the one where Jen Hatmaker might be ruining my life

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Or maybe it’s not ruined at all. Maybe it’s better. The next few months will tell.

It all started with this Angie Smith post. I thought “Jen Hatmaker! I love her!” I read Interrupted a couple years ago, and it was fantastic. After the Airport is one of my favorite posts on adoption EVER. Her twitter feed is hi-larious. I might be a bit of a cyber-stalker. It’s fine.

I dutifully ordered the book (as all good blog readers should do when something is recommended). The subject matter appealed to me, but I thought that it would just be a nice how-to book about stuff I know and try to practice because I’ve been raised this way already. (shout out to the Mennonites!) It turned out to be so much more than that.

I read the whole book, but by the end of chapter 1, I knew that this book was going to radically impact my life. I don’t typically do everything books say to do. In fact, 7 didn’t really SAY to do anything. It just hit me in the gut at this place where God was already working. These are things I’d been struggling with for months, without the words to express.

Let’s back up. We’re not really all that wealthy, by American standards. We have debt. Too much of it. We buy too much stuff. Way too much stuff. We manufacture too much much trash. Unbelievable amounts of trash leave our home every week. I have too many clothes. And simultaneously, I feel like I don’t have enough. I spend too much time on frivolous pursuits, and I tended to prioritize everything over time spent with God. Often my days ran from morning to night, and I couldn’t remember when I paused for anything of significance. There are people dying in this world. Dying in my very own neighborhood, and I’m so concerned over what I’m wearing to this wedding next month.

So this year is about me eliminating the excess in my life. There’s more of it than I want to admit. I spend a lot of time comparing myself to others. I have less stuff than this person. We have a smaller house than everyone else we know. We live on less money than these other people. Confession? Even while reading this book, I was thinking, “There’s no way we would ever be described as upper middle class. We clearly have less stuff than the Hatmakers.” On and on and on. Forgetting that my call is not based on what ANYONE else is doing. My allegiance to one person and one person only. What is God calling me to do? I know the answer already. It’s to be obedient. This book happened to call me a bit deeper into that obedience.

I’m in the middle of month 1. My challenges will look a bit different than Jen’s. We’re not the same person. We don’t have the same specific calling. (I also don’t have the possibility of a book contract, so the motivation is possibly slightly less.) This is just about me and God. What I can tell you so far is that I am being changed. It’s been good. Hard. So very, very hard. But good.

More on month 1 later….

how emptiness sings

Monday, January 30, 2012

I have read dozens of adoption and foster care and therapeutic parenting books over the past year and half. I have been to conferences. I have filled my mind and heart with countless blogs and stories and encouragement for parents who doing the hard thing with their kids from hard places. We’ve been in the depths for weeks on end. We’ve experienced the joy of it over and over again.

None of that prepares me for when we re-enter those dark places. I’m surprised every time. Not surprised in the sense that I don’t think it’ll ever be bad again, just in the sense that it’s usually unexpected. Looking back I can pinpoint some issues – there was the road trip. There is a potential new babysitter. There’s me – full of failures and frustrations and choosing the wrong thing. But there’s nothing huge. Nothing that hasn’t come to us before. Nothing where I can just say, “This. This is what we’re dealing with.” The depths of this particular funk is just unexpected.

I’m not scared now like I was a year ago. I know hoarding and urine and fits and disregard for safety and the ‘forgetting’ of how to do things (OH. the forgetting. It gets to me) and the whining and the destruction and the aggression….all of it…I know it’s just the outward expression of feelings. I know we can eventually get to the root feelings and help him feel safe and loved and secure. I know there’s no place too far gone that healing cannot occur.

I’m not really embarrassed anymore. There are moments sure (usually involving pee), but I know my child is worth more than other's’ opinions of us and our parenting.

I’m not unequipped. This hard road has taught us the basics of what we really need to know. Even while we search for new strategies, for new tools, I know that clean clothes, snack bags, rocking, singing, feeding…all of that is just part of the answer. I know the real answer is love and grace and saying thanks and choosing joy and all of it a benediction.

So this week, I’m thankful for the library of resources that we’ve accumulated. I’m thankful for the skills we’ve learned to help our son through his big feelings, even when we have no idea what’s going on in his little head. I’m thankful for our therapist who knows that children heal best in families, who has never had a session without one of us there, who taught us to do therapy so that the healing can happen here at home. I’m thankful for online friends and mentors who can lend helpful advice and encouraging words when I need it most. I’m thankful for a husband who will come home at lunch to sit with our children so I can please just get a shower.

More than that, I’m thankful for the hard eucharisteo, choosing joy in the midst. The constant driving to my knees. I need the humbling, sometimes humiliating, reminder to seek the face of God, to realize that He is always and ever enough, to know that to receive gifts upon gifts, I need only to go lower. I’m thankful for the ache of the emptiness, knowing that’s when I’m truly filled.

655. riches of His love
656. enough. He is enough.
657. grace, overflowing and unending
658. leaning on strong arms, right when I feel weakest
659. perseverance
660. sharing M&Ms
661. a world full of the resources I need, right at my fingertips
662. passion for planning
663. early morning prayer times
664. How Emptiness Sings (a song perfectly describing that very gift. Thank you Christa Wells)
665. listening to Christine Caine preach. What a gift she’s been given. What a privilege to hear it.
666. the strange grace of a pre-numbed arm
667. a delayed basketball game, allowing me to arrive on time
668. humiliation, keeping me on my knees
669. showering my children with opportunities for joy
670. not feeling the need to salvage my pride
671. the continued drive to be closer to Him
672. hearing my daughter read Scripture aloud
673. hearing my son encourage and praise his sister
674. tired children and early bedtimes
675. a two-year-old who dresses herself
676. a controlled temper, patience to wait for answers


Friday, January 27, 2012

Today, I was trying to find something in a post, so I was looking back through recent weeks of posts…and I read this:

I have been doing a pretty good job of keeping my impatience, my habit of yelling, my anger towards the kids in check. Our home has been continually getting more peaceful. I still fail at this a lot, but I’m pretty pleased with how much more often I succeed than fail.


What I wrote is still true. I am doing better. I do want that to continue, but I still have days. Boy, do I have days. Days where I don impatience and anger like a comfy robe. Too unwilling to change into my big girl clothes.

I want to blame it on the kids. On their squabbling, on their defiance, on their annoying, annoying habits. Let’s not pretend, though. It’s me. I am the biggest control of the atmosphere in our home. I am in complete control of my own behavior. That teaching mantra we use all the time on our kids, “Who is the ONLY person in charge of how you react?” Turns out I should be preaching to myself a little more often.

This isn’t an excuse. Not even a little. But the last few weeks since we returned home from the holidays have been tough. It has taken all of us a very long time to get back into a schedule. All the children, but Brenden especially, have had some fall-out from the trip. I expected it. It happens, not just in families like ours. Change in routine is hard. It takes adjustment.

Do I know what to do? Yep.
Am I doing it? Not so much.

Discipline. Even my parenting needs it.

So here it is:
I will lower my volume and soften my tone.
I will start doing therapy sessions with Brenden. Several times a week.
I will start acting kindly even when I don’t want to.
I will hug and touch all of my children every. single. day. Even when they’re so annoying I don’t think I can take another minute.
I will affirm my children every. single. day.
I will say yes at every single possible opportunity.
I will apologize and seek forgiveness. Every single time I’m wrong.
I will not get discouraged when I feel like I’m getting it wrong more than getting it right.

Last night I apologized to Brenden for not being very nice to him lately. I asked him to forgive me. He says with his arms around my neck, “I forgive you lots of days.”

Ouch. Today I’m thankful for the grace of a very small boy who will lavish it on me without reservation, day after day. Today I’m thankful for the grace of my God who will do the very same.

return of the links

Thursday, January 26, 2012

As always, these are just excerpts. Click on through for the full story…

Continuing my ‘language in rap music’ dilemma:
In this post Jon Acuff completely describes the cultural dilemma that we all find ourselves in from time to time. One I’m continually wrestling with.

My New Problem with Rap Music - Jon Acuff: “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive. Stupid Paul and his complete thoughts. So now I have to figure out how to prove to myself that a rap lyric about cocaine on somebody’s body is a beneficial thing to put in my head. That’s a tough road, my friend…

In this post, Jay Z goes straight. Maybe. The point remains the same regardless. Maybe he read my request on Google+ several months ago about clean lyrics and is going to comply! We’ll see.

Jay Z banishes... - My Brown Baby: “Repentance is a significant foundation of most world religions. It is one of the personal philosophies that allows most of us to get through our complicated, mistake-filled days.”


Here’s the one on marriage that I wish I had written:
I’ve spent some time this week listening to a certain well-known preacher explain his recent book about marriage and sex on a radio show. It’s definitely not what our marriage looks like. If I’m going to honest, I don’t think it’s how God wants any marriage to look, but I also accept that people interpret Scripture differently, they experience God differently, and we are all called to obey God in different ways sometimes, so we’ll just agree to disagree on this point. People more well read and well spoken than I can duke that out on the internet, so I would just prefer to talk about what works in our marriage. We’ve tried things different ways over the years, but we didn’t find true partnership, true love, true marriage until we realized it’s God’s story we’re telling, not ours. This post is very close to how I would’ve phrased it myself. How it’s not about who’s in charge. How it’s about grace. How it’s “only Jesus.”

In Which Love Looks Like Real Marriage - Emerging Mummy: “So this is what we do, we make each other better at being ourselves, better at being like Jesus, we slow-dance, my head on your heart, your breath in my hair, your hands on my wider-than-they-used-to-be hips, our feet slower perhaps because we're moving together.”


Where are you being taught, inspired, challenged, encouraged, or entertained on the internet? Share!

the gifts continue even when posts don’t get published

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

You know when you think you’ve scheduled a post and then you find out it didn’t publish? No? Just me? That’s what happens when I get too involved in writing future posts and forget to double-check the ones that are actually done and ready to go. So I’ve saved the text to use for later in order to publish my list on time. Well, kind of on time.

637. the delight of my two-year-old, naming off her loved ones while she looks at pictures
638. joking with my oldest son
639. laughing with my best friend
640. my daughter’s innocent kindness in the face of an adult trauma she doesn’t completely understand
641. the gift of discomfort, forcing me to God
642. smacking kisses for a stuffed monkey
643. chewing on Scripture day and night (Psalm 1)
644. contentedness with an empty stomach or full (Philippians 4)
645. a heart that thrills to His Word (Psalm 1)
646. bright orange sweet potatoes next to bright green spinach
647. cold and snow, at long last
648. snuggled to the side of a daughter, a gift that almost wasn’t
649. encouragement for hurting mamas
650. the not-so-gentle push to focus solely on Him
651. how less of me = more of Jesus
652. Saturday morning snuggle in bed, sharing my covers with my girls
653. a son fighting to maintain a changed attitude…and succeeding
654. that moment when an idea floats close enough that you can grab hold
655. all the Bible pointing to Jesus, the real gift
656. the gathering of the saints, singing praise to our Father
657. flowers cheering bright on my kitchen countertop

made new

Saturday, January 21, 2012

'Snow in front of light' photo (c) 2005, Justin Russell - license:

White usually falls quiet on our faded green porch. The world whispers, and all is fresh and new.

Tonight, it falls with a struggle.

Usually it’s effortless fresh beauty, covering up all that’s mud, rocks, death. Tonight, it labors, hits with a small chink, scrambling for place with millions of other small icy pieces.

Being made new doesn’t always come effortlessly. It isn’t always quiet. We tend to want to cover the ugly with our own beautiful blankets of white. We don’t want to let others see the effort, hear the chink of our brokenness hitting the ground. We definitely don’t want to publicly scramble for place.

Jesus had harsh words for covering up the ugly:
“You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Matthew 23:27

Don’t settle for the illusion of the fresh layers of white. Come spring, those layers will melt, and everything that was ugly underneath will still be ugly, only now drenched in wet and mud. Allow yourself the struggle. Let others hear you chink. Brokenness is where the real work of renewal is done. Out of our brokenness, we are made new.

”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

road trip

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The week between Christmas and New Year’s, we traveled to my husband’s family’s place in Oklahoma. As Brenden had never been anywhere further than an hour away, this was a major undertaking. I stressed about it big time. I literally spent hours thinking about our game plan, what could go wrong, what we would do to help things not go wrong, what we would do if they did. We discussed it at length. We made a list of boundaries and practices that we thought would best help our family succeed on this vacation.

Guess what? It mostly worked. We decided that we had to concentrate on our primary family unit’s health even if that came at the expense of the extended family time. It did a little, but it was so very worth it. Brenden did better than I thought he would. Part of that might have been due to the fact that we were quarantined with the vomiting illness for the first couple days, but even so. We gave him some tools that he could use if he felt stressed or out of place. We kept a very close eye on him. We never left him without one of us present. I have never been more proud of my son.

For practical and historical purposes, here are some of the things that we did:

  • We kept regular bedtimes. With the exception of the oldest, everyone was in bed by nine every night. That’s later than normal for us, so there was some difficulty regarding that, but the plan worked pretty well.
  • We asked Wendell’s parents if we could try to have regular mealtimes. If Brenden and Raniah are not fed on time, things disintegrate. Their blood sugar needs to remain fairly steady throughout the day for them to regulate well. We knew that it wasn’t our house or our schedule, and holiday mealtimes always tend to run behind, but things were kept on a pretty even keel. That helped them immensely.
  • We didn’t do ‘sleepovers’. It was important to us that all of our primary family sleep together every single night. This, frankly, helped all of us.
  • We maintained a separate location from all of the rest of the family. This was graciously and generously accomplished by Wendell’s brother moving out of his house for the four/five days we were there so that we could have our own space. This was the primary reason that things functioned as well as they did while we were there. It was an unbelievable gift. I know he’ll never understand because it’s impossible to describe all the ways that our family functions differently now, but this precious gift still brings tears to my eyes even today.
  • I gave Brenden some coping skills. Reminded him to come to us when he felt stressed. I allowed him to take his LeapFrog video game system with us to Grandma’s each time and told him that if he felt overwhelmed, to just pull it out and play it by himself. This was an unforeseen gift. I didn’t realize how valuable this little tool would be for him, but he expressed to me on more than one occasion that this was precisely what he was using to cope. We also sat with him at mealtimes. We intervened a little more often than we maybe would have at home, just to try to keep him regulated.

We still had issues, to be sure. Brenden’s physical reactions to stress exhibited more than once, but his emotional reactions seemed to be pretty ‘normal’. I’m not sure why except that perhaps the physical manifestations of stress are something he can’t control, and he is learning to control his emotional reactions. (Sounds like a question for the therapist…)

We also had an all-in-all fairly horrific trip. Between the vomiting, the diarrhea, the severe allergy headaches, the drive back which took 7 hours more than it should, the two-year-old’s dislocated elbow in the early morning in the middle of the drive back home, the ER visit to fix the dislocated elbow, and the 3 hours that it took us to drive 6 miles on a sheet of ice which used to be a highway in northern Kentucky…well, let’s just say it wasn’t our favorite trip of all time.

However, I want to count our blessings where they occur, and my personal hatred of this particular trip does NOT negate how much progress our little boy has made. It’s really just amazing to me. As I write this, tears are running down my face, witness to the miracle of my son’s life.

A year ago, I didn’t think we would ever see light again.
But this year. Oh, this year.
The beauty of a changed life.
The promise of a healing heart.
It’s all so very, very good.

three words

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

threeI have three words. They are framing my year so far. I know the bloggers of the world all about the one word. Someone was even giving away cool buttons with your one word on it. I heart graphic design, so I tried and tried to come up with one word that would encapsulate this coming year. Too bad, cool generous blogger with the beautiful buttons, I have three. I can’t get rid of them. They’re all connected, so I tried to just pick the one that best described all the others. After three weeks, however, all three are still here. I’m friends with them. We’re going to be together for awhile now, so it’s time we make peace.



Discomfort. My favorite of the three. (Not so much) I’ve been uncomfortable for a few months now. I’ve wrestled with it, prayed for peace and clarity, but I’m left with the disquiet. Today, I’m at peace with this truth: Discomfort isn’t always bad. Often it’s the catalyst for needed change. I’ve begun two different challenges this year already, (overachiever, anyone?) and they are uncomfortable. Change is hard, especially changes that you aren’t quite ready to make. Discomfort is keeping me focused. It’s not inconvenient and uncomfortable just for the sake of feeling bad or out of some desire to embrace martyrdom. It’s purposeful.

“Discomfort creates space for the Holy Spirit to move”
Jen Hatmaker in 7

Space. This year is about space. I fill my body until it’s stuffed. I fill my home until it’s stuffed. I fill my mind with too much stuff. I fill my heart with too much stuff. The only thing that I’ve stopped filling with stuff is my schedule and that was forced upon me by my children, not through any desire for discipline of my own. This year I’m learning that good does not equal necessary. That comparing myself to others does not exempt me from God’s call to holiness, to health, to simplicity, to generosity, to stewardship, to justice. I’m pretty sure it’s going to hurt. Truthfully, it’s already hurting. (See Discomfort, above) But I’ve created some space. Not much, it’s still early on, but there is space for God to work. He already is working in some unexpected ways. Pointing me to Himself. This year, I want to leave room for God. Which brings me to word three.

Expectation. God’s going to move in a big way in my life, in my family’s lives this year. I’ve been feeling it for a couple months. Nothing I can say specifically. No particular knowledge of what it will be. I just know with everything in me that something big is coming this year. I know it with such certainty that I literally have goose bumps thinking about it. It’ll be something I don’t expect, that much I know. It’ll be different and better and worse than I expect. But my God is a God of miraculous, surprising wonders. I can’t wait to see what this year holds.

faith like a child

Monday, January 16, 2012


Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday.
Yesterday my daughter was baptized.
Birth and rebirth.

Maggie has been asking to be baptized for over a year. True confession: I really didn’t want her to be baptized. We had put her off time and time again. Seven years old (still) seems too young to me. Does she even realize what she’s doing? What will it even mean to her at this age? Isn’t she well below the so-called age of accountability? Are we taking this too lightly by ‘allowing’ her to do this?

Here’s the problem with that thinking: she understands. As best she can.
God doesn’t require complete adult intellectual understanding to work in our lives. He definitely doesn’t require that of us in order to follow Him.

She wants to follow Jesus with all of her little seven year old being.
She wants other people to know that she wants to follow Jesus.

Who am I to quench that spirit in her? My hang-ups are exactly that, my hang-ups. Jesus works in all of our lives individually, including my children. I want to manage their lives, their behavior, sometimes, unfortunately, even their relationship with Christ. But it’s their relationship with Christ, not mine. Fortunately for me (and others), I’m not the judge of other people’s relationships with Christ. Not even my own children’s. I remain faithful to teach them, to guide them, to pray for them, to love them with Christ’s love. That’s my part. All the rest of it – well, that’s God’s part.

God’s been doing His part in my daughter’s life.

We came home from a day-long event, beginning with her baptism, celebrating her birthday lunch, and spending the evening with family we see far too little. When we got home, a news story awaited us of a family in our community involved in a car wreck. The mom was high, crashed her car with Maggie’s little classmate in it. They are physically ok, but immediately a dozen other stories pop into my head. Ones where other kids make fun of this little girl, where others don’t want to be her friend, where my daughter, my impossible, stubborn, fit-throwing, seemingly self-involved daughter comes home to tell me that she doesn’t understand why these other kids are mean. That she is friends with this little girl. That they sit together at lunch. That this little girl gets ‘moved to yellow’ nearly every day, but “I still like her.”

Disclosure time? I’ve met this little girl. I totally get why other kids aren’t nice to her.
But not my Maggie.

God’s presence in her life has helped her see the intrinsic value of others. God’s presence in her life has given her compassion, a voice for the oppressed even in her own little community.
She knows who she is.
She knows whose she is.
She knows that she wants to follow Jesus all of her life.
She knows the God we sing of in her favorite song, “You Never Let Go”, is real. She knows He’s never gonna let go of her.
She’s learning to show that to others, and for her, that includes her desire to be baptized into and in front of the faith community that helped teach her these very truths.

Even a child shall lead them. Yesterday, as she was dunked into a feed trough from Tractor Supply by her father and her grandfather at the front of our little sanctuary, I learned afresh that even a child, my child, can lead me into a deeper understanding of and love for the God who won’t ever let go of me either.

His gifts are many and beautiful:
616. small hands within my own
617. clasped arms around my knees
618. my head on a strong shoulder
619. becoming uncomfortable. first step to change.
620. the promise held at the beginning of starting something new
621. the supper table, full, with plenty of room for more
622. sunshine through snow-covered branches
623. fresh lemon scented soap for the kitchen
624. mounds of shredded cheese, ready for our baked potatoes
625. giant white flakes falling through the sun-lit afternoon
626. fleece lined slippers
627. the warm body of my dog pressed up against my feet
628. the screech of school bus wheels
629. the squeak of the front door, causing children to run from all over – “papa??”
630. the hum of the furnace, filling my heart with the security of warmth
631. the warmth of knee socks and tall boots
632. pressing a bill into the hands of a needy traveler
633. sharing a night of music with my husband
634. celebrating seven years with my daughter
635. celebrating new birth with my daughter, watching her hair drip with baptismal waters
636. God working in my life through my daughter, opening my heart to see her fresh commitment to follow the God who never will let her go

Death By Great Wall

ever the same

Monday, January 9, 2012

In the spirit of my anti-resolution year, and in homage to several blog writers who’ve already done this (Rage Against the Minivan being the one I read most often), here are the things I don’t want to change this year:

  • I like my husband. I like him a lot right now, and anyone who has been married for any length of time knows that this isn’t always the case in marriage. Love: always. Like: well, sometimes that’s more difficult than others. We are having a lot of fun together right now, and I do not want that to change. It takes some effort for sure, but the payoff has been worth it.
  • I love my husband. More than ever before. We are more in sync than we’ve ever been. We are more committed to our part in this great big God Story than we’ve ever been, and as a result, we are more committed to each other. Our favorite quote/marriage motto is this: Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.
    Antoine de Saint-Exupert
    So even though this season of our life is very hard, and we feel like we’re always looking outward, we know that marriage is not about us. Not even a little bit. It takes a continual dying to ourselves, and we fail a lot. But we’re better at it now than we’ve ever been, and we are more intimately connected as a result.
  • I have been doing a pretty good job of keeping my impatience, my habit of yelling, my anger towards the kids in check. Our home has been continually getting more peaceful. I still fail at this a lot, but I’m pretty pleased with how much more often I succeed than fail.
  • I have the privilege of being on a team that is working to make some significant changes in the foster care system in our county. Good stuff. Exciting stuff. I love it and am really looking forward to what this year brings with this team.
  • I have become much more comfortable with my body. I weigh more than I want, but I’m still considered to be at a healthy weight for my height. I’m not as fit as I want to be, but that is a separate issue from body image. It took me awhile to come to grips with my vanity. Because if I’m a healthy weight and I’m working on my fitness, then my desire to be ‘skinnier’ to look ‘better’ is just vanity. That doesn’t honor God. It doesn’t fit with my feminist values. It’s just bad all the way around for me. I’m feeling good about where I am right now.
  • We’ve been eating better this year. I want that to continue. Less processed, more local. That’s definitely something I don’t want to change this next year.
  • I have really reached a new level of intimacy with God, a new place with Him where I haven’t really been before in quite the same way. I think, as in any relationship, sometimes it’s just hard work, but it’s not work for me at this point. I desire Him more than I desire other things in my life, which definitely hasn’t always been true for me. If I have extra alone time in my day right now, I’ve stopped having to make myself read the Word, pray, or worship instead of wanting to spend it on Pinterest, on other blogs, on watching TV….really when I have extra alone moments, I want to spend them with Him. It’s life.

So there you have it. Gifts. All of them. I wish I could claim credit, but these things I love, these things I want to continue – they’re all gifts. I keep on counting…

596. an ever-increasing desire to be more like my Savior
597. patience to bless my children with
598. humor in frustration
599. snow and cold air
600. warm blankets and slippers
601. a white metal diaper pail
602. an olive-wood dove from the West Bank – the hope of peace
603. long expanses of clear blue sky
604. God’s Word read aloud, made alive
605. the pursuit of an uncluttered home
606. my 3-week-old nephew’s sleeping facial expressions, the sweet smell of his head
607. smartphones
608. cool green avocado paired with the heat of a Serrano chile
609. a man whom I like to share my life with
610. spiritual kinship with a close friend
611. encouragement from my mama
612. hugs and loving proclamations from my oldest daughter
613. the mischievous dark eye glimmer of the littlest
614. seeing myself reflected in the eyes of the man who loves me
615. walking with a limp

I’m listing more gifts than normal. Building yet another layer into this discipline that hasn’t been work at all. Are you taking the Joy Dare this year?


Saturday, January 7, 2012

I always reach this moment in my writing where I have to push through or give up. I tend to give up. It’s not good enough. It’s not exactly what I want it to be. People will think I’m trying too hard. They’ll think I’m not trying hard enough. As if everyone is magically a writer from day one with no practice, no rough drafts, no failure along the way.

The other day, it happened again. I wrote something; I didn’t like how it was turning out. After a long hour of trying to revamp, I gave up. Didn’t even save the draft. Then the next morning, I was browsing through my RSS feed to find that someone else had written the post I was planning on writing. Not that I believe that all of my writing is completely original, and particularly with blogs, subject matter is covered similarly across a variety of places. But it was just an acute reminder that my fear and uncertainty can cause me to miss out. I can and maybe will still write that post, but instead of following through, I gave up. There’s now the risk that I look like I’m copying someone else’s idea. Even though the idea was mine alone, I’ll probably want to give credit to the person who actually put it out there to a wider audience first. It won’t be what it should have been the first time around.

This is truly a minor issue. What does it matter in the long run? We’re just talking about blog posts, right? I started thinking about it, and maybe I’m not just talking about blog posts. Is this indicative of my life in general? Does my fear of failure, my anxiety over quality, my tendencies toward perfection, or my worries over what others might think hold me back? The same things that stop me from writing are the same things that stop me from taking other steps forward in my life.

I listened to Francis Chan speak to college students this past week. He talked about the Israelites entering the Promised Land. They sent spies on ahead to see what the land was like. Twelve went, but ten came back scared. They told the rest of them not to go. Bad stuff is there. We’ll lose. We’ll fail. We’ll get hurt. Only two said go – Caleb and Joshua. That’s it. Just two. Two men who weren’t held back by fear. Two men who were confident of where God wanted them to go and what God wanted them to do.

Am I a Caleb or Joshua? The first to say, “Here’s where God is moving. Here’s where God is taking us. Let’s go now!” Or do I let my fear hold me back? I don’t want to be the last in to the Promised Land. I don’t want to be behind the curve when it comes to the movements of God. I want to be the first to follow. The first to say, “Yes!” I want to go where He wants me to go, do what He wants me to do, yes, even write what He wants me to write. When He tells me to do it. Right then. Fearless.

what I miss

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I clean the stove, scrubbing the enamel white and grease-free.
Princess dresses whirl in from the dining room, ‘watch me twirl, Mama!’ I say, ‘I see!’ but sometimes I don’t really look.
A little busy bee follows behind, copying actions, echoing words, ‘watch, Mama!’ I don’t always turn around.
My organizationally challenged one begs my presence to display his clean and tiny desk. ‘See, Mama! See what I’ve done.’ I usually put him off until ‘later’.
And the quietest, the most easily lost, he won’t ask me to watch. He won’t demand my presence. He’ll just wait until I notice. And sometimes I don’t.

in the spirit of cleaning up

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Catching up on my saved links for the New Year. January has already brought me its share of fine blog posts, so I need to clean out my cache of links before I get too far behind…

Right when I think I couldn’t be challenged any more about Christmas traditions and spending…wow. I’m not at all suggesting that people should do this, but the thought that comes to me is “Would I do this?” I’m not sure, and I wish that my answer were different. This one is tough for me: The Lesson - (in)courage

Since I know that family gatherings aren’t necessarily over for the year, this one is still timely: Bringing Grace Home - Sarah Markley

I love stories and posts that challenge what I think about know and believe about certain things. Especially ones that involve personal stories. This was one of those: What I Want You to Know.... - Rage Against the Minivan

This is the post I needed in the tumult of December, in the pressure of vacation…this is the post I need in the angry after-math of the trip, this is the post I need today: Draped Like Benediction - Away We Go

To wrap-up – here’s the way I want to live this next year. Leaking Jesus: We Leak What We Love - Bob Goff

Your turn: time to share your favorite links. Do it here, or do it in a post. Aim for once a month or just once. If you’ve read something that challenges, excites, inspires you or even just makes you laugh – share it with all of us!

life list

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I hate New Year’s resolutions. But I do love goals and dreams. That’s what I’m working on this next year – crossing off even more of my goals and dreams. I started this list a long time ago, and every year I randomly insert more things. I haven’t crossed many of them off until recently, and I definitely have deleted some as my goals change a bit as I change. Some of these are of more importance than others; they’re just all mixed in there together.

Resolutions tend to make me feel sad and oppressed. People don’t keep them; they’re almost always about ways to be ‘better’. While this list has its share of things that would maybe make me better, what I really consider it to be is just a list of ways to ‘be’. I don’t want my life to be about a continual striving to live better. What follows is just my list of ways I want to live.


Life List

  • do some service work in Africa
  • adopt a child
  • run a 5K
  • have a large family 
  • watch the sun set in Napa Valley
  • tour New England in the fall
  • get out of debt
  • live my life in radical obedience to God
  • give away at least 50% of our income
  • build a house to raise our growing family in 
  • go on a date with my husband once a month for a year
  • see the Swords to Plowshares sculpture in Washington, D.C.
  • buy a house
  • adopt a teenager from foster care
  • become a CASA worker
  • make my own vanilla extract
  • only buy vegetables and fruit in season
  • get a tattoo
  • take my daughters to see the Nutcracker
  • see U2 live
  • make photo books for all of my children
  • learn to make Beef Wellington 
  • see my children visit and bring some restoration to their first families
  • make friends whose families look like ours
  • make more friends whose families look like ours
  • make some close friends who look like and can mentor our daughter
  • be more intentional about writing
  • enjoy wine and cheese in Tuscany
  • celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary with my husband, surrounded by our children and grandchildren
  • sponsor as many children with Compassion as we have in our home
  • find ways as a family to be known through our service and love in our own community
  • ride a bike through the green hills of Ireland
  • read Anne of Green Gables to my daughter
  • help my youngest son become whatever he wants to be
  • grow and eat our own food from our own garden
  • own a nice piano that I actually enjoy playing
  • get and learn to use a DSLR camera
  • take a graphic/web design course
  • go on a weekend retreat. alone.
  • pay for someone else’s adoption
  • take my children to a developing country for short-term missions 
  • be fluent in Spanish
  • make Prime Rib 
  • see a Broadway show in NYC
  • read Little House in the Big Woods to my children
  • mentor a young mom whose kids are in the foster care system to help her put her life together and get her children back
  • dance with my oldest son at his wedding
  • Harry Potter World. I want to go there.
  • go on a longer-than-a-weekend vacation with my husband, just the two of us, not to visit family
  • develop a group of girlfriends
  • be a part of a prayer group as awesome as my mama’s
  • learn to make artisanal ice cream
  • take a run on a beach
  • go biking with all the kids
  • see my daughters fall in love
  • own a large-ish in-ground pool with a deep end. And a diving board.
  • frequent the local music scene
  • start a local foster parent support group
  • learn to make fajitas at home 
  • be a part of some significant change in the foster care system
  • leave a legacy behind that inspires others and glorifies God

What are some things on your life list?

counting the gifts through exhaustion

Monday, January 2, 2012

Today has ended one of the longest weeks of my life. Vacation, especially with kids from hard places, is exhausting. Exhausting. I’m thankful tonight to just be home.

580. the overwhelming kindness of my brother-in-law, even in the smallest details
581. watching my son use skills we’ve been working on for a year and half to cope with stress and anxiety in positive ways
582. an entire family, gathered
583. a father-in-law who prays for me specifically every single day
584. a father-in-law who interrupts his prayer time to call me and speak to me personally
585. hearing my sweet father-in-law read the Christmas story
586. quiet space to bring our family back to at night
587. a beautiful view while I spend time with God
588. Netflix
589. Texas
590. fireworks
591. travelling mercies
592. a quick, efficient, cheerful, and exceedingly kind ER staff for an out-of-town, exhausted family
593. quick healing for the littlest
594. a mama to make supper for our family when our trip takes much longer than planned
595. home. just Home.

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