1000 gifts · faith · family · just write life · writing

That Time Looking Back Was Worth the Glance

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I’ve always had a smidge of sympathy for Lot’s wife. I know, I know. If God tells you to go,  you go and don’t wonder at what you’re leaving behind.

That’s a whole lot easier said than done.

Besides, I don’t think the point of the story is “never look behind you.” I think the point is radical obedience–which looks not the same for each of us.

We took our whole family on a jet plane a couple weeks ago and touched down in Nevada with no sights set on winnings bigger than the snuggles of missed cousins. We rented a minivan the kids liked better than ours and drove into southeastern Utah, where you can try, but you won’t be able to take a picture without an amazing background view.

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We stayed in this great house and everyone had plenty of space though they preferred to be together all of the time.

We hiked and walked and trudged through the sand of Snow Canyon and the most family-friendly trails of Zion National Park. Except for when my fearless one and her daddy ascended legendary Angels Landing–and she told me later about hiking the last half-mile holding a chain and that she didn’t believe I’d be able to do it. You’re not supposed to look down, Mommy. If you do, you’ll get scared. 

I suppose that’s a lot like, you’re not supposed to look behind. If you do, you’ll regret leaving. 

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Maybe Lot’s wife regretted leaving. Or maybe she was just nostalgic. We don’t really know. All we do know is God told them to get out of town and don’t look back–and she did.

I’m a master of hindsight. Oh, if I’d known then what I know now. I’ve got a long list of how our life could be better.

Better than what, though? Because, truthfully, right now, we’re pretty darn blessed. And I’d say it’s mere grace the Lord hasn’t turned me to salt.

 

 

 

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Instead He’s teaching me something with my tendency to look back and what if and wonder why. Showing me in great strokes of glory that what lies behind me is the best kind of broken beautiful.

Looking a lot like this sunrise I almost missed the morning I drove my sister into work so early the sun rose behind me while I drove back down the valley.

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Sometimes that glance back reminds us Who’s got our back–shining like the sun and sweeping us away into the greatest kind of love story. The kind where, when we glance backward we see all the little pieces falling together to make the story we have today.

Abraham’s family had to survive–no time for looking back. Praise Jesus, we get to live and learn and stare over our shoulders at the wondrous majesty that has protected us all along.

 

 

1000 gifts · Christmas · family · holidays · writing

That Time My Kids Almost Slept Through the National Christmas Tree Lighting

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We hit D.C. last week. Yes, again. Sometimes blessings fall at your feet and I’m trying to be good about picking them up.

My mom arranged for us to receive tickets the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. The program is nationally broadcast (Hallmark channel this year) and features popular performers as well as a Christmas message from the President.

I’m sure some people come for the concert, no doubt. Madelynne did say she was more excited about seeing Kelly Clarkson than President Obama, and she’s twelve, so that’s acceptable.

Garth and Trisha were there–I was pretty delighted about that because my twelve year old self would have loved to see Garth Brooks or Trisha Yearwood in concert back in the day. Blooper story is that their mikes weren’t on and they had to start over. Joshua, with all his vast technical theater experience, said that was a really unacceptable mistake on the part of the sound guy. But they were gracious and funny about it.

Simone the swimmer read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas with Michelle Obama, which was a lovely tribute to her Olympic accomplishments and proves we don’t all have to have Yolanda Adams’ pipes to contribute to the evening. (Her “O Holy Night” was astounding.)

We also learned about Chance the Rapper, so I’m feeling pretty hip in my pop culture knowledge these days.

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What’s that Einstein? You like rap too?

Oh, and I got this text from Joshua at the beginning:

Littles are asleep.

Well, of course they were. We had a busy whirlwind two days letting the bigs catch them up on all the best of Natural History, American History, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, National Gallery of Art, and Air and Space.

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I solemnly swear to uphold this Oath as President… she might be someday. Never know.

But let this be a lesson to you–there are some things in life you don’t want to sleep through.

Like the chance to see Garth and Trisha.

 

Oh, and there are no pics of us at the National Tree lighting because…. well, I forgot.

family · joshua · just write life · marriage · school · writing

Yes, We Are Homeschooling This Year

I’ve been skirting around the proclamation for over a month. Dancing around the possibility for a few years. Making peace with the decision since we decided to jump the county line.

Yes, we are homeschooling this year.

Never thought I’d really say those words. Much less about having all three of my girls home a the same time. I figured if we ever did it, I’d be their middle school teacher for a few years and then back off to the land of textbooks and powerpoints where your teachers have more advanced degrees than I do for impossible subjects like chemistry and trigonometry. {insert shuddering at the idea of teaching that}

But they’re all home with me and homeschool is why we’re playing Barbies and drinking coffee in the middle of the day. Actually, no more coffee. I’m getting to that old age where caffeine after 2 o’clock makes me unable to sleep and I dearly love to sleep.

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School around here started the first week of August. Friday for one county. We went to the waterpark. Monday for another. I took Gus to preschool and worked all morning. They played games and Madelynne read Divergent for the second time.

Yes, Gus is going to preschool. I know my strengths and colors/letters/numbers/rambunctious boy while I’m trying to write aren’t in my quiver.

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I mean look how happy he is to be in PreK.

So we haven’t started yet and everyone keeps asking how it’s going, so it’s pretty easy for me to say, “Great!”

Yeah, I haven’t actually taught them anything yet.

Unless you count entrepreneurship because Annabelle and Amelia made homemade strawberry smoothies and went around the neighborhood last week selling. Half our neighbors are retired and home all day so they made $4.50. That capped off earnings for a new American Girl (Target knockoff) kitchen set.

Value of a dollar. I’ll jot that down as done.

The truth is we aren’t homeschooling because I think I can teach better than all the teachers who stuck it out in public school when I couldn’t anymore.

We aren’t homeschooling because I felt a religious conviction to give them a Christian education.

We aren’t homeschooling because I felt called to be their first and foremost influence.

Those are all great reasons if they’re yours. But ours is simpler.

We’re tired.

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The run around of four kids in so many places plus my freelance work and Joshua’s travel schedule and our volunteer commitments has meant school’s rigid schedule couldn’t bend to accommodate our needs. Our kids were going to bed too late, getting up too early, and our family time was always compromised.

Between the move and Amelia’s relapse of symptoms and our desire to travel outside the confines of spring break and summer vacation, we knew keeping them home this year was the right choice.

In some ways, the move made it easy. I don’t think I’d ever have left my safety net of a school system I know and love if I hadn’t been forced. And while Joshua ultimately left the decision up to me, and I all too often remind him he’s not the one saying no all the livelong day because our kids want to snack every fifteen minutes, the truth is my tipping of the scales came from him.

Because the person who will pick up my pieces on a bad day, who will  review the math I don’t understand, who will bring home the proverbial and literal bacon so I can feed it to these hungry children–is my husband.

If I’ve learned anything from this decision making process it’s that I was seeking opinions from all the wrong people. My friends are great. They’re supportive of me–which means some said go for it and some said I was flipping crazy.

But my husband supports our family and from the beginning he thought this choice was right. And I discovered there is great freedom in submission to my God-seeking husband.

Which I’ll remind him when he comes home to find us having an Anne of Green Gables marathon (literature) and eating popcorn for dinner.

In case you’re wondering, we do have an actual plan. We’re using Sonlight as a guide for Amelia’s reading, Math U-See because I have no skills there, and I’m teaching a middle grades language arts class for homeschooled students that will guide my big girls through grammar, writing, and literature. We will fill in science and social studies from a variety of sources, with our main focuses being American history, geography, and earth science.

We’re going on lots of field trips and I’m talking everyone into a cross country trek to visit my sister in Utah. I’m sure we will reassess almost daily and “regular” school might come back to us next year, but this is our year to embrace change.

Hopefully without losing my mind.

faith · family · Home · marriage · writing

What Happens When You Move 10 Miles Down the Road and Everything Changes

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New living room. Perfect for dance parties and silly boys.

I know things have been quiet around here since I revealed what happens when the three year house becomes the ten year house becomes the sold house. There’s still a lot to say about that and God’s timing and sense of humor and my incredible lack of patience and grace, but y’all… I’m really tired.

Moving is no joke. Can I get an amen?

Ten miles. That’s about how far we went. Far enough to jump the county line and need a new school situation. Far enough to make me choose between my familiar Ingles with the bag boys who learned how to write complex sentences under my tutelage. Far enough to make me understand why this stretch of rural highway annoyed my husband every afternoon for five years.

Somehow we moved into a bigger house with less dedicated space. One less bedroom, a basement in need of a true finish, and a family room big enough for our family of six and all of our friends who are just as outnumbered in this parenting gig as we are.

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New obsession with items I  have wall space for. Well, porch space actually.

That’s why we bought this house. So everyone can come over and drink sweet tea on the back porch and the kids can run wild on our almost-four-acre subdivision lot without us having any real worries.

But this different space means everything is different. I can’t put the same furniture in the same places. My Ikea tables are woefully out of place. There’s nowhere to plug in a lamp next to my couch. Our master bedroom is ginormous which is good because my kids like to play hide and seek in there. For the first time ever, there’s room under the bed because, hello? Basement = lotsa storage.

It’s a little like living the dream. Really. Even though it’s not my dream farmhouse with a wrap around porch.

(Joshua says he’ll build me one. He’s a much better person than I am in case you’re wondering.)

Yet we’re still wandering around. A little uncertain about things like end tables and dining room chairs and pictures to hang. My friend Brooke said I’m not allowed to hang my beautiful wall art from 163 Design until it truly is Well With My Soul.

So I’m sipping coffee and the Word on the back porch. Soaking up the sounds of birds and cicadas and squalling kittens who won’t leave the dog alone.

Because you should always get new kittens when you move.

 

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You should also knock off from unpacking and climb a mountain with your Florida friends.

Here’s another life lesson about moving. Somehow ALL the kids stuff–including scraps of paper and toys you intended to throw away–will make it to the new house and get unpacked. However, their daddy and I still can’t find:

  • the alarm clock
  • the printer
  • his shoes
  • the Wii console

So this is where we are right now. Big changes. Little changes. And a whole lotta Jesus being spoke over me by blessed friends who love me through my crazy.

And a husband who is willing to put up with me for another fourteen years and beyond. Here’s to a new house and a new life.

family · Home · hospitality · just write life · writing

When Your 3 Year House Becomes Your 10 Year House Becomes Your Sold House

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I tucked myself into the corner of the sectional couch we finally broke down and bought last year so we would have furniture that fit this tiny living room. Early in the morning the sunlight shafts through a kitchen window I’m not great at scrubbing clean and lights up a worn table with perpetually sticky chairs.

This is my quiet place. For three years I’ve risen early and written hard and sipped coffee and liked this little house best with that golden pool of light beaming on my hardwood floors.

In some ways, we outgrew this house before we ever moved in. When we bought it in 2006 at the climax of the real estate inflation, mere months before the fall, we figured three years.

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Three years. New paint. New carpet. A few handy little things and then we’d be moving on. I had two girls then, one toddling and one nursing. My mama told me this house wasn’t big enough for more kids.

Ten years later we’ve raised four kids in that house and hosted friends and family and parties and memories.

We tried to sell in 2010. Again in 2012. Again in 2014. Fourth time’s the charm. Did all the right things–items in storage, fresh and clean, highlight the good. Big backyard. 4 bedrooms… just very little family space. Really 3 bedrooms and an office and don’t forget we have fiber internet!

IMG_7156None of that mattered. When we get all the paperwork signed and sealed our little house that built me into a mother, a writer, a better person–this little house will be sold to a neighbor who felt the timing was finally right for her to take it on and share it with others. This little house is about to be a ministry, a caregiving place, a breath of hope.

We prayed that years ago. Thought maybe we’d even be the ones to keep it.

Y’all, when this house is finally sold it will be at the last possible moment before our loan changed, before we reached the end of our rope with what to do about finding me space to write, the kids space to play, my husband space to work from home.

Always it’s been one of those first world problems. Six people cramped in 1400 square feet. We always knew we could make it work and in the last few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to offer hospitality without comparison. Because I was tired of telling my kids our house was too small to welcome our friends.

That is never, ever true. No matter the size of your place, true friends will sit on a narrow porch and play games with ten kids running around inside because it’s raining.

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We take help in all sizes.

Some of those true friends helped us load a U-Haul with material wealth and drive ten miles down the road this week. To a place that’s bigger–and plenty better in some ways.

But that house that grew us into a family will always be out true first home.

P.S. I know you all want a tour of the house…. I’m working on it! Had to clear up some space on my fancy video camera, i.e. phone.

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Notice the difference between Annabelle’s friends and Madelynne’s… of course, they did unpack all the books to find the ones they wanted to read.
family · just write life · writing

What We Learned in DC

We celebrated my girls end of school this year in a really big way.

We skipped it.

Listen, when daddy has a conference in DC and the hotel is paid for, you seize opportunity and take flight.

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Literally. We took the big girls on a plane for the first time. They loved it. But then at the Air and Space Museum, Madelynne informed me she wasn’t interested in knowing how those planes were built because then she might know how they could crash.

Point taken.

She and I befriended our seat mate–the deputy chief of staff for a Nebraska senator–which secured us a personal tour of the Capitol. We’d been on the fence and hadn’t committed with our own congressman before the trip, but this worked out perfectly and was one of our favorite activities. Plus, we got to ride the secret trolley from the Russell Senate Building underground to the Capitol.

They were pretty impressed with the state of the Union that day.

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We were all a little worried when no one, not our politic friend or our taxi driver, had heard of our little budget hotel but turns out, the hotel got a new name recently. We stayed at The District (formerly Sunny) Hotel and although the reviews were not spectacular, we thought it was great. Our room was clean, it was an old apartment building turned hotel, so there was plenty of charm, and best of all? Continental breakfast and one block from the 7/11.

When we moved up from here to the swanky conference hotel, Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, the girls discovered The Corner Bakery and our food budget sighed. What is it with nicer hotels and fewer amenities? Well, the Hyatt did have a pool.

We indulged in the pool one afternoon after another attempt to see it all. By Tuesday night, when Joshua had to switch gears and be professional, we had seen the Capitol,  Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, MLK Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, World War II Memorial, Bureau of Engraving and Printing,the Natural History Museum, the Archives, the Smithsonian Castle, Arlington, the Native American Museum, the Holocaust Museum, and we’d gotten pretty good at navigating the metro.

My feet hurt. A lot. So did the girls but they didn’t complain.

Well, not too much.

While Joshua networked and talked business for the rest of the week, the girls and I caught everything else.

Well, we tried.

American History Museum and quote of the week: Mom, if Hillary wins will they put Bill’s tuxedo in the First Ladies dress exhibit?

American Gallery of Art where, after walking through the Hall of Presidential portraits, I was ashamed to discover how much of my history I’d forgotten . Oh, and we got to be part of a research experiment using our sense of smell to describe how a picture looks.

Our hands down favorite? Ford’s Theater. I booked us online passes that included the audio tour and one act play. Best. Decision. of. the. Week. They plugged up their little ears and wandered every inch of that museum. In fact, we had to come back after watching the play because they weren’t done. This exhibit is well worth the price of admission extras (regular admission is free) and while they told me everything they learned, I wasn’t accosted with thousands of questions that all started with “Why–”

Ten year olds named Annabelle have a lot of questions.

We rounded out our week with a night time stroll (i.e. Joshua couldn’t find another cab to take us back to the hotel) of all the monuments from Jefferson to FDR. That’s quite a walk in case you’re wondering. But along the bank of the Potomac, Joshua helped me formulate the outline for my flash fiction story, “For the Love of Lincoln.” You can read it in Splickety Love’s August issue, Love on Location.

On Friday, we rounded out our trip with a visit to the National Zoo. The girls fit in nicely with the animals.

All in all, I learned it’s best to do a trip like with without little ones and it’s priceless to have time to spend with the big kids who sometimes feel shafted by the antics of their siblings. And, even though they fight most of the time, they can keep it to a minimum.

In fact, they might even love one another.

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faith · family · motherhood · writing

In the Broken

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The little pink porcelain cross hung over her cradle. Strength it read. For me, more than her. I kept it in her keepsake box and rubbed it like a talisman more than once last year when all the unknowns piled up because of her little brain and inside my sleepless one.

She broke that cross the other day.

Now it sits in a corner of my kitchen counter, waiting for superglue or hot glue or some other miracle.

Last week Joshua repaired three broken toys and a decorative teapot Annabelle got at a yard sale.

And I’ve told you all about my peeling paint van that often needs more repairs than there are digits in the emergency fund.

Yesterday the little man tried to be helpful. He climbed onto the open dishwasher to unload the cups for his whiny sister and strung-out mama. Never mind that I have said DO NOT CLIMB IN THE DISHWASHER a ridiculous amount of times since he became mobile nearly three years ago.

He fell and used the top rack to break his fall.

So, yeah, my life is pretty much full of brokenness.


 

I had a friend tell me this week that–

brokenness can be beautiful because it’s in the fall our need for Jesus is most magnified.

And oh, how I need.

My husband traveled this week. Not a big deal, I know. He’s home more than he’s gone and when he’s here, he’s all in. For that I’m grateful.

But sometimes the timing of his trips and the timing of my sanity just don’t match up.

Broken.

He got the sobbing-don’t-ever-leave-me-and-don’t-ask-me-to-manage-the-budget-and-these-kids-are-too-much phone call yesterday while he was at the LAX airport.

In my defense, the threat of snow had closed school two hours early and I don’t know about yours, but for my kids, transitions are the hardest part of everyday. If I ever homeschool one reason will be because we get along better with less transitions.

This introduction of the girls into the space that is not usually theirs and was already full with my to-do list and my thought that if they were home they could at least do their chores, made for a harder than needed to be afternoon.

The dishwasher incident broke me.

And I cried in the closet and my eleven year old tried comforting me and said (this is wisdom, really), “Having a conversation with you is like that conversation I just read with Gale and Katniss. You know? When he gets mad at her because he thinks they’re running away together and she thinks they should save Peeta’s family too?”

Well, the night before they had tried reading Bible stories with me, so I guess she figured Hunger Games might work too.

It kind of did.

See, Katniss and Gale fought because they had different expectations.

And my expectations are not at all the same as my children’s.

They expect some attention, and a little freedom to turn flips on the trampoline, and a snack, of course.

I expect them to be excellent readers because I was a reading teacher (and I love reading). I expect them to not only help, but to do so cheerfully, without complaining ever (apparently I’m the only one allowed to complain). I expect them to get along and love each other and listen to me all the time.

I think I forgot they are children. And they are broken and sinful and selfish.

Just. Like. Me.

They are also imaginative and compassionate and patient with their crazy mama. They are loving and kind and generous. But, they do not always meet my expectations.

I wonder if I meet God’s?

I think, yes. I think He doesn’t expect anything more of me than to come, broken, kneeling in my closet, weeping, begging for a little calmer heart.

He expects me to let Him handle this.

He’s my glue miracle. And he’s in the business of repairing the broken.