Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Magic

I originally posted this story on December 10, 2008. It's my intention to share it every year as it's an important part of my childhood.

I believe that Christmas is full of magic. Some of it comes from the things people do and some of it comes from angels, miracles, God, etc. My magic Christmas was full of both kinds of magic.

My mom and I struggled when I was a child. She was a single parent until I was 10. She was in dental school full time, working part time, we lived on student loans and her meager income. Lots of assistance from our church family. But not always an abundance of food. No extras for parties or presents or brand new clothes. Living in a safe neighborhood but not a great neighborhood. So Christmas was never a big deal. I wanted it to be. But there weren't traditions that we followed. We didn't have much family around so that wasn't an option. I remember traveling to spend a Christmas with my birth father's family one year. That would have been when I was 4 or 5. I have seen the pictures of the holidays with my grandparents in their home before they moved away (we lived in Lexington and they moved to Elizabethtown).

So mom and I were sometimes on our own for Christmas. We sometimes went to wherever the family was. And one year, we went to visit a family friend. A husband and wife with 3 boys of their own. The oldest was a year or so older than me and the middle son was a year or so younger than me. The youngest was a baby at the time. They had a nice house. A tri-level. The boys had oodles of cool things to play with. It was through this family that I learned of Doctor Who and He-Man and Star Wars (Jeff thanks them for this). Their Mom was warm and kind and smiling eyes. And gave amazing, wrap you up and make everything else disappear hugs. Dad was a scientific type and had a wicked little sense of humor that fantastically embarrassed his children. Not having a dad of my own at this point, I was absolutely in awe of this man. So we make the drive (they lived in Illinois, I think, so it was a long haul) with plans to spend several days with these friends. I don't remember most of the visit. I do remember Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

I was used to being the kid who didn't have what everyone else had. I was used to masking my jealousy, my desires. I was used to protecting myself and my mom from my disappointment and hurt. So I was prepared for that.

The first part of the memory is Christmas Eve. We kids were sent off to bed after the live tree had been put up. Just the tree, bare. No lights, no decorations. The 3 of us (not including the baby) shared a room and spent a lot of time giggling and snorting and laughing and talking and getting told to hush and go to sleep, being threatened with a lack of Santa... you know the drill. I didn't believe in Santa anymore but kept my mouth shut for the sake of the younger of the 2 boys. As we goof off, we are watching out the window from time to time. It was a cold, clear, bright night. And there was a very bright star right outside the window. The adults told us it was the North Star, the same Star that the shepherds and Kings followed to find the stable... we goof off some more and look out the window... the star has moved to the other side of the window. From the right side to the left side. We holler for the adults... and get the "time passes, the earth rotates, blah, blah, blah" answer. So we keep talking and telling stories and look up again... IT MOVED BACK. Major freakout, adults don't believe us, mini-chaos ensues. The adults brush it off and tell us to get to sleep, they shut the blinds. It's the last I remember from that night. Sleep must have followed soon after. Or we ended up separated, who knows.

Then the morning comes. The oldest son is awake and excited and jumping around, running up and down the hallway, eager for everyone to wake so we can go downstairs and see the presents. No one had been downstairs yet (their family tradition was that the family goes down together). Remember... this is a tri-level home. So you come down from the bedrooms, into the living room, turn the corner to head down to the den... the kitchen overlooks it... we scramble into the kitchen to look over into the den...


I had never seen anything so magnificent in my life. I still haven't. The tree was decorated and lit with tiny white lights. There was gold paper and decorations everywhere. There were stockings overflowing on the mantle of the fireplace. The presents... the pile at the bottom of the tree spilled out onto the surrounding floor and spread all the way down the length of the fireplace. I got very caught up in the moment. No one could see that sight and not get caught up in the magic. Overnight, the room went from a plain old den to a Christmas Wonderland. It was amazing.

Reality hit soon though. No matter how exciting it is to see a huge pile of presents... the disappointment of knowing they aren't YOUR presents does eventually sink in. So while the 2 boys went racing down the steps so they could start dividing out who got what present, I hung back and put on my mask to cover the disappointment. To steel myself for the watching of the boys opening their piles while I probably opened 1 or 2 gifts.

I came down the stairs with my mom. And there was a pile for me. A large pile. More than 1 or 2 presents. My mom had tears in her eyes... she didn't even know how much this family had done for us. There were envelopes in that tree... to this day, I don't know what all was in them but my assumption is gift certificates and cash for my mom. And I sat down and slowly began to open my gifts. So beautifully wrapped, with gold, glowing bows. I wanted the morning to last forever. I wanted the magic to stay with me forever. The boys tore through their openings, ripping through paper, tossing aside ribbons.

It was my magic Christmas. I don't remember most of what I got that year. I believe it was mostly clothing and practical things. But I was given a beautiful doll. Not a baby doll. But a blond haired doll with eyes that opened and closed and she wore a gorgeous brown velvet Victorian style dress with a matching hat and little black velvet shoes and tiny little white lace pantaloons. I never named her but I did keep her.

Christmas is just days away... And I will remember that most magical of Christmases... when I learned about compassion and humanity and felt included and loved in a way I hadn't ever expected or anticipated. And I will continue to work to teach my daughter and my son that same lesson. To this day, I work to pay forward the kindnesses that were done for me and my mom. Especially at Christmastime. Because every child, every person deserves a Magic Christmas!

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cuss Words

Fair warning - this post will contain some adult language not normally found on this blog.

I've been waiting for this day. And I'm honestly surprised that we made it to 4th grade without much incident. I've always been of the assumption that once you reach the upper levels of elementary, you've started being exposed to bigger topics and broader world visions than what you get at home. 

I know I first started hearing cuss words on the bus.  I would have been pretty young - I'm thinking maybe 2nd grade or so.  I also remember getting mad at my mom and writing some cuss words on my wall with a pencil. She cleaned it up and then we sat down and had a conversation about cuss words. What I really remember was her explanation as to why she sometimes liked to use the word "shit."  It starts out soft with the shhhhh sound and then ends with a hard and angry sound - T.  

My mom wasn't much of a cusser.

When Jeff and I met, he had quite a vocabulary. When I got pregnant, he knew he had to change his ways. So he started subbing the word "smurf" for the cuss words.  Which sometimes led to some very funny sentences. But it did change the habit.

We aren't a house that cusses. And we are mindful of language around the kids. When I do cuss, it's at work or out with a friend and not generally just randomly sprinkled in my conversation but more to provide emphasis or emotion.

So my kids haven't really been exposed to a lot of cuss words.  And when they have been in a room where someone says Shit or Damn... we just haven't really reacted. We don't give power to the word.

Recently, I was home with the kids and Jeff was out. Teagan tells me that she had an interesting experience at the before care program that morning.  A kid was running around telling people to say "gay bitches." Teagan then says "And I fell for it until my friend told me it was bad and so I stopped Zach - thankfully, he didn't say it!"

I love that kids think that saying a cuss word is an action that might cause you to implode or something. Like the act of saying the word is the bad part - not the meaning of the word. I like that because, at least for my kids, they haven't learned the power of those bad words yet. The words themselves don't hold meaning... so it's akin to a bad thing like stealing or hitting someone. Saying the words is a bad action to them.

Teagan goes on to tell me that she didn't know what those words meant. So I took a deep breath and knew it was time to address the topic.

We know what the word gay means and in our family, it isn't a bad word. But sometimes people use it like it's a bad thing to be gay. 

Bitch is a derogatory term used towards women. Then I have to explain what "derogatory" means.

Then I ask if they've heard any other words that they know are bad words but they don't understand them...

Teagan says she's heard kids talk about "the s word" but she doesn't know what that word is...

*deep breath*

So I explain that the word is "shit."

Zach wants to know what the words means.

Well, it's another word for poop but it's mostly a term people use when they are angry or frustrated. 

Zach looks at me, very seriously, and says...

"So if I say "You look like shit," I'm going to get in trouble?"

Yep. You will get in trouble, buddy. 

We then go on to the word "ass." Which I explain means butt or donkey. But again, it's a word people use when they are angry and they aren't really using it with that meaning to it.

Teagan then tells me...

"I hear Daddy use ass in the car when he's driving. A lot."

I thought we were done at this point. I thought we'd made it through. I didn't want to get to the "f bomb" because I didn't want to try and explain the definition of the word. 

But it seems to be over.


"Mom, what does "frickin" mean?"

I just explain that it's a substitute word for a really bad word and that people use it when they are angry or frustrated (notice that pattern of anger and frustration).

And days later, I realize that I've caught myself using "frickin" far more often in my home than I had been aware of... 

Lesson learned. Little pitchers have big ears. They hear everything and absorb everything... even the things we aren't aware of. 

Teagan starts 5th grade next year and I know we will be facing a lot more of these kinds of topics. I'm relieved that it took this long to really be exposed to "bad words." I'm glad my kids held on to some of this innocence for as long as they did. I'm glad we've built our home in a community and in a church where my kids have been able and will continue to be able to be children and not forced to grow up too soon, too quickly. 

For some, cuss words are no big deal. For me, cuss words are a step into a more adult world. And I'm fine with holding that off for as long as possible.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Baby Jesus Class Project

I've never participated in this sort of school project but most any TV show involving a school certainly has - being tasked with caring for a "baby."  Usually part of a health class and always a source of humor as the robotic baby won't stop crying or the potato baby loses an appendage.

The purpose of the assignment is generally to teach a young teen that a baby is a serious responsibility and that you can't just treat it like a toy.  You can't just take for granted that you can turn it off or leave it in a drawer or whatever.

Kind of like Jesus.

Bear with me here.

It's that time of year that we start hearing all kinds of shouts of "Keep Christ in Christmas!"

I'm not necessarily one of those type of folks.  For me, Christmas is a religious holiday and it is the celebration of the birth of Christ.  No, I don't believe that Jesus was literally born on December 25.  Yes, I do believe that Christmas has roots that go further back than the noted life of Christ himself.

I also believe that there isn't anything anyone can do that will take Christ *out* of my Christmas.  If that's how I choose to celebrate, that is how I will celebrate.  I don't give any government or group or person or store or advertisement enough power to take Jesus away from me or from my holiday.

I saw this on Facebook today:

And I think it's an important message.  We can yell and scream about "our" holiday being commercialized... or we can live like Christ, set the example, seek to be more like the man we study and our example will scream louder than our angry sentiments about a holiday.

Want to really keep Christ in Christmas?  Want to really and truly understand the arrival of a King, a Saviour, a Warrior in the form of a simple and innocent and vulnerable baby?

Wear Jesus this Christmas.

Get a baby doll. Get a sling or a baby carrier.  Name that doll Jesus.  Carry it with you everywhere you go.  Talk to the baby Jesus in your arms.  Keep your doll close to you to protect him and love him and care for him.  Be aware of this tiny life in your arms when you yell at your kids or your spouse, when you raise your hand to spank the dog.  Look at his tiny face when you gossip to your friend over coffee, when you talk behind someone's back.  Hold his small hand when you curse someone in traffic... when you turn a blind eye to the homeless man on the corner.

Do you live your life every day as if you were carrying Jesus in your arms?  Do you live your life each day as though Christ is guiding your heart?  Or do you set the doll aside... flip the switch to off for a break... tuck the doll in a drawer so you don't look uncool around your friends?

Wear Jesus this Christmas.  Hold him in your arms.  Wear him in a sling.  Keep him loved and warm and protected.

Be aware of Jesus in your arms when you hug a child or console someone who is hurting.  Look at his sweet face before you speak any words about another person.  Hold his hand when you pray for others, when you ask for forgiveness.

The best way to "keep Christ in Christmas?"

Keep Christ in YOU.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Christmas List

I think I'm hard to buy for... I don't find that I often want for much of anything.  So I've started making a list.  Things I want that would be great gifts or great goals for me to buy for myself.

Vera Bradley Work Tote

I've been searching for the "perfect" tote.  I carry my laptop to and from work daily. I have a tote I use that I like but it doesn't have all the functionality I'd like it to have.  I came upon this tote - which is more expensive than I'm generally willing to pay for such things - and it seems to have everything I'm wanting.

Sriracha 2 Go

Because Sriracha. All the time, any time. Sriracha.

Remote Starter

I'd love to have my car running but secure. A friend at work has one and can start her car out in the parking lot while sitting at her 3rd floor desk.  There are even systems that operate through an app on your phone!

The Voice Bible

I fell in love with this translation sometime in the last couple of years. I researched it before digging in and it has become my go-to translation when I'm looking at Scripture.  I have it via the Bible Gateway app on my phone but would love a print copy, too.

Fun Socks

I like fun socks. I see no reason for socks to ever be boring.  Bright colors, silly socks, mismatched socks, crazy patterns... I like all kinds of fun socks!

Personal Humidifier

What are you putting on your list this holiday season?

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Early Christmas Magic #ISMCCX

I love Christmas magic. I normally am very staunch about No Christmas Until After Thanksgiving. However, we had an opportunity to preview the Celebration Crossing exhibits at the Indiana State Museum last night with a group of bloggers - and we got to see Santa.

The timing was very interesting. Just that morning, both kids decided to confront us on the existence of Santa Claus.  Teagan has known for a couple of years. Well, she's been questioning for a couple of years as she has heard that he isn't real from schoolmates.  Our response has always been to neither confirm nor deny - but to instead focus on Santa as a way of celebrating Saint Nicholas and Christmas magic.

But with Zach adding his thoughts in... it started to feel like our Santa days were coming to an end.

We didn't continue the subject but hurried off to school and work.  At the end of the day, as we drove downtown to the museum, the kids were discussing what they wanted to ask Santa to bring them.  Teagan wants a new CD player for her room (very practical since hers keep breaking) and Zach finally decided on a new Wii but what he really wants is a computer.

We arrive at the museum and are enjoying all the lovely decorations and the spaces that are set up through out the museum to celebrate the season.  It all has a lovely old time-y feel to it.  Very retro. Taking you back to the days when L.S. Ayres was the place to celebrate the holidays with the Christmas windows and Santa's arrival and fancy lunch in the Team Room.  All of that has been recreated and brings a great sense of nostalgia and history to Christmas in Indiana.

The original Santa Claus Express from L.S. Ayres. Many have memories of riding this little train as kids!

Santa's mural in the "playground" area - a space where the kids can play and do activities and parents can SIT!

92 County Tree. Representing all of Indiana's counties with an arnament made by an Indiana Artisan.

The updated but fully recreated Santa Claus Express - slightly larger and delightful all the same!
But the real magic came when we went to visit Santa.

Teagan announced to us that she was going to ask Santa for something different than what she had told us.  She was going to ask him for something secret and then she'd know once and for all if Santa was real.

You may recall her "test" last year - asking Santa for something that she knew Mom or Dad would never ever buy.  A bucket full of candy.  And she got it.  A bucket. With some candy and lots of Candies brand stuff (lip gloss, bath gel, lotion, etc.).  Santa is certainly clever!

Jeff and I are going along with it and quietly discussing how we are going to pull this off.  That's when I noticed the Indiana State Museum employees who had been our tour guides... so I stepped over and asked if I couldn't get a little "elf help."

Turns out, Mrs. Claus was standing there. So I discreetly pointed out my daughter and explained her idea of testing us with this "secret" gift she would ask Santa for... and Mrs. Claus promised to help us.

We step up to see the jolly gift bringer and Teagan instantly goes into star crossed mode. We go in with her but promise not to listen.  She then tells Santa what she wants but she says it all out loud - a new CD player and new sneakers.

Then came the magic... Santa said, "Are you sure there isn't anything else you wanted to ask me to bring you?" Teagan, wide eyed, shook her head no.  "Really? Because one of my elves heard you saying that you were going to ask Santa for something secret... there's nothing you want to whisper in my ear?"  Eyes bigger... huge grin... pink cheeks... head shaking no...

Christmas magic... parent orchestrated... with the help of some special elves... but I think we just bought another year of believing.  Another year of full on childhood belief in magic.

You can find your own bit of Christmas nostalgia and magic when you visit Celebration Crossing! We plan to come for a full visit soon - we want to spend time in all the other exhibits, too.  And we plan to visit Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg and swing by the Indiana Historical Society and a visit to the Zoo - it's going to take an entire weekend to fit in all that downtown Indianapolis has to offer!

Celebration Crossing opens Friday, Nov. 28.  The Indianapolis Children's Choir will perform at 11 and then all are invited to gather in front of the museum to see Santa's grand arrival by helicopter!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Shot a Gun

I'm not a gun person. I didn't grow up around guns. I didn't grow up around people who went hunting. Guns are not part of my family culture. I've shot a shot gun at a can once out in the country. I've gone to a trap shooting event.  That's it.

I had an opportunity to go to a shooting range and learn to fire a handgun.  Other co-workers had gone previously and enjoyed the experience. Our industry deals a lot in connection to gun using industries (we make safety products like hearing protection and eye protection) so I work with a lot of folks who shoot or who hunt.  I go to church with people who shoot or hunt. I have Facebook friends who shoot and hunt.

I was eager to try it.  Honestly, I thought I'd feel... powerful. Kick ass. Big and bold.

I sat through the safety video on how to handle the gun. We put on our safety gear and headed out to the range. We were shown how to load bullets.  My partner went first.  She shot her 5 bullets and then it was my turn.

I was already jumping out of my skin every time a gun went off. The sound was jarring and violent. Even with earmuffs on.

I stepped up and loaded the 5 bullets.  I loaded the clip into the gun (forgive any terminology here - remember, I am so not a gun person).  I raised it and aimed at the target, using the sites to make a line the way they showed me.

I squeezed the trigger.

And I hated it.

I got through my 5 bullets and was done. I didn't want the gun back in my hand. Bottom line was that the purpose of a gun is to hurt someone. To end someone's life. And that isn't something I have in me.

I shared that feeling with others and the response was... "yeah, but if someone was hurting my kids, I'd be able to shoot that person!"

I don't know that I could. Just being honest. What if I miss and shoot my kid. And what are the chances of walking into a room and suddenly finding someone hurting my child and I just happen to have a gun on me or sitting on a shelf within reach?  Or do I tell my kid to hold on while I go retrieve my gun and then my ammo so I can come and save the day?

Bottom line is that I'm still not a gun person. I'm glad that there are people who can handle guns. But I also wish that everyone felt such a strong sense of non-violence and such a desire for peace and love that they also weren't gun people.  That they weren't violent people.

There is so much violence in the world right now.  And so much violence in our country right now.

What's happening in Ferguson is just highlighting a piece of the big picture.

The picture is that this is a broken world. A world where too many desire to control, to be in power, to keep others down. A world where "I'm right and you're wrong" is more common than "help me understand your experience." A world where what's mine is MINE and what's yours should be managed by me because I know best.

A young officer shot his gun for the first time ever while on duty. He killed a younger young man. My heart breaks for that officer.

A young man lives in a town and in a country where the color of his skin has defined him since before he was born. Through a series of... unknown events... he ends up dead. My heart breaks for him, for his last moments, for his family and friends.

Anger erupts.

Lives are ruined.

Justice is desired.

But is there ever really justice in these circumstances?

The under the surface anger erupts again. Because peace was never really found. The anger of hundreds of years has continued to build and build and explodes from time to time.

I read a quote from a man who runs a ministry that serves the homeless population of a large American city... "I just want to end the suffering I see around me."

Maybe that's why I don't like shooting a gun.  I don't want to contribute to suffering. I want to contribute to peace and love and joy. I want to contribute to compassion and caring. I don't want people to look at me and think that I could hurt them or kill them.  I want someone to look at me and see eyes looking back that are filled with love, arms eager to surround them with compassion, a smile filled with joy. A gun doesn't fit into that picture of who I strive to be - who I believe I am called to be in Christ.

I guess it's like the story of the starfish on the beach and the kid tossing them back into the ocean and the old man saying there is no way to save them all so why bother and the kid pointing out that he's made a difference to that one that he threw back.

I know I can't change the world. But maybe I can touch 1 life with joy, with peace, with compassion.  Maybe just 1 person will know that someone in the world values them and loves them, even without knowing them.

Some positive impact is better than no positive impact, right?

I have to believe that.

I simply have to believe that.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Giveaway!! Indy Int'l Festival


We go to the International Festival every year - it is one of my very favorite events. The food, the exposure to people of my city whose heritage is from another country, the music, the dancing, the arts... I love it all!

This year, I've got a great opportunity for YOU to attend with your family!!  I've got a family 4 pack of tickets that you could win! Check out the Rafflecopter and enter as many ways as you can!


  • If you can go on Friday afternoon, approximately 200 people will become U.S. citizens in a moving Naturalization Ceremony.
  • Italian street painting - try your hand at this beautiful type of art.
  • Kids can play on the giant world floor map.
  • Each booth will display traditional clothing from that heritage.

If you choose to just go and enjoy this event without winning the tickets (and believe me, it is worth it), adult tickets are $10, kids are $6 and kids 5 and under are free.  Bring cash so you can try a wide variety of food from around the world! There is also a beer/wine garden for the adults.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TKD Update: The Tournament

Teagan competed in 2 events - form and board breaking. Next year, she can add sparring to the list.

She took 1st in her group in both events.  All kids get medals. Each group of 3 is awarded 3rd, 2nd, and 1st. But I saw instances where the rank of 1st was given as it was deserved - not just based on who you competed against.  A strong, solid performance meant first place.

Of course, for Teagan, 2nd or 3rd would have felt like a failure so I'm very relieved that her first tournament experience was very positive.

At attention, prepared for her first event - Form.

Horse riding stance. 

Waiting for her turn to do her form.

Receiving her first place medal.
At attention, ready to break a board with a jump kick.

Blurry but you get the idea!

Waiting for results...

1st place!


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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hunting and Church

This is going to seem like a very random post.  But follow along - it should all come together.

I am not a gun person.  I am not a hunter.  I know people who shoot and I know people who hunt.  But it isn't my thing. I have a hard time killing a bug let alone shooting a deer or a duck or whatever.

I see hunting as very different than butchering. I will freely admit that I prefer to turn a blind eye to the killing part of enjoying the meat on my plate.

I feel differently about people who hunt and then consume that meat and they specifically hunt for that purpose.

What I don't find any joy in is someone who kills an animal for fun, who celebrates the violent death of that living creature, who then gloats and parties it up.

Yes, I believe that animals have a purpose to feed other animals and people. I do not believe that animals serve a purpose to have humans enjoy killing them.

There was a guy I have been following on Facebook for a few years now.  I don't always agree with the stuff he says and posts but there was always something I found in what he had to say that I enjoyed. He claimed to be a God guy and he works to bring others closer to Christ through worship.

But then he went hunting and killed his first deer and posted video and pictures that were very bloody and very joyful and very celebratory of the killling of an animal.

I found it distasteful and heart breaking.

I left a comment and I unfollowed.

And he left a quick reply that I didn't like one sermon so I quit the church.

Um. Dude.  YOU are NOT my church. You are someone I paid a scant amount of attention to on social media because you were consistently seeking Jesus, even in dark times and through struggles. If you think posting on Facebook and writing a blog and making videos in any way makes YOU a CHURCH, you don't understand what church is in the first place.

Here's what church is to me.

It's a family. It's people who come together seeking a single purpose - Christ. We might not all know that we are seeking Him when we walk in the doors. But eventually, the journey leads us to that Truth. Church is where the seekers gather to learn, to worship, to praise.  Where we support and love and listen and share.

There are people in my church who hunt and people who are vegan. People who are opposed to homosexuality and people who support gay marriage. People who are appalled at assisted suicide and people who believe in a right to die. People who are pro-life, people who are pro-choice. People who are rich, people who are poor.

You get the idea, right?

There is a guy in my church who is an avid hunter. And I love him. Not because he hunts. Not because he refrains from bloody pictures of hunting on social media.  He hunts, I don't. I love him because he is seeking the same thing I am.

There is a woman in my church that I love dearly. She doesn't hold the same position on homosexuality as I do. She strongly believes that she is biblical in her position, just as I strongly believe that I am biblical in mine.  I love her. She is seeking the same thing I am.

So, random dude on the internet, when I unfollow you because I find your sharing to be distasteful, inappropriate for my kids to see... it's not because you've given any kind of sermon and I'm certainly not quitting your "church."  I was never part of your church.

I can and do love people with different opinions than my own.  I can and do love people who believe differently than I do - because really, we all believe differently, don't we? I can and do listen to sermons that I don't agree with and I haven't left my church family yet.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Life Lessons

Has your child ever been nervous about something?

Let's say your child has started a new sport. And the new sport has a specific uniform, as many sports do. And has specific skills to learn, as many sports do.

And it's the first day.  And your child is in uniform.  And is a little nervous.  What do you say to them?

"It's ok! Put on a smile and do your best!"

"Everyone has a first day when they start - it will be fine!"

Or maybe we even get a little frustrated and tell them they are being silly, that everyone else is wearing the same thing and doing the same thing... just get over it.

"Just give it everything you have - no reason to feel silly!"

I got to experience a little something that has certainly changed my perspective on how to handle those types of anxieties and nerves.

About 2 months ago, Teagan started Tae Kwon Do.  Within 6 weeks, she had earned her yellow belt.  The school then had a Parent Workshop - an opportunity to take a short class with your child and then have questions answered, learn more about the philosophy of the school, and learn how to best support your child.

Turns out, one of the ways they believe you can best support your child is by signing up to take 4 weeks of classes.  For free.  I get that it's really a great sales pitch and that at the end of my 4 weeks, they will be very complimentary and will want me to sign a contract at a special one time only rate.


I signed up.

And I went to my very first class last night.

I put on the uniform.  White pants. The white shirt that has a weird elastic thing inside.  The white belt.

And I felt ridiculous.

Seriously ridiculous.

But the look on Teagan's face... she was positively beaming.

So I went to class.  Actually, we went together to a family class.

And as I sat on the floor, waiting for the class to be called on to start...

I felt ridiculous again.  And got this knot in my stomach.  And I was suddenly very uncertain about what I was about to do and what kind of ungraceful idiot I was going to appear to be.

And it struck me that this is probably how my youngest son feels at just the thought of doing a class like this.  And that this is how my daughter must have felt on her first day.

I'm generally a confident person.

But signing up for TKD? Signing up to do something that I've never done before, never had any interest in before, something that has never even been part of my radar??  Standing in front of kids and adults and Black Belt Master and trying to balance or kick or punch or do forms?

I don't have the brain power to memorize Korean terms (counting to 10, terms for school and uniform, how to say thank you, etc).

I'm old and fat and jumping jacks make me pee a little.

How can I possibly think that this was a good idea?  I was ready to tuck tail and run.

And then Teagan grabbed my arm and said...

"Mommy, I'm so glad you're doing this with me!"

Heart. Melted.

Confidence. Gained.

During class, I felt fat.  And old. And terribly out of shape.  Thankfully, the jumping jacks were not pee producing.  I felt silly and I felt awkward.  I understood exactly why my daughter gets that grin on her face - because sometimes it just feels silly.

It was an important lesson on confidence and humility.

I'm not exactly sure what I will tell my kids the next time they face something new... but I do know that I will look back on this and remember the feelings.  And I know I won't be just telling them to suck it up and try their best.

Life lessons. Taught by stepping into my daughter's shoes.  Pretty powerful!

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Beauty In The Broken

I've been kind of hiding under a rock a bit.  Some people won't believe that - I'm still doing all the stuff I've been doing.  But I've been hiding from my blog because this is where I usually share my deeper thoughts, my experiences, stuff about my insides.  And lately there has been stuff that I can't really share because I'm trying to figure it all out on some level.

And today, I got to do some figuring.

I'm part of the leadership of my church.  My term is about to end as my time leading my particular ministry is coming to an end after 3 years.  This weekend, our leadership team had our annual retreat.  And I had something of an "ah ha" moment in a big discussion about our spiritual gas tanks.

I realized I wasn't full.  I wasn't empty.  I wasn't in the middle.

Or rather, I didn't know how to tell if I was full or empty or on the middle.

My gauge is broken.

I've been having some personal struggles.  The kind of struggles that aren't easy to define.  It isn't money or my marriage or stuff with my kids.  It isn't depression or illness or a fight with family members.

In the midst of the conversation about our spiritual filled-ness, as I was pondering if I feel spiritually full or not, I realized that I simply didn't know.  I know that I am in an internal struggle right now and I know that part of my struggle is church related and interpersonal relationship related and self evaluation related.  And I also know that God is carrying me through this.

But it suddenly struck me that God isn't just carrying me through it.  He brought me to it first.

As a dear friend and faithful mentor shared with me:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule."  Matthew 5:3 (The Message)

I'm in this place for a reason.  I'm in this place - where I feel lost, feel unsure of who I can trust, feel unsure of how truly loved I am, how much people actually like me - because it's here that I am vulnerable.  And it's in this vulnerability that I learn to see where I am broken and learn to see that God loves me in my brokenness.  And that the broken people I see around me aren't a sign that I have to pull back and protect myself.  I need to step in and love them as they are, where they are - the way God does.

But it's hard. And I'm not sure that I fully know how to do that because there is still a lot of uncertainty and a lot of desire to protect myself and a lot of wondering about my selfish need to be liked and this jealousy I've found within myself.

And then I had a random conversation with another friend.  About nothing related to any of this.  It was about our kids.  She's been through some hard seasons with her kids.  And she's supported me through some of those hard seasons with my kids.  And now here we are, both enjoying where we are in parenting.  For this moment.  Knowing hard times are ahead.  And knowing that more of these likeable seasons are ahead.

And it struck me...

She's a friend that has stayed by my side... even if there had been distance between our sides... through a lot in the past year or so.  That even though we've recognized distance between us because of life and lack of time and whatever else... we still have God's love between us.  We still have a heartbeat that is in sync as we seek to be the hands and feet of Christ and we both have a spirit of desiring to love others.

She's someone who loves me in my brokenness.

And it made me realize that my life is filled with people who have loved me - even in my brokenness, in my flaws, in my pain, in the pain I caused, in the midst of my personal chaos.

My friend Cathy who stood by me through a lot of personal trauma in high school.

My parents as they supported me and loved me through a decade of nearly impossible parenting of my teen self who was terribly damaged.

My husband as he has suffered with me, loved me, sometimes maybe been a bit frustrated by me, encouraged me, and let me support and encourage him.

Friends who have sometimes faded and sometimes stood solidly by my side.

Friends who have prayed for me. Friends who have fun with me. Friends who hug me and hold me (and sometimes even pet my hair to calm me down).

Yes, there's been a garish light on some of this interpersonal difficulty lately.

But the light is starting to shine bigger and fuller and I'm seeing more and more that in this time of vulnerability and uncertainty... God has given me the incredible gift of people who love me.  People who love me just as I am - even when it is nearly impossible, even when I am very unloveable.

There is beauty in the broken. Beauty in the vulnerable. Beauty in the pain. Sometimes it is hard to see it or feel it or know it.  But it's true.  And I pray that if you are in one of those darker seasons that there are points of light surrounding you so that you know that you are still loved.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Selfishness, Instant Gratification, Fear, and "Bully"

Last night, we happened upon Independent Lens on PBS.  They were airing the documentary "Bully."  I own this movie.  But I haven't watched it yet.  Because it hurts my heart to see meanness. It hurts my heart to see people hurting.

I don't like how angry I feel toward the kid doing the bullying. Or how angry I feel toward the parent who is trying their best but doesn't realize they are also putting down their child.  Or how angry I feel toward the administrators and elected officials who brush all of it off or who blame the victim.

I don't like to see a child struggle.  To see the look on their face when they try to tell someone and are shut down.  To watch as they try to figure out how to handle this situation - with laughter or with tears or fighting back.

Or by ending their life.  Because they don't know what else to do.

And it got me thinking.

This isn't just something that happens in middle school or high school or elementary school.  This spirit of selfishness runs throughout society these days.

Just like the vice principal who wants to look like she's taking action and being firm - her selfish desire is about how she comes across.  She doesn't seek to do what is right by the students who are being harmed.

Just like the bully who wants to feel powerful.

Just like the parent who wants to push their child to open up, to push their child to stand up for themselves.

Our selfish hearts get in the way of so much.

Our desire to be strong. Powerful. Above. Over. Bigger.

We do it as adults. In our workplaces, in our families, in our churches, in our online groups, amongst our friends.  We want to be in control, on top, in the know, part of the loop - at all costs, sometimes.

Our desire for instant gratification is fueled by that selfishness. We want to feel big and powerful and best and we want to feel it RIGHT NOW.  So we make choices that hurt others in order to get what we want to feel.  Even if it is short lived.  And then we move on to another target and another and another - all so we can keep feeling "on top" and not lose our status.

We fear stepping back from that terrifying yet comfortably routine place where we gossip and spread doubt and plant seeds of negativity all around us... hoping that maybe if we make everyone else look at least a little bad, we will somehow look brighter.

Maybe you are shaking your head right now and saying that it just isn't like that once you grow up.

Or maybe you are afraid to look at your circle... or to look at yourself.

What if our greatest desire really and truly was about seeking to serve and love others?  What would that look like?

In the movie, there were times that I was yelling at the TV - "Mom! HUG YOUR KID RIGHT NOW!"  "Bus driver! PULL OVER AND STOP THEM!" "Administrator! BE HIS CHAMPION!"

And I realized...

My heart yells like that every day.

When I see someone post judgemental stuff on Facebook about the guy on the street corner begging with his cardboard sign.

When I hear about private groups of online friends who spend their time laughing at and making fun of others.

When I'm in a conversation and the topic turns to disparaging someone I know.

When I find myself participating in that conversation.

When I hear myself fight with my husband or yell at my child.

When I think of a family member and roll my eyes or groan at the thought of spending time with them.

When I spend time with a group of people - any group - and in any way come away feeling like I'm somehow better than they are.

I'm just as guilty as any other person.

I sometimes think the difference is that it eats me up inside.  I can't live with myself when I find myself drowning in those kind of behaviors and conversations and thoughts.

But I want people to like me and they will like me if I agree with them.  I want to be accepted.  I want people to think I'm pretty and loving and generous and authentic and I want them to see certain things in me that maybe I don't even really see in myself.  So I try to fill that gap... and instead of filling it with love, if I'm not careful, I can easily fill it with yucky stuff.

While kids might be more physical with their bullying and might use words and language that is more directly cruel, we adults certainly know how to smoothly cut someone down with a glare or a few choice words.  We know how to ruin someone's reputation, weaken their support network... turn their friends against them.

We all have to get real.  Right now.  If we want kids to stop bullying... if we want kids to be kind to one another... if we want kids to stand up for each other... if we want kids to be friends with everyone...

If we want to be able to teach them to be that way and we want to demonstrate for them how to be that way...

We have to authentically live that way first.

I certainly don't do this perfectly.  But I do want to challenge you.

Look inside your heart. Are you being a bully? Are you making excuses for your selfish behavior? Are you trying to fit in by being mean? Are you afraid to stand up because then you become the target?

Do you feel good about how you treat others?  Really and truly? All others?

Step 1 is to recognize in ourselves what we are afraid of identifying, afraid of recognizing.

Step 2 is to change that behavior.  To not go there anymore.

Step 3? Well, I think it's to try and help shape other people's behavior.  To encourage them to make changes, too.  To stand up against wrong and hurtful choices.

Step 4?  More hugs.  Lots more hugs and healing and loving ourselves and loving each other.  Serving each other. Loving each other. Choosing to see beauty and positivity in everyone around us.

But most important is step 1.  Being really and truly and deeply honest with ourselves about how we behave, how we treat others, what we think about others, what we say about others.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Raise My Hands

I've become a very demonstrative worshipper.

I don't plan it.  I don't practice any moves or watch myself in a mirror to see how I look.  I don't plan out when to raise my hand or when to sway or when to dance.

But I've learned that inward worship requires outward expression.

I'm a very expressive person.  But in worship, in that intimate place with God, I'd always held back my emotions.  God's been working on that, though.  From starting to feel ok with my hand in the air from time to time... to feeling like I am truly reaching for God when my hand is raised or that an outstretched hand is a sign of my prayers over the congregation... to now being in a place where I don't even know that I am fully aware of everything I'm doing when I worship.

I sway. I rock. My feet move a bit.  My hands go up or out or to my heart.  Sometimes I cry.

Worship is a way of expressing that God is worthy of my praise and I am worthy of His love.

I was curious to learn more about what Scripture says about worship so I did some reading and learning.

Nehemiah 8:6
Then Ezra called out and blessed the Eternal, worshiping God’s greatness. With their hands raised to the heavens, the people called out loudly in response, crying, “Amen! So may it be!” Then they fell to their knees and bowed. With their faces to the ground, they worshiped the Eternal. 

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of the Anointed One richly inhabit your lives. With all wisdom teach, counsel, and instruct one another. Sing the psalms, compose hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit, and keep on singing—sing to God from hearts full and spilling over with thankfulness.

Ephesians 5:19
When you are filled with the Spirit, you are empowered to speak to each other in the soulful words of pious songs, hymns, and spiritual songs; to sing and make music with your hearts attuned to God

1 Corinthians 14:26
What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each person has a vital role because each has gifts. One person might have a song, another a lesson to teach, still another a revelation from God. One person might speak in an unknown language, another will offer the interpretation, but all of this should be done to strengthen the life and faith of the community.

I'm learning more and more all the time about what it means to be a Worship Leader.  It took some time to feel comfortable with the title and sometimes I still struggle with it.  But more and more I'm understanding what it means.

Worship is personal.  It's between a person and God.  But there is power in sharing praise and worship in a group of people.  And being a worship leader means that I get to lead people into a closer relationship with Christ and to teach them *how* to worship the way the Bible teaches us.

Maybe you hold back.  Maybe you don't really like to sing.  Maybe you don't really get why people sing or why they raise their hands or move around.

And maybe now you can at least see that and realize that it's a Biblical thing.  It's not about drawing attention or somehow being a "better praiser" than anyone else.  For me, it's completely about opening my heart to the Holy Spirit and trusting Him to guide me and move me for the sake of others who seek to worship.

That's why I raise my hands.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Not Sure

I'm not sure if I've avoided writing because I have nothing to say... or if it's because I have too much to say.

A lot has happened in the past month.  To look at me, things would seem no different.  Nothing shattering or damaging has happened.  But things are shifting and are shifting very quickly.

  • Disney World was fantastic.  Time with my husband was wonderful and magical and fun.  The time with my girlfriends at Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom was crazy silly fun.  I've got memories that are going to keep me happy for a very long time.
  • Experience Conference was incredible.  God used that time to reach into my heart and turn up the volume! 
  • I'm going through a job change at work - taking on a new role within my department.  I have some exposure to it all but now I have to learn all the systems and reports and such. Thankfully, the person that was doing it did it very well, had it all very organized and is here to teach and train me - and is a very good teacher.
  • Teagan has started taking Tae Kwon Do.  I love it. Jeff loves it. Teagan loves it. Zach wants to do it but is intimidated so he is pretending like he hates having to go to her classes and watch.  I see so much benefit for my girl and I wish it was in the budget (money as well as time) for me to take classes.  It's incredibly empowering and rewarding!
  • School is proving to be a challenge in some different ways this year.  Both kids are showing signs of not doing their best effort and we need to figure out how to get them on track.
  • My house is totally out of control. Again. We are trying to hire someone to take care of our lawn.  And hire someone to finish the mini barn that Jeff started (the roof thing is a challenge because the building is way taller than anticipated).  
  • I went to the Gungor concert Sunday night with my friend Tiffany (who also went to Experience Conference).  It was so energizing to my soul.  I love his Christian mysticism type approach - tying God and faith in with an  understanding of nature and the universe and our position in all of it.  
Each of those may someday end up as blog posts.  Because I could write tons more on each of them. 

And then there are the Big Topics that sit on my heart.  Things that I don't yet have words for.  Things about God or love or church. Things about parenting or work ethic or marriage.  Things that churn away in my heart and my brain and things that have color and life but the words simply don't come.  Yet.

The bottom line is that I'm just not sure where I am and where I'm going these days.  But I know I'm being led.  I know that I'm on the right path.  I'm just not sure what all to share, when to share, or what the words even are for any of it.  

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thoughts on the #IceBucketChallenge

So there's this thing that has gone viral.  People post a video stating that they have been challenged and they are challnging 2 or 3 other people to dump a bucket of ice water over their heads.  They say it is in support of ALS research and funding.

I've seen a lot of videos.  I've seen a lot of friends do the videos.  I've seen a lot of people complaining about or making fun of people doing the videos.

So here are a few thoughts from me about it.  Because my opinion is obviously very important.  Which is why I blog.

1. It *does* raise awareness.

There are a lot more people talking about ALS.  Most people can't tell you that it's Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  But more people have heard of "ALS" or "Lou Gehrig's Disease" now than even a few weeks ago.  If people dumping ice water on their heads means that more people are talking about ALS and more people are sharing their own exxperiences with ALS, it's definitely a positive thing.

2. It *is* raising money.

I'm just going to share what the ALS Association is sharing.  "Between July 29 and today, August 12, The ALS Association and its 38 chapters have received an astonishing $4 million in donations compared to $1.12 million during the same time period last year."

3. I don't believe it's taking away from other charitable causes.

I'll just be honest... I don't think the majority of Americans have a budget that includes charitable giving to specific charities on a regular basis.  I think most Americans don't give charitably or, if they do budget for it, it's done more as a general "where should I give this week" type of thing.  I think a lot of fundraising happens because people ask, not because the majority of folks are lining up to hand over their money.  So for anyone to think that ALS is getting money that someone had planned to give elsewhere is just silly.  Plus, if you want to make the challenge about ALS and some other charity - go for it.  If you want to do the challenge and ask people to support a different charity altogether - go for it!

4. If you don't like it... don't participate.

I will say that when I first started to see the videos, I didn't get it.  I really didn't understand the point.  But then I watched more and learned more.  And I remembered my next door neighbor who passed from ALS a few years ago.  And I remember what it did to him... he had been a very active and busy man and ALS robbed him of his life before he was literally robbed of his life.  It was heartbreaking.  When I got challenged by a friend... I went and spoke to my neighbor about it.  I told her what was happening with these videos and that I'd like to make a donation in her husband's memory to whatever organization she chose.  Maybe the ALS Association was best.  Maybe there was a local group that helped them most.  Maybe the hospital where he was treated.  Whatever she would have come up with was fine by me.  She was very touched by the gesture and she chose the local chapter of the ALS Association.

So before you poke fun or get all eye roll-y or sarcastic about people doing the challenge, keep in mind that it means something to people who are living with ALS and it means something to people who have been imapcted by ALS.  Keep in mind that money is being raised.  That awareness of ALS is growing.

It isn't up to you to decide if someone else has donated or not.  It isn't up to you to judge if someone is doing the challenge for the right reason or not.

It's just one of those things that you either participate and be part of it... make it your own if you so choose... or just slide on past in your news feed.  Do it and make a difference - for ALS or some other cause.  Or don't do it and there is no harm, no foul.  But there is no reason to slam other people who are participating and who are choosing to make some sort of a difference.

Edited Aug 20 to add:

I also just learned that ALS is very similar to SMA (which is what Scarlett has - she's my I Run 4 Buddy).  It's like ALS is for adults and SMA is for kids.  Scarlett's very incredible mom posted these tidbits on Facebook the other day - and it just drove home the importance of making people aware of ALS and SMA and what it's like to live with it.  What it might be like to be trapped inside your body.  If you would like to do the ice bucket challenge... or you just want to donate... please visit

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

First Days of School


Teagan - Kindergarten


Teagan - 1st grade
It was a year that started with anxiety for both kids - Teagan was leaving Little Explorers (the most awesome preschool and Kindergarten in the world) and Zach was going to Little Explorers without his big sister.


Teagan - 2nd Grade


Zach - Kindergarten (public school)
Teagan - 3rd Grade


Zach - 1st Grade
Teagan - 4th Grade

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