ten years.


So… ten years ago, my husband and I got married.

Not gonna lie, I feel a little old. Somehow this marker was reserved in my head for a crowd older than I thought I was. Definitely 30’s. (Wait…)

The cousins who were the ring bearers and flower girl? High school and college. College.

My baby brother, then twelve, who wouldn’t usher because, in his words, “I don’t want girls holding my arm!”… He’s apparently gotten over that phobia, we watched him marry a fantastic girl a couple of weeks ago. (Ryan and Amanda- sorry for the repeat here, there’s a lot coming that was in your card.) (Also? I just considered the fact that when they celebrate 10 years, we’ll be ready to celebrate 20. Because math. And I’m good at math. But still, framing it that way freaks me out.)

A lot happens in 10 years. 

There’s a lot of learning and growing. 

I’ve been thinking about this, specifically, for about a month now… we are really, really happily married. It’s good. Really good. Marriage? Well designed by a master Designer for our good and His glory and I couldn’t possibly be more grateful. (Well, actually, I’ve said that before. And I was wrong. And I’m sure I’ll be even more grateful, I don’t know… tomorrow. But today, I’m as grateful as I can imagine for this amazing gift.) Also, as Andrew and I grow together toward holiness, we’ve learned a few things. And I need to write at least a few of them down so I don’t forget and maybe, just maybe, to remind and encourage you.

Really quickly, here’s why I’m not writing this.

I’m not writing it because we’re perfect.


I’m not a perfect wife. Not by a long shot. He’s not a perfect husband (though, in all honesty, I think he’s a lot better at being married than I am… Most of the stuff I’ve learned, I’ve learned largely because he does it pretty well.) 

We still have our stuff. We fight. We have communication differences that have been issues for ten years. (Actually, we probably have some dating back a lot longer than that. Maybe 17 or 18 years? That’s how long ago we met. And when I developed a crush on him. But that’s a whole other story.) Sometimes it comes down to the simple and obvious: I am a woman. He is a man. Language differences make us crazy now and again. 

We don’t have it figured out. (Which is why marriage is supposed to last more than ten years.)

But.


But God is good and his grace is more than plenty for all our stuff. 

So here’s some stuff that I’ve learned in ten years of loving and living with this man.

We have to be friends.


We were friends for a loooong time before we got married. We’re good at it. But it’s not something that happens on its own.  The first couple of years, it was simple enough. We had school and work and stuff, but a lot of time was basically our own. We played. We talked. We worked together at things. We served together. We did all the friend things we’d already been doing for years. It was fun. And we got used to living together while still doing the friend thing, and life got hectic and being friends took a little more intention. Then kids came. Finding the time to connect and play (and prioritizing that over sleep sometimes) takes a little more effort now. 

But it’s so, so worth it. 

(Post-bedtime is currently our favorite- sometimes we talk watch a movie or just sit and read our separate things together or play a game of Dominion or Sequence.) 

I have to work on me.


If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Duh.

A healthy marriage is ideally made of a pair of healthy people.

It’s really easy to go all martyr these days… My job is kind of round-the-clock and based on other people’s needs. But when I just “selflessly” chug through, getting stuff done and people fed and bottoms wiped and laundry and All The Things… I do a pretty crappy job. (Honestly, this is something Andrew’s probably been encouraging forever, but I’m only learning in the last year that he’s right. That EVERYBODY’S right on this point: self care is not optional.) 

It’s easy to scroll facebook during a nap and call it a break. But I’ve learned it’s not actually that restorative. 

It takes a little bit more to discern what is actually a useful rest. For me, “useful” is writing, reading, running, talking with friends. Sometimes (um, last weekend), it’s scrapping all of those things in favor of sleep. Despite everything in me yelling that I needed to go out and be alone or, at the least, check some stuff off of my list. Not sleep through my only window of “me time.”

Anyway, my point… it takes effort and intention to figure out what is restorative and how to make it happen. And if I don’t do that, my kids get dregs and my husband gets nothing. Well, he doesn’t get nothing, he gets yelled at. Poor guy.

And it’s not just me. Andrew needs time to process and be, too. And I’m not as good at encouraging and enabling this as I want to be, not as good as he is, but that’s something I’m working toward.

Respect is a big deal.


We were fortunate to have been a part of a great small group from the start of our marriage, and one of the early studies was Emmerson Eggerichs’s Love and Respect. It’s not a secret that love is essential to marriage and that it must be unconditional. But in my early-20’s head, respect was definitely on a lower tier in some hierarchy of needs. And totally NOT unconditional.

Glad to have learned otherwise, and early. It’s not a small thing. I’m not always good at being respectful (especially when we’re having *ahem* a “discussion”) but I’ve gotten much faster at apologizing for being (or sounding) disrespectful! 

It’s still hard to find things that are specifically respectful. It’s easier to figure out what comes off as disrespectful. But I’m learning. 

We have to be generous.

This covers… kind of everything. I stumbled across a blog a few years ago that’s all about this, and I’ve been kicking it around since.

When I’m generous in 

  • loving and blessing my husband
  • forgiving him
  • giving him the benefit of the doubt (when I could otherwise assign him poor motives for something)

… everything goes much, much better. 


So there we have it.


Looking over the list, it feels like it should be longer and, I don’t know… more earth-shattering. If I’d read this blog post 10 years ago (which I wouldn’t have, because blogging wasn’t really a thing then), Little Me would have nodded along. Yep. That’s true. Check. Sounds good, I agree. But somehow actually implementing that list of things that I am sure I never would have especially disagreed with has taken ten years (and counting.) 

I’m hoping in another 10 years, my list of things that work for us will be a touch longer and I’ll be a little better at the things on it. For now, I’m glad to have gotten it down in words. It’d be a shame to forget. 

Anything you’d add to it? What have you learned?


because of daughters

Body image has been something I’ve struggled with… pretty much my whole life. Because I have a pair of X-chromosomes, and that’s kind of how we roll, for the most part. 

And then I got pregnant.

And then it was a girl.

And I started thinking about the things I want for her. What I want her to think about her body and her self. 

I want her to know she’s pretty, but that pretty’s not really the point.

I want her to have a healthy relationship with food. To eat and enjoy what is good, but to view it as fuel, not medication.

I want her to believe that being active and alive is fun, not something to punish yourself with when you’ve eaten too many cookies.

I want her to know that this body she’s been given is the thing that carries her beautiful self around in, and it’s the only one she has, and that it’s worth loving and taking care of, just because it allows her to be. 

There are some things I’m not sure I would’ve learned if God hadn’t blessed me with girls. I was talking about it with my sister (expecting her first- a daughter- this summer)… It changes how I think of things. I have to be on top of the things I say about my body, because that is how they will learn to think of theirs. Mine don’t miss ANYTHING. I made one offhanded comment about the shape of my backside several months ago. Nothing derisive or anything, just a statement of fact about how pants don’t really like to stay up. (I believe my words to my youngest sister were “I don’t really have a butt, so it’s kind of like trying to belt pants on the bottom third of a ball.”) Forty-eight hours later, my oldest (then two) repeats it back to me. (“Mama, I don’t have a bum. Just a ball.”) Oops. 

I know there are women who learn these things without daughters. And I know there are plenty of women with daughters who have yet to learn. But it’s been so transformational in my words and head and heart that I feel like I should share some of these bits with you: 

The words you say about your body matter.


I knew I would have to curtail any use of the f-word in their presence. (“Fat.” What were you thinking?) But it’s hard to say bad words in your normal life while omitting them under certain circumstances. Best to limit any verbal body negativity, period. And it’s hard to do that when it’s all inside your head. This brings a much more difficult fight. And it’s not one that I’ve won yet. But the things you think become the things you say, and it’s totally a battle worth fighting. 

And you know what? Mitigating the “you suck” body talk in my head has actually made me a healthier person. 


Food is fuel.


I’ve medicated with food for as long as I can remember. Sad? Eat some chocolate. Stressed? Time for something crunchy. Happy? Proud of yourself? Celebrate! That means ICE CREAM! Bored? Om nom nom. I can register hunger and fullness, but only barely, and not without some work. But you know what? The kids eat what they want to eat. (Well, from the offered choices. I don’t let them eat whatever they want to eat, because that would be mayhem. Yesterday the older one figured out that she could get to the ice cream and… yeah.) And they stop when they’re not hungry anymore. They don’t possess any compulsion to eat the food until it’s gone. And yes, they have a tendency to eat out of boredom (working on it), but neither of them asks for a marshmallow when they get hurt or upset… sad isn’t connected with food. (Because, seriously, why would it be? That’s really something we make up.)  That’s how I want them to stay. Food is to be enjoyed because it’s good, and it gives you energy to play and get into mischief. That’s all. It doesn’t fix your feelings. Also? There aren’t “bad foods” and “good foods.” (Well, I mean, clearly ice cream is good, but we won’t demonize fat or carbs and we won’t force broccoli, besides making them try whatever is given.)

Exercise is to make Mommy “healthy and strong.” 


They see me exercise from time to time. Not often, because it’s really hard to get a workout in with the under-three crowd needing “Up!” all the time. But it happens. And when it does, this is the explanation I give. There’s no “skinny.” There’s no “losing weight.” I would love for them to go as long as possible without these thoughts in their little heads. And you know what? It’s true. It’s really true for me- I spent years doing multiple workouts a day with no discernible change in weight. Exercise gives me the ability to go live my life with more strength and energy. Anything else it does is gravy.

Being active is just what we do.


I’ll admit, this is a weak point. I hate getting them into their snow gear. HATE. IT. So in the winter, they’re not as active as I’d like them to be. In the summer? Playgrounds four days a week. Five. Climb that thing, run around that other thing, play in the rocks. I’m hoping to start biking with them this summer. Admittedly, at two and three, that won’t be activity for them, just a lot of work for me. But they’ll see this is how we live. And it’s fun.

My body is a gift. 


Seriously. I spent almost three decades thinking my body was a total lemon, what with my slow metabolism and whatever. But you know what? Without it, I’m dead. Really. That’s all. I can waste time bemoaning its shape or size or energy level, but in reality, I’ve been blessed with a relatively healthy body. It grew a couple people and is strong enough to carry them (and me) around all day. I’m not typically sick. I’m generally strong. And I am alive. I get to go about my regular, mundane life, enjoying little things like coffee and flowers and snowfall and sun. Whatever the size or shape of my body, I need it to do all of that. And yeah, that makes it worth taking care of. Giving it quality fuel and making it “healthy and strong” with exercise and activity as best I can. 

These aren’t things I can really tell my little girls and hope that it takes.


I have to live it. I have to be it. And it takes plenty of effort to become what I need to become in order for them to have a relatively healthy relationship with their physical selves, but it’s worth it, both for them and for me. And for you. With or without daughters.

running thoughts

Earlier today, a friend of mine posted a link to a facebook post that started with “To the fatty running on the track this afternoon:” and went on to actually be an awesome encouragement to said “fatty”… encouraging her effort and persistence. It sounded a lot like the pep talks I give myself when I run… “fatty” included, sometimes.

So fast forward to tonight. I got my first run of the season here. It was chilly, and I accidentally went farther than I probably should have, but it was good.

(From the middle of my run. Not so bad, especially for 8:30 at night.)



Because I’d just read this post that was somehow both a bit offensive- hard to read “fatty” when you’re overweight (or even just feel you are) without cringing a bit- and fairly encouraging, I was really paying attention to the stuff going on in my head.


Of course, while I was running there was the usual mundane…


“Dang, my hands are cold.” 

“It’s a lot harder to breathe when it’s cold.”
“I will make it to the next telephone pole before I slow down.” 

(I’m not especially clever when I’m burning so much energy.)

But then when I’d get to that one telephone pole and walk (until the next telephone pole), something kind of cool happened:

“You’re doing really good.”
“You like this. My body needed it.” 
(Does anyone else switch between first, second, and sometimes third person when talking to yourself?) 
“I can’t believe how well you’re handling cold weather issues. This is hard and you’ve got it.” 
“I love long Alaska sunsets.”

Not a single “fatty.” 


Now, this isn’t really about weight loss or exercise, and it’s not even really about body image. I haven’t lost any weight in months, and really not even so much since Katherine was born. (Alarmingly little, in fact, given the number of workouts I’ve put in… Good thing that weight loss is not really a primary goal of mine anymore!) 


This is bigger than that. It’s about the things I tell myself. It wasn’t long ago that if I made it out to run, I’d have spent all of my mental energy on stuff like:

“You look ridiculous.”
“What are you even doing here?”
“This sucks. I hate it.”

And, granted, because I read that thing earlier today, I was paying attention to the things going through my head, which automatically improves them. Kind of like driving in front of a cop makes you pay attention to obeying the speed limit. But still, it was neat to see the change. 


Wait. What changed?


I’m a little bit fitter than I was then (when I was doing all the berating), but not that much. It’s not like I’m a runner runner or anything. I still look like an overweight person slogging down Chena Pump. Slowly. (My form is now better, thanks to my running coach sister, though!) 


So something’s different in my head. Do I perhaps, in this one little area, have a little more grace for myself? Because the things I was thinking today were things I always would have said to a friend in the same situation, but never, not EVER would I have extended that kindness to me. 


Seeing the progress, not just how imperfect the effort is.


Noticing the gifts.


Seeing the person God made me and who I’m becoming, not just the person I spitefully think myself to be.


So… that’s cool. And I’m all about finding stuff to be grateful for, and the gift of seeing my own progress is not a small one. But while I’m here, what else can I find?


What if I took that same grace and applied it in some other areas? 


Say… my housekeeping? 


Parenting?


Spousing? (Sweet! Google didn’t even underline that as a non-word!)


When I was prone to berate myself constantly throughout my run, I didn’t try very often. (And why would I? That wasn’t very fun.) Somehow, I’ve transitioned to more positive thoughts and also more and better exercise. The first didn’t totally precede the second, and I can’t really tell you, outside of a lot of grace (God’s to me), how that all went, but it’s definitely an upward spiral now. 


So if I replaced the “You can’t even keep your toilet clean! That takes like 90 seconds. Why can’t you get it together?!?” (just to pick an example from the last hour) with “Yay! I folded the laundry! Now let’s see if I can get it put away before I go to sleep,” perhaps I would make some actual progress in my housekeeping? 


If I replaced, “I can’t believe you just snapped at that beautiful child of yours” with “This is a hard day, the kids are apparently pushing ALL your buttons. Maybe go get a sip of water and come back and try again?” maybe I could become a more calm, consistent, compassionate mom. 


If “I’m being so bitchy today, it’s no wonder he doesn’t want to stop looking up random stuff on Wikipedia” became “We both had a long day… If we each get some time to decompress, we’ll connect better later this evening,” I’d probably spend less time being crabby with my husband. 


If I started giving myself the grace I give to dear friends, not only would I have a better time in general, I’d actually do better at all the stuff that matters. 


And so would you. 


Where are you prone to be cruel to yourself? Those things you say… would you say that to a friend (or anyone, for that matter) in a similar situation? I suspect no. So… what would you say? Something kinder? Good. Try it out on YOU now. 


I know it’s not that easy. It’s not easy to appropriate grace for yourself. It’s not even easy to catch yourself being mean to you. And when you do, and you consciously step back and offer grace instead, sometimes you come back with “yeah, but…” and just keep going. 


I know. 


But maybe it’s worth practicing anyway. 


As circular as it sounds, sometimes giving grace to myself is something I need to be gracious to me about. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Not all the time. Not yet. And sometimes (and I know this sounds really silly), I get down on myself about that. (Ok, I just realized how crazy this is: “Why can’t you control your thoughts? If you’d just be kinder to yourself, things would go better. You’re never going to get this figured out. Geez.” But still, various iterations of that have played out in my head. Recently.) 


And I don’t think this is just a nice thing to do, good for both mood and productivity. I’m pretty sure it’s something God wants for us. You know why? I picture my kids saying the kind of things I say to myself, to themselves, and it breaks my heart. And I’m a pretty lame parent when compared to God. He loves you. And me. He has our good and His glory as part of his plans for us, and I doubt grousing about how much we suck does much to advance any of that. 


So give it a try. Pick some area. Try to notice your thoughts. Then try to replace one with something you might actually say to a person you love. I will, too. We’ll stumble toward grace together. 



Hunting for grace

I have had a difficult week. 

Certainly, there are people (actually, a lot of them that I know) who had worse ones. But the fact that “it could be worse” or “someone had it worse” doesn’t really mitigate “difficult.” (Another post for another day.)

There’s a trip that I’m super excited about, but it involves taking a pair of toddlers on airplanes BY MYSELF tomorrow, which I have not done before. Also, it involves “trip sleep” which is, traditionally, no bueno. Guess who’s been focusing on anxiety about the plane rides and night times rather than that I get to see some friends and my sister and her husband, whom I expected not to see for at least two years when we said goodbye in April? Yep. Guilty.

Childcare stuff… We have a thing we have to be at in several weeks. The kids can’t be there. It’s out of town. We’ll be gone four days. We have a huge support network here, but for many good reasons, none of the people we’re related to could watch the babies for four days. I have some close friends with similarly aged kids who my kids are comfortable with. Nope. Failure was not an option, but it was looking pretty inevitable.

Under all of this (and some other things, both significant and otherwise), my emotions and body were on a kind of high-alert. I was crying or getting mad or debilitatingly anxious for almost nothing. It was like PMS on crack… except it wasn’t. I have no real reasons for this, hormonal or otherwise. Just a hope that it eases up before I get on an airplane tomorrow. 

So why in the world am I blogging about this at seven in the morning?

The purpose of this blog is partly to process stuff (hello, free therapy!) and largely to find and declare God’s grace in the ins and outs of my life. So I’m hunting for evidence of grace.

Out of James:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials <span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”>of various kinds, for you know that <span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”>the testing of your faith <span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(D)”>produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be <span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(E)”>perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

I’m supposed to be counting this joy. I’ll be honest… Jesus saved me when I was three. I bet I learned this verse probably by the time I was 10. So in two decades of knowing I am supposed to do this, I am still not terribly good at it. OK, not really good at all. 

But I am good at counting.

So why don’t we start with that? I’ll keep it to numbers I can reach on my fingers.

1. We did, after several days, find someone we trust to watch the girls.

2. The fact that it took so much frustration (and tears. So many tears.) means that I was taking it for granted. I need to know that. 

Again, out of James,

“Come now, you who say, <span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(V)”>“Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For <span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(W)”>you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, <span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(X)”>“If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. <span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(Y)”>All such boasting is evil.”

I don’t usually see myself as the type of arrogant or entitled that assumes things are just going to work out exactly the way I want them to. But sometimes it sneaks in anyway, and it’s a good thing to see it, so I can look at it correctly.

3.  Little trials prepare me for bigger ones.

Before David killed Goliath, there was a lion and a bear. (here.) On a very, very small scale, this is that. This week, it looks like enduring a few days of frustration over childcare, seeing God is faithful to take care of us, and using that as ammunition against my anxieties over travel logistics. (You know, like all His faithfulness before that should’ve been used to combat my anxiety over the childcare thing? Yeah. I should mention there are a lot of things I’m not good at.)

4. Steadfastness.

I like the idea of steadfastness. I need steadfastness. Especially this week. And these “trials of various kinds” produce that. 



And then there were all the little bits of grace, mostly unrelated to these struggles…

My husband showed me a lot of compassion when I specifically didn’t deserve it.

It’s getting light in the morning. There’s this gorgeous pastel sunrise I can see out my window.I’d take a picture for you, but the camera’s packed.

Coffee and breakfast quinoa.

A new squishy nephew that I get to hold pretty much daily.

So many songs. Music has an ability to calm and refocus me.

A chance to cuddle with Baby K last night. 

Little J sat through church yesterday, even though it ran 50% longer than usual. (Well, “sat” may be a little generous, but I didn’t need to take her out.) 

A spontaneous visit with my sister-in-law and her little dude that gave she and I a chance to talk the fast, fragmented, funny way moms do and gave us all a break from routine.

A Saturday trip to the playground with the girls in the sled. (I joined them halfway through, because my sweet husband took them by himself to give me a few minutes of quiet.)


All of these “little” graces remind me He his here. He sees. He sees my crazy, my still-don’t have-anything-down-yet, my tired, my stressed. It matters to Him. He didn’t leave me alone. And He won’t. And there will be more little graces (and some big ones!) today and tomorrow and the day after that. 



Present

Present.

You know the thing a lot of people have started doing recently, where instead of focusing on New Year’s goals and resolutions, they chose a single word to be the focus of their year? Well… I didn’t set out to do that. But I did all of my New Year’s-type goal stuff while we were on vacation in January, and that’s just kind of how it settled out. I had something like 75 divergent and nonspecific goals, but one word kept coming to mind. And I know it’s almost March. Believe me, I feel every ounce as silly as I should to be writing about my “2014 word” almost 1/6 of the way through the year. But stuff keeps coming up. And, I mean, the impact of it is supposed  to be evident all year long, so here we are. 

So…

Present. 

(as in me.)

I want to be present. In my body and my life. I know I can’t be the only one who is almost never here. I find myself living my days on autopilot. Which is kind of dumb, because my life is pretty awesome. I have been blessed beyond measure. My husband, my little girls, an amazing support network of friends and extended family, a healthy body… I think this morning’s blessings in my little “thankful journal” passed 1400. And that’s just the small handful a day I think to write down. 

But still. 

Get up. Girls up. Breakfast. Laundry. Eleventy-billion rounds of disciplining smart and fairly willful toddlers. Figure out what I’m making to eat this week. Take said (smart, willful) toddlers to the store. (Aack!) In and out of car seats. The never-ending negotiation that is nap time. Finally my favorite man ever gets home. Dinner. You get the idea. This is, give or take, every day. I’m not complaining, but do you see how it might be easy to do? To (at best) go on autopilot or (at… not best) kind of run away? I mean mentally. Like, with my phone. Or just getting lost in my scheming about how to finish all the things most efficiently. And it’s not just the stay-at-home-mom-of-toddlers thing. My life has always kind of involved some sort of oft-used mental escape hatch. Oh, sometimes it looks like I’m leaning into it all, but hours of to-do listing is still not the same thing as inhabiting. Abiding. 

So this year, I’m trying to feel what is going on in my body. I want to see the world around me. Use my senses. Spend more time being mindful and less time (a lot less) numbing out on Facebook and Candy Crush because I’m kind of stressed. 

This comes with some downsides. 

For one, it’s a lot easier to numb when I’m stressed than it is to actually find something useful to do with or about it. 

Also? This:


How is this a downside? It’s not, in and of itself. I love that I see more… this. But these are a few pictures from our vacation. And none of my pictures ever capture fully what I saw. Can I just tell you that there were many days that I nearly wept at my inability to absorb all of it? I just kept thinking of a line from the Rich Mullins song, “Here in America”“There’s so much beauty around us, but just two eyes to see, but everywhere I go, I’m looking.” Stuff like that happens when I choose to be present. It’s a bizarre anxiety. Near panic sometimes, in fact. 

And it’s not just when I get away in some gorgeous tropical location, either. This one is just ice that formed on the rail of our front deck.


When I start being here, present and open to the beauty around me, it gets a touch overwhelming. Sometimes autopilot seems a lot easier. Less awesome, but certainly easier.

So that’s what I thought this “present” thing was going to be about this year. 
Being here. Sensing the world around me. Paying attention to the people around me. Feeling my feelings, rather than finding ways to feel something else unrelated. (Eating. Facebook. Whatever.)

But then the more I kick the word around, the more I think of all the other things it means.

Present.

(as in gift.)

This year, I want to pay a lot of attention to the gifts I’ve been given. I want to start seeing blessings in the mundane and in the difficult. If 2013 had had a word, it would have been “grateful.” This reminds me that I’m not done with that. Thanking God for the gifts he’s given me isn’t something I can get and then move on to other things. 

Present.

(preeZENT, rather than PREHzint- as in put forth, bestow, give.)

I’ve been kind of hiding out the last couple years. Part of it is babies- I have so much immediate and urgent to focus on that I don’t put that much of myself out. But part of it is kind of self-focused laziness. I don’t look for opportunities to serve. (I mean, outside of my house. Because there is a LOT of serving that happens inside it.) Because I’m tired. And I haven’t been connecting well with women around me (despite the fact that I LOVE connecting with women around me) simply because I’m so focused on my little world that I hardly even see them. And I would very much like to change that. 

Also? I’m looking forward to using my gifts more intentionally and paying attention to the things God has placed in my heart and mind, so that I can give of my self a little more (and a little more usefully.) 

Present.

(as in Him.)

This is quite possibly the most important one. I’ve known from childhood that God is omnipresent. He is The God Who Hears. He is Emmanuel: God with us. I tell my kids that Jesus is always with them. We talk to Him in the car to thank Him for the pretty sunrise. I talk to Him on and off throughout my day. But somehow, presence has escaped me. I mean, I act like He’s here with me, but I don’t think about it in the same way (or with the same frequency) that I would if I actually believed it to be true. For instance, when my husband is home, I am aware of him. Pretty much constantly. Most of the things I do or think about doing run through the filter of “He’s home. How does this affect him or how does he affect this?” The fact that Jesus is actually present comes with no such filter. His presence hasn’t made its way into my worldview yet. Or something. I am hoping and praying that, by the end of the year, that has changed.

I’ll be honest… When I came home with a word this year instead of action steps, I was a little disappointed. I mean, I love crossing stuff off of lists. (Who doesn’t?) This does not exactly get crossed off, and that bummed me out. Also, I was worried that the discipline of bringing my focus back to a word (and my head back to my life) wouldn’t really… challenge me? Change me? I really hated the idea that December might find me basically the same as January, save, perhaps, for this one little area. 

Safe to say I’m not so worried about that anymore.

Valentine’s Day thoughts…

Aw, look! Tiny toons version of us! 

So… Valentine’s day is about here.

I know. I’m not much for the holiday, either. I thought of it as Singles Awareness Day all through high school and college, because, seriously? How much does it suck to be in a public high school on Valentine’s Day when you don’t date? It’s so… dumb. 

Anyway, then I got married. And neither of us are big holiday people. This Friday marks our tenth Valentine’s day as a couple, and we’ve never made it a huge thing. (One notable exception: the time he surprised me and took me to the B&B we stayed in after our wedding! A million points to him!) One year, I decided we’d celebrate a month late, to take advantage of clearance stuff, because who really cares if you celebrate a month late? (Pi day cares, that’s who! 3-14 should be for pies. Not gross candy hearts.) He forgot. Because who does that?!? He didn’t even have the stores shouting, “IT’S VALENTINE’S DAY!!!” at him in girly colors anymore. 

But here’s the thing… Even though I said I didn’t care, and even though I didn’t make a huge deal about it when I got him a card and he didn’t get me one, or he only got me a card, but not flowers, I was still buying in. Oh, I told myself I wasn’t. I looked around at all the ladies who had these huge, unattainable expectations for their husbands and thought, That’s really not fair. Your husband is nice all year long, and he *only* gets you a card and dinner and flowers and you’re mad that he didn’t get you jewelry? Or a pony? Cut the poor guy some slack. One day can’t count more than the other 364.  But still, somewhere, I hoped for a card and flowers. And maybe a night out, or even (gasp!) away. And, eight out of the nine times we’ve done this, it didn’t really happen. Or didn’t quite happen like I’d hoped.

I was just a little disappointed. No, really. Like a watermelon seed-sized little disappointment. But when you swallow teeny disappointments, they tend to grow. (Well, when I swallow them, that’s what happens, anyway.) (Did you ever get told when you swallowed a watermelon seed or an orange seed or whatever that it’d grow into a plant in your belly? Scary.) In my head and heart, teeny disappointments go like this: I have some expectation in some random, non-essential area of life. I don’t voice it to him, it just sits there, unquestioned. He doesn’t meet it, because he never knew it was there. I shrug it off and move on with life. But there’s this little stash somewhere of these little things and at some point, he says or does something, and they all dump out on me, and I respond to him from under this pile of little disappointments. They become evidence that he really doesn’t like me like I wish he did. Or he really does think I suck. He doesn’t really care that much after all.

The poor man doesn’t even know what hit him. He just walked into the kitchen and shut a couple cabinet doors, and I’m in tears or angry (or both) because Every. Single. Thing.  Because he didn’t remember we’d agreed six years ago in January to celebrate Valentine’s day on March 14. Or he didn’t know you could buy a Mother’s Day card for your wife who doesn’t have any babies yet, except for the kidney-bean sized one in her belly. And he really doesn’t care, and how can he not notice all the hard work I do around here, but still be bothered by open cabinet doors?!? 

So I’ve read a few blog posts this week about Valentine’s day. Good ones. About taking your unfulfilled hopes to God and handling the Valentine’s Day hangover on the 15th. But I’m hoping to more or less avoid all the sad, and here’s my thought… 

People seem to know that the fun of Christmas presents is more in the giving in receiving, right? I mean, a lot of people get that. Not all of them. But a lot. Where do we get the idea that Valentine’s day is about men spending 50% more than full price on flowers and dinner to make their wives feel loved? 

So my plan for Friday is to love my family as well as I can. To show them in extra special ways that I adore them. To bless my husband, and just enjoy that. (There may be muffins and Peachie-O’s involved, which is safe for me to say, because I’m reasonably sure he won’t see this between now and then.) (These are Peachie-O’s, if you’re not familiar.) I do have great expectations for this Valentine’s Day, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be swallowing any little disappointments, because loving my family is always a safe bet. (Also? Peachie-O’s. Always a safe bet. Well, if you’re married to my husband, anyhow.)

I’m hoping that this Valentine’s day, I can give grace to my husband like I’ve received it. And that I can receive love from him (whether it comes in the form of a card, flowers, clean dishes, or a pony) with gratefulness. 

grace enough: The First Post

Hey! Check it out, I’m blogging. Because the world was short one of those. Pretty sure the internet is complete now, you’re welcome. 

Um… Sure. 

So I’ve had this blog for a little bit now, but have been putting off The First Post because, well… it’s The First Post. And conditions must be right. It has to be awesome. And I have to have time and be relatively rested and inspired and my kids have to be down and… yeah right. 

So instead of that, I’ll just go for it. And it’ll probably be a little rough. I’ll hit “Publish” and then immediately come up with a bunch of things I should have said more or less or better.

Basically, I want to tell you (whoever you are) (Mom?) what I’m here for (online, not existentially.) Actually, I’d mostly like to tell me what I’m here for. I don’t have a great deal of wisdom to share. No super crafting ideas or recipes. Nothing at all worth a Pin, most likely. But here’s the thing… I have this crazy, mundane, clumsy, grace-full life. And I don’t want to live it in an unexamined way. I process things by writing, and this gives me incentive to document and process life in a coherent way. I mean, of course I own a pen and a journal. But that gets… rambly. Actually, this is getting rambly, too, but my journal barely even makes sense to me and I was there. So my hope is to write things. About my life. That make sense. And maybe, just maybe, God will use some part of my story to encourage you in yours. 



(Here’s a pretty picture I took. Because Real Blogs have pictures. And because God made winter lovely and it is totally unappreciated.)



(about the title…)
About a year ago, I started keeping a “thankful journal.” (Thanks, Ann Voskamp!) (Look! I just did a linky thing!) Anyway, listing out things for which I am thankful has changed my life some and changed the way I look at my life a lot. I am now on the lookout for the little gifts God is giving me in the mundane parts of my life… turns out, those gifts are all over the place. And then several weeks ago, there was a stretch that seemed to be tougher than most. Nothing crazy, just normal stuff. No sleep, busy schedule, crazy toddlers. But for some reason, it was taking MONUMENTAL EFFORT. And every day, I thanked God for grace enough to get through it. Either at the start of the day for yesterday’s grace or for today’s that I knew was coming, I thanked Him. And it was always there. Then I looked back over the week and saw “grace enough…” over and over, and there it was. 

So this blog is about my life. But really it’s about His grace in my life. In little and big ways, it’s all over the place, and I want to find it.