Kuyper Coffee Dates- Tuesday

KuyperCoffeeDates_zpse49f9fa2 Today I’m continuing a week long series called Kuyper Coffee Dates, for more information read up on Day 1.  The short version is as follows:

A beloved college professor of mine gave her students an assignment to select a blog which spoke to spiritual formation, mine was one of the choices.  They had to write a short paper about their reading experiences which included an answer to this question:

“If you could go out for coffee with this writer, what questions would you ask her?”

A few weeks back I got a stack of about 20 college papers, all reflections and questions about my blog.  I was beyond flattered and humbled and I want to answer these  questions as best I can.

So Kuyper Students, readers let’s have coffee, shall we?

Is it hard to do something so public, like sharing your story on a blog, and still give all the glory to God without wanting to keep it for yourself?

Yes and no all at the same time, while it’s easy to puff up with pride when the page views are high and the comments are many, my pit fall seems to be completely losing focus of who gives me the words in the first place.

I do catch myself thinking I’m the shiz every once in a while and when that happens I remind myself that I am just another one of God’s kids who has clumsily managed to be be faithful with gifts I’ve been given.

The best lesson I’ve learned on this subject is that God is the one who is to be glorified in my writing, if I start taking it for myself or start putting my writing above my Creator he swiftly takes away the words.

He won’t fuel me to do something that is taking precedence over our relationship and communion.

Your husband Kel seems like an amazing Father and Husband, how has his spiritual leadership been a part of your journey?

No disputing this one, Kel is an amazing guy, so glad you picked up on that!  Kel and I have already weathered some crazy storms together.  Some moments the pain brought us together, sometimes we allowed it to come between us.

Yet during every painful season Kel rarely left my side.  His quiet prayers and support were the strongest spiritual leadership that he could have possibly shown me.  There were no words that were going to take away the pain I was feeling, so his quiet support was the simple, yet strong leadership I needed.

He loved me in simple ways by putting me to bed early, watching our 1 year old during my two hour baths and putting up with my ever changing moods.  His love was healing and I felt God’s love through his actions.

If someone asked me how to best support a spouse through grief, I would tell them it’s to dole out mountains of grace.

The odds are that your spouse isn’t going to be their usual self for a while so give grace and drop as many expectations as possible. This when they don’t meet your expectations or can’t engage your typical routines you’re not as upset or surprised.

I would ask Leanne how she has been able to go through all this grief and pain and still have such a strong and unwavering faith in God?

Okay, I am so glad that you got unwavering from my writing but to be honest with you, it’s felt very… waivery.

I’ve been angry, cynical and I’ve as good as given God the silent treatment.  There have been seasons where my most prominent prayers have been little more than: “What the hell are you doing here?” and “Please just sustain us.”

Yet I will tell you that not even once did I consider walking away from my faith. I screamed, threw selfish tantrums and bought into a hundred useless lies but I knew I wasn’t going anywhere.  God was my Father, even though I was one of his most pissed off and petulant kids.

I don’t know how I did that, I was real with my community of faith, they knew I was angry and in no mood for trite platitudes.  I don’t have any tips or tricks on this one, just keep talking to God, keep taking steps out of your anger and cynicism and he will be faithful to lead you into healing.

Letters to my Mother {Day 17} Date Night

photo courtesy of http://kundhicreative.com

Dear Mom,

Tonight was Kel’s birthday and we got the chance to go out together, just the two of us.

We drank and we chatted about life, jobs and of course our kids.

We quizzed each other on what dream vacation we would most like to go on these days.

In case you’re interested mine consists of a hut on the beach with some reading, some loving, some sleeping and some walks on the beach.  Generally tons and tons of peace and quiet.  This would be my bliss right now as peace is hard to come by. Continue reading

Real Connection from Real People (you guys!)

On Tuesday I asked you all to share your tips and practices for staying connected with your spouse in the midst of crazy busy life.  If I’ve learned one thing from focusing on this subject it is this:  You have to make connection work for you, you cannot CANNOT wait for the perfect circumstances.

Basically, if you connect in small, simple ways regularly and plan special outings occasionally you will give your marriage room to be and grow.

Here are few ways in which you all are staying connected in every day life.
Thank you all so much for sharing your lives in this way.  It’s been such a blessing

1) Natalie and Michael Summers (Married 10 years) Me and Michael try to do a hump day lunch day!  We meet for lunch on Wednesday each week.  It gives us a chance to have adult conversation without listening ears present!  We started doing this a couple of years ago and it really helped keep us sane when we got foster kiddos!  

2) John and Jill Burden– (Married 4 Years)  John and I have a secret message for communicating our love; when we are in public and are feeling lovey dovey toward the other person, we will squeeze the other person’s leg, arm, or hand three times for, “I love you.” Still gives us the butterflies for one another! There is something about having that little gesture between just the two of us that makes us feel closely connected.

3) Lauri and Shannon Rowe (Married 16 years) Weekend getaways. They work wonders for our marriage. The trick is to not think getaways are only for when you are getting along. The best time to take them is when you are frustrated with each other. That is when you need to get alone and remember why you chose each other for this crazy journey. The other thing that is a must is SEX! Yep I said it, do it often, do it well and do it even when you are tired and not in the mood. It is a gift God gives couples and it will reconnect you even when your heart may not be in it.

 4) Mr & Miss Banana Pants  (Married 8 years)  One of the ways that we’ve found is making new tangible memories almost weekly. So much of one’s romance and fun and spontaneity is in the very beginning, when everything is exciting and new and lighthearted. You laugh, you joke, you pose for silly pictures….we decided to bring a bit of that back. We love to take silly pictures of us doing simple things together. The photos I’ve included are us doing the mundane, but making them goofy by taking pics of the moment. One day we decided to stop at a discount store and try on sunglasses, hence the shades with staches! Ha! One is just driving down the road to pick up the kids from Wednesday night church. The other is us enjoying a evening in spring on our bench on the patio just chatting. Nothing new and exciting, but just by whipping out the camera and snapping away, it changed the mood that can sometimes be too serious and too much about the finances or the kids, back to being about us and living in the moment. They are also so cute to look back on in those rough times and smile at your goofy expressions and remember, “Yep, I still do really love that guy.” 

5) Brian and Hannah Harrison (married 7, almost 8 years)  No matter what the day has brought or the evening holds we made it a point to eat dinner together.  Even if he comes home from work and goes then leaves for practice an hour later, we know we have that point of connection.  

6) Dan & Sarah Cody (Married 5 years) We connect on the front porch with a glass of wine or cappuccino after the kids have gone to bed, One of my favorite parts of the day!

7) David & Sally Verkaik (Married 28 years)  This is a shout out to my parent’s marriage, which despite all their bumps was strong and so very faithful.  I remember at least once a week my parents would drive to our local Burger King, which overlooked a hilly field.  They would each order a Hershey Pie and Coffee from BK  and chat in the front seats over coffee and dessert.  

8) Jennifer & Kurt Luitwieler (Married 17 years) – They are just dorky. We text thought the day, sharing stupid things we’ve seen. We post inside jokes on Facebook like teenagers. But mostly, I know Kurt LOVES it when as I pass him, I just give him a touch. An arm, or across his back. Anything. He loves it.

9) Kel & Leanne Penny (Married 6 years) Kel and I try to set a “date night in” and make a somewhat nicer dinner with a bottle of wine after the kids go to bed.  On the night of opening ceremonies we had a London themed Date night in our PJs.  Even on the nights where we crash on the couch we try to lay on the same one and touch so even though we’re zoned out, we’re doing it together.  

So I hope we can all gain a little inspiration for each other and find a way to connect with our spouses intentionally over the weekend.

Thanks for all your thought and comments over this Marriage Week, now I do believe I will take the weekend off and eat a cookie.

But if you have additional ideas leave them in the comment section and let me know which of these inspire you enough to try!

Worst Grace- loving in the fray

photo courtesy of lucy.jane on flickr.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

let’s hear from my hubs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God
Wife
Children
Job / Calling
Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

crazy busy connection (let’s share our secrets)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a goodbye, nose-smooshing, airport kiss.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring on 7, 17, and 47.

Week of Mutuality: Uniquely Equal

flickr- torea jade

We started with a mutual mindset from the very beginning.  We met over the internet and fell in love on the telephone.  There were countless deep conversations shared, as well as some really silly ones which involved herds of beaver and  my extreme dislike of the word “penetrate.”

We shared dreams together Kel and I, like leading a church where we taught side by side, bringing truth from the unique vantage points that God poured into each of us.

We believed that the fullness of God could only be fully expressed with both of us alight and alive, as Kel and Leanne, as man and woman.  That Kel in his maleness held totally unique aspects of God, while I with my Eve-ness carried the other part.

After all it was only “good” or “Tov” with just Adam, but “Tov Meod” or “very good” when God had breathed himself into both of them.  We believe that each of us carry attributes of God that are unique and equally necessary for his world.

So here we are now,  7 years later, we don’t have our own church and we aren’t teaching together in a Yin/Yang fashion.  He is leading a ministry and I’m at home, raising our children, making them breakfast, reading books and taking them to the splash park.

Some may look at our marriage and see me as the complement to his ministry, the support to his leadership role.  Me the little woman at home with the sewing machine, he the breadwinner with the lawn mower, black and white and typical.

That view of “us” would be wrong and narrow.

They would be missing the mornings and afternoons where he takes charge of the house so I can write and respond to all the “non-mom” ways in which the spirit is leading me.

They would be oblivious to the hard truth that there is nothing passive or easy about raising children.  Kel would be the first to tell you that in our marriage, my job requires just as much if not more strength and power from the Holy Spirit as his career of ministry and leadership.

They wouldn’t know that when I visit his supporting churches, I am “Kel’s wife”, but that when he goes to conferences or weddings, he is often “Leanne’s husband.”

This distinction holds no insecurity for either of us, because we would be selfish if our desire wasn’t for the other to shine.  I want to be Kel’s wife as much as he desires to be Leanne’s husband.

We view our unique calls as something that our whole family is involved in.  He is just as willing to take care of children at home so I can speak at a retreat as I am to go it alone while he is at a conference or camp.

Honestly? Yes, some days my call does feel marginalized by the simple truth that his work brings a paycheck and my writing brings next to nothing monetarily.  But, honestly? I like paying the mortgage and buying milk.

Right now is a season of young ones who require heaps of attention and correction.  Yet seasons always change and with age will come more space for me to lead outside of these four, small brick walls.

Today I will rest in the fact that I am no less valuable and no less needed in this world because of my gender or income.

I have birthed children, nursed babies, written beautiful words, scrubbed toilets and made a hundred pots of oatmeal.  Kel has (almost) earned a masters degree, warmed 2 AM bottles, folded socks and made pan after pan of chicken enchiladas.

There is nothing about our life that is too minimal or too large for the other to participate in, nothing that is outside the realm of our love and support of each other.

We live equally, we love differently, we bring our gifts uniquely and we support mutually.

He’s home, for ME.

This is my man. swoon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pizza Paradigm

I like to make things complicated and I love to go over the top.  If it were up to me everything would be healthy, fancy and made by hand or from scratch.  I would also like to write a book and run a 5k… and be an epic parent… and an gracious and loving wife… and a volunteer at church… and a great friend…and a gourmet cook …and…. anyone else exhausted just reading this?  Then allow me to tell you the lesson I learned last night over a valentines pizza.

Last night my husband had to work late, like 10PM late.  Nevertheless I was determined to find some space to connect, so we decided to share a very late Valentines Dinner together.  I got a Pork tenderloin which I was going to season with Herbs de Provence and then glaze in peach preserves and serve next to garlic roasted asparagus and pink champagne.  Fancy and Romancey, eh?

All day I found myself entirely drained by simply keeping up with the day’s tasks.  I had organized the preschool party and made 24 individual heart shaped mini pizzas for the kids.  Made pink pancakes in the shape of hearts!  Also, it didn’t help that my daughter painted the couch with vaseline when I wasn’t looking, no, that didn’t help at all.

By 8 PM they were both asleep and I surveyed my house, the vaseline couch, the pink pancake batter splats and the gold fish crackers smashed into the carpet.  It would be hard for me to relax and find my romantic place in chaos, plus there was the dinner to start on and candles to scatter and light.  I found myself with a decision, should I find my reserve tank, pull out all the stops and exhaust myself for the sake of Valentines Day?  Or could there possibly be another way?

I usually shoot over the top, and I’m learning that it drains me.  When it’s finally time for the party, the moment or the big reveal I have nothing left to give and no energy what I worked so hard to perfect.  The pork tenderloin would have put me over the edge last night so when I opened the fridge to put the milk away my solution presented itself.  There on a pan were three leftover, unbaked little heart pizzas.  So I preheated the oven, whipped up a simple salad and dust busted the goldfish out of the carpet.  Then I poured a glass of wine and picked up my book to wait for Kel to get home.  When he walked in 45 minutes later I had something in my heart to give him.  Making the pizza / tenderloin swap gave me margin and allowed time for me to recharge.

We ate our little pizzas, drank pink champagne and had two cupcakes a piece.  And I didn’t count calories or freak out about the piles of laundry visible just over Kel’s shoulder.  I just soaked in the moment, because it was rare and beautiful.  It reminded us of our sparky beginnings, the difficult middle and the sweet right now.  The evening was bathed in simplicity and contentment, perfect in its imperfection.

Preschool leftovers and ikea tea-lights scattered among plastic farm animals turned out to be the most simple, beautiful Valentines Day ever.  The pizza swap taught me a valuable lesson about living.  So often we think that our kids, friends and family need something over the top to feel loved.  Or maybe we feel like we need to show off through posting pictures of perfect decorations or expensive gifts.  We get wrapped up in the details and forget the people at the heart of it all.

In the end the people we love really just want a small gesture and our full presence and whole hearts.  If we don’t take it easy on the prep work and details, we will miss out on the beauty of the celebration, the huge smiles and the little moments that make up the full life we really want.

So I found a paradigm shift in little pizzas, and Kel bought me a new pair of Toms shoes too.  All in all, Best. Valentines. Ever.