Monday, January 31, 2011

Let me count the ways

I was raised to enjoy a holiday. Holidays are good excuses for making your loved ones feel special, and Valentine's Day is no exception. At my house growing up, it was a family event. Valentine's Day was about love, and my brother and I were loved. Period.

My mom would set the fancy table in the dining room with layers of white lace tablecloths, bouquets of fresh flowers, and a stack of gifts. When my high school years rolled around, and when Valentine's Day only heightened the sting of loneliness for my peers, I had my family. I was loved. I had a party to attend and it was right inside my own home. And that meant so much to me.

I carry that tradition forward now, and have a small version each year with my two little ones. It's lots of fun. They get it: love lives here.

One of the other ways we celebrate is with our Valentine's Advent Calendar. A few years ago, I came up with the idea of doing an advent of love notes, one a day for the first 14 days of February, for each member of my family. The kids have followed suit as they have been able. Now that my daughter is 8, she is fully writing her own. My son who is 5 is excited to draw some pictures depicting the things he loves about his family.

Each morning, they come down the stairs and get so excited to read their notes, words of affirmation and affection to start off their days. I want my people to walk out the door filled with smiles and security and an unshakable knowing why they are amazing to me.

Between my husband and I, of course the notes are an opportunity for praise and affection as well. I treasure his words, as he does mine. Sometimes the notes are hard to believe. Our resistance to love is striking sometimes, isn't it? We are more comfortable with our suspicions about how the other person sees us, than embracing the fact that someone finds us completely lovely. And of course, there are always the saucy notes. You know the kind. Perfect for kindling romance and laughter.

The thing is, we don't say what we love about the people we love often enough. We miss opportunities. We take them for granted so much. Our Advent calendar is one way we put into words the little things that mean so much. At the top, it says "Let Me Count the Ways," from the poem How do I Love Thee?

Each person has his or her own column of felt pockets, until Feb. 14th.

Some of the pockets have Valentine buttons.

I'm still taking out last years notes, and getting ready to hang it for tomorrow. I stick it into the wall with push pins.

Look at our baggies from the past few years. Of course, the notes get saved. They are priceless. One year, my daughter simply wrote "I love you" on every note.

Of course, you don't have to do something as elaborate as my calendar. You could do envelopes. You could get cute little mailboxes from the craft store. You could come up with any number of simple or complicated, amazing, creative ways to affirm your family members. The point is to be intentional. The point is that you tell them WHY they are so special to you. Not for what they do, but for who they are. That is a tricky part, to stick to the character qualities and strengths, not simply actions, that you appreciate.

Everyone needs to feel seen. If we don't tell our spouses and children who we see them to be, then how will they know?

Happy February, everyone. Tomorrow we start counting the ways.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Things that make me cry

I hope you have a little time to read.

Because you need to read this post by Ann. She writes on the poignant pressing in of intimacy in marriage and how we sometimes resist it. Her vulnerable account of different seasons of her own womanhood is powerful. How she wrestles with her own beauty or lack thereof after birthing six children is so personal yet pricks at something incredibly universal. It made me cry. You should read it. It may just inspire you to lean into your marriage, when you feel like leaning out. Here's a taste:

And why would a woman rather scrub the grime of the tile grout in the bathroom for her husband, make him plates of heaping mashed potatoes, light the candles, scour the pots, wash his underwear, rather than say yes to his wooing?  Is it pride or is it shame (and maybe they are the same only by different names) or is it a symptom of a deep wound bleeding unseen...

And then there's this post by Aly. She writes on romance, but not in the way you think. This post will shake you up. I promise. It made me cry. You will feel uncomfortable at some point. But in a good way. Our beliefs about ourselves and God's love for us need a shaking up sometimes. This will do it. (AND she just started blogging. So what in the world. Follow her.) Here's a taste:

this week God is sweeping me off my feet. he is showing me that i don't need to wait for romance. i don't need to long for it and wish i had it. He wants to romance me. He wants to make me feel like i'm the only woman in the room. the only one He desires. He wants to show me how He sees me. no matter who or what has broken my heart [and he knows the list is long], and no matter what i've done [that's a long list too] to deserve pain and anguish, He loves me.

Now don't laugh at me. But bear in mind, I've been cooped up in a house with sick kids for nearly 2 weeks. We've watched a LOT of movies. Not all were worth our time, but this one was. So I am not ashamed. This movie made me cry.

Quit laughing. It's really good.

It is the story of how a child turns your life upside down and rearranges everything you always thought was important and allows you to be the hero you always longed to be.

Um, and yeah. This one made me cry too. But gimme a break. At the end, it's basically a Jesus-laying-his-life-down-to save-us scene. Kind of.

Everyone thinks the boy, Hiccup, is dead. (I'm gonna spoil it right now. But you didn't think he'd actually be killed off anyway, right? He's the star of a children's movie, for goodness sakes.) Everyone starts to mourn for him after the final battle scene, after the fire. But then the smoke clears and the wings of his dragon friend wearily unfold to show that Hiccup was safely wrapped against his own body as he himself endured the brunt of the fire. This story is full of redemption and bravery and love.   

And last but not least, you ARE watching Parenthood right? The most recent episode which I watched last night on my DVR really got to me. More than one story line was about mothers and daughters and trying so hard as a parent to NOT project your own baggage onto them as they grow and take risks.

Parenthood is only one of two shows I regularly watch. Almost every episode makes me cry. Lots of real life family situations. Lots of me taking mental notes the whole time about what to do or what not to do when I have teenagers. And lots of me wondering if and when I'm gonna have one of these talks with my daughter. And oh yes. I will.

So I'm down a few tissues. And I've just offended both Ann and Aly by putting their amazingly insightful words on par with kids' movies and weeknight drama.

But truth be told, I kinda like being moved to the point where there's a lump in my throat and my eyes start to blur. That means someone else is speaking something precious about life. They took the time to write a script or a book or a blog post about the human condition in one aspect or another. We need the medicine of regularly opening our hearts to the stories around us. Letting ourselves feel what someone else felt. Really feel it. Drink it in.

Because when someone else's story pierces your heart, you realize you were following your story all along.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Birds in my house

I'm so glad to be linking up to Virtual Coffee with Amy today!

Over my cup of steaming black currant tea with a touch of honey, I want to tell you that in the five years we've lived in our house, a bird has flown in three times. Twice in the last week. Once just a minute ago. The thing is, a little sparrow sits on a bush by the front door, and if the front door happens to open and someone is coming up the walk at the same time, the visitor scares him and he flies right in! This just happened because I saw my mom coming up the walk, so I opened the front door before she got to it.

In flew my little friend who zoomed like lightning right into the shut window at the back of my house. He bounced to the floor behind my couch and I so hoped he was alive! But when I crept over there, he popped up off the floor and then, in a panic, reattempted to fly out that shut window over and over. So sad. There is something kind of scary about having a bird in your house. They are so unpredictable and fast! Also, I couldn't really help him find a way out. He just kept flying from one shut window to the next, family room to kitchen, bashing his head each time. Was it more painful for him or for me to watch this!? It took a few minutes for me to usher him out the door, which had been standing wide open. I was trying to softly speak to him so he wouldn't be in such a panic. But I don't think little sparrows understand empathy, really. He was such a small and fragile little thing. So afraid of me, he had no idea how much I wanted to help him.

Do you feel like that little bird sometimes? I do.

There are times when I just don't know my path. I am unsure of my place and my purpose on days. Or weeks. I fly into windows that look good from where I'm sitting. But they're not the right path for me. Maybe it's the wrong communication path, the wrong discipline path, the wrong priority path. The shut windows that look great are not God's best for me. Sometimes it's a little scary. Sometimes I feel panicky. Sometimes I keep flying into the same window, so certain it is the way to go. And it's not.

Jesus, who cares for me more than any sparrow, awaits. He speaks quiet empathy and love. His door is standing quite wide open. The closed windows are paths to my entrapment. His path is the one to freedom. How painful it is for Him to watch me bash my head over and over, his voice drowned out by my busyness and self-reliance. Perhaps more painful for Him than for me.

So friends, today that sparrow has reminded me that God's words are a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. His words - reading them and listening for them - are the salve for my bruised head, and the guidance I need to find His best, His freedom.

I'm offering a simple prayer for you today that you'd hear His whispers of guidance, and find the open door you've been seeking. Have a blessed Tuesday.

Aren't two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Don't be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.
Psalm 119:105

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Isaiah 30:21

Friday, January 21, 2011

Have your cake

For those of you who are new to top of the page, I also write for cake & cotton with my pal Shauna, a blog where we write to each other about much less serious things, such as fashion and cooking and projects and other random stuff we want to talk about.

You need to check out her blog, if you haven't. She's amazing. 

And then hop on over to cake & cotton where I'm talking about laundry today. Woo hoo. The glamour!

But on Sunday night, I'm posting again there, with a pretty little make-at-home Valentine tutorial. I intend to link up with Blessed Little Nest for Life Made Lovely Monday, so you're gonna want to check it out.


And by the way. I can't wait for February. I just love love.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mavericks and Almighty

Mavericks is one of the most famous big wave surf breaks in the world. It is just up the coast from Half Moon Bay in Northern California. It boasts of life-threatening waves.

We visited it a couple years ago. I took this photo of the waves crashing on the rocks. It does little justice to the power of the water we witnessed.  

There, the ocean speaks with a deafening roar.

I thought about Mavericks today because last night I read this verse.

"For I am the LORD your God, who churns up the sea so that its waves roar - the LORD Almighty is his name."  Isaiah 51:15

And wouldn't you know it. I just learned something about the name "LORD Almighty." First of all, whenever you see the word LORD in all capitals in the Bible, it is the translation for God's holy name YHWH, or Yahweh in English. It is not a title. It is his name. Second of all, I recently learned that "Almighty" is what more modern translations say. The older ones say "Lord of Hosts." This word in Hebrew is Sabaoth, and it literally refers to the Lord as the almighty commander of all the hosts, or armies, of heaven as well as the armies of Israel. Sabaoth offers a portrait of God's power and position.

He commands the waves like he commands armies of heavenly hosts in battle.

He is mighty. He can handle my battles. Easily.

If our God is for us, then who, or what, can stand against us?
He will fight for me. He will fight for you.

The LORD Almighty is his name. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Whatever means necessary

 My husband's mom isn't really a mother-in-law. She is more like a second mom.
She loves me like I am her child too. And she challenges me with her wisdom.

A few days ago, she said something in an email that stuck with me.
I'm wrestling with it inside.

Here are her words to me:
 I always pray that God will use whatever means necessary to bring our children (and grandchildren) to Himself...that they would find the path He has for them and that they would walk in it.

Wow. Look at the words "always" and "whatever means necessary."
Those words are huge. 
I'm not there yet.
I can't yet, with a whole heart, pray the whatever means necessary prayer. 
Not even once, much less always.

I want to add parameters to that prayer. "Bring my loved ones to you by whatever means necessary, God, except the really, really difficult means." I don't want any hospitals, job losses, natural disasters, or long-term illnesses to be involved.

Why is it so difficult to apply the knowledge I have in my head that I'm never in control of my life to my day to day actions? I act like my plans are everything. I act like I can control what happens to our money, our children, our stuff. But I really, truly know that I don't have control at all. It could all change in an instant. I just forget about that part.  

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

When I am faced with something that challenges my faith, I don't walk away from it. I face it, or rather it faces me. It keeps facing me. And that's why I'm wrestling. I can't turn away from what being able to pray this prayer means.

It means open hands. Always.
And that is really, really hard.

When I expressed to my mom-in-law that I was not there yet with being able to sincerely pray her prayer, she suggested it was because of my life stage. I am still directly controlling many aspects of my children's lives. That practice gives me a false sense of security, as if I can really protect them and grow them and turn them into loving, educated, healthy people.  And so I forget I'm just a piece of clay in the Potter's hands. I'm being used in the ways He sees fit. And He is really in charge of my children. He is their Father.

I need to practice open hands more than I practice the pretending of control.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:9

My mom-in-law has three children, all in their 30's and 40's. The years have forced her to understand she is not in control. She has seen her children endure some very tough circumstances. And she also knows that it is during those hard times that we are most often brought to our knees. 

While I can relate to that personally, I can't yet feel okay about certain hardships my kids may have to endure. Seriously, I have a super hard time watching my daughter suffer through small trials on the playground. How would I feel if she contracted leukemia? If illness meant she would become a thriving lover of Jesus, do I need to want leukemia? What if God decided to allow disease to take my life, like he did with Shauna's mom. Looking at my beautiful friend and who she's become through that painful part of her story, I can't not want the same for my children. But of course, I also can't want them to be left without me.

Wrestling, people.
How can I open my hands, offering my children and my husband and my loved ones up to the Lord and pray whatever means necessary? I look at the photo above, one that is on my desk, and I can't imagine....I just can't imagine. 

It's not that I don't pray for them, and pray sincerely. It's not that I don't trust the Lord. It's the far corners of my faith that I'm pressing in on. The intense "what ifs." You know.  

Some of you have gone through the things I can't imagine. I've heard lots of stories lately of those very things. I realize God meets us in a very special way in our "can't imagines."
He shows up real and loud and seriously loving.

So I guess that's where the buck stops.
My closet full of fear that I never knew was there can be unlocked. I can let out the "can't imagines" because God is there to catch them and unravel them and hold me still.
 I am without words right now. Suddenly. I'm sitting here and there is nothing left to say.
Whether I succeed in having open hands today, come what may, God will hold me still.
And I really believe that.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Introductions: my husband

I can't think of a perfect word. I can't think of the right thing to complete this sentence: My husband is _______.

The things he is don't neatly fit into "amazing" or "wonderful" or some word like that. Those words sound flat and tired compared to who my husband really is. So I'll try to introduce him another way.

(Pretty much all these things are exactly what I am not, by the way, which makes us quite complementary. Or crazy. Or both.)

He loves the outdoors. No. He needs the outdoors. He hears and sees and meets God there. He starts to die a slow death if he doesn't get outdoors often. His favorite kind of recharging is taking a trip to the Sierra Nevadas, climbing as high an altitude as he can, and spending the weekend camping, fishing, and walking around doing who knows what. I don't know because I'm not there. Yeah, most of the time he goes alone. Solitude and nature. He thinks it's the best thing ever. He even hopes to see a bear. (Wait, there's that wildness reflecting God's image...I can appreciate it. But I'll never get it.)

He doesn't love words, nor does he have a lot of words to say. But the ones he does have - the ones he speaks and writes to me - are valuable gifts. He doesn't waste time chattering about nonsense (like some people I am know). He listens, processes his thoughts in silence, and then speaks his mind clearly. Wow. Must be nice to not be a crazy mess of words and emotions and twenty five other things.

He is expressive in ways that I'm not. He's super creative, but it's not like he does crafts with me. Never. But he often needs to be creating. Sometimes that happens for him at work. He loves to be creating in the kitchen too (what an amazing cook!). And often times that expression happens at night, as he plays guitar and sings to the kids before bed. Most nights he teaches them praise songs, and they grow deep-rooted memories of their dad filling their dark bedrooms with music and worship.

He is risky, but in a good way. Not foolish, just guyish (which sometimes seems foolish to a female, but I know better). He models bravery, curiosity, and a love of adventure to the kids. They are very into his program. Only once have I had to establish a guideline: "If a person is still sleeping with a pacifier, he or she is too young to be pulled behind a boat in an intertube." (This rule was, unfortunately, enacted after said rule had already been broken. I found out by looking at the pictures. Yes, it's true.)

Oh, and he loves me. He puts up with my millions of words and emotions and social activities. He smiles at my drama. He lifts me up when I fall. And when he's not sure how to love me, he does the dishes. He always always always says yes to giving me time off when I need it. And he loves my children so very much.  What isn't sexy about that?

Here's a little glimpse at how my story and his story started to intertwine.

We met when I was 17, he was 19. He played guitar and led worship for the high school youth group I attended at church. (That guy is always the cutest guy too, by the way.) I loved him quickly.

In fact, he is the only guy I've ever loved.

The first gift he ever gave me was an abalone shell he'd plucked from the bottom of the ocean on a diving trip. I remember where we were standing, in a parking lot, when he presented it. The large shell had a folded up note inside, and he shyly said to me, "I brought you a treasure from the sea."

I do and I don't want to show you our picture from my senior prom. You guessed it: curling iron gone wild. And I wore a red gown because I knew they'd play the song Lady in Red. (That is so embarrassing.) They did. He was not in love with proms. But he was enough intrigued by the sassy, red-gowned redhead to take my arm and pretend to like dancing.

You've probably already gathered that he was not the kind to write his love in the sky with a plane or propose at a baseball stadium. Instead, he took me to the ocean, recited a poem barely above a whisper, and offered me a ring. Later he showed me the painting he'd made of the scene. His love is something like nature, now that I think about it. Quiet and powerful and deep.

We got married in August of 1997. All the men wore white tuxedo jackets because my grandpa felt strongly that black ones should be reserved for funerals. Everything about our wedding was beautiful.

Our relationship, however, needed some work. Needed some aging, some stretching, and some rooting.

We didn't know how to be married. We made a lot of great memories and a lot of mistakes, and threw a couple of kids into the story as well.  We had a dynamic mixture of fun and fighting for a decade. But more recently, we've emerged from a rough season. In the beginning of that season, God promised me that he would make the rough places smooth (Isaiah 42:16).

And He's fulfilled that promise. Oh, has he fulfilled it.

From the best day ever, New Years Day, 2011.

Despite the fact that my husband and I have many differences, we share many of the same perspectives. We want to love and serve each other and those around us. We want God to use us in His greater story, and we desire to be His servants above all else. We are true partners in parenting and share a vision for equipping our kids to become healthy, effective adults. And finally, we both believe we have nothing to offer each other, our kids, or this world unless we are individually living hand in hand with Jesus.

Trust me, we've tried to offer each other what we have in and of ourselves. It's a handful of pathetic crumbs compared to an elegant banquet when we are trusting God's ideas for our marriage. And as hard as this life is, let's be honest: we can't make it on crumbs. You can't make it on crumbs. You'll starve without God in your marriage. And if you have a rough place in your relationship, I encourage you to ask God to make it smooth. He is faithful to act, if you only believe He can and is willing. He wants to heal that place. He wants to be invited into it. And He will make it smooth, in His time, in His way (that's the hardest part), if you trust Him with your marriage.

My husband trusts God with our marriage. That's just one of many, many reasons I'm so blessed to be his girl.

Here are a couple photos for you (sorry they're small, but if I make them the biggest size, they get cut off. I'm really annoyed right now with my layout. gotta fix it soon.)

This one we look particularly giddy in. That's because we're on a weekend alone in a hotel which is on a lake in a snowy place. God bless you, grandparents.

Remember my ridiculously generous parents (see curling iron link above)? This is last summer, in Antibes. (If I knew something clever to write in French I'd do that here.)

OK, one more.

Now there's a kiss to build a dream on.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Pay back, cowboy style

A few days ago, the kids and I made our weekly pilgrimage to the grocery store. We parked, and began to trek through the parking lot. Just ahead of us, a man and his son walked towards the double automatic doors. The boy looked to be about twelve or so. He was given the job of following behind and pushing the cart. But he got a little ahead of himself, and bumped the back of his dad’s legs with it. At the same instant that the boy gave a perky, “Sorry dad,” the father spun on his heels with rage in his eyes and literally growled through clenched teeth, “God damn you!” It was loud. He then quickly turned his back on his son and stormed into the store.

Look. I will not pretend that I am shy or soft-spoken. Blame it on the red hair, but I’ve a little fire in my soul that wants to execute justice on parents like that. I can barely restrain myself from speaking up when I see a child being mistreated in public.

I had all kinds of verbal zingers getting in line in my head were I to run into this pair in the store. Here’s an example of a conversation I was itching to have.

Angle #1: sarcasm.
(said to the boy) “Gosh it must be hard living with someone who never makes mistakes.” (then the dad says “Excuse me?”) “Well, I’m assuming you’ve never made such a horrible mistake as to bump someone with a grocery cart, based on the way you treated your son. I just think that must be hard for him, being so flawed.”

Or what about this. I kind of liked this better.

Angle #2: just call me the Holy Spirit.
(said to the dad) “Hey, I saw how you treated your son in the parking lot when he ran into you with the cart. I hope you’ve taken the time to apologize to him, because I have a feeling you’ve made much bigger mistakes than that in your lifetime.”

Angle #3: exposure. (which I thought up right after the dad tried to be nice to me while we were both waiting at the pharmacy counter. well, not exactly nice. he tried to be cool.)
"Oh no. Don't even try to be the nice guy because I know you're not. I saw what happened in the parking lot. So I'm not on your side. But unfortunately, your son is. So get off your phone, look him in the eye, and act like he matters to you."

Yeah. Ugly. I’m that ungracious, particularly when it comes to people hurting kids. I know I can cross the line in my judgement of other parents who are out in the world making mistakes (just like I AM), but that same fire also makes me speak up for wrongdoing. And I teach my kids to do the same…so there are decidedly pros and cons. One little hint that I'm crossing a line, though, is when I want justice on my terms. I wanted that dad to feel worse than he made that boy feel. Because that's what he deserves. Right? Bear with me, here.

Part two of the story. That same day, my husband emailed me this review for the new remake of the film True Grit. I don’t love western flicks, so he was delivering some propaganda to sell me on it. It was even reviewed on a Christian website. He knew that would give it at least a few extra points in my book.

But by the end of the article, I had forgotten all about the movie. Towards the end, the author is exploring the theme of retribution and how it plays out in the film. And in that analysis, he makes a striking point. A very humbling, striking point. Here’s an excerpt from the conclusion of his article:

Even as Mattie Ross faces down her nemesis and defeats him in True Grit, she’s knocked backward into a pit by her weapon’s recoil. Revenge brings a cold comfort, resulting in an immediate descent into a snake-filled darkness. Her righteousness doesn’t result in a neat and tidy ending; it leaves her scarred, poisoned, and broken. Revenge, even petty revenge, never ends in as happy a way as we’d like, with a neat and tidy moment of “I told you so” justice. Instead, Like Mattie, we end our journey scarred both by victimization and retribution. 

Perhaps that’s because what we need is retribution so vast that it calls for wrath that would overwhelm us. If our hunger for revenge were fulfilled, the result would be a flood that would drown even us, and our petty attempts at substitutes will ultimately be dissatisfying. The “justice” we hunger for would bring about our destruction. Thanks be to God—there’s a better retribution and a better rescue from the pit; one that emerges from the fringes, carries out justice, and saves us from the wrath we deserve.

Do you have to read it again? It was deep and beautiful. Yeah, read it again.

How very true. I want justice because this world is a very unjust place. But according to God's standard, His requirement is perfection in order for me to be with Him. Which makes me so off the list. I am that dad. Let's not mince words. Besides the fact that in my weakness I've said things to my own kids to make them feel very, very small, I'm far from perfection. And THANK GOD He doesn't give me what I deserve. I deserve retribution and what I receive instead is forgiveness.

That's the definition of grace. Getting what you don't deserve. Because I've put my life in the hands of the only Savior, I get rescued from the pit of my own undoing. It is all so unfair. And unfair in my favor. In that dad's favor. In everyone's favor, if and only if we place our lives in His hands.

If we choose to deal out our own retribution, striving for a satisfaction and justice we will never see on this earth, we'll end up in a pit, trapped by our own desire for control. But God says vengeance is His. We can let go of our natural desire for pay back, and trust Him because He is perfectly fair and just. Unless you've accepted Jesus and the gift of His grace. Then, He's not fair to you at all; He's like ridiculously forgiving.

Tonight I'm gonna pray for that dad. That hardened, hurting, and angry dad. Maybe He'll realize His need for forgiveness one day. Just maybe. And maybe on that day, he'll thank God he received everything when he deserved nothing.

Anything you need to let go of? Trust that He's fair. He sees you. He knows injustice better than anyone ever has (remember, Jesus was falsely accused and then killed for made up reasons? Talk about unjust.)

God is the ultimate Sherrif of this town. He is the truest, grittiest one of them all.

And there certainly can't be two Sherrifs. I guess I'll step down from my post.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An evening cup

Guess what? Unlike most of the universe who loves to wake up to a hot cup of coffee, I'm a night owlie and a tea girl. And I guess, sometimes being a tea girl turns me into a night owlie, because I don't give the caffeine enough time to depart before bedtime. It's possible.

This is my new domestic BFF. Thank you, Robin, for being one of my real BFF's and for knowing I really needed this.

So I'm a little thrown by the fun {virtual coffee} happenings on Tuesdays at Amy's blog, Lucky Number 13. I want to play, really I do. I just feel like I'm bringing the wrong equipment; like the girl who comes to the gym with makeup on (wait, you're right, I am that girl.) So coffee lovers, I hope you'll let me into your inner circle with my rad, magical, non-sweating Starbucks Venti iced tea cup.

I can't invite you over for coffee because I don't have any, and please don't visit in the morning at all. But I'd LOVE for you to come by in the quiet evening. I'd be sipping iced tea with the candy cane-ish straw, and would be happy to share! (my tea, not my special straw.)

When all my people are sound asleep, we could chat for hours like we did in college, putting our relationships above everything else in the world. Remember the days when you didn't even care that you felt tired, because you could stay up till the wee hours of the morning, listening to music, eating ice cream, and pouring over every single tidbit of conversation you had that day? That sounds like the best, to me.

If you were sitting on my couch next to my sleepy weiner dog and me right now, this is what I'd have to say.

I'd tell you that my Bible study at church this morning was awesome. It was like ten posts worth of truth and wisdom I could share straight from the mouth of that crazy and amazing Beth Moore. Here's one tidbit which is from her newly revised study Breaking Free.

Much of the book revolves around some verses in Isaiah, one of which details God's promise to "bind up the brokenhearted." This chapter talked about what it meant to have a broken heart, and what it meant to have it bound up. The original language for "bind" was as in a bandaging of a wound, or a compression to stop the bleeding. If you have a physical wound, it initially hurts to press a bandage onto it, but the bleeding stops. When we have been dealt our biggest, most painful blows in life, God's promise is to place his scarred hand over our hemorrhaging heart. He presses in, stops the bleeding and then begins to heal us. I love that visual.

I'd tell you that in light of my dynamic relationship with my daughter, I'm kind of feeling I should READ THIS that I heard about over at Mama Manifesto. It sounds like a great fit for the things I want to teach her and don't really know how to. I also have The Wonder of Girls sitting on my table, waiting for me to read. I'd ask you if you've read them.

I'd tell you that there is a lot in my heart to pray about right now. My mom needs prayer for a sickness, and I feel really sorry she is struggling. The flooding in Australia is tugging on me. My friend has co-workers there who emailed her and said the areas of Brisbane and Ipswich were going to be completely under water in a matter of hours. That was a matter of hours ago. This TV station has a good website of the latest news. And then Joanne. *Sigh.* Her health is really tugging at my heart too. If you spend time on her blog and read their story, particularly about their marriage, you'll agree that the stroke she had this morning seems like a potentially insurmountable obstacle. Lord, come swiftly to all these hurting ones.  

I'd tell you that I'm totally excited and also totally terrified to pursue this project during the 40 days leading up to Easter. Seriously, this blog Clover Lane is filled with practical goodness. Just check out her sidebar and you can spend hours studying how to do stuff you want to know how to do.

Finally, I'd tell you that I'm having trouble staying disciplined with going to bed at 11:00 like I should. That is my target. I rarely hit it and it's because I'm not disciplined. Then, after beating around the bush with chatter about what I'm gonna wear with my new leg warmers my stylish pal gave me for my birthday, I'd reluctantly ask you to leave so I could be no more than an hour late getting to bed. (Does anyone else besides me feel like they are running late getting to bed? I'm pretty sure I'm the only one.)

But hey, at least it's still Tuesday. Barely.

Thanks for the chat; I needed it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Introductions: my daughter

I don't know where to start about my firstborn. Maybe you feel the same way about yours. It is harder for me to see her, plainly. Because she was the first. The individual who happened to change nearly everything about my life. And that means I messed up the most with her. I am continuing to mess up the most with her. Because every change, every new grade level, development, and step she takes (which is, um, like every day) is a first for both of us. She and I are constantly sailing into uncharted territory. That makes our days a little harder and scarier for both of us. And sometimes there are serious meltdowns. Other times we have a beautiful connection and closeness, just like in my dreams.

And she is so amazing. Compassionate well beyond her years. Shy, but loves to sing and dance. A rule follower and not a peer follower. She will be one with only a couple friends, but they will be of the best kind. She is opinionated, devoted and sensitive.

And she is 8. Which means she is equal parts Tinkerbell and Taylor Swift. She can't quite decide whether she wants to stay in Neverland or sing songs about a lost love on her guitar. She is moody and melancholy, creative and clever. So much like me and then so, so different.

She is definitely more fun.

But our sameness strikes a chord within me when she keeps the sad song on repeat. When she crumbles into tears from feeling overwhelmed.

When she wants her daddy to notice how beautiful she is.

They have a precious bond. He sees her, and tells her often how lovely she is.

The feminine heart, as God designed, is a lovely and complex thing. It reveals so much about the designer: that He is tender, nurturing, gentle and emotional. It can fill up or empty out as quickly as the rolling tide. My daughter's innocent, child's heart is still unfettered by hurt and loss. It reaches eagerly for love with open and trusting arms.

She models for me a purity in seeking her father's love.

And when I can sweep aside my life beyond Neverland, when I can find the child's heart within me under the stacks of years, I go to Him with open arms, needing to be filled up. Needing to be told once again that I am lovely.

He's right there. He's been there, waiting to embrace me.

He lights up at the very invitation to watch me twirl.

Friday, January 07, 2011

What I have to give

Read Shauna's post today.

She is saying some awesome things about how we can give one another the gift of our own stories. We all have morsels of wisdom gained through a challenge or a tragedy in our lives. If we share them, maybe we'll be helping someone else who finds themselves in the same spot someday. I haven't experienced any major tragedies in my life. But this post I wrote on New Year's Eve tells of my most recent and also most difficult season of my life. So I share my story there.

Also, I'm linking up to her blog today with my own list, as she suggests. Here are some morsels of truth that I wish I'd known sooner:

On becoming a parent
Having a child is both a death of yourself and a birth of yourself in a way for which you can't be prepared. It is a jolting and difficult transition. Give yourself time and grace to mourn the loss of your old life. Then be open minded as to whom you may become.

On Marriage
My husband makes a really bad god. Only one person can meet all my needs and tell me who I am, and it's not him. It's the actual God. Freeing my spouse to be the flawed human being he is gives me a happy heart.

Also, I make a really bad god. If my husband is looking to find his identity in my approval or my mood, it is a problem between he and God. I cannot and should not try to rescue him. I can only offer love, grace, and forgiveness when he falls.

On the Bible
It is not a compilation of suggestions or rules. It is a love letter, written from a Father to a Child. It also contains wisdom on how to live the most abundant, most effective, and fulfilling life possible. I absolutely need it in my life every day.

On Prayer
Gosh, I wish I had learned these things sooner...prayer is not telling God what I am wishing for. It is asking for His will to be done, which is His best plan A for my life, and which may be exactly what I think I don't want, in reality. Prayer is working out how hard it is to trust Him when things aren't what I expect. And much of that for me is done without words at all. It is in silence and listening and surrender, which takes practice.

On pain and trials
Do not let them go to waste. One reason I'm going through something difficult is because I'll eventually meet someone who needs to know what I've learned from it. And I'll need to tell them.

On those times when I feel overwhelmed, when I get to the point where something's gotta give, when I'm lying in bed with a sickness, and when I can't sleep
The first thing to do is ask God if He's trying to get my attention, and then listen.

On raising children
I am learning about and from them almost as much as I am teaching, because they are not me. I must be a student of the work God is doing in them and be wary of my own agenda for their lives.

On my parenting mistakes
If I were a perfect parent, my children would never have need for a perfect God.

Today, those tidbits are what I have to give. And I guess, this whole blog is an offering too. I'm always working out my faith, and for me it helps to use a keyboard to do so. I hope you feel encouraged to share your lessons with those around you. Even if you're one baby step ahead of someone else in a challenge, you have something to give.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Introductions: my son

I thought, for the new year, I should do some introductions. Yesterday, you met my parents. Today, my very favorite little guy.

Meet my son. He is a Kindergartner.

Around the fall, something started to emerge in him.

I can't put my finger on it, but I think it's wildness.

I'm starting to call him "my little Max."

And I plan to buy him the book we somehow still don't own.

On our outing the first day of the year, he was in love with camo. He chose his camo shirt (all green shades) to wear with his camo pants (all grey shades). He thought they matched.


What it matched was his wildness...his desire to blend in with the wild earth.

I'm not so sure how this wildness blends into the classroom. And I am sure that at times it does NOT blend in with my preferences at dinnertime or bedtime.

But sometimes I can see past those clashes, and I can see the Designer, making man in His image.

Powerful. Unpredictable. Alarmingly, frighteningly, lovely.

Because He wants us to understand what He is like.

God himself is a God of action. He doesn't stop moving. He's brave and strong. He is relentless in His pursuits. And you never quite know what's coming.

God gave us boys because He wants us to know the thrill of waiting to see what amazing thing He will do next.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Curly or straight

My mom and dad eloped.

They got married sort of because my dad's cousin said, "Hey, why don't you guys get married?" when they were all on a trip together. I'm sure there was a lot more behind it too. Like LOVE. That was nearly 4 decades ago, and they are still together. In fact, they are best friends.

ONE wedding photo exists, from the cheesy chapel they laugh about now.

Just look at how beautiful my mom is.

In her twenties, she did some modeling, got a degree in Speech, and worked her way up to become director of a finishing school in Northern California. She shined with her excellent speaking skills, and a welcoming, always positive attitude. My mom was polished and poised every day.

And still is. Seriously. She has an amazing closet filled with beautiful clothes and shoes, all classic and sophisticated. But let's not forget that there are a lot of people who have nice things. It takes someone with beauty on the inside to pull off beauty on the outside. She does it.

(This is my mom and my little one, a couple of years ago. My daughter's coloring is more like my mom's than mine.)

As long as I can remember, my mom has gotten her hair done at a salon once a week. When I was a child, a lot of times I got to go with her. I would sit at the station beside her while someone curled my long, strawberry blond hair. I have many clear memories of those afternoons: the chattering of hairdresser gossip, the funny smells, and all the ladies who made me feel grown up and lovely. My mom included.

And also quite memorable is the curling-iron indoctrination I underwent, which lasted for two decades. Here is the proof.

Decade 1. Curling iron. Curling iron.

Decade 2. Curling iron gone wild times 4. Holy mackerel. (Sorry Jenn, you're implicated too, in this crime.)

That's a lot of curls. I looked like that in every photo I found. I can't imagine spending the time I used to spend on my hair NOW.

So this little trip down memory lane does have a point. The point is today.

My mom is extra special TODAY because it is the anniversary of the date she labored and delivered me into this world!

Yes, it's my birthday. I'm 36 (wow). And I'm thankful for the many, many things my mom has taught me over the years, even how to wield the various hair irons. (If you're interested, a crimping iron was in rotation for a while, so was a spiral curling iron, a super narrow rod curling iron, a big fat curling iron, there were multiple sets of hot rollers, of course,....and I'm sure it's so disappointing now that I use a flat iron, if I use anything at all!)

But on a more sincere note, my mom passed onto me her love for style, fabrics, accessories, decorating, homemaking....she taught me how to use my voice with confidence and passion....she taught me how to throw a party and to celebrate life no matter what (she is so very good at that)....she taught me to believe I could make a difference in this world (because she believes it and then does it)....and perhaps most importantly, she modeled what it means to give. She has and will always give of herself as a mother, wife, and friend to the farthest extent possible. 

This is my mom and dad this past summer, when the extent of their giving got so ridiculous that they took my husband and I to France. I know. Crazy right? 

(And I have this feeling, mom, that you're a little embarrassed I chose this picture because you think your hair is a tad flat-ish. Well, I think it looks beautiful.) 

See what I mean? Classic, polished, and poised. 

I'm grateful for my mom today. Not only for bringing me into the world, but for giving me her presence and love and time and prayer and energy and everything she could since that day, January 5th, 1975. She has been my biggest fan day after day, year after year, curly or straight. 

Thank you, mom. You're awesome.

Monday, January 03, 2011

"The Word of the Day is..."

IF I were participating in this amazing thing over at, in what she calls the "One Little Word" project (and I'm not saying I'm not. But I'm not saying I am either. Agh! The inappropriate, weird pressure I put on myself to do every amazing thing I see!) where you focus on, and sort of scrapbook/journal the story of the way that word unfolds in your life for the entire year (!!!), I happen to already have my word.

I just, by coincidence, think God wants me to think about this word.

I just happen to have a feeling about this word. (Can you tell I'm trying to believe I don't have to do the big committed projecty thing just because I have a word?)

It is LOOK.

And He is speaking it to me: "Look."

My K-gartner reads a lot of Dick & Jane, which is perfect for him. He gets such a feeling of success reading multiple stories that use the same twelve words.

A primary word in the stories is "Look." It is a building block. It points to something worth noticing.

God is saying "Look!" to me. He's pointing to the ways in which He is working all around me and through me. He's saying "This is really worth noticing! Check out what I'm doing here." 

Is my word "Look" because I'm so tempted to put my nose to the grindstone and keep on keepin' on? Or is it because I'm tempted to think everything is really about me and the good things I'm doing? Or is it because I focus on the wrong part of the equation at times, miss the bigger picture, and fail to have an eternal perspective? 

So many good reasons. I like it. I'm going with it. It's my word for 2011.

Funny that this verse comes to mind. Do you know it? It's Isaiah 43:18-19:

Do not remember the past events,
pay no attention to things of old. 
Look, I am about to do something new;
even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness,
and rivers in the desert.

Funny, because it is a little inside joke between God and I. Several years ago, this was the verse I was fixed on. It was MY verse. Then I got a little tired of it, I wasn't really "feeling" it anymore, so I asked God to give me a new verse. I wanted something fresh to inspire me. God probably first laughed, and then whispered to me one way or another that His Word  never. expires.

And so it's funny of Him to renew it's meaning in my life. Once again. Still MY verse.

I get it. I'm opening my eyes.

{Today I'm linking up with Amy's blog-full-of-awesome {that's not the name of it - just a dumb phrase that just came to mind} with thoughts on the New Year. You should check it out because she's a super cool girl who happens to be really good with a camera, not to mention lots of other things. You can meet her here, at Lucky Number 13.} And I used {these} because she really likes them too.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Rising Up

Happy New Year, everyone!

This is how we celebrated today.
We dropped everything and enjoyed the day in all its splendor.
(And after that last post - whew that was heavy - I had to share our glorious day)

I was brimming with joy in my heart for no reason
and for every reason.

I'm sure it had something to do with getting out and being in my favorite outdoor spot.

But mostly it had to do with Glory. 

These lyrics by Chris Tomlin were sounding off in my head, over and over.

Holy is the Lord God Almighty
The earth is filled with His glory

It's rising up, all around
The anthem of the Lord's renown

All around, people. Do you see it?
Do you hear the anthem, the unstoppable chorus of praise rising up outside today?

I can't wait to show you the rest of the moments captured from our day.
So much goodness and glory. 

Welcome 2011.