Monday, October 17, 2011

Working It Out

Today was not a good day. The kids were tired, I was exhausted. There was whining and crying and irritation and yelling and patience was absence and good manners had fled. We were left with the worst versions of ourselves and it showed in all that we did.

It was the typical ups and downs any of us would have in a given day no matter what we do. But for me, it just felt weightier. This job I do, it isn’t for someone else to profit from of which I get a small cut, it is for me, for our family, for our future, but most of all for them – these wonderful little people. And at times, I just don’t take it as seriously as I should. I become cold and unloving. I don’t hug or pick them up or read to them like I should. I focus on the tasks too much and the mothering too little and movies play too long and I start to realize that we are living only a shell of the life we should be living. It is overwhelming to consider the impact of repeating this kind of a day over and over and over.

Thank God in his infinite wisdom that he gave us night to rest and a new day to start again. So I’m looking at tomorrow in anticipation. There are no places to go, no deadlines to meet, no strict expectations except a day to be home and interact and learn and love and hug and be the best versions of who we were meant to be. I’m hoping that I can learn tomorrow what I want to live out in the days to come. Days that are quiet and purposeful and more than I could ever expect them to be. I’m working it out and God convicts me, but He is also gracious.

But for now, I bid you good night.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Not Home

This post is dedicated to my brother-in-law and his family. Your pain is unthinkable and I am praying for your comfort and peace.

Fall in Michigan is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The best way to see the fall colors to me is to take a drive. I had the opportunity to take a long drive a few days ago and the color and bright sunlight truly made everything I saw the picture of fall splendor. Reds, oranges, and yellows illuminated by the more than usual orangey / yellow sunlight – beautiful, bright colors everywhere I could see.

I couldn’t help but thinking on that drive that everything was right in the world and these beautiful colors and sunny day were a gift from God to me and everyone else. But I couldn’t fully enjoy it as I thought about close relatives and friends going through unthinkable tragedy and loss. To add to the discomfort I learned the next day about a young woman (21 years old) who works with orphans in Uganda who has personally adopted 13 girls. I think of friends and relatives and acquaintances who are dealing with the mental or physical disorders that plague their children and I am overcome with grief. I am reminded that this world with its glimpses of beauty all around is also home to pain, suffering, agony, and injustice and I can’t shake it off fully to enjoy what God made good in creation.

This is not our home. Yet, it is the only home we have ever known and we really think that we are comfortable here, until we are reminded of all that is not right. God whispering in our ears, showing us that we must love and help others, reminding us that even if it doesn’t make sense, that his plan is better than ours.

So, I’m thinking of those hurting today and wishing I could explain away the pain or offer words of comfort or say that somehow it will be OK, but the truth is, that some things won’t ever be OK. Our time here is so short and eternity is so long and if we don’t do whatever is insanely possible to bring everyone we can with us to the home they were meant to go to, then what are we doing that really counts?

I look at my life and how comfortable I am and yet I sense the discomfort creeping up around me. I don’t know how to be dangerous for God and maybe he isn’t asking for me to get on a plane and fly far away to make a difference, but I realize as each day passes, that I must find a way. I have to find a way.

Maybe I already make a difference, but I don’t see how and I just pray that God reveals to me that I can and do impact his kingdom, even from my little corner. And if I am not, please show me God how to reach out and do the work you have asked me to do. Because I am not home and as the days go by I realize that I need to learn more about my real home, about where I’m looking to go, because sometimes the pain here is too much to bear.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Thoughtful Tuesday 10/4/11

Every Tuesday I try to put something out here to get us all thinking about different ways to approach this life. Let’s think countercultural, against the norm, “weird”, unpopular, but most of all thought provoking.

I’ve been very conscious about how it seems that my words don’t match my actions these days. I have the incredible gift of being home with my children every day. I tell them I love them, but it seems that my actions, at times, tell a different story. How do I get past this? What can I do to turn it all around?

How do you demonstrate that you love the people around you in everything that you do?

Friday, September 30, 2011

90 Days

Like many of you, I’ve had my share of jobs in different industries, with different schedules, and with a myriad of different expectations placed on me. But one thing each job had in common was the infamous “90 day probationary period”. That critical time where the company is supposedly watching you to ensure that you are worth keeping for the long haul.

Here I am now at home; formulating my own job, schedule, rules, and expectations and that 90 days is looming on the horizon. I can’t help but asking myself, what have I learned during this time and am I doing this job well?

 I have learned that:
  • A young toddler on the potty is not likely to stay on the potty, and neither is what comes out of the young toddler.
  • An older toddler that is potty training will repeatedly have accidents even when he is given the “rules” for what to do.
  • Toddlers who like to climb and open doors are likely to fall and/or escape.
  • The smiles and laughs of my children are the most beautiful sights and sounds I can and will experience in a day.
  • It’s the little moments of focused attention with each one of them that keeps them happy and content through the day.
  • Coffee with my kids is fun and insightful. (And don’t worry, not too caffeinated.)
  • If I demand respect in a loving way from my oldest, she gives it politely.
  • Trusting the kids to go outside on their own builds my trust in them and gives them independence they need to succeed in life.
  • Anything that can go wrong in the kitchen will. (But it has always been that way with me anyway.)
  • Dishes will always be dirty, laundry will always need to be folded, and there will always be crumbs and hair where there should not be. But I will not always have this moment to hug and kiss and dance with my babes.
  • Each day is a gift and no matter how simple must be treasured and purposeful.
  • I need to be thankful for each moment as they are slipping between my fingers like sand.

I’m not sure if I were to be rated by an outside, unbiased source if I would fare too well for this 90 day period – I yell too much and I get angry over silly things, but I always apologize and forgive and seek to be forgiven.

These 90 days have been a wonderful gift – something I will treasure in my heart in the days ahead as the seasons change and new adventures in mommyhood unfold.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Block

So you may have noticed that I haven’t been around for awhile. I wish I had a good reason to explain why, but I just don’t. I think that the best explanation has to be writer’s block…but more accurately - fear.

I’ve been avoiding my little corner of cyberspace using stale, old excuses: too tired, don’t know when to fit it in, don’t know what to say. But the truth of the matter is that I’m hiding behind this wall, feeling like I can’t reach back through it…doubting my ability to write anymore.

You see, leaving my job was a huge step for me and I truly believe the right thing to do. However, the circumstances that lead up to it still have me doubting myself in many areas and I just can’t quite shake it all. I’ve been praying and writing down ideas for what to say out here, but my doubts and insecurities keep trash talking to my I-just-went-through-a-major-life-change mind.

So maybe it was writer’s block, but maybe not; but the point I’m trying to make right here is that I have more to say and I’m figuring out how to say it all and I hope that you still want to read and I appreciate your grace and your patience. So, I’ll say this quietly, I’m baaaacckkkk.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I’ve Been Waiting

This morning I woke up to the sound of birds chirping and the sound of a sweet baby voice saying, “Mama, mama?” The air was just cool enough, the birds chattering and singing their morning songs. I’ve been waiting for a morning like this – waiting for one that reminds me of why I’m here, what is important. The weeks of living in the constant hum of the air conditioning – with its artificial air, chilling temps, and muffled barrier between me and the real world has taken its toll. (Don’t get me wrong, air conditioning is a wonderful gift that I’m very thankful for – it has just run too long.) It has gotten to the point that I’m looking forward to fall just so we can have the windows open.

There is something about hearing the night sounds – crickets and the scurry of bugs and little animals, seeing the moon shining into an open window, smelling night fall and then waking up to the earth starting over again, birds singing, the smell of the dew, the sun streaming through an open window – the cool air floating into the house. The smell of morning – distinct from its nightly counterpart.

Here is where I am at peace – here is where a new day with mercies new begins and don’t I need it – don’t we all? I’m grateful that God in his wisdom made night for us to sleep – because wouldn’t we be in a bigger mess if He had not?

So today I’m listening to the chirps and the morning dove “who’s” and letting the sun shine on my face and shivering a bit in the damp, morning air, listening to the gentle melodic sound of the wind chimes and taking it all in. Breathing new life and a fresh start. Won’t you join me outside this morning?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

100 Years

Today we celebrated our Great Aunt’s 100th birthday. I’ve never known or met anyone who is 100 years old. The party was very nice – a lunch where about 175 family members and friends gathered to eat lunch and celebrate this great lady’s life. Her daughter put together a book with her story including pictures, fun facts and great stories about the unique and wonderful person that she is. I read through the book – I’m a sucker for history – but even more – the personal history of a family member that I know mostly by reputation.

This wonderful woman graduated from high school at age 76 and went white water rafting in her 80’s. When her husband died 30 years ago, she bought a new lawn mower since she knew she would be keeping up the lawn going forward. She loves parties and traveling. How great is that?

Reading through this book and looking at all the pictures and just being there – seeing all of the smiling faces celebrating her life – it got me thinking – what is the story of my life? What will people write about me when I am advanced in years? What will be the unique things about me – my impression, the person I am, the thing that makes my reputation precede me?

So much has changed for me in the last month and I finally feel like what I’m doing everyday has eternal significance – I’m taking care of my children and our household – concentrating on being there – my whole person – in this place at this time. I’ve never been interested in what was culturally popular or interesting or notable and being in this position runs counter to what the world says is interesting. So the big question is, what will my children write as the story of my life? What will stand out to them?

I hope that they write about how much I love them about how I could be wacky and fun sometimes, how I would do anything for them, how I broke the rules sometime just to mix it up a bit. I hope most of all that they see Jesus through me. I will never be perfect, but I hope they feel God’s love through me and find a way to carry that with them through their days.

The book of your days – it is being written right now – what do you want to say?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thoughtful Tuesday 7/26/11 Every Tuesday I try to put something out here to get us all thinking about different ways to approach this life. Let’s think countercultural, against the norm, “weird”, unpopular, but most of all thought provoking. I do my best thinking in the car – even short trips with the sound of children playing and yelling in the background. Today I thought about change – how we know it’s coming and even though we know, we are never adequately prepared. Change rarely just affects us, but everyone around us and what can we possibly do to prepare ourselves for the reactions we get from other people? Is it even possible? Me staying at home has changed many people and my relationship with all of them is changing. I’m notoriously terrible with keeping in touch with people even when I think of them often. How do I keep up with these changes and keep in touch? Is it possible that the evolution that is occurring could bend or break those relationships? How do I know when to keep going on or let go? Maybe some of the answers to these questions are simple or just take time to figure out, but please share your thoughts here. I know that many of you have insight that I need. Thanks.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The First Week Thanks everyone for being patient with me while I was quiet this past week. You see, this past week was the first week I was home with all three of my kids in this new stay at home mom role. And what a week it was! Now, you are probably thinking I’m going to tell you about the highs and lows of last week – well, sure – that is sort of the point, but the first thing you need to know is how peaceful and quiet it was. I’ve been home with the kids off and on for many reasons over time – vacations, daycare shutdowns and illnesses, but there was something very different about this time – this week. I shutdown Facebook, kept email quiet, and tried to keep my normal distractions to the bare minimum and I concentrated on just enjoying them. Focused on taking these little people in my life as they are in each moment. When my sister Kim first came home to her kids about a year ago, she told me, “You know how people say that there is so much you miss when you are not home? Well, there is SO.MUCH.THAT.YOU.MISS.” Her words cut me to the core and I couldn’t get them off my mind for weeks. Here is what I missed: Big girl Kayla telling me I’m the best mom in the world along with “nothing was fun today” nearly every day last week. This girl dreams big and wants that “super fun thing” to do every day. She is so much like me, I can barely stand it. I can’t help but love her. Three year old Zach’s little arms around me saying “I love you mommy” along with “I want daddy! When is daddy going to be home – I don’t want you!” He’s definitely daddy’s boy, but I won’t let him get away with it – he’ll always be my wonderful boy. Sweet Abby’s head snuggling into my chest before naptime along with the screams of pain from falling hard into the ottoman. I’ve never seen a cut and bump so large on such a little chin. But this is Abby in all her glory – all girl, all wiggly toddler, all fun, no fear. The endless diapers – diaper ping pong between Zach and Abby – I’m telling you – it’s a conspiracy! Explosive diarrhea – somebody had to have it, right? Daily dishes. Mountains of laundry. Coupons to be cut. Littles to love and kiss and hug and comfort and read to and snuggle and just cherish – no matter what, just to love in each moment. I missed all those things. While I know none of it is glamorous – it doesn’t matter. It all means something – it is all significant, it is all eternal. This week is the beginning of our new life and I’m ready and willing and able and most of all HERE, fully. No distractions, no other priorities – just HERE. Quiet, listening, peaceful, thankful for this wonderful gift. On to week two!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Swing Kayla and I went to the park in the woods today. She played on the playscape a bit and then we both decided to swing on the old, sturdy, metal swing set – the kind they had when I was a kid. As I climbed higher and higher I was surprised at how airborne I was and how every time I swung up how I hit that brief “sweet spot” where for a moment I was free falling. It was breathtaking and terrifying all at the same time. I kept up the pace for awhile amazed at how frightened I was. As we walked back home, I realized that right now, I’m in the “sweet spot” of life. I’ve risen up pretty high up until this point and now I’m not quite falling and I’m not headed back down. I’m floating in space and completely out of control. My whole life is in limbo – everything I’ve known in my professional life is different – I’m no longer working. I’ve wanted to be home with the kids for some time, but we were not ready for that financial change. Through a series of unforeseen events, I’m no longer working and happy, thrilled, terrified, and hopeful all at the same time – I’m floating and looking around at the top of the trees in wonder of what can be. When I got off that swing, I was surprised that my head hurt, but maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. When God allows changes to shift your whole mindset, it definitely hurts a bit, but the end result is always worth it. So, I’m giving up on controlling it all, because I have to. Instead, I’m looking forward to each new day as a way to see and view this world as He has called me to see it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thoughtful Tuesday 7/12/11 It seems time to start a regular series out here, so I’ve decided to start Thoughtful Tuesday. I’ll try to put something out here to get us all thinking about different ways to approach this life. Let’s think countercultural, against the norm, “weird”, unpopular, but most of all thought provoking. Why do we decide to store up money in terms of savings, financial investments, retirement funds, etc. when we don’t really know how long our life will last? I’m not advocating irresponsibility, here, just trying to get a handle on why cultural norms tell us to do this. What happened to relying on God? What happened to relying on others to give to us as we have been called to give and support them? When did we as a society become so segmented and “self reliant”? Looking forward to the discussion.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Windfall Windfall – when we see that word, we think of money – an unexpected availability of money. While windfalls like that are nice, they are typically short lived and we usually don’t remember where the money went. I’ve found myself in an unusual type of windfall these days – a windfall of time – time with family, friends, and my kids. This type of windfall has never really happened to me and quite frankly, I don’t quite know what to do about it. My initial thoughts are to take each day at a time, savor it, be thankful and intentional in all that I do and it’s got me thinking – why don’t I always do that? Why don’t I take this gift of time and spend it with others – really being there and engaging myself with them? Time spent like this tends to be a strange mixture of joy, pain, chaos, and an overarching amount of intensity. I welcome it, yet fear the emotional toll it will put on me. But I’m here - standing on the precipice of it and praying that I spend this time wisely because like everything, we never really know how long it will last. So, I ask that you pray for me as I am in this windfall of time. I’m very thankful for it and want it to be permanent, but don’t currently understand how it can last. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thoughtful Tuesday It seems time to start a regular series out here, so I’ve decided to start Thoughtful Tuesday. I’ll try to put something out here to get us all thinking about different ways to approach this life. Let’s think countercultural, against the norm, “weird”, unpopular, but most of all thought provoking. I’ve written here previously about living in the shelter of others. This means under the protection, watchful eye, and in the community of others. How can we truly live in this shelter when we insist on being so willfully self reliant, distant, and non-communicative? Why don’t we allow ourselves to be close to each other, in each other’s business (in a good way), intimate, knowing of each other? Isn’t that really the only way to live truly in the shelter? Why don’t we do it and how can we start?

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Lilies I’ve always enjoyed wandering in the yard of my childhood home discovering new things. I’ll never forget those first couple of years living in our current home and learning about the plants in our yard. I was excited to find one tiny lily of the valley plant that second summer. Such a beautiful little plant with tiny bell shaped flowers. Each year after those first couple I’ve looked for them, but for some reason missed the flowers. Imagine my surprise this summer when I walked out and found at least 12 plants all in bloom. Breathtaking! Kayla insisted on picking some and I put them in a little vase. I could not help but study them marveling in their micro perfection. My life is in chaos right now – both personally, professionally, and in many ways spiritually. Changes have finally come for me at work and I’m very thankful for the change, but even change anticipated and embraced is still hard for me. I tend to follow rules and get stuck in my ways because I’m afraid to do something new. Tomorrow represents that something new and even though this is what I have wanted for so long, I am still afraid; I’m worrying about tomorrow. And then I look at these lilies and think – were these the ones that Jesus talked about in Luke 12:27 when he said 27 “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” In that chapter Jesus talks about how we worry about what we are going to wear and eat and God knows that we need these things. So if we know that God will provide us with these basics, why should we worry about anything else? Yet, I worry…anxiety my biggest weakness in this life. So I take this weakness and I try to break out of this valley of anxiety and what I’ve found is that through all of these changes, overall I have been at peace. So maybe I’m learning, but I don’t fully get it right and I’m grateful for God’s mercies new every morning. Enjoy these lilies as I have and remember the promise they bring that God is there and knows what we need.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Growing Old To Jerry - on the occasion of our 14th wedding anniversary - 6/7/11. We’ve been together a long time he and I. We started this journey talking about such serious things…too serious for two 19 year olds. Talk of serious commitment – “No returns” I said. “No exchanges” he said. Somehow we both knew early on that this was for real. We talked on the phone for hours; jewelry was given in the early weeks, there were lots of road trips to see each other if only for a day. When he proposed he said he wanted to grow old with me. It sounds cliché, but I knew that was what I wanted from that very moment. We both had no idea what that meant… I started my first and second and third jobs. He finished school and worked full time. We bought a house. We went on vacations. But one day we realized something was missing – Kayla Joy, Zachary John, and Abigail Anne. We are now in the middle of parenthood and the time is flying by. Sometimes we marvel at where we have been and wondered how we thought our lives were complete without these little people in our lives. Life is not always easy, but our commitment to each other has never changed – “No refunds, no exchanges.” There are little things that begin to explain this mystery between us – the miracle of this bond. Reminders along the way are ever there like these lyrics from one of my favorite artists Sara Groves – Twice as Good. ( I know we're growing older can you imagine what that will bring it's all a mystery to me now but this one thing will be half as hard, and twice as good I can’t imagine what this growing older will be. I’m content to be in this moment – his hand holding mine. This life we’ve built together is the life I’ve always wanted – he – the perfect man for me. I love you, Jerry.

Monday, May 09, 2011

He Still Speaks Words of Love My relationship with God has grown over time as have many of my relationships. My relationship with Jerry grows daily – as long as he and I both put time and effort into it. With each day that goes by we seek to know each other better by listening and coming together. But sometimes it is easy to have doubts about the people in our lives – including God. I think that doubt can be a useful tool in your relationship with God if used properly. What I mean is this – doubt should be used as a type of questioning tool – a way to converse with God when He seems quiet or distant and when you don’t know where you stand. The proper way to use doubt is to first never compromise God’s faithfulness and the true essence of who He is. That requires that you know who He is first. (That is another post for another day.) Just over a year ago, driving home from church, Jerry and I had the same song in our heads. (We have never had the same word or message from God before.) The song was “When I Think of You” by Michael W. Smith. We thought it was strange that we both had that song in our heads and yet we had not heard it in awhile and it was not played at church. I felt like we needed to know more about this, so I pulled out the CD to see if there was something in the CD jacket that we needed to know. I found the reference to Zephaniah 3:17: "The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty enough to save you. He will take great delight in you. The quietness of his love will calm you down. He will sing with joy because of you." (New International Readers version - Copyright © 1996, 1998 by Biblica) At the time, I was struggling with the back to work blues. The next day I was scheduled to go back to work for the first time since Abby was born. This verse gave me great comfort. I felt like God was saying he was delighted with Jerry and me. It brought tears to my eyes! Who were we that God would speak to us in this way? What a wonderful gift! Fast forward to now. I’m finishing up One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I’m also reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I’m at this stage in my relationship with God where I’m asking myself, what does it mean to really love God? Intellectually I love him, but I don’t think it has broken into the core of my being. I’m one of those people who need to “get it” intellectually before I get it at a deeper level. Crazy Love is challenging me to not be a lukewarm Christian. The book says that to be a Christian is at its very nature loving God as much as I love myself – relentlessly. I’m so.not.there. As I’m reading One Thousand Gifts, I’m pondering how after all this time how I just don’t get it. Ann is telling the reader how she went to Paris to learn how to “make love to God.” Makes ya blush a bit, right? Me too, because I don’t really get that. Yet everywhere in the Bible it says that we are the bride of Christ. Well, to be a bride, you have to be more than friends, right? There has to be a greater level of intimacy. So as she is retelling her journey – she watches the sun rise from the airplane and she realizes that God is singing His love song to her from Zephaniah 3:17. The same Zephaniah 3:17 where he spoke to Jerry and me a year ago. I put down the book and I sob. He won’t ever stop reminding me – this flawed, speck of dust in the cosmos – that he loves me. I can’t help but ask over and over, why? I will never understand. But the bottom line is this – He loves me, He delights in me. While I don’t yet understand the level of intimacy He is inviting me into, I still go forward seeking to know more.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


I’m not a big leftover fan. There’s something about food past its prime, slowly rotting in small plastic containers that just doesn’t work for me. Oh, I try. Some leftovers work out just fine. Unfortunately, most leftovers don’t make it past the 4-day-in-the-fridge rule in our house.

Yesterday was a low point for me. I picked up Kayla from school and we went home as usual and I continued working – just like any day. Something went wrong with the items I was working on and I had to shut down interacting with her for a few minutes to “put out the fire”. Once we resumed working on her homework, my stress was at an all time high.

We went to pick up Zach and Abby from daycare. Things got worse from there – Zach could not stop misbehaving, Abby kept screeching and crying and doing stiff board tantrums. My fatigue got the best of me and I went into survival mode. We ate cereal for dinner (pop tarts for dessert!). I put on a movie for the kids after dinner and I sat with them and watched it. At that moment, I realized that what my kids get on most days is “leftover mommy”. Leftover mommy has already given her best for the day.

I put it in high gear to get out the door in the morning to get Kayla to school on time and me to work. I powered through the series of meetings, interactions, conflicts, and projects that consist of a typical day at the office. I rushed to get Kayla from school and then simultaneously did one home related project (a personal goal for each day) and continued working while helping Kayla with her homework. By the time I picked up Zach and Abby – the fresh, tasty, healthy, gourmet mommy was gone. Leftover mommy was there.

Leftover mommy shows up too often in our house – even with my best efforts to keep her away. Sometimes caffeine helps, but that likely causes “high-strung yelling mommy” to come out and she is much worse.

Even though I’m not always the mom I want to be, I pray that my kids see “real mommy” most of the time. Real mommy apologizes when she yells too much, kisses hurts away, hugs and loves even when kids are mad or sad, and does her best to care for their needs and let them know how much she loves them. Real mommy tries not to let the other mommies visit too much, but the truth is, sometimes they are there.

One thing I know for sure is that “perfect mommy” is never here. But I’ve decided I don’t like her very much. She is much too obsessive and critical to live with. It’s best that she not have the key to this house.

I know I don’t always have it together, but I’m thankful that the unconditional love shared between my children and I is strong enough to weather these different mommies. God’s mercies are new every morning.

What mommy (or daddy) are you today?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Relentless Love I’m very excited to present my first guest blogger my sister, Rachel Miller. In light of recent world events, her post cut me to the core today. I wish I could take full credit for this, but it comes from a Bible study that a coworker graciously forwards to me each morning. I can’t tell you how many times this study has spoken directly to my heart on a given day, but today it was exceptionally striking given the fresh memory of Easter and the demise of Osama bin Laden. Two Rules to Live By (taken from Our Daily Bread – click here for full post. Read: Matthew 22:34-40) Have you ever felt overwhelmed by rules and expectations? Think of how the Jewish people must have felt as they tried to keep up with more than 600 rules from the Old Testament and many more that had been imposed on them by the religious leaders of their day. And imagine their surprise when Jesus simplified the pursuit of righteousness by narrowing the list down to just two-"love the Lord your God" (Matt. 22:37) and "love your neighbor as yourself" (v.39). In essence, Jesus is telling us that the way God knows we love Him is by how we treat people. All of them. Let's face it-loving our neighbor can be a challenge. But when we do it to express our love to God, we unleash a powerful motivation that loves whether the person deserves it or not. And as we love God and our neighbor, everything else falls into place. If I love my neighbor, I won't bear false witness against him, covet his wealth or his wife, or steal from him. Loving others for God's sake even provides the grace and strength to forgive those who have heaped injustices upon us.” [emphasis added] Wow. Timely, eh? It reminds me of a similar incident in America’s history not so long ago. December 13, 2003: Operation Red Dawn resulted in the capture of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. I was in college, doing whatever it is college kids do, and I remember hearing the news of the capture on the radio. Up until this point I had not given much thought to Saddam Hussein’s salvation. If anything, I assumed he was too far gone and destined for hell. But something powerful stirred within me the moment I heard he had been captured and taken into American custody. I immediately fell to my knees and prayed for Saddam Hussein’s soul. I BEGGED God to move someone close to him to share the good news of Jesus Christ as his Savior with him. I wept as I prayed that the Holy Spirit would enter his heart, and that he would accept eternal salvation in heaven with the Father. Yes, I am telling you that I prayed that Saddam Hussein would go to heaven. I prayed harder than I had ever prayed for anything in my life up until that point. On my knees. Face to the ground. Tears falling. In a word, it was weird. In a few words, it was bizzare but strangely right. After it was over I felt light as a feather, like a tremendous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I filed the experience away in the “someday it will be the right time to talk about this, but not today” file and went about my business. I wept again on December 30, 2006, when I learned that Saddam Hussein had been executed following his war crimes conviction. I cried because I didn’t know if my prayer was enough. There was certainly no evidence of reform during the circus that was his war crimes trial. What was the point of that prayer? Why did I feel so strongly compelled at the time to do such a seemingly useless act? Fast forward to today, May 2, 2011. After hearing about the death of Osama bin Laden and doing some research in the Bible to sort of piece together how I felt about it, the answer was revealed to me in the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed boy in Matthew 17:14-20. After Jesus rebuked the demon, his disciples asked him why they were not able to drive the demon out of the boy. Jesus replied in verse 20, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Some manuscripts of Matthew’s account include words similar to the end of the apostle Mark’s version of the same story (29:9): “This kind can come out only by prayer.” Call me crazy if you like, but I honestly believe that my tiny, mustard seed-sized prayer made a difference in Saddam Hussein’s eternal outcome through the grace of God. Ok, so now what? Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are dead, but as an American and a Christian I still have so many enemies in the world. How am I supposed to deal with that? Jesus gives the answer in His Sermon on the Mount: “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44). Er, right. Did I mention that these people HATE ME!? As in HATE! As in abhor, detest, loathe, can’t stand, find insufferable, can’t bear, are repulsed by, and just plain dislike me! Why should I show them love and pray for them? Where is all that good “eye for an eye” stuff when you really need it!? The answer to the second question is simple: the “eye for an eye” way of thinking is one of the 600+ rules from the Old Testament and was rendered obsolete on the cross. Leave it there. The answer to the first question is in the closing verses of Matthew 5: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48). Plain English: If you love only the lovable and hate your enemies, you are no better than they are. Yeah, I know you didn’t fly airplanes into buildings and kill thousands of innocent people a decade ago. But God called us to be perfect like Him. This means loving the unlovable, and praying for their salvation. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for us? The bible study from this morning closes with this: “Who needs to see God's love today through you? The more unlovable the person, the greater the statement about how much you love God! Loving God is the key to loving others. Couldn’t have said it better myself. When Rachel is not working her day job wielding her red tape machete or pushing beer-leavened baked goods on the side, she is home with her two boys ages 3 and 5 months eating homemade pizza and ice cream made by her culinary gifted husband, Kal. Rachel blogs with Kal over at Special Group Alpha (

Thursday, April 28, 2011

In the Shelter Community is on my mind again and I’m fighting this inertia that has come over me. I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I am the queen of good intentions that I so rarely act on. It is a character flaw that I’ve had since I can remember. I often think of good ideas and thoughtful ways to either help people or show that I appreciate them but I only act on these things a small percentage of the time. Yet the time I’ve spent thinking about the good deed, small act of appreciation is significant. If you know me, you know that I rarely send birthday cards (or any other correspondence at all) and yet please believe me when I say that I have reminders for your birthdays and I think about you. Thank goodness for Facebook – I now have a chance to actually wish you a happy birthday in a timely fashion (and even then I may still be late). I have a million pieces of stationary and yet they go unused. I think of someone just about every other day that I should thank and yet I don’t follow through. This lack of action seems to characterize my moves in the different relationships I am in. And here I am again – looking outside my front window at the quiet houses on our street…wondering if things will change. There will be more activity – more people out – people reaching out as the days get warmer and longer. But I’m sitting here realizing that I need to be out there to participate. I keep thinking of the Jars of Clay song – Shelter. These words keep sticking with me: God has given us each other And we will never walk alone In the shelter of each other We will live We will live (We will never walk alone) In the shelter of each other We will live We will live (In the shelter) I can’t get this idea of living in the shelter of each other out of my head and yet I don’t really know how to DO it. I keep looking out my window…wondering how to create this community – not just here, but wherever I go. I am frozen in my tracks…my intentions good but not really knowing what to do. I keep praying for inspiration, but maybe I’m making it too hard. Maybe just being that smiling face – the neighbor that always waves, the one who makes it a point to learn more – who loves and accepts at first glance no matter what – maybe that is enough. Maybe that is everything. Yet I’m still inside this house – shaking a bit – with my elaborate ideas, good intentions…wondering when the opportunity will arise. I want to hear my doorbell ringing…I want to chat for the purpose of chatting, I don’t want to have boundaries, I don’t want walls, I don’t want rules. I don’t want to walk alone either.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Complexities of This Moment

There is always the list – the to do list, the grocery list, the menu planning list, the critical list for today, the list of who to call and those lists - they never really get completed. Then there is the dream list, the reading list, the crafting project list, the spiritual development list and those ones are the ones that really are neglected. It seems the lists in my midst get lost in the complexities of this moment.

Waking up late, rushing out the door, making it through the day, picking up kids, making dinner, long bedtimes, exhaustion on the couch for a few minutes and then bed. The complexities of caring for these little people and working full time keep me from the lists. The trivial lists and the eternal lists.

But is this just “how it is” or is there a flaw in my thinking?

The daily operational lists often are the ones I focus on and then get highly frustrated when I ultimately fail at them. The fun lists are the ones that I make and don’t focus on as much and then get infinitely more frustrated when I can’t get to them. In the case of the dream list – it often gets lost permanently. The spiritual development list – I dabble in, but never really commit long term – more just a flitting about here and there.

But I believe that I’ve missed something somewhere – maybe because putting it down on paper seems nearly impossible. Or the reality is, maybe I have never tried.

I’m missing an important list – the eternal treasures list. As I’m rushing through the day focusing on the tasks, am I really investing in the people close to me? Am I really pausing to focus on them, on relationships? I’ve heard it said that life happens on the journey and yet I still think I need to get to some destination – to check off the item on the list.

Today I’m trying to make the list – maybe not on paper, but in my heart:

  • Abby’s dimpled smile when I hand her a “big girl” sized piece of fruit.
  • Zach’s little hands under his head when he sleeps.
  • Kayla’s school girl uniform and ponytail.
  • Jerry’s new glasses and hairstyle – reminding me that we continue to change and grow old together – this promise we made to each other so many years ago.

But these are just the beginning. Am I really listening? God – I know you are there and you are whispering to me the instructions for what I should be focusing on in the complexities of each moment. Help me to stop and see what you see.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

I Don’t Know the Half of It

Please read this post in its entirety. If read out of context you will miss important points and likely judge me severely.

I used to think I had it all figured out – this world, my life, God…but then life happened and I continue to realize that I don’t know the half of it.

When I was young, I was sure that I wanted the princess wedding to the perfect husband and the 2 kids – a boy and a girl – and a career working in an office where I made others happy. I came home to my cute, sparkling clean house and made a healthy meal every night. You can see where this kind of thinking is going… Don’t get me wrong, I have a good life, just not that level of perfection.

I was sure I had this world all figured out – you do good, good things result. You do bad, well, don’t even try it.

God – he was always there and predictable – black and white rules led my life. If you committed suicide, you went to hell. If you were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, you might as well forget about God. If you were sick, God would heal. I was sure I knew it all – this dogmatic view of life. But I’m here to tell you – I got it all wrong – because THEN life happened.

THEN: My godfather’s wife committed suicide. I remember praying for her when she was fighting for her life in the hospital – in a coma. I saw darkness over her – pitch black, relentless. As I prayed (and I knew many others were too), I saw the darkness leave and light shine over her. I felt as though God told me it was OK to stop praying – that everything was going to be fine. She died on my birthday. I believe that the darkness of this life was too much for her – that she was deceived into thinking this was her only way out. But I believe she had faith. I believe that she is at peace and in heaven. I believe this because my mind is too small for this limitless God to truly believe that I even begin to comprehend what He is doing and can do to save us. BOTTOM LINE: God decides who has faith and who is in heaven. He knows our hearts. Who am I to judge otherwise?

THEN: I became friends with the most loving, positively joyful bisexual woman. She was in a great, supportive relationship with her transgendered partner. We talked about everything under the sun – religion / relationship with God, love, respect, community. We were more different than any other two people could be. I believe that Jesus taught me to love her because he would have too. She was brutally attacked about 4 months ago and died from her injuries a day later. She should have died immediately. I joined others in praying that God would reveal Himself to her and save her. My friend had a vision of her in heaven. I truly believe she is there. BOTTOM LINE: God has not called me to be judgmental, but to love all people. He has a plan for our lives that is best for us. We need to tune into that plan and follow Him.

THEN: I had chronic back pain. One day, family members prayed over me and I was miraculously healed. A few years later, my mom got breast cancer. Family members prayed over her and she was NOT healed. She had radical surgery and months of chemotherapy. I can’t imagine the physical, spiritual and emotional toll she endured. In my mind, she should have been healed immediately. BOTTOM LINE: Healing is decided by God and on His terms. We will never know what separates us from him that causes those parts of our lives to go awry.

THEN: The frailty of life is constantly in my view. I can’t even explain to you the number of people I am close to or are in my extended family that have died in the last few months. I’m reading a book called Crazy Love by Francis Chan. He reminds us in chapter 2 that our life is just vapor – here today and gone in an instant. And I’m reminded ever so clearly that I boldly and dogmatically go forward in this life – STILL – after all of these experiences that should tell me otherwise and STILL have the audacity to believe that I will never die. BOTTOM LINE: I need to love relentlessly, and make each moment count because death is all around me. We will never know when our lives will end.

So I come before all of you now realizing my brokenness – even more than yesterday. I am open to possibility – open to change – open to what God wants to do, but honestly – I’m not always listening. So I’m walking away from this screen and I’m going to be quiet for awhile. Maybe He has something to say, or maybe it is the quiet that will be the conversation today. No matter – because life will still happen and THEN I will learn more of how I can love. BOTTOM LINE: It’s all about love and even then – I still don’t know the half of it.

Monday, April 04, 2011

How Les Miserables Saved Me

The last couple of weeks have been pretty stressful for me (hence my absence here in the blogosphere). I’ve let too many things get to me on a personal level that shouldn’t affect me, normally don’t affect me. The bottom line is that I allowed the burdens of this life to overtake me for this period of time and it negatively affected me in many ways. I broke out in hives, I couldn’t sleep well, I was nauseous. I was angry, snapped at my family, and avoided people.

The days were heavy, dark, tedious, drudgery. The thankfulness was gone and consequently the joy. I was really struggling with a lot of things…more than I cared to admit.

You see, we all say things we don’t mean – we say that people, situation, things “drive us crazy”. I’ve tried very hard for a long time to avoid saying things like that because I believe very strongly in the power of words to affect you, to change you, to break you down. And yet, these last couple of weeks my tongue was going through some type of adolescent rebellion and I did not do a thing to keep it in check. So I believe that I was starting to live under the curses of those words I was speaking.

I believe that is how the enemy works – he starts chipping away at your mind. There is some mental illness in my family and there was a little part of me that kept asking the question, “Am I next?” What an awful lie to believe. The battleground is the mind and I was letting mine be setup for the massacre.

A few days ago we went to see Les Miserables. This is mine and Jerry’s favorite play. I was anxious and tense and was doing my best to snap out of it so I could enjoy myself. About half way through the first act I begged God to forgive me. I told Him I couldn’t handle these things any more – I couldn’t hold onto these burdens and I desperately needed His peace. And as I opened my eyes, His peace washed over me. Instantly the tension was gone. I held Jerry’s hand.

We watched the play – my favorite song – when Fantine dies – “Come to Me” did not make me cry as it normally does. Towards the end of the play – I was taken by surprise – strangely, like I have been nearly every other time I have watched it by the words that I love so dearly – the words that have settled this work of art into my heart forever. The main character, Jean Val Jean is dying and as he joins Fantine and Eponine in heaven singing, he turns and says, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” My tears fell down as I realized that I truly don’t get it. I do not see God because I do not love. My heart is cold and God is absent when I do not love.

All of this pain, this turbulence, this instability that I’ve been fighting – it was because love was absent. This overwhelming thought settled into my brain. I became resolute to find a way to love at all times, all places, all circumstances. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I know that I must.

So Les Miserables – “the miserable” – the miserable experiences, people, circumstances – they truly are the things that will save me – if only I have love.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Thankful During the Thankless Times

Last weekend was from all appearances a disaster. We attempted a road trip to visit my parents and on the way, little Abby threw up in the car. We thought it best to go home – and I believe it was the right thing to do. I started fighting waves of nausea later that evening and fought hard to keep from throwing up. (I can’t stand to vomit – I will do just about anything to keep it from happening.)

At about 2am, I just sat in the bathroom and prayed…the waves of nausea crashing into me – relentlessly. As I implored God to spare me, my prayer turned to praise. I began thanking him – the unthinkable in that moment – it just overflowed from me. I thanked him that I had not been sick, that we were home, that none of the other kids were sick, that they were sleeping peacefully. And strangely enough, I thanked him for being sick. I don’t remember the rest – I think that extreme fatigue set in at that point and after a period of nothing, I crawled back into bed.

I never did get sick and none of the rest of us did either, thank God. And as I lay in bed the next day – still fighting the after affects, I marveled at how this God could move me to praise him at one of my lowest moments. Surely His ways are above our ways and He always deserves our praise.

How has God moved you to praise him in unthinkable circumstances?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Can I Make a Difference? I’ve been asking myself the question a lot lately – how can I make a difference in this world? It seems as though I have this charmed life – at least by cultural standards. The house, the car, the 3 cute kids, the awesome husband, the good job. And all of those things are good and I’m very grateful for what I have. But I’ve been asking myself lately – is this it? Is there more to this life? I feel most alive when I’m at home with my children – seeing the world through their eyes. Then I look beyond that and see a world in so much pain – atrocities happening every minute – tragedies in faraway lands, so many without so much and I keep asking myself – how can I make a difference? I believe that God has put me here in this place and during this time for a purpose, but I’ve only begun to see glimpses of it. I haven’t put all of the pieces together and that must mean that I am not ready to. But there is one thing that is for sure – I’m starting to squirm a little bit, to stir, to realize that things can’t just stay the same. I’m not sure that means that I get on a plane and go to Africa, although I admire those who do it. It could be as simple as creating the community here that God wants me to create – to serve and love others so that they can begin to know who he is. But where do I begin? What do I need to do? One of my favorite bands of all time, Jars of Clay say it best with a song from their new CD – the song – “Small Rebellions”, the album “The Shelter.” Here is the story behind the song: I don’t claim to know the answers to my questions, yet. But I’ll keep praying and starting to make the small changes that I believe God wants me to make while looking for the big ones that I’m sure are around the bend.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Looking for Green Things When I was a little girl, one of the things I loved most was exploring our yard during the spring and summer. Our house was about 20-25 years old at that point and there was so much vegetation on the perimeter of the yard that there was always something new to discover. Spring was always exciting – buds popping out here, flowers pushing through the earth there. Now that I’m older I’m teaching my kids to look for green things in our yard. Already there are tiny daffodils, hyacinths, tiger lilies, and lily of the valley barely pushing through the dirt. If you look closely at the trees, tiny buds are appearing. Birds are chirping, worms are wiggling, bugs are scurrying. If you look hard enough the earth is coming alive right in front of you. These seasons – I’ve never realized until this year how attached I am to the changes they bring. Winter is my least favorite season, but the beginning of it this past year was cleansing, exciting to me. I can’t say enough about this spring. Being outside tonight with the kids sharing their excitement in finding these green things – Abby’s laugh as she was swinging, Zach going head first down the slide, Kayla searching for worms under rocks – this is what life is all about. So many other parts of my life have turned to drudgery and the last few days I haven’t let this joy, this discovery of what is most important penetrate through the sludge. But today the light finally broke through. This is the year of joy, right? Enter in – JOY – my heart and hands are open.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Still There I saw something 3 months ago – something I will never forget. All of you know about it as I have written about it before. But here we are – there is something about that incident that is still there in my mind, my consciousness. You see, there was a hearing and soon there will be a trial and I know that I will be involved. I was called to the hearing to testify, but I waited and I did not talk, but I could see in the courtroom. I could see the person that did this. And I know I’m a strong person and I would like to think that this does not affect me – this does not rule my life – this does not cast a shadow over me. But the truth is painful to realize… The truth is that this thing affects me more than I care to admit – more than I allow myself to process, to face. The last couple of days have seemed greyer – the rain doesn’t help. Everywhere I see signs of spring – tiny flowers poking up from the ground, geese and ducks making nests, frail buds on trees. I’ve been looking forward to this time for so long. Each season brings a refreshing change to me that invigorates my soul. This is a change that I need so much – that I refuse to let go of – that I refuse to let the darkness of this experience touch. But it is doing that – just a little bit. The first step to healing is admitting the problem, right? So I’m admitting to you, friends. I’m not strong enough alone to get through these things and I ask for your prayers. Deep down I am at peace – I know God is watching over me – his faithfulness I never question. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Lightening Fast This journey of motherhood has changed me in more ways than one. I’m a person that loves structure, routine and predictability. All three of those went out the window when sweet Kayla Beba came along almost 6 years ago. Two more kids later and it continues to be a whirlwind of chaos. These three babes have made me a better person and I’m so grateful. While we’ve established routines and structure along the way as they have grown there is still so much unpredictability on a daily basis – sometimes good – beautiful pictures created or new found skills, sometimes bad – never ending poo. What continually takes my breath away however is the speed at which this life is flying past me. It is a much more dramatic pace now as I watch these wee ones grow, change, and experience this life. I was really good recording their milestones when they were babies and even kept a 1 year guided journal for all three of them. But now that they are older, I’m having a hard time keeping up with everything new and exciting that happens on a daily basis. I’m trying so hard to stop and take mental snapshots of these new things – Abby’s mischievous smile, Zach’s funny comments, Kayla’s dramatic stories. Try as I might, I can’t slow down these experiences – they flash before me lightening fast. I grasp at them in vain and leave with only a tiny glimmer of what they were. And even though it feels like it will never be enough – at least I have that tiny flash of a memory tucked deep into my heart. We laugh and sing and dance together and I feel as though my heart will burst with love for these three. I push away the thoughts of the future and days when they will leave me and focus so hard on living in the now – capturing this joy. There will never be another day like today. I’m so humbled to be in this place…this holy ground where God allows me to feel this overwhelming love for my children. I’m so thankful that I opened my heart to this possibility – to throw caution to the wind and allow them to live and grow in me and close to me.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Sibling Surprises Each child we have had has brought many surprises – things that make us laugh, cry, and just look at each other in wonder. But the most surprising aspect of having more than one child is how they interact as siblings. I am surprised when they hug each other, comfort each other, and find ever new ways to play together. I am in awe of the relationships these little people have with each other and the joy they bring to our home. But I shouldn’t really be surprised – I’m from a large family – there are 5 of us – 2 boys and 3 girls. Our house was always loud and exciting and there was always someone to play with and something to do. I don’t recall watching much TV growing up and I count that as a huge blessing. These other 4 people – we laughed and cried together, built a whole basement full of tents, dug a swimming pool together (if only for a day), rode bikes, went camping and for better or for worse, always had each other. And now here we are – years later – spread across the country and some of us – on the other side of the world. This sibling love goes on – but it is different now – richer, more understanding, easily picking up where we left off and always funny. Twin brother – so far away, but close to my heart – doing the work he was always meant to do…we are both writing, but in such different ways. I knew the day in high school when you left on a trip with a friend that was the beginning of our times apart and I cried. Little brother – my “partner” when we played – always zany and unique and unexpected. So awesome to see the loving dad you are. Little sister – the one I waited for, prayed for as a child – holding your little hands in the car squeezed into the seat belt, playing Barbie’s – everything – “just like Jenny”. What kindred spirits we are – having children the same day. I never knew you wanted to be just like me THAT much! Little bunny – pictures of me holding you – your nose always running - I remember changing your diapers and taking you out of your play pen, silverware families, and lots and lots of beauty pageants watched. You are beautiful inside and out. The four of you – I admit, I take you for granted (and I don’t mean to), but I can’t imagine this life without you. You are truly my best friends. These sibling surprises – these gifts of who you are that God has given me – I’m so grateful for you. I have a dream of a day when we all spend a vacation together by a lake just like when we were younger – sunshine and campfires and time spent together. I believe that day is coming soon. Dream with me. I love you all.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Harsh Light Winter is still holding on around these parts and it isn’t too surprising. In Michigan you can expect to see snow fly anytime between now and in some rare instances the beginning of May. But I’m surprised by the “big snows” we had last week. It seems about this time last year, the thaw started. I may even recall seeing the first robin around the first week in March…but I digress. There are so few sunny days this time of year that when they do come, I stand up and take notice. I’ve found that the sun shines harshly this time of year. It’s a different kind of light then what you see in the summer. Summer’s sunlight is more orange – warmer – not as in how it feels (although the temperature is a factor) but in how it looks. Winter’s sunlight is harsh and pale yellow – almost white. I think it makes me squint harder trying to take it all in – my eyes almost rejecting it. I’ve found that this harsh light shines on days I don’t want it too…sad days when we bury family members, friends, loved ones. Its harsh light – something we would welcome any other time of the year – makes it colder and stark. Instead of shining on us – it shines through us. It’s a different kind of sunlight. But I do not control the weather and the sun and somehow in the middle of those tough times, God must know that we need this light – even as harsh as it is. So I still take notice on these sunny days and try to understand what they mean and take it all in. For my all knowing God who sees the whole picture gave it to me this day and I can be thankful for it – capture that joy – transcend the harshness.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Tearing it Apart I’m often inspired by songs and I can’t get the song Fireflies and Songs by Sara Groves out of my head. What strikes me about the song is the idea of tearing apart a music box to find a song. Of course, in the process of doing so, the music box no longer plays. I feel like lately I’m tearing apart this life…layer by layer getting to what is supposed to be my focus, my center, the most important thing. So much is happening around me – I feel like I’m being swept away – pulled in so many directions. I’m to the point where I feel like if I keep pulling on these layers I will be at a breaking point. Yet somehow my center stays calm – as if I’m watching the chaos from a safe place. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me…I become angry, tired, irritated, I cry too easily, I’m pessimistic. It’s so hard to see past the pieces of this broken life around me. I keep tearing apart the pieces of this life looking for my purpose when God has really only called me to be still and know Him. To take these experiences good, bad, ugly, beautiful, thoughtful, awe-inspiring and to just know Him – experience Him, love Him. Love Him through the eyes of my children – seeing the joy on their faces, becoming part of their creative, no boundaries world. Love Him through the wonder He has given us in this world - I look up at the stars in a crisp cold night and know that He is there. This swirling, whirling world keeps moving so fast and all my efforts to tame it, control it, bluster through it in my anger and pain will never work. Instead I’m staying still – I’m done tearing it apart. I decide today to let the music play.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Love for the Latte
What can I say? I’m in love with my latte. It greets me in the morning – frothy, tasty, and warm in my hand pushing out the cold, slowly waking me up. This love for the latte – I can’t imagine a day without it. However, I’m guessing like most of you, I wasn’t born a coffee drinker.
I started drinking coffee in my teens – I remember my first cup – my Dad handed it over to me and asked, “Do you want anything in it?” It seemed like a test – so I paused…cream seemed safe. Sugar…that didn’t seem quite right… I drank a few sips black…I held back my pucker face. I stirred in the cream. “Better?” he asked and I nodded. Somehow I knew I had to get through that cup. I was definitely not a “regular” yet.
Fast forward to college – I didn’t know it yet, but I was about to experience the holy grail of coffee shops – Water Street Coffee Joint. The original location – across the street from Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo is what all coffee shops should aspire to be. Quirky and quaint in a tiny, old converted gas station near the train tracks, the original building was so small, 2-3 people could barely stand in line to order at the same time. The sunshine logo in yellow and orange with the cobalt blue background and mug were perfect (still is). We were always crammed in and sometimes you could not find a seat – but you waited anyway. Their mocha was the stuff Folgers coffee dreams of being when it grows up and starts wearing makeup and dressing fancy. The fresh cream (lightly flavored with vanilla) alone was enough to make you want suck down that heart racing, rich chocolately dream drink. Jerry did not drink coffee UNTIL he had a Water Street Mocha. He was converted – right then and there.
True story – we went to Chicago during those years and went to Starbuck’s for the first time. We both ordered mochas – mistake number one. What we didn’t know then that we know now is that a Starbuck’s mocha in my opinion is their worst latte drink. We didn’t finish our drinks – it tasted like –*gasp* the fast food of coffee!
Fast forward to now – I’ve been converted to Starbucks. Maybe I have gone backwards on the coffee snob continuum by admitting this fact, but it is all about the love of the latte. Give me sugar free vanilla and breve with that kickin espresso and that first sip is divine – every time. We have duplicated it on our home machine and I have my cobalt blue mug and saucer where I sit and pine away…remembering the days at Water Street. If we lived closer, I would be there…
Enjoy your coffee today, friends.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dear God, The weight of these circumstances threaten to overtake me – another day of missed work due to a sick child, the plans unmade for summer care for Kayla, serious illness threatening a close family member, recent passing of a relative. It has been one thing after another for us and I’m tempted to be wound up, angry, hopeless, thankless. My gratitude journal is missing two days worth of entries. If I don’t capture those things – this thankfulness that leads to joy – I know they will be gone forever, but I just can’t seem to do it today. I’m sorry, God, I’m trying to carry all of these things and I know I’m not supposed to, but I’m at such a loss right now. I’m craving normalcy, but change all at the same time. I don’t know what my future holds, but I know that you do. So I’m sitting over here – praying against this anger, this hopelessness and I know you are listening, but I can’t help but crying out this frustration. I hope you are feeling patient because I’ll be handing you over a bunch of things today. Love, Jenny

Friday, February 18, 2011

It’s Almost Here It’s almost here…warm, windy days, flowers pushing through the earth, robins chirping and yet this glimpse of spring today is something I’m having a hard time accepting. Fifty degrees in mid February is more of a tease than something to be embraced as reality. To those that don’t watch the calendar – today looks every bit like an early March day – wind whipping and wind chime slamming, sunshiny, snow melting day. But I’m just not ready yet. Back in January I said I was looking forward to spring and yet here I am the skeptic – resisting the urge to take a walk, to let the sun shine on my face. Why is this thing called change – even a change that brings hopes and light and fresh breeze so hard to embrace? I feel the breeze blowing through my cracked window and I want to welcome it – let it blow out the funk of this cold, dark, sad winter, but I can’t believe that it is really here or meant for me. Isn’t that how life is? God giving us gifts all over the place – each day – each moment if we would only look and open them up: 113. Endless blue sky 114. Shiny, clean car 115. Snow disappearing miraculously overnight 116. Each day precious with loved ones Change is hard for this set-in-her-ways girl…but even though change is painful – blowing wind must dry the ground – I’m resolving to open my hands and my heart to what these winds bring.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thank You! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Since I have been actively blogging again from January until now - you have visited my blog 1200 times! I'm humbled, awed, floored and over all THANKFUL! I love writing here and sharing with y'all. I would love to hear from you - please post a comment (or three) when you get a chance. It has been a busy day, so I will leave you this musical interlude. See ya soon! MercyMe - Move (click the picture to play the video)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Memories of Grandma
In memory of my Grandma – Donna Rudowske – whose birthday was last week. Grandma went to be with Jesus 5 years ago.
When I think of you Grandma, I see you with all of the rings on your fingers, a knitted purse in your hand and your “ehl-ehl-ehl” car. You are telling a story and looking for ways to teach us girls the more traditional things that girls learned in your day – knitting, crocheting, and sewing. We all tried to be good students, but I never quite learned any one of them very well.
But the treasures you had, the history of those things, the pictures – those are what always piqued my interest. You gave me your hope chest – filled with treasures. I’ve looked through them many times – crisp, white pillow cases with blue birds embroidered on them; a yellowed linen towel with purple flowers, an embroidered pillowcase doll – faded red lips smiling at me. I was looking through these things the other day and found the notes you left me – what they were, where they came from, who made them. How did I not notice them before now? The history of these things spelled out – making them even more sentimental.
You gave me your tiny ring with the “R” on it. It did not fit one of my fingers (or toes), but I kept it anyway. Later I gave it to my sister. You bought me my birthstone ring when I turned 16 – peridot green still gleaming in its tarnished band. You crochet little purses for coins – made purses using so many different materials that we joked that you could make a purse out of anything. I think my love of purses started with those ones you made years ago.

The beautiful crochet rose square blanket you made for me (and identical ones with different thread for my sisters) – how perfect that it matches all of the colors in my craft room. It is draped over my little couch in there – as if you had made it for that space. How did you know?

We weren’t always respectful of you, Grandma and I’m so sorry for that. You always loved us and wanted to show us the things that were important to you. You took us to the flea market where you sold your treasures. You gave me pretty teacups – beautiful pieces that someone had thrown away. We use those for holidays and I think of you.
I miss you Grandma and I’m so happy that I will see you again someday in heaven. I’m sure that when I get there – you will be wearing your rings and holding your newest purse and I can’t wait to see the ones you have made for all of your friends. I love you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

We Celebrate Anyway

The last several weeks have been really trying for our family and extended family. We’ve suffered through illness, untimely death, and other stressful situations. Over this past weekend, I felt as if I were at my breaking point, but I found that keeping up with my thankfulness journal really helped me keep perspective on everything.

Today on Valentine’s Day, I’m reminded of the most important things to celebrate – love, family, and the decision to celebrate.

We celebrate by giving each other cards, candy, hearts, flowers, and small gifts. But it is not the gifts that matter – it’s the people giving those gifts that we hold near to our hearts. If I chose to look at the circumstances around me, there would be no reason to celebrate – I could easily be depressed or exhausted, or just look for the simplest way to get through the day. But instead we celebrate anyway – in the midst of the pain, fear, illness, waiting, and sorrow. We choose to take a different path – to choose joy in the simple act of giving paper hearts, homemade cards, and cookies.

I wear a cross around my neck occasionally. It took me a long time to decide if I wanted to wear one because I didn’t want to dishonor what it stood for or disrespect Jesus’ sacrifice by my bad behavior while wearing it. The cross – the symbol of ultimate suffering during Jesus’ time becomes a symbol of our salvation – a treasured and honored reminder of new life from horrible suffering and death. We choose to make this awful thing represent eternal life.

Ultimately I believe we have made it through these last several weeks by choosing to believe and have hope that this is not the way it should be, has to be or will be forever. We don’t always get it right, but I believe that God if faithful. He has shown his face to us during this trying time.

We choose to celebrate anyway and welcome the joy of this love He has given us.