Monday, July 14, 2014

Off we go...

Alhassan, one of the boys we sponsor - he
was 8 in this picture - now he will be 11!
A week from today Asia and I will be back in this beautiful place. The village of Banta. Sierra Leone. West Africa.

My to-do list this week is quite long... lots of last minute shopping, laundry, organizing, packing.

I am SO excited to be going back.

I've shared with so many people about my heart for this place... that I am blessed to have children on the other side of the globe... a beloved family of lovely people who live out their days on this red earth.

But some of you do not know the story. And so I offer it to you here.

You can click HERE to get the whole back story to my love affair with this beautiful country and it's people...

This trip was originally scheduled so we could be there for Tejan's graduation from high school. Unfortunately, the government of Sierra Leone changed the exam dates for seniors this year, so instead of taking the exams that qualify them for graduation in April and May like they have done every other year, now the exams will be held in November. So no graduation. The team of people we are going with will be hosting an 'encouragement retreat' for the students instead of a graduation party as originally planned. We are just happy to be going to see our 'kids' there.

Spengy, another boy we sponsor
In addition to Tejan, we also sponsor two other boys - Alhassan and Spengy. They are SUCH great kids. If we had the money, we could easily sponsor 10 or more other kids who have won our hearts. I'm always advocating for people to sponsor them... because they are real people who get real benefits (like school! and clean water! and clothes! and a home!) from an organization that in my opinion does an incredible job of empowering people in one of the world's most impoverished nations. Your money is well-spent sponsoring these beautiful children. If you're at all interested, you can go to the Children of the Nations website and get involved.

Asia will also be doing some training with the social workers who are on staff with Children of the Nations. Not only does COTN operate a children's home, they run a school for over 700 children from surrounding villages. Many of these children come from homes with lots of needs - and the social workers spend time identifying those needs and working with the families to provide assistance. Asia gets to bring his expertise on child welfare and trauma to those workers while we are there.

Our visit in 2011 was an incredible opportunity to show our kids the reality of poverty in the third world. This time, Asia and I are going alone. It was really a once-in-a-lifetime trip for our family and frankly, very, very expensive to take everyone. We had many people who came alongside us and helped with expenses for that trip. This time, we chose to pay for the trip ourselves. It is a personal value we hold to continue to return to Sierra Leone, and we feel strongly that our values need to play out in the way we spend and save our money. So we go without financial backing this time. However, we still covet your prayers as we head there.

If you would like to pray for us, here are some specific needs:
  • our kids will be home alone together for the duration of our trip - we have pretty awesome kids, but we'd appreciate your prayers that no one gets sick or hurt and that there aren't any household catastrophes in our absence
  • you may have heard about the ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. The CDC has issued a stage 2 warning, which does not prohibit travel to the country. We (obviously) would like to avoid the disease and have some anxiety about entering a country with an outbreak of such a deadly disease. While you're praying that we can avoid contact with ebola, please pray for the country at large, as they have a lot of suspicion of doctors and access to medical care in general is limited - this outbreak really does have the potential to become an epidemic in a country that is already one of the lowest on the Human Development Index and only recently recovered from a 10 year civil war.
  • pray for our travel - it takes 27 hours to get to Freetown, the capitol of Sierra Leone, from Seattle. We will spend the night there and then have an 8 hour drive out to the village. It's a LOOOOOONG haul. I already suffer from insomnia and am seeking grace in the area of good rest and high energy while we are there. The trip home has typically been even harder on my body - pray for endurance.
  • please pray for Tejan specifically - having lived with us in the US for 8 months, he always struggles with the reality of his home being Sierra Leone. I'm sure when we come to visit it reignites that struggle. He has suffered from depression in the past. We are unsure what the plans are for his future now that he will be graduating from secondary school. We want him to go to university and continue his education but are always aware of his desire to come back to the States. We need to make it clear to Tejan on this trip especially that we love him, but that we will not 'sponsor' his return to the US, or support him if he chooses to move here on his own. It's a tough call, but we support COTN's vision and desire to raise strong leaders who will stay in their country of origin. Obviously, we cannot stop T. from coming here if he has the ability to get here somehow on his own. And we would love on him if he chooses someday to move here. But we need to be clear that he will have to have the ability to support himself if that's what he decides to do. That won't be an easy conversation to have, but I suspect we may need to have it on this visit. Just as we expect our adult children to be self-supporting, we will encourage T. to also do what is necessary to be a productive, contributing member of society, whichever society that is.
I cannot tell you how eager I am to be there again... to walk the red earth and smell that familiar, sweet smell I've only experienced in beautiful Salone. It's a dream that I've had the privilege of traveling there three times now... I wish I could take you all with you and introduce you to the beautiful people and land that is Sierra Leone.

We will be completely 'off the grid' while we are there... there will be no way to update you on the trip as it is happening. (Which I'm actually thankful for... it's a blessing to be fully immersed in the culture without the draw of technology and any 'connection' to American culture.) I will write when we return. I will tell you stories. I will show you pictures. I will share my love of this amazing place. I will ask you to sponsor children unapologetically. I will return again changed by this beautiful country I call my second home and the incredible people who are my family there.

Thanks for coming along with us... we leave Friday night for Seattle and our international flight leaves Saturday morning at 7:00 am... that's when we go off the grid. I can't wait to tell you all about it.
Our family with Tejan in 2011. Yes, my hair is 'planted.' (As well as Kyler and Savannah's)
Not my best look!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

10 on Tuesday

  1. It's been a million years since a Ten on Tuesday post. But insomnia woke me up at 2:30 this morning and I can only lie there awake for so long... so here we go!
  2. Cherries. Wow - can God create some amazingly delicious food or what? I'll pay $4 a pound for these crazy good little orbs every summer. There's just nothing like them. Favorite fruit, hands down. Especially when they're dark rich red and super sweet.
  3. Summer. Last summer was super hard for me as I worked through some confusion about how to deal with the reality of  having kids who were always gone. This year I haven't felt nearly as blindsided and am trying (and succeeding!) to really enjoy the freedom to spend these beautiful long days on my own. Some days (like yesterday) that means taking three walks and a lot of reading on my back deck. I'm not complaining...
  4. Asia turned 49 on Sunday. Friends - that is one year from 50. What??? He's the best almost-50 year old I know... full of life and laughter and vigor. I'm planning a bang-up party for his 50th birthday. I really want to celebrate him. Can't wait.
  5. Kyler is living life pretty independently these days - he's been out of the house since March... paying his own bills (mostly) and plugging away at his degree. He has two jobs right now - with a potential management opportunity coming up at one of them. There are little slip-ups along the way as he figures out budgeting and what-not... but I love the freedom of allowing him those learning opportunities. Parenting adults is not always easy, for it's own set of reasons, but there's a certain degree of satisfaction in saying "I did my part..." and then trusting God to take over from here. I pray. A lot. I believe it's the most effective thing I can do for him at this stage. I'm enjoying the challenge of loving him right where he's at and not over-parenting him... I want to be a trusted advisor and ally and friend... and not so much a lecturing know-it-all mom. I bite my tongue a lot when we're together and ask a lot of questions to try to encourage him to come up with his own answers. There is a new challenge in that and I'm enjoying the process as he figures life out.
  6. Savannah is off at Ghormley Meadow again this year... she got three weeks off from her job at Spokane Therapist and is passing her days overseeing archery and paintball and whatever... and water skiing and hiking on her days off. It was the highlight of her summer last year... I'm praying for another amazing three weeks of growth and fun for her. She's pretty stinking responsible all the time and I love that she gets to let her hair down for three weeks and have fun.
  7. Ethan just got back from a week at Cougar Strings Camp... an orchestra camp at WSU Pullman. Later this summer he has another camp in town with the Spokane Youth Symphony... and he has the distinction of being the only bass player at church all summer long so he's got LOTS of bass playing on the agenda. He gets better all the time and I LOVE watching and listening to him play. I'm so excited for this school year and his involvement in the Chamber Orchestra at Lewis and Clark. It's so fun to have another musician in the family.
  8. Robins. Our back deck robins are back after their first brood met with tragedy in the form of a predatory neighborhood cat. We have a second batch of eggs that just hatched and I've secured (MacGyver'd) their nest so no cat can knock it off the wall this time around. Hoping they'll be starting to fly before we leave for Sierra Leone so I can watch that magical process. Their ugly little pink bodies are so sweet and vulnerable...
  9. Ebola. This nasty little sickness has spread to the eastern region of Sierra Leone and we're watching it like crazy. At this point there is little concern that it could get to where we are going... but if you're the praying sort, you could sure keep that on your list of ways to pray for our upcoming trip. It's a pretty nasty disease that kills about a third of it's victims and we'd like to avoid it, for sure. But the bigger picture is that it has the potential to become an epidemic in a country where people are suspicious of doctors and have very little access to sanitary, reliable health care. That's our biggest concern...
  10. I've been in a weird place with my weight-loss journey lately and have essentially been rebelling against the fact that I have to be so careful with food to succeed at maintenance. Which, by the way, never ends well. I was about ten pounds over my 'ideal' weight at one point and have had to really buckle down and apply what I know. Sometimes it just makes me really cranky that I can't eat whatever I want. But my reality is just that - in order to walk around in a healthy body, I have to work at making healthy choices all the time. If I try to make up my own version of what I know works it always catches up with me. And so I surrender again. Much like an alcoholic, I have to own my behavior, ask for help, have some accountability, and apply what I know is a proven method of managing my addiction. Dang it. But no - I'm thankful for the tools I have... and I'm thankful for the ongoing struggle... because it means my head is in the game and I'm not giving up. I was down 2 pounds at a weigh-in yesterday. 8 more to go. I WILL do it.
Happy Tuesday, friends! Smooches!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Anniversary eve

Tomorrow Asia and I celebrate 22 years of marriage.

I was 23 years old, na├»ve, hard-headed, determined, and pretty sure I knew how life should go.

He was (two days from turning) 27, optimistic, confident and controlled.

We were just a couple of goofy kids.

I look back on those two people and am amazed at how God has used our marriage to mature us and create true union.

I look at our lives now and cannot begin to tell you the ways I've loved and been loved over these 22 years.

But I'll try today, because I want to honor this miracle of life together.

I came into marriage with a pretty entitled attitude... that it was just what good Christian kids did... they got married (virgins, of course), had kids, grew them up, sent them to church camp and youth group, served in the church, never straying. Steady. Stalwart. Faithful.

Asia came into marriage knowing what he wanted but having never seen the kind of steady example I took for granted. His childhood offered him lots of examples of what he didn't want his home to be like, and left some deep wounds in his understanding of sex, protection and stability. He had never experienced what I assumed would just magically happen because it was all I had ever seen.

So our expectations and hopes were the same - but how we got there ended up being radically different than we imagined.

And amazingly, God multiplied our efforts and we made it through a lot of hard conversations and learning to trust and love each other. Patience reigned in our home as we gave each other space to figure out what it looked like to meld these two radically different lives. Our foundation never faltered - and our commitment pulled us through. But it wasn't magical or automatic or easy.

Asia taught me to welcome tension - to seek change - to live in the space of the unexplainable - to accept challenges knowing they would transform us... he brought me out of my cookie-cutter, safe understanding of the world and introduced me to the beauty of not always knowing all the answers.

And now I live life alongside this man who beautifully carries my heart deep within his... who gives himself away by loving people deeply and still protects and cares for me in the most amazing way. He has brought me outside myself in the gentlest ways, expanding my ability to use my gifts to complement his in this crazy, organic, free-flowing way of living that blows me away. We have loved people together SO beautifully - and I'm so honored to walk through life with this incredible man.

We have chosen together to value relationships in tangible ways - with food and listening ears and availability and openness and vulnerability. We have opened our home and our family to countless people, giving away privacy in exchange for the honor of helping repair brokenness. We value honesty and real-ness in a way that has allowed others the gift of a non-judgmental place to own their own struggles and hope that healing and progress is possible.

Friends, marriage is this crazy thing that in my life has taken a couple of silly, selfish kids and made them WAY better than they ever could have possibly been on their own. It's nothing special that we've created, it's this absolutely ridiculous picture of redemption and God's grace that somehow we can live this life together. I marvel at it.

It's better than all my hopes and dreams.

Happy anniversary, babe. You're the best thing that ever happened to me.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Out of the valley...

It's been awhile.

This season sometimes feels so powerfully unpredictable... there are days I'm positively full of pride and joy and hope for the future and days when I am so desperately lonely and bored I just cannot find the strength to pull myself out of the depths of self-pity.

I've refrained from writing mostly because I don't want to sound whiny or confusing... and frankly, because of pride. I have a fear of appearing ungrateful. Because my life is SO good.

You see, I've been in a bit of a valley.

Losing my sweet Gracie opened up this wide space that's been slowly growing in my heart... this sense of loss and change and a struggle for purpose. It forced me to mourn the loss of not only my beloved companion, but my clearly defined role as mom as my kids move further and further into the world. Kyler moved out within weeks of Gracie's death and Savannah bought her first car and got her license shortly after that (which as any parent of a 17 year old girl knows, means she has essentially moved out as well because she is never home...) I come home to a completely empty, deafeningly quiet house and lack motivation to do anything... because no one is around to take care of or feed or talk to or be the mom to... and there have been many days I've simply crawled into bed to pass the hours.

I went through a bout with depression shortly after we moved to Spokane. Living through our first snowy winter in a strange city with two preschoolers in a duplex I hated and no community to draw strength from pushed me into a pretty dark place.

I found myself there again these past few months.

So I haven't written. Or created. Or taken care of myself. I just didn't have the gumption or the desire or the wherewithal to push myself out of gloom that surrounded me. It was as though I was encased in a fog and I didn't know which direction to go so I made no effort to look for a way out.

It took a couple of months to recognize and admit I needed help.

And I've sought it.

And slowly, the fog is lifting.

I really am SO supported and loved and have so many people who have reassured me in this place. Even people who have no idea what I've been facing have played their part in the healing. I have an incredible community of people who build me up and believe in me. And I have a faithful God who knows me better than I know myself and who loves me completely with all my faults.

And so I look upward. There are days that are better than others. And there are days I slip backward. Many choices are made out of sheer determination and a reliance on what I know is TRUE instead of what I feel.

Friends... I always try to write from a place of vulnerability and openness. I've received much feedback over the years I've maintained this blog (almost ten years!) that it is GOOD to be true and honest about life - when it is good and when it is hard and when I feel triumphant and when I feel defeated. So there you have it.

Another post revealing the truth in my heart and the reality of my situation.

I don't completely understand why it is so beneficial for me to put it out there. I just know that when I do, it allows me to move forward.

Life is quite a journey, eh?

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Metamorphosis: a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly.
I wonder if pupas are ever afraid. Or lonely. Or confused.
Or if it hurts inside the cocoon... as they transform from one shape to another.
Or if somehow, their tiny brains possess some divine knowledge that the process they are involuntarily facing is just exactly what they were made to do.
Does the caterpillar trust the Creator?
I am in a cocoon, of late.
I am unsure of the process. Skeptical that something beautiful could emerge from this dark, confining space. Suspicious of the unknown. Scared.
I have a love/hate relationship with the cocoon.
I am swathed in its silky warmth but confined by it's darkness.
Safe, but at the same time made crazy in it's encompassingly protective wrapping.
Dangerously desirous of the kind of shelter it provides and yet strangely eager for freedom.
It is sacred space, the cocoon.
A place of trust in uncertainty.
A place to believe in new beginnings.
A place to hope.
Some days it feels so dark here. Doubt and despair and pessimism swirl 'round in a confusing and powerful storm.
And other days there is a glimmer of hope.
A tiny crack in the layers where sunlight appears.
Assurance. Confidence. A whisper of expectancy.
I sense that I am being watched. That there are noses pressed against the glass, anticipating something beautiful and complete. Eyes finely focused, looking for movement.
I will have to move at some point. I will have to push and fight and emerge from this insulated and transforming space.
I wonder how the butterfly knows it is time?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A list on Sunday morning...

It's been ages since I've written just a 'catch up' post... my heart and brain have been processing a lot of deep emotion and when I'm in that space, I find it hard to write lightly. This morning, however, I am feeling hopeful and uncluttered and thought I should cash in on that.

So here's a random list of happenings around here:
  • I recently won a contest for staff of Weight Watchers and get to go to New York to hang out at our corporate offices for a couple of days. I'll be working... helping to conduct a search for new names for our Leaders and Receptionists to better reflect the roles we play in the lives of our members. I've never been to New York and am THRILLED with the opportunity. It will be great to understand more about this amazing company I work for!
  • We're heading soon soon to a lovely resort to meet up with extended family for a very belated Christmas celebration . I'm SO excited to meet my great-nephew for the first time. It's his fault we couldn't actually get together in December, since that was when he was due... I love my brothers and their wives and kids and my parents so much and it's been WAY too long since we've all been together. I.can't.wait!!!
  • Asia's therapy schedule is full, full, full with a waiting list. That year (2013) of working two jobs while he built his practice paid off and he has more clients than he knows what to do with. I am SO happy for him - and so blessed to be married to a man who (after 18 years of doing very life-draining work) is so fulfilled and has complete job satisfaction. Thank you, God!
  • Savannah has taken the plunge into car ownership - last week she bought the cutest little 2001 Honda CRV. She got her driver's license the same day and now I have this amazingly willing errand-runner in the house. It's so fun to watch her enjoying her independence. I remember that amazing feeling of freedom that came with being able to drive...
  • Kyler just got back from a week in Salt Lake City. He went on a Spring Break mission trip with Eastern Washington University CRU. (Campus Crusade's new name) He had an amazing time there with 28 other college students - sharing his faith and building friendships. I was so delighted that he wanted to go... and loved hearing all about it. He was able to take some paid vacation days from Safeway - which was a HUGE blessing that he could go without losing a week's worth of pay. 
  • Ethan has grown a ridiculous amount this year. I haven't actually measured him, but I suspect he's around 6'2" now. The pants I bought him at the beginning of the school year are all too short for him and he's slimmed down as he's stretched out. Sometimes I look at him and just cannot believe how HUGE he is. His legs go on for days...
  • Asia and I are fully committed to a summer trip to Sierra Leone to see Tejan graduate. We're so excited to travel back there and see all the lovely kids in the children's home in Banta. We should be purchasing our tickets any day now... our passports are renewed and we'll be getting our shots soon... I can't wait to step back onto the red Salone soil again and smell the warm sweet air... it's become a second home to me.
  • I'm thrilled that spring is finally here... I'm a Spring/Fall lover... I love these two transitional seasons and find myself renewed when they roll around. I have tulips poking their heads out of the soil and huge buds on my lilac bushes... so much promise to behold...
  • Kyler just got a second job working at Game Stop... a dream come true for him. He's hoping to be able to get lots of hours this summer in an effort to avoid taking out a student loan. He's been able to pay cash this year for school (all his own money!!!) and would love to get his bachelors without taking on any debt. It's a tall order, but I'm so proud of him for trying. He's only got (probably) 5 quarters left... and enough cash to pay for this coming quarter... I'm praying he gets TONS of hours of work this summer and can save loads of $$$.
  • That said, since he's moved out he has WAY more expenses... it's been an exercise in parental relaxation to step back and let him figure out his own budget and make his way in the world. It's also sort of fun to just pray and let the chips fall, knowing he will learn lots of lessons along the way.
Time for church... happy Sunday friends.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Empty / Full

The house is emptier than it's ever been.

With vacant rooms and clean floors and only a little bit of laundry to fold.

We're one dog less, one boy/man less, one daughter with a new car and a license less.

We've walked through other losses recently, having to accept hard new realities.

If deafeningly quiet and my heart has felt despair many, many days.

I've had many, many hours to ponder and mourn.

Today, I feel a teeny bit of hope.

Hope in the courage to finally clear out an empty room, packing away remnants of a childhood.

Hope in dreaming about how that space could provide an opening for new possibilities.

Hope in healing.

Hope in purpose.

I'm believing again in Faithfulness and Provision and Love.

Feeling a renewed desire for the One who gives and takes away.

Finding more satisfaction in the gift of being a vessel of encouragement and hope.

The darkness lifts to reveal a bright future.

And a merciful Guide.

In this empty house.

Full of Grace.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Raise a child up...

There are boxes and bedframes and piles of stuff all over my house today.

We are walking into a major change this week as my oldest man/child leaves home.

He's moving in with some other guys... not far away... but he will most likely be going days without stopping by.

There is so much change/loss/sorrow/peace/confidence/confusion swirling around in my head right now. It's so strange to know something is right and not want it to happen all the same.

I know this is what I have raised him to do.

I'm sure it's time for him to step out into the world and begin to take responsibility for his own life... to start learning bigger lessons and making his own way... and there have been MANY days over the past year when I've been SO ready for this change.

But when the anticipated change becomes reality there is so much to process as a mother.

I read a blog this morning written by a young, overwhelmed mom. I remember those days SO well... and completely understood her exhausted rant. I was there SO many days. Days I longed for older kids who would be self sufficient and leave me to myself.

And now that I'm in that space, I find myself longing for those needy babes... with their slobbery kisses and their simple needs and the complete dependence on me. It's HARD. But it's predictable. And straightforward. While it brought me to the end of myself in many ways, I never questioned my purpose. I knew I was called to be the mommy.

Now in many ways my role is to step back. Away. Out. To be available but not meddle. To encourage but not solve. To be a sounding board but removed. To watch hopefully. To pray. To let my heart walk out the door and believe in my deepest soul that I've done all I can to protect, nurture and entrust this piece of me to the One who gave him to me in the first place...

I was blessed to hear the story of an older mom this past week... and as she talked about her grown children the words I heard over and over again were "You watch. And you keep your mouth shut. And you pray and encourage."

So I will try that...

But there's a definite loss theme happening right now in my life.




Financial stability.

It's forced me to look myself right in the eye and confess that I have sought comfort and satisfaction from things other than the ultimate Source. And as those things are ripped away, I have had to surrender to the loss. And let sorrow flow.

I have full faith that God is with me. And that He knows my heart. And that I've done what I should do.

And that tonight, as my son sleeps in his own bed across town, he is exactly where he should be. Where I raised him to end up.

Even though it hurts to let him go.

It's the right thing.

And sometimes the right thing is the hard thing.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Holding onto what is true...

"How are you?" she asked....

"Good. No. Not really good..." I started.

And then I emotionally vomited on this lovely woman at church this morning.

She is someone I met last fall... we discovered she lives in my neighborhood... took a few walks together... texted occasionally... and then really haven't communicated at all for about four months...

There was something about her kind hug and the sincerity in her eyes. I just knew I couldn't 'pull one over' on her and pretend.

And so I told her, in a nutshell, that things are just really hard for me right now.

That the loss of my sweet Gracie girl opened up this deep emotional pit that I seem to fall deeper and deeper into as the weeks go by. That my grief has exposed other losses I'd been burying for awhile and that I feel like a big, raw, open wound. That I'm struggling to appropriately express my emotions because I feel like they're silly and because I don't want to burden Asia, who after five years of job hatred has completely found his sweet spot and is LOVING life. The whole time I talked, the tears flowed fast and hard and I just let them come...

I have been blown away by the depth of my mourning. The quietness and loneliness in my house is almost more than I can bear. It magnifies the fact that I really am quite alone in my role around this house as my kids continue growing up and away. I used to come home to a companion. A friend. A loyal and affectionate constant presence who loved me so purely... and now I come home to nothing. It is harder than I ever imagined. And I feel a bit lost.

In the continuing saga of re-discovering myself as my self-sufficient kids exercise their self-sufficiency, I find myself wondering anew what or who in the world I'm supposed to be.

I'm SO grateful for work... it is the one place I feel vital and important and used to the best of my ability. It continues to bring me so much satisfaction. But work is only a small part of my day. And the rest of the day I find myself wandering around my empty house wondering what it is I'm supposed to do with myself.

I've always struggled with knowing how to 'be fun.' Or pondering what 'makes me happy.' I just know that I'm neither right now.

God continues to hold my heart. And I pray each morning for direction. But I feel like I'm in a holding pattern... and the word WAIT bounces around my head.

My sweet friend gave me a lovely hug. I told her God sent her to me this morning. And then she said "I'm sorry things are so shitty for you right now."

And I thanked God for sending me someone who would listen and hear and meet me right where I'm at...

I'm really NOT good at friendships and I tend to go inward when I'm feeling vulnerable.

God sent me a friend today.

And I'm grateful.

And so I'll continue on, trusting in God's continued grace in my life.

Because life goes on. And so does His love and goodness.

It doesn't make what I'm walking through any easier, necessarily... But it IS true. And some days, that's enough.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day: Celebrating grace...

Valentine's Day has never been a big deal around here... both Asia and I sort of rebel against the whole 'Hallmark' holiday thing... that just because someone's marketing 'love' doesn't mean we have to buy into it. We love each other 365 days a year...

But - I am acutely aware of Love today...

This week I have experienced love at a really core level as we have grieved.

Here are just a few ways I've received grace this week...

  1. On Monday, I received flowers and a plate of banana bread from one girlfriend, and a whole loaf of banana bread from another. (Note to self: bring banana bread when someone loses a pet... it's just the right thing.)
  2. We got a sympathy card from the pet emergency clinic with a handwritten note. They didn't have to do that. But it was very sweet. I realize they send that to everyone who has to put their pet down... but I felt cared for and appreciated it very much.
  3. I needed to sweep the kitchen floor on Tuesday... usually when I sweep the pile I end up with is about 80% dog hair. On Tuesday, there was NO hair in the pile. She'd only been gone since Sunday. And I hadn't swept since she died. I think it was divine intervention - because I was dreading seeing her hair and there simply wasn't ANY.
  4. On the same note, my clothes have been dog-hair free all week. Not usually the case. But there haven't been any visual reminders in the form of little red hairs on me at all. That's ridiculous, because normally I was pulling off multiple hairs a day. I call that a miracle of grace.
  5. Tears. Tears are God's grace in liquid form. What a blessed release it is to just cry...
  6. Work. Our topic at Weight Watcher's meetings this week is emotional eating. What a ridiculous 'coincidence.' I've been honored to share my story and my reactions to my grief... the fact that over the years I've learned how eating to bury emotions is NOT a long term solution and that there are better alternatives to dealing with them... I'm proud to say I'm healthier now than I ever have been (emotionally and physically) and that there is no binge-eating taking place. That would not have been the case in my past. I'm proud I can tell my story and that my choices can give hope and inspiration to the roughly 350 members I see each week. It's such a privilege to walk the walk with these brave people who are striving to change their lives.
  7. Text messages. Facebook messages. LOTS of condolences. It means the world...
  8. Asia. He has been so sweet. He's naturally quite stoic. But this week there has been a tenderness that's touched me deeply. He came home Tuesday and said "I feel like I do okay most of the time but four or five times a day I feel like someone punched me in the gut..." Oh  honey... I know just how you feel.
  9. Sweet little moments here and there... remembering... talking with the kids... looking through all our pictures... we were so blessed by our sweet girl. It's good to talk about it.
  10. Hugs. I've gotten so many long, sweet, heartfelt hugs this week. Gosh - there are a lot of people who can relate to the loss of a pet. Those hugs take away the feelings that it's silly to be so sad over a dog... anyone who's lost one just knows... and those hugs are both comforting and affirming. If you've given me one this week, thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I'm not usually much of a hugger... but this week, I've needed each and every one.
Happy Valentine's Day, friends. Smooch you all.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Our Gracie Girl...

Our house is almost deafeningly quiet without Gracie here... I would never had said she was a noisy dog... but her absence reveals a silence we've probably never experienced here, even before she became a part of our family.

I feel a little better every day... although I still find myself crying at random intervals throughout the day. She was just always there. And now she's not.

Many people have asked what happened... Gracie was getting old... she was lame in one leg and hobbling quite often on another. She's been through a bloating episode and pancreatitis in her lifetime and we had agreed about a year ago that if she got sick again, we would not spend the money on treatment. Boxers have a life expectancy of 8 - 10 years and she turned 8 last August.

Saturday she stopped eating. She was visibly in pain as she walked around the house. We took her down to pet emergency and they gave us antibiotics in case she was simply fighting an infection and gave her an injection with a pain killer and a sedative. We brought her home and she slept peacefully in our bedroom. Sunday morning, she had a terrible time getting off our back deck to go to the bathroom and almost fell down the stairs. She still refused to eat.

By Sunday afternoon, she wouldn't lift her head or wag her tail for any of us. It was clear she was going downhill fast. The kids took their turns hugging her and saying goodbye and Asia and I took her back down to pet emergency for the last time.

Gracie was the only dog I've ever owned. I grew up with cats and did NOT consider myself a dog person. She changed that. While we got her "for the kids" she really became my dog... following me around the house all the time and filling the empty space three kids at school created.

She was sweet and good and hardly ever naughty. We were blessed.

I realize a six minute slide show of someone else's dog isn't that fun to watch. But it was healing and cathartic for me to make it... so watch it if you will.

Monday, February 03, 2014

A Monday list...

I'm stopping midway through a thorough whole house cleaning for an attitude adjustment and a little rest and thought I'd make a list.

  1. There is a tremendous sense of pride in cleaning my own house... when it's finally done, I know I'll be REALLY happy.
  2. Everything is getting WAY cleaner than the housekeeper got it. She was good, and fairly inexpensive as far as housekeepers go, but she didn't attack the deep dirt with the same vigor that I find I am today. Our bathrooms haven't been this DEEP clean in ages...
  3. I've been struggling with being (keepin' it real, friends) lazy on my days off... WAY too much Pinterest. Movement is good... busy is good.
  4. 80's dance party Pandora station, baby. It keeps me movin'.
  5. I know Asia will be REALLY happy when he gets home. A happy husband is always good.
  6. Muscles. Seriously. Especially in my right hand. It's shaking as I type from all the scrubbing. I'm going to have a killer forearm if I keep this up.
  7. Maybe, just maybe, my kids will appreciate me a teeny-tiny bit. Not holding my breath on this one. But seriously, their bathroom is REALLY clean.
  8. I don't have to put makeup on or fix my hair. Headband/ponytail/jeans/t-shirt is the uniform of the day. Can't complain about that.
  9. I don't have to worry about having the cash on hand on Tuesday mornings or worry about forgetting to leave the back door open so the housekeeper can get in... I was always so nervous about forgetting.
  10. $30 in my pocket every week.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Keeping it real

- a revealing list of my shortcomings in case you mistakenly thought I was perfect -
This is my living room on any given day. Yes. You will find basket upon basket full of clothes that need to be folded and a pile of shirts that need to be hung on one of the chairs. You will also most-likely hear me complaining multiple times about the fact that the kids haven't hung up the shirts on the chair, even though that has been their chore for roughly a million years and they should know without being asked that when there are shirts on the chair, it is their job to hang them up and put them away. I will also likely complain that the sheer amount of laundry I have to fold is absolutely ridiculous and that I'm SURE there are people in this household who put laundry in the hamper simply because it is easier than putting it away and that I'm probably doing twice as much laundry as I should be because of that. That said, doing laundry is actually one of my favorite household chores, so all my grousing about it is actually more bark than bite. I love the satisfaction of creating neat little piles of folded clothes (all folded the right way, of course.) Don't tell me to teach my children to do their own laundry... they'll learn it someday and there's something that feels good to me about still caring for them in this way.
 This is my back yard in it's current state. Look along the back fence. No wait. Let's talk about the back fence. When we bought this house, Asia told me (because I really hated the back fence) that we would replace it soon. That was 14 years ago. We still have the ugly back fence. Okay - now look at the boxes strewn about my yard. Those would be there because they were in my recycling bin three days ago when we had a large windstorm which blew them about. They are still there because I'm waiting to see if someone else will take the initiative and go get them and put them back in the recycling. I do this waiting with the full knowledge that no one will - and that I will eventually have to trod through the frozen landscape dotted with dog poop to retrieve them. Please take note of my glorious flower pots and the paint peeling off our crumbling garage. Asia is hoping someday we'll have a windstorm strong enough to blow said garage apart so the insurance will replace it. I remind him occasionally that we do not live in Kansas and that the garage is an eyesore, much like the back fence.
This is my adorable dog, Gracie. She is very, very cute. But you should know that her toenails are perpetually WAY too long because I loathe to take her to the groomer to get them trimmed. She is too old and has an injury that prevents her getting in and out of the car, which means I have to pick her up, which is an outrageously awkward activity, given her big barrel chest and her spindly legs. It is  household chore I wish someone else would do, but of course, it always comes down to me biting the bullet WAY too infrequently and so she tip-taps noisily around our house on her WAY too long toenails. She also is the slobberiest creature ever created and if you come to my house and look closely you will find dog slobber that has been slung across the room during one of her frequent head-shakings. I try to keep up, but it is impossible. It is horrifically gross. Do not be fooled by her cuteness. She is a Mess.
 Let's start with the blurry picture. I know. I should have taken another one. Don't judge.
This is the top three shelves of my kitchen pantry. About once every six months I attempt to clean it out and organize it. And it always ends up looking like this again. If you are at my house and I need to retrieve something from these shelves, I will open and close the doors as quickly as possible in the hopes that you will not see the disaster held within their constraints. Let's look a little closer...
 Let's see. Sunglasses. An old dog collar. Two water bottles my kids got when we went to the university bookstore to buy their books last fall. Several wallets. Screen protectors for my phone. A serving tray. Dog treats. A can of chalkboard paint. A can of shoe deodorizer. A tin can with some random cash sticking out. A half used bottle of lotion. Pens. A half filled Weight Watchers three month tracker. A purse sized tissue packet. A Bloggie camera. Light bulbs. A business card for a photographer who took our family pictures in 2008. Oh brother. Help me.
Here you have entry into the master-not-suite of our home. Bed - unmade. As always. I'm a napper, so I just never see the point. I DO make my bed on Tuesdays, because that's when my housekeeper comes and I don't want her to think I'm a slob who never makes her bed. I will also generally make it the day my parents arrive from out of town but then ultimately, I realize my mom knows I don't make my bed and I let it slide for the duration of their visit. Also - notice the lovely unfinished nightstand. My parents gave us two of these that they bought from Costco years ago. Asia put one of them together... it was put together wrong (bless his heart) so the drawers do not slide correctly. And of course, I've never taken the time to finish the wood. How silly. It is (sort of) functional and so I've never wanted to spend the money on a real night stand. You should also notice the yellow flannel blanket on top of the bed... this blanket was made for me by a dear friend shortly after we moved to Spokane from Eugene. It is faded and worn but it is sentimental and warm and snuggly and I cannot seem to let it go or replace it. It's always on my bed. And on top of that, you'll see some combination of sweats and a sweater or zip-up sweatshirt... I always leave these there because almost EVERY morning I'm out of bed before dark and want to be able to pull something on without waking Asia up. The little blue thing on the floor by the nightstand is my 'warmy-uppy-in-the-microwave-thing'... it's the only thing that gets my feet warm at night and I simply will not go to bed without it. Everyone in the family complains that it smells... and it does... it's got some sort of herbal combination in it that's supposed to be soothing but after too many uses ends up smelling like a stale bag of loose leaf tea... but I cannot live without it in the winter and so I tell everyone to stop complaining and snuggle up to it every.single.night. (I might love it more than Asia, but don't tell him...)
 These last two are a sort of confession, I suppose. I have a ridiculous collection of costume jewelry. I LOVE shopping the jewelry clearance racks at Macy's and Nordstrom Rack... and I buy new jewelry a LOT. It's a bit of an obsession. But I LOVE wearing funky jewelry.
(See my iron? It's the best iron on the planet. It was probably made in 1940... I got it from my grandparent's house when my grandpa passed away. I will be terribly sad if it ever stops working. I LOVE it.)
So now you know. Put any thought about me having myself all-put-together out of your head. I'm far from put-together. The older I get, the less that matters though. And if you don't mind a little dog slobber and an unmade bed, you're welcome in my home and in my life anytime. We're all just a little bit messy, I think, and I've learned the more we expose our shortcomings, the more we feel just a little bit safer together. Guess what else? I yell at my kids from time to time and I struggle with emotional eating and some days I don't like my husband at all because I choose to wallow in negativity instead of counting my blessings. If you'll still love me, I promise to do the same for you. Because that's real. And that's life. And that's grace.
Bless you and your shortcomings today. Smooches, friends.

Monday, January 06, 2014

A year of lists...

I've been blessed with a wonderful online group of friends for about 8 years and am joining them this year for a blog challenge to post one list a week in an effort to revive our mostly neglected blogs... I'm hoping to post a list each Monday starting today!

List #1 - 2013 in review
I got my first dent in my six month old Kia Sorento and it was a doozy! The car was totaled in a 19 car pile up on an icy Spokane hill. We were blessed by our insurance with complete car replacement with upgrades. Sorento #2 is working out just fine!

I turned 44 - Asia and I celebrated with a little Spokane staycation downtown.
Asia started working at Spokane Therapist - seeing his first clients and beginning to build his private practice.
Kyler decided to quit running... having decided not to pursue a running career in college, he wanted to free up that after school practice time to work more and save more money for college. I was proud of his maturity and foresight, but really struggled to say goodbye to his running career.
I was awarded the Diamond Leader award at the annual Weight Watchers staff recognition lunch. I've been blessed to receive the award every year I've been eligible for it.
Ethan auditioned and made the worship team at church with his bass. Super excited for him to be able to start playing in that setting.
Ethan participated in track at his junior high, throwing shot put.
Kyler went to his Sr. Prom.
Kyler graduated from high school with both his high school diploma and his AA degree. We had a wonderful weekend with lots of visitors and folks who helped us celebrate.

Savannah was away at Ghormley Meadow Christian camp for most of July. She worked in the camp store and had the time of her life.
She also started dating her boyfriend, Justyn.
Ethan had a Harry Potter marathon - watching all the movies non-stop. Needless to say, he wasn't himself for a couple days as he recovered from that long of a stretch without sleep!

I applied for a new position at Weight Watchers and got hired as an Adjunct Trainer... I'm super excited about this promotion and the opportunity to travel for the company training other staff in our region.
I traveled to Vancouver to help celebrate my sister-in-law Lorraine's 50th birthday.
Ethan spent a week in Astoria with his Grandma and Grandpa.
Ethan cut his hair after a year of growing it out. I was super sad to see his curls go and couldn't believe how grown up he looked without them.
Asia and I took a long weekend and went to Boise to visit dear friends. They fed, spoiled and pampered us the whole time and we came home super refreshed after a long, busy summer of not getting to spend much time together.
Asia's private practice continues to thrive and he's working consistently 60 hours a week with his full time state position and the practice.
I began traveling for work and in the course of 8 weeks went to Boise, Jacksonville, Florida, Chicago, Missoula, Montana, Cheyenne and Casper Wyoming and Grand Junction, Colorado. That's a lot of airport time!
Ethan started 8th grade. Kyler and Savannah started attending Eastern Washington University at the end of the month. Kyler is academically a Junior, majoring in Social Studies Education. Savannah is doing Running Start there.
I was blessed to become an honorary Grandma - and love the privilege of helping our dear friends Rob and Shelby settle into parenthood. There's just nothing like a newborn...
I went to Astoria to walk the Great Columbia Crossing with my brothers and their wives.
Savannah turned 17.
Savannah was diagnosed with migraines and started taking daily preventative meds.
Ethan turned 14.
Kyler turned 19.
I became a great aunt - my neice Aubrianne gave birth to my sweet great-nephew, Amos.
We hosted our dear friend Jay Swanson who is home from serving on Mercy Ships in the Congo for a brief time.
Asia finished out his last month working at the State of Washington.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The thrill of hope

Long time, no blog.

The season has come and almost gone, and I've been crazy busy at work and Kyler and Savannah have been home a bunch, having finished classes at Eastern weeks ago. I can't write when they are here for some reason. I need silence to gather my thoughts.

I am home alone this morning. Asia has left for work. Kyler and Ethan are housesitting together. Savannah is in Leavenworth with her boyfriend's family.

It's just me and Gracie.

And frankly, I'm sort of forcing myself to sit and write. Because even when there's not a topic pressing it's way to the tip of my fingers, itching to find it's way to the page, I find release and peace when I write. And I can't think of a better time of year to lean into those two things.


Christmas is this interesting thing at our house...

Asia doesn't really care for the holidays... having never really experienced strong traditions as a child, it's a season he'd really rather just skip over. A bit of a scrooge, he still somehow manages to be a great, generous gift giver. But going caroling? Driving around to look at lights? Decorating? Torture for the man. I've learned, after spending 24 Christmases with him, to let him off the hook a bit and not let his lack of pleasure impact my enjoyment of the traditions I love.

Kyler was born on Christmas Eve, which presents it's own set of challenges. We've always wanted to be really careful about making his birthday separate and special. My grandpa had a December 21st birthday and always grouched about it being so close to Christmas. You didn't dare wrap Grandpa's presents in Christmas wrap... I think this made me extra sensitive to making Kyler feel like he had his own special day. But in reality, it means I'm scrambling this time of year to make sure I have TWICE as many fabulous, thoughtful presents to give him.

This year in particular has been difficult, because we're walking into a pretty massive change in our source of income and aren't completely sure what our financial reality will be in the coming year. This makes me want to be REALLY careful with how we spend our money. Which can feel sort of grinchy and definitely makes my enjoyment of the season a little more challenging. I LOVE gift giving and pride myself in finding just the right thing - which is harder to do when you're trying to be frugal. I am a person who REALLY cherishes security and who feels safe when I know there's a steady/dependable source of income and we're about to give that up. That scares the crap out of me and can definitely be a joy-stealer if I give in to my anxiety. It gets really ugly really fast. I shouldn't be losing sleep over having spent $10 on stocking stuffers because I lack the trust to believe that God will continue to provide for us when we give up the security of a State paycheck every 15 days.

But as I sit here typing, I'm struck with the truth that none of that really matters. And that the thing I'm most excited about in the coming week is the idea of Sabbath. Rest. Quiet.

My favorite Christmas Carol of all Time is O, Holy Night.

Especially the line "The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices..."

Do you hear it?

Those words are the gospel.

It is so easy to be weary in this world.

And this year had the potential to be a really wearying year.

We have made it through a senior year and a graduation.
A year of Asia working two jobs, and 12 hour days/65 hour weeks.
A ton of travel for me and WAY more responsibility at work than I've ever had.
Our first full year with three teenagers. Enough said.
An intense year of counseling/supporting/mentoring dear, wonderful friends through REALLY hard, moment-by-moment "I don't know how I can do this" kinds of crap/issues/realities.

And yet - in it all, there has been hope.

I have witnessed over and over again, the calming reassurance that in every terrible/challenging life situation, there is HOPE.

In darkness, there is always the promise of Dawn.

And when I find myself weary, as I have many times in the past months, I have been reminded over and over again, of HOPE.

I have seen it in the eyes of women betrayed - as they can still, through their tears, say that God is Good.

I have seen it in my children as they out-shine all my expectations and walk through the world as functioning almost-adults with talents and character that far exceeds anything I could have ever taught them.

I see it in people at work that have learned to value themselves in new ways and are taking better care of themselves and living life more fully than they ever imagined they could.

I cherish it in my marriage - that somehow, through some miracle of God's grace - Asia and I have been blessed with deeper love each and every year and stronger resolve to prioritize our lives around the precious gift of a life lived together. I marvel at it.

I have held it in my arms - hope in the form of precious newborn babes - fresh from the womb - and I have been given the privilege of sharing hope with new moms who are flailing in their lack of sleep and that crazy, exhausted, overwhelming sense of "I'll never be able to do this" and "What in the world have I gotten myself into?" and "Will I ever find myself again?" Simply by being in the stage of life that I'm in, having survived their stage of life not once, or twice, but three times, I give hope. How's that for a ridiculous-easy way to bless others? I'm so honored to be a hope-giver in this way.

Friends, if I could encourage you at all this week of Christmas, it would be to lean into hope. To stop your self-focused weariness long enough to look for it.

It is all around us.

It is lying in a manger.

It is Jesus. Who came to end our striving.

Whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.

He is the living word of God - the fulfillment of every promise ever hoped for.

The thrill of hope.

Blessed Christmas to you all.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Being the mama

I am blessed to know a lot of young mamas. Women who are in the thick of wiping dirty bottoms and feeding seemingly insatiable little mouths and never getting enough sleep.

Women who look back at their carefree lives before babies entered the picture and wonder if they will ever feel the same youthful easy-going freedom they used to enjoy.

Women who probably never feel good enough for the task at hand.

Raising those babies.

It's overwhelming and exhausting and staggering and breathtaking, this motherhood thing.

I remember so many times being completely at the end of my rope. So tired. Worried. Empty. And yet the gift of being the one who brought ultimate comfort and completion somehow sustained me through the dark hours when I knew I simply had nothing else to give. And yet I gave. And gave. And gave.

Mothering is all about giving yourself away.

Holding and loving and comforting and giving... leaning into the huge role of being the mom... regardless of whether I feel like it or not... it stretches us beyond ourselves and pulls back the curtain to reveal a supernatural strength we never knew we had.

And somehow - all that giving gives back. Because it reveals a depth of character - a wisdom - a crazy-amazing woman deep within who most-likely would never have emerged if she had never had to lay down her self over and over and over again.

I am also blessed to know a large number of older moms. Moms whose nests are empty. And who wear a gentle, soft, graceful understanding that exudes peace and contentment. They are full of experiences that culminate in a quiet serenity.

I would venture to guess this demeanor comes from years of letting go.

Letting go of sleep and discovering how amazing our bodies are and how they can just keep going...
Letting go of vanity and understanding that true beauty is manifested in the little things... like the sweet pulsing lips of a sleeping infant.
Letting go of expectations and fully accepting the little people we raise as they are.
Letting go of perfection.
Letting go of control - recognizing all we really can control is our reaction to our circumstances and that peaceful acceptance goes a lot further than resistance.
Letting go of independence and discovering the blessing of true connection.

I am sure there are women whose reaction to all this talk of letting go immediately go to a place of resistance - fearing they are somehow going to get lost in the process. Who have bought into the modern lie that they can 'have it all...' That somehow mothering is just another thing on the success checklist.
  • Career: check.
  • Successful husband: check.
  • Beautiful home: check.
  • Perfect body: check.
  • Self-care: check.
  • Personal fulfillment: check.
  • Amazing, pride-building, well-rounded kids: check.
Except what I've discovered is that it doesn't really work that way. The more I hang onto the way I think it should be, the less it turns out that way. And the more I let go and give it away, the more I'm able to relax into the way it is actually turning out. And remarkably, the way it turns out is WAY better than the way I thought it needed to be.

In my experience, the checklist ended up something like this:
  • Career: never wanted one. Somehow still ended up with the perfect job at the perfect stage in my mothering with incredible flexibility and a mind-blowing level of personal fulfillment. More than I EVER could have hoped for and not even something I thought I wanted.
  • Successful husband: trusting Asia to be a good decision maker in this arena and believing that ultimately God is our provider, we have more than we ever need and are amazed at how trusting God for provision has ultimately led to amazingly fulfilling 'jobs' for both of us and a crazy awareness of how blessed we are to make money doing what we love.
  • Beautiful home: it's certainly not model home or Pinterest perfect. But it's a place of comfort for hundreds of people who have landed here at some time or another - either for an evening on the couch or a meal around the kitchen table or a longer term space to call home. Our home is beautiful because of the souls who have passed through it - all of whom have enriched us as a family. I am a terrible housekeeper, but I've learned people who need a 'place' aren't concerned with my cleaning abilities. Allowing people into my imperfect space with it's worn out carpet and it's dust bunnies is humbling and real and the freedom to be honest about what life looks like here has somehow made our home ridiculously comfortable/comforting.
  • Perfect body: I could go on and on about this one. Learning to love my body not for how it looks but for what it can do is an ongoing lesson for me. Learning to nurture and care for myself and lean into my imperfection as part of what makes me special and unique - to view myself as my kids and husband do - and trust that depth of character is what makes a woman beautiful... this is ongoing.
  • Self-care: learning how to make space and time for myself in a healthy, balanced way is a huge part of feeling cared for. Instead of hoping someone else will take care of me I've learned how to say no - and how to give myself permission to rest instead of always straining and striving. It's natural for women to always be running and responding to whatever urgent need presents itself... and I'm discovering the value in understanding I am not the only solution to all those problems - and that taking time to be still gives me an important presence of mind to handle it all with grace.
  • Personal fulfillment: the less I worry about my own needs, it seems the more fulfilled I am. Trusting God to take care of me and help deepen my understanding of how my needs are met is a huge, developing part of my story. Allowing God to mold and shape me instead of trying to cram myself into my shallow understanding of what I think I need is always more comfortable. It may feel painful in the process but the end result is incredibly right
  • Amazing kids: again - letting go of this one and allowing my kids to become who God created them to be - whether that looks anything like my definition or not - has allowed my kids to develop into the most incredible, unique beings. Resisting the pressure to push them into every enrichment possibility gave them permission to learn to say yes - and no - and discover themselves. It means I've had to stop my self-serving desire to show off my kids' abilitites and instead celebrate who they are - not who I wish they were.
I believe motherhood has taught me all of this and more.

It hasn't been easy. In fact, it's the hardest thing I've ever done.

But it's SO good. The sleepless nights and the anxiety and the boredom and the frustration have all played their part in gently leading me to this place where I find myself. Jesus promises to take us to green pastures. To lead us to quiet waters. To restore our souls. And he does. Mothering shows me my need for that guidance and protection. It blatantly exposes my fear and then gently comforts me. And it mercifully fashions my heart and being into something beautiful and honorable.

What an amazing gift it is, being the mama...

Monday, November 04, 2013

Feeling grateful

So many blessings...
  • I have this incredible man by my side... who blesses me each day with his belly laugh and his sweet touch and his hand on my hip in bed each night. After 21 years of marriage I am amazed at the depth of love I feel for him and the miracle of a healthy union that has grown so much stronger than we deserve.
  • My almost 19 year old came up the stairs this morning and said "Mama, I love you." There are days I wish he was away at college (for his sake as much as mine) but honestly, a huge part of me is really thankful for this additional time to be his mom... he has the rest of his life to be on his own.
  • I'm thankful for dear friends and hard life circumstances that force us to grow in grace - and make our friendships even more dear.
  • My sweet old pup gets slower each day - but still insists on putting her grey muzzle in my lap each morning and follows me from room to room when I'm home with her limpy gait... she's provided 8 years of complete devotion and I cherish each day that I have with her.
  • Savannah is growing and learning and pushing through some tough stuff in a really mature, open manner. I'm proud of her for turning to Jesus in her sadness and staying open and talking instead of getting angsty and sassy. She's such an amazing girl.
  • She's got a pretty amazing boyfriend who has supported her and makes her laugh and adores her... I'm thankful for him and the cute way he is gradually becoming more comfortable with our family.
  • Kyler's grades so far this quarter are AMAZING. He is enjoying taking classes that pertain to his major after two years of general ed... we're super excited to see him thriving out at Eastern.
  • Ethan is continuing to build his bass skills/repertoire. He saved up enough money to buy his first electric bass and is thrilled to be playing in two jazz bands, Spokane Youth Symphony, his school orchestra and taking private lessons. I love listening to him play.
  • Asia's therapy practice continues to thrive and God has been faithful to bless his time and talents. We're SO excited for him to go full time in the new year...
  • My promotion at work is SO incredible. I LOVE that it's in addition to my meeting schedule - I don't have to leave my members, but I have some variety and new challenges with the travel and workshops I'm conducting. It's such a privilege and blessing to have a job I love so much!
  • Not only do I get a financial boost from the new position, WW is actually giving us a pretty hefty pay raise at the end of the month. Who does that these days? Feeling pretty blessed by that as well.
  • I have a warm house, good food to eat, a wonderful church, a fabulous extended family, good health... the list goes on and on. Even in the midst of hard days I can say 'thank you'. God is good.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

These beautiful people

Life takes us into and out of the spaces and moments of other people in the most fascinating way...

I am just beginning to recognize the sacredness of interacting with people - participating with them in the moments that define their characters and stretch their limits and grow their hearts - crying with them when the heaviness of it all spills out in a blessed grace-filled saltwater-y release and laughing at the Hope that prevails in spite of tremendous darkness.

In just the past few weeks I have sat with wives who question the strength of their marriages, reminded numerous people of their amazing strength and resolve in the face of ongoing struggles, said goodbye to a friend who chose to take her own life, reassured a dear new friend that God is for her and loves her even as she struggles to define how her affections will impact who she will choose to be and how she lives out her days, helped someone make a life-altering decision in light of God's grace and mercy, knowing it would impact her in ways she never imagined.

Deep struggle laid on the table - faced squarely with another soul - looking deep into eyes heavy with tears - admitting I have at best weak solutions but still offering my ears and my companionship and my shoulder and my prayers.

That's really what 'life-together' comes down to - what community is about. That quiet and gentle 'being' together in the midst of laughter and in the depths of sorrow and everywhere in between.

What an incredible honor it is to be trusted in this way. To shower love and acceptance and empathy and commitment to another human being - to say "I will walk with you" and mean it - and be allowed into that space - it is what life is meant to be, I think.

It doesn't always come easy. The part of me that tends to inwardness can sometimes be resentful of the neediness of others. And yet every time I respond in a way that goes beyond myself, I am rewarded with an incredible sense of 'right-ness'. That this is how we are called to live. To give ourselves away to others self-sacrificially... that in giving we receive.

I receive an indescribable beauty that could never be manufactured. The beauty that lies within every soul. The powerful and awesome 'In His Image" that we all possess - revealed in honesty and openness and vulnerability.

That is the gift. To see the face of God in another person... to 'entertain angels unaware...'

This is how I am blessed to give.

Thank you Jesus for this beautiful privilege. Help me to continue to lean into the difficulty of giving myself away, and thank you for the blessing that always comes from doing so.