love letter to a three-year-old

Hey, Baby K.

You’re three!

This is the part where I exclaim, “I can’t believe you’re three!” except… I totally can. You don’t seem very two to me anymore. I mean, there are a lot of moments where I can still see the baby in you, but you’re less and less of a toddler and more and more of a preschooler. Three is a big year. You’ve said repeatedly, “I’m gonna grow to a hundred and then I’ll go to Cubbies with Jenna!” Well, you don’t have to grow to a hundred. This is the year! You get to go to Cubbies! And to swim lessons! We may start a little bit of school stuff, too. Just for fun.

You fascinate me, little girl. You’re such a mix of extremes. I mean, there’s the expected mix of baby and big girl going on… you chatter on about all kinds of things like a big girl would, using some huge words, but you still have a lot of your baby sounds. (My current favorites are “polliwog” and “authority.” I’m sorry you’re a little annoyed that I keep asking who has authority over polliwogs. It’s just so darn cute to hear you say, “Powwywogs have afoditty ovo demthelf!”)

You’re really a funny mix of outgoing adventurer and total introvert. Sometimes you want to be the center of attention and you talk loud and proud at anyone nearby and climb things not meant to be climbed by people under four feet tall. But then I see you tuck yourself away in the background, just watching. I love learning when you do which. I love watching you kind of figure out your world and where you want to be in it.

You can be stubborn to the point of defiant. Except when you aren’t. Sometimes you’re so quick with a “yes, Mom!” and you scamper off to do whatever it was I asked. And then there are the other times. For the record, you come by it honestly. It absolutely comes from your daddy… I still have all of mine. Your stubbornness will become an asset before long, but I’m sorry this part is difficult. I promise to do what I can to help that happen, but that means some challenges up front for us both. It’s OK. I love you plenty for that. I’m praying that you become stubborn in doing what’s right. I’m imagining that in a few years, you’ll be a really good influence on kids around you, because you’ll be holding on to what you know is right, regardless of what everyone else is doing. There will be some kids nearby who know what they should be doing, but are afraid to stand alone. I doubt very much that you’ll be afraid to stand alone. And in doing what’s right, you’ll help those other ones do what’s right, too. I like your stubborn. I know it doesn’t always feel that way, but I really do.

I’m praying for you this year, baby girl. Praying that Jesus continues to draw your heart. That you learn that being stubborn isn’t worth it when you’re doing what’s wrong. That your friendship with your sister grows and your care for your baby brother continues and becomes gentle. That your relationship with your daddy continues to bloom. And I pray for me. Because I’m the mama, I’m with you the most when you’re pushing lines need someone to help you learn how to use your stubborn for good. I pray that I don’t get tired of teaching and start letting you slide… that wouldn’t serve you at all, as much as you think that’s what you want. And I pray that when I’m teaching you, I would do it with a heart that is for you and that you would see that.

I love you, kiddo.

I love your spunk and your adventure and your silly and your stubborn. You’re likely to hear “She’s growing too fast!” tonight, and they say that because they love your little self and it’s hard to see you leaving your little behind. I get that. I held you a long time last night, knowing I wouldn’t get to hold a two-year-old you ever again. But hear me loud: You’re growing just right. You’re lovely. I wouldn’t trade you for anything. Not even a version of you that stayed small forever.

I love who you’re becoming.

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blessing for insult

So I need to start out by saying I’m totally embarrassed to share this… I’m going to look kind of like an immature brat a few paragraphs from now. But… it’s been something I’ve been specifically convicted to share since the beginning of this process (when I was being an immature brat, but before I realized it), so out of obedience, I shall.

(Because real blogs have photos, and I like this one. Oh! Wait! Pussy willows mean springtime here and springtime is all about new growth! This blog is about growth! It totally goes. See? Plus maybe if I stall you with a random picture, you’ll miss the bratty part.) 


Last week, I mentioned that we recently got help out at Family Life’s marriage conference. Part of the the volunteering gig includes actually going to the conference, and it’s fabulous. Also, the material is more or less the same as it’s been since I first went in 2004, and actually basically the same as it was when my parents first went in 1978. It’s solid, biblical stuff, and I come away with new insights every time (because that’s how the Bible is), but also, I’ve heard it a number of times, so occasionally I check out just a little. But every year, there are a couple of points that seem distinctly for me and for now. 

Last year, the big take-home was “blessing for insult.” 


1 Peter 3:8-9 says:
Finally, all of you, be like-minded,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30433K" data-link="(K)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> be sympathetic, love one another,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30433L" data-link="(L)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> be compassionate and humble.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30433M" data-link="(M)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> Do not repay evil with evil<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30434N" data-link="(N)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> or insult with insult.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30434O" data-link="(O)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>On the contrary, repay evil with blessing,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30434P" data-link="(P)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> because to this<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30434Q" data-link="(Q)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> you were called<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30434R" data-link="(R)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> so that you may inherit a blessing.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30434S" data-link="(S)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> 

The idea as applied to marriage is that God’s plan for communication includes paying back an insult with a blessing. (Actually, that’s fair to apply to communication anywhere, but this was a marriage conference, so…) If my husband says something mean to me, I can choose to be kind in return.

So that was my big idea from 2014. 

Which I pretty much instantly forgot.

But God is patient and reminded me again. So we circle around again in 2015. 

Determined not to let it slide this year, I started kicking it around a bit and have continued to do so for the last two weeks. And you know what my thought was?

My husband almost never insults me. 

Now, he’s not perfect. But he’s a kind man and it’s pretty rare that he spits out something that could be considered an insult, even when he’s angry.
However… I happen to have a special ability to read insult into almost anything he says. It’s a gift, really. Except the crappiest gift ever. 

So as I’m pondering this idea of returning a blessing for an insult, I started to wonder what I’m supposed to do with the fact that like 95% of the insults I hear from him aren’t really insults. They’re just him talking, and me being weird about it. Really. (Don’t you wish you lived with me?) So I hear myself asking (I warned you that bratty was coming)… So… if he’s not really insulting me, but I feel insulted, is blessing really the best way to go? I mean, if I bless him when he pseudo-insults me, he won’t catch that I’m returning blessing for insult, he’ll just assume that’s the response he earned (after all, he wasn’t being mean) and carry on his merry way. Sounds like a good way to encourage behavior that, while not malevolent, isn’t very considerate. I mean, he’s coming off really rude to ME! Plus, won’t that build resentment in me, if I just keep being nice and he keeps being [sort-of-not-really] mean? 

Seriously, y’all. It was like a week and a half I was having this huge conundrum. Are you annoyed? Because I totally am. Here’s the [completely obvious] truth that finally hit me:

Who the heck cares?


It’s not my job to figure out at that moment whether or not he was trying to insult me. And anyway, how backwards is it to withhold kindness if he isn’t?!? (…If it’s not legitimate “evil,” I apparently don’t need to return blessing? Mmkay.)

So here we are. My huge, genius, lightening-bolt idea from Weekend To Remember 2015, just like 2014:

Blessing for insult. 

And we’re counting anything that feels like an insult.


Now I’m not saying I’m going to be good at it. (Hon, are you reading this? No promises this is going to be as great as it sounds!) I am the girl who forgot for a whole year. And what, exactly, does blessing look like in this case? I have no idea, honestly. But I’m committed to doing my best. Every single time I remember. And because depending on my memory basically guarantees failure (see: 2014), I asked for a some backup from the Holy Spirit… Because He’s all over this kind of thing.

grace extravagant

I’m pretty comfortable with the idea of grace enough. Like daily bread and strength to match my days, grace sufficient for my various circumstances is sort of soothing. I named a whole blog for it, actually. 


You know what I’m not as comfortable with?

Grace extravagant. 


It feels… too much, sometimes. It feels awkward or something, receiving a huge gift that you can’t reciprocate in any way. 

This happened last weekend. It was my favorite weekend of the whole year to start with… Every April for the last several years, my husband and I go down to Family Life’s Weekend To Remember. We get there a day early, set up all the sound and stage stuff, then stay late to tear down on Sunday. It’s a chance to get away, listen to great teaching on marriage, and to serve together (which we don’t do nearly as often now that we have kids.) But this year, somehow it exceeded even my (rather high) expectations… In a million ways, big and small, God showed up and showed off and I spent a bizarre percentage of the weekend on the edge of laughter, dancing, and tears because we were having SO. MUCH. FUN. 

Just one example: this was our view.
I loved it. And I was (am) thankful for it. But also, there was an uneasy feeling. Unworthiness? Maybe. Probably. “Wow, thanks! …But I don’t deserve it.” or maybe, “This kind of awesome should be reserved for someone who DOES deserve it.” 

And at this point in my ponderings, I’m totally pierced.

OF COURSE I don’t deserve it. Nobody does. That’s why it’s called grace. (And did I really use the word “reciprocate” earlier?!?)

But what of “grace enough”? 


I think I’ve gotten too comfortable with it. Too entitled to it. I seem to have forgotten that it’s still grace, so I can’t possibly deserve it. A fresh experience with over-the-top grace reminds me of this:

It’s all over-the-top.


Common grace is extravagant. Sun and rain and baby giggles? He doesn’t have to give any of that, but does. Because He loves us. 

Saving grace is REALLY extravagant. 
(I keep looking at a blinking cursor at the end of that sentence, waiting for something else to say, but there aren’t words.)

Anything this side of Hell is grace.
… And now I’m back in my real life. Where it’s ordinary. Where there’s relentless noise and discipline issues and bodily fluids and a medical thing that has most of my right foot temporarily useless and do you KNOW how many things you need a right foot for? So I’m back in the place where I’m just asking for grace enough to handle this day, this situation. But I’m aware, in a fresh way, that sufficient grace isn’t small grace, and now grace enough is overwhelming me the same way grace extravagant did. 

Confused.

Life has been… mildly confusing of late.


Nothing earth shattering, just a few things that seemed like God had been leading me or people around me towards turned out not to actually be His will. And it’s throwing me off. Depending on which situation we’re talking about, I’m somewhere between annoyed and reallyreally bummed out. I’ve got all these random out-of-context Bible stories swirling around in my head that my brain keeps applying to my various situations. (Or maybe some of them are things the Holy Spirit is bringing to mind? This is a struggle for me- I have to be pretty stinking sure to label it as “God talking to me” and at this point, I just can’t sort it out that well.) None of it makes any real sense. So we’ve been talking, He and I. I happen (ha!) to be in Job, and, while I would never ever ever in a million years compare my stuff to Job’s, reading through his process is helping me with mine. 

See, I ask a lot of “Why?” and “What’s going on here?” kinds of questions. 

Not in a demanding way (usually) but just because I’m honestly confused and curious about it. And as I finished Job just now, I’m getting some perspective. He’d been suffering and then arguing with his friends (as a side note- my big take-away from all of Job’s frienemies the last couple weeks was a conviction that I make too much of my understanding… just like them. Listen first, talk later. Maybe. But anyway…) and then finally, finally, God steps in. And, rather than directly answer ANY of them, he points out how much bigger he is than all of their arguments and all of Job’s problems. And then Job’s all, “Oops. I’ll stop talking now. I take it back. You’re right. You are big.” (Paraphrased my me, obviously.) So even though God didn’t actually answer any of Job’s questions, Job was simply satisfied with the reminder of… God. 

And this has always annoyed me up to now. 

I sort of grudgingly accepted the end of Job… I mean, it’s scripture and stuff, but it sure would have been nice to see some actual answers. It seemed like kind of a non sequitur from God and Job seemed ok with that. 

But today? I kind of get it.

Or, rather, I don’t, but it’s OK. God’s big. Bigger than any of my stuff. So much bigger that it doesn’t matter for today whether he answers any of my questions or not. 

My stuff is still confusing. I still don’t quite understand why some things are the way they are, or why it is that God would so clearly confirm something to me and then, um, not. But there’s peace here now, in the knowledge that He’s got everything well in hand, and “everything” includes my corner. I don’t need to know why. I don’t even actually have to ask why. 

She’s writing again…

So… Let me just preface this: 

I have no intention of making this a good, polished, life-changing post. 

I just set my timer for 10 minutes and we’ll see what comes out. Edit later. Publish. Share? We’ll see.

This year on vacation with my family was goal-setting time once again. I made a point of spending some time thinking about it most days. For a lot of days, I had nothing. Just a lot of swirling ideas and good intentions. No “one word” coming up, no overarching direction. Then, toward the end of it, something clicked. 

First. 


My time with Jesus has been comfortable, but not especially… vibrant, I guess. It happens pretty much every day, but it feel like what a lot of marriage writers talk about as “drift.” I read His words for a few minutes, then talk to Him for a few. I thank Him for a bunch of things, pray for my babies, my husband, sleep… frequently a lot of other things, but always those things… and then I go on with my day. It’s kind of rote.

It’s time to get back to my first love. 

Seeking first the kingdom of God.

So my word for the year is first

First in chronological order, first in importance.


I frequently find myself having conversations (at least in my head) with friends about things that I’m doing or processing. Or things they’re dealing with. Sometimes, I’ll even tell them what I’m “praying for” without actually doing said praying. What?!? It’s not on purpose, just sort of… happens. (If you’re one of those friends I’ve said those words to, I’m sorry. I promise I do actually pray for you, but sometimes it takes a little longer to remember that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.) So my commitment here is to stop myself when I’m about to text a friend (or, again, more often when I’m composing said text in my head) and actually… I don’t know… talk to God about it? Writing that, it seems pretty basic. But that’s where I am right now, and it’s time to make some steps back to where I want to be. That seems like the first one. (First! Get it? Haha!)

With that clear, a whole lot of other little things began to settle in my head.


The conversation I’d been having with Jesus suddenly became a lot less confusing. The things that were important came to the surface (complete with reasons and mini-goals!) while the rest just kind of… fell out of my head. I sort of wonder if this is just example number one of the way “first” works. 

…and all these things will be added unto you.

If you’re curious, here are the other areas that I’m working toward this year:

Writing clears my head. Makes me feel… real? visible? like I’ve done something relatively permanent? It’s a way to encourage people using words I can think through thoroughly during a season when both other people and coherent thoughts are otherwise a little scarce.

Photography increases my appreciation for beauty and preserves some pieces of beauty from my little corner of the world. (Like this picture. I was at a lavender farm on Maui, and was absolutely transfixed by water. On grass.)

Singing is good for my soul. I was blessed with a chance to help lead worship this fall for the first time since I had kids, and it was amazing. I can’t quite put into words how vibrantly alive I feel when I sing, but I have no question that it’s part of the way God made me, and my whole being resonates when I live within His purposes for me, so I will be doing more of that. I can’t wait another four years.

Exercise improves my mood and energy. It burns off stress and makes me feel strong. My body’s been good to me, and I’d like to keep showing it love. Also? I’m way more fun to be around when I’ve exercised recently. Just ask my husband. Or don’t. 

Connecting with others needs to happen in an intentional way. My world feels like it’s gotten very small in the last four years. It’s time to come out from my cozy little baby world and invest in some women around me.

Organized environment saves my energy for more important things and preserves my sense of calm. I fairly recently became acquainted with the concept of the “highly sensitive person,” which has given me permission and ideas to work with a part of my personality that I’ve fought against for a long time. This is part of that.

“Quiet” is kind of a catch-all, but I dearly want to be able to take my thoughts captive and calm my busy mind. (This had a wildly diverse set of action steps which included, among other things, eating mindfully, a few minutes of quiet meditation per day, deleting facebook from my phone, and going outside regularly. It’s all related, at least inside my noisy head.)

So why am I telling you all of this?

Pretty simple. Falls under “writing.” I promised me I’d try hard to make time to post a couple times a month, so here I am, showing up. (And the writing of it actually took me ten minutes on two different days. Because I’m sure that matters.) 

Thanks for joining me here! Any thoughts? Do you have a focus this year? Things you want to bring into your life in a more intentional way? I’d love to hear them. 

Happy birthday, Little J!


Hey, Little J… 


Happy fourth birthday, little girl! I love you. Have I told you lately that I love how you’re growing up? Not to fast, not to slow… just right. It’s fun that you can have very involved conversations with me. (It’s fun that you frequently carry out both sides of involved conversations with, say, stuffed animals. Or infants.) I love that you know and use all the big words you hear us use. I also like that you still say “somefling” instead of “something.” I’ll admit that I’m not working very hard to teach you the right way to say that… I want to hold on to that very last hint of toddler in your voice. I still call you “Baby J” from time to time, but that’s more habit than anything. You’re less and less of a baby and more of a little kid. 


It’s fun (and sometimes scary) to see the ways you’re like me. You’re so empathetic. It blows my mind that a three- (now four)-year old can and will pick up and verbalize how people around her are feeling (and respond appropriately), but you frequently do. It’s so funny to hear you interact with K and B- you’re such a little mama. It’s like hearing me, but in a preschooler voice. (And sometimes you say “Oh, MAN!” or “Shoot!” and I realize that sounding like me isn’t always a good thing. I’ll work on that.) 

I love your fun… The twirls, the dancing, the fairy wings and wanting to “really fly”… I love your songs- both the ones you learned and the ones you make up. (I won’t lie- I appreciate that you have pretty good pitch, too. Much easier to hear 2,341 rounds of Frozen songs when they’re not off-key.)

I love how you see God. Every pretty sunrise or snowfall finds you saying, “Look, Mama! We should thank God for that!” And the questions. Oh, the questions. You give me a run for my money, child. (“Wait. So God sent Jesus? But Jesus is God! So God sent Himself??? That doesn’t make any sense.“)  I like that when you’re sad, you talk to Him. I also like when you ask him to make your toys “real.” (And I like that you tell me, “I asked Him, and I hope He does make my giraffe a REAL giraffe, but if He doesn’t, I’m ok with that.” Much easier for me that way, to be sure!) You’re such a fun blend of little kid and big kid. I am praying that this is the year you understand, really understand about “God’s rescue plan.” (Because, as cool as you are, it’s obvious you need the Holy Spirit every bit as badly as your Mama does.) I am excited to see you grow to understand “grace.” (Other than “No! Don’t take that away! Give me grace!” when you deserve discipline.) 

I’m excited for this year.

Things you’ll learn to read and write and add and draw.

Fun things you’ll learn to do. (Swim lessons happening when K turns 3!)

The way you’ll learn to relate to your sister and help with your brother. 

Greater control over your words and emotions. (Not perfect- heavens! I’m not that good at it!- just better.) 

Growth in grace and character and wisdom. (As much of those as a 4-year-old can soak up!)

Mostly, I am just excited to see you become more you.

Because you’re lovely. And we love you. 

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.