Preferable

It’s time to write again.

Because, quite frankly, there’s nothing else to do.

The two extroverts in the house are dying a slow death. The two introverts are thriving. It seems as though there should be a perfect balance to the family dynamic with that two plus two combination. There isn’t.

I’ve cleaned every surface that can possibly be cleaned. I’ve cleaned out almost every closet and shelf that exists in this house. Discipline has been enforced and promised for the minor squabbles that keep breaking out amidst all the Stir Crazy that is setting in within these four walls.

Each human is organizing their schedule for the pending remote learning reality we are all facing. Workspaces have been designated. Playlists have been curated. Movie cues have been arranged – by genre. Books are sorted and stacked in the most desired reading order. The pantry has been raided, sufficiently, thank-you-very-much. Exercise DVD’s are standing at the ready from all said raiding.

A 2,000 piece puzzle is currently spread out over the expanse of the dining room table. Every family member takes a stab at it at some point in the course of the day. Sometimes, we even sit and tackle it together.

Riveting information, I know.

Spotify has introduced me to more new music genres than I ever cared to know exist. Did you know that in addition to House music, there is also Tech house, Deep house, Tropical house and heaven-knows-whatever-other kinds of house music?

Netflix, Hulu, and PrimeVideo keep alerting me to shows/movies I might like. I’ve decided they don’t know me quite as well at they think they do.

My Amazon cart reminds me that I still have 48 books that I’ve saved for later, should I blast through the current 35 I have waiting for me on my nightstand. “Three down and 80 left to go,” I’ve taken to telling myself.

My meme game is strong. I’ve been flexing those social media cruising muscles and finding plenty to lift.

This self-imposed period of isolation has introduced more choice into my life than I ever wanted.

Too much, really.

Choice is exhausting.

A blinking cursor seems less overwhelming than deciding which pantry snack I’m going to have to ration today.

These aren’t even real problems, people.

Having no toilet paper, or food for your hungry kids, or job because your place of employment has been closed for the immediate future – those are real problems.

So, maybe I’m more overwhelmed because I’m faced with the realization that what I’m going through mentally doesn’t quite rank up there with Things to Be Worried Over, after all.

Blowing off a little steam on the page, or screen, seems a preferable outlet for my anxiety over this pandemic than another household chore, snack, movie, or book choice (Although, really, are there ever enough books to be read? Correct answer – no.)?

For now, anyway, the blinking cursor is definitely preferable.

Yes indeedy.

 

 

 

Top 31 Favorite Books (and Quotes)

Do you remember the first time you read a book that made you laugh till your sides hurt? I do. It was 1981 and I borrowed my babysitter’s copy of The Official Preppy Handbook. To this day, I hear the word “preppy” and laugh. Or see plaid. And laugh.

Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy March (of Little Women) riveted me to the pages as I discovered bits of myself in each one of them. But mostly, Jo.

The first time I read the Bible cover to cover, I was stunned by hope. And shocked by how many mistakes we humans seem to make century after century without ever learning from them. And was genuinely amazed by Grace.

Laughter erupts as I read paragraph after paragraph in books by some of my favorite humor writers. Especially when I find myself in the pits.

Longing is never more defined than when I read a quote in a book that resonates soul deep. Is that true for you, too?

Fiction, non-fiction, biography, memoir… doesn’t matter much what kind of story I’m reading, as long as it’s a bound copy with pages I can inhale deeply from (it’s a thing), I’ll read it. Books are my go-to during times of stress, relaxation, and even in my search for writing inspiration. They are also a constant source of discussion for every social situation I’ve ever been in.

Books are cool that way.

While there have certainly been a few that I wish I could erase the reading of, the rest have each held a pearl of wisdom or joy for me. And. I know I’m not alone in this because I can post a picture of the latest pile of books I intend to read through and get instant feedback on every one of them. (Here was a recent pile –> )

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This next 30 days, I’m searching for inspiration in some of my favorite books. I’m going to pull a quote from each one and share a thought or two about it. It’s my hope that you’ll read along and be touched, too. But, I said “31 Favorite Books (and Quotes), didn’t I? So, here we go with number 1.

♥ Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

By fourth grade, I realized I was a little more wild and thinker-ish than your average bear. It made for difficulty making friends. I was thankful for the wildness that I found in Laura, as I read through this series. But, the quote that stayed with me year after year and gave me fortitude for feeling different as the years wore on, was the following:

“There’s no great loss without some small gain.”

It wasn’t until college that I really understood that being a bit more this or less that wasn’t a deal breaker for all friendships. It didn’t preclude you from relationships. And in fact, oftentimes, different drew deeply of the relationships that were formed and fostered. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder tapped into the spirit of adventure and wildness that I harbored in my heart. I’m forever grateful for that series in my young life.

In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m joining in the Write 31 Days challenge again this year. I’ve taken some time off to live and laugh and love and now it’s time to get writing. And spark some more creativity. What better way than to dive into some favorite books? Join me! 

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Links to the series (updated daily):

Day 1 – Top 31 Favorite Books (and Quotes)

Day 2 for Some Irreverent Reverie

Day 3 Is Like a Walk in the…

Day 4 – In Which I Learned How to Read a Book

Day 5 – In the Pits

Day 6 – My Eyes are Watching

Day 7 – Oh the Humanity!

Day 8 – Quilting Isn’t My Thing, But…

Day 9 – Magnificently Defeated

Day 10 – Fairly Sensible

Day 11 – A Whale of a Tale

Day 12 – He Hits My Funny Bone

Day 13 – Just One of the Misfits

Day 14 – Me and Mrs. Who

Day 15 – Sound Familiar?

Day 16 – Passionate Fiction

Day 17 – An Hour of One’s Own

Day 18 – A Gift Indeed

Day 19 – In the Gap

Day 20 – For the Birds

Day 21 – Where Your Treasure Is

Day 22 – NO POST

Day 23 – Missed It By This Much

Day 24 – Can’t Handle the Tooth

Day 25 – Rooting for the Underdog

Day 26 – Outside Looking In

Day 27 – Through the Trees

Day 28 – It Seems Like It’s Disappearing

Day 29 – Please Just Don’t

Day 30 – NO POST

Day 31 – I’ll Tell You What’s So Amazing

Happy Reading!

Maybe It’s Just Me

Brad Paisley got it right. When he described his girl as “sunshine mixed with a little hurricane”, I’m pretty sure he was describing Sweetgirl. That kid is a whirlwind of toothless eight-going-on-eighteen.  Ahab and The Nana would surely describe me similarly… plus a few teeth. And pounds. And years.

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The times I have to watch my Sunshine hide behind clouds of doubt or insecurity, though, because of the way others treat her, it’s my own inner hurricane that starts brewing.

I can’t be the only one who identifies with the inner hurricanes I see within these tender-hearted girls. Self-doubt is a powerful ingredient in an emotional storm and it surely does seem like there are far too many of us huffing harsh words out onto others in hopes that we will feel smarter, prettier, more popular, and even seen. We whip our attitudes around and lash out at others in an effort to boost our own meager confidence. We think more highly of ourselves than we ought in hopes that we matter more than the next girl.

And none of it does a single thing to advance love, joy, peace, kindness or goodness.

No. In fact,  witnessing how hurtful and mean girls can be toward one another is distressing. Watching the devastation left in the hearts of the hurt is heartbreaking. Too often this meanness starts a vicious circle of behavior: Be hurt. Hurt another. Feel better. Be hurt again. Hurt another again. Feel better again. And on and on it goes.

And, I’m tired of hearing that this is just how girls are with one another. Responsibility gets to fly off on the shoulders of Blame, that way. And, assuming that girls will determine social hierarchy with little emotional fallout makes about as much sense to me as throwing a non-swimmer into a pool and saying, “Good luck with that swimming thing.”

Comments sharing how there will always be mean girls fall hard on my heart, too, because I’m a firm believer in doing what you can. Don’t we all remember the Starfish Story? We can throw one starfish starving for it’s watery habitat back, and it will make a difference for that one single starfish, won’t it?

Aren’t the hearts of girls worth just as much effort and attention?

With their increasingly younger noses perpetually pressed to their smart phones or tablets, and seeking social acceptance there, it seems obvious that guidance is needed. We adults need to be checking in often enough to know who and what these girls of ours are trying to get their self-worth from.

And, while we’re at it, where are we trying to get our own self-worth from?

As I’ve mentioned here and here, I do believe our worth is something a few of us adults need to be reminded of, too.

Or, maybe it’s just me.

What do you say we work on battening down those hurricane hatches together?

God knows Grace gushes in my general direction because I desperately need it.

Often.

Can we agree to work on showing, not telling, our girls how to treat themselves, first. Can we remind them again and again that they are created in the image of One who loves them more than any Facebook or Insta “like” ever will. And can we do that together, by caring more about the eyes watching us refresh our screens than those on our screens.

Sweetgirl needs some help learning how to combat The Mean with the truth that we are each a special God-designed mix of sunshine and hurricane. Especially as we boot up for a new school year.

And, quite frankly, her mama can always use some more work in that area, too.

Always.

Yes indeedy.

Who’s with me?

If Grace Had an Instagram Feed

What would it look like, do you imagine?

If Grace, the actual I-died-so-you-could-be-loved-perfectly-forever, had an Insta feed, what pictures do you figure we could scroll through?

I have a few ideas. You must, too.

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I’m guessing Grace will get a kick out of posting pictures of my favorite snack foods with snappy captions like, “Devil Dogs in 2 easy steps!” or “Swiss Cake Rolls for Days!”. And Grace will use a beautiful filter on the pic and He’ll layer over the verse from Proverbs about all things in moderation and He’ll know… He’ll just know that I’m straining against the constraints of my diet and needing a pass for the cheat treat I just had.

I think one would probably have to be a picture of horses nuzzling on a beach with the caption, “Listen Missy, horses need love, too.” And Grace would know, He’d just know that I’d be reeled in by the beach scene. He’d know I couldn’t look away and that He could use my nemesis, as I’ve mentioned here and here and here and here, to remind me that I don’t get to decide who gets love and who doesn’t.

But I think one of my favorites would be a puppy pie pie (and it really wouldn’t matter what kind, as long as it wasn’t a hairless Chihuahua because, He would know that I just can’t even). And anyway, this puppy would be on a boat with it’s hair all wild in the wind, with the caption, “Dog Hair, Don’t Care” to remind me that even when the wind is whipping, He’s got this.

And I am absolutely certain that I’d see a picture of pigs flying. Can’t you just see it? Heavenly pigs winging through the air! And, of course, He’d know that I wouldn’t be able to resist seeing those animals flying and I would, of course, need to thoroughly examine the picture and investigate whether it was modified. And he’d use this one to remind me that Hope is alive and well and flying high, despite what it seems like in the world.

The one I won’t be able to stop liking, though, is the one Grace will put up of my Sweetman in a beach chair with a big ol’ pile of books stacked up in the sand next to him. Man. Candy. Mine. And Grace will just know that I’m needing a reminder (in that post-argumentative moment) of all that I love about That Man. And it’ll totes work, too.

Oh, but you just know that Grace will snap a pic of my sweetkids, at their very cutest of course, on a lake. Or, in a lake. And He’ll be sure that I’ll admire those stinkin’ cute kids while at the same time turning my nose up at the lake (because, Ocean). And I can imagine the caption would be something along the lines of, “Lake people are people too,” because He hears my every inner thought. Especially about lake lovers.

Because, I’m human. And, indeed, sometimes very human.

But Grace doesn’t worry about that.

He knows.

And loves me anyway.

I think I’d like that Insta feed. And I’d be scrolling through it all the live-long day.

And Grace would get all my likes.

Yes indeedy.

**My Instagram feed isn’t nearly as exciting, but in case you missed it, I do indeed have one. Click here to go there.**

I Am the Unlovely

In the wake of the horrific tragedy that took place in Orlando, FL last weekend, I instantly noticed a disturbing trend. Maybe you did too? Posts in the blogosphere and Pinterest pins and Instagram photos started flooding my news feed.

And many of them pointed out ways Christians could “love the unlovely”.

It made me ill. And mad.

If you’re still reading, let me tell you why. And if you follow along here regularly, you’re already ahead of me, aren’t you?

I am the unlovely. 

This isn’t a slam against myself. Or self-deprecation. Or a result of low self-esteem.

No, it’s Truth, with a capital T.  And I believe in a God who so loved me, and you, that He was willing to die to show us the extent of that love.

And because I believe that Truth, and am so overwhelmingly thankful for His love, I long to love everyone like me.

Every unlovely.

So, you know, every human being.

Not just now, all of the sudden, since evil attempted to get an upper hand (once again).

Not just in the aftermath of any great “reveal” where we find out someone we know or love is addicted or afflicted.

Humans don’t suddenly become “unlovely” in those instances. And I’m beyond sure about this, friends, because I am now, and always have been, unlovely.

From dust we came and to dust we will return.

Truth.

So the next time we are tempted to look upon another human heart as “unlovely” and worthy of being loved, let’s take a quick look in the mirror.

And remember…

If we call ourselves saved, well…

Jesus didn’t come to save the healthy ones.

And, I’m not good with if/then statements in science, but I get this one. If He came to save the sick, and He surely did save me…

Then that makes me one of the unlovely ones.

Oh, yes indeedy!

 

Ask First

Her blonde curls unfurled behind her as she chased her little neighbor friend across the field. All eight years of her pumped those legs to catch up with all three years of her little friend.

And, when she did catch up?

Giggles.

Galore.

“I’m gonna get you! I’m gonna tickle you silly,” she kept saying, to the delighted cries of the neighbor.

My Sweetgirl gently tickled and chased, causing the newly three-year old fits of laughter. There was more glee to behold in the scene than my heart could take in.

But, I did.

Then, I waited…

For the right moment to have that uncomfortable conversation with my precious child, who meant only good. I’m talking about the reality that tickles can also be bad. And that, to be appropriate, you must always ask first.

“But, it ruins the moment, mama,” she insisted!

This is where #parentingishard. It’s in these joyful moments that you are loath to interrupt, that you realize you must.

I didn’t want to. And I most certainly wish I didn’t have to.

But, touching varies radically from family to family. Respecting that fact means asking first. I had to convey this to my sweet one without dulling the beauty of a precious interaction. An interaction that happens not only amongst her and her friends, but also within family.

And it hit me – this is where the lines get crossed. Or not.

These are the conversations that can allow fear to skyrocket if not handled delicately. But, at the same time, I want her to know that if anyone tickles her, and it makes her uncomfortable, we are a family who talks together. All the time. About everything.

Even uncomfortable tickling.

So, if you find yourself in a situation that requires some gentle conversation about appropriate touching, here are a few things that I found helpful. Hopefully, you will too:

  • Watch for cues. As we were talking, she mentioned that when I tickle her, it sometimes hurts because I tickled “too hard under my armpits”. WOW! I had no idea. Just talking about this opened up the opportunity for me to apologize and acknowledge that she didn’t like that. It also helped me use language she was using as I forged on with my harder points.
  • Keep it simple. I chose to wait until this age to have this conversation. You, or families you know, may choose to do it at an earlier age. Or, a later one. My goal was to make sure my child understood that asking first also meant respecting any form of “no thank you”. And, again, I used the language my daughter used. “Friends”, “family”, “appropriate” “tickling”, “hurt”, “uncomfortable”, “like”, and “secrets” were all worked into our conversation.
  • Allow for questions. This one was hard. Because, when you open up this can of worms, sometimes they stay in their nice round can, and sometimes they come out in every direction. Our conversation? There were no shoving those worms back in the can! So, I just let the questions roll in. And, some of my more brilliant answers included the words, “Maybe” and “Sometimes” and even “I’m not sure”. I hope it’s obvious that I didn’t have all the answers. And I thought it was important for my Sweetgirl to know that while I will always accept any question, I might not always have an immediate answer.

Is this a hard topic to tackle? Yes. Yes it is.

But worth it.

Yes indeed.

 

 

 

Restore Unto Me

I’ve been calling out to You, Lord.

And you keep answering.

Thank You.

But, Lord, may I ask of you one more thing?

Restore unto me, the joy of my salvation.

Because, it’s missing.  And I feel like I’m chasing it down like a one woman army, lately.

But life is like that – one moment I’m sure of my place within my days and the next morning I plant my feet on the floor and feel the whole thing shift. I know that You won’t leave me or forsake me in this place where I feel unsure, unsteady. I also know that You will be there to catch me and put me back on my feet.

Every time.

You are the surety to my movements.

But, it’s in the calling out for You that I am most surprised, these days. Just the seeming need to blurt out, “I need You, God! I don’t even know why or what for. Please! Be near!”

I feel much like a toddler who has discovered the word “Dada” and has seen the effect speaking this word has on The Hearer. I keep calling it out, over and over. Because, for reasons I can’t fathom, and am not sure I’m ready to at the moment, I am needing my Father in that way.

So, I will continue to lean on You, Abba, and claim it as gift that You answer when I call.

Every Time.

I choose to trust in the reassurance I find in Psalm 143:8,

In the morning let me hear about your faithful love, because I’ve put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should live, because I trust you with my life.”

And You will. 

Because, You do.

Every time.

Without fail.

I will be restored because I believe you are The God of Restoration. Anytime the world swirls, my head spins, or my legs sway, You are there – sure, steady, and strong.

Ready to restore:

              Joy

                  Peace

                          Love

And I?

I want it all.

I need it all.

Yes indeed.

May I pray that for you, too, Friend?

Silently Correcting Their Grammar

Few things slay my inner grammarian like hearing someone botch a perfectly good word or phrase. Folks do it “alot” (ahem).

And I’m silently correcting their grammar.

Hearing Americans talk and write about the Republican and Democratic “cannidates” could spell disaster for the future of our country. And, I’m talking about the mispronunciation of candidates, not the potential election results.

I’m silently correcting their grammar, and praying for the elections.

Listening to a young lifeguard friend tell about the time she had to swim “acrosst” the bay to make sure someone didn’t “drownd” while goofing around in the surf, makes me cray-cray.

I’m silently correcting her grammar, while thanking God for her bravery.

But, for all intensive purposes, I think it’s best if people stop using that phrase. Because, for all intents and purposes, it’s being used incorrectly.

Providing me another opportunity to silently correct grammar.

And I make jokes with my other grammar abiding friends about this private act of silently correcting others’ grammar.

Never once did I give it another thought.

Until…

jokingly used a phrase with my sweetkids the other day. “Listen up peoples!”

And my children not-so-silently corrected my grammar.

Humility…I am still learning it.

Parenting, it is a mighty teacher.

Oh, yes indeedy.

I am trying to train those children up in the way they should go. But, Lord? Could my training not come back and hit me upside the head so very often?

While my defenses rose and I felt the need to shout-explain, “I know that!”, I felt Humility, Himself, knocking on my heart’s door. With each knock, there was a growing unease in my soul at my many silent corrections.

Proverbs 3:7 harked back to mind,

“Don’t be conceited, sure of your own wisdom.”

But, as usual, grace laps over the edges of my spirit as I submit my desire to know more to His desire for me to love more.

The rest of that “train your children up” verse? It says to do so in the hopes that when they are old, they won’t depart from it [their training].

I’ve departed. Oh, how I’ve departed again and again.

But Grace…

I’d like to stop departing now. Please, and thank you.

In the meantime, I’ll stop silently correcting grammar.

Thankfully, there is no statue of limitations on grace.

Getting To the Other Side

I can raise my hands in the air like I just don’t care. Mostly because I’ve learned, after 40 some years of life that it doesn’t matter much what the person next to me thinks about me. In fact, I’m a firm believer in the adage that what others think of me is none of my business.

We’re trying desperately to get Sweetboy to own that mindset, too. The one of not caring what others think of him.

Recently I pulled on my Smart Mama pants and told him how one of the most comforting verses to me, in all of the Bible, is where we are told that people look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

He was only mildly comforted.

It did, however, distract him. And so, he started perseverating on his looks.

Oh joy.

“But, mama, people are looking at me and seeing my stupid autism!”

Sigh.

I reminded this Sweetboy of mine that it’s okay to detest his Autism. I detest pollen. And allergies. And horses. And clowns.

But, I also (while desperately trying to keep those Smart Mama pants hiked up) reminded him that detesting what is not good should drive us toward what is.

He wasn’t buying what I was selling.

Tempted to hang my head in parenting defeat, I was reminded that although we like to focus on the positive around here, sometimes… sometimes, we have to shine light on the negative to reveal it for what it is.

And, in this case, I recognized some of the hurtful comments from his classmates as Fear.

Seconds away from feeling a parental failure, I remembered that we struggle through the trials so that we can see the mind-blowing beauty on the other side. God’s great reveal, really, is how incredibly beautiful something can look from the other side.

The other side of awful-ugly.

Like, hurtful-ugly comments from preteens whose cheeks you’d like to squeeze clean off their faces. In love, of course.

So, I pulled up those pants and secured them with the belt of Truth. Particularly, 1 Samuel 18. We read through that whole chapter together. We uncovered some treasures.

The truth in this passage was that Jonathan, Saul’s son, found a friend in David, the soon-to-be-king that Jonathan’s father detested. I’m speculating here, out of the ugliness of Saul’s hatred for David came a beautiful realization for Jonathan.

You see, during those dark times, Saul was certainly not pleasant to be around. And, I’m guessing that Jonathan quickly realized, to his relief, that he was not alone. That David, too, suffered the wrath of Saul.

As I shared this story, afresh, with my Sweetboy, I saw light begin to spread through his eyes.

I then relayed that infamous incident during my fifth grade year where I was the recipient of cruel comments because I was the only one who hadn’t shaved my legs yet. The cutting remarks nicked worse than any razor blade ever would.

But, I found a friend, that year. We commiserated during gym about being the only two girls, surely, in the history of ever, whose cruel parents kept them from fitting in.

Miraculously, just as God likes it, grace washed over Sweetboy’s face as he realized that he and his two best buddies had each other. That he wasn’t the only one to be at the receiving end of spew from Jealousy.

“I’m glad I have a possie, mama. They get me.”

Yes indeedy, child.

He realized that he isn’t the only one.

Neither are you.

Nor am I.

And that, friends, is a beautiful truth on the other side.

When You Just Don’t Understand Yourself

“Stay open to conversations instead of confrontations.” – Nicki Koziarz

Listening to a session about how to engage millennials in our churches, I was struck by the quote, above, by this wise young speaker. (Ten years younger feels like forever ago young!)

Each word she poured out was filled with exceptional wisdom regarding her generation. I felt, by turns, convicted, encouraged, and hopeful. And, as you can imagine, I’m especially thankful for that last one.

Grace equals hope, for me. Listening to each point made, I realized how many opportunities for connection I’ve passed up. But, mercifully, there is grace. And every time I move toward conversation and away from confrontation, I speak Grace a little more fluently.

That quote, though? Sweet Moses! I was also made fully aware of just how quickly I am prone to launching toward the confrontational aspect of an issue. While the speaker made a special point to encourage us to be wary of doing this on social media, I instantly saw how this behavior could carry over in my relationships.

Has carried over into my relationships.

Ouch.

I recalled words exchanged between Sweetman and myself. During one particular and recent incident, hurt layered over my words in ugly ways. I winced as I remembered details of my portion of our discussion. Leaving the conversation on the floor, and opting instead for confrontation, I felt justified.

At first…

I didn’t give near enough thought to my end game, though. Harmony in the household is not achieved by angry confrontation. We all know this. I know this. And yet, I don’t do this! And this frustrates me.

I feel like Paul.

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15 NLT)

Paul’s admission reminds me that I am human (hate that), and that I’m not the first person to experience this dilemma (love that).

He also rightly points out that we don’t fully understand ourselves.

I think this is the part I keep forgetting. We humans can have all the self-awareness in the world. We can be deeply introspective and highly conscious and widely informed about our foibles and propensities.

But, God…He fully understands us.

And loves us anyway.

What delights me is that He continues to use things, like this speaker’s talk on engaging millennials, to reach into my ignorance and show me better ways. He takes what I am and makes me into something kinder. He shepherds me toward grace when I chase after confrontation.

Oh, thank you Lord!

And, when I’m feeling like I just don’t understand myself, I can rest knowing that God surely does.

Yes indeedy!