Friday, July 29, 2011

Being Known

Hockey Boy has been waiting for the baristas at Starbucks to "know" my drink. I guess he thinks it is as cool as I do when someone knows your drink as soon as you walk in the door. Especially since I have a complicated drink order. If it is not too hot, I order a single, grande, hazelnut, nonfat, no whip, mocha. Ordered in the correct Starbucks-ese because I have been trained properly. Right now though it is too hot to drink a hot drink so I am trying different iced concoctions. I am not as loyal to my drink in the summer. I guess the sun brings out the adventurous spirit in me.

Unfortunately, none of the baristas have learned my drink order yet. I cannot blame them. I live in a triangle of Starbucks and depending where I am going, I will visit different ones every day. Also, I am really enjoying sleeping in and being lazy these last few weeks and just making coffee at home. So I am still not known. I am still anonymous. And Hockey Boy is a bit disappointed by this. Someday, when school is back in session, I am sure I will develop a routine Starbucks, a place to grab coffee after dropping the boys off at school. I may even get to know the baristas names and recognize a few familiar coffee drinkers in line.

But the anonymity, the not being known, is okay for now. Because while I may not be known and the stores may look different, Starbucks still feels like my place. I read an article about Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, recently and he said, “We’re not in the coffee business.  It’s what we sell as a product but we’re in the people business—hiring hundreds of employees  a week, serving sixty million customers a week, it’s all human connection...”

I love the distinction. "We're not in the coffee business." I am not in the laundry, carpooling, homework helping, dinner cooking, time out giving business. I am in the people business. I am building a relationships with my kids. I am helping them to be known. Known personally, in a busy, hectic, over crowded world.

I know my kids' drink orders. I know them. And I don't ever want to lose that. In a world full of anonymity, my kids are known.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My Story - Swimming Pools, Broken Legs and Birthday Dirges

As always My Story is from my point of view. You can read my disclaimer here.

My earliest memories, my own memories and not mirages made up of the stories of my family, are set in Simi Valley, California. Simi Valley was once a set apart suburb of Los Angeles, a town that required driving a freeway that was surrounded by grassy hills to get into Hollywood where my father worked as an engineer for a tv station. Simi Valley was not only home to my family but also Big Sky Ranch where Laura, Mary and the Ingalls family filmed Little House on the Prairie, my favorite television show. 

My early memories are full of kids. There was always someone to play with. Sometimes it was the neighbors, often it was one of the many foster kids that lived with our family over the years. Once my parents settled down in Simi Valley and my dad had his job in Hollywood, they began to take in foster kids. First one teenage girl. At some point a family of three kids. My parents taught us that God commands his people to take care of the widows and orphans. They took that teaching seriously and literally as they opened our home, our rooms, our lives to abused or neglected children who needed a safe place to live. I don't know how many kids my parents took care of over the years but I know it is too many for me to remember. A few names and faces stick in my mind. Philip and Molly, Stephen and Michael, James. It is sad that I don't remember more of them because when they were in our home they were my siblings. 

In my preschool years, I felt like I had an idyllic childhood. We did things together as a family, as one big family. I remember drives to my Aunt and Uncle's house in northern California. I remember stopping at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco for ice cream on the long drive north. I remember camping in a tent in their yard one summer. Playing in tree houses and visiting the beach. I remember a free flowing of kids, animals and grown ups enjoying open summer days. I loved being with my cousins. 

I have good memories of playing with my neighbor friend Tony, swimming in his pool and running on the grass in our front yards. Days were spent playing and being together. I think I was with Tony, running through the kitchen, when I fell down with a spoon in my mouth. Blood poured everywhere and I was rushed to the emergency room. Thankfully I was fine, no stitches needed, but I can still feel the dent in the top of my mouth with my tongue. You would think I would have learned my lesson but just yesterday I was walking around Costco with a spork in my mouth. 

I also remember something really bad. I was four and I did not know what had happened but I was sent to my parents room where I sat on their bed waiting for someone to come tell me. It was evening and then night time. Eventually someone came to tell me my brother had been hit by a car. He was 8, I think. He and Philip were going somewhere together. That was back when you could let kids go to the corner market for an ice cream sandwich. My brother decided to run across the street and ended up in the hospital for almost two months with a broken leg, traction and eventually a body cast at home for a few months more. I remember visiting him in the hospital, my mom having to sneak me in because kids were not allowed to visit. Or maybe we just had missed visiting hours. More often I remember standing in the courtyard visiting him through his window. I adored my older brother and missed him dearly when he was away. He recovered and went on to be quite a successful high school soccer player and eventually a PE teacher so I guess his leg turned out just fine. He also is the main reason my boys are really good about not running into the street. Because whenever they get too comfortable around cars, I remind them of their Uncle who got hit by the car. Suddenly little boys are walking a little closer to mommy and checking a few extra times for cars. 

One final memory I wanted to share because I was reminded of it this week when my father left a singing voicemail for my birthday. At our house, birthday cakes were always accompanied by candles and the singing of not one but two birthday songs. The first was the traditional "Happy Birthday to You" but the second was a unique family tradition. As soon as everyone finished the first song my family would break out with our own birthday dirge, a sadly sung deep voiced song.
Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday. Death, misery and despair. People dying everywhere. Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday.
It is a disturbing song. My husband was not able to get on board with our family continuing the tradition once the kids were born. But for me, it brings a smile to my face every time I hear that song.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

In Christ Alone

It has been interesting looking back at my life, at My Story, and I am realizing that the series is probably getting longer by the blog post. So I am going to keep writing those but think I will try to post those once a week, hopefully on Wednesdays, so that I can still have space to write the random things that come to mind. So on Wednesday I will write about my early memories, including the story of my brother being hit by a car.

Nice tease there. :)

Today though I wanted to take a minute to remind my dear friends, my fellow Christians, that you are loved, that you are forgiven and that you are forever more children of God. 

I write this because I have been hearing more and more people sharing their very real pain over not feeling worthy of God's love. I don't know where this lie comes from, actually I do. I know it comes from the depths of hell to keep God's children in the dark. To force them to live lives that are less than. Because when we become focused on past sins, past decisions that were disobedient and rebellious, when we define our lives by what we have done in the past and who we were, we miss out on the true gift of being saved. The gift of being defined simply as a child of God, redeemed and reborn. And then living in this freedom gained by grace. 

There is scripture after scripture that points to God's forgiveness and love. There are countless scriptures that remind us we are not a compilation of our decisions but that we are simply defined by the act of Christ on the cross. 
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus …” Romans 8:1 
“Come now and let us reason together,” says the Lord, 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.'"  Isaiah 1:18 
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
We know these verses. We have read of God's forgiveness throughout the old and new testaments. And yet, so many cannot really believe these words deeply. I am slowly realizing that my confidence in Christ's work in my life, my confidence in being His child, new and worthy, is a gift that God gave me. I don't know why He did, but I have never doubted God's love for me. I have certainly doubted my value in the world's eyes. But not in God's eyes. Even when I mess up, when I stray away, I know He loves me and holds me close. I know my Father loves me no matter what I have done in my life. 

And I want that so desperately for my friends. I want them to walk in confidence as God's children, deeply loved and forever forgiven. I want my friends to see themselves as God sees them, white as snow through faith in the cleansing work of Jesus. I want my friends to let go of the haunting parts of their pasts. So many hold on to things they have repented, continuing to seek forgiveness when it was already given. They are weighed down by guilt and self flagellation. Unnecessary and so incredibly destructive. No matter what they do, there is still this part of them that holds onto who they were, what they did. It is a sad place to live. 

I heard this song yesterday morning in church and the words were clear. 
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt of life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me

In Christ Alone - Lyrics

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt of life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Story - Baby Me

As always My Story is from my point of view. You can read my disclaimer here.


It was 38 years ago this weekend that I was born. At least I think it is 38. I seem to be forgetting how old I am a lot lately and then have to do the math when someone asks. 20?? - 1973 is not easy math. It involves borrowing numbers. 

So 38 years ago this weekend, my mom was anxiously awaiting my arrival. I was already three weeks late. At one point in the pregnancy, I guess I thought I would try to come out early. The doctors were not keen on that and after some medication and rest, I decided to stay put for the duration of my mom's pregnancy. Maybe I was so offended by not being let out early that I decided to make them wait instead. 

My mom had spent the day walking around the zoo with my older brother and family friends. She was really tired by the end of the day so when she woke up feeling like she had to go to the bathroom she did not recognize those as labor pains. (Funny enough with my second son, I also kept getting up to use the bathroom every 10 - 15 minutes all night long unaware that those were labor pains. It took my water breaking to get me out the door.) Thankfully my mom's friend was more aware and took her to the hospital where I was born. All 6 pounds 10 ounces of me. At three weeks late. I am thinking the math might have been off on that one because my brother was 9+ pounds. Little babies do not run in our family as I found out with my boys. 

My dad was not there. He was at a conference, a plane ride away. I was already 3 weeks late and my mother insisted that he go on the trip because I didn't seem to be planning on making my entrance any time soon. So my dad went. It turns out it was not a big deal because back in those days, the dark ages, dads were not in the delivery room anyway. My dad instead saw a note tacked to a bulletin board at the conference letting him know his baby girl had been born. 

All I know from my early years are the stories I have been told and the pictures I have seen. I remember seeing a picture of my brother feeding me a bottle while I am in a bassinet or infant seat of some kind. It is not the usual picture of the big brother holding his baby sister in his arms all precious even though you know there is an adult standing off to the side all nervous that the big sibling might drop the baby. 

I am not sure what my brother thought of me. He was almost 4 when I was born. Old enough to know that there is a new center of attention in the house, at least for a while. Old enough to know that the baby is fragile and makes weird sounds. One morning I was crying and my older brother did what he saw my mother do countless times when I was crying. He picked me up and put me on the changing table. He then went back to watch cartoons. I, of course, fell off the changing table. Thankfully I turned out to be somewhat bright and literate or this story would not seem funny. At least it seemed funny until I started having babies. 

Now when I look back at that story, I wonder where my parents were that my brother had enough time to hear me cry and be bothered enough to respond. He was watching cartoons so I can only imagine he was not jumping up quickly to deal with the baby crying. I don't know if he tried to get one of our parents first or if he just thought that he could solve the problem just like Mommy did. I do know that times were different and that my generation of moms have been trained to be uber-safety conscious. Also I know I was not the first or last baby to fall off a changing table. 

As I started having babies more details came out about how my parents managed the stresses of having a new baby around. I was mentioning something about having a hard time sleeping with the baby monitor next to my bed because I heard every noise and turn Hockey Boy made. My mom mentioned something about putting one of us kids, not sure which, in the basement so my dad could sleep. 

It is interesting what we choose to tell kids about their birth stories and about them as infants. I have been fascinated hearing the stories my mom told change as I became a new mom. The words of advice and attempts at comfort brought out stories that surprised me but also explained a lot of my childhood family's dynamics.

When Middle Man came along, my mom was trying to help me navigate the whole sibling thing. She joked about telling my older brother, who was 4 mind you, that babies can be annoying. Like they were in it together against this annoying baby who cried and fussed and got in the way. She would then get up and play with me in the middle of the night so my older brother wouldn't get jealous. I have always thought of myself as annoying to my big brother. I have always felt like I needed to take whatever attention and time he gave me and then leave him alone and not be a pest. I have always felt like he really doesn't want to be with me but thinks I am annoying. Turns out those were not his words. 

I don't want my kids to see each other as competition for my attention. I want them to know they are all wonderful parts of our family and that we are all better because of each other. When Middle Man came along Hockey Boy was only 15 months old. He was pretty unphased by the whole new baby thing. But when Little One came along both the boys were not sure they wanted to share my time with this new baby. Instead of hiding my love for the new baby, we took some time to show the older boys pictures and videos of me cuddling and feeding each of them. We talked about how we took care of each of them in the exact same way. Babies may need extra attention but each of them had their turn as the baby. 

I don't think I have any memories of my own until I was 3 or 4 and living in southern California. I have heard the story of leaving the east coast on my 1st birthday, heading west. We lived in Denver at one point, Fresno and I think a stint in San Diego where all my grandparents lived before finally settling down for a bit in Simi Valley, California. That is where my first memories take place. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Story - The Young Newlyweds

My story really starts with my parents. It actually goes back farther to an abusive maternal grandfather and a maternal grandmother who committed suicide with pills and alcohol when my mother was 15. It also goes back to my father's family, a paternal grandmother who suffered with multiple sclerosis and was absent both physically and emotionally a lot of the time my dad was growing up. He did have an amazing step-father who stepped into the picture when my biological paternal grandfather left his family around the time my dad was born. The story goes something along the lines of my dad hopefully bringing the family together but instead it tore apart.

Pain ran deep in both my parent's lives. They both were frantically searching for something better, someone to love them. They were grasping at straws trying to create the life they dreamed was out there. And at 16 and 18 years old they married.

When we were young the story was about falling in love when my dad saw my mom after a Bye Bye Birdie musical rehearsal at her high school. She was 15. He a few years older. Ahhh, young love. Later, as I got older, the story got murkier. A southern Baptist boy who knew better, trying to both convert this young girl and also sleep with her. He succeeded in both. As I got even older the story of my paternal grandfather forcing an abortion and heaving threats of statutory rape if they did not get married were told to me. The story of young love getting darker and darker. The start of our family being built out of weak wood and bent nails.

They married in June, right after my mom graduated early from high school. They then moved all the way across the country for a fresh start, a new life away from the familial heartache in San Diego. 18 months later my older brother was born. They started a successful business. Served in youth ministries. Made deep friendships with other young Christian families and almost four years after my older brother was born, they had me.

That though is another story.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Story - The Disclaimer

I have been thinking a lot lately about taking some time and some blog posts to tell my story, more accurately my history. I have struggled with whether I should write my story. Whether I needed to.  And if I choose to write my story, how much am I supposed to share when other people are involved and not in a good way.

I spent a lot of my life telling everyone who would listen how dysfunctional my family was and how hard it was to grow up with a mentally ill mother. I then spent years not wanting her story, my childhood family's story to define me so I stopped telling the stories.

But it's a funny thing beginnings, they keep creeping into the middle of the story of my life. Sometimes my childhood comes up as I process my parents getting a divorce this summer. Sometimes it comes up when I share how God has worked in my life. Sometimes it is a random comment I make or a shared experience with someone who also is dealing with a mentally ill family member. And as I look back over the last few years I see blog posts that have told bits and pieces of my family's story. Usually though these posts were responses to what was going on in my life, not an intentional examining of how I got to where I am.

But I am beginning to think it might be time for me to share my story. If only for myself. If only to have some record, some history of my childhood which is slowly disappearing from my memories the more I heal. Not just the down and dirty but also all those moments where God showed up. Because that is really the point. The point is not to write down a list of all the awful things that happened, mostly because it is not my intention to gossip or slander but also because my list of woes is not really all that impressive. The story is not in the pain but in the redeeming of the pain.

I remember watching the Oprah interview with James Frey this year. He is the author of "Million Little Pieces" which was released as a memoir but contained stories and characters that Frey made up. He was called out by Oprah on her show 5 years ago for writing lies. In the interview this year, five years after the original scandal, he apologized but said something that stuck with me. He said, "I'm more influenced by artists than writers. Let's say you look at a cubist self-portrait. It doesn't look anything like Picasso. So when I was writing the book I was thinking of it like that." This struck me. This idea that a self portrait may not look anything like a photograph of the person, but it is still a self portrait. It is how the artist sees himself using the tools and style of painting he prefers.

I think that my story is a lot like that. I know my side, my memories, my feelings but they may not accurately represent the truth. My story is how I experience what happens, how I process that experience, what parts I keep in my memories, what parts I leave out and what parts I never saw even if they were there. The words I don't remember being spoken or the words I heard but were never spoken. Memories have a habit of changing the story over time. Sometimes our memories make the good times even more beautiful and the hard times more sinister. Or in my case, I often diminish my experiences of pain, explaining the real hurts away.

So I am going to take some time over the next few months to write down MY stories, my history. Some of these stories will include my family. I am sure my family will remember some things differently. I'm sure they have held onto different parts of our shared lives that I don't remember. But that is the thing about a self portrait. I can only tell the story how I experienced it.

This is my disclaimer.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Last Sunday our pastor was set to preach on forgiveness. But instead, he showed a video that someone passed on to him from CBS News. It is the story of a woman who has truly walked the hard road of forgiveness. You can see the story here. Go on over and watch it if you have not heard the story of Mary and Oshea. It is worth your time.

After showing the clip in church, Mary and Oshea came out and shared more of their story with the congregation. What stuck out to me from their talk was that forgiveness did not come easy for Mary. It was a hard process, a long process. It took work on her part, years of prayer and seeking God's heart for Oshea. And while Mary's forgiveness had nothing really to do with Oshea, she forgave him before she ever knew him personally, it was in Oshea's receiving that forgiveness that the miracle grew. Together they have taught the world something vitally important. Together they have shown the power of Christ's forgiveness and love for His children, no matter what.

Hearing Mary talk about forgiveness I began to think about the long road of forgiveness I have been walking. Some hurts, I have been able to forgive quickly. I don't know why. Maybe because the offense didn't feel directed at me even though it was the spark that started the kindling that was my childhood family on fire. Our family was already brittle and weak, easy to catch flame. We had been drifting apart, unable to really enjoy being in the same room all together. There was drama and competition, rage and manipulation. Life with my childhood family was centered around one person. Her mood, her reaction, her opinions and thoughts were the center of our familial universe. One person at the center was not healthy. And so the spark was easier for me to forgive and move on. I understood it, I think, even though I cannot condone the actions my father took to light the match.

Sometimes it is easier to forgive the big sins. I don't know why. I think partly because my mind cannot really manage the pain and partly because God's grace shows up bigger in those deep pains. I know my quick forgiveness has hurt and probably surprised others. Especially since I seem to be having a much harder time forgiving the events, actions, and words at the center of our family that made us brittle and weak. I am still in process with my mother. I am able to say the words, I choose to forgive, as Mary said on Sunday morning. I am able to choose the words but my heart is still not there. My heart is still not ready to live next door to her. I am still on the road. But I really am not sure I want to take any more steps. I am not sure I really want to walk any further down this road. I am just not there yet. I am hopeful though after listening to Mary tell her story that someday my heart will catch up with my head.

Hopeful and yet reserved. Because life is complicated and I am not sure what would have happened with Mary's story if Oshea had not said yes to meeting her, yes to moving to her community, yes to making a better life for himself.

During the church service we sang a song I had never heard before. Today I heard it again on the radio. It is hauntingly beautiful to me and I wanted to share it with you. This is the group Gungor singing their song "Beautiful Things".

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

Friday, July 15, 2011

What Is He Really Saying?

We are almost done unpacking. There is one box in the garage and one labeled mantle items. This would be the box full of all the little knick knacks and picture frames that once lived on our mantle and other shelves in our living room. Little trinkets we picked up along our travels before we had kids. There are a few framed baby and school pictures I need to pull out but I think we will leave the rest in the box this time. I love the memories but I felt so much better when we cleaned out all the clutter and personal items when we were getting our house ready to show for sale. I love the little touches in other people's houses but in my own it turns out I prefer the less is more motto. All this to say we are down to finishing touches of moving in, the picture hanging, basket placing, finding the perfect spot to hang backpacks phase of the move.

In our house, my husband is the picture hanger. He is meticulous and hanging pictures involves a measuring tape, picture nails and level. He takes it seriously. So I felt like he had things under control. And then I came in and found this:

First thing you need to know is that this is a series of four pictures, all taken of the exact same location in Portland but at four different times of the year to represent the four season. These pictures are completely uniform except for the season, the falling leaves or snow covered ground is the only difference.

The second thing you should know is I like things lined up, symmetrical and balanced. I like things neat and uniform. I like clean lines and edges. And when you have four pictures in a series, I obviously want these to line up, to form a square. I want the eye to be drawn to the pictures, beautiful photographs we bought at the Saturday Market.

I appreciate my husband's efforts. I don't want to be the wife that nags and makes lists and then redoes all the hard work he does around the house. Usually I just let things go, but this was too much for me. So I asked him to fix it. Turns out he thinks the pictures look just fine like that.

But I am not sure I can live with these pictures as they are. I am anxious sitting here looking at them on the wall in front of me. I try to hide my obsessive side. I try to let go of having to have things perfect. And truthfully most of the time I don't care. Except with things that are permanent, things that I am going to pass dozens of times every single day, my need for order comes raging out.

Beyond the discord it creates in the space, I am seriously left to ask, "How can my husband do this to me? Does he not know me at all?" We have been married for 14 years. We have hung pictures on walls 11 times. We have laid the pictures out on the floor, mapped them out on paper, hung and rehung pictures until they are lined up just like we like.

See that is where my mind ends up going. I take disjointed pictures and turn it into a statement of my husband's understanding of me and even more so his love for me because he does not plan to rehang them. He said I am welcome to and I am pretty sure I will have a hammer out tomorrow but why is he not willing to do it for me? Why is it not important to him? Why does this become a huge issue instead of just a little hiccup in the picture hanging process? Why is my worth hung up with these pictures?

This is not a statement about my husband. It really is not. It is a statement about me. About my vulnerability and my willingness to read into things where no message was ever intended.

This truly was picture hanging. He wanted to be creative with the display. He likes the way it looks. Mostly, he just wanted to get the pictures on the wall and be done with his to do list for the day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Once Played This Game

I once played soccer. I played from 8 years old until I was a junior in high school. I have even tried my hand at indoor soccer as a grown up. It was the sport of my youth. I grew up standing in the backfield in the rain while the good players, the boys, went up and scored goals. I sucked the juice out of orange slices and the smell of wet mud and grass takes me right back to the fields of my childhood.

I am amazed by the fact that I once played the same game that the US Women's National Team is playing in the World Cup. Obviously I played with the same ball, cleats and rules, but I really did not play the same game. I love World Cups, Olympics, any major sporting event finals. I love the thrill of victory but hate to see the agony of defeat. Seeing the US women come back in their quarter finals game in extra time and then win the game on penalty kicks was inspiring. 

The game may look over. 

Life might not be fair. 

But we need to keep playing and playing hard. We need to keep striving, working hard, and staying focused on the goal. 

I need to do this. I need to keep working, keep focused on the goal. 

But there are so many distractions. So many fun things to do with my day. So many insecurities that make it easy to let up, make it easy to just go through the motions until time runs out. 

As a child, I often just wanted to get the game over with so we could get out of the cold rain. Sometimes though, when I worked hard, when I ran after the ball intent to win it, when I stood my ground and sent the forward away from my goal, I had fun. I felt strong. I felt powerful. I felt valuable. 

This was not because I was valuable. I was not. I was never a great soccer player. But when I worked hard, when I went for it without reservation, I felt good. I walked away from the game, win or lose, fulfilled in that moment. 

Like the saying goes, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game. I want to play the game without reservation. I want to live life focused and strong. I want to know that I have responded to the tugs on my heart and passions God has given me. I want to live a life worthy. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Lovin - Having a blast?

I love summer. I really do. My list of one thousand gifts fills easily in the summer. I don't know if it is the warmth, all that vitamin D flowing through my brain after time in the sun or lazy mornings. I love a lazy morning.

The move pushed back the start of summer for us. I think last week was the first full week we could really laze around each morning before finally making a plan for the day. Often that plan involved playing with friends or going to the playground for a picnic lunch. We live in a culdesac now and the kids, all three of them can ride their bikes safely in the street, which is a good thing since we don't have sidewalks in our part of town. My list of gratitude fills quickly with fresh strawberries from the farmer's market and late night blizzard runs with the kids. I love not having to worry about bedtimes and rushing out the door for school.

But summer can also be exhausting. The kids are always with me. ALWAYS. There is one week coming up when all three get to go to VBS together. That week would be marked with sparkly glitter pen and stickers if I actually kept a paper calendar. Because as much fun as we have in the summer, there is always a point in the day when everyone, me included is suddenly sent to their rooms for a little time alone. Sometimes it is quiet time. Often it is TIME OUT. As in, get away from me with all the whining and fighting. Somehow my ability to handle whining has been rapidly diminishing and now it just feels like nails on a chalkboard. My body has a visceral reaction to whining. And it is in those moments that I need eucharisteo. It is in those times of chaos, anger and frustration that I need to see God.

I loved what Ann Voskamp wrote in One Thousand Gifts about trying to be contemplative in the midst of her life.
How to be a contemplative here, seeing the fullness of God with the six children 24/7, the one farm, the six hundred sows, eight hundred piglets, only a whole a howl of craziness... In the messy, Jesus whispers, 'What do you want?' and in the ugly, I cry, 'I want to see - see You in these faces.' He speaks soft, 'Seek My face.' I want to answer with David, 'My heart says to you, 'Your face, LORD, do I seek' (Psalm 27:8 ESV) but I'm desperate to grab someone, anyone, and shake hard, 'How do I have the holy vision in this mess? How do I see grace, give thanks, find joy in this sin-stinking place?'
Summer can be so much fun. Freedom from schedules, freedom from routine. But sometimes all this freedom can be too much for us. Sometimes my little family needs to settle into a bit of routine to keep us all sane.

This morning I tried to instill some routine into our day. It is finally time to start that summer school work we had packed away in the moving boxes. Time for my kids to spend some time doing what they hate most in school, writing. Funny how what they hate is what makes me feel alive. I had asked the kids to turn off the video games and gave them a short list of chores along with their summer school work. I was amazed at how quickly everyone disappeared. And then I heard the sweet sounds of boys playing together in their rooms. Using their imagination to make up games and laugh together. Who knew all I needed to do to cure the "I'm Bored" whines was give them something to do. 

And so I add that to my list. 
  • Late mornings still in our pjs
  • Boys laughter coming from behind bedroom doors
  • Sun
  • Warmth
  • Flip flops and crocs
  • Play dates with friends
  • Sandboxes and swing sets
  • Blizzards, Frozen Yogurt and Fudgesicles
  • Good books to read
  • The Children's Library
  • Bike rides and soccer balls
  • Farmer's Market
  • Sunday Mornings 
  • God's hope for our lives shared by those who have lived the hard work
  • Last minute goals
  • Time to rest, time to think
  • Books in the mail
  • Books on hold at the library
  • Coffee and blogs to read
Life is good. Loving summer. We really are having a blast. 

What is your favorite part of summer? We are always looking for new ideas and adventures.

Have you read Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts yet? If not you really should. And while you are waiting for it to arrive head over to her website and read writers who are counting God's gifts grace in their lives.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Work Clothes

One day last week, we had to meet my husband at his new office to pick up some papers. This was our first visit to the new company. There were a few people there that came out to meet us. They were all dressed so professionally. One woman stood out to me. She was warm and friendly. Her clothes could have been straight out of a Nordstrom catalog. Her hair and makeup were polished. She looked so put together. 

The kids and I on the other hand were all dressed for a day at the park, in shorts and t-shirts. I had on a hoodie because it was a little chilly and foggy that morning. I was dressed for my job... as a mom... going to the park. And I suddenly felt less than. I felt frumpy and unimportant. I just wanted to get out of the office before one of my kids screeched at his brothers. I wanted to get away from those feelings of inadequacy that were overwhelming me in that moment. I wanted to get away from the what ifs and maybe I should haves that were jumping around in my head. 

Maybe I should have kept working instead of staying home with the kids. 

Maybe I should have studied something more important in college and gotten a real job, an important job after graduation. 

What if I had gone into business or law or technology? What if I had done something important with my life?

One of the things I really loved about my suburban life in Oregon was that I was surrounded by other women like me who were choosing to stay home with our kids. Many of my friends were former teachers like myself. I felt like I was among my peers. 

Last time I lived in the Bay Area, I often found myself chasing my identity. Trying to give value to who I was and what I did. I often felt like I should be doing more. Contributing more. It started with small comments when I was a teacher almost a decade ago here in the Bay Area. Comments like, "you could make so much more money if you went into technology" or "you could make more money as a nanny" because obviously money is the measure of my worth. 

Then last time we lived here, my life, my passions, my dreams took a back seat to my husband's career and his long, long, long hours. My life became only about taking care of our kids and our house and our lives. I was the sole person responsible for the kids at all times unless I checked with my husband and he could find one night maybe next week or month to come home a little early so I could get out for a bit or see the dentist. 

Over the last few years, I think I have found out more about myself, more about the work that God has for me, more about how I do contribute to this world through my relationships, my teaching, my writing, my life. And my husband agrees. He really supports the work that I do, even though it does not look like work, is mostly really fun stuff and definitely does not come with the perks of work, like a paycheck. And we made an agreement that this time would be different. This time my dreams and work do matter. This time we will share the responsibility for the kids and the home life. Obviously I still have the 8 - 6 time shift Monday to Friday but I like that. I like being home with my kids. I just don't think it is good or healthy for any of us for me to be the sole parent. 

And then I shook that woman's hand. That lovely lady that was just being kind and welcoming. And I felt a host of insecurities rise up in my throat. 

Sensory memory is like that. A quick glimpse of something painfully familiar can bring things rushing back into your mind. A business office like the one that took my husband away from us for so many hours and days and months. A professional woman, the antithesis of what I am and yet in my mind, far superior. Smarter, more charming, harder working, more independent, better. 

But this time I know better. I don't necessarily feel better in the moment. Insecurity might rise up but I am able this time to hold onto the truth. I am able this time to remember who I am and who God made me to be. I am able to look back at what I know to be true and hold onto that. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Few Lessons On Moving

We move A LOT. We move so much that people think my husband must be in the military. But truth is I think our tours of duty are actually shorter than most military personnel. This is our 11th move in 14 years of marriage and that is not counting temporary housing situations. We have become very good at moving. Here are a few lessons from this last move...

- Label boxes clearly. It will save you a ton of time on the other end when people are hot, tired and just want to put that kitchen box down in the middle of the living room.

- Make time for goodbyes. There is so much to do to get ready for moving but I really think one of the most important is saying real goodbyes. Goodbyes are hard and I think our natural instinct is to avoid things we know will hurt. We get busy partially to avoid the pain of goodbyes. I have said goodbye a lot and I have to say that while it hurts, it is one of the sweetest parts of moving. Saying goodbye gives you time to tell people how much they really mean to you. Grabbing a cup of coffee or having one last play date to mark your friendship is valuable. It is time well spent. And it is these memories that will booster you in the first few days and weeks in a new place. Remembering that you love and are loved will give you the extra push you might need to say hi to someone at the park or get involved in the PTA to meet new friends. Not to replace but to connect.

- Get enough sleep. The week before I said goodbye to everyone, I wanted to stay out late with friends every night and do one more thing when I should be heading to bed but I get really grumpy when I don't get enough sleep. And when I say grumpy I actually mean down right hostile. Not a good idea to be sleep deprived when you know extra patience is required. I was having move induced insomnia from about 4:30 - 5:30 am the last month but could fall back asleep eventually. So when we planned our travel days we made sure to allow extra time in the morning so I could sleep a little longer.

- Determine your unpacking priorities. If you just open the first box you see you may be eating on the good china and wearing heels all week. On move in day our priorities are beds, towels and tvs. We want to sleep, shower and be able to relax after a stressful few days. We also make sure that we have the internet and cable connected either before or on move in day. It might be chaotic but we are already at the house for the 2 - 4 hour window that cable companies give for installation. (You will need a tv in the house to have cable connected. We have a small one we rarely use that we put in one of our cars on moves so it is with us and not stuck on the truck.)

- Slow and steady wins the race. This is one of our family mottos, not so much the slow part though that is true of me, but the steady part. It turns out it is also a belief of our truck driver/unloader. He was working with a young kid who kept running around with boxes and then wore himself out and needed a break. Slow and steady. Gets things done without getting things broken. Once we have the basic house set up, we like to tackle one room at a time getting it all the way unpacked and really organized. This move has been slowed down a bit by all the fun we are having reconnecting with friends and favorite places. I don't want the kids to lose their whole summer to the move.

- Moving is more expensive than you would think. Between eating out because you have no groceries or bowls and then needing to buy a new trash can that fits in the space and new cleaning supplies because the shelves have to be wiped down and your supplies are all in boxes (or in our case left behind at the old house), moving costs money. For this house we needed window air conditioners, wall hooks for towels, narrow night stands because our old ones were too big, shoe organizers, and liquids, lots and lots of liquids - the flammable type since moving companies won't move these. Not to mention the moving gifts (bribery) for the kids and all the special treats when they are good on moving day, at the DMV, on the long drive, etc. When moving, like remodeling, double the estimate.

- Give grace and ask for grace. Moving is stressful. Moving feels out of control and I don't like being out of control. No matter how many times I move, my body defies my experiential knowledge and stresses out. This often comes out in me being harsh with my husband or yelling at the kids for something that normally would not be a huge problem. This move went amazingly well. We had no major problems and lots of help. I felt peace most of the time and the kids were uncharacteristically cooperative and kind to one another. Grace was given day after day. Grace we received.