Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Happy birthday, Evan.

In honor of my brother's birthday today! 
Warning: heart-felt, mushy content below

Sketch of Evan I did a couple months ago.
When I left home, I was 20 with an 8-hour drive ahead of me to Siloam Springs, Arkansas. I left a lot behind with a long road ahead of pursuing a degree, starting a family and moving across the country, but one thing I did not expect to miss out on was not seeing my brother, Evan, grow up into a full-sized, sometimes-bearded, creative man. He was sixteen when I left for college. I missed basketball games, garage bands, girlfriends, late-night discussions and even graduation. I can blame the distance and my hate for the telephone, but somewhere along the timeline of my own coming-of-age season I became too absorbed by my own activities, relationships and goals to pay much attention any more to not just my brother, but my sisters as well. It’s disappointing.

The moment that it really hit me how much of Evan's life I missed was in 2009, I believe, when I was visiting my family in Illinois with my husband and little Oliver. Some of us were out on my parents’ porch one evening and Evan was picking around on the guitar surprising me by how good of a player he had become. He started to sing Wagon Wheel, and I was so taken by his voice. Wait...he can sing?! I didn’t know Evan sang. My heart swelled with pride in the talented and handsome man he suddenly was.

The sad thing is that I’m still too absorbed in my own life to stay well in touch with my siblings. Granted, there are a lot of big things going on in my life such as surviving and raising three children and a lot of important things they’re focusing on. But I regret often not doing more to stay connected. My efforts do not match my deep love for them! And I’m so tired of just sitting in that regret and calling it “just the way it is.” I’m going to commit (and I’m not always good at that) to calling or Skyping with my siblings at least once a month from here on out. I’m going to mark it on the calendar and whether or not they have the time, they’ll hear from me. It scares me to say that out loud because I’m so afraid of not following through and realizing I’ll always be this way. God, help me.

So, Evan….Olivia, Ali. Whatya say? Wanna Skype? Facetime? Talk on the phone? 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Discipline of Thanks • Round 4

This will probably be my final round of this. It was good while it lasted! I started the year out with a thankful heart and hope I can keep up the habit. It's wonderful to look back on these and see little details of normal days.

FEB1 - 3 Gifts Red

  • Oliver's favorite color
  • Mirabelle's kisses ;)
  • The natural tints in my hair. The fact that I'm a pseudo ginger keeps me from dying my hair.
FEB2 - 3 Gifts on Paper
  • The notes I took on the church bulletin. We’re very encouraged and feel that God hand-picked this church for us for this time.
  • All the napkins with hot wings sauce on them.
  • All those Sunday School crafts our kids take home after church and end up decorating the inside of our van for months. :)
FEB3 - 3 Gifts Found in Writing
  • Writing out my sadness about being a full-time working mom and seeing things more clearly. I’m so thankful.
  • Mary Oliver’s poem - The First Time Percy Came Back
  • Oliver did six pages of writing in his workbook today when I only scheduled for him to do two. Hard worker.
FEB4 - 3 Gifts Found When Bent Down
  • A kiss and hug from Benjamin as I grab my shoes to head out for work.
  • Goofy play time
  • Remnants of the day’s meals and snack times on the kitchen floor. I find pleasure in sweeping up all those crumbs in one enormous pile.
FEB5 - A Gift Stitched, Hammered, Woven
  • I "stitched" together a fun post card design for the UGM Thrift Stores
  • I "hammered” down my tendency to be defensive or offended TWICE today. God helped me see my husband instead of just react to him.
  • "Let my life be for Your glory 'woven' in Your threads of grace” - my greatest longing
FEB6 - A Gifts Found Outside
  • My nose hairs froze within seconds of going out the door this morning. That was fun.
  • These drastically cold temperatures are a novelty for this Midwest girl. Also, the sunshine is a nice winter mood boost. Everyone else seems to be dreaming of Spring, but I’m happy.
  • The mailbox. I wonder when they will be only a thing of the past.
FEB7 - A Gift at 11:30, 2:30, 6:30
  • 11:30 - Delicious goulash by our new cook at UGM. The homeless and hungry will be blessed today.
  • 2:30 - This time of day is usually when I start to feel pretty drained and am less optimistic. I’m thankful for the lows in the day though. They provide perspective and make me crave God’s presence a little more. I see this dull, depressing time of day as an opportunity to be thankful and let God’s strength carry me.
  • 6:30 - My turn to make dinner. It’s the only day of the week it was on me. So thankful for that.
FEB8 - A Gift Broken, Fixed, Thrifted
  • Broken - My energy, attitude and creativity after a long week of work.
  • Fixed - Benjamin's model airplane I knocked off the shelf. Thank goodness for Gorilla Glue.
  • Thrifted - The box of stuff in the back seat of my car that needs to go to the Thrift Store. I just love getting rid of things!
FEB9 - 3 Surprise Gifts - Unexpected Grace!
  • A unanimous family vote to take the morning off and stay home from church.
  • The joy and peace that followed me around the house as I cleaned and cleaned some more!
  • We had a very full house for small group, but it was somehow quite orderly.

FEB10 - 3 Times You Heard Laughter Today
  • My children dancing in the living room and just cracking each other up as I got ready for work. Best sounds to start a Monday!
  • Barb and I laughing as we sang "Happy Birthday" to one of the guys staying at the Men's Shelter who very much wanted to stay “incognito” his whole birthday. We even had a bunch of other guys around us singing too! #sorrynotsorry
  • Mirabelle, who is irresistible to tickle. A chin in the armpit, ribs or neck will do it!
FEB11 - 3 Gifts in Working
  • Work provides the opportunity to stretch my mind to places it has never been, and a reason to sharpen myself in every sense.
  • Teamwork. It’s a privilege to have a shared purpose, a variety of skilled people working simultaneously, and the simple enjoyment of one another!
  • Money is a plus. Very thankful for a steady income this season in our life, as small as it is.
FEB12 - 3 Hard Eucharisteos
  • Caring for the drug addict. Barb’s blog 5 Reasons You Should Care About that Hopeless Drug Addict hits it square on the nose.
  • I’m struggling with laziness this week and I'm guilty of judging others in this. Better look harder at this tendency in myself and extend grace and encouragement to others. Ann Voskamp’s blog today on the verse, John 2:5, “Do whatever he tells you,” is the Hard Eucharisteo. Obedience conquers laziness.
  • Mirabelle is completely weaned as of last Friday when she suddenly refused to nurse. I’m denying that it’s hard, mostly because I’m so thankful to be done. But seeing that she’s probably our last child, then nursing is a thing of the past now. Yeah. The hard part is knowing that we’re already past the baby stage of life and I’m not even 30. Wow.
FEB13 - 3 Gifts Behind a Door
  • An office as opposed to a cubicle. I’m quite thankful that I can close that door and shut out distractions and commotion.
  • Coming home to the back door I know I can expect a warm home, 3 anticipating little faces and one tired fellow who gives and gives of himself each day.
  • 2 little boys snug in their beds, falling asleep before Daddy even has a chance to say goodnight.
FEB14 - 3 Ways You Feel the Love of God

  • Music that carries me through the day!
  • Getting glimpses of myself through eyes that aren’t critical and I can see that God is happy with me. Not because of anything I’ve done, but because He created me and loves to watch me grow.
  • This verse sent out in UGM's weekly "Friday Flash" to all the staff. 1 John 3:1-2 (PHILLIPS NT) “Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called 'children of God' — and that is not just what we are called, but what we are.” 
FEB15 - A Gift in Losing, Finding, Making Something

  • Losing the chance to spend time with friends but gaining slow, normal time with my family
  • Finding Valentine cards and drawings for the kids in the mailbox.
  • Making soup for my little boy with a fever. The blessing of serving my family.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Discipline of Thanks • Round 3

Finished the month of January with my list of gratitude. Not sure yet if I'll continue next month on the blog in the same manner, but I want to keep practicing this discipline daily. Each day is worth the time to reflect and learn from.

JAN24 - 3 Things Blue
  • Oliver's eyes
  • Benjamin's winter coat
  • Mirabelle's leggings
JAN25 - A Grace borrowed, Found, Inherited
  • Borrowed: Three of the longest hugs from Benjamin I’ve ever had all within the same hour. He said, “Can we do this all day long?” YES. I think we both needed it.
  • Found: More eggs in the coop. Always a pleasure!
  • Inherited: My mother's delight in simple things.
JAN26 - A Gift Before Dawn, At Noon, At Dark
  • Before Dawn: Mirabelle is officially weaned from night-time feedings and we made it through 5 really tough nights. Thank you, God, for sleep again!
  • At Noon: Leftovers that helped us get past the post-church, pre-lunch grumps. Ha.
  • After Dark: Study of Colossians, prayer and feasting with our small group across the street. This is real church.
JAN27 - 3 Gifts in the Kitchen
  • My husband, who spends so much time designing and preparing meals. I am SO THANKFUL I don’t have to worry much about this aspect of home life.
  • Amanda, who is constantly washing our dishes when she visits. I’ve learned to not object. :)
  • Our trusty, retro high-chair that all three of my children have used.
JAN28 - 3 Graces Found in Friends
  • A discussion with Danielle that helped me look hard at my strengths and see how they can also be weaknesses. 
  • Barb, who knows how I function, let's me hash out ideas and confusion alike with her and meets me where I’m at. Her friendship and our work relationship means a lot to me.
  • A husband, who models true friendship to me. It's centered on truth and allows grace to flow through all the cracks.
JAN29- A Song Heard, A Soft Word, Light Seen
JAN30- 3 Old Things Seen New
  • Watched videos of when Benjamin was still a baby toddling around and Oliver was only 3. Opened my eyes again to their sweet child natures when I tend to view them as big kids in comparison to Mirabelle. They are still so small and not much different than just a couple years ago. I hope I can still see that when they’re full-grown boys.
  • Our home. I love that snow makes every detail stand out and paints a lovely landscape to refresh your perspective.
  • My parents. Seeing this photo of them as a newly-engaged couple and Dad in the military reminds me of where they’ve come from - how they are still those same people, and yet different as well because of their life journey.
JAN31- A Gift on a Paper, In a Person, In a Picture
  • On a Paper: Jay, one of the guys in LIFE Recovery at UGM, celebrated getting his GED today! A piece of paper can go a long way in our society. Proud of these men making an effort to get back on their feet and face their past mistakes and wounds. It’s inspiring and it’s why I spend 40 hours a week in an office.
  • In a Person: Our sweet volunteer Jerry, who we haven’t seen in awhile due to age and health. Glad to give him a hug today and welcome him back.
  • In a Picture: This picture I took of Ashley, a young lady who has overcome quite a bit and is leaning on her God and pressing into relationship with the father who abandoned her. Read her testimony on UGM’s blog posted today.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Discipline of Thanks • Round 2

Ann Voskamp came up with this terrific calendar of gratitude that gives you three unique things to be thankful for in each day. It's a way of worship that raises in me an awareness of Christ's presence. If you struggle with being present or feel you've lost joy, try the remedy of gratitude.

JAN10 - A Gift Sour, Sweet, Just Right

  • Sour: This video. It leaves a sour feeling in my stomach, but the awareness of pornography and sex trafficking is severely important. I'm thankful for this film that is being made that could change the church's approach toward the problem.
  • Sweet: Homemade cookies for the Admin office from the UGM kitchen. Someone stop me from eating more of these!
  • Just Right: Oliver's Geography Class ended and what is the one class available to take its place? Jr. Astronaut Club! It's one of his dreams he has consistently talked about for the last couple of years. Going to space! He is ecstatic.
JAN11 - 3 Yellow Gifts of Fresh Mercy
  • Surprising stretches of bright sunlight on this dreary, windy day.
  • Our yellow hen, Goldy, gifted us an egg today!
  • Mirabelle's warm, post-nap glow.
JAN12 - Something Above, Below, Beside
  • Above: God's response to Moses' anxieties and questions about the future: "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14
  • Beside: Sharing scriptures with my oldest from our devotionals. "Be kind and loving to each other. Forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ." Ephesians 4:32
  • Below: The boys in their bedroom in the basement expending some of their energy and creativity on Lincoln Logs and plastic, creepy-crawly creatures. Their floor is covered.
JAN13 - 3 Things About Yourself You Are Grateful For
  • I'm very uncritical (sometimes to a fault, but I'm often very grateful for this quality as it is probably less stressful of a way to live).
  • I can easily see the big picture. It's not hard for me to step back and look at the overall situation. This is very useful when designing!
  • I always, always want to grow and change for the better, even when it's hard.
JAN14 - 3 Startling Graces of God
  • His peace in saying yes when saying no might be a more logical answer.
  • Fast progress on the next UGM newsletter. Very startling!
  • New friendships and time to cultivate it
JAN15 - A Gift Worn, Given Away, Shared
  • Worn: Shane's sweater that shrunk and sorta-kinda fits me now!
  • Given Away: a chunk of dark chocolate to my coworker in the last hour of the work day
  • Shared: A movie with creative friends - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (TOTALLY recommend this one!)
JAN16 - 3 Witnessed Blessings
  • Other kids saying hi to Oliver at his school. He is a likable kid and it makes me happy.
  • Women & children lining up at the Crisis Shelter to check in.
  • A young mother and her daughter's vulnerability in being photographed for the Mission in order to spread the word about the enormous number of homeless women and children in our city/state/nation. She was in awe that she was chosen for the opportunity and raw in her trust that God would protect and provide for her. "I feel special."

Amanda and Daisy - Photo Credit: Jim Swoboda

JAN17 - A Gift Bringing Laughter, Prayer, Quiet

  • Laughter: Mirabelle right out of bed running with excited laughter to the living room to find her doll and squeeze it with utmost affection! It's how I feel each morning for you, sweet Mirabelle, when my eyes first open.
  • Prayer: God showed me just the verses I needed today in a comment on Ann Voskamp's Facebook page to still me as I am anxious to know God's plans saying, "Are we there yet, Dad? Are we there yet? How about now? Tomorrow? Next week?" Job 23:8-10 "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold."
  • Quiet: A deadline that forced my office door shut most of the day.
JAN18 - 3 Gifts From God’s Word
  • And my God shall supply all my needs...
  • Follow me.
  • God, the Lord, is my strength. ...He makes me tread on high places.
JAN19 - 3 Gifts That Might Never Have Been
  • Skipped church. Cartoons for them and rare chill time for me!
  • 3 a.m. design progress due to a restless night of weaning.
  • I almost stayed home to get some things done and I would've missed the best football game I've ever paid attention to. Plus great food and fun people. That was FUN! And Lord knows we need it. GO SEAHAWKS!
JAN20 - 3 Gifts Only Seen Close Up
  • Mirabelle’s soft baby skin and fine, wispy hair.
  • My acne that started appearing once I started weaning Mirabelle. I think the gift here is the humbling opportunity of growth in the area of self-consciousness, which is certainly something I desire freedom from.
  • Oliver’s little Angry Bird he made from scrap paper. Seeing my children be creative like this is incredibly satisfying! I can imagine more clearly now that God, our Father, receives joy from our ideas and mini-creations. :)
JAN21 - A Gift in Sky, Water, Memory
  • Sky: It’s getting lighter! It’s no longer pitch black when I leave work.
  • Water: The cute face behind this cup of water
  • Memory: A few years ago I played Quelf with my siblings and my brother got the worst scenarios dealt to him and I crack up every time I think of it. I'm sorry, Evan, for laughing...kind of.
JAN22 - A Gift Wrinkled, Smoothed, Unfolded
  • Wrinkled: Kid artwork and school papers that are overflowing our living room.
  • Smoothed: brushing Mirabelle’s hair. Makes her happy and calms her.
  • Unfolded: The mystery of when my sister is going to go to have this baby. TODAY!
JAN23 - 3 Gifts Found in Christ
  • His GRACE is sufficient and His POWER made perfect in my weakness. Mind blowing. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • New life - in so many ways. Welcome to the world, Ezra Neuman Hall. 7 lbs. 2 oz. 20 inches long. My sweet nephew whom I love so much already.
Photo Credit: @nocoastsurfer
  • His presence. It’s always a well that overflows and I’m never without. Can I remember that?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Discipline of Thanks

Ann Voskamp came up with this terrific calendar of gratitude that gives you three unique things to be thankful for in each day.  I may not be able to keep up with this all year, but it has been very good for me to express gratitude to my Heavenly Father for these positive and sometimes difficult pieces of life. This blog is a great place to share that. I'm thankful for my coworker, Barb, and the women in my small group who first introduced me to Ann's writings. After reading her book, One Thousand Gifts, I look at life differently and practice gratitude as a spiritual discipline to pull me through the dark, unpleasant seasons and remember moments I would otherwise forget. It's a way of worship that raises in me an awareness of Christ's presence. If you struggle with being present or feel you've lost joy, try the remedy of gratitude. Read Ann's story, or her blog, or just start making a long, long, list of thanks day in and day out. The easy and the hard things.

JAN1 - 3 Gifts Heard
  • The children giggling and dancing to those familiar Sunday school songs.
  • Benjamin's singing that haunting song from The Hobbit as he closed his eyes and fell asleep, "Far over the misty mountains cold, to dungeons deep and caverns old."
  • My husband playing Lincoln Logs in the other room as all the kids are asleep.
JAN2 - A Gift Outside, Inside, On a Plate
  • The sky. That ever-changing dome of light, color, texture and wind we are blessed to live under and unceasingly in awe of, every - single - day.
  • A free Christmas-style lunch AFTER the holidays (and the heart of Derek, our new kitchen supervisor at UGM, who created it)
  • Inside a dressing room - rare time to shop alone…and try things on!
JAN3 - 3 Gifts You Overheard
  • "The best thing to do with neighbors like that is to tell them you're praying for them and be in good relationship with them." (She gave him a knitted hat and invited him to Christmas dinner with her husband. He got arrested Christmas Eve.)
  • My little ones playing in the background on the other end of a phone conversation with my husband.
  • I heard my sister-in-law wants to meet up for lunch/coffee next week!
JAN4 - A Gift Old, New, Blue
JAN5 - Something You're Reading, Making, Seeing
  • Reading Jesus Calling every morning - gift from Amanda that we are both reading
  • Making Oliver's bed. Again. I'd do it thousands of times more.
  • Seeing Downton Abbey season premiere! The only show I actually get excited about. Truly a masterpiece!
JAN6 - One Thing in Your Bag, Your Fridge, Your Heart
  • A handwritten card from Dave in my bag for my 5-year work anniversary.
  • My fridge: Dairy. Cutting it from Oliver's diet? Could be an answer for us!
  • "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." Isaiah 40:31
JAN7 - 3 Graces from People You Love
  • Benjamin's insistent goodbye kiss. I dare not miss it.
  • A confiding friend sharing her hope and fear.
  • My husband who insists we hash out our issues. "Don't ever think I don't want to talk to you. It's not true."
JAN8 - Dusky Light, Surprising Reflection, Lovely Shadow
  • Submit, Revive, Peace. Words God gave me to prepare the way and open my heart to receive His will for this year. The way is unclear, but the words give "dusky light."
  • The flashback (reflection) I had when putting a Breathsaver in my mouth, of Dad giving me Certs at church when I was little. A little something to hold me over until lunch time! All the smells and atmospheres of church flood back.
  • This verse has shown up 3 different times today, like a "lovely shadow" following me around. "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 
JAN9 - A Gift Held, Passed By, Sat With

  • I held Benjamin on the floor of the bathroom at UGM as we fell over with laughter. One of the best moments of 2014 so far. He seemed to enjoy my laughter as much as I did his and we could hardly stop!
  • Passed by Paul today in the Men's Shelter dining room. He spent 37 years in prison and is learning to live in the real world again. He makes a point to say hello every time he sees me.
  • My dental hygienist, Nadia, whom I sat with this morning. A sister in Christ, and someone so similar to me!