Wednesday, December 28, 2016

christmas 2016

Once again, the pre-service stress is due to a child’s missing shoe.  We give up, and he wears a grubby old pair. Bu this year, the wonky youngest child sings through the service (last year he slept!)  And this year, each boy has a suit coat to wear. They give me crap, but they look so handsome I have to insist.  Seth allows one picture, at home; when I try again later at the service, he blocks his face with his trombone.  

Marcus did not forget his part, like he was sure he would. He sounds great, looks handsome with his new haircut.  He’s the only one who got a candle that didn’t work for Quempas Corners.  (hangs head). Aggie’s voice is heard over all the others, with the exception of Jacob.  Aggie narrates for Mary, and she speaks with such confidence I asked her later if she was even nervous at all.  Eldon and Peter sing a cute song, “Just like me,” and did great.  One kid in Eldon’s class has a cold so his froggy voice through the whole song makes us laugh!  I hold newborn baby Flannery during the beginning of the service and ponder the quick passing of time. She gets fussy and Quinn takes her to dance in the back of the church.  And my first baby,  Lorraine, wears her gold dress and looks like such a young woman that I can see clearly she’s outgrowing elementary school, as much as I hate to admit it.

The older four planned to stay up and go with me to the 11pm service. Eldon and Marcus drive me crazy “reading” by the fire (wrestling.) I send them to bed. Peter snuggles with me and we read an entire Magic Treehouse book. I said, “Do you want me to take you up to bed now?” He said, “No, first I want to fall asleep on your lap.”  So I set an alarm and fell asleep with him. Josh brought me some coffee. It sat next to me on the table while we slept!  

When the alarm goes off at 10:40, only Aggie is awake already.  She woke Lorraine. Seth got up too, all dressed up in his nice suit and blue shirt and tie. But then he came up to me and says, “Mom do I have to go? My stomach hurts and I’m so tired and I’ll go if you want me to but..” I gently sent him to bed. So, just the girls and me, so sleepy. It was a long service, but so snuggly and wonderful, magical with the quempas corners that daddy sang in too, and the candles and the packed pews and the gospel shining brightly for all to see, brighter even than the giant Christmas tree.

And both girls put their heads on my shoulders, and our eyes close both to pray and to rest. It is good, Oh Lord, to be here. My voice is to froggy to sing, but that means I can listen better to the girls.  They add their extra fancy wonky version to O Come All Ye Faithful and I think my heart will burst.  On the way home, Aggie gets slap-happy and tells goofy jokes while Lorraine and I stagger off to bed.

In the pew on Christmas sunday morning, Peter sleeps soundly. The girls get volun-told to acolyte. Marcus embellishes the stick-figure nativity scene on his bulletin. He gives Jesus a baseball cap, there in the manger, and a mobile with stars and moon to look at.  And Joseph needs a beard, of course, and sunglasses.  He adds a sheep with sunglasses, too, and angels and shepherds and wise men, and in the background, three crosses, and a crack in the earth under Jesus’ cross: His whole life in a picture, when He entered in and broke death.

And Daddy preaches.  And the Word of God which started as a whispered promise the day the word was broken gets louder as daddy speaks- and the kids like when he gets loud.  Just as the promise of God itself got louder through Abraham, louder again through David, hollered by John the Baptist, and then shouted from Son of God on the cross saying “It is finished.” “Father forgive them.” And death is destroyed, and He is making all things new.  His light shines in the darkness, and we see the break of dawn and the sky changes color and even the shadows are getting smaller.

Come, Lord Jesus.
Merry Christmas.

Where shepherds lately knelt
and kept the angel's word,
I come in half belief,
a pilgrim strangely stirred,
but there is room and welcome there for me,
but there is room and welcome there for me.

In that unlikely place
I find him as they said:
sweet newborn babe, how frail!
and in a manger bed,
a still, small voice to cry one day for me,
a still, small voice to cry one day for me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dear children, in december

To my kids, in December-
Greetings from the December version of your mom. First, thanks for putting up with her. She's a weird version of me, I'll admit.  She's cheerfully making cookies one minute, then you ask her what's for dinner and suddenly she's yelling everybody out of the kitchen! Here's a secret: it's because she forgot that dinner was even a thing, that you people need to eat three meals a day EVEN during the holiday season!  All she thought of was those cookies with the kisses in them but she forgot to buy the kisses at the store where she waited in line for 30 minutes to get the flour and someone's baby was screaming and the cashier was slow so now she's just making peanut butter cookies and they'd better be good because they're probably what's for dinner anyway and how dare you even ask when your homework isn't done yet!

Let me try to help you understand her.

You see, kids, December is this magical time of year, or at least it was once, maybe, in your mom's memory.  Vague feelings and memories float around like snow flurries, and they were so sweet and wonderful, I'd like to pass them on to you if only I can capture them.

It seems like I remember hot chocolate, cookies, reading books by the Christmas tree, watching the snow fall from inside, playing for hours outside, lights strung everywhere, carols and family and peace and harmony and hundreds of presents. And in the background, there was that weird little Rudolph Christmas special with the fake-looking abominable snowman that you can't even believe I used to think was scary but I did.

Back then, I was a child, and I took the Christmas moments handed to me like cookies on a Santa plate, eating them up as they came. Now, I am the one who has to create those moments, or at least I think I do. "What are some holiday treats that you guys like?" I ask, and you guys list twenty different things.  You already have SO many wonderful food-related memories of Christmas time that I must be doing something right, or something dreadfully wrong... but food is pretty great, so whatever, let's eat.

And almost every day there is an event that requires us wearing something other than Pjs in the evening and finding a shoe for every single foot and leaving the house all so that we can hear or sing or do something that's supposed to feed that Christmas spirit, or at least listen to carols while we go to the next basketball game.

Lots of work goes into all this magic, kiddos.  And this sugared up body of mine is fighting a cold, too.  But Pinterest and Facebook and my own happy memories set the bar so high for this time of year.  It's tough to balance this pressure to create Christmas magic with my own two hands with the desire to be "in the moment" or to "seize the day," while of course I'm ALSO focused completely in my heart on the baby Jesus- the real reason for the season, that sweet baby in the manger who keeps getting buried underneath the snow that somebody should probably go shovel!

 It's this kind of crazy scattered "focus" in my mind that makes me feel like I'm doing some complicated yoga pose, trying to hold it all together just right to things go smoothly... and then you come in and fight over the last bit of hot cocoa and marshmallows go flying!  Why is it so impossible to keep things smooth and under control in this house!?  Everybody go take naps!

And yet, Christmas moments come despite my inner battles.  The snow came down heavy, and you all got a day off.  The Christmas tree is up next to the fireplace, and our living room feels magical. We read books and entertain and reminisce and take naps here.  You practice your piano pieces here.  Even while I clean my kitchen, from little lips pour rhyming words of truth as you prepare for your Christmas program.

It's not all magic, but some of it is. And most of it, I don't create at all. Like you, I receive.

Like the spontaneous trip to the movies on Saturday morning, even though the house was a disaster. "I'm not caring about you!" I said loudly to the after-party mess in the dining room. "This is me, children, NOT caring about those dishes and walking out of the house to go have fun instead of cleaning." I said it loud because I know you kids will help me not care about the mess. "Oh, I got this," said my daughter, and she echoed me, "We do NOT care about you! Ha! And we're leaving now!"  Yeah, you kids are pretty good at that.

The December version of you all is something to see, too. One gets sentimental and wants to look at scrapbooks and write letters to old friends. Another isn't happy unless he's shooting something (that's true all year long) or throwing snowballs at brothers or cars (not ok!) One hates the cold so much he acts like his legs won't support him every time we leave. Some of you want to go to every party possible, while others want to be quiet at home.  Some of you fight the sideways pressure you feel to buy gifts for people, while others want to hand-make complicated projects for EVERY SINGLE PERSON THEY KNOW.  Music performances loom large, and I don't even know if you all have dress shoes that fit. And between all of you, there are 12 boots to keep track of; and we own at least 60 gloves but few of them match, just like our socks. Sugar is coursing through everyone's veins, so there's wrestling and teasing and crying and noise! Oh the noise, noise, noise noise!

In and with all of this, Christmas is coming. Into this very chaos, our Jesus comes to us again.  By this grace, we

will keep on putting up with each other, even in December. I love you guys. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2016

singing in expectation

I bribe them to go caroling with our church group. If they behave and sing, we will get Slurpees when we are done.  Slurpees in the winter- weird to some, but not to us.  It is enough to make them attempt to keep their hands to themselves.  Just please don't knock down any old people.  And try to smile. 

A group of elderly people have been coaxed into the living room, and they await our performance. One is asleep.  Another is definitely not impressed with any of this tomfoolery, but we smile at her anyway.  We gather in front of these dear people, full of years, and they wait.

Waiting, the theme of their lives in this season- they sit in quiet expectation.

The night will soon be ending, the dawn cannot be far
Let songs of praise ascending now greet the morning star

"Would you like a song book?" I said, and she reached out hear hand and said in a broken voice, "Oh, please help me." I took her hand, "I'll help you, sure. What do you need?" She held my hand tight for a moment, and then looked off to her left, to a distant place of memory or suffering or fear that I couldn't see.  She seemed to have forgotten I was there, her hand in mine. I do not have the help she needs.

Angels we have heard ...

Singing is not my gift.  I sing quietly, sliding behind the stronger singers around me.  On this day, it is my daughter Aggie.  Her song is confident, joy-filled, and even after all the time, she is a miracle to me.  I can't help but smile at the way she is just so loudly, confidently herself, and as I smile I meet the eyes of an elderly woman who seems to know exactly what I am thinking- she winks at me.

My daughter held out her hand to a skeletal woman who did not respond.  As she stood their awkwardly, I reached down to the woman's hands folded on her lap and gave a gentle squeeze. I felt the feeblest squeeze back, and it seemed to me to be a grateful one.  She simply hadn't had the strength to reach out for my daughter's handshake.  Her body was bones with the thinnest layer of skin on top.  She must be close, even at the very door.

All you whom darkness frightens with guilt or grief or pain
God's radiant star now brightens and bids you sing again

After we sing, I encourage the kids to shake hands with each and every person in that waiting room. Some make eye contact, smile and thank them.  A man says he wants to "eat up" my littlest one, ruffles his hair.  The little one puts his hand out for another man, and his little "Merry Christmas" is met with strange noises, intended to be words.  But the smile that came after was something he understood, and the little boy smiled back.  Then he grabbed my hand.

Be near me Lord Jesus I ask The to stay close by me forever and love me I pray
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and take us to heaven to live with Thee there

After shaking hands with everyone, my sassy son shakes my hand too and says, "You're an old lady too, so, Merry Christmas, HA!" And the other brother says "Old lady! haha!" and they seem so horribly loud I tell them to stop using the word OLD.  Yes, old is everywhere in this place, but it will not always be this way.  Our God is making all things new.

Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings

"Merry Christmas!" I say again, and from her wheelchair she smiles a broken smile and says "b- b- beautiful. You all are ... beautiful."  I look in her eyes and say "You are beautiful, too. God bless you." Her tears come and I wish had time to tell her what I meant by that, but the line keeps moving and the moment has passed.

And we leave these dear saints in their hard season of waiting.  We leave their struggles and their beautiful expectation behind us, for a time, until we join them someday, when it is our turn to sit at the edge of eternity. May we, too, be filled with the hope that God gives in His Son Jesus.

They shall see the glory of the Lord
the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!

He will come and save you.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away

(from Isaiah 35)

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14

I like the word “expectant” more than I like the word “pregnant.”  I remember when I was eight months along with somebody and my dad saw me get out of the car he exclaimed, “DANG! You look PREGNANT!” I didn’t really take it as a compliment. It’s how I felt, of course: heavy, awkward, weighed down, pregnant.

“Expectant” is a happier word. It includes a sense of being filled up, but filled with hope, awaiting a future gift. Full of life, expectant.  Weighed down, perhaps, but only temporarily, and for a beautiful purpose.

Because God came down, Mary was expectant.
The angel announced God’s miracle to Mary and with his words completely rearranged her plans for her future.  “Be not afraid,” he said, and courage like the gift of a baby also came down.  “Let it be done to me according to Your word,” she said, receiving the unexpected gift.

What did Mary ponder when she was expecting?
As her belly grew and her life was turned completely upside down, what did she think about? Did she take the angel’s words to heart, about her son, the savior? Did she imagine, perhaps, scenes from Isaiah 55, when God’s children would “go out in joy and be led forth in peace, and the trees of the hills shall clap their hands?”  Did she also consider the words “like a sheep led to the slaughter,” and “he was pierced for our iniquities?”  Did she worry for his health, his safety as she rode on the back of a donkey? Did she caress her growing belly, feel his kicks, and wonder if he would look like her at all? Would he look different, somehow, like the Savior of the world?  What did she expect when she was expecting?

When I found out I was pregnant the first time, I ran to the library and checked out three books about pregnancy and childbirth. I read all three on the first day. I wanted to know what to expect! I wanted to be prepared, to be ready!  Six kids later, and now I know: there is no being prepared, not really.

You can’t really be prepared for the way it feels to see your child’s face for the first time. Nothing could have prepared me for how it felt to see my husband hold our daughter, gently supporting her head as if she would break, unsure how to wear this new title called “Daddy.”

Nothing could have prepared me for the way it felt to see a heartbeat dip down low on the ultrasound monitor, to realize that the life I carried was delicate, fragile, mortal.  Nothing could have prepared me for the first trip to the emergency room after my toddler son chewed and swallowed four christmas light bulbs!  I could have read all the parenting books in the world, but i never would have felt “ready” or able to “handle it” when they wheeled my daughter away from me to do surgery on her brain.

What did Mary ponder when she was expecting?

Because God came down, this young Mary suddenly  had the shocking responsibility of housing and protecting the Son of God in the flesh.  Everything she ate nourished the baby Jesus.  Whether she got enough rest, drank too much wine, or fell off a donkey; these things all mattered so much more for her as a mother, as the mother of Jesus who would take away the sins of the world.

Have you ever thought about that time in her life, after the angel’s words, “You shall bear a son and he shall be called Jesus, for he will save people from their sins,” after her words of trust back, “let it be done to me according to your word.”  What happened after that?  As her belly grew, as the problems of being an unwed mother loomed large.  Joseph could have legally divorced her, even had her stoned, but God sent an angel to tell him the situation, and he chose to stay by her side. But what of her parents? Her best girlfriend? Her mentors that had taught her in the faith? Did they all think she had failed them and shamed them? Did they think she was crazy? Did they avoid her because they couldn’t decide what they thought, what they should say?  

Did Mary know there would be so much suffering mixed in with her gift?

They say motherhood is like “taking your heart out of your chest and watching it walk around.” What a great analogy- not just for motherhood, but for all of us who love another human being. We pour our love into others- they carry our hearts with them, walking around outside of us, outside our control.  And it’s not safe out there!  Have you seen this place lately?   It’s terrifying! There are choking hazards, and people who drive drunk! There are broken relationships and children with cancer and all kinds of things that just seem WRONG!

I see my daughters growing into lovely young ladies, and I rejoice in the work God is doing. And yet, I fear for them as they wear their beauty, because I know what this ugly world can do to those who shine so brightly.  And I enroll them in self-defense classes, but I wish I didn’t have to. It just seems wrong.

Love in this broken world is risky. We are tempted to hold back our hearts because they really may get crushed.  But God came down, and He did not hold back his heart from us, or His body, or even His blood.  Mary delivered Jesus into this world of brokenness, and even now He does not stand far off but comes inside, under it, with us.

Sometimes, the glitter of Christmas has a way of highlighting the brokenness of our lives. Perhaps we remember the holidays of childhood, when grandma was still here, and we didn’t have to do the shopping.  The empty chairs seem wrong. Things just aren’t how they used to be.  And it feels wrong to have to visit the hospital during Christmas this year.  And it doesn’t seem right to have to buy a pie from the store, or to lay a grave blanket down in the snow.

The brokenness of this world can weigh us down heavily, sometimes even more so when the world is trying hard to be cheery and bright.  As children of God, we can acknowledge the brokenness we feel, the brokenness we live every day.  We don’t have to cover it up with tinsel and pretend it isn’t there. Rather, for us, the lights of Christmas shine out in the darkness, pointing beyond it, to the dawn that God has promised. Because God came down, we, too, are expectant.  Because Jesus is our God-with-us, we expect good things from His hand.

The shadow of the cross falls upon even our brightest December days.  Like expectant Mary, we each have sufferings to go through yet, and we shall walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  But from just beyond the valley, we hear the Easter songs of victory.  We take our Lord’s hand, and we tune our ears to hear His.  We step forward with confidence, filled with hope, because our God has come down.

God, You have given us, Your people a future and a hope —hope fixed and grounded in the resurrection of Your Son, who lives and reigns, who by His Spirit has given us a vision that can look beyond the gray breakers of our successive days and through the mists that obscure Your sun, out to the quiet shore of our unending home with You. Oh, keep us in that hope, that vision. Let us not lose it amid the clutter of this life, but help us to hold fast to you as we await the fulfillment of your will for us, great and abundant mercy from your hand. Give us strength and courage in this season of waiting and service, and may it be done to us according to your good and gracious word.  Amen.

**This post is a rough version of the talk I gave at St. Peter’s Advent by Candlelight dinner on 12/2/16

Sunday, October 23, 2016

these days (3)

These are the days between volleyball season and basketball season- it's costume season, candy season, and light-jacket season.  It's a season of never feeling caught up, and not enough time for writing, which is why I just said to a child, "I love you dear but I really just need you to go away right now."

Mama needs some rest after hosting the Nerf gun party, and then dressing up like a crazy Lorax and painting faces at the early childhood center.  More than that, I need rest after dragging myself out of bed just after five all week long, and being cheerful and dressing like an adult and punching a clock and NOT wearing yoga pants.

A fire burns in the fireplace.  It's a glorious, cool, October day.  Father and son work to clean and winterize the boat. Little one wants to go on one more boat ride, even though daddy says the water would turn to icicles on his face and he would be frozen to the seat.  The leaves fall, and one son watches them with greedy joy, seeing money to be made in raking them up. Meanwhile, the littlest boy takes a nap in my bed, because first grade is hard, and he just really wishes he didn't even have brothers because they are always mean to him and he "always has only bad days and bad days."

These are the days of legos on the carpet and lost library books; of practicing memory and being tortured by spelling tests. These days, I hear "can I read to you?" more than "can you read to me?" from the younger ones: the older ones hide away in silent joy as they escape into stories all on their own. Suddenly they can all get breakfast for themselves and pack their own lunches, but they leave me smears of peanut butter on the table to remember them by.  These are the days of giant bags of Veggie Chips and shopping at Costco and using up a loaf of bread nearly every day.

These are the days of heart-bursting pride as I watch my daughters bloom.  They play piano songs beyond my comprehension. They shine on the court playing volleyball, or when they don't shine, they still encourage the others, and try hard, which is even more lovely.  They use kind, high-pitched voices with little children, and they know how to make tiny friends in ten seconds or less.  They craft, they sing, and one wears makeup.

These are the days of sleep-in saturdays while they play on kindles, until drama over racing games wakes the parents, and we ban electronics and shoo them outside.  They ride bikes and play with neighborhood friends (like city kids!) and they let me know when that man comes who asks for our pop cans, or the lady with the missing teeth who talks to us about her back pain and her yorkie dog and smells like cigars.

These are the days when I feel like a celebrity when I stop by the playground at recess- all the kindergarteners love "Miss Emily" because we played together in the firefly classroom last year. And my youngest joins them in the running hugs, while the older kids simply nod in my direction, or maybe give me a quick hand flap and a "hey, mom."

These are the days when mom makes the best nachos on the planet and all the kids celebrate, and we settle down in front of the TV for a Smallville marathon.  When Clark kisses Lana, some of the kids squirm, and everyone tries to guess everyone else's crush and they all protest and giggle.

We've been here a year now, but these days we still marvel at the convenience of the city; how we can go to the grocery store and be home again in fifteen minutes.   Kohl's is so close we can sneak away to it any evening, and we can order pizza online and they DELIVER it to our HOUSE.  These are the days of praying when we hear sirens, talking about stranger danger, and thanking God for "rescue heroes."  And we have met people of varied skin color and foreign cultures, and it's awkward and different and beautiful to see the variety in the works that God does.

The variety of works that God does- how can I begin to count them!  He's pouring out His mercy through His Word here daily, and He's using my husband as His mouthpiece.  He's starting a coat closet, helping neighbors serve neighbors, and making a daycare grow like crazy.  He's nurturing kids daily in school through the hands of the teachers, and He's putting His name on all who come to be baptized.  He's growing community and gathering saints around His Word and it's a sweet miracle every single time.

These are the days when the church bells of St. Peter's ring out sweet hymns during the day, and the music lifts my soul to heaven as I walk through the cemetery to the school.  As we walk, the boys smack each other with lunch boxes and I make them run laps, and I listen to stories about pop quizzes and crazy preteen boys and missing assignments and epic games of kickball.

These are the days of October, when the falling leaves remind me that this season, though it is bright and new right now, will also pass away, but God's faithfulness will remain.

Thank you God, giver of all good things, for these days.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Things I don't do.

As strange as it sounds, one of the most difficult challenges in my life right now is managing abundance:

Abundant hand-me-downs, toys, and books

Abundant kids and their abundant needs and wants
Abundant friends, emails, events, and new experiences

Add to this a newsfeed that never ends, a constant stream of laundry, and ministry that is never quite done, and you have a woman on the verge of crazy!

Why it is all things seem to demand equal, immediate attention? And why does my brain seem incapable of handling all of those things equally and immediately?

I am not a computer. I cannot help with homework, make dinner, reply to a facebook message, and listen to a piano song all at the same time.  I cannot care equally about the skinned knee and the threat of ISIS and the funny elephant video and the boys' pet cricket and the lady in the hospital.

I am learning, albeit slowly: I believe there are a thousand ways to do this life well... but "do every single possible thing" is just not a realistic option.

As part of my plan to not lose my mind entirely, I've been reading. And I want to share a gem from a book that stopped me in my tracks.

The book is called Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. She was talking about this struggle, and the list making, and the feeling of never catching up, of always feeling the pressure to do everything better. 

The author shared something she learned from a friend:

"she said it's not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What's hard, she said, is figuring out what you're willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about." (54)

We hear "DO EVERYTHING BETTER" when a friend knits or sings something beautiful and we think we could never do that, but maybe we should.

When the kids get dressed with clothes straight from the dryer, we rebuke ourselves with a silent "DO EVERYTHING BETTER."

When we're socializing, we feel like should be cleaning, and when we're cleaning, we feel like we are neglecting relationships. 

If only we could do it all, better.

DO EVERYTHING BETTER is the song we march to when we forget that we are mere mortals.

DO EVERYTHING BETTER sucks the life from our souls.

DO EVERYTHING BETTER makes us do nothing well, especially not those things we were made to do like love and rest and rejoice, and leaves us crying on the floor in a heap of guilty failure.

It is easy, so this author says, to decide what we want our lives to be about. I agree.  I want my life to be about loving my kids and my husband, being loved by God and sharing His love with others.

But what are we willing to NOT DO so that we can do those things?
Because we are mere mortals, with limits that even caffeine cannot overcome, we must ask this question.

What do you do?

What DON'T you do?

What does it look like for YOU to love serve your family and love your neighbor and feed your spirit? We are not in junior high, friends. We don't have to look like everybody else to be liked. There are a million ways to do this life well. What does YOUR list look like? What can you cut out that may be keeping you from the more important things?

Things I do
Feed my Spirit through the Divine Service and devotions
Cook at home
Make quality time with hubs
Read aloud to the kids
Read quietly for the joy of it
Take tons of pictures
Nap when my body tells me to nap
Fellowship with others around the Bible and other good books
Work hard daily at a job I love 

Things I don't do
Scrapbook (I store memories with words, not photos, and never, ever, with fancy borders or decals. I use scissors for opening cheese.)
Make clothes or sew
Clip coupons, bargain hunt (If only Amazon sold groceries!)
Keep my floors perfectly clean (it's much faster to just wear shoes in the house.)
Attend every sporting event (even if my kids are playing.)
Volunteer for every church and school thing offered
Sell my stuff on ebay
Chores kids should do
Spend time with pets
Interior decorating
Blow-dry my hair except on special occasions
Pay attention to my fingernails
Stay up past ten, except on special occasions
Watch TV (with rare exceptions)

As I added in a part-time job this year, some of my favorite things were squeezed out, like gardening, and daily writing. I am still figuring out what I can rearrange and what needs to be put on the chopping block. The goal, however, is to find a livable balance, not to simply do EVERYTHING better.

Do your soul favor today, and add to the list of things you DON'T do to make more space for things that matter.

What's on your chopping block? What do you love, what do you live for, and what do you NOT do?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Kiddo, Will You Pray for Me?

To be fair, mothers, I don’t think this is entirely our fault, this tendency to think we are the Ultimate Need Meeters for our families and children. Our job starts out this way.

As an expectant mother, my tiny child really is 100% dependent on me, and I am 100% required for his or her survival. The weight of it is on me, and there is nobody that can pick that job up for me, even for one minute, to give me a break.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Peter's six!

To Peter, on your sixth birthday-

Wow. What a year you’ve been through!  Last year at this time, our lives were still full of walks to the pond, and visits to the cows, and mornings with the Vandercars.  Last year at this time, I was sending you off to kindergarten, three days a week. I thought that was going to be our big adjustment!  And then God sent us a call, and before we knew it, we were packing up the house, taking you out of school at White Creek, and moving to the city!  A new school, new friends, new routines, new everything- that had to be so much for your five-year-old self to process!  

I remember you sobbed the hardest on that rainy day when we pulled away from the only home you had ever known.  You are an Indiana baby, a country boy!  We shared quite a few tears and snuggles along the way.  Like you, I was sad for many things we left behind, but it has been a joy to watch the ways God has provided for us.

In Eastpointe, I got to see you meet a whole new group of kindergarteners. You grew to love Mrs. Schilling, and Addison Skurda quickly became your new best friend.  You learned to rock every-day kindergarten, and before I knew it you were reading and even taking AR tests!  In the winter you played Pee Wee basketball, and I got to be your coach!   You even weigh slightly more than Eldon- something that causes you great joy and him great annoyance. You gloat, “I’m half a thing bigger to you Eldon!” and try get him to weigh himself daily so you can compare. He “hates the scale” and refuses to get on it now!  

In the spring we bought a boat.  You and I were both pretty unsettled by the size of the waves on the big lake. While the other kids hooted and hollered and cheered, you and I would be snuggling in the back, hoping we wouldn’t die, saying a prayer or two or ten.  Every time we went out on the boat and didn’t die, we became a tiny bit more confident, and by the end of the summer you and I were not only cheering on the big waves, but tubing behind the boat, and loving it!  And you amaze us with your super-napping powers- you can nap on the boat through the roughest seas!

Your birthday weekend will be full of family: Uncle Quinn and Aunt Sara are staying with us, Flannery in utero. Grammy and Bump brought the camper and your cousin Izzy and Lorraine’s friend Kathryn. You were so happy to get a  whoopie cusion and a Snack-eeze (star wars), tons of candy, and a Paw Patrol backpack. You are wearing it to first grade, where you are rockin’ the academics, and being chased by the girls at recess.  

The night before your birthday I snuggled you close and said, “Goodbye five, I will miss you.”
“I won’t miss five,” you said, and I was not surprised.
“I will, but I am excited to see you six.”
Goodnight, five, and welcome, six!  
We love you Peter!

Friday, September 2, 2016

goodnight, five.

Tonight, I said goodnight to five for the last time.
Tomorrow, my youngest boy turns six.

Goodnight, five, and goodbye five.
I curled up next to his pajama’d body and said a nice, long, goodnight and goodbye.

Goodnight, five,and goodbye to the days of
packing a blankie and buddy for rest time at school,
and learning to tie shoes.

Goodbye to the magical moment of I-can-read;
that miracle of letters on a page making sounds that magically form a familiar word!

Goodbye to the days of first backpack and first lunchbox and first play date with a school friend.

I rubbed his back and said goodbye to five, slowly, gently.
And the goodbye-fives turned into goodbye-everything-little as I thought about our preschool days and baby days.

Goodbye bringing babies home from hospitals,
and tiny new outfits, and milk-snuggles.
Goodbye teethers and days of dumping out toys and chewing on everything.

Goodbye strollers and baby-on-the-hip;
Goodbye afternoon naps with a baby plastered to my side;
Goodbye days spent in a blur of exhaustion and goodbye just trying to keep everybody alive.

Suddenly he whispered, “are you asleep mama?” and turned over to face me. “No, honey,” I said, “not yet.”

I’m too busy saying goodbyes.

Goodbye five, and less-than-five.
God help me embrace six, and more-than-six, too.  
I hid my tears and held him close.
He turned over again and let out a little fart.

He pulled his minion blanket up over his shoulder, made sure my arm was around his waist, and sighed.  He resigned to sleep, passing gently into the next stage of his life, fearless, and at peace.

Goodnight, five.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dun Cow: Book Review

The Book of the Dun Cow (Chauntecleer the Rooster, #1)The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's a story about talking animals, and it's a story that put words to some of my deepest griefs, and made brighter the most shining joys of my heart.

This series offers the best kind of escape from reality: it swept me up, tore out my heart, rearranged it, and sent me back to real life aspiring to greater love and deeper wisdom.

"Don't mind mommy, she's just crying over her rooster book." So I said, unable to explain any further. It's all I can do, to close the book and walk away, wiping tears from face, wishing I had a copy for every person I love in this world so I could put it in your hands and plead with you, here, read this book. Seriously, just read it.

View all my reviews

Monday, August 15, 2016

we shall get in

I watch my children play in Lake Michigan at sunset.  The water looks like it is made of magic; the blues and pinks and golds mix like liquid ribbon.  It's beauty, and it's a play place for the bodies I love best in all the world. The magic drips off their arms as they walk to me, begging me for just five more minutes. I'd like to give them an eternity, and I'd stay with them, right there, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

But we are looking forward to something even better...

Thoughts from CS Lewis (Weight of Glory)

"We want something else which can hardly be put into words--to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. 

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in. "

Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects."

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