Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Building a Sensational Summer


Summer Camp. Hot days at the lake. Dripping ice cream cones. Bike rides. S'mores. When you live in the Midwest, you may have a slight issue with idolizing summer. And who really can blame us? It's cold and nasty for so long that the 12 weeks of summer are that much more important. I tend to approach them anxiously, not wanting to be over-scheduled but also not wanting to miss out on what makes summer so special.

With this in mind, I came up with a list of summertime goals. Things I'd like to see happen on at least a weekly or biweekly basis. Something that gives the summer intention without being overly structured, giving ample time to the lazy boredom that is so necessary to spark some imaginative growth. Our bigger kids have camp and VBS, service project weeks and some other trips scheduled, so that fills things out nicely for them and also gives me a chance to focus on the little ones.

We have one car and my husband's job has a long-ish commute, making dropping him off and picking him up quite a commitment. This is the first summer I've had to work within those parameters and, to be honest, I haven't been very happy about it. When friends text to see if I can meet them at the park this afternoon, the answer is always going to be no. And that can be incredibly frustrating. While my natural inclination is to be as open and available to whatever whim comes our way, I can't operate that way this year. But with my hopes for the summer listed out, I can begin brainstorming ways to make them happen.

 This is what I came up with. What would you add?


Visit Water. This can be a pool or one of the millions of lakes we have or maybe even just a park with a good play stream or splash pad.

Visit a Park. I like parks especially with trails, usually nothing more than 2 miles. Hoping to do this after dinner during the week.

Go to the Library. I'm trying to get my kids to read for an hour a day. New material is a must.

Be creative. Tie dye. Finger paints. Messy things that can be done outside.

Play with friends. Inviting people over to play with us or meeting them out somewhere.


Have a Backyard Bonfire. I love this as much as the kids.

Go on a date. Self explanatory.

Group Kid Activity. I'd like to take small groups of my kids out. Maybe just the big girls, or the oldest two/middles on some adventures. Thinking of canoeing/paddle boating or other things that are tough with little ones around.

Visit a Museum. For us this is usually the big outdoor museum nearby, but could also work with indoor options when it is extra hot or rainy.

Invite friends over for dinner. I'm not great at this, but I want to be better and summer is as good a time as any to work on hospitality.

With a little big of intention, building a sensational summer. Living this little life to the absolute fullest and being so grateful for every moment.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Lonely Spaces

“Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” (Augustine, Confessions (Book 1)

My best friend of 21 years moved away last fall. Yesterday I was reminiscing on how I used to lay across her bed up in her room, doodling while she read aloud ghost stories. Trying out makeup and taking quizzes in "Seventeen" magazine. How we'd shoot baskets in her back yard, or sing made up harmony on the front porch in the sunshine. I drive past her childhood home every day, just a block past where I'm raising my family. And although it is painted differently now and she hasn't lived here in over a decade, I miss her.

She moved last fall, not just an hour or two away, something attainable for a weekend trip. No, she moved across the country. At the time I was so intent on giving her all the support that she needed that I pushed my own grief down, deep. I'm not sure I realized how far down it went until recently. Summertime feels so empty without her. 

Yesterday some friends and I spent the day at the lake with just a few nursing babies, loving on another one of my closest friends who will be moving to another state in two weeks. Good things for her family. Important next steps. After she dropped me off and drove away in the dusk, I turned inward and that familiar ache began again.

I'm not sure the human heart ever shakes a certain type of loneliness. You can marry your soul mate. You can live next door to your best friend. You can have thousands of friends or just a tight knit circle - and you can still feel like the only one. Still have those moments of pain and sorrow that is hard to put a finger on. An important puzzle piece will always be missing. For humans who were created to walk with God through a garden, that yawning hole of ache is the rule, not the exception.

As with any grief, there is no timeline for this. No expiration date on when you're supposed to be "over it." Grief is as complicated and unique as the people experiencing it. Personalities, love languages, past hurts and current circumstances all wrapped up in it. My attempts at moving forward before I'm ready have backfired, leaving me more disillusioned and lonely than before. It is something that can make other people uncomfortable, even the most well meaning trying to hustle you past it to a place that feels easier for everyone. But ease is the enemy of change. And during these hard transitions, change is the hope that keeps me limping on.

Because that is just it. I know with a surety that I know little else in this life, that there is redemption at work here. That hard paths are made a bit easier when you know that so much can grow from walking it. I'm looking for the things God has for me here, in this space that is so uncomfortable for me. Looking for the ways He wants to use my time, my heart, my life within these circumstances. When I look back at all the tough things I have encountered in my life, I can see the over arching theme of redemption held right alongside.  In ways small and large and in between, He is always faithful to use it all for good. I absolutely trust that.

So I wake up on another Monday in this place with these kids and name the hurt. Ugh. I miss you. And then, grief acknowledged, I open wide my arms and my heart, ready to embrace what is growing in this place. Just another space He is calling me to abide in Him this year.

I know, for sure, it's going to be good.

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Life Long Delight

Proverbs 8:30
...And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 

Rejoicing in the world, His earth...

I'm teaching myself how to charcoal grill. In my typical style, learning by doing - and by making plenty of mistakes.

As a kid, I was reluctant to try things I had zero experience with. If a group was playing soccer, I'd sit out rather than make an idiot of myself. On a date to play pool, I declined to participate rather than learn how. I never liked how that made me feel, but the alternative of appearing ridiculous felt much, much worse.

I'm so glad I'm over that.

In some ways, my 30's feel like the most free I have ever been. I'm in a place of being pretty comfortable with myself in most ways. Getting beyond self consciousness because who has time for that? Of course I still have some of that nervous kid inside. I prefer to make my mistakes in private, which I think is pretty typical, but I'm past living in fear of them.

So, I'm figuring it out. Not only is it something I've never tried before, but it is something my Mom never did. It was always my Dad's thing and I think I had some sort of unspoken expectation that it would be my husband's thing as well. A "Man Job." There's a special thrill to stepping beyond your own preconceived notions and forging new ways of doing things. I kind of love standing over a hot grill with my baby wrapped up on my back, sipping some ice cold wine, making this my own. It's stretching me. Delighting me.

Maybe that's it? My own brand of thrill-seeking is learning. Looking at something from all angles and thinking "yeah, I could do that. Let me try." At 32 years old, still finding things about this world that delight me. It's in these normal moments that I feel closest to God. Where I feel the joy of what this gift of life is really all about. Living other-centered, sacrificial lives isn't about eschewing delight. I need to remember that.

Created to create, delighted to delight, enjoyed embracing joy. This is how God loves us.

Reaching arms out wide to embrace all of it I can, as long as I can. Fearlessly.

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