Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why Today Needs Friday

 I read all week about the gravity of Lent and Good Friday, about ones I love who couldn't shrug off the weight of it all, couldn't stop crying, felt the visceral pull toward His wounds for them. 

As usual, I was the one crying over things more along the lines of spilled milk. 

I didn't celebrate Lent this year like I had the past two. I read post after post about people giving up sugar and changing their lives while I dipped strawberries in generic Nutella and tried not to smudge the laptop.

It made me doubt myself, feel a little defensive. Maybe my heart was wrung out or, hey - not all of us can be the sensitive soul. 

But our new pastor sent around an email saying there were 3 spots left for the Good Friday prayer vigil. I've never done a Good Friday prayer vigil before.  I missed the details last Sunday because I was at prison. But I emailed back without thinking twice. "I'll take 2:00."

The morning had been wonderful. I walked to the church with the sun on my cheeks and air that felt like a lost love, full of Mexican food so authentic that the menu was only in Spanish. Who was I to hold vigil in remembrance of the darkest day of all eternity? I'd sacrificed nothing, felt so little.

I said hello to the pastor, walked toward the sanctuary with my vest still buttoned to my chin. Pushed through the doors, got one foot in, and my insides crumbled. I told myself it was the open quiet, the stained glass streaming Spring.

But the truth is, the Holy Spirit took me in, welcomed me there, knelt with me near the floor, where my whispers were the only sound and my heart broke cleanly in gratitude. I saw the cross and didn't even have to try to feel its worth.

I'm ashamed to say there was a time I would have believed the Holy Spirit didn't live where I sat. And my heart is raw for the hidden truth that I have not loved as I should have, that I have taken the easier road of judgment when all that was really asked of me was to share what I have been given. It was gift and pain, sitting there in the quiet, knowing I was the reason for all of it, then reflecting on that incalculable love.

I am ramshakle, dusty, split at the seams, cracked at the corners. I'm the tiny house that I can't push out of my head, the one with the door I may never have the courage to knock. I'm the prisoner paying for his crimes while he tries to forget them. I'm the girl who can't stop telling lies. I am the one who clenches both fists around so much less than what she was made for. I'm the house covered in vines. I'm the domestic disturbance. The filthy child. The haunted mom. I'm the girl begging to be loved but suspicious that I'm not quite worth it. I'm in all this stuff that surrounds me.

God brought us here, and I've said all along that the big work would happen first in us. But words are just sounds until you walk and eat and drive and cry straight through them. Now, my reality makes it impossible to ignore the laundry bag of judgments I've dragged from town to town. Every day is an opportunity to clamp my eyes and choose what I have always believed, or open them to my full wrongness. He loves me enough to change me.

I'm losing patience with doctrine and dogma, popular opinion and politics, focusing my scattered thoughts instead on who He is, the truth of His Word, the greatness of His love, the completeness of His dominion, and the actual work He has for me. That's more than enough, and I'm starting to see the futility of trying to do the important living when I'm bogged down in the weeds.

All the while, He takes a wrecking-ball to my pride and hands me gifts so exquisite they bring my heart to its knees.

He is risen. He made plain His Holiness. He came back to live with us. He came back to live in us.

*Refrigerator artwork courtesy of Olivia.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Prayer for Good Friday

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me, a sinner.

My ego is like a fortress.
I have built its walls stone by stone to hold out the invasion of the love of God.
But I have stayed here long enough. There is light over the barriers.
O my God, the darkness of my house forgive and overtake my soul.
I relax the barriers.
I abandon all that I think I am; all that I hope to be; all that I possess.
I let go of the past.
I withdraw my grasping hand from the future.
And in the great silence of this moment, I alertly rest my soul.

- Howard Thurman

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Very Good Day


Favorite t-shirt, Cuddly Siley, Bob Evans with the Biggers, A cart-full of produce from Kroger, Quick haircut for Calvin Lee, $3 tulips from Aldi, Sunshine just when we needed it, A trip to the park, Doodling and drawing, Origami, Vintage Wallflowers, 2 kids who napped (WHAT!!?), Playing outside, Zero tv, Leeland radio on Pandora, Exciting baby news, April issue of Country Living (so good!), Lots of chopping, Brussels Sprouts and Asparagus salad with throw-back Green Bean Casserole, Smokin' husband, Gymnastics for the girl, Tae Kwan Do for the boy, A visit with the babies, An out-loud chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, An episode of Mad Men. And the night is still young.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On Barely Surviving the First Day of Spring Break

I feel as though this could be my first wordless post ever. The photo alone pretty much says it all. It's how I feel, it's how my life looks.

But I'm not that tired and you're not that lucky, so I'll go ahead and elaborate for a few hundred words.

We kicked off our uber-long Spring break today by having tubes put in Ruby's ears this morning. Hallelujah, the girl may soon be able to hear again! She's a confirmed trooper and though the nurses said things like "She'll be drowsy all afternoon" and "She'll take a good, long nap for you today", she spent the entire day being entirely Ruby. My girl is brave and whimsical and tall and wonderful. I'm gonna keep her.

Where things get sketchy is where I found myself thinking around 11 a.m., "I don't think I will survive Spring break." And then I remembered Summer vacation looming, and a small part of my soul died.

Around 4 p.m. I was holed up in the bathroom with a magazine, a re-heated cup of tea, and a Butter Kek. I felt like a commercial for...something.

I don't even want to hear it, homeschooling moms. You're tough as nails and I'm...uh...not. Maybe I used to be, but I doubt it. My third child brought about the cataclysmic shake-down of my fortitude, and it's not just him. It's the rest of them. It's the me. It's the all of us together under one little roof in late March, when we should be out flitting around in the breeze.

I've come to see that I've defaulted to an existence of water-treader, and I have to tell you, I'm really not a good swimmer. But the biggest pieces of life stay strung together by the finest filaments and I hope they're stronger than they seem. We're in a much better world than we were two years ago, or even one. Progress is charted and celebrated and we've come a long way, man. Just Friday I texted Cory, "Silas is being such a dream-boat!" He's the first to cuddle with me and tells me one hundred times a day that I'm pretty/special/his best friend ever. We're starting to live a little in that elusive tunnel-end light. It feels nice.

But the bad days seem to come in waves, they always know how to find us. Then, it's hard and it's exhausting and it's time - it's always time - for me to pave a few roads back to myself.

I realized a good while ago that I needed more book-action in my life. It has helped.

Now? I need to get my food groove back on. I think I might be repeating myself, but this time, I really mean it. Cooking relaxes me. It fulfills a sparkly part of me that over-shadows some of the gray ones.

It does take some planning though, and that's where I feel like I might be losing it. My well-planned intentions seem to have been forgotten back at the farm. We're increasingly loosey-goosey up in here. (See photo.)

We're colorfun* and crazy and an awful lot of love happens here amid a crap-load of insanity.

But we could stand to reinstate a few rhythms.

So I'm starting with the Mama and the food on our table. I've been tether-balling around between the old me and the one who scrapes something together most evenings. It's time to close the deal, wrap that rope all the way around the pole. I'm a girl who wants to eat delicious food and I'm lucky enough to enjoy making it. I like eating out sometimes, too. I can appreciate a chili cheese dog as much as the next girl.

But it pains me to say that I haven't singed a single brussels sprout in the 7 months that I've lived here. There's just no sense in that crime.

We're going to enjoy this Spring break, dangit. And we're going to start tomorrow.

Calvin and Ruby have agreed to a coffee date with me while little brother is at pre-school. It's so rare for me to get time alone with the two of them and I'm stoked. After that, we're heading to the grocery store.

Mama's back.

So now it's your turn to give me your best tips for dealing with long breaks, meal times, kid fun, and general tools for living happily with a child who is prone to every manner of tomfoolery.   GO!

*Best typo evs!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Blue Dress for No Dang Reason

I confessed that I very recently bought a blue dress.
I don't know, it was just one of those times. (You know the ones.) I hadn't bought something pretty in a very long time, and...well, the tax refund came.

So I did what any normal version of myself would do and I did a little pretend shopping at Ruche.
It felt like the right move.

Of course, as often happens (and the reason I don't often pretend shop these days) that line between "pretend" and "this will cost me real, paper money" blurs and bada-boom, I've got myself a new blue dress. For no dang reason.

It was...nice.

So the dress came, along with a (cough) skirt. The skirt? I couldn't pull it halfway up my hips. It was demoralizing. It was also a relief, because I knew I had to send it back and I liked it, but not enough to order it in a size up. (This is what happens with impulse buys. You end up with things that you only "like". Not even worth it.)

Cut to late Saturday night. I'm up way past your bedtime watching that part of SNL where you know the writers have all sort of given up. Back-half SNL.

I was already regretting the morning and drumming up ways to eke out a few more minutes of the sleep I already knew I desperately needed. Deciding ahead of time what to wear saves minutes, right?

Of course it was way to cold for the BDfNDR....or was it????

(dramatic pause)

I remembered reading something six or eight years ago about wearing a Summer dress in the winter. With tights, people. As fortune has it, I have tights! And boots! And a sweater!

It was worth a shot.

(Or maybe that was just Bill Hader and Cecily Strong talking.)
(Love you forever Cecily Strong!)

I felt so twenty-something!
And slightly overdressed!
And super awkward posing for a picture in the front yard!

Lazy alert!
Totally didn't iron that bad girl up.

And yes, I have twig legs. Don't talk about it.
I don't want to talk about it.
For real.

At the end of the day, who can say if I actually pulled it off?
But it was fun to shake it up for a while.

And if you're going to take a fashion risk, you might as well bust it out at your beloved new church, where the average member is 72.4 years old and they find it appropriate and maybe even complimentary to tell you you look exactly like their sister. Like, now. Not 40 years ago.

Incidentally, this is the terrifyingly restrictive Barbie skirt from Hades. Those daisies called out to me.
I desperately wanted to wear them with a navy and white striped shirt. Right??

And as a final warning, this right here is why we never, ever browse online unless we actually have real, paper money to spend. (Come to me!!!)

Dear Ruche,
You are Anthro's cooler, younger sister.
(Yes, I said you are younger.)
I love you for your prices and your swooniness.
But your daisy skirt is whack and almost made me cry.

* All links are affiliate links.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Suburbia is Relative

Phone call last Friday:

Me: So, did any of the guys from your pod give you heck about me and Dad?
Robert: Yeah, some of them did.
Me: Why?
Robert: They said you're white and from the Suburbs.
Me: Well, we're white.
Robert: And you're from the suburbs.
Me: We aren't from the suburbs! We live in what's called a "declining neighborhood".
Robert: Mom. You built your house. You live in the suburbs.
Me: Okay, the house is new...but it's NOT in the suburbs.
Robert: Mom. You have a basement. With, like, a real floor. You live in the suburbs.
Both: (cracking up laughing)
Me: The kids go to the poorest school in the city.
Robert: Well, I don't think I would brag about that...
Me: But that's the point. We love it here. We came here on purpose.
Robert: Why would you ever do that?
Me: Because God told us to. God loves poor people!
Robert: (dying laughing)
Me: He doesn't want us to only be with people just like ourselves. He wants us to understand we're all the same!
Robert: Okay, but you live in the suburbs.

Today's visit:

Me: (looking around the room) So, are any of these guys the ones who pick on you about me and Dad?
Robert: That guy behind you.
Me: Is he nice?
Robert: Pretty much.
Me: Does it embarass you?
Robert: No way! 
Me: What makes him think we're from the suburbs?
Robert: Well, it doesn't help that Dad wore cowboy boots to prison.
Me: (crazy-loud laughing)

I woke up this morning, put on jeans, gingham (green), something gray. No jewelry. Not even my cuff. (I feel naked without my cuff.) 

I inhaled a Subway ham and cheese flatbread sandwich from the drive-thru (pepper jack cheese, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, chipotle sauce) while Cranberries sang us all the way to Michigan City.

This is what alone time with Cory looks like these days. (I'll take it.)

We talked about the small fries, about Spring break, about church and God. Mostly, we talked about our big kid, the one who's 19 and way taller than both of us. The one with (reportedly) 16.5-inch biceps. (Up an inch since county? Sounds suspicious...) We dreamed about all of the pieces of childhood that we'd like to hand back to him.

All I kept thinking was, "You're never too old to come home..."  He was an orphan for so long. But God didn't give up on his story and he made ours better than we thought possible by trusting us with him.

It's the sort of win-win that makes both sides slightly terrified that it's too good to be true.

But it's true.

We waited in line with our roll of quarters. Walked past the "You Are Entering This Area at Your Own Risk" sign. Raised our arms, pulled out our pockets, opened our mouths as wide as they go. There he was at the table, his face set like a stone until the moment he spotted us.

"I been watching out my window for you. I saw you walkin' from the van. I got up early cause I was so excited."

We bought vending machine junk food and hunkered down, not even noticing anyone else in the room. We talked big business and small potatoes and it all fell around us like gold coins. I resisted the urge to bank the bits that in my mind add up to a guarantee for a trouble-free future. I should know better, and I do. I made myself take my eyes off him now and then, because, hello, it would be weird if I stared. But that's what I want to do, and that's how I know he's mine.

I'll never be able to explain what God did to Cory and I, but I probably won't stop trying.

I can't properly lay out how the convicted felon favored to win the minimum security pull-up contest became our boy, but he did.

We looked him in the eye while we talked deep, deep, heavy. I reminded myself now and then to exhale. I told him some very hard truths and he took it like a man who knows Jesus, who has Jesus with him - everywhere. He chewed it up, swallowed it down. And I love that kid. I love him every second. I love him when I tell him we want the world for him. I love him when he says his first stop out is to pick up some smokes. I love him when he finds every little reason to call us Mom and Dad. I love him in the way he shows respect to people who haven't earned it. I love him in the way he giggles like a child. I love him in his protective tendencies and his flinty resolve that we are his. I love him in his bad habits. I love him in his curiosity and his insistence that the bacon cheeseburger in the vending machine is too expensive. (We didn't give him a say in the matter.) I love him in the way he calls the Bible "the Word". I love him for trusting us. I love him so much for trusting us.

It's time to go and I never want to. None of us wants to. I say, "I'm not leaving" and without a beat he says, "Well, then you'll have to go down to Madison County (the women's prison) cause you can't stay here."

He hugs us each, then he hugs us both together and I hope that guy behind us sees the way two white people from the suburbs might carry the full weight and all the beauty of Robert in our hearts as we drive quiet down the road home.

He tells us to look up at the window on the left, promises we'll see him there.

So we get to the van and look up and please don't ask me how, but there's his hand, outside the building, waving furiously as we roll away and I try not to cry.

This was church today. And we told him next Sunday is Easter so we won't be able to go, but from where I sit now, I just can't find a better way to celebrate our living hope, Jesus, who was "handed over to die because of our sins, and raised to life to make us right with God". (Romans 4:25)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

You Should Know

I have to say, I'm still blushing over all the love you guys threw my way. I wasn't expecting it! It made this girl pretty smiley. Thank you.

To return the favor, I want to tell you that I positively-plum love you. It's one of those surprise turns in life, I suppose. Over 4 years ago I started keeping record of my life and before I knew it, I had pals all over the place, some I've been lucky enough to meet, some I won't meet until the other side. (Won't that be amazing??!) You can't even imagine the way you make me feel supported and cared for. You make me feel normal in my weirdness and weird in the best way ever. You've become my kin, like it or love it.

That's mostly what I came to say, but there's more you should know.

You should know that I made Jenny Rosenstrach's spaghetti and meatballs for dinner last night. I suffered many errant tomato splatters on my t-shirt, but other than that, it was a slam dunk.

You should know that discovering 10 packs of paper napkins whilst organizing a cabinet will cause you to question many of life's fundamental principles.

You should know the shelf below has issues of its own.

You should know that when I do my hair, my closest friends look at me quizzically and ask things like, Did you get your hair cut? Colored? It looks lighter! Darker! Is that a wig? Etc... (You should know that this doesn't happen often.)

You should know that I don't really wig about my kids watching tv. They watch some almost every day. On weekends, they watch quite a bit. They also read, play, draw, and fight with each other. So we have balance. Also? I have tremendously fond memories of spending time every day with Woody the Woodpecker, Dennis the Menace, and the troubled (in hindsight) cast of Today's Special. Let's not even talk about Degrassi Jr. High.

You should know that we had dinner at our favorite Korean restaurant tonight in honor of Cory and Calvin's birthday and Siley's gotcha day.

You should know that this kid cannot get e. nough. of Korean food.

You should know that I wore this to dinner, just for you, Meghan. #Ginghamstyle

My Dad would like you to know that there are 5 Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays this month. It hasn't happened in 823 years.

My mom would like you to know that if you have a yellow cat there's a 75% chance it's a male. "That's my cat fact!"

Cory would like you to know that it's impossible for a scuba diver to pass gas once they hit 33 feet.

There. Wasn't that enriching?

Lastly, you should know that my friend Tina (aka Tiny) is rallying an effort to help a dear friend of hers pay ongoing medical expenses for two of her four rescue dogs, Monty and Lily. Check out their cute mugs and read her story here.

ps - You should know that we're going to visit Robert tomorrow. !!!! We just talked to him on the phone and he said, "I'm not gonna be able to sleep cause I'ma be so excited for our visit." I replied, "Have you decided what you're going to wear for the visit?" (He didn't seem to find it terribly funny, but I'm sure he was laughing deep inside.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Homemade Year & A Giveaway

As a girl who grew up in a dancing-the-aisles church, I was never supposed to fall in love with liturgy. I was taught that worship should be free-flowing; that anything planned probably wasn't "of the spirit".

Some of those old ideas about church and worship took root. Many of them didn't.
I grew and learned. I figured a few things out for myself. One year leaned into the next, into the next, and then... I was a Mama, soul-swaying to the rhythms of simple routines and intentional (sometimes silly) traditions. I scooped them up and wore them like gladness and truth. Little did I know I had taken a bent toward the liturgical.

Merriam Webster defines liturgy as, "A rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship." Liturgy, to me, is the intersection of ceremony and worship.

So sometimes we sing the Doxology at bedtime and sometimes we say the Lord's prayer in unison with three pajama-clad short people. Sometimes we light a candle when Daddy works late so it seems a little like he's with us at the table. We get doughnuts and hunt down the best Christmas lights in December. We crow odd-ball nicknames and make up songs that might be better if we could just make them rhyme. 

Looking back, it occurs to me now that God uses food and the domestic rituals that surround it to call me into his presence. It is his love language to me.          - A Handmade Year

These are the rhythms of our life,  this is the life we live to the glory of our Creator.

What I'm trying to say is, Surprise! We all love liturgy. We just might not have known what to call it.

Worship is, to some degree, a casserole in the oven, a glittered table-top, comb lines in the just-washed hair of our child. It's finding the missing sock. Reading a book by lamp light.

My friend Jerusalem, the one with the swooniest curtains ever, the one who designed my kitchen print, poured this idea onto the pages of a new book, A Homemade Year. (I'm the lucky duck who scored an early copy which I promptly devoured on a blustery Saturday.)

A homemade year

In her fresh-from-the-presses book, A Handmade Year, Jerusalem Jackson Greer carries us through the seasons, pressing us into the sacred rhythm of a life we already love.

She gifts us with new reason to celebrate and does all the hard work for us. (Homegirl throws a mean and easy party.) She slows us down and teaches us more about noticing.

I have a deep affinity for faded things...The leap is not far from the cracked and faded treasures that I collect to the cracked and tattered people that I love.        - A Handmade Year

Through every project, every meal, every pause, her words point our hearts up.

Jerusalem writes about her life with a heart of a friend. Every sentiment drips gratitude, every project includes lush, swoony photography (courtesy of J's talented photographer sister, Judea).
{All patterns used in A Homemade Year can be found here.}

I have to say, I pride myself on knowing my readers and I'm telling you, you'll be all over this read.

Go ahead, fall on in.

Order your copy of A Homemade Year here and connect with Jerusalem here.

And... One of you will receive a free copy! Just leave a comment telling me something I should know. 

*First photo courtesy of Jerusalem Jackson Greer.
*Amazon link is an affiliate link.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Hardest Boy to Love

The news snaked my way as I slept, oblivious for a few hours to the turmoil happening several miles down. Then day came, then light. The weight of what happened lurched in like a tide, wave by wave, each one a little larger. By lunchtime I had the full picture, or at least as full as it would ever get. Someone I love deeply had been hurt and in those early moments in my mind, there was hell to pay. I sucked hard on the thought of retribution, let it linger in my mouth. I was surprised by its sweetness.

It was instinctive and it seemed, fleetingly, like the best gift I could give - that flaming arrow of shared outrage shooting straight from me to her.

I'm not as good at blame as I used to be and I've seen too much of life lately to think for a second that we aren't all scrubbing the same stains. I've seen enough to believe that casting the first stone isn't just a bad idea in parable or in theory.

But how could I ever love that boy?

I know him, just barely. I've tried at every turn to cast him in the best possible light, and he doesn't make it easy. Hadn't I done my part? Can't there be an eventual end to grace? Is everything exempt from the thick stroke of a hard line?

Without warning or invitation, Father Boyle's words slid hard across the floor of my heart, waiting for me to decide.

Isn't the highest honing of compassion that which is hospitable to victim and victimizer both?... Dante speaks of having compassion for the damned. We need not feel soft on crime if we see this kind of compassion as its highest calibration. Jesus says if you love those who love you, big wow (which I believe is the original Greek). He doesn't suggest that we cease to love those who love us when he nudges us to love our enemies. Nor does Jesus think the harder thing is the better thing. He knows it's just the harder thing. But to love the enemy and to find some spaciousness for the victimizer, as well as the victim, resembles more of the expansive compassion of God. That's why you do it.     - Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart

I tried to pat his words on the head and keep on walking, but they followed me around until I accepted their truth.

There is no one right among us.
Justice and mercy don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Rage is not the best I have to offer.

The blind fury has faded but my heart still winces for her and I can't say I've found love yet.

I want justice for him. I want him locked up and away. I want him to lose something, to hurt for something.

I want peace for her, wisdom for her. I want her to wake tomorrow with the brand-new understanding of her own self-worth cast over her like a shawl. 

I want to fix her broken places and I want to do the same for his, but those places are well out of my reach and I've never even managed to fix myself.

 Healing is not in my jurisdiction and neither is judgment.

But love I can do, or at least I can try.

Monday, March 18, 2013

How Much is Enough? (a sequel of sorts)

Almost a year ago my head was spinning in the murky sea of How Much is Too Much. (Catch up here and here.) We were living in the Betty Draper Rental, in the process of building our new house, sitting on a pile of cash that would soon be siphoned out when we closed on the house. We bickered about the number of outlets we needed in the kitchen and wondered how much of a safety net we should leave ourselves. You have to remember, we were quasi-reformed disciples of the Dave Ramsey School of Life, and the emergency fund was the most fundamental and revered of all his tenets. There was a time when 6-months worth of a generous budget seemed not only preferable but essential. Back at the BDR, we knew times were changing and 3 months of a slimmer budget would probably be fine.

That seems like eighty or ninety years ago.

Here we are, ten months later. I laughed when I read my line, "On the flip side, we do have an emergency fund. We keep handing it over to hospitals and doctors and I'm thankful that we have it. (Thanks, Dave!) Maybe that's too much for some people. Maybe soon, it'll be too much for us." 

In the six months we've lived here, the conversation has taken a hard swerve from "How much is too much?" to "How much is enough?" I have to say, it's a better place to be. But I would be lying if I said the answer for us has been obvious or easy. There have been arguments and tears and maybe for the first time in forever, Cory and I haven't landed in the exact same place. That's okay, because it's forcing us to dig deeper and mine the words of Christ for the truth.

We moved into this house with insane medical expenses and two jail-birds who suddenly relied on us for every little thing, but we also moved into a mortgage payment that's roughly a third of what we used to pay.

Knowing our greedy hearts well, we knew we had to very quickly back ourselves into a corner. So the very first month, that dear, sweet precious month where we had no mortgage payment at all, we loaded up the Giving portion of our budget. We inked our deals and didn't dare look twice. We did it with one eye closed, in fact, then wondered for the next three months why there was always too much month at the end of our money (as Dave would say).

So our scrawnier emergency fund slipped mostly away and we're back to a new beginning - what is the right way to live? I'm not asking what's "responsible" or "safe". I don't want to know what conventional wisdom might say or what your Uncle Ray thinks.

The Jesus I'm getting to know kicked conventional wisdom in the shins and lavished the poor with love. The Jesus I see tells us that He ties our heart to our treasures - wherever they happen to be. The Jesus I love tells me not to worry about the shirts in my closet or the cereal in my pantry. He reminds me that he invented cotton and oats. He owns the patents.

My Jesus blesses the poor and spits out what the world values.
He demands that I love my neighbor (my orphan neighbor, my starving neighbor, my imprisoned neighbor, my living-off-the-system neighbor) as much as I love me.

Where does that leave me? What crosses the line from living by faith into negligence or stupidity? And most importantly, what should be done about the pitiful, banged-up car with no headlights, a trunk that won't open, and windshield wipers permanently stuck in the "Up" position?

We are committed to living debt-free.
It's quite possible that we'll live the rest of our lives largely paycheck-to-paycheck.
We are guaranteed to continue frittering away small sums of money on needless silliness like a new blue dress for no dang reason or the Mumford and Sons cd simply because the sky is clear, the sun is shining, and we need a new tune in our ears.

We'll go out for pancakes after church and we may even sneak away for a few days in May. But this kind of living reminds us of way-back-when, when we were newly married and sometimes over-drafted our checking account. It feels a little scattered; the ground is shakier than it used to be.

There's also this: It's becoming easier to not love money when we see our bank account as nothing more than a temporary pass-through. What was once a solid Holiday Inn Express is now the grimy hostel in Peru.

It's harder and harder to sit on cash when we're surrounded by the sharp drag of poverty. And it's ridiculously obvious that my giving is less about who happens to be on the receiving end and more about cleaning up my own, broken crud.

My instinct is to chuck it all. Honestly, it feels sort of gross to have it if I think it's only for me. But I'm also learning that my pendulum tends to rocket pretty wildly. Maybe it's time for a little middle ground? Maybe in this wacko world where I now live, the easy thing would be surrender, but maybe the wrestling holds its own value?

This is one of those nights where I'm all yammer and zero answers.

All I know is that Jesus calls us to live, move, love, breathe in reverse. It's never the way we thought it would be. It's not what we would have scripted if the pen were in our hands. So maybe our instincts are wrong and maybe peace can never be found in a smooth row of zeros.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Simple Birthdays

Mr. Lee turned 8 today. We've had a hand-written count-down on the fridge for a month, along with his birthday list (Chapter books - lots, MP3 player, flannel shirts, soccer ball, Mt. Dew, Ice Cream cake, $10 or $1, Sunny's)

Birthdays are always exciting, but it seems 8 is when it really hits home.

Me, being a huge fan of anticipation, loved all the hullabaloo.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Last week was Busy Extreme. We had plans every night of the week. And Thursday was Cory's birthday.

Somewhere around Tuesday night I had a meltdown (4.5 on the richter scale) wherein I cried about everything I had to do and my certainty that no one would feel loved on his birthday.

Of course the world seemed happier in the morning. So I regrouped and soldiered on.

Thursday night we made it through the day and the evening and the gymnastics and the bedtime and then, in lieu of a homecooked meal, I pulled out Cory's birthday meal: Hot wings from BW3, homemade guac, tortilla chips, salt & vinegar chips, Greek olives, pistachios, blackberries, mangoes, and mint Klondike bars. And gin & tonics. Lots of his favorite foods. We stuffed our trappers while we cackled like hyenas through 4 episodes of The Mindy Project.

Best party ever, but maybe I'm biased or maybe I'm trying to throw the cards in my favor for next year.

 This year was Calv's first friend party. 3 additional 2nd grade homeboys would be converging upon our house for 3 hours.

I'm sorry, I'm just not a party mom. I planned no games. I planned no decorations. I didn't even make a cake because he requested one from DQ.

Here's what I did to prepare: I bought 3 pizzas from Aldi and some little cans of Mt. Dew and Sprite. I bought 2 bags of chips and a tub of sour cream to mix with that dry ranch dip that I hoover up like it's my job in life.

I tidied the house up a little. I bought some helium balloons on a lark. I made Calvin take a shower because he was a crusty sweatball after lunching at the McDonald's play land.


Party rock is in the house tonight.

Exactly 90 minutes pre-party I decided something was lacking, so I fashioned a banner out of white paper plates, left-over yarn from the wreath party, and some paint.

I kept asking myself, Why didn't I do this last night? Why do I make life more difficult than it needs to be? How did I end up being this kind of mom?

I'll be honest, I sort of loved the paper plate banner.

The party ended up a raging success. The boys played rough in the basement, making forts and farts.
They threw me for a maaaaajor loop when they wiped us clean out of ranch dip. They bickered about who got the last yellow pepper! Meanwhile, I wanted it!

Behold: Party favors. Fill your pockets on your way out the door!

Those boys were so fun and cute. They were so easy to please.

Of course, we all closed the day down with a smile, knowing that the fun would continue today on his actual birthday. I fell asleep praying that he would feel extra-special today; that we would somehow bypass the emotional weight that birthdays can carry for kids world-wise enough to understand that they were "supposed" to live in a different place with different people.

I prayed that he would relax his 8-year-old shoulders in the deep grace of his dazzling, exceptional story. And that's what we did.

I can't stop loving this kid. I can't stop staring at him with his shaggy hair and his giant teeth. I caught a new glimpse of his emotional depth and his heart for truth yesterday and it's still blowing my mind today.

I say this all the time to you and I say it even more to him (to all of them!) but I can't fathom how I ever ended up with these complicated, hilarious, soulful, pitch-perfect kiddos.

Happy Birthday, Calvey.
Happy Birthday, Honey.
I hope you loved your parties.
I'm so super proud of both of you.

Right Now Calvin Really Loves:
Lego everything
Korea anything
Tae Kwan Do
Chapter books (Magic Tree House, Jake Maddox)
Liberty's Kids dvds from the library
Soccer at reccess
White rice
Chinese buffets
Toby Mac, Brandon Heath, Jake

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Right Now

You know what I'm a sucker for? Those posts where people answer a million or twenty-five random questions about themselves. I will read every ding-diggy word of those surveys. Even if I don't know the person. I need to know what Adele's main back-up singing keeps in her purse. I won't sleep without knowing what 5 foods you would take with you to a deserted island.

You know what makes me kinda twitchy? Answering the questions on those surveys for myself. It's too much pressure, yo. To this day I can't think of my "Most Embarrassing Moment" or my "Funniest Memory". I have trouble narrowing down my favorite food and I just can't commit to my favorite smell ever.

What I can do is tell you what I'm up to right now. So let's get to it.

Right now I'm: Back in love with this perfume. I discovered it when we lived in DC and I fancied myself the sort of girl who rode the metro home from work, wore business casual from Banana Republic, and bought perfume at Sephora. I found it in 2003, wore it for a while, moved it to 3 different houses, and promptly forgot about it. Until a month ago. And now I wear a tiny spritz almost every day with my grapefruit lotion. They are straight-up lying when they say scents go bad after a year. (Immense trouble finding a source for this stuff. Is it possible that it has been...discontinued?? Better start rationing again!)

Right now I'm: Getting ready to paint my fingernails green. I haven't painted my nails in probably...three years? Four? Just feels like the right thing to do.

Right now I'm: On a major reading bender. I cannot shut it down. Also, I can't hardly start. I desperately need to quit life for a while so I can make a dent. I'm juggling 5 books and have a stack of 10 glossy mags waiting for me. I have a waiting list two dozen deep. I'm itching to get my mitts on this one because she's my writing goddess. I want to climb inside her brain and take a nap, because she somehow relaxes me. On the other hand, I don't imagine that brain of hers keeps too awful quiet because it's too busy being insightful and awesome. I did just finish this and loved every flipping word. A memoir and recipes? You don't even know. (I just bought all the stuff to make her spaghetti and meatballs. Will be sure to report back.)

Right now I'm: Wishing there was a more worthy selection of prison-appropriate greeting cards. I dare you to try to find a Thanksgiving card that doesn't allude to spending time with family or eating many succulent dishes of food. The Christmas cards either catered to the lowest Christmas denominator (think reindeer poop) or featured an entirely impersonal wintry scene. Valentine's Day? Don't even ask. And now, Easter. Wish me luck.

Right now I'm: Listening to this on repeat. You are, too. I'm also still kinda stuck on this. Track 9 is about a guy in prison and makes me cry my eyes out, so of course I can't stop torturing myself with it.

Right now I'm: Pining for a whole new wardrobe. Or at least half of one. It happens with every changing of the seasons. Dang you, spring. Love you forever, spring. Of course I'm still trying to mostly work with what I've got.  BUT... I did recently buy this in yellow antique coin for $10. (Alert: Just spotted this for $12! Walk away...Walk away!)

Right now I'm: Mystified that Calvin will wake up tomorrow an eight-year-old. Impossible! 

Right now I'm: Barking at Cory to never rest his hand on my knee, accidentally or otherwise. Actually, this one isn't even a "right now". This is a today, tomorrow, and forever. Don't ever touch my knees. Just don't. I can't explain it.

It's not even 10pm on a Saturday night, you might as well play along! Give me a Right Now or give me Forever. I'm all ears.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Her Mama's Daughter

Rubester: No matter what Mrs. H says, I always get to go first!
Mommy: Go first for what?
Rubester: For anything! It's always me!
Mommy: What's always you?
Rubester: Everything!
Mommy: (realizes this is the sort of conversation that might never end...)
Mommy: (regroups) She calls your name first?
Rubester: No, she says different colors and if you have it on, you go first!
Mommy: (aha!)
Rubester: And sometimes she says stripes or dots or flowers and I still always go first. I have everything on! Everyday!

It should go without saying that I've never been more proud.  :)

Also, one quick question: WHY do you' ns keep me around? Because I'm the worst. I'm the very worst ever in the history of blogging and the world (same thing, really) and I should never offer giveaways because most of the time I forget to announce winners and when I do remember, it's like, two months later.

So, remember Butter Kek? Have mercy, do yourself a favor and be reminded of Butter Kek.

Anyway, I have two boxes sitting here in padded envelopes (because I spare no expense and their fragile perfection is too important to risk..) I'm sending them out to Lorilee and Jamie. Because that's just the kind of girl I am. (Email me your addys, Girls!)

Readers, I love you. I love you so dang bad.

Don't give up on me yet!


PS - I'm newly hooked on Bloglovin'. It's the best way to keep track of the blogs I read. Each evening they send me an email with links to any new updates. Makes my life so much easier than trying to keep up throughout the day. (Who has time for that??)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin 
And search for all of your other blogs, too!

(There's also a Bloglovin button up at the top of my side bar, along with twitter, facebook, and pinterest.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Why I'm Loyal to The Bachelor

Today I avoided Facebook like the plague and it had nothing to do with Lent. I got a text from my friend Heather and didn't open it for hours because I was afraid it was a spoiler. (Sorry, Heather!) Honest to goodness, I was slightly terrified to go to the network website and watch what I missed last night because I had a feeling "she" would be splashed all over the place. So I went to Hulu, instead. (Love you forever, Hulu.)

I love the Bachelor franchise. I love every minute of every episode. (Except for the minutes when there's kissing because that's just extremely uncomfortable and I think you all agree.) Fate works against me in the form of a defunct TV antenna and I have to watch it the day after it airs, but I always watch it.

I love Chris Harrison and I love that he can say the same exact lines every. single. season with a straight face. I love the dresses and the helicopters and at least some of the drama. I love it when a girl lights the room and I watch through my hands when she cries her eyes out in the limo.

If this sounds like a confession, it is one.

It's so popular to denounce The Bachelor as the irrefutable source of all that is regrettable about modern society. It's fake. It's staged. Everyone is there for the wrong reasons. The guys are all cads. The girls all want their own cable talk shows. I get it. We want to believe that our own stories are the gold standard and everything different is a sham. The way we did things was best, even though come on, we did plenty wrong, right?

All I know is, I believe in love.

All day long, every dang time.

I believe it almost never happens on a reality show, but I also believe that it can. 

I believe that much of the show is staged, but I believe you can't manufacture the spark that lights up the eyes of the falling-in-love.

I believe in your love story and in Kelly Ripa's and yes, I believe in the great love of Jennifer Lopez, whoever he may be.

I believe love can find us in Psych 101 or at the mall or online or in front of a camera crew.

Why not?

I dare to believe that the final final rose means something. I choose possibility over cynicism.

True, they usually don't last and they sure don't last long.
I'm always sort of sad.
Even with Jake and Vienna, I'm sorry to say.

But while they're there, I'm rooting for them to move away, pull the plug and do what the rest of us do - struggle and laugh and kiss through the fun and boring and hard parts of life. It's totally worth trying.

So today I had 90 minutes while Silas was in school and I watched the finale while I washed dishes, cleaned my kitchen and bathroom and folded laundry. It made me inexplicably happy. I caught myself smiling at the screen.

Haters, go on ahead and hate, but this season there was some icing on the cake and it went like this, "I stayed in a constant state of prayer.... I was begging God for direction.... God always speaks in due time... I knew that you were the one God had for me."

I mean, ABC? I'm way impressed. Thank you for not editing all of that out and I'm totally curious about what you did edit out, because you left in the part where his teary-eyed dad told the girl, "We have been praying since the day he was born for his future wife" and that's something big.

Call me naive or unholy, but I plan to keep watching and I don't care who knows it.

I'm the opposite of trending.
The antonym of cool.
The gig is up.

ps - I don't like coffee, beer, or sushi. This seemed like the appropriate time and place to share.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Old Man Nick

I know most of what I've imagined about prison is exaggerated, sensationalized.

But I also know that some of it isn't. Some of it's the kind of real that finds me sitting earring-less across from my oldest "son", listening to things that make me want to press my cheek down against the cool plastic table in front of me and close my eyes for a while.

He's always trying to "phrase things delicately" even though I keep telling him I'm not the delicate kind. I can take it. Just tell me what you mean. Tell me what you're trying to say. Tell me the truth and I'll be fine.

I am. I'm fine. Even though some of the things he says confirm the fears that had me crying for days when they sent him down. This isn't kid stuff. It never was. But he is. He's a very tall child with a wounded heart and a soul that astounds me. He's strong and he's learned how to spit nails from the best, so of course they like him in there. He knows how they play and besides, what's not to like about him?

I have trouble separating the "ins" from "the outs". I need some guarantees from the kid in the jumpsuit. I need some guarantees from God.

He has one for me.

I ask him if anyone in there walks with God. "Just my bunkie. He's the only one I know. He's so cool, man. He's old. We talk about God all the time. We read the Bible together." 

Know what I said?


I said it twice. And he laughed with his mouth wide open because that's just what he does.

God answered my prayer in Old Man Nick. (age 41, incidentally. *clears throat*)

So the thugs are present and accounted for. The gang-bangers do their fool work from the inside. Robert plays cards with some, leaves others alone. He eats with them, watches television with them, and I guess that's alright with me. It sounds like they're a hard lot to avoid.

It's okay, because what I prayed for was one man. I prayed for someone older and wiser. I prayed for a single soul who could in some small way shepherd our boy along during the 23.5 hours a day that we aren't talking to him on the phone.

God sent this person in the form of a criminal with a tattooed stomach who lives with Robert behind a locked door. He couldn't be any closer.

I've been praying lately for God to show me who He is and how He loves me.

This is who He is.

This is how He loves me.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Then Came the Snow

I woke up briefly yesterday morning, before the sun, and peeked out the window before crawling back into bed. It had snowed, alright. The streets were glassy. It was dark and still and that's when I knew for sure that I'd jumped the gun with my premature frustration over our wimpy "storm".

It was no blizzard, but it was something.

Calvin tip-toed in at 6:32 and whispered, "Mommy? We have a 2-hour delay. You can sleep in."

I'm so for real. This is how my household operates. The child rises first and checks the tv (I'd tipped him off the night before) then tells Mama to turn off her alarm clock.

Why was I ever afraid to be a Mom???

We lounged and played and decided walking to school was the right thing to do.

I've missed walking to school. We walked almost every day in the fall, passing through the middle- school bus-stop like a caravan of Olympic athletes or Disney characters or something, the shortest parade you'll ever see, the gangly kids with too-big feet and messy hair throwing high fives and hugs like penny candy.

They're never dressed for the weather, they eat potato chips for breakfast.

We don't see the biggers on our walk, but we pass their crumbling homes; walk down their buckled sidewalks. This is our neighborhood, too. We come together fumbling and reckless and broken. We smile back. We wave a thumbs-up to the lady screaming from her door, "30 days since I've had a smoke! A whole month!" We fit right in. No one seems to hold our shiny new house against us.

We keep walking, Calvin talks about his "lucky" friend who gets to stay inside for recess because he shows up to school in shorts while a Winter Storm Warning crawls across the bottom of every screen. Of course I want to track this little boy down and buy him bags of pants and socks and boots and hooded sweatshirts. I want to leave laundry detergent on his front stoop with five sleeves of quarters. I want to bake loaves of bread and boil up bubbling pots of soup. I want to read books to him and tuck him in.

But it's 10 o'clock in the morning, so we just keep walking.

We walk to the school where this boy is no exception and I feel that familiar rising up on the inside - the strangest kind of peace rolling joyful and sure - that God Himself walks the halls, the sidewalks, the city blocks. He walks South down the hill past the houses that get dark then darker. It's where He wants to be. It's what He chooses. So why would we worry?

Back home, I shovel my twiggy forearms clean off while Silas sits in a tiny lawn chair watching. We meet a new neighbor and I sweat inside my freakishly large mittens. I daydream gardens and spring and believe that I might be one heavy scoop away from 911.

((Any guesses how long the garden hoe lasted in Siley's hands?))

The evening is left-overs and books and 5 people on one couch.

It's the kind of day that just stays good.

Red Alert! Remember that amazing company FashionABLE I talked about here? In honor of International Women's Day, FashionABLE is offering $$FREE SHIPPING$$ on all of their rad scarves. Today only!! Click here to check it out.

*All product links are affiliate links.