Monday, May 22, 2017

For Olivia

She is my Olivia-girl. My sixteen year old first-born, my feminine comrade and companion, my daughter-friend.

And she is my most devoted blog reader, looking over past posts and pictures with regularity. She loves family tradition, documentation, and consistency, and she KNOWS I haven't posted her birthday pics yet! 

But I haven't forgotten. (Plus we still want to do a little photo shoot to commemorate this sweet year of life.) These are from a few celebrations she had with family and friends over the course of a few days. The last set were taken on a whim in the middle of a school day.  

So here you go, Liv...

You are loved and admired by your brothers...

...loved by your Auntie and Grandma,
by extended family in the North,

...loved, adored, and treasured by Dad and me.

And your friends, too... They cherish your friendship!

You are the best to venture with; you are always game for finding secret places, and for laughing over odd people doing odd things. You make the best impersonations, and have a way of making us relive the good times! 

(Won't we always remember how I almost got assaulted by a whiskered woman for taking this picture?! Wait, are you a Kennedy?)

You appreciate simplicity and find beauty in people and in relationships.
You make the world lovelier with your art and music, your tender heart, and respectful conduct.

You are devoted to the most important things in life, hard working and yet fun-loving.

You are at peace, and you strive to bring peace.

You are confident. 
You seek to understand true freedom, but display maturity with your consideration in that freedom.

You feel the allure of beautiful places and things, a common bond we share.
You partner with me and set aside obligation and responsibility to consume and create beauty.

If memories can be art, you've created 16 years of beautiful art with me.

Never give up your JOY in life, never let another steal your PEACE.
Never lose the IDENTITY you have in Christ...

... Because these just might be your secret weapons.

I have watched your faithful study of God's Word.
Keep searching for God in the pages of His Word; know that when you seek Him with all your heart, you will surely find Him.

Know that God is all around, near to you, never leaving.
He loves you with an everlasting love.

Live your life fully, Olivia, and chase hard after the dreams and the desires God has put in your heart for His glory. 

And yet, live your life with open hands of praise. Hold your ambitions with open hands, too. When life doesn't go as expected, know that His ways and His plans are higher than yours, and He can be trusted always.

Keep your eyes on eternity, fixed on Jesus Christ who is the author and perfecter of your faith.

My heart is big for you, Olivia. I want to be your most passionate cheerleader in life! You are remarkably gifted and you have so much potential, and we are incredibly proud of who you are and who you are becoming!

I will always cheer for the good things you have and do in life-- you can count on that. I want to remind you, though, that your worth far more than your accomplishments, far more than your talents. Your value is not defined by your beauty or your brains. It's more than what people think of you or how you build your reputation. 

I want to go deeper than just cheering and waving and smiling. There are difficult realities to life that await, and I would do you such harm by neglecting to warn and prepare you. There are battles that lay ahead, sometimes hidden behind unexpected corners. 

I already told you how I blurted out to a group of people a while ago that we need to be training up warrior women. Yes, warriors. Strong, resolute, and sometimes bloodied warrior women are desperately needed. We talked about it briefly in the car on the way to school. I told you how I wished I had bloodied my knuckles on some boys who harassed, disrespected, and regularly groped me in the crowded hallways of my high school. I let them and others convince me that things would get worse if I fought back, and I feared not being believed or being humiliated even further if nothing was done by others to protect me. The fear of getting in trouble or of embarrassing my family (I know, how twisted!) was greater than the respect I had for myself. Go ahead, Olivia, bloody your knuckles; kick and scream and make a scene. Run. Warrior style. 

Don't be overcome by lies. Be wise and savvy to the ways of the world, and know that you can be tough. There's no telling what your battles may be, but keep telling yourself that you are worth more than the evil or the lies some would want to harm you with. Know that you can always be stronger, braver, bolder. Know that you can learn anything, drive anything, conceal carry if you need to.

Sounds extreme? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Being tough and brave in the midst of fear is still not enough. God calls you to even stronger skills!

I think the church often trains up girls to fit a certain (faulty) definition of femininity that is soft and tender, "protected." This is not true femininity. You need to be suited up for battle with armor; you need to know the tricks of your enemy, and you need to know the battle plan of your Commander.

Much more than what you can see and feel and comprehend, the life we live is a battle fought in the spiritual realm. Let me tell you, it's a scary world and it's getting scarier all the time. Persecution and suffering is promised, and you need to be prepared. I don't know: your fight could be in the midst of armies, it could be against people or false teachers/leaders, it could be within the four walls of your house, or a battle in the crevices of your heart. 

But be confident in this: God gives you protection, and He is with you to the end.

You know about the armor of God, but please don't forget! The belt of truth will give you confident protection all around by KNOWING who your God is, and what He promises in Christ. Train hard for battle by knowing the Word. The breastplate of righteousness causes insecurity to vanish, so put it on in order to stand firm against the lies of the devil. When accusers come your way, or when the Accuser threatens to shake you and break you, wanting nothing more than to destroy your faith in God or convince you of unworthiness, scream back with full conviction that your God is greater still. 

"So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares you deserve death and hell, tell him this: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is JESUS CHRIST, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!'" (Martin Luther)

Scream that into your dark battlefield, or your pillow, if you need to.

Then put on the shoes that God gives you. They will make you ready with the gospel of PEACE. You will need the gospel of peace in your life, and your shoes will enable you to bring it to others too. You can run with those shoes wherever God takes you, and you can hold up your shield as you run. Your shield is your faith, and it will extinguish all the fiery javelins which the devil throws your way to burn you up. Hold it tight in one hand, and in the other hold your sword. This is the Word of God, your ultimate power-tool.

Also, God gives you a special helmet, Olivia. It's an exceptional gift no one can take away. That helmet is salvation, and someday it will be exchanged for a crown.

Sweetheart, you may fight hard and you may get weary. Maybe you will one day see your hollow eyes looking back at you in the mirror, or maybe they will be swollen from tears. When you feel like giving up the fight, when you feel all is lost, remember this: God is always with you, he gathers your tears in His bottle, and He wraps you in His care. Go to him for comfort. Find your strength in Him, day by day, moment by moment. He gives you Himself. Walk with Him.

There are so many things in my heart to share with you. The task of raising a human being is seemingly too great at times. If there is only one thing I could impart to you, it is this: Jesus Christ is where we find our hope, satisfaction, and eternal life! He is enough. Though I fail as a mother, and we fail as human beings, we are perfected sisters at the foot of the cross till the day we are glorified princesses in heaven together with God! That's how good God is to us!

He is the redeemer of life. Your story may be one of a warrior girl who has seen hardship and pain. You may come to the finish line, the end of the battle, all bloodied and broken. That's OK. It will be worth it.

Take heart! The victory is already won! Your story, then, no matter what, is already a story of victory!

Love you, baby doll.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Writing Assignment

He asked me to look over his writing assignment after he had printed it out and was ready to stuff it in his back pack for submission at school tomorrow. It made me smile. Ask me if I'm proud of this boy.  (Shared with permission.)


Sentence Openers = Italic
Dress-Ups = Underline
Decoration = Bold
Topic/Clincher =
Andrew Rourke
May 17, 2017
My Family
Everybody needs a loving family. A family is where you learn about God, where you learn about the world around you, and where you learn to interconnect with other people. It is the place where the deepest relationships in life are begun, and which affect relationships later in life. Despite our flaws, my family is loving and we all have a special relationship with each other. Thankfully, we have many interesting hobbies and we enjoy spending time with each other. Although I don’t take this lightly, I occasionally overlook how special this is. I love my fabulous family and love being with them because of our relationship.
I have a large family of six people and I enjoy spending time with them. I have one older sister, who is Olivia, and two brothers, Jacob and Michael. My Mom and Dad  moved from Canada to the US because they had some opportunities for school and work. All of the kids were born in Los Angeles, then we moved to San Diego when I was nearly 7 years old. We love our home. Fortunately, we have a pool to cool down in on hot summer days, and we are eager to have exciting parties with our friends. During the day we often tell each other “I love you.” My large family loves spending time with each other at home and outside.
My family has many interesting hobbies and activities we enjoy together. We like hiking in the majestic outdoors, exploring American cities, and traveling in the US and Canada. Unlike many people, we like to go to the beach no matter what the weather is like because we think the beach is a great place to unwind. Everyone in my family has at least one hobby. Olivia, who is an accomplished guitar player, likes to learn songs by ear. Actually Michael used to play but he ended up quitting. He likes reptiles and has a big terrarium with a gecko inside it. Jacob and I like carefully making tiny terrariums. I admire my Dad. My Dad is the pastor of Tri-City Bible Church and is a hard worker. My Mom likes photography and has a blog. She started it in 2010, and has kept it up ever since. I love my family and it makes me happy and it is fun when we are together.
In conclusion, a family is important to everyone. It is where the deepest relationships begin and gives us a sense of belonging, which is important in life. Because I have a Christian family, I’ve learned about God and have come to know him as a savior and friend. Despite school and everything, my family finds ways to spend time together outdoors. When one of us is downcast we build him up. I have a fantastic family. Naturally I occasionally fight and bicker with my brothers, but we try to be kind to each other. I love my family, I love who they are, and I love spending time with them. My family is extremely important to me.

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Higher Calling

For better or worse, it's no secret that motherhood plays an important role in all of life. From carrying life in the womb and bringing it into the world, to nurturing physical and emotional needs, to teaching and directing and supporting an individual soul, to encouraging, consoling, and advocating... To loving unconditionally.

Or not.

No matter what our culture deems valuable in terms of a mother's role, few would dare argue the lasting impact a mother has on the inner person of her child.

I've seen firsthand the tragedy of a mother's neglect on a child. Open your doors to certain foster children and you will see unimaginable brokenness. Even in utero, a mother's influence has the potential to produce in the spirit of a child a brokenness that far surpasses physical malformation in its scope and impact. Continued neglect and abuse yield life-long wounds and destruction that multiplies.

Motherhood is a powerful force in the formation or destruction of the entirety of a person, and it cannot abdicate its influence. There is no neutral ground for a mother's influence. There is a ripple effect that moms have, and the waves created touch our society and sets a course for history.

Most of us moms try hard to do and be the best we can. Even mothers whose children end up in the worst of circumstances may have tried real hard. But it's a broken world we live in, one that is spinning to it's final doom. And we are broken people, our own needs often surfacing like gaping wounds. I've seen how short my best efforts can fall, how my own sin and baggage inflicts pain. How, then, can I hope to fulfill all that rests on the shoulders of motherhood?

Motherhood is a high calling, but it is not the highest. Loving God and living in relationship with Him is the highest calling. Being transformed daily, knowing who I am - that I am loved and cherished - in Christ alone, and living as a new creature ought to define me first and foremost. God himself invites me to find joy and satisfaction in Him alone, and then to find wisdom and comfort and strength for the journey and responsibility of mothering my children.

What hope! On my own I fail gravely. My children see it and are affected by it regularly. But my prayer and my hope is that they will come to see me as a fellow needy soul in need of a great God. My hope is that my broken, human, earth-y life will point to a loving, forgiving, and relational God, and that one day they will say to me, "Taste and see, Mom, that the Lord is good!" just as I have endeavored to live it before them each day.

May we know the grace of God that far surpasses our best efforts...


After church, I asked for a quick picture before we changed and rushed off for the afternoon.
Mothers Day 2017

Mothers Day is a secular holiday, you know. Something to think about...

Honestly, I feel bad for my kids on this day. They are kids: They can't go out and buy fancy things, they have limited understanding regarding motherhood, limited ability to express appropriate words. There is a tension about this day that I dislike, and I want to minimize feelings of obligation and entitlement that can creep in.

My family served cinnamon rolls with strawberries and coffee. Jacob was probably more into breakfast-for-mom than the others.

This year I decided to give my kids each a little gift, much to their surprise. The anticipation of giving rather than receiving brought me much joy over the weekend. But as it often happens, and for whatever strange reason, I woke up on the emotional side of the bed this Sunday morning. Sunday mornings are weird. I cried the whole way through as I gave them their gifts. All I could tell them was how much I love being their mom!

Yesterday I also felt gratefulness for a handful of women that have come alongside me as an adult. They have made themselves available to me as mentors, prayer warriors, cheerleaders, and friends. They are my Titus 2 mothers!

And my own mother... I'm so thankful for her. I could write a real long post about her, but I know it would be much too teary for me to do. Yes, appropriate words are difficult for a child to express. There is a story that is complex, deep, delicate, difficult, powerful... and it screams, "Taste and see that the Lord is good!" I love her dearly for it.


Friday, May 12, 2017

Thoughts in Passing

Evidently, I celebrate Friday when they come around. I’m sitting at our charter school while my younger boys are taking their elective classes, now having finished up registration for next year’s classes. In a few minutes I’ve got to run over to the high school and drop off forms for Michael’s file. The charter and homeschool related admin that hits me at this time of year is unreal.

But then this hits me harder: Michael will be starting high school, and Andrew junior high. How?!

I am proud of each of them. So very happy to see them accomplishing and becoming. It’s so good to look back and to consider all the progress and effort, difficulties overcome, growth. I have to remind myself not to always look at today, but to lift my gaze up and to look all around. Backward, forward, up.

God has brought change in my life and promises to bring more change ahead. It’s good to look back and remember, and to look forward with hope. In the same way, I look at my kids with such pleasure, proud of where they are and hopeful about the future.


I woke up this morning in pain. It was late, and my lateness meant that everyone was now running behind. I dragged myself to the shower and began running hot water, all the while thinking that the day was looking pretty rotten from the get-go. I stood there in the stream of water as nausea flooded me and overwhelmed me. Hair half wet, I wrapped my towel around myself, went back to my side of the bed, and used all the mental tricks I learned from months (years, if you add them up) of horrid morning sickness. This was not how I had planned the day to go.

As soon as I could, I made my way downstairs, still only in a towel, to tell the others they’d need to take care of the morning routine on their own.

I showered and joined them later, where I found things humming along nicely. I was surrounded by eager helpers, some taking the initiative to do what needed to be done without being asked. There was no obligation, no grumbling, only cooperation. I felt loved.

Looking to mother’s day this weekend, the events of this morning were such a gift to me. In a round about kind of way, I saw the gift I have in my kids. I love who they are, the people they are becoming, and I'm so thankful to be living life with them.


Playoffs start tonight. We have four games scheduled, and as I glance at the clock I can see that I need to get my game plan figured out. Two games have been rescheduled, so four is more manageable than six. Still, I need to have people at different locations since warm-up times and games overlap for my various players. The most frustrating thing is when I spend an equal amount of time driving and searching for parking as I do cheering for my boys. It's alright, though. And the boys love it.

... So I'm off. Game on!


Monday, May 8, 2017

Everyday Beauty

We filled our trunk with these pretties at the roadside flower stop. Yeah, we shop the roadside. Other times we shop the back lots and utility sites for branches of eucalyptus or pine. Sometimes we pretend we are stealing, and we hurry before being caught, but it's just for added fun. These were about to be mowed down by the city anyway, so I couldn't miss an opportunity to rescue them and put them to an honorable use. 

A few hours later, we came home and I just plunked them into the largest container my eyes found as I scanned the house briefly, and now they grace my dining room table. I'm not as much of a decorator as I would like, but finding overlooked beauty or using regular items in thoughtful ways has always been fun to me. Pretty things are everywhere, often in the most unlikely places. Unpresuming beauty is my favorite.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Love, Handstands, Groceries...

I recently came across this picture, which I had used as a header during my early days of blogging. It was a fun find this week, bringing back memories of all sorts.

It's Friday, and the weather is oddly turning cold, windy, and bleak. Rain is in the forecast, and I'm anticipating a cozy weekend. Even more odd is the fact that all three of my boys have bye weeks, so there are no games filling up our Friday night. Playoffs will begin next week, but we will be wrapping up the season fairly soon since they are single elimination games. The boys will miss it, but to me it's yet another indication that summer is on it's way and I couldn't be happier about that.

Jon should be coming home tonight, too. That's another reason I'm glad for a cozy Friday. He's been out of town all week, flew in last night, arrived home just in time to say hello/goodnight to the kids before they fell asleep, then he was on an early train for L.A. this morning. He may be super late tonight and he has an early morning meeting tomorrow, but I'm really looking forward to catching up. I'm hoping he's got a little energy and mental space left for me. Hmm. Sometimes the tables turn. Realizing he will probably arrive tired and distracted tonight makes me think of all the times I came to the end of my day completely depleted from months of sleep deprivation, nursing babies, caring for sick children, etc... and wishing to muster up some physical and mental energy for my husband. There were many days I felt like a failure, not able to put my husband first. These are exercises in perseverance, commitment, compassion, and understanding.

It's never too late to be a better spouse. This is a comment unrelated to Jon, but at the same time all about him. I want to spend the rest of my days becoming a better wife to my husband. There will not be a point of arrival, but there is the hope that I can change and grow and love more fiercely. That's a happy thought.

I've given myself 20 minutes to sit down here and type. Not sure there's really a point to it all, except that I've got these random thoughts all coming out. It's grocery day. No, it was grocery day several days ago, but I don't love doing groceries so I put it off. I have a gift, though, and it's not making yummy food, but making meals out of a seemingly empty fridge. Yesterday I had some frozen chicken, a few random veggies and some mushrooms; I decided to make a pot of chicken and rice soup. I like soup because there's only one pot to clean, and because I can make enough to give us left overs for lunch the next day. But yesterday I decided to use some wild rice instead of brown rice. I threw that wild stuff in the pot only to discover it turned the broth to a thick, unappealing purple-brown. Yep, sometimes I serve my family food and all I can say is, "I'm sorry." Tonight, some of my kids will have a friend or two over, so I will try not to embarrass them with my culinary skills.

I've been having a little rush of energy recently. It's probably a normal amount of energy, but for me it  just seems so wonderful. I've always said that if I have the smallest inkling to do something that requires more energy output, I'm best not to overthink and go with it. So I told my kids they could invite a bunch of friends tonight, even suggested a big group so we could play a big game of capture the flag in the dark at the school nearby. Sometimes, though, my kids are more like me than not, and I shouldn't be surprised by it. My big kids want a mellow evening to finish up homework and enjoy some quiet/down time. So that's cool. I can appreciate that. I'll spend my energy in other ways. Like, doing handstands or something. I've been jump roping and doing handstands this week, and it's making me feel younger and more hopeful about aging. Jon hasn't been home and my energy hits late at night, so I have been doing handstands at midnight. I'm not kidding, I'm that weird sometimes.

The kids and I have been talking about biblical love this week. Mostly it's just me talking, even though I would like to draw out their thoughts and opinions more effectively. I pray about that often-- about being able to understand and know them individually, and about creating an environment within our relationship where they feel safe to express and expose themselves. I want to love them that way, without judgment and with full acceptance.

This week we've only covered the fact that GOD IS LOVE. He is perfect love, our ultimate example. The first two words from 1 Corinthians 13 that further describe love are PATIENT and KIND. That gave us plenty to mull over and talk about. Sometimes having a few key words are so helpful to me, because then I can see the same theme woven through the pages of scriptures and in the moments of my days. It's so much easier to remember two words, patient and kind, when situations come and I want to act differently. A couple of the related verses that were helpful in our discussions were:

Rom. 2:4 "...God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance"

Ps. 103  "The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger {patient} and abounding in steadfast love....
  For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him"

Good and clear, so helpful, so very wonderful.


My groceries are done now, there's a loud game going on in the backyard with Jacob, Andrew and their friend involving pool noodles and hiding and tree climbing. Dinner is in the making. Olivia has now completed her Algebra II final exam and finished with flying colors her math for the year. Michael is working on Sketchup and soaking up some quiet in the sunroom.

In other news, the huge pile of bags filled with clothes to be donated that were outside our garage doors for pickup were stolen. Also, we are having a problem with birds flying into our windows in the morning and I've got some greasy outlines of birds in flight to clean off my windows.

Happy weekend, folks!


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring Break (the last part)

Family trips. They are a mixture of good and bad, wonderful and terrible, contentment and annoyance, relaxation and work... all rolled into one memory. That's obviously because we are all human, living in a fallen world, and the good and the bad all combine together. There were plenty of moments I wished we could have hit the pause button on time. Other times, I'm sure of it, we each thought to ourselves, "Get me out of here now!"

I am also sure that the fond memories are the ones that will come to mind with greater force and frequency, and the less pleasant ones will become memories we will laugh at. We work hard to attain to the good stuff, and we take life with all it's different facets and temperaments knowing that all those kinks and quirks help to bind us together in a way that is unique to the collective "us." We learn to laugh and to be in acceptance of what makes us family.

This isn't just a description of family trips, but also of real family life.

We are not seasoned road trippers. We have certainly frequented the American skies, but that's an entirely different way to travel. I think I would do better to have a few road tripping tricks up my sleeves. Games we can play, maybe? Music we can all agree on? A better audio book? A way to keep the boys from stinking up the car?

Yes, there were bad smells and sometimes bad attitudes. Sometimes, "lame-o" jokes were not at all funny but kept on going. Michael got poison oak real bad on his face and neck, and he looked like a grotesque giant just in time for Easter. The kids had arguments about the middle seat and about who would have to share a bed with Jacob. Some of us wanted to bop to loud music in the car, while others wanted silence or music of another style. Then there was the part about where we ended up staying (see Spring Break Part 3)...

Left-over motels. Oh, how un-luxurious they were! It was either the ghetto motels or no trip at all, so we decided to make motels part of the "adventure" and something that would hopefully make us laugh one day. Jon is still not laughing. He may never.

So we stayed away from them as much as possible and spent our waking hours exploring the parks or the towns.

Michael picked me a giant calla lily from the edge of a creek; Jon suggested a picture, but Michael didn't want one. He did a pretty good faking a smile...

I was surprised to learn something new about my husband: He really likes driftwood.

After Jon's "trick" in Santa Barbara (see Spring Break part 1), I decided to do my own little stunt, too.
I'm nowhere near being as flexible as I used to be, and I forgot to point my toes. That's all I've got these days.

Then the boys wanted a trick so I suggested this...

Michael's trick was to imitate a funny yoga pose we saw on the cover of a book in an art store in Santa Barbara. I didn't get a picture of him, though. The man on the book cover was wearing a loin cloth. Just sayin'. 

This is normal business for Olivia, and it wouldn't be considered a trick, but I think it's pretty cool that she doesn't go screaming about things like bugs and reptiles. Maybe she could use this skill to play tricks on people.

Andrew's driftwood raven.
(So much burnt wood from last summer's fire.)

Jacob's duck

More little paths...

Despite some less pleasant realities of family trips, we love being together. One night we brought our dinner out onto the beach and this game happened...

Kung Fu tag

It might be considered inappropriate, or too rough, or just plain ridiculous. No matter, the belly laughs were worth it.

Jon says he used Andrew to knock the others down. You have to be a boy or have lots of boys around to understand this is perfectly normal and fair in Kung Fu tag.

I'm smiling still now.