Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Spoiled by Simon Wha
Last night, my fiancé and I were sitting down and watching musicians practice for our rapidly approaching wedding ceremony. As we were watching them, she said something profound. She leaned over and said “Gosh, we’re so spoiled.” And in that moment, there was 100% agreement. If you were sitting down with us watching these friends play music, you’d know what I’m talking about. If you put a book down in front of me and asked me to read it out loud, I’d surely slip up with some sort of reading mistake.

 (Funny side note, I always read the word “misled” as "my-zulled.” I don’t know why. It’s a gap in my brain).

Anyway, these friends of ours could look at a score of some classical piece and play it better than I could read “Cat In The Hat." No mistakes, no hiccups. Flawless. So of course in that moment, yes, we felt spoiled with friends who love us and want to play music for our ceremony.

As I walked away from that practice, my fiancé’s statement hit me harder than I had anticipated. During this past year, I’ve been continually reminded of how much God actually loves His children and that we are utterly spoiled. When I say “children”, I don’t mean all of humanity. I mean His adopted children who were once far off but are now near.
The reality for God’s children is that everything in this life is a giant-ass cherry on top. Consider what your sins deserve. Consider your tendency towards rebellion. Consider your subversive disposition. Consider how by nature and choice, you’ve sinned against a Holy, spotless, perfect God. And then consider that even in all of that, God has spoken the words “I love you and will not treat you as your sins deserve.” Consider that He has given His beloved Son in your stead in the midst of your rebellion and has secured your future forever.

God has given what you could never attain. And yet, day after day, He gives gifts upon gifts. He has given me friends that support me financially, He has given me a soon-to-be wife who loves me despite all my flaws, He has given me parents who work tirelessly to provide for me in places I can’t, and the list goes on and on and on. Spoiled indeed.

This is not to neglect or undermine a life filled with serious hurt, trauma and struggle. But as a loving Father, He has rhyme and reason for all of it. One day, He’ll let you know why. One day, He’ll undo every ounce of torment in this life. One day, He’ll use all of it to remind you how amazing He really is and that He actually knew what He was doing.

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” -Rom 8:32
Paul’s basically saying, “You’re freaking spoiled.” Believe it. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Big Plans: The year long decision we didn't make

Last September we had a choice to make: should we continue to go to the church we have been attending for the 8 years we’ve lived here or should we join the group from the church who was planting an urban church near our neighborhood.  

The decision we kept coming to was “neither.” Honestly, both were really good options but neither felt right.  We both felt dis-ease and unsettled in our hearts.  So we started looking into moving, like far away, like back to CA or anywhere warm really.  David had been in Puerto Rico with his best friends from growing up and we both realized how much we miss the surf and sun.  

Almost as soon as we thought about moving David got a job offer from a company in TX.  He turned them down but we decided we should check out the opportunities there.  I immediately began to freak out.  Then I started the following dialogue with David (a monologue really since I never gave this to him or read it aloud...cause that just seemed weird):

"I know in my heart that we should go.  I can just sense it.  
I heard it in my mom’s voice...  “It’s an idea whose time has come.”  I saw that through her grief at losing her only two grandchildren that she still felt peace and trusted God who is the author of all great ideas in the first place.  
I knew it on our 7 year anniversary, when I wrote our vows out from Ruth, “Where you go, I will go...where you die, I will die.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.  May God deal with me ever so severely if anything but death separates us.”
I knew it when I read Glimpses of Grace Chapter 9 about hardship and how God takes away our pacifiers so that we can have him.  Even if we are happy with our pacifiers, they aren’t the best God has for us.  
I knew it when the dark started coming earlier and earlier and the cold let us play outside less and less.  And J.Wynn screamed about his gloves falling off before we even got to the bottom of the stairs
I knew it when  people who would cut off their arms for us to stay said that we should follow the lead of the Spirit and not quench it.  
When you went to TX randomly walked in on a board meeting at ---- Homes and then the CEO emailed you back even though I wrote a very open ended/ badly written email to him.  When he wanted to see your resume and references and has space for you.  
I still get sad to think about our amazing neighbors...not to mention the best land lady in the world
I hate the idea of leaving when:
A friend gives an unbelievable talk on gospel and I realize I have so much more to learn.
I meet a host of new people who I’d love to get to know but don’t feel I have the time. 
I sit at the park with other moms watching our kids enjoy the neighborhood and their friends.  
But I have to let them go.  It has taken a year to come to this decision but here we are.  At the crossroads."
Once the spring arrived, I narrowed my rambling thoughts down into a list (as I am wont to do:)

March 19th, 2014

Here is why today I think we should move:

  1. David is more important to me than any friend.  Leaving my friends will be hard but it will drive David and I closer together if we let it
  2. The guy actually emailed him back with three exclamation marks!!!!
  3. We would be closer to CA and could do PC as a family!
  4. Having David home is more important than any friends the kids have
  5. I want to take this scary plunge and have a life of adventure together
  6. 5 amazing properties for rent within our budget
  7. I am excited about my homeschooling ideas to supplement whatever school they have there
Next, I started planning

If I move to AUSTIN...
I get the opportunity to start over, totally fresh and there are not many opportunities to do that in life.  So if I move to Austin.... I will:

-Count 1,000 gifts
-Take time to be outside every single day
 -Learn to be honest and accurate when I tell stories
-Not create the piles that drive David so crazy
-Put up family photos!
-Pray every day with David
-Get up with David to make breakfast and lunch
-Learn Spanish
-Limited Screen Time and buy a battery operated clock with alarm.
-Be a Hands Free Mama
-NOT be a gossip or news bearer

Not forgetting back-up plans:

And if we don’t move...
   So if Austin falls through, then what?
Was it to get me to officially quit my job and use my retirement to pay off some debts?
Was it to teach me how to submit to my husband even when I am not sure what is best?
Was it so that I would un-enroll J.Wynn from pre-school?  
Was it so that I could appreciate with fresh eyes the beauty of the community on our block and the greenery of the trees that the abundance of lakes and water?

Wherever we go what I truly care about is:
  1. Prayer life, being led by the Spirit
  2. Quality time together as a family ( I think David and I need to talk about what this looks like for us.)
  3. Quality time as a couple.  (again...need to discuss)

Finally David actually went there and came back with a great job offer.  
So we decided to move...and the first ones to find out where David’s best friends who live there, who we were super excited about being neighbors with...

March 31st 
The reaction:
It was the night of the big decision and it could have gone either way.  We called up David's friend M. and his family.
     Junior was wanting him to go watch Casey at the Bat.  M. put on his cowboy hat and his best texas drawl.  Then he invited his wife in from cooking dinner to convince us too.  Once they were all in there saying how they wanted us to come I had to tell them.  David and I had just been fighting about it being his decision.  But it is mine too.  I want this adventure with him.  It is going to make us closer, more loving, better parents.  I am excited.  But M., he was dancing around the room like a maniac with Junior.  I was cracking up:)  
What was most inspiring to me was David’s stoic response amidst all M.’s craziness.  He took it all in stride and let his best friend wear himself out.  Then later he and M. talked a bit more on the phone but I was so happy to see that I am not the only one he doesn’t give a reaction to.  

April 3rd
It's funny that now that we know we are leaving we are freed up to do all kinds of fun things.  I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from David’s shoulder’s.   Tonight we had Korean food with our neighbors and just sat talking, laughing and eating together.  It was priceless.

And suddenly, 3 weeks before we were planning to move.  It all fell through.  I’d been praying for a sure sign and this really felt like it. Every door that had seemed opened slammed in our face.  It didn’t feel good.  For as happy as I was at the prospect of staying it didn’t feel good to have our whole world turned upside down again.  The spinning cycle of uncertainty threw me into a panic.

1. How can we go on with David working 50-60 hours a week and commuting 10-12?
2. Why doesn’t it seem like we are growing in our faith like we want to be?
3. How can we afford to stay?

Last week (when I realized that we will almost certainly be living here for at least another year)... God did an amazing thing!  

He showed us his love through all of you.  Seriously, every: kind word, morsel of food, load of laundry, prayer, penny, hundred dollar bill, word of wisdom or moment together we have received with inexplicable gratitude.  

Thank you for showing us how God loves us: here or there, near or far, poor or rich, good or bad.  So, if you are far away we still miss you and would love to be closer.  And yup, if you live near us you are stuck with us at least a little longer:)  That’s the story of us and the lone star state. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

On mourning the confidence of youth. By Elsbeth Cather Currier

It is very fitting that this piece will appear on KD’s blog.  We grew up together and she someone who I feel so fortunate to be able call one of my oldest and best childhood friends.
Friends since many memories!
On mourning the confidence of youth.
Anyone close to me recently knows that turning thirty last year was a serious struggle.  It just came up so quickly.  Obviously aging is unavoidable but these milestone birthdays hit you hard with the reality that it is actually happening to you.  For some reason, I just thought it wouldn’t actually happen.  A large portion of this is due to the fact that I am not at all where I expected to be in life at this age so turning thirty literally didn’t make sense.  When you’re young and naïve, you assume by thirty, you will have everything together.  I’m sure most people beyond this age will confirm that this is rarely the case.  However most people for whom this milestone age is still far off, I’m sure they have the same beliefs I did.  Another thing that didn’t help the situation is that I spend a good amount of time each week with teenagers.  I am so blessed to have them in my life and can’t imagine what my life would without them.  However, when you talk to a student whose birthday is close to yours and ask, “How old are you turning?” And her response is, “15…so half of you.” It will make you feel like the most ancient human being to walk the planet.  
My first time volunteering with the Element high school youth group at Discovery Church was daunting to say the least.  I didn’t imagine I would care so much about what a group of teenagers who I had never even met thought of me.  Since it had been quite some time since I could call myself a teenager, I had taken recent portrayals of teens in the media as reality and was terrified that they would think I was so old and so not cool.  It didn’t take long for me to remember what being a teenager was like and that they were far more concerned with their peers and the daily drama that comes along with being a teenager than with whether I was “cool” or not.  I had forgotten the beautiful awkwardness of youth and was quickly reminded of that after a short time working with them.  As I got to know them better, I would see parts of my younger self in them which made helped connect us but at the same time it made me sad that those qualities had been lost over the years.  
My kids are honestly the most incredible people I have ever met.  They do often remind me of myself at their age but I never did and will never be able to hold a candle to them.  They have so much passion for everything in their lives.  I forgot about the fierce loyalty of teenage friendship.  I forgot about the excitement of realizing the person you want to be and having no fear about moving toward becoming that person.  I forgot what it is like to have your whole life in front of you. I forgot about big dreams.  But what I forgot about most and what seems most lost to me is the bravery of youth.  I am amazed daily by these teenagers; the lives they lead and the desires of their hearts.  When you are just beginning on life’s journey, you really have nothing to lose.  My kids dream the big dreams.  They haven’t felt the sting of one’s dreams being dashed.  They haven’t felt the pain of it “being too late” for anything.  They don’t compare their station in life with their peers. I wished that I had been like them.
Then one day, I realized it.  I had been just like them.  All theses quality’s that I admire so much in them, I had had.  I had big dreams. I had no fear.  I had confidence.  These students are far more confident in themselves and what they can bring to the world than I am now at 30 years old.  I never expected to look back on my teen years and wish for the confidence I had then.  We’re told at that age that things will be better when you’re older.  We’re told that people will be nicer.  We’re told that you’ll have control of your own life and destiny.  In most cases, these are complete lies.  And realizing that makes for a difficult jolt into adult reality.  
Upon the discovery of the loss of my youth and everything that went with it, I honestly went through a time of true mourning.  As much as I wish to go back to the person I was at 17, I know that I cannot.  I look back fondly at that girl but I have to let her go.  This is very difficult and honestly sad.  However, I know that finding the pieces of that girl that are still alive in me and pairing them with the experiences of my twenties  will yield a person capable of being brave again,  a person capable of hoping again,  a person capable of dreaming big again.  I feel so fortunate to call my kids, my friends.  They have inspired me to revive the parts of my younger self that gave me confidence and hope.    So to everyone, in this same stage, do not despair.   Take the time to mourn the loss of the confidence of youth but then search inside yourself and find the pieces that have survived the difficult realities of young adulthood.  Revive them and be brave again!  Lastly, I highly recommend spending time with teenagers in your community.  They will teach you so much more then could ever even try to teach them while also keeping you young.  I don’t even have words to express the impact my kids have had on my life and how much I love them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Who Am I?

“Jesus was totally unpredictable.”    A friend said that to me last  week and it has been stuck in my head.

Jesus was totally unpredictable and I CAN NOT figure him out.  I’ve read the Bible a lot.  After all, it was my major in college: Biblical Interpretation. Yet, I could never have predicted his next move, or response to various people.
Somehow, I find it freeing because all my efforts to find the pattern he used or, the lifestyle he choose or, the perfect words at the perfect moment, the perfect balance in life is just too much.
I think the problem is, I am trying to figure out Jesus in order to figure out myself.

Most of my life is an effort to figure out what “type” of person I am or should be for optimal quality of life.  I find myself wanting to turn the conversation to myself whenever I get a chance, longing to get to a deeper level of friendship with people so that I can know what they really think of me.  (Wow, that is a little uncomfortably honest).

Am I more introverted or extraverted?  Am I an academic or an athlete (ok don’t laugh, I still aspire to be athletic or at least athletically minded).  Am I liberal or conservative?    Am I a happy person or a depressed one?

The answer really depends on the day and on the circumstances.

I have always felt like this was a bad thing, that I should be so rock solid in my faith and my identity that nothing could phase me.  But I know deep down that I am totally confused about who I am at all.

So, I utilize what I call “The Essay Approach to Life.” (Based on the three best ways to organize an informative essay.)

  • I try and define myself.  I get on this quest to find the correct definition of me.  I ask friends and family.  I ask my kids.  Sometimes, I  am so desperate to figure myself out that I ask strangers, “What kind of person do I seem like to you?”  (The answer to that is almost always... “a crazy one”)  
  • I try and compare and contrast myself.  This one is a recipe for disaster.  I compare myself to people I wish I was more like and I contrast myself to people I dislike. I feel bad even saying that I dislike some people but it’s true...probably not you because you are reading this... but I do this compare and contrast thing and it’s exhausting and totally based on my perceptions of other people which are almost always wrong.  
  • I try to figure out the cause and effect of who I am...what made me like this.  I delve into the past.  I dig up old memories and rehash old arguments.  I nurse old wounds and savor old victories.  I write the story of my life based on events and cataclysmic moments.  

This week I realized that applying ELA methodology to the nature of my existence is not really very helpful.

So, how do I move past this obsession so I can get on with living?

And I know all Christians out there are thinking, “You are the daughter of God, you are Beloved.”  That is the right answer.  I know it.  I believe it.

But honestly, (and I mean like super duper honestly...embarrassingly honestly...) I’ve heard that so much I’m not sure what that even means.

Which scares me because then I’m like, if I were a real Christian I would “get it.”

Here are some things that I don’t get about Jesus:
  1. Sometimes he seems really harsh (...but then, can you respect someone who doesn’t even have the capacity for hard truths.)  I guess I can respect it but I definitely don’t get it.  
  2.  He tells us to be alert and self controlled because he is coming back “like a thief in the night.”  (what does that mean and how can we not worry and still be alert?)
  3. He says that he didn’t come to abolish the law and yet Christians don’t follow the laws.

Here are some things I love about Jesus:

  1. -He had compassion on the weak, the poor and the sick.
  2. -He healed people!
  3. -He tells us not to worry.

Maybe I need to stop trying to “get it.” Maybe Jesus doesn’t want us to figure it all figure him out.  And maybe it is not that important for me to be able to characterize myself succinctly (you know just to make it easier for the many biographers who, I am sure, will want to immortalize me after my death).  Once I let that go, I can stop trying to perfect my image.  I can actually talk to people and not just try to analyze how I am talking to people.  I can live and breathe and love.   It may be a little or even a lot unpredictable but then again, unpredictable doesn't seem so bad any more.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Basics of World Cup Soccer

I married into a soccer family.  I thought that I was from a soccer family.  I played from the time I was 10 on and my sister started at 6yrs old. I’d watched World Cup matches and even remember admiring Alexi Lalas and Kobe Jones as America’s hope in the 1990s.  
Alexi Lalas... On the field... the field
But my in-laws...they are real soccer fans.  Like, stay home from work, call each other after every qualifier and friendly and injury update sort of soccer fans.  Not to mention that they are astoundingly skilled player to boot (pun intended.)

Probably the only soccer fans I know who are more dedicated are my sister’s inlaws, who are Brazillian...enough said.  

I’ve assembled a who’s who/ what’s what for myself so I don’t sound like an idiot when watching with my husband and I though I’d share it for anyone who might also need a cheat sheet.  

1. Here is the countries who are playing.  They are divided into 8 groups labeled A-H .  America is in Group G which is also known as the “Group of Death” because both Portugal and Germany usually make it to at least the quarter finals, and Ghana is always a contender too.  

2. “The best soccer player on earth” can refer to any of the following four people:
-Pele- played for Brazil back in the day and is an icon/idol in the futball world.
-Diego Maradona- played for Argentina back in the day and then coached for them last world cup.  Is bat-sh!#$ crazy but some argue better than Pele.
-Christiano Ronaldo- Plays for Portugal and seems to me the Tom Brady of the International Soccer World.  Uggs commercials, supermodels, etc.  Except there is no way that Tom Brady is even close to as conceited as Ronaldo.  (Can you tell he is not my favorite)

-Lionel Messi (he is my favorite)- If you like an underdog you’ll love him.  At 5 foot almost 7 inches he is small, to say the least.  Which is due to a growth plate injury he had as a child.  Amazingly he grew as tall as he is and is faster than lightening (not literally).  The only problem...he plays for Argentina, the bitter political, cultural and athletic enemies of Brazil.  I want him to win...but I don’t want a war to be waged over it. (not kidding).

3. Brazil is the winningest country in the history of the world cup.   They are banking everything on a hometown win. They have tons of ridiculously talented players but the one name you MUST know is Neymar Jr. He is unreal and probably should be added to fact #2 Best players in the world.

4. No, Landon Donovan (probably the one US soccer player you have heard of) was not chosen for the World Cup team by US coach Klinnsmen (Winner of the world cup with Germany in the 1990s...wait, what?!)  I know it’s strange.  I’m not a Donovan fan, I prefer Clint Dempsey to be our poster boy but it is a point of heated controversy and will undoubtedly be beat like a dead horse by the announcers.  

5. The games are called “matches,” the field is called “pitch”, the teams are called “sides.” Oh yeah and the sport, it’s called Football.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Embrace The Hard Things by Andrew Patterson

The stomach bug got me down this week and kept me from putting up the guest post.  But here it is now.  Read it.  Think about it.  It's good.  I'm always so blessed to get to post pieces from my brother.  It is hard to put into words the respect and love I have for him.

I was talking to one of my OG’s. For those unfamiliar with that vernacular, “OG” is urban speak for “old wise man”. The topic of our discussion was marriage and I asked him, “How do you do it? How do you stay married for decades? What’s the secret?”

His answer made a lot of sense to me. He said, “One thing we try to focus on is always getting through the hard conversations right away, and moving on. Once you take care of the hard things, you get on the same page and your relationship can improve from there.”

To me, that seems like a really smart approach to me. I look back on some of the hard conversations I’ve had to have recently and I realize that 1) They actually weren’t as daunting as I assumed they would be, and 2) Lots of needed progress has stemmed from those conversations.

As a youngin’, my older cousin used to always kick my ass in Madden. One day I was at his house playing the computer and he snatches the controller out of my hand. He checks the settings and says “See, that’s why you’ll never beat me. You got the game on ROOKIE! If you can’t beat the computer on All-Madden, how the hell are you going to beat me!” Being a former athlete, it was clear do me that doing the things I wasn’t good would give me the greater chance at improving overall. Doing the hardest drills and playing against the toughest opponents is the best way to achieve progress.

I think if we should extrapolate the idea of embracing the hard things in all areas of life. Whether it is career advancement, relationships, education, flirting with more attractive people, accepting and engaging in what’s hard could be a fruitful practice.
A rare photo of my two favorite "hoop ball" players together

Monday, June 2, 2014

Date night

In theory, my husband and I have no excuse for going so long without a date night.  We have the best neighbors in the world whose kids we can watch one night and then they watch ours another.  This is crucial because the kids are with people we love and trust and we don’t have the expense of a babysitter (I should know,  babysitting was my main source of cash flow from middle school through college.)   These saintly friends even watch our kids when we fail to uphold our end of the date night trade.  

I’m all about the date night because in my mind and according to my definition it is comprised of several things that I love:
1. Routine
2. Deep though-provoking conversation. 
3. My husband 

Some date ideas I always offer as options are:
  1. Both reading a book silently and then discussing what we read
  2. Reading a book out loud to each other and discussing it
  3. Listening to a book on tape and then discussing it. 

However for my free spirited love of my life
I’ve realized even the components that I consider mandatory to make a “successful date night” are not the same as his.  He values:
1. Spontaneity 
2. Laughter
3. Me 

His ideas for date night are usually
  1. Watching a movie
  2. Go out to eat at a new place
  3. Making Rice Krispy treats and then eating them while we watch TV.

Here are the things we both love:
1. Sports
2. Being outdoors
3. Good food
4. Eclectic music
5. Each other

And so I consider our day at Fenway a huge success!  
  1. The Red Sox won
  2. We got to walk around Boston before and after the game.
  3. We sat beside each other uninterrupted by chores or work for 9 whole innings.
  4. Fenway Franks, Hot Pretzels, Corn dogs and Ice Cream...what is not to love?  
  5. The time away made us miss our kids and the level of exuberance in their eyes when we came home (and presented them with a new baseball hat) was half ridiculous and mostly priceless.