Thursday, March 31, 2011

band auditions

My beautiful friend Lindsey Burken is my music muse or musical sugar mama so to speak. Because of her, I have discovered great new music and bands. She takes me to fun concerts or makes me entertaining mixed CD's. I love how she feeds this great love of mine. Tonight she took me to a concert at the Varsity in Mpls. What I was reminded of was how much music fills me. It makes me feel alive. I feel full of energy and fun. I come away feeling refreshed and renewed. I love music. My secret dream was always to be in a band. I would be good in a band I think. I mean, I wouldn't really be there for talent, unless you like the rawness and real voice vs. a trained and skilled and talented voice. I would be there for stage presence. I could rock the front girl routine. I can belt it out, I can dance, a bit, but I can absolutely dress the part and play the part. I would make a great front girl, I think. I want to be in a band. Anyone auditioning? I don't really write music. I don't play an instrument. I'm not really into heavy metal screaming music. (I'm not angry enough for that) And I don't have a lot of free time for practice. But I could totally be your bands front person personality. If you're interested, let me know. I could rock it, I think.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

one moment

We all have moments in our day that can make it or break it. I'm not talking about life altering moments, but something more like, a co-worker disrespecting you, a crabby person at the grocery store, someone who surprises you with flowers. Our days are filled with moments. Moments that feed other moments. We had a rough morning, and what is looking like might be a tough afternoon. This isn't the time to share all of that, but you can know, we have had multiple hard moments today. There was also this long stretch of moments this afternoon during nap time where all the kids were quiet. They were all quiet for 30 minutes. Usually when I have rough moments I eat. I choose not to do that today. I choose better for myself. I choose to wash my floors. Its stunning outside. The sun is shinning, its not to cold nor to hot to have windows open, so I flung mine open and pulled open all of my shades and blinds to let as much sunshine flood over us. I love the smell of sunshine and floor cleaner and incense. Its my near perfect trifecta. I turned my music on. No one needed me. It was quiet and smelled amazing in my house. I was choosing good things for myself and for my family. It was an amazing 30 minutes. Now, for the rest of my day, I can't say that. However, I can choose to let the toughness fill me, which will probably lead to exhaustion, and anger, and weariness. Or I can choose to pull from the thing that brought me life, my wonderful 30 minutes. Everyday we have a choice. What are we going to choose to hold on to? Will we hold on to the thing that tears us down? Saps of us of life? Turns our heart towards anger and hate? Or will we choose to hold onto the things that bring life back into us? Those life giving moments do exist in every day, we just need eyes to see them, and hearts to remember them. The things that tear us down are the things that God wants most, which is perfect really, because then we can let them go. The one who knows how to handle it, can handle it. Our hands need to be full of the things that bring life back into us. So, I speak to myself mostly when I say, remember to hold onto the things that bring life, and let go of the things that take life. We all have a choice of what we hold in our hands and hearts.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Time for life

For six weeks my family ventured into a whirlwind of activities, travel, business and vacation time. With all of our adventure we made it a point that when at home, we were strictly at home. Spending time the kids, maintaining a glimpse of life, doing dates with my hubby, family activities. Even with all of our good intentions, the aftermath has been a storm that seems to have sunken us. I haven't written much in the last few weeks because I have been struggling so much. I am pretty sure my mom thinks I need to be medicated. I have cried on the phone almost every day with her trying to make sense of our life, figure out our finances, take care of our house, remove myself from my kids behavior and at the same time figure out how to love them and discipline, and encourage and correct them. I am tired. I am so tired. When we came home from our last leg of our six weeks adventure, I really had quite the pile of bills and life items that needed my attention. My husband and I also agreed that we need to make a stronger effort to be people who are honorable with the money we are given. We are tackling that issue amongst all the others. I couldn't find our house under all the suitcases, winter gear, laundry, to do piles, dishes, and dust. I felt overwhelmed so I ate. I ate whatever I wanted to make myself feel better, and in the end my pants are tight again. I never feel good when I eat for no reason and then am too exhausted to work out. I can't blame my weight on my baby, because I lost it all already. I purely just put it back on. I eat when I'm tired, and overwhelmed, and so that has added to my sinking feeling. So I dove right in. I have clip boards and folders organizing our life. I have cleaned all the winter gear, washed floors, dusted, switched out clothes, did a bunch of those five minutes projects that take two years to do, my house is cleaner that has been in a year. It sounds impressive, but in the midst of that, I have forgotten to spend good intentional time with my kids. They have been struggling with anger, fighting, selfishness, whining, complaining, disobedience, tempers, testing boundaries. You name it, we are dealing it with right now. So my energies have gone to trying to find our life. Doing our life better. Teaching, correcting our children and trying to love them when I don't like them very much right now. I have gone so far as to question if my traveling is worth it. If this is what happens, than it can't be worth it for my kids to get the worst of me and watch them struggle this much. Then my husband and I had our weekly meeting on Sunday night. We prayed together, and I was again reminded of the power of prayer, especially with your partner and spouse. I cried a lot. I confessed a lot of my insecurity as a parent and a spouse. I continued on my own later that night and the next morning. I was reminded of God's grace for us. I was reminded that his mercies are new everyday. I was reminded to let go of my guilt and trust that God can heal me and my kids. I also realized that its not as black and white as leaving my job for my kids. It does however deal with my response to it. When returning home, I can remind myself earlier to spend quality time with my kids. To give them the attention they don't need to act out to get. I can take intentional time with the Lord in the mornings to prepare for the day of struggles. I might yell a little less. It might not change my kids behavior, but it will change how I treat them and either build them up or tear them down and destroy their faith in me. In seeing what has failed this time, I can learn and do better next time. I haven't written much because I haven't felt like I have had anything to offer. I felt so empty and I basically just didn't want to complain. Life has felt overwhelming and I get that it happens. I don't want to hide that, but I was struggling to find good things in my days, even though they were there. But the other thing I realized as I started to bring people back into my life, is that sharing life with people is also what its about. Sharing our hearts, joys and struggles is where love and life and God is. So, I will be blogging more again. I can't promise that they will have insight or strength or a purpose, but I want to share life with you. To bring love, life, and God into all the pieces of who we are.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mika oh no!

So, we love music in this house. Love it! I wish I had more time to explore new music, but maybe some day in the future. This does not however keep us from enjoying the music we do have. Music is almost always playing in our house.

Currently there are two things happening here. One, Caleb can only remember the lines, "If I had a million dollars, I would buy you a dress, but not a real green dress that's cruel" from BNL.

All I think is, "Really? That's what you remember?" Over, and over, and over, and over.

Second, my eldest really can't dance. I'm a little afraid for him, truly. We have some important people getting married in our lives in the next couple months and this truth will soon be universally known. Mika has been played non-stop on the kitchen CD player for the past three days. This is dance party central while I cook, so I get an up close and personal look at my son. Its sometimes entertaining, sometimes horrifying, and always a shade embarrassing. I mean this kid has no self conscious at all. He is completely content in his body and loves expressing himself. It's kind of like an animal with all the flapping of the arms, the stomping, the facial expression and grunts. Oh yes, I said grunts. I love that about him, but I wonder, can I handle being the mom of the kid who just embarrass himself on the dance floor.

Now if he asks me, I tell him, express yourself! It shouldn't matter what anybody else thinks. You are having fun, that's all that matters. Dancing is moving your body and that's what you are doing.


Secretly, I think, Oh man, someone please teach my kid how to dance or tell him to stop. Just get him to stop! I've tried. It's not working.

I hope I can graduate to really believing what I tell him. I want to love him through this.

And yes, he will probably end up on YouTube soon. I'll let you know when that happens.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's just the way it is

I had my three kids dressed for the snow. I had lunch for everyone ready. Diapers, wipes, toys, files, receipts, mileage, W2's, was I forgetting anything? Probably.

My kids were outside and getting in the car. I actually looked at myself in the mirror before going outside and said, "You can do this. The past few days have been rough, but you can do this. You will survive one way or another." I know, a little motivational pep talk before going to my tax appointment during lunch time with my kids. Whew. I was kind of asking for it.

I'm wearing my rain boots because I just packed my snow boots away yesterday. I cleaned. The boots are gone, and I'm not bringing them back out. So there I am with my rubbers on and after asking my son three times to get in the car and stop playing in the snow I got upset. My voice got louder to demonstrate that I wasn't wasting time and space just uttering words, but that I actually needed him to get in the car and buckle in. I wanted to leave at 1030. It was 1050. We were off to a great start.

So after talking through things with Noah, it sounded kind of like (Noah how do we both have success? How can I get you to listen, and how do I stop getting upset?) It ended with Noah saying he was tired of being a kid and having to listen, and I told him to just wait till he got a boss.

Then the Low Fuel light came on. 20 min late and the low fuel came on. Then Lu started to cry. It was a wail yet, just a dull, I'm mad at you, you aren't giving me what I need kind of cries. We venture in the snow, everyone is going slow, the baby is crying and Caleb asks questions that Conan would do a comedy sketch of. You know those kids who just look around to fuel the ques ions? That's my kid.

Mom, why's that tree all green?
Is it leaves or needles?
Its like Christmas right?
Is Nana and papa going to help us cut down our Christmas tree?
Boat Nana and boat papa right?
Do they live in Texas?
Where's MI?
I want a boat. When we get more money can we have a boat?
Why is that person walking? Don't they have a car?
Is that a school bus?
Why's it yellow?
Mom, Why"s Lu crying?

It's constant. And it may be entertaining to you, but its not anymore to me. I'm a talker. I do it for a living. I married a talker. A man who loves to tell stories. We should have known better. We naturally made more talkers, but then we also discuss everything with our kids, so we now nurture the nature of talking in our kids. Oh dear Lord help me.

I did answer Caleb's question about Lu crying, telling him that Lu needed me and I couldn't give her what she needed right now. The boys then took the next five minutes to discuss my lack of parenting. No she's crying because mom isn't feeding her. No she stinks and mom isn't changing her. I think she just wants mom to hold her and she's too busy. Wow. I feel like a stellar mom now. Thanks boys for that rundown.

And yes if you were wondering, I'm slightly slipping on the roads, checking directions, the baby is still crying and Caleb is still asking questions.

Once on the highway, a car next to us changes lanes and kicks up a HUGE amount of snow/slush onto our windshield. HUGE. Like, I can't see for 6 seconds because there is so much snow on my front window. The crashing of it sounded like a door slamming. I panicked and switched the wipers off instead of on high. It was an intense 6 seconds. This little episode, no matter how lightly I played it off, terrified my oldest. He is now whimpering to my daughters crying next to my son's questions about snow/slush, how the snow did that, where's the car, what color is it, etc. Oh dear Lord help me.

I'm starting to get nervous about the gas, and 20 miles later, we get the gas station. It was an exhilarating gas stop. I got violated by the storm. The storm whipped my shirt up, snow went down my pants and down the front of my shirt. My hair got stuck in the door, and I slipped in the snow. I was able however to get a bottle to Lu to help her calm down. No more crying. Oh dear Lord help me.

After one wrong turn and 75 questions later, we arrived. I told the kids the plan. Bathroom stop, lunch when we get to the office and if you behave, ice cream when we're done. The boys go to their bathroom, I lay Lu down on a cold tile floor to change her diaper. She totally gave me the look of "What am I doing down here?" Then we head upstairs.

We have pita and hummus, we take out all the toys, Lu takes all the books off the shelves, Caleb gets cheese stuck to his pants, hummus in his hair, Lu dumps water all over herself, Noah falls down just standing there (I'm just not sure how he does that), and all the contents of my purse get dumped out. It went alright. We were there for an hour, after the first five minutes Noah wanted to know if we were done. We got everything picked up. The boys got suckers when we left, and I told them they didn't burn the building down so we would get ice cream.

Noah fell asleep in the car, I made another three wrong turns and we made it to McDonald's. Not really thrilled that I promised ice cream, good behavior should be expected not always rewarded, but they really weren't bad. They sat and played and accidents happened. We got ice cream, and headed home.

Nap time happened in the car, so no peace and quiet in this house today. Hmmm...I'm tired. But I don't think we owe anything on our taxes, so today was a success. Now I just need to decide if I want to take the three kids out again in 6in of snow to go to church by myself. Maybe I'm addicted to high maintenance. Most men would agree.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A little voice of truth

You know what's not so fun? Getting pulled over.

You know what's less fun? Getting pulled over with kids in the car.

A few months back, as the kids and I were jamming out to some fun music in the car, I didn't realize how fast I was going. Now, we had just gotten a new car that seems impossible NOT to speed in. It's a sweet fast truck, but I was too busy seat dancing with my kids to pay attention to the speed. And in the end, I didn't need to, because the police officer was doing it for me.

So there I am with my kids and I get a ticket. They decide that the officer is being mean to me giving me a ticket, where then I had to explain that I wasn't following the rules. This was my consequence. Yes kids, even adults get them.

Did I mention this was months ago? Well since then, every time the kids and I are jamming out to music in the car, I can count on my son to ask me if I am I am speeding. I can count on that like I can count on the sun rising. "Mommy, I know we are having fun. Are you speeding? Are you going the speed limit?"

I'll be honest, it was funny the first time. Yea, yea, yea, I got a ticket, I deserve that. Now though, it's a lot less funny. I have started to get annoyed that I have this little voice calling me back to be responsible. Reminding me of what I did wrong. Holding me accountable to not do it again. Every time the music is loud doesn't mean I'm speeding!

Then it got me thinking. Isn't that what we are to be for each other as the body of Christ? We are to help one another. Support one another in making better choices. Hold each other accountable. Because when we sin, we are likely to create habits out of it. It reveals to us what our weakness is. Which in turn, means we will struggle with it again later. The sin has weakened us, and thus we need help. We don't always like the correction. OK who ever really likes it? But it is necessary.

Truthfully, I need the voice of reason to call me back from speeding. Why? Because most of the time I am. Just ask my dad, I got my lead foot from him.

So instead of being annoyed at my kid for calling me out in my sin and struggle, I need to rejoice that I have a voice of truth strengthening me to do what's right.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I wonder

Most of the time I don't like how closed in I feel in my life. I wonder about other people around the world. I wonder what their lives are like. I wonder if they have somewhere to sleep. I wonder where people find comfort when their heart is broken or spirit broken, or their lives are broken. I currently wonder about all the people living in tents in Haiti. I wonder about about all the people who have no where to sleep in Japan. I wonder about all the villages I've never heard of around the world. I wonder about my neighbor who I don't really know.

I wonder what kind of difference I can make when the world seems so big. Do I become more understanding and full of grace the more people and cultures I encounter? Is my heart more capable of receiving others with the more cultures it understands? Can I really love all people, aka my neighbor, if I don't know them, understand them, or invest in them? How can I do those things, invest in these people, know what they are about if the daily needs of my self, my family and close friends take up all of my time? How can I love more, and my heart desperately wants to, when I feel I have no time or energy or space left?

I wonder.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

At the heart of it

Some days are just hard. Some weeks can be trying. I currently find myself in that perfect storm of big life questions and mundane daily tasks.

Today seemed especially off for me. It didn’t even feel like I was down. I really just felt that I was missing. I was a shell of myself today. There is a lot on my mind and the to do list fills a notebook. There are some mountains that seem possible to climb. Today, I stayed at the bottom and just gazed up.

As I write this I understand that hundreds of thousands of people have real trouble and problems they are facing. Where to sleep, what to eat, how to find loved ones, where can they find clean water, looking for jobs, trying to pay bills, fight disease. I fully comprehend that my bad day in no way compares. However, this is my world. This is my life, and it felt overwhelming to me today. Overwhelming in a way that paralyzed me and kept me from making any progress in my life.

I couldn’t get out of my head today. Questions just kept swirling around. Then after behaving in a way that is intolerable, the guilt would set in. I choose almost everything over my kids today. I understand that all parents have bad days. Whole days where they are not who their kids need to them to be. That was me. All day today. I don’t say this out loud to debate the issue. You weren’t here. I was.

[My kids are really ungrateful lately, I must not be teaching thankfulness. Most of the time we as humans don’t learn by study, but by example. My children aren’t learning thankfulness from me. They are whining. Am I whining a lot? How do I get my kids to see God in their every day life? Why won’t they share? How do I get them to think of other peoples needs before their own? Should they get a consequence for not shutting the door for the 100th time today? Did I give them vegetables to eat today? How can I help make more money for our family? I haven’t emailed important information to people, I am letting them down. I hate that I just yelled at my kid for no reason because I’m cranky. How are they going to understand God’s love when I’m not showing them/teaching them/exampling it to them? I have to pay the bills, the bathroom is a disaster, the lack of cleaning is out of hand, etc, etc, etc.]

These and other things were continually rumbling around in my brain and heart today. I struggled a lot with my parenting, how I live my life, the balance of work and family and friends. I fought a lot against nature vs. nurture taking much of my children’s behavior as my fault. I struggled all day with my virtue as a person and my reflection as a Christian.

So, I just laid down on my bedroom floor. I wasn’t doing anything. Just laying there. I didn’t know what else to do. I had exhausted my chocolate intake and I had secretly watched two movies on my laptop today pretending to work. My soul felt missing today, so I laid down.

Then my 10 month old daughter came into the room. She came in, bent over and gave me a kiss. She then gave me her legendary little love bonk on the head. After loving me in this way, she knelt down and laid her head on my chest saying, “mamammamama”. She would look up and give me a kiss and then hug once again. My oldest saw the attention I was getting and wanted to get in on the party. He also then came in, laid down right beside me and proceeded to hug and kiss me. It was kind of a lovefest.

Go back with me one evening where I challenged my middle son to think about where he saw God working that day. I realize I don’t often ask that question even to myself and now I am requiring him to think about it. In doing so, I force myself to open my own eyes and see where God is in my day.

My children came to me where I was at today. Lying on the floor like a crazy person. I had given up and just laid down. They came to me and showed me love. Unconditional. I surly didn’t deserve it today, and yet they showed me love.

Little by little my soul started to feel alive again.

This moment with my children allowed me to see God still with me even when I am a shell of a person. It also reminded me that the celebration of Easter is right around the corner. God meeting us where we are at, and covering us with his love.

Tomorrow is going to be a better day. God is already there, and he has already forgiven me for today. So have my children.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why does this happen?

The Livesay family are full time missionaries in Haiti. After the earthquake in Haiti, they posted this comment from a pier of theirs, Corrigan. I thought it was perfect to repost after this weekend and all the tragedies that have happened.

(If you are interested in a really great blog, you should read theirs,

Active participation:
God did this or allowed THIS for some reason

Passive Permittance:
God didn't have anything to do with THIS, but didn't care to stop it.

Active but ineffective Resistance:
God actively opposed THIS, but was not victorious in his opposition.

There is no "THIS":
God had a mixture of actions & responses to a whole bunch of things with great complexity.
A near infinite number of things happened on Jan 12, not just one earthquake with the same impact on everybody. Lots of peoples' stories came to very different transition points, plot twists and turns, and sometimes, tragic conclusions. There were things that happened that were just, there were things that were unjust, there were supernatural forces and natural ones, there were things that God wanted to happen and things that were not His desire, but part of an unfinished spiritual war. There was grief and redemption all in a swirl, because this is not yet the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. There were plates shifting and prayers answered and there was evil. The only reason we look for ONE particular answer for it all is that it was ONE shared experience. But our stories aren't truly all the same... they just intersected. So finding ONE reason or one reason NOT to talk about reasons is just not whole enough of a response. God acted, resisted, allowed, rejoiced, grieved, and withheld in response to a million different things on Jan 12, like He does everyday, only I imagine this day he grieved much more.

(Corrigan Clay)

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's not OK.

I was asked recently about my trip to Haiti last month. Sometimes it's hard to answer this question. What makes it even more difficult is how long I've been going to Haiti. My reactions to things aren't the same as they were on my first and second trip. I try to see the immediate need, but look at how to make a difference in the bigger picture.

When answering this question about my trip, this one moment stood out to me the most. I was walking into our guesthouse which is located on the second floor of our friends home. The home was reorganized to be an orphanage for handicap children a couple years back. After the earthquake, the children and workers were to scared to live upstairs, so all 29 of them moved downstairs to sleep. There isn't enough space for the beds, so many of the children sleep on a mattress on the floor. But there isn't even enough room for each of the children to have their own mattress, so two to three children sleep on one mattress on the floor.

No sheets.

No pillow.

No space.

No blanket. (not that they really want one of those.)

The kids sleep on each other. Limbs hang off the mattresses, in some cases just the child's head is on the mattress, because the rest of it is taken up by other children. To get upstairs where we sleep you have to carefully tip toe around all the bodies on the floor. The first time I did this, my heart sank for these sweet little people. Bodies that already struggle with disability and pain, now aren't receiving the proper rest they need because they sleep half their body on concrete and the half on a shallow, thin mattress.

I looked at the person behind me and commented on how sad this situation was. Their response was, "At least is something. It's better than nothing." and continued on.

Its better than nothing.

Those that had no mattress before we would be very thankful for one.
Those who had no meal, would be grateful for leftovers.
Those who had no clothes would probably accept shoes with holes.
Those who have no house would accept a tarp with sticks.
Those who have no drink would accept contaminated water.

Yes, in most cases, something is better than nothing. The one receiving the gift is generally very grateful. They praise God for looking out for them, for providing for their very basic needs. Gifts are received with a grateful heart and all honor given to God. However, just because they are thankful, and it is more than they had before, that should not be the standard of acceptance for those of us who have more.

All I kept thinking was, if its not OK for me, than its not OK for them. It's NOT OK to drink contaminated water. It's NOT OK to eat dirt pie. It's NOT OK to not have enough food and nutrition. It's NOT OK to not have a chance of school and a future. It's NOT OK to be sleeping on the floor night after night after night when your body is broken and needs rest.

I want to be clear. When I am I speaking of standards of living I do not mean a cushy bed and 300 thread count sheets, a house in burbs, a closet full of clothes, even a car. We can and in most cases should live with a lot less. I am speaking purely of good and decent human needs being met. Food, basic clothing, clean water, an education, a roof over your head to protect against the elements, a faith family and community that can help you, and people to love.

As the people who have more opportunity and resources, what right do we have to say, "At least its something?" That communicates to me, that we have done enough. We don't have to be affected by this. We don't have to invest and let their stories in. I can't be affected by this. I can't see it for what it is; injustice against humanity. If I see it for what it really is then my eyes will be open and I'll have to do something about it. If I can see how wrong it really is, than my lifestyle and choices will be questioned. I will have to decide if it is OK for me to live my life and have others live in injustice.

Huh. At least its better than nothing. I don't believe that kind of attitude will bring hope and love and change to the systems that keep some in poverty. I hope as people of resources we can strive for much more. We can respect our fellow man kind by dreaming bigger for them. Working for more for them, and not settling for less.

If it's not OK for you, it's not OK for them.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A day at the airport

I’m not sure what happened to you yesterday, but this is what happened to me.

I was awake at 5am, my mind racing about the last minute things I needed to do before I took all of our luggage and my three kids to the airport. So I got up, showered, blogged and then discovered that all my kids were also up. 545am and all three were up, I’m assuming just as excited and sad to leave. Well, the rule is you have to stay in bed till 7am, hoping they would fall back asleep. This trick didn’t work. It never does, and yet I am persistent in trying. I grew a little more anxious as I know what it means to take three kids on a plane by myself, but now I’m going to do it with three tired kids, right at nap time. Awesome.

My chest started to tighten. Then one of my children decided he was either mad at me, sad about leaving, too excited to go home, I’m not sure, but he soaked himself and the bed. Covered, yes in pee. Now I needed to add laundry to my list before leaving for the airport. We had a little chat. Changed him into his travel clothes and made him lay back down (on a clean bed of course). Now I needed to add persistent disobedience and anger to my list of tired.

My chest really started to feel heavy and anxious. 7am rolled around, we got up, everyone got changed, ate breakfast, packed toys, packed a lunch, everyone was ready by 904am when we said we would leave at 9am. OK, we are ready and then I forgot Lu’s food, went back. Then I forgot their water bottles, went back. This was not proving to be a good omen if I believed in that sort of thing, but I was nervous.

We were now on the road, headed to the airport. When we get there, we curbside checked our three large suitcases, and this is when the weight of one of my decisions really hits me. I look at all of our carry on luggage. All of it is legal because my kids each get two items with their seat, but one of each of their pieces really belonged to me, and therefore I needed to carry it. I clearly had chewed off more than I could chew at this point. Holy cow, how was I going to do this? Let’s see, these were the words that came out of my mouth more than 12 times between the check in counter and the security line, “Caleb keep up, you need to walk faster, Noah when you push the stroller you have to look where you are going, (after he ran into three people, oh man.) Lu use a quieter voice, Caleb pick up your blanket so it doesn’t drag on the floor, Lu you will eat soon.”

The security line is where I do my best work. The kids and I have a family meeting on travel days. We discuss what is expected and how we need to work as a team. Then we say a prayer. That people will have compassion on us, and God would help me in every sense of the word. So at the security line, the kids know what to do. They each get their own bin, they do their double check, they get me bins to put Lu’s and my stuff in and it works. I was surrounded by business on their way to special meetings and all in a hurry. Then there was me with 9 bins and a stroller. Oh yeah, you heard me, 9 bins. I told you I over did it. I think the comment from one of the men standing around was, “Wow, if she can do that, she can manage my whole department.” That’s right. Mom’s don’t get enough credit for all the managing they do. This nice man Bob helped get all our stuff through, load up the stroller and gave me a look that said, I’ve been there. I’m sorry.

We survived, and my father-in-law was there to help us all the way to the jet way. He was a huge gift. We were the first on the plane which was great since I TOTALLY over packed and needed the space and time to get situated. We had two hours to kill on the plane, and this is how we did it.

The take off is exciting and so we each get a piece of candy to suck on so our ears don’t plug. We unwrap it and do a count down till the plane starts moving. Lu is mad because she doesn’t have one, so she gets goldfish. Once up in the air, we have our sandwiches. This kills another 10 min. After sandwiches are eaten, Lu needs a diaper change, so all three of us, get up and go the bathroom to change the baby. Oh yea, you wonder how one maybe two people fit in those bathrooms? Try four! We had a lot of love going on in that bathroom, that was until the flush button got pushed and then they all freaked. Pretty sure people thought I lost a kid in there. That was another 10 min. I killed some time letting them look at themselves in the mirror. Anything to not have to go back to the seats where Lu is squirmy and wants to eat and kiss everything.

We did three bathroom trips, cause apparently not everyone has to go at the same time. They brought drinks, we played with the straws. Our favorite right now is when we blow through the straw into Lu’s face. She giggles and we laugh. She started to make the blowing face and it was super cute. The boys were playing with their toys and they just don’t possess the ability to be quiet. Now everyone knows Star Wars and Batman characters. They also know all about the Care bears because my boys remember that the Care Bears live in the sky, so they start saying hi to them all and discussing what they are doing that day. Don’t judge, boys can like Care Bears. Caleb also said really loud, “Mommy look we are in Jesus’ sky! We are above the clouds and this is where Jesus lives!”

Lu was super tired but she couldn’t go to sleep, so every time she would start to fuss and cry, I shoved food in her mouth. She pretty much ate for two hours straight. I don’t care if you judge me for my parenting or what I will do to my daughter in her subconscious, but when on a plane, do whatever you can to keep the peace. During this trip she has also decided that she doesn’t want to use her hands. She puts her face in her food at eats like an animal. She also at one point had her foot in her goldfish bowl and was trying to pick up her snack with her toes. Weird right? It’s so ridiculous. The other thing that would shut my daughter up is that fact that when she would start to cry, it would make the baby sitting next to us start to cry. Once she heard them cry, she would stop and then just stare at the other baby. Pretty sure that parent is my best friend now. Lu cries, makes other baby cry, Lu stops and awkwardly stares at baby for making such a fuss. This happened on at least 4 occasions. At one point, I just let Lu hang out on the floor. She found an orange and I just let her gnaw on it. Is that bad? Is the rind of an orange really bad for you? Not sure if she got anything off it that was significant, but it definitely had some chew marks. While she started to cry during our decent, I would sing “All the single ladies” to her and she would immediately stop. She looked a little bipolar. She is so weird.

Once they made the announcement that plane was starting to come in for a landing, we were back to the excitement of playing eye spy and seeing all the tiny houses and cars. At that point, Caleb turns around to me and shouts in his loud Waller voice, “MOM I CAN’T HEAR! MY EARS DON’T WORK, I CAN’T HEAR!” Pretty sure everyone heard that.

Whew, I feel like I ran a marathon. Except now the huge long hallway looms before me and my father-in-law is not here to help. I have all this luggage and my three tired and cranky kids I need to get downstairs to our waiting car. I can feel my shoulders aching and tensing as I carry all of the luggage that I decided was so important that I bring. Caleb is slowing down more and more with every step until he decides he doesn’t want to walk anymore. His blanket is too heavy. I almost lost it right there. It almost went in the garbage. I told him he wasn’t helping the team. We needed to go forward and we couldn’t do it without him. He needed to do his part. He said no. We had a chat. He got up, and continued forward.

Up at 5am, I arrived home with all luggage and still three kids at 2pm. Lu went right to sleep, the kids played with toys they had missed for two weeks, and I unpacked. We made it. We survived. I knew at the beginning of our day whether good or bad, it would be over by 2 and then it was. The kids weren’t bad necessarily, just kids. Full of energy, wonder, excitement, a thirst of knowledge for what all things do and what happens when you push certain buttons. They were sad to leave, excited to go home and didn’t want to take the process you have to take to get home, but we made it.

Yesterday was a day where I realized the full weight of traveling with three kids. Oh, and all the fun luggage I wanted to bring. What was it you want to know? Nana’s childhood books, a heritage teddy bear made by Nana and quilted by her great-great-grandmother, a video camera, a large indent on my jewelry collection, each kid with a new toy and stuffed animal, and all of dad’s action figures. I’m a sucker for hand me downs, especially when they come from generations before us. You should see these books, they are awesome.

Man, I’m tired just recounting the day yesterday.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Back to Reality

I understand the importance of vacation, but never as much as when I am leaving one. It's amazing what days away from reality and normal life can do for your attitude, mental and physical health, and all over well being.

It's hard to convince Americans that vacations are critical to your health. The evidence is the serious lack of vacation time most working Americans get, including my husband. I think many European countries are much better at understanding the concept and putting it into practice.

This vacation has been wonderful. There are so many fun things to write about, but the experience that stands out the most to me as I reflect on it is relationships. It was full of deepening relationships, with my husbands family and also with my kids. See on vacation, I don't have to pay bills, clean the house, return phone calls, deal with assistance programs, work, cook, clean (yeah its on there twice), do taxes, deal with normal every day life stuff. I can enjoy my family. Focus on people. Play more than I do at home, take longer eating and enjoy the food, have a glass of wine with great conversation after the kids are in bed. I can spend my time deepening my relationships.

Yesterday I was sad because I realize I won't have all this time to play with my kids once we are home. In life, there are things that have to get done. That's reality. However, vacation also serves as a great reminder that even in everyday living, I need to prioritize my life and spend my time on the things that are most important, like my children. Cleaning shouldn't be on my list twice. Vacation possess the wonderful ability to reveal to you what's most important.

As much as I love vacation, the fun adventures, the extra eating out, all the hang out time, the help with the kids, I start to miss the rhythm of our life. I've opened my Bible once for reading. My kids and I were good at the start of vacation about our devotions, and then we got lazy. Our normal rules have slipped, because you know, we are on vacation. I've put a few pounds back on because you know, we are on vacation. Its been a fun break from our normal rhythms, but I'm starting to feel disconnected to myself. I haven't spent any time centering myself, grounding myself in faith, giving myself again every day to God. Not doing that on vacation has taught me how much I depend on God to get me through every day. I have missed that on vacation.

(sigh)...I am going to miss my Texas family. I selfishly wish life looked a little different. That we lived closer or vise versa. That all of our family wasn't so far away. That we could do more normal life together instead of just vacation. I am going to miss the sunshine, but my kids are excited again to play in the snow.

And for all that I am going to miss, I can not wait to see my husband. I haven't felt whole in two weeks. My kids and I are all sad to leave and excited to go home at the same time. Its hard to have mixed emotions, which means three tired kids who are emotionally confused should make us really fun to sit next too on the plane. Hope you're not going to MN today on AA at 1030am. That cranky lady who just yelled at her kids isn't me. I promise. I never yell at my kids. *wink*

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A little boy who changed my life

I just spent the weekend at a Youth Conference in Dallas Texas. It currently is the highlight of my speaking events this year. There are many stories to share, too many to even begin, so I want to share just this one.

I met Matthew on Saturday. He's 12 and in the sixth grade. I could tell instantly that Matthew is a kid that hangs on his own. He doesn't run with a crowd. He likes doing his own thing and is completely confident in that. I have a lot of admiration for a kid his age to be comfortable in his own skin and not succumb to peer pressure of fitting in.

Matthew came to see me to tell me about the little girl he is sponsoring through Compassion Int. (Compassion had a table set up right next to mine this weekend.) He was so excited to find this little girl who is five years old, lives in a small village in Africa and has a birthday only five days from his. He told me he wanted to sponsor her because she loves going to her church and playing games and helping wherever she can. He thought it was amazing that a five year old wanted to spend so much time helping out at church and Matthew decided he wanted to encourage her in her faith. So at 12yrs old, Matthew on his own, is going to save his allowance, do extra chores to earn more money so that he can encourage this little five year old in her faith. He wants her to grow up and know how much Jesus loves her.

I fell in love with Matthew at that moment. I could see the kindness in his eyes and the bigness of his heart. I told him I have met a bunch of sponsored kids through Compassion and he was so interested in knowing what their school is like, what kind of food do they get, does their family get help? He had all sorts of adult questions about how much help this little girl was going to get with his money. He wanted to make sure that she was going to be able to read, because you see, Matthew LOVES to read! So we started to talk about books and what books he was reading right now and what he loves to read. Matthew loves to read anything, but right now he is reading "How to care for Toddlers." "You're reading what?" was my response.

The story gets better, and yes its real. Matthew doesn't know where his father is. He lives with his mother, his two sisters and six cousins all under the age of seven in a three bedroom house. Some of these cousins are second cousins from his mother's sisters, but his mom takes care of them for extra grocery money. Matthew wants to help his mother out so she isn't so stressed, so he is reading up on how to take care of toddlers.

Matthew became my right arm for the weekend. He helped me at my sales table, we watched the talent show together, we hung out at the dance while we talked about books and music and girls and friends.

Matthew is an incredible little boy who taught me so much about loving others. He showed me that excuses don't count when there are people who need us. That even when I feel like money is tight, there are others who need it more. That sacrifice is a love offering. He showed me what a servants heart looks like. I had the great honor of meeting a wonderful little boy who lives to help those around him and to make a difference in the world. A 12 year old boy taught me what God's love looks like in real life. I may speak about it, but Matthew is living it day after day after day.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Me as a speaker

I’m speaking this weekend at a youth conference. I have been speaking now in front of audiences for over 10 years. I started doing it professionally about six years ago. Seeing that number makes me feel like I should be doing a better job at it.

Doing this for so long, I don’t want to be the speaker that when you hear them, you know exactly what they are going to say because they do the same talk all the time. I don’t want experiences of mine that I share to become stale because I have communicated the story so many times. I say this because I am feeling unsettled about this weekend.

I have felt this way for the last couple years. I have found that audiences really connect to certain stories I share, and they fit the themes I am often asked to speak about. But because of that, I start to feel stale, completely rehearsed. All of a sudden these stories don’t feel like my stories anymore, they have become something bigger.

I have noticed that I present much like all the speakers I have seen before and worked with. I wonder, is this how I want to present, or is it just easy because it’s what I know. There are all sorts of things I would like to explore in my stories and presentations, but I just don’t have time. I want to incorporate different media, music, and other things, but in my current life style, finding the time to do that seems impossible. And having to admit that makes me feel like I’m not doing a great job at what I’ve been hired to do. So I continue to present as I do because it does work, but its not who I want to be.

So I’ve already presented this topic for the weekend, and yet I find myself re-evaluating and looking up scriptures and quotes to use. Praying through my writers block and trying to find other experiences in my life that relate to these students that they can connect with. That puts me in a tail spin of hoping I had taken the time, found the time, demanded for the time to improve my speaking style and quality of what I do.

I desire to be a person who can speak truth in a way that touches people’s lives. I want kids to enjoy scripture by showing them things that maybe they haven’t seen before or they have forgotten about. I want to inspire people into a deeper relationship with Christ. I want my audience to have life changing impact when it comes to recognizing the poor and how they can and want to help. I want to be true and honest to God’s desire for me as a speaker. This is where I feel I lack the most. I know there is understanding and grace in this, because I recognize what three children under 5 means. Right now in life, without neglecting my kids, I have to wait to really explore my style of speaking and what that means. I get that.

I know I can continue to grow in small ways, but when I am faced with a new event and the realization that I am not who I want to be, I grow nervous. I have much praying to do today. For myself and these students and that I let God be God, and I will just be me.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

If you were where we were, I'm sorry.

This blog is to remind me, beyond financial reasons, why my family does not go and eat out. If you were at Sweet Basil with my family this evening in Hurst, TX, I apologize. I did everything I could.

Let me preface by saying we have been out all day. We went to the Ft. Worth Stockyards, rode rides, went to the candy store, visited our cousins, had a picnic lunch and played basketball. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea, but we loaded the kids into the car at 645pm and went to a great little Thai restaurant.

Noah is currently being a little clingy. Touchy feely almost to a creepy point. (No, I mean to a creepy point.) Hanging on me, kissing me, holding my hand. I just feel like screaming, “PLEASE I NEED SOME PERSONAL SPACE.” This I know will crush him, so I just scream on the inside and smile on the outside. “Thank you Noah. I love you too.”

Caleb currently has Ace Ventura hair. It’s really fantastic. After his bath, we brushed his hair backwards and then he went to bed. Viola awesome bed hair! He also has the Waller’s voice. By that I mean, his normal talking voice is automatically three notches louder than any other human on the planet. We’re just loud people, what can I say? So his voice is loud and his hair is loud. At least his clothes matched, today.

Lu is just Lu. Super cute, super chatty, super crabby of anything on the table. Her end of the table is void of anything that moves.

Here are some of the reasons we won’t be asked back:

• Caleb, “Hi madam. (to the waitress) How are you? My dad is not with us. His name is Paul This is my mom, her name is Danielle. This is Lu, my sister. I am Caleb and this is Noah. That is my nana and papa. We are a family. We don’t live in this world though. We live in the world of Minneapolis.”
• Throughout the first 15 min of dinner, my daughter proceeded to embarrass me for the first time ever. My kids are loud in everything they do, even filling their pants. I swear I have never heard grunting this loud, a face turn this red, and eyes scrunch so much… ever. I couldn’t believe it. It almost was so loud it wasn’t real. She just kept grunting and pushing and I swear someone got up and left the restaurant. Jan and I laughed so hard, I know I cried.
• Caleb decided to eat his meal looking straight into the sky eating with his eyes closed. He would also give a slight moan when it tasted good. Yes there he is with Ace/Conan breeded hair, eyes squeezed shut moaning at how good his food is, while his sister is taking the biggest dump of her life.
• Noah is holding my hand, sharing my food, eating off my fork, and sucking down a lemon. Weirdness all around.
• Caleb is trying to stab his chicken with a fork, but it won’t work. In trying and trying again, the chicken gets away, the fork plows into the ketchup bowl and it gets sent across the table. He tries again, and yes, for the second time, the ketchup container goes flying. Yes, all the while Lu is still pooping her best.
• Lu has had enough and I decided to let her walk around. I get up to follow her to prevent her from being inappropriate with other customers. While I am following her, I realize that Caleb and Noah are following behind me, not wearing shoes. We are now parading our crazy throughout this place, asking to be kicked out.
• I was trying to sing to Lu to distract her, cause yes, my singing is distracting. I decided to sing quietly, “You are my Sunshine”. Caleb comes up from behind my chair to sing along. This is what he sang, “You never know dear, how much you love me.” Yup, that’s right Caleb, girls around the world will one day agree. They will never know how much THEY love YOU. I giggled. It was really funny to me.
• The waitress at one point came over to see how we were doing. Lu grabbed her hand and just stared at it. She had her hand palm side up, and Lu was holding her thumb and pinky. She was practicing her pointing and would keep pointing all over this nice lady’s hand. We joked she was reading her palm, because while she was pointing, she was just babbling up a storm. So many noises and words were coming out of her. When the waitress asked if she was going to be rich, Lu pointed, looked up, shook her head up and down and said, “ooooooooooo”. The timing was uncanny.
• Lu also discovered her gag reflex. So after she was done making a scene that is better left to the privacy of your own bathroom, she decided to continue to shove her hand down her throat, gag and try to cough up a lung. We tried this more than six times. Geeezzz, kid how many other noisy things do we need to do tonight?

I will say, one point in our favor is that we left the restaurant without any broken dishes. Most likely, all the food on the floor under our table takes that point away.

Again, to the owners of Sweet Basil, I am very sorry, and can send a check for carpet cleaning tomorrow. Thank you Jan and Duane for taking a chance on us. It’s OK if you never want to take us out in public again. I understand.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jesus Calms the storm

When I was reading scripture the other day with the boys, I was struck by something I hadn't noticed before. (I first read in their children's Bible and then went to my own to see if it was the same.)

I had told you before that Caleb's favorite Bible story right now is when Jesus gets in the boat and falls asleep. A great storm comes, the disciples are afraid, and Jesus sleeps through it. Then in Matt. 8:25-26, "The disciples went and woke him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We're going to drown!' He replied , 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm."

It was amazing to me that after reading this story every night for the last three weeks, and knowing it since I was a little girl, I never noticed that Jesus speaks truth into his disciples lives before he calms the storm. There it was right in front of me. The disciples are terrified. They think they are going to die. Fear has overcome them and they can't think straight, the depth of their faith is questioned. Which isn't that like all of us? When things are at their hardest, when life is overwhelming, relationships seem difficult, you don't know where the money will come from, the crying or sickness won't end, when we can't see a way out of our situation, that is when we cling to our faith or can't find it.

In my mind, Jesus always calmed the storm first, then he turned to his disciples and spoke truth to them. (My husband says I have selective hearing, I apparently have selective reading too.) Maybe for all of you, you've had the story straight from the beginning, but for me, speaking truth into your life during the storm instead of when its all over is of a huge significance. Can you imagine, the storm is raging around you, the waves are crashing up over the boat, in your mind you are convinced you are going to die. When you scream to be heard over the crashing thunder, the Messiah looks at you and speaks truth into your life.

Why are you so afraid?
Who do you think I am?
Why don't you trust me?
Do you believe in my power?
Don't you know I love you and have your best interest in mind?
Where is your faith?
Who is in charge here?
Why do you doubt me?
Why are you afraid?

Then he stands and takes away the crashing, he quiets the thunder, he breaks up the clouds, silences the waves and makes them calm. Can you imagine seeing that kind of power?

He speaks truth in the storm, then shows his power. Why don't you trust me? In the storm, why are you afraid?

See the disciples for weeks prior to this have witnessed the Messiah preaching and teaching with power, authority and wisdom. The sermon on the mount, which is most likely multiple times of teaching all put into one section for our sake. They have witnessed countless miracles. The healing of Peter's mother, casting out dozens of demons, healing the Centurion's servant without even seeing him. Touching the man with Leprosy, something no one else does. They have seen his great love for people and how he helps those who can't help themselves. They have seen his power and yet they forget.

It's like I just described myself. I continue to see God's hand in my life, but then I forget. So easy I forget, and then in the midst of when things are hard, I question the one who loves me most.

So if you've always known this truth, good for you. For me, understanding scripture the right way brings me more peace and comfort. It allows me to know God the way he truly is, not the way I make him out to be. He speaks to us in the storm, not just after.