Why I Can Face the New Year {and you too}

I’m pulling spun-out laundry from the washing machine, when I think of it – how January 3rd is here, and 2016, and it’s a new year already and time goes so fast, and I wonder how many people say that every year. “Didn’t we just start a new year? How can we be here already?”

When you’re fifteen and your bad days hinge on hair and pimple flair-ups, you just smile when people talk about the swift passage of time. “Before you know it, you’ll be middle-aged with a family and you’ll wonder what happened”, and at fifteen, you don’t even have a driver’s license but you’re already wondering if you’ll ever get married, and middle-aged people that say things like that are just weird.

I toss the spun-out laundry into the dryer and I realize I’m middle-aged now and people that say things like that might be weird, but they are also telling the truth.

The earth keeps right on spinning on its axis and time never stops — or even slows — and the honest reality is that your longest day is nothing but a sliver of a moment in the grand scheme of life.

And I might be middle age, but I’m still figuring this out. That my life matters today, on a Monday when “all” I do is clean my bathroom and change laundry loads in the basement and read books to my two-year-old. I’m still “getting it”, that all this living is what life is really all about. That “being someone” and “making a difference” and “leaving a legacy” is about how I love my husband and if I make time to chit-chat with my neighbors and how I raise my son. IMG_4389IMG_9877IMG_4235IMG_4367IMG_7332IMG_7342IMG_7356IMG_7175IMG_7326IMG_7252IMG_7378

When I was fifteen there were so many things I wanted to “get past” – I wanted to get past school. I wanted to get past singlehood then, and start dating, and then after dating a couple of months, I wanted to get past dating and get engaged. You know how it goes, right? There is always something next, right?

It happened when I became a mom. I loved this little baby boy, but I wanted him to start cooing. Then he did and I wanted him to giggle and then roll over and seriously, when would he crawl? Some days, hard days, I wanted him to stop being a baby, like he could just get over that, and be a kid.

It’s human nature and I’m only becoming more convinced, that it’s a messed-up part of human nature. Because the real milestone is seeing the wonder and beauty and importance of today, how this day and this moment marks your life, how it shapes you and carries you to those landmarks of your life, how the moments that stand out are only special because of who you are, and how who you are is all that life lived out every day.  

This summer we got a phone call about a baby that needed a home. We said no. Sometimes, as much as you wish you could, you can’t. We had said we wouldn’t do it again, until our Cub’s adoption was finished.

On December 7th, we got another phone call. This time was different and I knew it right away. We had to make a decision fast, like we always do, and I called Ryan at work. He listened, all quiet and then he said, “What do you think?” And I paused before I spoke, because I was afraid. Afraid he would tell me no, that we really needed to wait until the adoption was finished, like we had said we would. That would be responsible, right?

Sometimes I hate being an adult and feeling the need to be responsible.

“My heart says yes,” I was quiet and I waited impatiently for his response.

“Yeah,” he said, “Yeah, me too.”

“Really?” I could hardly believe my ears. “Really?”

We waited a couple of days, prayed about it, talked about it, weighed the pros and the cons and wondered if there are pros and cons to wrapping your arms around a baby and giving it love.

Then we said yes, two days later on December 9th. And the moment I hung up the phone, I wanted to cry. What had we done? I doubted our decision, because we had said that we wanted to wait until the adoption was through and then we didn’t. Did we just make an emotional decision, because there was little baby girl that was going to be born in February?

“God, are we crazy?” I prayed that whole morning, in my heart. “Ok, God, I just need to know we did the right thing. This is a huge risk and did we just plow into it and make an emotional decision? I didn’t think we did, but did we?”

I got home that afternoon, got the mail, and there it was – the cream envelope branded with our lawyer’s name and office address. My hands shook, but I ripped that envelope open as fast as I could. We had a date to finalize the adoption of our Cub.

December 15.

I smiled all day long. Smiled because in less-than-a-week our adoption would be final. Smiled because we had gone out on a limb and said yes to a baby girl and the timing of everything just felt like a big stamp of blessing from God.

I’m closer to middle age than any other age now, and I’m a far cry from where I thought I would be, when I was fifteen. I’m living a life I would have never marked out and I’m doing things, like foster care, that I merely contemplated as remote possibilities in the distant future.

And yesterday, we walked up to the tall, chain link, barbed wire fencing and signed ourselves in at the front desk and went through security and through doors that only open when you hear a buzzer. We sat in a crowded visiting room and waited for a woman to come out, a woman with a bump at her belly, due soon. We sat there waiting and I thought about the fact that she had already made it clear that she would want her baby back when she got out.

She came out and I gave her a hug and we talked. “What made you decide to do this program?” She asked, between bites of a cheap vending machine burger.

So I told her. I told her how we couldn’t have kids of our own, how we’d doctored and cried and been mad at God. I told her how we ended up getting Leo even though we weren’t on the list and how we’d just finished his adoption. I told her how we never expected an adoption, and how I’d told Ryan six months into loving our Cub, that I would really do it all over again, because for better or worse, my heart might split in two, but I would never regret loving him.

She told us that she was getting out in May and she said, “Only three months without the baby.” And I smiled at her, but my heart cracked a bit.

“You are my angels,” She said then, popping a blue Sour Patch Kid into her mouth. “I don’t think I could do what you are doing.”

I looked into her eyes and I saw her. She was a human, a woman, and she was a mom. A mom who had some really hard knocks and made some really bad choices. A person that needs Jesus, just like me.

“I didn’t think I could do what I’m doing either,” I said, “I don’t know how I’m going to love Nevaeh and then say good-bye. I don’t. I have a hard time explaining this too, but I think sometimes God puts it in your heart to do things that feel crazy and impossible, things you don’t know you can do, but He puts it in your heart and He gives you grace.”

She puts more Sour Patch Kids in her mouth and doesn’t say anything in response. She just looks at me and her eyes are kind and grateful.

And I wonder, sitting there, how it will feel when I place her daughter back in her arms and say good-bye. I wonder what in this crazy, spinning world I am doing, because what I’m doing feels a little like putting your heart up for target practice.

I know how fast time really goes and how short three to six months will really be, and I don’t even understand myself why on this earth we are doing what we are doing, except I am starting to realize that my life matters today, while I’m “just” being a mom and a wife and a woman and a person that believes in crazy grace that equips you to breathe and take one step at a time.

A lot of things in life don’t make sense, and I don’t know why God allows a lot of things to happen the way He does, but Jesus loves me, this I know, and this, my friends, is why I can face the New Year.

And you too.




Why 2015 is the Year for Revolution

January 1 and Facebook is flooded and drowning in New Years Resolutions again.

I want none of it.

Ok, so… there’s nothing wrong with planning or making goals or dreaming big. But this thing of resolutions?

I want more…more…more…more…more…

and so very much less.

I want a revolution.

This is mutiny of the best kind.

Coffee first. {Thank-you handsome, bearded man o’ mine.}

coffeeroaster frenchpress

Forget my best efforts and attempts, masquerades and performances.

I am finished with trying to make life.

Frankly, you-know-what? I’m really, really tired of that. I’m just sick of Cinderella.

The more I try to make and plan and plan and make the best life ever, the more frantic I run and the more frantic I run, the more beautiful I miss, and the more beautiful I miss, the more frantic I run and the more frantic I run, the more I try to make and plan and plan and make, and?

I want a revolution.

A turning away from this frantic sense of dreaming, planning and making the best life ever.

Because the best life ever is right now.

I don’t just want a revolution, I need a revolution.

Because the best life ever is right now.

This is a revolt against this paradigm of insanity we call our “best life”, a turning to receive the redemption of today…*of right now*.

Whatever heartbreak, soul ache, mind game, joyous song, fresh perspective, companionship, or laughter that today holds –

this is my today.

this is your today.

this is my best life.

this is your best life.

this is the moment I don’t want to miss.

this is the moment you don’t want to miss.

IMG_9484 IMG_5522 IMG_5565 leafinwaterIMG_4647 IMG_9496 IMG_6368.CR2 IMG_6540.CR2-001IMG_6563 IMG_6483IMG_6614IMG_6476IMG_6473.CR2IMG_6479.CR2IMG_6353IMG_6158IMG_6329IMG_6178IMG_6106IMG_7592IMG_7664IMG_8718.CR2GROUP PICTUREIMG_6922.CR2IMG_7100.CR2IMG_6879.CR2IMG_8338

So right now, grab a hold of today.

The year of 2015 is the year for revolution,


“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

and this year?

My only resolution is to live resolved.

you too?…


…this year, I am memorizing the entire book of Colossians.

Here is the not-so-professional video of the first two weeks of memorizing Colossians.

Watch this and maybe you’ll join me?

{Click on the picture below to watch the video of my recitation.}



and just for fun, because life is beautiful, watch this entirely unprofessional video of my sisters and I singing at Christmas. We fully intend to brush this up and re-record, but for now…here’s the imperfect, full-of-mistakes, we-forgot-to-harmonize-on-the-one-part video…complete with bloopers. It’s real life, people! Smile, because your real life is beautiful.

{Click on the picture below to view our singing video!}


When He is the Gift

The day the snow fell early, softly covering the hard brown ground, I let holiday music play. My mama, with her round hazel eyes, she would have scolded me for playing Christmas music in October.


Growing up in that big, rambling townhouse on the dead-end street, it was law: Christmas music could not be played before December 1st. “I want to enjoy Thanksgiving!” My mama would say when her rowdies vehemently protested. We didn’t like it, but what could we do? My mother was pretty good at enforcing law.

This year will be our first Christmas in our new home, our first house, with a new baby. I feel it strong, this rising feeling of determined resolution, to celebrate Christmas with intention, like my mom.

Even if I do play Christmas music in October.

We had a lot of traditions, but my favorite by far, was celebrating advent. We did the Jesse Tree , and my mother made each of us a pine green or Christmas red advent calendar. We did “calendar” for years, so that meant that my mother made at least ten felt calendars, decorated in gold or silver glitter.

I’m not sure how a mother of a baker’s dozen has time to make pretty holiday calendars, but my mother somehow did. I think this as I bounce my one baby to sleep. Celebrating advent was important to my mama.

Amid correcting schoolwork, baking Christmas cookies, nursing her baby, reading books, and sorting laundry, my mama stopped, she slowed to breathe in Christmas with her family.

I want this. I want to catch the vision my mother had for advent. A time to slow, to wonder, to believe. It’s the only way, I know, she had time to make calendars. Calendars that planned the month of December. When we’d bake cookies and read the Christmas story and decorate the tree.

My mother brought us to the story of Christmas, the story of Jesus, and she planned our lives around it.Nativityscene

  • Every day had a small slip of paper with a verse or two of the Christmas story. Here’s what my paper for December 3 said: “Day 3: Luke 1:30-31 – “But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.”
  • Throughout the month we’d have days we’d draw a paper that said Gift on it. Throughout the year, my mom would collect small, inexpensive surprises for our advent calendar gifts.
  • Other scraps of paper would have a Christmas festivity or tradition penciled in. While some of these could change from year to year (there was the one year we went as a home school group to the Nutcracker Ballet), my family also had special holiday traditions we did every year (and still do to this day). One of the messages left in my calendar says Decorate the tree and house for Christmas, sing, & drink hot cocoa while another note reads, Make cut-out sugar cookies as a family. 
  • Looking back, I think my favorite part of how we did advent calendars was acts of service as siblings. Before December first, we would sit down and make one or two slips of paper for each brother or sister. Excitement always ran high when we’d stuff our notes into each other’s calendars. I spent a lot of time imagining what my siblings would give to me. Here are some examples, saved from over fifteen years ago:

December 2: Renee, I will take you to the library. Love, Andrea

December 7: Renee, I will dry your morning dishes for you. Love, Brian

December 9: Renee, I will play Farm Country Ranch with you. Love, Ben

December 16: Renee, I will play a game of your choice with you. Love, David

December 23: Renee, I will play checkers with you. Love, James

This wishing to make Christmas more than bright paper packages, stockings, cookies and Michael Buble? This longing to live Christmas, to breathe it in deep, to experience advent?

To experience advent. 

All of these holiday desires tumbling when I sit to watch Christmas at the Farm live one rainy November noon.

This year we anticipate Christmas with an advent of sharing, and I feel like a child again. What better way to experience advent, the coming of the Gift, than to share the anticipation and give it all away?

I can think of none.IMG_6634

The nostalgia of commercialized Christmases fade dully in comparison to a Christmas where He is the feasting, the celebration, the gift.


“I don’t want a Christmas you can buy.
I don’t want a Christmas you can make.
What I want is a Christmas you can hold.
A Christmas that holds me,
remakes me, revives me.
I want a Christmas that whispers, Jesus.”
— Ann Voskamp

I Know This One Thing

Jenny’s mom was holding her, this flailing mass of arms and legs. She looked at me helpless and deposited the writhing two-year-old girl in my arms. I struggled to keep from dropping her and collapsed onto the floor of the nursery, whispering “Sh, sh,” in her ear.

My heard pounded forcefully in my chest, constricted with the weight of this child’s grief. I rocked her little body, still convulsing with helpless agitation. Wild thoughts rampaged in my mind and I longed for someone to come and tell me what kind of pain had overcome her, this brown little Mexican girl with the long black eyelashes.

Instead, some of the Spanish women working at the orphanage peeked through the pink iron gates enclosing the nursery and watched silently as I held the wailing child gently, but forcefully, in my lap, singing Jesus loves you, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

She punched me and kicked me, and sobbed loud. Her eyes, that deep brown, swam with wild confusion. Tears filled my own eyes as minutes fell off the clock and still she screamed.

It was perhaps one of the most defining experiences in my life. I was nineteen, living temporarily in Tijuana, Mexico with three other English-speaking young women. It was us, two missionary families living half-hour away, a Catholic Mexican nun who ran La Hacienda, eight women working at the orphanage in exchange for shelter, and eighty fatherless children.







Jesus loves you, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I sang and my heart shuddered at the words. Her desperate wail turned into a deep moan of grief that seared my heart. My voice lost volume and my song turned into a whisper as she slowly relaxed, shuddering pathetic resignation.

I held her long after her dark lashes closed over her eyes, staring into the little brown face framed by dark black hair. My heart twisted with the muddle of my emotions. I had told her, this beautiful child abandoned just that morning by her careless mother, that Jesus loved her, that she belonged to Him.

It was so unfair, this abandonment, this rejection. This two-year-old baby was an angel child. I had sung the love of Jesus over her screams for nearly an hour, and I felt angry. If you love her, Jesus, then why would you let such innocence experience such anguish?

The question of why.
The question of so many of our days.
The question we weep and wrestle through for hours.
The question we scream.
Why, Lord? Why?
If you love me, Jesus…if you love her, Jesus…if you love him, Jesus…if you love us Jesus…
Why, Lord? Why?
Why is life brutal and unfair? Why do thousands of women abort their babies when some women would move heaven and earth to have one? Why do some people die from hunger and other people stuff their faces unnecessarily everyday of their lives, with food enough for two? Why are innocent babies cast off like unwanted appliances? Why are little girls who should be playing dolls and make-believe sold into prostitution?

At nineteen, I stared into a face of such injustice and was forever changed.
“Sometimes bad, evil things happen to people, things that should never happen to anyone, and whose fault is this?” More than six years later, I looked into the faces of my city girls and asked this question.

Their lives are wrought with unfairness. When I think of all the wrong things that need righted in their lives, I don’t know where to begin. I imagine how much more keenly they feel the injustice and the pain and I know how easy it is to blame God.

And it comes out, as they talk, the feelings of being rejected by their own Creator. The Why, God? wail of desperate confusion. It’s hard to shake it, that shift of blame to God, because we have been treated wrongly, been rejected, abused, mistreated.

“If God can change it and doesn’t, isn’t it His fault?” She speaks and her eyes are wounded holes mirroring the ache that throbs deep.

I bow my head and stare into my lap, and I breathe, long and deep. They are quiet when I look up, waiting. “That’s how it feels, doesn’t it? That even the God of the universe has rejected you? I have felt that way too.”

They shift in their seats and look down in their laps. We all know it, the injustice of the world and the mess of sin entrapping our own hearts.

“Life is unfair and hard and unjust. Women are robbed of their virginity, innocence is lost, fathers and mothers reject their own children and innocent babies die in the womb and never have a chance to live. I do not have the answers to all these questions. I do not know why. But,” and I look each of them full in the face, “But, I do know this. The God in heaven, who created the world and gave you life, did not create sin. Evil does not come from our Creator, it is borne from the devil and it comes from the pit of hell, and someday the God of the universe, the One who created you? He is coming back and every wrong will be made right and full justice will be restored and that Enemy who corrupts and destroys will be thoroughly and forever dethroned. I do not have many answers, but I know this one thing: The heart of God is for you.

It was all the way back in Mexico that truth began to sink into my own heart. When I held her and she bled agony in my lap,  

 (she finally smiled)

when I sang to Americana, the pregnant fourteen-year-old orphan and massaged her hands and she cried,

when I said good-bye to Alex before I left and he smiled between the crib rungs and reached for my face,

I began to recognize the undeniable truth that complete redemption is coming and our God is the Father of wholeness.



It changes your whole life, the realization that great injustice can be transformed into impossible good.

Never Beyond Grace

That year I taught, my whole body moved clenched and knotted up with fear those first few weeks. I stayed up late and labored over syllabi and lessons, convinced that I would not succeed. Every evening, I ran my hands through hair tensely and tears slid down cheeks like rain drips down window panes. The three days before that first day of school, I lay awake all night with heavy, seeping eyelids and I couldn’t rest unless my husband held me tightly. I was gripped with crippling fear of failure.

That first day of school, I wandered through the motions of day one feeling lost, and I moved rigid through each step, leaning on the words breathed into my ear by a friend. His grace is sufficient for youThat promise flooded my soul with more peace than I’d found in all the desperate prayers and Bible reading of the previous week.

I’d forgotten about His grace.
Have you been there with me, in that place of insecurity about something, feeling lost, alone, empty, and oh, so very little?
His grace is sufficient for you. Don’t forget.
We are never beyond grace.

When you are asked to do that one thing you said you’d never do (for me it was teaching), when you answerless face a haunting question that demands a response, when your life reeks of ordinary and you wrangle with finding a glimmer of purpose, there is grace for you.

Why do we resist? How have we come to think that there must be more than grace? I’ve lived there in that twisted heart-clutch too much of my life, smiling fake, stumbling through, hiding. I’ve been there, that woman saying “no” because I didn’t see it as my talent. Over and over again, I have limited my experience with grace, because I could not look beyond the limitations of my humanity to the all-sufficiency of God.

I have an “I can’t” list. I am thankful God is patient because I do a lot of whining. Some things on my list are always there, and some things come and go with the ebb and flow of life. I wake up each morning and when I talk to God, I go over my list with Him.

I wrestle through the demands of my day or a duty or a role. I have cried out with helpless feelings about exercising, making a pan of granola bars, submitting to my husband, and hosting a group of thirty youth. I have pleaded for relief, for excuse, for a way out. I have struggled and cried over my city girls and their lives and told God “I can’t” be there for them because I don‘t know how.

Is this why we resolve that we are beyond His grace, because if we think otherwise we must reckon with it – His grace, greater?
We are never beyond grace.
His grace is sufficient for you the drunkard, the addict, the homosexual, the liar, the prostitute, the religious one who resists, going never beyond.
Did you know, He’ll never let you go beyond His grace.

When she whispered those words His grace is sufficient for you, it was like a bolt of enabling power struck my heart. I am not alone. I am not incapable. I can do what I must do right now.
Because His grace is sufficient for me.
The promise aches with terrific adventure and we choose to be paralyzed with fear or supernaturally empowered.

Grace never negates obedience. Grace always initiates obedience. – Ann Voskamp

The Heart of Hospitality

 I remember childhood frustration because she was at our house again, the obnoxious lady with the nerve to scold my mom for feeding her muffins instead of the cookies in the cupboard. Later, we were reprimanded for ridiculing the woman’s behavior, told that our mocking was just as rude as her lack of etiquette.

There was the year a young teenage girl would show up early morning, in the hour we just rolled out of bed, dropped off by her single mom who had to get to work. She would eat breakfast with us and walk to school with my older sister.

When we lived in the old white farmhouse on the hill, there was a needy, unstable woman going down and going up the road, each just a mile or so away. They called for prayer, frozen yogurt picked up at the grocer, to ask what it meant to be a Pharisee, or just to talk.

I am not sure how old I was, but I vaguely still remember the moms-in-touch prayer groups my mom hosted in our home. I was too young to remember what the women said, but I do know they talked and prayed about their children going to public school.

I wonder if my mom knew all the minutes of time she’d invest in tenants when my dad bought an apartment building. The women tenants would come to pay their rent and they’d end up sitting in a chair at the kitchen table while my mom nursed an infant or stirred boiling spaghetti sauce. Sometimes they’d talk about their children and laugh, and I remember the times they cried and mom said we should play in the living room.

We took another lady to church and I’m ashamed to say that we groaned and whined about it. She talked so much. We were convinced that we’d never met anyone who had that much to say. When we got back to her house to drop her off, there was more than one time we idled on the side of the road for close to an hour, mom patiently listening.

I think I must have been seven or eight, when a struggling mother frequently brought her brood of five to our townhouse on the dead end street. Her husband was in jail and she lived poorly in a cold, unfinished trailer sitting on cement blocks.

– Max Beerbohm said, “When hospitality becomes an art, it loses its very soul.” –

When I consider my mother’s acts of service, her selfless giving, as she gave birth to and raised thirteen children and spent half of her motherhood home schooling, I keenly feel the emasculation of hospitality.

Our home was never immaculate and spotless, we, the baker’s dozen brood, made sure of that. My mother did not have time to offer guests five star, five course meals, and toys were usually strewn across the floor and sometimes there was six full baskets of laundry parked in the family room. She never had a catalogue cover home to offer and guests sometimes ate leftovers on paper plates at our house, but my mom listened. My dad laughed. And people came back for more.

Hospitality wasn’t an art to master or a duty to fulfill, it was a way of life. People coming uninvited, sometimes barging into the living room unannounced at eight o’clock in the evening. Neighborhood children filling the yard with noise, clutter, and chaos.

So with this kind of legacy, how is it that the biggest factor of stress in my life is hosting people in my home? Why do I mostly cringe when the hamster wheel rolls back around to me hosting visitors at church? Shouldn’t I have enough experience not to wrangle with the anxiety of hosting? How is it that my mind finds itself wailing, What will we talk about it? What if it’s an awkward afternoon, me anxiously stammering and stuttering mixed-up words and phrases in a failing effort to entertain?

Is that it? Is that why? Because having people in my home has gone from sharing life and laughter and leftovers, to entertaining? How have I wandered away from the heart of hospitality that was so beautifully illustrated to me my whole life? How have I come to see hosting guests as a New Testament obligation, rather than an extension of my day-to-day life?

I don’t feel confident in relating to people. I stumble through interactions, and fumble my way through caring about hearts, and I always feel like I talk about myself too much. I don’t know what questions should be asked and what questions shouldn’t be asked, until I analyze my conversational efforts later and groan that I said that of all things.

I talked to my mom this week. They have a family of five living with them right now. It was supposed to be for two days and then it turned into a week, and now it’s been a month. They have done this before, and last time it was ten weeks and a family of seven. Routine is twice-as-hard to maintain with two women doing laundry, home schooling children, and cooking meals…their way. How do you maintain home base rules? How do you direct your household when it holds two families with different ways?

She said that the day the men stood underfoot in the kitchen talking about how the two days was turning into weeks, and the children cloistered around while she was trying to put the finishing touches on a meal for twelve, she felt panicked and anxious. “But,” she said, “I’m doing fine. I just pray a lot.”

My beautiful mother is not a superwoman. She is not perfect. She was not born with a special gifting of patience or hospitality. I am her daughter. I can tell you she is bona fide human, flesh and blood. I know that it hasn’t always been easy or natural for her to care about people and I am pretty sure that there have been many times she’s been hostess and not felt like it.

I just pray a lot.” She said, and is this not the answer of what’s at the heart of hospitality, this giving, the sacrifice, this opening of your heart to receive all that God brings to your doorstep?

My mother’s legacy is a tapestry of relationships completely diverse, and I will probably never know all the ways God used her sacrifices of emotional energy and time to build His kingdom, but I am beginning to see and understand why my dad always called her an angel.

When I start feeling panicked and claustrophobic about relating to people, as I do more times than I don’t, I think twice. While gourmet meals and spotless houses and perfected beauty impress, they rarely stir your soul in its deepest places, as the offering up of everything you have to bless someone else.

With a baby on her hip, schoolbooks scattered across her table, children slamming doors running in and out, my mother said welcome – any time, any day. She couldn’t always offer you the finest meats and there wasn’t usually time for a table spread, so she offered her heart and her time and her ear.

And I am convinced, as I wrestle through my fears of hosting people and wrangle with my frustrating insecurities about relationships, that her giving made more than a little difference for eternity.

I love you mom. Thanks for leading the way.

Pratt Family Homestead, 2012

Stammering Through

Sometimes I stare before a blank computer screen, a thousand words beating and hammering in my heart, and my fingers can’t keep pace to the thoughts screaming to be spoken.

Other times, when the mind is jammed full of living, I am like Moses and the words stick like glue, driving me crazy and I stammer, if anything comes out.

The moment I think I know how to encapsulate my feelings in a phrase or put definition to the wanderings of my heart, I am stuttering again, searching for the right adjectives and the suitable expression…

How I write, is also how I live.

Some days I know how to hack my responsibilities and accomplish my tasks and do it well, this constant serving of others, the never-ending tasks of keeping house, the giving and letting go…

And other days I stammer through. I don’t respond to my husband with a smile of grace, and I ignore the inappropriate remark at Youth Club because I don’t think I can handle fighting through another crude conversation…and I stutter and wrestle and tremble and crawl on my knees through the complexity of this moment. 

If you blog, write, or live…you may find this article  how to live, blog, write an inspiration to your soul. I know I did.

~ because we all stammer through at times ~

No or Yes?

He has blue eyes, big and round and full of curiosity. Why does it turn that way? What makes it go? If I push this button what will happen? 

“Hell peas,” He says when he runs down the hallway to my kitchen. I am up to my elbows in dishes or forming the granola into bars, and he clamors at my feet and his chubby fingers pinch my hand with expectation that I will come and “help, please”.

His name is Kyle and I get to chase after him and love on him three days a week. He is joy and curiosity and laughter and frustration and sweetness all packaged up in a 2 ½ foot, thirty-something pound figure. He washes my walls and toys and woodwork (almost every day he’s here) with his own wet rag, shouting “Clean!”, and finger paints in his breath marks on my windows while he watches the buses and trucks on Water Street go “beep, beep”.

My life, my heart, and my home have grown larger since Kyle started coming. I’m not sure what I’d do without his charming little presence in my life. Every day with Kyle is discovery around here.

One of the things I have quickly discovered is how easy it is to be a babysitter (and maybe a mother, too?) and become a “no-person”. “Don’t touch that.” “No-no.” “Uh-oh! Don’t play with that!” “Not right now.”

It isn’t wrong from the perspective of boundaries. My inexperienced opinion is that children feel far more secure and are much happier (in the end) when they know what is and isn’t expected, especially when that is and isn’t is consistently upheld.

It’s okay to say no when no begs to be said.

But I’m learning, then, how important it is to not forget…to say yes.
“Good job!” “Wow! You did that?” “You are so great!” “Look what you did!” “Give me five.”

His eyes light up and he wants to do it again, even better this time.

climbing mountains

Today felt like a mountain.

I woke to the sound of water running in the bathroom sink, my husband getting ready for breakfast out with some buddies…and I didn’t feel like putting my feet on the floor and starting my day.

I didn’t feel like moving.

But it was 6:15 am and the alarm was going off for the third time, and ready or not, life happens and morning comes, fully rested or not.

So I got up and my wake-up morning emotion was feeling… completely overwhelmed. 

How to enjoy the day when my heart beats fast and crazy, my head spins uncontrollably, everything looking, feeling, being frantic frenzy?

I want to fall back into the sheets and pull the covers over my head.

But there’s a mountain to climb.

At three am, the hikers rose. There was a mountain to climb. It was my man’s first time, but they do it every year. Did you know that three am is never too early when you’re conquering a giant rock with friends and good hiking boots?

Here they are! They defeated Mt. Katahdin, the end point for the Appalachian Trail.

 They climbed over large boulders, up steep inclines… 

  My handsome husband at the top. (Because I can’t resist.)

It was a feat that brought them to the point of sheer exhaustion. But the big yawns and the heavy eyelids accompanied by large smiles of satisfaction later that evening. They had conquered Katahdin. Made memories. Grown stronger. It was an accomplishment that deserved three hundred plus pictures capturing the moments.

There are no pictures of the mountain I climbed today.

But I did climb.

Through feelings of exhaustion and the lack of motivation and the need for more sleep and the anxiety of hosting a large group of people. I climbed with my friend Jeanie, who gave her whole morning to help me bake. Her smile was better than a good pair of hiking boots.

I enjoyed the evening. All anxiety and weariness faded in the laughter and teasing, the early, surprise, “just right” birthday gift from my thoughtful friend Mari, my husband whispering “I think you’re amazing”, the kinship of campfire and friends.

Ann Voskamp once said, “I will not desecrate this moment with ignorant hurry or sordid ingratitude.”

How many moments have I desecrated with my frantic frenzy – mental or physical? How many moments have I missed? How many people have I brushed past? How many scenic views have escaped my notice because I couldn’t look up from the climb to see?

He’s Got My Heart

He walked in the door and set his red cooler, profusely smudged with dirt, on the counter, and pulled out a seat, chair legs screeching loudly in the silent room. “Are you okay?”

I lifted my eyes and sighed. How does your heart ooze and throb numbly at the same time? I shook my head…no…and he waited quiet, and took my hand, my strong presence.

And the story came out with a rush of salty water that broke loose. The pieces crumbled and I felt the damage of every broken shard that clattered to the floor. It’s not alright. I’m not okay. It isn’t okay. But what am I supposed to do about that?

The sun is still shining, but it feels like it should be raining. The world moves on and really, it never stopped, except for in my little house where the walls caved in.

I can see why the situation looked the way it did, but I hurt deeply, because no one even asked. They just assumed.

And they ended up hurting me.

I’m a fixer and I want to make all the wrong right because I know that band-aids eventually peel off, but the truth is that sometimes you can’t fix what has already been done, you just forgive.

That feels too easy…for them. It doesn’t feel fair. I want justice.

And I wrestle deeply, rollerblading fast through town my heart jumping and leaping with mixed feelings of anger and pain. I pour out my anxiety and brokenness with my fingers flying passionately through melancholy selections of Chopin and Daquin. I pace my hallway, from the kitchen to the bedroom, numerous times. I get furious. I get sad. I ask myself questions. I remember and recall and I wonder if I could have done something different? I painstakingly analyze and sift through the story and look at each piece of the puzzle carefully.

And it still comes back to forgiveness, no matter how hurt I feel inside.

The ultimate justice for my heart is actually to forgive, not take revenge or defend my side of things. It is to offer myself and my heart, again, because God has my heart anyways, and this story of redemption that He’s grafting?

It’s not about me.

He’s got my heart. Every single piece.