how i finally found spiritual peace (and why studying never helped)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Four years ago, I joined a Catholic Bible study.

It was one of the most interesting and meaningful small groups I've ever attended.  I loved the women I met there, and I found the Catholic faith to be beautiful.  As I studied with them, my understanding of church, history, and faith communities broke wide open.  It was the first time I considered the ancient nature of Christianity, just how big and unchanging God's love  really is.  But at the time my husband was in leadership in a conservative neo-reformed church.  It was terribly disorienting, taking a Reformed approach to a Catholic study.  For a year or so, I was the baby in Solomon's court, straddling two worlds and carting around the tension of a centuries-old conflict as though I could personally resolve it.  Eventually I split in two.  I stepped away - first from the Catholic study, then the Reformed tradition.  

when christmas just isn't fun

Friday, December 20, 2013

Today's guest post is by Maria, one of my favorite people I have met this year.  Maria moderates Middle Places, and she also has a blog.  She is humble and focused and leads with so much grace.  I have loved working with her, and I love her voice.  I think you will too.

Hi, my name is Maria, and I am a recovering perfectionist.

I recognize my problem, and I have identified my patterns, but like any addict I will never truly eliminate my desire for it.  And perfectionism is a heavy load to carry in December.

on classrooms, homeschooling, and loving your choice

Monday, December 16, 2013

Recently I read a piece I loved on Momastery.  She talked about the magic of learning, how teachers are magicians and deserve so much more credit than they're given.  If you haven't read it, please do.  You won't regret it.  But as she reflected on a larger life lesson, I smiled inwardly at something completely different.  While she made another point, it was obvious she loves her choice about how to educate her children.

I love it when people love their choice.

Sometimes parenting feels impossible.  So many decisions, so many right answers and wrong ones, depending on your individual child and the specific complexities of your family.  For a few years, I spent most of my time questioning my choices.  Was this really the best thing?  How could I know?  I never fully trusted myself, which meant I never fully enjoyed the fruit of any decision I made.  The question always gnawed at my confidence:  "Should I have done this other thing instead?"

on fire trucks and ebenezers

Friday, December 13, 2013

Nothing is the same as it was a year ago.
That’s good, but it is also disorienting.  Recently I realized I need an ebenezer.  I know God loves me, and I know He has been faithful to my family.   But in a season with no familiar landmarks, I need a physical reminder, something concrete to help me remember His grace to us in the last year.
This past week I have asked God several times, what would mark this year?  What would remind me of Your goodness, and would orient my heart toward  grace when I’m feeling uncertain and disconnected?
It took a few days, but I think I have the answer.  I’m going to need a fire truck.

the one thing I won't do this Christmas

Monday, December 9, 2013

It's the Christmas season.

How are you holding up?

For me, it's only the second time since 2006 when I have not been either nine months  pregnant or caring for a brand new baby in December.  It's nice.  I have the energy to function this year, and the work of Christmas is finally enjoyable again.  I feel like I'm doing more than just surviving the holidays for the first time in a long time, thanks be to God.

But now that I can think, I am wrestling through a problem that, in previous years, I didn't have the energy to question.  Until now, I just accepted it as the truth, but now I'm not so sure.  Everywhere you go online, you see pictures, ideas, suggestions, and images of others' Christmas traditions.  Why does it all make me feel like I'm flunking Christmas?  

how God showed up

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thank you thank you, friends.  You sent emails, texts, and Facebook comments saying, "I will stand with you!"  Thank you.  Since we're in this  together, I wanted to share how God showed up this week.

First, God showed up at 8 p.m.

For three nights, my sweet baby boy screamed for hours in the middle of the night.  He wanted to nurse, we were supposed to nurse, and he was not letting me off the hook.  We rocked and paced and walked outside and cried together, until slowly slowly, as long as I was standing up and patting his little back, his wailing eased.  Eventually he rested his head on my shoulder, tucked his little arms in, and dozed off.  Those were hard nights.

standing in the gap

Monday, November 25, 2013

one of my favorite pictures of my sweet dog.  He was so mad!

I don't want to write this post.  

I tend to be chatty and outgoing when things are going well.  Let's talk about life!  Tell me your problems!  I'm all in.  But then something pops up in my life and ... radio silence.  While I'm silent, though, I'm also telling myself how alone I am in the world, how I clearly don't have anyone who is willing to stay in my mess with me.  Meanwhile I'm ignoring the thirteen missed calls on my phone and the sweet "Are you still breathing?" texts from a half dozen friends.  I create my own solitude and then shrivel inside it, every single time life gets hard.

the time i lost my daughter in the mall

Friday, November 22, 2013

2008.11.20 twitter background by guiltyx
2008.11.20 twitter background, a photo by guiltyx on Flickr.

I forgot she was with me.

That's how I lost my daughter.  I forgot where she was.

Recently I was at the mall with my best friend, mother-in-law, and all four of my children.  It was the baby's birthday, and his godmother and grandmother wanted to buy his first pair of shoes and a new winter coat.  Small children on a birthday, any birthday, are naturally maniacal.  Plus grandma was in town, upping their enthusiasm and bickering tenfold. Then there was a stop by the Lego store.  Hermit crabs painted like Superman.  A little more freedom than usual while everyone fussed over the baby.  

Two hours later, my kids were scattering like marbles on tile.  I was feeling frazzled.

what's inspiring me

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Over on the Facebook page I often post links or quotes that inspire me, but it occurred to me this morning I haven't shared them here in a long time.  There's some beautiful insight floating around right now, and I would love to share what has inspired me recently.

Similar to my experience of his books, when I read Donald Miller's On God and Farming I  was interested, but I didn't have a moment of soul-bursting enlightenment.  However, over the next few weeks I found myself thinking about it often, and referring to his point in conversations.  He articulated something important for me:  At 35, it's not hard to know what to do with my life.  The hard part is staying with it.  Tend your field, he says.  Accept your calling.  Don't chase something more glamorous, just do what you've been given to do, no matter what.  In parenting, in your career, in relationships - tend your field.  In time, you will reap a harvest.

how a book on natural childbirth changed my life

Monday, November 11, 2013

I once read a book on natural childbirth.

Back then I was carrying my first baby, and I was apprehensive about his entrance into the world.  I never intended to actually have a natural childbirth, but I wanted to understand more about what to expect during labor.  I picked up a book to learn more about what I was about to experience.  

That book changed my life.

Most women waste all of their energy fighting against pain, the book said.   When contractions begin, we tense up and brace against it.  We instinctively try to prevent anything that hurts.  Then we spend the moments between contractions - moments intended for rest - anticipating the next wave. The cycle of fighting and anticipating pain is exhausting.  We spend all of our energy trying to avoid labor, working against it, and we have nothing left for the hard work of actually producing a baby.  

We forget pain is natural.

what really happened when I wept in a room full of strangers

Friday, November 8, 2013

I wrote a story for Middle Places today.  But I just reread my post, and I disappointed myself.  I mean, I love Middle Places.  I'm honored to be a part of them, and if you haven't been following along, there are some beautiful stories this week you won't want to miss.

But as usual, I ignored my emotion.  As usual, I smoothed myself over, tamped it down, tried not to offend anyone.  As usual, I swayed under an emotional boulder and insisted it wasn't that heavy, really.  I am working hard to stop downplaying and dismissing my life.  So now I'll tell it like it really happened.

In a room full of strangers on Wednesday, I cried.

Big, embarrassing tears.  There were no misty eyes, no quiet, quivery voice.  This was not a cute cry.  It was a face-contorting, ugly, loud, sobbing cry.

what kids really need

Thursday, October 31, 2013

He wanted a Halloween party.

"We'll put up spider webs and everyone will wear their costumes and we'll scare each other and I'll show them my legos," my six-year-old announced in the kitchen.  "Can we?"

"Well, Halloween is in two days.  We'd have to have a party tomorrow.  Can you make invitations and deliver them to your friends this afternoon?"


"Okay.  I'm not hanging spider webs, but I will make a snack and your friends can play here tomorrow.  How about that?"

My little boys went to work. One drew pumpkins on the back side of used printer paper, while the other carefully lettered above them:  "Please come to my house tomorrow at 4:00 for a party.  Wear your costume if you want to."  He folded three invitations into uneven squares and stuffed them into his pocket.  "What about your friends on the next block?" I asked.  "I'll make them later," he answered.  But by the time he rang three doorbells, something new captured his attention, and later never came.

By the next morning I couldn't believe I'd agreed to this.

on birth and loss, and feeling all the feelings

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I've had the hardest time writing here the past few weeks.

Because this is the place where I tell the truth, and lately I haven't wanted to feel the truth.  Momastery talks often about feeling all the feelings.  I'm terrible at it; avoidance is more my style.  I am a withdraw-er, an "ignore it and it will go away"-er.  If you don't believe me, just open the door to the play room sometime.

I've tried shutting the door on this too, but when I do,
I shut out everything meaningful and good as well.  And I know acknowledgement carries astonishing power.  Once emotion is out, you're free.  Until then, you're like the Dursleys, staring down Dumbledore while a wine glass taps your head.  Just grab the glass, already.

So.  Here it is.

What is pain birthing in your life?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

photo by Jesse
Saturday morning and it is still dark.  For the past few weeks I have stared numbly at Facebook during my precious quiet hours, but this morning I hoped inspiration would meet me in the coffee shop.


So.  I read a few blogs.

First I opened Deeper Story's piece on marrying wrong.  I could feel the pain and frustration in her words.  The anger of working in the red, digging hard for one more ounce of yourself to give ... and it's never, ever enough.  I could feel the tightness in her chest, the constriction in her throat.  Her words are choppy and incomplete because it's so much, so big, a paragraph just can't contain it.  

I took a deep breath on her behalf.

Peace, friend.  Peace to you.

on guitars and vows, and all the love in between

Saturday, October 12, 2013

photo by Jesse
In college I bought my boyfriend a guitar.

I was a full-time student, and on the weekends I worked behind a deli counter in a grocery store. I saved every single penny from that awful job, and lived on four hundred dollars a month (no lie). The day I saved two thousand dollars, I turned in my apron and spent it all on an acoustic Martin guitar.

He was a student too, a religion major at a different school.  His plans included seminary and ordination, a life of church ministry and annual appointments.  But at the time he was in a band with some friends from school, and more than anything, he wanted to make music for a living.

what would happen if the lines drew us in?

Friday, October 11, 2013

photo by the beautifully talented Jesse 

"... In a world of differences, how can we come together?  In the real world, what does unity look like?

Strangely, any time I ask this question, a line from an old pop song runs through my mind. "The same black line that was drawn on you is drawn on me, and it's drawing me in …"

We draw any number of lines between one another.  There is always an "us" and "them" in Christian circles.  But what would happen if the lines we drew to separate, instead pulled us toward one another?"

You can read the rest here.

when God shows up on the way to Old Navy: a guest post from PardyMama

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Today my hilarious, honest real-life friend Emily from PardyMama shares about taking a leap of faith.  Most often, it isn't what you think it is.   If you love it as much as I do, you may also want to read Emily's take on life, grad school, and raising two toddlers at PardyMama.  My personal favorites are Crazy Pills and Full Plate. 

photo by the very talented Jesse 
When Stephanie asked me to write a blog about taking a leap of faith, I about fell out of my chair. If she had asked me even the week before, I would have had plenty to tell. Three months ago, my husband and I moved 2,000 miles with two toddlers and no job in sight. However, at this moment, I knew exactly what God was telling me to write, and that wasn’t it. 

I had two hours of free time. FREE time. Child-free time. And, this just about never ever happens for me. My husband had just that morning received an official offer of a job that we’d been praying about for months, so I was feeling on top of the world that afternoon. Our journey of unemployment had come to a sudden halt, and I was ready to celebrate. The relief of having a couple hours to myself brought on the most delicious of problems: What shall I do with my time?

the seasons are changing.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The seasons are changing.

My toddler barrels toward her third birthday.  She speaks in sentences, mostly uses the potty, and in the past few weeks, has moved from pulling a puppy on a string to coloring for hours or rocking baby elephants to sleep.

Meanwhile, one son is learning to read (as long as nobody is looking), and the other has developed a new desire to engage that I love.  The outside world reflects our inner landscape, and I've spent the past week trying to prepare us.  I've unearthed sweaters and boots, and I've given away rattles and onesies.

Because the baby - the last baby - will be a year old in a few weeks.

Mostly I am thrilled.  His next year is my favorite, punctuated by first steps and first words and a complete fascination with the whole world.  It is an honor to watch it unfold.  Soon he will wean, and my body will be my own again.  But for the first time in nine years, my mind is not wandering to the next baby.

the book that is changing my life

Friday, October 4, 2013

I wrote this last spring.  It was one of the first posts I shared on A Wide Mercy.

I have read books that have inspired me.  Books that have opened my heart, fired me up, helped me see people instead of issues.  But right now, one book is changing my life.

It is the Book of Common Prayer.

We recently stepped out of a faith tradition that teaches knowledge is the key to a healthy spiritual life.  Right thinking leads to right living, and spiritual growth occurs almost exclusively through study.  Intellectualism is held in highest regard.  It is a heady, heavy way to approach God. 

And some people thrive in it.  I know happy, healthy believers who live well inside this faith tradition.  For a time I did too.  I saw God and the world through a religiously intellectual lens, and I functioned happily within it.  

Until our lives unraveled, and I suffocated under the weight of knowledge.

an open letter to mothers of toddlers (the crazy kind)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dear Mother of a Crazy Toddler,

I swear, it's not you. And it does get easier.

It took me a while to have kids. My husband and I were married just out of college, but my husband traveled for work, and we put off children for a while. When we were ready, I had the shock of my life when I realized most of what I learned in high school health class was a scare tactic, and it's actually NOT that easy to get pregnant. A year later I had a miscarriage that shattered my heart. A year after THAT, I found out I was pregnant. Thirty nine long weeks, twelve hours of labor, and one emergency c-section later, I was finally a mother ...

I am guest blogging over at PardyMama today! Click here to read the rest.

If you are here from PardyMama, welcome. You may be interested in why I'm glad I don't have a stunt double (though some days I wish I did), why I'm so bad at letting my kids struggle, or how I think God sees us during the early baby days.

If you followed a link from Prodigal Magazine, and babies aren't really your thing, maybe you'd like to read why I gave up on God's will, or how my image of God is changing.

Either way, welcome.  We're glad you're here.

the poem that gets me every single time

Monday, September 30, 2013

Meet Heather.  Heather is my real life friend who introduced me to the world of blogging a decade ago.  One of her sons has Asperger's Syndrome, and for a while he was obsessed with tornadoes.  He asked her to write about them.

Before the Storm by premasagar
Before the storm, a photo by premasagar on Flickr
The Thing About Tornadoes

The thing about tornadoes is
They were not meant to be kept
As pets.
There is no jar or bowl or box or pen
That can hold one.
I cannot attach mine
To a leash and lead him

why i let my children out of my sight

Friday, September 27, 2013

This is not the type of post I usually write.

Nor was hers a post I normally read.  MamaCusser, full of the venom and neck rolling I avoid (and if you read through the comments, you'll see why).  What is ruining our kids? she asked.  YOU, she responded.  You, with your fear mongering parenting, who won't let your big kids out of your sight and won't let your kindergartener feed himself.  You are ruining your own kids.

It's not the type of post I usually read, but I thought about it all day.

And the next day, and the next.  While I don't subscribe to her method of communication, I agree with the larger point.  Fear destroys people.

the quote that is changing my image of God

Monday, September 23, 2013

I read this story over a week ago, and I have not stopped thinking about it.

"I'm one of thirteen children.  One day when I was playing in the street of our hometown in Holland, I got thirsty and came into the pantry of our house for a glass of water.  It was around noon and my father had just come home from work to have lunch.  He was sitting at the kitchen table having a glass of beer with a neighbor.  A door separated the kitchen from the pantry and my father didn't know I was there.  The neighbor said to my father, 'Joe, there's something I've wanted to ask you for a long time, but if it's too personal, just forget I ever asked.'  

"'What is your question?'

just take the next step forward.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Did you know I'm a blogger for Middle Places now?  My first non-guest post is about the frustration of breaking old habits, then falling back into them.

"But it doesn’t do any good to deny how bad things were, or to lament how long it takes to climb my way out. All I can do is acknowledge, reflect, and keep growing. Recognize bad habits, and work on changing them. I don’t want it to be true – I want my friend to be wrong – but she’s not. All I can do from here is to keep moving forward."

You can read the rest here.

what i learned from the floods

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

this is usually a little stream that runs through our town
Colorado is flooded.  And it's teaching me something about human nature.  

If you watch the news, you have seen the destruction.  Eight dead, hundreds missing.  In my community, the water system has been compromised, and as streets wash away I'm boiling water for drinking and cooking.  We did not have to evacuate, thankfully, but water drained into the basement, and fans and de-humidifiers have been running for days to try to save the carpet.

For eight days it rained - a steady, all-day downpour punctuated by occasional thunder and lightning.  The kind of rain that keeps you from leaving the house until you must, that traps

a list of great blogs and a winner of the MOPS contest

Monday, September 16, 2013


Here are the links to the mom blogs you recommended:

Momastery  (I love this one too)
Moxie Made
Simply Sanderson
The Happiness Project
Sisters Raising Sisters  (a real life friend, and fun and inspiring person)
Passionate Homemaking
Intentional Homeschool
Meager Words  (another real life friend, who also had a bunch of babies in a couple of years)
Play At Home Mom
Holy Experience
A Heart Surrendered
Women Living Well
Biblical Homemaking
Money Smart Family
The Marathon Mom
Gracefull Mama

And here are my favorites:

Conversion Diary      By far my favorite blog.  I love her perspective and humility and ability to laugh at the insanity of raising a bunch of little kids.  I relate so well to much of what she says.
Jen Hatmaker  She's just ... hysterical.  And Southern, and passionate about orphans and life and faith.  She has a way of making you laugh and inspiring you in exactly the same sentence.  If it has her name on it, I know I'm going to love it.
Like Mother, Like Daughter    Okay, so she loses me when she starts talking about crocheting.  But her perspective is still my favorite for parenting and building a home.  She raised seven children, and they all seem to like her and one another, which makes her a pretty credible source for advice, don't you think?
PardyMama  Another real life friend.  Actually, I think Emily may make an appearance here in the next few weeks.  She is fun, sassy, and grounded, and with two toddlers twenty months apart, she gets it.  I love her.
KiWords    Kira is an old-school blogger.  Remember when people used to write about their daily lives and kids without any sort of agenda at all, but just because they wanted to write?  She may be the last hold-out in that camp.  I feel as though I've watched her family grow up, I've been reading her blog so long, and her words are just so beautiful.  If Kira shows up in my feed, I never skip her post.
Faster Than Kudzu  She is not specifically a mom blogger, but really, if you're not reading Faster Than Kudzu, you miss out on the chance to laugh out loud three times a week.
Jody Landers   Jody is one of my heroes.  I always love her voice, and I love to hear more about her story.
Miracle of the Moment, also Open To Life (And God's Plan For It)  I am including them together because their blogs are very similar.  Kendra and Lisa have been online friends of mine for seven or eight years now, and I feel certain if we lived in the same community we would be real life friends as well.  They both keep sweet family blogs, and they both have amazing stories, if you need encouragement or camaraderie in dealing with infertility.

And the winner is ... 


Gwen, email me at, or leave a message on A Wide Mercy's Facebook page, and I will talk to you about the details of your free MOPS membership!

Thanks for playing everyone!  And thanks for the links.  I am looking forward to some new voices in my reader.

when it's time to get out of the race

Thursday, September 12, 2013

photo by Jeffrey Chan
True story.

A few days ago, the kids went for a bike ride around a pond.  My toddler is surprisingly focused on her little balance bike, but over time she waned, eventually abandoning her task completely and sitting in a puddle.  It was time for a snack.  I called to my son just ahead of me, asking him to tell his brother it was time to stop and rest.  He hurried ahead, and I watched he and his brother disappear around a bend.

why i hate this day

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I hate today.

Twelve years ago today, I watched 9/11 news coverage in an ICU waiting room, waiting for my grandmother to die.  I was in my early 20's, and I was with my sister, who was in high school.  The weight of our own loss alongside the weight of the nation's loss was incomprehensible and surreal.  After several hours, my  sister finally found the remote and changed the channel.  We watched Gilligan's Island instead.

It was awful, and to be honest, I'd rather not relive it.  But every year on September 11, people post where they were  when the towers fell.  I ignore the blog posts and avoid Facebook, but I still think back to that waiting room, and the weight of death all around me.

when it's time to regroup

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

This perfect photo taken by Jesse

There was an incident at church on Sunday.

One of my sons hit his brother, his brother kicked in retaliation.  Their teacher sent for me, and I found them both cross-legged, staring at a wall, crying.  Their teacher, a soft-spoken mother of four herself, smiled an apology over their heads.  I shrugged a response, and left them in time-out.

A minute later I went back into the room and motioned for them.  Both boys stood up and took my hands.  Nobody spoke until we were out in the breezeway.

"He did it! He hit me!" the younger boy said.

"Because you drew the lines all wrong! It's not supposed to look like that!"

"Boys," I said deliberately.  "You hurt one another, and you had your consequence with your teacher.  Now it is over.  Take a minute and get yourself together.  Then we are going back into worship together."

"I can't!" the older boy said.  "Everybody will know I cried.  I'll be embarrassed."

and the winner is ...

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Fiona, thank you for sharing your story with me through a message on Facebook.  You won your own copy of Packing Light, by Allison Vesterfelt.  Send me your address either on Facebook or at awidemercy at gmail dot com and I will put it in the mail to you.  Actually I'll probably get my husband to put it in the mail, so that it doesn't just sit on the hutch for the next six months until I get to the post office.  Either way, we'll get it to you, ASAP.

Thank you so much for reading and sharing your packing light stories.  I really enjoyed my first review and author interview, and I hope you did too.

I'll leave you with a completely unrelated quote.  I am absorbed in the first season of Parenthood on Netflix on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, and Millie (Grandma) just said something I should post on my refrigerator:  "You fought the good fight, but sometimes being the perfect parent just isn't worth the blood on the floor."  Preach, Millie.

In the middle. Still.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"The irony of never finishing a project – but having time to blog about never finishing a project – is not lost on me. That’s the point, though, right? At some point we lay aside the need to produce, to prove our worth by what we do, and we embrace something deeper than success ..."

I am talking about my never-finished projects and measuring success and failure at Middle Places.  You can read the rest here.

3 questions with Allison Vesterfelt

Thursday, September 5, 2013

(I had an opportunity earlier this week to talk with Allison Vesterfelt, author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage, about her new book.  Don't forget to leave your own "packing light" stories on Facebook or Twitter to enter to win her book.  Only two days left to enter!) 

1.  The idea behind Packing Light is to let go of what is holding you back from a more inspired and purposeful life. You did this in a literal way when you sold your belongings and hit the road. But how does the idea apply to people who are not compelled to sell everything and  move, but are still hungry for a more inspired life?

This is a great question, and maybe one of the most important concepts for this whole project. When I sold all of my things to go on this trip, I knew I was going to write a book, but I thought the book would be mostly about the road trip itself — and what it was like to get rid of all my clothes and furniture. I was curious to see what would hap
pen if we tried to live with less stuff, and assumed we would have some funny and entertaining stories to share from the road.

I was right, but what I couldn’t have understood before I left was how letting go of physical stuff acted as a metaphor for the more important lessons I learned — what it’s like to put down emotional and spiritual baggage I was carrying around. I had no idea how heavy that baggage was, and didn’t even realize I was carrying it until I did something out of the ordinary, until I went on a trip.

Who would you be if you knew people were for you?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"I wonder if this is what we all need - more than lectures about the places in our life where we might be failing or falling apart.  More than finger pointing and criticism, or even well-intentioned advice.  I wonder if what we need, more than anything, is for someone to tell us we're going to 'make it.'  No matter where we are in our journey, or what has gone wrong, I wonder if what we really need are people who are waiting for us, without judgment, willing to say, 'Do what you need to do.  I'll be here when you make it.'"

- Packing Light, Allison Vesterfelt

People are for each other in my new town.

My husband first noticed it at a bike park designed for professional riders.  He would watch someone not as fit bring an "uncool" bike to the track, and pro riders would hold back to cheer him on, clapping his back when he finished the course.  Not only would pros speak to the little kids scooting around them, they offered tips for improvement, or helped a mom unload her kids' bikes.  There was no line between "professional" and "amateur" at the bike parks.  If you show up, you belong.

I've seen the same attitude among mothers.  

Packing Light: a reflection, a review, and a give-away

Monday, September 2, 2013

What do you take, and what do you leave behind?

As Ally Vesterfelt and her friend set off on a 50 state road trip, their car is perfectly packed.  They have exactly what  they need for the road ... or so they think.  They soon discover sweaters, coolers, and even cars can be easily replaced.  Attitudes, fears, and relationships are the hardest things to leave, and the most important to keep.

I offered to review Allison Vesterfelt's new book because I love her work.  I never expected to find so much of my own life in her story.  Or that her book would intersect with my life at the perfect time.

how we are

Sunday, September 1, 2013

We drive along the sunset, racing prairie grass over winding hills.  Out of one window, the last light fades into low clouds and presses into the Flat Irons that seem to be just out of our grasp.  From the other, downtown gathers its rooftops in the distance.  The windows are down, and the van is full of kids and friends and The Civil Wars.  I rest against my seat and close my eyes.  

Normal life thrills me the most.

how I stayed married

Saturday, August 31, 2013

"The first time I fell in love with my husband I was nineteen years old.

The second time I was thirty four ..."

Did you know I was at Prodigal Magazine yesterday?  You can read the rest of "How I Stayed Married" here.

it's okay to let your kids struggle (and why i am so terrible at it)

Monday, August 26, 2013

photo by my very talented friend Jesse
Lunch time, and we are in the park.  Rather, I am attempting to leave the park, and it's not going very well.  Three mobile children, two bikes, one stroller, and one dog are all in my possession, and each has a different agenda.  The dog wants to mark every fixture, the boys are riding in two separate directions (neither of which lead back to the car), and the two-year-old, who has ventured out of the house for the first time without a diaper, refuses to walk in her soiled pants.  The parking lot seems to be stretching away from us.  It's excruciatingly slow, but we plod along.  

Then, I hear a cry behind me.  "My bike's broken!  I can't ride it!  I need help!!" 

for the days when you'd rather hide backstage

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The baby is screaming, the toddler is in the almost-but-not-yet stage of potty training, and one of the big boys has a cold with the snotty attitude to prove it.  Some mornings I long for a stunt double.

A nanny, a tutor, a housekeeper ... anyone willing to step in for the impossible, disgusting, and  dangerous parts of my life, while I drink coffee backstage.  To un-goop floors, enforce the media restriction, soothe the fussy baby, wipe the runny noses.  I want someone to show up and make being a mom easier.  I'll take over again when life gets to the good part.

The problem is, I suspect this is the good part.

why i'm giving up on God's will

Thursday, August 15, 2013

photo by my talented friend Jesse
I hate building with Legos.  I am truly terrible at it.  One time - and only once, though Legos are a fixture in my daily life - I agreed to help one of my sons with a project.  It took me two full hours to tease out and put together twenty three pieces.  Two hours, and the base of the torso of a Transformer was all I had to show for my work.  It was excruciating.

Kind of like searching for God's will.

what's inspiring me, vol 2.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

You guys.  Have you all been reading Prodigal Magazine and holding out on me?  I discovered this little gem Friday evening, and I couldn't put it down.  I read until nearly midnight, then spent most of the next day running back to the computer for just one more article.  It's an online magazine for storytellers, which means every post is a story.  This seems like such a simple concept: of course you're telling a story, isn't everyone online telling a story?  No, not really.  

7 quick takes: homeschool freakout edition

Friday, August 9, 2013

- 1- 

Choosing a college, planning a wedding, breast versus bottle feeding, buying a house ... They've got nothing on choosing a homeschool curriculum.

The truth?  The world of homeschooling completely overwhelms me.  So I did what I always do when I get overwhelmed; I ignored it, focusing on fun projects instead, and hoped the answer would magically appear on my doorstep.  To a certain degree it did.  We moved into a community with so many more resources and options than I ever had in the South.  I signed up for a Classical co-op at the beginning of the summer, and didn't think about it again until this week. As I started to actually prepare for our school year, however, I realized this program would be perfect for one of my school-aged children ... and disastrous for the other.  

Spiderman ponders this problem.

time stamped

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

If you really want a glimpse into my life, stand in my stairwell.

8:35 a.m.

how {not} to measure success

Sunday, August 4, 2013

It seemed like a good idea.

So much to do before school starts.  I'll write it down, work through my list.  This is what responsible people do, right?

But that stupid list sabotaged my weekend.

When my husband meandered through a guitar shop, he cut into my time to work on my list.

When someone requested another snack, they were holding me back.

When the baby just. wouldn't. sleep., he interrupted my plans.

All day I snatched and snapped.  My family was in my way.

I forgot the first rule of mothering:

Growing people is my job.

how i came back, part 1: or, when you look at your child and feel nothing

Monday, July 29, 2013

By the time we packed the moving van, I was a mess.

Hands by barnabywasson
photo by barnabywasson at flickr
In the weeks leading up to the move, my husband flowed between excitement and nostalgia, overwhelm and relief.  My kids were teary, staring into the great yawning unknown.  Teachers hugged the boys tightly, sweet friends left endearing good-byes on my doorstep and voicemail, grandparents showered us with time and attention.  Emotion welled up all around me, and I felt ... nothing.  No twinge over leaving my babies' nursery, no fear over the financial risk, no excitement about the adventure.  I had flatlined.  Even in the moment I knew it was all wrong.  Somehow, I had to reconnect.

do you love it? I do.

When my daughter is enchanted with her outfit, she throws open her arms, jumps a little dance, and says, "My beautiful!  How do my look?"  That's sort of how I feel this morning.  Ta-da!  It's a new blog!
Etsy is not paying me to sing their praises.  I just love them.

As you can see, I'm out from under that heavy, sterile black design, and I'm no longer begging Google to simultaneously translate Portugese and HTML for me (I actually did that.  It went exactly like you think it did).  Google let me down, but as usual Etsy was the cure for what ailed me.

Did you know you can buy affordable, pretty-but-not-cutesy blog templates on Etsy?  And that for a very nominal fee, you can also have them installed?  (She could have charged three times as much and I still would have paid her to do it). Kathy at Nudge Media Design rescued my weekend and my blog.  I couldn't be happier with the result, and I have enough left in my budget to look at doing something with a wide mercy's sparkling new Facebook page.  Thank you thank you Kathy, and God bless the artists at Etsy, each and every one.

So, hi!  For some of you, you've hardly known anything about me other than my most recent post.  It will take me a little while to fill in all the blanks, but feel free to look around.  And if you ever need any blog work done, skip the cursing and go straight to Etsy.  You'll be so glad you did.

how {not} to build a blog

Friday, July 26, 2013

If you are reading this from my site (as opposed to a feed) you can see that my blog's a mess right now. I have tabs that don't apply (stock?  As in, chicken?) and buttons that lead nowhere and the whole thing is too busy and don't even try to find the date on individual posts, because friends, they just don't exist.

You have my husband to thank for my mess.

The thing is, I've been doing some writing on the side.  And I hope to be able to do something with that writing - even if it's just a little something - mostly because I feel a deep need to look outside of my own four walls every now and then.  I need to feel as though I too am throwing a penny into the fountain of life.  Not that I'm wasting my days at home, but that my day also includes contributing to something bigger than what's for dinner.  Anyway, so I'm writing, and pitching ideas, and hoping for the best.  Which means I need a little better blog layout than what I've been using.

This week my husband and I looked at budgets and designers and prices, and the verdict is ... that's probably not going to happen right now.  My budget is 85$.  Want to know what 85$ can buy you in the world of blog design?  Not much.  Also - and I don't mean this nearly as snarky as it will sound - but all of the designs that fell into my price range were just so ... cute.  My husband said, "We've landed in the smocked and frocked corner of the internet."  Indeed.  I love your smocked blogs, you guys, every bit as much as I love your smocked children.  It is just not me, you know?  Instead all of the blog layouts that appealed to me were usually gaming blogs, which is especially funny since I was not even cool enough to own Mario Kart in the 7th grade.  I'm not sure what that says about me, but there you have it.

After perusing the 568th pink and white polka dotted blog design, my husband looks up and says, "Why don't you just do your own?  You could do this."  He was obviously blinded by his undying love, and forgot he is talking to the woman who can hardly even scrape up the will to organize the top shelf of a closet, and that I only have approximately one hour of daylight to devote to my little blogging habit anyway.  And because I am a crazy, crazy person, I thought, why not?  So I have been attempting to use a free template, and customize it myself (I did not create the template - let's be clear that I have absolutely no ability to decipher and write code, unless you are talking about my five-year-old's handwriting, in which case I'm your man).  The result has been me staring at a screen waaaay past my allotted blogging hour, saying things out loud like, "How the hell do you unzip a file?"  At one point this afternoon (I wish I was exaggerating, but this actually happened) I looked up to find my daughter sitting on the baby's head, while my middle son was walking along the top of the couch and singing the My Little Pony theme song.  And I said maniacally, "SURE!  I'LL JUST CUSTOMIZE MY OWN BLOG!"

All of that to say, my site is a mess, but it's got nothing on my house right now.  Nevertheless, I remain hopeful.  I can nurse a baby while pushing a stroller, wipe a heiney while talking on the phone, and vacuum an entire house without eating a single Lego.  What's a little HTML?

But if you see my children sitting on top of the van, crowded around a jar of peanut butter, it may be time to intervene.

* * PS Two hours later, I found the perfect template - it's easy, it's clean, it's yellow and gray.  And the tutorial is written in Portugese.  * *

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