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Icing on the Cake & Selfies & Stuff

It's 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. I took a selfie in my room. Bed is made up with substitute blankets while everything that usually outfits it gets washed. Both kids ended up sleeping in it with me & that makes for some messes you probably don't want to know about. My mirror is kind of dirty and there is my new favorite Noonday necklace & scarf in one corner, a card from a dear friend stuck in the other side. I am freshly showered, no make up, wearing a Krochet Kids t-shirt I adore & am sporting a belly seemingly made of a batch of pizza dough, and am feeling pretty cute and good in my skin at the moment.

At the moment, I'm feeling I could stay a little chunky forever & it wouldn't really matter because I have two beautiful kids that stretched out that belly, I am learning to be free from so many self-imposed food rules, and I am working through the 30 day shred mainly because it's stress-relieving and I like to feel strong. I am spending a lot of time I would normally spend thinking about food on other things, and despite the fact that being alone with little kids for too long can be maddening, I'm sure I live a pretty sweet life.

I decided against posting the selfie, even though I like what it represents because I can picture the comments about not being too hard on myself. I know what we will do as women; we will compare; whether we think we look better or worse (which usually actually has to do with where we sit mentally); we'll make guesses about pounds or make it about the appearance of something.

I believe in presenting our true selves. I do.  You guys, I love bright colors. I love a simple look with a loud pop, bright red Toms, big earrings, and loopy scarves. Some times the "self" I am presenting is "hey, I'm tired and worn and I'm doing my best here." That's okay, too. But the clothes & the make up is just the icing. Let's make it good icing, but let's not make the whole celebration about it.

I'm excited about this whole intuitive eating and fair trade and learning to live a better, more ME version of myself in large part because my kids are going to see that. I want them to love every inch of themselves and use it for the best possible good they can come up with.

Speaking of which, Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass is on repeat over here.


Married To and Ex-Youth Pastor, Part 3

Oh, my gosh, I loved being married to Tim (I still do, don't get me wrong, but this part of the story takes place in the past).

I loved being involved in Tim's youth group.  It was often terrifying, surprising, trying, or heart breaking, but it included so much of what makes me feel fully me. You know what I mean? Those things that just engage your heart at the foundational level?

I had a lot to learn about both. There were misunderstandings, there were struggles, tears, heart-to-hearts, and a lot of difficult questions, but for both my husband and my kids, I wanted the best. The absolute best.

I knew that I couldn't accomplish that on my own, but maybe I could be an instrument in the process, you know?

My kids? Well, I used to call them my kids because of my motherly tendencies and just how much space they claimed in my heart.  They were joy in human form. They were stories unfolding and explorations taking place. Tim and I were privileged to spend so much time with them, to be trusted and involved.

I don't quite remember when it started, but there was a slow downward spiral that slowly led us out the door of the church we were so involved in. I'm not here to talk about the specifics of that, but I will tell you that I tried to lessen the effects of that spiral. I tried to be less involved in church activities, hoping the heavy weight I felt would ease. I tried to disengage where I could.

My attempts didn't change that it was time to go. Neither did Tim's.

We're living in this sort of in-between place now, where we're coming up out of that spiral we were sliding down. We're getting healthy in all kinds of ways. It's all completely necessary.

But can I tell you something? I will do it again. I don't know when, and I don't know where. Once upon a time, I thought I had a favorite age group, but after spending lots of time with kids, adults, and teenagers, I don't think I do. I just like people, in small-ish settings. I like being a part of stories and processes.

I made many, many mistakes, but I can't think of a single regret. We all offered our own perspectives, time, and hearts. We were part of each others' stories and life processes. I'm so thankful to my (former) kids for allowing that for me.

But there are things I will do differently.

The next time, I hope to act with a little (okay, maybe a lot) more wisdom. And boldness. I was a love-y, listening, cuddly youth leader (ahem, with a side of moody and a love for dancing and cooking), but I've since learned that love- real love- the kind that wants the best for a person, is bold. Being a part of some one's life process, especially if that part includes mentor-ship, requires a big measure of boldness. It requires a toughness that says "I'm not here to make you happy (happiness is good, of course, but it's not everything) or please you all the time ; I want to help you search out the best and then help you live it."

I firmly believe that real love will lead to some uncomfortable situations, but it is worth it.

I loved the best I knew how to at the church (most of the time), but now? The ways I show my love will go even deeper.


7 Things On My Mind

 1. I think I'm meant to be behind-the-scenes type of person. I don't mean this as a put-down at all. I've a very at it. I can make things happen, brainstorm ideas, and come up with solutions. It is normal for credit for my work to go to someone else, but I like to choose to work on the kind of things where it doesn't really matter. When I am feeling low, I think the background thing means I'm "not good enough." When I'm feeling good, I think this makes me like some kind of superhero- someone who can slip in and out unnoticed and get the job done.

2. I'm still working on my "wife of an ex-youth pastor" blog series. It's going to get done, but it's slow in coming. I'm having a hard time writing the rest. I miss my kids (who aren't actually my kids anymore). I miss who I was and what I was about.I think I get that there are seasons in life and I know Tim and I made the right decision, but I'm ready to feel like I've found my niche again. I don't right now, and it's ok because I know that working out struggles will help me grow in wisdom and character...but of course, I'd like the struggle to be over.

3. I don't mean to write such heavy posts all the time. I just sit and I write and I let myself flow out of my fingers.

4. I'm going to visit my sister in just over a week!!! (That many exclamation points were necessary.) I don't know what we're going to do, and I don't care. I was planning on running a half marathon that weekend, but I'm seriously considering skipping it in favor of doing whatever we feel like doing that morning (and the night before).

5. Seriously. Time with Katie is precious and...I'm kind of over the whole half marathon thing. I've done this before- signed up for a race, felt totally motivated, and then slowly lost interest. Please, if I mention signing up for another race, discourage me, ok? I know I can run them (I've done so before), but I always expect more out of the racing and training experience. It's not for me, yet I keep signing up.

6. Yoga is the only exercise that helps me get healthy emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I had intentions of keeping up with it while training, but it fell by the wayside when I added classes into the mix. However, I got back into it yesterday.

7. I have serious cravings for baking and cleaning lately. I feel incredible when I can take my time with either (or both). I made Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars (I adapted the recipe to make it a little healthier), took some to my parents' house, and am sending the rest in to work with Tim today. I have a slew of things I'd like to make today (including Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Dessert Hummus, my own Five-Minute Hummus,and Snobby Joes ).


Not Enough

Tim and I had The Talk with our kids on Wednesday. (We have no children of our own, but my husband is a youth pastor. I have lovingly dubbed everyone in grades 7-12 who comes through our doors "our kids" a long time ago.)

Now I can write about it.

Now I can tell you why I feel such a need for that half marathon training. For something to help me in my travels from here to there.

We are leaving.

So much wrapped up in just a few words.

So much that I will not be able to say here, right now. Because I went to bed too late last night and got up too early, I know the words will not come out...even though I have been thinking about what I want to write here for days.

Two nights ago, I told my kids what a privilege it's been to be a part of their story, that we are not leaving because of them, that I would take them with me if I could...I cried, then got myself together...then cried again. I told them that they could be honest about how they were feeling, and some of them were. I tried to reassure them; I tried to cheer them up.

We all went home, and then? A new day crept around the corner and the sun did come up, as it always does. For that I am thankful.

To my kids,You are joy in human form. Don't let anyone look down on you because you're young. Instead, give them reasons to respect you. Learn how you were made and embrace that; don't try to be someone else. Give those who take care of you more credit than you think they deserve; they probably deserve even more than that. Ask lots of questions. Explore. Try new things.Continue your study of true love and try to emulate it.Please, please know that you matter to many on this earth. You were made uniquely. And I am really going to miss you. So come over for pancakes, soon, okay?

Lots of love.

These words are not enough. I have been involved with my kids for my entire married life; it has changed me, softened me, taught me about loving in word and in deed. But now things are about to change for everyone involved. We are all going on adventure of sorts.


This Weekend

What is everyone up to this weekend? I'll be spending my weekend with MY KIDS on a retreat about a half an hour away from my home. I'm looking forward to a rich and concentrated time with everyone in attendance. I'm looking forward to a time of just connecting with each other. Of hiking and enjoying nature, getting to know each other, laughing, reading, writing, and getting deeper into what it means to share life. But first...a 3-mile run/walk (and then a sticker on my calendar! You better believe I already rewarded myself for last night's workout!)


A healthy dinner

And then it's off to camp I go!

I'm wishing you all a refreshing and satisfying (at least on some level! ) weekend.


All photos were taken during past fall retreats with my kids.


The Beach + My Kids

Well, Hello!This week, I'm at the beach with a few junior highers, my husband, and two high-school-graduates-turned-camp-counselors.

My junior high girls are climbing out of their elementary school shells quickly, dipping their toes in the water just between childhood and adolescence. I am enjoying their questions, their slightly cautious but daring spirits, and the time I am able to spend asking them questions, learning about who they are.

Our ("our" refers to "mine and Tim's." I use possessive words because the group I'm with is considered family.) graduate-counselors are  fantastic. They've been spending a lot time loving the kids intentionally. The kids love them. And? The fact that they are older teenagers who love these kids without reserve and without an agenda is so valuable. (On a me-centered note, I'm loving the extra time with Dan and Danielle. Loving it.)

 I've observed that:

  • I really enjoy long walks on the beach. However cliche, it's true, and I did not know it before this week.
  • Mini-golf can be fun. I hated it up until last night, when I went with my kids. And had a blast.
  • Junior highers are in a difficult place. They are still children, but they're becoming teenagers. They need a little freedom, a little encouragement, but sometimes? They need to be babied. Just a little bit.
  • I am no longer paranoid about saying or doing the "wrong" thing when I'm with my girls (and boys). My time with them seems to be more and more about being intentional about truly loving when I am with them than doing everything "right."
  • True love has many different faces.
  • Sometimes, it's just a good idea to bite my tongue.
  • Many junior highers want an adventure. Some of them just need an invitation.

Many more words to come. But not right now. Right now? I'm going to go live life with my girls.


Theme Song

This afternoon, the Slumdog Millionaire theme song floated into my head. I don't know why. My thoughts processes are hardly linear, so it can be difficult to pinpoint where particular thoughts originate. Did you watch that movie? I was told how great it was, on multiple occasions. I watched the entire thing and was devastated. I sobbed. I didn't understand the description of "great movie." Slumdog is not entertainment. It was brilliant and well put together, of course, but not "great." Maybe I get a little too caught up in semantics, but I was sad for days afterwards.

That song played in my head today, and in my gut, I felt as if something horrible was going to happen. I was in the middle of class, and I hesitated a little bit, unsure of what to do or who to call. And then I realized something horrible has already happened.

Slumdog breaks my heart. But even worse? There are millions (maybe more?) of kids who don't have parents who love them. Or don't have parents at all. Millions of kids who, at this very moment, don't have anyone to walk with them through life,  to live out an adventure with them, or show (and learn along with) them how to love. That's horrible.

I think I'd like to be a (teeny-tiny) part of the solution.


And Again

I've imagined myself as a mama for a long time. Sometimes, when I think about my actions, my attitudes, my habits, I think about whether what I'm doing is something that I want to pass on to my daughter. (In my mind, I have a daughter. She has a name, and  I'm excited to meet her. I want (a) son(s), too, but I don't know if my habits could be directly applicable to little boys or not. I have quite a bit to learn before I am a mama, of course.)

Sometimes that particular something isn't something I want to pass on. So I make changes for the daughter I don't yet have. (I make changes in the name of people I already know, as well. I know that good changes, even small ones, have a ripple effect. I also make changes for myself. I want a full and healthy life. But sometimes it's the heavy-and priviledged- responsibility of being a mother that gets my butt in gear.)

This whole comfort eating thing? It's got to go. It's a lingering habit that I haven't quite kicked yet, despite good intentions, despite the many posts I have written with the intention of making the change. Eating is my default coping mechanism, and (somewhere around) every 8 days, I am just too tired, too worn out, too unsatisfied, or too upset to care. I give myself permission to just eat, eat, eat instead of doing the work of observing what is going on, sitting  in discomfort, making needed changes, and moving on.

Sigh. Okay, I'm ready to try again. I really want to break my eating-too-much-for-consolation habit. It's unhealthy for my mind, emotions, body, and spirit. It's all tied together. One affects everything else. And it's not something I want my daughter or my girls to emulate. I'm all for treats and enjoying them, but I want my daughter, to have better coping mechanisms than I do. I want to be a healthy example to my girls and my nieces.

Something in me is broken, and I want it fixed.

So I'm telling you again that I'm still working on changing my default setting.  I intend to blog a little more about it through the next 8 days. (I'm on my second day post-binge, for the record.) I'm going to be a little more vulnerable. I'm going to fill you in on my progress.

If I make it ten days without resorting to my usual default comforts, I'm going to get my hair cut here. If it works out, I'm going to celebrate with her. And then I'm just going to keep on truckin'.


Fullness of Heart

Last weekend, I gave up my day off, time to write, a yoga class, and any naps that might occur. I gave up my Green Monsters, fair trade coffee, and privacy. I traded it all in for a 3-day weekend with them.All of these kids chose to spend last weekend cleaning, weeding, building, hauling, edging, and otherwise preparing a camp for people they had never met before.

There are good decisions, and there are great decisions. Staying home in favor of taking my nontraditional Saturday Sabbath would have been a good decision. But going with them...was a great decision.Those kids? The ones that give out hugs and whisper "I love you," the ones who jump to fill needs as they see them, the ones whose love knows no boundaries, pump me full of hope.

I have known a lot of them for over 3 years. Watching them grow up (make wiser decisions, love more deeply, serve more whole- heartedly) has me in tears at times. I cannot fathom why I am allowed the priviledge of watching the process of lives becoming richer. But I am thrilled that I am.I saw my kids grow up a little this weekend.

I saw me grow up a little this weekend.

One straight-forward thing about me is that I love the kitchen. I love cooking, preparing, and feeding. I love when my house is noisy and food is being enjoyed. I love when I can hear laughter and stories being told. I believe that food is community glue, so I'm usually one of the first to volunteer in the kitchen.

This is not true of most people I know. Mostly because they're not the same person I am. They're probably the ones who are telling the stories, or laughing, or telling everyone that they must try the fondue. They are breathing the life into my house that I was hoping would come when the doors were opened and the food was served.

But somewhere, I had begun to resent those differences. I was annoyed that the party was happening over there while I cleaned up the mess I had just made. I was angry that there weren't a whole lot of people joining me.

Somewhere near the beginning of this weekend, I saw what I was doing. I saw that if I wanted to serve in the kitchen, then I needed to really serve in the kitchen. Without resentment, without expectations. Mentally, I needed to allow people to serve and to love in all of the ways that they are already better than I am. I needed to allow them to be them. And stop waiting for praise while I was telling myself I was loving and giving.

So I did. And oh, my weekend was so much better for it.And then I was able to see those kids shine for how they were created, where they are going, and what their hearts hold.

And my heart just about burst with its fullness.


(It should be noted that most of these pictures were taken by this very talented goofball:

I took about 23 photos[including this masterful self portrait] and declared Zach the official weekend photographer.)