Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Letters In One Place

Moving always gets me thinking about the people I left behind, the ones that changed me with their presence in my life. Some are obvious but others may never know the positive impact they had on my life, on the person I have become. This year, as I moved and turned 40, I have been thinking a lot about the various people I have met along the way. In the olden days, I might have gotten out my engraved stationary and sent them a letter. In today's world, in my world, I am going to be posting these letters on my blog. Saves me paper and postage, and more importantly, hopefully reminds us each of the impact we have on one another's lives because from each of these people, I have learned how to be a better person.  

Here are the letters written so far all in one place. 

To My Noble Friend
To the Missionaries...
You Show Up
You Made Me Brave
Dear Mrs. N. 
To My Fashionista Friend
To My English Speaking Church Family
Dear American Club Ladies
Letter to a Friend

Friday, December 20, 2013

To My Noble Friend

To My Noble Friend,

I am often quick to give advice. I like to problem solve. But if you don't like that idea, I can think of another. I know I don't have all the answers but I am certainly one to try to think of lots of different solutions.

Over the last few years I have had a friend facing an interesting challenge. We would often talk about how to handle this situation, we would vent to one another when a new page of the saga was turned on one of us, we would commiserate and pray and hope and dream of a future where we didn't have to deal with this any longer. I was the luckier one because distance allowed me to avoid most of the drama but my friend was tied to it with a web of relationships that intertwined and crossed over and over binding her to the challenge.

I would give her advice or make suggestions about how I would solve the problem. I am quick to cut ties that bind me to darkness and pain and challenge. But my friend, she is quick to show grace. To give unwarranted love to those around her. She is humble and quick to point to her part of the problem, humility incarnate. She is self-sacrificing in the most beautiful and Christ-like way.

Recently, I found myself in a very similar situation. My worlds here overlap. I go to church with people from school, sit in the hockey stands with people from church and school. Relationships overlap and a web is created that cannot be detangled without destroying the very thing you are trying to build. And suddenly all my advice fell flat.

You cannot problem solve people.

You can love others but you cannot make them love you. You can speak the truth but you cannot make people listen. You can give more than you will ever receive. You can humble yourself. You can set boundaries for yourself but you cannot force others to change.

I had never really understood the complexity of my friend's situation. But I do now.

And now I know deeply how noble my friend is.

Because I don't know if I have the patience, the humility, the love that my friend has always shown, even when she never wanted to. Because for my friend, love and grace, emulating Christ in this world, are more important than being right.

I like being right. I like solving problems.

Thanks my noble friend for showing me the way. I don't think I can walk that road as beautifully as you do but I am glad we get to walk together.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I Miss My Mom

I miss my mom.

I don't miss the drama. I don't miss the competition. I don't miss the anxiety. I don't miss the changing stories that seem aimed to pierce me.

 I am not even sure I miss my mom. She is very much alive just in case that was confusing.

But I do miss having a mom.

I miss having a soft place to land. I miss having a cheerleader who is in my corner. I miss having someone to go Christmas shopping and out to lunch together. I miss having someone to call if all hell breaks loose, who will swoop in and help on a moments notice. I miss having someone to talk to who I know will give me wise advice but still love me when I go another way. I realize I may be missing something that is not real but only imagined after reading too many books and seeing too many holiday movies. But I still miss it.

I know that I am not alone. I know mothers and daughters often have challenging relationships.

But some of us have harmful ones. And there is a difference.

I do not feel safe with my mom. I do not feel that she loves me, just the idea of her daughter. I do not feel that she has my best in mind.

I don't like to air dirty laundry. And I hate speak badly about someone else. I wish I could write all this without mentioning her. But there is no way to couch this. To write vaguely enough because our moms are core to our being. Not that they have to be biological or even female, but we all need that person, the one person that has our back no matter what. And when you don't have that person, the loss is always there, sometimes a dull ache, sometimes a sharp pain, sometimes just a weakness you feel when you turn the wrong way.

I wouldn't write this at all except I know I am not alone.

And even if I am, I am sad today. I am missing having a mom today.

After I first posted this, ohhh the guilt set in. I should write all the good things about my mom too... except, I don't have a lot of those memories. Not that she wasn't a good mom but that my memories are tainted by all the rest of it. And the guilt remains. But this is honest and true for me today.

You can read more of our story and my disclaimer here (or click on the Blog Series button at the top of the page) and reading the posts listed under My Story.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Memories - No Rope

This year my husband, I think knowing that the holidays are always a bit tough for me the first year we move, agreed to going to a UCut tree farm. Finally. We took the kids a few weekends ago and it brought back so many memories of walking through the hundreds of trees with my brothers trying to find the perfect tree. Which reminded me of one of my favorite tree buying stories. I have posted this story the last few years because each time it brings me such joy. I think it worries my husband.

Without further ado...

Did I ever tell you about the time we forgot to bring rope to the Christmas tree farm?

It is a favorite family story, at least for my family. I think it causes my husband anxiety.

The story begins with a van load of kids and two parents driving about a mile from our house to a nearby Christmas tree farm. Living in Oregon you end up passing multiple tree farms on a quick trip to Costco. It seems that any farm land left has trees growing on it. Most of these trees are actually cut down at the end of November and sent south, where Californians pay a crazy amount for a real live noble fir. I will be one of those crazy Californians this year.

Anyway, the family, including the six teenage foster kids that lived with us at the time were all walking through the muddy tree farm looking for the perfect tree. (There seems to be a theme to my Christmas tree stories.)

We looked at trees that looked perfect on one side but had a huge hole in the back. It always reminded me of a big civil war era hoop skirt tucked into a girl's pantaloons in the back.

We looked at trees that were too tall or too short. Someone started grumbling, most likely my dad. Someone started whining, probably me but since this is my blog I'll blame my little brother.

Finally the good enough tree was found and cut down. Again, there were people kneeling down on coats and a few choice phrases uttered as the handsaw got caught in the tree trunk. The wet needles flickering drops of water on everyone nearby as it is carried back to the car.

We, and by we I mean the grown ups and my big brother, finally get the tree on top of the van ready to be tied down.

But there is no rope.

And here is where my memory gets foggy because I would assume that the tree farm had string. The fancy tree farm we took our kids to when we lived in Oregon had string. They also let you preselect your tree in September before the California trees were harvested. And then they cut the tree down for you on the day you preselected for pick up. Maybe our childhood tree farm was not that fancy.

So we had the tree on top of the van but nothing to tie it down. And here is where my family becomes the Griswolds because the solution they found was to have my big brother lie on top of the tree, on top of van, holding on to the luggage rack, while my dad drove the van full of the rest of the family home.

Seriously. We drove a mile or so with a Christmas tree and my brother on top of the van.

We love this story. It is the essence of my family. Pragmatic and determined. Safety conscious...not so much.

I think the image of one of our boys on top of the van may be why my husband does not like that story.

Because truthfully, left  in the same situation, I might try it. Hockey Boy is pretty strong.

Update - (I posted this link on my Facebook page where my brother read it. He confirms the story except for me forgetting to mention the rain and cold. Longest mile of his life he wrote.)

Can you please help settle a debate between the kids who lived this story and the spouses who are slightly (or more) horrified by this story. Was this a horrible thing for my parents to do? Or a funny Griswold type moment?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

This Advent Season

I grew up in Evangelical churches. Ones that broke out the Christmas carols as soon as Thanksgiving was over. Where advent focused on the celebration of Christ's coming, where the candles are lit each week as part of the revelry of Christmas. I have loved the joy and majesty of the season. I love singing Carols and having the church lit by twinkly lights.

We attend a Lutheran church now. Our Sunday services marked by the liturgy, of the saying of the Lord's Prayer and taking communion before end each Sunday morning. A church that uses a lectionary of Scripture readings to guide the sermons and services. And this lectionary starts on the first Sunday of Advent, the start of the new church year.

Advent looks different in the Lutheran church. My husband and I have both noticed it. It is more somber, more quiet in the first weeks. Dark almost.

Church on Sunday mornings this month have not felt like Christmas to me. There have been no carols or bells or Merry Christmases. There are advent candles, there are shepherd and sheep on display but missing the rest of the nativity scene. Purple cloth is wrapped across the stoic wood and glass chandelier.

And yet, I am beginning the realize that this is how the days leading up to the first Christmas must have felt like for Mary and Joseph and those waiting for the Messiah. Dark days of oppressive Roman rule, of harsh religious leaders making unbearable demands, of a silent God. All the darkness pointing to the need for light.

I understand more why a Lutheran advent is somber. But it is also expectant - for the Christ child is coming.

This Advent has changed Christmas for me.

But I still miss the carols and twinkly lights.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

From the Archives: Jesus Expected

This morning at the mom's group at church, we were discussing advent - this sacred time each year when we stop and remember with expectation the birth of Jesus. As we were talking this morning, I was reminded of the lesson I taught last December at the mom's group in California. I am posting the lesson I taught again today because I can always use a reminder about Jesus Expected, especially at this time of year.

It was Christmas time, four years ago. I was sitting in my friend’s living room with a small group of friends from church. We were in our Christmas pajamas, painting our toe nails read with white polka dots. The conversation drifted easily from topic to topic, our kids, our Christmas preparations, books we were reading or cookies we were making. The talk moved onto New Year’s resolutions. I half listened. I do not like New Year’s resolutions, mostly because I don’t like to fail.

But then someone said they wanted to read the whole Bible and everything stopped. That became our shared New Year’s resolution. We would read through the whole Bible, every word, in 2010. If you ever get a chance to do this with someone else, jump at it, because there is something extra special about reading God’s word together. Where each conversation is sprinkled with, “How’s your reading going?” and “Did you read....” My relationship with God was strengthened by spending massive amounts of time reading His word that year but so to were my relationships with those women. Mere acquaintances became dear friends as we read alone in our own homes, knowing we were doing it together.

I will admit though that reading the Bible in a year is a marathon full of sprints to get the daily reading done. I found myself in the fall rushing through the Old Testament prophet  books, my eyes catching the words but not having time to really understand what I was reading. I had no time to stop. No time to decipher its meaning. At the end of 2010, I had finished the whole Bible, and incidentally earned my ticket to a girls weekend with everyone who had finished the task.

It was a year later when I found myself lost. Lost spiritually and emotionally. Not confused or doubting. Not dejected. Just a bit lost, like I was walking through a new village without a map. I could see visual markers that guide me, a church steeple, a red cross on a hospital sign, but I was not sure where I was going - what my destination was. I needed my map, my Bible, but I could not decide where to start, what I was even looking for. And then I remembered. The books I read at warp speed, the ones I meant to go back and study in greater depth but had not. And so I turned to the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah was a prophet, a future teller. God used prophets to speak to His people, to tell them His will. Isaiah was full of warnings to turn away from pride, false worship and seeking protection in other nations instead of in God and if they did not, or more accurately, when they did not horrible things would happen. Isaiah tells of impending destruction and captivity for Israel. But he also tells of a coming savior. In the midst of all this pain and destruction, God will send a Messiah, a savior king. The Israelites, subjugated and held captive, dreamed of this one who would save them.
Isaiah 9:6 -7aFor to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
That was about 600 years before Jesus was born. After centuries of war and oppression and living under the crushing weight of the Roman Empire, the Jews of Jesus' day were eagerly awaiting this Messiah. The one born of the house of David in the town of Bethlehem. This Messiah would blot out injustice, rule as king and judge and fulfill the covenant promises. He would redeem Israel both politically and spiritually and free her from her oppressors.


One night long ago, a baby was born. A child unto us. The angels declared the good news to the shepherds who then ran to Bethlehem to find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. We know this story. And we know that later the wise men from the east visit bringing with them gold, frankincense and myrrh.

But there is a story in between, a story found in Luke 2.

Luke 2:22 - 35
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.” 
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

We read here about Mary and Joseph following Jewish custom and taking baby Jesus to the temple to be dedicated. At the temple they are greeted by Simeon. He had studied the scriptures. He, like most Israelites, was waiting eagerly for the coming Messiah, the king that would raise up an army and throw the evil Roman empire off God’s promised land.

“For my eyes have seen your salvation,
 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
 and the glory of your people Israel.” Seeing baby Jesus, Simeon knows that he has seen God’s salvation for the Israelites, but not just for them alone but for the Gentiles as well. The very people that have held the Jews captive over the centuries.

He goes on to tell Mary that Jesus will cause many to fall and rise in Israel, that he will be rejected and spoken against and that her own soul will be pierced. Not exactly what a mother wants to hear on the day her first born son is dedicated at the temple. Not what she was probably expecting knowing that this baby was the Messiah. 

The story continues.

Luke 2:36 - 38
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Anna knows this is the Messiah. She declares this truth to all those who are awaiting the Messiah, the redeemer of Jerusalem.

First the angels appear and tell the shepherds of the birth of a savior, who they find exactly where the prophets said he would be born.

And then, at the temple, baby Jesus is confirmed as the Messiah by both Simeon and Anna. Two different people touched by the Holy Spirit who were waiting and waiting and waiting for the Messiah to come.

Jesus, this baby born in a manger, was and is the Messiah that the prophets had foreseen.

But was he the Messiah they were expecting? Was he going to be the King of the Jews they were all anticipating? Or was Jesus, like Simeon said, one that would cause people to fall? One that would bring pain to his mother’s soul? One that was for the Gentiles as well?


The Jews of Jesus’ day were expecting a conquering hero. A king which the prophets had proclaimed.  But it seems that many Jews had forgotten the rest of the prophesies. The writings of the suffering servant who would come to save the world.
Isaiah 53:3 - 5He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed. 
Lawrence O. Richards writes in The Teacher’s Commentary, “The Jews’ of Jesus’ day, looking for the coming glory, did not see the majesty of the suffering.” 

The Messiah, the servant king, the redeemer of all of God’s people, came into this world quietly. He lived most of years a small life. It was not until his few years of ministry did anyone even really pay attention to who he was said to be.

As I read though Isaiah, I saw the images put forth of the coming Messiah. I read of the one that would bring justice and turn away those who plundered his people. The savior, who will meet out God’s wrath on the oppressors.

When I think about the Pharisees, the keepers of the law, and wonder why they could not see Jesus was God’s son, I think about what they had been taught about the coming Messiah. I think about how much the expectations of a warrior king were blinding them to what God really intended. Prophesies 600 years old. Turned over and over in people’s minds. The words shifting in meaning over 6 centuries. The expectations of the Messiah changing as the words are passed down from generation to generation to generation. I imagine that as the Israelites scattered, as they lived under harsh rule of other nations, as they dreamed of the coming Messiah, their eyes focused on the passages of scripture that gave them hope of a coming king’s rescue. 

Many missed Jesus, when he was alive and walking the earth because he did not come as they anticipated. He did not meet their expectations of what the Messiah would be. His brutal death on the cross proof to many that he was not the coming one.

We do that too. We declare situations good or bad based on how we want things to be. A lost job is bad. A healthy baby is good. We give absolute value, either positive or negative to things with words like good and bad. What if we shifted our language. What if we used descriptive words such as painful, happy, joy filled, agonizing, depressing, encouraging when describing the events and conditions of our lives. What if we acknowledged that God shows up in all these things and that His being there is good? Not that the death, the loss, the broken relationship is good, no those things hurt and are scary and painful and heartbreaking. But God in them, He is good.

I wonder if we risk missing God altogether when we hold too tightly to how He should appear? 

Monday, November 18, 2013

To the Missionaries...

Dear (Redacted),

How many years ago was it that we lived across the hall from one another our freshmen year of college? It feels like a lifetime ago and yet I don't feel old. But a few years ago my children's babysitter heading off to our alma mater and moved into our old dorm, except it wasn't the same because our dorm was torn down and then a new one rebuilt in its place.

Oh the conversations we all had in those rooms on Horton Upper Odd. Life dreams and dark pasts. Impending exam stress and laughing late at night. Getting to know one another at first and then getting to know one another deeper. Our paths at school were so different. And we drifted from that small core as we grew into our college selves. I left to study abroad, never returning to Horton. But we would still see one another around campus after I returned. I remember talking to you after you met your husband, wow were you in love - such a beautiful, wise, real love.

At some point you got married. I think I had graduated by then. Moved away. And then moved again. At some point I met my husband and we got married and settled down for the first time as man and wife in southern California. You and I got together again then. I honestly don't remember how or where. I don't even remember when you first decided to move overseas, though I always knew you planned to be a missionary, or when we joined your team in our own small way. It was so long ago.

I have learned so much watching you and your family as you lived first in a country we don't want to name, to the visa issues, the discretion needed, the having to leave your new home because it was too challenging politically to stay. My husband worked for a global power company at the time and they had a power plant in that country. I always loved knowing that in some small way your work and his were connected. I loved reading your letters and then emails about your next stop and the neighbor who always complained you were too loud, or the long bus trip to language school. I was amazed at your perseverance, first to learn one language and now another. To learn one culture, and now another. One door was closed but you moved on and found a new place where God needed you. I have always loved the newsletters you and your husband wrote. It was from you I first learned the power of being connected through only the written word.

At some point you were called to move again, this time to a place we could name out loud. Oh how freeing it was to know I could email you without worry about writing the wrong thing. And your mission, a prayer tank... how much I have learned from you about intercession and the role of prayer in my life. You were a crucial part of my beginning to really understand prayer, to really engage God in dialogue both throughout the day and in intentional set apart times.

I think back to that time you visited us in the Bay Area while you were in the neighborhood. Oh how wonderful it was to sit on the couch across from you and get to talk with you face to face, to get to glean wisdom from your stories and your thoughtful study of God, His word, and His work in this world. Oh how I loved that day. But you are a missionary, you live across the world from me. I was thankful for that day but so wishing for more.

And then you started a blog... Joy of joys for me. It isn't quite the same as sitting across the table from one another, but I love getting a glimpse into your mind. What a treat, what a challenge, what a blessing for me.

I have loved getting to go along vicariously on your adventures, of seeing God's provision and care in your life, of watching your kids grow and you and your husband step into the place of caring for others as you have become the older, wiser ones now.

Thank you for taking us along on this wild ride through your words!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

You Show Up

Dear Friend,

I love how we met. Of all the God ordained friendships in my life, having you and your husband reach out to my husband and I asking if we would be okay with you joining our small group was one of the most unusual and complicated to orchestrate. Of course we would want you in our group. That part is not unusual. We met some of our dearest friends hosting that small group so many years ago. The special part was that you were not sure if we would be comfortable since you had just bought your first home from us. My first thought was if you are comfortable, I am since you are living in the house now... just hoped that the roof wouldn't suddenly start leaking.

Funny enough that same small group had sat in that living room, the one that was once ours but was now yours and prayed for the right buyer to come along and make an offer. You did and we accepted.   And then you joined that small group, meeting in our new house just a half mile away. I love how God took care of both our families through that exchange and then brought us together to become friends.

Our small group needed you. I needed you. Because you showed me what it really means to be in community, to do this life thing together. With your simple but amazing strawberry salad to the texts checking in on me, from loving my kids to asking how I am really doing, you came alongside me and taught me how to really connect. I know you credit your Mennonite upbringing for how you are so good at being in community, in sharing life with those around you but I think part of that is just in your DNA.

You care about people deeply. Not just your friends and family but everyone you come in contact with. And you are committed to the people in your life. You are not a friend in name only. You are there when it matters. You have a knack for getting real without getting dramatic or being invasive. When you know there is a need, even sometimes before the other person (me) does you step in the gap either for them or with them. And you do all this with a sense of humor that keeps me laughing. You recognize that life can be dark and hard but you also find the fun and the funny amidst it all. I still miss meeting up at Claim Jumpers and laughing all evening.

So many fun memories I share with you... prenatal water aerobics, line dancing, hanging out in one of our homes while we shooed our kids upstairs so we could really talk... finding sports bars in rural Wisconsin, antiques shopping, our exciting at finding wifi...

You show up to play, to listen, to support, to love even after a busy day at work, even if it means leaving our husbands in charge while we head out for the night, even when it means driving two plus ours to meet me in the middle of nowhere for a girls weekend. You show up. You build community. You love your neighbor. You show me Jesus.

I am so grateful for your friendship. Even after all these years and being so far and now less far apart.

I love you!


Monday, November 11, 2013

You Made Me Brave

Dear Friend,

We met in kindergarten. Not when we were five but when we were scared parents letting our kids go to big kid school for the first time. You had one in Mrs. N's class and the twin in the other afternoon class. I don't remember a lot of those early months, since I was dealing with a toddler and a preschooler who were not the best behaved when dropping their big brother off at school. I often had to rush off to take said preschooler to his own school and then back to the house to put the baby down for a much needed nap, much needed by me.

But I remember clearly those afternoons we would all spend on the big kid playground after kindergarten pick up. When a few and then more parents and kids would run to the back of the school, hand out snacks and then let the kids run wild while we got to know one another. There is something special about those kindergarten friends you make. I remember being in awe of the snacks you had packed and that you even brought washcloths to clean hands instead of the disposable wipes I always had with me. I remember the joy you always brought with you. I remember your openness, your willingness to share - your snacks, your time, your stories.

You and I were often the last ones there. We had nothing to rush off to since both our husbands worked at start ups. Or more accurately lived their start ups. We would gather up our crew and walk down the sidewalk towards our homes together, until we had to split at the corner - me turning right, you left. Some of our best conversations happened on that corner.

And then I moved away, back to Oregon. But you stayed in touch. Facebook made it feel like you were still right down the street. Except you weren't and I missed you. And then my family moved back to California again and I no longer had to miss how friendly you were, how open and inviting to everyone. I no longer had to miss how great you were with my kids, and every kid you have ever met.

You showed my kids wonder. You were excited about life and engaged them in learning and seeking and exploring. You volunteered your time, HAPPILY. You are a safe adult to a whole school of kids, always ready to listen and help and guide. You are one of the best stay at home parents I know. You often make Pinterest look weak.

I am not those things. I mean yes, I volunteer... but often begrudgingly. I hate craft projects and science projects and pretty much any kind of project. I am not good with little kids. I like order and rules and reason. And while I wish I had learned to be better with kids from you, I did not.

What I did learn from you is actually something I am embarrassed to admit.

I think I have told you this story but I am not sure if I told you the whole thing because there are parts of it that horrifies me.

It began when I was living on Capitol Hill in a house full of young Christian staffers. Some to congress, some at nonprofits. We were newly graduated, first time adults and our worlds were being exposed to new ideas, new beliefs, points and counter points. It was in that house's living room that I first ever heard the liberal Christian understanding of homosexuality. Where I first heard someone explain that the verses I had always believed said one thing may have in fact been addressing a fully different type of same sex activity that was prominent in Roman times. Of married adult men engaging in sexual encounters with young boys. Of orgies and sexual debauchery that looks nothing like the same sex couples I know today. It was the first time I was told it was okay to question the church's traditional teaching about homosexuality.

I didn't think much of the conversation, until I met my husband and one of his best friends from college (also a Christian university) came out to him. But now I had a face for the issue. This was not some theological debate. This was a friend. A follower of Jesus. A gay man. We loved him and only wanted the best for him... whatever that may be. Having a face certainly makes it harder to hold onto dogma that your heart wasn't comfortable with to begin with. Sadly though we did feel a need to keep his homosexuality a secret from my inlaws. I don't know if that was out of fear of judgment for him or fear of having an honest conversation with them.

For the most part, I felt like people should be able to do what they felt was right, for themselves and before God. Your sex life is not my business.

Until it became my business.

It was 2004. I was living in Oregon with my husband and our two sons. We had just moved to a new home, the last move we planned. We had friends and were invested in our community. We were involved in our church, even being so bold as hosting a small group Bible study in that new home. Life was good. And then Ballot Measure 36, a constitutional amendment defining the marriage of a man and a woman as the only one recognized by the state, was put on the ballot.

Now I have always known that my marriage was not in danger because of homosexual couples. I actually didn't care who got married if they loved one another and were committed to one another for the long haul. I was ready to vote no on Prop 36.

Then my pastor stood before the church and said that we needed as Christians to vote yes. We needed to affirm our conviction that marriage is between a man and a woman. We needed to stand up in our faith and speak the truth with our votes.

And I did.

I was never comfortable voting yes. I hoped it did not pass. I didn't even really agree with what my pastor said, and yet...

I was scared of breaking ranks. I was scared of being wrong.

It was one thing to be a Christian who struggled with how homosexuality fit in God's plan. I have always had a liberal bent, a grace bias, a rebellious spirit toward absolutes. But what if I was wrong. Was I willing to stake my Christianity on it?

I have been ashamed of that vote ever since.

Because while it didn't affect my marriage, that vote told thousands of loving couples in my state that they were wrong, that their love did not matter, that they did not matter - not as they were. I am horrified that I was too scared to stand by my growing convictions that the evangelical church's stance on homosexuality is wrong. That my fear of being wrong, caused me to trade grace and love for moral absolutes and peer pressure.

And then I moved to California. And I met you. And we became friends. And I heard the story of how you met your husband and how your rabbi married you with all your religious traditions, of how two young gay men were married within the Jewish community and supported and accepted and loved all the same. I saw your marriage, the one that looked so similar to mine as we griped about our men working late and never being home. As we talked of needing date nights but having trouble finding the time. As we parented our kids side by side, teaching them to love their neighbor and make good choices.

I was lucky to get a second chance. California had Proposition 8 on the ballot, another marriage is only between a man and a woman state constitutional amendment. This time I freely and vocally voted No.

We lost that vote. But in the eyes of God, you were still married because the state of California cannot invalidate your Ketubah.

Because of you, because you were my friend, I was now brave enough to stand up to those around me that pushed me to vote against my conscience, against you.

Because you were my friend. Not my gay friend. My friend.

And your marriage, your family are important to me. Very important to me.

Because you are my friend, I stand with you in praying for marriage equality. In voting for marriage equality. In speaking up when someone around me assumes I agree with them that homosexuality is a sin.

Instead I tell them your story.

I tell them about my friend who cares more for others than he does for himself. My friend who lets me invite myself over and makes me cookies and let's my kids swim in his pool. My friend who meets me for long coffees and listens and shares and laughs and sits in sadness with me. My friend who loves his husband, who loves their kids, who has created an amazing family that adds so much to my world and the community around them.

You were my friend. And it was no longer okay for me to sit silently by.

You are my friend and you helped me to be brave.

It is easy to be brave when you have people who love you and will catch you when you fall.

You make it easy for me to be brave. (Though I hope soon it is no longer brave to believe in equality and love. It just is.)

I love you!! (Even though you are a man who is not my husband. :) Remember the time we saw my friends at Peet's and it was just the two of us. Me alone having coffee with a man.)

Thank you for being my friend. Even when I wasn't worthy of your friendship.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dear Mrs. N,

Dear Mrs. N,

You were my first kindergarten teacher. Technically you were my son's teacher but you taught me along the way as well. One of my favorite lessons, the one I share most often with others, happened one day on the playground.

It was recess and I was there ready to do my table time volunteering when recess was over. We were standing on the blacktop chatting about this or that when a child cried out from the play structure. Up to this point in my parenting, when a child screamed or cried or made pretty much any uncomfortable noise at the park or playground someone jumped up and ran to see what was wrong. If it was my kid, someone else had probably gotten to them before I could since I was chasing three little ones at the same time most days. Not to mention I was not one to jump up and run to my kid. I knew their cries and knew which ones needed a reaction from me.

So when I heard the cry, I expected fast movements as the teachers rushed to the child. It was early in the year and I could not imagine you would know everyone's real emergency cry. But that didn't happen. Instead, you calmly called the child over to you.

And surprisingly enough, the child stood up and walked over to you. You helped brush the bark dust off and asked them if they were okay and when they said they were, you sent them on their way.

I was shocked.

Shocked that you had not rushed over.

I think you saw the look in my eye. The one parents try to hide but is so evident when we are judging one another or the situation. Because you then explained to me that when I child falls, you ask them to come to you. That is how you first assess the extent of the possible injury. Most of the time, the child will walk over, get the reassurance they need that they are okay, and then be off again. But if the child cannot walk to you, then you said it is time to call 9-1-1.


And so satisfying because I had used the same technique with my kids. I had thought it was just lazy parenting but you, a professional teacher, had just made my parenting style valid - a reasonable, even thoughtful assessment tool.

In truth, that was what I was doing all along. I had wanted my kids to learn to brush themselves off and get back to playing when they fell down. I wanted them to be tough and resilient. I was intentional about what appeared to be neglectful parenting to the other moms and nannies at the park. But I had been judged so often for it. Mostly just with a look, though occasionally with a "helpful" comment or two.

So on that day, on your playground, you gave me a great gift. You gave me reassurance that I was doing okay as a parent.

And then you told me how obvious it was that I loved my kids. Even if I parented differently. You reassured me that my methods, my parenting philosophy, was valid. Not only valid, but you used very similar methods in your classroom.

That day, and many others, you helped me understand that it was okay to parent in my own way.

You gave this mama confidence.

Thank you!

Monday, November 4, 2013

To My Fashionista Friend

I have decided to write letters to the people who have shaped me into the person I am today. In the olden days I would mail these off using the post office. In today's world I post them on my blog.

This is one to my fashionista friend, 

It was one of the first things I noticed about you. How beautiful you were, put together and a smile that was wrapped flawlessly in a deep shade of lipstick. I thought it was the lipstick that drew my eye, but I know now that it is your smile. Your perpetual smile that lights up a room. 

I was once intimidated by your clothes, your sense of style. I wondered what you thought seeing me dressed yet again in yoga pants and a fleece. My Ugg boots long out of style and my lips smeared with clear balm. I knew I didn't belong in your world. 

Except I was wrong. You don't care how I am dressed when we sit together in the coffee shop. It's not that you don't notice because you do comment when I have a cute top on or when I actually remember to put on some lip gloss. But what I am wearing, how I look doesn't change how you view me... the real me. I thought it did. But I was wrong. 

When I got over myself, when I stopped worrying that you were thinking I was a lazy slob who doesn't care enough to pull myself together, when I stopped judging you defensively, I got to know you. And you are one of the nicest people I know. Seriously. It took months and months before I ever heard you say an unkind word about anyone. And then it was only in reference to a problem you were actually trying to solve. You genuinely want the best for everyone. When I got to know you, I saw your fashionista ways differently. 

What I learned from you is that you love fashion. You enjoy looking at the newest trends and finding just the right item to add to your closet. You like to dress up. You find joy in putting the right accessories together to complete an outfit. And you do it so well. 

But knowing that you enjoy fashion freed me up to be myself. Someone who wants to be comfortable in my clothes. Someone who doesn't think about what I am wearing to school pick up because I am too busy reading a new book. Recognizing you enjoy the getting ready part of going out, helped me to understand that we are all different and that it is okay. 

Understanding my friends' various hobbies, passions, and priorities, has helped me to let go of all the shoulds of this world. I don't like scrapbooking but I have friends who do. My kids will just have to make do with photo albums, or more accurately zip drives with pictures on them because I can't remember the last time I actually ordered prints. But I love to read. I have a stack of books in our library basket and a long wish list on Amazon. I am always looking for new books to read and I like to tell people about my newest find. But I don't expect everyone to love reading or to make time for it. It's my thing. I get that. And now I get that fashion can be someone's thing without me feeling like I have to keep up. 

But here's the thing about good friendships. When you spend enough time with someone, you start to appreciate their loves as well. So when I needed new glasses, I asked you to help me find a pair that made me look like a hipster writer and not a spinster hermit. I started to notice your cute purse or boots and when I needed to buy new ones, I asked for help. And you created a whole Pinterest page for me. When I moved away, you would go shopping with me via picture texts and gave me the confidence to try some new styles and buy some cute new boots. You shared your love with me and some of it rubbed off. Not in a, I have to be dressed right to keep my friend, but in a wow my friend has amazing style so I am going to take advantage of her fashion sense. 

So to my fashionista friend, I say thank you. Thank you not only for helping me shop for cuter clothes and helping me find my own style in the process, but thank you for showing me that it is okay to love fashion or to not care about fashion. Thank you for helping me understand that we all have our things, often several things, but we don't have to be all things.

Thank you mostly for being such a good friend to me.

I miss you!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

To My English Speaking Church Family

To My English Speaking Church Family,

Each time we move, which has been often, one of our first tasks is finding a church to call home. This should have been especially challenging when we moved overseas for the first time. We lived in a Spanish speaking country and neither of us spoke Spanish well. I barely understood the language at all. (I really did think French would come in more handy when I was studying it in high school.)

Except it wasn't really that hard to choose a church because there were very few English speaking options. And since we were not Catholic, nor Anglican, we were left with one option.

It was a small church.

Scary small for the two of us coming from an almost mega church in California. We would be known here, whether we wanted to be or not.

I remember one of the first Sundays we were there. Communion was served. The pastor explained that the cups on the inside held wine and the cups on the outside held grape juice. I loved that the church was big enough to welcome both those that believe wine is a necessary part of communion and those who hold that believers should abstain from wine.

When you live overseas, when you are the minority, church becomes different. It becomes less about the theology, the way sacraments are practiced, the denominations and more about the family, the relationships, the doing this life apart together. I learned so much about my own prejudices and ignorance while being in a Christian community that was tied by our language and not our fundamentals. A community that was taken down to the bare bones of faith, to Jesus. Being involved with a church while living in a foreign land, taught me how simple faith and community could be, if we agreed to let each other practice and live out their faith as they believed.

This is also where I joined my first women's Bible study. I had been in small groups before in college. And my husband and I had been involved in young married small groups at church but this was my first Women's Bible study. I cannot remember who actually ran the group, but I do know that the pastors/priests of the three English speaking churches all approved the study materials and we all agreed to leave our denominational biases at the door.

I loved it. I had two amazing small group leaders who encouraged me more than they may know. They cared about me and checked on me. They gave me perspective and challenged the certainty of my ideology. And with Facebook, I still get to learn from them. They are the reason, I got involved in women's Bible study when I returned to the US, which eventually lead to my leading and teaching. You know that book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie... these women gave me a love for studying the Bible with women that is core to my being today. They gave me Women's Bible study which leads to friendships which leads to wanting to grow together spiritually which leads to Bible study.

Thank you to the English speaking church community for opening my eyes so I could see my own faith culture blinders. I found God in a new way when I was no longer tied down by only my church experience.

Grace and blessings to you all,


Monday, October 28, 2013

Dear American Club Ladies

I have decided to write letters to the people who have shaped me into the person I am today. In the olden days I would mail these off using the post office. In today's world I post them on my blog.

Dear American Club Ladies,

It was over a decade ago that I first walked into that house on the tree lined street of Santiago. I was pregnant with my first, living overseas in a country where I did not speak the language and the only person I knew was my husband who worked long hours. I was not working for the first time in my life. I was alone and lonely and lost.

I was so scared of meeting you the first time, of walking into that room unsure of what was going to happen that I asked my husband to come with me. I had already found plenty of excuses to not show up during the open house hours the weeks before but I knew I couldn't keep going like this. And so one day, we walked into that house the one I can picture so clearly in my head right now. The library off to the left. The living room to my right was now filled with people mingling in small groups. Behind a table in the back sat a couple of women. I bravely approached them and introduced myself.

And that was all it took. Because once I took the step of showing up, oh how you took me under your wing. You invited me to join the stitching group and told me to come anyway when I said I didn't do needlepoint. And again when I showed up for what I found out was affectionately called Stitch and Bitch, you welcomed me with open arms. You kissed me on the cheek and introduced me to everyone who also kissed me on the cheek, a custom in Chile that I missed when I left but caught me off guard that first week.

You invited me to your home. You gave me advice on where to shop. You called to ask me to lunch. You took me shopping for fabrics and hooked me up with your curtain guy. You gave me restaurants to try and shared your life with me. You introduced me to other pregnant moms in the club and encouraged us to form a pregnancy support group.

Mostly though, you taught this woman who was so stuck on ages and life stages when I first got there, that I could have so much fun with women a little further along life's path than me. I laughed more at the stories you told over coffees and stitching than I maybe ever had. Oh my how you liked to have fun. I had spent so many years stressing about college and then getting my first job and getting married and then trying to get pregnant, that I had forgot how to have fun. I learned a lot listening to your stories, mostly I learned to stop stressing over the small stuff. Life was going to happen and I got to choose how I responded.

When I found out that we were being sent home sooner than expected, I was heartbroken. I had only been there a few months and yet the goodbyes were so incredibly hard, especially when you planned a special lunch for me and when the Stitch group threw me a surprise baby shower my last week there. I was so touched by how you embraced me, made me one of the tribe so quickly, and when I had to leave sent me off with such fanfare. You know how to make a girl feel special.

Thank you for showing me the value of cross generational friendships and for bringing such joy to the table.

I was blessed to have known each of you!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Letter to A Friend

Moving always gets me thinking about the people I left behind, the ones that changed me with their presence in my life. Some are obvious but others may never know the positive impact they had on my life, on the person I have become. This year, as I moved and turned 40, I have been thinking a lot about the various people I have met along the way. In the olden days, I might have gotten out my engraved stationary and sent them a letter. In today's world, in my world, I am going to be posting these letters on my blog. Saves me paper and postage, and more importantly, hopefully reminds us each of the impact we have on one another's lives because from each of these people, I have learned how to be a better person.

Today is the first letter.

Dear Friend,

(I could not decide if I should actually use the person's name here. And now I have "You're so Vain" stuck in my head as I worry that too many people might think this is about them. But I respect my friends too much to put their names out on the web. Also, this is just the first letter. There are more to come as I work my way through the many years and people in my life.)

Let's try again.

Dear Friend,

I miss you already and you were just here. Have I told you how much hope it gave me to know before I ever left California that you were coming for a visit? I worried the plans might fall through. Life does get in the way. And things hadn't really been going my way much in the last year. But you made it. You came to visit me. You spent money on an airplane ticket. You flew across the country. You took time out of your already crazy busy schedule that has gotten even more crazy to be with me.

I shouldn't have been surprised. You are the friend that shows up with a cup of coffee and sits with me outside the library while my kids are inside for a summer program. This adult only time accomplished because you called in a babysitter to watch your kids so you could come be with me.

You are the friend who stops by with my favorite crackers and expensive cheese that I could not afford to enjoy when the paychecks stopped.

You are the friend that does those things without asking my permission first, which is good because I would hate to have someone go out of the way for me, to spend money on me, to rearrange their schedule for me. I fear so much being a burden to those around me. I learned long ago to stop being so demanding of people and to instead make myself easy to get along with. I am the easy friend. The one that is flexible and willing to do almost anything to hang out.

But sometimes life is bigger than I can handle on my own. And you stepped into that with me. You showed me how friends may not be able to fix everything or carry all our burdens for us, but friends can do little things that remind us that we are loved, that life is going to be okay because we get to do it together. Even the hard parts. Even the parts that have me taking more than I am giving.

You taught me that friendship isn't about keeping score. I have to admit that I have kept track of so many silly things, like who called last, who paid last, whose turn it should be to make the next move. Not because I care, but because I don't want the other person to think I am a burden, a one-sided friend.

But in keeping track, I also got insecure. I worried about reaching out too often and being seen as needy. I worried about talking to much and not being a good listener. I worried about not being seen as cheap or stingy or neglectful or forgetful. I worried...  I worry still.

You, my friend, taught me how to show love in very simple ways. A cup of coffee. A bag of pretzels for my son. A hug. Driving on margarita night. A few minutes of conversation while the kids begged for us to stop talking. An airplane ticket.

You, my friend, care deeply with a passion and a love that I want to add to my repertoire.

Until we are together again, know that I love you!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Does the Label Define You?

I love the Facebook photo album Sarah Bessey has crowd sourced for her soon to be released book Jesus Feminist. People from all over the world have completed the statement "I am _______ and I am a Jesus Feminist." It has been interesting to see how people fill in their own blank. What labels they use.

I considered what I would write.

Mom of 3 Boys
Independent Voter
Conservative Christian College Graduate
West Coast Transplant
Feminist (well that one is already in the statement)

Having moved, I am faced with being new again. Labels are a getting to know you shortcut. A way to explain what I believe or what I do or once upon a time.

We treat labels as if that is all I need to know about how you think or feel or are.

Except they don't really.

I have Republican friends who are not Christian.

I have Liberal friends who are not pro-choice.

I have male friends who do not like sports and female friends who countdown the days to hockey season.

I have friends who are stay at home mothers who do not like preschoolers in general but have found a love for their own. I have friends who are amazing with kids that never want to parent.

I have found that I throw out labels hoping to find likeminded individuals. People who think like me about topics that matter to me. The problem though is that no label is really a good understanding of the whole of any one person.

Look at me...

To my non Church friends I am seen as a Christian who is very active in my church but to many of my Christian friends my some of my theological and social positions put me almost outside the church altogether.

I am prolife but I am also prochoice. I believe all life is to be valued including those unborn and born, the innocent collateral losses of war and the murders on death row. But I also know that these are complicated issues and that I would never want someone to tell me what I had to do with my body so I do not think it is okay for society to make those choices for someone else.

I am a woman. I love sports and intellectual debate. I hate crafting and the expectation that I would have a knack for hospitality. I enjoy laundry but I hate cooking.

I am registered as not belonging to a political party because I believe my only allegiance is to Jesus and yet I vote along party lines most of the time though I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats in the presidential elections since I turned 18.

I am a stay at home mom. I have moved all over the country, the western hemisphere to support my husband's career, I am active in church and volunteer at school, but I am an egalitarian. (As in I believe that God made man and woman equal to one another, that my gender does not determine my leadership role in a church, that my husband and I make decisions together and co-lead our family.)

My labels describe me but they do not define me.

I need to remember that when I am labeling other people.

What labels describe you? Do you let them define you?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall Saturdays are Meant for College Football

It has been a little dark here on the blog as of late.

Not that dark is bad. It's real. But I thought I would lighten the mood this Monday morning.

I love college football. The BCS, the PAC 12, the staunch rivalries and the unexpected upsets. I love waking up on a Saturday morning, making a cup of coffee (or enjoying a special Starbucks treat that my husband has gone out to get me) and sitting down to watch College Gameday. There is nothing that says fall to me like the opening theme song for College Gameday. For some people pumpkins and the leaves changing colors are what alerts them to fall, for me it is watching Kirk, Chris, Desmond and Mr. Corso. I was sad when Erin Andrews left for Fox. I am sure in time Samantha and David will mean more to me, just as Desmond has found a seat at the adult's table in my mind they will someday too.

My love for College Gameday has caused me to do some crazy things. Well one really. On a Saturday in November 2011, I got up early - very, very early - and went to see the actual, live and in person College Gameday crew when they visited Stanford University which was once upon a time just up the street from us.

(Confession: My husband had to actually get me out of bed because I am not a morning person and Gameday is shown live everywhere which means at the time it was on from 7 - 9 am on the west coast. Another confession: I watch Gameday on my DVR because even here in the Midwest 8am is earlier than I like to get up on a Saturday. Well any day really. And he didn't get me up because he wanted to go. College Gameday is my thing. He just wanted to make sure I did something I really, really wanted to do even if my body just wanted to sleep a little longer.)

Anyway, back to my story... We took our crew to see College Gameday being filmed on the Stanford Campus. The Cardinal were hosting the Ducks that night but my boys wore their Beavers black and orange proudly. This was PAC 12 country. To this day, most of my boys wear Beavers gear on Saturdays in the fall. Added benefit of being a fan of Oregon State University is that you are also dressed in Halloween colors.

Wow, I am full of tangents this morning. But isn't that the point of a Saturday morning, of spending the day watching sports. You can be as passionate or listless as you want. You can cheer for your team, cheer against your team's rival, cheer against the SCC just because it's the SCC. You can wear odd color combinations and trash talk with people in a way you would never do in regular life. You can debate and philosophize and calculate the rankings, the calls, the personnel, the coaching decisions. You can be involved in a community event without ever leaving your couch or Twitter feed.

I love college football. So much more than the NFL. Because in college you only get 4 chances to win it all. Five if you redshirt. Each team is special and unique and desperate to win and united in their losses. No one is jumping ship over a losing season or a higher pay scale. Perfection is what gets you into the big game, anything less and you are praying the computers love you just a little bit more than the next guy.

And here's the thing...

I've always been a female. Always will be. And I love college football. And hockey. I don't enjoy making crafts or trying out the newest pumpkin recipe (though I do enjoy eating pretty much anything pumpkin related). I like debates and problem solving. I enjoy flannel and chips with queso.  I like paper plates and am never quite sure what to do with flowers.

But I am a woman.

A woman who loves sports.

A woman for whom fall is announced on the first Saturday in September when Big and Rich let me know that ESPN is coming to my city.

So please stop trying to put me in a box because of my gender.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Courage in the Face of Fear

I don't think of myself as courageous. I don't like to take risks. I have a fear of heights and jumping of bridges. I don't like to ski or do anything that might provide an adrenaline rush. I get scared when I have to meet new people. I doubt myself and I doubt that people like me.

Fear has been a big part of my life this last year. Fear of loss. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the new.

It feels like I am often living in fear right now.

I don't fear the big things necessarily. I trust God. But the little things, the going to coffee with new acquaintances bring out the fear. Fear of not being liked. The little things of making phone calls or contacting teachers and fearing they might see me as a helicopter mom which I am really not. Fear of speaking up, saying the truth, to the people that have the power to hurt you the most.

These are the things that I am afraid of. Little things but real things that I have to do. Except I don't really. I can hole up in my home, it's a beautiful home that is cozy and comfortable. I don't have to get to know people. My kids take a bus. I don't have to interact with the school. I can keep silent. I don't have to say anything. The silence only hurts myself and it may be a cost I am willing to pay.

I was texting with a friend about making new friends last week.

My friend is right. Courage is moving forward in spite of the fear. I know I have heard similar things before, but it was seeing those words, at that moment, from a friend that knows me well, that dug those words in deep. 

And here's the thing... if I didn't reach out I never would have gotten to know this friend. My life would be less full without her. 

So the risks, maybe they are worth it. 

I'm still not going to try skiing again. Someone needs to sit in the lodge holding the snacks and getting a good table for lunch. 

What risk are you avoiding right now? What fear are you facing? 

Monday, September 30, 2013

I'm Angry at Myself Too

So I'm angry at God... but I am also angry at myself.

I know better than to wallow. To sit in the pain or to play the victim. I know how to keep going. To put away the feelings and move on with life.

I know better. And so I am angry at all the time I have wasted being sad, lonely, angry, etc.

I know what works to get me out of the funk I am in but lately, okay being totally honest about a year or so, I have not wanted to do the things that work. I have wanted to wallow. I have wanted to watch Gilmore Girls for hours on end. To play on Twitter and get sucked into the world of Candy Crushing. To read and reread favorite novels. To avoid the work I know I am to do.

Except do I know better?

Those things that work for me... they may pull me out of the funk but is that really what's best?

See, the things I do, the going through the motions focused on the task at hand, and the conversations I avoid, chatting about the logistics and the safe things, they move me along. They get me refocused and back to productivity and living a life I see as valuable and good. They get me back to living and doing.

But is there value in the being... the being sad, being hurt, being angry.

I get angry with myself when I let my feelings get the best of me, when I lean into them and let them wash over me. It seems a waste of time, a fool's errand, unbelieving. But maybe that is where I need to be.

I am sure I need to do it better. No one person ever needs to see as many episodes of Real Housewives as I have seen this year. But maybe the wallowing needs to happen.

Because the truth is when I wallow I am actually being honest about what I am feeling.

I can't hide my pain when I wallow. The people around me notice. And ask about it.

So maybe there is value in letting the emotions wash over you.

Or maybe not. Maybe it is just an excuse for me to spend another hour or two or three trying to complete the next level of Candy Crush.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Am Angry at God but He Seems to Be Okay with Loving Me Through It

I was sitting outside church this last Sunday, ready to give up and drive away. Tears rising up but knowing that the last thing I wanted was to walk inside and have people, strangers and new acquaintances knowing I had been crying.

I am angry at God, still. I am hurt.

Most of the time I can move around that feeling with Him. I can still do my Bible study homework and talk to my kids about God and His love for them. I can pray for my friends and even myself. I am good at doing the business of life with God while avoiding the real deep feelings I have. But not always.

This move, taking me away from those that know me well and love me better, that help me be my best self and encouraged me to be even better. To write, to love, to share life. God could have made life in California work. But he didn't. He led us here. And while this is an amazing place. I have to start over and I am tired of that.

Each time we move things are taken away from me. Not just people, but my history, my reputation. Each time I have to start over. I have to sign up for Bible study, not teach it. I have to join a new small group, one that does not know my heart for God. How do you share honestly your anger and pain in a new Bible study small group when they do not know that my faith is deep and wide? And so I turn here.

I am hurt. I am angry.

I thought God was doing something with my writing, with my teaching, with leading women to experience God's love and grace. I thought I had found my purpose in Oregon when I first started teaching Bible study in Oregon years ago, when Little One was a huge belly bump. I loved it. But then we moved to California. And I know all the good reasons we did so. I know it was the right move, but I lost my role.

And so I turned to writing my thoughts instead. I started this blog. My first blog post Out of Control was posted on October 15, 2008. I didn't think much of it at the time. Just an outlet to get my thoughts out of my head and maybe encourage a few of those women I was once blessed to teach. But over the last five years, I have seen other bloggers' audiences grow from 3 to 10 to 75 to hundreds. And I hoped. Maybe this would be my thing, my way of adding value to the world. But instead this stays a small place for my friends to keep up with what's on my mind. And while I know there is value in that, I wonder, often, if maybe it is time to give up on this work. To let my thoughts go back to being held in private. To stop thinking of this as work and to just stop trying to pursue the dream of maybe...

When we returned to Oregon I got to teach again. Oh and how amazing that was. I loved opening myself up to God and seeing what He had for me to share. I loved knowing that my stories might be helping someone else see God in a new way. But we moved again. And again. And I am wondering how this transient life will ever lead to my dreams.

I am 40 years old and starting over.

And I am tired of it. I am absolutely worn out by the newness this time.

And I hate that right now my entire life is being defined by my role as wife and mother. I'm not proud of this but it is true.

I love my family. But I want to be me too.

And so I sat outside of church this last Sunday, on the verge of tears. Tired of being new and scared that I may never make real connections here. I was angry at God. Rage filled. Overwhelmed by a desire to walk away. To quit and be done with following Him where ever He leads.

But I walked inside anyway. Because that is what you do when your kids are in Sunday School and it is time to go to big church together as a family.

Somedays faith is about going through the motions. Because it is in being in the motions, being in the building, that God can work His magic. That a conversation can happen that reminds you that He's got this and that you are where you are meant to be. That things will be okay.

Not that everything is all better. But this Sunday, God gave me a win for that day.

Do you need a win today?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wisconsin... What I've Learned So Far

It has been two and a half months since we arrived in the great state of Wisconsin and here's what I have learned so far...

* In Wisconsin those speed limit signs seem to indicate the actual top speed you should be driving and not just the suggested minimum as was the case in California. Not that everyone drives under the speed limit but they definitely take the word limit more seriously here.

* They also take the Great Lakes seriously. Middle Man had a test within the first week of school. He had to know the names of the continents, the great lakes, and the oceans. Notice the order - knowing the great lakes comes before learning the oceans. I'm thankful for the HOMES acronym (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior) and my son's quick memorization skills.

* Don't tell anyone from Wisconsin this but I am not a fan of plain cheese curds, which they will proudly tell you is the cheese the squeaks when you eat it. But I do love me some fried cheese curds. I also think ice cream is superior to custard but Culver's makes the best local chain store hamburger we have ever had. Better than In-n-out and Burgerville. I think it's the butter. I didn't say it is the healthiest but definitely the yummiest burger.

* Rural living takes some planning, as in don't forget to make a list and check it twice when going to the grocery store or Target or pretty much anywhere else since you have to actually drive into town for those. It's really not that far at all but for someone who used to have three grocery stores within a half mile and at least as many coffee shops, having to drive into town has proven to be a bit of a deterrent for me. My Starbucks consumption has gone way down (might want to sell your stock) and when I ran out of Lancome mascara I decided to just go with something from Target rather than drive to the mall which quite a bit farther. My boys also got to experience the joy of having pizza delivered for the first time last night because it was worth it to not have to drive and get it. One thing that has gotten closer is the ice rink which is only five minutes away now. Joy upon JOY!

* Thunder storms are no joking matter. They happen regularly and can cause quite a bit of ruckus when they want. Last weekend we lost power for a few hours after a particularly bad storm. Between Little One's anxiety and my not liking to lose power to the water well pump, I think a generator is in our future.

* There is no AT&T cell service in parts of the state. I met up for a girl's weekend with a friend from Iowa at a halfway point between the two of us. While Mineral Point is quaint and full of artistic and historic charm it has neither a good sports bar nor cell coverage for me. Thankfully my friend had Sprint which apparently loves real rural life (not the pretend thing we do outside of Milwaukee) and had plenty of cell towers to keep us from being completely out of reach. Not that I needed to be reached since my husband had the kids at the grandparents in Michigan. Three adults can certainly take care of three kids without needing to text or call Mom.

* This is one beautiful state. Green and lush. Cornfields and water towers. Roads cut through limestone walls and wonderful architecture. History laid up next to every day now. And as the leaves just start to hint at changing colors, I am looking forward to experiencing all the seasons this year.

This West Coast girl is still caught off guard at times by differences between the Midwest and the West Coast but I am feeling more at home each day.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Turning 40

I turned 40 this summer. It was a bigger deal than I expected. Not the actual birthday. We had just moved to Wisconsin so there was no big party and the birthday weekend away with my husband turned into a family getaway when our babysitting plans fell through. I'm not complaining because it really was a nice birthday full of reminders of how blessed my life has been and how loved I am, something I often forget.

All I'm saying is that the actual turning 40 was a rather quiet affair. But the being 40, now that one is hitting me harder than I expected. Mostly because my body is proving how old it is and more importantly how poorly I have taken care of it in the last decade or two. But I am also remembering how old 40 seemed when I was 20 and even 30 and know that I am now old. Or at least old enough to no longer be considered young.

Yeah, I know 40 is the new 30 and 60 the new 40 but that's just because we have access to better medical care, hair coloring and denial.

I'm not saying it's all downhill from here because there are some great things about aging.

I really am more comfortable in my skin and less concerned with how others view me. I can be my own person now without feeling a need to explain or defend or even worse - prove I'm right.

My kids are old enough now to all go to school, to make their own lunches, tie their own shoes, go to timeout when sent and leave me alone when I am going to the bathroom. They can sit quietly in a waiting room and I don't have to lug around a huge bag of snacks and diapers and entertainment devices. The boys are old enough to carry their own heavy bags and to even roll my carry on through the airport for me.

I have had enough bad things happen to myself and those around me to have gained a little perspective. I guess I could use those experiences to become scared of everything, and I definitely have a healthy respect for the hard things that could happen, but mostly those experiences have taught me to keep walking forward, to remember all the times that God has taken care of me even in ways I did not appreciate at the time, to know that it is a season.

The main thing I have discovered though as I have hit middle aged is that I want to err on the side of grace in all things.

Life is more grey than I could ever understand in my teens and 20s, something I discovered in my 30s. Truth with a capital T is hard enough to define for myself much less for someone else. Stories have layers and sides to their telling. I know so much less with certainty these days but I hold tightly to that which I do know to be true for me.

So while I know less, I love more.

More because I don't have to be right. I don't have to make others conform to my understanding of the rules of life. Grace allows me to see the grey - to know that God is at work in this world apart from me having to understand it.

More because I have comfortable enough and even bored enough with my own life to be genuinely interested in those around me. I am free to love my friends just as they are, to learn from them, and to see life differently through their eyes.

More because I have chosen to be okay with the unknown, with the not knowing it all, with grace. I have found comfort in the disequilibrium caused by not knowing. There is something calming about letting go of control, a false sense of it really, and going with the flow.

And more because I am more able to live in the moment. As you face down the second half of your life, you really do want to enjoy the here and now because the finish line is coming more clearly into view. Hopefully still a very distant, distant sight way, way, way far away but I can still catch a glimpse of it.

I'm not writing all this to say that turning 40 was some profound experience. It really wasn't.

I'm just saying that as you get older I think you get to choose whether you want to get stuck in your ways, becoming the old man yelling on the kids to stay off your grass, or you can recognize the big wide world for what it is - more than we can ever truly understand - and choose grace.

I choose grace. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Night Owl in a Land of Morning People

I have no idea how it happened but I am a night owl living amongst morning people.

This is one of the problems of not living together before you get married. There is no way to tell that you are accidentally marrying a morning person. I'm not sure he would claim to be a morning person but his willingness to get up early enough to not rush in the morning, his ability to actually make it out the door for a 6:30 am flight, his inability to sleep past 9:00 on a Saturday morning, and his ability to fall asleep before 10:30pm most nights all point to the fact that he is in reality a morning person. I mean he's not one of those crazy people that gets up at 5:00am to read and have some quiet time before everyone else is up (I'm looking at you Jen), but comparatively he is a morning person.

And this morning person passed on his morning person genes to our kids. I have tried and tried to break them of their 6:30 waking. I have kept them up later hoping they would sleep in only to have them still wake up early but be tired and all of us grumpy the next day. I have tried blackout curtains and making a rule that they cannot get out of bed before 7:00am only to be awakened by them playing mini sticks in their room.

I thought I had finally done it, finally won the battle for later mornings after our trip to Oregon last month. We arrived late the first day and stayed up late more nights than was healthy to celebrate summer fun. The kids body quickly switching from Central to Pacific Time. We arrived back in Wisconsin well after midnight. I was worried for that first morning. I told them they could not come out until 8:30am. But then miracle of miracles, they all slept in. The oldest until 9:30am and the youngest until 11:00am.

I worried it was a one time deal but the next morning they slept late again. Not crazy, night owl late but after 8.

My husband claimed I had broken them. He worried about school starting the next week. And then he took them to Michigan for Labor Day weekend. He took them to Eastern Daylight Savings time.

And when they returned they woke up early... way, way too early.

This morning they were playing and arguing an hour before my alarm even needed to wake me. They woke up full of energy, ready to play and be loud and full of life.

I had a good thing there for a couple of days.

And then my husband ruined it.

And the thing that really gets me about all this, the thing that bothers me most about being a night owl in a house of morning people, is the we're superior attitude they have. The we have the right to be loud in the morning, the judgmental look I get when I open my book in bed at 10:30 at night, the sigh that escapes my husband when I start a conversation just as he wants to go to bed. And it's not just at home. Restaurants and stores and even Starbucks close their doors to me just when I am ready to go.

This world is not made for night owls.

At least my house isn't.

Nor my new home town.

And don't think I haven't tried to change. I've made myself go to bed earlier. I've gotten up earlier. I've tried it all.

But I am a night owl. It is who God made me to be.