five minute Friday: “bloom”

I so desperately long to write – but when? My three-year-old natives becomes so restless in the schedule-less summer, as do I. The days find me trying to entertain all of us through outings to the pool, or the air-conditioned mall, or the splash pad at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, or simply the sprinkler out front. By naptime, we are all exhausted and I sleep right alongside them. Instead of writing in my few stolen moments.

But for Five Minute Friday? Well, it’s *only* five minutes, and so here is a place I can always return. To keep my rusty writing skills a little less rusty. To keep practicing matching words to life, and placing words together to draw our souls upward to worship Beauty.

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photo credit: statesymbolsusa.org

photo credit: statesymbolsusa.org

Bloom. I think of wandering through fields of bring periwinkle blue blossoms, Texas bluebonnets, while visiting our Houston aunt and uncle and cousins. There is nothing quite so beautiful as a field in bloom. Sunflowers especially grab my imagination this time of year. Their bright, happy yellow faces greeting the day like eager children.

Something in bloom is evidently full of life. There is life coursing through its stems and its roots and it explodes in colorful blossoms. Oh, to bloom like this in life! To be a vehicle for the Life that is in me – the abundant, vibrant, never-giving-up, never-running-out Spirit. This is the hope of glory hidden within – of me hidden within this glory. Christ in you, the hope of [blooming] glory.

To spill over into my relationships with the hallmarks of this life – with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. To imagine such a “field” of flowers – oh, how our churches and families and neighborhoods would change! Oh, how my heart would be at rest, reveling in the bloom of this glorious Life spilling over in a thousand beautiful ways. 

embracing imperfection, part 2

In beginning to write about imperfection – about *embracing* it no doubt – I realize that I am going to need LOTS of practice in this arena. And so this is going to be the beginning of a semi-regular series where I open up with you about my imperfect life, in hopes that you will be inspired to courageously do the same in your life, where you live, with your people.

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Last week brought ample opportunities to embrace imperfect. Could we start with the diagnosis of pneumonia of one of my daughters the same day I was hosting a baby shower for a dear friend that evening? To embrace imperfect last Tuesday meant saying “yes” to the offers of help. And so Jennifer brought over the fishing line I needed to hang the paper lanterns; Laura contributed a gorgeous hand-designed floral arrangement; Emily brought pimiento cheese sandwiches, and Liz came over early with Kelly to set up what we needed; and (thankfully) the Disney Movie Club orders arrived in the middle of the day. [Note: they are not paying me to promote them, but could I just tell you that this might be the best $12.95 you’ll ever spend while you have preschool kids who will be sick and the only way they’ll rest will be in front of the television?] And my husband took another one for the team by entertaining said sick children upstairs while the shower took place downstairs. Thank you, Seth. Once again.

Then in response to my desperate FB plea for prayer a few days later, Jenny showed up on my doorstep with a latte on Thursday morning and Bridget sent over a bag of goodies and Lynn dropped off homemade bread. My in-laws mailed “good-well” packages for the girls and sent a floral arrangement to me. And I don’t say this to say – look how deserving I am – but to say, wow! What a lovely “village” we are in! And it *does* take a village. But you don’t know that you need your village until you know how needy and imperfect you are and you’re willing to publicly embrace it. 

And now here I sit about a week later, and we had another doctor’s visit this morning for the other twin sister. She doesn’t have pneumonia, but couldn’t breathe well enough for the doctor to even be able to listen for the tell-tale “crackles” and so had to do a 10-minute in-office nebulizer treatment. We walked out with A. cleared of pneumonia and L. with preventative antibiotics as well as a renewed prescription for an inhaler. Oh my. Mommy fail perhaps? How did I not know my daughter wasn’t able to breathe well?!

My living room is littered with the typical kid clutter of scissors, small pieces of paper, stray Cheerios, a few raisins, half-full sippy cups, and four dying plants. [Plants come to our house to die, as a friend put it so well!] The kitchen around the corner is piled high with dirty dishes, and I’m just not sure I can/will deal with them tonight. The type-A part of me is rebelling, but I’m shutting it down.

My husband the pastor is at another evening meeting, and I faced bedtime alone [not as bad as it could have been] – and now instead of reading one of the books calling to me on my nightstand, I think I’m just going to unplug and watch “Parenthood” while sipping some wine. Before you judge me, come walk a week in my shoes. And I’ll try to do the same for you.

Where’s your imperfect today? This week? How can you boldly step out to embrace it – to admit its existence – to tell someone, anyone, that you can’t do it all and you’re tired of trying? Let’s help one another out … it’s a lovely village we live in … and there are friends just dying to know how to help.

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: “tree”

It is five minutes before Friday is over, but I will still post. It’s been a long day, and one which has ended infinitely better than it started [I am at the beach with friends for a getaway; this morning I was greeted by demanding three-year-olds awaking an hour earlier than norm after a night of sleep that felt too short]. The weeks have been full; writing has felt like a luxury I couldn’t afford in between survival and to-do lists and conversations and work.

Yet I will come this Friday and join in this weekly rhythm of writing, five minutes on an assigned topic. Here I go …

“tree”

photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu

It stands as a metaphor for life’s seasons and rhythms. Wintry barrenness, stark silhouettes of branches against grey sky remind me of the beauty of winter which can feel so bare yet it so necessary. Solitude belongs here. It gives way to buds blossoming in the glory of spring – of recreation, renewal, refreshment, life after death, resurrection. The life was at work in the barren branches, but that life was hidden until spring’s release. And then summer, ahhh summer. My favorite of seasons. Vibrancy; full green leaf flourishes; verdant. These are the peaks of life when all feels as it should; when life abundant is evident and overflowing.

But what’s most glorious in the life of a tree? It is autumn. Death on display yielding radiant hues of unmatched beauty. As a tree gives up its life; color reigns and the world radiates and shines. Trees take center stage as they move from summer to winter, from life to death. And isn’t it so in the life of a soul? That as I lay down my life, as I yield in the daily death of sacrifice, as I face what feels impossible, I will shine with the grace of my Savior. Whose death yields life for me daily. Whose death set the world aflame with glorious beauty of hope – that spring and summer will always come again.

beach or desert: a matter of perspective

We had a beach day this morning. One of several we have been able to enjoy this summer now that our daughters are better able to enjoy sand-castle building and wave jumping (rather than sand-eating and rushing-too-far-into-the-ocean as they’ve done previously). It was perfect beach weather: 90 degrees, with a breeze coming off the ocean, hot but with the cold refreshing ocean to dip into as needed. And our girls had so much fun with the other family we met there, who have a teenage daughter whom they adore and who is SO great at playing with them. I even had a chance to read two whole chapters in the novel I brought (which before has been merely wishful thinking). It was fabulous. Like turning over a new page of the seasons of our family’s life, pun intended.

But then there was the walk back. And it felt like a desert because of the wide, wide beach. The sand we had all enjoyed playing with now felt hot and sticky and magnetic as we trudged the dozens of yards back to the boardwalk, and then to our car. The refreshing saltwater had dried out my skin, leaving a salty-sticky residue in its place. Beach flies had bitten my ankles. And there was all of our gear to haul back. The beach chairs, the snacks, the towels, buckets, shovels, even (yes) a portable/foldable potty for our potty training rock stars. And one of the girls began wailing. The. Whole. Way. Back.

I was annoyed until I realized that I felt the same way. I love the beach, but there reaches a point where all I really want is to be clean and dry and un-hot. And the only way to get there is trudging back through the sand, over the dunes, into the car, driving on the very long highway until we reach our house. In that long walk back, I felt like the beach turned into a desert. I couldn’t see the ocean; the breeze was nonexistent; miles upon miles (or so it felt) of nothing but sand stretched in front of me. And it could have been the desert, for all I knew.

The desert brings different feelings than a beach day. Connotations of scarcity, drought, survival, complaint, wandering all fit with the desert. And isn’t that how I choose to see life at times? With my “back to the ocean,” as it were, it feels like the desert. Nothing but sand and heat and miles of it stretching in front of you while your child wails and whines the complaint you feel in your own heart. All I had to do was turn around and remember the beautiful morning we had enjoyed there; to catch a glimpse of the crashing waves. To remember that even when it feels like a desert, it’s really a beach if I can see the bigger perspective.

Motherhood particularly challenges me in this way. So many desert moments to trudge through in a given day, week, month, year. But so many beautiful “beach” moments to savor and relish as well. If I have eyes to see, and if I ask God to help me see. His presence with me always transforms deserts into beaches. Because he is Life itself, and there is no scarcity in his presence. 

 

a mom’s life

I wrote this poem a few months ago, but I could have penned it yesterday. (Or today.) There is always that pull as a mom between the lives we are nurturing and our own life. Thankfully we have a God who nurtures us and them and gives grace for the days when the Legos and unfinished tasks seem to be taking over any quiet or peace.

My life
scattered in a million
Lego pieces and a necklace
draping over the handle of
the coffee table drawer
books, blocks, a pink dollhouse

and the stacks of plates
from lunch await me around the corner
hidden now from view

but I know they are there
just waiting.

These moments feel
stolen and precious and few
those of the naptimes
that never seem long enough
for all of the cleaning up
and creative tasks and keeping up
that is the other part of my life –
the part I can’t do when
they, my two little lives, are awake.

what I’m looking forward to in July

I cannot believe that it’s the first of July already. There is some bittersweetness because my birthday month is over (that’s a shout-out to my friend, Lev, who has encouraged me in his practice of celebrating birthdays all month long), and with it the way June initiates summer and holds the longest day of sunlight. July means H.O.T. humidity. But there are also things to look forward to in July. Here goes – 

1. Fireworks! I love them. I don’t know when it started but somewhere along the way I got over my intense fear of them and actually began to love them. When I say intense fear, I’m not exaggerating. My brother and I were so terrified of the sound and the thought that some stray spark might fall on us that we made my parents bring umbrellas to one neighborhood fireworks display. And my sweet parents did, and they opened them for us as we huddled beneath them. Wow – true love. Another early childhood memory is my grandma taking me into a bathroom until they were over because I was screaming in fear. So maybe I’m trying to make up for all of that lost time, so that’s the one thing I hate to miss on the 4th of July. I’ve dragged my less-than-enthusiastic husband to them every year of our marriage (except for the years when he won out and then I was disappointed and sulky). This year my plan is to meet up with friends after the girls go to the bed, leaving hubby behind for some quality time with his daughters. (He’s only too glad to volunteer.)

2. Freedom from diapers – I hope. We are going to try potting training boot camp [again] starting on Independence Day. We will have three days in a row of both parents on deck; it will be warmer than our last attempt (January 1st); and I think that the traumatic memories of that first attempt may finally be behind all of us. Here’s to hoping!

3. A fallow month – meaning that we aren’t anticipating any major social or work commitments/meetings/etc, and this will allow our busy pastor + counselor family schedule some time to breathe. I am looking forward to time to be spontaneous, to just be together as a family, to be alone, to wrap up home projects that have needed some attention to bring them to completion.

4. Beach days – because of the unscheduled nature of this month, we want to try to take advantage of living so close to the ocean and enjoy the wind, waves, and sand between our toes. (and in our hair, bathing suits, arms, legs, eyes/etc etc) We may even combine this one with #2 and do potty training beach-style. Leave those diapers at home and bring a portable potty with us. What better place for everyone to enjoy potty training than the beach? Just stay clear of our beach spot if you find us – consider yourself duly warned. 

To live life or to write about living life, that is the question …

20130625-225313.jpgI must admit that I’m hitting a bit of a wall with the whole “daily blogging” thing. Some of it has to do with having very full, rich, beautiful life moments.

Like my youngest brother’s gender reveal party we “attended” via Skype on Saturday evening, and tonight’s poolside party with our community group from church honoring two newlywed couples. We sat outside at sunset sipping wine and connecting about our highs and lows and in-betweens of our daily lives. As the summer breeze wafted off the water, it felt perfect. The relational equivalent of savoring a bowl full of fresh summer berries. Sweet without being overwhelming, and perfectly refreshing.

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I’ve always wrestled in writing with the balance between living life (and having something worth writing about) and writing about life (to the point where writing eclipses my experiential presence in life’s moments). Am I like the tourist who misses the experience because of trying to capture it with her camera lens?

Probably not a very popular thing to read about or write about on a blog. But, hey, that’s where I am tonight. Thanks for listening in. (Particularly you, Ann. Knowing you read this daily made my day!)

Mundane Monday

There are days that are mundane and then something surprising pops out along the way and you feel like the day is now glorious. Like the proverbial sun after the rain, or an extra-long nap time to enjoy some mid-day quiet as a mom, or a breathtaking sunset that you catch in your rearview mirror.

And then there are those mundane Mondays like today where nothing extraordinary happens and you don’t wake up as early as you’d like to so you can start your day “ahead” (meaning all exercised-up and prayed-up and caught-up and READY), and instead your first sound of the morning is the piercing cry of one twin after she was bitten by the other. You take a deep breath, sigh, and answer your abrupt wake-up call. Trying to comfort the one who’s hurting and appropriately mete out consequences for the aggressor. All before coffee and a shower. Yikes.

If someone had told me this would have been my life 10 years ago, I might have run away to the middle of nowhere, hid under a rock with a few favorite books, and asked God to let me know when it was all over. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but this is a girl who continued to enjoy sleeping in late in the mornings long past the time when it was probably ok or socially accepted (i.e. – long past college graduation). I’m an extroverted introvert who always scores down the middle on the Myers-Briggs personality test. What that means is that I am energized by time in a group of people, but I am also drained without regular intervals of solitude. My ideal social setting is a deep conversation over coffee with 2-3 good friends, and then a quiet evening at home afterwards journaling or blogging or reading.

I’m with two little people 24/7 whose depth of conversation has dramatically expanded to include sentences like, “I want to eat cookies NOW!” Tantrums aren’t more frequent with either of my twin two-year-olds, but there’s a higher frequency of a tantrum occurring since there are two tantrum-prone kids. They rarely both have hard days, but there’s rarely a day where one of them isn’t having a hard day.

What am I trying to say? Well, that today was a day where there honestly didn’t seem to be a lot of “glory” out there waiting to be found. I’m sure it was there, but I just couldn’t see it for whatever reason. And maybe it’s the ordinary and mundane days that make us appreciate the days that are special or the moments when glory catches us unawares. After a very busy last week, there was something good and refreshing about a day filled with our “regular” activities like laundry and neighborhood walks and a visit from a friend and an afternoon of work and a quiet dinner with my husband post-bedtime.

Perhaps I just found today’s glory after all.

The work of having fun

As I have been working my way through The Happiness Project, one chapter (or portion of a chapter) at a time, I’ve arrived at chapter 5: “Be Serious About Play.” What a delicious oxymoron! I was immediately hooked. Gretchen Rubin begins her discussion about the work of having fun with the following definition of play, as supported through research:

an activity that’s very satisfying, has no economic significance, doesn’t create social harm, and doesn’t necessarily lead to praise or recognition.

She adds to this her own caveat for how to personally determine what is fun and what isn’t by saying, “just because something was fun for someone else didn’t mean it was fun for me.” How liberating is that! When was the last time you tried to talk yourself into what sounded like a fun activity and then discovered that it was anything but? I think about the day I spent in the Natural History Museum with my husband and younger brother when he came up to visit us several years ago when we were living in Philly. I thought that on our day trip to New York City that heading to this museum should be very fun. The same way that a few years later on a trip to D.C. with my husband, we planned to visit several Smithsonian museums. Museums are supposed to be enjoyable activities with an educational twist. Truth be told, I don’t enjoy museums. At. All. Just ask my husband and my younger brother who had to endure my obvious boredom about one hour into the Natural History Museum. I eventually found a comfortable bench and waited for them to finish perusing the place. I wasn’t having fun (and forgot about this when planning for the aforementioned D.C. getaway with my husband).

So much of my life has been spent trying to force myself to enjoy activities that I don’t like because I feel like I should. Included in this category for me are:

  • Roller coasters/adventure parks
  • Museums (see above)
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Sewing (yep, tried that when I was younger and still am a bit envious of all of you who can do this and then Pinterest your beautiful projects)
  • Knitting (attempted and failed miserably)
  • Crafts with my kids

I’m not saying that there’s not a place for doing an activity you don’t enjoy out of love for the person who invites you to join them in their fun activity. But you should go into it expecting that you’re not doing this for pure enjoyment but rather for pure love. How I could have saved myself some major frustration and disappointment along the way had I known this!

So how do I discover fun that works for me? Gretchen has another suggestion – ask yourself the question, “What did you like to do when you were a child?” And when I think about this, it’s quite similar to the activities I enjoy the most now:

  • Reading fiction
  • Playing with friends
  • Legos (well, truth be told I don’t do this much, except for assembling IKEA furniture which my husband and I affectionately refer to as “adult Legos”)
  • Scrapbooks (my modernized digital equivalent is designing  Shutterfly photo books)
  • Enjoying the outdoors – while sitting down or walking (not hiking – see list above*)
  • Going to the beach

Let me put that all together what should be my best afternoon of enjoyment: Head to the beach with a few friends who will all read books together, and then come home to assemble a desk from IKEA at which I will sit and design a photo book of our fun day. Ha! What would your fun day include?

Aaahh … summer!

It’s past 8 o’clock and there is still enough light outside to last for at least an hour. I love summer for its long hours of daylight and more frequent sun-filled days. There is usually a relaxed pace (except the summers when we’ve moved – 2006, 2009, 2010) and all of life seems to slow down to a “right nice comfortable pace,” as we say in the South. And, yes, you better believe it’s capitalized down here.

And the BEACH. We *heart* the beach. It’s one of the few common interests that Seth and I share. That and theology and philosophy of life and parenting and marriage and love. We say that we agree on the big things, and sanctify each other in the myriad other small things. We had to take a break from our frequent beach trips the past three summers – #1 because I was majorly pregnant with twins and on bed rest (and didn’t want to go anywhere anyway), #2 and #3 because babies who eat sand and toddlers who run away from you toward the ocean tend to interfere with the idyllic beach days that we remembered. Now they’re finally able to entertain themselves and we’ve learned how to enjoy the beach from an almost-three-year-old’s perspective.

Summer is the time of peak fruits and vegetables, and so we are savoring bright berries in abundance and veggies on the grill. The temperature is just nearly perfect tonight – hanging out between 70-80 degrees, although once it reaches 90-100, I’ll probably be singing a different tune about summer’s glories. And so (call us crazy), we think it will be a good time to try out potty training again. Worst case scenario, we can take the girls to the beach for it so that we don’t have to clean up the accidents. (Just kidding … mostly.)

It’s a season of parties, barbecues, cookouts, lingering hours outside with neighbors and kids. There is just something inherently hopeful about summer. This season reflects God’s glory in its brilliance. Which is always present even when hidden by the short, dark days of winter. And how I need to remember that! What a mercy of God to give us such a season.

What do you enjoy about summer?