Thursday, October 20, 2011

Moving on up

Hey there

This blog can now be found at http://www.leannepenny.com

I will no longer be updating at this site, but I'd love to see you at the new one.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pea Soup

I grew up eating pea soup.  My mom and aunts made it all the time, and my Grandma Verkaik made it best.  I am pretty sure that her mom made it and that this recipe came across the ocean from the Netherlands, memorized by the minds of my great grandmas.  I like to think that they sailed into New York Harbor, gazing at the statue of Liberty thinking of freedom, new opportunities and Pea Soup.  I’m sure this isn’t the case, but it’s my story and I can tell it how I want to.

simmering, savory pea soup.
Yesterday I made my family’s pea soup.  It starts by boiling a leftover ham bone, so right away you feel resourceful.  This is the sort of recipe that takes time, you keep the pot simmering and add to it all afternoon, so that it thickens, but doesn’t burn.  If you haven’t had dutch grandma pea soup, you probably think it looks sort of gross.  I know it’s thick and greenish yellow and trust me, I didn’t love it when I was younger.  In fact I remember a story book my Mom read me about a pair of hippos and split pea soup.  The girl hippo, Martha made a ton of pea soup and the boy hippo, George, hated it and tried to hide it all over the house so she’d think he was eating it.  I sat on my mom’s lap and empathized with George, pea soup wasn’t really all that great.
But now that I’m a mom, I make pea soup, and the other three Pennys indulge me.  Kel is even coming to like it, I think, unless like George the hippo is hiding it in his shoes.  When I make this soup I feel connected to my past in a really positive way.  When I grate peeled potatoes into the simmering pot I think of all the women I come from who stood over countless pots of soup, thinking about life, love, God, husbands and kids.  In good years and bad, my family made this soup. After it was just right they gathered around the table to fill their stomachs and souls with fellowship and warm, green goodness.  And probably a side of warm homemade bread.
We all have pea soup type things that bring us back to who we are and where we come from, these are the touchstones that remind us of our rich heritage and history.  When you do these things, you can almost touch the roots of connection with your ancestors. Pea-soup type things strengthen and ground us and they give us pride, in a good way.  They remind us that generations of people  lived life on this earth, they loved and lost and struggled to connect and find God, just like we do every day.
And so even though I get most of my recipes off the internet these days, I always return to my roots and my old school wooden 3×5 card box for this pea soup recipe.  This soup is thick and rich and it sustains me and my family in countless ways.  I hope you have pea-soup type things in your life and if you do, I hope you go make a big metaphorical pot of green goodness to remind yourself of who are, whatever that looks like for you.  Go out and tell the stories of where you comes from to your children so that one day they will have pea soup moments when they remember your faithful strength over simmering pots.  Right now they make be more inclined to dislike it and hide it in their shoes, but I assure you someday they will be infinitely thankful that you did.

Gramma Verkaik's Pea Soup
- One ham bone, bring to a boil in water until the ham falls off the bone.  Take the bone out and sort through the tender meat, removing the fat etc...
- Add two cups of celery to the ham broth you made
- Add onion to taste
- Add 1 1/2 bags of pea, split and whole or all split.
- Add a bay leaf, don't forget bc Gramma Verkaik swears it makes all the difference.
- Add some basil and salt and pepper
- Add a ring of sausage, or Gramma Verkaik calls it metwurst.  I usually use turkey sausage
- As it simmers, grate in peeled potatoes to thicken it.

Don't let it burn and once it is all done, pour and enjoy.  It freezes well.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Soundtracks


Last night I went to a concert featuring two of my favorite bands, David Crowder and Gungor.  Despite the five straight hours of standing in a sweaty crowd, I really enjoyed myself.  When I look at God's people I see a huge painting, each of us an unique color splashed onto the canvas.  Musicians add an essential color to my world, and I am immensely thankful for their faithfulness.  I love both lyrics and music, but if forced to chose between the two I would have to confess that I am lyrics gal.  Nearly all of my favorite songs make the cut because the lyrics strike a chord in my heart.  
Every year my Dad released a soundtrack that served as his musical journey, and he gave that CD out to friends and family.  I am totally his daughter in that respect.  He didn't live in the world of the iPod playlist, which is where I do the majority of my soundtracking.  Since music was made to be shared, I decided to reflect and release my soundtrack for the past year with you.  So this is one year of grieving my mom, in musical form.  Complete with lyrical snippets of the words that really had an impact on me this past year.  I am so thankful to these artists for allowing these words to flow form their souls and into my ears.
All this pain
I wonder if I'll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change, at all
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us. 
This song came into my life just a couple weeks before I began the process of grieving my Mom.  I heard Gungor perform this live in Waco, TX and I knew immediately it would be played over and over and over again in my car, my home and my walks around the park.  Also it makes me want to learn the xylophone something fierce.  
I'm at a loss for words, there's nothing to say
I sit in silence wondering what led me to this place
When did my life become so lifeless and cold
Where did the passion go?

Here I am, at the end, I'm in need of resurrection
Only you can take this empty shell and raise it from the dead
What I've lost to the world, what seems far beyond redemption
You can take the pieces in your hand and make me whole again. 
At the planning session for my mother's funeral my aunt suggested using this song and honestly at the time I just trusted her judgement.  I had no time to process the song before we buried her, but over the next few months the lyrics really had a powerful effect on me.  There are many days when I think about my mom's death and I can almost feel her freedom from mental illness.  I pray incessantly that I never know her pain.  
3) Give me Jesus by Fernando Ortega
 And when I come to die, give me Jesus.
You can have all this world, give me Jesus. 



I've always loved this hymn and after playing it at the funeral it is even more intertwined into my life.  Have you ever thought about what it would mean to really be at peace with God taking everything out of your life and finding true and total contentment in Christ alone?  When you process these words, your realize that this really is a concise description of the journey itself.
4) Still Fighting it by Ben Folds

Everybody knows
It hurts to grow up
And everybody does
It's so weird to be back here
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We're still fighting it, we're still fighting it
And you're so much like me
I'm sorry 
After my son was born in January I was strangely convinced that he was born sad because he had been on such a deeply painful ride with me during my last trimester.  As I was processing what it meant to be a mother to my two beautiful children this song helped me along.  I have to grow into my role, even though it hurts sometimes.
This is what it means to be held, How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your lifeAnd you survive.  
This is what it is to be loved and to know, 
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held.
I think when your mom takes her life, it really does feel like the sacred is torn away from you.  We all want to believe our moms have us, that when life is overwhelming they can swoop in and make things all better, or at least a little better.  I felt that was ripped away, I spent long evenings in my bathtub just wishing I could physically feel God holding me and wiping away my tears.  
I’ve been living in this house here
Since the day that I was born
These walls have seen me happy 
But most of all they’ve seen me torn
They’ve heard the screaming matches 
That made a family fall apart
They’ve had a front row seat
To the breaking of my heart
As my family and I went through the process of packing up my Mom's house, this song kept popping up on my radio.  I wasn't there for most of the sorting and boxing up of my childhood home, but knowing that home was permanently gone was a grief in and of itself as well as a relief.  This song confirmed those feelings and after hearing Chris August perform it live last night I love it even more.
Send me a sign, a hint, a whisper.  Throw me a line, cuz I am listening...
...Shine your light so I can see it, 
pull me up I need to be near you.  
Hold me I need to feel love.  
Can you overcome this heart thats overcome?
I don't know if I would have fallen for this song so hard if it wasn't for the light bright music video.  Go watch that video, you won't be sorry in the slightest.  I am so connected to the story line of the two little lite brite people, the hope at the beginning, the tragedy in the middle and the idea that out of death, something beautiful can grow.  I want to be that something beautiful.  
Please be my strength
Please be my strength
I don't have any more
I don't have any more
This is my prayer many mornings.  'Nuff said.
He has cheated
Hell and seated
Us above the fall
In desperate places
He paid our wages
One time once and for all
On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave
Also I need to add: "Because he lives, I can face tomorrow, because he lives all fear is gone, because I know he holds the future.  And life is worth the living, just because he lives."  The lyrics of these two songs, one contemporary and one a hymn from my childhood, serve as a reminder of where our comfort truly lies.  When we face death and pain and un-mendable brokenness we cannot forget the promise that is wrapped up in the empty tomb.  One of the reasons I heal and press on is because I know where this path leads.  We have already won.  
So here are 9 songs that made my soundtrack.  They top the charts now and they will always be a part of the my life's dance.  They fed me on days when I didn't know where to find food.  Most of them fall in the "christian" music genre but I certainly don't limit myself to that genre.  Wherever musicians are pouring out truth you will find and connect your story with God.  
I hope you practice the healing discipline of soundtracking your life.  Music is something God wired us for, so take advantage of it and take the time to soundtrack your life in the gray and sunny seasons.  I can't see why you'd ever regret it.
Would you share a few songs on your current soundtrack?  Please?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

one year with suicide

This post is best read with a mug of something warm such as coffee, cocoa or hot tea.  Also hot apple cider, if available is a great choice.  

In Michigan the leaves are changing bold and beautiful hues and falling to the ground.  Fall has always been my favorite season, but this particular fall day lacks beauty for me.  You see, today marks the one year anniversary of my Mom's death.  One year ago today she took her life.



Last year on October 13th I was just getting into bed after staying up too late when I heard my cell phone ring.  It was my brother, and after a glance at the clock I realized that time in Michigan was midnight thirty.  My heart sank and I braced myself for a blow, because calls after midnight rarely bring good news.  My husband took the call and after he hung up the phone he gently filled me in.  Earlier that evening my mother had taken her life on the same train tracks that my sister had her accident years before.  I didn't burst into hysterics or tears, instead I sunk into shock.  I couldn't believe that all the hope I had been grasping so desperately had shattered on the tile floor of our bathroom.  There was no coming back from her depression.  It had finally defeated her spirit.  She had been so mentally and emotionally unavailable for years, and now she had faded out of my life completely. 

I wanted to write about what it feels like to spend one year processing and grieving suicide.  I know a lot of people tell me that they can't imagine what it would be like to have your mother take her life.  Well I think that if I could sum it all up into one word it would be this: confusing.  After 365 days of living with suicide I am still confused.  I know that the body, mind and soul of a person are unbreakably connected.  When the mind is very sick it has the power to take down the other two.  When the body is sick it can take down mind and soul down as well. However, I have seen enough optimistic cancer patients to lead me to believe that the worst place to get seriously sick, is in the mind.  

My mother struggled with depression for about 30 years, and it eventually took her life.  Some days I view her death as a struggle with terminal depression, a disease of the mind.  Other days I wonder what was inevitable because of her diagnosis and what she could have fought through.  But every day I wonder who my Mom really was underneath that thick gray crust of pain and sadness.  Toward the end of her life she was usually a warm body and a blank stare, existing in a world I couldn't seem to reach.  I listen to stories and glean pieces of the person God made her to be, she was bright and fun loving, a warm hearted and servant minded person.  She felt other people's pain like it was her own and she was the star of the school play.  I miss her even though I hardly knew her at all.  Mostly I am frustrated that I missed out on her.  That my life was spent watching her blow away like dandelion fluff, piece by piece drifting somewhere unknown.  

I can honestly say I was angry at her, for all her failures as my Mom, and for being locked behind a wall I couldn't penetrate no matter what I did.  I kept reaching for her just like my own baby son reaches up for my face.  As much as you hate to admit it, You always need you mom, and she couldn't be mine anymore, even though she was sitting right across from me.  I won't ever fully understand that, it's utterly terrible grieving someone who is still alive.   

I don't know why some people die of physical illness, some people die of mental illness and some people die in sudden tragic accidents.  I do know that one out of every one person on the earth will die and that even though my moments on earth seem endless, they are anything but. 

I try to remember the good memories of my Mom, but most of them happened years ago.  When she was alive, the idea of being like her terrified me, so I rejected everything in hopes of avoiding her fate.  Well now I am confident that I can avoid her fate while at the same time being her daughter.  I am now brave enough to talk about some parts of her that I carry on in this life.

1)  When Noelle was born she came to visit and kissed her right on the lips.  I thought that was weird, but now I smooch those little lips whenever I want to, because I am mom, and I can.
2)  She always left her coffee cup in the bathroom because she finished her last mug while she was doing her makeup.  I do that too.
3)  My mom's favorite season was fall, mine is too.  She would drive us around town just to find beautiful trees to fuss over, as a kid I didn't get it, but I have every intention of subjecting my kids to that as well.  
4)  She wore the diamonds my dad gave her when he proposed, I am now brave enough to wear them too. They are a symbol of all the beautiful intentions they had when they started our family, and that's a part of all of this that I want to carry into the future.  

Suicide is messy and inexplicable selfish, I doubt she had too much control over it, as far gone as she was.  It is a terribly confusing thing and difficult legacy to leave your children.  All that being said, I am my Mother's daughter and I have every intention to fight like hell against metal illness.  I will love autumn with reckless abandon. And every morning I will leave a mostly empty coffee cup on my bathroom counter before I get out there and live life to the very fullest with every intention to leave an amazing legacy in my wake. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reminder Bear

Greetings from Michigan.  It is so unbelievably lovely here right now.  Wherever I go I pass roadside produce stands brimming with bushel upon bushel of freshly picked apples.  I am snacking on them between every meal and spending most of my days with my family and friends as we share memories and simply enjoy the rare gift of face to face time together.  

I have been contemplating the idea of a top ten list for my life as it stands right now.  This list would be the top ten things I need to be reminded of often, not only because they are foundational and important, but because I often get distracted and forget them.  I decided it would be hilarious yet practical to record these top ten truths and put them in a teddy bear voice box.  That way anytime I feel lost I could hug my soft reminder bear and God could use it to give me direction.  

Also, since I hate the sound of my own voice so I decided that I'll have Morgan Freeman record my top ten list.  This will really add impact and authority to my reminder bear.  I am pretty sure that when I get to heaven God will sound just like Morgan Freeman anyway.

Top Ten List for Reminder Bear:
(Don't get caught up on the order as the bear will dole out these truths at random)

1) In the busy-ness and the mess, be still and know that I am God.  Yes today and yes for you.

2) Every part of life, the good and the bad, is a season.  Don't let the bad destroy you and don't forget to savor the good moments.

3) While you're out, swing by the store and buy milk, eggs, and bananas.  Because you're probably running low on all three.  Silly but true, and I bet when Morgan Freeman says it, it sounds so profound!

4) You aren't destined to become your mom.  You are own person and your family will follow a new course, through my (God's) faithfulness I will be glorified in your perseverance.  

5)  I (God) don't need another "them" but I absolutely need you to be the you I made you to be.

6)  Remember the order of your Calling.  You are my daughter, Kel's wife, your children's mom and a writer.  You aren't a chef, maid or professional Facebook-er so use your time accordingly.   

7)  When life gets too much for you, you should probably get in the bathtub and remember who you are and where you are going.  A glass of wine wouldn't hurt either.  

8)  Believe the best about other people, they are rarely being jerks on purpose, so often they just don't understand.  Be patient.

9)  You don't need to earn my (God's) love, you already have it, rest in this truth, and stop trying so hard.

10)  Stop right now and be thankful for five things, this is a healthy and healing discipline and you will never regret doing it.  

I think we could all use a reminder bear, or at least a chalkboard that we could go to when we in our human weakness forget.  These are the truths that I need for today, for the leg of my journey that I find myself in right now.  I am certain that my reminder bear needs will change as I grow, but for now I am loving this little list.  Now to tweet Morgan Freeman and ask him a small favor...


Your turn, share a few things that you would put on your reminder bear list.  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Simba's daddy takes a nap

Just like everyone else in America, I grew up watching classic Disney movies.  So, I am really happy that they are re-releasing the films I loved for my own family to enjoy.  As you may well know, The Lion King just came out on DVD.  So my 2 year old daughter and I drove to the media store to pick up a copy for the Penny family.  We made some popcorn and slid it into the DVD player to enjoy the magical musical journey together.  Okay so honestly I was in the kitchen making chili and singing "I'm gonna be a mighty king" but we were together... ish.  





I assume you have seen the Lion Kind, but in case for some reason you missed it, In the middle of the story Simba gets caught in the path of a wild stampede.  In order to save Simba's life his dad, Mufasa runs in and plucks him from danger.  But in the process his own brother Scar pushes him off a cliff to his death.  After the stampede passes Simba rushes in to his father and  realizes with wide, sad eyes that his dad is gone.  


It's brutally heart wrenching.  At this point in the film, my two year old daughter looked up at my husband and said:  "Daddy, Simba's daddy take a nap?  Simba feel sad?"

At that moment my Mom heart broke a bit.  I ached inside, Oh God, not yet, I am not ready for her heart to comprehend death yet.  I'm not prepared for that moment where she tries to process the awful permanence of it.  I don't want her to lose so much as a pet hamster, let alone a cherished person in her life.  


This moment has been weighing heavily on my heart these past few days.  Just like any Mother, I want to protect her from the pain of this world, but I know that's not really an option.  I can provide the healthiest and safest environment possible, but she will still encounter heartache, sickness and death on her journey.


After a great deal of pondering I have come to several conclusions.  First of all, I don't have to explain this to her right now.  Cognitively she isn't there yet so for today it's perfectly fine for her to go on believing that Simba's daddy takes a nap.  On the other hand I do have to prepare myself to explain to my children eventually why they don't have the typical grandparent situation.  I think I'll start by telling them that all their grandmas and grandpas are in heaven.  And that God has put special people into their lives to love them, but that their Grandmas and Grandpas in heaven love them very much too.  And then someday I will have to explain what suicide is, although I plan to hold off on this for a long while.  


It is a blessing when you come to realize that your concerns for the future don't need to have concrete resolutions today.  We only have to be prepared to do our lives now, and then wisely prepare as best we can for the future.  That's really all we can do.  I don't have to explain death to my daughter right now, so I am not going to let it spoil my today.  Heck, I'm still trying to explain some aspects of it to myself.  I'm in the middle of sorting through my own sleeping lions this week.  


So today I will cherish the innocence that is found in her beautiful young heart.  I will educate and prepare myself to parent her well in her current and upcoming life stages.  I will pray for wisdom to be her mom and to know how God wants to use me to teach and guide her on this earth.  And I will thank him for the abundant gift that she is, and be thankful that for today it's okay to think that lion daddys are just sleeping.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mobster in the corner

What seems like forever ago I wrote about how grief is like a ninja. .  What I meant by that is that once you have loss in your life, you never know when it might jump out from behind a corner and ninja kick you in the face.  This doesn't mean that you aren't living life to the fullest and worshiping God with your life, it just meant that you loved someone who isn't on earth anymore and when you are reminded of that, it can cause pain.  

 I have been ninja kicked a lot lately, and I think that this season of my life grief isn't so much like a ninja but an Italian mob lackey in a pinstriped suit standing in the corner.  He has sunglasses on and he had a chest the size of a Volkswagen.  Every so often he just nods, walks over to me as I am chopping peppers in the kitchen and knees me in the gut.  You know for good measure. 

You see right now my grief feels palpable.  It's right there, and it may take an afternoon break but it always pops back up and my mood falls as my insides seem to sink to the floor.  My mom walked out in front of a train last year, and that is now a painful part of my story.

I suck at self care, and as much as I encourage other people to take space and time to sort through painful loss I am really bad at doing it for myself.  I confessed to my husband this morning that I really felt like if I enter into the grief season right now our little world would fall apart and I would be letting everyone down.  So I don't always practice what I preach, I'm just that human.


But even though it will result in a huge mess I am going to "go there." I am going to remember who happened last October and I am going to remind myself of who my Mother was.  I am going to try to cling to the good parts and separate her from her illness.  I am going to start to be okay with some of the ways that I am like her and not see them as ugly spots on my life.


Because even though she and my Dad are both gone now, I am their daughter.  A piece of them that can still speak to this world.  And speak I shall, so take that mobster. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thoughts after Dark.

Good evening from my patio, I feel like this is the nightcap version of Penny Thoughts since I pretty much always post in the mornings.  I'll paint you a picture of my moment so that you can feel like you're across the table from me.  It's all the way dark outside and the moon is on the other side of the house so you can't see it.  The stars are out and the oil rig just beyond our wooden fence is squeaky and annoying.  We are trying to tune it out.  There is a beautiful breeze blowing through the rose bushes and some used sidewalk chalk nubbins scattered beneath our feet.  There, now you feel like you're right here with me.  

I am sitting here with some wine and I decided to write after another attempt at getting into Anita Shreve's "Sea Glass" failed.  I usually like her stuff but this one is slow and it's not hooking my interest.  So I put it down, partly because I don't love it and partly because I feel like God has something bigger for me out here, something I need to hear or maybe smell.  No, not smell, I have sniffed several times and I can't smell anything significant.  

I have been scrambling for perspective this week and I still don't have a firm grasp on it.  I have been desperately wanting to be fine with my Mom's death but as the anniversary of it gets closer the events of last October get brighter and more vivid.  ALmost like it is here all over again.  I think about the unpleasant details a lot, the nuts and bolts of her death.  I wish I didn't, I wish that I could make this season pass unobserved but something about it demands action.  So I bought a plane ticket home today, and I will be leaving a week from tomorrow to navigate my way through this gray anniversary with my family and friends back home.  I want to be with those who knew my Mom directly.  It will be a comfort to go through this side by side.  

A few days ago I was finishing a kitchen rug project when I snipped the tip of my finger with my sharp fabric scissor.  It was the tiniest snip but it left a small hole on the top of my left pinkie.  If I look very close I can still see the scab, but for the most part it has already healed up.  Are you ever just astounded at the human body's ability to heal?  I didn't have to do anything about that cut.  I just went about life as usual and it scabbed over and mended, soon to be indistinguishable from the rest of my finger tips.

I really wish that emotional pain was that simple.  There is a lot of truth in the fact that time heals emotional wounds, it plays an unarguably important role.  However, if you have ever experienced pain, tragedy or loss.  If your life has ever suddenly been altered for the poorer, you will know that you have to move through the pain almost tangibly.  You have to do more than just allow time to pass.  You have to shed tears, talk through feelings, put up pictures and perhaps go to counseling.  Sifting through deep pain is some of the hardest work on the planet.  It is exhausting on every level.  However, I truly believe that if you don't grieve you can't heal fully.  You have to "do grief."   There is no easy band-aid, believe me I wish I could tell you that there is.  

So tonight finds me coming to the stark realization that I will have to find ways to continue healing over these next two weeks.  Two weeks from right now, almost exactly, will be the one year anniversary of my Mom's suicide.  I have to deal with that.  It will make me think through who I am as her daughter, as my children's mother, and as a woman dealing with life on this earth.  I will continue to reject the dangerous lie that I will share her exact path.  I will not.  I am my mother's daughter, but I am not my mother.  

I don't want to face this milestone, but the hard part is, if wholeness and freedom is my goal, then dealing with it is my only option.  Pray for me, and if you are facing something hard that you wish that you weren't facing, talk about it with your support people.  They love you and that love will be there for you as you deal with your junk.  Don't deal with your burdens alone, I'm not going to and neither should you.  Heavy things were made to be carried by a team.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

coffee date

View from my front door.  If there was sound you would hear a rooster crowing.  

I am a morning person, I love coffee and breakfast food.  I love the sunrise and the cool breeze that wafts in from the window. As long as I have about 6 hours of sleep under my belt, I'm fine with getting up.  My husband hates the morning and even though morning comes every day, it always seems to hit him like a nasty surprise.  This has been a source of tension in our marriage.  I expected a coffee date every morning with the man I love and instead I usually get a grumpy guy squinting and grumbling around the house in his boxers.  Ah well, such is life.  


It wasn't until this year that I got the coffee date buddy I wanted, and I only realized it this very morning.  Every morning I share a cup of coffee with my two year old daughter, Noelle.  Every morning when I help her out of her toddler bed she hugs me with an enthusiastic "Good morning!"  After the coffee is made, I pour myself a cup and then I heat up a bit of milk in a sippy cup and top it off with a couple tablespoons of coffee for her.  And this is my unexpected coffee partner.  I always thought my morning date would take place over two mugs, but it turns out that for now, it's a mug and a sippy cup.  



The remnants of my morning coffee date.
Even though we often part ways after we receive our java (she watches mickey on the couch and I usually sit down at the table to write before the boys get up) there is a camaraderie that links us across the room.  She is the coffee date I always wanted, and every morning I try to make her feel wanted and seen.  Even at the age of two we all long to connect, and since she isn't able to connect on my level, I have to get down and connect with her on hers.  


Pretty much any time I reflect on mothering, I drift back to my own Mom.  Who doesn't?   Our relationship was usually pretty hard.  For starters, I am energy incarnate.  I don't' stop moving from the time I leave bed until the time I crawl back in.  I have always been this way, I played so hard I often fell asleep face down in spaghetti in my highchair.  My daughter is a lot the same way.  


My energy was a source of frustration for my Mom, because she was coping with mental illness and I pushed her buttons and ran her down with my willfulness.  Growing up I often felt all- wrong, like a mistake or a problem.  I was taken to a lot of doctors and put on a lot of pills from the age of three until the age of 18.  For along time I felt like they were trying to fix me but that they couldn't because I was too screwed up.  My mom made some mistakes, but in hindsight I  give her grace, mostly because being angry with her now solves nothing.  However, this insight does serve as a reminder of how I want to respond to my own little energetic girl, who just came over to steal sips of my coffee after she drained her own.  She also is refusing to eat the overnight fig-raisin steel-cut oatmeal I made us.  Sad.  


Everyone wants to feel important, seen and loved and so I try to respond like that to my daughter.  Even when she asks the same question ten times in a row I respond to most of her chatter, because I remember how awful it is to feel like an annoyance every time you open your mouth.  I am not a perfect mom, I screw up every day, I promise.  I am not always intentional and I am not always patient.  Some days I feel like all that is keeping me going is the hope of a glass of wine after they fall asleep.  But I love my children, and I want them to feel cherished.  I know that they will have moments of self doubt, but I want to do all I can to communicate to them that I love who God created them to be, even if some days it flat out exhausts me.  


So most mornings Noelle and I drink coffee and watch Mickey Mouse.  We build a lot of block towers and we bake pretend cakes.  We race across the backyard and draw endless shapes on the patio.  Right now she is running around with a clothespin in her mouth.  I should probably go put a stop to that.  So in closing, I hope that you are able to see the people in your life as the beautiful gifts they are, even when they drain you dry.  God is the source that will quench your thirst, and he typically only gives you enough to do one day, it keeps you coming back.  He's brilliant that way.  


We all have pain from our past, but instead of carrying it around with you, forgive.  And use it to influence the choices you make today.  What is something from your past you can unload from your backpack.  Haul it out and leave it this morning, then use the memory of it to change the way you move forward.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

I want to be bundt cake

I didn't proof read so if you're anal about that, read at your own risk.  And then volunteer to be my pro-bono editor.  

Confession:  Sometimes I censor myself on this blog, and insert a little more optimism than I am really feeling.  I don't want anyone who is struggling to feel like I gave them permission to go off the deep end, or falter in their belief that God is crazy faithful.  He is times a trillion.  

But somehow I forgot that I am not the only voice speaking to people.  God doesn't need me to inspire or encourage people, nor am I solely responsible for how people behave as a result of reading what I write.  God doesn't need me, but I am thrilled that he uses me.  I just want to be of use to him.  

On that note, I have been pretty discouraged this past week.  I have been experiencing a lot of discouragement from inside of me and coupled with a bit of discouragement from around me, I often feel like sitting on my couch like a puddle of jello.  Maybe not even jello, jello jiggles and keeps a pretty constant motion, I want to sit on my couch like... bundt cake.  It has a nice crusty outside and doesn't move unless you move it.

Science:  A bundt cake NOT in motion will stay NOT in motion unless another force acts upon it.

Crusty, stationary bundt cake.  It doesn't jiggle at all, it stays put.  
The truth of the matter is that as the anniversary of my Mom's death approaches the shade of my attitude gets a little closer to gray.  But blah, I don't want to be down, I would rather reject the pain, proclaim that I am a fighter and "ain't nothing gonna get me down."  Pretending to have it all together is easier in some ways but it always bites you in the end.  Somewhere inside God is whispering to me that he is using my struggle in big ways.  He wants my real and dirty approach to grieving to be used as an example, to help give others the permission to do the same.  At least I think that's part of what he is calling me.  So I am going to operate under that philosophy.

I am coming to terms with the fact that this next month is going to be hard, and I am listening for God's voice on what would be a healthy approach to moving through it.  I know that pretending it's all good isn't it.  I know sitting depressed on my couch and watching entire seasons of TV and eating bowl after bowl of cereal isn't it either.  It's something else, and I am on the watch for it.

So I will use this space to be honest about it.  To process through it, and to help God speak through me.  More than I want to be needed or exalted by God, I want to be used by God.  If right now he is using me to help other people learn to grieve then yes.  I guess I want that.  

And also now I sort of want bundt cake.  Pumpkin or Apple preferably.  Stupid weight watchers...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Good Trails

The Oklahoma Night Sky

God gives out Wisdom free, is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding.He's a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well, a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere.He keeps his eye on all who live honestly, and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones.  So now you can pick out what's true and fair, find all the good trails! ~ Proverbs 2: 6-9 MSG
If you visit here regularly it's no secret that I often use the idea of life as a journey and our choices as paths. It is easy to get off the main path and hop off down bunny trails that lead to dangerous and unhelpful places, and we all do it.  But the idea is to stay on the path God is leading us down, with full knowledge that there will be pain and brokenness along the way.  
I have a dear friend Jessica, and we enjoy journeying together.  Even though I'm older, we both support each other in a million ways, big and small.  One gift she gives me and Kel on a regular basis is babysitting so we can have a date night, something we couldn't afford often if we had to pay for both dinner and childcare.  Last night was a date night, and strolled through a salvage, went out to dinner and took walk in the park.  At the park we were able to go to an area of the park that we don't see too often because it's not stroller friendly.
After we got home and got the kids asleep we finished last night's Grey's Anatomy and surfed facebook on our phones.  A pretty lame finish to date night.  At one point I opened a window and turned off the AC and instantly I was swept away by the cool breeze that blew in.  So, surprising even myself, I grabbed a big blanket and headed outside.  I don't typically do this but I found the idea of star gazing irresistible.  I convinced Kel to join me and we laid there in our backyard, talking and marveling at the big dome of sky that loomed above.  
We realized that we hadn't given the stars much of a glance since our trip to Taos, NM last Labor Day.  It had been over a year since we really looked at the stars, together or individually.   A year without stars, I really hope I don't ever do that again.  For me there are few things in life that give perspective as quickly as taking in the night sky.  As we laid there our conversation slowly deepened to good stuff like heaven and how God gives Wisdom.  If we would have started another TV show instead of venturing outside we would have missed connecting like that.

Good trails in life are so much more fulfilling than easy trails, but they are almost always an uphill climb.  Yesterday was a day of uphill climbs.  We did our budget meeting and reigned in our spending, we watched what we ate during the day so that a dinner out wouldn't be as detrimental to our health, and we chose to take a walk instead of go to a movie.  We were tired at the end of the week so a lot of these choices weren't instantly appealing, but as I crawled into bed last night I was so glad we had hiked down the good trails.  

I don't want you to think I am bragging about star gazing or budgeting, I am not.  We have been drifting on our discipline lately, on where God is leading our family, so these choice really were painful and unappealing.  They were not what we wanted to do but I am finding over and over again, that the things in life worth having are cost me something.    


I hope to have more date nights under the stars soon, because I want to explore the trails we find as we lay there together realizing how small we are in comparison to all God created.  Just the concept of a light year blew my mind last night.  I was looking at something that was so far away, we measure the distance in the time it takes light to travel a year.  Light moves faster than my eyes or brain can even process.  Think about that.  That's how far away those stars are.  We are small but we are so significant, and well loved by our Father.  I hope that God's wisdom leads us all to delight in choosing a hard trail, even if we are only thankful after the fact.


Off the top of my head, here are some good trails that are hard but worth it:  
reconciling with a friend
serving your church or community
bringing a meal to someone who needs it
talking a walk instead of watching tv
getting swept up in a good book
sitting down and talking with your significant other to work toward a better relationship
building a fort with your kids
calling your grandma 
eating an apple instead of chips
putting down your phone and connecting over a meal
reading the bible instead of Facebook over your am coffee


You may think these are cliche, but they're good trails, God led paths that will lead to deep and more fulfilling life.  If you are tired and broken, they are especially good for you.  Healing always takes work, but we serve a God who is longing to support you as you hike.  


Maybe tonight I'll go out again to gaze up at the stars, maybe you will join me and we will support each other just by gazing together, even from different back yards.  
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