winter apocalypse life lessons

Thursday, January 30, 2014


Things I’ve learned while my husband has been gone for what amounts to ten days. (full disclosure: he was home for approximately 24 non-consecutive hours in the middle of this time.)

1) Life with four children is immensely easier than life with five children…if you remove the child that is currently the most amount of physical work. (pre-schooler)

2) Snow days are fun.

3) Snow days are fun?

4) Multiple consecutive snow days make me want to eat an enormous amount of carbs. This solves two problems: Cold. The tendency towards despair. Now I know why we always made doughnuts on snow days when I grew up. It wasn’t for us. It was for my mama.

5) The baby gets really anxious about being left alone in a room when the papa is away. Cue screaming in terror.

6) Stomach viruses are not fun. Also, when you have been vomited on four-plus times, chances are very high that you will succumb to said stomach virus.

7) ER visits are not fun. But if you go in the middle of a level 2 snow emergency, they are at least not very crowded.

8) Zofran is magical.

9) My oldest daughter is the worst at vomiting. The worst. You have no idea. The baby can vomit in more appropriate locations than my 9-year-old.

10) I miss my husband. Immensely. However. My bed has remained exactly the way I made it. Tight sheets. Lots of pillows. Blanket firmly in place. It’s hard for me to go to sleep when he’s gone, but once I do, magical sleep bliss. I know I’m not alone in this. Anyone else out there who shares a bed with someone who has vastly different sleep preferences than you? It feels a bit like betrayal, but I promise it doesn’t mean you love your husband any else if you prefer how you sleep alone to how you sleep together. Amirite?

11) My four-year-old is a nightmare on the phone. “mama! mama! I want to tell you a story! mama! one time, there was a tornado mama! and it was in our house…..” Please. Please stop talking. Please don’t hang up when you hand the phone to your father. Please don’t hang up. Please don’t hang… Whatever.

12) My husband is the best man I know. Taking your four-year-old daughter on a train trip to North Dakota is the mark of a truly good dad. Not freaking out at the idea of said trip is the mark of the best dad in the world. If I died, I do not worry for the futures of my kids. My husband’s got it. Seriously. He’s amazing. As I write this, however, the train is running some eight hours behind schedule. (yep. This is what we heard train travel might be like.) Fortunately, he says he’s on the “rowdy” car. (Translation: people are partaking freely of the booze to dull the pain.) No better place to be with an overactive preschooler than that train car. God bless him.

Do you live in the Midwest with school-aged children? Does your husband have to travel frequently? I’m eager to hear your life lessons from multiple snow days and father-travel-trips.

break every chain

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Oh friends. This. This all day. The best thing I’ve watched all week. All year, even. Jesus breaks every chain.

grace in the everyday

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tonight, I’m praying for a bit of grace that I don’t deserve. Extravagant grace, even. After dealing with a baby in distress for a couple of days, due to what I attributed to her ongoing medical issues, my eldest vomited this evening. Maybe his problem is what’s been causing her problems too. Sigh.

Of all the weeks, this one is just the very worst. We’ve avoided the stomach virus for months now, and I know we’re due. But not this week. Please Jesus, not this week where the husband is mostly out of town, the four-year-old is going with him for some of his travelling, and I’m left to care for the rest of them alone. Not this week. Not for me. Not for him.

So, even as my own stomach rumbles, more likely due to the thought of a stomach virus rather than the actual presence of one, I continue to pray for grace. Could it pass us by, please? Just this once? A silly request. One I don’t even deserve to bring up. And yet…please?


Saturday, January 18, 2014

You know what makes consistency in writing and exercise and sleeping patterns hard? Babies. Especially babies who have rough weeks with all the teeth and all the congestion and all the medical issues. You know what makes for sane mamas? Writing. Yoga. Sleep.

You see my difficulties.

And so it comes that my only post so far this week is going to be a bunch of links. That’s what I can accomplish in ten minutes or so. The writing, though. I miss it. I have ideas. So many ideas. I’ve jotted them on receipts, on kids’ homework paper, on my phone, on my ipad, and yet none of them can make it to an actual writing session because I HAVE NO TIME for an actual writing session. Which is frustrating since I have all the time in the world to watch inane television and read books and anything that is easy to do with a baby strapped to your chest. Writing, however, just hasn’t made that cut.

Pity party over. On to the links. Just like that.

Here’s the best things I read this week…

…on marriage:
5 Ways to Secure Your Happyish Ever After - Momastery
and its companion post:
Messy and Beautiful – Momastery

A Day in a Marriage - brittany, herself 
(loved, loved, loved this one. so beautiful)

…and on adoption:
Why Adoption Isn't Second Best, Part 1 - Flower Patch Farm Girl


Hope you enjoy! Maybe next week will be better.

where I am reminded of faithfulness

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

'Sarah's Baby Shower' photo (c) 2008, Jeremy Nicholson - license:

When I am first invited to baby showers, my initial reaction is always a sort of dread. Not that I don’t love babies or the women who are bearing them. Not that I don’t think those families are deserving of celebration and gifts. It’s just that I hate the forced and predictable schedule of events and please, for the love of all that’s holy, just stop it with the gross shower games. I do not want to smell a melted candy bar in a diaper or eat baby food.

(Please do not read this as any sort of judgment on those who do enjoy these shower games. I know you’re out there. Enjoy your games with all your being. I just do not. I will attend your baby shower with love and celebration even if we play ‘rub the ice cube until the plastic baby comes out’, but I do not enjoy games. We can still be friends.)

All of that background info to tell you that this fall, when I received another invite, I felt a heavy sense of resignation to my fate. Even with people that I love and want to support, even with babies that I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of, the baby shower brings a certain amount of sighing.

As typically happens when I have predetermined my reaction to an upcoming occasion, I was caught off-guard by the beauty of the event and my emotional reaction. It took me back more than 12 years to my own first baby and the showers and the community that surrounded us at that time. Not that my baby showers were exactly like this event – this one had multitudes of tables, a full dinner, fancy centerpieces, professional photography, singing, a sermon of sorts, extra prayers, PLUS cake and games and little felt pins that you were supposed to wear. Let me tell you, it was an event.

My baby showers definitely weren’t productions on the scale of this particular one (my son was born pre-Pinterest after all), but so much was exactly the same. It didn’t hit home for me until we sang together in worship that evening. The language was different, but the song was one we sang in church Sunday after Sunday while I was pregnant with our first. The very young, naïve parents, the prophetic words spoken over this baby’s life, the hands outstretched in prayer, and the joy and celebration surrounding the arrival of this baby felt just the same as it did for me so many years ago, so many miles away.

We had a couple of different baby showers, both in the homes of people who spoke into our lives week after week. Like this baby shower I just attended, it was not only fun and games and happy baby wishes. It was forty people crammed into living rooms, standing room only, with hands on our shoulders from those who could reach and outstretched hands from those who couldn’t, prayers given both for our son and for us as parents. There were prophetic words and scripture, and a mantle of blessing laid over our heads.

Honestly, it was a time of our lives that I had nearly forgotten about until this baby shower. The beauty of those moments that then and still now take my breath away, the promise of a child and the beginning of a family, the prophecy over our lives and his as well – I can hardly believe we reaped the benefit of the communities of faith we were a part of at that time.

We might have lived far from our families of origin, but we were never left to navigate that time by ourselves. When the baby from this recent baby shower was born, one of the first pictures they posted was of the mama still in the hospital bed, dad beside, with hands laid on their heads by loved ones, blessings over the new parents and their new life. The picture was breathtakingly beautiful, and an exact replica of a scene that occurred in my delivery room right after our eldest was born.

We hadn’t even moved to the recovery room before the first visitors came to the hospital. While we didn’t get to share those moments with our parents, the very first people to meet our son were ones who had loved us as their own, who had covered us in prayer and support during the whole pregnancy. They were the first to touch our son’s head and my shoulder and pray over our new family.

Those words of prophecy and blessing and prayer spoken over us by so many, they were words of preparation. I had no idea what our parenting journey would take us when we had the first baby. I had no idea the need we would have for those prayers of blessing 12 years later – neither did the people giving them, I’m sure, but God was preparing us even then. He knew the hard roads our family would walk. He knew the sleepless, tear-filled nights we would lie awake. He knew the depths of hell we would go to with our children. He was not surprised. He was ready for this, and He was making us ready too, even a decade before.

I easily could’ve stayed home that December night a few weeks ago. I wanted to; I was really tired that day. I get overwhelmed with this whole parenting thing. I get discouraged. I wonder why we’re doing what we’re doing. I too easily forget that God has been there all along. From the very beginning, he’s been preparing our hearts and our family. Molding us into who He wants us to be. Those blessings, prayers, prophetic words: they were His protection over our lives.

I don’t know what prompted that girl who led the singing that night to choose a song that was more than a decade old, but I’m convinced that it was specifically for me. I needed to hear that God had been there all along. Every step full of new mercies, every misstep covered in grace. Never once was I alone. He knew who I was then. He knew who I would become. He loves me. He is faithful. Sometimes He just needs to use a baby shower to remind me.


and a little child shall lead them

Monday, January 6, 2014

IMG_0824What is it about a child's capacity to forgive? No matter how terrible I am to my children, and believe me, I can be truly terrible sometimes, they are always quick to forgive. So quick that it makes me a tiny bit angry. Don't they care how awful I behaved? Weren't they hurt by my unkind actions and words? Clearly they have yet to learn the art of holding a grudge and the perverse delight one can sometimes take in withholding forgiveness or affection so the offender can truly be punished. Right? Isn't that what we too often do? Maybe if we wait a little bit longer to extend grace, they will understand how bad what they did truly was. Maybe they'll feel really sorry then.

Today, I had one of those out of body experiences. I was speaking to one of my kids, but I could hear myself as if I were an observer. Boy, was it ugly. It wasn't what I said as much as it was the way I said it. My tone was the most ridiculously taunting, hateful thing I've heard in a very long time. Embarrassing. I was humiliated for myself. I am a grown woman, and this is how a small child can make me behave?

I didn't have to swallow my pride to seek the child out and beg his forgiveness. There was literally no pride left. How the arrogant have been brought low. I apologized. Explained that there were absolutely no excuses for my behavior. I maintained distance, certain restoration was not to be had in this particular moment, convinced that how I had hurt him was too grievous to be overlooked. He looked me straight in the eyes, and the most beautiful thing occurred. He took a step towards me. He actually even had to move a few things that were in his way to get to where I was kneeling. He made a real effort to come near to me. He opened his arms wide, embracing with no reservations. Extending grace to the most ugly of behaviors, to the most broken of mamas.

And isn't that just like our Jesus? He came near. He took the step towards us when we were too broken and ashamed to take that step towards Him. Just as my son did with me, with open arms, He draws us close, wipes our shame away, and lifts our heads. Full of mercy and grace, just like the love of a small child for his imperfect mama.


Friday, January 3, 2014

A few years ago, long after I quit making New Year’s resolutions, I took up something I saw all over the internet – OneWord365. Instead of a list of things that you want to quit or change or do, you pick one word to be your theme for the year. One word to focus on. I’ve regretted this decision at various moments, particularly when my one-word commitments have ended up causing me some discomfort and pain. I’ve also seen amazing things happen because of the direction God took me through my chosen words.

As I thought for weeks over what my word would be, I was drawn to a specific theme. It wasn’t as sexy as I wanted it to be. I wanted a verb. Or at least a noun. Something a little more tangible. Last year’s word ended up being so transformational that I had some fairly high expectations and hopes for what my word would be this year. Oh – did I mention that my husband had a word basically dropped in his lap when he was getting ready to lead worship last week at church? And he doesn’t even DO this whole thing. I spent a couple days being irritated about that and wondering why I didn’t feel as passionate about my own word.

After my irritation and second-guessing have faded though, my decidedly unglamorous word remains. This is my third year to do this, and I have learned to trust the process. with copyThis year, the inspiration began with my thoughts on incarnation. The Word made flesh. Incarnation seemed a little bit pretentious when it came to a yearly theme, but I kept coming back to this idea: God with us.

It was that way in the beginning:

”In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God…the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”
[John 1:1,14]

And it’s that way in the end:

”Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.”
[Revelation 21:3]

The Message translation says that God took on flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. Incarnation. It’s not pretty. It’s no fluffy white clouds, rapture us up to the skies to be with Jesus kind of thing. He came here. In the most basic and fleshly of human ways. Into the literal dirt. Into the broken, violent, hard world we inhabit. He came here to live, and then? He gave up His very life for us. A life of sacrifice in the middle of the mess. That’s the model. That’s the beginning and the end. To be with.

This year, I want to be with.

With God. In His presence, His presence with me. Filled with His Spirit, not looking to other stuff to satisfy. Christ in me, the hope of glory – there’s mystery in this one simple word.

With my family. Not just together because we share living space. With one another: listening, dreaming, laughing, learning how our stories are individual yet how they intersect for now and for always, figuring out what we’re called to do and serving Jesus together, loving relentlessly even when it’s hard.

With others. A lot of people are called to be for others. Donating money and things, starting programs, serving at soup kitchens, hosting holiday dinners for the needy, prayer walking, outreach Sunday-ing…these are all valuable additions. It’s just that my calling, our family’s calling, is different. We are a family called to be with. To go there. To not just spend time in public spaces but invite them into our home, the most personal and private of our spaces. We’ve been called to go into the mess, into the homes and lives of those who need it most. To act with crazy love even at the expense of what might be considered wise or safe. To share phone numbers, to sit in living rooms, to pray with people rather than for them. We’ve sat with children in the middle of darkest, most traumatic days of their lives. We’ve dug into the pit of hell with them to help them heal. We’ve sat with hurting families in waiting rooms, with broken mamas in their living rooms, listened to their heart cries and sharing our own in return – not offering solutions. Not offering platitudes. Just being with.

I can already trace the ways this ordinary word has transformed my life, and I’m only two days into the year. In spite of its prepositional nature, it’s a little more subversive than it first appears. With is how God came here and became one of us, and with is how we bring the Kingdom too. This is where heaven meets earth, filth and beauty and grit and glory. Jesus told his disciples that the Kingdom was already in their midst. Here. Among us. With us. Flesh and blood.

May my every thought and desire,
my every act of love,
may my very breath ring with revolution:
God with us – this is the Kingdom come.


[image: Death to the Stock Photo]

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