Saturday, June 25, 2011

On Our Way

The moving truck drove up yesterday ready to load all our furniture and boxes into its massive belly. The move is underway. We will be living in hotels until our stuff arrives, hopefully on Tuesday. That amounts to a lot of family time. :)

So much family time that as I was attempting to write about something that happened yesterday, I had to stop and go out to the car again because the stuffed animals' bag was in the van. My boys are really attached to their stuffed animals, each has at least two that must travel with them at all times. And they have all seen Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 too many times to leave these special lovies in the van all night. One of the stuffed animals is missing since the last hotel. I was gone when the boys packed up so I don't know if it was left behind or in the van. We have a call into the hotel from last night and will also tear the van apart tomorrow to try to find it. Thankfully the lost Orangey belongs to the Middle Man who is the least attached to his stuffed animals.

Once everyone had their stuffed orcas, snowmen, and other fluffy creatures, we had to rearrange sleeping positions because "he's touching me" was said one too many times. My husband and I now have to sit quietly in our bed hoping the kids will go to sleep soon so we can maybe watch a little tv. I would read except my iPad is being charged right now because it ran out of batteries while someone, not me, was playing NHL hockey on it. I could read it while it is charging except the plug is not close enough to the bed.

So I guess all that to say that I think any blog post involving coherent thoughts and organized ideas may have to wait until after we are in our house.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A List of Names

This is our last week in the Pacific Northwest. Our last week in our home that we love. One last week of goodbyes. Last times.

It is in the midst of these goodbyes that my list of one thousand gifts, my list of gratitude, is starting to fill with names. Names of the people I love. The girls I will miss dearly. The moms and kids we will no longer see at the park or share an afternoon with. Our babysitter. My small group leaders. The kid's teachers. Name after name filling my list.
  • A friend who listens
  • Words of affirmation, confirming something that I was secretly thinking, spoken by a friend
  • A teacher who sees Middle Man as special and unique
  • Authenticity shown in the life of my friend
  • My wise friends who I learn from in ways they would never expect
  • Hockey Boy spending one last day at his buddy's house because it is the one thing he wants to do before we move
  • A friend who always has a smile to share
  • The woman who is a dose of sunshine on a grey day
  • A brother and sister in law who I can trust
  • The Sunday School teacher who keeps teaching the kindergartners year after year with such love
  • Our babysitter who knows my kids so well and who we trust so much we can really relax when we are away 
  • A group of girls who get me out of my house and remind me of who I am as me, as Jen
  • Friends I met when our first babies were born, who shared the struggles of new motherhood with me and who now we can enjoy a nice evening out without the kids. We have come so far in these last 8 plus years.
  • Her...
  • And Her...
  • And Her...
The list goes on and on in my head. So many instances when I was one of these names touched my life and was a little gift from God in that moment. I have been so incredibly blessed by the amazing people in our little piece of suburbia. My kids have been cherished and valued. I have been encouraged and loved. I have laughed out loud more and shared deep hurts. I have learned to receive and even give hugs. I have found women I love deeply and cannot imagine my life without.

My list if full of names. Names of the people that God put into my life. Each one a gift that keeps giving every time I spend time with one of these names. It is easy for me to add to my list of gifts when I think of the people in my life. Name after name floats through my head. Memories that bring such incredible joy to me.

What names are on your list today? Who has blessed your day, your week, your year?

I am counting my gifts as part of Ann Voskamp's Multitudes on Monday community. If you have not read her book "One Thousand Gifts" yet, you really should. It has really made me think. It is book that I feel compelled to share. You can also read more of her words and the words of other list makers at her blog - A Holy Experience.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Perfectionism Relapse

I have been thinking a lot about why I feel the need to edit and revise my conversations after they are done and gone. When I wrote my last post I thought that was it. I had written it down and processed it all, or so I thought. But then my mind kept wandering to why. Why do I feel the need to edit. Why do I want to change and fix my words. I thought it was a desire to communicate clearly and not hurt feelings, but I am beginning to think that my perfectionism has reared its ugly head in a new place. I think I just want my words, my conversation, to be perfect. I want to say the right thing. I want to be perfect.

I have always wanted to be perfect. It started at a young age when a very caring mom of a friend made a comment about my mom being sick and not being able to be there for me. I didn't want anyone to think my mom or my life was less. I didn't want anyone to judge my mom, even though now I can see that the friend's mom was absolutely right. So as a young girl, I started to want to do things right, to things perfectly. I wanted straight As. I wanted to do things right. I wanted to be perfect so no one could say we were less.

But as I grew up, as I started to see the tole that perfectionism was taking on my soul and my body, I realized it was not a worthwhile goal. Not only because perfectionism is unattainable but because it puts the focus on me and what I am doing. Me attempting to accomplish the impossible hurt not only me but left me unavailable to the people around me. And so I gave up trying to be perfect. I no longer worry about looking perfect or having the perfectly clean house. I no longer need to be the best in the room and can actually enjoy other people's successes. I don't need to hold my kids to outrageous standards of perfect kids as a reflection of my own perfection.

I am a recovering perfectionist.

Until I relapse. Until I start worrying about saying the right thing. Until I start reliving the imperfect moments in my life and conversations.

And again I realize that this drive for perfectionism takes me out of the conversation. It makes it hard listen and be in the moment when all I want to do is edit it.

Again I need grace. Thankfully, God is full of grace.

Where in your life are you trying to be perfect?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Revising My Words

Words are important to me. Words have so much power. Words are beauty and meaning.

When I read a book, I care very little about the description of the location, the look of the characters, or the action taking place between the words. What I want to read is the dialogue. The words spoken as well as the inner dialogue of the characters. The thoughts that eventually, or maybe never, are spoken.

I walk away from conversations, good conversations, and start to revise what I said in my mind as I drive away. I spend so many minutes and hours as I lay in bed, rephrasing and editing what I said.

When I have been in a battle of words, I want a second chance to speak more clearly, to make my point. I want to find resolution in the words and in the spaces in between the words. I understand why I want to revise those words.

But what still surprises me is my response even when the conversation goes well, when I am out to dinner with a good friend or sitting on the couch talking over coffee. I will still often rework the conversation later in my head.

Dialogue playing out. Topics changed, less harsh thoughts, more grace filled words, more encouragement.

I want a do-over. A chance to explain what I really meant. So I spend time having the conversation again in my head. And I begin to feel a little less. A little less right. A little less of a good friend. A little less...

I start to feel insecure.

Does that person still like me after what I said? 
I am a horrible listener.
Why did I say that? 

I don't know why I feel the need to rehash a nice conversation. I don't know why I end up assuming that I hurt the other person either with my words or my lack of asking about something I "should" have remembered to ask about. I don't know why I end up walking away feeling bad about a conversation that felt really good, really authentic and really fun at the time.

I know I should not lose sleep over these conversations and I am trying not to. But I have found that through revisiting my words and the dialogue, I slowly figure out how to listen better and how to communicate more effectively.

Do you have rehash conversations in your head? What conversations do you find yourself most reliving?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Writing It Down

I missed last week's Multitudes on Monday. I missed joining the community at

I was still counting my blessings, listing my one thousand gifts but all in my head. I did not write them all down. And while I experienced the immediate joy in the listing, I have forgotten a few of the gifts already. I have lost a few along the way of life. That is sad. It is sad both how quickly I forget the gifts in my days and how willing I am to skip part of the process. Life is in the process, it is in the journey and if you don't write down the road markers you often get lost. I think that is what happens when I skip writing. I get lost. So here are a few of the things on my list of gifts:

  • Sunny day on the patio looking out over the countryside
  • The warmth of the sun
  • A circle of friends
  • Laughter
  • Communion as a body of believers
  • The iBook app so I can start reading NOW
  • Amazingly patient and loving preschool teachers
  • Graduations
  • Red Velvet Cake
  • Knowing you are done
  • House showings - hope
  • Doctor's offices willing to make it work on short notice
  • Trampolines and tired out kids
  • Good potato salad
  • Saturday evening barbecues, water squirters and a pack of kids running in the grass
I really do believe that living in a place of gratitude does bring more joy to my life. It focuses me on the good, good things that happen every day in my life. I really should add Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts" to my list every week. Because I love it so. Not only because it is such a great book, but it is a great book to give away. It has made end of the year gifts both more personal and easier this year. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

When God Ran

I grew up in a Christian home. I was taken to church my entire childhood. I prayed the prayer when I was four after hearing about asking Jesus to live in your heart at Sunday school. I went to Awanas, memorized verses and went to church camp. I have always believed in the words of the Bible, in the saving grace of Jesus.

It was in junior high though that I started to really understand that this whole church thing, this whole God thing was not just a set of religious beliefs. It was in junior high that I started to understand that God truly loved me. Not just as part of the whole church but me as an individual. And part of this came from hearing the song, "When God Ran" for the first time. A friend recently posted this video on her Facebook page. This song is part of my testimony.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Community - Finding it in Unexpected Places

I live in a smallish suburb. Not too small where everyone knows everyone's name but small enough that you run into the same people lots of places in town. I often find one of my kids tugging on my hand after church or at the library saying, "let's go" or Little One's favorite, "you're talking forever." When you first move to a new town, everyone is a stranger. But the more you frequent the same spots, the more you get to know people at preschool drop off or the library story time, you slowly begin to build community in unexpected places. Here are a few of my favorite unexpected favorite places...

Starbucks is the obvious first choice for me. I like to go to the same Starbucks every time. You know you are finally a regular when they know your drink order before you say a word. My Starbucks knows me well enough that I have had friends go in and order my drink and the barista will ask if that is for Jen? I have to say that I think my Starbucks has the best baristas (though in all honesty I will probably think that about our new Starbucks in California as soon as they know my drink.) I also run into so many people in the Starbucks line and love the opportunity to chat for a bit while waiting for our coffees.

The grocery store is another great place to see people. The joke at our house is if we are in a hurry send my husband because if I go to the store it might take a while depending on how many people I run into that I know. Who knew Safeway was such a great place to catch up? Even if I do not see anyone I know from outside of Safeway, I have slowly gotten to know a couple of the checkers. Okay I don't really KNOW them but I can tell if they are having a good day or need an extra smile from me.

The YMCA is another great place to build community. Mind you it is a community of people with headphones in their ears, reading magazines while running or elipticalling next to one another. Occasionally I will run into a friend at the Y. This last set of swim lessons for the kids I got to enjoy reconnecting with someone I knew from a mom's group years ago. But most of my community is faces I see but people I never speak to. If you go at the same time often enough you start to know the rhythms of the the people around you. The people I see each time I go and wonder if they are okay if I have not seen them for a while.

Maybe it helps that I am a creature of habit. We go through the McDonalds drive thru most Tuesday evenings for the $1.25 Happy Meals. (Before you judge we get apple dippers in at least one of the bags and everyone gets milk.) So I should not be surprised when the lady working the drive thru recognizes me and smiles. She also knows to double check that the hamburgers are plain and to give me straws for the milk which is an added bonus being a regular.

This is part of the community I will miss when we move.

What unexpected place have you found community?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Think I Might Be Stressed

This weekend I was out with friends and dropped my phone, yet again. "I think I might be stressed" I mentioned. They all seemed to agree that yes I was stressed. I guess it is to be expected. We are moving in less than three weeks. But I haven't really thought of it as being a stressful move. We move a lot. This will be our 11th move in 14 years of marriage. I am good at moving, especially the kind of move that involves professional packers and hotels while the moving van is being loaded and unloaded by someone else.

Things have all lined up perfectly. So I didn't think I was stressed. But then I kept dropping my cell phone. I forgot things I would normally remember. I am able to fall asleep but often wake up in the middle of the night or early the next morning and cannot go back to sleep. And then yesterday I went to grab the ketchup out of the refrigerator for Little One's corn dog but ended up grabbing the milk instead and pouring that on the plate.

So yes, I guess I am stressed. It is frustrating to have my body betraying a stress I don't intellectually feel. But my body feels it. I guess it is part of the process, part of the letting go and moving on process. Sort of like by the time you get to the 9th month of pregnancy you are willing to endure anything to get that baby out. The stress of moving is causing part of me to want to get this show on the road. Because as much as I do not want to say goodbye, I am really looking forward to the first morning I am sleeping in my own bed in our new house. When I can finally sleep. When I am not trying to squeeze in one more play date, one more dinner, one more hour, one more minute with dear friends.

I am not ready to say goodbye, yet. I just might need a little extra grace from those around me in the next two weeks. And possibly a new cell phone.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Saying the women of Bible study

Yesterday I started the goodbye process, saying goodbye to the women at Bible study. I wanted to share a few things with them about how much they have meant to me and what I have learned by studying the Bible together.

I wanted to tell them that God really does care about the little things in our lives. A few years ago a group of us were studying the essentials of the faith. Our discussion that week was about how involved is God in our day to day lives? If we find a front row parking spot at Starbucks is that God? Or is He really more involved in the big decisions, the life changing decisions of our lives. This discussion came back to me later that week when I was sitting in the ICU waiting room at the hospital, watching the husband of one of these women grieving the loss of his daughter while trying to help his wife fight for her life. In that moment, in that waiting room, I knew deep inside me that God does care about the little things. He is involved in the day to day. Because it is the little things, the day to day that changes lives. My friend was driving to the library. No big decision, just a simple trip that rocked the world around them forever.

I also wanted to share with them the lesson I am slowly learning about the importance of inquiring of God. My small group is reading through the Bible this year and we are in the story of David, a story we should know well by now since we did a Bible study on David last year. What struck me with this reading of his story is how often the Bible says, David inquired of God. And when he did, things went right. David might still be hiding in caves, but God was there and his heart was right. But as he became successful, we don't see that phrase as often. What we see instead is David inquiring of his advisors, or inquiring of no one and taking what he wants. We see him fall into sin. Inquiring of God has been a theme this year for me through these studies and also the study of prayer I did to teach last fall. It took a few different studies to really start to sink in but it is.

But mostly I wanted to tell the women in the room, how much they meant to me. How much I have learned from not only what they have shared in our small groups but from their kindness and grace towards me and the women around them. These are amazing women. Women who want to know God's word better. Women that want to love one another, even when we don't always agree. Women who want to be connected to one another in a deeper way.

I don't know if they know how much it meant to me to be able to teach the group the few times I had a chance. I loved the opportunity to study and read, to write and teach. I loved seeing them nod or smile as they connected to what I was saying. They encouraged me in my teaching. They gave me a small sense of purpose which for this young mom who spent my days with small children was life changing.

I have grown immensely over the last 8 years and this group is part of the reason. How far have I come? At the end, one woman who was in my first small group came up to me. She told me she remembers the very first words I said at Bible study so many years ago, words that I remembered when she said them but now feel so distant. I had said I have a hard time with women. Oh, how I remember the past pain of being disconnected, of having been brushed aside. These women changed that in me. These women showed me love, encouragement and grace. They challenged me to grow but always from a place of love. These women laugh together. They pray together. They find joy in one another.

I am hopeful that my tears of gratitude as I said thank you will give them a small understanding of what they mean to me. They have known me and know I am not one to cry easily. But saying goodbye to these women was so much harder than I imagined. Just writing this brings fresh tears to my eyes. God has blessed me so very, very much with this group of women. My small groups have changed over the years. I have gotten to know so many amazing women with each new small group and each new leaders. God has blessed me with these women in countless ways.

Thank you so much ladies! Wednesday mornings has been my resting place in my week.