Worst Grace- loving in the fray

photo courtesy of lucy.jane on flickr.com

Over our anniversary dinner on Saturday night Kel and I chatted about “us” and the quality of the food we were being served.   This is our usual anniversary conversation.

As the evening unfolded we realized that if we could sum up year six in one word, it would be “grace.”

We have made great strides in giving each other grace when our life hits unexpected bumps and detours, grace on our worst days, I suppose we could call this “worst grace.”

Our marriage has weathered a lot of storms which seemed to come one after the other.  We hadn’t learned to become each other’s safe haven before the storms came.  We will both admit that for too long we turned against each other the hard times, instead of drawing close in love.

I’m not going to get into specific details because neither of us want to rehash the painful past.  I’m sure that you can conjure up similar experiences in your own relationships, marriage and otherwise. Continue reading

3 or 4 marriage tips, (guest post by Kel Penny)

let’s hear from my hubs

A now a post from my husband, Kel Penny.  I’m keeping the intro short so he gets all the word count today :)

So when Leanne asked me if I’d write a marriage post for her blog, my mind went straight to Genesis chapters 1-3.  This is a biblical explanation of who we are and why we are united in marriage (“It is not good for the man to be alone”).

But, Leanne said that I should do a “top five” list and make it funny.  This is why Leanne is the author/blogger and I am just a pastor.  Scripture tells us that some were given to be Pastors and some to be bloggers (Ephesians 4:11, look it up, its there).

But anyway,  I’m here to give you some marriage advice from a guy’s perspective.  So here  goes:

1) She doesn’t need your expertise ALL THE TIME.  When she comes to you with a  problem, typically she wants you to listen and talk to her about it.  So when she comes to you saying she doesn’t like her boss, she’s probably not looking for you to give her advice on how to deal with it.

Try this: Say, “wow, that must be _________”  In the blank insert an emotional word, not a technical or logical word.  You see the big difference in the way that most men and most women communicate is that men speak logically and women speak emotionally.

Men you tend to think that logic is always better, Its not.  Don’t believe me?  Think back to your last argument.  Did it seem like your were arguing completely different things?  Its because you were, you were logical and she was emotional.

Now this doesn’t mean that you should never bring on your technical, logical mind to the table.  For example if her computer is so screwed up she’s about to take a mallet to it, for the love go God step in and help her!

2) What you do with your time matters.  Your wife loves that you bring home the bacon, I promise.  She probably even likes it that you have hobbies.  But, if you are spending all of your time away and not  tuning into your family, then she’s not going to feel loved.

This seems like such a “no duh” thing, but actually this is easy to fall into.  We have a tendency to get our priorities wrong because we’re working, something that is deemed important.

It’s important to mow the lawn, but it’s more important to be a father to your children and a husband to your wife.  Think of it this way: you can pay someone to mow your lawn, but you can’t pay someone to replace you as father and husband.

I’m not telling you to stop mowing or quit your job, just make sure you have your priorities in order.  They should go as follows:

Job / Calling

Remember, we are called to die to ourselves daily.  If you’re doing this like Christ did, then you’ll automatically go way down on the list.

3) Throw pillows at her.  Let’s say you’re sitting on the couch and she’s on the love seat crocheting or typing away on the laptop.  The tv is on and there is not a lot of connection going on.  How do you fix this problem?  You throw a pillow at her.

Aim for the face and make sure you put a little arc on it. We don’t want to “Randy Johnson” a pillow at her head, we do love her.  The goal is to get her attention.

When she gives you that venomous look, you know the one, the one that says WTH, WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? Smile and tell her that you love her and just wanted her full and undivided attention so that you could say: (insert a compliment here).

Now, sit back and watch the venom melt away.  There might be a little residual frustration from you messing with her mojo but trust me, the risk is worth it.  Because now you can play and have fun together.

She might throw a pillow back, which in turn should cause a pillow fight.  Men listen carefully you never lose a pillow fight.  Actually, let me rephrase that, never lose a pillow fight unless a circumstances arise that end in some adult fun time, if you catch my drift.

4) Pornography.  I wish that I didn’t have to put this one down, but I’ve seen the stats.  They are SCARY!  Here’s what you need to know: Porn will ruin your relationship.  Period.

Every time you view porn you’re creating false, unreal ideals in your mind.  These fake expectations are impossible to meet in the bedroom (or anywhere else for that matter).

If this is a problem for you, get help, Don’t know where to go?  Try here: www.xxxchurch.com  They’re great and have  free software to help.

If this is your battle (statistics say that it probably is, even if you are a woman) seeit as an addiction and take the necessary steps to get help.

Well I hope you enjoyed this! I could seriously write on this topic forever but Leanne put me on a word limit, which I blew past.  So for now, toodledo!

If you have any questions, leave them in the comment section!

Also, guys, tell me what are the most important things you do in your marriage relationship?

crazy busy connection (let’s share our secrets)

Tell us how you connect? It doesn’t have to involve Miami Vice attire.

I believe that every couple should have a date night at least once a week.  Before you respond with a resounding “yeah right!” please read on.

Kel and I go out together sans kids maybe once every other month, yet we still try to have a date night once a week.  It doesn’t need to be fancy, it’s often just the two of us eating sundaes over a game of scrabble or sharing a late dinner with cheap wine after the kids go to bed.

Because let’s be honest, how many of us have the money to pay for a sitter AND dinner out once a week?  Honestly?  We don’t.

So we have to get creative, and I bet you do too.  Along these lines, I’m asking you to do me a solid, give me a belated anniversary present

Will you give me your best advice on how you and your significant other manage to connect in the midst of your crazy busy lives?  Despite exhaustion and the pull of zoning out in front of the TV, how do you make time to really see each other?

It can be something you do daily, weekly, or even once in a while, but I would love you to give me the gift of your creative connection ideas.

Here’s the deal, we are all going to share our best ideas on intentional connection in marriage by:

1) Submitting your ideas to me via email (leannerae@gmail.com) or commenting below or via Facebook
2) I’d love it if you include a story of why it works, make it personal!
3) I’d love it even more if you include a picture of you and your special someone.

Then Friday I’m going to share our stories and ideas here on the blog and that weekend we can all do something new to connect in our marriages.

So, are you in?  Will you share your secrets on keeping it sweet and even a little spicy?

The Evolution of “Us” (A love letter to Kel)

This week I’m writing about marriage, mine mostly because that’s the only one I’ve been in.  I’m still working on the details, so for now I’m just writing a love letter to my stud muffin, the bacon to my BLT, the brown eyed okie boy who took my life by storm, The Kel.  

a goodbye, nose-smooshing, airport kiss.

Wow babe, six years eh?  Six feels like such an odd number, it’s not tiny and it’s not a multiple of five, it’s just… six.

Six years ago my uncle walked me down the aisle and we cried, you more than me.  We slow danced to a song about a broken road, not because it was popular but because it was just right for us.

We had no idea then how many winding roads we would take together and how soon we would fall apart, side by side.  In a way we both know that this is a getting up place for us, that for the first time since our cross country move, Noelle’s birth, My Mom’s Funeral and Caedmon’s arrival we have our bearings, maybe, probably.

And yes, we know that it could all change tomorrow…

We’re learning to laugh again, you and I, and we’re daily giving each other handfuls of grace, even on days when the sink is broken and the AC has gone out. We’re learning to look across the table and see each other as perfect in the moment, even in paint stained shorts and frizzy hair and always it seems, with bags under our eyes.

We had no idea what a marathon parenting would be, we dreamed it would happen in soft, hazy blips, but the constant march has been a steep learning curve.

So we’re perfecting at art of the “at home date” and the humor that can be found in just how wrong things seem to go some days. Such as babies who build tacos on their head and then poop on the floor without us noticing because we’re Just. That. Tired.

Mostly I just love you and lately I feel like I love you all over again in a new and fresh way that’s come clean of all my unfair expectations.  My heart is full of passion to love you as the man God created you to be.  I’m dropping all my silly notions of who you should become.

I’m seeing you beyond my own nose, taking you into my newly tender heart, surrendering to all the ways that I can’t earn or control love.

In year 7 I’ll keep buying you super hero underwear because I want you to feel strong in spite of all the ways the world can tear you up.  I want you to wake up and believe you’re able to work miracles in his name, because you are and you do.

As the days go on I say screw the lawn, forget the theological bickering and all the high expectations I used to put on everything.  Let’s just draw together, skin on skin in the moments of life, not as we imagined or planned them but just as they are.

And of course I’m half awake writing this, and of course you’re 1,000 miles away finishing up your masters but baby, I love you like whoa.

Bring on 7, 17, and 47.

Tears on the Steering Wheel

Yesterday morning I loaded up my two kids for the library, because when life gets crazy there is something about taking them to the classic haven of the library that feels just right.  The smell of paper and wooden puzzles ground me and I can feel the weight of questioning and wisdom of all the hearts behind the pages, every one with a soul just like mine.

As we pulled in the adjacent lot and looked for a spot that would shade our black van from the heat my head swam with the weight of this week.  So many words lodged in anger, hate and misunderstanding.

Without planning to I plopped my head down on the steering wheel and wept and Noelle pleaded with me to “be okay and take a deep breath.”  There are no words I can give a three year old that communicate how much bigger problems can get.

She lives blissfully unaware that mental illness can cause someone to shoot children at a movie theater and an off handed interview comment can flood the world with days of divided raging.

When she walks into preschool every kid hugs her and shouts “Noelle!” like she’s Norm walking into cheers.  Why can’t it stay like that?  Those three year olds will likely tear each other apart before graduation day, the hugs will stop and the differences will seem to be the most important.

I wept because I am head over heels in love with the word of God and also in love with the gay teenager whose history of bullying makes suicide sound better than returning to school.

As I cried, I longed for heaven.  I marveled at how burying my parents didn’t bring this deep a desire to be done with this world as these two weeks of ugly violence and hate have.

Then I stepped into God’s shoes and shed a few more tears.  My children often bicker over the ball popping elephant or who gets to close the front door but they’re too young to really hurt each other.

I hope I never have to reflect on a day when they rip each other’s hearts apart, because I imagine that’s what heaven’s feeling after this week.  You see, chicken man, terrified gay teen, self-righteous pastor, Lesbian Activist and me, we are all his kids.  Loved more fiercely and deeply than I love these two kids strapped in car seats, eager to tear up the library.

And in this hot, painful week, more than weigh in with an opinion, I am burdened with his heart of love that seems to go sadly unnoticed in the fray.

So many voices rising up in protest to tear down people they’ve never met and certainly don’t understand.

I want to feast on his word and at the same time encourage all of us sinners that no one with a mega phone or a can of spray paint can steal God’s love for them.

My sweet friend Joy Cannis shared this with me during a quote giveaway and it’s shaping the way that Kel and I love and teach our children to love:

“The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded and to say, “I was wrong.” ~Sydney J Harris

And that’s all I have to say about that.

This is how we met (A Guest Post via Leigh Kramer)

On Sunday, Kel and I are going to celebrate six years of marriage, and when I look over my shoulder at our journey, I typically get dizzy and have to sit down. We’ve covered a lot of crazy ground in six little years.

Next week I’m going to do a whole week of stories and posts about marriage and relationships, but first, a little back story. I’m excited to share a guest post over at my friend Leigh Kramer’s blog for her “This is How We Met” Series.

Here’s a little teaser, but you’ll have to stop by Leigh’s blog to finish it up, not that the ending is a big secret, but we think it’s a lovely story.

Throwback Picture of “Us”

Before facebook and twitter there was xanga, a blogging network where millions of people shared daily life and deep thoughts with people they didn’t know. I started blogging there under the moniker “ClumsyBallerina” as an outlet for my swirling thoughts on faith, love and life in general.

I’d been single for a while, my heart still bruised from the end of my last relationship where I was dumped via email. I was drifting, living at home and working as a secretary who moonlighted as a pizza delivery girl.

Late one night, after an evening of pizzas, I was surfing blog-rings on xanga and came across this college guy in Oklahoma who wrote profoundly about love, church and losing his father to cancer.

I left him a comment: “Hi, I got your weblog through a random click of the mouse.. I completely agree with your thoughts about what church is and isn’t… blessings to your family.”

He wrote back: “Hey, I just started reading your xanga… you seem like a person that I could really get to know and converse with… I’ll be keeping up with you… ~laterz~”

And just like that, Kel existed for me, We didn’t interact for nearly six months as he went through a time of deep grief while he cared for and eventually lost his father to brain cancer.

To finish it up, go to Leigh Kramer’s site and check it out.

While you’re there subscribe to her blog via email and follow her on twitter so you can keep up with all the loveliness she shares there.

July, With a Bow (What I’m into this month)

If you look back over the history of communication you’ll quickly realize how new and strange this e-world really is.  I haven’t met many of you reading this and you haven’t met me.

So in this spirit I am going to, once a month, let you know what I’m up to and into etc.  And I’ll keep it very link-y so we can connect as much as possible.

In return you have to leave a comment and tell me what you’re up to and into, quid pro quo.  I guess it’s like giving you a wrap up of my month’s interests and activities, with a little bow on it.

So here we go, July, with a bow on it.

In our Kitchen

Fresh blueberry pie, beyond beyond.

It’s summer so I’m doing what I do every summer and that is hit up the road side stands and farmer’s markets for fresh produce.  This is sort of hard in Ada as we don’t have many locally grown fruit options other than peaches, but I did pick blueberries at a U-pick in Michigan and craft the most pie-gasmic dessert I’ve ever tasted.   Seriously, make this pie.

I’m also making Kel grill chicken and veggie skewers as often as he’ll oblige me.  There is something about grilled food and berries that screams summer on a plate.

What I’m reading on paper

August will come with a new resolve to complete a few non-fiction books but July was an all novel type of month.  I am coming down off my Elin Hilderbrand streak but this month I devoured her “ The Blue Bistro” and “A Summer Affair.”  Of the two I would recommend “The Blue Bistro” as the latter novel is entirely about a wife and mother having an extra marital affair, which ya know, bugged me a little.

I devoured Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and connected deeply with the characters in Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Blogs you mustn’t miss 

I visited a lot of the synchroblogs for Sarah Bessey’s “What is saving your life right now” and I recommend you do the same.  Turns out I am saved by being Mama Chicken, in every way.

How to Talk Evangelical by the Amazing Addie Zierman.  If you don’t already stop by her site or subscribe to it, I recommend that you do so immediately.  She’s witty, deep and never fails to hit home.  Soon you will secretly hope she becomes your new BFF, as I do.  (and hope she’s not creeped out by it)

My sweet friend Jill Burden is blogging her way through their Russian adoption.  Jill is a stunning person who never ceases to fill my heart and make it pop with joy.  I highly recommend giving her a follow.

On our TV

Well we’ve been doing a lot of Olympics this past week, otherwise it’s been business as usual.  I’m catching up on Medium with Patricia Arquette from forever ago and in the evenings we catch up on Food Network shows or the Daily Show.

Although I must say that our TV watching is going down and we are thinking of giving up our DVR package and going to a totally Hulu / Netflix based thing.

Creative Outlets 

I’ve been working on a beautiful photography prop tassel blanket for my favorite photographer friend, Courtney Folsom, which isn’t quite done yet, but I’m sure will make it’s way into some gorgeous baby photography soon.

wine and yarn, yes please.

Other than that I have a confession to make, I’ve gotten hooked (no pun intended) on really good yarn.  I found all this hand dyed gorgeous stuff up in gourmet yarn stores in Michigan and I plead the 5th on how much I spent on yarn this month.

I will say that I am happily making some lovely Christmas Presents for friends and family, going for another all home made Christmas. Here is my favorite pattern right now just in case you Crochet.

What the kids and I are up to

We were traveling for almost half the month so there were a lot more playtime options
up in Michigan.  Now that we’re home we’ve been in the middle of a hot streak and since we have no shade in our backyard, we have had to get creative with indoor play.

We have developed a routine of the Farmers Market every Wednesday morning and
Garage Sale-ing every Friday morning.  We get snacks and cruise the town looking for crazy deals and kid clothes, and shoes, they always need shoes.  Last week I found this quirky, vintage cabbage bowl.

I’ve been into sensory play with them indoors so we made a bean/rice box with dried beans and rainbow rice.  This is a great idea if you can be cool with mess as your little ones experiment with the cool textures and colors in the box.  Here’s a how to blog post

I suggest you do it on a sheet or outside if you can, it’s messy, and you have to be okay with that.  Yesterday we hid pennies and coins in the rice/beans and let them hunt through it and keep the cash.

Top Photos From July

Kids on the back patio celebrating freedom in every way

gorgeous Michigan blueberries in the morning sun

My happy place, Lake Michigan, Holland, MI

Childhood = your sister shoving ice cream up your nose

My Uncle Mike teaching Caedmon to dunk

My BFF Becky at the Pizza place where we met over a large pepperoni, we were employees.

Still my baby

Now’s the part where you tell me what you were up to and into this July, wrap it up and put a bow on it!