Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Bits

Today would have been a nice day to be at the beach. October Mondays would be amazing out there, especially when the temps are in the 90's like today. We'd have it to ourselves. I'm wondering if I should have scrapped some of our plans today and just made it happen. This was easier to do when my kids were little. 

These were taken back in August.

Skim boarding with body boards. It kinda works.

I was sorting through a little pile of papers tucked in the corner of my desk this morning, and more bits of scribbled notes stashed away in the pages of various notebooks and journals. Like a squirrel, I hide my little treasures in all kinds of places, believing I'll come back in the very near future to consume. Also like a squirrel, I forget where I've hidden my treasures (even if my goodies of verses, quotes, and ideas are not edible).

Corrie ten Boom was a fascinating individual. She is something of a hero to me: her trust in God's sovereignty and goodness was extraordinary, her forgiveness and compassion could only be supernatural, and her example of laying up treasures in heaven is simply wondrous. A while ago I wrote some of her words down on the back of a torn piece of paper. I have not lived a life that looks anything like hers did, but these words resonate with me nonetheless...

"If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy."

"Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open."

"What wings are to a bird and sails to a ship, so is prayer to a soul."

Just a little food for thought to squirrel away in your brain.

{I typed out a number of other thoughts/ideas recovered from my bits of papers (particularly on freedom for the soul), but they were accidentally deleted this afternoon. It's nearing dinner time, so I'm clicking this post into existence...}


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Just the Good Stuff

Fall is here with its 80+ degree weather. Cool mornings give way to hot afternoons, and wardrobe decisions nearly always turn out to be wrong decisions at some point in the day. Fall is here, guys, and I've hardly had a moment to take it in. It didn't help that the checkout lady at Wal-Mart wished me Merry Christmas a few days ago!

September came and went, just like that. I was glad to see it go, but regret not seeing more of the good stuff. The good stuff of life is always there if we look. Although it's been a heavy season for us in many ways, I trust that the best stuff (character forming/eternally significant fruit) will eventually emerge for us to see as well.

This season has been hectic/difficult. I don't wear busyness as a badge of honor (as if being busy implies importance or productivity); busyness is just my reality, and it seems near impossible most of the time. I'm not sure how I got the impression that the little years with kids were the busy years. Maybe this is not the case for all moms, but let me just say that in my experience the little years and the bigger/teen years don't even compare. 

Jon just bought me a little time, though, which is why I have a few moments to sit and write. This purchase of time came in the form of a third car for the family. This is giving me back hours of time each week. Hours and hours of time were spent going back and forth from various schools, picking up from one school and taking to another, waiting in the car during music lessons, practises, rehearsals, meetings, etc. Olivia is living the life of a young adult and the boys have school and sport commitments. I certainly do not want to put her in the position of becoming the boys' chauffeur, but at least she can transport herself and drop off or pickup a brother as she passes through. Another car may seem an extravagant decision to some, but for us it allows for more productivity (especially for me), independence, and opportunity (especially for Olivia). I'm thankful. 

I sat down here today to remember just the good stuff. So here goes...

We celebrated Jacob's 11th birthday early last month. Eleven. One-one. My baby!

I haven't been able to sort through his party pictures yet, and ideally I would like to take him out one-on-one (pun intended) for a few shots, but here's for starters~

Okay, so Olivia getting her license has been a big deal! She's been taking the truck to school this week. She is still feeling timid, but I know the sense of freedom will kick in soon!

(We laughed at their unintentional matching shirts.)

Then there was homecoming for Olivia and Michael. Since our charter school campus is an off-shoot of a larger campus further away, and because homecoming had been held at that other, larger campus, Olivia hasn't attended in the past. This year, however, our campus has grown large enough to host their own homecoming dance, and I liked the idea that Olivia and Michael would both be there together.

But I'm not American. I didn't spend my teens here, and this American 'homecoming' thing is not familiar to me. I had to figure out what it was and what goes on. Not only that, but I was never allowed to attend my school dances, and my school was too small and obscure to have any sport teams whatsoever. This really was new territory for me and I was super excited for them! It was fun taking them over to their school and hearing all the kids calling their names and oohing as they arrived, and I'm thankful for the few pics I have with friends.

Spending time with Olivia as she got ready Saturday afternoon was special.

She used my makeup, jewelry, and heels.

Here's the best part of the story... Michael and his best bud found out that anyone nominated for Prince (or Princess) received a discounted ticket, so they both nominated each other to save 10 bucks. Voting started during the week and, to Michael's horror/surprise/secret enjoyment, it was becoming clear who was taking the lead. Somewhere near 9 pm last Saturday night, Olivia texted me some video of Michael receiving the title Freshman Prince. It is a classic 14-year-old awkward moment of part mortification, part bliss! It's going down as an awesome memory/story.

Michael was being a bit of a clown (which wasn't conducive to pictures), so this one with me (looking tired and all) is the best I have. He may not have wanted a ton of pictures, but I have some rad video, thanks to Olivia!

Jon and I spent a bit of time in LA last week. We were invited to take part in a panel discussion at GCC, but we had a bit of time to kill in downtown late in the afternoon. Jon loves the city, and I love how much he loves certain things. Not many people are passionate about their loves, but he is and I love that about him. Someday I will have more time and freedom to just go. Wherever. Just go with him wherever he likes. We are looking forward to that time. Later we found a place in Beverly Hills and split a burger for a 10pm dinner before making the drive home. I guess it was sort of an unexpected date night.

I'm taking part in another panel discussion later this month, and I have to say I still feel like these sorts of things (speaking/teaching) are super way far outside of my comfort zone. It's not like we have to say yes to every thing that comes our way, but I think it's important to do hard things, to accept challenges and opportunities, and to push ourselves to move the boundaries of comfort by practicing and developing new skills. I still find it incredible that I am a pastor's wife. Ironic may be a better word.

I have mentioned Andrew's little business here before, so perhaps I can indulge in a little bragging? Well this 12 year old kid of mine is rocking as an entrepreneur! His garbage bin business has earned him a reputation; as a result he works weekly as a mother's helper (cute, eh?), Saturday morning gardening with neighbors, and odd jobs like crushing boxes and setting up yard sales. He told me the other day that he calculated an average of $25-30/hr. income. Taking people's garbage bins in and out each week has proven to be a success, and it all started with $1.50/week.

Finally, I've been running a ton in preparation for a race. This is a good/ hard thing for me to set my mind to in the midst of other good/hard things of life. It may not be the season when I really have the time and energy to run 25-30 miles a week, but I do it anyway. Night runs are still my favorite time to go (I choose my routes carefully), not to mention the only available time to go. I'm super thankful that my feet and shins are holding up well this training season (maybe due to icing, different shoes, and all the core training I did this summer). The challenge for me will be to keep running after my race, especially as we move into the holidays. Anyway, just saying. I'm super thankful for the physical ability to be active and to reap the many benefits.

Well, another day is closing. My big kids probably have another couple hours of homework to do, but the middle of the week has now past and we're in the home stretch. That's another good thing!

Each and every day I find myself at a cross in the road. It's more accurate to say I come up on intersections and forks in the road nearly moment by moment. Will I choose to go this way or that way? Will I take the easy way or the narrow way? Will I respond in anger or kindness, despair or hope, fear or confidence, impatience or forbearance, jealousy or admiration, bitterness or forgiveness, discontentment or thankfulness. Will I set my mind on the passing things of earth, or will I fix my eyes on Christ?

I fail a lot.

And when I don't fail, when I choose that which is not natural and easy, when I respond in accordance to the grace God has given instead of react in accordance to my nature, even that success is a gift of God. I live in light of God's grace, and I will reach the end of this journey by his grace as well.

Good night!


Saturday, September 30, 2017

September Tenacity

September is winding down, and a part of me wants to say good riddance, while the other part wants to say thank you. So, yeah, thank you very much, September! Glad to see you go.

We sat around the table a couple nights ago and thanked the Lord despite a terrible day for most of us. We even laughed, thankful that time does keep moving on and bad days do come to an end! And you know what? Some of the very best things in life are born out of difficulty. Temporal things quickly diminish in consequence, and trials produce grit and Christ-likeness when properly received. We are drawn to the Lord in dependence and faith, and wait for the day when difficulty is transformed into testimony of God's faithful, merciful, loving work.

Oh, but what a long month it was! Still, SO much good can be recounted! My mind flashes back to so many good things... successes, wins, progress, celebrations, growth... all sorts of wonderful moments. They are there, and I'm thankful I can look back and remember.

Today I am sitting alone in a coffee shop, unexpectedly taking some time out. It's such a contrast to the non-stop, break-neck pace of this last month. I don't really do alone time in a coffee shop really well but I think it's good for me, albeit awkward. My life has been oriented to others for so long that being seated alone at a table in a public place seems out of my element right now! That's OK. Some might think it sad that I've given so much of myself to the service of others (and I might have thought the same at one time), but I've grown to love it. I've discovered life became fuller, richer, more meaningful when I committed to living for more than myself.

This is turning into a rambling sort of post. Let me just end with a happy event from yesterday...

This little beauty passed her driver's exam in her dad's Ford F-150! She did amazing despite worries about parking a huge vehicle in a tight DMV spot, and concerns about all the possible ways the examiner could declare an "automatic fail!"

This girl is a contrast of tenderness and grit! The process of learning to drive, I think, has been a good one. She persevered despite admitting that driving wasn't turning out to be her favorite thing. Driving and parking our big vehicles in southern California wasn't coming easy for her. This girl is multi-talented, and difficulty in learning a new skill was new to her! Jon and I sought to find the fine line between easing the pressure, and gently pushing her to confidently persevere. And she did. In a huge truck, no less!

I want all my kids to learn that they can do hard things. 'Hard things' will be different for each person, but tenacity in meeting challenges/trial in life is way more valuable than learning to drive. Well done, Olivia!


Friday, September 22, 2017


These words were typed out several days ago, maybe even over a week ago. I can't remember. As I often do, I hesitated to post and spent a few days asking myself if I'm being too vulnerable for public content. I'm not sure I can ever fully resolve my quandary; maybe I am hopelessly introspective and far too concerned about how I will be perceived. I settled on posting because this is me being me, humanly flawed and affected by difficulty, with crooks and crannies of my heart that are tender and untidy.

I could be wrong, but I think at the core women are more similar than not. Maybe my daughter will be able to find a connection with her mom someday that she cannot just yet. Maybe you can relate. Then again, maybe not.

As for me, I'd rather live in a way that leans towards vulnerability than artificial sterility...


I won't lie. The last few weeks have been tough. It's so much nicer to come here and remember happy events, but I'm committed to representing myself authentically. That commitment is not so much about what I choose to write publicly (every aspect of life is not meant to be public), but I can't sit here tonight and communicate as if life is all rosy. Pretending life is perfect is an empty, exhausting pursuit. I would know. I read somewhere that perfectionists lack the courage to be imperfect. In other words, they lack the courage to be themselves. It's okay to not always be okay. I'm not always okay, obviously, but take it or leave it. This is me, not always doing okay.

I am a crier. I always hoped I'd grow out of it, or that I would learn how to hold back tears more effectively. I hoped to learn how to cover up, to pretend. I have wanted to feel less deeply, to feel less of me, even less of what I imagine others feel.

One time when I was little, maybe 7 or 8, my brother kept little tally marks on the corner of a chalk board in our house of all the times I had cried in one day. I guess he must have been feeling pretty exasperated by me. It had been a particularly bad day, and after I had cried over something once more   he showed me the collection of tally marks. I cried again, proving his point.

I'm a tiny bit better at holding tears back now. But not always. I hold back till I just can't anymore, and the tears come as a collective flow, every tear that had been repressed breaking free.

And so it has been. Tears in the shower, standing over the sink, driving in the car, my face against my husband's neck... all those repressed tears breaking free. There's something therapeutic in a good old fashion cry, because some things are worth crying about. Maybe there wouldn't be much to cry about if we didn't let ourselves love deeply.

I have thought on occasion that I still need to be mothered. A friend who has a few years on me validated this for me. There are times when adults still need to be mothered. 'Nurtured' may be a better word.

I went for a run in a quiet, unfamiliar neighborhood last week. I picked this area because it seemed safer for a night run in the area of town I was in (waiting for one of my kids). The streets were steep hills, the sidewalks were lit by a soft glow of newly built homes. The burdens and difficulties of my life weighed heavy, my thoughts running faster than my feet, my heart pumping, my head pounding. I ran uphill, looped through some side streets, down the back side of the hill, around the base and up again. And again and again.

Just like a good old fashion cry, running is therapeutic. But when the heart beats from the burden of emotion more than it does from the burden of running, and when the tears turn into sobs, and the lungs can no longer accommodate the simultaneous demands of both running and sobbing, then neither running or crying is therapeutic anymore.

There has been so much going on in my personal life. There's much going on in the world around us. Much disconcert, darkness, depravity. Whether I want it or not, I get a glimpse into the personal lives of many people because of my husband's work, and the things I don't want to see are unsettling. I stood reading from Psalms 46 one morning, comforted by the familiar words, "Be still and know that I am God" and the following, more frequently omitted words, "I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Behind me on the kitchen island lay the morning paper with headlines of devastation from hurricanes, and influential, crazy words from powerful and deranged men on both sides of the globe.

"Be still and know that I am God." Yes. That is what I want; they are words spoken directly to me. All nature, all nations will exalt Him. He's got this.

But the pain of trials is still very real. There is suffering and anguish. Our hearts long for others to be reconciled to God, our hearts break at their rejection. We are personally rejected, and that hurts real bad too. We still live and feel and cause real pain.

In the pain, though, He tells me to be still, to know that He is God. I am like a child, pained by something real, but being comforted and nurtured by a trustworthy parent. More than that, though, He is God.

Parenting. Let me just say that is not always an easy walk in the park. It's a grueling uphill run that sometimes leads to a sobbing parent who can't breathe. I have learned, though, that every single trial is an opportunity for me to be either tempted to despair or for my faith to be refined. I may teeter on the edge of despair, but by grace I choose to tighten my grip on faith still more. If a trial leads me to stronger and more resolute faith, then the trial is a kindness from God.

Here's what I've learned in the difficulty of parenting: The Lord parents me through it. My sin is exposed, my dependence on self and lack of faith is brought to light, my idolatry is revealed. I have experienced His promise to work all things together for good to be true, that trial is for the benefit of my sanctification. So just as I pray for my children and attempt to show them their need to turn to God in complete dependence and faith, God is calling out my very same need. He parents me. He nurtures my faith through trial.

This is a grace.

"Be still and know that I am God." In all situations, in every place, He is exalted on His throne. And He cares about these legs that run away and this heart that beats in pain and the sobs that keep air from filling my lungs. He is a personal, nurturing God that has perfect power. Yes, I can learn to be still even in the midst of this imperfect, painful life. His love is steady, secure, and unfailing. There is no safer place to rest or to hold on to in faith.


When I scrolled through pictures on my computer, these stood out because I see my boys nurturing things that are small and fragile. I realize they were not doing this intentionally, but rather they were driven by interest and curiosity. Still, I see boys skillful in one small aspect of nurturing.

The first set (above) were orphaned ducklings found in our pool one morning; the butterflies all came from caterpillars found, fed, and observed as they morphed; the lizards came from eggs which were found and secretly kept hidden in a bedroom till they hatched (hoping they would be snakes); and Jacob frequently brings me the creatures he finds and talks to me through the screen as I work in the kitchen.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

$8 Entertainment

There was a garage sale a couple blocks over this past Saturday, and the boys split the $8 cost for a small trampoline. There was a time I would have said I don't want someone else's junk junking up my yard, but these years with my kids are too short to be a no-saying mom all the time. Eight bucks for fun and exercise and happy boys is a pretty good deal, and not a bad way for them to spend a little of their summer earnings.

'Course, they don't use trampolines for regular jumps. I like that about them.


Annual Donut Dip

So school has started and I’m tired already! The new schedule has kept us moving all day and into the evening, adjusting to early mornings is hard for us non-morning people, and I’ve taken up a running schedule for another race this fall. I remind myself that education and the ability to work hard are a privilege, so I am embracing this shift once again. Oh, and play is a privilege with remarkable benefits, so I am working that into our weeks as well.

We had our third annual donut dip on Monday before the school day started. No one needed to be anywhere till the ten o’clock hour, so we had a bit of time to ease into the week’s obligations. Jon was even able to join our escapade for the first time.

As this new-ish tradition goes, we head out in the morning at the end of summer for donuts and an early morning dip in the sea. No wetsuits or fanfare allowed. We get up and go.

With bed heads and sleepy eyes, we go straight into the morning fog and the Pacific waves to welcome a new school year together. A box of donuts makes it cheery and celebratory. (Michael opted to stay dry and warm, which worked out for me 'cause now I have pictures.)

Jacob didn't wait for his gang. He was the first one in while the rest of us took a moment for our sugar high to kick in!

A sugar high makes us do fun things...

In my opinion, this is a happy way to mark new beginnings.
Or just to start the day...


We are currently in the middle of a heat wave. It hasn’t been too bad for us on the coast, but I’ve still spent the better part of two days in swimwear: swimwear to work by the pool yesterday afternoon, then swimwear under a dress at Andrew’s practice, swimwear to drive across town to pick up others from various locations (wishing I’d changed), swimwear in the kitchen making an easy dinner, swimwear for a night run into the ocean with the kids, and wet swimwear again in the car as Olivia racks up her last few night driving hours before her driving test. I’m in swimwear again today ‘cause it’s forecasted to be the hottest day yet.

Here are a couple quick pictures one of my younger boys snapped before heading out for orientation and packet pickups at our charter high school last week. Guess who wasn’t looking forward to this event?

Two in high school now. One is taking half her course load at the community college. This strikes me as surreal.

I have been praying much about what it means to parent teens. This is not a responsibility and privilege I take lightly.

I don’t want to be Mommy to them. Our relationship must not be what it once was, where I  primarily protected them, made decisions for them, and provided necessary control in their lives. Those days need to be passing. They have past. Mommy instincts can be quite strong though; my desire to bring them up into independent, capable, and confident individuals doesn’t come by way of coddling or through over-protection and mistrust, so emotional reaction must be tempered with thoughtful and prayerful dependence on God. A more mature, faith-filled motherhood is needed now, because parenting well will come by letting them go out to practice what they’ve learned up until now, claiming belief as their own, and understanding that we all learn through failures and successes.

Mostly, we learn from our failures.

I am learning to have enough humility to embrace failure, to see that healthy individuality and the expression of gifts and strengths is a process, sometimes more like a journey on a bumpy road. I want to give my kids the freedom to become who God designed them to be, freedom to step out and discover a life that is their own. It will look different from mine, it will look different from what I might guess, maybe different from what I hope for. But they are not here for me. My kids are not projects for me to turn out according to my pre-determined plan. They are not here to satisfy me, or to bestow upon me accolades. They are not here to mirror me... not my ideas, dreams, beliefs, plans, or anything else.

I don’t want to impose on them emotional dependency, the kind that communicates without words that my happiness or their success is dependent on them pleasing me or measuring up to some standards of performance. My love for them is not dependent upon their behavior, their grades, or the degree to which they can please me. This is a type of emotional abuse that brings about adults that are emotionally stifled, that don’t make and own their decisions (or the outcomes of those decisions).

And yet, these kiddos of mine are teens and not yet adults. Contrary to what many parents in our society do, this is not a time to remove all input and hope for the best. No, it’s a time to press in relationally. Control is no longer the primary factor in parenting, but influence through compassionate, humble, persistent, and accepting friendship.

How do I do this? How do I let go AND press in?

I am asking the Lord to show me daily. I know that he will supply for all of my needs, that he has promised to guide, and he will grant the grace I need for each day, each moment, each circumstance, each question, each trial, each failure.

I remind my kids frequently of their individual worth, that they were created by a loving God who’s expressed will it is for them to belong to him forever through salvation. I tell them they were lovingly and uniquely designed with a purpose for living, that their lives are meaningful and precious. I remind them as well of their responsibility and position before Holy God, that there is hope and freedom for living fully now and in the life to come.

This hope and freedom is not of me or through me or because of me. Only God. This is clear to a believing mom, but practically speaking, many don’t live this out in relation to their kids. Many of us stay stuck in the little years, parenting in a way that holds our children back and demands allegiance to ourselves rather than to God.

My love is strong for my kids, but that love cannot be the focus of our relationship. The vast and unimaginably deep love of God must be OUR focus and hope.

Because… the fullness of all things are made complete in Him alone.