Sunday, July 1, 2018

Palm Springs

{A post written Friday afternoon from a waiting place.}

It's been the week of VBS here. It's been filled with mornings where people are up and out in the 6 o'clock hour with multiple car loads going out at ungodly hours, and the delight of serving and being with people we love. It's a summer highlight each year. I enjoyed my own group of 14 VBS kiddos - sharing the gospel and getting to know their families in new ways. I've loved seeing my big kids take part, too. Michael has been serving for the last seven straight days, sometimes up to 10-hour days (heading up audiovisual with another teen). Olivia has put in just as many hours with the drama team, and assisting alongside me, then heading off to the ice cream shop where she worked some evening shifts. I love seeing my kids work hard and enjoy it.

Summer hasn't been for resting much, but heaven will be!

Several weeks ago we took off for Palm Springs for a couple nights. The goal was to rest and reconnect after the end of the school year. Two nights in the desert was nice. It would have been nicer if there had been more rest, but early morning swims in the desert heat was just too much for us to pass up. Maybe if the younger boys would have slept in, the rest of us would have as well. Andrew set his alarm for 6AM so that he could have breakfast out by the pool alone. He's cool like that. Then Jack would join him shortly after, and, well, the rest of the family would appear one by one in swim wear and a coffee mug in hand. There's something so wonderful about the desert heat to welcome the end of the school year. 

We stayed in an Airbnb house (below). Specifically, we got to experience an Alexander house; much more enjoyable than a hotel or resort.

Even Jack got to have coffee every morning. 

I didn't take a ton of pictures, but these are from the walk Jon and I took around the block. Jon absolutely loves mid-century modern architecture and design. He'd live in the desert, whereas two days was just the right length of time for me. My urge to get out and move interprets the intense heat as far too limiting.

(I didn't have the right lens, which explains why the homes are cropped as they are below.)

Orange everywhere. It gave me the impulse to buy Creamsicles for the first time ever, I think. 
I found out my kids prefer fudge. Yay for learning something new every day!

Jon with our kids, below~

I was going to post this picture for Father's Day, but instead he was chasing down some stolen property and I was on the phone with the police. There's nothing better than grilled steak with the family and a little adventure with the boys for Father's Day. Then we topped it off with gelato in La Jolla.

This man, though... How did I score like this? I've seen his commitment to his kids and to their mother rise to new levels again this year. Life gets tough and commitments either collapse or are reinforced. By the grace of God, Jon's commitment is on display in the countless ways he sacrificially loves us day in and day out.

The daylight was dim and my shutter speed was too low, resulting in blurred images (above and below). I'm happy anyway because moments and memories were captured. I'm pretty sure Michael shouldn't have been laying on the "Lawn Chair" art, but we so enjoyed his burst of playfulness during our time away.

For some of us, the wild whispers our name and beckons us to come. If you know, you just know.

Family getaways are some of my favorite things ever. The experience of them seems to get better with time, with each memory remembered and recounted. Even the unpleasant parts somehow become humorous, or at least they are lessons learned. You should know and expect that there are always unpleasant parts to family vacations. And since this is my personal blog, not Facebook or Instagram where only the happiest parts are celebrated, I get to be a little more upfront and genuine.

As much as we may wish, vacations have no rules against difficulty. There are no personal spaces against heartache, no zones for happiness only, no defenses against the trials of life. We can get hit hard during our happiest times, exactly when we least expect it; or maybe there are seasons when the trials just seem relentless.

One night I lay restless, sorrowful, questioning. I'd sleep a short while just to wake and start my teary prayers over again. Pleading. Grieving. Begging God for hope, for wisdom, for miracles.

Trials have taught me the faithfulness of God. Ironically, the very circumstances that cause me to wonder if he hears and if he cares are the conditions that force me to cling to his promises with greater fervency and expectation. Trials are what force me to believe in the faithfulness of God to keep his promises and to never change. God takes me to a point of complete dependence, unable even to sleep on my own. Restless nights of prayer eventually bring rest to my soul.

Palm Spring mornings are special. The sun rises and a great mountain wall shimmers in gold. A new day shines afresh, mercies new.

That majestic Palm Springs mountain I could see through the slit I'd left open in the blinds recalled passages of scripture to mind, like a balm. I'm a Bible passage underliner. Some say this is a bad practice because it means your eyes always fall on underlined verses at the neglect of others. That was definitely the case for me that morning, and I'm still thankful, still reaping the benefits. Chapter by chapter, page by page, my eyes picked out some underlined verses:

"I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber."
Ps. 121:1-2

"To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! ...Our eyes look to the Lord till he has MERCY on us." Ps. 123:1-2b

"Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Ps. 124:8

"Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever."
Ps. 125:1

"Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him." Ps. 126:7-8

The entire chapter of Ps. 130 is underlined in my Bible, but I'll just type out a portion:

"Out of the depths I cry to you, O lord! O Lord, hear my voice! ...I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I HOPE... For with the Lord there is steadfast LOVE, and with him is PLENTIFUL REDEMPTION."


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Morning Muse

The morning started off fast and early again, but now it is slow and wonderful here from my seat at a window bar in a sleepy, overcast beach town. There's a guy passing the window in a vintage yellow moped, and I want one. I ordered oatmeal with berries and steamed milk, and my third cup of coffee for the day. Coffee is my frenemy.

I stuffed the driver side of my car door with my computer, Bible, and several journals this morning; I hardly had time to strap on my sandals before heading out. These are the good days, and I know it full well. I miss the days gone by already, and I know I will miss these, too. There won't ever be another summer like this one, so I'm soaking it all in.

My skin soaked in too much sun yesterday.

I listened to some love songs in the car after I dropped kids off at the beach for Jr. Guards, then I sat listening some more when I'd stopped driving. Tell me a love story that knows hardship and sorrow, and you've got my attention. I've come to embrace the fact that struggle and pain are inescapable, and that perseverance in the face of these is essential to the assurance of a deeper love. Relational struggle with forgiveness, forbearance, and continued commitment and recommitment to tenderness, affection, and friendship... these add character, sincerity, and proof to love.

Through the hardships of life and relationship, I want to grow stronger in my resolve to hold dear, and softer to the human condition. This broken world, this broken girl, these broken loved ones... we are pieces held together. We have to keep choosing to love still more and cling still harder. It's a never ending choice, day by day, failing and choosing again.

I didn’t expect relationships to be so trying. I thought that if we followed the rules, we’d get the rewards.

But the rule of this world is that love will cost. It will cost dearly sometimes, perhaps even longtimes. (Thank you for allowing me to make up words.) It will require me to suffer, to give up personal comfort and ease, personal preference, to walk blindly by faith and hope. It will ask me to learn to understand what I don’t yet know, to say what I prefer to ignore, to do what is inconvenient or even grueling.

Love calls me to desire the joy of another over my own.

Consider the perfect love of God. Though he gave up EVERYTHING for us, we still find that on this side of heaven there is a struggle in our relationship with God. We know his unwavering commitment toward his beloved children, we know his unfailing promises and immutable character, but we still at times cry out in honesty, “Lord, where are you?”

But he is very much here, teaching and guiding. More often than not, it is through the adversity.


We were in the desert last week, where I practically melted beneath the afternoon heat to capture a girl in a frame.


Friday, June 15, 2018

A Run-On Post

A midwife once told me I have a high pain tolerance. She wasn't the first to make that observation, but once in labor I was pretty sure she hadn't been right. The odd thing is that I actually like certain kinds of pain, particularly pain from working out hard or from an injury that resulted from doing something where adrenaline was involved.

I woke this morning with pain in my foot, hips, and rear. I've been running half miles backwards around the track, followed by sprints and lunges, and I'm still not accustomed to these new demands. I'm not currently on a running schedule in prep for a race, so I've implemented other types of runs and workouts. I run for fitness. I run to increase and to maintain my quality of life now and into the future. And if I am honest, I run because I feel better about how my clothes fit and how my body feels compared to when I'm not. Why should that be so bad? Some people get their nails done, some people like to shop, some like to eat ice-cream, and others like to workout. We all have our personal reasons.

I've lived with the bad kind of pain and reduced mobility that came from inactivity (and musculoskeletal abnormalities), and I don't want to go back. I'm working hard to regain the strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance I had as a kid. Maybe even surpass it. I find running to be a good mental detox time, a valid excuse for getting out by myself (much needed), an opportunity to feel happiness or grief, or simply to feel nothing at all for a while and just tell it all to God. 

So despite little aches, I had it in me to take a long-ish run this morning. I needed to go and let the cleansing work of sweat and wind begin. 

The marine layer lifted sooner than expected and the sun was hot. I think a lot about my husband and kids when I run, a lot about the various trials and challenges we face individually and as a family. I pray for us, asking for the grace and goodness of God to be lavished upon us. We need His tenderness towards us because I'm pretty sure we're doomed without it. I think a ton about past experiences and how they've shaped me, good or bad. I think about who I would like to be, and how to get there. I often wonder who it is God made me to be, and how fear and inhibition stifled and suppressed me beginning in the early, foundational years of life.

At one point on my run I stopped at a public beach to use the restroom. I used the stall where "User + Nifer" had graffitied their names with Sharpie. Don't we all want to leave our mark somewhere? Don't we all want to be known for something? It's probably safe to say I'm more like User and Nifer than not, though we've never met. I've never been interested in drugs or cutting, but those are just superficialities. 

The walkway was being filled with elderly people when I left that public restroom. They had just come out of a retirement facility mini-bus, most of them mobile only by aid of walkers and wheel chairs. How nice of the facility workers to take these folks on an outing to the beach. They were working hard. For years my mom held nursing jobs in geriatric care, and I know it's physically demanding work.

I grew up around old people. When my siblings and I were too little to stay home alone, my mom would take us to her workplace for her evening shift and we'd play outside or watch black and white TV shows in the common lounge until my dad could get us after his work. We tried to stay away from the man that would urinate in the planters, and the senile men who would try to grab us if we passed by too closely. I always had a feeling we weren't supposed to be there, even though I was maybe only seven. I sensed that the staff members didn't like us playing on the patio furniture, or asking my mom to work out our squabbles. But my mom didn't have a choice; life was tough.

My mom is remarkably compassionate. Many of those elderly people were forgotten, so we'd frequently return to help the understaffed facility distribute the evening snack on my mom's night off. We were taught how to handle ourselves politely, cautiously, or compassionately, depending upon the situation. We also knew never to accept candy, for it had likely already been sucked on.

One time as we waited for the muggy summer hours to pass while waiting on my dad, the heavy automatic door closed onto my sister's bare foot. It pulled her big toenail right up, leaving it hanging from the base. She was more terrified of getting in trouble or of being treated by a nurse than the pain and blood. She dragged her toe along the sidewalk and into the grass, trying to wipe the blood away and avoid notice. No tears. She must have been five.

I hid a lot during my younger years.... under the table in the basement we lived in, in ditches when cars passed, behind my dad's pant leg when I was too old for such things. I was scared of the police and of school officials because we were part of an ultra-fringe group that home schooled. We'd ride in the hatchback trunk of our little Chevrolet Chevette because it was too small for six people, and we'd duck down low when passing a cruiser. For some years, the only people I'd see in a week were the people at the small church we attended. That was before we frequented the home for the forgotten elderly.

Extreme isolation + introverted personality = a prison of shyness. Just saying.

If you knew me 10, 20, 30 years ago, I was quite different. I've worked hard to break free. For a long time I'd happily settle for quietly fooling a social circle, but that was painful. For some reason, the tiny public schools I eventually attended were places to open up, but my difficulty persisted in any religious circle for decades. Funny/not funny, given the path my adult years have taken me. Normal, everyday things haven't always been easy.

Why do these thoughts come when I run?

I made it to the part of my circuit where I run alongside the sea. I never take that lovely fact lightly, always marveling at the privilege. It was high tide and I felt the salty spray come up over the rocks now and then. A city sign warned of possible road closure and debris. I've run that route when large stones come tumbling right up over the retaining wall with the surf. I wonder how soon those million dollar newly built condos won't have a roadway. Sandbags won't cut it for too long.

The beach was crowded thick with vacationers. I noticed the things that make out-of-town people so obvious, like clothing styles, pasty white skin burning, and newly purchased body boards from Wal-Mart. For a moment I thought about how these vacationers don't know where the better beaches are, and how I'm so happy about that. Then I thought about the fact that I'm imported too, only I'm a permanent resident with an expiration date (how ironic), along with an Alien Number. I shouldn't be so smug.

I saw some little girls skipping along the sidewalk ahead of their mother, and I wondered why we ever stop skipping along. Seems happier to skip. I remembered running along the grass one time at my grandparents'. The grass was cool and thick, and the Ontario summer was at its prime. I turned to notice my older, prettier, strawberry blond cousin casually walking the same path I'd just taken, and she seemed so mature. Suddenly I felt silly and childish. That's when I decided running and skipping were no longer allowed.

I'm running now, and sometimes I do side way skips around the track, but it's not the same. On my run back home, I passed by a surfer with a bloody head. He didn't seem to notice 3 to 4 gashes to the melon. I wondered what it is he wants to be remembered for. I wondered the same about the mother who waddled under the weight  of many extra pounds while her little girls skipped along ahead. I thought about how many sun-basking girls and life guarding men and hung-over middle-age vacationers leave their Sharpied marks on social media each day. I thought about Tweeting politicians, User and Nifer, and church go-ers.

Then I wondered if I could clearly state what it is I want to be known for. Yes: I want to be remembered for loving well. I want to love with great compassion and personal respect, with forgiveness and patience, with selflessness and warmth. I want to communicate a kind of love that can only be heavenly. Yep, seems like a churchy kind of answer, only I don't frequently see the type of loving I hope to be known for. Occasionally, though, I see people who display unusual love; I'm so attracted, desperate to learn.

Sadly - heartbreakingly, actually - I fail miserably. So I don't think that's what I will be known for. I'm confused and unskilled relationally. I'm still desperately trying to learn the art of relationship and the skill of communication. Maybe what I should hope to be remembered for is simple humility. Maybe it is through humility I will see the One who loves perfectly, immeasurably. Maybe it's not about what I can give, but about telling what the Savior gives. Maybe if I really knew the depth of his love, I'd be freer to live it. Maybe when I truly receive and know this love, I can humbly love others by pointing up and away from my own miserable love.

I don't think we get to choose what we are remembered for. People see what they want, remember what they want. Sharpies and speeches and social media don't matter much at all.

One thing I do know: Jesus Christ will make me whole. He will fix me and transform me and teach me to love well. So I will fix my eyes on him till this race is done, despite my reputation and ability.


When you take boys to the Botanic Gardens and all they want to do is climb trees and steal plants, you avoid taking pictures of said boys because their faces are sour from being told to act civilized. Other times, pictures aren't possible because they're exploring sections off the marked pathway and beyond the signs that say "Please stay on path" and I just resign myself to pretending I don't know those kids. Secretly, though, I'm right there with them, hoping they see cool things in our imagined jungle. Ok, Ok... Really I'm just standing guard.

The sour faces are only occasional. One of my boys befriended a lady docent, charming her with questions, accumulated knowledge and experiences. We exchanged phone numbers.

"There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy's life that he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure."
- Mark Twain

Enjoying summer yet?


Thursday, June 7, 2018


Well it's on the verge of happening. Summer, that is. It's almost here. One more final paper to go, but all exams and assignments are complete for the year. This is Michael's last day to slug it out, while Olivia is already basking in the sun with her friends at the beach. I'm in a coffee shop while I wait on Andrew as he gets new braces on. He celebrated the completion of his school year at the end of May, so don't feel too bad about the timing of his dental torture.

I am certainly celebrating today. I even wore a bright yellow tank to ring in the sunshine months, and to say 'so long' to one of our hardest schooling years to date. Hard stuff in general is definitely not all bad and I'm thankful for the growth it has pushed us to attain, but yes, I'm happy to see it go.

These pictures were taken on Andrew's last day of school (the Friday of Memorial Day weekend)~

No better place to celebrate and unwind than in the wide open!

Desert flowers show me that delicate beauty can be manifest in the reality of harsh conditions. Beauty is remarkable when paired with strength, because strength is only possible in the face of opposition. My mind has been turning this idea around recently, and I find hope in the knowledge that hardship is purposeful when I don't despair under it. More specifically, my good and gracious God is at work to perfect me!

Boys. How I love hanging out with them. They are more strength and laughter and funky smells than beauty- Ha!


I follow them because they invite me to come. And when I think I've climbed high enough, they call me to see what they've found.

I came around the bend to find them doing this...

Why should kids have all the fun? There is joy and great pleasure in not always acting my age. I'm striving to embrace the freedom of being me, a little less inhibited.

I still need a wall (or cliff) to get me started, then I can balance on my own for a bit...

The tide came in just enough for the boys to jump...

Over and over they jumped!

See their faces? Better believe the water was COLD!!

I love that Jack is looking at me with thumbs up in this shot...

Sea weed jump rope

Sunshine yellow  

"Just living is not enough...
One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."
-Hans Christian Andersen


Welcoming Summer Like...

Saturday, May 26, 2018

More of May

My last post was getting long, but these should have been included. One week night this month - I don't remember when - I spontaneously took off for the beach with a picnic dinner. Well, I didn't actually pack a picnic, but rather made a quick stop at the store for a roasted chicken, baguette, strawberries, and Nutella. No one complained there were no veggies, and dinner was slightly barbaric with our roasted chicken. We picked a spot close to the train station where I needed to pick up Jon after we ate, and we played a game that resembled "Whack-a-Mole" with all the ground squirrels that popped up to share our food. 

Michael was feeling under the weather and buried in homework. He sure has put in some long hours this school year! I missed him that evening. I think it's worse when only one of my kids is not with the rest of the group; two or three missing doesn't seem as bad.

Jack prefers to stay warm while Andrew doesn't ever pass up an opportunity to surf or body board.

Sketching~ one of her creative pass times

I love blues and greens...
I'm not sure who the crazy people were that associated those colors with negative feelings.
(They had their thinking clouded by depression and jealousy, maybe?)

Evening light

Father-daughter convo...
Talking college stuff, I think.

Jack and I climbed the rocks for a different view point. He took pictures of me but I didn't like them. Just saying.

Summer can't come fast enough! Memorial Day Weekend tells me the end is near!


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