Monday, January 30, 2017


Sometimes people do cool things with their voice that kinda wake me up and make me pay attention. Little melodic runs that are out of my range, or their ears pick up some strange mode and they are able to put it in some crazy syncopated rhythm that enhances whatever it is being sung. Sometimes after i hear something like that, i'll pause the music and try to re-create it. i'll try again and again and again... until my mind can at least understand what it is they've done and i can scratch out some kind of weak imitation.
i've never been a really stellar piano player. My playing has always been about function - background rhythm and chords... My playing is accompaniment at it's best... noise at it's worst.
But i play.
In music - as in so many, many areas of life, the reign of elitism has squashed so many of the singers. It has quieted so many of the players. It has shamed so many of the timid makers of music.
Worse, it has fanned flames of perfectionism in performers, and misplaced the authentic mess that comes with artistic expression.
i'm learning to stop being afraid of that mess.
i want to learn to live my life that way: doing my best, and encouraging the same in others. i want to admire the beauty in the polished auto-tuned art... and in the rough mess of pitchy, wobbly vulnerability too.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

punching bag

A friend with a grown son recently told me how he had regretfully admitted to her that during his teen years, he "used her as a punching bag"...
My friend kinda sighed - but it was a happy sigh. She loves her son and her love wasn't lessened or dimmed by his adolescent misplaced fury.
I'm watching my oldest four walk with so much grace through their teen years. Some things haven't changed so much since I was a teen, and in so many ways - I feel like they're making a better way than I ever did... but I'd be lying if I claimed that teen years don't have any pain at all.
I'm clinging to a few truths during these years - and i think these truths are things that have shaped the kind of mama i have become as my littles have grown...

1. Relationship matters more than pretty much everything else. A clean room, a good report card, a spotless driving record, a respectful mouth... these are all beautiful things - but I'm not trading my relationship to get them.

2. Adding to that concept, i really believe that without truth, we can't have relationship. That's one thing i love love love about Neil. He has never been afraid or timid about calling me on my idiocy. He has challenged me, called me out... and all around encouraged me to become a better, more thoughtful person. Without truth, the relationship is often one-sided - or hollow... Bring on truth - even when it hurts.

3. When i think of them, i try to act on it immediately. Sometimes i'll go pray by their door, pick up my phone and send a text, make a note in my calendar to take some action...

4. When they come to me... sometimes i'm touched out, talked out, burned out... but oh, how i want them to come to me. i do my very best to soften my expression, open my posture, make my stance one of welcome... i try to make eye contact. Sometimes in the past, they've tried to share a song with me, or something that moved them - and either i didn't take the time to click that youtube link, or didn't take the mental energy to make any kind of connection as to why it would move them. i'm trying to break those bad habits.

5. When i get my feelings hurt, i don't wanna pout... i wanna have thick skin, a soft heart and a forgiving spirit. i want my loves to feel safe with me - i want to be unreasonable in my affection and exceedingly abundant in my mercy.

When Sloanie was tiny, she climbed softly into our room and softly whined, "It's so hard being three.." And each age has it's difficulties and sorrows... the teen years are no different. My prayer is that i will be the kind of mama that softens the blows and equips my people to be the kind of people who shine a light into darkness.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


It's hard for me to even recognize fear, but i'm getting better at it.
Since i started diligently working out and working on muscles, flexibility, strength, agility and just general athleticism over the past few years, there have been a few times that i've surprised myself. One of them stands out to me. Two winters ago, Neil took me downhill skiing for the first time in at least twenty years. i wasn't an awesome skier by any stretch as a kid, and then with the time that has passed, i thought i would spend the day sliding down a hill on my bum... We got to the top of the first run, and i started skiing down... and to my shock, i kept up. My legs moved where i wanted them to. i was fast and confident and it felt easy... We got to the bottom and Neil looked at me with a funny look on his face. "Neil!" i gasped, "i'm AWESOME at this!!"
He kinda laughed, but my shock was sincere... i hadn't given any credit at all to the fact that i work out daily and that i *should* be able to do some things.
i've always been the one who sat out during beach volleyball. My reflexes are terrible. i LOVE individual sports that take stamina and grit (hiking, running, biking) but team sports have never been my jam... i'm always afraid that i'll stand out as the weakest link, the one who brings the team down... the one they wish would just sit out, the one who gets hit, but never hits the ball.
And i have hardly ever recognized my unwillingness to participate as fear. i've named it other things, (i'm too busy, i'm just not good enough, they don't need me...) i've hidden behind my babies. i've told myself i'd rather not.
Lately, i've looked at some of these things with a little bit of raw honesty... It's not that i don't want to teach music... it's that i'm afraid that i'm not good enough. It's not that i don't want to leave my house, it's that i hate being alone, i'm kind of afraid of it. These past few years, i've obeyed when God has asked me to stretch out my neck and enter into the fray, and you know what? Those experiences weren't all as successful as that first day out skiing. It has been painful, and rejection has made my cheeks burn and my fears scream because they found out they were well founded. It HURTS to hold out your hand and nobody shakes it. Anytime you try anything, you might be left hanging, you might be the weak link, you might fail, you might be rejected.
But i'm starting...
i'm accepting when my son challenges me to a push-up competition. I try a box jump that seems huge. I do the monkey bars and i work on my chin ups...
i'm so, so tired of lacking the confidence to just try...
So, i think i will.
A friend posted a quote on FB that said, "The prophetic doesn't tell you what to do, it awakens who you are." I think i'm ready to wake up.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

More On Setting Goals

i have a few friends who have kind of *courageously* plucked lovely little pieces of life as they have mothered and homeschooled little broods not unlike mine. i've always looked at my mama friends who were able to balance a lot of lovely little add-ons as something 'other' than me. Some had interesting careers, some gardens, handiwork, volunteer work for organizations that stretched their hearts... They seemed to be able to find direction and just... fly.  And i? Felt the stillness of the air around me as i kept my two feet planted firmly on the ground. 
I knew that God had, in this season, planted me thus, partly because of my husband's career - which has been demanding and full of strange hours and travelling... and God knew that i needed to be here, and available for the people He had asked me to serve. 
But I was talking to one of these friends the other day about goal setting. I was trying to encourage her. Because i'm a few years older, and past some of the sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion that she's in the midst of, i feel like i have a bit of perspective. She had said she felt a bit scattered this year, and i replied, "Yea, and your focus is a little different out of necessity - with so many tinies... You're still just so good at reaching out and grabbing at life. i'm not." 
As a little background; this is a mom who has worked as an LPN, organized an entire event that still occurs annually surrounding early infant death and still birth in her area that has impacted hundreds of families. This is a woman who with a house full of children, upgraded her LPN with a foot-care class so that she could better serve the people in her community who needed her. Then, when the time came, she extended her maternity leave so she could stay home and homeschool. Then last year, she dove into starting her own little home side business. This is a woman who just gets things done. 
She messaged me back and challenged me, "i feel like you are though?"
i couldn't see it... i saw lost opportunities, or failed offerings or long seasons of watching and tending a homefire that needed care... "We'll see..." i replied, "i'm willing... but it's so hard to SEE where He wants me to take steps!" 
"I think maybe we're all like that, but to others it looks like we're grabbing at life?! Your book. Your website. Your blog. Your music course. Your other music offerings. Your kids. Your workouts."

And suddenly, in a little puff of encouragement, i could see myself differently. Not with a track record of pathetic little failed offerings, but instead, with a fist full of lovely little blossoms of life that God has allowed me to grasp, and breathe in their fragrance... (and sometimes let go of too). And a lot of these little blossoms came about because i took the time to be quiet and ask for direction, and pursue the things that brought me joy for His glory. So, in light of the new year, and resolutions and fresh beginnings, i want to share some of the thoughts that i have on goal setting. 

For starters, I try to pick something that I wouldn't normally do if I didn't resolve to do it! When I wanted to learn to run, I signed up for a 10k race. I had never done anything like that before, but by resolving to run a 10k, I knew I would gain a neat experience that would teach me about running! i'm never gonna forget my littles cheering for me as my feet pounded that trail. It was a fantastic goal that gave me joy in it's pursuit. This year, i made a resolution to complete 365 workouts in 2017! Now, normally - i would work out lots, and i'd have lots of active rest and rest days too! But i was inspired by another mama of 8 who completed the challenge to, "push play every day" and so i joined in! i'm looking forward to seeing the impact that this goal has on my life. 

Secondly, I try to choose goals that have measurable outcomes! For example, instead of, "eat healthier", I might make it my goal to hit certain macros 5 days a week! Macros are something that i  can measure, and when I track my macros, it helps me be mindful of the big picture of my nutrition. This year, i didn't have a burning desire to get finicky about my nutrition, so i went a different direction. i wanted to write more... but i have felt unable to these past few years, so I made it my goal to write on my blog once a week. By the end of the year, i should have 52 tiny snapshots of thought in 2017... and i hope i get to be a better writer in the process.

I also try to choose goals that have an ending. One year, I wanted to write a book, so I thought hard about what message was important enough to write about. After that, I chose a vehicle (simple story line) that I could use to communicate that message. That January, I signed up for Nanowrimo. It was a way to commit a chunk of time to write. The chunk of time was the month of November. My husband and kids knew I had committed to it and they were supportive and patient with me while I gave it my all for that month. At the end of the month, I had completed my first rough draft. It's not a New York Times bestseller, but it's a little piece of my worldview that I wanted to capture... and I did it! If it had been an open ended goal, i might have lost heart, but because there was an end in sight, i could focus on that task and my family could support me knowing it wouldn't last forever. i really would love to do Nanowrimo again another year, but i know that this year is just not the right time. This year, my daughters challenged me to read a 365 day devotional... My three oldest daughters are 20, 18 and 16. One is married, another enrolled at a local college and the third one is my lone public schooled kid. They are always going in different directions, and there is such a comfort in looking at scripture and knowing their eyes are reading it too. It's a one year commitment... but only a year. We can finish strong because we know we can *finish*.

Finally, I try to look at different areas of my life and decide where I need a little push. Sometimes I make goals to be consistent with a certain area of homeschool, sometimes it's a spiritual goal, sometimes an area in my marriage needs attention... fitness, home organization, passions, friendships, parenting... they are all different areas that are sometimes strong, sometimes weak - all in seasons... Sometimes i look at my goals and think they seem a little shallow... Sometimes they are goals that have the potential to wreck and challenge and change me at my very core. Both kinds of goals have their place... they truly do.

And so i guess looking back, i have made my little grabs at life. And i intend on continuing to do so with courage and intention - as we welcome the blessing of a new year.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Remember when?

I was getting dressed in the morning and Elmer looked at me earnestly, "Momma, remember when i used to like boo so much?"
"Yeah, i remember that. It was a long time ago, eh? i'm surprised YOU can remember that..."
i was mentally calculating how long it has been since he weaned around his third birthday... Almost seven months.
"I remember." He said solidly, "i was a baby."
"Yeah, i guess you were."
"And when i was a baby, my name was Jack."
So maybe not all his memories are entirely accurate.


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