Mother’s Day: She and Me and All of Us

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I thought I’d dig up a little re-post as taming down the Mother’s Day hoopla to protect us non-moms has been trending …

It can get uncomfortable, right? Mother’s Day has all these rules now.

10 Things to Never Say on Mother’s Day

17 Ways to Destroy Your Church by Handing Out Roses on Mother’s Day

12 Do’s and Don’ts for Retail Clerks this Mother’s Day

I mean, it can get a little overwhelming. As a non-mom, I’ve got some messy thoughts on this messy subject.

IMG_1735I mean, the day is about Moms. And I’m not one. So it’s not my party. But there’s all this talk about how I should be treated on their day. Wha????

The thing is, we are uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. And I get it. My heart has bled on Mothers’-Days-Past as I wrestled with my unplanned unparenthood. But it’s also bled on Christmas and Fourth of July and days ending in Y. Pain is no respecter of holidays and dates.

And pain also isn’t satisfied with being just the boss of its victim – it wants to be the boss of everyone in the room. Pain would love nothing more than to see a room full of people feeling awkward and unsure how or if to celebrate something because it will make someone else uncomfortable.

This isn’t about embracing pain. I don’t like pain. I don’t like discomfort. I’m not the girl who signs up for the gym because it-hurts-so-good. Also, I don’t sign up for the gym for any other reason. But I do know that pain and celebration can happen at the same time. That they can GIVE to one another instead of taking away. There’s this sacred dichotomy of grief and celebration happening all around us every. single. day. And if we let it, it can make us stronger.

A few years ago, my bright-eyed-newlywed baby sister and I were out Christmas shopping. Now, you should know that she is ten years my junior, surpasses me in all things hair and makeup, is an opera singer and a beauty queen (literally) but somehow not a drama queen. Oh, and she farts rainbows.

So there we were. As we crossed the parking lot, her little button nose wrinkled up at the scent of grease wafting towards us from a fast-food restaurant. “What, are you pregnant?” I asked, jokingly-because-of-course-she’s-not-pregnant-she’s-a-baby-and-babies-can’t-have-babies-what-a-funny-joke-I’m-making-ha-ha-ha-ha. But then her feet stopped, her eyes widened, and she silently nodded yes.

You guys, my world fell out. I’d traversed hundreds of pregnancy announcements from the time we started “trying”, but my BABY sister was going to have a BABY?

Nothing humbles you faster than the ugly cry. In public. In a parking lot.

And bless it, that was my reaction to my baby sister’s news. It definitely wasn’t the way she wanted to deliver it; it definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to receive it. But I’m so glad that neither of us had a chance to be fake in that moment. I’m so glad we didn’t have time to prepare or take deep breaths or brace ourselves or plan speeches. I’m so glad there was no time for white gloves.

Together we hugged and cried and wiped snot (our own, not each others – mostly), and we found our way THROUGH it, not around it.

And you know what, it was hard. Like hard-hard. At Christmas she announced their news – she made cute little jerseys for each of the littles that make up the family “team”. Each had their number, their birth order number, on the back. It was adorable. And painful as hell. Because with each kid that unwrapped a jersey number, 1-9, and as my parents opened their “surprise Number 10”, I was sitting there with a big fat zero.

But my zero and her 10 were two totally completely separate things happening. They were both happening at the same time, but they were not the same thing.

With the snot-fest out of the way, we got to have crazy-real conversations throughout her pregnancy. I was honest when it was hard. She was honest when it was hard. Spoiler alert: sometimes it can be just as hard to figure out how to celebrate while someone you love grieves, as it is to figure out how to grieve while someone you love celebrates.

Also, she just had her second baby. Powering through the grief storm together makes these celebratory moments that much richer.

See, every day we encounter those who are grieving and those who are celebrating. Sometimes we know it – often we don’t.

At every wedding, there is someone grieving the pain of divorce.

At every birthday party, there is someone grieving the death of a loved one.

At every Church service, there is a mama celebrating as her son walks with the Lord while another mama grieves as her son has walked away from Him.

At every grocery store and fairground and park and office and schoolroom there is a heart that is full and a heart that is empty.

So should we stop celebrating these things? Should we just tame it by saying “you know what? Every woman gets a rose today – or no one – or men too – or you know what let’s plant a rose garden – no not roses, succulents – so no one feels left out.”

Please don’t give me a rose on Mother’s Day. Please give it to those who didn’t get a full night’s sleep. Who respond to “why?” and “what for?” and “how?” hundreds of times a day. Who juggle soccer schedules and math homework and dinner menus like a champ.

And please don’t cancel the celebration. Because celebrating her is not a way of not celebrating me. I want us to teach each other that. Together. In my Community, my Church, my Family, I don’t want us to tame the celebration, and I don’t want us to tame the grief. I want to be in a place where both grief and celebration have a chance to play into one another and say “aha, yes, I see you there.”

I want both to be okay. Because both are okay. Even when it hurts. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Because it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Really.

 

 

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Hard Candy Shells

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Four years ago, I sat in Church with my arms fiercely crossed. My heart was as hard as the look of stone on my face. I was captive to some pain in my life, and in no mood to hear an inspirational sermon. Many days I was good at hiding it – this was not one of those days. I was, in fact, sitting there at Church merely because it was easier than fighting about not wanting to go to Church.

Pain is like a candy shell – hard on the outside, even though I was mush on the inside, and all it would take is a little tap on a chisel to open it all up.

The message was on the ordinariness of Jesus’ disciples – how plain and dull and ordinary those twelve guys were. And yet they were called to do extraordinary things. The pastor then went on to share how he and his wife felt very ordinary, yet called to something extraordinary. They were planning to adopt. Because they’d heard that if just 7% of the world’s Christians cared for an orphan, there would be no more orphans. And they felt compelled to be part of that 7%.

7%

Tap-tap went the chisel. My arms fell to my side. Still rigid, but there was a crack in the ice. I was no stranger to statistics, but this one shocked me.

See, part of my pain and hardness that morning came from an all-too-familiar ache as I sat there and watched baby dedications before the sermon began. I sat there, just coming to grips with being infertile, and longing for nothing more extraordinary than plain old ordinariness.

I had the faintest idea of what a motherless child might feel because I was sitting there as a childless mother.

My arms were still crossed, but that hard candy shell was about to burst as that chisel chipped away. To be honest, the orphan care stats weren’t the focal point of the message – just one of the many illustrations that the pastor was using. But it was the one that penetrated my heart.

I went home and started exploring if it could possibly be true that the world’s orphan crisis really could be eradicated with just 7% of the Christian body’s efforts. My googling led me to an annual Summit put on by “Christian Alliance for Orphans”, and in May of 2010 my husband and I jumped a plane to explore this new world. Little did we know the floodgates we were opening.

The world of orphan care is as equally complicated as that of infertility – and to be clear, I think the two are all too often linked when they really are separate things, but that’s for another blog post. What I mean here is simply this: a lot of people start the road to infertility “just wanting a baby”, a simple enough concept until it gets complicated by doctors and thermometers and pee sticks. So, too, the intro point to orphan care is often a simple prick of desire – maybe to build a family, maybe to be part of this world’s greatest social crisis, maybe because of some indefinable nudging to explore. A simple enough concept until it gets complicated with attachment disorder and interracial dynamics and the all-consuming question of how to help without hurting. The more you learn, the less you know – but that becomes more and more okay, too. 

Today, I sit again at the CAFO Summit, amidst a crowd that is still full of many strangers, but no longer strange to me. It is a room filled with some of the most ordinary-extraordinaries I have ever met, living out the Gospel in all aspects of orphan care: adoption, foster care, family preservation, global and local initiatives, wrap-around support, mental health, and more. There are no easy answers in the world of orphan care. There are diversely opposing viewpoints and constant new lessons. But an aroma of surrender permeates the conversations and the praise.

And it’s not just about 7%, it’s about all of us. While it is actually true that it would take only 7% of the world’s Christians to care for all of the world’s orphans, making this the most solvable crisis on the planet, it is a call to us all – it’s a big ocean where every drop counts – the other 93% of us get to support those called to the deepest parts of that ocean.

All of us ordinaries have a place here – just you and me and all of us who have nothing more to offer than our plain ordinary selves – like twelve guys who used to follow a carpenter around. Just ordinary people called into an extraordinary story. Hard candy shells and all.

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That Time We Bought a House

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This house and I have gone through a pretty major transformation this year.

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I love this house. Those are not words I ever expected myself to say. Walls are walls. Furniture is furniture. Kitchens are kitchens.

Except now I know how very much love can get poured into walls, furniture and kitchens.

To be honest, it scares me a little, because walls and furniture and kitchens are temporary things. Not just temporary to this life – though I’ve given God permission to just copy my new kitchen for my heavenly mansion – but also temporary IN this life. Not even two weeks after we closed escrow, my husband’s job took a hard left turn and he lost it a short two months later, a harsh reminder not to get too comfortable because things can change so unpredictably.

But now it’s a place I love. Opening our doors is one way that I open my heart. Come in and get tea. Sit down and tell me your heart. Stay for a night or two. Or six months. Mi Casa es Su Casa. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m also plenty selfish, and with a plethora of new things I’m thinking all the normal-crazy thoughts like Make sure your Tea doesn’t leave a watermark and don’t sit too firmly on the couch cushion, they’re new. How one would actually “not sit firmly” is a mystery to me, but I’ve still thought it. Let’s just give me a gold star for not surrounding it in plastic, shall we? And oh by the way, while you stay here can you make sure you don’t scratch or stain or break anything? K thanks.

Welcome. Mi Casa es Su Casa but really it’s Mi Casa so be careful, mmm-k?

Dangerous thoughts.

It’s actually hard for me to believe that this house is now a home. One year ago we signed papers and took responsibility for the mortgage. The next twelve months were a blur but between pictures and credit card statements I can interpret that it went something like this:

Month one was demolition month. Tearing out walls, cabinets, bathtubs, toilets, and general gross-ness. New windows and doors were cut into place, heating and air were added, and a few walls went up to replace those that had come down.

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Month two was design month. I know, I know, design usually happens before demolition. But here’s the thing – we were discovering new possibilities around every turn. Tear out this closet and discover a whole new possibility of how the kitchen can be designed. Yes, a closet became a kitchen. More on that later.

Months three through nine are like black and white fuzz on an old 9-inch tv box with a crooked antenna sticking out. I know I was a crazy person, that much is sure. I know I ate out of more plastic boxes and fast food bags than I can count. I know that I earned every pound I’m now working off and every gray hair I am now dyeing.Our construction crew was my amazing brother and his team, but they live out of town, so anytime they were working on our house it meant at least six air mattresses spread out and up to 15 people and two dogs squeezed into our little place. With one bathroom and no kitchen. To call it camping would be generous. Never before have I hopscotched around power tools and compressors to get to the one working bathroom in the morning.

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But in the midst of that were tea parties for my four-year-old niece with her Grandpa.

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And watching my one-year-old niece take her first steps.

And deep laughs and sighs and shrugs as we all learned to live together. In the midst of great change. I thought I was designing and remodeling a house. Turns out it was changing me.

All in all, we gutted, redesigned, and rebuilt two kitchens and three bathrooms. I never had a nice kitchen – I had no idea where to even start, but I can’t tell you how much I love the final result. We installed HVAC, upgraded the electrical panel, repainted, restucco-ed, repainted the entire interior, refinished the hardwood floors, installed crown moulding, replaced the outdoor sprinkler system, designed and created a beautiful master suite with custom built-in closets, and installed three new doors and eight new windows.

A bit too much for one wee blog post. So, I’ll be giving a room-by-room “tour” of our remodel, a couple of highlights on some of my favorite things, and some of the ways I was gutted and re-built, too. I’ll post a new room each week. And spoiler alert, it’s gonna get real messy – but then it will get better – a bit like life.

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Infertility: Remembering Friday – My Messy Beautiful

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Sometimes I wish I was still oblivious.

I wish that I didn’t know what the effects of child abuse looks like.

I wish that I didn’t know what a last breath sounds like.

I wish that I didn’t know what an empty womb feels like.

 

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While I’ve discovered beauty from ashes …While I’ve learned to embrace the rain as much as the rainbow … While my heart swells when I pay attention to all the ways love wins …

Sometimes I’d still rather just not know about the battle love had to fight.

And to me, knowing is what Good Friday is all about. It’s about stopping, pausing, and being honest for a minute about the days that aren’t bright and sunny. The days that bring questions and sometimes shocking, painful answers.

Like the day that Jesus died.

I so get Peter. I so totally and completely get Peter. He watched Jesus be arrested and then killed on a tree. And he spiraled.

Good Friday was the biggest disappointment of all time. And Peter was an eye-witness.

I’ve spiraled, too. My big disappointment – my Friday – hit like a mack truck when infertility became part of my story a few years ago. The pain is no longer raw, but neither does it just go away. And Good Friday is simply a day to remember.

It’s interesting to me that it coincides with the beginning of  National Infertility Awareness Week this year. Just as Good Friday is a day pause and take stock, to be aware of what redemption cost, NIAW is a week of intentional knowing about infertility.

Sometimes awareness is used as an excuse to build sympathy, or worse – guilt. Lord spare me from that train-wreck.

I’m a fan of Henry David Thoreau’s idea of awareness when he asks “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

So in honor of Good Friday, Messy Beautiful Warriors everywhere, and NIAW – but most of all in honor of the story I’ve been given to tell – I’m going to invite you to see through my eyes for an instant.

Each day next week, I’ll be sharing snippets of letters I’ve written over the years as I’ve tried to give voice to a silent pain. My hope is not so much that you understand me better through it, but that you’ll be able to see a glimpse of just how sacred loss can be, and discover with me the majesty of a God who dares to breathe life into death.

Today’s letter was penned just after I got home from a Good Friday church service a few years ago. I had listened to more than just the Pastor’s words – his body language was screaming as he squirmed with discomfort talking about the day Jesus died.

Dear Pastor,

I know, I know, you aren’t comfortable with Friday. You want to rush through the devastation of Friday so you can get to your Sunday sermon.

But some of us are experiencing our own Friday. Some of us are sitting here with broken hearts, broken hopes, broken dreams, broken expectations, and broken plans – much like Peter was.

Peter was one of Jesus’ best friends. He walked on water. He proclaimed him as the Messiah. But that Friday, he was the guy who denied even knowing Him. That Friday, Peter saw things about himself and his God that he didn’t want to be true. That he couldn’t believe were true.

Peter saw Jesus die.

And I bet there were still days – even after Sunday – that Peter wished there’d been no Friday. I bet there were days he just wanted his friend back.

Because Friday hurt. Friday was dark, and painful, and ugly, and terrifying, and opened places of his own soul that Peter wishes he’d never seen. And certainly wishes no one else had seen.

Each of us has our Fridays. Those days, weeks, months, or years of broken dreams.

And I have to tell you – I take comfort in knowing that Jesus gets it. He gets me. He’s had other friends with broken hearts and broken dreams, and they made it through. Which tells me I can, too. But first they survived Friday.

And to be honest, most Christians I know want to jump to Sunday – to skip the pain and get straight to the celebration. I can’t help but wonder if Peter would have punched someone in the face if they’d tried to tell him on Friday just how “good” it was.

I guess the thing is, Sunday didn’t erase Friday. In fact, Friday is really what made Sunday matter.

So all I’m asking, Pastor, is to just let it be Friday sometimes. Let the dream be broken. Let the disappointment be felt. Let it hurt. Let it suck. Let it be confusing.

Let me know that there’s a place for me here, whether I’m in a state of Sunday-praise, or Friday-pain. 

*This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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Roots & Wings

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I’ve never have a bad attitude at an airport.  Airports are my thing.  Redbull doesn’t give me wings – airports do.  The collision of stories, the endless possibilities, the myriad of colors and voices all in one place for that one moment, but literally spreading out to the ends of the earth the next moment.  Ah, chills.  Someday I plan to arrive at LAX and throw down a wad of cash for their next outbound international flight, wherever it may be.

I first found my wings when I was 18 and boarded a plane for Israel.  I can still remember walking down the boarding gate to my plane and turning for a look back to my Mom – back in the good old days when they let people come to your gate to see you off.  She was smiling through her tears – the kind of smile that came with a slight shoulder shrug, a long-distance nudge to keep going forward.  That smile brought me so much courage, just what I needed to board a plane to a new place with new people.  Wing-spreading quickly became my favorite pastime, be it locally or globally.

But two weeks ago, when a friend dropped us off at John Wayne, you would’ve thought we were headed to outer Mongolia.  And I guess in some ways we were, since we were on our way to the Midwest.  In January.  Just in time for a Polar Vortex.  All I wanted to do was stay home –  a brand new sensation for this girl.

See, when life brought a season of storms – a friend’s cancer, unemployment, infertility being among the fiercest – I looked for stability anywhere I could find it.  I looked for roots, and I found them.  I fell in love with things like security and comfort – or at least their illusions.  I discovered rich community and simple joy around a living room, perfectly content for it to be the same living room over and over and over.  When we bought our house I was so excited that I could stay in this place for, like, forever. But now, with two weeks off, I was leaving it, and Did. Not. Want. To.

I’m pretty sure I got on that plane purely out of muscle memory.  Or maybe my husband carried me.  It’s a blur.

But I had to get on that plane – even though it was headed to the tundra – to find a truth that I’d forgotten.  I didn’t want to get on that plane, but I’m oh-so-glad I did. photo-16

Boarding that flight meant I got to see what Chicago’s river looks like with ice chunks fighting for elbow room.  I got a five mile arctic walk in with my husband of nine years, holding gloves instead of hands.  I got to spend ten dollars to buy some Thai monks in sandals a hot tea, only to see them get in a cab before my actions could trump the language barrier.

I got to see what my friend’s kitchen looks like. And where she shops for groceries.  And smell her trees and play in her snow and drink deep of the life she lives day by day.

I got to taste the glory of St Louis’ Candy Kitchen and Chicago’s deep dish and know what melted ricotta and chocolate chips can do to one’s soul.  I got to bask in time with such good friends, and trade hugs that can say more than a Skype date ever can.  And I got to meet new friends, forging bridges that I know we’ll cross again in the future.

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As I was sitting in a Chicago Pizzeria, a place that looked like the quintessential “where-everybody-knows-your-name”, but where no one knew mine, I realized just how deeply I love having both roots and wings. Pictures of the 1921 Chicago Whitesox hung on the wall, and I imagined the team actually gathering in this place for a taste of the pizza pie I was about to indulge in (OMG Chicago’s food).  Thinking of their roots made me think of mine, and all the wonderful places where people do know my name.  And all the people that know the deepest truths of who I am, oftentimes better than I do.

Having roots doesn’t always mean staying home of course, but it does mean embracing the things that aren’t new, that change so imperceptibly that you might miss it if you’re not paying close attention.

And wings doesn’t always mean a plane flight – it means being ready for the things that ARE new, gifts you didn’t know you needed.  Even if you have a bad attitude about it at the start.

What about you?  Where (or who) are your roots?  How do you spread your wings?  And do you ever, like me, have to remember to reach for both? #truestself

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Ringing in the True Year

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There are some years that fade into the jungle of memories – When was it we went there?  Did that?  What year was it when … ? 

2013 is not one of those years.  2013 has kicked my butt.  It will not easily be forgotten.

2013 is the year we bought a house that I love more than a girl probably should love four walls and a roof.  It’s the year we “camped out” during a remodel and created priceless memories as (sometimes up to 12 people) hopscotched over skil-saws and lumber and drywall to find our way to the one operating bathroom.   The year that showed me what grace looks like in the form of an amazing construction crew.

2013 is the year my niece came into this world right before my eyes.  It’s the year I learned the art of self-injections and heard the surprise in our fertility Dr’s voice when we lost another hand of “poker” despite amazing cards.

2013 is the year my husband’s job loss opened up some deep ugly inside of me.  It’s the year I scrambled and clawed to grab onto just one more dollar and collapsed into bed each night hating myself for it.  The year my husband has never worked harder, and never worked truer.

2013 is the year I actually got paid a few pennies to write and speak and each time felt like I was getting away with something.

2013 is the year five sets of beautiful friends moved far away.

2013 is the year that life changed oh so much.

So this year, maybe more than most, the idea of a New Year is tangible.

There’s a question that started burning in 2013, and it’s illuminating my way into 2014.  It’s this:  Who is the truest version of myself?  When I’m stressed, is it about things that the truest me really cares about?  When I am successful, is it in things that the truest me really wants to succeed at?  I’m convinced that too many of us live with only hints of our truest selves.  

So what I’m looking forward to most as we turn the page to 2014 is a True Year.  I want 2014 to be the truest year yet.   The year of making decisions that give life to the made-to-be-me-me, even when that may be surprising.

So instead of new year resolutions, I’m making some true year resolutions.  Because I don’t need to be newer, I need to be truer.  And I’m only choosing five, because anything else is just absurd and I won’t do it.

1)   Stretching ignored muscles.  Not just my physical ones, though that’s where I will start.  And not just for the jean size, though that will be a welcomed benefit.  But because as my lungs expand I’m convinced that my perspective will too.  Truer, not newer.

2)   Spiritual food.  My true self can’t live on bread alone, but this year I’ve kinda tried.  I need some spiritual filet mignon.  Truer, not newer.

3)   Adventuring in story – mine and others.  For me, this means picking up neglected projects.  Not only accepting opportunities write and speak but even pursuing them (yikes!).  Creating space to tell story and create story and live with a view towards adventure, knowing adventure often requires more bravery, and that my true self knows how to be brave, even though sometimes she forgets.  Truer, not newer.

4)   Telling the dollar no.  This is a tough one.  But the almighty dollar is not the boss of me.  Truer, not newer.

5)   Savoring.  Rich doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel when I think of the people that fill our lives, whether from near or far, and 2013 allowed me to celebrate them and their truest selves.  I want even more of that in 2014.  Truer, not newer.

So those are my true year resolutions.  I’d love to hear some of yours.

Happy True Year, friends.  #truestself

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Magic

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I can still see the bubbles – I can still feel them on my cheeks.  I can hear the splashing – I can feel my two year old brother squirting me with his bath toys.  I can hear the sound of my own giggle as I tried to convince my mom to tell me – “Just tell me!  Tell me!  Plllllease tell me!”

And then Mom told me.  Dad had gone to visit Santa.  To give him my wish-list.  Magic.

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I imagined him.  If he was visiting Santa, that meant he’d be in the snow.  Would he take a sleigh?  How did he know where to find Santa?  And then I knew:  Because magic.

I imagined Santa.  Would his white beard glisten as he laughed?  What did he wear when he wasn’t in his holiday suit?  Where did he keep his reindeer?  And what did they eat?  And then I knew:  Magic.

I can’t remember anything about my wish list.  I’m sure it was standard fare for a four-year old.  Probably something about a doll or a dress.  Maybe my favorite show, which was probably a toss up between Smurfs and He-Man.  But see, the list wasn’t the magic part.

My Dad knew Santa.  And Santa lived close.  In our mountains – my mountains.  From that moment on I was officially on “Santa watch” every time we roamed up to our local mountains.  Even in the summer.  Actually, especially in the summer, because that’s when he’d least expect me to find him.  I knew exactly what I was looking for, too.  He had to live somewhere with a barn so his reindeer could be hidden away out of sight, and I figured during the summer months Santa probably sported a short-sleeve red plaid shirt.  And cropped his beard.  And drove a jeep.  I was a very logical four-year-old.

It wasn’t long before my logical self grew out of Santa and discovered that “Dad taking him my wish list” was my Mom’s creative way of saying that Dad had gone Christmas shopping, and that the nights I’d heard jingle bells on the roof were my Dad stomping around, not Jolly Old St. Nick.  But it didn’t change the magic for me.  In fact, it increased it.  I mean, my Dad got up on our roof and walked around with jingle bells.  Now THAT’S some magic.

And I never experienced a traumatic transition from Christmas being about Santa to it being about Baby Jesus.  Smooth as butter for this young mind to learn about “the real Old St. Nick” and the Jesus he worshiped.  Because see, Santa wasn’t the magic part to me.  My Mom and Dad were the magic part.  Guys, my Dad KNEW SANTA.  Magic.  My Mom fed my imagination.  Magic.  Jingle Bells on a rooftop were even more magical knowing they belonged to my Dad instead of some guy with a white beard.

And now, thirty years after that little girl’s bath-time, with the bubbles and the splashing and the giggles all on-call for my wistful moments, my eyes still twinkle at the thought of my Mom and Dad knowing magic.  In fact, thirty years later, I need to remember that magic.  I became a really serious kid as I became a responsible big sister, and I didn’t exactly choose a magic-filled career.  But there are moments and places that capture it for me and take me right back to that four-year-old self.  Right back to a place where anything can happen, where the world is wide and full and your Dad knows Santa.  Disneyland has my number – they get me every time when they launch faux-snow right after the Christmas-melody of fireworks.  My favorite littles get me when they wrap their arms around my neck and whisper “I wuv you.”  My husband gets me every time he grabs my soap-covered hands and spins me for a dance in our kitchen.  New horizons get me.  The deep ocean gets me.  Stories of redemption get me.  In those moments, magic grabs me and shakes me and says “This life is full of me!  Look around and see me – I’m everywhere!”  And I know it’s true – magic fills this place we call home.  But it’s not the magic of flying reindeer or a bowl full of jelly.  It’s the magic of the people that help us imagine.  That open our hearts and our minds to what could be.  To create with what can’t be seen.

Magic is waiting – it’s waiting for me to close my eyes and go back to a bubble-filled bath time.  And it’s waiting for me to open my eyes and see what’s right in front of me.  If we’re wiling to look, we’ll find it behind and ahead and inside.  And maybe, just maybe, we’ll even be lucky enough to bring Magic to someone else’s story, whether it’s by strapping jingle bells on our boots or opening their heart to a new, quiet truth.  But he

re’s the thing about Magic: It can’t be sold but it can be treasured.  It can’t be buried but it can be lost.  It can’t be bought but it can be created.  You can’t taste it or see it or hold it – you have to experience it, and no one can do that for you. But be ready, because it can sneak up on you in the unlikeliest of places – even in the whispy memories of suds and bubbles.  Or in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.

Merry Christmas – may it be magical.

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The Quest for the Perfect Egg: And other messy problems

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Six months ago, we set out on our craziest idea yet:  to renovate and remodel our first home.  I love that we are crazy enough to take on crazy projects.  And we’re talking crazy.  Move a wall here, build a wall there, not to mention gutting two kitchens and three bathrooms.   And don’t even get me started on the invisible stuff.

And I love the results. I am over-the-moon for our new kitchen, our new bathrooms, and the Air Conditioning that has saved our sanity this summer.  Our new house is slowly becoming a home.  One of my love languages is having our living room, kitchen, and yard filled with faces, and soon we’ll have guest rooms ready and the door will officially be opened wide!

And yes, before and after pictures will definitely be in order.

But before the after, there’s the messy.   The crazy.  The dust.  The just-one-more-thing-to-do.

This remodel project has taught me a lot about myself, and about being messy.  I’m a big fan of before-and-after, and sometimes I wait to share stories until I have the “after” figured out.  But messy is where life happens.

Having now lived through six months of a remodel, this is how I would describe it:  Remodeling is like issuing an invitation to all first-world problems to come through your front door.

Enter: the Story of a Stove.  Yes, a stove.  The Stove that has been bought twice and delivered thrice.

We grinned as we made grown-up purchases to replace our once-upon-a-college-student’s appliance collection of the past.  Our smiles faded when problem after problem arose.  It shouldn’t be so hard.  But it has been.  Countless obstacles have attacked this one part of our home, despite our best research, consumer-reporting, and careful purchasing.

Let me tell you, nothing makes you hate the first world more than fighting with a stove company about delivery, damage, broken promises, bad service, and all the requisite cash that comes from those issues.  I mean, it’s just a stove.  The classic first-world problem.  It’s not like I’m scouring to find food in the first place.

But also, it’s a stove.  My stove.  Where pancakes and spaghetti and cookies and over-easy eggs are destined to be made.  Where onions are sizzled and peppers are stir-fried and bacon sizzles.  A critical ingredient to a house becoming a home.

The Story of the Stove – with its grueling hours, mind-numbing delays, and costly detours – ended this week.  This week I got my stove.  I got to turn on my burner and see the beautiful blue of burning gas.  This, after driving like a bat out of hell to meet the handyman for installation.  Bat-out–of-hell, people.

The first night I made a beautiful egg with a golden yolk and celebrated the end of this particular first-world problem.  But I won’t pretend it wasn’t one heckofa messy road to get this “simple” thing done, and I’ll have an extra dose of grace for the next time a friend faces a first-world problem.

I think a lot of us face this – we come up against things that “shouldn’t be this hard.”  But sometimes they are.    Sometimes the things that should be the simplest can end up being the hardest.  Sometimes the things that should take minutes take hours.  Sometimes the things that seem so easy for someone (everyone?) else are your personal nemesis.

That’s life.  It gets messy.  But then again, the messy is what makes you appreciate the beauty all the more – like the golden hue of a perfect egg.

Stove

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The kind that are hard to find

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There are lots of friends in this life.  But some are terribly hard to find.  They are the ones you don’t even realize you’ve found until they are a natural part of your life.  The ones who invite themselves to your house mid-flu-season with a yummy soup and cheerful flowers.  The ones who make everything they touch beautiful.  The ones who wear heart-shaped glasses that make you roll your eyes in love, because it reminds you that they live life with their heart exposed.  The kind that walk through the deep, dark ugly days – yours and their own, and while they may flinch, they don’t run.  The kind who make you laugh but aren’t afraid when you cry.

I am so lucky to have many friends like this.  They are my lovelies.  Some are near, and too many are too far away.

One such lovely is about to board a plane to her new home tomorrow.  We’re excited for her new chapter of life – and the many visits we’ll have to make to Hawaii for visits (I know, I know, we are selfless when it comes to visiting friends).  But also,  “see-ya-later” is not the same as “see-ya-tomorrow”, and it makes you look at the chapter-past, to celebrate the life that has been shared, and take a few deep sighs for what will change as life is now shared long-distance.  What did people do before text messaging, face time and frequent flyer miles?  I mean, seriously.

So today, take a minute.  Look around you and take stock of those friends that are hard to find.  The lovelies in your world.  If they are long-distance already, send them a message or a smile or maybe even an old-fashioned postcard with blue ink and everything.  If they are right next door, run over for a just-because-hug.

And celebrate.  Celebrate that God made this whack-a-doo life to be shared.

 

Dannah

 

 

 

 

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Playing Into the Wind

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I’m not a golfer.  Not by a long shot – pun intended.  My husband’s a golfer, and four years ago he got me golf clubs for our anniversary.  I squealed in delight because they are “pretty” – I tried them on.  You know, slung the strap over my shoulder and struck a golfer’s pose (whatever that is).  And that’s about where my golf experience ends.

But I know there’s this idea of playing into the wind.  That true golfers can’t blame the conditions for their bad game.  That part of the game is assessing the wind and playing your ball accordingly.

There’s a hefty breeze blowing in my life right now and I don’t like it.  Not a bit.  It’s an uncomfortable, harsh wind.  It’s throwing me off my game.

I’m not a stranger to changing breezes – I’ve weathered multiple storms.  I just wasn’t prepared for this one.  This breeze comes in the form of a job loss for my husband.  In the most untimely of seasons: as we are in the midst of a remodel/renovation on our recently purchased house, and as I’m just starting to take my own risks in career/life transition.

I don’t like this breeze.  Not a bit.

There are days that it makes me sad, days that it makes me angry, and days it just makes me plain tired.

See, I was playing my game (translate life) and was just starting to feel the swing of things.  Sorry, I just can’t resist the puns today.  Not in my nature, but I’m just going with it.

But really, if life were a game of golf, you would have seen me smiling as I looked down the fairway on a beautiful sunny day.  I was swinging my little club with a sense of clarity, passion, and fun.  But then this darn breeze kicked up.  And I see all my golf balls flying to the right and the left.

Some days I get so angry at the wind that I could spit into it.   But see, the thing is with wind is, it always wins, and the spit will just fly right back in my face.  And that may be the very worst thing about it:  that my anger, my frustration, my sense of injustice, doesn’t change the wind a dang bit.  I am powerless in the face of this wind.  DANG for powerlessness.

The wind is the wind and it doesn’t care that I don’t like the way it’s blowing.  Leaving me with three infuriating options:

  1. I can keep hitting my darn balls the same way and complaining about that dang wind that keeps blowing them sideways,
  2. I can stop playing altogether, or
  3. I can play into the wind.

The thing is, I don’t want to stop playing.  So that eliminates option number two.

And while I want to keep playing my game the way I was, I’m really not getting anywhere with that strategy.

So that means I have to change my game.  And I don’t want to.  I really, really don’t want to.

But I have to play into the wind.

This is what I think it looks like to change my game:

  1. Look Forward.  I have to stop looking backwards and thinking about how the wind was blowing, or how I think it should be blowing. Forward is the only option, and every minute I spend thinking about the past is a wasted minute.  It won’t change anything.
  2. Remove obstacles.  Right now, that’s my anger.  My anger has to die.  I want to feed it and cultivate it because I think I’m right.  Like, really.  I think I’m right and choices that have been made are wrong.  So what I WANT to do is hold onto the anger.  But what I HAVE to do is put it to death, starve it, stop giving it time and energy and attention.  If I don’t, it’s game over for my heart.
  3. Study the wind. The only way I can play into the wind is if I understand where and how it’s now blowing.  This will require me stopping, being still, watching, and listening before taking action.  Bagger-Vance style.
  4. Adapt my swing.  Change what I’m aiming for.  Re-calibrate, re-position.
  5. Swing.  It’s not enough if I take all the first steps – I still need to actually play.  This means my first calibration might be wrong, might need some tweaking, might take me back to steps 3 & 4 again.  And again.  And again.
  6. Be ready for the wind to change again.  If it’s not clear by now, I’m not the most adaptable person in the world.  I used to think I was, but I’m not.  I’m just not.  But the wind is a wild thing, and not subject to my desire to tame it.

So this is my world right now.

It’s breezy.  The wind is whipping my hair in my face.

But I’ve still got a game to play.

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What about you?  Any breezes blowing?

What does it look like for you to play into the wind?

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