My husband sent me a gift this morning. I love surprise gifts. This one came in the form of a blog domain and blog email renewal. My Quirky Faith domain was set to expire and without asking this sweet spouse of mine signed me up for two more years. I haven't written much in the last few weeks. I've neglected the written word. I appreciated his vote of confidence.
Fact is lately I've been called to smaller things. My sister had a baby - two months early - and in aunty fashion I've been making quilts and embroidering Christmas stockings. My mom and a good friend of our threw a fairly fantastic baby shower.
The last couple of weeks I've also been called to focus in at home. My kids have had some obstacles in health and homework which required attention - time cuddling and reading and being present. So I've been quiet online.
This morning as I dropped my daughter off at preschool she asked me a question which made me pause.
Mom - Do I look like Miss Clavel?
I looked her up and down before I responded.
Ummmmm. Miss Clavel? Like in Madeline? The nun?
Yea! Do I look like Miss Clavel?
I truly tell you I had no words. Miss Clavel is not what comes to mind when I think about my feisty five year old. But her question made me ponder.
Miss Clavel is a wonder. She sacrificed her rights to marriage and her own family in order to take a vow of fidelity to Jesus. Then she spent her life chasing after 12 little girls and one especially spunky little one. Miss Clavel took in puppies and kittens, toured world cities, woke up in the night and rushed to the side of people in pain. Madeline is the hero of the story but truth is I love Miss Clavel. So I hope my kiddo turns out the same.
Mother Theresa once said "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
I'm grateful for Quirky Faith - and for the platforms on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. I love to write and shout out to the masses what is true and holy and right and fun. I so appreciate the opportunity and the privilege. But I'm convicted when any attempt to strive for something "great" makes me too busy to look at my children and understand what they are asking. My daughter wanted to know if she looked like Miss Clavel. I want to be about the same question.
My husband and I celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary today. And by celebrate I mean we sent our children to their grandparents and spent a couple of days eating our way around Portland. The dinners involved steak and lasagna. Fantastic lemon custard one night and a bananas foster cheese cake the second. Breakfast was spiced Huevos Rancheros and cheese grits with charred tomatoes. Yummmm. One of the ways we've managed to reach 19 and still like each other is a dogged commitment to celebrating everything with fantastic food.
I'm the lucky girl who knows how this handsome bearded man thinks. I know because I've spent that last 19 years eating across the booth from him. We met when I was 18 so I've been married to him longer than I didn't know him. I know the best ways to annoy him (don't give him space, talk bad about him before other people, interrupt him or others). I know the best ways to make him happy (catch his daughters doing something kind and tell him about it, appreciate something he's made, write something that changes the way one of us sees a hard situation). He's got me figured out too. If I'm cranky, feed me or put me in the bath with a book. Not complicated.
I asked him last night what advice he'd give to people on how to stay married 19 years. Here's his list:
Don't be crazy. (and by this I believe he means, calm down, fight fair, avoid the deal breakers, think).
Don’t be ridiculously self centered.
Give the other person space when they want it.
Don’t say one thing but mean something else and expect the other person to know what you are talking about.
Don’t berate your spouse in front of other people.
Work towards being a better person.
Invest your time in people that tend toward the positive.
Try and evaluate people in your life that are exceptional and watch what they do.
Figure out your stuff.
It's a good list. I think it works for parenting and friendships and any manner of relationship where longevity and care and quality are goals.
I enjoy the celebrate everything bit. I think people forget the joyful part of marriage and get stuck in the daily grind. If I have marriage advice its to try and figure out what makes your spouse smile and do more of that. Try to know your kids well enough to not push their buttons and to cheer on their joy. Try to honor your parents by avoiding what will break their hearts and invest in what brings honor. It works with friendships too.
Yesterday, my spouse took me to my happy place. Powell's books. We spent time in the children's books looking at the newest picture books, wandered through cookbooks and fiction and business. Picked out some books for family and friends. I have a new nephew to celebrate and a friend who I found out has never read Mere Christianity or The Hiding Place. This will be remedied soon.
This morning before heading home we spent the morning at The Portland Art Museum. My husband noticed the paint in this piece was incredibly thick. Parts looked almost as if the large globs had been glued in place. As we leaned in it became apparent the largest chunks were actually separating from the main painting due to time. There were cracks and crinkles.
Want to know something? The time gave it character. Depth. You could see the water ripple better because the painting had aged. The value increased with time.
The figure out your stuff thing is tough. It's what you do when it would be easier to leave. Or to shut down. We spent several years fighting about money and so we hauled our issues through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace class. It helped. We've attended marriage retreats and parenting classes. Read books, took small group classes and one painful season headed off to a counselor. We used to fight when we put together Ikea furniture. Lots of practice and now we can assemble anything. We've got a plan. The figure out your stuff thing means identifying where the tension is coming from and figuring out a new normal.
Figure out your stuff means you don't get to quit. Trust me, I've let my husband down - and he can drive me crazy. But figuring out your stuff also means you get the privilege of loving someone after you know all their junk and after they know yours. It means hanging on to friendships when people make choices you don't like. It means investing in people with whom you disagree. It might be easier to love new people - flawless and fresh people. Of course, that's fake and if you hang out long enough the bugs show themselves. Real people take grace. But the years after forgiveness and growth and grace are the ones with treasures.
What have we been doing the last 19 years? Figuring out how to keep some promises. To honor and cherish. For better or worse.
I found a new song yesterday which describes me perfectly. Maybe you can relate. It's called Second Guess Girl. Its all about trying to figure out what to do in a messed up and beautiful world. Some of the lyrics mirror my heart.
Is it time for a speech or for silence
Are you calling for peace or defiance
Is this darkening counsel or wisdom
Are we all perpetrators or victims?
It’s a hard world for a second guess girl
With one hand and another
I try to take it in but it leaves me spinning
Trying to love my sister and brother
Is this confidence born of a calling
Is this ego and pride before falling
Are we standing to fight for what’s right
Are we angry and hopelessly blind?
I take in a lot of other people's opinions in books and blogs and sermons and conversations over coffee. I watch opposing views from people I trust on both sides of many debates pass by quickly on my twitter and Facebook page. I can get rilled up and ready to march with the best of them. Or sometimes I preach a gospel of peace. To fight or to reconcile?
Sometimes I second guess Quirky Faith and the platform mentality. I wonder if this blog is about preaching the truth or getting attention for myself? I've been down that road often enough I know its both and the goal is always to kill the self and glorify God. Easier said than done. And yet we're called to shine a light and be ready with an answer.
See what I mean? Second guess girl.
If you're tracking with me can I suggest an exercise in sanity and stability. In classic Mindy fashion I'm talking about making a list. Of what I know for sure.
1. There is a Creator. He loves me. He loves you too.
2. I don't want to do life without Jesus. Ever.
3. The Bible contains words of life. Every second in the book is a good idea.
4. Work is honorable. But there is no greater joy than helping someone.
5. Art and music and food and friends matter.
6. My parents rock.
7. I want to grow old with my spouse at my side. He's my guy. Steadfast heart.
8. If my children learn to love Jesus then my life is a success. They are my most important priority.
9. I'd step in front of an angry bear to protect my little sister. She'd do the same for me.
10. Having a voice is important. Knowing when to shut up is more impressive.
I don't know a lot of things. I second guess my methods and my opinions and my time. But when I see clearly what I know for sure it helps keep the roller coaster in line. I second guess frequently - but I'm overwhelmingly grateful for the solid truths in my life.
What do you know for sure?
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.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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