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.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My compass zone

Yesterday I lost it.  I ugly cried.  I didn't see it coming, I couldn't fend it off and so I gave into it.  At some point after lunch, I stopped making sense and started spouting nonsense that centered around how worthless I am.  I had completely lost sight of the truth in my life and I laid there wallowing.  I wallowed hard core.  I still can't tell you exactly why I broke down, but I can tell you that it took a series of tough choices yesterday evening to climb back out.  

Isn't it scary how easy it is to lose sight of what is real and buy into something gilded and fake?  Personally this often happens when I start to believe that my worth is measured in hits on this blog, the organizational state of my house or the numbers on a scale.  We all have useless numbers and standards we use to qualify success in our lives, when those numbers get low... or high... look out because break down alert is at orange.  

No one in my life, or yours for that matter, uses the same stupid things to measure your success.  My family and friends still love me even if my weight takes a 2 lb swing or my blog hits aren't as high as they were last week or if I have a foot-tall pile of randomness on top of my dryer.  Which I always, always do.  

Large chunks of our world are set up to distract us from almost everything truly valuable about life.  We turn on the tv or log into Facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc and if we are not careful we are immediately reminded of who we aren't and what we don't have.  I have heard at least 67 people say that they often feel bad about themselves after Facebook-ing.  And here is why: typically people are only posting the good stuff on their walls, and not the ugly moments.  I don't post the pictures of my kids snotty and crying, so you may falsely believe we don't use kleenex or have tantrums.  We do, I just don't whip out the camera in those moments, and neither would you.  We have to remember that people are typically putting their best stuff out there, who would want to immortalize their ugly moments.  So measuring your life against what you see on tv or social media is usually a bad and dangerous way to go.  Don't do that.  

So I have found that we need to have compasses in place to keep us from going off the deep end and believing the worst about ourselves.  These compasses can be people, songs, scripture/quotes, or places that remind us of our true value that is far deeper than any unit of measure our world often suggests we use to gauge our worth. Think like...bulletin board, a collage or something along those lines.
To add a touch of real life, my kitchen window compass zone is show with dishes and all.  please enjoy.

I used to put reminders and quotes on my bathroom mirror, because a long time ago in a life far far away I spent a decent part of my morning there, primping, blowing and spritzing.  I tried to use the mirror as a compass zone for the past while, but it wasn't doing it for me.  Then about a week ago I realized that nowadays I spend a lot more time at the kitchen sink than I do in front of the mirror.  So I have swapped these spots and now the kitchen sink is home to my quotes and notes.  

The thing is that it is almost always easier to lose yourself to BS than to stay on track with the truth.  So we have got to use all the resources God gave us as compasses to stay on track or get back on the path if needed.  God surrounded you with friends and family, so use them to speak the truth to you.  If you have walls, put up memories and quotes that tell the truth about who you are so you remember where exactly you are going.

The amazing Tiffany Anderson send me a verse from Proverbs (The Message style) today and it knocked me off my chair with its timely fantastical truth.  (If you don't know Tiffany, I'm sorry for you, but mostly I'm thankful for me.  God loves me so much that he put her into my life to encourage me and love the heck out of my kids.  She was the first person I met in Ada, and the last person I want to hug should we ever leave.  If there is a word that means blessing x1,756 then that's the word I use to describe Tiff)

Anyway, sorry about the ode to Tiffany but it was appropriate and necessary, but back to that verse from Proverbs.  I wrote it out on an envelope (because we are completely of all paper) and it made my kitchen window compass zone along with other pictures and cards and quotes.  

1 Good friend, take to heart what I'm telling you; collect my counsels and guard them with your life.2 Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom; set your heart on a life of Understanding.3 That's right-if you make Insight your priority, and won't take no for an answer,4 Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,5 Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours; you'll have come upon the Knowledge of God. ~Proverbs 2:1-5
 I hope that snippet from God's truth grounds you and/or shakes you and brings you back to what is really true about yourself and this world we live in.  

oh the baggy eyes, if only the little Pennys would sleep.

And just to prove that I am all about being real here is a picture of me in a pony tail with no makeup and huge bags under my eyes.  This is my gift to you and is sure to make you feel better about however you look today.  The cute baby is my only accessory, and yes its hard to type when he tries to help.  He's going to be an amazing author someday but for now he just likes the space bar and the ,/. keys a lot.
You is good, you is smart, you is important
Anyone feeling brave enough to come clean with one of their lies or fake standards?  Come on, I showed you mine...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


It's just another evening of life and I am sitting in bed reading and writing, windows open and a cup of tea on my night stand.  There's some sort of chirping creature outside my window who seemed charming at first but who is now becoming an unwelcome addition to my solitude.  I tried yelling at it through the screen, because I am apparently that crazy.

Do you ever catch yourself experiencing a moment where you are caught off guard at where your life has taken you?  These moments are not necessarily good or bad, simply surreal and surprising.  Often I think that they start with an "I never thought I would be..."  and end with something timely and personal.

For example "I never thought I would be a full time Mom"
Or "I never saw myself living in Oklahoma with an oil well in my backyard"

I have had a lot of moments like these lately, especially coming up on the one year anniversary of losing my mom.

"I never thought I would be orphaned before 30."

I so often try to ignore the statistics of my life, like the fact that between Kel and I, all four of our parents are gone and our kids will never know their real grandparents. It's such an awful stat about our family and I try really hard to downplay it.  To simply confirm it and move on. 

I spent the weekend with a friend, supporting her as she attended the funeral of her roommate's brother, who died last week in Afghanistan.  Experiencing that death third-hand kept taking me back to last October and the gut wrenching, hope-crushing process that was burying my mom. Through helping process this new loss I was continuously reminded of the shocking and harsh nature of death.  There is usually this look of utter disbelief on the faces of those left behind, as if to say "Is this really happening?"  "Are they really gone forever?"

Yes, it really is.  And I am so sorry about that truth.  If I could carry it away from you I would.  There is nothing as permanent as death, in a world where almost everything is negotiable and can be fixed, death is not and cannot.  For me the shock of my mother's death still hits me.  A year later I still go to call her each and every Sunday afternoon, as if almost 52 Sundays of not talking has had no effect on my routine of connecting with her on her loneliest day.  

Normally I am all about optimism and hope, and if you look closely I still am tonight.  But death can't just be patched over with sweet words, no matter how true.  Just because you are honest about the harsh, hard, sharp reality of death doesn't mean that you lost faith.  Faith can be there among the shock.  I think we show a lack of faith when we refuse to "go there."  We have to do into the pain of loss in order to emerge whole again.  I think true faith shines brightly in an individual who goes into the deep painful seasons of life with faith that they can be real with pain because they serve a God who brings us back again.  He is all about restoring but he is never about pretending or burying the truth.

There is no raw pain like that of sudden and shocking loss.  Loss hits us in all sorts of ways:  loss of relationships, loved ones, jobs and health. I still visit that shock from time to time, but not always.  It's okay to mourn deeply, I promise if you keep digging through the darkness you will find light and strength.  But I know that it sucks deeply and steals your breath.  Be real about that.  Keep going there, keep going and going.  Life is composed of seasons, and this it just one temporary one, albeit the darkest sort.  

Journey with friends and never stop talking to your God. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

This world has nothing for me

Right now I am staying with some friends and they are in the "grown and flown" stage of life.  The stage of life where your children have launched from the nest and are following Gods call in their own adult lives.  A stage where things stay generally where you put them and you don't find little people ponies in your bathroom sink and blocks in your dryer.  This morning after I finally figured out how to use the coffee maker, I found myself admiring the tasteful decorations and thoughtfully organized kitchen.  Especially the spice cupboard, I sipped coffee and gawked in awe at the myriad of spices to be had.  I am not materialistic but spices are the... spice of life? Sorry I had to.

I wondered if this made me materialistic and if I was somehow wrong.  I wasn't feeling discontent with my current stage, but more looking through a window into a stage that awaits me someday.  This took me back to a moment I had in church earlier this week, we were singing a song with the lyrics: "This world has nothing for me, I will follow you."  Instead of just singing these words and allowing myself to get distracted by who was wearing what (Maybe I am materialistic, or just high strung)  Whatever I am I took a long moment to ponder those words in light of my own life and what I love.

"This world has nothing for me, I will follow you."  I am following him but my mind starting drifting to good conversations, beautiful mountain views, hearty meals enjoyed with friends, and the feeling I get every morning when I get my daughter out of bed.  All these things are happening in the world and they are feeding my soul.  And I am positive they are good things, God things.  Then I figured it out, I was able to frame it in a way that brought clarity and understanding.  If you are loving God's way, they things that bring you joy are happening on this earth, but they are really more heaven than earth.  

This is our father's world and when we view the world through that lens, the things we love are eliciting that feeling because they are pieces of heaven.  My moments of joy are direct gifts from my father and so as long as I don't define myself with stuff and I know who I really am in him, then I am finding heaven on this earth.  Originally this world was heaven, it was eden and we were in direct and daily contact with God.  Even though it has all fallen, when are living in his love you can start to see pieces of how it was and how it will be again.  And when you choose to channel that love in your own life you get to bring heaven to earth.  There is no greater calling than this.

So when we are living in connection to our Father, his world is filled with bits and pieces of heaven.  

I hope that you see some heaven in your earth today and better yet that you bring some heaven into someone else's world.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rosie the Robot

I have a confession to make.  Deep down in the bottom of my soul I have started seeing myself as Rosie the Robot.  Shocking, I know.  If you don't know who Rosie is, I have provided this wiki-link.  I came to this conclusion last week Friday morning.  To say that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed would be the understatement of the year.  My mood was so foul and I was so angry I may as well have been pushed out of bed onto a pile of legos, doused with ice water all while "Come on Eileen" (I HATE that song) played loudly in the background.  I was just. that. pissy.  However nothing that dramatic happened. I woke up to a hungry baby boy just like I always do.   After I took care of his urgent hunger I proceeded to do things I'm not proud of, like throw laundry baskets in our bedroom to wake up Kel and kick the dryer, all this in addition to yelling and only speaking in thickly sarcastic phrases.  I am sure you have never yelled or thrown anything, so please try to love me in spite of this.  

After about 45 minutes of this rage bender I was able to step back and get a glimpse of what was really causing this crazy behavior.  I slowly softened up as I explained myself to Kel and as I did I came to realize that I had developed some seriously flawed ways of defining myself.  In the middle of the snot and tears I blurted out "I feel like I'm just Rosie the Robot and all I do is cook, clean and watch afternoon television, but I feel like I supposed to be so much more than that!"  

Ah, there it is.  I feel like "the help" of our family, a machine who cranks out food and clean laundry and doesn't need a lot of upkeep to keep functioning.  You don't need a therapist to point out that this is an unhealthy mindset.  I don't currently have a job outside of our house and so I believe that my days less valuable than Kel's because he has a career right now and I don't.  I spend most of my time playing blocks, singing the ABCs and picking up messes.  Most days I don't do my makeup or hair, I just change into a clean sports bra and yoga pants and keep doing the mom thing.  

The lie is that I am a robotic maid and the truth is that I am a mother, guiding the steps of two beautiful little people.  I am building  a strong foundation for the life of children and this will echo in eternity.  All the pot roasts and endless laundry are just fluff. 

When I started to view myself as a maid or cook instead of a wife and Mom I threw myself down a slope that was bound to result in a dangerous crash.  In my case it was the crashing sound of plastic laundry baskets against drywall, but for you it could be any number of weird noises.  It is so easy to look at what you do with your days and think of your role as "less than" what someone else does.  The enemy is all about making you feel small and insignificant, because people who feel worthless won't do too much about bringing the kingdom of God to their surroundings.  

So now you may realize that you too have a flawed "rosie the robot" type view of yourself.  Now you have to start seeing yourself as God does.  None of us are worthless and every role is valuable.  Take a look at 1 Corinthians 12, it talks about how every different set of talents and skills are valuable and essential, just like the different parts of the body.  Perhaps the hands are more often seen in action but they couldn't do much without the invisible workings of the brain.

No matter what you do with your days, if you are living in God's will, you are fulfilling an essential and valuable role in this world.  When we live with this attitude God will use our days to echo in eternity.  Maybe you work at WalMart, a fast food restaurant, a shoe stores or you deliver pizza.  I have been there.  Just because you aren't in a business card toting career doesn't mean that God doesn't need you to do the Heck out of the job he placed you in.  Almost everything in life is a season and if you are flipping burgers and you do it with gusto, you won't stay there long.  God always promotes hard workers in one way or another.  

I honestly believe that we each have some faulty ways of viewing ourselves and when I look around I am painfully aware of how easy it is to feel irrelevant.  So know this:  God didn't put a single irrelevant person on this planet, and that includes us.  So today when I get around to putting on a clean pair of yoga pants I will view them as my super hero cape.  I am a valuable person to my children and all I will interact with today.  I have to remember what it is I am really doing with my life.  I am a strong mother, a new author, and a faithful wife and friend.  

So if you are feeling insignificant Remember that what we are doing with our hands is often not nearly as important as the mindset and attitude with which we do it.  

Is there any way in which you need to redefine the way your view yourself?  Maybe you too have been seeing yourself as a ridiculous old-school cartoon character.  I would love to hear about it, and I really hope and pray that you realize how essential you are to this world.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Choosing Joy 9-11-11

It's impossible not to type the date above and be instantly taken back to the events of ten years ago.  The ten year anniversary of the attacks in New York and DC will be all over television and social media today so I don't want to say too much here.  However in my own voice I wanted to add this:  As we remember and grieve the enormous tragedy of ten years ago, we cannot lose sight of the fact that God has promised restoration for all of us as well as our broken and fallen world.  It is right and good to remember, but it is terribly dangerous to freak out and forget that God has promised to redeem it all.

This past week has been beautiful and difficult all at the same time.  Our family is adjusting to new routines and with that comes stress and anxiety.  For me "back to school" had been a beacon of hope for my writing.  A time when I would finally have space to let all the things that have been collecting in my mind out onto the keys of my new computer.  I found myself frustrated and disappointed, and realized that in the midst of all my thoughts about perspective and seasons I had lost a good chunk of mine.  I threw a few laundry baskets and kicked the dryer for a while.  I think that will become a whole post of its own tomorrow or so.  But for now I want to focus on all the little and big ways that joy found me this week.  

First of all, if you haven't already noticed I love food and I love to cook.  So I am unable not keep my favorite recipes to myself.  I will get the recipes out of the way first so you can skip them if you  enjoy being in the kitchen as much as I enjoy WalMart.  Here are my 2 favorites from this week.

Apple Caramel Bread Pudding (healthy!) :  This is a tasty dessert and I liked the concept but I  fiddled with this a little and used real skim milk from a cow and real eggs from a chicken.  I also added two sauteed apples in the middle of the layers of bread because I wanted an authentic apple texture.  I went easy on the caramel sauce as well and just did a small drizzle after I pulled it out of the oven.  I am really contemplating creating a breakfast bread pudding for myself this week that is whole grain and low fat.  You could make it once and eat on it all week.  The wheels are turning.... 

Perfect Pot Roast:  I used to be so anti beef that it actually came up during the sermon at our wedding.  My move to Oklahoma has changed a lot of things about me, and being surrounded by cattle ranchers was bound to have an impact on me.  I still use a good bit of ground turkey bc my Dad had serious heart disease.  However this week my friend Sarah brought me this recipe as well as the meat I would need to fix it.  Best play date gift ever!  This was the best pot roast I have ever had and the first one I ever made.  It will be made again, and probably again.  

Chimenea Night

We have a chimenea on our patio and for the first time since spring it was cool enough to sit outside and enjoy it.  Our family enjoyed a long and amazing weekend of cookouts and parties and ate hamburgers on the grill and homemade potato salad for dinner every night that weekend.  As our last party of the weekend came to a close we made an intentional decision to turn off the TV and head outside to chat and watch the sun officially set on this past summer.  If feet gross you out I am sorry for the silhouette of my talon-like toes above.  


He finally made the right adjustments to his dixie cup to achieve the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow.
This week we watched the Big Bang Theory, a lot, and then on Saturday took our kids to the Oklahoma Science Museum where we did extremely cool things like play with air tubes and show Noelle how to play hopscotch using the periodic table of elements.  So this week nerdiness really made me laugh and also illustrated how much science I forgot since my Freshman year in college.  Eek.  

My New Laptop:  This week has been so busy that I haven't even found a spare second to change the desktop image on my new computer to a syrupy sweet picture of my kids, but I am overjoyed by my new present and when the UPS guy came to the door I had my camera in hand to take a picture of him for this post, but I chickened out because I am pretty sure we can all agree that would have been a bit over the top.  

Before I close I feel compelled to post this because maybe you need it this morning as much as I do:  On the Sabbath- we ask the question: what feeds our soul? And then we do that ~ Rob Bell

Well I am off to enjoy my Sunday, we are having dinner and supper with friends whom we love so I expect it will be a great day.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Change Day

Fall finally came, and no matter what the temperatures do in the next few weeks I have gotten enough autumn on my skin to remind me that the seasons do change.  If I look back in my life I can assure you that God has 100% track record of changing the seasons.  And I have also observed that as each season ends there is a "change day."  A change day is that day at the very beginning of a new season where everyone emerges from their houses or cars in total shock that it actually happened.  On the change day of spring we roll down our windows and marvel at tulip and hyacinth bulbs popping up from the cool wet soil.  On the change day of winter we all break out our scarves and coats and no matter where you go it seems like a crazy colorful wool fashion show.  I love change days and they are some of my favorite days of the year.  

Last night we were driving around town running a few errands.  Returning a disc of Big Bang Theory, which is the funniest show ever and I want Jim Parsons to be my kooky cousin.  You should watch it if you don't.  You'll thank me.  Anyway, back to errands: we rolled down the windows and listened to music just soaking in the breezes and smells.  As we drove I felt myself start to unwind and breathe deep and as I sank blissfully into my seat I wondered what is it about human nature that causes us to freak out and believe that whatever season we are in will last forever?  Why are we so often surprised that God faithfully changes the seasons and carries us through?  

Well the simple answer to this question is just that we are drawn to doubt and cynicism like moths to a flame or kids to bubbles and sidewalk chalk.  Can you tell I live in pre-school land?  I buy chalk and bubbles in bulk.  Anyway, doubt and despair are clearly part of our fallen and human make up, and so season change in both our weather and our lives always comes as a shock.  But He is just so faithful and always provides for our needs no matter how hot or dry our season is.  

The one difference between weather change and life change is that you can't do anything about changing the weather but often you have to do something about changing the season of your life.  Not always, but often.  I think this is a concept that we are not born with.  We tend to look at good things other people have, like physical health, a strong marriage, financial smarts or good parenting skills and we think that they are special people who have mad skills that we were jipped on.  This is false.  They have learned to do work that we are not doing to achieve some great stuff that we haven't yet.   We can get there, but you have to pack up and decide to go.  As soon as we realize this we can start gathering knowledge and support and doing the work that needs to be done to bring ourselves into a healthier season.  Which is worth it 100% of the time.

For example, Kel and I have gotten some compliments on our marriage lately.  Every time I receive any words of praise in this area, I just bounce it right up to God and give him credit.  It was through faithfully implementing his teachings into the way we do life with each other that lead us out of a really hard season and into a much healthier one.   We bought a marriage book, and we went to counseling, we poured a glass of wine after the kids went to bed, turned off the tv and talked through our junk.  I accepted that he isn't a morning person and he learned not to actually growl at me when he wakes up.  We each moved toward each other and started living with a new attitude.  We learned that love was all about putting what was best for others before what we wanted for ourselves.  And lo and behold, one morning we woke up and realized that the season had changed.  God was faithful and he brought us through a desert, yet another desert of life.

So my prayer for you is this, that you can find the tools you need to change your season and if you are already doing it, I pray that one day very soon you will wake up to your change day.  I also pray you go out and buy something appley and pumpkiny and embrace the beauty of fall as well as the current healthy seasons of your life.  It's all about the little moments that we have today, they make up the big picture of our life.  

Thank you for reading.  I would love to hear about your love of seasons and change both weather and otherwise.   

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Two Gather

For the past few weeks at our church we have been doing a series called "Two Gather."  A good sermon doesn't always surprise you with new information, sometimes it just puts words to a feeling that you already had inside.  This was the case for me, for months my heart has been processing openness and community.  You may recall the saltine diet post, and I am still thinking along those lines, and I am gaining depth. 

To check out this series please visit here and you'll be so on the same page with me it's not even funny.

The promos for this series make me laugh outwardly but cry inside.  They depict a lonely guy trying to do things on his own that just aren't right.  Such as water ski or ride a tandem bike, only catastrophe can ensue. Those are the parts that make me laugh.  The part that makes me cry a little inside is this picture.  

This is a guy, all by himself on his birthday.  Blowing out candles alone. Suck pill...
If that picture doesn't make you a little bit sad inside, go get your heart strings tuned up a bit.  We all know from personal experience that loneliness sucks, especially on birthdays, holidays and times when we need a friend the most. 
A million years ago (or so it seems) I heard a talk by Rob Bell at Mars Hill about community and how it was not really created, but discovered.  Here is what this means:  Lets say that you are lonely in your life and longing for community, you may be thinking that you need to go through a series of elaborate hoops and scour your city to find people to connect with.  Or you may be looking for someone else to form community for you.  Here is the sneaky secret that I want to let you in on.  The odds are very good that at your work, school, gym, etc are people.  And the odds are even greater that those people are struggling with life.   Stuff like marriage, temptation, kids, addiction and loneliness.  These are the sort of things that people deal with every day and it could be the same stuff you are dealing with.  So there you are, surrounded by people who are silently dealing with heavy stuff alone yet side by side

So back to the concept of community being discovered rather than created.  People are all around you and there is connection waiting to be solidified.  One thing that I have learned over the summer is to stop waiting for community and friends to come to me, but to get out there be a part of it all.  I had to start connecting with and supporting the people who are already in my life and allowing them to go deeper into my life and do the same for me.  I am not saying that there is anything easy about this, it takes guts and gumption and a big long jump outside your comfort zone.  It is not easy at all, but I can guarantee 100% that it is totally worth it.  

Here are a few things that you were not designed to do:
1) Go it alone (Read all about it in Genesis, God said it point blank:  It is NOT good for people to be alone.  Period.  finitio. Ad Nauseam. 
2) Figure it out for yourself (There are people who have been where you are, who want to pull you along and teach you the next steps, just reach out your hand)
3) Pretend like you have it all together (no one does so I say this with great confidence: cut it out)

We were designed for community, support, and opening ourselves up for wisdom and love.  Again I know that this isn't easy, because you may have been burned and inside you are resistant to try again.  I am sorry people hurt you, I hope you can take a step toward wholeness.  I promise that I'm praying for all who read this, because believe it or not, I love you and I want your life to be big, beautiful and full of community.  

Some Action Items to try: As to you without excuse.
1) Start a group that shares your interests or check to see if one exists
2) Check out a church that seems to be full of honest, on fire Jesus people.  They may have something all lined up for you to walk into.  Bring brownies!  Everyone loves brownies.
3) Volunteer- Nothing builds strong connections faster than cleaning up trash, dry-walling or serving someone a glass of lemonade side by side.
4) Call some friends over for dinner, turn the TV off, look them in the eyes probingly (but not creepily) and ask them how they are really doing.  I will even plan your menu for you, I want you connected THAT BADLY! 

Please don't stay lonely another day, I pray that something brave is stirred up inside you and your desire to connect finds feet and walks toward something real.  Thank you for reading, I pray you have at least one real deep and soul quenching conversation this week.  We all need them.

Those are my thoughts, a penny for yours?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Choosing Joy 9-4-11

I got to go on a sunrise walk with the little man this morning.  I pushed him in the strolled and in turn he held my water bottle.  It was a really good system.  As we strolled I thought through all the ways big and small that God has given me joy this past week.  These days I am full of faith and optimism both for my future and that of my family.  God has placed the right people in my life these days and they encourage me in very specific and necessary ways.  I don't want for anything I need right now, although I lack a lot of things I would like.  God is teaching me every day to simplify and be thankful.  

This week has definitely been a week that highlighted who my home team is, those people who have my back and want God things for my life.  I hope you are thankful for a home team too, those people who cheer for you and will catch you when you fall.  Who know what you like and what makes you smile.  You should thank those people, and maybe make them a pie.  Especially if I am on your home team, because I love pie.

I think I can sum it up best with these Jesus Culture Lyrics

Come away with me, Come away with me
It's never too late, it's not too late
It's not too late for you

I have a plan for you
I have a plan for you
It's gonna be wild
It's gonna be great
It's gonna be full of me

Yeah That right there, that is how life feels right now.  I feel renewed and optimistic, on a journey of great importance with a faithful God who knows my every nook and cranny and knows very well what we are capable of.  And no matter who you are you are capable of greatness in this specifically unique way that blows my mind.   You should probably download that song immediately.  

So here are the big, small, normal and quirky ways that I have chosen joy in the day to day.

1) The Phantom Puzzle:  
Nothing lightens the mood of a serious living room quite like a random horse whinny
For my daughters birthday this year my Aunt Betsy sent down this great animal puzzle.  Kids love it because when you put each animal puzzle piece in the correct spot, it makes that animal's noise.  IE: The dog barks, the fish bubbles, etc.  This puzzle doesn't stop there, oh no, it will randomly make noises at any time of day, when the play room is clean and no one is around it will still sound out a random bark or chirp.  Cracks me up every time.  I think they did it on purpose to give the parents random enjoyment as well.  

2.  A full fridge
Please feel free to draw conclusions about who I really am based on my fridge contents...
I am always walking the line between being frugal and ensuring good nutrition for my family.  Fresh food isn't cheap and so anytime I go to open the fridge and find it overflowing with fruits and vegetables I breathe a little prayer of thanks for God's provision.  This week we got to take a trip to the grand opening of Sunflower Farmers Market in OKC and that accounts for a good deal of our current fridge contents.  Great grocery store, check it out!

3. Football Season
I think I am pretty good Oklahoma wife... Although the "for realsies" Okie dressed the kids today.
I'm too easily distracted to be any good at watching football, however I am great at making snacks and snarky comments so generally I do pretty well for myself.  What I love about football season is that it's a reason to get together with people, share food and get excited about something.  It's a reason to gather and if you don't stake your happiness on the outcome (which a lot of people do) you are guaranteed to have a great time.

4.  Brunette Hair (as seen in picture above) Lets face it, I wasn't cut out to be a blonde and it turned my hair to straw, so after a couple hours of salon therapy with my hair guru Emily  I am one happy dark headed lady and my time at the salon was pure heaven.  If I ever tell you I am going blonde again please poke me in the ribs with sticks until I come to my senses.  

5.  Our Lifegroup
Cookout by the lake in 100 degree heat made somehow fun by these fine folks.
We are new to this group but I can tell you that God is already using them to speak into our life in a big way.  Last Sunday I didn't want to attend our group's cookout because it was over 100 degrees outside this may come as a shock to you but, I hate heat.  My mood immediately changed upon arrival because no one was cranky about ludicrous temp, so I shut up and joined in.  After we left I think I told Kel how much I enjoyed myself at least 2 dozen times.  I love doing life with people, and I am really falling in love with doing life with these people.  

6.  Knock Knock Jokes- I was cleaning up cheerios of the floor (this is my real full time job) this week when this started.  Apparently my daughter has learned the art of the knock knock joke.  And when a 2 year old tells you a knock knock joke, they always have the same punch line.  At least my daughter does.  Knock Knock, Who's there?  She is! every time.  I have no idea where she picked up knock knock jokes.. but they make me smile every time.

7.  Surprise Gifts-  When I came back from the city Wednesday night, with my van full of the aforementioned groceries and new kid shoes, my husband had a surprise all for me.  The best gift he could give me right now, other than maybe a nanny, and that's my own laptop for writing.  He ordered me a mac book, a gift full of frivolity and generosity.  He wanted to show me that he takes my writing seriously and so he gave me a tool to do it on, and specifically an apple lappy, which he knows I would love.  The Kel is an endless spring of joy for me, and apple products are just the icing on the cake.  Although, they are very thick rich icing.  Maybe even ganache.  

8.  This Forecast- 

It had to happen and I think the winds of change have found us!  Look at those glorious eighties!  If this pattern continues I will be sipping coffee outside in jeans and a hoodie in no time!  We are living in faith that the 95 day on the end will just go away and that 2011 will not see another temperature with three digits or that starts with 9.  Come on God, please?

9)  The Henson Family- 

I think I could put this on each and every week because this family adopted us when we needed it the most.  Not many people get adopted at the age of 26 but God knew what we needed then and now.  Grandma Sandy and Grandpa Dave, along with their awesome sons make us feel like we belong.  They spoil our kids with frozen yogurt and new shoes and I feel so much stronger with their support than I ever could without them.  It just solidifies my newly forming belief that even when the worst happens and you lose the irreplaceable, God provides.  

9.  Man on the Move
If you are under 5, pants are optional at the casa
The little man has found his groove and I never know where I will find him as he rolls and reverses his way around the house.  Although odds are it's usually halfway stuck under the couch.  He can't resist.  

10.  Garage Sale Finds

Cleaned up gilded mirror tray (little fall votives are ala Target)
We are a young family and I am at home with the kids, so it goes without saying that we are on a budget.  So I have taken to free blog tutorials and garage sales for our home decor pieces.  I am ridiculously lucky that "shabby chic" is in right now.  Yesterday after Kel made our Peach French Toast breakfast we loaded up and cruised our town for garage sales.  We ended up with this antique gold mirrored tray, a handful or antique spools, a little pink chair for Noelle and cheap kid shoes, which as we all know the Holy grail of garage sale shopping if you are a parent.  Because kid feet grow an average of 6 inches a month.  Or at least it seems like that.

So yeah, this week was all about people for me, I love my people.  I am thankful to be surrounded by lovely individuals and I hope that I am able to support you all as well as you support me.  I hope that this Holiday weekend finds you surrounded and thankful.  Know that I am thankful for you.  Now go Labor Dabor with your people and grab a fine piece of Joy.  It's ripe for the picking if you look.

And yes I know there are two nines.  A)  Math has never been my strong suit and B) I didn't want to go over ten so I doubled up on nine.  Deal with it.  
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