My most important 2015 plan

I’m late to the 2014 reflection / 2015 goal setting thing, I call new baby to that… I mean hey, it’s still January.

Every year, in December, I make a photo book for our family that sums up our new year. Some we give away, one we keep.

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This year the back of that book said the following:

“2014: The year of Clara. And moving. And church planting. And Kel graduating. And Noelle starting school. And…. a lot of other stuff.”

Last year life exploded across the pages of our calendar. It was a mix of every feeling I’m currently familiar with: hope, joy, heartache, grief, stress, depression, satisfaction, infatuation and frustration.

As I look back through the pages of our 2014 photobook I can see the mix of emotion in our eyes, and as I do each one takes center stage in my chest and, in a small way, happens all over again.

Remember how happy we were when all that snow finally melted and the tulips broke the soil?
Remember how our mouths dropped with the test was positive?
Remember how proud you were when you saw him in his Cap and Gown?
Remember how scared we were as we peeked in on her, sleeping on Kindergarten eve?
Remember how relieved and grieved we were when it all came crashing down?
Remember how overjoyed we were when they brought her to your side and you saw each other for the first time?

2014 was all the things, really it was.

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Lessons from a Creepy Bagel Gawker (On Encouraging Moms)

A few weeks back Caedmon and I were out for Bagels as a break in the middle of errands.

I let him pick out his bagel and his cream cheese flavors from the case we affectionately refer to as cream cheese heaven. (Think a glass case full of huge bowls of every flavor cream cheese and you’ll see why.)

We waited at our table for our toasted and schmeared carbs to be delivered and as we did he started to whine for juice. This happens a lot, but I generally hold my ground because I want my kids to drink water. Also I hate shelling out $2.50 for a bottle of juice.

Yet, he wouldn’t drop it, he’s three, there are very few hills he won’t die on when it comes to getting his way: Underwear, hand washing, juice, who turns off the TV… these are all battle-worthy topics to him.

It went something like this:

“I want juice!”
“I’m sorry buddy, we are having water today. But I think your bagel will be here soon.”
“I don’t want it, I want a donut from Tim Hort’s… and juice!”
“Those aren’t choices right now, but a blueberry strawberry bagel is. Here it comes!”
“No, I hate bagels!” (goes to smack bagel basket…I block his shot because I know his game)

All the while I notice a middle age man across the aisle staring at us, obsessively and without apology. I try not to catch his eye after the first round because he is really making me uncomfortable with his constant gaze.

Eventually, somehow Caedmon calms down and digs into his bagel, even sipping and backwashing into his water after a few minutes.

All the while our friend across the aisle stares us down like my son stares at a Tim Horton’s donut case.

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From this past Sunday when we accidentally missed church and ended up giving our kids donuts instead of Jesus. #wetried

My creeped out levels were high when he got up to clear his table to leave (Phew!)

As he did he walked crossed the aisle to our table: “Hey. I just wanted to let you know that you’re doing a great job with him. You’re a good mom.”

My jaw dropped open. (don’t worry there was no bagel in it, I devoured that in 1:17 flat)

The whole creepy staring was an appreciation of my parenting skills? Who Knew? And what a weird way to go about it!

I thanked him profusely, felt immensely flattered and proceeded with the rest of my errands like the all star mom that I apparently am. With an extra dose of patience and understanding because of the compliment I’d been paid.

What’s up with the power of these words: “You’re a good mom.”

I hate that it takes a compliment from a real live person to make me feel more secure in my parenting, certainly I would like to be in a place where my call and my identity in God speak to that the most.

Yet, I cannot deny that every time someone has made a point to lift me up as a mom, it stands out.

I remember it, I feel it for the rest of the day and even longer.

Then last night, I saw Facebook post that brought all these compliments back to the forefront of my mind.

A friend from Oklahoma, who parents six beautiful children like a rock star, received a note on her windshield from a stranger at Target.

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Someone took the time out of their daily jam to notice her with her children, find a paper and pen, write a note and stick it under her windshield!

Whoever you are Target stranger, you are an answer to prayer.

Because how many days do we pray for strength, and how many times could we be the answers to each other’s prayers by taking the time to say: “Well done good and faithful (and obviously exhausted) mama?”

Not enough.

So yesterday I posted a Facebook challenge:

“Mom challenge: Let’s all tell three mothers that they are doing a great job this week. Bonus if it’s a stranger, double bonus if they’re having a hard day.”

What if we all complimented three mamas this week? Went our of our way to tell them that they’re great mothers?

What if we took the time to say “Hey, well done mom. It’s hard, but you are loving those little ones into beautiful people.”

What if we left notes on the windshields of dirty mini vans and cars?

What if we bought their much needed coffee at whatever drive thru is on their way to the grocery store or soccer field?

What if, when we saw a Mom struggling we intervened by holding doors and sharing looks of “I’ve been there?”

I know my world would be a more beautiful place if I answered a few more prayers with my actions.

So, are you in? If you are please let me know in the comments, or leave a comment about your encouragement in action. 

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New Home Tour

Last week Wednesday we closed on a home on the NorthEast side of Grand Rapids. As I hinted at in earlier posts, it’s a little dated but overall a great fit for our growing family.

Right now we are in the midst of packing up our current rental and painting and prepping the new home for our Thursday move-in, that being said I’ve found little time for blogging or social media. So let’s make this quick, shall we?

Stress levels are high-ish as we are busy working on one thing or another from the moment we get up to the minute we crash. It’s not a sustainable level but it’s been our reality for over a week now. Hoping that we can find some peace in the chaos and laugh about the mess.

I know we can, what I mean is that i pray that we will….

So all that being said, let’s have a tour of our new home via photos from my rapidly dying iphone.

photoWelcome to the new home, a classic white two story home. I have tried to figure out what architectural style this actually is and I can’t decide, not georgian because no columns. If anyone knows, help a sister out.

Right now we have no landscaping, none. I think they tore it all out because it seems unlikely they wouldn’t have planted any in the past 50 years.

 

Let’s start in the kitchen, eh? Here we are in the kitchen / dining area looking in from the living room. It’s a lot deeper than it looks in any photo I’ve managed to take but still a great space. The downfalls currently are not only the linoleum and wallpaper, but the small oven and fact that there is no dishwasher currently.

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This is one space that we will have to save up to renovate and I will likely spend some time and money in here soon as a patch to get it looking cute, and functional. I may even get a small external dishwasher… Any thoughts or advice here?

IMG_2442Here’s another view from the kitchen sink area.

IMG_2463Now onto the living room, here’s the gorgeous fireplace with wood paneled walls, which we actually intend on keeping to get in a more cottage feel. And don’t fret those carpets, there’s a nice surprise under there. HARDWOOD FLOORS!

IMG_2437View from the front family room.

IMG_2441Front Family room, currently a mess of dated carpet and window treatments, but no worries, we have plans. The carpet will be gone soon, down to the hardwood and the wall color will change drastically.

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See? Here’s a tester I did… for fun. It’s called Teal Zeal by Olympic, which I picked up at Lowes. This will be one of our more dramatic walls in a home that will lean a little more neutral.

IMG_2445 View from the front entrance. A pretty blank slate once you get rid of the carpet and drapes.

IMG_2443Oh, right! And here is the little half bath off of the kitchen area. I don’t love the placement but with a little love it will be nice for guests and us. Better than running upstairs I suppose, even if it is currently a wall away from our oven.

IMG_2448Let’s head upstairs, shall we? Speaking of the stairs, we will eventually go to hardwood under here as well and repaint the walls a lighter gray. Also I would like to go to a wooden handrail, over painted.

There are three bedrooms and a full bath upstairs here.

And here’s the bathroom. IMG_2452I didn’t take too many pictures in here, not hard to see why. There was originally pink carpeting on the floor but we are now down the the white linoleum, flecked with sparkles.

I want to change everything in here immediately, but time and money and oh… also energy dictate otherwise.

So instead let’s move on to the master bedroom. IMG_2457

The carpet is awful, but the bones are great, check out those his and hers closets and remember that there are gorgeous hardwood floors under there as well. God bless the hardwood floors and the owners for keeping them pristinely covered by all that carpet.IMG_2455They are deeper and more generous than they look in the picture.

So let’s move on to what will be the kid’s room.

IMG_2458This room is aqua right down the to trim and air vents. And the walls are in rough shape from years of posters and adhesive taking their toll. Also, these floors have been exposed for the past while and are in the worst shape. So they will have to be refinished before I can get the kids in here. Sigh…

So for now the kids will be in the nursery next door which I completely forgot to take a picture of. Shoot. Maybe I will add it in later?

Let’s go back downstairs and outside, this is our covered porch which will actually need to be torn down over the summer for safety reasons. It’s molding and when it was built they were skimpy with the support beams. So when it’s gone it will be a concrete patio for a while, maybe we will paint it and add landscaping?

IMG_2462So that’s it for now guys, hope you enjoyed the tour and remember that there are lots of fun after pictures on their way. We are already hard at work, for better or for worse!

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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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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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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? 

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Love Showed Up: When Love Drives You Home

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I found myself, maybe not so unexpectedly, stretched out on a hospital bed in the emergency room of the local hospital. The night before was left littered with despair and confusion. As I looked up at the ceiling and felt the paper gown that wrapped my tired body, I wondered how I fell into this hole and how the hell I was going to get out.

There was a babysitter sitting in the corner. He was reading his book. I knew his sole purpose in this room was to watch my every move. The nurses and hospital staff had already taken everything I owned and tucked it safely away so that I would not be able to harm myself.

“Do you know why I am here?” he asked quietly.

In my defiance and anger I told him that I knew he was there because it was his job to babysit me. “I choose to be here, honey. You deserve to be safe. And so I am here. I am with you.” These words, words of love, were the beginning of hope peeking through.

~ ~ ~

Depression threatened to overrun me that night.

My faith was crumbling, my hope fading, and Love seemed to be sitting on his hands.

About three months before, I started questioning everything. I didn’t know why I believed what I said I believed or if it even mattered. Is Jesus who he says that he is? Did he really do what he said he did? And if he is and if he did, what does that mean for me, right now, in this moment?

And to add insult to injury my own body was betraying me. I was depressed. Depression seems to be the demon that continuously haunts me. For the three months leading up to this night I wanted out. It wasn’t necessarily that I wanted to die, I was just so tired of living. It was like I was standing on the top of a skyscraper, on the very edge, and I couldn’t step backwards off the ledge. I either had to stand there or jump. It’s not that I wanted to jump. I just was so tired of standing on that ledge.

~ ~ ~

The night before, the police showed up and I was put under close watch. Sleep was impossible. The dark hours seemed unending and the morning came reluctantly. With the arrival of dawn, I received an ultimatum: the back of a police car or the nearest emergency room. Seeing no other option, I chose the latter.

With heavy eyes and weary bones I asked the nurse to turn off the light. The curtain was pulled to shield my face from the sterile fluorescent lights in the hallway. The babysitter even decided to give me a few minutes to myself and settled in his chair right outside the doorway. After a few minutes I woke up to voices, a familiar voice, outside the door. A shadow appeared on the curtain and a hand pulled it gently back. The face I saw immediately shattered my defenses and the room, once drained of breath, was pumped full of oxygen.

On my way to the hospital I shot a text to the couple from my church that I live with. I didn’t know which hospital I was headed to but said I would contact them as soon as I was able. I told them not to worry. Lindsay was out of town but that did not stop Scott from searching me out. He searched until he was able to find me, tucked behind a babysitter and crisp hospital curtains.

“Hey, Ali. I am really glad you are safe.”

In that moment, I felt both immense shame and immense relief. It’s almost as if, because he could sense the shame, he spoke out against it. “You have done nothing wrong. You are not in trouble. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Warm blankets were brought in and Scott sat down. He didn’t pry. He didn’t push. He didn’t ask me open-ended questions. He knew I would never be able to answer them anyway. He assured me that Lindsay was thinking about me and praying for me. He assured me that I was not in trouble and there was no need for shame. When he did ask questions, he gave me options and I just had to pick. Picking was easy compared to conjuring up an answer on my own. “I am going to get you something to drink. Do you want coffee, tea, or water? When we leave, I am going to make you some lunch. Do you want this type of sandwich or that type of sandwich?” I didn’t have to come up with any answers. I simply had to choose.

After nine hours and a psychiatric evaluation that seemed to last forever, it was decided that I would be allowed to go home. Because the hospital had to release me into someone’s care, Scott talked with the nurses and made plans for my discharge. Clothes changed, belongings gathered, I began to prepare myself for the “walk of shame” out of the hospital. The shame I imagined was quickly extinguished after I realized I wasn’t walking alone.

~ ~ ~

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.

934148_564066710800_1490501974_n copyAlison Luna, born and raised deep in the heart of Texas, is learning what it means to press in to the places that hurt in order to fight for joy. She loves her last name and finds promises written in the stars. You can find Alison wrestling with the idea of hope here and tweeting it out in real time at @luna1387.

God, I don’t give this to you.

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It was past midnight, maybe three AM when I found myself face down on our dingy comforter silently sobbing these words:

God I give this to you, I give it to you, I give it to you.

I sat up. I got honest.

God I don’t give this you, not today. I fully acknowledge that it IS IN FACT yours right now but my fingers won’t unclench. They will not release. Today I cannot let this drop into your hands where I fully understand that it already rests.

Today I am grasping, today I lack the faith, today I am fully of reasons not to trust you but God… will you help me? 

Could you love me, even now when my fear and faithlessness gather into piles of reasons why you shouldn’t? 

God I am through pretending that I leave my endeavors, my people, my life, my plans in your hands because I think we both see me scrambling for control, for the reigns, for the false hope that I was ever in charge in the first place.

I wonder if the only way to get somewhere in all of this is to sit up straight, walk out of bed, turn on the lamp and confess to you plainly that I do not trust you. That I do not give this to you… but that I want to, deeply, with a desperation kin a deep, desert thirst.

Continue to romance me? To pry my fingers open one by one saying “dear one, dear one… I got this. I got it love, please let go, drop it into the hands that have never stopped holding it. I know you are wounded, I know that you have questions and reasons why the only person who can make things okay is you but I promised you freedom and I will never stop calling you thusly.

He cannot promise he that everything will be okay
That there will not be additional pain, even loss.
That promise does not exist friends.

So tonight I sit up in the midnight hour and confess honestly the heart space in which I find myself.

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.

Can you spare a bit more patience? Go with me a while longer while I point out all the ways in which you have let my prayers fall through the cracks or be answered with the worst possible ends?

Will you forgive me my faithlessness a bit longer while I come to terms with it and beg a bit more forgiveness? A bit more love, a bit more time on our journey back to trust.

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How to Meet and Marry an Okie (part 2)

This is chapter two of my little blog-novel about how I met my Okie husband on the internet machine. For chapter one, click here. 

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Leanne and the infamous road trip Lincoln.

The phone calls with Kel started at “just this once” and then “only for special occasions” but as good things tend to do, they became an addiction. We started talking to each other every other night, for at least two hours.

I think “every other night” was an unspoken rule. We’d never met in person and we had no idea what “this” was so every night phone calls would be crazy, but every other night was normal… or at least less insane.

We’d have to wait until his evening minutes kicked in and we never indulged in daytime calls unless it was an emergency. We had email and AIM for that and he didn’t want to get in trouble with his mom for using too much from their share plan. Cell phone rules used to be so quirky back the days when we actually called people

So every other evening I’d crawl into my American Flag day bed (Yes, really) and wait for him to call, and at 9:01 like clockwork his number would light up my little flip phone.

And we’d talk about our days
We’d talk about God
We’d talk about our families
We’d talk about random things like “if you could have a farm with four corrals of animals, any animals you’d choose, what would you have and why?”

FYI Kel would have all beavers, because he wants to see what it would be like when they stampede.

We figured out how much I hate the word penetrate... A lot… by the way… just typing it made me feel icky… 

Sometimes on the weekends he would talk to me as I delivered pizzas, I’d update him about the weirdness of people and how much they did or didn’t tip.

The one night, inevitably I suppose, we discussed the idea of meeting in person. He was planning a cross country, seminary tour road trip with his best friend and was planning to be in Ohio and Chicago and “could he come up and meet me, no expectations?

We’d always joked about how we’d never meet in person, and suddenly all that was changing.

I have no idea what I said, probably “sure” or “yes,” but in my mind I was nervous. This was getting real! Meeting him in only a few months?

I had no idea what we had but I was really scared of screwing it up and losing it. Kel was this voice on the other end of the line, these words on the other end of the computer screen… this person I’d never met who understood and cared more than most I’d met in real life.

Of course I “wanted” to meet him, but…

I was so nervous about it that when the time came, I ran down my immune system and started feeling that preemptive nasty cold sore throat just hours before he pulled into town.Still, I gulped down some medicine and drove to our designated meet-up spot, calling my friend and coworker Amy on the way for moral support.

I pulled up, Amy stayed on the line to be sure that I wasn’t going to get kidnapped by a serial killer.

I got out of the car and he walked out of the house where he was staying, wearing a gray button up shirt and khaki cut-offs pants he’d made himself. They were fraying at the bottom.

And then there we were, saying hi and hugging and so nervous about things that we could hardly speak.

I ran back to my phone to let Amy know I was not being kidnapped… our plan was fool proof, obviously.

If I’m honest, it wasn’t bells and whistles, it was one of the most awkward moments of my life. We didn’t know how to do face to face, we knew late night phone calls and AIM flirting and here we were face to face for the first time yet already knowing each other’s deepest junk.

Yet we sallied forth and went out for dinner. I’m pretty sure I talked to his friend Andy more than I talked to Kel and he spent the meal smiling and flicking straw wrappers and napkin balls at my head like a first grade boy. (yes, really.)

After dinner, we headed back to my parents house to play cards and eventually parted ways for the evening.

The next day I took them to Lake Michigan and we went to our first movie in the soon to be demolished Studio 28 where his friend got us free popcorn and Nachos. We watched Shrek 2 and he gained gold stars for letting me eat most of his nachos after I tanked my own.. I mean who has brakes for free nachos? No one that’s who. 

That night we said goodbye, hugged and went our separate ways. I was supposed to accompany them to Chicago to the next day day but instead I ended up staying home instead, my sore throat had turned into full blown sick.

I thought it was goodbye forever. That wasn’t kismet, or movie worthy at all… it was sort of awkward, I wondered if we would even keep up the phone calls. 

He didn’t call much in the next few weeks because he was on the road finishing his seminary-tour road trip.

But then, one night he did and we resumed our every-other phone call thing like nothing had changed between us, like nary a straw wrapper was flicked.

Summer came and clicked along and we grew closer, over the phone and in emails. This was our jam. I’d never encountered anyone in my life who seemed to be so into me, who got my crazy and for some reason kept coming back for more? What the what?

Labor Day weekend rolled around and I had this urge to hang out with him, it was insatiable.. but there were serious barriers, the 1,000 mile variety.

1) It was Friday and I had no way to get to Oklahoma, surely holiday weekend tickets would be astronomical.
2) I was scheduled to work 3 jobs that weekend / next Tuesday (Pizza, Desk Job, Delivering Papers)
3) I had mentioned NONE of this to Kel, how much crazy could he take?

So I shot up an arrow prayer that went something like this: Okay God, if you want this to happen: All of my bosses have to be cool with me not working, the ticket has to be less than $200 and Kel has to be free for a visit.

Within the next 30 minutes every stipulation was met and I had booked my ticket to Oklahoma City.

I didn’t have to fly out of Chicago or Detroit, the first search I made on Hotwire was a ticket leaving the next morning from Grand Rapids into Oklahoma City for only $199.

So I called Kel and it went something like this:
“Hey what are you doing over Labor Day weekend?”
“Parking cars for the OU game and that’s all I HAVE to do.”
“Can I come visit?”
” Tomorrow? That’s weird, you know that? Like tomorrow, tomorrow? I won’t have to time to arrange for you to stay with a girl friend but I guess I can sleep on the couch. Uh, sure. Why not?… this is weird.”
“I know, I just really want to hang out.”

So I booked my ticket, dyed my hair bright red… because brave things call for brave hair… and boarded a plane to Oklahoma City the very. next. morning.

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Love Showed Up- An Argentine Easter

Heather Caliri is a new friend but her words are so rich and needed. I’m glad to share her story of hospitality with you today. I hope her experience with a generous Argentinian man leaves you smiling and determined to do something similar. 

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By the very first hour of his invitation, Topo had already changed my life.

And I didn’t even know his last name.

It started on Palm Sunday. At the Presbyterian church I’d been attending for a few months in Buenos Aires, Topo stopped me outside the sanctuary. I had no idea who he was, but he clearly knew me: the lone American exchange student giving shy smiles to people, my mouth firmly shut for fear of using the wrong Spanish verb tense. Most people, if they talked to me at all, would pat me on the head and cluck kindly. This was better than nothing, but it made me feel a bit like everyone’s favorite zoo animal.

Topo, however, was all business. He greeted me with a typical Argentine kiss on the cheek, then introduced himself with a big smile. “Topo,” he said. “You have plans for Easter?”

He’s a big man, with a shock of white hair, still thick. He was maybe sixty, his eyes tilted down at the corners in perpetual amusement. He is known for cooking. He has been a leader in the church for decades. Also, the man can talk. Fast. Even now that my Spanish is fluent, I have trouble keeping up; back then, he had to repeat every question three times.

 “Easter plans?” he repeated. He didn’t wait for me to answer, but started talking again. I struggled to follow him. Pick me up, group at the Puerta Abierta Church, Saturday night, his daughter, spend the night, very late, home too far, would I like to come?

I blinked a few times. Was the man inviting me places? I desperately wanted to say yes, even though I didn’t quite know what I was agreeing to. Several kind people had invited me to outings, but even so, I could go weeks at a time without talking. I’d moved a lot growing up; I knew what it was like to start from scratch, but being a foreigner was another level altogether. I was so terribly lonely.

Also, the idea of spending my first holiday in Buenos Aires alone had already been sending icy needles into my stomach.

“Me gustaría. Muchas gracias.” I said. “I would love to. Thank you so much.”

I don’t ride roller coasters because I hate careening through space without any way of stopping. But in Buenos Aires, I was getting over it. Anytime something interesting happened to me, I had that same whooshing feeling in the bottom of my stomach. I never understood anyone well enough to control what happened.

So it was with Topo. I thought I was signing up for Easter services at a different church—but I was really signing up for an entire weekend. Saturday night, he and his daughter Florencia, a medical student, picked me up. We drove to the Puerta Abierta—an evangelical church in the middle of the city with a giant youth group. The event started at nine and went on after midnigh. There were at least two hundred kids there, from junior high to post-college. And the kids from the Presbyterian church that had been greeting me politely—and nothing more–for weeks? They were there too.

“What are you doing here?” a girl named Cami asked me. A cluster of kids around her all stared at me, smiling. Cami was a leader at the Presbyterian church, tall, with pale skin and dark hair. She wore red Converse, and her low, vivacious laugh was always rising up above the chatter of the group.

“Topo invited me,” I said.

Everyone nodded; of course he had.

And just like that, a door opened. I had been looking in at all of the kids at the Presbyterian church behind some sort of barrier. I was outside, with no hope of joining in.

But after Topo, I belonged. The people who hadn’t really noticed me before? They all became my friends. Fifteen years after Topo’s invitation, I count the people I met that night among my brothers and sisters.

Recently, on a trip back to Argentina, I asked Cami about it. “Do you remember when I started coming to the Presbyterian church?” 

Cami shook her head no. “But you showed up one day at the Puerta Abierta, and then suddenly, you were always there.”

I still wonder: does Topo know that he was Jesus to me that weekend? Does he realize how big of a difference he made in my life? I saw him on my most recent trip back to Argentina, and wished I could explain, but with my slow Spanish and his quick wit, I have never been able to get out the words.

I realized, after meeting Topo, that sometimes love is even simpler than we realize. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to show up in a gigantic way for someone else. Surely Topo couldn’t have known how his intentional, generous, but short-term invitation would bless me.

I am still amazed at the amazing grace one gesture of hospitality can be. How generosity can take someone out of a pit of aloneness and fill their life with good things. After meeting Topo, I am hoping that someday, God willing, I’m able to be Topo to someone else.

h bio picHeather Caliri is a writer and mom from San Diego. Two years ago, she started saying little yeses to faith, art, and life. The results shocked her. Get my free e-book, Dancing Back to Jesus: Post-perfectionist Faith in Five Easy Verbs, on her blog

 

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