Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Charlotte's Web Wisdom

I had another post all planned out.  I had even started writing it.  But then I overheard this quote and I was so struck with it's simple, profound wisdom that I just had to share it.

My Myles is absolutely addicted to audio books.  Now, when I use the word addicted I mean it quite literally.  As soon as he stumbles down the stairs in the morning he turns on his CD player with a story in it.  He has stories in the car.  He will listen to stories all day long.  We have made the rule that the stories must be paused while we eat, but he is a serious book worm.  And I love it!

Often the stories filling our home will be listened to over and over and over again.  Such has been the case this week with the beloved classic Charlotte's Web.

 Like most people I have read the book and seen the movie, but it had been sometime since doing either.  Tonight Myles was listening in the playroom which is right next to our kitchen.  I was filling the sink with soapy water when I was utterly astounded by what I heard.

I shut off the water, went into the playroom and rewound the CD to make sure that I had heard it correctly.  Sure enough I heard it again.

Charlotte has assured Wilbur that she will save him from the awful fate that awaits most pigs.  But Wilbur is scared.  He wants to know what her plan is.  She tells him that she doesn't have a plan yet, but she will.  But when, he wants to know.  How can I help he asks, his anxiety bursting with every phrase.  Charlotte, always calm and gentle speaks these profound words to Wilbur,

“Never hurry and never worry!”
The simple beauty and truth of these words so resonated with my heart.  How often I am Wilbur running around fretting and worrying.  I become riddled with anxiety, when what I really need to do is embrace the wisdom of the spider, "Never hurry and never worry." 
I think that I shall have to go back and read Charlotte's Web  in it's entirety.  Who knows what other nuggets of wisdom are waiting to be rediscovered.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Embarking On An October Experiment

It officially feels like fall here.  I love the colors creeping into the trees.  I love being able to don sweatshirts and smartwool socks.  I love soup simmering in the kitchen.  But one thing I do not love is the upheaval of my routines and rhythms. 

The boys have been in school for almost a month now and I still feel like I just can't find a rhythm for my days.  Last year I established some routines that worked really well for me.  I was able to schedule my cleaning and exercise.  I worked hard to find a balance between activity and downtime.  Sure, there were days or weeks when life went off the tracks, but for the most part we were chugging along pretty well. 

And then fall began...

All of the routines that fit me so well, no longer fit.  I keep trying to squeeze and squish them every which way in an attempt to make them work.  But, the truth is they simply are not going to work this year.

I have spent the last month feeling frenzied.  I am always rushing.  Continually trying to shove more into the fragmented portions of my day.  Just one more thing.  I believe it will be so much better if I just quick do that one more thing.  But that one more thing snowballs into yet another.  All in an attempt to make home a desirable place to be.

The irony of that line of thinking and living is that in cramming in more and more as a means of creating a peaceful, inviting home I am actually wrecking havoc on the very place I am trying to guard. 

Yes, the dishes may all be done and the house straightened before we leave for school, but now  I am rushing around like a crazy lady.  And this crazy lady uses harsh tones of voice with her children and is creating an atmosphere of chaos and unrest during a foundational part of our day. 

Hurry, Hurry, Hurry ...

Yes, I may have accomplished my daily cleaning chore for the day and fit my run in before I needed to pick up Myles from young kinders, but the emotional and mental disaster that I left in the wake of my rushing is a steep price to pay for a clean bathroom. 

This continual loop of frenzied rushing has not produced the results that I thought it would.  Instead of getting more done I seem to keep coming up empty handed and quite frankly, tired.  Thus I have decided to embark on a month long experiment. 

I want to know, what would happen if I decided to do less.  What would my home look like?  What would our calendar look like?  Most importantly, how would the people who live in this house feel if I make a conscious choice to do life with less.

I believe that there could be many facets to this experiment.  I plan on taking time to explore different areas of my life in which I could do less.   But ultimately what I am searching to discover is would I (and my family) feel better if somethings were left undone.  Is there contentment to be found in doing less?
Maybe you would like to join me for this month.  If you have been struggling to find a balance for yourself and your family this might be a great experiment for you.  Maybe we find out at the end of the month that doing less doesn't help create a more peaceful home.  But, maybe it will.   

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Gifts

I received a gift this week.

It all started with a batman lunchbox.  A very cute, tin, batman lunchbox, which Boston was determined to acquire.   Much to his dismay I told him that we would not be purchasing the lunch box. 

Instantly my beautiful sweet three year old boy transformed, threw himself on the floor and began screaming.  It was a doosie of a meltdown let me tell you.  There was no way anyone in Target could have missed it, for that matter it is quite possible that everyone in town heard it. 

And here in Target is where I received my gift.  As I walked through Target with a child who by all accounts appeared possessed, I passed another mother with a young child who was smiling and content.  She smiled at me and said she was just starting her shopping, but that she would soon be joining me with a child melting down as well. 

I checked out.  I pushed my cart out in the parking lot, yes Boston is still screaming. Another mother caught my eye. She smiled, and she said, "I understand."

These women may have no idea how significant their words and smiles were to me.  But, they took what could have been an incredibly stressful, embarrassing situation and helped make it bearable.  Their gift to me was priceless.

As I began driving for home with a howling three year old in the back of the mama van I continued to steep in the beauty of the gift these strangers had given to me.  Then it hit me.  How often throughout my day am I presented with opportunities to be the gift giver?  Do I take seize or squander these moments.

 It was then that I realized I had underestimated the power of these small acts of blessing.  That too often I  have carelessly breezed by these opportunities to sprinkle blessing with out a second thought. 

This realization forced me to ask myself "why?"  Why do I waste these moments that are pregnant with possibility.  Why would I pass up the opportunity to give the gifts of  peace, of grace, of joy, of love to the people that I encounter.  Several reasons came to mind. 

  •  I get too busy and preoccupied with my own "stuff"
When I allow my world to start spinning too fast.  When I stuff my days as full as possible and then try to fit a few more things in.  When I allow my overflowing and oozing to-do list to dominate my mind and minutes.   When I allow perceived chaos to be my master I inadvertently put on my self-centered blinders just trying to make it through the day. And when I do,  I miss out on the opportunity to be the gift giver.

  • I get nervous or embarrassed
"What will she think of me if I say something?"  "I'm going to look like an idiot if I stop to see if they need help."  " I haven't even showered today, I really don't want to be seen like this."  I hate to admit how many times thoughts like these cross my mind.  Selfishness is such a sly deceiver.  It tricks me into believing that this moment is all about me.

The reality is that it doesn't matter what  the other person thinks about me.  Maybe she will think that I am a total loser for talking to her,  But maybe she won't.  Maybe, she needs to hear that it's okay, that she is not alone, that someone cares.  

  • I believe the lie that it doesn't matter
I pass someone on the sidewalk walking Myles into school.  It takes very little effort to smile and say good morning. 
When leaving school for the day, it takes  just a fraction of a minute to sincerely thank my child's teacher for the incredibly hard work that she does.  
It only takes me being brave enough to break the awkward silence to ask the cashier how her day is going.

These are not earth shattering encounters, but they are powerful none the less.  Our days are full of these brief encounters.  Opportunities to make someones day just a little bit easier. These moments do matter.

When I choose to slow down, put myself aside, and believe that these moments are significant I realize that these windows of opportunity allow others to have a glimpse of the Jesus who loves them more than anything.  How could I not want to be a part of that?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Five Minute Focus

This is my first experience with Lisa Jo Baker and Five Minute Friday  http://lisajobaker.com/
 So, here we go...


Moment by moment I am given the choice of what to focus on.  The world comes at me fast, but I will choose that which I will allow to camp in my mind.

I come home from working an evening shift and the dishes are piled high.  I sigh, thinking of waking in the morning to this mountain.  But then I realize, the dishes are left undone because my husband spent time playing with our boys instead of washing them.  I will choose to focus on the amazing father that my husband is.

"Mommy!!!!! Mommy!!!!!  I NEED .....!"  I will choose to dwell on the beauty of tending to the babies that God has entrusted to me, rather than the drain of meeting needs all day.

I will choose to focus on the beauty.  I will choose to focus on the gifts.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My First Rule of Cooking

One of the slower things in life that I believe is more than worth the investment is making homemade food.  I do quite a bit of baking and cooking from scratch and I truly feel it is worth the planning and the extra few minutes that it takes to do this for my family and myself.  And you might be surprised at how few extra minutes are actually needed in order to create healthy and delicious whole foods.

Making whole foods at home allows me the opportunity to make health and moral choices that I believe strongly in, while still living on a teacher's salary.  I could talk all day about why I feel these choices are so significant, and I will probably write later posts on the varying subjects, the important thing to know is that eating healthy, whole foods does not have to be out of reach.  It is something that anyone can do. 

Making healthy foods yourself is a key component to being able to eat well and not sabotage your budget.  But so often we get bogged down in knowing where to start or how to do it.

There are oodles of amazing resources out there on how to make everything and anything yourself.  I love having so much information available, but in the past I often found myself too intimidated to actually try any of them

Finally, I came to the realization that recipes are flexible.  Recipes are not the Bible. They are not legally binding documents to which we must adhere.  Recipes can be altered and changed.  They are a fabulous springboards that allow us to create amazing dishes.

I have found this realization to be one of the most useful tools in my kitchen.  Many of my favorite foods, ones that I use every week, were derived from original recipes, that have since then morphed into something that I like so much better.  Of course there are some components of cooking that really can not be altered, but for the most part recipes need not be set in stone.

Sometimes the change came about because I didn't have a certain ingredient on hand or because maybe there was an ingredient that I liked better that I wanted to try.  Or sometimes I tweak the method of preparation to better fit me and how I like to cook. Sometimes the new recipe tastes better, and sometimes it does not.

The key is to shake free from the shackles of recipe bondage.  Use recipes as a starting place and allow yourself the freedom to deviate when you need or desire to do so. 

One of my favorite recipes that has taken on a life of its own my graham cracker recipe.  I make a double batch of these babies at least once a week, if not more.  Here is the original recipe from Whole Foods Market ( http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/2629)


Sugar-Dusted Whole Wheat Graham Crackers Makes 2 dozen

If you don't have raw sugar on hand for sprinkling over the graham crackers before baking, substitute regular cane sugar. Serve these sweet treats with mugs of hot chocolate or tea or use to make old-fashioned s'mores.
 Sugar-Dusted Whole Wheat Graham Crackers

  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 egg whites, divided
  • 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons raw or turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add butter and work into flour with your fingertips until completely incorporated and mixture resembles fine meal. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 egg white, brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Add this to flour mixture and stir until a sticky dough forms.

Turn half of the dough out onto a very well floured surface and roll out into a (10-inch) square. Cut into 12 rectangles and transfer to one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Repeat process with remaining dough and second prepared baking sheet.

Brush graham crackers with remaining egg and sprinkle raw sugar over the tops. Bake until dark brown and fragrant, 12 to 14 minutes. Set aside to let cool completely (graham crackers will harden as they cool) before serving.

Nutritional Info:

Per Serving:

  • Serving size: 1 cracker
  • 60 calories (10 from fat)
  • 1g total fat
  • 0.5g saturated fat
  • 5mg cholesterol
  • 80mg sodium
  • 11g carbohydrate (1g dietary fiber, 6g sugar)
  • 1g protein

Here is the tweaked version:
I double the ingredients (except for the eggs because I skip the egg wash)
1.  I put the butter, flour, cinnamon (I have also used cocoa instead of cinnamon on occasion), baking soda, and salt in my food processor.  I found the part of the recipe when I had to work the butter into the the flour mixture to be too much of a hassle and it prevented me from wanting to make the recipe.  So I improvised and found that the food processor worked just fine for me.

2. While the flour mixture is going in the food processor I whisk up the wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Then I dump the flour mixture into the wet mixture and stir.
3. I spread flour on a large cookie sheet.  Then I roll out the dough directly onto the cookie sheet into one big rectangle.  I did not like rolling the dough, cutting the rectangles, and transferring them to the cookie sheet.  It just didn't work well for me.  So, I roll it into one big piece.  I also skip the egg wash, but I am sure that it is tasty.

4.  I put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 6-7 minutes.  Then I use my pizza cutter to cut the large rectangle into smaller rectangles and pop it back into the oven for another 6-7 minute.  When they are done I put them on a cooling rack and try not to eat them all before they even cool.

Changing up this recipe was nothing spectacular, but it took a great recipe that didn't work well for me and turned it into something that I can use and enjoy. 

What are some of your favorite recipes?  Have they morphed over time?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I have heard the story often.  My kindergarten teacher pulling my parents aside and having a conversation with them about little Annie.  My teacher tells my parents, "Please help Annie understand that it's O.K. to get one wrong on her papers."  In other words, please help her to see that she doesn't have to be perfect.  Oh, if only it were that simple.


This ache for perfection has plagued me day in and day out.  It has defined and limited me.  It has shaped my world.

I have, and I venture to guess many of you have as well, worked really hard to establish a world in which the only marks possible are pass or fail.  Perfection, you pass.  Anything less than perfection, you fail.

The thing is, life isn't pass or fail.  There are a wide range of possible, often beautiful results.  When we insist on wearing the perfect or fail blinders we limit ourselves.  We set ourselves, and those around us, up for deep heart wrenching pain.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not saying that we should be slackers and not give life our all.  But there is a marked difference between striving for excellence and insisting on perfection. 

I am slowly starting to understand what my kindergarten teacher wanted me to learn all those years ago.  Life is not perfection or failure.  Life is about the process.  Life is about looking more and more like my Creator.  Life is about putting that Creator on display, rather than putting myself or my perfect accomplishments on display. 

This summer Jen and I decided to train for a marathon.  It was a complicated decision, but once we committed we were dedicated to the endeavor.  And what an endeavor it was. 

We began our official training in June.  We started with shorter runs and consistently built our mileage throughout the weeks that turned into months.  We remained committed through family vacations, sickness, and crazy summer schedules.  We were personally dedicated during the week to do our individual runs and then on the weekend we juggled our two family calendars to fit in a long run. 
We became well acquainted with the dark early mornings.  Our feet pounding the pavement mile after mile as most of the world was slumbering and enjoying cups of coffee.  One weekend we even started our run at the ridiculous hour of 4:30 a.m. so that we could squeeze in our 15 miles before Eric had to leave for jury duty and we all had to work at Gazelle sidewalk sales.  We were running lunatics.
Jen went further than she had ever dreamed possible.  I went further than I had since having children.  We both pushed through our doubts and fears. 
 And then her foot began to "twinge."  We are three weeks away from the race.  After a grueling 19 mile run Jen faces the truth that she has to get her foot examined. 
My boys are napping, I am sitting on the couch when my phone rings.  "It's a stress fracture."  It's over.  There will be no marathon. 
We won't have the satisfaction of crossing the finish line.  No medal for all the sacrifice and investment. 
After cycling through a barrage of emotions and thoughts I surprised myself with this realization.  It is okay.  I don't have to have perfection, in this case the completion of the race, in order to know that I have done something amazing.  It's okay not to be perfect.   It's okay to know that I gave it everything that I had.  The results were not what I anticipated or had desired, but the journey and the outcome are beautiful none the less. 
Such is also true of many worthy endeavors.  I will never be a perfect wife.  I will never be a perfect mom.  I will fall short as a daughter of the King.  But as I let go of the lie that it's perfection or failure I am able to see the beauty in the victories and the losses.  I find contentment replacing the gnawing ache that the drive for perfection created in me.  There is true joy in contentment.
Psalm 46:10
"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Authenticity Part 3


As I have continued contemplating this idea of authenticity I realized that God has gifted me with glimpses of what authentic living could look like.  And as I take in these small snapshots, I realize that I want more. 

I am hungry to see more of the incredible beauty that is birthed through the hard work of living authentically.  For the beauty that emerges from the mess is astounding.

I wish that there were three simple steps to living a life of authenticity.  I would spell them out for you right here.  But, unfortunately life does not often work that way.  So instead, please allow me to share a few of the insights that God is teaching me and challenging me with as I begin stepping out on this path.

Immerse yourself in grace.  Allow it to surround you and permeate your innermost being. We need to practice the art of both giving and receiving grace. 

Begin by giving yourself grace.  So often in our attempts to "be it all" we become closed off to the world around us.  It takes so much energy to try to keep it all together that we are depleted and become hollow shells of who we were created to be. Who could possibly have the energy to truly engage with someone else when all of their resources are being funnelled into trying to be perfect?

When we cease striving to constantly attain perfection the peace and joy that follow are unparalleled.

 I have a group of friends who have made a pact that we will not clean our homes before the others come over.  It is amazing!  We were honest with one another about the stress that we were all experiencing when it was our turn to have the group at our house.  We could say to each other, I don't care what your house looks like.  I am coming over to spend time with you.  Hearing this from someone was incredibly freeing.  Going to a friends home and seeing that they have laundry piled up and toys strewn everywhere just like me, is an indescribable blessing.  I still have to fight the default mode of trying to get the house looking presentable.  But when I confront the fear that I need to be perfect for others to accept me I find that it a lie.

I believe that God wants us to create more experiences like this one in our worlds.  God wants us to relish in the truth that we are good enough because he has wrapped us in His beauty.  When we rest in that we can then turn our focus outward and truly begin to connect with those he has put in our world.  We become equipped to pour out grace to a world in desperate need of understanding and
unconditional love.

Be Present
In a society consumed with self and speed being truly present in the moment can be very challenging.
Yet, I believe that it is essential to living authentically with others.  By "being present," I do not mean that we should be at more things.  In fact, the opposite might well be true.  Too often we are trying to do so many good things that we are not completely engaged in any of them.

Being present could look different for different people.  For me, I try really hard to focus on the people that I am with, whether that is my family at dinner, out for coffee with a friend, or even when I am intentionally taking time for myself.  I try to eliminate other distractions and allow myself to completely enjoy the moments that I have with those people at that time.

By doing less we also allow ourselves more opportunities to be flexible and be present in the lives of others.  When we pack our days so completely full we leave no room for the time that authentic relationships require.  By decluttering our days we invite community to grow.

Messy and Costly
Yes, living together in authentic community is messy.   When we are being honest, our lives are often messy. When you put those messy lives together, it is seldom neat and tidy.  Yet, I will hold tightly to the truth that out of that which appears messy God creates beauty.  

Yes, living in genuine community is costly.  It feels risky to put our real selves out there.  It is scary to show others that we don't have it all together.  But it is worth the investment.  So we must choose every day which path we will walk.  I will choose to walk boldly down the path of authenticity.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I don't have it all together

Is authenticity worth what it costs to attain? This question keeps rattling around in my mind. Living authentically is not cheap.  Living authentically is not easy.  So I continue to ask myself is authenticity worth the cost?

Authenticity goes against the flesh and against what society says to be true
From the very beginning of time, human kind, left to their natural bent, hid. " Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ' Where are you?'  He (Adam) said, ' I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.'"  Genesis 3:9-10 emphasis added

I am struck by the question, "Where are you?"  This is the place from which I must begin. 

I find my true self lost.  Lost in all of the trappings that swirl around me.  Stuff both good and bad, but blinding none the less. I try to walk on my own and I become so entangled that I fall.

I need to slow down. I need to spend time with the One who crafted my very being, and allow him to strip away all that is not who He created me to be.  This is scary.  To be quiet and listen, to learn who I am truly am, this takes courage.  

It seems much easier to do as Adam and Eve, and hide.  Hide who I am.  Hide what I really feel.  Hide what is really going on.  Hide the fact that I am a mess and that as much as I strive to look like I have it all together, I don't.

But living in hiding has a cost too.  Living in hiding forces us to live in isolation.  We buy into the lies that everyone else has it all together.  That no one could possibly understand how we feel.  We are the only one who struggles with _____________. (you fill in the blank) So we put on a fake smile and put our best foot forward.

But, maybe instead of putting our best foot forward we need to put out our real feet.  You know, the ones that have chipped toenail polish and callouses.  What would the world look like if we decided to be real?

What would my world look like if I decided to listen to who God says that I am, instead of who the world says I should be?  What if I decided to stop wearing the fake smile and hiding, and instead let others into my real life? What would your world look like if you decided to do the same?

What if ...

Thursday, August 30, 2012


I re-stumbled upon a book that I have been intending to read for quite a while.

 I sat enveloped by grace in a living room of beautiful women who took turns sharing intimate and intense pains that had birthed joy. I watched the tears tears often slipping down their cheeks and sat in awe at the vulnerability and comfort.

 A friend posted a link this morning to an amazing post that resonated and inspired.

I often find that when God is trying to teach me something He will repeatedly knock. Using seemingly unconnected sources He knocks until I finally open the door. Allowing him to enter another room of my heart that so desperately needs his presence.

Authenticity.  Repeatedly God is massaging this word into my mind and heart. Authenticity.
: not false or imitation : real, actual 
: true to one's own personality, spirit, or character
Merriam Webster Dictionary 
But what does authentic living really look like in my life and in yours?  I have decided to open the door.  I desire for Him to enter and transform.
Today I am beginning a series on authentic living.  I hope that you will join me in the coming days as I seek to discover what God has to teach and how He will create beauty in our worlds when we choose to live lives of authenticity.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reflections on Change From a Recovering Change Hater

Slow summer days are winding down at  our home and with that the fall days are quickly coming into view.  This fall will usher in some dramatic changes for our little family.

Being on a teacher's schedule has always meant that we have experienced a shift in schedule and such when Eric returned to school.  But this year both of my babies will be joining the ranks of school children.  How can this be?

Myles, my oldest, will be going to young kinders.  He will be at a new school with a new teacher.  Although he has gone to preschool for the past two years, this mama hasn't really had to face the realities of sending a child to school since his teacher has been his Nana.  So this year my anxious heart is thrust further on the path of letting my child grow up.

 Boston, my baby, is starting preschool.  He is beyond excited to finally be able to go to "Cherry Lane School."  This signifies the beginning a major shift in my world.  Yes, it is only two mornings a week, but there will be four hours during the week during which both of my children will be in school.  My world is going to change.

Change and I have long been enemies.  I have fought fiercely to avoid him.  But try as I might, he continues to invade my world.  For many years I waged battle using any tactic I could.  Finally, I have come to a point of acceptance, and change and I are forging a relationship.

As I am staring at these impending changes I have been reflecting on how I have begun to reconcile with change.

 Change is going to happen
Even though every fiber of my being longs for this to be false, the more that I have come to acknowledge and accept this reality the closer I walk towards peace.  In the past I have lived as though I could alter this truth.

 I worked really hard create a world in which change did not have to occur.  Unfortunately I had to discover the hard way that no matter how hard I strived to build that world, it could not last.  The rigidity of that existence is bound to come crashing down.

 There can be joy in the change
In my effort to deny that change was going to happen this was a truth that I often ignored.  I was so focused on what I was losing, that I never stopped to consider what I might be gaining.

My hatred of change often distorted my view of what I was clinging to.  I ignored that there were any aspects of my current situation that were difficult.  I simply fought tooth and nail to keep things the way they were. 

I have learned the value of choosing to turn from this inclination, and to instead focus on the gifts that will come with the change.  Yes, my babies are starting to grow up.  But really, truly, do I want them to stay babies forever.  I have loved the baby stages, but do I want to indefinitely stay changing diapers and living without sleep forever?  No, no I do not.

As much as my heart will break watching my three year old run up the stairs to the brick building with a red door, truthfully it will be nice to have a few hours in the week to experience a little more freedom.   There are blessings in every turn of life.  I simply have to shift my gaze.

God is the only thing that will never change
My longing for things to stay unchanged is deeply rooted in fear.  If I could simply keep things the way that they are I would feel secure, in control.  Yet, God is saying to me, "My child let go.  Hold on to me." 

James 1:17: "Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows."

God does not change like the "shifting shadows".  Everything else around me will, but He will not.  Tremendous peace is found in clinging to this eternal truth.

I don't think that I will ever love change.  If you come to my house in ten years you will probably find my furniture in the same place that it was ten years before.  But I am finding freedom in letting go, and finding beauty in the changes, while holding tight to my savior.

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Favorite Sounds

A practice that I am finding helps me to be more mindful and present in the moment is making lists of my favorite things.  I am finding that as I dwell on favorite parts of my world I am training my mind and heart to see joy all around me. 

Recently, I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. This book has been revolutionary in my life.  Voskamp beautifully imparts the power of Eucharisteo, living in a continual posture of gratitude.  As I strive to knead more eucharisteo into my life, I am finding that this small practice of grouping favorite things helps lead me into thankful living.

My 10 Current Favorite Sounds
(in no particular order)

1. "I love you" whispered before I fall asleep
2. My boys playing together

3. Our garage door closing because I know that Eric has parked his bike and is home for the day
4.  Laughter puncturing the dark morning quiet as I do my long run with my bestest girl friend Jen
5. The opening theme song from Downton Abbey.  Pathetic I know, but I am totally obsessed

6. Three and five year old little voices singing the "Jesus Song" (aka Jesus Loves Me) before bed
7.  Coffee brewing
8.  Nap time
9.  Knitting needles clicking
10.Open windows

What are some of your favorite sounds?  Please share with us about the sounds that make you smile!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Understanding Life with an Allergy

I would like to preface this post by explaining my purpose in writing it.  I am not seeking to solicite pity.  Rather, my hope in writing this is that others would be educated and encouraged in order to better understand what life looks like with an allergy and how to come along side individuals who have allergies and offer empathy and support.

Our oldest son Myles is a smiling, intelligent, sensitive, energetic 5 year old.  He loves to read.  He is obsessed with superheros, and he has a life threatening peanut allergy.

When I say that my child has a life threatening allergy I mean just that. If he ingests peanuts he could die. It is not merely a matter of peanuts giving him a tummy ache or itchy skin. If he is exposed to peanuts, his throat could swell, he could stop breathing and potentially die. Now I know this sounds extreme, but this is the reality of what our family and many others like us live with everyday. 

I am a rule follower.  I always have been.  So when I was told not to give my child nuts until he was two, that was exactly what I did.  After his two year well child visit, having gained permission from the doctor to allow Myles to try peanuts, I happily let him taste his first bite of peanut butter.  I quickly noticed a rash and hives growing on his face, but having just received his vaccinations earlier in the day I assumed that was the cause of the reaction.

Several weeks later I tried to give him peanut butter again.  This time the reaction was more severe and included facial swelling.  At this point there was no denying that there was something wrong.  We began the process of diagnosis and  treatment.

Learning that my baby had a life threatening allergy turned my world upside down.  We quickly became experts in how to keep our son safe.  His environments had to become completely peanut free.  We obviously had to eliminate peanuts from our diets, but it wasn't as simple as no longer buying peanut butter.  Myles can not have anything that has been processed with peanuts or could contain traces of peanuts.  So we instantly became label police. 

Going to the grocery store means reading every label, every time.  Products quickly change without warning.  What might have been "Myles Safe" last week may no longer be safe this week because the company changed where their product is processed.

Recently, I found a little bakery that is completely Myles safe.  When we walked up to the counter, I told Myles that he could order anything that he wanted.  His whole face lit up.  He could order anything that he wanted!  My mommy heart sang and cried at the same time.

 Life for a child with an allergy looks very different than that of a typical childhood.  Whenever there is a treat at school, Myles has something different. When we go to a restaurant, the wait staff has to check every item that he wants to eat to make sure that it is safe before he can order.  When he is invited to a birthday party, it entails a conversation with the birthday child's parents to make arrangements either to have a Myles friendly menu or to have me send his own food. The first time Myles was able to go out for ice cream was when he was almost 4 years old. Most ice cream parlors are laden with the danger of cross contamination and are therefore off limits.  We were on vacation with Eric's family in Duluth when we found a place that Myles could safely order an ice cream sundae. As the waitress brought out the sundae the look of sheer joy on Myles' face brought all of us to tears.

We have been incredibly blessed with supportive family and friends.  The preschool that Myles has attended for the past two years has been amazing.  They have embraced us, peanut allergy and all, with open arms.  Allowing me to educate and equip them to create a safe place for Myles to learn and play.  Now as we prepare for Myles to begin attending a new school in the fall (that does not have his Nana as the director) I find myself fighting very hard to keep the strong tentacles of anxiety from wrapping around my heart and mind paralyzing me with their grip.

How will this new school approach Myles' allergy?  Will they take it seriously?  Will they help him feel comfortable?  Will they treat him as though he were their own child?  Will the other families accept Myles and respect him with the food that they send to school?  These and many other thoughts plague my mind as the start of schools creeps closer. 

Many of us are preparing for our children to go back to school in the coming days and weeks.  Most of you will encounter someone whether it be in your child's school, soccer team or Sunday school class that has some sort of allergy.  And in so you are given the opportunity to help another family in a truly profound way.

Here are some ideas of ways that you can support families with an allergy.

1. Ask lots of questions
It means so much to me when people take the time to talk with me about Myles' allergy.  I understand that reading labels and preparing foods for someone with an allergy is not something that most people do on a regular basis.  So, of course they are going to feel apprehensive about it. 

Don't feel silly asking the child's parents if something is safe for their child.  I would much prefer that you ask,  rather than just assume that something is probably safe.  I can't even put into words how touched I have been when classmates parents have brought in labels for me to look at and double check. 

Knowing that someone values my child enough to take a moment and ask about his safety means the world to me.  It also helps me to feel less alone in what can sometimes be a lonely journey.

2. Be willing to put up with some inconveniences
I understand that there are inconveniences associated with having a child with an allergy in your child's school.  Trust me, I know.  But please pour out an extra measure of grace and understand that what is an inconvenience to you is helping to save a child's life.  Does using soy butter instead of peanut butter in your child's lunch stink?  Absolutely.  Does reading the labels of the food you send to school take a few extra minutes.  Yes it does.  But those sacrifices ensure that my child and others like him can safely go to school and learn and play like a normal child.

3. Know that the families of children with an allergy are not trying to be overbearing in their attempts to create a safe environment for their child.
Imagine that your child will be getting a ride from a friend.  As a parent you think through the scenario, OK I need to send the car seat, show them how to install and use it etc.  When the driver arrives you tell them that you will explain to them how to use the car seat. 

Now imagine how absurd it would be if that driver said, "Well, my child is big enough to not use a car seat and it will be inconvenient for me to take the time to put in your child's car seat and buckle them in it.  I'm just not going to use the car seat."  

Sounds ridiculous right?  We wouldn't think that a parent was being overbearing by insisting that the driver use the car seat.  No, in fact we would think that they were negligent if the did not insist on the car seat being used.  I believe the same is true of parents of a child with an allergy insisting on making her child's environment as safe as possible. 

Ultimately, I have realized that each situation we encounter in life is a purposeful orchestration of our Creator.  He is using Myles' allergy to teach me to trust Him more and more.  He is also showing me places that I need to extend more grace to those around me, for I am often unaware of what their world truly looks like.  So today, take a moment and consider what it is that you might learn and use to make your world look just a little more like God's kingdom on earth.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Take Down the Fences

If you had told me 15 years ago that I would be a runner I would have had a good laugh and told you that you were crazy.  Yet, here I am one of those crazy runners.  For heavens sake I named both of my boys after running. 

But the road to becoming a runner has not been a short straight path.  Rather, the journey has been long and rather curvy.

I have always been so jealous of "those runners."  I would see them running gracefully down the road and I inwardly wondered what they had that I lacked.  I wished I could be a runner, but I knew that I was not. I literally could not run around the block.

My husband has always been a runner, and a contagious runner at that.  After he did his first marathon he decided that he wanted his family to run a 5K together on our Christmas vacation.  I was very reluctant to agree to this crazy scheme.  So, my husband resorted to bribery.  Embarrassingly, I was bought at the price of a new running outfit for participation in this race.

As I previously mentioned I could not run, so this was a gigantic endeavor for me to embark on.  But, with the prize in mind I began training.  Training is hard work both physically and mentally.  As I pounded the pavement I began to face some of my own demons. 

I slowly started to confront the voices in my head that had told me who I was and who I was not.  What I could do and what I could not.  You see, this idea that I was not a runner, that I did not have what it took to be a runner was not confined to just running. 

I had believed the voices that whispered and screamed that I was not enough.  I looked at those around me and concluded that they had something that I did not.  I lived in the tiny chain linked square of what I thought I could do and be.

God used running to start taking down the rusty, ugly fences that had kept me from being who He had made me to be and stopped me from joyfully living life to the fullest. 

I finished that January 5K in Tuscon Arizona.  After that Eric bribed me yet again.  This time it was a training log.  For each mile that I ran I could take a trip equaling that distance. 

About that same time I accidentally ran over three miles.  Up until that point running three miles was my ultimate running goal.  One day I unknowingly ran a little further, and I did not die.  I was so surprised! It was a momentous physical and mental breakthrough.   I started to run a little farther, and a little farther.
Soon, Eric began to regret giving me the training log.  I found myself training for a half marathon, a 25 K and ultimately the Chicago Marathon.

As I stepped across the finish line of the Chicago Marathon tears streamed down my face.  For all these years I had told myself that I was not and could never be a runner.  And here I was crossing the finish line, having a medal draped around my neck a beautiful symbol of the 26.2 monster that I had just defeated.

As time stood still and I was enveloped in that moment I heard a voice in my mind saying, "You thought you could never be a runner.  What other things in life have you told yourself that you could never do or be?" 

This question began to take root in my heart and is still continuing to blossom.  Running has shown me that I can indeed be and do so much more than I ever dreamed possible.  Running a marathon wasn't easy.  In fact, as I will share in later posts it was and is a difficult, painful, beautiful choice and process.  But, like so many other things in life the sacrifices are worth the investment.

Are there things that you have believed you could never be or do.  Decide to confront the untruths.  God beckons us to replace those lies with His truth. God has created you to be and  to do incredible things and he promises that through him you can do all things.  Be they small or incredibly large, put one foot in front of the other and go for it!

Monday, August 6, 2012

I don't have a dishwasher

I do not have a dishwasher.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I do not have a dishwasher.

I wish that I could say that our home became powered by hand washing on purpose.  But in reality we live in an old home.  The dishwasher came with the house and the whirlpool had a good long life and then it retired. 

Instead of replacing it I started washing dishes by hand.  It has now been several years since we have had a working dishwasher and I can honestly say that I don't really miss it all that much. 

Don't get me wrong there are some days that I feel like I am doing a ton of dishes.  My sons actually got me a very cute scrubber for Christmas this year.  My husband took them to this beautiful spice and kitchen store downtown and let them pick out a gift for me and a scrubber is what they chose. When I asked them why, my five year old told me he knew I would love it because doing dishes is my favorite thing to do.

Lots of people have emphatically told me that they could not live with out their dishwasher.  Yet surprisingly I have found that for several reasons I actually prefer not having one.

1.  My dishes don't pile up in the sink nearly as much.
Now I know that this doesn't make logical sense, but it is true.  When we had a dishwasher I would fill it up and run it.  If more dishes in cured while it was running or still full of clean dishes then the dirty dishes would pile up in the sink because I wanted to wait until the dishwasher was empty again.

Now that there is no dishwasher to wait for I simply wash the few dishes that we make at each meal.  For the most part my sink has far fewer dishes in it than before.

2. It gives me time during the day to think.
So often in our busy lives we have little to no empty time just to think.  Scrubbing plates and cereal bowls doesn't require my full mental capacities so doing a few dishes after each meal gives me some regular intervals of time to reflect. I have surprised myself with some of the ideas or feelings that I have discovered with my hands full of suds.

Often it seems that we try to make things more efficient so that we are able to get more accomplished.  Yet, what if the time that it takes to do something slowly, such as washing dishes or baking bread, is of greater benefit to us than rushing to the next task. Cramming in as much as possible.

3. It continually reminds me of the beauty of a simple, slow paced life.
Each time I pause to wash up the dishes it is a picture for me of the life of simplicity that our family is striving to build.  Washing, rinsing, clean white dishes again.

I am not saying that dishwashers are evil.  I am not saying that we will never have a dishwasher again.  But, for this season, I am enjoying the benefits of a mundane task bringing small glimpses of beauty into my world.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Slow Lane

I am naturally slow.  Ever since I can remember I have been slow.  Slowness is in my genes.  For most of my life I have fought against this dominant  trait.  I read about how to be more efficient.  I attempted to utilize all the organization, time management, cleaning, you name it techniques that I could get my hands on.  But to no avail.  I was still slow.  And I was so frustrated.  Things that took most people 10 minutes took me an hour.  I felt like I was perpetually behind. Continually spinning, out of breath, and failing.

Recently God has taken me on a journey.  A slow journey of course, but one full of beauty and fulfillment.  I have come to understand that God has created me to be who I am on purpose.  He has made me to function best at a slow speed, and He has taught me that there it a lot to be gleaned from living life slowly. 

I finally have come to a place where I have internalized God's gentle voice telling me to stop striving to be someone that I am not.  To embrace who I am instead of who I am not.  To discover contentment and incredible joy right here.  Join me as I share what I am learning about life in the slow lane.