Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Question

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” –Annie Dillard

“Are you a stay-at-home mom or a working mom?”

Neither. And both.

I am a mom. I work. I write. I care for my home. I listen. I speak. I stand up for my child when she’s being bullied. I create. I go to church. I serve the church. I serve the world. I am a woman. I am a human. I am a child of God. I read. I e-mail. I blog. I text. I brush my girls’ hair. I sing. I (try to) bake. I buy desserts at the store. I dance. I yell. I step out in courage. I do laundry. I wash dishes. I pray. I journal. I open my Bible. I edit lessons. I play. I paint. I tear paper. I hug. I love. I drive. I eat. I (try to) exercise. I lead. I follow. I give. I take. I sit in the carpool lane. I dream. I surrender. I help. I ask for help.

Maybe a better question to ask one another, at all times and in all places, is “How do you spend your days?”

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Downside of Destiny

“Destiny…is a fickle bitch.” – Benjamin Linus to John Locke, Lost

I’m an idealist. This is proving, for the most part (of my life), to be a bad thing.

I tend to set up wildly unattainable expectations for myself, and then crash and burn when they don’t come to fruition. I can remember a few years ago, crying out to a friend while we were on lunch break.

“Why hasn’t my life turned out like I expected?” I sobbed into my sandwich.

“What would you even do if you got everything you wanted?” she asked.

I had no answer. I just knew I wanted everything I had planned on, in my life, in my writing, in my parenting, in my marriage. I wanted it all. It was my destiny to set up dreams and then achieve them.

Or so I believed.

As you can probably imagine, I haven’t gotten everything I want. Life is not exactly what I had planned when I was an idealistic teenager. Nor is it what I had planned when I said “I do” to my handsome husband.

But maybe it’s more?

Because while we’re busy making our plans, God has a plan too. A big one. And it has little to do with just little ol’ me. In some mysterious way, our plans and dreams do matter to Him. Just not as much as we might want or in the ways we might want.

I often hear the verse Psalm 37:4 misinterpreted or tacked on to vision statements of ministries:

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Delight. Desire. Dreams. Destiny. Damn, that’s a lot of “D” words.

I was surprised to discover in a devotional one day that the word delight in that verse actually means “malleable.” What God is asking for is our surrender, humility, and teachability. Even when it comes to dreams.

If I had my way right now, I’d transport this new life, complete with my new friends and the fact that my life has slowed down enough to literally hear the ticking of my wall clock, back to the feet of the Rocky Mountains.

Unfortunately, I can’t. While that might be my dream, it’s not God’s plan for me. Nor is that even mildly possible in a technical sense. (See, I told you I was an idealist.)

For now, on this Monday afternoon, I will delight in where I sit in my living room, listening to the clock. And believe that God’s desires are so much more than my planned destinies.

“God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Thursday, February 23, 2012

No Idea

I don’t know how to keep Word in my dock after I quit this program. (I know all you Mac people are going to send me the solution now.) My personal solution for opening Word the next time is to use a document on my desktop and then close that page once Word is running.

The document I usually click on is titled “Discipleship Resources.” I think I created it to have a running topical list of books and websites to give to people who ask me. It does contain a few links and titles, but for some reason the top line on the page reads like this:

“I wait a minute for both my cereal and ice cream to be just the right consistency.”

I’m assuming I started writing a blog with that line. I must have given up on my brilliant topic and started the resource list instead.

Really, I have no idea.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What If?

I have this reoccurring fear about my husband’s schooling.

Since Jeff is nearing the end of his second master’s degree, I have moments when I’m afraid all of the education will be for nothing. The most entertaining worry is that he will get in a car crash the week after graduation, suffer amnesia, and not remember a bit of what he learned in either degree.

I will then be forced to sit by his bedside and attempt to read James (his favorite book in the Bible) in Greek or list the various personality disorders found in the DSM-IV, hoping that it all comes back to him.

This fear that his education will be worthless rarely leaves me. It happened again at 5:30am one morning last week. I lay in bed for nearly two hours filling my head with worries that began with the phrase “What if….” The first one was “What if Jeff went to seminary for no reason?” I’m not entirely crazy. We found out two months ago that our primary goal for entering seminary shifted due to circumstances beyond our control.

Aw, yes. Beyond our control.

Isn’t that the fear that plagues each of us?

We will waste hours of our life devising ways to make unknown situations certain or at least create alternate plans should the unthinkable happen when we aren’t looking. I know this. I’ve thought it for over seven years of my life.

What did all that worry get me? Nothing except a few headaches and sleepless nights. Yet, it seems as if it’s my life, given the numerous hours I devote to it.

Last Friday I had another meeting with my spiritual director. As I talked and processed, I thought about all the good things God is doing in my life lately. My creativity is higher than any other time in my life. I have more ideas than I know how to implement. I’m loving it, and life is seeping into places of my heart I didn’t even know existed.

On the other hand, I hate that Jeff has yet to experience this fully in his life. He has his own journey. But, as his wife, I long for him to be able to use his gifts to the fullest or to see a clear path for how that can happen. That is what keeps me up at strange hours.

I’ve been reading Lauren Winner’s newest book, Still: Notes on a Mid-faith Crisis. Lauren relates many of her stories to the church calendar. In one chapter, she shares how she gave up anxiety for Lent.

Her choice came to mind as I was praying last Friday. What if I gave up my “what ifs” for Lent this year? What if I replaced those moments, especially in the wee hours of the morning, with a breath prayer of trust to God that He is good and that he offers me rest and life like no other. My director suggested something from Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

It may sound wrong to give up something other than food for Lent. Last year I read a blog that was adamant one must abstain from a type of food, instead of something like Facebook or television. But I don’t exactly see it that way. Giving up something for Lent means we give up the things we think offer us life and prepare ourselves for the restoration that comes with Easter. Fasting is an act of trust.

It’s amazing how worry is a crutch to me. I know it’s not good, but I do it anyway. Over and over. Jesus asked his followers in Luke 12, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Worry replaces my trust in the God who has it all under control.

Simply being able to give up something this year is an encouragement to me. This time last year, we were closing in on the second baby’s due date, the day between Good Friday and Easter. I couldn’t bring myself to give up anything for Lent. I felt as if it had all been taken away already. I was hurting on a daily basis. I lived “dust to dust” with the reminder of death on my mind every morning.

I knew the whole time that God’s goodness was true. I just couldn’t speak of it or sing of it for months. I trusted Him. I just couldn’t show it through an act of fasting. I feared facing death again on that Friday and Saturday before Easter.

This year, I look forward to being able to verbalize my trust out loud through a breath prayer. I’m coming with my “what ifs” and asking Jesus to give me rest through His yoke down in the valley of Lent.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tiny Pieces of Home

I’m just going to say it. I miss Colorado.

I was doing a pretty good job of holding myself together here in Kansas. I’m grateful for the new friends I’ve made, the fact that one of my old friends from high school happened to move to Overland Park two weeks before I did, and that Kansas City has a lot to do. Also, let’s not forget the amazing barbeque down the road from my house.

But last week I got sick with the flu. Actually our whole family got sick. Sickness does something weird to me—I get depressed. So, in spite of all the strength I’ve exerted to stay positive about our new life, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I miss home. I wanted to be sick at “home” in Colorado, not in this foreign land where I don’t have a family doctor yet and I still have to think extra hard to remember where the nearest pharmacy is.

As I lay here on the couch last week, I read reports of snow coming through the Rockies again. A few weeks ago, we had thunderstorms here in Kansas. Yes, thunderstorms in January.

Lord, where did you send us to? I mean it’s not the edge of the earth or anything, but I prefer this:

 Picture taken last week by our friend Rozan.

After nearly a week in bed, I woke up to the sight of snow on Monday morning. Tiny, floating pieces of home. In the afternoon, the girls bundled up and went out to play in our back area. They laughed and giggled out there until the sun started to go down, and Jeff called our bundles of joy back into the house.

“Mama, I don’t miss our old home anymore,” Kaelyn informed me.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because I got to play in the snow,” she smiled.

I don’t know what we’ll do if God ever sends us to Florida. For now, I’m thankful for the recent sticky, white flakes to help Kansas feel more like home.

(I won’t mention the fact that it’s raining again today.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Practice of Communicative Touch

Today I'm pleased to feature a Practices of Parenting guest post from my friend, Jessica Williams. Jessica is smart, creative, and sends me the most hilarious texts on almost a daily basis. She and I became instant friends when I moved to Kansas last summer. She has two adorable children, Neil and Nora, and is married to Ben. Jessica is an inspiration to me in many ways. I hope you enjoy her post!


The Practice of Communicative Touch

Most of the things I do as a parent are pretty normal, the kind of stuff everyone does: cooking, cuddling, reading, pretending, going on outings. I learned most of these practices by watching the women I liked and respected do them with their kids long before I had any kiddos, and so once I had my own doing them felt pretty easy.

My first kiddo was everything precious, sweet, and smart. He loved to play. He loved to listen to music. He loved to read and so the first year and a half of his life were easy breezy. However, two happened, as it inevitably does. I had not anticipated what in the world to do with a writhing ball of “NO NO NO” flailing around in a slippery tub come the end of bath time, or the complete meltdown in the middle of a store over not being allowed to have a dog toy (no kidding!).  

I hated to burden those around me with the yells of my child, and any form of discipline in public is incredibly taboo, but there had to be a better way than slinging my kiddo over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes and leaving. Doing this wouldn't teach my kiddo anything, and only left me feeling steamed.

I began to watch how other parents in the stores or playdates handled this type of thing. In public, all too often I would see one of two reactions—either just ignoring what the child was doing or a parent loosing their temper and adding to the embarrassing scene being played out. Neither of these options appealed to me. 

After a particularly trying day, where slightly insane laughter had replaced correction at the millionth “NO,” I reached over and tickled my kiddo. His face changed from defiantly scrunched up to wide-open surprise. I felt a little less like my brain was going to explode so I continued. After about 10 minutes of shrieking laughter, the world was a much brighter place, and to my surprise, my kiddo gave me the two-year-old version of an apology/explanation of his “No” outburst. I had found a way to get through and a way that little old ladies in public don't scowl about!

Now, whenever I am frustrated with my kiddos or they are struggling to hear my desire for what is right and good in their lives over the blur of No's in the day, I find it helpful to stop talking and start tickling! When my now-three-year-old is in the midst of a "No, mamma..." delay and oppose tactic (again) or I am carrying my ten-month-old away from the electrical outlet for the trillionth time, and their faces are crumpling and my head is aching, I can, and need to, remind myself of the joyous blessings that they are, and so I tickle them.

Hearing the delighted glee in their laughter as I leap to tickle tummies, toes, and oddly enough, on my kiddos cheeks does the trick faster and more wonderfully than anything else. It refreshes all of us, reconnects us, and makes it easier for them to receive my instruction and for me to appreciate my days with them.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Practice of Awareness

On Friday, I wrote about how I began to embrace motherhood when I started parenting out of who I am. I also mentioned we need to come alongside each other and encourage one another. This post is me living out some of those things. Today, I'm joining Sarah Bessey's Practices of Parenthood Carnival. We're sharing some of the ways we enjoy parenthood and work life-giving practices into the day-to-day grind. Come celebrate with us! 


Before my first daughter, Kyla, was born, someone gave me a stack of parenting magazines. I didn’t get to all of them right away; I read them over the course of a couple years. As Kyla grew, I discovered she liked looking at the pictures of the babies on the pages.

It turned out those magazines provided a perfect way to teach Kyla about the world. We looked at the bright toys or yummy food featured on the pages, but most of all, I pointed out the expressions on the faces of the babies. I would point to the face and say, “This baby is sad because she’s hungry” on pictures advertising baby food, or “This baby is happy because she just got a new diaper.” (You can guess what kind of item that page was advertising.)

I hoped that this would help Kyla express herself and “tune in” to how she’s feeling at a given moment. We practiced awareness of our emotions and feelings by looking at the babies.

As the years have gone on, I haven’t given up my magazine-loving ways. Neither has Kyla. Now we practice a new kind of awareness through an activity called art journaling. Kaelyn, my four-year-old, joins us too.

In our version of art journaling, we flip through magazine until something catches our eye, then we rip it out create a collection of pictures and glue them into large sketchbooks. Each time we sit down to do this, I find I’m surprised by the girls’ choices in pictures and words. It helps me stay aware of their passions and thoughts. I love listening to their response when I ask, “Tell me about your picture. What do you like about it? What made choose that picture?”

In our art journals, we also write down verses and glue important items we don’t want to lose, such as Kyla’s first ticket to a movie theatre. Her Uncle Dave took her to see Up, and she drew a picture around the ticket.

After we moved last summer, Kyla felt really sad because she missed her best friend, Cora. I suggested she write a story in her journal about her friend and told her she could create anything she wanted to happen to the characters. Reading her story helped me to know what exactly she missed about her friend.

Awareness of our thoughts and feelings is an important skill for everyone. I’m hoping this practice is good for our whole family, leaving us more sensitive toward one another and offering me unique opportunities to speak into Kyla and Kaelyn’s lives.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Embracing Motherhood

I was barely a wife before I became a mom.

About six weeks after my husband and I got married, we found out we were pregnant with our first daughter. My husband was still in undergrad at the time, with plans to get a masters degree in counseling. Within that first year of marriage, Jeff graduated, we moved to a small town, and Jeff started a new job.

Kyla was born in November that year, and we celebrated our first anniversary in December. I worked fulltime until the sixth month of my pregnancy and did my best to ward off all the unwanted mothering advice I received in our new little town (where the church my husband worked for was literally in a cornfield).

Not long after that, we moved to my home state of Colorado. Jeff started graduate school, and I found myself doing something I never thought would happen: I became a working mom. God has given Jeff a specific calling, and following a counseling degree, he started seminary.

In many ways, I’ve been reeling since the moment I found out I was going to be a mom. I had wanted time to prepare for motherhood. I didn’t ever get that, and nearly every morning I got up to get ready for work these last seven years, I felt like a failure.

See, I had been taught by the church community I grew up in that working mothers are selfish and “don’t love their children.” I also remember reading a book just after Kyla was born that told me how to be a wife like God wanted, much of it based on Proverbs 31. At that point, I didn’t even know I’d go back to working later, and I threw the book away. I didn’t want anyone to experience the bondage I felt when I read all the expectations I was supposed to live up to as a mom, wife, and woman.

All I knew was that while I couldn’t live up to the unrealistic checklists I had been given, I loved Kyla deeply and I believed in my husband’s calling. Really, it is a calling on our whole family, and just before seminary we added another daughter—Kaelyn.

Because I haven’t lived up to what I thought I was supposed to be, over the years I’ve been defensive of people’s comments about moms who work or their praise for mothers who are home all the time. I’ve wasted too many breaths trying to convince others I’m a “good mom.” At times, I’ve blamed God or my husband for our position in life. Even though, deep down, I knew that wasn’t the reason for why I felt so awful every morning.

Then, one day last year, I had an epiphany.

I started asking myself some questions…What if I stopped worrying about all the things I wasn’t doing on a daily basis and instead parented out of what I was doing—the things I love, my own experiences, and the what God is doing in me? (Instead of what I thought He was supposed to be doing in me.) What if, because of working, I now happen to have a set of skills I would never have had before, and what if I was now able to pass those skills along to my girls? Skills like conflict resolution, communication with a team, and creativity while under pressure.

From that place, I started embracing motherhood with confidence. I’m tired of worrying about what others think of my abilities as a mom or how many hours I spend writing. This is who I am. I am a writer. I am a communicator. I am called to leadership in God’s church.

My girls are cared for, and my story is different from every other mom. Some moms homeschool. Some mothers practice law. Some moms love doing daily art projects with their children. Other moms write books and speak at conferences.

There is room for all of us, and we need to come alongside each other. Because if we don’t, there will be a lot of women who don’t know who they are once their children leave home, and they will have spent too many years before that point only living out a role. We are not our roles. We are what God made us to be. That’s what I hope to show my girls, through my actions and also through my words, written and otherwise. Because that’s who I am.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


We ordered pizza. I baked a pan of brownies.

We had water to drink because I forgot to buy the juice at the store, and I hand washed our dishes because I also forgot to buy dishwasher soap. The last guest ended up with a paper plate I found floating on a top shelf because I didn’t wash enough dishes.

My children made noise in the basement while we discussed leadership in the living room.

I didn’t remember to turn the coffee pot back on so we heated up coffee in individual mugs to go with dessert.

This is my life. An endless series of mismatches plates and restless children. Of reheated coffee and pizza boxes instead of gourmet.

But I’ll tell you what else happened the other night. My husband led a group of gifted men and women out of his own gifts.

We explored thoughts about having intentional relationship with others in our church.

We asked God to lead us. He didn’t give us answers right away but we knew He was there. Sitting with us on our worn-out couch.

Last night we held small group at church. Before leaving, I couldn’t find any matching socks for Kaelyn so I threw two similar ones on her feet and dropped her off at her classroom, thinking no one would see pink on one foot and purple on the other.

During small group, we laughed a bit and then shared. One woman’s tears spoke louder than her words. We were present with her in her grief.

When I picked Kaelyn up, I found out she got paint on her mismatched socks because she took her shoes off and “accidentally” walked across a painting that was drying on the floor.

Our family stumbled home. I got my girls to bed, and then went in my room to take off my boots. Turns out my socks didn’t match either, and I didn’t even notice when I put them on.

Lord, make all You can out of this mismatched life of ours.