Woven

I love the idea of life as a tapestry, every person and event a thread that makes up the big beautiful picture of my life.  Pretty poetic I know, but it jives with me.

The big events are more essential to the big picture, the births of my children, the deaths of my parents, the first time I left a comment on Kel’s blog.  These events will be apparent when future generations step back and consider my life.  The woven picture of my life would be a completely different image without those days, those moments.

my people, my community are a clear part of this picture too and lately I’ve been noticing that people who weather storms with me are woven deeper, tighter into the fabric of my life.  Those relationships are stronger, my passion for them fiercer, they are woven into my life in an irreplaceable way.  When I tell the stories of those red letter days I can’t help but bring up their name, calling into memory their support and the way that God spoke to me through them.

A few of those relationships have ended despite my best efforts and the pain is deeper somehow.  For example, my close friend, the one who drove me home after the news of my Dad’s death made a purposeful and abrupt exit from my life about 6 months later.  I still think him, how he stood by my side during hard times but then walked out without explanation.  He’s a thread in my tapestry whose absence I still notice, even 6 years later.

As I reflect on those who have come alongside me I realize that I am crazy blessed.  Those parts of my life-tapestry thicken, so many threads, so many people came closer, surrounded.  This makes me not only deeply thankful but deeply passionate about being an essential thread in the lives of others.  I want to be a 24/7 friend, the kind you call when your world seems to be crumbling.  I am willing to bring a pot of soup, provide childcare and come over in my pajamas.

As Jesus showed me love through the hands of the willing, so I pray that he cultivates that same willingness in my heart.  I want to be sent, an extension of his love.

May we all be essential threads this day, this month, this year.  May our prayer sound something like: “use me, weave me deeply into the hearts and lives of those who need it, forever and amen.”

How to speak the language of grief

One of the things I love about the culture of blogging is that you get the chance to connect with similarly passionate people in relational way, sharing hearts and ideas across the world.  For me, Caleb Wilde is one of those people I am thankful to have come across.  He is passionate about his job as a funeral director and he lives it out as a uniquely needed mission.  Caleb’s mission has given him a perspective on death and the language of grief that we can greatly benefit from.  I can personally attest to the difference a good and compassionate funeral director can make in a terrible season.  I really hope that you are challenged by his evocative and honest post on the power of presence and authenticity as we seek to speak the language of grief well.

I highly suggest you check out his blog, follow him on twitter, or like his Facebook page to begin to connect yourself to his honest and helpful perspective on grief which he blends perfectly with a bit of dark humor

HOW TO SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF GRIEF

By Caleb Wilde 

You walk into a house full of fresh grief.  It’s fresh because the death just occurred.  Your best friend’s husband went out to the bar last night, drowned his hard day in hard drink and he never made it back home.  Fresh.  Because both you and your friend have never experienced death this close.

You open the door like you have so many times before, but this time the familiarity of the house is unexpected different, dark and lonely.  What once housed parties, life and love now houses something you’ve never known before.  Like a river, everything is in the same place it was when you last saw it, but this home has changed.

You see your friend’s children sitting on the sofa, staring into space.

You ask them, “Where’s your mom?”

And as you reach to hug them, they snap back to reality and whisper, “Upstairs.”

Each step brings you closer to what you know is only an apparition of your friend.  The nerves build.  Fear begins to build.  You repress it as you ready yourself to meet your closest friend who has all of a sudden become someone you may no longer know.

“Can I come in?” you ask.  No response.

You push open the cracked bedroom door and see the body of your friend collapsed on her bed, with used tissues surrounding her like a moat.

You tip-toe into the room, slowly sit down on the bed, and not sure if she’s awake or asleep, you reach for your friends shoulder and begin rubbing her back.  Her blood shot eyes open, look at you and then, they slowly look through you.

You fill the weird silence with an “It’s going to be alright”.

“It’s not”, she whispers.  “I’m alone with two kids and no job.”  Her voice suddenly raises as anger courses through her body, “Why the f*** would he do this to me?”

The curse word chides you into recognizing that you’ve not only misspoken, but you’ve spoken too soon, so you decide to wait in silence.  She starts to cry.  You respond to her tears with your own.  Even though you want to respond with words, you know this isn’t the time for words.  There’s no perfection words here.  There’s no perfect anything here.  And so you wait.

You stay.  Listen.  Silence.  You take her pain into your soul.  Hours pass.  She rises out of bed and makes the children dinner.

You’ve spoken, not with words or advice; not by trying to solve the problem; nor by placing a limit on your time.  You’ve taken the uncomfortable silence, allow the grace for tears, for brokenness; you’ve allowed yourself to sit in the unrest without trying to fix it.

With your presence.  With your love.  In your honest acknowledgement of real loss, you’ve spoken the language of grief.

Although the language of grief is usually spoken in love, presence and time, sometimes it’s spoken in words.  And when it is, here are five practical “do”s and “don’ts”

The “DON’T”S:

1.       At least she lived a long life, many people die young

2.       He is in a better place

3.       She brought this on herself

4.       There is a reason for everything

5.       Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now

The “DO”S:

1.       I am so sorry for your loss.

2.       I wish I had the right words, just know I care.

3.       I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.

4.       You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.

5.       My favorite memory of your loved one is…

Choosing Joy 3-11-12

This week choosing joy wasn’t easy, I love Jesus and God is good, really he is, but this week sucked a little bit.  Kel’s grandpa has been on a roller coaster in the ICU and many days this week we didn’t know if he would survive the night.  Our little guy developed a nasty cold with a double ear infection.  He’s crabby on a good day but with an ear infection, he’s downright mean and he doesn’t sleep well.  This means we don’t sleep well either.  On top of all that Kel had meetings in the time slots that he’s normally home, so I’ve been doing more solo parenting than is my norm.

This is all to say that this week choosing joy was a struggle, it wasn’t the easier choice but the better one, this is what choosing joy is all about.  Without further ado here is some joy for you.  Bon Apetit’

Oh but before you read on I can’t end this week without saying  a bit about my cousins Carissa and Breanna who both play Basketball for Calvin College.  They made it to the elite eight in the national finals and last night just barely lost their game in overtime.  My heart goes out to them but mostly it swells with pride that I’m in their family.  Not only are they amazing athletes but they are some of the most beautiful people I know from the inside out.

Congrats Calvin!  You fought hard and strong and I know that I and thousands of others are so proud of you!

In Pictures

#73- Grandma Sandy and the firetruck slide. We had an amazing day at the bounce gym in Oklahoma City.

#69- Her pink cape flapping in the wind as she saved the dandelions in the backyard. This one of the times that I rallied as a mom and came up with a good idea that wasn't watching Toy Story for the 476th time.

Our new Mustard yellow vintage reading chair. I'll confess that the craftaholic in me is dreaming of recovering it but for now it's just chilling in the corner.

All week my daughter Noelle has been falling asleep near her bed rather than on it. She is like her mom in that she doesn’t quit until she just hits E.

On Screens

The article “Apology to the parents I judged Four Years ago” really did it for me this week.  Especially the line about parents who swear that their child won’t watch a single frame of TV before they turn 2.  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

I love some Jon Acuff and this post about quitting your dream at the first sign of discomfort really resonated with me.  If you need a bit of motivation to keep your nose to the grindstone on your “thing” check out his post “When should you quit your dream.”

Also I can’t help but mention one more time how excited I was about guest posting at Epic Parent on the subject of parenting in spite of your childhood and genes.  If you missed it, go here.

My two year old daughter Noelle never ceases to amaze me, now she has created a new game she calls “feet” to keep us all moving.  Kel caught our personal trainer and I on video.

You can’t Handle the NOELLE!

In Food- Oh the shame of confessing my week in food.  For starters we’ve been out of eggs for over a week now and resorted to eating toast most mornings.  For Lunch Thursday I ate the roof off a stale gingerbread house and for lunch Saturday me and the kids ate cereal.  One night I did make a warm asparagus salad for dinner, but then I followed it up with a late night chicken club.  The bright spot of the week was Mexican Food at Mama Rojas on Lake Henfner in OKC with the Hensons.  Nothing says “yes, it’s Friday!” like a little beer and a couple of brisket tacos.  Also as long as we kept shoveling guacamole into him, the little man kept his screaming to a minimum!  Win!

In Books- I finished Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (read it!) and I am now starting Silver Girl by  Elin Hilderbrand.  Confusing I know, but I discovered both of these authors at the same time and I am enjoying their unique styles, if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, books are so good for my soul.

One of the reasons I do posts like this is to share my little life with all of you. But, if I’m honest, the main reason I document choosing joy and counting gifts is because it brings perspective and clarity.  Suddenly all the stress and the ingratitude washes away under a wave of blessings, yes, even in a sucky week.

I’d love to hear or see a “choose joy” moment from your week too.  Document, Count, breathe thanks, I don’t see how you could ever possibly regret it.

Mom Jeans (A Guest Post at Epic Parent)

Today I’m geeked to be guest posting over at Chris Spradlin’s blog “Epic Parent” your source for honest, on the edge, creative parenting.  I’ve only known Chris a little while but I love the honest and applicable content he has to offer on this site, I get it delivered into my inbox every day, and it’s always an energizing read in the middle of a my day.  Plus you gotta love a Jesus-loving dad who is passionate about parenting and has an awesome beard (if you’ve seen my husband Kel, and his “crowder” you’ll understand)

Mom Jeans- A Guest Post with a link

Most moms have said it to their sisters and girlfriends.  “If I ever start wearing Mom jeans, stage an intervention.”  You know the pants?  The jeans that are cut generously with a 9 inch zipper and pleats?  These jeans say “I’m not a woman anymore, I’m a mom!”  I have my flaws but I’m proud to say that I’ve steered clear of mom jeans.

However, there is another set of Mom genes I can’t avoid, the ones I inherited from my mother. She took her life last year after a long battle with depression. …

To read more head on over to Epic Parent and finish it up.  

Craft-holics Anonymous

Hi I’m Leanne and It’s been three weeks since I last crafted.  Phew, there, I feel better.

I have a corner in our bedroom closet that is replete with paints, fabric, glue, yarn and felt.  It used to torture me and call to me endlessly, play with us Leanne!  Create something!  If I gave in to their tempting offer I usually ended up frustrated and behind.  The kids would get up from naps, the table runner wasn’t done and I resented their sleepy eye presence in the dining room.  Why did they have to wake up and interrupt my fun?  And why did I  have to figure out dinner?  Do we have to eat every night?  Gah!  Then there was this nagging wave of guilt that I hadn’t written, my true passion and calling.  So I made a command decision and put imaginary chains around the craft corner.

After closing the craft corner for business I started down the process of focusing on the best choices possible for me and my family.  Even if it meant leaving my table naked and runner-less or my mantle un-adorned with spring easter decor.  And not shockingly, I’m happier, even though the naked corners of my house bug my slightly.  Also a few pieces of Valentines Day Decor are still up, but I do promise that this is a better way of living.

Do you have a Awesome passion and a slightly less awesome hobby?  Do you need to make a switch to put your focus somewhere better?  Do you have an amazing homemade table runner?  (if so I don’t wanna hear about it)

Well I must go because little man is making very salty confetti out of a pack of saltines.

Noodle Soup

image courtesy of the eclecticcook.com

This morning the sun came up, the coffee pot was turned on and as usual I checked my phone for any overnight news.  It was then I learned that my husband’s grandpa had entered the ICU overnight and wouldn’t be coming out.  My daughter ran up to him as he sprawled on the love seat.

“Daddy, are you sad?  Do you need some noodle soup to feel you better?”

She thought that since daddy had brought me chicken noodle soup when I was sick, that soup must cure all problems, body and soul.  What I love about this is that she is learning the art of authentic empathy at her level, and for a two year old soup seems like a perfect solution.  Heartbreakingly, she will quickly learn that this world hands us a multitude of problems that can’t be healed with noodle soup.

As we grow up we encounter a chain of painful problems, people leave this world and seasons of life will end.  Within me is a gut level desire to shield my children from pain as long as possible, but I know that isn’t possible or in their best interest.  I have to be authentic and real with them when we encounter pain at whatever level is appropriate for them.

If, as a family, we don’t foster an attitude of honestly and connection in the midst of struggles, we will drift apart into people who just pretend around a turkey a few times a year.

There are families with children of all ages from 2- 72 who never learned how to connect when things get hard, so when pain comes to their family, their fear of it can cause frustration and additional pain.  I am determined to be a family, a sister and a friend who is authentic and real.  When troubles come, I want to lean into those I love on the good days and weather the storms in the same boat.  I long to laugh together on the good days and cry over bowls of noodle soup on the bad days.

I’m able to do this well because it’s how I was raised.  I come from two incredibly close families, the Verkaiks and the McCallums, who love each other fiercely and refuse to drift apart.  Being a child of these families is one of my favorite things about myself, I love my aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins on a deep level.  When they hurt, so do I, and when I’ve been hurting they’ve loved, supported and carried me.  Through God’s grace I will pass this blessing onto my children and grandchildren.

We don’t do anything fancy, it’s really quite simple.  

We gather tightly, in earnest, when the pain comes, after the deaths of both my parents I was lovingly surrounded and we grieved as a group  Our mutual pain brought us closer rather than fracturing us farther apart.

We love our God and cling to him desperately.  We talk about him often, when we are blessed and when we hurt, whenever we see him we identify his hand.

We are real about where we find ourselves.  When it hurts we don’t pretend, but instead we name our pain, feelings and frustrations.  Authentic love and support is a balm for our wounds.

We laugh together all the time.  I can honestly say that this is a real practice in our family.  Even at funerals and hospitals, we remember the bright spots in the midst of the gray.

We do life together, a foundation of love and memories supports the painful bits like layer upon layer of brick supports a large structure.

If you want a family who weathers life in the same boat, who shares noodle soup instead of battling over it, there is always time.  Forgive, connect and begin something new, it won’t be easy but you won’t regret it.  As long as you have hours you have time to learn and pass along this way of living.  It is what we are made for and it sustains our souls like a good bowl of chicken noodle soup sustains our stomachs.

I know not every family of origin is willing to connect, but I believe that God will send a “family” to everyone if they are open to receive it.

This is the way we weather this life and this is a legacy that spans deep into my past that I am bite my bottom lip determined to give my children.

Choosing Joy 3-5-12

I usually do choosing Joy on Sundays, but I am a day behind and perhaps Monday needs more joy anyway.

It’s been a busy week, and with my little man’s getting up in the 4:00 or 5:00 hour every day.  This means that I’m tired and haven’t felt like Olympic A Game Mom.  I think my week’s two sweetest moments came Saturday in unexpected places.

We attended a marriage conference this weekend called Love and Respect.  Kel and I both read the book on our honeymoon, but since that was over 5 years ago, the refresher was a good thing.  The main message of this conference is that man’s primary need in marriage is to be respected and women’s primary need is to be loved.  It’s not as weird as it sounds, and one you process it through it makes a lot of sense.  I recommend the book over the conference, unless you absolutely hate reading, because the conference didn’t’ deviate from the book and didn’t engage the material as well as reading it on your own may have.

Kel and I, like all good couples, drove to the conference fighting but left closer.  As the conference drew to a close we were all asked, husbands and wives, to commit to a new way of loving our spouse.  I was WAY beyond sick of sitting there and starting to lose my mind from 8 hrs of video teaching.  As he asked wives for our commitment I hugged Kel and tried to make my authentic commitment sound soulful and deep.  Apparently I failed because as I breathed my “yes” and hugged Kel, he burst out laughing.  He knew I was trying so to bring out the authenticity, because I meant it, I was just ready to be done.  In  his laughter I found him loving me just as I am, and I am very fidgety.  That slightly inappropriate light-love was everything we needed to soften and finish our weekend lighter.

Later that night our 2 year old was having some growing pains in her shins.  Since she doesn’t really know the body part “shin” yet she kept crying, pointing and saying “It hurts in my this.”  Which was pretty sweet.  We gave her some Advil and I climbed into her little bed to hold her as she drifted off, hoping the Advil would make her sleep painless.  As our faces touched I felt deep contentment.  There was no pull to be anywhere but there, with her in her tiny bed.  I found this deep sense of connection to my motherhood, and my heart was thankful and open.  As I was having my moment of bliss she pressed her face closer to snuggle and then stuck out her tongue and started licking me sideways.  Such a surprise, so much laughter, I love my family just as they are.

In Pictures

I counted about 2 gifts a day this week, and I am happy to say that I found joy in unlikely places, often.  Here are a few of them, to check out my choosing joy flickr gallery, go here.

Gift 58- New underwear and girl scout cookies, two very amazing gifts to this lady.

59- Travel Shampoos- Rosemary Mint travel shampoos, a true gift for the mom whose kids just poured her shampoo down the shower drain.

60- Her hands, her Flowers, weeds to us, beauty to her.

61- Classic Cozy Coupe Kiddo

In Moments

– Wine date with my dear friend Joely
– Our Lifegroup, filled with laughter, insight and closeness
– My little man falling asleep on me
– Perfect spring days spent in our backyard

On Screens

Kel and I have been checking out Ed’s Story.  This is the story of Ed Dobson, a famous preacher, who developed ALS and his inspiring commitment to live deeply in spite of it.  These videos are amazingly well done by the same people who did the Nooma videos.  And the first one’s free!

Ed’s Story, it Ain’t Over

Great Blog Post over at Emerging Mummy- In which these are the tired thirties– a repost- but perfect for my life nonetheless.

Reading

Have you read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand?  I have been devouring it over the weekend and I think you need to add it to you book list post haste, which means now.  It’s a story of amazing triumph and survival in World War 2.  Even if Military novels aren’t typically your thing I think you’d love it.

In Food

Yesterday I baked my Grandma Verkaik’s bran muffins,  they’re tasty but didn’t turn out as good as hers but such is the way it goes with trying to replicate Grandma fare.

The Importance of Pruning

Today we spent the afternoon outside, because even though its barely March, it was 75.  As the kids played I grabbed my pruning snippers and started to cut off the old, dead leaves and branches away from our bushes and shrubs.  As I pruned I became more aware of the spring growth that is sprouting up underneath last year’s dead growth.  I had to take breaks, of course, to ensure the little ones weren’t eating gravel or sidewalk chalk, which they were.   If it’s not a stick of deodorant, then it’s chalk with those two, you’d think they would have inherited my good taste.  Clearly… not so much.

We ended up carting away two wheelbarrows full of dead branches and leaves to the back 40, behind our pond.  As I stepped back to enjoy our work, I found some serious joy from the look of the the soil in our front beds.  It had a deep, freshly-turned earthy feeling, full of possibility and life.

And of course, because I am developing eyes for this sort of thing, I saw my pruning as an object lesson that resonated with my heart and the thoughts I’ve had lately.  I’ve felt a consistent need to minimize and open my eyes to my life.  I want to fall deeply in love with my life as it is right now and not as I wish it was.  I feel like I need to prune away the habits and practices that are keeping me from that fresh, green and airy living.  I want to, through trial and error, figure out what is life-giving and what is just sucking time and distracting me.

I want to put pen to paper, or at least fingertips to keyboards and keep track of what brings me joy and what is just dead weight, what is healthy to growth and what needs a good ol’ fashioned pruning.  Now is as good a time as any.

Life giving and important

1)  Putting my iPhone down and playing with my kids- watching their minds work and create is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I hate the thought of missing it.

2)  Writing and sharing my heart in this space- your words and responses make my heart go pop, in a good way.

3)  Reading, both fiction and non fiction- I love reading, it brings me words and images of a world outside my own, bringing in new vibrance to the walls of my mind.

4) My Happy Hour- Most nights after 12 hours of my 1 & 2 yr old, when the clock says 5 and I still have about 2 hrs left, I pour myself a glass of wine.  It melts my shoulders and stress, and since my dad had heart disease I practically have an Rx for it, if only I could get a months supply on $15 co-pay.

5) Text-encouragement- I love to send my friends love notes, happy thoughts and compliments.  Serving and loving others fills me up, so I am keeping this practice.

Dead Weight, Needs to be pruned a bit

1) Too much TV.  What is too much?  It depends on the week, but I think we are moving in a direction of less, it keeps us from connecting.  We fill too many of our free moments with noise and screens.

2) Pinterest- I love this website, but often it just reminds me of a ton of great ideas that I’m not going to have time to carry out, and that bugs me.  So while this is a super helpful site, in my life, it could use some pruning.

2) Crafting- I enjoy it immensely, but all the supplies and mess just keep away from the writing, family and people which are my primary callings.

3) Overcomplicated cooking- I need to cook in bigger batches and simplify, although I don’t think I could go back to breakfast cereal every morning.  God help me I love a hot breakfast.

So those are the seeds of my pruning list.  What brings green and lovely life to your world?  What do you need to prune and haul away?  The practice is worthy and sustaining, so come on, share a bit.