He’s home, for ME.

This is my man. swoon!

Last night we painted welcome home signs complete with a stick figure daddy to welcome home my husband Kel.  Today he rolled in just before 1:00, tired and dragging his suitcase.  I promptly jumped on him in delight and squealed like a monkey.

I’ve told him at least 22 times already that I’m so glad he’s back, that he’s mine and I’ll never stop annoying him with reminders of how glad I am to be reunited.

You see, this time he’s home for me.  Not to take care of the yard or resume bath duty. He’s home for me, because he’s my sexy hot papa and I’ve missed him.  For the first time in a very long while I was delighted that we were together again, just to be us.

3 days and 2 hours might not seem like a long time to be away, but you have to realize that we left in the midst of a fight and had another one over text message, you know, for good measure.

I always get a little irritated when he leaves and I’m left with everything to do at home and no one to share it with.  I grumble things like, “those conference planners never asked me if I wanted to pull three triple shifts.”  or “I bet he’s out to lunch right now, laughing and eating a gourmet sandwich while I’m cleaning up a broken salt shaker and trying to convince our daughter not to eat the ceramic remains.

After the kids were born,  I began to miss him not for who he was, but for the things he did.  That view of him eventually drifted into our day to day life as well.   “Great, you’re home, fire up the grill, Dizzle needs a diaper and I’m going to need you to run back out for milk later.”

I saw him as the relief pitcher, the extra help, the lawn guy.  Not Kel the guy with the deep brown eyes who cried through our wedding vows.  Not Kel the one who romanced me with poems about sitting on a couch in the front yard.  Not Kel the one who held me through funerals and breakdowns, weddings and births.

Somebody smack me, for I reduced him to “the help.”

Screw that, the help?  No, that’s nothing like what I swore to on our wedding day and it doesn’t line up very congruently with God’s plan either.

I want sexy friendly funny fabulous union again, not just two people with different to-do lists.  Two roomies always moving around each other, rarely intersecting.

Marriage and relationship growth will always require shifting and changing as our circumstances morph around us and God continues to grow and whittle us beautiful.  We straight up can’t think that just because we’ve found ourselves in a rough patch or unhealthy rhythm that we can’t squeeze through to a better tomorrow.

Good old fashioned elbow grease and determination can free you from any jam you’re stuck in, even and especially marriage.

And if you’re going to view your husband as the yard guy, at least make a fun game out of it.  Sit in a lawn chair with some lemonade and shorty shorts watching him like he’s the ice cream truck on a steamy summer day.

Have you ever found yourself in a spot where you see your spouse as what they do and not who they are?  Let’s get together and high tail it out of there, it’s a sucky place to dwell.

Where I stop the counting

My daughter is getting great at counting, so am I.  She needs to keep learning numbers where as I need surrender my counting skills.

I must allow grace over all numbers and measures

I wake up to the sounds of a fussing baby, look at the clock, how much did I sleep?  A number…
I manage to put my feet on the floor and my thoughts flit to my weight, how well did I eat yesterday, did I gain, lose?  A number…
My daughter asks to watch Mickey Mouse, I think about how many hours of TV she watched yesterday, was it too much?  A number…
I log into my WordPress stats, how many hits throughout the day?  Are my stats going up or down?  A number…
I try to distract the kids so I can start my day in prayer, how many days behind am I in my reading plan?  A number…
We move through our day, counting the hours until Kel gets home to provide relief.  Counting, numbers, counting, numbers, always evaluating and coming up short.

Every day a rating, an evaluation, am I making progress, forward motion?  Am I a success or a failure?

I’m constantly numbering my days and coming up short.  One too many cookies, not enough books read to my children, too little quality time for Kel, not enough prayer, too few dollars in the grocery budget.

Can I confess something to you all, that may not be a big secret?  I sort of suck at grace, I’m a terrible good conduit of it, I struggle to give it because I struggle to receive it.

overflow at church

Last night our church held a beautiful, candlelit worship service, stripped down, simple and deep.  It was the first hour I’d spent off the mom clock in two days.  As the music flowed and the scripture washed over me I broke down and headed to the cross for the body and bread, where I was intercepted by my a beautiful friend.

As we knelt in prayer she knew my soul, my specific brokenness.  She prayed that I could see myself as valuable, lovely and enough.  She prayed I would realize how valued I was by our church and community and that I could learn to give myself the gift of grace.

I told her about my crusty shell, my walls, my sharp tongue.  I’m hard on myself and my family, I expect more than any of us can feasibly achieve.

I recoil at the idea that God sees beautiful things when he looks at me. Surely he sees my flaws, the weak prayer life, the moments I yell at my children or criticize Kel for the 42nd time.  How could he see me as enough, as lovely?

She knew, she already knew.  I realized the wise soul, ahead of me on the grace journey have been reading between the lines of these pages.  They’ve seen my need to be easier on myself.

We prayed that I would become full of grace and tender, more empathetic and free of the chains of “not enough.”  I prayed in earnest that however painful it may be that God would tear down the stony walls and restore to me my tender heart of mercy and grace, first for myself and then for my family.

I returned to my seat where another dear friend handed me a tissue for my drippy mascara cheeks.  As I glanced around the softly lit room I saw the faces of the older women, those who have gone before, beautifully lifted toward their father.

They’ve lived this season, with young ones, lonely days learning the rhythms of grace.  Oh father may that be me someday, a little more wrinkly and lot more gracious.  May I have eyes for the younger ones and bless them with encouragement and prayers, kind words and surrogate mothering.

As I prepared to write this I breathed a simple prayer, may my broken connection to God’s grace speak to yours if you have one.

May we work together to change our seasons, out of crusty, dry graceless days and into a lush spring valley, full of green grace.  May we begin measuring our beauty by the great worth God sees when he looks upon us and give up our weights and measures.

Apparently there’s no trophy

Kel left for a conference this morning around 11:00 and I’m trying to get into the solo parent mindset.  I’ve found I have to approaches to parenting solo:

First there’s wussy woman:

“Woe is me, I’m SO depressed, what on EARTH am I going to do with a 1 & 3 yr old all by myself for the next 80 hours? (yes I have it down to hours)  We’re going to have to watch 6 movies a day and eat nothing but popcorn as I walk around in my bathrobe and sulk.”

The opposite side of this coin is super lady

“I got this, I got this hard core!  I’m not only going to parent the crap out of my kids but I’ll reorganize ALL the closets and cupboards, teach the kids how to make both noodle necklaces AND potholders.  Additionally, if I’m going to be on my own I need to learn how to use the power tools in the garage as well as the lawn mower.”

These two inner selves are so opposite that I’m expecting a multiple personality diagnosis within hours after I post this.  Just call me Cybil.

I have many friends who are single moms every day of their lives so I feel like I have no business whining.  They do it solo every day, I think I can manage three.  These women are astounding and deserve massages, gourmet dinners, free babysitting and mocha truffles.  Single Moms, I am in awe.

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The Painter’s Daughter

Over the course of a life, we learn people through our senses and experiences with them, as we learn and grow these memories and people become completely intertwined.   We just can’t do this or eat that without remembering the people who gave us these memories.

I connect with my Grandpa Mac anytime I write my children’s name on something in Sharpie.  We always took our lunch boxes to him so he could write our names on them, all scripty and fancy.

I connect with my mom when my kids and I plop down on the kitchen rug and share a snack.  I remember countless yogurts that she shared with me on the rug in front of the sink.

I connect with my dad through painting, not painting pictures or murals, but the dirty, hands-on act of painting walls or restoring furniture.

I’ve spent the last 16 hours or so working on refinishing a computer armoire for myself.  I badly need a space to write and work that is all my own, but can be closed up for safekeeping from children’s sticky hands and curious eyes.

see, clearly my computer is in jeopardy.

My dad was many things in many seasons, he started and sold several successful small businesses.  The main two business ventures he had were a paint and wallpaper store and a custom framing shop.  He was your guy if you wanted to spruce up your walls.

I grew up in that paint shop and for the first few years I thought my name was “Leanne Verkaik Paint and Wallpaper” because I heard my parents answer the phone with the business name “Verkaik paint and wallpaper” over and over again from the cardboard box they kept me in.  Seriously, I played with my toys in a console TV box in the back room, and I turned out just. fine. thank you.

My Dad was a methodical and meticulous painter, almost to a fault.  So much so that he’s infamous for firing his little brother from his painting business because he didn’t think he was doing a neat enough job.

I used to think that my time to paint my own walls and furniture would never come, because when my Dad was alive wouldn’t let me lift a brush.  He knew that I wasn’t patient enough to take the time and effort it would take to come out with a glop and streak free result.

And he was right even a quick glance at my desk painting skills from last night will reveal smudges and drips.  If he were available I would gladly give the whole project over to him, and he would likely sand it all down and start over so he wouldn’t have to live with a sub-par paint job in the family.

Every time I paint it’s bittersweet, because it brings back countless hours where I would sit in the garage or a bedroom watching him paint.  Last night as I painted in our tiny garage with the door wide open my Dad felt close by.  It felt like I was the one painting and he was the one watching, or more likely cringing.

I have a deep sense of peace in my relationship with my father, I actually enjoy missing him because by doing so I honor the unique void that only he can fill.  I love painting, camping and baking his cookies, all these repetitions bring him closer and give his life a voice in the now.

It’s so healing to purposefully put ourselves in situations where the lost can come close to us, just over our shoulder, almost as if they never left.  We must never throw our memories away or lock them in a closet for fear of the pain that may surface.  If there is pain, let it surface, cry in the batter or on the paint roller.  The more you enter in to the close spaces of connection with the lost the more those wounds can heal and be part of the color you bring to all us here in the now.

What do you do that brings your lost ones closer?  Do you avoid certain activities or recipes for fear of tears?

I pray that you can reopen those parts of your past and bring them back to life for yourself and those around you.

The armoire in process. Dove white outside, aqua inside.

Opportunity

Today I’m joining in the five minute friday conversation through the Gypsy Mama.  I have five minutes to write, start to finish on a selected topic.

“We write because we love words and the relief it is to just write them without worrying if they’re just right or not. So we take five minutes on Friday and write like we used to run when we were kids.

On Fridays we write with gusto, unselfconscious and flat out.”

Me writing, all vulnerable in my worst PJ pants and no makeup sporting bed head. This photo was taken by my daughter, when I let her use my camera to capture the world from her perspective.

Today we write about Opportunity, so here I go, all heart, no editing.

They all head out the door, sippy cups in the side pocket of the bag and towels flowing over the sides.  Off to the splash pad, to WalMart and then home.  The door closes and here I sit with my chance, my two hours or so to write.

This is my opportunity to do the thing God put within me to do besides motherhood.  Two hours to say all that I’ve been longing to communicate for the past few days.

He left in a huff and me with a frown.

He’s leaving in 48 hours for a conference, and then when that door closes I’ll be 4 days a single parent, how do those women do it every day, month, year?  Every bath and diaper and meal all on me.  A part of me is at peace and then the other part is frustrated.  I love being a mother, in every way but somedays my career aspirations shout “Hey, what about me?”

I strive to die to myself, to serve those little ones and the bearded guy that I love down to an atomic level.

Yet, somewhere inside me there is a whisper, “You can serve others too, outside these walls, you have a story, you have hope, don’t give up, don’t quit, there is more for you”

And then I scream inside, “but when!  When is this moment?!”  It isn’t now, or if it is it’s only a few hours a week when I have the brain space to unblock my thoughts and let them become words to share.

It’s a season, whispers my Father, I give you everything you need to fulfill your purpose, grace for my timing beautiful daughter, breathe the air of my grace.

He’s leaving in 48 hours, we have only a little time left as a family, to laugh and part with hearts full of love.

I think I shall seize it.  

Beautiful Scars- When I was a Christian

For a long time God has been nudging me about the need to be part of a community that not only shares their story, but speaks of redemption.  An honest connection for sharing how God has used our scars as unique qualifications to bring his light to the dark spaces.  

It all started with trying to write about my own story and being smacked in the face over how my childhood wounds make me the perfect mother for my own daughter.  And how my grief and loss has enabled me to talk about hope and tenacity in the valley.  

So I’m starting a series of sorts here on the blog where I’ll host and create space for other people to share their beautiful scars and painful yet unique qualifications.  A space for sharing our stories, even the most painful parts all for the purpose of glorifying a God who wastes nothing and is open to redeeming it all.  

If you have a story of beautiful scars and would be willing to share it here please contact me and we’ll chat about it.  

Today I am humbled to give blog space to my friend Joy Cannis as she shares her raw and honest story of loss and restoration.  I’ve known Joy for a while online now and I’m blessed to be in connection with her, hoping you feel the same:

I grew up in a loving home surrounded by “God-fearing” parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors. My mom says that I prayed to receive Christ at age two. Though she was unable to decipher my words, she’s certain that’s what I did.

I distinctly remember at age seven, sitting at the kitchen counter, across from my mom, when my dad called to say that my grandfather’s long and painful battle with cancer was over. And just like that I learned of mortality.

I was never afraid of death before having someone that I knew and loved pass away. It made it so real. When my grandmother died many years later, I can remember looking at her body in the casket. Her hands were pale and shriveled.

“Why do her hands look that way?” I asked my uncle.

He replied with a look of disdain, “There’s no blood in her body! They have to drain it all out! Didn’t you know that?!”

I didn’t know that, but I would never forget it after that moment.

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Three years a daughter, Three years a mother

Saturday was the best day I’ve had in ever so long.  So much so that I’m fairly certain I told my husband how content and overjoyed I was nearly 20 times as we sat together and wound down from the busyness of the day.

Yesterday we celebrated three years of our oldest, our daughter Noelle.

Noelle Ava on her birthday from birth to three

The more I stop and really see my children the more overwhelmed I am with how much beauty God poured into each of them.  My Noelle is fully of curiosity, joy and compassion.  She was given a doctor play set by her grandma and she has been attempting to “feel us better” ever since with TLC and immense determination, watch out or you could take a pretend needle to the face.

I sit here at my breakfast table listening to the thunder and rain and reflecting on this morning three years ago.  In a small hospital room, exhausted with a freshly cut C-section scar across my abdomen.  I was trying to walk without abs and praying to learn how to nurse and swaddle my freshly given baby girl.

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Birthday Manifesto

I am writing to you on the eve of my daughter’s third birthday & corresponding birthday party.  I’ve spent all week preparing my heart and my home to celebrate three years of my baby girl, I’m going to write so much more about how I feel about this later this weekend, but for now let’s talk kids parties, shall we?

If you’re a mom you can understand the stress involved in the birthday party.  I’ve seen you running around with a tray or stressing out about lost candles or not being able to find a bat for the piñata.  I think that we need to band together and set ourselves free from this stress because I’m starting to wonder if celebrating our children’s birthdays isn’t shortening our life spans.

Lets put an end to screaming at our husbands about bags of ice and our children about pick up blocks as the prelude to a birthday, Moms, lets band together and free ourselves from this madness!

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Gripe Jar Wrap Up

Well I’m a tad late on my Operation Gripe Jar summary but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a life changing experiment in minding my tongue.  It does mean that it’s been an insane week and our life was nearly consumed with my husband’s golf tournament at work, their big fundraising push for the year.

So now that it’s over our family is collectively trying to take a deep breathe and enjoy the end of 65 hour work weeks for a while.

So back to the Gripe Jar, I’ve spent the last week paying careful attention to the words that come out of my mouth and making an effort not to complain.  Something I should have been doing all along.  Each time I complained I had to put a penny in the jar, and I wrote down my gripes and what was going on with me that caused me to complain.

After the first few hours I was able to stop a good portion of my griping, whiney behavior.   However, I soon realized that just because I had stopped complaing with my mouth doesn’t mean that I wasn’t griping on the inside. (If complaining in my thought life counted the jar would be buried in pennies)  The inner griping is an indication of a much bigger problem.  I can be mindful to monitor my words and use discipline to control what I say, but it’s a lot more difficult to get a grip on your thought life, it’s easy to let your mind run away with you.

I’m coming to realize that all the inner discontent means that inside I’m not nearly as grateful and trusting as I’d like to be and that a week of pennies in a jar is only the beginning of this journey.  There will be days and years of willingly counting gifts and laying down my worries and discontent at the feet of my Father.

So, how many pennies made their way into the jar?  The official count is 53, but it was hard to track things since the kids seemed bound and determined to steal my jar and scribble on my gripe paper.

Here’s a breakdown of some of my recorded gripes, I’ve sorted them into categories.

1)  First World Problems– In this category fell gripes about not having a certain kind of food, slow internet, and the city turning our water off for maintenance.  All irritating things, but when I stopped to think about it they were rooted in a sense of entitlement that supposed that I needed all of these things to get by and be happy, which I don’t.  Most people on earth don’t have access to endless bananas, fresh ground coffee, wifi and clean cold water.

2) People’s behavior– In this category we have my children getting up too early (5:15 one day) My husband trying a discipline I don’t approve of or the kids scattering my laundry piles all over the house.  I am learning to resign myself to the fact that for the most part I could spend my life complaining about unwanted behavior if I wanted to.  But, the better option is to work with my kids on better behavior, have more in depth conversations with Kel on parenting choices and just get over the fact that kids sleep when they want to.

3) Struggle to serve- As I posted Sunday, I am still learning to die to myself and many days I don’t really get ample time to do what I want to do.  It’s easy to gripe about this but the real truth here is that we all have to learn to love the life we have, ideal or non ideal.  If you have a serious problem loving where you are or what you do, spend some time in prayer about how you’re supposed to change this.

4) WalMart– Yes, I complain about WalMart A LOT, I don’t like it and it brings out the worst in me.  Yes it has it’s own category, I could write a month’s worth of blogs on this topic, but I digress.  What I can’t do is deny that even a low quality shopping experience is better than starving or going without so I should probably, maybe stop griping about the Hell Mart, I mean WalMart.

5) Oklahoma– We live in a rural town that isn’t always my favorite place to live.  I love the people here but the weather and lack of options accounts for a pretty big percentage of my whining.  God’s working with me on this and keeps reminding me that if I claim that this is where we are supposed to be then I should cut out Oklahoma bashing.

6) Borderline- The hard to diagnose complaints, for example I was sick during Operation Gripe Jar, so when I said something like “ow my throat hurts” was I complaining or just informing my family about my pain?

So that’s a decent summary of Operation Gripe Jar.  I truly hope that I’ve started down a path where my ears are tuned to complaining so I may become a rare source of it.

What I can’t stress enough is that if you find yourself complaining a lot what you need more than a gripe jar is a self check.  You have to diagnose what’s going on in your soul and your relationship with God that’s causing you to have such a negative attitude about what he’s entrusted you with.

The bible says that we are supposed to capture our thoughts and make sure that they line up with Jesus’ teachings.  Jesus taught about contentment, thankful obedience and serving.  So if your words and thoughts aren’t lining up with that, then what you and I really have is a heart, relationship with God type issue, so ….ouch eh?

It’s been convicting and with my gripe jar, bible and Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 gifts I think I have a shot at this gratitude and joy business in the long run.

 

My Sticky Lovely Life

You know those days where you turn around and take a look at where you’ve been and realize that in spite of all your flaws that you’re coming along nicely?  Yesterday was one of “those days” for me.

A Flashback: On my 25th birthday I behaved like an absolute brat.  I thought that the day should revolve around me and when my husband asked me to spend part of my day running errands for his youth pastor job I flipped out.

“You want me to return bottles, on my birthday?  I thought today was supposed to be about what I WANTED to do, not about your youth group pop cans.”  Then I spent the rest of the afternoon being crabby and rude.

innocent looking, ye self centered 25 year old Leanne and poor poor patient Kel

I know… shameful, I’d like to go back in time and smack that girl.

Motherhood has changed a lot of things about me, I now kill most smallish bugs on my own without fear.  I couldn’t sleep in to save my life and I drive a mini-van and I like it.  I’ve also developed a tragic addiction to sports bras and yoga pants but I try very hard to keep that behind closed doors.

I now spend most of my day doing things and thinking thoughts that revolve around others.  With a husband and two little ones to love it’s not really an option to make Mother’s Day, my Birthday or any other day “all about me.”

I actually have more of the opposite problem and yesterday as I lay in bed listening to the squealing and clattering of Kel and the kids making breakfast I had to force made my muscles to relax.  “The world will go on without my intervention, yes even in the morning.

I finally rolled out of bed at the shamefully late hour of 7:40… (we get up early here)

My Mother’s Day was breezy and relatively fuss-free.  The most complicated part of the whole day were the blackberry waffles Kel made me in the morning.  There were no linens or fresh flowers on the table.  But there were kids screaming for more syrup and steeling my bacon and you know what?  It was just right, I breathed in the chaos with thankfulness.  This is my life, these are the people celebrating my motherhood and this is how they do it, and I love them, so I love this.

Was it the mother’s day I imagined pre-kids?  Oh heck no, but it was everything I never knew I always wanted, china white plates next to sippy cups, my life always intertwining with theirs.

lemon blackberry sauce, my favorite waffle topping. Yes, you can have the recipe, you want it, believe me.

That! I want that! I don’t want waffles but I insist you let me drink all the syrup!

We had fresco tacos (takeout) for lunch and Chinese chicken broccoli with friends for dinner (takeout again!).  We know better than to tempt fate with a 1 & 2 yr old in a busy restaurant on Mother’s day.

Because my husband is in a crazy busy season, I was the one who did all the dishes and the mopping complete with 3 loads of laundry after bedtime.  Not once did my inner diva come out to play and demand to know why she was the dish doer and laundress on a day centered around mothers.  My heart for my family is getting in line with God’s constant call to forget about myself.

Motherhood has made the phrase “die to yourself” come alive in the form of a brown eyed girl and a blue eyed boy who have taken my life by storm.

Every morning when I wake up and lists for the day, the things I’d like to do don’t make top ten.  I’d like to do some cleaning and organizing, maybe a bit of writing and reading during a long afternoon nap time.  Instead my list involves folding little shirts and dishing out apple sauce, warming milk in the microwave and changing over a dozen diapers.  We go to the library and the park, the splash pad and the WalMart, when they’re healthy happy my world is at peace.

For a long time each morning I would scream inwardly: “Doesn’t anyone care what I want today?!”  I used to DO things and GO places!  I used to THINK thoughts and FINISH sentences!

I lived in a state of stress and frustration when I allowed those thoughts to dominate my brain space.

What I’ve learned about loving well, especially loving young children, is that you have to approach things with a “What’s the best thing for those I love” mindset.  That doesn’t look anything like the life I used to live.  But, as I learn to die to myself, the happiness I derive from setting my kids up for a great day brings me deep satisfaction and joy.

Many a mother’s prayer looks something like this:  God please keep me patient and sane today, help me to respond with grace and love when I want to scream.  Give me eyes to see the moments where I can show them your hand in our world.  Fill my mouth with words that will indicate the trust I have in you so they believe deeply that they are  fully alive in their Father’s world.  When I start to feel selfish, redirect my heart with your gentle teaching… and if they could nap for at least two hours at the same time that would be the icing on the cake.  Amen.  

Mother’s Day at the Penny Casa, 2012

Motherhood has rocked me and changed me, disassembled me and put me back together a different, stronger woman and I find myself thankful for this rebuilding.