December 5, 2020

How To Have Yourself a Mary and Martha Little Christmas


I’m trying to be more like Mary this Christmas.

No, not that Mary. The other one. The one who’s always portrayed as the A+ student to Martha’s “needs improvement” whenever the Biblical story of Jesus at Mary and Martha’s house is told.

(Briefly, based on Luke 10: Jesus was hanging out at his friends’ house. Mary parked herself at His feet and gave Him her rapt attention. Martha, meanwhile, ran around trying to cook for everyone, including Jesus. She started whining to the Man Himself about how her sister needed to get up off the floor already and help her out. Jesus said [paraphrasing here], “My dear Martha, you’re all worked up trying to do things your way. But Mary has picked the better way.”)

I’m on the record as a longtime member of the Martha Defense Council. I’ve been a guest in houses where no one was on Martha duty, and frankly, I’ve been hungry. But I think both Mary and Martha have some pointers to pass along where this present Christmas is concerned.

Use the paper plates, for instance.

The thing is, Martha wasn’t doing a bad thing; she just wasn’t doing the better thing.

Wow, would it ever be a whole lot easier to ace this test if the choice of how to spend our time came down to good versus bad. The trick is that it’s usually a choice between good and better.

It’s not like Martha was in the back room gossiping with her BFF while she ignored her honored Guest; she was trying to show love and care. She was trying to meet needs. She was trying to serve well. (Sounds like most moms I know.)

I think Martha was doing what I tend to do, especially at Christmas: I run around like a crazy person doing things that can be done anytime or another time and miss what can only be done in this time.

Martha could always cook a meal, but she couldn’t always sit at Jesus’ feet. I can always do dishes, but I can’t always sit on the couch with my big kids and look at the Christmas lights. I can always—another year—put the greenery garland I like but don’t love on my front railings, but I can’t always decorate the Christmas tree with the teenager I both like and love.

So I’ll be keeping Martha close at hand to keep me on track while I try to be a little more like Mary this Christmas. While I leave the real dishes in the cupboard and use the paper plates for family pizza night with my whole present-and-accounted-for family. While I leave the front railings plain and decorate cookies with my big kids.

While I put good on the back burner good and sit at the feet of better.

November 25, 2020

Known By His Names


Two years, five days, and about eight hours ago, I shared a post on this blog introducing a 365-day series on the names of God. I thought it would be fun to wake up every morning for a year to a name, title, attribute, or role of the Great I AM (which, by the way, was Day 5).

I knew there was a 365-names-of-God song, so I figured if someone could sing about them, I could write about them.

I imagine God got quite a laugh out of that, but, true to His graceful, provisional nature, He faithfully provided a year’s worth of entries about Himself.

Now, I am so grateful to let you know that the book version of this series, which my mama “suggested” I write starting on about Day 2, is finished in self-published fashion and available on Amazon as Known By His Names: A 365-Day Journey From The Beginning to The Amen.

I came to regard writing the original series as a manna in the wilderness experience: save for a couple weeks when I was away with my family, God never let me get more than a day or so ahead on His names, and so they joined the journey in no particular Biblical order. 

But once I had a stack of 365 pages of individual names to guide me, I was able to order them more or less following the path of Scripture...from The Beginning in Genesis to The Amen in Revelation. In the book, they are headed by day (Day 1-Day 365) but not by calendar date, so the journey can be started on any day of any year. Each day is intended as its own entity, but the days also feed off each other so that the reader can start with Day 1 and continue along in order...by Day 365 (however long it takes to get there!), I am trusting a tapestry will have emerged, woven together by the thread of God’s names.

To back up the book, I gave it its own page here, including an A-Z names of God bookmark that can be printed of, as well as a list-in-progress of links to all the original posts as they first appeared on this blog but in the order they appear in the book.

In all this, my prayer remains the same as it was on Day 1 of those first 365: that God’s great names might be known and praised forever.

He is the Beginning. He is the Amen. And He is everything we need Him to be—and infinitely more—for every breath of every day in between.

For His great name’s sake,

Elizabeth


 

October 31, 2020

This Is What Parenting a Young Adult Is Sometimes Like


I’m pretty sure the reason no has, as far as I know, yet written 
What To Expect When You're Expecting a Young Adult is because no one who has parented one of these wonderful but often mystifying creatures feels like enough of an expert to author the thing.

Life with a young adult is a lot like life during a pandemic: this is what's going to happen, unless it doesn't.

I'm certainly not about the write a book on the subject, but with the help of some other YA parents*, I did put together what could possibly be considered a pamphlet on this stage of raising humans; I'm so grateful to Grown and Flown for running it. If you make your way over there and have anything to add, I'd love to have you pop back here and leave a comment. Who knows? Between us, we might be able to write this book yet.

*   *   *   *   *   *
*Sue Moore Donaldson, Melanie Hardacker, Miranda Lamb, Kim McKay Laws, Karen MacLean, Kori Titus, and other sweet friends on my Guilty Chocoholic Mama Facebook page.

October 9, 2020

What I Want My Children To Think Of Me

Someday, my children will tell someone what they think of me. How they remember me. What kind of mom I was. What it was like being my child.

I’m not na├»ve: there’s plenty they could say in total truth that I wouldn’t want etched on my headstone. But I’m not done parenting them yet (I don’t think we ever are, actually), so I’m still writing those markings.

Here’s a list-in-progress of what I hope will make the cut.

That I sought God’s face and favor. 


That I cherished my children for who they were while encouraging them to become who they could be.


That I apologized genuinely and then acted differently afterwards.


That I listened.


That I wasn’t boring.


That I took an interest in them.


That I made them feel I was glad they were in my life.


That I loved with action.


That I prayed.


That I laughed.


That I loved their father well.


That I made a home and did not just keep a house.


That I let them go enough to leave when it was time but held on enough to bring them back from time to time.


That I chose my battles wisely.


That they knew they could come to me with anything.


That I was fun to spend time with.


That I let them feel what they felt and sat with them in those feelings rather than trying to rush them through those feelings.


That I gave them good memories.


That I pursued and prioritized relationship with them.


That I did not stay the same but that my love for them was, always, sure and certain.

September 9, 2020

Why I Still Stayed Home



“So, what do you do all day?”

Stay-at-home-moms have been fielding this question for decades, and articles answering it have been written by authors a lot craftier than I.

But things get really tricky when you are a non-homeschooling SAHM of older children.

Your PTA days are over. Your kids dress themselves and direct themselves and possibly even drive themselves. Supposedly, they don’t “need you” much anymore.

When the people I stayed home for were older but still often at home, I spent my days getting my little family (my husband and our two daughters) out the door and then welcoming them back when they got home. I cooked and cleaned. I managed our family’s schedule, including my girls’ multiple dance classes a week and their heavy involvement in the school band program. I did a little legal document prep for my attorney husband. I served on the worship team at church and facilitated a weekly women’s Bible study. I was a career band mom. I volunteered at school. I sometimes worked as a catering assistant to fund dance costumes.

I was and still am beyond grateful to have had even the option of spending my time that way.

I know so many moms would love to have this choice. I know most two-income families are not buying “extras” with those incomes. I also know many moms do important away-from-home work they love and cannot imagine being happy without.

And to all the homeschooling and employed moms out there: I truly don’t know how you do it.

But given the choice, why did I “stay home” in the first place? After all, many moms balance careers and attention to their big kids brilliantly. But I knew myself, knew my low threshold for stress...and knew I wouldn't be one of them. So I stayed home—and would do it again—because for us, I believed the older-kid years were the most important time for me to be fully available for my children. 

As tweens and teens, they didn’t need their knees bandaged or their diapers changed anymore. Which was fabulous. But they often needed their hearts healed or their minds redirected. Which was hard and important.

My brother, who is many years behind me in the parenting game, once asked, “Now that you’re this far along, if you had to choose when you would be home for your girls, what age would you choose?”

“Now,” I told him. “Absolutely now.”

I’ve seen the truth of a very wise thing my mother-in-law told me when I was a young bride. She worked in the family business, but her office was in the garage attached to their house, so she was available at any time for my husband all through his growing-up years.

She told me how thankful she was for that option and that it was nonnegotiable for her, even when— especially when—her only child was an adolescent. “People say your kids don’t need you as much when they’re bigger. But their problems are bigger, too.”

I wanted my husband and children to be able to do well in work and school and at their passions. I wanted them to be able to love well. I wanted them to be able to serve well. I wanted them to be able to pursue faith well.

I wanted them to pour out well onto other people and onto the things that mattered to them. But in order for them to pour out anything good, they had to be filled up with something good. That kind of filling up takes time and work and attention, and I knew I, personally, needed to focus on mostly doing just that.

My children have told me, “I’m so glad I have a mom I can count on to make me feel better when I’m upset.” I’m grateful they can say that, because it didn’t just happen all at once. It happened over the course of hundred moments spread out over what’s now been more than two decades of on-the-job training as a mother. There are lots of different ways that training can happen. But this is the way it happened for me.

That’s why I stayed home. That’s why, given the chance, I still would.


A version of this piece originally appeared on Her View From Home.



August 5, 2020

Maybe This Is Our Such A Time As This


Sometimes, life in the age of coronavirus feels like it’s doing nothing less than asking us to save our people.

Of course, as moms, we know we can’t; saving is always and only God’s job. 

But it feels as though He has given us a historic role to play this season, much like He gave the Biblical Queen Esther.

Comfortingly, she wasn’t all that crazy about it, either. 

She didn’t ask for the job.

She didn’t want it.

She balked at it, at first. 

And when she finally accepted it, she did it with sort of a “well, this might be the death of me, but if it is, so be it” attitude. 

You’ve got to love her.

“Who knows,” Esther’s cousin suggests to her when he’s trying to talk her into taking the job, “but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

Our maternal positions may not be royal, but we have been put in them on purpose, for a purpose. 

We might be reluctant.

We might be uncertain. 

We might think what we’re being asked to do will be the death of us.

But Esther accepted her calling for the good of her people, and for such a time as this, we can accept our calling for the good of ours.

All these generations later, Esther’s reluctant decision to go where she didn’t want to go and do what she didn’t feel qualified to do is celebrated and recounted as an example of faithfulness and bravery.

We may demur at the suggestion we would take on the enormous challenge set before us in hopes future generations might speak well of us. But if we accept this commission as nothing less than a royal appointment by the King of the universe, it is no conceit to hope that future generations might live well and serve well and love well because of it.

The quote “God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers” (attributed variously to Rudyard Kipling and a Jewish proverb) gets God’s omnipresence wrong, of course, but maybe it lends itself to this revision: God is everywhere, and one way He is is in the person of mothers. 

When we don’t check out.

When we don’t give more weight to what we don’t know than what we do.

When we don’t suppose we have to figure out how on earth we’ll do the next month (or nine) and instead ask God to help us do each one day.

When, right in the deep and dark of our weariness, uncertainty, fear, and flat-out don’t-feel-like-it, we view ourselves as image-bearers of Abba. 

Not haughtily but humbly. Not because there isn’t any other way for God to preserve our children to the race, but because He thinks highly enough of us to give us the chance to partner with Him in the cause.

God will not force our hand. But if we extend it, He’ll reach out and take it and lead us along so that, following Him, we can lead the people we love. 

In such a time as this.

For such a time as this.

July 19, 2020

Don't Iron a Graduation Gown While Crying . . . and Other Wisdom From the Moms of the Class of 2020 



A few weeks ago, I posted this question on my blog Facebook page:

“Dear 2020 Senior Moms: what advice/words of wisdom/guidance/encouragement would you offer next year’s senior moms?”

I asked this partly because I wanted to recognize these wonderful women and partly because I am a 2021 senior mom and “next year” has suddenly become this year, and I. NEED. TO. KNOW.

With the same grace these amazing moms lent their 2020 graduates, they responded generously, their answers ranging from practical to passionate.

Here, with deepest appreciation, are 21 culled and compiled pieces of wisdom from the moms of the class of 2020. I know I’ll be keeping a copy of this list close at hand...right alongside my purse-pack tissues and my waterproof mascara.

1. Don’t cry when you iron your senior’s graduation gown. Tear drops make more wrinkles.


2. Listen more than you speak, and worry less than you listen.


3. Ask—don’t assume—if they want to participate in school senior/graduation festivities and "lasts." Not all seniors want to. It is their year. Let them do it their way.


4. Allow space for the process of grieving. Honor your senior's emotions.


5. Keep talking to your senior. Give them advice and guidance, because even though they’re bold and ready, they’re also anxious and need you still. Be close, but don't hover.


6. Find out-of-the-box ways to celebrate. Try to help your student see (and to see yourself) that different does not mean not as good.


7. Take some moments to cry to yourself about the things you’ll miss and then cheer openly for all the new opportunities and adventures your son or daughter will have in coming years.


8. Be ready to be surprised by—and so proud of—how bravely yet honestly your senior will handle what comes his or her way. 


9. Pray. (Often.) And give yourself and everyone around you all the grace you can gather.


10. Understand that your senior is looking for independence as you are holding onto their lasts. They will experience a lot of emotions as they let go of you, in a way, and as they look toward their future
.Their independence will shake you, but it will also make you proud.

11. Teach them to address an envelope.

12. Remember to take time for you. Renew your interest in things you loved in the past. This will be a gift to you and to your graduate.


13. You never know what you’ll end up loving. (Drive-thru graduation was a kick! If you have it, go all out!)


14. Cherish all the small moments. Take nothing for granted. Enjoy every moment with your whole heart. These kids earned this time to be celebrated. Celebrate everything. Be present. Do it for your kids; do it for you. Do it for the kids who didn’t get to enjoy senior nights and prom nights and graduation festivities. Do it for their mamas who were heartbroken for these moments to pass uncelebrated. Applaud your senior loud enough for all of us.


15. Don’t blink. But do breathe.


16. Plan ahead; don’t wait till the last minute. Don’t procrastinate on minimum requirements for college applications. Be patient with online learning.


17. Take. Pictures. Of. EVERYTHING. And be IN the pictures.


18. Be supportive, let your students have fun, be there for what they need (hugs, chats, food, a confidante), enjoy spending time with them, encourage them, tell them again and again how proud you are of them, and love them.


19. Enjoy the ordinary moments. That’s where real life is.


20. There will be so many “lasts,” but there will be so many firsts to look forward to, also. Cry...but then put on a smile and get out there and enjoy every minute with them!


21. Do all the things and take it all in. Love fiercely...and laugh often.


*****

Deepest thanks to all the mamas (including but not limited to those listed below) who not only shared pieces of their stories on my page but also gave me permission to tell those stories here. You and your graduates truly put the class in the Class of 2020. 

With Tehanne Cooney, Mindi Hommerding, Mellanie Barksdale, Amber Lee Balentine, Kristina Bellon, Debbie Jones, Traci Welborn Holland, Heather Ann Lynn, Lisa Page, Michele Weyland, Jennifer Edmondson Viveiros, Vicky Valle, Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer, Debra Fhaner Cascioli, Becky Harless, Fiona Sing, Gena Bethune McCown, Robin Basone, Stephanie Kay Suranyi, Jennifer Lynn Remer, Jennifer Meyers-Heeter, Lorri Gail Moffatt, Emily Pruitt Nemec, Kori Titus, Katie Rud, Becki Heck-K
nister, Leanne Grow, Lavinna Rendon, Tammy Ward, Stephanie Pietrasiewicz, Lisa Edwards Cyr, Amy Shupe, Cyndi Edgley.

Photo credit: Melanie Ortt

July 16, 2020

For All We Still Don't Know, Here's What We Do Know, Still


The unknowns still feel as though they're ruling the day, these days.

Or, at the very least, they still feel like a bunch of bullies who just won't back down for good.

We don't know what day-to-day life is going to look like this school year.


We don't know what's going to be open, closed, happening, cancelled, rescheduled, or restructured.


We don't know if trips or events or celebrations we've postponed are ever going to have their day.


We don't know what the virus is going to do next or when a vaccine might be ready.


We don't know what's going to be in short supply or a lot more expensive next.


We don't know how far in the future we have to look for plans that are safe to make.

And maybe one of the most unsettling things we still don't know is how long we're not going to know all this. We thought we knew how long a few months ago: a few months, we thought.

It's the open-endedness that still makes this new normal so murky. If only we had a better idea idea of how and when we're going to finally turn a corner. But that how and when still feel like the leaders of the unknown parade at the moment.

Yet for all we still don't know, here's what we do still know. (Some of which, we must admit, we didn't know three months ago.)

We know that learning can happen in lots of different ways and places, even if a lot of those ways and places don't feel ideal.

We know that getting outside and moving around are always good ideas, and we've never appreciated fresh air more.

We know kindness is disease-resistant and is, in fact, one of the best disease-fighters around.

We know laughter does not have to wait until there's nothing unfunny going on. Cannot wait, actually.

We know having a home to be in is a privilege.

We know patience is a skill we can get better at with practice.

We know the big picture is made up of a lot of little pieces that all have to be fit together before they make sense.

We know doing what's best for others often comes at a sacrifice to ourselves.

We know encouragement is not a one-time deposit but an ongoing investment.

We know right now is always the perfect time to tell our people we love them, even though we hope with all our hearts they already know it full well.

And when—when, not if—the fog of doubt closes in again, we strain our eyes once more to see this guiding truth that has not changed...does not change: G
od knows where we are, and no matter how we've gotten there, He is always ready to take us somewhere new worth going.

"He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).

July 11, 2020

I Can Do All This When I Pray


“All I can do is pray.”

How many times have I heard this?

More to the point: how many times have I said this?

Obvious answer: many.

On top of which, I usually say it—“all I can do is pray”—with a sigh of resignation, as if I’m conceding defeat.

Resignation and defeat? Really?

Clearly, I’ve lost track of what I’m actually doing when I pray...what any of us is doing when we come to God within the context of relationship with Him and with full confession of the ways we’ve missed the mark of His goodness.

When you or I pray, we are availing ourselves of unfiltered, no middleman, split-second access to the Great I AM.

When "all" we can do is pray, we are putting ourselves in a position of faith before the All in All.

And yet: “all I can do is pray”?

Really?

I think I’ve got my “all” in the wrong place here.

A little rearranging seems in order: I can do all this when I pray.

(And you can, too.)

The “all this” I can do when I pray includes but is most definitely not limited to...

I can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).

I can get help for what I need (Hebrews 4:16).

I can call up the peace guard (Philippians 4:6-7).

I can be restored (Job 33:26-28).

I can steer clear of temptation (Mark 14:38).

I can see demons driven out (Mark 9:29).

I can please God (Proverbs 15:8).


All this. Just from talking to God—Who very much wants to hear from me (and from you, too).

No fancy words. No fussy format. No prior experience required.

All that is needed is an understanding that I can do all this when I pray because I’m not the one doing anything at all and faith (even the size of a mustard seed) that the One Who can do all this, will.

June 6, 2020

Mothers Live and Love In the Past, Present, and Future


I loved who my children were when they were little. I loved their gorgeous chunky thighs and their mismatched outfits and the funny way they mispronounced things (our nation's 16th president will always be "Aber Lincolnham" to us). I loved their simple happiness and unfiltered enthusiasm. I miss this sometimes.

But I also love who they are now. I love their passion and their knowledge and their insights. I love sharing interests with them. I love our deep conversations. I love their growing independence. I love seeing them do things they love to do that they've worked hard to learn how to do. I love so many of the same things they love. I love doing things together that we would all choose to do on our own. I wouldn't miss this for the world.

Too, I already love the glimpses I'm getting of who they might be in the future. I know tomorrow is promised to no one. I know anything could happen. But I'm still looking forward to what might be. When it gets here, I don't want to miss a minute of it.

And here's a new (to me) realization about all this was/is/might be: as moms, I don't think we have to pick. I don't think we have to entirely let go of one to fully appreciate and (dare I say it?) cherish the others. I don't think loving who my children are now means I love who they were or who they might become less.

I am a keeper of past memories. There are things I saw and heard and experienced that I have first rights to because I was there, front and center.

I am a caretaker of present realities. I am sounding board and counselor and adviser and cheerleader and comforter. I am still a key player in my children's day-to-day lives, even if that mostly amounts to keeping our protein bar selection stocked up and sending encouraging "you can do it!" texts.

And I am a nurturer of future possibilities. I have a front-row seat to big decisions my children are in the thick of making. Sometimes I have a voice in them. When these decisions play out (however they play out), I'll be able to say, "I remember how this all started."

My children took their first steps on those chunky-thighed legs I loved so much. Today, they dance and hurry to classes on those lovely legs. And some tomorrow, they might walk down a wedding aisle or chase after their own babies on those strong, capable limbs.

As their mom, I was part of their yesterdays. I am part of their todays. I hope with all my heart I'll be part of their tomorrows. 


And I have the privilege of living and loving it all.

June 5, 2020

Dear Myth of the Perfect Family: We’ve Had Enough of You



Yes, you, with your nosiness and your tiresome commentary on every family situation.

No children? “You two had better get busy!”

One child? “When are you going to give them a sibling?”

Lots of kids? “Are all those yours?”

All girls? “Their poor dad.”

All boys? “Every mom needs a daughter.”

Blended families? “Are you the Brady Bunch?”

Young children: “Just wait till they get to be teenagers.”

Empty nest? “What are you going to do with yourselves?” 

And then there are your sneakier suggestions.

Kids don’t have every opportunity? “They’ll be missing out.”

Mom works? “Your kids will suffer.”

Mom stays home? “What kind of role model is that?”

Siblings don’t get along? “Your kids should be each other’s best friends.”

Family fights? “Don’t show that in the Christmas card picture.”

There’s no pleasing you, and frankly, it’s not our job as families to try. Our job as families is to love each other the best we can. 

Maybe to you, oh myth, that best looks balanced and tidy and smiley and neat and figured out and complete. In our true story, though, that best looks lopsided and messy and very, very much in progress. 

But we’ll take our true story over your myth any day. It’s our story, and we’re not only sticking to it, we’re sticking to and with each other. 

June 2, 2020

I'll Always Believe the Best About My Children


I love the scene in the movie Apollo 13 where astronaut Jim Lovell’s elderly mom learns that her son's ship has a problem (as in, "Houston, we have...") and that getting it and himself and his crew home is going to be tricky business.

Mrs. Lovell asks her granddaughter, "Are you scared?"—and then tells her, without qualification, "Don't be. If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it."

There is just no fan club like the mom fan club. It’s not that moms think their kids can do no wrong; it’s just that they believe their kids can do so much right. 

Our love is not blind, but it is bold. Mom love allows us to see what is possible from a slightly removed position that delivers us from the distraction of too many details.

For instance: my college-bound daughter plans to major in dance, but first, she has to audition for the program. The central piece of her audition is a solo in the style of her preference, to the music of her choosing, set to the choreography of her imagining. On the way home from our campus visit a few months ago, she played me one of the contender songs. I listened and could see her movements in my mind with no trouble at all. Passionate. Strong. Sure. Uninhibited, but not sloppy.

"I'm already crying, just thinking about it," I told her. "It will be incredible."

But my daughter isn’t so sure. She has the benefit (or maybe the curse) of knowing all the ins and outs, knowing the struggles, knowing what looks easy but is in fact so hard, knowing what could happen, knowing what she wants to happen. 

I, on the other hand, have the luxury of looking in from the outside and seeing the big picture, seeing the results, seeing the output without the intrusion of too much information.

Later in Apollo 13, when the world is waiting to see just how lucky or unlucky 13 will turn out to be, Mrs. Lovell is visited by astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. They are introduced to her by Lovell's wife, and this proud mother asks them, "Are you boys in the space program, too?"

If all the world's a stage, a mother is aware there are other performers, but for her, the spotlight always follows her child. 

This is the gift we give our children: love that does not demand the impossible but believes what is possible. Love that does not excuse wrong but expects right. Love that does not overlook limits but sees past them.

I’ve heard countless stories (you probably have, too) of grown children who triumphed over challenges or setbacks in early life and testify as adults that “nobody else believed in me, but my mom did. I’m here today because of her.”

I don’t want to be the only person who believes in my children, and I’m thankful I’m not, not by a long shot. But if this is a club, I am privileged to be its founding member, and I'll gratefully take my place as its president, for life.

May 21, 2020

I Already Know What My Children Will Remember About the Summer of 2020



I already know what my children will remember most about the summer that's still stretched out ahead of us, waiting to unfold.

I'm not being presumptuous, naive, or cocky. It's just that I know what my teenager and young adult remember most about past summers, and they are things we can still count on this summer.

Thank goodness.

Every year, at the end of the summer, I pull the mom card and require my family to sit around the dinner table and recount their favorite memories from the past few months. (It's similar to Thanksgiving's "go around the table and say something you're thankful for," but without the pumpkin pie chaser. Not everyone considers this a loss.)

We've done this dance enough years now that I've seen a pattern emerge: the memories my children cherish most are always born in simple moments spent together...moments that are not being cancelled. They're made of sweet, gentle commodities that at their core are not in short supply.

I am not so cold-hearted nor so "glad half full" as to blow off all that will not happen this summer as if it's just some dandelion gone to seed. Our children are in mourning for what they will not do, even before they haven't done it. Summer camps, festivals, fairs, vacations, gatherings...all of these remain uncertain at best. If they do not happen, there will be no replacing them, no making up for them, no waiting on next year for them. Whatever might happen where they are concerned in future summers, they are, for this summer, lost. And those losses must be acknowledged and grieved and allowed to count.

I am also not being so foolhardy as to think there will not be some realities that will unfold that will create memories we'd just as soon forget.

But when I look back on nearly two decades' worth of "my favorite memory" tellings around the late-summer supper table, I see pieces of what can still be..what we'll want to have been.

Lazy naps on porch swings.
Ice cream runs. (Many.)
Picnics.
Swimming.
Family movie nights with the summer breeze blowing in open windows.
Sparklers on the lawn.
Campfires.
S'mores. (Remember: if you only eat one, it's just a "some." Don't settle for some.)
Camping (backyard or beyond).
Late-night laughter.
Late mornings.
Bike rides.
Walks.
Sunsets.
Family.
Love.

Sometime in August, God hear my prayer, my little family will gather around our kitchen table or out on our enclosed front porch with all the screened windows open (like outdoors, but without the bugs) or back at the picnic table by our barn (outdoors, with the bugs), and I'll make my annual momnouncement: "Okay, let's go around and share our favorite memories from this summer!"

And (God hear my prayer here, too), I know what my people will say: that for all they might have missed, they've hit the things they love most, again and again.

April 25, 2020

When the Show Doesn't Go On


Oh, band, orchestra, choir, theater, and dance students, we are so sorry. 

The show, they say, must go on. But for many of you—especially for the members of the class of 2020 and your families and fans—it hasn’t.

We see your instruments parked in corners, your concert black dresses and tuxes hanging in the closet, your tap shoes silent for the moment, your highlighted scripts unopened.

That solo you finally won, that coveted role you finally landed, that tricky step you finally mastered, that impossible note you finally hit...


We can understand how all these might feel stuck inside you. And we, the literal and symbolic members of an audience that would have filled a now-empty auditorium, are so sorry. Our hearts break for you. 

And yet our hearts also hope for you. They hope, because we know your life show will go on. 

It may go on on a different stage, but somewhere, somehow, you will make an entrance. You will sing your songs and play your notes and dance your dances and deliver your lines. You will take a bow, a curtain will close, and your audience will rise to its feet and applaud. 

And when we cry, "Encore! Encore!" you will reach down and play, sing, speak, and dance the strength, grace, perseverance, and determination you are tuning right this minute. You will give that encore to us. And more importantly, you will give it to yourself.

April 20, 2020

50 Things I Know For Sure After 50 Years


With gratitude, a few observations from the half-century mark...

1. When in doubt, pause, praise, and pray.

2. Encouragement is always a good idea.

3. Three of the most wonderful words in the world to be able to say are, “That’s my daughter.” (And also, based on observation if not experience, “That’s my son.”)

4. Marrying a guy you picked up in church one Sunday morning can work out beautifully.

5. There’s no fan club like the mom fan club.

6. Faith usually grows the most when a lot of other things in life are the least.

7. There’s nothing quite like a friend who really knows you and likes you anyway.

8. Lemon is one of the best flavors ever that isn’t chocolate.

9. “Hosanna!” means “save now” and is a perfect one-word prayer.

10. Some brains think better when the body they’re attached to is moving.

11. When someone pays you a compliment, they are not looking for a discussion. Just say, “Thank you.” (Yes, mama.)

12. Clothesline-dried sheets are one of the best smells in the world.

13. In a lot of life areas, my job is the input, not the outcome.

14. The goal with any habit is to get to the place where it is not something I have to decide about every time.

15. I 100% agree with Laura on Little House on the Prairie: "Home is one of the nicest words there is."

16. Life is lived in the mix of joy and sorrow, dancing and mourning, weeping and laughing, doing and stopping, clarity and confusion, having and wanting.

17. Saying “I love you” to someone in their love language—especially when it’s not your native tongue—is in itself an act of love.

18. I can’t only do what I feel like doing and I can’t always do what I feel like doing.

19. Pretty much any vegetable is even better when it’s roasted.

20. Thankfulness activates peace.

21. In general, just do the one next good thing.

22. In baking, soda spreads and powder puffs.

23. Also in baking, you can always add time, but you can’t take it away. And recommended baking times are almost always way too long.

24. If you paint a wall or a room and have to talk yourself into liking the color, you don’t like it.

25. When clothes shopping, if you don’t love it in the store, you don’t love it enough to bring it home.

26. If you clean out a closet and give something away, the odds are maddeningly high that within the next 24 hours, that something will be the thing in the world you need most.

27. Forgiveness sets someone free. Namely, you.

28. Most days, scoring anything better than zero is a win. (Thanks, sister.)

29. Grandparents are some of God’s best inventions ever.

30. When I’ve got a destructive or distracting or discouraging track on a repeat loop in my brain, I can’t just tell myself, “Don’t think about that.” I don’t have the option of turning it off; there’s always a track running. I have to replace the old track with something new and better.

31. There are people who live to run...and then there are people who only run for their lives.

32. People aren’t usually expecting you to solve their problems; they just want someone safe who will listen while they unload.

33. Weird is the new wonderful.

34. God is God of the storm before the calm.

35. Introverts do not need to be fixed, healed, brought out of their shell, converted, or encouraged to cross over.

36. Chocolate is the answer. I don’t actually need there to be a question.

37. Moms do not sleep so much as they worry in a reclining position.

38. Looking forward to something is at least half the fun of it.

39. Love is a verb, a decision, a choice.

40. A mom is the heart of her home. This is both a weighty responsibility and a wondrous opportunity.

41. One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is to simply notice each other: our happiness, our hurts, our triumphs, our struggles.

42. Five of the most encouraging words to ever hear or speak are, “You’re not the only one.”

43. The following are homeschool classes I’m qualified to teach: 1)PE for SAGs (Students Against Gym); 2)Math 4 MOMs (Mothers Opposed to Math); 3)The Art & Science of Chocolate-Chip Cookies; 4)Their, They're, & There: None Of These Things Is Like the Other; 5)Apostrophes & Why You Probably Don't Need One

44. God likes us to come to Him hungry and thirsty and poor and weak because that's the best environment for Him to show us that He is the Bread of Life, the Living Water, our Treasure, and our Strength.

45. Our struggles do not have to define us. But they can refine us.

46. When you become a mom, you become a heart donor. From that moment on, a piece of your heart goes walking around outside your body. Which is why part of a mom's heart is always where her children are.

47. Fear is fed by what we don't know. Faith is fed by who we do know.

48. There's no better sound than one of your children laughing...unless it's the sound of all your children in the same room, laughing together.

49. I will not rue getting older; instead, I will remember it is a privilege not enjoyed by everyone.

50. At the end of the day—good days, bad days, any day, everyday—I want my people to be able to say, “I felt loved today.”

April 14, 2020

It's Already Been a Long Road, But Love Will Be Longer


No one really wanted to say it out loud, but at some point, we all realized coronavirus was not going to be a quick, two-week, "let's bake cookies and play games and stay in our pajamas all day, and it will be a fun story to tell our grandchildren" deal.

Even when new cases peak and start coming down the other side and even when stay-home orders are lifted and even when businesses reopen and even when events start being scheduled with some degree of certainty they'll actually happen, we are clearly running a marathon, not a sprint here.

There will be miles of recovery stretched out ahead of us: economic and emotional and relational and mental and physical.

Maybe one of the trickiest pieces of this puzzle is that we as a society are not used to waiting for things. Ours is an instant, right-now culture. I’m guilty as charged, yelling at my computer screen while it takes my ancient desktop possibly five seconds to open a Word document.

We didn’t know how to do this in the first place, and we surely don’t know how to do it long-term. All that’s hard right now is made harder by the fact that we don’t know for certain when it’s going to get easier.

I don’t imagine I’m alone in thinking I can usually psych myself up for a challenge if I know where the finish line is. That we aren’t even sure the finish line has been chalked for this race is wearying. 

But we have, each of us, been set in our places of influence and service for such a time as this. This can be one of our finest hours. The people closest to us need to know we are not going to check out on them. They need to know they can count on us...not to be perfect, not to never break down, not to have all the answers, but to keep fighting the good fight of love with and for them.

And so, to my people, I make this pledge and pray with all my heart I keep it more than I break it.

I promise to keep giving you my best, even though some days, that best will be just a point or two better than zero.

I promise to remember that when you are frustrated and sometimes take those frustrations out on me (within reason...none of us is each other's punching bag, after all), it's because you know you can trust me to know they are not really directed at me.

I promise to keep looking for ways to soften the edges of this hard season.

I promise to not think you've gotten used to this new way of doing life just because we've been doing it this way for a while.

I promise to acknowledge that grief is part of this package, and that you can be very, very grateful you haven't gotten sick from the virus and still be very, very sad about what it has taken from you.

I promise to keep looking for creative ways to help you through this.

I promise to let you have time to yourself and not act as though you are rejecting your family.

I promise to not to try to talk you out of or rush you through your feelings just because they're uncomfortable for me.

I promise to hold firm about some routines and habits that need to stay in place for the good of your physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health.

I promise to let go of some things that don't matter in the long run.

I promise to help you look forward.

I promise to keep storming heaven every day for you and for the world you and I will eventually go back into.

And I promise that even if we're limping or crawling by that point, when the finish line finally comes into view, we'll cross it together. 

April 1, 2020

These Are the Better Than Zero Days


I was playing a game with some of the members of my extended family at my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary getaway celebration a few years ago when my baby sister had her turn. The objective of the game was to accumulate points, and on my sister’s go-around, she got a single-digit score.

“Better than zero,” she declared triumphantly...and a new approach to life was born.

"Better than zero” has become our benchmark and our scorecard and our measuring stick.

Walked for 15 minutes? Great. Better than zero.

Kid ate three carrot sticks? Fabulous. Better than zero.

Got one load of laundry washed, dried, and put away? Well done. Better than zero.

Tackled the most dreaded chore on a ten-item to-do list? Check. Better than zero.

Bought a single Christmas present ahead of the holiday shopping rush? Fa la la la la. Better than zero.

It’s not that we don’t want to do our best at the things that matter most. It's not that we're always settling for just enough. It's not that we never pursue excellence.


It’s just that sometimes, any score is a win. Sometimes, a single hash mark is a victory.

Friends, we are squarely in the better than zero days.

We are trying to figure out how to live life in a way we’ve never lived it before, with no intro course and no clear end date. This is NOT THE TIME to be trying to score 100 on very many of life's tests.

Of course, everybody has to figure out how to live this surreal existence in the way that’s best for their family and their needs and their particular situation. But we are all, in the big picture, 
trying to do some version of the same huge thing: keep our people safe and emerge on the other side of this with our closest relationships intact. Battered and bruised, maybe, but still viable.

So I'm going to go on the record and say that anything we have to let go of to hold onto that goal is a candidate for the chopping block.

Teenagers up at a time that still ends with any kind of a.m.? Better than zero.

Someone knocked out a few pages of their homework packet before they had any screen time? Better than zero.

Dinner is frozen pizza on paper plates? Better than zero.

Baked a cake and called it math class? Way better than zero.

Because here’s the thing: where doing love and showing uncommon grace to our families are concerned, right now is probably not the time to be aiming for a Scrabble word where you use all your letters including an "x" and a "q" and throw a triple-word score into the bargain.

No, when life has handed you the letter-rack equivalent of six vowels and a single one-point consonant, it's time to spell “our” and call it a resounding win.

Our faith.

Our families.
Our health.
Our relationships.
Our peace.
Our future.
Our hope.

If this ends up being our prize package, it will be so much better than zero.

It will be the best thing we've ever won.