My DAILY Protest to Love.

For the audio listener and learner – I’ve been recording all of my blog posts.  So you can continue to wash dishes, fold laundry, or just rest and close your eyes while you listen.  I like to follow along with the words while I listen to an author read me what came from his soul.  Tip: click “listen in browser” if you are on a mobile device.  


Despite my best efforts to go dark over the past 7 days, I found myself on Facebook quite frequently.  It was really hard not to know what was going on – especially after I heard our borders were closed on Friday.  And then, like clockwork, I watched the protests, blog posts, news articles, and hysteria follow.

I live in a highly immigrant community.  My business seeks to reach out to and hire women who have barriers to employment – refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers being a high priority.  My neighbors are Yemeni and Iraqi.  My newest seamstress is from Syria.

These are not simply red colored countries on CNN’s graphic to help us visualize this unfamiliar part of the world.

These are my friends.  And their families.  And I’m confused.  And I have questions.  Lots of them.

Who said this could happen?  How were the countries chosen?  What about the refugees.  What about the card holders?  The vetting process?  He’s right to do this.  He’s a pig to do this.  What about our faith?  What about Jesus?  What is my role?  What part do I play?

It all becomes so much.  Like standing on the wrong side of a batting cage.  Dodging fast balls and trying to decipher which ones I need to throw back.  Which side is the right side?  Where do I stand?  What do I do?  I’m so easily swayed.

So, I start walking.  It’s becoming a safe place to think and pound out thoughts as my feet pound the pavement.

I pass protestors at our city hall.  Last year, our city elected the first Muslim majority city council.  It’s not scary to us.  They are not scary.  The protestors all have their signs and I read as many as I can.  One carries an upside down American flag. Should I be standing in the middle of that crowd, too?

The thought comes loud… What if my LIFE was a daily protest?  This works well for my rebellious tendencies and I encourage the thought to keep going.  Keep working itself out.

I pass a group of Arabic high school students returning from their first visit to the local library.  They are carrying “I LOVE the Library” plastic sacks.  Their American teacher walking on the part of the sidewalk closest to the road – a sign of protection.

One oblivious teenage girl crouches down right as I’m walking – forcing me to stop.  I stand – awkwardly – and watch her scoop up snow with her bare hands reaching out behind her curtains of black fabric.  Maybe one of her first times experiencing the cold whiteness.  She catches my eye on her way up and I smile.  I can’t see any part of her – except her eyes – but I know she is smiling.  Eyes can tell so much.

I try to meet eyes when I pass Muslim women while I walk.  Make eye contact to somehow send messages across the air – that I am in this with them.  That I care.   They are so trained to keep their eyes down that I start staring with laser vision as soon as I see them up ahead.  Willing them to look up.  To see my American blue eyes looking back with kindness and compassion and open arms.  To say, I’m sorry.  To say, I don’t love what is happening.  To say, I’m not one of them.

Can a look convey everything my heart is so confused in feeling?  I think it does.

Can eye contact cross language barriers and break down walls?  I think it can.

While Facebook has been loud and jarring this weekend, when I walk the streets of my city, it feels quiet.  Contemplative, but wounded.  Confused and hurting, but not angry.

A daily protest.  I don’t need to be in the crowd holding signs.  I need to be in living rooms, embraced in hugs, and sharing meals with my immigrant neighbors.  These protests don’t have a day, time, and place attached to their flier or Facebook Event.  These protests happen daily here.  Through the generous smiles, curious questions, cross culture friendships, and genuine neighborly community.

Wars are not won in protests or battle fields or courts or Facebook feeds.  They are won in relationships.  On couches.  Through friendships, tears, and laughter.

Go to the protests.  Hold the signs.  Carry that upside down American flag.  The Kingdom of God is pretty upside down in it’s thinking, after all.  But don’t just go home and be done.  Don’t open your computer and start posting the articles and fighting a Facebook battle and call that your contribution.

Protest differently.  Protest daily.  In small, quiet, underground ways that may not be as flashy or newsworthy, but this quiet way makes the biggest impact on the most people.

I’ve been told before that if I don’t speak up – if I stay quiet – then it’s the same as choosing the side of the oppressor.  I disagree.  Make your movements in secret.  You don’t have to post three blogposts and a news article on your wall to choose a side.  The better way – the third way – is to enter into relationship with the affected party.

Jesus gave us an executive order, too.  Love people.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Make disciples of the nations.

I keep walking and pass an art studio with open windows.  He is drawing intricate patterns on large white paper.  A cardboard sign hangs in his window.  Love lives here, it says.  I send him a silent fist bump as I march along.  Promising myself I’ll stop in someday and make the silent agreement a public nod.  But today, I keep walking.

Let love live here.  In your hearts.  And in your neighborhoods.  And in your homes.  And on your Facebook feeds.

And let that love stretch you.  Look around at the people in your lane.  Do they all look like you?  Believe what you believe?  Eat what you eat?  Sure, love the people in your lane well.  But, put people in your lane that are different than you so that compassion, concern, and commitment can be lived out in true genuineness.  So we can take ideas and policies and assumptions and filter them down to make them work themselves out in the awkward parts of life on life living.

I think this is Kingdom living.  This is walking out what it means to be an Ambassador of Christ.  A representative of the values, principles, and governing laws of a different world.  One where Jesus is on the throne.  One that is coming to set everything right.

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I spent my 7 days offline reading two books.  This one from the Inspector Gamache series.  And a new Kindle thriller that has me swiping pages as fast as I can.  When I go #inthequietplace, I make sure to have the Kindle app downloaded on my phone so that when I’m laying down with the kids at night, I can read instead of scroll Instagram.  I thought I would finish both books, but perhaps I was a little ambitious.

We got a little bit of a handle on screen time.  The kids each now get 30 minutes a day and we are using the Kidslox app to “lockdown” their phone after the 30 minutes is up.  I like this because they can still use their “phones” (aka, our old phones) to listen to podcasts or music – which to me are acceptable uses of screens.  But the rest of their apps disappear until the next day!

Speaking of listening.  The kids and I started listening to Little Women this past week on Audible.  We bought the one narrated by Christina Ricci (remember her?) and we are all loving it.  Especially Jonah!  I can’t believe I’ve never read that book.  (If you don’t have Audible yet – use this link to get 30 days free AND 2 free books of your choice!

Well, I’ll see ya on Instagram!  It feels good to be back.

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In The Quiet Place

If you are listening via a mobile device and want to follow along while you listen, click “Listen in browser”.

I can feel it happening again.  The tireless comparison that results after spending too much time online.  The fuzzy brain as I can’t decipher what’s real from reality.  The glazed eyes and sore thumb from endless, tireless, scrolling of images.  The dead lifeless well of creativity – sucked dry from watching more than doing.    

I get online thinking I’m going to be encouraged, inspired, and spurred on.  But really.  It ends in despair and deep void for what I appear to lack.    

Every time I get online, a little part of me dies.  The true part of me.  At first it’s unnoticeable.  Exciting even.  Seeing what everyone is creating and starting and making and writing.  What good gifts He gives to us!  What talent.  What passion she has!

And unnoticeable at first, the exclamations turn toward me.  Wait.  Where is my talent?  Why am I lacking passion?  Where is my remodeled kitchen, shiny new car, and well dressed toddler?  Don’t I deserve all that she has?   

Why doesn’t my husband adore me like hers does?  Why do I live in this neighborhood and not theirs?  Where are my friends who anticipate my unspoken needs and come over with coffee and macarons just when I need them?  Where are my good gifts hiding?   

I sound like a spoiled 8 year old child complaining that she has nothing to play with when her room is already exploding with toys. 

And slowly.  Quietly.  It creeps in.  Comparison stealing joy.  Hustle robbing creativity.  Envy choking contentment.  Soft at first – then louder and louder until it’s deafening and I throw my phone in disgust. 

Then I decide to get quiet.  Go dark.  Live in my reality.  Touch faces and hearts and stories in the flesh surrounding me.  Hide from the fast traffic that online life brings.  Pull my virtual car off to the side of the road and start to walk.  Decide that walking is good enough for me.  Because when I’m walking, I can see the gems of goodness on the side of the road.  The lost wedding ring, the silver dollar, the secrets meant just for me. 

I get quiet enough to hear them whispered to my heart.  He has shown me what is good.  He delights in the very person that I am.  My house is enough.  My kids are wonderfully created just for me. 

It’s so loud online.  So much noise and bustle and color and energy.  Inspiring for a moment.  But murdering when taken in without a break. 

If you are a consumer of content online – you need a break from the consumption or you’ll burst.  A time to fast.  Let all that you’ve seen soak in, have time to rise, and bake within the confines of your heart. 

If you are a creator of content – you need a moment to realize that what you say and create doesn’t come inspired from what everyone else is doing.  It comes from the quiet moments of meeting with God.  Of sitting in silence.  Create from rest.  Create from silence.  Create from the depths of who you are inside.  Not what you see.

Did you know it can get so quiet around your house at different moments during the day?  When our phones are off and our kids are sleeping.  It’s deafening and relieving at the same time. 

This Internet is a gift.  A good good gift.  But one that we need to learn to steward and ration. 

It’s what I create in the quiet and secret places that have the most value.  The endless expressions of me.  The heavenly inspiration from Him.  The words I write that never meet the published world.  The thoughts I have that I only share with those around me.    

On Wednesday, I’m going to start my yearly rhythm of staying off the Internet for the last 7 days of each month.  Getting into the quiet place.  Listening.  Creating from silence.  Resting.  Remember and counting the good gifts He has given secretly and solely for me.

Come with me.  Take time away from the highway of chaos and enter into the depths of the quiet country roads.  See what treasures you can find.  And then lets come back together – refreshed, renewed, and ready to keep on going. 

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It may be strange to be on the Internet while I’m inviting you to take time away from online, but it is what it is.  I’m doing the last 7 days of each month – to revisit my goals and gear up for the next month.  I’ll also be crafting, reading novels, and binge watching Nashville on Hulu.  Mostly, though, I’ll be relishing in the quiet and connecting in a deeper way with God – without distraction and noise.  You do what works for you. 7 days.  2 days.  All media.  Everything but email.  There are no rules.  Just an attempt to go slow and quiet.  

I’ll be using this graphic below and the hashtag #inthequietplace to leave a standing “away message” on Wednesday on Instagram.  And will post again on February 1st to share any insights or revelations I received while away.  Let’s get small and quiet!  Feel free to grab it and use it as well – you know, so people don’t think we dropped off the face of the earth.  

Here are the two Facebook Live videos that Alissa Keeton with Revelation Wellness did on “Less Internet.  More Intimacy.”
Part 1.
Part 2.  

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Walking With Jesus

I’ve been walking with Jesus.  Literal walking the pavement with my legs and feet.  Circles around our neighborhood like I’m praying down the walls of Jericho.  Bundled up in two scarves, gloves, and winter boots – because this is Michigan winter.  Wind blowing against my face – head down.  With Jesus.  With the warmth of Jesus. 

After spending days frustrated and wondering what my purpose is and where my energy is and should be going, I decided to just start walking.  Actually, my husband told me to start walking.  To clear my head and gain clarity.  He usually has the best ideas. 

“Walk until you see the water”, he said.  

I never found the water that day.  In a neighborhood not my own, I walked in-between beautiful mounds of brick piled high on each other to create rooms and roofs and homes.  Homes that held families and friends and gatherings and dinners.  I walked down streets and ran across streets and never once touched the water. 

I saw it from a distance once.  But a DEAD END sign dug deep in the sidewalk was warning me not to go.  But that water was so beautiful.  Shimmering at the end of the short pavement with the DEAD END sign.  That end didn’t look dead to me.  It look brimming with life and love and hope. 

But I didn’t turn down there.  I kept walking.  Kept looking for the sign that allowed me to walk right up to the water in freedom.  It didn’t come that day.  I kept walking parallel to a large body of water hidden from my sight by neighborhoods. 

Instead, I walked with Living Water that day.  Every beat of my foot hitting the pavement was a beat of my heart aligning with His.  Rhythmic slapping of Living Water on my soul.  The tide was in.  He felt so close.  I felt so alive.  Slowing down to feel the snow hit my face – endless, unique pieces of grace – sticking to my hair and my coat.  Remembering by name the times of grace that He has extended to me that week.

Soaking in His extravagant love is a high priority for me on these walks.  Closing my eyes, raising my chin, deep breathing in of his love.  Sometimes, my arms can’t help but rise up.  And my swing can’t help but sway.  His love does that to us.  Fills us to the point of overflowing where we can’t keep it in – no matter where we are.  We raise our hands.  We love our neighbors.  We fight for injustice.  We give money to the guy on the street without judgement.  We start businesses with Him in mind.  We write letters.  We hug our spouse just a little bit longer than yesterday.  We have patience with our kids.  So many kids with such demands to eat ALL. THE. TIME.

I think this daily appointment of walking with Jesus is going to be big.  Life changing.  I get the sense that my story is happening right now.  That somehow stopping the busy to just walk is going to change my perspective on my stained carpet, cluttered closets, and filthy family car.  That seeking the sane above the insane is going to bring clarity and rest and relief.

I’d love for you to join me as I embark on a #walkingwithJesus2017 experience.  Not a challenge – but an experience.  A way to mix faith and fitness in the way it was probably always meant to be.  It’s easy.  We are focusing on nearness to God over numbers of miles, minutes, and steps.  We aren’t running if running is too much.  We are just walking with worship music in our ears.  Listening to the words and letting them wash through us.  It’s been most helpful for me to walk circles around my block – right outside my door.  I don’t have time to go to a gym – and this gets me out and toe to toe with the needs of my city.  

His love – drinking it in – deep allows us to walk past what seems to be a dead end.  Relationships that seem dead can come to life.  Hearts can be healthy again.  When we walk and remember and let Truth wash over our hearts.  I promise you that getting one more load of laundry done will not compare to what taking a 20 minute walk around your neighborhood with Worship music in your ears will do for your sense of peace.  The laundry will still be there when you come back with a renewed sense of WHO and WHOSE you are.

Drink deep, my friends.

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I also highly recommend a subscription to Apple Music or some streaming app – the Bethel Music station has been most life-giving to me.  But also check out the Revelation Wellness podcasts.  They are so unique and so perfectly made for combining the spiritual with the physical fitness. 

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December Goals

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I write these more for me, but also for accountability.  And maybe you can glean a bit of where I am by seeing where I want to go.

I caught puke in my hands this morning without freaking out.  So, I feel like I should lead with that.  Because whatever else I “accomplish” this month will forever be trumped by how December started.  I’ve already done So. Much.

December for me is the best month of the year.  But usually it goes by in such a fury and hustle that I miss much of it.  But not this month.  I’m determined.

So, hold me accountable to these things:

  1. No shopping.  I’m actually completely done with Christmas shopping for the year.  Partly because I love gift buying so much and am usually scouring the sales and the catalogues and researching the gift guides.  I love the possibilities and all the options of what I could possibly buy for the kids and our family.  It’s usually a huge letdown when the gifts are bought and no more searching can be done.  BUT, since I am done, I need to stop looking.  Our house doesn’t need anymore decorations, we don’t need any new clothes, and all the gifts are done.
  2. Social Media Break.  Especially after a conversation I had yesterday with a friend of mine who also works online, I’m even more determined to take a break from inhaling the Internet.  The more I scroll, the more I wish my house looked like so-and-so’s.  The more I see friendships flaunted online, the more I feel in a place of lack.  The more I spend time online, the less I spend in real life.  The more I see you showing off what amazing thing your husband did for you, the more I feel like my husband isn’t enough.  It’s a dangerous place, that Internet.  Consuming too much of it will make you sick.  I don’t even think I’ll post much for the month.  I don’t want to become that trigger for lack in someone else’s life.
  3. Write more regularly.  For me, this isn’t a contradiction of #2.  I may write online as I process my thoughts offline because this blog is a collection of essays and my time stamp for life as it stands now.  I process life through writing. I’ve started more journal writing, though – things in my actual real life journal with an ink pen.  Feels ancient, but oh so good.  What good can we do or post online when our actual lives are so void?  I hope to specifically blog about Advent and the waiting of our King to come back – what a weary world we live in.
  4. Drink 16 cups of water a day.  I’m being realistic here.  I’m not going to exercise much in the month of December.  I’m probably not even going to eat the best.  I mean, Christmas cookies are coming.  But I can force myself to chug 128 oz of water a day.  Cold ice water.  Because that will make my body work harder to bring it down to room temperature.  Right?  Dieting hack?   Maybe.
  5. Focus on Advent and Family.  I’m currently re-reading Ann Voskamp’s Advent books with my kids and for myself.  I just love the way she brings the Christmas story alive and with new meaning.  I want to quiet my soul so that I can hear His coming.  Because so often His coming comes in whispers and small voices and in the quiet falling of snow.

Much love to you this Christmas as you cozy up in your robe and slippers – maybe a new kitty on your lap – sitting by fires and under twinkle lights.  Let’s quiet ourselves and the noise and the hustle.  Let’s be ok with not knowing, not having, and not being there.  Because the Gift we have and have been given is so worth the pause.

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A Few of My Favorite Things – November 2016

The other night, I sat down with my friend for our bi-weekly chat.  She demanded that I bring my notebook and pen so we could brainstorm about blogging.  We both love writing, and we both can feel paralyzed by not knowing what to say.  That night we committed ourselves to taking “imperfect action” and we also brainstormed a few blog post ideas that we enjoy reading on other blogs.

Posts about “Favorite Things” was on my list.

I enjoy learning about what other people are loving, and I for SURE love to share the things I’m currently digging.

So, I gathered up some of my favs for a little photo shoot on our dining room table and am sitting down to write about them.

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  1. Propagating my succulents.  Did you know you can do this?  You just break off the succulent leaves, let them callous over, then set them on top of soil – spraying with a water bottle every few days.  They will eventually (hopefully) sprout a new baby succulent!  This is my very favorite Gardening Expert.  I’ve watched every video she has about gardening and basically wish I was her.
  2. Natural Red Essentials.  This stuff is hand-batched in Detroit.  The owner, Amy, stopped by the workshop last weekend and left us a bunch of product.  I immediately grabbed the Cracks in Whack hand cream.  It’s amazing.  I’ve never used anything better.  Honest to goodness truth.  It’s thick, it lasts a long time, and I can pronounce all the ingredients.  And her creativity with those titles.  Hilarious.
  3. Lipsense.  LIPSENSE.  You guys.  If you follow me on Instagram and you watch my InstaStories, you KNOW I’m obsessed.  It’s a long wearing lipstick product in so many shades.  I have about 12 different ones, but considering you can mix colors together to make new ones, I have probably 2,000 shades.  I wear it almost every single day – and my other lip glosses and lipsticks are pointless to me now.  My go-to color for everyday wear is Bombshell.  I can’t believe how long it lasts.  My mom was always right when she told me that I just look more alive with lipstick on.  And now I don’t have to fuss with reapplying every 17th minute of the day.  It’s a self care item that I’m happy to check off the list.  {Here’s my lip lady. And her IG account.}
  4. Famous in Heaven and at Home by Michelle Myers.  I’ve really been enjoying moving through this book on a daily basis.  It’s a devotional book taking you through the character of the Proverbs 31 woman.  But in a way that is challenging yet grace oriented.  I love that she talks a lot about online life because that is super prevalent and real to me and not many people are talking about the realities of it.
  5. Sudio Sweden headphones.  I was gifted this pair of wireless headphones back in the middle of the summer.  I use them every time I go to the gym.  I love the way they look and the cute leather case they come in.  And I especially love that I no longer accidentally get caught up in my headphone cord on the treadmill and send my phone flying across the gym.  I wish they were a little louder, though – I hate hearing myself pant while running.  And if I get running too fast (usually nothing to worry about – ha) or am doing jump rope rounds, they don’t stay in my ears.  I believe my code for 15% off anything on their site is still valid if you want to get a few Christmas gifts: rebecca16

What’s something YOU can’t stop talking about lately?

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A Letter to My Kids {November 9, 2016}

A letter to my dear, dear children on November 9th, 2016 –

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First of all, I’m giving up nap time to write this.  So you must know it’s of dire importance.  I’m explaining some really important things to remember and asking humbly for your forgiveness.  Not even a cup of coffee to keep me going.  It’s rough, but it must be done.

Even though we voted Third Party, I know you were rooting for Hillary Clinton.  Pronounced HiLLLary CaLinton in our house – emphasis on pronouncing those L sounds correctly.  Sweet Clara, you stayed up way past your bedtime because you wanted to see the first woman become President.  We kept telling you it may not happen, but your heart was set.

It killed us to tell you this morning what happened.  A man with less experience beat out a woman who has been in politics all her life.  I can’t explain it to you, darling.  But you keep fighting.  You keep your chin up and demand the respect that you deserve – the respect that your Daddy gives the women in his life.  We will see the first woman President in our lifetime together, peanut.  And it’ll be the right woman.  We don’t want just any woman to break through that glass ceiling.  We want the right one to lead through with honesty, humility, and strong grace.  So many eyes will be on her.

You need to know that Donald Trump is our President and we will honor and respect that despite our thoughts on his character.  In fact, your Daddy and I need to ask for your forgiveness about our attitude toward him during the past few months.  We have been disgusted with his behavior, annoyed with his hair, frustrated with his unprofessional mannerisms, and humored by his facial expressions.  April Fools Day came and went and Donald kept going – totally serious.  We started laughing less and less.  And we modeled all of this in front of you.  Let me be clear: Donald Trump is not actually Satan.  It’s true.  He is a human being who has made really bad choices.  But so are we, aren’t we?  That’s what we so desperately need Jesus.  And why we will pray every day that President Trump will find the person of Jesus absolutely undeniable.

Here’s what hurts in Mommy’s heart today:

We reassured our seamstresses at BLB and our immigrant friends that there was no way he would be elected.  His loose talk has communicated racism, bigotry, and hatred toward American people who don’t look like him – or us.  Look around at the kids in your school, guys.  Hamtramck is a flavorful city with diverse people of every nationality.  Lots of those people woke up today feeling unwelcome and unwanted in America.  This isn’t true, is it?  A large man may tell our friends and neighbors that they aren’t welcome, but we will fling open our doors even wider.  We will neighbor harder and better because of this.  We vote love – over and over again.

And if real threat and jurisdiction starts to pop up under his presidency, you can bet that we will make signs, hold hands, march, sing chants, and use our voice real loud, ok?  All of us.  Cubby, too!  To spread love.  To encourage peace.  To prove that people of different nationalities can get along.  That’s what makes America so wonderful.

We are sad.  We are confused.  But you need to know that we stand behind him as an American in the best way we know how – on our knees in prayer.  And we are hopeful of the good he now has the power to do.

Here is why I’m NOT afraid:

Elections are held every four years.  And every four years America is holding her breath and staying up really late to see who won.  And every year, half of the country is let down.  But our family has experienced a paradigm shift, ok?  Our vision of this world is seen through the light of the Gospel.  We don’t trust in government leaders or in people – we trust in the Lord our God.  God sits on the throne.  But that doesn’t mean that we sit idly by.  We vote for the America that expresses the most love, the most inclusivity, and the most opportunity for all.  And then we live that out in our daily interactions with people.  And we especially and intentionally surround ourselves with people who are different than us.  Life is sweeter that way.

If we lose – like this year – we are not shaken.  Because despite any President or any law that is passed, we adhere to these laws: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control.  Against these there is no law!  If our taxes are cut – we will still have the same attitude of giving to those who need.  Our money is meant to be shared.  If government welfare programs cease to exist, we will open up community centers and continue to create more jobs through Better Life Bags and any other enterprise God gives our little family to steward.  We will surround single mothers and become foster parents to help alleviate burden.  We will sit with the lonely at lunch and share our ball with the outcast.  It’s hard work, but it’s GOOD work.

And here’s why I’m hopeful:

Waking up to the news of this Presidency has driven our family deep back into the Word.  Into Truth.  And into peace because our outcome is sure.  We don’t place allegiance to the President – or even to our country despite the pledge you say at school.  Our allegiance is already given to our True King.  The One who makes all things new.  Who turns winter into spring.  Who settles the waves with His voice.  Who brings true peace and everlasting life.

Our trust has never been and will never be in the President – this particular one is just a little easier to keep off a pedestal of idolatry.  So, now let’s go start a new tradition of getting ice-cream on the day after Election Day – to celebrate the Real Leader of our lives!

{this is a personal letter to my kids, comments are turned off.  You can connect with me on Instagram.)

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Can I Get a Summer Do Over?

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School starts next week and I’m looking back toward summer as it falls behind the horizon creating a silhouette of bare feet, travel, and slow mornings.  I had such high expectations for how the summer would play out – which is usually how let downs start.  High expectations.  What goes up too high must come down with a crash.  Or something like that.

I was going to play with my kids, create wonderful memories, take weekend trips, be an awesome neighbor, do a ton of house projects, and lose a bunch of weight.  It felt like New Years with all my unattainable and perfect resolutions.

Honestly, though, we did create a summer bucket list and almost everything is crossed off.  So summer hasn’t been a total bust.  But the absolute one thing that I feel like I failed at was being a good mom.

You guys, summer is so hard.  Everyone is home and no one is happy.  I resorted to letting them watch so much crap on YouTube Kids because the only time they wouldn’t fight or whine or ask for more juice was when their butts were on the couch and their noses were in a screen.  And then I realized that the junk entering their minds was not even close to what I wanted my kids spending hours watching.  Plus, I can’t stand to listen to one more minute of Pat & Jen talk about Minecraft in their annoying cartoon voices.  Amen?

So, we took the iPads away.  And the screens.  And the iPods.  So much technology.  And you know what we found?

Our kids forgot how to play.  They literally don’t know what to do with themselves without an iPad in their hands.  They lay on the floor like injured animals.  Withering in pain and moaning gibberish about being bored and having nothing to do.  It was painful to watch.  Yet, I didn’t have any suggestions for them.  I sure wasn’t willing to entertain them.  I had books to read and Instagram Stories to catch up on.  You know?

Instead, I just got angry.  And impatient.  And my vocal chords reached levels that hadn’t previously been seen.  It was impressive, really.

At one point while a child grabbed the back of my shirt and pulled it down as far as he could, I grunted like a loud pig and looked at my husband with hurting eyes.  Somehow, I got out the only words I could.  “I neeeeed… the Holy Spirit”.  It was a truly spiritual moment, because what I meant to say was “break” instead of “Holy Spirit”.  What they say in Romans 8 about the Spirit praying for us in groans and mutterings must be true.  He overtook my mouth.  My poor, sweet husband just smiled and nodded before he walked out the door.

So this week, I sent my kids to camp.

And I suppose I should interrupt to tell you right now that this blog post isn’t going to have any suggestions of how to switch from the mom who sends her kids to Science Camp from 9-4 so that she doesn’t have to think of things to do to keep them off the iPad into the mom who creates lego towers, paper mache animals, and backyard summer camps.

I think we are all just ready for summer to end.  For them to put on their cute little school uniforms and march right out the door.

But, you know what I’ll be blogging about two weeks in the future?  It’ll be about how much I miss those two elementary age kiddos.

I’ll miss their morning bed head as they stumble down and ask to watch a cartoon.

I’ll miss their sweet voices laughing, fighting, and even yelling at me all day long.

I’ll miss making them lunch.  {Ok, let’s be honest – I won’t miss that at all.  I don’t even have to make them breakfast during the school year.  Benefit of low income neighborhood public schools.}  

I’ll miss those magical moments that happen after two hours of squirming on the floor in boredom.  Those moments when they find an empty cardboard box and ride it down the stairs with fits of glee coming from their mouths – and thankfully no injuries.

I’ll miss that absolute end of the barrel feeling when I can tell that mama is not only at the end of her rope and also at the end of her extra lifeline rope and demand that everyone put on their shoes and get in the car as we go on an adventure.  Fresh air can usually fix everything.  Unless it’s above 80 degrees.  Then we go to Target to buy Oreos.  An equally adventurous adventure.

And all of this future thinking makes me wish that I could head back to the beginning of the summer and start over.  Redeem the moments I stuffed an iPad in front of their face for the sake of peace and the nights I shuffled them off to bed without snuggling or reading to them.

I know we’ve heard it a million times, but there are limited summers left with our kids until they are gone into adulthood.  I have about 11 left with Jonah.  Eleven.  And really much less than that when I think about girlfriends and drivers licenses and teenage jobs crowding into our lives.

So, whether you’re the mom who already sent her babies off on their first day, the one who homeschools anyway so could care less, or the mama who is dreaming of the day when she doesn’t have to change a diaper and gets to pick out school shoes instead, let us stop for a minute and remember that our time with them is so short.

Breathe.  Turn on the iPad for 30 minutes to get a break – it’ll be ok.  Go outside on an adventure.  Lighten up on the house rules.  Buy some new lipstick next time you’re grocery shopping.  Sign the kids up for a monthly activity crate!  Go to the library.  Most importantly – eat some ice-cream.  Do those messy slime experiments.  Read all the books.  Go for that bike ride.  Push that little one high on the swing.

I want to stop living as though my kids are in the way of my life and start living as if they are one of the best aspects of my life.

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We’ve been back from Ireland for almost a week now.  And I’m surprisingly glad to be back.  I was worried that I would feel discontent being back in the concrete melting pot of Hamtramck.  But God was gracious.  I came home to HUGE blooms on all my flowers (thanks to my neighbor who took care of my babies while I was gone).  And our first Amazon purchase since being back was a flag pole to hang our Irish flag.  We can’t decide on placement of the flag quite yet, but it’s fun to see it waving in it’s temporary position alongside our American one.

Ireland was our first long distance trip with all five of us.  Actually, Neil and I don’t travel without the kids basically ever, so this was our first long distance trip together.  Period.

And after our 3 hour drive to Dublin, 8 hour flight to Chicago, and 4 hour drive back to Detroit, we had narrowed down some intentional and accidental travel hacks from our trip.  Things we were glad we brought, what we wished we hadn’t brought, and the holy grail answer of what to do for dinners when you get back home to your empty fridge.

What we were glad we brought:

  • Keens for the kids.  These shoes were an all around winner for travel.  They are great for hiking, walking, climbing on rocks, and even water wading.  We threw them in the washer toward the end of our trip, and they look brand new again.  We bought ours on eBay at half the price and I’m thrilled with how long they will last.  I cannot pull off the look of Keens, and spent most of my time in Ireland trading between my Saltwater sandals and a pair of comfortable leather ankle boots.
  • Everyone in our family likes to sleep with white noise.  It becomes a necessity after having kids – either I don’t want them to hear me while they sleep, or I don’t want to hear them while I sleep.  It goes both ways.  Naturally.  So, we packed two soundmakers that took batteries (remember: American plugs don’t fit into Irish outlets), and I ordered a miniature fan since I sleep better when the air is moving.  It’s been this way since college – just ask my roommate about the silent fights we’d get into all night long as she would turn the fan off, and I would turn it back on.
  • I tried to only take one suitcase.  We ended up taking two, but in order to help organize the packing and the unpacking at our Irish home, I ordered a bunch of eBags.  It was nice to roll up everyone’s clothes into a separate zippered bag instead of having everything roam free inside our large suitcase.
  • And finally, I took two Better Life Bags with me and was SO glad I had.  The Harper was my carry on/diaper/exploring/hiking/anything-with-the-kids bag.  I have one in all leather with the additional side pockets.  I don’t have the elastic inside pockets as I probably wouldn’t use them, but I do have the zipper pocket and a handful of nesting pouches that I use to organize myself and the kids.  I also took my all leather Alicia bag.  I used this more than I thought I would!  Anytime I was going out without the children, I downsized to Alicia.  She was the perfect companion to carry my BLB wallet, sunglasses, phone, and lotion.  I would probably argue that these two BLBs (plus the Clara tote) are the most essential ones that a person needs.
  • And while I’ve already alluded to these unmentionables and totally embarrassed my brother, I have to mention them again.  I was going to get a visit from my monthly friend while overseas.  All I brought was this and these.  (Click at your own risk, boys).  It was a risk since it was my first month using both products together without carrying anything that you normally throw away.  And I was out for HOURS exploring castles during one of the days.  Worked like a charm.

What we wish we had NOT brought:

  • Backpacks for the kids.  Our three children all carried Harper backpacks as their carry on.  They were full of goodies to keep them occupied on the flight.  Not only did they barely open it the entire 8 hours thanks to the personal movie and game screens on the back of each seat, but Neil and I ended up carrying all of them through the airport.  Never again.
  • I also brought blankets for each of the kids since our initial flight was a red eye and I was hoping they would sleep.  Those blankets were a pain to stuff into bags and I think they would have done equally as well with the provided pillow and blanket from the airline.
  • I didn’t touch my curling iron once.  Vacations need to be JUST THAT.  Leave your hair products at home and embrace the wild natural side of your God-given hair texture.  Even if I had curled it, the Irish rain would have messed it all up.
  • We didn’t even open the eBag that carried our swimsuits.  I knew we would visit a beach while we were in Ireland, but I had no idea how cold and windy it would be.  Clara did get into the water, but she just wore her clothes and she was fine with that.  So unless you have a pool in your Irish hotel, no need to pack swimsuits!

Our most genius travel hack ever:

  • Since were gone for two weeks, we used up or got rid of everything in our fridge.  I’ve never seen it that empty.  When we got back to Detroit, we realized that we didn’t have anything to cook for dinner.  A quick peek into our freezer and we realized we had an entire frozen meal PLUS a loaf of bread that we had stuck in the freezer before leaving.  Not only did we have a great dinner that night, the kids had toast and PB&J for lunch the next day until we could get back to the grocery store.  I wish we could say we did that on purpose, but we sure will from now on!

We can’t wait to take our next adventure.  While it may not be as far away or as long as this one, traveling is something that our family really enjoys.  And as we get more proficient on bringing just the right things, it will make picking up and adventuring that much easier!

 

 

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