What I’m Into April 2014 Edition

Well, April is drawing to a close so it’s time for another This is What I’m Into Post. Many other bloggers and friends share this practice, all hosted by the lovely Leigh Kramer.

Buckle up, because a “Month in review” written by a whiny pregnant women is sure to be tons of fun.

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Month in (very brief) review: This month was exciting, a lot happened. I didn’t feel up for any of it of course and would have preferred to be in bed eating bagels and watching Scandal, but the world spun madly on without my consent.

Thank you all for the huge love you showed us on the day we announced our pregnancy, nickle baby (Not, as many have thought, Nickel Back Baby) already feels plenty o’love.

This month contained the three day marathon of awesomeness that was The Festival of Faith and Writing where I got to connect with many, many lovely friends both old and new. I was exhausted and sickish for most of it but I managed to hug, smile, hold (hopefully) coherent conversations and eat a ridiculously massive piece of cake in public while everyone sipped cute cocktails.

Also this  month, and this is sort of big news, we found a new home on the North East side of Grand Rapids, we are still working on a bit of paperwork, but as long as nothing major happens I think we will have a photo-laden announcement here pretty soon.

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On The Small Screen (with minimal spoilers)- This is a category in which I spent a lot of time this month, which was both a comfort and a huge source of shame for me. I don’t believe in tons of TV, but it’s how the kids and I spent more than a few afternoons. I watched nearly the entire three season stretch of Scandal, in a month. A show which I recommend highly, if you’re okay with feeling a little dirty on the inside at the end of every episode.

I bawled at the season finale of Parenthood, which is not unusual behavior for me as I am 107% guaranteed to weep at least twice during every episode of parenthood.

On my Nightstand- Our book club book this month was The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I only got 80 pages in because I finished the Hunger Games series instead.

Why did it take me so long to finish? Because about three years ago someone told me that it contains a love triangle that is as bad as the one in Twilight, which turned out to be WAY not true at all… But it gave me something to feel good about this month in light of all the Binge TV watching.

Catching Fire– Great read, tons of plot twists and foreshadowing that had be scrambling for the next book.

Mockingjay– Maybe my least favorite book in the trilogy but not by much. I loved the ending, Suzanne Collins could teach Veronia Roth a thing or two about ending a series the right way.

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Best Bites – This month I enjoyed everything bagels, saltine crackers and bananas. My life is very exciting. I am now a Grand Rapids, Everything Bagel Connoisseur and can tell you that, for my money Big Apple Bagel does the best job here, Bagel Beanery almost won my heart but I think they use a touch too much coriander.

Also, low sodium Saltines are an abomination to queasy people everywhere, unless they have heart disease, in which case I am sure they’re greatly appreciated.

In my Earbuds – Halfway through the month the cord that connects my iPhone to the mini-van sound system broke, which made us all very sad. I mean, the kids couldn’t listen to “Everything is Awesome” from the Lego movie on demand. We intend to fix this issue soon and I am trying to put together some new playlists for the occasion.

Best of This Blog- You guys, thanks again for being such gracious readers of our guests and for welcoming the Love Showed Up contributors so warmly.

When People Say They are Hurting, Believe Them by Abby Norman- Love showed up for me when people believed I was in pain. Even when I didn’t look like it. Even when I didn’t act like it. If you want to love someone who is suffering, believe them.

Love Showed Up with a Simple Offer by Brenna D’Ambrosio- Love showed up with an offer. A cup of water, a plate of food. Love showed up and reminded me that I wouldn’t be alone. Love showed up and reminded me that there was healing ahead. Love showed up and reminded me that as followers of Jesus, this is what we do.

Nickle in November- (Our baby announcement)

Non Verbal Creativity- This month I managed to crochet two dish rags, which feels very metaphorical somehow.

Most Popular Post on Instagram – Technically the most popular post was the same one seen in the Nickle Announcement. So, since it’s already appeared here I’ll show off number 2.

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Oh the Easter Morning Loveliness of the kidlets. Caedmon hid behind my legs every time someone complimented his tie at church. Forgetaboutit.

Okay so, What have you been watching, reading, loving, listening to?

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Love Showed Up: Hugging Strangers in Public Bathrooms

I hope you’ve been enjoying these Monday posts on Love Showing Up in life, at times when we need it desperately. 

I’ve been noticing this common thread in each post, in each moment we find to breathe thankful prayers for grace in the midst of pain, it’s this: when love shows up we feel less alone.

Our darkest burdens are easier to bear, our worst roads a bit shorter when love shows up. 

Today I want to tell you about one of the most unlikely moments in my life, a moment when love showed up to remind me that grief and pain are universal burdens, that even though grief is rightly referred to as the loneliest journey of life, it doesn’t have to be, not always. We can find each other and divide the pain with our presence.

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It was only two days after my Mother had taken her life, and I was 28 weeks pregnant with our son. We were back in Michigan after a miserable 22 hour road trip, to plan and attend her funeral alongside hundreds of other confused people she left behind.

My dear friend Lisa had called when we were making the drive up and didn’t ask so much as told me: “Hey, when you get here, I think you need steak.”

This is important when joining grieving friends on their journey, sometimes you tell them you’re helping rather than asking them, we are a stubborn people who prefer to deny our needs. 

I replied with a small laugh, because I wasn’t a steak lover per say, but I managed something like: “Sure, why not. Let’s go eat steak.

Turns out that part of the reason for the steak was Groupon related, but who says you can’t be a good friend while still being frugal? 

After I’d arrived home at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, managed a full but fitful night’s sleep, helped plan a funeral and gone to the mall for funeral appropriate maternity clothes, my friend Lisa picked me up for dinner.

We had a long drive to the steakhouse in Rockford and we picked up another friend, Becky on the way. Alyssa met us there and together we sat down in the golden light of the restaurant to order drinks and listen to the waitress explain the specials in mouth watering detail.

Nothing distracts my weary soul like great food, so as she went on about searing, herbed butter and the chef’s lifelong passion for steak I fell slightly in love with her. Having been a server for a number of years, I have a deep appreciation for menu knowledge and attentive interaction.

The meal progressed and Lisa and I order the London Broil with Bordelaise Sauce, Asparagus Spears and Yukon Mashed Potatoes. She talked me into adding caramelized onions, no regrets there.

It all melted in my mouth, danced on my pallet, sustained me, gave bits of joy.

I found myself gazing at my friend’s glasses of wine, thinking if ever there was an evening where I could use the comfort of wine, it was tonight. Why did I have to go through this pregnant?

At some point, or likely several points, in the evening I got up to use the bathroom. Too many delicious glasses of water I suppose. On one of these trips I ran into our waitress coming out of the restroom and I stopped her to thank her for her excellent service.

…Telling her that after moving to a small town in Oklahoma, I missed and deeply appreciated fancy food and vast menu knowledge.

She asked why we were back in town and I tried to vaguely reveal the details of our trip, of my mother’s funeral, without divulging too much.

Unexpected tears started to well up in the corners of her eyes, which was briefly awkward for me because I’m not always good at comforting other people to feel better about my grief.

Then she let it out: “My mom is in the end stages of cancer, in Hospice care and I’m living at her house. I’m the oldest and everyone looks to me to handle things, I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m terrified to lose her.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, it does suck, but you’ll get through it, I lost my Dad about five years ago and it’s not going to be okay any time soon but your life will keep going, you’ll find joy even. I promise. Just don’t carry everyone else’s burdens without taking care of your own, without processing your own grief, don’t be pushed around by everyone’s expectations of you.”

Then we hugged. Right there in front of the bathroom sink.

I peed and returned to our table, awkwardly trying to explain my interaction with the our server which probably sounded something like: “Our waitress’ mom is dying too! I’m not the only one. That feels better somehow, not that I’m happy about it. Anyway… how’s your food?”

Even though that interaction was three and a half years ago, I still think about it, still give heart space to that server, wondering how she weathered her storm.

Our embrace in the bathroom impacted me, I felt less alone in losing my mother young because of our three minute exchange.

It’s true that grief is one of the loneliest journeys we walk in life, that no two losses are alike, even when they center around the death of the same person.

Yes, grief is lonely, there are times when we will feel naked and alone in our pain. Yet sometimes, we are given companions on the journey, for a minute, for an hour, for longer.

My friends around that evening table divided my grief, not just during that dinner but throughout the journey with their presence at the funeral and their words over the phone.

My time with our server divided both our griefs for three minutes, perhaps even longer.

Yes grief is lonely, but we are not alone, millions have walked this path and millions are waking up to walk it today.

It’s normal to feel alone, but if you can look for it, to be open your pain, love will show up in a thousand surprising ways and each time, if only for a moment or two, your grief load will lighten.

May we be a people who divide the sting of death with authentic, loving presence and sometimes, with steak.

Has love showed up to divide your grief?
How have you divided the grief of a friend?

This post is part of a series called Love Showed Up, check out the other submissions and if you are interested in submitting please send me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com. We’d love to hear about how love showed up in your life. 

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A Bringer of Water (Even though it’s easier to ignore thirsty people)

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I’ve already referenced in this post that my time at Festival of Faith and Writing made a significant impact on me.  But nothing struck me more than my two sessions sitting at the feet of Anne Lammott.

Because when you hear Saint Anne (as my friend refers to her) speak it fills up your grace tank for a while, it changes the way you look at things and people, including yourself.

A week later her words were still ringing in my mind and echoing in my stream of consciousness.

Miraculously, they managed to make their way into my head during the least likely hour imaginable, the post bed hour when I’ve officially clocked out but my kids are still intent on getting a bit more from me.

More water, more snuggles, more words, more attention.

All when I have absolutely nothing left. 

It was one of THOSE nights, where you’re playing whack a mole, and you’re losing. When you swear that if another child appears at the top of the stairs you’re going to really and truly start sobbing.

And then there they are, standing at the top with a small pleading voice with a myriad of requests. I need you to scary spray the room, I need some more mommy snuggles, Caedmon stole my puppy, I have to poop and you need to wipe me.

In this particular instance it was our four year Noelle, and she wanted some more water, serving three of water to be exact.

I struggle with doling out water at bedtime and here’s why: On the one hand, it’s water and a basic human need. On the other hand, too much of it and I’m stripping the bed in the morning in exchange for clean sheets.

I was about to yell “No, Noelle. Back to bed!” When my voice caught in my throat.

Why? Because I was thirsty, I myself needed some water.

And that’s when Anne Lammott’s words floated back to me. She said so much on grace and loving well and often her controlling metaphor was water.

“We get people glasses of water when they are thirsty.”

Noelle was thirsty, I was thirsty too and she couldn’t get herself water, the cups were out of reach. And there I laid on the couch, the one given charge to keep her from being thirsty, even when it was incredibly irritating to do so.

Sure, there was a chance that her request was really just a ploy for bedtime avoidance, but do you risk it when someone is genuinely requesting water? I mean, it’s water.

I got off the couch, suddenly tenderized by the basic truth of our shared need. My daughter and I needed water.

I told Kel: “I can’t yell at thirsty people, I have to get her water even if she’s just stalling, this is what loving well looks like.”

I probably wasn’t that eloquent at 8:45.

But I got her a little water, right after I made her use the bathroom. And there was something in Anne’s words and my challenge to be my daughter’s water carrier that caused me to respond to her in love, with genuine tenderness as I put her back in bed for the fifth time.

And this interaction has been challenging my thought life ever since, asking me: “What does it look like to give water to the people in your life? And what is water to them, for their bodies, for their hearts? What is the thing you are charged to do so that their basic thirsts are met?”

For Kel it’s words of encouragement and for Caedmon it’s the knowledge that he is needed and his opinions matter. For Noelle it’s time and attention when she wants to read or play kitties.

There are so many things that people are really, genuinely thirsty for. Am I doing something about this?

Or have I been too preoccupied by my own needs to notice the thirsty all around me.

I want to be a bringer of water, not because I’m amazing or even all that Holy, but because there is a Spirit alive in me that I’ve made head space for. I want to quiet the bulk of the noise to make room for the cues that tell me, this person needs water from you.

Bringing water requires paying attention
Bringing water requires telling the head demons in your own mind to be quiet, because you’re living for someone else please and thank you.
Bringing water requires a laying down of what you thought you’d being doing and instead, redirecting your energies.

I want to be a bringer of water in this world, with my words, my hands, my time. To leave the space I live in and the people in my life just a bit more deeply quenched.

This will require prayer, sacrifice and attention, may the Lord grant me more of these things.

How do you bring water to those in your life? How is God leading you to do this in new ways? 

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Love Showed Up With a Simple Offer

Today’s post comes to us from one of my dear friends, Brenna D’Ambrosio. Her words are always water for my thirsty soul and her gracious, soulful approach to life never fails to stop me in my tracks. Enjoy, I dare you not to. 014

If you’ve left a church you’ve been part of for a long time, you know the emotions that go with it. And if the circumstances are less than ideal, the pain is even worse. My story centers around the day I walked through new sanctuary doors carrying heartache and sadness.

I was grieving. I was grieving the loss of our time at our old church, the one I had been part of for almost a decade. The relationships changed due to distance. The people who had become my family were now gone. The people I did life with were all a plane ride away.

I was grieving the atmosphere when we left – it was all bittersweet. We had gone through what I can only describe as walking through mud up to my waist. It was painful and exhausting and all I wanted was relief.

Tears were quick to flow in those weeks and months and I couldn’t even tell why – too many emotions coursing through a nine-month pregnant woman.

I walked into the new sanctuary, the one thousands of miles away, with a swollen belly and my head hanging low. We had just moved from the East Coast to the Midwest. I was 37 weeks pregnant and carrying my 18 month old with me. I was tired. My feet hurt. I just wanted to finish unpacking and then curl up on a couch with my family and rest until it was time to have our baby. But I knew that if we didn’t visit a church that week, I’d run the risk of not going back for a very long time. I was so physically tired. I was even more emotionally and spiritually tired.  But we went that Sunday morning, hesitantly yet determinedly.

I kept my eyes down; I had no energy for small talk. I silently prayed that this wasn’t one of those churches that made you raise your hand if you were new or talk to people during long drawn out greeting periods. In and out. I needed an easy win. I just wanted to say that I made it to church. Continue reading

For Those Stuck in Good Friday

Do you remember when Saturdays were always about church planting updates? They will be again, soon, next week even… 

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The year my Dad died Easter came early, March 27, only about a week after his heart attack and the Sunday after his funeral.

Because of this, a church decorated in purple crosses and white lilies doesn’t feel like Easter morning to me, it still loudly echoes the throes of Good Friday.

Every year, no matter when Easter falls in relation to the anniversary of my Father’s death, the songs and smells of Easter are deeply reminiscent of his funeral.

Faith gets real when you’re faced with Easter morning and your heart feels firmly rooted in the worst hours of Good Friday.

Sometimes Easter Sunday doesn’t happen in three days

Because in life, our Good Fridays last longer than a day, longer than the hour of a church service or the time it takes to reflect upon the stations of the cross. There are, in fact, entire seasons, even years of our lives that take place on Holy Saturday.

The day in between the ripping of the cross and the glory of the empty tomb. A day of waiting, of wondering, a seemingly hopeless day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

I remember visiting my fathers grave before the funeral flowers had a chance to wither and shrivel, begging God for some sort of miracle. Bring him back now, fix this now, I want my Easter Sunday healing now, please.

Make this all go away, cause me to awake in my bed back home, awash in relief that this was all a nightmare.

Please God, bring me an Easter miracle today or Surely the depth of this grief will be the thing that defines my life, that undoes me. I cannot live in a world where this is my reality.

But we do, don’t we? We live in a world with awful realities. 

We live seasons, even years stuck between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, where we wake up on Holy Saturday wondering if our hearts can weather another day of waiting and wondering.

Anne Lammott put it perfectly when she said “we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world. And I think that every year the world seems more of a Good Friday world. And it’s excruciating, whether it’s Japan, or Libya, or whether its your own best friends and their children who are sick, which is something that makes no sense when you think about a loving God.”

So for all of us who feel the weight of the Good Fridays, the Holy Saturdays, who will experience Easter Sunday with more than a few bones to pick with God, with a laundry list of “but hows.”

To all of you I just want to say: “Hi and me too.”

I understand and it’s okay to lament more than you rejoice on Easter Sunday.

I understand how suicide, depression, infertility, hate, hunger and abuse can make you feel stuck, make you wonder if Easter Sunday is a real

Wonder where God is in light of this unspeakable pain.

For those of us who are kneeling of the grave of someone or something, skeptical that the pure light of the empty tomb could touch us.

For you I pray light, small, grace-filled light that sustains gently.

I pray God send gracious friends, able to sit with you in your black, Holy Saturday questions.

I pray God a spring breeze to remind your senses that there are miracles all around you, and they will meet you in your anger and all your “how could you Gods?” 

I pray that something about this weekend brings you all the hope you can handle, and no more.

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It’s not easy to live between the two, to be Easter people in a Good Friday world, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

I pray that you may experience Easter Sunday for what it is: A promise of healing that brings hope for our right now, a set it all right someday vow that isn’t always easy to to hold on to, but true and life changing regardless. 

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7 Great Quotes and 6 Thoughts on Festival of Faith and Writing

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Last week, along with a few thousand other writers, I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing and Calvin College.

Can I tell you a secret? As I much as I wanted to go when I registered when the actual Festival arrived? I was terrified. I didn’t want to go.

I wanted to scalp my ticket, craft a lame excuse stay home in my bleach stained tyoga pants. I could hide from my online friends who’d be soon arriving in my town and ignore the internet with all it’s hashtag glory. Clearly everyone would be tweeting things like…  #FFWGRisawesomesauce #gettingallthebookdealsatFFWGR #myfriendsareawesomesoamI (as I suspected…)

I was exhausted, I had a chest cold and I was awkwardly pregnant. The sort where nothing fits you so instead you just look fat. This was no state in which to present my real live self to the internet world. “I always thought @LeannePenny was slim, Boy was I wrong…#layoffthebagelslady”

The issue with my stay home and hide plan was that my friend Abby was coming to stay with us and I couldn’t very well bail on my houseguest. I was that sure she would spill into my house full of excitement, ready to learn, be challenged meet all the people and rock all the networking.

However, after her arrival, over a plate of my friend Anne’s chocolate cake, I realized that she was (almost) as angsty about the Festival as I was. We sat around my battered kitchen table and confessed fears, talked about mean tweets, meeting people who’ve blown us off, publishers, proposals and fear that no one would want to sit with us at lunch… or anywhere else for that matter.

I don’t know about other industries but I’m finding that the writing feels a more than a little Teen Spirity.

On the day of the actual festival I pieced myself together in my most gracious clothing and we made our way downtown.

The best thing I did before going was make peace that I wasn’t nearly as prepared to meet with publishers as other, non-pregnant people were and that this was okay. I had cute business cards, my mostly whole self and an aqua Moleskine, this was all I needed to receive what festival had to give me.

And in the end? I am so glad I was able to mostly leave nervous, teenage Leanne in the van. I really did find refreshment in my experiences at Festival. Here are 6 thoughts and 7 quotes that I’m taking away, gems I collected to put above my desk.

1) Poetry that resonates deeply within you can fix your perspective with the world, with God and with writing, and shalom requires that these things be aligned.
“The Poem is opaque, you see yourself in it. Poetry contains no single, obscured, meaning to be gleaned and beat people over the head with.” ~Scott Cairns.
(Poetry is for everyone, it is what you glean from it!)

2) Living in fear of who you’re not in light of everyone else will destroy you and steal your perspective, your joy and your life. Live with eyes open, notice the world, listen upward at all God is whispering.
“I am a seeker, but not always a finder.” ~ Luci Shaw.

3) Lament and grief are something God never asked us to hide from or pretend away. More and more people, churches and writers are getting on board here. This brings me unspeakable joy as my experience 4 years ago was very different, I found little space for lament in Christian culture. I am happy to be a small part of this movement.
“You have to have Good Friday to have Easter.” ~Shannon Huffman Polson

4) Not all of the fruit and yogurt parfaits at Calvin College contain actual fruit. In fact. in the blueberry ones the fruit is just a chopped up blueberry muffin. Also they are top heavy, watch out or you might awkwardly spill them in front of a table of peers you were hoping to impress, at least a little.
“Dammit! Sorry for saying dammit…. I just spilled my yogurt on the carpet, do you guys have any napkins?” ~Leanne Penny

5) Writing is difficult for everyone, and it brings out your worst neurosis.
“You sit to write & all your unresolved psychiatric issues come to help you. They sit on your desk & they have some worries” ~ Anne Lammott

6) I don’t have to rely on my strength figure it all out, to find the right words. I do have to show up, but beyond that God can do things with my words that are beyond my ability alone. The Holy Spirit is a powerful agent between readers and writers.
“My insufficiency is the point, It’s about my getting out of the way for Jesus.”  
~Rachel Held Evans
“God didn’t say “take and figure it all out” he said “take and eat.” ~Anne Lammott

So this is what I brought home from the Festival of Faith and Writing.

Were you there? What did you love, take home? 

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A Nickel in November

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but things have been fairly quiet around here over the last month. There’s a reason for that and I think it’s about time we come clean.

First I’ll give it to you in a money-math problem and see if you get it.

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(Because when your name is a coin, you rock the metaphor.)

4 Pennys + 1 Penny = a Nickel, or 5 Pennys.

That’s right, we are expecting a baby in November and yes, after a few weeks of letting it sink in we are decidedly happy about it. 

Now let me answer some questions you might have: 

Q) Were you planning a third baby? No we were not planning this, clearly we weren’t trying hard enough to avoid it, but we were not trying in the classic sense.   Want to know how I know we weren’t planning this? Nickel Baby will be arriving about 6 weeks after our new church launches. That my friend is some wonderful comedic timing. 

Q) How far along are you? About 9 weeks, we found out roughly 4.5 weeks ago.

Q) How are you feeling? Really tired of feeling sick and tired. I’m not throwing up sick, but I’m nauseous and exhausted… so so exhausted… and coffee tastes gross to me most mornings which seems like a cruel trick because I need my one cup of coffee to function. Confession? Sometimes I choke it down for sanity’s sake.

Mostly I want to eat expensive bagels, fresh ones from Panera or Big Apple Bagel, shelf stables ones don’t count, the baby can taste the preservatives and he/she no likey. High maintenance bagel habits are not terribly convenient or frugal, especially for someone who tries to eat mostly grain free and now finds herself binge watching scandal while eating whole sleeves of Saltine crackers. This has been a very accurate snapshot of my last month. 

Also my mouth tastes bad, really bad like rotten banana morning-breath most of the time. Bad taste in your mouth is an extra mean pregnancy symptom if you ask me.

Q) How are you feeling ABOUT having another baby? Honestly, at first I was a little freaked out…. I was a LOT freaked out. After all I had grand plans of productivity when both Noelle and Caedmon go to half-day kindergarden / preschool in fall. There was to be much writing and dream realization and now there will be much exhaustion and re-learning how to breast feed.

Even now I find myself frustrated 80% of the time, I have so much I’d to get done in a day yet usually I find myself back on the couch after putting away laundry and unable to get a cohesive meal on the table, chinese takeout again? Sure, why not? Writing feels as realistic as mountain climbing and getting ahead is a forgotten concept.

But here’s the thing I keep repeating to myself guys: People are not problems, people are amazing, people are gifts, people are to be cherished. This baby is people, and so is to be celebrated with wild abandon.

And when I feel extra down I text my friend Megan who reminds me that facilitating organ growth is no small thing, and to accept the grace and the miracle in that. 

So, come on Nickel Baby, grow healthy and strong. Take over my world with your organ growing and your impending arrival. Do try to be a bit kinder to my hips if possible and together we shall do what we can and leave the rest for another time or season.

My timing was never the best in the end and already I cannot imagine a Christmas 2014 without your warm, snuggly bean-bag presence. I will most certainly dress you in ridiculous hats, please be prepared for this and cooperate accordingly. 

Love Showed Up- When Grief Unites

 

Today’s Love Showed Up post comes from the lovely Rachel Haas and it’s a topic that I hope you identify, that of grief binding together in love and memory rather than tearing apart. 

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Two days before I turned 23, my grandmother passed away. The circumstances surrounding her death were a whirlwind. It wasn’t expected, it all happened so fast.

 

I stood in our brand-new kitchen and clung to my husband while I sobbed. We had just talked on the phone the week before, Grandma and I. She had asked about my daughter and we had laughed over an inside joke. There was no goodbye, there never was one when our phone calls ended. Only a “see you soon, love you much.”  

 

I texted my sister that night and we shared memories while tears dripped onto the screen. Everything ached. Grandpa had died when I was a teenager, and now Grandma was gone too. It was the end of an era. Nothing felt the same without her. I wanted to call her and tell her how sad I was. The missing was agonizing.

 

She wanted to be cremated. It had always been her wish. Grandpa had stayed on the top of the curio cabinet, among all the other pictures of loved ones. But now he and Grandma’s urns were placed side-by-side in the ground. Just their dust. Their souls were walking the beach with Jesus.

 

And so we gathered, all of us. All five of her children, all ten of their children, and their fifteen children too. Only six of us were missing. I wrapped my arms around my cousin’s wife for the first time and chased their toddler around the lobby. My one year old daughter met all her little cousins, who could not get enough of the littlest family member. My poor husband was dizzy with all the names and faces.

 

We were all there to remember Grandma.

 

At the end of the service, the family all stood together to sing the first verse of How Great Thou Art. It had become tradition at the funerals in our family. We’re a musical family, somehow, and it always seems to fit. We celebrate with song. We mourn with melody. It was just the voices, no piano in the background.

 

The love was tangible as it filled that auditorium. It was Holy Hands reaching down from Heaven to wrap us all up and hold us close. It was the most beautiful, the most heartbreaking, the most sacred celebration of life I have ever experienced.

 

Love showed up in the fingers of my family as we looped them together around the graveside, the air cool enough for coats. We stood around the plot and laughed. We must have been such an odd sight, the humor echoing off the stones. Love showed up for us that cold October day with tears streaming down our cheeks but smiling so big it hurt.

 

Love showed up in a cemetery filled with laughing mourners. Love showed up in a family gathered for the first time in years. Love showed up in connections and family love growing in bigger circles, like ripples in a lake from the stone Grandma and Grandpa dropped. Their legacy is still spiraling out.

 

Love showed up because there was no goodbye. There never was any goodbye.

 

See you soon, Grandma
Love you much. 

10264512_10152757894163642_1349287236_nRachel Haas is a Story-writing, caffeine-consuming, paint-flinging, wild-at-heart Jesus craver. She is married to Jonathon, as she has been for the past four years, momma to Marian, and wrangler of an oversized Great Dane and two cats who are relatively bonkers. She dwells in between Midwestern cornfields where she pours her heart out in lowercase abandon. You can connect with her on twitter, Instagram and her blog 

Love Showed Up: Love that Doesn’t Need You To Say It Back

Today’s post comes form the lovely Sarah Siders, who I happen to know because she works with my brother on an Army Base in Kansas. I hope you enjoy her lovely words today.

“I think we’re going to break up,” I announced to my new boyfriend after everyone else left the church that night. “I break up with all my boyfriends.” 

We’d only been dating two days, yet my previous relationships told me everything I needed to know about this one. Relationships with me end badly. I figured it was only fair to let this new guy in on my secret.

Ironically, I started this relationship believing it would end. But on the other side of my inner cynic was a hopeless romantic, one who hoped someday a man and I could love each other with a true and lasting affection. I’d just never seen it done. Not in my life anyway.

I don’t remember how he responded to my anxious forecast, but I have no doubt he calmed the storm with his trademark patience I would come to expect over the years. I do remember we left in the same car that night. And the next day, we were still together.

After barely a month of dating, or in my world, after 30 days of not breaking up, we curled up beside each other on a crusty, aged couch along his living room window. It was already dark, but we wouldn’t say goodbye for hours. I never wanted to leave him, even though he terrified me. No matter how dim my pessimistic predictions, I couldn’t make him go away.

As we lay there talking, he whispered the three scariest words, words I knew meant we were over. “I love you,” he said, his voice tender and sincere. But they sounded like the end to me.

I couldn’t say it back. I didn’t know how I felt. My mind flooded with all the fearful thoughts. It was too soon for the L word. Why was he being so pushy? Doesn’t he know you’re supposed to wait on those words, like a year or something? The men who said “I love you” before wanted me to say it back. And then we broke up. The L word is a break-up precursor. Doesn’t he know the rules? Now we’re doomed.

As the anxiety whirlwind spun a dervish in my mind, I sealed the words inside my mouth. Eventually I mustered, “I can’t say it back yet.” I braced myself for the awkward guilt I knew would follow my confession.

“I’m not saying it for me,” he consoled. “I’m saying it for you. I don’t need you to say it back.”

What? Who was this guy? I didn’t know, but in that moment, he was the man who loved me, and he didn’t need me to love him back. I decided maybe I did not need to break up with him.

He exuded a disconcerting confidence, the kind that could give love without leaving behind a gaping hole in need of a refill. He didn’t need to coerce me into saying something I didn’t mean.

He was a strange man indeed.

He loved me with a thick, rugged kind of love, gently and slowly burrowing beneath the scales of my soul. His squinty eyes beamed affection and admiration at me, but his romance never showed up grandiose. It just showed up. And kept showing up.

During the coming months, I stormed, nearly ending our relationship on a monthly basis. I tried to find good reasons to write him off like the other men, but I couldn’t deny this one was different. His persistent love rendered me uncomfortably vulnerable. I wanted to crawl away to save myself from the inevitable pain, but every time I tried, he talked me off the ledge. Calmly, relentlessly. And down I came.

All the while, he showed me he wanted a grown-up life with me. He quit his job at the grocery store and took a new job at a bank, a job with potential for growth, something that could support a family. He bought a new car. He met my parents. At first, it didn’t go well.

At our gregarious family dinner table, he was awkwardly introverted. We all wanted him to crack jokes like the rest of us. Instead, he sat quietly with his thoughts, not competing for attention’s center. He drove me crazy, yet his quiet confidence was what I needed so desperately in a man.

His love persevered, present but never fancy. A love

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with nothing to prove. It confused me, but drew me at the same time.

We dated only eight months before we learned my brother would leave for his second deployment in May. It was less than four months away. We considered a wedding after he returned, but suddenly I knew. I wanted to marry this man, this sturdy, bearded man who I couldn’t convince to stop loving me. So why wait?

There was no time for the romantic proposal I’d dreamed of, an evening full of surprises recreating our relationship or a knee drop in a four-star restaurant. We started planning the wedding immediately, without a ring on my finger, and part of me felt cheated. But there was no time for doubt.

One night only weeks before the wedding, he whispered to me in the dark again. “Sarah, will you marry me?” His voice was timid this time, but still sure. And finally, I felt sure too. “Yes,” I replied as the ring slipped around my finger.

We married in the middle of May, a year and a day after our adventure began. After nearly six years of marriage, I doubt his love less and less each day. His love shows up in sickness and in health, in childbirth and mortgage payments, in diaper changing and lawn mowing. His love shows up even when mine doesn’t, just like he promised.

 

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Bio: Sarah Siders is a social-working writer in a Midwestern college town, where she unsuccessfully tries to keep her chocolate stash secret from her husband and son. Sarah is the author of the eBook, My Birthright For Soup, and is currently working on her biggest project yet, Dream or Die, a primer on recovering dreams and vision for our lives. She laughs and thinks out loud on dreaming, relationships and the hilarity of parenthood at her blog home, www.sarahsiders.com. You can also find her on Twitter: @sarahsiders.

Interested in contributing to the Love Showed Up series? Send me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and let’s have a chat about it. 

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What I’m Into, March 2014

Month in (very brief) review:  March was basically a rhythm of: Take care of a sick person, check real estate website, read something, do dishes, repeat. I have some very big news that has dominated our March, sadly I can’t share it just yet, but soon. Really Really Soon. 

On My Nightstand: I read some really great stuff this month

 The Fault in Our Stars by John Green- This book was well hyped and did not disappoint, it’s a YA love story but the story has a depth to it, so it doesn’t feel adolescent at all.  This was my first book by John Green but it won’t be my last.
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – I love Moriarty and this novel did not disappoint, it’s full of great characters and hard questions but overall a sweeping novel that is very hard to put down, like cheesecake.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven – (Yes I just got around to this book) This is my first Mitch Albom book and I feel as though one read through is not enough. It was a tear jerker to be sure and it forced me to see my life and lives of my children as narratives so much bigger and more connected that I normally do.

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On the Small Screen: This month I wrapped up two of the TV Shows I watch, those being Dexter and How I Met Your Mother.  The end of Dexter was ridiculous, illogical and quite honestly it set a new standard in horrible series conclusions. I have a friend who is now using it as a standard of measure. (IE: From 0 – Dexter how bad was the ending)

And then there’s How I Met Your Mother. It’s done, we know. And we know a lot more than how Ted met his wife (who’s real name happened to be Tracy which is funny because he joked that a lap dancer named Tracy was their mother in season one.) A lot of people didn’t like the ending, Kel called the huge plot twist about 10 seconds before it played out, but the more I think about it the more I like the way the writers took it full circle.

It’s always hard to have well loved series draw to a close, I always cry when good shows end and this week’s ending of HIMYM was absolutely no exception.

Also to fill the gaps of these two shows ending I have started binge watching Scandal, which is an intriguing show so far with two seasons online for me to scarf up, which is great for my productivity levels.

night snuggles, Noelle melts snow and I work on two word processing devices at one! without a net!

night snuggles, Noelle melts snow and I work on two word processing devices at one! without a net!

Best of This Blog- This month’s top two posts were guest posts by great friends, which I love. I love that you guys are so gracious about tuning and engaging with guest posters. We’ve good hosts people, with great friends. Double awesome.

Love Showed Up- When people say they’re hurting, believe them by Abby Norman There are things people suffer that we understand and can relate to, and there are things we just don’t get. (Mental health issues often fall into the second category.) I don’t know why some suffering is easier for me to dismiss than others. But I do know this: Love showed up for me when people believed I was in pain. 

Love Showed Up- When Love Drives You Home by Allison Luna 
Sometimes love searches you out. Sometimes love shows up in your hospital room. Sometimes love shows up with warm blankets. Sometimes love shows up to remind you that you are loved, that you are safe, that you are wanted. Sometimes love shows up and sometimes love drives you home.

God I don’t give this to you:  God I do not trust with you my children and I do not trust you with my husband. I do not trust you with our provision and I do not trust that you go before. But God? I want to.

In My Earbuds- We’ll I’ve been listening to Pharell’s Happy at least five times a day like I assume the rest of you all are. Other than that I haven’t added much in the way of new music but I do encourage you to tune in on spotify and see if our music tastes match up.

Non Verbal Creativity – I’ve whipped up a few baby hats for showers and plugged away at my Granny Square afghan. Soon I plan to turn all Noelle’s holey leggings into little shorts to help her stay modest with summer sun dress season approaching.

Most Liked Post on Instagram

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What can I say, everyone loves the little man, who came into my room that evening all drippy post-bath, just to make me smile. 

Honorable Mention:

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THIS TOILET SEAT which was found in a house we looked at during our marathon home search. Why? Who? I must know the story behind what causes a person to spend money on such a thing!

So what about you? What have you been writing, reading, watching, eating? 

This post contains links to my affiliates page, buying through those links helps support this blog, which is helpful.

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