what is the zipcode for heaven?

I am in a new bible study and we had homework last week.
And I love homework. As long as it isn’t the kind I am supposed to grade.
But this was a kind of weird assignment.
We were supposed to write a letter to God, describing essentially what we think our “good and beautiful life” (which also happens to be the name of the book) would look like for us.
And this stumped me for multiple reasons.
a) I’m pretty sure God doesn’t have a PO box.
b) It felt something like writing a letter to Santa, a bucket list and a bunch of new year’s resolutions all in one.
c) There was the possibility of having to read it loud. And I am somehow ok with hitting publish on blogger for potentially hundreds to read (ok, a few dozen). but reading outloud to a handful of people that are actually in the same room with me, makes me want to break out into hives.
d) Until rather recently writing (and blogging) used to come easy to me. I could spit one posts almost daily without breaking a sweat. But lately, I can’t even get out one a week. And it isn’t that I’m suddenly busier. I am busy. I was before too. The simple and honest answer is that I’m just not writing anything. And it isn’t the writing I’m struggling with so much as it is the naked. And it turns out I can’t really write without being naked. (don’t worry. I am speaking 100% figuratively. I am fully dressed in pj pants and a sweatshirt while I type this). This girl is sorting through some vulnerability issues.
But I wrote it anyways. Dear Santa, bucket list and new years resolutions and all.
And. I read good size chunks of it outloud. And I didn’t get hives.
So I figured I should get double duty out of it and post some of it here. Fully dressed.

It would be easy to say that I’d like a life of ease. That is the “good life” right? Money. Travel. And a housekeeper. A life where my kids don’t get skinned knees or the flu, my papers are always graded, I only hit green lights and I never leave my fly down (which may or may not have been how I taught the better part of my morning yesterday). And beautiful, sure – I’d like veneers on my teeth, the mole on my face removed, a better haircut and new highlights and to trim down a few sizes. That would be a start. An upgraded wardrobe and pedicure couldn’t hurt either. And maybe I mean all that a little. Who wouldn’t? But something tells me that I’d be bored. A good life is lived. Foughten for. Broken and Renewed. Taken plenty of chances. Knows grace. Sometimes has done without. In other words, a good life is probably occasionally a hard one.

Mostly I think I’d like to love extravagantly. Recklessly. And I’m even a little surprised to catch myself saying that because I know all too well. Over and over, how much that can hurt. Because loving like that isn’t safe. It doesn’t hold back. It isn’t always returned. And it means occasionally being crushed. I want to love anyways. Again and again. When it is easy and when it is hard. Because He does.

And for my kids. Any mom can tell you they want the best for their kids. But. I’m not sure I’d say that. And I catch myself wanting to buy them nice things, but I’d also hope that they sometimes wear hand me downs. Or drive a used car. That instead of being the coolest kid in class that maybe they instead are the one who stands up for the kid who no one else wants to sit next to. I want them to fall down occasionally. To lose. To fail. To get their heart broken. And those things almost feel mean to write, but instead of having kids who get what they want and never get hurt, I’d rather have ones that know how to get back up. How to try again. How to do better next time. How to adapt and change and recover. I want kids who know how to study and to sweat and to save and to serve and to say they are sorry. But most importantly, to never doubt that they are loved. By me and their God.

And the book we are reading, says that everyone wants to be happy. And I can’t really argue with that. But what I mostly want is joy in the times that I am not. Because there are plenty of those. To have a faith so strong that something good within me can’t be shaken. And I want to matter. Not so much that I want to be important, but I want to matter by doing important things for other people. Even if they aren’t the kind so things other people consider important. Noticing them. Feeding them. Looking them in the eye. Asking their name. Whether it is my student. Or the checkout lady at Target or the homeless woman on the corner asking for gas money.

I really like my couch. And have hours of Tivo saved and shelves and shelves of books. But I’m thinking I should spend less time on my couch, and more time playing outside with my kids. Cleaning out my garage. Running a marathon. Helping someone move. Hiking up a mountain with my husband. I think a good life is likely a sweaty one.

When I’m 80, and look back. I hope my husband is still by my side. Holding my hand listening to the same old stories and jokes and rubbing my feet. That my passport has lots of stamps on it. That I’ve seen and served in all kinds of places. I hope I’ve tried all kinds of weird things and made friends with all kinds of unusual characters. I hope I’ve become one of those unusual characters myself. I hope my kids have grown and are pursuing their own adventures and that they always knew I loved them the best. I hope I’ve laughed more than I’ve cried. Given away far more than I’ve saved and that I let very little be wasted.

Specifically, I hope I’ve taken the leap and published something. That I’ve reigned in my mouth and learned when to stop drinking and talking. That I stop letting fear win. To make wiser choices with my words, my money and that I can remember where I put my car keys. I want to stop wrestling with the same sins. To have more of those hard conversations. To listen without interrupting. To pray without falling asleep. To love without expectation. That one day my car won’t look like a fast food trash can. To be better at standing up for myself and to keep standing up for people I love.

So basically, I want the life I already have. But without me always getting in the way.

because it is worth saying again.

Maybe you have noticed that I have been pretty absent here lately.
I'll address that another day. maybe.

But for now, I am going to cheat and post something I wrote a few years ago.
Because it is worth saying again. And mostly because my friend is living it all over again. This time a month sooner. Coming in at only 2 lbs 3 ounces. My kids were both well over 8lbs and I was still afraid I was going to break them. For months. So I can't even really fathom that, except I've seen pictures and when you see past all the tubes they have going into him. He looks pretty perfect. Because he is.

Just Breathe
My sweet Tess is just a few days over 7 months. She has one little tooth. I have yet to see her really crawl, but she can manage her way across a room. I swear she can say momma although some people might say she is too little to know what she is saying. She is at the age where she seems to be learning a “new trick” almost everyday.

Owen is also learning all kinds of things. How to write his name, that blue and yellow make green and how to dribble a soccer ball.

I am amazed at what they learn, but it also leads to expectations. I wonder when Tess will crawl, or when Owen will read, or when Tess will let me get a good solid night of sleep, or when Owen will make it through his soccer game without crying.

I love my kids as close to unconditionally as humanly possible. But all these new expectations means that occasionally I am going to be disappointed. Or wonder if they are ok, or on track, or as smart or talented or ( fill in the blank) as the other kids. I hope that they will grow up to be smart and kind and happy. I hope that they make good grades in school, that they will not get mixed up in the "wrong crowd". I hope that they will graduate from college and find spouses and make me beautiful grandbabies ( in that order).

But just 7 months and 4 days ago ( or almost 4 years ago w/ O) all I was hoping for was that first cry. Just to know that the baby they pulled from my body would breathe. That she was alive.

I loved her perfectly and fully as she sat in the warming tray across the room before I could even touch her and squeeze her and count her toes. Before eating solids, or potty training or algebra.

One of my friends just had a baby yesterday. A little bitty bit of a thing weighing in at not quite 2 and a half pounds. I have seen a few pictures and he is pink and perfect, despite all the tubes that seem to get in the way of his cute face. She was short a few months to prepare. Do all the necessary things like buy a carseat, pack a hospital bag and pick out a name. She didn’t sit around and wonder if he would weigh 8 lbs or have blue eyes or score a perfect 10 on his Apgar test. Instead she skipped straight to the important part. She held her breathe and hoped and prayed for that first cry.

That cry where you instantly fall in love. A love that hasn’t been earned. Love that just is. Love that hopes to steal a glimpse before they quickly wheel him to NICU. Love that impatiently waits 30 long hours to meet her son for the first time. Love that doesn’t need him to sleep through the night, or kick a soccer ball, or clean his room. But the kind that just wants a glimpse or to grab his finger.

My God loves me like this. Not because of what I do or don't do, or how many friends I have or because I go to church. But simply because He created me. 2 lbs or 140lbs*.

(and let's be honest -- I weigh more than 140 lbs. but this is my blog I can lie if I want to!)

letter to my 16 year old self

Dear 16 year old me,

Rap is just a phase that you will grow out of.
That boy you are pining over. He will be bald before he is 30. Move on.
You will never be this skinny again. Or have this metabolism. Eat more donuts. Wear bathing suits proudly.
Don’t talk back so much to your teachers. One day you will be one.
Overalls are only ok if you are pregnant. It is never ok to leave one or both of the straps down.
Stop wasting your money on the cool jeans.
Eye shadow does not need to match your outfit.
Wear your retainer.
90210 will attempt to make a comeback. Skip it.
Please stop adding “and shit” on the end of every sentence. You sound like an idiot.
Don’t worry about spelling. This crazy thing called spell check will do it for you.
There will always be groups that you don’t fit in. It doesn’t end with the high school cafeteria. Stop trying. If you have to try to fit into a group it is one you don’t want in.
Bangs should not be stacked.
Wine coolers are gross.
Read more books and less magazines.
You do not know nearly as much as you think you do.
Sometimes your parents were right.
Sometimes your teachers were right.
At your 10 year reunion, people will talk to you and you won’t remember who they are. And you will wonder if you were nice to them. Be nice. Don’t make your 26 year old self wonder.
Do not, I repeat, do NOT try to pierce your own bellybutton with a safety pin. You will totally regret it.
Hickeys are icky.
You will not look like Jennifer Anniston if you get layers in your hair. And layers take a really really long time to grow out.
Be glad your parents didn’t let you go to most of those parties.
The mall is a really dumb place to hang out.
Eye rolling is not an Olympic sport. Stop practicing.
Shirts should cover your belly button.
Your car will inevitably overheat any time you are somewhere you are not supposed to be.
When you sneak out of your window, you are much less likely to get caught if you remember to put the screen back.
Baby oil is not sunscreen.
Nothing is as black and white as you think it is. Keep that self righteousness to yourself.
You never say this. But you often feel Alone. Afraid. Insecure. Unwanted. Confused. Misunderstood. Guess what. So does everyone else your age .
Don’t let people tell you that these are the best days of your life. They are fun. Enjoy them but it totally gets better.
You have no idea how good you have it.
Those dorky guys sitting next to you in PreCal or in orchestra will get really hot in college.
Don’t waste time matching your socks but listen to your friend Julie who tells you that brown shoes should never be worn with a black belt.
Whatever you think is some huge critical earth shattering critical thing right now…is so not a big deal.
Your shorts are way too short.
One day MTV will not play music videos.
Nothing good happens after midnight. You might as well go home.
That handful of friends you made….you will keep most of them. You chose well.
That boyfriend you had a few months ago. Total loser. Be glad he ditched you for the girl who would put out. Mostly be glad it wasn’t you.
Making a mix tape is an art. Keep making art. (except there will be no such thing as tapes).
Tom Cruise will go crazy. On Oprah’s couch. But feel free to keep watching Top Gun and Cocktail.
Most people aren’t really buying your tough girl act. So you might as well stop acting.
Your friends and family aren’t mind readers. Say thank you and tell them what you need. You should also apply that same rule to your future husband (who by the way is pretty awesome).
You were right. You will never need Calculus again. Ever.

all you need is a good font

Christmas vacation is over, and I’ve already made it through a few days back to work.
The inevitable question has been, “what is your new year’s resolution?” and I flounder a bit and say I don’t really do them.
But that isn’t entirely true.
I just can’t ever manage to narrow them down.
And I love new starts. New places. New things. New people. New experiences. But I tell myself that I’m not really into “New Years” and making ridiculous promises that you are inevitably going to break seems a little too what everyone else is doing. Because really, I’m not into accountability.

When I was a teenager. One New Years when I wasn’t out like all my friends because my dad gave me some ridiculous curfew at like 10 pm. I kept trying to tell him that that point of New Years was, you know, being awake at midnight when the actual New Year started…and he generously pushed it up to 10:30. (and on a side note, this New Year’s I said my thank yous and good byes and was happy to be in my car and on my way home by around 10:30 and asleep well before midnight. My dad would be proud that I grew up old and boring)

Back to my story, awake and bored and with not much else to do, I went into the spare bedroom that used to be my sisters and turned on the computer. An old school one that still had Qubert and took up about as much space as an air conditioning unit. I booted up WordPerfect. Thought I was really cool mixing up the fonts and picked a pretty script one and felt very grown up and started a list of my new years resolution.
I went a little crazy and typed for three pages. I probably even wrote “be less wordy”. My list was ridiculous. And corny. But I saved it on my floppy, printed it on my dot matrix printer and tucked it inside my journal. All three pages. 12 point font. That said really specific life changing things like:
Stop procrastinating.
Take more pictures.
Stop swearing.
Pray more.
Get a boyfriend and try not to get bored of him in just a week.
And I’ll stop now before I really humiliate myself. And you can’t have three pages of resolutions. That is not a new start, that is a complete overhaul. But I liked my long ridiculous lists even though I rarely made significant progress in any area and liked to read over them from time to time. I’m sure I could find one (or 5) if I looked in a box in my attic, but I’ll save that for another day. It became some kind of odd yearly tradition for me to write them. And even though I had journals that I sporadically wrote in . These were always typed. I probably stopped some time in college ( partly because there was no such thing as floppy discs and because I was pretty much just writing the same list. Year, after year. Now, I can tell you that they weren’t “resolutions” so much as me writing out who I wanted to be. Me, but improved. Many pages worth of improvements. And I kept hoping and waiting. For that better version of me to show up and make her appearance. I kept thinking. Maybe this year I’ll get to meet her. Every year my lists seemed to get just a little bit longer. And other than parts about getting a boyfriend. I’d be willing to bet that a lot of who I wanted to be more of back then, I’m still lacking.

Last year I wrote that I wasn’t making resolutions. That I was not going to pretend that it was finally going to be the year I was going to get it together. And guess what, I didn’t.

But I miss the girl who used to sit and type ridiculous cheesy lists. Because that girl knew who she wanted to be. And she wrote it down. In really cutesy font. Hoping that maybe 1993 was going to be HER YEAR. Or 1994. or 1995.
And it’s been a while, but now I say, maybe 2012.

The problem with long ridiculous lists is that it is too much to tackle. They were vague. There was no action, no focus and no accountability. So I’m gonna try this a little differently. One part Gretchen Hawkins (The Happiness Project), one part AJ Jacobs ( I love that guy!), and one part Jen Hatmaker ( Interrupted and 7 an experimental mutiny against excess that is totally messing with my tolerance for all my wastefulness). So my list of 12 areas of focus in no particular order:

*My Family (focus one person each week, and the last week….doing stuff together?)
*Adventure – some new “adventure” each week
* Kindness – some random act of kindness everyday
*Quiet. Keeping my mouth shut. Not sure how I’m going to do this. But it is surely an area I need to work on.
*New. Anything but stuff. Try something new everyday.
*Thankfulness – I’m not always the most grateful girl.
*Clean Up and Clean out. I am a slob. And I have too much stuff. I hate to clean. I hate to part with that pair of jeans that will never fit and the billion books I’ve already read…but..mostly I HATE TO CLEAN. HATE IT. but. need to suck it up. My baseboards won’t know what hit them.
* Food (eat better, eat out less, eat on 2$ a day like most people in the world, eat leftovers. I hate leftovers)
* Fasting (?? Maybe something different each week. food, facebook, coffee,TV)
*Prayer (I am awful terrible horrible at this)
* be more responsible w/ my money (write down all my purchases, actually make and stick to a budget, don’t buy anything I don’t need that month)
*Social Justice. Pick something. Learn about it. Do something about it. Get a little uncomfortable in the process.

And I don’t know the rules or the order. Or how much I’ll divulge or write about it. Mostly I’ll just figure it out as I go. My plan is to focus on one area each month. And that is doable. In any font.

(I realize if I was smart enough to actually know HOW to change my font for this post to something cutesy and script it would be better, but blogger doesn't give me those options and I don't know the ways around it.....but I do know that i LOVE this song!)