When I found out I was pregnant with each of my babies the first thing I purchased was a beautiful leather journal. I'm not a fancy scrap booker but I do love to gather memories, words and thoughts. As each pregnancy progressed I tracked doctor appointments, gifts given, blessings bestowed.
When my babies arrived I was a stickler about making each visitor write a message to the newest family member. Occasionally I drag out the book and read their stories to my girls. We talk about their beginnings. My goal was to write words of honor and legacy onto their souls. My five-year-old is enthralled. She loves her book.
Last night we were sitting around chatting before bed while the eldest did homework and the youngest was drawing. She paused and said "Oh - I want to write this in my book like I did earlier.".
Wait a minute.
I gave her a look. "Are you writing in the baby book?" My brow did it's furrowing thing. Was she really scribbling in her baby journal? Wrecking my labor of love?
"Go get the book". I said. "I want to see it."
Her eyes welled up in tears and her voice squeaked out. "I didn't want there to be blank pages".
She handed me the book and sure enough, she'd spent much of the day drawing in her baby journal.
I took a deep breathe as God spoke into my heart. He whispered. It's her book you know?
Here is a drawing she did of Mr. Grinch and his lesser known wife Mrs. Grinch. That was me. Mrs. Grinch. Sigh.
I gave her a hug. I asked about her pictures. We went through the drawings and labeled her work. She talked about her people. Big sister cuddling her as a baby got me.
The journal is a good thing. The legacy and blessings are a gift. They are not a script for her future. I was crabby because I was holding on to ownership of something that wasn't really mine. Truth is my daughter isn't mine either. She's entrusted to our care for a time by her creator. He has much better plans for her life and I hope the words she really listens to are His. At some point I have to let go of the plans I have for my children and let them write their own story.
Last night my youngest was my teacher. Happens all the time. I agree with the little one. I don't want her book to have blank pages either. I can't want to see what she writes.
We went camping last weekend. We spent most of the time out on a party boat. Not a college drinking type party boat. Think gummy bears, lots of sunscreen, pink and white frosted animal cookies and a giant inflatable floating ducky kind of party boat. I'm very proud to announce I did not get a sunburn. Neither did my children. Unlike last year I also did not have a fingernail polish explosion. *read here. I may yet get this adulating thing down.
In the evenings we read books, rode bikes, talked to friends and watched the sunsets. Eastern Oregon shows off at twilight. Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters and Mt. Hood line up and play with the sky. Its a toss up if that's my favorite part of camping or if the midnight trips to the bathroom win. Seriously. I inevitably have to make the trek from campsite to the bathroom at least once. The stars are worth it. I have a theory about the decline of faith in God in cities. There are too many lights. They can't see the stars. The grandeur and scope remind me how very tiny I am. It always makes me feel grateful that the creator of so much still cares about me.
My eldest went to the nature talk put on by the local ranger. After she invited me to go with her. The quarter mile trail was a good spot for her to have a few minutes of my undivided attention. She showed me the juniper berries and the Oregon grape. She explained about the Monarch butterfly station and the bat houses. We took a photo of this gorgeous blazing star.
We've been home just over a day. My husband has been doing laundry non stop. I watered the garden, picked green beans. Cut back the blackberry bushes and hauled in several bowls of berries. We had leftover camping food for dinner tonight. And fresh green beans from the garden.
For dessert we're having blackberry crisp. It's my mother-in-law's recipe. Naturally it calls for a touch of cinnamon, lots of sugar and generous butter. Usually its my job to put this together. Tonight my eleven-year-old followed the recipe. Her grandma would be proud.
There are only a couple of weeks left of summer. I'm doing my best to pay attention to these little moments. Sunsets and stars and fresh blackberry crisp.
What moments have caught your eye?
Okay. Before I tell you this story I really have to state I do know how to back up a car. For eleven years I lived at the bottom of s steep, gravel, curved road. I could back up it with my stick shift in the dark and rain. So this story is not about my lack of driving skill. It's about my inattention.
My husbad is a kind and patient person. He came and rescued me and my car. He even stuck the broken off piece of trim in the back of his car. Without snide, sarcastic or demeaning comment. He wins.
This is my sweet friend whose brick wall I massacred. She didn't yell at me either. Neither did her two lovely neighbors. I woke them up on a Sunday morning. They came out of their house, took a look at my car and then said. "Oh girl!" About summed it up.
While waiting for my spouse to come assess the situation my youngest was running up and down the driveway. She tripped and gloriously skinned her knees. My friend scooped her up on a massive hug and went to find bandaids.
Friends and Family. This is what to do. When your friends fall down help them up. When your family crashes come to the rescue. We all know this is right. My accident was due to inattention not lack of knowledge. We do the most harm to our relationships not because we do not know the right way to go but because we fail to pay attention.
Thanks team. I love you.
Summer. 5th grade graduation, Vacation Bible School and the 4th of July are all past. Zoom! I feel a bit like Ferris Bueller but may I point out its important to slow down and look around? I don't want to miss all the little joys in my deadline driven, list checking life.
Bright and early on 4th of July my 4 yr old firecracker set about the house taping pictures of hearts to the walls. I watched for a bit and then asked her why.
"I've decided to celebrate Valentine's Day today."
Okay then. You do you little miss.
She did accept with joy the cotton candy at the neighborhood carnival and handled her giant sparkler with the seriousness the event required. She's wearing my flip flops because half way through the day one of her shoes disappeared. I swear our family can't manage our stuff. After valiantly attempting to keep my car clean it has again deteriorated into squalor. My mom left her glass dish at the 4th of July BBQ. I didn't dare take it out of the car to clean it off and properly return it to her because I was afraid the sewing room would swallow it up if I carried it into the house. So I handed it back to her today still with berry juice stains. Sigh. I make it sound like our house is a mess. Truly not so. My husband is amazingly competent and so the mess is really quarantined to my car and my sewing room. I'm afraid sometimes my kids follow my lead. Or lack there of.
Earlier in the week our eldest got to spend the day at the beach with a dear friend. Is there anything better than standing with someone you love staring out at a wide expanse? It's like a reminder that everything is bigger than you at the very same time you are grounded with a closeness from your friend. Oddly enough this daughter is wearing my shoes also. She's reached the age we're nearly the same size shoe and she'd grown out of her sandals. So mine went to the beach. I swear most of successful motherhood is in the accepting your stuff is not your own. Any of it. Even your time.
Right now I'm sitting in an empty house. I just got home from work. One kid is off at a friend's for the night. The resident chef and the little one are headed back this way. If I remind myself to slow down perhaps tonight we'll paint, or eat strawberries straight off the bushes. Or we'll read or take a walk. If I don't remind myself I'm likely to sit self absorbed on my phone, or watch a brainless show and generally ignore my family. I'll waste the space and time. So I'm taking these few moments to pause. To remind myself. Maybe this is why my daughter taped hearts to the wall and declared an extra Valentines Day right in the midst of our mess and crazy schedule on the Fourth of July. Sometimes we have to be decisive to love well.
Why I'm not participating in A Day Without a Woman
I come from a long line of strong women. Women who run businesses, travel, volunteer, march and donate. Women who advocate and educate. When I think about their impact on my life though, smaller things stand out.
My Grandma Lorenia poured out love in crystal goblets filled with root beer and hours of card games. She believed that every person was valuable. She served through cancer and poverty and unending demands. Her laughter was contagious. Her legacy was joy.
My Grandma Viola sewed love into packages and prayers. She saved, she served, she perservered. She loved tight hugs, warm cookies and weddings. Her legacy was faithfulness.
My mother-in-law Carleen ran courage into everyone she met. She was fully supportive and passionate about art and flowers and children. She made everyone she met feel welcome. Her legacy is kindness.
My mother Sue is a bright and fierce force of a person. She's got a twinkle in her eye and she has the ability to make me laugh better than any one. This photo is an excerpt of a letter she wrote me when I turned two years old.
I have letters from aunties and cousins. Sisters and friends. Beautiful women who wrote on my soul and call me to be present. To be faithful.
Walking out to prove a point seems dishonest to their steadfast love.
Earlier today I had to make a tough decision. I've been working long hours lobbying for a bill in the upcoming legislaive session. Couple of trips to the state capitol to meet with various governmental types. I received news today that I'd been invited to a dinner with a senator. Great opportunity for professional development. Problem is the dinner is on the same night as my daughter's choir concert. I'd already promised her I'd go.
As I sat and mulled my options I thought about the Day without a Woman. I am quite certain I'm not necessary at the dinner meeting. My colleagues can handle it without me. But my daughter? I don't want her to figure out what it looks like when mom bails. I want her memories to be full of a steadfast mom who showed up when the call was hard. A mom who delivered on promises even when she wasn't being appreciated. A mom who thanked God because He allowed me to be her mother. So I declined the invitation with the Senator and circled my plans for a night with the elementary school choir.
So today I'll wake up my babies. I'll help pick out their clothes and play my part in the daily taxi. I'll go to work. Not because I'm special or different or better than the hundreds of thousands of women who do the same thing every day. But because this investment in our future has more potential to affect change than any strike, any meeting, any lobbying effort. The legacy is love. And the power of love has nothing to do with protests or demands but everything to do with gratitude, service, peace and patience. Should we ignore injustice? Of course not. But love is the only weapon strong enough to win.
Today I'd like to invite you to write on someone else's heart. Those words have eternal weight. Rather than making someone notice you are gone, how about making someone else feel seen? Those are not small actions.
ENTER TO WIN
I've got a new set of note cards, envelopes and gel pens to get you started on your legacy notes. Write your kids, your friends, your parents, your spouse. Tell them you love them. I'll be giving this set to a winner randomly drawn from anyone who comments on this post or shares the post. Winner will be drawn Friday March 10, 2017. No purchase necessary. Prize mailed in the contenintal US only.
Sometimes we win. The Scramble for the Kids on Monday was a great success. I have not finished adding and checking off my lists but it looks like we'll be in great shape to match our highest fundraising year. Woo. Someone asked me how I got it all done. I told them I didn't - an amazing set of 50 volunteers, 100 donors, 3 fantastic charities and 120 willing golfers get it all done. But it is such an honor to be a part of this much fun that helps so many vulnerable kids. You really haven't had a win in your life until you've helped someone else. Winning is fun.
Sometimes we lose. I am an atrocious bowler. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I have crazy loose joints. My wrists twist in creative ways and the balls typically end up in the gutter. Or maybe its because I sometimes get distracted right as I'm letting go of the ball. At any rate, I'm the low score here. My husband ended up doubling my 71. Sigh. While my bowling score doesn't really matter it is a visual reminder that sometimes the odds stack up against us. Those losses can hurt. Sometimes we lose.
Sometimes in life we drink coffee. Seriously, most of my life is not made up of the times when I've scored a success or the frequent occasions I'm hanging my head. Most of my life is made up of ordinary moments. Showers in clean water. Picking warm blackberries off the bush. Smiling at photos of brides and babies. Checking spelling. Coloring. Car rides and sunsets. Pizza. Whispered prayers. Cleaning up crushed crackers. Texts with friends. Chats before bed. The precious parts of life don't tend to be in the wins and losses. Its in the grace we give. Live well.
Like most kids, I had chores growing up. For awhile one of my jobs was taking out the garbage. I hated taking out the garbage. It took about five minutes. One summer I negotiated with my mother and traded my taking out the garbage chore for being in charge of the family laundry. It was a fierce negotiation.
I was very excited about my new job. I made myself a sign that I attached to a hat that said something about laundry queen. I learned how to sort. I learned how to use the machines. I folded. I even put away. This whole process took hours. I told people all about my coup at home with the laundry and garbage tradeoff. Somehow I thought I’d come out ahead. Clearly I had a lot to learn. Let me give you a piece of advice. Do not go up against my mother. You will lose. She’s charming enough though that you may think you won.
Yesterday I let my daughter wear a brand new white back to school shirt to church. This was not a problem. I then let her wear the shirt to a birthday party. Still not a problem. Then in a delusional moment I let her wear the shirt to help me pick blackberries. This was a problem. One of the ripe blackberries fell off the bush and hit her shirt. It was beautiful. Looked like a perfect stamp of a blackberry.
I grimaced, took off the shirt and headed to the laundry room. I rinsed out the blackberry and was about to rub the shirt with a stain stick when the resident chef peered over my shoulder. He said “you don’t put stain stick on a wet shirt. Just use detergent”. He handed me a bottle of detergent left over from when he actually purchased the stuff. He makes his own usually. Naturally. He then quite unwisely left me alone to my own devices.
Anyway, I stuck my finger in the detergent bottle and promptly pushed the pour spout into the bottle. Oops. I squished my hand up and stuck it down inside the detergent. I reached as far as I could and hooked the pour spout. I realized that I had become the monkey in that parable about how to trap a monkey with a coconut. There was no way to get my hand out and the spout out at the same time. So I shrugged, put the lid back on and put it in the cabinet. I didn’t tell. This is where a blog is a little dangerous. We get to find out if my spouse reads my blog.
I scritched and scratched and scrubbed. The blackberry stain would not move. I finally wadded the shirt up, left it in the sink and walked away. About an hour later I walked back in and was amazed that the shirt was clean! The stain was gone! I must be a miracle worker in the laundry room. My husband walked in and looked over my shoulder. “I got it out, the bleach worked”. He walked out. I was deflated.
I have taken a new vow to stay out of the laundry room. Maybe I learned something about negotiation from my mother after all.
This story did not happen to me. It feels like it did though. It happened to my sister. She and I share an odd sense of humor, a strong will and a pitiful history where PE is concerned. So my little sister had a goal. (One I had too but didn’t actually achieve). She wanted to finish running the mile in high school PE and not come in last in her class. Totally reasonable goal. One day, she gave it her all. Ran like the wind. Finished ahead of someone. Looked up to heaven and closed her eyes to pray and to thank God, promptly tripped and fell flat on her face. Sigh.
I must point out here that another thing my sister and I share is a willingness to self-deprecate in order to have new blog material. She did in fact give me permission to throw her under the bus.
You know how in high school they try to talk you into buying an extremely overpriced coat so you can display your proudly earned letter? I had a letter but frankly wasn’t interested in wearing it. I’m not sure that Pep Band really qualifies, especially when you play the flute. The flute is designed for a symphony not a marching band. You can’t hear it over cheering football fans or a cadence from the drum line. Don’t get me wrong. I loved band. I just didn’t want to hear about it from all the sports people. I had a couple pins on this letter too…one for Honor Society and one for the Math team. In college, my debate coach thought it was hilarious to tell people I was on the math team. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that debate fell in the same category as competitive math.
My sister signed up with me to do the Warrior Dash this fall. Partly I think it was because she felt sorry for me because I came home from Rwanda with TB and she didn’t. Partly I think it was because it’s fun to surprise people and do something out of character. Partly I think because I’m the big sister and she’s used to sometimes doing what I tell her to. At any rate, we’ve been running for about two months now. We’re running at least once a week together just to stay accountable. The rest of the time we’re begging others to keep us in line and have acquired a couple of good coaches who push us. One of them is pregnant. I find it difficult to believe that I have a really hard time keeping up with the pregnant person. Sigh. Our other coach just finished this year’s Portland marathon. Starting running for the first time last spring and ran the whole thing. She’s my hero.
We all spent all last week eating. Decided yesterday we were ready for a “hard run”. Three Miles. Faster pace than normal. Really Really big hill. All three of us had to walk the last push of the hill. It’s a big hill. My friend said it felt like someone had ripped out her lungs. Clearly we all need a bit more training. Funny thing was when we finished the hill, the next bit was pretty nice. My sister had her best run ever.
In 2004 I did the Portland Marathon. I ran 1/4 of each mile and walked the other 3/4. At mile 15 or so I was feeling great. Mile 20 I was starting to get tired. Mile 21 my IPOD battery gave out. Mile 22 I was worried. At mile 25 with only one mile to go I had nothing left. I saw a little man shuffling ahead of me. I told myself “I’m going to try to run by this gentleman, maybe if I can encourage him, I’ll be able to finish”. So I ran in step with senior and said “You can do it, only one mile to go”. He said “This is my fifth marathon. I know I can do it. You can do it too. Don’t give up”. Okay then.
I did in fact finish all 26.2 miles. When I crossed the finish line, my mother burst into tears. She said she had a picture of me running a race in life and crossing the finish line into heaven.
I really don’t like to exercise. Not crazy about running. I do however like that my pants fit. I also like the extra energy when I’m faithful to run. I really don’t like much of what constitutes balance and discipline in life. Balancing my checking account, taking out the garbage, having those oh so hard conversations to iron out misunderstandings, saying sorry, getting out of bed even when the snooze button is calling me, devotions with my daughter, praying for friends, tackling the big hills.
Its easier to do anything with your sister at your side. And I know that it’s all worth it in the long run.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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