the annual REAL christmas letter

The Christmas letter is a dying tradition. I guess everyone is too busy hiding and posing their elf to recap the year. But good riddance I say. Because these letters are mostly a load of crap. Or atleast only a teensy bit like real life. The highs. What we want people to see. Or know. Or be jealous of. Showing off and one upping each other.Years ago, I talked with a friend who had had a particularly rough year and we joked….what if people wrote REAL Christmas letters. What if we said the good things, but also the bad. What if we showed people who we really were…..and then we listed some horrible things, like my son brought home straight Cs, or we have managed to rack up some impressive credit card debt…or I’m not so sure this marriage thing is really for us. We laughed, but I’m thinking those kinds of letters might be a whole lot more interesting to read. So after that I started writing REAL letters. And of course, I still hold a little back…and I’m a pretty positive girl so it is hard for me to not be hopeful and my husband and kids really are pretty great – I'll give you fair wanring that I might brag at least a little.
We had a particularly warm winter, but it still managed to be long and lonely. I am a girl that needs sunshine and people. And my winter was short on both. Work still managed to suck. I spent my spring wondering where I would end up in the fall. I even updated my resume. Thankfully, the sun eventually came out and I stayed put.
 In addition to O’s soccer, both kids played tball in the spring. Owen was a rockstar and was one of the best kids on the team. This might be because they were 4 and he was 6 but please no one tell him that. Tess was a disaster. But so dang cute in her little uniform, which to her disgust was neither pink nor purple. She insisted on a pink bat, a pink ball and a pink helmet. Even pinked out I couldn’t get her to pay attention in the outfield. There may not be any crying in baseball, but there was lots of crying in tball. And after spending mornings racing from game to game to game, I’d come home and want to crawl in bed and pray that I didn’t forget my week to bring the after game snack and could remember to wash all the right jerseys and socks by next Saturday when we would do it all over again.
First grade got even better….in the Spring Owen had a speaking role as a spider in the school play. He wasn’t into the singing and dancing so much, but he nailed his lines. The theme of the play was about manners and I assure you it was all lost on this household.  He also brought home all kinds of awards at the end of the year. And the award for mom of the year will not be heading my way because I missed the ceremony completely. I did however finally figure out the pick up line.  After accidentally driving my car through the garage door – I thought I’d save some money and drop the after school care. Which means long waits behind many minivans and never grocery shopping alone again. I have, however, finally learned to always make sure the car is in park before retrieving my phone out of the backseat.
Shaun ran his first half marathon in the Spring. And apparently has found one more thing that he can beat me at. He also bought tights because running in the cold stinks. I made fun of him of course, and then started stealing them. We have both kept up the running. I run because it is cheaper than therapy and wine and exhausts me enough to sleep at night. I only have a few pair of pants that still fit ….and I split one right down the crotch the other day in the middle of Tess’s dance class. We both have finished multiple halfs this year and just ran our first one together. He better watch it because he only beat me by a few minutes. And this time I wore my own tights. Owen has run a few races as well, 5Ks, and the last one he ran without stopping. Which is impressive when he factor in how short his legs are. Tess on the other hand, only runs away from vegetables and spankings.
I couldn’t have been more ready for summer break. I needed a break from all things school. My kids got their first passport stamps on a trip to Vancuver and the rest of my family got stranded in the airport.  We then did our annual ranch trip to Colorado where Tess had to be peeled off the horses and Owen fished every chance he got.  I spent a lot of my summer on the various lakes with various people and couldn’t have been happier about it. Each time came home a little more tan, stronger, and more confident often after staying up late laughing until my stomach hurt. Owen was busy…off at day camps most of the summer, and I kept a bag packed with swimsuits, sunscreen, snacks and running shoes. Tess got more freckles, Owen perfected his cast and Shaun got up and went to work everyday while we slept in.
The fall couldn’t have been more different than the last. Work was all change. New schedule, new subject, new times, new programs, new kids, new technology. And with new often comes a few kinks. I was just glad to have people off my back even if I meant working through my lunch everyday. The truth is, I should be grading papers right now instead of writing this....but I'll tackle the whole procrastination thing in 2013. Or the next year.
 Second grade started out with lots of missed recess, I thought my son was goofing off or slacking because he kept having to stay in and finish his work. After some investigating he explained that he was having a hard time finishing his beginning of the year assignments that said things like “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and Owen told me, “he just didn’t know yet that he was still thinking about it.” I offered up some great advice and told him to make something up already so he could go outside and play. Figure out your life later. I’m still working on that myself. These days he plays plenty of four square and the only marks he gets are when I forget to sign his folder. Which is more often than I’d like to admit. He made all As last six weeks and was the Champion Cheetah. Again, this mom of the year missed the awards ceremony. But I made up for it by chaperoning his field trip. Which trust me was more than a fitting punishment. Owen is in the 2nd percentile for both height and weight. I tried to sneak him some Ensure but this kid who will eat anything says it tastes like vomit. And I agree. So instead I just pray that he grows, learns how to throw an elbow on the soccer field to even things out and that there are some very sweet, very short girls in his future. For now, he can spell better than me, but unfortunately you can not read his hand writing.  I am also saving up for a 12 step video game treatment center for him.
Tess turned 4 this year and she spends all her spare time watching you tube videos on cake decorating and makeup application. Some days I wonder if they switched children on me at the hospital. She colors inside the line, insists on matching and accessorizing and thinks that glitter is a color scheme. However, when you ask her to do something like pick up her toys and she sasses back, “you’re not the boss of me” and see how stubbornly she loves -  I know without a doubt that she has more than my fair share of DNA. She won’t eat anything except rice and beans, chicken and french fries, pizza and all things made of sugar. So much sugar in fact that my first investment in 2013 will be to pay for her root canal and two fillings. It is only fitting that my princess gets a crown. She still dances and finally stopped wetting the bed. (mostly). I will be even more happy when she can put on her own tights. Which might be right after she decorates a cake and shows me how to accentuate my eye shape with the correct shades of eye shadow. She is still in love with Justin “Beaver” and my sister in law bought her a Justin Beiber toothbrush that plays Boyfriend while she brushes her little heart out. I think we just may have solved all of our dental problems.
 It has been a year of ups and downs and change. But a good one. I have spent more time at home. I have tried to focus on less. Less running around. Less texting. Less spending. Less stuff. Less drama. Less fear. And of course less cleaning (which was not really a stretch for me). My house and car are forever a wreck. I have requested a DNR on my car because 2 weeks shy of the last car payment, the fuel pump went out. We tried to decide on replacing it or replacing the car, and went ahead and wrote the ridiculous check and decided to drive it into the next year. Tess weighed in on the decision by puking in the back seat. Twice. The fuel pump was replaced and I think we even got the smell out. So, if anyone needs a ride anywhere just let me know!
 On a more serious note, Friday afternoon I sat in my classroom and watched in horror the news on my computer. I watched the president pause and wipe away tears as I let my own drip onto the keyboard. I felt the weight of grief strong enough to make me get up and dry heave into a trashcan. And I couldn’t wait to get my own kids safe and buckled into their booster seats that afternoon. (because my 7 year old may not ever weigh enough to outgrow his booster seat until college). This past year, I have stood at memorial services and felt that same kind of grief. But I have also cried in the car for no reason at all. I have said things I wished I hadn’t to my husband. I have lost my patience with my kids and said bad words at bible study. I have forgotten lunches, laundry and homework folders.  Like, Owen I am not always sure what I want to do when I grow up. I am not always the girl I want to be.  But life is not just our best most proud and perfect moments on display in a Christmas letter or a  facebook status. It is also who we are in the worst ones. It is recognizing the people that have seen us like that and love us anways. It is loving others in those moments as well. Knowing and seeking a God who forgives and trusting that he is good even when we don’t understand. Even when we are dry heaving into a trashcan.
2012 was a year of losing things. We lost teeth, weight, shoes, socks, friends, and occasionally my faith as well as our homework. But it was also a year for finding things misplaced. Joy and laughter. Priorities. Perspective. And hope that this year we will all be a bit more like the people that we wish to be. But having the grace to love ourselves and each other even when we are not. So here is to another year. My family wishes you joy and laughter at your best and even at your worst. Maybe even especially at our worst, because that is when we all need it the most.
 
 
and it was only fitting that the photographer that talked me into christmas cards was home sick and my kids absolutely refused to play nice with each other for a christmas card photo. this is one of the few photos where they are actually smiling, unfortunatley it is because my sweet and sassy daughter is pretending to toot on her brother.
(if that wasn't enough about my life...here is a link to last year's letter. http://idontbelieveingrammar.blogspot.com/2011/12/real-christmas-letter.html)
 
and one of my favorite bands of the year...
 

Thanksgiving status

November is apparently the official month of thanks. I am reminded of this every single time I check my Facebook and people's daily status.
And I have to admit it is better reading than comments about the latest election or that they just made 2 dozen blueberry muffins from a recipe on Pinterest. Because I believe in gratitude and counting blessings even if it is not my daily status, I have gone a little old school and every morning am filling a journal with  20+ things that I am thankful for. Every single day. This constant thanks giving makes me look for it and helps to chase off the sad that occasionally tries to sneak back in. And some days 20 things feels like an awful lot to be thankful for. Even from a girl with at least that many pairs of shoes.

If you know me, or have reads this blog for long you know that i have a heart for homeless people. My church goes downtown and offers the gift of hospitality to them once a month and I used to be a regular. But recently my Saturday's are mostly filled with running and soccer and grading papers. It has been a while. And my heart has missed it.

This Saturday there was a tiny window after one game but before another practice where I could go. And I considered it.
Thought that maybe I should.
But that it was windy. And I wasn't feeling great. And I'd have to miss the last quarter of Owen's last game. And I had a million other things to do. My couch sounded so much better.
Lately my theme has been to do it anyways.
If it is raining. To run anyways.
If I just want to lay on the couch, to be productive anyways.
Even if it hurts, to love anyways.
And so despite the dozen excuses I played through my head, I drove my car to church. Anyways.

And of course, as usual was fed in so many more ways than I attempted to feed.
There was a large group from the rotary club that had made BBQ all week and they mostly had the food serving line down, so I tried to help out in a different way and volunteered to help man the craft table. Even though I am not the least bit crafty. In addition to a few crafts for kids, some cards residents could write to family were several large posterboards with a box of markers for grown ups and kids alike to write what they were thankful for.

I would ask them, would you like to write something that you are thankful for, and without skipping a beat these men and women would snatch the sharpie from me and start scribbling.  Sometimes so much that I occasionally  had to kindly remind them to leave a bit of room for others to share their thankfulness too.More than once I was asked to hold their plastic bag while they wrote. And I wondered if maybe I was holding all they owned while they penned how very much they had to be thankful for.
To be alive.
For food.
For a bed to sleep in. (Even if it is was in a shelter).
For their family.
For God's good provision.
For God's many blessings.

And the lists went on.
Little kids drew pictures. Grown men asked me to write for them because they had trouble. And someone tried to sell me cigarettes for a quarter. But something tells me he would have been thankful for that quarter.

Praise music played loudly from a sound system in the background. Kids colored and made bracelets. A circle of teenagers played hackey sack. While a hundred or so people stood in line to be fed. The wind blew trash and dirt around and to be honest most people didn't smell very good. I needed to pee but had to hold it because the port a potty looked pretty icky. Even for port a potty standards. The forecast called for rain and a cold front. And the food line got even longer. From the looks of things, there was more to complain about than be thankful for.
But at least for today, I didn't hear a single person grumble.

I got a plate too and sat at a table and tried to make conversation. The food was good. My new friends were chatty. Even though the wind blew our plates off the tables, I learned more than I have ever read on Facebook about what it means to be thankful.
From a sweet 6 year old who surprised me with a huge hug.
From John who was certain that God would take care of him.
From Willie who chased down my plate and offered me his own cookie when mine blew away.

From person after person with literally nothing, that showed me how much they really had by scribbling it in sharpie on my yellow posterboard.
That even when your circumstances don't seem to merit it, to be thankful. Anyways.

And for that, I am incredibly thankful.


another cheap gift


Exactly fifteen years ago – I had butterflies and a new guy that I thought about all the time. We’d already shared a sloppy first kiss in the park across from my apartment. Talked music, soccer and movies we wanted to see. He pretended to watch Party of Five and watched me play soccer in the rain which meant I was pretty sure he liked me. But. It was still really new. Too new for things like birthdays. I have a tendency to overdo things. And even though I was totally and completely smitten I didn’t not want to screw it up with a big over the top birthday. I also didn’t want to screw it up by not doing enough. I was 19 and these were the things that kept me up at night.
What to get my new love interest that I wasn’t even sure I could call my boyfriend yet. Without scaring him off and still totally impressing him. I remember leaving a copy of the new Rolling Stone, a mix cd and a bag of peanut butter M&Ms in his truck.

I guess it worked.

Because 15 years later I am still wondering what to get him and thinking maybe a copy of Rolling Stone and a mix cd might not be a bad idea. 15 years is a lot of gift giving. Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries. Back then I probably didn’t even know his middle name. Now, I know that he snores when he sleeps on his stomach, can’t eat onions and what brand of hair gel he uses. The butterflies have been replaced with dishes, leftovers and soccer practice. But, I have been given way more than ever expected. More than magazines and mixed cds and even butterflies.  Other people’s birthdays are about gifting, but maybe it is a good time to remember what we have been given.

A few years ago I wrote this…and it is worth revisiting.

"The 19 year old version of myself didn’t make too many good decisions and was a pretty big mess. Yes, I had great friends and was involved with some pretty great organizations and loved Jesus…but it was no secret that I often skipped class, drank too much, signed up for credit cards I shouldn’t have, drove too fast and chased after all the wrong boys.

I’m 32. And I still do some of those things. But the last one I can scratch off the list.
Because, surprisingly it is something my 19 year old self managed to get right.

Thirteen Octobers ago, this shaggy haired guy with a goatee asked me to go to a soccer game with me. I had just broken up with a great guy, pretty much for being great, and the last thing I wanted was a new boyfriend.
But he was cute. And so I said yes anyways.
And he has been stuck with me ever since.

He was some magic combination between the good guys that I wanted to like and the bad ones that I always ended up falling for. He liked good movies, live music, soccer, Rolling Stone, the occasional beer, and Jesus. He watched my soccer games (even in the rain), called back when he said he would, held my hair, laughed at my jokes, made me a mix tape, called me out when I needed it, changed my tires and went to all my silly formals and date parties. He was patient. And didn’t scare easy. And he stuck around, even when he shouldn’t have. And even my 19 year old self knew better than to let this one go.

And today he turns 33.
And we have shared a lot of birthdays. His, mine, and now our kids.
And on his 20th birthday we had only been dating for about three weeks and I remember struggling with what to do or how much to write in the card. It was way too early to be breaking out the L word.
But I was completely smitten.
And still am.
And now, I don’t have to hesitate to say that I love him.
Because it wasn’t too long after that birthday that it slipped out anyways.
And that somehow over the last 13 birthdays, he has taught me so much more about what that word really means.

On our first valentines day, we were both a little strapped for cash and not really too into the Hallmark holiday so we set a 5$ limit on gifts. I bought a box of Star Wars valentines cards and wrote something that I loved about him on the back of each one.(corny, I know…and I won’t even mention that all he gave me a half eaten bag of candy that year and a couple of bouncy balls!)And now, because in many ways I am still the same girl, we are a little strapped for cash so I thought I’d resort to the same trick for his present ( that and the whoopee cushion Owen picked out at Dollar General).

I dug the old valentines out of the closet this morning and was intending to list some of the things on the back here.
BUT
Most of them were super cheesy, or ridiculous, and a few even made me blush.
So I’ll mostly have to start from scratch. 33 reasons in no particular order. With just a few of the old ones in italics.
1. because you iron my pants.
2. because you make me be a grown up when I really don’t want to.
3. because you let me be ridiculous and silly all the other times.
4. because you have really good hair.
5. because of the way you scratch your nose with your whole fist and I sometimes think you are going to rub it off.
6. because you make better pancakes than me.
7. because the inside of my car doesn’t appall you. And yours might just be even worse.
8. because you like good movies and music.
9. because you sometimes ask me to dance with you in the living room.
10. because when you read Hank the Cowdog to Owen, you do all the voices. (and I am pretty sure I have heard you read Purplicious)
11. because you are smarter than me.
12. because you are way better at disciplining our kids than me.
13. because there needs to be at least one person in the house who can balance a check book. or at least try.
14. because you can usually find my keys.
15. because you make me feel safe.
16. because you do more around the house than most dads I know. (too bad we are both slobs).
17. because you hold my hand sometimes even when you don’t want to.
18. because you sneak candy into the movies for me.
19. because you give me a book allowance.
20. because you paint Tess’s toenails. And sometimes mine.
21. because you let me steal your jeans.
22. because you like me better when I don’t wear make up.
23. because you secretly like Gilmore Girls too.
24. because you don’t let me beat you at games.
25. because you are honest.
26. because you don’t know what you want to do when you grow up either.
27. because you let me drag you all over the place when you would much rather be sitting at home watching sports.
28. because you rarely say “I told you so” when you are right, which is more often than I’d like to admit.
29. because you get it.
30. because you made me a book.
31. because you sometimes you let me sleep in.
32. because our two ridiculously cute kids look just like you.
33. because you push me and encourage me and make me better than I would ever be without you."

and I guess it is time for a few new additions:
 34. because you rinse out my cereal bowl at least five days a week. And only complain about it  two.
35. because you finally learned my Starbucks order.
And one to grow on….
36. you can fix things – like appliances, computers and lawn mowers but you rarely try to fix me.

 

And 15 years later. Your hair is shorter. Mine has been through at least a dozen color changes. There are more lines around my eyes. Somedays our lives of leftovers, spelling lists, insurance and bills seems a million years away from those two kids. But maybe it wasn't that long ago after all. And this girl, the grown up boring one, still chooses you. She'd be crazy not to...


 

loosening my grip


Most of my favorite conversations happen over cake. Usually with coffee or wine.
I licked frosting off my fingers and talked apprehensively about something in my life I wasn’t sure of. Something I wanted desperately, but wasn’t quite sure that I trusted.
My friend put her fork down, and opened up her hand. Palm up. And said this, “Hold it loosely”.  I nodded. Took another sip and we moved on to other important topics like running shoes and T. Swift.

Later that night when I crawled into bed and my thoughts began to run wild I reigned them in a little with that idea. Holding the things I value loosely. Carefully. With a willingness to let them go. Or at least admit that they aren’t really mine. I looked it up online and stumbled across this quote from a Chuck Swindoll book:


“I'll never forget a conversation I had with the late Corrie ten Boom(a holocaust survivor.  She said to me, in her broken English, "Chuck, I've learned that we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me!”

                                    Charles Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity

 
This morning my family went to breakfast. A crowded diner where the syrup is warm, the pancakes extra fluffy and my coffee cup never hit empty. My kids sticky with syrup we shoveled pancakes and hashbrowns into their mouths. Tess had more than she could eat, so my husband snagged a piece of bacon off her plate. Despite the fact that she had two more pieces, she threw a fit and ripped it from his hand. She also grabbed the other two strips and held them in her opposite paw. With two fists full of greasy bacon that she didn’t even want, she eyed her pancakes and wondered how to get it in her mouth without putting down the bacon. And she couldn’t. She had to put something down to pick something else up.  Even if it meant someone might eat her bacon.

 Sometimes I wonder if my daughter is related to me. She can sniff out all things pink and glitter from miles away. Yesterday she watched you tube videos on cake decorating for a full hour. She colors in the lines, and accessorizes and insists on matching. But one gene, that I know she got from me (besides her freckles) is her tight grip. She holds on ferociously to what she wants. And refuses to let go. And will fight you tooth and nail while you try to pry it out of her hot little hand. Literally, I have the bite marks to prove it.

 This summer she had a fascination with roly polies. She would grab a few off the driveway on our way to the car and always want to take them with her wherever we were going. She would hold them tightly, and they rarely made the trip alive. She would then drop them and look for something else to squish and suffocate with her vice grip.

Not everything should be held so tightly.
Roly polies. Chips. Butterflies. Christmas ornaments. Cookies.
All things Tess has learned the hard way could be crushed and damaged in her tight closed fist.
My finances. My writing. My career. My relationships.
All things I have learned the hard way could be crushed and damaged in my own tight fist.

It is instinct to hold on to things tightly. When my kids were babies before they could talk or crawl or even hold up their own hands – I’d slip my finger into their tiny fist and they’d grab on tight.

 But eventually they outgrew it.

 And so should I.

 And I can’t help but question that simple advice. Of my friend’s open palm. And how impossible it seems to hold anything at all with your hand like that.
There are all kinds of obvious connections to make – like all this stuff we are holding onto so tightly isn’t ours anyways. We should be giving more than we are gripping. But, it also made me think of something else. Awkward first dates.

 I am a hand holder. And when I first started dating my husband (or a slew of way less great guys before that), I’d want them to take my hand. That first little sign that maybe they liked me. However, I usually wanted them to make that first move, so I’d awkwardly have my hand resting face up on my leg in the car, or dangling dangerously close to the popcorn in the movie theatre. Just in case the guy the guy wanted to grab it. I’m sure it was sad and obvious. But more often than not it worked.

Because an open palm is way easier to hold than a tight fist.
So maybe you can hold on to things with an open hand after all.
Hold things loosely but love them fiercely.


there is no I in team


Saturdays are spent hauling lawn chairs and water bottles. Watching from the sidelines. Cheering and chatting with the other moms as my kids run up and down the soccer field. Or on the couch grading papers while my college team has another average year on the football field. My husband follows even more teams, he TiVos premier leaugue soccer, MLS, baseball and any other sport that they will show on TV.
We support our local teams, our college team and more than occasionally the underdog.

We all want someone to root for. And someone to root for us.

Even better than cheering on your favorite team is being a part of one.  Up until my senior year of high school – I suited up for the tennis team. But tennis is really an individual sport. Even if you are wearing matching windpants. Occasionally I played doubles – but two is more of a duo –not so much a team. Senior year, title IX, and my school started a girls soccer team. No one had ever heard of Mia Hamm even though she had already won her first world cup. My team was not winning any world cups, and barely won any games. But I remember my first real game. Beneath the lights. Spread out on the field.  Losing 10 to 1 or something equally awful but with matching double french braids, new jerseys and gum tattoos and thinking this was different. This is how it felt to be on a team. And I liked it better. Even getting our ass kicked and sucking wind.

Teams are not limited to who we root for or what jersey we wear. They find us or we find them at work or church or your neighborhood everyday. We form alliances worthy of Survivor. And sometimes even seemingly the most mature work/church/fill-in-the-blank-with-your-group environments could put junior high girls to shame. And to some degree they can be good. People to vent to, or make copies for you or watch your class while you run to the restroom. People who don’t think you are crazy when you ask a question at Bible study or don’t laugh when you fall asleep in the pick up line. These people are on your team. You can count on them. And that is a good feeling. It is one of my favorite things about being married. Knowing that at least one other person is always on my team. Unless of course we are playing a board game or a quick set of tennis and then I am most definitely trying to beat him.

But sometimes people try to put you on the opposing team or force you to pick a side. I’ve had people make assumptions that surely I am on their team. They assume I vote the same way, hate who they hate and hold the same grudges they do. When I am not even sure I want to play the same game. It makes me tired and sad and confused. Like maybe I should be on their team, even though it isn’t a game I want to play. And I can’t help but think we have picked the wrong opponent. Maybe it is just easier to try and beat someone else, than to try to win.

 I read a lot of books. Currently I am in the middle of some Jodi Picoult trash, a book on education, a memoir, one on writing and a few you’d buy at Mardel. I read a lot from the last category. And when they get to scripture or a well known bible story…I sometimes start skimming or jump ahead. I have read that stuff already. Multiple times. But this time I read a story that I have read and re-read and never hardly paid that much attention to because it seems so absurd in the first place. Crazy old testament stuff. A king trying to bring down the wall of a city by marching around it a few times and blowing a horn. (Joshua and the wall of Jericho), but the author managed to get me to read a part of the story I never noticed before. I guess the part we skipped over in Sunday school (Joshua 5:13), where Joshua decides to ask a pretty brave question to a mysterious man that the bible claims is not a man but the actual commander of the army of the Lord. You think if a sword bearing angel showed up right before go time, claiming to be ready for battle would encourage the guy. Instead, Joshua lays a pretty big question on him,  Are you ready for us or for our enemies?”

In other words –Are you sending me in to get slaughtered? Will you take care of me?
Should I trust you? Are you who you say you are? Are you good?

Are you even on my team? Or you on my enemies?

 And God’s messenger answered with a shocker. He didn’t say “of course I am on your side, Joshua.” Or “Trust me”. Or “We are going to slaughter them.” Or “I have your back” or even “let’s get rid of those awful Isrealites”.

Instead he said this.
Neither”

Joshua asks whose side he is on, and God's messenger says neither. Right before he was supposed to put his crazy plan into action. And then he said simply that he was here. And to take off his shoes because the place was now holy. (Joshua5:14)

Maybe God doesn’t pick teams.
Instead he shows up.
Maybe Joshua didn’t ask the right question.
Maybe his question should have been directed at himself.
“Who am I for?”

And that tiny shift in perspective changes everything.

 
 
My favorite team above, on a side note -- I do not know anyone named Jess. And the typo is so funny to me that I didn't even bother to call and have a correct one printed. Might be easier just to change Tess's name.
(and the book I was reading was Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst who said all of the above but better, and unlike me she managed not to use any swear words.)
 

what she said


The other night my 4 year old came home with homework.
Ugh.
Homework.
Which is already a beating to get through with my 7 year old. Who is kind of dorky and actually likes reading books about spiders and asks me to make up 4 digit numbers for him to add and subtract.
My 4 year old is much more interested in Justin Beiber, the boy down the street, squinkies, tutus and anything with glitter than she is about numbers, letters, or even writing her own name. As far as colors go – she only cares about pink and purple and makes up her own stories to any books I try to read her anyways. And they better have a princess in them.

 I was not ready for two rounds of homework. For two kids sitting at the kitchen table whining about their pencil not being sharp enough or not knowing what to do next.
And Tess was particularly helpless on her little worksheet that asked her to circle six of each item because they were not pink, they were not Justin Beiber, and there was no dancing or princesses of any kind. If this is a snapshot of many nights to come, I might have to start buying more wine again.

 I have never done my son’s homework but was tempted to grab her chubby little pencil and draw my own crooked little circles. Maybe miss one or two so it looked legit for her. Owen sensed my frustration, (or most likely was trying to find an excuse to not do his spelling and practice his handwriting) offered to help her out.  (and sidenote – all you crazy mom’s out there doing your kid’s homework. You. Are. Crazy. And stop making the rest of us look bad! and to the highschool mom’s out there who clearly do all your high school kid's homework, at least come in for tutoring and let me show you how to do chemistry before you attempt it. And you weren’t fooling anyone in 2nd grade and you sure as heck aren’t fooling anyone now!)

 Owen tried to explain the concept to her. (and frankly he did a much better job than I did), and suddenly my kids looked so old. Surrounded by worksheets and pencil shavings. They might as well be working on algebra and research papers.

Last night I sat around that same kitchen table, minus the crayons and glue and talked about the funny little things our kids say over wine and carrot cake. And I realized the days of toddler misspeaks is coming to an end just as quickly as carefree evenings watching My Little Pony and doing pirouettes in the living room.

Tess puts a hard C in front of lots of words where it doesn’t belong.
We wear cajamas instead of pajamas to bed. We eat cabanas instead of bananas (and Owen can spell bananas unlike lots of the words on his spelling list thanks to gwen steffani). She plays with strawberry courtcake, instead of the more popular shorter version. She asks to bounce on the jump-o-line at friends houses instead of a trampoline and wants to take the alligator instead of an elevator or the stairs.

I love these silly little mispronunciations and never correct her. I know they are short lived and I dread the day the disappear. Owen never says belbow instead of elbow anymore, and always asks for apples instead of bapples.

And it isn’t just mispronunciations but cute little innocent misunderstandings. Like when Owen used to tell me about “tomato drills” at school.  Last week, an artist had contacted me to use Tess for a commissioned painting for a client. I met him at his studio and we went outside so he could take some photographs to paint from. Since Tess was new to the modeling world, I tried to explain the new situation to her. I explained that he was going to take some pictures of her – so that he could paint her. Tess got so excited and said “I’m going to get tattoos!”. She thought he was actually going to paint ON her.  I laughed and put more in my mental file to worry about when she becomes a teenager.

 My favorite misspeak, that I will never ever correct and hope she never loses is when she prays.  At Tess’s school they must say the “God is great, God is good, Let us thank him for our food” prayer before meals.  Sometimes we actually all sit down at the table to eat, not just do homework. And then we even occasionally remember to pray first. And I always hope that Tess does the praying. Because she has the words all wrong. She grabs my hand and says in a loud bossy voice,

 “ God is grace. God is good”

 And then she sometimes forgets the rest. Because it doesn’t really matter after that.
God is grace. God is good.
Things I struggle to get right all the time.
And suddenly I think that Tess is the only one who has gotten the words right this whole time.



 

100 miles


Lately, I have been trying to do one thing at a time.

Sort of. Well at least less of 20 things at a time. Less texting while driving. Less playing while working. And less trying to improve everything in my life all at once. So, I took a little advice ala Gretchen Rubin and focused on one area or thing a month.

This month’s goal was specific.
Run 100 miles.

And I’ve been a runner for years. Even though that doesn’t roll off the tongue too easily…the “I am a runner” part. Because someone who wears double digit pant sizes and runs double digit minute miles hardly seems to qualify as a runner. But, I have lost count of the number of races I have finished, I’ve taken ice baths and lost a few toe nails…even before this month’s undertaking. So, I’ll say it again. I am a runner.

 However, I doubt I have ever logged that many miles in thirty days.  Partly because it isn’t just me -there are little kids and afterschool pick up lines and getting to work before the sun and soccer practices and dance classes and knees that don’t belong on a treadmill and a husband who needs to log his own miles to try and balance.  I also chose the busiest month of my professional year to try and cram all this in….making for one tired girl.

Today is the 30th.  And this morning at 5:15 am, I crawled out of bed on a weekend when I usually get to leave the alarm unset. Made a cup of coffee. Ate a muffin. Filled up my water bottle. And drove downtown.
I pinned on my bib and finished a 10 mile race. In the rain. That easily put me over the top.
100+ miles.

 Most those miles have been alone. Just me and some good songs and my thoughts, which was probably just as good for me as the exercise. Last week, I got to run a few with my husband while my kids were at church. Shockingly,  I kept up. Today, a little past mile six of my race, the distance started to get to me. My pace slowed and I was ready to jog it out for the last four or so miles. Instead, I looked up and saw an old friend from high school (that I have seen maybe twice in the last decade).  Dressed in jeans, sipping his venti coffee cheering on his racing buddies. I shouted his name and he immediately fell in beside. Running. Pushing me to go faster. Telling me how to pass the crowds in front of me. And he ran just like that in his button down and denim for almost a mile, never even spilling his coffee. Eventually he stepped off the trail at the turn around and told me it was all downhill from there. To finish strong.  And I did. 10 miles in 96 minutes which is flying for this girl who has run a steady 11-12 minute mile for the last decade. 

 
Over the last 30 days, I have been chased by dogs, gotten drenched, ended up smack dab in the middle of a huge bicycle race, overheated, had a run in with a horse, gotten lost, dropped at least a pant size and worn the soles off my Nikes. Because 100 miles is a lot of concrete. You notice things that you don't normally notice. Like when someone paints a mailbox, good sidewalks, roads I have never been down before. Big dogs and that distnaces between the places I usually drive seemed to get shorter. Feel closer. If I could cover them on foot. Most of all, I have gotten stronger. And not just my legs. As my muscles carried me further and further each day, the rest of me seemed to get stronger too.

Endurance isn’t just for jogging.

 On the mornings after long runs, my muscles would ache. But the good kind of ache. The kind after a good workout. The kind that reminds you that you pushed yourself the day before. That you are getting stronger. And faster. (And probably skinnier).

100 miles didn’t happen all at once. They happened one mile at a time. And sometimes I wanted to quit. To walk. To sit on my couch and cry through another episode of Parenthood. But I kept running. Hoping that when I woke up in the morning my legs would burn a little.

 The heart is also a muscle.
And I am all too familiar with a different kind of ache there.
But what if I saw it a little differently. As proof of working it hard.
Pushing it.
Loving much. Loving well. With endurance.
That my legs and my heart were made for distance.
One mile and one person at a time.




 
one last important piece of advice. don't wear brand spankin new shoes on a long race. unless you think blood stains are cool. and don't like the skin on the back of your ankles.

My drawers

if you thought I was going to be talking about my underwear, shame on you!
Her son brushed his teeth, and then went to close the drawer. His mom had slipped out of the room to tuck his younger sister into bed. I looked down to see a tiny plastic container with just a few toiletry items inside. I tried teasing him and asking if the makeup inside was his. He giggled and said that it was his mom's drawer. Then pointing to the one on the opposite side was his dad's. And I thought to myself,  no way does this family of four share a single bathroom. I don't even like sharing toothpaste with my husband.

And it had been a good night. An evening spent with an old friend, but to be honest it wasn't quite the night that I had envisioned. I was in town for a conference and she had picked me up from my posh hotel for dinner. And instead of taking me to local eatery and laughing over a bottle of wine, she pulled into her inner city neighborhood. Like my house, there was chalk all over her driveway and multiple scooters strewn in the front lawn. Unlike mine, her car stereo had been stolen 4 times in the last year and now there was just an empty place in the middle of her dash.

I like eating out with friends but I love hanging out on couches and kitchen stools even more. My defining level of a quality friendship has always been, Do you know where their silverware drawer is?? (second only to not having a panic attack if they see the inside of my car.). And that might seem like an odd quantifying characteristic, but if you know where someone's silverware drawer is.... It means you have eaten there enough to get your own spoon.
It had been a long day for the both of us. She greeted her family. And started to cook dinner while her three year old and I did puzzles on the floor. I poured myself a slightly flat soda as we caught up over the last few years.

Dinner was nice. Conversation was easy and I suddenly ached for my own family that I haven't seen enough of lately. Maybe I haven't mentioned this part yet, but she lives in a pretty rough neighborhood in the middle of Atlanta. In a nice neat 2 story home with hardwood floors with plenty of Legos and dolls and a TV my husband would approve of.

In contrast, I live in a home about the same size, far less neat, on a cul de sac in the suburbs where my neighbors look a lot more like me.  We have the same Legos and dolls on my kids floors. With lots of soccer and cartoons on our TV as well.

As far as I know my car has never been broken into. Although, my car is so messy it would be hard to tell. She mentioned sharing with her neighbors. I do too I thought to myself. Although, I meant the occasional cup of sugar. She probably means like a lawn mower. My kids think it is a special treat reserved for the weekends to sleep on the couch. Hers share a bedroom every night.

But these subtle differences didn't speak as much to me as her bathroom drawer did.
Her bathroom drawer made me realize that she was living the life that I mostly just read about. I have about 5 bathroom drawers full of stuff, I rarely use. Sometimes I can hardly even shut them, and worse I often can't even find the one item I need in all that stuff. Old hotel shampoos. Lotions. Bright eyeshadows I will never wear. Contacts from about 2 prescriptions ago and ponytail holders and enough bobby pins to get an entire high school ready for the prom.

She just had one drawer, and I could replace everything in and still have few enough items to stay in the express line at Target.
Less instead of more.
Less stuff. Less make up. Less spending. Less to pick up. Less to keep up with. Less to maintain. Less to lose.

More space. More time. More money for other things. More time playing Legos and chatting in the kitchen.

Less is not a new concept for me. Sometimes I get these kicks where I clean out my closets, I give things away and I stop buying for awhile.  But a month or so later, I catch myself back at Target filling back up my cart. Filling up all that empty space that I created. And I'm so glad I made room.  Which was not exactly the point.

And I'm still not sure how to move my attempts at living a little more simply from a short stint or phase and into a more permanent way of life. But I think it might start with my bathroom drawers.


Lift

I have what I like to call an inherited fear of heights. Which means I close my eyes on roller coasters and stay away from the edge of balconies.

I love plane tickets and getting my passport stamped and new places.
"Going on a 'venture" as Tess would say.
But that usually means finding myself at 18000 feet in the air.

I like airports for people watching. And the trapped feeling. That you really can't be doing much productive...so you might as well plug in your headphones and read a book. Or five. Or take a nap on those ushaped pillows that aren't really comfortable anyways.

I do most of my flying alone so there is the topic of seatmates.....
But on this particular flight...my kids are on board and fascinated by everything. The tray tables. The sky mall magazine. The teeny tiny bathrooms. The beverage carts that keep running over my feet. And my son is staring out the window at the wings asking how it works. How it gets in the air and doesn't fall back down. ( did I mention my fear of heights. I wish he hadn't asked that last question!)

The physics behind flight is essentially this.
A difference in pressure. The top of the wing is shaped so that air moves faster over it than the bottom. A greater speed causes a change in pressure. The slower air under the wing has a higher pressure than then air on top. So it pushes up.

Try it. Blow over the top of a strip of paper. Even though you are blowing on the top, the paper will rise.
Lift.
And you can thank Bernoulli.

Lately I've felt my share of pressure. Of pushing.
And I've let it have the exact wrong effect.
Just the slightest alteration in how I let it hit me, can make the difference in pushing me up. Or pulling me down.


And I think I'd rather fly.



(P.S. these guys were awesome the other night, ben folds five not the fraggles. P.P.S. ben folds five is really just three)

pick up lines

All day I feel rushed.

Hurried. Behind.
Even after the bell. I rush to get copies. To set out supplies. To put my objectives on the board.
And out the door. To pick up my own student.

And I hurry up to wait. In a ridiculously long line that wraps around the block.
The crossing guard taps on my window to let me know that I have crossed the line.
I check my phone. my facebook. my email.
I wonder if I can grade papers. but last time I tried they just ended up all over my floorboard.

I've always felt lost on my elementary son's campuses. Like I just don't know all the rules that all these other moms have been given. PTA. carnivals. Field trips. I show up. but. I don't know many people and mostly I dont even see the point. and honestly they dont even want me. So i stop going, except when he asks.
And then I move mountains to be there.

But the pick up line I have mostly avoided on a regular basis until this year.
My husband drops off. And in the past I have picked up late. Relied on after school care at his school to give me an extra half hour every day to get things done. Shop for groceries alone. Use the restroom by myself.
But. I didn't use it enough. I could save that money.

So now I have my sign to place on my dash. And I wait.
and I watch the bumper of the car in front of me.
And I wait some more.

I hate the pick up line. It feels like such a waste. 20 minutes of my life I can't get back every day. But I figure I can't be alone. Other moms have to be stuck in these same lines. Swearing under their breath too.

So. A few ways to mix it up.
a) chineese fire drill.
b) make up stories about the crossing guard. I have named mine Carl and I have given him a very interesting home life and a criminal record.
c) have a pizza delivered. to yourself in line. Kid picked up. check. dinner. check. two birds with one stone.
d) make a sign with a made up kids name on it. This will really throw the teachers. The gig is up when they issue an Amber alert.
e) turn on your flashers and start honking. this will make you friends fast.
f) fit in your workout. Just get out and start your workout routine. Who knows, there might be an entire class going by the end of the year.
g) play solitaire. And i don't mean on the phone. Have cards lined up and down your dashboard. see if you can get a game of poker going with people around you.
h) dance like no one is watching. except everyone is totally watching.
i) see if you can make a few bucks by washing other people's winshields or selling flowers. Most of these stay at home moms don't make it to the interstate nearly enough.
j) motion for the car next to you to roll down their window and then ask them if they have any grey poupon
k) make it a day in the pick up line no one will ever forget. Call the police to report a stolen car and give them the lisence plate directly in front of you.
l) ask the person in the lane next to you if they want to race. and rev your engine.
m) on the back of your pick up tag, write honk if you have to pee too, or are about to fall asleep, or think Carl the crossing guard is hot and display prominantly.
n)if the harvard baseball team can get over 16 million hits on you tube for their car dance to call me maybe.....you can get atleast 16. choreograph your own seat dance of the day. even better start a flash mob.
o) or be like me and write this silly blog post.




oh. ok. fine. it is catchy. and i'll do the hand motions if you do....

room to grow


My son has been working on it for weeks. Wiggling, pushing his tooth back and forth with his tongue sometimes even until it bled. And I couldn’t have been more ready for it to fall out. His first top tooth fell out about a week ago, and the lone one left was hanging on by a thread. Pointing the complete wrong direction. I sent him to school day after day with this crooked snaggletooth praying it would be gone by the time I picked him up. Until finally, yesterday he pried it out and came running triumphantly to my room before 7 am, tiny tooth in hand. On a Saturday. It is hard to fake excitement before I have had coffee and he has lost enough teeth by now that the tooth fairy is ready to take on a second job just to keep up. And even without my contacts in, I could see the Grand Canyon of gaps across the top of his mouth and I suddenly couldn’t  get enough of his gummy grin. It reminds me of his guy:

 
And I know that soon, this big empty space will be filled with 2 giant grown up teeth that he will have forever, (hopefully, assuming, he doesn’t take up hockey any time soon). Little kids with grown up teeth look different. Always a little bit funny until they grow into them.

The last few days I keep asking him to smile for me, and occasionally snapping photos. I am in love with these gaps. His grin is for sure the cutest, but when it comes to my kids there are plenty of places that I leave room. I buy their shoes just a tad too big, and their pants a little too long. I know that eventually they will fill them.

 At some point I stopped giving myself this luxury. I’ve bought shoes in the exact same size since about the 8th grade and if anything I buy my pants too small, hoping to shrink rather than grow. And my heart isn’t quite as stagnant as my shoe size or as fickle as my waistline, but I’m not quite sure that I have given myself enough room to grow.

 Those things we all need more of....
Time. Space. Margin. Rest.

 Days on my calendar without dots on them.  Time spent on my couch rather than to do lists or running around. Money left over at the end of the month rather than the other way around. This season has seemed especially busy. I seem to have more work than ever and less time to do it in.  God, who is always a bit wiser than I, left a few gaps. Pried a few things from me because He knew that I would never pull them on my own.

I was not like my son, triumphant over each loss. Instead I grieved them. Whined about them. And quickly tried to fill them with anything or anyone I could find.

But I am starting to see that maybe this space isn’t so bad. That they are in fact gifts. That growth happens in the gaps. In the spaces where we leave room for it. Not in plates that are too full or calendars that are doublebooked or even in pants that are too tight.  And although I’d like to keep all my teeth, I will try to welcome gaps and space as they show up. Understanding, that things will have to pulled and tugged loose to make room. Space created from loss for something bigger and better and more permanent to fill.

 Now, if I could just get the tooth fairy to leave me a few bucks under my pillow….

 

tan lines


Today I was the first day back to work, and as I was pulling on my khakis I noticed something.
Tan lines.
On my backside. My much lower backside.
And I’m used to tan lines.
Tank top, bathing suit back, and even the horrible knee sock soccer referee lines I sported back in college.
But these particular lines haven’t shown themselves since I was a teenager.  And for good reason.

I have never been too into my body or appearance. I work out regularly, but I rarely try the new fad diet. I spend more cash on coffee than I do clothes. The seasons change more often than I get my hair cut and a single tube of mascara can last me years.

Ignoring something is not the same as embracing it. The truth is I could lose a good 20 lbs. I wish I knew how to put on eye liner the right way. I’d get a massage weekly if I could afford it. And I’d rather have a pelvic exam than go bathing suit shopping.  Or wear one in front of people. And if I have to, I am covering up my pasty white thighs that are too big. And the hail damage in back and those huge painful varicose veins complimentary of a few pregnancies.

And speaking of bathing suits. I have the typical solid black one piece mom bathing suit that is supposed to hide the fact that I’ve had 2 c-sections and about 200 too many cheeseburgers. But it doesn’t hide my backside, for that I usually leave on a pair of shorts.

But July changed that.
My knees were killing me so I decided to give them a break and swim laps between runs. You can’t swim laps in shorts. And besides no one is going to notice my thighs while I’m wearing a swim cap and goggles. I had no idea that a mile in the pool is the equivalent of about 70 laps. So by the time I was done more than just my muscles were sore. And secondly, I spent most July weekends at the lake with old friends. Friends from high school, from college and camp. And the conversation and the company was easy and comfortable and the rest of me started to feel that way too.  And I peeled off my shorts before hopping in the water. They were getting in the way anyways. Filling up with water and slowing me down.

These parts of me that I am less than proud of and usually keep hidden away burned a little their first time in the sun. They were not used to being seen and were more sensitive. But eventually they tanned and freckled like the rest of me.
The imperfections are still there. Despite all the miles I’ve both run and swam this summer.  But they are tanner.

And I learned in the right company. With people that know me and love me, I can expose parts of me that I usually keep covered up. My thighs. And my heart.
And sure, sometimes we get burned. But sometimes we get a tan.


5%


I like to have friends with skills I don’t have.
How to change a tire.
Bake.
Brew a really good cup of coffee.
Those things come in handy.

I also have quite a number of friends who are amazing photographers.
And since I have ridiculously cute kids, they keep me and my house in studio quality prints. Usually for the cost of dinner or a bottle of wine. Sometimes even less.
I am spoiled. Completely. I know.

So when one of these super photographer friends asked me to “model” for her I agreed to whatever she wanted. As long as I got to keep my clothes on.
She talked about this shoot for months.
Her “vision”. Hair. Makeup. Accessories. A dress. Lighting. Location.
All very artsy. And over my head and I was pretty sure she had pegged the wrong model for this shoot. I am more of a baseball cap kind of girl than what she was describing.
I just told her to tell me where and when to show up. And to expect me to be a bit awkward behind the camera but that I’d try my best.

She has shot my family dozens of times and it always feels weird to be smiling and posing, but she never fails to get great shots and is usually done in 15 or so minutes. Which is good because my kids are done in 10. And my husband is done before she even starts.
I was chatting with a friend who had done it a few weeks before hand, and she was telling me that she shot for almost 2 hours.
In the sweltering heat.
And I think this is when I started to worry.
Two hours of sweat and fake smiling and I could already see the makeup running down my face. But I owe this girl for more than just pictures, but for things like picking up my kids, flea bombing my house and having pizza sent to my house when I’m sick. So I can sweat and smile and stand on my head if she asked. Plus I’d already gotten a new dress out of the deal.

I am also into doing things that are outside my comfort zone. Because they usually teach me something or at least give me a good story to tell. And trust me wearing someone else’s spanx were totally out of my comfort zone.

So we started the morning early. In hair and make up. Now my routine takes me somewhere around 20 minutes. And that includes blow drying my hair. I figure, that routine could use some improvement. And that things like eyeliner might add a smidge more time to the routine.
I was so wrong.
2 hours, 2 cups of coffee, one set of fake eyelashes and about 2 million bobby pins later, I got out of the chair and got my dress on.  I suddenly wished that I remembered to do things like wax my eyebrows or paint my toenails. And that maybe I should start some kind of skin care routine, like every other girl over the age of 12...and wondered if they even sell Noxema any more.

Then we headed off to her location. And it is August. In Texas. Which means well over 100 degrees. But it was surprisingly less sweltering than I expected in the shade. Now I read magazines and occasionally watch TMZ….and I have seen photo shoots on TV. And they always look glamourous. Like they are just bouncing around posing, smiling, turning their heads with loud music in the back ground and some hot photographer guy telling them which way to bounce and smile.

Again I was wrong.

I needed lots of specific instructions. And she had to tell me where to put every finger.
(and by the way I still don’t know what the heck dancer hands are!) She told me how to put my feet, legs, chin, eyes, nose, arms….all to bring out the best lines and sides and make me look less fat.

But those pictures in magazines all look so natural and easy. And maybe for the sticks posing it is. But in real life, I was leaning and jutting and folding hands and lips in the most unnatural ways. I’d lean and prop and stick things out and suck things in and pray that she’d get her shot before I fell over or was blinded from the reflector shining light directly into my eyes. All while trying to look natural. And relaxed. And praying that I wasn’t getting sweat stains on my dress so I could wear it to school next week.

And I’m exaggerating a tad. But my point is this.  Everyone knows all those magazines are photoshopped. That hair and makeup and good editing can go a long ways.
But my perception about the rest of the  process and the end product were still way off.

She got some good shots. I learned a little more about the process. And I mean less about photography and more about life.
My friend will take a 100+ shots, just hoping for 4-5 good ones.
20 bad shots for maybe one good one. And she is a professional. She is really good at this. And 5 out of 100 is really what she hopes for.  A 5% success rate. And that is a good day.
I wish I could give my self that kind of grace in other areas of my life. Allowing, even expecting to do it wrong over and over again, before eventually getting something I am proud of.  And that what often looks easy and natural, is really the equivalent of holding a yoga pose for a long count. Things are not what they seem.  Easy and natural, usually comes from effort and sweat.
And to never underestimate the power of spanx.


lines

I hate lines. Sometimes I will leave a store without what I want because the lines are too long. I will often go eat else where than wait the 20 minutes to be seated.
Patience is not one of my virtues. The thought of spending hours in line at six flags to ride a 30 second roller coaster is not even a little bit my idea of a fun afternoon. And just thinking about going to Walmart gives me a rash.

Even less than I like waiting in line, is making them. Drawing them.
I am not the best disciplinarian in my house. Or my classroom. And I do think discipline is good and necessary and usually out of love. However, I always struggle with my role in it. I struggle to be the one doling it out.

I live my life more in a continuum than on a particular side. I hate picking sides.

So yesterday. When everyone was posting away on facebook about chick fil a, I went to a zumba class (go ahead laugh, everyone in the same room did!) and ate leftovers for dinner.

And was relieved to wake up this morning where surely all this political stuff would over. Surely people are not going to wait in line for 2 hours for waffle fries and back up traffic. Again.  And surely I won't have to see picture after picture of delicious sandwiches when I am trying to count calories. I am so ready to just read more about the olympics and see pictures of people's thermometers in their car.

Political crisis averted. I can go back to not picking sides. Not stating my opinion and eating at whatever fast food establishment that I want.

 But I can’t.

 Something about yesterday doesn’t sit right with me. Kind of like when I eat lots of fried food.

 I read a book once ( Blue Like Jazz), where Christians set up a confessional booth right in the middle of their liberal college campus, and when people came into confess. The people running the booth confessed instead.

 In addition to all the posts I saw of people taking stands and supporting chick fil a, for their Christian values and freedom of speech, I also read posts form gay friends about how all this made them feel.  And what it spoke of the church the them. And I wanted to set up my own confession booth for any hurt that they might feel or have felt in the past. For the literally dozen friends that deleted them on facebook.
From their eyes, it was a big giant push away. Rather than an invation towards this Jesus that we were supposedly lining up for. I also read a little more on where their money and support actually goes to and it left me wondering if people standing in line had any idea.

Please don’t barrage me with comments about freedom of speech and values. Those things absolutely never need to be apologized for. Unless of course you are Natalie Maines, or want to build a mosque. (I am being sarcastic here if you can’t tell). But seriously, this whole post makes me so uncomfortable to type. I am not pretending to be more right than anyone else. I'm just trying to expose a different view.

I am glad to live in a country where we are free to choose. What we believe. How to spend our money. What to say. What to support and even where to buy our chicken sandwiches.  I am always impressed when I see people take tough stands for things they believe in. Because more than often I don't.

See this marriage thing doesn’t seem so black and white to me. People have been pressing me in the last weeks to make some kind of stand. To say which side of the line I am on.  And I have hesitated to do that. And it has hurt people that I love.
A lot of what we call Christian values, is really just Christian culture. Because in the bible I have read. More than once. Men have multiple wives, harems, women are promised after 7 years of labor and all kinds of other crazy stuff. And one of my favorite marriages in the bible is Hosea who married a prostitute. Not exactly the kind of thing you’d see at a Focus on the Family conference (but says so much about the redeeming and relentless love of our Father). And some of you might tell me, oh that is all OLD testament stuff. The new testament clearly talks about one man one woman. To which I’d reply. Sort of. It doesn't exactly use those words.

But it does say it is better not to marry.
And that God hates divorce.
It also says women should not speak in church.
And to keep our heads covered.
And to pluck our eyes out if they cause us to sin.
And multiple times not to judge.

 But it also speaks peace and hope to me. It encourages me to serve and seek justice.
And tells me to love.
Everyone no matter what side of the line they are standing on or in.
Which is why I think that, despite what I learned in youth group….the Bible is mostly meant to be a love story. Not an instruction book.
Freedom and context and culture are hard things to figure out.
A whole lot harder than ordering some nuggets.

And the things in the bible that I do think Jesus is really clear about....
My heart hurts that people don’t line up to support that. I posted something yesterday on facebook about needing help with an event at a homeless shelter. I got 2 suggestions, 0 likes and I struggled to find just a few donations.
I guess everyone was busy waiting in line.


(And this topic has been overdone in the blogoshpere.....and here are some links to some posts that made me think.)

from Jen Hatmaker: in the basement and the basement manifesto
from Rachel Held Evans: on both sides
from the Huffington Post: open letter and   it isn't what you think and Dixie chick appreciation day

sup


A few weeks ago I had a pretty perfect weekend in mansion (if it has an elevator and it is totally a mansion!) on the lake. As part of the package, there was also a 3 hour stand up paddle board less thrown in.

I was very excited about this. And equally nervous about making a big fat fool of myself.  First off, most of my friends are like semiprofessional athletes not to mention younger and skinnier! One dances in NYC. Another medals in triatholons. And the fact that I’d have to wear a bathing suit for it did not help my confidence level. Now is also a good time to disclose that I have a love/hate relationship with the B word. Balance.

However, the whole idea seemed beachy and dreamy to me.  My husband is a mountain man. He likes to go where the air is thinner. And ski and fish and get altitude sickness. I like those things (minus the atltitude sickness), but I love the water. I spent summer vacations at the beach, long summers on the Guadalupe, weekends on a sailboat and love everything about it. The sun. The smell. The noise. The way the whole room feels like it is still rocking in the waves at night when I go to sleep. Everything except sunburns and sand in my swimsuit.

However, water sports are not my forte. Once I rented a surfboard, and almost got a concussion when it hit me in the head. Needless to say I never made it vertical. My parents do own a boat, but no one in my family knows how to pull a skier, nor are we known for our upper body strength. (to quote a friend, who was quoting her friend….I have the upper body strength of a weak kitten). Another friend tried to teach me how to wake surf, but I couldn’t evenget a good grip the board (apparently I also have the abdominal strength of a seal). I’ve never jet skied. My husband had an asthma attack trying to snorkel. I’ve flipped many a canoe. I don’t even like jumping off the high dive.  But I was certain this would be different. Earlier that morning, we had seen someone about my mom’s age paddle by effortlessly with her dog napping peacefully at the end of the board. She looked so cool and zen and like she belonged in Hawaii -- not Texas. And not even a little bit like my younger, skinnier friends. Surely I could do this.

The lesson consisted of 2 super sporty bikinied women with well toned arms telling us to unload to boards from the back of their trailer. My arms ached just from carrying them across the yard. She plopped them down. Told us to stay out of the way of speed boats. Made us put on lifevests and gave us a quick lesson in how to paddle. But mostly we girls were just giggling and counting how many times she said the word “shaft”. So I may have missed some key instructions. I did however notice that they kept using the B word.

I shimmied on top of the board. Only briefly. Before landing right back in the water. And then shimmied (not even a little bit gracefully) right back up. I paddled with my paddle backwards for a ways and made it successfully down the river. Before realizing something critical. I did not know how to turn around. Which wasn’t much of an issue because right about then a boat flew by and the wake sent me right back in the water.

Again, I shimmied, which was really more like beaching myself on the board, pointed it in the direction and got someone to show me how to steer. (and to tell me to turn my paddle around).
I kept paddling. Now, with my new found skill of turning around I was unstoppable. Well, except for when a boat drove by or my knees wobbled too much and then I was back to swimming and shimmying.  A few of my friends were doing yoga poses on their boards. Showoffs.
But. it did feel sort of yogaish. Peaceful and Strong.
And almost whispered a "namaste" before another wake sent me back in.

 Swim. Shimmy.

 Back on the board.

 And another boat went by, instead of bracing myself for the waves, and trying hard to stay up on my own, I pushed my paddle in a little deeper, bent my knees a little and leaned directly into the wave. It rocked me back and forth but shocingly I stayed up.

 Lean into it. Into the hard. Into the good. The scary. This isn’t new advice. I’ve read it in books and blog posts and even watched it doled out in movies.  
But doing it, literally, was a good reminder of why it is such good advice metaphorically. Leaning into what you are sure is gonna knock you off your feet and ending up still standing is powerful. And way more effective than trying to fight it.

And that sometimes, you get knocked down anyways.

Which is why getting back up, even less than gracefully, is way more important than balance.




(on a side note I have been doing crunches and pushups almost every night and think i might now have the upper body strength and core of a playpus instead of a kitten)