One Day in the Life (2014 Edition)

For the second year in a row I’ve linked up with Hollywood Housewife to photo-document one day in the life of our family. (Here is last year’s post if you’d like to check it out)

I did most of this on Instagram, you can follow that here if you don’t already. 

You have to understand we are in a weird season, I’m 36 weeks pregnant and Kel is between church assignments so his work load is sort of minimal. Our typical life right now is really odd for us.

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5:30 (ish) The day started out early with Noelle requesting to crawl into bed with us.  I gave in and settled her in to the middle of our bed and snuggled for ten minutes before giving up on sleep myself and heading downstairs.

You may have forgotten but during the last few weeks of pregnancy, sleep is elusive. Comfortable positions no longer exist.

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5:50 Scoot the dishwasher over to the sink to get it started, open up a can of cat food. so Alfie will shut up already.

Yes, my dishwasher is on wheels. We prefer to think of it as “so euro” rather than “so ghetto.” While I AM thankful for this mini-rolly guy, I do miss a “normal” dishwasher… Continue reading

A letter to my Son After a Bad Bedtime

I just need to write, to process life through words and to blog, I miss it and even if it’s imperfect or not tagline worth I’m going for it.

So today I’m sharing this letter I wrote last week after a particularly bad bedtime, I bet you’ve been there too. 

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Dear son,

you fell asleep in the hallway tonight, laid your little body down on the cold and unforgiving wood floor in protest of something that, to you, seemed monumentally unjust.

I tripped on you a bit as I made my way down the hallway, because you’d wrapped yourself from head to toe in your quilt. You scared me, I had no idea you were in there, I was sure you’d given up and crawled into bed.

I have no idea why you chose to fall asleep this way, but I’m sure it has something to do with the protests you were yelling down the stairs to me, the ones I ignored by turning the TV up and repeatedly yelling “goodnight!”

The last thing I heard you were complaining about your sister breathing too loud, so I’m thinking your floor shenanigans had something to do with that. I never have any idea what to do with that request, by the way, people need to breathe, that slow rhythmic in and out is something to be thankful for.

It was a rough bedtime, with Dad gone and you making multiple trips down the stairs requesting a snack, a chance to give the cat a treat, some time to watch TV with me and of course the breathing complaints.

I told you the kitchen was closed, I threatened to take away screen time, but mostly… if I’m honest? I yelled at you. Continue reading

How to learn gratitude from Epicurus while on your way to the porta-potty

Hi, I miss us. I will get into a better blogging routine. I swear. I promise. I think.

I owe you a house tour, a wrap up to the Love Showed Up Series and the ending posts for Kel and I’s story.

And thoughts, feelings, convictions on so many topics, probably spirit led and everything yet lost under a pile of laundry, pregnancy exhaustion and summer routine-less-ness.

The bad voices are trying to tell me I’m a crap blogger and my writing career may as well be done, but I’m choosing to call insane season, baby growing and keep trying.

For now hi.

Can I tell you about this cliché I am trying to hang on to? (This strikes at least me as odd because my most viral post is called 12 Grief Clichés and the Reasons they suck)

It all starts with an epiphany I had on the way to a porta-potty. If that doesn’t get catch your attention then I have no idea what will. Who has epiphanies while walking to a porta potty?… Except maybe “Wow this is going to be gross” or “Crap I forgot hand sanitizer.”

 

It was the Fourth of July and dusk had already settled all across the expanse of dark green grass in front of the high school. The lawn was crowded with blankets, lawn chairs and wagons filled with people, eager for the first official firework to be launched.

In the background a band planted on a trailer stage finished the last notes of “sweet caroline” just before starting into the slow, deliberate opening on the national anthem. The signal that the fireworks were about to start.

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Somewhere in that crowd behind me sat my family and friends, a smattering of faces in a sea of patriotism and glow sticks.

If the evening sounds Idyllic, it’s because it was, and it’s our norm for the Fourth of July.

Each year, bellies full of burgers and ice cream we head to the smaller stage of the Grandville fireworks and settle on blankets and into hoodies to enjoy the show.

And as I walked to the porta-potty two things came into sharp conflict inside me.

The warm glow of gratitude I felt for the privilege of that moment and the cloud of discontent I’d been living under. 

A Pinteresty, wooden sign cliché instantly came to mind. Turns out it’s less clicheé because it’s written by Epicurius. Greek Philosophers add a lot of clout.

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“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; But remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” ~Epiucurus, 300 B.C.

Flash back to months of house shopping, patiently waiting for “the right one”, one we could work on a make our own. Which we now have.

Flash back to hot days in Oklahoma, wishing we could live in Michigan, aching for the joy of a Northern summer.  And here we are, year two.

Flash back to evenings worrying about pregnancies, hoping for the gift of a healthy baby. Of which I have three, two wiggling like crazy on a blanket in the crowd and the other doing the same in my midsection.

Flash back to prayers of a career that would support our family. Our fridge is full, our bills are paid, we are well sustained.

Flash back to nights spent thinking that a man who would love me well would never come along. And I spend far too many evenings counting his flaws these days.

All those “hoped fors” brought into vivid reality and still I feel mainly discontent.

I wanted to drop to my knees right then and there and cling like a suction cup garfield to what was unfolding in my mind.

Why, why why is gratitude so elusive and how do I hold onto it with both hands? I’m coming to find out that my life depends on it. 

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I made my way into the porta-potty, did what I needed to do, which as a pregnant woman I seem to do every 13 minutes these days. Then emerged to discover that technology has brought us foot pump sinks for post porta potty hand washing.

Clearly a sign from the heavens that gratitude is in order.

I made my way back into the sea of people, struggling for several minutes to find our blanket among the hundreds of others.

When I found it, I hunkered down and kissed everyone appropriate for kissing, right on the cheek.

And you know what? Here’s the part where things get real.

The next morning I woke up and nothing changed. Not right away.

This epiphany would only be a game changer if I did something about it, took action to change my brain space.

Because gratitude is a habit and a practice and you have to do it intentionally at first, over the din of discontent.

Play it loudly overtop the sighs of “I hate our kitchen” or “there must be more money in the budget somewhere” or “why can’t I have her (seemingly) better-behaved kids?”

In the end I don’t want this blog post to lead you to believe that my porta-potty run in with Epicurus led me to an instantly more grateful heart.

It didn’t. But it can be another jumping off point. Another reminder that gratitude truly is the richest and best rhythm in which to live.

And so I am scribbling thanks
And I am contemplating a large piece of Epicurius art in our fireplace room.

I am looking at un-mowed grass and choosing to be thankful that it’s in Michigan and surrounding a house that is an answer to prayer.

I am thanking God for all we have and trying to stop saying things like “you know what we need?”

I am Setting reminders on my phone 4 times a day that remind me not to criticize the husband I used to hope for, but instead to build him up.

I am getting Brené Brown’s books on tape to get them into my head even if I can’t always slow down without falling asleep. We are all worthy of love and belonging. 

True gratitude will take practice, because deep down change doesn’t happen from one epiphany but from thousands of intentional changes.

Epicurus, please continue to haunt me, Spirit, please direct my thoughts, friends, please remind me of this truth when I complain about the messier gifts in my life.

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The Book that is Keeping Me Sane for Move Number 7 (review of The Nesting Place)

What am I up to over the next week?

Oh not much, just two birthday parties (both Noelle) two graduations (Noelle from preschool, Kel from Seminary) and closing on a house.

This is on top of the church plant, the pregnancy and the normal details of our life.

So honestly, I’m feeling overwhelmed with details. All these beautiful, gorgeous, fun details that I want to give intentional thought to, but lack the time… or energy.

I’m feeling strapped, by both cash and time.

I want to invest a bit of both in our new home but if you review the details above it’s pretty obvious that I am limited across the board. Andplusalso did I mention I’m still in the final stages of my first trimester with baby 3?

Normally I would feel stressed to the point of tear-filled anxiety over all of this, but I’m trying a new approach, some of which comes from this book and its gorgeous tagline:

“It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”

If you’ve spent much time over at The Nester‘s Blog this phrase isn’t new.

But when it’s implemented? When the seeds of it take root in your thought life? It’s revolutionary, at least it has been to this Idealist.

Kel and I have been married for eight years and this will be our seventh move. Seventh guys. Seriously, I want to feel settled.

We started in an apartment complex here in Grand Rapids, which I painted some of the worst colors imaginable.

Then we moved to a cinder block apartment in a partially condemned building at Seminary.

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drinking completely contraband wine in seminary. SUCH a bad girl.

That was depressing my soul so we moved half a block a sweet little yellow duplex, my favorite place that we lived before kids.

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Second anniversary, who needs shoes?

Six months later Kel was offered a job in Oklahoma so we loaded a truck and moved across the country where we moved into a rental that had a few bugs (literally)  oh AND a pull out stovetop.

I was newly pregnant and need to nest so we purchased new construction home and finished it ourselves, meaning we told the builders how we wanted it finished. We loved it, brought both our babies through those doors and left with bittersweet feelings to move back home.

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Back in Michigan we moved into a rental ranch in a fantastic neighborhood that has been an absolute gift to our family, but where we never really settled in.

One year later we are moving to a lovely two story in North East Grand Rapids which we affectionally refer to as “Our Grandma House” because it’s still decorated with floral wallpaper and pink carpeting.

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gorgeous new house preview!

More on this house later, I think I’m going to take a foray into home decor blogging now and again. It’s going to be fun, but like I said there is much to do, to think about and to be overwhelmed by.

So, with all this going on, I bought this book, on a whim at Barnes and Noble with $20 (It’s MUCH cheaper on Amazon) I really should have saved for paint or curtains or milk.

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My well loved, already slightly dogged eared in two weeks copy.

And I am here to tell you, it is the best purchase I have made in months. I couldn’t put it down or help myself from bringing it on play dates to show all my friends. 

The Nesting Place by “The Nester” IE Myquillin Smith, has infused grace and patience in my thought life as I approach this new home.

As she told her story of their thirteen moves and that all too familiar feeling of “The next house is the one I will really love and work on” I found myself amen-ing, tearing up and reading paragraphs out lous to Kel.

This book spoke to my soul.

If I pick out the wrong paint colors (uh, been there!) it will be okay. Why?
Because “Sometimes you have to make something imperfect before you can make it beautiful.” ~ The Nesting Place

My throw pillows are as flat as pancakes and this should make me glad. Why? Because it’s a sign that people have found comfort there, time and time again.

There is so much lovely imperfection that we find ourselves embarrassed by or apologizing for when in reality our homes are places of love that should be a refuge for those who live there and those who stop by.

I haven’t always been great at this, I get easily discouraged by our home budget, frustrated by the stray legos in the corner and crabby at my husband for always sitting on the couch in such a way that makes the cushions look weird and smooshy.

In reality, this is the place where the bulk of our life will play out and if I want a life infused with grace and peace, it starts with me. It starts at home.

This book is speaking to our my soul about our move
This book is teaching me to be a more understanding mom and a more gracious wife.
This book was a gift, a total splurge that panned out and was worth more than I spent.

It has a story that many will resonate with, grace that everyone needs and practical tips will prove  invaluable as we nest into our new home.

You’ll love it, I’d loan it to you but, I need it, I refer to it, I love it.

And I don’t want to give away the ending, but she shares a lesson about a celebrity death that struck her deeply and taught her a life lesson. This is uncanny because the same thing happened to me, same celebrity, very similar lesson.

This and basically every third sentence in the book caused me to adore Myqullin, her style and her grace-filled perspective on life, faith and home. I will be a regular visitor to her blog and a regular purchaser of this book for weddings, showers and housewarming gifts.

What is the one thing that is holding you back from nesting in your current place? 

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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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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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Love Showed Up: Leave Room for Yes

Amanda Williams and I have been connecting online for what seems like forever. We actually got to have a date a few weeks ago after which I fell asleep with a full heart because the gift of deep connection and an evening of “me too” doesn’t happen every ol’ day. Today she is sharing some of that lovely heart with you and I hope you’ll walk away with that very same deep, full, “me too” feeling. 

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“We’re coming up. We leave tomorrow.”

I tried to object but ended up crying and didn’t bother trying again. The truth was I was relieved. So. Very. Relieved. The truth was I needed exactly what they were offering. Not a task to be done, not a meal in the crockpot, not another sincere I’m Sorry. I needed all of it at once. I needed them.

They were two of my very best life-friends and they still lived in the town where we went to college. They would leave their families the next morning to drive six hours north on a day’s notice to do nothing other than carry my burdens. They were coming there to be me. 

The 18 months prior had been tremendously hard, and I’d never before been more aware of the separate and distinct life roles we each hold, the way they overlap and bump into each other in the course of everyday life. But the day before this phone call – the day my daddy’s struggle ended and he went Home for good – on that day the roles collided hard, loud and jarring like an interstate pileup. He was gone, really gone, and all four of me – the daughter, the sister, the wife, the mother – we all needed our room to grieve.

And so they arrived just as they said they would. They appeared at our door when the kids needed watching and disappeared when it was time to sleep. They’d made arrangements to stay with a friend in town so we wouldn’t have to entertain, and they brought sandwiches to my mom’s house on that awkward day in the middle, when the myriad of planning is done and all that’s left is to say goodbye. They thought of everything and did it so quietly, so effortlessly that it hardly allowed me any space for guilt, one of my go-to feelings in helpless situations.

There was a magic about this, come to think of it. They gracefully toed the line between asking and doing, not waiting for my permission yet allowing room my yeses.

My two friends gave so much in those four days it still fills my eyes with tears. They fed my little people and changed my twin boys’ diapers. They swept my dusty floors and did my piled up laundry. I’d not prepared for them at all, of course – cleaning house was not on the priority list in those last months – but they entered our mess as if they didn’t notice, picking up where I left off and doing whatever needed to be done. They bought me feminine products, for crying out loud. They did it all just so I wouldn’t have to.

It was love in action, love with no hope of payback.

When we decided it best not to take the littlest two to the burial – an overnight trip to East Tennessee – they made phone calls. They called their own husbands and checked in on their own small children – 4 between the 2 of them – and they stayed another night so we could go without worry.

For four days they filled in for me as Mom so I could be fully present as Daughter. It was an invaluable, unspeakable gift, and I will never forget.

People always ask what you need when you’re grieving, but it’s such an impossible question to answer. You need nothing and everything, you need companionship and space, you need room to feel all the joy and the anger and the sorrow and the stillness all at once. It is an impossible question to answer.

Sometimes, in the worst times, you just need someone to be you so you can just be. 

In the weeks that followed we sent out the thank you notes the funeral home gave us, the ones with Dad’s name embossed on the front. I procrastinated sending theirs because, well, procrastination is what I do. But also, how do you say thank you for a blessing flung that wide? I finally found some “Up a creek… That’s where I’d be without you” cards – because inserting humor into tense situations is also what I do – and I sent them with a movie gift card tucked inside. It was lame, but it was something. And I had to do something.

They entered the rawness of my grief and tackled the enormity of my need, and I sent them to the movies. It was a Lloyd Dobler moment (“I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.”), but I knew they’d understand.

Friends like those always understand.

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Amanda Williams lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and three busy children — twin 4 year old boys and spunky 6 year old girl. She is a writer, a procrastinator (just ask Leanne) and a lover of coffee, grace and wine. Amanda shares stories of imperfect motherhood, faith and writing on her blog, Life. Edited., and is Editorial Director of the online devotional community She Reads Truth.

 

Interested in contributing to this series? I’d love to hear your story. Shoot me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and we’ll have a cup of virtual coffee over it. 

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The Romance of Zooming out

It was at a busy Christmas party when my Grandpa handed me the white envelope containing their Christmas card. I opened it the following morning over coffee and lost my breath. I still do when I see it on the fridge.

It’s two pictures, nestled side by side, one labeled 1949 and taken after their wedding, and one taken in 2013 taken on a wooden chair in their condo.

63 years of marriage… and counting.

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In the first picture they’re all black and white smiles, arms around in each other in long dark dress coats. My Grandmother is wearing a sort of pillbox hat with a pearl pin cheated slightly to the right.

In the second picture they’re sitting on a chair in the corner, her on his lap, both clad in Calvin College sweatshirts, likely on their way to my cousin’s basketball game.

I’m not sure I own anything else that brings as much perspective as this Christmas card.

63 years, 5 children, 14 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren with one on the way.

All of us

These days I fly around the house upset over messes, worried about taxes, obsessing over buying a new house and ranting over the scarcity of time. Wishing that different things defined my day.

Zoom Out

My grandparents have 56 years of marriage on Kel and my 7.

In 56 years I surely won’t even remember this tax season and if I don’t get my act together it’s likely I’ll regret my bad attitude toward mess and time. Maybe I’ll even see it mirrored in the lives of my own children.

In 56 years 2014 will likely be reduced to just a few memories, flashes and photographs that managed to survive the years and somehow get off my iphone.

In 56 years (I pray) it will be Kel and I in sweatshirts reflecting on a lifetime of memories that may likely be trying to escape around the edges of our eighty-eight year old minds.

Whatever we’re doing this year is building a legacy, it does matter, it is seeds that will surely blossom into fruit we won’t see this side of heaven.

Yet then again, it’s just taxes.
It’s just laundry.
It’s just writing.
It’s just a car repair.
It’s just a new house, a place to do the good work of living well and on purpose.

When you zoom out suddenly you realize that there is a lot more romance in the sweet right now. Because at a distance you’re not in the fray of minutia, you’re on an epic journey, you’re dancing a dance that means so much more than anything that could possibly be getting you down in the moment.

There is deep romance form this perspective, you’re in-between photographs weaving a tapestry that will not leave the world unchanged with it’s richness.

There are markers in life that change the trajectory of things, there are defining moments… but so often it’s just life, it’s the small sustaining stuff, the pixels that compose a bigger picture.

So often those pixels seem like all there is but if you can breathe the romantic practice of zooming out, of remembering who you are and what’s really going on.

Then suddenly you become not the woman freaking out about taxes, but the maybe-someday matriarch doing the good and true work of building a family, sustaining a generation.

Giving life to something that will sustain deep familial love… always and forever inviting the world in.

“Come see, Come share, Come acquaint yourself with the source of love and sustainer of life.”

Zoom out

Remember who you are and what you’re doing. You’re the bride and you’re the matriarch in the middle of the story, a romance that is composed of small things that will not leave the world unchanged, guaranteed.

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Reflections on the life-saving gift of Caedmon on the occasion of his 3rd birthday

My baby is three. I have no idea how that happened, except yes, I sort of do.

It happened through late night nursing and strained carrots, through sippy cups and walks in the park, it came in tantrums and way too early morning snuggles and then?

Then this morning we woke up and there he was, three years old and requesting his 5 am snuggles, whispering me awake, warm breath on my face.

I followed him down the hall and pointed to the decorations, the streamers, the puff balls and the tissue wrapped banister.

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He made demands, because even on his birthday that’s who he is: a little boy still clinging to the firm belief that he is the axis on which the world turns.

Then there was an epic muffin-related tantrum where he ran around the dining room with the $6 box of gluten free muffin mix screaming.

“I don’t want you to make them, I just want to eat them!”

I’ve learned to halt logical thought in moments like this. #wheresmycoffeeIloveyouhappybirthday

Time out for both of us. 

Time outs are all about time to think things over, right?  

I choose to think about the timing of babies.  It is as my friend Anne Bogel says “a crapshoot.”  

Can I tell you a secret? We had a big fight after Caedmon was conceived over who was supposed to do what and “what if we just got pregnant?”

Then I retreated into the bathroom to cry, wailing about how if I did turn up pregnant then I would always remember how we fought about it.

what if our fight just turned my womb into a hostile and unfriendly environment?!”

Don’t you love the ridiculous things we think and say in the middle of arguments? 

And then? Cue Caedmon.

Caedmon who announced his arrival before we’d even had the chance to celebrate Noelle’s first birthday. Who’s presence made me worry that people would doubt our intelligence and sanity with two babies so close together (20 months.)

Little did we know that this pregnancy was a life raft in disguise. Little did we know that this baby boy would be more than wanted, he would be a needed distraction in one of the worst seasons of our lives.

The baby I wasn’t sure I was ready for is the thing that kept me going after my mom took her life.  

I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with Caedmon when we got the call, made the trip, planned the funeral. I was heavy with pregnancy and grief when I spent hours and hours on my feet greeting funeral guests in cheap, plasticy ballet flats.

At my next OB appointment I filled my doctor in on what had gone down since our last visit. He immediately escorted me down the hall to “take a peek at the little guy.”

“Is he going to be okay? Isn’t stress really hard on unborn babies?”
“He’s going to be fine, it’s going to be just fine.”
“But I’ve read that in like, a thousand places. Extreme stress isn’t healthy in pregnancy, I’m there, extremely stressed.”
“It’ll be okay, you’ll see.  He’s doing great.” 

Pan to baby on ultrasound. Healthy heartbeat. Healthy growth. Healthy boy.

When people asked me about the pregnancy I would usually tell them it was all fine

But if I decided to be honest I would tell them: “I just want him to be born, even early.  I want him to be in a happier place than inside me. I need to see him. I worry about him, being along for the ride on all of this. What if he’s born sad?”

People would tell me it was ridiculous but that didn’t change my mother’s heart…

 I just wanted to see him on the outside, have him in Kel’s arms and safe from the storm inside of me.

Yet all along I knew that this child came for a reason. He came as the best and possibly only beautiful distraction that could have turned our heads in that season.

I don’t understand the foreknowledge of God and I couldn’t tell you why mom left as she did, when she did.

But I deeply believe that Caedmon’s birth right after my Mom’s death was no accident.

photography by Janey Wilson

photography by Janey Wilson

And when he came? Oh, the joy of that moment.

When he came I was able to let go of the worst of it and trade it willingly, gladly for the joy that comes with holding a minutes-old baby.  It wasn’t “all better” but guys, it was better with Caedmon.

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He was loud, he was particular, he was beautiful, he peed all over everything but he was here.

And now he’s three and he doesn’t understand a word of this story. He only grins when I show him pictures of the day he was born, He grins and asks when the muffins will be ready.

He has no idea that there was a time in which he was one day and seven pounds old, a time in which he kind of saved our lives.

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32 things I’ve figured out in my 32 years.

Monday was my 32nd birthday and for the most part we spent it snowed in and entertaining kids. It wasn’t fancy but Kel did everything he could possibly do to make it special, including gluten free french toast and a total takeover of my Facebook page.

He hacked my Facebook page and asked my friends and family to share thoughts or memories of me and it was over and above the best part of the day.

It’s fascinating learning about yourself through other people’s memories of you.  People chimed in from every stage of my life reaching all the way back to elementary school and it made me feel whole.

I saw the continuity of myself, the seeds that were planted in 3rd grade tell the story of the person I am today. Someone who is comfortable being honest and unique, who loves words and apparently has and will always love musicals and movie soundtracks.

Seeing the story of yourself told through the eyes of those you who love you is an amazing gift and to all who chimed in, thank you.

So that being said I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on the things I’ve learned along the way.  So here they are:

32lessons

32 lessons learned in 32 years of life.

1) The moment you think you don’t need to pack a spare diaper, tampon, or hand sanitizer is the exact moment you should turn around and get it, because? Life is mean like that.

2) Eat real food made from real, understandable ingredients. It tastes better and it’s what your body was designed for.

3) Having kids is exhausting and it takes everything you have, and more, much more.  Then, in a surprise instant it gives you more than it ever took. I say this with a 6 inch scar across my abdomen.

4) Most things are better with a good playlist. Listen to good music, I use and adore Spotify.   

5) If you wash your makeup brushes regularly you’ll get less zits. True story. You can do it using baby shampoo, it’s not hard. 

6) Going somewhere? Bring a book, you’ll end up waiting and will enjoy it more than mindless phone surfing.

7) If you’re feeling small or less than worthy, get off the internet. Often it’s the compare / contrast that has you feeling scattered. (I get paid to do social media and currently don’t have facebook or twitter on my phone for this very reason)

8) Take more baths, they’re good for your nervous system and your soul.

9) Discipline sounds constricting, but usually it just frees you up to live a deeper, healthier, happier life.  Sounds backwards, but it’s not.

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10) Having company? Don’t freak out about the house. Set the timer for 10 minutes, do what you can, then pour wine and remember that your friends love you just as you are.

11) If you’re ready to explode, take a walk.  There is something about moving and nature that resets the crazy, it’s probably even science.

12) There is more than one way to do everything: This includes parenting, marriage, eating, working, everything. Judge not.

13) It’s easy to get wrapped up in who is not noticing you but it’s far better to love and tend to those who are. It brings with it contentment and depth.

14) Hot breakfasts change lives.

15) Gratitude fixes nearly all internal struggles. There’s this stat that says that one week of daily, intentional gratitude affects the next three months of your mental health and outlook.

16) Celebrate things. Buy champagne, toast the milestones, write on and save the corks.

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17) “I’m sorry” is one of the hardest and most important tools you have. I know, I KNOW it’s hard, but do it anyway.

18)  Try to stop worrying about other people’s bad habits and choices. You can only change you.

19) You will never regret a night of going to bed early with a book.

20) Learn this phrase: “I’m not in charge and it’s wonderful.”

21) Go to therapy as needed, maybe more. No shame, NO SHAME, we all need mental tune ups or complete overhauls at times.

22) Potty training is not a litmus test for good parenting. They won’t go to college in diapers. Stop listening to whoever is making you feel like a failure in the diaper aisle.

Read Books

23) Don’t feel guilty over reading more novels than non-fiction. Stories change lives as effectively as “how-to” books.

24) Reconciliation isn’t easy but it’s worth it to go to long haul with people.  This being said some people will walk out of your life and you can’t fix it, for this I suggest a good cry and maybe some ice cream. (refer to 18)

25) Laughter is a salve for so many wounds, especially in marriage.

26) It is no small thing to get to know yourself, it’s hard and worth it.  I recommend this sorter to find out your MBTI temperament. 

27) Avoid “When I’m a _____, I’ll never ______” statements.  They’re judgey and often times they just make you feel silly later.

28) Your concept of home will change as you get older, this is really scary but also natural.

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29) Give your children your time and attention before they start demanding it in the wrong ways. I schedule kid time before I schedule work from home, it’s like making a deposit in their love tanks.

30) In this DIY world it’s tempting to do ALL THE THINGS.  Pick some things that you just don’t do, I’ve learned this the hard way.

31) As often as you can take 100 things to Goodwill or the equivalent.  Less really IS more. I promise.

32) Embrace your age but never, ever stop allowing the wonder of this wide world to stop you dead in your tracks like a child at Disney world.

What would you add?  Come on chime in, consider my birthday present. 

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