Friday, March 30, 2012

Beautiful Things

I heard a song a few months back when we sang it in church before a sermon on forgiveness - an amazing story was told that day that stuck with me.

The song has stuck with me. It is the first words to the book I am writing. It has captured me this year and become the anthem. This doesn't happen often just a few times. The last a few years ago with Blessed Be Your Name.

This year it is the song Beautiful Things by Gungor. I am not sure I can even explain what this song means to me but it touches me deep in my soul.

Here are the lyrics.

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 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

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Have a Blog that Not Everyone Reads

I have a blog. I write some of my most real and intimate thoughts down here. I edit yes, but not a lot, not the heart of the matters. If you want to know me, know me well, know what is really going on in my head you can read my blog and have a good idea. Such a good idea that one friend texted me last week to check in because she could tell by what I was writing that I needed prayer, more than usual.

I write down my thoughts. I give access into my inner life. Yet there are people I love that do not read my blog. Or not regularly. I have a lot of friends that just don't read blogs. Or just don't read my blog. And while I try not to take it personally there is a small, okay maybe a bigger part than I like to admit, that actually is hurt by this. Hurt that the people I love, who claim to love me, don't want to read my words.

And then I look in my notebook where I am jotting down different verses or phrases that have struck me from my reading of Isaiah and realize there are whole weeks without so much as a date written down. Days go by when I don't sit down and open God's words to me.

I claim to love him - God. I claim to want to know him better and yet I don't read his words to me. I have. I have read every word in the Bible. But once is not enough. Sometimes is not enough. Because my life changes, my struggles change, my relationships change, and his words become new to me again. Different passages stand out. I relate to the characters in the story differently. I need to breathe in different words this time.

Yet again, I am part of the problem.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Book - 5: Home

Here is the next installment of my book. If you missed any, you can find them all using the Take Me To.... the book link to the right of this page. Enjoy!


Matt saw her looking off in the distance, awkward. “You okay?” he asked.

“Fine,” she replied automatically.

“You sure?” he asked again.

This time his question brought Mia back. “Yeah, I’m good. Just tired.”

“Well it looks like your section is done, why don’t you go home. Get some rest. You work too hard.”

“I’ll try,” she replied before heading to the back. She dropped her apron in the dirty laundry bin and pulled her book bag out of her cubby. She exited the back kitchen door toward home. She then walked the two blocks home to the house she shared with a group of girls she had met in her freshman dorm. It was an eclectic core group of four with another couple changing each semester. They were all studying something different. The front room might be full of fabric for a fashion assignment or a cat cadaver for a science lab. Competing music was often coming from different rooms. Phone conversations were crossing paths in the hallway.

They were all very busy but they tried to meet up for dinner on Sundays, sometimes heading to the restaurant if Mia had to work. Sarah, the ring leader, would call a family meeting if it had been too long since they all sat in the same room together. Most of their conversations though took place as someone was washing their face at the end of the day or trying to find a highlighter that worked.

She liked living with these girls. They were all bright and enthusiastic about their futures. They gave Mia a picture of what life was like for the normal kids, the kids with parents who knew what it meant to be a real parent. These girls taught her about relationships and family. They opened up to her about their hopes, their fears. They talked about boyfriends and future career aspirations. They left a quick note on the bathroom mirror in lipstick or sent a good luck text before a big test. They connected Mia to something, even when she did not know how to reciprocate. She was learning though, she was figuring out how to be a friend from these girls.

The house was dark when she walked in the door. Mia was never quite sure who would be home on any given night. Tonight the house was quiet. Everyone was still out enjoying the warm, Saturday night. She walked through the dark kitchen grabbing a glass of water before heading up the two sets of stairs to her room.

Mia loved her little attic room. She had it all to herself, no one touching her stuff, reading her emails or poking through her clothes. Not that any of her roommates were probably interested in her jeans and plaid shirts or her secrets. She was just so used to her new shoes disappearing at home, only to find them scuffed up after her mom borrowed them. Her mom had adopted a “what’s yours is mine” approach to life. This applied not only to clothes and lip gloss but to Mia’s whole existence. Her mother was always looking over her shoulder as she wrote a paper or read a book. She scrolled through Mia’s text messages and asked about every detail of her day. There had been no privacy at home. No secrets. No moment alone with her thoughts.

Mia knew her mom was doing the best she could. Maggie had gotten pregnant when she was 17. The boy’s family moved away the summer before Mia was born, never knowing there was a baby on its way. She never knew her father. Her birth certificate had no name listed where the father’s name belonged and her mother refused to tell Mia his name. Maggie made sure Mia knew she was father less, that she was utterly dependent on her mother.

Mia often felt like her mother’s doll, someone to dress and move around the scenes of life. Her mother was recreating the life she had dreamed of for herself. Only, now Mia was living it for her. At least that was Maggie’s plan and until recently, Mia had played along.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Trusting Babylon

Today one of the questions accompanying my Bible reading in Isaiah was,
What "Babylon" are you betting on to shelter you from the uncertainties of life?
During Isaiah's time, Judah was looking to Babylon for protection. They were trusting another nation, another set of rulers and armies to help protect Judah, God's people. God's people who saw the Red Sea open for them to cross and then close behind them keeping the Egyptians from attacking. God's people who had manna fall from heaven every day year after year to provide for the daily sustenance of his people wandering in the desert. God's people who saw God tear down a city wall after Joshua and his men circled it 7 times. God's people who lived under David and Solomon.

But they had also seen their world divided and broken apart. They had become proud of their accomplishments and distracted by all the pleasures the world had to offer. They had followed corrupt and evil kings. They had stopped following God. And now they felt unsafe, insecure, and in need of help but instead of turning to God, they turned to their neighbors. They sought safety with Babylon. They bet on Babylon being able to protect them from the Assyrians.

And so the question asks, "What 'Babylon' are you betting to shelter you from the uncertainties of life?"

It's a good question to ask. I think a lot of people do have something they hold to, something they hope on, to keep them safe - physically, emotionally, even spiritually. I think that when life is going well, when our circumstances are good, we start to trust in them, in our life itself.

But for some of us, life was never about constancy. There was no sense of equilibrium growing up, but instead a constant state of flux and adjustment. Not just my circumstances but the very people in my life were shifting unexpectedly, sand beneath my soul's foundation. And so I have never really trusted this world.

I have never really trusted my circumstances. Jobs are lost. Homes move. Schools change.

I have never really trusted people. Friends betray. Family is unable. Strangers surprise.

I learned somewhere along the way that the only thing I can trust - rock solid, firm foundation, always present, never changing, never moving - is God.

And while it is good to put my trust fully in God, to bet on him to shelter me, there is something sad about not being able to trust people. I am trying. But it is hard to let the barriers down.

Which is funny because I am known for being authentic. But there is something very different for me between being authentic and being vulnerable. I can be completely honest about who I am. I can share my struggles, my disappointments, my hurts. But I don't do that from a place of vulnerability. I am able to be authentic because I know who I am as a child of God, I know I am wonderfully made, as are you. I am secure in that so I feel safe, not vulnerable.

And if you don't like me, or hurt me, I am very good at walking away.

See there is where I could be vulnerable. In the staying. In the connecting myself with someone else emotionally, in a way that might actually end up with me being hurt sometimes. In trusting someone else to take care of me, to love me, to challenge me when I need it, to walk along side me. But that all requires me to trust, even to the point of getting hurt. And I'm not sure I'm willing to do that.

There's a fine line between self protection and closing oneself off.

There's a fine line between trusting God alone and not trusting the people God put in my life.

There's a fine line between God being all that I need and only letting God in.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Have I mentioned that we are moving again? I know we are crazy. Not only are we moving but we are downsizing... again. A year ago I lived in a four bedroom house with an office just for me. Now we are in three bedrooms. Next we will be in a two bedroom condo.

We are excited to be homeowners again. To be able to paint the walls. To know that we don't have to worry about a landlord deciding to sell the house out from under us. To have some sense of permanence... which I laugh even writing because this is our fifth home purchase in 14 years.

But now we have to figure out how to fit all of our bodies and all of our stuff in two bedrooms and one open living space. So we are purging, which actually feels really good. We are prioritizing what we need to live, from what we want, from what is just weighing us down.

So I go through the play room with the kids, choosing their favorites to keep and getting the rest ready to go to Goodwill. Hockey mini sticks and goals a must keep. This did not surprise me. But a few of the boys choices did so I am glad I asked them to help. Or the pirate ship that Hockey Boy has had for years might have been sent off before he was ready to let it go. And while not one of the boys choose the wooden train set with all the engines we collected when they were small, I can't let that one go.

We are cleaning off bookshelves and cleaning out cabinets. The Berenstain Bears, Curious George, Harry Potter, the Children's Dictionary and Encyclopedia are all waiting to move to the new house. Along with my favorites and the stack of books I bought to read but have not yet.

I am finding stuff that we moved but have not touched since. Do we really need it if we are not using it? The baby blankets yes, but the queen size sheets when we don't even have a queen size bed can probably go.

There are things that will not fit in the new house. Things we love. But I am excited about being lighter as we move. Having less stuff holding us down. Having to be careful about what we bring into the new space. I think the simplicity of small living might be good for us.

Though we are a family with more introverts than extraverts, a family with multiple people needing their own space throughout the day. So we will see how that goes.

If you had to downsize, what would be your must haves? Mine are good sheets, a good place to read and write, and my Starbucks mug collection.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Patience, It's not just for Disneyland

Lately I have been having conversation after conversation with parents that all seem to focus on the shared struggle of how to provide the best for our kids. We all want our kids to be successful and when we hear they are struggling in any way we want to fix it. I want to pull out the tool kit and get to work on the problem.

Does he need to practice more? Does he need a break?

Does he need a tutor?

Why doesn't the teacher get it? Does the teacher get it?

Am I the problem?

Is the teacher, the coach, the adult telling me my kid is not enough the problem?

Is my child the problem?

There is so much stress involved in parenting, especially in this area where every possible resource is available to my kids. Enrichments, tutoring, coaching, specialists galore. And even more opinions on what my kid needs.

But here's the thing. My kid is not a summary of their weaknesses. They are not defined by their "problems". No my kids are children of God, knit together in their mother's womb, beautiful craftsmanship of a loving Father. And so are your children.

And the thing about being uniquely and wonderfully made is that my kid will not always fit into the mold. My kid will sometimes stand out. My kid will sometimes need more assistance. My kid may need some intervention.

But what I am learning is that more often than not what my kid needs is time. Time to learn. Time to mature. Time to figure things out. Time to hear my words, process them, and heed them.

Patience is a virtue. Not just in standing in lines at Disneyland.

Patience can solve so many of our problems. If we just gave them enough time to work themselves out.

But when it comes to our kids, and their problems, it is hard to let time work. It is hard to let time heal those wounds.

Oh but when I do, when I let the system run its course, when I let my child breathe and have space to grow, when I take a step back and focus not on the here and now but on the future, when I put down my tools and let my kids choose their own, growth happens.

I am constantly reevaluating the choices I make for my kids. Should Hockey Boy take more ice skating clinics? Should Middle Man spend more time working on socializing? Should I be teaching Little One to read? (Little One has explained to me that his kindergarten teacher is teaching him so I don't have to.)

Maybe what I should be evaluating is am I being patient enough to let my kids grow strong roots and sturdy trunks, ones that don't need me to forever stake them to the ground so they don't fall over.

Do you struggle with when to intervene?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

15 Years

Fifteen years ago today two kids dressed in their finest showed up to a stone house overlooking the Willamette River. It was raining that day so the photographer had them stand together under the covering along the front walkway setting up just the right shot, the one that would sit on their mantel for years to come. On the Ides of March, these two kids made promises to one another in front of their friends and families.

We had no idea what our pledges really meant, what our vows would require of us.

I was talking to my husband the other day about how much life has changed in these 15 years. When we were first married I was still finishing grad school before starting my teaching career. We were challenged in our early years of marriage by chronic fatigue, an all consuming job, and infertility. We moved and moved again. We got pregnant with Hockey Boy and then promptly moved overseas. We moved back again. Our first child was born and I became a mother which changed my whole life and my whole identity. I was now a stay at home mom. We moved back overseas and became pregnant with Middle Man. We moved home again.

I now had two kids 15 months apart. We settled down. We bought a family home two blocks from the high school. I don't remember a lot from those early years. Might be a side effect of the sleep deprivation. Slowly life felt manageable. We went to Disneyland with our little boys and had fun. And then we had Little One. Three kids less than four years apart top to bottom rocked our world.

And then we moved... again. And my husband's job became all consuming... again. It was hard on our marriage. We drifted apart because neither of us had anything left over at the end of our day to give to the other person. Eventually this became untenable.

My husband found a new job back "home" in Oregon and we moved back into our family home, putting the furniture where it had been before. Falling back into our life so easily. The kids grew and one fall day they all were in school, if only a few hours a week for Little One. I was deepening friendships and finding my own place in the world. A place not defined by my relationship to my kids or my husband. Life was good.

But God called... again. And we moved... again. Back to where we were in the Bay Area before. The place that had almost taken us down. And it was scary to consider. Would things be different this time?

I have had my moments of insecurity, of uncertainty. I have gotten lost a bit along the way. But that is me, not this place. This time though we are in it together. And that has made all the difference.

I look back at 15 years and am amazed at all that has changed in my life. I was talking to my husband about this the other day and he said something that really surprised me. While I have experienced a ton of change, for him, life really hasn't changed that much. For 15 years, he has gone to an office, done his work, and then come home to his family. Locations may change but his life really hasn't changed that much. Work then home. While my life, my identity, have changed so drastically in these 15 years. From being a first year teacher, to a first time mom, to a mom of three boys, to a mom of school age kids, my role, my world, has changed every couple of years. I have had to rediscover myself with each of these events.

So for me 15 years feels like a long time when you look back over the timeline of our marriage. And while it hasn't always been easy or pretty, I have taken this journey with the best man I know. And we have had a lot of fun and a lot of joy along the way.

If I had to do it all over again, I would choose him again and again and again.

God gave me the greatest gift of my life when my husband first knocked on the door of my apartment looking to borrow something from my roommate.

Thanks for all the escorts to the 7/11, for all the long conversations, the travels. Thanks for the hard work you do every day to take care of your family. Thanks for your encouragement to become whatever God has called me to do. Thanks for loving me as I am. Thanks for listening and caring about what I have to say.

I am looking forward to the next 65 years to come!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fight or Flight

I have been quiet lately. Not just here but in other places in my life. I have been sick. I have been tired. I am a wee bit stressed by the impending move and the weight of home ownership again. But mostly, I have been quiet because I am not ready to share. I'm not even sure I will have anything to share, but right now my mind is bogged down by flickering thoughts and feelings that I am trying to untangle.

Amidst all of this, I have remembered that I am flight. As in, when faced with danger, when facing conflict, my fight or flight response is to fly.

I distract.

I avoid.

I detach.

I shut down.

I cut off.

And the scariest part is that when I do this with relationships, the other person may never know except for that weird awkward feeling they may have that something is off.

In truth, I may not realize how far down the path I am until I look back and realize I am no longer attached emotionally to the other person.

Flight keeps me out of battle. It keeps me from yelling or using hurtful words. But I am beginning to wonder if it does just as much harm.

And so I will choose to fight with the people I love. I will choose to speak, to say what I'm thinking or feeling. I will choose to stay in the room even when my body is itching to walk away.

I will try at least.

Are you fight? Or flight?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Archives - Letter to My Alumni Magazine

It has been fun reading through the archives to see if there are some nuggets I can share again. I am a graduate of Biola University, a place I still love dearly. But every so often when I read the alumni magazine I feel a little bit left out.

Here is what I considered sending to the Biola Alumni office in 2009 but decided to just post it on my blog instead.


Dear Alumni Magazine, 
I very much enjoy reading about the triumphs of my classmates and all the other generations of successful people to come out of this fine institution. But I have a small suggestion. How about including the hundreds of parents who are using their education for a higher calling, being stay at home parents. I know it is not as sexy as CEO of some Fortune 500 company or a producer of a blockbuster movie, but since this is a Christian university it would make sense that a large number of your alumni have taken some time out of their careers to stay home with their kids. I know I would love to know how other people are using their education in their home workplace. 
For me I know that my theology classes have helped me answer some of the tough questions like why is the sky blue? My history classes have helped me explain the Fourth of July and the first Thanksgiving Day dinner. My Advanced Bowling class has gained me much respect from my sons as I dominate our Wii bowling nights. I developed strong critical thinking skills in my philosophy classes and history major classes and I can explain both sides of a political debate to my kids in their language though I am not sure my explanation that one candidate wants to use his words to solve problems while the other thinks it is okay to fight really is unbiased. I understand the importance of quarters though now they are not used for laundry but for allowances and chores. And spending all those hours in the dorms building relationships helped me learn the importance of friendships, some I hold close to me even now. My first phone call in a time of need often is to a fellow alumnus who lives across the country but is still one of my dearest advisors.  
So while some may say that I have not been using my education, I would argue that I am using the whole of my college experience. And my kids are the better for it. Oh and in case you are wondering why the sky is blue the answer that works for my 4 year old is simply because God made it that way.