Sunday, March 30, 2014

That time I was almost an idiot.

"Mama, do you want to come out and watch me bike in the road?"

"Not right now, buddy. I'm working on science curriculum."

"Maybe later?"

"Well, actually I can just bring it out and sit on a chair in the driveway to watch you. How's that sound?"

"GREAT!"

I brought the science curriculum out, pulled up a chair, and worked/watched Elliot ride on the road for about 33 seconds before he screeched to a stop in front of me to ask, "Mama, can I pitch to you?"

"Absolutely!"

He pitched. I caught. He was wearing boots so he chased it when it landed in the quickly melting snowbanks. He wanted to me shout "STRIIIIIKE" with great enthusiasm, but I didn't need to tell him if he threw balls. Understandable, I say.

We were looking for the tennis ball in the snow drift when I noticed three chickadees.

"Look, Elliot. Do you see the chickadees?"

He found them and, remembering some information from his big brother's and sister's bird class last year, said their call sounds like chickadee-dee-dee-dee. He whistled it sweetly a few times and then he listened. Ear cocked to the sky. Body bent in concentration. Listening hard.

His eyes lit up, bright as the sun we've impatiently waited for. His voice dropped to a hallowed whisper.

"Mama. Listen. They're saying spring! It's spring!"

We played hard. Once he was done pitching it was my turn. He hit many home runs off of me, tennis ball rolling down the street as Elliot, AKA Joe Mauer or Byron Buxton, ran the bases.

Like an idiot, I almost missed it. I almost sat inside and planned science. Like that is more important than these uninterrupted moments with Elliot while Asher slept and Isaac and Audrey were at musical rehearsal.

Like all parents, all people, we all have 24 hours in a day. Like all parents, all people, the way we choose to spend our time reflects what is most important to us. We may use our words to talk and talk and talk about what we value, but all of those words become but a whisper if we don't support our words with our actions.

My family. These four kids. I want to fill novels in my soul with the memories we've made together in this time we have together.

Of course there are things that have to happen. For example, if I don't cook dinner because I'm playing or reading with my kids, no one wins because we all end up crabby and hungry. And we all know that is one horrible combination, known as hangry. But when I almost choose wasting our first 60 degree day by planning school instead of playing with my boy, that's a problem.

So, today I was almost an idiot. But I wasn't. And I was rewarded with the invitation to share spring with my son and three chickadees.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The advice I'm taking today.

It's been a heavy week here at Big Love. Epic Fail. I wrote about homelessness here and again here after some wonderful and challenging conversations and reflections. I wrote about how we handle life's difficulties here. And yesterday I wrote about World Vision's hiring policy controversy. I dedicated a lot of words to a lot of difficult topics.

Not today. Today I'm going to take the simple advice of my 10-year-old son.

Yesterday it snowed. The big, thick, angelic snowflakes that swallow the sky. The kind that make you notice their beauty even though you're angry that it's snowing again and spring feels a million days away. Maybe a zillion.

The kids watched it out of the sliding door in the basement. Curiosity got the better of them and they opened the door and put their hands outside. We all grabbed some black construction paper to catch the snowflakes so we could see their shape and measure how surprisingly big they actually were.




All three kids did that for a while, with many oohs and aahs and sighs of wonder. I just sat back and watched them watch the world and marvel one of its many delights. It was one of those parenting moments where nothing big happens, but it feels important. Like a lesson is being learned. A lesson that can't be taught, but must instead be felt from the inside.

Isaac put down the black paper and said, "I'm just going to lean over and look up. . . Oh, it's so beautiful."

And that's the advice I'm going to lean on today and tomorrow, too.

"I'm just going to lean over and look up."

For me, that means calling on God in uncertain times. It means taking risks that stretch me past my comfort zone and knowing that without big risk there is no big pay-off. It means leaning into a new adventure and assuming it will all work out just as it's meant to work out. It means Big Love. Epic Fail.

Not only will it work out, but it will be beautiful.

Wishing you a big, lovely, beautiful weekend.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

God's love always wins

**I have been thinking about World Vision and their hiring policy for days and didn't know if I should say anything here because it's all kinds of controversial, but I ultimately decided I would because of a conversation I had with a professor as part of an early childhood education grad school class. I had written a paper about kids with gay parents and it received a whole lot of negative feedback from my classmates. The professor asked me a few questions about my paper and my decision to write about that topic and I told her that I thought everybody had at least one thing in their lives they felt they needed to fight for and that equal rights was one of my things. I'm treading carefully, but I feel like I need to say something here. These are my thoughts as a human and a daughter, friend, wife, mother, sister, believer in the good of humanity. Most of my anger and disappointment and sadness have been talked through and cried over. Here's what's left.**

Cool Pictures of Churches
I wonder how many times we, as a Christian church, will have to tell people that God doesn't want them as part of the church before they'll actually listen.

I wonder how many times we, as a Christian church, will shame, bully, and slam doors in people's faces before they get the point.

I wonder how many times we, as a Christian church, have to say that the love and compassion you want to share with people through sponsoring a child or adoption or mentorship just isn't good enough before they'll stop trying.

I'm sitting here looking at the bible. The same one that "clearly states" that homosexuals are going to hell. (That's sarcasm.) The same bible that one chapter later says, "Do not lie. Do not swear. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seeds. Do not wear clothing woven with two kinds of material." (various verses in Leviticus, chapter 19.)

While we're deciding that homosexuality is worse than divorce, but better than murder, let's consider this. Whose sin is worse? The woman who loves another woman or the pastor who tells her that she and her children will go to hell because of it? (That happened. I was there.) The man who loves another man or the person who taunts him with sneers and names and wickedness?

Today I'm mostly sad. Sad that it feels like hate won. Sad that if enough people say enough hateful, dangerous, terrible things, we will listen. Sad that people would willingly walk away from the least and the lost because of a hiring policy. Sad that somehow, and I don't know how, homosexuality became the thing, the shining sin by which to judge all humans, the deciding factor on if a person belongs in God's clubhouse or not.

I know we will not all agree on the bible and homosexuality. I just wish the conversation weren't so full of venom and hate. Because we are all created in God's image and God's image is beautiful. God's image is love. God's image is kindness.

So, today I'm mostly sad. But I know this isn't the end of the story because's God's love always wins. I don't know what that means in this situation. It may not be in the timeline we want and it may not look the way we expect, but God's love always wins.
 Always.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Clinging to hope

Winter clings, nails dug in to the bitter end. Clings in the form of freezing temperatures and biting winds, whipping snow and slick patches of ice, lost mittens and snug winter boots, babies with croup and kids with cabin fever. Sleepless nights up with the baby, hacking cough, gums bulging with the promise, or threat, of new teeth, welcome crabby days where I look around this house and find all the things wrong with it. Where I search out all the things wrong with the people in it, too.

I eye everything, everyone, with a look that dares them to irritate or frustrate. The things that are always here, the mess and disorganization of the house, the breakfasts that last for ages when I really just need to start school, the miscommunication with the spouse, drive me bonkers. I take it in and stew on it and hold it tight in my dark, angry soul, clinging to it, much like winter.
It is ridiculous. Don't I know it.

But I, in all of my humanness and flaws, blast right past what my brain and my heart know are right and go with what temporarily feels good in my gut.

It is ridiculous. Don't I know it.

I'm in a bible study with some people in my neighborhood and we just finished up Ann Voskamp's video series, "One Thousand Gifts." At our last meeting we talked about these verses in Romans 7.Then my pastor talked about the same verses in church on Sunday. Methinks someone is trying to tell me something.

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, 
but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree 
that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, 
but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not 
dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire 
to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 

Is that you every day? Because that's me every day. All of them. I'll do this better or definitely, without a doubt, complete this list of things to do or act differently toward this person. I'll do what I want to do and steer clear of the parts of me that wound and disappoint.

But then I don't. I make mistakes again, often the same ones I made yesterday and swore I wouldn't make today. I hang my head in shame or I beat myself up over it or I make excuses about it.   

But, eventually, I come back to it every time. Maybe right away or maybe in a few days or maybe it takes months to really, really grab hold. But eventually, in my writing and in my life, I return to spring. Hope. Beauty. The reality of the ugliness that life holds, but then, like a gift, the promise of a new day. The fresh slate of forgiveness offered to me. 
We all cling to something. Addiction. Anger. Hurt. Our past. Expectations. How about if we cling to something else? Something life-giving instead of life-stealing. Something that builds us up instead of tearing us down brick by brick and day by day. 

How about if we, and I'm talking to you and me, too, cling to hope and beauty and a new day and forgiveness? 

Today, at the end of the day, I finally let go of the ugliness of the day and the ugliness I was clinging to in my heart. The baby was napping and I pulled my 7-year-old into my lap and we read Anne of Green Gables together. That funny, worrisome chapter where Anne plays Elaine and her barge sinks in the stream and she is rescued by Gilbert Blythe but she still hates him because she's clinging to the "Carrot" remark from two years ago. Two years. Girl knows how to hold a grudge. Then Marilla asks if she'll ever have any sense and Anne replies that she thinks she probably will because she has learned a lesson from all of her biggest mistakes at Green Gables and she thinks the lesson from this mishap will be some sense.

Isn't that how it goes? All of our biggest mistakes offer us the opportunity to gain something. So, let's cling to the learning and the starting fresh. That doesn't mean we won't make mistakes. We know what we want to do, but there is no way we'll do it all of the time. I'm pretty sure I'm going to read another Anne of Green Gables chapter tomorrow and Anne's going to mess up. I'm pretty sure I'm going to wake up tomorrow and mess up. Repeatedly, in fact. 

But spring and hope and beauty are waiting for me and I'm choosing them. In the form of books shared with my daughter. In the form of a 5-year-old boy teaching himself to wink, concentrating so hard his tongue wags back and forth. In the form of a baby boy who is so thrilled that he can chomp on his own sweet toesies. In the form of a 10-year-old boy home from handbells and choir who runs up to kiss his baby brother before bed. Sunsets. Full moons. Laughter shared between friends. The simple beauty this world offers, if we wipe the grime and anger of life away from our eyes. 

We all cling to something. Choose well.

**Excerpt from the book I read with Elliot before bed tonight. Guess God knows I don't take hints so well and prefer a swift kick in the behind. The thaw is always coming. Believe that.

"We all grew winter weary, this being California and not ordinarily so bitter. I could understand the passion of Prairie who from time to time slipped outside to her garden and scraped away the snow and ice to see and feel and smell the earth and crumble it between her fingers. A thaw came as it always does."
~The Ballad of Lucy Whipple by Karen Cushman

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Questions

I'm questioning my sanity right now. I'm questioning my ability to put words to paper. . . or, you know, computer screen. I'm questioning why anyone would want to read what I have to say. I'm questioning where I'll find the hours in the week to make this happen. I'm questioning what feedback I could possibly give that would help someone else grow as a writer.

So, yeah, questioning all of it. Well, really, all of me.

Because isn't that what happens when we step into something new. First day at a new school and we're sure we dressed wrong and our voice sounds different and should I admit I love sports or is that the kiss of death here?

Isn't that what happens when we step into something we really want that means a lot to us? All of the self doubt we thought we had worked through pushes up and becomes the very air we breathe.

In my head it's a run-on sentence that sounds something like this: having a fourth kid has thrown me right over the sucks at life edge and the laundry and the schooling and the nonexistent friend I've been and the nonexistent wife I've been and cooking and some form of housekeeping and playing and where's the sleep and now you add writing to the list what were you thinking really truly seriously sincerely what were you thinking, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??

But then I watched this video. That Kid President sure knows how to make people want to show up. Show up and make this life worth living. After all, "I've got air coming through my nose." So why waste this air coming through my nose. It's time to get working on my own personal Space Jam.

I'm not exactly sure what my Space Jam looks like. It's hard to imagine myself creating something awesome. Sure, I dream about creating something awesome, putting words on paper that people want to read because it speaks to a place in their heart that feels closed off to the wonder of life. But it doesn't feel like it could ever be more than a dream. So I sign up for a writing class and start choking on the bile of self-doubt. And that's where I am right now. Smack dab in the middle of questions.

Waiting on some answers.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Roof and a floor, part 2

I can’t tell you how many times I read and re-read this post about homelessness. The post about homelessness and how it stops me in my tracks and makes me feel like this small little being in this big world of hurt. I started it Friday night when we got home from Family Promise and then I looked it over quickly on Saturday and I finished writing it on Sunday night. Which means I read it many, many times. In reading it, I got stuck on how the words fit together, my voice, if I sounded whiney and entitled.

Then I clicked publish and put it out there for whichever part of the world it happened upon to read. Within minutes my thoughts on it changed.

If you read my About Me section, you’ll know I’m a self-described overfeeler. Or, as my husband puts it, “You aren’t the mother of the whole earth.” To which I reply, “Well, that’s up for debate.” You see, I want to take care of people. Like, all of them. I realize this makes no sense and is impossible and all of those other logical explanations, but logic and I don’t always see eye to eye.

The problem with this is that I see a problem and I get overwhelmed and over-involved and think about it too much and feel it too deeply. The emotions of it bog me down. My heart aches and I take it on in my soul. None of this is particularly useful or helpful.  It is a flaw of mine.

So, I ended the post on a confused note because it matched my emotions and I hit publish. Then, and almost immediately, I remembered a conversation I had with our pastor yesterday. It was a conversation about reading the bible and running and how they are similar in many ways. One way they intersect is that we have our whole lives to read the bible and our whole lives to run and that if we break off too much in the beginning, try to read all of Lamentations or go out and run 8 miles the first day, we are overwhelmed and burn out and get none of the benefits. How the learning and the benefit and the joy come in daily practice.

Well, I’m not rocket scientist, but I see a pattern here.

Break off a little chunk.

Do it. Make it matter.

Do it again. Make it part of your routine, your life.

Keep doing it.

Works for reading the bible and running and helping the problems of homelessness and hunger and genocide and slavery and sexual assault and, and, and you fill in the blank.

So I looked up a couple of ways I could get involved in my area and put it on my Facebook page and then a friend put up another organization and another friend chimed in and I talked to a few people about it later in the day and, gosh darn, people want to make things happen. People are aching to help and connect and ease the hurts of the world. I say, “Nike had it right. Let’s do it!”

Here are a few organizations in the Twin Cities Metro area that are working today, right now, on the huge problem of homelessness and domestic violence.

I’d love it, absolutely love it, if people would use the comment section to share links about other places in my area or wherever you are around the Midwest or the country. I’d love it if you shared how you’re going to get involved.

Let us be the little pebbles tossed in the pond that ripple out and touch the shores. Let us be a little piece of change in this beautiful, horrible world, erasing a bit of horrible and adding a touch of beautiful.

A Roof and a Floor

It's Monday and some bloggers ease into the week with a weekend recap, but I have stuff I can't get out of my head. I simply cannot get it out of my head. The luck. The good fortune. The randomness of this life I live, these kids born to this little spot on this big planet. How good and easy it actually is, when I really think about it.

These full bellies and money for doctor's appointments, Children's Museum membership and road trips to visit family, new shoes for new sports seasons and coats for all types of weather. And if I really want to boil it down, a roof. We have a roof and a floor, a place to call home. These seemingly simple realities rank us up there with the richest people on the planet.

On Friday I saw this video. Ugh. I just watched it again. Hurts my heart.

Then on Friday night the kids and I volunteered with Family Promise. Our church hosts it four times a year, so approximately every three months. The kids really connected with one particular family when we volunteered back in January so when we were getting ready to go on Friday Isaac said, "I hope they're there so we can play with them, but I really hope they're not because that means they have a place to live."

We walked in. They were there. Drat.

Then the boy, the one just Isaac's age who would play basketball and make Rainbow Loom bracelets and eat all the livelong day, just like another 10-year-old I know and love, shouted, "We're moving on the 23rd." Shouted it because of all the excitement and joy.

Months. Months of transient living, moving from church to church every week, sleeping on air mattresses in Sunday School classrooms, with no dresser for clothes and no comfy bed to crawl into each and every night. Months. And now the wait is over.

The boy was jubilant.

The dad was cautious.

"I told him that we'd just take it one day at a time," he said in a tired voice.

And I wonder when he'll think it's safe to hope again. To really believe this is true and his forever. To stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the bad news to come, for it all to come crashing down around him. Will he ever feel secure again?

And what of the little boy? How will this affect him? How will he remember it? Will he remember the uncertainty of it or will he remember playing basketball with boys his age? Will he remember the pain of constant moving or people helping him?

This boy who has so much in common with Isaac. Except for one major thing. Isaac has never, not once, ever wondered where he would sleep. Or if he'd have a chance to shower before school. Or if we'd have enough money for groceries. He knows nothing of the uncertainty. And for that I am so very thankful.

But I'm also insanely angry. I am furious that anyone, any child, knows the aching pain of hunger and the horrendous fear of homelessness.

Why are we here and they're there? What's so different about two ten-year-old boys who love basketball? What's so different about my seven-year-old daughter here and the little girl we sponsor in Tanzania or the boys in Mexico and Kenya? These are the questions that swirl in my brain and make my soul ache. And I don't quite know what to do with my questions. But it isn't enough to have them. It isn't enough to wonder. Because my questions don't keep kids from starving. Or from living out of a suitcase.

We drove home from church on Friday night and it hit the kids. "Mama, if they weren't sleeping in churches this winter, they could have died when it was so cold." "It's so sad." "I'm glad we don't have to sleep in Sunday School rooms."
It's one thing to see injustice in the world, but it's another thing entirely to see it through the eyes of your children. As grown-ups, we can get used to life's unfairness. Or at least I can. We, I, can think that it is what it is and that's how it's always been and it's too big to change. But kids boil it down to the absolute nonsense that it is. And nonsense it most certainly is.

I am extraordinarily thankful for our roof and floor. But I want more kids and more grown ups and more families to have roofs and floors, too. And the security and certainty that comes with roofs and floors.
I don't know how to end this. This is nothing new. It's just my thankful, sad, angry heart.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Five on Friday

It's Friday. Once upon a time, TGIF meant something to me. Now it's pretty tough to differentiate Friday from Tuesday from Saturday. Same kids, more or less school, same people who are always hungry and usually adorable and 98% hilarious.

But, it's Friday, so I decided to link up with some other bloggers for a little thing they like to call Five on Friday. Carolina Charm. The Good Life. Hello Happiness. A. Liz Adventures.

ONE:
Parenthood.
This show. I cry every week right up until I start laughing out loud and then I have to shout at my TV because they can obviously hear me and oh, how I wish I could be adopted by Zeke and Camille. I love my family and they could become Bravermans with me, but I just love those siblings. Yes, I know it's a TV show. It's just so well-written and believable and the love and support they show each other make my heart happy. The characters are multi-dimensional and make mistakes often and there is no clear-cut good guy/bad guy. They're all just people in a family doing the best they can. But they're much cuter than most people because it's on TV and TV is famous for pretty people.

I found out that my friend, Joy, didn't watch Parenthood if her husband was working or out of town, but instead saved it so they could watch together for a date night. (side note: remember when date nights involved getting dressed up and leaving the house in a car to go someplace that fed you and entertained you? No? Me neither.) I asked Jim if he wanted me to do the same, assuming (hoping) he'd say no. He said yes. We're currently two weeks behind and I am a little sick inside.

TWO:
March Madness.
Like the rest of the country, we'll be watching a little basketball this weekend, ruing the day that Dayton beat Ohio State and ruined all three kids' chances at a Billion Dollars, courtesy of Warren Buffet. Now how the heck are we supposed to pay for college?

Last night I sat on the couch with Isaac, wrapped up like little caterpillars in a cocoon in our big, thick blanket, and watched 30 minutes before bed. "Look at how much room they give them on the perimeter, but then when they throw it into the paint they just swarm." "Will you rub my back?" "Did you see how small that burger looked in Lebron James' hand? He's huge!" Dang, I love that 10-year-old.

THREE:
Young Living Essential Oils.
I know very little about essential oils. I don't know how or why they work. I don't sell them. But I'm pretty sure I love them. Asher has many, many great qualities. The smile that crinkles his big cheeks so big that his eyes disappear. The big belly laugh. The way his whole body shudders and he reaches up for me with the glow of love in his eyes when he hasn't me for those 33 seconds it took me to go to the bathroom. The growing relationships that he has with his siblings. He's so fantastic and if you've met him you love him and if you haven't, take my word for it. Awesome baby.

All that to say, sleeping isn't his strong suit. I mentioned it in passing and my friend said lavender essential oils and my other friend dropped by with a sample and that night he slept for seven straight hours. Now I'm waiting for my first vial to arrive and placing all of my get baby to sleep better eggs in one sweet smelling basket. Please? Work a little?

FOUR:
Spring running.
While I consider last Saturday's half marathon a smashing success, there is no doubt that I was wildly undertrained. And I didn't like that. I didn't like knowing I couldn't do my best and having only myself to blame. Well, I blame my husband and his travel schedule a bit, too. But, it's spring and the BOB stroller is ready to roll. The bike tires are waiting to be pumped up so I can load up a slew of small humans and take advantage of clear paths, sunshine, and warmer weather. Of course it will snow again, but it will also melt again. Let's do this spring running!

FIVE:
Chucks. 
Winter means big clunker boots, Danskos, and any other variety of waterproof shoes one might have. I saw a little neighbor girl out in her jelly shoes today and while I applaud her optimism, I'm not ready to take that plunge just yet. Mostly because I like to feel my toes. Along with spring running, I'm looking forward to busting out my Chucks. I have had a red pair for a few years and for Christmas I got a gray pair with some obnoxious neon shoelaces that make me smile. They're so ugly they're cute. They're shoes only a mother could love. Or something like that. But I love them.

Happy Friday!

SIX:
Added bonus because I'm feeling randy and because this doesn't really fit in anywhere but I've been thinking on it for a few days and my heart is heavy with it, my mama heart is burdened with just the thought of it so I can't imagine how her mama heart deals with the real life reality of it every day. I'd love for more people to read it.
http://deeperstory.com/speaking-fear-praying-shalom/

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mom vs. SuperMom

None of us are SuperMom. None of us can do it all. Pack the lunches, sign the right forms and get them to the right place, cook the well-balanced meals that the kids will eat, have the green shirt clean on St. Patrick's Day, offer the perfect advice at each teachable moment, put on make-up each morning, kill the workout of the day at crossfit, make the craftiest end of school gifts for teachers, plan date night with husband, mop the floor. . .
This is a long list that is not even a small drop in a massive bucket. Do you get the point? We can't do it. We all have these 24 hours allotted to us that make up our day and there simply isn't time to do all things well all of the time. None of us can do it. In case I'm mincing words, I'll spell it out for you: no one.

We all see moms who look like they have it all together. Their kids' clothes all match, and I'm talking even the socks, and they're always on time and you've been to their house and it leaves you with a sneaking suspicion that even their junk drawer is organized. Don't even get me started on Pinterest. Or, the kids seem like they're always perfectly behaved and the mom says all the right things and do they ever eat mac and cheese or is it always organic mushroom risotto with truffle oil?

We marvel at them and wonder how they do it all and why can't we do it all and if we can't then what in the heck is wrong with us? What is it in us that forms the equation that if someone else is good and happy, it must mean something is wrong with us? Why must their goodness and happiness detract from ours? As though there were a finite amount to go around.
But then again, all of us are SuperMom. We are all taking the hand we've been dealt--the kids, the life lessons, the crappy night's sleep, the alcoholic parent, the spouse who works long hours or walked away from the marriage or is emotionally distant--and we're loving the heck out of our kids. We're grabbing a granola bar for each kid as we hustle out the door, wondering how in the holy hannah it takes that long to get out of the house, and we're tying shoes at the stoplights and we're practicing the spelling lessons and we're kissing the ouches and teaching the kid how to shoot a jump shot and we're here. We are in it. Day in and day out we are here.

So let's just take away the Super. We are moms. We are making mistakes and making magic. We are failing daily and flourishing hourly. We are probably tired and pulled in many directions and underappreciated. But mostly we're the face of love that our children look to for affirmation and assurance that this big, beautiful, horrible world is okay for them and that they're good enough for it.

That's a big job. Huge. So we have to believe we're up for it. We have to let go of the notion that if we had better wall hangings we would be better people. We have to let go of the idea that if we could get caught up with laundry our life would be better and we'd be more successful. We just have to stop.

Being a mom is so much better than being a mythical superhero known as SuperMom. Moms make mistakes and let their kids see the messy, beautiful, painful, blissful reality of life. Moms take off their capes, wear jeans and ponytails and whatever shirt is mostly clean and walk their kids to the bus stop and give hugs as long as the kid will allow. Or they stay in pajamas and teach them in the dining room. Or they set breakfast out and go to work while the kids still sleep.Or they walk their kid into first period class to ensure she doesn't ditch again. Or something else entirely. Because there is not one right way to do it.

There is love. There is grace. There is forgiveness.

And in order to share those things with our children, we must first share them with ourselves.

What's one way you gave or received love, grave, and forgiveness today? And, pssssssst, we don't have to be SuperMom. It's enough to be loving, gracious, forgiving mom. Keep up the good work. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I absolutely cannot wait for summer because. . .

I want to drink in blue sky and green grass and early sunrises by the bucketfuls.
source
I want to take Asher to the beach for the first time, watching him splash in the shallow water, eat sand, stare in amazement at the hustle and bustle around him.

I want open windows and warm breezes, fresh air breathed deep and the smell of sunshine pervading every inch of our home.

I want to watch my kids swing so high their feet touch the sky.

I want to run, fast and free, down a path clear of snow and ice and puddles.

I want blankets spread out on green grass for picnics, then book reading, then cloud gazing, always imagination growing.
elliot on his pillow, my pregnant asher tummy
I want bike rides after dinner and balls tossed at the park, tents pitched in backyards and road trips to the Black Hills.
backyard camping
I want mango pancakes for breakfast on the patio at Carol's.

I want peaches grilled and margaritas cold.

I want laughter echoing across the pond in our backyard.

I want to watch my kids make up hilarious games in the backyard.
last year's invented game: sprinkle ball
I want car windows down, music loud, singing voice louder.

I want kids with swimsuit tan lines and hair streaked blonde from hours outside.

I want Vitamin D. Although at this point I think that falls under the need category.

I want to see earth transformed from the death of winter to the life of summer, from white and gray to a color-filled feast for our eyes.
source
Tomorrow is the astronomical first day of spring clearing the way for summer. Come on, March 20, don't fail me now.

Today I'm linking up with The Daily Tay and Helene in Between, who are also busy looking forward to summer!

I started out today sleep-deprived and cranky, but just the thought of summer gave me a nice little pick-me-up, so I can only imagine the effect that actual green grass and sunshine will have on me.

So, tell me, what are you looking forward to this summer? All of it, is a perfectly acceptable answer. All of it and I'll even gladly sign up to donate all of my blood to the Minnesota Mosquito Blood Bank.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

listening to sermons with a crowd of small people and John 4:42

We take our babies and kids to church. They sit with us in the pews, chew on their little chomper toys, crinkle up bulletins, smile at strangers, and make people happy. Or make people annoyed. Some people frown upon seeing babies in church no matter how well the baby is doing. I file that under "their problem, not mine."

Church going families have to decide their plan of attack: nursery, bring them to the service, or stop going to church until the kids are older. We fell into the bring them to the service camp because the very first time Isaac went to the nursery, he got the chicken pox. That's going to freak the heck out of a first time mom of a 10-month-old! Plus our kids don't do so well with strangers when they're babies so the nursery is kind of a disaster. And possibly the biggest reason is that Jim and I really want to be in church as a family and want our kids to know what church is, how to act in church, and to be part of that community. But, that is neither here nor there in this story. Bottom line, the babies and the kids come to church with us. I will say we have been fortunate that our kids do pretty well in church. I know this wouldn't work for everyone.

They are great while we sing, fine during kids' time, okay during the reading of the lessons. Then another song where all is well, but I know what's coming: The sermon. With my other three, I pulled the blanket over the baby and nursed him or her during the sermon. They're quiet and entertained, kind of like a church halftime for them, and I can more easily concentrate. That game doesn't work with Asher for two reasons. 1) he hates nursing while being covered so he makes quite a scene about it, squawking and pulling the blanket or nursing cover back and forth, back and forth. 2) he is a noisy nurser. Apparently he thoroughly enjoys his meal because he gulps and oohs and aahs the whole time.

I nursed him during a sermon when he was an itty bitty guy, not yet distracted by blankets over heads, and the visiting pastor called for a time of reflection in the middle of the sermon. I was mortified because I knew how it was going to go down. The entire sanctuary got quiet and I had two choices. I could unlatch the baby from the breast and we could all listen to a teeny baby scream his lungs out as I tried to discreetly cover myself and dash for the door or I could keep him on and we could listen to a teeny baby glug, glug, glug. I opted for the second option, wishing the seconds of this time of reflection would hurry the heck up. Jim and I were trying to silently laugh so hard that our shoulders were heaving and I may have snorted quietly. Yeah. Pretty sure I did. Needless to say, I did not do any reflecting that day.

That was not my best sermon moment, I will admit, but with four kids in ten years and many, many sermons under my belt, I kind of have it down. I pay attention while gauging how much longer the kid is going to last, if I need to quietly exit stage right, if I need to pull out a new toy, and if it seems like the pastor is in the wrap-up stage. My attention is pulled in a few different directions, but parents are known for their multi-tasking and this is no different.

A few weeks (months?) ago, Pastor David did a sermon based on the story of the woman at the well. It has stuck with me. I find myself going back to the story, rethinking the sermon. There is one verse that has played over and over in my mind since he read it that Sunday.
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John 4:42- They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."

I repeat, "We no longer believe JUST because of what you said." 

But they used to. Just because of her they believed. They took her word for all of the great things she had to say about Jesus and because of that, because of the testimony of a woman, they believed. Just one person. Then, because of the testimony of the woman, they met him and heard for themselves and now they know that really, truly, for sure, this guy is the Savior. But it started with one woman talking to some people in her town.

In Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery writes, "All things great are wound up with all things little." And while we're on the subject of books I love, Bob Goff, author of Love Does tells a story about traveling to Jupiter and meeting one person from the planet. If that one person treats you well, you'll return to earth and tell people about the kindness of Jupiter-ites. On the other hand, if that one person treats you poorly, you'll rant about how rude all people of Jupiter are and how you'll never go back there because of the terrible way you were treated.

It's the same thing when someone meets a person who calls him or herself a Christian. Jesus isn't on earth anymore. People can't see God. We're it. For better or for worse, we are it.

People meet us, Christians, and, at least partly based on our interactions, decide if they want to travel to Jupiter again. Well, not Jupiter exactly. But they decide if they want to give this Jesus-following a try. Maybe they've had a bad experience at church. Maybe they've been told they sinned too much or sinned in the wrong way or didn't look the part or didn't have enough money or didn't fit in or any other ridiculous test people are told they have to pass to love God and, more importantly, be loved by God. 

Here's the thing. There's no test. And we are it. We are the little things wound up with the great things. We are the little things wound up with THE great thing. The way we treat people, the words we choose, the love we show, or don't show. All of those things reflect on us and reflect on Christ. 

We, you and I, could be the reason someone says, "I no longer believe just because of what you said. The kindness you showed made a difference to me. The love you shared touched me so deeply, resonated with me so deeply, that I wanted to know more. And now I believe. Because of what you said. I believe."

I've never met Jesus at the well, which makes sense since Jesus is no longer on earth and I've never hung out at a well. But I've felt Jesus in my life, close and personal and deep. Picking me up when I was low, low down. And I want to be that for other people. In the name of a God who is good and right and trustworthy and loving. I want to be that.
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Monday, March 17, 2014

Run Happy.

"Happiness is me running this run right now."
quote on the sweatshirt of an older gentleman running the Get Lucky half marathon on Saturday

I signed up for the Get Lucky half marathon and planned on being ready for it. My friend wrote up a beautiful, well thought out training plan for us to follow. I hung it up in the pantry where I'd see it every time I stopped by to grab chocolate chips. That happened a lot. And there it stayed for many months. The months of February and March were brutal in regards to husband's travel schedule and weather. I completed exactly one of the training runs on the schedule. I ran two times in February and a handful of times in March. I attribute this to three things.
1) legitimate reasons like no treadmill, below zero again, kids without childcare, husband out of town
2) plain laziness
3) difficulty adding fitness back into my routine after having Asher-sleep deprivation is real, ya'll.

Which means, I was severely undertrained and totally committed to running this half marathon. I was prepared to walk if necessary, but I was going to cross the finish line.

Race Time:
Up and at 'em nice and early to get to Saint Paul. I had given myself a nice little pep talk and felt good about it. Then Audrey, always one to say it like it is said, "13.1 miles? That's like (calculates in her mind) more than twice as long as you've run so far." True story, but let's do this! My brother decided to run it at the last minute, suggesting that making bad decisions that could inflict bodily harm on oneself is hereditary. We drove down and met up with three of my friends and then we were off. As we crossed the starting line the DJ said, "It's a great day for a race and you have a great tailwind pushing you along." That sounds great, but the problem is that the race was out and back so if the wind is at your back for half the race, it's blasting your face for the other half. Boooo.

Miles 1-7 were fine and dandy. When I got to mile 7 feeling that good I knew I was going to finish. I was smiling and laughing and cracking jokes along with the rest of our jolly group. I kept my pace steady in the low to mid-9:00s. There were times I thought I could go faster, but I knew if I did the last half of the race would be brutal. Or rather, even more brutal. I didn't want more brutal. There were also a few hills that we ran down that I tried to pretend we wouldn't have to run back up on the way back. I started getting really warm and annoyed at my clothing decision. In fact I was wondering how long it would take me to duck into a porta-potty to take off my base layer. I'm really glad that I didn't do that because then we hit the turn around.

BRRRR.

The wind whipping in my face let me know this was about to get rough. I quickly put my hat and gloves back on. By now my brother had run ahead and two of my friends were a bit ahead, but I could still see them. One friend and I were still running together, but I wasn't talking as much. Similar to when I'm in labor, when the going gets tough, I get silent. I turn inward. Miles 8-10 were quiet. There was a pretty long hill at mile 10 that I had to talk myself through. I picked a stoplight at the top of the hill and said, "Just get to the stoplight." Then I hunkered down and got myself to the stoplight. Hill done. Sounds easy. Felt hard.

Around mile 11 it started to hit me that this was going to happen. I had to walk once at this point. I told myself I'd just walk to the water stop. My two friends circled back and I told them I'd made the executive decision to walk to the water stop. My breathing was fine, but my legs were exhausted. I took an assessment, starting at my feet and going up to my head. Nothing actually hurt; I just ached from using undertrained muscles for too long. Since nothing hurt I decided to just run, even though I wasn't to the water stop yet. I figured the less I walked, the faster I'd finish this thing.

It was also mile 11 when someone shouted, "You're almost there." This is a falsehood. 2.1 miles may seem close to a bystander who has only traveled that distance in their vehicle or on a bike. To someone at the tail end of a half marathon, 2.1 miles feels very far away. People should play more cowbell and stop saying that. And there ends my Running Public Service Announcement.

Mile 12 hurt. My legs were done. All of a sudden Jenna's name popped into my head. I turned to my friend and said, "I'm running for Jenna right now." I thought of all the pain she endured with such grace and beauty. And I thought of this tiny little bit of pain that I paid good money to put up with and that would end once I crossed the finish line and I told myself to shut up and run. So I did. When I wanted to stop I'd say her name over and over in my head. I'd look up at the sky and marvel the beautiful sun and try to ignore the burn.
Jenna, always inspiring me
Mile 12.5 is when things got really rough. I kind of lost my peripheral vision. Well, I really actually did lose the use of peripheral vision. I was like a horse wearing blinders; I could see what was directly in front of me and everything to the side was so blurry I couldn't distinguish it. I toyed with the idea of telling my friend that I might need a medic at the end, but I didn't want to waste energy talking. I got to mile 13. Second Running PSA. Ditch the 13 mile marker in a half marathon and just go straight to 13.1. That last .1 mile felt like another mile.

Anyway, got to mile 13 and tried to speed up a wee bit. There's a curve at the end so I couldn't see the finish line. I just kept saying, in my head and out loud, "I need the finish line." Someone cheering said, "You're almost there!" I said, "Really? Like can you see it from where you're standing?" They said it was right under a bridge I could see from my angle. FINALLY!

My brother and friends ran back to finish with me. And I crossed the dang finish line. And I bent over and grabbed my knees and I told my brother to just stand there with his arm around me to make sure I didn't fall down. He had to steady me a few times, but after about two minutes I stood up and was fine. I mean, obviously I ran more than I should have considering my training, or lack thereof, but it was still fun and good and worth it.
I made it and I'm still smiling

People ask me how it went and I just say, "Well, it happened." It wasn't my best race. In fact, it was my worst race. But I'm perfectly okay with it and content with how it went. Good run, lovely day, great company, sweet green St. Paddy's Day sweatshirt.

And, since my running goals this year are Intact Ligaments, No Babies, and Happy Running, I'm with the guy in the neon green sweatshirt: "Happiness is me running this run right now."

It is worth repeating that I would have walked more if needed. My goal was simply to finish, but I would not have done bodily harm to accomplish that. Basically, as a women's running coach, I'm telling you to train as I say and not as I did. Next time I'll just go ahead and train as I say, too.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Waiting for spring

In order to paint an accurate picture of spring in Minnesota, or any other place where the people who willingly live there describe their state as "frozen tundra" for 4, just kidding, 5 months of the year, I must first present winter to you.

Like an idiot, I grabbed the camera, put the baby in winter woolens, and ran outside with camera in hand to document him in his first snowfall. As though I wouldn't have 47 other chances to take a picture of him in snow. It was early November.


Well, that's not entirely true. I'm glad I got a picture of Asher in his first snowfall and I love snow, so bring it on, winter. We'll happily sled and ski and snow angel and all that fun stuff. What I have a problem with is the use of the term Polar Vortex multiple times in one winter. It's worse when it's used multiple times in one week. The street in front of our house has been under ice and snow since January. We vaguely remember grass, but if it's still there, it's under 4 feet of snow. My kids walk on the snow, fall through up to their hips, lose their boots in the snow, and come in wet-socked and crying. It happened to me as a kid and it'll happen to my grandkids someday as well. It's what makes us hardy. At least that's what we tell ourselves when we see pictures of California in the winter.


It's cold. It's windy. It's snowy. It's actually stunningly beautiful, all white earthed and blue skyed. It's also shockingly cold. You run from house to car to work to errand and back again with as little skin exposed as possible and breathing as few painfully cold breaths as possible. There comes a point every winter where, as a state, we collectively wonder what in the world our ancestors were thinking and why in the heck we haven't moved.

And there you have it. Winter. There is a very valid reason the travel industry makes bank from northerners in February.

Then spring comes. The calendar says March. We have waited for this for months. It's warmer. It's windy. It's muddy. We don't care. We put on our t-shirts and shorts when it's 45 degrees and hang out in our muddy, icy yard and talk and play with neighbors we haven't seen all winter. Someone usually comes out with a belly full of gestating baby. What can I say? Winter gets boring. We're resourceful people.


Then today I spotted it on my run. The first ugly branch poking through the snow. It belonged to a little evergreen bush, long forgotten in a long winter. Man was it ever ugly. Brownish gray melting snow giving way to this misshapen green branch poking out of the middle of nowhere.
Yet I saw it and instantly thought: miracle.

Winter is a time of death. The ground shrivels up, our skin shrivels up, and sometimes it is so dark for so long that it feels like our souls shrivel up. We all reach toward the sun for a hint of warmth. Just a hint to tide us over for better days. Warmth and summer and life itself feel so far away.

I am thinking of the obvious winter outside my door, but I'm also thinking of the proverbial winter that can reside in my heart. The winter that darkens my mood and sours my days and closes me off to the wonder around me. Gray, silent, neverending, bitter winter. My words snap. My gaze shoots daggers. My silence echoes.

I have been reading a lot of books about resurrection lately. The Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Webber and Stitches by Anne Lamott spring to mind first. About laying down the ugly in us day in and day out. About letting the good rise up. About how, as humans, we want to do this once and be done with it, but, as humans, we will have to do it every day, over and over. About how winter hits us again and again, relentlessly, from all angles. About how we never have to stay there.

We never have to stay there. I'm saying that again because it bears repeating. There have been so many times I haven't believed that. I have been so deep in depression. So stuck in despair. I have felt so low and so sure that this valley was my new forever.

But I was forgetting about spring. About resurrection. About the power found in giving up the notion that we are alone and that we can fix it ourselves. About the fact that relying on the help of our family, our community, our God might just be the first step in turning winter into spring. About clinging to that ugly green spring branch sticking out of the ugly gray winter, holding on for dear life, turning your face to the rising sun, and hanging on. Hanging on for warmth and summer and the return of life. Hanging on for the everyday miracle.

We will all break, fall, hurt, feel the harsh sting of winter on our tender, broken skin. But it isn't forever. Hang on, my friends. Spring is coming.