In the Raw: Mammograms & Callbacks

She said, “The doctor saw a questionable spot on your mammogram yesterday and wants to see you again. Can you come in today?”

Her words made my heart stop and my thoughts fly.

Why did they want to see me so soon?? I have no pain! Are they just being overly cautious?? Is this the way people find out they have stage-4 cancer out of the blue all by themselves in a strange doctor’s office?? Why doesn’t anyone answer their phone at 9:00 in the morning?! Why were my words rushed and clipped this morning with the kids? I know so many people fighting this awful disease. Was I one of them and didn’t know it yet? Why did Mike have to be in Chicago today?? How do I fight and love and live well? Grandma went to Mexico for her cancer treatment way back in the day and mom’s cysts dissolved on their own after she quit sugar. What am I supposed to do?? I don’t want to be well-versed in this area of medicine as I have been with Jonny and his brain. Wasn’t I just talking to someone about the blessing of early-detection?…

The questions went on for a few miles of M40 but slowly they were replaced by these quiet words: God is my refuge and strength a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore I will not fear though the mountains crumble into the heart of the sea, though the waters rage and foam, I will not be afraid. He holds me with his righteous right hand. 

Regardless of the mix of KJV and NASB, these words calmed my heart and mind as they reverberated over and over. The uncertainty hadn’t changed. I still felt shaky like I was a poser in the land of the healthy, but my heart was quiet.

I arrived at BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) and after sending off a few quick texts to my husband and mother-in-law, I made it to the room in time to begin. Usually each year, the admin of our class mixes up the women so well that I end up in a group with no one that I know. This year, I’m with four of last years group – and one a dear sweet lady who survived her husband’s battle with Alzheimer’s and her own battle with breast cancer. It was next to her that I “happened” to sit as I arrived on autopilot.

With one glance, she saw something was wrong and asked. I told her. Her kind words, strong hug and the courage deep in her eyes were almost as effective as the words still scrolling through my mind. I hugged her tight as I would my grandma.

After our discussion time, she quietly asked me if I would like someone to go with me and that she didn’t have anything going on today. I thanked her with another big hug and said I would be okay.

I walked into that office feeling like I wasn’t walking in alone.

Within the hour, I was walking out again. The doctor, satisfied that it was just exceptionally dense tissue, told me to return in six months for another round of diagnostic testing to make sure the area was stable.

In the space of a morning, my perspective on life had been altered forever. Suddenly the little projects in the house didn’t matter as much as they had yesterday. I was excited for the bus to come home so I could squeeze my three crazies.

Even more than that, I was acutely aware of my need to begin some new verse memorization. Those words, regardless of the translation, quieted the raging pendulum swinging in my soul.

Being 40 isn’t for wimps, but God’s stronger than this body of mine. Whatever comes.

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Five Minute Friday – “depend”

It’s that time again! The Nerd Factory is joining up with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community to add my take on the weekly writing prompt.

This week’s word is “depend”.

5 minutes on the clock – and GO.

I had a hard time with this word when we got married. To depend on my husband also meant that he could let me down – and even worse was the possibility I might come to actually trust him and come to let that dependence be my normal way of life.

It turned out to be rather crippling for our marriage. I held back. I depended on him for the things I knew I couldn’t do, but I wouldn’t depend on him for the other things I knew I was capable to provide. It created a dangerous habit and it was also shouting to my dear husband that I did not truly love him.

I realized this only when I saw the hurt look in his eyes after my typical reaction to handle things on my own. His hurt then hurt my heart.

It’s an unfortunate thing that we usually don’t change our choices until we see the hurt in the face of the one we love. Though, I am thankful to tell you I’ve learned how to depend on him – and enjoy it. It’s such a gift.

Timer done.

Now comes the hard part. Hitting send sans any edits!

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In the Raw: Moving isn’t for sissies

It’s the end of September. This means there have been several weeks for the kids to adjust to their new schools and today I got to volunteer for the first time.

After somehow misreading the volunteer email, I signed up for the 1st grade time slot instead of the 2nd grade – which turned out to simply be an opportunity to get more steps in and start the process of fitting in with the other moms. Win, right?!

As my youngest’s teacher came out leading her class, I caught sight of my mohawk-wearing boy and he ran over to me with his usual bear hug. The other mom to whom I was passing the time with the usual smalltalk came over and exclaimed over his height and asked if he really does belong in 2nd grade.

My heart hurt and I bit my tongue.

Right then and there, I wished I could teleport us back to his previous elementary school. He was simply the boy with the mohawk there. He’d begun in Young 5’s and progressed with each teacher loving his tender heart and sweet personality.  Now, he has to jump into a place where his obvious differences will be noted first rather of the rest of his personality.

The other day, out of the blue, he asked his dad if he was held back in school. He had to have heard that question from someone at school. I want to wrap my mother-bear arms around him and growl at every ignorant mom-question and odd look. When in reality, that will serve nothing more than to confirm his differences in a negative way to him.

So I do as I did today. I swallow my tears. I smile instead – truly smile – as I watch my strong boy run and imagine himself as an airplane with his arms outstretched. He high-fives his buddies as he passes them on the track and they smile at him. He comes running back around to me, grabs my hand, and tells me, as he always does, that he loves me so much. His joy and excitement for the little things in life lift my eyes to the God who perfectly designed him before he ever took his first breath.

So. Moving isn’t for sissies. Packing and unpacking boxes blows chunks.

Even more than that, you must be sure God has you where He intends before those moments come. Ugly crying can happen when you miss silly things like your finished office space or serious things like 5 years of friendships with teachers and other moms left behind at the other school. Knowing God has us exactly and perfectly right here is such a comfort even in the uncomfortable.

Moving isn’t for sissies, but it is worth it. It’s possibly the greatest avenue for you to get rid of the stuff you don’t need. That in itself is a serious win!

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Five Minute Friday – “future”

It’s that time again! The Five Minute Friday linkup! Our fearless leader Kate Motaung sent out some amazing news this week. We now have our own community on Facebook as well as a spiffy new website!! Check it out here!! Click on the link to find out how to join up if you’d like to link your own blog to this encouraging community.

Okay. Down to business. Today’s word is “future”. 5 minutes set on my timer… and GO!

This afternoon was surreal. Future was not what I was thinking about but the past. 14 years of memories to be precise. In the last month we sold the home we came home to as newlyweds and bought a new house (which is amazing and a great glimpse into our future) but when you close a door on a part of your life, you can’t help but look back.

There were a few tears as I pulled away. A thousand memories assaulted me as I walked through the house for the last time. So many I can’t even begin to put words to them in only 5 minutes.

What I want to focus on is where I was when I drove my familiar van out of the very familiar driveway for the very last time… I have a beautiful future. Regardless of how things go and regardless of what happens. I have a future because of Who died for me and what He paid for. I am redeemed and I have a future that shouts the greatness of my God. Gorgeous gold paths for me to walk… a tree with roots that are infinite and free of sin and the struggle to follow God… perfect existence with others and most importantly I will someday get to SEE my Abba God!

I cannot wait for this promised COMING future! I just can’t.

And Time’s UP!

There it is. This week’s FMF – “future”. What a perfect word for this week at the Nerd Factory!

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Five Minute Friday – “truth”

It’s another Five Minute Friday! I am linking up with Kate Motaung over at Heading Home. I so enjoy the amazing community of writers who encourage each other weekly!

Happy Friday-ish! So, it may actually be Saturday, but we can still call this the Five Minute Friday. Because we can!

It’s been awhile but the big move happened and we are settling in the new house bit by bit. (post coming about that soon!)

This week’s word is “truth”

5 minutes on the clock… and go!

Truth. This word seems picked especially for this week. Between the news media and friends I’m struggling to see that our culture even grasps the actual meaning of this word.

Truth is honest. transparent. It hurts sometimes but it always heals. It is fearful to those who have something to hide. But to those who stand in the Light, it is a warm whole sensation. It brings freedom from chains. It restores closeness in relationships.

Truth is hard to speak sometimes. It can be a delicate thing while feel like a 2×4 is being swung into your soul. But it is necessary.

Without truth, we have no TRUE relationships. It becomes all about feelings and keeping those feelings only in the happy places of our hearts. That is dangerous! Feelings change. They are so very fickle. I tell my children often, your feelings will always follow right choices – truth.

… and there you have it. 5 minutes of writing. Everything in me wants to edit and change and elaborate. But here’s me following the rules! 🙂

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Minimalist Mondays – Plot Twist

The Minimalist Mondays series began with the start of our journey.

Today, I want to continue where I left off… you may be thinking finally! Yes. It’s taken me a while, but here it is.

Like I said before, minimalism always felt like what the “cool” moms did and since I was neither a cool nor crunchy mom I wrote it off. Enter that 3 week trip out west and I’m ready to consider how maybe just maybe this might actually apply to me.

Remember that log cabin looking house with the wraparound porch? Yep. We sat down with the owners who were friends of my in-laws and talked for two hours conveying how serious we were and that our next phone call would be to our realtor to put our house on the market. They were as excited as our kids were exhausted that night.

The next two weeks flashed past at shocking speed while we packed liked crazy people, rode emotional highs and lows, washed and patched walls, and strove for perfection in the photos the realtor would take.

Saturday came. Half of our belongings were moved into my in-laws basement. I felt ragged and frayed in all the worst places. Insanity was surely lurking around the next corner as we looked down the barrel of the 4th week of school amidst these boxes.

Then. Sunday Mike’s phone rang. The sellers had cold feet and finally admitted that they decided not to sell, but they said we needed to go with them to look at the piece of property they were going to buy.

It was one acre way off a busy road in Hudsonville, close to grandparents and cousins, in a great school district, right up against a bunch of woods with quad trails and a pond, and in my heart the only thing I could do was yell “plot twist!!” and go with it. Feeling that somehow THIS was actually what God had for us, better than we had imagined!

Knowing we would need to do a leap-frog move (move in with his parents for a few months) in order to build in the spring, we made our offer. They accepted and we began drawing up the house plans! Since we love our home, we used the current floor-plan and added space here and there and moved things until we had the ideal space for the future teenagers we knew were coming. As anyone who has done this knows, you begin to live in that plan. You arrange your furniture as you think it would look best. You hang decorations. Your heart doesn’t care that its all hypothetical – as far as it knows this is real. Even the kids had Pinterest boards for their new rooms and all the ideas bursting from their minds!

Meanwhile, we packed and packed some more. Mostly, though, I realized just how much I didn’t need. So much was given away and tossed! The photographer came and the house was captured in all her glory. Mike called septic and well companies to begin the process of taming the land. I didn’t pay much attention because I figured it would all work out. This was what God had for us – obviously.

The Perk Test (a soil drainage test for where to place the septic tank drainage field) was done. We knew it was in process and were anxious for the results so Mike continually checked in with the guy. After two weeks, we were approaching the point of no return: the property closing date. Finally he admitted that he couldn’t give us the results because after measuring the property he found it was .0998 of an acre not a whole acre. He said he had no authority to declare it an acre. I remember this being around election time because of how irritated I was with big government. After another week, it was finally declared an acre – and we received the heart-dropping results.

It perked (drained) but only on the back portion. We’d have to haul in fill for a really steep driveway or give up the backyard.

In my heart, I wasn’t yelling “plot twist!” excitedly anymore, it was more of a whisper – a very pained whisper. I knew God was protecting us no matter how attached we’d gotten to the new house – that didn’t exist outside our hearts and minds.

After this news began to sink in, I looked around our home. Walls cleared of any evidence children had touched them, kids bedrooms with only the bare essentials, every book/dvd packed away, and the realization that everything I had been packing and doing for the last two months now had to be undone was like a ton of bricks about to crush me. It was emotionally expensive to pack it all up to begin with.

Somewhere the theology I know and cherish began to poke up in the middle of the rubble of dreams: He never makes mistakes – ever! Everything that happens is for His glory – to make His name great and THAT is my good. His plans are much higher than my own – I can’t even begin to understand them. This is why I say “everything is theological”.

Because it is.

Theology most applies to the daily grittiest parts of life. If it didn’t God wouldn’t be very big, would He?!

Little by little I began to see the ways God had been protecting us from ourselves. We hadn’t locked ourselves into a corner by listing our home or selling it before we had another one. The owners of the property turned out to be unwilling to see reason with the perk test and we lost our earnest money – but we weren’t stuck with property we couldn’t build on. Each step, we kept asking God to give us wisdom and show us the next step. “If you don’t want us to do this, shut this door so firmly and clearly we can’t possibly miss it.” Well. There was no mistaking it. He clearly closed the door and made sure it was dead-bolted!

With these precious truths in my mind, I began to see “stuff” differently. Maybe it’s a natural outcome of moving, I don’t know. I just knew that there had to be different criteria for allowing stuff back in.

I guess that’s where Minimalist Mondays began. It was the process of realizing that we do not “need” all the stuff we think we do. Even the kids loved the idea! Their bare rooms with plenty of space for creativity and actual play appealed to them. They kept telling me how easy it was to put clean laundry away in drawers not stuffed full and how their room didn’t get as messy! Win!

So while we didn’t end up with the beautiful blue gabled home we planned in our hearts and minds, I still holler “plot twist!” because God always does things better than I could imagine. We planted ourselves in this home once again: updating the bathroom, master bedroom and my office as we flew through November and December.

It felt good. Home.

While I still had no idea of what God would do later, this first prying my fingers off our stuff and our home was essential to His plan.

Theological Thursdays: Everything is Theological

I’m sure you’ve noticed that phrase on this blog and definitely if you follow me and my hashtags on Facebook. It’s a crucial piece of how I think and what I write about so rather than assuming you understand… here’s how “Everything is Theological” changed my life.

I first heard it as a senior at Moody Bible Institute by my brand-new advisor Mark Eckel. He had piece of paper tacked to his office door in Fitzwater Hall that said simply: “everything is theological”. No capital letters or anything. Just those words. Our class wasn’t big but we were the first group to complete the entire 4 year ACSI certification program from start to finish. We kinda thought we were a big deal.

Then comes this new advisor – a guy (in our mostly female prof selection). He essentially tells us that all we’d learned up to that point about integrating the Bible into our lessons had to be unlearned. We weren’t very nice to him. Slowly (very slowly) he changed our minds and our lives as he modeled for us what he meant.

He kept explaining that all truth was God’s truth. Pieces of it can be found everywhere – even in false religions. Finding truth there doesn’t validate the religion rather it points to the Creator who wants us to know Him. They are signs showing us who He is. As a very black and white sort of thinker, I could hardly process that. How is it that my life of list-following (listen to this music, not that! read these books, NEVER those!) law-abiding (grace mirage) life didn’t work?!  I could teach a math lesson and slide in a biblical-integration at the end and call it good. A verse a day could keep the devil away, couldn’t it?! I could compartmentalize life and love it. You just watch me. ​

Continue reading Theological Thursdays: Everything is Theological

Five Minute Friday – “more”

Happy Friday!

It’s another Five Minute Friday. We happily link up with the amazing writing community at Kate Montaug’s site Heading Home. Each Thursday night she posts the word for the week and we get 5 minutes to write unedited then gather up our courage and hit publish right then.

This week’s word is: more.

GO.

This week the word choice is once again ironic.

More. Layered with the idea of garage sales and you have an oxymoron. There is nothing about a garage sale that doesn’t scream more.

I want that one thing… for just a bit more money. Would you take this for that? Would you be willing to accept this price for that one thing more?

Yep. More. Not a word that fits this week usually – but this week is different.

This year we are moving. This year I have absolutely no idea what will fit where in the new house so my garage sale habit is still strong but very very limited. I walk away from most household items and keep solely to my predetermined list of clothing items the kids need or shoes in the next sizes and other things like that.

And I just have to share the very best thing God provided. It wasn’t anything I “needed” but such a sweet reminder that He cares for the smallest details of our lives. Our puppy has this insane need to rip my shoulder out of its socket when we go for walks. At this one garage sale, the lady picked up a harness that she said didn’t fit her dog and said it was supposed to curb the pulling. I thought – it couldn’t hurt! So she let me try it out right there as I had the dog with me. It was like another animal was walking next me!! She didn’t pull one bit. Suffice it to say that was the best $5 I spent the entire day.

Those little moments where God provides above and beyond what we think we might want MORE… precious. He never stops either. Even today. This moment. Always working and providing no matter the situation or the hardness of heart. His MORE is always better than ours.

Times up.

There it is. “more”

Enjoy!

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Five Minute Friday – “enough”

Today, I get to do something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile! I’m linking up with the amazing community Kate Motaung has going over at Five Minute Friday. This week’s word is “enough”. My job is to write for five minutes – no grammar checking, spell checking, self-editing… just let it out. Yikes. I self-edit constantly… this may be harder than I realize.

5 minutes on the clock… and go.

I saw the email with the weekly word in it and almost laughed. Enough? Really??? That word plagues me almost daily. Am I really enough? Am I doing enough? Do I go deep enough into the kids hearts to deal with their attitude behind their actions? Am I connecting deep enough with my husband to keep our marriage strong? Do I hold on to things so we have too much instead of just enough?

That’s what strikes me about the word right now. I’m staring at a pile of boxes and other as sundry items that I packed yesterday. Yep. Yesterday. Why you might ask am I packing boxes? Well, that would be the result of signing papers on a new house yesterday. The house I had no idea even existed Monday morning. It means our house now will be the proverbial blender soon. My organized (well maybe semi-organized) life will be upended until the unpacking begins.

I keep asking myself as I pack each box: Do I even need this? Is this too much? Have I used this within the last year? I am concluding the inevitable truth – I have more than enough. I am more than enough – but not by myself! Oh my no! I am more than enough only because in my utter weakness of the proverbial control freak – He is strong for me. —

Time’s up!
So there it is. Five minutes of writing. You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard but it’s rather deceptive – especially when you factor in Spring Break and three kids and snacks and neighbor kids ringing the doorbell and the dog wanting in and out. 🙂 But I did it!

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Minimalist Mondays – starting the journey

Minimalism. It’s the new organic, the thing to be – the hater of stuff.

Now, I don’t  hate stuff, just for the record. Though it gets on my nerves with its penchant for being everywhere all at the same time. I didn’t jump on this bandwagon mainly because I figured you’d have to live in a bark hut to be a true minimalist – and that was not going to happen.

This journey began in August.

We packed up our 29 foot Jayco, put the kids (next to each other, of all the horrible things!) in the backseat of the Tundra and headed out for 3 weeks of seeing the West. A week or so into this trip, I realized that life was so amazingly simple. We had just the kitchen items we needed – nothing extra, we got groceries when we were running out, we did laundry when we needed clean clothes, and tidying up the camper was simple. The kids each had a plastic shoe-box with their special items so “cleaning up” was putting their things in their box and putting the box on their bed. My “desk/office” was reduced to my backpack. Everything I needed to write, blog, read or be creative was right there. The kids even had a dedicated cupboard just for their creative pursuits: tape, crayons, coloring books, glue, scissors, blank paper, and lots of books to read.

Simplicity.

We soaked up the majestic beauty all around us as we lived life as a family of 5. Sometimes that meant a child throwing a fit as we sat around the picnic table at our campsite because they didn’t like what was on their plate. “My dear child, you will not die because you don’t like what you have been given to eat tonight. You will control yourself and remember gratefulness – and that your fit will not get you what you want. Now or ever.” These are the moments when I’m tempted to (and sometimes do) hang my head in frustration over their choices instead of looking into the blue eyes across the table and know we’re in this together.

Real life follows you whether you’re camping or not. Just keeping it real.

Eventually, we turned the truck to face East and I began to count down the days until I had my beautiful house once again. The experience of minimalism was going to pay off in other ways I could hardly fathom.

Continue reading Minimalist Mondays – starting the journey

IF Gathering: my hesitations & conclusions

Have you heard of Jennie Allen and IF? I hadn’t. So last year when yarn artisan and fellow sub Katie told me about the gathering of women in Zeeland for a Livestream event from Texas, I was skeptical. When you take a bunch of women anywhere, put them in the same room together and THEN have speakers (from who knows where, believing who knows what) talk, someone is going to be offended, or else the speaker will have her theology wrong and I will have a choice to make: leave or speak up.

So I looked up their statement of faith. I read how they began. Words like “all” and “unleashing” and “discipleship” and “calling” made me uneasy. They can be tossed around easily enough, but those ethereal words actually have meaning when you bring them back down to earth. That rubber-meets-road meaning was the fly in my ointment and only way to de-fly my ointment was to go and hear for myself.

It was a no-brainer, actually. The event was being held less than a mile from our house, AND I would get to know this amazing woman better? Yes, please!

The women who planned our local event, IF: Zeeland, did an amazing job! Dinner was provided when we got there at 5:30 Friday night. I had subbed all day unexpectedly and I was exhausted. Delicious food was a good way to begin the night.

A goody bag was waiting for each woman as she found her seat: a pen, a journal, a necklace with IF stamped into a charm, some tissues, and of course, chocolate.

Sessions 1, 2 & 3 flew past. The theme was about Jesus’ life: What IF we lived like Jesus?

Each of the speakers was funny, real, and bold. You knew by the end of her time that her struggles weren’t just hard but the tools God was using to shape her and use her. It sounds basic, but that’s what I needed to be reminded. My struggles don’t discount me. They push me to my knees so I’m in a position to be used.

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As my journal attests, I wrote and wrote (still testing what I was hearing), but the defining moment came when an Anglican pastor couple took the stage. They spoke about the theology of suffering. How the visual of the breaking of bread as Christ’s body arrests us and reminds us that suffering isn’t a separate part of our beliefs but central to it all. As beautiful and deep as they were, the defining moment was when I realized that an Anglican pastor was speaking to my heart.
If I could sit across from another woman and know that we both believe in Jesus, the only Son of God, who lived a perfect life, born of a virgin, died on the cross, rose from the dead, the only payment for our sin, and that we can do nothing to earn grace, the church she goes to isn’t the obstacle I thought. We may not completely agree on every piece of doctrine, but I can embrace her as a sister.

THAT is the drive behind the IF Gathering. What IF women were using their God-given gifts for God’s kingdom instead of comparing and dividing? The balance can be tricky and sometimes messy. Doctrine does matter, but how we treat our sisters matters more.

I heard women in a FaceBook Theology group call the IF Gathering a witches coven. A group of witches is called a “gathering” so they must be a cult of witches. Bizarre logic. Obviously, I left that group, mainly because the common thread in the questions posted was an “us against them” mentality. I don’t want to be known for that. Instead of picking apart titles and semantics, we should be seeing common ground.

You love Jesus?! Hey, so do I! Let’s love Him together. If we happen to disagree at some point, I will give you grace and not walk away.

So tonight is the start of IF Gathering 2017 – and I cannot wait! The theme this year is Acts and the early church. God’s been digging around in my heart and pruning the last couple weeks. I know He will continue tonight and tomorrow as I sit with my sisters at IF: Zeeland.

If you love Jesus and even if you’re not sure, come join us!
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The Year of the Puppy

Halfway through January isn’t usually when people post their New Year things. But this is me and sometimes The Nerd Factory is on its own schedule.

​Though, most of it is due to that purple-collared furry thing on my lap. Her arrival has meant being up several times a night, constant vigil for her potty-cues, and not much time or brain power to focus on anything else. Oh wait. It’s just like having a baby. Minus the stretch marks and leaky boobs. After eleven years of saying no and a certain birthday girl having that as her one and only request for a birthday gift… I gave in.

I knew whatever dog we found would eventually become attached to me and vice versa and that scared me. I watched my mom put down her 13 year old Lady & the Tramp look-alike cocker spaniel and my husband take his beloved Boomer Pug to be put down. My heart is already tied irrevocably to our three offspring  and that hurts a lot some days. I figured a dog was overkill.

So on her birthday date with her daddy, they went to our local animal shelter and found a litter of puppies just put up for adoption. They’d been moved up here from Missouri as a tornado had gone through their area and there was no room for them. The mama had had a rough time of feeding her puppies and ended up with mastitis (poor thing!!) and had to stop feeding them at only 6 weeks. With the constant rolling and romping pile of furry bodies, it was hard to decide. They FaceTimed me and showed me this little face…

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…and just what was I supposed to do?! This little girl just had to be ours! Her markings were the most distinctive of her whole litter! The other puppies had similar blazes but they were monochromatic instead of the contrast she displayed. She was also one of the smallest puppies and very calm. We didn’t even know she had a voice until we got her home Jan 4 and she made a little noise to Mike as he was playing with her. Her favorite place in the whole wide world? A warm and open lap – usually mine.

Potty training began with 21 degree temps and blustering winds that made her cry and whine when I tried to take her outside. I was so thankful when the snow melted away and the broken-down cardboard box could be exchanged for the grass outside! A corner turned.

The best corner turned?? Pepper sleeping through the night!! She finally did that this week! I feel like I have a brain again and that I’m not operating on def-con level Chaos. I know many moms who pull off life with 5 hours of sleep or less. In 12 years of being a mom, I have never been able to swing that AND be a nice person to be around. Naps only go so far… like a crutch. You can limp along for a bit, but it’s not recommended you drive heavy machinery with a crutch.

Pepper is my shadow when the kids aren’t around. She loves to play with them, but still prefers my lap when she’s tuckered out. I usually have a book handy while she naps on me.

My days have a new routine. Walk the kids to the bus to wear her out for a morning nap while I get some things done around the house. After lunch, go for a long walk on the bike path.

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Then read or write while she snuggles on my lap. After the kids get home, they play with her or read to her for their homework – while she tries to nibble the pages. I make dinner while trying not to step on her as she moves around my feet. Then Daddy gets home aka Pepper’s Giant Chew Toy. She sits on my lap and listens as I read aloud to the kids before they go to bed.

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By 9pm, she’s winding down (like me) and by 10:30/11pm she’s downright exhausted. She goes outside one last time before she goes in her bed and we don’t hear from her until 7am. ​

So now you know. It’s the year of the puppy over here. Our new normal. Like any change it felt odd and I wished we could go back to the safe “old normal”, but here I am risking my heart on this little fur ball.

As for the Nerd Factory, its cogs are still turning and the gears are moving – just with a little more puppy chow. Check out the new Book Journal tag! I’m stepping up my reading game 🙂

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In the Raw: Journey of Churches

I’m folding laundry this time. I seem to do the best thinking when my hands are busy doing mundane things.

My arms reaching out to pick up a towel. Familiar motions and soon it is folded. Another towel and anther. My body working in harmony.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see a slow movement and without thinking my body snaps into action to prevent precious clean laundry from falling on the floor.

Instinct. Familiarity. Harmony. The Body.

Each member doing its job to the absolute best of its ability; instinctively. Hands, Feet, Head, Arms, Ears, Mouth, Eyes… not one part telling the other how to do its job. The Body functioning as it should.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on ecclesiology. The study of the church belongs to wiser minds than mine.

However, experience has taught me a few things. ​

My earliest memory of church:
A huge bright room with tall stained glass windows. Coloring pictures at a half-moon table. Sitting with my parents on red velvet stadium seats while listening to the historic pipe organ belting out Great is Thy Faithfulness.

My next memory:
Having my picture taken outside in the sunshine with my parents and sister on the day my father was ordained as pastor.

Being “The Pastor’s Older Daughter” and all that entails: knowing more Bible trivia, being the fastest in Sword Drills, being bossy knowing most people won’t tell me no, never breaking a rule that anyone would know. In AWANA, hearing how even my rule-keeping couldn’t do a thing for me in God’s eyes. Deep conviction and salvation.

Sitting in a volatile church business meeting and hearing the accusations and tears and shouts.

Junior High:
Moving across the country and knowing not one person, yet discovering paradise. A small country church who tithed in eggs, milk, produce, beef/pork. Being a small-town “Pastor’s Daughter”… busybodies taking it upon themselves to be their own journalists. Looking up from the long wooden pews as my father preached from a tall pulpit.

Once again, hearing accusations and pride and this time having to leave my beloved mountains. Burning anger at God and flashing rage at the Elders who made the decision.

Another move across country, a half-hearted attempt at trying to build relationships in a youth group. A youth pastor who later was arrested for preying on the girls in his care.

Another youth group my Junior/Senior year of high school. A youth pastor who took it upon himself to make me laugh and who left an indelible mark on my life. The very first time I understood what worship was: Songs from the Loft, hands raised, delighting in who God is.

After College:
Huge church. Huge young adults group. Learning more about how to worship with abandon, pouring my soul out.

After Marriage:
Much smaller church. Young marrieds group. Feeling very out of place as a new wife who left all of her life for this man. Learning to open up and not just sit back in safety and observe. Kids will force you to do that; three of them even more so. Eventually plugging in and serving and then eventually burning out.

Now:
Almost 4 years and friendships are still few. Tries to connect backfired too many times. Serving and learning how a team is so key in avoiding burn-out. Thankful for all-out-top-of-my-lungs-hands-up-high worship.

As you can see, there is so much baggage in my past with churches. Trusting leadership is a struggle; cynicism too easy. Yet. I know this Body, while broken and unharmonious most of the time, is what God uses to show His power in this world.

How? I don’t know. Grace. I think.

He gives us grace and somehow we hold each other to our own grace-less standards. Disappointment grows until it covers the original problem and can’t even be seen. Risking grace with each other deflates the disappointment to actually deal with the problem.

Grace can be a risk, but it is a risk a bloody man on a cross gave up his life to give me. I am obligated to risk such precious grace with others.

How do you overcome the tension in your church journey and come the place of risking grace for others?

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Why I dread Mother’s Day

I’ve written about Mother’s Day before.

I’ve written about being a mom – even about The Mother Curse.

But as the day gets closer and closer, I find myself in an odd state of mind. I feel like a fraud; like I’m on a treadmill that never quits. I’m trying to balance a scale that will forever be weighted on one side.

My sweet Engineer always teaches the kids by his example to love and respect me. He shows them by cleaning up the kitchen, cooking dinner, and the occasional load of laundry that those things aren’t just “mom” things but jobs he gets to do because he loves me.

For me, Mother’s Day isn’t about the outward things the kids do for me or give to me, or even say to me, but a week long introspection that almost always leaves me wanting to run crying to a corner.

For those of you who read my Facebook posts and comments, please know they are true and in the moment and I do my best to relay funny and hard not just the ones that make my parenting glow pretty… but this past week was ugly.

It is this week plus the countless other times that flood into my mind as Mother’s Day approaches.

The moments where I completely lose it over the stuff in the living room, the dirty laundry that somehow always migrates off their bodies to the floor and stays there as they get ready for school… even though I bust my rear to just keep Mt Laundry within reason. Just when I congratulate myself on an empty laundry room, I discover it has just blown itself all over the rest of the house.

I detest cleaning the house. Remember, I married Dutch. I am not the stereotypical Dutch woman who gets her energy on by cleaning up her house. Left to my own devices, I let things slide until I just can’t take it anymore. Then the impetus for cleaning hits. I like what it looks like when it’s done, but laundry and I are barely on speaking terms.

I figure, there’s toilet paper in the holder, soap in the dispenser, and no body fluids on the seat… bathroom’s great! My germophobe pops out when sickness is around so the kids make a game of who can clorox wipe as many lightswitches and doorknobs in the house in 20 minutes. But other than that, if it ain’t broke (or in this case, completely gross) don’t fix it.

The worst part is when I lecture certain individuals on controlling their responses… yeah. I can almost hear their little minds accusing, “But you don’t.” Wait. Nope that’s not the worst part.

The WORST part is when your sensitive child comes to you to be honest about something they did.  When you smile and say it’s okay, they burst into tears because they’d been expecting “the wrath of Mommy”. With my arms around the child, my heart sinks and a knife twists.

These moments and more pound my mind and heart. Yes. I know and have experienced the amazing power of Grace. But Mother’s Day feels like another day to remember just how badly I screw up motherhood. Trying to outweigh the moments of “bad mom” with the fun of “good mom” won’t ever happen.

Grace is what I lean on and what I must wrap my mind in… however what usually douses my mind is that poison of perfection. Comparison and ungratefulness.

I love the idea of taking a day to specifically honor the women who have chosen to pour into our lives. Especially since most of us have a woman who isn’t our blood mother who has poured her soul into our spiritual journey. Mine happens to also have my name. I cannot thank God for her enough.

In fact, it is her example that I lean on when Grace seems too costly for me to accept.

She has told me so often that the stuff she thought was most important then isn’t really at all. The time spent laughing together as a family, talking around the table at dinner, listening to each child express themselves and their ideas… that time spent is never wasted. And when you realize you’ve messed up, you seek forgiveness and know that God uses even the broken stuff. She and I have disagreed many times in the past 12 years, but I know beyond any momentary irritation – our relationship is solid.

I love that she is so open about her relationship with her husband. No false reality! Just because the kids are out of the house, marriage still takes intentional persistence. No magic stage of life. 🙂  She knows the power of prayer and uses it on behalf of her children and grandchildren.

She gave me her firstborn son without any strings attached. She let me be the woman in his life while she stepped back. She pours into the lives of our children every moment she can – whether it’s being silly spraying them with the hose or asking them how they are obeying God in their lives.

It’s pretty obvious physically I’m not her biological daughter, but my heart says otherwise.

So, when Mother’s Day becomes a condemning list of things I never get right… I listen to her wisdom and accept Grace.

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In the Raw: Perfect

My mom has said it often: Ironing is a great way to get warm in the winter and a time to think.

Though I like being warm and thinking, I still choose to iron as little as possible. I find as many ways/shortcuts to avoid ironing as I can. But, there are those moments (The Engineer’s work pants got left in the dryer) when ironing is a necessity.

One of those moments is today. I’m standing at this squeaky ironing board with steam hissing from my old iron. (Even though, the Engineer’s bachelor iron is probably better than mine, I prefer my old trusty one – something about the feel of it.) I see impossible-looking wrinkles and know that with a bit of heat and some applied steam, they will disappear into perfectly smooth.

These things tumble into other thoughts…
church.
friendships.
loneliness.
fake happy.
people.
hurt.
pain.
church.

All of a sudden, I’m desperately wishing that each wrinkle was connected to something on that list and my heat and steam could flatten it and make it perfect. ​

Perfect. No church is. No relationship is. No person is.

There’s the problem. I keep wanting to arrive at Perfect. I want to find that person who is going to go the distance with a friendship. Maybe that person will magically appear at a Bible Study or the grocery store or at church. Someone who sees the value of friendship together not as an afterthought. Someone who is okay with my quirky.

Reality is… you have to go through a lot of frogs to find one worth keeping. I’d prefer to skip the frogs.

Same is true for church.

Just like healthy food or good choices, you do them not because you particularly like it at that moment but because you know you need it.

Church is like that sometimes.

I know I need to be reminded that I am not the center of the universe. I am not the one who I worship. I must be reminded of my rightful place in the universe: face down at His feet. 

That part of church I love. I am right-minded. I am whole. I am full. I could spend way more time in that place remembering how I fit in His world.

The hard part is that church is made up of people: messed-up sinners just like me. When we all get together, we are a gigantic bunch of messed-up sinners who pretend we aren’t really that bad.

I don’t want to be a happy plastic church person but yet I do. 

Perfect looks so nice. It feels safe. Especially if you put it all out there before and had to collect the fall-out. It would be easier if the pieces weren’t in the form of relationships. Gallon containers would be preferable.

However…

“but this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end:
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’ ” (Lam. 3:20-24 ESV)

So. I’m still standing at that ironing board. The iron is making smooth where the wrinkles seemed impossible. And I call this to mind. I tell my soul. My heart remembers truth.

I remember that the church I get so irritated with was the same church Christ calls His bride.
I remember that the church is only messed-up people with baggage that would make Everest look like an anthill.
I remember that Christ loves me and those messed-up people. And our love for each other proves Whom we follow.
I remember God never leaves us as we are. He doesn’t give up on us. He is exactly what I need in each situation I face.

…and therefore I have hope.

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To the family in the booth behind us

I’m not sure when I began to feel your disapproving stares.

It may have been the moment when our youngest pointed out that he was coloring green fire out of his dragons tail which led to the middle child’s thoughts of green gas and then contagious giggling that even I couldn’t help!

It may have been the moment when their daddy hearing a Christmas carol over the speakers began to sing along – adding/substituting his own words. Which, of course, prompted another round of laughter from our little people! “Here we come a-caroling” will never be the same again for any of us!

Or it may have been the moment when our youngest figured out that if he wanted more food that if he picked up the phone by our table he could ask for more and tried but was caught by the long arm of his daddy…

Or when our oldest added her own words to another song (which rhymed very well – no matter the bodily function) and the table erupted in more hilarity…

Honestly, I was surprised to find that I didn’t really care if you decided we were terrible parents for enjoying the moment and laughing – even if the topic was bodily functions. Why the surprise, you might ask? Well, I used to live there in Seriousville. I grew up there. Sitting in a booth with my family of 6 was an excercise of self-control with the goal of not upsetting the one paying our family’s tab.

Your stares gave me a moment of perspective to see just how far God has brought me. Laughter is precious and I’m so thankful our children have a daddy who loves to laugh!

Before you conclude I’m heartless, I did put myself in your family’s proverbial shoes.

What if you just came from a doctor’s office or hospital appointment?

What if you are taking a break between funeral visitation and service?

What if your family is in the throes of being ripped to shreds?

Those are such heart rending things and I’m so very sorry. I pray that if those situations do fit, while not funny at all, that you would be able to find something… anything to laugh about. I personally recommend allaboutfarts.com. It is guaranteed comic relief in an ICU waiting room – speaking from experience. Laughter does have a way of healing – even a family.

So dear family in the booth behind us, please crack a smile! For us or at least as a result of us… it will do you a world of good!

Your next door booth neighbor

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31 Days: “brave”

Day 19 of 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes!

Today’s word is “brave” – five minutes on the timer… and go!

When my daughter was in 4th grade, her teacher, Mrs. Kalmink, had a song of the week that the students were to listen to and think about the music/lyrics and decide what they thought about it – how did that song help them? make them feel?

This song was one of those. She showed me the music video (which was just words shown with the music) and we talked about it.

As every writer knows, words are my best friend and worst enemy. I love them! I can’t get enough of them and I desperately crave hearing them spoken over my own work, but they can also be the most horrific machete-like tool to cut down those who dare to put their heart on the page in the form of words.

So. This song. It shouts to my heart every time I hear it. It’s on my playlist called: Fight Songs! It leads the charge so I remember it is brave to speak my heart and speak not only my silly words but to share the beautiful amazing truth of what God has done for me.

That He never fails me when I fail. He never leaves when I get tired of following. He is always there keeping His word.

What brave things are you shouting to your heart today?! What song helps you remember?

… and time’s up!

Oh I so badly want to go back and edit out all my crazy long run-ons. ugh. This is me obeying the rules and hitting publish anyway. 🙂

Day 19 done!

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31 Days: “share”

Day 18 of 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes!

Today’s word is “share” – five minutes on the timer… and go!

Sharing. That implies there is something others don’t know. Something I know and they need to know.

Well. I’m not sure how many of you actually need to know this particular detail but in the craziness of the move, my substitute teaching permit which is sent to me as an email reminder so I can pay the required fee for the next year… I either didn’t get the email or (more likely) the 30 day window closed and now I cannot sub until I reapply.

This caused me to take a step back. I certainly wasn’t missing the sub jobs. I didn’t mind not getting the standard 6:30 wake up call saying someone wasn’t able to come in that day and could I step in for a rowdy Kindergarten class all day?!

But somewhere deep down, I recognize the need for me to get out of these four walls and away from the cute yet annoying puppy and be with people.

Teaching isn’t my only shtick. I also have been known to occupy the receptionist’s chair in a dermatologists office or an oral surgeon’s office.

I find myself at a crossroads and I don’t know which way to go. But I do know Who to ask. 🙂

… and time’s up!

Day 18 complete.

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31 Days: “grow”

Day 17 of 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes!

Today’s word is “grow” – five minutes on the timer… and go!

Growth happens at the strangest times over the most unexpected things.

Today I read a post by another blogger Zarah Parker about Nanowrimo. I’d already marked off November for the purpose of pounding out 50,000 words, but her post caught me off guard.

She explained in her post all the reasons she felt it was actually more harmful for a writer to complete the 30 days of 1200 words daily to reach the goal rather than spending the time crafting sentences and paragraphs a reader would truly savor the joy of reading.

My soul truly resonated with her words. I could hear the wisdom and understood the hesitation I was feeling towards November.

So I grew.

I changed my conclusion and now November is blessedly free and open. I am excited to intentionally practice the craft as well as enjoying the moments as the mom to our three story-makers rather than telling them to hush because I have to get another thousand words typed.

Not to mention the annual update for our family blog.

… and time’s up!

Day 17 done.

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31 Days: “read”

Day 16 of 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes.

Today’s word is “read” – five minutes on the clock… and go.

I’m not sure why I was procrastinating on this one. Reading is one of my favorite things to do – ever!

Recently I posted in FB about a book I was enjoying and this weekend I finished listening to it. Let’s just say, I was very disappointed in the way the author used language and the things she included in her story.

The Bookshop on the Corner began like I imagined I would greet a long lost friend! It was brilliant and amazing. Her intro is something that should be framed and pointed to as great art!

But her choices in plot and the scenes she included toward the end were entirely unnecessary and made me want to post a retraction in my recommendation – not to mention the language!

Now, I understand this book in no way is written by a Christian author and I do not expect a “prairie chicken” (Janette Oke reference via Dr. Rosalie de Rosset) ending or plot line, but come on! Just because the F-word would be used in your vocabulary does not mean there aren’t other words for creating the appropriate emotional response on the part of the reader.

So. Why is this important? Because as a writer to whom words are as unique as the different muted tones of colors, I expect other writers to use them well. Paint your scenes with a big and minute brush. Engage your reader in amazing relationships and the reality of life while staying this side of the bedsheets. Please. Let me enjoy the journey of reading without blushing that I recommended this to someone.

… and time’s up.

Day 16 complete.

 

31 Days: “remain”

Day 15 of 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes!

Today’s word is “remain” – five minutes on the timer… and go!

What an interesting word. According to dictionary.com, to remain means a couple things. For someone to continue to exist after another person or thing has ceased to exist… lots of ideas to write there for sure.

It can also mean staying in the place a person currently is or to continue to possess an ability or title… there. That’s it.

This month the theme of the words Kate’s chosen have all touched on the idea of writers/writing/the craft of such… etc.

To remain a writer is an interesting idea.

As I’ve mentioned before sometimes it takes everything I have to stay looking at the screen and type with the objections my mind conjures. But to remain aka to not quit being a writer – that’s even harder.

It requires that even when the words don’t come easily and it would be much more expedient to just let someone else write the book/post or whatever to continue to push on. No matter what.

To remain in the title of a writer but then I have to remain in the One who gave me this gift to begin with. I must humble myself before Him first and ask for the words He wants me to use and to seek His wisdom for story ideas.

Remaining is not anything I can do on my own long term without His help.

… and times up!

Day 15 complete! Half way done 🙂

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31 Days: “try”

Day 14 of 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes!

Today’s word is “try” – five minutes on the timer… and go!

For those of you who saw my post go up at 8am and viewed it… Yep. I did it. I scheduled a post without ACTUALLY finishing it. ugh.

I could benefit from today’s word.

I did try sort of, but when the reality came down – I left the post unfinished when I squirreled.

That’s a term my troop co-leader came up for me. (thank you Carmen!) So I equate trying with the antithesis of squirreling. If I’m trying and staying on task and doing the things then squirreling doesn’t happen much or at least as often or with as obvious mistakes.

Anyhow, today over here at the Nerd Factory, it’s just Peppermint Bark and me. The others are on their annual Fall Campout with their dad!

Between occupying Pepper and enjoying the rain, I am going to try to accomplish a lot of sewing projects in my craft cave downstairs. Music playing and not a lot of squirreling happening – it will be a good day!

Try it for your day! Try not to squirrel and truly finish each and every task you begin. 🙂 It’s such a great feeling. Enjoy your Saturday!

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FMF & 31 Days – “invite”

Day 13 of 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes!

Today’s word is “invite” – five minutes on the timer… and go!

January I was given a gift. A woman in my BSF group asked me if I would like to come to her writer’s group in Zeeland.

She had no idea that I was craving that connection or that I desperately needed to pull myself out of the cloud of doubt most writers live in.

I looked up this strange group called Word Weavers – which seemed a fittingly descriptive name considering what writing truly is.

Then I showed up.

That was the hardest part. Showing up. I felt exactly like I was walking into a new school half way through the year. What if I’m the only one not published? What if I have nothing to offer?? What if I make a fool out of myself talking nervously? What if I just don’t fit with them?

I shut up the what-ifs by showing up and then showing up again.

Turns out, they were exactly who I needed to encourage me and give feedback that only writers can give each other. They are my tribe. I leave our meetings feeling like I have a place in this world where my weirdness with words is normal.

And yes. They feel the same about me. This is how life is in the tribe. But I would’ve never known it had my dear friend Myrna never invited me.

So I am inviting again another hurting writer friend to our group – with a big hug.

… and time’s up!  Day 13 complete.

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