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.