grace in ridiculousness

(photo credit: Jenna. Because 5-year-old photography is a thing.)

I got a steroid injection in my wrist today. Eventually, it should help with a bunch of issues I’ve had recently. Initially, though… there’s a numbing agent and a lot of extra fluid placed in an area that’s already compressed.

Translation: my right hand (the dominant one) is basically useless for a couple days.

The problems with this are plentiful and obvious. (Have you ever tried to buckle a carseat or change a diaper with only your non-dominant hand and dominant pinky?) (Has anyone ever written the words “dominant pinky” before?)

But, as I try to do when I’m paying attention, I’d like to look for the grace with you.

Yesterday, we talked a bit about how the novelty of travel forces me to be more present and notice ordinary lovely things around me that I otherwise miss.

Today, I realize that compensating for a temporarily out-of-commission hand has basically the same effect.

When was the last time I paid any attention at all to the diapering process? I have no idea. I barely even notice it anymore. (Which is how the baby and toddler wind up wearing each other’s diapers periodically. Whatever.) But I’m paying attention today! And that’s grace. There are gifts that I’ve been missing while I change my babies’ diapers… smiles and kicks that I haven’t seen because I’m working from muscle memory and my brain is not engaged.

And that’s how my whole day is going. Dishes, picking up my kids, opening doors, opening sippy cups, anything that requires, I don’t know, my hands I’m now paying attention to all of it.

Honestly? Being present in every task that I normally rely on muscle memory to accomplish is exhausting. 

I’m glad it’s a temporary thing.

But even so, it’s really important to me to pay attention and receive the gifts that He gives, even (especially) on days where things feel a little ridiculous and I can’t easily brush my teeth.


Signing off now, because typing is hard.

What gifts do you find on challenging days?



This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. Or, you know, lots of days in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

traveling for its own sake

My whole adult life, if you’d asked me whether or not I like travel, I’d have told you no.

No, I’m really more of a homebody.

No… I like visiting people, but the travel part doesn’t really appeal; it’s more a means to an end.

No, I don’t have any big itch to see all the interesting places people put on their bucket list. I’m sure I’d enjoy seeing interesting, beautiful, or historic places, but I don’t have any particular drive to do so.

I would have been lying.

Oh, I thought it was true. I am a homebody and I don’t have a travel itch, but there’s something about going someplace I haven’t been.

Andrew and I took a trip to Tennessee in August with 5-week-old Lilly. I’ve been to Tennessee before, but it’s been roughly 20 years.

I was astounded.

The trees look different than the trees back home.

The air certainly felt different than the air at home.

There was a 3-inch bright green mantis sitting on our red rental car when we got it. That never happens at home.

They use brick in Tennessee. For lots of good reasos, we don’t use brick at home. It was gorgeous.

The one afternoon we were free to wander, I ran around with my camera taking pictures of nothing special. Spiderwebs, pinecones, bricks, clocks, flowers,  anything. It was 90 degrees and 90% humidity and I had a 5-week-old tied to my body with five yards of thick cotton knit.

 

My alaskan body was tremendously uncomfortable.

My heart was delighted.

As I wandered about with my best friend in all the world, shooting and sweating, I realized I do like travel. All on its own. Not for any fascinating destinations or bucket-list experiences.

Travel gets me out of my rut just enough that I’m naturally present, without having to work at it.

I notice all the pretty little things. They’re not necessarily things that would be noteworthy to the locals, but rather the lovely ordinary.

As I consider it, I think that the travel itself, while nice, isn’t strictly necessary for this.

The lovely ordinary is all over, even at home and in my rut.

Time to pay attention.


This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. Or, you know, lots of days in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

voting and revisiting Tozer

I voted today.

I VOTED TODAY.

Do you guys know what that means? I can ignore any and every post on the election for the next couple weeks. Hallelujah.

It also means that my one small piece of influence over this whole embarrassing, ugly train wreck of an election has been utilized and it’s fully out of my hands. (Well, I mean, I live in Alaska and the election results are always announced when polls close on the west coast—before ours do—so my influence was indeed negligible. But anyway. Yay, ‘Merica. I voted.)

As we come in on the home stretch of this dumpster fire, can I just remind you again of something? While everyone is trying to convince you to vote for someone or against someone else and if this goes wrong (and how could it not?) the whole nation is going to hell in a hand basket…

God is still God.

I know you know that. But I feel like in a lot of practical ways, we (Jesus-lovers in the US) have forgotten it. I know I lose sight of it from time to time- things can feel a little bleak.

But this is where we are, and His grace meets us here.

People can see us. You know that, right? And as we all FLIP OUT over candidates and policies and platforms, it reveals whether we really trust in a God we say is sovereign. As Max Lucado so kindly pointed out, come November 9, God will still be God.

I’ll leave you with this thought yet again (because Tozer is smart):

God’s sovereignty means that if there’s anybody in this wide world of sinful men that should be restful and peaceful in an hour like this, it should be Christians. We should not be under the burden of apprehension and worry because we are the children of a God who is always free to do as He pleases. There is not one rope or chain or hindrance upon him, because he is absolutely sovereign.

-AW Tozer

For my friends who love Jesus: let’s hold on to the peace that comes with the knowledge that, regardless of what happens in November, God remains on His throne.


This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. Or, you know, lots of days in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

I’m not the body image lady

(photo credit: 3-year-old Jenna. Because if I have a genuine smile for a camera, it’s probably because my baby is holding it. Otherwise, I don’t really feel like having myself captured on camera.)

I have some issues with attention.

I vacillate internally between hiding and full-on diva.

Every time I hit “publish” here, I’m absolutely terrified that nobody will notice or care. At the same time, I’m equally afraid that people will. “Look at me! Look at me! NO DON’T LOOK AT ME! STOP IT!!!”

Like I said. Issues.

So when I have a post that resonates strongly, the inside of my head gets a little noisy. Part of me wants to run away and hide, or at least go back to my normal 15 readers (most of whom I know) and then there’s an attention whore part that’s yelling do it again! and trying to figure out if I can be the person who writes on the popular topic all. the. time.

It’s always the body image posts. Clearly the world needs people speaking positively into that area.

That person isn’t me.

Because that sounds dreadfully boring, writing one topic all the time.

Also? I suck at body image.

I mean, I can totally talk about thinking kindly about our bodies. And sometimes I can even do it. But a lot of days, maybe most, I’m just not that good at it.

I see my weird postpartum apron (you know- the saggy part where my belly deflated) and cringe.

I see the frowny lines between my eyebrows and think,  “yikes, I’m developing grumpy old lady wrinkles! I want smile lines, not grouchy lines!” 

I step on the scale and see a number I’d be happy to cut in half. (Ok, that’s a lie. I understand that if I actually cut my weight by half, I’d be a very sick woman. But half my weight is a pretty reasonable number for someone just a tad shorter.)

I look at cute clothes at stores and think “I should try that!” followed immediately by, “Nope, there’s zero chance that’d work on my body… if they even have a size that fits.”

I’m frequently tempted by self-abusive diets or exercise regimens.

Now, before you stage an intervention or shower me with reassuring compliments, I should point out that I know.

I know I need to focus on health, not externals.

I need to look for the things about my body that I like. My eyes, for instance. Two of my beautiful babies have those, and I’ve never been more grateful for brown eyes.

I really do mean to pay more attention to what my body has done for me rather than what I wish it looked like.

I get that I need to be grateful for a relatively healthy body that carries me (and a lot of kids) from place to place with minimal complaint.

I understand (weird as this one sounds) that I need to think of my body as her rather than it because I would never talk about—or even think about—another woman the way I’m tempted to think about my body when I forget that it actually contains me.

Sometimes I’m good with all of it.

And sometimes? I’m just not.

I need you guys to know that I’m not the body image lady. I can’t ever be that person. I’m way too in-process to be that.

But I also want you to understand that there really is still grace enough for the crappy fat days. This isn’t where I want to live and certainly not where I want you (or, heaven forbid, my girls) to stay, but when we land there for a bit, it’s going to be okay. We’re all here sometimes.


This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. Or, you know, lots of days in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

reclaiming quiet

I love mornings.

I hate getting up in the morning, but I love the quiet and the opportunity to get the day off to the best possible start.

For a long time, I had a totally awesome morning routine. It was even my first minigoal. I’d get up and do a bunch of personal and household tasks that are just harder to accomplish once I have all the little folks clamoring for my attention. I took my vitamins, put away dishes, read the Bible, wrote in my gratitude journal… it was amazing.

But then third trimester happened. 

And really, is anything awesome in third trimester? No. And I’d like to be awake for as little of that as possible. Not that I can sleep.

Anyway, I stopped getting up early. And really, I can’t blame myself.

And then Baby Lilly happened. 

She’s ever-so-much more delightful than third trimester, but… newborns. So I continued to sleep basically as late as possible before my big girls started getting into mischief. It’s super hard to volunteer an hour and a half of sleep every morning when the total is already plenty under six most of the time.


It’s Saturday.

In our house, that’s the weekly family holiday known as Daddyday. Currently, it’s nap time for the little two, and Andrew took the big two on a Big Adventure. (Read: Sam’s Club. With samples.)  My house is quiet. (Bless my sweet husband who does this a lot on the weekends.)

I frequently suffer from what one writer friend called “relaxation anxiety.” There are so many options… Do I nap? Read? Write? Get chores done so my  house is less cluttered and stressful? Gah!

Today, rather than my typical chores or nap, I opted to alternate between household and personal tasks. So I read a chapter, then did the dishes, then devotions, then wrote a thank you note. Now I write; next is laundry folding. It’s all very exciting, you see. If the small two stay down long enough, perhaps I’ll get a toilet clean! (Not holding my breath.) 


As I sat down to do devotions, it struck me how much I like reading the Bible and a house where nobody is awake to talk to me. I felt… wistful? Nostalgic?

I miss it.

And then I realized that, for the most part, it hasn’t happened in six months. That’s half a year where “quiet time” is interrupted by requests for rubber bands or chopsticks or heaven know what else. On the nights I am awake and alone after the kids go to bed, well, Murphy’s law demands that they aren’t actually going to bed very well. And if they do, I’m shot from the day and zoning out reading random stuff on facebook. Or if I’m not, I am madly scrambling to get all the chores done so I don’t wake up to disaster tomorrow.

Andrew and I swap “process nights” (side note- I highly recommend this practice if you have kids and it’s at all feasible- basically we give each other one night off a week to do whatever is good for our brains and hearts away from the responsibilities of putting kids to bed) and it’s indispensable, but serves a whole other function and, since it’s at bedtime, it never involves a quiet house to myself, anyhow. (Pre-Lilly, it was usually a trip to dinner with a book or a laptop and journal. Now it’s hiding in my room with the baby while Andrew puts the big three to bed.)


I’m tired of starting the day feeling behind already.

I’m tired of trying to communicate with God over the chatter of little kids.

I’m really, really tired of the grouchiness brought on by both of those things. (I’m pretty sure my husband and kids are, too.)

It’s time to get some quiet back.

My choices are early mornings or nap times. I think I’m going to try for both, in hopes of getting at least some quiet. Mornings have the obvious challenge of getting out of bed; finding quiet in the afternoon requires some expert-level parenting, probably for a week before we get very much quiet at all, so… probably harder than getting out of bed.

For me, it’s a matter of getting margin by practicing discipline, which takes margin.

It’s a hard cycle to start, but I think, for me, starting it might be easier than not starting at this point.


Do you have any tricks for finding quiet space in your days? I’d love to hear them!



This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. Or, you know, lots of days in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

they draw me smiling

(photo credit: Sarah Lewis)


I’m not the Super Fun Mom.

I am not, in fact, a super smily mom.

I’m super sensitive, easily overwhelmed, and have, in the last couple of years, been prone to depression and anxiety in ways I haven’t dealt with since before my oldest was born. I am pretty much winging it here.

I pray a lot.

I try really hard.

And a lot of times, I’m still just not that good at it.

My target is always “calm, compassionate, consistent.” But I fall short of that all. the. time. I’m forever apologizing to my kids.

My oldest gets the brunt of this. Jenna’s amazing and kind and lovely. She’s also so much like me. Because we’re so similar, her tendencies irritate me much more quickly than, say, her little sister. (Katherine is so very much like her dad, and he tends to have just a little less patience for her, not so surprisingly.) So I frequently find myself examining my own heart (unfortunately after I’ve acted) and finding my selfishness and irritability hurt my sweet girl. Again. So… another chance to model apology! Hooray!

It’s okay. God is making me and my kids into the people He wants us to be. I’m growing and stuff. (Yay.) But sometimes I’m discouraged by how hard it is to be the mama I want to be.


You know where I’m finding grace in this fight?

The girls’ artwork.

They’re forever drawing us, or random representations of us. (“Look, mom! We’re all fairies!” …or jack-o-lanterns, caterpillars, butterflies, flowers, or cats.) My life is a constant fight to figure out which drawings are going to be important and which I can bury in the trash ASAP, which sounds awful, but we’re talking dozens some days. It’s a lot of paper, and I can’t save or display it all.

And in every single picture they draw that contains me?

I’m smiling.

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(This isn’t the only way they know how to draw faces. They draw mad people. Just not mad people in our family.) 

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This is so encouraging to my heart. I’m praying this is what they remember. That, rather than all the times I screw up (which seem so prevalent to me), they see that I love them and they delight me. That they look back and see the lovely.

I’m praying that His grace covers my (myriad) mistakes.


This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. Or, you know, lots of days in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

homeschooling so far

And now for something completely different…

That’s my girls’ actual first day of school picture.

We started homeschooling this year. The littlest was about six weeks old, and I started doing kindergarten work with both the big girls. (They’re 4 and 5.) I knew going in that I was going to be the biggest slacker homeschool mama ever because, well, I’m new, and it’s kindergarten, and I just had a baby.

I wasn’t wrong. 

I grew up in a homeschooling family with a trained elementary teacher as a mom. The bulk of my current experience with it has been through a best friend who home schools and is also trained as an elementary school teacher.

I am not an elementary school teacher.

I subbed in elementary schools for a bit. Subbing was fun. (ish.) But I can’t really imagine teaching elementary school for a living. (God bless the elementary teachers.)

So I knew that my kids’ schooling experience was going to look a little different from the homeschooling I’m familiar with. But I didn’t really know what it should look like. I live in Alaska where homeschooling is a pretty normal choice, so I asked some of the many moms I know who do this and joined a facebook group and, well, I’m making it up as I go.

My life still doesn’t look a lot like my perception of the other homeschool mamas. And I’m not sure I’m doing it right. But I’ll share how we’ve started anyway, because I really needed to see lots of different approaches, and maybe you do as well.

So here’s my version of homeschooling kindergarten. So far. (It’s been six weeks. So the jury is still out.)

I bring you: The okayest homeschooling routine ever!

We start the day with oatmeal.

Well, I say that. But really, we do math first. It’s Right Start math, and it’s heavy on manipulatives and activities. They actually just did their first real worksheet this morning, which is fortuitous, because work samples are due this week. Anyway, it takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes if they’re cooperative. And when they’re done, they get to play with the abacus! Hooray! While they do that, I get the toddler out of bed (and, since we’re being honest, he’s certainly leaked through his diaper, so I rinse him off and toss his bedding in the laundry) and I warm up their oatmeal. Baby Lilly could be anywhere at this point. Sleeping? On the floor? In the wrap? Who knows? We’re working toward routine, but haven’t really found our groove yet.

My kids are unaware that I know how to make breakfast foods that aren’t oatmeal. They make choices all day. And by “they,” I mean “I.” have to lay out choices and talk them through making them. And breakfast is just too. darn. early. So it’s oatmeal. I started making it in the crock pot since we started “school.” (“School” gets air quotes.) I make a huge batch, then throw it all in the fridge. In the morning, I scoop it out and heat it up. Done. Ain’t nobody got time to get into philosophical discussions about breakfast with a 4- and 5-year-old.

Once the oatmeal is done, but before Brian the Toddler gets out of jail (or his high chair which is now, along with his hair, covered in oatmeal), we crank through phonics. The curriculum I picked has handwriting and phonics together, and there’s another 15 or so minutes of that. Katherine (the 4-year-old) doesn’t have the focus or the fine motor control to do the handwriting part especially well, but we muddle through it. She’ll pick it up.

(This is a pillar of my current schooling approach. I’m doing kindergarten ONCE with the girls. Katherine is 17 months behind Jenna, so she doesn’t get the material as fully or as quickly as her sister, nor does she have the attention for it—because of her age and her personality—but I’m not going to sweat it. She’ll learn to read. And if she doesn’t do that this year? Well, she’s FOUR.) 

At this point, we’re done. Yeah. I’m serious. We’ve done half an hour of school. It’s not ten yet. Nobody has left the breakfast table. (Brian may still be covered in oatmeal. He might even still smell like pee.) But that’s it.

Sort of. We go on about our morning, make it through feeding the baby and discipline stuff and lunch and whatever. Once the little two go down in the afternoon, we do some strategic reading. I have a pretty rad collection of really pretty story books. We made it through Aesop’s Fables, we’re into Grimm’s Fairytales, working our way towards Dickens and Shakespeare. (Again, yes. I’m serious. Dickens and Shakespeare are, in fact, next up. The kid versions, anyhow.I read some sciencey stuff. If I’m super on top of it, I remember to grab their respective AWANA books and we do verses.

And that’s it. Really.

And that’s on days when we don’t have morning commitments. So three mornings a week, this is the plan.

And by “plan,” I mean “hope.”

Some days the whole thing gets scrapped in favor of “character training.” Because I don’t really care if they’re reading or adding this year if they’re little hooligans. So if we have to, we spend all morning (day) on discipline.

Really? Some of this gets done. Most days.

Six weeks ago, it ate 100% of my time and attention all day to do half an hour of “real school” and some strategic reading. It’s gotten easier. I feel like I can be a person again, at least kind of. (KIND OF a person. That’s all I can manage with the addition of maybe a total of 90 minutes of work with the read-alouds. I’m not sure how “real” homeschool mamas pull this off.) 

But anyway, that’s what it looks like so far. Don’t do it this way. Leastwise not on my recommendation. I don’t have any evidence that it works at all. And even if my kids do learn to read, it’s probably not an indication of my awesome teaching so much as the fact that they just want to read. So whatever. This is what I can manage right now, and, at least for now, it seems like it’s enough.


This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. Or, you know, lots of days in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

owning who you are

I had kind of a weird experience today. For a bunch of logistical reasons, today was the day that I made a facebook page for the blog. It’s not a huge big deal. It’s a facebook page. But I had to pick what kind of page it was, what kind of work I do.

So there’s a facebook page that proudly says “Robin D Chapman|Writer.”

This isn’t even really about that. The thing is, it’s really uncomfortable to assign myself the title of “writer.” Why is that so hard? This is part of who I am. It’s a thing God’s given me that makes me come alive. That’s a good thing. But throwing it out there as part of my identity feels…

Vulnerable.

That’s what that is.

I think (and I could be wrong- I’m coming up with this on the fly) that perhaps the more core something is, the harder it may be to identify yourself that way.

I’m a mom. That’s my job description. But at the core of me? I nurture souls. I teach my babies how to be people. It’s somehow by the grace of God and in His strength, my job to lead them in following Him. All of that? Much scarier and more intimidating than “Mom.” I mean, you could argue that it’s contained in the word “mom,” but I’m not convinced that’s true. There are a lot of people who are moms that don’t necessarily have that set of things as goals.

When I state the core part of my “mom” job, it opens me-the core of me-up to scrutiny. “Mom” means so many things. For the most part, it seems to imply an endless list of practical tasks. If you imply that I’m doing a crappy job as a mom, it stings, but I can shrug it off as a difference of values. Maybe your criticism comes from the fact that your values for parenting are different than mine. But if I actually lay out those values, well… then I’m accountable to them.

Likewise, I can say I’m Andrew’s wife, and that can mean the most mundane things. Owning the values of respecting him, supporting him, loving him, helping him become the person God made him to be? Even just typing it makes me cringe a little. Not that those values are so unusual, necessarily, but it doesn’t seem like a lot of people are explicit about them.

And when I say I have a blog, that’s fine. When I say I’m a writer? That opens up a little corner of my soul, possibly for public comment.

When I say I am a Christian, I am identifying with a big group of people with a variety of beliefs and practices. When I say I’m a sinner saved by grace, trying (often failing) to obey God and be who He made me… well, some of you are nodding along, because we share values. But there’s a set of you reading who are kind of writing me off as a weirdo. My church attendance, you could handle. But when I start talking about truly believing it and trying to live it as who I am? Weird. And I don’t really want you to think I’m weird, and it feels awkward to just say it.

Talking about what we do is easy. Talking about who we are is terrifying.

Talking about what we do is safe.

Sharing who we are is… well… not. But that’s how authenticity is. Let’s do that.


This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

wide open

This week busted me open.

Wide open.

On one day, there was rage over injustice in one tragedy and celebration over a major victory, and then there was a loss. Oh, the loss.

I lost a sweet nephew before he was due to arrive (but not by much) and I have no words about that just now, only all the feelings. And it’s not even primarily my tragedy, so I’m aware my feelings, whatever their volume, are just a reflection of the feelings of his parents and sisters, not equal to them.

(Please pray for my people as the Lord brings them to mind.) 

Saturday, my kind and wise husband talked me into going for a family walk. And bringing my camera.

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You guys, that was what I needed.

Nothing was fixed. I forgot, in the sub-freezing temps, to bring my two-month-old a hat. Eventually, she borrowed her sister’s. I realized my 1-year-old doesn’t have a proper coat. In Alaska. No proper coat. Must fix that ASAP. He has a vest and a very cute hat. The girls wore ridiculous dresses for wandering, and we didn’t bring them gloves. Katherine threw her daddy’s gloves carelessly over the side of a bridge, just because she was done with them. (Because Katherine.) At the end, an unnamed daughter dropped my camera and busted the lens. (My husband took it apart and fixed it today with his Leatherman. Because of course he did.)

But going out in creation with an eye toward finding lovely things to capture? That was good for this heart.

I needed to remember in practical ways (not just theoretical ones) that God is big. He made all the beautiful things. He’s still in control, whatever is swirling around me. It doesn’t heal the intense grief, but reminds me, in a visceral way, just how good our God is. The God who makes a world where there are swirls and bubbles in ice in a pond is certainly capable of holding the people I love who are hurting right now.

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I have a friend who’s on Instagram all the time sharing beauty and talking about how good it is for us to find it (even more healing to look for it)… She’s onto something.

Beauty.
Gratitude.
Worship.

Jesus.

That’s what’s getting me through this week.


This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

faith to be strong

Hey, you guys.

Today has been a hard day and my heart is completely dizzy from a range of emotions from a whole bunch of different things and I simply have no words. So I’m going to share someone else’s words.

I’ve shared Andrew Peterson’s music before. His music is figuring pretty prominently in my life now (as usual) and this is stuck in my head and heart as a prayer tonight.

Give us faith to be strong
Father, we are so weak
Our bodies are fragile and weary
As we stagger and stumble to walk where you lead
Give us faith to be strong

Give us faith to be strong
Give us strength to be faithful
This life is not long, but it’s hard
Give us grace to go on
Make us willing and able
Lord, give us faith to be strong

Give us peace when we’re torn
Mend us up when we break
This flesh can be wounded and shaking
When there’s much too much trouble for one heart to take
Give us peace when we’re torn

Give us faith to be strong
Give us strength to be faithful
This life is not long, but it’s hard
Give us grace to go on
Make us willing and able
Lord, give us faith to be strong

Give us hearts to find hope
Father, we cannot see
How the sorrow we feel can bring freedom
And as hard as we try, Lord, it’s hard to believe
So, give us hearts to find hope

Give us faith to be strong
Give us strength to be faithful
This life is not long, but it’s hard
Give us grace to go on
Make us willing and able
Lord, give us faith to be strong
Give us peace when we’re torn
Give us faith, faith to be strong


This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.