Monday, September 18, 2017

Book Love

There's not too much I love more than a good book (preferably read while drinking coffee curled up on my front porch with a blanket). I had hoped to get more books read over the summer than I did (not a shocker, as a general rule I'm always hoping to get more done than I actually accomplish!), but the things that I did read were great. Insightful, funny, thought-provoking, entertaining. All sorts of wonderful!

Also, in related news, I have been cognitively aware of book lights for years (decades even, maybe), but have never owned one. A few weeks back I was at Costco (one of my happy places) and saw a two-pack of book lights and caved and put them in my cart. Then I proceeded to stick it on my dresser when unloading all my purchases and leave it there in its packaging for at least another week or so. Then one day, I opened them and TA-DA . . . book lights are amazing. I can now read in my bed at night. Who would have known? (Lots of you, I'm sure!) Our house was built in the 20's and our bedroom has no overhead light. We have a small wall-mounted light near the door that barely gives off enough light to get into bed safely. So, needless to say, I have never been a read-in-bed kind of girl. Anyhow, my world has changed for the better with my purchase of a book light. If you don't own one (or two), go buy one. You can thank me later. Or not, even. Whatever!

So, what have I been reading this summer? Here's what is in my most recent "just finished" stack on my bookshelf.

Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle. I have read Melanie's 3 previous books and loved them, so I was excited to get my hands on this latest one. I applied for, and was accepted to be on the launch team for the book, so I got an Advanced Reader Copy and was able to read it before it comes out in the world. It releases on October 3rd, so you still have time to pre-order (pre-ordering comes with some extra fun gifts and perks and swag -- free stuff is always fun!) yourself a copy. As I expected it was hilarious, but profoundly true and touched on both light and heavy topics with the style that I have come to expect, and love, from Melanie. The idea that the little things in life are really the big things is the major theme in this book (and also in my life, so that might be part of why I loved it so much!). Find out more at Do yourself a favor and pre-order. Then you'll have a surprise waiting for you in a couple weeks when it arrives in your mailbox.

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore. This one is our book club book for this month (and next month we are going to see the movie!) and I was glad because it is one I have been meaning to read for YEARS. I was grateful for the perspective that it brought me into the lives of those who have such different experiences from mine.

My Name is Child of God by Julia K. Dinsmore. This one is also about themes of poverty (which has been something that continually is in front of me lately, every time I turn around it seems to come up in one way or another) and biases in our society. I have heard Julia speak and was glad to have the opportunity to read her book and understand more of what she is fighting against on a societal level. I highly recommend it. And she is local to where I live. I always like that.

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker. Again, I have read many of Jen's books and love her writing and her wit and her humor and her perspective. This one was no exception. About the mess and the grit of life. About friendship and family and the regular stuff of life. The fun stuff and the heavy stuff. It's worth the read, if you ask me. This one was a gift (a for-no-reason gift! How fun is that?) from a good friend of mine. I adore having friends who know me well.

Do We Not Bleed? by Daniel Taylor. This one was a gift too. A birthday gift from my brother. He had loaned me the first in this series of mysteries and I loved it, so he gave me the second one for my birthday. (His birthday is just a few days after mine and I have him a book too -- so it was a book birthday for us, I guess). It (also) has a local author and a local setting. It is a mystery filled with interesting, quirky characters (I love a good quirky character!) and the events that lead this unlikely bunch to figure out "who done it". Dan Taylor was a writing professor at the college that I attended back in the day. I never took a class from him, but knew OF him and have read a few of his other books (mostly non-fiction). I love that he has plunged into the world of fiction and mystery.

The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines. I've had this book since it came out, but just now got around to reading it. We don't have cable, but I have seen some episodes of Fixer Upper and I loved it. Plus, we just finished up a major home addition and renovation project. I had read a bit about the two of them and knew I wanted to know morenof their story. I loved it. Their relationship. The crazy stories about Chip. Their testimony of the faithfulness of God in their lives. The birth of their show and success. All the stories of their entrepreneurial endeavors. The love of home and family . . . all good stuff!

So, there you have it. I thought they were all well-worth reading (I used to be unable to not finish a book once I started, but now I have no qualms putting away a book I am not enjoying, so it's very rare that I read something that I don't enjoy) and would suggest any, or all, of them. Order 'em. Don't. Check them out from the library. Or not. Borrow them from a friend, or from me. These are not affiliate links (cause not enough people will read this for Amazon to care even the teensiest little bit) and I get nothing at all if you buy them -- except if you read one and tell me, then we could have a rousing book discussion, which is also something that I love!

Happy reading, friends!

Monday, April 17, 2017

The apple and the tree

You know the saying "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Well, it would seem, the older it get the closer and closer I roll back toward the tree from which I fell. Maybe I didn't fall to far in the first place, but I just keep getting closer and closer to the tree with each passing year.

I recently posted this picture on Facebook of my mom holding me as a newborn. I posted it because it is a picture that I love and happened upon that day and thought was worth sharing. The response that I got was one I didn't expect. People actually thought the picture was of me holding one of my newborns! People who know me well and know my mom and see me on a regular basis. Weird! I knew we looked similar, but I didn't realize we looked THAT similar. I have known for a while that I am like my mom in many ways (unfortunately not as it relates to prowess in the kitchen or classy style!), but am realizing more and more ways that I am like my dad too.

My dad often comes home with random things that he finds. A pair of shoes from the side of the road. An entire floor worth of cubical "walls" from the dumpster outside an office building (possibly still gracing the furnace/utility room at my parent's previous house). Way too many wallets to count (all of which he returned to their grateful owners). Cell phones, entire bathroom vanities on someone's curb following a remodel, winter hats . . . you name it and he has probably "found" it at some point in his life (and worn it, when applicable). When I was a kid, this drove me crazy. Why on earth would you dig around in a nasty dumpster? What could be in there that you would possibly want? (I also didn't appreciate garage sales or thrift store or hand-me-downs in my younger days!) Fast forward a few decades and I bet you'll never guess what I spent my afternoon doing yesterday . . . digging through the dumpster in my front yard! First I dug some stuff out of there that really should be recycled and not thrown in a dumpster. (Thankfully I didn't get injured on a 90-year-old rusty nail in the process!) It is a pet peeve of mine if something is put in the trash that belongs in the recycling! After pulling out some cardboard, pop cans and plastic beverage bottles and moving them to our family recycling bin, the real treasure hunt could begin! The company doing our remodel doesn't have a dumpster at every job site, so sometimes there is stuff in our dumpster that is from another job they are working on. I salvaged some new scrap wood that I can use for crafty endeavors, some fun architectural salvage from another job site, and some old boards from our front porch that I will have to save for a special project. I spent the following hour or so, pulling out old rusty nails and screws, sanding and cleaning up my finds. I never would have imagined, at 15, or even 20, that I would follow in my dad's footsteps by scooping up free stuff off the side of the road and digging through dumpsters for potential treasures.

This all makes me wonder what things drive my kids crazy right now that they will end up doing themselves a few decades down the road.

My parents are fabulous people! I'm so glad to have had the blessing of such wonderful trees from which to fall!

Monday, March 27, 2017

All the feels

It has been quite a week around here. So much "life" (and all that that entails) packed in to a few short days. The highs and the lows. The joys and the sorrows. I've shed so many different kinds of tears that I've nearly lost count.

I started the week with a funeral. Anna and I went together. That one isn't my story to tell, and not my loss directly, but it was a huge loss for people that I care about and came with with all the emotions of grief and shock and deep sorrow.

We followed funeral day with a tumultuous day for our family. That one's not really mine to tell either, but it was a hard, hard day. Lots of emotions and frustrations coupled with (and stemming from) cramped/out-of-routine living conditions and overtired people with lots of hormonal upheaval (ah, the tween/teen years!) can result in a pretty "impressive" explosion. I think we are still recovering from that one!

Next came the rollercoaster of emotions that you experience when you mark the passage of time. At our house we get a two-for-one on that experience, since two of our kids share a birthday. Our two oldest kiddos turned 18 and 16 last week. I can hardly wrap my brain around that fact. I am the parent of an adult (technically, anyway!). What in the actual heck is going on in the world? I feel like I was 18 not that long ago. Time is so weird like that! (It should be noted that I simultaneously feel 95 when the aches and pains come as I attempt to get out of bed in the morning . . . bursitis sucks and should be reserved for people who are at least 75!). All day I was full of thoughts and memories. I'm so proud of the amazing people that they are (and are still becoming -- aren't we all still becoming who we really are?)! I am so grateful for the opportunity to be their mom. Nothing else in life can compare to that privilege and responsibility! They have taught me so much over the years. Being a mom has grown me more than anything else in life. I tried to ignore the thoughts of all that I have done wrong as their mom and all the ways that I've messed them up, but those kept popping up anyway. I thought of and prayed over their futures and all that they still have ahead of them in life. Both the joys and the challenges. I remembered them as babies and toddlers and preschoolers and "big kids" and tweens. So very many memories! What a day.

Also, Jacob and Lydia were in the play at their school this weekend. After weeks and weeks of rehearsals, showtime was here. I think they were at school from about 7:30am until after 10pm every day this week (with the exception of Wednesday). Seussical was fabulous and they did a great job! I'm always happy when things come to an end, though, and life can settled down a bit again after the craziness of performance week!

The house project has had some stresses and kinks and delays this week and that only added to the general life stress. But it is really starting to come together and it looks great and I'm so excited for it to be finished and to start getting settled in and using our fabulous new space. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and we can do it!

We have some close family friends who are facing some really intense struggles, so not much time passes that I am not thinking of and praying for them and all that they are facing and in the middle of.

Then there was church . . . I pretty much always cry at church!

Life is so hard! And also so wonderful!. So much tension that we are caught between. I am grateful for the highs and the lows and having them all so interwoven. That is what makes life so real and wonderful. As much as the struggles are hard and no one wants them, the joys wouldn't/couldn't be as rich without the other side of the coin. Birthdays. Death. A beautiful sunrise. Illness. The wrinkly forehead of a newborn. A good book. Relational struggles and heartaches. Snuggling up with your child. Physical pain. The first cup of coffee in the morning. Friendship . . . life!

The week ahead holds yet another birthday, a work trip for Kirby and a band trip to NYC for Jacob. So it would seems things won't be settling down much for at least another week (and probably not then either)!

Thursday, February 16, 2017


A conversation between myself and our kindergartener this morning on the walk to school:

(Kindergartener looks downtrodden and sad.)
Me: "What's wrong babe?"
Sara: mumbles something unintelligible
Me: "What? I can't hear you."
Sara: mumbles some more
Me: "I still can't hear you."
Sara (louder and less mumble-y . . . finally): "Joe is mean and he was being a hypocrite!"
Me (questioning whether she actual had an actual grasp on the meaning of the word "hypocrite"): "What do you mean, honey? What does hypocrite mean?"
Sara: "Hypocrite means I was cracking the ice and Joey told me I had to stop, but he kept on cracking the ice."
Me (surprised that she DID actually get the idea of hypocrisy): "Well, that isn't nice. Why don't you just not walk near him. Stay by me!"

Ah the drama of sibling relationships!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Church and the therapist's office

I need to start by saying that I love my church. I love the people there and the community. I feel we have a greater than average share of eclectic, quirky people when compared most churches I have been to. We are accepting and welcoming more than I feel is normal for a church. Those people are my family and I love them! But we still have a long ways to go, in my opinion. And I feel that "the church", in the broad sense of the word, should be more like the waiting room at the therapist's office.

Yesterday I spent a little more than an hour in the waiting room at Fraser. Fraser is a mental health specialty clinic for kids. They are mainly known for their amazing work with autism, but they work in all areas of mental health. It is a wonderful place and one for which we are very, very grateful! I have spent Thursday afternoons there for almost a year now, (for a while we spent time there on Friday too, but we've weaned down to once a week!). The woman that we see there (who we are adore, and care about, and are so, so thankful for, and who has made a huge difference in the life of one of our kiddos and, thus, in the life of our family as a whole) had surgery earlier this winter and so this was our first week back since before Christmas. (7 weeks off of therapy, especially in the midst of a major home remodel, is really tricky for a kid who has a significantly hard time with changes to routine and unpredictability!) So, after that break, I feel like I was seeing things with fresh eyes yesterday.

Many of our same "friends" were there in the waiting room with me. Familiar faces. But there were new people that I didn't recognize as well. The Fraser waiting room is a unique place. So very much diversity! Ethnic diversity. Economic diversity. Age diversity (the woman sitting next to me, who I have had short conversations with from time to time, brings her GREAT grandson to his therapy each week). Language diversity (there is always at least one interpreter in the room to relay information from therapist to parent). Diversity of abilities. Diversity in the issues that bring us each to Fraser. It reminds me a bit of what I imagine heaven to be like.

It is the least "calm" waiting room I have EVER been in. Kids throw major fits there. Sometimes they lay down, refusing to move, in the middle of the floor. It is loud! People often act in ways that would not be socially acceptable in any other setting. Loving therapists and parents can be found sitting in the middle of the floor trying to engage with a kiddo they care about and want to help who has shut down or is being oppositional. If people need to get by them (because they are, quite literally, sitting in the middle of the floor of the small waiting room) they just step over or around and give a sympathetic smile. It is the least judgmental setting that I have ever been in. It has a vibe of we've-been-there-too, keep-up-the-fight, you-can-do-it. Solidarity! Parenting is hard, hard work! That is universal. But some kiddos are even harder than average.

Everyone in that waiting room is desperate. They realize they can't do it alone and need help and wisdom and support. They are at the end of their ropes and knowledge and ability and are acknowledging their needs just by walking through the door. That fact brings an amazing feeling of unity and also an inability to put on any air of pretense or having things all together. Just by being there, we are all saying that we DON'T have it all together and that we're pretty much a mess. And we need help. No one there is judge-y. People give a sympathetic smile and let you know you aren't alone. People own their "stuff" and don't attempt to be fake. I imagine we all spend enough time faking it in other settings and it feels good to be real for a bit.

Isn't that how church should be too? Aren't we there because we are acknowledging that we need Jesus? That we can't save ourselves? That we are all sinners and are a bit of a mess -- possibly even a huge mess! When people ask me, on Sunday morning, "How are you?",  can I say that I had a shitty week? Would I get in "trouble" if I said shitty in church? A big part of me wants to be authentic, but instead, I almost always default to "Good. And you?" This is not completely false. I AM good. I am healthy. I have a wonderful family that I love (and who, if we're being honest, I want to murder at least once a day). I have food to eat and clothes to wear and a roof over my head. I have wonderful friends and a great community. But, also, life is hard! It isn't easy to convey all of this in church (or anywhere), so I default to "Fine." or "Good." But I wish church were more like the Fraser waiting room. Where we could drop the pretense and be more real and have it be ok to do so. Where other people would be that way too. That we all would. Where we could just sit (often completely wordless) with our crap. Where just by walking through the doors we would be admitting what a mess we are. I think Jesus would be in favor of that. My Jesus would, anyway!

*photo credit to my friend Margaret 

Friday, January 27, 2017

House update

Work on the house is coming right along. It's getting more exciting each day. We are so looking forward to the blessing that our new space will be to our family and those who spend time in our home. Living kitchen-less and in cramped quarters has been a challenge for our larger-than-average crew, but we are surviving it so far!

The other day I was at Target and bought a bunch of Sharpies so we could "bless" our new space. We all gathered in the new kitchen and spent some time praying over our home and all the people that would come through our doors and our family and the blessing that the new space will be. Then we set the kids free to write all over the studs. Blessings. Scripture. Song lyrics. Un-readable stuff written by a 6-year-old. It was a great night.

Walls have gone up. Walls have come down. Windows have come out. New windows are in. Holes have been cut through walls. Other holes have been patched.

It's exciting to see the progress each day. Some days it is more noticeable than others, but always exciting. Some days you run 2 errands and listen to a podcast and when you get home your entire kitchen, that was there when you left home, is gone! Crazy!

A couple more months and we'll be living in and growing accustom to our new space.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

CSC trip recap

No words or pictures could capture our trip. The feelings, the experiences, the people . . . it was so good and so hard and so wonderful and so emotional.

We left early on Sunday morning, December 18th. At the airport by 4 am to check all our bags and pick up coffee and get to the gate in time for our first leg of the long trip to Cebu. We flew from Minneapolis to LA. From LA to Seoul. From Seoul to Cebu. Nearly 24 hours of total time in the air between the two flights! Due to the time differences, it was early Tuesday morning, local time, when we finally arrived in Cebu. We were tired and weary, but excited to be there after the weeks and weeks of dreams and plans.

We were asked to come to help with Christmas preparations for the kids. 75 kids, give or take a couple! That's a whole lotta Christmas prep, let me tell you. We shopped. We wrapped. We wrapped some more. We "emergency" shopped for a few more things. We baked cookies. We made table decorations for Christmas dinner. We frosted cookies. We played with kids. We held precious babies. We made friends. We witness the selfless gift, purchased with money donated by orphaned and abandoned children, that would bless someone who had needs beyond any that I can wrap my brain around! We worshipped. We sweat a lot (TROPICS! We were in the tropics!). We listened. We cried. We ate A LOT of rice. We even slept a little bit.

I can't put words to the life long impact an experience like this has on a person. I'm so grateful to have been able to share it with some of my very favorite people on earth.