Paper trail of love

People still marvel when my husband tells them he’s been married 17 years this month.  To the same woman.  They laugh and figure he must have married when he was about 12.  It’s true.  That’s how young he looks.  No one really questions when I say the same thing.  Perhaps that has a little to do with the half dozen babies I’ve carried and delivered, possibly.  They laugh again when he takes responsibility for those 6 children.  Yes.  “All with the same woman” he answers with a smile.

Deliriously stricken with what we thought love was when we were 15 years old in our junior year of high school, we talked on telephones with cords late into the night and spent our weekends going line dancing with friends.  There were school dances and trips to the mountains for day skiing.  There was girl drama and a hundred other things that felt like the biggest deal ever.  My grandma smiled when I told her we’d stay together after we graduated high school.  Politely not saying what everyone was thinking, “Sure, easy to say, highly unlikely”.

Our choosing two different universities gave way to writing the letters.  Not emails or texts.  No electronic anything.  Bonafide love letters.  Our very own paper trail of love those letters are. The anticipation and patience involved when word from the one your heart longs for is hours away and requires getting through border patrol to put eyes on. Not for the faint of heart.  They sit by my bed in a stack wrapped in a ribbon.  Their very presence dates me.  Ages me.  Puts me in the “pushing 40 years old” crowd.

Months turned into years and our long distance perseverance continued.  We became adept at waiting.  Waiting for the border open.  Waiting for the letter to come through the university post.  Waiting at the dorm phone for a scheduled phone call.  Waiting for direction for post-college plans.  Waiting for summer when we would be home with parents and only 20 minutes drive from each other.  Waiting for an engagement ring.  Which turned into waiting for a wedding.  Which meant more waiting.  Waiting to go to bed together and wake up in the same place.   I won’t ever forget waking up the day after our wedding and holding my ring-clad hand up in disbelief that yes, I was finally paired for life with this one I loved.  It was surreal.

Our paper trail turned into post-its at this point.  Notes written and stuck on the bathroom mirror.  I still have the sticky stack.  Short notes of love that cemented our gratitude that we were done waiting for each other.  We settled into married housing our last year of college and walked graduation together the following year.  Youth pastor and social worker finding our (very young) way.

This morning I wrote a bridal shower gift card to a young thing preparing for her own summer wedding.  I simply said “sending love and blessings your way as you prepare for your marriage (the wedding is the easy part, don’t stress about that!)”.  At barely 21, I certainly thought otherwise!  I was sure the wedding was the hard part.  Our big wedding with two receptions, which I planned without a wedding coordinator while keeping a $5,000 wedding budget, was attended by 428 people.  It felt huge.  Larger than life.  I hadn’t given a great deal of thought about the life that would come after.  Sure we did premarital counseling and personality tests and all.  Good stuff.  But nothing prepares any love struck sweetheart for the reality of marriage.

But love letters wane.  Post it notes get unsticky.  He doesn’t bake caramel brownies from scratch filled with love notes on foil anymore.  She doesn’t spend an hour on hair and makeup every single day.  He doesn’t know how to respond to her insecure 21 year old self.  And she doesn’t know how to cook after all.  Real life happens.  And real life is darn hard sometimes….most of the time.  Wedded bliss becomes a ruse and the sparkly ring gets dirty and scratched up.  So do the wedded ones.  No matter how good in heart or how sweet their intentions.

This is where the fire burns hot and hard choices are made.  This is where listening to the prevailing wisdom of the culture we live in (even church culture) says loudly “Marriage is meant to make you happy – if you aren’t happy, you can walk away!”.   Choosing to keep love in the midst of real, broken life comes hard fought, comes at a price.  Two sweet lovebirds change and grow up.  Inevitably, they don’t grow on the same timeline.  This proves incredibly hard to navigate.

Choosing love in the midst of the mess, in the midst of the growing, in the midst of imperfection and failure….this is how we are forging our way forward. By saying yes to each other.  Yes to love.  Yes to the gut-wrenching conversations.  Yes to humility.  Yes to apologizing and subsequent forgiveness.  Yes to awkward, soul-exposed moments .  Yes to being a witness to the whole of life by someone’s side.  Yes to the covenant promise of marriage.  Not just when it makes sense or comes easy or “feels right”.  Even, especially, when it doesn’t.

17 years and counting.  Thankful every day (even the ones that lay me flat) for my yes all those years ago and every day since.  Perhaps even, the best is yet to come…


The sacred curtain

There is a sort of unseen sacred curtain that exists in life’s defining moments.  Often people are unwilling or simply unable to pull back the curtain.  It is uncomfortable.  Entering in to someone else’s deepest heart pain requires something unique and visceral.  It cannot be contrived.  It is impossible to guess what will unfold, after being brave enough to go there.  It can be ugly.  It can hurt even more.  It can make you angry.  It may not feel “safe” and for sure it won’t feel comfortable.

Just about exactly six years ago, our life forever changed and we encountered devastating loss.  The kind you don’t plan for.  The kind that punches you in the stomach and leaves you face down on the floor.  The kind that paralyzes and forces life to a complete standstill.  Chris’ dad left on a hunting trip as he had countless times.  But he never came home.  A frozen mountain pond took his life on a bitterly cold Wednesday in January of that year.  Chris and a dozen searching ones would look and find him.  His beloved hunting dog still sitting point on the shore, waiting for his master to return.

Loss like this takes years to come back from.  If ever.  I’ve said it before I think, but its rather akin to learning to walk with a limp.  Only it’s your heart that limps instead.  The impact of living through this kind of thing reaches into every corner of your being and changes you forever.  For better or for worse. You decide.  You decide your comeback.  It is terrifying and beautiful it its’ own right.

Part of the fruit that I see, these years later, is a continually growing willingness to sit with others in places that are hard.  When you have been the one to be met and loved in the midst of tragedy, you eventually are able should you choose, to be the one who meets, who loves when others are not able to go there.  Last month I had a friend shoved into a life position she did not anticipate or ask for.  But there she was.  So I sat.  Listened.  Cried.  Loved.  Reached hands out across a table and held.  Just as seven years ago she had held me when my husband was asked to find a new job and the economy was in the toilet and we had a new baby and life felt absolutely too much to bear.  How amazing and stunning is that gift?  To get to love back, give back?  I had no words for it…just an awestruck grateful heart.

Then it was last Friday and I was buzzing around my kitchen.  I was putting food together for a busy weekend and thinking still again of the neighbors just down the hill from here who lost their toddler son the Friday before to the creek that rests between their home and ours.  I knew his funeral was that afternoon and I mourned with them even though I did not know their name.  There is a comradery that exists between mothers and I felt such pain in my heart for her.  As I measured and scooped and cooked, I found myself turning on an extra pot and making another big pot of soup.  This would be for her.  Unknown mother whose name I knew not, whose loss I could not fathom, whose house I drive past every time I go to town.

I would write her a letter…and this is what it would say:

Dear neighbors who live down the hill…I know we’ve never met you, but we wept with you on Friday when they found your son.  I have a daughter the same age as your boy. We cannot begin to fathom your pain.  I hope you are overwhelmed by the kindness and love of friends and family.  I hope you are held up by people who love you, both known and unknown.  I didn’t know what else I could possibly do but make you food.  So here is our favorite soup and our phone number.  If we can do anything for you, please call.

But the writing would be the easy part.  And the making of soup.  The not-easy-at-all part was the finding a brave enough heart to actually get in my car and knock on their door.  What if 15 strangers had already brought them soup and they wanted to be left alone?  What if they had friends and family stopping in all day, each day?  Then came a searing thought.  What if they don’t?  What if everyone is guessing that someone else is making soup and stopping in?  So I grabbed my keys and bag of food and packed up the two kids still at home waiting for us to head to church.  I drove past the house the first time.  Then circled back around and pulled in.  He met me at the door before I could knock.  I told him I lived up the hill, that I’d made them dinner and looked him in the eye and told him I was so sorry for such a great loss as this.  Hands trembling I handed him my love gift over and saw his wife sitting inside.  He said thank you and I said goodbye.  I got in the car shaking and wept all the way to church.

The curtain had been pulled aside and it was scary and holy and precious.  I had come face to face with unspeakable grief so sacred it was almost untouchable.  I could hardly speak.  Chris held me as I choked out the words in the church parking lot.

There is no guidebook for pain like this, no how-to for facing such tragic loss.  But the power of the presence of people and pure kindness offered in the midst of it can sometimes make all the difference in the world.  Being brave enough to enter in and dwell with someone who hurts deeply, is one of the great riches of life.

What if we weren’t meant to “have it all” (part 1)

When we lived (happily, most of the time) on a food stamp income, money matters were more simple in some ways because there was just food/shelter/car/somehow make it till the next paycheck.  We watched God provide for our needs in amazing ways and we never were without basic needs.  Those around us observed and saw the needs, simply helped meet them if they were able.  It was beautiful.

We have always made giving a priority whether we had little or a lot.  We’ve seen it modeled in people we love and respect (and not to mention in Acts as we read about the early church) and believe it’s part of life.

It isn’t us the giver, that are so awesome for giving.  I truly believe that we are simply intended to be the conduit for what doesn’t belong to us anyway. Which when you look at it that way, it shouldn’t be hard to pass it on to a place where the need is great. There is profound joy to be had in giving your time to someone in need, your hands to help with work, your cooking skills to someone who is ill, your clothes to someone who needs them, your food to fill someone else’s pantry.   If we didn’t choose to give, to share, WE would be missing out as well as the ones we are able to bless.

Last year as I pondered what extra activities to add on to our weekly schedule, I was so tempted to do the music classes that we’d done in previous years (on a full scholarship).  I knew I could make it work in the activity budget.  I emailed, I got all the info.  We could do it, so we should do it was my train of thought.  But as it came time to actually write the (large) check, for four kids to do these (stellar) classes, I had this overwhelming sense that just because we could do it actually didn’t mean we should.

I felt a little lame writing to say we wouldn’t be registering the kids after all.  But something in my heart told me that although the classes would be fun and delightful for our kids, that perhaps there was something far more meaningful that money was intended for.  So instead of music classes we added to our brood of Compassion children

To try and communicate how this investment is such a treasure to our family or how richly blessed we feel to get to write back and forth with these five sweet children in Kenya, Guatemala and India and get letters back from them that say things like “I send you and your children a kiss and a big hug”.  Sponsorship is a bigger deal to these children than I’m sure I can even imagine.  They are steps away from crisis and hunger.  Closer than I’ll probably be all my life.

There is no judgement intended here, only a heart that wanted to share a little piece of our story.  This perspective continues to permeate my thinking and is part of the way God is showing me, showing all of us, how the gospel can be lived out in our life in this land of plenty.


Someday my couch will have all its cushions on it and it will not perpetually look like this:

Someday my kitchen counters will actually feel smooth when I run my hands across them, they might actually be clean for more than 5 minutes.

Someday there will not be a giant pile of dirties next to my washer, there will be no muddy little people to accumulate said dirties.

Someday there will be quiet and calm here.

Someday the kids bathroom won’t smell like pee.

Someday I will have the time to sit and drink whole cups of coffee before they are cold.

Someday there won’t be a shoe around every single corner or permanent marker art on my wood floor.

Someday I won’t shop at Costco anymore or buy 500 pounds of beef at one time.

Someday I will (maybe) think about my outfits, my style and actually wear something not from Costco or the Goodwill – and it will stay clean on me for the whole day.

Someday I won’t find my hairbrush in the toilet because there will be no one here who would think to put it there.

Someday I will go for long walks, have time for daily Pilates and have time to exercise.

Someday I might drive a small, zippy, efficient vehicle.

Someday I will go weeks without uttering phrases like “show kindness please” and “take the craziness outside”.

Every season at least once, I ponder what my days will look like in a few years time.  How this place will change and how different the issues and challenges will be that we each face.  This season of training many littles is exhausting.  But I am foolish to think that someday I won’t miss the loud, chaotic, crazy LOVE that spills from this home.  Oh yes, love will still live here.  But it won’t look the same, sound the same or feel quite the same as having my brood here, under my roof.  So every morning I wake up and remind myself to live in the moment that is today – my chance to impact and imprint upon real, live people is today.  Tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Honestly every day I am ridiculously thankful for my present, for my today.  From the outside looking in I know it may seem nuts, this life, this way that we walk.  And that’s okay.  I would not trade it for any convenience, any comfort, any dose of ‘easy’.  The riches are immeasurable,

Why we homeschool

I love reading other people’s post about why they homeschool and I used to struggle to formulate a proper response succinctly when people would ask me why on earth I would choose to keep my kids with me all day, all year.  So this year, really for myself more than anyone, I thought I ought to make myself write out some thoughts on the matter.

There are a lot of reasons why we homeschool now though if I’m honest in the beginning it was more from fear of other options and a dreamy hope that we would whittle away blissful days of learning together.  While we do spend days learning together and it is awesome, bliss isn’t probably the best descriptor.  Chaotic, messy, loud, passionate, frustrating, rewarding and meaningful would better fit the bill.

One of my favorite aspects of home based learning is that learning becomes a lifestyle that we live out together.  We don’t sequester off a ‘school room’ and only do school certain minutes in that certain place.  Though some times and spots (the kitchen bar or table or couch or covered front porch or under a tree on the front lawn)  we do more traditional work, the boundaries of home and school blend into a beautiful mess.  It can be a Saturday morning at 10 and Caleb can find a brilliant green striped caterpillar and we can work on identifying and classifying it together.  It can be Rylee not feeling well and waiting till 4 pm to sit down for her math lesson because she tends to work best later in the day anyway.  It can be a week that several people we know are sick or in need and we spend a Tuesday baking and cooking food together then delivering it to bellies that will be blessed by it.  Life and learning and loving get all wound up in this indescribable way and it is hands down, every day worth the sacrifice and the work.  It’s worth missing out on coffee dates with friends after school-drop-off time and time to pursue hobbies and such.

We are able to adjust for different children’s learning pace and style when they learn in this setting.  This has been a huge blessing as we’ve watched our children grow and develop in their skills and styles.  I am challenged to be a student of my students and to figure out how best to bring them to feast on knowledge, truth and great literature.

Facilitating sibling communication and relationships, sometimes my least favorite job, is also a part of our learning lifestyle.  We get all day to figure out how to work together, how to all pitch in to make this home run smoothly, how to honor mom and how to work hard.  We mess it all up all the time and we learn and we get the chance to give grace every single day.

When we talk about the stars in the sky and read about the founding fathers, I marvel and wonder out loud at how God works and designs and uses the lives of people to make history.  This I love.  I could not imagine not being the one to stand before them impassioned and animated reading the Declaration of Independence and talking about what freedom means and the price so many have paid for us to enjoy it.

We can hunker down and get a school-days worth of work completed in a couple of hours.  Then we can pursue carving, sewing, tree-climbing, adventure-finding and delight in nature before the sun goes down.  We can have friends over or go to classes at co-op or take field trips when we fancy.  Even if its a weekday afternoon or morning.  The freedom and flexibility abound and I love that.

The way ‘school’ soaks into life and the kitchen table gets covered with handwriting practice and maps.

The chance to be the one learning the most about who my kids are, how they can thrive, what they are passionate about and what sorts of choices (and friends) they are making, I am incredibly grateful for this.

Just a part of the iceberg here, more thoughts are mulling about but for now, I’ll just say that the (official) new school year is upon us and I can’t wait to dive in when the day is here.  But for these last few days of summer, you’ll find me sleeping in, drinking coffee on the front porch at 10 am in my jammies with my kiddos hanging around…




Finding order – with a houseful of kids

Yes, I realize that five kids between 18 months and 9 years of age is not a houseful to some, but it is to most.  And I most certainly have felt a big pull to make some strides in the area of organization and planning our days to work better.  When we moved this spring I thought I had this great chance to implement 52 grand ideas on ‘how-we-can-do-things-better’.  Turned out we actually had this great chance to clean out, give away and somehow survive moving.  That was about it.  And it was plenty.

I emailed a few veteran mama friends towards the end of May.  We were (barely) crawling to the finish line and may or may not have finished our grammar work before calling it ‘summer’.  My email went something like this:

I have a lot of small people at my house.  I love them.  They are messy and loud and imperfect (darn it!).  I am feeling pretty overwhelmed.  I want to be able to manage my home better, spend more time doing fun stuff with my kids, train them to help more efficiently and effectively and to PUT THINGS AWAY AFTER GETTING THEM OUT.

So those may be the main bullet points but in reality my honest email was much longer and was a plea for some direction, inspiration and encouragement.  This stage with young ones is just plain hard.  No way around it only one way, through.  I trudged forward and packed our years school materials away for summer and took a deep breath.  There was so much I loved and I am ever so thankful to get to have them with me instead of sending them off every morning.

There were several approaches to getting organized but some basic principles, that I’d seen pay great dividends even when I merely dabbled in them, continued to surface as I searched for ideas and help.  Themes like:

  • get up before your kids and get ready for your day before it gets away from you
  • assign chores to your children, stick with the same ones so they get in a groove and do them well – to learn a good work ethic, everyone needs to learn to help out
  • expect EXCELLENCE – show them what a good job looks like and challenge them to greatness
  • children thrive on structure and routine, it makes them feel safe
  • mom’s need to model discipline and self-control (and sitting on the couch/computer/facebook on a smart phone/etc need serious boundaries)
  • one can schedule and still cultivate free play, creativity and other lovely things (I did not know this, really!)

Early June I wrote a friend (who I knew was struggling in the same ways) and suggested we read and brainstorm how we could plan better and make our life at home with our kids run more smoothly.  She said a quick yes.  We read and made lists and bounced ideas off each other and our husbands and made more lists.  Our goal was to, by summer’s end, have a workable schedule for our entire days during the (home)schooling year.  We would meet up late August and spend a few hours (celebrating her birthday) and hashing out all the details to form our many lists and thoughts into a master family schedule.

Today was the big day.  We woke with the sun and I drove a long ways while she took a ferry across the water to get to our meeting place.  After a hearty breakfast we broke out the gelly roll pens, the mechanical pencils, the plethora of lists, big erasers and a lot of determination.  We spent hours working and planning (and talking).  I think I drank 4 cups of coffee and 6 glasses of ice water and 2 mugs of tea.

We interrupted each other a few dozen times and erased what we’d written more times than that.  Though this part seemed hard, it was easy compared to the work ahead.  We have patterns that need changing, habits that need breaking and it won’t be a piece of cake for sure.  In a few weeks, I’ll be sure to post again and update on how the implementation all went down.  I expect it to be more than rocky.  But we will persevere and adjust when needed.  For now, we’re soaking in these summer days and spending every extra minute at the fair and in the sun!

Hard lesson learning

There are always things in life that would really nice if we could learn earlier than we do.  And for me, I seem to learn lessons slowly, painfully and the hard way.  It’s been this way since I was 12 perhaps, throwing tuna fish sandwiches at a wall yelling at my mother.  Occasionally I would heed the advice of older, seasoned ones.  But more often I sought to determine for myself if they’d really meant it.

Fast forward to 18 years old when I was mature enough to throw a shoe at my sister’s head while on a lengthy road trip in our small car.  All because she told me I was “cute”.  She demanded to be driven to the nearest airport and I stewed.  My poor parents drove us all home in one piece and years later we think it’s pretty funny.  But again during that season, I continued to learn my way.

We married young, didn’t get a great deal of marriage advice, at least that I remember.  It’s possible I was blinded by the burning love in my heart.  But the theme continued of learning hard things hard ways.  In the first year we were married I stormed out the door many times in frustration and immaturity, if my memory is correct I think I even ended up on my parents doorstep one night.  Oh the injustice and imperfection I cried!  I was pretty sure things were supposed to be dreamy for at least a couple years.  I made my best effort to prove that the world, marriage and all should revolve around me.

I learned to care more about what my parents thought about things that my husband.  I’d call them for ‘what to do’ about life stuff.  Them or a friend.  It seemed totally normal and good to me at the time.  But it wasn’t.  It was one more ‘hard life lesson learned’ for me that was the opposite of good for our marriage.

There was a season, about three years ago that I was 99% convinced that there was greener grass to be had.  About that time someone said to me

The grass is green where you water it.

I’ve never forgotten those words.  And the more time passes, the more I believe they are true.  Though we haven’t arrived or ‘met the mark’ at this point I just wanted to share that the fruit of sticking with your lifelong companion when things are not so wonderful is sweeter than any fresh start or greener grass you may think you’ve discovered.

Last night I arranged for a babysitter and set up a date night with my husband.  We slipped out the door with no one in tears, a huge feat.  We spent the next two hours enjoying food but more enjoying precious face-to-face time.  We chatted about little things.  Then I began to ask his input and brought out my notepad.  I needed help deciding on some things with the kids.  I needed his level head to weigh in on my emotions.  I needed his direction and leadership on several accounts.  I didn’t argue or think of what smart thing I could say.  I scribbled down notes and by dinners’ end felt a huge load lifted.  I didn’t ask him, but I’m pretty sure he felt valued, respected and important-which he is.

It has taken seriously just about all of these past eleven years for me to figure out that this is the way it’s meant to work.  That life isn’t all about me, it’s about the us we formed the day we married.  It’s about God pouring grace out all over and us finding our way through it.  The dividends of some heart wrenching work are paying off.  It might sound old-fashioned to you and that’s okay.  We’re liking it…

The mother muddle

While it would be wonderful to have each day present itself as a perfect one, that’s just not reality.  No matter who you are or what you do.  Even the best laid plans often fall to ruins at our feet.  More days than I might care to admit, I don’t amaze myself at how nicely everything went and how well I did at my list of tasks.  Instead I see roadblocks and obstacles stacked up one after another and somehow we all still made it through the day

This week it was me, really super sick for the first time since Christmas.  So instead of diving into science and history in the calculated ways I’d planned, I let the kids catch bugs and line my kitchen counter with jars and bags of creatures.  Instead of cleaning my kitchen, I found myself laying on the couch waiting for my ear to explode while the kids watched their little insects, drew pictures of them and talked up a storm about bug life.

Instead of making it to appointments and playdates, the kids helped an extra lot around the house.  They emptied dishwasher loads, cleaned off eggs from the chickens, fed pets, cleaned up more than usual and served their sick mama who had spent the last two weeks caring for sick kids.

While we didn’t get to ‘science projects’ from our book, there are dissected bumble bees all over the counter right now.  There is a friendly caterpillar who’s become my 2 year olds’ best buddy in three days.

With me coaching from the couch how to make the mac and cheese that Kyler was determined to fix, he watched as the boiling water, noodles and cheese sauce made an overflowing, orange mess.   I rallied myself up and  smiled at him as I dumped it out and started another pot for him.  He got it all perfect the second time.  And he received grace and a second chance, which was (and is) precisely what his tender heart needs more times that I give it.

What I could have deemed a disaster but instead labeled a ‘field trip’ to the doctor’s office became an adventure.  The kids all squeezed into the little room and waited with me to have my ears checked for a half an hour.  They donned gloves and pretended to care for sick people.  They found the little doctor light and figured out how to raise and lower the table.  They delighted in every minute and I was too sick to argue.

The thing I’m just beginning to learn and appreciate is that in this ‘muddle-through’ way that we often make it through days raising little kids is that much of it is more beautiful than I realized.  And the plans that fall apart can, if I let them, lead to better things even more lovely than I expected.

Embracing the ways the days begin, unfold and finish is opening a door for me.  One to less disappointment and more joy.  If I could just keep going and walk on through, I’m quite certain we will all be better for it.

Three months later

It’s been just over three months.

Three months since my husbands’ dad didn’t return from a hunting trip.

Three months since he hopped into his car to go join the search crew.

Three months since my pregnant sister came in the dark of night to lay in my bed with me and wait.

Three months since I dropped the phone on the floor and screamed when the text came.

Just four words.   But they said everything.

The rest of the world moved on.  Life crawled forward.  Each of us is processing differently.  Very differently.

One wants to talk.  Another doesn’t.  One cries.  One doesn’t.

The covering of sadness still rests here regardless of the joy we have experienced in the meantime.

I have no idea how long it will stay.  I think for a while longer.  But there is no manual for this.  No map of what is ahead.  Just one day after one day after one day.

We can choose to remember or we can choose to forget.

We can choose hardness and anger or we can choose tender softness even though it hurts more.

We can choose to turn inward or outward and let someone hold our hand.

We can fuss and fret over small stuff or we can let things go and be thankful for what we’ve been given.

Life.  Health.  Beauty.  Love.

Seems to me that we are in a constant state of choosing.

Just when I think the kids don’t think about it….one who’s only 3 prays at the dinner table “please God, let Grammy live forever, don’t let her die too”….or I find the kids in the family room “playing funeral Mama, I’m pretending my baby son died”.   I let them be.  We have not forced anything with them.   We have offered space to process and feel in all our different ways.  Just listened and loved and answered question after question as they walk the path with us.

One sure thing is we aren’t the same.  We won’t be the same.  Love and loss leave a mark.

I think it’s largely up to us to choose what kind of mark.  One mark of bitterness or one of grace.

The thing about women

…is that we often don’t mean what we say.  Or say what we mean to.  Which leads to not taking what other women say at face value.  It’s part of our highly relational, complicated nature.  It’s something that throws a major wrench in marital communication – at least in my experience.  I’m guilty too often of agreeing to something that I didn’t really want to do but said was fine, or saying I didn’t care about something when actually I cared a lot.

Rylee recently heard me say I liked something and then asked me later if I really liked it.  I tried to navigate my way through explaining the need for honesty and for respecting other people’s opinions about things.  It’s a fine line and one that as it came out of my mouth made less sense than before.

So last night, as I headed to Costco with only one kids while the others were out with dad, I sent a text to a good friend who I know has been really sick all week with flu/migraine yucky stuff.  I asked if I could pick anything up for her while I was there.  I purchased all my things and didn’t hear from her.  Audrey was starting to throw fits about the cart so even though she was in jammies, I let her out to walk around on the dirty concrete floor.

Then I checked my phone one last time and read this text:

Jiff crmy p-nut btr,
string chease
graded chease,
fruit snacks,
little cans of apple jce,
and hamburger buns.

R u sure u want to get all of this stuff for us its alot.

I chuckled a bit and asked the checker for another cart and ran back through the store to get her list.  I guessed on what kind of cheese and which fruit snacks but had to call about the yogurt.

“Hi, it’s me I got Yoplait is that okay for yogurt?”

“Yes, but I’m just getting out of the bath, I was trying to gear up and not throw up long enough to go up the street to the grocery store for food for the kids and I’m just reading the text you sent-” (I’m thinking that’s funny because I already received a list!) “-the kids had my phone and they texted you back, I had no idea!  I’m so sorry, I told them you must have the kids with them and that was too many things and-”

I interrupted and started laughing and told her I had it all in my cart already and I would drop it by in a bit.  We laughed and laughed and hung up and I took tantrum throwing Audrey, bribed her with chocolate-covered pomegranates, bought my second cart of stuff and high tailed it out of there.

As I got in the car I was so amused and thought about it all the way to pick the kids up.   When that text came, I was delighted, and honestly surprised that she would say yes and let me help in that way.  I am the same way, much preferring to be the one giving the help than receiving.  I’m growing and in the last 4 months I’ve had to accept more help than I can list because of the dual-kidney infection and losing Chris’ dad.

With small children it’s easy to feel like you can’t really do much to help people out but there is usually something small but significant that you actually can do.  And getting the chance to bless something by grabbing groceries or dropping off a meal is as much a gift to me as it is to the person I’m doing it for.

My friends’ teenagers saw their really sick mom, their dad was working late and they needed food for lunches.  So when they read my offer to get stuff, they didn’t filter it through the “does she really mean it or is she just offering to be nice?” filter that we as women tend to use too often.  They took me at my word, say yes please help and allowed me the gift of blessing them.

How much easier would life be if we did this all the time!?

If when my husband says “Man you look hot!” I just said thank you and smiled instead of thinking about the 20 pounds more I should lose.

If when a friend offers to bring dinner and I’m not ‘that sick’, I just say yes and thank you and trust that she’ll be blessed in blessing me.

Chris and I had a great laugh thinking about how much my friends’ kids could have milked it, I could have been asked to bring candy bars, soda or chips and since they text in the same abbreviated fashion as their mama, I’d never have questioned it.  I’d just have showed up with whatever they asked for.  I told her they were good kids to just ask for what they needed and they must have said thank you to me ten times in the five minutes I was there.

Lessons I’m learning, it’s a constant thing isn’t it?