Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 16: Earthly

Today is my 9th wedding anniversary. Nine years. That's almost a whole decade!
I look back now and can't believe how young we were when we got married. Only 22, but so in love. So excited to start the rest of our lives...together.

The same is true today. Still so in love, still excited for what our future holds...we're just a little further down the road, a little busier, a little wiser, with a lot more responsibility. For all of those nine years, this magnet has been on our fridge:
We got it as a wedding gift, and at the time, I found it pretty cheesy. Oh, who am I's still cheesy. But under all that cheese is a nice message that reminds us that love is not earthly.

And I don't want it to be. I want our love to be grounded in a shared faith, not in things of this world. I want our love to be bigger than us, because on the days when things are hard, that's what gets you through.

Thanks for putting up with my earthly flaws, hun. I'm glad our love is bigger than the one or two I've got (wink, wink). Happy anniversary. I love you so much.

February Gavinisms

Pondering how things grow:
Gavin: "You know what, Mommy?"
Me: "What, babe?"
Gavin: "Salad grows on trees and then falls off and then somebody picks it up and takes it to the grocery store. You knowed that, right?"

Excited about his upcoming birthday:
Me: "Buddy, they're having Safety Town at school the week of your birthday."
Gavin: "Well I can't go to school on my birthday!"
Me: "Why not?"
Gavin: "Cuz I have to stay home and eat cake!"

After a couple friends RSVPd to his birthday party:
Me: "Your friends are excited about your party!"
Gavin: "Yeah. It's prolly cuz they like my hair."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Watch Bennett Grow--Eleven Months Old

Unofficial Stats:
Weight: 22 pounds
Height: 28.5 inches

Lenten Challenge, Day 15: Hear


Do you hear that?

I'm having a moment of silence.

In this world full of things screaming at us all day long to BUY ALL THE THINGS, TWEET ALL THE THINGS, FACEBOOK ALL THE THINGS, I have to stop myself every once in a while and just listen. Just be still. Just be.

It's one of my favorite things about snow. It's so quiet. In fact, the weathermen calling it a "snowstorm" seems incredibly oxymoronic to me. A storm is loud. It's thunder, and pelting rain and lightning strikes. But snow? There's something so beautifully silent and soft about a snowfall. You hear nothing, but somehow, can't help but pause to listen anyway.
The older I get, the more filled with chatter my life becomes, and the more I realize how important silence is. Last year, I gave up the radio/music/iPod in my car for Lent. It gave me 30 precious minutes of silence on my way to and from work every day. It gave me time to think, time to pray, time to start and end my day with a quiet, steadied soul.

Even a year later, when I find myself becoming overwhelmed with ALL THE THINGS, I go back to those moments of silence--in the car, in the snow, holding a sleeping baby--and I pause to breathe in the silence.


Do you hear that?

It's my soul at peace.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 14: Lift

I went to a work presentation recently where a woman talked about her love for the book Life as a Daymaker. Essentially, the book is about a man who ended up unknowingly saving someone's life simply because he made her day.

Now of course, not every action we do on a daily basis is going to have that kind of effect, but there certainly is something to living life focused on lifting others up. It forces you to focus on others instead of yourself, which is always a good thing. Think about it. I mean really think about it. How different would this world look if we all tried to lift up the spirits of everyone we came in contact with?

It sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? But small, simple acts add up to a lot. Letting that crazy driver merge in front of you on the freeway, making a casserole for a friend with a new baby, helping a neighbor shovel his driveway.
If everyone did those little things, the cumulative effect would be world-changing. Because even on your shittiest day, someone reaching out in kindness can change the course of your day.
You can buy this poster at this web site.
What can you do to lift someone up today?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 13: Cover

At a work team-building day a few years ago, my fellow co-workers and I each had to think of some fact about ourselves that none of the others knew. We listed them, put them up on a corkboard, and then had to guess which fact belonged with which co-worker. Some people you could guess right away, some took a little more thought, and still others I wouldn't have guessed in a million years.

It's situations like those that make me wonder how well we really let people get to know us. How much do we share, and how much do we keep under cover? Does my neighbor know I'm an editor at Hallmark? Do my co-workers know I like to have jammie days on the weekends? Do my friends know that I tend to cuss a lot? Okay...maybe that one is pretty obvious.

And maybe where I work, and the fact that I like being cozy on the weekends isn't that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but what about the bigger stuff? I know I share my joys, but am I as open about the things I struggle with? Probably not.

But if we're meant to be sharing this life together, to be living in community with one another, why do we only share what's on the surface and keep the real stuff under cover? Sure, it's a defense mechanism to protect ourselves from the jerks out there, but what about the people who really care? What about the people who genuinely want to become a bigger part of our lives?

I think those people deserve our truest self...good, bad, cussing and all.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 12: Vision

Vision. Discernment. Looking forward with purpose.

All of the above means inevitable change, which is so uncomfortable for so many of us. And it's hard work too, isn't it? It's this delicate balance between not fixing what isn't broken, and not doing the same old thing just because you always have.

When I was in high school, I remember having an assignment to map out my life over the 10 years following graduation. What would my life look like five years after I graduated? What about 10 years? Selfishly, I was quick to map out the perfect life for myself (or what I thought looked like a perfect life at 17). Who wouldn't, right?

What I didn't realize at 17 is that real vision isn't about what you want for your life. It's about finding what you're called to do, finding who you're called to love. But even more, it means putting aside your own personal agenda for the greater good. Because when you try to discern what your life is all about, it shouldn't be about can't be about you. Because real vision is selfless.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 11: Live

Live every day as if it were your last. Carpe Diem. Live life to the fullest.

I hate those phrases. I hate them because they've become so cliche that no one even realizes what they mean anymore. (Raises hand...guilty.) We go through the motions, stuck in our routine. Wake up, go to work, make dinner, play with kids, watch TV, go to bed, repeat. This is how we live.

But the person who first coined that phrase? They meant it to jar us from our routine. They meant it to shout, "Wake up, dammit!" How many days do we go through our routines missing the real life that's happening all around us?

Those phrases should mean being five minutes late to a meeting at work so you can give your kiddo that extra kiss and hug before you leave. They should mean missing your favorite TV show to ask your hubby how his day was at work, and really caring about the answer. They should mean unplugging from media and playing a game, calling a friend or talking with a neighbor.

They should mean really living. Now quit reading and go live.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 10: Spirit

When I hear the word "spirit," I think it's the old Catholic in me that makes me automatically think "ghost" or "soul." It's the part of us that remains once our bodies have left this earth. Our spirit is our "essence."

It makes me think of the people I've loved who are gone, and that in the times I miss them, or dream of them, they are still very much a part of my life. I like to think they're looking down on me approvingly when I get things right, and shaking their heads in mock disgust or having a good laugh at my expense when I screw things up.

My senior year of high school, my good friend, Jennifer, died in a ridiculously preventable car accident. She wasn't wearing her seatbelt, and was in a car with someone driving recklessly...the usual I'm-an-immortal-teenager crap. She had just turned 18.

Jennifer had a spirit full of energy and life. She was wild and spontaneous, goofy and fun, spunky and silly. She knew the value in a good laugh better than anybody I knew then or have met since. When she died, I remember thinking that there was no way all that spunk could just be gone. I took comfort in the thought that her spirit would live on, even though her body had not.

Because our spirit is the most important piece of us. It's our soul, our essence, the part of us God cares most about. Because it's who we are.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 9: Love

I love that every time I think I have love figured out, it surprises me with its many shades once again.

When I was little, and my mom would tell me she loved me, I would answer with, "I love you more." I always balked at her "not possible" response because, well...I was a kid. I thought I knew everything. Then I became a mother. In those first weeks of Gavin's life, I remember telling my mom, "I get it now. I know you love me more."

I remember thinking how I couldn't possibly love Ryan any more than the day we said our vows, and then I saw him being a Daddy to our little guy and fell in love with him all over again.

And almost a year ago, when I was so worried about how I could possibly love another child as much as I loved Gavin, Bennett entered my life and my heart expanded instantly. And the love I thought I knew Gavin was capable of? Well that expanded instantly, too, which is probably why this will be my favorite picture of my boys for as long as I live:
If that's not true love, I don't know what is.
But the thing that never gets old about love, is how much it's in and under and around all the little everyday things in our lives. Snuggles with a sleepy baby, a game of candyland with a big boy, thank-you cookies from a neighbor because you snowblowed their driveway.

They're there, every day. It's just that sometimes we fail to notice them. But that's what we're here to do, right? To love and be loved.

Love is everything.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 8: Evil

There's always some kind of evil being fought in the world, isn't there? There's always an enemy out there somewhere, and we are quick to label them as evil. It's been Hitler, and Germany and the Third Reich. It's been Castro, Cuba and Communism. It's been Russia during the Cold War, Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc., etc., etc.

But evil isn't a country, or a group of people. It's not regional or racial.

The real evil out there is unfortunately present in all of us. It's defining our differences as bad, instead of coming together in love. It's thinking you're better than someone else simply because they're different. It's knowing someone is hurting and not doing something about it. It's selfishness, greed, hate, injustice and pride.

And who isn't at least a little bit guilty of one of those things?

But in the great battle of good vs. evil...guess what?

Good wins.

LOVE wins.

So there.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 7: Wonder

Something happened to me when I had children. My eyes were opened to a world I'd forgotten even existed. Dandelions once again became beautiful flowers, and fireflies became magic in a jar. Snow became a wintry playground instead of a nuisance in which to drive. The world I live in became full of wonder again.

Parenthood consistently makes me stop and rediscover every little wonder that my boys see in everyday life. An ant carrying a leaf, a cloud shaped like a dog, a green pumpkin with a twisty stem. Though I've begun to appreciate how wondrous those little things are, I'm even more overwhelmed by the perfectly wondrous little beings my boys are.

I edited a book for Hallmark when I was pregnant with Bennett titled, You Fill the World With Wonder. One line reads, "I dream new dreams when I see things imagined in your eyes." At the time, I'd get choked up every time I had to read it aloud in a meeting, and though I thought it was mostly pregnancy hormones, I realized later it's because that's one of the gifts we receive when we have children. We get to see the world anew. We get to marvel at creation again...through the eyes of a child.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 6: World

Most days I live in a bubble. A safe, suburban, middle-class bubble with a fenced-in yard and two-car garage. I always have enough in my bubble. Enough food, enough clothing, enough love.
Essentially, I've built my own little world, and frankly...I like it there. I wake up in a beautiful home, with my beautiful family. I drive a decent car to my great job every day. I spend evenings in the company of fantastic friends, or snuggled up on the couch with my handsome husband watching some silly reality show or favorite drama. It's pretty cozy in my world.

But on the days I dare to look outside my little bubble, when I pay attention, instead of "turning off the news when I don't like what I see"...those are the days when I also happen to be doing something for someone else, instead of just focusing on me. Those are the days my own little world expands.

My Own Little World
By Matthew West
In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I’ve never gone hungry, always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet
In my own little world
population me

I try to stay awake during Sunday morning Church
I throw a twenty in the plate, but I never give ’til it hurts
And I turn off the news when I don’t like what I see
Yeah, it’s easy to do when it’s
population me

What if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now?
outside my own little world 

Stopped at a red light, looked out my window
I saw a cardboard sign, said “Help this homeless widow”
And just above that sign was the face of a human
I thought to myself, “God, what have I been doing?”
So I rolled down the window and I looked her in the eye
Oh how many times have I just passed her by?
I gave her some money then I drove on through
And my own little world reached
Population two

What if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose
That I could be living right now
Outside my own little world 

Father break my heart for what breaks Yours
Give me open hands and open doors
Put Your Light in my eyes and let me see
That my own little world is not about me

What if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose
That I could be living right now
I don't wanna miss what matters
I wanna be reaching out
Show me the greater purpose
So I can start living right now 
Outside my own little world 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 5: Settle


To get comfortable; to become established and satisfied in some routine.

It's nice in some ways, isn't it? Eating the same thing you always eat at your favorite restaurant, saying "I love you" every night before bed, going to church every Sunday (okay...almost every Sunday).

But the thing that's so nice about the "routine" is also what's so dangerous about settling into one. I don't ever want my "I love yous" or times of worship to become something I do simply for the sake of doing them. I want them to mean something every time.

This morning, Gavin asked me if we could wear our PJs to church. He just recently had a "Jammie Day" at preschool, and thought it was a great idea for our Sunday service as well. I told him that we don't really have jammie days at church, and he insisted we talk to Shawn, our assistant pastor about it when we saw him this morning. Graciously, Shawn indulged his almost-4-year-old curiosity and said he'd check into it.
What I loved most about the exchange was that Gavin's thinking out of the box made me think out of the box. What if we stopped conforming and let ourselves be a little uncomfortable instead? What if we tried that new restaurant we heard was struggling? What if we emptied the dishwasher instead of just saying "I love you"? What if we wore PJs to church?

What if we refused to settle into a safe and comfortable routine, and instead, tried to strive for something extraordinary? That, I'm sure, is where we'd start to change the world.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 4: Injustice

Injustice is one of those words that pisses me off as soon as I hear it. It even sounds like its definition: unfair; wrong; a violation of rights. I don't think you can even say it without hissing a little.

But life isn't fair, right?

How many times have we all heard that turn of phrase? The fact that it's become so cliche speaks to what a ridiculous cop-out that response is when faced with unfairness. So what if life's not fair. Does that mean we sit back and do nothing about it?

It's not fair that there is a group of orphans in Velikoretskoye, Russia who will spend their childhood in an orphanage.

It's not fair that in Russia, the word "orphan" is synonymous with the word "worthless."

It's not fair that I can't ensure these kids I love won't fall into a life of drugs, or alcohol or prostitution.

It's Just. Not. Fair.

But when life isn't fair, I can still "be the change I wish to see in the world." I can still seek justice for the oppressed. I can still love.

And love kick's injustice's ass.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 3: See

Today's word has me wondering if I really see the people I see every day. I live with them, I work with them, I share meals and jokes and time with them, but do I really see them?

Who they are.
What they struggle with.
What they love.
What's hurting them.

Some days, with some people, the answer is, "Well, yes. Of course, YES." But most days, with a lot of people, the answer is a ridiculously pathetic, "No."

"No," because I'm wrapped up in my own stuff. The being a mom to two little people, full-time job, dinner on the table kind of excuses that are easy to conjure up when faced with the question.

But what about the blogging, twittering, facebooking, TV-watching, pinterest-ing time that's eating into my margin for important stuff? Important stuff like making sure the people I love most know it. Important stuff like giving a little grace to the people I don't love the most.

What if I start trying to see people the way God sees them instead of just the shadow of the person I see now? It's hard...but certainly a good place to start.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 2: Return

This whole last year has been one of return.

A return to new-parent status and nights in a rocking chair. To chubby thighs and belly giggles. A return to nursing and pumping and bottle-washing. To two-toothed grins and squishy snuggles and open-mouthed kisses. A return to some of my favorite things, like a "Love Monkey" shirt for a First Valentine's Day.

It's been a return to something I knew, and missed, but didn't know how much until I was smack dab in the middle of it again. And in that return, I'm wiser, more confident, more comfortable.

But that's what returning is about, right? The very nature of coming back to something makes it familiar and known. Only in the return, you stretch and grow, and get to know yourself a little better. And that's what I'm hoping for this Lenten season.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 1: Who Am I?

So I heard about this Lenten challenge from a good friend of mine and was immediately intrigued. I've always loved something about the Lenten season. It's a chance to start fresh, wipe the slate clean, begin again, and every other kind of tabula rasa-like cliche that comes to mind.

But what I love most is that I always feel stronger in my faith at the end of these 40 days. I feel that I've been stretched because of sacrifices I've made, even though in the grand scheme of things, they're tiny sacrifices. So this year, I'll make some of those same little sacrifices, but I'm also committing to this challenge of doing more, instead of just giving something up. Every day, I'll base a post on a word from the list I linked to above.

Day One: Who Am I?
I'm a mom whose dream home library is now a makeshift playroom that's always covered in toys...and I don't even mind.

I'm marked by ash because I'm a believer.

I'm a wife...sometimes a good one.

I'm a writer who should read more.

I'm a reader who should write more.

I'm happy, and like to smile at strangers.

I'm a believer in 2nd chances, but not 3rds, 4ths or 5ths.

I'm Momma and Mommy, and sometimes Mom...but I always prefer Momma.

I'm a loyal friend, but a horrible phone call returner.

I'm a crier. When things are bad, but especially when things are good.

I'm creative.

I'm a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a sister-in-law, an aunt and a niece.

I'm optimistic, sometimes to a fault.

I'm honest, LOTS of times to a fault.

I'm goofy, and not-so-secretly hope my boys will turn out just as silly as me.

I'm a hypocrite.

I'm blessed. So blessed. Beyond blessed. Yet, I still look for more.

I'm selfish (see above).

I'm forgiven.