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I wake up to a little voice at my bed. I open my eyes groggily, knowing it’s way too early for her to be awake. But awake she is. She’s blurry next to me, but I can tell she’s expectant and I reach for my glasses. Ah yes, there’s her just-awakened, little two-year-old self, her hair curly and crazy, all over the place. I leave my husband sleeping in bed and take her to use the potty. Realizing her flannel p.j’s are already soaked, I run the bath water, warm and soapy. I pour the water over her head, her hair straightening flat against her back, the water cascading over her little shoulders. I lather up her arms.

 

“That feel better, honey?” I ask her.

 

“Yes, thank you, Mama,” she chirps in her little morning voice.

 

My heart melts that one so small would be so sweetly thankful for a warm bath and clean skin.

 

We head downstairs with her big sister. Breakfast is definitely in order . . . and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. We eat banana muffins and I settle the girls with sippy cups and a weekend cartoon. I sneak back into bed and cuddle long with the hubby, slipping in and out of sleep just for a few more lazy minutes. And then it’s time to hit the day.

 

I clean a few leftover dishes from our cookout the night before. I chuckle over little conversations, smirk over bits of sarcasm, and smile over a movie where shared laughter and tears all rolled into one. It is good to share “hang out” days with friends.

 

My mind shifts and I mull over this post. A couple of days before, a friend had asked if I would be willing to write about my Ideal Day. Knowing it would be fun, but that it would also stretch me, I excitedly, but very hesitantly said yes. So, now I explore what an ideal day would even look like for me. I try to slip out of my usual routine . . . it takes more than a few minutes. A run with my husband by the light of the morning stars, surprises me. We don’t run currently. Actually, I realize, we haven’t jogged together since our honeymoon. I turn that over in my head.

 

The girls play dress-up. I Pinterest-surf. The hubby descends the stairs and we sit at the table and catch up on news and articles of interest over coffee. And then I go back to Pinterest. We laugh over our little ones. A few minutes later, one of them does something annoying and we share frustrated faces and then smile and shake our heads. I know that this is parenting: pure joy, wonder and gratitude, all mixed with the battles against our own selfishness and wishing them into little adults. Oh, how I want to savor them and rest longer in the joy and wonder.

 

We eat leftover BBQ and the best potato salad (ever!) for lunch. He runs out the door for a haircut, I fold loads of laundry and hang fresh, clean clothes on hangers.

 

My mind does a U-turn, back to the “Ideal Day” question. A drive zooms into view. The kind of drive I’ve seen in photographs. The top is down, our favorite music is playing, maybe just the two of us, maybe the kids sitting in the back seat, happily chatting amongst themselves, while we enjoy the scenery, or even do a little out-loud dreaming. Funny, I’m surprised by where I would want to drive.

 

He comes home, looking handsome, and we get ready for a date. His brother and new wife walk through the door and the girls are so excited by their “babysitters”. We slip out the door, knowing our little ones are in very good hands and we escape to reconnect and grab some good food.

 

He sips a beer. I sip a sangria. We talk food and sports, family and politics. It is good to have a conversation where the only interruption is the waiter asking if we need anything. The hubby’s been so busy lately. We’ve been coasting — somewhat content, but somewhat trapped in the routine of responsibility and our individual, co-existing worlds.

 

I turn the conversation toward the idea of this post. I ask him what his ideal day would look like after I sheepishly confess that, really, I’m a little scared to dream about mine. He nods his head, understanding the fear of dreaming. I also tell him how the things coming to mind are surprising me . . . how unconscious desires are bubbling over as I hesitantly give way to even thinking about them. I tell him how a jog under the stars sounds heavenly to me. With him. He’s just as surprised as I am.

 

We’re quiet a few minutes. I ask him what he’s thinking.

 

“I’m just surprised by what I’m finding would be included in my “ideal day” if I could create it. It would definitely include driving….”

 

I laughingly interrupt to tell him a drive was on my list too.

 

“Along the Pacific Coast Highway,” he says, finishing his sentence.

 

My eyes widen, realizing this was the road I’d seen in the picture. Black roads hugging rocky cliffs, white waves crashing alongside, and the Pacific Ocean as far as the eye can see.

 

“Really??” I squeal. “Me too!”

 

We both smile. Stunned. We have never, ever talked about this desire before. All the disconnectedness and busyness of routine and responsibility melt away in the moment that we realize that underneath the Bread-Winner and the Homemaker, behind the Daddy and the Mommy, despite 8 years of being Husband and Wife, we still have things to learn about one another. We beam, knowing that we have to make this happen and that there is an adventure on our horizon.

The Pacific Coast Highway – photo courtesy of The Travel Channel

 

As I try fall asleep that night, I dream of touring windy roads with my best friend, the salty air whizzing past and all around us. And then I shift, reversing the day in my head, realizing that, really, this day . . . this one day . . . had all the elements of an “ordinary” ideal day. Sweet moments with my little ones, a date with my hubby, a new realization about one another, visiting with family. The only thing was, I didn’t recognize it for what it truly was. When I walked into the family room at noon and pillows were strewn everywhere, Goldfish crumbs galore, a needless mess, I lost my temper to the tune of the vacuum cleaner. When the hubby had to work for a bit, I steamed and huffed and puffed, thick as a locomotive. When little ones pushed my buttons, I pushed theirs right back. And I realize: I can turn any day into a mini-version of hell if my attitude is in the wrong place.

 

But more importantly, if my heart is in the right place, any day is pretty much ideal already.

 

Any day that I’m enjoying the day’s gifts in all of their glory, even embracing all of their imperfections, while still hoping and dreaming about our future? That’s my idea of an ideal day.

 

So now? I’m excited to see where else our dreams will take us. I realize that if I peel back my frustrations over the everyday routine and the responsibilities of making ends meet and raising a young family, I really already have the ideal on a daily basis — if I only take the time to see it.

Click on the image to learn more about how to write about *YOUR* Ideal Day – and have a chance to win it (if it can be won)!


		

The New Horizon

Part of me wants to discard 2011 like a dirty, ol’ rag. It was a let’s-get-down-and-get-dirty kind of year for us. The kind of year where you evaluate every aspect of your life and make some difficult decisions to, hopefully, make things better. The kind of year where your heart gets tangled in a million different emotions and leaves life feeling like one, big, tangled web that somehow swirled and weaved your last bit of girlhood naiveté into a mortal cocoon. The kind of year where friends’ homes and neighborhoods are ripped to shreds by tornadoes and you read stories about riots all over the world, and those earthquakes and tsunamis that hit  so hard and you’re left trying to explain crazy things like that to your wide-eyed, inquisitive four-year-old daughter. The kind of year where your heart brims in fullness, readying to welcome your third child, only for that baby to be taken away from you. The kind of year where your life’s lens zooms in and out as you lie on a stretcher wondering if you’re going to be able to hug your living babies in the morning as that pregnancy loss gushes from your body.

 

It has been a hard year.

 

And yet.

 

Ironically, it has been one of the best.

 

It’s been the year that my husband and I learned to (mostly) stop dancing that passive-aggressive tango we’ve done all these married years and begun to truly learn one another’s steps. It’s been the year where we’ve truly listened to one another’s dreams and desires and haven’t been afraid to share them. The year that we weren’t afraid to let go of certain things in our lives that we’d held onto for so. long. simply because they felt comfortable and safe. The year that my humanity was made crystal clear. The year where the outpouring of love and support from friends was humbly overwhelming and wonderfully healing.

It is truly stupefying how God places things in your hands which sometimes feel like squirming snakes or abrasive stones, but in opening your hands, you quickly realize that they are, in reality, loaves of bread and nourishing fish.

 

So I know that when I trust the Good Father, I can trust that a year like 2011 is a gift. Whether our 2011’s were good or bad, or just plain boring, it is a full, written chapter in each of our life’s stories and not something to wipe clean off the slate, or something to desperately try to erase from our memories. Let’s find the gifts. Let’s find all the fish and the bread of 2011 and learn to be thankful for them in our new 2012. And even better, maybe we can learn from all those seemingly snarly snakes and rough stones and help others with their own confusingly full hands.

 

Today, as my eyes linger over the ornaments and stockings and twinkling lights, just for one more day,  my heart lingers over days and moments that made up my own 2011. And I am finding that those gifts walk with me into the fresh horizon of 2012.

 

Let’s have a happy, bright and hopeful New Year, everyone.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~Plato

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Red Bucket

I always walked right past them, usually with eyes averted or a sheepish smile and a murmured “Merry Christmas.”

 

Until last year.

 

Firefly was only two and I held her little hand tightly as I absentmindedly rushed her past the red bucket and the bell-jingler. We stepped through the doors and I breathed a quick sigh of relief as the warmth of the drug store hummed over us. But she was old enough to start asking questions and her two-year-old queries halted me.

 

“Mama, what is the red bucket? Why do people put money in it?”

 

Before, my excuse for my hard-to-come-by generosity had been that I never carry cash and I pass by so many of those Red Kettles throughout the Christmas season – how could I possibly give to all of them? Oh, and my wallet’s change pocket? Well, my meager amount of pennies just seemed too  . . . meager.

 

But now she was asking if she could drop money in the bucket.

 

We walked out of the store, she with pennies in hand, and with a plink, plink, plink, her little heart gave too. And she changed me.

 

She asked about that bucket all year. Her little two -, then three-year-old brain, remembered right where it was. We drove past the drug store, the summer sun warming our skin through the car windows.

 

“Mama, why is the red bucket only there at Christmas?” She had asked inquisitively.

 

Her questions churned within me. And again, from the mouth of a child, my heart learns to lean a little closer toward the One who whispers. He’s the One whose Red Covering washes us clean and whose joy can fill us to overflowing….

 

Christmas season arrives again and she squeals excitement at the first glimpse of a red bucket. We walk out of the automatic doors of Wal-Mart, and she stands, hands cupped, as I dig through my wallet, trying to find as many silver coins as I can. The bell-jingler sits and waits patiently. She wears an oversized black and white parka and a dark toboggan, trying to keep warm. Her eyes smile as her cocoa-colored hands tilt the red bucket toward Firefly. I watch as my child steps on her tippytoes, dropping her coins, one by one, into the cross-shaped slot.

 

My heart slows.

 

The bell-jingler’s eyes meet mine and I wish her a Merry Christmas as she simultaneously bids us a blessed one.

 

We take a short step out from under the store’s towering shadow. Our eyes have to squint in the December sunlight.

 

 

Repost from Christmas 2010

Whimsy Prayers and Fleet-Footed Answers

There have been times in my life, really the majority of my life, where money was tight. I grew up the oldest of eight children, so you can imagine that I grew up on hand-me-downs and learned not to ask for much. But He still always provided through our hard-working father and through people who truly loved our larger-than-average family and I never wanted for necessities. I grew up and Jonathan and I walked down the aisle, arrived home all giddy from our honeymoon and suddenly panicked because we thought we didn’t have anything left in our newly joined bank account. We thanked God as we found $500 automatically deposited from my one-week-behind nursing paycheck. Our first week home, together, and we breathed thanks to the Provider of all things.

 

Then we were DINKS. You know? Dual Income, No Kids. So, we went to the movies a lot and ate out way too often. But 2 years passed, and oops, we were going to have a baby! We saved, saved, saved every penny we could so that I could stay home with our baby girl when she arrived. She came and I stayed home and we survived on one income while simultaneously trying to become debt-free (that ‘s a whole other story!). We didn’t buy things like fabric softener or extra snacks. We stayed home from the movies and my daughter wore wonderful hand-me-downs (I’ll *always* love hand-me-downs!). I learned as a fairly new wife and mother that there are a lot of things we think that we need to run a household, but really don’t. But now, our season has changed and God has provided. Now the fabric softener makes it into our grocery cart, but still rarely actually goes in with wash. 🙂

 

Before, there were things I thought we needed, but learned we didn’t. Now there are things we don’t need, but have anyway.

 

A girl can get lazy in asking her Provider to provide when He’s already providing more than she’s used to.

But I’m about to dare you.

Low on our priority list of “needs” has been a children’s table for our girls.  With two little budding artists and no current kitchen table, the only place the girls have had to draw is at the dining room table (which the littlest one has a tendency to crawl on top of -gulp-), or the kitchen floor (which is, as I’ve mentioned before, a linoleum parquet and creates little rub-on indentions into their artwork -grin-).  So the girls are often in the dining room, eating or drawing alone, while I’ve gone about making the morning coffee or unloading the dishwasher. Either that, or their guilt-ridden mother has placed two little, good-natured girls in front of their breakfasts and they’ve eaten their cheerios off the kitchen floor (Out of a bowl, out of a bowl!) .  So, for awhile now, I’ve been on a rather low-key hunt for a children’s table, but I just hadn’t found a good price on one and with each morning that passed, I was a little bit saddened that my children were left eating in the other room.

(Side note: Do you really think the girls cared about this?!)

Could I just have gone out and bought a table? Sure! But as I’m sure you know, there are lots of purchases in this young-parenting season of life and a children’s table was pretty much at the bottom of my priority list.

But one day I just casually told God that I’d really like to find a table for the girls. Would He help me find one? Of course, my caveat slipped in and I added something about how, of course, He knows what we truly need, so you know. Whatever. 🙂

Yesterday, one of the young neighbor girls knocked at our front door. We greeted each other with smiles and she said,

“My mom and I were just wondering if you could use a little table for your girls? I’ve outgrown mine and we can’t find a place for it in the house and we just thought your girls might be able to use it.”

You better believe I snatched that table right up! And I can’t tell you how THANKFUL I am for that little table. Yes, because now we have a nice little nook for the girls to eat and draw, but even more because it was simply God’s gift to me. How often do I not ask Him for things simply because I can just go out and do it, buy it, or manage it myself?

But I’ve asked for things on whims and He whizzes right in and in His non-fumbling way, just gives. 

There are some really large things looming in my life and I’ve been knocking on His door about them for quite some time. It is easy to grow weary. Apathetic. But when He answers our “little” prayers, He gives us the gift of hope. It is almost more humbling. That He the Master and Creator of the Universe would supply something so insignificant to one who merely asked on a whimsy.

So, I dare you. I dare myself.

Let’s ask and just see what he does.

Because He dared us first.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:7-11

 

So today, I am thankful. That God hears my “just-talking-out-loud” prayers. That He shows me He’s our Provider in all things. He gives me courage and builds my faith.

 

And I ask for more.

 

#620 summer sunlight, drying the wooden, freshly hosed highchair

 

#621 sidelong, wry smiles over their heads while watching “movies” that only little girls would want to watch

 

#622 homemade pizza

 

#623 unexpected lunch with a friend

 

#624 the way she loves us and the way we all love her

 

#625 long, hot baths

 

#626 the way words stir the soul

 

#627 day-in, day-out, just being with them

 

#628 barefoot girls, running to welcome their daddy home

 

#629 lemonade

 

#630 cucumber blooms (finally!)

 

#631 fresh, flavorful, local tomatoes

 

#632 hence, lots of homemade salsa

 

#633 this messy house

 

#634 celebrating new babies with old friends

 

#635 our littlest one’s initiated night out

 

#636 spontaneity

 

#637 rocks, ages old, right here

 

#638 coffee with a friend and having to be hinted at by the staff to leave

 

#639 Target runs

 

#640 sitting down, playing the keys

 

#641 giving myself grace, which is really HIS grace to me

 

#642 making it through his hard-working week

 

#643 a new, just-for-them table

 

#644 that HE HEARD! that little, barely spoken prayer

 

#645 that He’s just so unexpected

 

#646 How He must love to delight His children

 

#647 and how He must be hearing those big prayers too

 

#648 fuel for hope

Click here to read of more thankfulness!

Just Continuing

Merely continuing the count….

 

#303 rain, rain, rain

#304 a wide-mouth Ball jar, brimming with yellow-gold forsythia

#305 the drawings, the flowers, the drawings, the flowers . . . her always bringing

#306 the “Mom? I wuv you.”

#307 Dovey and her necklaces. All seven of them.

#308 That he still needs me

#309 old friends, gathered around our table

#310 That Borax and Scotch-Guard even work with red wine and curry chicken. And really? That I wouldn’t care if they didn’t.

#311 Five little girls, playing strong, growing friendships

#312 That He listens to my cries, my griping

#313 That He can calm my heart . . . heal it

#314 That he still has the touch . . . his stove-popped popcorn is the best! One less thing for me to do in the kitchen. 🙂

#315 A house.

#316 A roof.

#317 Four walls.

#318 Clothing.

#319 Clean water to drink . . . even ice.

#320 Little girls, dancing with smiles and giggles, tutus twirling

#321 good, long talks with my sis

#322 cardinals hopping on our patio

#323 beautiful, March sunshine

#324 That I could pull out the Chacos!

#325 the way He keeps turning my heart to Him in the waiting

#326 that only He can satisfy

Joining others in thanks

 

Thanks in the Midst

We’ve had such a busy and fun weekend here, and are beginning a busy day, including a(nother) hair cut and seeing my sister – in from college!

 

Short and sweet.

 

#65 celebrating Christmas with old and new friends

 

#66 Three parties in three days!

 

#67 That this was the only weekend in December that was quite that busy. =D

 

#68 “Welcome Baby!” cupcakes at a Christmas Party

 

#69 All the kids crowded around the little table

 

#70 A little boy who’s learned from his gracious parents just how to play host, retrieving floss, toys, etc.

 

#71 Learning just how small a world it is!

 

#72 Honesty  materializing in unexpected subjects

 

#73 Heart-breaking, yet freeing, conviction – it’s a cleansing place to be

 

#74 A baby girl with necklace-radar!

 

#75 3-year-old versions of Christmas Carols

 

#76 Cookie swaps!

 

#77 Emerging friends

 

#78 Trying new recipes

 

#79 As well as the tried and true

 

#80 Learning from the best neighbor in the world

 

#81 Hand-addressed envelopes in the mailbox

All

Snapshots of their lives fill the blue and white page. Snippets of friends, new and old, near and far, and the emotional stimulation is too much.

 

I scroll.

 

I see a husband returning from war and my heart soars. He arrives home to his beautiful wife, swollen with their creation of love, and he is home to celebrate holidays and in time to welcome his daughter into this world. Thank you, Jesus.


I see sisters who spent the last nine months anticipating their little ones’ arrivals. Due at the same time, they celebrate and plan and share pictures of their ever-increasing bellies. One sister delivers her beautiful boy and we celebrate his safe and joyous arrival!  Then three days later, the other sister delivers her firstborn, but the beautiful baby girl slipped away to Jesus. Two cousins born within days . . . one to its earthly family and one to its heavenly one and the Glory Baby’s parents come home with empty arms to a full nursery.

 

Why? Why?

 

Jesus????

 

And I was busy all weekend, cooking food and cleaning house, and celebrating our first year with our own daughter. My little Love-Dove with her brave heart of grace. All went beautifully, and she loved the cake, and loved the gifts, and loved my attempt to create a snowland for her who arrived with snow. I was afraid it looked tacky, but she graced me with excitement over my meager, indoor-winter attempts. In baby exuberance, she pointed  her small index finger toward all the dangling snowflakes and tulle, saying, “Mama. Mama.”  My heart tightens. She knew I did it for her? How could I ask for a better, yet unnecessary, thanks?

 

Then today, I speak with a friend and she talks of Haiti and voodoo and babies left in trash heaps, and her heart aches as she wrestles in the night, asking Jesus to help.


And our hearts soar and plummet and soar and plummet depending on the hour or the news and how do we handle the emotional turbulence of virtual proximity and the everyday timeline of plain, old life?


Life is . . .  and it is full of  joy and pain and we try to sift through it or we try to bury it, but either way, it’s too much. Why, Jesus, why? The blessings and cursings make no sense to me. And I toss and turn in the night because my heart is full of life on this earth and His ways are higher than mine, but I don’t understand them. And I think of Jesus and how his soul ached for Mary, Martha and Lazarus and death itself. He knew. He knew like no other the power of death and the power of life and it made Him, He who is all power . . . it made him weep.

 

He knows.

 

He knows.

 

And what can we do but take it all? Take it all to Jesus?

So, I come.

#27 a fleeting glimpse of a baby face I thought long-gone

#28 laying it all out on the table

#29 a newborn baby boy

#30 a broken mother, having the faith and bravery to say her baby girl is dancing at the feet of Jesus

#31 giving us hearts that hurt for others

#32 His not allowing us to be content with babies living in dog-kennel-like orphanages

#33 a husband’s help cleaning the bathrooms

#34 a beautiful first year!

#35 a newly introduced teddy bear being smothered in birthday girl kisses

#36 a houseful of family

#37 snow flurries

#38 hot showers

#39 a second birthday party . . . to-go!

#40 husbands safe, home from war

#41 death, for it has no sting

#42 For  life-giving words like this:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:3-5

#43 family lingering

#44  long hugs

#45 for One that is making all things new

#46 that He knows

#47 That he’s come . . . and he is coming. Our Emmanuel.