, game playing, game inventing, dog hugging, sibling chasing, bike riding boy. When he laughs or smiles people melt. His personality is as big as his buddha belly. He talks up strangers at the grocery store and gives peace at church while waiting impatiently for his communion bread. Carbs are his love language. He is a mama's boy through and through. He loves to help dada feed the dog or change the oil, and especially loves Ace  Hardware. He is ridiculously verbal, but won't use the toilet. He sleeps in a crib, but wants a big boy bed, which he'll get soon. He told me he sees an old lady in his closet. (creepy!) He loves books in laps, rocking in gliders, and snuggles. Then he wants to run like the wind! He wakes up in the morning, still early, but not so terribly early as he used to, and we snuggle and he tells me he loves me 1000 times and I kiss his cheekers and he drives cars on my arms.

Sweet boy, our sprinkles on top of our ice cream sundae family, will I remember you as you are now when three years more have passed? Your dimpled elbows and chubby cheeks and Ys that sound like Ls so you say Les instead of Yes. The way you open our dinner devotional, ask all of us to be quiet, and "read" it. "Don't kick. Don't kick a head off. Be kind." The way you wait mostly impatiently for communion at church so you can get bread, and then Pastor Vera gives me two pieces so I can give one to you and Audrey and dada tear off little pieces to share with you. The way you bike on the driveway with Elliot and chase Isaac around the yard while he plays disc golf. The way you play groundies with the big kids and they let you catch them sometimes. The way you fit in my arms just so with my head resting on your head, then you lean back and I see your eyelashes, long and blonde in the sunshine. The certainty with which you jump off the edge of the pool. The feel of your head nestled into my neck when you're unsure. That and more and all of it.

Our cuatro. Our Asher boy. We love you. You are our most unexpected gift and a lifetime of thank yous would never express our gratitude that you are ours and we are yours.

Happy third birthday, choochie face.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ideas for soaking

A few weeks ago I wrote this post. It's safe to say that my life and the world hasn't magically gotten its act together. In fact, more hate and violence has filled our airwaves, newsfeeds, and lives. I am equal parts horrified and relieved that this violence isn't actually new. People have created war and divisions since the beginning of time and we're still here. On the other hand, people have created war and divisions since the beginning of time and we continue to do it.

As a Christian, I wrote of my need to soak in the goodness of Christ. A few of you mentioned interest in joining me. Therefore, I thought I'd follow up with my plan. A blog reader recommended She Reads Truth. I read the last part of a series on Paul in Acts, and yesterday they started a new series on the juxtaposition and timing of life and death, fear and bravery, grieving and dancing. Unless my favorite early rising toddler is up ridiculously early, I start my day with that study. You can check their website daily or have it emailed to you each morning.

As simple as it sounds, making the time to do this quick devotion each day starts me out on the right foot. It has already shone a light on areas of my life and clarified some thinking in other areas. In short, it's doing just what I hoped it would do.

While I continue with She Reads Truth, I wanted something more. I did some online searches and came across this book that guides readers through reading the bible in a year. Chime in if you are interested in reading the bible in a year along with me. We'll pick a start date and figure out a way to check in weekly in hopes that the accountability and habit forming act of consistent reading will keep us on track and point our hearts and minds in the right direction.

That's my plan so far. If I haven't made it clear, I'm not an expert. I'd hardly call myself informed. I'm just someone trying to get through this trying, confusing, hurtful, beautiful, amazing life with my eyes pointed toward God and my actions reflecting Christ. I'm still open to suggestions on bible study books, especially since I like to write all over them and get my hands on the written word.

Happy, healthy, life-affirming soaking, friends.

Saturday, July 9, 2016


When our muscles are fatigued, we soak in a tub with epsom salt. To aid recovery, we are instructed to soak in an ice bath. When we have the chicken pox, we soak in a tub with oatmeal. When we have a burn, we soak it in aloe.

When we need to recover and heal, we are instructed to soak.

I do not think I am alone in my need to recover and heal from the horrific news that bombards us constantly. I am weary. From the safety net of my little, white, middle class, mountain world, I am weary. I can only imagine how those raising black sons, those living in black skin, those wearing police uniforms, those who love police officers, feel every time they step out of the door and into a world that seems stuck in a cycle of hate and violence, violence and hate.

I need to soak.

I have to remind myself about a billion times a day that there is so much good. There really, really is. But there are also people being shot while lying helpless on the ground and people being shot while keeping the peace and doing their jobs. There is so much evil. There really, really is. And the evil is noisy and visceral, ugly and grotesque. I have to fight to keep my focus on the good and away from the evil. Sometimes I fail.

I need to soak.

I am a Christian, which all too often feels like a bad word. Apparently Trump is now a Christian. Those crazy, hate-filled Westboro Baptist people purport to be Christians. Far too many Christians make the news for getting all bent out of shape because people say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, but can't seem to muster up the energy to support equal rights for non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual people.

Soak? Yes. Please.

I really am proud to be a Christian who tries her darndest to live like Christ did. I fail repeatedly every hour, but my guiding forces and compass are love, grace, and God. Repeat, I fail repeatedly every hour.

I am realizing more and more that I need to quiet the world around me. Beyond spending more time outside, reading more good books, and laughing with my family and friends,  I need to take a long and luxurious soak in God's word. I need to focus on the truth, beauty, and hope found in God.

There are those of you currently rolling your eyes. You're thinking about the wars started in the name of religion and the Westboro Baptist psychos. It's possible you're also the people who remind others that crazy people who radicalize Islam don't speak for the majority of Muslims. They most certainly do not, in the same way that Westboro doesn't speak for me.

I am overwhelmed and weary and the world is too much for me. Maybe you know the feeling? I could numb myself with reality tv or booze or drugs or shopping or whatever other vice is out there, but I don't want to do any of those things. I don't want to drown my sorrows by creating more sorrows and ignoring my responsibilities. I want to take my sorrows to God. I want to rest in God's shelter. I want to be reminded that the world is bigger than the moments we are living right now. Those things happen when I grow in my relationship with Christ. If it is true that we become more and more like the people we spend the most time with, I can honestly say that I want to be more like Christ, so I need to spend more time with the bible.

It sounds hokey, even to me as I write it. It's so different from what most people do today. But then I remind myself that what most people do today isn't working. We're more angry and more medicated and less connected than ever. Maybe now is just the time to do something that most people aren't doing.

So I'm going to soak. I'm going to read the bible and pray more. I'm going to set time aside each day for quiet and contemplation and soaking.

**Are you interested in joining me? Or are you already doing this and can you be a resource for me? There is so much of the bible I don't understand. I don't want to just read the words to say I read them. I want to soak in them. I think a bible study or guide would help. I want to be encouraged, but not babied or spoken down to, and also challenged, but not overwhelmed. Please share any bible study or reading guides that might help me. Thanks.