For those of us feeling confused on the Fourth

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image credit to allfreedesktopthemes.com

I’m leading worship in church this weekend, for better or for worse. I did take seven years of voice lessons and have been singing in choirs since I was in third grade so, I’m qualified ….I suppose, but still. I’m nervous.

I was given close to free reign on song selection, but keep in mind our church is fairly traditional and mostly sticks to hymns. We also don’t have a praise team and are only newly starting to have someone lead singing from the stage. So I don’t want to mix things up too much or get too complicated, it’s no fun leading worship when no one can sing along.

So, after some googling and reflection I picked out some familiar hymns that I hope will draw all ages into worship and decided to be brave and teach the congregation a new song that we can hopefully come back to in the coming weeks, “All the poor and powerless.” Total favorite of mine.

When I sent off my list of ideas, Kel wrote me back and said “Looks great, but hey don’t forget, it’s Fourth of July weekend. We need some of worship to be Patriotic.”

That’s when things got confusing for me, because it’s not always easy for me to jive with how the church talks about patriotism and politics.

It tends to make me really uncomfortable and I don’t think I’m the only one, right? Continue reading

Love the kid you’re with (The mantra every parent needs)

We kept exchanging glances across the windowless children’s hospital waiting room as we held our baby girls in our arms. I was there with Clara to have a swallow study done to get some answers on some suspicious gagging and vomiting.

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Sucking on a pickle with NO puking! Fancy.

I have no idea what brought her to the waiting room that day with her precious girl.

But, finally we exchanged words, over baby-gear schlepping.

“You were genius to bring your stroller. I carried all our stuff from the parking garage and my arms are aching….  how old is your baby girl?” I asked… because it’s what you ask.

“She’s eight weeks, how old is yours?” She replied.

“Oh she’s nearly 7 months, is your daughter long for eight weeks?”

“Seven months! Wow she’s so petite. I wish mine was little like yours, and your daughter has such olive skin, mine is so pale.”

Then Clara’s name was called and the speech therapist whisked us back to a room.

I smiled before walking away and said only this

“I think she’s beautiful! Absolutely perfect.”

As I walked through the hospital corridors I couldn’t stop reflecting on our conversation.

“I wish mine was like yours.”

At first I threw her under the bus, mentally that is. But then I thought about it more as I drove home from the hospital.

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Cheating at Bible Memory Match Game. #raisingemright

 

How many of us think and say things like this as we move throughout our weeks?

“I wish my child sat still as well as yours.”

“Your three year old is so great with crayons! Mine mostly chews on them still.”

And our environment does nothing but throw fuel on the fire of these thoughts by saying things like:

“Wow your kids are busy.”

“My she’s a big girl isn’t she?”

“Looks like you have your hands full.”

I have heard all these things. Recently even.

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Princess Anna steals the frosting off the party cake. It’s her cake after all.

I fully believe so many of these things are said with kind intent or at least as a gateway to friendly conversation but they are easy fertilizer for the seeds of doubt, aren’t they?

What if we’re doing it wrong?

Daily. Genetically. In every way wrong?

I am with you sister, brother, friend. This parenting gig is hard enough without the commentary that causes us to wonder if our kids are messed up and it’s all our fault.

Either by nature or nurture we worry we are contributing to society in all the wrong ways.

Here’s my crazy:

I have a gorgeous baby that doesn’t sleep
I have an extremely type-A, 4 year old who I constantly go head to head with.
I have a perpetual motion machine of a 6 year old who hugs everyone and touches everything.

I’m dealing with reflux, tantrums, manipulation, screaming and sensory processing disorder. We have bed wetting, we are terrible at picking up our toys and sometimes we skip bedtime story time… and even prayer time.

Don’t get me started on showering and tooth brushing.

They’re a hot mess.

And they’re all mine. Thank God.

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16 seconds before those new fishing poles were hopelessly tangled.

I love these kids with an ache that I may never find the bottom of, crazy and all.

Don’t get me wrong, clothes fit them weird and they are always getting dirty. I worry about taking them in to anywhere containing breakable items and we still use the nursery at church because I worry they would stop the service with their protests over the idea of sitting still for a whole hour… and their Dad’s the pastor… even.

AND It’s summer and they are home all the time and they are so so loud and messy and crazy and non stop from 6:45 AM – 8:45 PM.

But they’re my little people, and it’s my job to guide them in to adulthood. I can’t get away from that.

Could we do better with our parenting? Of course. But remember… better is a constant tyrant, we could always do better.

But you know what? I love them. And I wouldn’t change a thing, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

The point is that we all have to stop this sort of talk. Completely.  Or at least in front of our kids.

We can’t keep wishing for other or different little people… Smaller, bigger, quieter, stiller, smarter, more coordinated neater little people.

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This is how we Lowes.

We have to love the ones we’re with. Because those are the ones we’ve been given. And I have to believe that this cosmic parent-kid matchup didn’t happen by accident.

We have things to teach each other, to give and take away from each other, we will move into each other’s lives permanently and there will be no way to measure the impact we have on each other at a soul level.

We are intertwined. Beyond death this thing, these bonds are forever, for generations of world impacting-life we are in this together. 

We all have issues, I know I do.

But, to be honest, we adults are so often given more grace with ours.

We can assert our personality type, look for coping skills, check out a book on tape at the library, schedule counseling, advocate for ourselves.

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In a photo booth. But not paying for pics when we have a charged iPhone. Also he demanded that hat in H&M and I caved.

But these littles? They have only us, for the most part, to see them for who they are and love them no matter what.

Special needs, quirks, health issues, allergies, obsessions, interests. Our kids have stumbling blocks, special needs… It’s who they are… it’s who we have.

Because

1) We can’t swap.
2) We’d find something else to complain about if we could.
3) Wishing for different kids, speaking those words out loud, does permanent damage to because we lessen our precious children in these moments and if our children hear it…they hear “you’re not good enough” and that’s the last thing any soul needs to hear.

The world will tell them they’re not enough a thousand times a day in a hundred different ways.

Let’s find a way to make sure that our voice? Their home voice is a voice of love and as much unconditional acceptance as a flawed human can manage.

That’s my mission.

To love the ones I’m with, crazy and all, and every night as they bed for more snuggles, more stories and more time with me… to be thankful that I get to be their mom. Because even though none of us are really perfect.

To me they absolutely are.

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How to Paint a Triangle Wall Mural in 4 hours and $30


Who wants to know how I managed how to do this? Well I’ll tell ya…. 
PicMonkey Collage

So, we’ve lived here in Dowagiac for one week and things are starting to come together. There is a whisper of order in the midst of chaos, a hint of something more than tearing apart and putting back together. Continue reading

The Parable of the Exploding Ketchup.

Hey all, I’m really excited to be guest posting at The Mudroom today. The Mudroom is a lovely blog collective that focuses on making room for people in the midst of the mess. My kind of place, think I’ll hang out there more often.

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We pulled out of the zoo and immediately they started asking for more.

Can we go out for Ice cream?!”  “Can we go out for dinner?!”   Oh please Mom! Oh please!”

We’d just spent hours traipsing around the zoo, petting the wallabies, climbing the wooden train and tracking down the tigers.

We weren’t there for me. I mean we were, but you know . . . not really.

As our sticky, crumb-infested mini van pulled out of the parking lot, my husband looked at me . . . “I’m not going to tell them ‘no’ about dinner. What do you think?”

I have a meal plan in place at home, but whatever you want, baby.”

Let’s flip a coin, Mom! Heads is dinner at home and tails is a restaurant!”

It was a very expensive tails.

We decided on a local brewery, because we live in Grand Rapids, beer city USA, and any restaurant that lasts either is a brewery or supports local beer culture.

We walked in and I scanned the trendy dining room, full of local art and hipster beards. I sighed with reassurance when I spotted the stack of high chairs in the corner.

High chairs, okay, we’re allowed to be here . . . I reassured myself. There is nothing like taking kids out to eat to remind you of just where you are in life.

We sat down and ordered drinks and melt-in-your-mouth fried pickles. While our kids wiggled and spilled, I leaned over to my husband and whispered; “It’s like we’re the PSA for why not to have kids . . . or at least not to take them out to fun restaurants . . . everyone must wonder why we dared emerge from our hot dog cave.”

Then my daughter leaned over and said: “Actually . . . I bet they’re all thinking “Wow . . . they have three awesome kids. They are soooo lucky.”

And I was put. In. My. Place.

Head on over to The Mudroom to finish it on up! 

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If you like this, there’s more words in store, to keep up easily use the box below to have new posts from this blog delivered to your inbox.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurnerAnd when share with your friends, well that makes me pretty happy. 

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Body, Soul and Ice Cream

525,600 minutes…. 525,000 moments so dear… 525,000 journeys to plan… 
How do you measure a year in the life?

maybe I measure mine in Ice Cream and Wine…

photo courtesy of Flickr user fka sunny

photo courtesy of Flickr user fka sunny

Last week, after accepting an offer on our house (pending inspection…) we took the kids out for ice cream at Too Tall’s Tasty Treats to celebrate. This is the local ice cream shop down the road from our house.

I’ll admit that it’s a ridiculous name for an oddly located, roadside ice cream shop, but now it’s MY ice cream shop. It’s the place Kel’s been running for flurries to soothe the pain of a bad day as we binged on Netflix and cared for Clara, both in and out of utero.

As I finished my chocolate Reeses flurry on the sticky picnic table, I thought about our year on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids, the routines we fell into, the restaurants we frequented, the walks we took, the discoveries we made.

The ways in which we nestled into this neighborhood, spread out and called it our own.

How we always got takeout burgers from Charlies or Pasta from Fred’s on date night.
How we spent almost the entire year with paint in our fingernails and on our forearms.
How our kids rode their bikes back and forth in front of the house.
How we cursed the cottonwood tree for covering our lives in a second winter of obnoxious white fluff.

For a season this was ours. And now it isn’t anymore, pending a few weeks and a few hundred signatures on a few thousand pieces of paper it will be the locale for completely new life.

When I handed over our home in Oklahoma to a sweet newlywed couple I wrote this essay entitled “Letter to a new Homeowner.”  And I still hold it as one of my personal favorite pieces, seriously click the link… it is worth your time.

This home is a place for staying but it’s also a place to for going somewhere.  Every season will give way to a new one and lessons learned add up to progress and depth.  As you stay within these walls, you’ll move and change as a family in ways that you never imagined.  No home leaves you the same, who knows where this home may take you?” Continue reading

My first 5k. The gateway race.

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This past Saturday I ran my first official race, the Fifth Third Riverbank 5k Run.

The night before I was a nervous wreck, which is embarrassing since I had multiple friends who ran the 25k, five times the miles I was going to run.

Just as I suspected, it was an uphill climb getting out the door on Saturday morning. I made a quick cup of coffee and nibbled piece of peanut butter toast while pumping a bottle for Clara before rousing the kiddos. A good call as I needed that “sort of” quiet moment to psych myself up. Coffee, peanut butter and the whirr of the breast-pump- the pre-race routine of champions people.

While Kel loaded the kids in the car I pinned my bib to my new (aqua of course) running shirt and felt like a huge poser.

I actually texted my friend Jenni to make sure I had it on correctly.

I kept half-joking that they were going to kick me out when I got there, because I’m really good at quitting physical endeavors before things get too… hard.

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Kel hit every red light imaginable on our way downtown as I jammered on about… “you know that episode of Seinfeld where the runner stays with Jerry and oversleeps for the race after oversleeping for the Olympics”

Kel didn’t remember it. He is terrible at Seinfeld Trivia.

Anyway, in true Seinfeld fashion, I arrived late and by the time I jumped out of the car and made for the staring line the gun was going off and I had to sprint my way across four blocks to get down there in time.

A nice guard saw my bib and let me into the pack and a few minutes, and a lot of fiddling with my fancy new iPhone arm band later, they released my group, I was off!

It was a sticky, damp morning but as I jogged along in the pack of 5k runners the rain held off for the most part.

I just kept going, listening to my “Leanne burns it” Spotify playlist and people watching. I’m obsessed with scanning people’s tshirts, seeing if they have a cause or memory that keeps their feet moving.

Mile one seemed to fly by and as I finished up mile two, I crossed the Grand River and caught sight of my lovely little family, huddled under a blue golf umbrella. Noelle eagerly gave me a high five while Caedmon stood back shyly, as he does when faced with new and public things.

I jogged in place and waited for him, knowing that if I ran off without waiting for him to feel comfortable enough to step forward, he would cry.

Then I tickled Clara, thanked Kel for being there, got another hug from Noelle and kept on running.

Of course all this took less than 5 seconds.

No sooner had I yelled “bye guys!” over my shoulder than the rain got serious. I can’t tell you how glad I was that it held off until I got to see my family and they could get back to the van un-drenched. So glad. Their misery was one of my biggest anxieties that morning.

At that point I was starting to lose a little steam. I was getting pretty soggy and the last mile had a fair few hills and inclines.

Luckily the Spotify gods were kind and played a quick succession of “shut up and dance” by Walk the Moon followed by “Send me on my Way” by Rusted Good to see me through.

Music is energy sometimes.

As I ran on I thought of all the reasons I was running this race in the first place.

I was running to show my kids that we can do hard things
To rage, RAGE against the depression and heart disease that killed my parents
To prove to myself that I am strong and that the junior high girl who was too scared to try crosses the finish line in the end.
And sure, also to get moving and get into those pre-baby, polka dot shorts.

As the home stretch approached, my ears became too wet to hold in the ear buds, they kept slipping out.

So I gave up and stuffed them down the front of my shirt and instead tuned in to the noise of the crowd cheering us on as we approached the finish line.

Then I remembered that you’re supposed to sprint to the finish line if you can, and I could, so I did.

Not the sprint of Kenyan Olympian, but a sprint nonetheless.

And then it was over, I did it! #boom #irock

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Terrible selfie at the finisher’s tent.

If there weren’t thousands of people in front and behind me I would have laid on the ground and cried.

Because I did it!

I wanted to scream the lyrics from the Kimmy Schmidt theme song.

“Unbreakable! They laugh dammit but females are strong as hell!”
(blame Netflix for the language, not me. Or just watch the show and laugh, laughter ranks just below running for general endorphin-getting.)

Strong. Me! I did this.

After a baby, in the midst of a move, in spite of depression and being a self-proclaimed “non athlete” I had done all the things that led up to this day and THEN I showed up and ran.

All week I had been telling people that I was doing the Riverbank Run but just the 5k.

Just the 5k. No big deal.

But you know what? No.

I ran a 5k.

Life is hard but Females are strong as Hell.

And you know what? Now for a 10k. Dangit.

If you like this, there’s more words in store, to keep up easily use the box below to have new posts from this blog delivered to your inbox.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurnerAnd when share with your friends, well that makes me pretty happy. 

You can also find me on twitter,  Facebook and Instagram as well. Join the conversation on all fronts, that’s my recommendation…

It is finished. A long overdue home tour.

I told you I would get back to blogging once the house madness died down. And the photographer just left, so true to my word, here I am.

Now it’s bring on the showings.

For those of you who don’t live in Grand Rapids or in the surrounding areas, our market is nuts right now. Things are flying off the market in days so we reasonably expect hope to be sold by this time next week.

The posting will be online tomorrow, and I am trying my hand at writing the description for it.

But for now and for those of you who don’t know our address, I wanted to share the before and after pics.

The before pictures are the ones that were posted online when we bought the house. Kel just went through with his iPhone and took an after shot from the same location.

So in case your wondering where I have been in the last year or so…

Take this baby

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And then add the following home pictures….

Stir in a failed church plant and a husband who has been working out of town for months and it should all make sense.

Okay, I have been waiting forever to give you a home tour. Shall we?

Here’s our home before

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And after

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Prayer is hard, Chili is easier.

When I was in Elementary School I attended an assembly led by none other than Ronald McDonald. It was a pretty big deal, and at the time I was sure he was THE Ronald McDonald from TV and not some lame replica from our local chain store.

In that seminar he drove home one point. Don’t smoke.

Done! I had no interest in becoming a third grade smoker so this was an easy lesson to keep.

Yet my little heart was troubled because …my Dad smoked. Surely, I thought, he must not know the things that Ronald McDonald had just to me, so I rushed home from school, hauled out my markers and wrote him a letter. With pictures, asking him to stop smoking.

Turns out he did know that smoking was bad for him and he kept at it anyway, much to my dismay. I wrote him countless letters.

It became my most fervent prayer request: “Dear God, please help my Dad stop smoking so he won’t die. Amen.” (And probably other things about Care Bears and Disney World and mean kids on the playground…)

But God didn’t come through like I hoped he would. Eventually my Dad died of heart disease, which the smoking surely had a role in. Continue reading

Where are the Pennys Living? (with gifs!)

I owe you guys some words, an update of sorts. What the hizzle is going on with the Penny family?  And why does she still think it’s okay to say hizzle? 

I have had nearly a dozen people ask me over the past week where we are living right now. I feel this is something that I can correct with a blog post. 

Okay so here is what’s up with us. Kel was officially assigned to Dowagiac United Methodist Church over the last month.

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Where is Dowagiac? And how do you pronounce that?

It’s here.

Where is Dowagiac

We live in Grand Rapids now and will be moving to “Basically Indiana”

And you say it like this: də-WAH-jak
It’s Potawatomi for ”fishing [near home] water” There’s some learning for ya.

You’re welcome Continue reading

What I’m Into (March 2015 Edition)

For the first time in a Year I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for a “This is What I’m Into” post. Look at met go! Holla! And other good !!! words! #gettingmygrooveback

Well I’m sitting on the bed in our weekend home after a rough night of sleep thanks to my baby Clara. Kel is preaching at a local nursing home and it’s sleeting outside. I’m wearing my running gear but I’m wussing out due to sleet.

My head is exploding right now and I’m in ALL THE THINGS mode.

You know the “All the things” meme?

It’s this guy

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No really, ALL. THE. THINGS.

I’m the “All the things” guy on a normal day, but with the move and the selling of the house and the wanting to plant a garden and write blog posts I’m the all the things guy in overdrive.

My brain is exhausted and excited, it wants to attack in full force and run away ALL OF THE TIMES!

So that being said I think I will attempt my first “This is what I’m into” in a year. A year. Eesh.

I can’t even remember my categories so, let’s start some new ones. Shall we?

Tweetable Month in Review (140 characters or less)
Mich is all: Cold! warm! j/k-cold! Move 8 may kill me. Painting cabinets forever? Living in 2 houses is weird, bring bagels. Spring is that you?

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