Category Archives: General thoughts

20 Things My Kids Should Know About Me (and maybe already do…)

My kids have a friend in CT whose dad just suddenly died of a heart attack – no warning, just gone.  It made me think about what I’d like to have made known to my kids if something happened to me.  I’m not sure I can get through this post without crying, but I think it is important to have thought through the things that are critical to me to have passed on, as well as to leave them with a smile on their face as they remember my silliness, too.  You are welcome to look in on this conversation, but you’ll have to excuse the personal nature of my post today as it will be addressed to my 4 amazing kids.

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1. I am WAY more health conscious than I live in reality.  My self-control doesn’t equal my passion for all things healthy.  I hope that I have passed on the knowledge and the passion for what great nutrition can do for your life in spite of the fact that I have fallen so short of implementing these beliefs.

2. On the flip side, I hate to exercise.  Really hate it.  If I get out and actually do it, it is because of sheer belief in it rather than passion for it.  However, in my mind, I am a marathon runner.  What does that say about me?!?

3. Without the socialization of your father, I would not be the person that I am.  His influence has allowed me to keep pace with his endless relational energy, and to be able to communicate to others that I really care and am approachable.

4. What I hear myself saying all of the time is, “That’s good enough,” and yet I really don’t like that about myself.  I wish that I had higher standards.

5.  I feel really confident in 4 things:  parenting, homeschooling, creating memories, and communicating tough concepts. That doesn’t mean I’m really good at them…I just have done them enough that I feel confident in my role.

6. One of the reasons that I feel confident about parenting is because right after I had my first baby, I attached myself to someone who had raised kids that I respected.  I sucked her dry of all of her wisdom and insight.  One of the best things I’ve ever done, and I highly recommend you to do the same when the time comes.

7. If I had more money, besides being radically generous with you kids and with others, I’d dress a lot differently.  My wardrobe reflects that “…it is good enough…” attitude.  If I knew that everyone’s needs/wishes were met, I imagine that I’d have fun picking out a wardrobe that reflects more of my tastes than it reflects being frugal.

8. I have learned to control my external emotions; however, while you don’t see me cry very often, I am really extremely emotional.  There are dozens of times a week that tears come to the surface, only to have me push them down.  It kind of scares me how deeply I feel.

9. You guys know this…I just think it would make you smile to remember if I wasn’t around: I get completely grossed out by watching someone else brush their teeth.  Truth be told, I get grossed out when I brush my own teeth.  Of course I brush, but I consider it a success if I get through the experience without gagging.  It is so bad that I brush  my teeth while I’m in the shower…with my eyes closed. (I am even getting queasy thinking about it as I write…).

10. I want so desperately for you guys to be great best friends.  I imagine (a lot more than you would think) days in the future when we all get together and completely enjoy being in each other’s company.  It is one of my favorite daydreams.

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11. I’ve decided that I don’t hate cooking – I just would like it more if I had all of the latest gadgets, the best laid-out kitchen, and the most exotic ingredients. I don’t like having to try to make the same old things taste different every evening.  I’m not very good at that.

12. Nature is a gift to me, and I  am always imagining how to craft our day so that we can be outside.  Having lots of open space helps me think, process and breathe easier.

13.  I am a really good typist.  In fact, if you watch closely during conversations, I often type what is being said.  Subtly, so that no one notices…because that would be really weird to type what people were saying, wouldn’t it? I am also a great speller, but my secret is that I have to type the word to know how they’re spelled.  If you ask me how to spell something, watch closely, because my fingers are moving to help me “visualize” how the word is spelled.

14.  My definition of happiness includes a lot, but the highlights are:  a slight breeze on a 75 degree day on the beach of the ocean, having what I need when I need it, a good book and a fire place, and hearing you guys laugh and having fun together.

15.  I am terribly nostalgic, but I don’t get to indulge in that because it makes me emotional.  And we now know how I feel about showing emotions, huh?

16.  One of the things truly puzzles and grieves me is that I have very few clear memories from my past: childhood, high school, or college.  That is one reason why I scrapbook and intentionally create memories with you guys.  I get to capture memories I want to hold on to, and capture memories I hope that you can remember.

17. There are few things more satisfying to me than editing.  I love the order of it, and how things “magically” jump out at me that are grammatically wrong, or that could simply be said better.  I do, however, have to be careful not to be critical of bad editing in public.  I can be so snarky when I see billboards, signs, or publications that have poor grammar or misspellings.

18. Gardening scratches two itches of mine:  being outside and being productive.  I spend time scheming in my mind how I’ll be able to fit in more veggies and containers in the backyard (and the side of the house, and the front yard, and the neighbors’ yards…).  The process of planting and seeing things grow is only eclipsed by preparing meals from food that I’ve grown.

19. I love your dad deeply, and believe that our commitment and enjoyment of each other makes you guys all the stronger and happier.  Loving him is the best way I can love you guys, and I have worked tirelessly to be able to honestly say that I love him with all of my heart and I am so happy that I married him.

20.  I am unbelievably proud of each of you.  I don’t deserve credit for how great you guys are.  I’m not patient enough.  I’m not creative enough.  I’m not godly enough.  I’m not wise enough.  And yet, He loves me enough that He gave me you.  Mind blowing.  My heart is full with gratitude that I get to be your mom.

Me

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Strategies for Dealing with Clutter (or How to Live with a Keeper)

I am not a keeper.  I don’t like clutter, and I don’t function well when things are in chaos around me.  For all of the facets of personality and preference in which my husband and I are opposites, this is one upon which we both agree. We aren’t into knick-knacks, pointless decorations, or clutter.  That isn’t to say that those who like things around them are wrong – it just isn’t my preference.

I believe that, for all of the things that are passed on to our children by them simply observing us, this trait isn’t one of them. I think that we naturally come to either enjoy things being around us, or we don’t.  Or, we choose to keep things around us for different reasons other than having seen it modeled.

I can say this because somewhere along the journey of raising my children, I realized that I inadvertently raised a keeper.  I have a child who places value on keeping a memento as a way of keeping a memory.  She collects things while she collects memories. The objects have emotions filed with them – for her, the two go hand in hand.

I also have Goodwilled/thrown away/garage saled (garage sold?) way too many precious items. To this day, my littlest (who is 13) talks about a doll that was sold when she was 5.  Still.  To.  This.  Day.  And each time, I find myself trying to keep my head above a tsunami of guilt.

My struggle as a parent is the balance of giving grace and room for each of my kids to be completely themselves, while teaching them good organizational skills and keeping our home a place of peace for those of us in the family who are not keepers.

My mom is an example in this for me.  She keeps things – maybe not as a memory keeping tool like my daughter, but to always be ready for anything. For years, she and my dad directed high school plays in a rural school that didn’t have a budget for props or costumes.  Being a gifted seamstress, she took the costumes on herself, using any fabric on hand, from toss-away scraps to some of my (and my sister’s) high school clothes.  It became a strategic practice for her to keep anything and everything, because you just never knew when it might be needed to make the perfect prop or costume.

For years, every time I came home to visit, I was driven to purge and organize her stuff.  I got matching cardboard boxes, I got file cabinets, every organizational supply you can imagine, and went to town on her collection.

Over time I began to realize that she really knew where everything was, even in the midst of seeming chaos.  Somehow, the clutter and disorder actually held a specific code that she knew how to decipher.  Eventually I quit trying to “help” her, and relaxed in the comfort of her system.

With that delicate balance in mind, I have a few suggestions on how to help those of you who are raising keepers.

*  Be intentional about having a conversation with your kids about organizational skills.  Don’t assume that just because they live with you, they’re getting your skills.  Teach them how to approach a cleaning job.  Teach them to be systematic (start on one side of the room and work your way around) and how to be detailed.

*  On a regular basis, schedule time with your kids to purge.  Encourage your kids to evaluate their possessions as to whether or not they still hold value.  Teach them how to make decisions as to whether an item is a keep/sell/give away object.  Note of caution:  Be extremely sensitive in this process.  Don’t rush or push, threaten or bribe.  This is a very personal decision.

*  Put a rule in place that nothing can be added until something is removed. Unless you have endless space, just for practicality, something must be removed if an item is being added.

*  Ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends to NOT give your kids stuffed animals.  We found that these took up so much room.  It isn’t that we are anti-stuffed animals entirely, but they become the go-to gift when someone is a unsure as to what to give a child, and eventually, their rooms will become overrun with bears, dogs, penguins, zebras, etc.

*  If at all possible, give your child their own space – either their own room, or a drawer, closet, or box, in which they can keep to their heart’s content.

I also recognize that there are some adults who are keepers.  If you have unlimited space, if your roommate or spouse is completely fine with having lots of objects around them, or if your keeping hasn’t gotten out of control, then don’t worry about it.  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having stuff.

But, if you feel like your habits are infringing on those with whom you live, or if you feel like your collecting has gotten out of hand, then maybe some of the things I mentioned will help.  I hope so!

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The Stuff of Legends

Another of my life’s dreams was accomplished last Memorial Day, but since we were plotting a cross-country move, I didn’t get a chance to journal about the experience.  My apologies up front – there are a LOT of pictures in this post.  I couldn’t help myself.  It might take a while to load.

I requested of my family that we spend our holiday forsaking the picnics to which we’d been invited (all lovely offers) and trekking to New York City to see with my eyes what I’d only imagined for years.

I grew up hearing about Coney Island, complete with the boardwalk, amusement park rides, and the ocean; however, being the daughter of two teachers and living in small town Nebraska didn’t bode well to me ever vacationing in New York City.

Moving to Connecticut made that wish a closer possibility.

The first time we traveled to NYC, I was in awe.  The Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, Madison Square Garden, a Broadway show, Times Square, etc.  All of these had been other peoples’ realities, they had been the settings for novels, the backdrops for movies, but never once had I imagined myself being inserted into that world.

The first Christmas that we ventured into NYC to look at Macy’s and the Macy’s Santa Claus, all of the beautifully decorated display windows, ice skaters and the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, carriage rides around Central Park…it all felt like I was stepping into someone else’s reality.  What I was seeing with my own eyes had been, to me, in the realm of legend.

Over the years of living in Connecticut, we became tourists at many of the hottest NYC destinations; however, one of the places I’d always wanted to see was Coney Island.  Because it isn’t directly in the area of the traditional NYC tourist spots, we had never ventured over to Brooklyn to experience it.  On this day, we made a special trip.

I was giddy.  Not the skipping around giggling kind of giddy, but the quiet, I-can’t-stop-smiling kind of giddy.  I walked with my family just taking it all in.

We walked down the boardwalk…

on to the long pier…

through some of the shops…

…and then on to the rides.

Coney Island is known for its huge ferris wheel, called the Wonder Wheel.  The following pictures were taken of the ferris wheel, or while on the ride.  The views were amazing.

What made it really intense was that it was packed due to the holiday.  Far from being mainly for tourists, this is a local hot spot for families and singles to inexpensively play in the water.

The way we wrapped up the day was to sample the goods of Coney Island:  the corn dog.  The reputation of the corn dog eating competition, and the claim to fame of the world’s first corn dog, was enough for us to stand in a long, long line to secure one for ourselves.  All but the most dogged vegetarians in my family took a small bite.

It was a hot, hot day, and the beaches, boardwalks and shops were packed. Whereas that might normally be a detraction for me, the noisy, busy crowd only added to the mystique of the place.

Now that we have moved from the northeast, the possibility of returning here is slim; however, having truly absorbed the experience, I don’t feel the need to return.

I guess we’ll have to go explore the Alamo!

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Falling in Love Again

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I grew up in Nebraska, went to school in Arkansas, and moved immediately after college to Texas.  I birthed all of my kids in Texas and created a lovely suburban life in Texas.

Then, in an act that MANY thought was crazy, we moved our family to the northeast to experiment with life a bit.  After several months years of massive culture shock, I found a rhythm.  I fell in love with a city.  With her people.  With a region.  With an honest, raw life.
* We lived on an unusual street populated with people passionate about making their neighborhood better, committed to each other, and endlessly creative with ways to do both.
* We found a crazy-good church filled with open armed, lovely people who spent their energy attempting to draw my kids to deeper things, and attempting to radically transform our city with acts of service and love.
* My husband started a business that was flooded with accolades and honor, with nothing but fulfillment and financial potential.  It was the completion of a long-held dream and was a source of continual expression of his relational and professional gifts.
* We benefitted from the culture and brilliance of a town that was the home of Yale University.  We regularly attended jazz festivals in the town green, participated in arts and idea festivals in various venues around town, went to concerts and plays, got our kids golf lessons at the Yale golf course and found a Yale graduate as a Spanish tutor for our boys.
* And don’t get me started reminiscing about the breathtaking seasons, orchards, and ocean.

WE changed – were transformed by this place.  We were reintroduced to a reality from which we had insulated ourselves.  We were challenged by the tough questions of faith.  We were encouraged to rethink community, social mission, politics, social transformation, hospitality, traditions, among many, many others.  We aggressively worked to break down the “us” versus “them” mentality.  We fought fear, financial lack, and culture.

And then God asked us to leave it all.  Just when this foreign land became familiar and I became fluent in the language of the region, when the work that we’d invested was beginning to pay off and life wasn’t such a struggle, we were uprooting.

When the initial job offer was received and I quieted myself enough to ask God what His vision was for us, the direction He gave me was, “If this earth is your home, of course you’d stay and reap the benefit of your years of toiling; however, if heaven is your home, then I’m asking you to take what you’ve learned and build up another work of mine in Dallas.”

I fully believe that my investment on this earth is to build God’s kingdom, meaning that my efforts are directed towards eternal things.  To me, it is pretty clear delineation – this earth is not my home.  There were other reasons that formed a case as to why we felt that we should move, but this directive was always in my mind.

So we moved.  We hit the ground running and I felt really hopeful about what might be here for me and my family.

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But the other day as I was reflecting on our short time here, the Lord stopped me and exposed a part of my heart to me that I had effectively covered. I’d moved – but if I was really honest, I hadn’t allowed room in my heart for ALL that Dallas is.  On the surface, I was helping my kids land well, showing them the joys of living in a large metroplex, exploring our new environment and investing in our church community.  But on the inside, I realized that I was looking over my shoulder quite a bit.  I was resenting the warm temperatures in winter and was envying my northern friends every time that it snowed.  I was allowing myself to be cynical when I shopped for produce, recognizing that it wasn’t as fresh as if I had picked it myself.  I was realizing (and didn’t like the fact) that it is way too easy to be isolated in this spread out city.

I know those are silly and/or petty issues, but my lack of wholehearted investment left room for resentment to creep in.

HOWEVER, I recognize that I’ll miss out on SO MUCH that God has for me and my family if I don’t fall in love again with this city.  I will never really connect if I am looking over my shoulder.  I’ll not be effective in our new mission if I don’t intentionally put myself fully in.  If I’m looking back to what was, I’ll put out a vibe that I’m not really available.  A part of me will be withheld from truly investing, and that missing part will be noticed.  Relationships will stay shallow, and I’ll be a fraction of the person I am intended to be.

All of the above is not to say that Dallas hasn’t warmly welcomed us, or that I haven’t connected with people here.  I really have, and I see the potential for such deeper relationships.  I know that God is in complete control of my growth, and that this new place has as much to add to my journey as the former place did.  In fact, I believe that the parts of my heart that became awakened to His love for His people and His earth will be some of the gifts that I have to give to this new place.  I just recognize that for all of this to happen, to a great extent, it is up to whether or not I fully embrace this city.

This is a lovely city filled with lovely people.  I am eager to see what God has in store for me as I learn to put myself out there even more!

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Fasting and Writing

IMG_5238Our church is beginning the new year with a 21 day corporate fast.  They believe that when we humble ourselves in this manner, God is lifted up and can transform His church and His people.  The new year is always an opportunity to reflect on the trajectory of our lives, to dream about the coming opportunities, and to shift our priorities.  It makes sense to set aside the first few days of the new year to reflect on why we’re doing the things that we’re doing, to press the pause button of our life-pace and allow ourselves to reflect on something other than the urgent.

But that really isn’t what this blog post is about.  Well, kind of.

About a week before Thanksgiving, my husband (who is on staff of our church) asked me if I would write a 21 day devotional for the fasting time.  It would be a booklet that gets into the hands of our members so that we are able to share this fasting experience with each other.  That way, we’re focusing our times of prayer towards the same targets, linking our hearts towards the same needs, and receiving the same kinds of encouragement. We will all be walking through similar struggles, experiencing victories and breakthroughs, and able to lean on each other.  It will allow us to form deep bonds and stay connected as we journey.

That isn’t even really what this post is about.  Maybe a little.

What this is about for me is stepping into who I am.  It is about putting myself out there for people to see.  Blogging to a limited audience is one thing.  Never really seeing peoples’ reactions to what you write, not sitting across from them as they read what you’ve written and scrutinizing their faces, and then, realistically, being forgotten soon after they read it, has grown to be a part of my comfort level.

But stepping out in front of my church community, caring about what they think about my identity as a writer, intimately being a part of their lives for 21 days, guiding this process that is so sacred…that is a whole other level of vulnerability.

Since I was a young girl, I knew I was supposed to write.  I had all kinds of dreams, and each one of them hovered around crafting a good story.  Not verbally telling one, in which one shoots from the cuff, but writing a story, playing with the words until they evoked an emotion or a memory.  Working on the cadence of the words so that the beat of their rhythm drummed up a connection between people.  I dreamed.

And then a guidance counselor triggered an avalanche in my heart that buried those dreams.  He proclaimed over me (and in front of my classmates) that I wasn’t creative.  I believed.  I took that declaration, compared myself to others, and deemed that he was correct.

What that did for my future was to redefine my identity.  To write original works, to tell original stories, one must be creative.  And since I clearly wasn’t a creative, I must be relegated to editing.  I would still be a part of the writing community, but be the one that takes other peoples’ creativity and makes it polished.  I wouldn’t be illuminating my own ideas, I would be translating other peoples’ ideas so that they were clearly understood.

I didn’t write.  Ever.  Not even journal.  A well-crafted thank you card every now and again, but that was the extent.

And then, over time, that strongly-held belief started to crumble a little.  Very slowly.  I would hear something about the character of God that made me realize that He was creative – and if He was creative, I just might be.   A little piece of the foundation wavered.  Or I would read something that was published and realize that I just might have been able to produce something as good or better – couldn’t I?  A tiny rock of foundation dropped off.  Then, someone who loved me would challenge my belief on my creative-less-ness and call out deep reserves of hope that I might actually be able to produce creatively, well-written material.  And the foundation started swaying.

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It was at this point that my blog began.  I figured that I could safely experiment with writing in a forum that was quite shielded from the general public.  There are so many blogs in the cyber-universe that I knew mine would go unnoticed.  And yet, it gave me a reason to practice, a chance develop my writing style, and an opportunity to see what would come out of me when I disciplined myself to try.

We’ve now come back to the 21 day devotional.  A public expression of a private discipline.  An encouragement for a practice that I believe and hold so dearly.  And a request to create something that could be of benefit to several.  I couldn’t pass it up, and yet I couldn’t really do it.  Could I?

I said “yes”.  I told him I would give it a shot, and spent the next 3 weeks pulling away every chance I got, creating space to research and read, to outline and write.  Just this morning, I sent the finished document to our church for layout and publishing.  Holy smokes. What have I done?

I can’t adequately express what an act of faith this has been. What an act of obedience this has been.  And when the new year rolls around and this devotional is placed in the hands of my church family, you might just find me hiding under my bed.  Wherever I am, I know I’ll be a little closer to being who I was meant to be.  I’ll be a little closer to living out the expression of who I am. I’ll be one step nearer to expressing His identity in me.  And that is amazing.

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Saying Goodbye

When we left Dallas years ago, one of our last events was to take our family to a spot in the city that overlooked downtown and thank  God for all of the favor He had given us during our time there.  Our children had been born there, we had matured through most of our 20s and 30s there, and had seen an enormous amount of blessing and love come.

When we arrived in the northeast, one of the first things we did was to take our family up to the highest spot in town and ask God to give us the favor and blessing that we’d seen in Dallas.  We knew nothing would be accomplished if He wasn’t guiding and touching our efforts, and we committed ourselves and our adventure in the northeast into His hands.

So as we decided to move from New Haven, we returned to that city-overlook to thank God for all of the amazing favor we had received.

Seriously, this was the sky on that day.

Having been in Dallas now 6 weeks, I see daily how much my time in New Haven changed me and my family.  I am eternally grateful for the years that God allowed us to be there.  They sure weren’t easy, but times of growth and change rarely are…

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Serene Saturdays #35

Madison is at college, and the younger kids are a spiritual retreat this weekend; therefore, the house is quiet.  Ken and I are lounging around this morning, him Skyping a friend from England, and me relaxing with my computer and reconnecting with the world.  Every time I think I could get used to this kind of quiet, I remind myself that I can enjoy this thoroughly, knowing that my kids will return home soon.  If they were permanently out of the house…it would be a different story.

Anyway, I find myself reflecting on our new life in Dallas.  I am dreaming about how to craft the rhythm that we want, how to stay connected in a city that tends towards isolation, and how to replenish myself by pursuing my hobbies and passions.  Those are big issues to me, but ones that could slip into oblivion if I don’t strategically and intentionally create them into existence.

So this morning, I am thankful for:

*  Bright red pillows on a cream couch.

*  The chill in the air.

*  The space to create and dream.

*  Fall decorations.

*  New beginnings.

I pray that you can insert more of yourself and your dreams into your day today!

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