Thursday, April 25, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Friend

Five Minute FridayFive Minute Fridays: this is where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.

This Week: Friend


She is one of the very few who sees all of me. Me who can seem so pulled together on the outside, who people have teasingly call Martha Stewart from time to time, who can organize a project, an office, an event and pull it off with élan. It works for a while. But she knows.

She knows I can lose it at the drop of a hat – temper flaring; blazing impatience, sarcasm cutting. She knows that my confidence is about three inches deep – it shimmers a great reflection – but I wrestle with the same worries and insecurities (maybe more?) as the next girl. She knows my Christmas decorations stayed out until after Halloween last year – so long I almost didn’t want to have the winter holidays again when they came ‘round.

She has been in my life for my whole life. Scattered from memories that are so hazy right through to the ones that are so present they are almost yesterday. She is woven so completely into the tapestry of my life that at some point I stopped calling her friend and now call her sister. Our mothers smile their happiness with it. Our brothers wrinkle their noses in confusion and wonder what we’re doing – are we still playing like we did when we were five? Our families and children grow together and accept that we are each somehow “Aunty” – although they’re not entirely sure how it all works.

She is my safe spot. The first phone call I make in a family emergency after I’ve reached my husband; the one I reach out to when parenting threatens to overwhelm me; the one I laugh with on long, drawn out sister-Saturdays: our time to escape; dabble in bookstores; tell stories; pray together; talk about our lives.

She has been on the desert journey with me – encouraging, praying, and faithfully standing in the gap. She is the friend beyond words that everyone should be blessed with. When biology ceases to matter and the bonds of time have forged something deeper and stronger than DNA will ever know.

She is God’s blessing in my life.

My sister.

My friend.


How to Join:
Want to know how Five Minute Friday got started and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Milestones: The First (Real) Talk About Growing Up

I crossed a milestone today. A serious check point on the parenting path. I feel a little excited, a little daunted, and a little tearful all at the same time. Today was the first talk – in what will, I’m sure, be a long line of talks – between mother and daughter about growing up, changing bodies, and taking care of ourselves. It’s not like I’ve never done this before, but prior to today, it’s been pretty basic: wash your hair, brush your teeth, please get all the dirt off before you go to sleep. Today was a little more intentional than that.

A great girlfriend night out led me to look for the American Girl book, The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Young Girls. My husband and I browsed through it in Barnes and Noble after a movie date; both pleased with the straightforward content and yet somehow slightly stricken that it was “that time.” I think that’s what I kept saying most yesterday, “I can’t believe it’s that time already.” I even called my mom to say it out loud.

Other things have led me to know that it truly is that time. My girl is nine, and things begin earlier all the time these days. Several wonderful talks in my Moms Next group have centered on these and related topics – again, stressing that now is really not too early. I can see her growing every day. She’s already the tallest in her class (if you can believe it – taller than two of the moms whose kids she’s in class with) and able to wear my hand-me-down shoes (I can pretty much kiss my socks goodbye too – she’s been raiding my sock basket for a while now).

When I posted on Facebook that I’d purchased the book and was getting ready to share it, there were several encouraging responses from friends with girls of similar ages who were getting ready for the same kinds of Mother/Daughter date with their own girls. One even mentioned putting together some little girl goodies. Goodies! I had to get goodies!

List in hand, my husband and I (yes, I’m lucky and amazed – this man actually likes to shop with me!) headed off to Target to pull together the collection. He found the little makeup case that she’s always had her eye on; I sorted through aisles of face cleanser and lotions, got the all-important wide-toothed comb, debated and then said yes to a sample size of deodorant, added Essie’s sheer, pale pink Ballet Slipper nail polish with a matching Cover Girl gloss called Ballet, threw in some baby-soft washcloths and socks (hey, I need mine back) to boot, and we were set.

And then late this morning, I climbed onto my bed with her and we snuggled down. I showed her the book and we read a few chapters – she got a kick out of it and thought it was neat. I like that the book talks about how the inside is just as important as the outside. She and I talked about how to be beautiful on the inside first – how that will show up on the outside. We talked about the outside basics: the changes that are and would happening in her body; how it is happening just according to God’s design and timing; how all of it is working together to help her grow into the amazing young woman that He has in mind for her to be; how yeah, along the way, some of it can be hard, and how I will always be here to talk to and answer any (any!) questions she might have.

And then I brought out the box.

I wish I could have had a camera to capture the look on her face when she saw it. Is it all mine? She asked. My own nail files? My own lotion. She laughed at the deodorant (really – I get to try this?). These wash cloths – all for me?

I promised I’d even clear out a space in the bathroom for her stuff – something I’d thought about but hadn’t done yet. Can you do it now, Mama, please? I want to put my stuff in there. There was plenty for me to throw out – probably twenty bottles of old nail polish, old hair product, old whatever it was I was keeping in there. And now she has her own official space in the bathroom. Cleaned out. Organized. All hers.

I look at that space now: filled with her cleanser, and her lotions, and her lip gloss.
I’m a little excited, a little daunted, and a little tearful. My baby is growing up.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Jump

Five Minute Friday Five Minute Friday. Such an amazing group of women to get to know and write with. They bless me. And I’ve never met a single one in person. Hope to someday. Someday soon. I’ll gather together with them (like we do on Twitter on Thursday evenings) and it will be a welcoming, encouraging, beautiful time of community. All these writers. And this week we’re writing on …

This Week: Jump


I am a planner. I am a does-not-like-surprises kind of girl. I am a control freak.
I do not jump easily.

Jumping is letting go, releasing control, breathing into the free fall, letting it be.
I do not jump easily.

When I jumped off the edge of my life three years ago, it was both calculated and spontaneous. Spontaneous calculation. Yes. That was it. Throwing caution to the wind, listening to that Still Small Voice, knowing that there really was no other way, I hurled myself out there and said, “Alright Lord, this is me in free fall – catch me when you’re ready.”

It was quite possibly the bravest, most reckless, most faith-filled thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. And it led me places I’m only starting to really appreciate now.

Healing – for one - from some seriously deep mental and emotional scars won on the corporate battlefield. A desert journey – filled with discovery and strengthening and growth (the kind that only happens in the hard times). The gift of deepening friendships – something that could only come from time, time that I now had. But more than anything, a renewed sense of wonder in the miracles that God can bring into your life, into my life, into my family’s life.

When you jump at God’s behest, miracles happen. They may not be the same Old Testament style, parting of the seas miracles, but they are in every sense of the word, still wondrous and mighty to behold. When I jumped, I never imagined that the time between the beginning and the end of the journey would be three years. That we survived in our home and in one piece through that time is a miracle in itself. God’s provision. But along the way, I was asked to jump again – my family was asked to jump again. Off the cliffs of “I don’t know if we can believe that this will happen” into the realm of “Ask, and believe that God can make this happen.” He did. Every time.

It’s not easy. I know. But it’s amazing.

So wherever you are – whatever you’re struggling with … maybe you need to just let go. Free fall. Push off. Jump. And then watch for the miracle.


For thus saith the Lord God of Israel: The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth. 1 Kings 17:14

How to Join:
Want to know how Five Minute Friday got started and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rediscovering the Gift of Community

I have never been a large-group-of-girlfriends kind of girl. From an early age, I claimed my loner status and wore it like a badge of honor. I still do. This is just part of how I roll. Sometimes I find large groups (in some cases that might be as few as ten) overwhelming and exhausting and gain more energy from solitary wanderings than I do from social gatherings.

A few years ago, in the midst of one of the hardest times in my life, I had an encounter that drove me into full-blown retreat and almost took me out of the game – out of community. We are never alone in our hard times, and one of my friends came into her own crisis. In retrospect, I can see her pain so clearly, but in the moment, all I could see was the damage and devastation as she imploded and took her world down around her – blaming everyone; pitting friends against each other; and pushing hard for the life she thought she wanted. Things shifted in a moment and before I knew it I felt like I was on the outside looking in at friends I no longer seemed to have. New friendships that had begun seemed to disintegrate beneath my fingers like brittle leaves in a hard wind. I felt abandoned, isolated, and alone.

Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively.  If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it's just too bad, because there is no one to help him. If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself. Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I hibernated. Months of staying at home. Playing the avoidance game. Going nowhere near email or Facebook. Long conversations with my sister and one trusted friend trying to parse out what had happened. And writing. Lots of writing it out. I poured my anger, hurt, and frustration into letters – most of them never sent. I prayed it out and wrestled with God – asking the why and what over and over. I started listening to that still small voice and found Him prompting me towards the idea of blogging. The more I wrote, the more I prayed, the more I read, the more I found the Lord leading me back to the place where things had been broken. Community.

And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up, stimulate, and incite to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together as believers, as is the habit of some people, but admonishing, warning, urging, and encouraging one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25

It began again with a birthday party. Several of us coming back together and saying “we’re doing this and we hope you’ll join us.” And there we were, around a table with really good Chinese food and a new friend; starting to share in all the things we’d been missing out on. I sent a couple of letters and emails that had been hanging around unsent; worked together to untangle friendships that had become convoluted beyond belief – and there was such joy and relief in the rekindling of those friendships. Braver still, I started being intentional about my writing and my blogging: striking out to find communities online that would encourage me to follow my heart and the Lord’s leading. I found the beautiful Ann Voskamp and her counting 1000 Gifts; the incomparable (in)courage community, and Allume – real light living. Through these venues, I made new friends, found new places of God light and encouragement, discovered brave new places to write and be heard, dared to enter a virtual room of strangers and engage in my first ever Twitter party (where I was welcomed with such wide arm opening hugs and hilarity that it almost knocked me off my chair), and committed myself to being honest and vulnerable about my struggles and allowing those weakness to allow me be to become a broken vessel through which God’s glory can shine.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16

Community. I have come back to community. Where I can stand completely imperfect – in fact – a thoroughly unpredictable mess at times and yet be loved, accepted, healed, and welcomed by those around me who are part of my community. These women I love and admire, they often confess to feeling like unpredictable messes – that’s the beauty of it. We are each given what we need to do the job that God has placed us here on this earth to do and we do it. All the while, looking around in wonder at those who we think have it all together and are smooth-sailing along. And they’re doing their job – looking right back at us with the same wonder.

Together, we can turn our wondering eyes heavenward, linking hands and hearts and giving thanks for this gift of community that loves and gives and spills over into our lives to bless us, and heal us, and draw us closer to each other, and closer to God, so that we can turn around again and draw more hearts in to experience the joy that we have been given.

Want to make some connections of your own? You can find them at the (in)RL video (and in real life) conference on April 26 & 27 - you can register here. Discover the beauty of life in community and the sweet fellowship that comes with it. And watch the video below, for a sneak peek at what the (in)courage community is all about ...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Here

Five Minute Friday Five Minute Friday. I think I like checking in on Thursday night for the prompt. And oh wow – I joined up in the #FMFParty on Twitter tonight. My oh my. That’s all I can say. You won’t know unless you go. And you should definitely go. Many thanks to the welcoming voices of these amazing women who I’ve been reading for weeks. You just opened your arms wide and said, “come on in – we want you!” Kind of blew me away. Blessed my socks right off. So here it is.

This Week: Here

I can hear it like the distant thunder of waves pounding on the shore. An echo of a lifetime ago. His voice. Whispering, echoing from star to star to planet to me.


Do you see that this is just the beginning? That through all your desert wanderings – everything you’ve been learning, this is where I’ve been leading you? Here. A new place to begin. Eyes – a bit more open. Heart – a bit more softened. Hands – learning just a little more to let go. This place of peace and rest. Here.

After three years of desert living where each parched breath forced me to turn ever back into His loving arms; continually seeking His will; His support; His grace for daily bread … now, I am here. At another turning page, another beginning. Things I thought I would not see? They are here.

A new house of worship – where we flourish as a family. My husband – growing in God’s grace and truth – calling me in the middle of the day, just to share something from morning devotions. My child – learning to lean on God in the hard times. Me – coming to an understanding that God is large enough to contain anything I give Him – that He can hold anything – even the hard parts of me. Even my anger. Learning that even my devastating anger will not overwhelm God, and that He can turn it into something better – into compassion, into surrender, into joy. A new job that doesn’t denigrate me or push me into a place of mental and physical anguish, but instead challenges me with new ideas, new things to learn, a boss that is honest and real, and coworkers that are hilariously quirky in all the right ways. New outlets for my creativity – no longer stifled by corporate demands, but freed now to follow in the Lord’s lead. New friends in real life and online that share my passion and my faith and encourage me by the day and by the hour. The discovery of counting thanks and the miracle of eucharisteo - thanks comes before the miracle. Old friends that have steadied me and carried me throughout the desert times – reveling in the renewal of those connections.

Lessons from the desert that spill into real life living and make it all the more sweeter.
This is the here and now.
This is the promise I was waiting for.
And there is more to come.


How to Join:
Want to know how Five Minute Friday got started and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My All: Lessons on Anger, Brokenness, and Letting Go

She writes today about reaching out and embracing hurt, leaning into suffering, and not going in alone. The first thing I think is, “well, that would be me.” Going it alone.

I don’t know how to ask for help. I am buried.

This week has already been a crawl over shattered, jagged glass and upended tacks as I wrestle once again with the issue of school for my child. A strong-willed, “aggressive researcher” who does not fit easily into any classroom mold; who requires more explanation than “because this is the way we do things,” for things to make sense for her; and who is now feeling lost, bereft, and battered amidst the expanding ripples and repercussions of an overstuffed classroom, varrying teaching styles, some of her own poor choices, and the way they are responded to in the classroom.

And I am angry. I am buried.

God help me, I am stone-cold, teeth-grinding, blood-boiling, vibrating with fury, forcing myself into lethal silence in my anger at this situation that has been going on for too long. Despite our best efforts. Despite our conversations. Despite our conferences. Despite our working to be on the same page. It goes on. I. am. so. angry.

And I am tired. I am buried.

Tired of feeling like every conversation with this bastion of education is a fight. Tired of feeling like every time I walk through those front doors I must have every bit of armor tightened in place to deflect the overwhelming negativity that permeates the atmosphere. Tired of feeling like any loving work we do at home to shore up the self-esteem and value that my young child feels about herself gets chipped away and shredded on a daily basis at the place where nurturing learning is supposed to take place.

I feel like I’m doing this alone. Pause a moment. My incredible husband is a strong partner in the mix and is right there with me. So maybe alone is not exactly the right term. But I feel alone in my heart and my head as I’m wrestling through these questions. Alone in that I feel like people around me are tired of hearing about this; wondering why this hasn’t been resolved yet; wondering what the heck is wrong with my child, me, this family. Maybe not. But I’m not talking. I’m not asking. So it’s hard to tell. I am buried.

This inability of mine to reach out. To ask. To be vulnerable. To admit a weakness.

It is so much easier to be there for someone else. To be the strong one. To be the one that someone else leans on. To be the broken one – that’s hard.

I even struggle to be broken in the hands of the One who was broken for me. In the presence of my Jesus who holds me softly and with upmost grace. Even then. I turn my back. Push away hugs. Flee from kind words. Swallow tears. Dig up a brave face. Feign a laugh and a smile. Cling to my hidden anger. Anything to not let anyone else in. And to what end?

There is only torment here. There is no healing. Despite my utter and upmost longing for this very thing. I struggle to let go. What have I said before? I cannot let go.

It doesn’t end here.

It can’t.

I have to remember what she writes: Burden is only a weight when born alone. When the burden is born together, by a Body, the burden becomes bond – soul strenghthener.*

That’s what I’m looking for. Soul strengthening. So I will reach out. Tentatively. Painfully. Full of contradiction and complication. Come out of the ground. Leave behind being buried. Ask for help. Reach for life.

This is the gift of resurrection. The joy and peace that exists in an amazing, dizzying parallel and paradox with my anger and frustration. I know that my Redeemer lives. And that if I simply reach out and embrace His grace and peace, it will be there. It’s the stepping off – the letting go that I have trouble with. Every time. Yet every time I do, there stands the reassuring arms to catch me. So maybe I just need to practice stepping out more. Stepping off. Letting go. Repeatedly throwing myself off the cliffs of these daily struggles and battles that feel impassable and impossible. Like schools. And teachers. And (in the past) jobs. Bosses (although my boss now is a dream). Parenting choices. Crazy friendships. Marriage frustrations. Health issues. And all the other jumble of that thing called living.

It’s crazy. This living thing. This complete giving of oneself to the act of living completely. Living in joy, in eucharisteo – despite circumstances. Living in resurrection, in celebration – despite surroundings. But Love gave. Love came down and gave so much. What else can I do?

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

All of me. Even the hurt, the anger, the frustration. All of that along with the joy and the laughter. Tears, smiles, rage, ecstasy. It shimmers together in a beautiful tangle of becoming. In Him. My all.

*Ann Voskamp, April 10, 2013 post


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Five Minute Friday: After

Five Minute Friday Five Minute Friday. I think I like checking in on Thursday night for the prompt. And I get to sleep in tomorrow. So I’m going to do this now. Let me be honest. This one came on hard. So there’s probably more than five minutes here. Not hours and hours. But not five minutes. I needed to say this, but I didn’t realize it until I started writing. So here it is.

This Week: After


My best illustration for the change in my life before I became a mom and after I became a mom happened right around the birthing time.

Duh, you say.
Yeah, it’s not what you think.
Not like that.
Just one stupid sentence that sticks with me and makes me laugh at the way I used to think. Before.

I’m a planner. An organizer. An orchestrator if you will. I don’t like surprises. I like things to run the way they’re supposed to. As in – the way I have laid them out to run. Preparing for pregnancy and giving birth was a fun – actually an exciting experience for me. It was one of the healthiest times of my life. My mother blessed me by passing on her “no morning sickness ever” genes. It was fantastic. I had my notebook – the complete order of the way things should be from beginning to end. I had my birthing plan. I had my contact lists. I had my play lists for during delivery. I was set.

So when we went in for one of our last routine ultrasounds and they said something like, hey, you need to have this baby like right now. I wasn’t thrilled. I was even less thrilled when they said, no, you can’t go home and drop off the other car and get your bag. You need to go to the hospital right now. And by the way, it’s going to be a C-section. Not happy at all, but I was ready to roll with it. As we drove over to the hospital (in separate cars), I was on the phone calling everyone on the list (because of course, the list was also in my head). My type-A personality and I marched into the hospital room, made an assessment and started getting things ready and organized. My husband was dispatched home to get the bag, I got strapped up to the baby monitor, I consulted with everyone walking by wearing a hospital badge to coordinate the time of the birth – since, hey, scheduling was an option now. And I distinctly remember saying this:

It’s going to be great. And if you just get this wrapped by 8pm and I can still watch Survivor tonight.

That was before.

Before. When I thought that I was in charge. When I thought that I still ran the schedule. When I thought that I would still care about a crazy reality television show somewhere in the South Pacific.


My Bella - smelling the roses

After they cleaned me up, sewed me up, and wheeled me into my room and brought me the most amazing little bundle of wonderful I’d ever seen all I could think was bella. It’s still her nickname. I think I stayed awake for three days straight just staring at her (TV – what TV?); watching her breathe; examining each tiny finger and toe; wondering if her ears would unfold; wondering if her hairline would always be that low (was I going to have to shave her forehead before she started Kindergarten? Seriously, sometimes, they forget to mention these things); wondering how I got to be so blessed and wondering how in the world was I going to help this astounding little creature navigate this great big world.

We are still in after land. And I live and breathe and struggle in this timeless dance of mothering where I constantly have to release so much of me (and although I fight it hard, I know it’s the stuff that needs to go anyway) so that she can have a better image to reflect. Where I walk the fine line between protection and freedom – always raring to fight off the bad guys (even when the bad guys are nine years old), and reigning myself in to allow her to grow into her own strength. Where I have to remember to let her learn to do things – let her have her experiences – let her be – even if it takes more time that I think I don’t have. I have time. This is after land. And it’s not about me anymore. It’s about we, and she, and who she’s going to be, and God Almighty I am on my knees every single day praying that I don’t screw up after land. Praying that I will have grace, and patience, and kindness, and the ability to flex and bend – all these things that I think I started to lose along the way before.

I’m getting them back in after land. God willing. His grace leads me on in after land.
It is the only thing that does.


How to Join:
Want to know how Five Minute Friday got started and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.