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. 



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



(as in me.)

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

But still. 

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

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

This comes with some downsides. 

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

Also? This:

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

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

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

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

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


(as in gift.)

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


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

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

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


(as in Him.)

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

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

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

Valentine’s Day thoughts…

Aw, look! Tiny toons version of us! 

So… Valentine’s day is about here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grace enough: The First Post

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

Um… Sure. 

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

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

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

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

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

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