Um, guys? We need to talk.

Since the attacks on Paris last week, I’ve seen an alarming amount of talk about refugees-in-quotation-marks. How we can’t let “those people” in or “they” will wreak the same kind of havoc here. In my circles, this opinion is being voiced by a minority, which is good. 

But that minority is from among those who vocally follow Jesus.

And since my blog is read mostly by friends of mine who follow Jesus, I’m going to talk to us for a minute.

Stop it.


For the love of the God who bought us at a very high price while we were still his enemies, we must stop.

Here are some Syrian refugees.





Oh wait. Nope, that last one is my kids. My little dude’s brown eyes don’t look so different from the eyes of those Syrian babies. 

And seriously? The thing that separates my babies from the ones above them is geography. That’s really all.

You guys. According to WorldVision there are upwards of 4 million refugies and half are kids. My math degree came from UAF, but I’m pretty sure I can work this out… two. million. children. So of the 4 million, most  are families. Like mine. And yours.

So when we talk about refugees-in-quotation-marks, the sneering implication is that “refugees” is just a cover for “terrorists.” As if these babies had anything to do with the carnage in Paris. 

If we’re going to follow Jesus, we need to listen to what He says.  Here is what he didn’t say:

Avoid risks at all costs. Insulate yourself from the possibility of danger. If that involves turning away millions of sheep to keep out a couple hypothetical wolves, by all means, do that. (Notinmybible 38:4-5)

You know what he did say?

(And here’s where you DON’T get all sidetracked by the fact that not all of these were said by Jesus while he was on Earth… They’re said by God. In the Bible. Jesus is God. Settle down.)

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.  (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. (Psalm 146:9) 

 Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31, among others.)

[Important edit: In the interests of handling Scripture correctly, I have to note that none of these deal directly with American Christians being hospitable to Syrian refugees. The reason that I mention these scriptures is because they teach us something important about God’s heart- He is FOR those who are in need and have been mistreated, both of which describe the Syrian refugees.]

These are people. Made in the image of God. They need him. As his followers, it is absolutely despicable for us to tell them, “we don’t want your kind ’round here.” Because your kind is our kind.

Are they all good people? Nope. None of them are. Neither am I. Do they deserve grace? Um… No. Did you get the part where it’s called grace? Do they need Jesus? Absolutely. So do I.

Now, I get it. There are all kinds of very real questions here. And I’m just a mama. I don’t pretend to have all the answers.

Can the US absorb 4 million refugees? Of course not. But it can absorb some.

Will there be economic consequences? Yes.

Is security an issue? Yes. Of course it is. But almost all of these people are running away, at  great peril in the fleeing, from people who are terrorizing them. 

Yes, most of them are Muslim,and the terrorists are terrorizing in the name of Islam. But the fact that they are Muslims and the terrorists are Muslims does not mean that they are terrorists. That kind of logic is ignorant crap. 

And do you realize that Jesus loves them like he loves you? That he paid just as high a price that they might come, too? How can we possibly show them his love while curling our lip at these refugees-in-quotation-marks?

We cannot claim to be followers of Jesus while outright rejecting millions of people, millions of children, who are made in his image. 


good taste

You guys.

Have you seen this quote?
Go ahead. It’s long. I’ll wait.

I’ve seen it pop up here and there lately. And I love it.
It’s hugely encouraging… Much of the work I do feels a little disappointing to me. At the beginning of the year, I took inventory of the things that were life-giving to me: the things that, in a very real and basic way, are what God has wired me to do. And I’ve been at least a little bit intentional in making more space in my crazy life to actually do those things. But when I look at the finished product, it never quite lives up to what I’d envisioned.
And then I am tempted to quit sometimes. I mean, not quit quit- because I really like  feeling alive and living from who I was made to be, so I always come back… eventually. But I frequently find myself kind of moving away from the creative and distracting myself in all the details of keeping my life and my home moving. I can always find somewhere to put my attention… my to-do list is months long.
For me, this idea, the need to push through the work until reality matches the vision, is just the excuse I’ve been looking for to just go ahead and do my thing, even when I don’t love what comes of it. Because maybe it’ll get there. (Ohmygoodness, is that quote the longest possible way to say “practice makes perfect”? Maybe. Don’t care. Still love it.) So I’m going to write more. Shoot more. Sing more.
And yeah, maybe it’ll stay kinda… meh. Maybe I’ll always be frustrated by the difference between what I made and what I wanted to make. Maybe the words won’t always come out as well as I wanted and the pictures will still fall far short of capturing the glory I was hoping for. Maybe the high notes are always going to be out of range. None of that’s fully within my control. Not all small things become big things. (…to shamelessly rip off Emily Freeman. Again.) This is fine. But it will always be mediocre if I don’t go ahead and do it. And while I’m putting in the time, waiting to see if I’m ever actually happy with what it is I’m making, I get to do the stuff I love. 
As I write this, it occurs to me that I worship God in my creativity. The God who created me made me in His image, which includes, among other things… wait for it… creativity. In living that out, I agree with him that the ways He created me to reflect Him are good and right. Offering that back is an act of worship. And it’s the creating itself that reflects Him. Not necessarily what comes of it. Do I want to do lousy work? No. But is my best a good offering to him? Absolutely.
This makes me think of my girls. (Like usual.) They’re only 17 months apart, both preschool. So they’re each learning to draw, and the developmental difference that 17 months makes is pretty clear. I can see my oldest concentrating hard on drawing whatever she’s drawing. She’s focusing on doing it “just perfect.” But I honestly don’t value her attempts at perfect any more or any less than the picture that her little sister colored “all rainbowy.” I can see them getting better, even when they can’t. And the thing that’s valuable to me is the effort they are clearly putting into creating, and the joy I see in them as they do.
So maybe it doesn’t matter if I’m a little frustrated at the scribbles I make. I’ll keep trying and I’ll keep improving. Only God knows whether my drawing of a dog will ever look like an actual dog I have in my mind. That’s not really my concern right now. The thing that’s mine to do right now is simply busting out the crayons and printer paper.
So how about you? Are there areas of creativity that you dabble in, but kind of distance yourself from? Is your desire for perfection and inability to attain it keeping you from being the creative that you were made to be? Please don’t let it. We need your gifts. The world isn’t the same without them.
Here’s to good taste and good-enough art.

his first birthday letter

Hey, little dude. You don’t know it and you won’t be able to read for a while, but every year, I try to write you a little letter. This is for you, so you can look back and see how I’ve loved you over the years. It’s for me, because I have All The Words and sometimes there’s an overflow and it all just needs to come out. And, for now, I share it, too. Because you have lots of people in lots of places who love you and sometimes it’s fun for them to see this side of who you are.

So here it is. You’re one now, and I get to write you your very first birthday note.

and… I can’t quite think how to start. 

There’s so much.

Here’s the biggest idea:

You are my third baby. By the time you arrived, our family had a rhythm of its own. With J, and then somewhat with K, the family rhythm formed around who they were.

But you didn’t really have that luxury. 

And you know what? 

If I had the option to special-order you from God, the most perfect possible child for our family, I could not possibly have done as well as God did. 

You fit. You fit perfectly. You are exactly the piece this home needed. You add so much joy, I can’t even begin to express it. I adore you. Everyone does, actually. From your big brown eyes that are smiling all the time to your perfect, delicious little toes, you are awesome. I frequently describe you as “as laid-back and delightful as babies come” and I’m not exaggerating. This is excellent because when you were born, you had two sisters under the age of four, and sometimes their adoration looks like assault. But you just handle it. You handle it so well and so often I had to give the phenomenon its own tag. 

You are patient. 

So very, very patient. There’s a lot of mom guilt that can come with having a not-first baby… there are so many needs and only one me and sometimes, it’s the smallest who’s going to have to wait. Because, for example, early on when all three of you needed lunch right now, I could get your sisters lunch in five minutes or less (if I was quick), but feeding you could take 45 minutes. And you needed it more, there’s no question. But I could let one wait for five minutes, or I could let two wait for 45 minutes (probably disrupting your meal the whole time), so… you had to wait. As a teeny, tiny baby. And your needs aren’t always last. I try to work things so you’re not always getting the short end of the stick, but the fact remains… you do. A lot more often than the girls did. But do you complain? Not usually. Why? 

Your left thumb.

Oh, my goodness, do I ever love your left thumb. 

So do you. 

I know there may come a day when you and I struggle mightily against your thumb-sucking habit, but this year? It’s been perfect. I can’t even tell you how much I love that you’ve always been able to soothe yourself. I love that you let me know that you need me for a second, then you find your thumb and wait patiently (even happily!) while I try to get through whatever I have to before I can get to you. Obviously, it makes my life easier. But you know what? It makes yours better, too, and not just because you’re calmer during the wait. Because, whether you self-soothed or not, I would still have to meet all the needs of all the little people, and you’d still need to wait sometimes. But instead of yelling at me and raising my stress levels while you wait, you make it easy. So when I finally get there, I’m not frustrated or anxious. Instead, I’m really, really grateful. And a grateful mom is a better mom for you. 

And speaking of anxious…

Something else that surprised me was how much you calm me down. I remember when you were weeks old. I was struggling with postpartum anxiety for the first time ever, and it was sucking all the fun out of my life, which was a bummer because I knew, even then, that my life was a pretty good one. But one morning, when I was ridiculously overstimulated and on the verge of completely freaking out, I laid a swaddle blanket on the floor. I set you on it. I grabbed some coffee and just… sat. And the toddler chaos continued around me and it was loud. But somehow… you and I? On that blanket? We were OK. I wouldn’t have ever guessed that a newborn would become a calming influence, but there you were. 

“Oh! Are you trying for a boy?!?”

This is the question that people inexplicably asked through the first half of my pregnancy. And, setting aside all the things that make that one of the more awkward questions people ask (besides, perhaps, “don’t you know what causes that?!?”), the answer in my own heart was “nope.” I had your sisters. I knew girls. I liked girls. I was comfortable being a “girl mom.” I was intimidated by the idea of figuring out a whole ‘nother gender. Neither your daddy nor I were really worried about “carrying on the family name” or anything, so when the ultrasound tech told us you were a boy, we were quiet. I wasn’t sure what it would look like, this whole “boy” thing. 

But then you showed up. And people still ask me, “Ooh! Aren’t you glad to have a boy?!?” But now the answer is totally obvious. “I’m glad to have HIM.” Everything, from your very special name to your shining eyes to your belly laugh and your easy personality… I like you. Not because we “finally got our boy,” but because God gave us you. 

I love you, little mister. 

You’re growing up exactly right. I’m excited to see who you become. I could go on for pages and pages about the things I want for you. (I’ll condense: I want Jesus to draw your heart to himself.) But for now? My attention is pretty consumed with who you are right now and how much I love this amazing little person.

magical dream wishcards

This is not a beat-up metal “purse” full of dud photos. These are magical dream wishcards.

I sometimes order prints willy-nilly. When they’re a penny each, sometimes it’s just easiest to order them all and figure it out later. That’s what I did last month. I ordered a couple hundred prints from the last TWO YEARS and then sorted them for distribution when they arrived. (Side note: this is not a good way to handle this. My new process involves uploading just a few from each month that I actually want prints of. But I hadn’t realized that when I was uploading photos in November of 2013. Oops.) 

Anyhow, I pulled a reasonable number of pictures I wanted to send to the handful of places I wanted to send them and was left with this huge stack of leftovers. They’re still good pictures, but I have no plans for them, so when the girls asked if they could play with them, I just shrugged and said ok.

They came up with a number of fun and interesting things to do with them, but a few hours later, J started talking to me about “magical dream wishcards.” I figured she was talking about the prints, but I wasn’t sure what, exactly, I was supposed to do with them.

“Mom. I turn all these cards upside down. You pick one and look at it. Then you take it to bed with you and you try and dream about it! And if you start to dream about something else, you just… you push it out of your head with the right dream!”

And it hit me…

Any one of these couple hundred pictures would make a reasonable dream. 

I picked one where I was introducing the girls to their brother. But it could just as easily have been one of J and her dad at the zoo. Or K at the museum. Or that one time they were decorating cookies with a friend. Or their brother making a silly face. As far as my four-year-old is concerned, any one of these would make a great dream. Far better than some of the scary ones she deals with on occasion.

I know these photos represent a highlight real of sorts. Not that all of the pictures are of the big moments- most of them are downright mundane. (Lots of pictures of kids in high chairs. Because they’re happy and they’re sitting still.) But they’re at least relatively happy- I don’t tend to take a lot of shots of my kids in time-outs or throwing tantrums or sticking their faces in pubic toilets. Mostly because I’m too busy in those moments to bust out the big camera and document them, but also… who wants to relive that? 

But at the same time, what if my kids’ memories work a little like that? 

What if your people’s memories worked a bit like that?

Nostalgia can be a bit that way, right? So maybe it’s not out of the question…

I tend to be pretty hard on myself, in general. All I can see is the times I spoke a bit too sharply or wasn’t so present with my kiddos because I needed to check out from all the incessant words for a minute (or thirty.) So when I look at our life together as a whole, I sort of assume that that’s what they’ll remember, too. And this month has been a doozy… a miscarriage and all the ways that’s affected my mothering in the weeks since. A car accident (everyone’s fine, car’s functional) and all the hours of insurance phone calls that the kids have had to wait through. I haven’t been at my best.

But my firstborn’s magical dream wishcards make me wonder… 

What if she sees our life that way? What if it’s pretty much all the things that happy dreams are made of? What if she’s gonna be ok and my shortcomings won’t send her to years of therapy? I mean… not that I shouldn’t call my sin what it is and walk toward holiness, but what if there’s enough grace to cover my failings? 

What about you?

What things do you tend to be hard on yourself about? 

What if your people paid less attention to that than you did? What if they just see you? Showing up, loving them, doing what you do? 

What kinds of magical dream wish cards might they be carrying in their heads and hearts? (Snuggles? The way you sing in the car? When you remember their favorite thing and provide it at the right moment? The time you met them for lunch? That time you went on a field trip with them?) You love your people. They can tell. These little moments matter, probably more than we realize.

Give yourself a little bit of grace today, ok?

…in which we discuss that which is always kept quiet.

I’m in a really weird mood and I’m about to overshare in an obnoxious and rambling way. Please feel free to skip. 
…if you don’t want to skip and want to read the continuation, it’s here.



So… I joined a club this week, I guess. Unfortunately. It’s not the club I wanted to join, and most of the members are silent.

I had a miscarriage. (Am having a miscarriage? I’m not familiar enough with it to know exactly how the verb tense works with the timeline.) And I’m looking around, knowing the stats that say 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies end this way, and it’s a weird and silent place to be in, knowing I’m not alone, but knowing very, very few of the others who have been here before.

Why is it so quiet?

Where is everyone? 
I’m not judging my sisters who choose to deal with it privately. There are so, SO many reasons a woman wouldn’t want to walk through this publicly… It hurts too much. There aren’t words. There have been several and you just can’t talk about it one. more. time. If that is you, I am so, so sorry. Please hear my heart here: if you need to work this out on your own with Jesus, please, please, don’t feel any judgement from me.You don’t owe me or anyone else any explanation at all.

But also… is everyone choosing to deal with it quietly, or are a lot of us just doing it because that’s culturally how it’s done? I feel like there’s a weird veil of silence over the whole thing that’s not just because so many of us want to process alone.

I’ve kept three pregnancies (now four, I suppose) under wraps (sort of) until the magical mark of 12 weeks, because that’s how it’s done. 
Why? Well, in case it doesn’t work out.
Ok, I totally don’t want to announce a pregnancy at five weeks, lose it at six, then have people hearing about and congratulating me on my happy news while I’m trying to process the loss. One of my best friends walked that road and it was heartbreaking.
So I know why I choose to wait to share the news. But, now that loss has happened, why, again, do I feel I have to stay silent?
Culturally, it’s no big deal, I suppose. “Just a lump of tissue.” (It’s only a baby after it reaches a certain size, perhaps. And only if the mom wants it. That makes sense, right?)
Nobody knows what to say.
It makes people uncomfortable.
Here’s the deal. It happens. A lot. And not talking about it doesn’t make it into something else, something more palatable, something that didn’t happen at all. And this week, I have no bothers to give about the cultural norm that says “we just don’t talk about it.”
I don’t need your sympathy, but I suspect we would be better off if the people who wanted to share felt free to do so. So I’m going to.
So, sister, if you’re out there, this is my story. You are not alone. Your story probably looks different than mine, and that’s totally fine. Take the parts that are helpful and leave the rest.
I found out I was pregnant on a Saturday morning. It was a faint but unmistakable second line.
It took me the whole day to even start wrapping my head around it.
A baby. I love babies. But I HAVE a baby. And he’s still… a baby. So, [mental calculations] we’re looking at end of April. So… 17 months and change between the youngest two. That’s the same as the gap between the girls. So… that’s insane. We. are. insane. Also? Four carseats will not fit in the Ridgeline. I’m going to have four children before the first even starts kindergarten. One-way ticket to crazy town. Wait. My due date is like a day after the Weekend to Remember. I’m going to drive to Anchorage and work really hard at 39 1/2 weeks. I had like a week and a half of increasingly convincing false labor with #3. That could be really disconcerting driving 360 miles, twice, in week 40. 
On and on it went, my brain doing a thousand different calculations to wrap my itself around this baby’s place in my nearish future.
But, at the end of the day (and I do actually mean the literal end of that Saturday), I’d come to land squarely on gratitude for this gift and a sort of nervous excitement.
Tuesday, I decided to test again, hoping for a less faint second line, so I could tell a few family members about it. Negative. What? Negative again. Hmm… Chemical pregnancy? Early miscarriage? Highly unlikely false positive? Or slightly more likely false negatives? Later in the day, I took one for reasons I’m still not sure of, and it was positive. No, really. What?!? Obsessive as I am, this led to a weird ritual of testing a couple times every second or third day, with mixed results. I was very, very tired of holding emotional space open for either outcome. Come the following Tuesday, I was getting all negatives (including an officialish one at the birth center. Same technology, but administered by professionals, so I somehow have more faith in it. Not sure why.) It was over. I talked with a midwife about what to expect when I’m suddenly NOT expecting.

I carried a dead baby inside of me for at least several days. It was weird. Sad. Disturbing.

Thursday, ten days after I found out about the littlest, my body decided to let baby go.
Somehow, that isn’t better.
And I’m sad. It’s not the soul-crushing grief that I expected, the grief I’ve experienced in empathy with friends over the years.
And that fact leads to a fair bit of guilt. (I firmly believe this baby is an actual human person, not just tissue. But apparently, emotionally, I’ve absorbed the cultural belief that it’s not a person yet. What kind of Jesus-follower am I?!? A crappy one, that’s what.) (I totally don’t believe that. My head is a jerk and I wind up feeling irrational guilt over stuff like this sometimes.)
There’s relief. Certainly NOT relief at the loss, but it was so very taxing to have to hold on to both “He gives” and “He takes away” in the same moment, for the same baby. So there was some relief just in knowing. {Insert more guilt.}
And I’m still living inside my crazy and beautiful life where my kids are running around half-naked, screaming like banshees about having crayon stuck in their teeth. (True story.) And that sort of helps. Rather than crushed, I’m numb, sad, distracted. And tired. So very, very tired. Thankful for the healthy babies I have. Thankful, somehow, that I knew about this one. (For various reasons, it would have been really easy for me to not know about the littlest one at all.) But also, this morning I was looking at my baby boy’s toes, and realized that the little one we lost was just a little smaller than his pinkie toe, and I won’t ever get to smooch his little sweet self. Somebody actually did die. 

And here’s where I come to an abrupt and awkward end.

Because that brings us more or less to now.
I don’t have anything neat to tie it up. I don’t have any big perspective or any reason why this generally applies to you. It probably doesn’t. I hope it doesn’t.
Well, actually, it does apply to you, at least a little. Can we make a little room for this discussion? Be willing to hear and be a safe space for a friend? I’m thankful beyond words for the people in my life who have been that safe space for me for the last little bit. (I’m sure your job isn’t over!) 

As far as my story goes, as always, there is grace enough.

There’s grace enough for the relief and the sad and the numb and the distracted and the thankful. We’re OK. God is big. He gives and takes away. Blessed be his name.

now about the *other* thing that happened june 26…

Sigh. I’ve had this post sort of percolating in my head for a long time. Like since before I had a blog. But also, I hate getting into it. So in general, I avoid the drama. But then something bizarre happened. While my husband and I were celebrating the anniversary of our marriage, the Supreme Court decided to redefine the word. And then my facebook feed blew up with pretty colors and not-so-pretty words. The response from my Christian friends has been mixed. Some use the rainbow filter. Some warn of doomsday. Some walk the middle, with a “love, despite disagreement” kind of attitude. Do I have an opinion here? You betcha. Do you care? Probably not. I mean, really. At this point, it’s been talked to death (and it’s only been a few days!) and you kind of scroll through, filtering folks into “like me” and “not like me” boxes in your head, because it is really not worth the energy of processing everyone’s opinion on the matter.

I figure the only people that I’m actively leading on this point are my children, two of whom currently believe marriage is not a gender-based thing as long as the prospective spouses are either a.) stuffed animals or b.) relatives. (So I clearly have work to do here.)

So this whole thing… Where do we stand? What do we do? I kind of hate to add to the noise… but I’m going to anyway, because I haven’t seen much attention to this obvious point: maybe we spend some more energy on the things we can actually change.

So while a huge portion of the internet and the country is flipping the heck out over the implications of this, I want to ask those who love Jesus and are married…

How’s your marriage doing?

See, here’s the thing.  

Marriage was designed by God to show the image of Christ and his Church to a world that doesn’t know him. And we, God’s people who live in the US, have been doing a generally terrible job of it. I know the divorce statistics are really not as grim as the 50% number we’ve heard tossed around for a couple decades, but it’s still not great, plus some of the decline is because people have lost faith in the institution as a whole and are opting out, choosing cohabitation instead. And even within marriages that last, how are we doing? There’s so much energy this week (and in general) being spent freaking out about the federal government’s definition of the word, but how much energy are we putting into the thing we can actually change? I don’t know about you, but my ability to change anything on a national level is very, very small. I have a vote, which I happily exercise (despite the hassle of all the preschoolers in a voting booth.) But seriously? That’s not much. But you know what I can do? I can pour a lot of energy into obeying God in my own marriage. In doing that, I can encourage  couples around me and show others the picture God had in mind, however imperfectly we do it. Will my marriage change the course of the nation? Nope. But can you imagine what would happen if followers of Jesus everywhere started obeying him in their marriages? That would have some effect. People would notice. The beautiful picture God created to show Himself to the world would be so much clearer.


  • Do you love your spouse?
  • Do you respect your spouse?
  • What about porn? Is that playing any part in the denigration of your part of this marriage picture? (This isn’t just about images… Romance novels? 50 Shades?)
  • How do you talk to the person you married?
  • How do you talk about the person you married?
  • Demanding sex?
  • Withholding it?
  • Using it as a weapon or a reward?
  • Do you keep score of wrongs? Of favors?

I could go on, but you get the point. I’m not saying ours is perfect or that yours has to be in order to have or state an opinion on the Supreme Court’s decision. And I’m not against political activism or spreading awareness, per se. (I’ve gotta be honest- it’s really, really not my thing. But if it’s yours, I have no problems.) But can we please use this national facebook fight discussion about the meaning of marriage as a reminder to spend at least as much effort working on the one at home as we do talking and worrying about who else does or doesn’t or may eventually have the legal right to get married? Because all of it is messing up the picture.

We’re all just spray painting on the Mona Lisa while whining about the mustache that somebody else sharpied on her. Yeah, the sharpie mustache is a problem. I get it. But can we please stop vandalizing the thing ourselves? Maybe spend some energy restoring it where we can? That’d be great, thanks.

So how about you? What can you do this week to invest in your relationship? Speak kindly? Give the benefit of the doubt? Serve? Love? Read a marriage book? Get off facebook for a few minutes? Speak positively about your spouse to a friend? Write a love note? Let’s each make a difference.


the simply tuesday of anniversaries

One of my favorite things of late has been the celebration of the ordinary Tuesday. Emily Freeman talks about Tuesdays as the smallest day of the week. And every week, there’s a little party on Instagram where a bunch of people snap pictures of the ordinary beautiful and we all enjoy each other’s small moments. (Here’s #itssimplytuesday. At the moment, the feed isn’t entirely representative of normal, because Emily has a book coming out soon-hooray!- and her launch team got it this week, so there are a lot of shots of that. It’s still lovely and wonderful and good for a smile.)

Today, Andrew and I celebrate eleven years of marriage.

Oh, how I love that man.

Before “selfie” was a word. This a little bit past our first anniversary. I had to scan the thing in, because we’re old and the first several years of our marriage were photographed on film.

And these later, not-divisible-by-five anniversaries feel a little like Tuesday to me. There’s no newness and no big round numbers. Last year, we celebrated ten with a four-day trip out of town. This year, it’s a simple night away in town. (Somewhere. He’s not told me where yet. The magic still lives.)

Please hear me clearly: I’m not complaining. 

Just like Tuesdays have become a favorite because of their ordinariness, I love the smallness of an eleventh anniversary. I love the fact that we’ve had enough years for there to be ordinary anniversaries.

Ordinary is where we live anyhow. 

It’s the little things that make life and the little things that make a marriage.

Quiet not-quite-awake workday mornings.

Not-at-all quiet Saturday mornings, when the kids are up before we want them to be, and asking for Daddyday breakfast. (This man makes hash browns that have ruined me for any other hash browns, period.) Better get them fed before somebody gets hangry.

Holding hands in the dark while we try to stay awake long enough to pray together.

All those times I get thirsty right after I settle in to nurse a baby and he gets up to get me my water bottle. (Usually without snarkiness.)

More than half a lifetime’s worth of inside jokes. (We were friends long, LONG before we got married.)

Talking in code or spelling to sneak stuff past our kids. “I was thinking we could go for I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M tonight after dinner. What do you think?” This is rapidly losing effectiveness. 

Companionable silence. 

Doing dishes. Lots and lots of dishes. Sometimes he, sometimes I, sometimes we. 

Brief back scratches in passing. 

The way he works around my BIG FEELINGS and I work around his sometimes-crazy schedule.

Reading each other’s faces and tones.

Apologizing for misreading each other’s faces and tones. 

Arguments about nothing. Or the same something eleventy billion times.

Lots of grace to cover (and frequently avoid!) arguments about nothing.

Choosing to be on the same side, over and over and over again.

Learning to give the benefit of the doubt.

Diapers. Thousands of them.

Rubbing off each other’s rough edges.

Growing up together.

For better and for worse. Until death do us part.

This marriage thing. It’s a good, good gift. By God’s grace, we’re getting better at it. We’re living the dream, Andrew. I love our very ordinary life.

Mostly mundane.

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.

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.